Sunday, July 15, 2012

World History I: The Roman Republic Grows

The Roman Republic Grows

As Rome’s political and social systems evolved at home, its armies expanded Roman power across Italy. Roman armies conquered first the Etruscans and then the Greek city-states in the south. By about 270 B.C., Rome controlled most of the Italian peninsula.

Citizen-Soldiers Make Up the Roman Army
Rome’s success was due to skillful diplomacy and to its loyal, well-trained army. The basic military unit was the legion, each of which included about 5,000 men. As in Greece, Roman armies consisted of citizen-soldiers who originally fought without being paid and had to supply their own weapons. Eventually, they received a small stipend, or payment, but their main compensation was always a share of the spoils of victory. Roman citizens often made good soldiers because they were brought up to value loyalty, courage, and respect for authority.

To ensure success, Roman commanders mixed rewards with harsh punishment. Young soldiers who showed courage in action won praise and gifts. If a unit fled from battle, however, one out of every ten men from the disgraced unit was put to death.

During the time of the late republic, praetorians (above), or bodyguards, began protecting army generals. Later, they would become an elite guard for Roman emperors.

Rome Is Just With Conquered Lands
Rome generally treated its defeated enemies with justice. Conquered peoples had to acknowledge Roman leadership, pay taxes, and supply soldiers for the Roman army. In return, Rome let them keep their own customs, money, and local government.

To a few privileged groups among the conquered people, Rome gave the highly prized right of full citizenship. Others became partial citizens, who were allowed to marry Romans and carry on trade in Rome. As a result of such generous policies, most conquered lands remained loyal to Rome even in troubled times.

Maintaining the State
To protect its conquests, Rome posted soldiers throughout the land. It also built a network of all-weather military roads to link distant territories to Rome. As trade and travel increased, local peoples incorporated Latin into their languages and adopted many Roman customs and beliefs. Slowly, Italy began to unite under Roman rule.

How did the Romans treat the people they conquered?