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The Colosseum
A bust of Gaius Julius Caesar

In modern historiography, ancient Rome refers to Roman civilisation from the founding of the city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD. It encompasses the Roman Kingdom (753–509 BC), Roman Republic (509–27 BC) and Roman Empire (27 BC–476 AD) until the fall of the western empire.

Ancient Rome began as an Italic settlement, traditionally dated to 753 BC, beside the River Tiber in the Italian Peninsula. The settlement grew into the city and polity of Rome, and came to control its neighbours through a combination of treaties and military strength. It eventually dominated the Italian Peninsula, assimilated the Greek culture of southern Italy (Magna Grecia) and the Etruscan culture and acquired an Empire that took in much of Europe and the lands and peoples surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It was among the largest empires in the ancient world, with an estimated 50 to 90 million inhabitants, roughly 20% of the world's population at the time. It covered around 5 million square kilometres (1.9 million square miles) at its height in AD 117.

The Roman state evolved from an elective monarchy to a democratic classical republic and then to an increasingly autocratic semi-elective military dictatorship during the Empire. Through conquest, cultural, and linguistic assimilation, at its height it controlled the North African coast, Egypt, Southern Europe, and most of Western Europe, the Balkans, Crimea and much of the Middle East, including Anatolia, Levant and parts of Mesopotamia and Arabia. It is often grouped into classical antiquity together with ancient Greece, and their similar cultures and societies are known as the Greco-Roman world.

Ancient Roman civilisation has contributed to modern language, religion, society, technology, law, politics, government, warfare, art, literature, architecture and engineering. Rome professionalised and expanded its military and created a system of government called res publica, the inspiration for modern republics such as the United States and France. It achieved impressive technological and architectural feats, such as the empire-wide construction of aqueducts and roads, as well as more grandiose monuments and facilities.

The Punic Wars with Carthage gave Rome supremacy in the Mediterranean. The Roman Empire emerged with the principate of Augustus (from 27 BC); Rome's imperial domain now extended from the Atlantic to Arabia and from the mouth of the Rhine to North Africa. In 92 AD, Rome came up against the resurgent Persian Empire and became involved in history's longest-running conflict, the Roman–Persian Wars, which would have lasting effects on both empires. Under Trajan, Rome's empire reached its territorial peak, encompassing the entire Mediterranean Basin, the southern margins of the North Sea, and the shores of the Red and Caspian Seas. Republican mores and traditions started to decline during the imperial period, with civil wars becoming a common prelude to the rise of a new emperor. Splinter states, such as the Palmyrene Empire, would temporarily divide the Empire during the Crisis of the Third Century before some stability was restored in the Tetrarchy phase of imperial rule.

Plagued by internal instability and attacked by various migrating peoples, the western part of the empire broke up into independent barbarian kingdoms in the 5th century. The eastern part of the empire remained a power through the Middle Ages until its fall in 1453 AD. (Full article...)

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Display case reconstructing the arrangement of the hoard treasure when excavated.

The Hoxne Hoard (/ˈhɒksən/ HOK-sən) is the largest hoard of late Roman silver and gold discovered in Britain, and the largest collection of gold and silver coins of the fourth and fifth centuries found anywhere within the former Roman Empire. It was found by Eric Lawes, a metal detectorist in the village of Hoxne in Suffolk, England in 1992. The hoard consists of 14,865 Roman gold, silver, and bronze coins and approximately 200 items of silver tableware and gold jewellery. The objects are now in the British Museum in London, where the most important pieces and a selection of the rest are on permanent display. In 1993, the Treasure Valuation Committee valued the hoard at £1.75 million (about £3.79 million in 2021).

The hoard was buried in an oak box or small chest filled with items in precious metal, sorted mostly by type, with some in smaller wooden boxes and others in bags or wrapped in fabric. Remnants of the chest and fittings, such as hinges and locks, were recovered in the excavation. The coins of the hoard date it after AD 407, which coincides with the end of Britain as a Roman province. The owners and reasons for burial of the hoard are unknown, but it was carefully packed and the contents appear consistent with what a single very wealthy family might have owned. It is likely that the hoard represents only a part of the wealth of its owner, given the lack of large silver serving vessels and of some of the most common types of jewellery. (Full article...)
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Bust of Caracalla, Museo Nazionale Romano

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (born Lucius Septimius Bassianus, 4 April 188 – 8 April 217), better known by his nickname "Caracalla" (/ˌkærəˈkælə/) was Roman emperor from 198 to 217. He was a member of the Severan dynasty, the elder son of Emperor Septimius Severus and Empress Julia Domna. Proclaimed co-ruler by his father in 198, he reigned jointly with his brother Geta, co-emperor from 209, after their father's death in 211. His brother was murdered by the Praetorian Guard later that year, under orders from Caracalla himself, who then reigned afterwards as sole ruler of the Roman Empire. Caracalla found administration to be mundane, leaving those responsibilities to his mother. Caracalla's reign featured domestic instability and external invasions by the Germanic peoples.

Caracalla's reign became notable for the Antonine Constitution (Latin: Constitutio Antoniniana), also known as the Edict of Caracalla, which granted Roman citizenship to all free men throughout the Roman Empire. The edict gave all the enfranchised men Caracalla's adopted praenomen and nomen: "Marcus Aurelius". Domestically, Caracalla became known for the construction of the Baths of Caracalla, which became the second-largest baths in Rome; for the introduction of a new Roman currency named the antoninianus, a sort of double denarius; and for the massacres he ordered, both in Rome and elsewhere in the empire. In 216, Caracalla began a campaign against the Parthian Empire. He did not see this campaign through to completion due to his assassination by a disaffected soldier in 217. Macrinus succeeded him as emperor three days later. (Full article...)

Did you know?

  • ...That according to Suetonius, Caligula "often sent for men whom he had secretly killed, as though they were still alive, and remarked offhandedly a few days later that they must have committed suicide"?
  • ...That Mark Antony, who avenged Julius Caesar, was killed by Julius Caesar's grand nephew (Octavian) Augustus Caesar?
  • ...That Sulla's grave read No friend ever surpassed him in kindness, and no enemy in ill-doing?

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The Villa of the Mysteries (Italian: Villa dei Misteri) is a well preserved ruin of a Roman Villa which lies some 400 metres northwest of Pompeii, southern Italy. In this fresco from the villa, a Bacchian rite is depicted.

Photo credit: The Yorck Project

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