Home / Ancient Rome 1000 B.C – 476 A.D.

Ancient Rome 1000 B.C – 476 A.D.

Important dates and events in Ancient Rome, 1000 B. C. – 476 A. D.

1000 B. C. Phoenicians build Carthage and explore coast of Italy.
800-700 B. C. Six farming villages unite to become the city of Rome.
750 B. C. Cumae, first Greek colony in Italy, settled by refugees.
509 B. C. Romans drive out the last of the Etruscan kings.
353 B. C. Rome expands, conquering the towns of nearby Latium.
312 B. C. Work begins on Appian Way, first Roman road.
280-256 B. C. Rome fights a Greek army under Pyrrhus, wins control of entire Italian peninsula.
264-146 B. C. Rome and Carthage at war.
218 B. C. Carthaginian army under Hannibal crosses the Alps to invade Italy.
204 B. C. The Roman general, Scipio, invades Africa, menaces Carthage.
203 B. C. Hannibal, recalled from Italy, meets Scipio in battle of Zama and is defeated.
196 B. C. Deaths of Hannibal, Scipio.
146 B. C. After nearly three years of siege, Roman troops capture Carthage, enslave its citizens and burn the city to the ground.
133 B. C. Tiberius Gracchus elected tribune, murdered by Senate.
124 B. C. His brother Caius Gracchus elected, passes many reform laws.
121 B. C. The mob turns on Caius and forces him to commit suicide.
107-86 B. C. Struggle for power between Marius and Sulla, which ends only with the death of Marius.
73-71 B. C. Slaves, led by Spartacus, revolt; they are suppressed after two years of fighting.
60 B. C. Pompey, Julius Caesar and Crassus form the First Triumvirate to combat the power of the senate.
58-50 B. C. Caesar, commander of the legions in Gaul, subdues the barbarians; Pompey plots in Rome.
49 B. C. Caesar crosses the Rubicon with his legions; Pompey and the Senate flee; Pompey is crushed at the battle of Pharsalus.
48-46 B. C. Caesar, charmed by Cleopatra, stays in Egypt.
46 B. C. Caesar returns to Rome, begins to consolidate his power and enact reforms.
44 B. C. Caesar assassinated by Cassius, Brutus and other Senators. Civil War breaks out.
42 B. C. Octavius, Antony and Lepidus form the Second Triumvirate and destroy Cassius and Brutus at battle of Philippi.
41-31 B. C. Rivalry between Octavius and Antony develops into war.
31 B. C. Fleet of Antony and Cleopatra beaten by Octavius at the battle of Actium.
30 B. C. Antony and Cleopatra kill themselves; Octavius becomes Augustus.
29 B. C. – A.D. 14 Reign of Augustus; the Empire at peace; the arts and culture flourish.
A. D. 14 – 117 A series of emperors rule Rome.
A.D. 64 Fire devastates Rome; Nero blames it on Christians
A.D. 68 Nero, last of Caesar’s family, commits suicide to avoid assassination at the hands of his guards.
A.D. 79 Eruption of Vesuvius buries town of Pompeii under lava.
A.D. 106 Legions under Emperor Trajan push the borders of the Empire beyond the Danube River.
A.D. 117-138 Reign of Hadrian; trade flourishes; walls built on the borders to stop barbarians.
A.D. 138-180 Hadrian’s successors, Antoninus and Marcus Aurelius, govern the Empire.
A.D. 167 Barbarians break through the border defenses into Italy and are beaten back with difficulty.
A.D. 192-284 Chaos in the Empire; the borders are breached; revolts in the provinces; trade falls off; famine and plague in the cities.
A.D. 284-305 Diocletian restores order by making the Empire an armed camp ruled by the legions.
A.D. 324 Constantine, a Christian, becomes Emperor.
A.D. 326 Constantine begins to build a new capital for the Empire at Byzantium on the Hellespont.
A.D. 395 At the death of Theodosius, his two sons divided the Empire between them; it is never reunited.
A.D. 406 The Rhine defenses collapse before waves of barbarian invaders; Gaul is overrun.
A.D. 410 Visigoths under Alaric capture and sack the city of Rome.
A.D. 476 Emperor Romulus deposed by barbarians, bringing the Roman Empire in the West to an end; Caesar’s heirs still rule the East.

The City of Dido 264 B. C. – 129 B. C.


