Explaining the Rise and Dominance of Rome

Explaining the Rise and Dominance of Rome

Consolidation of Italy

From its inception in 753 BC to 338 BC, Rome was
simply a city-state founded by Italic tribes in central Italy, which
also controlled a handful of nearby city-states. Between 338 and 290 BC,
the Roman Republic began to aggressively assert itself in its region,
asserting control over a significant portion of west-central Italy,
exhibiting Roman military prowess for which it would become notorious.
Its expansionist ambitions would continue to become increasingly
insatiable, as the Romans conquered nearly all of the Italian peninsula
by 290 BC.

As Rome became an unstoppable military force, the
Italian peninsula became natural aspiration, as the geography of the
peninsula lent itself to inherent continuity. The continental region to
the north was barricaded by the Alps, forming a protective barrier for
the peninsula. The Roman Republic would continue to steadily expand well
beyond the Italian peninsula, but the Romans would always view the
peninsula as its homeland. Romans would become accustomed to invasions
of the various outposts of its empires over the ensuing centuries, but
would be especially distressed whenever the Italian peninsula was
attacked, as they understood that it was the heart of the empire, rather
than an appendage, as territories outside Italy were viewed.

(Continued Below)


Beyond Italy

The Roman juggernaut
could not be constrained within the Italian peninsula. Rome methodically conquered
most of the land mass around
the Mediterranean Sea, including major empires such as Carthage, Greeks,
Syria, Persia and Egypt). They also expanded at will into Celt
territories to the north and west, while also pushing back Germanic
peoples in the north.

Nearly all Celt
peoples in modern Spain, France, Germany and England were submitted and
completely assimilated into the Roman Republic (later the Roman Empire).
However, aside from losing some territories, Germanic peoples largely
resisted the Roman advance, despite a concerted effort by the Romans to
capitulate them under their control.

The primary reason
for the inability of Rome to successfully conquer the Germanic “nation”
was the decentralized nature of the Germanic peoples. Unlike the more
organized Celt tribes, which clustered into small villages and
settlements, the Germanic peoples were a collection of very numerous,
loosely-affiliated tribes. In which case, it was not possible to assert
control over a large group of people by simply conquering a few
strategic settlements. The inability to submit the Germanic tribes to
the north would prove to be a major cause of the collapse of Rome later
in history, as mass Germanic raids and migrations along the long,
northern border of Rome would severely weaken the empire.

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Reasons for
Rise of Rome

Naval Dominance.
After conquering nearly all of the Italian peninsula in the 3rd century
BC, the Roman Republic gained control over long stretches of coastline
strategically located in the center of the Mediterranean Sea. This
geopolitically-advantageous position boosted the wealth of Rome, and
provided a push to build up a powerful navy, as they frequently came
into conflict with the Carthaginians, who dominated the north coasts of
Africa along the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Rome merely copied the
cutting-edge Carthage ships, to instantaneously
become a formidable foe for the Carthaginians. But the Romans added upon
existing Carthaginian technology, pioneering a
plank they could drop on the enemy ship to board the opposing ship in
large numbers.

In which case, the
Roman navy eventually challenged Carthage for dominance of the Mediterranean, leading to
the Punic Wars. Rome would achieve victory, rewarding it
with hegemony across the all-important sea, enabling it to control all
trade. This was also an insurmountable military advantage, allowing Rome to drop troops anywhere
along the coast to quickly reach far-flung battlefields.

Appeasement.
Rome figured out early that the best way to project its power outward
was to keep its new constituents happy. Respecting local cultures
reduced the drain on military (i.e. fewer revolts to contend with),
freeing it to continue expanding Rome’s sphere of control. They
typically protected local customs, religions, etc., keeping the locals
pacified.

