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The Roman World

From Republic to Empire

Courage, Duty, Discipline

The history of ancient Rome, much like that of Greece, remains an obscure mix of fact, myth, and heroic epic

The kingdoms of the seven hills


Romulus and Remus (753 B.C.E.) Virgils Aeneid

The Role of Geography

Rome is situated on seven hills approximately midway down the Italian peninsula, on its west coast, 18 mi inland along the Tiber River on the Latium Plain The Italian peninsula, which is shaped like a boot, is approximately 750 miles long with an average width of 120 miles and extending on a NW SE axis from southern Europe into the Mediterranean Sea. Along its northern frontier Italy is bordered by the high mountains of the Alps and on the remaining three sides by the Tyrrhenian Sea to the West, The Ionian Sea to the South, and the Aegean Sea on the East. A passable mountain range, the Apennines, runs the length of the peninsula, dividing it east and west, but doesnt isolate the population or inhibit travel Three major rivers systems can be found in the northern half of the country. To the far north lays the Po River valley, the most fertile of Italys agricultural areas. Below the Po valley one finds the Rubicon River which drains the northern range of the Apennines and the Etrurian plain. Further south is the Tiber which forms the drainage basin of the Apennines and the Latium plain. To the south of Rome is the Campania, Italys southern-most agrarian plain

The History of Early Rome

Whether or not one believes the mythical beginnings or the heroic epic of Romes founding or the archaeological evidence, all have some foundation in shaping Roman attitudes and beliefs Historians do position the founding of Rome at 753 B.C.E., the date attributed to the founding of the city by Romulus, and they also credit the Etruscans with the earliest efforts at city planning and construction. The influence of the Etruscans lasts until late into the 6th century actually to 509 B.C.E., the accepted date for the overthrow of the monarchies and the founding of the Republic

The archaeological evidence concludes that the earliest Romans were a pastoral people who lived in mud and thatched huts grouped in small villages occupying the seven hills. And, from these humble beginnings . . .

Not until the 2nd century B.C.E. do Roman historians begin to write down the oral traditions of Romes earliest days and these writings (see Livy) were meant to teach Romans the moral values and virtues of citizenship; these included tenacity, courage, duty, and discipline Rome was surrounded by enemies: to the north, the Etruscans; to the south, the Latiums; and, to the west, the Samnites. Even in its earliest days the role of the Roman army was clear defense and defiance, by 264 B.C.E., Rome controlled most of the Italian peninsula Romes army, especially the Praetorian Guard, more than any other factor, contributed to its survival and success, as well as its excesses.

Rome and the Greeks

The Greeks occupied Sicily and parts of the southern Italian peninsula during their colonization period (750 550 B.C.E.). In the mid-4th century B.C.E., Rome had more frequent contacts with the Greek settlements in the south and, from the Greeks, Rome adopted its mythological gods and goddess, architecture, agriculture (particularly the growing of both grapes and olives), literature, and system of education. To some degree, the Greeks influenced Roman army organization and tactics, as well as, the form of republicanism practiced in Rome. Over the next two centuries Rome and Greece were often allied in both war and trade until such time as Roman power and influence overshadowed that of Greece in the second century B.C.E..

The Roman Confederation

By 264 B.C.E. Rome had controlled all but the northernmost frontier of the Italian peninsula, including the Greek city-states in the south. To more effectively govern these conquered regions the Romans granted them full citizenship as Roman citizens, allowed them self-government in local affairs, and required them to provide men for the army. These actions made the newly acquired states full participants stakeholders in the affairs of Rome. As it conquered new territories, Rome would re-settle Roman and Latins as colonizers in these newly conquered territories, building a road network to these newly established colonial cities; creating a loyal populace, improving communication, facilitating transportation and rapid movement of its troops.

The Early Roman State

The Roman Republic was governed by two consuls, chosen annually, who possessed imperium or the right to command into battle and it was they who administered the government and led the Roman army in war. By 366 B.C.E., the office of praetor had been created. The praetor had also been granted imperium and would govern in the absence of the consul and lead the army into battle. The praetors primary function had more to do with internal policing and the execution of justice the praetor had responsibility to apply the civil laws of Rome to its citizens. In 242 B.C.E., the praetor had the additional responsibility to judge cases in which one or more of the parties involved were non-citizens of Rome. The Roman state also established an administrative bureaucracy that handled specialized functions to include the increasingly important financial affairs of the Empire and the supervision of public games to entertain the masses in Rome.

