The Senate and Roman Politics

General Senatorial Politics

Domitius, Agricola, Ennius, Cassius Aurelius, Publius, Tully, Vespasian, Titus Flavius, Herod, Gallicus, Secundus

The Senate has a number of factions, generally one for each of the powerful families of the empire. The major factions include: the imperial faction of the Domitii, Julii, and Cassii, led by Cassius Aurelius, who include the closest allies of the emperor and are generally seen as his direct representative; the Tullii and their allies, led by Tully the Great, who support economic growth and include many plebeians in their camp; the Vespasiani and their allies, led by Vespasian, who also support economic growth but are socially conservative and champion the traditional rights of the patricians; and the so-called "religious faction", led by Ennius, the flamen Dialis, which advocates conservative religious values and works to prevent the spread of citizenship to non-Italians. Of course all of these factions are allies of the imperial family in one way or another -- that's how they got their power, and when the emperor makes his desires clear on a matter he can usually count on the vast majority of the over 600 senators to vote in his favor. On the fringes of the political spectrum there are any number of small factions, including one led by Gallicus which advocates both provincial rights and slowing down the expansion of the empire. Finally, there are a few outspoken republicans, who wish to roll back the reforms of the Empire and return to the "golden age" of the Republic. There's actually widespread sympathy for republicanism, but most senators are careful to keep such leanings hidden and allow a few firebrands to speak for the rest.

There is a constant shifting of alliances and disputes between the factions, depending on the matter at hand. A few outstanding ties and rivalries can be identified. Vespasian usually has the support of Gallicus and his provincial senators. In turn, the Vespasiani party generally allies with the imperial faction, and Vespasian and Cassius Aurelius are together seen as the secret puppeteers behind most Senate decisions, though neither of them has ever held the office of consul. Cassius Aurelius has always decline nomination, while Vespasian is regularly blocked by his primary rivals, the Tullii. The fact that Tully himself managed to get elected often vexes Vespasian. Their two factions are actually very similar in outlook, which actually may explain their rivalry, as there is fierce competition between them to appoint their own people to the most lucrative magistracies. Both the Vespasiani and the Tullii are generally at odds with the religious faction, which sees their "money-grubbing" and dependence on imperial trade as a threat to traditional Roman patrician values, which prohibit engaging in commerce (a legal prohibition which the modern patricians have been unable to remove from the record, but regularly bypass by acting through their clients).

One issue which has brought the Vespasiani and Tullii together is the current "annexation crisis". Early in his reign, Domitius transferred both Africa and Palestine to the senate, mainly because the imperial bureaucracy was overwhelmed trying to absorb Germania. But for fifteen years since, Domitius has been adding new provinces to the empire and all of them have been military provinces, their administration in the hands of his legates. What used to be an equal balance between senatorial provinces and imperial provinces is now weighted heavily in favor of the latter, and many senators wish to see this change by having some of the military provinces transferred into their hands, specifically places like Tarraconensis, Syria, and Belgica. (They'd love to get their hands on Egypt, but know that that's not even a remote possibility.) This matter came to a head a few months ago when Titus Flavius reported the final pacification of Britannia. Though the emperor has the authority to create a new province on his own, as a courtesy he has always asked the Senate to do so, and up until now they've been happy to comply. But this time they balked and, despite heavy backing by the imperial faction, the Vespasiani and Tullii managed to delay a vote on the matter indefinitely. Behind the scenes, they've made it clear that they won't formally annex Britannia until two or three other provinces are transferred to the Senate. Since Domitius already asked them to perform the official annexation (assuming it would be rubber-stamped), he would lose face and anger many powerful families, even those who support the annexation, were he to now withdraw the decision from the Senate's purview. Of course, some in the Vespasiani faction are saying privately that they would be willing to change their votes were Titus Flavius to marry the emperor's daughter, a switch which would allow the vote to go through and certainly be seen as a major betrayal by the Tullii faction.

Another recent issue which caused a stir occurred two years ago when Senator Gallicus attempted to get Roman citizenship extended to the people of Narbo and Arles, the two major cities of Narbonensis. In actual fact, most of the residents of those cities already were citizens, colonists from Italy, but Gallicus wanted to make it complete, making citizens of the last few Celts in the region who hadn't managed to marry into Roman families. Gallicus argued that the Celts of those cities were highly Romanized, spoke Latin, and worshiped the Roman gods, but this wasn't enough to persuade the religious faction, which fought the proposal tooth and nail. Despite the support of his Vespasian allies, and even strong backing from the Tullii (who generally favor having more citizens, since citizens pay lower taxes and thus have more money to spend), the matter never even made it to a vote and was killed by back room politicking.

Cassius Aurelius, Ennius, Vespasian, Tully

Unknown to most senators, who don't have access to the small meetings where many senatorial decisions really get made, the key faction which blocked Gallicus's attempt to gain citizenship for a few Gauls was the Vespasiani. Vespasian's support of the issue was always lackluster, and he was facing serious opposition from his clients, who disliked this weakening of Roman blood. When it became clear that the imperial faction was also mildly opposed (they generally dislike anything that reduces tax revenues), he withdrew his support. With the Tullii as the only major faction supporting the issue, it died before it ever got anywhere.

