LECTURE 7: THE REPUBLIC OF ROME
The Roman Republic was the phase of the ancient Roman civilization characterized by a republican form of government. The republican period began with the overthrow of the Monarchy c. 509 BC and lasted over 450 years until its subversion, through a series of civil wars, into the Principate form of government and the Imperial period. The precise event which signaled the transition of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire is a matter of interpretation. Historians have variously proposed the appointment of Julius Caesar as perpetual dictator (44 BC), the Battle of Actium (2 September 31 BC), and the Roman Senate's grant of Octavian's extraordinary powers under the first settlement (January 16, 27 BC), as candidates for the defining pivotal event.
Determining the precise end of the Republic is a task of dispute by modern historians; Roman citizens of the time did not recognize that the Republic had ceased to exist. The early Julio-Claudian "Emperors" maintained that the res publica still existed, albeit under the protection of their extraordinary powers, and would eventually return to its full Republican form. The Roman state continued to call itself a res publica as long as it continued to use Latin as its official language.
The Roman Republic had many different classes of people who existed within the city-state. Each one of them had differing rights, responsibilities, and status under Roman law.
An informal constitution of the Roman Republic was used throughout the history of the Republic. It occasionally was changed by rulers for their own advantage. Roman republican government was a complex system with several apparent redundancies, based on custom and tradition as much as law. The Roman system of government was loosely based on three elements: the two consuls, the senate, and the people.
The basis of republican government, at least in theory, was the division of responsibilities between various states, whose members (or blocks of members) would vote on issues placed before their assembly. These assemblies included the Curiate Assembly, the Centuriate Assembly, the Tribal Assembly, the Plebeian Assembly and the Roman Senate. Membership in each assembly had its own requirements, sometimes including prior magistracies, order (patrician/plebeian), and income.
Several of these assemblies had specific and specialized functions, such as the Curiate Assembly which conferred Imperium on the Roman magistrates. However, two of these assemblies dominated the political life of the Republic: the Plebeian Assembly, and the Roman Senate.
Within the various assemblies, there were a number of magistratus — "magistrates", who performed specialized functions.
The Romans observed two principles for their magistrates: annuality, the observation of a one-year term, and collegiality, the holding of the same office by at least two men at the same time. The supreme office of consul, for instance, was always held by two men together, each of whom exercised a power of mutual veto over any actions by the other consul. If the entire Roman Army took the field, it was always under the command of the two consuls who alternated days of command. Many offices were held by more than two men; in the late Republic there were eight praetors a year and 20 quaestors.
The office of dictator was an exception to annuality and collegiality, and the offices of Censors to annuality. In times of military emergency a single dictator was chosen for a term of six months to have sole command of the Roman state. On a regular, but not annual basis two censors were elected: every five years for a term of 18 months.
During the early and middle Republic, the Roman Senate, highest in prestige and being composed of the aristocratic, rich, and politically influential (towards the end of the Republic, it was exclusively composed of ex-magistrates), was predominant in the state.
During the later years of the Republic, a division developed within the Senate with two factions arising: the Optimates and the Populares. The Optimates held to the traditional forms of Roman government, while the Populares were those who used the fact that the Plebeian Assembly was the only body capable of passing binding laws (plebiscites) on the Republic to pursue political influence outside the Senate. Since the Senate controlled the finances of the state this led to conflicts between the Senate and the Plebeian Assembly. Many ambitious politicians used these conflicts to further their political career, advancing themselves as champions either of "Roman tradition" or of "the people".
Early Rome was divided into two groups or orders, patricians and plebeians. Plebeians were less wealthy landholders, craftspeople, merchants, and small farmers. The smaller group which were Rome's ruling class and in early times alone made up the senate: 'patricians' coming from 'patres'='fathers'. Later on, a plebeian aristocracy developed alongside the patrician one; from 367BC the law allowed one of the two consuls to be a plebeian.
The Roman Legions formed the backbone of Roman military power. Rome used its legions to expand its borders to eventually dominate most of Europe and the area around the Mediterranean Sea. The Punic Wars were a series of three wars during which Rome established dominance of the Mediterranean, something they would retain throughout the existence of the Republic and Empire.
The Roman Legions exhibited high levels of discipline, training and professionalism. It was a standardized military machine in which the heroics and bravery of individuals were secondary to the function of the army as a whole. Equipment, tactics, organization, and military law were uniformly implemented. Procedures for everything from training and marching to camp building were laid out specifically, tasks allocated, and each unit and man knew his role and responsibilities within the army as a whole. The evolution of the Roman legion owed much to the influence of Hellenistic city-states in the south of Italy (Magna Graecia), the mountainous terrain of central Italy and the constant adaptation of new tactics and weapons from defeated tribes/peoples.
The early Republic had no standing army. Instead, legions would be conscripted as needed (the term legion comes from the Latin term legio — "muster" or "levy"), put into the field to fight the war for which they had been created, and would then disband back to their civilian lives, which for most meant farming. Troops would be levied from Rome and its surrounding colonies, each of which would be responsible for providing a particular number of soldiers. Such conscripts were theoretically taken only from those men who were property/land holders wealthy enough to equip themselves, although in time of dire military need this requirement was overlooked. This made the Roman Legion less expensive to the state, and ensured that the Legions were fighting to preserve their own property and way of life as much as trying to protect their country.
In the later Republic, Gaius Marius instituted the Marian reforms (107 BC) which completely altered the form of the Legion. Marius restructured the standard legion and updated its equipment and tactical doctrines for modern warfare. He also recast the legions as a standing professional Roman army whose ranks were open to volunteers from any class. Marius did this to address the new reality that Rome needed dedicated professional armies for extended campaigns lasting years (and not just a season), and to address the severe shortage of eligible middle class landholder recruits whose existence had been decimated by economic changes within Roman society, and the battlefield casualties inflicted by Rome's prolonged military campaigns. Now, instead of being a short term landholder recruit fighting to defend his own home and property, the typical Roman legionnaire was a lower-class "career soldier" who had enlisted for a period of 20 years, working towards a "pension" which was a land grant provided by the state by tradition (but not guaranteed by law) at the end of their service. The fact that such pensions were not guaranteed by law, but had to be proposed before the Senate by the Senator-General who was disbanding his legion(s) had the subtle, but important, effect of refocusing the loyalty of the legionary, who now fought as much for his General, who could guarantee his pension, as for the country.
Each time Rome conquered new lands, the territory would be sectioned off into one or more provinces, under the administration of a Roman governor, chosen annually by the Senate. He would be awarded a promagisterial rank, either proconsular or propraetorial, depending on the size and importance of the province (see Roman provinces for list of governor's ranks). In the later Republic, newly acquired land was often partly used to settle the discharged veterans of the military campaign who had earned their "land grant". This not only "paid off" the army, but had the added benefit of settling Roman people, with Roman customs, bringing Roman culture to newly conquered people: a form of "cultural imperialism" as well as a military one; see Cultural Romanization.
The city of Rome itself stands on the banks of the river Tiber, near the west coast of Italy. It marked the border between the regions of Latium (the territory in which the Latin language and culture was dominant) to the south, and Etruria (the territory in which the Etruscan language and culture was dominant) to the north.
The Roman Republic expanded outwards from this single city state. Eventually its empire included all of the Italian peninsula, large parts of Gaul and Iberia, much of the Balkan Peninsula, parts of the Balkans, coastal regions of Asia Minor, part of the North African coastline, Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily.
