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Roman Republic: Res publica Romana • View topic - Was the end of the Res Publica necessary?

Was the end of the Res Publica necessary?

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Was the end of the Res Publica necessary?

Postby Publius Sextius Laevus » Wed Aug 17, 2016 3:15 am

Salvete Civibus,

What a civilization believes guides it to what it becomes?

Was the end of the Res Publica and the change to the Principiate necessary for Rome to continue? Did the Republic fail to meet the demands of an expanding empire, the Senate lose it's way by getting too rich too fast? Could the Senate have averted the civil unrest leading up to Caesar? Or is it fate on who has the biggest army.

At least, at this end of the Republic, it feels like this unrest of the Populates (the 99%) an the Optimates (the 1%) is heating up again.

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Re: Was the end of the Res Publica necessary?

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Thu Aug 18, 2016 11:20 am

Salvete Quirites!

Few things happen necessarily. And especially complex events that depend on multiple factors.
Therefore the end of the republic did not happen necessarily.

One reason for the necessity of the end of the republic, which is often mentioned, is its size and that such a big empire could not be governed as a republic, which was designed for a city state. This argument is not valid. The Roman Empire had perhaps 80 million people. The USA have over 350 million people and are still governed as republic.

The historic events did also not necessarily lead to a fall of the republic. Pompey could have defeated Caesar at Pharsalus. He actually had superior forces. Cassius and Brutus could have won at Philippi against the Triumvirate. Augustus could have died before naming a successor. Tiberius who had little interest in politics could have transferred power to the Senate instead of Sejanus, when he retired to Capri. The list goes on. And there were several occasions during the crisis of the 3rd century, when the Senate could have restored the republic, so the desastrous reign of Diocletian that ended the Roman era would never have happened.

However the past cannot be changed. The republic came to an end. And it followed Plato's rule of the cycle of governents. So it did not come as surprise for many philosophers.
But if the many-worlds-interpretation of quantum mechanics is true, then there are many parallel worlds where it did not happen and Rome remained a republic for many centuries afterwards.

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Re: Was the end of the Res Publica necessary?

Postby Gaia Cassia Longina » Thu Aug 18, 2016 4:07 pm

Salvete,

This is my area of expertise! And I love to talk about it! One of my chapters in my dissertation and book are about the politics and collapse of the Republic.

While I do agree with the cycle of government changes, the Republic did not have to fall just when it did.

The end of the Republic was not caused by one person or event. One could say it began with the Gracchi, or Carthage, Caesar, Pompey, Sulla...you name it! One thing is certain though, after Philippi and once all resistance was gone, Antonius and Octavian pretty much had it for themselves, and once Antonius was gone, well, of course, that was the true beginning of the Principate.

But between the years 42 and 27 BCE, what then was Rome? It certainly was not a Republic and it was not yet the Empire. These years, the transition years, are almost as interesting as 100-42 BCE where you can really see the Republic collapse.

Was it greed that brought about the shift in morals? All that wealth from the wars certainly played the main part in the Optimates' rise to power. But we also must remember that political parties did not really exist back then (only in the last few years do we really see "parties" emerge). So we cannot say that the Optimates were like the Republicans or the Populares were the Democrats. It just doesn't line up in their culture.

The Senate, with this huge growth happening, could not keep up with the demands of such a large territory. They did not want to change their ways and could not see that they needed to change. I am not saying by any means that traditionalists were wrong, but they simply could not continue to run the government as they wanted to. Change needed to happen, but it could have remained a Republic if they had acted quickly enough. By Caesar's time, it was too late and the government could not keep up as their world evolved. It was not Caesar's fault, but all the energy was focused on him because he took the most dramatic steps.

For me, a Republic is always preferable to an Empire, and they could have kept the Republic, if only they saw that changes had to be made in order to keep their Republic running in a very different world than what they started with.
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Re: Was the end of the Res Publica necessary?

Postby Publius Sextius Laevus » Fri Aug 19, 2016 6:59 pm

'Fiat Lux! Fiat Vita!'
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Re: Was the end of the Res Publica necessary?

Postby Gaia Cassia Longina » Sat Aug 20, 2016 1:18 pm

I'm sorry, Laeve, I do not completely understand your question?

I'm afraid that Caesar was just a final so-to-say "culmination" of fear by the Senate. They were not idly sitting by as they noticed the collapse - some fled from politics, some were dragged in, and some actively tried to figure out why the Republic was disintegrating. Rome's army was part of the problem - by becoming faithful to just one person (their commander) and not to the State was a massive problem. Even from the time of Sulla, you can see that take effect. All but one of Caesar's generals refused to march on Rome - all but one of Sulla's generals marched with him. With the army becoming increasingly important in politics, this only led to further decline. Wealth and military backing was now political power - and that, is not a Republic.

Caesar, by 44, was much too "into it," as some will say, to simply "back out." He didn't give up easily and he certainly would not have simply left office. I agree, changes had to be made and Caesar's death was a terrible act, but from the Liberatores view, he was the underlying problem, which just isn't true. Yes, Caesar increasingly began to act like a tyrant and further making the Republic just a name - but Caesar wasn't going to fix it, and neither were the Liberatores. Neither one man or group could fix it by that time, it was a whole upheaval and re-evalution that needed to happen. Which, of course, could have happened - but it didn't, sadly enough.

