What was the role of provincial governors, during the Late Republican period, and to what extent was this position specialised militarily?
In the Late Republic, the relationship between military and political roles was often a common theme. The dissertation will argue that this theme was a defining role for provincial governors, which enabled them to gain both the allegiance of their men and political influence. The dissertation will be split into three sections. Part one, Context, Will outline the politics and military of the Late Republic. Part Two, Historic cases, will focus on Cicero‘s letters to friends and the senate and Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars, which will be used as case studies to assess the relationship between Roman politics and the military. Part Three, Provincial Governing and the Roman Military, will examine the political obligations and power a provincial governor faced and how that linked with their military jurisdiction.
2.1 Roman Politics and constitution
The Roman political structure during the republic had been constitutional however its constitution was not formal. Rosenstein illustrates framework by defining the Roman constitution as: “the set of rules and principles, written or not, which defines what is permitted or forbidden within the established framework of sovereignty”. Essentially, these frameworks were based on a long legacy of traditional customs. Like British constitutionalism, these customs were assimilated over a long period of time. According to Rosenstein the Romans: “believed that their system had developed over generations through the accumulating wisdom of their ancestors, not through a single act of legislation” and that provides a firm basis when the Roman political system is looked at. Roman constitutionalism was not based on a single document but on different voting assemblies which dealt with specific matters, for example the Comitia Centuriata dealt with military matters. Unlike modern constitutionalism, the process was largely un-institutional in the sense political position held multi-requirements that covered social, political and military boundaries.
Roman politics and constitutionalism was a democratic process however there are many aspects which would be deemed ‘un-democratic’ today. This is because political system operated in a wider socio/economic context. Alexander Yakobson’s summarises this context by coining the term “iron Law of Oligarchy”, whereby political and military power was bestowed on wealthy aristocratic members of Roman society. However, this was perceived as valuable to the Roman socio-economic order. These values are recognised today as patronage (support, encouragement, privilege, or financial aid that an organization or individual bestows to another in return for favours) and clientelism (A social order that depends upon relations of patronage; in particular, a political approach that emphasizes or exploits such relations), which were used to create economic and social ties when institutions were absent. These procedures created a way of communicating between different social classes however the process solely depended on the relationship between the patron and the client. For the client it meant social and economic stability. For the Patron, it increased their chances of acquiring wealth and without it, a Roman noble could find themselves socially naked.
The late republican political system comprised of different magistrates. The highest elected was the consulship and two consuls were elected to make military, civil and legal legislation. They also had the power to veto each other which was a political mechanism that attempted to prevent autocratic rule and both consuls shared power. Consulate power was also limited to a yearly term but could be extended in circumstances such as war. As well as legislation, many of the obligations a consul faced were also based on traditional customs. For example consuls had to serve their term outside of Rome to gain practical experience however, towards the end of the republic, this was not enforced. The only position which was legally higher than the consuls was the censor who was responsible for maintaining the census and overseeing financial matters. Underneath the consuls were the praetors who were commanders, replacements when the consuls were absent and were delegated legal duties such as judicial cases. The Curus Aedile was responsible for the maintenance of buildings and public order. The lowest position was the junior magistrate the Quaestor who supervised financial affairs and was a starting point for politicians who wanted to start their careers. These formed the Cursus honorum (course of honors : succession of offices of increasing importance).
Exceptional positions also existed in the Roman political system which magistrates were dependant on, being the Roman senate and the position of dictator. The Senate was a debating council which was an advisory body to the magistrates. Though senators were not executive magistrates, the magistrates participated in it and therefore the senate had an active political role. The political role of the senate also came from their corporate authority, such as the legionnaire’s wage, and could decide which provinces would be consulate provinces. These regulatory powers meant they it was politically necessary for the magistrates to listen to the senate. The emergency position of dictator would temporarily be issued imperium in order to restore order in times of a crisis or rebellion.
2.2 The Late Republican Roman Military
To outline the Roman military, it is important to underline what is meant by the military today. In its basic form, the military is defined as “Members, of an armed force”. The definition implies that an organisational and hierarchal structure exists in times of war. The ambiguity of the term also means that it is a subjective, which is relative to specific historical periods or geographical locations. For example, the Ottoman military was largely based on a feudal organisation of and nobles, with a professional body of forced religious converts called the Janissaries. Therefore the military can also be a comment of the society they derive from.
Today’s idea of the military consists of a body of full time professional soldiers whose occupation is separate from the rest of society, which takes place in an industrial and post-industrial context. This is because the industrial revolution resulted in greater innovations to meet demands for supplies on the battlefield. These coinciding technological advances and European colonisation of the 19th century meant militaries became largely standardised. By putting the military into a framework, a referencing point has been formed which the Late Republican military can be compared to. Compared to today’s military, the Roman military differed according to legality, structure and logistics and these are the three categories which will be used.
