Roman Republic

Roman Republic
Res publica Romana
c. 509 BC–27 BC
Grey coin
Denarius of 54 BC, showing the first Roman consul, Lucius Junius Brutus, surrounded by two lictors and preceded by an accensus.[1]
Map of the Roman Republic
Roman provinces on the eve of the assassination of Julius Caesar, 44 BC
Official languagesLatin
Common languagesEtruscan, Greek, Osco-Umbrian, Venetic, Ligurian, Rhaetian, Nuragic, Sicel, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Thracian, Punic, Berber, Coptic, Illyrian, Iberian, Lusitanian, Celtiberian, Gaulish, Gallaecian, Aquitanian
Roman polytheism
GovernmentMixed diarchic constitutional republic
• 509 BC (first)
Lucius Junius Brutus
Lucius Collatinus
• 27 BC (last)
Marcus Agrippa
Roman Senate
Historical eraClassical antiquity
c. 509 BC
• Dissolution of the Latin League
338 BC[2]
• Sulla named dictator
82 BC
• Julius Caesar named dictator
49 BC
15 March 44 BC
2 September 31 BC
• Octavian proclaimed Augustus
16 January 27 BC
326 BC[3]10,000 km2 (3,900 sq mi)
50 BC[3]1,950,000 km2 (750,000 sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Roman Kingdom
Seleucid Empire
Ptolemaic Kingdom
Attalid kingdom
Odrysian kingdom
La Tène culture
Roman Empire

The Roman Republic (Latin: Res publica Romana [ˈreːs ˈpuːblika roːˈmaːna]) was the era of classical Roman civilization beginning with the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom (traditionally dated to 509 BC) and ending in 27 BC with the establishment of the Roman Empire. It was during this period that Rome's control expanded from the city's immediate surroundings to hegemony over the entire Mediterranean world.

Roman society at that time was primarily a cultural mix of Latin and Etruscan societies, as well as of Sabine, Oscan, and Greek cultural elements, which is especially visible in the Ancient Roman religion and its Pantheon. Its political organization developed at around the same time as direct democracy in Ancient Greece, with collective and annual magistracies, overseen by a senate.[4] The top magistrates were the two consuls, who had an extensive range of executive, legislative, judicial, military, and religious powers. While there were popular elections each year, the Republic was not a democracy but an oligarchy, as a small number of powerful families (called gentes) monopolised the main magistracies. Roman institutions underwent considerable changes throughout the Republic to adapt to the difficulties it faced, such as the creation of promagistracies to rule its conquered provinces, or the composition of the senate.

Unlike the Pax Romana of the Roman Empire, throughout the republican era Rome was in a state of quasi-perpetual war. Its first enemies were its Latin and Etruscan neighbours, as well as the Gauls, who even sacked Rome in 387 BC. Nonetheless, Rome demonstrated extreme resilience and always managed to overcome its losses, however catastrophic. After the Gallic sack, Rome conquered the whole Italian peninsula in a century and thus became a major power in the Mediterranean. Its greatest strategic rival was Carthage, against which it waged three wars. The Punic general Hannibal famously invaded Italy by crossing the Alps and inflicted on Rome three devastating defeats at Trebia, Lake Trasimene, and Cannae, but Rome recovered again, defeated Carthage at the Battle of Zama in 202 BC, and became the dominant power of the ancient Mediterranean world. It then embarked on a long series of difficult conquests, defeating Philip V and Perseus of Macedon, Antiochus III of the Seleucid Empire, the Lusitanian Viriathus, the Numidian Jugurtha, the Pontic king Mithridates VI, Vercingetorix of the Arverni tribe of Gaul, and the Egyptian queen Cleopatra.

A series of social and political crises ended in several violent civil wars. At first, the Conflict of the Orders opposed the patricians, the closed oligarchic elite, to the far more numerous plebs, who achieved political equality in several steps during the 4th century BC. Later, Rome's vast conquests disrupted its society, as the immense influx of slaves they brought enriched the aristocracy, but ruined the peasantry and urban workers. In order to address this issue, social reformers tried to pass agrarian laws. The Gracchi brothers passed reforms, though eventually they, Saturninus, and Clodius Pulcher were all murdered by their opponents, aristocratic senators. The reformers are often given the label Populares, and the senators fighting the reforms Optimates. Mass slavery caused three Servile Wars; the last of them was led by Spartacus, a skillful gladiator who ravaged Italy and left Rome fearful until his defeat in 71 BC. In this context, the last decades of the Republic were marked by the rise of great generals, who exploited their military conquests and the factional situation in Rome to gain control of the political system. Marius (between 105 and 86 BC), then Sulla (between 82 and 78 BC) gained increasingly absolute power, using their military control to purge political opponents.

These tensions led to further civil wars; the first between generals Julius Caesar and Pompey. Despite his victory and appointment as dictator for life, Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. Caesar's heir Octavian and lieutenant Mark Antony defeated Caesar's assassins Brutus and Cassius in 42 BC, but they eventually split. The final defeat of Antony alongside his ally and lover Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, and the Senate's grant of extraordinary powers to Octavian as Augustus in 27 BC – which effectively made him the first Roman emperor – marked the end of the Republic.

  1. ^ Crawford 1974, pp. 455, 456.
  2. ^ "Latin League". Britannica. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  3. ^ a b Taagepera, Rein (1979). "Size and duration of empires: growth-decline curves, 600 BC to 600 AD". Social Science History. 3 (3/4): 115–138. doi:10.2307/1170959. JSTOR 1170959.
  4. ^ Momigliano 1989, pp. 110–11.

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