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Main Idea / Reading Focus

Problems in the Late Republic

Rome Becomes an Empire

Map: The Roman Empire

The Pax Romana

From Republic to Empire


From Republic to Empire

Main Idea

Governmental and social problems led to the end of the Roman Republic and the creation of a new form of government.

  • Reading Focus
  • What problems did leaders face in the late Roman Republic?
  • How did Rome become an empire?
  • What helped tie the Roman empire together during the Pax Romana?

Social Unrest


Public Land

  • Revolution began in political, social institutions
  • Tensions grew between classes of Roman society
  • Gracchi brothers tried to resolve tension
  • Tribune Tiberius Gracchus noted mistreatment of soldier-farmers
  • Many reduced to poverty
  • Tiberius, brother Gaius tried to help soldiers
  • Gracchi tried to redistribute public land to farmers
  • Had public support, but Senate feared Gracchi trying to reduce its power
  • Senate urged mobs to kill brothers

Problems in the Late Republic

By the mid-100s BC, Rome had no rival anywhere in the Mediterranean world. However, the responsibilities of running their vast holdings stretched the Roman political system to its limits.

107 BC, social unrest reached new level

General Gaius Marius elected consul

Eliminated property restrictions

Accepted anyone who wanted to join army

Armies, private forces devoted to general

Poor hoped to share plunder at end of war

Ruthless generals realized loyalty of troops could be used as political tool

The Military in Politics


Civil War

The Social War

  • Social War revealed talent of General Lucius Cornelius Sulla
  • Sulla became consul, 88 BC; after consulship ended, Marius tried to prevent Sulla from taking military command
  • Sulla marched on Rome, won civil war, became dictator
  • Carried out program of reforms to protect power of Senate
  • Rome’s Italian allies had been trying to obtain Roman citizenship
  • Senate wanted to maintain monopoly on power, refused
  • 90 BC, Social War broke out
  • Italian rebels were defeated, but Senate agreed to give them citizenship

Social and Civil Wars



What challenges faced Rome in the late Republic?

Answer(s): slave revolts, social unrest, the Social War, and a civil war in which Sulla became dictator


The First Triumvirate

End of Triumvirate

  • Julius Caesar, Gnaeus Pompey, Licinius Crassus helped bring end to Republic
  • Caesar, Pompey successful military commanders
  • Crassus one of wealthiest people in Rome
  • 60 BC, the three took over Roman state, ruled as First Triumvirate
  • Crassus died; Pompey, Caesar fought civil war
  • Caesar defeated Pompey, took full control of Rome, became dictator for life, 44 BC
  • Caesar brought many changes to Rome, popular reforms
  • Senate feared he would destroy Roman Republic, murdered him, Ides of March

Rome Becomes an Empire

Sulla paved the way for major changes in Rome’s government. The end of the Republic resulted from the ambitions of a few individuals.


The Second Triumvirate

  • Caesar’s murder did not save the Republic
  • 43 BC, Second Triumvirate took power—Caesar’s adopted son, Octavian; loyal officer Marc Antony; high priest Lepidus
  • Lepidus pushed aside; Antony, Octavian agreed to govern half the empire each, Octavian in west, Antony in East
  • Civil War
  • Civil war between Octavian, Antony broke out
  • Octavian defeated Antony and his ally, Egypt’s Queen Cleopatra
  • Cleopatra, Antony committed suicide; Octavian alone controlled Rome
  • Republic effectively dead; new period in Roman history beginning

From Octavian to Augustus

  • Octavian Takes Power
  • Octavian faced task of restoring order in empire
  • Had no intention of establishing dictatorship when he took power
  • New Political Order
  • Octavian decided it impossible to return Rome to republican form of government
  • Created new political order, known today as the empire
  • Principate
  • Octavian careful to avoid title of king or emperor
  • Called himself princeps, “first citizen”
  • Government called Principate
  • New Title
  • 27 BC, Senate gave Octavian title Augustus, “the revered one”
  • Title a religious honor; able to wear laurel and oak leaf crown

