Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Internal Threats to the Roman Republic

Though the simmering conflict with the Italian allies had largely been avoided, tranquility was not completely restored to the Roman Republic.  The upper and lower classes were still locked in a pitched battle over their respective rights, and sporadic political violence occurred whenever tensions rose too high.  More dangerous to the Republic, several attempts at seizing absolute power in Rome, on both sides, were made.

The first serious attempt to overthrow the republic took place in the wake of the Third Servile War, also known as  Crixus' revolt, which began in the year 674 AUC (80 BC).  Crixus was a Gallic slave who was engaged as a gladiator near the town of Ancona.  He eventually, along with several other gladiators, slaughtered their masters, seizing whatever weapons they could find and fleeing the gladiatorial school.  Once free, Crixus was chosen to lead the small band.  They defeated the early attempts subdue them, growing stronger with each victory.

Soon, they numbered in the tens of thousands, and the Republic was induced to strong action.  The first army was sent under the command of Gneaus Domitius Ahenobarbus, who led his legions against Crixus, and was promptly defeated and killed in action.  The slave band was left virtually unchecked for the better part of a year as the Republic gathered its forces, with every minor attempt to fight the slaves ending in defeat.

Eventually, an army under the command of Gaius Flavius Fimbria was sent out against Crixus, who had begun marching south to plunder what they could.  The two armies met in battle, which was relatively inconclusive; neither side held much of an advantage at the end of the day.  However, Crixus was convinced of the threat that this army posed towards his, and began to lead his followers north, to escape Italia.  Fimbria's army was able to keep pace with Crixus, despite his best efforts.  He was forced into pitched battle with the Roman forces, not too far from Ancona, where the rebellion had begun.  The result of this battle was a resounding victory for Fimbria, utterly crushing Crixus' revolt.

Unfortunately, Fimbria became very emboldened by his success and ignored calls to disband his army, claiming to be hunting down stragglers from the battle as he marched towards Rome, while attempting to orchestrate his election as Consul.  Though he is not recorded as stating any ambition other than election to the magistracy, the Republic was understandably suspicious of his motives and called upon Sulla to force Fimbria, by force of arms, to submit.

Sulla raised an army and marched on Fimbria's camp.  Fimbria then marched to the north, where he hoped to link up with the legions under command of those with whom he had good ties, such as Gaius Valerius Flaccus and Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius, near the Pannonian and Gallic frontiers.  However, whatever their personal allegiences may have been, neither Flaccus nor Metellus Pius were swayed to Fimbria's cause.  Sulla was able to outmarch Fimbria and defeat him in battle, with a portion of the cohorts under Fimbria's banner defecting to the Republican army under Sulla.

Sulla then intended to march against Flaccus and Metellus Pius, under the impression that they intended to support Fimbria.  However, Flaccus and Metellus were both quite popular with the Senate and were generally considered to be of upstanding character, to put it mildly.  Sulla was ordered to cease and desist his campaign and return to Rome.  Further complicating the matter, the order was delivered by an exceptionally pompous and rude citizen, who's name has been lost to history.  Perceiving the order to be more of a threat, Sulla decided to march on Rome.  His exact intentions were, and still are, unknown, but the Senate once more was forced to raise an army in defense of the city.

The new consular army, under Quintus Sertorius and Lucius Julius Caesar, was able to hold off Sulla's forces just outside of Rome, in 676 AUC (78 BC).  Both armies were bloodied, but Sulla was forced to withdraw and regroup his forces, retreating to the coast and across the Adriatic in good order.  Before Sertorius and Caesar could pursue him, however, yet another slave uprising held their attention.

The latest slave revolt would be the most unique, led by a charismatic and beautiful slave-girl named Varinia.  Her nationality is unknown, but her intelligence and quick learning were such that after escaping with a few other slaves from their master, she was able to lead the band.  Though initially unskilled in combat, she quickly took to it and led the slaves in battle frequently, their band eventually growing powerful enough to concern the thoroughly paranoid Republic, though, at its largest, Varinia's army may have been a third of that of Crixus'.  It was determined that Caesar should engage Varinia, while Sertorius would contain Sulla and gather reinforcements.

