The Ancient Roman civilization is one of the oldest and most far-reaching cultures of all time. Rome, located in central Italy, is thought to have been founded as early as the 8th century B.C. A mainly agricultural start, the Romans began a military expansion in the 4th century B.C, continuing to the height of their empire in 3rd century A.D.
The Romans began as a monarchy, like most city-states of its time, but gradually grew into a republic. The Roman Republic began in 509 BC, when the last of the seven kings of Rome was disposed of. A constitution was written that incorporated a system of check and balances, and outlined the separation of power. The Senate, filled with elected officials, ruled the city, and later, the growing empire, and leading the Senate were the two Consuls, who acted as the military leaders in times of war and were considered the most important offices to be held.
During this time, there was a lot of growth in the Roman empire. In a matter of decades, Rome more than tripled its territory, taking over all of Italy and expanding outward from there. It prided itself for being a culture based on strict discipline, and though Roman officials might live in luxury unknown to the lower classes, they were expected to uphold the ideals of the city.
The Roman army was the best trained army of its time; to this day, the tactics and techniques of the Roman army are still studied. Though Rome was a hub for trade, what really fueled the empire’s wealth were the campaigns. Victorious generals could obtain celebrity status, and returned to Rome only to be immortalized with their victories.
The Roman empire began with one such general: Julius Caesar. Though he never claimed to be a king or emperor, his fame and military victories led him to power with the people, the army, and within the Senate. His rivals began to think he was becoming too powerful, and he was ambushed and murdered in 44 B.C. on the Ides of March. His nephew, Augustus Caesar (known before as Octavian), avenged his uncle, and in 31 B.C., defeated Cleopatra and Marc Antony in Egypt. Though this was the turning point for the Roman Empire, Augustus didn’t assume the title of “Emperor” until 27 B.C.
From 27 B.C., Rome was an empire. At its height, it was three times the size of Alexander the Great’s empire, spanning from Britain to modern-day Iran. It allowed the various cultures it conquered to live within it unopposed (for the most part), and brought technological developments wherever it went. The Roman Empire remained one of the strongest forces on earth until its decline in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries A.D. In 284 A.D., the Roman Empire split into two: the Western Empire and the Eastern Empire, each ruled by two emperors. This continued for awhile. Constantine was the last emperor to really unite the empire. He came into power in 306 A.D.
Others tried to continue his dream, but the empire was weakening. In 410 A.D., Rome was sacked by the Visigoths, a massive blow. This triggered the end of the Western Empire. The Eastern Empire survived for another thousand years as the Byzantium Empire, but its culture and beliefs drifted away from those of Rome. With the sacking of Rome and the numerous invasions before and after, the Roman empire was no more.
Before the Roman invasion in 43 A.D., the Britons lived in organized tribal groups. Britain had some hill forts, but in general, they would have been seen as a more simple people, compared to the Romans. Julius Caesar led the first campaign into Britain in 55 B.C., and found a lot of resistance. He eventually left and returned to Gaul, but returned the next year. Romans continued to invade Britain, but it wasn’t until Claudius in 43 A.D. that Rome was actually able to conquered and annexed Britain into the Roman Empire. The Romans kept a firm grasp on Britain, but there was always resistance from the native groups, especially to the north.
There was enough resistance that in 122 A.D. emperor Hadrian ordered a wall to be built across Scotland, running west to east, so that the land the Romans had conquered would remain safe. In Roman-held parts, the Romans were the highest on the totem pole, but the Britons still resisted. In 383 A.D., the Romans lost control of the western and northern parts of Britain.
There is archaeological evidence that suggests that not all of the troops were withdrawn from Hadrian’s wall at this time, but the vast majority of Romans were consolidated to Britain proper, in the middle and eastern parts. In 409 A.D., the Britons expelled the Roman magistrates from their towns. In 410 A.D., facing an invasion of the Anglo-Saxons, the Britons requested help from the Roman Empire, but were turned away. They were on their own.