Essay on Subversion of Justice in The Roman Senate

Submitted By PavDDD
Words: 1575
Pages: 7

Subversion of justice in the Roman Senate
During the late republic the Roman Senate was perceived, due to their recurring actions in a number of governmental cases, as body of ambitious, self-serving and corrupt politicians who were willing to sacrifice justice and the Roman state for their personal greed and self-advancement. Both Sallust and Cicero in their writings concentrate on the corruption of the members of the senatorial order, particularly powerful nobility who deliberately disregarded the judicial system meant to protect the rights and interests of roman citizens, provincials and allies. By highlighting these abuses, both Sallust and Cicero condemned the widespread corruption in the Roman Senate that threatened the survival and reliability of the whole Roman Empire.

In his book, Sallust highlights the most significant shortcoming of the nobles and of the roman senate as their greed for not only power but money, for it is only through bribery that Jugurtha was able to dodge the consequences and punishments for his actions. Through Bribery Jugurtha was able to gain the favour of the nobles who had enough power in court to be able to hide his offences towards the state and his blatant disregard for its laws and rulings. The irony in this is that while Sallust tries to expose the injustices of favouritism in the court, he himself is an example of this as he owed much of his political advancement including his re-instatement in Senate only due to Caesar’s favouritism towards him. Anyhow, Jugurtha’s knowledge of the effectiveness of Bribery in Rome had come to him from his Roman comrades in Numantia who Sallust says ‘cared more for wealth than for right and honour, and who, by their party intrigues at home and the influence they had secured in the provinces, had obtained notoriety without deserving respect’ . This is a perfect example of how nobles were able to gain power and influence through powerful allies gained through bribery. The power over a province was a power given by the Roman Senate and it is obvious to see that in this period of time the roles of the Senate and the rest of the population were being turned. When previously nobles were supposed to gain popularity with the public by benefitting them through their actions and words, they had started to notice that the ultimate power in the end rested with the senate and began to gain the favour of the Senate instead, through money and extravagant promises. The common people the judicial system was meant to protect had become completely powerless and ultimately disregarded. It is clear that it was common knowledge that ‘at Rome money could buy anything’ and in Jugurtha’s case it included power and the overlooking of justice. For example, after Jugurtha brutally assassinated Hiempsal, Sallust writes that ‘his only hopes of escaping the consequences of their (Roman people) anger was to take advantage of the avarice of the Roman nobles by using his riches to corrupt them’. Once again this emphasises how the Senate had become self-proclaimed representatives of the people, who cared more about increasing their own wealth than the actual interests of the people, so much so that the Senate’s ‘bitter resentment against Jugurtha was converted into favour and good will’ after they had received lavish gifts from him. In other words, there was no need to appease the anger of the general population because it was the Senators who had more influence over the consequences he would face. However, public resentment towards the issue would have existed but they lacked an authoritative figure that was strong enough to oppose Jugurtha’s supporters and to represent them. This public resentment was clearly revealed after Jugurtha’s bribing of the tribune Gaius Baebius when they ‘tried to intimidate the tribune with shouts and hostile looks...and all other menaces that angry men indulge in, he was not to be deterred from his shameless course’. However, the key issue to note here…