Ancient Rome Part One: Early Kingdom and Republic

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1 Ancient Rome Part One: Early Kingdom and Republic By History.com, adapted by Newsela staff on Word Count 1,089 Visitors walk among ancient ruins at the Roman Forum in Rome, Italy, October 28, Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images The first in a two-part series Beginning in the eighth century B.C., ancient Rome grew from a small town into a vast empire. At its peak, it controlled much of continental Europe, Britain, Asia, northern Africa and the Mediterranean. The dominance of ancient Rome can still be felt today. The widespread use of the Romance languages that come from Latin (Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian) is one example of Rome's lasting influence. The empire was also responsible for spreading the modern Western alphabet and calendar, as well as Christianity as a major world religion. After 450 years as a republic, Rome became an empire in the first century B.C. The long and triumphant reign of its first emperor, Augustus, began a golden age of peace and wealth. However, the empire declined and fell by the fifth century A.D. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 1

2 Origins of Rome As legend has it, Rome was founded by Romulus and Remus, twins left to drown in a basket on the Tiber River. They were rescued by a she-wolf and survived to build their own city on the river s banks in 753 B.C. After killing his brother, Romulus became the first king of Rome, which is named for him. Rome continued to be a monarchy until 509 B.C. That year, its seventh king, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, was overthrown. Ancient historians have portrayed him as a cruel tyrant, compared to the Roman kings who went before him. A popular uprising was said to have come about after the rape of a virtuous noblewoman, Lucretia, by the king s son. Whatever the cause, Rome turned from a monarchy into a republic, a world derived from res publica, or property of the people. The early republic The power of the monarch passed to two annually elected leaders called consuls, who also served as commanders in chief of the army. The consuls were elected by the people, but most of them came from the Senate. The Senate was dominated by the patricians, or the descendants of the original senators from the time of Romulus. Politics in the early republic was marked by the long struggle between patricians and plebeians (the common people). The plebeians eventually gained some political power. They controlled their own tribunes, which could create and block new laws. By around 300 B.C., real political power in Rome was centered in the Senate. At the time it included only members of patrician and wealthy plebeian families. Military expansion During the early republic, the Roman state grew quickly in both size and power. Invaders from Gaul (what is today France) sacked and burned Rome in 390 B.C., and the Romans rebounded under the leadership of the military hero Camillus. Eventually, they gained control of the entire Italian peninsula by 264 B.C. Rome then fought a series of wars known as the Punic Wars with Carthage, a powerful citystate in northern Africa. The first two Punic Wars ended with Rome in full control of Sicily, the western Mediterranean and much of Spain. In the Third Punic War ( B.C.), the Romans captured and destroyed the city of Carthage. They sold its surviving inhabitants into slavery, making a section of northern Africa a Roman province. At the same time, Rome also spread its influence east. It defeated King Philip V of Macedonia in the Macedonian Wars and turned his kingdom into another Roman province. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 2

3 Rome s military conquests led directly to its cultural growth. The Romans benefited greatly from contact with such advanced cultures as the Greeks. The first Roman literature appeared around 240 B.C., with translations of Greek writings into Latin. Romans would eventually adopt much of Greek art, philosophy and religion. Internal struggles in the late republic Rome s political institutions began to crumble under the weight of the growing empire. This began an era of instability and violence. The gap between rich and poor widened as wealthy landowners drove small farmers from public land. Meanwhile, the government was increasingly controlled by the wealthy classes. The late republic was dominated by a series of warlords. They included Gaius Marius and a fellow general Sulla, who emerged as military dictator around 82 B.C. After Sulla retired, one of his former supporters, Pompey, briefly served as consul. He then began waging successful military campaigns against pirates in the Mediterranean and the forces of Mithridates in Asia. Caesar's rise When the victorious Pompey returned to Rome, he formed an uneasy alliance known as the First Triumvirate. He shared power with the wealthy Marcus Licinius Crassus and another rising star in Roman politics: Gaius Julius Caesar. After earning military glory in Spain, Caesar returned to Rome and tried to become a consul in 59 B.C. From his alliance with Pompey and Crassus, Caesar received the governorship of three wealthy provinces in Gaul beginning in 58 B.C. He then set about conquering the rest of the region for Rome. Pompey s wife Julia (Caesar s daughter) then died in 54 B.C., and Crassus was killed in battle against Parthia (present-day Iran) the following year. The triumvirate was broken. With old-style Roman politics in disorder, Pompey stepped in as sole consul in 53 B.C. Caesar s fame and wealth had become greater than Pompey s, however. In 49 B.C., Caesar and one of his armies crossed the Rubicon, a river on the border between Italy and Cisalpine Gaul. Caesar s entrance into Italy ignited a civil war, and he emerged as dictator of Rome for life. From Caesar to Augustus In 45 B.C., Caesar was murdered by a group of his enemies. The plot was led by the republican nobles Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius. Consul Mark Antony and Caesar s great-nephew and adopted heir, Octavian, joined forces to crush Brutus and Cassius. Power in Rome was then divided among them with ex-consul Lepidus in what was known as the Second Triumvirate. Octavian led the western provinces, Antony the east and Lepidus, Africa. Tensions developed by 36 B.C. and the triumvirate soon dissolved. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 3

4 In 31 B.C., Octavian triumphed over the forces of Antony and Queen Cleopatra of Egypt in the Battle of Actium. After this devastating defeat, Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide. By 29 B.C., Octavian was the sole leader of Rome and all its provinces. To avoid meeting Caesar s fate, he made sure to make his position as absolute ruler acceptable to the public. He made it look like he was restoring the political institutions of the Roman republic, but in reality he kept all real power for himself. In 27 B.C., Octavian assumed the title of Augustus, becoming the first emperor of Rome. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 4

5 Quiz 1 Which answer choice accurately characterizes the role of wealth in the Roman Empire? Wealth was peacefully and equally distributed among members of the Roman republic. Wealth was controlled by a ruling class whose actions led to instability and violence. Wealth was distributed equally among patricians who generously supported plebeians. Wealth was controlled by a ruling class who used it to support military dictators. 2 Based on the article, what caused the Roman government to shift from one led by several men to one with a single leader? Caesar crossing the Rubicon Octavian assuming the title of Augustus Mark Antony defeating Brutus and Cassius Pompey stepping in as consul 3 Why does the author include information about the founders of Rome and their descendants, the patricians? to suggest that themes of violence and privilege had a long history of influence on Roman government to show that patricians were better prepared to run the Roman government than the plebeians to explain the reasons why governments led by consuls were unsuccessful in Rome to highlight the principles of courage and loyalty that were present in the Roman government This article is available at 5 reading levels at 5

6 4 How does the section "Military expansion" contribute to the article? It outlines how Rome's participation in slavery led to the conflicts discussed in the following paragraph. It gives background about the conflict between Rome and Macedonia to give context for Caesar's later victory. It lists wars fought by Rome in distant locations to show how the empire was weakened financially and culturally. It helps explain the reasons given in the introduction for Rome's broad cultural influence on the world. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 6

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