Roman wars and uprisings

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Wars have accompanied the Romans from the very beginning. During the Roman Kingdom, any skirmishes and fights were rare and they were mostly local. The situation changed after the overthrow of the last king Lucius Tarquinius Superbus and the introduction of the republic. This was the beginning of Rome’s extensive, expansive policy. Fights with Latin tribes associated in the the Latin League at the turn of the 6th and 5th century BCE eventually ended with Rome’s success. The confederation became thus Rome’s instrument in the conquest of the Apennine Peninsula.

First, the Etruscans stood in the Romans’ way. The fights continued uninterrupted until the 4th century BCE. The turning point was the war with the city Veii in the years 405 – 396 BCE. The victorious conflict allowed Rome to take over the control of the areas north of the Tiber. The slow expansion of Rome was stopped by the invasion of the Gauls in 390 BCE, who plundered Rome. In a sense, this tragic event mobilized the Romans for further expansion, but 50 years later.

Another war broke out in 343 BCE. This time, the Romans began spreading their influence in the south of Italy. Defeating the Samnites – the mountain tribe inhabiting Italy, brought Rome to the role of the largest state of the Peninsula. Further fights were fought against Greek cities such as: Taranto or Sybaris located in the south of Italy. Supported by the King of Epirus, Pyrrhus, they were eventually defeated. Rome practically ended the conquest of the Apennine Peninsula with the occupation of Volsinii in 264 BCE.

Further expansion was carried out outside the Peninsula. Romans began to be interested in Sicily, which, from the 5th century BCE, was under control of Carthage. However, the immediate cause of the conflict was the Rome’s involvement in the feud over Messina (264 BCE). Thus the invasion of Sicily began. The Roman fleet won the first naval battle of Mylae in 260 BCE. The next battle, also won by them, was the battle of Cape Ecnomus (256 BCE) which is considered to be one of the greatest battles in antiquity. Further military operations took place in Sicily. The final clash of the First Punic War took place in 241 BCE and was fought off the Aegadian Islands. Rome recognized Sicily as its first province. Due to the loss of Sicily, Carthage got interested in Spain. Thanks to the leaders Hamilcar and Hasdrubal, the Punic sphere of influence reached the Ebro river.

Roman soldiers during the Punic Wars.

After the death of Hasdrubal, the son of Hamilcar, Hannibal, became the new commander in chief. After conquering Sagunto (219 BCE), a city allied with Rome, he wanted to transfer military operations to Italy. The route of his trip led through the Alps, where nearly half of the army died. The first battle was fought at Lake Trasimeno, where 15, 000 Romans were killed. Although the whole Italy stood open in front of Hannibal, he bypassed Rome and headed towards the shores of the Adriatic Sea. In 216 BCE there was another battle, at Cannae, where the Romans suffered the greatest defeat in history. After this defeat many of Rome’s allies went over to Carthage. The capital was open again, but this time Hannibal did not decide to attack. Gaining time, the Romans bothered the Carthaginians with minor attacks. The commander in chief slowly retreated, handing over the occupied lands. After breaking up the army (207 BCE), Hannibal retreated to Bruttium, and left Italy in 203 BCE. Hannibal stood in the battle for the last time at Zama (202 BCE) against Publius Cornelius Scipio, assisted by the king of Numidia, Masynissa. He lost, which forced Carthage to leave all of its estates outside Africa, give up the fleet and pay a contribution of 10, 000 talents. King of Numidia took over the control over Carthage, on behalf of Rome.

Rome, not wasting the time, expanded towards east. As a result of the three Macedonian Wars (215-167 BCE) and the so-called Syrian war (192-188 BCE) the Romans occupied the Illyrian coast. Then they took control over Greece, entered Asia Minor, and after the victorious battle of Pydna (168 BCE) they divided Macedonia into four republics. The matter of Carthage appeared again.Cato’s words: “Carthage must be destroyed” found their counterpart in deeds, triggering the Third Punic War. Using the pretext of a conflict between the Punics and Masynissa, Scipio Africanus the Younger, after the three-year siege of Carthage (149-146 BCE), destroyed it completely by decision of the Senate. The area of the former city was devoted to underground gods, which meant that no one would dare to live there.

Roman legionaries during the time of Pax Romana (relative peace in Rome), or stabilization during Augustus’ reign.