Legality and discipline
The separation between society and the military today is dictated by a separation between military and civic law. However the soldier is still held accountable for both. When a citizen enlists in the military, they still subject to the regulations and laws that citizens abide by and additionally they abide by military law which incurs a greater amount of obligations, which universally regulates all personnel. The law can shift between civic or military depending on context, for example if a riot was to ensue soldiers would need to abide by civil laws when dealing with rioters and, if disproportionate force is used, they or their commander are liable to be judged in a civil court. This is the relative basis which shows the military is dependent on the society it derives from, and that it develops over time. For example, British Military Law in times of peace did not developed until the first mutiny act of 1689 and before military law only existed in times of war. Therefore the military is subordinate to the law of the land.
The legality of the Roman military differed extensively. In overview, this was an inter-related system for civil and military matters. In order to join the Roman military, the main requirement was to be a free citizen, which constituted being a patrician (an aristocratic member of Roman society) or a plebeian (land owning Roman citizens) though the relationship between the two was not equal. Socially, the patricians viewed the plebeians to be an inferior class because of their inability to assert political influence. However, through prolonged struggle, the plebians began to hold higher political and social positions and filled the positions of the diminishing Patricians. Non-citizens, such as peregrini, were able to serve in the Roman military but as auxiliary troops who would be granted citizenship after their service. However greater social mobility meant military authorities did not adhere to distinctions between citizen and non-citizen as these distinctions became increasingly blurred. In the late republic, the command of troops was based on the influence of powerful individuals. This meant the military of Rome were shaped by its people and loyalty was regulated through traditional customs such as patronage. This is evident from the fact many politicians depended on clients rather than soldiers. The idea of advancing through the social ladder could also be a motivation for many plebeians and many centurions retired with the title of equite and the right to sit on Rome’s judicial tribunals. In many ways, this showed that the Roman army was not bound by laws but by customs and gifts; embodied by short-lived pride.
A similar case can be applied to discipline. In today’s society, discipline is largely based on non-physical punishment. In the late republic, punishment greatly varied and was applied in the empirical sense. Capital and corporal punishment was commonplace, which varied according to social standing. Roman of higher class birth and honestiores (more honourable) were legally exempt from punishment whereas ordinary legionnaires were perceived to not deserve this privilege. The purpose of punishment was to serve as a wider commentary about honour and social status. To discipline a legionary, in front of his peers, was to deny him his honour and lower his reputation. However the punishments that were dealt would be severe, such as decimation of a legion if it deserted. Promotions were based on the actions of the person and rewarded with highly physical appearances and honours which were acted in front of the military as a motivation for other legionaries to aspire. For example heroes were presented with gifts, such as the military crown for those who were the first to climb the walls of enemy cities. Therefore discipline and promotion, according to Sara Elise Phang, were relative, never fully rationalised and remained subject to the commander’s jurisdiction and personal whims.
Structure and logistics
The structure of the Roman military commented on the structure of Roman society but the Marian reforms had re-structured it into an administrative system. Nevertheless, the social and political structure stayed the same and its evolution was reactive rather than proactive. The patricians still formed the body of Roman cavalry (the equites) and ideologically this was based on factors such as wealth, political power and privileges. The social standing of patricians meant they were able to lead Roman armies and this coincided with their educational backgrounds. Because politicians were obligated to command legions for reasons of prestige and legality, it was essential for these leaders to need military experience to enter a higher political office.
Compared to today’s military, the logistics of the Roman military differed entirely. The inability to mass mobilise supplies meant the supply of arms and food was limited to each campaign. Though armour and weapons were standardised, commodities, such as horses, were still being paid for by equites based on wealth. As was the case in ancient warfare, supplies came from ‘living off the land’ which consisted of pillaging and in times of stationing, legionaries would raise cattle to keep an adequate supply of food. Since the Roman military lacked today’s institutions for pay, wages were sometimes inadequate and corruption was always a problem because legionaries would extract money from provinces. However when pay did come, it would be paid to the legions in coin. Personal wealth in the Roman military was agriculture which enabled governors to equip their own troops. The Marian reforms rewarded legionaries by allocating land to veteran soldiers and this would be one of the factors which for Rome’s geographical expansion because politicians became motivated to give land suitable for retired legionaries.
