like greece rome has a great culture, this is because when greece was conqured by the romans 5th century bc, the romans abosorbed the culture of the greeks, including their literature, art and skills


Early accounts of the founding of Rome and of its regal period have come down overlaid with such a mass of myth and legend that little can be verified; later Roman historians, lacking authentic records, relied on fabrications of a patriotic nature. After the republic was established, Rome became a world power and emerged as an empire with extensive boundaries.

The Legendary Period of the Kings

(753–510 bc). Rome was said to have been founded by Latin colonists from Alba Longa, a nearby city in ancient Latium. The legendary date of the founding was 753 bc; it was ascribed to Romulus and Remus, the twin sons of Rhea Silvia, a vestal virgin and the daughter of Numitor, king of Alba Longa. Later legend carried the ancestry of the Romans back to the Trojans and their leader Aeneas, whose son Ascanius, or Iulus, was the founder and the first king of Alba Longa. The tales concerning Romulus’s rule, notably the rape of the Sabine women and the war with the Sabines under the leader Titus Tatius, point to an early infiltration of Sabine peoples or to a union of Latin and Sabine elements at the beginning. The three tribes, the Ramnes, Tities, and Luceres, that appear in the legend of Romulus as the parts of the new commonwealth suggest that Rome arose from the amalgamation of three stocks, thought to be Latin, Sabine, and Etruscan.

The seven kings of the regal period and the dates traditionally assigned to their reigns are as follows: Romulus, from 753 to 715 bc; Numa Pompilius, from 715 to 676 or 672 bc, to whom was attributed the introduction of many religious customs; Tullus Hostilius, from 673 to 641 bc, a warlike king, who destroyed Alba Longa and fought against the Sabines; Ancus Marcius, from 641 to 616 bc, said to have built the port of Ostia and to have captured many Latin towns, transferring their inhabitants to Rome; Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, from 616 to 578 bc, celebrated both for his military exploits against neighboring peoples and for his construction of public buildings at Rome; Servius Tullius, from 578 to 534 bc, famed for his new constitution and for the enlargement of the boundaries of the city; and Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, from 534 to 510 bc, the seventh and last king, whose tyrannical rule was overthrown when his son ravished Lucretia, the wife of a kinsman. Tarquinius was banished, and attempts by Etruscan or Latin cities to reinstate him on the throne at Rome were unavailing.

Although the names, dates, and events of the regal period are considered as belonging to the realm of fiction and myth rather than to that of factual history, certain facts seem well attested: the existence of an early rule by kings; the growth of the city and its struggles with neighboring peoples; the conquest of Rome by Etruria and the establishment of a dynasty of Etruscan princes, symbolized by the rule of the Tarquins; the overthrow of this alien control; and the abolition of the kingship. The existence of certain social and political conditions may also be accepted, such as the division of the inhabitants, exclusive of slaves, from the beginning into two orders: the patricians, who alone possessed political rights and constituted the populus, or people; and their dependents, known as clients or the plebs, who had originally no political existence. The rex, or king, chosen by the Senate (senatus), or Council of Elders, from the ranks of the patricians, held office for life, called out the populus for war, and led the army in person; he was preceded by officers, known as lictors, who bore the fasces, the symbols of power and punishment, and was the supreme judge in all civil and criminal suits. The senatus gave its advice only when the king chose to consult it, but the elders (patres) possessed great moral authority, inasmuch as their tenure was for life. Originally only patricians could bear arms in defense of the state. At some stage in the regal period an important military reform occurred, usually designated as the Servian reform of the constitution, because it was ascribed to Servius Tullius. As the plebs could by this time acquire property and wealth, it was decided that all property holders, both patrician and plebeian, must serve in the army, and each took a rank in accordance with his wealth. This arrangement, although initially military, paved the way for the great political struggle between the patricians and the plebs in the early centuries of the Republic.


On the overthrow of Tarquinius Superbus a republic was established.

Conquest of Italy

(510–264 bc). In place of the king, two chief executives were chosen annually by the whole body of citizens. These were known as praetors, or leaders, but later received the title of consuls. The participation of a colleague in the exercise of supreme power and the limitation of the tenure to one year prevented the chief magistrate from becoming autocratic. The character of the Senate was altered by the enrollment of plebeian members, known as conscripti, and hence the official designation of the senators thereafter was patres conscripti (conscript fathers). As yet, only patricians were eligible for the magistracies, and the discontent of the plebs led to a violent struggle between the two orders and the gradual removal of the social and political disabilities under which the plebs had labored.

In 494 bc a secession of plebeian soldiers led to the institution of the tribuni plebis, who were elected annually as protectors of the plebs; they had the power to veto the acts of patrician magistrates, and thus served as the leaders of the plebs in the struggles with the patricians. The appointment of the decemvirate, a commission of ten men, in 451 bc resulted in the drawing up of a famous code of laws. In 445 bc, under the Canuleian law, marriages between patricians and members of the plebs were declared legally valid. By the Licinian-Sextian laws, passed in 367 bc, it was provided that one of the two consuls should thenceforth be plebeian. The other magistracies were gradually opened to the plebs: in 356 bc the dictatorship, an extraordinary magistracy, the incumbent of which was appointed in times of great danger; in 350 bc, the censorship; in 337 bc, the praetorship; and in 300 bc, the pontifical and augural colleges.

These political changes gave rise to a new aristocracy, composed of patrician and wealthy plebeian families, and admission to the Senate became almost the hereditary privilege of these families. The Senate, which had originally possessed little administrative power, became a powerful governing body, dealing with matters of war and peace, foreign alliances, the founding of colonies, and the handling of the state finances. The rise of this new nobilitas brought to an end the struggles between the two orders, but the position of the poorer plebeian families was not improved, and the marked contrast between the conditions of the rich and the poor led to struggles in the later Republic between the aristocratic party and the popular party.

The external history of Rome during this period was chiefly military. Rome had acquired the leadership of Latium before the close of the regal period. Assisted by their allies, the Romans fought wars against the Etruscans, the Volscians, and the Aequians. The military policy of Rome became more aggressive in the 60 years between 449 and 390 bc. The defeat of the Romans at Allia and the capture and burning of Rome by the Gauls under the leadership of the chieftain Brennus in 390 bc were great disasters, but their effect was temporary. The capture of the Etruscan city of Veii in 396 bc by the soldier and statesman Marcus Furius Camillus spelled the beginning of the end for Etruscan independence. Other Etruscan cities hastened to make peace, and by the middle of the 4th century bc all southern Etruria was kept in check by Roman garrisons and denationalized by an influx of Roman colonists. Victories over the Volscians, the Latins, and the Hernicans gave the Romans control of central Italy and brought them into conflict with the Samnites of southern Italy, who were defeated in a series of three wars, extending from 343 to 290 bc. A revolt of the Latins and Volscians was put down, and in 338 bc the Latin League, a long-established confederation of the cities of Latium, was dissolved. A powerful coalition was at this time formed against Rome, consisting of Etruscans, Umbrians, and Gauls in the north, and of Lucanians, Bruttians, and Samnites in the south; this coalition endangered the power of Rome, but the northern confederacy was defeated in 283 bc and the southern states soon after. The Greek colony of Tarentum (now Taranto), incurring the hostility of Rome, invited Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, to cross over from Greece and aid the Greek cities of southern Italy against Rome. His campaigns in Italy and on the island of Sicily from 280 to 276 bc were unsuccessful and he returned to Greece. During the next ten years the Romans completed their subjugation of southern Italy and thus gained control of the entire peninsula as far north as the Arno and Rubicon rivers.

