753 B.C., the city of Rome was founded, on the Tiber River , in what is now central Italy.
The mythological story of the ancestry of Rome tells of a man Aeneas , the son of a king and the goddess Aphrodite.
During the Trojan war (1194-1184BC), a war between the Greeks and the Trojans in the city of Troy, he was under the command of prince Hector, prince of the Trojans. He was removed from the war so he could be the new leader of the Trojans someday, but when Troy was destroyed he left to find a new home.
Aeneas went through a series of adventures trying to find a place to settle with his fellow Trojans. They encountered Harpies and bleeding bogs. At the urging of Juno, Aeneas and his companions were attacked by the god of the winds Aeolus. There were then protected by Neptune. who keep them from being shipwrecked and from other perils. Finally Aeneas arrived in Carthage where Cupid disguised himself as the son of Aeneas and influenced the Queen Dido to fall in love with Aeneas. Aeneas did fall in love with Dido. Mercury, the messenger of the gods, was sent to visit Aeneas twice to remind him of his destiny and to get him to break away from Dido, after which Aeneas resumed his journey to his new land.
After landing in Italy, Aeneas was tried to determine where to settle. Aeneas visited Cumaean Sibyl, a prophetess who had access to the underworld through a cave with a hundred openings. Sibyl agreed to be the guide and directed Aeneas to take an item from a nearby magical bough which was sacred to Proserpine, wife of Pluto. Charon, the ferryman of the river Styx, allowed Aeneas to pass because of the item from the magical bough. In the underworld, Aeneas spoke to his father Achises and was told where to settle. He returned from the underworld and sailed again to the Tiber River in a land called Latium.
Aeneas, after beating a rival tribe who had been pitted against him by Juno, began to rule the area where he settled. For twelve generations the throne was passed peacefully down until the thirteenth king, Numitor. Numitor was removed from the throne by his own brother Amulius. Amulius tried to make sure that none of Numitor's descendents could challenge him for the throne. Amulius killed both of his nephews and appointed his niece Rhea Silvia a Vestal Virgin. This position forced Rhea to stay a virgin, which would eliminate any prospect of Numitor's children to challenge Amulius.
Mars, the god of war and farming, became enamored with Rhea, and depending on the account, seduced her. She became pregnant and gave birth to two sons, Romulus and Remus. Amulius had Rhea imprisoned. He put the two boys in a basket and tossed it into the Tiber River. The boys were saved by their father Mars, who sent two animals to feed them. A she wolf fed the boys until they were discovered by a shepherd named Fausulaus. The boys were sheltered by the shepherd and his wife until they had grown. The boys were united with their grandfather Numitor, and they then planned revenge on Amulius. The three, along with a band of shepherds, stormed the palace and killed Amulius and restored Numitor to the throne.
Romulus and Remes
After restoring Numitor to the throne, Romulus and Remus set out to establish their own city with some of their shepherd followers. They planned to establish the city on the banks of the Tiber where they were discovered. The brothers began to argue over the city's design and name. They decided to settle their dispute by seeking a sign from the gods. They decided that who ever saw a flight of vultures first would be the winner. Remus was positioned on Aventine Hill, while Romulus was on Palentine Hill. Remus was the first to see six vultures, while shortly after Romulus saw twelve vultures. Remus claimed that he had won since he saw the birds first. Romulus claimed that he had won the contest since he saw a dozen of the birds. A fight broke out between their followers. Remus was killed, and Romulus set himself up as ruler. He named the city Rome.
Another version of the story has Romulus winning the contest with the birds flying over the hill which he was on. When Romulus began to build the walls of the city, Remus jumped over a walls. Romulus was so insulted that he killed his brother and stated that anyone who tries to come over the walls of his city would meet the same fate.
Romulus was the city’s first ruler.
The 1 st Ruler-Romulus
Rome’s first citizens were outlaws.
There wasn’t enough women for all the men of the city. So, they stole women from an Italian tribe called the Sabines .
The Sabine men waged war against the Romans. However, the stolen women loved the Romans and begged the fighting to stop. The leader of the Sabine tribe was Titus Tatius and he joined Romulus as the leader of the people until he was killed in battle.
In time, help and conquest blended and the Romans ran most of the peninsula
Kings to a Republic
There were several kings of Rome. The last king was Tarquin the Proud, whose son, so the story goes, committing an act of injustice upon the wife of a friend, stirred the citizens of Rome to a revolution, in which they expelled their king and installed a democracy .
