Roman History Essay, Research Paper
Italy is a peninsula jutting out into the Medditerranean sea west of Greece. Italy
has poor mineral resources and very few useful harbors, however it is wealty in both
fertile land and precipitation. Three – quarters of the peninsula is covered in foothills
and mountains. The alps, a mountian range to the north of Italy, cut off the peninsulas
only land connection, which resulted, in the times of Ancient Rome, in the people
trading amonst themselves.
The Early People of Rome
The Etruscans were mysterious people who settled on the Italian Peninsula
somewhere between 900 and 800 BC. No one is really certain about their origin,
however archaeologists suspect that they came from the eastern Medditerannean. The
Etruscans ruled in north-eastern Italy, between the Appentine mountian range and the
Tyrrhenian Sea. Their civilization streched from the Arno River in the north to the Tiber
River which is more towards the center of the Italian Peninsula. Te Tiber River is where
the Roman Empire would sit years later.
The Etruscans lived in independent city-states. In the earliest times, these
city-states were ruled by a monarchy, but were later ruled by oligarchies that governed
through a coucil and elected officials. The Etruscans were largely agricultural people,
however they also had a strong miliatary,which they used to dominate te surrounding
societies. These dominated populations were forced by the Etruscans to do their
ricultural labor, which left time for the Etruscans to devote to commerce and industry.
They were sophisticated people, with and alphebet based on the Greek
alphabet, an original style in sculpture and painting, a religion based on human like
gods, and a complicated set of rituals which they performed annually.
While the Etruscans were concentrating on building their power over all of Italy
and engaging in commerce, a city to their south began to the grow. This city seemed to
immitate the Etruscans in many ways. This new kingdom was the Roman Kingdom.
The Rise of the Roman Empire
The Tiber River is vital for the trade of central Italty. Along the banks of the Tiber
River lies seven hills. The Palatine, the most importnat of all these hills, is where
Roman culture was founded in 753 BC.
Around 620 BC, the Etruscans gained control of Rome. At this time Rome
developed into a monarchy. Some early kings of Rome were Priscus, Tullius, and
Superbus. Under the rule of the Tarquins, a wealthy Etruscan family, the Roman
learned how to build their houses using brick and tile. They also derained the marshy
lowlands which surrounded Rome and layed out streets, created a city square, and
built temples. All of these things made Rome become one of the wealthiest cities in
In 1534, Superbus, better known as Tarquin the Proud, came to the throne to
rule over Rome. Due to his tyranncy, the angered Romans threw the Targuins out of
Rome and the high families of Rome formed and oligarchic republic.
During this time in Pome, there were two social groups. The patricians were
members of the wealthy aristocratic class in Rome, however patricians weren?t a very
large portion of Rome?s inhabitiants. A large majority of Rome?s people were plebian
and these people were nonarictocratic. Most plebeans were merchants, shopkeepers,
farmers, and laborers. As Roman citizens, both classes had the right to vote, had to
pay taxes, and both had to serve in the military. However, plebeians could not hold a
Rome?s government was organized, by the patricians, into two branches,
exectuive and legislative. The legislative branch consisted of an Assembly of Centuries
and the Senate. The Senate was a group consisting of 300 patricians who served for
life. The Senate over ruled the Assembly of the Centuries. They also advised the
consuls of the executive branch, peoposed laws, and over saw road construction, the
building of temples, and the military. The Assembly of the Centuries elected the
officials of the exectutive branch. The executive branch was headed by two consuls,
who were elected for one-year terms. These consuls would work together to oversee
the othr exectutive officals, such as judges, censors, tax keepers, and the keepers of
population records. During times of crisis, the Romans would appoint a dictator who
ruled over all of the executive officials, even the consuls. However, these dictators
would only serve for a short amount of time when they were needed.
In 494 BC, the plebeians became angry about their lack of power in the republic.
Many of them refused to serve in the miliatary unless thier demands for change was
met by the patricians. In 1451 BC, the patricians granted the plebians their wish.
