Roman Empire
History of the Roman Empire
Home Page
The Republic
Republic Gallery
Portrait Gallery
The Forum
Bulletin Board
Bulletin Board
Roman Empire
Childrens Section
Children's Section

The Roman Republic

Choose which paragraph to jump to and press "Go!":

The Latin words res publica which are perhaps best translated as 'public affairs' are the source of today's term 'republic'.

Before setting out on reading about the history of the Roman republic, please find here the various offices and assemblies which were created in order to rule of the Roman state.

Offices

Consul
-

Pontifex Maximus
Head of
State
Dictator
-

Pontifex Maximus
Ruler in
Crisis
Pontifex
Maximus

Pontifex Maximus
Religion
-
Censor
-

Censor
Public
Morality
Praetor
-

Praetor
Law
Officer
Aedile
-

Aedile
Public
Works
Quaestor
-

Quaestor
Treasurer
-

Assemblies

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

The Revolt against King Tarquin

In 510 BC Rome witnessed a revolt against the rule of Etruscan kings.
The traditional story goes as follows;
Sextus, the son of king Tarquinius Superbus raped the wife of a nobleman, Tarquinius Collatinus. Was king Tarquinius' rule already deeply unpopular with the people, this rape was too great an offence to be tolerated by the Roman nobles. Lead by L. Iunius Brutus, they rose in revolt against the king.
Sextus fled to Gabii but was killed. Meanwhile the King with his two brothers escaped to Caere. Aided by the city of Veii king Tarquinius (or Tarquin as he is called in English) fought a battle against his rebellious subjects, but failed to win back his city.

The rebellion against Tarquinius failed to achieve final independence for Rome, but it should be the birth of the Roman republic. It was after this revolt, that the senate handed power to two consuls, although at first they were called praetors (a title which later should come to be the name of a different office of the republic). These consuls each held power for one year, in which they ruled much like joint kings of Rome.
What also needs to be kept in mind is that this rebellion was indeed a revolt by the aristocracy of Rome. Rome was never a democracy as we would understand it today, nor as the Greeks understood it. In the early days of the Roman republic all power would reside in the hands of the Roman aristocracy, the so-called patricians ( patricii).

Lars Porsenna

But king Tarquinius, though defeated, was not yet dead. And so he called upon the help of the fellow Etruscan king Lars Porsenna. Porsenna duly besieged Rome. Legend tells us of the hero Horatius fending off the Etruscan hordes at the Tiber bridge which he asked to be destroyed behind him as he fought.
Other legend tells of Porsenna eventually calling off the siege. A Roman hero, Mucius Scaevola, having convinced him to leave, proving how determined the Romans were to defeat him, by holding his hand over a naked flame and not removing it until it had burned away.
However, the opposite seems really to have been the case. Porsenna captured Rome. He didn't place Tarquinius back on the throne, which seems to indicate that he instead planned on ruling the city himself. But Rome, though occupied, must have remained defiant. In an attempt to quell any future revolts Porsenna banned anyone from owning iron weapons.
But this tyranny wasn't to last. Under Roman encouragement other cities in Latium revolted against Etruscan domination. Alas, in about 506 BC things came to a head. The allied Latin forces, led by Aristodemus, met at Aricia with an army which Porsenna had sent against them under the command of his son Arruns.
The Latins won the battle. This was a decisive blow against the Etruscans and now, alas, Rome had won its independence.

War with the Latin League

Rome was evidently the largest city within Latium. And the confidence it gained from this knowledge made it lay claim to speak on behalf of Latium itself. And so in its treaty with Carthage (510 BC) the Roman republic claimed control over considerable parts of the countryside around it.
Though such claims the Latin League (the alliance of Latin cities) would not recognize. And so a war arose about the very matter. Rome, having won independence from the Etruscans already faced its next crisis. The very Latin force which had defeated the Porenna's army at Aricia now was used against Rome. At 496 BC the Roman forces met those of the Latin League at Lake Regillus.
Rome claimed victory. But if this was really so, is unclear. The battle may well have been an indecisive draw. In either case, Rome's ability to withstand the combined might of Latium, which had earlier defeated the Etruscans, must have been an astonishing fete of military prowess.
In about 493 BC a treaty between Rome and the Latin League was signed (the foedus Cassianum). This might have been due to the Latin League admitting to Roman superiority on the battle field at Lake Regillus. But more likely it was because the Latins sought a powerful ally against the Italian hill tribes who were harassing them. Either way, the war with the Latin League was over.

The Early Conflict of the Orders

Had the revolt against king Tarquinius and Porsenna been led entirely by the Roman nobility, then it was essentially only the Roman aristocrats (the patricii), who held any power. All decision of note were taken in their assembly, the senate. Real power rested perhaps with little more or less than fifty men. Within the nobility of Rome power itself centered around a few select families. For large part of the fifth century BC names such as Aemilius, Claudius, Cornelius and Fabius would dominate politics.
There was indeed an assembly for the people, the comitia centuriata, but its decisions all needed the approval of the patrician nobles.
The economic situation of early Rome was dire. Many poor peasant fell into ruin and was taken into slavery for nonpayment of debt by the privileged classes.
Against such a background of hardship and helplessness at the hands of the nobles, the commoners (called the 'plebeians ' (plebeii) organized themselves against the patricians. And so arose what is traditionally called 'the Conflict of the Orders'.
One believes that the plebeians were partly inspired by Greek merchants, who most likely had brought with them tales of the overthrow of the aristocracy in some Greek cities and the creation of Greek democracy.
If inspiration came from Greek traders within Rome's walls, then the power the plebeians possessed stemmed from Rome's need for soldiers. The patricians alone could not fight all the wars which Rome was almost constantly involved in. This power was indeed demonstrated in the First Secession, when the plebeians withdrew to a hill three miles north east of Rome, the Mons Sacer.
Several such secessions are recorded (five in total, between 494 and 287 BC, although each one is disputed).
Leadership of the plebeians was largely provided by those among them, perhaps wealthy landowners with no noble blood, who served as tribunes in the military. Accustomed to leading the men in war, they now did the same in politics.
It was either after the First Secession in 494 BC or a little later, in 471 BC, that the patricians recognized the plebeians rights to hold meetings and to elect their officers, the 'tribunes of the people' (tribuni plebis). Such 'tribunes of the people' were to represent the grievances of ordinary people to the consuls and the senate. But apart from such a diplomatic role, he also possessed extraordinary powers. He possessed the power of veto over any new law the consuls wanted to introduce. His duty was to be on call day and night to any citizen who required his help.

