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Text 3. The Fall Of The Roman Republic


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By 50 B.C., Rome ruled the Mediterranean world, but it had serious problems at home. Before the Punic Wars, Italy was a land of small family farms and farmer-soldiers. Wars were fought nearby between planting and harvest. In 458 B.C., Cincinnatus, a citizen farmer, laid down his plow to lead the Roman army. At the request of his fellow citizens, he was made dictator. Accord

However, as Rome expanded, ing to legend, within 16 days he had defeated the neighboring tribe, resigned his dictatorship, and gone back to his farm. wars were fought farther away, and farmers were gone for longer periods of time. Many of them were killed in battle.

The Second Punic War had destroyed Roman farms. Returning from war, farmers often did not have the money needed to begin farming again. Wealthy Romans bought up the land and created plantations run by slave labor, thus putting more farmers off the land.

Many landless farmers moved to the city, but few found jobs. Slaves, captured in Rome’s many wars, provided cheap labor, putting poor Romans out of work. As the numbers of poor and unemployed people grew, the Roman leaders feared that violent mobs would demand a solution to their troubles. Some Roman leaders wanted to help the poor, but their efforts were blocked by wealthy senators. In fact, two tribunes who tried to help the poor were killed for their efforts.

Rome’s large population of slaves caused other problems. Most slaves, who had been free in their homelands, were treated brutally by their Roman masters. Desperate for freedom, the slaves rebelled. In 73 B.C., the slave Spartacus gathered an army of more than 100,000. They fought the Roman army for two years. In 71 B.C., the Romans killed Spartacus and crucified 6,000 slaves.

By 50 B.C., Rome ruled an area about the size of the United States. Rapid expansion brought about change in the Republic. The small farm society had changed, the gap between rich and poor had grown, and the slave population had greatly increased. And wealth from the wars had made Roman leaders greedy.

Dishonest leaders had huge incomes and ignored the poor. The poor, in turn, felt no loyalty to a government that was keeping them poor. Conflicts broke out between rich and poor.

Also, b 50 B.C., the army was made up of professional soldiers, mostly poor citizens who couldn’t find work elsewhere. They were fighting for money, not for Rome. And money depended on victory in battle. Thus, these soldiers were loyal only to the generals, who hired them and paid them with land and money. Power-hungry generals fought one another for control of the government.

One of those generals was Julius Caesar. Caesar came from an old patrician family, and he was very ambitious. In 59 B.C., Caesar was elected consul, but he knew he must win military glory to fulfil his ambitions. He took command of Roman troops and left to tame the Gauls, who still threatened Italy. Nine years later, he had succeeded.

Caesar’s successes in Gaul worried his rivals in Rome. They feared that Caesar was becoming too powerful. They persuaded the Senate to declare Caesar a public enemy.

The Senate ordered Caesar to return to Rome without his troops. But Caesar feared that if he did, his life would be in great danger. Instead, he decided to lead his troops to Rome.

On January 11, 49 B.C., Caesar and his army crossed the Rubicon River, which divided Gaul and Italy. Since it was treason for a general to leave his assigned province and bring his army to Rome, this was a serious action. Caesar knew he must win or die.

Civil war broke out and lasted for three years. Eventually, Caesar defeated his rival, Pompey, and in 46 B.C. declared himself dictator. A dictatoris ruler who has absolute power.

Earlier Roman dictators had been chosen by the city officials only for emergencies. The citizen farmer, Lucius Cincinnatus, you recall, resigned 16 days after saving the city. When Caesar made himself dictator for life, he ended the Republican system.

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