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[…]

Fratricide: The Mythology of Romulus and Remus and the Founding of Ancient Rome

There is no evidence concerning the historicity of the Romulus and Remus mythology. Introduction The Romulus and Remus legend is perhaps one of the most famous myths in all Roman mythology and one of the best-known myths of all time. The story of the twins is the foundation-myth of Ancient Rome and it was central[…]

‘You Would Do Better to Keep Your Mouth Shut’: The Significance of Talk in 6th-Century Gaul

By the sixth century gossip and defamation were viable and even preferable weapons against one’s political adversaries. In the past decade, historians have shown a growing interest in the implications of talk and gossip in medieval culture and society. Notable scholars of medieval talk studies, such as Thelma Fenster and Daniel Lord Smail, identify the[…]

How Ancient Romans Kept Their Cool

Airflow, water fountains, and shade. Dark green leaves flutter in the breeze; water splashes in a fountain; the shade deepens along a covered colonnade. It might be a hot day, but it feels like the temperature has fallen a few degrees. That’s how a summer afternoon feels at the Getty Villa—and that’s how it might[…]

Spartacus and the Impact of His Uprising on Ancient Rome

It led to the rise of Crassus and the devastation of much of southern Italy. By Dr. Edward Whelan and Eric Lambrecht Introduction One of the best-known figures in antiquity was Spartacus. His brilliance as a military tactician and strategist was recognized even by his enemies. He was a gladiator and the leader of the[…]

From Octavian to Augustus: A Republic Ends Itself in a Power-Grab

Octavian decided he could not simply give up his authority without risking further civil wars amongst the Roman generals. Introduction Augustus (Latin: IMPERATOR CAESAR DIVI FILIVS AVGVSTVS) (September 23, 63 B.C.E. – 14 C.E.), known as Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, for the period of his life prior to 27 B.C.E., was the first and among[…]

Citizenship in Ancient Rome

At the heart of Roman conceptions of citizenship was a covenant between the individual citizen and the res publica or Roman state. By Dr. Thomas SizgorichLate Professor of HistoryUniversity of California One of the most important tools at the ancient Roman state’s disposal was that of naturalized citizenship, an institution over time that helped to[…]

The Life and Works of Cassius Dio, Historian in Ancient Rome

Cassius Dio is best known for his 80-volume Roman History. Introduction Cassius Dio (c. 164 – c. 229/235 CE) was a Roman politician and historian. Although he held a number of political offices with distinction, he is best known for his 80-volume Roman History. The work took 22 years to complete, was written in Attic Greek, and follows Roman history[…]

The Forum Romanum and Archaeological Context

The city’s monuments (and their ruins) are cues for memory, discourse, and discovery. Views of Rome The Roman emperor Constantius II (the second son of Constantine the Great) visited Rome for the only time in his life in the year 357 C.E. His visit to the city included a tour of the usual monuments and[…]

The Byzantine Empire: Its Rise, Growth, and Fall to the Ottomans

This great empire lay in two continents, Europe and Asia. It lasted from about 500 to 1453 C.E., when it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. Introduction At first, the Byzantine Empire was the continuation of the Roman Empire in the east. In 330 C.E., the Roman emperor Constantine moved his capital from Rome to[…]

The Legacy of the Roman Empire

Rome’s influence lives on in many ways today – in art, architecture and engineering, language and writing, philosophy, law, and citizenship. Introduction “All roads lead to Rome,” boasted the ancient Romans. For 500 years, from about 27 B.C.E. to 476 C.E., the city of Rome was the capital of the greatest empire the world had[…]

Ancient Judaea as a Roman Province

Immediately following the deposition of Herod Archelaus in 6 CE as a client king, Judea was turned into a Roman province. Introduction The Roman province of Judea, sometimes spelled in its original Latin forms of Iudæa or Iudaea to distinguish it from the geographical region of Judea, incorporated the regions of Judea, Samaria and Idumea,[…]

Stone and Concrete in Ancient Italo-Roman Building Techniques

The masonry techniques discussed here cover a broad chronological range from the second millennium B.C.E. to Late Antiquity. Introduction Building techniques represent an important means through which to study and understand ancient structures. The building technique chosen for a given project can indirectly provide a good deal of information about the building itself, in terms[…]

A Cursus Honorum Dropout: The Life and Works of Apollinaris Sidonius (c.430-483 CE)

Although a saint, a bishop, and an important figure in a turbulent age, Sidonius is remembered particularly because of his somewhat dubious literary talents. By Dr. Lynn Harry Nelson Emeritus Professor of Medieval History The University of Kansas Introduction Europe in 451 CE Although a saint, a bishop, and an important figure in a turbulent[…]

Emperor Hadrian: On Borders, Culture, and Representation

By the British Museum / 02.28.2017 Bronze head from a statue of the Emperor Hadrian, 2nd century C.E., bronze, 43 cm high, Roman Britain © Trustees of the British Museum Fixing the Empire’s borders When Hadrian inherited the Roman Empire, his predecessor, Trajan’s military campaigns had over-stretched it. Rebellions against Roman rule raged in several provinces and[…]

How the Ancient World Invoked the Dead to Help the Living

The dead wait to be ferried across the River Styx. The Souls of Acheron (1898) by Adolf Hiremy Hirschl For the ancients, ghosts could be quite useful. By Dr. Evelien Bracke / 10.28.2016 Senior Lecturer in Classics Swansea University Dressing up, knocking on neighbours’ doors and asking for food is a very old tradition. Communities on the British Isles were[…]