How The Roman Republic Transformed Into The Roman Empire

The Roman Republic is one of the most successful examples of an imperialistic state. We can see how the republican ideals were shattered by a wide social divide between 499 BC and 44 BC. This was when the Romans defeated their neighbors of Latium and declared themselves “Dictator for Life”. It was the result of imperialistic greed and a failure of cultural diffusion. Although historians disagree on the real reasons for this rapid expansion, two schools of thought are predominant in regards to their true nature. Some historians believe the main reason behind this expansion was the potential wealth and resources gained from conquering neighbors, while others argue that wars were fought to weaken enemies before they could attack.

The evidence that Rome’s imperialistic desire for power and wealth was so prevalent suggests the true motive. By the 4th Century BC, the Roman army had become the most effective force in the Mediterranean. They were organized into well-organized foot soldiers and cavalry called Legions. Within these units were subgroups known Centurions. They created a complex road system that covered the entire Italian Peninsula. They then established colonies to serve as a means of protection in a land dominated by Rome, where Latin was the language of common speech. Around 300 BC there were 150,000 people who lived within Rome’s walls. 750,000 free Romans also inhabited other parts of Italy in land that had been taken from the locals. Rome’s conquest of vast amounts land led to this massive split in population. This large rural community was facing increasing economic challenges. This is due to a mixture of birth rates rising, resulting in an inability for families to grow and difficulties in keeping farms productive during long military campaigns. Nevertheless, many wealthy landowners were able to control large tracts of public land to use for themselves. This led to anger among the poor because they saw how the rich became richer due to the illegal monopolization.

By the third century BC, the politically and economically successful Patricians saw their common interests and not as competing or conflicting. The agreement they reached on political and financial issues led to the creation of a new upper class. This replaced their old divisions. The upper class was mainly wealthy from land. However, they also began to gain wealth through military victories and plunder. Romans had no inheritance or income taxes. Wealthy families could therefore pass it down from one generation to the next. This allowed the upper classes to take advantage of this. All these factors fed the greedy Romans. They wanted to expand their empires and increase their wealth, but did not see the consequences. Rome’s conquest of the world began with the Punic Wars between the Romans, and Carthaginians. Carthage also had an established sea trade across the Mediterranean Sea. The two were very similar, but the advantage of Carthage lay in their superior Naval Battle Strategies. Rome was lacking in this area as all their conquests until that time had been fought on land.

In 264 BC a group of mercenaries from Misina, a city on the northeastern tip of Sicily near Italy, failed in their Military Service. In their desperation, mercenaries simultaneously appealed to Rome and Carthage for assistance. Appius Claudius, the Patrician consul, convinced the Senate that sending an army to Sicily would result in a lot of loot. After the battle erupted, the war lasted for a whole generation between 264 BC and 241 BC. The Romans’ success in conquest was due to their willingness to spend money and sacrifice lives to achieve their goal of never surrendering. The Romans and allies fought through the first Punic Wars despite losing over 250, 000 soldiers and 500 warships of their newly-built navy.

Second war: Saguntum was besieged by the Carthaginians and lasted 218 BC to 201 BC. Hannibal – a Carthaginian war veteran who was hardened from years of combat in Spain – “shocked Romans” by leading a force with elephants into Italy through passes on the Alps. Hannibal, a Carthaginian general who had spent years fighting in Spain, “shocked the Romans by marching a force of troops and elephants through passes in the Alps to invade Italy”. Hannibal terrorized Romans with his 15-year march along the Italian borders. Hannibal faced a lot of trouble when the Romans, led General Fabius Maximus, adopted a strategy they called ‘delayer. Hannibal, the famous Roman general Scipio defeated him at the Battle of Zama 202 BC. Romans forced Carthaginians pay large sums of money for war reparations, which were scheduled to last 15 years. Also, they had to surrender territories in Spain. The Romans continued to wage wars over the years in an attempt to take control of this area. However, it was Spain’s abundance of minerals that allowed them to reap huge rewards. In the first four hundred years of the Republic the Romans won all their wars. The battles lasted for many years, resulting in a fierce conflict and a large number of deaths. Rome’s values and its hard-won victories suffered both intentional and unintended effects from these battles.

