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Violence in the Forum (Hardback)

Factional Struggles in Ancient Rome (133–78 BC)

Ancient History > Rome & the Roman Provinces

Imprint: Casemate Publishers
Pages: 200
ISBN: 9781636244471
Published: 15th July 2024


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“The entry of daggers into the Forum” is an expression that identifies two precise historical moments: when two tribunes of the plebs—brothers Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus and Caius Sempronius Gracchus—were murdered in Rome in 133 and 122 BC amidst bloody riots. These deaths and subsequent events marked the rupture of the constitutional order in the Roman Republic and the beginning of a political crisis. Thus began a political process that would lead, over the span of three generations, to the end of the res publica, a transition of endless violence, ransacking, and destruction, including three bitter and bloody civil wars.

Internal politics in Rome in this period was fueled by social conflict, the confrontation between two political alignments—the Optimates and the Populares—each headed by an eminent figure and was characterized by sectarianism and (factional) intolerance. It was characterized by speeches delivered in the Senate, in the streets, and in the courts with solemnity and intensity but equally by the daggers that flashed in the hands of conspirators and assassins; by street riots, with thousands of victims; by real or alleged coups d’état, with ferocious mass repressions; by summary executions; by victims abandoned to the fury of the mob; of widespread civil wars whose battles intertwined with those against enemies abroad; manhunts, horrendous crimes; the system of legalized killings that aimed at the annihilation of political opponents known as proscriptions; corruption; and brutal and mass killings.

This book discusses this tumultuous period in Rome between 133 and 78 BC, covering the plots of the Senate of Rome against the Gracchi and their violent ends, the mysterious death of Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus, destroyer of Carthage and of Numantia, the ferocious lynching of Lucius Apuleius Saturninus, the seditious tribune of the plebs, the civil war between Marius and Sulla, including the siege and capitulation of Rome and Marius’ reign of terror, ending with the definitive victory and proscriptions of Sulla.

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