The Romans built an empire of gigantic proportions. At its height, it encompassed nearly the entire European continent as well as parts of the Middle East and Africa.
The Roman Empire's tentacles stretched from England to Egypt, from Spain to Iraq, and from southern Russia to Morocco. More significantly, ancient Roman civilization thrived for nearly one thousand years. The influence of the Romans over all of those peoples over that span of time defies measure.
After adopting Christianity in the 4th century C.E., the Romans spread it to every corner of their empire. They also brought their brand of law and order to all of the territories that they conquered. Latin, the language of the Romans, became the basis for several modern European languages, including Italian, French, and Spanish.
The Romans were particularly skilled in administration, organization, and engineering. They had a highly trained and disciplined military and an efficient bureaucracy. Without these qualities, the Romans would never have been able to manage their sprawling empire. They were not, however, as driven or original when it came to other intellectual pursuits.
In fact, the Romans basically adopted and copied much of Greek art, literature, philosophy, and even religion. The Romans had the same set of gods as the Greeks, but with different names. In Roman mythology, Zeus became Jupiter, Hera became Juno, Ares changed to Mars, and Athena was Minerva, to name a few examples. The Romans did, however, spread these borrowed ideas everywhere they went.
According to Roman mythology, twin brothers played an important part in the founding of Rome. These brothers, named Romulus and Remus, were the sons of Mars, the Roman god of war. Abandoned at birth, the twins were raised by a wolf.
When they became older, they decided to found a city along the Tiber River near the spot where they had been abandoned. Each chose a hill upon which to begin a settlement.
As often happens among brothers, disputes led to quarreling and fighting. Angered by Remus's taunting, Romulus killed his brother in a fit of rage. Romulus went on to build the city that eventually became Rome — named, of course, after Romulus.
As it turned out, Romulus chose a very good spot for his city. Rome was located on the Tiber River about 15 miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea. The Romans had easy access to the sea, and were somewhat protected from seaborne invasion. Also, Rome lay in the middle of the Italian peninsula, the boot-shaped landmass to the west of Greece. From this central position, the Romans could easily access and control all of what is today the modern country of Italy.
Finally, the Italian peninsula's central location within the Mediterranean Sea made it possible for the Romans to trade and communicate with every part of the Mediterranean world.