Ancient Rome is one of the most well-known polities in all of history. Its history is long and turbulent, starting in roughly 753 BC and ending in 476 AD... though some historians argue that the Roman Empire actually didn't expire until 1453 AD. Today they are remembered in countless forms of media, mostly as a tough empire with the best armies in the world... but they didn't start out that way.
The Roman Empire actually started out as a city-state-Rome. Their mythology states that the city was founded in 753 BC by two brothers, Romulus and Remus, who were raised by wolves. Rome was initially ruled by kings, but not much is known about them. The last of the kings was deposed in 509 BC and the government changed to a republic.
During the Republic period, Rome conquered the regions around them in Italy, ceasing to be a city-state. They fought several wars against the Greeks who had set up colonies in the Italian Peninsula and Sicily. Their greatest challenge came during the Punic Wars, when they fought and defeated Carthage, an empire on the other side of the sea in Africa. The Second Punic War is famous for the Carthaginian general Hannibal, who marched elephants over the Alps.
The Republic was all but ended by Julius Caesar. Born into a noble family in 100 BC, Julius became involved in politics and the military. He rose to the rank of general and led his troops to great conquests in Gaul, modern-day France. His great wealth and prestige worried his political rivals, who were afraid he was too powerful to control.
They attempted to strip him of his titles and exile him. In response, he marched his army into Rome and conquered it. He made himself the dictator-for-life, but was famously assassinated for this. His adopted son, Octavian, consolidated Julius's power, changed his name to Augustus, and officially crowned himself as the emperor. This marked the beginning of the Roman Empire.
The Empire grew to its largest extent in 117 AD under Emperor Trajan, at which point they controlled everything from England to Egypt-from Spain to Iraq. The Imperial period featured many famous figures, such as Jesus of Nazareth, founder of Christianity, the mad Emperor Nero, famous for playing his fiddle while his city burned around him, and Emperor Constantine, the first emperor to convert to Christianity in 312 AD.
The Empire's fall, often stated as if it was one dominant event which happened all at once, was in fact a long process of internal stagnation, political corruption, and overextension of land, which ate away at the stability of the Empire for hundreds of years and finally culminated in a series of barbarian raids in the late 400s AD. However, only the Western Roman Empire-encompassing present-day Spain, France, and Italy, was fractured. The Eastern Roman Empire, in modern-day Greece and Turkey, survived for another thousand years.
Today, parallels are drawn between Rome and the United States. Their size and military dominance makes this an apt comparison. The economic and political factors which led to the downfall of Rome should be studied to ensure the same thing doesn't happen in the US.
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