Annihilation of a Roman Army – The Battle of Teutoburg Forest

A combined force of Germans annihilated a Roman army consisting of three legions. Introduction At the Battle of Teutoburg Forest (aka Battle of Varus), c. 9 CE, a combined force of Germans annihilated a Roman army consisting of three legions including three squadrons of cavalry and six cohorts of auxiliary troops. As some soldiers must have been left behind[…]

“My Sejanus”: An Ancient Roman Prefect’s Lust for Power and Downfall

Rome’s ruthless upstart was really a savvy insider, until fortune turned her back on him. On October 18 in the year 31 CE, the Roman senate convened, prepared to confer ultimate power on the second man in the empire, Lucius Aelius Seianus. Over the previous decade and more, Sejanus (as he is known in English)[…]

The Mystery Cult of Cybele in Ancient Rome

Due to its agricultural nature, her cult had tremendous appeal to the average Roman citizen, more so women than men. Introduction History verifies the importance of religion not only on a society’s development but also on its survival; in this respect the Romans were no different than other ancient civilizations. During the formative years of[…]

Mystery Cults in the Graeco-Roman World

Mystery religions formed one of three types of Hellenistic religion. Introduction Mystery religions, sacred mysteries or simply mysterieswere religious schools of the Greco-Roman world for which participation was reserved to initiates(mystai).[1] The main characterization of this religion is the secrecy associated with the particulars of the initiation and the ritual practice, which may not be revealed to outsiders. The most famous mysteries[…]

North Africa’s Place in the Mediterranean Economy of Late Antiquity

The Mediterranean Sea was the economic focal point of the Roman Empire. By Michael GoodyearJ.D. CandidateUniversity of Michigan Law School Introduction The Mediterranean Sea was the economic focal point of the Roman Empire. Rome’s armies first established an empire across these waters beginning back in the times of the Roman Republic. In 200 CE, the Mediterranean[…]

Pietas Religio: Augustus and Religion

Something very important to note about Augustus and his political, societal and religious views is the significant amount of propaganda in his work. Introduction One way that Augustus showed Pietas religio, is through the building program. This is done in a fashion that ended up paying off brilliantly for Augustus, securing his name in the history[…]

The Arch of Constantine and Spolia as Recycled Propaganda

The Arch is a huge conglomerate of imperial Roman sculpture as many parts of it were recycled (spolia) from earlier 1st and 2nd century CE monuments. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Arch of Constantine I, erected in c. 315 CE, stands in Rome and commemorates Roman Emperor Constantine’s victory over the Roman tyrant Maxentius on 28th[…]

Ancient Rome’s First and Second Triumvirates: Uneasy Transition from Republic to Empire

Balances of power and ambitious pursuits. Introduction A triumviratus is literally a college of three men. In the ancient Roman republic, there were several boards of tresviri. For example tresviri agro dando divided newly conquered land among farmers; tresviri capitales were responsible for the jail and prisoners; tresviri coloniae deducendae founded new towns (coloniae); tresviri epulones took care of the dinners that[…]

The Eternal City’s 17th-Century Building Craze also Bolstered Urban Planning

“Did the public have a voice in the development of a theocratic city?” As University of Tennessee professor Dorothy Metzger Habel examined architectural archives for seventeenth-century Rome, she started hearing voices. The many participants in the Eternal City’s building boom at that point—when 30 percent of the work force was engaged in the construction industry—came[…]

Border Security in Ancient Rome

There are lessons from ancient history that could prove instructive. A caravan of Goths – the Thervingi and the Greuthungi – were massing along the Danube river, at the border of the Roman Empire. This was not an invading army, but men, women, and children fleeing the enemy at their backs: a seemingly invincible army[…]

The Roads of Roman Britain

A considerable number of Roman roads remained in daily use as core trunk roads for centuries after the end of Roman rule in Britain. Introduction Roman roads in Britannia were initially designed for military use, created by the Roman Army during the nearly four centuries (43 – 410 AD) that Britannia was a province of the Roman Empire. It is estimated that about[…]

The Roman Dead: New Techniques are Revealing Just How Diverse Roman Britain Was

New research has rubbished perceptions of Roman Britain as a region inhabited solely by white Europeans. Our knowledge about the people who lived in Roman Britain has undergone a sea change over the past decade. New research has rubbished our perception of it as a region inhabited solely by white Europeans. Roman Britain was actually[…]

Marcus Aurelius: Philosopher Emperor or Philosopher-King?