Engraved on 12 bronze tablets, was the written law of code for Rome which ensured
that all calsses would be treated as equals. These 12 tables became known as The
Twelve Tablets, and they became the basis of all future Roman law.
The family was very important in Roman society. Roman families were very
large, consisting of all unmarried children, married sons and their families, all
dependent relatives, and the household slaves. The father of the family was in charge
of everything. He controlled property, performed religious ceremonies, and supervised
his son?s educations. He also had the right to sell any of the members of his family to
slavery, or even kill them. Roman women had few legal rights. The ran the usual house
hold chore that most women do, such as the marketing and overseeing their
households. However, some Roman women did aquire property and some wealty
women had slaves to work in their houses. The children of the faimlies were tought by
their parents to read and write. The fathers taught their sons how to farm and prosper,
while the mothers of the families taught their daughters how to over see the household.
Early Roman worshiped spirits of nature. These spirits were thought of as gods
and goddesses. The Romans had rituals which they would perform for thier deities. The
Romans also believed in fortune telling. They would often go to soothsayers , better
known as fortune tellers, to tell them of what was to come in the future. Families als
oprivately worshipped special spirits of their own from the Roman religion.
Military Sucess in Rome
Rome?s potential as a major power increased as Celt and Etrucian invasions
were fought off in the 390?s BC. Rome had a major sucess in 396 BC when Veii, an
Etrucian city close to Rome, was won over after a long battle. It was becoming obvious
that Rome was an expansion in power and this angered many of Rome?s Latin allies.
In 264 BC, Carthage threatened to seize the Straight of Messina. So, the
Romans sent a force to secure the waterway. When they did, a war began. The
Romans? army conquered most of the colonies of Carthage in Sisily. However, the
Carthaginians had an advantage when it came to naval battles and this gave Carthage
an advantage. The Romans built a larger fleet and in a battle off of the African coast,
the Romans pulled a surprise attack on Carthage by boarding their boats and fight
hang\d to hand combat. This rocedthe Cathaginians into a retreat and in 241 BC, the
Carthaginians surrendered and agreed to pay the Romans for the dmages they had
caused. They never gained bakc the sea or the cities in Sicily that they had lost.
In 221 BC, a young solider named Hannibal became general of the Cataginian
army in Spain. In 219 BC, Hannibal took over one of Rome?s allied cities in Spain.
Then, he decided to take war into Italy. He formed a huge army, consisting of 40,000
men and 40 elephants. He palnned to lead his soliders over the Alps to Italy. However,
before they reached Italy, half of his soliders were killed by starvation, sickness, the
cold, and attacks by the mountain people. Although they were outnumbered, Hannibals
troops defeated all of the Roman armies that were sent against them. In 216 BC,
Hannibal almost defeated the Romans in battle. However, the Romans found
volenteers who were willing to help the defeat hannibal and soon, Scipio, the Roman
general, and his forces defeated Hannibal. This victory force the Carthaginians to give
up most of thier warships, all of their land in Spain, and they had to pay for damages
In 146, the Romans decided to completely do away with Carthage and it?s
people. So, the Romans burned Carthage, sold it?s people to slavery, and sowed salt
into their soils so that no crops would grow. This gave Rome complete rule over the
After conquering all, Rome found that its motivating purpose was now gone and
suffered numerous internal difficulties. Rome?s conquests had brought thousands of
captives and prisoners of war to Rome to work as slaves,therefore slave labor was
cheap. Soon, slave labor began to replace paid labor and due to a lack of emplyment,
small farmer and rural workers poured into the cities of Rome seeking jobs. Jobs, of
course weren?t available, therefore a new class formed in the cities of Rome, the urban,
landless poor. Revolts began to break out amonst the slaves, however these were
never sucessful. As violence in Rome increased many people tried to propose reforms
which would narrow the social gap in Rome. In 133 BC, Graccus Brotehrs led a popular
movement for a land reform, syaing that they should take the land of the rich and give
some of it to the poor. However, the Roman Senate opposed both brother?s reforms
and they were both killed fighting for thier cause.
