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CONCISE HISTORY OF ROMAN CIVILIZATION

by RONALD ONGUDA

Foundation of Rome
Rome was founded around seven hills by twin brothers Remus and
Romulus who were raised by a she-wolf. Romulus murdered Remus and named
the city after himself- Rome. He then became the first king of the city-state of
Rome.

The Tyrannical Kingdom


Rome expanded from a city-state to become a kingdom with an autocratic
form of government. On the other hand, the Etruscans from Etruria (central Italy)
have established political control in the region, promoting a monarchical and
aristocratic way of life. However, they apparently lose power and a republic was
set up.

The Civic Republic


After the overthrow of the last Roman king, a republic was established
with a constitution and laws that would govern Roman society. Roman society is
classified into two: the Patricians (Aristocrats) and the Plebeians (Commoners).
There are also elections, although only wealthy men can vote and wealth serves
as a means of gaining power. The chief executives of the Roman Republic are
two co-Consuls elected every year as a means of checks and balances of
power. There is also the Roman Senate who create, amend, and regulate the
laws of the republic under the motto SPQR (Senatus PopulusQue Romanus)
which means "Senate and the People of Rome". Over time, the laws of the
republic changes allowing leading Plebian families to have right to higher
positions and offices or become aristocrats themselves. Moreover, Rome begins
to expand throughout Italy, causing conflicts with other nations.

Expansion and Dominance


The Punic wars between the Roman Republic and Carthage (modern-day
Tunisia) would formally establish the beginning of Roman dominance of the
western world. The first Punic War is centered upon control of the island of Sicily
in which the Romans succeeded. It was followed by the second Punic War
which is centered upon control of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal)
started by the Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca. His conquests were
continued by his famous son Hannibal who crossed the mountainous Alps with
war elephants. His military excellence was demonstrated by his victories against
the Romans, particularly at the Battle of Cannae. However, the delaying tactics
of the Romans slowed Hannibal's advances and finally weakened his army. He
is finally defeated by the Roman general Scipio at the Battle of Zama, the victory
which would give Scipio the surname/title Africanus (the African). The third
Punic war permanently destroyed Carthage and established Roman control over
the Mediterranean Sea.

The Roman Dictatorship


The civic nature of the Roman Republic began to decline with the rise of
powerful generals who commanded personal loyalty among their soldiers. The
most famous of these generals is Julius Gaius Caesar who rose to power by
forming the First Triumvirate with Marcus Crassus and Pompey the Great. With
financial support from Crassus, Caesar was elected Consul and was made
governor of the southern part of Gaul (modern-day France). Caesar proved to
be a military genius, conquering the whole of Gaul but threatening his opponents
in Rome. After the death of Crassus, a rivalry ensued between Caesar and
Pompey over the control of the republic. It led to a civil war in which Caesar won
and Pompey escaped to Egypt only to be assassinated by the agents of the
Pharaoh. However, Caesar avenged his former friend and executed the
Pharaoh of Egypt. He then made Cleopatra the ruler of Egypt, as well as his
lover.
The victories of Julius Caesar earned him great respect and popularity
that he was elected dictator for ten years and later as dictator for life. However,

the Roman senate under Brutus and Cassius assassinated Caesar on the Ides
of March (44BC), citing that he is establishing a monarchy. He was stabbed 23
times at the floor of the Roman Senate-house.
After the assassination, three men emerged to form the Second
Triumvirate: Mark Antony (Caesars trusted lieutenant), Octavian (Caesars
adopted son and heir), and Lepidus (Caesar's general). They defeated the
armies of the assassins at the battle of Philippi, and divided Rome among
themselves: the Eastern provinces under Antony, the Western provinces of Gaul
and Italy under Octavian, and the provinces of Spain and Africa under Lepidus.
However, the Second Triumvirate proved to be a fragile alliance due to the
frequent quarrels between Octavian and Mark Antony. On the other hand,
Lepidus was later deprived of his authority as member of the triumvirate.

The Roman Empire


The republic has practically ended under the dictatorship of Julius Caesar
and later under the Second Triumvirate. The conflicts between Octavian and
Antony culminated into another civil war between the two former allies. This is
mainly because of Antonys relationship with Queen Cleopatra of Egypt. The
civil war was concluded by the Battle of Actium (31BC) in which Octavian's fleet
under Marcus Agrippa defeated the joint-forces of Antony and Cleopatra. Facing
defeat, they committed suicide before Octavian conquered Egypt and made it
into a Roman province. He then formally established the Roman Empire and
became Emperor Augustus.
The rule of Emperor Augustus would commence the Pax Romana
(Roman Peace) wherein Rome would enjoy a long period of internal peace and
stability. This peace would continue until the death of Marcus Aurelius, the last
of the so-called Good Emperors. After that, the Roman Empire experiences a
long period of decline, but recovered under competent emperors such as
Aurelian and Diocletian. The empire also attempted to persecute Christianity
until Emperor Constantine legalized the religion and become the first Christian
emperor. The status of Christianity rose from an underground religion into the
official religion of the Roman Empire.

The Roman Empire was soon divided into East (with Constantinople as
capital) and West (with Rome as capital) in order to govern its vast dominions.
However at the turn of the 5th century, the western part of the Roman Empire is
constantly under attack by various barbarian tribes, including the Goths, the
Vandals, and the Huns. Then, Rome was sacked by the Visigoths led by Alaric,
thus permanently weakening the empire. Finally, the Western Roman Empire fell
when the Germanic warlord Odoacer forced the last Roman emperor to
abdicate. While the western part of the empire fell into barbarian conquests, the
Eastern Roman Empire survived and prospered as the Byzantine Empire.