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The Manipulation of the Roman Masses by the Roman Politicians During 100 Bc to 44 Bc

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    “…Was this ambition? Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; and sure he is an honorable man. But were I Brutus, and Brutus Antony, there were an Antony would ruffle up your spirits, and put a tongue in every wound of Caesar that should move the stones of Rome to rise and mutiny… … Here was a Caesar! When comes such another,” addressed wise Marc Antony to the manipulated Roman citizens. (Foote and Perkins, 678 –683).

    During 509 BC to AD 27, Rome was a republic where its citizens elected leaders by voting for senators (people from upper class or patricians). On the other hand an emperor had total power or dictatorship since he controlled the Roman society (different groups of people from the wealthiest to the most poor). As the Roman society was divided into various groups, not all had similar rights, including the right to vote. Thus, even if Rome had elections, was it a democracy?

    During Caesar’s time of reign (100 BC to 44 BC), this was how the government and the Roman society behaved. In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the similar intense affect or the change on the ordinary citizens can be witnessed due to the manipulation of these citizens by the upper class citizens such as Julius Caesar, Marcus Brutus, Cassius, and Marc Antony. The Roman emperors, patricians and the equestrians came from the upper class that had power and various rights such as the right to vote.

    As a result, they were able to manipulate the uneducated, lower classes of ordinary citizens, slaves and freedmen as politicians by the use of their army, their oratorical skills and by means of bribery, intimidation, and by other acts of abusing their position or power. Due to the unequal levels in society, politicians could easily manipulate the people under them. Majority of the Romans did not have the right and the power to rise and revolt against the politicians since they came from a low-leveled society.

    The Roman society was classified into different classes though the majority of the Roman citizens consisted of the ordinary citizens, slaves and freedmen. The most powerful and the wealthiest was the emperor from a patrician family who controlled huge areas of land, a professional army, the government, the provincial governors and officials. Since Julius Caesar was born into a family of the patrician class, he had an advantage in having any position in the government. By marriage, he was related to Marius, a politician as well.

    Julius Caesar began his political career by taking various public offices, such as the head of financial affairs in Spain and later he was in charge of all the public buildings in Rome. Then in 60 BC, he was elected to the highest position as consul. For one year he had complete control over the government and army along with another consul. Also later, his nephew, Augustus became the emperor of Rome. This reveals that being born into the elite class meant having responsibility in the government as either an emperor, a senator or an official, certainly.

    The patricians were those upper class people who were usually the senators elected as the provincial governors, governing the city. They were responsible to settle disputes in their provinces, to collect taxes and to control the army. These families worked for the government and could afford a great deal of money to spend on their elections. Under the patricians, were the equestrians that assisted the provincial governors as government officials and also provided men for the army.

    The next group was that of the ordinary citizens. Ordinary citizens, the 4th level of the Roman society, were those that were able to afford to pay high taxes and also gain citizenship all together. During Republican Rome, they lived in farms, not in the city therefore the army protected them from any possible attack therefore they were expected to join and give their support to the army. By joining the army the citizen helped to protect his own land and country.

    In return, the citizen could gain some rights such as being able to go to the court if he or she was arrested and get a chance of a fair trial. By paying taxes, the citizens would support the government and with that they would get clean water supplies and handouts of corn, the right to attend the public baths, etc. The lower class consisted of slaves and freedmen. They were given ordinary government jobs or worked as laborers in the towns or countryside. The slaves lived in poverty and were not treated appropriately.

    This explains how responsibilities and expectations placed over the ordinary citizens, slaves and the freedmen had to be fulfilled in order to gain certain rights whereas the emperor, patricians, and the equestrians could obtain high-ordered positions and gain publicity in the public due to their wealth. The ordinary citizens, slaves and freedmen had to work under the equestrians, patricians and the emperors. This indicated that it was difficult for the lower class people to revolt against these upper-class people.

    However there were some revolts against the politicians by the elite citizens, for instance, Hortensia’s protest in 44 BC. Hortensia, the daughter of a consul (a member of one of the leading families) took the lead in protesting the action of the alliance formed against Julius Caesar’s assassins. This alliance, called the Triumvirate brought together Octavian, Marc Antony, and Lepidus. The Triumvirate’s declared goal was to respond to the conspirators’ conspiracy against Julius Caesar, but in fact they aimed to divide the Roman Empire among themselves.

