2. Beginnings of Rome
3. Institutions of Early Rome
4. Etruscan Kings of Rome
5. Reorganization of Kingdom

6. Struggle against Kingship
7. Struggle for Economic Rights
8. Struggle for Equal Laws
9. Struggle for Political Equality
10. Conquest of Latium
11. Conquest of Central Italy
12. Conquest of Southern Italy
13. Supremacy of Rome in Italy
14. First Punic War
15. Second Punic War
16. Conquests in East
17. Reduction of Roman Conquests
18. Rome as a World Power
19. Times of Gracchi
20. Times of Marius and Sulla
21. Times of Pompey and Caesar
22. Times of Antony and Octavius

23. Reign of Augustus
24. Julian Emperors
25. Flavian Emperors
26. Five Good Emperors
27. Decline of Empire
28. Reorganization of Empire
29. Extinction of Western Empire
Outlines of Roman History
by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L.
New York, Cincinnati, Chicago: American Book Company (1901).



Table of contents




The Character of Roman History, I.The Geography of Italy, II.The Peoples of Italy, III.


   Importance of Roman History.—As we begin the study of Roman history, we may ask ourselves the question, Why is this subject important and worthy of our attention? It is because Rome was one of the greatest powers of the ancient world, and has also exercised a great influence upon nearly all modern nations. There are a few great peoples, like the Hebrews, the Greeks, and the Romans, who have done much to make the world what it is. If these peoples had never existed, our life and customs would no doubt be very different from what they are now. In order, then, to understand the world in which we live to-day, we must study these world-peoples, who may have lived many centuries ago, but who have given to us much that makes us what we are—much of our language, our literature, our religion, our art, our government and law.

   Rome and the Ancient World.—We often think of the Romans as the people who conquered the world. But Rome not only conquered the most important countries of the old world; she also made of these different countries one united people, so that the ancient world became at last the Roman world. The old countries which bordered. upon the Mediterranean Sea - Carthage and Egypt, Palestine and Syria, Greece and Macedonia—all became parts of the Roman Empire. The ideas and customs, the art and institutions, of these countries were taken up and welded together into what we call Roman civilization. We may, therefore, say that Rome was the highest product of the ancient world.

   Rome and the Modern World.—If Rome held such an important relation to the ancient world, she has held a still more important relation to the modern world. When the Roman Empire fell and was broken up into fragments, some of these fragments became the foundation of modern states—Italy, Spain, France, and England. Rome is thus the connecting link between ancient and modern history. She not only gathered up the products of the ancient world, she also transmitted these products to modern times. What she inherited from the past she bequeathed to the future, together with what she herself created. On this account we may say that Rome was the foundation of the modern world.

   Phases of Roman History.—As we approach the study of Roman history, we shall find that we can look at it from different points of view; and it will present to us different phases.

   In the first place, we may look at the external growth of Rome. We shall then see her territory gradually expanding from a small spot on the Tiber, until it takes in the whole peninsula of Italy, and finally all the countries on the Mediterranean Sea. Our attention will then be directed to her generals, her armies, her battles, her conquests. We may trace on the map the new lands and new peoples which she gradually brought under her sway. Looked at from this point of view, Rome will appear to us as the great conquering nation of the world.

The Mediterranean World

   Again, we may look at the way in which Rome ruled her subjects, the way in which she built up, from the various lands and peoples that she conquered, a great state, with its wonderful system of government and law. We shall then see the work of her statesmen and lawgivers, her magistrates, her senate, and her assemblies. From this point of view she will seem to us the great governing nation of the world.

   Finally, we may look at the way in which the Romans were themselves improved in their manners and customs, as they came into contact with other peoples—how they learned lessons even from those whom they conquered, and were gradually changed from a rude, barbarous people to a highly civilized and cultivated nation. We shall see the straw-thatched huts of early times giving place to magnificent temples and theaters and other splendid buildings. We shall see the rude speech of the early Romans growing into a noble language, capable of expressing fine, poetic feeling and lofty sentiments of patriotism. We shall also see Rome giving the fruits of her culture to the less favored peoples whom she takes under her control; and when she passes away, we shall see her bequeathing her treasures to future generations. From this point of view Rome will appear to us as the great civilizing nation of the world.

   In order to understand the Romans well, we should look at them in all these phases we should study their conquests, their government, and their civilization.


   The Italian Peninsula.—The study of Roman history properly begins with the geography of Italy; because it was in Italy that the Roman people had their origin, and it was here that they began their great career. It was only when the Romans had conquered and organized Italy that they were able to conquer and govern the world. If we look at the map (p. 10), we shall see that the position of the Italian peninsula was favorable to the growth of the Roman power. It was situated almost in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, on the shores of which had flourished the greatest nations of antiquity—Egypt, Carthage, Phoenicia, Judea, Greece, and Macedonia. By conquering Italy, Rome thus obtained a commanding position among the nations of the ancient world.

