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The city of Rome was central to the civilized world for hundreds of years during ancient times. The Roman Republic and Empire dominated the Mediterranean, along with many other parts of the western world, from approximately 150 BC to AD 400 and continued to be influential until about AD 1200.
There are a couple accounts that describe Rome's founding, the first being the legendary account, and the other being the more likely account. The legend is that the city was founded by Romulus in April of 753 BC, following an interesting but unbelievable childhood narrative. The more likely explanation for the city's founding is that it developed over time.
Rome is said to have had seven kings in its early days, but this could be incorrect due to the lack of historical records. Rome was a republic starting in 509 BC, according to the traditional chronology. Its period of republican government was marked by expansion; by 44 BC, the Roman Republic had control over the Italian Peninsula, Gaul (France), most of the Iberian Peninsula, some of the North African coast, Greece, some of Asia Minor (Turkey), and some of the eastern Mediterranean coast.
The expansion of the Roman Republic took place over a long period of time, but most of it took place from 300 BC to 0 BC. Key to Rome's expansion were the three Punic Wars (264-241 BC, 218-201 BC, and 149-146 BC respectively), in which Carthage was not only defeated, but as Wikipedia describes it, "besieged, stormed, and completely destroyed." Following Rome's victory over Carthage, Rome was able to capture more of the land surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, and in the process much of the eastern Mediterranean came under Roman control. However, Julius Caesar, who had been allied with Pompey and had increasingly gained control over the Roman Republic, was killed in 44 BC.
As the Common Era (AD/CE) neared, Rome moved toward its Empire, the next major phase of its history. While the Roman Republic was extremely important politically, it was during the Empire that Rome's land area became the largest. During the 1st century BC, Rome became an empire, and beginning in 27 BC, emperors controlled Rome. The first (and perhaps best-known of the emperors) was the long-reigning Augustus; other notable emperors included Hadrian, Constantine, and in the East in much later times, Justinian. During the Empire, Rome finally stopped expanding and instead tried to keep itself strong internally. Trajan brought the Empire to its greatest land area in the 2nd century AD.
As the 2nd century progressed, Rome's peak came and went; while Rome remained fairly stable in territorial extent, problems were emerging that would eventually lead to the decline of the Western Empire. Increasingly, going into the 3rd century, emperors had a difficult time getting in power and staying in power, and towards the end of the 3rd century, Rome split into three empires, with the true Roman Empire reduced to just Italy, Greece, some of Asia Minor and the Balkans, the Iberian Peninsula, and North Africa. Finally, Diocletian and Maximian saved the Roman Empire by dividing it into two parts.
In the first half of the 4th century, though, the Roman Empire again had problems, this time due to the establishment of the Christian emperor Constantine, who reunified the empire. Constantine's reign and the rest of the 4th century marked the Roman Empire's transition from polytheism to Christianity, which in turn transformed the whole concept of Rome. It had long been a stronghold of polytheism; the transition to Christianity set a new religious foundation for Europe (especially western Europe) that would dominate in the form of Catholicism for a thousand years and in other forms of Christianity for hundreds of years more. Constantine's Christianity and changes to the empire were partially permanent, partially temporary; the transition to Christianity was permanent, but the concept of unifying the empire was not. Finally, Theodosius I divided the empire for the last time; after him, the empire was in two separate parts continuously until the fall of the western half in the 5th century AD. The western half of the Roman Empire, which included the city of Rome, had a complex decline and unclear fall, but the two dates usually given to the fall of the western empire are either AD 476 or AD 480.
The Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) Empire was the eastern section of the Roman Empire. It fell at a later date than the Western Roman Empire, in the mid-1400s rather than 476. The Byzantine Empire peaked (in land area) during Justinian's reign, when it controlled the city of Rome along with parts of the western Mediterranean as well as the east. Although Crusaders conquered the city of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, in 1204, the Byzantines controlled the city for from approximately 1260 to 1453, and attempted to continue the empire. The Ottomans, however, captured the city in 1453, and the Byzantine Empire disintegrated.
The Ancient Roman civilization is remembered for its constructions, like Hadrian's Wall at the English/Scottish border, along with its republican government and language, Latin.