The Ancient Roman Empire

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The ancient Roman Empire changed due to recognition as the Romans conquered Italy and later the Mediterranean world. It embraced all the people of the empire. The economic base of the Roman society in throughout history remained to be agriculture (Garnsey & Saller, 2014). On top of the elaborate society expanded to be one of the largest and complex societies in the world, during the pre-industrial era.  The following information is about the ancient Roman Empire until its fall.

The ancient Roman Empire started as a group of villages. It was located on the central Tiber River in Italy. The villages combined to form a city named Rome. The city encompassed part of Europe, western Asia, Mediterranean islands, Britain, and North Africa. The Empire has many legacies like the use of Romance languages, the use of the calendar and alphabet, and Christianity which is the major religion worldwide. Rome became a republic after 450 years, in the rise of Julius Caesar and fall in the first century (Ando, 2013).  The reign of the first emperor was long and triumphant, by Augustus. The golden age was of prosperity and peace. But by contrast, the fall of the empire was the most dramatic in the history of civilization.

Myth about the Origin of Rome

It is believed that Rome was started by twin sons of Mars, Remus, and Romulus. The twins were left to drown on the Tiber by a king. The twins were rescued by a she-wolf, they lived to defeat the king who left them to drown, and they began their city near the banks of the river in 753 BC. Romulus killed Remus and became the first king, and the city was named for him.  Other kings from Sabine, Etruscan, and Latin followed in a succession that was not hereditary. The era of Rome ended in 509 BC, Lucius Tarquinius, the seventh king was overthrown. The ancient historians portrayed him as tyrannical and cruel when compared to the predecessors.  An uprising occurred over the rape of a noblewoman by the son of the king. Rome turned into a republic, from a monarchy.

Early Republic

The monarch passed its power to two magistrates who were elected annually; they were called consuls and acted as the army commanders in chief. The consuls were largely drawn from the Senate, even though they were elected by the people. The patricians dominated the Senate from the time of Romulus. The long struggle between the common people and the patricians marked the early republic politics. The people later attained some power through concessions from the patricians including the tribunes, their political parties, which could initiate legislation.

The first Roman law was inscribed in 450 BC, on bronze tablets and was displayed publicly on the Roman Forum. The laws issues included civil rights, the legal procedure, and property rights. It also provided the basis for the future civil law. By 300 BC, the political power was around the Senate which had members of patrician and the rich plebeian people at that time (Maine & Scala, 2017). 

Expansion of the military

The empire grew in power and size during the early republic. The Romans rebounded under the Camillus after the Gauls burned Rome in 390 BC. Under the leadership of Camillus, they eventually gained control over the Italian peninsula. Rome fought a series of Punic wars with a powerful state known as Carthage, in North Africa. When the first two wars ended, Rome became in full control of the western Mediterranean, Sicily, and part of Spain. The Romans took over the city of Carthage and sold the remaining inhabitants into slavery, part of northern Africa was made a province of the Roman Empire.  Rome spread the influence to the east and defeated Philip, king of Macedonia. Furthermore, it turned the kingdom into its province.

The military-led the empire to its cultural growth; it also benefitted greatly from the advanced cultures like Greek through contact. The first literature of Roman appeared at around 240 BC. It was translated to Latin. The Romans adopted much of the Greek religion, art, and philosophy.

Struggles in the late Republic

The political institutions began to fall under the expanding empire; it ushered a new era of internal violence and turmoil. The gap between the poor and the rich grew wider as the landowners drove the peasant farmers from the communal land and access to the government was limited to the privileged class. Attempts to address the issues led to the death of the reformers in the hands of their opponents. The reform movements of Gaius and Tiberius are a good example for the attempts to address the issues.

