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THE ANCIENT ROME PORTAL

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Ancient Rome was a civilization that grew from a small agricultural community founded on the Italian Peninsula in the 9th century BC to a large empire straddling the Mediterranean Sea. In its 12 centuries of existence, Roman civilization shifted from a monarchy, to a republic based on a combination of oligarchy and democracy, and finally on to an autocratic empire. Through conquest and assimilation, it came to dominate Western Europe, the entire Mediterranean Basin including the Near East and North Africa, the Balkans, and the Black Sea.

The Roman empire went into decline in the 5th century AD. Plagued by internal instability and attacked by various migrating peoples from beyond its borders, the western part of the empire, including Hispania, Gaul, and Italy, broke up into independent kingdoms in the 5th century. The eastern part of the empire, governed from Constantinople, survived this crisis, and would live on for another millennium, until its last remains were finally annexed by the emerging Ottoman Empire. This eastern, medieval stage of the Empire is usually referred to as the Byzantine Empire by historians.

Roman civilization is often grouped into "classical antiquity" with ancient Greece, a civilization that inspired much of the culture of ancient Rome. Ancient Rome contributed greatly to the development of law, war, art, literature, architecture, technology and language in the Western world, and its history continues to have a great influence on the world today.


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The Roman Emperors were monarchial rulers of the Roman State during the imperial period (from about 27 BC onwards). The Romans had no single term for the office: Latin titles such as imperator (from which English Emperor derives), augustus, caesar and princeps were all associated with it. In practice, the Emperor was supreme ruler of Rome and supreme commander of the Roman legions. In theory, however, Rome remained a republic, the res publica, and the Emperor's status was merely that of primus inter pares - first among equals. This legal fiction became increasingly meaningless as the Emperors consolidated their power. However, it was maintained at least to a ceremonial degree until the very end of the Roman Empire - 476 in the Western Roman Empire and 1453 in the East.

There was no constitutional office of "Roman Emperor", nor any title or rank directly analogous to the title of "Emperor"; all the titles traditionally associated with the Emperor had pre-existing, Republican meanings.

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The terror of the Roman arms added weight and dignity to the moderation of the emperors. They preserved peace by a constant preparation for war; and while justice regulated their conduct, they announced to the nations on their confines, that they were as little disposed to endure, as to offer an injury. Trajan was ambitious of fame; and as long as mankind continues to bestow more liberal applause on their destroyers than on their benefactors, the thirst of military glory will ever be the vice of the most exalted characters. The Roman people gave you to Caesar to fight against the Gauls and Britons, and your valiant deeds call for recognition and recompense. But Caesar, taking advantage of your military oath, led you against your country much against your desire.

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Tacitus

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Publius (or Gaiues) Cornelius Tacitus (ca. 56 – ca. 117) was a senate

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  • ...at the Roman Empire's territorial peak, it controlled approximately 5 900 000 km² (2,300,000 sq.mi.) of land surface?
  • ...When Caesar's troops hesitated to leave their ships for fear of the Britons, the aquilifer of the tenth legion threw himself overboard and, carrying the eagle, advanced alone against the enemy?

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