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From the Beginning of the Punic Wars to the Conquest of Carthage and Greece (264-146 b.c.). page 2

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We overstep the limits of this period by a few years in order to mention the peaceful acquirement by Rome, in 133 b.c., of the south and west of Asia Minor. This territory had been bestowed by them, after the defeat of Antiochus of Syria in 190, upon the king of Pergamus, and one of his successors, Attalus III., bequeathed the whole of his dominions to the great republic of the western world. Shortly after the downfall of Carthage, Rome was thus possessed of most territory that was worth having in the basin of the Mediterranean - of all, in fact, save Egypt, Syria, and Gaul. Her dominions, in three continents, included Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Cisalpine Gaul, Liguria, most of Spain, the centre of northern Africa, northern and southern Greece, and the best part of Asia Minor. The great central sea was but a Roman lake. Rome was the one great power of the world, the head of all civilised people, ruling nine provinces by her proconsuls or propraetors, with their armies of officials. The equites or knights farmed the taxes and the tribute levied from the provincials, and the collectors called publicani (the "publicans" of our translation of the Gospels) were beginning to earn their evil repute for extortion and fraud. The state was enriched to a vast degree by the revenue derived from the property-tax levied on Roman citizens; the tribute of the allies (socii) in Italy; the provincial tribute, in some cases a poll-tax and in others a property-tax; the tithes paid by those who occupied state-domains (ager publicus) both in Italy and the provinces; by the amounts derived from customs-duty on imports and exports, from mines and salt-works; and from a five per cent, duty on the numerous enfranchised slaves. We are now to trace the process of decline in the republic - the political and social deterioration which, from the corruption and frailty of human nature, ever waits on those who, raised to a position of great material prosperity, are not under strong restraints of morality and religion.

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