The Roman Empire Part 2

Caesar Augustus’ Reign

Augustus was obsessed with a quest that plagued all Roman emperors. What would happen in Rome when he died?

The dilemma of dynastic succession would haunt Augustus for the rest of his life. His marriage to Livia had produced no male heirs.

The pressure of dynastic succession had claimed its first victim. Rome’s first emperor or eventually died in 14 AD at the age of 76.

He had ruled Rome peacefully for over 40 years. Augustus said, “I restored, I completed, I built, I gave. Augustus.”

Augustus had given Rome a sense of pride, stability and prosperity. Yet, he failed to provide what every dynasty needs most-a sense of security.

Imperial power seized by force can always be lost to force. Insecurity plagued Augustus’ successors.

Their paranoid delusions would be the undoing of his dynasty. Ironically, the biggest threat came from the Praetorian Guard, the elite troops meant to protect the emperors, not kill them.


Problems soon surfaced in the reign of Tiberius, Rome’s second emperor. He struggled in the shadow of Augustus throughout his reign.

In 29 AD, after 9 years on the throne, Tiberius retired to the Isle of Capri. He was exhausted by the pressure of power in Rome.

Tiberius left Rome in the care of Sejanus, the trusted Praetorian commander. Sejanus did not want to help the emperor. He wanted to be emperor.

With Tiberius played on his paranoia. He told them that conspires existed all over Rome. They were just a smokescreen to justify the murder of anyone between him and the imperial throne.

The truth finally reached Capri. The emperor acted quickly. He invited Sejanus to the Senate, promising a promotion.

It wasn’t a letter of promotion he read a letter for his arrest. Sejanus never made it to trial.

His treachery highlighted a fundamental problem in imperial Rome. Everyone knew the Praetorian Guard watched over the emperor, but who watched over the Praetorian Guard? Tiberius responded just in time.


Caligula, his successor wouldn’t have been so lucky. Notoriously brash, particularly towards the Senate.

But Caligula is best remembered for another relationship- With his racehorse, Incitatus. He gave the horse a marble house and an ivory bed.

He regularly invited horse to dinner in the imperial palace. He threw large parties for him.

But Caligula topped everything when he recommended the horse be elected Consul, the leading magistrate in Rome. To some people, it was more than the whim of a madman.

Rome’s rich and powerful were not so impressed. On January 24, 41 AD they bribed the Praetorian Guard to murder the emperor.

They wouldn’t have killed Caligula had they known the horror to come. By the middle of 1st AD Rome had thought the worst had passed.


Yet Nero, Rome’s 6th Emperor, would change all that. His dad died when he was 3 years old. He was brought up by his overbearing mother Agrippina, who had one ambition- to make her son emperor.

In 54 AD, at the tender age of 16 Nero became unwilling emperor. He began by doing what emperors were supposed to do.

Provided for the citizens. He built massive public baths and handed out cash to every Roman citizen. Rome, it seemed, was in capable hands.

But whose hands were they?

Agrippina exercised a humiliating influence over her son. She minted coins that showed her to be next to the emperor.

Nero was furious. He banished his mom from Rome, but distance did not solve the problem. Agrippina criticism incensed Nero. In a fit of anger, he asked the Praetorian Guard to silence his mother once and for all.

Romans were appalled.

It was the first glimpse of the emperor’s brooding insecurity. In 64AD, a huge fire swept through Rome, destroying a third of the city.

Half of the population was left homeless. Nero’s response was equally tragic.

On the ashes of the devastated city, he built a massive 50 acre palace. His golden house had lavish gardens and huge lakes.

Rumors quickly circulated that the emperor had intentionally started the fire to clear space for his new palace. Nero panicked.

He frantically searched for a scapegoat. He settled on an obscure cult that had recently arrived in Rome.

Nero named the culprits and punished the victims- they were called Christians. Vast numbers of innocents were convicted of crimes and killed.

