The ancient city of Rome dominated most of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East for centuries. The geography of the city created the conditions that enabled trade and military expansion.
The first settlers built the city of Rome on top of seven different hills. Building the city on high ground forced any attacking army to fight its way uphill, giving the defending forces a major advantage. For example, Capitoline Hill was the seat of Rome's government and its largest fortress. Rome's natural defenses made the city almost immune to attack, allowing the city to grow and dominate its neighbors.
Aside from its strategic military placement, Rome was also ideally positioned for agriculture. As the city grew on the seven hilltops, agriculture grew at the base of the hills. Soil on the Italian Peninsula is rich as a result of heavy deposits of volcanic ash. The soil and the mild climate helped the Romans produce extra olives and grain. Reliable food production allowed the population to grow, and the trade in olives and olive oil helped the Roman economy expand.
Although the Romans were renowned for their military might on land, the early republic had very limited sea power. The city of Rome is set far back from the ocean, and few other Roman cities offered easier access to ocean. During the First Punic War, the republic had few naval forces due to the lack of viable ports. For their invasion of Carthage, the Romans had to build 150 ships from scratch. Due to geography, the Romans concentrated on building up their land-based forces.
Geography also forced the Romans to rely on overland transportation much more than other empires. The absence of ports and the small number of major rivers led them to build a massive network of roads. At the height of the empire, the network included more than 80,000 kilometers of roadways. The transportation system made the city of Rome the critical trade hub for the entire Mediterranean for centuries. Roman roads were of such high quality that many still exist today.
Source: Ways in Which Geography Impacted Rome's Development
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