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The History of Roman Empire Expansion

Rome was founded as a province in Italy but later came to have dominance over Africa and most of Eurasia. The Roman Empire was founded in 8th BC and became an established and successful dominion until it came to a fall in the 8th BC. During the period of dominance, the Roman Empire commanded respect and awe in the region which is currently known as Europe. Rome strived for expansion, and its ambitions were steered by strong leaders.

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Expansion became not only a dream but a pursued reality. To ensure the success of the expansion ambitions, leaders in Rome established a strong army which has been cited by most historians as the major reason for success. During this period, most states were not organized in any particular way; consequently, the Roman Empire took advantage of the situation to take control through conquest. However, Rome was not just built out of smooth beginnings because Rome had to deal with both internal and external aggression during its growth.1

Germania became a target for the ambitious Roman leaders, in their bid to expand the vast empire. Germania, during this period, was geographically defined as the area between the east and the west of the river Rhine. History has it that the name Germania was adopted from a term used by Julius Caesar that is thought to have meant “neighbor.” Before the advent of the Romans, Germania was majorly inhabited by the Germanic tribes. In addition, Germania also consisted of other minor tribes such as the Baltic and Celtic. Therefore, as Rome sought to conquer Germania, it is imperative that they either pacified or took over Germania by force.2

Social-economic aspects had previously brought the Romans and the occupants of Germania together but in a peaceful way. History indicates that there were some Roman cities in Germania before the declaration by Julius Caesar, that Germania was inhabited by barbaric people who had to be forcefully civilized. Apparently, the difference between the Romans and Germania was only based on cultural disparities. Rome as usual turned to its military might to gain control over Germania.

The Roman army was materialistic towards all of its expansion missions because it was used not only to conquer territory but also to force inhabitants to pay tribute to Rome. Rome’s conquest was strategic, in that it divided regions in a way that made it easier to progressively conquer. The Roman Empire was able to produce one of the greatest armies in the world during this time, ensuring that Rome was able to have control over 55 million people. However, it also became apparent that the famous Roman army had their mistakes in terms of ambition and strategy. Consequently, Rome was unable to conquer Germania completely.3

At the height of the Roman campaign towards expansion, it became apparent that internally the Empire had little control over politics. The Roman generals were always responsible for making external conquest, and they developed a tradition of rewarding soldiers with the loot of their conquest. The terminal result was that the soldiers became more loyal to the generals than Rome itself. After Julius Caesar came into power, he ventured on a mission to reduce the power of the senate.

The senate in retaliation placed mechanisms to undermine the rule of Julius Caesar. The result was that Caesar was eventually assassinated by some members of the senate. Caesar was circumstantially succeeded by Octavian; Caesar’s nephew who came to be known as one of the greatest leaders of the Roman Empire. However, the internal conflicts were soon to become one of the greatest reasons for the fall of Rome. The situation became more apparent after the defeat of the Romans by the migrating Germanic tribes.4

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One of the indications that the expansion of Rome was being undermined was the Cimbrian War fought between 113BC and 101 BC. Apparently, a section of the Germanic tribes known as Cimbri had migrated into some territories under the Roman Empire and Rome considered the tribes as a threat.

Rome had already considered the Germanic tribes as being barbaric and uncivilized. Consequently, Rome in an apparent move to protect the Gauls from the Germanic tribes had wanted to conquer Germany. Previously the Roman army had been considered invincible; however, the Roman army was not able to defeat completely the Germanic tribes due to the apparently weakening army, caused by internal wrangles. Under the leadership of Julius Caesar, the Roman Empire was able to successfully invade the low countries of Germany. Rome was able to pacify some of the Germanic tribes such as the Ubians. However, the Roman Empire encountered a major when the Roman Army was defeated by the King of Ambriox of Eburones.5

The major drawback to the expansion of Rome was the internal conflicts that existed within Rome. Rome was continuously plagued with politics and philosophical differences that undermined its campaigns. This was also the major reason for the inability of Rome to conquer Germany.

Bibliography

Betty, Lavice and Livvy. Rome and Italy: Books VI-X of the History of Rome and its Foundation. England: Penguin Books, 1982.

Gill, Nelson. Fall of Rome: Why Did Rome Fall? New York: Prentice-Hall, 2005.

Le Glay, Marcel, Jean-Louis Voisin, and Yann Le Bohec. A History of Rome. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

Footnotes

  1. Le Glay, Marcel, Jean-Louis Voisin, and Yann Le Bohec, A History of Rome. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 53.
  2. Gill Nelson, Fall of Rome: Why Did Rome Fall? (New York: Prentice-Hall, 2005), 87.
  3. Gill Nelson, Fall of Rome: Why Did Rome Fall? (New York: Prentice-Hall, 2005), 48.
  4. Le Glay, Marcel, Jean-Louis Voisin, and Yann Le Bohec, A History of Rome. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009). 135.
  5. Betty Lavice and Livvy, Rome and Italy:Books VI-X of the History of Rome and its Foundation. (England:Penguin Books, 1982.) 176.

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