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Ancient Rome. Period of the Republic. History and culture. (General overview)

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On the question of the independence of Roman civilization

The question of whether it is possible to talk about the existence of an independent Roman civilization has been repeatedly discussed in science. Such well-known cultural scientists as O. Spengler, A. Toynbee, singling out ancient culture or civilization as a whole, denied the independent significance of Rome, believed that the entire Roman era was a crisis stage of ancient civilization. When its capacity for spiritual creativity fades, there are only opportunities for creativity in the field of statehood (the creation of the Roman Empire) and technology. All that was done in science, philosophy, historiography, poetry, and art during the long centuries of Roman rule in the Mediterranean was borrowed from the Greeks, primitivized, and reduced to a level accessible to the mass consciousness, which never rose to the heights of the creators of Hellenic culture.

Other researchers (in Soviet historiography, S. L. Utchenko did a lot in this direction), on the contrary, believe that Rome created its own original civilization, based on a special system of values that developed in the Roman civil community in connection with the peculiarities of its historical development. Such features include the establishment of a democratic form of government as a result of the struggle between the patricians and the plebeians and the victories of the latter, and the almost continuous wars of Rome, which turned it from a small Italian town into the capital of a huge power.

Features of Ancient Rome

Red -figure crater depicting scenes from the myth of Iphigenia in Tauris. Apulia (Southern Italy). IV century BC.

-figure crater depicting scenes from the myth of Iphigenia in Tauris. Apulia (Southern Italy). IV century BC.

Under the influence of these factors, the ideology, the system of values of Roman citizens was formed. It was determined primarily by patriotism — the idea of the special God-chosen Roman people and the very fate of the victories destined for them, of Rome as the highest value, of the duty of a citizen to serve him with all his might, without sparing his strength and life. To do this, the citizen had to have courage, fortitude, honesty, loyalty, dignity, moderation in the way of life, the ability to obey the iron discipline in war, the law approved by the people’s assembly and the custom established by the “ancestors” in peacetime, to honor the patron gods of their families, their rural communities and, of course, Rome. When slavery began to spread in Rome, which reached its highest development for antiquity, a significant role in the ideology began to play the opposite between the slave and the freeborn citizen, for whom it became considered shameful to be suspected of ” slave vices “(lies, dishonesty, flattery) or in” slave occupations”, which included, unlike Greece, not only craft, but also performing on the stage, writing plays, working as a sculptor and painter.

Only politics, war, agriculture, the development of civil and sacred law, and historiography were recognized as worthy of a Roman, especially of the nobility. On this basis, the early culture of Rome was formed. Foreign influences, primarily Greek, which had long penetrated through the Greek cities of southern Italy, and then directly from Greece and Asia Minor, were perceived only insofar as they did not contradict the Roman system of values or were processed in accordance with it. In turn, Rome, having subjugated the countries of Hellenistic culture, exerted a significant influence on them. This was how the synthesis of Greek and Roman cultures was formed. The Romans mastered Greek philosophy, forms and styles of Greek literature, art, but they put their own content into them, developed their ideas and worldview in these new forms.

And the natives of the Hellenic and Hellenized provinces of the Roman empire perceived Roman political thought, Roman ideas about the duty of a citizen, a politician, a ruler, and the meaning of the law. The rapprochement between Roman and Greek cultures became particularly intense with the establishment of the empire, when the philosophical and political theories developed among the subjects of the Hellenistic kings became close to the Romans. This late-antique Greco-Roman culture, in which both components played an equal role, spread to both the eastern and western half of the empire. It formed the basis of the civilization of Byzantium, the Slavic states of Western Europe.

Early Rome

Myths and reality

Until recently, the early history of Rome was known mainly from the writings of late ancient authors, and therefore most historians of the XIX and the first half of the XX century considered it unknowable. The successes of archaeology and linguistics in recent decades have allowed us to overcome the hypercritical attitude to the information of ancient writers and expand our understanding of the history and culture of archaic Rome. They showed that a number of traditions contained in the books of these authors have a real historical basis.

According to legend, after the death of Troy, a descendant of the Illyrian king Dardanus, the Trojan hero Aeneas, came to Italy with his son Ascanius, defeated the tribes of the Italians in the war, married the daughter of King Latinus Lavinia, founded a city named after her, and after his death was ranked among the gods. His descendants, Romulus and Remus, founded Rome, and his son became the progenitor of the house of Julius. Excavations have revealed the authenticity of a number of details of this seemingly fictional legend.

Etruscan influence

The information about the ethno-cultural environment in which Rome emerged and the extent of its influence on the formation of Roman culture itself has also expanded. Previously, the decisive influence on Rome was attributed to the Etruscans, who inhabited the Po Valley and part of Campania with the city of Capua. Indeed, their influence on Rome is unquestionable. Skilled metallurgists, shipbuilders, merchants and pirates, they sailed all over the Mediterranean, assimilated the traditions of various peoples, while creating their own high and unique culture. It was from them that the Romans borrowed the architecture of temples with cladding, craft techniques, the practice of building cities, the secret sciences of the Haruspex priests, who read the liver of sacrificial animals, a flash of lightning and a thunderclap, and even the custom of celebrating the victory of generals with a triumph. Young men from noble families were sent to Etruria to study, and Greek cults and myths penetrated to Rome through Etruria.

Greek influence

Red -figure pelica depicting the court of Paris. IV century BC.

-figure pelica depicting the court of Paris. IV century BC.

However, the Etruscan influence was not the only and earliest. Quite close ties between Italy and Greece have been established since the Mycenaean era, when the Achaeans founded their colonies on the Apennine Peninsula, ties that were strengthened in the VIII century BC. In the VIII-VI centuries BC. The cities of southern Italy and partly Latium are already connected with many centers of Greece and Syria.

In 508 BC, Rome concluded a treaty with Carthage, which had its trading post in Pyrgi (here a dedicatory inscription to the goddess Astarte was found in Punic and Etruscan). According to legend, when the Romans in the middle of the V century BC first recorded their law (the so-called law of the XII tables), they sent a commission to Greece to familiarize themselves with the laws there. In 433 BC, in connection with the plague epidemic, they sent a request to the Delphic oracle and, on his advice, established the cult of Apollo the healer. Very early on, they began to adopt some Greek religious customs and rituals. We should not underestimate the role of the pan-Italian cultural foundation, which was formed even before the appearance of the Etruscans in Italy. Such a fund can include, for example, legends about the founding of cities.

The legend of the founding of Rome and the reign of Romulus

The myth of the founding of Rome has been preserved in the most detail: the twins Romulus and Remus (according to one version-the sons of the slave of the king of the city of Alba-Longa Amulius and the deity of the hearth, according to another and more common-the daughters of Amulius ‘ deposed brother Numitor and the god Mars) were put in a basket and thrown into the Tiber. But when the water subsided, the babies were found and nursed by a she-wolf. Picked up and raised by the shepherd Faustulus and his wife Acca Larentia, they grew up and, having learned of their origin, restored their grandfather to the throne of Alba Longa, and themselves with a crowd of shepherds who joined them founded Rome in the place where they were once found. Romulus, who was the first augur, i.e. a priest who recognized the will of the gods by the flight of birds, saw 12 kites that foreshadowed Rome’s 12 centuries of glory. Having quarreled with Remus, he killed his brother and became the first king of Rome.

Since the neighbors did not want to marry their daughters to the infamous inhabitants of the new city, Romulus invited the Sabine community to a festival in honor of the god of the underground granary, Consa Consualia, during which the Romans abducted the Sabine girls. The war that began with the three cities where the abductees came from ended in peace at their request. Romulus shared power with the Sabine king Titus Tacius, and the two peoples merged into one-the Quirites – with common cults, priests, and customs. After the death of Titus Titus, Romulus ruled alone, and it is to him that tradition attributes the most important institutions in the life of the new city:

  • the division of the people into three tribes, 30 curia and each curia into 10 clans with the duty to supply soldiers to the legion, which numbered 3 thousand infantry and 300 horsemen,
  • the establishment of the senate,
  • the regulation of relations between patrons and clients,
  • the introduction of basic laws.

According to tradition, after a 37-year reign, Romulus suddenly disappeared and under the name of Quirinus was ranked among the gods. To what extent the history of Romulus and Titus Titus reflected real events, it is difficult to say, but it is significant that we have heard echoes of the myths about the founding of other Italian cities, strikingly similar to the Roman one.

Etruscan antefix depicting the head of a Gorgon Medusa. IV century BC.

Etruscan antefix depicting the head of a Gorgon Medusa. IV century BC.

Along with the influence of the Etruscans and Greeks, Italians also created their own traditions in art. Thus, in Campania, where Fortune was worshipped as a mother goddess, statuettes of women with children were found; among the Samnites, Mars and Hercules in the form of warriors prevailed. In ceramics and jewelry, Italians have achieved significant success. So, the early art of Rome absorbed various influences: Italian, Etruscan, Greek.

Archaeology about the foundation of Rome

The new excavations also clarify such an acute debatable issue as the date of the very emergence of Rome. According to legend, it was founded on April 21, the day of the feast of the shepherd goddess Palea, in 753 BC. And indeed, the first traces of settlement on the Palatine date back to the archaeologists of the VIII century BC. e. The inhabitants of Latium, including the future Romans, were then part of the union of Latin tribes, united by the cult of Jupiter Latiaris in Alba Longa and Diana on Oz. Nemi at Arricius’. Like other Italians, they lived in clans that settled in territorial communities-pagas, from the unification of which Rome arose. The communities remained independent for a long time, but gradually their public lands merged, common cults and single priestly colleges were created.

The social order of early Rome

The structure of life in archaic Rome was simple. At the head was an elected king, who combined the functions of high priest, military commander, legislator and judge, with which the senate was composed. The most important matters, including the election of the tsar, were decided by the people’s Assembly. The family continued to play a large role, but the main socio-economic unit became the family name-the totality of property and people under the authority of the father: wives, sons, grandchildren with their wives, unmarried daughters, slaves, clients. The father had the right to the life and death of members of the family, could sell them, except for his wife, dispose of their labor. Everything they acquired belonged to their father, and only he could enter into contractual relations.

He was also the high priest of the family cult of the Lares-the guardians of the house, the manor, the land of the family, the guardians of justice in intra-family relations. After the death of the father, the sons inherited the property and became legally full heads of the surnames. According to tradition, Romulus distributed two yugers (0.5 ha) of land to the heads of the surnames, apparently making up homestead plots. On public land, everyone could occupy a plot and, having begun to cultivate it, became its owner. If he did not cultivate it, the land was returned to the general fund, and it could be occupied by any other citizen. This rule was in effect throughout Roman history.

