The Roman Republic - Vol. 1

By W. E. Heitland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXVI
THE SITUATION CREATED BY THE WAR
396. IT is perhaps well to pause on reaching the end of the great struggle of 218-201 B.C., and review briefly some of the phenomena that appear in its course, considered as illustrating the condition of the Roman state and preparing us for the changes that meet us in the succeeding period. It is customary to defer doing this till after the Macedonian and Syrian wars, or even the destruction of Carthage and Corinth. But the eastern conflicts were wholly different in character from the second Punic war. Rome was then never in any real danger. Delays and even defeats there were, due to stupid mismanagement: but, when the drowsy giant woke up in earnest, one buffet laid the rash opponent in the dust. And this virtual security abroad reacted upon policy at home: the practical working of the Roman constitution, and the relations of Romans to other Italians, changed rapidly when the check of a great present danger was removed. I venture therefore to treat briefly by themselves certain matters that fall within the 17 years of the great war, the true meaning and tendency of which we should often miss if we had not the clue supplied by the sequel.
397. In speaking of the working of the constitution we are primarily concerned with the relations of Magistracy Senate and Assembly to each other. We have had frequent occasion to notice the general direction of affairs by the Senate: in moments of extreme danger all looked to the Senate for guidance, and so it more and more assumed the conduct of the war. This was natural enough; the power of the great council had long been growing: but we must observe that this was not for lack of an opposition. The popular movement under Flaminius was still strong when the war broke out, and was not ended by the death of its leader. It raised Varro to the consulship, and then died down under the depression caused by Cannae. But with the return of hope it so far revived that by popular support Scipio was able to push his way to the front in spite of the jealousy of the nobles. Not that Scipio was a demagogue, or that the power of the Senate was permanently shaken by his

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