Chapter 11

The Rise of the New Republic (71–70 BC)

The Rise of the New Duumvirate

It seems however that both Pompeius and Crassus had learnt from their mentor’s mistakes: why use blatant force when the threat of force was enough? This was a tactic that Pompeius had already used on both Sulla and the Senate on two previous occasions (see Chapter 7). It seems that on this occasion Crassus too used this tactic. Furthermore, the two men, who clearly had no personal liking for each other, both seemed to come to a fundamental realization, namely, that whilst separately they were strong, in alliance they would be unstoppable. And so was born a new duumvirate, one which was to dominate Roman politics for the next twenty years. In many ways, the alliance of Pompeius and Crassus harks back to that of Marius and Cinna, another temporary alliance to gain control of Rome. Both men determined that they wanted the same thing: in this case, the consulship and the chance to enact political reform. To those ends, not only did they temporarily unify their efforts, but in public they seemed to play off each other. Pompeius declared that he would disband his army, but only after he had been awarded a triumph, whilst Crassus stated that he too would disband his army, but only after Pompeius had done so.

Thus, with two armies camped outside of Rome, Pompeius and Crassus both stood for the consulship. Of the two, Crassus was of the correct age and had held the correct pre-requisite offices, whilst Pompeius was only thirty-four (eight years too young) and had held no prior elected political office. Nevertheless, faced with such an overwhelming alliance of patronage, money and popularity, not to mention outright military force, the Senate gave way, and Pompeius was granted dispensation (most likely by plebiscitum). With the last barrier removed, both men stood for the office of consul and were easily elected. If the resources of this alliance were not enough, Pompeius had campaigned on the restoration of the power of the tribunate, a popular move amongst the people, and one which would have smoothed his dispensation no doubt.

Upon taking office, neither man immediately disbanded his army. Appian reports that both men publicly reconciled before the people in what seems to have been a stage-managed piece of theatre. At an assembly of the people, a number of soothsayers prophesied consequences for Rome if the consuls did not reconcile, though given the previous twenty years, one did not need divine inspiration to come to that conclusion. Next came the pleas and lamentations of the people. Finally, Crassus theoretically got off his curule chair and offered his hand in friendship to Pompeius, who accepted. Then, to wild celebrations amongst the people, both men issued orders for their armies to disband.

To Appian, this reconciliation marked the end of his first book on the history of Rome’s civil wars, signalling a turning point: when Roman politicians chose to renounce the violence of the previous years. In many respects, this seems to have been exactly what Pompeius and Crassus wanted: to be seen as the joint restorers of peace to Rome, much as their mentor had claimed over a decade earlier, and presumably Cinna before him. On this occasion, however, it proved to be the case, though not because of the theatrics.

As consuls, the pair passed or sponsored a number of key pieces of legislation. The full powers of the tribunate of the plebs were restored, returning the office to its pre-civil war position. Not only did this give the pair popular support, but it once again removed control of legislation from the Senate and gave it back to men who could be sponsored to provide a supportive piece of legislation. Pompeius himself would make good use of the tribunate to further his military career. The consuls also restored the office of censor, which had elapsed since it was last held in 86 BC. The men chosen were the consuls of 72 BC, who had stood aside to allow Crassus his command against Spartacus. However, aside from this short-term repayment of a political debt, the censors undertook a severe purge of the Senate, eliminating sixty-four senators, and we must assume that few allies of the consuls were amongst them.

More importantly, it meant that a full census of the new citizens could be held (for the first time since full enfranchisement had been offered). The census of 70 BC reveals that there were now just over 900,000 Roman citizens, as opposed to the 463,000 in 86 BC. Thus we can see the Roman citizenship doubling in this period. Despite this, a number of commentators have pointed out that this figure is far short of the total male population of Italy; by 28 BC, under Augustus, the figure was over 4,000,000 citizens. However, it must be remembered that as a result of the various conflicts of the 80s BC, Roman citizenship had merely been offered to those who wanted it, and this did not mean all male citizens in Italy initially took up this offer. Nevertheless, by holding this census, the issue of Roman citizenship could be finally clarified officially and thus concluded as a political issue.

