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  Roman Politics in the 70s  B . C .:a Story of Realignments? * FEDERICO SANTANGELO ABSTRACT This paper revisits the political history of the Roman Republic in the third decade of the  rst century  B . C  . Its central contention is that the dominant feature of the period wasneither a reshuf   e of alliances within the  ‘ Sullan ’  senatorial nobility nor the swift demiseof Sulla ’ s legacy. Attention should be focused instead on some crucial policy issueswhich attracted debate and controversy in that period: the powers of the tribunes, thecorn supply of Rome, the rôle of the Senate, the revival of the census, and the full inclusion of the Allies into the citizen body. The political strategy of M. AemiliusLepidus (cos. 78  B . C  .) and its medium-term repercussions also deserve close scrutiny inthis connection. Keywords : Roman Italy; Roman Senate; L. Cornelius Sulla; M. Aemilius Lepidus; cornsupply; land; tribunate of the plebs; census I DEFINING THE LEGACY OF SULLA In the   rst book of the  Civil Wars  Appian discusses in vivid terms the events of the year78  B . C . He devotes considerable attention to the funeral of Sulla and frames thatspectacular public ceremony as the moment that brought the season of the Civil Wars of the 80s to a close and opened up a new phase in the troubled history of the lateRepublic. 1 In that account, the debate that preceded the funeral is the   rst stage of theprocess in which Sulla ’ s legacy is contested and eventually undone. According to themain surviving ancient narratives of the period, there had been no room for dissentsince the Colline Gate battle (November 82  B . C .); the  dominatio  of the dictator was thetime for systematic massacres and the distribution of rewards to the friends of the victor,not for open political debate. 2 If we are to believe Plutarch, even when the junior (if well-born) senator C. Caecilius Metellus publicly asked Sulla when he intended to putan end to the massacres that followed the Civil War, he did not question Sulla ’ sentitlement to pursue those that he was determined to punish. 3 In Appian ’ s words, Sulla ‘ ruled as he pleased ’  after he killed Lucretius Afella (or Ofella) in the middle of the *  Aspects of the argument of this paper were presented to audiences in Glasgow and Milan in March and April2013 respectively. I am very grateful for the questions and reactions that I received on those occasions. I shouldalso like to thank very warmly Jeremy Paterson, Alexander Thein, and the Journal ’ s Editor and readers for theircomments and observations on various drafts of this article. 1 App.,  BC   1.105 – 7. Vanderbroeck 1987: 220 and Blasi 2012: 13 – 23, 72 – 5 offer useful overviews of theevidence. It is likely that the funeral took place in the spring; Carcopino 1931: 221 n. 3 suggests a dating inMarch on the speculative grounds that there was a risk of rain during the funeral (Plut.,  Sull  . 38.3). 2 Sulla ’ s  dominatio : Cic.,  Leg. agr . 1.21, 2.81; Sall.,  Cat  . 5.6;  Hist  . 1.55.2, 8 M. (=1.48.2, 8 McG.). 3 Plut.,  Sull  . 31.2 – 3.  JRS  104 (2014), pp. 1 – 27.  © The Author(s) 2014.Published by The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies .doi:10.1017/S0075435814000045 , available at https:/ Downloaded from https:/ Biblioteca de la Universitat Pompeu Fabra, on 27 Feb 2017 at 15:59:50, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use  Forum to punish him for his decision to stand for the consulship, probably in early 81  B . C . 4 As Plutarch states, many may have had reservations on the system shaped by the new LegesCorneliae, especially shortly after they were passed, but there is no evidence that these werepublicly voiced and discussed. 5 Cicero claims to have argued against the legitimacy of theSullan law that deprived several communities of the Roman citizenship in a case concerninga woman from Arretium, which was heard during Sulla ’ s lifetime. The outcome may wellhave been favourable to Cicero ’ s client, but the issue was not resolved by that precedent. 6 Tellingly, the speech was not published. 7 The  pro Roscio Amerino  was delivered duringSulla ’ s lifetime, probably in 80  B . C ., and provided comprehensive factual evidence for theabuses perpetrated during the proscriptions. It also included a bitter attack onChrysogonus, a freedman who had a close personal association with Sulla. Cicero ’ sfocus, however, was consistently on the case and its protagonists, and the speech isstrikingly free from explicit criticism of Sulla and his political agenda. 