Rome Empire

Founding of Rome - History's oldest empire

According to legend the founders of Rome were the twin demi-gods Romulus and Remus, sons of the War God Mars, their mother the Vestal Virgin Rhea Silvia, raised and suckled by a she wolf. Romulus killed Remus following a dispute and became the first King of Rome in 753BC. Despite the fairy tale nature of this account, the dates and names are probably correct. The Kingdom of Rome was part of the sophisticated decentralised Etruscan civilisation that thrived in modern day Tuscany. Rome was an elected monarchy with an appointed Senate made up of the city’s leading citizens. The Kingdom of Rome traditionally had seven Kings who reigned an average of 35 years each, a fact disputed by modern historians.

Roman Republic

In 509BC the last King of Rome, the tyrannical Tarquinius Superbus was overthrown following a sex scandal and supreme authority transferred to two annually election Consul’s who checked each other’s powers while remaining accountable to the Senate and elected officials. An elaborate structure of government was created which continues to inspire modern Constitutional Government to this day. Rome fought its first campaigns to both protect and expand their territory and by 396BC Rome controlled modern day Latium and Tuscany. In 390BC a Celtic invasion from Gaul (France) resulted in a Roman defeat and sacking of the city, including the destruction of the City’s ancient historical documents. For the next 200 years Rome and Gaul fought until Julius Caesar’s final victory in 52BC. By 382BC Rome controlled the middle part of Italy and following a war with Greek colonists dominated most of Italy by 275BC. Rome emerged victorious after three Punic Wars with the Carthaginians (modern Tunisia) and the end result in 146BC was Roman supremacy in the Western Mediterranean and control of Carthage’s empire in Iberia, northern Africa and the Mediterranean islands. Rome next focused its attention on the Greeks and between 215-148BC Rome defeated and absorbed Greece  into its Republican empire. During this time the discipline, organisation and strategic superiority of the Roman Legions developed, remaining an inspiration for military tacticians for centuries to come. Julius Caesar subjugated Gaul by 50BC and twice took his Legions to Britain. Civil War erupted between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great who was assassinated by Egypt’s Ptolemy XIII, brother of Cleopatra. Julius Caesar’s murder in the Senate on the Ides (15th) of March 44BC ultimately led to his adopted son Gaius Octavius Thurinus becoming Rome’s first emperor known as Augustus Caesar in 27BC.

Imperial Rome

Caesar became more a title than a family name and the first emperors used this title. The power of the emperor consolidated and many of the early rulers became synonymous with excess such as Nero and Caligula. Between 96-192AD the empire flourished economically, culturally and politically under the enlightened rule of the Nerva-Antonine Dynasty and in 112AD with Emperor Trajan’s conquest of Armenia and Mesopotamia (Iraq) and attack on Parthia (Iran), the empire peaked geographically covering 5,000,000 square kilometres of territory with 88,000,000 inhabitants, making the empire approximately 17 times larger than modern Italy. In 235AD the empire entered a 49 year period of intense political, economic and social peril when 25 emperors occupied the throne in quick succession. In 251AD a smallpox plague ravished the empire and was often blamed on Christians who were systematically targeted. However during Emperor Diocletian’s reign from 284-305AD his enlightened rule pulled the Roman Empire away from the abyss and gave the empire a period of stability in which it recovered somewhat. Diocletian believed the empire’s size made it ungovernable so created a co-emperor in 285AD, effectively dividing the empire in the Western Roman Empire which declined and fell in 476 following a series of Barbarian invasions beginning in the 390’s. The Eastern Roman Empire survived until 1453 and is known to history as the Byzantine Empire.