Feasting in Ancient Rome

Ancient Roman cuisine enthusiasts answer your burning questions. If you were to sit down for a meal with ancient Romans, some of the food on your plate might leave you scratching your head. Dormouse and flamingo, anyone? Other dishes may appear surprisingly familiar, like bread, cheese, and wine—still the cornerstones of many a Mediterranean-inspired lunch[…]

The Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia in Ancient Roman Palestrina

The presence of wealthy Romans led to the expansion of the temple structure and its continuing decoration. Introduction The Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia at Palestrina (ancient Praeneste) in Italy was built in the 2nd century BCE to honor the goddess Isis and the goddess Fortuna. The massive site spans a mountainside, built with Roman cement or[…]

Art and Architecture in the Ancient Parthian Empire

The Parthians brought with them cultural influences from their Scythian cousins. By Patrick Scott Smith, M.A.Historian Introduction Parthian art flourished within the Eurasian cultural corridor from the late hundreds BCE to the early 1st and 2nd centuries CE. With the Parthian Empire (247 BCE – 224 CE) stretching from India and China in the east to[…]

The Romulean and Servian Tribes of Pre-Republican Ancient Rome

All Roman citizens were enrolled in one of these tribes, through which they were entitled to vote in certain elections. Introduction A tribus, or tribe, was a division of the Roman people, constituting the voting units of a legislative assembly of the Roman Republic.[1][2] The word is probably derived from tribuere, to divide or distribute;[…]

The Column of Trajan: Propaganda of Empire in Ancient Rome

Trajan expanded the Roman Empire to its greatest extent, celebrating his victories with this monumental column. The Triumph The Triumph was a riotous military ritual celebrated by the Romans over the course of centuries—whenever their commander had won a spectacular victory. On the appointed day (or days) the city would be overflowing with crowds, pageantry,[…]

Augustus of Primaporta: Propaganda for Ancient Rome’s First Emperor

Augustus invoked the power of imagery to communicate his ideology. Heading Today, politicians think very carefully about how they will be photographed. Think about all the campaign commercials and print ads we are bombarded with every election season. These images tell us a lot about the candidate, including what they stand for and what agendas[…]

Medicus: The Doctor in Ancient Greece and Rome

Me’dicus (ἰατρός), the name given by the ancients to every professor of the healing art, whether physician or surgeon, and accordingly both divisions of the medical profession will here be included under that term. In Greece and Asia Minor physicians seem to have been held in high esteem; for, not to mention the apotheosis of[…]

Chirurgia: Surgery in Ancient Greece and Rome

The earliest remaining surgical writings are those of Hippocrates. The practice of surgery was, for a long time, considered by the ancients to be merely a part of a physician’s duty; but as it is now almost universally allowed to be a separate branch of the profession, it will perhaps be more convenient to treat[…]

Justinian I and a Failed Attempt to Reunite the Ancient Roman Empire

He is widely held as one of the greatest (and most controversial) late Roman/Byzantine emperors in history. By Will Wyeth Introduction Justinian I reigned as emperor of the Byzantine Empire from 527 to 565 CE. Born around 482 CE in Tauresium, a village in Illyria, his uncle Emperor Justin I was an imperial bodyguard who[…]

Proscriptio: Stripping Political Opponents of Power in Ancient Rome

Many were declared enemies of the state, their property confiscated, and they were sent into exile (or worse). Introduction Proscription is, in current usage, a ’decree of condemnation to death or banishment’ (Oxford English Dictionary) and can be used in a political context to refer to state-approved murder or banishment. The term originated in Ancient[…]

Restoring Ancient Sculpture in Baroque Rome

Not every artist in Renaissance and Baroque Rome had access to ancient Greek and Roman statues. Early Modern Fascination with the “Antique” In this late 16th-century drawing by Federico Zuccaro, we see the artist’s older brother, Taddeo, surrounded by Greek and Roman sculptures in the Vatican’s Belvedere courtyard in Rome. Taddeo is seated on a[…]

A History of Baroque Roman Art and Architecture

It was a focus for tourists and artists and a watershed of inspiration throughout the Western world. Introduction In the seventeenth century, the city of Rome became the consummate statement of Catholic majesty and triumph expressed in all the arts. Baroque architects, artists, and urban planners so magnified and invigorated the classical and ecclesiastical traditions[…]

Family Structure in Ancient Rome

In Ancient Rome, fathers were endowed with nearly limitless power (patria potestas) over their family. Introduction The Ancient Roman family was a complex social structure based mainly on the nuclear family, but could also include various combinations of other members, such as extended family members, household slaves, and freed slaves. Ancient Romans had different names[…]