Religious and mythological views of the ancient Romans

The mythological and religious ideas of that era were simple. Thus, the two-faced god Janus was revered as the creator of the world that emerged from chaos, the creator of the firmament (a double bronze-roofed arch was erected to him in the Forum), as the god who multiplies the human race. His priest was the king himself. Fire and water were especially revered, and it is no accident that the oldest formula for expelling a person from the community was his “excommunication from fire and water”, which symbolized the unity of the communities. Of the oldest gods, besides Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus, others were worshipped. Special festivals were dedicated to Saturn, the god of crops, the goddess of the earth, who bore different names (Tellus, Telumo, Ops), the deities of crops, cereals and fruits-Ceres, Liber, Pomona, Flora, Robigo, Palea; celebrating the festival of Palea, shepherds jumped over bonfires and fumigated the sheep with sulfur.

Musicians. A fresco from the Etruscan necropolis in Tarquinia. V century BC.

Musicians. A fresco from the Etruscan necropolis in Tarquinia. V century BC.

The forest deities were fauns and sylvanas; the water deities were the nymphs Kamena and the prophetess Carmenta. The curia and pagi had their own cults. Of great importance in the life of the Romans were military campaigns against their neighbors in the struggle for land and booty. They started in March and ended in October. The Fezial priests declared war and made peace. At the beginning and end of the campaigns, a horse was sacrificed to Mars, a ritual purification of weapons and battle pipes was performed, and hymns to Mars were sung.

Etruscan rulers of Rome

In the VI century BC, under the last three Roman kings, who came from Etruria, many Etruscans moved to Rome. There was even a special Etruscan quarter. Sources attribute to the Etruscan kings drainage works, paving of streets, construction of bridges, a circus where games were held in honor of the gods, and the temple of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva on the Capitol. It was to the Capitol that the triumphant procession went, where he, dressed in the garb of the Etruscan kings, laid his golden wreath at the feet of Jupiter and offered sacrifices to him. The territory of the city expanded, and the population increased so much that Rome could already arm 600 horsemen and 6 thousand infantry, i.e. two legions operating on the model of the Greek phalanx. Rome became the head of the Latin Union, which included 47 communities. The cult of the goddess of the Latin Union, Diana of Arricia, was transferred here, and the temple on the Aventine was dedicated to her.

The reforms of Servius Tullius

The most prominent figure of the Roman kings was Servius Tullius, who was revered as a great reformer and benefactor of the people. Servius Tullius was credited with introducing the census and organizing the territorial tribes. The census divided the citizens into property classes, which formed the army and the people’s assemblies (centuriate comitia). 18 centurions were horsemen, the most noble and rich, who fought on horses, 80-people whose property allowed them to buy heavy weapons. This was followed by 90 centurions from 4 property classes, who were lightly armed for the war. To them were added 2 centuries of trumpeters and artisans, and the last was the century of the poor, “proletarians” who did not go to the army, because they could not buy weapons.

In the People’s Assembly, each century had one vote, and the decision was made when the majority of the centuries voted for it. The purpose of the qualification was to ensure, in the words of Aristotle, “geometric” or “proportional” equality: the “sum” of citizens ‘ rights was to be equal to the “sum” of their duties. The more noble and wealthy a citizen was, the more he was obliged to spend money for the general benefit. The Romans themselves assessed the reform of Servius Tullius as democratic, because it gave an opportunity to advance and a person who was not born, who had acquired a fortune by talent and hard work and moved to a higher property class. This reform weakened the influence of the ancestral nobility. Even more important in this regard was the division of the territory of Rome into tribes — 4 urban and 16 rural. Thus, the tribal organization gave way to the territorial one. As Rome conquered new lands, the number of tribes grew, eventually reaching a significant figure — 35.

The activities of Servius Tullius received the support of the lower classes, but aroused the hatred of the senators – “fathers”, who organized a conspiracy and killed him. However, his son-in-law and successor Tarquinius, nicknamed the Proud, continued the policy of Servius. He sought to develop crafts, trade and construction, and filled the Senate with representatives of less noble families.

Establishment of the Republic and formation of the Roman civil community

Detail of a fresco from the Etruscan necropolis in Tarquinia. IV century BC.

Detail of a fresco from the Etruscan necropolis in Tarquinia. IV century BC.

The overthrow of Tarquinius the Proud and the establishment of the power of the aristocrats

In 510 BC (traditional date) Tarquinius was driven out by the rebels under the leadership of Junius Brutus, the “zealots of freedom”, the defenders of the power of the senate, and the monarchy was replaced by an aristocratic republic. At this time, the process of constitution of the patrician and plebeian estates — the aristocracy and the common people-was particularly intensified. The overthrow of the monarchy was a triumph of the patricians and led to a struggle between the estates. Only the patricians were elected for a one — year term as consuls, who had the highest authority — the empire-both in peacetime and as commander-in-chief in time of war. From the patricians, the assistant consuls were also elected — praetors and quaestors, dictators, to whom, in special cases, absolute power was transferred for six months. Only the patricians could be priests who knew what days of the calendar were considered suitable for the convocation of the people’s assembly; only they knew the casuistry of legal proceedings, which made both the people’s assembly and the plebeians dependent on them in court.

The political dominance of the Patricians strengthened their economic position. They occupied large parts of the public land, while the plebeians, due to constant wars, crop failures, livestock deaths, the reduction of foreign and domestic trade and crafts, were ruined, and unpaid debtors were turned into slaves or sold into slavery over the Tiber. The estates were transformed into classes of large landowners, dependent farmers and slaves, and a state was formed where political power was concentrated in the hands of the ruling class. This process was accompanied by the struggle of the plebeians against the patricians. The plebeians demanded that the conquered lands should be divided among them, while the patricians wanted to join them to the public lands; the plebeians insisted on the abolition of debt bondage and debt slavery, sought access to magistracies and the priesthood, and the patricians stubbornly clung to their privileges. This struggle was intertwined with the constant wars of Rome with its neighbors. The Patricians could not ignore the fact that the plebeians were the legionary infantry, and this forced them to meet the demands of the plebeian masses.

First secession of the Plebeians

When the war with the Latin communities began in 494 BC, the plebeians refused to fight, retreated to the Sacred Mountain (the so — called first secession of the Plebeians) and agreed to return only when they received the right to choose from among the tribunes of the people-the defenders of the plebs. The tribunes of the people were given the right to veto the orders of the magistrates (with the exception of the dictator), to call the plebeians to meetings, to protect from injustice any plebeian who took refuge in their house. The person of the tribune was considered inviolable; anyone who attempted to kill the tribune of the people was cursed, and anyone could kill him. The reconciliation of the Patricians and Plebeians had important results: the Romans defeated the Latins and restored the rule of Rome.

Adoption of the ” Laws of the XII Tables»

However, the struggle between the patricians and the plebeians continued. The center of the plebs was the temple of Ceres, Liber, and Liber-a triad, as it were, opposed to the Capitoline triad of the patricians. The plebeians demanded written laws to combat the abuses of the patricians. They succeeded in getting the Decimvir commission elected. The laws written down and approved by the People’s Assembly (the” Laws of the XII Tables”) formed the basis for the further development of Roman law. To a large extent, they were based on customary law, although they also introduced many new things.

Dance. A fresco from the Etruscan necropolis. 5th century BC

Dance. A fresco from the Etruscan necropolis. 5th century BC

The debt law was confirmed, but an article was introduced in favor of the clients, which cursed the patron who had deceived the client. It was forbidden to grant anyone personal privileges, which affirmed the equality of citizens before the law. According to a special law, the territory of the Roman community was to remain only under its control. It was forbidden to transfer land to temples, which prevented the formation of an economically, and therefore politically, strong priesthood in Rome. The laws confirmed the right of citizens to occupy an abandoned plot, the owner of which they became after two years of use. This rule did not apply to foreigners: only a Roman citizen could own land on the territory of Rome. The alienation of the family’s property was also regulated. The inheritance usually passed to the sons, the closest male relatives or relatives.

If a person wanted to make a will and deprive his son of his inheritance, it had to be approved by the people’s Assembly. All this indicates the control of the community not only over public, but also over private property. In all ages in Rome, it was believed that a citizen, for the common good, should cultivate his land faithfully (a good farmer was synonymous with a good citizen), provide for children, give daughters a dowry so that they would marry and give birth to new citizens for the good of society. The “Laws of the XII Tables”, influenced by the most conservative patricians, prohibited marriages between patricians and plebeians, but this prohibition was abolished after a new secession of the plebs. To weaken the struggle of the plebeians for land, Rome began to establish colonies on the conquered lands, distributing plots there to the plebeians. In the V century BC, 10 colonies were founded, in the IV century BC — 15. The colonies were subject to the laws of Roman or Latin law, but their inhabitants could obtain Roman citizenship by moving to Rome. The colonies became conduits of Roman influence.

The war with the Gauls and the rise of the censorship

Successful wars established Roman power throughout Latium and in the south of Etruria. Now, however, a new danger threatened him. The Celtic tribes of the Gauls, advancing on the north of Italy, reached Latium by 390 BC, defeated the Romans at the Allia River, marched on Rome and took the city, looting the property of the inhabitants and burning buildings. Only the garrison of the Capitol, under the command of Manlius, surnamed Capitolinus, held out for seven months, until the Gauls, learning that the Veneti were advancing on their land, left, taking a ransom from Rome. The Roman victories gave them access to the grain and metals of Etruria, which strengthened their position. According to the censorship of the middle of the IV century. Before BC, there were already 255 thousand Roman citizens who could field 10 legions. Judging by the fact that in 357 BC a tax on manumission (the release of slaves) was introduced, their number was significant, and they were used in various jobs. The freedmen became Roman citizens, but without the right to hold magistracies and were obliged to perform various duties to the former master-patron.

Apollo of Wei. Terracotta. Etruria. VI century BC.

Apollo of Wei. Terracotta. Etruria. VI century BC.

The Italian Wars and the expansion of Rome

Wars made it necessary to make concessions to the plebs. In 367 BC, in connection with the new unrest, a law was passed, proposed by the tribunes of the people, Gaius Licinius and Lucius Sextius. According to it, one consul was to be elected from the plebeians; the situation of debtors was eased, it was forbidden to occupy more than 500 yugers (125 hectares) on public land, to graze more than 100 oxen and 500 sheep. According to the law of L. Genucius of 341 BC, both consuls could already be elected from the plebeians.

The entire second half of the fourth century BC was occupied by the wars of the Romans with the Lucanian and Samnite tribes who captured Capua.

By the end of the IV century BC, Rome in Italy owned an area of 20 thousand square kilometers, which allowed it to establish more and more colonies and increase the army of peasants who were ready to fight for new lands and production. The fighting capacity of the Roman army withstood the test and in the war with the king of Epirus Pyrrhus, called to the aid of the Greek cities of southern Italy. In the following years, the Romans captured all the cities of Magna Graecia. Although they were granted a certain degree of autonomy, they were obliged to supply Rome with warships. The Samnites and Etruscans were finally subdued.