Aside from the consular measures, there were three other key pieces of legislation passed this year that contributed to the consular programme of ending the civil war. Firstly, came two laws from a tribune named Plotius: firstly, a possible law authorizing land distribution for the discharged soldiers of Pompeius and Metellus (the Spanish veterans); and secondly, what was effectively an amnesty law, restoring citizenship to those followers of Lepidus and Sertorius. Thus we can see the consuls making immediate use of a tribune to pass major legislation. The discharge of troops would mean that, as well as there being no more armies in Italy, Pompeius (like Marius and Sulla before him) had a large group of veterans beholden to him. The law restoring citizenship to the exiles was also a major step forward. For the last two decades, each regime had exiled its opponents, stripping them of their citizenship. This law, effectively an amnesty, drew a line under the divisions that the previous decades of civil warfare had caused and ended what must have been a continual source of rancour within the oligarchy. Again, there would have been considerable patronage for the consuls who had arranged these men’s returns.

The final law came from a praetor, L. Aurelius Cotta, and reformed the composition of the juries once more. This time, juries were to be drawn in three equal parts from the Senate, the equestrians and a third grouping, the tribuni aerarii, whose exact nature is much debated. Drawing the composition of juries in equal numbers from the main two groups of equestrians and senators, along with a third balancing force, ensured that no one group dominated the juries and swung decisions in their favour, and again removed what had been a major point of political dissension for the last fifty years.

The consuls took one other major step to ensuring the end of the civil war, by stepping down from office and becoming private citizens once more, as Sulla himself had done. However, there was one key difference. When Sulla had stepped down from his dictatorship in 79 BC, he had retired from active political life, and even when he did intervene, he seemed to be ignored, being so hated by the people (Chapter 8). Pompeius and Crassus, however, remained in Rome, refusing pro-consular commands, and they remained there until 67 BC (in Pompeius’ case). This apparent inactivity has caused much modern debate. However, one obvious solution is that they had learnt from Sulla’s mistakes. When he had stepped down and quit Rome, tensions arose almost immediately amongst the oligarchy, leading to renewed civil war. As with Sulla, a number of measures passed by Pompeius and Crassus were contentious, notably the restoration of the tribunate, and possibly the amnesty. Given all of these factors, it can be argued that Pompeius and Crassus remained in Rome to ensure that their settlement of 70 BC was not undone by those who opposed it, or those who followed them, and that the peace that they had restored actually held.

Thus this duumvirate seem to have become the temporary guardians of the restored Republic, ensuring that there was not the vacuum in power that had happened when Sulla retired, and acting as guarantors of peace. Neither man needed political office to achieve this. Both had the money and prestige to create large factions of supporters within the oligarchy, in both the Senate and the equestrian order. Pompeius had the military glory, with his label of Magnus, and had immense popularity amongst the populace. Although neither had a mobilized army, both had access to large numbers of veterans, and both were battle-hardened commanders with a string of victories to their names. In short, there was no one amongst the oligarchy to effectively oppose them. However, this guardianship was only ever meant to be temporary, and the two men would have been eager to pursue their own careers once more, Pompeius in the field, Crassus in Rome. Here was highlighted the fatal flaw of the post-civil-war Republic: the need for a permanent arbiter of peace.

The End of the First Civil War

Thus, to this author’s mind, the year 70 BC marked the end of the First Civil War. As has been shown, an end to a period of fighting did not automatically mean an end to the civil war. Fighting had stopped in 88, 87 and 82 BC, and soon flared up again. Sulla’s victory in 82 merely mirrored that of Marius and Cinna in 87 BC and seemed to mark little more than the end of a particular phase of the war. For the Sullan regime, the high point came in the middle of 81 BC, when all provinces of Rome’s empire were reunited under the control of Rome. However, this control proved to be illusory and a fresh phase of the civil war soon re-opened in Spain, ultimately spreading to Asia Minor, not to mention the fighting that continued in Italy throughout the period of Sulla’s dominance. By 71 BC, the Spanish and Asian phases of the civil war had ended, with the deaths of M. Marius in the east and Sertorius and Perperna in the west.

However, what we have seen here is that civil wars do not end when there is a lull in the fighting; they end when a workable political solution is put into place and adhered to. It was only with Pompeius and Crassus refusing to take up arms and follow the cycle of conflict that had been created that this seemingly endless cycle of civil war came to a conclusion. They cemented their decision not to take up arms with reforms that removed a number of points of tension. Exiles were recalled, healing some of the rifts that had appeared within the senatorial elite. The tribunate was restored, removing that as a source of tension between the People and the Senate, and within the senatorial elite itself, though this obviously restored the office as a source of future problems. The courts were reformed, with neither the senators, nor the equestrians holding the balance of power. A census was held to embed the new citizens within the Roman system. Finally, armies were demobilised and the two most powerful individuals or ‘warlords’ of this period of the civil war laid down their arms and determined to work within the system, returning once more to the Roman aristocratic notion of placing a high premium on their own interests, without overtly harming the interests of the state.

