|“||Ought not the petitioner to speak first, and the conqueror to listen in silence?||”|
—Lucius Cornelius Sulla
|“||The die is cast.||”|
—Gaius Julius Caesar
Following the complete defeat and integration of Carthage and mainland Greece, the Roman Republic was the dominant power in the Mediterranean world and had ample opportunities to march east and capture boundless riches there. Few states posed a serious challenge to Roman might, especially after the reforms of Marius had transformed Rome's military into a superiorly flexible and disciplined force. Additionally, a good network of allies helped to secure Roman power in the Eastern Mediterranean, especially amongst the Argeads and Attilids.
However, the Romans weren't the only states that had designs upon the riches of the region. The Kingdom of Cappadocia moved in on the Attalid cities, quickly conquering them and securing all of Anatolia for themselves at a time of temporary Roman weakness. Not long after, the Armenians under their king Tigranes II the Great moved south, conquering what little remained of the Ptolemaic kingdom. These two states would soon become the greatest threats to Roman dominion over the western regions of Asia.
The First Cappadocian War broke out when Cappadocia under its King Aribaeus III invaded the Attalid cities on the Aegean coastline. Rome was currently caught up in a civil war and relatively unable to respond at first, but as the civil war began to die down a vast army under the command of Sulla was sent to deal with the threat. After several pitched battles, the Romans were victorious, and gained their first Asian provinces, those of Ionia, Caria, and Lycia. Following this war the Armenians and Cappadocians form an alliance to oppose further Roman advancement into Asia. This, along with further intrigue back in Rome, prevented war for several more years.
War eventually did break out again, as both Armenia and Cappadocia sought to limit Rome's influence and regain control of the region. Failed negotiations resulted in open war in 74 B.C. with Cappadocian armies once again invading Roman territories in western Anatolia. Rome, now with republican traditions firmly re-established following Sulla's death, send the famous general Pompey to deal with the situation. It took ten years, but Pompey was successful in driving back the Cappadocians, securing much of their interior territory, and pushing deep into Armenia and Syria. By 64 B.C., Rome had broken the Cappadocian-Armenian alliance and seized large amounts of territory stretching from Phrygia to Syria. The war also had the added benefit of securing Pompey's position as the dominant general in Rome.
In addition to these military successes, several client states were established under Rome's sphere of influence. Nabataea was one of the wealthier ones while other local kingdoms were integrated into the Roman network of states. Many regional kingdoms such as Armenia and the Argead state, while not yet full client states, formed alliances with Rome that effectively gave them Roman protection and the ability of Rome to interfere in their internal affairs. Because of this, there was no longer any state that could directly rival Rome with the exception of the Parthians, which had begun to press against Syria and Anatolia in order to reach the Mediterranean and the trade that it offered.
Crisis of the Roman Republic
Despite Rome's power and growth, the institutions that held it together were becoming increasingly frail as time went by. The first such example was the Social War which first broke out in 91 B.C. as local Latin and Italic cities and tribes revolted against Roman rule. The cause of rebellion was the assassination of Marcus Livius Drusus, a consul who drafted reforms that would have given Rome's Italian allies more say in the affairs of the Republic. As with the Gracchi brothers who had tried to reform society, the Roman elite took exception to this and assassinated Drusus, sparking the war. Twelve different allies declared their independence and formed the Italic Confederation. After three years, Rome managed to obtain victory through military might and pacifying other Italic peoples with enhanced rights. By the end of the war most Italic peoples had Roman citizenship or enhanced rights within the Republic.
