A Concise History Of Rome Essays Example
In the course of human history, there is no other civilization and government as expansive and cohesive as that established by the ancient Romans. For more than a millennium, the Romans have united a vast group of people with different culture and ethnicity in a centralized government. In its peak, the Roman Empire has annexed almost all of Europe and the surrounding states of the Mediterranean. However, the glory of the Roman Empire could not have risen out of mere coincidence. Understandably, it must have developed from primitive political and social stages until it reached its peak and began to colonize its surrounding territories. For the same reason, this paper would like to examine the origin of the Roman Empire, its expansion and its eventual decline.
Rome before the Empire
Before the conquering began and before the Empire has officially been established, Rome is already a flourishing state under the reign of several rulers who trace their origins to the Trojan War hero, Aeneas. Legend has it that Aeneas fled from Troy and journeyed to Italy where he established an alliance with the Latins. Together, they conquered the existing groups in Italy during the time. It is also believed that the mythical founder of Rome, Romulus and Remus, was a direct descendant of Aeneas. According to legends, the state of Rome was founded by the twin brothers, Romulus and Remus, who were rescued and raises by a she-wolf. When they have grown, the brothers decided to build a city in the site where they were rescued by the wolf but in a fit of rage, Romulus killed Remus, and eventually named the city after himself. While the story of Romulus and Remus has passed on to become the widely popular version of Rome’s legendary beginning, scholars believe that Italy and Rome, itself, has been inhabited by humans as early as the Paleolithic period. According to Boak, proofs of human presence in this primitive era were found all over Italy, which suggests that some sort of early human civilization might have developed in the region.
The Etruscans, the Greeks and the Latins
Over the years, different groups of people have settled in the Italian region however, most of these people are primitive tribal groups. According to scholars, three groups of people have significantly contributed to the urbanization and rise of the Roman Empire and these are the Etruscans, the Greeks and the Latins. The Etruscans were among the earliest people that have established one of the earliest governments in Italy. Scholars were somehow puzzled by the origin of the Etruscans. Some believe that they might have been descendants of pre-Hellenic people from the Aegean basin who migrated to Italy’s western shore. But despite their uncertain background, most historians agree that the Etruscans were the first to establish the urban settlements in ancient Rome but were later on driven out by the Latin revolt in 5th century. Accordingly, the Etruscans dominated the northern portion of Italy since 8th century B.C. up to the 5th century B.C but their dominance is quite limited because they are not politically united. Unlike their Roman predecessors that have a centralized government, the Etruscans had a league of twelve cities, which, according to scholars, often warred with each other. While the Etruscans have been establishing their own colony in the northern portion of Italy, the southern Mediterranean portion of Italy has been colonized by the Greeks. However, just like the Etruscans, the Greeks also have a less cohesive government as each city-state has its own ruler and sovereignty. Just like the Etruscans, the Grecian government declined during the 5th century B.C. because of clashes with the invading Samnite peoples of the central Apennines as well as clashes with the Carthaginians that further weakened their hold in the region. The Latins, on the other hand, were agricultural people who settled in the middle portion of Italy, which was called in antiquity as Latium. Some historians believe that it was the Latins that have established the earliest settlements in Rome, although the city is believed to be under the jurisdiction of the Etruscan kings.
The Rise of Rome as a Republic
The city of Rome though has a geographical advantage that made it flourished early as compared with other neighboring city states. As observed by Boak, “The location of Rome, on the Tiber at a point where navigation for sea-going vessels terminated and where an island made easy the passage from bank to bank, marked it as a place of commercial importance”. While it is evident that geographical and economic factors have led to the urbanization of the city of Rome, The rise of Rome as a republic was unclear. Roman traditions tell of the reign of the seven kings of what they refer as the regal period of Rome. These traditional accounts trace back Rome’s rulers back to Romulus followed by Numa Pompilius, Tullius Hostilius, Ancius Marcius, Tarquinius Priscus, Servius Tullius, and Tarquinius Superbus. Although there is no historical evidence that can disprove these legendary accounts, historians speculate that Rome was established through a long and arduous political and social upheaval under the rule of Etruscan kings and was later passed on to prominent Latin nobles after the fall of the Etruscan empire due to the invading Gauls from the north. As observed by Fagan, “The transition from monarchy to Republic was not a single, dramatic event but a slow process stretching into 21 the mid-5th century B.C”.