The fact that plebeian demands didn't seem to go further than adequate protection from the excesses of patrician power, seems to suggest that the people were largely satisfied with the leadership which the nobility provided. And it should be reasonable to suppose that, despite the differences voiced in the Conflict of the Orders', Rome's patricians and plebeians stood united when facing any outside influence.

The Decemviri

One demand voiced by the plebeians as part of the Conflict of the Orders was that of written law. For as long as there was no simply code of written rules, the plebeians remained virtually at the mercy of the patrician consuls who decided what the law was.
And so a commission was set up in 451 BC. It consisted of ten patricians. They were called the decemviri ('the ten men'). They were charged with creating a simple code of laws within a year. And after the year had passed, they had produced ten tables, listing the laws which should govern Rome.
But their work was deemed unfinished and so another ten men were appointed, this time consisting of five patricians and five plebeians, to complete the work. They held office for another year, in which they produced two more tables, completing the work which was to become famous as 'the Twelve Tables'.
However, during the time in which the decemviri were in office the Roman constitution was no longer in place. And so they ruled in place of the consuls. But when their year was up, they refused to resign and instead chose to rule by tyranny.
But their attempt to take over the state failed. The Second Secession had the plebeians walk out on Rome again, forcing the tyrannical decemviri to resign (449 BC).

It is worth mentioning that, apart from the above version of the tale, some historians believe that the same ten patrician devemviri ruled for two years, preparing the Twelve Tables. But when the plebeians deemed the laws not far-reaching enough, they forced them to resign and instead brought about the appointment of two more radically-minded consuls.

The Twelve Tables

And so came about the famous written Roman law, the Twelve Tables. The laws were engraved in copper and permanently displayed to public view. The twelve copper tables were a simple set of rules governing the public, private and political behaviour of every Roman.
Here are some examples:
Death sentences now were only allowed to be issued by the law courts. And the final court of appeal in death penalties would be the Comitia Centuriata. Previously some lenders had seen it fit to condemn some debtors to death who failed to pay. Regarding the problem of debt the law now stated that there was a maximum rate of interest. Anyone confirmed by the courts as owing a debt would be given thirty days to pay. After this he could be sold into slavery by his creditors.
Regarding theft; if a thief was a freeman he was flogged and then handed to the person from whom he stolen to repay what damage he'd done, if necessary by working for him. If the thief however was a slave he was flogged and then thrown to his death off the cliff of the Capitoline Hill known as the Tarpeian Rock.
No burials or cremations were allowed within the city walls.
The maintainance of roads was the responsibility of those on whose property they bordered.
It was an offence to cast or have a which cast any spells on someone else.
Marriage between patricians and plebeians was forbidden.
To demonstrate in the streets against an another person was forbidden. One was allowed to demonstrate for or against a particular cause, but not against a specific person.
One was permitted to remove a branch from a neighbour's tree which overhung one's property.
For the theft of crops there was the death penalty (clubbing to death).
For slander there was the death penalty (clubbing to death).
The levels of punishment for assault were also defined; the level varied according to the status of the person who had committed the crime. Harsher for a plebeian, milder for a patrician. And should the victim of the crime be a mere slave, the sentence was reduced yet further.
The laws also distinguished between an intentional and an accidental killing.
A father had to right to kill his deformed child.
And the historian Pliny the Elder tells us that the penalty for murder according to the Twelve Tables was less than that for stealing crops.

The Roman code of the Twelve Tables 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 and are hence seen as a milestone in history.

War with Etruria, the Volscians and Aequians

Had Rome rid itself of its Etruscan despots and allied itself with the cities of the Latin League, then now she stood at the head of Latium. But enemies still loomed all around; the Etruscans were still a potent force and Sabellian and Oscan hill tribes (foremost the Volscians and Aequians) threatened the plain of Latium.
Rome was therefore always at war, attacked or attacking her Etruscan neighbour Veii, or the Volscians or Aequians, or an occasional Latin foe.
Meanwhile the Hernicans (Hernici), who were a Latin tribe wedged between the Aequians and the Volscians, preferred alliance to Rome (486 BC). It was a typical example of the Roman motto 'divide and conquer'.

When the Etruscan sea power was shattered by Hieron of Syracuse at Cumae in 474 BC, 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.

One very notable incident of the Aequian wars occured in 457 BC when a Roman army was sent to attack the enemy garrison on Mt Algidus. It marched right into a trap and urgent help was needed to save the survivors of the battle. A relief force was quickly organized and handed to one Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, including the powers of dictatorship. Cincinnatus, having been called from his fields to take up this greta office, led his forces against the Aesquians and managed to force a way through which the trapped army could escape. His job done, Cincinnatus returned, relinquished his power and returned home to tend his farm. It was this which should make this man the 'ideal republican' in many a later Romans eyes. And not merely in Roman eyes, as the existence of the city of Cincinnati in today's United States demonstrates.

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.