8 There is a risk, as ever, of oversimplifying the nature of the political debate in light of thescant evidence that survives. A passing reference in Tacitus ’  Dialogus  records that manyeloquent speakers did not spare even Scipio, Sulla or Pompey. The reference to  plurimidisertorum  can hardly be just to the young advocate from Arpinum who took over thedefence of the Arretine woman and of Sextus Roscius from Ameria. 9 It is impossible,however, to give any depth to the picture. In the accounts of most of the survivingsources, it is only with Sulla ’ s departure from the political scene that open criticism of his use of power is voiced: in Appian ’ s memorable narrative, by a boy who heckledSulla on his way home on the day of his retirement to private life, and later byM. Aemilius Lepidus ( cos . 78  B . C .), who put forward the unsuccessful proposal of denying Sulla a public funeral. 10 That ceremony was also the last moment at whichSulla ’ s veterans acted as a united group in the city of Rome, as they took part  en masse in the funeral of their commander. Unlike the veterans of Caesar, they never became apressure group that fought to secure the survival of their former leader ’ s political legacy.Their interests had been provided for, with varying degrees of success, before the deathof their patron. 11 The  ‘ 10,000 ’  freedmen that Sulla had manumitted at the end of theCivil War and settled  —  if we are to believe Appian  —  in the city of Rome alsodisappear from the historical record. 12 In Appian ’ s relatively straightforward (and no doubt oversimpli  ed) account, the Sullanresettlement is an eventful interlude in the long history of the clash between  optimates  and  populares . From 78  B . C . onwards, business resumes as usual, so to speak, and the familiar 4 App.,  BC   1.101:  καθ ὰ ἐ βο ύ λετο  ἦ ρχε . On the date see Keaveney 2003: 90 – 1; cf. also 84 on the choice betweenAfella and Ofella. 5 Plut.,  Cic . 10.2. 6 Cic.,  Caec . 97, with Crawford 1984: 33 – 4. See below (Section V) for further discussion of the case. 7 cf. Steel 2012: 256 – 7. 8 Gruen 1968: 268 – 9; Santangelo 2007: 88 – 93; Dyck 2010: 5 – 10; Santangelo 2012a: 427 – 8 (discussing furtherrecent bibliography). On the relevance of the  pro Roscio  to Cicero ’ s construction of his public persona see Steel2012: 256 and Zetzel 2013: 434 – 42. 9 Tac.,  Dial  . 40.1. It is unclear which Scipio is alluded to; Güngerich 1980: 175 suggests Aemilianus. 10 App.,  BC   1.104 and 105. Signi  cantly, the latter is the only instance in which there is mention of the  ‘ Sullans ’ ( Σύλλειοι  ) as a political group rather than as the army   ghting under Sulla ’ s command in the Civil War in theancient evidence: Santangelo 2012b (cf., however, the cursory reference to  Syllana factio  in ps.-Ascon.p. 255.15 Stangl). On the limits of the notion of   ‘ politica «sillana» ’  after Sulla cf. also Canfora 1974: 7 – 12.Criniti 1969a: 403 draws attention to Appian ’ s use of the word  στάσις   in this context. Paterson 1985: 23 – 7 ismore optimistic on the viability of charting the  ‘ Sullan ’  camp in the 70s and speaks of a  ‘ class of 81 ’ ; see alsoWulff Alonso 2002, 107 – 8, 189. The existence of a group of men who owed their rise to Sulla ’ s victory doesnot entail, however, that they were a united political coalition. 11 contra  Twyman 1972: 819. On Sullan colonization see Santangelo 2007: 147 – 57; Thein 2010. 12 App.,  BC   1.104. FEDERICO SANTANGELO 2 , available at https:/ Downloaded from https:/ Biblioteca de la Universitat Pompeu Fabra, on 27 Feb 2017 at 15:59:50, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use  binary pattern of Roman politics takes over again. This view has met with wide approval.Most recently, V. Arena has set out to read the developments of the consulship of Lepidusand Catulus in 78  B . C . precisely in terms of a revival of the clash between  populares  and optimates . 13 Others have sketched different reconstructions. In a famous, if    awed,book, J. Carcopino argued that Sulla set out to create a monarchic regime, but quicklylost the support of the senatorial nobility, led by the Caecilii Metelli, and was eventuallycompelled to withdraw to private life. 14 In a recent contribution, A. Thein has drawnattention to the tension between the ancient depiction of Sulla as a tyrant, or at least asa forerunner of imperial power, and the evidence for the limits of Sulla ’ s power andin  uence. In his fascinating de  nition, Sulla was a  ‘ weak tyrant ’ , who could never avoidcoming to terms with a complex web of élite in  ghting, opposition, and consensuscrippled by guilt. 