February 23rd 303: Great Persecution begins

On this day in 303, the Roman Emperor Diocletian began the systematic persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. It was this day that Diocletian ordered the total destruction of the new Christian church in Nicomedia, demanding the building and its scriptures to be burned and its treasures seized. The following day Diocletian issued an ‘Edict Against the Christians’; the persecution of Christians had begun. Christians had been targeted throughout the history of the empire, but violence was at its fiercest between 303 and 313. The campaign did not end with Diocletian’s retirement in 305, as his successors continued what he had begun (though to varying degrees of intensity). The persecution saw the execution of Christians, the rescinding of their legal rights and the requirement that they embrace traditional Roman polytheistic religion. The persecution is generally considered to have ended with the 313 Edict of Milan issued by the converted Christian Emperor Constantine.


.Ancient Roman Lawn Darts,

The plumbata was basically a large dart used in combat in the ancient world.  A simple weapon, it consisted of a wooden shaft with fletchings to stabilize them in flight, with an iron head and lead weight to ensure they always landed head first.

While they were originally used by the Greeks as early as 500 BC, it was the Romans who would put them to the most use.  By the later 4th century AD, many Roman legions had traded in their throwing javelins (pilum) for plumatae for several reasons. They were lighter, easier to carry, and could be carried in greater numbers.  Often they would be clipped to the inside of a Roman soldier’s shield for easy access. They were also much more cheaper than javelin’s, certainly an important factor for a cash strapped empire that was slowly deteriorating.  After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the plumata continued in use with armies of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire.

Today’s fun fact:

The term “Byzantine Empire” was coined in the 18th century so that historians could draw a clearer distinction between Antiquity and the Middle Ages. The Byzantines themselves kept calling their state the Eastern Roman Empire right up to 1453, and the people of mainland Greece were still calling themselves Romans during the First Balkan War in the 20th century.

clodiuspulcher  asked:

I have a confession: I followed your blog because I liked the URL ciceroprofacto. I soon realized your blog was about Alexander Hamilton and Not Cicero but your content is so good I couldn't unfollow... ANYWAY, I know Hamilton associated himself with Cicero- he called Burr the American Catiline at some point, right?- but there's some other parallels between them and I was wondering if you have any other stories/anecdotes/info about Hamilton's feelings on Cicero. Thanks, and I love your blog!

I also have a confession: I made up this username after questions about Cicero helped me qualify for the state certamen bowl as a team of myself.  the username is a lie about the content here but I really am tight with Cicero as far as interests go.

But yes!  Hamilton and Marcus Tullius Cicero: the comparison is striking.

Both were born in January, and despite having well-to-do fathers with good family names, were held back by their circumstances as youths.  Cicero was born in Arpinum, a little over sixty miles south of Rome, Hamilton in Charleston, Nevis, separated from major hubs of the British empire.  Both had one brother (though Cicero was the elder brother and Hamilton the younger), and both of their mothers were described as intelligent and thrifty.  Both men were described as sickly boys, Cicero was semi-invalid and Hamilton frequently ill.  In order to enter ‘cultured’ society, both men had to self-fashion themselves through studies of Latin and Greek, history, poetry, and philosophy.

For both Cicero and Hamilton, it was their talent as students and their ability to use rhetoric effectively that caught the attention of sponsors who facilitated their education.  While they studied, both men met two friends they would keep lifelong correspondence with, Hamilton with Robert Troup and Hercules Mulligan and Cicero with Servius Sulpicius Rufus and Titus Pomponius.

Both men used military service (and public offices cursus honorum) to distinguish themselves and earn the connections and experience that would help them get careers in civil service.  During their military service, both distinguished themselves as intellectuals, both credited as one of the most versatile minds of their generation.

After their stints in the military, both men immediately began careers as lawyers and statesmen in the public eye.  Both were infamously effective orators.  Cicero’s use of Latin rhetoric was so distinguished he changed the way people used the language.  I don’t remember the exact quote, but it was said that prose in Latin and the romance languages up through the 19th century was either a return to his style and syntax or a reaction against it.