Usurper: Stolen Valor in Ancient Rome’s Third Century Crisis

The usurpation mania of the third century had profound effects in the empire’s bureaucratic and military organization. Introduction Roman usurpers were individuals or groups of individuals who obtained or tried to obtain power by force and without legitimate legal authority. Usurpation was endemic during the Roman imperial era, especially from the crisis of the third[…]

Four Emperors: A Year of Struggles for Power in the Ancient Roman Empire

Nero’s death marked a definitive end to the Julio-Claudian Dynasty, and a series of civil wars began as others went for the laurel wreath. Introduction The Year of the Four Emperors, 69 AD, was a period in the history of the Roman Empire in which four emperors ruled in succession: Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian.[1][…]

Growing Old in Ancient Rome

The old were often portrayed as avaricious, cowardly, quarrelsome and irritable, and they always complained about the younger generation. By Dr. Karen CokayneUniversity of Reading Old age is a topical subject in today’s society. At present, the aged (those over 60 for women and 65 for men) comprise approximately 20% of the total population and[…]

Damnatio Memoriae: Forgetting the Past in Ancient Rome

Around half of all Roman emperors received some form of the condemnation. By Mati Davis and Sara Chopra While the phrase damnatio memoriae – a “condemnation of memory” in Latin – is modern in origin, it captures a broad range of actions posthumously taken by the Romans against former leaders and their reputations. Most prevalent[…]

The Legacy of the Ancient Roman Republic and Empire

This legacy survived the demise of the empire itself and went on to shape other civilizations, a process which continues to this day. Introduction The legacy of the Roman Empire has been varied and significant, comparable to that of other hegemonic polities of world history (e.g. Persian Empire, ancient Egypt or imperial China). The Roman[…]

Eastern Religions in the Ancient Roman World

Romans were particularly receptive to foreign cults at times of social upheaval to help address new uncertainties and fears. Roman religion, both by native instinct and deliberate policy, was widely inclusive, comprised of different gods, rituals, liturgies, traditions, and cults. Romans, considered by Cicero as the religiosissima gens (the most religious peoples), not only worshipped[…]

Religion in the Ancient Graeco-Roman World

The idea of a single, unified, and dominant religion shared by all members of a single culture was aberration from the norm. Introduction One single word that can accurately be used to describe the religious situation of the Mediterranean world is “complex.” all kind of religion was manifested in some form or other around the[…]

Love, Sex, and Marriage in Ancient Rome

Romantic love, although recognized and praised by the poets, played little part in many marriages. Introduction Love, sex, and marriage in ancient Rome were defined by the patriarchy. The head of the household was the father (the pater familias) who had complete control over the lives of his wife, children, and slaves. This paradigm was[…]

The Battle of Corinth and the Rise of Roman Domination over Greece in 146 BCE

Corinth was utterly destroyed in this year by the victorious Roman army and all of her treasures and art plundered. Overview The Battle of Corinth was a battle fought between the Roman Republic and the Greek city-state of Corinth and its allies in the Achaean League in 146 BC, which resulted in the complete and[…]

Lots over Votes: Elections in Ancient Greece and Rome

Expressions of popular will were still constrained by an essentially oligarchic and aristocratic system. As a Classicist, I am acutely aware of the dangers of idealizing Athenian democracy or the Roman Republic.  It is an oft-repeated point that the Athenians did not allow citizen women, slaves or resident non-Athenians (‘metics’) to vote on policy or[…]

The Ara Pacis Augustae: State Religious Ritual in Ancient Rome

The Ara Pacis is, at its simplest, an open-air altar for blood sacrifice associated with the Roman state religion. The Roman State Religion in a Microcosm The festivities of the Roman state religion were steeped in tradition and ritual symbolism. Sacred offerings to the gods, consultations with priests and diviners, ritual formulae, communal feasting—were all[…]

How Pandemics Triggered Societal Shifts in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds

Societies and cultures that seem ossified and entrenched were suddenly open to conquest, innovation, and social change. Introduction Before March of this year, few probably thought disease could be a significant driver of human history. Not so anymore. People are beginning to understand that the little changes COVID-19 has already ushered in or accelerated –[…]

‘Germania’: Tacitus and the Long Reach of Ancient Roman Propaganda

The text, first published in 98 C.E., has a long legacy. By Emily T. Simon Ask a well-read individual to list the most dangerous books in history, and a few familiar titles would most likely make the cut: Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” Marx and Engels’ “The Communist Manifesto,” Chairman Mao’s “Little Red Book.” But what about[…]

Sulla’s Civil Wars in Ancient Rome

Civil wars in which Lucius Cornelius Sulla, a Roman statesman and general, attempted to take control of the Roman Republic. Background The Roman general and longtime consul Gaius Marius had gained great prominence during the 2nd century BC, particularly as a result of his campaign against the rebelling African king Jugurtha.[1] The campaign was successful,[…]