Ancient Ruins: Parts of the Past as Well as the Present

A mysterious object carved on a Roman gem reminds us that the smallest things hold clues to life in classical times. Introduction Recently, a whole trove of small ancient gems and amulets was discovered in a house in Pompeii. Treasured possessions for the Greeks and the Romans, ancient gems were often carved with images from myth or[…]

The London Mithraeum: Going Underground in Ancient Roman Londinium

Londinium, as the city was called in ancient times, was founded by the Romans after they conquered the island in 43 CE. By Wanda MarcussenHistorian Introduction London, the proud capital of the United Kingdom, is visited by millions of tourists every year and is famous for its rich history and historical landmarks. Magnificent castles, medieval[…]

An Ancient City Beneath Rome: The Catacombs of Priscilla

Rome’s underground necropolises were forgotten by the Middle Ages. By Kim MartinsHistorian Introduction Any visitor to Rome will want to see and explore the popular historical and cultural sites – the Colosseum, the Forum, the Trevi Fountain and, of course, the Vatican. But a large part of the city’s ancient history actually lies underground in[…]

The Crime of Desertion in Roman Law

Roman law provisions on desertion had features that were totally different from the common Roman criminal law. Introduction While watching –once again—the classic and broadly acclaimed movie Ben-Hur, I thought about the legal consequences of deserting from the Roman Army for Roman conscripts and soldiers. Desertion was a serious crime under Roman military law, as[…]

Overpromise, Lie, and Other Hairy Political Advice from Quintus Cicero in 64 BCE

His brother, Marcus (the famed orator), was running for consul, the loftiest office in the Roman Republic. If Karl Rove had lived in ancient Rome, he might have written something like Commentariolum Petitiones, a down-and-dirty electioneering guide from 64 B.C. published in English by Princeton University Press as How to Win an Election: An Ancient Guide[…]

Lessons in the Decline of Democracy from the Ruined Roman Republic

A new book argues that 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[…]

Visigoths: Ancient Germanic Tribes of Western Europe

After Alaric I, the Visigoths migrated to Spain where they established themselves and assimilated with the Romans. Introduction The Visigoths were the western tribe of the Goths (a Germanic people) who settled west of the Black Sea sometime in the 3rd century CE. According to the scholar Herwig Wolfram, the Roman writer Cassiodorus (c. 485-585 CE) coined the term Visigothi to[…]

Ostrogoths: Ancient Germanic Tribes of Eastern Europe

The designation, Ostrogoth, taken to mean ‘Eastern Goth’, actually means ‘Goths glorified by the rising sun’. Introduction The Ostrogoths were the eastern tribe of the Goths (a Germanic people) who rose in power in the area north of the Black Sea. The designation, Ostrogoth, taken to mean ‘Eastern Goth’, actually means ‘Goths glorified by the rising sun’ and was[…]

When Did Vesuvius Erupt? The Evidence For and Against August 24

Clues from texts, objects, and science shed light on one of the greatest natural disasters in world history. By Kenneth Lapatin and Alina Kozlovski Introduction On August 24, 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted, destroying the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. At least, that’s the date inscribed in the history books. As well-publicized recent discoveries have suggested,[…]

Ancient Parthian Warfare

Parthia controlled territories that stretched from the Mediterranean in the west to India and China in the east and were even a match for the Romans. Introduction Parthian warfare was characterized by the extensive use of cavalry and archers. Coming at enemy troops from all directions Parthian riders created confusion and wreaked havoc. They even[…]

The Roman Baths in Bath: A Deep Dive into Britain’s Ancient History

There is little evidence remaining from the pre-Roman worship, as they left little footprints of their spiritual practice for us to study. By Wanda MarcussenHistorian Introduction Bath, the famous spa town in Somerset England, has attracted people from near and far for centuries to its healing springs and baths. Today the city is known for its beautiful Georgian architecture and[…]

The Culture of Ancient Rome

One of history’s most influential civilizations took shape, leaving behind a cultural legacy that survives in part today. Introduction The culture of ancient Rome existed throughout the almost 1200-year history of the civilization of Ancient Rome. The term refers to the culture of the Roman Republic, later the Roman Empire, which at its peak covered an area from Lowland Scotland and Morocco to the Euphrates. Life in[…]

‘Res Gestae Divi Augusti’: The Narcissism and Propaganda of Augustus, Rome’s First Emperor

The Res Gestae was a unique public relations move for the first emperor of the Roman Empire, whose political career was in many ways experimental. Introduction Res Gestae Divi Augusti (Eng. The Deeds of the Divine Augustus) is the funerary inscription of the first Roman emperor, Augustus, giving a first-person record of his life and accomplishments.[1] The Res Gestae is especially significant because it[…]

