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

By John Wesley Heaton | Go to book overview

APPENDIX
AN EVALUATION OF THE MAIN SOURCES

The writings of few contemporaries dealing with the period of our study have survived, except in excerpts by later authorities. In this group were the so-called Sullan annalists, Q. Claudius Quadrigarius, Valerius Antias, and C. Licinius Macer, who were noted for their complete histories, extending to about 70 B.C., Gaius Fannius and Sempronius Asellio, who discussed the Gracchan period, and L. Cornelius Sisenna, who wrote of events from the Italian War to the death of Sulla. Posidonius of Apamea continued the Greek work of Polybius down to Sulla's time. Of a slightly later period are the lost works of Asinius Pollio, whose Historiae began with the first triumvirate, and of Tunusius Geminus, who dealt with the period from Sertorius to about 55 B.C. The universal history written by Nicolaus of Damascus exists only in fragments, while the works of Theophanes of Mitylene, Juba II, Varro, and Hyginus are known to us only through other writers.

Among the extant sources, Cicero undoubtedly is the most important. The large number of his orations, letters, and miscellaneous works which have come down to us form an almost inexhaustible treasury of contemporary history. It is to be noted, however, that Cicero's political speeches are to be interpreted largely in the light of events of the time when they were delivered. The Manilian Law breathed the atmosphere of the democracy of 66 B.C., while the Catilinarian orations were decidedly conservative. In the in Toga Candida he railed against the bribery and corruption of 64 B.C., but in the pro Murena he condoned the same offenses in the name of state preservation. In one place the Gracchi were extolled as heroes, in another denounced as destroyers of the state. Consequently, great care must be exercised in analyzing his statements. Of greater importance were the letters exchanged from 68 to 43 B.C. between Cicero and the leading men of the time. Those to Attictis usually represent the mood of the moment and discuss election news, political jealousies, literary questions, town gossip, personal matters of mutual interest, and the like. The letters of a political tenor which were written to the leaders of the day were usually artificial and labored, being filled with the caution that the situation demanded. Thus, it is often necessary to read between the lines in order to attain a satisfactory, interpretation. In his works on philosophy and political science, Cicero shows himself at heart unsympathetic with democracy. Actually, he was a propertied conservative who had little regard for the mass movements which started under the Gracchi. This should be kept in mind in interpreting his writings.

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