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How the Roman Empire Began

Updated on September 15, 2012

Roman Soldiers

Rome had one of the best armies in the world, which helped its expansion across the Mediterranean
Rome had one of the best armies in the world, which helped its expansion across the Mediterranean | Source

The Beginning of The Roman Empire

The saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day, is very true. Here is the story.

Before The Roman Empire became the Roman Empire, early Rome was originally ruled by kings. The citizens decided they would rather rule themselves and took power from the kings. The leaders were called consuls and governed the people for one year and then a new consul would rule. All advisements were taken up through a “senate” and the town became known as the Roman Republic. Republic is Latin (res publica) for “matters of state”, or public matters.

The Romans divided the people into 4 classes. The lowest class were the slaves, who were owned by other people. Slaves had no rights whatsoever. The plebeians were the next class. They were free, but had little say or power. The equestians were wealthy people, also known as knights. They were given a horse to ride on should they be called to fight for and protect Rome. The highest class were known as nobles or patricians. These are the people that held all the power in Rome.

The Roman Republic Was Strong

The Roman Republic was an extremely successful form of government that lasted from 510 B.C. to 23 B.C. For nearly 500 years the Roman Republic was strong due to its army and in the way they governed.

Although the army was defeated in many battles, they won more and were able to continue it expansion of territories. From the early days of Rome, every Roman citizen had to be prepared to fight. The soldiers of the imperial army of Rome were well paid and highly trained to fight for Rome. They signed up for 20-25 years of service.

After they had served 25 years in the army, they could become a citizen of Rome. The foot soldier had a short sword, two javelins and a heavy shield of wood and leather. Soldiers, when not at war were building roads and forts.

The 1st Punic War

They had a strong governmental system and this is also why they were able to endure for many hundreds of years.
By 274 BC, the Romans occupied all of Italy. Sicily, an island in Mediterranean Sea, near Italy, was at the time, a Greek city. Sicily was divided into 2 different sections, Greek and Carthage cities. The Romans entered Sicily and the Carthage army attacked the Romans. The First Punic War begins. It was a 23 year war that the Romans eventually won. Under Roman rule, the cities of Sicily were forced to pay taxes to Rome and were ruled under a Roman govenor.

Rome became a strong force in the Mediterraenean region. The greatest challenge to their expansion came from the Carthaginians controlled their own empire and who ruled Carthage. Carthage was a city in North Africa. The power struggles began between them and the first of three Punic Wars began. The three wars lasted a total of nearly 100 years and was the equivalent of world wars today. The war raged on land and sea.

The 2nd Punic War and Elephants in Italy

For several decades all was quiet between the Romans and Carthiginians. But in 218 BC a 17 year war broke out again.

In the second Punic War, Carthage and its famous general, Hannibal fought a fierce battle against the Romans with the intention of invading Italy. Hannibal and many of Rome’s enemies joined the war. With 90,000 infantrymen, 12,000 cavalry, and 40 elephants, the seige began towards Rome. Only about half of the army reached Italy. Hannibal got so far as to invade Italy with their army and elephants. Hannibal’s army was very powerful and defeated all the armies the Roman’s sent to defend the invasion of Rome.

The Roman’s even cut off the food supply to the Carthage army in an attempt to stop them from reaching Rome. The war raged on Hannibal lost 8,000 men and the Romans lost 70,000 at the Ebro Sea in Spain called the Battle of Cannae.

Hannibal ended up invading Italy with their elephants and stayed in Italy for 15 years. When the Roman army entered North Africa, Hannibal left to protect Carthage and the war ended in 201 BC.

The 3rd Punic War

The Third Punic War began in 149 BC and only lasted 3 years. This war was provoked by the Romans, who held a grudge from the previous wars. At the end of this war, in 146 BC, Carthage was defeated and fell to the Romans. All the locals were either executed or sold into slavery. From the victories of the Punic Wars, Rome spread its expansion across and domination to become a world power.

The Legendary Power of Rome

From humble beginnings around 1000 bc, of a settlement of shepherds and farmers in the middle of italy to about 1,000 years later, Rome became a legendary power that stretched from Britain to Arabia, whose empire impacted the world to this day.


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    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 5 years ago

      Hi Pdog, It is always nice to have you stop by and read my hubs. I am glad you enjoyed reading about the beginnings of Rome.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 5 years ago

      Hi Helen,

      I am glad you enjoyed my Roman hub. History is a very fascinating subject, especially when you think of all the events that lead up to the bigger stories. Thanks so much for your up votes. I hope you are starting to feel better.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 5 years ago

      @ Hi Doit, Thanks for teaching me about caltrops. I never knew anything about them. As usual I am glad you stopped by.

    • profile image 5 years ago

      I also enjoyed reading this - thanks TKI

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Very interesting hub. When you hear about Rome you automatically think about the Emperors like Augustus, Claudius, Cesear and so on. But the history prior to the Roman might was so important and very interesting as well. I also think the Punic wars are definately one of the most fascinating episodes of Roman history.

      A very absorbing and enjoyable read + voted up!

    • profile image

      DoItForHer 5 years ago

      Caltrops were used effectively to disable Hannibal's elephants.

      A caltrop is a four-pronged device that when placed on the ground one prong is always facing up. The erect prong would pierce the elephant's foot causing lameness.

      Today's version of the caltrop is the Spike Strip.