Ancient Rome was an Italic civilization that began on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC.
Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to become one of the largest empires in the ancient world with an estimated 50 to 90 million inhabitants (roughly 20% of the world's population and covering 6.5 million square kilometers (2.5 million sq mi) at its height between the first and second centuries AD.
In its approximately 12 centuries of existence, Roman civilization shifted from a monarchy to a classical republic and then to an increasingly autocratic empire. Through conquest and assimilation, it came to dominate Southern and Western Europe, Asia Minor, North Africa, and parts of Northern and Eastern Europe.
Rome was preponderant throughout the Mediterranean region and was one of the most powerful entities of the ancient world. It is often grouped into classical antiquity together with ancient Greece, and their similar cultures and societies are known as the Greco-Roman world. Ancient Roman society has contributed to modern government, law, politics, engineering, art, literature, architecture, technology, warfare, religion, language and society. A highly developed civilization, Rome professionalized and expanded its military and created a system of government called res publica, the inspiration for modern republics such as the United States and France.
It achieved impressive technological and architectural feats, such as the construction of an extensive system of aqueducts and roads, as well as the construction of large monuments, palaces, and public facilities.
By the end of the Republic (27 BC), Rome had conquered the lands around the Mediterranean and beyond: its domain extended from the Atlantic to Arabia and from the mouth of the Rhine to North Africa. The Roman Empire emerged with the end of the Republic and the dictatorship of Augustus Caesar. 721 years of Roman-Persian Wars started in 92 BC with their first war against Parthia.
It would become the longest conflict in human history, and have major lasting effects and consequences for both empires. Under Trajan, the Empire reached its territorial peak. Republican mores and traditions started to decline during the imperial period, with civil wars becoming a prelude common to the rise of a new emperor. Splinter states, such as the Palmyrene Empire, would temporarily divide the Empire during the crisis of the 3rd century.
Plagued by internal instability and attacked by various migrating peoples, the western part of the empire broke up into independent kingdoms in the 5th century. This splintering is a landmark historians use to divide the ancient period of universal history from the pre-medieval "Dark Ages" of Europe.
According to the founding myth of Rome, the city was founded on 21 April 753 BC by twin brothers Romulus and Remus, who descended from the Trojan prince Aeneas and who were grandsons of the Latin King, Numitor of Alba Longa. King Numitor was deposed from his throne by his brother, Amulius, while Numitor's daughter, Rhea Silvia, gave birth to the twins. Because Rhea Silvia was raped and impregnated by Mars, the Roman god of war, the twins were considered half-divine. The new king, Amulius, feared Romulus and Remus would take back the throne, so he ordered them to be drowned.
A she-wolf (or a shepherd's wife in some accounts) saved and raised them, and when they were old enough, they returned the throne of Alba Longa to Numitor. The twins then founded their own city, but Romulus killed Remus in a quarrel over the location of the Roman Kingdom, though some sources state the quarrel was about who was going to rule or give his name to the city. Romulus became the source of the city's name. In order to attract people to the city, Rome became a sanctuary for the indigent, exiled, and unwanted. This caused a problem for Rome, which had a large workforce but was bereft of women.
Romulus traveled to the neighboring towns and tribes and attempted to secure marriage rights, but as Rome was so full of undesirables they all refused. Legend says that the Latins invited the Sabines to a festival and stole their unmarried maidens, leading to the integration of the Latins and the Sabines.
Another legend, recorded by Greek historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus, says that Prince Aeneas led a group of Trojans on a sea voyage to found a new Troy, since the original was destroyed in the outcome of the Trojan War.
After a long time in rough seas, they landed at the banks of the Tiber River. Not long after they landed, the men wanted to take to the sea again, but the women who were traveling with them did not want to leave. One woman, named Roma, suggested that the women burn the ships out at sea to prevent them from leaving.
At first, the men were angry with Roma, but they soon realized that they were in the ideal place to settle. They named the settlement after the woman who torched their ships.
The Roman poet Virgil recounted this legend in his classical epic poem the Aeneid. In the Aeneid, the Trojan prince Aeneas is destined by the gods in his enterprise of founding a new Troy. In the epic, the women also refused to go back to the sea, but they were not left on the Tiber. After reaching Italy, Aeneas, who wanted to marry Lavinia, was forced to wage war with her former suitor, Turnus. According to the poem, the Alban kings were descended from Aeneas, and thus Romulus, the founder of Rome, was his descendant.
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According to tradition and later writers such as Livy, the Roman Republic was established around 509 BC, when the last of the seven kings of Rome, Tarquin the Proud, was deposed by Lucius Junius Brutus and a system based on annually elected magistrates and various representative assemblies was established.
A constitution set a series of checks and balances, and a separation of powers. The most important magistrates were the two consuls, who together exercised executive authority such as imperium, or military command.
The consuls had to work with the senate, which was initially an advisory council of the ranking nobility, or patricians, but grew in size and power.
Other magistrates of the Republic include tribunes, quaestors, aediles, praetors and censors.
The magistracies were originally restricted to patricians, but were later opened to common people, or plebeians.
Republican voting assemblies included the comitia centuriata (centuriate assembly), which voted on matters of war and peace and elected men to the most important offices, and the comitia tributa (tribal assembly), which elected less important offices.
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