Oribasius: Ancient Physician to Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate

Oribasius was considered as one of the most illustrious representatives of intellectual circles. Introduction Oribasius (c. 320-400/403 CE) was the physician and political advisor of the Roman emperor Julian the Apostate (r. 361-363 CE). A native of Pergamon, a rich and powerful Greek city in Mysia, he studied medicine and oratory and belonged to the[…]

The Interaction between ‘History’ and ‘Story’ in Roman Historiography

Facts or fiction? Post-truth in the Roman historians. Introduction This essay examines the way in which ancient historiography makes use of rhetorical and even fictional devices (dramatic poetry as well as the novel) to dramatize in writing down events which the historians obviously consider as being important for their judgement, ideologically or otherwise biased, of[…]

Censors in Ancient Rome

The censor’s regulation of public morality is the origin of the modern meaning of the words censor and censorship. Introduction The censor (at any time, there were two) was a magistrate in ancient Rome who was responsible for maintaining the census, supervising public morality, and overseeing certain aspects of the government’s finances.[1] The power of[…]

‘Pontifex Maximus’ and the Soul of Ancient Rome

A distinctly religious office under the early Roman Republic, it gradually became politicized. Introduction The pontifex maximus (Latin, “greatest priest”[1][2][3]) was the chief high priest of the College of Pontiffs (Collegium Pontificum) in ancient Rome. This was the most important position in the ancient Roman religion, open only to patricians until 254 BC, when a plebeian[…]

The College of Pontiffs: Priests in Ancient Rome

Membership in the various colleges of priests was usually an honor offered to members of politically powerful or wealthy families. Introduction The College of Pontiffs was a body of the ancient Roman state whose members were the highest-ranking priests of the state religion. The college consisted of the Pontifex Maximus and the other pontifices, the[…]

Keeping Warm in Ancient Rome

Hot drinks and early bedtimes were key to a comfortable winter. Images of Italy and the Mediterranean generally include bright sun shining on sparkling water and dusty groves of olive trees. In fact, according to Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, who wrote a 10-volume treatise on architecture in the first century, “Divine providence has so ordered it that[…]

A Trail in the Moselle Valley, Ancient Roman Wine Country

The Moselle River owes its name to the Romans, who called it Mosella or ‘little Meuse’. Introduction The Moselle Valley is Germany’s oldest winegrowing region. The Romans brought viticulture to this area and planted vines along the Moselle River 2000 years ago. After settling the region c. 50 BCE and establishing the city of Trier (Augusta Treverorum) in[…]

Milo and Cicero’s ‘Pro Milone’: Chaos and Mob Violence in Ancient Rome

Milo organized bands of armed slaves, hired thugs, and gladiators in opposition to Clodius. Introduction Titus Annius Milo Papianus (died 48 BC) was a Roman political agitator. The son of Gaius Papius Celsus, he was adopted by his maternal grandfather, Titus Annius Luscus. In 52 BC, he was prosecuted for the murder of Publius Clodius[…]

‘Passionate Desire’: Cupid in Classical Mythology

Cupid is a minor character who serves mostly to set the plot in motion. Introduction In classical mythology, Cupid, meaning “passionate desire”, is the god of desire, erotic love, attraction and affection. He is often portrayed as the son of the love goddess Venus and the god of war Mars. He is also known in[…]

Rome’s Venus Was Not Your Regular Greek Aphrodite

Ancient Rome’s Venus had many abilities beyond the Greek Aphrodite. By Brittany Garcia Introduction In Roman mythology, Venus was the goddess of love, sex, beauty, and fertility. She was the Roman counterpart to the Greek Aphrodite. However, Roman Venus had many abilities beyond the Greek Aphrodite; she was a goddess of victory, fertility, and even[…]

I’m Your Venus: Examining the Ancient Roman Goddess of Love

Venus has been described as perhaps “the most original creation of the Roman pantheon”. Introduction Venus is a Roman goddess, whose functions encompassed love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility, prosperity and victory. In Roman mythology, she was the ancestor of the Roman people through her son, Aeneas, who survived the fall of Troy and fled to[…]

‘Avenger’: The Temple of Mars Ultor in Ancient Rome

The Temple defined the authority of the new ideology of the rising Augustan empire. The Temple of Mars Ultor was an octastyle sanctuary created with the Corinthian order in Ancient Rome. The construction has been completed in 2 BC but the project of Augustus stems from the victory obtained by the battle of Philippi in[…]

Herakles Victor and the Temple of Portunus in Ancient Rome

This small temple is a rare surviving example from the Roman Republic. It is both innovative and traditional. Introduction The Temple of Portunus is a well preserved late second or early first century B.C.E. rectangular temple in Rome, Italy. Its dedication to the God Portunus—a divinity associated with livestock, keys, and harbors—is fitting given the[…]

Stilicho: The Ancient Roman Military Commander and the Fall of the West

Some historians point to Stilicho’s ambition and blame him in part for the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Introduction Flavius Stilicho (365-408 CE) was a Roman army commander, who rose in the ranks under the reign of Roman emperor Theodosius I (r. 378-395 CE) and eventually became the regent to his son Honorius (r. 395-423 CE).[…]

