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The Latin words res publica which mean 'commonwealth' or 'state' is the source of today's term 'republic'.
Rome was never a democracy as we would understand it today, nor as the Greeks understood it. For Roman society and the power within it was firmly divided by class.
Most obviously, there was a division between the free and the enslaved. But the free Romans were further divided. If they were free from birth or had been released from slavery, if they were Roman citizens or Latins, if answerably to a guardian, etc...
The early Republic was solely ruled by the two upper classes, the senators, who qualified by birth and wealth, or the equestrians or knights. The latter were the second most wealthy group in Roman society. Their name stems from the fact that they were supplied, by public expense, with a horse when required for military duty.
The change from Monarchy to Republic was a gradual one. What was the King's main function, including the waging of war, was then taken care of by two consuls (initially called magistrates) of equal rank, elected for one year.
It was Lucius Valerius Publicola who decreed that the lictors, the bearers of the fasces(see Kings) were to march in front of each consul on alternate months, so that there was not to be more symbols of power under the Republic than under the Kings.

As in any large society with growing sophistication and complexity there arises the need for ever more governmental offices to oversee and regulate aspects of life.In the Roman Republic the following offices were created in order to deal with the expanding demands on government.

Pontifex Maximus
Pontifex Maximus
Public Morality
Law Officer
Public Works

The following assemblies were created to rule over Rome, her people and her empire.

The Senate
The Senate
Patrician Assembly
Comitia Curiata
Comitia Curiata
Ward Assembly
Comitia Centuriata
Comitia Centuriata
Military Assembly
Concilium Plebis
Concilium Plebis
Plebeian Assembly
Comitia Tributa
Comitia Tributa
Tribal Assembly

Rome's revolt against her Etruscan despots made her the champion of Latinism against both Etruscans and Sabellian or Oscan hillmen, of whom the most prominent were at this time Aeqians on the north and Volscians on the southeast of the plain of Latium, where the Latin cities were Rome's natural but jealous allies.
Consequently Rome was always at war, attacked or attacking her Etruscan neighbour Veii, or the Volscians or Aequians, or an occasional Latin foe. Meanwhile the Hernicans, who were alike the Latins wedged between the Aequians and the Volscians, preferred alliance to Rome.

When the Etruscan sea power was shattered by Hieron of Syracuse at Cumae the menace from Etruria was so much weakened that for nearly forty years there was no war with Veii.
The Aequian and Volscian powers were broken. In all wars of the fifth century BC the balance of victory lay with Rome and her allies.
Usually this involved a gain of territory by the victors, the lion's share going to Rome whose strength therefore constantly increased.

By the end of the fifth century BC Rome had in fact become all but the mistress of Latium. The Latin cities, known as the Latin League, might have still been independent, but they were increasingly subject to Roman power and influence.
A final war with Veii ended with definite conquest (396 BC) which added a great area on the west of the Tiber to Roman territory.
The decisive victory was in part due to pressure on Etruria by a new enemy, the Gauls, who by this time had completely overrun the basin of the Po and from there were crossing the Apennines into Etruria itself.
The Etruscans had also been driven out of their possessions in Campania, south-east of Latium, by the Samnites, descending from the hills.

With Etruria already being submerged by the Celtic flood at the fall of Veii, six years later (390 BC) it burst into Rome itself.
Legends afterwards told of that invasion; of the barbarians who broke into the senate house and were awestricken by the sublime dignity of the silent seated senators; of the attempt to surprise the capitol which was frustrated by the cackling of geese which warned the Roman guards; of the huge ransom which was being weighed out when the Gallic chief Brennus tossed his sword onto the scale with the words 'Vae victis' ('Woe to the vanquished'); and of the sensational deliverance wrought by the hero Camillus, the conqueror of Veii.
The definite fact which survives is that the Gauls, having swept devastatingly over Etruria, poured into Rome, sacked it, and then rolled back to the north.
Etruria never recovered from the blow whilst Rome reeled under it. The Aequians and Volscians, joined even by some of Rome's dependant allies, seized the moment to make a last desperate attempt at dominance of Latium, only to find themselves broken by Rome's indomitable tenacity.
The Latin League was reorganized in a form which made it even more dependent on Rome than before. Its chief city, Tusculum, was absorbed into Roman territory with her people receiving full Roman citizenship. (380 BC).
Rome was queen of Latium from the hills to the Mediterranean, from the borders of Campania to the Tiber, a substantial section of Etruria finally under her sway.

It was precisely at this moment that the long struggle between the patricians and the plebeians was definitely decided in favour of the plebeians by the abolition of the privileges which restricted administrative offices to men of patrician birth.

At the outset of the republic, the patricians did not only the means to exercise power, but all the actual power as well. The general rise of influence of the plebs was not achieved by revolution but by a gradual in their influence as Rome developed. One major concession was the creation of the office of the tribunis plebis (tribune of the people) in about 494 BC to present the people's grievances to the consuls or the senate. A tribune had extraordinary powers. Whereas a government official could hinder or quash an act of an official of the same rank, a tribune could hold up almost any business of state, including resolutions of the senate, merely by pronouncing his veto. He was required to be on call day and night to any citizen who required his help.
Rome in these days was probably still a society where contact between different social classes was probably still relatively easy. And though today's view of the Republic is undoubtedly tinged with romanticism, it seems reasonable to suppose that both the elite and society as a while were united and that the lower orders were largely satisfied with the leadership of the nobility and with the rewards to be won under their command.

The Twelve Tables

The patricians not only administered the law, the magistrates (consuls) themselves were the only authority who could declare what the law was. The next plebeian demand therefore was for a published written code. In 451 BC a commission of ten men, the Decemviri, was appointed as a temporary government, to refine, standardize and record a statutory code of law. The result, known as the Twelve Tables, was engraved in copper and permanently displayed to public view. The tables constituted a clear set of rules for public, private and political behaviour.
If a thief was a freeman, he was to flogged and bound over to the plaintiff. If he was a slave he was to be flogged and thrown off the Tarpeian Rock. Other laws ruled over hygiene and fire-hazards. No burials or cremations were allowed within the city limits. The upkeep of roads was deemed the responsibility of those on whose property they bordered. There was a statutory maximum rate of interest. Anyone adjudged to be a debtor was given thirty days to pay, after which he could be sold into slavery by his creditors.
It was an offence to cast or have cast any spells on someone. Also to demonstrate in the streets against an individual (instead of for or against a cause) was forbidden. You could remove any part of a neighbour's tree which overhung your property.
There was a fixed penalty for assault, which was reduced if the victim was a slave. Stealing crops was a capital offence, so was slander (by clubbing to death). According to Pliny the Elder (a chronist of the time) the penalty for murder was less than that for stealing crops.
There was a distinction between an intentional and an accidental killing. The father had to right to kill his deformed child.

The Roman code lasted as long as the Roman Empire itself. Though more importantly, it was the first time that written code was put down which applied right across the social scale from the patricians to the plebeians. The Twelve Tables are generally seen as the beginning of European law.

The decemvirate was renewed, attempted to establish itself as a permanent dictatorship, and was overthrown in a popular revolt.

Soon the conflict of orders was to be two-fold. The wealthier influential commoners resented the social and political privileges of the patrician families. The poorer meanwhile felt only that the law was being consistently wrested to their detriment for the convenience of the patricians, especially laws under which land owned or acquired by the state, the ager publicus, were distributed.
The plebeians united to demand reform in both direction, but had no machinery to give effect to its wishes except the clumsy tribunate and the emphasizing of popular sentiment in the formal resolutions - which had no force except for expression of opinion - of its own assemblies.

The 'Licinian Rogations'

The patricians found it at least necessary to make occasional concessions - often indeed such that their expected effect could be practically evaded. As early as 445 BC they were obliged to legalize marriage between patrician and plebeian. But they fought to the last against admitting plebeians to the magistracies. In fact, it was only when the old warrior Camillus, the hero of aristocratic conservatism, realized that it was no use to keep up the struggle against the inevitable, that the measure known as the Licinian Rogations, combining the agrarian and constitutional demands of the plebeians, was passed in 367 BC.

The agrarian part of the Licinian Rogations was too easily evaded to be effective in the long run. But the enactment that thenceforth one of the consuls must be a plebeian was the death-blow to the privileges of the old aristocracy.
However, by that time the office of consul was largely a formal position. Varro describes the consul being called so, "as he consults the senate".
However, the Roman constitution allowed that in times of crisis and particularly war, that one 'dictator' be appointed who could exercise total power for six months. It was an ancient office, having originated from the rule that one military commander being appointed over the armies of several Latin cities. This rank was referred to as 'master-of-infantry'. In republican days the title survived in form of the dictator's second in command who was 'master-of-cavalry'.

It was in the same year, 367 BC, that the great tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse died, leaving to his son the empire which at the moment seemed destined to dominate Italy, a more mighty power than the expanding republic on the Tiber.
But the future lay with the republic.

At the moment when the consulships in 367 ceased to be the monopoly of the old aristocracy Rome was more powerful than any other single state in Italy. Notwithstanding this, the area of her supremacy was still limited to Latium and a portion of Etruria, and even within that area her domination was liable to be challenged.
And now she was to find herself faced by a new and formidable foe in a new guise, the Samnite confederacy.
The leading feature in the advance of Rome is to be found in the series of Samnite wars beginning in 363 BC and ending in 290 BC.
But before the struggle with the Samnites opened, the ascendancy which Rome had been able to establish after the Gallic irruption was seriously threatened. It was perhaps only because the neighbours who feared her feared still more the Gallic menace from which they had already suffered so severely, that Rome was able to do something more than hold her own. There were, moreover, Latin cities which even allied with the Gauls against her, thereby forcing the rest of the Latins, however reluctantly, to throw themselves in effect under the protection of Rome, in spite of the subordination to her involved. The Latin League was renewed on terms more definitely emphasizing the superior status of Rome (358 BC), and the second Gallic tide was rolled back in 354 BC.
Etruscan cities seized the opportunity to attack Rome in the hour of her embarrassment. She suffered some defeats, but by 351 BC the Etruscans were forced to accept a peace for forty years.

In that year and the next the Gauls renewed hostilities for the third time, only to be decisively beaten by the son of the great Camillus who had beaten them off forty years before.
The Latins were held well in hand, and Etruria was bound to peace for many years to come. At this stage, then, Carthage recognized Rome as the coming great power, and made with her the very important treaty of 348 BC - in the view of some authorities, the first between the two states, while others regard it as a simple renewal of a treaty supposedly made in 509 BC, he first year of the republic.

Roman Treaty with Carthage

In the treaty of 348 BC Carthage had undertaken to respect all Latin territory and coast towns as a Roman sphere of influence, and granted to Roman traders admission to the ports of her dominions of Africa, Sardinia and Sicily, as well as of Carthage itself.
So too were Roman ships of war to enjoy access to these ports in wars against third parties.
The Romans in turn were exluded from settling in Sardinia and Africa and accepted limits of Roman seafaring and recognized the Carthaginian claim to regulate trade in other territories. Also Carthage was granted freedom of military action in Italy.
Roman merchants were accepted to Carthage itself and its possessions in Sicily and Carthaginian merchants were to have similar access to Rome. Though Greeks are not mentioned, the effect of the treaty was to bind Rome, through commercial concessions, not to with Carthaginian attacks on the Greek cities of the south. And a significant distinction was drawn between the protectorate of Rome and those cities which were merely allied with the Romans by treaty. In particular, if Carthaginians should sack a town in Latium which was not under Roman protection, though captives and loot might be taken away, the site was to revert to Rome. A lurid glimpse of what had been going on, out of reach of Dionysius' warships.

