The ancient Rome, particularly the Roman republic, waged numerous warfare campaigns to conquer in its history, which was primarily caused by the need of slaves. However, the most influential wars were the ones which were fought within the republic, against itself, mainly in the Roman civil wars. Power hungry leaders, as well as political backstabbing, made the civil war a clear anticipation and an ever-present part of Roman life. The infighting of the republic ultimately helped trigger the fall of the Roman Republic and the culminating decline and fracture of the Roman Empire. The civil wars of the last century, due to the infighting, saw a succession of great commanders between 88-31 BCE- Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Caesar, Antonius, and finally Octavianus. Their struggles and fighting within the civil wars saw the ultimate creation of an empire.
Impact of Civil Wars and Failure of the Roman Republic on Women and Working Class Farmers and Response to Event
Many women and working-class farmers in the civil war period (88-31 B.C.E) grew up while Rome was in a crisis. For instance, Vigil, who was born as a peasant was raised on a farm and by a farmer, before he was educated and became a poet among the Greek and Roman authors. For this reason, it was is rural upbringing that influenced all of his poetry, particularly his earlier work, such as the Eclogues. Many of the women and farmers hated the instability that was accompanied by the civil wars initiated by Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Caesar, Antonius, and finally Octavianus. In effect, many were forced to fight, which subsequently led to neglect and ruin of the farms. It was no longer feasible to farm. Everyone, including women, yearned for the peacefulness of the republic that they desperately wanted to see again.
The consequences of the Roman civil wars gradually undermined the viability of smaller farms as they could not farm amicably due to instability. Most of the farmers were recruited to the war, and thus, they had no time to farm. The Roman republic drew its soldiers from the smaller farms. For this reason, as long as the wars were being fought close to home, and mainly in the summer, there was little work that the working class farmers would do in their farms even though the warfare id not adversely affect agriculture, in particular for the large farms. However, once the armies fighting in the civil war had to be maintained year-round in fighting wars overseas, agriculture in the Roman Republic began to suffer (Rosenstein, 2012). In essence, according to Rosenstein (2012), the conscription of their men for long hours of duty particularly deprive the farms of the essential labor. Conquests also enriched the Italian and Roman upper classes, and lacking outlets in their newly acquired capital; they subsequently invested in land. In effect, most of the farms were on sale due to the lack of workforce had caused many to fall, which led to falling of land prices.
The upper classes then brought in slaves to work in the vast estates since there was an abundant supply of slaves, which had been furnished by those who had surrendered to the Rome armies and thereupon enslaved. Also, they were encouraged by the growth of Rome, as well as other Italian cities, farmers who had been dispossessed of their land had migrated in search of work as estate owners now focused on the cultivation of cash crops, especially, oil and wine, to feed the burgeoning population. In effect, the small farms that remained never stood a chance with the estates and they were now on the brink of becoming bankrupt as they were incapable of competing with the greater efficiency brought about by the slave plantations. Besides, the owners of the smaller farms were simply forced off their land by the wealthy neighbors who coveted their property. For this reason, during the civil wars, in particular by the mid-first century, the large estates that were run with the help of slaves, or called latifundia, dominated the rural landscape. As such, the estates provided an undue advantage over the smaller farmers.
As such, the civil wars impacted farmers by ensuring that the upper class could capitalize on the slaves captured in the war and could subsequently work on the estates. The large commercial farms, which were facilitated by the slaves provided an undue advantage for the rich (Rosenstein, 2004). Also, the civil wars made men marry late because they began their military service at around the age of 17, which led to lack of labor as sons went to war. However, the problem with the small farms was too many workers, not too few as fathers continued of work their farms. If they died or were incapable, substitutes were found. However, if they were not found women plowed like men. For this reason, as Rosenstein (2004) articulates, population growth also contributed to the economic and social turmoil of the late Roman Republic. Furthermore, as Hopkins (1978) articulated, invasions by the Carthaginians and other Celtic tribes, civil wars, and slave rebellions, all fought on Italian soil contributed to the destruction of agricultural holdings.
Both women and men were forced into slavery after being captured in the war. They had to toil in the estates to enrich the upper class. Women were also forced into being house aids and became victims of sexual abuse. Women were forced to till the land, a duty that was specifically meant for the men. Women along with the men joined hands to revolt against the leadership in the civil wars.
Due to resistance from both women and the working class farmers, the republic was on the verge of collapse. Women came to the aid of their husbands at war. According to Gordon (1983), during the civil wars, Appian reports indicated the heroism of wives who saved their husbands. For instance, an epitaph of Laudatio Turiae preserves the eulogy of her wife who after the war and the death of Julius Caesar, endangered her life and relinquished her jewelry to send support of her husband who was in exile. However, other women killed themselves on the verge of the collapse of the republic, for example, Porcia. However, many women and working-class farmers, who were soldiers died in the war.
Changes Made After the Collapse of the Republic and Civil Wars and How they Made their Life Better
After Caesar was defeated, when Augustus came into power, political officeholders power and that of the traditional oligarchy was diminished. Women opportunities were increased, as well as those for freedmen and slaves, and thus, they could exercise influence behind the scenes (Saller, 2000). Women could now vote, and thus, they could choose less tyrannical leaders, and thus women had the upper hand in influencing politics (Richard, 1992). For instance, Livia Drusilla Augusta, Augustus wife acted as a regent and a faithful advisor. Women also participated in efforts that were meant to overthrow emperors who abused their power, and thus, it positively influenced the lives of both the working class farmers and women.
Women had more freedom to manage their businesses and financial affairs. Unless the woman had married to in manu, which refers to when her husband was in control, hence conferring the bride and all her property onto the groom and his family, a woman was allowed to own, inherit, as well as dispose of property. Also, those married since manu, which meant that they had control over their husbands, were obliged to be guardians of their spouses until they died (Richard, 1992). They were more powerful that by the time of Augustus, women who had three children, as well as freedwomen with four, were considered independent, a status that was termed as sui iuris (Richard, 1992). Besides, the degree of freedom women enjoyed was largely dependent on their wealth and social, status. However, female slaves had a variety of roles, from maids to workers, and even as gladiators. For working-class farmers, war declined, and thus, they could take time in participating in agriculture, which brought prosperity. Slavery declined, and working-class farmers captured in the wars were freed. For this reason, the fall of the republic and the end of the civil wars was advantageous as it made life better for women and working class farmers. They had more freedom and could participate in trade and agriculture without being used by the upper-class individuals.
Hopkins, K. (1978). Conquerors and Slaves. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. pp. 19.
Richard, B. (1992). Women and Politics in Ancient Rome. New York, NY: Routlege. pp. 8, 10.
Rosenstein, N. (2012). Agriculture, Roman Republic. The Encyclopedia of Ancient History. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9781444338386.wbeah20007/full
Rosenstein, N. (2004). Rome at war: farms, families, and death in the Middle Republic. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.
Saller, R. (2000). Status and patronage, In Cambridge Ancient History: The High Empire, A.D. 70192. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. p. 18.
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