Rome began as a collection of primitive huts on the banks of the Tiber, some considerable time before Romulus founded the great city. Ruled by kings for the first two and a half centuries, the Romans abolished the monarchy and created for their little city state a form of government that was successfully adapted to control an Empire. The Romans learned how to weld together a larger state by integrating other city states and tribes, offering them the benefits and privileges of Roman citizenship in return for services and manpower in the army and government.
Roman society was based on wealth, and extreme snobbery permeated every level of the social hierarchy. Upward mobility was rare during the Republic, and equal rights were out of the question. At the bottom of the heap were the slaves, with no rights at all. Although little remains of Roman architecture from this period, the famously straight Roman roads began during the Republic, fanning out from the capital towards all parts of Italy.
Patricia Southern charts the rise of Rome from its humble origins to its dominance of the western world, describing the personalities who helped to shape it, such as rebel gladiator Spartacus, Hannibal, the Carthaginian leader who invaded Italy, Caesar and Pompey, and finally Octavian, Cleopatra and Mark Antony.