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The Collapse of
the Roman Republic
Civil Wars,
Slave Revolts,
and Dictatorships
(133-27 B.C.)
The Roman Republic c. 100 B.C.
• By 100 B.C., Rome controlled a vast Mediterranean empire
that stretched from Spain in the west to Asia Minor in the east
• Although Romans admired Greek culture, they saw themselves
as superior to Hellenistic Greeks, who they believed had
grown “soft” and who they now enslaved by the thousands
Rome’s conquests fed a
growing appetite for the
spoils of war (including gold,
silver, jewels, land, and
slaves) that eroded traditional
Roman virtues of honesty,
respect for the law, and
Gracchan Reforms
• Even as Rome’s empire grew, poverty
increased as poor farmers found it harder to
compete with large estates (latifundia) that
used slave labor
• Returning soldiers often found it difficult to
start over and ended up without land or a job
• Plebeians found a set of champions in
Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, tribunes who
sought to bring about land reforms
• Patricians felt threatened by these reforms
and conspired to murder the Gracchi and
their supporters in 133 B.C. and 121 B.C.
• Tension between plebeians and patricians
destabilized the republic and contributed to
the rise of …
A New Army and Civil War
• In response to multiple threats on Rome’s
frontiers, the consul Marius opened army service
to plebeians who would be paid for service
• Roman soldiers now owed their allegiance more
to their generals than to the republic
• Marius and one of his generals, Sulla, fought for
control of Rome from 88 to 82 B.C., causing
horrific bloodshed and the restoration of the
Senate’s authority under the victorious Sulla
• The examples set by Marius and Sulla inspired a
new generation of leaders who were motivated
by personal ambition rather than loyalty to the
The Spartacus Revolt (73-71 B.C.)
• After viewing the video clips, be prepared to discuss how the
Spartacus Revolt and the subsequent rise to power of Crassus
revealed weaknesses in the Roman Republic.
The First Triumvirate
Created in 60 B.C. by three political rivals
Crassus achieved
Pompey conquered
Julius Caesar, an
power after the defeat
of the slave revolt; he
was later killed in
battle against the
Parthians in 53 B.C.
Syria and Judaea and
had returned in
triumph to Rome in
62 B.C., he married
Caesar’s daughter
ambitious leader
popular with the
plebeians, was
elected consul in
59 B.C.
Julius Caesar: Master of the Roman World
Conquered the Gauls, 58-50 B.C.
Invaded Britain, 54 B.C.
Crossed the Rubicon River, 49 B.C.
Defeated Pompey at the Battle of Pharsalus,
48 B.C.
Supported Queen Cleopatra of Egypt in her
civil war against her brother, 47 B.C.
Returned to Rome and appointed dictator in
46 B.C.
Defeated his last opponents in Spain, 45 B.C.
Appointed as “dictator for life” and
assassinated by a Senate conspiracy, 44 B.C.
BEWARE the Ides of March!
March 15, 44 B.C.
The Second Triumvirate
• Mark Antony, Caesar’s “right hand”, claimed power in the
wake of the assassination and formed a triumvirate with
Caesar’s heir, Octavian, and Lepidus, a Roman general
• They pursued the Senate forces and defeated Brutus and
Cassius at the Battle of Philippi in 42 B.C.
• Their purge resulted in the deaths of over 300 senators,
including Cicero, who had tried unsuccessfully to preserve the
ideals of the old republic in the face of Caesar’s ambitions
Mark Antony & Octavian
(left) led the forces that
destroyed the leaders of
the Senate conspiracy,
including Rome’s greatest
orator and champion of the
republic, Cicero (right)
Antony & Cleopatra
• Mark Antony and Octavian split control
of the empire between them, with
Antony taking command in the east and
Octavian in the west
• Mark Antony fell in love with Cleopatra
and the couple attempted to assert their
authority over the empire
• Octavian’s forces destroyed Antony and
Cleopatra’s fleet in the Battle of Actium
off the coast of Greece in 31 B.C.
• Antony and Cleopatra separately chose
to commit suicide rather than suffer
humiliation as prisoners of Octavian
Augustus Establishes the Empire
• Octavian vowed to restore the republic but, in reality, secured
absolute authority for himself as imperator
• In 27 B.C., the Senate named Octavian princeps (first citizen)
and he later took the title of Augustus (“exalted one”)
• The new emperor wisely pursued a policy of peace and internal
order, ushering in the Pax Romana, which lasted over 200 years