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WotWotius

Roman Imperialism

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I think there's some confusion on this thread about the question. 'Imperialism' refers to the expansionist system whereby the Romans governed provincial territories by means of proconsuls. The republic was imperialist in this sense. Many of the posts seem to address why the republic was transformed into the principate (i.e., an 'empire' vs a 'republic'); though 'empire' and 'imperial' and 'imperialism' are cognates, they have very different meanings, and I think WotWotius was asking about the rise of expansionist policies in Rome rather than about the fall of the republic (which has been discussed extensively elsewhere).

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The late republican army was a dangerous weakness politically. The soldiers were loyal to their general, not the state. This encouraged ambition in generals leading to civil wars. The senate was unable to restrict the generals when it came to the test. Now although the roman public did not want monarchies, a populist leader like caesar could and did use popularity to justify a permanent dictatorship. Augustus did the same thing by another name.

 

And how exactly is this tale relevant to the question that WotWotius posed?

 

Not very when I read it again! :no2: I'm off to the shops now to buy a thinking cap :D

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I think WotWotius was asking about the rise of expansionist policies in Rome rather than about the fall of the republic (which has been discussed extensively elsewhere).

 

Yes, that is correct.

 

Generally speaking, there are two schools of thought on Roman Imperialism. The first dictates that Rome's territorial expansion was merely for defensive purposes - i.e. once Rome absorbed one tribal kingdom, another dangerous one would be on her borders, waiting to be

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Generally speaking, there are two schools of thought on Roman Imperialism. The first dictates that Rome's territorial expansion was merely for defensive purposes...Other, less sympathetic historians believe that due to the militaristic nature of Rome's society

 

It strikes me that the success of these two explanations depends very much on the time period we're talking about.

In the early republic, Rome was constantly being attacked (directly and indirectly) by her neighbors, so the first explanation does fine for early Roman history. After the Hannibalic War and the Gracchi, however, Roman warfare appears to become increasingly imperialistic. It's difficult to see how Roman self-defense required her to sack Carthage or invade Britain, for example. Those two expeditions were pure warfare theater--i.e., war for the entertainment of the mob.

 

BTW, any explanation for Roman imperialism has to account for the rapid rise in imperialist policy following the Hannibalic War. For this reason, I don't think that cultural explanations are going to cut it. Surely the Roman virtues that Ursus cited did not have their genesis after Hannibal, yet this is when the imperialism really picks up steam.

Edited by M. Porcius Cato

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I my opinion, there is another school of thought on the matter. This being the 'Rome's interests must be protected no matter what the human cost' mindset of the Roman senators: if Rome's security or even her remotest interests (e.g. overseas trade) are in the least bit threatened, military or diplomatic intervention must take place. There are indeed many examples of this taking place: the sack of Carthage - the city was seen by some as being too powerful; Rome

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So what would you say, in your eyes, was THE definitive reason for the rise Roman Imperialism?

 

Obviously RI arose as a result of combined factors, but making you narrow it down into one reason may create a nice discussion.

 

I am not sure if there are any posted discussions on this question. If there are, just post a link.

 

Imperialism in general is simply an effective means to insure the survival, growth and/or maintenance of one's own empire by controlling those around you. In that sense there's probably nothing unique about the Roman version. The closest answer to your question I can think of is the belligerent atmosphere of the early Roman entity. Surrounded by constant warfare which eventually resulted in their acquisition of neighbors territory (Latins, Etruscan, Sabine, etc.) either through direct conquest, allied treaties or other controls one could argue that the mindset may have become the predominate approach by Romans to the external world. That's one possible argument that comes to mind.

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Imperialism in general is simply an effective means to insure the survival, growth and/or maintenance of one's own empire by controlling those around you. In that sense there's probably nothing unique about the Roman version. The closest answer to your question I can think of is the belligerent atmosphere of the early Roman entity. Surrounded by constant warfare which eventually resulted in their acquisition of neighbors territory (Latins, Etruscan, Sabine, etc.) either through direct conquest, allied treaties or other controls one could argue that the mindset may have become the predominate approach by Romans to the external world. That's one possible argument that comes to mind.

 

I agree imperialism is the normal course of affairs in the anarchic international system.

 

I disagree there is nothing unique about the Roman version. Going back to my previous post, Rome's cultural values of superiority rather obliged them to "civilize" their neighbors. Furthemore, the inclusiveness of Rome's subjects into the imperium once civilized, whether as allies, clients or citizens, is something largely unique in the affairs of international history.

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Imperialism in general is simply an effective means to insure the survival, growth and/or maintenance of one's own empire by controlling those around you.

 

Yes, I believe that Roman Imperialism was initially a defensive phenomenon.

 

I disagree there is nothing unique about the Roman version. Going back to my previous post, Rome's cultural values of superiority rather obliged them to "civilize" their neighbors. Furthemore, the inclusiveness of Rome's subjects into the imperium once civilized, whether as allies, clients or citizens, is something largely unique in the affairs of international history.

 

I do not think that Romanisation/'civilising' was a preset policy. It emerged organically as a result prolonged occupation; cultural dispersal of the ruling elite also happened within other, long-lasting empires (e.g. 'Hellenised’ kingdoms of the East, the British Empire etc.).

 

The Empire itself was not even that inclusive: in the provinces many of the so called 'civitas' established were semi-autonomous and only the settlements' nobility had dealings with Rome; it was only really the colonia that mirrored Rome, and they were already stocked with Roman citizens).

 

Additionally, Rome's apparent 'inclusiveness' arose at a much too slow pace than you imply: stubborn conservative aristocrats dragging their collective heals against Italian enfranchisement resulted in the highly unnecessary Social War; and Roman citizenship was not entitled to all of Rome's subject until the time of Caracalla.

Edited by WotWotius

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The fact that is was a gradual process, extended usually over the objections of diehard conservatives, does not invalidate the fact that it did happen, and few other imperialist powers if any displayed like inclusiveness.

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Generally speaking, there are two schools of thought on Roman Imperialism. The first dictates that Rome's territorial expansion was merely for defensive purposes - i.e. once Rome absorbed one tribal kingdom, another dangerous one would be on her borders, waiting to be

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The fact that is was a gradual process, extended usually over the objections of diehard conservatives, does not invalidate the fact that it did happen, and few other imperialist powers if any displayed like inclusiveness.

 

Yes, but rather being a reason for its emergence, inclusiveness was more of a reason for the presevation of what Roman imperialism achieved.

Edited by WotWotius

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