Family Structure in Ancient Rome

In Ancient Rome, fathers were endowed with nearly limitless power (patria potestas) over their family. Introduction The Ancient Roman family was a complex social structure based mainly on the nuclear family, but could also include various combinations of other members, such as extended family members, household slaves, and freed slaves. Ancient Romans had different names[…]

Usurper: Stolen Valor in Ancient Rome’s Third Century Crisis

The usurpation mania of the third century had profound effects in the empire’s bureaucratic and military organization. Introduction Roman usurpers were individuals or groups of individuals who obtained or tried to obtain power by force and without legitimate legal authority. Usurpation was endemic during the Roman imperial era, especially from the crisis of the third[…]

Four Emperors: A Year of Struggles for Power in the Ancient Roman Empire

Nero’s death marked a definitive end to the Julio-Claudian Dynasty, and a series of civil wars began as others went for the laurel wreath. Introduction The Year of the Four Emperors, 69 AD, was a period in the history of the Roman Empire in which four emperors ruled in succession: Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian.[1][…]

Growing Old in Ancient Rome

The old were often portrayed as avaricious, cowardly, quarrelsome and irritable, and they always complained about the younger generation. By Dr. Karen CokayneUniversity of Reading Old age is a topical subject in today’s society. At present, the aged (those over 60 for women and 65 for men) comprise approximately 20% of the total population and[…]

Damnatio Memoriae: Forgetting the Past in Ancient Rome

Around half of all Roman emperors received some form of the condemnation. By Mati Davis and Sara Chopra While the phrase damnatio memoriae – a “condemnation of memory” in Latin – is modern in origin, it captures a broad range of actions posthumously taken by the Romans against former leaders and their reputations. Most prevalent[…]

The Legacy of the Ancient Roman Republic and Empire

This legacy survived the demise of the empire itself and went on to shape other civilizations, a process which continues to this day. Introduction The legacy of the Roman Empire has been varied and significant, comparable to that of other hegemonic polities of world history (e.g. Persian Empire, ancient Egypt or imperial China). The Roman[…]

Eastern Religions in the Ancient Roman World

Romans were particularly receptive to foreign cults at times of social upheaval to help address new uncertainties and fears. Roman religion, both by native instinct and deliberate policy, was widely inclusive, comprised of different gods, rituals, liturgies, traditions, and cults. Romans, considered by Cicero as the religiosissima gens (the most religious peoples), not only worshipped[…]

Religion in the Ancient Graeco-Roman World

The idea of a single, unified, and dominant religion shared by all members of a single culture was aberration from the norm. Introduction One single word that can accurately be used to describe the religious situation of the Mediterranean world is “complex.” all kind of religion was manifested in some form or other around the[…]

Love, Sex, and Marriage in Ancient Rome

Romantic love, although recognized and praised by the poets, played little part in many marriages. Introduction Love, sex, and marriage in ancient Rome were defined by the patriarchy. The head of the household was the father (the pater familias) who had complete control over the lives of his wife, children, and slaves. This paradigm was[…]

The Battle of Corinth and the Rise of Roman Domination over Greece in 146 BCE

Corinth was utterly destroyed in this year by the victorious Roman army and all of her treasures and art plundered. Overview The Battle of Corinth was a battle fought between the Roman Republic and the Greek city-state of Corinth and its allies in the Achaean League in 146 BC, which resulted in the complete and[…]

Lots over Votes: Elections in Ancient Greece and Rome

Expressions of popular will were still constrained by an essentially oligarchic and aristocratic system. As a Classicist, I am acutely aware of the dangers of idealizing Athenian democracy or the Roman Republic.  It is an oft-repeated point that the Athenians did not allow citizen women, slaves or resident non-Athenians (‘metics’) to vote on policy or[…]

The Ara Pacis Augustae: State Religious Ritual in Ancient Rome

The Ara Pacis is, at its simplest, an open-air altar for blood sacrifice associated with the Roman state religion. The Roman State Religion in a Microcosm The festivities of the Roman state religion were steeped in tradition and ritual symbolism. Sacred offerings to the gods, consultations with priests and diviners, ritual formulae, communal feasting—were all[…]

‘Germania’: Tacitus and the Long Reach of Ancient Roman Propaganda

The text, first published in 98 C.E., has a long legacy. By Emily T. Simon Ask a well-read individual to list the most dangerous books in history, and a few familiar titles would most likely make the cut: Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” Marx and Engels’ “The Communist Manifesto,” Chairman Mao’s “Little Red Book.” But what about[…]