In 264 B. C., the people of Rome met in a noisy session of their assembly. The question before them was: “Peace or War?” The Roman legions had proved their strength in winning all of Italy. Now the time had come to decide whether or not to risk the troops in wars away from the peninsula. Meeting with the assembly was a representative from Messana, an independent town on Sicily, just across the narrow channel from the tip of Italy. Troops from Carthage had attacked the town and captured it. Now Messana begged for help from Rome. The Senate, knowing well the power of Carthage, wanted to say no. In the assembly were many men who had fought in the legions, men who were proud and sure of their strength. When the agreements dragged on, they clamoured for a vote and the assembly voted for war. Dido’s curse – the burning hatred between her city of Carthage and Rome, the city of Aeneas – had come true at last. Even if the legend of Dido was only a story, the war itself was curse enough. From one Sicilian town it spread to half of the Mediterranean, a full-scale war between the greatest powers of the West. Once begun, it went on for 119 years and ended only when one of the two powers was utterly destroyed. Carthage was perhaps the richest city in the world, the international headquarters of merchant-princes who could afford to buy anything – luxuries, men, ships or cities. It was three times the size of Rome. It had rows of magnificent buildings and two fine harbours, one for merchant vessels and one for ships of war. The city was just as famous, however, for its dishonesty and cruelty. The god of Carthage was Baal, a greedy, …

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The End of the City A. D. 192 – A. D. 476


ON ROME’S first day, Romulus took a bronze plow and drew a magic circle around seven of the hills that stood beside the River Tiber. The magic of the circle was protection against the evils outside. More important, it bound together the people who were inside, making one city where there had been six towns. Seven hundred years later, Augustus drew another magic circle, this time around all the Mediterranean world. It kept out barbarian and Asian invaders and held together millions of people, making one empire where there had been dozens of races and nations. So long as the circle had its magic power, Rome would exist. There was no magic in the circles themselves. The real magic had been in Romulus himself, a chief who was strong and wise enough to build a city. There had been magic, too, in Augustus, whose wisdom had brought order and peace to an empire. Without such men, the circles were powerless. Invaders and conquerors could break through them. The people and countries they held together would fall apart. That was what happened to Rome after the death of Marcus Aurelius. TOO MANY CAESARS It did not happen all at once. There was still an empire and there were emperors who tried to rule it — too many, in fact. When Commodus was murdered, four would-be rulers, each with a Roman army behind him, fought over the throne. The winner, Septimus Severus, the commander of the Danube troops, held it for eighteen years. When he was about to die, he gave his two sons a piece of advice about ruling Rome: “Stick together, pay the soldiers and forget the rest.” His sons did not stick together. When Septimus was dead, each of them tried to be the emperor. Caracalla, the elder of …

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The City Where Money Ruled A.D. 54 – A.D. 192


“IT is impossible to find peace and quiet in this city!” Seneca, in Nero’s Rome for a visit, was not enjoying his stay and he wrote about it in an angry letter to one of his friends in the country. “The room I have rented is right over‚ a public bath and I might as well have taken a bed in the Tower of Babel. When the athletic bathers do their exercises, I hear every grunt as they strain to lift the dumbbells and the awful wheezes as they drop them again. In the ball court, a loud-mouthed coach calls out the score at the top of his voice. Then a rowdy starts a quarrel, a pickpocket gets caught in the act (he howls, of course) and some idiot chooses his bathtub as the place to sing a concert. There is a regular parade of human elephants flopping into the swimming pool, each trying to make a greater splash than the last and a chorus of drink sellers, sausage vendors, pastrymen and hawkers for the restaurants — each of them with his own noisy way of spoiling my rest and interrupting my work.” A bathhouse, with its pools and game rooms and restaurants and locker rooms, was probably as noisy as any spot in Rome. Seneca would not have found much quiet in any neighborhood in the city. There were just too many people. In the years since Augustus had made Rome the capital of his empire, the city had grown bigger, busier and noisier than ever. In the mornings, when the shops were open and the merchants’ carts went out to make deliveries, it was hard to get through the streets at all. The tenements were jammed full. The great town houses overflowed with guests and slaves. Still the …

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The City of the World A. D. 117 – A. D. 138