First Samnite War and the Latin War

Five years after the conclusion of the treaty with Carthage, Rome was at war with the Samnites. For centuries the Sabellian highlanders of the Apennines had struggled to force their way into the plains between the hills and the Mediterranean. But Tuscans and Latins had held them in check, and for the past hundred years the direction of their expansion had been not on Latium but east and south-east. They had begun to stream into Campania where they had become accustomed to a more civilized life, and in turn had become less warlike and ill fitted to cope with their kinsmen of the hills. The most powerful group of the highlanders, the confederated Samnites, were now, in the middle of the fourth century, swarming down upon their civilized precursors in Campania, as, farther east and south, Lucanians and Bruttians were pressing upon the Greek colonies.
In effect the semi-civilized were hammering the over-civilized.
The Greeks were appealing for help to Epirus, the Campanians appealed to Rome and Rome went to their rescue.

The First Samnite War (343-341 BC) was brief. It was marked by Roman victories in the field and by a mutiny on the part of the soldiery, which was suppressed by the sympathetic common sense of the distinguished dictator Marcus Valerius Corvus, who was said to have vanquished a Gallic Goliath in single combat in his youth.
The war was ended by a hasty peace, owing to the revolt of Rome's Latin allies who resented their dependence on the dominant city. In effect the Romans deserted the Campanians, in face of an immediate menace to their own position. They had forced the members of the Latin League into the Samnite War without consulting them. The Latins demanded only that they as a group should stand on an equality with Rome. Rome however rejected the proposal and in two years campaigning asserted her supremacy (340-338 BC) in the Latin War.
The effect of the Latin War was to tighten Rome's grip upon Latium and to provide her with more lands upon which to settle her ever-increasing agricultural population. The Latin League was finally dissolved (338 BC). Some of the cities were incorporated with Rome, others were admitted to civil but not to political rights of Roman citizenship. All were debarred from forming separate alliances with each other or any external power.

Alexander 'the Molossian'

On the Italian mainland the Syracusan ascendancy melted away on the death of Dionysius. The great tyrant had made use of the Lucanians and other Italians to bring the Greek colonies under his sway. When he died the Italians combined and formed the Bruttian League against the divided Greeks, pressing them so hard that Tarentum appealed for aid against the barbarian to its mother city Sparta (343 BC).
Sparta responded and King Archidamus headed an expedition. The expedition failed disastrously and the king was killed in battle with the Lucanians in 338 BC.
Greece could not immediately react, but in 334 BC, when Alexander the Great was starting on the great eastern venture, his uncle Alexander 'the Mossian' of Epirus answered to call of the western Greeks, perhaps with imperial dreams of his own. His success was rapid, but in 330 BC his career was cut short by the dagger of an assassin before he could consolidate his power in Italy.
When he fell he had already formed an alliance with the advancing Roman state whose foes in the south were also his enemies. But he left no successor to carry on his projects.

The Second Samnite War

The Second Samnite War lasted twenty years and was not a defensive venture for Rome. At first the Roman arms were so successful that in 321 BC the Samnites sued for peace. But the terms offered were so stringent that they were rejected and the war went on. In the same year the two consuls, leading an invading force into Samnium, were trapped in a maountain pass known as the Caudine Faroks wehre they could neither advance nor retire, and after a desperate struggle would have been annihilated if they had not submitted to the humiliating terms imposed by the Samnite victor Pontius. The troops were disarmed and compelled to pass 'under the yoke', man by man, as a fow vanquished and disgraced. This ancient ritual was a form of subjugation by which the defeated had to bow and pass under a yoke used for oxen. (In this case it was a yoke made from Roman spears, as it was understood to be the greatest indignity to the Roman soldier to lose his spear.) Six hundred knights had to be handed over as hostages.
Meanwhile the captive consuls pledged themselves to a treaty on the most favourable terms for the Samnites.

Caudine Forks
Caudine Forks

But the Roman senate refused to ratify the terms, and again the war went on.
For six years, till 314 BC, success seemed to flow with the Samnites. Campania was on the verge of deserting Rome. Then the tide turned. But the Roman victory was delayed by the intervention of the Etruscans in 311 BC when the forty years peace reached its end. It was only postponed, however. After the first shock the Romans continuously defeated both their enemies. In 308 BC the Etruscans sued for peace which was granted on severe terms and in 304 BC the Samnites obtained peace on terms probably severe but not crushing.
Fir in 298 BC the Samnites renewed the war. Enemies were stirred up against Rome - Etruscans, Gauls, Umbrians, Sabines - on every side. But they lacked unity, and a shattering victory was won over their combined forces at Sentinum in Umbria in 295 BC.
Nevertheless, the stubborn Samnites fought on till a final defeat in 291 BC made further resistance hopeless, and in the following year peace was made on more favourable terms for the Samnites than Rome would have granted any less dogged foe.
The Campanian cities, Italian or Greek, through which Rome had been involved in the Samnite wars, Capua and others, were now allies of Rome, with varying degrees of independence. Roman military colonies were settled in Campania as well as on the eastern outskirts of Samnium.

The 'Hortensian Law'

Since the passing of the Licinian Law in 367 BC, the old contest between the orders had dwindled into nothing more than a patrician faction either to evade the law or to recover some fraction of exclusive privilege by indirect methods. In effect the old charmed circle had become extended so as to include a number of plebeian families of influence, wealth or distinction, to whom office was in practice restricted hardly less rigidly that it had been by law to the purely patrician families of old. Technically, however, the disappearance of plebeian disabilities was now finally confirmed by the Hortensian Law (287 BC), which recognized the assembly of the plebeians voting by tribes as a constitutional legislative body.

Meanwhile beyond the effective reach of Rome, the Greek cities, since the death of Alexander 'the Molossian' had been suffering continuously from the pressure of Lucanians and Bruttians. In 302 BC Sparta made another effort at Tarentum. Tarentum, by selfish disregard for the interests of her allies, strengthened her own position relatively, but lost the confidence of other Greeks. The Samnite wars of Rome brought the Greek cities into closer contact with Rome, to whose protection many of them were inclining to turn, following the example of their fellow Greeks in Campania.
While to Tarentum, which had entered upon a maritime treaty with Rome as early as 302 BC, the new Roman colonies of Venusia and Luceria in eastern Samnium seemed an intrusion into her own sphere of influence and commerce. The embroilment of Rome in the affairs of southern Italy could not long be postponed.
From 285 to 282 BC she was engaged in a short and sharp was with the Gallic Boii and Senones in the north, which destroyed the latter and pacified the former for forty years to come. But even before that was finished, Rome was drawn in to the southern complications.

Pyrrhus of Epirus (318-272 BC)

With the Lucanians and Bruttians renewing their attacks on Greek cities, the Greek colonies, distrusting Tarentum, in 283 BC appealed to Rome for help. The Romans sent help promptly and effectively.
The wiser heads in Tarentum saw no reason to object, but the popular party was furious and began again to look eastwards for someone to fight their battles for them. The arrival at this moment of a small Roman squadron in forbidden waters was probably excusable as a war measure in defence of Greek allies, but it was a formal breach of the treaty of 302 BC with Tarentum.
The populace of Tarentum lost its head, insulted the Roman mission of apology, made trouble among other Greek cities, and prepared to avenge their grievance by war.

Once again sudden help came to Tarentum from beyond the Adriatic Sea. Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, was nephew and successor of Alexander 'the Molossian' who had brought help before. He had also married a daughter of Agathocles of Syracuse, and seems to have regarded himself as a predestined successor, a part for which he was in many way well suited. Sicily rather than Italy, which was to serve as a stepping stone, was probably his real objective from the beginning. He had the reputation of a fire-brand among the 'Successor States' (to Alexander the Great's empire), whose kings seem to have sent him considerable forces, on the understanding that he did not employ them near home.
What Alexander the Great had done to the Persian empire, Pyrrhus evidently thought was possible also in the west, and Tarentum seemed the necessary base for such conquests.
This was not quite what the populace of Tarentum had intended, and the declaration of martial law by the advance guard which garrisoned their city in 280 BC cooled their love for Pyrrhus very quickly. The other Greek cities had not asked for him, and the Romans had no intention of resigning their protectorate to the newcomer.
Pyrrhus evidently had not heard much about the Romans. What he heard now evoked his respect. Still more, what he saw, in hard fighting at Heraclea and at Ausculum.
(It is to Pyrrhus we owe the expression of 'a Pyrrhic victory'. For after having defeated the Romans at Heraclea in 280 BC by inspired use of his elephant corps, but otherwise very considerable cost to his own forces, he reported to have said that one more such victory would lose him the war.)
The Italian dominion was not for him. He had come too late. And if Carthage was the real enemy, as he learned from Agathocles of Syracuse, there was nothing to be gained by quarreling with Rome, too.
Carthage naturally though otherwise and sent a squadron up to the Tiber mouth to offer help against Pyrrhus. The terms of the third treaty with Carthage now concluded in effect an alliance between Rome and Carthage against Pyrrhus.
The effect was to limit Pyrrhus' career in the west to aggression against the Greek states which he had nominally come to protect, for it destroyed his hopes of allying with either Rome or Carthage against the other.
Veterans of Agathocles, settled now at Messana, offered their help, but Campania and most of the south gave Pyrrhus no encouragement. Only Etruria thought the tide had turned agaisnt Rome, only to quickly discover its mistake.
After two campaigns in which, though he always won battles, Pyrrhus was losing more men than he could afford he moved on to Sicily (278 BC) and the Romans had little difficulty in dealing with his friends and rear guards on the Italian mainland.
The Carthaginians had not waited to be attacked. When Pyrrhus sailed for Sicily, they were besieging Syracuse, his necessary base, and looking for him with their fleet. He evaded their ships however and drove off their field army, captured the cities of Panormus and Eryx and refused their offer to surrender everything in Sicily except for Lilybaeum, which they direly needed if they sought to keep their hold on Sardinia.
But all the while his losses had been heavy and his reinforcements few. Tarentum was hard pressed by the Romans and between them and the Carthaginian fleet he might have been trapped in Sicily.
So in a desperate attempt he returned once more into Italy, to fight one more campaign. He was severely defeated, as the Romans had meanwhile learned how to deal with his spearmen and elephants.
The tide having turned against him in force Pyrrhus returned home.
His parting words were memorable,
'What a battlefield I am leaving for Carthage and Rome !'

The tale goes that Pyrrhus later died during an assault on Argos, where an old woman seeing him fighting her son sword to sword in the street below supposedly threw a roof tile on his head. Although other sources read that he was assassinated by a servant.

The victory over Pyrrhus was a significant one as it was the defeat of Greek army which fought in the tradition of Alexander the Great and was commanded by the most able commander of the time.

Rome dominant power of Italy

After her defeat of Pyrrhus Rome was recognized as a major power in the Mediterranean, nothing makes this clearer than the opening of a permanent embassy of amity by the Macedonian king of Egypt in Rome in 273 BC.

In 272 BC, the year of Pyrrhus'' death, the powerful Greek city of Tarentum in the south of Italy was surrendered to the Romans, other Greek cities and the Bruttian tribes with their valuable forest-country surrendered likewise, undertaking to supply Rome with ships and crews in future.
New Roman colonies were founded in the south to further secure the territory to Roman domination. In the north the last free Etruscan city, Volsinii, revolted and was destroyed in 264 BC. There, too, new colonies were founded to cement Roman rule.
Some Greek cities may still have seen themselves as mere allies of Rome. But in effect all Italy now, from the Straits of Messina to the Apennine frontier with the Gauls became governed by one singular power, - Rome.

