In addition to being the name of its first and most important city, Rome was also the name of an ancient nation of Southern Europe, one of the most powerful and historic of antiquity. The history of nation of Rome extends from the founding of the city of Rome, in 754 B.C., to its downfall, in 476 A.D., over twelve centuries. This long expanse of time may be divided into three periods, according to the form of its government. They include:
  • the Kingdom of Rome, from 754 to 509 B. c.
  • the Roman Republic from 509 to 31 B. C.
  • the The Roman Empire from 31 B. c. to 476 A. D.

The historical beginnings of Rome are lost in time. The Romans believed that their city had been founded around 754 B.C., and they counted their years from the foundation of the city (although other systems of calculating time involved counting the years of the reign of the current ruler or magistrate). Whether the city of Rome was actually founded in that year is not known for certain. It is also not known where the first Romans originated.

The Romans had historical traditions and myths concerning their own origins. The Romans believed that the Latins who founded Rome came as a colony from the city state of Alba Longa in Italy, and that the latter city was founded by Ascanius, a descendent from fugitive Trojans who had moved there after their defeat in the Trojan war.

According to this account the destruction of Troy by the Greeks caused many fugitive Trojans to flee to Italy, where they were received kindly by King Latinus. Rhea Silvia, daughter of a deposed King of Italy, was the mother of Romulus and Remus, two children who were designed to be killed by the reigning king, but they were rescued by a a she-wolf and then discovered and reared by a shepherd.

Romulus became the founder of Rome, in 754 B. c., and was the first of the kings. He encouraged settlements by constructing fortifications to protect the citizens against hostile tribes, building them in such a manner that the people could reside within the fortifications white they tilled the soil and reared their herds in the adjoining region. It is probably true that the early settlements were greatly enlarged by migrating tribes coming from Asia Minor by way of Greece, and that the cities of Latinum formed a confederacy with Alba Longa at its head. The settlements grew rapidly, expansion being due largely to the fertility of the soil and natural advantages in the way of river and sea navigation.


The early government of Rome was aristocratic, being administered under a priest-king, who was assisted by a senate and an assembly.

In the beginning the city of Rome was extremely small and vulnerable. Early Rome was frequently in conflict with surrounding peoples, including the Sabines, a tribe occupying the upper valley of the Tiber, and after­wards they captured the Quirinal and Capitoline hills. After many years of conflict the two tribes became united and formed the two parties known as the Romans and the Quirites, both having seats in the senate, while the king was taken alternately from each.

Later the city was conquered by the Etruscans, who placed the Tarquins on the throne and ornamented the city with elegant structures in the Etruscan style of architecture. They extended the city to include the Seven Hills, inclosing the whole with a wall that endured eight centuries. It was due to the Etruscans that Rome became the head of the thirty Latin cities within 150 years after it was founded.

As the adjoining cities of Italy were conquered, many people of foreign birth were brought or removed into the city. This element gave rise to the Plebeians, while the Latins, Sabines, and Etruscans constituted the class known as the patricians. However, the Tarquins were the friends of the Plebeians. The nobles, becoming dissatisfied with the advance of the plebeian power and the corresponding restriction of the kings, joined other Latin cities to expel their Etruscan rulers, which they did in 509 B. c. The following is the chronology of the Roman kingdom, as generally given by Roman historians: Romulus, 754-716; Numa Pompilius, 716-672; Tullus Hostilius, 672-640; Ancus Martius, 640-616; Tarquinius Priscus, 616-578; Servius Tullius, 578-534; and Tarquinius Supurbus, 534-509.


With the establishment of the Roman Republic, in 509 B. C., two chief magistrates were chosen. These were at first called praetors, but the name was later changed to consuls, and a constitution modeled by Servius was adopted. Conflicts continued between the Romans and the Etruscans until 295 B. c., when the latter were not only subdued, but Rome became the master of all Italy. However, contests of a political character were constant between the patricians and the Plebeians. The former were descendants from the first settlers, and were rich, proud, and exclusive, making a demand of all the offices and emoluments of the government. On the other hand, the Plebeians were the common people. They were denied the rights of citizens and were not allowed to intermarry with the patricians. Besides, they were obliged to serve in the army without pay and their want of means to carry on industrial enterprises at home rendered them creditors to the patricians, who reduced them to a form of slavery and sold them as slaves when they became unable to pay their debts.

The Plebeians urged their demand for equal privileges with the patricians for the first 200 years of the republic and gradually their demands were complied with, a consummation hastened by the fact that they formed the principal part of the army. In 445 the law against intermarriages was abolished. Soon after the Plebeians were granted three military tribunes with consular powers and in 367 B. c. their victory was finally won, when they succeeded in rapid succession in securing the dictatorship, the censorship, the praetorship, and the right to be pontiff and augur.

The period of contest between the patricians and Plebeians was disturbed more or less by foreign wars and internal strife among the different tribes. Rome was captured and nearly destroyed by the Gauls in 390 B.C., and the invaders agreed to recross the Apennines only on condition that they receive a heavy ransom. This invasion was in some respects beneficial to the Romans, since they were deeply impressed by the courage and strength of the Gauls, and, at once began to rebuild their city.

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