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Roman Government

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Roman Government

What Influence did Gaius Julius Caesar and Augustus have on the reforms of the government from a Republic to an Empire?

By Daniel Shaw
Table of Contents

Synopsis…………………………………………3
Report…………………………………………...4
-Introduction………………………………………………………..4
- The Senate’s Rise and decline in power………………..4
-Gaius Julius Caesar………………………………………………5
-Caesar Augustus………………………………………………….6
-Conclusion…………………………………………………………..8

Synopsis
The Roman government changed from a republic to an empire, this doesn’t seem an easy task for modern day governments. How was it that this occurred? And what impact did Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar have on this change? Julius Caesar, although not completely starting the process, this was begun be Sulla, Caesar did draw the power away from the senate and bestowed it upon himself, partaking in constant wars, instead of stabilising the republic. When he died, Rome fell back into civil war and power was regained by Julius Caesar’s heir, Augustus. Augustus continued drawing Rome away from a republic, as was his only option if Rome was to survive. He was almost completely unchallenged once he took power as his opponents were dead from the war. He began rebuilding the nation and restored it to its prior capacity and further. Caesar was the overall catalyst for the reform and Augustus simply continued with that legacy.

Report
After 500 years as a republic, how was it that the Roman Empire became an empire? In today’s society, politicians struggle with every legislation and law change. Examine how Gaius Julius Caesar and Augustus brought about this change, taking the power from a senate of 1000 to one man. What effect did this have on the Roman Empire and its survival? ‘’The senate was established as an advisory body but became the governing body of Rome.’’ Until around 133 B.C the senate was almost completely unchallenged. They gained the majority of their power during the Second Punic War as they needed the ability to lead with authority and calmly make decisions in order to defeat the Carthaginians within their territory. In this time, they took control away from the plebeians and showed their skills in leadership as many were ex-magistrates with vast experience in government. They organised the armies and lead them to victory. This contributed to their gain in status. With this build-up of power, the achievements of Caesar and Augustus are made greater. To discover the reasons for this dramatic change the context and reforms of these two emperors will be analysed using primary and secondary sources.
The Senate’s Rise and decline in power
Power was held firmly by the senate during the second century and the longer it did so, the easier it was for it to continue. Despite these gains in power, it couldn’t last forever as senators began to put the interests of themselves ahead of the Roman people. This lead to corruption and in some cases, the senate’s decisions was ignored. Even after ‘’the senate’s authority had been restored by Sulla’’ they could no longer manage such a large dominion along with the political and social problems faced within Rome. As further senatorial hostilities such as the alliance between Crassus and Pompey continued, the senate’s stability became a political battleground as many plotted for proconsul. This was achieved by Crassus and Pompey. Competition such as this between the noble families, and the actions of Sulla who ‘’without consulting any magistrate, published a list of eighty men to be condemned’’ . These men who were condemned were those who supported Marius, his rival. By eliminating the opposition in such a manner, and having marched on Rome with his loyal legions, left him in a position of power. The senate elected him dictator and through his laws passed which were supposed to ensure the survival of the republic, he weakened the senate and paved the way for Julius Caesar and Augustus to bring about the reforms of a republic to an empire.
Gaius Julius Caesar
Examples set by Sulla, marching on Rome twice, are perhaps what inspired Julius Caesar into marching on Rome himself. Once again this was caused by the rivalry between the noble families. Caesar feared Pompey would arrest him as soon as he disbanded his armies after his conquest in the north was over. Both were consul, meaning Caesar was to rule Rome alongside Pompey, as they were political enemies, each looked for opportunity to depose the other. Pompey being in Rome whilst Caesar was fighting the Gauls, gained the support of the senate, and as their terms were coming to an end, Caesar would be required to disband his forces, leaving him defenceless to the senate that would have seen him as a threat to the republic. Cicero is thought to be the first to see the threat Caesar was, he saw ‘’How powerful a character was hidden behind Caesar’s agreeable, good-humoured manner’’. Cicero stated ‘’I cannot imagine that this man could conceive such a wicked thing as to destroy the Roman constitution’’ Caesar, fearing his arrest, marched on Rome.

Caesar surprised Pompey and the senate by taking the city of Ariminum without waiting for the bulk of his legions to reinforce him. This sent Italy into panic and Rome was sent into total disorder. Pompey now fearing his fate should he stay and wait for Caesar to take him prisoner, fled along with a large number of senators. By the time Caesar took Rome, it was in a much better state than he had expected and with the large military power he possessed after acquiring Domitius’ 30 cohorts, was in full control of Italy within 60 days. As the non-violent intentions of Caesar reached the senators with Pompey, some returned, and obeyed Caesar. In order to please him, ‘’carried a law appointing Caesar dictator’’ from which he abdicated 11 days later after sorting out public issues. In the opportunity to rightfully obtain full control, Caesar refuses the title and instead retakes the position of consul with Servilius Isauricus.

