II. Ancient and Classical Periods, 3500 B.C.E.–500 C.E. > E. Rome > 3. Civil War and Renewal, 70 B.C.E.–14 C.E.
  PREVIOUS NEXT  
CONTENTS · SUBJECT INDEX · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
 
 
3. Civil War and Renewal, 70 B.C.E.–14 C.E.
a. Economy, Society, and Culture
 
In 70 B.C.E., Rome's empire comprised most of the lands bounding the Mediterranean. By 14 B.C.E., it had been extended to include, in the west, large areas of continental Europe (France, the low countries, and the lands bordering the Rhine and Danube Rivers), and, in the east, substantial parts of Anatolia, plus Syria, Judaea, and Egypt. Although the economy continued to be characterized by small-scale industry, and by agriculture and trade that were predominantly local, a substantial Mediterranean-wide commerce was conducted between cities united by river and maritime communications, a common material culture, and a common coinage. The potential benefits were hampered by the frequently rapacious treatment of provincial resources, by piracy, and, above all, by war. Some 200,000 Italian men were killed in the wars of 90–81; those of 49–31 claimed perhaps another 100,000. Italian agriculture was devastated by pillaging and the large-scale reallotment of land. The result was debt, lawlessness, social unrest, and economic disarray. During all this time the provincial economies were being ruthlessly exploited by Roman armies. The great achievement of the emperor Augustus was to end war within the Empire.  1
The growing complexity of economic life made the traditional system of Roman civil law untenable. By recognizing the praetor's formulae, the lex Aebutia (c. 150?) officially liberated the ius civile from the constraints of the highly formalistic and narrow rules of the legal procedure called the legis actio system, which had been established in the Twelve Tables. Under the new formulary system, the praetor “interpreted” as actionable circumstances not strictly covered by the traditional “actions,” thereby greatly extending the protection of the law. The praetor's edict defined what formulae would be employed. These edicts were passed on to succeeding praetors, creating a body of “tralatician” law, which became the chief authority for civil law. The edicts, and the innovative interpretations they embodied, were not, however, the work of the praetors themselves, but of legal scholars (jurisconsults) who advised the praetors. Criminal law evolved from the Twelve Tables' regulation of private vengeance to a more active concern for public safety and order. Criminal actions were initiated by either magistrates or private citizens, and trials traditionally were conducted before one of the popular assemblies. Around 200, the senate entrusted certain cases to special courts, quaestiones extraordinariae, composed of senators and presided over by a consul or praetor. Sulla's legislation defined other types of crimes and established permanent courts to adjudicate them. Under Augustus, these permanent courts continued, but emphasis began to shift to a more expedient procedure, the cognitio extraordinaria, wherein a magistrate appointed by the emperor, the praefectus urbi, conducted trials and rendered decisions without the aid of a jury.  2
The late Republic was a time of great social upheaval. Slaves continued to flood into Italy. The slave population of Italy in 14 C.E. has been estimated at around 3 million out of a free population of about 7,500,000. Hundreds of thousands of Italian peasants were conscripted into armies to wage civil wars. For those who survived, land had to be found, and the resultant confiscations produced great numbers of dispossessed, many of whom immigrated to Rome where living conditions were worsening. Debt and violence brought about social discontent in both city and countryside, which led to the call for revolution by such men as Catiline. The composition of the governing aristocracy changed. A generation after receiving the Roman citizenship, Italian aristocrats began entering the Roman senate in numbers. The process was accelerated by civil wars, which killed off many of the old Roman nobility and provided opportunity for advancement to the capable and unscrupulous. Competition for office led aristocrats to finance ever more spectacular public entertainment—dramas, mimes, public banquets, and gladiatorial contests. Augustus's attempts to curb public aristocratic display were successful, but his programs to put an end to private luxuria failed utterly. By the late Republic, women had acquired the ability to divorce independently and to force the consent of a male guardian (tutor). Augustus curbed the relaxing of traditional restrictions on upper-class women but released women from guardians if they had three children (four for freed women). The numbers and influence of freedmen grew significantly; some of them gained great wealth and considerable indirect power. The primary avenue of social mobility for the Roman citizens remained the army, the vast majority of whose members came from the peasantry.  3
