Tribune of the Plebs - after serving

Oct 2015
671
Virginia
#11
The tribunes were not "nobodies" but nobiles, and men from perfectly respectable senatorial and equestrian families.
As Gruen et al say, of the 200 tribunes elected between 69-49 the names of 106 (53%) are known and 49 (46%) of them went on to higher office. Many of the others had already entered the senate by virtue of having been elected to one of the 20 quaestorships.
The plebiscitum Atinium enacted sometime between 132-113BC specifically made ex-tribunes senators (Gellius NA xiv.8).
Even the tribunes elected under the Sullan restrictions (85-70) were equestrians and probably among the 300 that Sulla added to the senate in order to restore its' numbers and provide jurors for the standing courts.
8, and later 20 Quaestors and 10 tribunes would not glut the senate with radicals and boors, especially since nearly all tribunes also had been quaestors.
 
Jan 2015
3,291
Australia
#12
The 150 ish tribunes who were elected between 85 and 70 BC, the period from Sulla's reforms to Pompey and Crassus restoring the tribunate, were definitely nobodies. You were barred from all future office if you were elected. Any equestrian of note wanting to be involved in the Senate would have gone another route. Those were the only tribunes I called nobodies. As for the others, I am not sure 69-49 BC is a sensible period to use, given the political tumult which would skew the sample (A lot of senators died during the Civil Wars, creating openings, and many people were appointed rather than elected to offices during this tumult too). Leaving that aside though, for the reasons I gave I doubt very much ex-tribunes who did not meet the basic criteria would have tried to stick around, and wouldn't have been unsuccessful for long had they done so.
 
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caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,090
#13
As much as you disl;ike my examples, I have to point out these are perfectly valid means of illustrating aspects of Roman politics that you seem to find inconvenient. Roman society was not an absolute tyranny, and even later, tyrranical Caesars still thought it wise to bribe the legions with donatives, or bribe the public with 'bread and circuses'. The Senate was representing Roman interests in a senior capacity even though they had begun as an advisory body. The Roman constitution, such as it was, did not establish the Senate as a permanent and necessary governmental body, they merely assumed the role because they had been in a position to do so. Technically it was the elected Roman magistrates who would officiate, but of course the nature of Roman society and its rulings meant that cadidates had to be suitable.

Caractacus was going to be executed anyway. Julius Caesar was keen on dealing with his important prisoners like that, notably Vercingetorix, who after public humiliation was ritually strangled. He was going to do the same to Assinoe, Cleopatra's younger sister who made an unsuccessful bid for power in Egypt, only to be foiled by the mood of the audience who felt sympathy for the plight of a teenage girl (She would be executed later at the Temple of Artemis where she was under arrest under the orders of Marc Antony). The Senate were mindful of the public mob, and Rome had a history of civil disorder when the public disliked the circumstances (Indeed, democracy for the plebs was only introduced because the plebs staged a walkout of Rome in the early republic).

Roman republican politics ran on a system of privilege. It was not a simple format either, and you might find it worth reading Polybius' description of the division of power under their hybrid system. The fact is, if a man was entitled to privilege, then he was entitled to it. Sometimes the privilege was questionable and anyone in that situation desiring to exploit it would find it necessary to mount a legal action to enable it. Rome was proud of its system of law, which above all else, they saw as their gift to the civilised world.

In the case of the ex-tribune, he has achieved a qualification for further advancement. No ifs, no buts. The only real issue was the general recognition of senators, and this is where senatorial politics gets complicated, because the Senate was not a united body. The acceptance of the ex-tribune would hinge on the support of factions but this would only be an issue if the ex-tribune was in some way a controversial choice. Rome had plenty of glass ceilings in their society, but they also had plenty of ways to rise through them. After all, Trajan, remembered as one of Rome's greatest Caesars, was laughed at in his first youthful speech in the Senate because of his rural Iberian accent.

In any case, an ex-tribune who had failed to gain support of senatorial factions would likely be a failure as a politician anyway.
 

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,090
#17
Maybe it was never written as such. Maybe I was writing for the benefit of everyone else. Maybe you need to realise you just aren't important enough to demand responses to suit yourself. Anyway...

The robust nature of Roman republican democracy is contestable. As Michael grant has pointed out in print, whilst the Romans had a very strong preference for traditionalism they also had a an impressive record for change when it suited them. The Roman Republic was not however democratic in the modern western sense, and one should not make the mistake of applying modern themes to ancient culture. Government, as described by Polybius around 150BC, was a hybrid beast - one he is evidently proud to describe - with democracy as a component to include the plebeian classes in governmental decision making which was after all necessary to prevent civic disorder in the early republican period. It was not however a system of "one man one vote". Block votes were counted and indeed once a majority decision was reached further counting was abandoned, with senior tribes voting first. This was a source of contention as the Republic began to morph toward imperialism, because Rome was the primary member of the Italian tribal federation and did not allow the socii equal status or reward. The tribes in Italy grew angrier and demanded a vote, a say in Roman democracy. At first Rome declined but gave in under pressure, however they made the new voting tribes last in line, thus would not usually be required to have their votes counted. This issue would lead to the Social War of 91-88BC, a rebellion of Italian tribal states against Roman domination which they lost, despite some able strategy and command.

Further the voting was not free of influence. Campaigning for votes was one thing. The staging of public entertainment from 264BC onward increasingly became a means by which those seeking votes could influence the voters. Further still, and more insidious, was the nature of Roman society itself. The client-patron system of social obligations, an ancestor of the medieval manorial system, meant that patricians could influence many of their voters to cast their decisions as required, with either reward or punishment potentially as a result. Since the poorer classes were dependent on the beneficence of the patricians in urban surroundings, the focus of voting was not free of corruption. It might also be considered that political violence to 'persuade' the less hostile members of society was increasingly a factor too. The contest between the gangs of Milo and Clodius is an infamous example.

Roman democracy - a robust entity? It might seem so and I dare say many politicians preferred to see it that way, claiming alignment with traditional values and engaging opponents with messages of moral superiority. Nonetheless Roman society was intrinsically corrupt and like it or not, if a politican wanted his message displayed in public, he woul;d have slaves and servants daub graffiti on your walls.
 

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