History of the Roman Republic
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The history of the Roman Republic began when Tarquin the Proud, the last of the seven kings of Roman monarchy, was deposed in 509 BCE. With that, a government based on magistrates and representative assemblies was set up, with a constitution that provided for checks and balances and a separation of powers. The most important magistrates were the two consuls, who together wielded authority in the form of imperium, or military command. But the consuls cooperated with the senate, which was at first an advisory council of the ranking nobility. And in the Republic, it would grow in size and power.
In the 4th century BCE, Rome was attack by the Gauls in a siege that lasted seven months. Finally, the Gauls agreed to lift the siege in exchange for Rome’s payment of a thousand pounds of gold. Legend has it that the Romans observing the weighing noticed that the Gauls were cheating. Not surprisingly, this angered the Romans, who changed their minds and rose up and defeated the Gauls. Thus it was said that “With iron, not with gold, Rome buys her freedom.”
The Romans gradually vanquished the other peoples in Italy, including the Etruscans. In so doing, they secured their conquests by founding colonies in strategic areas to establish control over the regions they had vanquished.
But in the 3rd century BCE Rome faced a new and powerful opponent. Carthage was a rich, flourishing Phoenician city-state that strived to dominate the Mediterranean basin. Between Rome’s hegemony in mainland Italy and Carthaginian maritime supremacy, these cities became the two main powers in the western Mediterranean and their contention over trade rights in the Mediterranean led to war.
The First Punic War started in 264 BCE. Rome embarked on this war because the cities of Sicily, under Carthaginian control, were too close to the Greek cities of Southern Italy that Rome had recently conquered. With that, Carthage was now able to make an offensive through Roman territory. As it happened, the war also gave Rome an opportunity to extend its dominion over Sicily.
Although Rome was experienced in fighting land battles, defeating Carthage required a navy. Since Carthage was a maritime power, the Roman shortfall of ships and naval experience made the victory a long and hard one for the Roman Republic. Finally, it was only after more than 20 years of war that Rome finally defeated Carthage and a peace treaty was signed. Among the reasons for the Second Punic War was the onerous war reparations Carthage had agreed to in settlement of the First Punic War.
The Third Punic War started with Rome’s declaration of war against Carthage in 149 BCE. But Carthage resisted vigorously, and all the inhabitants of the city joined in its defense. In the end, it could not survive the attack of the Roman general Scipio Aemilianus, who destroyed the city and its walls, enslaved and sold all the citizens, sowed salt in the soil of its farms, and took control of the area. And so, Carthage became the Roman province of Africa. The Punic Wars gave Rome its first overseas conquests (Sicily, Hispania and north Africa) and led to the rise of Rome as an empire and began the end of democracy and the Republic.
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Early Republic Index | First Punic War: Prelude • Defeat of Carthage • Recovery of Carthage | Second Punic War: Invasion of Italy | Third Punic War | Expansion: Transformation of Rome • Conquest of Italy • Conquest of Greece • Conquest of the East Late Republic Index | Caesar: Rise to Power • Early Career • Africa • Egypt • Epirus • Later Campaigns • Decision • Return to Rome • Demise | Revolt and War | Catiline Conspiracy | Gracchus Reforms: Gaius Gracchus • Tiberius Gracchus | First Civil War: Revolt of Italy • Death of Democracy • Marius • Sulla | Second Civil War: Pompey | Third Civil War • Campaign • Octavian • Antony • Cleopatra • Battle of Actium • Reign of Terror • End of the Republic
Early Republic: Index
First Punic War
First Punic War: Prelude
First Punic War: Defeat of Carthage
First Punic War: Recovery of Carthage
Second Punic War
Second Punic War: Invasion of Italy
Third Punic War
Early Republic: Expansion
Expansion: Transformation of Rome
Expansion: Conquest of Italy
Expansion: Conquest of Greece
Expansion: Conquest of the East
Late Republic: Index
Caesar: Rise to Power
Caesar: Early Career
Caesar in Egypt
Caesar: Later Campaigns
Caesar: Return to Rome
Power: Revolt and War
Power: Catiline Conspiracy
Power: Gracchus Reforms
Gracchus Reforms: Gaius Gracchus
Gracchus Reforms: Tiberius Gracchus
First Civil War
First Civil War: Revolt of Italy
First Civil War: Marius
First Civil War: Sulla
Second Civil War
Second Civil War: Pompey
Third Civil War
Third Civil War: Campaign
Third Civil War: Octavian
Third Civil War: Antony
Third Civil War: Cleopatra
Third Civil War: Battle of Actium
Third Civil War: Reign of Terror
Revolt of Italy: Death of Democracy
End of the Republic