Patricians and Plebeians

The government of Rome continuously evolves and changes overtime. The Roman Senate, although modified at various times, remains a relative constant in Roman politics. Social status determined political stature throughout Roman history. The Patrician class served as senators for life (approx. 300 in number). Descendants of the early senators who had been appointed by the kings and the wealthiest of the aristocracy, they govern early Rome by advising the members of the Centuriate Assembly who are also members of the rich aristocracy. The Centuriate Assembly elected the magistrates and passed laws. The more numerous plebs, comprised of the less-wealthy landowners, artisans, and merchants, also sought representation and say in the government which had been granted them in 471 B.C.E. at the creation of the council of the plebs.

The Patricians, through patronage, influence, or sheer political power controlled the centuriate assembly and other facets of Roman life.
The more numerous plebs did not have the same rights, although they could vote just like the patricians, only the patrician class could hold office. By the 5th century the plebs sought an end to the political and social inequality In 471 B.C.E. a popular assembly, the council of the plebs was formed and the Tribunes of the Plebs were given authority to protect the rights of the plebeians. Eventually, plebs were allowed to intermarry with members of the patrician class, permitted to become consuls, and finally, in 287 B.C.E., the council of plebs were allowed to pass laws for all Romans.

Theoretically all Roman citizens were social and political equals, however, in practice a select number of patrician and plebeian families formed a senatorial aristocracy that came to dominate political life. Rome was not to become a democracy!

Roman Conquest of the Mediterranean (264 133 B.C.E.)

Carthage, originally founded as a Phoenician colony in North Africa around 800 B.C.E., by the 3rd century B.C.E. it had become one of the most powerful trading states in the western Mediterranean and included the coastal areas of north Africa, southern Spain, the islands of Sardinia and Corsica, and the western half of Sicily, which it tenuously shared with Greece.
Carthages dominance so close to Rome was a cause of suspicion and growing tension between the two powerful states. By 264 B.C.E. the growing mistrust led the nations to war a series of long-lasting wars known to history as the Punic Wars (from the Latin punicus for Phoenician)

The Punic Wars

The Punic Wars are divided into three separate wars and have distinct phases to each. The First Punic War (264 241 B.C.E.) was fought entirely on and around the sea lanes of Sicily. Rome successfully invested the Carthaginian colonies on Sicily, a siege that Carthage failed to break. Rome had to construct a navy and its new navy won the more strategic sea battle against Carthage. Thus forcing Carthage to relinquish control over Sicily in 241 B.C.E. and to pay an indemnity to Rome. Sicily contributed little to the wealth of Carthage and the indemnity was of little consequence to Carthage relative to a peaceful co-existence in the Mediterranean. The war ended without any real consequence for its participants, the military actions were largely indecisive, and Romes appetite for expansion had been wetted.

Perhaps better known and certainly of greater historical consequence is the Second Punic War (218 201 B.C.E.)
Rome seized upon the opportunity to occupy the island of Corsica when Carthages mercenary army rebelled.

Carthage then built up a military presence in Spain, in part, to expand its empire and in an effort to intimidate and possibly outflank the Romans. Rome responded by developing allies among some of the cities in Iberia. In 221 B.C.E. the newly appointed Carthaginian general in Spain, Hannibal, attacked and destroyed the city of Saguntum, a Roman ally. Rome tried diplomacy and demanded Carthage recall Hannibal from Spain, a request which they denied. By 218 B.C.E. war broke out once again.
Hannibal commanded a powerful army in Spain of over 40,000 men that he led over the Alps into northern Italy. At Cannae in 216 B.C.E., he defeated each of the Roman armies that he encountered. Hannibals success also attracted approximately 50,000 Gauls to aid him in Romes destruction. Unconvinced that they could defeat Hannibal in open warfare, Roman generals decided to attack Carthage more directly. The Roman armies first conquered Spain, cutting Hannibals LOC and supply, forcing Carthage to recall Hannibal from Italy, and then Rome defeated Hannibals army at the battle of Zama in 202 B.C.E. on the outskirts of Carthage

Hannibals defeat at Zama allowed Rome to acquire Spain, Sardinia, and Corsica. Spain became a province of Rome and Rome itself became the most dominant power in the Mediterranean. Other consequences of the Second Punic War were Romes deteriorating relationship with Ancient Greece. King Philip V of Macedonia allied himself with Hannibal in 215 B.C.E. following the disastrous defeat of Romes armies at Cannae. Several Italian city-states both in the North and South also allied themselves with the Carthaginians, as did the island of Sicily. Rome would later meet these defections with the full force of its empire.
Lastly, Publius Cornelius Scipio (237 183 B.C.E.), known to history as Scipio Africanus, is selected as consul and given imperium in Spain by the senate an unprecedented and unconstitutional appointment that would have unwanted consequences later in Roman history.

