THE SPLENDOR THAT WAS ROME (lite)
For the Athenians the center of their culture and civilization was the Acropolis which provided them with social order and in times of conflict, defense.
For the Romans who ruled from 509 BC to 180 AD the symbol for civlization and social order was the Forum.
The forum copied the same archetectural style of the Acropolis but it was on a much larger scale. And while it is true that the Romans copied and borrowed many things for their culture they also modified them so they appeared destinctly Roman.
Rome for our purposes should be thought as the great intermediary through which passed the rich contributions of the middle eastern cultures of the anicent world and especially Greece to form the basis of more modern Western Civilization.
The Greeks and Romans were descendents of a common Indo-European stock and the settlemtn of the Greek and Italian penninsulas went through similar stages.
The first invaders in the period between 2000 BC and 1000 BC settled in the Po valley and other groups equipped with iron techonologies, tools and weapons spread throughout the penninsula.
The most famous group the Latins, settled in the plain of Latium in the lower valley of the Tiber River.
In the 9th century BC the Etruscans brought the first city-state civilization to Italy.
The Etruscans organized the Italic people into a loose confederation of Etruscan dominated city-states.
After 750 BC Greek colonists migrated to southern Italy and Sicily where they formed a protective buffer state between the confederation and the growing power of Carthage in Northern Africa.
The city of Rome was founded in 753 BC, according to legend by Romulus annd Remus, twin brothers who were saved from death by a femal wolf who suckled them.
Virgil, the blind poet in his epic work the Aneid argues that Romulusí ancestor was Anaeas a Trojan who fled after the fall of Troy and settled in Latium.
Recent theories seem to suggest however, that in the 8th century BC the people of some small Latin settlements on the hills of the Tiber valley congregated to trade and established a common meeting place known as the Forum.
Around this defensible site the city of Rome grew.
In 625 BC the Etruscans expanded into the Tiber valley and conquered Rome and under their administration Rome became an important city-state.
From their Etruscan lords the Romans acquired some of their gods, much of their alphabet, as well as the art of phrophesying by examining the entrails and flight patterns of birds. The Romans also acquired the art of building, the use of the arch in construction, making statues of their gods, the staging of gladiator combat for wagering.
The political growth of the Romans followed a similar development or progression as that of the Greeks: Limited monarchy, oligarchy, democracy and then finally permanent dictatorship of the Roman emperors.
However, the Romans were able to avoid the intermdiate stage of tryanny when moving from oligarchy to democarcy, unlike the Greeks.
Legend has it that early Rome was ruled by kings who had been elected by the people and even after the Etruscan conquest this elective system continued.
The kingís executive power both civil and military was called the imperium which was symbolized by an eagle headed scepter and a bundle of rods called a fasces. The symbold later became the symbol for fascism in Italy in the 1930ís and 1940ís.
There was a popular assemby of arms bearing citizens who confered power to the kings. The king turned for advice to a council of nobles called the senate.
Senators served for life and they and their families belonged to the patrician class.
The lower class of farmers, artisans, commoners and poor were called the plebeian class.
Patron/clientelism was the basis of the political system.
In 509 BC the patricians expelled the last Etruscan king, claiming that he had acted despotically. Instead they established an oligarchy that they called a republic.
The imperium was replaced by two consuls who were elected annually from the patrician class.
In the event of a crisis or emergency a dictator could be substituted for the two consuls but he could rule for only six months.
For more than 200 years after the establishment of the republic the plebeians struggled for political and social equality, though outright civil war was avoided because the patricians would eventually act on the requests of the plebeians.
This is it was unncecessary for the plebeians to resort to supporting a tryant to attain their political goals.
The plebeians were successful in the struggle for they had been granted the right to organize themsleves at the grass-roots level for collective demand-making and collective political participation.
Constant wars gave the collective political groups of plebeians great political weight since it was they for the most part who fought the wars.
By the 5th century the plebeians became so well organize politically and capable of political mobilization against the patricians that they threatened to leave Rome altogether and found their own city.
The Senate became alarmed over this and granted a concession to the plebes to establish a Concilium Plebis which was led by plebeian leaders called tribunes. The tribunes also had the right to stop unjust or oppresive legislation of the patrician consuls and Senate by uttering the word veto, which means "I forbid."
