The Roman Republic Part Two
Roman civilization dates from 753 BC to AD 476. The Roman Republic itself lasted from 509 BC to 27 BC.
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So, this was when the monarchy was overthrown and the Republic was developed, and 27 BC is when they get their first emperor, and the Republic is no more.
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The transcript is for your convenience
So, where we left off: Rome was expanding. Rome was conquering territories, and as Rome continued to expand, class conflicts developed between the nobility and the poor. So, there was a lot more leeway for individuals to gain power because everyone wasn’t happy. Things weren’t running smoothly. So, with these conflicts happening, in 60 BC, the famous general Julius Caesar was able to shake things up. And he formed a three-person alliance to govern Rome. Now, previously, there had been a two-person consul that was elected annually that governed Rome, and they ruled over the Senate and the Assembly. Now, Julius Caesar changed it to a three-person alliance, and the other two members were Crassus and Pompey.
The three of them led a campaign against Gaul, which is present-day or modern-day France, and they won. And they became very rich. They actually became richer than the whole Republic of Rome. And so, they took more control than they really should have. Crassus, which was one of the three alliance members, had died in battle. So, now, it was just Caesar and Pompey. So, Caesar pushed Pompey out and crowned himself dictator for life. So, remember, we left from the two-person consul that was elected every year, and now, you’ve got Julius Caesar saying, just him, just this one person, is going to be dictator for life. You’re not going to get to elect someone annually anymore. It’s going to be Julius Caesar until the day he dies. So, you can imagine some of the people weren’t happy with that.
And so, unhappy with his lifelong claim to power, a group of Senators, members of that Senate, led by Marcus Brutus, assassinated Caesar in 44 BC. So, he took control in 60 BC with his three-person alliance, then he was able to become very rich by conquering Gaul, and then, when one of his alliance members died, he was able to push the other one out and take control. But that didn’t last very long, because people didn’t like him saying he was going to rule forever when they were used to being able to elect someone every year. And so, the Senators assassinated him in 44 BC.
There was already class conflict before this, so in 44 BC, Rome was in chaos. They didn’t know what kind of government they were going to have now, they just knew they hadn’t wanted Julius Caesar to be dictator for life. So, they took care of that. In 44 BC, another trio arose called the Triumvirate, and they came together to rule the Roman Republic. So, people had wanted for them to kind of restore the Republic, but that’s not exactly what happened. Marc Antony was one of Caesar’s generals. So, he was kind of famous himself, he was pretty well-known, he was one of his really well-depended on generals. So, that was Marc Antony. Octavius was the nephew and heir to Caesar.
So, Caesar didn’t have any children of his own, then he was leaving his heir, he had dictated that Octavius was his heir, and Octavius was also his nephew. So, Octavius is another part of the Triumvirate, and Marcus Lepidus is the third part, and he was quickly made unimportant. So, they said, “Okay, we’ve got Caesar’s general, Marc Antony, Caesar’s nephew and heir, Octavius, and we’ll throw in this other guy, Marcus Lepidus, but he’s not really important. He’s not going to get to do anything. He’s just kind of there as a namesake.” So, what they did was kind of split up the country, and each of them ruled in a different area.
Octavius stayed in Rome, while Antony went to Egypt. And again, Lepidus wasn’t very important, so he wasn’t in charge very much at all. Antony stayed a while in Egypt as Cleopatra’s guest and lover. I’m sure you all have heard this story before. Octavius and Antony fought with each other a lot. They couldn’t agree on very many things. They were constantly bickering, and eventually, Octavius decided to march on Egypt. He said, “Okay, I’m going to take care of this Antony problem I’ve been having. I’m going to go conquer Egypt, and Antony’s not going to be able to make these kind of decisions anymore.” But, that worked out well for him, and not too well for Antony. When it was clear that Octavius had won, Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide to avoid the shame of facing him and his followers.
So, Antony had been part of this Triumvirate, co-ruler with Octavius and kind of with Lepidus, since Lepidus didn’t get to do much, and now, Octavius had come and conquered what he was in charge of. So, he was going to have to step down for being part of the Triumvirate, and he didn’t want to face that shame. And Cleopatra had taken Antony’s advice, then gone to war against Octavius, and so, she was ashamed, and the two of them committed suicide to avoid having to face everybody, and get new roles in life after being the leaders in Egypt for so long. And Lepidus was still ignored. He was still unimportant, so he was kind of pushed out, and in 27 BC, Octavius, who was now known as Augustus, became the first Roman Emperor. So, in 27 BC, we have the beginning of the Roman Empire, and thus, the end of the Roman Republic.
Next Lesson: The Holy Roman Empire