Western Civilization I, HIS 101
Roman culture and history evolved for more than 1200 years from its legendary founding in 753 BCE to the dismissal of the last Roman Emperor of the West in 476 CE. The Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantine Empire, which was finally conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, added another 1000 years. Roman Civilization was a direct ancestor of our own Western Civilization.
The Romans left us not only their own legacy but also preserved for us the legacy of the Hellenistic World, the Hellenic (Classical Greek) Civilization, and, indeed, all of our memories of classical and ancient civilizations dating back to the Egyptians and Mesopotamians.
Rome started as a single city-state in the Latin Plain of Central Italy and grew to be an empire ruling the entire Mediterranean coastal region. Its long history can be broadly divided into the Republican Period of 500 years and the Empire lasting another 500 years. The Empire divides into the principate (from 27 BCE to 180 CE) and the autocracy or dominate from 284 to 395 CE. During the autocracy, Christianity replaced what Christians labeled paganism. The traditional, polytheistic cults were replaced by a new monotheistic belief system. The significance of this transformation cannot be overstated: it brought to an end the classical age and ushered in the medieval period of history; it resulted in a complete transformation of culture from the way people married, raised their children, and died; it resulted in a trans-valuation of all values.
But this Christian Rome marks only the tail end (the last 100 years) of a united Eastern and Western Roman Empire. Roman Civilization was founded and expanded by Rome and Roman values that long pre-dated Christianity. Indeed, after our study of Pagan Rome, we may ask whether the Romans helped to alter Christianity as much as the Christians changed Rome.
A brief outline of Roman history is given below.
Rome is located near the center of Italy. Italy is a large peninsula in the shape of a boot. At its toe is a large island called Sicily.
Primitive agricultural settlements were in existence in Italy by 5000 B.C. Bronze Age cultures developed by 2000 B.C. and iron was introduced around 1000 B.C.
The Romans set the founding of their city-state at 753 B.C. and modern historians agree that a small settlement may well have existed at that date. At this time, the eighth century before the Common Era, the Greeks were colonizing Southern Italy and Sicily and a people known as the Etruscans developed their civilization between the Arno and Tiber rivers. Greeks and Etruscans were culturally more advanced than the Romans at this time.
Periods of Roman History
Early Roman Republic: 509 - 264 B.C.
A Republic is any governmental system which is not governed by a monarch or some other hereditary ruler. A republic entails some form of election of the rulers and thus opens the door towards democracy. But republics and democracies are not identical.
During the early period of the Republic, there were two main movements:
Roman Magistrates (City Officials): They were elected by various popular assemblies generally for one-year terms and could not be re-elected.
Consuls, two: Highest political authority having the imperium.
Praetors: Judges having the imperium.
Censors maintain citizenship rolls, keeping the census, and maintaining public morality, censorship.
Questors: In charge of public finance, the treasury.
Aediles: In charge of public works, roads and aquaducts (water supply).
Tribunes: elected by the Plebean Assembly in order to protect the interests of the plebean order against arbitrary decisions by Rome's magistrates, all of whom originally belonged to the patrician class. Tribunes were sacrosanct. Anyone harming a tribune could be instantly put to death. This gave tribunes security to do their job.
The Cursus honorum or ladder of offices. Young Roman men who came from the Senatorial class and had political ambitions followed a career ladder. “After ten years of military service beginning about age twenty, he would seek election as a questor, a financial administrator. Continuing to climb the ladder, he would next be elected to the board of aediles, officials overseeing the city’s streets, sewers, aqueducts, temples and markets. Each rung up the ladder was more competitive, and few men reached the next office, that of praetor, which performed judicial and military command duties. The most successful praetors then reached for the gold ring of Roman public office, the consulship.
“Ex-consuls could also compete to beome one of the censors, prestigious senior officials elected every five years to conduct censuses of the citizen body and select new members of the three-hundred man Senate, which advised the consuls (as it had the kings)” (Lynn Hunt, et. al. The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures: A Concise History, Volume One To 1740, 2nd Ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007, p. 145. See also, Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, s.v. Cursus honorum.” Available online at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cursus_honorum. Accessed on June 20, 2009.)
