“What is Popular Politics? A Postcolonial Reappraisal of Republican Power Dynamics”
Schiller on the sublime
An excerpt from Chakrabarty 2006; translation from Elias 1966:
“If, however, he willingly abandons the attempt to assimilate this lawless chaos of appearances to a cognitive unity, he will abundantly regain in another direction … [For] pure reason … finds in just this wild incoherence of nature the depiction of her independence of natural conditions.”
Chakrabarty on the problems of writing history
“To endow [history] with meaning is a human act, executed in this case, by a historian. When the historian writes as though the ordered reality of historical narratives was something that existed ‘naturally’ in the world – independent of the historian’s act of ordering reality – then she or he abnegates the responsibility for acknowledging that it is we humans who put ‘meaning’ where none existed.”
Writing a sublime history of the “mass political”
According to Chakrabarty, writing “sublime” history requires that we avoid:
1) attributing to groups any ideologies of “the academic or political elite”
2) assuming that there is a particular endgame to the action taken
3) asserting chronological frame for a group that dissipates almost as soon as it comes together
4) framing the action as “pre-political” rather than political in and of itself.
Acclamations in the Middle Republic
The refusal of C. Claudius’ command (177 BCE)
Ancient Sources: Livy 41.10
TL;DR: soldiers refuse to obey the commands of C. Claudius, jeer at him, and drive him to return to Aquileia
nam cum contione advocata fugam e castris A. Manlio adversis auribus militum, quippe qui primi ipsi fugissent, obiectasset et ingessisset probra M. Iunio, quod se dedecoris socium collegae fecisset, ad extremum utrumque decedere provincia iussit.
Indeed, after he (Claudius) had criticized Manlius’s running away from the camp in a contio that he called together, an indictment that was very offensive to the ears of the soldiers, as they themselves had begun the flight, and after he had inveighed against Marcus Junius because he had abetted his colleague’s disgrace, finally, he ordered both of them to leave the province.
et circumfusus exercitus, favens imperatorum causae et consuli infestus, animos ad non parendum addebat. postremo fatigatus consul et contumeliis singulorum et multitudinis—nam insuper inridebant—ludibriis, nave eadem, qua venerat, Aquileiam redit.
And the surrounding army, supportive of the cause of their commanders and inimical to the consul, also refused to obey. Finally, the consul, tired out by the taunting and mockery of individuals and the multitude – for they were ridiculing him excessively, returned to Aquileia in the same boat in which he had come.
The attempted blocking of Paullus’ triumph (167 BCE)
TL;DR: soldiers take over the comitia and are prepared to prevent Paullus from triumphing, but the vote is called off and Paullus is voted a triumph the next day
antiqua disciplina milites habuerat; de praeda parcius, quam speraverant ex tantis regiis opibus…Totus Macedonicus exercitus imperatori iratus neglegenter erat adfuturus comitiis ferendae legis. sed eos Ser. Sulpicius Galba, qui tribunus militum secundae legionis in Macedonia fuerat, privatim imperatori inimicus, prensando ipse et per suae legionis milites sollicitando stimulaverat, ut frequentes ad suffragium adessent. imperiosum ducem et malignum antiquando rogationem, quae de triumpho eius ferretur, ulciscerentur.
He had maintained the soldiers with ancient discipline and he was more sparing in booty than they had hoped on account of the great riches of the kingdom…. The whole Macedonian army, angry at their general, were not going to be present at the vote for the triumph. But Servius Sulpicius Galba, who had been the military tribune of the second legion in Macedonia, hateful to the general on a personal level, stirred the soldiers up by pressuring them personally and through the soldiers of his legion to turn up in numbers at the vote. By voting down the proposal, which was put forth regarding his triumph, they could take revenge on their powerful and spiteful general.
si frequentes postero die ad legem antiquandam adessent, intellecturos potentis viros non omnia in ducis, aliquid et in militum manu esse. his vocibus incitati postero die milites tanta frequentia Capitolium compleverunt, ut aditus nulli praeterea ad suffragium ferendum esset.
If they were present in large numbers on the next day to vote down the law, powerful men would understand that not everything was in the hands of the commander, but that there was something too in the hands of the soldiers. Inspired by these words, so great crowd of soldiers filled the Capitolium that no one else had space to vote.
Plut. Aem. 32.1 (trans. Perrin)
This speech, they tell us, so rebuffed the soldiery and changed their minds that the triumph was voted to Aemilius by all the tribes.
Very Select Bibliography
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Beard, M. 2009. The Roman Triumph. Cambridge: Belknap.
Chakrabarty, D. 2006. “Subaltern History as Political Thought” in Political Ideas in Modern India, eds. V. R. Mehta and T. Pantham, 93-109. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Combès, R. 1966. Imperator, recherches sur l’emploi et la signification du titre d’imperator dans la Rome républicaine. Paris: Presses universitaires de France.
Day, S. 2017. “The People’s Role in Allocating Provincial Commands in the Middle Roman Republic.” Journal of Roman Studies 107: 1-26.
Lange, C. H. 2014. “The Triumph outside the City: Voices of Protest in the Middle Republic” in The Roman Republican Triumph: Beyond the Spectacle, eds. C. H. Lange and F. J. Vervaet, 67-81. Rome: Edizioni Quasar.
Pittenger, M. R. P. 2008. Contested Triumph: Politics, Pageantry, and Performance in Livy’s Republican Rome. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Rosillo-López, C. 2017. Public Opinion and Politics in Late Republican Rome. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Roueché, C. 1984. “Acclamations in the Later Roman Empire: New Evidence from Aphrodisias.” Journal of Roman Studies 74: 181–199.
Taylor, L. R. 1962. “Forerunners of the Gracchi.” Journal of Roman Studies 52: 19–27.