Ancient Rome: A History of the Greatest Civilisation
Updated On: September 14, 2023
The Roman Empire was one of the most influential civilisations in the world. The ideas and culture of ancient Rome influence so much of our lives today.
From ancient roman art, architecture, technology, and literary, we have the Ancient Romans to thank for many of things we know and have today.
Table of Contents
- History of Ancient Rome
- Ancient Roman Cities
- Ancient Roman Clothing
- Ancient Roman Food
- Ancient Roman Architecture
- Ancient Roman Houses
- Ancient Roman Past-Times
- Ancient Roman Health & Medicine
- Ancient Roman Jobs
- Ancient Roman Coins
- Ancient Roman Names
- Ancient Roman Map
- Ancient Roman Religion
History of Ancient Rome
Rome was founded in 753 B.C, by Romulus its first king. Romulus and Remus were the twin sons of Mars, the god of war. As babies they were left abandoned in a basket on the Tiber. Legend has it that a she-wolf rescued them and raised them, but when they grew up, Romulus killed Remus and became the first ruler of Rome. This is also how Rome got its name. Rome was built on seven hills, they were Palatine Hill, Aventine Hill, Capitoline Hill, Esquiline Hill, Viminal Hill, Caelian Hill and Quirinal Hill. They were known as the “Seven hills of Rome”.
The Roman Republic
The Roman Empire ruled much of Europe for nearly a 1000 years. Ancient Rome was ruled by monarchies for over 200 years until 509 B.C, when Rome’s seventh king, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus was overthrown and the Roman monarchy was turned into a republic. This meant Kings no longer ruled over Rome, and instead officials were elected, such as senators, to serve as leaders. Two magistrates called consuls, were elected from the senate by the people every year and they served as commanders in chief of the army and they had high political powers.
Around 450 B.C. – 449 B.C, the first Roman laws were inscribed on 12 bronze tablets. These became known as the Twelve Tables and they were the legislation that stood at the foundation of Roman law. The Twelve Tables were publicly displayed in the Roman Forum, which was the center of government. The unwritten rules of the Roman society were written down in the Twelve Tables and they also set out the duties, responsibilities and rights of all citizens in Rome. In 45 B.C Julius Caesar took over the Roman Republic and made himself the supreme leader, marking the end of the republic. However, Caesar’s dictatorship didn’t last long as he was murdered a year later.
The Roman Empire
To avenge Caesar’s death, Octavian, the great-nephew and heir of Julius Caesar, defeated Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C, naming him ruler of Rome. Octavian, who became known as Caesar Augustus, didn’t follow his great-uncle’s footsteps in dictatorship and instead decided to found the principate. In 27 B.C, Augustus became the first Roman Emperor, marking the start of the Roman Empire. The Emperor had supreme power over the Roman Empire. Augustus ruled over Rome for over 40 years, much longer and more successfully than his great-uncle had. He was known to bring stability and peace to the Roman Empire. He is often regarded as the greatest Roman Emperor that ever was.
There were many great cities a part of the Roman Empire, some you may be familiar with and others you may have never heard of. Let’s have a look at some of the most impressive cities that stood during the Roman Empire.
The Ancient City of Ephesus was a Roman port city, which served as a trading post within the Mediterranean. During Roman rule, Ephesus was the capital city of its Asian province, Asia Minor. The Ancient city also played an important role as a location for the development and spread of Christianity. The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was built in Ephesus and its remains still stand. Ephesus is now in Turkey, and located near the town of Selçuk.
Rome is the most recognised city of the Roman Empire because it was the capital and remains the capital of Italy today. This city was considered to be the strongest city in the world for more than 1000 years. Rome was also the center of the Roman government at the time and was the location for a lot of entertainment. Rome is now home to many ancient ruins which allow us to picture the great stories told about the Roman Empire.
Aside from Rome, Pompeii is probably one of the first cities you think of when you hear Ancient Rome. Pompeii was a thriving and active Roman city before it was destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius’ deadly eruption in 79AD. The eruption caused a thick layer of volcanic material to cover it and set everything in stone. Years later the city of Pompeii was discovered by archaeologist and what they found was astonishing. The people, buildings and items of Pompeii were as they were when the Volcano erupted almost two thousand years previously. Today you can go visit Pompeii and see how the Romans lived just before they were astonishingly frozen in time.