Patronage was also a constant factor because legions increasingly began to align themselves to their military commanders, rather than Rome. This is because troops attributed their loyalty to commanders based on trust and experience, which was evident during the classical republican period. For example in the 2nd century BC, troops gave their trust to their tribunes who dealt with the majority of administrative matters. Even the commander of the allied and foreign troops (the praefecti sociorum) retained the position of tribunes and gained favour from the men underneath.
2.3 Provincial Governors in the Late Republic
It is important to emphasise that provisional governing depended on the size of the Roman Empire. When Julius Caesar was murdered, the number of provinces was fifteen but this grew as the Empire expanded under Augustus. By the time Trajan was emperor in AD 117, the number of provinces had increased to forty-seven. The increase in territory meant provincial governors were delegated more political power, which originated from the 4th Century BC when the republic faced a shortage of experienced commanders and began to give political figures military authority.
A provincial governor’s occupation was complex because the position’s obligations and tasks cannot be categorised by modern standards. There were no clearly defined institutions that represented political individuals, like in the 19th century colonial era. Therefore the position was very fluid because the provincial governor had to abide by Roman legislation but also had to use their own initiative in province they ruled. They also had to reside with other delegates, who were appointed by the senate, which could use their positions to cause political conflicts. A good example is the Publicanus who were privately hired citizens that collected taxes and the provincial governor could allocate a percentage of tax that they could keep. If seen to be unjust, the publicanus could use legislation to charge provincial governors on legal grounds such as corruption, if they were disliked. This illustrated the precarious situation provincial governors found themselves in if they did not moderately balance their power and relationships with the people underneath them.
Regulation in the provinces also took form in how the Roman legal system operated culturally. For example pre-existing urban cities already existed in the Hellenic East and therefore had some form of autonomous status. In the West, urban self governance did not exist before Roman colonisation, most communities were tribal and therefore lacked any special status. Provinces also categorised its inhabitants according to different social classes which fundamentally boiled down to four categories: Roman citizens, Latini (free non-citizens), peregrini (free men who were not Roman citizens) and slaves. These different types of social classes determined how the provinces were ruled because Roman rule fundamentally depended on cultural domination over un-Roman or un-Hellenised people. This mentality of superiority is summarised by Andrew Lintott who states: “Such was what the Romans termed a foedus aequum, a reciprocal agreement in which the contracting parties appeared to be on the same level, even if the interests of the greater power, Rome, would tend to prevail”.
Diplomacy also played a key role in the provinces, especially on the frontiers. This is especially seen with the republic’s relationship with client states, which can be summarised as pragmatically applied.As mentioned before, this depended on the geographical location, for example the Western areas relied on Roman rule but the Urban Hellenic East ruled semi-autonomously (though were regulated by Roman figures). The rule of the client king’s could also be specifically engineered by Rome in order to keep good relations with the republic. A good example is King Herod of Judea who granted the title of Philo-Roman for his assimilation of Roman and Hellenic culture. Monarchs like these were specifically chosen from neutral political backgrounds, so there was a lack of political rivalry. Cicero’s letter to his friends and the senate outline this practice: “And I have been all the more studious to inform you because I believe I have seen in King Ariobarzanes such evidence of character, intelligence, loyalty and good will towards you as appear to justify the care and concern you have lavished upon his welfare”.
- Historical Cases
3.1 Cicero and Cicero’s letters
Marcus Tullius Cicero was the epitome of ideal Roman politician. In his life (from 106 B.C to 43 B.C) he was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul, constitutionalist and one of the greatest orators and prose stylists in Roman history. He was also the first man of his family to be elected to a magisterial office in Rome; something which was unprecedented at the time which meant he became revered as Homo Novus. He sought a political career in the Cursus Honorum and it paved the way for an aspiring political career because he was regarded as one of the youngest males to do so; and did so in the time span of twelve years. His political career also obligated him to have military experience because it included at ten year military service into as an equite, during the social wars, from 91 BC to 88 BC, which would be needed if military situations were ever to arise again. The link between military and political positions Cicero experienced can also be seen from his legal career afterwards. For example he defended Sextus Roscius for an account of patricide and in 80 BC he travelled to Athens and accused Lucius Cornelius Chrysogonus, whom Sulla put in charge of proscriptions and corruption.
The main primary sources that represent Cicero’s role as provincial governor are his political letters to his brother Quintus, friends and the senate during his provincial governorship in Cilicia. Cicero’s letters were express the ideals of Roman governance and his fears of Parthia invading Cilicia; his requests for military support and his political protection of the Cappadocian client-king Ariobazanes Eusebes, who fears that his family members are conspiring to overthrow him. His letters are orientated towards providing a picture of the situation that was unfolding in Cilicia and attempting to gain political assistance.