Assembly of the Centuries
Assembly of the Tribes
Assembly of the Plebeans elected the tribunes and passed plebicites. This was actually the plebean subgroup of the Assembly of Tribes
Bloc Voting; not Individual Voting in Roman Assemblies.
“Only a block of voters (Century, Tribe or Curia), and not the individual electors, cast the formal vote (one vote per block) before the assembly. The majority of votes in any Century, Tribe, or Curia decided how that Century, Tribe, or Curia voted.” Voting generally favored the patricians, the rural element, and the well-to-do. Rome, even during the Republic, never developed the full blown direct democracy that characterized Athens. It could be said that the failure of the reforms of the Gracchi brothers also marks the decline of the democratic impulse within Rome. Rome was never a mass democracy or radical democracy.
“The Curiate Assembly (comitia curiata) was the principal assembly during the first two decades of the Roman Republic. During these first decades, the People of Rome were organized into thirty units called "Curia". The Curia were ethnic in nature, and thus were organized on the basis of the early Roman family, or, more specifically, on the basis of the thirty original Patrician (aristocratic) clans. The Curia assembled into an assembly, the Curiate Assembly, for legislative, electoral, and judicial purposes. The Curiate Assembly passed laws, elected Consuls (the only elected magistrates at the time), and tried judicial cases. Consuls always presided over the assembly. While Plebeians (commoners) could participate in this assembly, only the Patricians (the Roman aristocrats) could vote.” Wikipedia, The Free Enclyclopedia, s.v. “Curiate Assembly.” Available online at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curiate_Assembly. Accessed on June 20, 2009.) It lost most of its powers to the Assembly of the Centuries and the Tribal Assembly during the Struggle of the Orders.
“The Century Assembly was divided into 193 (later 373) Centuries, with each Century belonging to one of three classes: the officer class, the infantry, and the unarmed adjuncts. During a vote, the Centuries voted, one at a time, by order of seniority. The president of the Century Assembly was usually a Roman Consul (the chief magistrate of the republic). Only the Century Assembly could elect Consuls, Praetors and Censors, only it could declare war, and only it could ratify the results of a census. While it had the power to pass ordinary laws (leges), it rarely did so.
“The organization of the Tribal Assembly was much simpler than was that of the Century Assembly, in contrast, since its organization was based on only thirty-five Tribes. The Tribes were not ethnic or kinship groups, but rather geographical divisions (similar to modern U.S. Congressional districts). The president of the Tribal Assembly was a usually Consul, and under his presidency, the assembly elected Quaestors, Curule Aediles, and Military Tribunes. While it had the power to pass ordinary laws (leges), it rarely did so.
“The assembly known as the Plebeian Council was identical to the Tribal Assembly with one key exception: only plebeians (the commoners) had the power to vote before it. Members of the aristocratic patrician class were excluded from this assembly. In contrast, both classes were entitled to a vote in the Tribal Assembly. Under the presidency of a Plebeian Tribune (the chief representative of the people), the Plebeian Council elected Plebeian Tribunes and Plebeian Aediles (the Plebeian Tribune's assistant), enacted laws called plebiscites, and presided over judicial cases involving Plebeians. Originally, laws passed by the Plebeian Council only applied to Plebeians. However, by 287 BC, laws passed by the Plebeian Council had acquired the full force of law, and from that point on, most legislation came from the council.” (Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v “Roman Assemblies” Available online at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_assemblies. Accessed on June 20, 2009).
The Roman Senate. The Roman Senate evolved over 1300 years. It began as a Council of Elders or clan leaders common to Indo-European tribal people. Ex consuls generally became members of the Roman Senate, but were selected by the Censors. The Senate was an advisory body, but its advise was almost always taken. They were the real power center during the Roman Republican period and remained important even under the Empire. During the principate, senators could be appointed by the emperor.
During the principate under Tiberius, the powers of the popular assemblies were transferred to the Roman Senate thereby ending whatever democratic element had existed within the Roman government.
The chart below is from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, s.v. “Constitution of the Roman Republic.” Available online at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/72/Roman_Constitution.jpg. Accessed on June 20, 2009.