Gaius Marius, a strong general in Rome, did alot to transferpower to the Roman
army during those times. Then, and man named Sulla, drove Marius out of power and
he appointed himself dictator.
In 59 BC, the First Triumvirate, consisting of Julius Caesar, Crassus, and
Pompey came to power when Caesar was elected consul. Soon, Caesar was appointed
general of the Roman army. Caesar was a smart man and he knew how to rise to power
quickly in Rome, through the military. Caesar waged a series of brilliant military
campains and he added a large amount of territory to the Roman Empire in Belgium,
Frnace, and even Southern Great Britian. When he had finished his conquests,
however, the Triumvirate had dissolved. Crassus had died in battle, and Pompey had
turned against Caesar and had also turned the Senate against him as well. The Senate
declared Caesar an anemy of the state and they demandedthat he had over his
generalship at once. Caesar, however, had other plans. His troops were very loyal to
him, so in 49 BC, Caesar waged a Civil war against Pompey. In 48 BC, Caesar won the
war and Pompey was out of the picture. In 46 BC, Caesar returned to Rome and had
the SEnate appoint him dicator for ten years. Two years later he was appointeddictator
for life, and he was above nad beyond all laws of Rome. HOwever, soon after Caesar
appointed himself dictator for life, his rule began to look like a monarchy, which was
against the Roman Republican tradition. In 44 BC, on March 15, a group of
conspiritors, led by Cassius Longinus and Marcus Brutus, assasinated Caesar as he
entered the Senate in his usual mannor.
After Caesar?s death, his grand-nephew, Octavion joined with Marc Anthony and
Marcus Lepidus, two of Caesar?s government officers. In 42 BC, the second triunvirate
defeated Caesar?s asassins. Then, these three generals divided the ROman Emipre
into three equal parts, one section for each of them to rule. Soon, the second triunvirate
began to fall apart, jsut as the frist one did. Octavian forced Lepidus into retirement,
and soon after when Anthony married Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt, Octavion
convinced the Romans that Anthony intended to rule them with his foreign queen.
Octavion then declared war on Anthony in Romes name. A year later, Anothony and
Cleopatra kill themselves in Egypt to escape Octavious. With Anthony dead, Octavion
became ruler of Rome. This would mark the beginning of the Roman Empire.
The Roman Empire
Under the Roman Republic, military generals had taken power away from
elected officials. This made Octavion believe taht Rome needed a very strong leader.
The Senate agreed with him and in 27 BC, they appointed him consul, tribune, and
commander in chief for life. He then changed his name to Augustus.
With the coming of the Roman Empire, nothing really changed in Roman
freedom and equality. Augustus, however, was on a mission to restore order to Rome
and to even out equality in the empire. Augusus is in many way considered to be
Rome?s greatest leader. Augustus radically reformed the government to curb
corruption. He also extended Roman citizen ship to all Italians. He resettled his soliders
onto farmland, to ensure that enough crops would be grown to feed the Roman people
in times of crisis. He changed the military from being a volenteer army to a standing
professional army; Rome and it?s provinces became a police state. For the first time,
Rome bagan to build it?s empire, and the provinces settled down into peace and
prosparity. On top of all of these great achievements, Augustus did even more for
Rome. He began a vast project of building and patronage of the arts, and Roman
culture florished into a boom of creativity which would make this time period stand out
as the greatest cultural period in the history of Rome. The age of Augustus is known as
the Golden Age of Roman Literature, because during this time some of the greaest
poets of Rome flourished. Ausutus also patronised art and sculpture with the same
passion that he patronised literature. He began enormous projects building temples,
such as the Temple of Apollo, and the Roman Forum.
When Augustus died in 14 AD, Tiberius – Augustus? chosen heir – took the
throne. However, he spoiled his rule by accusing many innocent people of treason
against him and he withdrew himself from office. Caligula was murdered in 41 AD and
the emperor?s bodyguards forced the Senate to accept another emperor, Claudius. He
did much to make the office of emperor solid. Claudius also won many victories in
Britain in the year 43 AD.
It is believed that Claudius? wife Agrippina poisoned him to allow her son Nero to
move up to the thrown. Once emperor, Nero had his mother killed, persecuted
Christains, and possibly arranged the burning of Rome which occurred in 64 AD. He
built a great palace in the center of Rome?s rubble with a giant stature of himself inside.
When Spain revolted against him, Nero committed suicide. This ended the Augustus
reign and Sulpicius Galba, governor of Spain, took office.
Rome was in constant Civil War in 68 AD as the throne changed hands four
times. In 70 AD the emperor Titus captured Jerusalem. His brother Domitian followed
him. After the death of Nerva in 97, Trajan, Hadrian, the Antonine emperors, and the
Severan emperors reigned in a time of peace. Many buildings and statues were built in
Northern Africa during this time. The Colosseum and the Pantheon were also built in
Rome. The emperors during this time are known as the Good Emperors. They include
Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius. The empire came to the
height of its economic prosperity during this time.
The Roman Empire had grown to between 70 and 100 million citizens by the
time Augustus had come to power in 27 B.C. It is difficult to rule so many people
without an effectivly run government. Changes had to be made.
Augustus chose professional governors rather than letting the Senate appoint
inexperienced proconsuls every year. In Judea he left local kings in charge. He also
ordered new roads built so that he could stay in touch with all parts of the empire. He
also visited the areas often. Augustus dignified his own position by serving as pontifex
maximus, chief priest of Rome. This made himself and each emperor to come became
head of a national, unifying religion.
As the empire grew, the Romans felt they needed a new kind of law that would
apply to noncitizens. They created the jus gentium, or law that dealt with noncitizens,
as opposed to the jus civile, or citizen law. By the early 200?s A.D. emperors had given
citizenship to the peoples of so many nearby provinces that all free males in the empire
had been made full citizens of Rome, thus making the two laws one.
Romans usually emphasize the authority of the state over the individual. They
also gave people definite legal rights, one of which was that an accused person should
be considered innocent until proven guilty. This system, first used by the Romans, is
the foundation for the legal systems of many Western nations.
Augustus and later emperors kept the professional army. When peace prevailed
for a long period of time, Augustus reduced the number of legions and built up the
fighting force with troops recruited from the provincial peoples. There were only about
300,000 troops, which was not enough to defend a border with a length of 4,000 miles.
Because of this, by 160 A.D. invasions by peoples outside the empire had become a
problem to be delt with every day.
Roman Peace was dominate from 31 B.C. to A.D. 180. Great prosperity and
stability boosted trade and raised the standard of living for most citizens of the Empire.
To say that things were very good was not an understatement. Arts such as Italian
pottery, woven cloth, blown glass and jewelry went on sale to all people. Luxury items
like silk and spices from Southeast Asia was avaliable.. But with the prosperity came
many changes in the lifestyles of everyday citizens. The family became less significant
than it had been in the past. Romans had fewer children and divorced and remarried
often. In a nutshell, society became less stable.
With these changes came a pattern of life…wealthy people often held public
office, owned large farms, and generally had more influence over things. They also
lived more comfortably in large homes and farms. THe middle class grew.
Shopkeepers and artisans grew in number, but most Roman citizens remained poor,
living in shabby apartment buildings that often fell or burned down. But, depsite these
conditions, the poor did not revolt against the government because it gave them free
bread and entertainment. It was during this time that chariot races became very
popular in Rome. It seemed that the Romans were concentrated on having a good time
than actually working on bettering themselves.
The Appian Way, the first major Roman road, was built in the 300?s B.C. It
connected Rome and southeastern Italy. Many roads were built during this time to link
Rome with the provinces. This helped unite the empire.