The Third Punic War (149 146 B.C.E.) was perhaps the bloodiest conflict, at least as far as the civilian population was concerned. Rome concerned about the revitalization of Carthage demanded the Carthaginians abandon their city and move inland, they, of course, refused and Rome declared war once again. Carthago delenda est Cato the Elder, Senator of Rome
Carthage was conquered and its civilian population decimated in brutal house-to-house searches by Roman soldiers. Those not killed were taken as slaves and sold in various markets or worked in the mines and on public works projects throughout the empire. The territory of Carthage became a Roman province in North Africa

Rome and the Hellenistic World

Following the defeat of Carthage in the Second Punic War, Rome increasingly became interested in the affairs of Greece.

Romes alliance with the Illyrians, a semi-barbaric tribal peoples inhabiting the Aegean coastal plain north of Macedonia, brought Roman military influence to Greece, particularly against King Philip V of Macedonia for his treachery by aligning Macedonia with Hannibals army in 215 B.C.E. against Rome. In 196 B.C.E. Romes military conquests in Greece brought freedom to the Greek citystates once dominated by Macedonia. By 148 B.C.E., Macedonia itself was made a Roman province. When several Greek city-states rose up rebelling against Roman policies in Greece, Greece was placed under the control of the Roman governor of Macedonia. In 133 B.C.E. the king of Pergamum deeded his kingdom to Rome, giving Rome it s first Asian province
By the end of the 2nd century B.C.E., Rome was the master of the Mediterranean Sea the concept of mare nostrum was born

Roman Imperialism

Rome did not have an overall plan aimed at territorial expansion and conquest, they were opportunistic and defensive in nature. The empire was created in three distinct stages:

The conquest of the Italian peninsula; Latium, Samnites, and the Etruscans
The conquest of the Western Mediterranean and Carthage The conquest of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Hellenistic World

Characteristically, Rome reacted to protect its perceived selfinterest. As the empire expanded, Rome encountered new peoples and new threats to its security to which it reacted decisively and militarily. Clearly by the 2nd century Roman conquests became more brutal and there is evidence that expansion was thought to bring additional wealth and glory to Rome, but Rome would only venture so far, preferring to refrain from imperialistic adventurism.
The Roman empire was an empire of cities. Along its many trade routes and frontiers the one dominant feature was the city. Whether a military outpost or a manufacturing center, cities were vital to maintaining the empire. On one hand, Roman cities represented the boundaries of civilization a separation of barbarianism and the civilized world. On the other, cities, connected by a vast network of roads, were the focus of trade and financial well-being that bound the empire together

An Empire of Cities

Roman cities were generally one of three types: organized and built as a Roman city; built upon the foundation of a Greek city; or a pre-existing city with ancient foundations (usually found in Asia, such as, Ephesus or the desert cities of Persia) Cities also provided a haven for Romes allied barbarians, some of whom adapted well to city life, such as the Parisii, a tribe of Gauls who lived in the city Lutetia, which we know today as Paris. Besides being military or trading outposts on the fringe of the empire other cities served an important state function, such as the numerous mints Rome employed in its cities in the Balkans and the area of the Black Sea to help distribute coinage throughout the empire.

Rome, the Army and Divided Loyalties

The losses experienced from the Second Punic War caused Roman generals to rethink their recruitment and manning needs. As the empire expanded the Army needed to be deployed over a greater geographical area than before and the need for additional manpower was acute. Traditionally, Rome recruited its army from conscription of small-hold farmers from the rural areas surrounding Rome until about 100 B.C.E. when Marius, a Roman general, initiated a program to recruit both urban poor and landless peasants for his legions. For their service, Marius promised them both pay and lands in return for their allegiance to him. This forced the generals to secure a promise from the senate to guarantee lands to veterans. Lucius Cornelius Sulla took advantage of the new recruitment system for his war in Asia Minor, but when the council of plebs tried to transfer command of his legions to Marius, Sulla and his army refused and civil war broke out. Sullas legions defeated Marius and in 82 B.C.E., Sulla and his army marched on Rome itself, seizing power and murdering those who opposed him. Sulla restored power to the senate and eliminated most of the powers of the popular assembly. By using the army to achieve a political outcome, Sulla provided an example to those men of ambition which followed him

