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The Lex Manilia (Law of Manilius) was a Roman law established in 66 BC. The proposal of the law was supported by Cicero in his De Imperio Cn. Pompei speech, as an attempt to gain the notice of the influential Pompey.
Instituted by the Tribune Gaius Manilius one year after the passage of the Lex Gabinia, it gave Pompey supreme command in the war against Mithridates, in place of Lucius Licinius Lucullus. The command against Mithridates was taken from Lucullus.
The law was granted at a key point in Pompey's career, after his enormous success against the pirates in the Mediterranean. The transfer of command from Lucullus to Pompey angered the aristocracy, who, as with the Lex Gabinia, felt threatened by Pompey's increasing power. Many members of the aristocracy were also angered over the humiliation of Lucullus, and viewed Pompey with envy and suspicion.
Significance of the Lex Manilia
Like the Lex Gabinia, the Lex Manilia awarded more military power to Pompey. Because these laws gave supreme military power to one man, they did not meet with the approval of the traditional aristocracy. However, despite Pompey’s growing unpopularity with the wealthy aristocracy, his popularity with the common people was at its peak. This enabled the passing of the two laws by the Popular Assembly, an unorthodox, but not a completely unfamiliar way of bypassing the senate to enact legislation ( These laws reflect the constant political struggle between the optimates and the populares. But, more importantly, they show that the Senate was not always in control of the passage of legislation.
Despite the unhappiness of Lucullus and other members of the Aristocracy, Pompey emerged victorious in the war after the suicide of Mithridates in 63 BC.
Suggested further reading
- David Shotter: The Fall of the Roman Republic, 2nd ed.
- Plutarch: Fall of the Roman Republic
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