Alexandria is a city in northern Egypt which was founded in 331BC by Alexander the Great. The port city located on the Mediterranean Sea was the second largest city in the Roman Empire. Due to its prominence, many scholars, scientists, philosophers, mathematicians, researchers, artists, and historians were attracted to the Alexandria. It was the location of the Pharos of Alexandria lighthouse and today remnants of the great Alexandria Library can be found in the city.
Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire and it was the capital of the Roman province of Syria. Not only was it one of the biggest, but it also held much importance. Its location situated it near a number of major trade routes, including the spice trade. The city was transformed by Roman emperors into a cultured society. Antioch was also thought to be one of the earliest centers of Christianity. Antioch is now located in Turkey and known as Antakya. Ruins of temples, theatres, aqueducts, and baths can still be found here today.
Constantinople was Roman Emperor Constantine’s “New Rome,” and its location meant that it developed into a thriving port. Constantinople was situated on both the silk and spice roads, and it became an important trading post of the Roman Empire. Constantinople was known as a Christian city which had immense wealth thanks to its successful trading. Today Constantinople is known as Istanbul, which is the largest city in Turkey.
Ancient Roman Clothing
We are all familiar with Roman clothing from seeing it remade in blockbuster films, series and at halloween parties, but how accurate are our representations ? Not only did ancient Roman clothing have practical reasons but it also showed status too. The Roman society was obsessed with status and titles and they used their clothing and jewelry to show others their position in society. Most clothing worn was made of wool. Having clothing made from rare and expensive materials such as silk or cotton showed ones wealth and reputation. The Romans would have sourced cotton from India and silk from China. Leather would have also been used for Roman sandals.
Ancient Roman Men Clothing
Tunics were the most common type of clothing for men. The tunic was a long rectangular fabric similar to a shirt today.Tunics were originally made from wool, however some were also made from linen.Tunics varied in length and could have been above the knees or to the ankles. A man may have worn a belt around his waist to keep the tunic tight. The exomis was a type of tunic worn by working men and usually went over the left shoulder.
Togas were allowed to be worn by Roman citizens only, in particular Roman men. The toga was a large piece of cloth that was wrapped and draped around a man. Togas were quite difficult to put on. Most togas were usually a natural off-white colour, however those of a higher rank wore colourful ones.Togas were very heavy and uncomfortable to wear and they were also quite expensive. For this reason, togas were usually worn in theatres or at state processions.
Roman men also wore different types of cloaks to stay warm in bad weather. One type of cloak that would’ve been worn was a lacerna. This was a purple cloak which was fastened on the right shoulder with a fibula pin or brooch.The paenula was another type of cloak which was simple in design and similar to a poncho today. The sagum was typically worn by the military and was worn over armour.
Roman men wore underclothes such as a loincloth wrapped around the lower body or a light under-tunic.
Ancient Roman Women Clothing
Tunics were not only worn by men but women too and they were the most common form of clothing for women during the Roman Empire. The tunic would have been worn by the poorer in society and unmarried women. The women’s tunic was typically longer than the men’s tunic. Upper classes would have worn white tunics, while lower classes would have worn tunics coloured natural or brown.
The stola was the female version of the male toga. It was seen as a traditional form of clothing and it was typically worn by married and respectable Roman women. The stola was a dress made from wool and was long in length.Stolas could be tied with belts and decorated with ribbons and colours. Stolas were worn over tunics.
Women also wore cloaks on top of their clothes to protect them from cold or bad weather. The palla was a type of cloak worn over the stola by women and fastened with brooches.The palla was similar to the mens pallium cloak.
The typical underclothes that were worn by a woman would have been closely fitted light tunics and loincloths. The loincloths that they wore were called a subligaculum. Women would have also worn upper body garments called strophiums.
Ancient Roman Food
The Ancient Romans loved their food so much it was believed that they had special rooms called vomitoriums, in which they would throw up their meals in order to feast on more food. However, although this concept is equally disgusting as it is amusing, it isn’t completely true. It is said that it was indeed common for the Romans to vomit after eating in order to eat more, but they didn’t have special rooms in order to do so. Vomitoriums were actually entrances and exits in theatres and stadiums.
