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A History of World Societies, Sixth Edition
McKay/Hill/Buckler/Ebrey
Web Exercises
Chapter 6: The Glory of Rome

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.

Helpful Hints:
  • 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.
Activity One:
  • 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.
Activity Two:
  • 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):
Map 3
Map 4
Map 5
Map 6
Map 7
Map 8

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.

Activity Three:

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 your chronology.)
  • 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 your thoughts.
Activity Four:
  • 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 1, 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?
Activity Five:

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 following exercises.
  • 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.


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