How Did Geography Help Rome Rise to Power?

Nick Robinson is a writer, instructor and graduate student. Before deciding to pursue an advanced degree, he worked as a teacher and administrator at three different colleges and universities, and as an education coach for Inside Track. Most of Robinsons writing centers on education and travel.

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Two mountain ranges, the Alps and the Apennines, helped to protect Rome from invasion. The Apennines divide the Italian peninsula in half and, according to SPQR Online, allowed the Romans to mass forces for counter-attack whenever they were threatened. Any army attempting to attack Rome would be at risk of attack from the other side of the mountains. The Alps, located on the northern border of modern-day Italy, seal off the peninsula from the rest of Europe during winter. This natural roadblock protected Rome from outside invasions by forcing attackers to move slowly through narrow passes, giving the Romans time to respond.

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Rome further benefited from its position at the center of the Mediterranean Sea. As Smith notes, the Italian Peninsula is only 50 miles from Greece, while Sicily is less than 100 miles from Africa. Rome is also a short voyage by boat from Spain and only a few days journey to France on horseback. Its central location made Rome a desirable trading post even before the citys rise to power. This centrality later helped the Romans administer their empire effectively by reducing communication times.

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The Roman Empire dominated most of Europe and much of Africa and the Middle East for centuries. So great was the empire that it influences geopolitics even today. Often overlooked is the role that geography played in the great citys rise to power. Several geographic advantages helped Rome to grow and ultimately dominate the known world.

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Romes central location attracted immigrants and traders from all parts of the ancient Mediterranean world. According to The Flow of History, the diversity of the early Roman state helped it expand its influence. The Romans were unusually adaptable and willing to change their strategy when compared to the rest of the ancient world. That flexibility enabled the Romans to overcome new challenges as the centuries passed. It also made the Roman empire more accepting of outsiders, which encouraged foreign powers to cooperate with rather than oppose Roman forces.

Rich volcanic soil makes the Po and Tiber river valleys ideally suited for agriculture. Historian Mike Anderson notes that volcanic ash made the soil near Rome some of the best in all of Europe. Rome attracted new settlers during its rise to power due to its agricultural potential, according to Collins Hill High School teacher Julie Smith. The Roman population grew quickly, thanks to surplus production of grains, olives and other crops. The extra population later helped Romes military expansion by providing a large supply of troops. The surplus also helped Rome to establish trade ties with other Mediterranean powers, enhancing the citys economic might.

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