There was a huge difference between what the upper class and lower class of Ancient Rome would have eaten. Wealthy Romans could afford exotic foods while poor mostly ate grain. The government of Rome even provided free or cheap grain for the poor called a “grain dole.” Roman politicians used the grain dole to gain popularity with the lower class.
Breakfast- Ientaculum or Jentaculum
Breakfast was known as ientaculum for Romans. Breakfast for romans would have typically consisted of salted bread, milk, or wine, with honey or cheese. Poorer Romans may have eaten bread and porridge, called “puls.” Puls was made by mixing wheat, oil, herbs and water. Sometimes they might get some vegetables or fruit to eat with their puls. The poor ate very little meat.
Lunch was known as prandium for the Romans and would have typically consisted of salted bread, fruit, eggs, meat or fish, vegetables, and cheese. The Romans also ate legumes such as beans, peas and lentils with their meals It would have been similar to breakfast but with a bit more substance. The Ancient Romans would have used olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, mint, saffron and other spices to flavour their food. Romans in the lower class could only afford to eat twice a day so they would have skipped lunch.
The cena was the main meal of the day for Romans and it would be eaten in the triclinium, the dining room. Dinner parties would have been hosted in this room and the meal would often last for a few hours. Surprisingly, Romans ate with their hands a lot and their main utensil would have been a spoon. Knives and forks would have been used by slaves to cut the meat. The cena would have consisted of meats such as chicken, pork, lamb, beef and fish would have also been eaten. Today we would consider truffles a delicacy but for wealthiest of Romans a delicacy was rodents such as dormice.
For richer Romans, cena would have consisted of several course meals involving exotic food and wine. At fancy banquets Romans would have sometimes ate things like flamingos’ tongue, roast peacock, parrot head and stewed snails. Wealthy Romans often had entertainment at their dinner parties including dancers, poets, and musicians. Some wealthy Romans would eat a vesperna, a small supper in the evenings.
Fridges or refrigerators would not have been invented during Ancient Roman times, therefore the Romans had to think of other ways to preserve their food. To avoid food poisoning, the Romans smoked and salted their meat. This allowed meat to last longer and for it to be imported.
Ancient Roman Architecture
The Ancient Romans are responsible for making great advancements in architecture. The buildings the the Ancient Romans built are instantly recognisable and are one of kind. The three types of architecture used in ancient Roman architecture were Corinthian, Doric and Ionic. Greek inspired.
The Colosseum is probably the first piece of architect you think of when you think of the Roman Empire. The Colosseum was commissioned in 72 AD by the Emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty and it took eight years to complete. In 80 AD Titus, the son of Vespasian, opened the Colosseum, which was officially known as the Flavian Amphitheater. Measuring at around 620 by 513 feet, the Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre in the world. The Colosseum was huge and it could seat 50,000 people. It was built as a place where the public could enjoy gladiatorial combats and other forms of entertainment. To celebrate the opening of the Colosseum, 100 days of games were held inside it.
Where people sat in the Colosseum was determined by Roman law. Since it was the emperor who was paying for the games it is no surprise the the best seat in the Colosseum was given to the Emperor himself. His seat was called the Emperor’s Box. The second best seats were reserved for the Senators. These men even engraved their own names into marble seats to claim them as their own. Above them sat nobles and knights and above them sat in the maenianum primum, were men who had a place in society. The higher up the amphitheater a person sat the poorer they were. Plebeians and slaves sat in the upper section, called the summum.
Below the Colosseum was an underground area called the hypogeum. he hypogeum consisted of a series of connected corridors, tunnels and passageways that lead into and out of the Colosseum.These passages allowed quick and easy access to the middle of the arena. Animals, actors, and gladiators would suddenly appear from the hypogeum through a trap door during performances. The hypogeum was also a storage area for props and it is where animals would be kept.
