Optimates: an archaeology

Author: Stone, Martin
Title: Optimates: an archaeology
Review/Collection: In : Welch, Kathryn & Hillard, T.W. (Ed.), Roman Crossings: Theory and practice in the Roman Republic, Classical Press of Wales, 2005, 344 p.
Year edition: 2005
Pages: 59-94
Keywords: Histoire - Storia - History, Politique - Politica - Politics
Description: The spotlight is upon the honorific, and increasingly controversial, term optimates. Stone begins with the word’s problematic definition in a time of division, and then seeks its origins. He finds it in the lex Ovinia, which he dates to the early third century. The law decreed that the censors select gentlemen on merit. These were the optimi. Stone goes further, postulating that the censors formally recognized the best amongst former cavalrymen, enrolling them amongst the six voting units, the celebrated but elusive sex suffragia, which in Rome’s premier assembly headed the privileged eighteen centuries of the equester ordo (300 of them senators, and 300 of them men of standing who had chosen not to pursue public office). Here Stone discerns the origin of the optimates – those who basked in the equester splendor, both senators and leading equestrians appearing in the great formal parades – until 123. This contribution is likely to be the most controversial of the papers presented; not because it alone breaks new ground or suggests novel interpretations of old evidence, but because of the broad sweep and significance of its conjecture. [Welch & Hillard 2005, 12]
Author initials: Stone 2005