Resource

ARTICLE

Resource

ARTICLE

Rome’s Transition from Republic to Empire

Rome’s Transition from Republic to Empire

Rome transitioned from a republic to an empire after power shifted away from a representative democracy to a centralized imperial authority, with the emperor holding the most power.

Grades

3 - 12

Subjects

Anthropology, Archaeology, Social Studies, World History

Image

The Roman Forum Arch of San Severus

Though the Roman Republic stood for several centuries, tensions within the government began to tear it apart. Civil wars started between groups with different loyalties, which brought about the transformation of the republic into an empire.

Photograph by Peter Phipp/Travelshots.com
Though the Roman Republic stood for several centuries, tensions within the government began to tear it apart. Civil wars started between groups with different loyalties, which brought about the transformation of the republic into an empire.
Leveled by
Newsela
Selected text level

The Etruscans were a rich and powerful ancient people. They lived in northern Italy and ruled the city of Rome. In 509 B.C.E., Romans rebelled against the Etruscan king and began the Roman Republic. This took place about 2,500 years ago. The first government was a representative democracy. Its citizens elected representatives. Citizens only were free, adult males. Their representatives made laws for Rome. The patricians were Rome's richest families and held all the power. Only they could be officials. The rest of the free citizens were called plebeians. Rome also had enslaved people.

Plebeians Get a Voice in Government

The Senate governed Rome. The plebeians had no power. After about 15 years, the plebeians protested. The Council of the Plebs was formed. It gave plebeians a voice in the government. Rome also formed new branches of government called assemblies.

Two consuls led Rome. They were elected for one year at a time.

For the next several hundred years, the Republic stood strong. It conquered territory and grew larger. Eventually, groups and families struggled for power. Civil wars broke out, and a general named Julius Caesar began gaining power.

Caesar Takes Power

The Senate became afraid of Caesar. They demanded he give up his army, but Caesar refused. Instead, he marched his army directly into Rome. Another civil war broke out, and Caesar won. He was named ruler for life. A group of senators feared Caesar would become a tyrant and keep all the power for himself. A group of senators killed him. A war broke out and his nephew Augustus won. Augustus became the first emperor of Rome.

For the next 500 years, there were many emperors.

Over time, Rome began colonies in North Africa. The empire conquered large amounts of territory in Europe. Eventually, Rome ruled most of Europe.

Empires Are Expensive

Rome grew wealthy and powerful. The empire was expensive to run, though. Foreigners attacked it over and over again. Rome began losing its riches and became weaker.

Diocletian became emperor in C.E. 284. He was from a poor family and became a soldier. He split the Roman Empire into a western half and an eastern half. A different emperor ruled each part. Diocletian thought that would solve Rome's problems. The two emperors started fighting each other.

Romulus Augustulus was the last of the western emperors. In C.E. 476, German tribes attacked Rome. It was defeated. Still, the eastern half lasted another thousand years. We know it as the Byzantine Empire. In C.E. 1453, it fell to the Ottomans, a group from Turkey.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Author
National Geographic Society
Producer
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

September 28, 2022

For information on user permissions, please read our Terms of Service. If you have questions about licensing content on this page, please contact ngimagecollection@natgeo.com for more information and to obtain a license. If you have questions about how to cite anything on our website in your project or classroom presentation, please contact your teacher. She or he will best know the preferred format. When you reach out to him or her, you will need the page title, URL, and the date you accessed the resource.

Media

If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer. If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media.

Text

Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service.

Interactives

Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives.

Related Resources