Today's article was brought to you by the following dates: 753 B.C.E. - 476 C.E. (753 BC - 476 AD)

Let's say you want to draw a picture of yourself.  Not just any picture, but a picture so big that the whole school can see it from far away.  As you start to draw this picture, your hopes grow.  You want it to be bigger and bigger and bigger.  It moves from your classroom to the school's roof to the playground.  Now you want people to see it from a helicopter.  You will need assistants.  You have kids drawing ears on the far east and west sides of the school and kids drawing the chin on the far south side of the school.  How can you be sure that everyone is doing their jobs?  You can't keep an eye on everyone.  How can you know they aren't making the ears bright green and the chin squiggly?  This example should help you understand Rome's problem when the empire tried to spread as far as it could . . .

You could say that the Romans tried to draw a picture that was a little too big.  If we believe in myths, Rome started out as a simple village around 753 B.C.  After that, different rulers tried to spread its reach as far as possible.  More land and more people working for Rome meant more taxes paid and the richer the rulers could become.  Expansion is the action of spreading out.  In this case, we're talking about Rome taking over more and more land to get bigger.  When you set out to make the biggest picture you can, you might like the attention you get.  Everyone can see your face!  You want it to be bigger and bigger and bigger . . .

Of course, Rome spread across more than just a school . . .  They spread as far as they could and mostly by winning battles over different peoples and in different lands.  They pushed north, south, east and west.  Europe is a continent that is made up of about fifty countries today, and two thousand years ago the Roman Empire was in control of most of it.  Just think of trying to keep track of all of those people and making sure they all followed the same rules.  It was not easy.  Do you think the kids in the north are doing a good job drawing your hair?

Keeping track of people across that much land is hard, and the more they spread, it became even harder.  Just think if your picture got so big that it spread to other schools.  This is kind of like what happened when Rome spread across the water.  The Mediterranean Sea is a big body of water between Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia.  At one time, all of the areas that touched this sea were ruled by the Roman Empire, including Spain, Egypt, and the southern part of Britain.  That's a lot of schools, I mean, lands to keep an eye on.

Oh no!  It looks like you made some kids from the schools that aren't a part of drawing your picture mad.  These schools are right next to the edges of your picture and don't like your picture.  Now they're running in and trying to ruin your picture!  They're throwing paint all over your eye!  (The one in the picture, I mean.)  Not to worry.  You are a good leader.  You hand those kids paintbrushes and ask them to join you.  They can be artists too.  The Romans did just this when they took over other pieces of land.  They told the people they took over they could also be Romans.  This did not always work.  Some people to the north didn't want to be a part of the empire.  For over 300 years, the Germanic tribes from the north kept attacking the lands that were close to them and some of them wanted to be friendly with Rome.

To the west, Rome expanded until it reached the ocean, and then it spread upward around the top of Europe until it got to two very large rivers.  Rivers are nice, because it's easy to tell where one country begins and another one ends.  On one side of these rivers were people that the Romans had taken over and were friendly to Rome.  On the other side lived a civilization that we call the Germanic tribes.  The Germanic Tribes were a less advanced group of people who constantly attacked Romans from the north and eventually led to the fall of Rome in 476 C.E.  The kids you trusted from the schools just threw paint all over your picture.

Well, you tried.  It's hard to have art or an empire that's spread across so much space.  The Romans spread a little too far, taking over almost all of Europe, even spreading to countries across the sea.  They spread so far they could no longer keep an eye on everyone, and soon Germanic tribes brought down their empire.  Many countries today have learned a lesson from Rome and tried not to spread too far.  Maybe next time you can make a picture that is not so big.


Ducksters.  "Ancient Rome Timeline"  Ducksters, 2011.  <>

Ducksters.  "Ancient Rome: The Fall of Rome"  Ducksters, 2010.  <>

Roman Empire.  "A Brief History of Rome"  Roman Empire, 2013.  <>