Unit Outline: Ancient Rome and The Roman Empire Geography of Italy and Early Rome



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Global History I

Mr. Mintzes



Unit Outline: Ancient Rome

and The Roman Empire

Geography of Italy and Early Rome

  • Italy a peninsula – situated mid way in the Mediterranean

  • Unlike Greece, Italy had much fertile land good for farming

  • Position of Italy allowed for trade with other Mediterranean peoples

  • Mountains split Italy down the middle east and west

  • Alps in north protected Italy from barbarian invasions from the north


Early History

  • Mythological founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus – raised by she wolf

  • Etruscans ruled most of central Italy – their legacy was the toga and the organization of the Roman Army.

  • Rome located on Tiber River – inland but close to sea – easily defended

  • Italy settled by Indo-European people – Latins were one group

  • Greeks settled in the south - colonies – also in Sicily – gave Romans legacy of Greek language, culture, art and sculpture.


Roman Republic

  • Early Rome ruled by kings – overthrew last king in 509BCE and established a republic – giving certain citizens (not all) the right to vote.

  • Other tribes in Italy made war on Rome – Rome expanded to defend itself rather than to conquer others – by 264BCE Rome controlled most of Italy.

  • Romans strongly believed in three virtues – Duty, Courage & Discipline. Cincinnatus was an example of a person who embodied all three virtues.

  • Romans extended citizenship to many conquered areas.

IMPORTANT: Citizenship gave people a stake in Rome’s growth. As citizens, they were less likely to revolt – would contribute to Rome – and fight for Rome.


  • Conquered provinces sent money to Rome but ran their own internal affairs –

  • Romans built roads throughout Italy to move goods and soldiers – Romans created laws and governmental institutions.




  • Early Rome divided into Patricians and Plebeians

  • Patricians were large landowners – aristocrats – the ruling class – could vote - could be elected to public office

  • Plebeians were smaller landowning farmers, craftsmen & merchants – could vote – could NOT be elected to public office.


Consuls and Praetors were the executives of Roman Republic

Consuls ran government and led army into battle

Praetor directed the civil law – the law that applied to citizens


  • Roman Senate: 300 Patricians made up the original Senate – served for life

  • Centuriate Assembly: people’s assembly – Elected the consuls and praetors – organized by classes based on wealth – wealthiest citizens were in majority.


Political Changes in the Republic

  • Conflict between Patricians an Plebeians – Plebeians fought in army but had few rights – wanted social and political equality

  • By 287 BCE the Council of the Plebs, created in 471 BCE, received the right to pass laws.


Twelve Tables – adopted in 450BCE – Rome’s first code of written laws – posted in Forum for all to see – people knew what the law was – As Rome grew, the code was insufficient for a more complex society – was changed and improved over the years.
Law of Nations – growth of Rome caused legal issues for Romans and non- Romans. Standard of justice applied to all people equally.

- person innocent until proven guilty

- accused has right to a defense before a judge

- judges must decide cases based on evidence presented at trial


Growth of Rome – Conquest and Empire

  • Carthage was powerful country in North Africa – large trading empire – Carthage controlled Sicily – worried Romans, since they were too close to Italy.

  • Punic Wars – struggles between Rome and Carthage for control of Mediterranean.

  • First Punic War: Rome builds navy – defeats Carthage – makes Sicily its first province – Carthage pays money to Rome –

  • Second Punic War: Hannibal, greatest Carthaginian general starts 2nd war to get revenge for Carthage’s losses in 1st war. Hannibal crosses into Spain – then crosses The Alps with large army including elephants – defeats Roman army – roams through Italy but cannot capture cities. Rome attacks Carthage to force Hannibal to return home to defend homeland – Hannibal finally defeated – Spain becomes Roman province – Rome has control of western Mediterranean.

  • Third Punic War: Rome “sacks” (captures and destroys) Carthage – 50,000 men, women & children sold into slavery. Carthage becomes Roman province named Africa.

  • 2nd Century BCE: Rome conquers Greece and Macedonia – become Roman provinces – Rome now controls Mediterranean.


Social Changes and the Army

  • Senate and political offices controlled by small group of wealth landowners.

  • Small farmers – many who had fought in Army – lost their land to the rich – moved to the cities – formed a new class of urban poor – result was growing social and economic unrest.

  • Change in Army – General named Marius recruited soldiers from among the poor – promised land if they swore personal allegiance to him rather than Rome. Change made generals more powerful – Roman Legions often were loyal to the commanders instead of Rome.

  • Sulla – Assembly tried to give power to Marius. A civil war began between armies of Marius and Sulla. Sulla won, seized Rome, and returned the power to the Senate. Sulla began example of seizing power militarily.


Collapse of the Republic

  • 50 years of Civil War – 82 to 31 BCE

  • Three men emerged victorious – Crassus (wealthy Patrician) and Pompey and Julius Caesar (famous generals) They formed The First Triumvirate (a govt. made up of three men with equal power) to rule Rome.

