Ancient Rome


Ascent: 753 BCE

Decline: 476 CE

Notable Developments: roads, grid-based settlements, concrete, archways, aqueducts, pontoon bridges, hydraulic mining, hydrometers, amphitheaters, sewers, the Julian Calendar, bound books, brass,glassblowing, surgical tools, siege weapons, the pilum, elements of modern law, public press, postal and courier services








Historians usually divide Ancient Rome into three different eras.

First was the Roman Kingdom when the city of Rome is believed to have grown from settlements on the Tiber River. No written records from this time survive and histories written during later periods are mostly based on legends. Livy, Plutarch and Dionysius of Halicarnassus mention a series of seven kings. According to legend, Rome’s first king was Romulus who decided to build a city where he and his brother Remus were abandoned as infants. After ruling for nearly 40 years, Romulus is said to have vanished, appeared to an esteemed nobleman in a vision and stated he had become a god.

Tradition and later writers put the establishment of the Roman Republic to about 509 BCE when the last king of Rome was deposed. This was when classical Roman civilization began and Rome’s control expanded to encompass the entire Mediterranean world through conquest and alliances. Dates for the end of the Roman Republic are interpreted differently by scholars with Octavian accepting the use of extraordinary powers and adopting the title of Augustus in 27 BCE considered the definitive end date.

The Roman Empire at its height

The Roman Empire at its height

The Roman Empire was the longest lasting period of Ancient Rome, stretching for about 1,500 years. It was one of the largest empires in world history and was one of the most powerful economic, cultural, political and military forces in the world at the time. The empire’s longevity allowed for the continuing influence of Latin and Greek language, culture, religion, inventions, architecture, philosophy, law and forms of government. Eventually, Emperor Diocletian separated Rome into the Western and Eastern Roman Empires and Emperor Constantine the Great established a second capital city in Byzantium. After the death of Emperor Theodosius I, the empire became permanently divided. A gradual erosion from abuses of power, civil wars, barbarian migrations and invasions, military reforms and economic depression led to the Western Roman Empire’s decay. The deposition of Emperor Romulus Augustulus in 476 is the most widely accepted date for the end of the empire in the West as well as the end of ancient history.

A major part of everyday life in Ancient Rome, music was included in many private and public events, such as daily meals, religious ceremonies, and military parades. Music was cultivated as a sign of education and contests were common and popular. It’s thought the Romans tuned their instruments to Greek modes. Four letters indicated a series of four succeeding tones and rhythm signs above the letters indicated the note’s duration. Flutes, panpipes, cornus, lyres, lutes, sistrums, drums and a hydraulic pipe organ called the hydraulis were among the instruments typically played by Roman musicians.

Roman Art imitated many different styles, from a heavy reliance on the art of the Greeks to taking inspiration from Etruscan, native Italic and Egyptian art. Practical application of this eclecticism is what defines Roman art. One popular style saw interiors painted as open landscapes with detailed scenes of plants, animals and buildings. Additionally, sculptures had youthful and classical proportions and later they grew into a mixture of realism and idealism.

Literature in Rome saw heavy influence from Greek authors with some of the earliest discovered works being historical epics recounting early military history. Expansion of the Republic saw production of poetry, comedy, history, tragedy, and the innovation of satire. Ovid, Virgil, Cicero and Horace are a few notable Roman writers.

Pont du Gard aqueduct in southern France

Pont du Gard aqueduct in southern France

Thanks to borrowing technologies from the Greeks, Etruscans, Celts and other civilizations, the Roman Empire was one of the most technologically advanced civilizations. However, most of its advanced concepts and inventions were lost following the fall of the empire and were eventually rediscovered during the Late Middle Ages and Modern Era. The Romans mainly relied on water power and were responsible for innovations to roads, sanitation and construction which they used to construct aqueducts, dams, bridges and amphitheatres. The empire was also able to mix a concrete similar to that of today’s.

Furthermore, the Roman military made heavy use of technology, having inherited most ancient weapons. Advancements made to ideas already invented or designed along with creating new weapons, like the onager and scorpion siege weapons, in the search for perfecting its technology assisted in the empire’s centuries-long supremacy.