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History 4 Essay, Research Paper
Gaius Julius Caesar was born on July 13, 100 BC to a prestigious Roman family. His uncle was Gaius Marius, the consul and leader of the agrarian reform movement. In 82 BC, Lucius Cornelius Sulla attacked the city and made himself dictator. Because Sulla was an enemy of Marius, he ordered Caesar to divorce his wife, Cornelia. Caesar refused, and fled the city until Sulla resigned in 78 BC. Caesar started his reign in a triumvirate, with himself, Pompey the Great, and Marcus Licinius Crassus. This was just a dictatorship of three. They ruled the Republic with terror, using the army and their henchmen as muscle. The only person who continually voiced his opposition to the triumvirate was the famous orator, Cicero. The triumvirate chased him into hiding. In 58 BC, Caesar et al.’s term ended, but they kept power. Caesar boosted his popularity by conquering Gaul and Britain. In 53 BC, Crassus died in battle in Asia, leaving a triumvirate of two. While Caesar was away in Britain, the senators tried to pit him against Pompey by naming Caesar a public enemy and Pompey protector of the state. The senators were hoping that the two would get rid of each other. Caesar was ordered to disband his army, but he instead marched on Rome. He was just bringing his soldiers home, but it was taken as an invasion. In 48 BC, Caesar crossed to Greece, where Pompey had escaped to. Pompey escaped to Egypt, where he sought shelter with King Ptolemy XIII. Ptolemy’s advisors warned him against the wrath of Caesar, so he killed Pompey and sent Caesar his head. In 46 BC, Caesar was named the ten year dictator of the state. He promptly renamed himself dictator for life. On March 15, 44 BC, a group of senators who decided that Caesar was a danger to the Republic. Led by Brutus and Cassius, they attacked Caesar in the senate chambers. Ironically, his body fell at the feet of the statue of Pompey, after suffering twenty-three knife wounds. Immediately after Caesar’s death, the senate outlawed the dictatorship.
After Caesar’s death, his adopted grandson, Octavian, formed the second triumvirate with Mark
Antony and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. Antony ruled the east, Octavian the west and Italy, and Lepidus ruled Africa. The second triumvirate was constituted by an act of state to reconstitute the state. They were given five years, but this was later extended. The three crushed all of their opponents, including Brutus, Cassius, and Cicero. Battling against Sextus Pompeius, Octavian summoned Lepidus to Italy to help him. Upon arriving, Lepidus tried to seize Sicily, and was subsequently kicked out of the triumvirate.
Mark Antony fell in love with Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, who was rumored to be a former lover of Caesar. Together they ruled the Eastern Empire for many years. With the growing support of the Roman people, Octavian declared war on Antony, to secure power for himself. The two forces, Octavian’s navy commanded by Marcus Agrippa, and Antony and Cleopatra’s navy, met at the battle of Actium on September 2, 31 BC. Agrippa, a very capable general and a good friend of Octavian, commanded 260 light ships, while Antony commanded 220 heavy ships. The battle raged on for a very long time, and was beginning to look like a stalemate, when the Egyptian fleet withdrew. Agrippa’s fleet crushed the remnants of Antony’s fleet, who survived and escaped back to Egypt with Cleopatra. Antony received a false rumor and killed himself by falling on his sword. Upon hearing of his suicide, Cleopatra killed herself with an asp, which was a symbol of the eye of Ra, the Egyptian sun god (Gibson). After the war was over, Octavian closed the Roman temple to Janus, the Roman god of beginnings of wars. This showed that the world was at peace.
In 28 BC, Octavian and Agrippa became consuls. After one year, they turned the state over to “the free decision of the Senate and People of Rome”. The Senate and people of Rome gave Octavian ten years of complete control. Octavian named himself the princeps, which is Latin for emperor. He ran the Empire as a monarchy, although it was disguised as a Republic.
They still had a senate, but senators only made it into office with Octavian’s approval. Those citizens who were not fooled kept quiet, because Octavian kept things peaceful and governed fairly. Octavian ended the Roman tradition of conquest, cutting the army from seventy five to twenty eight legions. In 23 BC, Octavian gave up the consulate, but the senate forced him to keep power over the provinces. In effect, he ran the Empire from the background, while others were elected consul. These consuls had power, but always did what Octavian said. Octavian was almost eighty when he died in 14 AD.
After Octavian came the Emperor Tiberius. His reign was non-eventful, and he retired after plots against him were turned up. After Tiberius came Gaius, who was better known as Caligula. During his reign, Caligula went crazy. According to Burrell, anyone disagreeing with him was thrown to the lions in the Arena. He also got the Senate to name his horse consul. Everyone was thankful when he was assassinated in 41 AD. Caligula was succeeded by several emperors who did nothing governmentally, including Claudius and Nero.
Around the second century AD, the Empire began to crumble. Wave after wave of barbarian invaders, especially the Huns, chipped away at the state. Eventually some of the provinces had to be abandoned. At the end of the third century, Emperor Diocletian decided the empire was too big, and split it in two. He ruled the east from Turkey, and commissioned Maximian to rule the west from Milan. He called this form of government the Dominate, from Latin dominus, meaning master. There were two Augusti, who ruled the east and west, and under them there were two Caesars, who were like vice-presidents. The two Caesars of the east and west were Constantine and Galerius, respectively. Diocletian turned his empire into something like a feudal system, where peasants were deprived of personal freedom and tied to the soil. He renamed citizens to subjects. In 305, Diocletian and Maximian stepped down as Augusti,
resulting in civil wars between the old Caesars and new Augusti. Eventually, Constantine the Great came out. Constantine’s troops made him emperor, and he ruled the entire Empire from Byzantium, which he renamed Constantinople. Constantine was the first Christian ruler of the Empire.
Alaric of the Visgoths helped the emperor Theodosius crush a rebellion. Unfortunately, Theodosius died before he could reward Alaric. The new emperor, Honorius, cut Alaric off from Rome, which he resented deeply. Alaric took his army to Constantinople, but found it too well guarded. He then led his army to the city of Rome, where, in the fifth century, sacked it.
The Empire continued to fall to barbarians. The east and west sides of the Empire were in a virtual state of war. In 429, Vandals conquered Africa. In 410, Britain fell. In 451, the Huns took most of Europe. When Atilla the Hun came to Rome, Pope Leo was able to convince him to spare the city. In 455, Vandals came and sacked Rome. In the year 476 AD, the last emperor died, marking the fall of the Roman Empire, one of the greatest ever. That last emperor’s name was, ironically, Romulus.
The Roman Kingdom, Republic, Empire, Dictatorship, and others have affected all of us. The United States government in commonly known as a democracy, but it’s actually a Republic, almost identical to the Roman one. The Roman government was one of the most powerful ever, at one point ruling most of the civilized world. It is almost certainly the best known. Ask anyone about Romulus and Remus, Gaius Julius Caesar, Augustus, Caligula, Nero, Constantine; they’ll know who you’re talking about. The term Caesar was used to mean ruler for thousands of years after his death. Both the German word Kaiser, as well as the Russian word Czar are from the name Caesar and mean ruler. Today some three-fourths of the countries are Republic, styled after the Romans. The Romans are probably the most influential people of all-time.
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