Another significant threat to Rome's internal stability was the Third Servile War, which began in 73 B.C. when the Thracian gladiator Spartacus escaped from Rome and began to free thousands of slaves in an effort to escape Roman territory. Unlike the previous two Servile Wars, the Third was the largest and took place in Italy rather than Sicily and therefore more directly threatened Rome and its critical dependence on slavery. Led by the tactical ability of Spartacus, the slaves were able to beat back numerous sorties of local and Roman militias, forcing the Senate to withdraw legions from other areas to put down the rebellion. With difficulty the Romans managed to contain the rebellion in southern Italy, forcing Spartacus to consider escaping to Sicily, as the Roman navy cut off any access to Greece. Surrounded and plagued by increased infighting, Roman generals Pompey and Crassus managed to defeat the slave rebellion. Spartacus himself was captured and crucified after immense torture.While these two threats were perhaps existential for Roman society, the greatest danger to Rome were the civil wars between the Optimates and Populares, two opposing political factions that wanted the Senate and other political institutions to be primarily run by one group of people. The Populares wanted more state aid to go to the people, including a public distribution of grain for the poor. In contrast, the Optimates wanted more traditional and noble families to maintain power within the government and opposed the public welfare of the Populares. The Optimates counted amongst them prominent statesmen like Cicero, Sulla, Crassus, both Catos, and Pompey while the Populares included Marius, the Caesars, the Gracci, and the Scipii. The opposition towards each other's actions began peacefully, such as the Elder Cato's dissent of Scipio Aemilianus' decision to largely spare Carthage after the Second Punic War. This clearly began to change, as both Gracci brothers were assassinated, Tiberius in 133 B.C. and Marcus in 121 B.C. Gaius Marius rose to prominence through his reformation of the army and successful campaigns in Numidia and southern Gaul during the Cimbrian War. He began to consolidate power around himself yet faced considerable opposition from the Optimates, who began to fear Marius' ambition and believed he had served too many terms as consul. When one of his junior officers, Sulla, was elected consul and chosen to lead several legions against the Cappadocians in the First Cappadocian War, Marius was furious, believing he was being passed over for an upstart. Fearing for his life Sulla fled, gathering the support of the legions chosen for the Cappadocian campaign. In an act that startled all of Rome, Sulla marched on the city, forcing Marius and some of his supporters to flee, principally to Carthage. Several of Marius' supporters that remained were executed and Marius himself was declared exiled. With this done, Sulla departed to fight the First Cappadocian War, which ended in a Roman victory in 84 B.C.
Marius was not out of the fight just yet, however, and began to plot his return to Rome. Not long after Sulla left for Anatolia Marius and his son, also named Marius, raised an army and marched on Rome in 87 B.C. The city soon fell in Sulla's absence and several of his supporters in the government were executed and their heads displayed in the forum. Marius was elected to his seventh term as consul, revoked Sulla's laws, officially exiled Sulla, and declared himself in charge of the war with the Cappadocians. Soon after he did this, Marius died, leaving Rome in the hands of Marius the Younger and Cinna, leaving Rome in the hands of the Populares. Following his victory in Anatolia, Sulla returned once again and easily defeated Marius the Younger in 81 B.C., executing him and consolidating his power in Rome. Sulla was declared Dictator-for-Life, a position he would serve for two years until his retirement in 79 B.C. Sulla would die a year later, leaving the Optimates in control yet with no clear leader to maintain order.
Emergence of the Triumvirate
Following Sulla's death, two main generals dominated the Optimates. Pompey and Crassus cooperated on issues regarding the security of the Republic, such as the Third Servile War and the Second Cappadocian War, both of which enhanced the prestige of the two. Pompey enjoyed considerable support within the Optimates because of his successful campaigns while Crassus was the richest man in Rome. However, the two men despised each other and wanted to be the dominant figure in the Republic rather than share power, which they effectively did despite their mutual efforts to outdue the other. However, this squabbling concerned many of the Optimates, who thought that the Populares would be able to make a return to power.
