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Thread: A Short History of Lex Valeria

  1. #1

    Default A Short History of Lex Valeria

    Titus Sergius Orata, who in his later years was called Corpulentus, though never to his face, was the most influential person in the whole res publica since even before he held any prominent public office, due to his zeal, diligence, military as well as administrative prowess but also no small degree of intrigue and last but not least of all strong familial ties. Being not only from the ancient and powerful Gens Sergia but also the great-grandson of the illustrious P. Claudius Pulcher, consul several times, who had won great victories against the Carthaginians and Gaulish tribes, Titus Orata had a strong footing to begin life and career. It must be added for sake of justice that the man possessed his own qualities of mores and that helped him forge lasting friendships and alliances as he very much needed them since he indeed had several vices too, as did all mortales and even the Di immortales, Dea Roma herself not least of all!

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    Chief among these allies was Spurius Iunius Silanus, an intimate friend of Oratae from their very early years of rise to prominence. At a young age he fought in the army commanded by his father Servius, the triumphant conqueror of Hispania Ulterior, during his consulship, and after serving as Tribunus Militum was appointed governor of Illyricum in the year Orata became Aedilis Curulis. The support of Servius Silanus, the undisputed hero of the republic, had been crucial for both young men's careers. Another friend of theirs was Publius Aemilius Paullus, a very promising soldier under Servius, but he fell commanding the cavalry contingent in the great battle in which the Lusitanian coalition was crushed, to the grief of many.

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    Years went by, and with them wars in many fronts. The republic had defeated and conquered Carthago; but many Punic and Numidian warlords kept causing trouble in Africa, and Hispania took many years to subdue and consolidate under provincial organization. Orata and Silanus as well as others fought both in offence and defence (such as repelling a Gaulish invasion of a coalition led by the Arverni and another one by the Boii, which necessitated the conquest of Pannonia), adding to their wealth and power, always supporting each other's interests, but that of the people of Roma and her allies too. Victories were bringing spoils and riches for some, but also hardships for more. Landowners getting ever wealthier and more powerful with the spoils of war were buying out, sometimes by force, poorer and less powerful families' lands, combining them into magnificent latifundiae, chiefly run on the labour of slaves, coming in lots as prisoners of war or bought from Numidia, Gallia, Pannonia and other countries even further off. Flocks of people without land were pouring into Roma and other great cities such as Capua, Ariminum, Arretium and Luceria to seek a means of living, and failing that, falling into desperation, vice, even banditry. Besides, it was getting harder and harder to form proper Roman citizen legiones to fight in the wars since fewer and fewer people were conforming to the wealth requirements to enlist in the army, providing their own arma and gear; and veterans of former wars were getting less and less interested in reenlisting, having amassed wealth more than enough to risk their lives again. Greek, African and barbarian auxilia started to be relied upon more than was customary or deemed safe.

    It was in the year of one of several consulates of Orata that the problem posed even more immediate urgency. The kings of Macedonia had been partners in trade and occasionally allies against Carthaginenses and Epeirotae. But with the expansion of Roman power into Pannonia and beyond, and their interests in Thracia and Moesia as well as Dalmatia, was bound to bring on conflict. Their several attempts at provoking the Illyrian tribes against the senate and people of Roma were prevented partly thanks to Illyrian auxiliares fighting in the Roman army and amassing wealth from the spoils thereof, but chiefly to a powerful network of spies and counterspies working on the payroll of T. Orata. One of these, a Thracian, went overzealous to further gain the favour of his master, the newly elected consul, and attempted to assassinate the King who was on a minor expedition into eastern Thracia, but was caught, interrogated and executed. There was no doubt on the part of his working for the Roman consul, though accounts differ as to whether he acted in this on his own initiative or the orders of Orata, but it mattered little in the end: Macedonia declared war.

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    At the time, Graecia and Asia were in turmoil. An uncanny alliance of unlikely partners, Athenae and Sparta, leading a wider coalition of many poleis aptly named koinon Hellenon but known to the outsiders simply as the Corinthian league after the conference held in that city a few years prior to this conflict, was already at war with king Heragoras of Macedonia. Orata sought to make an alliance with the league of Greek cities, which would prove untrustworthy and short lived, but more on that matter later. It wasn't altogether without benefit nonetheless, as the Roman navy had the Athenians' support in eliminating Macedonian sea power.

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    The highly disciplined Macedonian phalanges supported by the formidable royal and Thessalian cavalry required more than Illyrian and Pannonian auxilia and Greek mercenaries. Proper legiones were needed, but it had become hard to form one, let alone several, as related above. Orata had the most crucial assistance of Silanus in overcoming this problem. It was said by many and often than Iunius Silanus was more a philosopher than a soldier. Indeed, he was a very cultured man with philosophical and literary interests, known to write poemata of his own and these even appreciated by the renowned dramatist Ennius, who was a regular guest at his house and had even visited him in the provinces during his tenure as governor. But nobody would utter such words in the presence of his brethren at arms, who would tell heroic tales of him maneuvering behind and charging the enemy lines with his bodyguard cavalry, personally slaying many a king and chieftain. Knowing how to converse with people of all kinds of background, easily giving and earning trust, he had made many friends not only of poets and philosophers, also people of lower stature, but most importantly veteran soldiers. Of these many owed their current wealth to Silanus, as he was known to occasionally pay for the required arma and gear for the poorer velites when they displayed battle prowess, in order to enlist them as hastati. Now, he called on their help and many veterans reenlisted for the Macedonian campaign. Silanus also gave a moving oration in the senate which further helped support the renewed war effort.