The dome of the Pantheon in Rome is the largest unsupported concrete dome in the world and is the most imitated ancient works. Michelangelo is said to have regarded the Pantheon as the work of angels, not men.The name is translated from two Greek words which mean “everything divine”. The Pantheon was built between 25 and 27 B.C. by the consul Agrippa and it was originally intended as a temple dedicated to all Roman Gods. The Pantheon has been reconstructed many times since it was first built. In 80 A.D, Domitian rebuilt it after a fire. The Pantheon was the first temple built for the common people and it still remains as one of the most impressive and visited attractions in Rome.
Every Roman city had a public bath where people came to bathe and socialize. The Roman baths were an integral part of everyday Ancient Roman life. When Roman baths were first introduced they were built on natural hot springs or tidal pools. However, aqueducts allowed the Romans to build them anywhere they liked. The aqueducts provided heated water to the bath houses, through a heating system known as hypocaust. The main purpose of the baths was for cleaning. In order to clean themselves, Romans put oil on their skin and would scrape it off with metal, called a strigil.The public bath were also used to socialise and they became a place where people worked out, relaxed, and met with others.
There was a fee to get into the public baths. The fee wasn’t very expensive considering many poor could afford to enter the baths. Men and women entered the baths from separate entrances but during the Roman Empire they were mixed once inside the Roman baths. Some wealthy Romans would have had their own bath in their home but would have still visited the public baths to socialise. You can visit magnificent remains of Roman Baths today, Bath in England, Baths of Diocletian and Baths of Caracalla in Rome.
There were many different rooms in the Roman Baths including;
This room was the changing room where visitors would take off their clothing before entering the main area of the baths. It was of a similar function to a locking room that we would have today.
The tepidarium was known as the warm room as it had a warm bath. It was often the main central hall in the bath where the bathers met and relaxed. This also where Romans would go for a massage and to clean.
The caldarium was known as the hot room. It was a hot and steamy room which contained a very hot bath.
You can probably guess what a frigidarium was by the similarity of its name to the word fridge. A frigidarium was known as the cold room. This room had a cold bath that was used cool the Romans down on a hot day or after being in the caldarium.
A laconium was a dry sweat room used by the Ancient Romans. This room was used for resting.
The palaestra was a open courtyard where bathers could exercise. The palaestra was a gym in the Roman baths where bathers lifted weights, threw a discus, or played ball games. Some palaestra’s had a swimming pool so Ancient Romans would have also used it to swim.
As the saying goes “All Roads lead to Rome” Well, during the Roman Empire this was certainly true. Roman Roads were a vital part of the Roman Empire and were very important to the economy and the military of the Romans. The Romans built over 400,000 km of main roads and local roads.They allowed for easier trade between towns and cities and also allowed the Roman legions to move quickly.
They were built using many layers of stone, gravel, concrete and sand. The road was surfaced with slabs or pebbles. Roman roads were designed with a hump in the centre to make water flow to the edges and keep the roads from flooding. Some of the Roman roads are still used today. The first and most famous Roman road is the Appian way, which linked Rome to Capua.
Aqueducts were revelountinary to the Romans water system and an example of the Romans’ outstanding engineering. Aqueducts were long channels that were built to carry water from springs and mountains into cities and towns. Many of the Roman aqueducts were below ground and as they got closer to the cities they were bridge like structures above ground. The water that was carried into the cities was used for drinking water, fountains, baths, sewers and restrooms, known as latrines. Aqueducts helped to keep the Romans and their cities clean. The quality of the water from the aqueducts could vary, with some aqueducts providing excellent quality water and others murky and muddy water.
Ancient Roman Houses
A Romans place in society was reflected by their home. There was a drastic difference between the upper class, patricians houses and the lower class,the plebs houses.
The primary source of water for rich Romans were lead pipes. There was a tax put on the lead pipes by the Roman Government, the bigger the pipes the larger the tax. Historians can see how wealthy a family was by the size of their lead pipes.
The majority of the people living in Roman cities, particular the lower class, lived in apartment buildings that were known as insulae. Insula is the Latin word for “island”. Insulae were generally three to seven stories high and they could house 30 to 50 people. The individual apartments typically consisted of two small rooms. The bottom floor of the insulae would often contain shops and stores and the owners would live in the apartments above.
