|Ancient Rome was a civilization which began as a small agricultural community on the Italian Peninsula in the 8th century BC. Rome became a large empire which straddled the Mediterranean Sea. In its twelve centuries of existence, Roman civilization was firstly a monarchy, then a republic that combined oligarchy and democracy, and finally became an autocratic empire. Through conquest and assimilation, it came to dominate Western Europe, the entire Mediterranean Basin including the Near East and North Africa, the Balkans, and the Black Sea.
The Roman empire went into decline in the 3rd century AD, and began to collapse in the 5th century AD. Plagued by internal instability and attacked by various migrating peoples, the western part of the empire, including Hispania, Gaul, and Italy, broke into independent kingdoms in the 5th century. The eastern part of the empire, governed from Constantinople, survived this crisis, and remained intact for another millennium, until its last remains were finally annexed by the emerging Ottoman Empire. This eastern, medieval stage of the Empire is usually referred to as the Byzantine Empire by historians.
Roman civilization was part of the period of classical antiquity, alongside ancient Greece—a civilization that inspired much of the culture of ancient Rome. Ancient Rome made significant contributions to the development of law, war, art, literature, architecture, technology, and language in the Western world, and its history continues to have a great influence on the world today.
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In the Roman Republic, the dictator was an extraordinary magistrate with the absolute authority to perform tasks beyond the authority of the ordinary magistrate. The office was the single exception during the Republic to the principle of collegiality (under which every office was composed of more than one citizen). Dictators were appointed in order to wage war on a particular enemy, to settle a constitutional crisis, to conduct special religious functions, or to conduct certain types of election. Dictators were appointed by the consuls, who were authorised to do so by a senatus consultum (dictum) of the Roman Senate. The dictator was superior to all other magistracies in the republic, and had no legal responsibility for his actions. He was attended by 24 lictors, and could over-rule, depose from office, or put to death any other magistrate. Unlike all other magistracies (including the consulship), the dictator was not required to co-operate with the senate, and had the absolute power to put any citizen to death, and to create, change, or amend any law. The dictator was always attended by a Master of the Horse.
||[...] Caesar is a god in his own city. Outstanding in war or peace, it was not so much his wars that ended in great victories, or his actions at home, or his swiftly won fame, that set him among the stars, a fiery comet, as his descendant. There is no greater achievement among Caesar’s actions than that he stood father to our emperor. Is it a greater thing to have conquered the sea-going Britons; to have lead his victorious ships up the seven-mouthed flood of the papyrus-bearing Nile; to have brought the rebellious Numidians, under Juba of Cinyps, and Pontus, swollen with the name of Mithridates, under the people of Quirinus; to have earned many triumphs and celebrated few; than to have sponsored such a man, with whom, as ruler of all, you gods have richly favoured the human race? Therefore, in order for the emperor not to have been born of mortal seed, Caesar needed to be made a god. [...]
Augustus, his ‘son’, will ensure that he ascends to heaven as a god, and is worshipped in the temples. Augustus, as heir to his name, will carry the burden placed upon him alone, and will have us with him, in battle, as the most courageous avenger of his father’s murder. Under his command, the conquered walls of besieged Mutina will sue for peace; Pharsalia will know him; Macedonian Philippi twice flow with blood; and the one who holds Pompey’s great name, will be defeated in Sicilian waters; and a Roman general’s Egyptian consort, trusting, to her cost, in their marriage, will fall, her threat that our Capitol would bow to her city of Canopus, proved vain.
Why enumerate foreign countries or the nations living on either ocean shore? Wherever earth contains habitable land, it will be his: and even the sea will serve him!
—Ovid, Metamorphoses, XV, 745-842
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