Invasion by the Gauls

Had the invasion by the Gauls from the north weakened Etruria so much that Rome had at last succeeded in conquering its old enemy Veii, then only six years later the flood of Celtic barbarians burst into Rome itself (390 BC).
Legends afterwards told of that invasion. Barbarians are said to have broken into the senate house and been awestricken by the dignity of the silent seated senators, before massacring them all. The attempt of a surprise attack on the besieged Capitol was frustrated by the cackling of geese of Juno which warned the Roman guards. And legend also gave us the famous scene 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 alas further legend tells us of the heroic leader Camillus, conqueror of Veii, who with his ramshackle forces attacked the Gallic hordes.
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 dependent allies, seized the moment to make a last desperate attempt at dominance of Latium, only to find themselves broken by Rome's indomitable armies.
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.

The Later Conflict of the Orders

The Gauls having withdrawn and Rome being the confirmed leader of Latium, the old struggle between the patricians and the plebeians renewed in intensity again.
Naturally, it had in effect never gone away but had continued on as a process which now came to a head.
The small plebeian landowners ached under the strain of military service and the losses they had incurred during the invasion of the Gauls.
They looked with resentment upon the patricians who still commanded the consulship and so had access to decisions regarding what should happen to conquered land. Land no doubt many plebeians hoped for receiving a share of in order to alleviate their hardships.
And one major effect the wars had had on Roman society was to reduce the number of patricians significantly. Having a share of the army beyond their proportion of the populace, the patricians had had to suffer terrible losses during the wars.
Apart from this, several patrician families saw political advantages in championing the cause of the plebeians, so gaining vast popularity, but serving to further undermine the status of the patrician class. Largely these will have been the families of those who had intermarried between the classes, ever since it had been allowed in 445 BC.
Aside from this the wealthier plebeians now had their eyes on power, seeking to hold office themselves in which they should be able to propose laws rather then only being able to oppose them as tribunes of the people.
With the patricians weakened and the aspirations of the plebeians on the rise, the erosion of the constitutional differences between the two was inevitable.
The patricians put up a brave struggle, fighting in turn to keep each office exclusive to their kind. But once in 367 BC, with the passing of the 'Licinian Rogations' their cause was effectively lost. The Conflict of the Orders should last for several decades thereafter, but the winners were inevitably going to be the plebeians.

The 'Licinian Rogations'

Had the patricians put up of brave fight to defend their privileges, then it was their leader Camillus, the hero of patrician conservatism, who alas saw there was no other way. Camillus had even been appointed dictator twice to quell disorder. Or, as some might say, to enable the patricians to hang on to power for that little bit longer, in spite of the powerful tribunes of the people.
But the struggle was futile and so the Licinian Rogations, a bill combining the agrarian and constitutional demands of the plebeians, were 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".

Rome rising power within Italy

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 Great 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 'Great 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.
Rome had officially worded their decision as such that they were coming to the aid of the Mamertines against the threat from Syracuse. No mention was made of the Carthaginians. And, true to their word, they continued the war against Syracuse, once they had captured Messana. Carthage however was enraged and 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 year, 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, a substantial part of his other Sicilan territories 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'.

Carthage
Carthage

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 and silver mines.
How the new city of Carthago Nova, founded by Hamilcar's successor Hasdrubal the Elder, flourished, and what success was achieved in conciliating native peoples and exploiting the region's natural wealth, is evident from the treaty which was agreed between Hasdrubal the Elder and the Romans in 226 BC, by which the Iberus river (Ebro) 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.
Six 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 or held at least some form of agreement with them. Only Saguntum remained not only independent but positively allied with Rome. Hasdrubal the Elder was dead.
In 221 BC had been murdered by a man whose chieftain 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 all 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 the Elder 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 226 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 case 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 in the First Punic War.

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.

Battle of Cannae
Battle of Cannae

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

Battle of Zama
Battle of 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 Cynoscephalae in Thessaly, where the infamous Macedonian phalanx was decisively defeated by the Roman legions.

Battle of Cynoscephalae
Battle of Cynoscephalae

After Cynoscephalae 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 the next year (191 BC) Roman armies, with the 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 almost 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 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, 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 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)

Sulla
Sulla

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. News 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.

Cicero
Cicero
Crassus
Crassus
Pompey
Pompey
Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar

The Rise of Crassus and Pompey

Two men had risen to prominence as supporters of Sulla. One was Publius Licinius Crassus (117-53 BC), who had played a major part in the victory of the Colline Gate for Sulla. The other, Gnaeus Pompeius (106-48 BC), known to the modern historians as Pompey, was a youthful commander of remarkable military talents. Such talents in fact that Sulla had entrusted him with the suppression of the Marians (the supporters of Marius) in Africa. This command he had fulfilled so satisfactorily that it had earned him the complimentary title 'Magnus' ('the Great') from the dictator. Crassus had no little ability, but he chose to concentrate it on the acquisition of wealth.
Sulla was hardly dead, when the inevitable attempt to overturn his constitution was made by the consul Lepidus, the champion of the popular party. when he took up arms however, he was easily crushed (77 BC).

In one quarter, the Marians had not yet been suppressed. The Marian Sertorius had retreated to Spain when Sulla returned to Italy, and there he had been making himself a formidable power, partly by rallying the Spanish tribes to join him as their leader.
He was very much more than a mere match for the Roman forces sent to deal with him. Pompey, charged with the business of dealing with him in 77 BC, fared not much better than his predecessors.

More worryingly the menacing king Mithridates of Pontus, no longer in awe of Sulla, was negotiating with Sertorius with the intention of renewing the war in 74 BC.
But this alliance came to nothing as Sertorius was assassinated in 72 BC. With Sertorius'' death the defeat of the Marians in Spain posed no great difficulty to Pompey anymore.
Pompey could now return home to Rome to claim and receive credit, scarcely deserved, for having succeeded were others had failed.

