Profiteers Tearing Apart the Republic

Ps. Sallust Against Cicero

“Where should I protest, whom should I implore, Senators, because the republic is being torn apart for any kind of audacious profiteer? Should I complain to the Roman people? They are so corrupted by bribes that they offer themselves and their fortunes for sale.

Should I appeal to you, Senators? You whose authority is a joke to any kind of criminal miscreant in this place where Marcus Tullius defends the laws, the courts and the state and acts like he is in charge here as if he were the only man left from a family of the most famous man, Scipio Africanus, and not some orphan found on the street, summoned here, and only just recently rooted in this city?”

Ubi querar, quos implorem, patres conscripti, diripi rem publicam atque audacissimo cuique esse praedae? apud populum Romanum? qui ita largitionibus corruptus est, ut se ipse ac fortunas suas venales habeat. an apud vos, patres conscripti? quorum auctoritas turpissimo cuique et sceleratissimo ludibrio est; ubi M. Tullius leges, iudicia, rem publicam defendit atque in hoc ordine ita moderatur quasi unus reliquus e familia viri clarissimi, Scipionis Africani, ac non reperticius, accitus, ac paulo ante insitus huic urbi civis.

Morgan Library, MS M.81, Folio 79r

The Rise and Fall of Republican Rome as Stages in a Life

Seneca the Elder, Historical Fragments, 1 [=Lactant. Inst. Div. 7.15.14]

“Seneca outlined the periods of Roman history in “life-stages”. The first was her infancy under the king Romulus, who parented Rome and educated her. Then there followed a childhood under various kings thanks to whom the city grew and was shaped by many practices and institutions. Then, while Tarquin was king and Rome began to become more adult, it could not endure servitude and, once the yoke of arrogant rule was thrown off, preferred to heed laws instead of kings.

Once the Roman adolescence ended with the close of the Punic war,  it began to show the full strength of adulthood. For, when Carthage was subdued, that city which was an ancient rival for power, Rome extended her hands over the whole earth, both land and sea until every king and nation had bent to her power.

But, since there was no reason left for wars, Rome began to use her strengths poorly and wore herself out. This was the first step of old age: when Rome was wounded by civil wars and suffering from internal evil, she returned again to the practice of individual rule, as if she had devolved into a second infancy. Thus she lost the freedom which she defended when Brutus was its agent and champion and grew weak in old age, as if she had not the strength to support herself unless she could use the ‘cane’ of kings.”

Seneca Romanae urbis tempora distribuit in aetates; primam enim dixit infantiam sub rege Romulo fuisse, a quo et genita et quasi educata sit Roma, deinde pueritiam sub ceteris regibus, a quibus et aucta sit et disciplinis pluribus institutisque formata. At vero Tarquinio regnante, cum iam quasi adulta esse coepisset, servitium non tulisse, et reiecto superbae dominationis iugo maluisse legibus obtemperare quam regibus, cumque esset adulescentia eius fine Punici belli terminata, tum denique confirmatis viribus coepisse iuvenescere. Sublata enim Carthagine, quae diu aemula imperii fuit, manus suas in totum orbem terra marique porrexit, donec regibus cunctis et nationibus imperio subiugatis, cum iam bellorum materia deficeret, viribus suis male uteretur, quibus se ipsa confecit. Haec fuit prima eius senectus, cum bellis lacerata civilibus atque intestino malo pressa rursus ad regimen singularis imperii recidit quasi ad alteram infantiam revoluta. Amissa enim libertate, quam Bruto duce et auctore defenderat, ita consenuit tamquam sustentare se ipsa non valeret nisi adminiculo regentium uteretur.

Bust of an elderly Roman man, marble 40BC, Albertinum, Dresden

Augustus Caesar, Maybe Not the Nicest Guy

Suetonius, Divus Augustus 15

“Following the capture of Perusia, [Augustus] turned his mind to vengeance on many people—facing those who were trying to beg forgiveness or make an excuse with one response: “you must die.”

Some authors record that three hundred people from both orders were picked out from the war-prisoners and slaughtered like sacrificial animals at the altar built to Divine Julius on the Ides of March. There are those who report that he turned to war with a specific plan, namely to trap his secret adversaries and those whom fear rather than willingness constrain and, once the model of Lucius Antonius* was offered, to pay the bonuses promised to veterans once he had conquered his enemies and liquidated their assets.”

Perusia capta in plurimos animadvertit, orare veniam vel excusare se conantibus una voce occurrens “moriendum esse.” Scribunt quidam trecentos ex dediticiis electos utriusque ordinis ad aram Divo Iulio exstructam Idibus Martiis hostiarum more mactatos. Exstiterunt qui traderent conpecto eum ad arma isse, ut occulti adversarii et quos metus magis quam voluntas contineret, facultate L. Antoni ducis praebita, detegerentur devictisque iis et confiscatis promissa veteranis praemia solverentur.

