Brothers Romulus and Remus traditionally founded
Rome on 21 April 753 BC. They were descendants of Aeneas,
who escaped Troy's destruction circa 1184 BC. Rome was
a sanctuary for riffraff and undesirables. Due to a shortage of women, men of Rome abducted many
Circa 509 BC, Rome adopted a republican system of government. Two annually elected consuls and a
senate, that advised the consuls,
governed the republic. Rome also developed a complex constitution, which contained a separation of powers with checks and
balances designed to prevent a dictatorship. Militarily, Roman forces defeated Latin cities in battles at
Lake Regillus (496 BC), Mons Algidus (458 BC),
Corbione (vs. Aequi and Volsci tribes; 446 BC), Aricia (495 BC) and
Etruscans at Cremera (477 BC).
Between 390 and 387 BC, Celts invaded northern Italy. Chieftain
Brennus defeated a Roman army of 24,000 troops in the Battle of Allia.
Celts reportedly entered Rome, received gold tribute and later retreated from an army under general
Marcus Furius Camillus. Rome quickly recovered and defeated
Latin rebel forces in the battles of Vesuvius (340 BC) and Trifanum (339 BC).
Rome also waged three wars against the Samnites (343-341; 326-304; 298-290 BC).
During the third war, Rome was alarmed at a coalition of enemies (Etruscans; Gauls; Samnites; Umbrians); however, their
disciplined legions defeated the united force in the Battle of Sentinum
in 295 BC.
The growing Roman power and a naval clash between Rome and Magna Graecia
led the Greeks of Tarentum to request help from Pyrrhus,
king of Epirus. Due in part to his 30 war elephants, Pyrrhus defeated a Roman army
in the costly battles of Heraclea (July 280 BC) and Asculum (279 BC). in 277 BC, Pyrrhus moved his army to
Sicily to become its king. He conquered
Eryx, a strategic stronghold of Carthage.
All other Carthaginian cities in Sicily allied with Pyrrhus, except for Lilybaeum (modern Marsala).
He failed to take the city, alienated Carthaginian and Greek Sicilians, and abandoned the island. Pyrrhus returned to Italy and
fought an inconclusive battle at Beneventum (275 BC) before returning to Epirus.
The first Punic War (264-241 BC) resulted in the expansion of Roman territory. It mainly was
fought for control of Sicily, particularly the former Greek colony at Syracuse.
The Roman triumph encouraged Carthaginian cities on Sicily to side with Rome and
Carthage dispatched troops
to battle Rome. This war also caused Rome to build a strong navy to counter Carthaginian superiority.
They overcame a fleet near Carthage in 256 BC at Cape Ecnomus.
A peace treaty in 241 BC ended the war.
During the second Punic War (218-201 BC) Hannibal, a highly
successful general, led a large army and an elephant troop
over the Alps and defeated several Roman armies in the battles of Trebia
and Lake Trasimene. His greatest feat was a decisive slaughter of a Roman
army in the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC.
Hasdrubal II, Hannibal's brother, simultaneously contended with
Roman forces in Hispania and Rome fought its first Macedonian
war with Carthage's ally, King Philip V. Hasbrubal and two other generals
lost to Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus and
withdrew their forces from Hispania, so as to aid Hannibal in defense of Carthage. However, Carthage sued for peace after
Scipio Africanus destroyed Carthaginian forces at the Battle of Zama in 202 BC.
The third Punic War (149-146 BC) resulted from Rome's refusal to stop Numidian encroachments on Carthage. Rome
then attacked Carthage because the city used troops to fight the Numidians. In 149 BC Rome
sacked and destroyed Carthage;
only 55,000 people survived and became slaves to Rome.
TERRITORIAL EXPANSION: Philip V, king of Macedonia,
attempted to ally with Carthage against Rome. This precipitated the Macedonian Wars. The First (214-205 BC) ended in a
stalemate, although Philip did seize Lissus in Illyria. He expanded into the
Aegean Sea, attacking Rhodes
and its allies during the Cretan War (205-200 BC). Rome sought an excuse to intervene in Greece and fought the Second
Macedonian War (200-197 BC). The Roman legion proved superior to the Greek
phalanx. Philip suffered a major defeat at the
Battle of Cynoscephalae in 197 BC.
Rome conquered the Berber Kingdom of Numidia during a war with
Jugurtha (112-106 BC), an unprincipled degenerate who seized the kingship.
Bribed Roman officials supported Jugurtha against Adherbal and Hiempsal, the true heirs. Rome declared war on Jugurtha
after he executed Roman citizens who sided with Adherbal. The war highlighted corruption in Rome and its hierarchy.
Roman armies eventually defeated invading Germanic Cimbri and Teutons
in the battles of Aquae Sextiae and Vercellae. The republic expanded the role
of its warships to seize lands around the Mediterranean Sea.
Rome faced three Servile Wars between 135 and 71 BC, wherein slaves revolted within the empire. The most serious (73-71 BC)
was called the Gladiator War.
Spartacus, a Thracian gladiator, led an initial
group of 78 rebellious gladiators from Capua to over 120,000 followers. He and able
lieutenants defeated two Praetorian expeditions under Gaius Claudius Glaber and Publius Varinius. They later
defeated several legionnaire armies until Marcus Licinius Crassus
quashed and killed Spartacus in the Battle of Siler River (71 BC). Crassus ordered the
crucifixion of 6,000 captured survivors.
PONTUS AND PIRATES:
Between 89 and 63 BC, Rome fought wars with Mithridates VI,
king of Pontus, who attempted to expand his kingdom. He ordered a massacre of
nearly 80,000 Romans in Pontus. Roman general Lucius Cornelius Sulla
forced Mithridates out of Greece. General Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus
eventually defeated Mithridates in a night Battle of Lycus (66 BC).