Imperial Republic: 264 - 133 B.C.
Having gained control of the Italian peninsula in a series of essentially defensive wars, the Romans now become openly aggressive. The Republic acquires a taste for empire, that is conquering more and more people and bringing them under your domination and exploitation.
The term "empire" has two related meaning. It can refer to a state which is ruled by an emperor, a king of kings. The Roman Imperial Republic or the Athenian Empire were not ruled by a single person. But they were empires in the second sense of the term that is when one city-state or one kingdom has conquered many other city-states or other kingdoms. The Roman Empire was largely an empire of many city-states all of whom were ruled by the city-state of Rome.
Imperialism is when a people and their rulers actively seek to conquer and subordinate other peoples, cities, and kingdoms. After 264, the Romans are becoming imperialistic. They wage aggressive wars of conquest for the profits and glory they bring to Rome.
In a series of aggressive wars, the Romans come to dominate the Western Mediterrinean and then, after 201 B.C., they begin the process of conquering the Eastern Mediterranean.
The Wars Between Rome and Carthage
Carthage was a mercantile city located in what is today Tunesia in North Africa. It was originally founded by the Phoenecians (modern day Lebanon). By 264 B.C., Rome and Carthage had become rivals for the domination of the Western Mediterranean.
First Punic War: 264 - 241. Rome gains control of Sicily, which becomes Rome's first overseas province. Carthage suffers a setback but remains a powerful state. After the war, Carthage builds up a new trading empire centered on Spain. Roman envy leads to the next war.
Second Punic War: 218 - 201 B.C. Carthage takes the initiative and its great general Hannibal leads an army, including war elephants, over the Alps, Brenner Pass, into Italy. For ten years, Hannibal ravages the Italian countryside. Rome is repeatedly defeated. Most serious defeat is the battle of Cannae in 216, which is still studied at war colleges throughout the world. But despite his victories, Hannibal is unable to bring the war to a successful conclusion. Unable to defeat Hannibal, the Romans decide to contain him and counterattack against Spain and Carthage. The Roman General Scipio Africanus defeats the Carthaginians in Spain, crosses over into North Africa, and threatens Carthage itself. The Carthaginians recall their most famous general to lead the defense of their city. Scipio defeats Hannibal at the battle of Zama in 202. Carthage surrenders to the Romans in 201 B.C. Rome has won a decisive victory over Carthage. Rome has become the dominant power in the Western Mediterranean. Carthage is allowed to remain as a small, weak city-state without a navy or an empire.
Third Punic War: 149 - 146 B.C. This was a mopping up operations. The Romans did not want to be reminded that Carthage had once been their equal and had almost defeated them. Cato the Elder kept demanding: "Carthago delenda est." So they did.
Wars Between Rome and the Hellenistic Kingdoms
Even while the wars agains Carthage were still raging, the Romans were already beginning their next quest: the domination of the Eastern Mediterranean. Between 215 B.C. and 146 B.C., the Romans fought four wars against Macedonia and several against Syria. Greece and Macedonia were added to the Roman Empire.
Late Republic: 133 - 27 B.C.
The very successes of Rome during the period of the Imperial Republic produced the circumstances which led to the collapse of the republican form of government and its replacement by a thinly disguised military dictatorship.
is elected Tribune of the People in 133 B.C. He ran on a program of land
reform, hoping to restore the Plebean class of small farmers to its former
prominence. The plebean order was dying out from attrition in war. They were
the backbone of the Roman armies. But the further away they fought, the less
they could tend to their farms. These farms were sold by their widows to the
patrician order, who were, in effect, the officers of Rome's military.
younger brother of Tiberius, was elected Tribune of the People in 123 B.C. on a
similar platform. Reelected in 122; lost in 121 and was murdered in the ensuing
born ~157 - 86 B.C.
Social War (91 – 88 BCE)
One of Gaius Gracchus’ reform planks had been the extension of citizenship to the allies. Another tribune, Marcus Livius Drusus, proposed extending citizenship to allies in 91 BCE. This and other actions led to his assassination. Shortly thereafter, many of Rome’s allies revolted against Rome. Rome managed to defeat the uprising militarily, but secured the peace by granting concessions including, what had been contested, rights of citizenship. Sulla was one of the generals fighting for the Romans in this war.
born ~138 - 78 B.C.
