The Romans traced their mythical beginnings to the Trojan War and to Romulus, who supposedly founded the city of Rome in 753 BCE. It was the genius of the Romans to transform Greek ideals and the ways of their Etruscan forerunners into their own civilized and highly organized way of life. During the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE they absorbed many parts of Italy, including the Etruscan homeland. In the 3rd and 2nd century BCE they captured the Carthaginian controlled areas of North Africa, Sardinia, western Sicily and Spain, the Greek colonies of southern Italy and Sicily, the Greek homeland and the Hellenistic kingdoms. Under the reign of Trajan (98-117 CE), the Roman Empire reached its greatest extent. Roman norms embraced the empire, incorporating peoples of various races, language groups, and cultural backgrounds.