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Secessio plebis (wikipedia.org)
88 points by vezycash on Sept 5, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 59 comments

On the other side of the coin, the machinations to divide and defeat the interests of the plebeians were horribly fascinating. Beware the promises of a Drusus.

In my mind, the failures of the gracchiae seem to echo for hundreds of years until Rome itself was sacked. Granted, the gracchiae were fighting for the latins, but the lack of compassion shown to visigoths undoubtedly played a role in the impetus behind their uprising.




I'll be that guy: Gracchi is already plural (-ī is the plural masculine nominative for the singular Gracchus).

You can also see in in their gens: they're each Sempronius, so the family is gens Sempronii ("the Sempronius clan", "the family of the Semproniuses").

Ya that's what I thought too, but I heard a few people say gracchiae and just followed the leader, wondering why the name turned feminine. You think gracchiae could be referring to the whole lineage or something?

The whole lineage would be just gens Gracchi, I think. It's made a little complicated by the fact that the Gracchi weren't a real gens, just a plebian/low-patrician branch of the Sempronii. Grammatically I'd represent that as Gracchī Seproniōrum ("the Gracchi of the Sempronii"), but I have no idea if that's idiomatic.

Caveat lector!

The -i in gens Sempronii is the singular genitive in this case ("the clan of Sempronius" or "Sempronius's clan"). Good ol' inflexional paradigms :)

It should be noted that Roman history of this period is highly mythologized. Rome was sacked in 389, and it is commonly believed that most of the records from before that date were destroyed during the sack. This would make the earliest source possible come from a century after the major events, and our primary source, Livy, was using those sources three more centuries later.

Our current versions of these events are likely based on populari politician's recreation of the events, then further altered to promote the Julio-Claudian dynasty.

The Arabs had translated many Greek and Roman works into Arabic, and then these were translated back into Latin by monks hundreds of years later during the time of the crusades.

So not the original works, but not anecdotal either.

https://aeon.co/ideas/arabic-translators-did-far-more-than-j... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transmission_of_the_Greek_Clas...

You're talking about events nearly a millennium after the ones being discussed. Rome had no great influence in 389 BC, and it's incredibly unlikely that the Persians maintained copies of those records.

Is your OP speaking of BC? Not clear to me, total ignoramus.

Yes, it is written about the article linked.

I think it's terrifying how sooner than later the plebians won't even have that miniscule amount of power because all the work that needs to be done will be automated with machines they have no control over.

That sounds like a recipe for a true neo-Luddite movement (as opposed to the more common hyperbolic use of the term Luddite to mean someone who engages with technology less than we might expect).

Capitalism is basically over at that point when there's like 80% unemployment because most jobs are automated.

The idea of your survival based on a job is a terrible idea anyway.

I can't wait until this happens because then people will get serious about income inequality and have to figure out how to properly distribute the wealth that the machines create.

Get ready for some serious upheaval and misery though. The powerful won't give up anything without being forced and people revolt only when pushed really far.

I was just reading a history of the Hellenistic world, and something like this seems to have been common in towns in Ptolemaic Egypt, and functioned as the main check on otherwise rapacious taxation.

Mind if I ask what you were reading, or if you have any recommendations for Egyptian/Greek/Persian history?

If only SW engineer "plebs" could band together and strike to demand recognition of their profession like doctors and lawyer

Yeah, it is interesting how that didn't happen at Theranos or Google (with the "killer drones" recently). For the former case, I'd like to refer to the book Bad Blood. For the latter, 12 people from Google resigned over that issue. The massive privacy issues occurring, Uber debacle, NSA debacle, or how about Microsoft in the '90s? IBM before that? I guess the tech sector workers get divide & conqueror-ed.

Which is exactly what happened to the plebians. They spent a couple centuries periodically having these revolts, and eventually they ended up "represented by" a few rich plebian families more tied to the patricians than to their supposed class, while pretty much nothing changed for the actual common people.

Sounds remarkably like the transition the UK's Labour party went through to become "New Labour".

The origin of Labour in the first place was "Fabian" (after Fabius the Delayer) socialism, in opposition to revolutionary socialism. Incremental change as opposed to kicking over the table.

I was particularly thinking of the backgrounds and quality of people in Attlee's cabinet and compare that with the today's politicians.

> or Google (with the "killer drones" recently)

It's because you assume that every software engineer has the same political opinion as you on that matter. In reality, there are people who could consider working on "killer drones" their patriotic duty and are ready to accept low compensation just because they feel they make the world a better place doing it instead of just selling ads. I know such people personally both from US and other countries as well, eager to work for military and intelligence agencies of their respective countries, from NSA to 8200 to FIS.