    Hortensia’s protest expressed a persuasive demonstration to the role that women played in Roman society since the voices of women from the important families could not be ignored whereas ordinary women had no such role. “…If we have done you wrong, as you say our husbands have, proscribe us as you do them. But if we women have not voted any of you public enemies, have not torn down your houses, destroyed your army, or led another one against you; if we have not hindered you in obtaining offices and honours, why do we share the penalty when we did not share the guilt? Why should we pay taxes when we have no part in the honours, the commands, the statecraft, for which you contend against each other with such harmful results? …But for civil wars may we never contribute, nor ever assist you against each other! We did not contribute to Caesar or to Pompey. Neither Marius nor Cinna imposed taxes on us. Nor did Sulla, whereas you say that you are re-establishing the commonwealth,” protested Hortensia. (Frazee, 117). This uprising indicates how upper-class women revolted against some decisions made by the politicians, which they disagreed with.

    The women had penalties imposed on them and they also had to pay higher taxes when there was a struggle to seize power between the triumvirs. During this time, the generals of Rome could not be controlled by the Republic’s government, which ran by the Senate and the consuls. The women did not gain their rights and the triumvirs did not acknowledge the voices of these women. The triumvirs were outraged by the fact that women should dare to hold a public meeting when other men were silent and that they should demand from courts the reasons for the triumvirs’ acts.

    The triumvirs were also infuriated since the women stated that they were not “furnished” so much money while the men were serving in the army. The triumvirs ordered the Roman army to drive them away. This protest had then come to an end. The outcome of a protest against the politicians is also illustrated in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Even patricians or equestrians who revolted against the emperor or the dictator would be punished.

    For instance, in Julius Caesar it can be witnessed that the tribunes of the people or the patricians, Flavius and Marullus were banished as a result of rising against the dictator, Julius Caesar by just plucking away the feathers from Caesar’s statue and aiming to alter the minds of the public regarding Caesar. Marallus addresses the gathered crowd, “ Wherefore rejoice? What conquest brings he home? What tributaries follow him to Rome to grace in captive bonds his chariot wheels? You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things! O you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome! (Foote and Perkins, 632-633). Flavius also states, “ Disrobe the images if you do find them decked with ceremonies…let no images be hung with Caesar’s trophies. ” (Foote and Perkins, 632-633). This reveals that Flavius and Marullus intended to revolt against Julius Caesar, but the consequence of this plot was banishment. Caesar tells Metellus Cimber, “Thy brother by decree is banished. ” (Foote and Perkins, 667). Rising or revolting against a man in power was not a successful option for the man lower by rank than the man in power therefore manipulation was an easy task for the man in power.

    In the Republican Rome, only patricians, equestrians and the ordinary citizens (that were citizens of Rome) could only vote with some exceptions, such as women, freedmen and slaves. Having elections elected the Senators of the government. Despite having elections, Rome was not democratic since a modern democracy is where almost all the people above a certain age are free to vote for whomever they want as their leader or government however to vote in any Roman elections, you had to be a citizen. Being a citizen involved rights and responsibilities, some “give and take” between the citizen and the government.

    The number of people who could become citizens changed over time. During, about 100 BC, people from neighboring states in Italy were allowed to become citizens. As the Roman Empire expanded, more people were becoming citizens. Citizens were those people that could afford to pay high taxes and gain citizenship at the same time. Many of the people who lived in Rome, such as women, freedmen, and slaves could not vote. This implies that Republican Rome was not democratic. The classes of citizen that supplied the senators were the patricians, who could also afford money on their elections.

    It explains that the elections in Republican Rome were not rational. The patricians and the equestrians used their money to alter the results of the elections. As a result, the votes did not decide the next government or the leader, wealth did. Many Romans were uneducated and poor since the majority of the Roman citizens included slaves, freedmen and ordinary citizens and therefore politicians could simply manipulate them. Not all Romans could afford to spend money on education and majority of them could not read or write. The type of job and education depended on a person’s wealth and social status.

