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Roman Republic to Roman Empire


By the 2nd Century BCE, the city of Rome ruled over the entire Mediterranean. Over centuries of endless warfare, the Romans conquered many different civilizations, including Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Etruscans and Lycians, in order to be part of an empire as they felt that it was important to take advantage of the benefits of being in an empire - such as following only a set of law and order. This also gave the natives more autonomy to take charge of their specific regions, which prevented rebellion. Some people from these newly conquered areas had the good fortune to be Roman citizens, but it was not for everyone. People who were not chosen were enslaved, and power lies in the senate’s hand that were usually elected by the citizens of Rome. As the empire grew and expanded, the number of slaves were increasing continuously and they reached a third of Italy’s urban population, which led to the downfall of Roman Republic. The transition of the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire is crucial to the history as it shows a series of elements such as politics and wars to reform the republic, making the Rome an empire. However, as the empire kept rising, politics started to lack behind causing politicians to turn to dirty politics, and this led to the fall of Rome Empire. In the centuries following, Rome experienced a myriad of social problems such as social unrest, assassination, dictatorship and slave revolt.


Bourrichon, The Punic Wars (13 April 2009). CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.



The first civil war started between Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla. Marius angered Sulla years before the civil war by claiming military credit for something that Sulla did. War broke out because of that but Marius’ troops managed to outnumber Sulla’s troops, allowing him to claim power over the Roman legions, that was fought with King Mithridates of Pontus. As Sulla lost to Marius again, he was angry but this led to his next plan. He was motivated to take Marius down, by assembling his armed forces and led them to conquer Rome - which was deemed as contentious as no military general had ever Rome, fully equipped with military equipment.

This was a sign of power struggle, and fighting for power between Marius and Sulla. With the need to have authority tagged to their names and political rivalry, both of them were motivated to conquer lands so that they can rule and dictate the respective regions.



It seemed as though the lands were often governed in a limbo fashion - having Sulla and Marius going back-and-forth at each other. Firstly, Sulla led an army to enter the Roman city after the populares had proven their favour for Marius. The populares were part of a group that was led by Marius and was created in the late Roman Republic. They supported the commoners and wanted changes to be made to the political structure to aid the less fortunate.

The optimates was led by Sulla and they were the group of people which supported tradition. Their motives were to restrict the freedom of the popular assemblies and to expand the power of the Senate. After the optimates declared their hatred for Marius and his followers, Sulla led an army to fight in the First Mithridatic War in Asia. While Sulla was away, Marius re-entered the Roman city by joining forces with Cinna, one of his allies, leaving the Roman senate with no choice but to let them in. Marius died of old age and left Rome in the hands of Cinna and his troops.

The Roman Social War allowed Cinna and his cohorts to sought alliance with the Italians when they found out that Sulla was planning to conquer Rome once more, convincing the Italians that Sulla was not on the same page as them.



The end of Rome Republic was due to the result of the ambitions of few influential people. It took a total of two men to wrestle Rome back from its chaos and civil wars to turn the republic into an empire.  Rome was a republic during the first century BCE. With that, I meant that power lies in the senate's hands that were usually elected by the citizens of Rome. Consequently, the councils started fighting for power among themselves. The internal turmoil due to the greed of authority in the 133 BCE provoked stagnation of the economy in Rome created revolts by the slaves and saw the military precipitated. This led to the period of political upheavals that scholars refer to as the Roman revolution or rather fall of the Republic during 133-27BCE.



From 264 to 146 BCE, the Punic Wars took place between Rome and Carthage. It was an episode of three wars that broke out due to the conflict on the dominance over the Greek cities on the island of Sicily. Rome conquered Carthage and gained total control of the Mediterranean. After the three Punic Wars, Rome gained a vast territory. At first, Rome tried to manage the newly conquered area by themselves but it was too broad to administer on their own. Thus, the Roman aristocratic classes bought all the good lands to use them as farmlands. Also, there were mass numbers of slaves for cheap labor from newly conquered lands so they developed the plantation called “Latifundia.” However, the independent farms became hard to survive because grains from Latifundia in bulk at lower prices started to be brought into Rome. Therefore, the Roman independent farms were ruined, the independent farmers became poor, and the dissatisfaction of Roman Republic was growing.

In 133 BCE, the Gracchi brothers, Tiberius and Gaius, attempted social reform to redistribute the lands to farmers and restrict the possession of land of upper classes as tribunes. However, their attempts evoked a strong opposition by the privileged class, Tiberius was assassinated and Gaius committed suicide. Eventually, this reform ended in failure causing an aftermath that made the fight between plebs and aristocrats critical and chaotic.



Augustus is known as a first emperor of Rome. He was involved in several reformations, such as laws and religious reforms, in order to run the empire in peace. Augustus established “the Imperial cult for worship of the Emperor as a god,” which now considered one of the most significant aspects in Roman religion. He also encouraged families to give birth and rewarded couples who had more than 2 children. Furthermore, in order to encourage singles to get married, he claimed an additional tax to unmarried individuals. Before his reformation, marriage and divorce were fairly easy. Though, he legislated a new law to penalize people who perform adultery. Augustus was a strong believer that people should not interact with people with different classes. With all these restructure made by Augustus, it created a much stable empire in Rome.

Till Niermann, Statue-Augustus (20 October 2007). CC BY-SA 3.0



The results from the expansion of Rome, therefore, produced civil war as well as social conflicts. When Julius Caesar gained power, he turned out into a dictator but was later assassinated. The problems that followed after Caesar's assassination, as well as rule of Augustus, made Rome face problems related to law and order. General Marius played a major role in the Rome's transformation from a republic into an empire. Marius made reforms during the 107 BCE called the Marian reforms. After conquering other lands, the generals turned out to desire power at home. During his reign as the general, he defeated the invading tribes like the Ambrones, Teutones as well as Cimbri. The victory made the citizens name him as Rome's third founder. Among the generals are Marius who fought for the Plebeians as well as Sulla who fought for Patricians. The patricians won the civil wars and after that, Sulla became the dictator. These were mainly groups of military reforms. With the reforms, all the citizens were made eligible to join the military irrespective of their social status or wealth.



With the constant battles that were revolving around the Romans, there was never a specific point on how the Roman Republic became the Roman Empire due to the constant shuffle of power between the different rulers at that point at time. However, the feud between Marius and Sulla intensified the crisis and this led to even more battles between other historical figures, which resulted in corruption within the government, leading to the fall of the Roman Republic.



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