The First Triumvirate and the Collapse of the Republic

Historians refer to the coalition of Julius Caesar, Marcus Licinius Crassus (Crassus), and Cnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey), formed in 60 B.C.E., as the first unofficial triumvirate. It combined the political and military talents of three of Romes most prestigious citizens. Crassus, a senator and perhaps ancient Romes most wealthy individual, was renown for the suppression of the slave revolt led by Spartacus in 73 71 B.C.E.. Crassus also initiated Romes first fire brigade, manned entirely by slaves. Crassus was given command of Romes forces in Syria. Pompey, a general, won recognition for his military command in Spain in 71 B.C.E. and, along with Crassus, defeated the slave army of Spartacus. Pompey received lands for his veterans and vast estates and a command in Spain for himself. Julius Caesar, a general who also won acclaim for his campaigns in Spain. In return for his service in Spain, Caesar was given a special command of the legions in Gaul, beyond the Rubicon River, in 58 B.C.E.. His nine year campaign there was a major success and the recognitions won by Caesar helped to create greater tension among the three nobles.

The Triumvirate would prove to be short-lived for ambitious men have ambitious goals. Crassus, eager for military glory, initiated a war upon the eastern empire of the Parthians. He raised an army from the Hellenized population, squeezed the treasury of Syria for money, and ultimately fell victim to his own greed and the work of Ariamnes, a Parthian spy who led Crassus sand his armies to their doom on the plains of Carrhae in 53 B.C.E. Of his army of 40,000 men Crassus, himself killed along with his son Publius, suffered 25,000 dead and 10,000 captured. Less than 5000 men survived the campaign. Following the death of Crassus, Caesar had conquered all of Gaul increasing his wealth , reputation, and the loyalty of a battlehardened army to follow him. The senate attempted to recall Caesar from Gaul to have him return to Rome as a private citizen and replace him with Pompey, who they thought of as less of a potential threat. Caesar refused and crossing the Rubicon led his army in a march on Rome. His army fought that of Pompey, defeating them in battle at Pharsalus in 47 B.C.E.

Pompey flees to Alexandria and the kingdom of the Ptolemies in Egypt where he is pursued by Caesar and ultimately beheaded as a gift to Caesar by Ptolemy V. Pompey was once both Caesars mentor and son-in-law. Caesar assists Cleopatra in gaining the throne of Egypt after disposing many members of the court of Ptolemy, they later have a son together.
The Roman senate declares Caesar as Dictator in 47 B.C.E. By 44 B.C.E., he is declared to be Dictator for Life. Caesar institutes some land reform measures by redistributing lands, especially those of his political opponents, to the poor. He vastly increases the size of the senate from 300 to 900 members, mostly his supporters which reduces the political power of those who oppose him. He also reforms the calendar instituting the 365 day Egyptian solar year the month of July was named in his honor. Fearing Caesars ambition and thirst for power a group of senators, including former supporters, ally themselves into a group called the Liberators and they assassinate Caesar on March 15, 44 B.C.E. as he prepared for a war against Parthia

The Roman Empire

The Republic effectively breathed its last breath with the death of Julius Caesar, ironically at the foot of Pompeys statue where he had been stabbed 23 times by the Liberators. Without doubt some of the Liberators themselves thought that they should be the sole ruler of Rome evidenced by the coins Brutus ordered stuck to commemorate his role in Caesars assassination. There was no clear policy or line of succession. A second Triumvirate was forged from the collaboration of Caesars adopted nephew, Octavian, his former friend and subordinate, Marc Antony, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, former praetor and consul with Julius Caesar.