By 100 BC they had a vast territory under their control. Roman imperialism was the desire, both for the Roman upper-class and the Romans as a whole, to benefit financially from conquests of land and wars. Imperialistic ideals had unanticipated economic and social effects that were more harmful than anticipated. The Roman upper-class reaped financial gains as a result of the expansion in power and diplomacy. The Romans’ desire to gain wealth led them to hire newly-ranked officials that could both command foreign campaigns and profit from the plunder. Second, as Rome expanded its territory, it needed more political leaders to rule the country. They were unable elect new officials from the provinces as they needed to not only be members of the Roman upper classes, but also wealthy. The majority of people in these provinces didn’t have this wealth. In order to solve this problem, the preelected officials were able to retain their power across more provinces. This went against tradition, which stipulated that seats could only be held for a limited time. The governors’ autonomy and the fact the provinces were under martial laws fueled their corruption and greed, and they committed crimes without being held responsible. Since hundreds of year, the farmers who worked on small lands in Italy’s countryside have been the economic backbone for Roman agriculture. Constitutionally, the farmers of these lands must also be a primary source of Roman soldiers as only those who own property can serve. Due to the economic, military, and commercial difficulties that the Republic experienced, many farms across Italy were devastated by the wars of 2nd and 3rd century BC.

In this period, over 50% of Roman males were in the military for 7 years. This meant that they had to leave their homes and families unattended, and their wives or children had to deal with the physical and repetitive labor of farming. The women also had to bring water to their families from wells, and weave clothes for their kids. Due to this, many small family farms became insolvent and were forced into selling their land. Rich landowners exploited the poor farmers by buying their plots in order to expand states. Land owners increased the size of their holdings through illegal occupation of public land confiscated by Romans during their conquests over defeated Italians. This land was specifically designated as public. The Roman upper class was no longer free of corruption. So, the rich could have vast estates with slaves working alongside free laborers. The wealthy could hire slaves quickly to work their mega-farms because they had captured so many people in the same wars as the small Italian farmers. The rich were able to further divide the society by taking the land of small farmers and using it for their own financial gain.

Rome’s elite political readership was already battling over status, but the impact of Roman colonization on farm families grew to be a major concern. The brothers Tiberius & Gaius Gracchus’ careers exploded in murderous violence. Tiberius was disgusted with exuberant avarice among the Senate’s members. When he was first elected, he was quick in his anger to the Senate. He passed reform laws that redistributed public lands among landless Romans. This was done without the consent of the Senate. The Roman constitution forbade him from standing for re-election in the next year. The Roman constitution prohibited consecutive terms of office. Some of his supporters even abandoned him after he disobeyed their advice. A mob of upper-classes killed him on Capitoline Hill at the end of 133 BC. Gaius’ election was delayed in 123 BC until after the death his brother. He continued the reforms of his brother and began selling grain to Romans at subsidised prices. His other initiatives included a series of public works projects to help the poor in Italy and the founding of colonies to open up new farming and trading opportunities. The most radical of his proposals was the idea of giving Roman citizenship for some Italians. He also proposed a court system to hold powerful senators charged with corruption in office as provisional Governors. The proposal to give citizenship to Italians failed, but the creation of a new court system to prosecute Senators was an extremely controversial issue because it undermined the ability of the Senate to protect its members and families from punishment. Guys ordered his slave to slit his throat in order to escape being arrested and executed. After this, members of upper class were split into supporters of “Populares”, who sought power by promoting common people’s interests or members of “Optimates”, meaning the traditional upperclass. This division of upper class members marked the end of the Roman Republic. Things were becoming uncontrollable.

In retrospect, it is possible to argue that the Republic collapsed when dictators wie Caesar took all political powers. But in my opinion, the Imperialistic greed of the Roman upper class led him to seize power. The upper class wanted land to be plundered while the lower class wished to remain wealthy. The social rift grew and grew and eventually the loyalties changed from the generals to those who cared the most about the people.


  • spencerknight

    I'm Spencer Knight, a 29-year-old educational blogger and teacher. I write about a variety of topics related to education, from teaching strategies to student success stories. I hope to help others achieve their educational goals and help them develop a lifelong love of learning.



I'm Spencer Knight, a 29-year-old educational blogger and teacher. I write about a variety of topics related to education, from teaching strategies to student success stories. I hope to help others achieve their educational goals and help them develop a lifelong love of learning.

You may also like...