All about Ancient Rome
By Shani Asokan Ceylon Today Features
Our story today, dates back to over 2500 years ago. It begins in a tiny village along the backs of the river Tiber on the Italian peninsula. The location of this village alone was excellent; being near the river meant the soil was fertile, so crops could be grown easily. The village was also surrounded by seven hills, which acted as a natural defensive barrier. The river provided fresh water for cooking and bathing, and also provided a method of travelling for trade.
The Roman Republic
The city of Rome was founded by Romulus, its first king. With all its natural advantages, the city grew quickly over the next few hundred years, creating a powerful and important civilisation that ruled much of Europe for over 1000 years. As a powerful city, Rome was first a Republic. This meant that the leaders of the city were elected and served for a specified amount of time. They had a system of government with written laws which became the foundation of the democratic governments we know today.
A bustling city
The city had a central place called the Forum, which was the marketplace and the town centre. Here you could find many shops that sold a range of things like clothes jewellery, shoes, swords and more. There were streets that led to apartment buildings and public baths, schools, temples, community areas and even a post office. Clothes were washed in the Tiber, and drinking fountains were everywhere. The smell of fresh bread followed you everywhere you went. There was always something going on, be it at the open air theatres or on the streets. There were festivals and chariot races, sporting events and gladiator contests. The Romans were very social and loved to meet up anywhere. And the best part? Anyone could apply to be a Roman citizen.
From Republic to Empire
You have probably heard the adage ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, which people use when they are trying to explain that great things require time to be created. It’s true, Rome was indeed not build in a day. First it was a small village, which took hundreds of years to grow into a Republic. Then, this Republic grew and expanded into an Empire. The Republic ruled Rome from around 509 BCE to 45 BCE. Following this, Julius Caesar took over and made himself supreme dictator.
Some years later, in 27 BCE Caesar Augustus became the first Roman Emperor. This marked the true beginning of the Roman Empire. Not much changed in terms of the lower levels of government. Senators were still elected officials, much like in the days of the Republic. However, the Emperor now had supreme power.
Rome wanted to conquer the whole ancient world around the Mediterranean. The purpose was to make Rome the most powerful city in the region, and use the areas they colonised to provide the city with everything it needed. In fact, this is exactly what they did. The Empire of Rome lasted over 500 years.
A great military
The Roman Legion was famous in ancient times. They were well trained and incredibly powerful. People were terrified of them and would often accept defeat without a battle when the Legion moved in on them. This military proved to be an incredibly useful tool for the Roman Empire in conquering the Mediterranean.
All roads lead to Rome
The Romans didn’t spend all their time fighting, they were also talented architects and engineers. Not only did they have complex systems for water and sanitation, they were also very good at creating and mapping out roads. Every time a new city was conquered, a road was built from that city all the way back to the city of Rome. They built milestones along the way to show travellers how far they had travelled and how far they had to go. Roman roads were so well built that some of them are still in use today!
An incredible culture
It is said that the Romans worshiped thousands of gods and spirits and built temples in their honour. They brought offerings to at least one temple near their home every day. As Rome expanded, and they met new people, they adopted gods from those cultures and places as well. They adopted nearly all the ancient Greek gods and gave them Roman names and myths that better suited the Roman culture and lifestyle.
Unlike most ancient civilisations, many Romans could read and write. They honoured literacy and made lots of inscriptions to mark events and happenings in the Empire. Thanks to this, we have lots of information on what took place all those years ago. The Romans loved food and often lay on couches while eating. They used their hands and sometimes a spoon but never a fork or knife. They also placed immense value on family and extended families often lived together.
There’s so much more to learn about this great civilisation, so get reading!