What does this chart of the number of coin hoards found in Italy and the line of political instability (marked by irregular elections) tell you about the history of the Roman Republic and the reign of Augustus? What notable events might be responsible for some of the spikes and valleys on this chart?
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What this graph shows us is that life in the late Roman Republic was unstable and uncertain. When Augustus came to power in 31 BCE, things became more stable and predictable.
This graph shows us two things. It shows us how often people were hoarding coins and it shows us when elections were being held at irregular intervals. Both of these are indications of instability. If elections are being held irregularly, it means that governments are being thrown out of power in unpredictable ways. More importantly, the fact that people are burying hoards of coins shows that they are extremely worried. They are worried that serious unrest will arise (or that their city will be conquered and sacked) and that they will lose their wealth in that unrest. Therefore, they bury their hoards of coins as a means of protecting themselves. This is something that you would only do if you were really worried about security. Thus, when the lines and bars on the graph go up, things are much less stable. We can see that the lines and bars show large spikes at least three times in the range of years represented. After Augustus takes over, the spikes disappear, at least for the remainder of the time shown on the graph.
So what was worrying the Romans? The first spike, in the late 200s BCE, was probably caused by the Punic Wars and by Hannibal’s invasion. This would have caused people to worry that Rome might be conquered. The second spike, in the early 100s, was probably caused by the conflict that arose within Rome at the time of Marius and Sulla. Finally, the last spike was surely caused by worries as the First Triumvirate broke up and civil war ensued.
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