Talking politics : constructing the res publica after Caesar’s assassination
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The nature of the Republican constitution has been much contested by scholars studying the history of the Roman Republic. In considering the problems of the late Republic, the nature of the constitution is an important question, for if we do not understand what the constitution was, how can we explain Rome’s transition from ‘Republic’ to ‘Empire’? Such a question is particularly pertinent when looking at events at Rome following the assassination of Caesar, as we try to understand why it was that the Republic, as we understand it as a polity without a sole ruler, was not restored. This thesis examines the Roman understanding of the constitution in the aftermath of Caesar’s death and argues that for the Romans the constitution was a contested entity, its proper nature debated and fought over, and that this contest led to conflict on the political stage, becoming a key factor in the failure to restore the Republic and the establishment of the Second Triumvirate. The thesis proposes a new methodology for the examination of the constitution, employing modern critical theories of discourse and the formation of knowledge to establish and analyse the Roman constitution as a discursive entity: interpreted, contested and established through discourse. I argue that the Roman knowledge of the proper nature of the constitution of the res publica had fractured by the time of Caesar’s death and that this fracturing led to multiple understandings of the constitution. In this thesis I describe the state of Rome in 44-43 B.C. to reveal these multiple understandings of the constitution, and undertake an analysis of the discourse of Cicero and Sallust after 44 B.C. in order to describe the way in which different understandings of the constitution were formulated and expressed. Through this examination this thesis shows that the expression and interrelation of these multiple understandings in Roman political discourse made arrival at a unified agreement on a common course of action all but impossible and that this combined with the volatile atmosphere at Rome after Caesar’s death played a major role in Rome’s slide towards civil war and the eventual establishment of a different political system.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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