   Boundaries and Extent of Italy.—In very early times, the name “Italy” was applied only to the very southern part of the peninsula. But from this small area it was extended so as to cover the whole peninsula which actually projects into the sea, and finally the whole territory south of the Alps. The peninsula is washed on the east by the Adriatic or Upper Sea, and on the west by the Tyrrhenian or Lower Sea. Italy lies for the most part between the parallels of thirty-eight degrees and forty-six degrees north latitude. It has a length of about 720 miles; a width varying from 330 to 100 miles; and an area of about 91,000 square miles.

   The Mountains of Italy.—There are two famous mountain chains which belong to Italy, the Alps and the Apennines. (1) The Alps form a semicircular boundary on the north and afford a formidable barrier against the neighboring countries of Europe. Starting from the sea at its western extremity, this chain stretches toward the north for about 150 miles, when it rises in the lofty peak of Mt. Blanc, 15,000 feet in height; and then continues its course in an easterly direction for about 330 miles, approaching the head of the Adriatic Sea, and disappearing along its coast. It is crossed by several passes, through which foreign peoples have sometimes found their way into the peninsula. (2) The Apennines, beginning at the western extremity of the Alps, extend through the whole length of the peninsula, forming the backbone of Italy. From this main line are thrown off numerous spurs and scattered peaks. Sometimes the Apennines have furnished to Rome a kind of barrier against invaders from the north.

Mountains, Rivers, and Divisions of Italy

   The Rivers of Italy.—The most important river of Italy is the Po, which, with its hundred tributaries, drains the fertile valley in the north, lying between the Alps and the Apennines. The eastern slope of the peninsula proper is drained by a large number of streams, the most noted of which are the Rubicon, the Metaurus, the Frento, and the Aufidus. On the western slope the most important river is the Tiber, with its tributary, the Anio.

   Climate and Products.—The climate of Italy varies greatly as we pass from the north to the south. In the valley of the Po the winters are often severe, and the air is chilled by the neighboring snows of the Alps. In central Italy the climate is mild and agreeable, snow being rarely seen south of the Tiber, except on the ranges of the Apennines; while in southern Italy we approach a climate almost tropical, the land being often swept by the hot south wind, the sirocco, from the plains of Africa.

   The soil of Italy is generally fertile, especially in the plains of the Po and the fields of Campania. The staple products in ancient times were wheat, the olive, and the vine. For a long period Italy took the lead of the world in the production of olive oil and wine. The production of wheat declined when Rome, by her conquests, came into commercial relation with more fertile countries, such as Egypt.

   The Divisions of Italy.—For the purpose of convenience and to aid us in our future study, we may divide ancient Italy into three divisions: northern, central, and southern.

   (1) Northern Italy comprised the whole continental portion from the Alps to a line drawn from the river Macra on the west to the Rubicon on the east. It contained three distinct countries: Liguria toward the west, Cisalpine Gaul in the center, and Venetia toward the east.

   (2) Central Italy comprised the northern part of the peninsula proper, that is, the territory between the line just drawn from the Macra to the Rubicon, and another line drawn from the Silarus on the west to the Frento on the east. This territory contained six countries, namely, three on the western coast,—Etruria, Latium (la'shi-um), and Campania; and three on the eastern coast and along the Apennines,—Umbria, Picenum, and what we call the Sabellian country, which included many mountain tribes, chief among which were the Sabines, the Frentani, and the Samnites.

   (3) Southern Italy comprised the rest of the peninsula and contained four countries, namely, two on the western coast, Lucania and Bruttium, extending into the toe of Italy; and two on the eastern coast, Apulia and Calabria (or Iapygia), extending into the heel of Italy.


   The Settlement of Italy. - Long before Rome was founded, every part of Italy was already peopled. Many of the peoples living there came from the north, around the head of the Adriatic, pushing their way toward the south into different parts of the peninsula. Others came from Greece by way of the sea, settling upon the southern coast. It is of course impossible for us to say precisely how Italy was settled. THE PEOPLES OF ITALYIt is enough for us at present to know that most of the earlier settlers spoke an Indo-European, or Aryan, language, and that when they first appeared in Italy they were scarcely civilized, living upon their flocks and herds and just beginning to cultivate the soil.