Marcus’ goal was to become the best – most virtuous – person that he was able to become. Introduction It is very common to hear in both academic circles, as well as more close-knit Stoic circles, Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180 CE) being referred to as the philosopher king. This is not an idea that is heavily[…]

Marcus Tullius Cicero: The Impact of His Oration Millennia Beyond Him

When government runs amok, people have a right to rebel—Cicero honored daring individuals who helped overthrow tyrants. By Jim Powell Introduction Marcus Tullius Cicero expressed principles that became the bedrock of liberty in the modern world. He insisted on the primacy of moral standards over government laws. These standards became known as natural law. Above[…]

The Roman Siege of Masada, 73-74 CE

The siege of Masada, chronicled by Flavius Josephus, was one of the final events in the First Jewish–Roman War. Introduction The siege of Masada was one of the final events in the First Jewish–Roman War, occurring from 73 to 74 CE on and around a large hilltop in current-day Israel. The siege was chronicled by Flavius Josephus, a Jewish rebel leader captured[…]

Cultural Links between Ancient India and the Graeco-Roman World

Long before the arrival of Alexander the Great on India’s north-western border, there are references in early Indian literature calling the Greeks Yavanas. Introduction Cyrus the Great (558-530 BCE) built the first universal empire, stretching from Greece to the Indus River. This was the famous Achaemenid Dynasty of Persia. An inscription at Naqsh-i-Rustam, the tomb of his able successor Darius I (521-486 BCE), near Persepolis, records Gadara[…]

Ancient Roman Invective: Oral Political Assassination

This tactic could set a political foe aside from the whole community and turn the audience against him. Roman invective (uituperatio lat.) was the rhetorical and literary genre that aimed at systematically and publicly blaming a political foe to set him aside from the whole community and turn the audience against him during judicial, forensic and deliberative[…]

Classical and Christian Conceptions of Slavery and Gender, and Their Influence on Germanic Gaul

Roman honor and shame became Christian virtue and shame. The Christian reinterpretation of the classical Roman dichotomy of “honor” and “shame” into “virtue” and “shame” in Late Antiquity did not benefit enslaved men and women equally. Enslaved men experienced a moral elevation of their suffering, which allowed them to recast their vulnerability as a strength[…]

The Roman Gladiator

Without doubt, gladiator spectacles were one of the most watched forms of popular entertainment in the Roman world. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction A Roman gladiator was an ancient professional fighter who specialised with particular weapons and armour. They fought before the public in organised games held in large purpose-built arenas throughout the Roman Empire from 105 BCE to 404[…]

Panem Et Circenses: Ancient Roman Entertainment for Appeasement

“The people are only anxious for two things: bread and circuses.” Introduction Two men ready their weapons. An excited crowd of Romans cheer loudly in anticipation. Both combatants realize full well that this day might be their last. They are gladiators, men who fight to the death for the enjoyment of others. As the two[…]

The Domus Aurea: From the Ashes of Rome, Nero’s ‘Golden House’

The Domus Aurea (Golden House), located between the Esquiline and Palatine Hills, was one of Nero’s most extravagant projects. The Domus Aurea (Latin, “Golden House”) was a large landscaped portico villa built by the Emperor Nero in the heart of ancient Rome, after the great fire in 64 C.E. had cleared away the aristocratic dwellings on the[…]

Julius Caesar in Gaul

Caesar created a new version of ‘Gaul’, expanding geographical boundaries and excluding some areas traditionally ascribed to it.    Where Was Gaul? While we might think of Gaul as the ‘ancient version’ of modern France, the Romans included modern Belgium, parts of the Netherlands and northern Italy in Gaul. Gallia Transalpina meant ‘Gaul beyond the[…]