It is likely that the Romans first came in contact with Greek civilization through the Greek city-states in southern Italy and in Sicily (both of which formed Magna Graecia — "Greater Greece"). These colonies had been established as a result of Greek expansion that took place in these two areas beginning in the eighth century BC. There is a remarkable commonality between the world of classical Athens and the classical world of Magna Graecia. As proof of this, one need look no further than the Greek temples in Akragas and Silinus in Sicily and the Parthenon of Athens to see that they partake of the same style of architecture at virtually the same level of architectural refinement. Thucydides documents the substantial political and military contacts that the Greek city-states of Sicily had with Sparta and Athens during the Peloponnesian War, and how the Syracusans allied with Sparta were able to defeat the military forces of Athens as they laid siege to Syracuse
This, in as much as trading, as well as the mere day to day interaction between peoples of different cultures, provided opportunities for the Romans to gain exposure to Greek culture, literature, architecture, political and philosophical ideas, religious beliefs and traditions. There was a great sharing of ideas and culture among the peoples of the Mediterranean Sea while Rome was developing into the dominant power in the area.
The Latin alphabet was certainly influenced by the Greek alphabet, and the Latin language itself contains many words of Greek origin. Latin literature was also influenced by the Greeks. Early Latin plays were sometimes translations of Greek plays, and different types of poetry often were modeled after their counterparts, such as Virgil's Aeneid on the Homeric Epics. It was not uncommon for wealthy Romans to send their sons to Greece for the purpose of study, most notably in Athens. This Roman passion of Hellenic culture would increase over time.
Greek and Latin became the lingua franca of the eastern half of the Mediterranean area.
According to the German historian Georg Wissowa the Romans distinguished two classes of gods, the di indigetes and the di novensides or novensiles. The indigetes were the original gods of the Roman state; see List of Di Indigetes. The novensides were later divinities whose cults were introduced to the city in the historical period, usually in response to a specific crisis or need.
The Romans worshipped a number of gods, among which the triad Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus were pre-eminent. Later this triad was supplanted by the Capitoline Triad, Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. Religious ceremonies on behalf of the state were delegated to a strict system of priestly offices under the governance of the College of Pontiffs, with at its head the Pontifex maximus was the most important. Flamens took care of the cults of various gods, while augurs were trusted with taking the auspices. The Rex Sacrorum, or "sacrificial king" took on the religious responsibilities of the deposed kings.
From the earliest days of the Republic, foreign gods were imported, especially from Greece, which had a great cultural influence on the Romans. In addition, the Romans connected some of their indigenous deities with Greek gods and goddesses.
Roman law was divided into two parts: res divina and res publica. Res divina comprised the laws pertaining to the religious duties of government officials for sacrifices, festivals and discipline. Res publica laid out the secular duties of government officials and the delegating of the responsibilities of the different bodies and the rights of the classes.
Few sources of Rome written before the last decades of the Republic have survived, and none of those is complete. By that time, the Romans retold a lengthy and complex sequence of stories about their own history, which were clearly intended as models of Roman character, good and bad, and examples for living Romans. Unfortunately, there is little independent evidence for early Roman history aside from these sources, and good reasons to believe that many of the stories did not actually happen as they are told. Many of them are borrowed from pre-existing Greek stories; some of them are plainly family stories in praise of great Roman families; some of them are etiologies of Roman institutions. These were not invented in Rome, and were common to a much larger area.
The mythology surrounding the founding of the city of Rome was largely written ex post facto. Much of this comes from the poet Virgil, who wrote the epic, the Aeneid. The epic centers on Aeneas, who was mentioned in Homer's epic, the Iliad. In the Iliad, Aeneas was mentioned as the leader of a group of Trojan allies, the Dardanians. Virgil picks up on this. According to Virgil, Aeneas fled the burning city of Troy at the end of the Trojan War with a small group of Trojan Refugees.
The Trojans under Aeneas sailed to Carthage, where they met the Carthaginian queen Dido. They then sailed to Italy, where they met Latinus, who was the king of the Latins. After fighting a war, Aeneas founded the city of Lavinium. The legend said that Aeneas' son Julus (the legendary ancestor of Julius Caesar) founded the city of Alba Longa. This was included because Virgil was a partisan of the Emperor Augustus. Augustus was Caesar's great-nephew and adopted son. Therefore, through Caesar, Augustus could claim to be a descendent from one of Rome's oldest families.
According to legend, several generations after Julus founded Alba Longa, twin boys were born to the Alba Longan noble family. These twins, Romulus and Remus, would settle on what is now Rome. After Romulus killed Remus, the legend said that Romulus then founded the city of Rome, the Roman Senate and the Roman army. Romulus would be the first king of the Roman Kingdom.
Livy's version of the foundation of the Republic states that the last of the Kings of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus ("Tarquin the proud") had a son, Sextus Tarquinius. Sextus raped a Roman noblewoman named Lucretia. Lucretia compelled her family to take action by gathering her kinsmen, telling them what happened, and then killing herself. The incident led to an uprising that expelled the royal house, the Tarquins, out of Rome into refuge in Etruria.
When a king left office, his powers would return to the senate until it elected a new king. However, Tarquin was so despised that the senate refused to elect a new king to replace him. Instead, it retained his powers, and appointed magistrates to exercise those powers. Lucretia's widowed husband Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus and her brother Lucius Junius Brutus were elected as the first two consuls of the new Republic. Marcus Junius Brutus, who later assassinated Julius Caesar, claimed descent from this earlier Brutus.
The origins and early history of Rome are very uncertain. While there are quite specific accounts of Rome's origins and early history, these tend to be of a more mythological nature, and do not stand up as objective history when subjected to modern analysis. There even have been archeological findings in the city of Rome that predate the mythological founding date; on the other hand, the traces of actual settlement do not go back as far as that date. However, Roman origin myths probably do contain aspects of the truth, and were responsible for shaping the Romans' views of themselves.
The tradition supplies several different dates for the founding of Rome, of which the most well-known is that given by the Roman historian and chronographer M. Terentius Varro: 753 BC, but this depends on the extremely doubtful traditional chronology of the Roman kings. There are some archaeological finds older than Varro's date; but the earliest traces of continuous settlement are usually dated to the early 600s BC.
According to Roman mythology, after the end of the Trojan war, the Trojan prince Aeneas sailed across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy and founded the city of Lavinium. His son Iulus later founded the city of Alba Longa, and from Alba Longa's royal family came the twins Romulus and Remus (supposedly sons of the god Mars by Rhea Silvia), who went on to found the city of Rome on April 21, 753 BC. Thus the Romans traced their origins back to the Hellenic world.
In the beginning, Rome had kings. The tradition portrays these kings more as culture heroes than as historical figures, each of them being credited with devising some aspect of Roman culture; for example, Numa Pompilius devised Roman religion, and Ancus Marcius the arts of war. It also gives most of them reigns of about forty years, which probably owes more to numerology than to history. Other details have been seen as origin stories of various Roman noble houses.
There is, however, general agreement that Rome did have a series of monarchs (some of whom were of Etruscan origin; the influence of the Etruscans can still be seen on early Roman art and architecture) and that these kings were displaced by the Roman aristocracy sometime around 500–450 BC.
The traditional date of the revolution against the kings led by Lucius Junius Brutus is 509 BC; for the story see Overthrow of the kings above. This is again open to doubt; the arrangement of the consular fasti which support this date squeezes six consuls into the first year of the Republic, and has long stretches without any consuls at all. It is possible that, as a matter of national pride, Roman historians altered the chronology of the early republic to make it appear that Rome freed itself before Cleisthenes brought freedom to Athens.
The early consuls took over the roles of the king with the exception of his high priesthood in the worship of Jupiter Optimus Maximus at the sacred temple on the Capitoline Hill. For that duty the Romans elected a Rex sacrorum — a "king of holy things". It is interesting to note that the Roman Rex Sacrorum was forbidden membership in the Senate; one could not be a Senator and a Rex Sacrorum at the same time. Republican Rome distanced even this vestigial "king" from any possibility of power. Until the end of the Republic, the accusation that a powerful man wanted to make himself rex — "king" — remained a career-shaking charge (Julius Caesar's assassins claimed that they were preserving Rome from the re-establishment of a monarchy).
