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Part 1: Roman Empire
Part 2: Medieval Europe
Lesson 18
Part 1: Roman Empire
Theme: Republic and Empire
Lesson 18
• Augustus (Octavian), dictators, empire,
Julius Caesar, patricians, plebeians,
latifundia, pax romana, republic
Origins of Rome
• Rome was founded in the 8th Century B.C. and
was originally a small city-state ruled by a single
• Late in the 6th Century B.C., the city’s aristocrats
deposed the king, ended the monarchy, and
instituted a republic
– A republic is a form of government in which delegates
represent the interests of various constituents
• The Roman republic survived for over 500 years
and at one time dominated the Mediterranean
Mediterranean Basin
Legend of Rome’s Founding
• Aeneas migrated from Troy
to Italy
• Two of his descendants,
Romulus and Remus, were
abandoned by an evil uncle
in the flooded Tiber River
• A kindly she-wolf found them
and nursed them to health
• The boys grew strong and
courageous and in 753 B.C.,
Romulus founded the city of
Rome and established
himself as its first king
Romulus and Remus being
nursed by the she-wolf
Rise of Rome
• From humble beginnings,
Rome grew into a strong
commercial center, in part
because of its geographic
– Rome enjoyed easy access to
the Mediterranean via the
Tiber River, but because it
was not on the coast, it was
safe from invasion or attack
by the sea
• By the 6th Century B.C.,
trade routes from all parts of
Italy converged in Rome
Establishment of the Republic
• When the aristocracy deposed the king in
509 and established a republic, they
instituted a republican constitution
– Executive responsibilities were entrusted to
two consuls who wielded civil and military
– Consuls were elected by an assembly
dominated by hereditary aristocrats and
wealthy classes
– Consuls served one year terms
Establishment of the Republic
• The Senate was
mostly of
aristocrats with
• They advised
the consuls and
ratified all major
Roman Senate house
Patricians versus Plebeians
• Both the consuls and the
Senate represented the
interests of the
patricians– the hereditary
aristocrats and wealthy
• This caused tension
between the patricians
and the common people–
the plebeians
In honor of the Roman
plebeians, freshmen at West
Point are called plebes
Patricians versus Plebeians
• In the early 5th Century, tensions got so
bad that the plebeians threatened to
secede from Rome and establish a rival
• In order to maintain the integrity of the
Roman state, the patricians granted the
plebeians the right to elect officials known
as tribunes to represent their interests
Patricians versus Plebeians
• Originally the plebeians were authorized
two tribunes, but that number eventually
rose to ten
• Tribunes had the power to intervene in all
political matters and to veto measures
they thought were unfair
– Still the patricians continued to dominate
Increased Representation for
• During the 4th Century, plebeians became
eligible to hold almost all state offices and
gained the right to have one of the consuls come
from their ranks
• By the early 3rd Century, plebeian-dominated
assemblies won the power to make decisions
binding on all of Rome
• Republican Rome was gradually broadening the
base of political participation
• In times of civil
or military crisis,
the Roman
allowed for the
appointment of a
dictator who
wielded absolute
power for a term
of six months
Cincinnatus, shown here handing
the rods of power back to the city
fathers, served as dictator of
Rome twice
Expansion of the Republic
• Rome expanded
from central Italy,
to the Italian
Peninsula, to the
• Defeated the
Carthaginians in
the Punic Wars
between 264 and
146 B.C.
Territory under Roman control near
the end of the republic, 44 B.C.