ROME was no longer just a city — it was a world. In the reign of Hadrian, the blaring trumpets that announced the comings and goings of the emperor echoed in Spain, Syria and Britain as often as in Italy. Hadrian wanted to know what was going on in all of his empire. He wanted to inspect the troops and forts that held the frontiers and to judge for himself the wisdom of the governors he had sent to rule the provinces. He wanted to visit the towns and cities, to see their ancient buildings, to plan new buildings where they were needed and to build new towns in the frontier provinces. He wanted to meet the people. They were citizens of Rome, even though their homes were hundreds of miles from Italy and they had never seen the Forum. Hadrian’s journey through the empire took eight years. He followed the Roman roads and the sea routes Rome had freed from pirates, until he had visited every part of the world of which he was the sole, all-powerful ruler. He met many other travelers on the roads. Travel was easy now and safe. Rich Romans, imitating the emperor, had become eager tourists. They flocked to Greece; to them it was a quaint place out of another age. They studied its famous buildings, bought statues and pottery for souvenirs and paced out the old battlefields which they had read about in Plutarch’s histories. In Egypt, they went shopping in Alexandria, still handsome and a bustling center of trade. They rode in elegant comfort on sightseeing barges that took them up the Nile to Memphis and Thebes. There they admired the oldest buildings known to man and scratched their initials in the stonework. This eastern area was Rome’s “Old World.” It had …

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The Emperor’s City A. D. 14 to A. D. 117


GREAT power had allowed Augustus to do great good for Rome and its provinces. The same power in the hands of a man who was not good meant that he could do great harm. This the Romans learned as they watched the remarkable parade of good and evil men who came to govern Rome after Augustus. Some of them were wise, two or three were foolish, one thought he was the greatest artist in the world and another said he was a god. All were the masters of Rome, mighty princes who were called emperors. The title emperor came from imperator, the Roman name for the man who commanded the armies. Every ruler of the empire owed his power to the legions. When he gave an order, his soldiers made certain that it was obeyed. If his orders became too harsh to hear, it was his soldiers who struck him down. Augustus, like Caesar, had named the commander who would take his place when he died. The man he chose was one of his own family, the Caesars. So were the next three emperors. Two of these emperor Caesars were good and two were dreadfully bad. The first, Augustus’ stepson Tiberius, was good, though the city mob did not think so. He treated them with scorn and, worse, he was stingy with his gifts of food and gave them very few shows. The Senate liked him even less than the people did. Tiberius was proud and he made it difficult for them to pretend that they were ruling Rome. Then, one morning, someone overheard him exclaim, as he was leaving the Senate house, “These senators, how ready they are to be slaves!” The senators, who remembered Caesar as well as Augustus, began to plot against the emperor. But he brought …

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The City of Augustus 29 B. C. – A. D. 14

IN 29 B.C. the gates of war were closed. Rome was at peace. Senators and the people of the mob-men who had hated and fought each other through long, bitter years — stood side by side in the Forum while the great doors of the temple of Janus were slowly pushed shut. That had happened only twice before in the history of the city. The crowd in the Forum cheered the peace and they cheered Octavius, their new ruler. He was no longer the young man who had rushed to Rome after the murder of his uncle, Caesar. Seventeen years had passed since then — seventeen years of hard campaigning, of friends who became enemies and of alliances that were broken. He was still handsome and his sharp eyes could still look through a man. He walked with a new dignity that won him the respect of the people and Senate alike. Wherever he went, cheering crowds followed him. His friends told him that he could make himself the king of Rome. Octavius remembered what had happened when Caesar had thought of becoming a king. Caesar had proved that one man with an army could do what the bickering Senate and the mob could not do: he could run the empire. A world with millions of people in it was still like the smallest Roman family; it worked best with only one pater familiar. Octavius meant to be that all powerful father of Rome, but he intended to let the Romans think that they had asked him to be it. He celebrated his Triumph with processions that went on for three days. With the treasures he had won in Egypt, he bought land to give to his soldiers. He ordered the building of a splendid temple to Apollo, as he …

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The Second Triumvirate 43 B. C. – 30 B. C.

AS THE news of Caesar’s death spread through Rome, sorrow, anger and fear took hold of the city. On March 17, two days after the murder, the Senate met again. Cassius, Brutus and the other assassins took their usual places. There was no doubt that most of their fellow senators felt that they had done the right thing in ridding Rome of a tyrant, but Caesar’ s veterans were still in the city, taking their orders now from Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, who had been his Master of the Horse, the commander of the cavalry. Mark Antony was still consul, he had not yet said what he intended to do about Caesar’s murder, but certainly he would not forgive the killers.Of course, no one could tell what the mob might do. If the people took it into their heads to avenge the murder of their hero, there might be many more killings. So it was a cautious, quiet group of men who gathered in the Senate to discuss the death of Caesar and the future of Rome. When Mark Antony spoke, he surprised them by not demanding that the assassins be arrested and put on trial. Perhaps he was afraid that they had strong forces of their own or that he might be the next victim. Whatever his reasons were, he offered to make a bargain. He would agree to let the assassins go unpunished, if the Senate would agree to approve Caesar’s will and allow his friends to give him a proper, public funeral. To the senators, the terms sounded fair — better, in fact, than they had hoped for. They quickly agreed to their part of the bargain, ended the meeting and went home, congratulating themselves that it all had been so easy. THE FUNERAL OF CAESAR On the …

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The City of Caesar 80 B. C. – 44 B. C.