Along with the expansion, there must have been factors facilitating control over the whole country. Thus appeared a very extensive road system. Military bases were built for subsequent expeditions, which became fortresses, colonies, and then the germs of the Italian cities. The colonies were created in areas not fully mastered and they guarded the safety of conquered lands. The process of creating colonies was in line with Etruscan traditions and principles. The new cities became replicas of Rome. At the head of the colony stood two officials called duumviri. The residents of the municipal had limited rights. They were former Italic boroughs, which obliged to perform “imperialist” tasks for Rome. Municipia became cities only by operation of Caesar’s law in 45 BCE. Initially, the residents did not have political rights. The attitude of the Romans to the municipia was very gentle, they gradually introduced their administrative system. Politics, or colonies, were never given political rights. You had to deserve them.

Areas outside of Italy, attached to the country from the 2nd century BCE were called provinces. The management was entrusted to former consuls and praetors. The first provinces of Rome that appeared after the First Punic War were: Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica. In 219 BCE Illyria was attached. Two provinces were formed in Spain: Hispanic Ulterior and Citerior. In 148 BCE the province of Macedonia was founded. After the destruction of the Achaean League and the destruction of Corinth in 146 BCE a province named Achaia was created. After the destruction of Carthage, “Africa” was created in the area adjacent to it. Attalus III (king of Pergamon) gave Rome Asia (133 BCE) in his last will. In 118 BCE the areas of today’s southern France were occupied. The whole area of the northern Mediterranean coast, Asia Minor and the coast of Africa were also taken. At the end of the old era, the empire included Syria (63 BCE), Cyprus (58 BCE, Raetia and Noricum (15 BCE), Spain (16 BCE), Gaul (up to 4 BCE) and Egypt (30 BCE). Thanks to territorial gains and new, informal unions, the legal code was constantly developing, learning new experiences, provinces distinguished by the obligation to pay taxes and donate 10% of grain harvests.

Formacja testudoin action.
It was a kind of tactic used to defend against archers. It consisted in creating a compact rectangular formation (column), in which the legionaries from the first row and from the sides of the formation held their shields in front of them, while the legionaries from the inner ranks held the shields horizontally above each other and over the legionaries of the first and later ranks, thus creating a shield for the whole formation.
Na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa - Na tych samych warunkach 3.0.

Along with the end of the republic after the battle of Actium (31 BCE) and proclaiming Augustus princeps, the expansion began to grow. Subordination of Spain, Gaul, areas of the Middle East, Britain. During this time, a huge number of wars were waged. At the same time, numerous uprisings broke out, including Spartacist, Jewish, or Boudica in 61 CE. The battles were fought on a mass scale after the death of the last member of the Severus family, Alexander Severus in 235 CE. For ordinary external wars, there were fights for the throne, which introduced total confusion in the structure of the Roman state.

Reasons for the expansion

The reasons for the expansion of the Romans on the Apennine Peninsula, and gradually beyond it were greatly presented by the king of Pontus – Mithridates VI, who in the letter to the king of the Parthian Empire – Arsaces shows the true face of the “sons of the she-wolf”. The letter is summoned by a Roman historian, Sallustius:

5 In fact, the Romans have one inveterate motive for making war upon all nations, peoples and kings; namely, a deep-seated desire for dominion and for riches. Therefore they first began a war with Philippus, king of Macedonia, having pretended to be his friends as long as they were hard pressed by the Carthaginians. 6 When Antiochus came to his aid, they craftily diverted him from his purpose by the surrender of Asia, and then, after Philippus’ power had been broken, Antiochus was robbed of all the territory this side Taurus, and of ten thousand talents. Next Perseus, the son of Philippus, after many battles with varying results, was formally taken under their protection before the gods of Samothrace; and then those masters of craft and artists in treachery caused his death from want of sleep, since they had made a compact not to kill him. Eumenes, whose friendship they boastfully parade, they first betrayed to Antiochus as the price of peace; later, having made him the guardian of a captured territory, they transformed him by means of imposts and insults from a king into the most wretched of slaves. Then, having forged an unnatural will, they led his son Aristonicus in triumph like an enemy, because he had tried to recover his father’s realm. They took possession of Asia, and finally, on the death of Nicomedes, they seized upon all Bithynia, although Nysa, whom Nicomedes had called queen, unquestionably had a son.

Sallustius, Histories, IV, 69

List of wars and uprisings

Wars or uprisings in chronological order. TIP: The appropriate conflict can be found through the browser: CTRL + F.

