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Historical Period: Ancient Rome

Updated on April 18, 2018
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Written by: Jason Wheeler, Film Frenzy Senior Writer & Editor.

Overview

Regarded by historians as a civilization lasting from about 753 BCE to 476 CE, scholars usually divide Ancient Rome by three different eras.

First was the Roman Kingdom when the city of Rome is believed to have grown from settlements on the Tiber River. No written records from this time survive and histories written during later periods are mostly based on legends. Livy, Plutarch and Dionysius of Halicarnassus mention a series of seven kings. According to legend, Rome’s first king was Romulus who decided to build a city where he and his brother Remus were abandoned as infants. After ruling for nearly 40 years, Romulus is said to have vanished, appeared to an esteemed nobleman in a vision and stated he had become a god.

Tradition and later writers put the establishment of the Roman Republic to about 509 BCE when the last king of Rome was deposed. This was when classical Roman civilization began and Rome’s control expanded to encompass the entire Mediterranean world through conquest and alliances. Dates for the end of the Roman Republic are interpreted differently by scholars with Octavian accepting the use of extraordinary powers and adopting the title of Augustus in 27 BCE considered the definitive end date.

The Roman Empire was the longest lasting period of Ancient Rome, stretching for about 1,500 years. It was one of the largest empires in world history and was one of the most powerful economic, cultural, political and military forces in the world at the time. The empire’s longevity allowed for the continuing influence of Latin and Greek language, culture, religion, inventions, architecture, philosophy, law and forms of government. Eventually, Emperor Diocletian separated Rome into the Western and Eastern Roman Empires and Emperor Constantine the Great established a second capital city in Byzantium. After the death of Emperor Theodosius I, the empire became permanently divided. A gradual erosion from abuses of power, civil wars, barbarian migrations and invasions, military reforms and economic depression led to the Western Roman Empire’s decay. The deposition of Emperor Romulus Augustulus in 476 is the most widely accepted date for the end of the empire in the West as well as the end of ancient history.

Culture

A major part of everyday life in Ancient Rome, music was included in many private and public events, such as daily meals, religious ceremonies, and military parades. Music was cultivated as a sign of education and contests were common and popular. It’s thought the Romans tuned their instruments to Greek modes. Four letters indicated a series of four succeeding tones and rhythm signs above the letters indicated the note’s duration. Flutes, panpipes, cornus, lyres, lutes, sistrums, drums and a hydraulic pipe organ called the hydraulis were among the instruments typically played by Roman musicians.

Roman Art imitated many different styles, from a heavy reliance on the art of the Greeks to taking inspiration from Etruscan, native Italic and Egyptian art. Practical application of this eclecticism is what defines Roman art. One popular style saw interiors painted as open landscapes with detailed scenes of plants, animals and buildings. Additionally, sculptures had youthful and classical proportions and later they grew into a mixture of realism and idealism.

Literature in Rome saw heavy influence from Greek authors with some of the earliest discovered works being historical epics recounting early military history. Expansion of the Republic saw production of poetry, comedy, history, tragedy, and the innovation of satire. Ovid, Virgil, Cicero and Horace are a few notable Roman writers.

Science & Technology

Thanks to borrowing technologies from the Greeks, Etruscans, Celts and other civilizations, the Roman Empire was one of the most technologically advanced civilizations. However, most of its advanced concepts and inventions were lost following the fall of the empire and were eventually rediscovered during the Late Middle Ages and Modern Era. The Romans mainly relied on water power and were responsible for innovations to roads, sanitation and construction which they used to construct aqueducts, dams, bridges and amphitheatres. The empire was also able to mix a concrete similar to that of today’s.

Furthermore, the Roman military made heavy use of technology, having inherited most ancient weapons. Advancements made to ideas already invented or designed along with creating new weapons, like the onager and scorpion siege weapons, in the search for perfecting its technology assisted in the empire’s centuries- long supremacy.

