Classics in the Classroom: Timeline 1 – The Beginnings of Problems?
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Classics in the Classroom: Timeline 1 – The Beginnings of Problems?

In this first short video on the timeline
of the Late Republic, we’re going to look at the beginnings of the problems. And actually I’d like to start a little bit
earlier than the mid-2nd century BC. In fact I’d like to start in 180BC when a law is introduced
that gives strict age limits to the various magistracies of the Roman Republic. Now this
is interesting for the later period because it sets a limit of age and as to when you
can progress through the various stages of the Cirsus Honorum. Following the law introduced
in 180, a very crucial point on the timeline is the Sack of Carthage and indeed Corinth
in 146. This is for the Roman author Sallust, the turning point, when Rome’s morals decline
and they no longer have external enemies to contend with. So this is even in the Roman
Republican period itself, considered a turning point. Following that, Appian, a later imperial writer,
saw the Tribunate of Tiberius Gracchus as a turning point, as the point when internal
violence starts to affect the Roman Republic in 133BC. Now the Tribunates of Tiberius and
his younger brother Gaius are important for the major themes that historians see in the
late Republic – the struggle of power between the Senate and the People – questions of land
– questions of wealth and social equality. And this culminates in 121BC with the death
of Gaius Gracchus at the hands of the Senate. This is the first instance when the Senate
decree – what Julius Caesar would refer to as the ultimate decree of the Senate – the
Senatus Consultum Ultimum. We see by the end of the 2nd century BC that whilst Sallust
saw the Fall of Carthage as the end of great rivalries in the Mediterranean, Rome was still
struggling with a number of oversea wars – fighting against Jugurtha in North Africa and facing
the incursion of Germanic tribes from northern Italy. These wars took up much of Rome’s resources
and placed large amounts of power in the hands of Gaius Marius. The beginning of the first
century BC not only saw the continuation of external wars but what could also be termed
a civil war in Italy. This was the war of the Roman allies – the
Italian communities against Rome – due to a large part to the social and economic inequalities
they had experienced since the time of the Gracchi and even before. Rome’s allies rose
up against Rome and tried to create an independent state of Italy. Whilst their attempts came
to nothing, they did in the end attain Roman citizenship, widening the remit of who was
Roman, creating a unified Italy, even though the social tensions that caused the war would
continue further on through the period. Whilst Rome was contending with a war in Italy, it
was also facing pressure from the East. The Pontic King Mithridates managed to stage a
one day attack across five major cities in Asia minor that saw the death of between 80000
and 150000 Roman and Italian citizens. This gives us a sense of how much hatred there
was for Roman control in the Eastern Mediterranean and this prompted a series of wars against
Mithridates that would start in 88 with Sulla and continue down until the 60s with Pompey. Whilst Rome was contending with Mithridates
in the East in 88 and whilst it had ended the war with the Italians, a new war sprung
up in Italy. This time a true civil war between Marius and Sulla and the bone of contention
was who was going to have command in the war against Mithridates. So we can start to see
how all these things, external affairs and internal fighting, come together in a cataclysmic
event which produces the first civil war in 88BC.

About James Carlton

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