Rome's rise as a civilization was heavily influcenced by geography. The Latin people who first settled on the Latin Penninsula chose to build their city near the Tiber River. The river's waters helped irrigate early crops and the easily navigatable waters allowed Rome to communicate, and learn, from it's neighbors.
Many of Rome's most important achievements were brought to them by traveling the Tiber. The cuniculus, or irrigation system, used by the Romans was an Etruscan invention. The Roman arch was also an Etruscan invention. The close proximity of Rome to these people helped them develope.
To the south lay Greek Sicily. The Greeks contributed ideas regarding art, religion, architecture and writing, all of which helped the Romans rise in power and prestige.
Eventually, when Rome dominated the Latin Pennisula, they enjoyed the benefits of the Alps to the north, which protected them from barbarian tribes in Germania and Gaul. They also had unpresidented access to the Mediterranean Sea, which allowed them to benefit from cultural exchanges and enrich themselves through maratime trade.