Sulla’s Civil Wars in Ancient Rome

Civil wars in which Lucius Cornelius Sulla, a Roman statesman and general, attempted to take control of the Roman Republic. Background The Roman general and longtime consul Gaius Marius had gained great prominence during the 2nd century BC, particularly as a result of his campaign against the rebelling African king Jugurtha.[1] The campaign was successful,[…]

The Collapse of the Ancient Hellenistic Seleucid Empire

The Romans and Parthians used internal dissent and succession problems within the Seleucid royal house to bring it down. Introduction For most of the third and second centuries BC, the Seleucid Empire was the greatest of Alexander the Great’s Hellenistic successor states. Stretching from boundary of Persia to the Mediterranean Sea, and at times including[…]

Daily Life and Commercial Activities in Ancient Roman Macedonia

Examining the guilds and professional associations driving ancient commerce in Hellenistic Roman Macedon. Establishment of a New Political Reality In 168-167 BC, we have the dissolution of the Macedonian kingdom by the Romans and a new political reality in the region. Aemilius Paullus, the victor of Pydna, gathered the representatives of Macedonian poleis and ethne[…]

An Overview of the City of Rome from Its Origins to the Archaic Period

Legends aside, Rome’s earliest beginnings are humble and relatively ordinary. The Eternal City Rome is often described as the “eternal city,” conveying the idea that it lives (and has lived) forever, perhaps even suggesting a sort of unchanging immortality. However, even those things that are iconically eternal have a beginning. The humble beginnings of Rome[…]

Magna Mater: The Cult of Cybele in Ancient Rome

Originally, the Cybelean cult was brought to Rome during the time of the Second Punic War (218 -201 BCE). Introduction History verifies the importance of religion not only on a society’s development but also on its survival; in this respect the Romans were no different than other ancient civilizations. During the formative years of the[…]

Volsinii: A Lost Ancient Etruscan Culture Consumed by Rome

In 264 BCE, Volsinii became one of the last Etruscan cities to fall in the interminable wars with Rome. Introduction Volsinii (modern Orvieto), located in central Italy, was an important Etruscan town from the 8th century BCE when it was known by the name of Velzna. Representatives of the Etruscan League met annually at the site[…]

Dogs and Their Collars in Ancient Rome

The dog was a companion, guardian, hunter, professional fighter, tracker, fellow warrior, and sometimes a sacrifice in ancient Rome. Introduction Dogs were highly valued in ancient Rome, as they were in other cultures, and the Roman dog served many of the same purposes as it did in, say, Egypt and Persia, but with a significant[…]

The Marian Reforms: Becoming a Professional Army in Ancient Rome

In order to understand the Marian army, one must consider the military structure of pre-Marian times. By Philip MathewAncient Historian Introduction The Marian Reforms were a set of the reforms introduced to the Roman army in the late 2nd century BCE by Roman general and politician Gaius Marius (157-86 BCE). Through these reforms, the Roman army[…]

Gloria Exercitus: A History of the Ancient Roman Legion

Because legions were not permanent units until the Marian reforms, hundreds were named and numbered throughout Roman history. Introduction A Roman legion (Latin legio, “military levy, conscription”, from legere “to choose”) was the largest military unit of the Roman army. A legion was roughly of brigade size, composed of 4,200 infantry and 300 cavalry in[…]

How Caesar’s Dictatorship and Gallic Conquest Changed Both Rome and Gaul

Ultimately, it allowed Caesar to overthrow the Roman Republic and led to the establishment of the Imperial system. Introduction Julius Cesar is one of the most famous men in all of history. He was one of the greatest military commanders of all time and the man who transformed the Roman Republic into an Empire. One[…]

A History of Dictatorship in the Ancient Roman Republic

Dictators were only supposed to be appointed so long as the Romans had to carry on wars in Italy and elsewhere. A dictator was an extraordinary magistrate at Rome. The name is of Latin origin, and the office probably existed in many Latin towns before it was introduced into Rome (Dionys. V.74). We find it in[…]

Diocletian’s Tetrarchy: Attempting to Stabilize a Divided Roman Empire

Diocletian restructured the Roman government by establishing the Tetrarchy – four men sharing rule over the massive Roman Empire. Introduction Diocletian was Roman emperor from 284 to 305 CE. Born to a family of low status in the Roman province of Dalmatia, Diocletian rose through the ranks of the military to become cavalry commander to[…]