Rome became the undisputed head of the federation of Italian cities and tribes. Gradually, the Italian cities adopted the Roman structure, mastered the language, and followed new cults. But the Romans also accepted the cults of the vanquished, following the ancient custom of ecocation-to invite the deity of a hostile city to go over to the side of the Romans, promising to build him a temple for this.

New victories of the plebs and the restriction of the power of the aristocrats

The plebs won one victory after another. In 326 BC, the law of Petelius and Papirius prohibited the enslavement of citizens and debt bondage. The unpaid debtor was now responsible for his property. His identity remained intact. It was forbidden to subject Roman citizens to torture and corporal punishment. According to the law of Publius Philo of 339 BC, confirmed by the law of Quintus Hortensius in 287 BC, the decisions taken by the assemblies of the plebs (plebiscites) received the force of law. The centuriate comitia were superseded by the meetings of the tribesmen (tributary comitia), in which there was no difference in the censor. The law of 311 BC gave the people the right to choose 16 of the 24 military tribunes. According to the plebiscite of the Ogulnii (300 BC), the plebeians were granted access to the priestly colleges, and the position of the head of the college of pontiffs — the great pontiff who supervised the administration of public and private cults-became elective.

The transformation of Rome into a civil community

As a result of the victories of the plebs, Rome became a civil community by the beginning of the third century BC. This was the most important historical event that determined the future history of Rome. The main features of the Roman civil community were the combination of collective and private land ownership in the presence of the supreme property of the community, the connection of the concepts of “citizen”, “warrior” and “farmer”, the equality of political and legal rights of citizens, the power of the people’s assembly in all important issues concerning both the collective of citizens and the individual citizen, the observance of the principle of “geometric equality” — the work of everyone for the common benefit, understood as the benefit of each citizen. The opportunities for the exploitation of fellow citizens as dependent workers, and even more so as slaves, were significantly reduced. This hastened the conversion of foreigners into slaves. The slaves were assigned to separate families, where they were supervised by the masters; the clients were freed, who now became equal citizens and owners of land plots. These measures hindered the process of establishing classes of large landowners and dependent farmers and the formation of a strong state apparatus.

The army, consisting of citizens, served only to suppress resistance from outside; there were no police and prosecutors: bringing a citizen to trial was a private matter for the plaintiff, who himself had to ensure the appearance of the defendant and witnesses in court and the execution of the sentence. The punishments provided for by the “Laws of the XII Tables” were gradually replaced by fines or banishment. In addition, the People’s tribune could personally intervene in the trial at any stage, veto and release the accused. Iron discipline reigned only in the army.


Religion played an important role in the life of the Roman civil community. She demanded the observance of the established rites, insisting that no business in public or private life should begin without asking the will of the gods. Every citizen was obliged to participate in the rites of his family name, the neighborhood community and the civil community. But unlike many other peoples, the Romans did not believe that their social order was sanctified by religion or that the gods had established moral norms and punished their violation. The highest sanction, the highest judge, was the approval or condemnation of fellow citizens. The role models were the “ancestors”, primarily the ancestors of noble families who performed feats for the glory of Rome.

Rome’s exit from Italy

A new era in the history of Rome began with the Punic Wars, when Rome moved beyond the borders of Italy. This process expressed the inevitable trend towards the political and economic unification of the slave states and the vast tribal world. This trend was dictated by the need to gain access to resources (metals, agricultural products) and facilitate exchange between regions. In addition, Rome sought to strengthen its economy by exploiting the tribes, transforming them from the “outer periphery” to the “inner one”.

The formation of the Roman Empire and the crisis of the Republic

Head of Brutus. Bronze. III century BC.

Head of Brutus. Bronze. III century BC.

First Punic War, capture of Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica

The peoples and tribes that Rome came into contact with were at different stages of socio-economic, political, and cultural development. The war with Carthage (the first Punic War-264-241 BC) was fought mainly for the domination of the lands of Sicily and access to the metals of Spain. It lasted for more than 20 years and ended in 241 BC with the victory of Rome over the Punic fleet under the command of Hamilcar Barca. Part of Sicily came under the rule of the Romans and became the first overseas Roman province, ruled by a Roman governor-commander of the occupation forces, and was obliged to pay Rome a tenth of the harvest and taxes on pastures. The Greek cities of Sicily were declared free and paid no taxes. Soon Rome captured Sardinia and Corsica, which became the second province.

The losses of the Romans in this war were great. They lost a total of 600 ships, the number of citizens for 30 years decreased by 20 thousand people. Yet in 229 BC, Rome was able to send 200 ships against the Illyrian pirates, capture the island of Kerkyra, and force the cities of Apollonia and Epidamnus to recognize their protectorate. In 225-218 BC, the Romans succeeded in defeating the Ligurian and Celtic tribes in northern Italy, forming a new province — Cisalpine Gaul, and establishing colonies there by allotting land to the poorest citizens. In the interests of the plebs, a secret ballot was introduced in the People’s Assembly. But, despite the internal democratization, the basis of Rome’s foreign policy was the support of the aristocracy among the tribes and peoples with whom it was at war. Victories were facilitated by the support of the pro-Roman nobility, who often betrayed the interests of their fellow citizens.

Second Punic War 218-201 BC

Meanwhile, the Carthaginians sought revenge. Actively preparing for war with Rome, the son of Hamilcar Barca, one of the most talented generals and diplomats of antiquity, Hannibal. He gathered forces in Spain and counted on an alliance with the Gauls and all those dissatisfied with Roman rule in Italy and Sicily, as well as an alliance with the king of Macedonia, Philip V, who feared the strengthening of Roman influence in the Adriatic.

The turning point in the history of the Mediterranean and of Rome itself was the Second Punic War. It demonstrated the ability of the Romans to recover from the most crushing defeats. The victories of Hannibal, who invaded Italy at Ticino, Trebia, and especially at Cannae on August 2, 216 BC, where 50 thousand Roman troops fell, the transition to his side of Capua, Tarentum and other cities in southern Italy and Sicily, the defeat of the Roman army sent to Spain, seemed to make the situation of Rome hopeless.

But the Romans managed to emerge victorious, acting both as skilled warriors (under the command of Fabius Maximus, they moved from open battles to the tactics of small skirmishes and “scorched earth”, exhausting the army of Hannibal), and as diplomats. They formed an alliance of the cities of Greece against Macedonia, and a part of the Iberian kings against the Carthaginians. Philip V was forced to make peace with them. Gradually, the cities of Italy and Sicily were recaptured. A young, exceptionally talented general, Publius Cornelius Scipio (the future victor of Hannibal, nicknamed African), landed in Spain, took New Carthage, which was considered impregnable, and drove the Carthaginians from the Iberian Peninsula. In 204 BC, he moved the war to Africa, where he made an alliance with the king of Numidia, Masinissa. Recalled from Italy, Hannibal met Scipio at the Battle of Zama (autumn 202 BC), was defeated, and fled to King Antiochus III. The Carthaginians had to accept peace on any terms: for 50 years they had to pay 600 million denarii, they issued war elephants and a fleet (except for 10 ships), they were forbidden to fight independently without the sanction of Rome.

Results of the Second Punic War

According to modern estimates, the second Punic War cost the Romans 200 million denarii, three times more expensive than the first. During this war, when the Romans had to maintain 36 legions and 150 ships, prices rose very much. 400 Italian settlements were destroyed, and many lands of Lucania and Apulia were turned into pastures. True, all of Sicily and the south of Spain, with its silver mines, were now Roman provinces. A brutal massacre of those who supported Hannibal began. Capua lost its land and the status of a city, 32 thousand inhabitants of Tarentum were sold into slavery, 40 thousand Ligurians were evicted in the vicinity of Beneventum. In Northern Italy, new colonies were founded, and the lands of local communities were joined to the Roman public land. They were opened to occupation for an annuity of 1/10 of grain and 1/5 of wood crops and for a pasture tax. The colonists received from 5 to 50 yugers, and in the colonies of veterans, the commanders were assigned 100-140 Yugers. All over Italy there was land surveying, construction of roads, bridges, and cities. Colonization and population displacement accelerated the Romanization of Italy, the spread of Roman cults, language, and urban structure with a senate and magistrates.

Changes in the economic structure of the company

The head of a man. Bronze. I century BC.

head of a man. Bronze. I century BC.

New sources of enrichment have opened up. The absence of a state apparatus led to the introduction of a system of taxes on taxes from the provinces, rents from public lands, the development of Spanish silver mines, where 40 thousand slaves were employed, for construction work. Since all this required an investment beyond the capacity of a single tax collector, tax collectors and contractors formed companies that included poor people, receiving income in accordance with the contributions. According to Polybius, almost the entire Roman people formed a sort of joint-stock company for the exploitation of the provinces and of Italy itself. The Roman economy began to develop rapidly. Not only large, but also medium-sized entrepreneurs, who invested mainly in the purchase of land, became rich. Wealthy people bought up estates-villas in different parts of Italy. The growth of the urban population created a market for agricultural products. The pursuit of profit has become universal. The need for money grew, which led to the development of usury, which was a heavy burden for the province.

The result of these processes was the spread of medium-sized villas (100-250 yugers) and large pastures throughout Italy.

  • The first produced grain, grapes, olives, vegetables, fruits;
  • the second — meat, milk, wool, processed by urban artisans.

Rapid growth in the number of slaves

Cities specialized in the production of various handicrafts. Additional labor was required, and the number of slaves grew. Since that time, in Rome and Italy as a whole, the slave-owning mode of production has been rapidly developing, reaching the highest peak for the times of antiquity. Slaves and slaveholders become the main antagonistic classes of Roman society.

Changes in agriculture

The villa with 10-15 slaves was described by Cato in his treatise on agriculture. He has everything strictly regulated: the number and ration of slaves, the production standards, the duties of the manager-vilik, the conditions for hiring temporary labor during the cold season and for construction, the advantages of buying inventory in a particular city. Some historians believed that Cato’s villa was a kind of analogue of the capitalist enterprise, but his treatise clearly shows the sharp difference between simple commodity and capitalist production. With the goal not of accelerating the turnover of capital, not of expanding reproduction, but of hoarding, a good owner should sell, not buy, Cato taught. The owner tried to produce everything on his estate. It is unlikely that such a villa gave an income comparable to the income from sea trade, payoffs, usury. But compared to a small peasant farm, the slave-owning villa had a number of advantages. Simple cooperation and division of labor increased its efficiency. You could buy the best tools — plows, presses for olives and grapes, etc. The spread of villas contributed to the rise of agriculture.

