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Table of Contents
Ancient Rome grew from a little town on the Tiber River in central Italy to an empire that, at its height, ruled most of continental Europe, Britain, a large portion of western Asia, northern Africa, and the Mediterranean islands beginning in the seventh century BCE. The fall and collapse of the Roman Empire was one of the most cataclysmic extinctions in human history.
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Facts & Information
Origins Of Rome
- The twin founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, were said to have done so in 753 BCE. They were the sons of the god of war Mars. The twins conquered the monarch of adjacent Alba Longa after being left in a basket on the Tiber and saved by a she-wolf, and they established their city on the banks of the river. In order to become the first king of Rome, Romulus, who bears his name, assassinated his brother. Following were a non-hereditary succession of Sabine, Latin, and Etruscan kings. Romulus, Numa Pompilius, Tullus Hostilius, Ancus Martius, Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, Servius Tullius, and Tarquinius Superbus, also known as Tarquin the Proud, are the seven mythical kings of Rome (534-510 BCE). All monarchs following Romulus were chosen by the Senate, despite the fact that they were referred to as “Rex” or “King” in Latin.
- Rome’s seventh ruler, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, was overthrown in 509 BCE. Ancient historians claimed that in contrast to his kind-hearted predecessors, Lucius was a cruel and autocratic king. The king’s son supposedly sexually assaulted the noblewoman Lucretia, according to mythology, sparking a large-scale uprising. As a result, Rome changed from being a monarchy to a republic based on the concept of res publica, or “property of the people.”
The Early Republic
- Two consuls who were chosen annually by the Senate were given the power to rule by the monarch. They were also the senior generals in the army. Despite being chosen by the populace, magistrates were chosen from among the patricians or lineal successors of the ancient Roman senators. A protracted fight between patricians and plebeians, or the common people, defined early republican politics. After years of battle, they gradually gained some political power through patricians’ concessions, such as their political bodies and the tribunes, who had the authority to introduce or veto laws.
- Around 450 BCE, 12 bronze tablets containing the earliest Roman legal code, known as the Twelve Tables, were deposited in the Roman Forum. These laws, which covered civil rights, property rights, and legal procedure, laid the groundwork for all subsequent Roman civil law. By around 300 BC, Rome concentrated its true political authority in the Senate, which at the time only consisted of affluent plebeian families and members of the patrician class.
- Throughout the early republic, both the size and power of the Roman state drastically increased. The Punic Wars were a series of hostilities between Rome and Carthage, a powerful city-state in northern Africa. The Romans captured Carthage, devastated it, and sold the survivors into slaves. Rome’s victory against King Philip V of Macedonia during the Macedonian Wars allowed it to extend its dominance further east.
- The Romans gained enormously from contact with advanced cultures such as the Greeks, and their military conquests directly led to their cultural evolution as a nation. Around 240 BCE, Greek classics were translated into Latin to create the earliest works of Roman literature. The Romans later adopted much Greek philosophy, art, and religion.
Internal Struggles In The Late Republic
- Rome’s intricate governmental structures started to break down under the weight of the expanding empire, ushering in a period of unrest and violence. The rich-poor divide expanded as affluent landowners forced small farmers off public land, while government access became increasingly restricted to the more privileged strata. Attempts to solve these societal issues, like Tiberius’ and Gaius Gracchus’ reform initiatives in 133 BCE and 123-22 BCE, respectively, resulted in the reformers’ murders at the hands of their opponents.
- Gaius Marius, a commoner whose military prowess propelled him to the rank of consul for the first of six terms in 107 BCE., was the first of a string of warlords who would rule Rome during the late republic. By 91 BCE, Marius was battling assaults from his rivals, notably Sulla, a fellow general who had taken power as a military dictator around 82 BCE. After Sulla’s retirement, Pompey, one of his erstwhile followers, briefly served as consul before undertaking victorious military campaigns against pirates in the Mediterranean and Mithridates’ army in Asia. During this time, Marcus Tullius Cicero, elected consul in 63 BCE, notably overcame the conspiracy of the patrician Cataline and established himself as one of Rome’s greatest orators.
