Rome and the Roman Empire
by Alexander Moiseev
The accounts ofthe regal period have come down overlaid with such a mass of myth and legendthat few statements can be accepted as factual; the Roman historians of latertimes, lacking authentic records, relied on fabrications of a patrioticrecords, relied on fabrications of a patriotic fancy.
The Legendary Period of the kings(753-510 BC)
Rome was said tohave been founded by Latin colonists from Alba Longa, a nearby city in ancientLatium. The legendary date of the founding was 753 BC; it was ascribed toRomulus and Remus, the twin sons of RheaSilvia, a vestal virgin and the daughter of Numitor, king of Alba Longa. Laterlegend carried the ancestry of the Romans back to the Trojans and their leaderAeneas, whose son Ascanius, or lulus, was the founder and the first king ofAlba Longa. The tales concerning Romulus’s rule, notably the rape of the Sabinewomen and the war with the Sabines under the leader Titus Tatius, point to anearly infiltration of Sabine peoples or to a union of Latin and Sabine elementsat the beginning. The three tribes, the Ramnes, Titieus, and Luceres, thatappear in the legend of Romulus as the parts of the new commonwealth suggestthat Rome arose from the amalgamation of three stocks, thought to be Latin,Sabine, and Etruscan.
The seven kingsof the regal period and the dates traditionally assigned to their regns are asfollows: Romulus, from 753 to 715 BC; Numa Pompilius, from 715 to 676 or 672BC, to whom was attributed the introduction of many religious customs; TullusHostilius, from 673 to 641 BC, a warlike king, who destroyed Alba Longa andfought against the Sabines; Ancus Marcius, from 641 to 616 BC, said to havebuilt the port of Astia and to have captured many Latin towns, transferringtheir inhabitants to Rome; Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, from 616 to 578 BC,celebrated both for his military exploits against neighboring peoples and forhis construction of public buildings at Rome; Servius Tullius, from 578 to 534BC, famed for his new constitution and for the enlargement of the boundaries ofthe city; and Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, from 534 to 510 BC, the seventh andthe last king, whose tyrannical rule was overthrow when his son ravishedLucretia, the wife of a kinsman. Tarquinius was banished, and attempts byEtruscan or Latin cities to reinstate him on the throne at Rome wereunavailing.
Although thenames, dates, and events of the regal period are considered as belonging to theregal of fiction and myth rather than to that of factual history, certain factsseem well attested: the existence of an early rule by kings; the growth of thecity and its struggles with neighboring peoples; the conquest of Rome by Etruriaand the establishment of a dynasty of Etruscan princes, symbolized by the ruleof the Tarquins; the overthrow of this alien control; and the abolition of thekingship. The existence of certain social and political conditions may also beaccepted, such as the division of the beginning into two orders: thepatricians, who alone possessed political rights and constituted the populus,or people; and their dependents, known as clients or the plebs, who hadoriginally no political existence. The rex, or king, chosen by theSenate(senatus), or Council of Elders, from the ranks of the patricians, heldoffice for life, called out the populus for war, and led the army in person; hewas preceded by officers, known as lictors, who bore the faces, the symbols ofpower and punishment, and was the supreme judge in all civil and criminalsuits. The senatus gave its advice only when the king chose to consult it, butthe elders(patres) possessed great moral authority, inasmuch as their tenurewas for life. Originally only patricians could bear arms in defense of thestate. At some stage in the regal period an important military reform occurred,usually designated as the Servian reform of the constitution, because it wasdecided that all property and wealth, it was ascribed to Servius Tullius. Asthe plebs could by this time acquire property and wealth, it was decided thatall property holders, both patrician and plebian, must serve in army, and eachtook a rank in accordance with his wealth. This arrangement, although initiallymilitary, paved the way for the great political struggle between the patriciansand the plebs in the early centuries of the Republic.The Republic
On the overthrow of Tarquininus Superbus arepublic was established.
Conquestof Italy(510-264 BC)
In place of theking, two chief executives were chosen annually by the whole body of citizens.These were known as praetors, or leaders, but later received the title ofconsuls. The participation of a colleague in the exercise of supreme power andthe limitation of the tenure to one year prevented the chief magistrate frombecoming autocratic. The character of the Senate was altered by the enrollmentof plebeian members, known as conscreipti, and hence the official designationof the senators thereafter was patres conscripti(conscript fathers). As yet,only patricians were aligible for the magistracies, and the discontent of theplebs led to a violent struggle between the two orders and the gradual removalof the social and political disabilities under which the plebs had labored.
In 494 BC asecession of plebian soldiers led to the institution of the tribuni plebis, whowere elected annually as protectors of the plebs; they had the power to vetothe acts of patrician magistrates, and thus served as the leaders of the plebsin the struggles with the patricians. The appointment of the decemvirate, acommission of a famous code of laws. In 445 BC, under the Canuleian law,marriages between patricians and members of the plebs were declared legallyvalid. By the Licinian-Sextian laws, passed in 367 BC, it was provided that oneof the two consuls should thenceforth be plebeian. The other magistracies weregradually apened to the plebs: in 356 BC, the dictatorship, an extraordinarymagistracy, the incumbent of which was appointed in times of great danger; in350 BC, the censorship; in 337 BC, the praetorship; and in 300 BC, thepontifical and augural colleges.
AWorld Power(264-133 BC)
In 264 BC, 11years after the victory over Pyrrhus, Rome engaged with Carthage in a strugglefor the control of the Mediterranean Sea. Carthage at this time was theforemost maritime power in the world, ruling as absolutely in the central andwestern Mediterranean as did Rome on the Italian Peninsula.The Empire
Ceasar’sassassination by Republican nobles on March 15, 44 BC, was followed by Cicero’sattempt to restore the old Republican constitution, but Mark Antony, who hadbeen appointed consul with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Caesar’s grandnephew,the youthful Octavian, later Rmperor Augustus, to form the second triumvirate.
Octavian receivedthe title of Augustus in 27 BC and began the new regime by an apparentrestoration of the Republic, with himself as princeps, or chief citizen.
During the last80 years of the Western Roman Empire the provinces, drained by taxes levied forthe support of the army and the bureacracy, were visited by internal war and bybarbarian invasions. At first the policy of conciliating the invader with militarycommands and administrative offices succeded. Gradually, however, thebarbarians estublished in the east began to aim at conquest in the west, andAlaric I, king of the Visigoths, first occupied illyricum, whence he ravagedGreece. In 410 he captured and sacked Rome, but died soon after. His successor,Ataulf(r. 410-15), drew off the Visigoths to Gaul, and in 419 a succeedingking, Wallia, received formal permission from Honorius to settle insouthwestern Gaul, where at Toulouse he founded the Visigothic dynasty.The lastWestern Roman emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was overthrown by the mercenaryHerulian leader Odoacer(c.435-93),who was proclaimed king of Italy by histroops. The history of Rome would subsequently merge with that of the papacy,the Holy Roman Empire, the Papal States, and Italy. For the history of theEastern Empire from the time of Theodosius the Great.