The relationship between the plebeians and the patricians sometimes came under such strain that the plebeians would secede from the city, taking their families and moveable possessions, and set up camp on a hill outside the walls. Their refusal to cooperate any longer with the patricians led to social changes. Only about 15 years after the establishment of the Republic in 494 BC, plebeians seceded and chose two leaders to whom they gave the title Tribunes. The plebeians took an oath that they would hold their leaders sacrosanct — untouchable during their terms of office, and that a united plebs would kill anyone who harmed a tribune. The second secession in 471 BC led to further legal definition of their rights and duties and increased the number of tribunes to 10. The final secession ended in 287 BC and the resulting Lex Hortensia gave the vote of the Concilium Plebis or "Council of the Plebeians" the force of law. It is important to note that this force of law was binding for both patricians and plebeians, and in fact made the Council of the Plebeians a leading body for approving Roman laws.
During this era, Rome, and others of the Latin League, clashed with foreign powers, and not always successfully. In 390 BC the Gauls from Gallia Cisalpina (modern Po Valley) under the leadership of Brennus, defeated the Roman legions and sacked Rome itself, requiring a huge ransom to avoid completely destroying the city (A Roman senator protested that the weights used to measure the ransom of gold were inaccurate. In response, Brennus threw his sword onto the weights and uttered the famous words, "Vae victis" — "Woe to the vanquished").
In 496 BC, an army of allied Etruscans and Latins fought a Roman army under the dictator Aulus Postumius at the Battle of Lake Regillus. The Roman victory led to the formation of the Roman alliance with the Latin League after the signing of the foedus Cassianum (Treaty of Cassius). In the middle of the 4th century BC, disputes between the neighboring Campanians and Samnite highlanders (from the Apennine Mountains along Italy's east coast) resulted in an alliance between Rome and Campania. In 343 BC, Rome declared war on the Samnites, resulting in the First Samnite War.
The First Samnite War ended quickly and inconclusively. But Campania was absorbed into the Roman Republic as a consequence of the war. Disputes between Rome and the Latin League immediately following the end of the First Samnite War in 340 BC resulted in the Latin War. This war, won by Rome, ended in 338 BC. The cities that composed this League were absorbed into the Roman Republic. By this point, Rome had grown to control the western half of central Italy.
The Second Samnite War began in 326 BC due to Campanian concerns regarding Samnite troop movements. The war ended in 304 BC with a Roman victory. During this war, Rome abandoned its hoplite-based military structure (a formation copied from the Greek Phalanx) and adopted the maniple-based structure from the Samnites. Maniple-based legions drove much of Rome's territorial growth for centuries. This structure was so effective that it was used by Rome until the final years of the Roman Empire.
The Third Samnite War began in 298 BC. The Samnites allied with other major Italian powers (the Etruscans, Umbrians, and Gauls). The war ended in 290 BC with a decisive Roman victory. The result was the absorption into Rome of the territories of the Etruscans (northern Italy), the Umbrians (non-Roman central Italy) and the Samnites (southern Italy). Therefore, at the end of the third and final Samnite war, Rome had expanded into most of Italy.
In 283 BC, Rome fought the Pyrrhic War. That year, Pyrrhus of Epirus arrived to aid the Greek colony of Tarentum against the Romans. Pyrrhus was widely considered the greatest military leader since Alexander the Great, but even after winning three battles he was unable to defeat the Roman Republic, taking great losses as he did so. Pyrrhus is said to have uttered the phrase, "Another such victory and I shall be lost", coining the term "Pyrrhic victory". Pyrrhus withdrew to fight wars in Sicily and Greece, giving the Romans international military prestige, and bringing them to the attention of the Hellenistic superpowers of the East. By the time the war ended, Rome had absorbed the cities of southern Italy that it had not taken in the Samnite Wars. It also absorbed the remaining independent Etruscan cities in the north.
The result of the Samnite, Latin and Pyrrhic wars was Roman control of all of Italy. The Rubicon River, between Italy and Cisalpine Gaul, marked the northern limit of Roman territory.
Through its colonies and allied city-states, Rome had a vast amount of manpower to draw upon, which it used as a recruitment pool for its Legions. This gave it the ability to simply raise legion after legion, continuing to fight where other nations may simply have capitulated. Rome also demonstrated an unwillingness to be, or to stay, beaten. This characteristic determination was shown in later engagements such as the First Punic War, where the Roman military, faced with a 70% loss of its fleet in storms, managed to rebuild the entire fleet in a mere two months.
Another unique characteristic of the Republic was its treatment of conquered people. Those conquered by Rome were brought under the "protection" of Rome; they were granted a form of citizenship, and had specific rights under Roman law. They were also held to certain obligations as well, most notably the requirement to provide troops for the Legions. This had a twofold effect. First, Rome had a large pool of manpower to draw its Legions from (the entire Latin League). This allowed it to simply field army after army, refusing to be defeated. Second, by having several levels of citizenship and rights under Roman law, the conquered people's attention was focused on improving their rights within the Roman law, and in competing with rival client-states for status within the Roman sphere of influence, rather than trying to rid themselves of Roman dominance. This policy of "divide and rule" made conquered people willing participants in their own submission to Roman law.
By 268 BC the Romans dominated most of Italy through a network of allies, conquered city-states, colonies, and strategic garrisons. At that time Rome started to look beyond Italy, towards the islands and the rich trade of the Mediterranean Sea.
Before the First Punic War began in 264 BC, the North African city of Carthage (which was located in what is now modern Tunisia) dominated an empire that stretched from North Africa through Spain to Gaul (modern France). It was also the dominant naval power in the Mediterranean. By the end of the Third Punic War in 146 BC, Carthage had been destroyed and its empire absorbed into the Roman Republic. Rome also emerged as the unchallenged naval power in the Mediterranean. The wars lasted for so long and were so violent, that they had the effect of militarizing the Roman Republic. This militarization set the stage for the final century of the Roman Republic.
In 288 BC, a group of mercenaries from Campania were hired to occupy a city in the northeastern tip of Sicily. The Campanian mercenaries came into conflict with Hiero II, tyrant of Syracuse, who fought and defeated the Campanians. The Campanian mercenaries appealed for help from both Rome and Carthage. The Romans wanted to absorb these cities, and thus all of Sicily, into its republic. Carthage refused to allow that, and so the two powers declared war on each other.
During the first several years of the war, Rome fought a series of naval battles, some of which Rome won and some of which Rome lost. There were some sporadic battles on land during the war, but due to the inhospitable terrain of Sicily, these land-based battles played a minor role.
In 244 BC, following a span of several years where Rome had lost most of its navy, a Carthaginian faction led by the land-owning aristocrat Hanno the Great took control of the Carthaginian senate. Hanno owned a large amount of land in Africa and Spain. He wanted Carthage to focus on winning land in Africa and Spain instead of Italy and Sicily. The Carthaginians followed the advice of Hanno.
Rome used this opportunity to rebuild its navy. In 241 BC, the consul Gaius Lutatius Catulus readied his newly-built Roman navy for a final battle against Carthage. The Carthaginians were caught off guard. They hastily built a fleet of substandard warships. They met the Roman fleet under the consul Catulus at the Battle of the Aegates Islands (off the coast of northwestern Sicily). The Carthaginian fleet was annihilated. The Carthaginians surrendered to Rome, ending the war.
The First Punic War, fought between 264 and 241 BC, ended with a treaty that forced Carthage to both return all 8,000 Roman prisoners of war, and pay Rome a large war indemnity. The indemnity was to be paid for in silver, which Carthage had ample access to due to its silver mines in Spain. However, a clause in the treaty required the Roman popular assemblies to ratify the treaty before it became official. The assemblies not only refused to ratify the treaty, but they actually increased the indemnity required to be paid to Rome.
The inability of Carthage to pay their war indemnity, as well as to pay the mercenaries who worked for them during the First Punic war, resulted in unrest. Following the assassination of his father, Hannibal Barca became the leader of Carthaginian forces in Spain. Hannibal built up a large army and attacked the town of Saguntum, which was allied to Rome. After a long siege, the city fell. Rome sent an ultimatum to Carthage. It was rejected and war was declared.
