Relentless Expansion

War after war, alliance upon alliance, gradually toppled each of Rome's competitors for power and carried its influence into almost every land surrounding the Mediterranean and over the Alps into Gaul. With the soldiers went the merchants and the traders. By the late 2nd century B.C. as much as a tenth of the land of southwestern Greece was owned by Romans and Italians, and Roman bankers on the Aegean island of Delos were handling over 10,000 transactions every day in the trading of slaves.

By the middle decades of the 1st century B.C., however, the newly emerging Roman World seemed bent on its own destruction. Sulla's retirement from public life in 79 B.C. had triggered a fresh round of political strife among Rome's leading families, while the countryside around was turned topsy-turvy by the slave revolt led by the Thracian gladiator, Spartacus. Piracy had become so rife that, at one point, raids on the Italian coastline reached all the way to the port of Ostia, so threatening Rome with starvation. It was now that the consul Pompey rose to power. It took him just eighty days in 67 B.C. to regain control of the high seas, and just another four years to overwhelm all of Anatolia and Syria, and capture Jerusalem.

Despite these achievements, Pompey was unable to maintain his grasp on the Republic. Just five years later, in 58 B.C., his fortunes were in full reverse. There was a new force in Rome, one with towering political ambitions; Gaius Julius Caesar, whose six-year campaign in Gaul brought all its tribes to heel so effectively and so ruthlessly that his rise in power at home was meteoric.