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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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The censor was a magistracy in Rome, held by two citizens at once, and which maintained the census, regulated some aspects of the government's finances, and supervised public morality. The censors' regulation of public morality is the origin of the modern meaning of "censorship" and "to censor". The office of censor was created by the sixth king of Rome, but it fell into disuse (with the consuls taking up the duties of censor) between the abolition of the Roman Kingdom and 442 BC. Two censors were elected every five years, to hold office for eighteen months, by the Centuriate Assembly. The censors had no imperium, and accordingly no lictors, but was nonetheless regarded as the highest dignity in the state. Their duties were regarded as so important that the death of one censor necessitated the resignation of his colleague and the election of two new censors; and the funeral of a censor was conducted with the same pomp and revere as the funerals of the later Roman Emperors would be. Their duty to supervise public morality was what caused their office to be one of the most revered and the most dreaded in the Roman state, and they were colloquially known as Castigatores ("chastisers").

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On this Roman coin, the busts of Emperor Gordian III and his wife Furia Sabina Tranquillina. The Roman Republic and Empire's currency was used from the middle of the third century BC until the middle of the third century AD.

On this Roman coin, the busts of Emperor Gordian III and his wife Furia Sabina Tranquillina. The Roman Republic and Empire's currency was used from the middle of the third century BC until the middle of the third century AD.

Photo credit: Heinz-Joachim Krenzer


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Selected biography

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 the Pater familias of a family, had the power to sell his children into slavery?
  • ...That Trajan was the last Roman Emperor to harry the coast of Arabia with the Roman Navy?
  • ...That Trajan was born at Italica, in Spain and adopted by the Roman Emperor Nerva and made his heir, which entitled Trajan to call himself the son of Nerva


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24355 news items


Sun, 29 Nov 2015 20:41:15 -0800

We dispel some old myths about ancient Rome with Mary Beard, classics professor at Cambridge University in England, who writes a well-read blog and is author of a new book, SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome. What's SPQR stand for? According to ...

Christian Science Monitor

Christian Science Monitor
Wed, 25 Nov 2015 05:52:30 -0800

I've watched – from the distance of the written page, though it felt more immediate – as she engaged with pagan priests, classical art, the Parthenon and the Coliseum, the classics again and again, and the jokers of ancient Rome. She hasn't known it ...

Daily Beast

Daily Beast
Sat, 21 Nov 2015 17:57:37 -0800

Jests and wit, especially the irreverent kind, fascinate Beard; her last book before SPQR was Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up. That 2014 study opened with a characteristically Beardian anecdote, recorded by Cassius Dio ...

New York Times

New York Times
Tue, 17 Nov 2015 13:45:00 -0800

The publication of her new book, “SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome,” feels like a potential crossover moment. Ms. Beard was profiled in The New Yorker last year (expertly, by Rebecca Mead), yet her renown has not fully made the leap over the Atlantic ...


Tue, 10 Nov 2015 10:00:00 -0800

The classicist Mary Beard may be the only writer who could get away with the pithy first line of her new book: “Ancient Rome is important.” Coming from a less preeminent figure, it might seem utterly, boringly obvious. But coming from her, it serves as ...


Mon, 09 Nov 2015 10:52:51 -0800

More than a dozen books and frequent newspaper articles, book reviews, TV documentaries and a prolific Twitter account have made her one of England's best-known public intellectuals. She has a new book, SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, out this month.

BBC History Magazine (blog)

BBC History Magazine (blog)
Wed, 11 Nov 2015 05:16:38 -0800

As part of our 'History Extra explains' series, leading historians answer the burning questions you were too afraid to ask... Wednesday 11th November 2015. Submitted by: Jessica Hope. Share. Share · Tweet · Plus · BBC History Magazine - 5 issues for £5.
EurekAlert (press release)
Fri, 13 Nov 2015 12:37:30 -0800

Find out just how much water flowed into ancient Rome in EARTH Magazine: http://bit.ly/1lm7YT8. EARTH Magazine continues to bring readers the science behind the headlines. This month's features cover how conflict minerals are traced through the ...

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