In many ways, this sums up the whole period of the civil war: when key Roman leaders placed their own interests at such a premium, that the interests of the state were positively harmed by their actions. Throughout the Republic, there had always been individuals who stretched the boundaries of what actions they could get away with within the system, from Sp. Cassius in the fifth century through to Scipio Africanus. Yet the Roman system had always been flexible enough to accommodate these individuals without breaking. It was not until this period, and the double shock of the Italian War, and the coups of 88 BC and 87 BC, that this flexibility finally snapped. What Pompeius and Crassus did in 70 BC was not take Rome by overt force, as Sulpicius and Marius, Sulla and Pompeius Rufus, and Cinna and Marius all had, but merely use their collectiveauctoritas, backed up by the implied threat of force, to achieve a temporary dominance. Thus, not only had peace been restored, but the standard workings of the Republican system had been restored, albeit in a modified form.

The New Post-Civil War Republic

If we are to argue that it was Pompeius and Crassus who restored the Republic rather than Sulla, we have to acknowledge that the Republic they restored was not the one which had disintegrated in 91 BC, but was a newer version. Recently, Flower has published a masterful argument setting out the theory that there were a number of new versions, or phases, of the Republic within its near 500 year period of existence, which would make it more akin to the modern French Republic. Flower has provided a wonderful framework for historians to utilize, and the arguments provided here coincide with her overall theory, albeit differing on when a particular Republic started. Nevertheless, some key features of this new Republic need to be identified.

Firstly, it must be acknowledged that although the duumvirate of Pompeius and Crassus provided solutions to many of the key issues that were factors in the collapse of the Republic into civil war and issues that arose during the period, they did not answer all of them, and several were left unresolved altogether. Perhaps the most notable factor in this new Republic was that of citizenship, which was now no longer a running sore between the peoples and communities of Italy, with all free citizens south of Cisalpine Gaul, being able to take up Roman citizenship if they so desired it. This does not mean that by 70 BC every free-born inhabitant held Roman citizenship, but it does mean that as the century progressed more and more would take it up, all of which greatly accelerated the Romanization of Italy and the move toward a more unified Italy, which we see by the time of the Empire.

In political terms, although control of the courts seems to have been removed as a major political issue, the office of the tribunate of the plebs was another matter. In the space of the two decades, it had been thoroughly reformed by Sulla (either once or twice) and then fully restored by Pompeius and Crassus. Thus, the office had come full circle and was still as dangerous a weapon in the wrong hands as it had been in 91 BC with Livius Drusus, or 88 BC with Sulpicius. Certainly, Pompeius was to make good use of it in the years to come, and no permanent solution was found until Augustus took tribunician power himself, which formed the basis of an Emperor’s domestic power for the next 200 years.

Although a political amnesty had been issued with the recall of exiles, which would have gone a long way to healing rifts within the senatorial aristocracy and robbed any of Rome’s external enemies of the chance to use a Roman figurehead (as Mithridates had done with M. Marius), there still remained the issue of the Sullan proscripiti, in terms of the future disenfranchisement of their descendants and the dispossession of their lands. All this did was create a vast body of the dispossessed and disenfranchised, who would have been hoping or even working to overturn the Sullan proscriptions, many of whom were of senatorial stock. This would not only create tensions within the new system, but would be a vast pool of support for any politician tempted to take up the cause. As detailed below (Appendix II), several did so, including, ultimately, a certain nephew of Marius and former son in law of Cinna, by the name of C. Iulius Caesar.

Furthermore, there is the matter of all the veterans being given land. The concept had originated with Ti. Sempronius Gracchus, who legislated for providing farmers who had lost their land through military service with fresh land to farm. However, the mass mobilizations of the 80s and 70s, combined with Marius’ (temporary) abolition of the land qualification as a precursor to military service meant that there would have been a number of veterans given land that had not been farmers in the first place and would have been unsuited to the role. Added to this is the matter of the devastation caused by the various wars raging across Italy, including the Servile War and issues with taking land off individuals or communities who had been dispossessed, and the disruption that this caused. All of this meant that there would have been a number of veterans giving up or losing their land and drifting back to Rome.

The key issue which the new Republic faced, however, was the spectre of violence. Essentially this was a Republic born out of civil war, and although the fighting had ceased and Pompeius and Crassus temporarily acted as its guarantors, there was nothing in the new system that enshrined this stewardship. Control of the armies remained with the same class of men who had caused the war, and in many cases the same men who had so willingly participated in it. The loyalty of armies still seemed to be to their commander, not so much as clients to a patron, but as citizens to a legally appointed representative of the Republic. If that representative should determine that a fellow Roman was an enemy of the state, then would future Roman armies behave any differently to those of this period?