Hannibal famously took his army of soldiers and war elephants across the Alps in the winter of 218 BC. One of the two Roman consuls for the year 218 BC, Publius Cornelius Scipio, met Hannibal’s army but was defeated. The other consul for 218 BC, Tiberius Sempronius Longus, was defeated at the Battle of the Trebbia. Also in 218 BC, the army under the consul Gaius Flaminius was defeated at the Battle of Lake Trasimene. Flaminius died during the battle.
The Romans elected the former consul Quintus Fabius Maximus dictator. Fabius picked a strategy that sought to wear down Hannibal's army. He avoided direct battles and instead focused on raids and quick, low scale attacks. The strategy succeeded in preventing any major victories for Hannibal, and thus prevented Italian cities from defecting to Hannibal.
After Fabius' term ended, the consuls Gaius Terentius Varro and Lucius Aemilius Paullus took a combined army of 100,000 to fight Hannibal. They met Hannibal at the Battle of Cannae. The Romans heavily outnumbered Hannibal's army. Hannibal used his army to envelop the Roman lines. The resulting slaughter was spectacular. Almost the entire army of 100,000 Romans was destroyed.
Hannibal took his army to the gates of Rome, but decided not to attack the city.
Fabius Maximus was reelected consul in 215 BC and again in 214 BC. Rome mounted a full-scale insurgency war against Hannibal. Fabius's strategy ensured that none of the battles were large and thus Hannibal didn't get another spectacular victory as he did at Cannae.
Rome then attempted to take Carthage's provinces in Spain. The former consul Publius Cornelius Scipio, as well as his brother Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus, was defeated and killed at the Battle of the Upper Baetis. In 209 BC, the son of Publius Cornelius Scipio, the famous general Scipio Africanus Major, was elected consul. He was sent to Spain to avenge the death of his father. He seized a critical Carthaginian supply post at Carthago Nova, and defeated the Carthaginian army at the Battle of Baecula.
As the Romans prepared to attack Carthage itself, Hannibal's army was ordered to return to Carthage to protect the city.
On October 19, 202 BC, the Roman army under Scipio Africanus Major met Hannibal's army at the final Battle, in the north African town of Zama. Scipio's superior cavalry swept aside Hannibal's cavalry. Scipio's infantry smashed Hannibal's first two lines of infantry. When Hannibal sent his war elephants into the Roman lines, Scipio (who had anticipated this), ordered his lines to open gaps, allowing the elephants to pass harmlessly through. Once through, the elephants were cut to pieces. The ones who survived turned around, and smashed into Hannibal's own lines. Hannibal's troops regrouped, and at one point, seemed to be on the verge of victory. However, Scipio's cavalry had returned just in time, and hit Hannibal's troops from their rear. Seeing the opening, Scipio ordered his infantry to charge at the army of Hannibal from the front. What was left of Hannibal's army was cut to pieces. Rome had defeated Hannibal, and won the Second Punic War.
In 151 BC, a Numidian army besieged a Carthaginian town. Carthage responded by sending an army to fight Numidia, despite restrictions placed on Carthage by the treaty that had ended the Second Punic War. This was done without requesting permission from Rome (who was a Numidian ally). Carthage's army was repelled by Numidia. Infuriated, Rome demanded that Carthage pay Numidia a huge indemnity. The Roman Senate told Carthage that in order to prevent another war, Carthage had to "satisfy the Roman People." The city of Utica, a Carthaginian ally in North Africa, soon defected to Rome. Rome then declared war on Carthage.
The Roman army landed at Utica in 149 BC, under the new consuls L. Marcius Censorinus and M. Manilius. Censorinus and Manilius demanded that the Carthaginian army outside of the city hand over their arms. The Carthaginians obeyed, but were sent another order by the Romans. They told the Carthaginians that they must move their city ten miles inland, so that Rome could destroy the city. Upon hearing this, Carthage gave up any hope for a peace. The city of Carthage was turned into a fort, and the Romans under Censorinus and Manilius besieged the city.
After two years, Scipio Aemilianus Africanus was elected consul, and was sent to command the army besieging Carthage. In 146 BC, Scipio's army broke through the Carthaginian gates, and began fighting house-to-house.
Most Carthaginians had died in the later months of the fighting due to starvation. Many of those who remained died in the last six days of fighting. The city was leveled, being burned for almost three weeks after Carthage had surrendered. The soil was sowed with salt (supposedly) so that nothing could ever grow there again. 50,000 surviving Carthaginians were sold into slavery. What was left of the city (including its libraries and the histories of its civilization) was looted, taken deep into Africa, and never found again. The city became a part of the Roman province of Africa. The land became public land, or Ager publicus.
The Macedonian Wars were fought between Rome and Macedon (northern Greece). They started when a Macedonian King, Philip V, attempted to supply Hannibal with troops during the Second Punic War. The resulting series of wars ended with the complete annexation of Greece into the Roman Republic.
In 217 BC, King Philip V of Macedon learned of the Roman disaster at the Battle of Lake Trasimene. The tyrant of Illyria, Demetrius of Pharos, convinced Philip to form an alliance with Hannibal. Philip constructed a navy, and wanted to use this navy to transport his troops to Italy through Illyria (near the modern Balkans). The Romans sent a fleet to stop Philip. While on his way to Apollonia in Illyria, he was informed that a Roman fleet of quinqueremes was nearing Apollonia. Knowing that he could never beat the Romans, Philip returned his fleet to Macedon. Polybius speaks of "panic" and "disorder" during the Macedonian retreat. In reality, the Roman ships spotted were simply a small scouting detachment. But Philip lost his only real chance to make it to Italy.
In 214, Philip tried again. His navy sailed to Apollonia, and besieged the city. The Roman commander in the region was the pro-praetor Marcus Valerius Laevinus. In addition to his navy, Laevinus was given a legion (about 6,000 infantrymen). Laevinus sent a force of 2,000 soldiers, under the command of Quintus Naevius Crista, to lift Philip's siege. Philip's army was annihilated. His fleet was destroyed, and most of his soldiers died. Without his fleet, Philip had no way to get his army to Italy.
With Philip's navy destroyed and his army crippled, he lost any real chance of winning the war. He kept fighting, and losing. In 205 BC, he made peace with the Romans, ending the First Macedonian War. While he kept his territory, the Romans had succeeded in preventing Philip from supplying Hannibal with more troops.
The Second Macedonian War, which began in 200 BC, was much shorter. Philip was still interested in taking on Rome. He wanted to follow in the footsteps of his ancestor Alexander the Great. He formed an alliance with another Greek tyrant, Antiochus III of the Seleucid Empire. The Romans, still angry over Philip's support for Hannibal, sent an army under the consul Titus Flamininus to put down Philip.
In 197 BC, Flaminius' army met the army of Philip at the Battle of Cynoscephalae. Flaminius kept his right wing in reserve, and put his war elephants in the front. Flaminius led the charge on horseback, near the left wing of his army. Philip's hoplite-based phalanx was of the type used by Alexander the Great. It had been the most effective fighting unit in the world. But the Roman maniple-based legion actually was far more flexible.
Philip's phalanx forced Flaminius' legion back during the beginning of the battle. But it forced them into rough terrain. The flexible legion could operate more effectively in such terrain than the phalanx. Philip ordered his hoplites to throw away their spears and fight with their swords. Flamininus had his war elephants charge into Philip's left wing, which routed it completely. He ordered one of his military Tribunes to take 20 maniples (about 4,000 soldiers) and charge into Philip's right wing. Philip's army was now in chaos, and was quickly cut to pieces by the Romans. Rome declared Greece "free", and withdrew completely. This ended the Second Macedonian War, and effectively passed the superpower torch from the Greeks to the Romans.
By 171 BC, Philip had died, and his son, Perseus, had become king of Macedon. Perseus started forming alliances with other Greek states. The Romans were afraid that Perseus was attempting to follow in the footsteps of his father, so they declared war on Macedon. This began the Third Macedonian War.
