Rome is recognized as one of history's greatest empires. The empire dominated most of Europe. However, to become this magnificent empire, Rome needed to go through many wars and changes to become the Roman Empire we all know. In the beginning, Rome took over most of present day Italy by establishing an efficient government and social system. Fueled by its success, it went on to conquer most of the Mediterranean. In the meanwhile, the society and culture continued to flourish under the Roman republic. However, following Hannibal's rampages, the Roman Republic began to fall apart. This was replaced by the Roman Empire in which Rome reached its height.
Around 625 to 509 B.C., settlers drained marshes in the plain of Lantium to build what would be the center of all Roman activity, a marketplace called the Forum. Along with the Romans, there were also Etruscans and Greeks living in Italy. Thus, Roman culture and government was greatly affected by Etruscan and Greek culture. Around 500 B.C. Rome freed itself from the Etruscan king and established a republic as their government. .
Rome's government had two executives called consuls, who had complete control over military and civil matters. The senate was made up of around 300 members who generally set the direction of the state by appointing commanders, and assigning funds. However, the real basis of political power was in the family. Alliances, divorces, marriages, and adoptions could either strengthen the family or weaken it. A larger unit is a gen, a group of related families. These units struggle to maintain a grip over political power. Within the citizen body, were a small number of clans that were recognized and socially and legally superior called Plebeians. Through threats and agreements, the Plebeians rose in power and controlled much of the government.
With a strong government behind them, Rome began to expand its lands. It soon controlled the Italian plain as far south as the Greek city states.