*Lucius (Marcus Antonius’ brother) had been a target of the siege at Perusia. Octavian [Augustus] let him live and sent him to serve as governor in what is now Spain.

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Augustus as Pontifex Maximus, A Righteous and Religious Man

Marcus Cato, Literary and Cultural Critic

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 11.8

“Marcus Cato is reported to have criticized Aulus Albinus rightly and efficiently. Albinus wrote a Roman history in the Greek language during the consulship of Lucius Lucullus [151 BCE].

In the introduction to his history he wrote something of the following sentiment: no one ought to seek to fault him if anything presented in the book was inaccurate or written inelegantly; “For”, he writes “I am a Roman man born in Latium and the Greek language is most foreign to me.”

For this, then, he sought a favor, freedom from a poor evaluation, if he made any mistake. When Marcus Cato read this, he said “Aulus, you are certainly no minor dilettante, since you prefer to apologize for a mistake rather than avoiding it. We ought to seek forgiveness when we have made a mistake accidentally or have wronged someone without choice. But tell me—who compelled you to do this thing you’re doing, the thing you ask to be forgiven before you do it?” This story is recorded in the thirteenth book of Cornelius Nepos’ On Illustrious Men.”

Iuste venusteque admodum reprehendisse dicitur Aulum Albinum M. Cato. 2 Albinus, qui cum L. Lucullo consul fuit, res Romanas oratione Graeca scriptitavit. 3 In eius historiae principio scriptum est ad hanc sententiam: neminem suscensere sibi convenire, si quid in his libris parum composite aut minus eleganter scriptum foret; “nam sum” inquit “homo Romanus natus in Latio, Graeca oratio a nobis alienissima est”, ideoque veniam gratiamque malae existimationis, si quid esset erratum, postulavit. 4 Ea cum legisset M. Cato: “Ne tu,” inquit “Aule, nimium nugator es, cum maluisti culpam deprecari, quam culpa vacare. Nam petere veniam solemus, aut cum inprudentes erravimus aut cum compulsi peccavimus. Tibi,” inquit “oro te, quis perpulit, ut id committeres, quod, Priusquam faceres, peteres, ut ignosceretur?” 5 Scriptum hoc est in libro Corneli Nepotis de inlustribus viris XIII.

 

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Sergius, Victor Over Fortune

Pliny, Natural History 7.104-106

“Even though the great accomplishments of Sergio’s virtue are clear in these deeds, the impact of fortune is greater. I do not think that anyone can justly rank any person higher than Marcus Sergius—even with his great-grandson Catiline undermining his name.

Sergius lost his right hand in his second expedition; in two campaigns he received twenty-three wounds and even though he was disabled in both hands and both feet, his spirit was still whole and he still served on many campaigns despite his disabilities. He was captured twice by Hannibal—for he was no regular enemy at all—and escaped twice from his chains even though he was guarded in bonds or shackles every day for 20 months.

He fought only with his left hand four times and had two horses he was riding on killed under him. He made an iron right had for himself and with that tied on, he ended the siege at Cremona, rescued Placentia, and seized twelve hostile camps in Gaul. All these exploits are told in his speech during his quaestorship when his senatorial colleagues wanted to expel him from the sacrifices because he was disabled—this man who would have made a heap of wreaths had he faced a different enemy. How much a difference the times in which your virtue emerges matters! What civic rewards were offered by Trebbia, Ticinus or Trasimine? What crowns were earned after Cannae, where the greatest virtue was flight? Others were victors over men, only Sergius conquered fortune.”

Verum in his sunt quidem virtutis opera magna, sed maiora fortunae: M. Sergio, ut equidem arbitror, nemo quemquam hominum iure praetulerit, licet pronepos Catilina gratiam nomini deroget. secundo stipendio dextram manum perdidit, stipendiis duobus ter et vicies vulneratus est, ob id neutra manu, neutro pede satis utilis, animo tantum salvo, plurimis postea stipendiis debilis miles. bis ab Hannibale captus—neque enim cum quolibet hoste res fuit—,bis vinculorum eius profugus, in viginti mensibus nullo non die in catenis aut compedibus custoditus. sinistra manu sola quater pugnavit, duobus equis insidente eo suffossis. dextram sibi ferream fecit, eaque religata proeliatus Cremonam obsidione exemit, Placentiam tutatus est, duodena castra hostium in Gallia cepit, quae omnia ex oratione eius apparent habita cum in praetura sacris arceretur a collegis ut debilis, quos hic coronarum acervos constructurus hoste mutato! etenim plurimum refert in quae cuiusque virtus tempora inciderit. quas Trebia Ticinusve aut Trasimenus civicas dedere? quae Cannis corona merita, unde fugisse virtutis summum opus fuit? ceteri profecto victores hominum fuere, Sergius vicit etiam fortunam

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As the amazing Dr. Liv Yarrow recently let me know, there is a coin commemorating Sergius. Check out her post. She also wrote an awesome follow-up.

