Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Roman Empire: An Overview

In this lesson we are going to talk some more about Ancient Rome. Last time we talked about the Roman Republic. For almost 500 years, the city of Rome was governed in a largely democratic system. No one man could hold too much power. During this time, the city of Rome conquered Italy and then expanded out to create a great empire around the Mediterranean Sea. Unfortunately, the institutions of the Republic failed as this empire was created. During the first century BC, powerful generals used their armies to become kings in all but name. They plunged Rome into a series of destructive civil wars.

The most successful of these strongmen was Augustus. In 31 BC, Augustus defeated Marc Antony and his mistress Cleopatra and became the undisputed ruler of Rome. He ruled until 14 AD. The Romans had a strong distaste for kings, so Augustus took on the title of “first citizen” and created the illusion that his power was given to him by the Roman Senate. The name of this system was the principate. Over time, the leaders of the Roman Empire would drop this façade, along with any other connection to the Republic.

More at History Coalition