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The Rise and Fall of Rome Politics: A Fascinating Tale

  The rise and fall of Rome politics is a story of power, corruption, and intrigue. Learn about the key players and events that shaped this epic saga.

The Rise and Fall of Rome Politics: A Fascinating Tale

The Rise and Fall of Rome Politics: A Fascinating Tale

Alexander's conquests had left the western Mediterranean untouched, it was dominated, at the beginning of the third century B.C., by two powerful City States, Carthage and Syracuse. In the first and second Punic Wars ( 264-241 and 218-201), Rome conquered Syracuse and reduced Carthage to insignificance. During the second century, Rome conquered the Macedonian monarchies- Egypt, it is true, lingered on as a vassal state until the death of Cleopatra ( 30 B.C.). 

Spain was conquered as an incident in the war with Hannibal; France was conquered by Caesar in the middle of the first century B.C., and England was conquered about a hundred years later. The frontiers of the Empire, in its great days, were the Rhine and Danube in Europe, the Euphrates in Asia, and the desert in North Africa.

Roman imperialism was, perhaps, at its best in North Africa (important in Christian history as the home of Saint Cyprian and Saint Augustine), where large areas, uncultivated before and after Roman times, were rendered fertile and supported populous cities. The Roman Empire was on the whole stable and peaceful for over two hundred years, from the accession of Augustus ( 30 B.C.) until the disasters of the third century.

The Early Republic: The Birth of Roman Politics.

The early Republic period of Rome's political history began in 509 BCE, following the overthrow of the Roman monarchy. This marked the beginning of a new era of government, with power being shared among two consuls who were elected annually by the people. The Senate, made up of wealthy and influential citizens, also played a significant role in the decision-making process. During this time, Rome expanded its territory through conquest and established itself as a dominant power in the Mediterranean region. However, the early Republic was not without its challenges, including social unrest and conflict between the patrician and plebeian classes.

Ancient roman constitution

Meanwhile the constitution of the Roman State had undergone important developments. Originally, Rome was a small City State, not very unlike those of Greece, especially such as, like Sparta, did not depend upon foreign commerce. Kings, like those of Homeric Greece, had been succeeded by an aristocratic republic. Gradually, while the aristocratic element, embodied in the Senate, remained powerful, democratic elements were added; the resulting compromise was regarded by Panaetius the Stoic (whose views are reproduced by Polybius and Cicero) as an ideal combination of monarchical, aristocratic, and democratic elements. 

But conquest upset the precarious balance; it brought immense new wealth to the senatorial class, and, in a slightly lesser degree, to the "knights," as the upper middle class were called. Italian agriculture, which had been in the hands of small farmers growing grain by their own labour and that of their families, came to be a matter of huge estates belonging to the Roman aristocracy, where vines and olives were cultivated by slave labour. 

The result was the virtual omnipotence of the Senate, which was used shamelessly for the enrichment of individuals, without regard for the interests of the State or the welfare of its subjects. The Roman constitution gave a political monopoly to the patricians.

The Gracchi Brothers: The First Political Reformers.

The Gracchi brothers, Tiberius and Gaius, were Roman politicians who sought to address the growing economic and social inequality in Rome during the late Republic. Tiberius, who served as a tribune of the plebs, proposed a land reform bill that would redistribute public land to small farmers. Gaius, who also served as a tribune, proposed a series of reforms that included the distribution of subsidized grain to the poor and the extension of Roman citizenship to the Italian allies. Both brothers faced fierce opposition from the Roman elite and were eventually assassinated, but their efforts paved the way for future political reforms in Rome.

Civil war in Rome

A democratic movement, inaugurated by the Gracchi in the latter half of the second century B.C., led to a series of civil wars, and finally -as so often in Greece-to the establishment of a "tyranny." It is curious to see the repetition, on such a vast scale, of developments which, in Greece, had been confined to minute areas. Augustus, the heir and adopted son of Julius Caesar, who reigned from 30 B.C. to A.D. 14, put an end to civil strife, and (with few exceptions) to external wars of conquest. For the first time since the beginnings of Greek civilization, the ancient world enjoyed peace and security.

Spartacus (111-71) BCE was a Thracian gladiator who led a slave revolt against Rome from 73 to 71. As a young man, Spartacus had served in a Thracian auxiliary unit. He subsequently deserted and became a thief or perhaps a guerrilla fighter. He was captured and, according to historian , unlawfully condemned to be a gladiator. Spartacus trained as a murmillo at CAPUA in the gladiatorial school of the lanista, Cn. Lentulus Batiatus. 