Rome became a republic (509BC). This meant that a group of people, called the Senate , made the laws for the people of Rome. (And the civilization this time had grown quite a bit, including colonies.)
During this time Rome was only about 50 square miles. When Rome was threatened they called upon a man named Cincinnatus to help out the city.
Cincinnatus was once a wealthy noble and highly respected from the rulers and the people of the city. His son, however, got into deep trouble and he had to spend all his money, including the money of ten other men to bail him out of jail.
When one of the city’s two consuls was killed, he was called upon to be a consul. He restored order in the city and, as the end of his term approached, the senate wanted to elect him for another term. This was illegal and Cincinnatus pointedly refused. His term complete, he returned to the farm.
When he was called upon from the attack from local enemies, called Aequi, the army was away from the city and the only men left in Rome were too old or too young.
On this occasion, the consuls were each leading one of the armies, so Cincinnatus was elected directly by the senate. He was aware that his absence from the farm meant the harvest would be poor and his family would go hungry, but he considered his duty to be more important.
Cincinnatus ordered the suspension of all business and for all men of military age to gather, suitably provisioned. Everyone who was too old to fight was to assist in gathering food for the soldiers.
Having spoken words of encouragement to his rag-tag force, Cincinnatus led them to the rescue of the Roman army, which had been under attack for three days. Arriving at night, he sent his men to surround the Aequi, digging a ditch all the way around them and filling it with stakes to prevent an escape. He then ordered his men to yell a fearsome Roman war cry to encourage their brothers who were under attack, before attacking the enemy themselves.
The Aequi were taken by surprise and now had to fight two armies at once. As they turned their focus from the newcomers to the re-energised Roman army, Cincinnatus ordered his men to dig in for the night. The following morning, they charged. The Aequi surrendered almost immediately. Cincinnatus allowed the survivors to disband, but took the leaders to Rome.
On his return, Cincinnatus was not surprisingly treated as a hero. There were great celebrations, including a procession. Cincinnatus then returned his powers. The leaders of the city even offered to make him king but, to his enormous credit, he refused and returned to his poor farm, also refusing offers from the senate of land and the spoils of war.
Decades later, Cincinnatus was called upon once again. It was a time of famine, and a wealthy Roman named Spurius Maelius was providing corn extremely cheaply, or for free, to the poor. This made him extremely popular with the lower classes but raised the suspicions of the nobles, who suspected he might have kingly ambitions.
He was thought to be keeping weapons in his home, so it was decided to call Cincinnatus in as dictator again. He was over 80 at the time, but accepted the call after initial hesitation. Cincinnatus went in secret and ordered Maelius to be called before a tribunal. Afraid, Maelius refused, and in the melee which resulted was killed.
Although no-one could be certain Maelius had aimed to become king, he was posthumously declared guilty of refusing the summons of the dictator, which was a capital offence. Several plebians (common citizens), believing Maelius to have been killed by powerful interests, attempted to revolt, but failed. Cincinnatus had them executed.
Life in the Republic
Rome was ruled by its aristocrats (roughly, the patricians ) who abused their privileges. This led to a struggle between the people ( plebeians ) and the aristocrats that is referred to as the Conflict of the Orders, where "orders" means "plebeian" or "patrician".
To help resolve the conflict, the patricians gave up most of their privileges, but retained vestigial and religious ones. This law was named for a plebeian dictator.
The result was the Twelve Tables , a set of laws carved into rock so everyone would know what the laws were and to whom they applied.
The 12 tablets were an important move in the direction of what we would call equal rights for the plebeians, but there was still much to do. The law against intermarriage between the classes was repealed in 445. When the plebeians proposed that they should be eligible for the highest office, the consulship, the Senate wouldn't completely oblige, but instead created what we might call a "separate, but equal" new office known as military tribune with consular power . This office effectively meant plebeians could wield the same power as the patricians
Start of Punic Wars: Carthage
The greatest naval power of the Mediterranean in the third century BC was the North African city of Carthage
While the Romans were steadily increasing their control over the Italian peninsula, the Carthaginians were extending their empire over most of North Africa.
Carthage was a formidable power; it controlled almost all the commercial trade in the Mediterranean, had subjected vast numbers of people all whom sent soldiers and supplies, and amassed tremendous wealth from gold and silver mines in Spain.