To that end, a triumvirate was formed at first in secret in 60 B.C. with a rising star of the Populares, a former supporter of Marius known as Gaius Julius Caesar. Caesar was the youngest and poorest of the three, yet had unbridled ambition and considerable influence within the diminished Populares faction. Caesar's popular support, Crassus' wealth, and Pompey's aristocratic influence enabled the three to pass any agenda the three of them agreed with. They swapped out positions in the Senate and agreed upon an alternating series of consulships that balanced power between them. Ties became rather close, and at one point Pompey married Caesar's daughter Julia. They also supported military commissions to each other for campaigns in other lands for wealth and glory.Because of this, Rome entered into a new period of aggressive expansion justified by preventative military action rather than reaction. Thanks to the triumvirate, Pompey was authorized to put down rebellions in Anatolia in 59 B.C., Crassus was given a large army to invade the Arsacid Persian Empire in 52 B.C., and Caesar was authorized to intervene in the Argead Kingdom's civil war in 58 B.C. and then invade all of Gaul later the same year. All three were successful in their campaigns, expanding the Roman Republic to its greatest size and swelling it with loot. Unsurprisingly, all three generals built up their influence in their new possessions. Pompey gained favor with the princes of Anatolia and also the local magnates of Hispania and Greece, Crassus maintained networks of patronage with the local rulers of Syria, northern Mesopotamia, and Nabataea, and Caesar controlled Gaul, retained his popular support in Carthage and Africa, and Egypt's ruler Cleopatra became his lover, even bearing him a son, Caesarion. This level of consolidation began to threaten the stability of the Republic.
End of the Republic
By 50 B.C., both Crassus and Caesar were more successful in their campaigns than the Senate had thought. Crassus had sacked the Parthian capital of Ctesiphon, expanding his already absurd levels of wealth, and Caesar had not only conquered all of Gaul but also authorized raids into Brittania and Germania. Pompey and many of the Optimates believed both of them were increasingly becoming a threat through too much personal ambition, and at Pompey's urging the Senate ordered both men to return to Rome without their armies the following year. Both widely understood this to be a death sentence and each refused. Caesar's daughter Julia had also died recently and many Optimates turned against Crassus, ending any positive relationship with Pompey.
Both Caesar and Crassus marched against Pompey's forces in 49 B.C. after the Senate declared them both to be enemies of the state. Because of Crassus' and Pompey's historical antagonism and Crassus' greater proximity to Pompey's areas of support, Pompey went against Crassus first in Syria. As a result, Caesar captured Rome with no resistance, forcing much of the Senate to flee to Greece. During this time, the Third Cappadocian War broke out as Cappadocia and Armenia sought to take advantage of Rome's internal struggles. Pompey and Crassus easily defeated them respectively, each one seeking more resources to bring against the other. As a result, both of them and the Bosporus Kingdom all became Roman client states. Pompey would later defeat Crassus in 47 B.C., after which Crassus would commit suicide. Caesar distributed his assets to Crassus' heirs and supporters earning their allegiance while Pompey took over Syria and northern Mesopotamia.
With Crassus dead, only Pompey and Caesar remained, and both ordered their armies to Greece to settle the conflict once and for all. In 46 B.C., Caesar won a resounding victory over Pompey, forcing him to also commit suicide and effectively ending most of the fighting, although pro-Pompey and other Optimates holdouts would persist in Spain and Anatolia until 43 B.C. Caesar would campaign endlessly against them, returning to Rome later that same year. As the strongest man in Rome and unrivaled by anyone, Caesar had considerable popular support but also earned the ire of some in the Senate and much of the aristocracy. His supporters demanded an increasing number of powers and titles for him, even including that of king, but Caesar wisely rejected kingship. In order to appease his supporters Caesar did accept the titles of Consul-for-Life and Dictator-for-Life from the Senate in 42 B.C., but this would ultimately be his undoing. On the Ides of March the same year, Caesar was assassinated by a clique of Senators and other men who believed Caesar to be a threat to their interests and the Republic itself. Rome was left leaderless, and it was at this point that an unexpected figure would emerge and take Caesar's place in these crucial times.Previously, during a visit to Rome, Cleopatra revealed Caesarion's birth to Caesar. Caesar, who had no sons or apparent heirs of his own, accepted at least partial responsibility for his bastard, sending him in 52 B.C. to be educated in Roman schools and to learn Roman law, politics, and martial ability. For much of Caesar's career, Caesarion was kept out of view. Sources differ as to how Caesar viewed his son. Some suggest he was embarrased of him, as Caesar was still legally married at the time, while other later sources imply he was proud of his son's distinctive lineage. Either way, when Caesar was assassinated, Caesarion rushed to Rome. Upon his arrival much of Caesar's army, including Caesar's lieutenantMark Antony, pledged allegiance to Caesarion. Not long after, Caesarion unveiled Caesar's supposed will, which announced Caesarion as Caesar's heir, making him one of the most powerful and wealthy men in the Roman Republic. It also stipulated for a distribution of wealth to every Roman citizen, even further enhancing his popularity.
