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Social struggle in Roman Republic at the end of the II and at the beginning of the I century BC



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The second slave uprising in Sicily (Second Servile war)

In 104 BC near Capua, was an unsuccessful slave uprising with a 3.500 armed slaves, which were led by the fallen Roman knight Minutius. Second slave uprising that happened in Sicily was much more dangerous (compare to First uprising slaves) and it began the same year. Senate during the wars with Cimbri gave Gaius Marius the right to ask for help from federal kings. At this Marius request, king of Bithynia responded that most of his citizens were taken in to captivity by Roman publicans. The Senate decided that citizens were illegally detained and that they have to release them immediately.

Praetor Publius Licinius Nerva was Sicilian manager and for a short time he freed 800 slaves. He was forced by threats and bribes to suspend his action – this served as an excuse for the uprising. Roman Praetor has managed to deal with one group of rebels, but other part of the group was attacked and killed the Roman troops. After that, slaves used Roman weapons to arm themselves. This has contributed to the spread of the rebel.

Just as it was case with the first uprising, slaves elected Salvius as a king and they established council. Salvius was an experienced fortune teller, and he assumed the Tryphon . Tryphon besieged Morgantina with huge army and he promised to slaves’ freedom if they cross over to his side. However slaves rather choose to get freedom from their masters than from uprising slaves. Tryphon destroyed Roman troops who went to provide help for the besieged people but slaves managed to defend the city. However, Praetor declared that the promise of slave liberation was forced and illegal and therefore illegal.

At the same time in the west, acted other army which was led by Cilician Athenion . Athenion was famous as predictor which looked in the stars. He proclaimed himself as the king and he unsuccessfully tried to besiege Lilybaeum. In Triocala, both rebel armies were unitied. Athenion was subjected in everything to Tryphon. Triocala was very fortified city and because of that it was chose to be the capital of second Sicilian slave country. In 103 BC and 102 BC, Romans were defeated. In 101 BC, Consul Manius Aquilius, Marius friend managed to quell the rebel. At that time, Tryphon died, and he was replaced by Athenion. However, Athenion was killed by Aquilius according to Diodorus in a heroic duel. Soon after that, the Romans conquered the last stronghold of the slaves and with this an uprising of slaves was quelled. After that, slaves were forbidden to carry weapons.

Political role of Appuleius Saturninus in Rome

Obvers coin of  Lucius Appuleius Saturninus
Obvers coin of Lucius Appuleius Saturninus

The political struggle became tense again in Rome. This happened thanked to strengthening of the populares party again, to which contributed Marius successes. The energetic leaders of these groups were Lucius Appuleius Saturninus and Gaius Servilius Glaucia. In 103 BC, Appulies Saturninus was elected as tribune for the first time. He gained popularity by openly speaking at the forum about bribery of aristocracy and by introducing the agrarian Law, according to which Marius veterans received the land. His determined rival Metellus Numidicus (Consul in 109 BC) became censor in 102 BC, and he wanted to exclude Saturninus from the Senate. In 101 BC populares achieved decisive successes in the elections. In 102 BC, Marius was elected as a Consul for the sixth time. Despite the resistance of the Senate, Saturninus was elected as Tribune while Glaucia was elected as Praetor.

In 100 BC, Saturninus proposed the Law that each Marius veteran received an allotment of 100 jugerum of land in the Roman province of Africa. There was Gaul land which was given to the veterans. The land remained from the Cimbri and those areas belonged to the allies of the Roman people. There was a proposition for the establishment of colonies in different provinces; a price of one modius of grain was reduced to 5/6 as.

A bitter struggle – Optimates did not hesitate to forcibly disperse the National Assembly. However, the work of National Assembly was brought to an end with the participation of Marius soldiers. Saturninus proposals (besides the project of reducing the price of grain) became powerful as the Law because these projects passed and became Laws. Senators were obliged to take an oath in order to observe these new Laws. Only Metellus Numidicus refused to take an oath and he was forced to leave Numidia.

Saturninus and Glaucia uprising and their death

During elections for magistrates for the next year Appuleius managed to be re-elected as a ribune. Glaucia fought for the Consulate.  Glaucias rival was Gaius Memmius (he used to be a Populares which moved on to the side of Optimates). Populares killed Memmius. Senate exploited this situation and announced that the country was in danger. Quelling of the uprising was entrusted to Marius. At first, Marius was not sure whether to accept this and he decided to go with Optimates and in that way he used the rights that were entrusted to him. He besieged the capitol that was occupied by Saturninus and Glaucia. The Capitol was occupied. Saturninus and Glaucia were looked up in Curia. According to sources Marius wanted to preserve their lives, but Optimates killed them by taking the roof off and throwing tiles at them. The difference in interests between urban and rural plebs was much more manifested than it was before. City plebs was in strong client relationships with prominent Optimates and they was not interested in solving the agrarian question. In the decisive moment they went against the leader of Populares. The consequence of changes that has happened in the structure of the military marked a new stage in the agrarian legislation. In the first place was giving of the land to the veterans  (not poorly wealthy peasants or landless people). Marius hesitation testified about the absence of political principles not with him but among the whole group that has always glorified him. That group was knights. Plebs interests were contradicted by dividing provincial land again.

Earlier constitutional methods of fighting have proved to be unsustainable. Roman plebs resorted to disperse assemblies kill candidates which they do not like in the 100 BC during Civil War. That year, the military leader Marius quelled the democratic movement with an armed force. One of the first symptoms of the Republic fall was military dictatorship in the form of monarchy.

Marius was compromised in the eyes of Populares. After seeing unsustainable nature of Marius position, he decided to go to the East with an excuse to fulfil the vow, i.e. to worship Mother of the Gods. In 99 BC, Metellus Numidicus returned and Appuleius Saturninus Laws were abolished. Appuleius supporters were prosecuted.