A World Power.

(264–133 bc). In 264 bc, 11 years after the victory over Pyrrhus, Rome engaged with Carthage in a struggle for the control of the Mediterranean Sea. Carthage at this time was the foremost maritime power in the world, ruling as absolutely in the central and western Mediterranean as did Rome on the Italian Peninsula.

Punic Wars.

The First Punic War (see PUNIC WARS,) was waged mainly for the possession of Sicily and was marked by the emergence of Rome as a great naval power. Having gained the support of Hiero II, king of Syracuse, the Romans took Agrigentum (now Agrigento), and at Mylae in 260 bc, with their first naval armament under the consul Gaius Duilius, they defeated a great Carthaginian fleet. The transfer of the war to Africa resulted in the defeat and capture of the Roman general Marcus Atilius Regulus. After several naval disasters, the Romans won a great naval victory in 242 bc off the Aegates Islands, west of Sicily. The war ended in the following year with the cession to the Romans of the Carthaginian part of Sicily, which was made into a Roman province; this was Rome’s first foreign possession. Sardinia and Corsica were taken from Carthage and annexed as provinces soon after.

Finding Rome an equal match at sea, Carthage prepared for a resumption of hostilities by acquiring a foothold in Spain. Under the leadership of the great general Hamilcar, who conceived the project of making Spain a military base, Carthage occupied the peninsula as far as the Tagus River; Hamilcar’s son-in-law Hasdrubal continued the work of subjugation until his death in 221 bc; and finally Hamilcar’s son Hannibal extended the conquests of Carthage up to the Iberus (now Ebro) River. The Second Punic War began in 218 bc. Hannibal crossed the Alps with an enormous force, descending on Italy from the north, and defeated the Romans in a series of battles; he then continued to ravage most of southern Italy for years. He was recalled to Africa to face Scipio Africanus, who had invaded Carthage. Scipio decisively defeated Hannibal at Zama in 202 bc, and Carthage was compelled to give up its navy, cede Spain and its Mediterranean islands, and pay a huge indemnity. Rome was thus left in complete control of the western Mediterranean.

The Romans now became more harsh in their treatment of the Italian communities under their domination, and the Greek cities of southern Italy, which had sided with Hannibal, were made colonies. Meanwhile Rome was extending its power northward. During 201–196 bc the Celts of the Po Valley were subjugated, and their territory was Latinized, but they themselves were declared incapable of acquiring Roman citizenship. The interior of Corsica and Sardinia was subdued, and Spain, where the wars were troublesome, was held by military occupation, a practice that gave rise to the first Roman standing armies.

Macedonian Wars.

Fifty years after becoming the foremost power of the west by defeating the Carthaginians at Zama, Rome had also become the mightiest state in the east, first by conquering Hannibal’s ally Philip V, king of Macedonia; Philip’s ambition to dominate the Aegean Sea drew Rome into the Second Macedonian War (200–197 bc), which ended with his defeat. Next came the liberation of Greece, which, with the alliance that followed, enabled Rome to proceed against Antiochus III, king of Syria, who was defeated by the Romans at Magnesia in 190 bc and obliged to surrender his possessions in Europe and Asia Minor. Western Greece, however, continued to give trouble, and Philip’s son and successor, Perseus (212?–166? bc), fought the Romans in the Third (and final) Macedonian War, which terminated in the utter rout of his armies and his capture at Pydna in 168 bc by the general Lucius Aemilius Paullus (229?–160? bc). Macedonia was made a Roman province in 146 bc, and in that year a revolt of the Achaean League in Greece resulted in the capture and destruction of Corinth.

Also in 146 bc came the end of the Third Punic War, which had begun three years earlier. Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus Africanus Minor captured and destroyed Carthage, thus bringing to an end the Carthaginian empire, whose territory became the Roman province of Africa. A series of Spanish campaigns ended with the capture of Numantia in 133 bc. In the same year Attalus III of Pergamum died and bequeathed his client kingdom to its protector, Rome; shortly after, this territory was formed into the province of Asia.

Thus in 131 years Rome had developed from a land power controlling only the Italian peninsula to a world empire. From Syria to Spain the Mediterranean was now dominated by Rome, but Roman authority was better established in the west than in the east. During this period the Romans made great cultural advances. Brought into contact with the Greeks, first in southern Italy and Sicily, and later through Roman expansion to the east, they adopted much from the older civilization in art, literature, philosophy, and religion. Roman literature began in 240 bc with the translation and adaptation of Greek epic and dramatic poetry, and the various Greek schools of philosophy were formally introduced into Rome in 155 bc.

Internal Conflict.

(133–27 bc) With the establishment of external supremacy, Rome’s internal troubles began. Several extremely wealthy plebeian families combined with the old patrician families to exclude all but themselves from the higher magistracies and the Senate; they were called optimates. This aristocratic ruling class had become selfish, arrogant, and addicted to luxury, losing the high standards of morality and integrity of their forebears. The gradual extinction of the peasant farmers, caused by the growth of large estates, a system of slave labor, and the devastation of the country by war, led to the development of a city rabble incapable of elevated political sentiment. Conflicts between the aristocratic party and the popular party were inevitable. The attempts of the people’s tribunes Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus and his brother Gaius Sempronius Gracchus to alleviate the economic distress and help the poorer citizens by agrarian and corn laws resulted in riots in which both brothers met their deaths, Tiberius in 133 bc and Gaius in 121 bc.

The expansion of Rome’s territory continued. In Africa the overthrow, in 106 bc, of Jugurtha, king of Numidia, by the consul Gaius Marius with the assistance of Lucius Cornelius Sulla increased the military renown of the Republic, as did the defeat of the Cimbri and the Teutones in southern Gaul and northern Italy by Marius after his return from Africa.

The Italian communities, the allies of Rome, had felt their burdens increase as their privileges waned, and they demanded their share of the conquests they had helped to achieve. The tribune Marcus Livius Drusus attempted to conciliate the poor citizens by agrarian and corn laws and to satisfy the Italian armies by promise of Roman citizenship. He was assassinated in 91 bc. The following year the Italian armies rose in revolt, their purpose being to erect a new Italian state governed on the lines of the Roman constitution. This war, which lasted from 90 to 88 bc, is known as the Social War, or the Marsian War, from the important part played in it by the Marsians. The Italians were finally defeated but were granted full citizenship by the Romans.