The situation in Rome soon became volatile. Rather than support them as they expected, Caesar's supporters angrily mourned his death and turned against the conspirators, especially after Mark Antony rallied crowds and proclaimed Caesar's innocence to charges of monarchism. While Mark Antony built an army to pursue the conspirators, Caesarion made common cause with the remnants of the Optimates, depriving the conspirators of any chance. Shortly after they were declared enemies of the state and both Caesarion and Antony sailed to Greece to defeat them, which they did by 40 B.C. Caesarion, as Caesar's heir and strongest man in Rome, soon effectively led the state while Marc Antony, noting Caesarion's relatively young age, thought he could control him, to little avail. Mindful of the lessons of the assassination, Caesarion shunned the titles Caesar had, instead consolidating his power amongst the Senate, military, and masses through politically popular moves like annexing his birthright of Egypt and vassalizing Judea. In 35 B.C., Caesarion is given the right to use the new titles of Augustus, Princeps, and Imperator, which despite their otherwise innocent and Republican meaning, is generally recognized as the beginning of the Roman Empire, with the new Caesarion Augustus as its supreme ruler.
Despite becoming emperor, the new era was still young and Caesarion Augustus still had several problems early on in his reign. Marc Antony was becoming a serious concern for Caesarion Augustus, as he no longer believed he had any sway with the emperor and was becoming disillusioned with the increasingly authoritarian, although light, manner of rule. Caesarion Augustus believed the issue to be a threat to his life, as Antony still had many connections in both the military and the Senate. To get him out of the city, he authorized Antony to lead an invasion against the Persian Empire to prove himself. Antony did so, but was tragically defeated by the Parthians at the Battle of Tagrit in 34 B.C., losing both his life and several entire legions and legionary eagles. Because of this, Caesarion Augustus was hesitant to authorize further military campaigns, initiating the so called Pax Romana shortly afterwards. Despite the implication Rome did continue its expansion, with Caesarion Augustus later authorizing campaigns in Nubia and Arabia Felix, gaining much tribute and two new client kingdoms.
In India the Shunga dyasty still ruled many of the same territories that the preceeding Mauryas did, but never managed to make it very far in the south or the west because of stern opposition. However, the Shungas did maintain the high cultural traditions and development of the Mauryas, promoting Buddhism, art, and literature throughout its territories. Despite this cultural attentitiveness, or perhaps because of it, in 75 B.C. the Shungas fell victim to what the Mauryas suffered, and the last Shunga emperor was assassinated by a general, who founded the Kanva dynasty, under whose rule Indian increasingly fragmented and weakened. The Kanvas only remained in power until 30 B.C., after which a native dominant and stabilizing force in central and eastern India would not be seen until well into the fourth century A.D.Further to the west, the Sakas maintained their rule the same time as the Kanvas. The reason for this was yet another migrating invasion by a people known as the Kushans, who invaded from further east than the Sakas originally did. The Kushans easily brushed past both Saka and Kanvas opposition, forming a large state in the center and west of India and pushing against the east past Pataliputra. The Sakas were fortunate enough that they were able to maintain their rule in several scattered hideouts to the south and west, but the Kanvas were not so fortunate. The invasion of the Kushans did have one added benefit, however. Because of their cultural appropriation of their conquered territories, they were a quick convert to Buddhism and were largely responsible for accelerating its spread into China along the Tocharian cities of the early Silk Road.
