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  1. BIG CITY/BIG PROBLEMS • Rome had a population of close to one million people and no police force or army garrison to keep the peace • Majority of these people were Head Count, freed slaves, and slaves • Frequently formed “mobs” and rioted

  2. PRIVATE ARMIES • Mobs were generally unarmed and relied on sticks and stones as weapons • Wealthy could obtain permission from Senate to issue weapons to their clients in an emergency • Wealthy also had knowledge of strategy, tactics and logistics • Kept poor down with private armies • Only a small step from using private armies to keep the peace to using them to weaken or eliminate a rival or advance a program

  3. CROWDED CITY • Rome had a huge population crammed together in a high density in a small geographic area • Streets were narrow and winding • Rich lived in mansions on Palatine Hill or in suburbs • Most other Romans lived in small flats in rickety wooden apartment buildings • In lower part of city • Subject to periodic floods, collapsing buildings, and almost daily fires

  4. SLUMS • Apartment buildings were poorly constructed and designed • Flats were poorly lit, poorly ventilated, and unheated • Water had to be carried in from public fountains • Not connected to the sewer system • Most of Rome was an appalling slum • But landlords like Cicero made good incomes from their property • Rents were 100-150 sesterces a month • Some reformers proposed suspending rents for a time to help the poor • Always blocked by wealthy landlords

  5. LABOR FORCE • Most economic activity in Rome revolved around supplying its population with food and other necessities and construction • Many workers were slaves or men from slave origins • Advantages of slaves • Slaves were cheap • Most came from the East and had highly-developed skills • They provided a stable labor force

  6. HARD LIVES • Freeborn Romans of the Head Count were mostly displaced small farmers • Generally performed unskilled labor on irregular basis • Most Romans only worked periodically at unskilled jobs for low pay • Yet they continued to pour into Rome because it was even worse out in the countryside • Lived hard lives, dependent on the voluntary generosity of the wealthy and occasional part-time employment

  7. SUMMARY • Preconditions for political violence in Republican Rome • Governmental structure • Rigged in favor of the wealthy • Large population and lack of official police force • Caused the wealthy to form private armies to protect themselves and their interests • Misery and squalor of the majority of the Roman population • Multiplied their grievances against the wealthy and the government • Also fostered their dependence on the rich and powerful • Left them open to ruthless politicians who promised them satisfaction of their complaints in exchange for support

  8. TIBERIUS GRACCHUS • In 133 BC, the tribune Tiberius Gracchus proposed to the Tribal Assembly that state-owned land be distributed among the poor of Rome • Tribal Assembly passed it but it was vetoed by another tribune in the pay of the Senate • Gracchus then had the tribune impeached and had his proposal passed again • Senate then charged Gracchus with “aspiring to tyranny” and lynched him

  9. GAIUS GRACCHUS • Gaius Gracchus became tribune ten years later • Passed several pieces of legislation that helped the poor • But he knew new tribunes would revoke it all once his term of office was over • Armed his clients and planned to use his private army to make sure his laws remained on the books • Senate raised its own private army to oppose him • Gaius and his clients killed in ensuing battle

  10. SATURNIUS • Another tribune, Saturnius, revived the Gracchus proposals between 103 and 100 BC • Free public land to poor and free, government-subsidized grain to urban populus • Murdered anyone who stood in his way with private army of armed clients • Senate once again raised its own private army and eventually defeated Saturnius • Saturnius and supporters killed by senators while awaiting trial

  11. NEAR CIVIL WAR • Tribune Sulpicius proposed to Tribal Assembly that freed slaves by given citizenship and be allowed to join voting tribes • 88 BC • Raised army and drove Senate and opposing tribunes out of city • One of the ousted consuls, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, invaded Rome with an army and killed Sulpicius and his supporters Sulpicius Sulla

  12. CINNA AND MARIUS • Sulla received a military commission and went to Asia Minor to fight some rebellious kings • Another tribune, Cinna, revived Sulpicius’ proposal • Supported by Gaius Marius • 7-time consul and military legend • Opposed by another tribune, Octavius, and his private army • Cinna finally driven from city but he called on the regular army, returned, and slaughtered Octavius and his supporters Cinna Gaius Marius

  13. SULLA SUPREME • Marius died of a stroke shortly after helping Cinna regain control of Rome • Sulla returns with army, massacres Cinna and supporters, and sets himself up as dictator • Also murders everyone who had ever crossed him in the past • Retires in 79 BC and violence erupts immediately

