The Roman Empire, at its stature (c. 117 CE), was the most broad political and social structure in western human advancement. By 285 CE the realm had become too unfathomable to be in any way controlled from the focal government at Rome as was separated by Emperor Diocletian into a Western and an Eastern Empire. The Roman Empire started when Augustus Caesar turned into the first ruler of Rome (31 BCE) and finished, in the west, when the last Roman head, Romulus Augustulus, was ousted by the Germanic King Odoacer (476 CE). In the east, it proceeded as the Byzantine Empire until the demise of Constantine XI and the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 CE. The impact of the Roman Empire on western human advancement was significant in its enduring commitments to essentially every part of western society.
It is absolutely no secret that the destiny of Europe was formed right in the ancient ages. Rome’s history is not something that can be fit into an article or book. It would take something capable of volumes just to examine the different aspects of life in Rome. Indeed, the Romans were excellent in whatever they did. They were excellent travelers and conquerors. Their naval power was capable of taking on enemies who had a lot more manpower, signifying better technology. Their industries were superior to any in the whole of Europe. Their contribution to the fields of theology and philosophy are remarkable. Their system of law and order thousands of years back is the backbone on which modern law and order systems are built. Even the form of administration that was followed throughout the empire was simply amazing. The creation of the European Union, for example, might not have happened, at all, if not for the brilliant structuring of the Roman Empire.
Until the 20th century, imperial powers from all over Europe looked up to the Roman model as a success story and inspiration for all future endeavors. Throughout history, many European nations imitated Rome, but never managed matching up totally to the grandiose that Rome reached. Here’s a look at how Rome managed it all, from being the greatest conquerors, to having the earliest form of civilized society. Though most of Rome’s beginnings and history is based on traditional stories, each of them, has an element of truth joined to them.
Foundation of the City
According to the Roman legends, the city was originally connected with Alba Longa, which was the chief city of Latium; which in turn, was traced to Troy in Asia Minor. After the fall of the great city, Aeneas, the Trojan hero, supposedly fled from the ruins, along with his father and son. Taking the help of the planet Venus, considered his mother, he reached the shores of Italy with a band of Trojans and believed that Latium would one day be a seat of great power. Having built the city of Lavinium, he died in peace. On his death, his son Ascanius transferred Lavinium to the kingdom of Alba Longa. Here his descendants ruled for three hundred years. The throne was then usurped by a prince called Amulius.
To secure himself against any possible rivals to the throne, he made his brother’s daughter into a vestigial virgin. She, however, became the mother of the twins, Romulus and Remus, whose father was Mars, the god of war. In a fit of rage, he ordered both children be thrown into the Tiber. However, they had the support of the Gods. Drifting ashore onto the foot of Palatine hill, they were then nursed back to health by a she-wolf, and they grew up in the house of a nearby shepherd. In around the year 753, the two boys grew into men and set in place the formation of a new city, Rome. They did this right on the Palatine, where they had been rescued, only due to the grace of the gods. Along time, though, Remus and Romulus got into a bitter quarrel, leading to Remus’ death and Romulus become the first king of Rome.
The Reign of Romulus, the first king of Rome
The Roman gods had high regard for Romulus for various reasons. Firstly, he was the creator of the city of Rome. Secondly, and more importantly, he created a lot of social and political institutions. His method of increasing the population would have to be termed radical: he opened up an asylum for refugees; and when he wanted wives for these people, he just captured women from the Sabines. After a short war with people of the Sabines, peace was achieved, and the people of the two towns came together to live under the rule of two kings- Romulus and Titus Tatius. After the Titus’ death, Romulus became the sole ruler, governing the city by himself. After having reigned for nearly 37 years and warring with many surrounding towns, he was accepted into heaven as a god, where he was named Quirinus.
A Sabine named Numa Pompilius was subsequently elected as the second king of Rome. Being extremely wise and pious, He was said to have introduced to the Romans the art of peace and also the worship of gods. Numa according to roman legends, is the founder of the Roman religion because he appointed priests and other ministers of the religion. He divided the lands among the people, placing boundaries under the charge of the god Terminus. He is also credited to the division of the year into twelve months, and hence, the foundation of the Roman calendar. His reign was one of peace, and it lasted for a prosperous 42 years.
