Power and Freedom: Late Roman Republic and early Empire

Part of the Power and Freedom section of the Higher Classical Studies course.

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The beginning of the Empire

By 265 B.C, Rome had brought the whole peninsula into an Italian federation under its leadership. Some colonies had been established. This expansion was not the result of a deliberate and consistent policy of aggression, but not all the wars fought were purely defensive.

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Equality in Rome (plebs and patricians)

Rome's expansion in Italy was inseparable from the internal developments in patrician-plebeian relations that occurred during the same period.

  • More magistracies were needed to administer the growing state, and newly created magistracies were monopolised by the patricians.
  • More men and money were required to meet the constant threats of hostile neighbours, and this groeing burden of military service and taxation fell heavily on the plebeians.

Long absences from home, bad seasons, the monopolising of increasing amounts of public land by the patricians and the prevalence of debt among the small farmer-soldiers added to the discontent of the plebeians.

There was a growing number of plebeians who were equal to the patricians in ability and wealth and who had distinguished themselves in batthe; these men were able to act as spokesmen, but nevertheless the struggle for political, social, religious and legal equality was long and bitter.

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