Most Romans felt sympathy for the victims- Nero’s futile exercise failed. He took refuge in his own artistic fantasies and set off on a singing tour of Greece.

Not surprisingly, the most powerful man in the world won every competition he entered. The emperor bribed judges and forced audiences to sit through every performance.

Romans were outraged by Nero’s indulgences and incompetence. June 9, 68 AD the Senate declared him a public enemy and sentenced him to death.

Nero chooses a far more theatrical end. He took his own life.

It was the end of Rome’s first imperial dynasty.


Augustus had ruled with restraint. Tiberius had ruled with indifference. Nero had not really ruled at all.

There would be emperors, in Rome for nearly another 400 years, but their dynasties would all rule with the same rhythm of power.

Like Augustus, they would start out promising the best of times. But like Nero, they reigns would undermine Rome’s greatness.

Delusions would condemn millions to die. Power and glory, the curse of Imperial Rome.


Boak, A. E. (2010 ). A History Of Rome TO 565 AD. Ann Arbor, Michigan : Univeristy of Michigan Press.

de la Bédoyère, G. (2006). The Romans For Dummies. West Sussex, England : John Wiley & Sons.


The Roman Empire Part 1

Julius Caesar

Rome’s most notorious citizen was born to wealthy parents in 100BC. As with all young, aristocrats Julius Caesar had a strong sense of destiny.

Roman politicians always staged huge spectacles to impress voters. In 63BC Caesar outdid them all. 640 gladiators fought to the death in the first public games.

It was an unprecedented display of power. Caesar knew there were two secrets to gaining power in Rome. One was playing to the people. The other was commanding a successful army.

In 59 BC Caesar became the military commander of Gaul, modern day France. Nine years later, a million Gauls were dead or enslaved.

Caesar would now summon on the ghost of Sulla, Rome’s first warlord. Like Sulla, Caesar was returning from war with an army loyal to him not Rome.

Like Sulla, Caesar wanted something the Republic could never allow. In January 49 BC, Caesar committed the ultimate act of treachery.

Crossing the Rubicon

Following in Sulla’s footsteps, he persuaded a Roman army, to cross the Rubicon River and march into Rome. The Senate quickly chooses Pompey, conqueror of the east to defend the Republic.

Caesar wanted absolute power, even at the price of war. Rome’s two greatest generals fought in Greece.

Pompey was no match for Caesar and his brutal fighting force. He fled to Egypt, but was eventually by Caesar’s spies. The fate of the Republic hung in the balance.

Caesar had other things on his mind.

In Egypt in 48 BC he met a young queen of the Nile, Cleopatra. They fell in-love and had a child.

Cleopatra persuaded Caesar to help her overthrow her brother and gain the throne of Egypt. In 46 BC she accompanied Caesar to Rome.

Vulnerability was not something Caesar understood.


Caesar proclaimed his celebrated words, “Veni, Vidi, Vici (I came, I saw, I conquered)” in Turkey when he defeated the Pontus, a formidable kingdom in the Black Sea region of Turkey.

This became his motto on his dazzling return to Rome. That evening he threw a banquet of 22,000 of Rome’s poorest citizens. Hypnotized the people did the unthinkable. They voluntarily voted Caesar the absolute powers of a dictator.

Caesar then shocked everyone.

He used his total reform, not for revenge, but social reform. Like Gracchus, Caesar gave the Roman poor what they wanted.

He made sure no Roman citizen ever went hungry. He gave grain to the poor and land to his soldiers, paid for by himself.

Caesar, the benign dictator was incredibly popular. Like Gracchus, he was a little too popular for some.

In February 44 BC, he went too far. Caesar told the people to elect him dictator for life. To accept absolute power forever was an open insult to his Republican peers.

Cicero was disgusted and retired from political life in protest. The Senate wasn’t so meek. They invited Caesar to explain his actions.

