Ancient Rome

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Ancient Rome

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The story of Ancient Rome is a tale of how a small community of shepherd in central Italy grew to become one of the greatest empires in history. The Roman Empire bound million of people with different cultures under a common system of law and government. Ancient Rome had enormous influence on development of Western civilization because the empire was so vast and lasted so long. The language of ancient Rome, Latin , became the basis of French, Italian, Spanish, and the other Romance languages.

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Roman law provided the foundation for the legal system of most of the countries in Western Europe and Latin America. Roman principles of justice and the Roman political system contributed to the building of governments in many countries. Roman roads, bridges, and aqueducts – some of which are still used – served as models for engineers in later ages.

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Ancient Rome arose on seven wooded hills along the Tiber River in central Italy. Rome was far enough from the sea to escape raids by pirates and its hills were very steep, and so could easily be defended against enemy attacks. To the north, the Alps helped protect Italy against invaders from central Europe. Fertile soil and excellent building materials lay nearby. Roman rule slowly spread over all the lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Land

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The Romans called the Mediterranean Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) or Mare Internum (Inland Sea). At its greatest size, in the A.D. 100’s, the Roman Empire also extended as far north as the British Isles and as far east as the Persian Gulf. The Roman Empire had many natural resources. They included fertile grain fields in Sicily and northern Africa, rich mineral deposits in Spain and Britain, and marble quarries in Greece. There were also thick forests in Asia Minor and thriving vineyards and olive orchards in Gaul. (Now France, Belgium, and a part of Germany) .

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The Roman Empire probably had from 50 to 70 million people at its height. The peoples of the Roman Empire differed greatly in their customs and spoke many languages. Peoples in Mesopotamia, Palestine, Egypt, and Greece had cultures far older than that of Rome. People

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Many peoples in Britain, Germany, and Gaul were introduced to more advanced civilization by the Romans. Government officials and members of the upper class spoke Latin and Greek . Most conquered peoples continued to use their native languages. People of Ancient Rome were divided into various social classes. Very few Romans belonged to the upper classes. Members of the Senate and their families made up the most powerful upper-class group. Most people belonged to the lower classes and had little social standing. Within this group, Romans distinguished between citizens and slaves. Citizens included small farmers, city workers, and soldiers. Most slaves were people captured in warfare. In time, slaves could buy or be given their freedom and become liberti (freedman) and eventually citizens.

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As the Roman world expanded, a new social class became important. This class consisted of prosperous landowners and business people. They held important government positions and helped run the empire’s civil service. Roman citizenship was eventually granted to most people of the empire. Citizenship meant protection under Roman law. The privilege of citizenship promoted loyalty to the empire and gave peoples of all classes and all regions a greater stake in its success.

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Cities in the Roman Empire served as centres of trade and culture. Roman engineers planned cities carefully. They located public buildings conveniently and provided for sewerage and water supply systems. Emperors or wealthy individuals paid for the construction of such large public buildings as baths, sports arenas, and theaters. At the heart of a Roman city lay the forum – a large open space surrounded by markets, government buildings, and temples. Rich and poor mingled in the bustling forum and at the baths, theatres and arenas. City Life

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The first Romans were shepherds and farmers. In early Rome farmers who worked there own land formed the backbone of the Roman army. They planted their crops in spring and harvested them in autumn. During the summer they fought in the army. Rural life changed after Rome began to expand its territory. Many farmers were sent to fight wars abroad for long periods, and so they had to sell their land. Wealthy Romans then built up large estates on which they raised crops and life stock to sell for a profit. Rural Life

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They bought slaves to work for them and also rented land to tenant farmers. For most farmers, life was hard. But they could look forward to regular festivals, such as those at planting and at harvest, which provided athletic games and other entertainment.

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The head of a Roman household was the paterfamilias (father of the family). He had total power over all the members of his household. He even had the power to sell his children into slavery or have them killed. As long as his father lived, a son could not own property or have legal authority over his own children. Many households were therefore large and included married sons and their families. Family life

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Children enjoyed many of the same kinds of toys and games that delight children today. For example, they had dolls, carts, hobbyhorses, and board games. They also had dogs, cats, and other pets. But They took on adults responsibilities sooner than most children do today. In poor rural families, children had to work in the fields. In wealthier families, children married early. Most boys married when they were 15 to 18 years old, and most girls were married when they were 13 to 14. Parents selected marriage partners for their children.. Many marriages were arranged for the economic or political benefits they would bring to the families.

