Posted on 06/17/11 @ 07:13 AM (updated 06/18/11
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Ancient Rome was a civilization that grew out of a small agricultural community founded on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 10th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it became one of the largest empires in the ancient world.
In its centuries of existence, Roman civilization shifted from a monarchy to an oligarchic republic to an increasingly autocratic empire. It came to dominate South-Western Europe, South-Eastern Europe/Balkans and the Mediterranean region through conquest and assimilation.
Plagued by internal instability and attacked by various migrating peoples, the western part of the empire, including Italy, Hispania, Gaul, Britannia and Africa broke up into independent kingdoms in the 5th century. This disintegration is the landmark historians use to divide the ancient period from the medieval era and the "Dark Ages".
The Eastern Roman Empire, governed from Constantinople, after Diocletian divided the Empire in 286, and comprising Greece, the Balkans, Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt, survived this crisis. Despite the later loss of Syria and Egypt to the Arab-Islamic Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire continued for another millennium, until its remains were finally annexed by the emerging Turkish Ottoman Empire. This eastern, Christian, medieval stage of the empire is usually called the Byzantine Empire by historians.
Roman civilization is often grouped into "classical antiquity" with ancient Greece, a civilization that, along with the Etruscan civilization and the many other civilizations they conquered and assimilated, inspired much of the culture of ancient Rome. Ancient Rome contributed greatly to the development of government, law, war, art, literature, architecture, technology, religion, and language in the Western world, and its history continues to have a major influence on the world today.