History of Roman Empire – The Ancient Rome introduction and Rise of Roman Empire

Roman Empire, History of Roman Empire, Ancient Rome, Rise of Roman Empire

The Roman Empire left a lasting impact on multiple disciplines, including law, politics, architecture, engineering, literature, and language. Rome’s legendary roots trace back to the Latin city of Alba Longa. There, Mars’ twin newborn boys and a priestess were sentenced to death by their great-uncle. Romulus and Remus were rescued by a she-wolf and fostered by a humble shepherd. As young men, they went out to build their own city, but Remus was assassinated by his brother over its site.

As king, Romulus established Rome a “asylum city,” which swiftly drew undesirable characters from throughout the Italian peninsula. To accommodate the predominantly male population, young women were taken from nearby cities and tribes, resulting in the infamous “rape of the Sabine women.” After a few years, Romulus and the Sabine king agreed to co-rule.

Roman Empire Kings

What occurred next would be repeated throughout Rome’s history; the ruler died mysteriously or violently. First, Titus Tatius, the Sabine king, perished in a riot. Then, Romulus vanished during a storm. In the myth, he evolved into the god Quirinus and fled this world. He was most likely slain by political rivals.

Key Roman components emerged under the reign of the second king, Numa Pompilius, including the twelve-month calendar, the Vestal Virgins, and the role of Pontifex, or priest. Numa was succeeded by five monarchs, including Tarquin the Proud, who assassinated his predecessor and was ousted by the people. The ‘free Republic of Rome’ was founded in the sixth century BCE.

The Roman Republic

Only a few aristocratic families, known as the patricians, wielded political and ecclesiastical authority. The plebeians, who made up the majority of Rome’s population, were barred. However, between 494 and 287 BCE, protests resulted in some changes, such as the institution of the Concilium Plebis, specialised tribunes, and the Twelve Tables of Written Law. The affluent plebeians, or equestrian class, gained the same rights as the patricians throughout time. However, many of the adjustments were superficial, and little changed for the poor.

In the years that followed, the Republic was virtually constantly at war as it consolidated power over all of Italy. By 130 BCE, Rome had pushed into North Africa and Spain during the Punic Wars with Carthage, establishing itself as a Mediterranean superpower. The consul, Marius, restructured the military.

By 102 BCE, soldiers had been compensated for their service and granted lands upon retirement. Wealthy individuals utilised their money to form loyal private armies. Corruption and greed in Rome sparked civil wars beginning in 88 BCE, when Marius’ adversary, General Sulla, marched his army into Rome. Sulla finally triumphed and became consul.

Julius Caesar Era

Rome readied for civil war again in 49 BCE, when General Julius Caesar, the Gaulish hero, crossed the Rubicon River into Italy with his troops. He was going to face up against both the Senate and Pompey, his erstwhile buddy and political ally. Pompey led a disastrous military campaign. He was slain on the instructions of Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII, who intended to curry favour with Caesar. Instead, a tragic encounter between Ptolemy’s sister, Cleopatra, and Caesar resulted in a renowned love affair and the Pharaoh’s death.

Caesar’s humane treatment of his opponents in Rome further added to his heroic stature. The Senate designated Caesar an absolute ruler for 10 years, but he overreached his authority. After declaring himself Dictator for Life in 44 BCE, he virtually signed his own death sentence.

On the Ides of March, he was stabbed to death by around 40 senators on the floor of the government building. The Republic’s Liberators faced Roman fury. Civil conflict began again, involving Caesar’s loyal friend General Mark Anthony, his beloved Cleopatra, and Caesar’s nephew and successor Octavian. Following the deaths of Anthony and Cleopatra, Octavian became victorious. Egypt, with its critical grain production, fell under Rome’s power. It marked the end of the Republic and the start of the Empire.

The Early Roman Empire

Octavian, renamed Augustus, was proclaimed “emperor, son of the god Caesar” in 27 BCE. Augustus, as the only monarch, kept the Republic alive, if only in name. The Senate was primarily responsible for legitimising the Emperor’s choices. Augustus’ 41-year reign was a golden period. Peace prevailed; there was wealth and stability, and culture thrived. Augustus established a road network and courier system.

He built a standing army and the Praetorian Guard, as well as separate police and firefighting agencies in Rome. He also took on a massive reconstruction project for the city. The Roman Empire expanded significantly, reaching into central Europe, and the conquest of Spain was complete. However, the loss of three legions in Germania in 9AD marked the end of Rome’s push into the region.

When Augustus died in 14 AD, his stepson Tiberius replaced him. He was a capable but indifferent ruler. Instead, he gave authority to Sejanus, the ambitious head of the Praetorian Guard. After Sejanus murdered Tiberius’ heirs, the Emperor became paranoid and embarked on a killing rampage, believing he was surrounded by foes. Ironically, Caligula, his successor, may have murdered him in 37 AD.

