In this chapter, the lives and impact of Caesar, Octavian, Antonius (Antony) and even Cleopatra, along with the continuing stories of men like Pompey, Crassus and Cicero will be examined. The Fall of the Republic was more than a single man or event. It was a culmination of several individual actions or achievements, coupled with social conditions that weighed heavily on Roman society. Additionally, massive and rapid expansion from Rome's foundation as a fledgling city 700 years earlier until the mid 1st century BC, created monumental holes in the political and governing ability of the Senate. Periods of stability were mixed in with those of near collapse while powerful generals or inciters of the Roman mob jockeyed for position.
Beginning with the Punic Wars and Roman conquest outside of Italy, followed by massive importation of slaves, the face of Roman life was changing far more rapidly than the governing body could deal with. Political infighting was and always would be a common trait in any system, but even the greatest of Romans like Scipio Africanus, fell victim to the whims of politicians. The social instability that resulted from inequities in the class system gave way to rise of demagogues like the brothers Gracchi. The use of the citizen assemblies for popular agendas tore at the very fabric of Senatorial power.
Men like Marius and Sulla, with their own personal agendas and rivalries wreaked havoc in an already weakened structure. Partisan politics of the conservative Optimate Senators trying to keep power with the elite class, while the tactics of the Populares, who looked to the lower classes for support, divided the people and classes into what seemed like warring factions. For nearly 100 years, the climate was unpredictable at best, and brutally bloody at worst.
By the time of the rise of Gaius Julius Caesar, the stage was set for a single man to assume power and stabilize the Empire. Caesar was neither the only man responsible for the fall, nor the one man who could stop it, but his role in the final demise is undeniable. He neither started the fall nor finished it, but continued a cycle of events that made its collapse irreversible. Contemporaries of the brilliant general and politician hold as much blame as the great man himself, however. How different events may have been without the plays for power and a bit of humility among the Senate.
Regardless, despite Caesar's short reign and policies of reform and stability, the strength of his character and personality held the Republic together only as long as he lived. His assassination and the continuing Civil Wars that resulted, would be required to bring necessary power to a single ruler of a single great nation: The Roman Empire. The eventual rise and adoption of Caesar's heir, Octavian, to the exalted post of Augustus spelled the real end of the Republic. He, unlike his predecessors, rose at a time when the will for the Republican system had nearly died.
While tradition and some semblance of power would remain, the foundation of government under a single figure was a requirement to continue the advancement of the Empire. It was Augustus who proved to be the one man great and powerful enough to control the Senate, the mob and the Legions. Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus Augustus rose above all the great Romans before him to outlast political opponents, reform a corrupt government and stabilize a system in disarray. The Fall of the Republic was inevitable, but fortunately for Rome, the right man at the right time was there to step in as the first Roman Emperor.
Did you know...?
Caesar is a title of imperial character. It derives from the cognomen of Gaius Iulius Caesar. The change from being a familial name to an imperial title can be loosely dated to AD 68, the so-called "Year of the Four Emperors".