THE STORY OF ROME

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ancient Rome

The account below tells a brief history of the Roman Civilization and its Foundations. Readers will understand and appreciate the etymology of Rome, Roman Emperors, How we got the quote “All roads lead to Rome” – which modern people edit to suit their events, The Colosseum, The Gladiators, The Amazing Roman Baths which are equivalent to our malls today, Roman Foods and their Clothing.

 

ROMULUS AND REMUS

In Roman mythology, Romulus and his twin brother Remus were the children of Rhea Silvia and Mars. Romulus and Remus are best known for being the founders of the city of Rome.

A story is told that an evil uncle took them as babies from their mother and threw them into the River Tiber to drown. The babies floated to land, and a mother wolf fed and cared for them. Later a herdsman rescued and looked after the twins until they grew up.

According to legend, Ancient Rome was founded by the two brothers, Romulus and Remus, on 21 April 753. The legend claims that, in an argument over who would rule the city (or, in another version, where the city would be located) Romulus killed Remus and named the city after himself – Rome.

ROMAN EMPIRE

The founding of Rome goes back to the very early days of civilization. It is so old; it is today known as ‘the eternal city’. The Romans believed that their city was founded in the year 753 BC. Modern historians though believe it was the year 625 BC.

Rome knew four classes of people. This division was very important to the Romans.
The lowest class were the slaves. They were owned by other people. They had no rights at all.
The next class were the plebeians. They were free people. But they had little say at all.
The second highest class were the equestrians (sometimes they are called the ‘knights’). Their name means the ‘riders’, as they were given a horse to ride if they were called to fight for Rome. To be an equestrian you had to be rich.
The highest class were the nobles of Rome. They were called ‘patricians’. All the real power in Rome lay with them.

The Roman Republic was a very successful government. It lasted from 510 BC until 23 BC – almost 500 years. In comparison the United States of America only exist since 1776 – less than 250 years.

 

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Rome’s most famous citizen was no doubt Julius Caesar. He was a Roman politician and general who, without having any orders to do so, conquered the vast territory of the Gauls to the north of his province in France.
In the year 49 BC Caesar crossed the small river between his province and Italy, called the river Rubicon, and conquered Rome itself which he then ruled as a dictator.
His military campaigns also took him to Egypt where he met the famous Cleopatra.
His life though was ended as he was infamously murdered in the senate in Rome.
So famous and respected was Caesar that a month of the year is still named after him and his heirs today, July (after Julius Caesar). Also the great English poet Shakespeare wrote a famous play called Julius Caesar about his famous murder.

 

After Caesar followed many emperors of Rome –
So, here are some of the most famous ones.
Augustus Rome’s first emperor. He also added many territories to the empire.
Claudius He conquered Britain.
Nero He was insane. He murdered his mother and his wife and threw thousands of Christians to the lions.
Titus Before he was emperor he destroyed the great Jewish temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.
Trajan He was a great conqueror. Under his rule the empire reached its greatest extent.
Hadrian He built ‘Hadrian’s Wall’ in the north of Britain to shield the province from the northern barbarians.
Diocletian He split the empire into two pieces – a western and an eastern empire.
Constantine He was the first Christian emperor. He united the empire again chose his capital to be the small town Byzantium, which he renamed Constantinople.
Romulus Augustus He was the last emperor of Rome, nicknamed Augustulus which means ‘little Augustus’.
Justinian He was the last ‘great’ emperor. He conquered many territories, created the ‘Justinian Code’ and built the fantastic church Santa Sophia.
Constantine XI The last emperor of Constantinople. He died defending his great city against the Turks.

 

But what is generally referred to as ‘the Fall of Rome’ doesn’t include the eastern empire. This, with its centre in Constantinople, managed to cling on for almost another thousand years until it was eventually conquered by the Turks under their leader Mohammed II in the year AD 1453.

ROMAN ROADS

There is an old expression, “All roads lead to Rome.” In ancient Rome, Rome was the heart of the empire. Each time a new city was conquered, a road was built from that city back to Rome. Roads were built in straight lines. Many had gutters. Along the side of the road, the Romans built road signs called milestones. Milestones did not give any information about other towns in the area. Milestones told how far it was back to Rome. Occasionally, milestones also listed who built that section of road and how much it cost! Roman roads were built so well that some are still in use today. In times of peace, good safe roads meant more trade and more trade meant more taxes for the Emperor. The army was given the important task of planning and building roads. These roads did not always run perfectly straight, they sometimes zigzagged up hills and often avoided obstacles. However, long stretches of Roman roads did run straight and this is what Roman roads are remembered for.

Roman roads were very quick and safe to travel large distances. The Roman soldiers were not the only people to use them. Merchants used them to carry goods all over the Roman Empire. The Romans built Britain’s first proper roads. After the Romans left they were allowed to decay because people forgot how to rebuild and repair them. People continued to use the roads the Roman Army had built until 1745. Many modern roads are built along the original routes planned out by the Romans.

