Rome emerged as the greatest Mediterranean Power, defeating Phillip V of Macedon, a
Hannibal supporter, in 197 BC and the powerful Syrian King Antiochus the Greek in 189.
Such wars gave Rome a foothold in Spain, much of which came under its control in
the 2nd century, along with the Celts of Northern Italy as Roman colonies
were established in the Po River Valley. The Roman Province of Gallia Narbonensus
was organized beyond the Alps in 121 BC, and Achaea, Macedonia, and Asia were Roman
provinces by 129 BC.
Rome itself continued to expand as well. Massive walls encircled the
traditional seven hills, originally thought to be built by Servius Tullius in the 6th
century BC, but are now commonly attributed to civic projects following the Gallic sack.
Other such projects undertaken during 312 BC included the Appian Way, which
extended from Rome to Capua, and the Aqua Appia, or Appian Aqueduct, which brought fresh
water to Rome from springs 12 kilometers east of the city.
The Roman hills,
especially the Palatine, were the homes of the wealthy, while the poor huddled in valleys,
particularly the Subura, northeast of the forum. The valley between the
Palatine and the Aventine had become the Circus Maximus by the end of the 4th
century. It was at this time important temples, such as that to Juno Maneta at the
north end of the Capitoline, were now built. Roman armies venturnig though South
Italy and Siciliy brought back a richness of architectural and cultural knowlege to Rome,
along with Greek artifacts, tastes, and practices.
During the early 1st
century, political instability devloped between the Optimates, the
ultra-conservative monopolizers of power in the upper classes, and the Populares,
a party controlled by ambitious politicians from lesser known families who had no choice
but to appeal directly to the people for support. The Gracci brothers had fought for
the Plebian rights in the late 2nd century BC, but now politicians in the
party, unable to get their way in the Senate, went to the people. One of them by the
name of Marius held the consulship an unconstitutional five years in a row as a plebian,
and was succeeded by the dictator Sulla. As a great rivalry was developing between
these two, Rome became mixed up in eastern wars with King Mithridates of Pontus.
Sulla laid seige to Athens, at the time an ally to the king, and it feel in 86 BC.
Sulla followed up by defeating Mithridates' armies in two successive battles at
Boestia, and then returned to Italy in 85 BC to find that his powers had been usurped by
Marius during his absense.
Irate, Sulla chose to
land his army, and augmented by Pompey's three legions, attacked Rome. He defeated
the opposition and Marius' supporters fled, although Sulla is said to have been able to
massare many of them. Sulla proceeded to alter the constitution, making the Senate
morepowerful and tribunes weaker. He died in 78 BC after an amazing career, but his
efforts to reestablish aristrocratic political dominance did little to curb political
undrest, which soon resurfaced under the Populares' new leader, Julius Caesar.
Caesar had been in his
early 20s when Sulla died, and his youth and fortuitous absence from Rome had saved from
death for being a Marius supporter, depite his birth into the senatorial class.
Governor of Cisalpine and Transalpine Gaul, as well is the Roman province of
Illyricum during 58 BC, over the course of the next nine years Caesar conquered everything
west of the Rhine river. In the process he built up a veteran army completely loyal
to him. The Senate, fearful of his power, appealed to the great general Pompey to
get the job done of riddng Rome of Caesar, initiating yet another Civil War. Caesar
was victorious, but even though he did not massacre or seize the defeateds' property, he
was prone to enemies in the Senate and assassinated in 44 BC. This brought on
another civil war, peace coming only witht he defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra by
Caesar's adopted nephew, Octavian. He gained Caesar's power, and on January 16, 27
BC the Senate bestowed uon him the title of Augustus and Imperator.
Augustus' reign marked
the beginning of the Principate and the end of the Republic, forever changing the face of
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