    Upper-class people did not work since they thought it was beneath their dignity and it was fit only for slaves. They also felt that working for and being paid by someone else was shameful. This explained that slaves and freedmen did not get the opportunity to be educated; instead they had to work under the upper class Romans in order to earn money. The uneducated Romans or the ordinary citizens worked on farms. Other workers that included slaves and also ordinary citizens, worked as bakers, butchers, weavers, tailors, fishermen, etc. These people needed money in order to run their lives and for that reason they worked.

    As a result, they were not able to receive good education. It also indicates that they could have been carried away by greed or by the words of an upper class Roman. Firstly, they did not have much knowledge regarding politics and the Roman leaders and their ways of manipulating the lower class citizens of Rome. This example could be studied in Julius Caesar. After Brutus’s speech, the first citizen said, “This Caesar was a tyrant. ” The third citizen replied, “We are blest that Rome is rid of him. ” (Foote and Perkins, 632-633). This reveals that the citizens did not have even a vague idea how Brutus has manipulated them.

    They also had no clue regarding Brutus’s future intentions since they did not have any knowledge regarding politics. During Antony’s speech, the second citizen yelled, “ They were villains, murderers! The will! Read the will! ” (Foote and Perkins, 680). This explains how the citizens’ minds were now taken over by Antony, after Brutus’s speech. The citizens were filled with greed to know what Caesar has left them after his death. Now the citizens had turned against Brutus and the other conspirators. This clearly illustrates how their minds were in control of the politicians due to their illiterate background and the need of money.

    It also explains that these ordinary citizens, slaves and freedmen could easily be manipulated by bribery or intimidation by the politicians. Uneducated and the “poor” citizens were a key factor in controlling and altering their minds in order to gain power. The patricians and the emperors used bribery, intimidation and their army to manipulate the lower-class citizens since they were more powerful and wealthy than the lower-class citizens. Elections should always be free from bribery and intimidation in order to consider it a democratic way of governing any kingdom.

    Unfortunately, during the republic, this was not always true. When each year, two senators were elected to rule the Republic, they usually came from the patrician families and they often used bribery and intimidation with the intention of winning the elections. This was due to the fact that the patricians could afford to spend a great deal in the elections. It indicates how the upper-class people used their wealth in an immoral way to gain power and position in the government and the Roman society. It is also an indication that the politicians were abusing their position as they had power over the lower-class society.

    As a result of this corruption, the ordinary citizens sometimes revolted against these senators. “In 44 BC the people of Rome ‘banded together, shouting, and threw stones at anyone who would not join them, and threatened to burn down their houses. A senator tried to explain the problem but as soon as he came in front of the crowd they threw stones at him. Then the army came to back up the angry crowd. ’” (Appian, The Civil Wars, written in the Second Century) (Coulson, 11). The text reveals that the voices of the people were not heard, but put down by the help of the army.

    The number one concern of the Roman emperor was to maintain their power over the state, the government and the people and therefore the army was very essential for this task. Soldiers were very important as they provided loyalty and safety to the emperors. Given that many of the slaves did most of the everyday work, many people were free. For that reason it was important to keep the Roman masses, busy, fed and happy so that there was no danger concerning the people rioting or rebelling. This responsibility was given to the army. Every emperor sponsored distributions to the poor of bread and other food supplies.

    These emperors also spent huge sums of public festivals, shows, and games. Using the army to maintain and look after the order of the city was very important. This tactic was known as “Bread and Circuses. ” This strategy worked since the Romans were satisfied being fed and entertained. The army was also very vital in maintaining an uprising. The army gave power to an emperor to take over the government of the Empire and to stay in power as the army gave support to the emperor. This meant that he had total power or dictatorship like Julius Caesar. The emperor could make new laws, spend the public money and take away the power from the Senate.

    This was the concern the conspirators had regarding Julius Caesar’s ‘evil’ future intentions and this probably could be considered the best explanation to why the conspirators assassinated Caesar. It meant that the emperor could make any important decision in the government. In Julius Caesar, the conspirator, Brutus mentions to the crowd, “…Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living, and die all salves, than that Caesar were dead, to live all freemen? …But—as he was ambitious, I slew him. ” Brutus also explains to Antony, “…Our hearts you see not.

