Decline Of The Roman Republic Essay

2426 words - 10 pages

During the last century BC the Roman Republic was in turmoil, civil wars had wrecked the country, and out of these conflicts came a powerful dictator the general known as Sulla. Sulla took power through corruption and violence. His dictatorship was characterised by the constitutional reforms that he tried to implement in order to prevent future violence, and paradoxically to retain the traditional Roman power distribution. These reforms did not create an environment in which the Roman Republic was better off, the senate was weakened and corrupted and he failed to curtail the power that the major generals had gained through the Marian reforms. Furthermore he damaged the republic by setting a ...view middle of the document...

Sulla believed that the best way to bring back a stable state was to have a powerful senate. Due to civil strife and his proscriptions of the time, the senate numbers were depleted to 150 from the usual 300. In an attempt to give the senate more power, he introduced 450 more senators bringing the number to 600 senators, a number which he would maintain by raising the number of Quaestors. He wanted the senate to have both moral backing and legal backing, in other words a replacement of the Mos Marorum with the Lex. Sulla modified the Tribunate of the Plebs because he saw the influence they held as harmful to the power of the senate. A man who was a Tribune now could not go on to further office, their authority was drastically curtailed. Finally in the court system the Equites class was completely excluded from the jury system. Juries were restricted to senators alone, through this Sulla gave the senate more power. However, there were major problems with these reforms which would make them irrelevant and redundant in the near future.
Sulla tried to make the senate a more powerful and direct form of government, believing this would make the state more stable. Sulla implemented proscriptions in order to disband those who did not support him and threatened his power, these proscriptions were harmful to the stability of the state. Plutarch described the proscriptions, “no place remained undefiled but murder nether temple of God, nor hearth of hospitality, nor ancestral home. Husbands were slaughtered in the embraces of the wedded wives, sons in the arms of their mothers.” Because of these atrocious proscriptions the senate lost most of its leading members, making the senate weaker. The people who remained members of the senate ether did not want nor were able to exercise power over the state or the future major generals like Pompey, Crassus and Caesar. Sulla expanded the senate after his proscriptions; the Senate itself, which had been much thinned by the seditions and wars and he added members from the best of the knights, taking the vote of the tribes on each one. Due to his previous proscriptions the new senators that were being recruited, were weak willed and lacked conviction. This only succeeded in making the state weaker. The future would be one where power was held by small oligarchies rather than a large senate. This weakened the state immensely and is one of the ways that the Sullan reforms caused the acceleration of the collapse of the Roman Republic.
The system where Sulla and the senate were at the head, had become corrupt. There were many examples of jury scandals and this all worked to erode the senate’s power and respect. In a speech made in the defence of Sextus Roscius of Ameria, who was wrongly accused of murdering his father so that one of Sullas favourite freed slaves could get Sextus property, Ciccero points out the corruptions within the system to the judges and jurors presiding over the trial.
He,[Sulla] O judges,...

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