You may not agree with their political opinions and I respect that, but denying existence of such people is just plain stupid.

I do sincerely hope, wish, and ultimately assume [1] that intelligent people (which is what I'd find fair to describe the people at Google who were supposed to work on "killer drones") do have high ethical standards. Of unintelligent people, its less surprising.

I don't deny the existence of people who don't have the same ethical standard as me though. I never claimed or argued those people did or did not exist at Google; all I was saying is that "only" 12 resigned. Who knows how big that team was.

[1] Else I get rather negative with my faith in humanity...

> high ethical standards

Ethical standards are do not lie on a single dimension and words "high" and "low" don't sufficiently describe them. Ethics and morality is a complicated mess of game theory, neuroscience, evolutionary biology and logic. The same people that you implicitly describe as having "low" ethical standards are making that decision contrary to their immediate self-interest, out of very noble considerations, thinking about their friends and family, their children, their countrymen and the world. It's just their logic is very different from yours.

My ethical standard is closer that an American life (or Dutch, for that matter) is worth a human life than the general population, sure, but there's a bottom line, too. If you don't have high ethical standards you shouldn't be put in a position where you can exercise power. It is that simple. If your ethical standard is to shoot civilians from an Apache, and cover it up accordingly, you have no place in the military. In any military.

Its not so much a trolley problem or equivalent, what we discuss is downright racism/discrimination.

Working on drones saves soldiers’ lives. Working for intelligence saves civilian lives by preventing terrorist plots. People who work for the military and the intelligence usually see themselves as paragons of high ethical standards.

>Working on drones saves soldiers’ lives. Working for intelligence saves civilian lives by preventing terrorist plots.

You seem to regard us as the "good guys". I suggest you read more on the atrocities committed by the United States and by the allies it arms and supports, both historical and those happening right now.

Was it last week that our dear democratic ally the Saudi Arabia bombed a schoolbus full of children? How many months has their blockade of Yemen been in place now? And how many civilians have died of famine?

Please... Factually speaking, our military is working to further our economic interests, not for any ideal of liberty or protection, committing any atrocities they can get away with for that goal.

> Working for intelligence saves civilian lives

Well, apart from all those airstrikes on schoolbuses.

You have to look at the net result. If you're 50% certain that a schoolbus with 30 children has a leader of a terrorist cell that will on average perform one attack with ~100 casualties 1-2 times a year, and otherwise this terrorist is expected to have a life expectancy of 3-5 years, and without him this cell has a 60-70% probability of disintegrating, it's a very clear cut case.

I don't personally work in intelligence and I don't have first-person experience with this calculations. Of course, I expect that in reality they are much more complex and carry a lot more uncertainty - at least those I've read in detail certainly are, but I wouldn't be able to describe them in sufficient detail in a single HN comment. But refusing to make such a choice is still making a choice, and not always a best one.

Any conflict known to man have had loss of innocent lives by both sides. If you try to avoid it at all costs, all that you'll manage is loose, with more innocent lives destroyed, most of them on your side.

I find it hard to imagine it ever being that clear-cut, even with the panopticon. Besides, the Geneva convention doesn't allow you to do this, on either side; the US has simply unilaterally declared that "terrorist" is a new category of person who's neither military nor civilian, so they can be murdered at will (as if they were military) but aren't subject to the laws relating to PoWs (which would affect Guantanamo).

The "double tap" practice of murdering first responders with a second missile strike is definitely a war crime. The whole thing relies on the certainty that nobody in the US will ever be prosecuted no matter how gratuitously they murder those deemed to be "enemy".

Your analysis is predicated on the fact that the war is being done to protect against terrorism, when in fact its a war being waged for economic gain and geopolitical influence.

This downright rational coldness where a human life gets a value based on where their father and mother were born or located during birth is the kind of escalation due to racism, discrimination, and other forms of bigotry which is the disguised reason of why we had WWII and its aftershocks in the first place. The bigotry Hitler suffered during his childhood and the discrimination the German people suffered from WWI (receiving the blame solely) and the Jewish people suffered before and during WWII (receiving the blame for poverty of the German people) is what, ultimately, lead to WWII in Europe at least just like ISIS is the result of the American misbehaviour in Iraq which is proven te be started for fictitious reasons (WMDs) as Scott Ritter already claimed back in the days. And those are the overt operations. "A 2016 study by Carnegie Mellon University professor Dov Levin found that the United States intervened in 81 foreign elections between 1946 and 2000, with the majority of those being through covert, rather than overt, actions" [1] You reap what you sow. It does not have to be this way. The world doesn't have to be this way.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_interventions_by_the_U...

This is as contrived as the trolley problem. You present two choices while there are so many more. We're talking about a bus here, not a secret getaway car with special camouflage - it will go fairly slowly and people will just walk out, most likely on the side of a street.

