Most people know Rome for its luxurious architecture, developed culture, and rich and exciting history. Rome is an example of knowing legends, and some literary works without studying the topic intensely. The context of Roman history is firmly embedded in the school curriculum, and some things are perceived at a detectable level by people. Everyone has heard of the Colosseum; some have traveled to Rome, including to enjoy the architectural structure. Many have heard of Remus and Romulus, brothers who fought to the death with each other. According to legend, they were nursed by a she-wolf and born by a priestess. This legend was first told by Plutarch and was transmitted subsequently through the centuries.
In modern culture, there are living references to the history of civilization. For example, the iconic motion picture and the book The Hunger Games tell about a rich and highly developed center called the Capitol, which refers to readers to the name of one of the prominent hills, the Capitol, on which people built the city of Rome. It takes a lot of time to discuss and describe the history of the Roman Empire since the history of the Romans was rich in events. A short excursion into the history of this civilization has the following parts: the preconditions and origin of the Roman Empire, the transformation, and the daily life of the Romans. It has details about various forms of art, religion, and the fall of the Roman Empire.
The Preconditions and Origin of the Roman Empire
From 753 B.C. Rome existed as a highly organized city on seven hills (the most famous were the Palatine and the Capitol). The Romans used slave labor; there was a social division into patricians and plebeians, the latter of whom had many restrictions and did not have many rights, and also risked falling into slavery if plebeians did not pay taxes. However, their position improved after the reforms of Servius Tullius. Rome built a complex system of government, in the center of which was the senate, the council of elders (from 100 to 300 people or more); magistrates and consuls attended the administration. The control system in Rome was always based on a complex hierarchy, even to the point of destruction.
The tribunes, which played an essential role in the management and protection of the plebeians, enjoyed the famous veto right. The legislative prerequisites and foundations of the Roman Empire also include the well-known laws of 12 tables, 451-450 years. B.C. (Hoyos 119). Rome, then a republic, fought three Punic Wars (264-241 BC, 218-201 BC, 149-146 BC). As a result of these wars, Carthage gradually turned into a defenseless Roman colony.
Final Transformation of the Roman Empire
There are contradictions between the senatorial aristocracy and part of the wealthy Romans. These contradictions led to devastating and dangerous civil wars. Julius Caesar glorified himself in such conflicts and succeeded in the 50s before AD conquer Gaul (Hoyos 98). This victory brought Caesar fame, increased his reputation, and he became a hero. Without fear, he went across the border river Rubicon against the experienced commander Pompey.
Julius Caesar bestowed unlimited powers and even proclaimed himself in 45 BC a lifelong dictator; Julius Caesar was very ambitious. Readers should note that the terms dictatorship and dictator in the context of the early Roman Empire should be understood as managers during a period of hostilities. On March 15, 44 BC, the conspirators killed Julius Caesar; he was buried with honors; according to tradition, people set his body on fire (Hoyos 90).
The Roman Empire began to refer to vast territories in the west to the Atlantic Ocean and the east to the Caucasus. In the era of Octavian Augustus, the grand-nephew of Julius Caesar, Rome was turning into just such a mighty empire, instilling fear. The period of Octavian marked the loss of power and independence for the Senate (Gatzke et al. 160). The sole rule of the emperor would last until the fall of the Roman Empire, and in the 3rd century AD, it intensified.
Daily Life of the Romans
The daily life of the Romans is associated with the active development and flowering of the city. The emperors spared no expense in lavish celebrations to which citizens were invited. Resting in a bath, which was called terms, was widespread. The baths had fountains, exercise grounds, parks, and library rooms; poor and rich citizens could visit baths. Sometimes there were zoos with exotic animals in the baths (Hanson et al 11). The emperor usually paid for the maintenance of the baths (widespread).
There were frequent fires in the town because people did not correctly handle fire. The Romans wore a modest one, made of wool and linen mostly (Hanson et al. 10). Tunics (sleeveless shirts) and toga (fabric wrapped around the body) were an essential part of the Roman wardrobe. Contrary to the first impression and some stereotypes, the food was not wealthy. The Romans rarely ate meat and fish, but they often ate bread, cheese, vegetables, and olives.
Culture and Various Forms of Art
Then Rome is an actual cultural center and heir to the Greek civilization. The pride of the Roman Empire was luxurious architecture, above all. The emperors Vespasian and Titus were engaged in constructing the Colosseum (in general, the Romans built many structures for public shows), and Nero erected the Golden House, his palace. The figure of Nero, despite its architectural merits, is very controversial. Patrons and emperors built circuses, theaters, and forums (Hanson et al. 6). Initially, the Romans built buildings from stone, and during the period of the empire, they began to build them from burnt bricks.