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Ancient Rome had no state schools. Children received their earliest education at home under their parents’ supervision. From the age of 6 or 7 until about 10 to 11, most boys and some girls attended a private school or studied at home. They learned reading, writing, and arithmetic. Slaves taught the children in many homes. Most Roman children who received further education came from wealthy families. Education

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Until they were 14, they studied mainly Latin and Greek grammar and literature. They also studied mathematics, music, and astronomy. Higher education in ancient Rome meant the study of rhetoric – that is, the art of public speaking and persuasion. Only upper-class Romans who planned a career in law or politics studied rhetoric. Training in rhetoric provided the skills needed to argue cases before law courts or debate issues in the Roman Senate. To improve their abilities as public speakers, students might also read philosophy and history. Few women studied rhetoric because women were forbidden to enter politics.

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The earliest Romans believed that gods and goddesses had power over agriculture and all aspects of daily life. For example, Ceres was the goddess of the harvest, the goddess Vesta guarded the heart fire, and the god Janus stood watch at the door. Gods called lares and penates guarded both the community and the home. Even Jupiter, who later became the supreme Roman god, was the first worshipped as a sky god with power over the weather. Religion

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During the 300’s B.C., the Romans came into increasing contact with Greek ideas. They then began to worship Greek gods and goddesses. They gave them Roman names and built temples and shrines in their honor. The government controlled religion. Priests were government officials, who were either elected or appointed. They performed public ceremonies to win the favor of the gods and goddesses for the state. By A.D. 100, many Romans had lost interest in their religion. They became attracted to the religions of the Middle East, which appealed strongly to the emotions. Some of these religions promised salvation and happiness after death. Christianity, one of the Middle Eastern religions, gained many followers.

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The picture on the right shows a typical large house of a wealthy Roman. A courtyard called an atrium served as a reception room. An opening in the atrium roof let in air and light. Other rooms opened onto the atrium. Brightly coloured wallpaintings and marble floor tiles decorated some atriums. A Roman house

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A second courtyard, called the a peristyle, was planted with trees, flowers, and shrubs. It might also have had a fishpond and a fountain. Fruits and vegetables were grown in a walled garden at the rear of the house. In some houses, small shops faced the street.

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The Romans began their day at sunrise. Daylight was precious because the oil lamps people used after dark gave off little light. Breakfast was usually a light meal of bread and cheese. Most Romans ate lunch just before midday. For wealthy Romans, it consisted of meat or fish and olives or fruit. Dinner began in the late afternoon so that it could end before sunset. Wealthy Romans feasted on several courses at dinner. Food, clothing, and shelter

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Their first course might include eggs, vegetables, and shellfish. The main course featured meat, fish, or fowl. For dessert, they usually ate honey-sweetened cakes and fruit. Poorer Romans ate much simpler meals. For example, their dinners consisted mainly of porridge and bred plus some olives, fruit, or cheese. The Romans wore simple clothes made of wool or linen. The main garment for both men and women was a gown called a tunic. It hung to the knees or below. The tunic also served as nightwear. Over this, men wore a toga and women wore a palla. Both garments resembled a large sheet, which was draped around the body.

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Men almost always wore white clothing, though the toga of upper-class Romans had a purple border. Women’s clothing might be dyed various colours. In the cities, most Romans lived in crowded blocks of flats from three to five storeys high. Only rich Romans could afford a house. Their houses were built around a courtyard called atrium. Most rooms surrounding the atrium were small and windowless. But the atrium was spacious and had a roof opening that let in light and air. Large houses had a second courtyard, called a peristyle, which served as a garden. Poor people in farm areas lived in huts made of sun-dried bricks.

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Work of the people

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Agriculture : About 90 per cent of the people Roman world lived by farming. The Romans understood the need to rotate crops. They also knew that by leaving half of every field unplanted each year the soil would be enriched for a crop the next year. However few small landowners could afford that practice. In fertile valleys north and south of Rome, farmers grew such grains as wheat, rye, and barley On hillsides and in less fertile soil, they planted olive groves and vineyards and grazed sheep and goats. Roman farmers also raised pigs, cattle, and poultry. As the empire expanded, farms in Gaul, Spain, and northern Africa supplied Rome with many agriculture products.