Between Carthage and Italy lay the huge island of Sicily; Carthage controlled the western half of Sicily, but the southern tip of the Italian peninsula put the Romans within throwing distance of the island. When the Sicilian city of Messana revolted against the Carthaginians, the Romans intervened, and the first Punic War erupted.
The First Punic War: 264-241 BC
The First Punic War broke out in 264 BC; it was concentrated entirely on the island of Sicily. Rome overwhelmed many of the Carthaginian cities on Sicily, and when Carthage attempted to raise the siege with its navy, the Romans utterly destroyed that navy. For the first time since the rise of the Carthaginian empire, they had lost power over the sea-ways.
the war ended with no particular side winning over the other. In 241 BC, the Carthaginians and Romans signed a treaty in which Carthage had to give up Sicily, which it didn't miss, and to guarantee to cover Roman costs for the war, which it could well afford. But Carthage soon faced rebellion among its mercenary troops and Rome, in 238 BC, took advantage of the confusion by seizing the island of Corsica. The Romans greatly feared the Carthaginians and wanted build as large a buffer zone as possible between them and the Carthaginians. By gaining Sicily, the Romans had expelled the Carthaginians from their back yard; they now wanted them out of their front yard, that is, the islands of Corsica and Sardinia west of the Italian peninsula.
The Carthaginians were furious at this action; even Roman historians believed it was a rash and unethical act. The Carthaginians began to shore up their presence in Europe. They sent first the general Hamilcar and then his son-in-law, Hasdrubal, to Spain to build colonies and an army. Both Hamilcar and Hasdrubal made allies among the native Iberians, and their armies, recruited from Iberians, grew ominous as Carthaginian power and influence crept up the Iberian peninsula.
First Punic War Map
1. Naval battle at Tindaris. Punic victory in 260, 258 & 257 BC.
2. Romans attack Panormus. Withdraw 258 BC.
3. Romans capture Mytistraton (258 BC)
4. Romans retake Enna & Camarina (258 BC)
5. Roman naval victory front of Cape Ecnomus (256 BC)
6. Marcus Atilius Regulus invades Africa (256 BC)
The Second Punic War: 218-202 BC
Following its defeat in the First Punic War, Carthage rebuilt its strength by expanding its empire in Spain. Growing increasingly anxious, the Romans had imposed a treaty on Carthage not to expand their empire past the Ebro river in Spain. However, when a small city in Spain, Saguntum, approached Rome asking for Roman friendship and alliance, the Romans couldn't resist having a friendly ally right in the heart of the Carthaginian Iberian empire.
A few years later, however, in 221 BC, a young man, only twenty-five years old, assumed command over Carthaginian Spain: Hanniba l . At first, Hannibal gave the Saguntines wide berth for he wished to avoid coming into conflict with Rome. But the Saguntines were flush with confidence in their new alliance and began playing politics with other Spanish cities. Hannibal, despite direct threats from Rome, attacked Saguntum and conquered it.
The Romans attempted to solve the problem with diplomacy and demand that Carthage dismiss Hannibal and send him to Rome. When Carthage refused, the second Punic War began in 218 BC. In the years following the first Punic War, Carthage had created a powerful empire in Spain with a terrifyingly large army. Hannibal marched that terrible army out of Spain and across Europe and, in September of 218, he entered Italy on a war of invasion. Although his army was tired from the journey, he literally smashed the Roman armies he encountered in northern Italy. Within two months, he had conquered the whole of northern Italy, with the exception of two cities. These spectacular victories brought a horde of Gauls from the north to help him, fifty thousand or more; his victory over Rome, as he saw it, would be guaranteed if he could convince Roman allies and subject cities to join Carthage.
