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The Crisis of the Roman Republic.

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The Crisis of the Roman Republic


After the 200s BC the Roman Republic had to face with many
problems. The origin of their problems was their expansions, because they
grown out from their city, and the structure of their government was not
suitable for a whole empire, but for a city.

During the centuries they occupied most of Europe, North Africa and
Asia Minor and made provinces from Spain to Mesopotamia with provinces
in Africa and on the North with Britain. However they had never thought
they will have so many difficulties until they will be able to govern it
properly.

One of their first problems was the governing of their provinces.


Romans poorly governed their territories. People of the provinces could
not get citizenship, but they had to pay the taxes collected by the tax-
farmers. Their governors were the proconsuls who were chosen by the
Senate and supported by the army. Proconsuls did not care about the
needs of the people because their term of office lasted for only a one-year-
period, whats more they received no salary. The corruption and the unfair

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Source: http://www.wwnorton.com/college/history/ralph/ralimage/map9rom2.jpg
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tax collection of the proconsuls and the publicans (tax-farmers) made the
dwellers of the provinces unsatisfied.

Problems were also with the agriculture. The incorporation of the far
territories lessened the role of the small landowners in Rome. The rich
could afford to rent lands which were cultivated by the displaced slaves.
Therefore the small-landowners lost their jobs. Not to mention that the war
veterans usually lost their lands too, because while they were fighting
against their enemies nobody had cultivated their lands, and after their
return they could not afford to bring the land back into cultivation. It
resulted that they had to sell it to wealthier people who later created
latifundias, or estates, which were combined lands.

The job- and landless people later flooded into Rome and formed a
new social class called Proletars. They tried to find temporary jobs, but
finally to get money they sold their votes to the highest bidder. This was
one reason of the increase of the political tension.

A new class also developed called Equites, or knights. They were


traders, businesspeople within Rome. They became very rich, because
they made money not only from commerce but also from tax farming.
Despite their richness they had not got too much political power, because
they were not citizens.

The civil wars started by the time of the Gracchi. Tiberius and Gaius
Gracchus, the two brother were the first to attempt reforms. Tiberius was
elected to the tribune in 133 BC. He tried to limit the amount of public land
can be used by the senators because he discovered they abused with it.
He also tried to give job to the landless citizens, but soon with 300 of his
followers he died in a civil war.

After his death about ten years later Tiberius younger brother, Gaius
Gracchus was elected to the tribune and passed into more radical reforms.
In addition to settling the poor in colonies on land conquered by Rome, he
tried to purchase cheaper grain to be sold to them. He tried to improve the
political status of the Equites. Unfortunately he could not acquire the
pleasure of the senators, so they killed 3000 of his supporters, and before
the senators could have killed him too, he committed suicide.

After the Gracchus brothers Gaius Marius was the next to attempt
reform. He was very successful as a military leader and in 105 BC he
reformed the army too. He abolished the property requirement for
becoming a soldier so the poor could be soldiers too. Whats more soldiers
got service pay until they were in the army, and afterwards they got land
too. Its not a surprise that the soldiers of the new army were often more
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loyal to their leaders than to the Roman state. His political influence and
military leadership allowed him to obtain many successive terms as
consul.

Another famous leader was Lucius Cornelius Sulla who was one
opponent of Marius. In their time there were two parties in Rome: the
Populares and the Optimates. Marius was popularist, while Sulla was
optimate. Populares were aristocratic leaders who relied on the peoples
assemblies and tribunate, while the Optimates were identified with the
conservative interests of the Senate. Between their followers there was a
civil war in 82 BC. Sulla triumphed, and later he reversed the others
reforms, stripped the tribunes of much of their power and placed authority
back in the hands of the Senate. His brutal military dictationship ended in
79 BC.

During the crisis of the republic the slaves were also one of the
unsolved problems of the government. Their status depended mostly on
their value. Those who had any profession usually had a better life, while
those who had to work on lands usually had an unfortunate position. They
died early because of starvation or by the hard work. Another type of
slaves was the gladiators. They learned to fight in training school, and
after they had to fight against each other or wild animals until their death.
They often tried to release for which they had two options: wait for being
liberated, or try to fight against the whole Roman Empire together. A very
big amount of them had chosen the second way of becoming free which
resulted three servile wars. These were between 136-132 BC, 104-101 BC
and 73-71 BC. The last one was the most significant and famous war,
because than the slaves leader was the so famous Spartacus who was
also a gladiator. He looked for allies in the whole empire but finally he and
his followers were caught by the Roman army, and they harshly punished
slaves attempts of being free.

Thats all for the crisis of the Roman Republic, I hope it was an
enjoyable summary of the topic.

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