The position of the slaves

Slavery began to penetrate into the craft. The increasing role of slaves in production affected their position. According to the law of Aquilius, they were equated with cattle: for the damage caused by a slave, the master was responsible in the same way as for the damage caused by a quadrupedal; for the crimes of a slave committed on the orders of the master, the master was responsible. The relationship of the slaves was not recognized: a slave could have a cohabitant, but not a wife. It was believed that he did not have a father. The owner of the villa supported the working capacity of the slaves, as well as the working cattle, but the slave was not considered a person. In the cities, the situation of the slaves was somewhat better. The lords sometimes gave them a small property (peculi), allowed them to work on the side; they could even save money for a ransom. The city slaves were more easily associated with the free, attended shows, participated in the colleges of the plebeians, but even here the slaves were despised, and they generally remained outside of society.

New territorial seizures by Rome

The benefits gained from the war with Carthage pushed the Romans to further expand to the east and west. In the east, the Romans intervened in the affairs of the Hellenistic states. Having lured the Illyrians and Greek cities to their side, Roman troops under the command of Titus Quinctius Flamininus defeated Philip V in 197 BC. Flamininus at the Isthmian Games declared “freedom” to the Greek cities, for which the Greeks ranked him among the gods.

In 189 BC, Antiochus III was defeated. In 148 BC, after suppressing a revolt in Macedonia, the Romans turned it into their province. Two years later, M. Mummius destroyed Corinth. Only Athens, Sparta, and Delphi retained their freedom, while the rest of the Greek cities were subordinated to the governor of Macedonia. Finally, in the same year 146, after the brief Third Punic War, Scipio Africanus ‘ grandson Scipio Aemilianus destroyed Carthage, cursing the land of that eternal rival of Rome. All the possessions of Carthage made up the Roman province of Africa. According to the will of a friend of Rome, the Pergamon king Attalus III, the Romans received his kingdom-the province of Asia. The conquests of the second century BC revolutionized the life of Rome. Despite the military expenditures, the influx of booty and taxes was so great that the government ceased to resort to tributes.

New changes in the socio-political structure of society

Fresco of the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii. The second half of the first century BC.

Fresco of the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii. The second half of the first century BC.

The socio-political structure of society is changing. The nobility is distinguished — a circle of noble families that appropriated monopolies on magistracies; the second privileged class, the horsemen, is gradually formed. To it belonged people rich and noble. Sometimes military tribunes, prominent citizens of Italian cities, famous orators, and lawyers were also included here. Although the senators and the horsemen belonged to the same class of large proprietors (often to the same noble family), a rivalry began between them for the right to exploit the provinces — the ability to plunder them as tax collectors or governors.

At the same time, differentiation among the plebeians also increased. The rural plebs, distracted from their farms by constant wars and suffering from the seizure of their land plots, went bankrupt, lost land, and fell into debt bondage. The combat capability of the army was undermined, discipline fell. The urban plebs, engaged in handicrafts, small-scale trade, and construction work, were less interested in land than in cheap food, and in reducing the high rent for housing. For him, it was extremely important to strengthen the power of the people’s assembly and the people’s tribunes to limit the power of the Senate and the nobility.

Changes in the culture of ancient Rome

Great changes were taking place in the culture of Roman society. The complexity of economic and political life created a need for educated people who could become assistants and agents of the magistrates-governors of the provinces, to lead the multiplying craft workshops. These needs were met by “importing” educated Greek slaves. Relations with all the regions of the Mediterranean have expanded and strengthened. At the same time, the opposition to Rome in the conquered countries led to the spread of prophecies that predicted the imminent fall of Rome and the conversion of the Romans into slavery. The Greeks secretly despised the Romans, considering them cruel barbarians. The most far-sighted Roman politicians, among whom the leading role was played by the Scipios and their entourage (“Philellines”), understood that such a reputation undermines the authority of the Romans.

They began to study Greek, literature, and philosophy. They bought educated Greek slaves (it is known, for example, that the Greek grammarian Daphnides was bought for 700 thousand sesterces, while the average slave cost about 2 thousand) to teach their children. Many of these slaves then gained their freedom, becoming famous as rhetoricians, grammarians, writers, and opened schools for the children of the plebeians. Literacy began to spread among the people and even among the slaves. Rich men sent their sons to Athens, Ephesus, and other cities in Greece and Asia Minor to listen to the lectures of famous orators and philosophers. Some of them moved to Rome, such as the historian Polybius, the philosophers Posidonius and Panetius, who were friendly friends in the circle of the Scipios who headed the Philellines. The Roman nobles began to write for the Greeks and in Greek the history of Rome, in order to prove the virtues of the Romans, the relationship of the Romans to the Trojans, and thus to the Greek world, going back to Aeneas. Trojan and Greek heroes were credited with founding a number of Italian cities. In turn, the Greeks, reconciled to the rule of Rome, proved the commonality of Greek and Roman institutions, cults, and customs.

The historian Polybius

Polybius did much to promote the great mission of Rome. He wrote the History of the World, or rather the history of the Roman wars and victories, due not only to the Roman virtues, but also to their perfect political system, combining the advantages of the monarchy (represented by the magistrates), the aristocracy (represented by the Senate) and democracy (represented by the people’s assembly). The ideal political system, uniting citizens, granting everyone the rights that befitted him while respecting his duties, the worship of the gods, honesty, patriotism, make Rome, according to him, invincible, the only one capable of creating a vast power and governing it for its own benefit.

Polybius ‘ thoughts responded to the unflagging interest of the Greeks in questions of political organization and attracted their attention. For the Romans, they formed the basis of their political concepts. Educated Romans were introduced to the Greek schools of philosophy. Along with philosophy, Hellenistic science was also mastered. According to Polybius, every military commander should know astronomy in order to determine the time, duration of day and night, and to be able to predict solar and lunar eclipses from the constellations. Varro in his agronomic treatise, indicating with the sunrise of which constellation one should begin certain works, believed that not only the owner, but also the vilik should be able to determine the sunrise of the constellations.


Under the influence of the Greeks, oratory was perfected, which was necessary for winning disputes in popular assemblies and courts. The ability to persuade required knowledge of logic and psychology to influence the emotions of the listeners. An interest in psychology became one of the hallmarks of Roman culture. The law was developed, which has become very complicated since the time of the “Laws of the XII Tables”. The pontiffs developed and refined the details of worship and ritual.

Fresco of the Villa of the Mysteries. I c. BC.

Fresco of the Villa of the Mysteries. I c. BC.

Worship of the gods

During the Second Punic War, partly to encourage the citizens to hope for the help of the gods, vows were made, games were established; partly to draw closer to their Greek allies, the Senate began to include in the pantheon of foreign gods-Venus Erucina, named after her famous temple on Mount Erixe in Sicily, the great mother of the gods Cybele, worshipped in Pergamum on Mount Ida, the god of healing Aesculapius. The festival in honor of Saturn-Saturnalia – was transformed on the model of the Greek Kronia, reminiscent of the golden age of abundance and equality. The masters treated their slaves, who, along with the free ones, participated in the carnival festival. Gladiator games were becoming increasingly popular.

Theatrical performances

According to the Greek model, stage performances were rebuilt. A whole galaxy of talented playwrights and poets appeared in Rome, mostly from foreigners, freedmen and the common people. The authors usually took Greek tragedies and comedies as models. Unfortunately, only fragments of a large number of works have come down to us. True, the comedies of Plautus and Terence have been completely preserved. Terentius (circa 195-159 BC) was a freedman, but despite this, he was accepted in the circle of Scipios. His comedies, written in refined language, seemed boring to the general public. The comedies of Plautus, a native of the lower classes (about 254-184 BC), were extremely popular. He, like Terentius, took Greek comedies as a basis, filling them with many details borrowed from Roman folklore, everyday life, judicial practice, and amusing the audience with jokes. The main character of the comedies of Plautus was a clever, inexhaustible slave, who usually helped the master’s son to deceive his avaricious father, to extort money from him. Each character in the comedy was supposed to perform in a suit and wig that matched his character. The performances were accompanied by playing the flute. Plays from Roman life were also staged — the so-called togatas, in contrast to the Greek “palliates”. In the “palliates” the slave could be smarter than the master, in the “togats” – no. On Italian soil, there were “atellans” (from the name of the Campanian city of Atella) with masked characters: a fool, a glutton, a cheat, a miser.

Numerous were the tragedies written on the subjects of Greek myths. Tradition has preserved the name of one of the first tragedians, a native of Tarentum, a freedman of Livy Andronicus (about 284-204 BC), who also translated the Odyssey into Latin. The tragedies of Ennius, Pacuvius, Actium, etc. are known. Reading and listening to their works, the Romans became acquainted with Greek myths, began to identify their gods with the Greek ones, and resorted to short aphorisms borrowed from Greek philosophers. Naevius, a participant in the First Punic War (circa 270-200). He wrote an epic poem about the war, beginning with the wanderings of Aeneas. The work of Ennius, a native of Rudia, was diverse. He wrote many tragedies, “Annals” – a history of Rome in verse, full of patriotism, translated the” Sacred Chronicle ” of Euhemerus, who proved that the gods are ancient kings and heroes. The poet Lucilius (circa 180-102 BC), who was close to the Philellines, wrote satires, ridiculing the passion for luxury and the pursuit of profit.

To get acquainted with the Greek culture, not only the nobility, but also the people, the accumulation in Rome of paintings and statues exported from Greek cities, which were displayed in squares and temples and served as models for Roman masters, was of great importance. Books were also imported to Rome: Aemilius Paulus, for example, brought the library of King Perseus. The cultural horizon was expanding, Rome was getting acquainted with the traditions of other peoples and assimilating them.

Contradictions and divisions in the cultural environment

However, not only in the socio-economic and political spheres, but also in the field of culture, a split began. In the higher strata, contempt for the common people grew. Lucilius defined virtue as knowledge available only to an educated person. This concept, recognized at the top, was expressed by the following aphorism: “Virtue is wisdom, but the plebs do not have it.”

Lucilius argued that one should seek approval only from people of refinement and education, and not from the crowd. Poets and playwrights, as inferior people, sought the patronage of noble families, became their clients, accompanied their patrons on campaigns and praised their victories. Thus, Scipio Africanus was credited with the origin of Jupiter itself. Ennius dedicated poems to him, expressing enthusiastic admiration. Roman generals became patrons of various cities and tribes in the provinces, temples were dedicated to them, and inscriptions were carved in their honor. Arrogance and individualism grew among the nobility.

