Rome had managed to expand by employing his strong army and successful generals; however numerous forces were constantly required as Rome was involved in long and continuous wars in order to maintain its domination, making military distinction a contributing factor for political advancement, however there were alternative ways to be considered or better, be combined in order to achieve political influence. The various roman sources, their reliability controversial and under scrutiny, each provide different prospective.
Two of our main sources are Plutarch and Suetonius, both biographers that focused on their protagonists rather than on analysing the political framework and did not live through the events they describe but during roman republic. Plutarch provided a Greek outlook as he didnt really understand the complex nature of Roman politics and machinations and he tended to moralisation. As for Suetonius, being imperial secretary provided him access to numerous sources and anecdotes.
He behaves according to modern historians standards by listing his references with his reliability being equivalent to that of his sources. Our first hand accounts include Sallust, Cicero and Caesar, which are considered biased as each of them has his own agenda to promote. Cicero, an optimates supporter, is a famous orator and novus homo, a prolific writer and speaker promoting his interests according to the audience he is addressing. Thus his speeches and letters must be evaluated accordingly, the former as being public knowledge, the latter as expressing his actions on a private, personal level.
Sallusts dramatic descriptions are subjective and historically inaccurate, uniquely though contain historical analysis with Thusydidean realism instead of being chronological accounts. He wrote a farewell to politics, a concept he has excessive knowledge due to his active part in Romes political life. He, also, widely supported his friend Caesar since he had saved his political life by revealing the corruption and incompetence of the optimates and the propaganda they used against him.
As for the historical account of his own wars that Caesar provided, it justified and glorified his actions. One of the politicians that achieved political success and a triumphant through military means by conquering Italy and then the world was Marius, a novus homo. He achieved to be elected consul 7 consecutive times due to being victorious and important army reforms that strongly appealed to the masses are attributed to him. He was the 1st to use army as political tool by creating a semi-professional, fresh and numerous army.
He distributed the spoils of war to the poorer plebs and land to veterans, thus reconciled them with the political status quo and solved the problem of the landless and jobless by giving them the option of enrolling in the army. Through the cohort formation he achieved unit bonding and allegiance and he introduced skilled military training, new weapons and made the army more mobile, thus moulding it as one of the finest armies of ancient times. These brought peoples dedication and loyalty to his name. The army became a strong force, subsequently who had control over it could also control Rome!
Marius was gradually overshadowed by Sullas military successes which included the capture of Jugurtha with the risk of his own life, an event that boosted his political career. With his diplomatic skills, he became consul and marched into Rome twice enabling him to be appointed a dictator. His political agenda included the reformation of the system which included the proscription and execution of Marians, the crippling of the power of the tribune and strengthen of the aristocracy and thus the Senate by increasing its members to 600.
He maintained his predominance by giving to 10 000 slaves freedom and Roman citizenship, therefore, this class was always ready to safeguard his command. According to Caesar though, he didnt know his political abc as he retired at the peak of his career. Additinally, an extremely charismatic military general, a man of glory (Macer speech) was Pompey who through military success he managed to gain political power without even going through the cursus honorum (the ladder of progress through different magistracies until one became consul later on became conventional law, therefore it became binding for accomplishing a political career).
Pompey showed his brilliance by raising an army when only 23 to support Sulla and put down Lepidus and Sertorius revolts, significantly acquiring the title Magnus. He was allowed to bypass the ancient Roman tradition and at when only 35 years old, while not even a senator, he was elected Consul by an overwhelming majority vote. His political agenda included to undo Sullas reforms as he restored the power of the tribunes lost under Sullas dictatorship.
Nevertheless, during fighting Sertorius at Spain, he faced the lack of proper funding, complaining to the senate, consequently implied that gaining military and maintaining political success depends strongly on someones interaction with other bodies, as during a war the senate consents to provisions for the soldiers and the assembly ratifies or annuls treaties and peace. Once in 61 BC he returned victorious and triumphant from the 3rd Mithridadic war, he had already managed to establish himself due to military victory.
As for Crassus, he achieved his political influence through bribery since he was very rich and he ensured to put his own people into positions of power eg. Caesar. His military successes include his achievement to put down the Spartacus revolt even though his triumph was stolen by Pompey. Maybe, thats why when he failed to rise constitutionally through military command he alternatively got involved in the indented massacre of the Senate. Contrary, Cicero achieved his results by word (Plutarch) without his involvement in the army as the pen is mightier than the sword.
He was from Arpinium, a municipia, and went through the cursus honorum until he became a novus homo with his election as consul. Rhetoric was his tool for politics as he was prominent at the law courts and became famous through the Verres case and for putting down the catelinarian conspiracy. Upon crushing the conspiracy he received the title pater patriae that no one else, not even the most victorious generals had gained and a procession was organised for him, something that they did only for those who had established important military successes.
Cicero is the ideal example that plebeians had to counteract the hostility of the nobles in order to achieve political power as it was easier for patricians to gain positions in politics since they ruled by right of birth and their advice was employed in conducting all business due to mos maiorum. In 63 BC, Cicero was the first man to attain the consulship in over 30 years following the advices of commentariolum petitionis supposedly written by his brother Quintus but surely by someone with full understanding of roman politics.
It was important for him to cultivate valuable friendships by glad handling the voters and keeping himself constantly in public life in order to overcome the political newness of his name by his reputation as a speaker through campaign promises which appealed to as many voters as possible. Political power was guarantee for Caesar as his success depended on his intimidating, dynamic, opportunist and cunning character.
Due to his ambitious and diplomatic nature he managed to come to the limelight and later or secure his dominations by proving his military genius as he aimed to conquer the world as Alexander the Great -his model- did. He used marriage as a political tool, followed the cursus honorum and established in his consulship the monarchy which he planned while only an aedile'(Cicero to Axius). Sulla had predicted his motives phrasing it as in this Caesar you will find many Mariuses.
Ruthlessly he participated with Crassus to an intended conspiracy about the massacre of the senators and tried to convince the roman allies to revolt against the senate. Caesar cleverly -and as a Populares- gained the support of the people through his military victories, by passing an agrarian law and establishing bread and games exploiting Bibulus money. Even though he came from an old patrician family he was poor, thus he needed to rely on others. He used Lucceius money to increase his influence and became consul through bribery, corruption and clientelism exerted on voters.
Caesar exceptionally good managed to outmanoeuvred his political opponents and establish a consulship of Julius and Caesar'(Suetonius, Divius Julius, 20). This reinforces the sources that suggest that apart from military success illegal ways were also required. It is no coincident that Rome is regarded as a timocracy as bribery and corruption were obvious (commit wrong for payment than do right for nothing-Macer speech) and necessary for political advancement (bribery excused for the sake of commonwealth) as well intermarriage and amicci, which included political alliance with other clans.
Such an example of political alliance was the triumvirate formed to promote Caesars, Crassus and Pompeys mutual aims, swearing to oppose all public policies of which any one of them might disapprove (Suetonius, Divius Julius, 19) and smoothing Pompey and Crassus hostile relationship as all 3 of them rose to power through it. In essence it was aimed against the Optimates since they dominated the Senate, the true governor of Rome that one had to overthrow in order to gain absolute power.
This had been an uneasy alliance based purely on interests and political convenience and once it outlived its usefulness it collapsed. Moreover the building block of ones political career was the patronage allowing the nobles to maintain their influence and control the elections. Patrons would advance and protect the interests of their clients and in return the clients voted according to their patrons decision in the assembly. It was subservient, nonetheless, this was one of the ways Rome maintained its empire, by controlling its provinces through personal relations and entourages.