The Fall of the Roman Republic
“The die is cast” - Julius Caesar The expansion of Rome, the ruling of Julius Caesar and his death, and the civil war that followed his death all led to the collapse of the Roman Republic. The expansion of Rome created political, social, and economical changes. Politically, the government did not change to suit the expanding of Rome. The economic changes were that poor farmers could not afford anymore to compete with the estates run by slaves, so they sold their land to the rich. Most became urban poor, which meant they were homeless and jobless, and that the government gave them food. Social changes were that the expansion widened the gap between the rich and the poor.
When people imagine a great empire, most think of Rome. The Romans had great ideas and plans which would have made any current empire seem tiny. From the great expansion led by masterful tacticians to the immensely advance government which our government is modeled after today, the Romans had a wonderful future, if not for its many flaws. The early expansions led to the separation of an already teetering social class, the government had many holes which rewarded the wealthy and the greed of nobles and people of power weakened a government which could have been fully polished. The rise of Julius Caesar after the arrangement with Pompey would have been longer lived if the senator’s powers weren’t relinquished for the “better of the people.” All of this and more would eventually lead to the fall of the Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire. There were many factors which led to the fall of the Roman Republic which include the struggle of government fragility, the negative influence of the Gracchi, the First Triumvirate and the dictatorship of Julius Caesar.To understand how Rome eventually fell, one must begin before the small city-state grew. After the final Roman king was exiled, Rome attempted to build a small, but somewhat effective government described as an oligarchy or ruled by “few”. As a Republic, the Romans gave power to a leader by electing him into office, similar to what we do today. This official, known as the praetor, was kept in check by another praetor who was in office. Effectively, nothing would happen unless both completely agreed on an issue which better notes their position as consuls. Today in the American government, there are three branches (Executive, Legislative and Judicial) which appear to be efficient enough to properly “check” each other. Like our executive branch, the Roman consuls were in charge of the military and led them into battle. Similarly to the American Judicial branch, Romans had their own judges called quaestors which overlooked all of the trials. This was the beginning of a suitable system of governing, but the issue was the people who could be elected to hold these positions were of a certain class. The two main social classes in the early Roman Republic were the patricians and the plebeians, plebs for short. The patrician class consisted of nobles and wealthiest land owners. The plebs were the everyday social class of normal, everyday citizens which included merchants, workers, and the poor. During the beginning of the young government, the only people who could be elected into the leading positions were the patricians. This limitation of power led to a split in the two classes. Essentially, the voice of all was not heard because only the patricians were able make important decisions involving everyday activities and lawmaking. Not only was the situation unfair, but the lack of care for all citizens increased the separation of classes.
The republic was also faced with financial constraints. This was steered by the gap between the rich and powerful. The rich acquainted themselves with all the wealth available in the republic. This, in return, resulted to a decline in their financial strength (Beard 1). The roman republic citizens also divided themselves into social groups that constituted of plebs, equites and finally the patricii. The “plebs” was made up of the hardworking people while the equites belonged to the lower high class as the patricii composed of the highest class. The three groups were further divided by the political groups they belonged to. This lack of unity among them was also a contributing factor to the decline of the roman republic. The birth of Rome as an empire too was a reason for the collapse. After Caesar’s assassin Octavian made his return to Rome as a single ruler unlike before when it was ruled by a group of three. Despite the existence of the senate Rome was now ruled by a governor and the republic collapsed (Smith 1). The Gracci brothers in a bid to save the republic they worked on reforms that were of great importance to the roman peasantry. The brothers had in mind offering Latin’s full citizenship and providing soldiers with a piece of land. Their idea was widely accepted by the people but contrary the aristocracy in the senate were in opposition to their reforms. This led to misunderstanding between the two parties and later a civil war which ended in the loss of many innocent lives (Beard 1).
Given these points, the strains of governing an ever-expanding empire involving a major military commitment, and the widening gulf between those citizens who profited from Rome’s new wealth and those who were impoverished, generated social breakdown, political turmoil, and the eventual collapse of the Republic. Rome experienced a long and bloody series of civil wars, political crises, and civil disturbances that culminated with the dictatorship of Julius Caesar and his assassination on March 15, 44 B.C. After Caesar’s death, the task of reforming the Roman state and restoring peace and stability fell to his grandnephew, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, only eighteen years old, who purged all opposition to his complete control of the Roman empire and was granted the honorific title of Augustus in 27 B.C.
Beard, M. “The Fall of the Roman Republic”. 2010 – January 9, 2010.
Smith, R. “The Fall of the Roman Republic.2009” – January 9, 2010. Web.