Timeline of Roman Empire

As part of the Visual Timeline series

753BC: According to legend, Rome (small city state) founded by twin brothers Romulus and Remus. Romulus later kills Remus

509BC: Roman Republic founded (still small city state); after centuries as small-city state kingdom, to prevent monarchic power concentration

480BC: Greek city states dominate Mediterranean, and repel Persian invasion. Greeks also repel Carthaginian invasion of Sicily.

404BC: Sparta defeats Athens in Peloponnesian War (431BC-404BC); all Greek cities fall into decline

390BC: Gauls sack Rome

340BC: Rome starts conquest of Italy (340BC-282BC), beginning with conquering its former neighbour and ally, the Latins (340BC-338BC).

338BC: Macedonia subdues Greek city states; Alexander the Great conquers Archaemenid Persia in 331BC, then dies in 323BC.

326BC: Rome enters into series of wars with Samnites to the East

321BC: Famous Roman road, Via Appia, begins construction

295BC: Rome defeats Samnites, Etruscans, Umbrians and Gauls at Battle of Sentinum

290BC: Rome dominates Italy after winning Samnite Wars (343-290BC)

275BC: Rome wins Pyrrhic Wars (280BC-275BC) against Greeks in south Italy. Although king Pyrrhus (relative of Alexander the Great) won two major battles in 280BC and 279BC, casualties were so heavy that they’d eventually lose the war (hence the term “Pyrrhic victory”).

Roman conquest of Italy 500BC-218BC. Source

241BC: Rome (led by general Scipio) defeats Carthage (led by general Hannibal) in First Punic War (264-241BC), conquering Sicily; 1.5m deaths over 23 years. Carthage goes into civil war

Mediterranean in 218BC. Source

218BC: Second Punic War starts with Hannibal sacking Saguntum in Spain and crossing the alps

218BC Illustration of Hannibal crossing alps. Source

216BC: Hannibal defeats Romans at Battle of Cannae; worst defeat Roman army ever suffered to date

206BC: Han dynasty (206BC-220AD) est in China. Similar territory, population, and power as Roman empire.

202BC: Romans defeat Carthage at Battle of Zama

201BC: Rome (led by general Scipio) defeats Carthage (led by general Hannibal) in Second Punic War (218BC-201BC), and now dominates the Mediterranean

Second Punic War (218BC-2021C). Source

168BC: Rome defeats Macedon at Battle of Pydna

– Rome conquers Carthage after defeating them in Third Punic War (149BC-146BC)
– Rome defeats Achaen League (Greek city states) at Battle of Corinth, marking Roman dominance over Greece

146BC. Battle of Corinth. Tony Robert-Fleury’s 1870 painting The last day on Corinth. Source

130BC: Gracchus assassinated after proposing land redistribution; tribunes of the people led by Gracchi brothers vs Senate

107BC: Maurius military reforms: landless peasants recriuited into army with extended service; and move away from staggered maniples (‘phalanx with joints’) of 120 men in favor of larger cohorts of about 500 men. Requires more skill.

Structure of the Roman legion. Source

105BC: Gauls defeat Romans at Battle of Arausio

73BC: Slave rebellion led by Spartacus in southern Italy defeat Roman legions at Battles of Mount Vesuvius, but is eventually being suppressed

63BC: Rome conquers Judea (modern Israel); general Pompey, Siege of Jerusalem. Establishes front with Parthian Persian empire.

– First Triumverate formed: general Pompey, consul Caesar, and censor Crassus form alliance
– English queen Boudicca leads revolt against Romans, but is defeated

55BC: First Roman invasion of Britain (led by Caesar), and second in 54BC, both fail

– Rome led by general Gaius Julius Caesar conquers Gauls; “I came I saw I conquered”
– Parthian Persians decisively defeat numerically superior Romans at Battle of Carrhae; general Crassus killed.

51BC: Caesar annexes more territory in north Africa. Cleopatra VIII, supported by Caesar, ascends Ptolemaic Egypt throne; gives birth to Caesar son

49BC: Caesar crosses illegally crosses river Rubicon “The die is cast”, marches to Rome, and defeats Senate in Civil War

48BC: Caesar pursues Pompey in modern Albania

47BC: Caesar defeats Pontus kingdom at Battle of Zela, completing pacification of Asia Minor

44BC: Caesar assassinated by conspiring senators

43BC: Second Triumverate between Octavian (Augutus), Mark Antony, and Lepidus; expires in 33BC.

