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ROMAN HISTORIOGRAPHY ABOUT THE INFLUENCE OF THE SOCIETY OVER THE HISTORICAL FACTS DURING THE PERIOD OF THE REPUBLIC

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ROMAN HISTORIOGRAPHY ABOUT THE INFLUENCE OF THE SOCIETY OVER THE HISTORICAL FACTS DURING THE PERIOD OF THE REPUBLIC




Abstract: The article reveals the ideas of some representatives’ historians of the Republican Roman period, concerning the relations between society, state and the historical evolution. There are pointed out the principles which aproach and differentiate the Greek and Roman societies and also the historiographical conceptions appropiate to these cultures, the most remarquable in the Ancient history of the Europe.

Key words: society, historiography, state, political relations, influence

The Roman history is an original combination between people, facts and atitudes which provided a large field for the contemporary historiography. The Roman historians came from the two political and social cathegories of Rome, senators and knights, they were deeply involved in the process of making decision, administration or in the cultural movement.

Rome had three main periods of its history: Kingdom (753-509 B.C.), Republic (509-27 B.C.) and Empire (27 B.C.-476 A.D.). In 395 A.D., the Roman Empire was divided in the Eastern and Western Roman Empire. The Eastern Empire will survive with the capital at Constantinople untill 1453, being known as the Byzantine Empire.

Rome succeded to have an empire on three continents (Europe, Africa and Asia) but it kept the institutions of a city state. Any attempt to change the mos maiorum (the tradition of the ancestors) was seen as an act of sacrilege. The Senate accepted later to give political rights to the plebs being forced by the external forces which threathened Rome (Gauls, Carthage).

In Rome, in case of disaster, was appointed the dictator, who discharged the ordinary magistrates – the consuls - an extraordinary magistrate who acted independent for six months and after the victory he gave the power to the Senate. There are known the examples of Fabius Cunctator or M. Furius Camillus. But the power of the Senate was symbolic; many times Rome will be threatened by its own statesmen.

The first case is that of Coriolanus a great Roman military who fought with courage for the glory of Rome, but after being exiled in the Etrurian territory, attepmted to enter armed in Rome, for revenge. The Rome was saved by the mother of Coriolanus, Veturia who came in fron of his son claiming that she prefered to die instead seing her son as conqueror and transforming her in a slave. Emotioned, Coriolanus witdrew and later was killed on his reurn way to the Etrurians.

The “sentimentalism” of Coriolanus stayed only in the historical books, because the ambition, the fights for power will influence the entire course of the Roman history[2].

The creation of a new social group, the knights (sons from marriages between members of the originary patrician and plebeian groups) will force the Senate to rezist on the position of the only guardian of the mos maiorum. Even the senators could not make business, they saw the opportunity to become landowners spoliating the small properties of the peasants, or renting the ager publicus (public soil territories conquered by Rome and being under Senate control n.n.) used in the military campaigns during the first wars of Rome on the principle bonus milites bonusque colonus (good military and good peasant).

The attempts of Gracchus brothers (nephews of great Cornelius Scipio) in 133-123 B.C. to offer land from the ager publicus were smashed by the Senate.

The necessity of a good and a permanent army in the new conditions of external wars of Rome, imposed a new reform made by Caius Marius, who offered land to his soldiers in Africa after the defeat of King Iugutha (105 B.C.)[3].

Marius, having a conflict with Sulla, his former lieutnenant from Africa (who vanquished Mithridates VI in the East) went in Africa and enterd in Rome with his veterans, opening the way of “Roman attacks on Rome ”, as the historiography registered under the name of “the civil wars”.

In the conflict between Marius and Sulla, the socii (Roman subjects from Italy) received the Roman citizenship on the principles of the Roman law (ius Italicum) in 88 B.C.

The great uprisings of the slaves in Sicily and the uprising of Spartakus, the wars in the East appointed new names as Pompeius and Crassus, Caesar able to concentrate military obedient forces which will “erase” the authority of the Senate.

From 60 until 48 B.C., Rome was led by powerfull names al Caesar, Crassus and Pompeius, which finally confronted, Caesar being the great leader until his assasination in 44 B.C. He kept the unlimited power with the formally accord of the Senate, which had no army, and by this cause had no power.

The assasination of Caesar did not solve the Problem, the republican institutions being unable to controll the situation in Rome (including the conquered territories)[4].

