The final hundred years of both Classical Athens and the Roman Republic saw new heights of power as well as an increase in the inherent problems that would eventually lead to the downfall of Athens as the leader of the Greek city-states at the end of the fifth century BCE, and the end of the Roman Republic in 27 BCE. Contrasting the two, what led to the demise of each system of government? What were the major problems, societal and otherwise, that led to the eventual collapse of democratic and republican styles of government in both Greece and Rome?

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The fall of Athens during the Peloponnesian War and the fall of Republican Rome after the Second Civil War share both similarities and distinct differences. For example, both cities' overextension of their empire may be cited as a reason for their collapse; however, Athenian democracy fell to external powers (the...

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The fall of Athens during the Peloponnesian War and the fall of Republican Rome after the Second Civil War share both similarities and distinct differences. For example, both cities' overextension of their empire may be cited as a reason for their collapse; however, Athenian democracy fell to external powers (the Spartans) whereas Roman republicanism fell to internal powers (fellow Romans).

The primary reason for the fall of Athens during the fifth century BCE is often described as twofold: a simultaneous antagonism of city-states, or poleis, outside the Delian League, and aggressive taxation of allied city-states. Originally formed as an equal coalition in case the Persians attempted to invade Greece again, the Delian League quickly devolved into an Athenian dictatorship. Although Athens perhaps would have been able to rebuff either revolting poleis or Spartan aggression—Sparta was the second-largest polis in Greece at the time and formed the Peloponnesian League to rival the Delian League—they could not do both at once and fell to Sparta in 405 BCE.

Though political power struggles inevitably played a part in Athens's defeat, they cannot be seen as the primary reason for the city-state's collapse as they can with Rome. Rome faced similar problems of overextension, but not because of revolting territories. Instead, as military expeditions became longer and more protracted, legionaries far from central Italy began to form a greater affinity for their commanding officer than for the state as a whole. It is suspected that this, as well as Julius Caesar's generous edicts toward the plebeian factions, is what led soldiers to switch their allegiance and march on the capital. Caesar's march on Rome was the beginning of the end of Roman republicanism, setting off a domino effect that would eventually lead to Caesar's adopted son, Augustus, being crowned princeps (first citizen) in 27 BCE.

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