Aftermath of the Second Punic war


Spain | Africa | Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean | Northern Italy

The war against Hannibal, which lasted for fifteen years had heavy social and economic consequences. The repeated ravaging of the countryside prompted a large number of farmers to leave the fields and seek refuge in the cities. Furthermore, on their return from the wars many small land owners who had been enlisted in the Roman army were forced to sell their land in order to pay the debts which had been accumulating during their absence. As the middle class was thus thinning off in the countryside, the concentration of land ownership in a few hands increased. That same agrarian crisis which in the South of Italy was going to last up to our own days actually began from that.

The final victory over Carthage was one of the factors which encouraged the Romans to embark upon an imperialistic and expansionist policy which, in turn, in the second half of the 2nd century b.C. led to an enormous widening of their territory, thereby laying the foundation for the birth of the Roman Empire.

Perseverance shown by the Romans in face of the continuing defeats and stalemates. No state in central Italy went over to the enemy; indeed, heavy taxation was willingly paid and manpower losses repeatedly made good. The Roman senate had, during the course of the long war, assumed a leadership role quite out of proportion to its constitutional responsibilities. The leadership had been effective, but it altered the balance of power in the state producing, eventually, a constitutional crisis.

Italy never entirely recovered from the calamitous effects of this war. Agriculture in some districts was almost ruined. The peasantry had been torn from the soil and driven within the walled towns. The slave class had increased, and the estates of the great landowners had constantly grown in size, and absorbed the little holdings of the ruined peasants. In thus destroying the Italian peasantry, Hannibal's invasion and long occupancy of the peninsula did very much to aggravate all those economic evils which even before this time were at work undermining the earlier sound industrial life of the Romans, and filling Italy with a numerous and dangerous class of homeless and discontented men.

After the lex Claudia of 218 BC prohibited patricians from participating in shipping commerce and Hannibal's ravaging Italy and the conscription of so many farmers into the army of about 100,000, small landholders were replaced by larger farms with vineyards and olive groves and cattle ranches in the second century BC, as aristocratic estates expanded and slave labor increased.

Effects upon Rome of her Conquest of the East.--In entering the lands beyond the Adriatic the Romans had entered the homeland of Greek culture, with which they had first come in close contact in Magna Graecia a century earlier. This culture was in many respects vastly superior to their own, and for this reason it exerted a profound influence upon life and thought at Rome. Greek manners and customs, Greek modes of education, and Greek literature and philosophy became the fashion at Rome, so that Roman society seemed in a fair way of becoming Hellenized And to a certain degree this did take place.

But along with the many helpful elements of culture which the Romans received from the Hellenic East, they received also germs of great social and moral evils. The simplicity and frugality or the earlier times were replaced by Graeco-Oriental luxury and dissoluteness. Evidences of this decline in the moral life of the Romans, the presage of the downfall of the Republic, will multiply as we advance in our story.

Cato the Censor.--One of the most noted of the Romans of this time was Marcus Porcius Cato (232-147 B.C.), surnamed the Censor. Cato set his face like a flint against all Greek innovations, and did everything in his power to keep Greek ideas and customs out of Rome. His life and services, especially those which he rendered the state as censor, were approved and appreciated by his fellow-citizens, who set up in his honor a statue with this inscription: " This statue was erected to Cato because when censor, finding the state of Rome corrupt and degenerate, he, by introducing wise regulations and virtuous discipline, restored it."

Reasons for Rome's success

  1. Scipio Africanus
  2. Hannibal's supply problems
  3. Roman naval supremacy
  4. Roman determination: huge losses (100,000 men in first three years; 300,000 men over the course of the war)
  5. Rome's allies generally faithful

The brutal choice for other territories under Roman rule was clear: obedience or annihilation. At least one king learned the lesson: Attalus III of Pergamum chose to spare his subjects unnecessary pain by bequeathing his entire kingdom to the Roman people when he died in 133 BC. Rome's victories over Carthage brought Sicily (in 241 BC), Sardinia (237 BC), Spain (201 BC), and North Africa (146 BC) under its control. As a result of wars in the eastern Mediterranean, Rome also took direct control of Greece (146 BC), Macedonia (146 BC), and western Asia Minor (129 BC). The Romans looked on the Mediterranean as mare nostrum (our sea) since they controlled nearly its entire perimeter after incorporating the coastal area between Italy and Spain as Transalpine Gaul in 121 BC.

Methods of Control --already perfected in Italy

  1. Colonies founded in Placentia, Parma, Genua Spezia, Italica and Gracchuris.
  2. Roads built including the viae Aurelia (west coast of Italy), Flaminia (through central Italy), the Domitia (to Spain through southern France), Aemilia (across the Po Valley)

HOMEContinue...Basics