Third Slave War

Slaves were trained as gladiators, and in 73 BC such a slave, a Thracian named Spartacus, broke out of a gladiator training camp at Capua and took refuge in the hills. The number of his band swelled rapidly and he kept his men well in hand and under strict discipline and routed two commanders who were sent to capture him. In 72 BC Spartacus had so formidable force behind him, that two consular armies were sent against him, both of which he destroyed.

Pompey was in the west, Lucullus in the east. It was Crassus who at the head of six legions at last brought Spartacus to bay, shattered his army, and slew him on the field (71 BC).
Five thousand of Spartacus' men cut their way through the lines and escaped but only to end up in the very path of Pompey's army returning from Spain.
Pompey claimed the victory of quelling the Slave war for himself, adding to his questionable glories gained in Spain. Crassus, seeing that the popular soldier might be useful to him, did not quarrel.

Crassus and Pompey joint Consuls

So powerful were the positions of the two leaders, that they felt secure enough to challenge Sulla's constitution. Both by the terms of Sulla's laws were barred from standing for the consulship. Pompey was too young and Crassus was required to let a year pass between his position as praetor before he could stand for election.
But both men stood and both were elected.
As consuls, during 70 BC, they procured the annulment of the restrictions imposed on the office of Tribune of the People. Thereby they restored the lost powers of the tribal assembly. The senate dared not refuse their demands, knowing an army behind each of them.

Third Mithridatic War

In 74 BC king Nicomedes of Bithynia died without heirs. Following the example of Attalus of Pergamum he left his kingdom to the Roman people. But with Sulla dead, king Mithridates of Pontus clearly felt his most fearsome enemy had vanished from the scene and revived his dreams of creating his own empire. Nicomedes' death provided him with an excuse to start a war. He supported a false pretender to the throne of Bithynia on whose behalf he then invaded Bithynia.
At first the consul Cotta failed to make any significant gains against the king, but Lucius Lucullus, formerly the lieutenant of Sulla in the east, was soon dispatched to be governor of Cilicia to deal with Mithridates.
Though provided only with a comparatively small and undisciplined force, Lucullus conducted his operations with such skill that within a year he had broken up the army of Mithridates without having had to fight a pitched battle. Mithridates was driven back into his own territory in Pontus. Following a series of campaigns in the following years Mithridates was forced to flee to king Tigranes of Armenia.
Lucullus' troops had subjugated Pontus by 70 BC. Meanwhile however Lucullus, trying to sort out matters in the east realized that the cites of the province of Asia were being strangled by the punitive tributes they had to pay to Rome. In fact they had to borrow money to be able to pay them, leading to an ever growing spiral of debt.
In order to alleviate this burden and to return the province back to prosperity he scaled down their debts to Rome from the huge total of 120'000 talents to 40'000.
This inevitably earned him the enduring gratitude of the cities of Asia, but it also drew upon him the undying resentment of the Roman moneylenders who had until profiteered from the plight of the Asiatic cities.

In 69 BC Lucullus, having decided that until Mithridates was captured the conflict in the east could not be resolved, advanced into Armenia and captured the capital Tigranocerta. In the next year he routed the forces of the Armenian king Tigranes. but in 68 BC, paralysed by the mutinous spirit of his depleted troops he was forced to withdraw to Pontus.

Pompey defeats the Pirates

In 74 BC Marcus Antonius, father of the famous Mark Antony, had been given special powers to suppress the large-scale piracy in the Mediterranean. But his attempts had ended in dismal failure. After Antonius' death, the consul Quintus Metellus was set upon the same task in 69 BC. Matters indeed did improve, but Metellus' role should be cut shorts, as Pompey in 67 BC decided he wanted the position. Thanks to no small part to the support of Julius Caesar, Pompey was given the task, despite opposition by the senate.
A commander free to do as he wished and with nearly unlimited resources, Pompey accomplished in only three months what no one else had managed. Spreading his fleet systematically across the Mediterranean, Pompey swept the sea clean from end to end. The pirates were destroyed.

Pompey against Mithridates

By popular acclaim, fresh from his brilliant triumph over the pirates, Pompey was given supreme and unlimited authority over the whole east. His powers were to be in his hands until he himself should be satisfied with the completeness of the settlement he might effect.
No Roman, other than Sulla, had ever been given such powers. From 66 to 62 BC Pompey should remain in the east.
In his first campaign Pompey forced Mithridates to fight him, and routed his forces on the eastern border of Pontus. Mithridates fled, but was refused asylum by Tigranes of Armenia who, after the onslaught by Lucullus, evidently feared Roman troops. Instead Mithridates fled to the northern shores of the Black Sea. There, beyond reach of the Roman forces, he began to form plans of leading the barbarian tribes of eastern Europe against Rome. That ambitious project, however, was brought to an end as his own son Pharnaces. In 63 BC, a broken old man, Mithridates killed himself.

Meanwhile Tigranes, eager to come to an arrangement with Rome, had already withdrawn his support for Mithridates and had pulled back his troops based in Syria. when Pompey marched into Armenia, Tigranes submitted to Roman power. Pompey seeing his task completed, saw no reason to occupy Armenia itself. Far more he left Tigranes in power and returned to Asia Minor (Turkey), where he began the organization of the new Roman territories.
Bithynia and Pontus were formed into one province, and the province of Cilicia was enlarged. meanwhile the minor territories on the border, Cappadocia, Galatia and Commagene were recognized as being under Roman protection.

Pompey annexes Syria

When in 64 BC Pompey descended from Cappadocia into northern Syria he needed little more than assume sovereignty on behalf of Rome. Ever since the collapse of the kingdom of the Seleucids sixty years previously, Syria had been ruled by chaos. Roman order was hence welcomed. The acquisition of Syria brought the eastern borders of the empire to the river Euphrates, which should hence traditionally be understood as the boundary between the two great empires of Rome and Parthia.
In Syria itself Pompey is said to have founded or restored as many as forty cities, settling them with the many refugees of the recent wars.

