Roman Domestic Politics in the Late Republic - 100-44 B.C.

The Consulship of Caesar - 59 B.C.

Page 1

By now, Caesar, Pompeius and Crassus had entered into a political understanding to have their immediate aims realised. This arrangement was cemented by the marriage of Pompeius to Caesar's only daughter, Julia. It is important to note that this friendship (amicitia) was not a constitutional title in the way that the second triumvirate between G. Octavius, M.Antonius and M.Lepidus was after the death of Caesar; it was a purely private arrangement, probably initially with limited goals.

Caesar apparently began his consular year being considerate to the senate. However, the optimate faction, encouraged by the fact that their candidate, M.Calpurnius Bibulus, had been elected as Caesar's consular colleague, continued to try to obstruct proceedings. When Caesar tried to present his lex Agraria for the settlement of Pompeius' veterans, Bibulus imposed his veto and tried to have the remaining assembly meeting days declared as holidays. Undeterred, Caesar again presented the bill to the comitia, this time with Pompeius' veterans surrounding the proceedings. When three tribunes attempted to impose vetoes, Pompeius, hand on sword, responded by making it clear that he would not have any qualms about violence. Bibulus, after protesting, had a bucket of something unpleasant dumped on his head, and had soon retired from public life in humiliation, leaving Caesar with no colleague to check his moves. Caesar had soon gone back on his word that the public land in fertile Campania would not be included in the land grants, and his lex Campana provided room for an extra 20,000 citizens.

The tribune Publius Vatinius then provided Pompeius and Crassus with the ratification of the eastern acta and a remission of the Asian tax contracts. Furthermore, Vatinius voted Caesar the proconsular provinces of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum for five years with a force of three legions. He was also given Transalpine Gaul later, after the death of its current govenor.

Other important aspects of the year included the authorisation by Caesar (as Pontifex Maximus) and Pompeius (as an augur) of the adoption of P.Claudius Pulcher into a plebeian family, thus clearing the way for P.Clodius (the plebeian form of his name) to be elected to a tribunate of the plebs in 58 (those of patrician family were barred from this office.) Also, before Caesar set out for his proconsular command, he attempted to make a ally of Cicero, whose oratorial skills could be used to undo his own legislation. Cicero was offered a position on Caesar's land commission or a position as Caesar's legatus in Gaul. He rejected both. Thus it was that in early 58, Caesar waited outside Rome while the newly elected tribune Clodius forced through a law against any magistrate who had condemned citizens without trial. Cicero, threatened because of his actions in 63, appealed to the new consuls L. Piso (Caesar's father in law) and Aulus Gabinius (a client of Pompeius), both of whom refused help: They had been sweetened up by Clodius with the awarding of profitable proconsular provinces, Macedonia and Syria respectively. Pompeius responded to Cicero's pleas by hiding from him. Cicero was forced in to exile, while Cato Uticensis was removed by sending him to administer the newly organised province of Cyprus.

Clodius set about courting more popularity with the urban masses by reinstating the collegia (clubs similar to trade guilds, banned in 64), organised free grain handouts (which drained the state of resources needed for Caesar's land commission, and contributed to a grain shortage in the following years,) and was involved in the passing of the leges Aelia et Fufia, which forbad the delay of legislation due to "ill omens", which Bibulus had tried with Caesar's legislation. Clodius was by now a loose cannon, using the intimidation of his hired gangs to harass Pompeius, who had his own gangs led by Titus Annius Milo (Clodius had not forgiven Pompeius for his position during the Bona Dea affair). Pompeius, by now alarmed by rumours of plots against his life, was soon agitating for the recall of Cicero, whom he hoped to use as a counter to Clodius. This was not achieved until August 57, despite an earlier assembly bill to recall the orator.

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McKeown, J., "Roman Domestic Politics in the Late Republic - 100-44 B.C.," http://
, 21 October 2004.

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