    Although well loved and admired by the populus and the army, Orata and Silanus had many rivals and enemies especially in the upper classes who were feeling sidelined, even threatened by the consistently increasing power of the duo, which they indeed not too publicly called the duumviratus. Yet they could do little more than spreading rumours about them openly despising the gods, even altogether denying their existence, or living a luxurious life to the extent of gluttony. It was these that would later call Orata "Corpulentus." But with war with Macedonia at hand, few heeded them.

    Sergius Orata had a brother, Lucius. A renowned veteran of many wars if little more, he along with Spurius Fabius Maximus, consul suffectus, was sent with proconsular powers as vanguard while Orata was readying the main force. Lucius Orata stormed and captured Dyrracchium in a sudden raid at night, routing the enemy, while Fabius invaded the Macedonian holdings in Illyria and Dalmatia. Shortly thereafter, Lucius returning to Roma in triumphus, Titus Orata invaded Macedonia proper, and defeated the royal army on the outskirts of Pella. King Heragoras fled to Byzantion but upon being denied entry with the fear of Roman retribution committed suicide. Thus ended the line and realm of Antigonos Gonatas.

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    As mentioned above, the alliance with the Greek poleis was short lived. This was partly due to mutual distrust but the final blow came when the Corinthian league entered into open conflict with the king Ptolemaeus of Aegyptus, a traditionally staunch ally and friend of the Roman people. Orata, though no more consul but ever more influential, decided to pursue war with them and asked Silanus to command the army in proconsular power. To his surprise and dismay, Iunius declined, citing advanced age and increased reliance on urban life as reasons. This naturally stained their friendship, though both for the sake of a lifetime of camaraderie but more importantly because of the popularity of Silanus even surpassing that of Orata among the populus and the army, a deeper crisis was avoided. Moreover, being a resourceful man, Orata found help elsewhere.

    Orata and Silanus had discussed means and ways of reforming the army, chiefly by enlisting the unemployed masses flooding the cities and causing various problems, at the expense of the state, but despite all the power and influence they held, the wealthy and powerful senatorial class was mostly opposed to this not to lose their privilege. On occasion, the duumviratus had managed to fortify their armies by enlisting eager and skillful Roman and Italian youths, even barbarians, at their own expense and some of them were granted land and rights in conquered lands after their service. But they needed still more power and support to make this practice into norm.

    Tiberius Valerius Laevinus was a veteran of the Hispanic and Gallic wars. He had earned renown while still quite young in the consular army of Servius Silanus, being granted a corona obsidionalis for saving a detached manipulus from enemy pincer with a daring cavalry charge. He was well enough known, though not an erudite man, and his political career wasn't overly ambitious. It turned out that he was after all well aware of and in agreement with the ideas and plans of the duumviratus.

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    Orata pushed for Laevinus to be elected consul the following year with Spurius Sergius Orata, his other brother, as his colleague. Silanus urged his fellow veterans to remain mobilized for the duration of the campaign and again used his great oratorial skills supporting the consules in the senatus. This eased the strain on his friendship with Titus Orata and he was first made legatus to the governor of Gallia Cisalpina and afterwards himself governor of Hispania Citerior. Spurius Orata was sent with what forces could be spared from the Greek expedition to deal with a pair of Punic and Numidian warlords harassing the silver mines and plundering shipments in Mauretania while Laevinus sailed to Graecia to command the war.

    The war was concluded swiftly. The Greek forces were no match for the veteran legiones now further reinforced with Thessalian cavalry and Macedonian auxiliares, but not the least for Valerius Laevinus, whose tactical capabilities were beyond any general the enemy could field at that time. The Corinthians routed, the Athenians wisely surrendered, and the self-deluded Lacedaimonians, who were enamoured in their unwarranted perception of superiority were crushed. Laevinus slew most members of their aristocracy, enslaving the rest, and installed a client democratic government. Athenae, having surrendered, were spared looting and given local autonomia with similar measures taken for the other poleis. Rhodos, the sole remaining powerful member of the league, had already cut ties with them following the rout of the Corinthian army, and Laevinus didn't risk a potentially costly naval expedition. After his return in triumphus to Roma, the political climate was finally ripe for the long needed and prepared reforms to be put forth.

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    Laevinus, following his triumphal procession, passed a law in the comitia curiata, known thenceforth as lex Valeria, reorganizing the military of the res publica. Any free man could now enlist to serve for a fixed number of years with arma and gear provided at the expense of the Aerarium, after which term to be granted land and citizenship if not already possessing it. Instead of being called upon in wartime, this new army would stand mobilized the entire year and the conscripts would be systematically trained and drilled. It is said that the law, though under the name of Valerius Laevinus, the consul ordinarius, was in fact drafted and written by Sergius Orata; but owing to the writings of Polybios of Megalopolis, who was an admirer of the military genius of Laevinus, it has come to be known as Valerian Reforms for centuries.
    Last edited by Mouzafphaerre; September 16, 2019 at 05:59 PM. Reason: typo, grammar, all sorts of pedantry...

  2. #2

    Default Re: A Short History of Lex Valeria

    I have been reading this on my holiday. I feel my intelligence is +1 now. The attention to detail is impressive. I prefer learning about the Roman Republic a little earlier in its lifetime and this really brought a snapshot of that history to life. I shall try to aspire to this level in my writings. Thanks for sharing.

  3. #3

    Default Re: A Short History of Lex Valeria

    Quote Originally Posted by charlieh View Post
    I have been reading this on my holiday. I feel my intelligence is +1 now. The attention to detail is impressive. I prefer learning about the Roman Republic a little earlier in its lifetime and this really brought a snapshot of that history to life. I shall try to aspire to this level in my writings. Thanks for sharing.
    That's a great compliment coming from you! Many thanks
    Mouzafphaerre, aka Urwendur, Urwendil...

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