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Public Opinion, Foreign Policy And Just War In The Late Republic

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Chapter Summary

The political potential of the peoples power of legislation in the sphere of foreign policy is demonstrated by a little noted case reported by Sallust. The radical tribune Memmius, made a fiery speech before the people, attacking the Senate for mishandling the war with Jugurtha. The Senates alleged exclusive control of foreign policy was impossible to preserve once public opinion was sufficiently aroused. War and empire were central to the life of the Roman state. They influenced every aspect of Roman society and politics, and were in turn influenced by them. In the late Republic, the peoples interference in what we would call foreign affairs can in no way be described as exceptional. It is noteworthy that when Cicero, wearing his optimate hat, comes close to formulating a general doctrine that imperial affairs are the exclusive province of the Senate.

Keywords: Cicero; foreign policy; late Republic; public opinion; radical tribune Memmius; Roman war; Senate



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