Gaius was a common person who had military prowess that elevated him to the consul position in 170 BC. He was the first among the series of warlords who dominated during the late republic. Marius was struggling with his opponents in 91 BC, including General Sulla, who became a dictator in 82BC.  When Sulla retired, Pompey took over as a consul briefly, before he waged military campaigns that were successful against the pirates in the forces of Mithridates in Asia and the Mediterranean. At the same time, Marcus Cicero defeated the patrician Cataline conspiracy and won the reputation as a great orator.

The rise of Caesar

When Pompey returned to Rome, he built an alliance with the wealthy Marcus Crassus, it was called the First Triumvirate, and also Julius Caesar, who was a star in Roman politics. Caser learned the military glory in Spain and later returned to Rome to be a consul. From the alliance with Crassus and Pompey, Caser got the governorship of three provinces in Gaul from 58BC. Caesar later wanted to conquer the rest of Rome.

The wife of Pompey died in 54 BC and later Crassus was killed the next year in the war against Parthia, present Iran. The alliance was broken. Pompey stepped in as a consul, with the old politics. The military glory of Caesar in Gaul and his wealth eclipsed that of Pompey; he teamed with the Senate to undermine Caesar. Caesar and his people crossed the Rubicon River between the Cisalpine and Italy. The invasion of Caser led to a civil war, from which Caesar emerged  as a dictator in 45 BC.

The reign of Augustus

Caesar was later killed after less than a year by his enemies who were led by Gaius Cassius and Marcus Junior. A nephew of Caesar adopted an heir, and Consul Mark teamed to bring down Cassius and Brutus. They divided the power with Lepidus who was an ex-consul; this was known as Second Triumvirate. Octavian led the western provinces, Lepidus led Africa, and Antony led the East. By 36 BC, tensions developed and the second triumvirate was dissolved. Octavian was victorious over the forces of Queen Cleopatra and Anthony of Egypt in a war of Actium.  Due to devastation, Cleopatra and Anthony committed suicide.

Octavian was the only leader of Rome and the provinces in 29 BC. He made sure that his leadership was accepted by restoring the political institutions of the republic and in reality retained the power for himself. Octavian assumed the title Augustus in 27 BC, the first emperor of Rome.

Era of Emperors

The rule of Augustus brought back the morale of the empire after a period of corruption and discord. The popular pax Romana was ushered in, two centuries of prosperity and peace. Augustus made various social reforms, allowed the Roman literature, religion, art, and architecture, and won military victories. Augustus ruled for 56 years and was supported by the army and the cult that was growing. The Senate elevated Augustus to be a god when he died; they began a long-run tradition of the deification of the emperors who were popular.

The dynasty of Augustus included the Tiberius, unstable and bloodthirsty Caligula, and Claudius who is remembered for conquering Britain with his army. The ruling line ended with Nero whose excesses drained the treasury and made him fall; he eventually killed himself.  After Nero’s death, four emperors took over in turbulent. The fourth emperor and his successors, Domitian and Titus, attempted to moderate the excesses of the Roman court, promote public welfare, and restore the Senate authority. Titus earned the devotion of his people through the recovery efforts after the eruption of Vesuvius, which destructed Pompeii and Herculaneum towns.

Nerva reigned from 96 to 98; he was selected by the Senate to take over Domitian, he began another golden era in the history of Rome, at that time, the four emperors took the throne and succeeded one another through adoption. The four emperors were Hadrian, Trajan, Marcus, and Antonius. Trajan expanded the borders of Rome to the greatest extent with victories over Parthia and Dacia Kingdoms. Hadrian solidified the frontiers of the emperor and continued with the work of Trajan and established stability and instituted reforms in the administration. Under the rule of Antonius, there was prosperity and peace, But Marcus and Aurelius's reigns had conflicts. They fought with Armenia and Parthia and also invaded the Germanic tribes. When Marcus died near the battlefield, the tradition of the non-hereditary ruling was broken. He named Commodus, his son as the successor.

