The Romans; Empire of the Known WorldAccording to legend, Rome was founded by Romulus and Remus in the year of 753 B.C.. As orphans they were supposedly found and raised by a female wolf. (In Latin the word 'lupa' means not only female wolf, but also whore: Seen in this light, the legend becomes quite credible.)
The small, newly-founded city constantly had to struggle against mighty neighboring cities and tribes. But one by one, the Romans defeated all their enemies with unyielding pertinacity - and then integrated them with flexibility and shrewdness.
In just a few centuries the small city state grew into a powerful empire by waging constant wars against its neighboring states, and once these were subjugated, against their neighbors:
By 272 B.C. Romans had conquered most of Italy, including the rich and cultivated Greek colonies in southern Italy. Only the Celtic northern Italy remained free.
In a 20 year war (starting at 264 B.C.) they conquered Sicily from the powerful northern African merchant state Carthage. Originally a mere land power, the Romans built up an expensive and powerful and often victorious fleet in a short period of time.
However, in a Storm in 255 B.C. most of this fleet sank in the Mediterranean: Almost 400 galleys and transporters sank and probably over 100,000 soldiers, rowers, sailors and prisoners of war drowned. Within a year the Romans built and manned new ships, but storms and more defeats against the Carthaginians over the next five years brought down this new fleet as well. The Roman state was bankrupt, but the leading families financed another fleet, which finally defeated Carthaginians in a maritime battle.
In the second 20 year war against the Carthaginians (starting at 218 B.C.) Rome had lost 100,000 men in the battle at Cannae. Almost all men able to fight were killed. For over 10 years all of Italy was occupied by a Carthaginian army under Hannibal.
Any other states would have capitulated but Rome still stood and conquered the Carthaginian Spain and then attacked Carthage on African soil. Carthage was defeated and had to pay incredible amounts as Tribute.
This was followed by 50 years of wars with Macedonia (since 215 B.C.), during which Rome conquered all of Greece and Asia minor. The people of over 70 Greek cities were sold as slaves. The loot of the war were so immense, that the Roman citizens didn't have to pay taxes any longer.
A third war with Carthage ended in 149 B.C. with the complete annihilation of the city: Of the 500,000 citizens, only 50,000 survived, which then were transported to Rome as slaves. Now northern Africa was also in Roman hands.
113 B.C. Germanic tribes suddenly appeared at the northern Roman border. Supposedly 300,000 men fit for battle (and countless women and children) demanded land for settlement: If none was given to them, they would take it by force; for the homeland of these tribes, the Cimbrians and Teutons, were no longer habitable, due to sudden floods.
They defeated all of the Roman legions they encountered, but rather than looting Rome they have been wandering through Gaul, Spain and Italy for 13 years searching for suitable land to settle.
Eventually, the new Roman general Marius transformed his army of drafted farmers into a army of mercenaries, made up of Roman urbanites without any other means to support themselves. He also improved on their tactics and organization, and finally defeated and massacred the Germanic tribes.
Soon conflict arose between the general Marius and the followers of the unencumbered Senate leadership under Sulla, which developed into a civil war, in which at first the Marians, but then also the victorious Sullans murdered hundreds of their political opponents.
General Pompeius conquered starting at 67 B.C. within 4 years Asia Minor and Syria; countries that since Alexander the Great were under Greek rule. Thus also the eastern half of the Mediterranean became Roman, and for now only Egypt remained independent.
The Roman governor of southern Gaul, Julius Caesar, conquered the rest of Gaul which had remained free until now in an 8 year war (since 58 B.C.). Starting at 49 B.C. he led a civil war against Pompeius to gain sole leadership of the Roman Empire. The Senate was rendered without any power, because the legions were made up of mercenaries, who only followed the orders of their generals, who also paid them.
After Caesar's victory over Pompeius, he appointed himself to a lifetime dictator, but was assassinated in the following year (44 B.C.).
Starting in 43 B.C. Caesar's great nephew Octavian along with Mark Anthony waged a 10-year civil war for his succession. At first they fought together against the remaining defenders of senate leadership, and later against each other.