Bruce Morrison » Ancient Rome and Early Christianity, 500 B.C.–A.D. 500

Ancient Rome and Early Christianity, 500 B.C.–A.D. 500

Rome began as a republic, a government in which elected officials represent the people.  Eventually, absolute rulers called emperors seized power and expanded the empire.


Section 1: The Roman Republic

Section 2: The Roman Empire

Section 3: The Rise of Christianity

Section 4: The Fall of the Roman Empire

Section 5: Rome and the Roots of Western Civilization


Section 1: The Roman Republic

The early Romans establish a republic, which grows powerful and spreads its influence.


The Origins of Rome


Rome’s Geography

  • Site of Rome chosen for its fertile soil and strategic location
  • Located on Italianpeninsulain center of Mediterranean Sea
  • Built on seven hills on Tiber River


The First Romans

  • Latins, Greeks, and Etruscans compete for control of region
  • Latins found original settlement of Rome between 1000 and 500 B.C.
  • Etruscans native to northern Italy; influence Roman civilization


The Early Republic


Early Rulers

  • Around 600 B.C., Etruscan kings begin to rule Rome
  • Kings build Rome’s first temples and public centers
  • Romans overthrow cruel Etruscan king in 509 B.C.
  • Romans found arepublic—government in which citizens elect leaders #1


Patricians and Plebeians

  • Different groups struggle for power in early Roman Republic
  • Patricians—wealthy landowning class that holds most of the power –aristocracy
  • Plebeians—artisans, merchants, and farmers; can vote, can’t rule – common people
  • Tribunes—elected representatives protect plebeians’ political rights


Twelve Tables

  • In 451 B.C. officials carve Roman laws on twelve tablets
  • Called Twelve Tables, they become basis for later Roman law
  • Laws confirm right of all free citizens to protection of the law
  • Citizenship is limited to adult male landowners
  • Twelve Tables are hung in the Forum


Government under the Republic

  • Rome elects two consuls—one to lead army, one to direct government
  • Senate—chosen from Roman upper class; makes foreign, domestic policy
  • Democratic assemblies elect tribunes, make laws for common people
  • Dictators are leaders appointed briefly in times of crisis


The Roman Army

  • Roman legion—military unit of 5,000 infantry; supported by cavalry
  • Army is powerful; key factor in Rome’s rise to greatness


Rome Spreads Its Power


Rome Conquers Italy

  • Romans defeatEtruscansin north and Greek city-states in south
  • By 265 B.C., Rome controls Italian peninsula
  • Conquered peoples treated justly; this enables Rome to grow


Rome’s Commercial Network

  • Rome establishes large trading network
  • Access to Mediterranean Sea provides many trade routes
  • Carthage, powerful city-state in North Africa, soon rivals Rome


War with Carthage

  • Rome and Carthage beginPunic Wars—three wars between 264–146 B.C.
  • Rome defeats Carthage, wins Sicily, in first 23-year war
  • Hannibal—Carthaginian general—avenges defeat in Second Punic War
  • Attacks Italy through Spain and France, doesn’t take Rome


Rome Triumphs

  • Roman general Scipio defeats Hannibal in 202 B.C.
  • Rome destroys Carthage, enslaves people in last war (149–146 B.C.)


Section 2: The Roman Empire

The creation of the Roman Empire transforms Roman government, society, economy, and culture.


The Republic Collapses


Economic Turmoil

  • Gap between rich and poor widens as Roman Republic grows
  • Farmers, former soldiers, lose to large estates; become homeless
  • Two tribunes, Tiberius and Gaius, try to help poor, are murdered
  • Civil war—conflict between groups within same country begins


Military Upheaval

  • Military becomes less disciplined and disloyal
  • Soldiers recruited from poor; show loyalty only to their generals


Julius Caesar Takes Control

  • Military leaderJulius Caesarelected consul in 59 B.C.
  • Caesar, Crassus, Pompey form atriumvirate—a group of three rulers
  • Military victories give Caesar increasing popularity and power
  • Pompey fears Caesar’s growing power and challenges him
  • Caesar defeats Pompey’s armies in Greece, Asia, Spain, Egypt
  • Caesar is named dictator for life in 44 B.C.



