Finance in the Roman State Edit
Technically, money was no longer a new concept, it had been around for several centuries by then. Its' key benefit is that it provides an easy way to convert the value of one product to that of another. Before the development of money, payment for labor tended to be payment-in-kind. If you grew grapes, you were probably paid in grapes or similar. And the economy was a barter economy as a result. Wealth was therefore measured in things; such as houses, lands, herds, etc.
Money provided a new measure, that could be universal to all. And in Rome it did more. Prior to Rome, the cities that grew to great size and strength were cities with trade and/or manufacturing capability. To the extent that any city got around those two details, it was through political power over others. But thanks to the development of money, Rome was able to become something that hadn't been seen before. It became a financial center. And the ability to engage in finance was part of what had made the Punic Wars economically possible. With the end of the Punic Wars, Rome began moving into the world of finance in a big way, with almost everyone getting involved in one way or another. Even if the only way was through the use of debt.
As with anything new, there was a lack of recognised safeguards, and the result was the development of a debtor class. And with it, the development of conditions suited for revolution.
The first to tap into the growing mood for change was Tiberius Gracchus. Elected as a tribune of the people in 133 BCE, Tiberius was immediately faced with the issue of homeless soldiers. At that time, soldiers were still being recruited from landowning farmers. But because they were signed on for the duration of an entire campaign, rather than for a fixed period, they had to leve management of their farms in the hands of others. All too often, they came home to find that they no longer had one.
In an effort to deal with this, Tiberius proposed a set of laws called "Lex Sempronia agraria", intedned to resolve the problem of homeless soldiers and improve the number of people eligible for future military service. While Tiberius was dealing with Senate opposition to these reforms, King Attalus III of Pergamun died. For whatever the reason, King Attalus III had seen fit to give Pergamun to Rome. Tiberius immediately tried to use the resulting funds to finance the new laws resulting from passage of the Lex Sempronia agraria reforms.
Finally in 132 BCE, seeking to bring further reform, Tiberius flouted the existing constitution by standing for re-election. During the process of voting, a riot broke out, during which he and several hundred of his supporters were killed.
Later Scipio Africanus the Younger took up the torch of reform and proposed extending enfranchisement to all of Italy. That idea ended with his sudden death. From there, the torch of reform seems to have passed on to Gaius Gracchus.
Gaius began his public career in 126 BCE as Quaestor to Consul Lucius Aurelius Orestes. In 123 BCE, he was elected to the tribunate of the plebs. During his term he pushed for a number of agrarian laws, and sought to control the price of grain. He also sought to limit the amount of military duty that a citizen could be compelled to serve. None of which was popular with the Senate. Nonetheless, he was elected to second term during which he continued to pursue his objectives on behalf of the lower classes. Only to be defeated in 121 BCE. Frustrated that his achievements were being eliminated, he eventually turned to violence and failed there as well, ultimately losing his life.
Marius and Sulla Edit
The end of the Gracchis notwithstanding, popular unrest did not decline. And the scandals brought about by Jugurtha's takeover of Numidia didn't help matters any. It was in large part a result of the those scandals, that a relatively low-born soldier by the name of Marius was elected to the consulship in 107 BCE. He quickly ran into the problem that the Gracchi brothers had tried to resolve regarding the increasing lack of qualified property owners available for drafting into military service.
Rather than attempt to fix the property ownership problem, Marius simply sidesteped the issue by eliminating the requirement. Instead, he recruited from the lower classes with no concern for property ownership. After giving the new army the appropriate training and discipline, Marius proceeded to Numidia and in 106 BCE Jugurtha was captured and brought to Rome in chains. In the process, Marius had created something that Rome had never seen before, a professional army whose loyalty was based not on landownership, but rather on being paid well.
After several more battles were fought and won under the leadership of Marius, peace settled in for a few years. But then the assassination of a popular tribune by the name of Marcus Livius Drusus touched off a civil war throughout all of Italy.
In response to the revolt, also known as the Social War, the Roman senate put both Marius and Sulla in charge of armies with which to put down the resistance. The Social War eventually ended with the Senate acceding, in principle, to the demands of the insurgents.
Largely as result of his activities during the Social War, Sulla was elected Consul in 88 BCE, and left in command of an army to take on King Mithridates of Pontus. Somehow, Marius managed to get Sulla removed as Commander, with himself taking over. In response, Sulla marched his army into Rome itself. Regaining full command of the army as well as responsibility for taking over Pontus, Sulla ordered that Marius and his immediate allies be put to death, and then left to fight Mithridates.
Marius, however, escaped death by fleeing to Tunisia. By the end of 87 BCE, Marius was back in Rome with an army of his own. In vengeance, Marius ordered the killing of Sulla's allies. All told, about a hundred of them were killed. Elected to a seventh Consulship in 86, Marius appears to have died of old age shortly after his election.
Not satisfied with Marius's death, Sulla marched his army into Rome for a second time in 82 BCE. Regaining control of Rome, Sulla then had somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,500 of his opponents executed. After two years of dictatorial rule he finally retired from public life and died of an illness.
The struggle for power and influence between Marius and Sulla didn't just shake Roman authority to its core. Between the two of them, they had set a precedent for marching into Rome as a means for securing their position as Supreme Leader of Rome. Sulla was in fact made a Dictator for Life, short though it was. Together, they helped start the process that would lead to the end of the Republic.
Later, even though the Senate had made it fully illegal, Julius Caesar would follow their example and lead his own army into Rome. In 44 BCE, again following the precedent set by Sulla, Julius Caesar was proclaimed Dictator for life. A development that would set the stage for Octavian to finish off the Republic once and for all.
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