In order to gain an understanding of Cicero’s letters, it is important to comprehend Cicero’s writing style as well as the context of his writings. Cicero’s writing style is in many ways the epitome of Roman rhetoric because it took a precautionary style; to not be used as a political tool by opposing Roman politicians. The emphasis is on Cicero’s ability to encompass the events surrounding himself, whether they are the most trivial or determining points. Understanding Roman oratory is arduous, however for the purpose of this dissertation the key aspects of Cicero’s writings will be outlined; which requires some understanding of his philosophical writings. Cicero’s writings can be embodied by his search for Otium, or leisure, in the sense of pursuing a Roman life which relished maintaining a political status (by the quality of favour from others) to ensure his writings represented his historical importance; as writers, such as Plato, had also established themselves. Cicero strove to cite his account like that of previous Greek Scholars by attempting to fill the gap of their legacies.
In his Letters to friends and the senate, his philosophical ideal was applied to the political situation of the time and is foreshadowed by his exile due to the execution of four conspirators of Cataline under his consulship. It also coincides with his fear of a Roman dictatorship from the Triumvirate of Caesar, Pompey and Crassus, though Cicero seems to have politically sided with Pompey out of the preservation of the republic. During this time, there is an imagining of Cicero’s public image by the potency of his writings. During his provincial governorship in Cilicia in 51 BC, there is an emphasis on narrating for the sake of narrating and a distinction on how Cicero views himself compared to the reality of events which unfold around him. For example, Cicero’s letters to his brother Quintus from 60 BC to 59 BC are far more concerned with his own relationship with Pompey and Caesar. His work therefore is often affiliated to his own subjective points of emotional writing and this is necessary in understanding his deep political alignings.
Cicero’s writings can be shown in the way he dilutes the distinction between fact and fiction. The mentality of Cicero was that one should neither venture to say anything false but, at the same time, fail to venture to say anything true. This is understandable because the inadequate means of establishing reliable sources and records meant accuracy was determined by the potency of one’s language; the distinction between right and wrong was not as relevant as today’s world and this ethos surrounds Cicero. In Cicero’s letter to his brother Quintus, he tries to advice the principle that his brother must rule with all efficiency, moderation and a greater stoic personality; contrary to the overwhelming long serving experience Quintus held as provincial governor. The example displays a sense of Cicero altering the reality of Quintus experience and altering reality to suffice his own ideals. Ergo the purpose of Cicero’s rhetoric was to observe reality and inductively make it relative to his own logic.
Nevertheless, unlike the Roman political writings of the time, which emphasised formality, many of Cicero’s works are largely informal in their nature. In his letters, the intention is to make his work self-verifying by making the rationale speak for itself. For example, in a letter to the Senate, Cicero’s advises that his protection of King Ariabarzanes was almost accidental to illustrate the fortunate nature of his governing. His style envisioned distributing his political writings for all people to view, for political support, (the letters to the senate) which differed from his personal emotive letters (the letters to Quintus). Much of this is summarised in Cicero’s philosophical writing, res publica which emphasises the virtuous idea of Roman constitutionalism; similar to the constitutional debates in Plato’s the republic. Much of it emphasises the higher obligations of the person, in comparison with the community and the application of stoic thought by applying law to all people at all times.
3.2 Cicero’s letters and relating to Cicero’s role in provincial governing
Cicero’s letters, during his provincial governing highlight his ideals of Roman politics. The Letters to Quintus had illustrated Cicero’s motives in creating an ideal figure, which the Greeks would relate to as self-controlled to reflect their previous veneration of Hellenic Kings. This also coincided with his ideals of de republica where he is informative of his military and diplomatic actions in the name of the community. However this emphasises the idealistic bubble that Cicero inhabits. For example, in his letters to the senate, he expresses his concerns about the subjects who are under his jurisdiction when he arrived in Tarus and the political enemies that may exist; however Cicero fails to give an adequate level of detail, such as the legal cases that would have occurred under his rule. Many of the other details are cases which emphasise Cicero’s fears rather than concerns about the wellbeing of Rome’s allied king. In his letters to the senate, he expresses his intention to gain more cohorts to defend Cilicia against the Parthian threat, which were speculated. It was not in reaction to any detail of any tangible threat.
Cicero’s provincial governing orientated around military matters. Caesar had waged military conquest for political prestige but Cicero had to used military assets in situations where it was necessary to protect the frontiers of the Roman Republic. He viewed that military action was motivated by casus belli, which is supported by the fact Cicero was never a military enthusiast. Though Cicero had been given imperium, he had no enthusiasm for the task and this also coincided with his frustration at being away from Rome’s political centre of events. In fact, the only reason he had been appointed as provincial governor was because those who never administered a province were obliged to take the position, which Cicero had to fill. Thus the military position of Cicero as a provincial governor had been a legal obligation but it also illustrates the fact Cicero had military experience and used that experience when necessary.
