Skip to comments.Rethinking the fall of Rome's republic
Posted on 11/19/2011 2:32:47 AM PST by SunkenCiv
Using a variety of sources, from ancient texts to new archaeological evidence, Broadhead has crafted a novel hypothesis about how Caesar -- as well as Sulla a few decades before, and Augustus several years later -- could march on Rome with his own legions.
"My interpretation is a demographic one," Broadhead says. "Ancient Italy was a place of high geographical mobility, instead of being a place filled with sedentary peasants, which is the stereotypical image." People in towns throughout the Italian peninsula, from whose numbers the Roman Republic traditionally recruited its army, often traveled either to the newly conquered outposts of the Roman world, or throughout Italy, in search of better living conditions.
The Romans had previously used a rigid list, the formula togatorum, to determine how many conscripts should be drawn from which town, stubbornly refusing to change the list over time. But as the population shifted around, Broadhead notes, it became "more difficult for the Roman state to monitor and control that movement, and so the system of military recruitment that had been based very rigidly on the geographical distribution of population dissolved."
The result, he adds, was "a new system of recruitment where a powerful general goes to the population and says, 'Will you all fight with me?' The answer is 'Yes,' because any such volunteers were likely to enjoy the spoils of war. Population movement led to the personal client army of the late republic, which has long been recognized as a key to understanding its fall."
(Excerpt) Read more at web.mit.edu ...
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To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
If my memory serves, was it not Gaius Marius who first instituted this system, and is this not already widely known? This was before Sulla became the Dictator
Rome fell because (in the end) it could not field armies to fight off the encroaching barbarians. It has been theorized that this was due to a combination of demographic decline and Roman’s not having the will to defend themselves anymore.
Why did the Romans speak Latin and not Roman, and who were the Latins, the tribe dwelling near the city of Rome?
“Rome fell because (in the end) it could not field armies to fight off the encroaching barbarians. It has been theorized that this was due to a combination of demographic decline and Romans not having the will to defend themselves anymore.
What’s more familiar to us 21st Century Americans is politicians bankrupting the nation by bleeding the treasury dry to fatten their own estates. Any of that in Roman history?
Their territory was called Latium; Rome was just one of several towns of the region. They were ruled by the Etruscans until the Romans overthrew their Etruscan king and founded the Republic. This is why Rome became the leading city in Latium and eventually Europe.
“Their territory was called Latium; Rome was just one of several towns of the region. They were ruled by the Etruscans until the Romans overthrew their Etruscan king and founded the Republic. This is why Rome became the leading city in Latium and eventually Europe.”
Good stuff! Thank you.
Why did the Romans speak Latin and not Roman?
How close to societal collapse are we?
From what I understand the Romans came to be dependent upon the dole. That saps ones will to adapt to disaster and destroys ones ability to innovate. It also creates a dependency upon the state for personal protection.
The Current FReepathon Pays For The Current Quarters Expenses?
Remember during the Clinton administration when one of his lackeys (was it snuffleupagus?) talked about crossing the Rubicon? So few understood what that meant.
Rome had always been the most important of the city-states in Latium. Among the others were Tibur (Tivoli) and Praeneste (Palestrina). The modern-day region of Lazio in Italy includes ancient Latium but also land on the north side of the Tiber River that was part of ancient Etruria.
I think that once a state reaches a certain level of prosperity, this may be inevitable. “Smart” politicians realize they can be popular by giving out these goodies. Smart is in quotes because what is good for them (in the short term) is harmful to their civilization in the long term. My guess is that they understand this all too well, but don’t care.
My question is not “Why did Rome fall, but how did they expand and sustain the empire so long? Remarkable for a city to have such an expansive empire for so long.
IIRC the empire was split and they had paid non-Italians for decades to provide an army on the boundaries of the empire. As the barbarians had their own demographic expansion and needed land and wanted a taste of the good life, their southern and western expansions became inevitable. Don’t know how long you can keep your guards at the fence of the property when they want the good life up in the main house.
As I've said before, the fall of the Roman Republic, as opposed to the fall of the Roman Empire, began the day that Carthage was destroyed. The influx of loot from that conquest, coupled with the revenue stream from being the sole, undisputed power in the Med, was the root cause.