2 nd Punic War Continued…
The Romans were divided as to whether they could beat Hannibal in open warfare and they knew that he and his army were alone and far from any supplies. Despite Hannibal's certainty that Roman allies would join him, the allies remained faithful to Rome. So on the eve of his invasion of Rome, Hannibal steered south. The Romans, desperate because of their losses, asked Quintus Fabius Maximus to become absolute dictator of Rome. Fabius determined to avoid open warfare at any cost and simply shadowed and harassed the Carthaginian army until they were weak enough to be engaged with openly. His instinct was to wait out Hannibal; he was hated for this policy—the Romans called him "The Delayer" and eventually removed him from power. But when Hannibal marched into Cannae in southern Italy and started decimating the countryside in 216 BC, the two inexperienced consuls which had replaced Fabius as generals of the army sent an army of eighty thousand soldiers against him. This army, vastly outnumbering the Carthaginian army, was completely wiped out by Hannibal' "pincer" strategy: the largest defeat Rome ever suffered. The battle had proven that Fabius was right all along to avoid direct battles, so the Romans went back to his strategy of waiting out Hannibal. Roman allies in the south of Italy literally ran to Hannibal's side; the whole of Sicily allied itself with the Carthaginians. In addition, the king of Macedon, Philip V , who controlled most of the mainland of Greece, allied himself with Hannibal and began his own war against Roman possessions in 215 BC.
The situation looked bad for the Romans; however, none of the central Italian allies had gone over to Hannibal's side after Cannae. The Romans had been chastened by their defeat and absolutely refused to go against Hannibal, whose army moved around the Italian countryside absolutely unopposed. Hannibal, however, was weak in numbers and in equipment. He didn't have enough soldiers to lay seige to cities such as Rome, and he didn't have either the men or equipment to storm those cities by force. All he could do was roam the countryside and lay waste to it.
The Romans, however, very logically decided to fight the war through the back door. They knew that Hannibal was dependent on Spain for future supplies and men, so they appointed a young, strategically brilliant man as proconsul and handed him the imperium over Spain. This move was unconstitutional, for this young man had never served as consul. His name: Publius Cornelius Scipio (237-183 BC). Scipio, who would later be called Scipio Africanus for his victory over Carthage (in Africa), by 206 had conquered all of Spain, which was converted into two Roman provinces. Hannibal was now left high and dry in Italy.
Scipio then crossed into Africa in 204 BC and took the war to the walls of Carthage itself. This forced the Carthaginians to sue for peace with Rome; part of the treaty demanded that Hannibal leave the Italian peninsula. Hannibal was one of the great strategic generals in history; all during his war with Rome he never once lost a major battle, although he had lost a couple small battles. Now, however, he was forced to retreat; he had, despite winning every battle, lost the war. When he returned to Carthage, the Carthaginians took heart and rose up against Rome in one last gambit in 202 BC. At Zama in northern Africa, Hannibal, fighting against Scipio and his army, met his first defeat. Rome reduced Carthage to a dependent state; Rome now controlled the whole of the western Mediterranean including northern Africa.
The Second Punic War turned Rome from a regional power into an international empire: it had gained much of northern Africa, Spain, and the major islands in the western Mediterranean. Because Philip V of Macedon had allied himself with Hannibal and started his own war of conquest, the second Punic War forced Rome to turn east in wars of conquest against first Philip and then other Hellenistic kingdoms. The end result of the second Punic War, in the end, was the domination of the known world by Rome.
Map of 2 nd Punic War
The Third Punic War: 149-146 BC
In the years intervening, Rome undertook the conquest of the Hellenistic empires to the east. In the west, Rome brutally subjugated the Iberian people who had been so vital to Roman success in the second Punic War. However, they were especially angry at the Carthaginians who had almost destroyed them. The great statesman of Rome, Cato , is reported by the historians as ending all his speeches, no matter what their subject, with the statement, "I also think that Carthage should be destroyed." Carthage had, through the first half of the second century BC, recovered much of its prosperity through its commercial activities, although it had not gained back much power. The Romans, deeply suspicious of a reviving Carthage, demanded that the Carthaginians abandon their city and move inland into North Africa. The Carthaginians, who were a commercial people that depended on sea trade, refused. The Roman Senate declared war, and Rome attacked the city itself. After a siege, the Romans stormed the town and the army went from house to house slaughtering the inhabitants. Carthaginians who weren't killed were sold into slavery. The harbor and the city was demolished, and all the surrounding countryside was sown with salt in order to render it uninhabitable.
Map after 3 rd Punic War
Growth of the Government
During the Punic Wars, the power of the Senate grew. But the government also had other people in it. The actual heads of government were called consuls . Usually, two consuls were elected, and they could be re-elected.
With the successes of the Roman army, Roman generals became very popular. They also became very powerful.
Two generals named Sulla and Gaius Marius fought each other for control of Rome. In 83 B.C., Sulla won and became dictator. It was one of many civil wars that threatened to tear Rome apart. Each time, however, the Roman civilization survived.