The larger apartments were at the bottom and the smallest were at the top. The first two floors had the larger space with two bedrooms and balconies. The first two floors were also the only apartments that had running water. Many insulae were not constructed very well and were known to often catch fire or even collapse.This made insulaes quite dangerous places to live in.
The wealthy and upper class of Rome lived in large homes called domus. Most Roman houses had similar features and rooms. There was a courtyard that led to the main area of the house called the atrium. Atriums had rooms, such as bedrooms, dining rooms or office, that opened up off of them at the side and they had no roofs. Wealthy Romans decorated their homes with wall paintings, marble pillars, sculptures, and tile mosaics.
The domus was separated into two sections, the antica and the postica. The antica was at the front of the domus and it contained the atrium, a place for socialising. The postica was at the rear of the domus and it was a much more private area of the house. One of the main features of the postica is the peristylium which did not have a roof and was used as the garden to grow herbs and flowers.
Although all domus designs were uniquely decorated by their owners, the layout of the majority of the domus was the same for most wealthy families with maybe a few tweaks here and there. Many domus house would have contained the following features;
Most domus had a front door at the end of a small passageway which was known as a vestibulum. A corridor called the fauces led people from the entrance to the antica. This acted as the grand entrance hall for the domus.
The atrium was an open room where guests were greeted. The atrium typically had an open roof, called a compluvium and a small pool, called a impluvium. The compluvium allowed sunlight, fresh air, and rain to enter the atrium, while the impluvium, which was directly underneath, caught any falling rainwater. The water could then be used for cleaning, cooking and drinking.
The tablinum was the office for the man of the house and it was located at the rear of the atrium, opposite the entrance. The tablinum was used by the man of the house for him to take care of his business.
The triclinium was known as the dining room. The word triclinium translate in Greek to “three couch” This was often the most impressive and decorated room of the house in order to impress guests that were dining over. A lot of time would have been spent dining, entertaining and relaxing in the triclinium. In Ancient Rome, wealthy Romans would have lied down on long cosy couches while they ate their meals. Children and slaves would have sat up while eating.
Cubiculum’s were small private rooms in the domus. Cubiculum’s that were on the upper story of the house were often used as bedrooms by the Romans. Romans would have slept and rested here. An ancient romans bed would have been typically stuffed with feathers or straw. Cubiculum’s on the lower floor would have been used for private meetings
The culina was the kitchen. It is similar to the word culinary. This is where cooks would have prepared food for the Romans. All the cooking in a culina would have been done on an open hearth called a focus.
Ancient Roman Past Times
The main form of entertainment for Romans was the amphitheatre. This was a place where Romans would watch gladiators fight wild animals or other gladiators. It is a hard for us to imagine but the Romans idea of entrainment was watching gladiators and animals fight to the death. Cinemas and theatres were a much nicer substitution don’t you think?
Any Romans that had a need for speed would have enjoyed their spare time watching chariot races at the spectacular Circus Maximus. A chariot races usually consisted of 12 chariots with 4 horses each.The 12 racers were split into four teams, called factions. The chariots used were very light and only fit one person standing up. A chariot racer had to complete seven laps of the stadium in order to finish the race.The chariot racers went at incredible speeds and when they crashed the chariots would often be obliterated and the driver badly hurt.
The Circus Maximus was the largest stadium in Rome and it could hold over 200,000 spectators. To put that number into perspective the largest stadium in the world as of 2022 is the Rungrado 1st of May Stadium, in North Korea and it can hold roughly 150,000 spectators. Although now in ruins, you can still visit what is left of the outline of the Circus Maximus still today.
For Romans who didn’t enjoy the gore of fighting, there was the Roman theatres. Roman theatres were were semi-circular and many are still around today. At the base of the Roman theatre there was an orchestra and behind them, there was the main stage that faced the seats. This is where actors would perform. The genre of plays that theater would put on were broad, from comedies, tragedies and pantomimes. Men acted both female and male parts as women were not allowed to act in Ancient Rome.
Campus Martius was originally used as a military training ground but was transformed into a large public area by the first Century B.C. The campus was like a large playground for Romans. In their past time Romans could enjoy taking part in field and track sports. Other sports that they enjoyed were wrestling, boxing and fencing.