Ides of March

It was the “Ides of March,” a turning point in Roman history, one of the events that marked the transition from the historical period known as the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire.

By mid-morning the circus was over. At the foot of the statue of Pompey lay Caesar’s body. He was stabbed 35 times.

Rome’s poor were outraged. As Caesar’s funeral they lit torches and set fire to the houses of the assassins.

That night, a comet blazed across the sky. It seemed an omen.

Julius Caesar was the champion of the poor, the citizens of Rome declared him a god. Two rivals came forward to vie for the dead dictator’s absolute power.


Octavian Augustus (63 BC- 14 AD), was Caesar’s 18 year son-in-law and heir. Marc Anthony (circa 81 BC- 30 BC), was Caesar’s closest friend and ally.

No stranger to the politics of intimidation.

In 43 BC, Anthony raised an army and surrounded the Senate. The Republic was once again under siege. In 33 BC- 10 years after the assassination of Caesar, Octavian and Anthony were still fighting for control of the Roman world.

Octavian finally defeated Anthony in 31 BC to become the undisputed ruler of the entire Roman World. His greatest victory would be one of statesmanship.

Octavian was poised to redefine the very meaning of power. He understood patronage was the secret to control in Roman society.

With Rome’s vast treasury at his disposal, he set about making every Roman his client. Obligated to him, as the universal patron.

Octavian handed out huge cash bonuses to Rome’s army. He now had the undivided loyalty of over 400,000 soldiers.

He then played for the people like never before. Increasing the grain handout and building huge aqueducts to bring fresh water to Rome’s poor.

Octavian then focused on the most important ritual of them all. He staged the most lavish games Rome had ever seen.

Wild beasts and gladiators fought for days in the packed arena. Seduced, the people voted him all the power he asked for.

The Roman Senate then stunned everyone. In 27 BC they allowed Octavian whey they had denied Caesar- the constitutional right to absolute power for life.

Caesar Augustus

Octavian took the name Augustus, the sacred one. Rome, once a bastion of open government, had willingly become an empire ruled by a single man.

Augustus had become the Roman Empire’s first emperor. For the vast majority of people in the Roman Empire, that didn’t matter.

For them, Augustus was their savior. He offered the peace and stability they had craved for nearly a century. From the Atlantic to the Euphrates, from Spain to Syria, people were free to think about something other than war.

It was Pax Romana, Rome’s golden age, the longest period of peace that Europe has ever known. Yet the architect of peace would never enjoy his own triumph.


Boak, A. E. (2010 ). A History Of Rome TO 565 AD. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press.

de la Bédoyère, G. (2006). The Romans For Dummies. West Sussex, England : John Wiley & Sons.


Roman Military Conquests Part 3- Julius Caesar – Military Commander

Julius Caesar (c. 100-49 BC)

A man named Julius Caesar. Shrewd and intensive, the future dictator clearly saw his path to power. Only by victory on the battlefield could a politician hope to be taken seriously as a leader in Rome.

Now 40 years old, Caesar needed a war to consolidate his power. The obvious choice was to make one of his very own in a place called Gaul (modern day France).

Senate named governor of three provinces- the only parts of Gaul that Rome controlled.

In 58 BC, on the excuse of stopping a Gaelic tribe from entering Roman territory Caesar moved his legions into Gaul. For the next decade the bold general does what he set out to do- conquer.

Tribe after tribe in battle after battle, Caesar prevailed against the Gauls again and again. By Caesar’s own accounts, it was a slaughter.

Caesar as a Military Leader

He is considered one of history’s greatest generals, he was not seen as a tactical genius. Instead, he had incredible fortitude and a genius for inspiring others.

Caesar won his soldiers’ devotion by fighting, eating, marching with them. He slept on the ground, as they did.

The Battle of Alesia

Today it is called Alise-Sainte-Reine in modern France. In 52 BC, is known as Alesia, the decisive battleground in Caesar’s campaign.

The Gauls were united under a legendary warrior. A Chief called Vercingetorix.