At this stage in history things might have rested for some while in Italy, if it had not been for the legacy of Agathocles of Syracuse. During his reign Agathocles had made large use of free companies of highland irregulars from the mainland. And the town of Messana had fallen at Agathocles' death into the hands of one of these free companies - the Mamertini ('sons of Mars') - who made themselves a nuisance to their neighbours on both coasts, and to all who used the Strait of Messina.
They had recently been in league with a company of their Campanian countrymen, who, being in the Roman service, had mutinied, seized Reghium, and held it against the Romans for ten years. The revolt had been suppressed in 270 BC by the aid of the commander of the Syracusan forces, who bore the name Hieron (or Hiero as the Romans called him), and immediately after had made himself king of Syracuse (270-216 BC). In 265 BC Hiero thought it time to make an end of the Mamertine pirates. And so far as their own merits went, no one was likely to be aggrieved. But if he did, what was to happen to Messana and who had something to gain by using the Mamertines to obtain a footing there, or to prevent Hiero from gaining one ?
The Mamertines were not Greeks, and could make themselves very useful to Carthage, the traditional enemy of all things Greek. On the other hand, they were of Italian origin, and Rome now stood as the conscious and very efficient protector of all Italian interests. The Mamertines offered themselves and their Sicilian city to the Romans and thereby brought Rome itself to the cross-roads of destiny.

If the Romans helped the Mamertines, who were at best pirates, they would offend Hiero, their friend as well as their own Greek allies whose seaborne trade was suffering under Mamertine piracy.
They would probably also offend Carthage, and Carthage could put much trouble in their way. The Mamertines, while they were of Italian origin, were being threatened by the city which had shown most capacity for managing Greek interests on a large scale. If Rome refused help, would Carthage herself step in ? And what were the prospects of legitimate Italian trade, with Carthage in control of the Strait ?
Left to itself, the senate might have abandoned the Mamertines to their fate, and Carthage, evidently expecting this, and encouraged by another faction in Messana, sent their required help. This settled the matter. Popular clamour and business interests combined to force the senate's hand. The senate itself though was still reluctant to intervene and simply passed the buck to the comitia tributa. And so it was decided not to declare war, but to send an expeditionary force which would try to restore Messana to the Campanian mercenaries.

At the sight of a Roman force arriving the Carthaginian commander lost his nerve, embarked his troops and sailed home. This in turn angered the Carthaginian government felt humiliated, angrily executed its own general and resolved to recapture Messana.
For this the Carthaginians made alliance with Syracuse, reconciled Hiero with the Mamertines, and sent over a fresh force to support both against the Romans. By the end of the years, however, they had been expelled from the neighbourhood of Messana, and Hiero was shut up in Syracuse. But the main issue was now clear, wether Rome or Carthage was to guide the fortunes of Sicily. Hiero saw this clearly, and for the representative of Greek interests there was but one course of action possible. For nearly five hundred years Greek and Phoenician had worked and plotted and fought for this central region of the west.
To co-operate with Carthage now, against the new power which had delivered the Greeks of Italy from Etruscan, Samnite and Lucanian, repelled the Gauls and wrecked the designs of Pyrrhus for an empire of Epirus, would be folly.
Under Roman protectorate, Syracuse and all western Greeks would be safe. With Greek subsidies, ships and crews Rome could be trusted to win and Roman victory would mean the expulsion of the Phoenicians from Sicily.
Hiero accordingly offered the Romans the possession of Messana and a subsidy of one hundred talents annually for fifteen years if they would guarantee his 'kingship' of Syracuse. It was a small price to pay for security unattainable otherwise. And for the Romans, too, the bargain was a good one (263 BC).

And so began almost by accident the first major war in world history to be waged, not for gold, territory or power, but for principles. The Punic Wars lasted, in three parts with intermediate breaks, for over a century. By the time they finally ended, Carthage, a once shining city state with, according to the Greek geographer Strabo, 300 cities in Lybia and 700'000 people in its own city, would have been annihilated.

The First Punic War (264-241 BC)

The Punic Wars is the generally used term for the lengthy conflict between the two main centres of power in the western Mediterranean, Rome and Carthage. Carthage was originally a Phoenician colony. The Latin name for a Phoenician is 'Poenus' which leads to our English adjective 'Punic'.


The First Punic War begun almost accidentally but it was to be a hard struggle, and the result was long doubtful.

In the first three years (264-261 BC) the Romans captured the great fortress of Acragas, which they called Agrigentum, still the next city of in Sicily after Syracuse, and confined the Carthaginian forces to the rugged western districts around their own ports. But by resigning territory Carthage simplified the problems of defence on land, and was able to raid not only Greek coast cities, but also the long Roman lines of communication, which were mostly within reach of the sea. For this state of things there was but one remedy. If Rome was to win, Rome had to have a fleet. And in the second stage of the war (260-253 BC) not only was this accomplished, with liberal help from Greek naval allies organized on a grand scale, but in spite of early defeats, and other disasters due to Roman inexperience, the traditional seamanship of the Carthaginians was foiled by mechanical devices for bringing their ships to a standstill and so fighting a land battle on water.
The Romans built entire fleets to match the Carthaginian numbers and crewed them with marine commandos trained in hand-to-hand fighting. It the age of only such rudimentary artillery such as catapults the usual naval tactic was to attach grapples to an enemy ship and then overwhelm the opposition with superior numbers.
The losses on both sides were enormous. The Romans, however, managed to commit ever more resources into the struggle.

In 256 BC the destruction of the Carthaginian 'grand fleet' off Heraclea on the south coast of Sicily by a Roman squadron, encumbered though it was with a convoy of transports, laid open the way to Africa. Here the natives rose against their masters, as they had risen for Agathocles, and the Roman force advanced within sight of Carthage. At this point peace might have been made. But the Roman commander Regulus demanded too much. The Carthaginians found in the Lacedaemonian adventurer Xanthippus a soldier of genius to reorganize and lead their forces. Regulus was defeated and captured and the survivors off the onslaught on land were wrecked on their homeward journey.
Rome's first African venture had failed (255 BC).
Carthage however had suffered severely in prestige as well as equipment, and might have suffered worse had not the next year's Roman fleet been wrecked on its way to Africa (253 BC), with the result that for a while only coast defence squadrons were in commission, and Roman commanders concentrated their resources on the reduction of enemy fortresses in Sicily.
By 250 BC only Lilybaeum and a new naval base at Drepanum remained untaken, and it became clear once more that these remote ports might hold out indefinitely, if the Romans could not blockade them also by sea. Again Carthage tried to compromise, but her overtures were flatly rejected.

The established Roman tradition affirms that the rejection was due to the action of the captive consul Regulus, and the story, wether true or not, has set him among the heroic figures of the world. For five years he had been held prisoner by the Carthaginians. Now they sent him with their embassy to Rome, under parole (parole= word of honour not to escape), never doubting that all his powerful influence would be exerted in favour of liberty.
Nevertheless, so runs the tale, with no illusions as to the cruel fate which awaited him, he set aside all thought of self, and advised the Romans to take no thought of him, and urged them to refuse the offered terms. He might easily have broken his parole and remained at Rome a free man, but his high sense of honour stopped him from doing so, and he returned to Carthage with the disappointed and angry ambassadors, there to suffer a barbarous death at the hands of his vindictive captors. But at Rome the memory of him was cherished and revered, as the supreme example of Roman courage, to which Rome loved to think that she owed her greatness.
So Rome resolved to see the war to a satisfactory end and began building ships again, and training crews and admirals in naval skills.
At this stage it was a serious disappointment that in renewing their treaty with Hiero in 248 BC they had to forgo the Syracusan tribute. Sicily was, indeed, nearly ruined by the long war, and in particular by the cost of great sieges at the distant west end. Henceforward the cost of these operations and of the renewal of the fleets feel principally on the Romans themselves, while any trade they had had was paralyzed by Carthaginian cruisers, which ranged as far north as the coast of Latium.
A fourth stage of the war opens in 247 BC with the appearance of a Carthaginian commander, Hamilcar Barca, well worthy of the honorary name (Barca, or Barak, means 'lightning') that he bore.
But vigorous privateering and by establishing fresh raiding ports at Ercte and Eryx, he prolonged the desperate resistance of the blockaded fortresses, and all but exhausted Rome's resources and determination.

Finally in 242 BC, the perilous experiment of naval action was adopted once more by the senate. The new fleet was built with private subscriptions, but it was well found, and at least efficiently handled. Its sole commission was to cut off supplied from the Sicilian fortresses, and in this it was not only succeeded, but had the good luck to intercept and destroy the last ill escorted convoy that Carthage was able to send. The Carthaginian government could do no more. There were native revolts in Africa and mercenaries will not fight long without pay. Hamilcar was prepared to persist, but was induced at last to conduct the negotiations himself.
The Roman terms were severe. Carthage was to evacuate Sicily and surrender it to Rome, with all adjacent islands, to restore prisoners and deserters, to pay an immense indemnity spread over ten years and to promise not to make war in future against Hiero or his allies. Hiero's territory was enlarged, and his independence as an ally of Rome guaranteed. Messana and a few other cities were received likewise into 'free' and equal alliance. But the rest of Sicily remained in Roman hands as conquered territory, administered by a resident governor and chief justice, sent annually from Rome, and paying Rome a tribute on all produce, and harbour duties on all imports and exports. (241 BC).

Roman Annexation of Sardinia and Corsica

If Rome had suffered heavily in the war, Carthage was almost ruined. and the peace brought worse disasters still. First, the vast mercenary forces which had been levied, but not yet transported to Sicily, mutinied for not having been paid. And for three years the Carthaginians carried their lives in their hands, while the 'truceless war' raged till Hamilcar's strategy and personal influence outmatched the blunders of the government and the blind fury of the rebels, and exterminated the survivors of the army he had hoped to command. Though Rome refused to take advantage of this African mutiny, it was another matter when Hamilcar was at last able to set sail for Sardinia to deal with a similar rebellion there. This the Roman senate chose to regard as a breach of the peace treaty, and by way of compensation extorted not only an additional indemnity, but the surrender of Sardinia itself, and Corsica also.
Probably the mere knowledge that Hamilcar was at sea at all bred panic and cruel injustice. But whatever the motive, the possession of these imperfectly civilized islands gave Rome frequent anxiety thereafter. And worst of all, provoked Hamilcar to the vast project of reprisals in Spain, which occupied the remainder of his life.
Sardinia in due course, became a Roman province on the same model as Sicily, Corsica merely derelict territory at the disposal of the senate and any Roman speculator who cared to venture there for timber or minerals.

Carthaginian Expansion into Spain

The Carthaginians had not lost everything, though they had been driven out of waters where they had collided with Greeks and increasingly with Italian traders also.
There were two paths still open to them. their original exploitation of Africa, both the mountainous north and the oases and caravan routes towards the Niger basin, in the first place and the development of trade in the farther west of the Mediterranean. Conservative managers were prepared to be content with Africa, relying on mutually advantageous trade with their late enemies, to make good their losses of oversea territory. Hamilcar Barca on the other hand was for the bolder plan of forestalling Greek and Roman alike in Spain, while that was still possible.

Spain, to which Hamilcar now turned (238 BC), with the sceptical and lukewarm agreement of the Carthaginian government, was a new, rugged and barbarous country which held great promise. The northwest boasted metal-yielding highlands, to the northeast lay the wide Iberus (Ebro) valley, which gave its ancient name to the whole Iberian peninsula. And in the south lay highlands and the Balearic isles very rich in copper and other ores, as well as the valley of the Guadalquivir river with its almost tropical fertility.
Whereas former explorers, both Phoenician and Greek, had made Gades (Cadiz) their headquarters, Hamilcar's wider designs required a more accessible and also more defensible base. This he found in a detached spur of the south-eastern range where 'New Carthage' was founded and modern Cartagena still bears its name. How this new city flourished, and what success Hamilcar had in conciliating native peoples and exploiting natural wealth, is evident from the treaty which was drafted after Hamilcar's death in 228 BC, between his son-in-law Hasdrubal and the Romans, by which the Ebro river was to be recognized as the defining border between their relative spheres of influence.

