The Beginnings of the The Roman Empire

The Roman Republic engaged in a number of successful wars with its neighbors, which added to Roman territory and influence. As its borders expanded, Rome came into contact and into conflict with its new neighbors, which resulted in more wars and the acquisition of more territories. It does not appear that the early Roman Republic had planned to expand as significantly as it did; rather the expansion was the result of various regional wars. and was not part of a plan of world conquest.

The next war took place in 280-276 B.C., against Pyrrhus, a Grecian colony in southern Italy, which resulted in the subjugation of the latter.

The Wars Between Rome and Carthage

Thus triumphant at home, Rome entered upon a war with the powerful city state of Carthage, located in North Africa. The contest began over control of Sicily, but ultimately involved fighting throughout the Mediterranean area including Italy and North Africa. The contest between Carthage and Rome was to decide which of these two powerful states would control the lands bordering the Mediterranean. It was also a struggle for survival for each side sought to destroy the other. If Carthage had won, there would have been no The Roman Empire and the entire history of the world would have changed.

The struggle between Rome and Carthage consisted of a number of wars, called the Punic Wars, interrupted by brief periods of peace during which both sides re-armed and planned for the next conflict. The wars between Carthage and Rome took place over a period of over 100 years. The term Punic comes from the Roman name for Carthage which was derived from the word for "Phoenicia", another city state, from which founders of Carthage had originated.

The Punic Wars lasted from 264 B.C. until 146 B.C. and ended with the complete destruction of Carthage. The victory gave Rome control over all of the extensive former Carthaginian territories in Spain, Sardinia, Sicily and Africa. The Roman victory meant that Rome was no longer a small city state but a large country with overseas territories. Although Rome was not yet politically an Empire, its victory over Carthage was the first step towards domination of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

The First Punic War began in 264 B.C. and continued against Carthage until 241 B.C. The Second Punic War occurred in the period from 218 to 201 and the Third from 149 until 146 B.C. These wars with the Carthaginians and their attendant contests covered a period of about 100 years.

Carthage, a city of Africa that had flourished over 700 years and numbered 700,000 inhabitants, was utterly destroyed and the Carthaginian territory became the Roman province of Africa. While Hannibal was commanding the Carthaginians he made a treaty with Philip, King of Macedon, and out of this grew three wars against the Macedonians, which culminated in the Battle of Pydna in 168 B. c. The results of these wars were reaped within a brief period and included the downfall of Greece. In 146 B. c. Macedon became a Roman province, Corinth fell the same year that Carthage was captured, and all of Greece was made the Roman province of Achaea. Thus victorious in Carthage and Greece, the Romans began to look toward the East for conquest. They had already defeated the Syrians at Thermopylae in 190 B.C. and had overthrown their power on the field of Magnesia, in Asia Minor.

The Roman nation extended its influence by the year 133 B. C. so as to include the vast region from the Atlantic to the Bosporus, besides a part of Northern Africa and much of Western Asia. Its soldiers had come in contact with both civilized and savage opponents, while many parts of Italy had been swept with fire and the sword by Hannibal. Both of these circumstances had brought about material changes in economic conditions, since there was need for restoring rural prosperity, and the capital city needed a more rigid government.

The End of the Roman Republic and the Beginnings of the The Roman Empire

Conditions hastened on the civil wars, and Rome in rapid succession passed through conflicts that operated to destroy the republic. The first material internal disturbance arose over the measure introduced by Tiberius Gracchus in 123 B. C. This tribune sought to have the public land assigned in small farms to the natives with the view of giving every man a homestead, and proposed in addition that those receiving land should be allowed means from the public treasury to build houses and buy cattle. This measure was supported by all the friends of the common people, but it was opposed with great vigor by the nobles, and resulted in the assassination of Gracchus and his leading supporters by agents of the aristocracy. Soon after Jugurtha usurped the throne of Numidia, which occasioned the war against him in 118 B.C., known as the Jugurthine War.

The invasion of Rome by the Teutons and Cimbri began in 113 B.C. These were followed by the Social War, due to the question of admitting Italians to citizenship, in 90 B.C.; the first Mithridatic War, in 88 B. C. ; the Gladiatorial War, in 73 B. c.; and the great Mithridatic War, in 74 B.C. In the meantime occurred several wars resulting from disagreements among the generals and statesmen. The leading men of Rome at that period were Caesar, Crassus, Cicero, Octavianus, Pompey, and Cato the Stoic. The first triumvirate was concluded by Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar in 60 B. c., forming a compact so strong that they were able to manage the affairs of the republic at their pleasure, and it was cemented by Pompey marrying Julia, only daughter of Caesar.

Soon after followed the banishment of Cicero and the appointment of Cato to Cyprus, while Caesar became consul and was afterward appointed as governor of Gaul. A civil war between Caesar and Pompey began in 49 B.C., and, though Pompey had boasted that he could raise an army by stamping his foot upon the ground, he was obliged to flee from Rome without striking a blow. A battle between the two rivals occurred on the plain of Pharsalia, Greece, in 48 B.C., which resulted in the defeat of Pompey and he was obliged to flee to Egypt, where he was assassinated.

Caesar then intervened in Egyptian affairs and Cleopatra was elevated to the throne of the Ptolemies. Julius Caesar then became involved in a war with the Syrians, who were so quickly and completely defeated that Caesar sent his celebrated dispatch : "I came, I saw, I conquered." Victorious in the East, Caesar hastened to celebrated a four-days' triumph in Rome, where he was created dictator for ten years and censor for three. In the meantime he attained other victories and established peace in Spain.

The Roman legions were triumphant everywhere, and the Roman dominion had expanded throughout Greece, Syria, Spain, North Africa, Gaul (present day France), and more. Julius Caesar planned to expand Roman territory even further and spoke of an operation that would sweep through Persia and India.

This video shows a recreation by historical enthusiasts of Roman military tactics during the empire.

The government of Caesar was administered honestly. During his administration canals and highways were built, the poor were given employment, Rome was enlarged and beautified, and his vast dominion from the Euphrates to the Rhine was guarded with remarkable vigor. The senate created him dictator for life, but differences and jealousies arose that filially terminated in his assassination in 44 B.C., by a group of conspirators headed by Brutus and Cassius.

Caesar's death was followed by a new civil war and the second triumvirate, which was concluded by Antony, Octavianus (the adopted son of Julius Caesar), and Lepidus. By its terms Brutus, Cicero, and Cassius were proscribed. Cicero was shortly after beheaded and Brutus and Cassius met their opponents in the Battle of Philippi in 42 B.C., but their complete defeat caused them to commit suicide in despair.

Rome was divided between Octavianus and Antony, the former receiving the West and the latter the East. Antony was allied with Cleopatra, the famous ruler of Egypt. A civil war between the two great leaders terminated in the naval Battle of Actium, in which Antony and Cleopatra were defeated and fled to Egypt. With the Battle of Actium ended the civil wars and the Roman republic. Octavianus, now master of the civilized world, became Emperor of Rome in 31 B. C., and assumed the title of Augustus.

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