Italy is a boot-shaped peninsula that extends south from Europe into the Mediterranean Sea. On the west coast of the peninsula is the mouth of the Tiber River. Fifteen miles up stream is a group of seven hills. On the hill known as the Palatine, an early group of people called the Latins founded a settlement later known as Rome. This settlement would one day become the center of a great empire, whose achievements still influence life today.

In 509 B.C., the Romans overthrew Tarquin the Proud, their Etruscan king, and set up a republic. Under this form of government, people choose their rulers. However, not everyone had an equal say in the Roman Republic. The patricians - members of the oldest and richest families - were the only ones who could hold public office or perform certain religious rituals. Poorer citizens, known as plebeians, paid taxes and served in the army. Yet they could not marry patricians or hold office. If they fell into debt, they could be sold into slavery.

In later years, reformers would take steps to make the Roman Republic more democratic. The idea of a government chosen by the people would serve as a model for future generations, including the founders of the United States.

In 27 B.C., Octavian told the senate that he had restored the republic, and he offered to resign as the sole ruler of Rome. The senate turned down the offer and gave him several titles. In the end, Octavian took for himself the title of Augustus, or "revered one." That is what he is generally called in history books.

In practice, Octavian became the first Roman emperor, or absolute ruler of an empire. His politics paved the way for more than 200 years of peace. Even after the empire collapsed, Roman influence would survive in much of the world.


Rome - The British Museum

The Roman Empire - Lots of info!