Aqueducts, artificial channels for carrying water, were constructed by Roman
engineers. This was a giant breakrthrough toward modern water management.
As far as education goes in the Roman EMpire, wealthy boys and girls received
private lessons at home. The wealthy young men went on to study at academies where
former Greek slaves often taught. They learned geometry, astronomy, philosophy and
oratory. Girls continued to study at home, not in academies, and were just as educated
as the boys. Even kids in the lower classes had some education. They learned the
basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills needed to conduct business.
Latin was the language of the Roman Empire. I had a vocabulary far smaller
than that of Greek or modern English. Many words ment the same thing. Latin forms
the basis of many Romantic languages such as Italian, French, Spanish, and
Portuguese. It also is the root for half of all ENglish words.
Rome and Christianity
Early Romans worshiped nature spirits. Soon these spirits turned to deities.
Later, much of the Greek religion was taken on by the Romans. Deities still remained
an important part of their religious belief. Roman citizens were expected to honor the
emperor as Rome?s chief priest. But they were also allowed to worship freely so many
Christianity was one of those religions. It sprang up in the eastern
Mediterranean among the Jewish people. At first it was thought to be just a sect, or
group, within Judaism. But as Christains converted non-Jewish followers, the faith
grew beyond its Jewish roots and became a new religion.
Those practicing the new Christain religion in Judea were allowed to worship as
they wished, but were treated badly by the Roman EMpire. Christains believed that
their God would deliver them from Roman rule so they rebelled against the Roman
army in Jerusalem and overpowered them in A.D. 66. Another unsuccessful rebellion
followed. This caused the Romans to force the Jews out of Jeruselum, causing them to
scatter and live in other parts of the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
Before the rebellions, a man from Nazareth named Jesus brought his message
of love and forgivness to the people of Galilee and Judea. THe disciples that survived
after Jesus was put to death as a political rebel quickly spread Christianity among
non-Jews. It is believed that one of those deciples, Peter, actually established the first
Christain church in Rome. But Christains were persecuted. THe Romans were afraid
that Christain teachings rejected their deities. Many Christains were killed during this
time. Romans frequently threw Christain martyrs into the stadiums to be killed by wild
animals in front of cheering crowds. THis was a popular entertainment for Romans
during this time.
THe Roman general Constantine did much to spread CHristainity among the
Romans. He claimed that he had a vision in which the symbol of the cross had great
power to lead him to victory in battle. He ordered his soldiers to paint the Christain
symbol of the cross on their shields. WHen he won, he called it a victory for the
He became emperor of Rome in A.D. 312. He began protecting Christainity and
those who practiced it. He even ordered churches to be built in Rome and Jerusalem.
During this time missionary work flurished with the support of the government. MAny
churches were built and Christianity increased its influence in the Roman world. In
A.D. 392 the Emperor Theodosius made Christianity the official religion of the Roman
Empire. He banned the old Hellenistic and Roman religions.
EArly on Christians realized that in order to prosper they had to be organized.
THey wrote down their beliefs clearly in order to avoid differences of opinion that might
divide the church. Important men of religion attempted to explain Christian beliefs.
THey were known as Church Fathers. Augustine, a scholar born in North Africa in A.D.
354, was one of the most respected of the religious scholars. He became a leading
church official in North Africa. He wrote many influential letters, poems and sermons.
As the Christian church grew it began to organize itself into a hierarchy. It?s
levels of authority was built with each level being more powerful than the one below it.
Local gatherings, known as parishes, were led by priests. Several parishes got
together to form diocese, each overseen by a bishop. THese bishops interpreted
Christian beliefs for the people. Bishops from the major cities such as Rome were
known as patriarchs. These men were very powerful, determining what beliefs were
true and what were fals doctrine. In the 400s A.D. the bishop of Rome began to think
he was more powerful than the other bishops…that he should have more say in the
church?s affairs. Today the bishop of Rome is known the Pope.