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Ancient Rome was a civilization that started in the city of Rome and the land of Latium on the Italian Peninsula. Roman civilization was the most important civilization in the Mediterranean region, Europe, and the Near East from the late 3rd century BC. Roman civilization was in existence all through Classical Antiquity, Late Antiquity, and the Middle Ages, but "ancient Rome" means the ancient history of Roman civilization before the Middle Ages. Traditionally, the fall of the western Roman Empire during the 5th century AD is named the start of the Middle Ages in western Europe.
In Classical Antiquity, the Roman Empire controlled a very large area of land, which stretched from Great Britain to the Arabian Peninsula. Ancient Rome has been very important to the history of Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia, where the Romans controlled many lands. Ancient Rome's culture took many ideas from other civilizations, especially Ancient Greece and the Greek kingdoms of the Hellenistic period. Ancient Romans' ideas have been very influential for later civilizations. The Romans' Latin language became the most common language in the western Mediterranean and western Europe, and is the ancestor of Romance languages. The Roman emperors were responsible for making Christianity the Romans' state religion, and the Romans spread Christianity across the Roman Empire in Late Antiquity. Roman Christianity replaced Roman religion and other traditional religions. The Romans made many improvements to engineering, architecture, irrigation, and transport.
Rome began as a small farming community in the 8th century BC. The city of Rome was founded, according to legend, on 21 April 753 BC. It became a city and a state and had the Latin: Roma, which Roman mythology said came from their first king, Romulus. Rome was first a kingdom, but its last king, Tarquinius Superbus, was sent away in a revolution started by Lucius Junius Brutus. The Roman state became a republic. The city-state grew to control the Italian Peninsula during the Hellenistic period, and fought the Punic Wars with the Carthaginian Republic. After overcoming the Carthaginians, the Roman Republic became the most powerful state in the western Mediterranean.The Romans became the most powerful state in the eastern Mediterranean after wars with Macedonia, and the Mithridatic Wars with Kingdom of Pontus. The Hellenistic period and the Roman Republic ended when, after Julius Caesar was assassinated, the Romans fought a long civil war. At the end of these wars, Augustus overcame his Roman enemies and the Ptolemaic dynasty, who controlled the kingdom of Egypt. Augustus became the first Roman emperor and Roman civilization controlled all the lands around the Mediterranean Sea.
In 293 AD, Diocletian split the government of the empire into two parts, east and west. From Diocletian's time there was usually more than one emperor at a time, each controlling a part of the empire. In the 5th century AD, the lands of the western Roman Empire split up into different kingdoms. After Romulus Augustulus there were no more emperors in the western empire, and the government of the western Roman Empire ended in 476 AD. In Western Europe, this is the end of Antiquity and the start of the Early Middle Ages. The Romans lost control of Rome and most of the Italian Peninsula. After that, the Roman Empire in the Middle Ages is sometimes named the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantine Empire. Historians use this name because the Romans' capital city was Constantinople (also called Byzantium), and its emperors controlled the eastern half of the Mediterranean Basin. The Roman Empire was in existence until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, when it was defeated by the Ottoman Empire.
Roman culture spread to Western Europe and the area around the Mediterranean Sea. Its history still has a big influence on the world today. For example, Roman ideas about laws, government, art, literature, and language are important to European culture. The Roman language, Latin, slowly evolved, becoming modern French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, and many other languages. Latin also indirectly influenced many other languages such as English.
The most common religion of ancient Rome in its first centuries was Graeco-Roman polytheism. The traditional religion of the city of Rome was polytheist (with many gods). The most important gods were the Capitoline triad: three gods worshipped on the Capitoline Hill. The three were Jupiter (the father and king of the gods), Juno (the queen of the gods), and Minerva (the goddess of wisdom). The goddess Minerva was born without a mother from the body of Jupiter. Roman mythology said that among the Romans' ancestors were Venus (goddess of love) and Mars (a god of war and the son of Jupiter and Juno). The gods Apollo and Bacchus were taken by the Romans from Greek mythology, and many of the Romans' religious practices were the same as those of the ancient Greeks. The Romans also worshipped the goddesses Cybele and Isis, whose cults they took from Hellenistic Anatolia and Egypt.
Roman worship often took the form of sacrifices. Romans tried to please the gods by giving food or other gifts to the gods and to other deities, including the souls of dead people. With sacrifices like this, the Romans hoped to avoid bad luck and bring good luck, such as fertility and a successful harvest, or victory in war. The Romans built temples to house the images of their gods. These images were usually statues, and the Romans would offer sacrifices by burning food or frankincense. Precious objects would be given to the gods in rituals and stored in the temples. The Romans believed this pleased the gods. The Romans also did ritual purification, to avoid bad luck and to avoid offending the gods and spirits.
Judaism was common in the ancient Roman world, and there was a Jewish diaspora in many cities, like Rome, from the Hellenistic period. Christianity started in the eastern Roman Empire, in Hellenistic Judaea. In Classical Antiquity, the Roman government did not like Christianity. Sometimes, Roman governors or emperors ordered the persecution of Christians. Under the emperor Diocletian, the persecution of Christians became the strongest. Christianity became an officially supported religion in the Roman Empire under Constantine I. With the signing of the Edict of Milan by Licinius and Constantine in 313, it became the most powerful religion, and the Christian Church began the persecution of Christians with whom the official ("orthodox" and "catholic") disagreed. Then, in 391 AD, an edict of Theodosius I made Christianity Rome's official religion. The state church of the Roman Empire became the state religion in the empire. (The state church later split into the modern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.)
People practising traditional, non-Christian religions were common in Late Antiquity. The Christians called these people "pagans". There was persecution of Graeco-Roman polytheism by the Roman emperors. Starting in the 5th century, non-Christian religions' property was taken away, and many Roman temples were made into churches.
The Eastern Empire
The Byzantines were threatened by the rise of Islam, whose followers took over the territories of Syria, Armenia and Egypt and soon threatened to take over Constantinople. In the next century, the Arabs also captured southern Italy and Sicily.
The Byzantines survived during the 8th century and, beginning in the 9th century, took back parts of the conquered lands. In 1000 AD, the Eastern Empire was at its largest point, and culture and trade flourished. However, the expansion was suddenly stopped in 1071 at the Battle of Manzikert. This finally made the empire start becoming weaker. After centuries of fighting and Turkic invasions, Emperor Alexius I Comnenus called for help from the West in 1095.
The West responded with the Crusades, eventually resulting in the Fourth Crusade which conquered Constantinople in 1204. Several Roman states took pieces of the now smaller empire. After the recapture of Constantinople by the Romans, the empire was little more than a Greek-speaking state confined to the coast of the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara. The empire came to an end when Mehmed II conquered Constantinople on 29 May 1453.
Remains of Roman work and architecture have been found in the furthest corners of the late Empire.
- Roman Kingdom
- Roman Republic
- Roman Empire
- Western Roman Empire
- Byzantine Empire
- Culture of ancient Rome
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- Theodosius I (379-395 AD) by David Woods. De Imperatoribus Romanis. Written 1999-2-2. Retrieved 2007-4-4.
- The Byzantine Empireby Richard Hooker. Washington State University. Written 1999-6-6. Retrieved 2007-4-8. Archived 2007-07-22 at WebCite
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- Duiker, 2001. page 349.
- Basil II (CE 976-1025) by Catherine Holmes. De Imperatoribus Romanis. Written 2003-4-1. Retrieved 2007-3-22.
- Gibbon, Edward. History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Chapter 61. Retrieved 2007-4-11.
- Mehmet II by Korkut Ozgen. Theottomans.org. Retrieved 2007-4-3.