Please explain to me why it was so difficult for Rome, which had a city-state constitution, to run an empire?© BrainMass Inc. brainmass.com October 9, 2019, 5:55 pm ad1c9bdddf
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1. Please explain to me why it was so difficult for Rome, which had a city-state constitution, to run an empire?
The beginning of the empire is marked to the date of the battle of Actium (B.C. 31), because Octavius then became the sole and undisputed master of the Roman world. But it is not so important for us to fix upon a particular date for the beginning of the empire, as it is to see that some form of imperialism had come to be a necessity. During the whole period of the civil wars, there was the gradual growth of the one-man power. It was seen in the tribunate under the Gracchi; in the successive consulships of Marius; in the perpetual dictatorship of Sulla; in the sole consulship of Pompey; in the absolute rule of Julius Caesar. The Romans hated the name of "king," mainly because it brought to mind the memory of the last Tarquin. However, the principle of monarchy prevailed because they had found no efficient form of government to take its place. The aristocratic government under the senate had proved corrupt, inefficient, and disastrous to the people. A popular government without representation had been unmanageable. Thus, there was nothing left for the Romans to do except to establish some form of monarchy which would not suggest the hated name of king. (1)
The Empire prospered under Augustus. Augustus lived to the age of seventy-five; and his reign covered a period of forty-five years. During this time he had been performing "the difficult part of ruling without appearing to rule, of being at once the autocrat of the civilized world and the first citizen of a free commonwealth." His last words are said to have been, "Have I not played my part well?" But it is not necessary for us to suppose that Augustus was a mere actor. The part which he had to perform in restoring peace to the world was a great and difficult task. In the midst of conflicting views, which had distracted the republic for a century, he was called upon to perform a work of reconciliation. And it is doubtful whether any political leader ever performed such a work with greater success. When he became the supreme ruler of Rome he was fully equal to the place, and brought order out of confusion. He was content with the substance of power and indifferent to its form. Although not as great as Julius Caesar, he was more successful. He was one of the greatest examples of what we may call the "conservative reformer," a man who accomplishes the work of regeneration without destroying existing institutions. (2)
Period following Augustus saw a weakening of the empire. If we review the condition of the Roman world since the time of Augustus, the fall of the republic and the establishment of the empire was a great benefit to Rome. In place of a century of civil wars and discord, which closed the republic, we see more than two centuries of internal peace and tranquillity. Instead of an oppressive and avaricious treatment of the provincials, we see a treatment, which is with few exceptions mild and generous. Instead of a government controlled by a proud and selfish oligarchy, we see a government controlled, generally speaking, by a wise and patriotic prince. From the accession of Augustus to the death of Marcus Aurelius (B.C. 31—A.D. 180), a period of two hundred and eleven years, only three emperors who held power for any length of time—Tiberius, Nero, and Domitian—are known as tyrants; and their cruelty was confined almost entirely to the city, and to their own personal enemies. From this author's perspective, then, the establishment of the empire, we must therefore believe, marked a stage of progress and not of decline in the history of the Roman people. (2)
So, why was it so difficult for Rome, which had a city-state constitution, to run an empire? Let's look at some of the main reasons below:
1. Moral Decay. But in spite of the fact that the empire met the needs of the people better than the old aristocratic republic, it yet contained many elements of weakness, The Roman people themselves possessed the frailties of human nature, and the imperial government was not without the imperfection of all human institutions. The decay of religion and morality among the people was a fundamental cause of their weakness and ruin. If we were asked what were the symptoms of this moral decay, we should answer: the selfishness of classes; the accumulation of wealth, not as the fruit of legitimate industry, but as the spoils of war an of cupidity; ...
This solution explains why it was so difficult for Rome, which had a city-state constitution, to run an empire, References are provided.