As Rome, though busy enough since the First Punic War along her northern frontiers, had no footing yet beyond the Apennines, this Ebro frontier clearly represented only the reasonable claims of Massilia and other old Phocean settlements. But it illustrates the indifference with which responsible people in Carthage regarded Hamilcar's doings, that this agreement seems to neither have been rejected nor confirmed. And certainly the Romans made no secret, a few years later, of their alliance with Saguntum, which lay nearly a hundred miles south of the river Ebro, and moreover was of strategic importance to the rich coastal plain of Valencia. The date of this alliance is unknown, so it is unclear if it had been signed earlier or later than Hasdrubal's agreement.
Eight years after the treaty between Carthage and Rome, in 220 BC, all the native peoples of Spain up to the agreed border had been subjugated by the Carthaginians. Only Saguntum remained not only independent but positively allied with Rome. Hasdrubal was dead.
In 221 BC had been murdered by a slave whose master he'd had put to death. Hannibal, the son of Hamilcar Barca, had succeeded to Hasdrubal's command.
Hannibal had been made to vow in childhood to hate the Romans. It was obvious that his succession could only lead to trouble with Rome. In fact, wise heads in Carthage had done what they could to prevent his succession to the Spanish viceroyalty. But the Carthaginian army worshipped him and would accept no-one else. The Spanish venture had been throughout a personal enterprise of his family. There was no obligation to support Hannibal, and in case of trouble he could be disowned.
It seems certain that Carthage itself did not want another war with Rome.
Nor did the Romans want one. Since the treaty with Hasdrubal they had been forced to undertake campaigns against renewed aggression by the Gauls. They had been forced to occupy territory as far as the Po, to found colonies at Placentia and Cremona, for the defence of the passage of this river, and to raid beyond it as far as Mediolanum (Milan). The great Flaminian Road had just been carried forward to the Adriatic coast to ensure communication with their new conquests. They had had little wars in Liguria and also in Istria, and in 221 BC their whole field force was in Illyria across the Adriatic destroying the league of pirates which had been harrying the east coast of Italy.

The significance of the Illyrian affair is not to be overlooked. Piracy had long been rife in the Adriatic Sea, with which until recently Rome had scarcely been concerned. But the Punic war had left left her with a fleet it otherwise would hardly have acquired. And she now used her newly acquired power to best of her ability. In suppressing the Illyrian pirateering power, Rome appeared as the protector of Greek commerce, a champion of Greek interests against the barbarians. And by doing so Rome was preparing the states of Greece to turn to her as protector against Macedon.
All these operations tended to consolidate the Roman power in Italy.
But for Rome they had been costly and exhausting. And the last thing she desired was to be forced into a war likely to prove still more costly and still more exhausting, of which the issue would be extremely doubtful.

Accordingly, when the news reached Rome that Hannibal was attacking Saguntum, the Romans sent him only a formal protest. And when this was ignored, took up the affair with the responsible government of Carthage. Here opinion was divided. One party wished to surrender Hannibal and compensate Rome, but Hannibal's friends prevailed. And while the Carthaginians debated, Hannibal succeeded in taken the city.
This disunity and lukewarm support for Hannibal among the Carthaginians was a factor which should prove decisive in the war to come.

When the Roman envoys arrived, their message to Carthage was simple - 'Peace or war, as you choose.'
The Carthaginian government tried to argue about details of the treaty of 228 BC and its conflict with Rome's separate alliance with Saguntum. But the Roman envoys' position remained the same, - 'Peace or war, as you choose.'
And as the peace was broken, war it was.

The Second Punic War

The Second Punic War, like the first falls into distinct stages. The Roman plan of attack was to invade Africa at once with the first army, and at least disorganize Carthaginian mobilization. The second army was sent to Massilia, in Hannibal should interfere with friends of Rome north of the Ebro. A third force was obviously required to garrison the Gaulish territories between the Apennines and the Po, which had only surrendered three years before, and were known to have been visited by agents of Hannibal, and to have promised him free passage if he should try to reach Italy by land.
Some of the Gauls indeed revolted at once, and delayed the departure of the northern force to Massilia, till it was too late to stop Hannibal even at the Rhône, For this was his master stroke, to circumvent both Roman sea power and Rome's Greek allies between Ebro and Alps, and establish an enemy base in the heart of the Roman dominion. He certainly counted on such measure of support from his friends in Carthage as would deplete the Roman garrisons in Italy for the defence of Sicily and the south. With good fortune the Roman first army might be shut up in Africa, and destroyed there like that of Regulus.

Hannibal crosses the Alps

But the Roman army commanders reacted to Hannibal's strategy as best they could. The southern army was diverted, just as it was sailing for Africa, and brought round by sea to the Adriatic flank of the northern front, where the new military road gave it direct reinforcement from Rome. Consequently when Hannibal after unprecedented hardships descended on the Italian side of the Alps, he found a Roman field army strongly posted under shelter of the new garrison colonies on the Po.
More happily still for Rome, the force that was too late to intercept Hannibal at Massilia was led at once into Spain, to disorganize his only sure source of reinforcements and undo the empire-building of his father and himself.
Hannibal's tactics and leadership, however, were as brilliant as his strategy. His first Italian campaign in 218 BC broke Roman resistance north of the Apennines at the fords of Trebia and Ticinus. His next destroyed their whole army at Lake Trasimene in Etruria, and seemed to open a straight road to Rome. But the third year found him not at the gates of Rome, but far to the southward, now in Apulia, now in Campania. And even the victory in which he destroyed yet another whole army at Cannae (216 BC) brought him no nearer to his goal than when he abandoned Etruria.

There were several reasons for this. A flying column such as his necessarily consisted of cavalry, and for horse pasture Italy has no large plains except for the far south. The greater corn-lands also are all remote from Rome. No nearer indeed than Campania. Therefore, if Rome itself did not fall at the first assault, it was necessary to find some such Italian base, and await reinforcements from Carthage or Spain.

As long as the Roman colonies in the area stood, the countryside dared not rise even if it wished to do so. And it was the worst disillusionment of Hannibal, that the peoples of Italy, and even what was left of the Etruscans, gave almost no sign of disaffection with Rome. Hannibal could remember the 'Truceless War' between Carthage and her mercenaries, and the African campaign of Regulus was only ten years before his birth.
But this was quite another situation. The subjects of Carthage had been ready enough to make common cause with her enemies, but Rome's bold experiment of clemency after surrender, and progressive incorporation in her own commonwealth had succeeded too completely for any cessation to take place.
Hannibal's first stroke than had failed. But he had established himself in southern Italy, where Pyrrhus had fought, and he had secured possession of Campania. It was another thirteen years before he left Italy by his own choice. He had, however, no seaport, and, what was worse, no assurance of help from Carthage, which seems to have taken little further part in the war, except for a raid on Sardinia in 215 BC, when it ought to have been sending men to Hannibal, and the landing of a small force in southern Italy in the following year.

Capture of Syracuse

Two strokes of ill luck, however, befell the Romans in this middle period of the war. Hiero of Syracuse died in 216 BC, a very old man. Herio's grandson Hieronymus acceded to the throne and sided with Carthaginians. But ancient Syracusan feuds soon saw Hieronymus murdered. The popular party seized the chance to revive old dreams of a Syracusan empire. These were encouraged by Hannibal, and also by the Carthaginian government, which profited by the Sicilian revolt to reoccupy a large part of the island. Rome therefore sent forth a Roman expedition under the command of Claudius Marcellus who laid siege to Syracuse by land and sea. But under Hiero Syracuse had been enormously fortified, and equipped with powerful catapults and all kinds of fantastical war machinery devised by the genius Archimedes, who lived in Syracuse. By these devices no direct assault was possible, leaving no other options to the Romans but to blockade the city as best they could. Alas, in 212 BC, Marcellus in a surprise night attack managed to capture the outer defences of Syracuse, though it took until 211 BC before a traitor inside the city opened a gate to enable the capture of Syracuse. The death of Archimedes, one of the greatest geniuses of mankind, It is hence attributed to Marcellus' capture of Syracuse, where the great thinker was slain amongst the turmoil that befell the city as it was stormed by Roman legionaries. With the capture of Syracuse Hiero's hoarded riches were made available for the conduct of the war. Even so, Carthaginian forces were not completely expelled from the province until 210 BC.

Philip V of Macedon allies with Hannibal

The other misfortune was the dislike of Rome by Philip V of Macedon (which had arisen with Rome's earlier involvement in Illyria), and the help consequently rendered by him to Hannibal from oversea, until the Romans stationed a strong squadron war ships in the Adriatic and later managed to capture Hannibal's Adriatic ports. Meanwhile Philip's attention was distracted by encouraging a coalition of Greek cities against him. Not only did this make Macedonia a useless ally to Carthage in the Punic War, but it also further confirmed Rome as the protector of the Greek cities agianst the Macedonians.

Hannibal's situation in Italy became steadily worse. Capua, which had fallen into his hands after his victory at Cannae was besieged in 212 BC by the Roman army and destroyed utterly in the following year for its treachery to Rome. Tarentum, which deserted to Hannibal in 212 BC and should have been invaluable, had Carthage used this direct means of communication to send him reinforcements, was retaken in 209 BC. And the long-expected rising in Etruria and in a few Latin towns, when they did at last take place, were half-hearted, and easily suppressed. The 'Fabian tactics' adopted by Q. Fabius Cunctator, of remaining on the defensive against Hannibal and refusing battle, had now been mastered by the Romans and gave the enemy little chance to gain spectacular successes like those of the first three campaigns. The whole country was sick of the war. The invader had outstayed his welcome, and a veteran army ages rapidly without reinforcements. Hannibal had left in Spain his brother Hasdrubal, with instructions to follow with another flying column like the first.
But the strategy of the Scipios, who had occupied first Massilia and then Tarraco near the mouth of the Ebro, in the first year of the war, made this plan impossible.
Their occupation of Tarraco was a counter-stroke to the Carthaginian 'New Carthage', and their personal qualities and diplomatic skill shook the allegiance of native leaders in Spain, and even in Numidia. There was a reaction, however, about 212 BC, for the Spanish tribes found that they had only made a change of masters, and attempted to free themselves from the new ones. But the young and brilliant Publius Cornelius Scipio succeeded in 210 BC (or 209 BC) in capturing 'New Carthage' in a surprise attack, and with it much treasure, a fleet and, best of all, Hasdrubal's Spanish hostages.

By this time, however, Hasdrubal was ready. He slipped past Scipio's forces, spent the winter of 208 BC quietly in the central highlands of Gaul, and entered Italy unopposed in 207 BC. Only the skillful co-operation of the two consular armies prevented his junction with Hannibal, which seemed inevitable. Leaving in the south only a portion of his army, which effectively masked his movement, C. Claudius Nero raced north with a picked force, joined his colleague Livius, surprised, defeated and killed Hasdrubal at the Metaurus river, east of the Apennines, and was back in the south before Hannibal discovered that only a skeleton force had been facing him. The battle of the Metaurus destroyed Hannibal's last hope of receiving reinforcements.
Meanwhile Scipio had expelled the remaining Carthaginians from Spain, defeated their counter-attack in 206 BC, and persuaded Masinissa, a leading chief of the Numidians, to exchange the Carthaginian for a Roman alliance. Having returned to Rome, he was then allowed to raise a fresh army largely composed of Italian volunteers, for a blow at the heart of the Carthaginian rule in Africa. Here, his old friendship with Masinissa enable him to distract and eventually capture Syphax, the chief Numidian ally of the Carthaginians, and cut off the source of their supply of cavalry. Hannibal was paralyzed. Rome had been relieved of the Macedonian complication in 205 BC and was able now to concentrate upon the war in Africa.

