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The Ancient Rome Portal

Ancient Rome was a civilization which began as a small agricultural community on the Italian Peninsula in the 8th century BC. Rome became a large empire which straddled the Mediterranean Sea. In its twelve centuries of existence, Roman civilization was firstly a monarchy, then a republic that combined oligarchy and democracy, and finally became an autocratic empire. Through conquest and assimilation, it came to dominate Western Europe, the entire Mediterranean Basin including the Near East and North Africa, the Balkans, and the Black Sea.

The Roman empire went into decline in the 3rd century AD, and began to collapse in the 5th century AD. Plagued by internal instability and attacked by various migrating peoples, the western part of the empire, including Hispania, Gaul, and Italy, broke into independent kingdoms in the 5th century. The eastern part of the empire, governed from Constantinople, survived this crisis, and remained intact for another millennium, until its last remains were finally annexed by the emerging Ottoman Empire. This eastern, medieval stage of the Empire is usually referred to as the Byzantine Empire by historians.

Roman civilization was part of the period of classical antiquity, alongside ancient Greece—a civilization that inspired much of the culture of ancient Rome. Ancient Rome made significant contributions to the development of law, war, art, literature, architecture, technology, and language in the Western world, and its history continues to have a great influence on the world today.

Bust of Gaius Julius Caesar.

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In the Roman Republic, the dictator was an extraordinary magistrate with the absolute authority to perform tasks beyond the authority of the ordinary magistrate. The office was the single exception during the Republic to the principle of collegiality (under which every office was composed of more than one citizen). Dictators were appointed in order to wage war on a particular enemy, to settle a constitutional crisis, to conduct special religious functions, or to conduct certain types of election. Dictators were appointed by the consuls, who were authorised to do so by a senatus consultum (dictum) of the Roman Senate. The dictator was superior to all other magistracies in the republic, and had no legal responsibility for his actions. He was attended by 24 lictors, and could over-rule, depose from office, or put to death any other magistrate. Unlike all other magistracies (including the consulship), the dictator was not required to co-operate with the senate, and had the absolute power to put any citizen to death, and to create, change, or amend any law. The dictator was always attended by a Master of the Horse.

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Gaius Gracchus (154 BC – 121 BC), a tribune of the people, presiding over the Plebeian Council. When presiding, the tribune could make motions and propose laws to the council.

Gaius Gracchus (154 BC – 121 BC), a tribune of the people, presiding over the Plebeian Council. When presiding, the tribune could make motions and propose laws to the council.

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Gaius Cornelius Tacitus.jpg
Publius (or Gaiues) Cornelius Tacitus (ca. 56 – ca. 117) was a senator and an historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those that reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors. These two works span the history of the Roman Empire from the death of Augustus in 14 to (presumably) the death of emperor Domitian in 96. There are significant lacunae in the surviving texts.

Other works by Tacitus discuss oratory (in dialogue format, see Dialogus de oratoribus), Germania (in De origine et situ Germanorum), and biographical notes about his father-in-law Agricola, primarily during his campaign in Britannia (see De vita et moribus Iulii Agricolae).

Did you know?

  • ...That according to Suetonius, Caligula "often sent for men whom he had secretly killed, as though they were still alive, and remarked offhandedly a few days later that they must have committed suicide"?
  • ...That Mark Antony, who avenged Julius Caesar, was killed by Julius Caesar's grand nephew (Octavian) Augustus Caesar?
  • ...That Sulla's grave read No friend ever surpassed him in kindness, and no enemy in ill-doing?


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17219 news items

Ancient Origins

Ancient Origins
Wed, 01 Apr 2015 07:15:00 -0700

Servius Tullius was the sixth legendary king of ancient Rome and the second king of the Etruscan dynasty. Public Domain. During the early part of his reign, Servius pursued a war against the Veientes and Etruscans in order to preserve the internal ...
Financial Times
Sun, 29 Mar 2015 16:26:15 -0700

Sir, Mr Joseph Nye in his opinion piece (“The American century will survive the rise of China,” March 26) asserts that “unlike ancient Rome” the US is not in absolute decline. Considering the date of the founding of Rome in 753 BCE and its fall with ...

The Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail
Fri, 27 Mar 2015 09:52:30 -0700

The Domus Aurea was the Versailles of ancient Rome – and about as popular with the people. The palace had a 35-metre statue in its vestibule, three colonnades 11/2 kilometres long, a revolving banquet hall, walls coated with gold and gems, and a ...

Daily Mail

Daily Mail
Thu, 05 Mar 2015 06:33:49 -0800

According to some accounts, the wealth of the ancient Roman empire was reflected in the very fabric of the city - with buildings of sparkling white marble at its centre. Even the founder of the Roman empire, Emperor Augustus claimed that he had 'found ...


Mon, 16 Mar 2015 02:02:44 -0700

An American father-of-three imprisoned in Yemen fears he will be killed by airstrikes targeting rebels in the country, according to his lawyers. Sharif Mobley, 31, was arrested in Yemen's capital Sanaa in 2010 after he allgedly made contact with U.S ...

Laboratory Equipment

Laboratory Equipment
Thu, 26 Mar 2015 04:03:45 -0700

A: Most topographic studies of ancient Rome rely on flat, static maps that present the entire city at a single moment. Yet as we all know cities are always in flux; they are experienced kinetically and haptically at ground level as one moves up and ...


Fri, 20 Mar 2015 10:00:29 -0700

A still from the virtual tour of Ancient Rome. Credit: Rome Reborn via Open Culture. [The] extended tour [is] guided by renowned “virtual archaeologist” and overseer of the Rome Reborn project Dr. Bernard Frischer...in dialogue with Dr. Steven Zucker, ...
IMAO (satire)
Sun, 29 Mar 2015 06:25:11 -0700

3 Responses to “It's Like Wallace & Gromit Visit Ancient Rome, Except It's Good”. Mike says: March 29th, 2015 at 9:16 am. It's mind-boggling what the ancients managed to do with only primitive tools and iron discipline. JeffersonFan says: March 29th ...

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