  14. POMPEY MAGNUS • Price of grain skyrockets in Rome due to pirates in eastern Mediterranean • Tribal Assembly votes to give Pompey Magnus extraordinary military powers to eliminate pirate threat • Opposed by Senate but poor chase senators out of the city • Also physically several tribunes who threatened to veto appointment • Clear that common people would not stand any opposition to Pompey’s appointment • Pompey wipes pirates out in 3 months • Price of grain falls

  15. MORE POLITICAL VIOLENCE • Political violence continued • Cataline Conspiracy • Milo/Clodius affair • War between Pompey and Julius Caesar • Establishment of dictatorship by Caesar and his subsequent assassination • All ate away at the core of the Republic

  16. END OF THE REPUBLIC • Victory of Caesar’s grandnephew, Octavian, over Marc Antony and Cleopatra in 31 BC brings end of the Roman Republic • Last civil war of the period • Octavian (now calling himself Augustus) creates an imperial monarchy to take place of the Republic

  17. MAIN POINTS • Political violence did not proceed from any single source in Rome • Sometimes it was private army some tribune • Sometimes it was private army of senators • Sometimes it was a spontaneous uprising by the poor themselves • And sometimes it came from the senators themselves • The common thread which connects all of these sources (except the last one) was that all mob actions involved the poor • They made up the private armies of both tribunes and the Senate as well as the unorganized mobs

  18. WHO MADE UP THE MOBS? • Cicero claimed the supporters of Clodius were “assassins freed from jail, runaway slaves, bandits, and foreigners” • But was this accurate? • Best evidence indicates no • Based on similar studies of crowds during the French Revolution by George Rudé and some contemporary evidence, there is no solid reason to believe that Roman mobs were dominated by criminals and outsiders • But they were poor and frequently desperate Cicero, supreme bullshit artist

  19. WHY DID THE POOR RIOT? • Some historians have interpreted motivations of mobs in class terms • As a struggle between rich and poor • Class consciousness was not a motivating factor, or at least not a crucial one • Main motivations lay elsewhere • Sometimes poor were following orders of patrons • At other times, the mobs were motivated by grain shortages or high grain prices • Unifying motivational factor was hunger • Mobs were not out to overthrow their economic and social superiors nor where they a bunch of heroic democrats out to change the rigged structure of Roman government • They were poor, hungry people who wanted food, who wanted to survive

  20. IMPERIAL MONARCHY • From the standpoint of the poor, the destruction of the Republic and the installation of an imperial monarchy by Augustus was not such a bad thing • Wealthy lost control of government under the monarchy • Emperors provided free grain (and later free olive oil and free wine) • They also improved the water supply, provided better fire protection, launched a rebuilding program that provided more jobs, and put on lavish public entertainments • And mob violence correspondingly declined

  21. SUMMARY I • Emperors did more to alleviate the misery of the poor of Rome than the Republic had ever done in order to protect themselves • Political violence of the Republic begins to make some sense from this point of view • Suffocating under a governmental structure designed to only benefit the rich and powerful, those who wanted to help the poor had to go outside the system to accomplish their goals • And since Roman republican politics was based on the development of large networks of clients and the maintenance of private armies to keep the peace, it was inevitable that this would lead to the frequent use of violence

  22. SUMMARY II • Nor were the poor adverse averse to violence • Desperately poor, underemployed, pressed by the high cost of living in Rome, and often hungry, they were more than willing to follow men who promised to solve their problems • And sometimes even took matters into their own hands • The destruction of the Republic was, in a way, their victory • For with the destruction of the oligarchy which had controlled the Republic and establishment of imperial monarchy, living conditions for the poor did improve • And that was the only thing they had wanted in the first place

  23. PRINCEPS • Augustus did not immediately establish a blatant imperial monarchy after he emerged victorious over Marc Antony • Institutions of the Republic still appeared to operate • But no longer possessed any real political power • All real power was now in the hands of Augustus • With the honorary title of “princeps” • Controlled army and provinces, had the poor in his pocket, selected candidates for public office and made sure they were elected, determined Senate membership, had total control of the treasury

  24. THE AUGUSTAN SYSTEM • Augustus exercised his vast powers quietly, behind the scenes • Because he was fearful that his open use of his powers might arouse republican sympathies of Roman people • On the other hand, he had no intention of voluntarily giving his powers up • Since this might re-ignite civil war • Augustus thus stayed in power and established a dynasty • Emperors who would follow him would become less and less careful in the quiet exercise of their power and the fiction of the Republic would fall to the wayside