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Manufacturing : The city of Rome never became a manufacturing centre in ancient times. It imported most of its manufactured goods. Other Italy communities supplied the capital with such products as pottery, glassware, weapons, tools, and textiles. They also made the bricks and lead pipes needed by Rome’s booming construction industry. As the empire expanded, important manufacturing centres developed outside Italy. They served local markets and exported goods to Rome.

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Mining : Mining was one of ancient Rome’s most important activities. The empire’s great building projects required large supplies of marble and other materials. Marble came from Greece and northern Italy. Italy also had copper and rich deposits of iron ore. Most of the empire gold and silver came from Spain. Mines in Britain produced lead and tin. Work in the mines was hard and unhealthy. The Romans forced slaves, condemned criminals, and prisoners of war to work in the mines.

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Trade : Trade thrived as the Roman Empire expanded. Huge sailing ships carried cargo from one end of the Mediterranean Sea to the other. Carts and wagons hauled goods over the empire’s vast network of roads. The city of Rome’s chief imports included foods, raw materials, and manufactured goods. The Italian Peninsula exported wine and olive oil. The Romans also traded with lands outside the empire. For example, they imported silk from China, spices and precious gems from India, ivory from Africa.

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The Roman government issued coins of gold, silver, copper, and bronze and controlled the money supply, making trade easier. Transportation and communication An excellent system of roads crisscrossed the Roman Empire. The road covered 80,000 km and helped hold the Roman Empire together. The Roman army built the roads to speed troop movements. The roads also promoted trade and communication. The highly organised Roman postal system depended on the road system. The Roman roads were the finest of the time.

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The Romans built up the largest fleet of cargo ships and they travelled to all ports on the Mediterranean Sea and on large rivers. In Rome the government published a bulletin (Daily Events). The bulletin was posted in the city’s public places and reported on the events of the day, including Senate business. People made copies of it and circulated them throughout like a modern newspaper.

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Art and Sciences

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Architecture and Engineering : The ancient Romans adopted the basic forms of Greek architecture, these included the temple surrounded by columns and the covered walkway. The Romans also created new kinds of structures, such as public baths and amphitheatres. Two achievements of Roman engineering were the arch and concrete. Arches supported such structures as bridges and the aqueducts that carried water to Roman cities. Although the Romans did not invent the arch, they were the first people to realise its possibilities.

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Sculpture and Painting : Romans borrowed it from Greek art and native Italian traditions. Their works thus reflected both the lifelike but idealised human figures of Greek art and the more realistic aspects of native Italian art. Roman sculpture created realistic portraits that revealed individual personalities. They also illustrated historical events by means of carvings on large public monuments. Large wallpaintings decorated the houses of well-to-do Romans. Such paintings showed garden landscapes, events from Roman mythology, and scenes of everyday life.

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Literature of ancient Rome was greatly influenced by Greek poetry and drama. Powerful and original works were produced by Rome’s greatest poets – Catullus, Lucretius, Ovid, and Virgil – and by its most brilliant historian, Tacitus. Other important works of Latin literature include the speeches of Cicero, the satires of Horace and Juvenal, and the letters of Cicero and Pliny the Younger. Literature

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The ancient Romans made few scientific discoveries. But the work of Greek scientists flourished under Roman rule. The Romans themselves assembled important collections of scientific information. Science

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At first, a series of kings ruled ancient Rome. Each king was advised by a Senate made up of the heads of Rome’s leading families. Citizens met in assemblies to vote on the decisions of king and Senate. The Roman republic was established in 509 BC , after Roman nobles overthrew the king. The new government kept many features of the earlier system, including the Senate and citizen assemblies. Two elected officials called consuls headed the government. The consuls shared the power, but either consul could veto the actions of the other. A consul served for only a year Government

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The Senate was the most powerful government body of the Roman Republic. The Senate conducted foreign policy, passed decrees, and handled the government’s finances. Senators, unlike consuls, served for life. At first all senators were patricians – that is, members of Rome’s oldest and richest families. Patricians controlled not only the Senate but also the assembly that elected the consuls and other important officials. All the rest of Rome’s citizens, who were called plebeians, had little political influence To obtain political rights, plebeians formed their own assembly, and elected leaders called tribunes. In time, a new and larger assembly developed. It represented both patricians and plebeians, but plebeians largely controlled the assembly.

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The Roman Republic lasted nearly 500 years, until 27BC. It combined strong heads of state, a respected Senate of senior statesmen, and assemblies were the people could be heard. For centuries afterward, historians and political scientists viewed the Roman Republic as a model o balanced government.

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The End Yana Bonello 1 Coral