The Roman Empire is one of the most noteworthy segments of the history of the West. It is known for its influence not only among the western countries, but also the rest of the world. Perhaps, the most striking aspect of the Roman Empire is its transition from a Republic to Emperorship, although most historians argue that it was still an empire during the era of the Republic. Following the collapse of the Republic, the Principate emerged (Blois & Spek, 2008). Various factors contributed to this transition, most importantly the crises and civil wars in the Late Republic which eventually led to the sole rulership of Octavianus/Augustus.
It is argued that towards the end of the 1st century BC, the Roman Republic became dysfunctional. It was susceptible to greed, infighting, and class warfare, and dealing with problems within the state was a big challenge. A number of serious issues, for instance land reforms, had been an outstanding problem for the Republic for a long time. Moreover, generals were always involved in regular civil wars. In fact, the Republic was constantly faced with crises which made governing the state problematic (Garnsey & Saller, 1987).
In addition to the various crises, the Antony’s civil war is believed to be the turning point as far as the transition from the Roman Republic to Emperorship is concerned. The war involved Mark Antony and Cleopatra on one side, and Octavian on the other. Following his victory in this war, Octovian embarked on implementing policies that formed the foundation of peace to the state of Rome, which had been faced with civil wars for several decades (Blois & Spek, 2008). With time, became one of the most powerful individual in Rome, which eventually led to him being accorded the name Augustus by the Senate. This marked the beginning of the emperorship or what is commonly known as the Principate rulership. It is worth pointing out that before Augustus, Julius Caesar, who enjoyed supreme power, had embarked on implementing reforms. However, his assassination saw the stagnation of the reforms, and this was one of reasons for the outbreak of the Antony’s civil war, which eventually led to the downfall of the Republic (Garnsey & Saller, 1987).
Following the transition from the Republic to the Emperorship, major changes were implemented not only on the leadership of Rome, but also the constitution of the land. The constitution was modified to accommodate the principles of the Principate. One of the major principles of the constitution under the Principate is that power, which was initially held by the senate, was bestowed upon the Emperor. As such, the Emperor was considered the most powerful man in the land (Blois & Spek, 2008). According to the constitution, the military administration apparatus and the civil administrative apparatus were separated to avoid risk of generals forcefully seizing the throne in the future. Besides, the Empire’s government was divided between the provincial and the central levels. The central government comprised of the highest-ranking military officers as well as civil officials that were directly linked with the court of the Emperor. The central government was headed by the Emperor himself, whose decrees were obligatory to every individual within the Empire (Garnsey & Saller, 1987).
The provinces were governed by the “legati,” who were appointed by the Emperor. Besides the direct and indirect control of the provinces, the Emperor was the commander of the military forces of the Empire (Árnason & Raaflaub, 2011). The constitution accorded him the power to levy, pay and sack soldiers, as well as authorizes the movement of the navy and army. Furthermore, he was constitutionally obligated to engage in war and make treaties with whoever he wanted. The Emperor was also excused from the law; hence he was seen as being above the law. The other notable factor in the constitution is that the Emperor was the chief magistrate of the state of Rome (Árnason & Raaflaub, 2011).
Arguably, the Roman government of the first two centuries A.D was a success. To begin with, the empire was well endowed with various resources, which made it self-sufficient. The Empire had abundant natural resources, which could be used in promoting not only the economic development, but also the social well-being of the people. On the same note, the Empire was in a position to feed its people because food was produced in large quantities in within the Empire, whereas trading served as another source of food (Blois & Spek, 2008).
There was separation of power between various government apparatus, which enhanced effective leadership. Although the Emperor had supreme powers over the entire Empire, he delegated his powers through appointing individuals to govern the various provinces of the Empire. Because the empire was divided into a number of provinces, administration of the empire became much easier (Árnason & Raaflaub, 2011). Through the guidance of the government, Rome was known to be having one of the best soldiers globally, who were well trained and equipped. Because of the military strength of the Empire, the Roman power was cemented for thousands of years. With regard to military power, the government ensured that the military was well equipped with the latest technology, giving them an advantage over other Empires (Árnason & Raaflaub, 2011).
The success of the Roman government could also be explained based on the manner in which Rome dealt with its conquered lands. In most cases, the Romans utilized the systematic assimilation tactics in various areas especially in language, culture, and general administration (Árnason & Raaflaub, 2011). This made it easier for the Emperor to rule not only the Roman Empire, but also the conquered lands. It is also worth pointing out that the government imposed the cultural traditions of the Romans upon areas that were absorbed (Garnsey & Saller, 1987).
The success of the Roman government could be looked at from the economic point of view. To ensure economic growth of the Empire, the government implemented various policies that encouraged trading activities within and outside the Empire (Garnsey & Saller, 1987). Through trading, the government could generate funds to spend in different sectors to the benefit of the people. Lastly, the role that the government played in promoting technological advancement in the Empire is another factor associated with its success. Through advancement in technology, the government was in a position to better organize and plan the future of the Empire. Moreover, technological advancement gave the Romans and advantage over other Empires, especially when it came to military conquests (Blois & Spek, 2008).
In conclusion, the Roman Empire is an icon in the western history. Initially, Rome was a Republic state, but following crises and various civil wars, it was transformed from a Republic to an Empire. Augustus is seen as the first Emperor, following the transition, because of the role he played in advocating for and implementing reforms after the end of the civil wars. Overall, based of the factors discussed above, it can be argued that the Roman government of the first two centuries A.D was a success.
Árnason, J. P., & Raaflaub, K. A. (2011). The Roman Empire in context: Historical and comparative perspectives. Chichester, West Sussex, U.K: Wiley-Blackwell.
Blois, L., & Spek, R. J. (2008). An introduction to the ancient world. London: Routledge.
Garnsey, P., & Saller, R. P. (1987). The Roman Empire: Economy, society, and culture. Berkeley: University of California Press.