Caesar’s Reforms

  • Caesar makes reforms: grants wider citizenship, creates jobs for poor
  • Group of senators opposes Caesar; kills him on March 15, 44 B.C.


Beginning of the Empire

  • 43 B.C., Caesar’s supporters take control; become Second Triumvirate
  • Octavian, Mark Antony, Lepidus alliance ends in jealousy, violence
  • In 31 B.C., Mark Antony and Cleopatra’s forces are defeated at Actium
  • Octavian accepts title of Augustus, “exalted one,” and rules Rome


A Vast and Powerful Empire


Pax Romana

  • Under Augustus, Rome moves from a republic to an empire
  • Power no longer resides with citizens, but a single ruler
  • Rome enjoys 200 years of peace and prosperity known asPax Romana


A Sound Government

  • Augustus, Rome’s ablest ruler, creates lasting system of government

-glorifies Rome with beautiful public buildings

-sets up a civil service to administer the empire


Agriculture and Trade

  • Agriculture most important industry in empire; 90% of Romans farm
  • Common coin, denarius, makes trade within empire easier
  • Rome has vast trading network, includes China and India
  • Network of Roman roads links empire to Persia, Russia


The Roman World


Slaves and Captivity

  • Slavery is a significant part of Roman life in both cities and farms
  • Some slaves becomegladiators; forced to fight to death


Gods and Goddesses

  • Early Romans honor guardian spirits and gods Jupiter, Juno, Minerva
  • Worship of emperor becomes part of official religion of Rome


Society and Culture

  • Rich live well; most people are poor, receive grain from government
  • 150 holidays andColosseumevents created to control the masses


Section 3: The Rise of Christianity

Christianity arises in Roman-occupied Judea and spreads throughout the Roman Empire.


The Life and Teachings of Jesus


Romans Conquer Judea

  • Rome conquers Judea, home of Jews; makes it part of empire, A.D. 6
  • Many Jews believe aMessiah, or savior, eventually will free them

Jesus of Nazareth

  • Jesus—a Jew born in Bethlehem (around 6 to 4 B.C.), raised in Nazareth
  • At age 30 begins preachingmonotheism, Ten Commandments
  • Does good works, performs miracles
  • Stresses personal relationship with God, love for friends and enemies


A Growing Movement

  • Apostles—the twelve men who are disciples (or pupils) of Jesus
  • Jesus ignores wealth and status; his message appeals to poor


Jesus’ Death

  • Many Jews view Jesus as the Messiah; others see him as a heretic
  • Roman governorPontius Pilatesentences Jesus to be crucified
  • Apostles tell of Jesus ascending into heaven after death
  • Christos, Greek word for “savior”;Christianityderived from “Christ


Christianity Spreads Through the Empire


Growth of Christianity

  • Followers spreadChristianity—new religion based on Jesus’ teachings


Paul’s Mission

  • Apostle Paul—spends life preaching and interpreting Christianity
  • Common languages of Latin and Greek help to spread message
  • Paul stresses Jesus is son of God who died for people’s sins
  • Paul declares that Christianity open to all converts


Jewish Rebellion

  • Jews rebel against Rome; Romans storm Jerusalem, destroy Temple
  • Rebellions in A.D. 66, 70, 132 fail; Jews driven from homeland
  • Diaspora—centuries of Jewish exile (from Greek word for “dispersal”)


Persecution of the Christians

  • Christians won’t worship Roman gods; become enemies of Roman rule
  • Roman rulers use Christians as scapegoats for hard times
  • As Pax Romana crumbles, Christians crucified, burned, killed in arena


A World Religion


Christianity’s Expansion

  • Christianity becomes powerful force; reasons for widespread appeal:

