Classical Rome: Historical Outline

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Founded, it was said, by Romulus and Remus in 753 bc, on the banks of the Tiber in C. Italy, Rome was a country town whose power grew and grew until it was the centre of what may fairly be called a world empire. In the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC Rome fought and defeated the Carthaginians of N. Africa, opening the way to domination of the whole W. Mediterranean. In the 2nd and 1st centuries BC successive victories in Greece and the East ensured that a single political entity was governing the entire Mediterranean and its hinterland by the time of Christ—the time at which the first two emperors, Augustus (ruled 27 bc–ad 14) and Tiberius (14–37), were establishing their power. Later conquests included Britain (from AD 43) and Dacia (modern Romania, AD 106). Crises in the 3rd and 4th centuries led to the division of the Empire into two parts, which had quite different fates. In the East, the Byzantine Empire (see byzantine cookery) was the direct continuation of the Roman. The Western Empire crumbled, disappearing in AD 476, but the ‘barbarian’ kingdoms that succeeded it inherited Roman dietary ideas and developed a way of life which had many Roman features.