The Roman Empire continues to fascinate
people in the twentieth century, particularly those in the West. In many ways,
western Europeans and Americans have been trying to recapture the glory of
Rome since its collapse more than fifteen hundred years ago. The recent creation
of the European Union is an attempt to economically integrate western Europe,
much as the Romans did. Roman political theories on checks and balances between
different branches of government inspired the U.S. Constitution. The U.S.
Senate, for example, was named after a Roman legislature. These efforts are
not surprising. The Roman Empire brought order and stability to every land
it touched. It was responsible for uniting the Mediterranean basin and western
Europe under one political entity. In the process, it spread civilization
into the heart of western Europe. Rome also created innovative means by which
to govern such a large group of people in a judicious manner. Finally, the
wealth and power of Rome influenced the growth of trade networks across Eurasia
and Africa that would play a powerful role in world history long after Rome
collapsed. These Internet activities will focus on what made the Roman Empire
so glorious that people today still look to it for inspiration.
- You may want to begin by printing this page. As you explore
different sites, use the printout to refer back to the instructions and
questions detailed in each activity.
- On many web sites you can increase the size of the images
by clicking on them. Whenever possible, use the larger images to examine
fine details in photographs.
- Rome did not begin as an empire. Instead, it started
as a small city–state that evolved over several centuries into an empire
that united the entire Mediterranean basin. This development is best explained
using maps. Go to Map
1. (You will need to download Shockwave to view this image properly.)
This map also demonstrates the expansion of the Empire over time. At its
height, what older civilizations did the Roman Empire encompass or touch?
- The history of the Roman Empire extends roughly from
700 B.C. to A.D. 500 (or as late as A.D. 1453 if you include the Byzantine
Empire). To reinforce your understanding of how the Roman Empire evolved,
make a chronological chart depicting major time periods in
Roman history. Make sure to include the different styles of government,
eras of expansion, and periods of decline. Use Mediterranean
Basin Chronology and McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth
Edition) to help you.
- As you can see, the Roman world underwent dramatic
changes and upheavals over its long history. To understand these changes
further, examine the following maps (some will require you to download Shockwave):
After examining each map,
write a paragraph discussing the significance of what the map depicts. In
other words, consider the period of Roman history represented by the map and
discuss the political, social, and/or economic conditions that made the developments
shown by the map possible. Use your chronological chart from the second activity
to develop your ideas.
What is most impressive about the
Romans is their ability to promote order and stability in such a vast empire.
They were a minority in their world, yet they ruled over other civilized peoples
such as the Greeks, Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Mesopotamians. They also conquered
less politically advanced cultures such as the Celts in Britain and Gaul (modern–day
France). One question historians have long pondered is how they managed to
do this. By looking at the reigns of two emperors, Augustus and Trajan, you
can gain some valuable insight into this accomplishment.
- Get two pieces of paper and write Augustus at the top
of one and Trajan at the top of the other. Using your textbook, add the
dates when each ruled. If applicable, list who reigned before and after
each one. Note any particular name for the era in which each reigned. (Consult
- Go to Augustus
and Augustus (31
B.C.-14 A.D.). According to these sites, what were his greatest accomplishments?
How did these accomplishments promote stability and order?
- Click on The
Deeds of the Divine Augustus. For whom do you think this list was written?
Why? How did this type of propaganda promote stability and order?
- Observe the images at Augustus:
Images of Power. (Pay particular attention to "Part 3: The Statue
of Augustus at Prima Porta." Also remember that you can click on the
photos for an enlarged view.) How did Augustus promote the authority of
the emperor? How did this policy promote stability and order? Write several
paragraphs that summarize your analysis.
- Go to Five
Good Emperors and Roman
Emperors: Trajan. According to these sites, what were Trajan's greatest
accomplishments? How did his deeds promote order and stability? What does
the term "Five Good Emperors" mean?
- After analyzing the careers of Augustus and Trajan, answer
the following questions: How did the Roman central government promote order
and stability in the empire? How important was the role of the emperor?
How similar is this type of central government to the federal government
of the United States? How similar is the role of the president of the United
States to that of the Roman emperor? Write several paragraphs explaining
- Review your chronology. Explain what the pax Romana
was and when it took place. This era of peace, prosperity, and strong central
government led to the romanization of many of the peoples the Romans
controlled. What do you think the term "romanization" means? How
did this spread of Roman culture, values, learning, and religion transpire?
- Go to Roman
Army Page and read the essay on the first page. Also check out this
map showing the deployment
of the legions in 100 C.E. What role did the army play in promoting
stability and order in the empire? How did they spread Roman culture? You
might need to review pages 167 in McKay, A History of World Societies
(Sixth Edition) to further your understanding of these concepts.
- Go to Image
2, and Map
6. How do these images explain the importance of roads in promoting
order and stability? How did roads encourage romanization?
- Finally, read about the baths of
Pompeii examine a few images
of the baths (you can click to enlarge them). Now go to Bulla
Regia, Tunisia. Memmian Baths; A.D. 220–40. Study the images at the
bottom of the page. Why do you believe the Romans built their baths in the
cities of their empire? Who used them? How did they spread Roman culture?
For example, are the bath complexes you observed similar in architecture?
Did people use them for the same purposes regardless of where they were?
Were baths simply places to clean one's body, or did they serve other functions?
The Roman Empire also played a crucial
role in world history by building the trade links with India and China first
initiated during the Hellenistic period (see McKay, Chapter 5). To better
understand the emergence and importance of these trade routes, complete the
- Go to Map
of the Trade Routes. Make a list of the major kingdoms or empires that
linked China and Rome in the first century A.D. What, if anything, do you
know about these kingdoms? Review Chapter 2 and the rise of Persia in McKay,
A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition). What kingdom governed
this area in the first century? According to McKay, what kingdom replaced
it in the third century A.D.?
- To understand the role of Parthia and the Sasanids in the creation
and maintenance of the ancient Silk Road (the trade routes across Eurasia),
go to The
Deadly Banners of Carrhae and The
Sasanian Empire (224 BCE – AD 642). Also click on Map
10. After examining these sites and maps, explain why these routes became
known as the Silk Road. What else was exchanged among these trade networks?
Were only products exchanged? Did the exchange of products lead to greater
knowledge of others? Go to The
First Contact Between Rome and China for clues.