Pompey in Judaea

However, to the south things were different. The princes of Judaea had been allies of Rome for half a century.
But Judaea was suffering a civil war between the two brothers Hyrcanus and Aristobulus. Pompey was hence asked to help quell their quarrels and help decide the matter of rule over Judaea (63 BC).
Pompey advised in favour of Hyrcanus. Aristobulus gave way to his brother. But his followers refused to accept and locked themselves up in the city of Jerusalem. Pompey hence besieged the city, conquered it after three months and left it to Hyrcanus. But his troops having effectively put Hyrcanus in power, Pompey left Judaea no longer an ally but a protectorate, which paid a tribute to Rome.

The Cataline Conspiracy

During the five years of Pompey's absence in the east Roman politics were as lively as ever.
Julius Caesar, the nephew of Marius and son-in-law of Cinna, was courting popularity and steadily rising in power and influence.
However, among the hot-heads of the anti-senatorial party was Lucius Sergius Catalina (ca. 106 - 62 BC) a patrician who was at least reputed to have no scruples in such matters as assassination.
On the other side the ranks of the senatorial party were joined by the most brilliant orator of the day, Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 - 43 BC).
In 64 BC Catalina stood as a candidate for the consulship, having just been barely acquitted in the courts on a charge of treasonable conspiracy.
Though Cicero was not popular with the upper class senators of the old families, his party nominated him as their candidate - if only to prevent Catalina from winning the seat. Cicero's rhetoric won day and secured him the post of consul.
But Catalina was not a man to take defeat easily.
While Caesar continue to court popularity, managing even to secure election to the dignified office of pontifex maximus ahead of the most eminent senatorial candidates, Catalina began to plot.
The intrigue was afoot in 63 BC, and yet Catalina did not intend to move until he had attained the consulship. He also didn't feel sufficiently ready to strike yet.
But all should come to nothing as some information about his plans was passed on to Cicero. Cicero went to the senate and presented what evidence he had, of plans being afoot.
Catalina escaped to the north to head the intended rebellion in the provinces, leaving his accomplices to carry out the programme arranged for the city.
Cicero, by now having been granted emergency powers by the senate, obtained correspondence between Catalina and the Gallic tribe of the Allobroges. The principal conspirators named in the letter were arrested and condemned to death without trial.
Cicero told the whole story to the people gathered in the forum amid frantic applause. In the city of Rome the rebellion had been quashed without a fight.
But in the country Catalina fell fighting indomitably in early 62 BC at the head of the troops he had succeeded in raising.
For the moment at least civil war had been averted.

The first Triumvirate

With Pompey about to return to Rome, no one knew what the conqueror of the east intended to do. Both Cicero and Caesar wanted his alliance. But Caesar knew how to wait and turn events in his favour. At present Crassus with his gold was more important then Pompey with his men. The money of Crassus enabled Caesar to take up the praetorship in Spain, soon after Pompey's landing at Brundisium (Brindisi).
However, many people took comfort when Pompey instead of remaining at the head of his army dismissed his troops. He was not minded to play the part of dictator.
Then in 60 BC Caesar returned from Spain, enriched by the spoils of successful military campaigns against rebellious tribes. He found Pompey showing little interest in any alliance with Cicero and the senatorial party. Instead an alliance was forged between the popular politician, the victorious general and the richest man in Rome - the so-called first triumvirate - between Caesar, Pompey and Crassus.

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 by force, an alliance of the three main popular politicians; Crassus, Pompey and Caesar.
They helped each other along, guarding each other's backs from Cato the Younger and his attacks in the senate.

With Pompey and Crassus supporting him Caesar was triumphantly elected consul.
The partnership with Pompey was to be sealed in the following year by the marriage between Pompey and Caesar's daughter Julia.

The first Consulate of Julius Caesar

Caesar used his year as consul (59 BC) to further establish his position. A popular agrarian law, As his first act in office Caesar brought proposed a new agrarian law which gave lands to the veteran soldiers of Pompey and poor citizens in Campania.. Though opposed by the senate, but supported by Pompey as Crassus, the law was passed in the tribal assembly, after a detachment of Pompey's veterans had by physical force swept away any possible constitutional opposition. The populace were gratified and the three triumvirs now had a body of loyal and grateful veteran soldiers to call on in case of trouble.

Pompey's organization of the east was finally confirmed, having been in doubt until then. And finally Caesar secured for himself an unprecedented term of five years for the proconsulship of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum. The senate, hoping to be well rid of him, added to his territories Transalpine Gaul (Gallia Narbonensis) where serious trouble was brewing.
Before his departure though Caesar saw to it that the political opposition lay in tatters. The austere and uncompromising Cato the Younger (95-46 BC) was dispatched to secure the annexation of Cyprus. Meanwhile the arch-enemy of Cicero, Publius Claudius (known as Clodius), was aided in obtaining the position of Tribune of the People, whilst Cicero himself was forced into exile in Greece for having illegally killed without trial the accomplices of Catalina during the Cataline Conspiracy.

Caesar defeats the Helvetii, the Germans and the Nervii

In the first year of his governorship of Gaul 58 BC, Caesar's presence was urgently required in Transalpine Gaul (Gallia Narbonensis) because of the movement among the Teutonic tribes which was displacing the Helvetic (Swiss) Celts and forcing them into Roman territory. the year 58 BC was therefore first occupied with a campaign in which the invaders were split in two and their forces so heavily defeated that they had to retire to their own mountains.
But no sooner was this menace dealt with another loomed on the horizon. The fierce Germans tribes (Sueves and Swabians) were crossing the Rhine and threatening to overthrow the Aedui, the Gallic allies of Rome on the northern borders of the Roman province of Transalpine Gaul.
The German chief, Ariovistus, apparently envisaged the conquest of entire Gaul and its partition between himself and the Romans.
Caesar led his legions to the help of the Aedui and utterly defeated the German force, with Ariovistus barely escaping across the Rhine with what was left of his forces.

