What Is The Legacy Of Ancient Rome For Us Tody

It has been said that “History is a set of lies agreed upon”, and this phrase is especially true when it comes to the long and complex legacy of Ancient Rome for us today. Founded in the 8th Century BC and lasting until its fall in 476 AD, the Roman Empire covered over three million square miles and included millions of citizens from many different cultures, religions, and backgrounds. From this remarkable heart of European antiquity, the long-lasting impact of the Roman Republic and Empire has formed a significant part of our world in the present day.

Political Structures

An immediate and obvious example of Ancient Rome that has impacted our modern way of life is its political structure. The Roman Republic drew up the ‘doctrines of citizenship’, which heavily influence our own concept of citizenship in democracies today. The Republic also developed a military system that allowed the Roman governance to conquer and hold vast territories stretching across the Mediterranean, particularly through their innovative ‘Fasces’ which was the standard military formation. This same concept of ‘militarised national leadership’ is a legacy of Rome, and is still present in contemporary regimes such as the United States, UK and other countries.

Urban Planning

Another enduring legacy of Ancient Rome lies in the way it nonetheless regulated and planned out how cities were to be built. With their famous ‘Grid System’, Romans learned how to successfully map cities into neat and clean streets, with the incorporation of central marketplaces, aqueducts, and public buildings. The ‘Grid System’ itself would become replicated across the world, including in metropolitan areas throughout the US, China, Europe and others.

The Roman Alphabet

The use of the Roman alphabet, derived directly from the ancient Greek alphabet which was the primary language of the Roman Empire, is the most prevalent example of how Rome’s legacy is alive and well today. This alphabet is the base of many modern European and non-European languages and allows us to use symbols to represent speech, rather than relying upon symbols/pictures or hieroglyphs. For example, the use of this modern alphabet is of particular significance to the writing of international law documents and covenants between countries, since the meaning of each word is universal regardless of language.


The Roman concept of ‘Law’ is one of the most influential fields left behind by the Roman Empire. This is because Rome was an early civilisation to recognise and institute what is now known as ‘Natural law’ or ‘Universal Law’. The first Roman legal code that is known as the ‘Corpus Iuris Civilis’ was created by the Emperor Justinian, and this legal code set the basis of the ‘Common Law’ system that has had a major influence on the legalities around the world today. The Magna Carta, the first charter of English ‘Common Law’, and the United States Constitution are all examples of this influence extending down through centuries of interpretation and adaptation.

Architecture and Engineering

The architectural achievements of Ancient Rome are amongst the greatest in all of history. From the very foundation of the Republic, the Roman Empire establish goals for engineering and architectural excellency. Arches, aqueducts, villas, paving stones and statues, were all typical features of Ancient Rome, and most of all, the Circus Maximus which was the largest stadium of its time. Today, Rome’s architecture has been highly admired and built upon, so much that some scholars have described how the architectural style of Modern Rome would be unrecognizable from it’s ancient predecessor.


It is impossible to ignore the impact that Latin has left on the world today. Latin was the language of the Roman Empire and, though it has fallen out of usage in many places, it heavily influenced the development of contemporary European languages. In fact, over 150 languages are descended from Latin, with Spanish, Italian, French, and Portuguese all deriving from it.


Finally, the legacy of Ancient Rome can be evidenced in the economic structures of our modern world too. The Roman Empire was between the first organised trade giants of the world, and through its many trading partners, it was able to build the foundation of our current ‘neoliberal’ economy. The Romans had extremely advanced taxation systems, and encouraged free-market enterprises by allowing people to borrow and lend by using coins, which was highly unprecedented at the time. This, in turn, provided a framework for the building of national markets in the present-day, such as the EU, US, and Chinese markets.

Public Health and Hygiene

An important contribution of Ancient Rome to the public health of today and in the future is its sophisticated plumbing system. With its sanitation technology, the Romans were able to bring fresh water and drainage systems to many major cities and in some cases, to entire provinces. This advanced plumbing system for the first time brought about hygienic standards, preventing the spread of disease. In addition, the Romans had coined the term ‘hospital’ and used it to refer to public baths and ambulatory centres. Modern hospitals, therefore, owe a considerable debt to Ancient Rome for its invented term as well as for introducing hygienic measures into the public life of the provinces.


Roman education was highly prized and valued, and this is reflected in our own education systems today. Roman educational values of hard work, discipline, and respect have been passed down through the ages, with the classic texts of literary figures such as Virgil, Cicero, and Seneca still studied in classrooms today. The idea of ‘Equality in Education’ is another legacy of Rome, as the wealthy and powerful classes provided resources and initiatives for lower classes to also benefit from education, including free schooling and libraries in major urban centres.

Trade and Commerce

The Roman Empire was amongst the first to embrace the idea of a “trader nation” and economic protectionism, establishing trade laws, customs declarations, tariffs and infrastructure to ensure the continuity of their commerce. Roman technologies were borrowed, altered or imitated by other countries, particularly those in the Mediterranean Sea. This resulted in the development of an important trading route from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean that ultimately allowed for the transportation of goods, ideas, and wealth across Europe. Consequently, the legacy of Ancient Rome for our modern economy includes such foundations as the pivotal role of trade, transportation, and investment.

Cultural Legacy

The reliance of Roman society on the arts, literature and philosophy has left us with a timeless heritage. The works of Virgil, Cicero, and Seneca continue to influence global opinion in the 21st century, while books like Julius Caesar’s The Gallic War provide researchers with invaluable insights into Roman military strategy. Ancient Rome has also had a tremendous influence on our art and architecture, as well as in the way it established the concept of ‘public entertainment’ through its monumental amphitheatres. Despite its fall, Rome’s continued presence in global culture is a testament to its lasting impact on human civilisation.


The literature from Ancient Rome has been a foundation for many intellectual debates ever since, and one of its greatest legacies for us today is the concept of using literature for critical engagement, with profound works such as Augustine’s ‘On the City of God’ validating themselves as timeless pieces of insight. Latin literature, with its meticulous dedication to the craft of storytelling, continues to inspire authors and audiences of all ages, while the influence of Roman writers such as Cicero and Seneca have permeated through virtually every academic field of study.

Religion and Philosophy

Religion and philosophy have been considered core aspects of Roman culture since its inception, and much of the Roman legacy still influences our religious and philosophical ideologies today. From Pagan religions to Christianity and to philosophical schools of thought like Stoicism, Rome and its empire has had a profound influence in our own religious, moral and ethical thought.


The legacy of Ancient Rome is undeniable; its cultural, political and economic structures still remain deeply intertwined into our everyday lives. Its philosophical and religious values are still widely recognised and respected, while its architecture and engineering techniques are admired around the world. Its language continues to shape the international language of law and diplomacy, while evident in its old grids approach to the planning city districts; the mark of a nation’s history continues to this day.

Moshe Rideout is a professional writer and historian whose work focuses on the history of Ancient Rome. Moshe is passionate about understanding the complexity of the Roman Empire, from its architecture to its literature, political systems to social structures. He has a Bachelor's degree in classic studies from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a PhD in classical archaeology at UMass Amherst. When he isn't researching or writing, he enjoys exploring ruins around Europe, drawing inspiration from his travels.

Leave a Comment