Hannibal's last stand at Zama

By 202 BC the condition of the Carthaginian home territory was desperate. Hannibal, and his other brother, Mago, who had escaped from Spain and landed on the coast of Italy, were recalled to defend Carthage itself, and attempts were made to obtain peace before the situation became more serious. But Scipio and Masinissa, each for his own reasons, persisted. They defeated the last field army that Carthage could rake together at Zama, and were able to impose their own terms.
Carthage formally surrendered Spain, and all other dependencies outside the home district of Africa. Even within the narrow limits, no war was to be declared without Roman permission. All ships but ten were surrendered, all elephants, and prisoners of war. And the enormous indemnity that was imposed - ten thousand talents spread over fifty years - made the Carthaginians practically tributaries to their Roman conquerors. Masinissa received the whole of Numidia and Roman citizenship, as the 'friend and ally' of the Roman people, so that he could invoke Roman intervention in Africa, whenever it was convenient.
Hannibal was allowed to remain in Carthage, and did what he could to restore public confidence and credit. But his old political enemies were too strong for him, and in 190 BC he was banished, and spent the rest of his life at the courts of Greek kings in Syria and in Asia Minor.

With the Second Punic War at an end Rome stood as a new confident power, free of direct threats to herself. The Roman army had just shattered the Carthaginians and was no doubt larger than the government had ever intended it to be. At this point, free from the burden of the Carthaginian menace, Rome was a power of great potential.

Wars against Macedon and Syria

Two years had not elapsed after the battle of Zama when war was for the second time declared between Rome and Macedon. The peace of 205 BC had never been more than a hostile truce.
Philip V's strategy of consolidating and extending his despotic rule over the free cities cities in Greece the Aegean and the coast of Asia Minor (Turkey) was scarcely disguised.
In 201 BC he carried carried troops across the Hellespont and set about the conquest of Caria. He was alas driven back by the stiff joint resistance by the fleet of Rhodes and Attalus, king of Pergamum.
This moment of weakness proved disastrous to Macedon as it saw Athens and other Greek cities seeing their chance of ridding themselves of Macedon rule. The Greek cities broke away and appealed to Rome for help (200 BC).

After the hardships of the struggle against Hannibal, the Roman people had had enough of fighting. And yet the senate was convinced that the choice was not before war and peace, but between war in Macedon or in Italy. For sooner or later Philip would attack. So Rome chose war.

Though the Roman campaigns if 200 and 199 BC were ineffective. In 198 BC the command of the Roman and allied army was granted to Titus Quinctius Flaminius, and Rome's choice proved to be a wise one.
He succeeded in winning over the Achaean League, which had been reluctant to join forces with the Aetolian League of Greek cities.
Then, in 197 BC Flaminius was able to bring Philip of Macedon to a decisive engagement at Cynoscaphalae in Thessaly, where the Macedonian phalanx was thrown into disorder in attempting an advance over broken ground. The Roman seized this momentary advantage and Philip's army was annihilated.
After Cynoscaphalae Flaminius could dictate his own terms - to his Greek allies as much as to the defeated Macedons.

Though as Flaminius left Greece two years later, the Aetolians, Rome's closest allies during the contest, had been treated with little respect and were left angry at Rome. Though powerless to act against her, they and others among the Greek cities found a new ally in the ambitious king of Syria, Antiochus, who was had benefited from Macedon's weakness by seizing the Greek cities in Asia which Philip had been forced to withdraw from.
In 192 BC the Greek cities of the Aetolian League rose up against Rome, but of the three cities in which the Romans had garrisons they only succeeded in capturing the city of Demetrias.
With equal recklessness Antiochus cast aside the invaluable advice he was receiving from Hannibal who as residing at his court and invaded Greece with a totally insufficient force.

The end of ths desperate scheme was not long in coming. Early in teh next year (191 BC) Roman armies, with teh co-operation of Philip V of Macedon, were entering Thessaly. To protect the south Antiochus occupied the historic pass of Thermopylae.
But just as with Leonida's famous Spartans of old, the amlost impregnable pass was taken by a separate force which forced its way over the hill and fell into the rear of the defenders.
Antiochus escaped with only a remnant of his army left alive and set over to Asia.

Rome enters Asia for the first time at the Battle of Magnesia

But the Romans, under the command of Lucius Scipio followed him there, after a combined effort by Rome and Rhodes, defeating the Phoenician fleets at the sea-battle Myonnesus.
Near Magnesia the Roman army met with a huge, but ill disciplined army of Antiochus.
The Roman victory was complete, ancient sources numbering the losses of Antiochus at 53000 men, and the Roman losses at four hundred. Antiochus escaped with his life but could only sue for peace, but under the terms for peace he had to agree to surrender his fleet and war elephants and all his territorial possessions north of the Taurus mountains, as well as paying Rome a substantial amount.

Rome as a conqueror of the aggressive king of Syria, exercised her right of distributing the territories from which she had ejected him. However, Rome did not yet claim any Asiatic territory for herself. Hence all the lands were shared out between Pergamum and Rhodes, Rome's close allies in this campaign.

Roman Campaigns in Cisalpine Gaul and Spain

Though whilst Rome was busied with its Macedon and Syrian adventures in the east, it neither rested in the west. Within a decade after her victory in the Second Punic War, Rome had at last gained dominance over the quarrelsome Gauls in valley of the river Po and their equally hostile neighbours, the Ligurians, in north-western Italy.
Soon Roman roads and military colonies were rendering the north of Italy as secure as any part of the peninsula. Before long the whole of what had been the Gallic and Ligurian area, independent of Roman authority, was transformed into a Roman province of Gallia Cisalpina (Cisalpine Gaul) which, with peace established, soon began to prove a highly flourishing area.

Further to the west, in Spain, Rome now owned all the territory which had been previously held by the Carthaginians.
The authority she enjoyed there however was at best dubious, the natives being warlike and by no means took kindly to the idea of being controlled by Rome. In any case, in two thirds of the peninsula such control was non-existent.
Nevertheless, by 197 BC Rome had set up the first provincial government, dividing the dominion into a nearer (northern) and farther (southern) province. The immediate result was a rising of the Spanish tribesmen. The subjugation of the rebellious tribesmen was entrusted to Cato, consul in 195 BC, who four years later distinguished himself at the Thermopylae.
He inflicted a crushing defeat upon the Spanish tribes, and by the severity of his measures and the speed of his movements soon brought the whole northern province under control, at least for the time being.
Though the Spaniards, resentful of his tyrannical measures, were back in rebellion again, no sooner was his back turned.. There followed years of constant fighting, which was only ended in 179 BC by the by the sympathetic policies of the praetor Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (the son-in-law of Scipio and later father of two yet more famous sons).

The Third Macedonian War

For several years after the defeat of Antiochus, Rome was involved in no foreign wars in the east. But the uneasiness of the populations under her power grew. Philip V of Macedon continued to plot and scheme, but dared not risk another conflict with Rome. But in 179 BC Phlip V died and his son Perseus succeeded him.
With this new king the rivalries between the Macedonian throne and king Eumenes II of Pergamum reached new heights. But Eumenes was a vital ally of Rome and in 172 BC he brought charges against Macedon before the Roman senate. The verdict of the senate was a forgone conclusion. When an attempt was made to murder Eumenes on his way home, it was assumed that Perseus was the instigator.
In 171 BC declared war.
But Rome met with no swift successes. in 171 and 170 BC her consular armies under Crassus and Mancinus were defeated. But in 168 BC the command was given to an old and tried commander, Aemilius Paullus, the brother-in-law of Scipio Africanus. He reorganized the forces and at Pydna won a victory as overwhelming as that of Cynoscephalae. A few weeks later the unhappy Perseus, deserted and betrayed by his followers, come into the camp of the victor and surrendered.

As a power Macedon was eliminated. Perseus was banished to the small county town of Alba Fucens wher he should spend the rest of his life. The country was divided into four 'republics', each prohibited from any political or commercial relations with each other, deprived of all leaders, and thus left to conduct their own administration as best they could. Illyria, the realm of king Genthius, who had sided with Macedonia, was also broken up, in its case into three republics.
Epirus, which had joined Macedon in the fight against Rome, was mercilessly punished. No fewer than seventy towns were required to deliver up all the gold and silver they contained, their walls were levelled and 150'000 inhabitants were sold into slavery.

Roman Misgovernment of Spain

Despite the wise measures which had pacified Spain during the governorship of Gracchus, the Roman administration was soon after conducted on the lines of tyranny again.
Before long, the whole country was seething with hatred of its new masters, and praetors or consuls who could barely hold their own in the field against the hardy tribesmen did not hesitate to save their authority by acts of the grossest injustice and treachery. The senate, minded to keep control at any price, condoned any such actions, though not without protests from Cato and his supporters, who were as honest as they were pitiless.

The Fourth Macedonian War

In the years that followed the fall of Perseus, Macedon and Greece had sunk into a increasing misrule. In 149 BC there appeared a new Macedon claimant to the throne, Andriscus, calling himself Philip and pretending to be the grandson of Philip V and son of Perseus.
The pretender had soon been allowed to achieve some rather humiliating successes, defeating the local militias and re-uniting Macedon to a single state. Rome was forced to act, but their first small detachment of troops sent in haste suffered a heavy defeat and Thessaly was overrun by Andriscus' forces (149 BC).
But in 148 BC a stronger Roman force under Q. Caecilius Metellus defeated him, forced him out of Macedonia and alas ran him down in Thrace.

The War against the Achaean League

In Greece meanwhile the by now miserably disorganized Achaean League had extended its jurisdiction over the Peloponnes, though Sparta refused submit to such ambitions and appealed to Rome.
The senate dispatched commissioners to the council of the Achaean League assembled at Corinth to.
To prevent further harassment, Sparta, Corinth and Argos, were to be released from the League's jurisdiction. Such were the Roman demands. The council lost its head and insulted the Roman commissioners. Rome still gave them a chance in 147 BC to satisfy her demands, but the leaders of the League wouldn't listen and instead attempted to stir up a war of liberation against Rome (146 BC).

Left with no other option the Roman army which had just conquered Macedon marched down to Corinth, dispersing resistance on its way. The commander of the Greek troops attempted to lead an army in battle against the approaching Romans outside Corinth, but his troops fled at the very beginning of the battle.
The city of Corinth was sacked, the men massacred, the women and children were sold into slavery.

The illusion of independence in Greece had now been wiped aside. Macedonia and Greece (under the name Achaea) were annexed as provinces of Rome.

The Third Punic War

In the west the recuperation of Carthage since the Second Punic War had given amazing proof of her vitality. With Hannibal in exile, his political opponents were in power, seeking to gain good relations with Rome, rather than displaying Hannibal's open hostility.
But roman friendship was hard to gain. All Italy, as well as Rome itself had suffered irreparably in the long war.
To add to Carthage's troubles Masinissa, who was king of Numidia and a close Roman ally, was not only harassing their borders but gradually clawing land away from them, claiming these territories to be his under the peace treaty signed by Carthage after its defeat at Zama.
Closer and closer Masinissa's horsemen came within striking distance of the southward caravan routes of Carthage, endangering her trade.
Carthage alas complained to Rome. So, in 150 BC a Roman commission of inquiry was sent to Africa to sort matters out between Carthage and Numidia. But the leader of the commission was Marcus Cato, whose hatred and fear of Carthage became legendary.
In spite of the sanctions and conditions imposed on Carthage there was a possibility that it might rise again and once more wreak havoc on the Roman Empire. And Cato the Elder believed this more than anyone else. He sought Carthage's destruction like no-one else. It is said that he even contrived to drop a Lybian fig on the floor of the senate. Then, as the senators admired its size, he warned that the land from which it came was only three days away by sea. Furthermore he famously incorporated the words 'Carthage must be destroyed !' (Delenda Carthago !) in every speech he held in the senate, no matter what the subject of the matter debated was.

