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Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire

By aaronclark07 Nov 08, 2011 877 Words
The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire

Numerous myths exist about the creation of Rome, from Romulus and Remus to Prince Aeneas and his Trojan warriors. Regardless of the reason, it was believed to be founded around 753 BC along the Tiber River, a crossroads for traffic and trade. The Etruscans gained political control of the small settlements that had popped up in the area and created the Roman Kingdom. It wasn’t until the Latin and Sabine tribes rose up against the Etruscans did a government form that limited the power of its rulers. Livy, an author wrote that the Republic was created in 509 BC by Lucius Junius Brutus after overthrowing the last King of Rome, Tarquin the Proud.

The Republic prospered through the creation of the constitution, and the Senate, and through military conquest subdued the Italian peninsula and beyond. The founding of colonies maintained the control of many strategic areas also. After numerous Punic Wars, the Republic expanded to include Sicily, Hispania, and parts of Africa and signified the rise of Rome as a true power. By the 2nd century BC Rome was the dominant figure in the Mediterranean, was considered a consolidated empire, and had no major enemies. Numerous issues began to arise that would lead to massive unrest and the creation of the Empire.

The rise of Gaius Marius and his military reform that allowed non-land owners to enter the military created a new breed of soldier, one that was interested in profit and not honor and courage in defense of their land. Through other means, a rivalry was born between Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla, one that eventually led to Sulla marching his legions to Rome, slaughtering any supporter of Marius and impaling their heads in the roman forum. Sulla eventually went campaigning in Greece and Marius returned to Rome where he returned the favor to the supporters of Sulla and achieved his seventh consulship. Months later, Marius died in 86 BC, and this opened Rome up for the return of Sulla who executed thousands of nobles, knights, and senators. Sulla held two dictatorships and one consulship until his death in 84 BC.

After the death of Marius, the populace was lacking a leader and men who were empowered through Sulla demanded a new leader. Conflicts between the populares and the optimates increased and the need for a new leader brought Gaius Julius Caesar onto the scene. His strengthening of the Marian party, due to his familial bonds to Marius, and the recruitment of two very powerful men in Rome: Marcus Licinius Crassus and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus created the first Triumvirate. The later death of Crassus led to a power struggle between Caesar and Pompeius until Pompeius’ murder in Egypt in 48 BC. This led into Caesar’s many dictatorships until his assassination in 44 BC.

Due to Caesar’s assassination Rome went into political and social turmoil. Rome was being ruled by Mark Antony until Octavian arrived in Rome and with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus formed the second Triumvirate. At this time somewhere between 100-300 senators were executed due to their support of Liberatores, the group responsible for Caesar’s death. This triumvirate broke the empire into 3 parts: Lepidus was left to Africa, Antony to the eastern provinces, and Octavian remained in Italy and controlled Hispania and Gaul. After deteriorations of relationships, Lepidus was forced to retire, and Antony lived in Egypt with Cleopatra which was considered traitorous. Antony’s announcement of his and Cleopatra’s children the rulership of the eastern provinces led to war between Octavian and Antony and led to the Battle of Actium in 31 BC and suicide of Antony and Cleopatra. At this point Rome now controlled Egypt.

Octavian at this point took the name Augustus and assumed almost absolute power. Along with his successor Tiberius, they formed the Julio-Claudian Dynasty, which lasted until 68 AD with the suicide of Nero. The rule following this dynasty was the Flavian Dynasty, which lasted from 68 AD to 180 AD, at which the rule of the “Five Good Emperors” pushed the Empire to it’s apex, territorially, economically and culturally. A peace called the Pax Romana existed until the Antonine Plague struck and lasted from 165-180 AD.

At this point many incompetent rulers took over and increasing influence of the army which led to a long period of imperial collapse and external invasions known as the Crisis of the Third Century. The crisis ended when Diocletian took over in 293 AD and divided the empire into eastern and western realms ruled by a Tetrarchy. The two co-rulers of the empire fought for supremacy until Constantine I established Byzantium as the capitol of the Roman empire and left the Western Roman Empire to itself in 395 AD.

Constant harassment by barbarian invasions, and the sacking of Rome in 410 by Alaric and the Visigoths. This led to a downward spiral, and with the arrival of the Vandals and their invasion of Gaul, Hispania, and northern Africa and their eventual sack of Rome in 455. In 476, Odoacer forced the last Roman Emperor of the west, Romulus Augustus to abdicate. After nearly 1200 years, the Roman Empire in the west ended.

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