If the 1st century B.C.E. was a period of political turmoil, it was also a time of extraordinary cultural activity. Elite education included pursuing advanced studies in the Greek east. Latin literature entered its golden age. Cicero's (106–43) works in oratory and philosophy transformed the language. Julius Caesar's (100–44) masterly commentaries on the Gallic and Civil wars combined rapid narrative with political propaganda. C. Sallustius Crispus (Sallust, c. 86–c. 35) wrote two classic historical monographs—the Catilinarian Conspiracy and the Jugurthine War, as well as a major history (lost). Latin biography was composed by Cornelius Nepos (c. 99– c. 24), while the polymath M. Terentius Varro (116–27) wrote on a wide variety of subjects, including etymology, antiquities, farming, and satire; most of his work is lost. Latin poetry displayed tremendous vigor and range. T. Lucretius Carus (c. 94–55) penned an epic, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), elucidating the philosophical doctrines of Epicurus, while C. Valerius Catullus (87–54?) used Alexandrian models to produce an elegant and personal poetry. The vigor of late republican Latin carried over into the Age of Augustus, where it was harnessed by the patronage of the imperial court, most effectively by C. Maecenas, friend and adviser of Augustus. P. Vergilius Maro (Vergil, 70–19) wrote the pastoral Eclogues, then the didactic poem, Georgics, and finally Rome's national epic, the Aeneid. Q. Horatius Flaccus (Horace, 65–8) mastered a wide range of genres (satire, ode, and epode), while the composition of Catullan love elegies was continued by Sextus Propertius (c. 50–15) and Albius Tibullus (c. 55–19). P. Ovidius Naso (Ovid, 43 B.C.E.–17 C.E.) wrote elegies and a distinctively light didactic and epic poetry. T. Livius (Livy, 64 B.C.E.–12 C.E.) capped the annalistic tradition by writing a monumental history of Rome from its origin. In public architecture military dynasts of the late Republic drove less wealthy aristocrats from the field of competition and transformed the political centers of the Republic to reflect their glory. Julius Caesar and then Augustus recast the Roman Forum with the new Curia Iulia, the Basilica Iulia, the temple of Divus Iulius, the Portico of Gaius and Lucius, and the triumphal arches of Augustus. In addition, Caesar and Augustus built completely new fora—the Forum Iulium and the Forum of Augustus—dedicated to their personal achievements. Rome's other political center, the Campus Martius, was altered, first by Pompey with the erection of Rome's first stone theater in 55, then by Caesar who remodeled the Saepta (voting stalls). In the late Republic, works of Greek art continued to accumulate in Rome and Italy as a result of being brought there as war booty and of being purchased or stolen to satisfy the elite obsession with “collecting.” Old masterworks were joined with copies of Greek originals to decorate private villas. Meanwhile, in public art, Roman military leaders increasingly disregarded traditional republican constraints and were portrayed in the manner of Hellenistic kings—as nudes or in equestrian statues. In wall painting the Second Style (60–20) created the illusion of depth, both in architectural features and in framed tableaux using theatrical and other decorative conventions from Hellenistic art. The Augustan court created a center of patronage which affected architecture and art, no less than literature. A self-consciously new architectural style—Roman Corinthian—was introduced, which intentionally distanced itself from its Greek predecessors (Ionic and Doric). Augustus and Agrippa changed the Campus Martius from a voting center into an area for public amenities and entertainment by building theaters, an amphitheater, a public bath, temples, and museums. The Augustan program of rebuilding and renewal made greater use of travertine and introduced Italian Carrara marble. In sculpture, official portrait types moved away from the realism of the Republic to ideal types (the Prima Porta Augustus). In private art, the extravagance of developed Second Style wall painting was succeeded by the Third Style (20 B.C.E.–20 C.E.), which abandoned the illusion of depth and emphasized the solidity of the wall. Architectural decoration in this style was intricate and fanciful rather than grand.  4
 
 
 
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

CONTENTS · SUBJECT INDEX · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  PREVIOUS NEXT