The Roman Republic Fails, Ancient Rome for Kids Illustration

The Republic Fails

The problems that led to the fall of the Roman Republic

The Roman Republic was in trouble.  It had three major problems.  First the Republic needed money to run, second there was a lot of graft and corruption amongst elected officials, and finally crime was running wild throughout Rome.

1.  Rome needed money to run.  

The Republic needed money to pay the legions, to build roads, sewers, aqueducts, and arenas, and to pay for the welfare programs that fed the poor.  To get this money Rome created a system called tax farmers.

A tax farmer was a person who bought the right from the Senate to tax all the people and business in a certain area.  The biggest problem with this system is that the senate didn't set up any controls on the tax farmers.  They didn't say how much taxes were, or who got taxed.  They left all that up to the tax farmer.

Tax farming was a business, and the tax farmers were in it to make a profit.  While most Romans were willing to pay taxes, and even allow the tax farmer some profit, many of the tax farmers went way beyond what people expected.  Many of them saw this as a way to get rich.  Plus, since the tax farmer decided who got taxed and who didn't, you could bribe the tax farmer to make your taxes low or maybe tax your competitors out of business, or if you had enough bribe money, maybe both.  If a Roman citizen didn't pay their taxes at whatever amount the tax farmer set, you and your entire family could be sold into slavery.

Even with the tax farmer system, the Roman government wasn't getting enough money and Rome was going broke.

2.  Elected officials were corrupt.  

Under Roman law you could pay someone to vote for you.  So rich people could actually buy their way into the senate.  Once in the Senate, there were many ways to get huge amounts of money.  Remember the tax farmer?  Since they bought the position from the Senate, the Senate set the amount it cost and decided who actually got the job.  Plus the Senate decided who got to build the roads, arenas etc.  So construction companies bribed the Senate to get the construction contracts.  Finally since the Senate made all the laws, people could bribe senators to make laws that they wanted.  The Government of the Republic was rife with corruption and graft.

3.  Rome was riddled with crime.  Criminals ran wild in Rome.  Since there was no police force, there was no one to stop them.  It was not safe to walk the streets without a guard.  Wealthy Romans hired guards and even built their own small armies to protect their homes and families.  This led to further problems when the guards of one wealthy family fought the guards of another family over insults or business territories.  The Senate couldn't do anything since there was no money to hire police or even create a militia.

There were other problems in Rome to add to these.  Senators didn't trust each other, and they really didn't trust the legions.  They even passed laws making it illegal for a legion to enter Rome.  Rome was a disaster.  The people of Rome were tired of the mess and wanted the problems solved and the corruption ended.  Julius Caesar told the people of Rome that he could solve all of Rome's problems.

Julius Caesar

Fall of the Roman Republic (BBC)

Fall of the Republic (HS)

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