The Roman Republic lasted 500 years because its institutions were supple enough to adapt to two great challenges—internal conflict between aristocrats and the masses and external conflict with rival states and integration of conquered peoples. Despite constant tensions, Romans were bonded by shared values—a sense of honor rooted in public service and a commitment to their conception of the common good.
For generations, the center held—until it did not. At first, the changes were subtle. Territorial expansion—at the beginning of the second century BCE, the Republic stretched from Gaul to Greece—brought an influx of wealth in the form of tribute payments, taxes from new provinces, and the development of metal mines.
A new class of super-wealthy Romans created financial instruments to package debt, resell it, and invest the profits in infrastructure projects. Sound familiar?
In many ways, this was an ancient form of globalization, both trade and financial.