For Caesar this is the moment of truth. He surrounds Alesia, but he’s taken by surprise when Gallic reinforcements attack from behind.

Caesar fought two armies at once. He was outnumbered 5 to 1, but Caesar’s troops eventually win the battle, capturing the infamous Vercingetorix.

This was the last stand for the Gauls. Caesar’s victory made him one of the two most powerful men in Rome and the world.

Struggle for Rome

The other was Gnaeus Pompey (106-48 BC) long a rival of Caesar.

The struggle between these two who thrust Rome into a struggle for its own survival. The Senate recalled Caesar to Rome. He was ordered to leave his legions behind.

He was between a rock and a hard place.

He had to go to Rome. If he went unprotected he’d almost certainly be murdered by Pompey’s supporters. He believed he had no other choice but to call on the loyalty of his men.

In 49 BC, in bold defiance of the Senate, took his army out of Gaul across an unassuming little stream. The moment his army, crossed the Rubicon, his intent became obvious to all.

Caesar was marching on Rome and into Civil War, the army of one Roman generals against another- legion against legion. Caesar defeated Pompey, but this bloody struggle for power raged on.

Civil War

Even after he was stabbed to death by the Senate in 44 BC, Civil War and anarchy tore Rome apart. For two decades, Romans by the thousands died by Roman swords, as one general after general entered the fray.

Agrippa, Lepidus, Brutus, Cassius, Marc Antony and Cleopatra against Octavian.

Until one man emerged triumphant.

Caesar Augustus

He called himself Augustus (63 BC- 14 AD), Rome’s first emperor. The Republic was dead, Rome was now an empire ruled by a sole dictator.

The Army, at last, had a single commander, and Rome, at last, had peace. For a time, Augustus solved the problem of the army’s loyalty, by making himself the sole commander.

Rome’s first emperor, understood that to control Rome you had to control the military. The growth of the empire had slowed. Defending the borders was a gargantuan and expensive task.

Rome begins to realize that her expansion is not limitless. In his will, Augustus warns future rulers of the danger of too large an empire.

Growth of an Empire

Roman territory continues to increase- in the 1st Century AD, but at a far slower rate. Augustus added Egypt and extended the northern border to the Danube. Claudius added Britain in 43 AD.

He lost some grounds in later uprisings. Rebellions in the provinces become more frequent. More and more, voices were dissent were rising from a culture who despised Rome’s tyranny as never before.

Revolts were not a threat to supremacy, but they began to spark a change in the military’s role. Scattered uprisings continued to trouble the empire.

Little by little turning Rome’s great army from an army of conquest to one of occupation. Trajan (53 AD-117 AD) was last the Roman Emperor to substantially add to the empire.

Under his rule in 17 AD, Rome’s empire reached 2 million square miles. Trajan modern day Romania, Armenia and lands to the east.

Expanding the empire to its greatest size ever. Rome briefly held territory as far east as the Persian Gulf.

Legions patrolled a vast frontier. From the edges of the Sahara Desert to the edge of the Carpathian Mountains.

Solidifying the Empire

From the point on Rome shored up her empire. Days of conquest were over.

Hadrian (76 AD-138 AD) who formalized this policy. The walls were only partially successful against a threat that would torment Rome until the end.

Barbarians at the Gate

Romans called all people who don’t have a written language “barbarians.” No one knows why they began to pour into Southern Europe during the 2nd Century AD.

Maybe climate change, population growth or perhaps the prosperity of Rome brought them. Little by little with the tribes coming in pressured mounted on nearly every frontier.

When Germans tribes attacked Rome’s borders in 166 AD it marked a bleak milestone.

First time since Hannibal’s invasion the empire was on the defensive. For the next century, wave after wave of tribes followed the Germans into Roman territory- Goths, Franks, Persians, Parthians, Visigoths and more.