The Roman historiography was influenced by the Greeks. The first contacts were established during the Macedonian wars (215-168 B.C.), which conducted to teh occupation of a great part of the Greece by Roman Republic[5]. It is the time when Polybios (210-128 B.C.), a Greek from Arcadia, son of a great achaean general, Lycortas, was initiated in politics, which will influenced his work. In 168 B.C., after the defeat of Macedonians in 168 B.C. by Roman Republic, he was put on the list of 1000 men took as hostages by Romans as a waranty for the peace treaty. He spent 16 years in the Eternal City, in which he could observe the social and political realities from the Roman Republic . Becoming a close friend of Cornelius Scipio the conqueror of the Greece, he could observe and understand the Roman vertues and the discipline which conducted Rome to the highest position in the Ancient world. His work survived in fragments . The most important, Universal History, in 40 books, presents the steps of the Roman expansion over the Greek world from the begining of the second war with Carthage (219 B.C.) to the siege and destruction of Corynthe (46 B.C.) . Helped by his political knowledge, he could realize a scientific investigation based on realism and critical spirit. The society influenced the great political decisions. A historical event had a pretext, some causes which will influence its course. He considered the history, (as he declared in the Book IX), as relying on three main pylons: genealogy (included the gods and the legendary heroes), the creation of the colonies and the political relations between colonies and their mother-cities (geopolitical and institutional history) and the political facts in which were involved people and leaders, politicians and armies (military, political and social history) .

The concluzion of his work is that of the interdependence of the historical events. The historian might act with responsibility and impartiality. Rome having a superior type of social relations could conquer the Greek world in 53 years, offering a period of tranqulity for Greece (where the peace was the temporary break in the conflict),described by Indro Montanelli as “the grave peace”[10].

The first Roman historian was Caius Iulius Caesar (100-44 B.C.). Born in Rome, he was a rich senator, an extraordinary military commander and the greatest statesman from the last fifty years of the Roman Republic .

His main historical works are Commentarii de bello Gallico (in seven books), in which he describes the campaign against the Gauls (58-52 B.C.) and Commentarii de bello civili (in three books), in which are presented the events from the begining of the civil war with Pompeius until 48 B.C[12].



These works are considered as being apologetic and tendencious, because they have as main and immediate purpose the political propaganda. He would to influence the public opinion for accepting and understanding his political strategy. Beside the litterary value, the plenty of data regarding the civilizations from the Roman frontiers, the military organization and tactics, the work of Caesar is important from the informations concerning the Roman society and politics at the end of the Republic.

The crisis of the Roman state was generated mainly by the social-political structures of the Republic which were unable to provide an unitary political frame of the conquered territories which formed de facto a large empire extended from the Atlantic to the Southern Europe and from the Northern Africa to the Minor Asia. It was extended by the confrontation of the two political groups, optimates and populares, which were not separated by wealth criteria as Marxists considered. They were the supporters of two opposed ideas: the conservation of the traditions, with the Senate as main political center – the optimates and the concentration of the making decision in the hands of influent and skillfull statesmen in accordance with the republican institutions – the populares.

Caesar noted the essential facts and events, being interested by the action, facts, human will and hazard.

In the same historical period lived, created and took part at the political life of Rome one the most important personality, Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.) son of a rich family of knights from Arpinum (70 km south-east from Rome).

Cicero understood that the main characteristic of last century B.C. was a decadence of the habitudes, the highest position of the collectivity being undermined by the individual personalities.

Cicero is not an historian but he was involved in great social and political events. Integrated in the Senate, he was appointed in 75 B.C. quaestor in Sicily. Appreciated on a very large scale, in 70 B.C., Cicero will be the defender of the Sicilians during the process against the former governor of Sicily, Veres known as one of the most corrupt person in the Roman state. His discourses (In Verrem orationes septem) make a portrait of the abuses in the Roman society: bribery, piratery, desertion, corruption .

He will acomplish the senatorial magistracies of aedilis (69 B.C.) and praetor (66 B.C.) reaching the highest magistracy from the cursus honorum, that of consul, in 63 B.C. In this quality, he will discover the conspiracy of Lucius Sergius Catilina and will attack him in a master-piece of discourses, In Catilinam orationes quattor. The crisis of the Roman Republic knew the trial of seizing power by conspiracy. Catilina was the exponent of the populares and Cicero the exponent of the optimates . Catilina with the help of an army from Etruria intended to abolish the debts, to release the slaves, to put fire on Rome and to kill all the senators and magistrats and to offer highest dignities to his friends .

As a Roman official Cicero presented sucessfully the image of the Roman society which would transform in the age of the Empire.

In the I-st century B.C., in the Roman historiography, we can note the existence of a special type of the historical discourse, the monography. Its main representant is considered Caius Sallustius Crispus (86-35 a.Chr.).

Acomplishing several tasks and magistracies (in 52 B.C. he was tribunus of the plebs), Sallustius is a homo novus, being appointed in the Roman Senate. He was accuzed by immorality and excluded from Senate in 50 B.C (in reality he was one of the supporters of Caesar, and the Senate was the Partisan of Pompeius Magnus n.n.). Caesar admmitted him in the Senate in 49 B.C.

