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Roman soldiers march through the gateway of a fort. The Romans came from a province of Italy called Latium. They spoke a language called Latin. From the 3rd century BC, they started to build up a huge empire. At its peak in AD 117, the Roman Empire included France, Spain, Germany, southern Britain, and parts of eastern Europe and North Africa. At this time, about 60 million people lived under Roman rule. The secret of Rome’s success was its well-trained and organized army, which crushed all opposition. Once new land had been conquered, the Romans introduced their own lifestyle and language to the conquered people.

Rome was once a small collection of huts set on the Palatine Hill, overlooking the river Tiber (around 1000 BC).

The rise of Rome

About 3000 years ago, a tribe of people, who spoke the Latin language, settled beside the River Tiber in Italy. This settlement became a town called Rome. Early Rome was ruled by kings, but in 510 BC the people decided to establish a republic (in which power is held by the people and the representatives they elect). Rome was now governed by a group of citizens called senators. Gradually, Rome became more powerful, taking over surrounding territories. By 264 BC, it controlled most of Italy.Hannibal crosses the Alps, in 218 BC.
The Romans started to look further afield, and fought the Carthaginians (from Carthage in North Africa) in the Punic Wars to win control of the lands around the Mediterranean Sea. In 218 BC, Hannibal, the Carthaginian general, led his army of 35,000 men and 37 elephants across the Alps to invade Roman lands in Italy. Although he lost 10,000 of his men and all but one of his elephants, he won many battles against the Roman army.

Government of the republic

In the 2nd century AD, around 20% of the world's population lived under Roman rule.


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