Timeline Description: After conquering the Italian peninsula around 270 BCE, ancient Rome built an empire centered on the Mediterranean. Skillful diplomacy and a powerful, well-trained army made up of unpaid citizens contributed to Rome's success. After conquering a region, Rome posted soldiers throughout the land and built a network of military roads, which allowed the capital to maintain control over its distant empire. Rome's empire lasted from 31 BCE to 476 BCE.
|396 BC||Roman expansion begins(396 BCE).
The Romans besiege and capture Veii, an Etruscan city, in 396 BCE. Later Roman historians claim that the siege lasts 10 years, in reference to the Trojan War. This victory marks the beginning of Roman expansion.
|387 BC||The Gauls sack Rome(c. 387 BCE).
The Gauls defeat the Romans at the battle of the Allia in 387 BCE, and they sack Rome. The Romans are forced to pay the Gauls in gold to convince them to leave their city. Their defeat leads the Romans to rearrange their military strategies and weaponry into the legions that last for the next several centuries.
|275 BC||The Pyrrhic War ends with a Roman victory(275 BCE).
The Pyrrhic War broke out in 280 BCE between Rome and the Greek city of Tarentum, which called on the brilliant commander King Pyrrhus of Epirus for aid. While Pyrrhus wins a number of victories, he loses one-third of his forces, leading this kind of battle to be known as a "Pyrrhic victory." In 275 BCE the Romans defeat Pyrrhus, ending the Pyrrhic War.
|272 BC||Rome takes Tarentum and becomes the master of the Italian peninsula(272 BCE).
After Pyrrhus' defeat, the Romans put down resistance across Italy and take Tarentum by siege in 272 BCE. This victory makes the Romans the undisputed masters of the Italian peninsula, with colonies stretching from sea to sea and alliances uniting other cities with Rome.
|264 BC||The First Punic War breaks out between Rome and Carthage(264 BCE).
In 264 BCE, the First Punic War breaks out between Rome and Carthage, a city-state on the northern coast of Africa. In 241 BCE Rome defeats Carthage and wins control of Sicily, Corsica, and Sardinia.
|218 BC||Carthaginian general Hannibal launches the Second Punic War(218 BCE).
Seeking revenge for the First Punic War, Carthaginian general Hannibal launches the Second Punic War in 218 BCE. He leads his army, along with war elephants, across the Pyrenees and the Alps into Italy, in an epic march that costs him half his army. However, the march surprises the Romans, and Hannibal wins battles across Italy for the next 15 years. Ultimately the Romans capture Carthage, leading Hannibal to admit defeat, and Carthage gives up all its lands except those in Africa.
|146 BC||Rome destroys Carthage in the Third Punic War(146 BCE).
The Third Punic War breaks out in 149 BCE, and Rome chooses to destroy Carthage completely. Survivors are killed or sold into slavery, and Roman soldiers pour salt on the earth to prevent anything from growing. This victory confirms Rome's place as master of the western Mediterranean.
|59 BC||Julius Caesar launches a series of conquests(59 BCE).
After dominating Roman politics, the ambitious military commander Julius Caesar launches a series of conquests in 59 BCE. During nine years of fighting, he conquers Gaul, the region now known as France. His victories spark fear in his rival, Pompey, who persuades the Senate to order Caesar to disband his army. Instead, Caesar takes control of Rome.
|31 BC||The Battle of Actium ends the last civil war of the Roman Republic(31 BCE).
Civil war breaks out after Caesar is assassinated in 44 BCE, and his adopted son Octavian vies for power with his former assistant Marc Antony. Antony and Octavian meet west of Greece in the naval Battle of Actium, which ends in a decisive victory for Octavian. He establishes himself as emperor, thus ending the Republic and starting the Roman Empire.
|9||The Battle of Teutoburg Forest settles the Roman-Germanic boundary(9 CE).
In 9 CE, an alliance of Germanic tribes ambushes three Roman legions in Teutoburg Forest. Historians claim this as Rome's greatest defeat; despite numerous attempts to breach the Germanic line, the Romans are never able to gain further Germanic territory. The battle settles the Rhine River as the boundary between the two powers.
|43||Claudius launches the Roman invasion of Britain.
Despite Julius Caesar's attempt to conquer Britain, the island remains independent. In 43 the emperor Claudius launches an invasion of Britain, hoping to finally conquer it for the Romans. The Roman conquest is complete in 77, but pockets of resistance remain, and the country never becomes as Romanized as other territories.
|114||Trajan begins a war with Parthia.
Rome and Parthia, a region in modern-day Iran, have a long history of conflict, and in 114 the Roman emperor Trajan annexes neighboring Armenia and invades Parthia. Trajan succeeds in taking over northern Mesopotamia in 116, a permanent loss to Parthia. However, his successor Hadrian reverses Trajan's strategy and makes peace with Parthia.
|378||The Visigoths defeat Rome, marking its decline.
Wars in Asia send Hun warriors west across Central Asia, and these armies push Germanic peoples, including the Visigoths, further west into Roman territory. Roman legions are unable to prevent the Germanic invaders from taking over territory, and in 378, Rome suffers a massive defeat at Adrianople at the hands of the Visigoths. This marks Rome's decline of power.
|410||Alaric sacks Rome(August 24, 410).
Alaric, the chieftain of the Visigoths, sacks Rome on August 24, 410, after several unsuccessful attempts to take control of the city. However, the Visigoths allow most buildings and relics to remain, particularly those connected to Christianity.
|476||Odoacer ends Roman rule.
The Hun leader Attila launches a savage campaign across Europe, sending even more Germanic peoples into the Roman empire. In 476, the Germanic leader Odoacer deposes the Roman emperor, which officially ends western Roman rule. However, Rome has already lost most of its territories, and the eastern portion of the Roman empire (later known as the Byzantine Empire) continues to rule until 1453.