With the Germans driven back, fear was aroused in Gaul of a general Roman conquest. The Nervii, who were the leading tribe of the warlike Belgae in the north-east of Gaul prepared an attack on Rome's forces. But Caesar received warning from friends in Gaul and decided to attack first, invading Nervian territory in 57 BC.
The Nervii fought heroically and for some time the outcome of the decisive battle uncertain, but eventually Caesar's victory proved overwhelming. It was followed by a general submission of all the tribes between the river Aisne and the Rhine.

Disorder in Rome under Clodius

With Julius Caesar campaigning in Gaul, Clodius exercised his powers as the virtual king of Rome with neither Pompey nor Crassus interfering. Among his measures was a law which distributed corn no longer at half price but for free to the citizens of Rome.
But his conduct was generally reckless and violent, as he employed a large gang of thugs and troublemakers to enforce his will. So much so, that it aroused the anger of Pompey who the following year (57 BC) used his influence to enable the return of Cicero to Rome. Did the supporters of Clodius protest in a violent riot then this was met with equal brute force by Pompey, who organized his own band of thugs, made up partially of veterans of his army, which under the guidance of the tribune T. Annius Milo took to the streets and beet Clodius' ruffians at their own game.
Cicero, finding himself still very popular on his return to Rome, proposed - perhaps feeling indebted - that Pompey should be granted dictatorial powers for the restoration of order. But only partial, not total power was conveyed upon Pompey, who himself seemed little tempted in acting as a policeman in Rome.

Conference of the Triumvirs in Luca

With Clodius reduced in power and influence, the senate was stirring again, seeking to gain back some power from the three triumvirs. So in 56 BC a meeting was held at Luca in Cisalpine Gaul by the three men, determined to hold onto their privileged position.
The result of the meeting was that Pompey and Crassus stood for the consulship again and were elected - largely due to the fact that Crassus' son, who had been serving brilliantly under Caesar, was at no great distance from Rome with a returning legion.
Did Pompey and Crassus gain office in such way, then Caesar's part of the bargain was that the two new consuls extended his term in office in Gaul by another five years (until 49 BC).

Caesar's expeditions into Germany and Britain

Caesar went on, after the the conference of Luca to reduce the whole of Gaul to submission in the course of three campaigns - justified by initial aggression from the barbarians.
The two following years were occupied with expeditions and campaigns of an experimental kind. In 55 BC a fresh invasion of Germans across the Rhine was completely shattered in the neighbourhood of modern Koblenz and the victory was followed by a great raid over the river into German territory, which made Caesar decide that the Rhine should remain the boundary.

Gaul conquered and the Germans crushed, Caesar turned his attention to Britain. In 55 BC he led his first expedition to Britain, a land so far known only by the reports of traders.
The following year, 54 BC, Caesar led his second expedition, and reduced the south-east of the island to submission. But he decided that real conquest was not worth undertaking.
During that winter and the following year 53 BC, the year of the disaster of Carrhae, Caesar was kept occupied with various revolts in north-eastern Gaul.

Pompey sole consul in Rome

In 54 BC Pompey's young wife had died and with her death had disappeared the personal link between him and his father-in-law Caesar.
Crassus had started for the east to take up governorship of Syria. Meanwhile Pompey did little. He simply watched with growing jealousy the successive triumphs of Caesar in Gaul.

In 52 BC things in Rome reached another point of crisis. During the previous two years the city had remained in a state of near anarchy.
Clodius, still the leader of the popular extremists, was killed in an violent brawl with the followers of Milo, the leader of the senatorial extremists. Pompey, was elected sole consul and was commissioned to restore order in the ever more riotous city of Rome.
In effect Pompey was left virtual dictator of Rome. A dangerous situation, considering Caesar's presence in Gaul with several battle-hardened legions.
Pompey himself achieved a five year extension for his own position of proconsul of Spain, but - very controversially - he had a law passed by which Caesar's term in Gaul would be cut short by almost a year (ending in March 49 instead of January 48 BC).
A reaction of Caesar's was inevitable to such provocation, but he could not respond immediately, as a large scale revolt in Gaul demanded his full attention.

Disaster at Carrhae

In 55 BC Crassus had, during his consulship, in the aftermath of the conference at Luca, managed to secure himself the governorship of Syria. Phenomenally rich and renowned for greed, people saw this as yet another example of his appetite for money. The east was rich, and a governor of Syria could hope to be much the richer on his return to Rome.
But Crassus was for once, it appears, seeking more than mere wealth, although the promise of gold no doubt played a major part in his seeking the governorship of Syria. With Pompey and Caesar having covered themselves in military glory, Crassus craved for similar recognition.
Had his money bought him his power and influence so far, as a politician he had always been the poor relation to his partners in the triumvirate. There was only one way by which to equal their popularity and that was by equalling their military exploits.
Relations with the Parthians had never been good and now Crassus set out on a war against them. First he raided Mesopotamia, before spending the winter of 54/53 BC in Syria, when he did little to make himself popular by requisitioning from the Great Temple of Jerusalem and other temples and sanctuaries.
Then, in 53 BC, Crassus crossed the Euphrates with 35'000 men with the intention of marching on Seleucia-ad-Tigris, the commercial capital of ancient Babylonia. Large though Crassus' army was, it consisted almost entirely of legionary infantry.
But for the Gallic horseman under the command of his son, he possessed no cavalry. An arrangement with the king of Armenia to supply additional cavalry had fallen foul, and Crassus was no longer prepared to delay any further.
He marched into absolute disaster against an army of 10'000 horsemen of the Parthian king Orodes II. The place where the two armies met, the wide open spaces of the low lying land of Mesopotamia around the city of Carrhae, offered ideal terrain for cavalry manoeuvres.
The Parthian horse archers could move at liberty, staying at a safe distance while taking shots at the helpless Roman infantry from a safe range. 25'000 men fell or were captured by the Parthians, the remaining 10'000 managed to escape back to Roman territory.
Crassus himself was killed trying to negotiate terms for surrender.

