Ancient history

the roman republic

The Republic is called the second period of Roman history, which begins with the expulsion of Tarquin the Proud , 509 BC until 29 BC in which Octavio became emperor, with the name of Augustus.
At this stage, Rome became the leading power in the Ancient World, with numerous colonies in Europe, Asia and Africa, thanks to its expansionist policy and the fact that it had a powerful, disciplined and well-organized army. This period also corresponds to the strengthening of its political institutions and the spread of Hellenic culture. Alongside these positive achievements, deep social problems arose, such as the struggle between rich and poor (patricians and plebeians) and rivalries between ambitious caudillos who vied for power.

1. Political organization

During this period some institutions of the monarchy were adopted and others were created.

1.1 Institutions and magistracies

a. The consuls

The consuls were authorities who exercised government functions, military functions and the administration of justice. In this period the king was replaced by two consuls, who controlled each other. At the end of their government they had to report to the Senate about their functions.
In case of national danger, the consuls appointed a dictator, with absolute powers, whose function could not last more than six months.

b. senano

During the Republic, the Senate was the same institution as in the Monarchy (previous stage). Its functions were consultation and advice to the consuls. In that sense, he directed the internal administration and the foreign policy of the Roman government.

c. The assemblies

Assemblies also called elections They were of three classes:
The Curial Assembly , was the oldest institution formed by the meeting of the patricians, called by the king met at the foot of the Capitol. The vote of the majority of the curiae constituted the vote of the people.
The Centurial Assembly , was a military assembly, which met by groups of 100 men. The head of each group was called a centurion. The assemblies were called and directed by the consuls, in the Campo Marte . With the majority vote they approved the laws and elected the consuls.
The Tribal Assembly , was the assembly of the plebs, grouped by tribes, presided over by the Tribune. Their agreements or plebiscites had the character of law.
The tribunes of the plebs were elected in the Tribal Assemblies, in number of two. They represented the commoners and defended the rights of the people before the Senate and the consuls (Aristocrats).

d. Other magistracies

The Censors , they were in charge of doing the census or registration of people and their property. In addition, they took care of the education and good customs of the people.
The Quaestors they were the accountants who collected taxes and managed the public treasury.
The Praetors These officials administered justice. They were the enforcers of Roman Law.
The Ediles formed the municipal organization. Its functions were to ensure the supply and surveillance of the markets, the cleaning of the streets, maintenance of the roads and highways and the organization of the Olympic games.

2. Expansion policy and its consequences

The Roman army was the main institution for war and conquest. It was made up of citizens between the ages of 17 and 46, they made up the national guard.
At first, only the patricians joined their ranks. . Commoners and allies were later admitted.
The army was organized into legions of 6,200 men each and fought closely with much greater efficiency than the Greek phalanx. With this powerful machinery he not only conquered territories but also knew how to impose Roman authority.

2.1 The conquest of the Italian peninsula

The Roman expansion began with the conquest of the peoples who lived in the Italian peninsula. These towns included:
The Latinos , who inhabited the plains of Lazio, were converted into settlers and as such supplied men for the Roman army.
The Samnites who inhabited the mountainous regions of central Italy, had formed a powerful state, conquered Campania and other territories located to the south of the peninsula. This invasion caused the war with the Romans, who prevailed in the end, occupying Campania, the central mountains and Apulia, the only fertile plain on the eastern side that served as a supply source.
The Etruscans who lived north of Rome. These harassed by the Gauls from the north and the Romans from the south, were annexed to the Republic.
Magna Graecia It was the southern part of the Italian peninsula. Before the overwhelming advance of the Romans. Tarentum hired a mercenary army under the command of Pyrrhus, King of Epirus. This legendary character, in addition to the 25,000 soldiers, brought a novelty; the elephants, which crushed Roman legions. Pirro after his initial victories was defeated at Benevento and withdrew to his country.
After this victory, Rome dominated the entire Italian peninsula. The defeated peoples became allied colonies with civic rights, participation in the army and usufruct of the profits that the conquests offered them.

