|Imperial cult, Roman religion, Hellenistic religion, Christianity|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Other Mediterranean Sea peoples, other Italic peoples, modern Romance peoples and Greeks|
The Romans (Latin: Rōmānī, Classical Greek: Rhōmaîoi) were a cultural group, variously referred to as an ethnicity or a nationality, that in classical antiquity, from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD, came to rule large parts of Europe, the Near East and North Africa through conquests made during the Roman Republic and the later Roman Empire. The Romans themselves did not see being "Roman" as something based on shared language or inherited ethnicity, but saw it as something based on being part of the same larger religious or political community and sharing common customs, values, morals and ways of life.
The city of Rome is traditionally held to have been founded in 753 BC, its early inhabitants constituting just one group of the many Italic peoples in the Italian peninsula. As the land under Roman dominion continued to increase, citizenship was gradually granted to the various peoples under Roman rule. The number of Romans rapidly increased due to the creation of colonies throughout the empire, through grants of citizenship to veterans of the Roman army, and through personal grants by the Roman emperors. In 212 AD, Emperor Caracalla extended citizenship rights to all the free inhabitants of the Roman Empire through his Antonine Constitution.
Roman identity in Western Europe survived the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century as a diminished but still important political resource. It was only with the wars of the eastern Emperor Justinian I, aimed at restoring the western provinces to imperial control, that "Roman" began to fade as an identity in Western Europe, more or less disappearing in the 8th and 9th centuries and increasingly being applied by westerners only to the citizens of the city of Rome. The city itself continued to be important to Western Europeans but this importance stemmed from Rome being the seat of the Pope, not from it once having been the capital of a great empire. However, in the primarily Greek-speaking eastern empire, often called the Byzantine Empire by modern historians, Roman identity survived until its fall in 1453 and beyond, despite some interruption of the Empire's existence during the Frankokratia and ensuing rise of the Hellenic-Orthodox national consciousness against the Crusaders of Latin West, with the Roman identity in the east undergoing transition from a universal/multiethnical one to a precursor of a Greek nationalistic one.
Roman identity even survives today, though in a significantly reduced form. "Roman" is still used to refer to a citizen of the city itself and the term Romioi is sometimes (albeit rarely) used as their identity by modern Greeks. Additionally, the names and identities of some Romance peoples remain connected to their Roman roots especially in the Alps (such as the Romansh people and the Romands) and the Balkans (such as the Romanians, Aromanians and Istro-Romanians).