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A graphic showing the rise and fall of Roman territory.

The rise of Rome covers the period in which the Roman Republic and Empire came to dominate Europe, North Africa and the Near East. The rise of Rome began with the expansion of the Roman Republic in Italy and continued under the Empire until the reign of Trajan, the last emperor to add significant territory to Rome. It is the subject of a great deal of analysis by historians, military strategists, political scientists, and increasingly also some economists.

Roman expansionEdit

The exact causes and motivations for Rome's military conflicts and expansions during the republic are subject to wide debate. While they can be seen as motivated by outright aggression and imperialism, historians typically take a much more nuanced view.[1] They argue that Rome's expansion was driven by short-term defensive decisions and the new contingencies that these decisions created.[2] In its early history, Rome defended itself against foreign threats in central and northern Italy. City-states that the Romans defeated began to make alliances with the Romans. As such, early republican Rome was not an "empire" or "state" in the modern sense, but an alliance of independent city-states with varying degrees of independence engaged in an alliance of mutual self-protection led by Rome.[3] With some important exceptions[which?], wars in Rome's early history led not to annexation or military occupation, but to the restoration of the way things were because of this. However, the defeated city-state would be weakened and less able to resist Romanization. It was also less able to defend itself against its enemies. As a result, the city-state was more likely to seek an alliance with Rome.[4]

This growing coalition expanded the potential enemies that Rome might face, and moved Rome closer to confrontation with major powers.[5] The result was more alliance-seeking, on the part of both the Roman confederacy and city-states seeking membership. While there were exceptions to this (such as military rule of Sicily after the First Punic War),[6] it was not until after the Second Punic War that these alliances started to harden into something more like an empire.

In contrast, Roman expansion into Hispania and Gaul occurred as a mix of alliance-seeking and military occupation. In the 2nd century BC, Roman involvement in the Greek east remained a matter of alliance-seeking, but this time in the face of major powers that could rival Rome.[7] According to Polybius, who sought to trace how Rome came to dominate Greece in less than a century, this was mainly a matter of several Greek city-states seeking Roman protection against the Macedonians and Seleucids. In contrast to the west, the Greek east had been dominated by empires for centuries, and Roman influence and alliance-seeking led to wars with these empires.[8] This had some similarities to the events in Italy but on a global scale.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Eckstein, Rome Enters the Greek East, pp. 42-44.
  2. ^ Luttwak, The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire, p. 38.
  3. ^ Eckstein, Rome Enters the Greek East, p. 22.
  4. ^ Madden, Empires of Trust, p. 25.
  5. ^ Madden, Empires of Trust, p. 53.
  6. ^ Madden, Empires of Trust, p. 43.
  7. ^ Eckstein, Rome Enters the Greek East, pp. 23, 24.
  8. ^ Eckstein, Rome Enters the Greek East, pp. 40, 45.