The Rebellion of Vercingetorix in Gaul

In 52 BC, just as Pompey's jealousies reached their height, a great rebellion was organized in the very heart of Gaul by the heroic Arvernian chief Vercingetorix. So stubborn and so able was the Gallic chief that all Caesar's energies were required for the campaign. On an attack on Gergovia Caesar even suffered a defeat, dispelling the general myth of his invincibility.
Taking heart from this, all Gallic tribes, except for three broke out in open rebellion against Rome. Even the allied Aedui joined the ranks of the rebels. But a battle near Dijon turned the odds back in favour of Caesar, who drove Vercingetorix into the hill-top city of Alesia and laid siege to him.
All efforts of the Gauls to relieve the siege were in vain. At Alesia the Gallic resistance was broken and Vercingetorix was captured. Gaul was conquered for good.
The whole of 51 BC was taken up by the organization of the conquered land and the establishment of garrisons to retain its control.

Caesar's breach with Pompey

Meanwhile the party in Rome most hostile toward him was straining itself to the utmost to effect his ruin between the termination of his present appointment and his entry into a new post.
Caesar would be secure from attack if he passed straight from his position of proconsul of Gaul and Illyricum into the office of consul back in Rome. He was sure to win an election to that office, but the rules prohibited him from entering such a position till 48 BC (the rules stated that he had to wait for ten years after holding the office of consul in 59 BC !). If he could be deprived of his troops before that date, he could be attacked through the law courts for his questionable proceedings in Gaul and his fate would be sealed, while Pompey would still enjoy command over his own troops in Spain.

So far Caesar's supporters in Rome delayed a decree which would have displaced Caesar from office in March 49 BC. But the problem was only delayed, not resolved. Meanwhile in 51 BC, two legions were detached from Caesar's command and moved to Italy, to be ready for service against the Parthians in the east.

In 50 BC the question of redistributing the provinces came up for settlement. Caesar's agents in Rome proposed compromises, suggesting that Caesar and Pompey should resign simultaneously from their positions as provincial governors, or that Caesar should only retain one of his three provinces.
Pompey refused, but proposed that Caesar should not resign until November 49 BC (which would still have left two months for his prosecution !). Caesar naturally refused. Having completed the organization of Gaul, he had now returned to Cisalpine Gaul in northern Italy with one veteran legion. Pompey, commissioned by a suspicious senate, left Rome to raise more troops in Italy.
In January 49 BC Caesar repeated his offer of a joint resignation. The senate rejected the offer and decreed that their current consuls should enjoy a completely free hand 'in defence of the Republic'. Evidently they had resigned themselves to the fact that there was going to be a civil war.
Caesar was still in his province, of which the boundary to Italy was the river Rubicon. The momentous choice lay before him. Was he to submit and let his enemies utterly destroy him or was he to take power by force. He made his choice. At the head of one of his one legion, on the night of January 6, 49 BC, he crossed the Rubicon. Caesar was now at war with Rome.

Showdown between Casesar and Pompey

Pompey was not prepared for the sudden swiftness of his adversary. Without waiting for the reinforcements he had summoned from Gaul, Caesar swooped on Umbria and Picenum, which were not prepared to resist. Town after town surrendered and was won over to his side by the show of clemency and the firm control which Caesar held over his soldiers.
In six weeks he was joined by another legion from Gaul. Corfinium was surrendered to him and he sped south in pursuit of Pompey.
The legions Pompey had ready were the very legions which Caesar had led to victory in Gaul. Pompey hence could not rely on the loyalty of his troops. Instead he decided to move south to the port of Brundisium where he embarked with his troops and sailed east, hoping to raise troops there with which he could return to drive the rebel out of of Italy. His leaving words are said to have been "Sulla did it, why not I ?"

Caesar, with no enemy left to fight in Italy, was in Rome no longer than three months after he had crossed the river Rubicon.
He immediately secured the treasury and then, rather than pursuing Pompey, he turned west to deal with the legions in Spain who were loyal to Pompey.
The campaign in Spain was not a series of battles, but a sequence of skillful manouvers by both sides - during which Caesar, by his own admission, was at times outgeneraled by his opposition. But Caesar remained the winner as within six months most of the Spanish troops had joined his side.
Returning to Rome he became dictator, passed popular laws, and then prepared for the decisive contest in the east, where a large force was now collecting under Pompey.
Pompey also controlled the seas, as most of the fleet had joined with him. Caesar therefore managed only with great difficulty to set across to Epirus with his first army. There he was shut up, unable to manoeuvre, by the much larger army of Pompey. With even more difficulty his lieutenant, Mark Antony, joined him with the second army in the spring of 48 BC.
Some months of manoeuvring following Pompey, though his forces outnumbered Caesar's, knew well that his eastern soldiers were not to be matched against Caesar's veterans. Hence he wished to avoid a pitched battle. Many of the senators though, who had fled Italy together with Pompey, scoffed at his indecision and clamoured for battle.
Until at last, in midsummer, Pompey was goaded into delivering an attack on the plain of Pharsalus in Thessaly.
The fight hung long in balance, but eventually ended in the complete rout of Pompey's army, with immense slaughter. Most of the Romans on Pompey's side though were persuaded by Caesar's promises of clemency to surrender once they realized the battle lost.
Pompey himself escaped to the coast, took a ship with a few loyal comrades and made his way to Egypt, where he found awaiting him not the asylum he sought, but the dagger of an assassin commissioned by the Egyptian government.

