Are You an Expert on the Roman Empire?



9 Questions

What was the language of the Romans?

What was the primary mission of the Roman military?

What was the legal status of free persons in the Roman Empire?

What was the main reason for the collapse of the Western Roman Empire?

What was the role of the Senate in the Roman Empire?

What was the main source of an emperor's power and authority?

What was the status of Roman women in terms of citizenship and political rights?

What was the role of the Roman navy?

What was the percentage of the population made up of slaves in Italy?


The Roman Empire was a vast polity that included large territories around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia, and was ruled by emperors. It succeeded the Roman Republic, which had become destabilized by civil wars and political conflicts. Julius Caesar was appointed as dictator perpetuo before being assassinated, leading to the victory of Octavian over Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. Octavian became the first Roman emperor, and the Empire was later ruled by multiple emperors who shared control over the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire. The first two centuries of the Roman Empire saw a period of unprecedented stability and prosperity known as the Pax Romana. The Empire underwent a crisis in the 3rd century that threatened its existence, as the Gallic and Palmyrene Empires broke away from the Roman state, and a series of short-lived emperors led the Empire. The Western Roman Empire finally collapsed in AD 476. The Eastern Roman Empire survived for another millennium, until Constantinople fell in 1453 to the Ottoman Turks under Mehmed II. The Roman Empire had a profound and lasting influence on the development of language, religion, art, architecture, literature, philosophy, law, and forms of government in the territory it governed. The Empire was one of the largest in history, with contiguous territories throughout Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. The Empire reached its largest expanse under Trajan, encompassing an area of 5 million square kilometres. The traditional population estimate of 55-60 million inhabitants accounted for between one-sixth and one-fourth of the world's total population. The Roman Empire had a profound impact on the Italian Renaissance, and its architectural tradition served as the basis for Romanesque, Renaissance, and Neoclassical architecture. The corpus of Roman law has its descendants in many modern legal systems of the world.Multiculturalism in the Roman Empire

  • The Roman Empire adopted a policy of maintaining rather than expanding the empire under Hadrian's rule.

  • Latin was the language of the Romans, but Greek became the shared language of the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor due to Alexander the Great's conquests.

  • The Eastern Empire regularly translated laws and official documents into Greek from Latin, and bilingual inscriptions were common.

  • The survival of local languages such as Punic, Gaulish, and Aramaic was ensured by Roman jurists in assuring correct application of laws and oaths.

  • The Roman Empire was multicultural, and public monuments and communal spaces helped create a sense of "Romanness."

  • Social hierarchies were multiple and overlapping, and social mobility was fostered under the Empire.

  • The legal status of free persons could be defined by their citizenship, and in 212 AD, citizenship was extended to all freeborn inhabitants of the empire.

  • Freeborn Roman women were considered citizens but did not have the right to vote, hold political office, or serve in the military.

  • Women had equal inheritance rights with boys, and a Roman mother's right to own property gave her enormous influence over her sons.

  • Slavery was a complex institution that supported traditional Roman social structures and contributed to the economy.

  • Slaves made up as much as 35% of the population in Italy, and the institution of slavery remained integral to Roman society until the 5th century.

  • Slavery ceased gradually in the 6th and 7th centuries with the decline of urban centers in the West and the disintegration of the complex Imperial economy that had created the demand for it.Roman Society and Government: A Detailed Summary

  • Slaves were considered property under Roman law and had no legal personhood, and could be subjected to forms of corporal punishment, sexual exploitation, torture, and summary execution.

  • Legislation under Augustus and his successors showed a driving concern for controlling the threat of slave rebellions through limiting the size of work groups and hunting down fugitive slaves.

  • Slaves technically could not own property, but a slave who conducted business might be given access to an individual account or fund (peculium) that he could use as if it were his own.

  • Over time, slaves gained increased legal protection, including the right to file complaints against their masters.

  • Roman slavery was not based on race. Slaves were drawn from all over Europe and the Mediterranean, including Gaul, Hispania, Germany, Britannia, the Balkans, and Greece.

  • Freed slaves could become citizens and enjoyed not only passive freedom from ownership but also active political freedom, including the right to vote.

  • The two highest ordines in Rome were the senatorial and equestrian. Equestrians rose through a military career track to become highly placed prefects and procurators within the Imperial administration.

  • The granting of universal citizenship in 212 increased the competitive urge among the upper classes to have their superiority over other citizens affirmed, particularly within the justice system.

  • The military established control of a territory through war and then turned to policing: protecting Roman citizens, agricultural fields, and religious sites.

  • Communities with demonstrated loyalty to Rome retained their own laws, could collect their own taxes locally, and in exceptional cases were exempt from Roman taxation.

  • The emperor consolidated certain powers from several republican offices, including the inviolability of the tribunes of the people and the authority of the censors to manipulate the hierarchy of Roman society.

  • The emperor made himself the central religious authority as pontifex maximus and centralized the right to declare war, ratify treaties, and negotiate with foreign leaders.The Structure and Functioning of the Roman Empire

  • Access to the emperor could be gained at the daily reception, public banquets, and religious ceremonies, and common people could manifest their approval or displeasure at games held in large venues.

  • The Senate legitimated the emperor's rule, and the emperor needed the experience of senators as legates to serve as generals, diplomats, and administrators.

  • The military was the practical source of an emperor's power and authority, and the death of an emperor led to a crucial period of uncertainty and crisis.

  • The Roman army was composed of professional soldiers who volunteered for 20 years of active duty and five as reserves, and the primary mission of the Roman military was to preserve the Pax Romana.

  • The Roman navy aided in the supply and transport of the legions and helped in the protection of the frontiers along the rivers Rhine and Danube.

  • An annexed territory became a Roman province in a three-step process: making a register of cities, taking a census of the population, and surveying the land.

  • Roman courts held original jurisdiction over cases involving Roman citizens throughout the empire, but there were too few judicial functionaries to impose Roman law uniformly in the provinces.

  • Taxation under the Empire amounted to about 5% of the Empire's gross product, and the tax code was complicated, with direct and indirect taxes paid in cash or kind.

  • The Roman economy was characterized by agricultural surplus and specialization, particularly in north Africa, and some cities were known for particular industries or commercial activities.

  • Social advancement was not dependent solely on birth, patronage, good luck, or even extraordinary ability, as economic dynamism opened up one of the avenues of social mobility in the Roman Empire.

  • The early Empire was monetized to a near-universal extent, and the sestertius was the basic unit of reckoning value into the 4th century.

  • Bullion and ingots seem not to have counted as pecunia ("money") and were used only on the frontiers for transacting business or buying property.

  • The standardization of money throughout the Empire promoted trade and market integration, and the high standard of living in the Empire attracted immigrants from many different cultures.


Test your knowledge of the Roman Empire with our detailed quiz! From the rise of Julius Caesar to the fall of Constantinople, this quiz covers all aspects of Roman society, government, and functioning. Learn about the multiculturalism of the Empire, the complex institution of slavery, and the different social hierarchies of Roman citizens. Explore the structure and functioning of the Empire, including the role of the emperor, the military, and the economy. Take this quiz to discover how much you know about one of

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