Novi Homines Novi Homines During the last centuries B. C. E. Rome became a power not only recognized in Italy but in the Mediterranean world.
The Roman Empire was one of the largest in world history. A common saying ‘All Roads Lead to Rome’ alludes to this central center of technology, literature, and architecture. Rome became a great empire for many reasons: great rulers, great armies, a suitable location, and notable achievements from visionary builders. Rome’s greatness grew out of its imperial program of conquering others and establishing colonies. This military expansion at once brought great material benefit to the Roman state and guaranteed wealth for Rome, the imperial city. Rome becomes a cosmopolitan capital where high living and material wealth become synonymous with personal importance and success.
The Roman Triumph, especially in the Republican era was the crowning achievement of a Roman General. The procession of the Roman army, allowed within the city gates for this special event, captured leaders and slaves, and any treasure looted on campaign, was a grand spectacle of enormous proportions. Consuls, Praetors or Dictators were originally the only magistrates allowed to receive a Triumph, as they were the only officials with the authority to command a large enough force to deserve the honor. The honor was very important in Roman culture. Some people were borne into honorable families, usually politicians, and some had to gain respect honor and political nobility. Cato, Marius and Cicero were New Men, which men that their ancestors did not Cicero, we should remember, came from Arpinum, a country town 70 miles from Rome.
Although the Tulli were among the leading families of Arpinum, Cicero had none of the ancestry that was so important to a political career in Rome. It counted for very little that Marius also hailed from Arpinum. The Tulli were conservative and probably on the other side of most local issues as well as the great Roman ones of the day. Cicero’s father, for example, opposed the use of the secret ballot in Arpinum.
In any event, Cicero spent a great deal of time seeking reliable alliances in the fluid politics of Rome. The Opti mates essentially rebuffed him; Hortensius, Lucullus, and even Catal us looked down on Cicero as a new man, and were jealous of his success and his talents. Catiline, we might remember, called him an interloper in Roman politics and called Cicero’s paltry ancestry to account. Cicero succeeded by oratorical skills alone. Unlike Caesar, he had not the birthright of Aeneas and Venus; unlike Pompey or marius, he had no liking, nor any talent, for a military career. He was Rome’s leading orator throughout this period, and based his political success almost wholly upon his reputation in the courts and as a public speaker.
So Cicero’s alliances with Pompey and Caesar (not so much, I think with Octavian) were based on self-preservation as well as on political considerations. Cicero felt bound and gagged by both alliances, and was required to take on defense cases for both these political patrons he would have preferred to leave to others. The alliances were by no means salutary, but they enabled Cicero to survive, to play a role, and become, however briefly, the leader of the Republic after both Pompey and Caesar had been killed. Cicero was the third great man of the era, and he, too, had his chance to demonstrate his particular brand of leadership of the Republic, For yes, after Caesar’s assassination, Cicero was, for all intents and purposes, the leader of the State. And a damn fine one. Cato the Elder was born at Tusculum in 234 BC.
He grew up on his father’s country estate and entered military service at the age of 17. By 195 BC he had climbed the traditional ladder of magistrate offices to its very pinnacle by achieving the post of consul. In this position he won a great victory in the wars in Spain. Then in 191 BC he retired from the army and concentrated instead on participating in debates in the senate. Scipio Africanus was Cato’s greatest enemy.
Cato did what he could to lessen Scipio’s power. Scipio enjoyed great popularity and his defeat of Antiochus in Asia only added to his reputation as an outstanding military leader. However, Cato accused him of leading a decadent lifestyle and pursuing ‘Greek customs’. He even managed to force a court trial, which Cato won, but at such a cost to his reputation that he chose to withdraw from politics. In 184 BC Cato was elected as censor.
He took his role as the guardian of morality incredibly seriously. So much so he used his powers of office to expel Manilius, a candidate in the election for the office of consul, from the senate. He did this with the reasoning that Manilius had dared to embrace his wife in public, and in full view of his daughter. Cato ceaselessly sought out those who misused public property.
Pipes, with which people used to illegally draw water from the public water supply, were simply severed. Private buildings, which overlapped onto public land, were demolished. The rich suffered enormous taxation, and severe regulations were introduced to prevent any luxuries Cato deemed excessive. Cato was disliked for his severity, but respected as an able politician and good orator..