The edges of the empire would crumble into there was no more empire to penetrate. The dam had spring not one but a thousand leaks.

By the 3rd century AD barbarians were only one of the mounting crisis.

It was a time when an Emperor was far more likely to be assassinated than to die of an old age. Rulers frequently left no clear successor to the throne.

Once again, the affections became central to political power. It was a recipe for anarchy and disaster.


Feuding legions claimed 30 different emperors in just 23 years. Civil Wars broke out frequently. The Legions impressive battle record was slipping.

It was not the end of Rome, not yet. It was the beginning of the end.

The Legions were not no longer an invincible fighting machine that once conquered the world. The frontiers of the empire were no longer impenetrable. Rome herself could no longer be said to rule the world.



Boak, A. E. (2010 ). A History of Rome TO 565 AD. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press.


de la Bédoyère, G. (2006). The Romans for Dummies. West Sussex, England : John Wiley & Sons.






Roman Military Conquests Part 2


Two decades after Carthage lost the Punic War, Hannibal (247-c. 182 BC) was now a soldier and leader of his nation’s military. At 25 years old, he was already a great warrior.

Fresh from the Conquest of Spain he remained his troops of his promise to punish Rome. Attacking Rome would not be easy.

No longer in control of the Mediterranean, Hannibal would have to make the journey by land. He would cross the Alps with 40,000 men and 37 elephants.

Autumn 218 BC, men and beast would trudge over cruel terrain. When they finally make it through the mountains, one-third of his men are dead.

Most of the horses and all but one of the elephants have perished. Yet, the survivors marched on.

Even before the first battle, Rome sees Hannibal as a potent threat. The Roman Senate raised six new legions more than 30,000 men.

The Second Punic War had begun.

The Second Punic War

This time the deciding factor would not be manpower, but strategy. Most Romans commanders were political appointees with battlefield experience. They were no match for a military genius like Hannibal.

2nd Punic War (221-183 BC) – In battle after battle. Hannibal defeated the Roman Legions. The most devastating defeat was the battle of Cannae.

Here, Hannibal, though badly outnumbered, managed to surround the Romans and slaughtered them. 50,000 Romans, more than half the entire Roman military killed. It was the worst defeat Rome ever suffered.

For 15 long years, the war against Hannibal dragged on. Large areas of southern Italy defected to him. Hannibal never lost a single battle and many wondered how long it would be before he attacked the city of Rome.

The tide didn’t turn against Hannibal until the Senate called up a military leader in the same league with the legendary Carthaginian. Publius Cornelius Scipio (died 211 BC) had the cunning and the charisma to match “the Scourge of Rome.”

Son of a general and a survivor of the Battle of Cannae, the younger Scipio studied Hannibal’s strategy closely. In 204 BC rather than confront Hannibal in Italy Scipio had a brilliant, but risky plan- an end run.

He sailed to Africa, and invaded the empire of Carthage.

Carthage was forced to respond, recalling Hannibal from 17 years of torment of Italy. It was the moment of truth.

The Battle of Zama

Scipio and Hannibal would fight a single battle to decide the 2nd Punic War- the Battle of Zama. The two sides were well matched with almost 34,000 men each but there were crucial differences.

Hannibal had been resupplied with 80 of his dreaded elephants, but Scipio had drilled his troops in tactics for dealing with the great beasts. Roman troops would form long corridors to funnel the charging elephants away from the front lines where they do the most damage.

Scipio also had the support of thousands of local Numidian cavalry, who defected from Hannibal. Renowned as the best cavalry in the world, the horsemen added to Scipio’s edge.

Scipio finally and soundly defeated Hannibal at Zama.

The Battle of Zama (Carthage defeated 202 BC) Carthage was crippled.

Carthage was forced to hand over all but 10 of her warships, all her elephants, and a treasure so great it would take 20 years to pay.

The once great empire was improvised and stripped of all her power. Hannibal escaped from the Battle of Zama. For a time, he tried to revive his waning Carthage, but eventually fled to exile in Greece.

