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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 civilisation began as an Italic settlement in the Italian Peninsula, traditionally dated to 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 civilization was led and ruled by the Romans, alternately considered an ethnic group or a nationality. The Roman Empire expanded to become one of the largest empires in the ancient world, 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 million square kilometres (1.9 million square miles) at its height in AD 117.
In its many centuries of existence, the Roman state evolved from an elective monarchy to a democratic classical republic and then to an increasingly autocratic semi-elective military dictatorship during 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 Anatolia, 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. Seven-hundred and twenty-one years of Roman–Persian Wars started in 92 BC with the first struggle 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 before some stability was restored in the Tetrarchy phase of imperial rule.
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. The eastern part of the empire remained a power through the Middle Ages until its fall in 1453 AD. Read more...
Selected article -
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles throughout history. Often when a given Roman is described as becoming "emperor" in English, it reflects his taking of the title Augustus or Caesar. Another title often used was imperator, originally a military honorific. Early emperors also used the title Princeps Civitatis ('first citizen'). Emperors frequently amassed republican titles, notably princeps senatus, consul and pontifex maximus.
The legitimacy of an emperor's rule depended on his control of the army
and recognition by the Senate
; an emperor would normally be proclaimed by his troops, or invested with imperial titles by the Senate, or both. The first emperors reigned alone; later emperors would sometimes rule with co-emperors and divide administration of the empire between them. Read more...
The following are images from various ancient Rome-related articles on Wikipedia.
A multigenerational banquet depicted on a wall painting from Pompeii (1st century AD)
Bread stall, from a Pompeiian wall painting
The Barbarian Invasions consisted of the movement of (mainly) ancient Germanic peoples into Roman territory. Even though northern invasions took place throughout the life of the Empire, this period officially began in the 4th century and lasted for many centuries, during which the western territory was under the dominion of foreign northern rulers, a notable one being Charlemagne. Historically, this event marked the transition between classical antiquity and the Middle Ages.
The Roman siege and destruction of Jerusalem, from a Western religious manuscript, c.1504
Slave holding writing tablets for his master (relief from a 4th-century sarcophagus)
Condemned man attacked by a leopard in the arena (3rd-century mosaic from Tunisia)
Glass cage cup from the Rhineland, latter 4th century
Toga-clad statue, restored with the head of the emperor Nerva
Fragment of a sarcophagus depicting Gordian III and senators (3rd century)
Solidus issued under Constantine II, and on the reverse Victoria, one of the last deities to appear on Roman coins, gradually transforming into an angel under Christian rule
The cities of the Roman world in the Imperial Period. Data source: Hanson, J. W. (2016), Cities database, (OXREP databases). Version 1.0. (link).
Mosaic depicting a theatrical troupe preparing for a performance
Amphitheatres of the Roman Empire
Reconstruction of a writing tablet: the stylus was used to inscribe letters into the wax surface for drafts, casual letterwriting, and schoolwork, while texts meant to be permanent were copied onto papyrus.
The Triumph of Neptune floor mosaic from Africa Proconsularis (present-day Tunisia), celebrating agricultural success with allegories of the Seasons, vegetation, workers and animals viewable from multiple perspectives in the room (latter 2nd century)
A teacher with two students, as a third arrives with his loculus, a writing case that would contain pens, ink pot, and a sponge to correct errors
Gold earrings with gemstones, 3rd century
Spread of Seuso at Lacus Pelso (Lake Balaton)
Wall painting (1st century AD) from Pompeii depicting a multigenerational banquet
Aquae Sulis in Bath, England: architectural features above the level of the pillar bases are a later reconstruction.
A late Republican banquet scene in a fresco from Herculaneum, Italy, c. 50 BC; the woman wears a transparent silk gown while the man to the left raises a rhyton drinking vessel
Wall painting depicting a sports riot at the amphitheatre of Pompeii, which led to the banning of gladiator combat in the town
An Ostian taberna for eating and drinking; the faded painting over the counter pictured eggs, olives, fruit and radishes.
Roman hunters during the preparations, set-up of traps, and in-action hunting near Tarraco
Stone game board from Aphrodisias: boards could also be made of wood, with deluxe versions in costly materials such as ivory; game pieces or counters were bone, glass, or polished stone, and might be coloured or have markings or images
Construction on the Flavian Amphitheatre, more commonly known as the Colosseum (Italy), began during the reign of Vespasian.