The Romans used concrete: a mixture of sand, lime, pebbles, and volcanic ash; and outside, people covered the bricks with marble for aesthetics. In addition to architecture, the realistic sculpture was developed (Hanson et al. 7), which was not replete with symbolic devices, such as the sculpture of Egypt. In addition to sculpture and architecture, people developed rhetoric, oratory, and poetry in the Roman Empire. Horace and Ovid were the most famous poets, and Virgil created The Aeneid, which glorified the reign of Octavian Augustus. Guy Maecenas, a friend of Octavian, provided housing for creators and helped with money.
The original Romans were pagans; they had their divine pantheon. Many emperors loved fortune-telling and relied on them for military affairs. However, in the 4th century AD, Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire and became entrenched in it. Diocletian, from 303 to 313, carried out severe persecutions against Christians (Huttunen 100). By that time, about 10% of the Romans professed Christianity (Huttunen 109). The famous Council of Nicaea in 325 AD approved the Creed, condemned Arianism, and consolidated the celebration of Easter.
The Council of Nicaea seriously consolidated the Christian position in the Roman Empire. In parallel, such strengthening was going on in Constantinople; in 380, Theodosius I convened the First Council of Constantinople (Huttunen 161). Before that, in 380, the Thessalonian Edict made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire (Huttunen 99). The church hierarchy was based on the supremacy of the bishops (Gatzke et al. 129). The second level followed them: the priests, followed by the monks. At the bottom of the scale were ordinary Christians. Religion was used to maintain order, especially Christianity, which preached patience and humility. With the decree of Constantine in 313, it was allowed to build Christian churches.
Fall of the Roman Empire
The fall of the Roman Empire is a protracted process of degradation of a prosperous civilization. Since the 3rd century, the empire’s power began to decline; the Senate lost its significance for a very long time. The contradictory period of decline was called the crisis of the 3rd century: historians describe its framework from 235 to 285 (Kershaw 198). Until a period of decline of about a century, five good emperors ruled, from AD 90 to 180 (Kershaw 154). Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Anthony Pius, and Marcus Aurelius were emperors. Under their guidance, the Roman Empire flourished.
The decline of Greek culture goes hand in hand with the spread of Christianity. Theodosius the First divided the empire into western and eastern between his sons in 395 (Kershaw 200). After his death, Honorius became emperor; he reigned until 423. He does not rule alone; the de facto ruler and regent of Honorius is a vandal by descent (along the line of his father) named Stilicho. During the reign of Honorius, he irretrievably lost the military power of Rome and undermined its reputation. The territories were torn apart by various barbarian tribes (Kershaw 150). One of these tribes was the Visigoths, to whom Honorius, after a crushing defeat, allocated the region of Aquitaine. It happened after the sack and siege of Rome in 408 and 409.
In 410, the Visigoths took Rome completely; after Honorius, Valentinian III ceded the power in the bossed Rome, and he ruled from 425 to 455 (Kershaw 220). He fought against the tribes of the Huns who came from the east and against their leader Attila. From the side of Rome, Flavius Aetius showed himself to be a good commander. In 455, the Vandal tribes defeated Rome, which dealt a mortal blow to the empire (Gatzke et al. 107). Majorian (457-461) tried to pursue an indestructible policy; he conquered Spain and Gaul partly. He also saved the architecture of Rome from looting and destruction. The last minor emperor Romulus Augustus was deposed in 476 (Gatzke et al. 118). He was overthrown by the barbarian Odoacer, who was involved in numerous Roman sieges. The long-suffering Senate, interestingly, was able to survive until 630.
Rome was created by a republic that used slave labor and social division. Despite this, the government of Rome tried to rely not on sole power but on the Senate, which existed for a very long time. Julius Caesar and subsequent emperors completely subjugated power, which left the aristocracy unhappy. It caused civil wars, but despite this, Rome went to its bloom and strength, increasing its territory. Ordinary citizens did not live well, but imperators arranged everything in the city for their rest and entertainment. People built the Colosseum and other venues for public performances under the patronage of emperors and patrons of the arts. Rome was full of poets, and orators who inspired emperors to feats; and actively developed architecture. Initially, the Romans had their divine pantheon, but with the development of the teachings of Jesus Christ, more and more people joined him, and the emperors were allowed to build temples. The fall of such a rich civilization is due to a variety of factors: economic crisis, brutal raids, and the failure of the emperors.
Gatzke, Andrea, et al. People and Institutions in the Roman Empire Essays in Memory of Garrett G. Fagan (Mnemosyne, Supplements). BRILL, 2020.
Hanson, J. W., et al. “Urbanism and the Division of Labour in the Roman Empire.” Journal of The Royal Society Interface, vol. 14, no. 136, 2017, pp. 1–12. Crossref.
Hoyos, Dexter. Rome Victorious: The Irresistible Rise of the Roman Empire (Library of Classical Studies). I.B. Tauris, 2019.
Huttunen, Niko. Early Christians Adapting to the Roman Empire Mutual Recognition (Novum Testamentum, Supplements). Brill, 2020.
Kershaw, Stephen. The Enemies of Rome: The Barbarian Rebellion Against the Roman Empire. Reprint, Pegasus Books, 2021.