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states sought the protection a Roman alliance would bring. As such, early republican Rome was not an "empire" or "state" in the modern sense, but an alliance of independent city-states (similar to the Greek hegemonies of the same period) with varying degrees of genuine independence (which itself changed over time) engaged in an alliance of mutual self-protection, but led by Rome. With some important exceptions, successful wars in early republican Rome generally led not to annexation or military occupation, but to the restoration of the way things were. But the defeated city would be weakened (sometimes with outright land concessions) and thus less able to resist Romanizing influences, such as Roman settlers seeking land or trade with the growing Roman confederacy. It was also less able to defend itself against its non-Roman enemies, which made attack by these enemies more likely. It was, therefore, more likely to seek an alliance of protection with Rome.This growing coalition expanded the potential enemies that Rome might face, and moved Rome closer to confrontation with major powers. The result was more alliance-seeking, on the part of both the Roman confederacy and city-states seeking membership (and protection) within that confederacy. While there were exceptions to this (such as military rule of Sicily after the First Punic War), it was not until after the Second Punic War that these alliances started to harden into something more like an empire, at least in certain locations. This shift mainly took place in parts of the west, such as the southern Italian towns that sided with Hannibal In contrast, Roman expansion into Spain and Gaul occurred as a mix of alliance-seeking and military occupation. In the 2nd century BC, Roman involvement in the Greek east remained a matter of alliance-seeking, but this time in the face of major powers that could rival Rome. According to Polybius, who sought to trace how Rome came to dominate the Greek east in less than a century, this was mainly a matter of several Greek city-states seeking Roman protection against the Macedonian kingdom and Seleucid Empire in the face of destabilisation created by the weakening of Ptolemaic Egypt. In contrast to the west, the Greek east had been dominated by major empires for centuries, and Roman influence and alliance-seeking led to wars with these empires that further weakened them and therefore created an unstable power vacuum that only Rome could fill. This had some important similarities to (and important differences from) the events in Italy centuries earlier, but this time on a global scale.

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