The Roman Empire was the most powerful political and cultural force in the West for nearly five hundred years. The empire began when Octavian, later known as Augustus, defeated the last of his rivals for power in 31 B.C. The empire reached its peak in 117 AD, ruling over about 40% of the world’s population and land area. At its peak, the Roman Empire controlled the entire Mediterranean region.
The Roman Empire was the largest political and cultural force in Europe, North Africa, and the Near East from approximately 27 B.C. to A.D. 476, when it fell to the Germanic tribes. The Romans were great builders and architects who left behind many structures that can still be seen today.
The Romans believed that their empire was divinely sanctioned and ruled over by one man who had absolute power over both his subjects and his army. They were also very efficient at maintaining their control over conquered peoples through a combination of military might and political manipulation.
The Empire began with the founding of Rome in 753 BC, which was followed by a long period of gradual expansion during which Rome conquered its neighbors on the Italian peninsula and eventually became one of the most powerful cities in the Mediterranean world. By the third century BC, Rome had established itself as a major power in the Western Mediterranean region and defeated Carthage in the Punic Wars (264–146 BC), establishing dominance over much of North Africa and parts of Spain.