6.3 The Legacy of Rome

Through war and conquest, Romans spread their Latin language and Roman civilization to distant lands. Yet the civilization that developed was not simply Roman. Rather, it blended Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman achievements.

Fresco painting of Roman family, with a man in a toga overseeing a child’s study and women carrying plates of food.

This fresco of daily life from a villa near Pompeii shows the realism often depicted in Roman art.


  • Summarize the works of Roman literary figures, historians, and philosophers.
  • Describe the art and architecture developed by the Romans.
  • Understand how the Romans applied science and mathematics for practical use.
  • Explain how Rome's rule of law influenced modern legal systems.
  • Summarize the Roman ideas and institutions that have influenced Western civilization.

Key Terms

  • Virgil
  • satirize
  • mosaic
  • engineering
  • aqueduct
  • Ptolemy

Roman Literature, History, and Philosophy

Greco-Roman Civilization

In its early days, Rome absorbed ideas from Greek colonists in southern Italy, and it continued to borrow heavily from Greek culture after it conquered Greece. To the Romans, Greek art, literature, philosophy, mathematical, and scientific genius represented the height of cultural achievement. Their admiration never wavered, leading the Roman poet Horace to note, “Greece has conquered her rude conqueror.”

Over time, Romans adapted Greek and Hellenistic achievements, just as the Greeks had once absorbed ideas from Egypt and the Fertile Crescent. The blending of Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman traditions produced what is known as Greco-Roman civilization. During the Pax Romana, trade and travel helped spread this vital new civilization.

Roman Writers

In literature, the Romans greatly admired, and owed a debt to the Greeks. Many Romans spoke Greek and imitated Greek styles in prose and poetry. Still, the greatest Roman writers used Latin to create their own literature.

In his epic poem the Aeneid, Virgil tried to show that Rome's past was as heroic as that of Greece. He linked his epic to Homer's work by telling how Aeneas escaped from Troy to found Rome.

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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