2.2 Conquests of the Western Mediterranean

The conquest of the Western Mediterranean began with the war of Carthage, also called Punic Wars , by the denomination of Puni or Phoeni, which was given to the Carthaginians. It took place between the years 264 and 146 BC.
After conquering the Italian peninsula, the Romans took their weapons to the island of Sicily. This affected the interests of the Carthaginians, located in North Africa. This rivalry originated the Punic Wars which were three. All the Punic Wars have full articles or a summary of each war.
First Punic War, Second Punic War and Third Punic War

2.3 Conquest of the Eastern Mediterranean

Having conquered the Italian peninsula and the Western Mediterranean, the Romans headed east. In Europe they subjugated Macedonia, Epirus, and Greece; In Asia they subjugated Pergamon, Syria and Palestine. As a final result, the Mediterranean was already an inland sea within the Empire of Rome. For this reason they said Mare Nostrum (our sea).

3. Consequences of Roman expansion

As a consequence of the great conquests, life in Rome and its provinces changed completely, this due to the cultural intercalation of the peoples they had submitted; because of the wealth accumulated in the elite of Roman society and because of the power and prestige that the Roman army had gained.

3.1 Political consequences

Rome became the first power of the Ancient World, owner of extensive territories with great wealth.
The conquered territories were transformed into Roman provinces, with a great governor or proconsul in the government of each of them and a retinue of officials at her command.
The authorities and public officials became corrupted by lack of control in such a vast territory.
Caudillos appeared with a desire for power, which caused civil wars .

3.2 Social consequences

A society with great inequalities arose where the rich class was represented by the noble patricians and the other poor, represented by the plebeians.
Most of the middle class died in the battles and the few who did return sold their small estates to the wealthy.
The poor rose up against the rich and the Senate, causing social struggles .

3.3 Economic consequences

Alongside the wealthy patricians, a new class called the knights arose. These were financiers, bankers, merchants and shipowners.
They consolidated the latifundia, that is to say, accumulating extensive lands under a single owner, generally in the conquered countries.
Large financial companies such as banks, mining companies and tax collectors also appeared.
They intensified the slave market due to the existence of numerous prisoners of war and due to contacts with the ports of the East, thus causing the reduction of labor costs.
Agriculture declined enormously due to competition from imported wheat, which was sold at a lower price than the national price, and due to the carelessness of the landowners.


Religious beliefs evolved, especially because of their imitation of the Greek gods.
They built temples and statues to consecrate the gods they had assimilated.

3.5 Intellectual consequences

They assimilated the culture of the defeated peoples , especially in the field of literature and the arts of the Greeks.
They perfected education , thanks to the influence of Greek pedagogues.

4. Social struggles:the Graco brothers and their works

After the Roman conquests, whose consequences were favorable to the nobles or patricians, there was a greater distance between the poor and the rich; that is to say between plebeians and patricians, disturbing the public tranquility. Insurrections broke out in Etruria, Apulia and Sicily.
In these circumstances appeared the brothers Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, great orators, educated by Greek teachers. They proposed to do justice and democratize the Roman people.
Tiberius Gracchus , elected tribune of the plebs (133 BC) passed the agrarian law, which limited the individual plots of the Ager Publicus to 125 hectares, the surplus would be given to the poor.
The nobles objected, because this law was against their economic interests and consequently they prepared a riot against Tiberius and beat him to death in the Capitol. The law was repealed but its effects were limited.
Caius Gracchus , brother of Tiberius was also elected tribune (123 BC). As such he performed important works in favor of the commoners:

  • he had the frumentary law approved consisting of the distribution of wheat at low prices. To that end, he founded colonies and had roads built for the importation of wheat.
  • he planned to grant the right of citizenship to all italics.

Abandoned by the plebs, the Senate promoted a revolt against him and his supporters.
Defeated, he had himself killed by a slave on Mount Aventine.

5. The civil wars

the 1st century BC It was characterized by violent social, political and economic crises. After the failure of the Gracchus brothers, the victorious leaders of the conquests emerged with personal and power ambitions, which shook the tranquility of Rome for 80 years. These movements are known by the name of civil wars.
The clashes polarized between Mario and Sulla, the protagonists of the first and second triumvirate.

5.1 The rivalry between Mario and Sila

Key Mario he was of peasant origin. Elected seven times Consul and Democratic caudillo he was the first to transform the army into a weapon of the dictatorship. He gave it a professional character with a bias for the people. His insignia was the silver eagle. He was a visible defender of the poor and had the conception of giving citizenship to all Italics.
Lucius Cornelius Sulla he was a leader of patrician origin and defender of the Roman oligarchy. Appointed Consul, he carried out a government of terror against the democrats. He reformed the Constitution in an aristocratic sense.
The Senate named Sulla chief of the army, commissioning him to fight Mithridates, King of Pontus, a dangerous enemy of Rome, similar to Hannibal. This designation upset Mario, who tried to annul the appointment. However he was defeated managing to flee to Africa.
When Sulla was fighting in Asia against Mithridates, the democrats of Rome returned to power, with the old Marius at the head. Unfortunately, upon assuming his seventh term, he died unexpectedly.
Sila returned victorious and defeated the Democrats in two years of bloody fighting. In the midst of reprisals and massacres he implanted the bans:five thousand citizens, supporters of Mario, were ruined or expelled from the territory.
He finally declared himself dictator with absolute power.

