Ancient Rome: Republic and Empire - European History for AP World History
Roman Empire: 30 BC - 476 AD
The Roman Republic Beginnings
The beginning of any empire starts with the end of another. For the Roman Republic it meant the end of the Roman Monarchy. Led by Lucius Junius Brutus, the Romans rebelled and conquered the monarchy in the year 509 B.C. due to the fact that a member of the royal family had raped the wife of a nobleman. This rebellion ended the cruel and unfair reign of King Tarquinius Superbus. Located in present day Europe, Northern Africa, and Western Asia the Roman Republic spanned more than one million square miles. Out of the many things that the Roman Republic did that affected the world permanently is their legislative system which is still looked at with great admiration today. The United States is among the dozens of countries and nation states to adopt the Roman method of lawmaking to govern their peoples.
Lucius Junius Brutus was killed less than a year after the start of the Republic by a son of the ousted king. Thanks to his outstanding military leadership the Roman Republic got off to a solid start. During the first couple hundred years of the Republic the classes began to diverge and cultivate a hierarchy. The upper class people called patricians were born into social and religious power. Whereas Plebeians the lower farmer class, were born into virtually no power or financial stability. In the year 287 B.C. the higher ranking plebeians and the patricians formed a council which was elected by the citizens of each class to represent them in the higher courts or on local issues like taxation and land ownership. Towards the end of the Republic. the higher ranking generals and scholars began to disagree on major issues and soon civil wars spread throughout the empire. The final civil war of the Republic, called the battle of Actium occurred in 31 B.C., between Cleopatra and her ally/lover Mark Antony and the roman general Octavian. Octavian was the obvious victor of the battle and after the victory; he besieged the city where Cleopatra and Mark Antony fled to until they both committed suicide. This great battle marked the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire.
Roman Language: Latin
Another thing that the Roman Republic delivered to the world was their language, Latin. Latin is considered to be a dead language, but many people across the world can speak is fluently. Latin is used in the creation of new words and the decryption of older ones. Without Latin or Latin sub languages we could not be able to trace a word through history or take apart a word by simply knowing the meaning of the root. The Roman Republic might not have lasted, but their goals and intuition have held on with the progression of society and culture.
The Roman Republic lasted over 400 years due to its legislative abilities. Much like today the Republic had a senate and a general assembly but that is where the similarity ends. Unlike today the roman republic had two consuls. The most important job of these consuls was to share the job of head of the army. Each consul was elected for one year and at the end of that term two new consuls were elected. Another important job of the consuls was to choose senate members out of the patrician class. These senate members were members for life and when a space out of the 300 available in the senate was empty, the new consuls would choose another senator to fill the space. The job of the senate members was to make laws and control the budget, much like our senate today. The next sector of the Roman Republic was the assembly. Composed of the common man, or the plebeian class, the assembly gathered in what is known as the forum, or market place, to suggest certain laws and vote on important matters. The assembly however, had less power than the senate did, and therefore the senate could override any vote or law that the assembly made. The one very important decision that the assembly did get to make without the senate overriding them, was which senators got to become consuls at the end of a term. They could also declare war or peace. Because of their complicated government and placement of more power on some sectors than onto others, the Roman Republic began to see the rich taking over government and the poor striving to become rich so that they could do the same.
Roman Social Hierarchy
As most societies do, the Roman Republic had a defied social hierarchy. The aristocratic, wealthy families that were said to have descended from the gods were called to patricians and the common, farmers were called the plebeians. The patricians were responsible for the Roman government, religion, and military and were allowed many special privileges that the plebian class did not receive until much later in the Roman Republic. For example, the patricians were at first the only ones allowed to become a senator or be elected consul, but later on in the republic the plebeians demanded equal rights and they were allotted one of the two consul positions each year. The same principle applied to Roman religion as well. Patricians were allowed to become priests because they were thought to be able to connect better with the roman gods and goddesses since they had supposedly descended from them. Yet in 300B.C. history shows the first plebian to enter a religious college, and by the end of the Roman Republic only religious offices with little to no political power were held exclusively to the patrician class. According to Roman history, many plebian class families grew rich and prosperous while many patrician families lost their wealth and fell into poverty. Towards the end of the Republic there was more of one social class that wanted the same things as opposed to two different social classes that each has special rights reserved specifically for them. This leads to various disagreements to occur in the highest sectors of the roman republic and many civil wars to break out all over the republic.
The End of the Republic
The final battle of the republic was in August of 30 B.C., close to absolute power Octavian let no soul stand in his path to power. Before the civil war that would end the republic, Octavian along with Mark Antony and Lepidus would form an important allegiance called the second triumvirate soon after the assassination of Mark Antony’s second cousin Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. The second triumvirate broke up after Octavian and Antony got into a disagreement in the year 33 B.C. which led to an outbreak of civil wars. When Octavian declared war on Antony’s lover and ally Cleopatra in the year 31 B.C., Mark Antony betrayed the roman government by siding with her. When Octavian decidedly won the war and Antony, who had committed suicide thinking that Cleopatra had already done so, was carried to Alexandria where he died in her arms; Octavian captured Cleopatra and soon after she killed herself. Cleopatra and Antony’s children were spared as well as Octavia (Octavian’s sister) and Mark Antony’s children. The final battle of the roman republic was called the battle of Actium. Octavian took the place of Rome’s first emperor and placed upon it the longest period of peace and prosperity that Europe has seen to this day. To honor his victory the roman senate gave him the name Augustus in the year 27 B.C. Due to the fact that both Octavian and Mark Antony, some of Julius Caesar’s most competent men, had turned the state of the Roman Republic into years and years of brutal civil wars, Mark Antony’s actions were almost directly responsible for the decline of the Roman Republic.