The third king of Rome, Tullus Hostilius, was a Roman. The special feature of his reign was the conquest of Alba Longa. In relation to the war against Alba Longa, the story of the Horatii and the Curiatii has gained much popularity. The Horatii and the Curiatii who were three brothers in each army were selected to decide the victor of the war, by one-on-one combat. This resulted in favor of the Horatii, the Roman champions. Alba Longa finally thus, was subject to the Rome. Afterward, Alba Longa was then razed to the ground, and all its inhabitants moved to Rome. Tullus was said to be a non-believer in God and hence, he did not garner their support. It is said that his house was down by the lightning of Jove.
The next king of Rome was the Sabine Ancus Marcius, who was the grandson of Numa Pompilius. He furthered his grandfather’s good work by publishing his holy laws and the art of peace. He was, however, threatened by the Latins, and so, he conquered many Greek cities, bringing their inhabitants to Rome, and settling them upon Aventine hill. He fortified Janiculum, which was an important hill on the other side of the Tiber, to defend Rome from Etruscan attack. Also, he conquered the lands between Rome and the sea and built there, the port of Ostia at the mouth of the Tiber.
He was the fifth king of Rome and the first of Etruscan birth. Ancus adopted Tarquinius as a son when he immigrated to Rome. On ascending the throne, wars were waged against the Sabines and Etruscans, leading to the doubling of the size of Rome and great treasures being added to the city. Adding 100 new members to the Senate from the conquered Etruscan tribes was the first reform he undertook, bringing the total number of senators to 300. The treasures acquired from conquests were then used to build great monuments for Rome. Among these was Rome’s great sewer systems, the Cloaca Maxima, which he used in order to drain swamp-like area that that existed between the Seven Hills of Rome. In its place, he began construction on the Roman Forum. He was also the founder of the Roman games. Out of these, the project he undertook on the Circus Maximus, a giant stadium used for chariot race, was the most famous. This was followed by the construction of the temple-fortress to the god Jupiter upon the Capitoline Hill. Unfortunately, after 38 years of ruling, he was killed by one of Ancus Marcius’ sons. He was also celebrated for introducing Roman symbols of civil and military offices.
Servius Tullius, Tarquinius Priscus’ son-in-law succeeded him to the throne. He was the second king of Etruscan birth to have ruled Rome. Emulating his father-in-law, Servius waged successful wars against the Etruscans. The Pomerium, the first walls to fully encircle the Seven Hills of Rome, were built from the treasures he won through these campaigns. Organizational changes were also made to the Roman army. He then implemented a new constitution for the Romans, further developing the citizen classes. The first census in Rome was undertaken on his order, driving the people into five different groups, and formed the Century Assembly. This census was also to divide the people from within Rome into four urban tribes based upon location within the city, thus establishing the Tribal Assembly. His reign also saw the construction of the temple to Diana on the Aventine Hill. There were also reforms made to voting right, transferring power according to socio-economic status. With time, however, he started supporting the cause of the poor more and more. His 44-year reign came to an abrupt end when he was assassinated by his own daughter, Tullia, and her husband, Tarquinius Superbus.
The seventh and final king of Rome was Tarquinius Superbus. Being the son of Priscus and son-in-law of Tullius, he was also of Etruscan birth. During his reign, the Etruscans became the most powerful they had ever been. Unlike any of the other kings before him, Tarquinius used the weapons of violence, murder, and terrorism to maintain control over Rome. Many of the earlier reforms were repealed. He also removed all the Sabine shrines and altars from the Tarpeian Rock, leading to mass discontent amongst the Romans. It was finally a sex scandal brought down the king. Allegedly, Tarquinius did not stop his son, Sextus Tarquinius, from raping Lucretia, who was a patrician Roman. Sextus threatened Lucretia that if her refusal to copulate with him would lead him to kill a slave, kill her, and then cause a discovery of their bodies together to be made, amounting to a massive scandal. In order to avoid such scandal, Lucretia told her family about the threat and then killed herself. Lucretia’s kinsman, Lucius Junius Brutus who was an ancestor of Marcus Brutus, then summoned the Senate, leading to the expulsion of Tarquinius and the monarchy from Rome in 510 BC.
Soon after, Lucius Junius Brutus and Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus, who was a member of the Tarquin family and Lucretia’s widower, became the first consuls to the new Roman government. This new government led the Romans to the conquering of most of the Mediterranean world and survived for the next 500 years until the reign of Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus. Even in the new age of the emperors, old ideas such as those of the Republic were held in high regard, until a new form of government came into force- the Dominate.