Transition of Rome from Republic to Empire

Categories: Rome

As it is known, both the Ancient Rome and Roman law had a huge influence on the jurisprudence development history. In fact, the Roman legal system was very popular in the Ancient World and it managed to provide a good law basis for many countries, which is widely used even today (Ancient Rome 1). It should be emphasized that a lot of researchers continue to take their interest in studying the formation and development of the Roman Empire.

During II – I centuries BC the fall period of the Roman Republic took place (Smith 66).

That process included the following stages: the rise of popular tribunes, the rise of private armies, the first triumvirate and Caesar’s dictatorship. That period of time led to the collapse of the Roman Republic and forming a monolithic and well-developed empire afterwards.

It is not a secret that the fall period of the Roman Republic continues to attract the especial attention of many historians and lawyers, who inherited the “richest” juridical foundation of the Ancient government.

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So, the first steps to the collapse of the republic were taken in 133-121 BC, when Gracchus brothers came to the power in Rome. They were not satisfied with the work of the senate and the magistrates and tried to make them concentrate on their own political agendas (Roman Republic 1). Also, the brothers tried their best to protect the interests of poor citizens and wanted to return them back on land and to grant Italian allies Roman citizen status. However, both men were killed lately by aristocracy.

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Later, when oligarchy didn’t manage to solve the military problem the rise of private armies began. Two generals C. Marius and L. Cornelius Sulla organized private armies. A lot of poor citizens joined those armies as they were promised to get lands. It should be pointed out that Sulla managed to persuade his army in the Southern Italy to attack Rome and get rid of Marius and his followers. As a result, the first Civil War began. Having defeated his rivals easily, Sulla became a dictator and tried to impose a reactionary political reform on Rome, the main purpose of which was to save the Republic.

The next stage of the Rome transaction from republic to empire took place during 59-53 BC and it was called as “the first triumvirate” (Roman Republic 1). Such well-known historical personalities as Pompeius Magnus, Licinius Crassus and Julius Caesar played a big role in the history of the Ancient Rome. These three men combined their efforts for conquering the power in Rome.

Pompey was the most popular general at that time due to his successful fights against oligarchy. His achievements included the following: victory over such Roman enemy as general Q. Sertorius, the defeat of Cilician pirates and King Mithradates VI of Pontus. Nevertheless, Pompey didn’t keep his word concerning the lands he had promised (Roman Republic 1).

Crassus became the wealthiest man in Rome due to Sulla’s proscriptions by creating the lists of Roman citizens and putting the prices on their leaves. All proscribed citizens had no the civil rights and all their property was confiscated by the state.  As a result, Crassus received approximately 20% of the property in Rome (Mouritsen 84). He always bribed his poor urban voters and acting in such a way came to the power and had influence in the Senate.

Being a young aristocrat, Julius Caesar, took into account the experiment of former rulers of that time and having won the confidence of voters he came to the power in 60s BC (Fall of the Roman Republic 1). Caesar received a 10-year extraordinary command in Gaul. Despite all predictions and expectations Caesar’s army managed to go through the Second Civil War successfully. As a result, Pompey and other Caesar’s enemies were destroyed during 49-46 BC (Smith 88).

Thus, Caesar’s dictatorship became the last stage of the transition of Rome from Republic to Empire. Having defeated all his enemies, Caesar became the most popular dictator of the Ancient history. However, he was killed by senators several weeks later. In general, Caesar neither started the fall of the Roman Republic nor finished it, but he continued the cycle of events that made its collapse irreversible (Fall of the Roman Republic 1). The new epoch of forming the greatest Roman Empire began after Caesar’s death.

It should be added that during all these historical events the state of country’s economy left mush to be desired. Authorities controlled huge funds that allowed them easily to manipulate poor population. Under the given conditions the political process of the Roman Republic fall began. So, what its real reasons are?

Slavery is considered to be the main cause, which led to the transition of Rome from Republic to Empire (Ancient Rome 1). The point is that, slaves were the cheapest labor force and the development of slave agriculture took place in Italy and Sicily. The exploitation of slaves allowed to decrease the costs and made production more stable against competition. Of course, slaves were not satisfied with their harsh living conditions that led to mass disorders and revolts. But there were not enough police in Rome and other Italian cities to control inevitable slave rebellions. In 130 BC slaves seized the island of Sicily and in 72 BC the famous slave rebellion organized by Spartacus took place throughout the Italian peninsula (Smith 108).

Booty and benefits of wars is another reason, which is consequent to imperialism. Due to the Roman overseas conquests a lot of wealth began to come into Italy. The prospect of profiting from wars caused an intensive competition for high office and mass electoral bribery.

Military changes can be also added to the list of the main causes of the transition to imperialism. The constant wars required the maintenance of military forces in order to cope with rebellions. Although, the Roman authorities relied on conscriptions to overseas armies, it was no sense for young draftees to serve in such hostile regions as Spain, Sardinia, and Corsica for minimum payment. As a result, the authorities had to call upon the Italian allied states to contribute their military forces to Roman war efforts. Thus, about 2/3 of Roman army consisted of allied soldiers by the end of the Hannibalic War (Mouritsen 84).

Acting in such a way, the allies complied with their obligations to Rome, but Roman generals refused to share the profits of war with these allies. So, allies received neither land distributions from conquered peoples, nor money. As a result, the mass rebellions among allied states led to the Social War in 90 BC (Roman Republic 1). Although, the rebellions were easily suppressed, the process of integrating allied citizens into the Roman state was suspended.

In general, approximately 80,000 Romans were massacred in Asia. Also, mass rebellions spread across the Aegean to Greece as well. So, the majority of provincials had anti-Roman attitudes throughout the Republican era (Marsh 238).

Analyzing the given historical events we can come to the conclusion the fact that the republican government didn’t manage to get used to new historical conditions and the necessity to avoid the political crisis became the basic reasons of the transition of Rome from Republic to Empire.

The division of a single government can be considered as a real attempt to prevent the fall of political regime, which was destructed by the cruel political and ideological struggle, mass rebellions and revolts of subdued people and the constant invasions of barbarians into the Western Roman Empire.

Works sited

  1. “Ancient Rome.” Wikipedia encyclopedia. 29 November 2006. < >
  2.  “Fall of the Roman Republic.” 29 November 2006. <>
  3. Marsh, Frank B. The Founding of the Roman Empire. Westport: The University of Texas, 1975
  4. Mouritsen, Henrik. Plebs and Politics in the Late Roman Republic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  5. “Roman Republic.” Wikipedia encyclopedia. 29 November 2006. <>
  6. Smith, Roger E. The Failure of the Roman Republic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1955  
Updated: Feb 23, 2021
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Transition of Rome from Republic to Empire. (2017, Mar 04). Retrieved from

Transition of Rome from Republic to Empire essay
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