The first couple of years of the war were uneventful. But in 168 BC, the consul Lucius Aemilius Paulus took his army to finish off the Macedonians. They met at the Battle of Pydna. Just as had happened at the Battle of Cynoscephalae, the inflexibility of the Greek phalanx caused it to break apart. The phalanx was smashed by the Roman army. Perseus fled the battle before it had ended. The Third Macedonian War had ended.
Perseus was captured and taken to Rome. Macedonia, while technically still independent, was divided into four puppet republics. In 167 BC, Paulus was ordered by the senate to attack the Greek town of Epirus, despite the fact that Epirus had been a Roman ally against Macedon. The city was destroyed, and its 150,000 inhabitants were sold into slavery.
Greece was mostly peaceful for the next several years. But in 150 BC, a Macedonian citizen named Andriscus, who claimed to be a son of Perseus, started a popular uprising. The Romans had enough. They declared war on Macedon, starting the Fourth Macedonian War. They sent an army to Macedon, put down the rebellion, and turned Macedon into a new Roman province.
A popular uprising swept the rest of Greece, forcing the Romans to put down the rebellion. After defeating the rebellion, Rome annexed the remaining independent cities of Greece.
In 133 BC, a dying King Attalus III of Pergamon willed his entire kingdom to the Roman Republic to avoid dynastic disputes amongst his heirs, and to avoid the possibility that Rome would take the opportunity to seize Pergamon by force. Events were complicated by the rebellion of Aristonicus, a relative of Attalus III who was proclaimed king of Pergamon with the title of Eumenes III. After four years of war (133–129 BC) he was defeated and captured by Rome. Pergamon was reorganized into the foundation of the province of Asia, and became one of the most wealthy provinces the Romans ever controlled. Because of the vast wealth of Asia, the province attracted the corrupt and greedy among the Senate, and its Governors were notorious for nearly a century after its acquisition.
This sudden windfall had unforeseen, and perhaps unfortunate, consequences for the political situation in Rome, and the political reform movement of the Gracchi.
Increasing instability and violence marked the final years of the Republic. This trend, initiated by the Gracchi in the 2nd century BC, and Sulla's proscriptions in the late 80s BC, ended centuries of relatively peaceful governance. This kind of violent and sensationalist politics only sought to inflame tensions within Roman society, namely the poor and the disenfranchised. However, despite potential for revolution within the lower ranks, revolution itself only threatened twice before the final collapse, during the Social War and the Catiline conspiracy.
Other political problems stemmed from the domination of the consulship by Pompey and Julius Caesar.
The expansion of the Roman Empire brought about the development of a money-based economy, which altered the old system based on land ownership. This had many effects, including the weakening of the landed nobility's position in favour of the wealthy knights, and finally contributed to the steadily declining state of public morale in Rome. Out of this depressed situation Catiline led a rabble of economically wounded nobles and veterans on the political platform of debt cancellation; however, Cicero through luck, patient care, sober judgment and exceptional intelligence, thwarted the attempted revolution and checked the threat of civil war, all without the use of arms. Cicero, now heralded as the "Saviour of Rome", reached the pinnacle of his fame, and cemented his role as a defender of the Republic; however, the manner in which the Senate dealt with the crisis demonstrated the Senate's reactionary tendencies to secure its own interests first. This move away from a policy of compromise to self-interested reaction was a key shift in Roman politics which would in the long term contribute to the final collapse of the Republic.
Rome's military and diplomatic success resulted in serious economic and political tensions within the Republic itself. While factional strife had always been a part of Roman political life, the stakes were now much higher. Beginning with the Punic Wars, the Roman economy began to change, and wealth became concentrated in the hands of a few powerful clans. These rich and powerful families seized most of Rome's newly conquered territories.
Additionally, only men who could provide their own arms were eligible to serve in the Legions. As a result, the majority of Roman troops came from middle class landowning families. But with military campaigns now lasting years instead of a few months, these soldiers could not return to work their farms as they had traditionally done. With their holdings lying fallow, their families quickly fell into debt, and their lands were eventually lost to creditors — typically wealthy landholders who consolidated these properties into vast estates or latifundia. Formerly middle-class soldiers would return from years of campaigning to find themselves landless, unable to support their families. Ironically, they were also unemployable, the success of the Legions having made slaves a much cheaper source of labor.
By 133 BC the economic imbalance had become too acute to ignore, but the wealthy patrician families in the Senate had a vested interest in preserving the status quo, making land reform through the traditional channels an unlikely prospect.
In 133 BC, tribune Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus attempted to introduce land reform, calling for the redistribution of "publicly held land" to now-landless veterans. Accordingly, he proposed the enforcement of an old Roman law, customarily ignored, which limited the use of public lands. While these "public lands" were technically state-owned, they were used by wealthy landholders, many of whom were Senators. They faced the loss of this valuable property if Tiberius' proposals were enacted.
Realizing that the Senate would not agree to enforce the law, Tiberius bypassed the Senate entirely and tried to pass his reform through the Plebeian Assembly as a plebiscite, using the legal principle of Lex Hortensia. While technically legal, this was a violation of political custom and outraged many patricians. The Senate blocked Tiberius by bribing his fellow tribune to veto the bill. In response, Tiberius passed a bill to depose his colleague from office, violating the principle of collegiality. With the veto withdrawn, the land reform passed. The Senate, incensed, refused to fund the resulting land commission. Tiberius in turn used the plebeian assembly to divert funds from the income of Pergamon to fund the commission, thus challenging the Senate's traditional control of state finances and foreign policy. When it became clear that Tiberius did not have enough time left in his term to complete the land reforms, he announced that he would run again for the tribunate, violating the principle of annuality. This was the last straw for the patricians. Fearing that Tiberius intended to become a tyrant, they had him and 300 of his followers assassinated in the streets of Rome.
Tiberius' younger brother Gaius Sempronius Gracchus attempted to continue his brother's work almost ten years later. He appears to have been more of a demagogue than a serious reformer, and he attempted to pass a slew of laws in order to gain popular support. Unlike his brother, Gaius had no specific reform agenda. He was neither as successful nor as popular as Tiberius, but he did succeed in acquiring many political enemies. Escalating political tensions finally exploded once again into violence on the Capitoline Hill, where Gaius and 3,000 of his followers were killed.
Whatever their true intentions may have been, the political careers of the Gracchi brothers broke the political traditions of Rome and introduced mob violence as a tool of Roman political life. It was a change from which the Republic never recovered.
Following the scandal of the Gracchi, Roman politics became a mix of tradition, demagoguery, and mob violence.
In addition, the military demands of the Republic's expanding empire proved increasingly onerous. The badly executed and unpopular Jugurthine War (112–105 BC) in Numidia would launch the career of Gaius Marius, and bring about fundamental changes in the Republic and its army.
Marius was a "novus homo" - or self-made man - from Arpinum. He was wealthy and possessed minor political influence, but was not a descendant of the Roman aristocracy. After serving as a minor officer in the Jugurthine War, Marius returned to Rome and stood for election as Consul in 107 BC, promising to end the war within a year. Surprisingly, he was elected.
Upon attaining the Consulship, Marius instituted the Marian reforms in 107 BC, in the face of overwhelming Senate opposition. These reforms reorganized the structure of the Roman legions, recruiting poor and landless Roman citizens into the army at state expense. Soldiers would now enlist for a period of 16 years, and, at the end of their service, receive a land grant as reward. This fundamentally changed the nature of the Roman army. From this point on, legionaries would be professional soldiers fighting for their "pension" and the general who could obtain it for them.
With his new armies, Marius returned to Numidia as the Consular commander. Although he did not complete the war within the year, he was elected Consul for a second time in absentia, a nearly unprecedented accomplishment. In 105 BC, Marius defeated Jugurtha, who was captured by King Bocchus I of Mauretania and handed over to one of Marius' quaestors, Lucius Cornelius Sulla.
