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Act of Rullus

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Year 63 BCE is remembered mainly because of the consulate of the Cicero and the Conspiracy of Catiline. However, those were obviously not the only significant events of this year. One of his most interesting episodes was the law concerning the division of land in Rome, proposed by Servilius Rullus.

Rullus was at that time a people’s tribune. In 63 BCE he proposed a project that was supposed to solve the problem of the land’s lack of land for the poor Romans. According to this project, a commission of ten politicians was to be established for 5 years, whose task was to divide the land in the ager Campanus region among citizens. To obtain funds for this, members of the commission had the right to sell public land and to impose taxes on the people of the Republic. Cicero strongly opposed the project. In his speech he presented the project as the first step towards the takeover of power by Caesar and Crassus who had stand behind Rullus. He called the members of the commission “ten kings” of the treasury. He also argued that they would abuse their powers to sell land, and that Rullus would try to sell Alexandria. Ultimately, as a result of objections from optimists, the project collapsed.

To this day, there is no complete agreement as to what Rullus aimed at. Most historians are in favor of Cicero’s interpretation and believe that they were in fact actions to secure power to Crassus and Caesar and to strike Pompey’s (Pompey could not run for commission because at that time he was still commanding the forces fighting Mithridates). Less popular theories assume that the project was intended to show Cicero’s close relationship with optimisms, or that it was to provide an additional source of income for tax collectors.

Author: Kacper Walczak
Sources
  • Suetonius, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars
  • Robert Harris, Spisek

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