The Roman Empire’s Cyprian Plague in the Third Century

The outbreak caused political, military, economic, and religious upheaval. Introduction The Plague of Cyprian erupted in Ethiopia around Easter of 250 CE. It reached Rome in the following year eventually spreading to Greece and further east to Syria. The plague lasted nearly 20 years and, at its height, reportedly killed as many as 5,000 people[…]

The Antonine Plague in Second-Century Rome

The horrific death toll reduced the number of taxpayers, recruits for the army, candidates for public office, businessmen, and farmers. Introduction The Antonine Plague, sometimes referred to as the Plague of Galen, erupted in 165 CE, at the height of Roman power throughout the Mediterranean world during the reign of the last of the Five Good[…]

Ruling in Ancient Rome: Why Julius Caesar Refused to Be Crowned King

Mark Antony, one of the most powerful politicians in the Roman Republic, offered the nation’s elected leader, Julius Caesar, a crown. A Brief History of Rome According to legend, the Romans had banished their last king in 509 B.C., when they founded the republic and vowed never to be ruled by kings again. Instead, Roman[…]

The Philosophy on the Fear of Death by Lucretius in Ancient Rome

Lucretius was worried that our fear of death could lead to irrational beliefs and actions that could harm society. Introduction With the global spread of the new coronavirus, fears about illness and death weigh heavily on the minds of many. Such fears can often result in a disregard for the welfare of others. All over[…]

Comfort for the Grieving in the Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

While we don’t get to decide when we get shipwrecked, we do get to decide what we rebuild out of the debris. ‘When I was a child, when I was an adolescent, books saved me from despair: that convinced me that culture was the highest of values.’ From The Woman Destroyed (1967) by Simone de[…]

Hadrian’s Wall: Protecting Southern Britannia from Northern Pictish Tribes

A significant portion of the wall still exists, particularly the mid-section, and for much of its length the wall can be followed on foot. Introduction Hadrian’s Wall (Latin: Rigore Valli Aeli, “the line along Hadrian’s frontier”) is a stone and turf fortification built by the Roman Empire across the width of what is now modern-day[…]

Populares: Faction of the People in Ancient Rome

This faction favored the cause of the plebeians (the commoners). Introduction The Populares were a political faction in the late Roman Republic who favoured the cause of the plebeians (the commoners). The Populares emerged as a political group with the reforms of the Gracchi brothers, who were tribunes of the plebs between 133 and 121[…]

Optimates: Conservative Faction in Ancient Rome

The Optimates opposed the extension of Roman citizenship and sought the preservation of the “mos maiorum”, the ways of their forefathers. Introduction The Optimates, also known as boni (“good men”), were a conservative political faction in the late Roman Republic. They formed in reaction against the reforms of the Gracchi brothers—two tribunes of the plebs[…]

Roman Expeditions in Ancient Sub-Saharan Africa

Most of these expeditions began as military campaigns, while the last one may have been initiated in the interests of trade relations. Introduction Sub-Saharan Africa was explored by Roman expeditions between 19 BCE – 90 CE, most likely in an effort to locate the sources of valuable trade goods and establish routes to bring them[…]

Queen Constantinople of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires

In the Middle Ages, Constantinople was the richest European city and was known as the “Queen of Cities”. Introduction Constantinople (Greek: Κωνσταντινούπολη) was the capital of the Byzantine Empire and, following its fall in 1453, of the Ottoman Empire until 1930, when it was renamed Istanbul as part of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s Turkish national reforms.[…]

Gaius Julius Caesar: The First Emperor before the First Emperor in Ancient Rome

Caesar fought in a civil war that left him undisputed master of the Roman world. Introduction Gaius Julius Caesar (July 13, 100 B.C.E. – March 15, 44 B.C.E.) was a Roman military and political leader whose role in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire changed the course of Western civilization. His[…]

Pompey the Great: Vying for Power in the Last Years of the Roman Republic

Pompey fought on the side of the Optimates, the conservative faction in the Roman Senate, until he was defeated by Caesar. Introduction Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, commonly known as Pompey /’pɑmpi/, Pompey the Great or Pompey the Triumvir (September 29, 106 B.C.E.–September 28, 48 B.C.E.), was a distinguished military and political leader of the late Roman[…]

An Overview of Classical Antiquity

The foundations of the modern world derive from the Classic Age as it was reformulated during the Renaissance followed by the Enlightenment. Introduction Classical antiquity, era, or period is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, which begins roughly with the earliest-recorded Greek poetry of Homer (eighth-seventh[…]