THE story of Rome in the years after Sulla’s death was the story of a partnership of power. It was the tale of three men who bargained for the world — a rich man, a poor man and a man who was not only a hero, but looked it. The rich man was Crassus, who had become a millionaire by setting up the only fire department in Rome. The tall buildings and narrow, crowded streets of the city made a fire a constant danger. When one house burned to the ground, the buildings on either side were likely to fall over on top of it. The cry of “Fire!” roused fear in the hearts of men whose wealth was in the buildings they owned. It was the signal, too, for Crassus and his fire-fighting slaves to come on the run. While the slaves got their equipment ready and looked for water, Crassus found the landlord of the burning building and offered to buy it from him. The price he offered was not high, but it was more than the house would be worth after it had been destroyed by fire. If the landlord refused to sell, Crassus shrugged and let the fire burn. Usually, however, the landlord sold and the firemen went to work. When the fire was out, Crassus sent a crew of carpenters to repair the damage. He soon had a building as good as new and worth a great deal more than he had paid for it. If he had talked fast enough, he also owned the buildings next door, which did not even need repairing. Despite such dealings, Crassus was a popular man in the city. He was a good host. In politics, he took the side of the people and he greeted the poorest citizen …

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The City Divided 130 B. C. – 70 B. C.

MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO, a young statesman known for his dramatic speeches, stood before a panel of judges in a courtroom in Rome. He stared at them angrily. For fifty days he had travelled through Sicily, collecting facts about the crimes committed by Caius Verres, the man who was on trial. Now the judges had told him that there would not be time to listen to his evidence. Cicero knew that the judges had been bribed. For it was no ordinary criminal that he meant to send to prison or to death. Caius Verres was an aristocrat and a senator and had served for three years as the governor of the province of Sicily. Verres’ lawyer was Hortensius, the leader of the aristocrats. Indeed, every rich or important man in Rome seemed to be supporting Verres, but Cicero was determined that this man should not escape judgment. He turned to Hortensius and offered to present his case in one day. “Would the court have time enough for that?” ‘ he asked sarcastically. Hortensius was surprised, but he smiled and told Cicero to try it if he liked. The judges agreed. For a moment there was silence in the courtroom, as Cicero turned to face the benches where the long lines of judges sat. Sternly he looked from man to man until he was certain all their eyes were on him. Then he began to speak. He listed Verres’ crimes: When he was governor and the commander of Rome’s army in Sicily, he had taken for himself the money raised to pay the troops. When he was governor and responsible for order and justice in the province, he had taken more money to allow pirates to rob the ports, to set criminals free and to condemn innocent men. For gold, he had …

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The City of Romulus 900 B. C – 256 B. C.


In the time when savage warriors roamed the plains and mountains of Italy, there stood on six low hills, just south of the river Tiber, six clusters of round huts made of twigs and leaves stuck together with mud. Each was a little town, the home of barbarian tribesmen. They herded cattle on the plain below, chased the wild pigs in the woods and tried to make things grow in their marshy fields. Although the towns were always fighting or stealing cattle and sheep from each other, they shared a market place in a clearing beside the river. They also shared a crude fortress of heaped-up earth and rocks on a seventh hill. The huts on the hills, the market place, the fortress – this, about 900 B. C., a hundred years or so before the Etruscans came to Italy, was Rome. Then a powerful chief came to the place of the seven hills. When he had built a great hut of his own, on the widest of them, he called together the chiefs of the six towns. He told them that he planned to build a city on their hills and that their towns would all be parts of it. Whether the old chiefs agreed to the plan or not, it was done. On the day in April which was the feast day of Pales, the guardian god of herds and flocks, the new chief performed the solemn ritual of the founding of his city. With a bronze plow, drawn by a caw and a bull yoked together, he dug one furrow – a sacred line that marked the city’s boundaries, the place where its walls would be built. He traced the lines of two main streets – one running north and south, one east-and-west and crossing in the …

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