-embraces all people

-gives hope to the powerless

-appeals to those repelled by extravagance of Roman life

- offers personal relationship with a loving God

-promises eternal life after death


Constantine Accepts Christianity

  • Constantine—Roman emperor battles for control of Rome in A.D. 312
  • Has vision of cross, Christian symbol; places on soldiers’ shields
  • Believes Christian God helped him win; legalizes Christianity
  • In A.D. 380 Emperor Theodosius makes Christianity religion of empire


Early Christian Church

  • Priests direct a single church; bishops supervise numerous churches
  • Apostle Peter—first bishop of Rome; clergy trace their authority to him
  • Pope—the father, or head, of Christian Church; Rome, center of Church


A Single Voice

  • Church leaders compile standard Christian beliefs inNew Testament
  • New Testament added toHebrew Bible(also called Old Testament)


The Fathers of the Church

  • Early writers and scholars of teachings called Fathers of the Church
  • Augustine, bishop in North Africa, one of the most important Fathers
  • Stressed receiving sacraments to obtain God’s grace
  • Wrote famous book,The City of God


Section 4: The Fall of the Roman Empire

Internal problems and invasions spur the division and decline of the Roman Empire.


A Century of Crisis


The Empire Declines

  • Pax Romana ends in A.D. 180 with death of emperor Marcus Aurelius
  • Subsequent emperors unable to govern giant empire


Rome’s Economy Weakens

  • Hostile tribes outside the empire disrupt trade #7
  • Inflation—drop in value of money and rise in prices—weakens trade #7
  • Overworked soil, war-torn farmland leads to food shortages


Military and Political Turmoil

  • By third century A.D. Roman military in turmoil
  • Soldiers loyal to commanders, not Rome; commanders fighting for throne
  • Government enlistsmercenaries—foreign soldiers they pay to fight
  • Average citizens lose interest in the affairs of Rome


Emperors Attempt Reform


Diocletian Reforms the Empire

  • In A.D. 284Emperor Diocletianrestores order, divides empire in two
  • Two emperors in Greek-speaking East, Latin-speaking West
  • In A.D. 305 Diocletian retires, rivals compete for power


Constantine Moves the Capital

  • Constantinebecomes emperor of Western Empire in A.D. 312
  • Seizes Eastern Empire in A.D. 324; moves Roman capital toByzantium
  • Byzantium eventually renamedConstantinople—city of Constantine


The Western Empire Crumbles


Germanic Invasions

  • Mongolnomads from Asia, the Huns, invade northern borders of empire #7
  • Germanictribes flee Huns, enter Roman lands, sack Rome A.D. 410 #7


Attila the Hun

  • Attila—unites the Huns in A.D. 444; plunders 70 cities in East
  • Attacks Rome in 452; famine and disease prevents victory


An Empire No More

  • Last Roman emperor falls to Germans in 476; end of Western Empire
  • East thrives for another thousand years (Byzantine Empire)


Section 5: Rome and the Roots of Western Civilization

The Romans develop many ideas and institutions that become fundamental to Western Civilization.


The Legacy of Greco-Roman Civilization


A New Culture Emerges

  • Romans adopt aspects of Greek and Hellenistic culture
  • Results in Greco-Roman culture, or classical civilization


Roman Fine Arts

  • Romans developbas-relief sculpturesto tell stories
  • Artists skilled in creatingmosaics, painting frescoes
  • Pompeii—Roman town; ash from volcano eruption A.D. 79 preserves art


Learning and Literature

  • Romans borrow from Greek philosophy and literature
  • PoetVirgilwrites epic Aeneid modeled after Homer’s Greek epics
  • Roman historianTacitusexcels in writing factually accurate history
  • Annals and Histories provide comprehensive look at Roman life


The Legacy of Rome


The Latin Language

  • Latinwas official language of Roman Catholic Church until 1900s
  • Develops into French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Romanian #9
  • More than half the words in English stem from Latin


Master Builders

  • Romans pioneer use of arch; also used domes and concrete
  • Createaqueducts—structures to bring water into cities, towns


Roman System of Law

  • Principles of Roman law form basis of modern legal systems


Rome’s Enduring Influence

  • By preserving and adding to Greek civilization, Rome strengthened the Western cultural tradition