Rome begins in the seven hills next to the Tiber River, at the crossroads that converges on the island. Due to its location, which allowed travelers to cross the sometimes surging Tiber at this one spot, the small community grew. Early on, the city evolved into a monarchy. The career of Targuin the Elder, details of which are legendary, illustrates the confused origins of Rome. Targuin was reputed to be from Etruria (the Etruscans), but to have a Greek father. His personal story, thus, alerts us to the two major contributing influences to early Rome: the Etruscans and the Greeks.
Here is a Wikipedia summary about Targuin the Elder, Lucius Tarquinius Priscus:
According to Livy, Tarquin came from the Etruria. Livy claims that his original Etruscan name was Lucumo, but since Lucumo (Etruscan Lauchume) is the Etruscan word for "King", there is reason to believe that Priscus' name and title have been confused in the official tradition. After inheriting his father's entire fortune, Lucius attempted to gain a political office. Disgruntled with his opportunities in Etruria (He had been prohibited from obtaining political office in Tarquinii because of the ethnicity of his father, Demaratus, who came from the Greek city of Corinth), he migrated to Rome with his wife Tanaquil, at her suggestion. Legend has it that on his arrival in Rome in a chariot, an eagle took his cap, flew away and then returned it back upon his head. Tanaquil, who was skilled in prophecy, interpreted this as an omen of his future greatness. In Rome, he attained respect through his courtesy. The king himself noticed Tarquinius and, by his will, appointed Tarquinius guardian of his own sons.
It has been part of the Roman historical drama to believe that the Romans overthrew the monarchy in 509 BC and that they then began to create the first large democratic constitution in history. Of course, the Greeks had established many different city-states with democratic elements in their constitutions, but these were all small states, often with very simple political structures. Rome was the first large democratic state in world history. The Republic lasted about 400 years. After 100 BC, the Republic passed through a series of crises, each more dangerous than the previous, culminating with the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC. The era of Civil Wars began, and ultimately Octavian created something new, something we now call the Roman Empire. A key element in creating the Republic was the first written constitution in history, known as the Twelve Tables. Not a lengthy document like the American constitution, it is merely a group of basic legal statements that form the cornerstone of all Roman law. The fact that it was written is the most important detail about its nature.
Tarquin and Lucretia in art.
Michael Grant, History of Rome, Part II, "The Unity of Italy"
History of Rome,
About the Author :
Michael Grant (1914-2004) was a historian whose over forty publications on ancient Rome and Greece popularised the classical and early Christian world. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, served in intelligence and as a diplomat during the Second World War, and afterwards became deputy director of the British Council's European division, when he also published his first book. He later returned to academia, teaching at Cambridge and Edinburgh, and serving as Vice Chancellor at the University of Khartoum and at Queen's University, Belfast.
The Rise of Rome: The Making of the World's Greatest Empire,
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From Anthony Everitt, the best selling author of acclaimed biographies of Cicero, Augustus, and Hadrian, comes a riveting, magisterial account of Rome and its remarkable ascent from an obscure agrarian backwater to the greatest empire the world has ever known. Emerging as a market town from a cluster of hill villages in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C., Rome grew to become the ancient world’s preeminent power. Everitt fashions the story of Rome’s rise to glory into an erudite page-turner filled with lasting lessons for our time. He chronicles the clash between patricians and plebeians that defined the politics of the Republic. He shows how Rome’s shrewd strategy of offering citizenship to her defeated subjects was instrumental in expanding the reach of her burgeoning empire. And he outlines the corrosion of constitutional norms that accompanied Rome’s imperial expansion, as old habits of political compromise gave way, leading to violence and civil war. In the end, unimaginable wealth and power corrupted the traditional virtues of the Republic, and Rome was left triumphant everywhere except within its own borders. Everitt paints indelible portraits of the great Romans—and non-Romans—who left their mark on the world out of which the mighty empire grew: Cincinnatus, Rome’s George Washington, the very model of the patrician warrior/aristocrat; the brilliant general Scipio Africanus, who turned back a challenge from the Carthaginian legend Hannibal; and Alexander the Great, the invincible Macedonian conqueror who became a role model for generations of would-be Roman rulers. Here also are the intellectual and philosophical leaders whose observations on the art of government and “the good life” have inspired every Western power from antiquity to the present: Cato the Elder, the famously incorruptible statesman who spoke out against the decadence of his times, and Cicero, the consummate orator whose championing of republican institutions put him on a collision course with Julius Caesar and whose writings on justice and liberty continue to inform our political discourse today. Rome’s decline and fall have long fascinated historians, but the story of how the empire was won is every bit as compelling. With The Rise of Rome, one of our most revered chroniclers of the ancient world tells that tale in a way that will galvanize, inform, and enlighten modern readers.
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