Popularity with the people was easily won for Caesar. In a society built on glory and honour, Caesar made sure he used every victory to share and display his wealth with the people in feasts and gladiator shows. His speeches to the senate were often well received, due to his eloquence in speech and the dictatorship he held along with military superiority. Although Julius Caesar was determined to maintain a senate, and entrusted much authority into his lieutenants as he was absent from Italy so frequently. He acted with the powers of an emperor by constantly undergoing campaigns and decisions on his own accord. Often his actions were disapproved of but his celebrations and military kept himself free from revolt. When ‘’those who had come prepared for the murder all bared their daggers and hemmed Caesar on every side’’ and Caesar was assassinated, ‘’the anger of the citizens drove Brutus and Cassius from the city’’ for in his will, he had bestowed upon all citizens of Rome a substantial legacy, this lead to immense anger towards the conspirators of the assassination. Despite the murder of Caesar, his actions as a dictator had led Rome to far from a republic, and would only to be progressed further by others towards an empire.
Caesar Augustus
Julius Caesar adopted a son in his will, who followed on from his legacy and gained control of Rome through the civil war which was sparked from the dictator’s death. Augustus is debatably the greatest Roman ruler as he so cleverly dominated the political spectrum at the time, of which many opponents were already dead from the civil war. But once peace was established throughout the empire, Augustus came to the vital choice of where he was to go from here. He dreaded that should he retire, civil war would break out again. But also should he adopt autocratic power in relation to Julius Caesar, he would incur the same result in death. If he allowed provincial commanders to much freedom then a repeat of the republic era would occur with armies marching upon Rome and seizing control. Therefore he had to retain power and rule as emperor whilst attempting not to upset 500 year old traditions. In a sense, Augustus was forced into his position but took the steps to reform slowly, making the modifications easier to accept.

Augustus in reality didn’t have a choice as to what kind of leadership he displayed during his reign. He made sure to maintain the senate, as Julius Caesar had, but held a 50/50 power agreement with them. But even this was a false power share, as he ‘’possessed overwhelming military force, wealth and prestige’’ within the important provinces, whilst the senate held many of the less important regions. With his power, he didn’t use it unwisely, but used it in great moderation whilst building up the empire out of the ruins from the civil wars. The wars had damaged Italy, in both infrastructure and population, ‘’a census of the people was taken. The old lists had contained 320, 000 names: now there were only 150, 000’’. Through careful and clever political and religious manoeuvrers, he was able to strengthen his right to the throne; Augustus had Virgil, a contemporary poet of the time, to rewrite the founding of Rome, as one of his propaganda acts. This particular story, the Aeneidos linked his family back to the those who fled Troy when it was conquered, claiming those who fled founded Rome and are the ancestors to his family. His propaganda was immensely successful as even today, that story is considered to be the original myth of Rome’s founding.

With the continuation building an empire from Julius Caesar’s legacy, Augustus was vitally important for this task, for it would seem, from the delicate situation he inherited, any other man to have taken the position would have failed and lead to the total collapse of the Roman Empire far earlier than it did. Augustus’ amazing restraint in this position of boundless power is what created the legend remembered 2000 years later. With the long reign of Augustus, living to 75, the legacy of this great emperor was imbedded into the nation. It was now impossible to return to any other government format after the empire had been to successful and developed. But even with Emperor Augustus, he still required the senate for counsel. The Roman Empire would never have survived without the senate assisting in counsel and administrative tasks, managing the vast expanse of the empire.
Conclusion
As Julius Caesar came into power from marching on Rome after Sulla’s example, to the bloody civil war from which Augustus took control as the first Roman Emperor. It seems that all significant Roman leaders had to make their mark through violence, and with the blood they spilled, came about the reforms of government leading from a kingdom, to a republic onto an empire. Julius Caesar can be said to have been the focal point of this transformation, as he broke down the republic foundations through his rule as a dictator and disregard for the senate. This can be said to have been caused by his limited time in Rome and having scared away many senators. So much of his time was spent at war and gaining the constant support of the plebeians that in the chaos, it was impossible for Rome to develop further as an orderly republic. It was inevitable for the turn to an empire to come about without the focus on development but war and conquest. Augustus is responsible for maturing the fallen republic to the state of an empire, but with his situation, he made the only viable decision in order to preserve Rome. Therefore, Caesar was the main cause of the change from a republic to an empire, and he did so through the confiscation of power from the senate onto himself.

--------------------------------------------
[ 1 ]. Pamela Bradly, Ancient Rome Using Evidence, Australia, 1990, p. 68.
[ 2 ]. Ibid. Bradley. p. 218.
[ 3 ]. Ibid. Bradley. p. 218.
[ 4 ]. Ibid. Bradley. p. 222.
[ 5 ]. Harris, Nathaniel. History of Ancient Rome. Great Britain. p. 26
[ 6 ]. Plutarch. Fall of the Roman Republic. Rome. BC 50-c. 120 AD. p. 97.
[ 7 ]. Ibid. Plutarch. p. 258
[ 8 ]. Scullard, H.H. From the Gracchi to Nero. Great Britain. 1959. p. 137.
[ 9 ]. ‘Julius Caesar’, revised 26 August 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_Caesar#Dictatorship_and_assassination, accessed 30 August, 2012.
[ 10 ]. Plutarch. Fall of the Roman Republic. Rome. BC 50-c. 120 AD. p. 318.
[ 11 ]. Harris, Nathaniel, History of Ancient Rome, Great Britain, p. 34.
[ 12 ]. Scullard, H.H. From the Gracchi to Nero. Great Britain. 1959. p. 208.
[ 13 ]. Ibid, Scullard.
[ 14 ]. Harris, Nathaniel, history of ancient Rome, Great Britain, p. 36.
[ 15 ]. Plutarch. Fall of the Roman Republic. Rome. BC 50-c. 120 AD. p. 307.
[ 16 ]. ‘Aeneidos’, http://web.archive.org/web/20080406150447/http://bibliotecas.reduaz.mx/libros-e/libros/P._Vergilii_Maronis-Aeneidos.pdf, accessed 31 August, 2012

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