6.1 The Roman Republic

Rome rose from a small city-state on the Italian peninsula to become the dominant power in the Mediterranean world. Roman law ruled over a vast, ethnically diverse empire. Rome's 1000-year history had many lasting effects, including the spread of important aspects of the civilizations of Greece, Egypt, and the Fertile Crescent into Europe.

Illustration of a wall with two arches built within it, one upper and one lower.

The Romans learned Etruscan engineering techniques, including how to build the arch, a foundation of structural design.


  • Describe the development of the classical civilization of Rome.
  • Outline how the Roman republic was structured and governed.
  • Understand the rights and religious practices that characterized Roman society.
  • Explain how the Roman republic grew and used its political influence.

Key Terms

  • Etruscans
  • republic
  • patrician
  • consul
  • dictator
  • plebeian
  • tribune
  • veto
  • legion

The Rise of the Roman Civilization

Italy is a peninsula that looks like a boot jutting into the Mediterranean Sea and kicking the island of Sicily toward Africa. The city of Rome sits toward the center of Italy. This location would benefit the Romans as they expanded—first within Italy and then into the lands bordering the Mediterranean.

The Italian Peninsula

Because of its geography, Italy proved much easier to unify than Greece. Unlike Greece, Italy is not broken up into small, isolated valleys. In addition, the Apennine Mountains, which run down the length of the Italian peninsula, are less rugged than the mountains of Greece. Finally, Italy has broad, fertile plains in the north and the west. These plains supported the growing population.

Early Settlements in Italy

By about 800 B.C., the ancestors of the Romans, called the Latins, had migrated into Italy. The Latins settled along the Tiber River in small villages scattered over seven low-lying hills. There, they herded and farmed. Their villages would in time grow together into Rome, the city on seven hills. Legend held that twin brothers, Romulus and Remus, had founded the city. Romans regarded this tale highly because the twins were said to be sons of a Latin woman and the war god Mars, lending Rome a divine origin.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments