Rome and the Roman Empire, the most powerful state of the ancient world. It grew from an Italian village to a city-state and into an organization that ruled the shores of the Mediterranean and much of western Europe. The Roman state began as a kingdom (753 B.C. is the traditional date), continued as a republic (509–27 B.C.), and then as an empire (27 B.C.-476 A.D.). In 395 an administrative division of the empire into eastern and western parts was made permanent. The eastern division, later called the Byzantine Empire, lasted until 1453.

Roman Empire, A.D. 117.Roman Empire, A.D. 117. This map shows the Roman Empire at the height of its power in A.D. 117. The empire included parts of Western Europe, Northern Africa, and Southwest Asia.

The Roman Empire reached its greatest extent in the early second century A.D. Rome ruled Europe west of the Rhine River and south of the Danube, as well as present-day Romania. To the east, Rome ruled Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, and the Biblical lands; to the south, it ruled Egypt and the entire northern coast of Africa.

Roman occupation of these lands was accomplished by military conquest. Once the empire was established, Rome gave it two centuries of peace. Roman civilization spread throughout the empire, and the language of Rome—Latin—and the legal system established by the Romans remain important parts of Western culture.