Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to become one of the largest empires in the ancient world.
In its centuries of existence, Roman civilization shifted from a monarchy to an aristocratic republic to an increasingly autocratic empire. It came to dominate Southern Europe, Western Europe, Balkans, Asia Minor, North Africa and parts of Eastern Europe through conquest and assimilation. Rome was preponderant throughout the Mediterranean region, and was the sole superpower of Antiquity.
Rome was the central power of Antiquity. The Romans are still remembered today, including such names as Julius Caesar, Cicero, and Horace. Roman culture and history has been praised by great thinkers and philosophers such as Machiavelli, Rousseau and Nietzsche.
A society highly developed in military and political skills, Rome professionalized its military class and created a system of government called res publica, the inspiration for some modern republics such as the United States and France.
By the end of the Republic, Rome had conquered the lands around the Mediterranean and beyond: its domain extended from the Atlantic to Judaea and from the mouth of the Rhine to North Africa.
In the Empire, Rome entered in its golden times at the hands of Augustus Caesar. Under Trajan, the Empire reached its territorial peak. The republican values started to decline in the imperial times, and civil wars became the common ritual for a new emperor’s rise.
Plagued by internal instability and attacked by various migrating peoples, the western part of the empire broke up into independent kingdoms in the 5th century. This splintering is a landmark historians use to divide the ancient period of universal history from the medieval era (“Dark Ages” of Europe).
The Eastern Roman Empire survived this crisis and was governed from Constantinople after the division of the Empire. It comprised Greece, the Balkans, Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt. Despite the later loss of Syria and Egypt to the Arab-Islamic Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire continued for another millennium, until its remnants were finally annexed by the emerging Turkish Ottoman Empire. This eastern, Christian, medieval stage of the Empire is usually called the Byzantine Empire by historians.
Roman civilization is often grouped into “classical antiquity” together with ancient Greece. Ancient Rome contributed greatly to government, law, war, art, literature, architecture, technology, religion, and language in the Western world.