The Ancient Roman Empire

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The Ancient Roman Empire Rome had a war god in its lineage and wolf milk in its belly, implying that its citizens had a knack for warfare-which they would prove again and again. Early in Rome's history, the city was conquered by the Etruscans, the most notable civilization in Italy before Rome's rise to power. The Etruscans, who would influence Roman civilization, had migrated to Italy from Asia Minor, probably in the 12th century BC. Their distant past is a mystery, because their language has no relationship to any other group of languages. Their Italian homeland, Etruria, consisted of a loose confederation of city-states. They were noted for their metalworking and their fine pottery. The Etruscans were at the height of their power during the 6th century BC. By 500 BC their civilization was in decline, and at about that time the Romans rose up and claimed power in their city, establishing a republic. A patrician class initially ruled Rome, but over time the Plebs, or common people, gained influence. As late as 390 BC, when Greece and Persia were great powers in the world, Rome was still so weak that it was sacked by the Gauls. However, during the 4th and 3d centuries BC, the Romans became masters of central and southern Italy. Roman armies entered Greece, where they were both conquerors and conquered: they defeated the Greek armies, but they were overawed by Greek culture and brought back to Rome a taste for fine art and literature. Rome's most powerful rival was now the distant city of Carthage, ruler of north Africa and the western Mediterranean. During the Punic Wars, Rome suffered the humiliation of seeing a Carthaginian army on its soil for more than a decade. Neither Rome nor Carthage, led by the great general Hannibal, could prevail. Finally, the Carthaginians were forced to withdraw, and Rome chased them home to Africa. In 202 BC at the Battle of Zama, Rome defeated Carthage. The two nations lived in peace for a few decades, then another Punic War erupted. Rome prevailed again, obliterating Carthage. During the next two centuries the Roman Empire expanded rapidly, gobbling up many of the territories once ruled by Alexander the Great, including Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt. While venturing out to rule the Mediterranean world, Rome also defined its own civilization and polity. Reluctantly, the city extended its prized citizenship widely to other Italian towns and downward to social classes previously disfranchised.
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