As violence increasingly became a tool at the disposal of corrupt and cynical Romans, it also became a last resort for frustrated and hopeless Romans and Italian Allies. As a result of the Republic's failure to address systemic social and economic issues, the Social War broke out between Rome and the Italian Allies. In the aftermath of this devastating war, the famous Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla waged a titanic and bloody war for the fate of the Roman Republic. The endemic violence and zero-sum nature of the conflict ultimately ensured the future demise of the Republic.
This is Part IV in a series on the downfall of the Roman Republic. It focuses on questions of citizenship in Ancient Rome, the Social War, and the epic struggle between Sulla and Marius. Sulla claimed victory, but ultimately for the Roman Republic it was ashes in the end.
Many historians have cited moral decline that began after the Punic Wars as a leading cause in the decline of the Roman Republic. While there are different interpretations of this idea, the conflict between ambition and equality was a problem that was built into the Roman system and was ultimately never completely resolved in the Republic. A frustrated underclass of Roman citizens and other Italians who saw their farms shrinking and their economic opportunities limited as a result of the changing economic conditions after the Punic War provided the perfect opportunity for cynical politicians to appeal to populism and ambitious maneuvering to increase their own power and prestige. Whether you view them as populists or genuine reformers, men like Tiberius Gracchus and Gaius Gracchus identified problems in the Roman system and tried to fix them as they saw fit. Ultimately the system swallowed them up and they failed to produce long lasting change to the corrupted system. But their demise introduced a new crisis that the Republic would never solve: political violence.
This is Part III in a series on the downfall of the Roman Republic. It focuses on Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus and their attempt to alleviate disenfranchised Romans who felt the new Roman economic system was leaving them behind.