Greek and Roman civilizations represented undoubtedly, with the exception of a few scientific arguments, a reality that led to unanimous opinions among historians and archaeologists: The Classical antiquity. Rome had an overwhelming influence on a long list of fields that were as diverse as important in the evolution of humanity: the political, administrative and legal organization, the art of warfare – where the Roman Empire was unparalleled for long historical periods, urban architecture and road construction, decorative arts, literature and history, to name only the most important ones.
Rome’s history left an unmatched mark not only on the classical antiquity, but also long after its collapse as it was a fabulous combination of tenacity, diplomacy, power and military organization and also political intrigue, persuasion with allies and enemies and often extreme cruelty, especially at the watershed moments of the Roman society. A continually evolving society which did not spare itself and spared others even less.
The founding of Rome itself, a very beautiful and popular legend, gives us a chronological moment beyond the visionary she-wolf who fed Remus and Romulus: 753 BC. A brief chronology of the evolution of this state, initially the center of the Italian Peninsula, is impressive: in the time of the Kingdom (753-510 BC) the expansion was slow, mainly linked to the inhabitants around Latium. The long period of the Republic (510-27 BC) commenced with the exile of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, ended with Octavianus’s moment of glory when the Roman Senate awarded him the title of Augustus. Seven centuries later, the power of Rome was almost at its peak. The wars fought by the very disciplined and extremely modern Roman army turned the Mediterranean Sea into a true “Roman lake”, the so-called mare nostrum, like its contemporaries used to call it.
History records the famous Punic Wars (264-241 BC) from the Republican period, that kneeled Hannibal’s Carthage, Rome’s greatest rival in northern Africa. The imperial period (27 BC – 476 AD) marked both the peak, when in its first two centuries Rome reached its maximum expansion and the figure of the emperor equaled that of a god, and the beginning of the decay for multiple causes.
In the beginning, the Roman Empire added to its territory new lands transformed into provinces: Britannia, occupied by a long and costly war between 41-54 AD, Dacia (101-106 AD), Mesopotamia, then parts of Arabia, all conquered by Emperor Trajan. Rome’s domination stretched across three continents: Europe, Africa and Asia, with a population of over 60 million inhabitants and a surface of many million square kilometers. The capital had become a true “megalopolis” for Antiquity, with more than 1 million inhabitants, occupying the seven hills on which famous monuments were built, some of them still visible today: the Colosseum, the Temple of Jupiter, Circus Maximus, the Imperial Palace, the Capitolium, Trajan’s Column and the Triumphal Arches. The roads, including the famous Via Appia, crossed the entire empire like true commercial veins, a reality that brought prosperity and a life of sophisticated quality. The temples and the amphitheaters for gladiator and animal fights are also famous, the patricians’ houses, but also the lupanars, the roads and aqueducts, the city streets, the farms and rich suburban villas.
The decline of the empire was as long as its ascension. Its extreme sprawl, the increasingly tough struggles with migrants from north and east, internal political conflicts and those within the army, the scourge of corruption, the nepotism, along with the notable differences in the development of different parts of the Roman state were just some of the causes of this process. Rome gradually decayed in favour of the new Constantinople when Christianity came to victory after centuries of persecution. The ancient capital was terribly devastated by Alaric’s Visigoths in 410 AD, an event repeated after almost 800 years. A few decades later the inevitable occurred: the last Roman Emperor, whose name seemed predestined – Romulus Augustus – is overthrown in 476 AD. Rome’s 12 century history was over.
The conquest of Decebal’s Dacia in 101-106 AD was a moment of fundamental importance for the Romanians’ history. Trajan’s victory was not just a common victory for the empire: more than a dozen legions, elite forces of the Roman army, and many other auxiliary troops took part to the invasion. The tough battles of the two wars fought by Trajan against Decebal’s Dacians, among which the memorable battles from Tapae, the clashes in Dobrogea and the siege of Sarmisegetusa Regia, led to the conquest of Dacia and its organization as a Roman province and the exploitation of its rich metal and agricultural resources. The celebration of the victory lasted for several weeks. Rome received the famous Columna as a trophy, which was finished in 113. Its metopes illustrated the toughness of the Dacian-Roman wars.
The organization of the province meant, on the one hand, building a significant number of cities, a fact that was unknown to the Dacian world: Ulpia Traiana, Sarmisegetusa, Apulum, Drobeta, Potaissa, Napoca, Porolissum alongside a road network, aqueducts, farms (villa rustica), mines, workshops, amphitheaters, temples, dwellings, and a significant number of fortifications (castrum) for the legions and the auxiliary troops. The massive colonization of the population throughout the Roman world has dramatically changed the demographic data: the 165 years of Roman ruling over the province (the withdrawal of the Roman administration at the order of Emperor Aurelian in 271) being the prelude to a process of exceptional importance in our becoming as a nation: the ethnogenesis of the Romanians, a process during which a new nation, the Romanian nation emerged after centuries in the old province but also in the border territories. In many respects, the process was similar to that of the provinces of Galia, Hispania, Lusitania, which, together with the Italian Peninsula, will form the neo-Latin peoples: the French, the Spanish, the Portuguese and, of course, the Italians.