Improved
Stability, Protection, Commerce, Government.
For most of its
captives, the Romans represented a better way of life. Its military might
enabled the Roman Empire to protect civilizations from barbaric raids
better than previous regimes. Plus, the advanced Roman road system, and
centralized currency/trade laws, enabled free trade throughout the
empire, increasing the export markets and access to diverse and more
affordable goods. Therefore, most conquered peoples enjoyed greater
prosperity under Roman rule compared to their pre-Roman economic systems
(or lack thereof). By today’s standards, Rome was
still a society rife with inequality, as slaves comprised about a
quarter of the population. There was a substantial lower, “peasant” class with limited rights.
However, slavery and inequality were common features of ancient
societies of the time.

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Standardization.
Trade, currency, laws, freedom of movement, measurement systems, etc.
were all standardized under the Roman Empire, facilitating improved
commerce, governance, administration of law, travel, among many other
things.

Infrastructural
Advances.
Rome brought innovative, new technologies to its provinces such as
aqueducts to provide for running water, cement mixing technologies
for better construction, architectural design, etc.

Food Allocation. Rome centralized control of base products,
such as wheat and grain, avoiding disruptions in the food supply, which is a
leading cause of riots and instability. If one region of the empire was
suffering food shortages, then Roman planners could facilitate
economical distribution of needed food products from another part of the
empire that enjoyed surpluses. However, grain came primarily from North Africa,
a territory which was farmed so
heavily, its formerly fertile areas became permanently damaged, transforming
into agriculturally-hostile desert.

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Military Prowess.
Rome introduced the world’s first professional army. It was more
trained and disciplined than any other force. It’s advanced naval capability and road
system meant quick deployment. The Romans were also effective at supplementing
its manpower-hungry army with
mercenaries as necessary. However, this would
ultimately be a major pitfall for the Roman Empire later in history,
contributing to the decline and collapse of Rome, as the high percentage
of mercenaries resulted in an army more loyal to its commander than the
empire itself, causing multiple government overthrows in its final days.

Geopolitical.
It has been proven throughout history that any state that can control
the Mediterranean Sea can project power throughout Europe, West Asia and
North Africa. By developing a dominant navy, Rome did just this, gaining
control over a vast empire that was centered around the Mediterranean
Sea. However, after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century,
this would prove to be an impossible task throughout most of the Dark
Ages, as piracy would overwhelm state navies.

Lasting Impacts

The Original
“Western” Superpower.
Rome would come to represent the ideal of “Western
Civilization”, since it is the first hegemonic, enduring civilization based on
a
western style of government and culture.
It was also the first major transcontinental empire based in Europe (not counting the brief
Greek Macedonian Empire which was soon subdivided after conquering much
of Asia). Rome would be the template for
other emulators throughout time (Medieval Frankish Empire, Germanic Holy Roman Empire,
Byzantine – a continuation of Roman Empire amongst the Greeks, Germany’s Third Reich, Fascist
Italy, Russian Empire). It also served as historical
precedent, and the basis of comparison for other Western Powers later in time,
including Great Britain and the USA.

Democracy.
Rome practiced a rudimentary, primitive form of democracy, with a senate
representing the voting constituency, although only a small minority
were allowed to vote.

Jews in Europe.
Rome deported a large population of Jews from Jerusalem into various
locations throughout Europe in order to put an end to ongoing revolts,
marking the beginning of a contiguous Jewish population in Europe.

Propagates Greek
Culture.
Greek thought and culture gained preference in the Roman
Empire, especially after the Roman armies conquered the Greek world.
Greek culture took root in the Roman Empire, dominating Roman culture.
By the collapse of the Roman Empire, Roman (i.e. Greek) ways were so
entrenched throughout such a large part of the known world, its
influence was destined to pervade cultures throughout the rest of time.

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Christianity.
As was the case with Greek culture, the Roman Empire assumed and carried
the banner of Christianity throughout much of the civilized world,
ensuring its everlasting pervasiveness. From the 1st century AD to the
4th century, Christianity was a minority religion within the empire.
This changed with Emperor Constantine, who became a believer, and
enforced its position as the official religion of the Roman Empire. This
proved to be the pivotal turning point of Christianity, bringing it from
the fringe into worldwide prominence.

National Borders.
Rome set the borders that would eventually define England, Spain, France
and Germany (not to mention Italy).


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