Monday 8 August 2016

From Republic To Empire

As the structures of the Republican system gave away to the empire, Rome found itself in command of vast, worldwide territories. The empire encompassed a diverse mix of peoples, and it's politics, way of life, artistic achievements and spectacular feats of engineering, have had a lasting impact.

From 67-60 BC, the Great Roman general, Pompey, defeated pirates across the Mediterranean, gained lands for Rome in the middle East, and formed the First Triumvirate alliance with Marcus Licnius Crassus and Julius Caesar. In 49 BC, Caesar took Rome and war broke out between his and the Senate's forces now led by Pompey. Pompey was murdered by allies of Caesar.


In 44 BC, Caesar was murdered by a group of senators. His successors, the Roman general Mark Antony, and Octavian(Caesar's adopted son), became unable to work together, divided the Roman Empire into west(Octavian), and east(Antony). Octavian defeated Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. A year later Octavian took over Egypt.

Mark Antony

By 27 BC, Octavian, was in effect the empire's first "emperor" taking the title Augustus. He claimed to have restored the republic and to have returned the power to the Senate and the people. The republic's system of rule, based on competition among aristocratic families was replaced by an imperial one in which a single aristocratic family dominated.

Statue of Emperor Augustus
By the late 1st century CE, at the time of emperor Trajan(ruled 98 - 117 CE), the empire stretched across a vast area that took in all of the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and a large chink of Northern and central Europe with 50 million people living on Roman land.  Major factor in retaining these lands was the Rome's legendary military might. Empire had an standing army and its soldiers were extremely skilled and loyal to the Emperor.

Statue of Emperor Trajan
Ancient Roman Civilization was highly urbanized with a vast network of prosperous cities, connected by a network of roads and bridges. The empire's extensive territories were divided into provinces ruled by governors called proconsuls, who ruled in the Emperors name. By 3rd century CE, separate leaders often attended to military matters.

Rome's huge empire meant a diverse web of trading connections. Its provinces traded all kinds of basic and luxury goods with each other, ranging from salt to mass-produced statues. The empire was connected by thousands of kilometers of expertly made roads, typically consisting of marble slabs laid on rubble. Many Roman roads survive today, some in good condition such as the Appian way in Rome which linked Rome to southeastern Italy.

Appian Way
In August 79 CE, a massive eruption from Mount Vesuvius buried the nearby Roman city of Campania(now called Pompeii) in southern Italy under 6m(20ft) of ash and debris. Excavation has revealed a perfectly preserved example of a sophisticated Greco-Roman city of around 20,000 people,with buildings such as forum, amphitheater and lavish villas. Many human bodies left their shape in the ash, from which the plaster casts have been made(below), showing Pompeii's people as they fell.

Workers with casts of bodies.

Gathering for business or pleasure was a central part of Roman life. Meeting places such as markets, public forum areas, bath houses were popular spots. Meetings were generally conducted in open places, to discourage the secret plotting that characterized Roman rule. Entertainment took form of athletic games, gladiatorial combat, animal hunts and chariot races.

Emperor Hadrian supervised the building of Hadrian's wall. Built on the Northern border of the empire, it stretches almost 120 km(75 miles), coast to coast across Northern England

Hadrian's Wall

Around 165 CE, a plague(possibly smallpox), broke out in the empire and lasted for around 15 years. The estimated death toll of this plague was about 5 million including two emperors. The years from 235 - 284 CE were a chaotic time with a rapid succession of Emperors murdered one after other. In 284 CE, the period of crisis ended when Roman general Diocletian made himself emperor. He created the first imperial college of four emperors(the Tetrarchy) to oversee four sections of empire. 

Diocletian Edict

In the early part of the 4th century CE, Roman Emperor Constantine(280-337 CE), established a second Rome at Byzantium(modern Istanbul) renaming it Constantinople.   

Emperor Constantine

1 comment:

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