Romans would go to the Forum to go shopping. Romans could buy everything from food to jewelry at the Forum.This was also an area for people to socialise while they shopped. Rome also had markets that Romans could shop at. Spices, shoes, books, wool and food could be bought at markets. The Forum Boarium was a huge meat and cattle market that Romans could buy their food and the Forum Cuppedinis was a market that sold luxury goods and delicacies. For wealthy Romans, slaves could even be bought at markets!
Romans played many board games. This is known because many have been found by archaeologists. Many board games even used dices and were similar to games we would play today.The Romans played a number of board games, including Latrunculi, which is similar to chess or draughts, Merels, also known as Nine Men’s Morris, Terni Lapilli, which is today known as Tic-Tac-Toe and Tabla-lusoria.
Hunting was another form of entertainment. Some Romans hunted for food to eat but also for fun. They hunted deers, rabbits, wild boar and birds.
Health and Medicine in Roman Empire
In the early days of Ancient Rome, medicine consisted of religion and magic. As the years went on, the Romans became influenced by Greek medicine and many Greek physicians were brought over to Rome to share their knowledge. Roman citizenship was even granted by Julius Caesar to physicians when the army needed trained doctors. Emperor Augustus went a step further and gave immunity to physicians from paying taxes, public duties and gave them pension plans.
Emperor Augustus established the first Roman military medical corps. The medical corps were the first dedicated field surgery units. Thanks to the medical corps, life expectancy of the average soldier was longer than those of opposition army soldiers. Medical corpsmen were also known as “immunes.” They practiced front-line treatment and would allow wounded soldiers to heal in their hospitals on camp.
The Romans were also known for their incredible and before their time public health system. Clean drinking water was important to prevent disease and personal hygiene was also a major issue throughout Ancient Roman life. The Roman Baths also had a very small fee to allow everyone to afford access. This way everyone could keep clean. Roman houses and streets also had toilets, which were flushed clean by running water.
Ancient Roman Jobs
For those Romans that were not of high status and came from wealth, there were, like today, many different occupations that a Roman could choose from. Romans either trained to become a tradesman or solider or else they inherited businesses from their family. Let’s have a look at some of the jobs Roman’s worked as;
Soldier – The Roman Army was very large and needed many soldiers in order to retain the Roman Empire. Many from the poorer class would have joined the army in order to earn a regular wage and to receive some land of their own. There was also a chance that they could move up in status if they performed well.
Craftsman – There were no machines to make furniture, weapons and jewellery back in Ancient Rome. Craftsman were trained in a specific craft, typically learnt from their fathers and they would have worked in their own craft shop selling their crafts. Other craftsman, typically slaves or poorer class, worked in larger workshops. In these larger quantities of standard items would have been mass produced.
Farmer – Romans had to grow their own food and typically Romans who lived in the countryside with land would have been farmers. The most common crop that farmers would have grown was wheat as the Romans ate a lot of porridge and bread. Farmers would grow their crops and tend to their cattle and then sell them to earn money.
Entertainers – As we known from the size of their great theatres and amphitheatres, the people of Ancient Rome liked entertainment. Similar to today, entertainers in Rome would have included musicians, dancers, actors, chariot racers, and gladiators. If successful, gladiators and chariot racers could become well-loved celebrities.
Merchant – Being a merchant was an important job during Ancient Rome as they kept the economy going. Trade was very important to the Roman Empire. Merchants would buy and sell items from all around the Roman Empire.
Government – The government was a huge part of Ancient Rome. Senators were the highest ranking positions in the Roman government and other roles in the government included tax collectors. The Senators were very powerful and they served in their position for life. Roman citizens involved in government usually had a high status and were well regarded in society.
Educated Citizens – If Roman citizens were fortunate enough to be educated they could gain well respected jobs such as lawyers, teachers, and engineers. All very important and respected roles in Roman society.
Ancient Roman Coins
Roman currency was first introduced during the Roman Republic around 300 B.C. Roman coins were made from gold, silver, bronze and copper metals. Some Roman coins had Greek inscriptions not Latin and resembled Greek coinage. Around 200 B.C a new coinage system was introduced to Ancient Rome. The bronze and later copper coin was known as the “as”. The silver coin was called the “denarius” and was worth 10 “asses” during the Republic. The gold coin was called the “aureus” was worth 25 times the value of the “denarius”.