Quintus Caepio: Disgraced Roman General at the Battle of Arausio, 105 BCE

Roman losses are described as being up to 80,000 troops as well as another 40,000 auxiliary troops (allies) and servants. Quintus Servilius Caepio Overview Quintus Servilius Caepio was a Roman statesman and general, consul in 106 BC, and proconsul of Cisalpine Gaul in 105 BC. He was the father of Quintus Servilius Caepio and the[…]

How Plague Helped Make Ancient Rome a Superpower

Epidemics haunt history, but they shape history too, as happened in 212 BCE at Syracuse. “The dogs were the first to feel the mischief; next the birds flagged in their flight and dropped down from the black clouds; and then the beasts of the forest were laid low. Soon the infernal plague spread further, depopulating[…]

Aqueducts and Water Movement in Ancient Rome

Most Roman aqueducts proved reliable and durable. They still stand today as a testament to that. Introduction The Romans constructed aqueducts throughout their Republic and later Empire, to bring water from outside sources into cities and towns. Aqueduct water supplied public baths, latrines, fountains, and private households; it also supported mining operations, milling, farms, and[…]

How Did Ancient Greeks and Romans Celebrate Special Occasions?

Getty curators answer your questions about ancient parties. If the ancient Greeks and Romans were still around today, we might say they “know how to party.” With dozens of gods and goddesses to celebrate, plus birthdays and other religious holidays like Saturnalia, the Greeks and Romans had many opportunities for revelry and merrymaking throughout the[…]

Saturnalia: The Wild Holiday that Turned Ancient Rome Upside Down

How the Romans celebrated Saturnalia. Happy Saturnalia! This ancient Roman holiday honors Saturn, the god of seed-sowing, and celebrates the promise of a spring harvest. Originally just one day, over the centuries the festivities grew to last a whole week, starting on December 17 and coinciding with the winter solstice.⁠⠀ In Rome, the holiday was[…]

The Defeat of Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium

Antony’s defeat marked the end of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Empire under Octavian Augustus. Introduction The Battle of Actium was a naval battle in the last war of the Roman Republic, fought between the fleet of Octavian and the combined forces of Mark Antony and Queen Cleopatra of Egypt. It took place on 2 September 31 BC in the Ionian Sea near the[…]

Mark Antony: From Hero to Traitor in Ancient Rome

He was accused of betraying his Roman citizenship by forming an alliance with a foreign queen. Introduction Marcus Antonius (c. January 14, 83 B.C.E. – August 1, 30 B.C.E.), known in English as Mark Antony (also spelled Marc Anthony; Latin, Marcus Antonius), was a Roman politician and general. He was an important supporter of Gaius Julius Caesar as a military commander and administrator. After Caesar’s assassination, Antony allied[…]

Foederati: Subsumed by Ancient Rome and Bound to Defend It

Foederati were the tribes that were bound by a treaty to defend Rome but were neither Roman colonies nor citizens. Introduction Foederati were peoples and cities bound by a treaty, known as foedus, with Rome. In Republican times the term identified the socii, whereas during the Imperial period it was used to describe foreign states, client kingdoms, or[…]

Sons of Mars: An Historical Overview of the Military of Ancient Rome

The purpose for and use of the military shifted between the Republican and Imperial periods. Introduction The military of ancient Rome, according to Titus Livius, one of the more illustrious historians of Rome over the centuries, was a key element in the rise of Rome over “above seven hundred years”[1] from a small settlement in Latium to the capital of[…]

The Nika Riots against Justinian at an Ancient Roman Chariot Race

Justinian was dealing with the Persians over peace in the east at the end of the Iberian War and now he faced a potential crisis in his city. Introduction The Nika riots, Nika revolt, or Nika sedition took place against Emperor Justinian I in Constantinople over the course of a week in 532 AD. They were the most violent riots in the city’s history,[…]

The Decline and Ruin of the Ancient Roman Republic

Violent rhetoric and disregard for political norms was the beginning of Rome’s end. By Jason Daley The U.S. Constitution owes a huge debt to ancient Rome. The Founding Fathers were well-versed in Greek and Roman History. Leaders like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison read the historian Polybius, who laid out one of the clearest descriptions[…]

The Lavish Roman Banquet: A Calculated Display Of Debauchery And Power

The banquet of a noble Roman in ancient Rome was a crucial power tool — a way of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. The Roman banquet may well have been the original staging ground of gastronomic excess — think platters of peacock tongue and fried dormice, chased down with liters of wine[…]

Faces of the Roman Empire: From Augustus to Domitian

Examining a series of facial reconstructions of early Roman emperors from the Julio-Claudian dynasty to the Flavian dynasty. By Arienne King Introduction From the peaceful reign of Augustus (27 BCE – 14 CE), Rome’s first emperor, to the chaotic Year of the Five Emperors (69 CE), which culminated in the rise of the Flavian Dynasty, these were Rome’s[…]

Ancient Roman Funerary Practices

Funerals were primarily a concern of the family, which was of paramount importance in Roman society. Introduction Roman funerary practices include the Ancient Romans’ religious rituals concerning funerals, cremations, and burials. They were part of time-hallowed tradition (Latin: mos maiorum), the unwritten code from which Romans derived their social norms.[1] Roman cemeteries were located outside the sacred boundary (pomerium) of towns and cities. They were visited regularly with offerings of[…]