Julius Caesar’s Rise
- When the victorious Pompey returned to Rome, he forged an uncomfortable alliance known as the First Triumvirate with the wealthy Marcus Licinius Crassus, who defeated a slave insurrection led by Spartacus in 71 BCE, and another rising star in Roman politics: Gaius Julius Caesar. After achieving military success in Spain, Caesar returned to Rome to run for consulship in 59 BCE. Thanks to his partnership with Pompey and Crassus, Caesar was given control of three prosperous provinces in Gaul beginning in 58 BCE.; he then set out to conquer the rest of the area for Rome.
- The triumvirate was broken when Pompey’s wife Julia, Caesar’s daughter, passed away in 54 BCE, and Crassus was killed in combat with Parthia the following year. Pompey stepped in as sole consul in 53 BCE with traditional Roman politics in disarray. Caesar’s military fame in Gaul and expanding wealth had eclipsed Pompey’s, and the latter teamed up with his Senate friends to gradually weaken Caesar. Caesar and one of his legions crossed the Rubicon, a river that separates Italy from Cisalpine Gaul, in 49 BCE. Caesar’s conquest of Italy sparked a civil war from which he emerged as Rome’s permanent dictator in 45 BCE.
From Caesar To Augustus
- Julius Caesar was assassinated on the ides of March by a gang of his adversaries led by the republican nobility Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius. By working together to defeat Brutus and Cassius, Consul Mark Antony and Octavian, Caesar’s great-nephew and adopted heir, established the Second Triumvirate, which shared power in Rome with ex-consul Lepidus. Tensions arose by 36 BCE, and the triumvirate quickly fell apart with Octavian in charge of the western provinces, Antony the eastern, and Lepidus Africa. Octavian defeated Antony and Queen Cleopatra of Egypt in the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE. Following this catastrophic setback, Antony and Cleopatra killed themselves.
- Octavian was the only ruler of Rome and its territories by 29 BCE. To avoid Caesar’s tragedy, he made his position as absolute ruler acceptable to the public by ostensibly restoring the political institutions of the Roman republic while, in reality keeping all final authority for himself. Octavian adopted the name Augustus and became the first emperor of Rome in 27 BCE.
Age Of The Roman Emperors
- Augustus’ reign restored morale in Rome after a century of turmoil and corruption, ushering in the legendary pax Romana—two centuries of peace and prosperity. He oversaw several social changes, scored many military triumphs, and allowed the development of Roman literature, art, architecture, and religion. Augustus ruled for 56 years, backed up by a large army and a rising cult of loyalty to the emperor. The Senate deified Augustus after his death, starting a long-standing custom of deification for famous emperors.
- Augustus’ dynasty featured the unpopular Tiberius, the murderous and unstable Caligula, and Claudius, best remembered for leading his troops to Britain’s conquest. The line terminated with Nero, whose indulgences depleted the Roman treasury and eventually led to his downfall and suicide. The fourth emperor, Vespasian, and his successors, Titus and Domitian, were known as the Flavians; they strove to tame the excesses of the Roman court, restore Senate authority, and promote public welfare. Titus won his people’s love for his handling of the rehabilitation operations following the catastrophic Vesuvius eruption, which destroyed the towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii.
- The reign of Nerva, who the Senate chose to follow Domitian, began another golden age in Roman history, during which four emperors-Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius-took the throne peacefully, succeeding one another by adoption rather than hereditary succession. Trajan’s triumphs against the kingdoms of Dacia and Parthia extended Rome’s borders to their greatest extent in history. His successor Hadrian continued his predecessor’s efforts to create internal stability and implement administrative changes while solidifying the empire’s borders.
- Rome remained peaceful and prosperous under Antoninus Pius. Still, Marcus Aurelius’ rule was marked by strife, including wars with Parthia and Armenia and the invasion of Germanic tribes from the north. When Marcus became ill and died near the battlefield of Vindobona, he defied the non-hereditary succession custom by naming his 19-year-old son Commodus as his heir.
Decline And Disintegration
- The Roman emperors’ glorious era came to an unsatisfying conclusion due to Commodus’ evil and incompetence. His assassination by his ministers started another civil war period, which Lucius Septimius Severus won. During the third century, Rome was wracked by a near-constant cycle of violence. There were 22 emperors, several of whom were assassinated by the same warriors who had driven them to power. Meanwhile, external challenges like the ongoing Parthian and German invasions and Goth raids over the Aegean Sea plagued the empire and drained its wealth.
