Politics had come to be dominated by violence and intimidation; scores were settled with clubs and daggers rather than with speeches and persuasion.
Powerful generals at the head of politicized armies extorted from the state more and greater power for themselves and their supporters.
When "constitutional" methods proved inadequate, the generals occasionally resorted to open rebellion.
Intimidation of the senate through the use of armies camped near Rome or veterans brought to the city to influence the voting assemblies also proved effective and was regularly employed as a political tactic from ca. These generals also used their provincial commands to extract money from the locals as a way of funding their domestic political ambitions.
As the conflict in the state wore on, popular assemblies, the only avenue for the passage of binding legislation in the Roman Republic, routinely ended in disorder and rioting.
The senatorial aristocracy, riven by internal disputes, proved incapable of dealing effectively with the mounting disorder, yet the alternative, monarchy, was not openly proposed by anyone.
When civil war erupted between Pompey and Caesar in 49 BC, few could have been surprised.
These two men were the strongest personalities in the state, each in command of significant military forces, and they were mutually antagonistic.
2 Despite vanquishing his opponents in the long series of civil wars 49-45 BC, Caesar did little to address the underlying ills of the Republic.
His concerns were first and foremost the defeat in the field of his political opponents.
Precedent prescribed procedure and consensus set the parameters for acceptable behavior.
Near the end of the second century BC, however, the system started to break down.
Politicians began to push at the boundaries of acceptable behavior, and in so doing set new and perilous precedents.
Violence also entered the arena of domestic politics.
(This long process of disintegration, completed a century later by Augustus, has been termed by modern scholars the "Roman Revolution.") By the time of Caesar's dominance in 49-44 BC the Republic had not been functioning effectively for at least a dozen years, some would argue for longer.
Augustus is arguably the single most important figure in Roman history.
In the course of his long and spectacular career, he put an end to the advancing decay of the Republic and established a new basis for Roman government that was to stand for three centuries.
This system, termed the "Principate," was far from flawless, but it provided the Roman Empire with a series of rulers who presided over the longest period of unity, peace, and prosperity that Western Europe, the Middle East and the North African seaboard have known in their entire recorded history.
Even if the rulers themselves on occasion left much to be desired, the scale of Augustus's achievement in establishing the system cannot be overstated.
Aside from the immense importance of Augustus's reign from the broad historical perspective, he himself is an intriguing figure: at once tolerant and implacable, ruthless and forgiving, brazen and tactful.
Before writing an essay about Julius Caesar, make sure you understand what task the teacher is asking.
The teacher can be asking you to write about the Shakespearean play "The Tragedy of Julius Caesar" or they can be asking you to write the biography of Caesar. Julius Caesar was an interesting man who made contributions that changed the Roman Empire as well as contributions to the society of today (i.e. If unsure about what direction to go about the essay, some suggestions are provided below.
Julius Caesar, one of the history's greatest generals.
Writing about him (or about the Shakespearean play about him), allows for different topics to arise.
It all just depends on your imagination and how you decide to spin the topic to make it interesting.
During these years, and following his final victory, he was content to maintain control by a combination of the consulship and the revived, albeit reviled, dictatorship.
Extensive and excessive honors of all sorts were also voted to Caesar by a sycophantic senate: he refused none, save attempts to crown him king.
Nevertheless, his broad disregard for tradition and precedent, and the general air of arrogance and high-handedness that marked Caesar's dealings with his peers, made him appear Rome's king in all but name.
To be sure, he passed various items of legislation dealing with immediate problems (for instance, debt relief or the calendar), but he made no serious effort to systematize his position or tackle the issues that had generated the Roman Revolution in the first place.
In fact, in the last months of his life he was planning to leave Rome for several years to campaign against the Parthians in the East.
Clearly a man of many facets, he underwent three major political reinventions in his lifetime and negotiated the stormy and dangerous seas of the last phase of the Roman Revolution with skill and foresight.
With Augustus established in power and with the Principate firmly rooted, the internal machinations of the imperial household provide a fascinating glimpse into the one issue that painted this otherwise gifted organizer and politician into a corner from which he could find no easy exit: the problem of the succession.
1 To understand Augustus, it is necessary to appreciate briefly the nature of the Roman Revolution and, in particular, the place of Julius Caesar within it.