Rome Begins!


Ancient Rome is a tremendously interesting place. Rome of the ancient times had lunatic emperors, gladiators fighting to the death, volcanoes erupting and burying cities, ancient NASCAR—chariot races at the circus maximus, aqueducts, and many more things. Ancient Rome set a lot of the ground work for the future of the world whether it was roads, government, architecture, or entertainment. Ancient Rome is truly an amazement. Up until now in social studies, we have studied many interesting civilizations such as Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, India, and Greece. All of those civilizations have one big thing in common: they are all present day countries. You have heard of all of them, though Mesopotamia is not the name of the country, it was presently called Iraq. This simple fact is a fundamental difference with Rome. Rome is not a country. Rome is a city. Rome is located on the Italian Peninsula. Can you find it on your map on your notes? Locate Rome and put a star on it. Unlike Greece, Rome is similar to the other civilizations we have studied so far this year because Rome has a major river. The major river in Rome is called the Tiber River. Mesopotamia has the Tigris and Euphrates, Egypt has the Nile, China has the Yellow and Yangtze, India has the Ganges and now we have Rome, which has the Tiber River. Though Rome and Greece are different in that one has a major river, one does not and one is a country and one is a city, they still have a major aspect in common. Rome is similar to Greece because it also depends on the sea. Due to the location of Rome, there are two major seas that surround the city: the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the similarities between Rome and other civilizations we have studied, Rome is also different than all of the other civilizations because Rome has BOTH a major river and a major sea. Rome is also different than other civilizations because Rome is not a country.

                Rome is said to have the perfect location. Whether you think that or not, is up to you. The fact of the matter is, though, that due to where Rome is in the world, the case for a perfect location is a strong one. Let me explain. In 1600 B.C., people came to live along the banks of the Tiber River on the Italian Peninsula. The Italian peninsula shoots out of Europe southward into the Mediterranean Sea. It looks like a boot, which is about to kick Sicily. This is important because Italy forms a natural bridge between three major parts of the world: Western Europe, North Africa, and west Asia. This is very important because it allows other countries and other cultural influences to come to Rome, giving it high importance in the world. Parts of all over the world can come to Rome and exchange ideas, methods, and culture. This helps Rome to become a very popular place. Back to the issue of a perfect location. The best way to sum up the case for Rome having a perfect location is by laying out three main points. First, Rome is along a river, which provides fresh water, good farming land, transportation, fishing, etc. Secondly, Rome is near a coast, which allows Roman sailors to sail out in their ships to find other markets to sell products, it allows people from other places to come to Rome and make it better with their ideas. Third and final, Rome is located within hills, which protects against attacks and flood. As we have discovered throughout the year talking about civilizations, war is quite likely, so it would be very important and valuable to have a natural protector like mountains against invading armies. Invaders are far less likely to try to conquer you if there are huge mountains in their way. Does Rome have a perfect location? The case is a strong one, but what do you think? Could there be a more perfect location?

(Legend of Rome Beginning is not in this article. You should still fill it out in your notes. Remember the statue)

                Romans did a great job of learning from other cultures. Their location, once again, allowed this to happen. Because of Rome’s location, ships from all over sailed into Rome’s harbors. This was very significant. Ships could unload cargo into Rome very easily. Ships could pick up stuff from the coast very easily and Romans could meet people from other cultures easily. Loading and unloading cargo, meeting people, all of this was very easy because of their location. All of this improved Rome because the Romans could learn from other cultures and in turn, spread their ideas and culture to other parts of the world. Meeting other people was very important because they could learn new ideas about farming.

             The climate of Rome is somewhat similar to the climate of Greece. Along the Tiber River was ideal for farming. Crops the Romans harvested were grapes and olives, similar to Greece. Three-fourths of the land was hilly, thus offering protection. It was warm and moist most of the year, allowing for many outdoor activities.

             Since Rome had a great location, their power began to rise. As Rome grew and prospered, more people wanted to be a part of it. The Etruscans took over Rome. The Etruscans were skilled builders; they taught the Romans how to build aqueducts. However, the Romans did not like being under Etruscan rule. Junius Brutus led Rome against the Etruscans in battle and defeated them. This marked the beginning of a glorious period in Roman History.  

Roman Republic

            After Junius Brutus successfully led Rome against the Etruscans, Rome entered its Glorious Period known as the Roman Republic. When the republic began, there were two types of people: Patricians, which were the wealthy and powerful citizens and the Plebeians, which were the common, ordinary citizens. Only 10% of the population was patrician, meaning the large majority of Rome was plebian. After Rome drove out the Etruscans, they established a Republic. Citizens of the Republic have the right to vote and choose leaders. Similar to America today. Leaders of the Roman republic are called representatives. These representatives served in the governing body called the Senate. This should all sound somewhat familiar to you because in SD, we have representatives and senators as well.

