A new Power Rises

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A New Power Rises

The earliest empires had been in the east. Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India, and Greece were all home to at least one powerful civilization. About 387BC, a city on the Italian peninsula began acquiring land and building an empire. That city was Rome. For more than one thousand years, Rome controlled the western world.

Rome grew into an empire in part because of how it treated the people it conquered. If a city was defeated by another empire, its citizens were forced from the land if they were lucky, and enslaved if they were not. Initially, the Romans extended the rights of citizenship to the people they conquered. Rome conquered many of its allies by force, but once the new people became citizens, they often joined the Roman army. Rome managed to unify most of the modern nation of Italy by 265BC.

Rome is an ideal place for a city. It is located along the banks of the Tiber River. The river made it easy to travel to and from the sea. The Tiber is very shallow near Rome. A shallow portion of a river is called a ford. The ford made it easier for people to cross the river. Seven hills surround Rome. The hills make it harder for invaders to approach the city and served as lookout areas for the Romans. Rome is also close to excellent farmland and an abundance of wood and stone. Civilizations have grown and prospered in Rome for thousands of years, which is why Rome is nicknamed “the Eternal City.”

Romulus and Remus

The origins of Rome are steeped in myth and legend. Many ancient Romans believed twin boys named Romulus and Remus founded the city. A king feared the twins would rob him of his throne, so he tossed them into the frigid Tiber River. Soon after, the brothers were rescued by a she-wolf who nursed them back to health.

Romulus and Remus decided to establish a city on the Tiber River, but the brothers could not agree on a location. Signs from the heavens decreed that each brother would build a city, but Romulus’ city would be much larger. Romulus completed his city on April 21, 753BC. Remus was upset that Romulus had built his city, so he climbed over the wall. The enraged Romulus killed his brother with an ax. The city came to be known as Rome, named for its legendary founder.

The early Romans lived in small communities that grew into city-states, often ruled by kings from wealthy families. About fifty years after Romulus founded the city, the legends say the Etruscans conquered the Romans. The Etruscans were brutal rulers who rained terror on the Roman people. They were eventually ousted by a group of Roman aristocrats who founded the Roman Republic.

Patricians and Plebeians

The patricians were the noble families of Rome. In 509BC, a group of patricians expelled the Etruscan king and decreed that Rome would be a republic. A republic is a form of government with elected officials. The patricians elected senators to serve their interests. The senate selected two people to serve as Consuls in place of the Etruscan king.

The plebeians were the merchants, farmers, and artisans of Rome. They were allowed to vote, but only Patricians were allowed in the senate. In 471BC, the plebeians elected a tribune. Ten men represented the plebeians against any political oppression by the consuls or the patricians. By 287BC, the laws passed by the plebeians were binding for all Romans, including the patricians.

The senate met in the Forum, a marketplace in the valley among the hills that surround Rome. The senators would rule on the military and foreign affairs, but the tribunes protected the rights of the plebeians. When a tribune objected to a law, he would shout “veto.” Veto means “I forbid” in Latin, the language of the Romans. If enough tribunes objected, they could stop the law from passing.

The Punic Wars

The Romans depended on the plunder of their army. The Roman Senate had to keep the army busy, or the army might have turned against them. By 265BC, the army was now big enough to defeat anything it faced. Rome stopped making citizens of the people it conquered. Newly conquered lands became provinces of the Roman Republic.

The Romans fought three wars against Carthage, a city on the north coast of Africa. The wars are known as the Punic Wars because Puncia was the Roman name for Carthage. The first war was fought over Sicily, an island controlled by Carthage in the Mediterranean Sea off the southwest coast of the Italian peninsula. In 265BC, Sicily was richer than any other land in the area and a perfect target for the Roman army. The Romans won the war and forced Carthage to give up Sicily.

A generation after the first war, Rome attacked Carthage a second time, but a young Carthaginian general named Hannibal nearly captured Rome. The Romans expected Carthage to attack from the sea, but Hannibal commanded an army from land Carthage controlled in modern Spain. Hannibal led his army in a daring and difficult journey over the Alps while riding on elephants. Hannibal’s army might have defeated the Romans, but Hannibal returned home to defend his native land when Roman soldiers invaded Africa in 202BC. The Roman army defeated Hannibal in Africa and won the second Punic War.

Carthage was no longer in a position to hurt Rome after the second Punic War, but in 149BC, Roman leaders decided to destroy Carthage. A Roman senator named Cato ended every speech with the cry, “Carthage must be destroyed.” Rome defeated Carthage after almost three years of war. After a siege in 146BC, the Romans went from house to house slaughtering the people of Carthage. They sold the remaining citizens into slavery, burned Carthage’s harbor, and poured salt on the Carthaginian farmland. The salt made it impossible for crops to grow and ensured that Carthage would never again rival the Eternal City.

Name: _______________________________________________ Hour: ____________


  1. How did the way Rome treated conquered people help them build a large republic?

  1. How did Rome’s location help it to grow into a powerful and wealthy city?


  1. What is the basic myth of the founding of Rome?

  1. What are three groups who ruled the early citizens of Rome?


  1. What is a “patrician”?

  1. What is a “Republic”?

  1. What is a “senator”?

  1. How many “Consuls” were there, and what did they replace?

  1. What were “Plebeians”? What couldn’t they join?

  1. What is a “Tribune”? How many were there?

  1. Where did the Senate meet?

  1. What power did the Plebeians have in ancient Rome?

  1. Once the army got large enough to defeat any opponent it faced what could the Roman’s stop doing?

  1. What city did Rome fight three wars against? What are they called?

  1. If your last name starts with A-G, write a description of the First Punic War. If your last name starts with H-M, write about the second Punic War. If your last name starts with N-Z, write about the third Punic War.

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