The Romans were one of the greatest empires that there ever was. They had power, wealth, and at one point ruled majority of the known world. They built one of the strongest and vast empire that the world has ever seen. They rose from nothing and grew into one of the strongest empires known to man. It is said that Rome was founded in 753 B.C. by two brothers, Remus and Romulus who were apparently raised by wolves. The two brothers started fighting over who would rule over the land. Eventually Romulus would actually kill his own brother Remus and take control over Rome. The city was only a small settlement at that time, and as the civilization grew throughout the years, the Etruscans took over.
The Etruscans taught a substantial amount of skills to the Romans and the Etruscans would eventually have a huge impact on the Roman Republic. The Etruscan engineers taught the Romans how to drain the marshes where Rome currently stands, and to channel the water into underground sewers. Etruscan architects and builders also laid out the Roman forum as a public square. Throughout the years architects were able to make buildings and structures much stronger. The Romans inherited metalworking as well as pottery from the Etruscan’s and exposed the Romans to ideas of the Greeks and new religious practices. Etruscans also helped in developing the economy of Rome and inherited gladiatorial games which used slaves and captured enemy soldiers in the games. The Etruscan’s also spread their alphabet, and numerical systems which would eventually improve Rome’s social system, in which women would be more appreciated and would have more rights. Though the Etruscans influenced and taught the Romans so much they would ultimately be vanquished by the Romans, which was the first step for the Romans to establish their empire. The Romans drove out the Etruscans in 509 B.C. By this time Rome had become a major city. As the empire came to its peak it included lands throughout the Mediterranean world. Rome had first expanded into other parts of Italy and neighboring cities during the Roman Republic, but eventually expanded to majority of Europe and parts of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa and made a strong political power for these lands.
The city-state of Rome became a Republic in 509 BC. The Republic won an overseas empire beginning with the Punic Wars. The Second Punic War was both a defining moment and a turning point in Roman history. After the Second Punic War, the Roman republic was supreme throughout the Mediterranean. By the end of the first century BC Rome controlled almost all of the known world . Rome’s system of government changed from a Republic to an autocracy with the creation of the Principite, under the first emperor, Augustus Caesar. With Caesar began the two centuries of the Pax Romana, which was known as a time of great peace and prosperity. During this time, the Roman Empire became a commonwealth of states and not a collection of conquered provinces. Rome only had one real threat which came from the unorganized Barbarian tribes whose conquest added nothing to the Empire.
The Rise of the Roman Empire can be contributed to many factors. These factors are: strength in the military, society, leadership, religious, and architectural aspects of the Roman Empire. To start with, the rapid expansion and the incredible success of the Roman Empire was largely due to the Roman army. It was first formed to defend the city of Rome, but due to expansionist rulers, the army went on to conquer a vast empire. The early Roman army was made up of volunteers, but soldiers that joined up and served many years and became paid professionals. People from lands conquered by Romans were also recruited into their army. The army made the people feel secure and reassured them that their children would grow up in a safe environment. The army helped to defend the land that it already had, and also to protect the newly conquered territory from invasion or revolt from those that were conquered.
Roman society was very organized for its time. People were divided into citizens and slaves. Citizens themselves were divided into different ranks, and had special rights and duties. They could vote in elections and serve in the army. But they were also expected to pay taxes. By 212 AD, all free people of the Roman Empire were allowed to become Roman citizens. As Rome had expanded from Italy, it had incorporated the people it conquered into its way of life, selectively granting citizenship with its privileges and providing a longer, more peaceful and prosperous life with military and civic hierarchies, which citizens could advance up. Slaves had no such privileges. Many of them were prisoners of war. They were bought and sold by wealthy Romans who put them to work in gladiatorial arenas, as well as homes and estates. By allowing the citizens special rights and privileges, it gave them a sense of patriotism and pride in country and in turn, the people stood proud for their country.
Rome had very dynamic leaders that showed their greatness through their reign over the Roman people. One of the most successful leaders in the Roman Empire, besides Julius Caesar, was Emperor Trajan and he ruled from AD 98-117. The reason that he is known as so successful is because during his reign, the empire reached its greatest size with the conquest of large areas of land in the east. His successor, Hadrian, halted the spread and concentrated on improving the way the empire was run. People were able to travel and trade in safety, as well as have new ideas, like Christianity, which began to spread from the east. The leaders helped to keep the peace among the citizens of Rome, and they also helped to further the empire by leading the troops into battle and extending the boundaries of Rome’s territory. Another factor that contributed to the rise the Roman Empire is that of the engineers and architects within the empire itself. The Romans were superb engineers and architects and many of their buildings survive today. They include bridges, aqueducts, public baths, and roads. By 200 AD, the Roman army had built 53,000 miles of roads. Roads were essential for moving the army quickly around the Empire. They were also important for trade routes. The Romans also built sewers and central heating systems, and invented the first type of concrete.