Caligula was initially popular, but his real character quickly became apparent. Over the course of four years, he called himself a living god, murdered numerous people, including family members, and engaged in incestuous relationships with his sisters. The Praetorian Guard assassinated him and replaced him with his uncle, Claudius. Claudius never expected to become emperor.

Due to physical limitations, he had to live as a scholar outside of public view. Despite his lack of expertise, Claudius was an effective administrator, ordering the construction of several roads, aqueducts, and canals throughout the empire. During his 13-year reign, the effective conquest of Britain commenced.

He died in 54 AD, perhaps at the hands of his fourth wife, leaving his son, Nero, to take his place. Everyone is familiar with the legend that Nero “fiddled while Rome burned.” He attributed the destructive Great Fire of 64 AD on the Christians, a problematic religion. The fire diverted public attention away from the empire’s empty coffers as a result of his excessive spending. Nero was greatly loathed and frequently defeated his opponents. Eventually, the troops and Praetorian Guard revolted, and the Senate labelled him an enemy of Rome, prompting his suicide in 68 AD.

The Flavians

Nero left no heirs. Over the next year, four men competed for the crown. The fourth, Vespasian, an equestrian general, succeeded in 69 AD. During his 10-year rule, Vespasian worked hard to restore the empire’s finances and establish numerous notable buildings, notably Rome’s iconic Colosseum. Much of its construction was funded by seized artefacts from Jerusalem’s temple. Before becoming Emperor, Vespasian served as governor of Judea, and his son, Titus, gained a reputation for himself by putting down the Jewish opposition in that region.

Titus ruled for barely two years before his brother replaced him in 81 AD. Domitian possessed an authoritarian inclination but appeared to have the backing of both the population and the troops. Rome flourished under his 15-year reign. But he got on the wrong side of judicial authorities, who ordered his murder.

The Nerva-Antonine Dynasty

The second century AD was characterised by relative stability under the Nerva-Antonine emperors. Unusually, they were primarily adopted by their forefathers rather than biological heirs. They featured leaders like Trajan, a charismatic military commander who pushed the empire from the Caspian Sea to Scotland; Hadrian, whose famed wall served as a bulwark against roving Scottish tribes in Britannia; and Marcus Aurelius, a philosopher and warrior. His son, Commodus, was an inept egomaniac who imagined himself a gladiator. In 192 AD, he was strangled by his trainer on orders from the Praetorian prefect.

The Late Roman Empire

The death of Commodus marked the beginning of the Imperial Crisis, which lasted a century. Over the course of five decades, twenty-nine emperors rose to power by intrigues and brutal murder. In 284 AD, Diocletian, a former soldier, attempted to bring order to the chaos. He divided the Roman Empire in two: he controlled the eastern section, which was primarily Greek, while his buddy, Maximian, ruled the western part, which was Latin.

They were senior emperors given the title “Augustus”. Junior emperors or “Caesars” controlled each half. This tetrarchy, or “rule of four,” lasted just around 30 years, yet it brought peace and stability. Christians struggled under the new administration as they refused to worship Diocletian, who saw himself as the earthly representation of Jupiter. Churches were demolished, sacred literature destroyed, and followers were punished. However, this strengthened Christianity and led to the resignation of Diocletian and Maximian in 305 AD.

Infighting erupted about who would legally succeed them. Constantine, the son of the former western Caesar, was triumphant. Constantine The Great Constantine, who formerly ruled the Western Empire, legalised Christianity, saying that Christ had guided him to victory over his opponents. He avoided alienating individuals who practiced traditional religions. In the east, his counterpart, Licinius, had punished the significant Christian minority for fear that they would revolt in favour of Constantine.

In 324 AD, Constantine and Licinius fought in Byzantium. Constantine’s victory saw the east and west unified under a single monarch. In the years that followed, Christianity thrived, and many of the less savoury customs of the past were prohibited, including ritual sacrifices, gladiatorial games, and crucifixion as a manner of execution. In just six years, Byzantium was transformed into a stunning Roman capital.

New Rome, as it was known during Constantine’s reign, was located on vital trade routes connecting the empire’s eastern and western borders. Eventually renamed Constantinople, it drew individuals from all across the empire in quest of a better life. The Roman Empire eventually split into east and west again. The Western Roman Empire crumbled in 476 AD, following years of defending itself against barbarian military and political intrigues. The Eastern Empire survived as the Byzantine Empire until 1453, when it fell to the Ottoman Turks. After nearly a millennium, the Roman Empire came to an end.

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