At a time when land ownership is a qualification for military service, most is owned by the state or by patricians. As a tribune, Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus makes powerful enemies by introducing legislation that takes land from the rich and gives it to poor, increasing the pool of people eligible to fight for Rome, but making him unpopular with conservatives. His politics eventually lead a Senate contingent to club him to death.
By winning the Battle of Alesia, the brilliant military tactician and politician Gaius Julius Caesar subdues the last of the Roman Republic's invaders. Then he takes control of the government, and spawns a civil war. The opposition is led by Pompey the Great, fighting on the side of the majority of the Senate. Caesar is victorious and declares himself emperor, diminishing the power of the Senate and establishing a royal line of ascension.
The burning of Rome signals the onset of Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar's descent into madness. As plans to build a much grander capital city threaten the empire with bankruptcy, Nero resorts to increasingly bloodthirsty ways to raise money. After he orders wealthy citizens murdered for their money, the Senate declares him an enemy of the state.
The Emperor Nero, fearful that a rebellion in Judea could presage others throughout the Roman Empire, recalls General Titus Flavius Vespasian from banishment. As Vespasian and his son Titus win victories throughout Judea, Nero commits suicide and Rome once again falls into civil war. In a move to stabilize the country, the military demands that Vespasian, though born a commoner, take the throne.
Constantine takes control of the divided empire one emperor at a time. After defeating one of the triumvirate, he marries his sister to another. Together, they take on the third emperor. Then there were two. After publicly declaring that the pagan Rome be united under one religion and one emperor, Constantine defeats his brother-in-law and establishes Christianity as a valid religion.
Rome is besieged by her former mercenaries, the Visigoths. They can take the city at will. But, Alaric I, king of the Visigoths, wants more than the city. Tired of wandering homeless across the empire, he's after a province for his people. He's determined to negotiate with Honorius, Rome's emperor, to get it. After being repeatedly double-crossed, Alaric finds that he has no choice.