History of Power in Ancient Rome
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Our digital history of power in ancient Rome begins with an elective monarchy that became a democratic republic. From there, it grew into an autocratic and often capricious dictatorship during the Empire. By dint of military conquest and cultural and linguistic assimilation, the Empire extended throughout the Mediterranean, Egypt and Greece, southern and most of western Europe, and much of the Near Eastern lands of Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, and Arabia. The empire came to include the contiguous lands and cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, which intermingled and became known as the Classical or Greco-Roman world.
Romans contributed much to many fields. The Romance languages derived from Latin, which included an extensive literary corpus of Roman philosophy, politics, and governance. Its feats of architecture and engineering endure to the present day. The foremost examples of these include Rome’s extensive system of aqueducts and roads and erected countless monuments, palaces, and facilities such as the public baths and the Coliseum. Rome created the largest military force in history and a system of republican government that would inspire the founding of republics in the United States and France. What’s more, modern Western law draws many of its precepts from Rome.
The Punic Wars with Carthage established Rome as a great power. These wars gave Rome control of the strategic islands of Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily and its new province of Hispania (modern Spain and Portugal). Rome’s destruction of Carthage in 146 BC resulted in complete supremacy in the Mediterranean, and by the end of the Republic in 27 BC, Rome had conquered the lands of the Mediterranean and beyond, to Arabia and the Danube. With that, the Roman Empire emerged under the dictatorship of Augustus. What followed was more than 700 years of war with Persia, starting in 92 BC to become the longest conflict in human history, with massive consequences for both empires.
The Empire reached its peak under the emperor Trajan, stretching throughout the entire Mediterranean Basin to Britain and the Red and Caspian Seas in the east. However, the mores and morals of the Republic eroded during the Empire, and civil war seemed to precede the rise of each new emperor. Splinter states divided the Empire during the crisis-ridden 3rd century before some stability was restored under the Tetrarchy.
Wracked by internal instability and beset by invasion, the Western Roman Empire shattered into independent barbarian kingdoms in the 5th century. But the Eastern Roman Empire or the Byzantine Empire, with its capital at Constantinople, remained a salient power through the Middle Ages until its fall in 1453 AD.
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Power: Governance: Corruption: Judicial • Patronage • Political • Privatization | Foreign Affairs | Imperium | Assemblies | Executive | Law: Codes • Courts • Early Development: Later Development • Twelve Tablets • Constitution • Criminal Courts • Empire • Lawyers • Penalties • Sources • Statuses • Types • Women | Military: Empire
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