Political and Social Framework of the Roman Republic
The decline of the rule of Etruscan kings has led the inhabitants of Rome to establish a form of government similar to modern day republic. Historians believe that Latin nobles, who might have been feed up by the authority of the Etruscans over them may have formed an alliance to rebel against their rule at around 5th century B.C. Ever since, the monarchy was replaced by consuls who shared power with one another for a limited tenure. It should be noted though that the early Roman republic has a striking resemblance with those of the political framework of ancient Greeks. As observed by Boak, “The more highly developed Greek political institutions, Greek art, Greek literature, and Greek mythology found a ready reception among the Italian peoples and profoundly affected their political and intellectual progress”. The early Roman society, just like its neighboring societies, is a class oriented society. There are two distinct social classes in the ancient Roman republic. At the top of the hierarchical order are the nobles or Patricians; these are prominent political families of Rome whose influence rests on their great wealth and land holdings. The Patricians dominate Rome’s political arena and have been the exclusive class that can hold a seat in the senate. There are also the less wealthy citizens or the Plebs. The Plebs are ordinary landholders, tradesmen, craftsmen, and laborers who does not have the right to sit on the senate. Slavery was also a profound feature of the Roman republic. Slavery in Rome may have been influenced by their contact with early societies that engage in a slave economy; primarily that of the Greeks. As observed by Scheidel, “Building on Greek and Hellenistic institutions, ancient Rome created the largest slave society in history”. Early Romans are believed to subject their conquered people into slavery. At around 400 B.C., for example, the Romans conquered the Etruscan city of Veii and subjected its population into slavery. Some peasants are also reduced to slavery by debts.
The Rise and Decline of the Roman Empire
Through alliances and able governance, the Republic of Rome rose up as the prominent political force in the region. From 5th century B.C. up to the 3rd century B.C., the Roman republic embarked on rapid colonization and annexation of Italy and its surrounding regions. After several military campaigns and failed alien invasions, Rome emerged as the undisputed political and military power in Italy and by the end of the 3rd century; the entire Italian peninsula is under Roman control. By the start of the 2nd century B.C., the Romans began to turn their attention towards territories outside Italy. Emerging victorious in almost all of their military conquests, the Romans were able to subdue most political powers during the time namely Carthage and Greece. Historians attribute Rome’s rise to prominence and the eventual establishment of its empire to its military prowess. As observed by Fagan, “The Romans didn’t gain their empire by shaking people’s hands and kissing babies,” instead, they established their empire “by virtue of their superior military might and great reserves of manpower”. Technically, the Roman empire did not start until the transition of the Roman republic towards Imperial rule in 27 B.C. when Octavian was rendered the title ‘Augustus,’ meaning exalted one and ‘Imperator,’ meaning commander-in-chief, which was later on evolved to become emperor.
At its peak, the Roman Empire stretched from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, which included Britain in the north and Egypt and Arabia in the south. However, several reasons may have led to the decline of Roman power. One is the class struggle that may have weakened the people’s patriotism and belief in their leader’s governance. Another is the weakened military because of the vast territory that they have to defend. Because of its size, the Roman emperors depended on regional officers to defend Rome’s borders. However, barbarian attacks on its frontiers seemed to have taken its toll and eventually weakened Rome’s military might. The spread of Judeo-Christian ideologies may have also challenged the belief that Roman emperors are gods, which has been a common practice since the time of the first emperor, Augustus. There were also internal conflicts political conflicts and succession of less abled emperors who further weakened the empire. Combining all these factors, the prestige of Rome eventually declined until it disintegrated in 395 A.D.. Some historians refer to this date as the fall of the Roman Empire while others consider the Byzantine Empire, which lasted for another 1000 years as the end of Roman rule.
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