Important Events in Roman History, 150-70

but first some advice on how to deal the Roman senate

Date Event Significance
149-6 4th MacedonianWar; 3rd Punic War; map Rome destroys her most persistent enemies and creates provinces in Macedonia and in Africa (Tunisia), Achaean League dissolved.
143-33 Romans wars in Spain; Slave wars in Sicily Many problems in many places
133 Tribunate of Tib Gracchus Beginning of violence in politics
132 Province of Asia organized First use of province to fund domestic programs
123-2 Tribunates of C. Gracchus Omnibus legislation defeated; escalating violence in Forum.


Jugurtha builds power in Africa/Numidia

Though thoroughly Romanized and connected to family of Scipiones, seeks independence for Numidia


Roman army defeated by Gauls; Roman/Latin colony of Cirta sacked by Jugurtha

Exposes Roman vulnerability to wars on two fronts at same time


Numidia: Roman misadvantentures

Exposes Roman command weakness and corruption of elite


Marius elected consul; leads army to Numidia

A 'new man' who seeks command against Jugurtha; opposed by elite, but elected by lower orders. Division in state intensifies as the elite close access and frustrate reform


Marius successful in Numidia, but Roman armies destroyed in Gaul (Arausio, third major defeat in short period); Italy threatened.

Marius and Sulla, his aide, gain credit while stature of elite/ optimates declines.


Marius elected consul annually; reforms Roman army; defeats Gauls and Germans. Battle of Aque Sextiae: Marius declines, battle, labeled a coward, then attacks rear of unprepared Teutones; forces Cimbri to fight against setting sun.

Clear violation of constitution; army professionalized, but now client of commander.


Satuninus proposes legislation for Marius' veterans; Senate opposes; rioting; Marius restores order

Senate feared Marius' unprecedented behavior; could only deny him the settlement for vets. By destroying his own agent Saturninus, Marius lost political control. Implications??


Trial of Rutilius Rufus. The equestrian courts condemns senatorial governor who had protected provincials from equestrian tax collectors.

Exposes deep division between senatorial and equestrian orders


Tribunate of Livius Drusus; his law on franchise; assassination. Social War

Same pattern as earlier; reform legislation that all could support breaks down on over issue of clientele


Social War; leges Julia, Plautia, Papiria, Pompeia extend citizenship to various Italian communities, but they are inequitably distributed..

After several defeats, Roman divide Italians by selective extension of citizenship secured through laws of a number of individuals.


Sulpicius Rufus tribune, proposes law to transfer command in East from Sulla to Marius; Sulla marches on Rome and secures his reappointment

Sulla had been assigned command by senate. The march on Rome by army sets a dangerous precedent..


Sulla in East against Mithradates; Rome controlled by Marius and Cinna. Italians evenly distributed throughout tribes [aka voting districts];

Clear division in state. Senate not functional.


Sulla returns to Italy; marches on Rome and restores senatorial control.* Proscriptions follow.

Sulla becomes dictator for restructuring the constitution. New constitution favors Senate. Proscriptions escalate level of state violence.


Sulla resigns, retires and dies


Lepidus challenges Sullan order, but defeated

Pressure is building to restore "popular" power.


Pirates active and threaten eastern Mediterranean; Roman renegade Sertorius active in Spain; Spartacus revolts in Italy

Pressure at many points. Pompeius markets himself as the man to restore order.


Order restored throughout Mediterranean

Will it last? Does the state need a 'great man'?

70 Pompeius** and Crassus, competitors ally against Senate, are elected consuls and restore traditional tribunician powers.
67-62 Pompeius given special comman (extra-ordinary) to deal with pirates; extended to conclude war with Mithradates and organize east. Gives him imperium throughout the Mediterranean and 50 miles inland, virtual control of Empire
63 Cicero consul; conspiracy of Catiline
62 Pompey returns to Italy and disbands army. Did not want to be seen as another Sulla, but without army loses leverage and cannot get settlement for soldiers


Caesar consul; forms "triumvirate" ("gang of three") ;

Caesar, Pompeius and Crassus were frustrated with the Senate and needed settlement of their affairs. Gain it through control of assemblies, soldiers and equestrian order.

*Sulla’s reforms [directly or indirectly the fact of the empire played a role]:

Sulla's laws-as much as we know of them- are curiously backward-looking but attempt to remedy ills of his time in the way he thought best.  He tried to restore position of authority and the cohesion of the senate by legislation.  Clearly Sulla saw the problems but the surgery was cosmetic and sort lived. To that end


**Career of Pompey the Great to the first triumvirate:

Rise to prominence as 23 year old under Sulla. Involved with the re-establishment of Sulla, hunting down and executing for Sulla opponents who had taken a hold of the Roman provinces of Sicily and Africa.  Recovers Africa and earns triumph.

After Sulla’s death senate invests him with command against rebel Sertorius who had gained control of Spain.  After 6 years returns to Rome in triumph and is elected consul for the year 70 B.C.  Pompey as consul restores the power of the tribunes and the equites to the law courts. 

In 67 Pompey secures an extra-ordinary (out of the ordinary) command against the pirates for himself (by tribunician law).  The war against the pirates was over within half a year but Pompey loiters in the East to wait until another plebiscite transfers the command against Mithridates from Lucullus to him.  Pompey who not only finished Mithridates but in the process conquers large parts of the languishing Seleucid empire and organizes large parts as provinces:  Syria, Pontus-Bythinia, client kings without reference to the senate.

In 63 Pompey is on his way home with a large and enormously enriched army, huge amounts of booty and captives.  Upon arrival in Brundisium, he dismisses his army to alleviate fear of a second Sulla.  Seeks acceptance by the oligarchy.  Stalemate over the issue of rewards for the veterans of his army.  Finally, Pompey gives up and turns for help outside the oligarchy.  His allies are Caesar and Crassus, both politicians who were perceived as having too much ambition and too little regard for traditional politics.  The first triumvirate is formed, a coalition of clientele, and results in the election of Caesar to the consulate in 59 B.C., the desirable command against the Parthians in the east for Crassus, and the prospect of getting his way for his veterans for Pompey.


How to intimidate the Roman senate