To me - you may see my previous topic on What Makes A Republic - a Republic is not governed by one man. It is governed by the people, who are a united group. Once this united group started to fall apart, as it did with the Gracchi (and the splitting of the Optimates and Populares), then the whole system begins to collapse. Which can also be said of the state of affairs in America...but that is a whole different topic.
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Re: Was the end of the Res Publica necessary?

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Sat Aug 20, 2016 1:34 pm

Let us play it through! What if the republic had not fallen? What if Caesar had died in battle in Gaul or lost against Pompey at Pharsalus or died by an accident or a disease, before he crossed the Rubicon? What if the republic had survived the first century? How would the world look today?
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Re: Was the end of the Res Publica necessary?

Postby Gaia Cassia Longina » Sat Aug 20, 2016 4:01 pm

Well, for starters, Rome would be very different. Although I cannot stand the emperors, they did build beautiful monuments and they cleaned up the city very well.

Who knows what could have happened! So many things may have happened! The Republic may have been doomed to fail anyway, and it may have then been possible, due to the huge unrest, for "barbarian" tribes to take over Rome - this time, centuries before the actual collapse of Rome itself. So, Rome may have collapsed way before.
Or, the Republic (by some fortunate stroke of luck or the government evolving like it had to) survived and developed into a stronger government and force in the world. We could be living in a Republican Rome world still. Cassius and Brutus may not have become the figures we know them as. There is a huge possibility that we would not even know about them. Philippi would have never happened and they would have probably lived to be a ripe old age (which means I would have a bigger family than I do now, which I would have probably liked).

Would the turmoil of that time never have existed then? That turmoil brought about some of the most interesting cultural works - Cicero's letters and speeches, philosophical works, Catullus' poetry, Horace, Ovid, Vergil? Would they have been as famous if they weren't sponsored by Augustus and others? Would Cicero have created such timeless works? If they didn't have the turmoil that they did, maybe their works would never have been created.

Did the Republic ever truly fall since the American government is somewhat based on it? If so, did it ever completely collapse in that case?
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Re: Was the end of the Res Publica necessary?

Postby Marcus Minucius Audens » Sat Aug 20, 2016 10:14 pm

One of the things that I believe was important in the failure of the Roman Empire was the weakness of the military that had essetially grown it and supported it. By the late third century AD the Roman Army had been surpassed in fury, effectivness ,and vitality by both the northern hordes and the Islamic forces. They were oustripped in the necessary rapid movement on the battlefield as well as the technical views that new ideas which had provided a widening gap in the use of new technology. The Romans had for centuries relied upon the Greeks for new ideas which they could improve on and utilize in many ways. When these ideas were overtaken by others, the Roman military became a secondary aggressor, and that was a very real weakening factor in the demis of what we call the Western Roman Empire. Of course, those in the eastern part of the empire claim that the Roman empire existed for another thousand years, even though they all spoke Greek, called themselves Romans, and slowly lost both ground and wars to the Islamic forces and others for that thousand years.

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Re: Was the end of the Res Publica necessary?

Postby Publius Sextius Laevus » Sun Aug 21, 2016 3:54 am

Salvete!

What if Caesar had caught a cold and died before even thinging of marching on Rome, Mark Antony continuing on in Gaul as Vercingetorix's b-t and governer of Gaul.
Lupus, you and Cicero's son Marcus are Consuls, Cassia, you are Princeps Senatus, and Marcus Auden as Pompey the Great. How would you save the Res Publica Romanorum?

(This what if game is open to all contenders, just step into the fray.)

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Re: Was the end of the Res Publica necessary?

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Mon Aug 22, 2016 11:30 am

Caesar needed to be offered an amicable way out. The problem was that if he had surrendered his legions after his proconsulship, he would have been at the mercy of his enemies in Rome. So he had no choice but using force.

If the Republic had not fallen, the Empire would not have been so susceptible to the personal flaws and weaknesses of the Emperors. The system would have remained more stable and undergone less changes. But of course it would slowly have changed over the last two millennia.
Probably today the provinces would be governed as republics and not by a governor and enjoy a certain autonomy. The core of the Empire would still speak regional dialects of Latin. Classical Latin would only be used in a religious context. The Empire would still be held together by a common culture as well as political and trade relations...
... which is actually exactly how it is today. So probably nothing would be different after a long period of time.

I think particular events do not really change the course of history, they cannot change the big trends and developments. They can delay them for a short time, but they cannot prevent them. They can change symbols and words, but they cannot change the situation itself. If the Republic had not fallen, we would probably call nation states provinciae, the House of Representatives Comitia, the Western nations Imperium Occidentalis and Russia Imperium Orientalis, Jesus Christ Apollo, Jehova Juppiter Optimus Maximus and the virgin Maria Vesta or Juno and the pope Pontifex Maximus, but nothing would really be different.
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