The internal troubles continued; a conflict broke out between Marius, the spokesman and idol of the popular party, and Sulla, the leader of the aristocracy. A war with Mithradates VI, king of Pontus, threw the two leaders into rivalry as to which should command the expeditionary force. With the legions he had commanded in the Social War, Sulla marched on Rome from the south, for the first time bringing Roman legions into the city. The subsequent flight of Marius and the execution of the tribune Publius Sulpicius Rufus (c. 124–88 bc) left Sulla free to impose arbitrary measures, and, after the consular elections had confirmed him in his command, he set out against Mithradates in 87 bc. In Sulla’s absence Lucius Cornelius Cinna, a leader of the popular party and a bitter opponent of Sulla, attempted to carry out the reforms originally proposed by Sulpicius, but he was driven from Rome. He rallied the legions in Campania around him and, joined by the veteran Marius, who had returned from Africa, entered Rome and was recognized as consul, as was Marius, the latter serving for the seventh time. Shortly thereafter, following a brutally vindictive massacre of senators and patricians, Marius died; Cinna remained in power until Sulla, returning from Asia with 40,000 troops in 83 bc, defeated the popular party. As a result of the example set by Sulla, the Republican constitution was thenceforth at the mercy of the strongest leader supported by the strongest troops. After suppressing his enemies by proscription, drawing up and posting in the Forum a list of important men declared to be public enemies and outlaws, Sulla ruled as dictator until his retirement to private life in 79 bc. In addition to proscription, Sulla employed confiscation of lands as a method of suppressing his political enemies. Confiscated lands were either given to the veterans of his legions, who neglected them, or abandoned to become wasteland; Rome’s former rich agricultural economy began to decline, and thenceforth more and more of the city’s food was imported, Africa becoming the major source of Rome’s grain supply.

The Rise of Caesar.

In 67 bc the statesman and general Pompey the Great, who had fought the Marian party in Africa, Sicily, and Spain, cleared the Mediterranean of pirates and was then put in charge of the war against Mithradates. Meanwhile his rival Gaius Julius Caesar rose to prominence, and his political ability had full scope during the absence of Pompey. As leader of the popular party Caesar strengthened his hold on the people by avenging the injured names of Marius and Cinna, pleading for clemency to the children of the proscribed, and bringing to justice Sulla’s corrupt followers.

In Marcus Licinius Crassus, a man of great wealth, Caesar found a tractable auxiliary. Catiline’s conspiracy in 63 bc (see CATILINE,), exposed and defeated by the famous orator and statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero during his consulship, involved Caesar in the ill will in which the middle classes held popular adventurers. Pompey returned from the east and asked the Senate for the ratification of his measures in Asia and the bestowal of land on his legionnaries. His demands met with determined opposition, until Caesar, posing as his friend, formed with him and Crassus the coalition known as the first triumvirate.

The triumvirate in 59 bc fulfilled its compact. Caesar obtained the consulship and the satisfaction of Pompey’s demands, conciliated the equestrians, many of whom were wealthy members of the mercantile class, at the expense of the Senate, and had enacted an agrarian law enabling him to reward the troops. His crowning success, however, was his obtaining for five years the military command of Cisalpine Gaul, Illyricum, and late of Transalpine Gaul, where he could gain glory by military conquests, and from which he could watch every political move in Italy.

The triumvirs renewed their alliance, and Caesar procured his command in Gaul for five years more. Pompey and Crassus were elected consuls for the year 55 bc, and in the following year Pompey received as his province the two Spains, with Africa, while Crassus received Syria. The death of Crassus in 53 bc brought Pompey into direct conflict with Caesar. Rome, in the absence of efficient government, was in turmoil until the Senate induced Pompey to remain in Italy, entrusting his provinces to legates; it elected him sole consul for the year 52 bc and made him its champion against Caesar.

The Senate, wishing to terminate Caesar’s military command and defeat his second stand for the consulship in 49 bc, demanded either Caesar’s disbanding of his legions, and his presence in Rome at the time of the election, or his continued command and his renunciation of claims to the consulship. Negotiations failed to solve the deadlock, and in 49 bc Caesar with his legions boldly crossed the Rubicon River, the southern boundary of his province, and advanced on the city, thereby beginning the civil war that continued for five years. Pompey and the leading members of the aristocracy withdrew to Greece, allowing Caesar to enter Rome in triumph. Caesar’s victory, unlike those of the other generals who had marched on Rome, was not followed by a reign of terror; neither proscriptions nor confiscations took place. A policy of economic and administrative reforms was put into effect, in an attempt to overcome corruption and restore prosperity to Rome. Continuing the war against Pompey, Caesar hurried to Spain, where he was victorious over the powerful armies of Pompey’s legates. Returning to Rome, having meanwhile been appointed dictator in his absence, he almost immediately renounced that post and was elected consul. Early in 48 bc he crossed into Greece and dealt Pompey a crushing blow at Pharsalus. Pompey was killed soon after in Egypt, but the Pompeian cause struggled on until 45 bc, when it collapsed at Munda in Spain, and Caesar was made dictator for life.

Caesar’s assassination by Republican nobles on March 15, 44 bc, was followed by Cicero’s attempt to restore the old Republican constitution, but Mark Antony, who had been appointed consul with Caesar, now, at the head of 17 legions, combined forces with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Caesar’s grandnephew, the youthful Octavian, later Emperor Augustus, to form the second triumvirate. The triumvirs began operations by proscribing and assassinating their opponents, including Cicero. A stand made at Philippi by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius, two of Caesar’s assassins, was crushed by Octavian and Antony, and subsequently the triumvirs divided the control of the empire, Octavian taking Italy and the west, Antony the east, and Lepidus Africa. Antony, going to the east, was captivated by the charms of Cleopatra, queen of Egypt and formerly mistress of Caesar, and with her planned an eastern empire. Lepidus, summoned to Sicily by Octavian to assist in the war against Sextus Pompeius, son of Pompey the Great, attempted to seize Sicily for himself and was deprived of his province and his position in the triumvirate. The death of Sextus Pompeius, after the destruction of his fleet in the Mediterranean, left Octavian, who had been sagaciously strengthening his position in the west, with only Antony as rival. After the Battle of Actium in 31 bc and the subsequent suicide of both Antony and Cleopatra, the victorious Octavian became, in 29 bc, master of the east also and the undisputed ruler of the entire Roman Empire.

In spite of the series of disastrous civil wars, during the last years of the Republic a remarkable development of literary activity took place. This period, known as the Ciceronian period, extended from about 70 to 43 bc and forms the first part of the so-called Golden Age of Rome’s literary development; the remainder of the Golden Age, extending from 43 bc to ad 14, is known as the Augustan period. Caesar and Cicero brought Latin prose to its peak of achievement, and Terence was the greatest scholar of the age. The poetry of the period is best represented by the work of Gaius Valerius Catullus and Lucretius.