All this could not fail to provoke a reaction both among the upper classes and among the plebs. One of the forms of struggle was considered by the opposition to oppose the Hellenic culture. The leader of the opposition was Cato, one of the few commoners who had risen to the rank of consul and censor. Among the plebeians, he enjoyed the reputation of an indomitable zealot of the ” mores of the ancestors.” His personal and political feuds with the Scipios were supplemented by a struggle against luxury and fame. He actively opposed the opposition of his own good to the public good. Cato and his associates were particularly hostile to Greek philosophy and rhetoric. They believed that these sciences ” corrupt young men.” Greek philosophers and rhetoricians were repeatedly expelled from Rome, but these measures, of course, could not stop the penetration of Hellenistic culture, just as they could not stop the natural historical process.

Feature of the culture of Rome

The culture brought to Rome from the cities of Greece and Asia Minor was no longer Hellenic, which was formed on the basis of the classical polis, but Hellenistic, which was formed in states with monarchical rule, which destroyed the collective, communal worldview characteristic of the polis. Rome, though becoming the head of a vast power, still retained the features of an ancient civil community. At least in the minds of the majority of its citizens, there were still values sanctified by the “Roman myth”. And neither the stoic doctrine of the equality of all men could agree with them, since the Romans did not recognize their equality not only with slaves, but also with Peregrines, nor the doctrine of indifference to everything except virtue and vice, since a Roman citizen could not neglect the fate of Rome, and virtue and vice were determined not by the personal judgment of the” wise man”, but by public opinion, corresponding to the

The Epicurean thesis “to live unnoticed”, away from public life, could not be accepted, since the duty of the Roman was to participate in the life of society, as befits a citizen, a soldier, the father of a family name, who is obliged to increase its wealth as part of the wealth of the entire citizenship. The skepticism of the New Academy of Platonists, who denied the criteria of truth and the possibility of being sure of something, could undermine faith in enduring values. And so it was not for nothing that Cato expelled from Rome the platonist Carneades, who demonstrated his ability to prove the exact opposite (he made a speech “for” and “against” justice), and the Senate sometimes closed the rhetorical schools, where, as many thought, the Greek rhetoricians taught young men the ability to prove something false, so that, speaking in court, to save the criminal from the deserved punishment. Pythagoreanism, with its aristocracy and complex mathematical theories of the universe accessible only to the “chosen”, was also alien to the ideology of the people of that time. The opposition to Hellenistic influences was essentially the opposition of a communal, collectivist ideology against the ethics of individualism. The latter found sympathy with those nobles who, as victorious generals, claimed a special position and in Rome felt constrained by the narrow and severe norms of their “ancestors”.

Slave revolts

The contradictions between the social strata became even more acute when, with the increase in the number of slaves and the increase in their exploitation, the resistance of the slaves began to take dangerous forms. Several outbreaks of unrest among them occurred in the first half of the second century BC. In the 80s, slave shepherds rebelled in Apulia, but were suppressed. The real threat to the slave owners was the slave revolt in Sicily that began in 138 BC. The landowners of this province were particularly cruel in their exploitation of slaves, mostly from Syria and Asia Minor. Under the leadership of the Syrian Eunus, they rebelled.

Eunus was considered a prophet, and he was elected king under the name of Antiochus. Another revolt was led by the Cilician Cleon, who joined forces with Eunus. The centers of the uprising were the cities of Enna and Tauromenius. The rebel detachments grew rapidly as the peasants joined them. The Roman armies sent against Eunus and Cleon were defeated. Only in 132 BC did they manage to take the rebellious cities, and then at the cost of treachery.

Slaves rebelled on Delos, Chios, and Attica. It was only with great effort that the authorities managed to suppress their speeches.

Social reforms of the Gracchi

Revolts by slaves and the rural poor threatened the strength of the Roman Republic. Some of the nobles began to understand the need for reforms that could revive the peasant army and unite the citizens. Among them was Tiberius Gracchus, a man of noble birth, the maternal grandson of Scipio Africanus, a disciple of the Greek philosopher Blossius, a participant in the wars in Spain, where he saw firsthand the deplorable state of the Roman army. Elected for 133 BC. As a tribune of the people, he proposed a bill that would allow no more than 500 yugers to be occupied on public land (plus another 250 yugers for two adult sons). The surplus was seized and distributed in plots of 30 yugers among the poor. In essence, the bill did not go against the tradition that recognized the civil community as the supreme ownership of land and the right to dispose of it. But he encountered resistance from the large landowners represented by the Senate.

However, the people’s Assembly, which was attended by many peasants, adopted the law and chose a commission to implement it. But when Tiberius ran for the tribune of the people for a second term, his opponents mobilized all their forces, accusing Gracchus of intending to become king. On the day of the vote, his enemies brought their supporters and clients. It ended in a real massacre. Tiberius and 300 of his defenders were killed.

In 124 BC, Tiberius ‘ brother Gaius Gracchus was elected tribune of the people. He tried to create a broad front from various social strata, opposing it to the Senate. In favor of the urban plebs, he passed the so-called frumentary law to reduce the price of wheat for the poor; the project of a new road construction was to give wages to contractors and employees; in favor of tax collectors and horsemen, a law was passed on the tithing of the new province of Asia and on the participation of horsemen in the courts. The peasants had to satisfy the law, which limited military service to 17 years, provided weapons at the expense of the state and extended the right of appeal to the people’s Assembly to the soldiers. Gaius also proposed the establishment of colonies in Capua, Tarentum, and Carthage, with allotments of 200 yugers to the colonists.

Finally, he came up with a proposal to grant citizenship to the allies. But this is exactly what the Roman plebs did not like, who did not want to share their rights and advantages with the “foreigners” — the Italians. The opposition began agitating against Gaius, accusing him of neglecting the curse placed on the land of Carthage. At the people’s assembly, there was a clash between supporters and opponents of Guy. The Consul Opimius, with extraordinary powers, led a detachment of hired Cretan riflemen against the Gracchans. Three thousand of Gaius ‘ followers were killed, and he ordered his slave to kill himself.

The commission, having managed to endow land plots from 50 to 75 thousand families, was dissolved, and according to the law of 111 BC, the land, both received from the commission and occupied by that time in Italy and the provinces, was declared private regardless of the area of the estate, i.e. not subject to rent and not subject to redistribution. The frumentary and judicial laws were preserved, and the participation of the horsemen in the courts made the trials a weapon in the struggle of various groups.

But it was no longer possible to restore the Roman community of peasants and warriors, to which the efforts of the Gracchi were ultimately directed.

The reforms of Gaius Marius, who raised the army and destroyed the civil community

The war that began in 111 BC with Masinisa’s grandson Jugurtha, who claimed the Numidian throne, showed how far the disintegration of the Roman army and its command staff had gone. During this war, Marius and Sulla advanced, who played a huge role in the fate of the Roman Republic. Gaius Marius came from a small village near Arpinus and began his military career under the patronage of Caecilius Metellus, whose client was his father. The help of Metellus, personal bravery, and then marriage to a woman from the noble family of Julius (the sister of Julius Caesar’s father) — all this helped Marius to make a career that would seem impossible for a non-noble person. After passing all the magistracies, he was elected consul in 107 BC (then he was elected consul 7 more times) and carried out a military reform. From now on, everyone could join the army, regardless of the qualification, so that in addition to the salary and spoils of war, soldiers who retired after 20 years of service had a land plot. The agrarian question received a new color: the poor who served in the army fought for land plots, and the army defended its interests much more effectively than the people’s Assembly. At the same time, the veterans expected to receive land allotments from their commander, and not from the Roman people. The soldiers ‘ connection to the civilian community was weakening. But their dependence on the army commander, who defended their interests before the government, was strengthened. The traditional connection between the concepts of “warrior” and “citizen” was broken: now not every citizen was obliged to be a warrior. All this testified to the crisis of Rome as a civil community. The only real force was the army. Previously, it was directed outward, but the reform of Mary made it able to operate within Rome.

Marius introduced an iron discipline in the army and changed its structure, defeated Jugurtha, who fled to the Moorish king Bocchus. The Quaestor Maria, a descendant of the noble family of Cornelius Sulla, was sent to negotiate the extradition of Jugurtha. He achieved the extradition of Yugurta, thus marking the beginning of his dizzying career. The army of Marius with honor withstood another test — the war with the invading German tribes of the Cimbri and Teutons in Gaul and Northern Italy, who inflicted a number of defeats on the Romans, but in the end were defeated by Marius, who took 150 thousand prisoners.

Formation of two camps in Roman society-optimates and populars

In 101 BC, Marius ‘ colleague in the consulship, Aquilius, suppressed a new three-year slave revolt in Sicily.

Like the first, a new revolt in Sicily led to the revival of the plebs movement. In the first century BC, there were two trends in the political life of Rome, called

  • optimates (analogous to the Greek term “aristoi” — the best), they defended the power of the senate and the nobility
  • populars (corresponding to the Greek concept of “leaders of the people”) advocated agrarian and other laws in favor of the plebs, for strengthening the power of the people’s tribunes and the people’s assembly

The speeches of the populars found a response in various layers. Among the plebs, legends came to life about the Roman kings-lovers of the people, and especially about Servius Tullius, who freed the people from dependence; Fortune, who humiliated the high — ranking and exalted the common people, and Lares, the guarantors of justice, the defenders of the little man and the slaves, were especially revered. In the quarterly colleges dedicated to their cult, plebeians and slaves were united.

In the late second and early first centuries BC, Marius was the leader of the populars. His demand to grant land to veterans met with opposition from the Senate, which threatened to nullify his military reform and undermine his personal authority. New unrest broke out. Thanks to the votes of the veterans, in 100 BC, the People’s Assembly passed a law establishing colonies for them in Gaul, Sicily, Macedonia and Africa. But Marius ‘ involvement in the suppression of the unrest undermined his popularity, and he had to retire to Asia.

The Allied War and the Italians ‘ acquisition of Roman citizenship

The Optimates temporarily won, but the tense situation remained. Italians began to demand Roman citizenship. Having received the refusal of the Senate, they rebelled. The so-called Allied War began, lasting from 91 to 88 BC. On the side of the rebels were the poor tribes of Italy; Rome remained loyal to the large landowners, citizens of the colonies and Greek cities. The rebels, seizing the colonies, killed the Romans and the local nobility; the common people and freed slaves were enlisted in their army, which already numbered up to 100 thousand people. Rome had to resort to hiring troops of Spaniards, Gauls, Numidians. The Roman army failed to succeed, and Rome had to make concessions. In 89 BC, all of Italy south of the Po River was granted Roman citizenship.

All the inhabitants of Italy were now Roman citizens, which meant that the People’s Assembly of Rome had practically lost its role. The link between citizenship in a community and the right to own land on its territory has also disappeared. Now everyone in Italy could own land anywhere. New citizens became available to serve in the legions, for which they received land, and the influence of the commanders-in-chief spread throughout Italy. It’s completely romanized.