During the same period, pirates from Cilicia dominated much of the
Mediterranean Sea. Pompey cleared the western sector of pirates within 40 days.
JULIUS CEASAR: Gaius Julius Caesar (100-44 BC) was the most famous and successful
Roman general, who later became Consul and Emperor. While governor of Cisalpine Gaul
and Illyricum. He later added Transalpine Gaul,
from where he precipitated wars and a conquest of Gaul (58-49 BC). He also staged two invasions into
Britain at Kent in 53 BC and the following year
Caesar defeated local forces and installed Manubracius as a client king.
In 61 BC, Orgetorix intended to lead his Helvetii tribe
into Gaul, but he died under suspicious circumstances. Divico, a subsequent chieftain, negotiated with Ceasar after a
Battle of the Saône. They fought a second battle at Bibracte, which forced half of the
Helvetii to return home. Caesar likewise warred with the Suebi at Magetobriga (63 BC) and the Belgae at Sabis (57 BC; near the
Sambre River). In 56 BC, Caesar attacked the Veneti at the Battle of
Ceasar ended problems with the Celts in 52 BC at the Battle of Alesia.
His legions besieged the 80,000 man army of Vercingétorix, but were in turn
surrounded by 120,000 to 250,000 additional Celts. Romans constructed fortifications
facing both armies and withstood a general attack. Vercingétorix surrendered
his starving army and died five years later in Rome, after being paraded through the streets.
In 53 BC, Crassus foolishly invaded the
Parthian Empire, which crushed his army and killed him in the
Battle of Carrhae. He, Caesar and Pompey had formed a
ruling Triumvirate in Rome. Pompey sought greater power while Caesar was in Gaul and various senators demanded that
Caesar relinquish his legions to the state. Rather than submit to his political enemies, Caesar led one legion
across the Rubicon in 49 BC. His action precipitated a civil war (49-45 BC) between
Caesar's supporters and the Optimates under Pompey. As Pompey fled to Epirus and Greece, Caesar won a quick victory at
Lierda (modern Lleida) in Hispania. He later defeated Pompey's force in
Ptolmaic Egypt and installed Queen
Cleopatra VII. The Civil War ended in the
Battle of Munda on 17 March 45 BC.
The senate early in the Civil War voted Caesar to be a dictator. He initiated a reform that allowed full Roman
citizenship on non-Latin members of the empire. On 15 March 44 BC, conspirators in the senate
assassinated Caesar. Mark Antony
avenged Caesar's murder but suffered defeat at Actium.
He and Cleopatra committed suicide rather than face capture.
EARLY EMPIRE: Augustus Caesar became the first Roman emperor in 27 BC and ruled 40 years
during a new "Golden Age" of Rome. Emperors lived in an imposing imperial palace
on the Palatine Hill. The empire continued to expand and ruthlessly quashed rebellions, such as the 60-year war in
Judea. This culminated in the Siege of Jerusalem
(70 AD). Roman troops used catapults and other equipment to complete a
destruction of Jerusalem. Zealots continued to resist in the desert at
Masada until Roman legions forced entrance and discovered the
besieged committed mass suicide rather than endure slavery.
In 9 AD, Germanic tribes under Arminius destroyed three legions in a Battle of the
Teutoburg Forest. Roman general,
Publius Quinctilius Varus, foolishly led his army into the forest without proper
precautions, where Arminius ambushed them. The Germans later eliminated all
Roman forts and garrisons east of the Rhine River. Rome retaliated with a
successful campaign under Germanicus (14-16 AD) but later withdrew because
the empire was overextended.
Emperor Trajan brought the Roman Empire to its zenith. Its northern border
included Britain, the Low Countries and the rivers
Rhine and Danube. It stretched eastward into old
Babylon. Trajan's successor,
Hadrian, extended the northern border to
Hadrian's Wall in Britain, which later included the
Antonine Wall in modern
Scotland. In 208 AD, emperor Septimius Severus
refurbished the northern wall, which was called the Severus Wall.
Rome abandoned the area north of Hadrian's wall eight years later.
Enemies and migrating tribes attacked Roman borders during the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius
(138-161 AD). A Roman victory in the Parthian War (161-166 AD) resulted in a plague that killed approximately
five million people and severely weakened the Roman Empire. This also was the beginning of the
Gothic invasions. The
Marcomannic Wars (166-180 AD) exposed weakness of
the Roman Empire's northern borders with Germanic tribes, Dacia and
along the Danube River. Emperor Marcus Aurelius
(161-180 AD) ruled while Germanic and other invasions threatened the empire.
COLLAPSE OF THE EMPIRE:
Many factors led to the eventual collapse of the Roman empire, as has happened to every empire in world history.
A key factor was corruption that grew from wealth and hubris, exemplified in such degenerate emperors as
Caligula and Nero. Nero was
accused of torching Rome in 64 AD.
Between 235 and 284 AD, the empire nearly collapsed during a period of Military Anarchy.
The splinter Gallic and Palmyrene Empires vied with
Rome for control. Emperor Aurelian restored control over
the Palmyrene Empire in 272 AD after defeating the forces of Queen Zenobia
at the battles of Immae and Emesa. Aurelian later reclaimed the Gallic Empire after a Battle of Châlons in 274 AD.
Constantine became emperor in 306 AD. He built an imperial residence at
Byzantium (later renamed Constantinople )
and adopted Christianity as the preferred religion.
In 395 AD, Theodosius I divided the empire into Western and
Eastern sectors under the rule of his sons, Arcadius (East aka Byzantine)
and Honorius (West in Rome). The western sector faced more invasions, such as the Huns under