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Roman History Essay, Research Paper


The Land

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

government office.

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.

Roman Rule

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

religions grew.

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

Christain God.

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.


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