The First War with Mithridates Eupator

t the situation in the provinces remained difficult. A war broke out with the king of Pontus, Mithridates Eupator. He captured almost the entire Black Sea coast and a significant part of Asia. In the provinces, Mithridates was accepted as a liberator. At his call, the inhabitants of Asia Minor in one day killed 80 thousand Romans, Italians, their freedmen and slaves who lived there.

The question of who would command in the war with Mithridates led to a civil war in Rome itself. The Senate wanted to entrust the command to Sulla, who had already proved himself a talented general. The populars also nominated Marius. A war broke out between the supporters and the armies of both, during which Rome changed hands many times, and each time the capture of the city was accompanied by a massacre of the opponents. Finally, Sulla won the command of the war with Mithridates, defeated his army, regained the lost provinces, made peace with Mithridates, returned to Italy and captured Rome.

Sulla’s repression

Appointed by the dictator, he published the lists of persons who were to be executed, and their property — proscriptions. Those who denounced the fugitive proskripta received a reward, and the slaves-freedom. Of the 10,000 such slaves freed by Sulla (they were named Cornelius), he organized his own personal guard. The confiscated property was sold at auction to the supporters of Sulla (among them were also Crassus and Pompey), who made themselves huge fortunes. Supporters of Marius (he himself had died by that time) were executed on the Champ de Mars, and many cities were destroyed. 120 thousand veterans of Sulla received the lands of the repressed persons and cities. The number of senators increased at the expense of the Sullans from 300 to 600.

The power of the tribunes of the people was limited, but the power of the provincial governors became absolute. The riders were barred from participating in the trials. Sulla introduced extraordinary courts that tried and committed serious crimes. The dictatorship of Sulla was a step towards the creation of a state apparatus. But the social base of Sulla’s dictatorship was narrow: horsemen, businessmen, plebeians, landowners who had lost their estates, and provincials were opposed to him. According to Cicero, even the name “Romans”was hated in the provinces. The war with Mithridates had shown that the people of the province were ready to revolt at the first opportunity.

It is no accident that immediately after the death of Sulla in 79 BC, new troubles began. In Spain, the Marian Sertorius, who was popular among the Spanish tribes, established himself. With an army consisting of Spaniards and Marians who had fled to him, Sertorius inflicted a series of defeats on Pompey. Only after the treacherous murder of Sertorius was his army completely defeated. But in 73 BC, a new war with Mithridates began. The commander of the Roman army, L. Lucullus, initially won a number of victories, took the capital of Mithridates, Sinope, and a huge booty. However, further progress was halted due to the outbreak of mutinies in his army.

The Rise of Spartacus

In 74 BC, during the failures on the external fronts and in the midst of internal troubles, a slave revolt broke out under the leadership of Spartacus, a Thracian who was given to gladiators for refusing to serve in the Roman auxiliary troops that the kings of Thrace supplied to Rome. Ancient writers characterized Spartacus as a talented commander and a brilliant organizer. With seventy companions, he escaped from the gladiatorial school at Capua; soon rural slaves from Campania, and then from other parts of Italy, began to flock to him. The army of Spartacus grew rapidly, reaching a huge number-80, and according to other estimates, even 100 thousand people. The Roman troops suffered one defeat after another. Roman historians believed that Spartacus ‘ goal was to lead the slaves beyond the Alps, into free Gaul.

And indeed, at first, Spartacus triumphantly fought his way to the north of Italy. At the city of Mutin (modern. Modena), he defeated the army of the governor of Cisalpine Gaul, opening the way to the Alps. But then, instead of crossing them, he turned back. The reasons for this decision are unclear. Some modern historians believe that divisions began among the rebels, while others believe that Spartacus intended to take Rome from the very beginning. At any rate, he marched south and defeated the army of the two consuls at Picenum. Then the Senate sent against him the praetor M., who was invested with extraordinary powers. Licinius Crassus, to whose aid Lucullus and Pompey were summoned from Spain. Spartacus went further south, hoping to cross to Sicily with the help of pirates and raise slaves there. However, the pirates deceived him, and in the spring of 71 BC, despite the courageous resistance in Apulia, the rebels were defeated by the army of Crassus. Spartacus himself died in battle, the remnants of his army were finished off by Pompey’s soldiers, 6 thousand people were crucified along the Appian Way. The revolt of Spartacus showed that the slaves, primarily rural ones, had become a large and hostile class to the masters, which required strong state power to suppress.

Complication of the social structure of society

The struggle was not only between slaveholders and slaves, but also between peasants and large landowners, united in the classes of senators and horsemen. The focus of attention was again on the agrarian question, which at this time took a slightly different form. Veterans and the poor demanded allotments and guarantees against the seizure of their plots. Large owners opposed the redistribution of land. Their estates of many thousands of Yugers were cultivated mainly by tenants-colonists who were in their clientele, bonded debtors, chained slaves.

Agricultural industry

From the work of the Roman scholar Varro on agriculture, we know how much more complex its organization was compared to the time of Cato. The accumulation of experience and knowledge, the division of labor in different branches of agriculture, the system of punishments and rewards, and the separation of the functions of the significantly increased administrative staff of the villa affected.


In the cities, especially in Rome, the number of artisans of various specialties who worked to order and for sale grew, craft colleges multiplied, and quite large workshops arose. The demand for luxury goods was met by jewelers, coiners, perfumers, fabric dyers. Many slaves and freedmen, often Greeks, worked in these industries. Free — born plebeians worked in the original crafts — blacksmithing, carpentry, and cloth-making. Numerous architects, painters, and construction workers from freemen and slaves were employed in the construction of public and private buildings.


Construction equipment has improved significantly. The Romans learned to erect vaults and domes, which allowed them to increase the size of buildings. The discovery of a method for making concrete made it possible to give the walls a smooth surface and paint it with murals with monumental figures and landscapes. Specially trained slaves surrounded the homes of the rich with gardens. Multi-storey buildings were also built. They sold not only luxury goods, but also food, clothing, shoes, wood and metal products. The achieved level of socio-economic development became incompatible with the order of the old, peasant Rome, which turned into the center of a huge power.

The growing crisis in Roman society

The republic, ruled by a nobleman who had grown rich by plundering the provinces and by a few people who attended the popular assemblies, could neither solve the pressing issues of the time, nor create a broader base of Roman power in the provinces. Nor could it include a new army in the old system. The Senate, realizing that it was necessary to keep the old lands in subjection and to conquer the new ones, at the same time constantly came into conflict with the commanders-in-chief, and therefore with the army, when it came to allotting land to veterans. The commander-in-Chief, in order not to lose his authority, had to rely on the people’s Assembly in this matter, and therefore make concessions to the plebs.

Fall of the Senate Republic

The Rise of Pompey

Another conflict broke out in 70 BC, when the optimate Pompey and the Sullanian Crassus won the consulship. Interested in the support of the plebs, they repealed the laws of Sulla, removed 64 Sullans from the Senate, restored the power of the tribunes of the people, and transferred the courts to a commission of senators, horsemen, and tribunes of the erar from the rich plebeians. The populars revived again. One of their leaders was the nephew of Marius, who returned from exile, Gaius Julius Caesar. At the funeral of his aunt — Marius ‘ wife-he gave a speech on his merits, and then restored to the Forum the trophies of Marius that Sulla had removed. In 63 BC, Caesar was elected grand pontiff; as praetor, he generously entertained the people and spoke at the trials of prominent Sullans. At the same time, Cicero began his career by opposing the governor of Sicily, Verres.

Julius Caesar. Marble. The first half of the first century BC.

Julius Caesar. Marble. The first half of the first century BC.

But events were developing in such a way that it was necessary to reconcile the Senate with Pompey. In 67 BC, he was given extraordinary powers to fight the pirates, and then to end the war with Mithridates. In 63 BC, he triumphantly ended the war and began to arrange affairs in the East. The province of Syria was formed; the kings of the other eastern regions were arbitrarily removed by Pompey, and new ones were appointed in their place. He founded 40 polis, increasing the powers of their magistrates. As a result of Pompey’s conquests, the revenue of the Roman treasury increased by 70%. He became a true hero, and in Asia even his freedmen were honored as kings. In 62 BC, Pompey returned to Italy.

The struggle in Rome and the first Triumvirate

Meanwhile, it was restless here. In 64 BC, Cicero became consul. His rival L. Sergiy Catilina, previously suspected of behind-the-scenes activities, organized the plot. Different segments of the population were involved in it.

  • the aristocrats and urban plebeians who owed money to the usurers wanted a debt cassation;
  • The peasants, who had organized a detachment in Etruria under the command of a certain Manlius, demanded the abolition of debt bondage.

Cicero knew of the plot, but he did not have enough evidence to not only make speeches against Catiline, but also to take active action. But he did get a letter from the Catilinarians to the Allobrog ambassadors in Rome, calling for an insurrection. This was already treason to the fatherland, and Cicero ordered the arrest of the active leaders of the conspiracy. Catilina himself joined Manlius, but was killed in the battle. The case of the conspirators was tried in the Senate, and, despite the protests of Caesar, they were sentenced to death.

We know of Catalina only from the speeches of Cicero and from the writings of Sallust, who regarded Catiline as the representative of a thoroughly depraved nobility. Therefore, it is difficult to form a true picture of it and its movement. In any case, he was followed by a part of the plebs, and his failure most likely indicates the weakness of the latter. The plebs could not even oppose the dissolution of the colleges ordered by the Senate. On the other hand, the strength of the Senate’s resistance has also weakened. When Pompey was denied the grant of land to his veterans and the approval of his orders in the East, he entered into an agreement with Crassus and Caesar, who had returned from his governorship in Spain.

In this alliance, which later became known as the first triumvirate, they united against the Senate. –

  • Pompey’s army,
  • Crassus ‘ close big businessmen,
  • populars who recognized Caesar as their leader

The triumvirs secured the election of Caesar as consul in 59 BC, who, despite the opposition of the Senate, led by Marcus Cato, the great-grandson of Cato the Censor, passed a law to grant Pompey’s veterans plots of public land. After the end of the consulship, Caesar was granted the governorship of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum for a five-year term, with the right to recruit five legions.

Clodius ‘ activities

Apparently, by this time, Caesar was convinced that the mainstay of a political figure could only be the army, and not a poorly organized plebs. The weakness of the plebs, even more than the failure of Catiline, was evidenced by the movement of Clodius, who was elected tribune of the people in 58 BC. After starting his career by inciting the revolt of Lucullus ‘ soldiers, Clodius returned to Rome and joined Caesar. With his help, he went from Patrician to plebeian and was elected tribune of the people. According to Cicero, Clodius acted as a demagogue and a candidate for tyrant. After restoring the plebeian colleges of the cult of Lares, he recruited plebeians, freedmen, and slaves, and terrorized the optimates and Pompey himself. He passed a law that required 300,000 plebeians to receive grain for nothing, and got Cicero expelled for illegally executing the Catilinarians without appeal to the people’s Assembly. Frightened optimates surrounded themselves with gladiator guards, and magistrate elections were often disrupted. However, Clodius achieved practically nothing. He gradually retired and in 52 BC was killed by the slaves of his enemy Milo.

