He steered Rome from a time of civil war and anarchy to a period of civility and prosperity. He took the title: Princeps, or first amongst equals (i.e. The Benevolent Dictator.) It’s hard in the end to judge what he did. These were such different times that they cannot be judged from 2010. Women were given away by men like commodities. People were executed. Children were executed. It’s so hard to process what it must have been like in 44 BC. Despite his participation in the debauchery and the executions and the battles where blood was spilled by many, there was an overwhelming reverence for Augustus which is what the title Augustus means: the revered one. Some people, in fact, believe that the Pax Romana brought to the people of Rome is the basis for the Anno Domini and is an allegory to Augustus. Perhaps this is because of his brilliant image campaign. Perhaps public opinion would have been different for Augustus if the common folks knew of what he did behind closed doors. Lord Acton once gave us a famous quote: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Augustus achieved absolute power.
Timeline Part 4 – Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus 63 BC – AD 14
He considered nothing more incumbent on him then to avenge his uncle’s death and maintain the validity of his enactments. – Suetonius
When Julius Caesar was killed there was a vacuum in the heart of the Empire. There was much uncertainty and there was unrest in the streets. Immediately, political jockeying was underway to see who would or could take over the Republic. Most held their ambitions close to the vest as no one could be trusted and confidence in the wrong soul would be met swiftly with murder.
A lot of people in America today don’t realize the powerful influence Rome has had on their everyday lives. So many fundamental things such as our architecture, our laws, our policies, our religions, our constitution, and our democracy all have ties back to ancient Rome. When you consider Julius Caesar you might not think about his power and legacy as a military general and politician. But each year when your calendar reads July, have you ever wondered where the month got its name? That’s right – July is named after Julius Caesar. He’s still a part of your everyday life. Rome put a spell and a stamp on this world many years ago and its influence is still relevant today. Recognize that Rome hasn’t gone away and is still the origin of so many things you are accustomed to today. In this author’s opinion, the most pivotal and influential man in all of Roman history has to be Gaius Julius Caesar. This post is number 3 in a timeline series of posts that are all tagged Timeline.
Timeline Part 3 – Gaius Julius Caesar 100 BC – 44 BC
As a 15 year old, Caesar accompanied his father to the forum to get his first real taste of Roman politics. Rome’s fast acquisition of territory around Caesar’s time was partly why it was so treacherous toward the end of the Republic and the beginning of the Empire. Carthage had just fallen, Hispania was falling, and Gaul was coming into the control of the Romans as well; so much wealth was being acquired at an incredible rate. The governance of the Republic was enduring significant growing pains. To seek high office in politics in this time period was a dangerous thing. I can’t think of a prominent politician that died of natural causes during this time period. If you were elected into high office, it was likely you would die of murder, in battle, or of suicide.
Caesar’s dad died when he was a teenager and in the Greek tradition, he needed a male protector to help him ascend into adulthood. Enter Gaius Marius, a wealthy and powerful man that was Caesar’s uncle by marriage with political and military connections. Marius was a champion to the poor and underprivileged; particularly the plebs like our good friend Tiberius Gracchus. He had a significant influence on Caesar as a young man. Marius helped Caesar to grow into a very confident young adult. Caesar was already dressing differently and making a point to set himself apart from his contemporaries. In fact, he was already very vain as a teenager.
This post is part two in a timeline series of posts. The goal of this post is to examine the impact of Tiberius Gracchus on the republic of Rome. His life would forever change the complexion of Roman politics as he was the first person to really recognize and leverage the power of the “mob mentality” upon the Senate. We will also draw some parallels to our American republic as there are some definite similarities. In the end, as you will see, it is very difficult to ever discern whether a human being’s actions are rooted in evolutionary morality or their self-serving lust of power guised as such. Although all evidence points to the latter, I have this naïve hope that human beings will one day treat each other ethically, coexist peacefully, and be prosperous. In that spirit, I choose to believe that Tiberius Gracchus was a man of nobility and magnanimity. But in truth, we’ll never know and logic tells us that this is unlikely when considering his species.
Timeline Part 2 – Tiberius Gracchus 168BC – 133BC
Like many of his era, his birth year cannot be confirmed. Tiberius was born sometime in the 2nd century BC. He was old enough to fight as a junior officer in the third Punic war (149 to 146 BC) pitting Rome against Carthage. Tiberius was born into political power and influence as was any Roman you will ever read about. If you were not born with the proper pedigree, you had no chance of being “somebody” in the Roman historical record. And if you were, your chance of being somebody usually rested on your military success. Your political success was also hinged upon your military success. So to recap, your chance of being written about in Roman history rested on 3 basic criteria occurring in this specific order: 1)born into the right family 2) successful military career 3) successful politician. Each criterion’s opportunity was predicated upon the previous criterion’s occurrence. Most people were disqualified at step one which is out of their control. My friend Kirk and I have always referred criterion #1 as “the lucky sperm club” of which, unfortunately, neither of us are members. Let’s begin with Tiberius’ military career to understand his rise as a politician.
This is the beginning of a “Timeline” series of posts for the purpose of trying to write out a linear chronology of certain historical events to give to my son and daughter so they can understand some basics of western history from their dad’s perspective. I don’t know: how long it will take me to write, when they’ll get around to reading it, or where it will take me. The gist of this exercise is to go back around 2,000 to 2,500 years and use Rome as the crucible starting point as to where we are today in America. The goal is to follow a generic timeline from Roman times through the dark ages, crusades, middle ages, Renaissance, and the birth of the USA. There will possibly be some posts that bop around as certain topics lead to a desire to learn more about a certain subject and lead toward some tangential movements in this process. To get an idea on any disclaimers about the view of history presented here, click on the page link titled Historical Disclaimer at the top of the page or click here. Lets get started.
Timeline Part 1 – Setting the Stage for an Empire
In the Etruscan region of Italy (today called Tuscany) there was a she-wolf that raised two young brothers who had been cast out of their family: Romulus and Remus. Romulus is said to have killed his brother and named the city of Rome after himself. The people living in this area of what’s now Italy were the Etruscans. It was an Etruscan society that the people of Rome were born out of. It was a safe haven or asylum for slaves and pirates. It was the diversity of the people that brought about the right ingredients for the best minds in the world to share their ideas and forge a society that would in a few short centuries control 25% of the world’s population.
Cuba has been in a constant state of struggle since the Spanish crown slaughtered the Taino Indians. Learning about the plight of Cubans since that time (over the last 500 years) is something that can’t help but evoke many emotions and thoughts about society, socialism, revolution, freedom, and justice.
I just finished the book titled “Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba”. I have to say it was terrific. It chronicled the last 150 years of Cuba’s history from the vantage point of the Barcadi family. Based on the level of detail in the book and the exhaustive amount of sources used to tell the story, you can only imagine it was ten to twenty years in the making for author Tom Gjelten. The book provoked much thought and provided many “jump off on tangent” points to go back to and dive into related historical events. I truly look forward to chasing down more detail on some of the anecdotes presented and have already done so in some cases.
I suppose the most interesting thing about Cuba’s history to me was how much has been propagandized by my upbringing in suburban Detroit. As a youth in metro Detroit, our school system didn’t touch on Cuba much. We’re raised to know that: #1 Castro is bad #2 Socialism is bad #3 Communism is bad. We’re also told that Castro seized people’s private property and murdered people without due process of the law. That’s it. Then we move on to the next subject. Heck, kids today might not even get that much of the story. So when I read the book, I must admit that my ignorance was profound. Perhaps my ignorance on the subject is what made this book so much more thought provoking. After all, a dry sponge soaks up more water than a wet one.