After the Third Punic War

Rome after the Third Punic War

The War against the Achaean League (146 BC)

Numantine (Celt-Iberian) War, 143-133 BC

The First Slave War, 134-132 BC

Impacts on Rome itself

As Rome expanded, the weapon that made her so powerful began to turn against her. The small holding farmers who made up the legions were kept on campaign for years, and in their absence their holdings were foreclosed and bought up by aristocratic landowners and worked on by slaves. Attempts at reform were stymied by conservatives, and finally the forces of reform led by the aging military genius Marius were defeated by Sulla and his conservative allies.

After victory, Sulla would go on to implement the very reforms he had opposed in war. The Legions became professional, their soldiers serving for pay rather than as part of their duty to the state. However, this created its own problems, as these professional soldiers owed more allegiance to their commanders than the Senate. A series of able commanders used their troops to muscle their way into politics, until finally Julius Caesar did away with the Republic all together. His successor, a distant nephew named Octavian (later known as Augustus), institutionalized the Empire, and with it Rome brought two hundred years of peace and prosperity to Europe.

The Greek World

While Rome was engaged in internal politics and the conquest of Italy, the Macedonian Greeks first conquered the Greek mainland and peninsula, and then, literally, the whole of the world. By 324 BC, when Rome still didn't control much of Italy and the city was still struggling with friction between the patricians and the plebeians, the entire world east of Rome, everything, was under the control of a single man, Alexander the Great. While there were numerous Greek cities on the Italian peninsula and while Rome was heavily influenced by Greek culture and thought, the Romans didn't seem to pay this ground-shaking development with much concern. Although the Hellenistic world fractured in pieces, nonetheless the end of the fourth century saw three great empires controlling the world east of Rome. The Romans, however, didn't seem overly concerned, occupied with problems of their own; the Romans, you see, were not particularly interested in world domination, but rather on their own immediate security. And the Hellenistic empires were not viewed as a threat.

The Second Punic War, however, changed all that. Rome had almost been destroyed by Carthage and the Macedonian kingdom under Philip V 9221-179 BC) had allied themselves with Carthage; the Hellenistic world had appeared on the Roman radar in the only way that foreign countries ever appeared on the Roman radar: as a potential threat. Philip V of Macedon was an empire builder; he eagerly sought to extend Macedonian control over more territory. Unfortunately for him, Antiochus III (223-187 BC), the king of the Seleucid empire, the second of the great Hellenistic empires, also was an empire builder. Only one hundred years after the death of Alexander the Great, the Hellenistic empires entered a new era of expansion. Antiochus III began seizing territories in Palestine, wrestling control from the Ptolemies in Egypt (this included Judah). Philip V began seizing territories in the Aegean Sea and Asia Minor. Philip and Antiochus decided it would be best to move in concert, so they began contemplating the conquest of Egypt; they would then split the territory among themselves.

Rome, after its bitter experience with Carthage, was deeply suspicious of any empire-building at all. They had fought against Philip during the Second Punic War (this first Roman war with Philip was called the First Macedonian War), and demanded that he cease seizing Greek territory. When Philip refused, Rome fielded an army against him under the generalship of Flaminius in 200 BC; thus began the Second Macedonian War. Flaminius defeated Philip in Thessaly only three years later and in the next year, 196 BC, declared all the Greek cities to be free. The Romans, however, were deeply suspicious of Antiochus as well. Seeing an opportunity, Antiochus landed an army on the Greek mainland in order to "free" them from the Romans, but he was soon driven from Greece and his army decimated at the battle of Magnesia in Asia Minor in 189 BC.

As with the earlier war, the Romans seized no territory whatsoever, although they did demand a heavy penalty from Antiochus. By and large, the Romans regarded the Greek cities as free cities that posed no threat to them; they also felt that they were the "protectors" of Greece, a role that would prevent the rise of any centralized power that might threaten the security of Rome. However, when Philip V died in 179 BC, he was succeeded by Perseus, who then roused up democratic and revolutionary passions in Greece. So Rome invaded Greece again, in the Third Macedonian War (172-168 BC); the results, however, were dramatically different. While the Romans did not seize territory, they did impose very stern control over the native control of that territory. The Romans embarked on hegemonic rule of allies and subject states as well in order to prevent any kind of revolutionary fervor. They had learned from their control of Italy that states were more likely to remain subject to Rome if reprisal was sure, swift, and harsh. At this point, Roman empire-building had been accomplished piece-meal. The Romans responded to threats as they appeared on the horizon; the result was, you might say, an accidental empire.

This situation changed, however, after the Third Macedonian War. The defeat of Perseus involved massive looting of the conquered cities; in addition, the penalties imposed on the defeated states literally flooded the Roman treasury with wealth. In the west, entrepreneurial governors, called publicani had been extracting harsh taxes from the subject peoples and greatly increasing both their own and Roman wealth. By the middle of the second century BC, it had become apparent to Romans that the empire was a vast money-making machine and empire-building a fabulously lucrative affair. The accidental Roman Empire suddenly shifted into high gear. However, the massive wealth that was created for Rome awoke old tensions between the classes, and the Republic would live in a state of crisis for over a hundred years - a crisis that, at its conclusion, would precipitate the demise of the Republic in favor of a dictatorship.

Rome failed to prosecute corrupt bureaucrats effectively since the courts showed a strong bias towards the senatorial class. Attempts at reform were unsuccessful, and the Roman statesman Cato the Elder's sour prediction that foreign conquest would corrupt Rome itself proved all too true. The historian Sallust, writing during the civil wars of the 1st century BC, dated Rome's corruption to the destruction of Carthage in 146 BC and the absence of any foreign threat.

Some of the above text ©1999 thinkquest team 25909