Breaking traditional family name ties

The plebs, divided into rural and urban, could not live up to the hopes placed on them by populars like Sallust. All these events and social-class shifts reflected changes in all spheres of life. Luxury has reached its limit. In the houses of the nobility there were several hundred slaves-servants, artisans, accountants, librarians, secretaries, readers, musicians. Each slave had his own specialty: one served the table, another invited guests to a feast to the master, a third baked pies, a fourth prepared dishes for the table, etc. It was considered bad form to assign different duties to one slave. Huge amounts of money were spent on the clothes and jewelry of “fashionable ladies”. The old mores have changed radically. Divorces became more frequent, noble women started love affairs. The authority of the fathers weakened, the sons actually managed their own property. Even the slaves, who now received shops and workshops in Peculia, lived independently, broke away from their surnames, and became close to the urban plebs.

Roman cultural life of the first century BC.

Greek culture was gaining ground. Sculptors and painters, following Greek models, depicted scenes from Greek myths on frescoes, but developed their own style in the field of portraiture. Unlike the Greeks, who embellished the originals, the Romans tried to accurately convey the appearance and inner essence of the person they depicted. Cicero, and then Horace, in his “Art of Poetry,” asserted the theory of realistic art, whose task was to reflect real life in all its diversity, to accurately describe the characters, habits, and views on the life of people of different ages and social status. They condemned the deviation from the truth of life.

Meanwhile, the magistrates tried to outdo each other with the pomp of their pageantry. Along with comedies and tragedies, which sometimes already seemed outdated, funny scenes — mimes appear. Especially famous was the mimographer Publilius Cyrus. Many of the sayings of his characters have become popular proverbs.


The intelligentsia grew at the expense of slaves and freedmen, whom the masters considered it necessary to educate. Many representatives of the “slave intelligentsia” wrote essays on history, linguistics, and literary studies. But now both noble and high-ranking people did not consider it shameful to engage in mental labor. The Greek language became not only literary, but also colloquial. Greek and Latin books were widely sold. The need for education has become universally recognized. So, the architect Vitruvius wrote that the builder should know not only architecture, but also astronomy, medicine, philosophy, mythology. The owner of the estate and Vilik had to understand medicine, astronomy.


Varro was a versatile scientist. He wrote on many subjects, from agriculture to the history of Roman cults, civil and religious institutions, and dealt with the etymology of Latin words. An outstanding thinker was Lucretius Carus, the author of the famous poem “On the Nature of Things”. Based on the theory of the connection and separation of eternally moving atoms, he wrote about the natural, without the intervention of the gods, the origin of the Universe, the Earth, plants, animals and people. Human society, in his opinion, was formed and developed not by the will of higher forces, but by observing nature and intelligently understood common good, shaped by customs and laws that can change if the understanding of the common good changes.

Numerous disasters from external and civil wars pushed people to search for ways out of the impasse, they sought an answer in the teachings that offered a variety of recipes in accordance with the views of various Greek philosophical schools.

The teachings of the Stoics and Pythagoreans

Thus, the Stoics taught that a person will be happy if he values virtue above all else, fulfills his duty to society, but does not attach importance to such worldly circumstances as wealth, nobility, honors, health. According to Cicero, writings were circulated that proved that neither slavery, nor even the destruction of the motherland, was an evil in itself. Among the upper classes, Pythagoreanism was popular, in which there was a lot of mysticism borrowed from the East, secret rites. Many were initiated into the Eleusinian and Samothracian mysteries. At the same time, there was a growing disdain for the traditional Roman religion in the same milieu. Cicero, in his treatise On Divination, ridiculed the traditional ways of knowing the will of the gods, and in his treatise On the Nature of the Gods, he put into the mouth of the great pontiff Aurelius Cotta arguments about the dubiousness of the existence of the gods: religion is obligatory for ordinary people, but an educated person can believe in it or not.

This was also the opinion of Varro, who divided religion into the religion of poets, the religion of philosophers, and the religion obligatory on citizens. The Epicureans recognized the existence of gods who lead a blissful life and do not interfere in the affairs of the world. The Stoics proceeded from the divine principle that permeates all things. There is such a “divine spark” in a person — his soul, spirit, mind, which brings him closer to the deity. Sometimes they identified God with nature, sometimes they spoke of the one god, while other deities revered by the people are his separate powers and attributes or his helpers. Based on the unity of the world and the mutual influence of all its parts, the Stoics justified the reliability of astrology and the possibility of magic. The old faith was replaced by a belief in fate. Astronomical information mixed with astrological information was described in the poem “Astronomicon” by Manilius. Everyone believed in astrology, from the slaves to Marius, Sulla,and Pompey, whose horoscopes were compiled by astrologers.

Individualism was strengthened. In this connection, the work of the so — called Neotericists, to which one of the best Roman poets, Catullus, belonged, is significant. The “Neotericists” followed Hellenistic models, wrote elaborate poems on mythological themes for the elite, and, from Cicero’s point of view, were useless to society. For Catullus, the main theme was his love for Clodius ‘ sister, a “socialite” named Lesbia in his poems. With extraordinary force, the joys and sufferings of this high feeling are conveyed, which have largely pushed the events of the surrounding world away from it. The development of individualism was also reflected in the memoirs of such figures as Sulla and Caesar.


For the development of the culture of his time, Cicero did a lot. His speeches, letters to friends, philosophical treatises, in which he tried to introduce Roman readers to Greek philosophical and political thought, works on oratory serve as a source not only for the history, but also for the ideology and culture of those years.

A student of the Stoics Panetius (under his influence he wrote his treatise On Duty) and Posidonius Cicero, borrowing something from their provisions, at the same time inclined to the skepticism of the New Academy. He expounded his generally eclectic views in the treatises “Paradoxes”, “Academicians”, “Tusculans”, as well as in such works as “On the Republic”, “On Laws”, “On Duty”, linking politics and philosophy. Cicero sought to combine Greek theories with native Roman ones. Like Cato, he emphasized that the greatness of Rome was created by the entire Roman people. The ideal for him was the Roman political system established by the “ancestors”, the Roman Republic with its” mixed form of government”, described by Polybius.

The life of the republic is governed by some supreme law, established not by men, as the Epicureans believed, but by nature itself, the “divine mind” that created the law. All nature, all the cosmos, is subject to it, even the gods are subject to it, and people, ignorant and vicious, should not change it at their own discretion. This reverence for the law has always remained a characteristic feature of the ideology of the Romans-the creators of developed law. And later, they saw the main difference between a good emperor and a “tyrant” in the fact that the former put the law above his own will, while the latter trampled on it. The Romans never shared the concept of the Greek sophists, who believed that the law was created by weak people and is not binding on the strong. For them, the highest value was the republic, the primary, eternal unity with the law that cements it, while the society of citizens was a secondary, transitory multitude.

Even the strongest city, if it was not governed by a just law, could not be considered a republic, that is, the highest form of community of people. Similarly, in political teachings, collectivism was opposed to Hellenic individualism. Accordingly, Cicero adapted the image of an indifferent stoic sage to the Roman ideal — a “worthy husband” who could not be alien to the good of the motherland. He ends his treatise on the Republic with the story of Scipio’s dream. Young Scipio Aemilianus had a dream about his grandfather Scipio Africanus. He showed and explained to his grandson the divine structure of the cosmos and announced the blessed posthumous fate of the heroes who exalted Rome. The idea of the immortal soul, borrowed from the Hellenistic teachings, was thus combined with the idea of the supreme duty of an outstanding citizen, and the service of Rome became the service of the divine universal principle.

Cicero’s oratory had a great influence on his contemporaries and descendants. He devoted several theoretical works to it, and it was illustrated with brilliant speeches. Cicero spoke in lawsuits, in the Senate, and in the Assembly of the people for his associates and against his enemies. His most famous speeches are against the viceroy of Sicily, Verres, against Catalina, and Philippica against Antony. He called for the unity of “all the best”, in other words — loyal to the existing system, people-senators, horsemen, just wealthy citizens-against the populars and the “rebellious rabble”. However (although this question is debatable) it is possible that he was ready to accept the sole rule of a certain “princeps”, a perfect optimate, like the enemy of the Gracchi Scipio Aemilianus, since in his understanding monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy were compatible with the republic, if they acted legally and for the common good.

Having triumphantly returned from exile in September 57 BC, he actively engaged in literary activity, which he continued in the following years.

Meanwhile, the transition to autocracy was practically prepared by the dictatorship of Sulla, the extraordinary powers of Pompey, and the management of the triumvirs. For Cicero and the optimates, such a sole ruler could be a certain “princeps” — the defender of the interests of the nobility; for the plebeians-the successor of the people — loving kings who freed the plebs from the power of the” fathers”; for the army-a victorious, beloved commander. The only question was who would become such a head of the republic. The general situation suggested that he would be the one who would be supported by the army.

The collapse of the triumvirate and the rise of CaesarP

ompey, who had begun to draw closer to the senate again, especially after Crassus had died in the war with Parthia and the triumvirate had broken up, could have been the candidate. But it was this rapprochement that undermined his popularity. The role of Caesar increased. He had an exceptional personal charm that even his opponent Cicero recognized. But the main thing was his military and diplomatic talents, which ensured his success in Gaul, which was conquered in 10 years. Caesar turned Gaul into a province, took the richest loot and 1 million prisoners. Thanks to the talent of the commander, attention to the needs of the soldiers with whom he shared the hardships of the campaigns, oratorical talent, Caesar created a disciplined and, most importantly, loyal army.

In the eyes of the Romans, he was now not only the conqueror of a vast and rich region, but also the avenger of the humiliation of Rome during the Gallic invasion of 390 BC. The Senate, led by extreme optimates, including Cato’s great-grandson Cato the Younger, was dissatisfied with the rise of Caesar and demanded that he disband his army. The Senate had pinned its hopes on Pompey, who had been appointed consul without a college. War was becoming inevitable. On January 10, Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his army, which separated Cisalpine Gaul from Italy. The Italian cities passed to him; Even the soldiers of Pompey who were stationed in Italy went over to Caesar’s side. Pompey and his followers, including Cicero, crossed over to Greece.

Thus, the war spread to the provinces and vassal kingdoms. The main theater of war was Spain, Greece, Africa, and Egypt. The outcome was largely decided by the position of the provincials. Pompey (and in his person — the party of the senate) was supported mainly by the top of the secular and priestly nobility, Caesar-the urban strata of the old and new, Romanized polis, who suffered from the senate’s henchmen and received from Caesar various privileges and Roman citizenship, which was given to individuals or to the whole city.

