The proverb itself has been in constant use since the middle ages when the juggernaut that was the Roman Empire expanded in all directions from the Italian peninsula. At its greatest territorial extent during the reign of soldier-emperor Trajan, the Afro-Eurasian Empire stretched from Britain in the north, Egypt in the South, Spain in the West and Iraq in the east. The polity itself changed form several times, and it was this adaptability that allowed Roman civilization to continue in some form from the 8th century BC to 1453 AD.
The Roman Empire at its greatest extent during the rule of Emperor Trajan. His successor Hadrian returned and abandoned some of these territories which would have been difficult for the overextended empire to control.
Combined with the fact that Rome was always heavily influenced by the Greeks, and both societies later merged significantly (in fact, the Eastern Roman Empire based at Constantinople, which lasted a millennium longer than the West did, was a Greek-speaking empire), it is no doubt by far the most influential historical political entity to Europe, and possibly the world. This influence is all-pervasive in our art, architecture, technology, literature, languages, and laws today, thanks to the European (or more broadly Western) domination of the recent centuries, but even in its own time, Rome's presence at the heart of the known world was hugely consequential to other societies. Many Indian and Chinese goods found markets in Rome, and Iran was permanently locked in a battle for supremacy against it. North African infrastructure was long defined by the presence of Romans, with Tunisian agricultural productivity better than other places for the longest time thanks to Roman irrigation projects in their once breadbasket. In fact, it was only the furthest parts of East Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Americas that were left untouched by Rome.
It is hard to miss the Greco-Roman influence on this solid 44 lb. ivory marble cane and umbrella vessel. The Romans were masters of sculpting, and although marble was found nowhere near the city of Rome, it did not deter them from sourcing it for large scale projects, especially once Rome became an Empire.
Roman history, from its earliest, was dominated by warfare. Rome also saw frequent social upheavals. The doors of the temple of Janus (God of beginnings, doors and transitions), which were thrown open in times of warfare, were closed only twice in the entire period that represented the transition from republic to empire, a period lasting approximately 500 years. Rome's humble beginnings as a monarchical city-state, that transitioned into the republic in 509 BC was also marked by constant strife against its neighbours, which were other Italians and the Gauls that Rome would struggle against for near half a millennium until Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul. The initial city-state monarchical polity of Rome was overthrown in favour of republicanism when the last king Lucius Tarquinius Superbus' son Sextus Tarquinius committed the rape of Lucretia. The incensed Romans responded by overthrowing the monarchy and establishing the Republic, which inculcated a strong sense of civic duty in citizens and bred a love of liberty, and dislike of tyranny and centralization of power. In fact, although the Republic was eventually replaced by the Empire, these values did not disappear in entirety and remain influential even today.
Gaius Julius Caesar is perhaps the most famous non-religious historical figure to have ever lived. He lived at a time when the Roman Republic was collapsing under its own weight, with frequent power struggles and a near-paralyzed senate. Establishing himself as among the finest generals of Rome in his unauthorized conquest of Gaul, Caesar made history by crossing the Rubicon river with his legions, a de facto declaration of war against the republic. He went on to defeat Pompey the Great, considered the best general of his time in the ensuing civil war and brought about sweeping changes to the structure of the Republic, including adopting unprecedented power for himself, eventually leading to his assassination. His nephew and adopted successor, Octavian, completed the process started by Caesar, and became the first Emperor of Rome. It is hard to overstate the sheer presence of Caesar in Roman and world history, and leaders ranging from Mehmed the conqueror of the Ottomans and Napoleon of France have all tried to recreate his successes, to say nothing of the famous Shakespearean play. Get this breathtaking bust of Caesar here.
To present Roman society entirely from a military perspective, however, is to do it a great disservice. Romans were great artists, painters, sculptors, engineers, writers, poets, philosophers and lawyers. Unfortunately, most paintings have not survived to the present day, but we have been far luckier when it comes to sculptures and architecture. The Romans thrived particularly with architecture, combining the existing Greek style with their own, and adding Roman engineering ingenuity. They were the first to introduce elements like domes and arches, and several examples of Roman architecture remain today, the most famous perhaps being the Colosseum in Rome itself, built by Vespasian and Titus during the Pax Romana. Roman architecture was already well developed in the Republican period though, as evidenced by earlier structures like the Temple of Castor and Pollux at the Forum in Rome.
The Temple of Castor and Pollux, twin sons of Leda, is located in the Forum at Rome and was built early in the Republican period to commemorate their mythical intervention in favour of the Republicans during the overthrow of the Roman monarchy. Fortunately, you can get a better look without having to travel to the ancient city and instead get your own!
The Roman forum is particularly notable as the heart of Roman civilization. Although the Empire saw new centres of power come up within and outside of Rome, most notably the great city of Constantinople (now Istanbul), the Forum was where the first, and some of the most important, Roman structures were built, surrounded by buildings that formed the heart of the Republic (and later Empire). Many of these had government or economics functions, whereas others were commemorative.
The Temple of Vespasian and Titus, commemorating both deified emperors of the Flavian dynasty, was completed by Domitian in 87 AD in the western end of the forum and we have taken care to ensure that you get only the most faithful representation!
Although much physical evidence of Roman rule across the Mediterranean has long since disappeared, Roman monuments and sculptures still exist in large numbers. Yet the most enduring legacy of Rome is perhaps the laws, political systems, and languages of the Empire. Latin remains influential today, and the Romantic languages in entirety were built on its foundation. The civil law system of most Europe remains fundamentally Roman in character and political systems in most of the world can eventually be traced to Rome. This is to say nothing of the philosophical and engineering contributions of Roman civilization, whose roads, aqueducts, bridges and dams have been tools of immense progress through the ages. Is it really any surprise that in so many tongues and places, "all roads lead to Rome".