The weight of military responsibilities Cicero faced, as a provincial governor, should not be understated. Sherwin White creates this emphasis by stating Cicero was responsible for the internal security of the region but also of the Cappadocian Kingdom, which was in the hands of an inexperienced Client king. This responsibility coincided with the units that Cicero oversaw which consisted of a garrison of two depleted legions, supported by inadequately trained auxiliary units. It took Cicero’s appeal to the senate and magistrates, with the excuse that Rome’s economic assets in the East were in jeopardy, in order to gain some form of military support in the form of fully trained and equipped cohorts. The idea of appealing to Rome showed that, although Cicero’s authority did contain imperium, it was nothing without logistical support. The underlying urgency in Cicero’s letter to the senate outlines this logistical need:“The present situation is this: Unless you send to these provinces without loss of time a grand army… there is the gravest risk that all the provinces on which the revenues of Rome depend may have to be given up”. Imperium was limited to the logistical assets available in the province and Rome could easily leave a provincial governor to their own devices. Therefore experienced military governors, such as Cicero, were essential because military experience could be used as a means of political control and this enabled him to successfully wage a military campaign in Anatolia against the Parthians.
Cicero’s role in diplomacy also illustrated that the military was an integral part of his job as provincial governor. For example Cicero quotes the Galatian King Deiotarus as a faithful ally because he trusted Cicero with military units; doubled the amount of troops available to Cicero and carried the title Philoromaios with full respect. At the time, client kings would prove to be valuable assets in experience and resources; This would come in handy, especially for Cicero who had no military experience since the time of the Social Wars and because the Cappadocian territory formed an area of space where Cicero could manoeuvre his soldiers logistically.
Provincial governorship and command of Roman and non-Roman soldiers also illustrated Cicero’s political power. Cicero’s concerns about King Ariobarzanes and the inter-domestic rivalry in the Cappadocian royal family meant there was always a possibility the king would be overthrown and Cicero’s influence would prevent that. This is expressed in Cicero’s letter to the senate and the magistrates: ”I had your resolution charging me to take good care of King Ariobazanes Eusebus and Philo-rhomaeus to defend his welfare security and throne, and to protect king and kingdom”.Cicero’s obligation was to use the Roman garrison at his disposal in order to keep Ariobazanes Eusebus in power. In other words, command of the Roman military coincided with the necessities that the Roman frontiers called for; it meant that provincial governors were able to assert political power based on the amount of troops they commanded. In cases like Cicero’s, the men under his command would be loyal to him rather than Rome and Client kings would diplomatically look to him for support.
3.3 Julius Caesar and The Gallic Wars
Gaius Julius Caesar had been Roman general, statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose but, unlike Cicero, he came from a long standing aristocratic background. His family (Jens Julia) was a traditional family which would provide the foundations for a prestigious career since it was one of the longest serving patrician family’s that pre-dated the late republic. In many respects, he too embedded the Roman idea of a politician because he linked military and political roles together. From 100 B.C. to 44 B.C, he held a variety of different governmental positions which also gave him military experience. In his early career, Caesar served under Marcus Minucius Thermus, the provincial governor of Asia and Servilius Isauricus, the provincial governor of Cilicia, which provided the political and military experience he needed. His stationing in Asia, where he repelled an attack by Pontus with auxiliaries, enabled him to be elected as military tribune. Military tribune enabled him to move on the first political steps on the Cursus Honorum like Cicero. As aedile he brought allegations against the officials who had benefitted from Sulla’s proscriptions, many having key military roles. After praetor he was appointed to govern Hispania Ulterior and conquered the tribes of the Callaici and Lusitani in 59 B.C and was hailed imperator by his troops. All these cases show an intertwined nature between the political and military authority and would form the basis for his conquest and governing of Gaul.
Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars is far more ambiguous than the political rhetoric of Cicero’s letters. His work centres on his conquest of Gaul and his justification to protect Rome from the so called ‘barbarian’ Celtic tribes. The main reason for Caesar’s ambiguity is his political and personal agendas are not clear. His work is one of the only written accounts he produced and this creates a range of methodical factors which will be detailed in this section.