Conquest of Italy

The rivalry between the Greeks and the Etruscans led to the weakening of both rivals, which created conditions for expansion for the Italian peoples within the peninsula. The growing Italian population, especially the tribes inhabiting poor, waterless Apennine range, sought new life opportunities and voluntarily left the mountains to gain fertile coastal lands. (more)

Pyrrhic War

One of the most ferocious enemies of the Republic was Pyrrhus, the King of Epirus. Eventually, the war with Epirus cost Rome a lot of effort and it cost thousands of lives. (more)

Punic Wars

Armed conflicts between Rome and Carthage. Both states aspired to be regional powers, which eventually led to a conflict. They were fighting over domination in the Mediterranean (and more precisely its left part) and took place in the years 264-146 BCE. (more)

Rome’s war against Sparta

King of Sparta – Nabis – sought to strengthen the position of Sparta in the Peloponnese. Thanks to effective politics and an enlarged army, he subdued the city of Argos. The Roman Republic, using divisions among Greek cities, decided to intervene. (more)

Roman-Seleucid War

The Seleucids, who were part of the once united and powerful empire of Alexander the Great, formed their state in today’s Turkey. Initially, they did not gain a significant role in the Middle East region. However, with the reign of Antiochus III, later called the Great, the territory was significantly enlarged, which had to lead to a conflict with Rome. (more)

Wars in Cisalpine Gaul at beginning of 2nd century BCE

The victories of Hannibal and his Gallic allies inspired the younger Gaul generation from above the Po river to continue fighting against the Republic, despite Carthage’s defeat in the Second Punic War. This led to a series of fights at the beginning of the 2nd century BCE in Cisalpine Gaul. (more)

Aetolian War

After defeating Macedonia in the Second Macedonian War, the Aeolians got into a conflict with the Romans because they were not satisfied with the terms of the peace treaty imposed on Macedonia. This led to the Aetolian War. (more)

Galatian War

The war in 189 BCE between the Roman Republic and the Galatian Gauls living in Asia Minor. The pretext for the war was that the Galatians were delivering armed reinforcements to the Seleucids, and their warriors even fought against the Romans in the battle of Magnesia. (moew)

Macedonian wars

Macedonia, after the break-up of Alexander’s empire (after his death in 323 BCE), wanted to play the role of a dominant entity in the region, which naturally interfered with the interests of Rome. (more)

War of Andriscus

The lack of stability in Macedonia and the constant threat from barbarians led to the appearance of Andriscus, also known as the Fourth Macedonian War. This event had a major impact on the further political fate of Macedonia, after being defeated by Rome. (więcej)

War of Rome with Achaean League

After defeating Andriscus, Rome left troops in the Balkans with the intention of dealing with the Achaean League, where anti-Roman attitudes intensified. Over the past decades, the Union has been the strongest federal organization in Greece. (more)

Fights with the pirates

With the development of statehood and taking the control over the majority of the Mediterranean, Rome had to be interested in the problem of piracy. (more)

Servile Wars

In ancient Rome, the work of slaves was the basis of the existence of other social groups. The poor conditions of slave life led, however, to open rebellion. (more)

Cimbrian War

At the end of the second century BCE Italia was in great danger. From the north came a large group of Germanic troops that could lead to the fall of the Roman Republic. Rome was on the brink of disaster. (more)

Social War

The War of the Allies (Bellum Sociale) was one of the more serious internal conflicts of the Roman Republic. The revolt that broke out in the Apennine Peninsula resulted from the fact that Rome’s allies (so-called socii) were in a worse political situation than ordinary Roman citizens. Despite the fact that they provided the same tribute to the state, they did not have full political rights and could not have a real impact on the country.(more)

Mithridatic Wars

Rivalry of the ambitious King of Pontus, Mithridates VI with the Roman Republic in the first century BCE had many stages. Mithridates’ plan was to create of a regional power and to drive away Roman influence from the eastern regions of the Mediterranean. (more)

Sertorian War

Conflict in Spain in the years 80-72 BCE. In fact, the Sertorian War was the last independence movement of Spanish tribes. (more)

Caesar’s campaign in Further Spain

Julius Caesar went down in history as the conqueror of Gaul and creator of the new system, which found followers in various epochs. Little known to the wider audience – are military activities at earlier stages of his career, i.e. during the period of his office as propretor in Spain, where the future winner of the Gauls for the first time commanded a larger group of troops. (więcej)

