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roman empire - Cultural Definition
The empire centered at the city of Rome, in what is now Italy; the most extensive Western civilization of ancient times. According to legend, the empire was founded in 753 b.c. by two brothers, Romulus and Remus. Rome was at first ruled by kings. Then, about 500 b.c., the Roman Republic was established, with two annually elected consuls at its head, guided by a senate. The republic eventually weakened, and Rome passed to rule by one man — first Julius Caesar, who was assassinated in 44 b.c. His successor was Augustus, who assumed the title of emperor. Over the next few centuries, he was followed by a succession of emperors. The whole Western world eventually became subject to Rome and was at peace for roughly the first four centuries after the birth of Jesus (see Pax Romana). The empire was known for its strongly centralized government and for massive public works, such as roads and aqueducts, which helped maintain its power and efficiency. As the years passed, the Roman Empire was divided into eastern and western portions (see Byzantine Empire and Constantine the Great), developed internal weaknesses, was invaded by outside tribes, and eventually ceased to exist (see Fall of Rome).
- The Holy Roman Empire represented an effort in the Middle Ages to develop a government with some of the characteristics of the old Roman Empire.
- In the early twentieth century, to raise the spirits of the Italians, the dictator Benito Mussolini revived some of the customs and expressions of the ancient empire.