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History of Ancient Rome

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Roman history spans a thousand years and covers not just the Mediterranean region, but Europe to the British isles, northeast to the Danube River, and eastward through Asia Minor: All roads led to Rome. Learn about its growth from a small, hilly, swamp of an inland settlement, its experiments with different types of governments, as well as cultural achievements and customs, from gladiators and togas to aqueducts and satire.
  1. The Founding of Rome
  2. The Roman Kingdom
  3. The Roman Republic
  4. The Roman Empire
  5. Emperors
  1. Family and Daily Life
  2. Roman Religion
  3. Latin & Roman Culture
  4. Roman Soldiers

The Founding of Rome

Lupa Capitolina

The stories of the founding of Rome span several generations and trace Roman history back to refugees from the Trojan War. This is a colorful and exciting era but be careful, since very little can be substantiated.

The Roman Kingdom

The first form of government in Rome was rule by kings. In the small settlement on the Tiber, the king wasn't an absolute monarch, but paid attention to the words of his advisors, the fathers and senators. The job of the kings was to establish Rome as a viable nation, which they did by making laws, establishing religious customs, creating a social order, and seemingly most of all, by waging border wars on all their neighbors.

The Roman Republic

Ancient Africa and Northern Africa at the Start of the Punic Wars

After the Romans got rid of their Etruscan kings, they needed a new form of government that limited the potential for tyranny, so they split the government between two men, known as consuls, who were elected for the term of a year. The nation of Rome was supposedly about 250 years old by then, but still had lots of kinks to work out and lands to conquer. This was the period when the Celts invaded and the Romans fought the Punic Wars. It was the time of Caesar and Cleopatra and much more.

The Roman Empire

Prima Porta Augustus at Colosseum

The Roman Empire can refer to the land the Romans started acquiring during the Roman Republic, but also refers to the third major period in Roman history, the time when Rome was ruled by emperors. The nature of the rule changed form the start, when the leader was at least pretending to be the first among equals or 'princeps' to the later period when he was the acknowledged monarch. Thus there are two sub-periods, the principate and the dominate that roughly correspond with the advent of Christianity and the division of the Roman Empire. Somewhere in the four and a half centuries, Rome started its fall.

Emperors

Rome was not always ruled by emperors. At first there were kings; then, after the Romans expelled their kings, they had two top officials known as consuls who served much as year-kings. Gradually individuals began to amass power despite the one-year term limit on the top elected office. Importantly, they began to accrue military power from troops who might hail their victorious leader as "Imperator". It's from this term that we get the familiar term emperor, a top Roman political position that gradually evolved and changed.

Family and Daily Life

Garum Processing Site

Literary and archaeological sources provide us with details about the food, clothing, wine, funerals, entertainment, and other aspects of daily life in ancient Rome.

Roman Religion

Temple of Hercules Victor in the Forum Boarium in Rome

Roman religion was very different from the faith-based religions common today. Of course, that is only true until the later Roman Empire when the state religion became the start of what is now the main religion in the U.S. People tried to keep the gods on their side to help them in their pursuits. Both the state and the family observed rituals and taboos to keep the gods compliant, but on different levels. Foreign gods were easily imported and often merged with local ones.

Latin & Roman Culture

Cloaca Maxima

Learn about the literature, language, architecture, and religion of the ancient Romans.

Roman Soldiers

Roman Legionary on Trajan's Column

The Roman army was responsible for the spread of the Roman Empire from the Danube to the Nile, from the Black Sea to the Atlantic. Most of the wars in which the Romans fought, they won. They marched along the famous Roman roads, adopted techniques from the their enemies, incorporated their enemies into their empire or enslaved them.

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