In the 800ís and 700ís BC, Italy was largely undeveloped and its inhabitants, primarily Hellenic and Etruscan people, were not as advanced as the Greeks. In centuries to come, Rome would rise to power and bring with it many advances in civilization. This is strongly supported by the theory of cultural diffusion, claiming that civilization eventually spread westward from the Nile River valley and Greece to Italy.
Bringing the tide of civilization from the East was the Etruscans who settled in mountainous north Italy and migrated south until they were stopped at Cumae in 524 BC by the Greeks. The Etruscans were masters of augury, which is the observing of birds in relation to the sky, and haruspices, which is the examination of animal livers. By pursuing these practices, the Etruscans felt that they became more in touch with their gods: Tinia, Uni, and Menerva. The Etruscan influence on the Romans is evident by the Romanís adoption of Etruscan gods. Tinia, Uni and Menerva are very similar to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva respectively.
|The Tiber River is vital for the trade of central Italy. It is controlled easily by an island it surrounds approximately fifteen miles from its mouth. Occupation of this Tiber island is dependent on the control of seven hills along the bank of the river. The Palatine, the most important of all these hills, is the site where Romulus allegedly founded the Roman culture in 753 BC.|
Patricians, the high class of Rome, developed a senate and elected two rulers, called consuls, annually. Commoners living in Rome elected a tribune to protect their rights. Somewhat of a battle for equality took place between the Patricians and the Plebeians lasting from the installment of the republic for nearly two hundred years. The publishing of the Twelve Tables in 450 BC made the procedures of Roman law known to all and contributed to the equality of the masses.
Rome's potential as a major power increased as Celt and Etruscan invasions were rebuffed in the 390's BC. Rome had a major success in 396 BC when Veii, an Etruscan city close to Rome, was won after a long battle. It was becoming obvious that Rome was an expansionist power. Many of Rome's Latin allies were angered by Rome's rise to power. The Latin War, started in 340 BC, proved that Rome was superior as it emerged as the dominant power in Italy.
As Rome went into the first Punic War in 264 BC, its power in Italy spanned the whole peninsula as far north as Ariminum. Rome's motivation for all three of the Punic Wars was to defeat the African city of Carthage and gain Mediterranean dominance. They built an army of one hundred ships and experienced growing success, as they became masters of naval war. The Romans won Sicily in 241 BC. In the Second Punic War (218-201 BC) they defeated General Hannibal of Carthage and in the Third Punic War (149-146 BC) the Romans seized the city of Carthage itself. Encouraged by these victories, Rome defeated Syria and then Macedonia to gain rule over the western Hellenistic world.
Throughout this time of conquest, there was much progress being made within Rome. Many structures were built, including the Circus Flaminius in 221 BC, the Basilica Aemilia in 179 BC, and several triumphal arches to commend victories. Andronicus, the first Roman playwright, was popularized in the 240's BC and the poet Ennius came to Rome in 204 BC. Greek art and philosophy were introduced and Cato published his history of Rome in 149 BC.
After conquering all, Rome found that its motivating purpose was now gone and suffered numerous internal difficulties. The Gracchus brothers led a popular movement for land reform, but were put down by the Patricians. Gaius Marius, a strong general, did much to transfer power to the Roman Army. Sulla and then Pompey succeeded Marius as dictators of Rome. The famous Julius Caesar challenged Pompey and took control of Rome. The Roman Republic came to an end in 44 BC when Caesar was assassinated.
Taking Julius Caesar's place was Mark Antony, Aemilius Lepidus, and Octavian Caesar; the famous triumvirate. In 31 BC, the ambitious Octvian defeated Antony and became emperor of the Roman world. Having unbelievable fame amongst the Romans, Octavian gave all his power to the Senate to create a "restored republic" knowing that the Senate would give his some central role in government. The Senate did respond as Octavian had expected by offering the administration of many Roman provinces, including Spain, Egypt, and Gual. This placed him in control of nearly all Rome's military strength and he was given the title Augustus. More powers soon followed making the first emperor of Rome a legend.
When Augustus died in 14 AD, Tiberius -Augustus' chosen heir- took the throne. He had little success in dealing with the Senate and he withdrew himself from office. Tiberius' great-nephew Gaius Julius, or Caligula, was next to take the empire which Augustus had created. Caligula was murdered in 41 AD, and the Praetorian Guard (emperor's bodyguards) forced the Senate to accept another emperor, Claudius. Claudius did much to solidify the office of emperor and won victories in Britain in 43 AD.
Claudius' wife Agrippina likely poisoned him to get her son Nero into the throne. Once emperor, Nero had his mother killed, persecuted Christians, 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 Gaul and Spain revolted, Nero committed suicide ending 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 and consolidation. Many buildings and statues were built in Northern Africa during this time. The Colosseum and the Pantheon were also built in Rome during this period.
From 235 to 284 AD Rome was in disorder as Germans, Goths, and Persians attacked. Many military figures became emperors and were quickly deposed by others. In 284 AD, Diocletian, traditional militaristic Roman, introduced reforms that bought Rome back to order. He divided the Empire in half and appointed two rulers for both west and east Rome. In 302 AD, Diocletian banned Christians from the Roman Army. He brought religion into the office of emperor and made the position a "divine monarchy."
In 312 AD, Constantine, proclaimed ruler by Britain, defeated Maxentius to become the absolute ruler of Rome. He was a very religious Christian and converted Rome into a Christian society. Constantine tried to counter alien attacks by creating more mobile forces, which could respond quickly, but lack of manpower made the idea unworkable. Constantine's biggest contribution to Rome was the founding of the new capitol of Rome, Constantinople. Constantine was baptized shortly before he died in 337 AD.
From 378 AD on the divided Rome was slowly killed by various attackers. In 363 AD, Persians captured Mesopotamia. Goths ravaged Rome in 410. Vandals infiltrated Gaul and Spain. In 476 AD, Romulus Augustus was deposed and west Rome dies. The great wealth of east Rome maintained the government and it lived until 1453 AD.
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