There were many contributing factors that ultimately led to the fall of the Roman Empire. The Great Migration was a very big factor that led to the fall of the Roman Empire. The movement of the Huns from their Central Asian homelands in the fourth and fifth centuries caused a domino effect which pushed the any other tribes west and south into Roman territory. Rome’s greatest need was for soldiers and the military protected and enforced the tax-collection system that enabled Rome’s strong central state. Barbarians were useful, and deals had historically been struck with tribes like the Goths, who fought for the Empire in return for money and land. Large movements of peoples to the east of the Empire started to bring new people into Rome’s territories. The arrival of these German tribesmen in Italy explains one of the chief reasons why the Empire fell. The Empire could no longer cope with the numbers and the belligerence of its new arrivals.
Rome’s size made it difficult to govern and being the Roman emperor had always been a particularly dangerous job, but during the second and third centuries it nearly became a death sentence. Civil wars pushed the empire into chaos, and more than 20 men took the throne in the span of only 75 years, usually after the murder of the previous empire. The political turmoil also extended to the Roman Senate, which failed to temper the excesses of the emperors due to its own widespread corruption and selfishness. As the political situation got worse, Roman citizens no longer trusted their government, and no longer had the sense of pride that they used to have. There were many political amateurs that were in control of Rome in its later years. The Generals in the army basically the emperorship, and corruption was rampant. Over time, the military was transformed into a mercenary army with no real loyalty to Rome. As money grew tight, the government hired mercenaries from other countries to fight in Roman armies. Eventually these armies that were defending Rome against their fellow Germanic tribesmen. Under these circumstances, the sack of Rome came as no surprise. There was one emperor Magnus Maximus declared himself Emperor of the west and started carving out his own territory. Theodosius defeated Maximus, who brought large numbers of barbarian soldiers into the Empire, only to face a second civil war. The Empire was never again to be ruled by a single man and the western portion never again to have an effective standing army. (Wasson) Many military members and political administration were being pushed out or thrown out of town. The result of this let neighboring countries invade and take over, or let the populace govern themselves.
Some historians have suggested that the Romans suffered from lead poisoning. The presence of lead in their drinking water that came from water pipes used in their water system, it is suggested that there was lead in the containers that came in contact with food and water, The lead was also used in cosmetics. Many historians say that with the constant ingestion of led, it led to widespread disease across their empire, with diseases such as the gout. Thousand-year historical record included noticeable changes in lead pollution from Rome following major events such as the Gothic Wars in 535 C.E., Byzantine repairs to abandoned Roman aqueducts in 554 C.E., and the mid-9th century Arab sack of Rome. (Sumner)
Economic factors is also a major cause of the fall of Rome. Some of the major factors, like inflation, over-taxation, and feudalism all contributed to the economic downfall of Rome. Other issues with economics was the widespread looting of the Roman treasury by barbarians, and a trade deficit with the eastern regions of the empire. In the economically western part of the empire there was a decrease in agricultural production which led to higher food prices. The western half of the empire had a large trade deficit with the eastern half. The west purchased luxury goods from the east but had nothing to offer in exchange. To make up for the lack of money, the government began producing more coins with less silver content. All of which would lead to inflation.
Another factor that contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire was the rise of a new religion, Christianity. The Christian religion, which was monotheistic ran opposite of the traditional Roman religion, which was polytheistic . At certain points in their history the Romans persecuted the Christians because of their beliefs. Christianity would later become the official state religion of the Empire, and would spread to every corner of the Empire. By approving Christianity, the Roman state directly undermined its religious traditions. Finally, by this time, Romans considered their emperor a god. But the Christian belief in one god who was not the emperor weakened the authority and credibility of the emperor.
Constantine also contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire in 330 A.D. when he split the empire into two parts, the western half centered in Rome and the eastern half centered in Constantinople. The western Empire spoke Latin and was Roman Catholic. The Eastern Empire spoke Greek and followed the Eastern Orthodox branch of Christianity. Eventually, the east was very prosperous, while the west was not. After the western part of the Roman Empire fell, the eastern half continued to exist as the Byzantine Empire for hundreds of years.
Ultimately, Rome would eventually be its own worst enemy, and would eventually lead to its own demise. Roman architecture, sculpture, philosophy and literature all built on Greek models, developed their own distinct elements, and then left a legacy for later periods of Western civilization to build on. Even today in modern law and politics the Roman influence can still be felt. Even in our own government it models the basic structure of government that the Romans had in a way. Our laws as well as European laws are all derived from Roman law. Rome was at one point the biggest empire of its time as well as the most prosperous, but at the end of its power started a new age, which is to be considered The Dark Ages, and many of Rome’s achievements were not to be matched until the industrial revolution.
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