Early in its history, Rome was a small city located on the Tiber River of the Italian peninsula. As Rome grew, its army conquered many neighboring countries. By 250 B.C., Rome had conquered most of the Italian peninsula.
For 250 years, Rome was ruled by Etruscan kings. In 510 B.C., the Romans drove out the king and founded the Roman Republic. A republic is a form of government in which the government's leaders are elected by the people.
Every year, the wealthy men of the Roman Republic elected two leaders, called consuls. To make decisions on any public plan, both consuls had to agree. The Romans also had a Senate, which advised the consuls. The Senate was a group of wealthy landowners.
There were two classes of citizens in the Roman Republic: patricians and plebeians. The patricians were wealthy men who owned a lot of land. They became consuls and senators. The plebeians were ordinary people. The slaves were the poorest.
In 264 B.C., Rome began the Punic Wars. The Punic Wars were against Carthage, a rival city in Northern Africa. There were three difficult wars, but the Romans finally defeated Carthage in 146 B.C. With its victory, Rome became the world's most powerful empire. It lasted for almost 500 years.