According to legend, the city of Rome was founded in 753 B.C. In its early years, the city was ruled by kings. But in 509 B.C., the people of Rome rose up in rebellion and drove the monarchy out. Romans established a Republic, resolving that no king should ever rule over them again.
During the next two centuries, the city thrived, growing in wealth and power. In a series of wars with neighboring city states and kingdoms, Rome eventually established itself as the dominant power in central Italy.
To the south were the shining Greek cities of Naples, Capua, Cannae and Brundisium. As Rome sought to dominate the cities of the south, hostilities broke out. The Greek king Pyrrhus arrived in Brundisium with an army to champion the cause of "Greater Greece." Despite being outnumbered and defeated in numerous battles, the Roman forces remained intact and continued to harry their opponent. Pyrrhus' armies were worn down by attrition and Roman persistance, and were eventually forced to abandon southern Italy, leaving the Romans masters of the entire peninsula.
Gradually Roman power spread beyond the Italian peninsula, first to Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica, then Spain and Africa, then Greece and beyond, into Asia and Egypt. In order to safeguard the Republic, Roman law strictly forbade generals and governors from bringing troops from the provinces back into Italy. No soldiers were permited into the city of Rome unless they had first laid down their arms. When this law was violated by the Roman general Sulla in 89 B.C., it led to one of the bloodiest civil wars in Roman history. Forty years later, it was Caesar's violation of these strictures in "crossing the Rubicon" that precipitated years of civil war and political upheaval, eventually leading to the downfall of the Roman Republic.