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(Text by Duane R. Hurst © 2013)

Click on a link to view its information and pictures.
Significant Event:
    Battle of Actium in 31 BC
    Gallic Wars (Julius Caesar 58-52 BC)
    Punic Wars (with Carthage 264-146 BC)

Main Cities: Rome
Time: 800 BC - 565 AD
Language: Latin
Personage: Augustus Caesar; Julius Caesar; Romulus
Religion: Christianity; Roman Gods
Related Country: Italy

Brief History:
      I have included only a few items concerning the history of this empire. A good source for more details can be found on Wikipedia or in history books.

Map of Roman Empire
Click Map to Enlarge
      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 Sabine Women.

      Rome grew from a small, Tiber-River town atop the Palatine Hill into a large city that encompassed seven hills. In Rome's early years, Etruscan kings ruled until Romans deposed Lucius Tarquinius Superbus in 509 BC. Romans (aka Latins) often fought with and eventually conquered Etruscans, Sabines and other people in the Italian Peninsula.

      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 (see battle plan). 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.

      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. Legions defeated the forces of Macedon in 168 BC in the Battle of Pydna.

      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.

      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.

      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 Morbihan.

     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 (see location).

      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.

      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.

      In 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted and thick ash buried the city of Pompeii. Examples of sophisticated architecture throughout the empire were the Colosseum in Rome, Pont du Gard aqueduct in France, and Alcántara Bridge in Spain.

      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. Legions attempted to curtail Dacians and other barbarian incursions. Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD) ruled while Germanic and other invasions threatened the empire. In 243 AD, legions under Emperor Gordian III and Timesitheus defeated Sassanid forces in battle at Resaena.

      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. In 70 AD Roman legions quelled rebellion in Jerusalem and destroyed Herod's temple.

      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 Attila.

© Page Publisher: Duane R. Hurst