Gallic Wars

During his consulate, Julius Caesar systematically sought to enlarge the territory of Rome in the north. To this end, he was constantly waging wars with various Celtic tribes inhabiting Gaul (territories located north and west of Italy and the Alps, today’s French Alps). (more)

Caesar’s invasion of Britain

A war campaign conducted by Caesar, aimed at subordinating the unknown land, Britain. (more)

Vercingetorix’ uprising

The peoples of Gaul, who had been subjugated by Caesar, began to think about a rebellion against the Romans. Vercingetorix’ uprising was an attempt to free the Gauls from Roman rule. (more)

Caesar’s Civil War

The Civil War between Julius Caesar with Pompey the Great decided about the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire. (more)

Wars of the Second Triumvirate

Civil wars that broke out after Caesar’s death and shaped the fate of the Roman state. At that time, a second triumvirate, an agreement on the division of power, was concluded between Octavian, Mark Antony and Lepidus. (more)

Germanic camapigns

After Varus’ massacre, superstitious Romans did not rebuild lost legions, nor did they use more of their numbering. However, they never gave up retaliation for the defeat inflicted by the Germans. Germanic had to take revenge on the Germans. (more)

Revolt of Florus and Sacrovir (21 CE)

The anti-Roman uprising in Gaul took place during the reign of Tiberius in 21 CE, when the indebtedness of local aristocrats led to a boil. Its main leaders were two nobles – Julius Florus from the Treveri tribe and Aeduan Julius Sacrovir. (more)

Tacfarinas’ rebellion (17-24 CE)

Tacfarinas was a Numidian, who deserted from the auxiliary Roman troops and in 17 CE and began a war in Africa against Rome. (more)

Corbulo’s Germanic campaign

Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo is widely known as the victorious commander of the Armenian campaign in the time of Nero. The earlier period of his military career, including governing the province of Germania Inferior in the times of Claudius, is relatively unknown to the readers.(more)

Conquest of Britain

Caesar’s attempt to conquer Britain failed in 55-54 BCE, the island was not taken up for decades. Only Claudius managed to create a province – Britain.. (more)

Roman–Parthian War over Armenia (58–63 CE)

For years, Armenia was a state of interests for two neighboring powers: Rome and the Parthian Empire. This war was one of many that was fought to put a marionette ruler on the throne of Armenia.(more)

Boudica’s uprising

Boudica’s uprising was the greatest British revolt against Roman domination. Boudica led an agreement between the British tribes from the southern and western England and led the uprising. (more)

Jewish–Roman Wars

Jewish–Roman Wars, or series of rebellions and the uprisings of Jews from the Judea Province against the Roman Empire, were many and they never brought full sovereignty to the Jews. (more)

Revolt of the Batavi

In August 69 CE in the lands of Germania Inferior took place the revolt of the Batavi against the Roman authorities in this area. The leader of the rebellion was Gaius Julius Civilis from Batavia, commander of one of the cohorts of auxiliary forces. (more)

Campaigns in the east (to 117 CE)

About Rome, information began to flow east after the wars of that city with Pyrrhus and the cities of Great Greece in the third century BCE. Hellenistic rulers began to be interested in a more new onegrowing power from the west, when to their horror and surprise legions from the Tiber river fighting in a new way crushed in the battle of Cynoscephalae in 197 BCE. the army of Philip V, the ruler of Macedonia, the homeland of the invincible soldiers of Alexander the Great. (more)

Dacian Wars

The Dacian Wars were two war campaigns of Trajan in 101-102 and 105-106 CE. As a result, the Roman province of Dacia was created. (more)

Marcomannic Wars

The Marcomannic Wars were armed conflicts between the Roman Empire and the Germanic tribes in the Danube-Limes region in 167-180 CE. (more)

Wars with the Parthian Empire

bitter conflicts between Rome and the Parths began in the year of 53 BCE, when the Roman legions commanded by the commander Crassus entered the Mesopotamian-controlled Parthian Empire. The Parthians were one of the most demanding Roman opponents. (more)

Roman–Persian Wars

After the Parthians were replaced by the Sasanid dynasty in 224 CE, the fights in the east of the Roman Empire intensified. What was worse, Rome was in a serious internal crisis.(more)


  • Historia Powszechna t. 4. Konsolidacja hellenizmu. Początki Rzymu i przemiany świata klasycznego, kons. prof. dr hab. E. Papuci-Władyka, prof. dr hab. J. Ostrowski

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