From his rich historical work, we will insist on a monography, “De coniuratione Catilinae” (About the plot of Catilina), wrote in the period 43-41 B.C., and refering to the plot of Lucius Sergius Catilina (64-63 B.C.) .

In this monography, Sallustius presents Catilina, the exponent of the nobilitas as an expresion of the vice:

,,L.Catilina, nobili genere natus, fuit magna vi et animi et corporis, sed ingenio malo provoque. Huic ab adulescentia bella intestina, caedes, rapinae, discordia civilis grata fuere, ibique iuven- tutem suam exercuit. Corpus patiens inediae,algoris,vigiliae,supra quam cuiquam credible est. Animus audax, subdolus, varius, cuius rei lubet simulator ac dissimulator; alieni appetens, sui profusus, ardens in cupiditatibus; satis eloquentiae, sapientiae parum. Vastus animus immoderata, incredibila, nimis alta semper cupiebat (De coniuratione Catilinae,5,1-5).

Catilina is presented as a powerfull and without fear fellow but having a bad and vicious character (ingenium malum pravoque). Also, Catilina is rezistant (patiens), courageous (audax) , but in the same time smart (subdolus), actor (simulator), an hypocrite (dissimulator) and without limits (profusus).

Sallustius considers the nobilitas responsible for the crisis of the Roman Republic, the main cause being the decadence of the behaviour.

These are the main historiographical conceptions from the republican history of Rome, regarding the society. The conclusion we can make is that of the insufficiency of the Republican institutions in front of the great ambitions of the statsmen who had no fear to use the military force for accomplishing their purposes.

Bibliography:

Brockhaus Enzyklopädie, Band 1, Brockhaus Verlag, Mannheim, 1988.

*** Der Grosse Ploetz, Die Daten Enzyklopadie der Weltgeschichte, Ploetz, Freiburg, 1999.

*** Istoria Universala Larousse, vol. I, Editura Teora, Bucuresti, 2005.

Cary, M., Wilson, John, A shorter history of Rome, Macmillan, New York, 1963.

Daremberg, Charles, Dictionnaire des antiquites grecques et romaines, vol.I, Paris, Hachette, 1881.

Defradas, Jean, Literatura elina, Editura Tineretului, Bucuresti, 1968.

Hermann, Joachim, Lexikon Frühen Kulturen, Band 2, Bibliographisches Institut Leipzig, 1987.

Kinder, Hermann, Hilgemann, Werner, Atlas de istorie mondiala, vol.1, Editura Rao, Bucuresti, 2003.



Matei, Horia C., Civilizatia lumii antice, Editura Eminescu, Bucuresti, 1983.

Mommsen, Theodor, Istoria Romana, vol. I, Editura Stiintifica, Bucuresti, 1971.

Montanelli, Indro, Istoria Grecilor, Editura Artemis, Bucuresti, 2004.

Mourre, Michel, Dictionnaire enciclopedique d’histoire, vol.1, Bordas, Paris, 1996.

Rendina, Claudio, Roma Ieri oggi e domani, vol. I, Newton Compton Editori, Roma, 2007.



Theodor Mommsen, Istoria Romana, vol. I, Editura Stiintifica, Bucuresti, 1971, passim.

Claudio Rendina, Roma Ieri oggi e domani, vol. I, Newton Compton Editori, Roma, 2007, p. 23-24.

M. Cary, John Wilson, A shorter history of Rome, Macmillan, New York, 1963, passim.

*** Istoria Universala Larousse, vol. I, Editura Teora, Bucuresti, 2005, passim.

Horia C. Matei, Civilizatia lumii antice, Editura Eminescu, Bucuresti, 1983, p.87-89.

Jean Defradas, Literatura elina, Editura Tineretului, Bucuresti, 1968, p. 214.

Virgil G. Popescu, Note, la Polybios, Istorii, II, Editura Academiei, Bucuresti, 1970, p. 530.

Joachim Hermann, Lexikon Frühen Kulturen, Band 2, Bibliographisches Institut Leipzig, 1987, p.76.

Ibidem, p.9.

Indro Montanelli, Istoria Grecilor, Editura Artemis, Bucuresti, 2004, p. 103.

Michel Mourre, Dictionnaire enciclopedique d’histoire, vol.1, Bordas, Paris, 1996, p.567.

Charles Daremberg, Dictionnaire des antiquites grecques et romaines, vol.I, Paris, Hachette, 1881, p.182.

*** Der Grosse Ploetz, Die Daten Enzyklopadie der Weltgeschichte, Ploetz, Freiburg, 1999, p.243.

*** Brockhaus Enzyklopädie, Band 1, Brockhaus Verlag, Mannheim, 1988, p. 368-369.

Hermann Kinder,Werner Hilgemann, Atlas de istorie mondiala, vol.1, Editura Rao, Bucuresti, 2003, p. 83-85.

Claudio Rendina, op.cit., 2007, p. 56-57.



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