Sociological Timeline

  • 753 BCE - Rome founded
  • 667 BCE - Byzantium founded by Megarian colonists
  • 509 BCE - Roman Kingdom becomes Roman Republic; Battle of Silva Arsia; Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus ceremonially dedicated
  • 508 BCE - Roman- Etruscan Wars
  • 343- 341 BCE - First Samnite War
  • 326- 304 BCE - Second Samnite War
  • 298- 290 BCE - Third Samnite War
  • 280- 275 BCE - Pyrrhic War
  • 264- 241 BCE - First Punic War
  • 240- 238 BCE - Mercenary War
  • 229- 228 BCE - First Illyrian War
  • 218- 201 BCE - Second Punic War
  • 214- 205 BCE - First Macedonian War
  • 200- 197 BCE - Second Macedonian War
  • 192- 188 BCE - Roman- Seleucid War
  • 171- 168 BCE - Third Illyrian War; Third Macedonian War
  • 155- 139 BCE - Lusitanian War
  • 150- 148 BCE - Fourth Macedonian War
  • 149- 146 BCE - Third Punic War
  • 135- 132 BCE - First Servile War
  • 133- 30 BCE - Crisis of the Roman Repbulic
  • 113 BCE - - 596 - Germanic Wars
  • 112- 106 BCE - Jugurthine War
  • 104- 100 BCE - Second Servile War
  • 91- 88 BCE - Social War
  • 88- 87 BCE - Sulla’s first civil war
  • 89- 85 BCE - First Mithridatic War
  • 83- 81 BCE - Second Mithridatic War
  • 83- 72 BCE - Sertorian War
  • 82- 81 BCE - Sulla’s second civil war
  • 77 BCE - Lepidus’ rebellion
  • 73- 63 BCE - Third Mithridatic War
  • 73- 71 BCE - Third Servile War
  • 66 BCE - 628 - Roman- Persian Wars
  • 63- 62 BCE - Catiline Conspiracy
  • 63 BCE - Siege of Jerusalem
  • 59 BCE - First Triumvirate with Pompey, Julius Caesar and Marcus Licinius Crassus
  • 58- 50 BCE - Gallic Wars
  • 49- 45 BCE - Caesar’s Civil War
  • 44 BCE - Assassination of Julius Caesar
  • 44- 43 BCE - Post- Caesarian Civil War
  • 44- 36 BCE - Sicilian Revolt
  • 43 BCE - Second Triumvirate of Augustus, Mark Antony and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus
  • 43- 42 BCE - - Liberators’ Civil War
  • 41- 40 BCE - Perusine War
  • 40- 33 BCE - Roman- Parthian War
  • 32- 30 BCE - Final War of the Roman Republic
  • 29- 19 BCE - Cantabrian and Asturian Wars
  • 27 BCE - Augustus becomes first Roman Emperor
  • 14 - Death of Augustus; Tiberius becomes emperor
  • 37 - Death of Tiberius; Caligula becomes emperor
  • 41 - Caligula assassinated; Claudius becomes emperor
  • 43- 84 - Roman conquest of Britain
  • 54 - Death of Claudius; Nero becomes emperor
  • 58- 63 - War of the Armenian Succession
  • 64 - Great Fire of Rome
  • 66- 73 - First Jewish- Roman War
  • 68 - Death of Nero; Galba becomes emperor
  • 69- 70 - Revolt of the Batavi
  • 69 - Year of the Four Emperors, Generals Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian take the throne
  • 70 - Siege of Jerusalem
  • 73 - Siege of Masada
  • 79 - Death of Vespasian; Titus becomes emperor
  • 80 - Colosseum constructed
  • 81 - Death of Titus; Domitian becomes emperor
  • 86- 88 - Domitian’s Dacian War
  • 96 - Domitian assassinated; Nerva becomes emperor
  • 98 - Death of Nervia; Trajan becomes emperor
  • 101- 102 - First Dacian War
  • 105- 106 - Second Dacian War
  • 115- 117 - Second Jewish- Roman War
  • 117 - Death of Trajan; Hadrian becomes emperor
  • 138 - Death of Hadrian; Antoninus Pius becomes emperor
  • 161 - Death of Antoninus Pius; Lucius Verus becomes emperor
  • 161- 166 - Parthian War of Lucius Verus
  • 166- 180 - Marcomannic Wars
  • 169 - Death of Lucius Verus; Marcus Aurelius becomes emperor
  • 177 - Commodus becomes joint emperor
  • 180 - Death of Marcus Aurelius; Commodus becomes sole emperor
  • 192 - Commodus assassinated
  • 193 - Pertinax becomes emperor; Pertinax assassinated; Didius Julianus becomes emperor; Didius Julianus executed; Septimus Severus becomes emperor
  • 193- 197 - Year of the Five Emperors; civil war between generals Septimus Severus, Prescennius Niger and Clodius Albinus
  • 198 - Caracalla becomes joint emperor
  • 208- 210 - Invasion of Caledonia
  • 209 - Geta becomes joint emperor
  • 211 - Death of Septimus Severus; Geta assassinated; Caracalla becomes sole emperor
  • 217 - Death of Caracalla; Macrinus becomes emperor
  • 218 - Civil War of 218; Macrinus executed; Elagabalus becomes emperor
  • 222 - Elagabalus assassinated; Severus Alexander becomes emperor
  • 235- 284 - Crisis of the Third Century
  • 235 - Severus Alexander assassinated; Maximinus Thrax becomes emperor
  • 238 - Year of the Six Emperors; Maximinus Thrax assassinated; Gordian I becomes emperor; Death of Gordian I; Gordian II becomes emperor; Death of Gordian II; Pupienus becomes joint emperor with Balbinus; Pupienus and Balbinus assassinated; Gordian III becomes emperor; Death of Gordian III; Philip the Arab becomes emperor; Philip II becomes joint emperor
  • 249 - Death of Philip the Arab and Philip II; Decius and Herennius Etruscus become joint emperors
  • 251 - Death of Decius and Herennius Etruscus; Hostilian becomes emperor; Death of Hostilian; Trebonianus Gallus and Volusianus become joint emperors
  • 253 - Trebonianus Gallus and Volusianus assassinated; Aemilian becomes emperor; Aemilian assassinated; Valerian becomes emperor; Gallienus and Saloninus become joint emperors
  • 260 - Valerian captured in battle, dies in captivity; Saloninus assassinated
