When even marriage contracts won’t help

Year 91. After years of prosperity and economical boom Rome and other Italian cities are rich and powerful. In fact the Italian cities have become so strong that they start to seek better deals with Rome, there’s even talk about granting a Roman citizenship to Italian people.

Rome has had its share of growth pains too: riches from trade and wars, influx of slaves and new citizens, need for agrarian reform and evermore fiercer political competition in the small elite of the citystate. Some 30 years earlier the brothers Gracchi had tried to solve problems already evident then by measures that benefitted mostly the poor part of the population. Their efforts were met with disapproval from the ruling nobility. The same fate waited for infamous tribune Saturninus and his allies.

The senatorial side had its champion too: M. Livius Drusus. His agenda was to change the balance of power firmly into senate side. His laws brought senators back into court juries and doubled the number of senators. He also started a land reform and lowered the price of grain thus gaining the support from poorer population added to senators and equesterians. Up to this point his plans were succeeded.

However, his next move was to become his downfall. He proposed to grant citizenship for the Italic allies of Rome. This was so unpopular that Drusus lost practically all his political support and his previous laws were declared null over technicalities. He was assassinated and this in turn brought about a rebellion against Rome amongst the Italian allied cities and started very bloody Social War that lasted 3 years.

These events are also interesting because of the political and family relationships of the two of the major figures: Drusus and one of his main opponents, Q. Servilius Caepio, who was praetor at the same year 91 as Drusus as tribune presented his laws. The two man were very closely linked by marriages.

Livius Servilius

Marriage arrangements between Drusus and Caepio.

Drusus´ sister Livia Drusa was married to Caepio. Also their daughter Servilia Caepionis was married to Drusus himself after her marriage with Q. Lutatius Catulus (cos 102) had ended when Caepio´s father Q. Servilius Caepio (cos 106) went into exile. It is also possible, perhaps even probable, that Servilia was in fact a daughter of elder Caepio, but in any case the Drusus and Caepio younger were closely tied with inter-family marriages.

Despite these close ties Drusus found a great political enemy in Caepio. I have already written more about these two friends and their fates, but I think it is noteworthy that sometimes even the most carefully managed marriage contracts and other arrangements were not enough to gurantee the stability of political alliances in the Roman politics. Individuals had still free will according which to act and make their decisions.

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