The Augustan Age

  • New Imperial Government
  • Augustus head of state more than 40 years, made smooth transition to new imperial government with power divided between him and Senate
  • Most financial, administrative matters under Augustus’s control
  • Foreign Affairs
  • Started program to bring peace to west, particularly to Gaul, Spain
  • Began series of conquests that pushed border eastward to Danube River
  • Also took special care of Rome itself
  • Legacy
  • Created police force, fire brigades; stockpiled food, water
  • Began building program; presided over moral, religious reforms
  • Great period of cultural creativity; great writers like Horace, Ovid, Virgil


The Good Emperors

  • Following Nero’s death, civil wars raged in Rome
  • Four military leaders claimed throne in turn
  • Last, Vespasian reestablished order, as did reigns of two sons
  • Stability returned under Flavians
  • AD 96, new line of emperors established—Good Emperors
  • Five rulers governed Rome for almost a century
  • From provinces different than Rome, continued opening Roman imperial society

Julio-Claudians and Flavians

  • Augustus died AD 14, empire ruled by Caesar’s relatives for 54 years
  • Julio-Claudian Emperors’ abilities varied widely
  • Tiberius a good soldier, competent administrator
  • Caligula, brutal, mentally unstable; appointed favorite horse as consul
  • AD 68, last of Julio-Claudians, Nero committed suicide
Empire grew tremendously under Good Emperors

Reached limits of expansion under Trajan

Added what are now Romania, Armenia, Mesopotamia, and the Sinai Peninsula

Successor Hadrian thought empire too large

Withdrew from almost all eastern additions

Built defensive fortifications to guard against invasions

Built wall 73 miles long in northern Britain

The Good Emperors



How did Rome grow and change after it became an empire?

Answer(s): The Roman Empire reached the limits of its territorial expansion and made developments in building, government, and culture.




  • Roman government strongest unifying force in empire
  • Maintained order, enforced laws, defended frontiers
  • Aristocracy participated, but emperors made all important decisions
  • Empire divided into provinces ruled by governors appointed from Rome
  • Provincial government fair, efficient
  • Government in Rome kept close check on governors
  • Any citizen could appeal unfair treatment directly to emperor

The Pax Romana

The period from the beginning of August’s reign in 27 BC until the death of the last of the Good Emperors in AD 180 is often called the Pax Romana—the Roman Peace. This era was characterized by stable government, a strong legal system, widespread trade, and peace.

Empire brought uniformity to the cities of the Mediterranean world, which were governed in imitation of Rome.


Legal System

  • Laws
  • Roman law unified the empire
  • Laws specified what could, could not be done; penalties for breaking law
  • Same laws applied to everyone in empire, wherever they lived
  • Agriculture
  • Agriculture remained primary occupation throughout Pax Romana
  • Most farms, independent with little, no surplus to sell
  • Tenant farmers began to replace slaves on large farms
  • Manufacturing
  • Manufacturing increased throughout empire
  • Italy, Gaul, Spain—artisans made cheap pottery, textiles
  • Fine glassware made in eastern cities like Alexandria

Opportunities for Trade

  • Trade
  • Italy imported grain, meat, raw materials from provinces
  • Merchants brought silks, linens, glassware, jewelry, furniture from Asia
  • Rome, Alexandria became commercial centers
  • Transportation
  • Commercial activity possible because of empire’s location around Mediterranean and extensive road network
  • Ultimately about 50,000 miles of roads bound empire together
  • Military and Merchant Routes
  • Most roads built, maintained for military purposes
  • Cheaper to transport grain by ship from one end of Mediterranean to other than to send it overland; most goods went by sea


How did government, law, and trade tie the Roman people together?

Answer(s):The Roman government was the strongest unifying force, maintaining order, enforcing the laws, and defending the frontiers. Roman law provided stability and, with few exceptions, the same laws applied to everyone in the empire. Trade provided opportunities for commerce between people in different parts of the empire.