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University Connected Learning
The last century of the Roman Republic in many ways eerily resonates with our own time. The impact of its overseas empire had harrowing economic repercussions for Italy, dislocating farmers and merchants who could not compete with cheap provincial goods. This created a rapidly growing lower class in conflict with a powerful upper class which was constantly enriching itself. For the first time in Roman history political parties (factions) emerged. They put personal agendas before the good of the Republic, which had been founded on the principle of compromise for the public good. By the 130's BC, spontaneous violence broke out between these factions, with rioting and assassinations. By the turn of the 1st century, violence was legalized as a tool of political organization, with criminal courts being used for political purposes. The culmination was a series of civil wars about which the historian Livy wrote: We Romans have reached the point where we could tolerate neither our ills nor their cures. Ultimately Augustus established the facade of a Republic, providing cover for what was actually imperial rule. This era is the best documented period in ancient history, with key figures like Cicero, Caesar, and Sallust leaving volumes of letters, personal accounts and commentaries.