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[…]

Dogs and Their Collars in Ancient Greece

The most basic dog collar no doubt developed on its own in Greece, but the later ones were most likely influenced by the Egyptians. Introduction Dogs in ancient Greece are regularly depicted in art, on ceramics, in literature, and other written works as loyal companions, guardians, hunters, and even as great intuitive thinkers, and all[…]

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[…]

The Tyrants of Ancient Greece

A tyrant was a sole ruler in a Greek city-state, usually a usurper, who held power in defiance of a city’s constitution. The Greek word tyrannos is probably derived from Lydian tûran, “lord”, and simply means “sole ruler”. The word is neutral, has associations with wealth and power and can therefore be synonymous with expressions[…]

Brewing Beer in Ancient Mesopotamia

Beer was extremely popular in ancient Mesopotamia. Sipped through straws, it was enjoyed by people from all walks of life. Introduction People have been gathering over a beer for thousands of years. As an archaeologist, I can tell you the history of beer stretches deep into the human past – and the history of bars[…]

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[…]

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[…]

The Legendary (or Not) Ancient Funerary Mask of Agamemnon

In the latter half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, the authenticity of the mask has been formally questioned, Introduction The Mask of Agamemnon is a gold funeral mask discovered at the ancient Greek site of Mycenae. The mask, displayed in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, has been described[…]

Horse Armor in Europe from Antiquity to the Early Modern Era

What is probably the first man-made armor for any animal appeared as early as 2600–2500 BCE. Introduction Mankind has used animals such as onagers (wild donkeys), horses, camels, elephants, and dogs in conflicts for thousands of years, but no other animal has been employed so widely and continuously and was at times so comprehensively protected[…]

Parthian Culture: East Mixes with West in the Ancient World

Borrowing from the east and west, their culture and art was an amalgam easily identified as Parthian. Introduction Stretching between China and India in the east to the Mediterranean in the west, Parthia ruled over one of the widest expanses of empire in its time and Parthian culture flourished for 500 years (247 BCE – 224[…]

The François Vase: Story Book of Ancient Greek Mythology

The neat labels of Greek text that accompany and identify many of the characters on the vase still help us understand its imagery today. Introduction 270 figures run, fight, and dance across the surface of the François Vase. While the decoration seems dense and busy to our modern eyes, an ancient viewer would have known[…]

Meet an Ushabti, an Ancient Egyptian Statuette Made for the Afterlife

What we know about this figure discovered in Neferibresaneith’s tomb. What’s an Ushtabi? Ushabtis are figurines that were designed to be placed in someone’s tomb. Ushabtis look like human figures that have been mummified, usually with their arms crossed over their chest. Some, like the Getty’s ushabti, were very carefully made, with detailed features, while[…]

What Is the Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead?

These texts developed from spells that were first inscribed on scarabs and coffins at the end of Egypt’s Middle Kingdom period. “Book of the Dead” is a modern term to describe a series of ancient Egyptian funerary spells that helped the deceased find their way to the afterlife in order to become united with the[…]

Were Women the True Artisans Behind Ancient Greek Ceramics?

A new paper makes the case that scholars have ignored the role of female ceramicists in Greece going back some 3,000 years. By Dr. Max G. Levy Painted over the enormous midsection of the Dipylon amphora—a nearly 2,800-year-old clay vase from Greece—silhouetted figures surround a corpse in a funeral scene. Intricate geometric patterns zig and[…]

Ancient Chinese Philosophy

Confucianism, Taoism, and Legalism would ultimately absorb other concepts and condemn previous schools of thought. Introduction The term Ancient Chinese Philosophy is generally understood to refer to the belief systems developed by various philosophers during the era known as the Hundred Schools of Thought (also The Contention of the Hundred Schools of Thought) when these[…]

Mount Nemrut: Ancient Meeting Place between East and West

Often referred to as the “Throne of the Gods”, few know of the history or function of this extraordinary site. Introduction Mount Nemrut is located at the heart of what was the Kingdom of Commagene, a small Hellenised Armenian kingdom that carved its place in history from the living rock. In 62 BCE, King Antiochus I (70-31[…]

Cleopatra: ‘Queen of the Nile’

As the last Ptolemaic heir of Alexander the Great, she remained committed to his policy of cultural fusion. Introduction Cleopatra VII Philopator (January, 69 B.C.E. – August 12, 30 B.C.E.) was queen of Ancient Egypt, the last member of the Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty and hence the last Greek ruler of Egypt. Although many other Egyptian[…]

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[…]

Discoveries and Inventions in Ancient and Medieval China

Exploring discoveries and inventions made by the Chinese between about 200 and 1400 C.E. Introduction Over the centuries, Chinese scholars and scientists studied engineering, mathematics, science, and medicine, among other subjects. Their studies led to scientific and technological progress that was often far ahead of advances in the rest of the world. To understand the[…]