Further south, trading kingdoms of the Tamil kings emerged. Rich in spices, these kingdoms traded with other powers such as Qiang China and the Arabian client states of the Roman Empire, becoming quite prosperous in their own right. A single centralized political authority rose on the island of Ceylon as well. Fiercely independent, these states could neither conquer each other nor be overwhelmed by the stronger northern powers, a repeat of the failed attempts of the Maurya Empire several centuries beforehand. These ocean trade routes would become well known and extensively used during the late Classical Era and one of the means of trade between Europe, Serica, and India.
Wars with the XiongnuChina was dominated by a period of instability during the Qiang Dynasty, especially during this period of time. The northern borders faced constant attacks by the Xiongnu nomads, and the long fortifications build by the Xin and the Qiang had little effect in completely stopping all of the raids. Furthermore, the Qiang were less than inclined to pay tribute, as that was an insult to the Mandate of Heaven as instituted by the Chinese Emperors. Any tribute that was paid had little effect in stopping the incursions. As a result of this, China became increasingly frustrated with the Xiongnu, resolving to handle the situation. Several battles and campaigns towards the end of the last century were successful at defeating Xiongnu armies and pushing north, but not resolving the situation completely.
The battles with the Han had badly weakened the Xiongnu, forcing them to become more desparate in their raids in order to maintain peace within their realm. In 80 B.C., the Xiongnu attacked the Wosun people, who begged the Qiang to help them. Seeing it as an opportunity, the Qiang eagerly marched against the Xiongnu, sacking their capital and reducing the rest of the Xiongnu state into tributary status. While this battle did not end all of the northern raids, it substantially decreased them, allowing the Qiang Dynasty to enjoy a period of peace and relative stability along its northern frontier.
While China was effective on the frontier, internal issues began to tear at the realm. Much of this century was dominated by either old emperors saddled with illness or emperors young enough to barely talk and thus reliant upon their scheming regents. While the power of the Qiang emperors had brought much cultural and economic wealth to China in centuries past, now it was threatening to undo itself and bring the entire country to ruin. Elderly emperors killed suspected traitors on the basis of hallucinations while regents regularly had each other and members of the imperial family assassinated to preserve or gain power.
In addition to these problems, there were many revolts that tried to put an end to the apparent madness of the imperial court. People from peasants to nobility participated in these rebellions but thanks to the strength of the Chinese military none came close to overthrowing the ailing Qiang dynasty. Although the Xiongnu were badly weakened in their wars with the Qiang, other borders became increasingly restless as local governors were less and less willing to carry out the commands of a mentally ill emperor or untrustworthy regent. This led to more plots and illicit activities like smuggling that further convinced the imperial court that the country was in decline and in need of saving. A vicious cycle had formed within the minds of the government. Despite this, the Qiang dynasty managed to hold itself together for another century, allowing the government to reform and improve itself during the challenges of the next.
In the Yucatan, the Mayans began to make substantial cultural and intellectual advancements even though they had yet to form a consolidated form of government beyond the basic city-states that dominated the region. War between the various states remained common and none of them obtained a clear position of hegemony above the others. Despite their continuous squabbles, the city-states began to have some forms of trade and cooperation amongst themselves and engaged in cultural and scientific sharing. The earliest known form for the number zero, dated to about 36 B.C., was written during this time, giving an indication of how fast and far sophisticated abstract concepts were advancing.
In the face of growing Mayan and Totonac influence, the Zapotecs were increasingly unable to maintain their entire cultural sphere. Revolts against Zapotec rule became more common, although the Zapotecs were always able to defeat these rebellions. While the greatest threat remained the nearby Mixtec civilization, there is some evidence to suggest that Zapotec leaders feared the rise of the Mayans and Totonacs, perhaps planning military campaigns against them in order to end their growth. Such campaigns were either never undertaken or failed to make much impact against the Zapotec Kingdom's neighbors. Because of this, the Zapotec would continue their slow but gradual decline within the region.