Furthermore, there was the issue of precedent. In a system based on mos maiorum (or established practice), a range of unsavoury, but undoubtedly successful practices had been introduced, ranging from consuls using their armies to seize control of Rome, to tribunes using mobs to seize control of Rome, and the exiling and murder of one’s political opponents, through to Pompeius and Crassus’ own brand of leverage, invoking the horror of the civil war without actually indulging in the deeds. Pompeius and Crassus, whether acting together or independently, may have been happy to rule out a return to civil war and use their vast resources to act as unofficial guarantors of the peace, but others would surely not take the same view, nor would those two men be around forever. It is interesting to consider that within just three years of Crassus being killed in the aftermath of the Battle of Carrhae and the failed invasion of Parthia, Rome fell into fresh civil war, between two men, one of whom was the nephew of Marius and son-in-law of Cinna, while the other was the son of Pompeius Strabo and the son-in-law of Sulla (Caesar and Pompeius).

However, this does not mean that this new Republic was doomed to failure or that the end of the Republican system was inevitable. In fact, as this work has hopefully shown, the Republican system was strong enough at its core to survive the full-scale collapse it suffered during this period and actually reform itself. In many ways, it can be argued that the Republican system did not actually end dramatically, but that it merely evolved itself into something new. Whilst this new Republic, did indeed face its own collapse into civil war (the second one, traditionally dating from 49 BC to 31 BC), a new Republic arose out of those ashes, one fashioned by C. Iulius Caesar ‘Octavianus’ (or Augustus, as he became known), a great nephew of Marius, and one in which the principal of a permanent stewardship of the Republic as a guarantor of peace became enshrined.

It can be said that all political systems are created with the seeds of their own destruction within them, and this new Republic created in 70 BC was no different. In this respect, it was just the same as the one that had collapsed in 91 BC, albeit with different seeds. Whilst the seeds may have been there, they needed an individual, or a collection of individuals, to cultivate them, which in the end always returns us to the individuals involved and the choices they made.


What can we say about this collapse of the Roman Republican system? Ultimately, all civil wars come about due to the inflexibility of a particular system in accommodating the needs and desires of individuals, or groups of individuals, within that system. Rome’s First Civil War contained both factors (groups and individuals) and had two crucial origins. First came the inability to reform the citizenship issue and the desires of the Italians. This was allied to the inability to accommodate the competing desires of the leading men of state, usually the consuls and tribunes, in the period 91–87 BC, be they Livius Drusus and Marcus Philippus, Sulpicius and Pompeius Rufus, Marius and Sulla, or Cinna and Octavius. The interaction of these two factors led to the collapse of the Republican system and the deaths of several hundred thousand Romans and Italians (including civilians). Yet despite these horrendous losses, as in most cases, conflict breeds resolution, and a new Republic was able to emerge from the slaughter, with many of the issues that caused the collapse resolved (see above).

However, just as important as why a system collapsed, is why it survived. Not only did a new Republic emerge in 70 BC, but transitional arrangements during 91–70 BC ensured that despite the seemingly continuous battles, warfare and slaughter, the core of the system continued to function. Among of the most remarkable elements of any civil war are the people who do not get involved and the work they do to ensure the day-to-day work of administrating a system gets done despite the chaos. For Rome, this even included the military, with a number of foreign wars being fought and territory defended by generals not involved in the civil war, from C. Valerius Flaccus in the 80s through to the generals of the 70s (see Appendix I). The historical narrative, especially a fragmentary one, is always going to focus more on the participants than these others, the ‘neutrals’ as it were. The only ones we hear of occupy the top levels of Roman society, from the generals in the field to the non-affiliated senators, yet there would have been so many more, from the ordinary citizens through to the local officials. It was all of these people that kept Roman society together and ensured that when the fighting died down and a political solution was found, there was something still left to govern.

Externally, though Rome at times looked weak, many allies and potential enemies were not certain that Rome would fall, and were fearful of reprisals if they sided against her. Both in the long term and the short (whether it be Hannibal or the Cimbri and Teutones), Rome had undergone periods of crisis and near collapse and survived. This was reinforced by the Roman ability to wage civil warfare at the same time as external warfare, sometimes even within the same area of campaign, as seen in Greece and Asia in the 80s. Thus an internal collapse of Rome did not become a full-scale collapse, and again allowed the Romans time to get their house in order.

Thus, when all is said and done, despite the temporary collapse of the Republican system, there seemed to be enough people who believed in the concept of Rome, both internally and externally, to ensure that those participants were given enough time to reconstruct the working of the system.

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