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From Hutton Webster's, Early European History (1917); edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS
VIII. THE GREAT AGE OF THE ROMAN REPUBLIC, 264-31 B.C.
» Contents of this ChapterPage 38
THE END OF AN EPOCH
DOOM OF THE REPUBLIC
The republic, indeed, was doomed. A hundred years of dissension and civil warfare proclaimed clearly enough the failure of the old order. Rome was a city-state suddenly called to the responsibilities of universal rule. Both the machinery of her government and the morals of her people were inadequate for so huge a task. The gradual revolution which changed this Roman city-state into imperial Rome, judged by its results, is perhaps the most momentous movement in the annals of mankind. Let us summarize its course.
A CENTURY OF REVOLUTION
In 133 B.C. Roman society had been corrupted and enfeebled as the result of foreign conquests. The supreme power in the state more and more tended to fall into the hands of a narrow oligarchy—the senatorial nobility. Its dishonesty and weakness soon led to efforts at reform. The attempts of the Gracchi to overthrow the Senate's position and restore popular sovereignty ended in disaster. Then, in quick succession, arose a series of military leaders who aimed to secure by the sword what was no longer to be obtained through constitutional and legal means. Marius, a great general but no politician, could only break down and destroy. Sulla, a sincere but narrow-minded statesman, could do no more than prop up the structure-- already tottering—of senatorial rule. Pompey soon undid that work and left the constitution to become again the sport of rival soldiers. Caesar, triumphing over Pompey, gained a position of unchallenged supremacy. After Caesar's death, imperial power was permanently restored in the person of Octavian. The battle of Actium in 31 B.C. made Octavian master of the Roman world.
But the Romans were not yet an old and worn-out people. On the ruins of the old republican order it was still possible to build up a new imperial system in which good government, peace, and prosperity should prevail for more than two centuries. During this period Rome performed her real, her enduring, work for civilization.
Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Western Medieval Europe * Renaissance in Italy