- Diocletian’s rule momentarily restored peace and prosperity in Rome but at a terrible cost to the empire’s integrity. Diocletian shared the title of Augustus, the emperor, with Maximian and split the authority into the so-called tetrarchy. Galerius and Constantius were appointed as Diocletian and Maximian’s helpers and chosen successors; Diocletian and Galerius oversaw the eastern Roman Empire, while Maximian and Constantius commanded the western Roman Empire.
- The stability of this arrangement weakened after Diocletian and Maximian left the government. After the ensuing political conflicts, Constantine became the sole emperor of a united Rome in 324. He transferred the Roman capital to Byzantium in Greece, which he dubbed Constantinople. Constantine declared Christianity the state religion of Rome.
- Roman unification under Constantine turned out to be a mirage, and 30 years after his passing, the eastern and western empires were once more split. Despite its ongoing conflict with Persian soldiers, the eastern Roman Empire—later known as the Byzantine Empire—would survive for centuries. In the west, the empire was ravaged by internal turmoil and challenges from abroad, particularly from Germanic tribes already settled within the empire’s borders like the Vandals. It was slowly losing money owing to the ongoing battle.
- Rome gradually succumbed to the weight of its bloated empire, losing provinces one by one: Britain around 410, Spain and northern Africa around 430. The foundation of the empire was further shattered around 450 when Attila and his vicious Huns attacked Gaul and Italy. In September 476, Odovacar, a Germanic prince, took control of the Roman army in Italy. Odovacar’s troops installed Romulus Augustus as king of Italy after toppling the final western emperor, bringing an unjust conclusion to the protracted, turbulent history of ancient Rome. The Roman Empire had collapsed entirely.
- Roman engineering and architectural advancements continue to influence modern society. The development of Roman aqueducts in 312 BCE encouraged the establishment of cities by carrying water to urban areas, increasing public health, and cleanliness. Some Roman aqueducts carried water up to 60 miles from their source, and Rome’s Fountain of Trevi still uses an upgraded version of an ancient aqueduct.
- Ancient structures like the Colosseum and Roman Forum still stand firm today, mainly due to the Romans’ use of cement and concrete. Roman arches, also known as segmented arches, improved on last turns to create sturdy bridges and buildings that dispersed weight uniformly.
- Roman highways, the most advanced roadways in the ancient world, allowed the Roman Empire, over 1.7 million square miles at its peak of dominance, to stay connected. They incorporated seemingly modern inventions like mile markers and drainage. Over 50,000km of roads were constructed by 200 BCE, many of which are still in use today.
Ancient Rome Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Ancient Civilization of Rome across 22 wonderful pages. These are ready-to-use Ancient Rome worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Ancient Rome which was a civilization that began on the Italian peninsula as early as the 8th century B.C. The Roman Empire was considered one of the greatest and most influential empires in history, covering most of continental Europe, parts of western Asia, and northern Africa, as well as the Mediterranean islands.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Ancient Greece Facts
- Where is Ancient Rome?
- Picture Crossword
- Analyze It
- Compare and Contrast
- The First Triumvirate
- Roman Gods and Goddesses
- Roman Legacies
- The Downfall of Rome Storyboard
- Let’s Travel!
- Daily Rome
Frequently Asked Questions
What is ancient Rome known for?
Ancient Romans conquered enormous swaths of the country in Europe and northern Africa, constructed highways and aqueducts, and widely disseminated Latin, their language. They are famed for their military, political, and social institutions.
What is the history of ancient Rome?
Beginning in the seventh century BCE. Ancient Rome expanded from a small town on the Tiber River in central Italy into an empire that, at its peak, controlled the majority of continental Europe, Britain, much of western Asia, northern Africa, and the Mediterranean islands. One of the most dramatic implosions in the history of civilization was the collapse and fall of the Roman Empire.
What destroyed Rome?
Romans had long fought with Germanic tribes, but by the 300s, so-called “barbarian” peoples like the Goths had encroached outside the empire’s frontiers.
What made Rome so great?
Through military prowess, political adaptability, economic growth, and more than a little good fortune, Rome rose to become the most powerful state in the world by the first century BCE. This expansion altered the Mediterranean world as well as Rome itself.
Who was the first ruler of Rome?
Romulus, son of the god of war and the daughter of King Numitor, was the first king of Rome and its founder; consequently, the city was named after him. He established the Roman Senate with 100 senators and provided the people of Rome with a set of rules.
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