The Rise of The Roman Republic

Essential Question

According to legends and historical facts, how and where did Rome begin?

Ancient Rome

Rome eventually became the center of one of the greatest civilizations of the ancient world. In fact, the people of Rome conquered many of the territories you have studied in this book, including Greece, Egypt, and Asia Minor. Italy, where Rome was built, is a peninsula in southern Europe. If you look at the map, you can see that Italy looks like a high-heeled boot sticking out into the Mediterranean Sea.

Rome's early history is wrapped in mystery. No written records exist, and we have little evidence of the city's earliest days. All we have found are ancient ruins that suggest people lived in the area of Rome as early as the 800s BC. However, we know very little about how they lived. Even ancient Romans were as curious about their early history as we are today. Rome's leaders wanted their city to have a glorious past that would make the Roman people proud. Imagining that glorious past, they told legends, or stories, about great heroes and kings who built the city.


The Romans believed their history could be traced back to a great Trojan hero named Aeneas (i-NEE-uhs). When the Greeks destroyed Troy in the Trojan War, Aeneas fled with his followers. After a long and dangerous journey, he reached Italy. The story of this trip is told in the Aeneid (i-NEE-id), an epic poem written by a poet named Virgil (VUHR-juhl) around 20 BC. According to the story, when Aeneas reached Italy, he found several groups of peo- ple living there. He formed an alliance with one of these groups, a people called the Latins. Together they fought the other people of Italy. After defeating these opponents, Aeneas married the daughter of the Latin king. Aeneas, his son, and their descendants became prominent rulers in Italy.

Activity 1: Primary Source: The Aeneid

Define the vocabulary words, read the primary source excerpts, and answer the text-dependent questions.

Primary Source-The Aeneid

Romulus and Remus

Among the descendants of Aeneas were the founders of Rome. According to Roman legends, these founders were twin brothers named Romulus (RAHM-yuh-luhs) and Remus (REE-muhs). When they were babies, they were put in a basket and thrown into the Tiber River. They didn't drown, though, because a wolf rescued them. The wolf cared for the boys for many years. Eventually, a shepherd found the boys and adopted them.

After they grew up, Romulus and Remus decided to build a city to mark the spot where the wolf had rescued them. While they were planning the city, Remus mocked one of his brother's ideas. In a fit of anger, Romulus killed Remus. He then built the city and named it Rome after himself.

Rome's Early Kings

According to ancient historians, Romulus was the first king of Rome, taking the throne in 753 BC. Modern historians believe that Rome could have been founded within 50 years before or after that date. Roman records list seven kings who ruled the city. Not all of them were Roman. Rome's last three kings were Etruscans (i-TRUHS-kuhnz), members of a people who lived north of Rome. The Etruscans, who had been influenced by Greek colonies in Italy, lived in Italy before Rome was founded.

The Etruscan kings made great contributions to Roman society. They built huge temples and Rome's first sewer. Many historians think that the Romans learned their alphabet and numbers from the Etruscans. The last Roman king was said to have been a cruel man who had many people killed, including his own advisors. Finally, a group of nobles rose up against him. According to tradition, he was overthrown in 509 BC. The nobles, who no longer wanted kings, created a new government.

The Early Republic

The government the Romans created in 509 BC was a republic. In a republic, people elect leaders to govern them. Each year the Romans elected officials to rule the city. These officials had many powers but only stayed in power for one year. This system was supposed to keep any one person from becoming too powerful in the government.

But Rome was not a democracy. The city's eleted officials nearly all came from a small group of wealthy and powerful men. These wealthy and powerful Romans held all the power, and other people had little to no say in how the republic was run.

Discussion Questions

  • What was Aeneas' role in the founding Rome?

  • What was Romulu and Remus' role in the founding Rome?

  • Why did early Romans want to get rid ofthe monarchy?

  • How is Rome's early history effected by myths? Why?

Activity 2: What were the main events in the rise of Rome (myth and fact)?

Using the information from this lesson, answer the questions in a thinking map. Complete this assignment digitally or on paper. It will be collected in your portfolio.

Extension Activities