There was no single cause or event which led to the downfall of the Roman Republic; social and political instability, rapid expansion, and corruption among the rich and powerful all played a role. Historians traditionally consider that the Republic began in 509 B.C. with the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom and that it ended in 27 B.C. with the establishment of the Roman Empire at the hands of Augustus.Continue Reading
One of the biggest contributing factors to the collapse of the Roman Republic was corruption in the government. Previously a democracy, Rome moved away from a government by the people and increasingly put power into the hands of a select, wealthy few. Only the rich could become magistrates, and the votes of wealthy citizens had more weight than the votes of the common people. Wealthy individuals could practically buy senate seats.
Tax collectors were also corrupt, extorting money from the people and keeping it for themselves, depriving the government of badly needed funds. The Empire had expanded rapidly, following the Punic Wars and a period of conquests, and the Empire could not govern its vast area efficiently.
An unequal class system created enmity between rich and poor, and even between factions of poor. Unscrupulous leaders turned the people against each other with dueling political agendas.
Social, economic and political instability created a Rome where citizens hungered for leadership.They were primed to accept rule by one, all-powerful leader. Julius Caesar, already famous as a skillful military leader, rose to power and claimed the Emperorship. The senate, fearing rule by a dictator, plotted to murder Caesar. However, rather than resulting in liberty, Caesar’s death resulted in civil war and a new string of emperors.Learn more about Ancient Rome