It is important to understand the context of when the Gallic Wars was written and finished. As Caesar conquered Gaul, he adapted his writing to the rhetoric of the time and was more along the lines of ‘instant feedback’ than a request. The dynamic politics of Late Roman Republicanism and the First Triumvirate had created a power relationship whereby Julius Caesar was able to pursue the conquest of Gaul to advance his political prestige. However his work in 58 B.C (the start of the Gallic wars) differed to that of 50 B.C (the war’s end). The beginning of the conquest had pushed this political prestige further but any military endeavour was likely to destroy his political career as it was to increase it. However by 50 B.C, manipulation was in the art form of cautious oratory; as was with Cicero. The text cannot just be analysed as merely a political writing. It needs to be seen as Caesar’s own expressionism which took form in a verbal and written context. Since the Roman perception of rhetoric was to be performed to an audience, the often written and non-written would be intertwined and, in the time of the late Republic, the changing nature of Roman politics meant Caesar could not outright fabricate his personal accounts and this coincides with the growing difficulty of Caesar’s career towards 51 B.C. as, by Roman law, his acts were becoming seen as less justifiable in the eyes of the senate.
The Gallic Wars is a text which essentially highlights a contradiction in logic: it strides to provide an account in Roman Stoic thought but is embellished with the personal testimony of Caesar’s accounts. He needed to use the entire verbal and written skills that were available to him to appeal to people and he strode to use a personal account to influence those who did not already have hard-set political views. Thus the purpose of the text was to sway intellectuals and aristocrats who Caesar knew would take an undecided and pragmatic position. It also suggests that Caesar’s writings are themselves pragmatic as he would need to adapt and alter his work to suit his audience as the conquest of Gaul changed over time. For example, in the context of fighting the Nervii in 57 BC, Caesar writes in Book 2 that he wipes out the tribe but in 51 BC, in Book 5, the Nervii altogether number sixty thousand. Also among Books 1 and 2 there is a pre-assumption that the tactics of Gallic tribes are repetitive in warfare but in Book 3 Caesar alters his claim that the tactics employed varied, which as a result promoted Caesar’s ingenuity as a military in varying circumstances. This example shows Caesar’s method of modifying his previous claims to justify any changing circumstances to glorify his own actions.
The constant ability of Caesar to change his writings, and the fact his work was not one compiled text but a series, further implies the nature of Caesar’s opinions in military and political matters. Caesar’s description of Gaul as a disunited 3 tribes rather than a homogeneous force in Book 1 indicates Caesar’s ability to play each tribe off one another and illustrate his contribution to a greater military victory. The ability to utilise his own account, from his political position, meant Caesar was able to manipulate his self-advertisement. As the position of consul suited his style of oratory and literary style, he was able to regulate when his works could be produced. It is true Caesar did not entrust the final production of his work to any other colleagues and he waited for the end of his period of office/ provincial sovereignty to publish them. This specific publishing strategy enabled Caesar to justifiably proclaim himself as Roman Imperator and therefore placed less emphasis on the role of other political figures who were given more trivial roles. For example, in book one, Titus is the only named Legate, and other figures, such as Publicus Crassus, a prefect of the equites, are only minimally mentioned. The purpose of this method was to integrate the effort of the Roman army in the overall context of Caesar’s greatness. The end result was a text that portrayed Caesar’s achievements as a product of providence, which would immerse appeal to popular memories and audiences of intellectual and political Romans (whose support he depended on).
3.4 The Gallic Wars and relating it to Julius Caesar’s role in provincial governing
The problems that The Gallic Wars produced are basic but essential to understanding the military obligation of Caesar’s governing. The largest danger the text poses is it’s culturally bias because it illustrates the ‘barbarian’ other as well as Caesar’s personal prejudices. The text shows his political naivety, whilst engineering harsh military justifications as answers to often complex ethical dilemmas. In many cases, Caesar appealed to the self-pity of common Romans killing Gauls and did it to ensure that Roman moral standings were justified by his account of events, such as massacres. For example in Book 3, it was Caesar’s military absence that created the possibility of Gallic rebellions and it was his tactical genius that subsequently led them to being crushed as a result. The creativity of Caesar’s literary and rhetorical skills made it possible for him to justify a range of Casus Belli by presenting situations that only he could solve. For example, he considers both the Celtic and Germanic tribes to be lesser fighters than Roman soldiers, links their inferiority with a lack of tactical variation and often puts the blame of military incompetence to his petty officers. Stigmatisation also coincides with Caesar giving important oppositions to auxiliary soldiers and barbarian aristocrats if they showed ideals of Roman goodwill.
As a primary source Caesar links military and political responsibilities as provincial governor and in all cases he considers both to be the same. In this specific case, The Gallic Wars was used as a means of promoting Caesar’s career by illustrating that taking a military role was Caesar’s choice, rather than a necessity in the case of Cicero. In Caesar’s career, military campaigns could be conducted as a means of gaining prestige, wealth and greater political influence. In this case he used the fear that the Gallic tribes would ransack Italy; his motive being to pay back the debt to his creditors as well as having the potential to raise legions and gain victories and rival Pompey. Political campaigns would cost a fortune and so this would be paid back in the spoils of foreign wars.