  • 268 - Gallienus assassinated; Claudius Gothicus becomes emperor
  • 270 - Death of Claudius Gothicus; Quintillus becomes emperor; Death of Quintillus; Aurelian becomes emperor
  • 275 - Aurelian assassinated; Tacitus becomes emperor
  • 276 - Death of Tacitus; Florianus becomes emperor; Florianus assassinated; Probus becomes emperor
  • 282 - Probus assassinated; Carus becomes emperor
  • 283’- Death of Carus; Numerian and Carinus become joint emperors
  • 284 - Death of Numerian
  • 285 - Death of Carinus; Diocletian becomes emperor
  • 285 - Diocletian divides Western and Eastern Roman Empires
  • 286 - Maximian becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire; Diocletian continues as emperor of Eastern Roman Empire
  • 256 - Sasanian Empire conquers Antioch
  • 258 - Goths invade Asia Minor
  • 303- 324 - Civil Wars of the Tetrarchy
  • 325 - First Council of Nicaea
  • 305 - Death of Maximian; Galerius becomes emperor of Eastern Roman Empire; Constantius Chlorus becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire;
  • 306 - Death of Constantius Chlorus; Valerius Severus becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire
  • 306 - Death of Valerius Severus; Constantine the Great becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire; Maxentius seizes power
  • 311 - Death of Galerius; Licinius I, Maximinus II Valerius Valens and Martinian becomes joint emperors of Eastern Roman Empire
  • 313 - Maximinus II defeated in Civil War
  • 324 CE Licinius I, Valerius Valens and Martinian assassinated; Constantine the Great becomes emperor of Western and Eastern Roman Empires
  • 330 - Constantine the Great moves Eastern Roman Empire’s capital to Byzantium, renames it Constantinople
  • 350- 353 - Civil War of 350- 353
  • 337 - Death of Constantine the Great; Constantine II becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire; Constantius II becomes emperor of Eastern Roman Empire; Constans becomes joint emperor
  • 340 - Death of Constantine II; Constans becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire
  • 350 - Constans assassinated; Vetranio becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire; Vetranio abdicates
  • 356 - Death of Vetranio; Constantius II becomes emperor of Western Roman Empires
  • 360 - Julian becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire
  • 361 - Death of Constantius II; Julian becomes emperor of Eastern Roman Empire
  • 363 Death of Julian; Jovian becomes emperor of Western and Eastern Roman Empires
  • 364 - Death of Jovian; Valentinian I becomes emperor of Western and Eastern Roman Empires; Valens becomes emperor of Eastern Roman Empire
  • 367 - Death of Valentinian I; Gratian becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire
  • 376- 382 - Gothic War
  • 379 - Theodosius I becomes emperor of Eastern Roman Empire
  • 383 - Gratian assassinated; Valentinian II becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire; Magnus Maximus and Flavius Victor usurp throne
  • 387- 388 - Civil War of 387- 388
  • 388 - Magnus Maximus and Flavius Victor executed
  • 392 - Death of Valentinian; Theodosius I becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire
  • 392- 394 - Civil War of 392- 394
  • 395 - Death of Theodosius I; Honorius becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire; Arcadius becomes emperor of Eastern Roman Empire
  • 398 - Gildonic War
  • 402 - Capital of Western Roman Empire moved to Ravenna
  • 407 - Constantine III and Constans II usurp throne of Western Roman Empire;
  • 409 - Constantine III recognized as co- emperor
  • 410 - Sack of Rome by the Visigoths
  • 411 - Constantine III abdicates; Death of Constans II
  • 421 - Constantius III becomes joint emperor of Western Roman Empire; Death of Constantius III
  • 423 - Death of Honorius; Joannes becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire
  • 424 - Joannes executed; Valentinian III becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire
  • 432 - Battle of Rimini
  • 455 - Sack of Rome by the Vandals; Valentinian III assassinated; Petronius Maximus becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire; Petronius Maximus assassinated; Avitus becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire
  • 456 - Avitus deposed; Majorian becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire
  • 461 - Majorian deposed; Libius Severus becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire
  • 465 - Death of Libius Severus; Anthemius becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire
  • 472 - Anthemius executed; Olybrius becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire
  • 474 - Olybrius deposed; Glycerius becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire; Glycerius deposed; Julius Nepos becomes emperor of Western Roman Empire
  • 475 - Julius Nepos deposed; Fall of the Western Roman Empire; Orestes retains brief control of remnant; Romulus Augustulus appointed emperor of imperial remnants
  • 476 CE - Romulus Augustulus deposed; Julius Nepos maintained as figurehead in Italy
  • 480 - Julius Nepos assassinated

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