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[…]

The Armored Body as Trophy in Shakespeare’s Roman Plays

The treatment of the military subject in Shakespeare’s Roman plays complicates early modern cultural understandings of the material aspects of militant nostalgia. Remembering Rome, performing Rome… Introduction At the end of Book 12 of Virgil’s Aeneid, Aeneas is described as “stetit acer in armis” or “ferocious in his armor,” a colossal and threatening force, a[…]

Ancient Roman Literature

A number of highly educated citizens could speak and read both Greek and Latin. Introduction The Roman Empire and its predecessor the Roman Republic produced an abundance of celebrated literature; poetry, comedies, dramas, histories, and philosophical tracts; the Romans avoided tragedies. Much of it survives to this day. However, Roman literature cannot stand alone. They[…]

Ambitus: Law and Political Corruption in Ancient Rome

The trials for ambitus were numerous in the time of the republic. Introduction In ancient Roman law, ambitus was a crime of political corruption, mainly a candidate’s attempt to influence the outcome (or direction) of an election through bribery or other forms of soft power. The Latin word ambitus is the origin of the English[…]

Lex Maiestatis: The Law of Treason in Ancient Rome

This refers to any one of several ancient Roman laws (leges maiestatis) dealing with crimes against the Roman people, state, or emperor. Description The very name perduellio, the name of the crime in the older Roman law, is evidence of this. Perduelles were, strictly, public enemies who bore arms against the state; and traitors were[…]

The Ancient Roman Saturnalia Celebration

Similarities of its features suggest a strong influence on the Christian celebration of Christmas. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Saturnalia was an enduring Roman festival dedicated to the agricultural god Saturn which was held between the 17th and 23rd of December each year during the winter solstice. Originating from archaic agricultural rituals the Roman festivities[…]

Inflation and the Fall of the Roman Empire

Monetary, fiscal, military, political, and economic issues are all very much intertwined. Two centuries ago, in 1776, there were two books published in England, both of which are read avidly today. One of them was Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations and the other was Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon’s[…]

The ‘Aeneid’ as a Commentary on Augustus

An analysis of the Aeneid and the extent to which it can be taken as a commentary on Augustus’ reign. By Maddy V-T The Aeneid is the major work attributed to the poet Virgil, and is widely considered as a valuable source to people wanting to study the Romans and their literature. Personally, I find[…]

Wombs and Tombs in the Ancient Roman World

Fertility cult, however loosely and often unhelpfully defined, has long been an accepted element of ancient religious practice. In 1988 Mark Golden set out to find what he considered the “correct answer” to a direct question: “Did the ancients care when their children died?” Drawing on cross-cultural parallels his conclusion was perhaps unsurprising: “we should[…]

Sulla’s Reforms as Dictator in the Ancient Roman Republic

The political climate was marked by civil discord and rampant political violence. By Jesse SifuentesHistorian Introduction Lucius Cornelius Sulla (l. 138 – 78 BCE) enacted his constitutional reforms (81 BCE) as dictator to strengthen the Roman Senate’s power. Sulla was born in a very turbulent era of Rome’s history, which has often been described as[…]

Bureaucracy and Corruption: A Lesson from Ancient Rome

The history of the Roman Empire offered many vivid examples of how absolute power could corrupt absolutely. By William Henry ChamberlinHistorian and Journalist Introduction Overview The greatest collapse of a mighty state, a large human so­ciety and a fruitful civilization of which we possess a reasonably ac­curate record, has been immortal­ized by Edward Gibbon’s histori­cal[…]

Oriental and Mystery Cults in Ancient Pompeii

Mystery cults have some characteristics not usually found in more traditional Roman religions. By Stephen Matthiesen The archaeological evidence in Pompeii can give us some information about oriental or mystery cults, mainly the cults of Isis and of Dionysos. There are different types of archaeological sources which differ in the kind of information they can[…]

Yielding to an Emperor: The Vanishing of the Ancient Roman Republic

That a republic may vanish is an elementary schoolbook fact. By Dr. Garet Garrett The Roman Republic passed into the Roman Empire, and yet never could a Roman citizen have said, “That was yesterday.” Nor is the historian, with all the advantages of perspective, able to place that momentous event at any exact point on[…]

Administrative and Government Buildings of the Roman Forum

A highly important function of the Forum Romanum was as a center of administration and politics. The Roman Forum (Forum Romanum) was the main and central forum of the city of Rome. It became the economic, political, and religious center of the city in early Republican times, around the seventh century BCE. It continued to be[…]

Patrician Aristocracy in the Ancient Roman Republic and Empire

The patricians were distinct from the plebeians because they had wider political influence, at least in the times of the early Republic. Introduction The patricians were originally a group of ruling class families in ancient Rome. The distinction was highly significant in the Roman Kingdom, and the early Republic, but its relevance waned after the[…]

The Catiline Orations

This is one of the best, if not the very best, documented events surviving from the ancient world. Introduction The Catiline or Catilinarian Orations are a set of speeches to the Roman Senate given in 63 BC by Marcus Tullius Cicero, one of the year’s consuls, accusing a senator, Lucius Sergius Catilina (Catiline), of leading[…]

Catiline’s Conspiracy to Overthrow the Ancient Roman Republic

The failure of the conspiracy in Rome was a massive blow to Catiline‘s cause. Overview Lucius Sergius Catilina, known in English as Catiline108–62 BC), was a Roman patrician, soldier and senator of the 1st century BC best known for the second Catilinarian conspiracy, an attempt to overthrow the Roman Republic and, in particular, the power[…]

Ancient Sicily

Sicily’s historical legacy today includes some of the most impressive and best-preserved ancient monuments in the Mediterranean. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Mediterranean island of Sicily, with its natural resources and strategic position on ancient trading routes, aroused the intense interest of successive empires from Carthage to Athens to Rome. Consequently, the island was never[…]

Elections in the Ancient Roman Republic

During the Roman Republic the citizens would elect almost all officeholders annually. Introduction Elections in the Roman Republic were an essential part to its governance, with participation only being afforded to Roman citizens. Upper class interests, centered in the urban political environment of cities, often trumped the concerns of the diverse and disunified lower class;[…]

Herod the Great: Rome’s Puppet King of Ancient Judaea

Herod was a client king of Rome, but his route to the throne was not a straightforward one. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Herod I, or Herod the Great (c. 75 – 4 BCE), was the king of Judea who ruled as a client of Rome. He has gained lasting infamy as the ‘slaughterer of the[…]

The Propaganda of Octavian and Mark Antony’s Civil War

Their shaky alliance would steadily deteriorate, each of them waging a war of pernicious propaganda. By Jesse SifuentesHistorian Introduction Propaganda played an important role in Octavian (l. 63 BCE – 14 CE) and Mark Antony’s (l. 83 – 30 BCE) civil war, and once victorious at the Battle of Actium (31 BCE), Octavian returned home[…]

The Battle of Actium: Birth of an Empire after Octavian’s Defeat of Antony

The came about, at least in part, due to the dynamics in the relationship between three forceful personalities: Octavian, Antony, and Cleopatra. Introduction The battle of Cynoscephalae in 197 BCE concluded the Second Macedonian War (200-197 BCE) and consolidated Rome’s power in the Mediterranean, finally resulting in Greece becoming a province of Rome in 146[…]