Even though such civil wars threatened to collapse the Roman influence, Roman soldiers continued to win victories that ever widened Roman control. One area that the Romans eventually succeeded in conquering was a large area in what is now France called Gaul .
The main conqueror of the tribes in Gaul was Julius Caesar . A brilliant general, Caesar had many triumphs, including two expeditions to the island the Romans called Britannia.
Caesar became a consul, along with two other famous and important men named Crassus and Pompey . This was the First Triumvirate (meaning "three people rule"). Crassus was a rich man and Pompey was a general. All three men made a secret deal in which they would split up the empire evenly. Together they were strong enough to force this agreement on the senate which had to submit.
Caesar continued to rule and take over Gaul tribes while fulfilling the wants of Crassus and Pompey to become part of the consul
Crassus died in battle and Pompey became Caesar’s enemy. Caesar’s enemies in Rome were growing. Caesar was still a part of the consul, but he was no longer the commander of his military. Caesar used his army that had been fighting with him for ten years to start a civil war in Italy. He ran the senate out of Rome and took control of it, appointing a new senate. He took loyal troops in Spain and S. France and then wanted to face his enemy Pompey in Greece. There Caesar killed many of his enemies on the old senate except Pompey, for he fled to Egypt. In Egypt Pompey got caught up in a conflict of succession between Ptolemy XIII and his sister Cleopatra VII. Ptolemy had Pompey killed to gain favour with Caesar, but when Caesar arrived he was furious and sided with Cleopatra against her brother. Caesar stayed in Egypt for several months. He instated Cleopatra as sole ruler, and left her pregnant when he set off to return to Rome.
During the civil wars in Italy, a man named Cicero wanted to return to the old Roman Republic.
Cicero was a member of the consul. in 63 BC He was responsible for unraveling and exposing the conspiracy of Catiline, which aimed at taking over the Roman state by force, and five of the conspirators were put to death without trial on Cicero's orders.
Cicero was on Pompey's side, though halfheartedly during the civil war. He felt that at this point the question was not whether Rome would be a republic or an empire but whether Pompey or Caesar would be Emperor, and he believed that it would make little difference, for it would be a disaster in either case. Caesar and his forces won in 48 BC, and Caesar became the first Roman emperor. He gave Cicero a pardon and allowed him to return to Rome in July of 47 BC, but Cicero was forced to stay out of politics. Most of the rest of his life was devoted to studying and writing about philosophy, and he produced the rest of his philosophical writings during this time.
After Caesar gained all power in Rome, he passed through Palestine, Syria and Asia Minor, where he reorganised the provinces before he returned to Rome in 47 BCE.
Pompey had two sons, Gnaus and Sextus Pompeius, who managed to raise an army in Spain. They met Caesar in battle near Munda in 45 BCE. It was hard fought battle with substantial casualties on both sides, but in the end Caesar won. He remained in Spain for a while to reorganise the provinces, and then celebrated yet another triumph on his return to Rome.
After the battle of Munda no-one tried to oppose Caesar with arms; no-one was capable of opposing Caesar. He was the single most wealthy man in the empire, with a fortune to match, if not exceed, that of the state treasury. The armed forces were loyal to him personally, and every opposing force had been defeated. The majority of the senate was appointed by him. There was no power but Caesar's.
In 44 BCE Caesar started planning a campaign against the Parthian empire. On the 15th of March (the famous Ides of March) he was called to a meeting in the senate, a meeting held in the Theatre of Pompey to discuss the preparations for the war against Parthia. On his arrival he was surrounded by a group of senators who pulled out knives from under their togas and stabbed him to death. Caesar was left dead on the floor at the feet of a statue of his friend and enemy Pompey.
Struggle for Power
In the power struggle that followed, three men took the reins of government: Marc Antony , Caesar's right-hand man; Octavian , Caesar's step-son; and Lepidus , an important leader. This was the Second Triumvirate .
This, too, resulted in a power struggle, with Octavian defeating Marc Antony and declaring himself emperor. He renamed himself Augustus Caesar, and the Roman Empire was born.
Roman conquests followed after this for hundreds of years. The main reason was that the Roman soldiers were better-trained, better-equipped, and better-fed than their opponents. Germanic tribe after Germanic tribe soon found themselves conquered, invited to join the Empire, and even serving in the Imperial Army. The borders of Roman civilization soon stretched from Scotland to the Middle East.