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Expansion of Rome Beyond Italy

After gaining power in Italy, Rome expanded throughout the Mediterranean


Hannibal Counting Roman Rings

Hannibal Counting Roman Rings

CC Flickr User cmatulewicz.

Expansion of Rome Into Italy
Expansion of Rome Beyond Italy

Rome didn't initially set up to conquer the world, but it gradually did so, anyway. A side effect of its empire-building was the reduction of Republican Rome's democratic policies. Rome started as a state where yeoman farmers provided all that their families needed and went to war to protect their property. As a result of the expansion of Rome, a great chasm formed separating the rich from the poor, in Rome, by the end of the third century B.C. The landless poor huddled in tenements in Rome, while the wealthy lived in luxury just a hill away, gaining their wealth from great plantations in the countryside.
Note: By this time the rich were not necessarily patrician, not the plebeians always poor.

Rome Fights on Many Fronts

After becoming the dominant power over most of Italy, Rome fought the Carthaginians in the Punic Wars. The treaties Rome had set up with the confederate nations of Italy had become unimportant in her fight with Carthage. Rome became dictatorial, making difficult demands of her allies. Those who balked or rebelled paid dearly, but Rome wasn't trying to expand her territory, at least in the beginning. Mostly, she was fighting to defend her friends and allies or because of a treaty violation.

To the east, Rome fought wars in Illyria to protect her trade routes against state-supported piracy, and came to the aid of the Greeks who opposed Philip V of Macedon. Rome also fought against one of Philip V and Hannibal's allies, the Seleucid king of Syria.

Then Rome turned north to keep the Gauls from attacking again and to protect the vulnerable northern borders of Italy. To this end, Cisalpine Gaul became a Roman province. In 180 B.C., Rome completed the northern border by annexing Liguria and bodily moving many of the inhabitants. By the end of the first Punic War, Rome controlled Sicily. By the start of the second, she controlled Corsica and Sardinia. She acquired Spain after the end of the second Punic War. She gained control of Carthage (146), Asia (133), and part of Transalpine Gaul (122).

Effects of the Expansion of Rome on Rome's Government

During the period of the expansion of Rome, the government was becoming less democratic and more of an oligarchy. The Roman Senate decided certain matters without reference to the assembly of the people. Proconsular commanders of military units were given increasing term lengths and power. Annual magistracies came to be concentrated in only a few families. The client-patron system meant that the big names received general, popular support.

Effects of the Expansion of Rome on the Poor

Economically, a select few had been able to profit during the wars by procuring state contracts for ships and provisions. With the

(1) great loss of life during the Punic Wars resulting in farms without owners,
(2) desertion of farms to join the military, and
(3) the increase in acreage taken by territorial expansion,

land became available to those wealthy senators who had the capital to buy it. They created latifundia (plantations) that destroyed many of the remaining self-sufficient yeomen farmers. In Rome, businessmen bought up houses that burned, as they did from time to time, and rebuilt insulae, the Roman tenement buildings, to house the new urban poor.

Provincial Governors and Corruption

A leader sent to govern the provinces headed a substantial staff, including assistants and garrison troops. His powers as governor were under only loose scrutiny back home, and so his rule could be autocratic; however, mitigating this potential source of abuse, governors generally relied on the provinces to run themselves. Unlike citizens of Rome, provincials couldn't appeal capital sentences. Against greedy governors and their bad practices in the provinces, the Lex Calpurnia, which passed in 149, created a law court, under the praetor, to deal with investigations of provincial extortion. Unfortunately for the provincials, cases couldn't be tried until after the proconsul's term as governor was up.

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