Octavian received the title of Augustus in 27 bc and began the new regime by an apparent restoration of the Republic, with himself as princeps, or chief citizen.

Augustus and the Julio-Claudian Emperors.

(27 bc–ad 68) The Republican constitution was retained, although until 23 bc as princeps Augustus held the real authority, which thereafter was vested in the tribunitian power and the military imperium, or final authority of command. The Senate retained control of Rome, Italy, and the older, more peaceful provinces; the frontier provinces, where legions were necessarily quartered, were governed by legates appointed and controlled by Augustus alone. The corruption and extortion that had existed in Roman provincial administration during the last century of the Republic was no longer tolerated, and the provinces benefited greatly.

Augustus introduced numerous social reforms, especially those calculated to restore the ancient morality of the Roman people and the integrity of marriage; he attempted to combat the licentiousness of the times and sought to restore the ancient religious festivals. He adorned the city with temples, basilicas, and porticoes, transforming it from a city of brick to a city of marble. To the Romans an era of peace and prosperity seemed to have dawned, and the Augustan period represents the culmination of the Golden Age of Latin literature, distinguished in poetry by the achievements of Vergil, Horace, and Ovid, and in prose by Livy’s monumental History of Rome.

With the establishment of the imperial system the history of Rome became largely identified with the reigns of individual emperors. The emperor Tiberius, who succeeded his stepfather Augustus in ad 14 and ruled until the year 37, was a capable administrator but the object of general dislike and suspicion. He relied on military power and in Rome had his Praetorian Guard, the only organized troops allowed legally in Rome, within ready call. He was followed by the insane and tyrannical Caligula, who reigned from 37 to 41; Claudius, whose rule (41–54) was distinguished by the conquest of Britain, and who continued the public works and administrative reforms instituted under Caesar and Augustus; and Nero, whose rule was at first moderate, as a result of the wise guidance and counsel of the philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca and of Sextus Afranius Burrus (d. 62), prefect of the Praetorian Guard. Nero’s overthrow, which was caused by his later excesses, and his subsequent suicide in 68 marked the end of the line of Julio-Claudian emperors.

The Flavians and the Antonines

(69–192). The brief reigns in 68–69 of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius were followed by that of Vespasian, who ruled from 69 to 79. He and his sons, the emperors Titus and Domitian, are known as the Flavians. They revived the simpler court of the early imperial days and tried to restore the authority of the Senate and promote the welfare of the people. During the reign of Titus (79–81) occurred the famous eruption of Vesuvius that devastated an area south of Naples, destroying the towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii. Domitian, in whose reign (81–96) lived the best writers of the Silver Age of Latin literature, became a cruel and suspicious tyrant in the later years of his rule, and the period of terror associated with his name ended with his murder.

The brief reign (96–98) of Marcus Cocceius Nerva initiated a new era, known as that of the five good emperors, the others being Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius. Each emperor was chosen and then legally adopted by his predecessor, being selected for his ability and his integrity. Trajan, emperor from 98 to 117, expanded the borders of the empire by the campaigns against the Dacians and the Parthians, and was noted for his excellent administration. Under him the empire reached its greatest extent. The satirist Juvenal, the orator and letter writer Pliny the Younger, and the historian Cornelius Tacitus all flourished during Trajan’s reign. The 21 years of Hadrian’s rule (117–38) were a period of peace and prosperity; giving up some of the Roman territories in the east, Hadrian consolidated the empire and stabilized its boundaries. The reign of his successor, Antoninus Pius (r. 138–61), was likewise orderly and peaceful. That of the next emperor, the Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius (r. 161–80), who was coruler with Lucius Aurelius Verus (130–69) until the latter’s death, was troubled by incursions by various migrating tribes into different parts of the empire. Marcus Aurelius was succeeded by his profligate son Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus, who was considered one of the most sanguinary and licentious tyrants of history and was murdered in 192.

Decline and Fall

(193–476). The brief reigns of Publius Helvius Pertinax (126–93) and Didus Severus Julianus were followed by that of Lucius Septimius Severus, who ruled from 193 to 211; his short-lived dynasty included the emperors Caracalla, who reigned from 211 to 217; Heliogabalus, from 218 to 222; and Alexander Severus (208–35), from 222 to 235. Septimius was an able ruler, but Caracalla was noted for his brutality and Heliogabalus for his debauchery. Caracalla, who in 212 granted Roman citizenship to all freemen living in the Roman Empire, is said to have so decreed in order to impose on them the taxes to which only citizens were liable. Alexander Severus was noted for his wisdom and justice.

After the death of Alexander Severus, a period ensued during which great confusion prevailed in Rome and throughout Italy. Of his 12 successors who ruled in the next 33 years, nearly all came to a violent death, usually at the hands of the soldiers who had established them on the throne. A temporary revival of peace and prosperity was brought about by the Illyrian emperors, natives of the area now known as Dalmatia, namely, Claudius II, surnamed Gothicus, who in a short reign (268–70) drove back the Goths; and Aurelian, who, ruling from 270 to 275, was victorious over both the Goths and the Germans and defeated and captured Zenobia, queen of Palmyra, who had occupied Egypt and Asia Minor. For a brief period the unity of the empire was restored. Aurelian was followed by a rapid succession of historically unimportant emperors, of whom six ruled in the 9-year period before the accession of Diocletian, also an Illyrian, who ruled from 284 to 305.

An able administrator, Diocletian introduced many social, economic, and political reforms. He removed the political and economic privileges that Rome and Italy had enjoyed at the expense of the provinces. He sought to regulate rampant inflation by controlling the prices of provisions and many other necessities of life, and also the maximum wages for workers. To provide a more efficient administration, uniform throughout the empire, he initiated a new system of government by selecting a capable colleague, Maximian, who, like Diocletian, took the title of Augustus. He further reinforced this dual control by associating with him and Maximian two able generals, Galerius (242?–311) and Constantius, whom he proclaimed as Caesars, below the two Augusti in rank but with the right of succession to their posts. Diocletian himself had control of Thrace, Egypt, and Asia; to Maximian he gave Italy and Africa, to Constantius Gaul, Spain, and Britain, and to Galerius the Danubian provinces. This system created a stronger administrative machinery but increased the size of the already huge governmental bureaucracy, with the four imperial courts and their officials proving a great financial burden on the resources of the empire.

