The Marian Reforms: Becoming a Professional Army in Ancient Rome

In order to understand the Marian army, one must consider the military structure of pre-Marian times. By Philip MathewAncient Historian Introduction The Marian Reforms were a set of the reforms introduced to the Roman army in the late 2nd century BCE by Roman general and politician Gaius Marius (157-86 BCE). Through these reforms, the Roman army[…]

Gloria Exercitus: A History of the Ancient Roman Legion

Because legions were not permanent units until the Marian reforms, hundreds were named and numbered throughout Roman history. Introduction A Roman legion (Latin legio, “military levy, conscription”, from legere “to choose”) was the largest military unit of the Roman army. A legion was roughly of brigade size, composed of 4,200 infantry and 300 cavalry in[…]

How Caesar’s Dictatorship and Gallic Conquest Changed Both Rome and Gaul

Ultimately, it allowed Caesar to overthrow the Roman Republic and led to the establishment of the Imperial system. Introduction Julius Cesar is one of the most famous men in all of history. He was one of the greatest military commanders of all time and the man who transformed the Roman Republic into an Empire. One[…]

A History of Dictatorship in the Ancient Roman Republic

Dictators were only supposed to be appointed so long as the Romans had to carry on wars in Italy and elsewhere. A dictator was an extraordinary magistrate at Rome. The name is of Latin origin, and the office probably existed in many Latin towns before it was introduced into Rome (Dionys. V.74). We find it in[…]

Diocletian’s Tetrarchy: Attempting to Stabilize a Divided Roman Empire

Diocletian restructured the Roman government by establishing the Tetrarchy – four men sharing rule over the massive Roman Empire. Introduction Diocletian was Roman emperor from 284 to 305 CE. Born to a family of low status in the Roman province of Dalmatia, Diocletian rose through the ranks of the military to become cavalry commander to[…]

Fratricide: The Mythology of Romulus and Remus and the Founding of Ancient Rome

There is no evidence concerning the historicity of the Romulus and Remus mythology. Introduction The Romulus and Remus legend is perhaps one of the most famous myths in all Roman mythology and one of the best-known myths of all time. The story of the twins is the foundation-myth of Ancient Rome and it was central[…]

‘You Would Do Better to Keep Your Mouth Shut’: The Significance of Talk in 6th-Century Gaul

By the sixth century gossip and defamation were viable and even preferable weapons against one’s political adversaries. In the past decade, historians have shown a growing interest in the implications of talk and gossip in medieval culture and society. Notable scholars of medieval talk studies, such as Thelma Fenster and Daniel Lord Smail, identify the[…]

How Ancient Romans Kept Their Cool

Airflow, water fountains, and shade. Dark green leaves flutter in the breeze; water splashes in a fountain; the shade deepens along a covered colonnade. It might be a hot day, but it feels like the temperature has fallen a few degrees. That’s how a summer afternoon feels at the Getty Villa—and that’s how it might[…]

Spartacus and the Impact of His Uprising on Ancient Rome

It led to the rise of Crassus and the devastation of much of southern Italy. By Dr. Edward Whelan and Eric Lambrecht Introduction One of the best-known figures in antiquity was Spartacus. His brilliance as a military tactician and strategist was recognized even by his enemies. He was a gladiator and the leader of the[…]

Parthian Culture: East Mixes with West in the Ancient World

Borrowing from the east and west, their culture and art was an amalgam easily identified as Parthian. Introduction Stretching between China and India in the east to the Mediterranean in the west, Parthia ruled over one of the widest expanses of empire in its time and Parthian culture flourished for 500 years (247 BCE – 224[…]

From Octavian to Augustus: A Republic Ends Itself in a Power-Grab

Octavian decided he could not simply give up his authority without risking further civil wars amongst the Roman generals. Introduction Augustus (Latin: IMPERATOR CAESAR DIVI FILIVS AVGVSTVS) (September 23, 63 B.C.E. – 14 C.E.), known as Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, for the period of his life prior to 27 B.C.E., was the first and among[…]

Citizenship in Ancient Rome

At the heart of Roman conceptions of citizenship was a covenant between the individual citizen and the res publica or Roman state. By Dr. Thomas SizgorichLate Professor of HistoryUniversity of California One of the most important tools at the ancient Roman state’s disposal was that of naturalized citizenship, an institution over time that helped to[…]

