The Start of the Roman Empire

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Rome’s armies were consistently victorious, but troubles were growing back home. Dishonest officials stole from the poor, and the gap between the rich and the poor was growing. Most people who ruled Rome were patricians-wealthy landowners who handled finances and directed wars. Many of the poor farmers began to fall in debt because they were unable to farm due to fighting in the army. In addition, the rich landowners enslaved people to work on their farm, putting small farm owners out of business. Instead of trying to help them, Roman politicians tried to win their votes by providing cheap food and entertainment. This policy became known as “bread and circuses”, and helped many dishonest rulers come into power.

Two officials began to work for reforms to fix the problems in the Roman Republic. They were brothers Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus. They believed many problems were caused by the loss of small farms. They asked the Senate to take back land from the rich, and divide it among the poor. However, many senators fought this proposal. Eventually, Tiberius was killed and later Gaius.

Matters worsened as the Roman army joined in government affairs. Military leader Marius began to recruit soldiers from the poor. In return, he gave them money and land. Marius changed the army from volunteers to paid professionals. However, the new troops were motivated my material rewards instead of duty. They were loyal to their general, not the Roman Republic. This gave generals much influence and reason to get involved in politics. They needed laws passed to provide the land they promised. Before long, rival general Sulla drove enemies out of Rome and made himself dictator. Over time, Sulla weakened the Council of the Plebs and strengthened the Senate. He then stepped down, hoping Rome could recover. However, Rome plunged into war for the next 50 years. Ambitious men saw how Sulla used an army to gain power, and they decided to do the same.

Eventually, after the battles...
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