Diocletian and Maximian abdicated in 305, leaving the new Augusti and Caesars involved in a conflict that resulted in civil wars, not ended until the accession of Constantine the Great in 312. Constantine, who had previously become Caesar of the army in Britain, overcame all rivals and reunited the Western Empire under his rule. In 314 the defeat of Licinius (270?–325), emperor in the East, made Constantine sole ruler of the Roman world. Christianity, which had risen during the reign of Augustus and spread during that of Tiberius and of later emperors, had triumphed over Diocletian’s attempts to crush it by persecution, and the politic Constantine, adopting it as his own religion, made it also the official religion of the Roman Empire, an event of far-reaching significance. The other important event of Constantine’s reign was the establishment of a new seat of government at Byzantium, which was refounded as Nova Roma and subsequently called Constantinople (now İstanbul). The death of Constantine in 337 was the signal for civil war among the rival Caesars, which continued until Constantine’s only surviving son, Constantius II, succeeded in 353 in reuniting the empire under his rule. He was followed by Julian, known as the Apostate because of his renunciation of Christianity, who ruled from 361 to 363, and by Jovian (331?–64?), who ruled in 363–64. Thereafter the empire was again split in two. Theodosius I, the Great, was Eastern emperor on the death of the Western emperor Valentinian II in 392. Three years later, when Theodosius died, the empire was divided between his two sons, Arcadius (337?–408), emperor of the East, and Honorius (384–423), emperor of the West.

During the last 80 years of the Western Roman Empire the provinces, drained by taxes levied for the support of the army and the bureaucracy, were visited by internal war and by barbarian invasions. At first the policy of conciliating the invader with military commands and administrative offices succeeded. Gradually, however, the barbarians established in the east began to aim at conquest in the west, and Alaric I, king of the Visigoths, first occupied Illyricum, whence he ravaged Greece. In 410 he captured and sacked Rome, but died soon after. His successor, Ataulf (r. 410–15), drew off the Visigoths to Gaul, and in 419 a succeeding king, Wallia, received formal permission from Honorius to settle in southwestern Gaul, where at Toulouse he founded the Visigothic dynasty. Spain, already divided between the Vandals, the Suebi, and the Alans, was in like manner formally made over to those invaders by Honorius, whose authority at his death in 423 was nominal in the western part of the continent. His successor, Valentinian III, witnessed the conquest of Africa by the Vandals under their king Gaiseric and the seizure of Gaul and Italy by the Huns under their famous leader Attila. The Vandals, having taken Carthage, were recognized by Valentinian in their new African kingdom in 440, and the Huns, the rulers of central and northern Europe, confronted the emperors of east and west alike as an independent power. Attila marched first on Gaul, but the Visigoths, being Christian and already half-Romanized, opposed him out of loyalty to the Romans; commanded by Flavius Aëtius, they signally defeated the Huns at Chalons in 451. The following year Attila invaded Lombardy but was unable to advance further, and he died in 453. Two years later Valentinian, the last representative of the house of Theodosius in the west, was murdered. The 20 years after the death of Valentinian saw the accession and the overthrow of nine Roman emperors, but the real power was Gen. Ricimer (d. 472), the Suebe, called The Kingmaker. The last Western Roman emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was overthrown by the mercenary Herulian leader Odoacer (c. 435–93), who was proclaimed king of Italy by his troops. The history of Rome would subsequently merge with that of the papacy, the Holy Roman Empire, the Papal States, and Italy. For the history of the Eastern Empire from the time of Theodosius the Great, see BYZANTINE EMPIRE,.






CAESAR, Gaius Julius

(100–44 bc), Roman general and statesman, who laid the foundations of the Roman imperial system.

Early Life.

Born in Rome on July 12 or 13, 100 bc, Caesar belonged to the prestigious Julian clan; yet from early childhood he knew controversy. His uncle by marriage was Gaius Marius, leader of the Populares, a party supporting agrarian reform and opposed by the reactionary Optimates, a senatorial faction. Marius was seven times consul (chief magistrate), and in his last year in office, just before his death in 86 bc, he exacted a terrifying toll on the Optimates. He also had Caesar appointed flamen dialis, one of an archaic priesthood with no power, identifing him with his uncle’s extremist politics. His marriage in 84 bc to Cornelia (d. 68 bc), the daughter of Marius’s associate, Cinna, further marked him as a radical. When Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Marius’s enemy and leader of the Optimates, became dictator in 82 bc, he issued a list of enemies to be executed. Although Caesar was not harmed, he was ordered to divorce Cornelia. Refusing that order, he found it prudent to leave Rome and did not return until 78 bc, after Sulla’s resignation.

Caesar was now 22 years old. Unable to gain office, he left Rome again and went to Rhodes, where he studied rhetoric; he returned to Rome in 73 bc, a persuasive speaker. In 74 bc, while still absent, he had been elected to the pontificate, an important college of Roman priests.


In 71 bc Pompey the Great, who had earned his epithet in service under Sulla, returned to Rome, having defeated the rebellious Populares general Sertorius in Spain. At the same time Marcus Licinius Crassus, a rich patrician, suppressed in Italy the slave revolt led by Spartacus. Pompey and Crassus both ran for the consulship—an office held by two men—in 70 bc. Pompey, who by this time had changed sides, was technically ineligible, but with Caesar’s help he won the office. Crassus became the other consul. In 69 bc, Caesar was elected quaestor and in 65 bc curule aedile, gaining great popularity for his lavish gladiatorial games. To pay for these, he borrowed money from Crassus. This united the two men, who also found common cause with Pompey. When Caesar returned to Rome in 60 bc after a year as governor of Spain, he joined forces with Crassus and Pompey in a three-way alliance known as the First Triumvirate; to cement their relationship further, Caesar gave his daughter Julia to Pompey in marriage. Thus backed, Caesar was elected consul for 59 bc despite Optimate hostility, and the year after (58 bc) he was appointed governor of Roman Gaul.

Gallic wars.

At that time Celtic Gaul, to the north, was still independent, but the Aedui, a tribe of Roman allies, appealed to Caesar for help against another Gallic people, the Helvetii, during the first year of his governorship. Caesar marched into Celtic Gaul with six legions, defeated the Helvetii, and forced them to return to their home area. Next, he crushed Germanic forces under Ariovistus (fl. about 71–58 bc). By 57 bc, following the defeat of the Nervii, Rome was in control of northern Gaul. (A last revolt of the Gauls, led by Vercingetorix, was suppressed in 52 bc.)

Power play.

While Caesar was in Gaul, his agents attempted to dominate politics in Rome. This, however, threatened Pompey’s position, and it became necessary for the triumvirs to arrange a meeting at Luca in 56 bc, which brought about a temporary reconciliation. It was decided that Caesar would continue in Gaul for another five years, while Pompey and Crassus would both be consuls for 55 bc; after that, each would have proconsular control of provinces. Caesar then went off to raid Britain and put down a revolt in Gaul. Crassus, ever eager for military glory, went to his post in Syria. Provoking a war with the Parthian Empire, he was defeated and killed at Carrhae in 53 bc. This removed the last buffer between Caesar and Pompey; their family ties had been broken by the death of Julia in 54 bc.

Civil War.