Like Cicero, Julius Caesar’s military responsibility was vital to political goals. However what differs from Cicero is Julius Caesar’s conquest was a personal ambition to expand Rome’s frontiers. His proconsulship in Spain shows this common theme of Caesar attempting to carve his own political destiny: “Many of the characteristics he would later display during his governorship in Gaul were already in evidence during his time is western Spain and Portugal…Caesar showed the same energy in administration that he had shown on the battlefield.” The easy access to these military assets, due to his political standing, meant he was able to gain resources from other politicians such as Crassus. The political influence implies imperium was relative, based on the amount of resources and military assets a provincial governor could acquire and, in the case of Caesar, this was through political patron-client relations.
Caesar’s position implies a cyclical relation between the military and politics; being provincial governor stereotyped his opportunity to gain control politically through the Roman military. The positioning of four legions in the provinces of Illyricum and Cisalpine Gaul enabled him to gain the basis of a major recruitment centre. Lawrence Keppie illustrates that in nine years Caesar had increased his army from four to twelve legions which consisted of long-serving legionaries, each legion having strength of about 5000 men. The conquest of Gaul meant that from 58 BC to 50 BC Julius Caesar had a large standing army of military personnel that far outweighed the experience or numbers his co-consul Pompey could muster. The conquest of Gaul underlined how, through military action, a provincial governor could effectively gain popularity with the Roman people and assert influence in the Roman political arena. In the end, the amount of logistical and military support from the imperium Caesar was delegated culminated in his crossing of the river Rubicon and his march on Rome. It showed if a provincial governor had enough power, they could de facto step out of the bounds of their own legal power.
- Provincial governing and the Roman Military
4.1 Provincial Governors and the Roman Military: an assessment
The Roman military was essential in shaping the identity of provincial governors and it is evident that both aspects were inextricably inter-related. For example, in most cases, many of the provincial governors were Praetors and this position was especially important in overseeing both the province and the Roman military; as illustrated by Corey Brennan: “the magistracy expected to cope most readily with the developments in the Roman attitude toward administration, warfare, law and empire”. It also coincided with an increase in their numbers to cope with the workload the Republic demanded geographically. As the Roman Republic expanded its boarders the need for experienced military personnel also expanded; therefore the responsibility of pro-consuls arose out of a shortage of delegates and ‘pro-consul’ became a blanket term for a Roman Governor who served in a Roman province and who was delegated legislative power.
The hands of Roman power were legally given to provincial governors and were often determined by imperium. Eric Cline provides an explanation for the responsibilities of provincial governors which would often be a combination of formal and informal mechanisms which widely determined how power was distributed. As indicated during Pompey’s naval campaign against pirates in the Aegean Sea, he was given the authority to commandeer supplies of: 6000 talents, 120,000 troops, 500 ships and the right to appoint twenty-four legates to deputy commanders. The result was provincial governors such as Caesar, were trusted, by the senate, with larger resources based on their military experience, such as in the pacification of Hispania. This enabled military figures to be more eligible for provincial governing.
Military experience could also dictate how provincial governors could determine their own political fate. For governors such as Crassus or Pompey, war provided the opportunity to acquire a fortune and that influenced the politics in Rome. According to Nathan Rosenstein: “war was a consul’s primary road to riches seems beyond question”. Crassus was the wealthiest man in Rome and was one of the few individuals in the republic who had effectively bought his position because of his influence politically. Even though military authority was the same for each provincial governor, de facto power lay in the imperium of provincial governors who were allocated the most resources and military assets, which they would spend and increase their power more. In cases, such as Verres in Sicily, rising politicians borrowed huge sums of money with realistic expectations that they could pay it back, which usually came out of exploiting the provincial population. Since long term planning and budget were non-existent, the power of creating taxes also created the possibility of governors to solve the problem of cash flow. This represents a cyclical process whereby militarily experienced officials were more eligible to be provincial governors and, in turn, manipulated the Roman political process. Figures such as Julius Caesar, having imperium enabled him to gain resources during the Gallic Wars and exercised his power by using taxes to raise legions, as well as a growing sense of unity between Caesar and his legions. The power also enabled him to exert political influence by using these legions to secure a range of political supporters.
