The Roman Empire - In The First Century
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Republic to Empire
Senators infighting causes the breakdown of Roman order
Two thousand years ago, the world was ruled by Rome, but Rome could not rule itself. It took two men to wrestle Rome back from chaos and turn a republic into an empire.

In the first century BC, Rome was a republic. Power lay in the hands of the Senate, elected by Roman citizens. But the senators were fighting for power between themselves. Order had given way to anarchy and only might was right.

Dirty politics

Julius Caesar was convinced something had to change. Rising through the political ranks, he eventually became governor of Gaul. This gave him the chance to make lots of money, while his abilities as a general brought him power and respect.

By 50 BC, Caesar had made many powerful enemies. With his life under threat, he invaded Italy. Over the next few years, he defeated his enemies and seized power for himself.

But his rule would be brief. After just two years, he was murdered by senators who were fed up with his autocratic style. Rome was again threatened with chaos.

New kid on the block

Enter Augustus, Caesar's nephew and heir. An ambitious man from an average family, this was Augustus' big chance. With his ally, Marc Antony, he fought and killed Caesar's old enemies. Victorious, he divided the spoils: Augustus took Rome and Antony got Egypt.

The peace did not last long. Antony was quickly seduced by Egypt's queen, Cleopatra. Augustus suspected that the two wanted Rome for themselves. Before they could threaten him, Augustus attacked.

Run like an Egyptian

The Battle of Actium was a huge victory. Around three-quarters of the Egyptian fleet were destroyed and both Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide before they could be captured.

In Rome, Augustus was a hero. In 31 BC, he became Rome's first emperor. The transformation from republic to empire was complete.

Where to next:

Emperors - Julius Caesar
Enemies and Rebels - Cleopatra and Egypt

Related Links:

Timeline   Timeline
Augustan Family Tree   Augustan Family Tree
The Roman Empire

Republic to Empire

Age of Augustus

Years of Trial

Empire Reborn


Social Order

Life in Roman Times


Enemies and Rebels


The Roman Empire - In The First Century