Returning to Rome a military hero, Marius was quickly confronted with the near catastrophe of the disastrous Battle of Arausio in 105 BC. This defeat caused a serious breach in the Roman defenses in northern Italy. For the first time since Hannibal, the Roman heartland was open to invasion. This time the opponents were not the relatively civilized Carthaginians, but the migrating Cimbri and Teutoni tribes, whom the Romans saw as nothing more than barbarians. Marius was elected Consul for three more years (104–102 BC) to fight the remainder of the Cimbrian War.
Marius acted swiftly, raised new Legions from plebeian volunteers, trained them, and crushed the Teutoni at the Battle of Aquae Sextae in 102 BC. He then aided Quintus Lutatius Catulus in defeating the Cimbri at the Battle of Vercellae in 101 BC. Having saved Rome, Marius was elected Consul an unprecedented sixth time in 100 BC.
Marius' military skills, however, did not translate into political aptitude or even competence. After a humiliating political scandal concerning Lucius Appuleius Saturninus, Marius completely withdrew from public life.
Marius' retirement cleared the way for the political career of Lucius Cornelius Sulla. Sulla was a patrician and a politically conservative traditionalist. He had served competently under Marius as an officer in Numidia and Germany. Nonetheless, there was serious political enmity between the two, as Sulla felt that Marius had "slighted" him by failing to give him proper credit for the capture of Jugurtha.
In 91 BC, tribune Marcus Livius Drusus, a champion of the Latin allies, attempted to pass a law granting full Roman citizenship to all allied Italians living south of the Po River. When Drusus was murdered, many of the Italians, especially those among the Samnites, exploded into a rebellion called the Social War (socius is Latin for "ally").
Ironically, in an attempt to end the war, Rome offered full citizenship to any of the rebels who would end the conflict. Most of them ceased fighting, but several continued the rebellion. In response, Gaius Marius came out of retirement and took command of the Roman forces in northern Italy, while Sulla commanded the Roman legions in southern Italy. Together, they brought the war to an end in 88 BC. Following their joint victory, Sulla stood for election as Consul and was elected.
As the Social war came to an end, Mithridates VI of Pontus overran Bithynia and slaughtered tens of thousands of Roman citizens in the Asiatic Vespers. In response, the Senate gave Sulla Consular command of an expeditionary force sent to exact revenge against Mithridates.
However, Marius did not wish to return to political obscurity. Through the use of bribes, he passed a bill in the Plebeian Assembly giving himself command of Sulla's armies. When Sulla heard of this while raising his legions in southern Italy, he turned his armies on Rome itself. Sulla's legions captured the city after protracted and bloody street fighting in Rome, and Marius was forced to flee to Africa. Sulla then departed to confront Mithridates and his allies. Marius returned to Rome with Lucius Cornelius Cinna and captured the city with his legions. Marius appointed himself Consul for a seventh time and proceeded to butcher Sulla's supporters. However, only a few weeks later Marius died of a massive brain hemorrhage. Cinna retained power and, in an almost comedic episode, decided to ignore Sulla's existence completely, even sending a second army to Pontus. Sulla eventually took over that army and combined it with his own. The war came to a close with the Treaty of Dardanos in 85 BC.
Sulla then returned to Rome with his Legions in 83 BC.
Cinna was killed by his own troops trying to muster them against the returning Legions of Sulla, leaving Gnaeus Papirius Carbo and other of Marius's supporters to deal with Sulla's return. In 83 BC Sulla landed in southern Italy, and full scale Roman civil war broke out in the Italian countryside. The war raged on for a year and a half, but Sulla's legions (aided by Metellus Pius, Marcus Licinius Crassus and a young Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus) finally prevailed, taking the city of Rome at the Battle of the Colline Gate.
Sulla then instituted a bloody series of purges, subjecting his enemies to proscription: a process named for the lists of the condemned posted in the Roman forum. People whose names appeared on the lists were stripped of their legal rights and protection, had their (and their family's) property impounded by the state, and a bounty placed on their lives. Each day, the lists in the forum were updated by Sulla and his supporters. New names could be added to the list and others removed based solely on the whim of Sulla. This allowed him to maintain a grip of fear among those now under his control and keep anyone who may consider plotting against him fearful that his name may appear at any moment on the infamous lists. Thousands of Romans who opposed Sulla, or even those who simply had wealth that he and his followers coveted, were butchered in this fashion over a period of two years.
Sulla was appointed dictator "for the writing of laws and reorganizing of the state" (rei publicæ constituendæ causa), and began reorganizing Roman political institutions to return power to the Senate. He strongly curtailed the power of the Plebeian Assembly, doubled the size of the Roman Senate, gave the Senate veto power over the decrees of the Plebeian Assembly, and stripped the Tribunes of much of their power. He reorganized the legal system, curtailed the actions of provincial governors and expanded the Pomerium, among other constitutional reforms.
With his reforms in place, Sulla then resigned the dictatorship in 80 BC, and was elected consul with Metellus Pius as his colleague. In 79 BC he withdrew completely from public life, and retired to his country estates where he finished his memoirs (now lost) and died in 78 BC.
Within two years of Sulla's death, someone attempted to emulate him. When one of the Consuls of 78 BC, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, failed to carry out his intended political agenda, or have his Consulship extended, he attempted to raise an army in Cisalpine Gaul and march on Rome to seize power. The Senate turned to a military general who had aided Sulla in his civil war, and had shown himself also to be a competent commander in Africa for Sulla: Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus.
Pompey put down Lepidus's rebellion, and then marched his own legions on Rome. Pompey camped his army outside the walls of Rome, and "requested" that he be given the right to campaign against the rebellion of Quintus Sertorius in Hispania (Sertorius was an opponent of Sulla's who had fled to Hispania during the proscriptions, and set up his own "counter-Rome" in that province). Though the brilliant guerilla tactics and leadership of Sertorius proved a thorn in Pompey's side, his murder by his former allies ended the campaign against his forces. The Senate, having "blessed" Pompey with the undertaking, was pleased at the young general's success and he was able to gain great political and military influence from his campaigns.
One of the more easily over-looked social aspects in classical antiquity and of Roman society is slavery. At that time almost all societies used slaves in various positions. The vast majority would perform back-breaking and dangerous labor and the more educated slaves (a small minority) would work in a more bureaucratic position. The lives of the majority of slaves would usually consist of hard work and their living conditions would be quite harsh. From time to time slaves would revolt and military might would be used to crush the rebellion and the matter would be conveniently forgotten and nothing would happen. This time, it would be different.
The Roman Republic would be rocked by a slave revolt led by Spartacus who according to ancient sources was a Thracian auxiliary who had deserted from the Roman legions. He had been captured, enslaved and trained as a gladiator. In 73 BC he and some of his fellow gladiators rebelled at Capua and set up a military camp on Mount Vesuvius. Slaves across all the Italian peninsula flocked to him, and their numbers soon swelled to about 70,000. The best Roman legions were absent from Italy: some were in Hispania under the command of Pompey, suppressing the rebellion led by Quintus Sertorius, while others were fighting in Asia Minor under the command of Lucius Licinius Lucullus against Mithridates. Initially, the rebel slaves had great success against the Roman legions sent against them, and wreaked havoc across the Italian peninsula. In 71 BC, however, Marcus Licinius Crassus was given military command and crushed the rebels. About 6,000 were crucified; 10,000 survivors who escaped were intercepted by Pompey, then returning with his army from Hispania. Although Crassus did most of the fighting, Pompey also claimed credit for the victory, and this created tension between the two men.
With the slave rebellion crushed, Pompey once again marched his legions on Rome, and encamped outside its walls. He then demanded that he be elected Consul for the year 70 BC. In response Crassus immediately marched his legions towards Rome. However, instead of blocking Pompey's extortion, he camped his own legions outside Rome and demanded that he be elected co-Consul with Pompey. The Senate had no real choice but to agree.
Crassus and Pompey spent most of the year trying to outdo each other in the lavishness of their public expenditures. However they also pushed through several laws which wiped away the last vestiges of the "Sullan Reforms" and restored the power of the Plebeian Assembly.