 

COLOSSEUM Colosseum

The definition of a coliseum is any large sports stadium.  The Colosseum was the name of the coliseum in city center ancient Rome.  The Colosseum is also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre.

The Colosseum had seats for about 45,000 people, but if you were not lucky enough to get a seat there was also a standing section.  When full, and it often was, it would hold 70,000 people.

The Colosseum was the site of most of the gladiatorial contests.  In these contests men fought other men or wild animals.  The Romans eagerly went to the Colosseum to watch bloody battles.  To the Romans seeing someone killed in the Colosseum was entertaining. Plus, admission was free and anyone could attend.

The Colosseum was built of concrete and stone and is still fairly intact even today.  You can go to Rome and take a tour of the Colosseum, and imagine yourself in the audience or even as a gladiator in this famous coliseum.

 

Gladiators   THE GAMES AND GLADIATORS

The Romans loved bloody sports. The Romans referred to these sports or contests as the games. Games were held in the sports stadiums that were built all over the Roman Empire. The sports stadium in Rome was called the Colosseum or the Flavian Amphitheatre.

At some events, men would fight fierce animals like lions and alligators. The more interesting and exotic these animals were to the ancient Romans, the more they liked the contest. Before combat, the animals were treated very badly. They were beaten and starved so they would be especially mean. Usually, the men won. But sometimes the animals won, and the Romans found that especially exciting.  But these fighters were not the famous gladiators.

The gladiators fought other gladiators. The fights were not like you see in the movies. In ancient Rome, the gladiator battle was not always or even often to the death.  This does not mean a gladiators life was easy. Their life was not easy at all. Some people chose to become gladiators. Others were slaves, forced into the sport, and usually found themselves the loser. Most gladiators were a little chubby, although they were in excellent condition. They wanted extra body weight to help protect themselves when they were stabbed or hit. They were stabbed and hit a lot. But gladiators who won most of their matches were famous. The crowds would cheer when they entered the arena.

As time went on, the bloody fights became more organized. Gladiators were pitted against other gladiators their own size, who had won a similar number of battles. This converted the sport into competitions. There were a few women who were gladiators, and they fought other women. Referees were added to monitor the fight. A referee could stop the fight at any time, and usually did when one gladiator was injured. Sometimes, fights went on for quite a while. If the crowd got bored, the referee might call the fight a drawn. If the emperor was in attendance, he might ask the crowd for a decision on whether or not to kill the loser, but people had their favorites. They wanted their gladiators alive, so they could fight again another day.

 

 Roman baths   

ROMAN BATHS

Bathing was very important to the ancient Romans.  Romans would visit the public baths every day, even holy and feast days.  These were not co-ed.  Each public bathhouse either had separate pools for men and women or had different hours for men and women.

The bathhouse was more than just a place to wash.  It was similar to what shopping malls are today.  It was a place to meet friends, a place where you could get something to eat, a place to workout, even a place to read the day’s news.  You could even get your hair cut and styled.  Inside the bathhouse were both hot and cold pools, saunas, workout rooms, reading rooms, restaurants and hair salons.  And of course there were many slaves to pamper you.

Unlike our shopping malls today, you had to pay to enter the public bath.  Children and slaves were not supposed to enter (of course if you had enough money or power you could bring your personal slaves with you).  The bathhouse was a very important part of every Roman’s day.

ROMAN CLOTHING AND FOOD

Clothing

Even over thousands of years of Roman History, clothing stayed relatively the same. most people wore simple wool or linen clothes, but wealthy people had silk and cotton imported. Men and women both wore a loincloth and women wore a type of brassiere. The main piece of clothing was a tunic, made from two pieces of material stitched down the side, only to about the knees, and sleeves to about elbow length. A belt was tied around the waist, and both men and women wore the tunic almost every day.
On special occasions, they wore a toga over their tunic with leather or wood sandals.

Food

Lots of emperors declared it illegal to cook in apartments so people bought their salt, sausages, porridge and bread, and cooked in public ovens. Wealthy people with proper kitchen facilities had slaves to cook for them.
Most Romans drank water or wine and lived mainly off vegetables and bread.
A typical meal would have been something like barley soup (including peas, lentils, barley, cabbage and leeks) followed by bread soaked in milk and fried in oil, served with honey on top for dessert.
The main meal was eaten in the evening, beginning at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon and finishing later in the evening.
Male slaves served the dinner and people ate off plates, usually using their fingers, but sometimes knives and spoons.
On special occasions, wealthy Romans held banquets that went on for days. Guests were entertained with poetry readings, live music, juggling and acrobatics. Many courses were served and people ate and drank so much that a room was often provided just for vomiting. However, leaving the table due to any ‘bodily functions’ was considered very inappropriate and impolite.

 

Do you want to know the origin of the quote “If you go to Rome, you do what the Romans do”?

Stay Tuned for more on  HISTORY CORNER….

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