Both men were also inflammatory speakers.  Cicero’s first major (and most famous) trial as a lawyer was in defense of a man named Sextus Roscius, and in the defense he presented, he challenged the dictator Sulla (whose army he had served in) by accusing some of Sulla’s political allies of having actually committed the crime.  After that case, Cicero left Rome and spent some time in Greece studying philosophy and oratory (and I would liken this to Hamilton’s break with Washington, retirement from the military and study of law).  Some historians speculate he had fled Rome because of the political threat, but that’s not proven. 

Ironically, both men married up in their mid-twenties.  Hamilton to Elizbeth Schuyler and Cicero to Terentia, of a plebeian noble house of Terenti Varrones.  Both Eliza and Terentia were actively interested in their husbands political careers and sometimes helped them in their work.  In both cases, there are traditional rumors that the men married for convenience and political ambitions, but both marriages lasted around 30 years through marital turbulence.  The Reynolds affair in 1791 mirrors a stint in the 50s BCE where Cicero claimed Terentia had betrayed him and they briefly divorced and remarried (though I’m not sure about the reasons behind it).

Cicero returned to Rome shortly after completing that ‘higher education’ in Greece.  And, like Hamilton, he entered politics and quickly rose through the ranks.  Both men entered civil service posts that centered on the financial stability of their countries.  Hamilton’s post as Secretary Treasury somewhat mirrors Cicero’s work as a Quaestor in Sicily though Hamilton’s work focused more on establishing the system of finance and Cicero’s focused more on rejuvenating and legitimizing a broken system.  In Rome, 20 ‘Quaestors’ were elected each year to maintain the finances of a province with the Consul or Proconsul of that area.  It was a big deal among the men on the cursus honorum to move along the ranks quickly, at the youngest age possible, and many tried to do so by bribing the electors and speculating from taxes.  Cicero effectively did so by publicly ousting the other statesmen who did so with sharp oratory and accusations, thereby earning the trust and admiration of the voting male citizens, then canvassing and campaigning for his position.

Like Hamilton, Cicero was constantly shadowed by his lack of reputable ancestry, wealth, and birth.  He was neither a noble nor a patrician and, having moved through the ranks by canvassing rather than consular ancestry, he was labeled a novus homo or “new man”.  The last novus homo who had been elected consulate was a distant relative, Gaius Marius, who was politically radical and unpopular after Sulla’s ascension in the Roman civil war.  Sulla’s reforms had strengthened the upper-class equestrian class, the optimates, and Cicero was an eques. More importantly, he was a constitutionalist, unable to side politically with the populares faction.  Despite this, in each election, Cicero was voted first of all the candidates he stood against, most popular among all Romans except those of the poorest classes.  Like Hamilton, Cicero held the strong centralized republican ideals of a gentry class that would never truly accept him despite his intellectual talents and personal charisma.

Hamilton did liken his feud with Burr to Cicero’s campaign against Catiline, though I would say Cicero’s conflict became much more serious while Hamilton’s was cut short by their duel and Burr’s public defamation.  
In 63 BCE, Cicero was elected Consul over Catiline, creating personal animosity between the two.  In previous years, Catiline had sullied his own name with a series of crimes that took him to trial, between murder, speculation, and proscription. In a last-ditch effort to attain the consulship, he promoted universal cancellation of debts to draw the support of the lower classes and began talking his way into the support of men in the senatorial and equestrian rank who, after a political purge, had also become inviable candidates to public office for their own crimes (and men with good reason to dislike Cicero).  
After Cicero took office, he spent his time preventing Catiline’s conspiracy to overthrow him and the Roman Republic as a whole.  He delivered four famous speeches, the Catiline Orations, that listed Catiline and his supporters’ crimes, and denounced his supporters as debtors.  Catiline fled to Etruria after the first speech but Cicero delivered three more to prepare the Senate for a counterattack.
Catiline planned to return with an army of veterans from Sulla’s military, peasant farmers and debtors.  The supporters he’d left behind in the Senate worked to gain the support of the Allobgroges, a tribe of Gauls, but the Gauls delivered their letters to Cicero and the senate and Cicero was able to force the conspirators to confess their crimes.  He had them taken to the Tullianum, the most notorious Roman prison, and strangled without formal trial.