The minting process for Roman coins was a complicated to ensure fake coins couldn’t be easily produced. Roman coins had images of Gods stamped on them. Caesar was the first ruler to put his head on Roman Coins and from then on Roman coins had every Emperors head featured on them.
Ancient Rome Names
There a many famous names that have come from Ancient Rome. We are reminded of their names from history books and movies because of the impact they had on Roman society during the Roman Empire. Let’s have a look at a few of the most memorable names in Ancient Roman history.
Emperor Augustus was the first Emperor of Rome, a regime that would last for over 1,000 years. He is by far one of the most famous Roman emperors of all time. Emperor Augustus was a great ruler and during his time he was responsible for building roads, aqueducts and building.
Julius Caesar is one of the most well known figures in Roman history, having been portrayed on numerous occasions in films and series. Julius Caesar was a self-appointed dictator of Rome and the great-uncle and adopted father of Emperor Augustus. Although Caesar gloriously rose up the ranks to become dictator, his reign lasted a very short year. Caesar was assassinated by Roman Senators for fear he would try and become King and gain absolute power.
Spartacus was, without a doubt, the most famous gladiator in the whole of Roman history. Spartacus was born in Thrace and he was a soldier captured in war and sold into slavery to fight as a gladiator. Spartacus is best known for leading the largest slave revolt against Rome. He first led about 70 gladiators to escape to Mount Vesuvius and over the next tow years he freed thousands of slaves. Spartacus trained them to create an army of nearly 100,000 freed slaves. This angered the Roman Senate and the Roman army was sent out to attack Spartacus and his army. This led to Spartacus’ death and the end of his slave army.
Constantine I who was also known as Constantine the Great has gone down in Roman history as the first Christian Roman emperor. During his reign, Constantine signed the Edict of Milan in 313, which made the persecution of Christians illegal and he also helped spread the religion by funding church-building projects and commissioning new copies of the Bible.
Nero was often known as the “Madman of Rome” and was hands down the most infamous Roman of all time, known for his notorious for his cruelty. He ascended to power in AD 54 aged just 16 and died at 30, during his reign he made the daily lives of Romans terrible. During his rule, much of Rome was burnt down, in the Great Fire of Rome, which led to a huge loss of life and property. It is said that Nero watched Rome burn to the ground from his palace while singing about the fall of Troy. It was also speculated that Nero killed his mother and two wives.
Ancient Rome Map
The video above depicts the impressive expansion that the Roman Republic began and the escalation of this expansion that the Roman Empire was responsible for throughout the years. Very few countries close to Rome escaped the Roman Empires expansion. It is surprising that the island of Ireland was not invaded considering their neighbours Britain were taken over.
Ancient Roman Religion
Today Rome is where the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope resides. Considering that Rome has been the home of God’s representative on Earth for hundreds of years, it is hard to imagine that Christianity wasn’t always the religion of the Romans. It’s even harder to imagine that early Christians were often murdered in the early Roman Empire. Christianity became the states religion in 380 A.D by Emperor Constantine.
Before Christianity took over Ancient Rome, the Romans had established a polytheistic system of beliefs, worshipping many different gods and spirits. Similar to the ancient Greeks, different cities across ancient Rome developed their own patron saints. It is not surprising that when Romans expanded to Greece that they took on many of the Greek beliefs and gods. The Romans built many temples in cities to honour the gods. Roman citizens saw these temples as the home of gods, and they would worship outside it or on the temple’s entrance. Temples were sacred and people were not allowed to enter inside of them.
The Vestal Virgins were priestesses in the Roman religion who represented daughters of highborn families. Vestal Virgins were chosen at a young age and had to remain in service to the goddess Vesta for 30 years. Vesta was the goddess of the hearth, home and family. Roman leaders became the chief priest otherwise known as the pontifex maximus, making them the head of any religious worship.
We can now see why the Roman Empire was known as the greatest civilisation during its time. It is fascinating to look back and see all that the Ancient Romans achieved and how much of an influence they have had on our lives today, 2000 years later.