By 450 BC the plebes demanded that all Roman laws be written down for all to see on 12 tablets of bronze and to be permanently displayed in the forum.
In time the plebes acquired the right to appeal a death sentence, the right to marry a patrician, and the abolition of debt slavery.
The long struggle for equality finally ended in 287 BC when the Plebeian Council was recognized as a constitutional body, now known as the Tribal Assembly, with the right to pass laws that were binding on all citizens.
The Roman Republic was now technically a democracy, although in actyual practice patricians and rich plebeians still controlled the state.
After 287 BC social conflict assumed a new form as the novoeau riche plebeians were more reactionary than the patricians in guarding their priviledges from the lower classes.
Roman society and family life was clearly patriarchal and the early days of the Republic were marked by loyalty, fidelity, courage, self-control and respect for laws.
But in the late republic these traits of society and divorce became the norm in relationships.
In less than 400 years Rome grew from a city state to the dominant power in the Mediterranean world (509-133 BC).
Roman expansion was not deliberately planned, but was the result of dealing with unsettled conditions, first in Italy and then abroad which threatened Romeís security.
Rome in its expansion sought to extend its defense perimeter as it grew. This is what is called frontier psychology or the need to expand in order to be secure.
By 250 BC Rome had connquered most of Italy and the old world. In Italy, instead of slaughtering their defeated foes the Romans treated them fairly. Roman citizenship was finally extended to all the people of the Italian Peninsula by the 1st century BC.
Defeated state were required to sign a treaty of alliance with Rome which bound them to adhere to Romeís foreign policy and supply troops in times of war.
After 270 BC only Carthage remained as Romeís rival in the West. Carthage was much more populous and wealthy than Rome and was extremely powerful economically.
But Carthage was governend by a comercial aristocracy and hired mercenaries to do its fighting.
The first Punic War broke out in 264 BC when Rome tried to oust a Cartahginian force that had occupied the northeastern tip of Sicily.
Rome and its allies lost 200,000 men in disasterous naval engagements before Cartahge sued for peace in 241 BC.
In the process of peace Rome annexed Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica which became provinces in Romeís overseas empire to be taxed and governed by Roman officials called procounsuls.
Carthage then concentrated on enlarging its empire in Spain and Rome was determined to prevent this and Romeís actions led to the most difficult war in Roman history.
The Carthagenians were led by a young and dashing general named Hannibal who seized the initiative in 218 BC and led a detachment of 49,000 men and a detachment of elephants across the Italian Alps into Italy.
Crossing the Alps cost Hannibal many men and almost all his elephants he did succeed in defeating the Romans three times in three years in what is known as the Second Punic War.
In one battle a force of 50,000 Carthagenians killed 70,000 Romans, but Romes allies remianed loyal and the Romans controlled the seas and Hannibal received almost no aid from Carthage.
The Roman general Scipio then invaded Africa and forced Hannibal to return to defend his homeland. In 201 BC Hannibalís forces suffered a complete defeat, Carthage was frced to pay a huge war indemnity, disarm its forces and give Spain to the Romans.
Hannibal then fled to the kingdom of Seleucids where he organized and stirred up anti-Roman sentiment.
With the defeat of Carthage Rome sought to pacify and conquer Macedonia and in 200 BC Rome attacked and in 197 BC Macedonia sued for peace.
Ten years later Rome declared war on the Seleucid emperor who had moved into Greece on the advice of Hannibal and some greedy Greek states who resented Romeís refusal t dismember Macedonia.
By 168 BC most of the East was now a Roman protectorate, but Roman idealism and expansionism began to wear thin in administering this empire and they began to side with the reactionary and oligarchic elements of these regions.
When Rome helped crush a socialist/democratic revolution in Sparta in 146 BC it became readily apparent that Rome no longer stood for democracy and freedom. In the same year Rome provoked the Third Punic War, destroyed Carthage and Corinth and salted the earth where the cities had once stood.
By 133 BC Rome had provinces on three continents Europe, Africa and Asia and the Roman Republic was supreme in the ancient world.