At first, the republic was only run by patricians. The senate was all patricians. If we compare that with today, typically, all US senators in our world are wealthy as well, so perhaps not much has changed. Each year, two patricians were chosen as consuls. A consul managed the army and vetoed things. If an emergency arose, one consul was appointed in charge, which is called a “dictator.” As Rome got bigger, plebeians spoke out against the power of the Patricians. The Plebeians demanded more rights because they were having a hard time surviving. The Senate listened to these demands: the senate appointed men to protect the rights of the plebeians. This is called a tribune. Tribunes could stop the action of the senate by yelling ‘Veto!’ which means “I forbid.”

                Despite the glorious period, Rome still found itself fighting wars. Carthage was a large city-state located in Northern Africa. Carthage had great power and a powerful military. Rome fought Carthage in 3 wars that took 120 years. That’s a lot of fighting. These wars were called the Punic Wars. Rome actually won all wars with Carthage. The 2nd Punic war was the most daring: Carthage General Hannibal took army across the Alps on Elephants and surprise attacked Rome. Scipio, a Roman general, counter attacked Carthage, forcing Hannibal to return to Carthage. It was too late.

                Wealth continued to pour into Rome. The result was the right got richer and the poor got poorer. This started to hurt the glorious period. Homes and land were devastated by War. Rival leaders led armies against each other. In Rome, in order to gain great wealth and power, one would have to lead conquests. The most famous was Julius Caesar. He conquered many lands and became ruler of Rome. As ruler, he reduced slaves and increased jobs. The increase of power of Caesar angered patricians. They feared Caesar would end the republic. Caesar was killed by getting stabbed over thirty times with a dagger. Even his close friend and supporter Brutus stabbed him. With the murder of Caesar, the Republic ends. It had lasted 500 years.

Roman Empire

            With each stab into Julius Caesars, the life of the Roman Republic went further and further away. His death marked the end of Rome as a republic. With the republic done, Rome now saw the beginning of Rome being led by Emperors for the next 500 years. During this time period, Rome was by far the most powerful empire. It wasn’t even close. Rome was truly dominant.

                The biggest difference between the Roman republic and the Roman Empire is in the leadership. During the Roman Empire, essentially a dictator ruled Rome. These dictator’s were called emperors. The Roman Empire had many emperors during its 500 years as an empire. Some were good, some were bad. Below, you will read about five emperors of Rome. Based on what you are told in the article, you will decide if they are “good” or “bad” emperor’s by filling in the line with asterisks.

                1. Caesars Augustus is not only famous for being the first emperor of Rome, but also for many things he did as emperor. Coming into power as the first emperor, he used his power to bring order and stability to Rome. He also centralized the government, which meant he brought it all to one central place. He improved the economy, created a fire department, and police department. Can believe they didn’t have a fire dept. or police dept. before Augustus? Things must have been out of control. Augustus controlled a very powerful army, which enabled him to expand the borders of the Roman Empire. During Augustus reign, he ushered in the Pax Romana, which was 200 years of peace and prosperity. Augustus started that. So, good or bad? You decide.

                2. Emperor Caligula was very cruel and mentally unstable. A perfect example of Caligula’s craziness was that he declared himself a god and tried to make his horse a senator. You can tell right there that Caligula was a little off. Who tries to make their horse a senator? Caligula also stole many pieces of famous art. This one might be an easy call.

                3.  Claudius came along and had a big task of cleaning up after Caligula. He first started out to return the art work stolen by Caligula. He then worked hard to improve conditions in Rome overall for his people. He granted citizenship to more people in the empire, which essentially caused the empire to grow even more and become even more powerful. He also improved laws. (this is the last 2 blanks before #4) So, what do you think about Claudius? Make your decision.

                4. Emperor Nero indeed had something off in his brain. He poisoned his step brother and killed his wife and mother. Though he visited Pompeii quite often, Nero was a mad man. After his death, civil war broke out.

                5. Marcus Aurelius, like Augustus, made Rome better. He lowered taxes, helped the poor, and even sold his own jewels and property to help with the famine. What leader nowadays would do that? Probably not many. Marcus Aurelius also founded hospitals, orphanages, and schools.  Again, this might be an easy, but still you must decided, good or bad?

Government and Law

Rome developed a set of laws, which actually served as a model for today. Here are some of them: 1. All free people have equal rights before the law. 2. Innocent until proven guilty. 3. Accused people should be allowed to face their accusers and defend themselves. 4. Judges interpret the law and make decisions. 5. People have rights that no government can take away.  Sound familiar? Those are all done in our country today.


