Rome: A dictator and handful of emperors

Julius Caesar (54-44BC)
A brilliant military leader who aligned himself with the ordinary citizen rather than the senate of Rome, Caesar was responsible for the enlargement of the Forum, creating the first of the Imperial Fora. His military success and subsequent power got the better of Caesar and he was declared “dictator in perpetuity”. He was murdered on the Ides of March and buried in the Forum.

Augustus (Octavian; 27BC-AD14)
Adopted son of Julius Caesar, Augustus was a ruthless leader in his youth, influentially bringing Egypt (and all its wealth) into the Empire following his defeat over Mark Anthony and Cleopatra. In Rome, he completed the Forum of Caesar before building one of his own, and restored no fewer than 82 temples in the city. He was also responsible for the many obelisks in the city, which he brought from Egypt. First to hold the title Emperor (27BC), on his death (AD14) he was ranked as a god by the senate.

Hadrian (117-138)
As well as a pragmatic leader, Hadrian was a cultured man and regarded highly his own architectural abilities. His villa just outside Rome, at Tivoli, is a celebration of Classical monuments drawing on his travels through the empire. In Rome itself Hadrian designed and had built the Pantheon, and his own mausoleum (now Castel Sant’Angelo).

Constantine (306-337)
After defeating Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, Constantine attributed the victory to a favourable sign from God, and thus brought Christianity to the Roman Empire. He spent money on building Christian basilicas in Rome (including the first St Peter’s) and built others on formerly Imperial sites (St John Lateran and Santa Croce in Gerusalemme).

More Roman history:
Pilgrim’s Rome
Rome: 20 key history dates
Rome: 10 top popes
Rome: Complete list of popes