As a result, Caesar won a complete victory. Defeated in Thessaly at Pharsalus, Pompey fled to Egypt and was killed there.

Caesar’s victory and his politics

Caesar became the sole head of the Roman empire. He was granted an indefinite dictatorship, the power of a tribune for life, the title “emperor” was added to his name, usually given on the battlefield by soldiers to a general, he was proclaimed “father of the fatherland”, he could independently decide issues of war and peace, manage the treasury, nominate candidates for magistrates and monitor morals. The external attributes of power included a purple toga, a laurel wreath. Caesar’s opponents accused him of intending to assume the title of king, traditionally attributed to all active opponents of the power of the senate.

Caesar, who had acted so ably, decisively, and sometimes violently on his way to power, had failed to take advantage of it. Having been forgiven by Caesar and returned to Rome, Cicero, still hating Gaius Julius in his heart, wrote: “We are all Caesar’s slaves, and Caesar is the slave of circumstances.” In his policy, Caesar was not consistent. He limited himself to half measures, which alienated many former supporters, but did not win the sympathy of the Senate. Having refused proscriptions and confiscation of the land of large owners, he could not satisfy the claims of veterans; the plebs were dissatisfied with the reduction of grain distributions, the new prohibition of colleges.

Caesar’s measures to expand the social base in the provinces were more consistent. Cisalpine Gaul received Roman citizenship and ceased to be considered a province. A special municipal law unified the system of colonies and municipalities, reproducing with modifications the system of the Roman civil community (it is known to us from the inscriptions containing the city statutes). The People’s Assembly of citizens elected magistrates: duumvirs, quaestors, judges-from those who possessed real estate and the established qualification. After leaving office, they were members of the city senate — the council of decurions. The city received a territory divided into private allotments and public land. If a city was founded in a province, the land for it was taken from a local tribe, some of whose members could be settled in the city territory (they were called incols), others were pushed to the worst land.

The public lands, like the city treasury, were administered by magistrates, who were responsible for the conduct of business with their property. They also rented out plots of land on the city’s land, owned workshops, contracts and various works, commanded the city militia, and in case of imminent danger could impose labor duties on citizens. Their duties included overseeing the priests of the cult of the patron gods of the city, they supervised the supply of food to the citizens, the organization of games, etc. Subsequently, the decurions became, along with the horsemen and senators, a privileged class consisting of urban landowners and slave owners. They were the guides of Roman culture.

The murder of Caesar and the pogroms in Rome

During the dictatorship of Caesar, this layer was still being formed and could not serve as a strong enough support for it. Caesar’s half-hearted policy was taken advantage of by the nobility, leading an intensified agitation against him. Caesar was called a tyrant, a strangler of freedom, remembered the ancient Brutus and appealed to his descendant, Cicero’s friend Junius Brutus, calling on the latter to restore “freedom”. Brutus, who enjoyed the patronage of Gaius Julius, hesitated for a long time, but finally became involved in a conspiracy organized by the Pompeian Cassius. The conspirators were in a hurry, because they knew of Caesar’s intention to leave Rome and start a war with Parthia. On March 15, 44 BC, Caesar was assassinated near the Curia Senata.

However, this terrorist act could no longer save the republic of the nobility. The conspirators counted on the fact that when they announced the death of the “tyrant” and the restoration of “freedom”, the people would proclaim them as their saviours and throw the corpse of the murdered man into the Tiber. But for the veterans and the plebs, Caesar, despite the inconsistency of his policies, remained a victorious emperor, a leader of the populars, a hero who died at the hands of the Senate. The outraged plebs rushed to smash the houses of the optimates, and at the site of Caesar’s funeral pyre, they began to offer sacrifices to him as to god, believing that the comet that appeared in these days was the soul of Caesar, who ascended to heaven.

The frightened optimates shut themselves up in their houses, and the conspirators took refuge in the Capitol. In the end, they were forced to negotiate with Antony. At the meeting of the Senate, a compromise agreement was reached:

  • Antony and his colleague Dolabella restore order in the city
  • Caesar is not declared a tyrant, his orders remain in force, but his murderers are not punished — Brutus and Cassius were escorted out of Rome, giving them the provinces of Crete and Cyrenaica
  • Pompey’s son Sextus was allowed to return to Italy and receive his father’s property
  • he dictatorship was abolished for all time

The rise of Octavian and the Second Triumvirate

At this time, his great-nephew Octavius, who had been adopted and appointed Caesar’s heir, took the name of Gaius Julius Caesar Octavian. Octavian, 18, was training with his friend Vipsanius Agrippa in the Epirus city of Apollonia when he received news of the events in Rome. Caesar’s soldiers stationed in Apollonia and Agrippa himself persuaded Octavian to accept Caesar’s inheritance and move to Italy. When Octavian arrived there, Caesar’s veterans and wealthy freedmen began to flock to him, calling for revenge for his father. In Rome, Octavian went to Antony and demanded that he give him the treasury of Caesar, so that he could fulfill his will. Antony rudely replied that Caesar’s treasury was empty, and that Octavian should not demand, but be glad that, thanks to Antony, he was no longer the son of a disgraced tyrant.

Then Octavian began to play a surprisingly subtle game for a young man of his age. He began negotiations with Cicero, called him “father”, asked for advice. Cicero, realizing that Octavian could be opposed to Antony, praised the young man, allegedly sent by Jupiter himself to save Rome from the tyranny of Antony. In meetings with his supporters, Octavian admitted that his relationship with Cicero was only a trick, which Antony’s behavior forced him to do, and that, having gained strength, he would avenge Caesar’s death. With the money he received from the Senate through Cicero’s mediation, he lured Antony’s soldiers away, paying them higher salaries.

At the end of 44 BC, Antony left for Gaul. The Senate sent an army against him, with which went the soldiers recruited by Octavian. Near Mutina, Antony was defeated. The Senate decided that it could now do without Octavian, and refused the consulate promised to him. Octavian then allied himself with Antony and the Caesarian governor of Narbonne Gaul, Aemilius Lepidus. They concluded the so-called second triumvirate and easily took Rome. Octavian was elected consul, and the triumvirs were given extraordinary powers “to restore the republic”by a decision of the People’s Assembly. The decree of amnesty to the assassins of Caesar, who were meanwhile collecting troops and funds in the eastern provinces, was revoked, and it was decided to start a war with them.

Octavin activity

To punish the murderers of Caesar, who were declared enemies of the fatherland, and those who supported them, proscription lists were compiled, in which Cicero was named one of the first at the request of Antony. On December 7, 43 BC, he was killed by a centurion commanding a military detachment. The granting of land to veterans began: 18 cities of Italy were allocated, the inhabitants of which were deprived of land, slaves and inventory in favor of the new owners, and they were also given land confiscated from the proscribed. Killed more than 300 senators, 2 thousand. horsemen, for a reward, wives denounced their husbands, children denounced their parents, and slaves denounced their masters. This time remained in the memory of the Romans as a time of horror and chaos. Deprived of land, the townspeople cursed the “unholy warriors”who had dispossessed them. The situation was no better in the eastern provinces, where Brutus and Cassius demanded men and money. But the war ended in their defeat.

Antony went to restore order in the East. Lepidus was soon dismissed. Octavian, who had received the western provinces, remained in Italy. Sextus Pompeius fortified himself in Sicily, enlisting optimates and slaves in his fleet. His ships interfered with the transport of grain to Italy; the Parthians, taking advantage of the weakening of Rome, seized Syria, and only with great exertion were they driven back by Vantidius Bassus.

In 36 BC, Agrippa managed to put an end to Sextus Pompeius. Octavian promised to preserve the freedom of the slaves who fought on the side of Sextus Pompey, but then, sending them to the provinces, in secret letters ordered the governors to disarm and capture them. 30 thousand slaves were returned to their owners, and if they could not determine whose slave, they were executed. By this act Octavian began a reconciliation with the propertied classes. His marriage to Livia, the divorced wife of Tiberius Claudius Nero, an enemy of the triumvirs, also brought him closer to the senatorial nobility. The proscriptions were stopped, the confiscations stopped. Octavian’s popularity grew: all of Italy swore allegiance to him.

The War with Antony

However, in the East, Antony continued to be the ruler. He became close to Cleopatra, proclaimed himself the new god — Dionysus, and her-the goddess Isis and “queen of kings”, enthroned and removed vassal kings, distributed provinces to his children from Cleopatra. In Rome, an intense campaign was waged against him, his behavior was regarded as unworthy of a Roman, and he was also accused of adhering to the” dark ” gods of Egypt.

War with Antony was becoming inevitable. It began in 31 BC and ended on September 2 of the same year with the defeat of the fleet of Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Cape Actium in Western Greece. Antony and Cleopatra fled to Egypt, and Antony’s soldiers went over to Octavian, who promised to reward them on a par with his soldiers. In 30 BC, Octavian arrived in Egypt, conquered it without difficulty, and turned it into a Roman province under his personal control. Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide.

The Egyptian booty gave Octavian the opportunity to buy allotments for veterans instead of taking them away. Approximately 300 thousand people received them. Octavian’s commanders and entourage were given estates of hundreds of yugers, which contributed to the spread of latifundia. Private small and medium-sized land ownership, based on the labor of slaves, was also strengthened. The supreme right to dispose of land passed to the head of state, and the owners were no longer afraid of the new agrarian laws adopted by the plebs. Their ownership of the land became as solid as a master’s ownership of a slave.

Revolution or evolution? Transition from Republic to Empire

Thus began a new period in the history of Rome — the period of sole rule, the era of empire. In the modern scientific literature, the question of the nature of this transition, whether it can be called a revolution, has often been debated. Some historians believe that the events of that time should be considered as signs of a revolution. Others, objecting, give various arguments and emphasize that society has not changed its structure, it has remained slave-owning. However, as noted by S. L. However, revolutions also occur in societies without a radical transformation of the dominant mode of production (for example, the revolution of 1848 in France). At the same time, as a result of broad movements in the structure of the ruling class, in the political structure, in the general direction of politics, significant changes are taking place.

In this sense, we can talk about fundamental changes in nature in comparison with the old structure. The establishment of the empire was the victory of the municipal land-and slave-owners (Italy and partly the provinces) over the top of the large landed aristocracy, whose predatory rule ruined the economy of the provinces, hindered the development of small and medium-sized land ownership in Italy, the conditions of which were most favorable for the progress of agriculture based on slave labor and, accordingly, the crafts and trade associated with this type of agriculture. Therefore, when describing the transition to empire, a process that was accompanied by radical changes in property relations, a sharp struggle between the army representing the interests of the plebs and the supporters of the senate, the involvement of slaves in the struggle between different estates, we can conditionally apply the term “revolution”, referring to the revolutionary changes in the general structure of Roman society and the “climate” of that era.

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