War of Spartacus or Third Service War (73 – 71 BCE)
Pompey the Great,
born 106 -48 B.C.
from 60 - 53 B.C.
born 115 - 55 B.C.
born 100 to March 15, 44 B.C.
SECOND TRIUMVIRATE from 43 to 36 B.C.
born ~83 - 31 B.C.
Lepidus, elderly Senator. Ousted from North Africa by Octavian in 36 B.C. Dies peacefully in bed, rare for Romans, in 13 B.C.
born 63 B.C. to 14 A.D.
Reasons for the End of the Roman Republic
Principate: 27 B.C. - 180 A.D.
Augustus 27 B.C. - 14 A.D.
Tiberius 14 - 37
Caligula (Gaius) 37 - 41
Claudius 41 - 54
Nero 54 - 68
Vespasian 69 - 79
Titus 79 - 81
Domitian 81 - 96
Nerva 96 - 98
Trajan 98 - 117
Hadrian 117 - 138
Antoninus Pius 138 - 161
Marcus Aurelius 161 - 180
Third Century Decline: 180 A.D. - 284 A.D.
Commodus 180 - 192
Brief Civil War
Severan Dynasty was a Military Monarchy 193 - 235
Septimius Severus 193 - 211
Caracalla 211 - 217
Military Anarchy 235 - 284
22 emperors in these 49 years
Decius 249 - 251
Valerian 253 - 260
captured by Persians and died in captivity.
Aurelian 270 - 274
restored some degree of order; gave up Dacia
Autocracy or Dominate: 284 A.D. - 395 A.D.
The anarchy and collapse of Roman government was brought to an end under the general Diocletian. He created a new political system that is generally called the autocracy or the dominate. Diocletian and his fellow generals centralized absolute power in their own hands. The principate with its residue of republican values had died during the civil wars of the Third Century.
Diocletian was not the first man of Rome (princes). He was the dominus: the master. Centralization and regimentation with growing repression was to stem the tide of collapse and maintain law and order, that is civilization, in the face of the barbarian threats at the frontiers.
Diocletian reorganized the empire. He created the tetrarchy. . The empire was divided into an eastern and a western half; each half was further split into two. Diocletian ruled the Eastern half from Nicomedia. Each half was ruled by an “augustus” with the assistance of a “caesar”: Two augusti and two caesars. If one of the generals died, there would be a rotation in office. This would solve the succession problem. Four generals, with himself at the top, would rule four prefectures. With each in complete command, order would be restored. The tetrarchy never worked as intended, not even once. When Diocletian and Maximian stepped down as joint augusti after 20 years of rule in 305, a second tetrarchy was initiated but broke down almost immediately and civil war erupted once again until Constantine became the new ruler. (See Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, s.v. “Tetrarchy.” Available online at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetrarchy#Confusion_and_collapse. Accessed on June 21, 2009).
The four capital cities of the tetrarchy were: Nicomedia (modern Izmit in Turkey); Sirmium (near Belgrade); Milan; and Trier. These cities were near the frontier region and served as military bases for the ongoing war efforts. Rome ceased to be the capital city of the empire.
While it worked, the tetrarchy was more like a Joint Chiefs of Staff or a college of generals working together to figtht wars in for regional theaters under the overall command of Diocletian. Each of the four tetrarchs in his geographic theater of operation (prefecture) was assisted by a praetorian prefect. The prefect was the civil administrator.
In addition to the four prefectures, Diocletian divided the civil administration of the empire into twelve dioceses headed by a vicar. This organizational structure of prefects and vicars survived the tetrarchy and became a permanent aspect of the autocracy.
Diocletian did restore order. He enlarged the army; raised taxes; froze people in their occupations; and attempted to create a uniform religion around the traditional gods of Rome. The Great Persecution of Christians took place during his rule. This, however, was one area where Diocletian failed. Even his empire-wide persecution could not break the spirit of the Christians.
