Brief History of Rome
The founding of Rome goes back to the very early days of civilization. It is so old, it is today known as 'the eternal city'. The Romans believed that their city was founded in the year 753 BC. Modern historians though believe it was the year 625 BC.
Early Rome was governed by kings, but after only seven of them had ruled, the Romans took power over their own city and ruled themselves.
They then instead had a council known as the 'senate' which ruled over them. From this point on one speaks of the 'Roman Republic'.
The word 'Republic' itself comes from the Latin (the language of the Romans) words 'res publica' which mean 'public matters' or 'matters of state'.
The senate under the kings had only been there to advise the king. Now the senate appointed a consul, who ruled Rome like a king, but only for one year. - This was a wise idea, as like that, the consul ruled carefully and not as a tyrant, for he knew that otherwise he could be punished by the next consul, once his year was up.
Rome knew four classes of people. This division was very important to the Romans.
Slaves: They were the lowest class and were owned by other people. They had no rights at all.
Plebeians: They were free people. But they had little say at all.
Equestrians (sometimes they are called the 'knights'). Their name means the 'riders', as they were given a horse to ride if they were called to fight for Rome. To be an equestrian you had to be rich.
Nobles: They were called 'patricians' and were the highest class. All the real power in Rome lay with them because it was they who were the Senators and consuls and made all the important decisions.
The Roman Republic was a very successful government. It lasted from 510 BC until 23 BC - almost 500 years. In comparison the United States of America only exist since 1776 - less than 250 years.
The greatest challenge the Roman Republic faced was that of the Carthaginians. Carthage was a very powerful city in North Africa which, much like Rome, controlled its own empire. The fight between the two sides was a long one and took place on land and on sea.
The most famous incident came when the great Carthaginian general Hannibal crossed the mountain chain of the Alps to the north of Italy with all his troops, including his war-elephants !, and invaded Italy. The Carthaginians won several major battles including Cannae, the worst defeat Rome ever experienced (80,000 Roman soldiers died in a single days fighting) and marched to the gates of Rome herself. But they were unable to take her and the tide turned when the Romans invaded North Africa and Hannibal lost the battle of Zama in 202bc.
Carthage was completely destroyed by Rome in the year 146 BC.
Rome's most famous citizen was no doubt Julius Caesar. He was a Roman politician and general who, without having any orders to do so, conquered the vast territory of the Gauls to the north of his province in France.
In the year 49 BC Caesar crossed the small river between his province and Italy, called the river Rubicon, and conquered Rome itself which he then ruled as a dictator.
His military campaigns took him all over Europe and North Africa to Egypt where he met and romanced the famous Cleopatra.
Caesars life though was ended as he was infamously murdered in the senate (mostly by Senators he had pardoned) in Rome on the ides of March (15th) 44 BC
So famous and respected was Caesar that a month of the year is still named after him July (after Julius Caesar). Also some of the greatest rulers in history have called themselves after Caesar including the Czar in Russia and the Kaiser in Germany. The great English poet Shakespeare wrote a famous play called Julius Caesar about his famous murder.
The Roman Empire included most of what would now be considered Western Europe. The empire was conquered by the Roman Army and a Roman way of life was established in these conquered countries.
The main countries conquered were England/Wales (then known as Britannia), Spain (Hispania), France (Gaul or Gallia), Greece (Achaea), the Middle East (Judea) and the North African coastal region.
The Roman Empire reached it limit in size during the reign of the emperor Trajan in 114 AD with his conquest of the Parthian Empire. Rome now ruled from the glens of Scotland to the Red Sea, an area of over 2 million Sq Miles.
The Roman empire in the end was overrun by millions of barbarians from the north and east of Europe. It is believed to have happened two or three times in history that huge migrations took place across Europe, where peoples moved to settle in new territories.
The great migration proved too much for the Romans to stem. Their armies were designed to defeat other armies, not entire folks and peoples flooding toward them. The collapse was completed when Rome itself was conquered by the Visigoth Odoacer and his men in the year AD 476.
Legacy of the Romans
The inventions and innovations which were generated in the Roman Empire profoundly altered the lives of the ancient people and continue to be used in cultures around the world today. Advancements in the construction of roads and buildings, indoor plumbing, aqueducts, and even fast-drying cement were either invented or improved upon by the Romans. The calendar used in the West derives from the one created by Julius Caesar, and the names of the days of the week (in the romance languages) and months of the year also come from Rome. Apartment complexes (known as `insula), public toilets, locks and keys, newspapers, even socks all were developed by the Romans as were shoes, a postal system (modeled after the Persians), cosmetics, the magnifying glass, and the concept of satire in literature. During the time of the empire, significant developments were also advanced in the fields of medicine, law, religion, government, and warfare. The Romans were adept at borrowing from, and improving upon, those inventions or concepts they found among the indigenous populace of the regions they conquered. It is therefore difficult to say what is an `original’ Roman invention and what is an innovation on a pre-existing concept, technique, or tool. It can safely be said, however, that the Roman Empire left an enduring legacy which continues to affect the way in which people live even today.