Talk:Optimates

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Clarification[edit]

I'm going to clarify a few points in the article.

Firstly, it seems to conflate Novi Homines with plebeians. Not only are these not the same thing, but the optimates had no problem whatsoever with plebeians occupying positions of power—in fact, most optimates were plebeians. By the time of the Optimate/Popularis struggle, each of the great families of the Roman nobility was as likely to be plebeian as patrician. The optimate objection was strictly to novi homines.

Secondly, the list of notable optimates needs considerable revision. Cato the Elder came far too early for his inclusion here to make any sense, as the struggle between the faction seeking to supplant the Senate with the People and the faction seeking to preserve senatorial power didn't begin until the Gracchi, a couple of generations after his death. (Even then, I'm unaware of the terms "optimate" or "popularis" being applied to Roman politics prior to the post-Sullan period, but, since I could be wrong and since the politics involved are roughly the same, I won't object to it being applied to the period from Sulla to the Gracchi.)

I'm also removing Saturninus, since not only was not an optimate, he was in fact the exact opposite (a popularis). And while I think the grammatically incorrect paranthetical phrase about "except for during his Triumvirate" is meant to apply to Pompey, not Saturninus (who was never a triumvir), it's still wrong—Pompey never aligned himself with the Optimates until the very end of his career. For the entire duration of his career prior to the First Triumvirate (during which he was, of course, a popularis), he pretty much held himself aloof from the two Roman factions, but when he did get involved in Senatorial politics, as when he was elected consul at the age of 35, he was actually the very sort of man to which the optimates were most opposed. Binabik80 18:30, 13 May 2006 (UTC)

Also, upon further review, it looks like the description of Optimate politics suffers from the same sort of anachronistic conflation that led to the inclusion of Cato the Elder. By the time "Optimate" becomes a relevant term for Roman politics, the Roman nobility were such Hellenists that they considered anyone who wasn't fully fluent in Greek as just as illiterate as anyone who wasn't fully fluent in Latin; and they actually opposed the granting of land to veterans— it was their refusal to grant land to Pompey's soldiers that led to the formation of the First Triumvirate. Binabik80 19:18, 13 May 2006 (UTC)

Some important corrections there.

Also, and please correct me if I'm wrong (my talents lie not with the history of the ancient Mediterranean but with the languages), but the optimates were NOT in any way opposed to the preservation of the mos maiorum - quite the opposite in fact. In many ways the optimates were the conservatives or 'old-school' strata of the late Roman Republic: in fact to say that they were against the mos maiorum makes most, if not all of their policies seem entirely self-contradictory.

I find that rather a lot of these articles, especially those on the details of the late Roman Republic are severely lacking in context, detail and most importantly, accuracy.

Davers 18:59, 16 May 2006 (UTC)

I can't speak to most of this. But I strongly suspect that when the article says the optimates "opposed preserving the mos maiorum", that's just clumsy phrasing. The text is:
In addition to their political aims, the optimates opposed the extension of Roman citizenship and the preservation of the mos maiorum, the ways of their forefathers.
I strongly suspect that the author meant, "Their causes included: Opposing the extension of citizenship, and preserving the mos maiorum". Yes, the text says the opposite, but I think that was just sloppy writing. I'm going to take it on myself to fix this--hope that's okay. Narsil 00:22, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

'aristocratic'?[edit]

The article describes the Optimates as "the aristocratic faction of the later Roman Republic." I think this is deeply misleading. The Optimates included a number of people of relatively low origins, like Cato and (especially) Cicero--and their greatest enemy was Caesar, who was as aristocratic as a Roman can be (hard to top being descended from Venus!).

I'd suggest changing this to "the traditionalist faction of the later Roman Republic". Any objections? Narsil 19:00, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

And, hearing no objections... Narsil 23:00, 12 October 2006 (UTC)

"populares" vs "optimates"?[edit]

Does this page need a link with populares? They were meant to be opposing parties. Also, I'm not sure where this would go, but there has been a lot of recent scholarship discussion about the terms "optimates" and "populares" - it is now a fair consensus that they were not parties as we see the term, but more degrees of a way of working. Many of the optimates used fairly popularist (not sure that's the right word but...) tactics at some point in their careers, or at least could use populares politicians for their own ends. It sometimes sounds as if they were opposed parties - it was more a way of doing things. However, this might be a bit in-depth as it would involved a lot of names and scholarship debates...Tbarker 10:56, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

I agree that the entries on populares and optimates should be edited to reflect a more contemporary understanding of Roman politics. The idea that the two groups were anything like 'political parties' as we know them, or that they were driven to any significant degree by ideology, has long been abandoned. I'm willing to take this task on, but it does seem to require a merge between the two entries. The argument that the two entries shouldn't merge because people don't want to read anything very long strikes me as absurd. Nobody is proposing to make a 20 page entry, and if people can't read a little bit more, then they shouldn't bother to read at all. -- djr [14 Nov. 2007] —Preceding unsigned comment added by 206.127.2.114 (talk) 18:30, 14 November 2007 (UTC)