One of the first traces of activism was the Third Servile War in Ancient Rome, and was covered in part one of our series on the history of activism around the world. But there were many other examples of times when social activism led to upheaval in Rome. These include the 241 BC Falisci revolt, the First and Second Servile Wars in 135 and 104 BC, the 91BC Social War, and the 80 BC Sertorian War. Revolt in Rome, suffice it to say, was relatively commonplace throughout history. True peace was rare.
Only a couple decades after the Third Servile War, Gaius Julius Caesar came to power. He was a divisive political figure among those who thrived in the Senate, and many of the common rabble of Rome loved him dearly. Why wouldn’t they? He symbolized Roman power — in part by committing the Gauls to genocide during his campaigns — he was rich, and he did what he said he would do. He was eventually killed by his own colleagues in the Senate for becoming too powerful after he was proclaimed dictator in perpetuity, i.e. for life.
But this followed a great civil war in Rome due to political matters and personal differences between Caesar and other men. After Caesar’s death, yet another civil war was fought between Caesar’s own adopted son and soon-to-be crumbling factions of Opimates and Liberatores. This was actually the true beginning of the establishment of the Roman Empire, paving the way for Emperor Augustus to take power.
This period of upheaval occurred for many reasons, but the people of Ancient Rome had spent a great deal of time transitioning away from a monarchy — because they frowned down upon kings and traditional monarchies. How strange it was, then, to have a single person upon the seat of power once again. In any case, this conflict paved the way for future activism that we’ll discuss in part three.