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[…]

Medical Anesthesia and Surgery in Ancient Rome

Examining the type of anesthesia and techniques employed to prepare patients for invasive surgery in ancient Rome. Abstract During the Roman Imperial period countless legionnaires received wounds and injuries requiring surgery. The principles of immediacy and expectancy emphasized that the timing of care after trauma was as important as the quality of care. The use[…]

Medicine in Ancient Rome

Treatments became more well known, and surgery became more sophisticated. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Roman medicine was greatly influenced by earlier Greek medical practice and literature but would also make its own unique contribution to the history of medicine through the work of such famous experts as Galen and Celsus. Whilst there were professional doctors[…]

How Climate Change and Diseased Helped the Fall of Rome

Understanding history can deepen our sense of what it means to be human and how fragile our societies are. At some time or another, every historian of Rome has been asked to say where we are, today, on Rome’s cycle of decline. Historians might squirm at such attempts to use the past but, even if[…]

A (Very) Brief History of Government since the Graeco-Roman World

One of the reasons humans prefer an organized government is that we’ve had them for thousands of years. Introduction For much of human history, people seem to prefer to live in organized groups. These groups took different forms in different times and places, but generally there seems always to have been a process by which[…]

Money and Banking in Ancient Rome

Banking was highly developed and subject to Roman Law, and money deposits were to be safeguarded and not lent out. Introduction Ancient Rome grew out of a small city state in today’s Italy to a great empire, that dominated much of Europe. Eventually, it broke apart, the Western part disintegrated, while the Byzantine Empire lived[…]

Roman Household Spirits: Manes, Panes, and Lares

The gods were thought to have a vested interest in the health and success of the Roman state. Introduction To the ancient Romans, everything was imbued with a divine spirit (numen, plural: numina) which gave it life. Even supposedly inanimate objects like rocks and trees possessed a numen, a belief which no doubt grew out[…]

The Nature and Function of Auspicia in Ancient Roman Religion and Politics

Introduction Auspicia, the reading of birds’ behavior by religious figures, became officially accepted during the Roman Republic. The subject of Auspicia has been studied by a plethora of subjects. Academics in history, sociology and religious studies are intrigued by the development and impact of auspicia on the Roman political and religious systems. As with any[…]

Justinian’s Plague (541-542 CE)

The outbreak continued to sweep throughout the Mediterranean world for another 225 years, finally disappearing in 750 CE. Introduction During the reign of the emperor Justinian I (527-565 CE), one of the worst outbreaks of the plague took place, claiming the lives of millions of people. The plague arrived in Constantinople in 542 CE, almost[…]

The Roots of Patriotic Ideology in Ancient Rome

The deep roots of the word “patriot” lie in Roman antiquity. A distinction is often drawn between the terms patriot and patriotism. The former is seen as an older usage, traceable back to the ancient Roman republic, while the latter is viewed as an eighteenth-century neologism. Patriotism, as in most ideological “isms,” is therefore often[…]

Authority in Ancient Rome: Auctoritas, Potestas, Imperium, and the Paterfamilias

Examining various types of authority which spanned across centuries and covered all facets of Roman life. By Jesse SifuentesArtist and Historian Introduction Authority in ancient Rome was complex, and as one can expect from Rome, full of tradition, myth, and awareness of their own storied history. Perhaps the ultimate authority was imperium, the power to command the Roman army. Potestas was legal power belonging[…]

The Julio-Claudians: First Dynasty of the Roman Empire

Romans obsessed on the concept of family lineage: the family was the most important thing in one’s life. Introduction The Julio-Claudians were the first dynasty to rule the Roman Empire. After the death of the dictator-for-life Julius Caesar in 44 BCE, his adopted son Octavian – later to become known as Augustus (r. 27 BCE[…]

2,000-Year-Old Street Built in Jerusalem by Pontius Pilate Discovered

The excavation revealed over 100 coins trapped beneath paving stones. An ancient walkway most likely used by pilgrims as they made their way to worship at the Temple Mount has been uncovered in the “City of David” in the Jerusalem Walls National Park. In a new study published in Tel Aviv: Journal of the Institute[…]