To what extent can we attribute the conditions of the late Republic to the actions of single individuals? Or were the actions of these individuals actually attempts at restoring order? Introduction The Roman Republic is today regarded as one of the greatest civilizations in the history of mankind…
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Still, one of the most predominant means of scholarly analysis remains the conditions of the late Republic. Varying perspectives have considered the actions during this period in relation to a number of contextual criteria. The main modes of investigative inquiry situate the late Republic as either attributable to the actions of specific individuals, or the actions of these individuals merely attempts at restoring order. Analysis Sallust provides a broad ranging historical account of Rome. Rather than merely recounting historical events, Sallust works to diagnose the city in terms of psychic qualms. He first establishes Rome as a city of great courage and valor that later gives way to avarice and desire for power. He states, “At first these vices grew slowly, from time to time they were punished; finally, when the disease had spread like a deadly plague, the state was changed and a government second to none in equity and excellence became cruel and intolerable.”1 While Sallust does not refer to a specific period of the Roman republic where such a situation emerged, there is the general qualitative recognition of Rome as not simply beholden to individuals, but rather, an entire state that had lost its way. To a large extent, the aforementioned psychic criticisms of the state are presented as a crumbling tapestry that gives way to conspiracies against the government. For instance, Sallust articulates Gnaeus Piso’s effort to overthrow the government. While, strictly speaking, this is the effort of an individual, within the epistemological context of the text, it appears to be the result of both general political strife, as well as the reduced values that overtook the late Republic. This, then, is the further recognition as the actions of the late Roman republic as occurring to restore order, rather than to respond to the ill-will of specific individuals. While Sallust articulates a late Roman republic that had experienced a widespread abandonment of proper values, he balances this depiction with criticism levied specifically at Lucius Sulla. Sallust states, “After Lucius Sulla, having gained control of the state by arms, brought everything to a bad end from a good beginning, all men began to rob and pillage. One coveted a house, another lands; the victors showed neither moderation nor restraint, but shamefully and cruelly wronged their fellow citizens.”2 Sallust extends these considerations of Lucius through recourse to specific historical events, as he indicates that Lucius permitted the army great liberties. The army, then, contributed to the sordid state of Roman society. This is the presentation of the late Roman republic as falling into squalor directly through the influence of an individual, Lucius Sulla. Another major area of consideration area issues related to Lucius Catiline. Sallust establishes a late Roman republic that, partly through the influence of Lucius Sulla, had collectively abandoned its values and given way to avarice. Sallust portrays Catiline as taking advantage of this social squalor. As Catiline emerges in Sallust text, there are conflicting accounts of his virtue and intentions. At one instant, Sallust portrays him as an opportunist, taking advantage of the youth and ill-social climate to achieve his aims. In another portrayal, Catiline is depicted as rebelling against a corrupt political order in a sort of Robin Hood-like way. In Catiline’
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