This page of the book is from "The New Student's Reference Work: Volume 3" by Chandler B. Beach, Frank Morton McMurry and others.
Etruscans. These conflicts continued until 205 B. C, when the final victory over the Samnites and Etruscans ended the struggle and brought all Italy under Roman dominion. Having thus extended her power over Italy, it was but natural that Rome should become involved in wars with foreign nations; and in 264 B. C. began the terrible contest with Carthage, which comprised three separate wars, known as the three Punic wars, which closed only with the complete destruction of Carthage more than a century later. In connection with the Punic wars began the Macedonian wars — also three in number — which ended with the battle of Pydna, 168 B. C, in which the Macedonian empire was completely broken up. According to Polybius the fufUestab-lishment of the Roman empire was achieved at Pydna, as this was the last battle in which she was confronted by a civilized nation; all her subsequent wars were against rebellions of her own provinces or in contests with so-called barbarians. The subsequent history of the republic—the war with Jugur-tha, the Servile wars, the civil wars of Marius and Sulla, the campaigns of Julius Cæsar, the civil wars between Cæsar and Pompey and the final assumption of power by Octavius Cæsar under the title of Augustus—has been given under appropriate heads, and need not be repeated here. When Augustus died, 14-A. D., the Roman empire extended in the north into Germany beyond the Rhine; in the east the boundary line was the Euphrates; in the south Egypt and northern Africa as far west as Morocco and as far inland as Fezzan and Sahara acknowledged the Roman authority. The subsequent reigns of Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero are little more than the record of conspiracies, assassinations and acts of tyranny; but the with reign of Vespasian, 69 A. D., a better era commenced, which, if we except the reign of Domitian, continued for the next hundred years and comprised the reigns of Titus, Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius, the latter of whom, especially, was one of the wisest and most beneficent rulers the world has known. Nothing is clearer than the fact that after the time of Vespasian the worst days of Rome were over. Never again did she give way to the immorality and corruption of the first century.
During the rule of Valerian, Gallienus and the so-called Thirty Tyrants the empire was chaos, subject to inroads and invasions from barbarians; but with Claudius Gothicus its fortunes begin to brighten. By him and his successors (Aurelian, Probus and Carus) the barbarians both of the north and of the east were severely chastised, and when Diocletian became emperor, 284 A. D., it seemed as if the worst was over; but his division of the empire into east and west led to civil wars, which were brought to a close only by
the commanding genius of Constantine. Under Constantine, who reigned from 324 to 337 A. D., Christianity, which had hitherto teen despised and persecuted, was established as the religion of the state and taken under the protection of the emperor. Constantine also transferred the seat of government from Rome to Byzantium on the Bosporus, where he founded Constantinople, naming it after himself. From the time ot Constantine the political fortunes of Rome possess only a secondary interest, as it is the struggles of the Christian sects and the rise of the church that mainly occupy the attention of the historian. Christianity did not save Rome from destruction, but it enabled it to endure three centuries of barbarism. Julian's attempts to revive paganism were an utter failure in spite of his abilities as a general and the virtues of his personal character; and in the year after his death Valentinian was acknowledged as emperor by the army at Nicaea. In obedience to the wish of his soldiers he conferred the title of Augustus upon his brother Valens, and the complete division of the empire was at last effected, Valentinian becoming emperor of the west and Valens of the east. Valentinian, Gratian and Theodosius the Great were rulers worthy of better times; but they struggled against destiny, and their efforts were vain Theodosius, indeed, subdued and even disarmed the Huns, by whom Rome was invaded; but immediately after, they rose again under Alaric against Hono-rius, emperor of the west. Rome was saved for the time by the bravery and skill of Stilicho, the imperial general; but after his assassination the barbarians returned, sacked the city and ravaged the entire peninsula.
The murder of Valentinian III occurred in 455 A. D., and Eudoxia, his widow, to be revenged on Petronius Maximus, his murderer and successor, invited Genseric from Africa, thus exposing Rome to the horrors of pillage for days. Ricimer, a Sueve, next figures as a sort of governor over the city and the few relics of empire that it still possessed; for Gaul, Britain, Spain and western Africa had all been wrested from it. Of the four emperors whom Ricimer placed on the throne, Majorian was the only one who had any of the qualifications of a ruler. Ricimer died in 472, and was succeeded by Orestes the Pannonian. Odoacer in 476, placing himself at the head of the barbarian mercenaries, overthrew the last emperor of the western empire, who, by a curious coincidence, bore the same name as the mythical founder of the city — Romulus. This was the end of the western empire; but for nearly a thousand years thereafter the eastern empire, whose capital was Constantinople, maintained its existence in spite of all the enemies by which it was surrounded, until Constantinople was taken by Mohammed II in 1453. Consult Gibbon's Decline