And though the aging warrior no longer posed any threat. Rome still pursued him to capture the famous Scourge.

He put a drink of poison to his lips and drained his cup. His suicide was not victory enough.

The Third Punic War

After so many years of war, Rome still saw Carthage as an enemy and could not abide her survival in any form.

Third Punic War (149-146 BC) in 146 BC, Rome destroyed the African empire once and for all in the final Punic War, slaughtering half a million people.

The Pearl of the Mediterranean was ground into dust. Carthage was no more.

Expansion of the Empire

Rome now controlled the entire Mediterranean along with parts of Spain- southern Gaul and the Italian Peninsula. In the past 50 years alone, she would more than triple her domain.

Her military was the most successful fighting force the world had ever known. No power on Earth could truly threaten her and every nation in her reach had reason to fear.

Success wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. More than a century after the wars against Carthage began Rome was drained, both financially and emotionally.

War weary Romans had lost hundreds of thousands of sons in bloody battles in faraway lands. Surviving soldiers had been fighting so long, they barely remembered their homes.

A Professional Standing Army

A non-professional citizen enemy was no longer adequate for an empire the size of Rome’s. It would fall largely to one man’s professionalism the Roman military a general and politician named Gaius Marius (157-86 BC).

Marius saw the need for far-reaching changes in the structure of the Roman army. To be a soldier would now be a career in itself, not merely a sideline from landed citizens.

Marius recruited even the poorest Roman into the legions and issued them standardized equipment, making them the best outfitted soldiers in the ancient world.

But the biggest change at all, this new class of warrior had a special relationship with its commander. When they became veterans, Marius would personally seem to it that his men received a grant of land, often in recently conquered territories.

In the end, this was more than a generous perk for poor soldiers with no forms to return to. In fact, it was revolutionary.

Suddenly, a soldier’s first loyalty was to the general who recruited him and took care of him in old age, and not to the state. Powerful generals now controlled their own private armies.


Soon, they would use them, however, they saw fit, even against Rome herself. By 1st Century BC, in a powerful general. Lucius Cornelius Sulla (138-78 BC) would be the first to ask in on the loyalty of his men.

Sulla was famous for commanding the affections of his soldiers. In 89 BC, when the Senate ordered Sulla to hand over control of his army in Southern Italy, he refused, and his troops remained fiercely devoted to him.

Armed with six renegade legions, more 30,000 men. Sulla then did an astonishing thing. He marched on Rome on the city of Rome. Once in control of the city Sulla’s troops went on a bloody rampage.

Hundreds of Sulla’s political enemies were then rounded up and executed. Sulla planted his own and supporters in power and quickly left of the city in peace, but nothing in Rome would ever be the same.

Soon, another Roman army would march against Rome, led by a great leader, politician and general. His name was Julius Caesar.


Boak, A. E. (2010 ). A HISTORY OF ROME TO 565 AD. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Univeristy of Michigan Press.

de la Bédoyère, G. (2006). The Romans For Dummies. West Sussex, England : John Wiley & Sons.


Roman Military Conquests Part 1

Now, onto the military conquests of Rome.


Expansion of the Roman Empire was brought about by the military power of Ancient Romans between 5BC and 2AD. The accomplishment was impressive. Rome’s empire went from all the way from central Italy, beyond the entire Mediterranean across France and into northern Britannia.

Rome had a formidable fighting machine since its earliest days.

How an amateur army from a minor city grew into a force capable of conquering the world is one of the ultimate success stories of history. In its early years of Rome was a democratic republic.


Its military was an army of citizens. For centuries it was the proud duty of every citizen to serve in the name of the eternal city.

Even though citizen-soldier were not professional fighting men they were the best trained forces the world had ever seen.

It was an accidental empire. Yet, they found themselves engaged in almost constant warfare.

