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In the meantime, the Gauls resident in the Po Valley had become
restless. Aided by tribes from Gaul itself, the raised and devastated
territory south of the Apennines. The Romans, allied with the Veneti,
responded and by the end of their campaign in 218 BC, all of the Italian
peninsula south of the Alps, except the north-west, was under Roman
control (either directly or by alliance).
In the meantime, Hannibal, son of the Spain-based Hamilcar Barca
who was defeated in the First Punic War, inherited command of the army
and initiated a violent campaign. This escalated into the Second Punic
War (218-202 BC) when the Roman Senate once again declared war on
Rome ruled the waves this time around so Hannibal daringly crossed
into Italy by leading his army across Spain and southern France and over
the Alps. Despite losing up to half his troops and almost all of h is
war elephants in the crossing, Hannibal inflicted several crushing
defeats on the Romans, notably at Lago di Trasimeno (in present day
Umbria) in 217 BC and at Cannae (in Apulia) the following year, when the
Romans lost 30,000 soldiers. Stalemate ensued. Hannibal roamed Italy
and the Romans avoided direct clashes. With control of the sea, the
Romans had no trouble preventing the arrival of reinforcements to
Hannibal until 207 BC when his brother Hasdrubal crossed the Alps.
The Romans then discovered a military genius of their own to match
Hannibal - Publius Cornelius Cipia. Backed by a strong army, the 25-year
old general struck first at Hannibal's power base in Spain and then, in
204 BC, attacked Africa, forcing the Carthaginians to recall Hannibal to
defend the capital. In 202 BC Scipio won the decisive Battle of Zama
over Hannibal, who committed suicide in exile some 20 years later. Rome
was left the Iberian peninsula, which, apart from the occasional
protracted uprising, became a comparatively peaceful Roman territory.
During the following years, the Roman Republic added Macedonian
Greece to its provinces after the decisive defeat of Perseus, the son of
Philip V of Macedon, in a three-year war. By 146 BC, all of mainland
Greece was under Roman control. In 129 BC the Romans extended their
control to Asia Minor.
In the meantime Carthage continued to exercise the Roman
imagination and in 149 BC Rome sent an invasion to finish off its
arch-rival once and for all. After three years of siege the Roman region
legions finally marched in and erased the city.
FROM REPUBLIC TO EMPIRE
The rapid expansion of Roman control from Italy to cover much of
the Mediterranean brought far-reaching changes at home. Italy came to
depend on the wealth imported from the provinces. Much of this wound up
in the pockets of the oligarchs, and a large underclass, increasingly
poor and alienated, became a growing source of of social discontent. The
poor remained poor and the rich wallowed in a new refinement, much of it
learned from the older and more developed societies the Romans had
subjugated. The need for land reforms caused a deep rift between those
who advocated such changes and the conservative Senate.
As the 2nd Century BC drew to a close, Rome slipped into a period
of factional strife, exacerbated by problems abroad. Germanic tribes
moving across northern Europe in search of land challenged Roman
authority in client states and attacked Gaul. The emergency persisted
and in part explained the repeated nominations of the general Galus
Marius as consul. He reorganised the armed forces and replace the
increasingly unpopular system of conscription with a new system of
accepting volunteers from the ranks of the landless urban poor. Roman
armies now looked to their individual generals for recompense after a
campaign and the commanders realised that conquest and retaining the
fidelity of their troops bestowed on them considerable political power.
Meanwhile, Roman politics was increasingly polarised. One of the
many questions at stake was the citizenship status of the Italic peoples
beyond the city of Rome. The Senate opposed proposals to extend Roman
citizenship across the peninsula but, in the face of rebellion by its
peninsula allies in what became known as the Social War, eventually
caved in on this point. The weight of military men in domestic political
affairs grew and resulted ultimately in the proclamation in 82 BC of
the dictatorship of the Cornelius Sulla, who had been a bitter opponent
of Gaius Mrius and his faction. A conservative who had returned to Italy
at the head of a victorious army from the Middle East, his rise marked a
turning point in republican government.
Sulla allowed one of his protégés, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Popey
the Great), to leapfrog up the political ladder. In 77 BC he was sent to
Spain to end a revolt by Quintus Sertorius, a talented general and the
last of the Marius faction. Rome had to put out several fires at the
same time. In Asia Minor war broke out in 74 BC (not for the first time)
with a Black Sea ruler, Mithridates, and in 73 BC the last great slave
revolt, led by the Thracian gladiator Spartacus, shook Italy. Marcus
Licinius Crassus was given an extraordinary appointment to put down the
revolt, which e accomplished just as a victorious Pomey was returning
home form Spain in 71 BC (see the boxed text "Spartacus the Dimply One"
Crassus and Pompey, by now bitter rivals, together then campaigned
(and bribed) their way to the consulships in 70 BC. Pompey later took an
army to Syria.
In 59 BC Gaius Julius Caesar became consul with the connivance of
Crassus and the newly returned Pompey. In return for their electoral and
financial support, Caesar as consul would ensure that his allies'
interests would be looked after. The three men became known as the First
Triumvirate and their pact was reinforced by Pompey's marriage to
Caesar's daughter Julia.
After his consulship, Caesar left to win military glory in Gaul,
which he conquered in the years 58-51 BC. His treatment of the Gauls in
defeat was mild and the area became his main power base. At the same
time he also made incursions into Germanic territory across the Rhine
and into Britain. Crassus meanwhile died while campaigning in Parthia
and Pompey became consul again in 52 BC. He and Caesar arranged for the
latter to stand again for the consulship in 50 BC but Pompey's growing
jealousy of Caesar's success pushed him into the arms of conservative
senators who opposed the popularity and power of Caesar.