The Greatest Achievement: To Consider Nothing a Sin….

Livy, Ab Urbe Condita 39.8

“Then Hispala divulged the origin of the rituals. First, in the beginning, the shrine was the province of women and no man was permitted to enter. They kept three days set apart in a year when people could be admitted into Bacchic rites during the day. Married women were typically made the priests in turn.

Paculla Annia, priestess from Campania, changed everything at an alleged indication from the gods. For she also initiated men, her own sons, Minius and Herrenius Cerrinius, into the rites and turned it into a nighttime ritual instead of a day one, substituting five days of rituals in a single month for three in a whole year.

Since the time when the rituals were mixed in this way with men and women together and the rituals happening at night, no kind of crime or vice has been omitted from them. There were more rapes of men committed against other men than women. And those who were less eager for assault or rather sluggish to commit crimes, were offered up in the place of sacrificial animals.

To consider nothing a sin, this was the greatest achievement of religion among them. Men who seemed like they were out of their mind would provide prophecies by madly shaking their bodies. Married women in a Bacchant’s dress and with hair untied would run to the Tiber with burning torches in their hands and when they immersed them in the water they would come out still burning because of the treatment of sulfur and calcium upon them.”

Tum Hispala originem sacrorum expromit. primo sacrarium id feminarum fuisse, nec quemquam eo virum admitti solitum; tres in anno dies statos habuisse, quibus interdiu Bacchis initiarentur; sacerdotes in vicem matronas creari solitas. Pacullam Anniam Campanam sacerdotem omnia, tamquam deum monitu, immutasse: nam et viros eam primam filios suos initiasse, Minium et Herennium Cerrinios; et nocturnum sacrum ex diurno, et pro tribus in anno diebus quinos singulis mensibus dies initiorum fecisse. ex quo in promiscuo sacra sint et permixti viri feminis, et noctis licentia accesserit, nihil ibi facinoris nihil flagitii praetermissum. plura virorum inter sese quam feminarum stupra esse. si qui minus patientes dedecoris sint et pigriores ad facinus, pro victimis immolari. nihil nefas ducere, hanc summam inter eos religionem esse. viros, velut mente capta, cum iactatione fanatica corporis vaticinari; matronas Baccharum habitu crinibus passis cum ardentibus facibus decurrere ad Tiberim, demissasque in aquam faces, quia vivum sulpur cum calce insit, integra flamma efferre.

3rd Century AD Sarcophagus, Dionysus

Civil Conflict and the Punishment of Children

Cicero, Letters to Brutus, 23 (I.15), 43 BCE

“There has been no civil war in our state which I can remember in which, regardless of which side was victorious, there was not some hope for a government in the future. In this conflict, however, I could not easily confirm what government we would have if we are victorious, but there will surely never be another if we lose.

This is why I put forth harsh legislation against Antony and Lepidus too, not so much for the sake of vengeance as to frighten the lawless citizens among us from besieging their own country and to prepare for posterity a reason why no one should desire to emulate such insanity.

Although this idea certainly was not more mine than everyone’s, in one way it seems cruel: the fact that children, who have earned none of this, suffer the same punishment as their parents. But this is an ancient practice which has existed in every kind of state. Even the children of Themistocles lived in deprivation! If the same penalty attends citizens condemned in court, how could we possibly be easier against our enemies? And what can anyone complain about me when he would have to admit that if he had defeated me he would have treated me worse?”

nullum enim bellum civile fuit in nostra re publica omnium quae memoria mea fuerunt, in quo bello non, utracumque pars vicisset, tamen aliqua forma esset futura rei publicae: hoc bello victores quam rem publicam simus habituri non facile adfirmarim, victis certe nulla umquam erit. dixi igitur sententias in Antonium, dixi in Lepidum severas, neque tam ulciscendi causa quam ut et in praesens sceleratos civis timore ab impugnanda patria deterrerem et in posterum documentum statuerem ne quis talem amentiam vellet imitari. quamquam haec quidem sententia non magis mea fuit quam omnium. in qua videtur illud esse crudele, quod ad liberos, qui nihil meruerunt, poena pervenit. sed id et antiquum est et omnium civitatum, si quidem etiam Themistocli liberi eguerunt. et si iudicio damnatos eadem poena sequitur civis, qui potuimus leniores esse in hostis? quid autem queri quisquam potest de me qui si vicisset acerbiorem se in me futurum fuisse confiteatur necesse est?

Siege of Montargis. Chroniques de France ou de Saint Denis (from 1422 to 1460) France, N. (Calais?); 1487. ff. 1-299v. British Library, Royal 20 E VI f. 22
Siege of Montargis. Chroniques de France ou de Saint Denis (from 1422 to 1460) France, N. (Calais?); 1487. ff. 1-299v. British Library, Royal 20 E VI f. 22