Rebellions were a common problem in ancient Rome, especially in the final days of the empire. While it was relatively easy for emperors to rule the kingdom during a time of peace, a rebellion would happen every so often. The process of a rebellion would start in a similar matter, even if the other circumstances of the event were different. Generally, the governor or general of a region would gain the allegiance of their soldiers, and the tribes that they conquered would rebel against them. Because it was common, the emperors expected it. The Roman legions would be used to surround the area that had revolted. If the mere presence of the legions did not get the citizens to stop their results, the rebellion would be crushed brutally and quickly.
Because the citizens did not have a large amount of military expertise, there was little they could do to defend themselves. The only time that a rebellion would be successful is when a leader was universally hated by a large segment of the population. If this was not the case, the rebellion would not be widespread, and it could be crushed relatively easily. While putting down rebellions may have been easy during peaceful time, the situation would become dire during a war. In the event that a powerful general began a military campaign against the emperor, the smartest thing that emperor could do was take hostages from the general's family. In most cases, this would be enough to stop the general.
One Roman emperor that did this successfully was Nero. Because members of the Roman army would often accept bribes, this led to problems that caused civil wars to occur on a regular basis. Because of civil wars, the Roman army was gradually weakened, leaving the empire exposed to attacks by external forces. Outside of Rome, the most dangerous enemies of Rome were the barbarian tribes. The Romans were afraid of them, and even Augustus was not successful in wiping them out. For the most part, rebellions were the biggest problem that Rome had, and the barbarian tribes near the Danube would often be so busy fighting each other that they were not strong enough to overcome the Roman army.
A more powerful external threat to Rome was present in the east. The Parthia Empire, which was present in what today is known as Iran, was the target of an attempted invasion by Crassus. However, he was soundly defeated at the Battle of Carrhae. While the Romans may have wanted to expand their empire into this region, it was too far, and even if they were successful, maintaining it would have been difficult.
Original Authors: Stephen Palmer
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 22/07/2008