The Roman Civilization existed from the founding of the titular city in 8th century BC to the subsequent collapse of the Western Empire during the 5th century AD. This sprawling population encompassed and endured three forms of government during its 700 year domination of the Western world, including a monarchy, republic, and dictatorship. Originally, the people began in the Italian Peninsula as an Italic/Latini settlement which eventually became Rome and paved the way for its totalitarian regime. This empire became one of the single largest of its kind in the entirety of the ancient world, with close to 100 million inhabitants which spanned nearly 2 million square miles at the peak of its influence. Throughout decades of assimilation and brutal conquest, it managed to gain territorial footholds in all of the Mediterranean, including Western, Eastern, and Northern Europe along with North Africa and the Asia Minor. Although they are now long extinct, the influence of the Roman Civilization is present than ever before in modern society, directly contributing to the ways in which the human time and date system, art, technology, religion, government, politics, literature, warfare, language, and architecture are designed. At the peak of its imperial power during the period of the 2nd century, it was able to sustain a population of nearly 1 million citizens. In the aftermath of the Crisis of the Third Century during which the imperial power was transferred to the capital city of Constantinople in 330 AD, the once great civilization finally began to experience gradual decline. Once into the medieval period, Rome finally fell to the point of becoming completely irrelevant.
In Ancient Rome, the social classes operated under a hierarchy although many of them overlapped. Slaves belonged to the bottom tier, freedmen belong in the middle, and the freeborn citizens existed at the top. Freeborn status during the period of the Roman Republic was established via citizenship, ancestry, honors attainment, and census rank. Ancestry was divided into patricians and plebeians, a dichotomy between the ruling class families and the common folk without a representative clan or advisory members who influenced the King. Above ordinary citizenship, census rank was calculated by political and monetary privileges with equestrian (knights/military) and senatorial (political) ranks. Self made men who possessed families and rose above the common folk in business were termed novus homo for establishing themselves as noble.
For the wealthy members of Roman Civilization, life was lavish and prosperous. These citizens lived in beautiful, sprawling houses often outside the confines of the city on the hills; far away from the smell and town noise. An extravagant lifestyle complete with luxurious architecture and furnishings was enjoyed, with countless slaves and servants to cater to any desire the owners wished. Many dinner parties with exclusive guest lists would take place with numerous exotic dishes to consume on a day to day basis. Unfortunately, the poor class of citizens were only every able to dream of this kind of life. Perspiring their days away with inhumane labor requirements, they would live in squalid, shabby habitats that could easily burn or collapse at any given moment. When money was especially hard to come by, the people would get so desperate that it was not uncommon to find newborn babies abandoned in the busy streets in the hopes that they would be taken in by a wealthy family as a slave or servant . Strong in figures but feeble in wealth, the plebeians composed the mob, spending time in popular entertainment centers, partaking in chariot races, or being sold to fight in the gladiator arenas in the hopes of coming out alive with fortune and fame.
- Cardo Maximus. “Meet the Romans with Mary Beard.” YouTube. May 16, 2013. Accessed October 23, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rggk_H3jEgw.
- MPT. “Life in Roman Times.” PBS. Accessed October 23, 2017. http://www.pbs.org/empires/romans/empire/life.html.