In 52 bc, with Crassus out of the way, Pompey was made sole consul. Combined with his other powers, this gave him a formidable position. Jealous of his younger rival, he determined to break Caesar’s power, an objective that could not be achieved without first depriving him of his command in Gaul. In order to protect himself, Caesar suggested that he and Pompey both lay down their commands simultaneously, but this was rejected; goaded by Pompey, the Senate summarily called upon Caesar to resign his command and disband his army, or else be considered a public enemy. The tribunes, who were Caesar’s agents, vetoed this motion, but they were driven out of the Senate chamber. The Senate then entrusted Pompey with providing for the safety of the state. His forces far outnumbered Caesar’s, but they were scattered throughout the provinces, and his troops in Italy were not prepared for war. Early in 49 bc Caesar crossed the Rubicon, a small stream separating his province from Italy, and moved swiftly southward. Pompey fled to Brundisium and from there to Greece. In three months Caesar was master of all Italy; his forces then took Spain and the key port of Massilia (Marseille).

In Rome Caesar became dictator until elected consul for 48 bc. At the beginning of that year he landed in Greece and smashed Pompey’s forces at Pharsalus. Pompey escaped to Egypt, where he was assassinated. When Caesar arrived there, he installed Cleopatra, daughter of the late King Ptolemy XI (c. 112–51 bc) as queen. In 47 bc he pacified Asia Minor and returned to Rome to become dictator again. By the following year all Optimate forces had been defeated and the Mediterranean world pacified.

Dictatorship and Assassination.

The basic prop for Caesar’s continuation in power was the dictatorship for life. According to the traditional Republican constitution, this office was only to be held for six months during a dire emergency. That rule, however, had been broken before. Sulla had ruled as dictator for several years, and Caesar now followed suit. In addition, he was made consul for ten years in 45 bc and received the sanctity of tribunes, making it illegal to harm him. Caesar also obtained honors to increase his prestige: He wore the robe, crown, and scepter of a triumphant general and used the title imperator. Furthermore, as Pontifex Maximus, he was head of the state religion. Above all, however, he was in total command of the armies, and this remained the backbone of his power.

As a ruler Caesar instituted various reforms. In the provinces he eliminated the highly corrupt tax system, sponsored colonies of veterans, and extended Roman citizenship. At home he reconstituted the courts and increased the number of senators. His reform of the calendar gave Rome a rational means of recording time.

A number of senatorial families, however, felt that Caesar threatened their position, and his honors and powers made them fear that he would become a rex (king), a title they, as Republicans, hated. Accordingly, in 44 bc, an assassination plot was hatched by a group of senators, including Gaius Cassius and Marcus Junius Brutus. On March 15 of that year, when Caesar entered the Senate house, the group killed him.

Personal Life.

After Caesar’s first wife, Cornelia, died in 68 bc, he married Pompeia, a granddaughter of Sulla. When the mysteries of the Bona Dea, over which she presided, were violated, she was maligned by gossips, and Caesar then divorced her, telling the Senate that Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion. His next marriage (59 bc) was to Calpurnia and was politically motivated. Since Caesar had no male heirs, he stipulated in his will that his grandnephew, Octavius, become his successor. It was Octavius who became Rome’s first emperor under the name of Augustus.

Caesar was a gifted writer, with a clear and simple style. His Commentaries, in which he described Gaul and his Gallic campaigns, is a major source of information about the early Celtic and Germanic tribes.


Scholarly opinion of Caesar’s accomplishments is divided. Some regard him as an unscrupulous tyrant, with an insatiable lust for power, and blame him for the demise of the Roman Republic. Others, admitting that he could be ruthless, insist that the Republic had already been destroyed. They maintain that to save the Roman world from chaos a new type of government had to be created. In fact, Caesar’s reforms did stabilize the Mediterranean world. Among ancient military commanders, he may be second only to Alexander the Great.











name given to the three wars between Rome and Carthage in the 3d and 2d centuries bc. The adjective Punic (Lat. Punicus) is derived from Poeni, the name by which the Carthaginians, being of Phoenician descent, were known to the Romans.

First Punic War.

The First Punic War (264–241 bc) was the outcome of growing political and economic rivalry between the two nations. It was initiated when a band of Campanian mercenary soldiers (Mamertines), besieged in the city of Messana (now Messina), in Sicily, requested aid from both Rome and Carthage against Hiero II, king of Syracuse. Carthage already controlled part of Sicily, and the Romans, responding to this request with the intention of driving the Carthaginians from the island, provoked a declaration of war. After building their first large navy, the Romans defeated a Carthaginian fleet off the Sicilian port of Mylae (see MYLAE, BATTLE OF,) in 260 bc, but failed to capture Sicily. In 256 bc a Roman army under Roman general Marcus Atilius Regulus established a base in North Africa, but the following year the Carthaginians forced it to withdraw. For the next 13 years the war was fought in the area of Sicily. It ended with a major naval victory for the Romans in 241 bc. Sicily was then ceded to the Romans, who also seized the Carthaginian islands of Sardinia and Corsica in 237 bc.

Second Punic War.

Hamilcar Barca, a distinguished Carthaginian general of the First Punic War, devoted the remainder of his life to building up Carthaginian power in Spain to compensate for the loss of Sicily. His son Hannibal became commander of the Carthaginian forces in this area in 221 bc, and in 219 bc he attacked and captured Saguntum, a Spanish city allied with Rome. This act brought on the Second Punic War (218–201 bc). In the spring of 218 bc Hannibal swiftly marched a large army through Spain and Gaul and across the Alps to attack the Romans in Italy before they could complete their preparations for war. He crossed the dangerous mountains and secured a firm position in northern Italy. By 216 bc he had won two major victories, at Lake Trasimeno and the town of Cannae, and reached southern Italy. In spite of his requests, Hannibal received insufficient reinforcements and siege weapons from Carthage until 207 bc, when his brother Hasdrubal left Spain with an army to join him. Hasdrubal crossed the Alps, but in a battle at the Metaurus River, in northern Italy, he was killed and his troops defeated. Meanwhile, the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, known as Scipio Africanus the Elder, had totally defeated the Carthaginians in Spain, and in 204 bc he landed an army in North Africa. The Carthaginians recalled Hannibal to Africa to defend them against Scipio. Leading an army of untrained recruits, he was decisively defeated by Scipio at the Battle of Zama in 202 bc. This battle marked the end of Carthage as a great power and the close of the Second Punic War. The Carthaginians were compelled to cede Spain and the islands of the Mediterranean still in their possession, relinquish their navy, and pay an indemnity to Rome.

Third Punic War.

In the 2d century bc, however, Carthage continued to be commercially successful and, though only a minor power, a source of irritation to Rome. The Romans were further incited by the speeches of the censor Cato the Elder, who demanded Delenda est Carthago (“Carthage must be destroyed”). A minor Carthaginian breach of treaty gave the pretext for the Third Punic War (149–146 bc), in which the Romans, led by Scipio the Younger, captured the city of Carthage, razed it to the ground, and sold the surviving inhabitants into slavery










(63 bc–ad 14), first emperor of Rome (27 bc–ad 14), who restored unity and orderly government to the realm after nearly a century of civil wars, and presided over an era of peace, prosperity, and cultural achievement known as the Augustan Age.

