Chapter 5 Ancient Rome

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1 Chapter 5 Ancient Rome The Latins settled near the Tiber River around 750 B.C. and established the city of Rome a short time later. They borrowed many ideas from the Phoenician and Greek civilizations that lived in Italy. Around 600 B.C., the Etruscans conquered Rome. The Romans learned many customs from the Etruscans. Less than 100 years later, the Romans removed the Etruscan king from power and set up a new form of government called a republic. A republic is a form of government in which citizens elect their leaders. Rome became very powerful during the rule of the republic. The republic slowly evolved. At first, a class of wealthy landowners called patricians ran the government. Plebeians, or common people, such as farmers, artisans, merchants and traders did not have any power. Patricians set up the governing body, or the Senate. Two consuls were chosen by the Senate from the patrician class to administer the laws of Rome and command the army. The popular assembly approved the consuls. The two consuls each had the power to block the action of the other. This power is called a veto, which means, I forbid. A dictator was chosen in urgent situations. He held absolute power for a period of six months. There was no one to veto his decisions. Plebeians were not allowed into the army until the patricians finally realized they needed help. The army was made up of legions. A legion is a division of the Roman army made up of about 6,000 soldiers. The Roman army benefited from their ability to move around quickly. This was made possible by forming smaller groups within each legion. Two new assemblies replaced the popular assembly. The Assembly of Centuries elected the consuls and censors, as well as other officials. The censor was in charge of registering the population for tax and voting purposes. He was also in charge of enforcing the moral code. 1

2 Only plebeians made up the Assembly of Tribes. They elected tribunes. Tribunes were people elected to speak on behalf of the plebeians. The Assembly of Tribes gradually helped the plebeians gain more rights. Eventually they were allowed to marry patricians if they chose. They even gained the right to hold any office. After 451 B.C.E., they gained the privilege of passing laws. The Twelve Tables of Law, a written code of laws, was an important development because it safeguarded everyone from unjust treatment. In Roman families, the father ruled with complete authority. Children were taught courage, loyalty and the value of hard work. If they had many children, couples were given special concessions. Bachelors were punished. The Romans lost a couple of battles to the Greeks before they were finally able to take control of Italy. One such battle was with the Greek king of Epirus, Pyrrhus. Pyrrhus won, but suffered so many casualties that he announced, Another such victory and I am lost. History and Geography of Ancient Rome 2

3 Over a period of 456 years, the Romans acquired a huge empire. From 500 B.C. to 264 B.C., they conquered the Italian peninsula. From 264 B.C. to 146 B.C., they took over Spain, northern Italy, Macedonia, Carthage, Sicily and the western Mediterranean islands. Between the years of 146 B.C. and 44 B.C., they gained Gaul, Pergamum, Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt and northern Africa. Most of these areas were conquered during the Punic Wars. The Romans became trade rivals of the Phoenicians of Carthage when they took over Italy. They both sought control of the western Mediterranean. The Punic Wars were a result of this rivalry. The first war lasted 23 years. At the end of it the Phoenicians lost Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica to the Romans. The second war lasted 17 years and ended with the battle of Zama, where Hannibal, a Carthaginian general was defeated and forced to surrender Spain to Rome. The third war was only three years long and when it was finished, the Phoenicians had lost Carthage to the Romans, who destroyed it. The citizens of Carthage were massacred. After Carthage was destroyed, Rome had no other great rival and was easily able to expand its empire. Macedonia, Greece and southern Gaul were other cities added to the Roman Empire during the Punic Wars. The Romans were very liberal with the peoples they conquered. They didn t try to change their religion or customs. This made most people very accepting of their rule. Some Romans required their conquests to pay them by giving them things like slaves and treasures. A tribute was a forced payment from conquered lands. One of the ways they were forced to pay was with grain. As a result, Rome had an overabundance of grain and this forced the price down. Because of this, small farmers could not make enough to support themselves and were forced to sell their land. Romans with a lot of money bought their land and created vast estates, or latifundias. The number of farmers without land and soldiers without jobs grew. They became increasingly unhappy with the government. They pushed for changes. Tiberius Gracchus was a spokesman for them. He campaigned for 3

4 land reforms. He was eventually murdered by wealthy nobles who opposed his ideas. Generals began recruiting these poor people for their armies. They offered them loot. Generals became very powerful and eventually they became the rulers of Rome. Sulla was the first general to rule Rome. He became dictator in 88 B.C. after he defeated another general in a violent civil war. 28 years later, in 60 B.C., three other generals created the First Triumvirate. The Triumvirate, which means government led by three men, was an alliance formed between Gnaeus Pompey, Julius Caesar and Marcus Lucius Crassus to rule Rome together. The Senate had shunned both Pompey and Caesar: Pompey, when he couldn t get land grants for his soldiers, and Caesar, in 61 B.C., when they blocked his election as consul. They ruled Rome for a short while until one of the generals, Marcus Lucius Crassus, died and the other, Gnaeus Pompey, turned against Caesar. In 49 B.C., the Senate, who had formed an alliance with Pompey, told Caesar to break up his armies, but he refused. Caesar went on to defeat an army headed by Pompey. Five years later, in 44 B.C., Caesar was chosen as dictator for life after winning many victories. Between 88 B.C. and 44 B.C. Caesar had come to dominate the Roman government. He introduced many positive reforms, such as redistribution of land to the poor, extension of citizenship to people in the provinces and better wages for soldiers. Caesar was murdered in 44 B.C., before he had even served for a full year. After Caesar died, his heir, Octavian formed the Second Triumvirate with Mark Antony and Marcus Lepidus. When the triumvirate disbanded, Octavian and Antony fought each other for power. Antony wed the queen of Egypt, Cleopatra. Octavian declared war on them, and defeated them at the battle of Actium in 31 B.C. He later became known as Augustus. Rome became an empire and was very peaceful under Augustus leadership and remained that way for two hundred years. This peaceful 4

5 time was called the Pax Romana. Click here to read more about Augustus and the Pax Romana. Augustus was made the commander-in-chief of the Roman Armies, or imperator. He made many positive reforms during his rule, which made people feel better about Rome and helped spread Roman views. Rome grew in strength and wealth because of some of these reforms. Marcus Aurelius was one of the exceptional emperors who ruled Rome in the second century A.D. He wrote Meditations, which spelled out his philosophies. Although he would have rather done other things than fight wars, much of his time in power was spent fighting. He fought Germans and eventually allowed them to settle on the frontiers of the Roman Empire. There were still problems during the Pax Romana. There were a lot of poor and unemployed people. Slave labor took jobs away from others who were left without work. Another problem was inflation. Inflation is an increase in the money supply followed by an increase in prices. Many slaves were killed at the circus. Charioteers risked death while racing, and others were killed in battle reenactments. The Romans appeared to care nothing about the lives of those killed, only about the entertainment of the games and the free bread they received. 5

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