Constantine made the monumental decision to embrace the Christians. He legalized Christianity with the Edict of Milan (313 CE) and favored it. By the end of the fourth century, Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire. In 325, Constantine presided over the Council of Nicea where Arianism was declared a heresy and the orthodox definition of the trinity was established. The Romans became Christians and the Christians became Romans. A new partnership was begun between Church and State. Constantine created caesaropapism. The State defends the official teachings of the Church and the Church legitimizes the authority of the Christian ruler.
Constantine built a new capital city called Constantinople at the site of the old Greek city of Byzantium. He, too, ruled the Roman Empire from the East. His victories ended the experiment of four man-rule. It is also with Constantine that Rome becomes a monarchy with sons succeeding their father.
During the autocracy, Rome is no longer the capital of the Empire. The Bishops of Rome, later to become the Popes, inherit the mantle of the emperors.
Diocletian, 284 – 305 (abdicated; had co-ruled with Maximian
Tetrarchy breaks down. Constantine becomes sole ruler in 324 CE
Constantine I, 306 - 337
Constantine II, 337 – 340 These are the
sons of Constantine I and
Julian the Apostate 360 - 363 Cousin of Constantius II
Jovian 363 – 364
Valentinian I, 364 – 375
Valens, 364 - 378 Brother
of Valentinian I. Killed in battle
Gratian, 367 – 383 Son of Valentinian I
Valentinian II,, 375 – 392 Son of Valentinian I
Theodosius "The Great", 378 – 395 became sole ruler after 392
Upon his death, the Empire split permanently into a Western and Eastern Empore. It was divided by his two sons.
Honorius,, 393 – 423 CE took the West. Ravenna becomes the Capital
Arcadius, 383 – 408 CE took the East Constantinople is the Capital
[For a complete list of Roman Emperors see: Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia s.v. “List of Roman Emperors”. Available online at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Roman_Emperors. Accessed on June 22, 2009.]
Map of the Roman Empire in 395 CE
(Source: Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, s.v. “Roman Empire about 395.jpg”, Available online at: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/19/Roman_Empire_about_395.jpg. Accessed on June 21, 2009.)
Western Roman Empire: 395 A.D. - 476 A.D.
476 Odoacer deposes last Roman Emperor of the West Romulus Augustulus
Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire: 395 A.D. - 1453 A.D.
Justinian 527 - 565 and his wife Theodora
Corpus Juris Civilis 529 - 533
Completion of Hagia Sophia 537
Justinian's famous generals are Belisarius (~505 - 565)
Reconquest of Italy 535 - 554
Destruction of Vandal Kingdom in North Africa (533 - 534)
Partial Conquest of Visigothic Kingdom in Spain
Overextended the Eastern Roman Empire
Heraclius (ruled 610 - 641)
Fought against the Persian Empire and the Avars, Slavs, and Bulgars
Forces of Islam conquer Palestine and Syria (641); Alexandria in Egypt (642); besiege Constantinople between 673 and 677.
Iconoclastic Controversy 726 - 843
Ottoman Turks finally conquer Byzantium with the use of cannons in 1453 C.E.
Roman society, their culture and history, evolved over 1300 years from the legendary founding of Rome in 753 BCE to the, almost equally mythical, ending of the Roman Empire in the West in 476 CE. If we add the history of the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantine Empire, we must add another thousand years to 1453 CE when the Ottoman Turks finally captured Byzantium. If the Holy Roman Catholic Church is viewed as a successor institution to the Roman Empire, then Rome lives still. How is one to summarize the legacy of Rome.
The Romans were a practical people. They excelled in the arts of government, military organization, public administration, law, engineering, and architecture. They were pragmatic and not particularly theoretical or philosophical. The Romans borrowed their art, philosophy, and literature from the Greeks and the Hellenistic world of the Eastern Mediterranean. They borrowed, copied, and adopted. Without the Romans, Greek and Hellenistic culture would, most likely, have been lost to the West and, perhaps, to the world. It was the Roman empire that preserved ancient and classical culture for the medieval and modern ages.
