The Roman Empire, Interesting Facts and Information

Updated: May 22

The Roman Empire is remembered for being one of the most popularly known Empires in the history of the world. Being one of the most legendary civilizations in human history, the Roman Empire started off at the beginning of the eighth century BC in central Italy, as a small town on the banks of the Tiber River. The Romans conquered vast territories, constructed vast networks of road, and constructed aqueducts to bring a constant flow of water from distant sources into cities and towns. The beating heart of the Roman Empire was not the marble of the senate house, the Roman beating heart is the sand of the coliseum where spectacular battles of gladiators took place. But how much do you know about the Roman Empire? Here are some interesting facts and sometimes incredibly odd facts about the Roman Empire making you familiar with it.

The city of Rome constructed its first Roman aqueduct in 312 bc: the Aqua Appia. Even though aqueducts were not a Roman invention, Roman engineers were very good and brought the design and construction of aqueducts to an all time high constructing aqueducts throughout their Republic in what was to become the Roman Empire. The water that flowed in the aqueduct supplied public baths, latrines, fountains, and private households. Most importantly it supported mining operations, milling, farms, and gardens that fueled the expansion of their empire.

Gaius Appuleius Diocles, of the Roman Empire remains the undisputed highest paid athlete of all recorded history at $15 billion dollars

Today's athletes still cannot compete with the highest paid athlete of all time - Gaius Appuleius Diocles, a Roman chariot racer who reportedly earned over $15 billion in today’s dollars. Gaius Appuleius Diocles is believed to have started racing at the age of 18 in Ilerda his native city, (modern-day Catalonia). He quickly gained a reputation with his first notable victory outside his native land that brought him international fame and encouraged him to go to the big leagues in Rome. Many of his victories took the form of a ‘come from behind’ crossing of the finish line at the last possible moment.

Chariot racing was the most popular Roman sport

Any race with Diocles quickly became the ‘featured event’ of the day, this naturally helped Diocles make even more money. His winnings reportedly totaled 35,863,120 sesterces, equivalent to 358,631.20 gold aureus or 26,000 kg of gold. His earnings could provide a year's supply of grain to the entire city of Rome. Rome's population in 79AD was around 4 million to 5 million people.

Gladiator battles may not have been the most popular Roman sport

The massive stone Flavian amphitheater known as the Coliseum, could seat 50,000 spectators, but it was dwarfed by the Circus Maximus an ancient Roman chariot racing stadium and mass entertainment venue located in Rome. Situated in the valley between the Aventine and Palatine Hills, it was the first and largest stadium in ancient Rome and its later Empire. The Circus Maximus could accommodate over 150,000 spectators, measuring at 621 m (2,037 ft) in length and 118 m (387 ft) in width. The Roman chariot racing stadium became the model for circuses throughout the Roman Empire. The site is now a public park.

Model of Rome 4th century AD Circus Maximus south east view Circus Maximus Animation view

Roman women believed if they wore the sweat of Gladiators it would improve their beauty and complexion. In Ancient Rome, Perfumes and cosmetics were reserved for women of status and wealthy women would buy vials of sweat and dirt scraped from the skin of famous gladiators and use it as a face cream. The vials of sweat and dirt and the fat from the animals fighting in the arena were for sale outside the games.

The many uses of urine in ancient Rome.

Urine was used to wash clothes in ancient Rome. Stale urine was also used with goat milk by the Romans to whiten their teeth. The very poor of the Roman civilization, sold their urine to tanneries for the production of leather goods. In Ancient Rome, women would drink turpentine to make their urine smell sweet like roses. The inhabitants of ancient Rome had a sewer goddess, a toilet god and a god of excrement.

Salt was a scarce and expensive commodity

Salt was a vital commodity to the Roman army and Roman soldiers were partly paid in salt. If a Roman soldier was not effective in battle he was insulted with the term not worth his salt. Romans often bought slaves with salt. Salt not only served to flavor and preserve food but also made a good antiseptic, which is why the Roman word for these salubrious crystals (“sal”) is a first cousin to Salus, the goddess of health.

Two Roman dams in Spain are still in use after 1900 years.

Two Roman dams in Spain are still in use today that were built in the 1st or 2nd century. The Romans' ability to plan and organize engineering construction on a grand scale" gave their dam construction special distinction which remained unsurpassed anywhere in the world until the Late Middle Ages.

Roman Cornalvo Dam in Spain Roman Proserpina Dam in Spain

The Longest conflict in human history

The war between the Romans and Persians started in 92 BC. It lasted for 721 years and would have major lasting effects and consequences for both empires. Neither side had the logistical strength or manpower to maintain such lengthy campaigns far from their borders, and thus neither could advance too far without risking stretching its frontiers too thin.

Hired Germanic mercenaries

By 400 AD, the Roman Empire had overextended itself. Unable to muster enough military forces to protect its territories, the Romans began hiring Germanic mercenaries. Among those mercenaries was a Visigoth commander named Alaric. The first time Alaric showed up at the Roman gates, the Romans bribed him with enormous subsidies in gold in exchange for not attacking Roman territory. The second time he showed up, he forced the Romans to establish a second rival Emperor. The third time he showed up Rome was in trouble and for the first time in 800 years a barbarian horde ransacked the city of Rome.

Trajan's Market built in 100-110 AD

The world's oldest shopping mall

Thought to be the world's oldest covered shopping mall, Trajan's Market was probably built in 100-110. located on the Via dei Fori Imperiali, at the opposite end to the Coliseum. The arcades in Trajan's Market are now believed by many to be administrative offices for Emperor Trajan. Trajan’s Market is often viewed as one of the brilliant examples of Imperial Roman architecture, a triumphal project that represented Trajan’s hard won victory in the Second Dacian War.

The complex, made of red brick and concrete, including delicate marble floors, had six levels in which there was once up to 150 different shops, offices, and apartments. The market allowed merchants from around the nation to sell their products. Trajan's Market is remarkably well preserved and maintains an important part of its original appearance. The shops and apartments were built in a multi-level structure and it is still possible to visit several of the levels.