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The Western Republics

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Rome - A new sort of state (The Republic) Edit

As of the latter part of the fifth century BCE, Rome could be characterized as an aristocratic community of peasants. It occupied an area of about 400 square miles, and no more than about 150,000 people, divided into seventeen districts or tribes. They were a mostly rural people who only occasionally would make their way into the, by now, fortified town. Citizens were divided in upper class Patricians, and lower class Plebians. And then there were the non-citizen slaves and outlanders. Not at all unsimilar to the various Greek city-states of the time.

What separated Rome from the Greek states was the nature of constitutional power. At that point, power was predominantly held in the hands of a nominated body known as the "Senate". Initially only Patricians could be nominated to the Senate, and up to 510 BCE they were nominated by a King. In 510 BCE, they did away with monarchy and replaced the last King with a pair of elected rulers called "Consuls". The only role the Plebians had at that point was to vote on who would be Consul and various other offices. Though all citizens might have the right to vote, Rome was still very much a class based society with little to no intermarriage or other movement between the classes. Much of the internal history of early Rome seems to focus around the issue of class rights and the struggles involved.

When the "Latin War" led to excessive debts resulting in former soldiers being put into chains to satisfy Patrician creditors, it led to the strike of 494 BCE, when Plebians left Rome to start the building of a town of their own, so as to reclaim their rights as citizens. Rather than see the creation of a new town, the Patricians gave in to Plebian demands, and Plebians acquired the privilege of having their own officers, Tribunes, and Aediles. Because of problems associated with relying on Patrician memory, the "Twelve Tables" were published from 451-450 BCE, forming the basis of Roman Law. In 376 BCE, Licinius promulgated what became known as the Licinian Rogations which precipitated another struggle that in 367 BCE brought about further improvements in Plebian status, not the least of which was the ability to hold any number of elective offices, including the Senate.

The Carthaginian Republic of Rich Men Edit

Originally founded in 814 BCE by Phoenician settlers from Tyre, Carthage became a city republic after the First Sicilian War was lost by Carthage. Carthage was a republic in the sense that its rulers were elected. While there was a Public Assembly and an elected Senate, the real power was in the hands of an oligarchy of wealthy influential families who controlled the Senate committees that mattered, as well as the city administration. Furthermore, only those whe were from these families were eligible to be elected as one of the two sofetem who served as the formal leaders of the city republic. And, unlike Rome, the benefits of a republican society were never shared beyond the city limits of Carthage.

Sicily Edit

Their different natures notwithstanding, both Rome and Carthage were the centers of expanding power and influence. Both militarily and in terms of commerce. Inevitably, they were destined to run into conflict with each other, and it began in Sicily.

In the last section, the First Sicilian War was referred to as bringing a change in Carthage's form of governance. At that point, Rome had yet to look beyond it coast line. Rather the Carthaginian's were fighting Greeks over who would have control over Sicily. By the end of the Third Sicilian War, the Carthaginian's had control over most of Sicily, with the sole exception of Syracuse. And there it stayed until 288 BCE, when Agathocles, the leader of Syracuse died.

At the time of Agathocles death, he had in his employ a large company of Italian Mercenaries. Rather than simply accept a sudden loss on employment, they seized the city of Messana and called themselves Mamertines. Over time, as they became a problem for both Syracuse and the Carthaginian's, the two former opponents united in an effort to rid themselves of the Mamertine problem. It was at that point that the Mamertines brought Rome into the struggle for control of Sicily.

The Punic Wars Edit

Italy
With the final conclusion of the Sicilian wars, Carthage had been left with overall control of Sicily. Meanwhile, however, Roman power had expanded throughout all of the Italian peninsula. With control extending all the way to the toe of the boot, keeping in mind that Italy is shaped like a boot, only a small channel of water separated Rome from Sicily.

So when the Mamertines sought Roman help in dealing with the Carthaginians, the Roman Senate was ready to listen. And so it was, in 264 BCE, that an expedition was sent under the leadership of Consul Appius Claudius Caudex. Which kicked off the first of three Punic Wars.

The First Punic WarEdit

This was fought primarily at sea and in Sicily. Initially, being the naval power of the Mediterranean, Carthage held the upper hand at sea. But then Rome came up with a new innovation. Rather than trying to ram enemy ships, the Romans devised a means by which Roman soldiers could board the Carthaginian vessels, and fight them on board their own ships. In 260 BCE, the tide of naval warfare turned to Rome with the Romans winning the Battle of Mylae. By 240 BCE, the war was over with Rome gaining possession of Sicily, and ultimately Corsica and Sardinia as well.

The Second Punic WarEdit

Starting in 218 BCE, it lasted until the Battle of Zama in 202 BCE. Probably the most well known part of this war, was Hannibal's crossing of the Alps. Though only seven of the thirty-four elephants that he brought over the Alps survived the crossing, they were enough to enable him to maintain a reign of terror throughout much of the Roman Republic. Unlike the previous war, battle eventually extended to the North Coast of Africa where Carthage was ultimately defeated in Zama. As a result, Carthage lost all territory outside of the city itself.

The Third Punic WarEdit

The Third Punic War, if it can be called that, consisted primarily of a three year siege of Carthage. Beginning in 149 BCE and concluding in 146 BCE, Carthage's primary offense seems to have been the reacquistion of a semblance of wealth along with some local trading activity. To ensure that Carthage would never repeat that offense, the city was razed to the ground and the survivors were sold into slavery.


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