If you’re looking for a brief (650ish words) summary on a topic in history you’re in the right place! You can find reading passages for U.S. History and World History topics and can download a PDF copy for yourself. If you need a digital copy there is a Google link provided as well!
This is an ongoing project, so stop back frequently and see what we’ve added. When I say “we” I mean my brother and I. I have been teaching social studies for 19 years and my brother, Joe, is an historian. Between the 2 of us we create these reading passages.
If you’re interested in some close read lesson ideas for teaching with this resource this article will help.
Ancient Rome has affected our current life in a range of ways including language, religion, government, the arts and architecture. The letters of this essay alone shows
The mythical founders were the brothers Romulus and Remus, nursed by a she-wolf, and descendants of a Trojan hero (later portrayed in the Roman classic, The Aeneid). History suggests the city of Rome was founded in the 8th Century BCE by members of the Latin tribe (thus the “Latin” language) in central Italy. This began a reign of kings that ended in 509 BCE, when the Roman Republic began.
A republic is ruled by elected officials instead of kings. The highest officials were two consuls who ruled with a senate with a variety of minor officials developed to administrate day to day life. A sign of Roman citizenship was a long robe called a “toga.” It was a classed based society with an elite land-owning class (patricians), commoners (plebeians) and slaves. The republic influenced our own system of government and is an important part of the legacy of Ancient Rome.
Over a span of hundreds of years, including defeating the North African city-state of Carthage (Punic Wars), the Romans not only gained control of all of Italy but surrounding areas. The reach of the Roman Empire at its highest point ranged from Great Britain to lands in the Middle East, including Palestine.
Key to Roman military success and ability to retain power was their army with the legion as its main unit. This also left open the possibility of military takeover. Julius Caesar was a great military leader, particularly for his exploits in Western Europe (Gaul). He eventually seized power leading to a series of moves that ended the Roman Republic. After Caesar was assassinated, a power struggle ultimately led to his nephew Augustus gaining power.
This is often marked as the beginning of the “Roman Empire” with a series of emperors being in control. It also began an about two hundred period of peace and prosperity known as the “Pax Romana” (Roman peace). The beginning of Christianity occurred during time. The Romans as a whole were polytheists, believing in many gods, official religious ceremonies an important part of their society.
It is also a time when many writers of philosophy, history, poetry and satire that are still read lived. We ourselves use the Latin alphabet and still sometimes use Roman numerals (such as “X” for ten). The Coliseum, a great arena used for entertainment events (including gladiator battles) was also built. Roman architecture also included aqueducts, man-made channels built to deliver water to towns. Roman roads that connected the empire also were long lasting, often still used long after the empire fell.
Decline and Fall
The 200s (third century) was a particularly divisive time for the Roman Empire with many civil wars and short-term emperors. Constantine (later “the Great”) gained control in the fourth century, transferring the capital of the empire to an eastern city (in Turkey) that became Constantinople. He authorized the practice of Christianity and it eventually became the official religion of the whole empire.
His success as a unifying force however was short-lived and the empire split in two parts (east and west) by the end of the fourth century. Invasions from outsiders, including of Rome itself, weakened the empire. Over time, central control from Rome itself declined, local powers growing in dominance. The end of the western empire occurred in 476. The eastern empire continued in some form until 1453, named the Byzantium Empire (after the original name of Constantinople).
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If you’re looking for some lesson ideas to do with this reading passage I created a video you can watch here.