Wars of the Roman Republic

Early Republican Wars

Farming and plunder were the most popular ways of providing for one's family during the early period of Roman history, not just for Rome, but her neighbors, as well. Rome formed treaties with neighboring villages and city-states to allow them to join forces either defensively or aggressively. As was true for many civilizations throughout most of ancient history, there was usually a respite in the timeline of fighting and war in the Republic during the winter. In time, the alliances began to favor Rome. Soon Rome became the dominant city-state in Italy. Then the Roman Republic turned its attention to its area rival, the Carthaginians, who had an interest in nearby territory.

01
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Battle of Lake Regillus

Castor and Pollux Fighting in the Battle of Lake Regillus

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At the beginning of the fifth century B.C., shortly after the expulsion of the Roman kings, the Romans won a battle at Lake Regillus that Livy describes in Book II of his history. The battle, which, like most events of the period, contains legendary elements, was part of a war between Rome and a coalition of Latin states, often called the Latin League.

02
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Veientine Wars

Etruscan city of Veii at battle with the Romans

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The cities of Veii and Rome (in what is modern Italy) were centralized city-states by the fifth century B.C. For political as well as economic reasons, both wanted control of the routes along the valley of the Tiber. The Romans wanted Veii-controlled Fidenae, which was on the left bank, and the Fidenae wanted the Roman-controlled right bank. As a result, they went to war against each other three times that century.

03
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Battle of the Allia

Three days after the Battle of the Allia, the Gauls advance on Rome to find the Forum filled with silent senators

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The Romans were badly defeated at the Battle of the Allia, although we don't know how many escaped by swimming across the Tiber and fleeing to Veii. The defeat at Allia ranked with Cannae among the worst disasters in Roman Republican military history.

04
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Samnite Wars

Manius Curius Dentatus refusing the presents and bribes of the Samnites

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The Samnite Wars helped establish ancient Rome as the supreme power in Italy. There were three of them between 343 to 290 B.C., and an intervening Latin War.

05
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Pyrrhic War

The armies of Greek Consul Valerius and Pyrrhus, in beautiful armor, clash on the fields of Rome

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Sparta's one colony, Tarentum, was a wealthy commercial center with a navy, but an inadequate army. When a Roman squadron of ships arrived at the coast of Tarentum, in violation of a treaty of 302 that denied Rome access to its harbor, they sank the ships and killed the admiral and added insult to injury by spurning Roman ambassadors. To retaliate, the Romans marched on Tarentum, which had hired soldiers from King Pyrrhus of Epirus. Following the famous "Pyrrhic victory" around 281 B.C., The Pyrrhic War spanned ca. 280 to 272 B.C.

06
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Punic Wars

The Carthaginian general Hannibal at the surrounds a larger force of Romans at the Battle of Cannae in southeast Italy, during the Second Punic War

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The Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage spanned the years from 264 to 146 B.C. With both sides well-matched, the first two wars dragged on and on; eventual victory going not to the winner of a decisive battle, but to the side with the greatest stamina. The Third Punic War was something else entirely.

07
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Macedonian Wars

A silver tetradrachm, a Greek coin with Philip V of Macedonia's profile

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Rome fought four Macedonian Wars between 215 and 148 B.C. The first was a diversion during the Punic Wars. In the second, Rome officially freed Greece from Philip and Macedonia. The third Macedonian War was fought against Philip's son Perseus. The fourth and final Macedonian War made Macedonia and Epirus Roman provinces.

08
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Spanish Wars

The Siege of Numantia, led by the Roman Scipio Africanus, lasted nine years

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During the Second Punic War, the Carthaginians tried to make stations in Hispania from which they could launch attacks on Rome. As an effect of fighting against the Carthaginians, the Romans gained territory on the Iberian peninsula; they named Hispania one of their provinces after defeating Carthage. The area they gained was along the coast. They needed more land inland to protect their bases, and besieged the Celtiberians at Numantia ca. 133 B.C.

09
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The Jugurthine War

Banners, horns, and raised swords near present day Algeria signify the Jugurthine War

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The Jugurthine War, from 112 to 105 B.C., gave Rome power, but no territory in Africa. It was more significant for bringing into prominence two new leaders of Republican Rome: Marius, who had fought alongside Jugurtha in Spain, and Marius' enemy, Sulla.

10
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Social War

A map of the Italian peninsula illustrates its territorial divisions in 91 B.C., at the outbreak of the Social War

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The Social War, fought 91 to 88 B.C., was a civil war between the Romans and their Italian allies. Like the American Civil War, it was very costly. Eventually, all Italians who stopped fighting—or just those who had remained loyal—gained the Roman citizenship they'd gone to war for.