In 73, the cruel conditions of their confinement compelled about seventy slaves led by Spartacus, Oenomaeus, and Crixus to escape. The gladiators secured weapons and took refuge on Mount Vesuvius. There they were joined by runaway slaves and farm workers. After Spartacus had defeated successive Roman armies, their number increased to seventy thousand In 72, Spartacus tried to head for the Alps. His overconfident and uncooperative followers preferred to plunder the countryside. The Senate sent out both consuls who, despite a victory over Crixus, were defeated, as was the governor of Cisalpine Gaul 

Spartacus was forced to move southwards and the Romans gave supreme command to M. Licinius CRASSUS. In Lucania, Spartacus met with Cilician pirates and attempted to persuade them to transport two thousand slaves to Sicily to incite a revolt. Deceived by the Cilicians, Spartacus became trapped in the toe of Italy. His improvised attempts to escape to Sicily were forestalled by its governor, Verres. 

Spartacus broke out and headed towards Brundisium . Finding it increasingly difficult to keep his army together, and not wishing to face LUCULLUS’ eastern veterans, Spartacus fought a pitched battle against Crassus. In the ensuing massacre, as many as sixty thousand rebels were killed . Some of the survivors escaped northwards only to be cut down by POMPEY as he returned from Spain. Six thousand of Spartacus’ followers were crucified along the Appian Way. Spartacus died in the final encounter, although his body was never found. 

6,000 followers of Spartacus were crucified in 71 BCE. 100,000 slaves were murdered to crush Spartacus revolt.

Spartacus struggle was the largest slave revolt of the ancient world.

first, the claim of each city to absolute sovereignty; second, the bitter and bloody strife between rich and poor within most cities. After the conquest of Carthage and the Hellenistic kingdoms, the first of these causes no longer afflicted the world, since no effective resistance to Rome was possible. But the second cause remained. In the civil wars, one general would proclaim himself the champion of the Senate, the other of the people. Victory went to the one who offered the highest rewards to the soldiers. 

The soldiers wanted not only pay and plunder, but grants of land; therefore each civil war ended in the formally legal expulsion of many existing landholders, who were nominally tenants of the State, to make room for the legionaries of the victor. The expenses of the war, while in progress, were defrayed by executing rich men and confiscating their property. This system, disastrous as it was, could not easily be ended; at last, to every one's surprise, Augustus was so completely victorious that no competitor remained to challenge his claim to power.

The Punic Wars: Rome's Rise to Power.

The Punic Wars were a series of three wars fought between Rome and Carthage from 264 BCE to 146 BCE. These wars were fought over control of the Mediterranean region and were some of the largest and most significant conflicts in ancient history. Rome emerged victorious, solidifying its position as the dominant power in the Mediterranean and paving the way for its eventual expansion into an empire. The wars also had a significant impact on the political and social structure of Rome, leading to the rise of powerful generals and the erosion of the Republic's democratic institutions.

Emperor Augustus Rome

To the Roman world, the discovery that the period of civil war was ended came as a surprise, which was a cause of rejoicing to all except a small senatorial party. To every one else, it was a profound relief when Rome, under Augustus, at last achieved the stability and order which Greeks and Macedonians had sought in vain, and which Rome, before Augustus, had also failed to produce. 

In Greece, according to Rostovtseff, republican Rome had "introduced nothing new, except pauperization, bankruptcy, and a stoppage of all independent political activity." 
The reign of Augustus was a period of happiness for the Roman Empire. The administration of the provinces was at last organized with some regard to the welfare of the population, and not on a purely predatory system. Augustus was not only officially deified after his death, but was spontaneously regarded as a god in various provincial cities.

 Poets praised him, the commercial classes found the universal peace convenient, and even the Senate, which he treated with all the outward forms of respect, lost no opportunity of heaping honours and offices on his head. 

But although the world was happy, some savour had gone out of life, since safety had been preferred to adventure. In early times, every free Greek had had the opportunity of adventure; Philip and Alexander put an end to this state of affairs, and in the Hellenistic world only Macedonian dynasts enjoyed anarchic freedom. 

The Greek world lost its youth, and became either cynical or religious. The hope of embodying ideals in earthly institutions faded, and with it the best men lost their zest. Heaven, for Socrates, was a place where. he could go on arguing; for philosophers after Alexander, it was something more different from their existence here below.

In Rome, a similar development came later, and in a less painful form. Rome was not conquered, as Greece was, but had, on the contrary, the stimulus of successful imperialism. Throughout the period of the civil wars, it was Romans who were responsible for the disorders. The Greeks had not secured peace and order by submitting to the Macedonians, whereas both Greeks and Romans secured both by submitting to Augustus. 

Augustus was a Roman, to whom most Romans submitted willingly, not only on account of his superior power; moreover he took pains to disguise the military origin of his government, and to base it upon decrees of the Senate. The adulation expressed by the Senate was, no doubt, largely insincere, but outside the senatorial class no one felt humiliated.

