Romulus was the first of seven kings to rule Rome. In 509 bc the last king was tossed out and a republic was created. A republic is where citizens elect representatives to govern them (like how the United States government works). SPQR is an abbreviation for Latin Senatus Populusque Romanus which means ‘The Senate and People of Rome.’
The elected representatives were called a senate. Once in a while some military emergency would come up, and the senate would appoint one guy to be caesar (pronounced KY-zar, means dictator). He was given absolute power. It was meant to be a temporary arrangement. Cincinnatus is remembered for leaving his farm to become caesar and take over the military—he whupped the invading armies then 2 weeks later gave power back to the senate and returned to his farm.
The republic lasted until 45 bc when a Roman general, Gaius Julius, declared himself caesar and began expanding Rome into an empire by conquering territory around the Mediterranean. The Roman Empire eventually reached as far north as England, east into Iran, south into Africa and west to the western edges of France and Morocco. Julius’ nephew, Octavian, became Augustus Caesar—Rome’s first emperor.
Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Time & Space