Huge Powerful

How did the Romans build a huge, powerful empire?

The Romans built up an empire thru a mixture of accident, war, conquest, deliberate deceit, thru the patron system and system of client states or federati, and the spread of Roman interests economically and politically.

But Rome also gained an empire thru important policial, social and economic changes within Rome itself. Politicians such as Tiberiaus and Gaius Gracchus argued for the opening up of lands for Roman soldiers and Roman allies to be included as Roman citizens - thus extending Roman citizenship all the way thru the Italian peninsula.

This notion of Roman citizenship - started what would become an essential feature of Roman diplomacy - offering Roman citizenship to potential allies of Rome that would fight for Rome. Socially, Roman conquests resulted in more slaves being brought into Rome - thus allowing Rome to release its citizen-farmer soldiers to fight for Rome and resulting in Rome's large dependance on slaves.

Rome also applied the patron system, where Rome would support allies and friends in return for loyalty to Rome. Rome made it very clear in her treaties what was expected of her allies. This often led to misunderstandings, especially in the case of Macedonia, and Rome used this as pretext for seizing control and invading her own allies.

The first steps towards Empire began with the First Punic War - a war in which Rome went into against Carthage over sicily. While the war was fought over Rome coming to the protection of another state, Rome emerged victorious from the war. But from the war, Rome annexed Sardinia and Corsica from Carthage - to which Rome was not entitled to and which broke the terms of peace treaty with Carthage.

But the victory also gave Rome control of the Mediterranean sea and made Rome the dominant sea power. Thru this dominance, Rome could gain access to essential markets and trade with other powers as Greece, Egypt and Asia Minor.

The second Punic war gave Rome control over Africa - to become the bread basket of the Roman Empire. The war also gave Rome a pretext for invading Greece - the Macedonian King Phillip V provided support to Rome's enemy Hannibal of Carthage.

By invading Greece and claiming Rome was liberating it from Macedonian tyranny, Rome established itself as the dominant power. Rome also took the opporunity to invade Asia minor to go after another enemy, Antiochus in Syria.

Successful Roman generals as Marius, Sulla and later Caesar became more than military leaders - they became politicians and used their military victories to gain them political dominance. A successful general entered Rome as all powerful - and used their military success to push their own political ambitions.

But it was under Julius Caesar that Rome moved not only from Republic to Empire, but that Caesar extended Rome's borders in France, Germany, Britain and overthrew the young king of Egypt in favor of his sister, Cleopatra. Caesar used flimsy pretexts to invade and conquer Gaul, making alliances with German tribes and making them allies or federati of Rome. Caesar's military prowess eventually brought him enemies - the Roman senate.

By Caesar's death, Rome had established an empire and with the accession of Augustus, it was clear that Rome needed a strong leader to lead the Empire.

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