Mob Violence in the Late Roman Republic, 133-49 B.C

Mob Violence in the Late Roman Republic, 133-49 B.C

Mob Violence in the Late Roman Republic, 133-49 B.C

Mob Violence in the Late Roman Republic, 133-49 B.C

Excerpt

No period offers more food for thought to the student of history than that which was marked by the decline of the Roman Republic. Many of the problems of that time obviously parallel situations which are troubling our own modern life, and among these are the rise of a class of gangsters and the increasing frequency of mob violence.

This development is part of the larger story of how the Roman city-state expanded into a world empire and of the political, social, and economic problems which resulted. Although embracing practically all the peoples of the Mediterranean area, the government had been unable to adapt itself to changing conditions and continued to struggle along under an outmoded constitution. Many were demanding political representation and equality; others wanted work and the sustenance of life, amid the general plenty; still others fought against class distinctions and the bonds of slavery. All these demands were represented in the violent disorders which occurred in the state from the time of the Gracchi to the beginning of the empire.

While many modern historians have dealt with various phases of this subject in perfunctory fashion, it seems worthwhile to reëxamine the sources and to view the phenomenon in its entirety. It would be neither possible nor profitable to relate all cases of mob violence which happened during the period, but it has been our endeavor to trace the general outlines of the movement, with an attempt to interpret the underlying causes and effects in so far as our sources justify. We have shown the beginnings of class strife under the Gracchi, which carried in its wake such demagogues as Saturninus and Glaucia. Then followed the rise of the military leaders, accompanied by petty gangsters like Catiline and Clodius who created a state of anarchy with their mobs. Ultimately the military dictator took control and the violence of the republic came to an end.

In conclusion, I wish to acknowledge the kind assistance of Professor J. W. Swain, of the University of Illinois, whose suggestions were invaluable.

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