Published on March 20, 2014
ROME signficance of Pompey and Crassus in 70BC Political Developments in the Late Republic
The Story of the consulship of Pompey and Crassus in 70BC
Background: Significance of the consulship of Pompey and Crassus in 70BC After the war against Sertorius and the Spartican rebellion, Pompey and Crassus both believed they deserved a reward. The war against Sertorius had been declared a bellum externum so Pompey could legitimately be awarded a triumph (except of course that he did not meet the age and rank conditions) but the slave revolt only qualified for an ovation. Crassus would have been most unhappy. Pompey and Crassus had likely been rivals since they both supported Sulla – Pompey had been the favourite while Crassus had been virtually ignored. The Death of Spartacus by Hermann Vogel (1882)
Even though the did not get along, Crassus sought Pompey’s support when both men decided to stand for the consulship of 70BC. Despite Pompey’s popularity with the people, he was still far too young and had held no public office. Nevertheless the Senate passed a decree exempting him from the provisions of Sulla’s les annalis. Crassus met all the conditions to run for Consul. Pompey
Pompey was worried about his own inexperience and so he asked his friend Varro to help him. Varro wrote him some notes on senatorial procedures. The tribunate was dealt with first – they re-introduced the powers of the tribune. This was very clever. Whether they were fully aware of the significance or not, this became the main way that Pompey and others were able to advance their career and get around the rules and objections of the Senate. She-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus
Next Pompey and Crassus revived the roles of the Censor. The censor was responsible for maitinaing lists of Senators – they immediately re-drafted the Senatorial lists and expelled 64 members of the senate. Those who filled their places were loyal to Pompey. During this time a big scandal was brewing. Verres had been governing a province of Sicily. Unfortunately he was corrupt – stealing wealth and money, and misgoverning for his own gain. He charged business owners incredibly high taxes, he would cancel business contracts and give them instead to those that had given him a ‘donation’. Cicero
Temples and private houses were robbed of their works of art. He used the emergency of Spartacus to make some quick money – he would pick key slaves of important and wealthy land owners and accuse them of organising to join Spartacus’s revolt, and of causing trouble in the provinces. He would then sentence the slave to death by crucifiction – unless of course the slave owner paid a rather large bribe to have the charge dismissed. Sometimes it went even further – he would occasionally make up a slave! He would accuse a slave that didn’t exist of plotting to join Spartacus – he would then demand that the wealthy land owner hand over the slave to the authorities – clearly they couldn’t do so when the slave didn’t exist – he would then charge the land owner with hiding the slave and sentence them to imprisonment – unless of course they could pay the fine (bribe) to have the charges dismissed. Crassus crucified 6,000 of Spartacus's followers on the road between Rome and Capua.
His victims included some of Pompey’s Sicilian clients. That said, Verres had some very powerful friends and supporters in Rome. His corruption could not continue, but it would cause a scandal as many would support him. The victims of his crimes turned to Marcus Tullius Cicero to represent them. The court was made up exclusively of Senators, some of which may have been Verre’s friends. The judge, however, was the honest and trustworthy Manius Acilius Glabrio – he would not allow bribery to sway his decisions. Verres was not happy – he tried to have court proceedings postponned for a year knowing that his friend Marcus Caecilius Metellus would be the presiding judge the following year. Cicero accuses Verres
Cicero would allow for none of these delay tactics and managed to have the case heard in a timely fashion.The effect of Cicero’s first brief speech was so overwhelming that Hortensius (Verres’s lawyer) refused to reply, and recommended his client leave the country. Before the expiration of the 9 days allowed for the prosecution Verres was on his way to Massilia. There he lived in exile until 43 BC, when he was proscribed by Mark Antony, apparently for refusing to surrender some art treasures that Antony coveted. "Verres had been only a type. He had stood for the whole corrupt system. It was for more than the condemnation of one man that the orator had striven, and the outcome of the great trial was the death-knell of the power of the Optimates. Cicero's singleness of purpose, his devotion to duty, his skill in foiling the most cunning moves of a determined opposition had borne fruit, and he was well content.“ Frank H. Cowles
This court case and the published writing of Cicero, led to final piece of important legislation in the consulship of Pompey and Crassus. L. Aurelius Cato introduced reform that took sole control of the jury courts away from the senate and shared this power between the senate, the equites and the tribuni aeraii – a group just below the equites in wealth. Since the tribuni aeraii had similar interests to the equites, together they would be able to keep senatorial jurors in check. Crassus
Significance: (Scullard) “Thus within ten years of his retirement the essential parts of Sulla’s reforms had been swept away: little remained but his reogranization of the courts themselves. His attempts to check tribunes and army commanders alike had failed, but although the restored tribunate might chastise the Optimates with whips, the military dictators chastised them with Scorpions. The Senate had failed to rise to the opportunity that Sulla had given it and the ultimate result was further civil wars in which the Republic perished”
The most important thing to remember:
Significance: By the first century BC, the senate was the virtual government of Rome. The Senate gave special commands to generals, giving them legitimacy, which meant that it could not stop a popular general using the army to further his ambitions. Once a military situation was settled, the senate was powerless to stop the generals demanding more power and using their armies as a threat. It was this inability to control generals and armies that allowed circumstances to develop which helped bring about the fall of the republic.
1. ROME signficance of Pompey and Crassus in 70BC Political Developments in the Late Republic 2. The Story of the consulship of Pompey and Crassus in 70BC ...
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