In the century after their victory over Carthage, the Romans used their dominance of the western Mediterranean to extend their reach inland, so that, by 100 BCE, their empire covered most of Spain and the southern portion of France.
In the eastern Mediterranean, first Macedonia, then Syria, then Pontus – all tried to resist the onward march of the Roman legions. Their failure led to the incorporation of their kingdoms within the Roman system of control.
By this time, the Roman Republic was itself in all sorts of trouble. A series of civil wars engulfed the state, involving the entire Mediterranean world. A by-product of these wars, ironically, was the dramatic extension of Roman power as ambitious generals saw conquest and glory as a means of furthering their own bids for dominance in Roman politics.
The final major independent kingdom of the Mediterranean world Egypt, was drawn into these conflicts. Egypt’s queen, Cleopatra, sought to deal with this threat to her country’s independence by the novel strategy of forming intimate relationships with Rome’s leading generals. Backing the wrong side eventually led to her own death and Egypt’s incorporation in the Roman empire.
The Roman civil wars were brought to an end by the first of the Roman emperors, Augustus (or Octavian, as he was then called), in 31 BCE.
Emperor Augustus – Reorganised Roman Empire as a center of political and military power.
Reproduced under Creative Commons 3.0
During these final centuries BCE, those areas of non-Mediterranean Europe closest to the world of the Mediterranean city-states were experiencing significant advances in material culture. The first semi-urban settlements, which had appeared shortly before 500 BCE, continued to grow in size and number.
By the late 1st century BCE the existence of proto-states can be assumed. The kingdom of Noricum, in Austria, is mentioned by Roman writers of the period, and the rulers of some of the peoples of France minted their own coins. Indeed, while some of these states were kingdoms, others were republics, ruled by magistrates – a clear sign of close familiarity with Mediterranean city-states.
Meanwhile, more and more of temperate Europe was becoming an extension of the Mediterranean world. All of present-day Spain, Portugal, France and Belgium had been conquered by Roman armies by 30 BCE and had became organized along city-state lines under Roman control.
Not all of temperate Europe was falling under the control of Rome, however. In southern Scandinavia and northern Germany, the Teutonic peoples were beginning a major expansion out of their homeland. They erupted into history with a fierce invasion of Gaul and Italy, which caused panic in Rome, and they seem to have taken advantage of the Gauls’ pre-occupation with an expanding Roman empire to settle areas of the Rhineland previously occupied by Celtic tribes.
The Germans had remained comparatively untouched by Mediterranean civilization. They lived much as their ancestors had done, in farmsteads or small villages made up of wattle and daub huts. The use of iron had only reached this region in c. 500 BCE, and even then it was not nearly as common as further south, due to the scarcity of this metal in much of northern Europe.