Originally named Gaius Octavius, Augustus was born in Rome on Sept. 23, 63 bc; he was the grandnephew of Julius Caesar, whom he succeeded as ruler of the Roman state. Caesar was fond of the youth and had him raised to the College of Pontifices—a major Roman priesthood—at the age of 16. When Caesar was assassinated in 44 bc, Octavius was in Illyria; returning to Italy, he learned that he was Caesar’s adopted heir. He consequently took the name Gaius Julius Caesar, to which historians added Octavianus (usually shortened to Octavian in English).

The Second Triumvirate.

Caesar’s assassination plunged Rome into turmoil. Octavian, determined to avenge his adoptive father and secure his own place, vied with Mark Antony, Caesar’s ambitious colleague, for power and honor. After some preliminary skirmishes, both political and military, during which Antony was driven across the Alps and Octavian was made senator and then consul, Octavian recognized the necessity of making peace with his rival. In late 43 bc, the two—joined by Antony’s ally, the general Marcus Aemilius Lepidus—met and formed the Second Triumvirate to rule the Roman domains. The alliance was sealed by a massive proscription, in which 300 senators and 200 knights—the triumvirs’ enemies—were slain. Among those killed was the aging orator Cicero.

Octavian and Antony next took the field against the leaders of Caesar’s assassins, Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, both of whom committed suicide in 42 bc, after being defeated at Philippi in Macedonia. By 40 bc the triumvirs had divided the Roman world among them. Octavian was in control of most of the western provinces and Antony of the eastern ones; Lepidus was given Africa. Although Antony and Octavian clashed over the control of Italy, they patched up their differences, and Octavian gave Antony his sister, Octavia, in marriage. In 36 bc, Sextus Pompeius (d. 35 bc), son of Pompey the Great and the last major enemy of the triumvirs, was eliminated. Octavian then forced Lepidus from power while Antony was in the east fighting the Parthians.

The triumvirate was now breaking up. Having sent Octavia back to Rome, Antony soon married Cleopatra, whom Caesar had installed as queen of Egypt, and recognized Caesarion (47–30 bc), her son by Caesar, as her coruler. This undercut Octavian’s position as Caesar’s only son, and war was inevitable. In a naval battle off Actium in 31 bc, Octavian defeated the forces of Antony and Cleopatra, who killed themselves in 30 bc. Caesarion was murdered. In 29 bc Octavian returned to Rome, sole master of the Roman world.

The First Citizen.

In 27 bc the Roman Senate gave Octavian the title Augustus (“consecrated,” or “holy”) by which he is known, and his reign has often been considered a dyarchy because of the Senate’s participation in it. The Senate bestowed on him a host of other titles and powers that had been held by many different officials in the Republic. In 36 bc he had been given the inviolability of the plebeian tribune, and in 30 bc he also received the tribunician power, which gave him the veto and control over the assemblies. In addition, the Senate granted him ultimate authority in the provinces; together with the consulship, which he held 13 times during his reign and which gave him control of Rome and Italy, this vested in him paramount authority throughout the empire. After the death of Lepidus he also became Pontifex Maximus (“chief priest”) with the consequent control of religion. The summation of his powers was the title princeps, or first citizen. Despite all this, and the title imperator (from which “emperor” is derived), Augustus was always careful not to take on the trappings of monarchy. In fact, he made much of the claim that he was restoring the Roman Republic.

A patron of the arts, Augustus was a friend of the poets Ovid, Horace, and Vergil, as well as the historian Livy. His love for architectural splendor was summed up in his boast that he “had found Rome brick and left it marble.” As an adherent of Roman virtue in a time of growing permissiveness, his attempts at moral legislation included sumptuary and marriage laws. In the economic field, he tried to restore agriculture in Italy.

Augustus’ third wife, Livia Drusilla (58 bc–ad 29), had two sons, Tiberius and Drusus Germanicus, by a previous marriage. Augustus also had a child, Julia, from a previous marriage. One after another, however, his heirs died, leaving his stepson and son-in-law, Tiberius, to succeed him when he died at Nola on Aug. 19, ad 14.


Both ancient and modern writers have been ambivalent about Augustus. Some have condemned his ruthless quest for power, especially his part in the proscription at the time of the triumvirate. Others, even such a Republican diehard as Tacitus, have admitted his good points as a ruler. Modern scholars sometimes criticize his unscrupulous methods and compare him to 20th-century authoritarians, but they usually recognize his genuine achievements.











(d. 71 bc), Roman slave and gladiator, born in Thrace. He is thought to have been a deserter from the Roman army, and he was sold as a slave to a trainer of gladiators at Capua. In 73 bc he escaped with other runaway gladiators and took refuge on Mount Vesuvius, where he was joined by large numbers of escaped slaves. As leader of the historic insurrection of Roman slaves known as the Third Servile War, or Gladiators’ War, he defeated two Roman armies, and his forces overran southern Italy. In 72 bc he defeated three more Roman armies and reached Cisalpine Gaul, where he planned to disperse his followers to their homes. They decided to remain in Italy for the sake of plunder, and Spartacus marched south again. In 71 bc the Roman commander Marcus Licinius Crassus forced Spartacus and his followers into the narrow peninsula of Rhegium (now Reggio di Calabria), from which, however, they escaped through the Roman lines. Crassus then pursued Spartacus to Lucania, where the rebel army was destroyed and Spartacus was killed in battle. Upon his death the insurrection came to an end, and the captured rebels were crucified. A few who escaped to the north were killed by Pompey the Great, who was returning from Spain.









CRASSUS, Marcus Licinius

(115?–53 bc), Roman politician and speculator. He fought in the civil war (83–82 bc) on the side of Lucius Cornelius Sulla, leader of the ousted aristocratic party, against Gaius Marius the Younger (109–82? bc), who had assumed leadership of the revolutionary party after the death of his adoptive father and namesake in 86 bc. When the property of Marius’s followers was confiscated after their defeat, Crassus accumulated a fortune, which he enlarged through speculation and usury until he was one of the wealthiest men in Rome. Crassus used his wealth to win office and power in the political intrigues that characterized the last years of the Roman Republic. He was praetor in 71 bc and crushed the slave revolt led by the gladiator Spartacus. Crassus was elected to the consulship for the year 70 bc with the support of Pompey the Great. Shortly thereafter Crassus allied himself with Julius Caesar, and the two men supported Catiline against Cicero for the consulship. Crassus was censor in 65 bc, and in 60 bc formed with Caesar and Pompey the coalition known as the First Triumvirate. Pompey and Crassus were consuls again in 55 bc; the following year Crassus was assigned the province of Syria to govern as proconsul. Craving military glory, he provoked a war against the Parthians, invaded Mesopotamia, and looted the Temple at Jerusalem, but he was ingloriously defeated and killed by the Parthians at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 bc.








