Ancient Rome

Digital History of Ancient Rome

a key to global education: Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci

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Perspective


Ancient Rome describes Roman civilization from the founding of a hill-top community of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD. This 2,000-year old civilization included the Monarchy (753–509 BCE), the Republic (509–27 BCE) and the Empire (27 BCE–476 AD). The settlement of Rome grew into the city of Rome and the Roman Empire, which expanded to become one of the largest empires in the ancient world, with as many as 90 million inhabitants (roughly 20% of the world’s population) and nearly 2 million square miles of territory at its greatest extent in AD 117.

Rome evolved from an elective monarchy to a democratic republic and then to the increasingly autocratic and capricious dictatorship of the Empire. Through conquest and assimilation, it came to control much of the Mediterranean, Western Europe, and the Middle East, including Anatolia, the Levant and parts of Mesopotamia and Arabia. Along with ancient Greece, Rome is considered a classical civilization, and together they comprise Classical or Greco-Roman civilization.

Rome has contributed to many aspects of modern Western civilization, including language, religion, society, technology, law, politics, government, warfare, art, literature, architecture and engineering. It built the largest professional armed force of ancient times, and created a system of government called res publica. The Roman Republic became the inspiration for modern republics like the United States and France. It achieved impressive technological and architectural feats, such as the construction of extensive roads, public works, monuments, and palaces.

Rome’s victory in the Punic Wars with Carthage established it as a world power, giving it control of the strategic islands of Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily. It took Hispania (modern Spain and Portugal) and destroyed the city of Carthage in 146 BC, giving it complete supremacy in the Mediterranean. By the end of the Republic (27 BC), Rome had conquered the lands around the Mediterranean and beyond, from the Atlantic to Arabia and from the Rhine River to North Africa. With the demise of the Republic, the Roman Empire emerged under the enlightened dictatorship of Augustus. More than seven centuries of Roman–Persian Wars began in 92 BCE with trouble in Parthia, and it became the longest conflict in human history with far-reaching consequences for both the Roman and Persian empires.

Under Trajan, the Empire reached its territorial peak, stretching from the entire Mediterranean Basin to the North Sea, and eastward to the shores of the Red and Caspian Seas. Republican mores and morals started to decline during the empire, and civil wars often accompanied the rise ofnew emperors. Splinter states, such as the Palmyrene Empire, temporarily sundered the Empire during the crisis of the 3rd century before some stability was restored in the Tetrarchy phase of the empire.

Wracked by internal discord and beset upon by various Eurasian “barbarians,” the Western Roman Empire disintegrated into independent barbarian kingdoms in the 5th century. The eastern part the empire in Constantinople remained a formidable power through the Middle Ages until its fall in 1453 AD. And thus it is said that Roman Empire lasted 2,000 years.

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Index

Early Italy | Society | Culture | Religion: Christianity | Power | Economy | Etruscans | Early Republic | Late Republic | Empire | Provinces | Barbarians | Byzantine Empire


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