The city of Rome first appeared in 753BC, legend saying it was built by the wolf-raised Romulus and Remus. It was the home of the Etruscans, initially ruled by the tyrant Tarquins.
Deposed, a republic lasted 400 years, the Senate organized by the aristocratic Patricians. This was arguably the birth of the middleclass.
Early Rome was dogged by internal revolts, such as that of the slave, Spartacus, and growing conflict for dominance of the Mediterranean by the Carthaginians who had settled north Africa, the Punic Wars beginning in 264BC. At one point, Hannibal nearly beat Rome in a brilliant encirclement of Italy by crossing the Alps, but Rome prevailed and went on to expand east into Greece.
The success of the Roman Army was down to its professionalism and organization into legions, cohorts and centuries, as well as excellent engineering, allowing strategic centres connected by a network of roads, allowing speedy deployment. And also by its brilliant generals, one of whom, Julius Caesar, expanded the empire northwards – although Britain would not fall until much later.
In 63BC, the generals turned statesmen, bringing down the Republic and grasping power. Caesar was to eventually rule supreme until his assassination. From then on, emperors came and went, some excellent, others tyrants, but soon Rome’s expansion was in decline. Hadrian built a wall around it in the early 2nd century to keep barbarian hordes at bay, saying clearly, its time was up.
Roman religion was based upon household gods and pantheons borrowed mainly from the Greeks. This method of borrowing spirituality was to prove useful. By the 4th century Constantine the Great managed to temporarily stop the empire fragmenting by adopting Christianity. But a century later, the empire split, with the eastern empire rising upon Constantinople, later Byzantium and eventually Istanbul. The western empire finally collapsed as wave after wave of barbarian migrations plunged Europe into the Dark Ages.
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