The leadership of Rome remained unsettled (although tentatively in the hands of Antony) until 42 B.C.E. when opposing forces led by Brutus and Cassius (assassins of Caesar) met those led by the triumvirate in a series of battles collectively known as the battle at Philippi.
While their was no decisive winner in the military sense, Cassius, thinking all was lost, committed suicide during the first battle on October 3 and Brutus, whose army was defeated in the second battle on October 23, initially escaped and then committed suicide. Lepidus was rewarded with the governorship of Africa and in 36 B.C.E., he conquered Sicily, which was still partly controlled by the Greeks. He subsequently fell out of favor and was stripped of all his titles except pontifex maximus leader of the church of Rome Antony leaves for Egypt where he has a torrid love affair with Cleopatra and they have three children together. During this time, Antony and Octavian grow more quarrelsome, ultimately leading to civil war and Antonys downfall at the battle of Actium fought in Greece in 31 B.C.E.. Antony, defeated and disgraced, commits suicide by falling on his sword. Cleopatra, aggrieved at Antonys death also commits suicide by holding a venomous asp to her breast. Octavian emerges as the sole ruler of Rome and becomes Augustus the revered one

Augustus rules Rome until his death in 14 CE, one of the most efficient and longest lasting Emperors. He reduces the size and reorganizes the army. He initiates a system of pay and set periods of active service rewarding those who dedicate their lives to military service. He initiates a civil service and organizes both revenue collection and disbursements. He initiates an census to survey the empire and determine scientifically the taxes due from each province the reason Joseph and Mary go to Nazareth. In his earlier life, he is both extravagant and decadent, but later lives morally and attempts to impose a standard of morality upon Rome. In this context, he comes into conflict with Ovid (a.k.a. Publius Ovidus Naso 43 BCE 18 AD), a renown poet and possibly a lover to both Augustus daughter, Julia, and her daughter, Julia. Ovids Ars Amatoia (The Art of Love) is a popular poem read throughout the empire. Augustus banishes Ovid to Tomi on the Black Sea in 8 AD following the death of his patron and close associate of the emperor, M. Valerius Messalla Corvinus. Augustus ends some of the more barbaric and capricious ways in which Romes nobility puts their slaves to death i.e., thrown into a shallow pool of lamprey eels.

Roman Society Under Augustus

Roman society became more formalized under Augustus at the top of the social order was the Imperator Augustus, Emperor Romes nobility consisted of the senators, the remnant of the latifundia or the landed aristocracy, who filled the most important posts in the civil government and military, followed by the knights or equestrian class, who held positions of lesser responsibility in both the military and civil government.

The overwhelming majority of Romes citizens were members of the lower classes consisting of Freedmen, small-hold farmers, merchants, artisans, and soldiers. In Rome they were provided with free grain and admission to the Coliseum and the Circus Maximus. No Roman citizen paid any direct taxes.
A growing element in Rome was the slave population, which proved to be an economic disincentive to industry and more difficult problem to manage politically overtime.

The Early Empire, 14 180 CE

The Julio Claudians (14 68 CE) includes: Tiberius (14 37 CE); Caligula (37 41 CE); Claudius (41 54 CE); Nero (54 68 CE) as Emperor witnessed the burning of Rome (64 CE), Christian persecutions, and the rebellion in Judea (68 69 CE). During a revolt of his legions, Nero commits suicide by stabbing himself in the throat after uttering the words, What an artist the world is losing in me!

The Five Good Emperors (96 180 CE)

Throughout much of the 2nd century Rome enjoyed a period of relative peace and prosperity known to history as Pax Romana. For the first time Rome would have as its emperor former citizens of the provinces, particularly Spain and Illyria. For the most part these particular men proved to be capable leaders, successful in battle and aware of the power of the senate. They embarked upon numerous building and public works projects while pursuing beneficial domestic policies. Nerva (96 98 CE) served briefly as emperor, he was nearly seventy years old when he was named to the position. He initiated land reform and welfare programs to aid the poor, reorganized tax collections. Trajan (98 117 CE), a Spaniard, who established himself as a military leader in a successful campaign in Germany, he was adopted by and the named successor to Nerva. He continued many of Nervas social reform programs and added payments to poor families to provide education for their children. Trajan commenced an elaborate building and public works project to reclaim lands for public use (such as the new Forum), enhanced the aqueduct system, and expanded the road networks throughout the empire. In his last years he successfully concluded a three year military campaign against Parthia, marching his armies to the Persian Gulf

Hadrian (117 138 CE) was the adopted son of Trajan and Consul of Syria. His legions proclaimed him Emperor at Trajans death and the senate formalized the fact, albeit somewhat meaninglessly. Unlike most emperors, Hadrian spent little time in Rome as he traveled extensively throughout the empire. He disapproved of Trajans expansionism and began fortifying the frontiers (i.e., Hadrians Wall in Britain to contain the Scots). Hadrian reformed the army, reducing their number, and making use of auxiliary forces where possible. One of Hadrians most important contributions was the codification of Roman laws in to a more unified edict. Hadrians marriage to Trajans grandniece proved unproductive and was an unhappy relationship. It was rumored that Hadrian had a homosexual love affair with a 20 year old who died under mysterious circumstances while accompanying the emperor on a cruise of the Nile River. Near the end of his reign, Hadrian was emperor at the time of the Jewish Wars (132 133 CE) and ordered the brutal suppression of the Jews culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