Cato the Elder
Cato the Elder

With this Cato the Elder leading the commission of inquiry it was obvious from the beginning that the commission would find in favour of Masinissa. The result was yet further attacks by Numidian horsemen. Carthage lost patience and responded, fighting back.
No doubt, this was exactly what Cato the elder had hoped for, as it breached the terms signed by Carthage after its defeat in the Second Punic War. For Carthage was not allowed to take up arms without Roman permission.
The senate, egged on by Cato, and having already made plans for such an occurrence, voted for war. They sent out a trained army of 80'000 infantry and 4'000 cavalry to whom they had given orders not to occupy Carthage, but far more to raze it to the ground.

Everything short of the worst was offered by the Carthaginian government to avert war, but in vain. The Roman commanders had their orders. The effect was that the desperate war party took control of the city of Carthage. Moderate men, who had tried to save peace, were massacred together with the Italian residents. A army was raised from the city itself and its neighbouring towns and tribes.
Meanwhile the Roman army, having allowed the Carthaginians too much time to organize, was losing more men through sickness (due to camping out in marshes) than it lost by fighting the enemy.
After two years of blundering, Scipio Aemilianus was elected to be consul and commander in Africa (147 BC). With good leadership Roman victory was inevitable for Carthage was a mere shadow of the power she had once been.
The northern suburbs of Carthage were soon occupied without difficulty. Then Scipio undertook huge engineering works to close the harbour entrance of Carthage and thereby cut off the supplies coming in by sea.
He waited for winter to pass before he ordered an assault on the city. The charge succeeded and they broke into the city, but still needed six days and six nights to fight their way from house to house.
Alas the remaining Carhaginian resistance in the citadel refused to surrender and was burned.

The Third Punic War had lasted merely three years. Carthage was devastated, utterly destroyed. However, Carthage was duly defeated and destroyed. The 50'000 survivors of the siege were all sold into slavery.
Carthage was levelled with the ground by the Roman army, cursed and ploughed over. The same fate befell other cities in Africa.
The city Utica was now made capital of the Roman province of Africa. Numidia remained a free ally of Rome, but with Masinissa having died, it was now in the hands of his three quarreling sons and hence posed no threat. Tripolitania also came under Roman rule, but was purposely kept separate from the African province.

Desparate struggle in Spain

While Macedon and Carthage were being defeated for good, the Spanish tribes remained stubbornly defiant. Hash blows were dealt them by the consuls Lucullus and Galba in 151 and 150 BC and yet they could not be broken.
In the south the Lusitanians found a brilliant leader in Viriathus, who in 142 BC maneuvered the Roman consul Servilianus into a trap, and was able to dictate terms so reasonable that they were even accepted by the senate. Viriathus was even recognized as a friend and ally of Rome. Nevertheless two years later the new consul, Caepio, not only attacked the friend and ally but arranged his assassination. It was a blow from which the Lusitanians did not recover.
No less stubborn though were the Celtiberians, whose principle fortress was the city of Numantia. Here the fighting, temporarily suppressed by Lucullus, broke out again in 143 BC. The fighting proved too much for successive Roman commanders until in 137 BC the consul Mancinus was even forced to capitulate, the terms being negotiated by quaestor Tiberius Gracchus, a man whom the Spaniards trusted, for he was the son of the Gracchus who had been so sympathetic towards Spanish interests before.
The senate though refused to accept the treaty and the war was renewed. Against a foe as fearsome as the Spaniards a brilliant commander was obviously required. Rome hence in 134 BC turned to her greatest soldier of the day, the conqueror of Carthage, the second Scipio Africanus (Scipio Aemilianus).
He was in fact not a candidate for the consulship that year for he was legally disqualified from standing (having held the consulship in recently) but the election was carried by unanimous vote of the comitia tributa, the assembly of the tribes, and in the face of such huge popular support the legal technicalities were set aside.

But even for Scipio the task was no easy one. It was not until he had restored discipline to the demoralized troops that in 133 BC he set about his Numantian campaign. Like Carthage the doomed fortress of Numantia held out grimly to the last moment. When there was nothing left to eat but human flesh, it finally surrendered. And like Carthage it was then obliterated, so completely that its very site was forgotten.

The First Slave War

In the same year as Scipio's election to the consulship (134 BC), his colleague, Fulvius Flacchus, was called to deal with a terrifying rebellion of the slave population in Sicily. A huge slave population had been built up all across Italy as a direct result of Rome's vast military successes of the previous century. The slave revolt was accompanied by savage atrocities by the slaves against their masters.
Its suppression in 132 BC was marked by wholesale atrocities on the part of Flacchus when in one place there was no fewer than twenty thousand crucifixions.

Rome inherits the Kingdom of Pergamum

In 133 BC king Attalus III of Pergamum died without heirs. The dynasty had been loyal to Rome through all the shifting policies of the last seventy years. And Attalus, dying, bequeathed his kingdom to the Roman people, if only to solve the problem of succession.
His only demand was that Pergamum and other Greek cities of his kingdom should not have to pay tribute to Rome. The senate accepted the condition joyfully, knowing that the kingdom of Pergamum was indeed extraordinarily prosperous.
Inevitably a pretender appeared, challenging Rome's entitlement to the throne of Pergamum, giving some trouble for a year or two, but the Roman claim to Pergamum was established without any serious difficulty.

The Brothers Gracchus

Tiberius Gracchus
Tiberius Gracchus
Gaius Gracchus
Gaius Gracchus

The brief emergence and demise of each of the brothers Gracchus (Tiberius in 133 BC, Gaius in 120 BC) onto the scene of Roman politics should send shock waves through the entire structure of the Roman state of such magnitude that their effects would be felt for generations.
One believes that around the time of the Gracchus brothers Rome began to think in terms of political right and left, dividing the two factions into optimates and populares.
However questionable their political tactics at times were, the brothers showed up a fundamental flaw in the way Roman society was conducting itself. Running an army with less and less conscripts to oversee an expanding empire was not sustainable. And the creation of ever greater numbers of urban poor was a threat to the stability of Rome itself.
But however reasonable some of their arguments might have been, the two brothers with their contempt for the senate, their flagrant populism and their political brinkmanship heralded a change in the nature of Roman politics. The stakes were getting ever higher, things were becoming more brutal. Rome's well being seemed more and more to be a secondary factor in the great contest of egos and boundless ambition.
Also the passions whipped up during the brief time in office is largely seen as having led to the following period of social strife and civil war.

The Jugurthine War

In 118 BC the king of Numidia, Micipsa, died, leaving the crown to his young sons Hiempsal and Adherbal jointly with a much older nephew, Jugurtha, who was an experienced soldier.
Jugurtha arranged the assassination of Hiempsal, whilst Adherbal fled for his life and appealed to the senate.

The senate decided to send a commission to Numidia to divide he kingdom between the two claimants. Jugurtha appeared to bribe the commission's leader, Opimius, who returned to Rome a richer man, after awarding the greater and wealthier part of Numidia to Jugurtha. Though this was not enough for the ambitious Jugurtha who then marched on the territory of Adherbal and had him murdered, too.

Rome was outraged. Rome's judgement had simply been swept aside. Under the consul L Calpurnius Bestia troops were sent to Numidia to deal with the usurper. But the campaign was ineffective from the start, the Roman heavy infantry struggling to make any impression on the nimble Numidian horsemen.
Back in Rome eventually the comitia tributa to halt the campaign to have Jugurtha summoned to Rome to give evidence against any senators who were alleged to have accepted bribes from him. For this he was assured safe-conduct, meaning he was promised no to be charged or in any way harmed himself. But, once Jugurtha had arrived in Rome, these legal proceedings were stopped by a Tribune of the People who sought to avoid a political scandal.
So effective were Jugurtha's methods that even while he was in Rome he had another cousin murdered in the city.
This was too much, and he was ordered to depart.
'A city for sale !' he is said to have sneered as he left.
More troops were now sent to Africa to deal with the usurper. though the campaign was so ill managed that a commission of inquiry was held, which revealed such dire scandals of widespread bribery and corruption that three ex-consuls, one being Opimius, retired into exile. Instead Quintus Metellus and Gaius Marius, both known not only for their ability as well as their for being virtually incorruptible, were sent out to Africa to take command of the troops (109 BC).

Metellus was a good soldier who conducted his campaigns with skill and vigour, but Jugurtha, a master of the arts of guerilla warfare, held out against him. Marius, a better soldier than Metellus, returned to Rome to stand for the consulship, claiming that if the command were given to him the war would be ended at once.

In fact, by the time he returned to Africa as consul to supersede Metellus, it appeared that Jugurtha was beaten. Metellus went home bitterly disappointed at having had his victory snatched from him. But Jugurtha was not finished yet.
Marius could not catch him, and he found a dubious ally or protector in his neighbour Bocchus, king of Mauretania. Finally it was the diplomatic skill of the quaestor Lucius Cornelius Sulla that induced Bocchus to betray Jugurtha to the Romans and to a miserable death at Rome. But the conquest was credited to Marius.

Gaius Marius and his Reforms of the Roman Army

Gaius Marius
Gaius Marius
Before Marius was back in Rome he was re-elected to the consulship (104 BC), though the law forbade re-election and required the candidate to be present in Rome.
But Marius was the soldier of the hour, and the hour demanded Rome's finest soldier of the day.
For during the Numidian war a tremendous menace had been gathering on the northern frontiers of Italy. The German tribes were making their first appearance on the stage of history.

The advance hordes of the Teutones and the Cimbri had rolled past the Alps and poured into Gaul, flooding down the valley of the Saône and the Rhône and also setting in motion the Helvetic (Swiss) Celts. They defeated the Roman consul Silanus in 109 BC and in 107 BC another consul, Cassius, was trapped by the Helvetii and lost his army and his life. In 105 BC the forces of the pro-consul Caepio and the consul Mallius were annihilated by the Cimbri at the Battle of Arausio (Orange), ancient sources estimating the the losses up to even 80'000 or 100'000 men.
Then for no apparent reason the tide relented for a moment.

Rome, desperate to use the time the time, turned to Marius, placing control and reorganization of her armies in his hands and making him consul year after year. And Marius did the unthinkable.

Marius reorganizes the Army

For a primarily agricultural society such as Rome to be a perpetual war machine is to attempt to combine two incompatibles.
What Tiberius Gracchus had tried to halt when he was tribune in 133 BC was a trend which had begun centuries earlier and which, by the very success with which Rome had conducted military operations, had become a vicious circle.
Ancient armies were armed by peasant farmers. A society constantly at war required a constant flow of conscripts. Smallholdings fell into disuse because there was no one to tend to them. As Roman conquests spread through the Mediterranean lands, even more men were required, and wealth and cheap corn poured back into Rome, much of it into the hands of entrepreneurs, who carved out vast areas for vegetables, vines, olives and sheep farming, all managed by slave labour. The dispossessed rural poor, became the urban poor - so becoming ineligible for military service as no longer being nominal property holders.
Not only was there therefore a shortage of recruits, but the soldiers had nothing to return to between campaigns or at the end of their service. A working solution to this problem was finally devised by Gaius Marius, once consul in 108 BC. He introduced the Roman army as it came to be known and feared all across the Europe and the Mediterranean.
Rather than conscripting from Roman landowners he recruited volunteers from the urban poor. Once the idea of a professional army of mercenaries was introduced, it never remained until the very end of the Roman Empire. Furthermore, Marius introduced the idea of granting soldiers allotments of farmland after they hand served their term.

