The Roman Republic: Part Two
The Roman Republic existed from 509 B.C. (with the ending of the monarchy in Rome) to 27 B.C. (with the rise to power of the first Emperor). As Rome continued to expand, greater class conflicts developed between the rich and the poor. In 60 B.C. the famous general Julius Ceasar formed a 3-person alliance to govern Rome. This was a change from the former 2 consuls who ruled Rome. Julius Caesar governed with Crassus and Pompey. These three rulers lead a military campaign against Gaul (modern day France) and won. They became very wealthy from the spoils of this war. Crassus died in battle, leaving just Caesar and Pompey to rule. Caesar pushed Pompey out and proclaimed himself Dictator-for-life. A group of senators opposed Caesar’s exclusive claim to power and banded together. This group was led by Marcus Brutus and assassinated Caesar in 44 B.C. This lead to a great deal of chaos in Rome. Out of this chaos, a new 3-person alliance called the Triumverate arose to rule the republic. The three were: Marc Antony (one of Caesar’s generals), Octavius (Caesar’s nephew and heir), and Marcus Lepidus (who remained unimportant and ineffective). These three decided to split up and govern from different places. Octavius stayed in Rome and Marc Antony went to Egypt. Octavius and Antony were in constant disagreement which eventually culminated in Octavius marching on Egypt to conquer it and remove Antony. When it was clear that Octavius had won, Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide. In 27 B.C. Octavius (who was named Augustus by the Roman Senate) became the first Roman Emperor.
The Roman Republic: Part Two
Roman civilization dates from 753 B.C. to A.D. 476. The Roman Republic itself lasted from 509 B.C. to 27 B.C. This was when the monarchy was overthrown and a republic was developed. 27 B.C. is when they get their first emperor and the Republic is no more. Where we left off, Rome was expanding. Rome was conquering territories. As Rome continued to expand, class conflicts developed between the nobility and the poor.
There was a lot more leeway for individuals to gain power, because everyone wasn’t happy things weren’t running smoothly. With these conflicts happening, in 60 B.C. the famous general, Julius Caesar, was able to shake things up. He formed a three-person alliance to govern Rome. Previously, there had been a two-person consul that was elected annually that governed Rome. They ruled over the Senate and the assembly.
Now, Julius Caesar changed it to a three-person alliance. The other two members were Crassus and Pompey. The three of them led a campaign against Gaul, which is present day, or modern day, France. They won and they became very rich. They actually became richer than the whole republic of Rome. They took more control than they really should have. Crassus, which was one of the three alliance members, had died in battle.
Now it was just Caesar and Pompey. Caesar pushed Pompey out and crowned himself dictator for life. Remember, we went from the two-person consul that was elected every year, and now you’ve got Julius Caesar saying just him, just this one person, is going to be a dictator for life. You’re not going to get to elect someone annually anymore. It’s going to be Julius Caesar until the day he dies.
You can imagine some of the people weren’t happy with that. Unhappy with this lifelong claim to power, a group of senators, members of the Senate led by Marcus Brutus, assassinated Caesar in 44 B.C. He took control in 60 B.C. with his three-person alliance, then he was able to become very rich by conquering Gaul.
Then, when one of his alliance members died, he was able to push the other one out and take control, but that didn’t last very long, because people didn’t like him saying he was going to rule forever when they were used to being able to elect someone every year.
The Senators assassinated him in 44 B.C. There was already a class conflict before this. In 44 B.C., Rome was in chaos. They didn’t know what kind of government they were going to have now. They just knew they hadn’t wanted Julius Caesar to be dictator for life, so they took care of that. In 44 B.C., another trio arose called the triumvirate. They came together to rule the Roman Republic.
People wanted for them to kind of restore the republic, but that’s not exactly what happened. Marc Antony was one of Caesar’s generals. He was kind of famous himself. He was pretty well known. He was one of his really well depended on generals. That was Marc Anthony. Octavius was the nephew and heir to Caesar. Caesar didn’t have any children of his own that he was leaving his heir.
He had dictated that Octavius was his heir, and Octavius was also his nephew. Octavius is another part of the triumvirate. Marcus Lepidus is the third part. He was quickly made unimportant. They said, “Okay, we’ve got Caesar’s General, Marc Anthony, Caesar’s nephew and heir, Octavius, and we’ll throw in this other guy, Marcus Lepidus, but he’s not really important.”
He’s not going to get to do anything. He’s just kind of there as a namesake. What they did was kind of split up the country in each of them ruled in a different area. Octavius stayed in Rome while Antony went to Egypt and again left as well as a very important. So he wasn’t in charge of very much at all. Antony stayed a while in Egypt as Cleopatra’s guest and lover.
I’m sure you’ve heard this story before. Octavius and Antony fought with each other a lot. They couldn’t agree on very many things. They were constantly bickering. Eventually, Octavius decided to march on Egypt. He said, “Okay, I’m going to take care of this Antony problem I’ve been having. I’m going to go conquer Egypt. Antony is not going to be able to make these kind of decisions anymore.”
That worked out well for him and not too well for Antony. When it was clear that Octavius had won, Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide to avoid the shame of facing him and his followers. Antony been part of this triumvirate, co-ruler with Octavius and kind of with Lepidus, since Lepidus didn’t get to do much. Now, Octavius had come and conquered what he was in charge of.
He was going to have to step down from being part of the triumvirate. He didn’t want to face that shame and Cleopatra had taken Antony’s advice. They had gone to war against Octavius, so she was ashamed and the two of them committed suicide to avoid having to face everybody and get new roles in life after being the leaders in Egypt for so long.
Lepidus was still ignored. He was still unimportant. He was kind of pushed out. In 27 B.C., Octavius, who was now known as Augustus, became the first Roman emperor. In 27 B.C., we have the beginning of the Roman Empire and, thus, the end of the Roman Republic.