Brief history of Rome summarized
A quick overview of the history of Rome, a city with a gigantic heritage.
The ancient city of Rome
In the middle of the 8th century BC there was a settlement in Rome. In the 6th century BC it was ruled by Etruscan kings. Kings were advised by the senate, a body consisting of Roman aristocrats or patricians. However, in 510 BC the Romans revolted and expelled the last king Tarquinius Superbus.
The middle and working class Romans were called plebeians. In the sixth century there was antagonism between the two classes. Finally, in 494 BC, the plebeians left Rome and founded their own settlement on the Aventine hill. The patricians were forced to make concessions to get them back.
From the beginning Rome was an aggressive and expansionist state. At first the Romans conquered central Italy. However, in 390 the Gauls captured and sacked Rome.
However, Rome recovered and conquered southern Italy. In the year 272 BC almost all of southern Italy was in the hands of the Romans.
Rome came into conflict with Carthage, a city in North Africa. Carthage was very powerful.
The wars between Rome and Carthage are called the Punic Wars. The first lasted from 264 to 241 BC It ended with the capture of Sicily by the Romans. Shortly after they also occupied Sardinia and Corsica.
The Second Punic War lasted from 218 to 202 BC. In the year 218, Hannibal marched with a large army of elephants from Spain, through southern France, and across the Alps to Italy. He defeated the Romans in several battles.
However, Hannibal did not have the resources to completely destroy Rome and the Romans sent an army to North Africa. Led by Scipio, the Romans won a decisive battle at Zama in 202 BC.
Meanwhile, the Romans expanded north. Northern Italy was inhabited by Celts, but the Romans gradually conquered them. By 90 BC all of northern Italy was in the hands of the Romans.
Some Romans became very wealthy as a result of these successful wars. Also, prisoners of war became slaves, so there was a huge influx of slaves into Roman territory. Some wealthy Romans made fortunes using slave labor on large estates.
However, many peasants were forced to leave the land and move to the cities. Fortunately, there were plenty of jobs for them. As Rome grew more and more prosperous, many public places such as roads and temples were built. However, the dramatic social changes caused much unrest in Rome.
Meanwhile, the slaves sometimes rebelled. The first rebellion or servile war lasted from 135 to 132 BC when the slaves of Sicily rebelled. The Sicilian slaves revolted again in 103 BC but were crushed in 99 BC Spartacus eventually led a rebellion of Italian slaves in 73 BC However, the rebellion was crushed in 71 BC
Then non-Roman Italians rose up against Rome in the Social War of 91-89 BC. They demanded certain rights and privileges. The Roman troops of Cornelius Sulla crushed the revolt. However, in 89 BC all free Italians were granted Roman citizenship.
In the first century BC the Roman republic slowly collapsed and power was increasingly in the hands of successful generals. In times of emergency, the Romans sometimes appointed a temporary dictator to take charge of the situation. In 83 BC Sulla became dictator. He ruled until 80 BC
Julius Caesar conquered Gaul (modern France). His military victories made him very popular among his men. However, in 49 BC the Senate voted that Caesar should relinquish command of the army and return to Rome without his troops. Caesar refused and instead marched on Rome. Julius Caesar became dictator of Rome until 44 BC when he was assassinated.
After a civil war Octavian became the first Roman emperor. In the year 27 BC he was granted the title of ‘Augustus’. The Roman Republic was finished.
Augustus kept the senate, but had the real power. He controlled the army and the civil service. Augustus managed to restore order to the Roman empire and when he died in AD 14 it was a peaceful and prosperous place.
He was followed by his stepson Tiberius (14-37 AD). The next emperor was Gaius or Caligula (AD 37-41), who ruled so poorly that he was assassinated by his bodyguard, the Praetorian Guard. He was succeeded by his uncle Claudius (41-54 AD). During his reign the Romans conquered Great Britain. Next came Nero (54-68).
Vespasian (69-79) built the Colosseum and under Trajan (98-117) and Hadrian (177-138) the Roman Empire was at its height.
In 212 the emperor Caracalla granted Roman citizenship to all free people in the empire. By then the Roman empire was beginning to decline. When Emperor Severus Alexander was assassinated in 325 there were decades of political instability. Between 235 and 284 there were 22 emperors.
Order and prosperity were temporarily restored by Diocletian (284-305). He abdicated in 305 and there was a succession struggle. Constantine was proclaimed emperor in 306, but was not in complete control of the empire until 324.
Crucially Constantine introduced a policy of tolerance of Christianity. He was baptized on his deathbed in the year 337.