42BC: Augustus and Mark Antony leads 30 legions into Greece to pursue Caesar’s assassins (Brutus and Longinus) (Liberator’s Civil War)

40BC: Second Triumverate divides Roman empire into 3; Octavian takes West, Mark Antony takes East

33BC: Antony’s campaign into Parthian Persia fails

31BC: Octavius defeats Antony and Cleopatria at Battle of Actium, ending Roman Civil War

Pax Romana (27BC-180AD)
– Rome becomes empire; first emperor Julius Caesar Octavian (aka Augustus Caesar) (r.27BC-14AD)

23BC: Augustus reforms coinage, centralizing minting, and composition of currency.

12BC: Rome expands into Germania

9AD: Roman invasion of Germanic tribes fails; 20k Roman troops die; Tiberius becomes Roman emperor

By turn of millennium, Egypt provides 2/3 of the empire’s tax revenue, thanks to the high agricultural output of the Nile, low military maintenance cost, and its access to trade with India.

Egypt is most lucrative part of Roman Empire. Source

14: Tiberius unleashes terror on Rome (r.14-37)

30-33: Jesus Christ crucified by Romans

37: Tiberius, killed by his guards, dies as a hated emperor

40: St Paul brings Christianity to Rome (40-70AD)

43: Romans invade Britain with 40k troops, gradual territorial gains over 40 years (emperor Claudius needed triumph). Rome holds onto Britannia until 410AD

60: Nero becomes Roman emperor; debaucherous lifestyle and rumoured to have started the Great Fire of Rome

Physical change of Nero as seen on coins during his reign. Source

73: Jewish revolt (66-73) suppressesd by Trajan Rome; final destruction of the Temple and kills 1m Jews

Roman empire at its height, 117AD. Interior of empire were run by governors chosen by the Senate, while heavily militarised border provinces were run by trusted governors named directly by the emperor (to reduce chance of coups).  Source

83: Roman victory at Battle of Mon Graupius, conquering Britain

Roman conquest of Britain 43-84. Source

86: Dacians (modern Romania) repel Roman invasion

Five Good Emperors of Rome. Source

98: Rome at greatest extent under Trajan (r.98-117); regarded as best emperor; builds many roads; builds Segovia aqueduct in Spain during reign (still in use).

115: Rome conquers Parthia (modern day Turkey, and Middle East)

117: Rome under Hadrian (r.117-138); builds Pantheon (first temple to be topped with dome). Rome conquers Mesopotamia and sacks Parthian capital.

133:Hadrian’s wall in Britain completed

161: Rome under Marcus Aurelius (r.161-180); writes stoic philosophy Meditations

165-180: Antonine Plague kills 10% of Roman population

167: Lombards invade Rome across frozen River Danube

180: Pax Romana ends with Aurelius death

212: Rome under Caracalla, grants Roman citizenship to all subjects of empire

193-284 Rome starts decline in 200s. Civil War (193-197). Rapid currency debasement 240-270.

Roman currency debasement. Source

Similar power declines and transisions elsewhere in 3rd century. In China: Yellow Turban Rebellion (184-205), Han dynasty (206BC-220AD) ends, starting Three Kingdoms period (220-265). Sassanid Empire gains control over Mesopotamia, overthrowing Parthians in 224.

285: Roman emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305) persecutes Christians

286: Roman Empire divided into east and west by Diocletian

307: Sassanid Persian empire at height under Shapur II (307-370)

311: Edict of Toleration (under emperor Galerius) ends Christian persecution in Rome

312: Emperor Constantine converts to Christianity; Battle of Milvian Bridge in Roman civil war ends with Constantine I as sole ruler

313: Constantine’s Edict of Milan preaches religious tolerance and makes Christianity legal

350: Xiongnu huns attack Rome (350-360)

378: Goths defeat Romans at Battle of Adrinople (modern day Edirne in Turkey)

390: Theodosius makes Christianity official religion of Roman Empire

395: Theodosius death (r.379-395) Roman Empire permanently divided between East and West

410: Visigoths sack Rome; under Alaric. Roman military leaves Britainnia

– Attila Huns vs Roman-Gothic alliance indecisive at Battle of Catalaunian Plains; ‘scourge of earth’
– Roman victory against Huns at Battle of Chalons (northern France)

476: Fall of Western Rome
– Emperor Romulus Augustulus deposed (similar to Constantine in 312AD)

“Fall of Roman Empire in 476” is misleading.

Roman Empire shifts East based at Constantinople

Europe in 500AD. Source

Additional reference:

Roman emperors. Source
Roman roads. Source
One of many Roman roads found all over Europe today. Source


See also:

Visual Timeline Series