From the Gracchi to Caesar

The prior era saw great military successes, and great economic failures. The patriotism of the plebeians had kept them from seeking any new reforms. Now, the military situation had stabilised, and fewer soldiers were needed. This, in conjunction with the new slaves that were being imported from abroad, inflamed the unemployment situation further. The flood of unemployed citizens to Rome had made the assemblies quite populist. The Crisis of the Roman Republic refers to an extended period of political instability and social unrest that culminated in the demise of the Roman Republic and the advent of the Roman Empire, from about 134 BC to 44 BC. The exact dates of the Crisis are unclear because "Rome teetered between normalcy and crisis" for many decades. Likewise, the causes and attributes of the crises changed throughout the decades, including the forms of slavery, brigandage, wars internal and external, land reform, the invention of literally excruciating new punishments, the expansion of Roman citizenship, and even the changing composition of the Roman army. Modern scholars also disagree about the nature of the crisis. Traditionally, the expansion of citizenship (with its all rights, privileges, and duties) was looked upon negatively by Sallust, Gibbon, and others of their schools, because it caused internal dissension, disputes with Rome's Italian allies, slave revolts, and riots. However, other scholars have argued that as the Republic was meant to be res publica – the essential thing of the people – the poor and disenfranchised can not be blamed for trying to redress their legitimate and legal grievances. For centuries, historians have argued about the start, specific crises involved, and end date for the Crisis of the Roman Republic. As a cult re (or "web of institutions"), Florence Dupont and Christopher Woodall wrote, "no distinction is made between different periods." However, without question, the Romans lost liberty through plunder, by "their morally undermining consequences." [edit]Arguments for an early start-date (c. 134 to 73 BC) Harriet I. Flower and Jurgen Von Ungern-Sternberg argue for an exact start date of 10 December 134 BC, with the inauguration of Gracchus as tribune, or alternately, when he first issued his proposal for land reform in 133 BC. Appian of Alexander wrote that this political crisis was "the preface to ... the Roman civil wars". Velleius commentated that it was Gracchus' unprecedented standing for re-election as tribune in 132 BC, and the riots and controversy it engendered as the start of a crisis: This was the beginning of civil bloodshed and of the free reign [sic] of swords in the city of Rome. From then on justice was overthrown by force and the strongest was preeminent. —Velleius, Vell. Pat. 2.3.3-4, translated and cited by Harriet I. Flower In any case, the assassination of Tiberius Gracchus in 133 BC marked "a turning point in Roman history and the beginning of the crisis of the Roman Republic." Barbette S. Spaeth specifically refers to "the Gracchan crisis at the beginning of the Late Roman Republic"... Nic Fields, in his popular history of Spartacus, argues for a start date of 135 BC with the beginning of the First Slave War in Sicily. Fields asserts: The rebellion of the slaves in Italy under Spartacus may have been the best organized, but it was not the first of its kind. There had been other rebellions of slaves that afflicted Rome, and we may assume that Spartacus was wise enough to profit by their mistakes. —Nic Fields