    They are pitiful; and pity to the general wrong of Rome. ” (Foote and Perkins, 671 & 676). These quotes reveal Brutus’s thoughts and the reason why he slew Caesar. He explains how he feared that crowning Caesar would result in a Rome governed by a dictator, which could lead to complications such as loosing power as a senator, etc. The reason behind the assassination of Julius Caesar indicates how a dictator can furthermore manipulate the whole kingdom after gaining power by manipulating the Roman masses. By methods of bribery and intimidation and by using the army, the politicians could influence the citizens in order to gain power.

    Due to the politicians’ oratorical skills, these politicians were manipulating the Roman society. “In Julius Caesar, the politicians have used language to flatter the public, to disguise their true thoughts and emotions, and to alter the truth,” mentioned E. M. Forster. (Forster, 6). Words had acted like powerful weapons that threw the entire country into civil war. Brutus and Antony are examples of this technique. They both had unique ways in using words that altered the minds of the citizens, though Antony’s oratorical speech was more effective than Brutus’s since the citizens grasped Antony’s words and followed his ideas.

    This is due to his oratorical skills. Brutus addresses the crowd at Caesar’s funeral in a well, appealing manner. “He successfully does alter the people’s mind, but then Antony provokes the crowd with portraying a feeling of pity towards Caesar and hatred towards Brutus and the other conspirators,” says Cimon. (Cimon, 9). Brutus’s approach towards convincing the crowd is by allowing them to see the devastated future of Rome with Caesar as a dictator. Brutus speaks to the common people, “Had you rather Caesar were living, and die all salves, than that Caesar were dead, to live all freemen? (Foote and Perkins, 676). “An honorable man,” Antony uses in his speech to convey the truth rather to assume. “Froster mentions, “Antony is an opportunist, and he stirred up the emotions of the people. ” (Forster, 7). Both politicians have conveyed their opinion well to the public since after both speeches, the aftermath can be seen: the public agreed with both the viewpoint, first with Brutus’s, and then with Antony. After Brutus’s speech, one citizen said, “Caesar’s better parts shall be crowned in Brutus. ” (Foote and Perkins, 677).

    While after Antony’s speech, one citizen yelled with rage, “We’ll burn the house of Brutus. ” (Foote and Perkins, 682). Antony is cunning while Brutus is completely honest. These are the two different methods of how these two politicians changed the opinion of the public. Since Antony spoke from the heart with conviction and his true intentions, his words were deeply felt by the citizens. The two different strategies that these two politicians used were, “Brutus responded with his head, so Antony reacted with his heart. (Kleeman, 6). Antony’s key to manipulating the citizens was not the concern about the future of Rome like Brutus or the values, ideals and the principles, but just the thought of seeing the murder of a friend and the desire for revenge. This made it easier for Antony to communicate his message to the citizens. Brutus and Antony’s cunning techniques were used well in manipulating the common people of Rome. Firstly, Brutus flattered the common people of Rome by treating them as equal and making them see the reason behind his actions.

    He uses questions that are abstract, such as, “Who is here so base, that would be a bondman? ” (Foote and Perkins, 676). Brutus simply asks the Roman citizens, who would want to be slaves under Caesar. This explains how Brutus had tied their minds to his since he had made up their minds for them. He also offers to sacrifice himself for Rome. Brutus mentions “… With this I depart, that, as I slew my best lover for the good of Rome, I have the same dagger for myself when it shall please my country to need my death. ” (Foote and Perkins, 677). His speech is brief nd to the point. When he finishes speaking, the citizens claim, “This Caesar was a tyrant,” and “We are blest that Rome is rid of him. ” (Foote and Perkins, 678). Brutus has used his intelligence in convincing the common people. Alternatively, Antony sways the citizens by pulling their emotions. Secondly, Antony appeals the common people to greed. “Antony plays with the people’s mind upon the need to love and hate. ” (Kleeman, 7). Brutus began his speech by addressing the people together as Romans whereas Antony addresses them individually as friends.

    This reveals how Antony sensed that personal relationships mean more to people than their classification with the nation. “Brutus spoke in style that appealed to his intelligence and on the other hand Antony spoke in a verse that appealed to his emotions. ” (Forster, 5). Both had unique ways of approaching the common people and both strategies had their own advantages and disadvantages since the citizens agreed with both the viewpoints at different times. For instance in Antony’s speech, he portrayed Caesar as a hero who was betrayed by his friends. He says, “ Brutus, as you know, was Caesar’s angel.

    Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar loved him! That was the most unkindest cut of all; for when the noble Caesar saw him stab, ingratitude, more strong than traitors’ arms, quite vanquished him. ” (Foote and Perkins, 681). “Antony also pretended to break down and cry and Brutus projected an image of complete self-control. ” (Forster11). Antony used another effective skill in persuading the citizens. Antony seemed to touch the common people through their senses since he showed them Caesar’s body and Caesar’s bloody cloak. In contrast he kept on repeating, “All honorable men. This explains how he managed to sense the thoughts of the people and use it to his advantage in manipulating them. Caesar, also on the other hand, surprisingly left his parks, his gardens, and a sum of money to the citizens, which made it easier for Antony to take over the people’s mind by greed. The most powerful procedure Antony used which was an irony to the consequences of his speech: Antony said, “… I am no orator, as Brutus is, but (as you know me all) a plain blunt man… for I have neither wit, nor words, nor worth, action, or utterance, nor the power of speech to stir men’s blood. I only speak right on. (Foote and Perkins, 682). Antony denied the truth regarding his skillful oratorical skills and what intentions he possessed and as a result of his cunningness he was able to manipulate the common people of Rome very well. The crowd’s reaction to the two speeches suggests that the citizens need a strong figure that could direct them to their blind beliefs. The Roman people who Brutus appeals to are meant to be wise and virtuous whereas in reality they lack knowledge of politics, they are uneducated and come from a low leveled society. This indicates that the common people of Rome could simply be taken over by the words of any politician.

    Now, we know that Republican Rome during Caesar’s era (100BC to 44BC) was not actually democratic. The position of the Roman citizens during that time, namely the difference of status between upper class people and the lower class people led to the manipulation of the lower class citizens by the wealthy Roman politicians. In view of the fact that majority of the Romans were of a lower class, they did not have certain rights, and to obtain those rights they had “give and take” between the government and them. As a result these Romans could not revolt against the politicians. Riots that took place at times were put down by the use of the army.

    The most important fact was that voting was imbalance due to the restrictions laid: women could not vote including slaves and freedmen, but only citizens of Rome could vote. Due to the fact that the politicians used bribery and intimidation against the common people of Rome, voting became more unjust. Furthermore, due to their oratorical skills, the politicians altered the minds of the common people. The power that the Roman politicians possessed during 100 BC to 44 BC could not be overcome by any lower class of individual since that individual was like a robot being controlled by its master.

    However, now countries have become democratic and the elections don’t have restrictions for different status of people, just the age. Elections are not always free from bribery, but people can vote for whomever they like. In today’s society citizens posses more knowledge than those in the Roman times, therefore they are more aware of the tactics the politicians may use to manipulate them. Many people are educated and less or no problem exists regarding the social status of people in politics. People can stand up for their rights where the army does not interfere and the voices of the people can be heard by rioting.

    Today, words or the politician’s oratorical skill is not that effective since people vote for those they trust: not being influenced by words. Remember that words are the key to manipulation and if one can control the meaning of words, one can control the people. Bibliography Books: ?Foote, David W. , and Perkins, Brenda P. , Responding to Literature – Blue Level. New York: McDougal, Litell & Company, 1992. ?Coulson, Ian. The Roman Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. ?Corbishley, Mike. Ancient Rome. Oxford: Oxford Ltd. , 1989. Frazee, Charles A. Volume 1: From the Stone Age to 1500 – World History. San Diego, CA: Greenhaver Press Inc. , 1999. ?Nardo, Don. Daily Life-Ancient Rome. San Diego, CA: Kid Haven Press, 1994. ?Nardo, Don. The Roman Empire. San Diego, CA: Kid Haven Press, 1994. Electronic Publications: ?Forster, E. M. “William Shakespeare: The Author and his Times. ” (1996): 13 pg. 14 April 2004. . ?Kleeman, Brian M. “The Roman Constitution. ” (1998): 4 pg. 3 May 8, 2004. ?Cimon. “Julius Caesar and His Times. ” (Jan. 2, 2003): 9 pg. 7 May 8, 2004.

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