In battle after battle, Rome was victorious. In 5BC, Rome was a smudge on the map. In two centuries it conquered central Italy.

Despite constant fighting and training they were other keys to the success of the young army. The Genius of the Roman War Machine was not in new weapons or tactics.

Rather, just as in art and technology, the Romans stole innovations of others constantly.

From the Greeks, the Romans took most of the early weapons and armor. Like traditional round shields and thrusting hoplite spears.

From the Gauls- a long javelin called a pilum, which they could throw a hundred feet. Also the oblong shield and chainmail armor.

From the nearby Etruscans, Rome copied the basic organization of her military, Legions of roughly 5,000 men each. The Romans knew how to find an edge anyway they could.


Another secret to Rome’s success was extreme, unflinching discipline. If any soldier deserted or ran from battle, his entire unit faced punishment.

Every one man in ten was beaten stoned, or flogged to death. Every Roman soldier knew to retreat was never an option.

In the eyeball-to-eyeball combat of the ancient world, retreat was almost always the wrong move. The bloodiest slaughters occurred when an army panicked, turned their backs and ran.

Thanks to the unwavering discipline the great Roman legions didn’t panic. By 260BC, Rome controlled more than 50,000 square miles.


She controlled the entire Italian peninsula south of the Po River, she would not stop there. Rome expansion began to bump elbows with a much older empire- Carthage.

This empire controlled much of North Africa, Spain, Sicily, and Sardinia. First settled by traders by who is now Lebanon, the city of Carthage was founded in 814BC before Rome was even a collection of mud huts.

Called the Great Jewel of the Mediterranean. Carthage was unrivaled by any other city on earth, least of all a young Rome.

Rome claimed her wars were defensive.

It’s doubtful that even Romans believed this once it turned a hungry eye toward Africa.

Rome undertook punitive expeditions as a pretext for colonial adventures. The result was annexations, regime changes or changes in policies of the affected state to favor Rome as a colonial power.

First Punic War

265-241BC was the First Punic War with Carthage, it seemed horribly one-sided. Carthage was a great sea power. Rome had never fought a single battle at sea.

New to naval warfare the Romans had to find a way to turn things to their advantage.

They soon found the answer. Rather than bombarding from a distant ship.

Roman soldiers boarded the enemy ship using a specially designed plank called a ‘Corvus.’

In hand-to-hand combat the Roman legion has been just as deadly as on land. It took 23 years of fighting but the Romans won the first Punic War in 241BC.

Rome seized the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. They forced the King of Carthage to sign a crushing treaty giving the empire’s entire treasury to Rome. A young boy witnessed the humiliation of his people that day.

The son of a Carthaginian General looked on bitter, and vowing revenge.

The child’s name was Hannibal.


Boak, A. E. (2010 ). A HISTORY OF ROME TO 565 AD. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Univeristy of Michigan Press.

de la Bédoyère, G. (2006). The Romans For Dummies. West Sussex, England : John Wiley & Sons.


Rome- An Introduction


There was a time when Rome was a series of small farms on seven small hills. It grew to become the greatest city of the ancient world.

Rome has come a long way since its humble beginnings.

There are countries and entire continents that owe their language, laws, faith and calendar to Rome.

Italy is the leg hanging off the bottom of Europe. Scratch your knee and you will find Rome half way up the leg.

Halfway down Italy’s west coast is the bustling city with an ancient, historic heart.

Rome, the city sits on seven ancient hills and spans the River Tiber. To the east lies the ancient heart of Rome and to the west is the Vatican.

There are 3.5 million Romans today, some 7% of the population. The city is popular with tourists and more than 20 million people visited here every year.

The locals believe that the world last as long as Rome exists, and Rome will last as long as the Colosseum is still standing. The Colosseum is made out of Travertine, a material that is heavy that it holds itself together.

Home to ancient gladiatorial combat the Colosseum represents all that is best and worst about the Roman Empire.

