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Why Was The Roman Empire so Successful?

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Athens and Rome were both city-states that became empires through war. Athens did not survive long, due to the dissolving of the Delian League, while the Roman Empire lasted for centuries, from around 31 B.C.E. to 476 C.E. (Mark) The Roman Empire was different from the Roman Republic, and the republic was similar to the Athenian Empire. While Rome took many ideas from Athens for both political and religious life, Rome did not make the same poor decisions that Athens did. This made the Roman Empire more successful than the Athenian Empire was.

The Athenian Empire was a part of the Delian league, but their imperialism isolated them from the allied polies, and the Peloponnesian War added to the strain on the relationship between Athens and the rest of the Delian League. Sparta revolted against Athens in 405 B.C.E, effectively disbanding the Delian League. Without the Delian League, there was nothing stopping Athens from retaliating against Sparta, and bringing an end to Classical Greece. (Britannica) Athens wanted too much power for their empire, and tried to take it by force, but they were just too small to successful demand loyalty from conquered territories. However, democracy in Athens was better than the democracy of the early Roman Republic. It was under the leadership of Pericles that Athenian government was the freest and truly for the people.

The early Roman Republic had the same base for its government that Athens had, but it was not as free, and it was really only for the wealthy. Politics was a constant battle between the nobles and the commoners. Commoners eventually gained some power, granted to them by the nobles, who could still veto anything they did not feel benefited them as nobles. Political life began to crumble under the weight of the rapidly growing empire. The problems between the rich and poor grew bigger as wealthier landowners began to drive farmers from public land, and government became more for the wealthy and less for the commoners. Any attempt to reform these social problems ended in the reformers’ deaths.

The Punic Wars was the turning point for the Roman Empire. The empire was already vast, and powerful, but after the Third Punic War , the Roman Empire reached from the border between Greece and Asia Minor to the Atlantic coast of Spain. The Punic Wars were some of the most violent and bloody wars in history. By the time of the First Punic War , Rome was the dominant power in Italian peninsula. The only thing standing in the way of Roman expansion was Carthage, the dominant power in northern Africa. ( throughout the century, the Romans were involved in more than just the Punic Wars . The Macedonian Wars  were started when Philip V of Macedon became a threat to Rome’s success, allying with Carthage in the Second Punic War. But rather than try to avoid war, Rome provoked Philip V into war by sending and ultimatum, “ordering him not to attack any Greek city and to pay reparations to Pergamum.” Philip refused and two years later, Rome had to send a general, Flaminius, to drive Philip from Greece. With Greek support, Flaminius defeated Philip. (Kagan, pg. 103) The end of the Punic Wars came when the Carthaginians surrendered “after seven days of horrific bloodshed.” With all threats to the empire defeated, Rome was the most dominant power in the world.

The Roman Empire was bigger than the Athenian Empire, even when Rome was still a republic. It was through violent bloodshed that Rome became the largest empire since Alexander the Great’s empire. Despite the empire’s history of violence, Rome was able to pull together some of the most diverse cultures. According to Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, “The planting of cities, with their familiar apparatus of public services and entertainment, was a sign and instrument of the advance to ‘first-world’ status.” While Rome took many ideas from Athens for both political and religious life, Rome did not make the same poor decisions that Athens did. Rome made sure to include all cities it conquered, installing local government in each city, connecting each with main roads, and making sure they had thriving commerce and daily life. This made the Roman Empire more successful than the Athenian Empire was.

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