Roman Empire

Octavian(63 BC-14 AD) is known as the first, and one of the greatest, Roman Emperors ever. Octavian enabled the long, peaceful time of the Pax Romana by changing Rome from a fragile, crumbling republican government to a mighty empire. Octavian’s government was strong enough to withstand weak emperors who mismanaged the Empire. His changes proved to be the cornerstone of the greatest empire the world has ever seen.

During the Conflict of Orders, the lower class Romans, or plebians, forced the upper class Romans, known as patricians, to give them more rights and liberties. The Republican government in Rome was established to satisfy the plebians, while still leaving a majority of the control with the patricians. The government consisted of three main parts: the senate, the assemblies and the magistrates. The Senate was a group of former state officials, usually patricians, who acted as advisors, controlled public finances and handled all diplomatic dealings with other states. The assemblies were the various public meetings where citizens voted on laws and public office.

Magistrates were the elected officials who put the laws into practice. The most important of these magistrates were the consuls. The two consuls, each elected for one year, acted as the chief executives of the state. Censors were also very important magistrates. Censors were elected every five years to take a census and record the wealth of the people. Censors also had two other very important jobs. The first was to appoint candidates for the Senate and the second was to award contracts for government projects. As time passed, the Romans also began to elect other magistrates called praetors. Praetors acted as judges but could also fill in for the Consuls when they were away.

The Republic first started to lose power in 133 BC Tiberius Gracchus and his brother Gaius were the leaders of a campaign to help the landowners and soldiers of Rome. The brothers tried to redistribute the public land of Rome to small farmers. The Senate, however, feared that the brothers were trying to take power away from the government. They ordered mobs to kill the brothers and hundreds of their supporters. The Gracchi’s efforts were the beginning of the Roman Revolution.

In 107 BC, a popular general named Marius was elected consul. Because of his military background, Marius was interested in improving the army. He started to accept anyone into the army regardless of whether they owned any land. This created a vast change in the makeup of the armies. Many poor people decided to join in hopes that they would benefit financially from any victories. Soldiers became attached to Roman generals rather than the state because of the possible economic gains. The government’s separation of the army would prove to be a major problem. Laws could only be enforced if The Republic controlled the armies. When the army followed a general rather than the government, the government lost all power.

In 90 BC, Roman allies in Italy finally rebelled against the city. The allies were angry that they were not considered citizens of Rome. They had benefited little from Roman expansion even though their citizens had served in the military. After a very bloody campaign, the Social War ended when the allies were defeated. The Senate, however, decided to grant citizenship to the allies. This move expanded the Roman state to all of Italy. As the number of citizens grew, The Republic became harder and harder to manage.

During the Social Wars, one general, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, proved to be very successful in battles. Based on this military success, Sulla was elected consul in 88 BC. After completing his term, Marius tried to stop Sulla from taking any military command. Sulla countered by marching his troops on Rome. Civil war broke out. Sulla led his troops to victory and became dictator. After killing many of his opponents, Sulla tried to change Rome back to its days of Republican government. When he felt he had accomplished his task, Sulla retired to his farm in the country. Sulla’s brief reign as dictator did not prove helpful to the Republic. Instead, Sulla had shown the power and opportunity that a dictator possesses. Although he did not intend to, Sulla had moved Rome one step closer to becoming an empire.

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