Meanwhile, Lucullus was fighting quite successfully against Mithridates and his ally and son-in-law, Tigranes the Great, King of Armenia, but was unable to completely pacify the territories he conquered. At the same time, Marcus Antonius Creticus (father of Mark Antony) and Q. Caecilius Metellus were attempting to stamp out the plague of piracy afflicting the Mediterranean, with reportedly grotesque incompetence.
Because of these lack of successes, Pompey was given an extraordinary military command in 66 BC. He stamped out piracy within forty-nine days and then began pursuing Mithridates. Pompey annihilated his army, and Mithridates remained a fugitive for the last three years of his life. Pompey followed up these successes by conquering the entirety of the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, ending the rule of the Syrian Seleucid dynasty. The captured wealth of the conquests more than doubled the income of the Roman state, and Pompey now surpassed Crassus as the wealthiest man in Rome.
The economic situation in Rome itself, however, was still problematic. Debt was the intractable problem and many, both noble and not, found themselves burdened with incredible debts. Their mantle was taken up by Lucius Sergius Catilina, who ran for consul in 64 BC for the following year on the platform of a wholesale debt cancellation — essentially a redistribution of wealth. Despite his noble birth, his policies scared the optimates, who instead supported the novus homo Marcus Tullius Cicero. Cicero was duly elected; Catilina finished third and out of office. Catilina ran again the following year, but this time he was defeated even more heavily. He then, along with several dissolute senators, began planning a coup d'état that would include arson throughout Rome, the arming of slaves, and the accession of Catilina as dictator. Cicero found out and informed the Senate in a series of brilliant speeches, and was given absolute power by the senate ("senatus consultum ultimum"), in order to save the republic. He ordered the execution of the conspirators in the city without due trial; and his fellow consul, Gaius Antonius Hybrida defeated the army of Catilina near Pistoria. None of Catilina's soldiers were taken alive.
In 62 BC Pompey returned from the east. Many senators, especially among the optimates, feared that Pompey would follow in the footsteps of Sulla and establish himself as dictator. Instead, Pompey disbanded his army upon arriving in Italy. Nevertheless, the Senate maintained its opposition to land grants for Pompey's veterans and the ratification of Pompey's eastern settlement. In addition, the Senate was also stonewalling Pompey's old enemy, Crassus, in his attempts to gain some measure of relief for his allies, the tax farmers. Now arriving onto the scene was a young politician who had a heretofore successful, but not brilliant, career — Gaius Julius Caesar. Caesar took advantage of the two enemies' dissatisfaction to bring them into an informal alliance known as the First Triumvirate. In addition, he reinforced his alliance by marrying his daughter, Julia, to Pompey. The three triumvirs would be able to dominate Roman politics because of their collective influence; the first step was Caesar's election to the consulship for 59 BC.
Attempting to pass the laws which would benefit both Pompey and Crassus, Caesar ran into heavy opposition from his very conservative consular colleague Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus, who used all manner of parliamentary tactics to stall the legislation. Caesar resorted to violence and Bibulus ended up under house arrest for most of the year, while Caesar was able to pass almost all of his legislation. He was then appointed Governor of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum for a five year period. When the Governor of Transalpine Gaul died unexpectedly, the Senate assigned that province to him as well.
Caesar took up his governorships in 58 BC. He immediately launched a series of military campaigns across all of Gaul known as the Gallic Wars, and even raided Germania and Britannia. For a nine year period he carefully played the Gallic tribes against each other (divide and rule) and crushed all military opposition. These wars caused massive death and destruction and were, technically, illegal, as Caesar had exceeded his authority (which was supposedly limited to his provinces) in launching the invasions, but in Rome no one, except his enemies in the Senate, was too concerned.
Meanwhile, the Triumvirate at home needed a boosting. In 56 BC, the three triumvirs met at Lucca, just inside Caesar's province of Cisalpine Gaul (as a man in control of an army, he was not allowed to cross into Italy). The three triumvirs reached a new settlement: Crassus and Pompey were once again to be elected consuls for the year 55 BC; Pompey kept the command of the Roman legions in Hispania (which he ruled in absentia), and Crassus, desiring military glory so that he could be on the same level as Pompey and Caesar, was given a military command in the east. Caesar's governorships were extended for another five years.
In 53 BC, Crassus launched an invasion of the Parthian Empire. He marched his army deep into the desert; but there his army was cut off deep in enemy territory, surrounded and routed at the Battle of Carrhae. Crassus himself was killed in battle, the story being that the Parthians, upon finding his body, poured molten gold down his throat thus symbolising Crassus' obsession with money.
The death of Crassus removed some of the balance in the Triumvirate; consequently, Caesar and Pompey began to move apart (a process which had begun in 54 BC, when Julia died in childbirth). Pompey, who previously had been the effective leader of the Triumvirate and, indeed, of the republic, was beginning to see his authority threatened by Caesar, whose campaigns in Gaul were vastly increasing his prestige, fortune and power. Consequently, Pompey began to align increasingly with the optimates, who themselves were very much opposed to Caesar and his "party" (that is, the populares).
At the same time a united Gallic uprising, led by Vercingetorix, nearly succeeded in toppling the Roman military presence in Gaul; but Caesar, with his usual speed and brilliant mix of military strategy and ruthlessness, was able to defeat Vercingetorix at the siege of Alesia. The Gallic Wars were essentially over (a third of all male Gauls had been slain; another third had been sold into slavery).
By 50 BC all Gallic resistance had been stamped out and Caesar had a veteran and loyal army to further his political ambitions. With Caesar's governorship drawing to a close, the two greatest political and military leaders of the Roman Republic were hard-pressed to find any common ground, and a crisis was growing which would be the final nail in the coffin of the Republic.
The key issue was whether or not Caesar would be able to stand for the consulship of 48 BC in absentia. Caesar's governorship would expire at the end of 49 BC, and so would his immunity from trial. He was sure to be charged with violations of the constitution stemming from his consulship of 59 BC, which could result in his political, and perhaps even physical, death. If he was allowed to run in absentia, he could immediately assume another consulship, and then following that, immediately assume a new governorship, always maintaining his immunity. The optimates were heavily opposed to Caesar's standing in absentia, and on 1 January 49 BC passed a law declaring Caesar a public enemy and demanded his return to Rome to stand trial. Pompey was given absolute authority to defend the Roman Republic. This news reached Caesar probably on January 10, and proclaiming, "Alea iacta est" — "The die is cast" (in fact, he said it in Greek, quoting Menander), Caesar crossed the Rubicon River (the boundary between Cisalpine Gaul and Italy) with his army. Civil war had begun again.
Caesar, leading a tough veteran army, quickly swept down the Italian peninsula, and encountered meager resistance from freshly recruited legions. The only exception was at Corfinium, where Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus was defeated. Caesar pardoned him, under his notable policy of clemency — he wanted to let everyone know that he would not be the next Sulla. He took Rome without opposition, and then marched south to try to stop Pompey, who was trying to withdraw from Brundisium across the Adriatic Sea to Greece. Caesar came close, but Pompey and his armies were able to escape at the last minute.
In 48 BC Pompey controlled the seas, and his legions heavily outnumbered Caesar's; but the legions of Caesar, after ten years of vigorous campaigns, were experienced veterans. Caesar, for his lack of a navy, solidified his control over the western Mediterranean, notably at Massilia and in Hispania. Then he invaded Greece. The two leaders first faced each other at the Battle of Dyrrhachium, where Pompey won. Nevertheless, Pompey failed to follow up on his victory, and Caesar was able to regroup and win a decisive victory at the Battle of Pharsalus on 9 August. Pompey fled to Egypt, where he hoped to find assistance.