It was within the Roman Empire that Christianity developed, spread, faced persecution, and triumphed. The Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity with the Edict of Milan in 313 CE, favored it, and set in motion the process whereby Christianity became the State Religion of Rome during its waning years of the autocracy. The transvaluation of values from traditional polytheistic cults to monotheistic Christianity marked the change from the classical age to the medieval age. Christianity is the final legacy of the Roman Empire.
Looking at the legacy of Rome, we must discuss both its practical and its theoretical contributions. On the practical side, we must mention the Roman language, religion, government and administration, the military legacy, Roman law, Roman engineering and architecture. On the theoretical side, we must mention Roman literature, philosophy, and art. In these areas, the Romans borrowed from the Greeks and continued Hellenic traditions.
Cultural Legacy of Rome
Roman Language: Latin
Roman Engineering and Architecture
Roman Art and Literature
The Roman religion was practical. In its earliest forms, the religion appears to have been animistic. The world was full of spirits or noumena. These spirits were neither good nor bad; they were indifferent to humans, amoral, and could be either. With proper ritual, these noumena could be appeased. It was like a contract: do this for me and I'll do that for you. Some of the most important noumena were Vesta, the spirit which guarded the hearth fire; Lares, which guarded the house and its boundaries; Penates, the spirit of the larder; Janus, guarded boundaries or doorways.
The head of the household, the paterfamilias, performed the various rituals to keep these spirts friendly. These household gods were also the gods of Rome. The Vestal Virgins, for example, tended the eternal flame of Rome.
The Etruscans brought more complex ritual to the Romans. Divination and augury became important. Several colleges of priests and priestesses formed, headed by the pontifex maximus. Under the influence of the Greeks, these spirits took human form and were anthropomorphized.
Animism was a central feature of early Roman religion
Noumena or Numen
Early triad of Gods was
worshiped at open-air altars on the hill called Quirinal
After Etruscan influence a new triad of Gods was established
Jupiter Optimus Maximus (similar to Zeus) became the chief god of Rome
Juno (like Hera)
Minerva, goddess of craftsmen (like Athena)
Other Gods are mainly taken from the Greek
Greek Hermes became the Roman Mercury
186 B.C. Romans outlaw orgiastic cult of Bacchus (Dionysus)
College of Priests or Pontiffs (originally 3 later 16)
Pontiffs were in charge of the jus divinum
College of Augurs who interpreted the signs (auspices) or warnings that the Gods gave to man. Before every important act of state, a magistrate with imperium took the auspices to make sure the gods approved. Auspices were taken by observing the flights of birds, lightning, and the behavior of certain animals.
Exact performance of ritual, not morals, mattered in Roman religion
Emperor Worship became important after the fall of the Republic
Families had their Household Cults
Janus, the spirit of the doorway
Vesta, goddess of the hearth
Penates, the spirits of the storehouse
The paterfamilias was responsible for proper performance of these rituals.
Purification was very important.
Romans were concerned about public morality:
The Mos maiorum were the customs and traditions of their ancestors.
Highest virtue was pietas, the dutiful execution of one's obligations to one's fellow citizens, to the gods, and to the state.
THE GREEK PANTHEON OF GODS AND THEIR ROMAN NAMES
GREEK NAME ROMAN NAM E
The Capitoline Hill, one of the seven hills on which Rome was built, was the religious center of the city. The Capitoline Temple was the oldest of many temples there. It was divided into three sections, one each for the worship of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. Mars was also an important Roman deity. He was not only the god of war, but also of the state, and of agriculture. The Romans may have adopted Greek names, but their gods were profoundly different from those of the Greeks. There was none of the charm and ribaldry of the Greek immortals.
The Romans were not creative. In the arts, literature, and philosophy, they imitated Greek models and rarely succeeded in equaling the original. The influence of Greek did, however, enrich the Latin language and that enrichment has come down to us. Latin has been the doorway through which we have come to understand the ancient world. Their language is another of their great legacies to us. Latin was the language of the Roman Catholic Church until the 1960s. Latin was the language of all the educated during the Middle Ages and remained influential until well into the modern age. The Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French languages derive directly from Latin. English is a Germanic language but it has borrowed many Latin words.