This course of action went more or less according to plan. Caesar met Varinia in battle a few miles north of Brundisium and defeated the large bulk of her army at that battle.  However, Varinia and a portion of the army were able to flee and escape Italia, as had been their original objective.  Where she ultimately went is a matter of conjecture; the most popular theories being that their ships were wrecked at sea, that they joined the Cilician pirates, or that they went to live along the Euxine Sea.  Whatever the matter was, that threat was neutralized, and Caesar embarked to Greece.

Meanwhile, Sertorius was busy at rallying various allied kingdoms to his cause, a task at which he excelled.  Various tribes and states in Illyria sent troops, most notably, Thracia, sending a large contingent of infantry under the command of the general Spartacus.  The combined armies eventually were able to corner Sulla's forces at Thessalonica, laying siege to the city.  Before the Republican forces could complete a circumvallation of the city, however, Sulla's forces sallied out and sought to break through the Thracian forces, which he calculated to be the weakest link in the opposition's army.

Spartacus' troops were able, however, to repulse the attack, while Sertorius took the initiative to assault the Thessalonica itself, cutting Sulla's forces off from retreat back into the city.  Pinned down by Caesar's army on one side, the city and ocean on another, and the Thracians on the last side, Sulla again attempted to break through the Thracian lines.  Again, the Thracians under Spartacus were able to repulse the attack, and the majority of Sulla's remaining forces surrendered.  The remainder, however, fought on, and were annihilated, Spartacus taking Sulla himself captive before handing him over to the Consular forces.

The crisis thus averted, Caesar and Sertorius disbanded their armies and returned to Rome.  Sulla was able to commit suicide en route, with some accounts stating that Caesar himself provided him the opportunity to avoid the humiliation of being put on trial.  Caesar and Sertorius moved on to govern Roman provinces, Sertorius in Illyria and Caesar in Hispania.  Spartacus, for his assistance, was greatly rewarded, and soon was able to use his prestige to great effect, being recognized as the ruler of the Odrysian Kingdom of Thracia afterward, in 680 AUC (74 BC).

The insurrections of Fimbria and Sulla, as well as the revolts of Crixus and Varinia, served to motivate the fears of the Republic greatly.  Further compounding their fears was an aborted conspiracy on behalf of Marcus Aemilius Lepidus to overthrow the Republic and declare himself Dictator, around the time of the war against Sulla.  The conspiracy proved to be little more than a footnote to history, and was suppressed before any damage could be done.


A fun entry to write, with all sorts of dramatics.  The obvious inspiration for the events is the Third Servile War of our history, which occurs a decade earlier in this history, and is followed shortly after by the smaller, Fourth Servile War.  A key difference being that Spartacus does not lead the slaves, instead, they are lead by a Gallic man named Crixus.  Whether or not this is the same Crixus that served under Spartacus in our history, I will leave to the reader.

After Spartacus was defeated in our history by Crassus, with some help from Pompey, the two men marched their armies to Rome while they stood for election for consul, which they won, likely through the implied threat of their armies.  I have Fimbria attempting a similar maneuver which, unfortunately for him, backfires and results in Sulla being sent against him.

I've never been too fond of Sulla, though he certainly possessed many admirable characteristics, so, I have him give into a sense of megalomania and march against the Republic, and eventually defeated.  The sideshow slave uprising that occurs at the same time was inspired by reading a synopsis of Kubrick's Spartacus, so I threw in the slave girl from the movie, and allowed her to escape, much as Spartacus attempted.  Speaking of Spartacus, I leave it again to the reader to decide if he's the same as the Thracian commander.

Lastly, pretty much all the actors in this entry that aren't on the side of Fimbria or Sulla were renowned in our history for their good judgement and virtue.  Metellus Pius, for example, didn't get his name, Pius, for nothing.  Sertorius, on the other hand, was renowned in our history for his ability to co-opt local tribes, generally hostile to Rome, to his cause, even setting up a mixed Roman-Hispanic Republic during the civil wars against Sulla.  So, overall, events are largely inspired by our history still, and other than the actors, dates, and locations, the gist of events is still the same.

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