and which reformers like the Gracchi brothers or Julius Caesar were trying to tackle.

Wow, this wasn’t mentioned when the assassination of Julius Caeser was mentioned in my course. Puts it in a whole new light. The reason mentioned were that he was consolidating too much power for himself (it’s an introductory of course so i don’t expect it to go too much in depth).

Caesar was hated by the senatorial elite first and foremost because he was a populist. When Sulla or Pompei had assumed dictatorial powers they did not receive anywhere near the same vitriolic hatred and pushback from the oligarchy because they did not rock the boat as far as the elites were concerned.

Admittedly there is a big difference between the Gracchi brothers and Caesar.

Whereas the former were more tied to the plebeian masses, Caesar was himself very wealthy and came from the upper class and his power base were the army veterans with whom he was extremely popular and whom he had gifted a lot of the land seized from the defeated faction of the civil wars.

But the parallels are definitely there, and the social problems that they saw and were hoping to solve each in their own way never did get addressed, and this contributed later on to the decline and fall of the empire.

The trend of mass proletarianization of the former small landowning peasants who became dispossessed by big landowner aristocrats and were forced into the cities continued and only got worse and worse as time went on, and this undermined both the economic base of Rome and the military by hollowing out the pool of citizen soldier recruits.

The imperial period managed to sweep these problems temporarily under the rug with relentless wars of expansion that provided an enormous influx of loot, resources extracted from vassalized client states, cheap labor forces (slaves) and land stolen from the conquered peoples to distribute to Roman settlers.

Obviously this was not indefinitely sustainable and the social rot caught up and terminally weakened the entire system after a series of disasters like a couple of plagues, a changing climate and the strengthening of “barbarian” tribes on the periphery that learned to adopt and adapt to Roman technology and tactics.

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