The decline

Commodus was incompetent and corrupt; he brought down the emperor to a disappointing end. Commodus died in the hands of his ministers; this sparked another session of civil war. Lucius Septimus won the war. Rome suffered from a cycle of constant conflict during the third century. 22 emperors took over the throne, most of them found themselves on the hands of the soldiers who propelled them to leadership. Threats from the outside hindered the empire and the riches were depleted, and it was raided by Goths.

The ruling of Diocletian restored prosperity and peace temporarily. The power was divided into tetrarchy; he shared his title with Maximian. Two generals, Constantius and Galerius, were appointed to be assistants and successors of Maximian and Diocletian. Galerius and Diocletian reigned the eastern Roman empire while Constantius and Maximian rule the west.

The stability of the system was weak after the rule of Maximian and Diocletian. The son of Constantius, Constantine came from the ensuing power struggles as a single emperor of the Rome which was reunified. The Roman capital was moved to the Greek city which was renamed Constantinople. Constantine made Christianity an official religion in 325 at the council of Nicaea (Elton, 2013).

The unity of the empire under the leadership of Constantine was an illusion. After his death, the western and eastern empires were divided again. The eastern Roman Empire remained intact for centuries, despite the war against the Persian forces. In the west, it was a different story; it was wracked by threats from abroad and internal conflicts and was losing its wealth steadily due to the constant wars.

The empire collapsed eventually and lost its provinces one by one. In 476, Odovacar took over the Roman army in Italy. The troops of Odovacar proclaimed Romulus Augustus as a king after deposing the west emperor; the king brought the ignoble end to the history of Ancient Rome.

The impact of the Roman Empire expansion

The obvious impact of the expansion was the Romanization of the conquered Italy. The evidence of the impact can be seen in the archeological evidence; the Italian and Greek towns were remodeled gradually along with the Roman lines. The forums and temples had Roman styles; they can be distinguished. The replacement of Etruscan can tell the impact, the inscription of the Greek and Samnite using Latin.

Rome planted many colonies of Roman people in the Italian peninsula. Small towns were incorporated into the territory of Rome, and the people became Roman citizens. The larger towns were given the Latin Rights which offered the inhabitants the rights of citizenship except the right to participate in voting and standing for Roman offices (Hingley, 2014).  The small towns and colonies were used for Romanization and Latin was the predominant language.


Various factors contributed to the rise of the ancient Roman Empire. The factors included society, religion, strong military, and the architectural aspects of the empire. It was the most powerful empire without a doubt in the Mediterranean. There was no single cause of to the decline and fall of the empire, but it was because of the many things that occurred in succession to each other. The powerful empire, the great Rome, greatest power to rule had fallen. The fall was unthinkable. The faults in economics, politics, and other things contributed to the decline and fall. The leaders of the world should look at the mistakes that happened in Rome and be sure not to do the same.

There was no time when the empire was considered to decline. Some historians believe that it was in 476 AD.  Even after the fall, the people who lived in the empire considered themselves as the Roman citizens. The world has adopted many ways of life from Rome. Every civilization was influenced by the empire.

The Roman power of the old republic made a unique system of power division. It was safeguarded against oppression from the people. The power was with the public through voting. The process allowed the people to have a say on the operation of the government, although it was not perfect. Officials and representatives were elected. This only happened as long as there were games, grain, and festivals, the common citizens were happy. The government changed and became the sole decision maker, under the rule of the emperor. Taking into account the ancient time and the forms of government, and its limited elements of representative, the empire should remain an example of a successful government.


Ando, C. (2013). Imperial ideology and provincial loyalty in the Roman Empire (Vol. 6). Univ of California Press.

Maine, H. S., & Scala, D. J. (2017). Ancient law. Routledge.

Hingley, R. (2014). Romanization. In Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology (pp. 6373-6380). Springer, New York, NY.

Elton, H. (2013). Frontiers of the Roman Empire. Routledge.

Garnsey, P., & Saller, R. (2014). The Roman Empire: economy, society and culture. Univ of California Press.

November 24, 2023



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