Byzantine Art as Propaganda: Justinian and Theodora at Ravenna

Justifications for the propagandizing elements in these mosaics are not difficult. Power on earth was once – and sometimes even now – perceived as a result of power in heaven. The great double mosaic of Justinian and Theodora at San Vitale in Ravenna is a forceful exercise in demonstrating power through art as propaganda, fusing[…]

Ancient Rome at Its Greatest Strength and Reach under Emperor Trajan

Trajan’s legacy proved to be one of the most enduring in the history of the Roman Empire. Introduction Marcus Ulpius Nerva Traianus, commonly known as Trajan (September 18, 53 – August 9, 117) was Roman Emperor who reigned from 98, until his death in 117. He was the second of the Five Good Emperors of[…]

Laocoön: The Suffering of a Trojan Priest and Its Afterlife

Is this statue at the Vatican actually the ancient sculpture mentioned by Pliny, or rather a clever Renaissance forgery? Introduction The sculpture group of Laocoön and His Sons, on display in the Vatican since its rediscovery in 1506 CE, depicts the suffering of the Trojan prince and priest Laocoön (brother of Anchises) and his young sons Antiphantes[…]

The Drunken Satyr: Saving an Ancient Sculpture, Step by Careful Step

Conservators and scientists devote 15 months to preserving an ancient treasure from one of Italy’s great museums. Introduction An ancient Roman sculpture of a drunken Satyr arrived in the Getty Villa conservation labs on loan from the National Archaeological Museum of Naples in the fall of 2018. This was the first time the 2,000-year-old sculpture[…]

Education in Ancient Rome

Organized education was relatively rare, and there are few primary sources or accounts until the 2nd century CE. Introduction Education in ancient Rome progressed from an informal, familial system of education in the early Republic to a tuition-based system during the late Republic and the Empire. The Roman education system was based on the Greek[…]

Marcus Agrippa: Number Two to Augustus in Ancient Imperial Rome

Because is inseparably linked with Augustus with little known about him, Agrippa’s story will always be told side-by-side with Augustus. By Jesse SifuentesHistorian Introduction Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (l. 64/62 – 12 BCE) was Augustus’ (r. 27 BCE – 14 CE) most trusted and unshakably loyal general and his right-hand man in the administration of the city[…]

From Ancient Scotland to Online Auctions: A Tale of Roman Nails

Ancient iron nails would hardly be considered Art, but they could offer insights on Roman metalworking. Introduction In 1977, just three years after the newly built Getty Villa opened its doors to the public, Chicago resident Norman J. Cowan and his family visited the museum during a trip to California. The museum must have made[…]

Crucifixion as Punishment in Ancient Rome

The goal of Roman crucifixion was not just death, but also dishonor. Introduction Crucifixion was an ancient method of execution practiced in the Roman Empire and neighboring Mediterranean cultures, such as the Persian Empire, where a person was nailed to a large wooden cross or stake and left to hang until dead. Contrary to popular[…]

Lucius Tarquinius Superbus: The Overthrow and Exile of Rome’s Last King

His reign is described as a tyranny that justified the abolition of the monarchy. Introduction Lucius Tarquinius Superbus (died 495 BC) was the legendary seventh and final king of Rome, reigning from 535 BC until the popular uprising in 509 BC that led to the establishment of the Roman Republic. He is commonly known as[…]

Nero: Unstable ‘Mad Emperor’ of Ancient Rome

He is traditionally viewed as the second of the so-called “Mad Emperors,” the first being Caligula. Introduction Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (December 15, 37 C.E. – June 9, 68 C.E.), born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, also called Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus, was the fifth and last Roman Emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty (54 C.E. –[…]

Ancient Roman Censors: Moral Monitors, Population Counters, Tax Collectors

Censors were elected every four or five years by the comitia centuriata, the assembly of Rome with a wealth qualification for members. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction A censor was one of two senior magistrates in the city of ancient Rome who supervised public morals, maintained the list of citizens and their tax obligations known as[…]

The Ancient Jutland Cimbri during the Roman Empire

Their annihilation on the Raudian plain was not the last time they would clash arms with Rome. By Ludwig Heinrich DyckHistorian Introduction The Cimbri were a tribe who lived in northern Jutland during the Roman era. Their ethnicity is enigmatic; scholars generally believe that the Cimbri were Germans, though others maintain that they were Celts.[…]

The Dodekaschoinos: Lower Nubian “Twelve Cities” under Ptolemaic Rule in Ancient Egypt

The beginning of Ptolemaic influence in Nubia began when Ptolemy II led a campaign against the kingdom of Meroe c. 275 BCE. By Arienne King Introduction The Dodekaschoinos (literally “Twelve Cities” in Greek) was the name of a region in Lower Nubia that became an important province of the Ptolemaic Kingdom after it was annexed from Meroitic Nubia[…]