Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Final Decree of the Senate

senatus consultum de re publica defendenda

The senatus consultum ultimum initiated by Cicero against Catiline was a necessary action for the preservation of the status quo, but was not justified as it violated the constitution of the Roman Republic. The core purpose of the republic in ancient Rome was to protect against the rule of a foreign government. By issuing senatus consultum ultimum the Senate gives the ultimate power, unchecked, to a single individual, Cicero, who may as well be acting as a foreign ruler by his membership in the aristocracy. The checks that remain in the standard republican rule of Rome, specifically the power of the tribunes, which had in fact been reduced by Sulla prior to Cicero’s ascension to the consul, are intended to protect the proletariat against the aristocracy. The institution of martial law necessarily prevents any but the elite from making a change within the government. Further, the elimination of the opposition can only lead to a greater divide between the aristocracy and the proletariat. The opposition is necessary for the advancement of the state in the direction which is for the good of the nation. Any action which is conducted against the core principles of the republic and is given legal precedent allows for the same action to be taken later without the consent, or issuing of legality, from the state, as Julius made so abundantly clear in his speech to the senate on the topic of the war with Catiline.It is not unusual for an opposing faction to be eliminated with the belief that it is for the benefit of the state. Throughout history such events have been commonplace, even in free societies or liberated states. However, whether the opposition is held as a threat to the state is not a sufficient qualifier for the elimination of them, for without opposition all republics will turn into oligarchies. Even with the previous ruling of martial law, for the purpose of preserving the state, against Tiberius Gracchus the actions of the senate cannot be ruled as holding the ideals of the republic most high. The actions of Cicero and the Senate were taken with only the preservation of the status quo, their own standing in the government, in mind, and were necessary so, however because their actions are in violation of the core principles of the republican ideal, they cannot be found justified.

See also: Wikipedia

This article was originally written February 18, 2010 as an article response for OU C LC 2613 - Survey of Roman Civilization.

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