Caesar in Egypt - The 'Alexandrian War'

After Caesar's great victory at Pharsalus, all was not yet won. The Pompeians still controlled the seas, Africa was in their hands and Juba of Numidia was siding with them. Caesar was not yet master of the empire.
Therefore, at the first possible moment, Caesar had set out with a small force after Pompey and, evading the enemy fleets, tracked him all the way to Egypt, where the Egyptian government's envoys received him, not with his dead rival's head.
But rather than being able to swiftly move on ad deal with the remaining Pompeians, Caesar became entangled in Egyptian politics. He was asked to help settle a dispute between the young king Ptolemy XII and his fascinating sister Cleopatra.
Though the arrangements Caesar suggested for the dynasty gave such offence to Ptolemy and his ministers that they set the royal army upon him and kept him and his small force blockaded in the palace quarter of Alexandria through the winter of 48/47 BC.
With his force of no more than 3000 men Caesar became involved in desperate rounds of street-fighting against the Ptolemaic royal troops.
Meanwhile, the Pompeians seeing their chance to rid themselves of their foe, used their fleets to prevent any reinforcements reaching him.
Alas, a makeshift force swept together jointly in Cilicia and Syria by a wealthy citizen of Pergamum, known as Mithridates of Pergamum, and by Antipater, a Judaean government minister, managed to land and help Caesar out of Alexandria.
A few days later the 'Alexandrian War' was ended in a pitched battle on the Nile delta, in which both the king Ptolemy XII and the true power behind the throne, his chief-minister Achillas, met their death.

The late king's crown was transferred by Caesar to his younger brother Ptolemy XIII. But the effective ruler of Egypt henceforth was Cleopatra whom Caesar invested a co-regent.
Wether true or not is unclear, but Caesar is said to have spent up to two months with Cleopatra on a holiday tour up the Nile.

Caesar defeats Pharnaces of Pontus

In the summer of 47 BC Caesar began his way home. While passing through Judaea he rewarded the intervention of Antipater at Alexandria with a reduction of the tribute the Jewish people had to pay to Rome.
But more serious matters were still to be taken care of. Pharnaces, the son of Mithridates, had seized his opportunity to recover power in Pontus, whilst the Romans were tied up in their civil war.
In a lightning campaign Caesar shattered the power of Pharnaces. It was at the occasion of that victory on which Caesar dispatched the words back to Rome 'veni, vidi, vici' ('I came, I saw, I conquered').

Caesar's final Victory over the Pompeians

By July 47 BC Caesar was back in Rome, and was formally appointed dictator for the second time.
In Spain the legions were in mutiny. And in Africa the Pompeians were scoring victories.
He also found the legions in Campania in mutiny, demanding to be discharged. But what they really wanted was not a discharge, but more pay.
Caesar coolly complied with their demand, granting them their discharge together with a message of his contempt. Whereupon the distraught troops begged to be reinstated again, whatever his terms may be. A triumphant Caesar granted them their will and re-employed them.

Next Caesar carried a force to Africa, but was unable to strike a decisive blow until in February 46 BC he shattered the Pompeian forces at Thapsus. The senatorial leaders either fled to Spain or killed themselves, including Juba, king of Numidia who had sided with them. Numidia in turn was annexed and made a new Roman province.

Caesar returned to Rome and celebrated a series of triumphs. Having reconciliation in mind, he celebrated not his victories over other Romans, but those over the Gauls, Egypt, Pharnaces and Juba.
But more so he astonished the world by declaring a complete amnesty, taking no sort of revenge on any of his past enemies.
Confirmed as dictator for the third time, Caesar occupied himself with reorganizing the imperial system, legislating and planning and starting public works.

Then, for a last time, Caesar was called to deal with a Pompeian force. Two sons of Pompey, Gnaeus and Sextus, had, after fleeing from Africa been able to raise an army in Spain. Once in Spain, sickness kept Caesar inactive until the end of the year. But by 46 BC he moved on the Pompeians once more, and at the battle of Munda on 17 March 45 BC he finally crushed them, in his most desperately fought battle.
For six more months Caesar was occupied in the settlement of Spanish affairs, before in October 45 BC he returned to Rome.
Into the few months of his remaining regime Caesar compressed a surprising amount of social and economic legislation, most of all the granting of full Roman citizenship to all Italians.
It was in his many reforms and projects that 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, 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.

The Murder of Caesar

A notable situation occurred when, at the festival of the Lupercalia in February 44 BC, Mark Antony offered Caesar the crown as king of Rome. He rejected the offer dramatically, but with obvious reluctance. The idea of a king still remained intolerable to the Romans.
Many senators though suspected it only a matter of time until Caesar should accept such an offer, or that he simply would choose to rule as dictator forever as a quasi-king of Rome.
They saw their suspicions confirmed at hearing that a suggestion was to be put to the senate that Caesar should adopt the title of king for use outside of Italy. More so support for the idea was growing, if not in Rome itself, then with the people of Italy.
And with the appointment of new senators by Caesar, the senate as a whole was becoming more and more am instrument of Caesar's will. A conspiracy was formed by a group which included senators of the highest influence, some of them even Caesar's personal friends.
The organizers of the plot was Gaius Cassius Longinus and Marcus Junius Brutus were pardoned Pompeians, but the majority of their accomplices were former officers of Caesar.
Caesar never took precautions for his personal safety. At a meeting of the senate on the Ides of March (15th March) 44 BC, they gathered round him on the pretext of urging a petition and then stabbed him to death.

The Second Triumvirate

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.

Octavian sole ruler of Rome

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.

Roman Empire
History of the Roman Empire
Home Page
The Republic
Republic Gallery
Portrait Gallery
The Forum
Bulletin Board
Bulletin Board
Roman Empire
Childrens Section
Children's Section