Why? I mean I understand it's always better to get more than less, but software developers are closer to the top than to the bottom.

We get free food and some of the best pay in the world for such a small amount of necessary education. What is it that you really want? Or are you lashing out at the fact that in this world there are wealthier people than yourself making money off your labor?

The constant fear is that if you did that, you would then need to be licensed before you can create software, with a formal education structure and possibly limitations on how many software engineers could be educated in a year like with doctors. This would also likely bring down heavy regulatory structures onto the profession, where a programmer could be "disbarred" or have their license revoked if they wrote bad code, or would have to get malpractice insurance in case their code hurt someone or cost companies extra money. There are arguments in favor of a software engineering license, but there are arguments against it as well.

I work in the information security industry and there are constant talks about making a "security license". Some places actually required security engineers be licensed as private detectives. In a career where there is a critical lack of good applicants to fill the immense number of jobs, this is devastating to any efforts to try to fill the open security positions.

In my experience a formal education also has little to no correlation to programmer quality.

All of the best programmers I know are self-taught.

This is a very interesting social phenomena and I'm glad someone randomly linked to it since I never heard of it.

I imagine the effectiveness of it stood in the fact that cities were self-sufficient. Since cities are no longer self-sufficient, a protest like this in the modern age would be meaningless. All the plebs of New York could leave the city and nothing would change, except that some patrician would get richer by exploiting the plebe that chose to partake in this (or punish it).

> cities were self-sufficient

Rome was highly dependent on grain imports.

> All the plebs of New York could leave the city and nothing would change

All of them?

Transport would break down fairly rapidly, since you'd have no public transport, no cabs, and no Uber drivers. Even if you could get into work there would be nobody to buy lunch from, and no childcare or schooling available to leave your kids with.

Most of the financial services companies in NY would be rendered inoperable.

>Rome was highly dependent on grain imports.

I doubt this was true during the period described. Rome was little more than a city state in 492, and the first period of expansion was just starting in 450.

The last garbage workers strike in New York lasted two weeks before the city caved.

But did it have any actual effect on the modern-day equivalent of the patricians? I imagine they just took a private jet to Monaco until it blew over.

Our society is much more complex and populous than Rome was at that time. Sure the idle rich could and did vacate but it's hard and expensive to move the massive investment in social infrastructure that any organisation that feels a need to be in New York City has made.

This. Most modern strikes affect other working class people instead of the "1%" (?) they are supposed to be targeting.

Who drove them to the airport, loaded their luggage, prepared the in-flight meals, fueled up the jet, and flew it?

Now I'm really confused. Surely it's the other way around? Do you mean that nothing would change during a general strike because there would be plenty of scabs around?

>I'm glad someone randomly linked to it since I never heard of it.

Didn't know there was hn.postRandomLink() feature. I would have used it. :)

Power to the people!

After the uprising of the 17th of June The Secretary of the Writers' Union Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee Stating that the people Had forfeited the confidence of the government And could win it back only By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier In that case for the government To dissolve the people And elect another?

Bertolt Brecht


For anyone interested in this, the Roman Empire series on Netflix is very good. Presented in a mini-series format, the primary characters, events and dates end up sticking in one's mind. Crassus's death at the hands of the Parthians is particularly brutal but some may say he deserved it after crucifying 6,000 men, one every 10 yards, on the road to Rome.

I found it to be pretty sensationalist and ripe with historical inaccuracies. Senators with beards in full military attire in the senate house is only the most obvious one. The portrayal of most costumes is not accurate. Rome itself was not yet the city of marble depicted in the series (that came 50-150 years later).

The interviews with historians are interesting, and they are are not wrong per se. The problem here is more that the content its very curtailed and not detailed enough.

Interesting to see people's take on this.

Before reading it I assumed it was some sort of explanation of Trump. Which is not disabused by the article. Not to say I'm in favour or the current POTUS's policies or manner.

Possibly related - "a secessio meant that all shops and workshops would shut down and commercial transactions would largely cease." reminds me of John Galt.

>> reminds me of John Galt

Except the John Galt thing is based on the fantastical notion that a "creative" withdrawing from society would bring everything to a grinding halt.

The secessio plebis is the withdrawal of labour power, a general strike.

Hmm, maybe.

But I think the typical labour back then was not as an employee but as a independent concern. And they were pretty much the creatives of the day.

Uh yeah.. cool? What makes it relevant for HN?

There's a long tradition on HN of people posting unexpected Wikipedia submissions for intellectual curiosity.


Never know when you might need to start an insurrection.

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

(from Robert Heinlein’s character Lazarus Long.)

What is relevant for HN?

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