When we are talking about Roman Empire and how the ancient civilization has affected us in many great deals, we are also talking about some of the most famous Roman names – whether they are famous for their achievements or they are notorious for their cruelty and insanity. We have to admit that there was a certain point in time when Roman Kingdom had the most extensive and also most powerful social and political structure, especially in the course of history of western civilization. During the height of its power, which took place around the 1st or 2nd centuries AD, the Empire managed to cover a very wide area of 6.5 million square kilometers. Their people reached the number between 50 million and 90 million of people – which was a lot.
Roman Empire had ruled the land within a specific time that lasted for centuries. It is only logical that some of the greatest and most notorious names were born during those time periods. Different ages and eras have witnessed different people and names – coming and going as they ruled the throne. You are certainly familiar names of Cicero, Augustus, or Julius Caesar. They are still known and remembered because of their achievements and contributions. But then again, there are also some notorious names like Caligula or Nero with their ruthless ruling and insanity. By reading the proof of their existence and their actions, they managed to create frightening terror to us – us, who live in the modern era because we imagine how terrible it was during those ancient periods.
These most famous Roman names are coming from different ages and times. In short, they had managed to create a serious and long-lasting effect to us in this modern time. Who are they, anyway?
Nero was more notorious as the ‘Madman of Rome”. In fact, when you have to make a list of the most hated and notorious people from the ancient Roman time, Nero would be on the first spot. Of all time. What made it worse is the fact that Nero was an emperor from 54 AD to 68 AD – a pretty long time of horror, terror, and grim, considering his ruthless acts.
The dictator had no good deeds or policies whatsoever. When we are talking about bad, ugly, and evil, Nero would win all them altogether! Some of his cruelty was visible from historical records. For instance, he burnt two-third of Rome, leading to massive loss and damages of properties and also lives. He was helpless but he also didn’t do anything to stop or even prevented the fire from spreading. Because of his madness, he simply watched the city burn down and buried in flames while singing from his palace. As if it wasn’t ugly enough, when a later investigation was started, there was proof that it was him that started the fire. He was angry because the senate had refused his wishes of a new land. The senate didn’t give him a new land (for him to build a palace for his own) because they didn’t see the function.
And to prove his madness, he built a new place in the vacant space resulted from the fire. It was the first thing he did after the catastrophe was over. If that’s not madness and ultimate selfishness, then I don’t know what it is. As a notorious emperor, Nero was included in the most famous Roman names – but not for good reasons, really.
If you have watched the movie ‘The Gladiator’, then you would be familiar with Emperor Commodus, played by Joaquin Phoenix. At that time, the right to the throne was based on merit. But Lucius Aurelius Commodus had broken the trend by taking the throne based on the birth right. Marcus Aurelius, his father, was known as one of the best and also the greatest Roman emperors at that time. Unfortunately, Commodus was considered a failure – he couldn’t live up to his father’s shadows and standards. He didn’t have any kingship ability and power although he had tried so hard to live up to it.
And the fact that he was a power-hungry selfish and cruel egomaniac only made it worse. He didn’t want to see himself in the mirror, thinking that he was the only one great leader in the world. He didn’t consider himself a failure with lots of flaws although others did. Basically, he ruined what his father had built so hard during his life time. Commodus thought of himself as Hercules. He also believed that he was a gladiator. Because of it, he often abandoned and obeyed his duties. To increase his chances of winning, he liked to fight against the poor and weak opponents whenever he went into the arenas. He thought of himself as a great gladiator but he was actually a weak and lousy person – he was actually super sucked when fighting. Most Romans hated him. When they no longer could take it, his inner circled decided to assassinate him –and it was quite a successful effort. Because of his ruthlessness, no wonder if he is included within the list of the most famous Roman names – one of the most notorious, actually.
Marcus Ulpius Trajan was actually a Spaniard, but he became the first Emperor in Rome with non-Italian origin. He was considered as one of the most famous Roman names because of his achievements. He was one of the greatest emperors during the Roman Empire reigns. He created a rule that brought Rome to a new level of development and greatness. He treated Roman Senate with honor and respect – unlike his (many) predecessors. He also made sure that only the most honest and competent candidates being selected as rulers for various and different provinces.
Before being an emperor, Trajan was a soldier and he had served under his father. You can say that he had a pretty solid and impressive military background. As an emperor, he didn’t abuse the power or the ability. In fact, he became a very dignified and wise emperor. He only focused on the common people and their welfare – that was his priority. He built and constructed new harbors and roads, let popular public changes, and provided free grains for the poor. He even created and set up funds for poor kids and people. During his reign, Rome was prosperous. It was one of the best and most glittering time.
This is another most famous Roman names that is associated with positive actions. Tiberius Gracchus came from the elite families, really, but his struggles for Rome’s poor people were real and genuine. He and Gaius Gracchus were working together to make sure that the poor had a decent lives – commendable efforts that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
One of his achievements happened when he managed to save 20,000 Roman soldiers, thanks to his impressive negotiation skills. At that time, they were struck in Numantia Straits. His action, however, was disapproved and hated by Roman Senate because the army gave up without fighting. Tiberius was known for his practices and ideologies – he believed in equity among the lower class peasants and upper class elites. The condition got worse when the peasant workers were getting worse. Moreover, the rise and increase of slave labor had even made the common peasants condition got worse. This is definitely a condition that elite Romans and the Senate didn’t like – especially since they owned many lands in Rome. Because of his ideas and principles, he was assassinated.
This is the Emperor known for his many names, including Constantine the Great or Constantine I. Constantine was one of the most famous Roman names because of his achievement in unifying Rome. At his time, around 3rd century AD, the Roman Empire was divided into many areas and rulers. Constantine defeated those rulers and unified those areas into a Kingdom. He then relocated the capital, originally Rome to Byzantium. Because he wasn’t satisfied with the name, he continued finding the perfect name for this new capital. And it ended as Constantinople.