We all know how Hamilton’s feud ended, and it’s hard to say what would’ve happened in his public life had he lived longer.  Given how similarly Hamilton’s life seemed to match-step with Cicero’s, I imagine he would’ve managed to stir political conflict and eventually actuate his own death or ejection from the political field.

After his orations against Catiline, Cicero went on in his political career.  He refused an offer of partnership with Julius Caesar, Pompey and Crassus, fearing it would undermine the Republic.  After this Triumvirate rose to power, he was exiled by a law against anyone who executed Roman citizens without trial.
He returned to Rome and resumed his involvement in politics about a year later, avoided supporting Caesar by leaving Rome with Pompey’s staff when Caesar invaded Italy in 49 BCE and tried to get his endorsement.
He caught beef with Pompey as well and Cato, arguing with his commanders for their incompetence, returned to Rome and received a pardon from Caesar (fully planning to politically undermine his dictatorship with constitutional law whenever possible).
He wasn’t involved in Caesar’s assignation but was supportive of it and became a popular leader afterwards.  As Mark Antony carried out Caesar’s public will after his death, Cicero countered him politically and attacked him in public speeches, “the Phillipics”, calling the Senate against him.  Cicero was wildly powerful with the public will and his supporters volunteered to take arms against Antony and his supporters.  But, matters escalated, Antony continued military conquest and defied the senate, after he refused to lift the siege of Mutina, he was declared an enemy of the state.  Cicero began a campaign to try and drive Antony out, even contacted Cassius, one of Caesars assassins, and alluded that Antony was a greater threat.  But, it didn’t work and soon after Antony and Octavian allied with Lepidus, formed the second triumvirate, and began hunting their political rivals.
Cicero, so publicly loved, was able to hide for some time, but he was caught in December 43 BCE in Formiae, trying to leave in a litter.  He leaned his head out in surrender, decapitated in a gladiatorial gesture that bares the neck and makes the task easier.  In the Roman tradition of oratory, hand motions are emphasized and characteristic.  So, Cicero’s hands and (I’ve heard rumors of his tongue) were cut off and nailed on display on the Rostra in the Forum along with his head, the only victim of the Triumvirate to be displayed like that.

I don’t personally know of any anecdotes of Hamilton comparing himself to Cicero, but I do know he would’ve read and translated Cicero’s speeches and philosophies, and I can definitely see why he would feel a kinship with his life story.  Here’s an article that discusses the allusion to Catiline.

tldr; Marcus Tullius Cicero and Alexander Hamilton were self-made men, “homines novi”, born in obscurity and rising quickly through the ranks of civil service positions through the merit of hard work, military service, and emergence into law.  Despite this, and even as effective supporters of centralized constitutional power, they were both shadowed by their inability to completely fit in with the upper-class aristocrats.  Both were gifted orators, political philosophers, and financial planners.  Characteristically self-righteous, they both refused to back down from their core political beliefs, even when that placed their own lives at risk, leading to both their unparalleled political rise as well as their ultimate downfall.

here’s a reason why i love studying roman history:
once Caesar and Cato the younger were in the senate, discussing Catiline’s conspiracy. suddenly a written message for Caesar arrives, and Cato in all seriousness is like “ah yes! you must be in touch with the consiprators, enemies of the republic! read it aloud to the senate, Caesar, so you can dishonor yourself!”
Caesar without a word shows him the thing. Turns out it was a message from the sister of Cato himself and it read something like ‘Servilia wants to bang Caesar so badly’.

And Cato just. well. he throws the wax tablet back at Caesar’s face.