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Caesar’s Reforms Essay, Research Paper
Caesar had several motives for establishing his reforms. They varied from increasing the stability of the Roman Government, to furthering his own ambitions. His reforms were wide ranging, and covered areas dealing with the provinces, administration, the economy, and public works.
The colonies and provinces were a major focus of Caesar’s legislation. The provinces were increased in their status, and were made more important. In 49 BC, Caesar enfranchised the province of Transpadene Gaul, and the Legio Aluandae which he had raised in Narbonese Gaul. Franchises were also granted to friendly cities such as Lisbon and Cadiz. Caesar also made a rule which granted Roman Citizen status to any colony with a large number of Roman Settlers. Caesar’s readiness to give the upgraded status to the provincials showed that he wanted the Empire to encompass all of its members, not just those who originated in Rome. The citizenship status was much sought after, and provided for many rights, the most important of which was the right of appeal against Roman magistrates. The provincials who received franchise or citizenship felt more a part of the Roman system than before, and therefore was less likely to cause dissent due to political motives.
Caesar saw that many politicians viewed the provinces as a large money-tree, awaiting harvest. To halt the exploitation of the provinces, he enacted two reforms. The taxation system was to be scrapped. Caesar also fixed the tribute payable by Transalpine Gaul, and he also replaced the tithe system in Asia and Sicily with a fixed land tax. Thus, the need for middlemen was eliminated, along with that part of the exploitation problem. The terms of promagistrates and provincial governors were also shortened to provide for fairer government. Caesar had thus shown that he had motives for improving bilateral relations with the provinces.
Caesar drafted a bill to establish 20 overseas colonies. He also had the intention of expanding and repopulating ‘dying’ colonies such as Carthage, Corinth and Hispalis. Each colony was granted (at least) Latin status. Caesar could possibly have several motives for drafting this legislation. The large population based in Rome, and other developed cities, was placing strain on the cities. Caesar’s plan would relieve at least 200,000 citizens from these cities and furthermore would provide them with new employment opportunities. Another possible reason was Caesar’s desire to increase Roman influence in outlying areas. Caesar planned to ‘Romanise’ the provinces by replacing native culture, religion and politics with the Roman equivalent. This would eventually eliminate any sense of nationalism felt by the provincials; and their complete allegiance would be held by Rome. The veterans of his legions also played a role in his choice to expand the colonies. Land in Africa or Asia was abundant and cheap compared with land in Italy. Thus, provincial colonies were an easy way to cater for the needs of retiring veterans.
Caesar reformed the government of Rome because of ambiguities and inefficiencies which had existed from its outset. The number of magistrates was increased to cope with the demands placed on them by the growing empire. The number of praetors was increased to 8, with Quaestors to 40 and Aediles to 6. To further reduce the strain on Roman magistrates, a lex Julia Municipalis was drafted (but not passed until after his death, by Marcus Antonius). It created a local government with decurio (local senators) and local magistrates. Caesar never really had faith in the Roman Republican system. His reforms to strengthen it, was really to make it more viable than its previous dependence on tradition would allow.
To further increase efficiency, the Julian calendar was introduced in 46BC. The Roman Calendar was out of synchronisation with the solar year. To compensate, the priests could intercalate at will, giving rise to potential corruption by politicians who wanted to prolong their term of office. Sosigenes (a Greek mathematician) was employed by Caesar to solve the problem. 3 intercalary months were added to 46BC, and the new calendar adopted 365 days in the year.
The senate had been depleted by the Civil War. Caesar had also acknowledged that it was not representative of the whole Roman Empire. To solve this, the number of seats was increased to 900, and provincials (especially from Gaul and Spain) were admitted. With the increased provincial content, the Senate’s authority would be more widely respected than previously. Also, the optimates within the Senate, who were political enemies of Caesar, would have their opinions ‘diluted’ by the new numbers of Senators who owed their position to Caesar. The number of senators and magistrates who were allied to Caesar now gave him effective control over the government.
He also obtained the favour of the Equites. He ejected the Tribuni Aerii from the Questiones (law courts), thus leaving equal numbers of Senators and Equites in charge. This move ended the feud between the rivals to some extent, and also provided for a more stable judicial system. However, it also gained Caesar the favour of the Equites.
The treasury was seen as extremely important by Caesar. He replenished it after the Civil War to 175 denarii, through war booty, gifts from vassal kings and tribute from suppressed rebel states. In 46BC when no Quaestors were elected, he appointed his prefects as treasurers. His probable intention was to reduce the public outcry over his raiding of the treasury in 49BC. This action would have tainted his respectibility and dignitas (dignity), which he highly valued.
Several reforms were also aimed at economic stability. He made sure that one-third of all workers on large estates were freemen. The recipiants of the cord dole were reduced from 320 000 to 150 000. Laws were enacted to protect creditors whilst simultaneously relieving debts. Harbour taxes were also reintroduced for foreign merchant vessels. All these factors combined to provide a stable economy which encouraged growth and reduced unemployment. The surplus corn could also be diverted to the new colonies to help them get established.
There were some reforms which can be viewed as solely to preserve Caesar’s name indefinitely. He employed troops on road-building and trench-digging projects. The Pontine marshes (south of Rome) were drained for the extensions to the Julian forum. A gold coin was circulated with an impression of Caesar’s head – an unprecedented action in Roman history. Also, his name as a month on the Calendar has survived for nearly 2 millenia after his death.
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