15 The 70s of the   rst century  B . C . have an awkward place in modern discussions of lateRepublican politics. To use an astronomical metaphor, they fall into a cone of shadow:they are not covered by what survives of Cicero ’ s correspondence, which begins in themid-60s; they witnessed hardly any memorable speeches of the great orator until the Verrines ; the great men portrayed in Plutarch ’ s biographies did not reach their prime inthat decade, with the partial exception of Sertorius; Appian ’ s  Civil Wars  concentrates onmilitary developments, notably the wars of Lepidus, Sertorius, and Spartacus, but hasvery little to say about political developments in Rome. 16 Of course, this state of affairsis not representative of the evidence that was available in antiquity. The most ambitioushistorical work of Sallust, the  Historiae , provided a continuous account of the politicalhistory of the 70s. Some of its fragments convey a sense of the wealth of insights anddetail that the lost large-scale narrative contained.There is also the risk of a sort of tunnel-vision. Much of what we know about thepolitical life of this decade pertains to the consulship of Pompey and Crassus in 70  B . C .,a year when the Sullan reform of the tribunate was famously undone, under the watchof two men who had had, in their own different ways, a close and complex relationshipwith Sulla. 17 The signi  cance of that year is unquestionable, although schematic andteleological solutions must be avoided. The complexity and liveliness of the precedingdecade is worth exploring and bringing out in more detail. A biographical, or indeedprosopographical, focus would hardly be   t for purpose. The political itineraries of   gures like Pompey, Crassus and Caesar in the 70s have received sustained attention.While this level of information is undoubtedly signi  cant, providing an account of theirposition towards the Sullan resettlement and their ideological orientations (if any) ishardly a rewarding task. That the motives of prominent individuals may be hard toassess is powerfully illustrated by the case of M. Aemilius Lepidus. While the publiclystated agenda of the  ‘ subversive consul ’  of 78  B . C . may be reconstructed with areasonable degree of con  dence, the relationship between his rise to the consulship(while Sulla was still alive) and his later decision to start a revolt in which the survivingenemies of Sulla played a crucial rôle is bound to remain enigmatic. 18 The impressionthat these matters may be unresolvable is strong. Exploring the allegiances of people ata lower level of the political spectrum is not a much more instructive exercise. Theprosopography of the senators that are known to have been appointed in Sulla ’ s levy in 13 Arena 2011. For a well-documented, if somewhat over-zealous, attempt to deconstruct the traditionaldichotomy cf. Robb 2010. 14 Carcopino 1931. Cf. also Rossi 1965: 145 – 6, 150 – 1 (= 1996: 76 – 7, 79 – 80). 15 Thein 2006. 16 Flower 2010: 138 – 9 stresses these limitations. 17 Millar 1998: 49. On Sulla ’ s reform of the tribunate see App.,  BC   1.467; Ascon. p. 67.2 and 78.23 Clark, withHantos 1988: 74 – 9. 18 ‘ Subversive consul ’ : Labruna 1975. ROMAN POLITICS IN THE 70s B.C.  3 , available at https:/ Downloaded from https:/ Biblioteca de la Universitat Pompeu Fabra, on 27 Feb 2017 at 15:59:50, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use  81  B . C . reveals little about their backgrounds, personalities or visions. 19 Facile assumptionsof continuity between one ’ s allegiance in the age of the Civil War and one ’ s politicalposition after Sulla ’ s death should be avoided: the political choices of C. Aurelius Cotta( cos . 75  B . C .), which will be discussed below, are a case in point.The 70s witnessed varying degrees of political repositioning, in two different senses:towards the Sullan settlement and, more signi  cantly, on a number of key policy issues.The two classic discussions of the period in English give strikingly differentassessments. P. A. Brunt argued that the reform of the tribunate  ‘ destroyed the barrier topopular legislation Sulla had devised ’  and that  ‘ the Sullan system was now in ruins ’ . 