Besides his success in unifying Rome, he was also known as the first Roman Emperor who was a Christian. Not only he started the evolution of the Empire to Christian state, but he also opened a new way to a new culture with distinctive influences from Christianity. It had a huge effect in the medieval western culture that wasn’t far from the modern era.
What made this person in the list of the most famous Roman names in history? First of all, he was a statesman and a Roman general. Second, he was responsible for evolving the Roman army into one of the best and the most well-organized army that battled effectively in countless many battles. Gaius Marius was also a cunning tactician, able to hold Consul Office for 7 times within a row. Despite his achievements, the man was more popular for the transformations he made in the military world. In fact, his transformation had changed the war engagement rules that weren’t only influential but also dramatic.
At that time, the standards for recruitment were strict, resulting in the limited soldiers and their numbers. Marius thought of this problem seriously as the invasions and attacks from German and Barbarian tribes were the serious threats they had to face. He understood the increasing needs for recruitment power increase, which was obstructed because of the too strict regulations. When he took over, men (including the ones from the provinces) could sign up and take part in the army. In time, they could become a citizen of Rome. Because of this decision and action (resulting in his many new army), he managed to win many fights and also battles. Among some battles, the most famous ones were the battle of Campi Raudii and Aquae Sextiae. His winning managed to save the Roman Republic from barbarian invasion – which seemed inevitable at that time.
Unlike the other most famous Roman names that were mostly emperors or Roman leaders, Marcus Tullius Cicero is certainly different because he wasn’t an emperor. Cicero might not be a Roman leader, but he was a writer, a statesman, a philosopher, and an orator. It is said that he was distantly related (in family-related term) to Gaius Marius. Many of his quotes remain popular and known until today, including ‘Gratitude isn’t only the greatest of virtues, but parents of all others.” Besides his quotes, Cicero was also known as a constitutionalist, a political theorist, a lawyer, a consul, and a respected politician.
His contribution and influence in Latin language are pretty great and immense. It can be seen from the history of prose subsequence, which was written up to the 19th century, was a reactions against or in reference to his style. He also wrote several books.
If you have never heard of Julius Caesar, then you must have lived in another planet. Among the most famous Roman names, he is definitely one of the most well-known figures in the world’s history. Most people may not have any idea about ancient Rome or the Roman Empire in the past, but they have heard about the self annotated dictator and the prodigious emperor.
His achievement was to solve Gaul conflict. During that time, Gaul problem was the biggest issue that the empire had to endure. It somehow obstructed their glory. Julius Caesar came up with a remarkable brilliant idea to defeat Gaul. Because of this campaign, his strategies and techniques are still studied up to today’s era for training generals. Because of his success in defeating and conquering the Gaul, he added new territories (and also the important ones) to the empire. He bravely led expeditions to both foreign territories of Britain and Germany.
He was successful but his ruthless method had created his own political enemies – and they were growing each day. The enemies had created plans against him. The opposition against him was getting worse when he crossed Rubicon River and claimed himself to be the leader of Rome – as a dictator. As the result, many Roman senators had conspired to his assassination. He was stabbed to death by many senators who repeatedly did so. But for his actions, he had contributed his name in the list of the most famous Roman names.
This is a name of the famous gladiator within the history – both in the ancient Rome and also in modern era. Spartacus was Thracian by birth. He was originally a soldier that was caught in war. He was sold in slavery to fight in the gladiator battles. But history has proven that you may take one’s freedom but not his warrior skills and fierceness.
The fact about gladiator world at that time was sad because they were considered nobody. Gladiators’ early lives had never been recorded or written so there isn’t much information to find out about Spartacus before his enslavement to be a gladiator. Moreover, the numbers of slaves at that time are predicted to reach 1.5 million of people. Again, nobody cared to record their data because citizens and senate considered gladiator fights as entertainment only.
Spartacus made his name among the most famous Roman names because he managed to convince other gladiators (70 people of them) to revolt. They escaped to Vesuvius Mountain slopes. And for the next 2 years, he managed to free more slaves. Spartacus then trained them. In 71 BC, he had his own 70,000 of strong army. This definitely captured the senate’s attention and sent legions. The legions captured the slave army and finally killed Spartacus. But the man had created a mark in the history, making his name unforgettable.
His original name was actually Gaius Octavius, Roman Empire founder. He changed the kingdom from the old Republic to the first emperor government. His reign lasted between 27 AD and 14 AD. Because of his deeds, the Roman Senate decided to change his name – thus, Augustus was given. Once he found out about Julius Caesar assassination plot, he avenged Caesar’s death – working together with Mark Antony, Julius’ closest ally. But later on, he developed conflicts with Antony. Later, when Antony worked together with Cleopatra, Augustus defeated them both and achieved his own glory.
During his reign, he managed to do a lot of things. He ruled wisely, working together with Roman Senate. He created new constitutions. He built new aqueducts, roads, and other famous buildings. Not only he had become one of the most famous Roman names in the world’s history, but he was also a wise ruler.
The course of history has witnessed a lot of things and important events, especially during the ancient Rome period. Thanks to them, we have learned about the bravest gladiator or the craziest emperor. The Roman Empire had managed to wow us, not only about their creations and inventions but also their important figures and names. Keep in mind, though, that there are still more of the greatest figures in the history of ancient Rome. It doesn’t those they weren’t important or they didn’t hold any significance in the history. Unfortunately, this list can only accommodate 10 names and these are the most famous Roman names that are still remembered well – and talked about – until today.