Fides in Julius Caesar's Bellum Civile: A Study in Roman Political Ideology at the Close of the Republican Era
Barry, John Mannix
Eckstein, Arthur M
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In this dissertation, we show not only that Julius Caesar depicted his struggle with Pompey and the government of the Roman Republic as politically legitimate, but that he grounded this legitimacy primarily in notions of fides. Fides is a fundamental Roman notion. A man of fides always does the right thing of his own volition, not under pressure. Such a man might change his mind about what is right, but he would never pursue his private aims at the expense of the public interest. It is crucial at Rome to be seen this way. Caesar wishes to persuade his audience that he has been justified in taking unusual action--action that is outside the law and has not been authorized by the senate or the people--in defense of his claims. Caesar bases his political case on publica fides, that is, on the ideologically deep-rooted Roman notion that concern for the public welfare must be an official's paramount concern at all times. It should always take precedence over private and personal interests. My hypothesis in this dissertation is that not just in Caesar's BC but in the writings of Cicero, publica fides as a notion subsumes not merely the usual, but also some of the unusual actions that may be undertaken by public figures. We can infer from this that unusual, unauthorized, or unprecedented actions may sometimes be seen as legitimate at Rome if the people engaged in the activity are believed to be guided and motivated by publica fides. We show that Caesar defines the major political themes of the BC in 1.1-33. They can be summed up as follows: (1) Caesar's good fides vs. Pompey's bad fides; (2) the good fides of Caesar's friends vs. the bad fides of their Pompeian counterparts during the political crisis of December 50 and January 49 B.C.; (3) the good fides of Caesar's friends and commanders vs. the bad fides of their Pompeian counterparts once violence was involved; (4) the impact of both good and bad fides on the respective armies and on the civilian community in each theater of battle.