5.2 The first Triumvirate

It's called Triumvirate to the form of government that Rome implemented, in the years 60 to 43 B.C. and was made up of three people. Upon Sulla's death, the first Triumvirate was formed, made up of Pompey, Julius Caesar and Crassus in order to avoid civil wars. They did not succeed, quite the opposite, shaking them more.

a. Pompey

Pompey was a Roman general (106 to 48 BC), he led his legions to Spain, crushing the Spanish rebellion under the command of Sertorio, he wanted to form a Spanish state with a Roman model.
He also had to face the mutiny of the slaves, who revolted under the command of Spartacus. Later he campaigned against Mithridates, King of Pontus and Tigranes of Armenia, defeating them. Upon his return from Asia he leaned towards the Democrats and was part of the first triumvirate.

b. Marco Licini Crassus

He formed the first Roman triumvirate with Caesar and Pompey. Allied with it, they defeated the slave rebellion. He died in the war against the Parthians, in which molten gold was poured down his throat.

c. Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar was a Roman general and dictator. He one of the greatest soldiers of antiquity (100 to 44 BC). He formed the first triumvirate with Pompey and Crassus.
The conquests of Julius Caesar
He was given command of Gaul and subjugated all of France. He then he conquered Belgium, part of Holland, Germany and Switzerland.
He didn't get to go to England, he was forced to return to Rome, because Pompey was plotting in the Senate. He entered Rome without resistance. Pompey had fled to Greece accompanied by some senators.
He then went to Spain and defeated Pompey's army. He went to Greece to capture Pompey, defeating him at the battle of Pharsalla (Thessaly). Pompey managed to flee to Egypt and was assassinated in the port of Alexandria.
Caesar following the enemy, came to Egypt. There he dethroned Ptolemy and restored the throne to Cleopatra, a young Egyptian (22 years old) with whom he had a son.
From Egypt he left for Asia Minor, where he defeated Farnese, King of Pontus, who had revolted. The victory was easy, in which he summed it up in one phrase: vini, vidi, vici (I came I saw I conquered). He returned victorious to Rome where he was proclaimed by the Senate as Dictator for Life .
His enemies plotted his death in the Senate. In the year 44 B.C. he was stabbed by Marco Bruto, a person very close to him.
The works of Julius Caesar
He conquered Gaul, Pontus and Numidia, but his work as a statesman is more important than that of a warrior and historian. Among his works are:

  • The distribution of land between his soldiers and the poor
  • He arranged for a third of farm workers to be free.
  • He stabilized the currency based on the gold standard.

He reformed the calendar of 355 days (lunar year), in 365 days (solar year) and named one of the months (July) with his name.

For more information there is a complete article by the Government of Julio Cesar

5.3 The Second Triumvirate

At the death of Julius Caesar, after three years of fighting, they formed the second Triumvirate:Antonio, Octavio and Lepidus .
These divided the government as follows:

  • A Lepidus he touched Africa but retired to private life, and abusing alcohol.
  • A Marco Antonio he fell to be the governor of the East and Egypt, here he met Cleopatra where he married her.
  • A Octavio Julius Caesar's nephew and heir he took command of the West, including Spain and North Africa.

After pacifying Rome, Octavio wanted the dictatorship of Rome, going to Egypt, after having accused Marco Antonio of being a traitor, with popular support.
Along the way he clashed with the fleet of Antony and Cleopatra, off the western coast of Greece, in the battle of Accio (31 BC).
Mark Antony , after the defeat he was abandoned by his army, taking his own life in Alexandria. Cleopatra attempted to seduce Octavian to no avail. Cleopatra committed suicide, getting bitten by an asp snake.
Dominated Egypt, Rome became the largest empire in the world.
Given these conditions, Octavio assumed all the powers of the State with the name of Imperator . Thus the Roman Republic ended and the Empire was established.

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