Political machinations to control this wealth led to a collapse in civic virtues, and ambitious men abounded, vying to be the one who would distribute the goodies. The Senate became wholly corrupt, and men such as Marius, Sulla, the First and Second Triumvirates became the norm, and not the exception.
At the end of all that, the Roman Empire was born. It too, would not last, due to overweening ambitions, lust for personal power, and collapse of societal virtues...
Rome learned a lot from the Greeks. As a result, it many good policies and practices. This helped it to survive many a bad emperor. Romans also had a very strong sense of honor. Like the Japanese, if you disgraced yourself or your family, you were expected to kill yourself. We can debate the morality of that particular tradition, but methinks it kept their elites on the straight and narrow. [Their mass conversion to Christianity may have weakened this, IMHO]
You also have to remember that the velocity of information back then was very (very) slow compared to today. The reputation of Rome kept her great even after she had rotted internally. Eventually, a few smart barbarians figured out that Rome had become a paper tiger. Even after her fall, it took decades for the word to get out that the Empire was indeed gone for good.
I would add leaving the local authority in place alongside a Roman governor. Taking the kids of the leader to Rome for education and imposing Roman law. I took a strong lesson from the strength and spread of Roman law, that I highly object to the exceptions we see for those inside the beltway.
My understanding was that in the Roman-ruled colonies, such as Britain, regulations became so restrictive, so micromanaging and inflation so high that it crumbled as people picked up and moved in large migrations.
Thnk you very much! That’s what I wanted to know.
The events described here pertain to the very early empire.
The people picking up an moving were entering the Empire, not the other way. Rome’s implosion in the west resembles the implosion of the post-Roman petty kingdoms in Britain in the face of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes’ settlement expansion. The Britons raided and burned each others’ towns and territories when the victims were defending themselves against the foreign invader; the Romans were engaged in infighting, intrigues, assassinations, and rival “emperors” instead of managing imperial affairs.
Latium was the territory, the Latins were the tribe, Rome was the city. But it’s never a bad time for a Dan Quayle reference. ;’)
The Senate instituted this system; between having to raise armies quickly during periods of invasion (best known ones being the Gallic sack of Rome, and Hannibal’s 16 year long Italian campaign) and conquering overseas territories to enrich themselves (officially the public coffers, but that was BS), large, well-trained, effective armies which didn’t require a large levy of citizens or of taxes.
The Praetorian Guard was instituted under Augustus, who also cut the regular army in half by getting rid of half of the numbered legions (reducing it to 28), integrating legions to bring all of them to full strength and formalizing the auxiliary system (and adding back approximately 28 legions in the process). The Guard not only was bodyguard for the Emperor (although as you said, that didn’t always work out), but also defended the city and acted as its only police force.
Also, the idea that there were no troops allowed in Rome prior to Julius Caesar’s Rubicon adventure is not true; Pompey played the Senate well, just it had played him after his massively successful campaigns of (1) conquest in the east and (2) defeat of the pirates, but that dance delayed his ability to respond, so he left Italy. The Senate was supporting both sides.
Trying to remember my Livy, but early on wasn’t it the intent that one council would go out with an army and the other stay at home with the other legions?
Romanes eunt domus!
I went back to my research notes. I was correct in part and in error, in part.
The Middle Ages, prepared by National Geographic Book Service, editorial consultant Kenneth M. Setton, under the guidance of Melville Bell Grosvenor and Franc Shor, c1977.
Late Roman society of 3rd century A.D. saw one military commander after another overthrow the government. A debasement of coinage encouraged a staggering inflation and reversion to a “natural economy.” More often than not, the government collected taxes in foodstuffs, materials and services and paid its soldiers and civil servants in kind.. In the 4th century Diocletian and Constantine reformed the coainage, but in attempts to stabilize society they decreed that all workers and their descendants would be frozen in their jobs for life. The aristocratic element moved from the cities into the country to raise what he needed. at 15-16
Small free farmers, ruined by debt, plague, brigandage, usurpations by powerful neighbors and government exactions, placed themselves in the hands of larger landowners. Tenant farmers called “coloni” and slavess worked on vast estates. Legally free, the coloni were bound to the estate and their children after them. An edict of Constantine stated that tenant farmers who flew, could be caught and reduced to servitude. Thus developed the system of manorialism. at 16
The lords of the manor protected the peasnats and were in turn, subject to greater lords becoming military vassals of their lieges. at 16
Heck, not just the Italic provinces, but all over the empire, in its latter days. Iberia, Cisalpine Gaul, parts of Austria and the Balkans, if memory serves.