How did a culture more than 2,500 years old become masters of engineering and architecture and at the same time have an insatiable appetite for conquest and war?

The Beginning of the Roman Empire

Rome started as a village on the banks of the small River Tiber. Romans made a revolutionary commitment that changed history.

After years of tyranny under Etruscan Kings the villagers of Rome dreamed of a government based on restraint and the rule of law. In 509BC they created the Roman Republic.

It was the world’s first representative government. It was represented by the initials- SPQR that stood for “Senatus Populusque Romanus.” Its motto- “The Senate as the People of Rome.”

Bold Experiment

The Republic was a bold experiment in communal government. Wealthy and poor farmers agreed to share power. The rich served as Rome’s leaders and the poor as her soldiers.

In return everyone had a say in how the government was run. The Roman Republic has served as a model for western democracies ever since. Everything from its public architecture to its political rituals seems strangely familiar to a citizen of a western republic.

Once a year the whole city would turn out to vote for its leaders. Competition, for the consulship, the most important public office was intense.

It was up to the senators to insure the politics didn’t get to frivolous. They were the guardians of Rome’s traditions. Under their watchful eye, the young republic, fostered a sense of civic pride- the very foundation of the Rome’s empire.

Underneath Rome’s success lurked some serious contradictions. Women had few rights. It was never just one man to one vote. Elections were always rigged in favor of the wealthy.

Civic Virtue

Recovering the ancient meaning of virtus as an active, virile and civic capacity. The Italian and Florentine republicans claimed that for a freedom-loving, spirited and virtuous people, the Republic is the only suitable form of government.

Despotic rule, on the other hand, befits corrupt and servile minds.

The idea is the republic is superior to princely or despotic regimes. Especially when it comes to cultivating the virtues of the citizens goes back to Aristotle and the Roman historian Tacitus.

This was an important aspect in the world of the Roman Republic.

This is one of the most important virtues of a Republic (as in the Roman Republic). The US has exemplified its independence of spirit. The ideal is that men took responsibility for their actions. It was not unknown for senators to fall on their swords if they dishonored their office.

World of Extremes

They lived in a world of extremes.

While the rich defined the meaning of decadence, 95% of the people struggled below the poverty level. The social imbalance would fuel the most disruptive tradition in Republican Rome- patronage.

Every morning at dawn the poor would gather in the courtyards of the rich. The wealthy patronages saw to the needs of their clients. In return patronages would promise their votes at election time.

Loyalty was divided and the ideals of the republic were compromised. A small group of wealthy families ruled Rome. Notoriously conservative they protected their own interests. They quietly resisted reform, until one of their own broke the code of silence.

Tiberius Gracchus

The new estates netted the Roman aristocracy obscene profits. They used these fortunes to buy foreign slaves to work the land.

When the veterans returned from Rome’s wars of expansions they lost their land to the wealthy and their jobs to slaves. Tiberius Gracchus promised to change all that.

Gracchus proposed something radical. Land should be divided among Rome’s homeless. The senators were horrified. His plan threatened their own huge estates and their own political livelihood.

If passed, it would make Gracchus the patron of Rome’s massive underclass. He would be the most powerful man in Rome.

A group of senators confronted Gracchus as he was speaking to his supporters. In a fit of rage they beat him to death with the chair he was sitting in.

Rome’s boldest reformer was thrown and dumped into the River Tiber. Yet, Gracchus had revolutionized Roman politics.

By championing the needs of the poor, Gracchus could outmaneuver his conservative peers. Ultimately, it would threaten the Republic.

By the beginning of the 1st Century BC the Roman Republic was imploding. Roman values were under siege. Slave revolts stunned Sicily and Italy. Something had to give.


Boak, A. E. (2010 ). A HISTORY OF ROME TO 565 AD. Ann Arbor, Michigan : Univeristy of Michigan Press.

de la Bédoyère, G. (2006). The Romans For Dummies. West Sussex, England : John Wiley & Sons.