Roman Empire: The rise and fall of ancient Rome

The Roman Empire

Written by Supernova

Mar 4, 2021

The History of Rome

According to an ancient legend, the Roman Empire was founded by twin brothers, Romulus and Remus. When the twins were still babies, they were abandoned in a basket on the Tiber River by a king of a nearby village. A she-wolf found the twins and raised them as her own. When the twins were grown up, they defeated the king that had abandoned them on the river and founded their own city on the river’s banks. In 753 BC, Romulus killed his brother, and named the city after himself.

The roman empire being conquered

The Roman Republic

Many years later, Rome was ruled by a king called Lucius Tarquinius Superbus. The people of Rome weren’t happy with him, and the king was overthrown in 509 BC. The Romans chose two people every year to rule over the land, calling them consuls. This was the first democratic city in history, and it made the state of Rome a republic.

Conquering Europe

In 390 BC, a neighbouring country, Gaul, attacked the city of Rome. Luckily, a man called Camillus helped to defeat the Gauls. Under Camillus’ leadership, Rome conquered the entire area we know as Italy by 264 BC.

Rome entered into a series of wars known as the Punic Wars with a northern African city, Carthage. By the end of the third and final Punic War (149 – 146 BC), Rome was in control of Sicily, the western Mediterranean, and much of Spain. They had also destroyed the city of Carthage, making a piece of northern Africa a Roman province. During the Punic Wars, Rome was also in a war to the east, called the Macedonian Wars. Rome conquered Macedonia, and they made that a Roman province as well.

The Start of Rome’s Problems

Rome had a very complex political system which began to fall apart because of Rome’s growing empire. This caused violence to flare up between the citizens, and a gap formed between the rich and the poor.

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar and The Roman Empire

Caesar was a military hero who conquered Spain for Rome, and he became consul of Rome in 58 BC. He then set out to conquer more land. He invaded Italy and became supreme dictator of Rome in 45 BC. This meant he had a lot of power over the Roman government.
But less than a year later, his enemies had him killed.

In 27 BC, the first emperor of Rome was crowned. His name was Octavian Augustus, which meant Emperor Octavian. This was the start of the Roman Empire, and he was followed by a long line of emperors.

One of these emperors, Nero, let Rome almost burn to the ground in 64 AD. According to legend, Nero watched the city burn while playing his lyre.

The Fall of the Roman Empire

During the 3rd century, Rome was almost always in conflict. A total of 22 emperors took the throne, and many of them were murdered by their own soldiers. There were also constant threats from neighbouring countries, draining Rome’s money.

When Diocletian came into power in 284 AD, Rome was in a temporary state of peace. Diocletian decided to split the rule of Rome between four people. He shared his title as emperor with Maximian, and chose two assistants, Galerius and Constantius. Diocletian and Galerius ruled the eastern part of the Roman Empire, while Maximian and Constantius ruled the west.

When Diocletian and Maximian stepped down from their role as emperor, there was a power struggle of who the next emperor would be. Constantius’ son, Constantine, was victorious, reuniting the east and west of Rome in 324 AD. He became the sole emperor of Rome. He moved the Roman capital to the Greek city of Byzantium, where Maximian and Constantius ruled before him, and renamed the city Constantinople.

THE ROMAN EMPIRE – 2ND CENTURY AD

Thirty years after Constantine’s death, the east and west of Rome was divided again. The eastern Roman Empire, known as the Byzantine Empire, remained stable for centuries to come. But the western empire was again in internal conflict. There were also threats from their neighbouring countries.

Rome collapsed in 476 AD because the empire was too big. One by one, Rome lost most of its provinces, and in September 476 AD, a German prince won control of the Roman army. The German prince was crowned as king, bringing the western Roman Empire to an end.

The Byzantine Empire fell in 1453 to the Ottoman Empire.

A map of the roman empire

The Colosseum

The Colosseum is one of the greatest buildings of Ancient Rome. Construction began in 70 AD, and it took 10 years to finish. The Colosseum has four floors. Each floor consists of 80 arches, and it could fit 50 000 spectators.

Covered in marble, the Colosseum was the largest amphitheatre the Romans had ever built. Below the stadium, there were rooms and tunnels, housing the gladiators and wild animals that participated in the games held at the Colosseum. Over 1 million animals died in the games.

The last games held at the Colosseum were in the 6th century. After that, the Colosseum survived many earthquakes, but the south side had collapsed. Until the 18th century, the Colosseum was used as a source of building material. St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City is one of the buildings built from material taken from the Colosseum. At the beginning of the 18th century, the Colosseum was declared a sacred Christian site. It has been conserved ever since.

Today, the Colosseum is the most visited attraction in Rome.

Read more fun and amazing articles in Vol 4.5!

Volume 4.5 Cover

This article first appeared in Supernova Volume 3.4
Words by Chrisna Prinsloo
Illustrations by Minien Hatingh

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