And detente and occasional (shaky) alliances with the Huns, etc., once the Romans could no longer keep them out of western and southwestern Europe.
With such a diversity (hmmmm!) of so-called allies, troops and lower-level commanders, the occasional rogue element could be expected to arise. (cf. the first Caesar.)
Recurring emergencies in the East from the Sassanids, and in the west and eventually south from the Huns, limited Rome's options in the latter decades of the Empire.
Eventually, the Huns migrated all the way across the Rhine, through France and Spain, across Gibraltar, and back east towards Tripoli. Finally, the Huns began to take over the agriculturally prime lands on the African coast that had served as the Empire's breadbasket.
Once that happened, the end was at hand.
They even took on the Etruscan alphabet, which we now call “Roman.”
“Broadhead has crafted a novel hypothesis about how Caesar — as well as Sulla a few decades before, and Augustus several years later — could march on Rome with his own legions.
“My interpretation is a demographic one,” Broadhead says”
Why is it historians somehow cannot accept the fact that a republic can be toppled by a handful of greedy men lusting after power, especially when they essentially have their own private armies? If you want to explain the fall of the Roman Republic, one needs to look no further than ambition.
“But its never a bad time for a Dan Quayle reference.”
I’m trying to figure out how that relates.
The speaking Latin reference.
:’) There’s an old anecdote about a reader and fan of Livy who traveled to Rome just to look at him.
The Consuls were ‘elected’ in pairs, serving one year terms, couldn’t serve again, and could veto each others’ decrees. It was set up by the hereditary aristocracy which populated the Senate, to avoid sharing any real power.
Military commanders were recruited for specific crises — such as the pirate problem, which led to Pompey’s sweeping the pirates from the seas; that culminated in Augustus’ model for a permanent imperial navy, which kept the seven seas pirate-free for centuries.
The military commanders could be (and often were) relieved at the Senate’s whim, but could be kept on campaign for years if need be. The reason Julius Caesar wrote his Commentaries on the Gallic Wars was to keep Romans interested in and supporting what he was doing in Gaul, and it remains great reading.
Gaius Marius was the first on to go to the capite censi (the headcount), the poor who could not afford to supply their own equipment (a requirement for the legions up to this time). He basically said "Join my legion, I'll pay the expenses and give you a wage". The army then became a profession.
The poverty that made that possible was due to the three dozen or so large families who owned most of Italy; when crises erupted (such as an invasion) the common soldiers were patriotic volunteers; when they got back after a year, or two, or more, of a successful campaign, they’d find their lands had been confiscated by some rich a-hole — sort of like eminent domain is used now, but less subtle than that. So, the impoverished classes grew, along with the percentage of the population who’d been enslaved. The insatiable demand for more slaves is another thing that made Caesar’s conquest of Gaul so popular; the growth in slave labor also led to greater poverty among those unable to find work for themselves.
PS It is nice to meet fellow Roman history buffs here in the Free Republic.
Thanx. Have read may pages from the beginning to the year of 4 Caesars.
Through the US Civil War, officers were appointed by politicians and elected by the enlisted men in their discrete units. Promotions were done locally at the unit level through the First World War. It is only since the Second World War that promotions and appointments have been done through the top officers of a service or through Congress. The Navy's system is the envy of the others, with officer promotion selection boards ruled only through official personnel records reviewed by disinterested officers who do not know the people up for promotion. The Air Force, on the other hand, has had the most trouble with outside influence marring promotion results.
Recently, the History Channel examined the history of the Roman soldier. He went from a high-trained, massively-equipped Roman professional at the time of Caesar to a provincial joke of a mercinary with straw armor and no training at the time of the fall 400 years later. Coincidentally, this is what Obama is trying to do to our military.