|Salah ||February 2nd, 2011 10:06 PM |
Welcome to Historum, mdenham2.
Well as for Rome and the Roman Empire: Rome was founded along the banks of the Tiber, traditionally in 753 BC by the brothers Romulus and Remus. After the expulsion of the last king of Rome in 509 BC, it became a Republic. The Roman Republic had conquered most of Italy as well as Sicily and bits of Spain by the end of the 3rd Century BC. Under a succession of great warlords (a number of Scipios, Marius, Sulla, Julius Caesar, Pompey, etc.) Asia minor, Greece, parts of the Balkans and Syria, Numidia, Spain, and Gaul/France were all brought into the Republic.
The Roman Republic was a troubled state in the 1st Century BC. The Romans spent most of that century fighting each other; the wars between Sulla and Marius, Caesar and Pompey, and Octavian, Antony, and Cleopatra (the last independent Ptolemaic ruler of Egypt) have become the stuff of legend. It had become obvious that the "Republic" was no longer a state of Italian warrior-farmers content to serve under the guidance of senators and consuls. The great names of this period were strong, ambitious, and often cruel leaders with armies of devoted professional soldiers.
The last of these great warlords, Octavian, became the master of the Roman world after defeating Antony and Cleopatra at Actium in 31 BC, and incorporating Egypt into Rome's territories. By this point, the Republic was a sprawling state full of diverse cultures spanning three continents - already an effective Empire. Octavian took the names Augustus (divine one) and Princeps (first man) and becam the singular ruler of Rome. The soldiers had saluted him as imperator, implying the ultimate war-leader. It is from the word imperator that we get "empire"; though the Romans did not take to calling their state an empire overnight. Augustus was an absolute ruler, but he was subtle about it, as were his immediate successors.
Though its fortunes waxed and waned on account of civil wars and plagues, the Roman Empire expanded into Britain, Dacia, and parts of the Middle East over the course of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Centuries AD. It was not until the middle of the 3rd Century that Roman fortunes seriously began to decline, but under a series of emperors who proved themselves as generals and reformers, the Empire survived the turn of the 4th Century.
At the end of the 4th Century, the Empire was divided into two - the Western and the Eastern Empire. The Western Empire was troubled by incompetent rulers, Hunnish, Vandal, and Gothic incursions, and depleted manpower and resources. In 476 the Gothic warlord Odoacer dethroned the young boy who was currently recognized as the Western Emperor. This date has been traditionally regarded as the fall of the Roman Empire. Roman culture persisted in the west long afterwards - namely in the form of the Catholic Church and the Latin language.
The Eastern Empire continued to exist - and actually enjoyed a comeback - after the "fall" of its Western counterpart. In the 7th Century it was weakened by wars with the Persians and newly-emergent Arab armies, and it adopted Greek as its official language. Whether the Eastern Roman Empire was basically "Greek" or "Roman" in nature has been the source of many a heated argument on this forum. Either way, the Eastern Roman Empire continued to exist until 1453, when it fell to the Ottomans. At least one tiny successor state held out another eight years. You may know the Eastern Empire by the name "Byzantine Empire"; I don't use that name but it is a matter of personal opinion and conviction.
Voltaire best summed the Holy Roman Empire up by saying that "it was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire", but there are other posters around here that will be better qualified to tell you about it.
I hope some of that helped.