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Roman Empire

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Greatest size of the Roman Empire, in about 117 AD.
The Roman Empire at different times.

The Roman Empire was a very large empire with its capital in Rome, that was ruled by an Emperor. The first Emperor of Rome was Augustus Caesar, from the year 27 BC. Before that, Rome had been a Republic.

Many modern countries are on land that was once part of the Roman Empire, including England, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Egypt. The language of the Roman Empire was Latin. The western part of the Roman Empire continued for almost 500 years, and the eastern part including Greece and Turkey, called the Byzantine Empire, with its capital at Constantinople, continued for about a thousand years more.

In order to control their large empire, the Romans developed important ideas about law and government. Many Emperors had absolute control, and could do as they pleased. When the Emperor died, his favorite friend whom he had adopted as a son often became the next Emperor, since many of them never had sons of their own. After a while, the Emperors grew so weak that the military would just pick one of their generals to be the next Emperor. Many times they would have civil wars to see which general was the most powerful.

The Romans fought many wars against other countries, forced them to speak Latin, and enjoyed watching violent sports. They enjoyed watching races between chariots pulled by horses, and fights between men using weapons. Unlike modern sports, the fighters were often really killed in these fights.

The Romans built many large buildings, aqueducts to carry water, and very good stone bridges and roads. Some of these things can still be seen today. Many famous writers were also Romans, including Cicero and Virgil.

The New Testament of the Bible tells about the Romans in the life of Jesus Christ. During Jesus' life, the Romans who were pagan controlled his country. Later, several Emperors tried to destroy Christianity in any way possible, but they could not. The people were becoming Christian, even though the pagan Emperors called themselves gods. By the year 312, the Emperor Galerius allowed people freedom to follow Christianity, and the next year, a general who followed Christ, named Constantine, defeated the pagans and became Emperor over what was already a largely Christian land.

The main coin of the Roman Empire was the denarius. It was spent often by the wealthy, mainly on pointless luxuries.

The city of Rome was taken over several times by barbarians, notably in 410 A.D. when the Goths sacked the city. The last Western Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustulus, resigned in 476 A.D. The Roman Empire would last another 1,000 years as the Byzantine Empire in the east

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