Introduction to the Rise of Rome (3rd century bce to 2nd century ce)

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Introduction to the Rise of Rome (3rd century bce to 2nd century ce)

The site of Rome on the Tiber River in Italy was inhabited as early as the eighth century bce Initially ruled by a king, Rome became a republic (a political system in which citizens control the government) in 509 bce and began to expand by dominating or battling other societies on the Italian peninsula. Rome built up its strength slowly, first taking over southern Etruria (a region in what is now northern Italy). Gauls (Celtic tribesman from the north) sacked and occupied the city in 386 bce , then overran the Etrurians. But the gradual development of the Roman Empire was not derailed for long.

Eventually, Rome dominated most of Italy. Its former enemies were welcomed into the Roman army, and different levels of citizenship were extended to territories and allied states. In 268 bce, Rome’s military might would meet its first significant challenge from Carthage, the capital city of the Phoenicians in Africa. At stake was control of the Mediterranean Sea, a body of water vital to the military and economic well-being of Rome.

The wars between Rome and Carthage were called the Punic Wars—the term “Punic” comes from the Roman word Poeni, meaning “Phoenicia.” The First Punic War began when Rome invaded Sicily, then under Carthaginian control. After twenty-three years of fighting, Carthage ceded control of Sicily to Rome in 243 bce

The Second Punic War was waged by the formidable Carthaginian commander Hannibal, who defeated Romans at the Battle of Trebia, the Battle of Lake Trasimeno, and the Battle of Cannae. In spite of these victories, Hannibal was eventually forced into submitting to a punitive peace treaty after the Battle of Zama in 201 bce Hostilities broke out again fifty years later, and this time the results were decisive. The Third Punic War lasted only five years and ended with the complete destruction of the city of Carthage. Rome had begun the Punic Wars as a power localized in Italy; 120 years of fighting later, Rome controlled most of the Mediterranean, including North Africa, and was on its way to becoming an empire.

The evolution of the Roman Empire was marked both by great territorial expansion and internal strife, as many in Rome hungered for the power and riches associated with newly conquered territories. When Julius Caesar came to power in the first century bce , Rome’s empire included the Iberian peninsula, Greece, and Asia Minor. Caesar spent eight years conquering Gaul (now France and Belgium) as a general in the Roman army, then brought his army home, provoked a civil war (which he won), and promptly had himself declared dictator for life, effectively ending the republic. His heir Augustus became the first Roman emperor, and Augustus’s successors continued to expand Rome’s reach until the second century bce , when Emperor Trajan ruled a gigantic domain stretching from Britain to Arabia, from the Danube River to the coast of North Africa.

Following Trajan, Roman emperors built permanent fortifications to protect, but not expand, the borders of the Empire. The second century ce was one of peace, but towards its end, border skirmishes, civil war, and power struggles in the military signaled the eventual fragmentation and decline of the Roman Empire.

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Introduction to the Rise of Rome (3rd century bce to 2nd century ce)

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Introduction to the Rise of Rome (3rd century bce to 2nd century ce)