Rise of the Roman Empire
Humanities I 13Z


Summer 2004


The legend about Rome’s origins puts the founding of the city at around 735 B.C. It is said that a Vestal Virgin gave birth to twin boys, Romulus and Remus, and claimed that they were the sons of the god Mars. The Vestal Virgin was the sister of a king. The king believed that she was lying and imprisoned her. He put her two boys in a basket and threw it into the Tiber River. A she-wolf found the twins and raised them. The twins, Romulus and Remus, came back and killed the king and founded the city of Rome. Afterwards Romulus and Remus fought and Remus was killed. Romulus was Rome’s first king and after he died, he became a god and vanished.


The Romans were tribal people who lived in central Italy and like other Latins; they tilled small plots of land, pastured cows, pigs and goats and tended flocks of sheep. Moreover, they had a council of elders who chose the Chiefs of the tribes. Around 600 B.C the Etruscans, a much more advanced people from the north, conquered Rome. Consequently, from that time on, Rome was ruled by kings.


The Romans learned many crafts from the Etruscans such as the use of bronze. They borrowed the Etruscan twelve-month calendar, the use of first and last names and developed their alphabet from an Etruscan adaptation of Greek. The Romans adapted many of the Etruscan agricultural practices such as the growing of grapes and olives. The Romans also learned from the Etruscans what was probably their most significant military strategy , the use of the unit called the legion which fought in phalanx positions.


In 509 B.C however, the Roman nobles revolted against their king, Tarquin the Proud, and established a republic. By this time, Rome’s society was already divided into two groups, the common people called the Plebeians, and the nobles called the Patricians. The Patricians were the heads of the leading families of Rome. Instead of the king, they elected two consuls that ruled the state and led the armies, holding power for one year. The only people that were allowed to participate in government were Patricians. Restricting the Consuls to Patrician society only however, led to a revolt by the Plebeians in 490 B.C.


The Plebeians elected their own leaders, called Tribunes, and threatened to leave and found their own city if they were not given more rights. Since the Patricians needed Plebeians to serve in their army, and basically make the society function, they had to give in. This was the first step in the building of the traditional Roman Republic, which was governed by the Senate and the People.


Once Rome had established its independence, the other Latin tribes followed. The Latins then joined up in a league against the Romans. Troubled by this, Rome abandoned its claim of hegemony in Latium. Rome saw advantage in peace and cooperation and in 493 Rome joined an alliance with its Latin neighbors as an equal. This was to be the Latin League.


The alliance treaty held that business contracts between people from different states within the alliance were to be bound by law. The treaty held that in wars against outsiders, alliance members were to share in commanding armies and in the spoils of war. In 390 B.C, several tribes of Celts that the Romans called Gauls attacked Rome. They defeated the Romans and ransacked the city but they could not defeat the soldiers fortified in the citadel. They finally gave up and left the Rome. The city was in ruins and many people wanted to leave and go to a nearby city. In the end however, the Romans decided to stay. They rebuilt the city and its walls. This defeat was very significant in Roman history because it made them adopt new and more effective military weaponry. They stopped using the spear in favor of a two-foot long sword, adopting helmets, breastplates and a shield with iron edges. They reorganized their army, putting in the front rank of their battle line not the wealthy soldiers, as before, but the youngest and strongest. The Romans then successfully defended themselves against attacks by Etruscans, Volscians, and Aequians.


Carthage was a great