During its maximum expansion, the Roman Empire had a total surface of almost 6 million km².From Great Britain to Iraq, a quarter of the total population of the World was under the rule of Augustus.
The empire, formally founded by Octavianus Augustus at the end of the terrible civil wars that had bloodied the peninsula and the Mediterranean, was the first and only one able to unite for the first time all the people under one banner.
However, the process that led the Eternal City to become one of the most important empires in history was, in fact, full with obstacles and the flame of Roman civilization was on the verge of extinction on several occasions.
Before rising to the status of the superpower of the Ancient World, Rome had to free itself from Etruscan rulers, fight against the Celts, conquer supremacy in Italy, face social unrest and internal conflicts.
“Rome was not built in a day” is not only a quote, it is a reality.
What Alexander the Great achieved in 10 years, Rome had done in 8 centuries, However, there is a difference between these 2 great empires. Alexander’s empire didn’t survive his sudden death, while the Roman Empire resisted very well until the end of the 4 century.
You probably wonder what were the causes of Roman expansion?
The answer is not simple and always depends on a certain context.
Theodor Mommsen, a German historian who studied the Roman expansion, insisted on the civilization mission of Rome. Today we all know that the Romans were not creators and borrowed many elements from advanced civilizations, such as Greek culture.
The Roman Expansion can be divided into 5 major periods:
I. The conquest of Italy(509-275 BC)
498-493: First Latin War
494/493: First Secession of the Plebs
390/387: Battle of Allia
343-290: Samnite Wars
282-275: Pyrrhic War
II. Expansion in the West (Punic Wars 264-146 BC):
264-241: First Punic War
218-201: Second Punic War
149-146: Third Punic War
III. Expansion in the Orient(215-70 BC)
First Macedonian War (215-205)
Second Macedonian War (200-197)
Seleucid War (192-188)
Third Macedonian War (171-168)
Mithridatic Wars: 88-70
IV. Crisis of the 1st century BC: 133-27 BC
133: Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus
123: Caius Sempronius Gracchus
111-105: Jugurthine War
91-89: Social War
88-79: the conflict between Marius and Sulla
60 BC: First triumvirate: Pompei, Crassus, Caesar
43 BC: Second triumphant: M. Antonius, Octavian, Lepidus
31 BC: Battle of Actium
V. Stagnation (98-117 AD)
101-102 AD; 105-106 AD: Dacian wars
115-117 AD: Parthian campaign
In 395 A.D Emperor Theodosius the Great decides to divide the Empire into 2 separate parts.
His sons, Arcadius and Honorius would inherit these parts of the empire. None of them were prepared for leadership and their reigns were marked by disasters.
The true leaders of the two Empires were, in fact, their advisers: Stilicho in the Western Roman Empire and Marcus Rufinus in the Eastern Roman Empire.
The Western Roman Empire survived until the year 476 A.D, the Eastern Roman Empire lasted 1000 years more.