A very brief outline of Roman History from the founding of the city to the rise of Augustus and beginnings of the Roman Empire

Bronze Capitoline wolf (Etruscan, 6th or 5th century BCE) and twins Romulus and Remus (added in 15th century, but possibly replacements). Deutsches Archaeologisches Institut, Rome.

753-510 KINGS


Traditional date of founding of Rome

  • In mythical tradition, accorded to the twins Romulus and Remus, descendants of Aeneas.
  • Archaeology suggests that sometime in the 8th century two existing settlements, one on the Palatine and the other on the Quirinal, coalesced to form a single village.

Rome was believed to have been ruled by seven legendary (some are no doubt historical) kings:

  • Four descendants of Aeneas
  • Three Etruscan kings, under whom Rome became the leader of a large section of Italy (Latium)

The Etruscans gave the Romans:

  • a system of writing (adopted from the Greeks)
  • public buildings
  • their political, social and military organization

510 - 27 REPUBLIC


Conflict of the Orders: Patricians and Plebeians


By the 270's, Rome controlled all of Italy; control gained piecemeal, through alliance and conquest.


Punic Wars

  • First: Rome built a fleet
  • Second: Hannibal and elephant surprise
  • Third: Carthago delenda est

In 146, Rome destroyed Carthage



  • 60 First Triumvirate (Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar)
  • 49 Caesar crosses Rubicon and leads his legions against Rome/Pompey
  • March 15, 44 Caesar assassinated
  • 43 Octavian, Caesar's great-nephew marches on Rome; he joins with Antony and together they carry out proscriptions (killing 300 senators and many more knights)
  • 31 Battle of Actium, Octavian defeats Antony and Cleopatra, eliminating his last effective rival for sole power and bringing an end to civil war.

27 BCE - 476 or 1453 CE



Octavian declares that the Republic is restored; in reality he consolidates power into his own hands and restores the forms of the Republic only (but he had learned something from Julius Caesar's experience!).

It is with this background of the civil wars and the peace ushered in by Augustus that we approach Virgil's epic poem, The Aeneid.

For a slightly fuller and a helpful overview of the history of Rome, click here!