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The Romans established the only successful pan-Mediterranean empire in history, lasting nearly 1,000 years, with its legacy living everywhere today, from the U.S. Constitution to the English alphabet. Who were these people? How did they ever conquer and maintain such a vast territory and for so long? And what did it mean to be a Roman? This course explores these basic, yet difficult questions, from the founding of the city in 753 BCE to its fall in 476 CE. We will confront the opinions of ancient authors directly, to critically assess the Romans' own perceptions of their society and history.