  • Crassus was killed – Senate wanted Pompey to rule and ordered Caesar to give up his command – he refused and crossed into Italy by crossing the Rubicon River – bringing your army into Rome was against Roman law. “Crossing the Rubicon” still means taking action that cannot be undone or crossing the point of no return.

  • Caesar defeated Pompey and became dictator in 47 BCE.

- expanded Senate to 900 to include more citizens but added his supporters to reduce its power and increase his control and weaken Senate’s power.

- gave land to the poor to get loyalty of the people

- Caesar assassinated in 44 BCE by group of Senators who feared his dictatorship

assassinated on “Ides of March” (March 15th)



  • Octavian (Caesar’s nephew), Antony (Caesar’s friend) and Lepidus formed the - -2nd Triumvirate – Octavian and Antony soon divided the Empire between them and fought a civil war – Octavian won – the Republic ended – Octavian became the first Emperor (Senate gave him title Augustus) – Age of Augustus began in 31 BCE. Later is given the title Imperator (Commander in chief) Emperor comes from Imperator


Age of Augustus and the Early Roman Empire

  • 27 BCE – gives limited power to the Senate but reigns as first Emperor

  • Augustus re-organizes the Army – Roman Legions: only citizens could serve in them. Non-citizens serve in auxiliary forces – establishes the Praetorian Guard (9,000 elite soldiers) to protect the Emperor and serve as his special troops.

  • Augustus stabilized Rome’s frontiers and conquered new lands – learned that Rome could be defeated after Germanic tribes defeated a Roman army.

  • After Augustus, Emperors was selected from the current Emperor’s family – hereditary rule. Resulted in some bad Emperors.

- Caligula: reputation for being extremely cruel and brutal

- Nero: had anyone who opposed him killed – was finally killed by his own soldiers

- Claudius: bad ruler


  • Pax Romana (Roman Peace) – a series of five good Emperors ushered in a period of peace and prosperity for the Empire. There were wars, but internally the Empire was secure. Pax Romana lasted for almost 100 years

- stopped arbitrary executions

- respected the ruling class

- adopted capable men into their families to groom them to take over

- helped the poor

- educated the people

- new building projects (roads, aqueducts, bridges, harbors, etc.)

- reduced the power of the Senate and appointed officials to run the govt.


  • Protecting & Defending the Empire: by 2nd century CE, Roman Empire was 3½ million square miles with a population of over 50 million people.

- Emperors built fortifications along the Danube and the Rhine rivers

- Hadrian built Hadrian’s Wall across northern Britannia to keep out the Celts

- Germanic tribes began to push against the Empire’s borders

- Huns, attacking from Asia, began to push the Goths towards Rome


  • Spread of Roman Civilization

- Empire was unified by acknowledging local customs of the conquered provinces – allowing people to practice their religions and customs

 - People of provinces were granted Roman citizenship, giving them a stake in Rome and the empire

- In 212CE Emperor Caracalla gave Roman citizenship to all free people in the Empire

- Cities were important to Rome – used to spread Roman culture, law and language.



MANY OF THE CURRENT GREAT CITIES OF EUROPE STARTED AS ROMAN OUTPOSTS OR FORTS

(examples: London, Paris, Vienna, Budapest)

- Pax Romana allowed Empire to prosper – trade increased

- Romans traded beyond the borders of the empire – as far as China.



- Latin was the language of the empire – Latin was spoken in the western empire, Greek spoken in the East

- Mixture of Roman and Greek civilization spread by the Roman Empire is referred to as Greco-Roman civilization.

  • Roman Society:

- Farming was the basis for Rome’s prosperity

- Landed estates dominated farming – slave labor raised cattle & sheep

- Many small farms – peasants depended on the estates of the wealthy

- Wealthy Romans lived extravagant lives in large villas near Rome – many also owned in vacation villas by the sea

- Many small farmers lost their farms – many served in the army – returned from wars to poverty – moved to the cities to look for work

- Increase in unemployed urban poor – survived on handouts of grain from Emperor



  • Roman Art, Architecture and Literature

Romans favored Greek art and sculpture – decorated homes and public buildings with Greek statutes.

 Roman artists began to create reproductions of Greek statutes.

 In their architecture, Romans perfected the Arch, the Dome and the Vault – forms based on curved lines. The Pantheon had a dome that was the largest in the world for many centuries

Roads: Romans built more than 50,000 miles of roads throughout the empire

Aqueducts: Roman aqueducts were built all over Europe to supply water to their cities – aqueducts around Rome supplied more than 1,000,000 people.

Literature: reached a high point during reign of Augustus.

- Virgil was the most famous Roman poet – wrote the Aeneid

- main character in the Aeneid was Aeneas – he displays the virtues of the ideal Roman – duty, piety and loyalty

- Horace was another famous poet

- Livy: Rome’s most famous historian – wrote History of Rome – traced Roman history from founding of Rome to 9BCE – his writings were not always factually accurate.