The Life and Works of Cassius Dio, Historian in Ancient Rome

Cassius Dio is best known for his 80-volume Roman History. Introduction Cassius Dio (c. 164 – c. 229/235 CE) was a Roman politician and historian. Although he held a number of political offices with distinction, he is best known for his 80-volume Roman History. The work took 22 years to complete, was written in Attic Greek, and follows Roman history[…]

The Forum Romanum and Archaeological Context

The city’s monuments (and their ruins) are cues for memory, discourse, and discovery. Views of Rome The Roman emperor Constantius II (the second son of Constantine the Great) visited Rome for the only time in his life in the year 357 C.E. His visit to the city included a tour of the usual monuments and[…]

The Byzantine Empire: Its Rise, Growth, and Fall to the Ottomans

This great empire lay in two continents, Europe and Asia. It lasted from about 500 to 1453 C.E., when it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. Introduction At first, the Byzantine Empire was the continuation of the Roman Empire in the east. In 330 C.E., the Roman emperor Constantine moved his capital from Rome to[…]

The Legacy of the Roman Empire

Rome’s influence lives on in many ways today – in art, architecture and engineering, language and writing, philosophy, law, and citizenship. Introduction “All roads lead to Rome,” boasted the ancient Romans. For 500 years, from about 27 B.C.E. to 476 C.E., the city of Rome was the capital of the greatest empire the world had[…]

Ancient Judaea as a Roman Province

Immediately following the deposition of Herod Archelaus in 6 CE as a client king, Judea was turned into a Roman province. Introduction The Roman province of Judea, sometimes spelled in its original Latin forms of Iudæa or Iudaea to distinguish it from the geographical region of Judea, incorporated the regions of Judea, Samaria and Idumea,[…]

Stone and Concrete in Ancient Italo-Roman Building Techniques

The masonry techniques discussed here cover a broad chronological range from the second millennium B.C.E. to Late Antiquity. Introduction Building techniques represent an important means through which to study and understand ancient structures. The building technique chosen for a given project can indirectly provide a good deal of information about the building itself, in terms[…]

Pliny the Younger and the Elite in the Ancient Roman Empire

After serving one year on the staff of a Syrian legion, he began the long, imperial road through the cursus honorum. Introduction Pliny the Younger (61-112 CE) was the nephew of Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE), the author of the 37-volume Natural History. He had a remarkable political career, gained a reputation as an excellent lawyer and[…]

The End of the Roman Republic: Yielding Freedom to Autocracy

Augustus framed his autocratic takeover and control of the Roman state as a sort of democratic act. In 22 BC a series of political and economic crises buffeted the regime of Augustus, Rome’s first emperor. Augustus had won control of Rome’s Mediterranean empire in 30 BC after nearly two decades of civil conflicts, but his[…]

The Sicilian Revolt against the Second Triumvirate in the Ancient Roman Republic

30,000 slaves were captured and returned to their masters, with another 6,000 being impaled upon wooden stakes as an example. Introduction and Context The Sicilian revolt was a revolt against the Second Triumvirate of the Roman Republic. Occurring between 44 BC and 36 BC, the revolt was led by Sextus Pompey and ended in a[…]

Avenging Caesar: The Liberators’ Civil War in Ancient Rome

After the murder of Caesar, Brutus and Cassius (also known as the Liberatores) had left Italy and taken control of all Eastern provinces. Introduction The Liberators’ civil war (43–42 BC) was started by the Second Triumvirate to avenge Julius Caesar’s assassination. The war was fought by the forces of Mark Antony and Octavian (the Second[…]

Ancient Rome’s Wealthy Cities of Oplontis, Stabiae, and Boscoreale

While the Vesuvian eruption was devastating, and many lives were lost, it preserved a moment in Roman history. Introduction More than 2,000 years ago, extremely wealthy Romans lived on the sunny shores of the Bay of Naples at Pompeii and in opulent villas nearby, unconcerned about Mount Vesuvius in the distance. Julius Caesar (100-44 BCE), Augustus[…]

Visigoths: Establishing a European Identity in the Ancient World

The designation Visigothi seems to have appealed to the Visigoths themselves, and in time they came to apply it to themselves. 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)[…]

The Growth and Spread of Christianity in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds

The Edict of Milan made the Roman Empire officially neutral with regard to religious worship – and then it flipped into forced conversion. Introduction Persecution of Christians Members of the Early Christian movement often became political targets and scapegoats for the social ills and political tensions of specific rulers and turbulent periods during the first[…]