Diocletian divided the empire into two halves, western and eastern. Constantine united them in 324 but they parted again after his death. Gradually there was less and less cooperation between the two halves. In the Western Roman Empire there was a relentless economic decline with galloping inflation. Meanwhile, the Germanic tribes across the border grew stronger.
Then, in 410, Alaric the Gothic captured Rome. However, the Roman empire survived for some time. However, in 429-430 a people called the Vandals crossed from Spain into North Africa. This had serious consequences for the Romans, as they imported much of their grain from there.
Worse still, in 455, the Vandals sacked Rome. Finally, in the year 476, the last Roman emperor in the west was deposed and a German named Odoacer became king of Italy. That was the end of the Roman empire in the west (although it continued in the east).
Rome in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
However, the great city of Rome did not die. In the Middle Ages, Rome was much smaller than it had been during its heyday as the center of an empire. In the seventh century the population of Rome was reduced to only about 30,000 inhabitants. It was still a very big city compared to others in Europe, but it was only a shadow of its former self.
However, the Pope took over from the Roman Emperor as ruler of Rome. The writer Edward Gibbon said that the papacy was “The Ghost of the late Roman Empire, sitting crowned over his tomb.”
The pope took the title Pontifex Maximus, a title that once belonged to pagan high priests. The Popes also extended their influence by converting parts of Europe to Catholicism. The Popes gradually became more powerful.
In the 8th century the Franks (from France) were allies of the Pope and invaded Italy. In 754 the ruler of the Franks made the Pope rule over a large part of central Italy, which became known as the Papal States. So the Pope was not only the head of the Church, but he was also a secular ruler of his own state.
Meanwhile, trade and commerce in Europe revived and Rome slowly became prosperous again. (Although it was sacked by the Norman king Robert Guiscard in 1084. By the 14th century, Rome was booming again. Meanwhile, people from all over Europe came to Rome on pilgrimage.
In the 16th century Rome had a population of around 100,000 and the Popes paid for the creation of great works of art. However, in 1527 the Holy Roman Emperor (ruler of Germany) captured Rome. However, the city soon recovered. Then, in 1555, Pope Paul IV forced all the Jews in Rome to live in a ghetto. In the 17th century Rome continued to prosper and great architecture was created.
Meanwhile, in 1542 the Roman Inquisition was founded. In 1600 the great astronomer and philosopher Giordano Bruno was burned in Rome by the Inquisition. Galileo was later summoned to Rome to be examined by the Inquisition. He arrived in January 1633. Galileo was threatened with torture unless he renounced the Copernican theory (which stated that the Earth orbits the Sun). No wonder he agreed to do it. However, he was placed under house arrest for the rest of his life.
With the rise of reason and the decline of dogma in the eighteenth century, the power of the Popes and the Catholic Church declined. Finally in 1798 Napoleon occupied Rome.
The modern city of Rome
In 1849 the people of Rome revolted and the Pope was forced to flee, but was restored to power by the French. In 1861 Italy was unified. Most of the Papal States were absorbed into the new kingdom, but the French prevented the Italians from taking Rome. However, in 1870 French troops withdrew from Rome to fight the Prussians. The Italians seized the opportunity to liberate Rome. It became the capital of Italy.
Meanwhile, Rome became a popular tourist destination.
In 1919 Benito Mussolini formed the fascist movement. The fascists grew rapidly. Finally, at a mass demonstration in Naples on October 24, 1922, the fascists demanded a march on Rome to seize power by force. So on October 28, 1922, a force of fascists marched on Rome (although Mussolini remained in Milan in case something went wrong).
At first the king planned to use the army to resist the fascists. However, at the last moment he changed his mind and refused to sign an order placing Italy under martial law. Instead, he summoned Mussolini to be Prime Minister. Mussolini traveled from Milan and arrived in Rome to take office on October 29, 1922.
Then, in 1929, the Pope made a deal with the fascist dictator. It was called the Lateran Pact. The Vatican became a sovereign state. The Pope recognized the kingdom of Italy for the first time and accepted that Rome was now the capital of Italy.
Italy joined World War II from Germany in 1940. However, Italy surrendered on September 8, 1943. The Germans sent troops to Italy. On September 11 they captured Rome. The Allies liberated Rome on June 4, 1944.
In 1960 the Olympic Games were held in Rome. Today tourism is a major industry in Rome. MAAXI Museum of 21st Century Arts opened in 2010. Computer science is also a major industry in Rome.
At present, the population of Rome is 2.8 million inhabitants.