Marius defeats the Northmen

Marius' revolution in the army came only just in time.
In 103 BC the Germans were again massing at the Saône, preparing to invading Italy by crossing the Alps in two different places. The Teutones crossed the mountains in the west, the Cimbri did so in the east.
In 102 BC Marius, consul for the fourth time, annihilated the Teutones at Aquae Sextiae beyond the Alps, while his colleague Catullus stood guard behind them.
Next in 101 BC the Cimbri poured through the eastern mountain passes into the plain of the river Po. They in turn were annihilated by Marius and Catulus at Campi Raudii near Vercellae.
Marius reaped the benefit of his joint victory with Catulus, by being elected to his sixth consulship.

The Second Slave War

The atrocities of the First Slave War were anything but forgotten when in 103 BC the slaves of Sicily dared to revolt again. That after the cruelty in the aftermath of the first conflict they dared to rise again, hints how how bad their conditions must have been.
They fought so stubbornly that it took Rome 3 years to stamp out the revolt.

The Social War

In 91 BC the moderate members of the senate allied themselves with Livius Drusus (the son of that Drusus who had been used to undermine Gaius Gracchus' popularity in 122 BC) and aided him in his election campaign. If the honesty of the father is open to doubt, that of the son is not. As tribune he proposed to add to the senate an equal number of equestrians, and to extend Roman citizenship to all Italians and to grant the poorer of the current citizens new schemes for colonization and a further cheapening of the corn prices, at the expense of the state.
Though the people, the senators and the knights all felt that they would be conceding too many of their rights for too little. Drusus was assassinated.

Despite his eventually loss of popularity his supporters had stood by Drusus loyally. The opposition Tribune of the People, Q. Varius, now carried a bill declaring that to have supported the ideas of Drusus was treason. The reaction by Drusus' supporters was violence.
All resident Roman citizens were killed by an enraged mob at Asculum, in central Italy. Worse still, the 'allies' (socii)of Rome in Italy, the Marsi, Paeligni, Samnites, Lucanians, Apulians all broke into open revolt.
The 'allies' had not planned any such rising, far more it was a spontaneous outburst of anger against Rome. But that meant they were unprepared for a fight. Hastily they formed formed a federation. A number of towns fell into their hands at the outset, and they defeated a consular army. But alas, Marius took led an army into battle and defeated them. Though he didn't - perhaps deliberately - crush them.

The 'allies' had a strong party of sympathizers in the senate. And these senators in 89 BC managed to win over several of the 'allies' by a new law (the Julian Law - lex Iulia) by which Roman citizenship was granted to 'all who had remained loyal to Rome (but this most likely also included those who laid down their arms against Rome).
But some of the rebels, especially the Samnites, only fought the harder. Though under the leadership of Sulla and Pompeius Strabo the rebels were reduced on battlefield until they held out only in a few Samnite and Lucanian strongholds.

Was the city of Asculum in particular dealt with severely for the atrocity committed there, the senate tried to bring an end to the fighting by conceding citizenship to by granting citizenship to all who laid down their arms within sixty days (lex Plautia-Papiria).

The law succeeded and by the beginning of 88 BC the Social War was at an end, other than for a few besieged strongholds.

Sulla (138-78 BC)


Lucius Cornelius Sulla was yet another nail in he coffin of the Republic, perhaps much in the same mould as Marius.
Having already been the first man to use Roman troops against Rome itself.
And much like Marius he, too, should make his mark in history with reforms as well as a reign of terror.

Sulla takes Power

In 88 BC the activities of king Mithridates of Pontus called for urgent action. The king had invaded the province of Asia and massacred 80'000 Roman and Italian citizens. Sulla, as elected consul and as the man who had won the Social War, expected the command, but Marius wanted it, too. The senate appointed Sulla to lead the troops against Mithridates.
But the tribune Sulpicius Rufus (124-88 BC), a political ally of Marius, passed through the concilium plebis an order calling for the transfer of command to Marius. Peaceful as these happenings may sound, they were accompanied by much violence.

Sulla rushed straight from Rome to his still undisbanded troops of the Social War before Nola in Campania, where the Samnites were still holding out.
There, Sulla appealed to the soldiers to follow him. The officers hesitated, but the soldiers did not. And so, at the head of six Roman legions, Sulla marched on Rome. He was joined by his political ally Pompeius Rufus. They seized the city gates, marched in and annihilated a force hastily collected by Marius.
Sulpicius fled but was discovered and killed. So, too, did Marius, by now 70 years old, flee. He was picked up at the coast of Latium and sentenced to death. But as no one could be found prepared to do the deed he was instead hustled onto a ship. He ended up in Carthage where he was ordered by the Roman governor of Africa to move on.

Sulla's first Reforms

While he still held the command of the military in his hands, Sulla used the military assembly (comitia centuriata) to annul all legislation passed by Sulpicius and to proclaim that all business to be submitted to the people should be dealt with in the comitia centuriata , while nothing at all was to be brought to the people before it received senatorial approval.
In effect this took away any which the tribal assembly (comitia tributa) and the plebeian assembly (concilium plebis) possessed. Also it reduced the power of the tribunes, who until then had been able to use the people's assemblies to by-pass the senate.
Naturally, it also increased the power of the senate.

Sulla did not interfere in the elections for the offices of consul, but to demand from the successful candidate, L. Cornelius Cinna, not to reverse any of the changes he had made.

This done Sulla left with his forces to fight Mithridates in the east (87 BC).

Marius and Cinna take Power

Though in his absence Cinna revived the legislation and the methods of Sulpicius. When violence broke out in the city, he appealed to the troops in Italy and practically revived the Social War. Marius returned form exile and joined him, though he appeared more intent on revenge than on anything else.
Rome lay defenceless before the conquerors. The city's gates to Marius and Cinna. In the week's reign of terror which followed, Marius wreaked his revenge on his enemies.

After the brief but hideous orgy of blood-lust which alarmed Cinna and disgusted their allies in the senate, Marius seized his seventh consulship without election. But he died a fortnight later (January, 87 BC).
Cinna remained sole master and consul of Rome until he was killed in the course of a mutiny in 84 BC.
The power fell to an ally of Cinna's, namely Cn. Papirius Carbo.

First Mithridatic War

When the Social War had broken out, Rome was fully occupied with its own affairs. Mithridates VI, king of Pontus, used Rome's preoccupation to invade the province of Asia. Half of the province of Achaea (Greece), Athens taking the lead, rose against its Roman rulers, supported by Mithridates.
When Sulla arrived at Athens, the city's fortifications proved too much for him to charge. Instead he starved them out, whilst his lieutenant, Lucius Lucullus, raised a fleet to force Mithridates out of the Aegean Sea.
Early in 86 BC Athens fell to the Romans.
Though Archelaus, the ablest general of Mithridates, now threatened with a large army from Thessaly. Sulla marched against him with a force only a sixth in size and shattered his army at Chaeronea.

A Roman consul, Valerius Flaccus, now landed with fresh forces in Epirus, to relieve Sulla of his command. But Sulla had no intention of relinquishing his power. New reached him that general Archelaus had landed another huge force . Immediately he turned southwards and destroyed this force at Orchomenus.
Meanwhile Flaccus, avoiding a conflict with Sulla, headed toward Asia seeking to engage Mithridates himself. Though he never reached it. His second-in-command, C. Flavius Fimbria, led a mutiny against him, killed him and assumed command himself. Fimbria crossed the straights and started operations in Asia.

Meanwhile Sulla opened negotiations with the defeated Archelaus. An conference was arranged in 85 BC between Sulla and Mithridates and a treaty was struck by which Mithridates was to surrender his conquests to Rome and retreat behind the borders he'd held before the war. So too, was Pontus to hand over a fleet of seventy ships and pay a tribute.

It now remained to settle the problem of Fimbria, who could only hope to excuse his mutiny with some success. With the war over and Sulla closing on him with his troops, his situation was hopeless. Alas, his troops deserted him and Fimbria committed suicide.

Therefore, in 84 BC, his campaigns a total success, Sulla could start making his was back to Rome.

Sulla becomes Dictator

Sulla should arrive back in Italy in the spring of 83 BC and marched on Rome determined to restore his will upon the city.
But the Roman government controlled greater troops than his own, more so the Samnites wholeheartedly flung themselves into the struggle against Sulla, who to them represented senatorial privilege and the denial of citizenship to the Italians.

Alas, it came to the decisive Battle of the Colline Gate in August 82 BC, where fifty thousand men lost their lives.
Sulla emerged victorious at the Battle of the Colline Gate and so became the master of the Roman world.
Sulla in no way lacked any of the blood-lust displayed by Marius. Three days after the battle he ordered all of the eight thousand prisoners taken on the battle field to be massacred in cold blood.

Soon after Sulla was appointed dictator for so long as he might think fit to retain office.

He issued a series of proscriptions - lists of people who were to have their property taken and who were to be killed. The people killed in these purges were not only supporters of Marius and Cinna, but so too people Sulla simply disliked or held a grudge against.

The lives of the people of Rome were entirely in Sulla's hands. He could have them killed or he could spare them. One he chose to spare was a dissolute young patrician, whose father's sister had been the wife of Marius, and who himself was the husband of Cinna's daughter - Gaius Julius Caesar.

Sulla's second Reforms

Sulla took charge of the constitution in 81 BC. All the power of the state would henceforth lay in the hands of the senate.The Tribunes of the People and the people's assemblies had been by the democrats to overthrow the senate. Tribunes were to be barred from all further office and the assemblies were deprived of the power of initiating any legislation. The senatorial control of the courts was restored at the expense of the equestrians.
There were to be no more repeated consulships, like those of Marius and Cinna.
Consuls were not to hold military command until, after their year of office, they went abroad as proconsuls, when their power could only be exercised in their respective province.

Then in 79 BC Sulla lay down his powers as dictator and devoted his remaining months to the enjoyment of wild parties. He died in 78 BC.

Although the Roman Republic technically still had some fifty years to go, Sulla pretty much represents its demise. He should stand as an example to others to come that is was possible to take Rome by force and rule it, if only one was strong and ruthlessness enough to do what ever deeds were required.


The Age of Caesar

The twenty years following Sulla's death saw the rise of three men who, if Rome's founders were truly suckled by a she-wolf, surely had within them the stuff of wolves.
The three were Marcus Licinius Crassus (d. 53 BC), one of Rome's richest men ever. Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (106-48 BC), known as Pompey the Great, perhaps the greatest military talent of his time, and Gaius Julius Caesar (102-44 BC), arguably the most famous Roman of all times.
A fourth man was Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC), is generally understood to have been the greatest orator in the entire history of the Roman Empire. All four were stabbed to death within ten years of each other.

Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar

They were a cynical lot, the politicians of Caesar's day. Gone were the altruistic attitudes of the leaders of the early Republic. The political scenario of Caesar's world was one all contestants having seen from the examples set by Marius, Cinna and Sulla that sole rule of Rome was possible. And with a bait that luring, everyone was prepared to employ any means to acquire it.

