THE GROWTH OF EMPIRE
As we have seen, the growth of the Roman empire has been held by many to have been the ‘overarching’ cause of the breakdown of the ‘old republic’. It is important, therefore, to explore in greater detail the nature of that growth and of the stresses that developed as a result of territorial expansion both in Italy and on a wider canvas. (For a list of provinces of the Roman empire, see Appendix IV.)
The earliest expansion, not surprisingly, took place within Rome’s immediate neighbourhood as the early republic needed to acquire more land for its citizens and to ‘put space’ between itself and its enemies. Such motives remained powerful until the middle years of the third century bc, by which time Rome either exercised some kind of control or enjoyed inﬂuence over most of Italy south of the river Po. There were undoubtedly other motives, also. For example, it was obviously in Rome’s interest to be seen to be supporting friends and allies, as when she became involved in conﬂicts in southern Italy in the fourth and third centuries bc which did not, initially at least, affect her directly. Beyond this, there were ‘pre-emptive strikes’ and punitive activities, not to mention the desire on the part of her aristocratic leaders to acquire booty, power and reputation, all of which were the fuel of election campaigns. It would, however, be premature to formalise such relationships as Rome had with Italian communities as
constituting an ‘Italian Confederacy’ until the very late years of the republic in the ﬁrst century bc.