Boys and girls playing ball games (2nd century relief from the Louvre)
The Roman empire under Hadrian (ruled 117–138) showing the location of the Roman legions deployed in 125 AD
Relief panel from Trajan's Column showing the building of a fort and the reception of a Dacian embassy
Pride in literacy was displayed in portraiture through emblems of reading and writing, as in this example of a couple from Pompeii (Portrait of Paquius Proculo).
Head of Constantine the Great, part of a colossal statue. Bronze, 4th century, Musei Capitolini, Rome.
Forum of Gerasa (Jerash in present-day Jordan), with columns marking a covered walkway (stoa) for vendor stalls, and a semicircular space for public speaking
A bust of Cicero, Capitoline Museums, Rome
The bronze Drunken Satyr, excavated at Herculaneum and exhibited in the 18th century, inspired an interest among later sculptors in similar "carefree" subjects.
Workers at a cloth-processing shop, in a painting from the fullonica of Veranius Hypsaeus in Pompeii
Birds and fountain within a garden setting, with oscilla (hanging masks) above, in a painting from Pompeii
Cinerary urn for the freedman Tiberius Claudius Chryseros and two women, probably his wife and daughter
The Roman Empire in 117 AD at its greatest extent, at the time of Trajan's death (with its vassals in pink)
Portrait of a literary woman from Pompeii (ca. 50 AD)
Selected biography -
Justinian I (; Latin: Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus; Greek: Ἰουστινιανός, translit. Ioustinianós; 11 May 482 – 14 November 565), also known as Justinian the Great (Greek: ὁ Μέγας, romanized: ho Megas), was the Eastern Roman emperor from 527 to 565.
His reign is marked by the ambitious but only partly realized renovatio imperii
, or "restoration of the Empire". This ambition was expressed by the partial recovery of the territories of the defunct Western Roman Empire
. His general, Belisarius
, swiftly conquered the Vandal Kingdom
in North Africa. Subsequently, Belisarius, Narses
, and other generals conquered the Ostrogothic kingdom
, restoring Dalmatia
, and Rome
to the empire after more than half a century of rule by the Ostrogoths. The praetorian prefect Liberius
reclaimed the south of the Iberian peninsula
, establishing the province of Spania
. These campaigns re-established Roman control over the western Mediterranean, increasing the Empire's annual revenue by over a million solidi
. During his reign, Justinian also subdued the Tzani
, a people on the east coast of the Black Sea
that had never been under Roman rule before. He engaged the Sasanian Empire
in the east during Kavad I
's reign, and later again during Khosrow I
's; this second conflict was partially initiated due to his ambitions in the west. Read more...
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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Photo credit: 3dnatureguy
Marcus Aurelius (April 26, 121 CE. – March 17, 180 CE.), was Roman Emperor from CE 161 to 180 who defeated several significant invasions and put down a revitalisation of the Parthian Empire. His Stoic tome Meditations, which he wrote while on campaign, is still revered as a literary monument to a philosophy of service and duty.
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||[...] Caesar is a god in his own city. Outstanding in war or peace, it was not so much his wars that ended in great victories, or his actions at home, or his swiftly won fame, that set him among the stars, a fiery comet, as his descendant. There is no greater achievement among Caesar's actions than that he stood father to our emperor. Is it a greater thing to have conquered the sea-going Britons; to have lead his victorious ships up the seven-mouthed flood of the papyrus-bearing Nile; to have brought the rebellious Numidians, under Juba of Cinyps, and Pontus, swollen with the name of Mithridates, under the people of Quirinus; to have earned many triumphs and celebrated few; than to have sponsored such a man, with whom, as ruler of all, you gods have richly favoured the human race? Therefore, in order for the emperor not to have been born of mortal seed, Caesar needed to be made a god. [...]
Augustus, his 'son', will ensure that he ascends to heaven as a god, and is worshipped in the temples. Augustus, as heir to his name, will carry the burden placed upon him alone, and will have us with him, in battle, as the most courageous avenger of his father's murder. Under his command, the conquered walls of besieged Mutina will sue for peace; Pharsalia will know him; Macedonian Philippi twice flow with blood; and the one who holds Pompey's great name, will be defeated in Sicilian waters; and a Roman general's Egyptian consort, trusting, to her cost, in their marriage, will fall, her threat that our Capitol would bow to her city of Canopus, proved vain.
Why enumerate foreign countries or the nations living on either ocean shore? Wherever earth contains habitable land, it will be his: and even the sea will serve him!
|— Ovid, Metamorphoses, XV, 745–842