The Fracture of Rome, explained

by: Vox

When I popped into the Hannibalic War committee today I expected to see a bunch of delegates in togas all united in the destruction of Carthage. I was sorely disappointed ‒ not only were there no white bedsheets in sight but the glorious Roman Senate was quite literally divided.

Rome, as of February 5, 2016 is now divided into South Rome, controlled by the Cornelii family, and North Rome, ruled by the four other principal Roman families. But how did it happen? The short answer is that the division was the result of a chaotic power play. The long answer, however, is much more complex.

When it all started, the head of the Cornelii family, Scipio Calvus, held a consulship in the Senate. As one of the consuls, Scipio Calvus had the opportunity to wield absolute power for a short time. He used this newfound power to order the deployment of four legions of Roman soldiers to protect the German refugees there . But there was a catch - Scipio Calvus also decreed that he would remain in control of these legions even after his consulship had ended.

The other families were shocked at his bold power grab, and with good reason too. Although consuls regularly lead military expeditions during their terms, no consul has ever dared to hold on to that military power permanently.

The ambition of the Cornelii family called for an immediate counterattack. A coalition led by the heads of the Claudii, Aemillii, and Fulvii families began plotting against the Cornelii family. They mustered up a personal force of thirteen legions and planned to send the soldiers to seize the property of the Cornelii family and arrest its members.

The Cornelii family quickly got wind of the plot and convinced the Senate to send most of the thirteen legions north to defend Rome against the Gauls. With most of Rome’s military power busy battling barbarians, the city itself lay undefended ‒ and a tempting target for any power-hungry family.

The Cornelii struck quickly. Taking full advantage of the temporary weakness of their rivals in the coalition, the Cornelii family stormed through and seized Rome and Sicily with their personal army of eleven legions. The Cornelii family, looking to vanquish their rivals and consolidate their power, expelled the other families of the Senate from Rome. Now the sole ruling family, the Cornelii declared the cities of Rome and Sicily as a separate state ‒ South Rome. The other families, outraged by the machinations[HT2]  of the Cornelii, have set up a separate Senate in Northern Italy thus creatingthe state of North Rome.

The fragmentation of what was once a united empire is the product of a series of complex political gambles and decisions. It is the result of a conflict between five factions all with their separate motives, hidden ambitions, and personal vendettas. Perhaps when the dust settles and the egos have cooled Rome might again be reunified, but the daring actions of the Cornelii family may have left a permanent fissure in the Roman Senate.