The Roman Empire
By: Tyler Dunn
Rome, The City of Seven Hills
About halfway down the Italian peninsula, on the west coast, there is a small river called the Tiber. The coastal plain that was south of the river was known as Latium back in there time, after the people who lived there - The Latins. These people were shepherds and farmers.
In the countryside to the west was where the Sabines lived, distant kinsmen of the Latins. They had moved into the peninsula from central Europe before about 1000 B.C. and had made the original inhabitants leave.
On the left bank of the Tiber River there were seven low hills. At this point the river is shallow. Latin merchants built a village on one of the hill - called the Palatine, in order to trade with the wealthy Etruscans, who lived north of the river. Settlements were later built on the other hills also. The towns on the seven hills finally joined to make one city, Rome.
The Kings of Early Rome
The early Romans kept no written records. Their history is so mixed with myths that historians have difficulty seperating truth from fiction. There are only 2 existing works that give the continuous early history of Rome. Both of these works were written a long time after the events they talk about, and neither is complete. They are the histories of Livy and the Roman Antiquities of Dionysius of Halicarnassus. These men used inaccurate literary works for their information about early Rome.
A legend says that Numa Pompilius succeeded Romulus. He was described as a wise and pious ruler. One of his supposed accomplishments is the adding of two months to the 10-month calendar.
Some old legends say that Romulus and Remus founded the city in 753 B.C. when the settlements on the seven hills were together. This date is probably too late for the actual founding of the city. Romulus and Remus were a myth, but there is some evidence that the kings who are said to have followed them actually existed.
Under his successor, Tullus Hostilius, the Romans took over Alba Longa, the religious center of the Latin people. There is a legend that Tullus was killed by lightning when he was "Meddling" (messing) with the weather. During the reign of Ancus Marcius, the next king, a number of troublesome Latin cities were taken over, and their people were brought to Rome. Ancus Marcius is said to have built Rome’s seaport - Ostia at the mouth of the Tiber River.
The Etruscan Conquest
Shortly before 600 B.C. Rome was taken over by several Etruscan princes from across the Tiber River. Dating from this period of time the information about Roman history is slightly more reliable, though it is still mixed with myths and legends.
Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, was the first of the Etruscan kings, he drained the city’s marshes. He improved the Forum, which was the commercial and political center of the town. He also founded a temple to Jupiter and carried on many wars with neighboring people.
Under Servius Tullius, the second Etruscan king, made a treaty with the Latin cities that acknowledged that Rome as the head of all of Latium. Early historians said that Servius Tullius had enlarged the city and built a large wall around all of the seven hills.
The last of the kings of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, was a tyrant who opposed the people. He scorned religion. Tradition says, however, that he was persuaded to buy the famous Sibylline Books that thereafter served as a guide for Rome in times of trouble.
While under the rule of the Etruscans, Rome grew in importance and power. Great temples and impressive public works were made. The most notable of these public works is the huge sewer called Cloaca Maxima, which is still in use. Trade prospered, and by the end of the 6th century bc Rome had become the largest and richest city in what is now called Italy.