20 Pompey was unwilling to accept a system in which the leading men in the State were toshare a roughly equal amount of in  uence; his rise had in turn been made possible by thelack of military expertise within the senatorial élite that was caused, at least in the shortterm, by the Social and Civil Wars. 21 On this reading, the reform of the tribunate was thefactor that brought about the demise of the Sullan settlement. Pompey was its  ‘ initialbene  ciary ’ . 22 E. S. Gruen took the opposite view:  ‘ adjustment, rather than breakdown,was the hallmark of the 70s ’ , with a  ‘ broadened senatorial class ’  that  ‘ remained in controlthroughout ’ . 23 He also envisaged  ‘ a complex reshuf   ing of alignments and alliances ’  that ‘ dominated the political scene of the 70s ’ . 24 Some progress may be reached by discarding —  at least for the purposes of this discussion  —  the modern scholarly abstractions of the ‘ Sullan constitution ’ , the  ‘ Sullan regime ’  and the  ‘ Sullan oligarchy ’ , and turning ourattention to the speci  c processes that led to changes on speci  c policy fronts. 25 AsH. Flower points out, we know more about the reforms that were put in place at the endof the decade than about the processes that brought about that series of changes. 26 This paper is based on the contention that some progress is in fact possible in this area.The focus will be on several crucial fronts of internal politics, which appear to havebeen the areas that received closest attention and attracted the greatest controversy inthe 70s. 27 The discussion will be divided into four segments, which are all relevant tocharting the main themes in the politics of the decade after Sulla ’ s death and to singlingout the priorities of the political élite at the time. The   rst step will be the discussion of the debate on the powers of the tribunes, which resumed immediately after Sulla ’ s death,continued throughout the following decade, and found a controversial solution in70  B . C ., with its restoration during the consulship of Pompey and Crassus. Attention willthen be turned to another issue that received sustained attention in the 70s and was oneof the de  ning problems in late Republican politics: the legislation on corn distributions. 19 Santangelo 2006: 16 – 22. 20 Brunt 1988: 471 – 2. 21 Brunt 1988: 472. This argument relies heavily on Cic.,  Font  . 42 – 3, where a contrast is drawn between thegeneration of those who fought in the Social War and that of Cicero ’ s client; Dyck 2012: 75 sets the remarkwithin its rhetorical context, rightly speaks of a  ‘ perceived decline ’ , and lists comparable statements by Cicero.On the  ‘ poverty of leadership among the Sullani ’  cf. Hillard 1981: 78 – 9 (I am most grateful to Dr Hillard forproviding me with a copy of his invaluable paper, which is apparently unavailable in the UK). 22 Brunt 1988: 472. Millar 1998: 72 also regards the restoration of the tribunician powers as the end of   ‘ the brief  dominatio  of the Senate ’ . Cf. also Flower 2010: 140 for the suggestion that Pompey ’ s support for the reform of thetribunate was largely  ‘ self-serving ’ . 23 Gruen 1974: 45. Cf. Murrell 2008: 32. For a classic attempt to identify the members of the  ‘ Sullan oligarchy ’ and discuss Pompey ’ s place within that coalition see Twyman 1972: 832 – 53. 24 Gruen 1974: 43; see also Gruen 1966. For a comparable assessment cf. Rossi 1965 (= 1996: 69 – 80) and Laf   1967: 203 – 5. For a critique of Gruen ’ s reading see Hillard 1981 (a comprehensive discussion of the politicalhistory of the decade, which takes popular discontent towards the conduct of the senatorial order as its mainfocus). Steel 2014a: 337 accepts Gruen ’ s reconstruction with some crucial quali  cations. 25 For comprehensive discussions of Sulla ’ s  ‘ constitutional ’  innovations see Hantos 1988 and Hurlet 1993. The concept of   ‘ Sulla ’ s new republic ’  (Flower 2010: 117 – 34) appears to be more productive. 26 Flower 2010: 139. 27 Flower 2010: 61 – 79 uses a comparable approach to frame the discussion of the second century  B . C . FEDERICO SANTANGELO 4 , available at https:/ Downloaded from https:/ Biblioteca de la Universitat Pompeu Fabra, on 27 Feb 2017 at 15:59:50, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use
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