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In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, encompassing the Roman Kingdom (753 BC–509 BC), Roman Republic (509 BC–27 BC) and Roman Empire (27 BC–476 AD) until the fall of the western empire. The civilization began as an Italic settlement in the Italian Peninsula, conventionally founded in 753 BC, that grew into the city of Rome and which subsequently gave its name to the empire over which it ruled and to the widespread civilisation the empire developed. The Roman Empire expanded to become one of the largest empires in the ancient world, though still ruled from the city, with an estimated 50 to 90 million inhabitants (roughly 20% of the world's population at the time)) and covering 5.0 million square kilometres at its height in AD 117.

In its many centuries of existence, the Roman state evolved from a elective monarchy to a democratic classical republic and then to an increasingly autocratic semi-elective military dictatorship of the empire. Through conquest, cultural, and linguistic assimilation, at its height it controlled the North African coast, Egypt, Southern Europe, and most of Western Europe, the Balkans, Crimea and much of the Middle East, including Levant and parts of Mesopotamia and Arabia. It is often grouped into classical antiquity together with ancient Greece, and their similar cultures and societies are known as the Greco-Roman world.

Ancient Roman civilisation has contributed to modern language, religion, society, technology, law, politics, government, warfare, art, literature, architecture and engineering. Rome professionalised and expanded its military and created a system of government called res publica, the inspiration for modern republics such as the United States and France. It achieved impressive technological and architectural feats, such as the construction of an extensive system of aqueducts and roads, as well as the construction of large monuments, palaces, and public facilities.

The Punic Wars with Carthage were decisive in establishing Rome as a world power. In this series of wars Rome gained control of the strategic islands of Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily; took Hispania (modern Spain and Portugal); and destroyed the city of Carthage in 146 BC, giving Rome supremacy in the Mediterranean. By the end of the Republic (27 BC), Rome had conquered the lands around the Mediterranean and beyond: its domain extended from the Atlantic to Arabia and from the mouth of the Rhine to North Africa. The Roman Empire emerged with the end of the Republic and the dictatorship of Augustus Caesar. 721 years of Roman–Persian Wars started in 92 BC with their first war against Parthia. It would become the longest conflict in human history, and have major lasting effects and consequences for both empires.

Under Trajan, the Empire reached its territorial peak. It stretched from the entire Mediterranean Basin to the beaches of the North Sea in the north, to the shores of the Red and Caspian Seas in the East. Republican mores and traditions started to decline during the imperial period, with civil wars becoming a prelude common to the rise of a new emperor. Splinter states, such as the Palmyrene Empire, would temporarily divide the Empire during the crisis of the 3rd century.

Plagued by internal instability and attacked by various migrating peoples, the western part of the empire broke up into independent "barbarian" kingdoms in the 5th century. This splintering is a landmark historians use to divide the ancient period of universal history from the pre-medieval "Dark Ages" of Europe. The eastern part of the empire endured through the 5th century and remained a power throughout the "Dark Ages" and medieval times until its fall in 1453 AD. Although the citizens of the empire made no distinction, the empire is most commonly referred to as the "Byzantine Empire" by modern historians during the Middle Ages to differentiate between the state of antiquity and the nation it grew into.

Bust of Gaius Julius Caesar.
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The Marian reforms of 107 BC were a group of military reforms initiated by Gaius Marius, a statesman and general of the Roman republic. Up until the last decade of the second century BC the eligibility to become a Roman soldier in the service of the Republic were very strict.

When war threatened, the consuls of the day would be charged with the duty of recruiting an army from the eligible citizenry of the Republic. As a rule one of the consuls would lead this mainly volunteer army into battle. As can be imagined, not all elected consuls were adept at leading an army. For example, in the year 113 BC the consul Gnaeus Papirius Carbo was defeated at the Battle of Noreia by invading tribes of the Cimbri and the Teutons, losing all but 20,000 men out of an army of 200,000. This disaster was followed by a protracted war in Africa against King Jugurtha of Numidia.

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The Villa of the Mysteries (Italian: Villa dei Misteri) is a well preserved ruin of a Roman Villa which lies some 400 metres northwest of Pompeii, southern Italy. In this fresco from the villa, a Bacchian rite is depicted.

The Villa of the Mysteries (Italian: Villa dei Misteri) is a well preserved ruin of a Roman Villa which lies some 400 metres northwest of Pompeii, southern Italy. In this fresco from the villa, a Bacchian rite is depicted.

Photo credit: The Yorck Project

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Faustina Minor Louvre Ma1144.jpg
Annia Galeria Faustina Minor (Minor Latin for the younger), Faustina Minor or Faustina the Younger (February 16 between 125 and 130-175) was a daughter of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius and Roman Empress Faustina the Elder. She was a Roman Empress and wife to her maternal cousin Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. She was the namesake of her mother. Faustina from her parent’s marriage was the youngest and the fourth child, second daughter and the only one who survived to adulthood from her siblings. She was born and raised in Rome.

Her great uncle Roman Emperor Hadrian had arranged with her father for Faustina to marry Lucius Verus. On February 25 138, she was engaged to Lucius Verus. Verus’ father was Hadrian’s first adopted son and intended successor for the emperor’s throne. However when Verus’ father died, Hadrian adopted Faustina’s father as his second adopted son and eventually, he became Hadrian’s successor.

Did you know?

  • ...That according to Suetonius, Caligula "often sent for men whom he had secretly killed, as though they were still alive, and remarked offhandedly a few days later that they must have committed suicide"?
  • ...That Mark Antony, who avenged Julius Caesar, was killed by Julius Caesar's grand nephew (Octavian) Augustus Caesar?
  • ...That Sulla's grave read No friend ever surpassed him in kindness, and no enemy in ill-doing?

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