The Roman Republic was founded in 509 BC by popular uprising against its eighth King, following loss of a war with the Etruscans. History of the the early Republic is complex and sketchy, as Rome expanded its territory over the next five centuries by wars, fought in multiple stages, against adjacent tribal lands. Rome conquered the Latini to the west (338 BC); the Samnites to the east (290 BC); the Etruscans to the north (396 BC); then the Apuli and Greeks to the south (264 BC); bringing the Italian peninsula under Rome’s control.
Rome’s long conflict with Carthage, the “Punic Wars”, began with the First Punic War (264-241 BC), and resulted in Rome gaining control of Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica. The Second Punic War (218-201 BC) ultimately repelled the invasion of Italy by Hannibal, who famously crossed the Alps with elephants, then annihilated a Roman army twice his size at Cannae, before being defeated by Roman General Scipio Africanus, who conquered most of Spain (206 BC) and drove Hannibal from the Italian peninsula (201 BC). The Third Punic War brought a decisive end to this long conflict when Rome attacked Carthage itself and razed the city (146 BC).
To the east, the Romans conquered and occupied Macedonia (168 BC); Greece (146 BC); and Syria (64 BC); bringing an end to the decaying Hellenistic empire. In the interim, three slave revolts were put down, the last, and largest, famously led by Spartacus, whose massive army of 120,000 slaves and gladiators defeated several Roman expeditionary forces, before finally being defeated by Crassus (71 BC). Caesar’s campaigns (58-51 BC), well documented in his Commentaries, resulted in Rome’s conquest of all of Gaul. These conquests brought the entire Mediterranean under Roman control.
By 50 BC, Rome had grown to be the largest city in the known world, with up to a million residents, and the Forum served as the center of its government, its legal system, its commerce, its religious worship, and its public assemblies and festivitals. Polytheistic religion pervaded Roman life and its government with prayers, temples, and sacrifices to various gods on holidays and special occasions. As Rome expanded its territories, it gained population, wealth and power, and improved its infrastructure with roads, clean drinking water, public baths, temples, theaters, arenas, public entertainment and subsidized food for its poor.
The Republic was a great, historic, success in representative government.