In addition to laws, emperor’s and military, the people of Rome had a lot of fun. Due to the pleasant climate, many things were done outside. Here are some things people did for fun: watched plays, celebrated holidays, and watched sporting events. It was the sporting events that were the most popular. The most famous athletic arena was the Colosseum. It could hold 50,000 people. Who fought there? The Gladiator, which was a professional fighter. Some facts about gladiators: slave, criminal, fought animals, fought to the death. However, it was always “lights out” for the losing gladiator. If they fought bravely, the emperor might show mercy and spare his life.


            At various times in this school year studying ancient civilizations, we come across a major religion. A big part of ancient civilizations is religion and the religions we have learned about and will learn about are still followed today. So far, we have learned about Judaism, Greek Mythology, Hinduism, and Buddhism. In the future, we will be learning about Islam. Today, you will be learning about a new major religion of the world that spread throughout the Roman Empire: Christianity. This is a major religion of the world that is still being followed today. The religion of Christianity was started by a man named Jesus. This man may very well be one of the most famous and influential people in the history of the world. His birth is well chronicled. For believers of Christianity, the story of his birth is the basis for the Christmas holiday. His dad, Joseph, and his mom, Mary, fled their homes to protect their newborn. They fled to a little town called Bethlehem, which was located in Judea, present day Palestine. In Bethlehem, Jesus was born in what most would call a barn, along side donkey’s and cows. Jesus grew up in a town called Nazareth. In Nazareth, he began spending much of his time in synagogues, telling people about his religion. Like most religions, people who follow Christianity, called Christians, follow a book. The followers of Judaism follow the Torah, Hindus have the Vedas, and Muslims have the Quran. Christians follow the Bible. Christians have learned about Jesus’ life by reading the New Testament, which is a particular section in the Bible. As a young man, Jesus would teach others about his religion in homes or Synagogues. As Jesus was walking around teaching others about his religion, other people would be moved to follow him. Followers of Jesus are called Disciples. Out of all the disciples that began to follow Jesus, 12 were selected to be his “Apostles.”

                At this point, you have read that Jesus walked around, teaching. Well, what exactly did Jesus teach? Keep in mind all of this is going on during the Roman Empire, which has a deep belief in gods and goddesses, so as you read the following statements, think about how or if these things would cause problems in the Roman empire. Jesus taught that there was only one God. Jesus encouraged people to obey the Ten Commandments. Jesus preached that God loved everyone and wanted people to be kind to each other. Do you see anything that may cause problems? Jesus’ teachings were very different than what Romans were being taught at the time. The biggest difference, which created a huge problem, was that Romans were taught that there were many gods. Jesus preached there was only One.

                Despite the huge differences in what Jesus taught compared to what was being taught to the Romans, Jesus continued to walk around and spread his message.

As Jesus’ message spread, some local leaders feared Jesus’ success would upset the Roman Leaders. Remember, the Roman leaders believed in many gods and goddesses. Jesus continued to teach and preach about his belief despite the rising anger in Roman leaders. One of Jesus’ closest friends, named Judas, betrayed Jesus by striking a deal with local Roman leaders to show them who Jesus was, so they could arrest him. While in prayer, Judas walked up to Jesus and kissed him on the check, signaling to the Roman leaders that that was the man. Jesus was arrested and sentenced to death. He was to be crucified, which means getting nailed to a cross. Three days later, according to Christian beliefs, Jesus rose from the dead, which strengthened the belief that he was the Messiah, or true Son of God. Like his birth, Jesus’ death is well chronicled by Christians as well. The Easter holiday is a holiday that commemorates his death and his rising from the dead.

                Though Jesus was gone, people still believed in Christianity and the religion continued to grow. It was a dangerous religion, however because at first, Christians were punished for their beliefs. However, Emperor Constantine changed things in Rome forever. While on his way to battle, Constantine had a dream in which he saw the mark of Christianity, which is the Cross, high above in the sky. He woke up and took this as a signal. Constantine made all of his soldiers paint a cross on their shield because of his dream. The next day, the smaller Roman army defeated the enemy in the Battle of Milvian. Constantine took this as a sign that Christianity should be allowed. Emperor Constantine made Christianity equal to all other religions at the time. He also outlawed the persecution of Christians, which means Christians could not be imprisoned or killed because of their beliefs. Though Constantine was in favor of Christianity, he did not become a Christian himself until he was on his death bed. The next emperor, Emperor Theodosius, picked up where Constantine left off and made Christianity Rome’s official religion.