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The emergence of Ancient Rome

Ancient Rome started to emerge about 753BC and existed for over twelve centuries. The history of Ancient Rome can be divided into two main periods, the Republic (509BC-27BC) and the Empire (27 BC- AD 476).

In the beginning, when Rome was still just a city, the Romans developed a form of government known as a republic. The Republic was ruled by a senate (a governing council). The men elected to the senate were called senators.

Rome's expansion from city to empire began with the conquest of the Italian peninsula and the areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.

Roman colonies

There were three reasons Rome expanded territory and colonise surrounding countries.

Wealth and power

As the Romans become wealthier and more powerful, they gained more enemies. In order to maintain their power, the Romans intentionally attacked and defeated their potential enemies.

An expanding population

The Romans needed land for a growing population.

Military glory

Winning was extremely important to the Romans. The Romans greatly rewarded a general whenever he won on the battlefield.

After each new conquest, Rome sent out colonisers to secure the territory. The Romans did not have a standing army, so they sent groups of their own citizens to conquered towns which then became military posts. These groups often consisted up to 300 Roman citizens, a large number of the Latin League, and the settlers.

A commission consisting of three members usually had the duty of leading the colonists to found the settlement. These men became patrons of the colony after its foundation. The colonists entered the conquered city in a grand military celebration.

The new colonies were free from taxes and had their own constitution, which was a copy of the Roman constitution. They also elected their own senate and other officers of state from their own body.

From 163 BC to 122BC (the years of the late Republic), colonisation became a means of providing for the poorest class of the Roman populace. After the time of Sulla, colonisation was a way of granting land to soldiers who had served in the army.

When Caesar was in power, he took away the rights of founding colonies from the people. Only the Roman emperors had the right to found colonies which then became military settlements. In this way Rome was able to secure the conquered territories of the empire. From that time on, colonies had to pay taxes to Rome.

The decline of the Republic

By the end of the first century, although it was the most powerful civilisation in the world, Rome faced many problems. Wars and people moving from the regions of the empire to the city of Rome destroyed the farming areas of the city. The increasing population made it difficult for the government to provide jobs, food and houses for the people. Powerful generals wanted to be recognised for their military successes and did not accept the powers of the Senate. From then onwards, many generals tried to change the structure of Rome's government. Rome entered a period of civil war before becoming an empire.

From a republic to an empire

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar had helped to change Roman from a republic into an empire. Rising through the political ranks, Caesar eventually became governor of Gaul. His abilities as a general brought him much power and respect.

By 50 BC, Caesar had made many enemies. To protect himself from these threats, Caesar conquered the Italian peninsula. Over the next few years, Caesar defeated his enemies and seized power for himself. After just two years of his rule, Caesar was murdered by senators who did not support his autocratic style (ruling as a dictator). Rome was again in chaos.

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Caesar's nephew, Octavian, emerged as a new leader. He crowned himself as Augustus, which means 'revered one'. After winning the Battle of Actium, Augustus became a hero in Rome. In 31 BC, Augustus became Rome's first emperor. The transformation from republic to empire was complete.

The fall of the Roman Empire

By the 4th century, Rome declined due to three main factors:

  • The Roman army became weaker because many soldiers were not Romans.
  • The emperors enjoyed a high standard of living and become corrupt.
  • In the 5th century, the western half of the empire broke into independent kingdoms.
  • The Germanic tribes in Eastern Europe pushed westwards into Roman territory and the Romans could not stop them.

Legacies of the Roman Empire

The word legacy means the influences or ideas passed down from an ancestor or predecessor.

Latin: the Roman language continues to be the language of the sciences.

Town planning: the Romans were well known for their town planning. City planners achieved high standards of hygiene with their plumbing, sewage disposal, dams, and canals.

Roman architecture: is still evident today. One remarkable achievement of Roman architecture was the triumphal arch, which the Romans used to celebrate important state occasions.

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Public baths: The Roman Empire was also famous for its baths and its roads. These baths were built to clear the senses as well as to cleanse the body. The baths were usually very large and could hold up to 1600 people.

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Roads: Rome's roads were designed for fast transportation and could be used for the many functions associated with empire building such as for mail delivery, pedestrian traffic and military movements.


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