How Was It Possible for Rome to Become an Empire and Last so Long and What Were the Reasons for Its Fall? Essay

“Rome was one of the greatest empires of the ancient world. ” (McGill) The early Roman state was founded in 509 B. C. after the Romans drove out the hated Etruscan king. By this time Rome had already grown from a cluster of small villages to a small city. The Roman Republic lasted for about six centuries, but gradually declined due to corruption and social problems. Strongmen competed for power, and out of these civil wars came the one-man dictatorship known as the Empire.

The five centuries of the Empire saw Rome become one of the world’s great civilizations, as the city extended its rule throughout the Mediterranean and into Northern Europe. Eventually, however, the imperial system also declined into corruption. Little did the early Roman settlers know that this was going to happen to their little village. (McGill) After Rome established itself, they were determined to never again be ruled by a monarch. The Romans’ setup a new government called a republic.

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Romans thought a republic would keep any individuals from gaining too much power. Later Romans looked back with enormous pride on the achievements of the early republic. Between 509 B. C. and 133 B. C. , Rome adapted the government to fit the need of the people it served. It also developed the military power to not only conqueror not only Italy, but also the entire Mediterranean world. In the early republic the patricians controlled power, the land holding upper class. Senators, who served for life, interpreted laws and issued decrees.

In the event of a war the senate might elect a dictator who ruled for only six months in time of emergency. (“Roman Republic. “) In 69 B. C. Julius Caesar emerged into the picture, becoming a quaestor. He was able commander who led many conquests for Rome. In 59 B. C. Caesar set out for a new conquest. After nine years of constant fighting, he finally conquered Gaul. Pompey grew jealous of his achievement and had the Senate order him to disband his forces and return to Rome. Caesar secretly crossed the Rubicon and killed Pompey then entered Rome.

After crushing many rebellions, Caesar forced the Senate to make him a dictator. (McGill) “After returning to Rome Caesar increasingly needed political success to protect himself from his ever-increasing and ever-angrier circle of enemies. Caesar returned to Rome to announce his candidacy for the consulship, promising Pompey, Crassus, and others certain key pieces of legislation in return for their support. Although he won the election of 58 B. C. , his colleague was the nephew of the arch-anti-Caesarian Cato.

To win the legislation he had promised to his followers, Caesar used physical violence and unprecedented political corruption to neutralize the efforts of his colleague and his supporters. ” (“Julius Caesar”) Caesar then launched many reforms such as public work programs and giving land to the poor. According to legend those in the Senate murdered Caesar on March 15. Caesar’s Grandnephew, Octavian, and Marc Anthony joined forces to capture his killers. However bitter feuds grew it soon became a battle for power. (“Julius Caesar. ) After the Pax Romana ended, the next 100 years were in political turmoil. In one 50-year period, at least 26 emperors reigned and only one died of natural causes. At the same time high taxes used to support the armies began to anger the people. (Goldberg) During this time Germanic tribes were attacking the outskirts of the Roman Empire. And a Hun leader, Attila embarked on a campaign across Europe. They called this the “Scourge of God” because the people believed his attacks were punishments for the sins of mankind. Kralic) “The people of Rome prayed to Attila for mercy and deliverance, so that they should keep their land. ”(“ Leo I. ”) Although it is not known exact causes of the fall of Rome there are many believed contributions to it. Military causes are assumed due to the massive attacks of the Germanic tribes. “So long as the government required some property ownership for membership in the army, farmers could not grow the necessary crops to feed the nation and fight foreign wars at the same time. As Rome and other cities grew, fewer people were left as farming property owners.

After the destruction of much of the Italian countryside during the Second Punic War, even fewer farms existed. The urban population had to be included in the military. That meant soldiering would no longer be a civic duty, but a profession. ” (“Roman Army”) Another was political and economic cause. Due to the instability of the rulers it was difficult to reestablish an economical balance let alone a political one. The next believed cause was social cause. The people grew rebellious due to the heavy taxes of the Roman Empire and began to revolt. (“Why did Rome Fall? ) Over the next few years, German customs replaced Roman beliefs. “The anarchy came to an end with the rise of Diocletian in 285. He divided the empire in eastern and western halves and created the tetrarchy, whereby the Eastern and Western Roman emperors each had a junior colleague to aid in administration and to take over upon the Caesar’s death or retirement. That system lasted until Diocletian retired in 305, at which time the empire was once again rocked by civil wars. The army was now almost half a million strong and divided into three types of soldiers.

First, were the limitanei, locally recruited and haphazardly trained defensive forces on the frontiers. They were primarily farmers who defended fortresses when foreigners attacked, a job that required much less training and competence with weapons. The comitatenses, better trained and more-mobile reserve forces that responded to attacks backed the limitanei. Finally, there were the palatini, the elite units within the mobile forces. Although the primary unit was still called a legion, it was now comprised of about 1,000 men on the frontier and 3,000 for the reserves.

The discipline that had made the Roman Army virtually unbreakable on the battlefield was gone, and combat was once again a free-for-all as it had been in the time of the Etruscans. ” (“Roman Army”) Rome was a great Empire that lasted hundreds of years and had a profound impact on the other civilizations to follow as they try to emulate the great ruling of Julius Caesar or Augustus. Rome expanded from a small cluster of villages to the largest empire ever and even now it is obvious how others still try to emulate these great people. Though a number of factors contributed to the Roman domination of the Mediterranean, much of the Romans’ success steamed from their internal government, the same place responsible for its fall. ” (“Roman Republic”) Rome’s’ Internal Development was responsible for its fall because when Rome was first founded it was a small humble village, yet as it expanded Rome became a corrupt society where a general could dictate to the Roman Senate and upset the whole system of government. This development then led the people to its knee’s, making them unable to do anything bringing their everlasting destruction.


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