Tuesday 26 July 2016

The Rise Of Rome

Ancient Roman Civilization arose from multicultural beginnings, while Rome itself began life as a group of villages on the hills above the River Tiber. From these foundations the powerful Roman Republic was born, whose influence and territories, spread across the world, with the great city of Rome at it's heart.

Before the rise of Rome, Italy was inhabited by several cultural groups. One of these were Latin speaking people who settled in villages, including Rome in about 1000 BC. In the 8th century BC, the highly developed  Etruscan civilization flourished and spread across much of Italy and Sicily. These communities became more complex and Rome became an important city.

Etruscan chariot
The date 753 BC is traditionally given for the founding of the city of Rome. In legend Romulus and Remus, twin brothers who were suckled by a she-wolf as babies founded Rome. Romulus was also the name of the first king of the city. By 600 BC, Rome had become a sophisticated city state, ruled by kings, It boasted specialized crafts, a rich aristocracy, monumental buildings, and organized social system.

Romulus and Remus

The king ruled alongside a Senate and an Assembly. The Senate was a council of elders composed heads of various clans. It had the power to approve or veto appointment of the king. The Assembly  consisted of all male citizens of Rome; citizenship was granted only to those whose parents were native Romans. The Assembly's main function was to grant absolute power to monarch once the clan leader approve candidate for king.

The ancient Romans made considerable advances in building and civil engineering, mainly by clever development of principles obtained from other civilizations like Greek and Etruscan. From 3rd century BC, Roman builder became the first to use concrete extensively, constructing large scale engineering and building projects.

Pons Aemilius

The Romans did not invent the arc but they took it's structural possibilities to a whole new level. The became adept at working with the form and related structures such as the vault and domes to support monumental temples, walls, lighthouses and tunnels. The Pons Aemilius(above) is the oldest stone bridge across the River Tiber in Rome and dates from the 2nd century BC.

Rome was ruled by seven kings before the last one, Tarquinius was over thrown in 509 BC in a coup staged by Roman aristocrat. Rather than install a new monarch, the Roman dismantled the institution and Rome became a republic. The early republic had two consul(to counter over relianceon one individual), who were elected annually.  

Roman republican society was divided into free and non-free(slaves).The most  significant free people were citizens, who were able to elect consul and were further divided into Patricians(an elite land owning class) and Plebeians(all other citizens). The senate drew its members from the Patrician class, therefore Roman republic in it's early form was largely a transfer of power from the king to the wealthiest classes in Rome.

Hannibal Barca(247 - 182 BC)
Hannibal Barca was a Carthaginian general who fought with great valor against the Roman republic in the Second Punic War(218 - 201 BC). He captured the city of Saguntum in Spain, allied to Rome, then marched on Italy. With Rome blocking the sea route, Hannibal Barca took 37 elephants and 35,000 men over Pyrenees and Alps, as shown in this fresco. He won many victories but was defeated at Zama in North Africa.

Hannibal on top of an elephant.

By 264 BC Rome emerged from clashes with surrounding communities to dominate Italy, and by 146 BC Rome had crushed the Carthaginians in the Punic wars which broke out several times during the 2nd and 3rd century BC, to dominate the entire western Mediterranean. But despite the land, Rome was in a state of perpetual war, flux and social discontent.

The 1st century BC saw a mix of new gains and intensifying civil strife. Some of Rome's former allies, having fought for the republic, became frustrated by Rome's domination over them and failure to grant them Roman citizenship. The year 82-80 BC brought the self proclaimed ruler of Sulla. His struggle with Marius had already weakened the republic and his rule increased upper class power.

The death of Spartacus

Between 72-70 BC, Spartacus, a former auxiliary in Roman army turned slave-gladiator, became leader of a group of disaffected slaves and rebels that swelled to around 1,20,000; they fought the Romans and dominated much of Southern Italy. The Romans were ultimately victorious and Spartacus was killed in around 70 BC.

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