Publication Date

8-2010

Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis - Boise State University Access Only

Degree Title

Master of Arts in History

Department

History

Major Advisor

Charles M. Odahl, Ph.D.

Abstract

Fiercely opposed to the conservative factio in the Senate, Lucius Appuleius Saturninus was a member of the liberal populares faction who spent his career initiating and passing legislation through the Comitia Tributa, which weakened the Optimates and their monopoly over issues of state. While the modern historical tradition tends to view the Seditio Saturninias nothing more than a brief moment of republican irresponsibility, the young demagogue’s radical political career was far more comprehensive both in terms of his constituency and his aims than the earlier reform movements of that era—particularly the Gracchan reform movements that have eclipsed Saturninus and his movement in scholarly discourse. However, through an extensive analysis of the ancient sources and modern scholarship and the use of a prosopographical typologizing process, it is clear that while Saturninus certainly benefitted from the precedents set by the radical reforms of the 120’s, it would be the composition of his coalition and his methodology that would serve as a model for the great reformers, and eventual destroyers, of the Roman res publica in the first century B.C.

Bringing together the various components that lent themselves to the weakening of the senatorial class, and thus the optimate faction in Rome, the political actions of Saturninus were uniquely broad-spectrum in that they covered nearly every key issue plaguing the res publica in the late second century. Saturninus’ sedition stands as a painfully ignored microcosm that provides a precise picture of the growing malaise in Rome’s republican society and deserves more attention than it has hitherto been given. Saturninus was a cunning politician, who in 100 B.C. successfully forced the venerable Senate of Rome to its knees.

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