The mood of the Romans was like that of a jeune homme rang in nineteenth-century France, who, after a life of amatory adventure, settles down to a marriage of reason. This mood, though contented, is not creative. The great poets of the Augustan age had been formed in more troubled times; Horace fled at Philippi, and both he and Vergil lost their farms in confiscations for the benefit of victorious soldiers. Augustus, for the sake of stability, set to work, somewhat insincerely, to restore ancient piety, and was therefore necessarily rather hostile to free inquiry. The Roman world began to become stereotyped, and the process continued under later emperors. 

The immediate successors of Augustus indulged in appalling cruelties towards Senators and towards possible competitors for the purple. To some extent, the misgovernment of this period extended to the provinces; but in the main the administrative machine created by Augustus continued to function fairly well. 

Julius Caesar: The Rise and Fall of a Dictator.

Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman who played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. He was a brilliant military strategist and politician, known for his conquests of Gaul and his reforms of the Roman government. However, his increasing power and popularity among the people made him a threat to the traditional power structure of Rome. In 44 BC, he was assassinated by a group of senators who feared he was becoming too powerful. His death marked the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire under the rule of his adopted son, Octavian, who later became known as Augustus.

What causes the fall of the roman empire

A better period began with the accession of Trajan in A.D. 98, and continued until the death of Marcus Aurelius in A.D. 180. During this time, the government of the Empire was as good as any despotic government can be. The third century, on the contrary, was one of appalling disaster. The army realized its power, made and unmade emperors in return for cash and the promise of a life without warfare, and ceased, in consequence, to be an effective fighting force. 

The barbarians, from north and east, invaded and plundered Roman territory. The army, preoccupied with private gain and civil discord, was incompetent in defence. The whole fiscal system broke down, since there was an immense diminution of resources and, at the same time, a vast increase of expenditure in unsuccessful war and in bribery of the army. Pestilence, in addition to war, greatly diminished the population. It seemed as if the Empire was about to fall.

The Fall of Rome: Corruption and Decline.

The fall of Rome was a complex and multifaceted event, but one of the key factors was corruption and decline within the political system. As the Roman Empire expanded, the government became increasingly centralized and bureaucratic, with power concentrated in the hands of a small elite. This led to widespread corruption, as officials used their positions for personal gain and the interests of the people were ignored. In addition, the empire faced economic challenges, including inflation and a decline in trade, which further weakened the government and contributed to its eventual collapse.

Fall of the western Roman Empire 476 BCE. By the 4th or 5th century, Roman had armies of 650,000 mercenaries which were a burden on society. 

division of the roman empire map

Division of the roman empire into east and west

This result was averted by two energetic men, Diocletian ( A.D. 286-305) and Constantine, whose undisputed reign lasted from A.D. 312 to 337. By then the Empire was divided into an eastern and a western half, corresponding, approximately, to the division between the Greek and Latin languages. By Constantine the capital of the eastern half was established at Byzantium, to which he gave the new name of Constantinople (Istanbul). 

Diocletian curbed the army, for a while, by altering its character; from his time onwards, the most effective fighting forces were composed of barbarians, chiefly German, to whom all the highest commands were open. This was obviously a dangerous expedient, and early in the fifth century it bore its natural fruit. The barbarians decided that it was more profitable to fight for themselves than for a Roman master. Nevertheless it served its purpose for over a century. Diocletian's administrative reforms were equally successful for a time, and equally disastrous in the long run. 

The Roman system was to allow local self-government to the towns, and to leave their officials to collect the taxes, of which only the total amount due from any one town was fixed by the central authorities. 

This system had worked well enough in prosperous times, but now, in the exhausted state of the empire, the revenue demanded was more than could be borne without excessive hardship. The municipal authorities were personally responsible for the taxes, and fled to escape payment. Diocletian compelled well-to-do citizens to accept municipal office, and made flight illegal. From similar motives he turned the rural population into serfs, tied to the soil and forbidden to migrate. This system was kept on by later emperors.

How did the division of the roman empire affect religion ?

Constantine's most important innovation was the adoption of Christianity as the State religion, apparently because a large proportion of the soldiers were Christian. The result of this was that when, during the fifth century, the Germans destroyed the Western Empire, its prestige caused them to adopt the Christian religion, thereby preserving for western Europe so much of ancient civilization as had been absorbed by the Church.

The development of the territory assigned to the eastern half of the Empire was different. The Eastern Empire, though continually diminishing in extent (except for the transient conquests of Justinian in the sixth century), survived until 1453, when Constantinople was conquered by the Turks. But most of what had been Roman provinces in the east, including also Africa and Spain in the west, became Mohammedan. 

The Arabs, unlike the Germans, rejected the religion, but adopted the civilization, of those whom they had conquered. The Eastern Empire was Greek, not Latin, in its civilization; accordingly, from the seventh to the eleventh centuries, it was the Arabs who preserved Greek literature and whatever survived of Greek, as opposed to Latin, civilization. From the eleventh century onward, at first through Moorish influences, the west gradually recovered what it had lost of the Grecian heritage.

A History of Western Philosophy Book by Bertrand Russell


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