The Corruption of Power in Rome

The Corruption
of Power in Rome

Julius Caesar was murdered on the Ides
of March in 44 B.C. by the people he trusted and thought were his friends.

The justification for his death was that he was too ambitious and wanted
too much power. The very concept of government in Rome was against
dictatorship, to which Caesar posed a great threat.

Although Rome recognized the need for a
distinct leader, the power given to the leader was not absolute.

The Romans devised a system to avoid dictatorship and retain freedom, but
at the same time maintain control of the affairs of the Empire. These
leaders, originally given the title of praetor, meaning "to lead the way"
(Asimov 24), were elected. Their terms of office were for one year
and they could not succeed themselves. Two praetors were elected
each year and they both had to agree on issues before action was taken.

Later, the title was changed to consul, which is another way to say partners.

Praetors’ and consul’s main responsibility was to manage the armed forces
of Rome and to lead the armies in warfare. Quaestors were also selected
two at a time for one year terms. Their main role was to serve as
judges and to supervise all criminal trials.

The Senate was designed to advise the Praetors
or Consuls. It originally consisted of one hundred representatives
of clans that made up the city. The men were chosen based on their
age, experience and wisdom; the word senate is Latin for "old men".

The Senators, or Patricians, were expected to be obeyed. In fact,
the praetors had to "bow to the will of the senate" (Asimov 24).

This system of governing worked well for several centuries.

The government of Rome gradually evolved,
as did the citizen’s opinion on dictatorship. The Senate became corrupt
with many Patricians being easily bribed. Almost all of the power
belonged to a distinct few. The idea of a dictator no longer caused fear,
it was no longer unacceptable. By the time Julius Caesar was a consul,
the number had increased to three. Pompey, Crassus and Caesar all
had grudges against the Senate for one reason or another. Caesar
was upset because the Senate had tried to undercut his campaign for consulship.

The three consuls formed a private coalition, known as the First Triumvirate.

Together Pompey, Crassus and Caesar succeed in getting Caesar elected consul
and in passing legislation that mainly benefited them.

Caesar became the governor of Cisalpine

Gaul and part of Transalpine Gaul, where Rome had considerable power.

Right after he took on the new position the territory was threatened by

Switzerland. Immediately he crushed them and kept going. These
wars, which began in 58 B.C. and helped Caesar to establish his reputation
as a great military leader, were known as the Gallic Wars. Nine years
later in 49 B.C., after constant warfare, he had stormed over eight hundred
towns and conquered the area that is now France.

Both Pompey and the Senate were envious
of Caesar’s success and they were also fearful of his ambitions.

They ordered Caesar to give up command and return to Rome.

He defied this order, therefore committing
treason, and ended up fighting Pompey’s army. Caesar followed Pompey’s
army all the way to Egypt, where he killed Pompey and met Cleopatra.

He lived in Egypt with Cleopatra for a few years but eventually he went
off to fight other wars, leaving Cleopatra pregnant with his child, Caesarion.

In 44 B.C. Julius Caesar returned home
to Rome. He was welcomed with a massive feast including twenty-two
thousand tables. Caesar was declared dictator of Rome by the now
submissive Senate.

Caesar’s actions, such as defying the Senate’s
order to return home, defeating the other consuls and his continuous warfare
went against the concept of democracy in the Roman government. He
was ignoring the Senate, whom he was supposed to submit to, and had defeated
his partners who were there to avoid dictatorship and encourage accountability.

He placed himself above all other Roman citizens, destroying the equality
between himself, the Senate and the citizens. And finally, he accepted
the title of dictator, destroying the democracy in Rome. The citizens
did not even fear the loss of their beloved democracy. They now looked
upon Caesar as a god.

A group of Senators led by Cassius, Casca,

Cinna and Brutus, who loved freedom and democracy concluded that they had
to stop Caesar. No one else seemed to understand the severity of
what was occurring. On March 15, 44 B.C., also known as the Ides
of March, a total of sixty senators carried out their well-planned conspiracy
to kill Julius Caesar right in the