The first of two Antonines is Antoninus Pius (138 161 CE), the adopted son of Hadrian and an accomplished proconsul of Asia. He administered the empire with marked ability, adding to the architecture of Rome, reducing the financial burdens of the provinces, and maintained peaceful relations throughout the empire. He established the collection of funds to support orphaned girls, provided free food, oil and wines to victims of Romes disastrous fires, and improved upon deteriorating roads and bridges throughout the provinces
Marcus Aurelius (161 180 CE) was the adopted son and son-in-law of Antoninus Pius. He is also known in Roman history as Marcus Antoninus Philosophus Marcus Antoninus the Philosopher. His reign was troubled out the outset; the Parthian War (161 166 CE) over control of Armenia, an outbreak of the plague, the Germanic Wars (166 180 CE), a revolt in Syria in 175 CE, and trouble in Britain. And, while he exhibited much religious tolerance, that did not extend to the Christians who were persecuted at various times and places both in Rome and the provinces. He administered the empire carefully, improving the judiciary, managing finances while the treasury (fiscus) was being depleted as a result of all the conflicts Few, if any, of his public works survive. He died on the German frontier and his son Commodus succeeded him without opposition

Rome: Frontiers and Provinces

The expansion of the Roman Empire under Trajan overextended its capabilities to maintain the empire, the Roman army was too few in number and the cost of continuous warfare was too high both in men and monetary resources. At its height in the 2nd century the Roman Empire covered over 3.5 million square miles and had a population of 50 million people. Citizenship had been extended to many foreigners to such an extent that Emperor Caracalla granted Roman citizenship to every free inhabitant of the empire in 212 CE. In the western half of the empire, Latin was the official language, while in the east it was Greek creating the Greco-Roman culture. Despite its diversity, Rome lacked free trade. Its taxes, duties, and trade restrictions created a financial burden in the provinces leading to a growing discontent and increasingly meddlesome central bureaucracy. Increasingly barbarians were becoming a greater percentage of the overall population in general and comprised a greater proportion of the armies. Italian senators comprised less than 50 % of the senate and increasingly lost influence to the provincial equestrian class

Culture and Society

Although the Romans expressed contempt for Greek politics, particularly that of Athens, they imported much of Greek culture. The wealthier Romans had Greek tutors educate their young, Roman military officers sent Greek manuscripts and art work back to Rome, and Greek ambassadors , merchants, and artisans freely traveled to Rome. Yet many Romans blamed Romes vices the wont of luxury and the spread of homosexuality on the Greeks

Latin literature which first emerges in the 3rd century BCE was heavily influenced by the Greeks and it was not until the late 4th century CE that truly Latin forms of literature evolve. Catullas (c. 87 54 BCE) is considered to be the finest lyric poet Rome produced and one of the greatest in all world literature
Cicero (106 43 BCE) is considered to be one of the great orators and prose writers of the period. Romans had great respect for persuasive oratory, it was considered the mark of a great statesmen.

Virgil (70 19 BCE) rivaled the work of Homer with his epic poem The Aeneid linking Greek and Roman history

Ovid (43 BCE 18 CE) is considered to be the last great poet of the Golden Age. He moved with a fast crowd of young socialites who enjoyed ridiculing traditional Roman values. His frivolous love poems were meant to both shock and entertain the public. His Ars Amatoia is a take off on the earlier didactic forms of How-to poems, but instead of a guide to farming or fishing, Ovid writes a guide to lovemaking Livy (59 BCE 17 CE) writes what has become one of the greatest literary works of the Golden Age with his History of Rome of which 35 of the original 142 books have survived to the present. Livys history is presented in terms of moral lessons and human character proved to be the determining factor in history.
The works of Seneca (c. 4 BCE 65 CE) reflect a marked change and the growing popularity of using clever and ornate literary expression in place of original content and clear meaning. Seneca is influenced more by the philosophy of Stoicism: living according to nature, accepting events dispassionately as part of a universal plan, and possessing a universal love of all humanity.

