By: The Atlantic
Though I could not possibly imagine what would happen when I entered the Roman Forum, what met me was not old men driveling over bureaucracy. Rather, I entered into a fierce debate on the future of Sardinia. Though this debate was a relatively small one, it highlighted the divisions and alliances between the four families. But these alliances and agreements were as fluid as the Rubicon itself.
The first thing I noticed were the blocs. On one side were the Cornelii and the Claudii, the two largest families, and on the other, the Fulvii and the Aemilii, the two smaller families. Though it was not unheard of for one family of one bloc to agree with another family of the other bloc, when it came down to it, the battle lines were set.
“The Aemilii and Fulvii have formed political ties because we are the two smallest families and must band together to protect our interests. It definitely does represent a schism between the political interests of the different families,” Quintus Fulvius Falccus said.
These lines were put to the test when an assassination attempt on the life of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus failed, and the blame fell upon the Aemilii. The Cornelii believed this distrust was well-founded, as Senators learned that the Aemilii family had dealing with Sardinia before it became under the fold of Rome. The Fulvii family defended the Aemilii family, as they believed that these accusations were unfounded and held no ground.
Still, the Cornelii persisted in their accusations of the Aemilii. That is, until the investigator called the intention of the Claudii family into question. Though there was no tangible evidence of any sort, the accusation was enough to sow the seed of doubt among the minds of the Cornelii. Tensions between the two families were raised, but there was no outward signs of hostility exchanged between the two families.
“I don’t know what to think [about the supposed Claudii involvement]. I won’t make any assumptions until the investigation is complete, as this is Rome, and anyone can be paid off,” Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus said.
The bond between the Cornelii and the Claudii was bent, yet not broken. The Fulvii and the Aemilii continued their support of each other, though once the accusation was made, the focus of suspicion shifted from the Aemilii to the Claudii. During this time of tension and distrust, two of the Senators formed their own family to create a fifth family of the Senate, the Terentii. These two senators had, up until this point, remained neutral among all accusations and remained quite amiable to all the families, as taking one side or the other might threaten trade and income from their trade routes all over the Republic.
Yet even in this somewhat joyous moment of a creation of a new family, distrust continued to persist between the Claudii and the Cornelii. The members of the Claudii family, specifically Salinator, wished to curb the power the family perceived the Cornelii family were rapidly gaining. To do this, they rallied the other families to formally expel the Cornelii family from the Senate.
“I agreed, though I was incredibly torn. I was debating, and I guess you could say I was pressured into siding with the Claudii. That’s no excuse, though. We [the Fulvii family] made the wrong choice,” Quintus Fulvius Falccus said.
After the Cornelii were expelled from the Senate, they returned with legions to retake the city. This greatly perturbed the other families, as it seemed as though only a tyrannical family would do such a thing. For a time, it seemed that there would be a civil war that would have Romans killing Romans.
This incendiary situation was diffused through swift and precise diplomacy. Though there were concessions to be made to the Cornelii family, as they believed they were the party that was most wronged in this situation, the status of the Senate had returned to a relatively stable state.
The now-fractured alliance between the Claudii and Cornelii was furthered by the accusations made by the head sage that the Claudii and Aemilii families were heretics that worshipped false gods. The now divided alliance created a power vacuum to determine who would be considered the most powerful family.
Thankfully for the Roman Republic, the Senate did not collapse in on itself. Rather, it drafted a resolution to change the rules on how the Senate operated, favoring the Cornelii and the Fulvii, the two families that were declared non-heretical. However, this directive failed to pass the Senate, so the status quo was replaced.
The plebian party at this point was upset with the bureaucracy of the Senate and the Terentii family supplied food and money to the people, thus making them a crowd favorite. This instigated a coup to instate the two members of the family as the temporary consuls, completely circumventing the traditional method of deciding consuls.
This angered the other families of the Senate, as they believed this put the Terentii in the position to claim tyrannical power. That being said, the Terentii did not act on this sudden power and worked in conjunction with the other families to combat the recent incursions of the Carthaginians in the Iberian Peninsula.
To respond to the real and present danger of the Carthaginians, the Senate elected to send Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus to the northern border of the Italian Peninsula with an army of 5 legions, approximately 37,500 soldiers to protect the Republic from the Gallic tribes and possible Carthaginian incursions. This significantly increased the power of the Cornelii family in the north of the peninsula. This was also precautionary as Hannibal had been seen in the south of what is now France with an army close to 100,000 strong.
Seeing the movement of the Carthaginian army, Quintus Fulvius Falccus, commander of the legions of the islands surrounding the Italian Peninsula and recently elected co-admiral of the Imperial navy, was approved to lead an incursion into Hispania in an attempt to cut off Hannibal from his supply lines. With a force of 250 ships as well as a significant number of ground troops, the Senator was on his way to the peninsula, when some seemingly good news arrived at the Senate. The Carthaginian army had been defeated.
The legions of Rome stood against the Carthagians, with help from the nomadic peoples of the Scythian nation, and defeated what seemed like Hannibal’s main invasion army. However, it was later revealed that the defeated army was not the totality of his army and Hannibal himself was not among the dead. With Hannibal’s location unknown, and the rest of his army nowhere to be found, the Roman Senate will have to put away quests for familial power and simple feuds to protect the Roman Republic and her people.