The reason for the 'first triumvirate is to be found in the hostility the populists Crassus Pompey and Caesar faced in the Senate, in particularly by the likes of Cato the Younger, Cato the Elder's great-grandson. Perhaps his famous namesake before him Cato the younger was a (self-)righteous, but talented politician. A fatal mix, if surrounded by wolves of the caliber of Crassus, Pompey and Caesar. He became one of the leaders in the Senate, where he particularly rounded on Crassus, Pompey and Caesar. Alas, he even fell out with Cicero, the greatest speaker of the house by far.
The 'first triumvirate was, rather than a constitutional office or a dictatorship imposed of force, a alliance of the three main popular protagonists; Crassus, Pmpey and Caesar.
They helped each other along, guarding each other's backs from Cato and his attacks in the senate.
In this way they could also support each other into powerful office. Caesar for instance becoming consul in 59 BC.
An agrarian law was passed which gave lands to the veteran soldiers of Pompey and poor citizens in Campania. The populace were gratified and the three wolves had a body of loyal and now grateful veteran soldiers to call on in case of trouble.
Then in 58 BC, made governor of Cisalpine Gaul, Caesar embarked on his conquest of Gaul. During the years of fighting in Gaul, the presence of Caesar's legions so near to Rome ensured the re-election of Crassus and Pompey, (defeating a bid of Cato's brother for the consulship) and they in return promptly renewed his command in both Gauls, whilst securing for themselves the control of Syria and Spain for five years.
Crassus left for Syria and was killed a year later in fighting the Parthians.
When Clodius was murdered in 52 BC, the Senate had Pompey elected sole consul. But to keep his options open, Pompey supported a bill which granted Caesar the right to stand for consulship in absence; he would be eligible for election in 40 BC after the requisite ten-year interval had elapsed.
Clear as the lines appeared to be drawn in the sand, they were not. Powerful as Pompey and Caesar might have been, there were other wranglings among politicians, wranglings not necessarily related to them. A political struggle arose for the question on just who decided on provincial commands. Alas, as part of this struggle, the fate of the Roman Republic was sealed as Marcus Marcellus, consul in 51 BC, recalled Caesar from his position in Gaul. Having just crushed Vercingetorix at Alesia, Caesar was losing patience with an apparently ungrateful bunch back in Rome, who didn't appreciate what prize he had just won for them in adding the entire Gallic realm to their empire.
Pompey tried to arrange a compromise, but nevertheless agreed that the Senate should be obeyed.
throughout 50 and 49 BC Caesar tried to negotiate and come to terms with the senate, reinforced by the vetoes of friendly tribunes. But when the hard liners in the senate ignored them, on 6 January 49 BC he crossed the Rubicon, the river that marked the boundary of his province.
Pompey, commissioned by the Senate, went east to gather his forces, saying "Sulla did it, why not I ?"
But speed and organization belonged to Caesar, and his policy of clemency captured public opinion.
A campaign in Spain brought the Pompeian troops there under Caesar's command within six months.
Alas, after a long delay, the showdown was brought about in midsummer of 48 BC, when Pompey and Caesar met each other on the plain of Pharsalus in Thessaly.
Caesar's troops won the day, completely routing the ranks of Pompey, who fled but was later assassinated on his arrival in Egypt.

After Pompey's departure and death, and Caesar's holiday in Egypt at the side of Cleopatra the dictator returned to Rome via Asia Minor, where he annihilated the forces of Pharnaces of Pontus, son of Mithridates.
This was the occasion of his celebrated message to the senate 'veni, vidi, vici' (I came, I saw, I conquered.)
Though even with Pompey himself dead, opposition from the Pompeian faction was only defeated after two more campaigns, in Africa and Spain, culminating in the battle of Munda on 17 March 45 BC. In October of that year Caesar was back in Rome. Quickly it showed that Caesar was not merely a conqueror and destroyer. Caesar was a builder, a visionary statesman the likes of which, the world rarely gets to see.
He established order, begun measures to reduce congestion in Rome, draining large tracts of marshy lands, gave full voting rights to the inhabitants of his former province south of the Alps, revised the tax laws of Asia and Sicily, resettled many Romans in new homes in the Roman provinces and reformed the calendar, which, with one slight adjustment, is the one in use today.
But five months after his arrival back in Rome he was dead, at the hands of a band of senatorial conspirators led by Marcus Junius Brutus (d 42 BC) and Gaius Cassius Longinus (d 42 BC), both former Pompeians who'd been pardoned by Caesar after the battle of Pharsalus.

For the moment Caesar's fall produced sheer paralysis. The conspirators imagined that they were going to restore the senatorial republic mid general acclamation. The enemy they had most to fear was Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony, ca. 83-30 BC), consul designate and a favourite lieutenant of the murdered dictator, a man of brilliant, though erratic ability, boundless ambition and a whole-hearted devotion to his dead chief.
There would almost certainly be a duel between the conspirators and Antony. Neither side took much notice of a youngster of eighteen years away in Macedon, whom the childless Caesar had adopted, his great-nephew Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus.
The conflict did not begin at once, for at first there was hollow reconciliation. Antony however secured Caesar's papers and secured from the senate the ratification of Caesar's acts and a public funeral - at which Antony's speech and the reading of Caesar's will produced a violent popular outcry of revulsion against the self-styled 'liberators'.
Under the threat of being lynched by the angry mob, the conspirators hastily left Rome, leaving Antony master of the situation.
The ablest soldier of the conspirators Decimus Brutus (not to be mistaken for the famous Marcus Junius Brutus !), took possession of Cisalpine Gaul.
the military situation was extremely uncertain, which is well reflected in the fact that the two parties were still corresponding with each other at that time.
The young Octavian suddenly appeared on the scene, announcing himself the heir to Caesar's will, ready to make terms with either party - but only his own terms.
Antony feared a rival, the conspirators saw a remorseless enemy.
The Italian legions seemed likely to transfer their allegiance to the one they saw as Caesar's son, Octavian.
Decimus Brutus was in Possession of Cisalpine Gaul, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (d 13BC), Caesar's former chief assistant, was in control of the old Transalpine Province. Caesar himself in his will (of course not knowing of his future assassination) had granted Macedon and Syria to his chief murderers Marcus Brutus and Gaius Cassius, both of whom left Italy to raise troops for the coming contest.
A time of chaos followed in which Antony besieged Decimus Brutus, suffered defeat, was declared a public enemy after a series of brilliant speeches against him by Cicero, Octavian joined the new consuls Hirtius and Pansa who were soon killed in fighting Antony's troops, Antony then allied with Lepidus and then jointly came to terms with Octavian.

Octavian with his legions then simply marched on Rome and at the age of twenty claimed the consulship for himself, no one daring to deny him. Then he trial Caesar's assassins tried and, of course, condemned to death.
At last the governor's of Spain and Gaul, so far prudently neutral declared their support. Antony, Lepidus and Octavian then met up at Bononia (Bologna) and constituted themselves (officially by decree of a powerless senate) Triumvirs, joint rulers of the Republic.
A part of this joint programme was, as with Sulla, a merciless proscription, Cicero being the most distinguished of their victims. Then the Triumvirs went about appointing their shares of the empire, with little regard for Lepidus.

Climactic End of the Roman Republic
Antonius versus Octavian

No heavy engagement took place before the two battles on the plain of Philippi in Macedonia, fought with an interval of three weeks in the late autumn of 42 BC. The first battle actually went to Marcus Brutus, although Cassius mistakenly believing the day lost, ordered his slave to kill him. In the second battle however Brutus was defeated, his army refused another fight the next day, and so he was killed by the reluctant hand of a friend.
The victors, Antony and Octavian parted the empire between them, Lepidus having fallen by the side. In effect, Antony took the east, Octavian the west. However, they found an unexpected rival in Sextus Pompeius, son of Pompey the Great and having held a command in the Decimus Brutus' fleet having achieved naval supremacy across the Mediterranean. For ten years there was no open collision between Antony and Octavian, but there was much friction and actual war was overted several times only with great difficulty.
The root of the matter was, both were ambitious, but so too did the division of the empire prove that it required sole rule. For Rome, with its institutions of power lay in the west, whilst to the east lay the wealthiest regions of the empire. Octavian had naturally moved to Rome, Antony had set up camp in Egypt where he lived with Cleopatra. Antony struggled in the east, Labienus one of his Roman officers joining with Pacorus, King of Parthia and invading Syria. Weakened like this, he only overted war with Octavian by marrying Octavian's sister Octavia, much to the dissatisfaction of Cleopatra. Meanwhile Sextus Pompeius used his fleet to blockade Italy, finally forcing the triumvirs to admit him to partnership, receiving in his share Sardinia, Sicily and Achaea.
Ventidius Bassus, commanding troops for Antony, in 39 BC routed the Parthians and drove them over the Euphrates, then repeated his success in 38 BC against King Pacorus himself, who fell in battle.
Octavian prepared for a struggle with with Sextus Pompeius and Antony, tired of his wife Octavia, returned to his Egyptian mistress Cleopatra. In 36 BC Antony flung himself into a new Parthian campaign but only narrowly escaped complete destruction by a hasty retreat. Back in Italy Antony's brother Lucius; now consul tried to overthrow Octavian by armed force, but Octavian's right-hand man Agrippa (63 BC-12 AD) compelled him in 40 BC to retire from Italy.
This was the occasion of the breach of the triumvirs, ended by the pact of Brundisium in 36 BC. Octavian still desperate to reorganize the west found Sextus Pompeius, still master of the seas, a growing embarrassment. Though the first attempts to challenge his power failed completely.
The invaluable Agrippa again came to the rescue. Only in 36 BC, having organized and trained new fleets, was his naval campaign begun. Sextus, defeated by Agrippa, then victorious over Octavian, was alas crushed by Agrippa at Naulochus, and having fled into the hands of Antony, was put to death.
Now Lepidus, the initial third triumvir, returned to the scene trying to reassert himself. But he quickly submitted as his troops deserted to Octavian and was relegated into dignified obscurity as pontifex maximus.

Finally things came to a climax when Antony in 32 BC openly repudiated his marriage to Octavia. Octavian's time had come. Rome declared war on Egypt. Antony set out for Greece, designing on invading Italy. This was made impossible by Agrippa's fleet. Octavian landed in Epirus, but wisely held back as he knew himself no match for Antony as a general. Though the winter both sides played a waiting game, which all worked to the favour of Octavian for Antony could trust none of his men.
In 31 Antony finally decided to abandon his army and retreat with his fleet. He embarked with Cleopatra at the end of August, but it was overtaken by Agrippa and forced to engage off Actium on September 2. Agrippa's skill was the greater, yet Antony's fleet was much the heavier. The battle hung in doubt, until Cleopatra with sixty ships broke away in full flight. Antony deserted the battle and followed his mistress. The rest of the fleet fought on desperately, until it was totally destroyed or captured. The deserted army naturally went over to Octavian. The battle of Actium was decisive.
Antony was beaten though not yet dead. In July of 30 BC a well prepared Octavian appeared before Pelusium with his fleet. Hearing a false rumour that Cleopatra was dead, Antony committed suicide. Hearing of her lover's death and that Octavian intended to parade the defeated queen through the streets of Rome, she too killed herself.

Alas Octavian stood alone and unrivalled, undisputed and indisputable rival of the civilized world.

He remained in the east for nearly a year before returning to Rome in triumph. He signalized the restoration of peace long unknown throughout the empire by closing the temple of Janus.

In 28 BC Octavian's role as pacificator was further emphasized by his reversal of the illegalities for he and his colleagues had been responsible during the long period of arbitrary authority. He also revised the senatorial list, restoring some of the dignity of that body.

Then in a remarkable demonstration that the public good, not his own ambition were his motivation, Octavian in 27 BC laid down his extraordinary powers. Though there was no question of him retiring. Naturally he resigned his powers only that he might resume them in slightly different guise in constitutional form.
The titles conferred on him were such to concentrate attention on his dignity, not his power; on the reverence he commanded from a 'grateful world'.
The Republic was finally dissolved, The imperator was proclaimed pater patriae, father of his country, princeps, first citizen, Caesar Augustus, - almost, but not as yet, divine.
Henceforth he was known no longer as Octavian, but as Augustus.

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