   The Italic Tribes.—The largest part of the peninsula was occupied by a number of tribes which made up the so-called Italic race.
1 We may for convenience group these tribes into four divisions the Latins, the Oscans, the Sabellians, and the Umbrians. (1) The Latins dwelt in central Italy, just south of the Tiber. They lived in villages scattered about Latium, tilling their fields and tending their flocks. The village was a collection of straw-thatched huts; it generally grew up about a hill, which was fortified, and to which the villagers could retreat in times of danger. Many of these Latin villages or hill-towns grew into cities, which were united into a league for mutual protection, and bound together by a common worship (of Jupiter Latiaris); and an annual festival which they celebrated on the Alban Mount, near which was situated Alba Longa, their chief city (see map, p. 46).

A Temporary Village of Straw Huts in Modern Italy—supposed to be like an ancient Latin village

   (2) The Oscans were the remnants of an early Italic people which inhabited the country stretching southward from Latium, along the western coast. In their customs they were like the Latins, although perhaps not so far advanced. Some authors include in this branch the Aequians, the Hernicans, and the Volscians, who carried on many wars with Rome in early times.

   (3) The Sabellians embraced the most numerous and warlike peoples of the Italic stock. They lived to the east and south of the Latins and Oscans, extending along the ridges and slopes of the Apennines. They were devoted not so much to farming as to the tending of flocks and herds. They lived also by plundering their neighbors’ harvests and carrying off their neighbors’ cattle. They were broken up into a great number of tribes, the most noted of which were the Samnites, a hardy race which became the great rival of the Roman people for the possession of central Italy. Some of the Samnite people in very early times moved from then mountain home and settled in the fertile plain of Campania.

   (4) The Umbrians lived to the north of the Sabellians. They are said to have been the oldest people of Italy. But when the Romans came into contact with them, they had become crowded into a comparatively small territory, and were easily conquered. They were broken up into small tribes, living in hill-towns and villages, and these were often united into loose confederacies.

ETRUSCAN TOMB   The Etruscans.—Northwest of Latium dwelt the Etruscans, in some respects the most remarkable people of early Italy. Their origin is shrouded in mystery. In early times they were a powerful nation, stretching from the Po to the Tiber, and having possessions even in the plains of Campania. Their cities were fortified, often in the strongest manner, and also linked together in confederations. Their prosperity was founded not only upon agriculture, but also upon commerce.

   Their religion was a gloomy and weird superstition, in which they thought that they could discover the will of the gods by means of augury, that is, by watching the flight of birds and by examining the entrails of animals. The Etruscans were great builders; and their massive walls, durable roads, well-constructed sewers, and imposing sepulchers show the greatness of their civilization.

   The Greeks in Italy.—But the most civilized and cultivated people in Italy were the Greeks, who had planted their colonies at Tarentum, and on the western coast as far as Naples (Neapolis) in Campania. So completely did these coasts become dotted with Greek cities, enlivened with Greek commerce, and influenced by Greek culture, that this part of the peninsula received the name of Magna Graecia.

   The Gauls.—If the Greeks in the extreme south were the most civilized people of Italy, the Gauls or Celts, in the extreme north, were the most barbarous. Crossing the Alps from western Europe, they had pushed back the Etruscans and occupied the plains of the Po; hence this region received the name which it long held, Cisalpine Gaul. They held this territory against the Ligurians on the west and the Veneti on the east; and for a long time were the terror of the Italian people.


Ihne, Early Rome, Ch. 1, “The Greatness of Rome” (
Michelet, Ch. 2, “Description of Italy” (6).
Liddell, Introduction, “Physical Geography of Italy” (1).
How and Leigh, Ch. 2, “Peoples of Italy” (1).
Shuckburgh, Ch. 3, “Inhabitants of Italy” (1).
Mommsen, Vol. 1., Bk. 1., Ch. 3, “Settlements of the Latins” (2).
Mommsen, abridged, Ch. 5, “The Etruscans—The Greeks in Italy” (2).


   SOURCES OF ROMAN HISTORY.—Liddell, Ch. 16 (1); Ihne, Early Rome, Ch. 2 (5); Shuckburgh, pp. 54-60 (1); Mommsen, abridged, pp. vii.-xviii. (2); Dyer, Kings of Rome, Introductory Dissertation (5).

1 Remnants of other early peoples may be seen in the Ligures and the Veneti in the north, the Iapygians in the southeast, and the Siculi in Sicily.

2 It may be noticed here that the early Phoenician traders touched upon the coasts of Italy and the neighboring islands, and that Sardinia and western Sicily came to be occupied by Carthage, the greatest of the Phoenician colonies. Eastern Sicily was colonized by the Greeks.

3 The figure in parenthesis refers to the number of the topic in the
Appendix, where a fuller title of the book will be found.


Table of contents