The different degrees of military power testified to how important the roles of provincial governor were in the Late Republic and how their roles could be expanded to encompass a full time military position than governing such as in the case when Caesar was delegated naval architects, ship wrights and naval personnel, by the senate, to combat Gallic pirates. In Cicero’s letters to the Senate, Cicero comments how he’s governorship enabled him to acquire material support, and auxiliary units from King Deiotarus which he used to repel a Parthian invasion of Cilicia. It can also be illustrated by Cicero’s presence in Cilicia where a lot of the intelligence militarily was based on his own judgement and power, rather than Rome’s, and the service of allied scouts. Once provincial governors were given the responsibility to commit military action in expanding or defending the frontier, the allocated resources and authority was vast. The professional nature of the Roman legion meant long term morale and increasing indifference to Rome enemies and thus was a valuable asset to have for any provincial governor wanting to assert their political authority, for example Caesar managed to gain political favouring by creating a personal horse guard which arose out of experience and payment. An increase commands to deal with specific problems, such as Octavian’s creation of provinces which were militarily necessary after the civil war, also meant an intricate link between Republic and Empire as Rome became an ever increasing geographical power.
4.2 The role of the Roman military in assisting provincial rule
It is useful to understand the Roman military and its role to gain a more contextual perspective. Since the military power of provincial governors was based on the backbone of seasoned troops, it is only necessary that provincial governors would be dependent on these troops to establish Roman legitimacy. Reliance on the Roman military coincided with necessity of the army to have other skills such as experience in various kinds of terrain. The knowledge of military personnel meant provincial governors depended on these people. Wilkes maintains a good percentage of auxiliaries came from their home provinces and contributed to building infrastructure. Education in the Roman Army also proved to be a valuable asset because education was a highly regarded value at all levels of society; the Roman army depended on a high degree of competence and literacy from officers. The Roman army had an important part in non-military roles because of its ability to regulate services in the provinces; especially when authority from Rome was absent.
Recruitment also plays a large part in illustrating the authority of provincial governors. Little primary evidence exists; however since provincial governing changed little during the Late Republic and Empire, it is reasonable to assess that Imperial governors would have held similar experiences. Pliny the younger’s letters to the Emperor Trajan from 111-113 AD illustrates this case however the emperor’s judgement had replaced Roman legislation and provincial governors had to balance this authority with theirs. In the case of Pliny, he dispatches two equites and six armed men to escort procurator Maximus to collect grain. It suggests that recruitment and allocation became largely part of a wider context but was expected to operate independently from central Roman authority. Authority fell to the provincial governor however the way the authority was conducted was contextualised as a military compromise between Roman legislation and the decisions of the provincial governor. Since Pliny is ruling over one of the Urban Hellenic provinces, not only were recruits given the Roman system on enlistment but most of the enlistments were Romans who had settled in the provinces by heritage. The case of the recruitment process indicates geographical separation in terms of method and illustrates if in the right province, a provincial governor was able to recruit a large number of soldiers using imperium in the republican period.
The role of provincial governor militarily formed a solid basis in Roman politics. This is because the imperium of the provincial governor formed a de facto power which enabled them to be delegated independent military power. If the provincial governor was in a situation where he could acquire the resources, it would be a means of gaining political influence. This underlines a key theme in Roman politics. There were a small number of men who were able to command large professional military groups and who could influence Roman politics more directly as a result. It is this theme which eventually leads to Caesar seizing power in Rome by forcibly marching on it. Military authority of the provincial governor was specialised to the point where it played a vital role in the way provincial governors operated as the Rome away from Rome and were the product of a long line of governors who fully immersed themselves in the Roman military.
Nathan Rosenstein and Robert Morstein-Marx, A Companion to the Roman Republic, (London: John Wiley and Sons, 2010). p. 256
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Fields, Nic. Warlords of Republican Rome: Caesar versus Pompey. (Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Military, 2008.)
Greenhalgh, Peter. Pompey: The Republican Prince. (London: George Weidenfeld and Nicolson Ltd, 1981.)
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Keaveney, Arthur. The army in the Roman Revolution. (New York: Routledge, 2007.)
Keppie, Lawrence. The Making of the Roman Army: From Republic to Empire, ed. (London: Routledge, 1998.)
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Pitassi, Michael. Navies of Rome. (Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 2009.)
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S. Gruen, Erich. The Last Generation of the Roman Republic. (California: University of California Press, 1974.)
Sherwin- White, A.N. Roman Foreign Policy in the East. (London: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd, 1984.)
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Southern, Pat. The Roman Army: A Social and Institutional History. (California: ABC- CLIO Inc, 2006.)
Sullivan, Richard. Near Eastern Royalty and Rome 100- 30 BC, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990.)
Welch, Kathryn and Powell, Anton. Julius Caesar as Artful Reporter, ed. (Swansea: The Classical Press of Wales, 1998.)
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