From Republic to Empire
• Imperial expansion brought wealth to Rome, but
the wealth was unequally distributed which
aggravated class tensions
– Conflicts arose over political and social policies
– During the 1st Century B.C. and the 1st Century A.D.,
Roman civil and military leaders will gradually
dismantle the republican constitution and replace it
with a centralized imperial form of government
Problems with Conquered Lands
• Conquered lands usually fell into the
hands of wealthy elites who organized
enormous plantations known as latifundia
• The owners of latifundia enjoyed great
economies of scale and used slave labor
to drive the owners of smaller holdings out
of business
Problems with Conquered Lands
• Tiberius and Gaius
Gracchi worked to
limit the amount of
conquered land an
individual could hold
• They met strong
resistance from the
wealthy and ruling
classes and were
both assassinated
Bigger Problem
• The problem of land distribution was a
symptom of a bigger problem
– The constitution of the Roman republic had
been designed for a small city-state
– It was not suitable for a large and growing
• Roman politicians and generals began
jockeying for power and several raised
personal armies for support
Civil War
• The two most
important generals
were Gaius Marius
and Lucius
Cornelius Sulla
– Marius sided with
social reformers
who favored
redistribution of
– Sulla sided with the
conservative and
aristocratic classes
Civil War
• In 87 B.C., Marius marched on Rome,
placed the city under military occupation,
and began hunting down his enemies
• When Marius died the next year, Sulla
moved to replace him
• In 83, Sulla seized Rome and began
slaughtering his enemies
• Sulla initiated a reign of terror that lasted
almost five years until he died in 78
• During that period he killed some ten
thousand individuals
• He imposed an extremely conservative
legislative program that weakened the
influence of the lower classes and
strengthened the hand of the wealthy
Julius Caesar
• Sulla’s program did not address Rome’s most
serious social problems
• The latifundia continued to crush small farmers
and poverty was rampant
• There were many social eruptions when times
were especially hard
• Julius Caesar stepped into the chaos and
inaugurated a process that replaced the Roman
republican constitution with a centralized
imperial form of government
Julius Caesar
• Caesar was a
nephew of Marius and
he favored Marius’
liberal policies and
social reform
• In the 50s B.C.,
Caesar led an army
that conquered Gaul
and made him very
Gaul (now mostly France)
Julius Caesar
• In 49 Caesar
marched his army to
Rome and by early 46
he had named himself
• But instead of the
constitutional six
month term, Caesar
claimed to be dictator
for life
Julius Caesar
• Caesar centralized military and political
functions and brought them under his control
• He confiscated property from conservatives and
distributed it among veterans of his army and
other supporters
• He launched large scale building projects to
provide employment for the poor
• He extended Roman citizenship to people in the
imperial provinces
Julius Caesar
• But Caesar’s reforms
alienated many of
Rome’s elite who
considered him a tyrant
• In 44 B.C. they
assassinated him
• However it was too late to
return to the old
conservative ways and a
new round of civil crisis
ensued for thirteen years
– Octavian emerged in
• Octavian was a
nephew, protégé,
and adopted son
of Julius Caesar
• He defeated his
principal rival,
Mark Anthony,
and Anthony’s
ally Cleopatra at
Actium, Greece
in 31 B.C.
Anthony and Cleopatra by Sir
Lawrence Alma-Tadema
• Octavian consolidated his
rule and in 27 B.C., the
Senate bestowed upon
him the title Augustus
– “Augustus” has religious
connotations suggesting a
divine or semidivine nature
• Augustus ruled virtually
unopposed for 45 years
in “a monarchy disguised
as a republic”
• Augustus
centralized political
and military power
like Julius Caesar
did, but he was
careful to preserve
republican offices
and forms of
government and
included members
of the Roman elite
in his government
Government under Augustus
• Accumulated vast powers for himself and
ultimately took responsibility for all important
governmental functions
– Placed individuals loyal to him in all important
• Reorganized the military system
– Created a new standing army with commanders who
owed allegiance to him
• Eliminated the personal armies of earlier years
• Stabilized the land after the years of civil war
and allowed the institutions of empire to take
Mare Nostrum
• After Augustus, the
Roman Empire
continued to grow to the
point that it surrounded
the Mediterranean
– Romans called the
Mediterranean mare
nostrum (“our sea”)
• Expansion brought
Roman soldiers,
diplomats, governors,
and merchants
throughout the region
• Trade flourished
Roman Empire, 117 A.D.
Pax Romana
• By stopping the civil wars, Augustus
inaugurated an era known as pax romana
(“Roman peace”) which greatly facilitated
trade and communication
– Lasted from 27 B.C. to 180 A.D.
• Also included applying standards of justice
and a basic code of law throughout the
How were populations controlled by
the Romans?
• Under the republic?
• Under the empire?
How were populations controlled by
the Romans?