(247–183 bc), Carthaginian general, son of Hamilcar Barca, whose march on Rome from Spain across the Alps in 218–217 bc remains one of the greatest feats in military history.

At the age of nine Hannibal accompanied his father on the Carthaginian expedition to conquer Spain. Before starting, the boy vowed eternal hatred for Rome, the bitter rival of Carthage. From his 18th to his 25th year, Hannibal was the chief agent in carrying out the plans by which his brother-in-law Hasdrubal extended and consolidated the Carthaginian dominion on the Iberian Peninsula. When Hasdrubal was assassinated in 221 bc, the army chose Hannibal as commander in chief. In two years he subjugated all Spain between the Tagus and Iberus (Ebro) rivers, with the exception of the Roman dependency of Saguntum (Sagunto), which was taken after a siege of eight months. The Romans branded this attack a violation of the existing treaty between Rome and Carthage and demanded that Carthage surrender Hannibal to them. On the refusal of the Carthaginians to do so, the Romans declared war on Carthage in 218 bc, thus precipitating the Second Punic War.

Crossing the Alps.

The march on Rome began in 218 bc. Hannibal left New Carthage (now Cartagena), Spain, with an army of about 40,000, including cavalry and a considerable number of elephants carrying baggage and later used in battle. He crossed the Pyrenees and the Rhône River and traversed the Alps in 15 days, beset by snowstorms, landslides, and the attacks of hostile mountain tribes. After recruiting additional men among the friendly Insubres, a Gallic people of northern Italy, to compensate for the loss of about 15,000 men during the long march, Hannibal subjugated the Taurini, a tribe hostile to the Insubres. He then forced into alliance with himself all the Ligurian and Celtic tribes on the upper course of the Po River. Late that same year (218 bc) he vanquished the Romans under Scipio Africanus the Elder in the battles of Ticinus (Ticino) and Trebia (Trebbia). In the following year, 217 bc, Hannibal inflicted a crushing defeat on the Roman consul Gaius Flaminius at Lake Trasimene. After his victory Hannibal crossed the Apennines and invaded the Roman provinces of Picenum and Apulia, recrossing thence to the fertile Campania, which he ravaged.

The Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cunctator, sent from Rome to oppose Hannibal, adopted a highly cautious strategy. Avoiding any decisive encounter with the Carthaginian troops, he nevertheless succeeded in keeping Hannibal at bay, thus giving the Romans the opportunity to recover from their military reverses. Hannibal wintered at Gerontium, and in the spring of 216 bc he took up a position at Cannae on the Aufidus (Ofanto) River. There he almost completely annihilated a Roman army of more than 50,000 men under the consuls Lucius Aemilius Paulus (fl. 229–216 bc), who was killed in the battle, and Gaius Terentius Varro (d. after 200 bc), who escaped with the remnant. Carthaginian losses were about 6700 men.

After the Battle of Cannae, the character of the war underwent a change. Hannibal needed reinforcements, which the Carthaginian government refused to furnish, and he also lacked siege weapons. He marched on Neapolis (Naples), but failed to take the city. The gates of wealthy Capua, one of the Italian cities that had fallen to Hannibal in consequence of his victory at Cannae, were opened to him, however, and there he passed the winter of 216–215 bc. In 211 bc Hannibal attempted to take Rome, but the Romans successfully maintained their fortified positions. The Romans then retook Capua. The loss of this second city of Italy cost Hannibal the allegiance of many of his Italian allies and put an end to his hopes of further replenishing his army from their ranks. After four years of inconclusive fighting, Hannibal turned for aid to his brother Hasdrubal, who forthwith marched from Spain. Hasdrubal, however, was surprised, defeated, and slain by the Roman consul Gaius Claudius Nero (fl. 216–201 bc) in the Battle of the Metaurus (Metauro) River.

Roman Victory.

In 202 bc, after 15 years, and with the military fortunes of Carthage rapidly declining, Hannibal was recalled to Africa to direct the defense of his country against a Roman invasion under Scipio Africanus the Elder. When he met Scipio at Zama, North Africa, his raw troops fled, many deserting to the Romans, and his veterans were cut down. Carthage capitulated to Rome, and the Second Punic War came to an end.

After a peace had been concluded with the Romans in 201 bc, Hannibal immediately set about making preparations for a resumption of the struggle. He amended the Carthaginian constitution, reduced corruption in the government, and placed the finances of the city on a sounder basis. The Romans, however, charged him with working to break the peace, and he was obliged to flee Carthage, taking refuge at the court of Antiochus III, king of Syria. With Antiochus he fought against the Romans, but when the Syrian monarch was defeated at Magnesia (Manisa) in 190 bc and signed a treaty with Rome pledging to surrender Hannibal, the latter escaped to Prusias II, king of Bithynia (r. 192–148 bc), in northern Asia Minor. When Rome once more demanded the surrender of Hannibal, he committed suicide by taking poison.










full name Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (234?–183 bc), one of the most famous generals of ancient Rome and a hero of the Second Punic War between Carthage and Rome. In 210 bc, after serving in the Roman legions sent against the Carthaginian general Hannibal in northern Italy, Scipio was put in command of the Roman armies in Spain. Arriving there in 209 bc, he led a surprise attack against the headquarters of the Carthaginian army at Nova Carthago (now Cartagena), thereby depriving Carthage of its principal supply base. In 208 bc he had driven the Carthaginian general Hasdrubal from Spain, but had failed to prevent him from crossing the Pyrenees to assist his brother Hannibal in 207 bc. Scipio returned to Rome in triumph in 205 bc and was elected consul for that year. In 204–203 bc, he led an invasion of North Africa, defeating the Carthaginians at Campi Magni (modern Suk al-Khamis, Tunisia). Hannibal was then recalled from Italy, but Scipio won a decisive victory over him in the Battle of Zama (202 bc). For this conquest, which ended the Second Punic War, Scipio was granted the surname Africanus.

In 190 bc Scipio served as tactical adviser to his brother in the war with the Seleucid king Antiochus III; the Syrian force was crushed in the great Roman victory at Magnesia in Asia Minor. On his return to Rome Scipio was accused by his enemy, Marcus Porcius Cato (Cato the Elder), of accepting bribes from Antiochus. He was acquitted of the charges, but retired from public life to his villa at Liternum in Campania. Scipio Africanus is regarded as the greatest Roman general before Julius Caesar. He was also an accomplished scholar and encouraged appreciation of Greek culture in Rome.




the romans have written stories based on greek literature such as the illiad and the oddesey




great generals
julius gaeus caeser

Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus


Pompey the Great

Gaius Julius

augustus (octavian)

Theodosius the Great