Caesar, pursuing Pompey, arrived in Alexandria, capital of Ptolemaic Egypt, to find the breadbasket of the Mediterranean in a state of civil war. Agents of the young king, Ptolemy XIII, had assassinated Pompey and presented his head to Caesar, believing it would please him and that he would support Ptolemy against his sister, Cleopatra. Caesar was too cunning a politician to make such a mistake. In a careful way he lamented the inglorious death of Pompey, a fellow Roman, and supported the militarily weaker side, whose gratitude would logically be much greater. He even began an affair with Cleopatra. A long, drawn-out city battle resulted, one of the most dangerous of Caesar's career, but he triumphed and placed Cleopatra on the throne along with another brother, Ptolemy XIV. Cleopatra later gave birth to Caesar's son, Caesarion, titled Ptolemy Caesar. Caesar, hearing of an invasion in Asia Minor led by Pharnaces II of Pontus, the son of the old Roman enemy Mithridates, advanced there in 47 BC, and won a quick victory at the Battle of Zela. It was then that Caesar famously said, "Veni, vidi, vici" — "I came, I saw, I conquered."
In 46 BC Caesar went to North Africa to deal with the regrouping remnants of the pro-Pompeian forces under Cato the Younger and Titus Labienus. After a slight setback in the Battle of Ruspina he defeated them at the Battle of Thapsus. Much to Caesar's chagrin, Cato committed suicide. Caesar had wanted to pardon Cato, his most intractable foe, in order to gain popularity through further clemency. In 45 BC, he went to Hispania, and won the final victory over the pro-Pompeian forces in the terrifying Battle of Munda. He said that before, he always had fought for victory, but in Munda he had fought for his life. He then returned to Rome; he had less than a year to live.
In that final year Caesar launched many reforms. He tightly regulated the distribution of free grain, keeping those who could afford private grain from having access to the grain dole. He reformed the calendar, changing from a Lunar to a Solar calendar and giving his gens name to the seventh month, July. This calendar, with minor changes made by Octavian (who would later rename the eighth month, August, after one of his titles) and Pope Gregory in 1582, has survived until now. He also reformed the debt problem. At the same time, he continued to accept enormous honors from the Senate. He was named Pater Patriae — "Father of the Country", and began wearing the purple toga of the old Roman kings. This deepened the rift between Caesar and the aristocratic republican Senators, many of whom he had pardoned during the civil war.
In 45 BC he had been named dictator for ten years. This was followed up in 44 BC with his appointment of dictator for life. A twofold problem was created; first, all political power would be concentrated in the hands of Caesar for the foreseeable future, in effect subordinating the Senate to his whims; and second, only Caesar's death would end this. As such, a group of about 60 senators, led by Gaius Cassius Longinus and Marcus Junius Brutus, conspired to assassinate Caesar in order to save the republic. They carried out their deed on the Ides of March — 15 March 44 BC, three days before Caesar was scheduled to go east to fight the Parthians.
After Caesar's assassination, his friend and chief lieutenant, Marcus Antonius, seized the last will of Caesar and using it in an inflammatory speech against the murderers, incited the mob against them. The murderers panicked and fled to Greece. In Caesar's will, his grand-nephew Octavianus who also was the adopted son of Caesar, was named as his political heir. Octavian returned from Apollonia (where he and his friends Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Gaius Maecenas had been studying and helping in the gathering of the Macedonian legions for the planned invasion of Parthia) and raised a small army from among Caesar's veterans. After some initial disagreements, Antony, Octavian, and Antony's ally Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, formed the Second Triumvirate. Their combined strength gave the triumvirs absolute power. In 42 BC, they followed the assassins into Greece, and mostly because of the generalship of Antony, defeated them at the Battle of Philippi on 23 October. To pay for about forty legions that were engaged by the triumvirate for this purpose, proscriptions were declared against about 300 senators and 2,000 equites, including Cicero, who was killed at his villa. After the victory, about 22 of the largest Italian cities suffered confiscations to provide land for the veterans.
In 40 BC, Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus negotiated the Pact of Brundisium. Antony received all the richer provinces in the east, namely Achaea, Macedonia and Epirus (roughly modern Greece), Bithynia, Pontus and Asia (roughly modern Turkey), Syria, Cyprus and Cyrenaica and he was very close to Ptolemaic Egypt, then the richest state of all. Octavian on the other hand received the Roman provinces of the west: Italia (modern pointed by the Roman Senate of the command of the Italian coasts.]]
In the west, Octavian and Lepidus had first to deal with Sextus Pompeius, the surviving son of Pompey, who had taken control of Sicily and was running pirate operations in the whole of the Mediterranean, endangering the flow of the crucial Egyptian grain to Rome. In 36 BC, Lepidus, while besieging Sextus forces in Sicily, ignored Octavian's orders that no surrender would be allowed. Octavian then bribed the legions of Lepidus, and they deserted to him. This stripped Lepidus of all his remaining military and political power.
Antony, in the east, was waging war against the Parthians. His campaign was not as successful as he would have hoped, though far more successful than Crassus. He took up an amorous relationship with Cleopatra, who gave birth to three children by him. In 34 BC, at the Donations of Alexandria, Antony "gave away" much of the eastern half of the empire to his children by Cleopatra. In Rome, this donation, the divorce of Octavia Minor and the affair with Cleopatra, and the seized testament of Antony (in which he famously asked to be buried in his beloved Alexandria) was used by Octavian in a vicious propaganda war accusing Antony of "going native", of being completely in the thrall of Cleopatra and of deserting the cause of Rome. He was careful not to attack Antony directly, for Antony was still quite popular in Rome; instead, the entire blame was placed on Cleopatra.
In 31 BC war finally broke out. Approximately 200 senators, one-third of the Senate, abandoned Octavian to support Antony and Cleopatra. The final confrontation of the Roman Republic occurred on 2 September 31 BC, at the naval Battle of Actium where the fleet of Octavian under the command of Agrippa routed the combined fleet of Antony and Cleopatra; the two lovers fled to Egypt. After his victory, Octavian skillfully used propaganda, negotiation, and bribery to bring Antony's legions in Greece, Asia Minor, and Cyrenaica to his side.
Octavian continued on his march around the Mediterranean towards Egypt, receiving the submission of local kings and Roman governors along the way. He finally reached Egypt in 30 BC, but before Octavian could capture him, Antony committed suicide. Cleopatra did the same within a few days. The period of civil wars were finally over. Thereafter, there was no one left in the Roman Republic who wanted to, or could, stand against Octavian, as the adopted son of Caesar moved to take absolute control. He designated governors loyal to him to the half dozen "frontier" provinces, where the majority of the legions were situated, thus, at a stroke, giving him command of enough legions to ensure that no single governor could try to overthrow him. He also reorganized the Senate, purging it of unreliable or dangerous members, and "refilled it" with his supporters from the provinces and outside the Roman aristocracy, men who could be counted on to follow his lead. However, he left the majority of Republican institutions apparently intact, albeit feeble. Consuls continued to be elected, tribunes of the plebeians continued to offer legislation, and debate still resounded through the Roman Curia. However it was Octavian who influenced everything and ultimately, controlled the final decisions, and had the legions to back it up, if necessary.
The Roman Senate and the Roman citizens, exhausted by lengthy civil war, were willing to relinquish the rule of the Senate and popular assemblies in favor of a temporary security. By 27 BC the transition, though subtle and disguised, was made complete. In that year, Octavian offered back all his extraordinary powers to the Senate, and in a carefully staged way, the Senate refused and in fact titled Octavian Augustus — "the revered one". He was always careful to avoid the title of rex — "king", and instead took on the titles of princeps — "first citizen" and imperator, a title given by Roman troops to their victorious commanders. All these titles, alongside the name of Caesar, were used by all Roman Emperors and still survive slightly changed to this date. Prince derives from princeps and emperor from imperator; Caesar became Kaiser (in German) and czar (in Russian).
Nonetheless, on 16, January, 27 BC (when the official designation of "princeps" was put upon Octaivan and he was declared Augustus), the era of the Roman Republic was now officially over and the reign of the Roman emperors had begun
READING FOR THE NEXT LECTURE