Tully, Vespasian

You personally have no stake in the "province crisis", but many of your clients do, as it will open up a lot of new offices for them to fill. You thus have to pay lip service to the cause, but are willing to use it as a bargaining chip if you can get something better in return for dropping your opposition to Britannia.

Ennius, Vespasian

You are secretly a republican, and will do what you can to support the return of republican institutions and the weakening of the imperium.

Vespasian, Titus Flavius, Gallicus

In private discussions about politics among the Vespasiani and their allies, it is clear that Vespasian harbors some sentiment for republican values and would not be averse to a revival of the republic. Gallicus has remained quiet on the issue, while Titus Flavius, as a junior member of his family, has never really had a chance to voice his opinions.

Vespasian, Cassius Aurelius

Three years ago, during the election for the consuls, Vespasian appealed to Cassius Aurelius to run for the office himself. With this prestige, he could easily take the election from Tully, who was beginning to look like a shoe-in. Cassius Aurelius refused, despite desperate appeals from Vespasian. Tully was elected, and the incident has strained the relationship between both of you since.

Religious Politics

Ennius, Agricola, Vespasian, Titus Flavius, Cassius Aurelius

It is an ill-kept secret in the Senate that the religious faction wants the office of pontifex maximus separated from the imperium, making it once more elected by the College of Pontifices. This would presumably allow the College to freely exercise its powerful control of legal interpretation, a power which is hampered by the veto on such matters held by the pontifex maximus. Ennius, the flamen Dialis and a member of the college, would of course be the primary candidate for holding the office should this happen, though no one is sure if he himself supports it. Most people are careful not to bring up this subject with the emperor himself, and no one knows if he's even aware of the controversy.

Ennius

You definitely do want to be pontifex maximus, and have carefully orchestrated the growth of this political movement. It is possible that you could gain the support of either Vespasian or Tully by withdrawing your senatorial faction's traditional opposition to them on some important matter.

Domitius, Ennius, Vespasian, Cassius Aurelius, Tully, Secundus, Domitria, Aurelia, Severas

Emperor Domitius has been a major financial supporter of the Roman cults, especially the temple of Jove and the cult of Mars. This has allowed the two cults to reach new levels of prosperity and wealth. Using their wealth, the flamines of the two cults have both become major players in the Roman economy. Contracts to build their new temples or provide supplies for their festivals have become lucrative deals, attracting many to become clients of the cults and the families which control them. This has led to some resentment among those families which have to operate without such lavish imperial patronage and have thus lost prestige and influence. Since the imperial cults, especially the cult of Mars, support his military expansionism, Domitius doesn't really care.

Ennius, Atilius, Tully

Though they don't have any senatorial representation, the minor Atilii family are clients of the religious faction in the Senate. Ennius and his supporters helped get Atilius Regulus his appointment as procurator of Pontus, and Ennius can expect Atilius to support him in any reasonable manner.

Miscellaneous Votes and Scandals

Secundus, Vespasian, Tully

Three years ago, Secundus tried to get his cousin Marcellus the job of tribune vigilis (the captain of the police and fire brigades). He spread lots of money in the proper places, including a donation to Senator Vespasianus which gained him the support of some key Vespasian family members in the city's bureaucracy. Unfortunately, they were overridden by the new praetor urbanus, Cassius Aurelius, and the post went to an old codger from Neapolis who had better connections.

Vespasian, Tully, Cassius Aurelius

Three years ago, at the request of Senator Vespasianus, Cassius Aurelius appointed Calvus Virbius as the city's tribune vigilis (captain of the police and fire brigades). Calvus Virbius was a recently retired centurion from Neapolis who was highly qualified for the position. His family was also, through a long chain of patrons and clients, a client of the Vespasiani.

Titus Flavius, Cassius Aurelius, Vespasianus, Severas, Atilius

During his tenure as an aedile, Titus Flavius oversaw a number of investigations into corruption in the city's water suppliers, receiving much praise for his efforts. He was helped in this effort by Cassius Aurelius, who was busy overseeing the transfer of power to his cousin Domitius. What few know, is that Titus Flavius used this situation to attack and ruin the rivals of his own family, which was heavily involved in the water business, while Cassius Aurelius looked the other way. This kind of behavior is hardly shocking, and is almost expected, but if it were brought to light might create a minor scandal.

Tully, Cassius Aurelius, Vespasian, Ennius, Domitius

Three years ago, while Tully was consul, he used his office to halt an investigation of Pollio, the Proconsul of Cyprus, who was accused of trafficking with the Parthians. A few months later reliable reports revealed that Pollio had been diverting supplies meant for the XXXIXth Legion in Palmyra and selling them to the Parthians. Tully immediately switched his stance, and personally led the trial which found Pollio guilty and sentenced him to death.

Domitius, Tully

Tully protected Pollio at the request of Domitius; the two had been friends in their younger years in the legions. By the time the truth was revealed, Domitius was busy suppressing rebellions in Greece and never mentioned the incident later.