Political success depended upon military success. To what extent do the sources support the view of the ways in which politicians achieved success in Rome?

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‘Political success depended upon military success.’ To what extent do the sources support the view of the ways in which politicians achieved success in Rome?

Success in the battlefield and the support of the army –that is if exploited correctly- could be the catalyst for one to climb the ladder and acquire a prominent political career. Military success at Rome was important but not a guarantee for political success, nevertheless the two were not entirely independent from each other but interlinked. Rome had managed to expand by employing his strong army and successful generals; however numerous forces were constantly required as Rome was involved in long and continuous wars in order to maintain its domination, making military distinction a contributing factor for political advancement, however there were alternative ways to be considered or better, be combined in order to achieve political influence.

The various roman sources, their reliability controversial and under scrutiny, each provide different prospective. Two of our main sources are Plutarch and Suetonius, both biographers that focused on their protagonists rather than on analysing the political framework and did not live through the events they describe but during roman republic. Plutarch provided a Greek outlook as he didn’t really understand the complex nature of Roman politics and machinations and he tended to moralisation. As for Suetonius, being imperial secretary provided him access to numerous sources and anecdotes. He behaves according to modern historians standards by listing his references with his reliability being equivalent to that of his sources. Our first hand accounts include Sallust, Cicero and Caesar, which are considered biased as each of them has his own agenda to promote. Cicero, an optimates supporter, is a famous orator and ‘novus homo’, a prolific writer and speaker promoting his interests according to the audience he is addressing. Thus his speeches and letters must be evaluated accordingly, the former as being public knowledge, the latter as expressing his actions on a private, personal level. Sallust’s dramatic descriptions are subjective and historically inaccurate, uniquely though contain historical analysis with Thusydidean realism instead of being chronological accounts. He wrote a ‘farewell to politics’, a concept he has excessive knowledge due to his active part in Rome’s political life. He, also, widely supported his friend Caesar since he had saved his political life by revealing the corruption and incompetence of the optimates and the propaganda they used against him. As for the historical account of his own wars that Caesar provided, it justified and glorified his actions.

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One of the politicians that achieved political success and a triumphant through military means by conquering Italy and then the world was Marius, a novus homo. He achieved to be elected consul 7 consecutive times due to being victorious and important army reforms that strongly appealed to the masses are attributed to him. He was the 1st to use army as political tool by creating a semi-professional, fresh and numerous army. He distributed the spoils of war to the poorer plebs and land to veterans, thus reconciled them with the political status quo and solved the problem of the landless ...

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