in Ancient Civilizations
During the period of the Roman Republic
and the Roman Empire, different leaders exhibited different styles of leadership
and employed different political strategies. In addition, these leaders
came to power and maintained their control in their own unique ways.
Each leader seemed to have his own agenda, which set the tone for that
era. Five prominent leaders of this time period were Agricola, Augustus,
Julius Caesar, and the brothers Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus. The
point to be made with respect to these particular men is related to the
obvious correlation between the nature of a leaders agenda and the impact
of his reign. In the end, a rulers fate was dependent not on his
agenda, but on style and strategy with which he pushed his agenda.
Those leaders whose methods were completely altruistic were heralded as
great leaders, while those with devious and/or unethical methods of pushing
their agendas were hastily assassinated.
First consider Tiberius Gracchus.
It is imperative to analyze his style of leadership and his political strategies.
During his term as tribune, Tiberius major goal was to pass a land reform
bill. This bill was biased toward the masses. Tiberius tried
fairly and squarely to gain the support of the Roman senate, but this effort
was to no avail. Tiberius then resorted to unfavorable tactics when
he impeached another tribune, Octavius, the major opponent of Tiberius
bill. Thus Tiberius willingly destroyed the long-held and quite favored
notion of an immune tribune.
However, this is what the common people
wanted. Tiberius big mistake was blatantly opposing, thus disrespecting
the Roman senate. As a result, the senate assassinated Tiberius.
The lesson to be learned here is not that Tiberius agenda was constructed
out of self-interest or greed. Tiberius simply wanted to help the
common people. However, Tiberius methods were not proper for that
time in that place. And it is probable that Tiberius could easily
have been persuaded to compromise. Thus, Tiberius downfall was not
his agenda, but his style and political strategy.
A different example of the same principle
is summed up with the story of Tiberius younger brother, Gaius Gracchus.
Gaius worked not to appease the senate, but to appease the people.
Although this seems quite noble of him, it was still a mistake to oppose
the senate. Granted, this notion is counter-intuitive. One
would expect that the senate is supposed to help the people, and since
Gaius was helping the people, the senate should favor him. One would
also expect that because it was the common people and not the senate that
elected him, that he should have unwavering loyalty to the people.
However, one must not look at the situation
with a 1990s, American, free will and liberty, democratic eyes.
Rome was not a democracy. The senate commanded respect, and to disregard
the senate, whether the people were in favor of you or not, was not a wise
thing to do. Thus, Gaius was also assassinated, like his brother,
by the senate. It does not seem fair that Gaius was killed, but such
is life, and had Gaius employed a more “senate-friendly” strategy of passing
his laws, it is probable that his fate would not have been what it was.
One final example of this is Julius Caesar.
Caesar was a warlord and a dictator, but if one can look past that, as
ridiculous as it sounds, then one would also notice that Caesar did a lot
of good for Rome. As dictator, Caesar saw to a series of rapid reforms
in many areas of Roman life. He scaled down his large army by settling
many of his soldiers in newly founded colonies and extended Roman civilization
into some of the provinces. His most lasting reform was one by which
we still regulate our lives the establishment of a calendar based on
the old Egyptian reckoning of 365 days, with one day added every fourth
year. This “Julian” calendar lasted until 1582.
Then, there were those leaders whose style
of leadership and political strategy fit perfectly into the framework of
society, such that they were considered to be great leaders. These
leaders were Agricola and Augustus. Agricola was an army commander
for most of his relatively long life. He was regarded to be one of
the best men anywhere, and he was revered by all. Yet, being an army
commander does require some killing and punishing. Lets be real.
How is it that Agricola was, by the nature of his profession, a killer,
yet was so respected, while Tiberius and Gaius strove to help people, and
The answer goes back to style. Agricolas
style and political strategy was simple: do the job. If Agricola
had a goal, then he simply did the best he could to attain that goal.
He was incorruptible and straightforward. He was not devious, nor
was he unethical. People loved to see these qualities in a leader,
and as a result, they loved Agricola. There was no difficulty about
recognizing him as a good man, and one could willingly believe him to be
a great man. He had fully attained those true blessings which depend
upon a mans own character. He had held the consulship and bore the
decorations of triumph: what more could fortune have added? He had
no desire for vast wealth, and he had a handsome future.
It is likely that even if he made a decision
that was initially looked down upon by the people, the people still knew
that Agricola was altruistically making the decisions that he felt were
best. He would not have made a decision under the influence of somebody
else for political reasons. The citizenry could trust Agricola, which
is something that can be said about only a handful of leaders. Clearly,
the reason he was held in such high regard wasnt that he conquered a great
deal of territory, or that he was a superior general, although those things
help. It was Agricolas way of leading that people admired and respected.
One last example of a similar type of
leader was Augustus Caesar. Augustus defined the epitome of good
Tiberius, Gaius, and Caesar all could
have learned some very valuable, life saving lessons from Augustus.
The most important lesson to be learned, perhaps, is moderation.
Augustus was very much like Agricola in that he considered a very good
leader. However, Augustus was emperor, and he had the power to do
whatever he wanted, despite whether the people wanted it or not.
Why didnt he?
Well, he actually did do what he wanted.
However, in accordance with the main point we have been discussing, he
did so with a particular style and political strategy, so as not to offset
social order. He ruled very subtly. He saw to it that he got
what he wanted, yet he did so with such caution that it was disguised as
interest in providing for the good of the citizens. Therefore, Augustus
reign supports the theory that a ruler can drive a selfish agenda, yet
as long as the style and political strategy of the leader in question is
favored by the people, then the leader can still be considered a good ruler.
Therefore, upon considering the lives of
Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, Julius Caesar, Agricola, and Augustus Caesar,
it is clear that people in the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire considered
a leaders particular actions more that his agenda when deciding whether
or not a leader is worthy of being called “great” or being assassinated.
Obviously, a leaders agenda and accomplishments are important factors,
but we have seen with these five particular leaders that sometimes accomplishments
do not matter. What matters greatly are the steps taken by a leader
to obtain goals or satisfy certain needs.