Tacitus’ ‘Annals’ and Its Enduring Portrait of Monarchical Power

Though his work was little read in the Roman world, it has influenced great thinkers such as Hobbes and Montesquieu. Introduction Sometime in the 9th century AD, a monk in the Benedictine monastery of Fulda in modern Germany copied out an extensive Latin history into Carolingian minuscule, a script promoted by the emperor Charlemagne to aid in the[…]

Asylum in Ancient and Medieval Rome

Ancient Rome and its empire had the concept of asylum at its heart. Its legacy provided inspiration for centers of power around the world. Introduction The legacy of Ancient Rome has exerted a powerful influence on town halls and parliamentary buildings around the world, and especially Washington DC’s urban form and identity. With its classically[…]

Cicero’s 2,000-Year-Old Dream in Ancient Rome Realized by Apollo 8 in 1968

Apollo 8 was the moment that humanity realized a dream conceived in our cultural imagination over two millennia ago. Introduction Half a century of Christmases ago, the NASA space mission Apollo 8 became the first manned craft to leave low Earth orbit, atop the unprecedentedly powerful Saturn V rocket, and head out to circumnavigate another[…]

The Cinaedus: Transgender Soldiers in the Ancient Roman Army

An ancient Roman fable imagines a cinaedus, well-known for his brazen effeminacy, fighting heroically. Introduction On August 25, 2017, Donald Trump signed a directive banning transgender people from joining the U.S. military. This officially reverses the inclusive policies introduced during the Obama regime. Trump’s decision was, he claimed in earlier tweets, based on the burdensome medical costs and disruption that[…]

Acquarossa: Archaeological Study of an Ancient Etruscan Settlement

Abandoned when the larger Etruscan towns struggled to meet the demands of their growing urban population and so annexed the lands of their smaller neighbours. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Acquarossa, located in the north of Italy’s Lazio region, is the site of an Etruscan settlement of unknown name. Although much smaller than other, more famous[…]

Roman and Byzantine Cilicia Campestris

Cilicia Campestris was the most valuable Roman district because of its fertile plains which produced abundant crops. Introduction Cilicia Campestris was one of the six districts of the Roman province of  Cilicia organized by Pompey the Great (l. c. 106-48 BCE) in 64 BCE. The name translates roughly into “Cilicia of the Plains” and corresponds to the earlier name for the[…]

The Kingly Pursuits of Herod during the Augustan Period

Herod built on a Roman scale. King Herod had a substantial architectural heritage to his name in the Levant by the time of his death in 4 BCE. As one of Rome’s most loyal client kings, he incorporated much Roman-style architecture throughout the lands he ruled. He visited Rome in 40 BCE and returned two[…]

Baalbek: Temple of Jupiter in Ancient Rome

Baalbek is a town in the northern Bekaa valley, the site of the largest sanctuary in the Roman world. The greatest temple of Baalbek was dedicated to a god who was, at various periods in history, called Ba’al, Hadad, Helios, Zeus, or Jupiter Optimus Maximus Heliopolitanus. According to Macrobius, the cult statue had been taken from Egypt, was[…]

Caesar as Dictator: His Impact on the City of Rome

By Steven Fife During his reign as dictator from 49-44 BC, Julius Caesar had a number of notable impacts on the city of Rome. One of the initial crises with which Caesar had to deal was widespread debt in Rome, especially after the outbreak of civil war when lenders demanded repayment of loans and real estate values collapsed. The result was a serious shortage[…]

Ancient Cilicia in Anatolia, from the Hittites to Armenia

Because of its geography and location, Cilicia was among the most important regions of the classical world. Introduction Cilicia is the ancient Roman name for the southeastern region of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). It is referenced in the biblical books of Acts and Galatians, was the birthplace of Saint Paul, and the site of his early evangelical missions. The territory was first[…]

The Battle of Carhae: A Roman Catastrophe, 53 BCE

Carrhae proved to be a complete disaster from its beginning. Introduction The Battle of Carrhae in 53 BCE was one of the greatest military catastrophes in all of Roman history when a hero of the  Spartacus  campaign, Marcus Licinius Crassus (115-53 BCE), initiated an unprovoked invasion of Parthian territory (modern Iran). Most of the information concerning the battle and its aftermath[…]

Agriculture in Ancient Rome

The great majority of the people ruled by Rome were engaged in agriculture. Introduction Roman Agriculture describes the farming practices of ancient Rome, an era that lasted 1000 years. From humble beginnings, the Roman Republic (509 BCE to 27 BCE) and empire (27 BCE to 476 CE) expanded to rule much of  Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East and thus comprised a large[…]