  • Roman Life: The Roman Family, Slavery in Rome & Daily Life

Roman family: headed by dominant male – family included wife, children, sons with their wives and children, unmarried daughters and slaves

 Roman children were raised at home – all upper class were taught to read – most teachers were Greek slaves – boys learned reading and writing – law, moral principles, and physical training – graduated to adulthood at 16 – got purple edge togas to indicate adulthood

 Girls were considered physically weak and needed male guardians

 Girls could marry at 12 – boys at 14 – divorce was introduced in 3rd century BCE

 By 2nd century CE authority of head of family had been reduced – could not sell children into slavery or have the executed – women could do without a male guardian – women could own, sell and inherit property.

 Unlike Athenian women, Roman women could attend events outside the home – could not participate in politics


Slavery: Rome relied on slaves more than any other civilization

- even small farmers had one or two slaves – wealthy had many

- slaves were brought back from conquered areas – did all tasks Romans did not want to do – terrible living conditions

- Greeks were prized as doctors, tutors, etc.

- Roman feared slave revolts – most famous in 73BCE led by Spartacus

a gladiator – many slaves trained to be gladiators


Life in City of Rome: city crowded with over I million people

- city was overcrowded, noisy, dirty and unsafe

- huge number of unemployed poor – lived in apartment blocks

apartment buildings often collapsed – many fires

- poverty caused whole families to live together in one room

- no central heating – no plumbing – poor sewage systems (infrastructure)

- city hit by many plagues over the years – thousands would die
For the rich life in Rome was good

- fantastic public buildings – huge villas – magnificent baths

- culture: plays, music, sporting events in the Coliseum and the Circus Maximus (Gladiatorial contests and races)

Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Many factors ked to the decline and fall of Rome – no one thing caused the fall.


Economic Causes

 Heavy taxes were needed to support the large government bureaucracy

Army was expensive to maintain – more taxes needed to pay for the expense of the military and for Rome’s wars.
 Roman coins had been made with gold and silver. Mines were “played out” so gold & silver in short supply. Less went into each coin – money dropped in value – inflation increased.
 Increased invasions and raid by barbarians made travel unsafe and reduced trade as merchants feared venturing out into the countryside.
 As Empire stopped expanding fewer precious metals and other products were brought into Rome from conquered areas.
Political Causes

String of bad Emperors. Romans had never set up a system of succession when an Emperor died. This caused internal power struggles, assassinations, jealousy and civil war as different groups fought for supremacy.

 Emperor was often selected by either the Army or the Praetorian Guard. Either or both often removed emperors from power if they were unhappy with them. Removal usually meant death.

 Political corruption: politicians and bureaucrats were corrupt, often taking bribes and putting incompetent people in important positions.

 Size of the Empire made it hard to govern. Too many different cultures over too big an area.

 Diocletian divided the Empire into the Western & Eastern empires to make it easier to govern. The division may have made it easier to conquer the Empire as armies from the Eastern Empire would not go to the defense of the Western empire.


Social Causes

Economic conditions drove small farmers from the land into the cities

 The middle class declined in size and importance. Gap between rich and poor was increasing.

 Poverty and overcrowding in the cities caused social unrest, riots, etc.

 Overcrowding and unhealthy conditions caused spread of disease. Plagues killed thousands of Romans – if not hundreds of thousands.

 Suspicion that lead in water pipes also caused mental problems with the upper classes.

 Increased use of slaves in farmer and other areas increased unemployment among the poorer classes.

 More people began to expect food and other forms of assistance from the government – beginnings of welfare.


Military and Geographic Causes

 Hundreds of years of war and expansion had reduced the manpower available for military service.

 Need for troops to defend the frontier forced Rome to recruit soldiers from the Germanic tribes. They were non-Romans who did not have the same kind of loyalty to Rome as did the Roman citizens.

 Roman Empire had grown so large that it became impossible to properly defend it. Too many places where invaders could cross the border and attack Roman territory.

 Germanic tribes (barbarians) were invited into Roman territory because Romans needed help defending their land. Germanic Barbarians also took refuge in Roman territory to seek protection from the invasion by the Huns, a tribe from Central Asia that swept into Europe in the 5th century CE.

 Romans did not treat barbarian guests well. When they rebelled against their Roman hosts, the Romans were too weakened to resist.


Rome fell to Alaric (barbarian chieftain) in 410CE, but capital was re-established there. Fell for the least time to Odoacer (Visigoth Chief) in 479CE. Roman Emperor gave up his throne to Odoacer. 476CE is recognized by many historians as the date the Western Empire fell. It was after the fall of Rome to Odoacer that the last Roman Emperor of the western Empire gave up his throne and fled.
The Eastern Empire, renamed the Byzantine Empire survived for another 1000 years, until it capital, Constantinople, fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.


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