Roman law developed for a thousand years from the Law of the Twelve Tables (450 B.C.) through the Corpus Juris Civilis (527 A.D.). In ancient times, law was not territorial but communal. Two Athenians in Rome would be covered by Athenian law. Any Roman in conflict with a foreigner would obviously be treated according to Roman law. But what if an Athenian came into conflict with someone from Alexandria? What law should apply. A special judge, the praetor peregrinis, handled these cases and came to develop a special kind of law, the jus gentium. The jus gentium was a common law which derived from legal principles common to different legal systems. In all legal traditions, murder is prohibited, so is theft. There are common commercial practices. The Romans came to identify this jus gentium with the jus naturale. Natural law is the idea that there are universal moral principles inherent in human nature and in the divine order of nature.
The Romans were a practical people. They were good soldiers, administrators, lawyers, and engineers. Their achievements as engineers and architects were formidable.
For over five centuries, they built one of the greatest road systems of antiquity, whose total length would have encircled that earth ten times at the equator. The phrase "all roads lead to Rome" derives from the fact that Roman roads began at the Forum Romanum and each mile was marked with a six foot circular pillar measuring the distance from Rome. These roads were usually straight, using tunnels and viaducts to cut through hills and bridge valleys. Some of these roads are in use today.
The Romans built elaborate water systems to supply their cities with water for fountains, public baths, and to flush the sewers. Aqueducts ported water from more than 100 miles away to supply the water needs of ancient Rome.
The Romans invented concrete, made of lime and sand, and built four story apartment buildings to house the million inhabitants of their city. Their public buildings like the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Baths of Caracalla were immense structures.
Engineering skills link naturally to the development of architecture. Vitruvius wrote a ten volume book on architecture which remained important to our own age. It inspired much of the Renaissance revival of classical building styles. The Romans continued to build temples using various types of columns to support the building. They also built basilicas, large rectangular buildings surrounded on all sides by a colonnaded gallery. They developed the triumphal arch for the commemoration of the great victories of their generals. The Romans used the round arch, vault, and dome effectively so that very large buildings could be constructed.
Fabius Pictor was the first Roman historian, but he wrote in Greek. His history written about 200 BCE covered the founding of Rome through the Punic Wars.
Livius Andronicus, a Greek ex-slave, wrote a Latin adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey shortly after the first Punic War. This is some of the earliest Latin writing known.
Other early Latin writers were the poet Naevius (d. 201 BCE) who came from Campania in Southern Italy and the poet Ennius (d. 169 BCE) from Calabria. Ennius wrote an epic poem on Roman history called Annals. While clearly based on Greek epic poetry, the subject matter and content was clearly Roman. Borrowing from a foreign culture is generally a first step in creating your own adaptations.
Plautus (~254- 184) was a playwright who based himself on Greek New Comedy. He used stock characters like dirty old men, clever slaves, prostitutes, and foolish young men in love for his slapstick humor. He came from Umbria, north of Rome.
Terence (~185 – 159) was born in Carthage, brought to Rome as slave, and freed. He wrote six plays also in the New Comedy style but with less slapstick. His comedy was more refined since he wrote for aristocracy. His comedies were performed between 170 and 160 BCE. He was a member of what is known as the Scipionic Circle. (See below).
Cato the Elder (234 – 149) was one of the first self-made men of Rome. From plebean stock, he rose to the highest public offices of Rome. He successively held the offices of Tribune (214 BC), Quaestor (204 BC), Aedile (199 BC), Praetor (198 BC), and Consul (195 BC). He ultimately held the position of Censor (184 BC). Perhaps as befits a censor defending traditional morals, he was critical of the Greek influence on Rome and the frivolous, foreign-born playwrights. He is the man telling the Roman Senate to eradicate Carthage (“Cartago delendam est”). Despite his conservative position, he had visited Greece and learned the Greek language. He sent his son to study at the schools of Athen.
Cato wrote some of the earlest Latin prose. His Origins was the first history of Italy, not just Rome, written between 164 and 149 BCE. He is also famous for writing a treatise On Agriculture. This was a manual on how to run a large farm and was written about 160 BCE. It is the only work that has survived intact. He gave many speeches during his public career some of which were written down and circulated in manuscript during the days of the Roman republic. Most of his writings have been lost or remain as quotations in other writers. Some credit Cato with preventing Greek from becoming the literary language of Rome. Latin was his native language.
Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus Africanus Numantinus (185 - 129 BC), “also known as Scipio Aemilianus or Scipio Africanus the Younger, was a leading general and politician of the ancient Roman Republic. As consul he commanded at the final siege and destruction of Carthage in 146 BC, and was a leader of the senators opposed to the Gracchi in 133 BC. . . . A group of scholars and philosophers that he gathered around him in his house in Rome” is known as the Scipionic Circle. “He was a patron and friend of the historian Polybius, the grammarian Lucilius, the playwright Terence, Panaetius, and others.” He was a Philhellene. (Wikipedia, The Free Enclyclopedia, s.v. “Scipio Aemilianus.” Available online at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scipio_Aemilianus).
Polybius (~203–120 BCE) was a Greek, lived many years in Rome as a prisoner of war, and became an advisor to the Scipio clan. He is noted for his book called The Histories covering in detail the period of 220–146 BC. While not writing in Latin, his works significantly influenced later Roman historians writing in Latin.
Lucilius (c.160s - 103/2 BC), is the earliest Roman satirist. Only fragments remain of his writings. He was a Roman citizen of the equestrian class, which allowed him to mingle and mock the Senatorial class.
Panaetius of Rhodes (~180 – 111) introduced Stoicism to Rome.
Period of the Late Republic
Lucretius, ~99 - 55 B.C., was a poet.
Cautullus, ~ 84 - 54 B.C., was a poet.
Cicero, 106 - 43 B.C.
86 - 35 B.C.
Julius Caesar (100 – 44 BCE)
Golden Age of Augustus
Gaius Cilnius Maecenas (70 BCE – 8 BCE) was a very wealthy Roman and a friend of Augustus. He patronized an entire circle of poets who praised the new princeps. His name has become synonymous with a patron of the arts.
Vergil, 70 - 19 B.C. was a poet.
Horace, 65 - 8 B.C. was a poet.
Ovid, 43 B.C. - 18 A.D., was a poet. He wrote love elegies. He was
exiled by Augustus in 8 A.D. Ovid seems to have become mixed up in a scandal
involving Augustus’ granddaughter, but the emperor also did not like the immoral
tone of Ovid’s poems. They angered the dictator.
Livy, 59 B.C. - 17 A.D., was a historian.
Seneca the Elder (ca. 54 BC – ca. 39 AD) was a great Roman rhetorician and writer. He belonged to the equestrian order and was born in Cordoba. He wrote he Controversiae (imaginary legal cases) and the Suasoriae (exercises in hortatory or deliberative oratory). The whole forms the most important authority for the history of Roman oratory.
Seneca, Seneca the Younger or Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c. 4 BC – AD 65) was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and humorist. He was a political advisor to the emperor Nero, who later accused him of treason and forced him to commit suicide. His most famous work is the Consolations.
Petronius or Gaius Petronius Arbiter (ca. 27–66) lived during the time of Nero and was another of his favorites. He advised and aided the emperor in his immoral excesses. He is believed to be the author of the Satyricon, a satirical novel with references to Nero.
(~56 - 120 A.D., was a historian.
Juvenal, (~65 - ~130 A.D.) was a satirical poet, who mocked overbearing Romans and greedy provincials and exposed what it meant to be poor in Rome.
Apuleius (~125 – 170) wrote The Golden Ass. This is a sex-filled novel about a man who is turned into donkey. The Egyptian goddess Isis finally restores his soul and his human body.
Encyclopaedia Brittanica Online http://search.eb.com/
A free, user-created, and not copyright protected encyclopedia is: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page
On origins of Rome and the Etruscan Kings see: http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Kingdom
On the Etruscan Civilization see: http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etruscan_civilization
On the history of the Roman Republic see: http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Republic
On the history of the Roman Empire see: http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Empire
For various links dealing with Roman culture see: http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_culture
For information on Pompeii see:
Copyright Dr. Harold Damerow