• Under the republic
– Representation (consuls and Senate)
– Resolution of conflicts between the patricians and
plebeians (tribunes)
– Dictators
• Under the empire
– Julius Caesar centralized authority but alienated elite
– Augustus continued centralization but placated elite
and ensured loyalty through patronage
– Pax romana stabilized region through trade,
communication, and law
Part 2: Medieval Europe
Theme: Order in the absence of empire
Lesson 18
• chivalry, feudal system, lords, manors,
serfs, “three estates”
Regional States
• Germanic invaders
toppled Rome’s authority
in the late 5th Century
A.D. but no clear
successor to centralized
authority emerged
– The Franks
temporarily revived
empire; the high point
of which was the reign
of Charlemagne from
Regional States
• After Charlemagne, his
successor Carolingians had no
effective means of defending
against Magyars, Muslims,
Vikings, and other invaders
• In response, European nobles
sought to protect their lands
and maintain order in their own
• Political authority in early
medieval Europe thus
devolved into competing local
and regional jurisdictions with
a decentralized political order
– “Feudalism”
Viking long ship
• There really was no “feudal system” if that implies a neat
hierarchy of lords and vassals who collectively took
charge of political and military affairs
• Because the feudal hierarchy arose as a makeshift for
defense against invaders, it always had a provisional, ad
hoc, and flexible character
– There was no “system”
• However, medieval European society was characterized
– Fragmentation of political power
– Public power in private hands
– Armed forces secured through private contracts
Medieval Society
Early Middle Ages (450-1050)
• The country was not governed by the king but by
individual lords who administered their own
estates, dispensed their own justice, minted their
own money, levied taxes and tolls, and
demanded military service from vassals
• Usually the lords could field greater armies than
the king
– In theory the king was the chief feudal lord, but in
reality the individual lords were supreme in their own
• Many kings were little more than figurehead rulers
• The nobles maintained their armies by
offering grants, usually land, to armed
• In exchange for the grants, the retainers
pledged their loyalty and military service to
their lords
– The retainers gained increased rights over
their land, to include the prerogative to pass
on their rights to the heirs
Political-Military Relationship
• A close relationship between political and
military authorities developed
– As a result, political authorities and military specialists
merged into a hereditary noble class which lived off
the surplus agricultural production that it extracted
from the cultivators
– Only by tapping into this surplus could the lords and
their retainers secure the material resources
necessary to maintain their control over military,
political, and legal affairs
• Free peasants sought
protection from a lord and
pledged their labor and
obedience in exchange for
security and land to cultivate
• Beginning in the mid 17th
Century, this category
became recognized as serfs–
neither fully slave nor fully
– Not chattel slaves subject to
sale by their master
– But still owed obligations to the
lords whose lands they
Serfs’ Obligations
• Had the right to work certain lands and to pass
those lands on to their heirs
• In exchange they had to perform labor services
and pay rents in kind (a portion of the harvest,
chickens, eggs, etc)
• Male serfs typically worked three days a week
for their lords with extra services during planting
and harvesting times
• Women serfs churned butter, spun thread, and
sewed clothes for their lords and their families
Serfs’ Obligations
• Since the lord
provided the land, the
serfs had little
opportunity to move
and had to get the
lord’s permission to
do so
– Even had to pay fees
to marry someone who
worked for a different
• Manors were large estates
consisting of fields, meadows,
forests, agricultural tools,
domestic animals, and serfs
• The lord of the manor and his
deputies provided government,
administration, police services,
and justice for the manor
• Many lords had the authority to
execute serfs for serious
• In the absence of thriving cities
in rural areas, manors became
largely self-sufficient
Transition to the High Middle Ages
(1050 to 1400)
• The regional stability of the early middle ages allowed
local rulers to organize powerful regional states
– Holy Roman Empire
– Capetian France
– Norman England
– Papal States
– etc
• The kings of England and France used their
relationships with retainers to build powerful, centralized
– Still no one could consolidate all of Europe under a
single empire
Three Estates of Medieval Society
• Those who pray
– The clergy of the
Roman Catholic
• Those who fight
– Nobles
• Those who work
– Peasants
• The result was a
society marked by
political, social, and
economic inequality
• Church officials
originally proposed a
chivalric code to curb
fighting within
• By the 12th Century,
the ritual by which a
young man became
a knight commonly
included the
candidate placing his
sword upon an altar
and pledging his
service to God
• With chivalry, warriors were
encouraged to adopt higher
ethical standards and refined
manners and become cultivated
leaders of society
• The chivalric code called for a
noble to devote himself to the
causes of order, piety, and the
Christian faith rather than
seeking wealth and power
How was order maintained in the
Early Middle Ages?
How was order maintained in the
Early Middle Ages?
• In the absence of a strong centralized
authority, local political and military elites
worked out various ad hoc ways to
organize and protect their territories
– Lords and retainees
– Manors
– Serfs
How was order maintained in the
High Middle Ages?
How was order maintained in the
High Middle Ages?
• The regional stability of the Early Middle
Ages allowed powerful regional states to
be built, but there was still no single
European Empire
• The code of chivalry helped provide some
order and protection for those who
otherwise would be most vulnerable to
unchecked power
• Papers Due