Tacitus (c. 56 120 CE) produces the greatest works of the Silver Age including Annals and Histories. Tacitus believed that history had a moral purpose. As a member of the senatorial class, he was disgusted with the abuses of power and the evil deeds perpetrated by men in power. His work Germania is a specially important source document on the history of the early Germans Tacitus attempts to portray the Germans as the noble savages relative to the decadent Romans

Roman art was borrowed from the Greeks. The Romans developed a taste for Greek sculpture, but when demand outstripped supply, the Romans produced their own forms of sculpture, one that reflected their sense of intense realism and not the idealized Greek forms. Romans adorned their public building and private residences with other art forms; wall paintings (frescos) and colorful floor mosaics depicting family scenes, landscapes, mythological stories, and sexual scenes of both a graphic and humorous nature. Romans excelled in architecture and engineering, although they borrowed from the Greek styles and made use of colonnades and rectangular forms, the Romans were highly innovative and produced great works using curvilinear forms: the arch, vault, and dome. They were also the first people to make extensive use of concrete allowing them to build very large structures such as the Amphitheater, aqueducts, and public baths. The Romans built over 50,000 miles of roads throughout the empire.

Pagans, Jews and Christians

Romans were polytheistic and they believed in a pantheon of Greco-Roman gods and goddesses: Jupiter Optimus Maximus (best and greatest), Mars, the god of war; there was a cult of Isis; and dead imperators who were later deified.

Despite, or perhaps because of, their beliefs Romans were tolerant of other religions, they allowed the worship of native gods and goddesses throughout the provinces and would, on occasion, adopt some of them as their own.
The Roman occupation of Judea in 63 BCE led to their contact with the Jews. Judea would prove to be a thorn in the side of Rome as various factions all sought a different end to their relationship with Rome. The Sadducees sought to cooperate with Rome, the Pharisees sought an end to Roman rule but did not advocate violence, the Zealots, a group of religious extremists advocated a militant overthrow of the Romans, while the majority of Jews simply awaited the arrival of the Messiah who would save them from oppression. Regardless of the group to which a Jew belonged, they segregated themselves from the Romans. A Jewish revolt in 66 CE lasted for four years and involved more people than the Zealots. The revolt was suppressed, the Temple in Jerusalem destroyed and Rome dominated Judea. The Jews would rise up against Rome again during the Bar Kochba revolt in 132 CE, only to be violently repressed once again under Hadrian, Imperator of Rome and ending up in a great Diaspora. Jesus of Nazareth (c. 6 BCE 29 CE), a Palestinian Jew, grew up in Galilee, an important center of the militant Zealots. Some Jews believed that Jesus was the Messiah, coming to their rescue and would overthrow the Romans. Others, more conservative Jews, believed that Jesus was undermining traditional values and was a blasphemer. To the local Roman administration Jesus represented a potential revolutionary who would turn the messianic movement into a revolt against the authority of Rome. Bound over for trial, Jesus was convicted and sentenced to be crucified by the governor, Pontius Pilot

Following Jesus death on the cross was the resurrection, a story spread by his disciples and yet, no one denies claims that the body was not in the tomb. The facts of Jesus death and resurrection form the central tenets of a new found religion, that of Christianity. Initially the gospel message was spread only to the Jews by Jesus disciples, but later Saul of Tarsus (who becomes Paul, following his experience on the road to Damascus) spreads the gospel to the gentiles non-Jews. It is Paul who founded the Christian churches in Asia Minor and along the Aegean coast. Slowly the new church spreads throughout the Roman empire and after the gospels are produced in written form (between 50 150 CE), the church spread even faster, initially in the Hellenized world and then in the western portion of the empire.

Initially Rome paid little attention to the Christian church thinking it was little more than another Jewish sect that would die out with the death of its leadership.

As the popularity of Christianity grew and it spread to Rome, it came into conflict with Roman cosmology. Romans believed that Christians were exclusive, harmful to the sense of community and a disturbance to public order. Christians refused to participate in state festivals and worship the gods which Romans regarded as treasonous acts punishable by death.
The persecution of Christians throughout much of the 1st and 2nd centuries was sporadic and unorganized. In the 3rd century, it became systematic and ever more brutal. And yet, despite the brutal persecution, the church found strength in its institutional forms and traditions. The church established a firm hierarchy and in the crucial 3rd century the emerging role of bishops served to provide the church with greater local control. The bishops and clergy were salaried officers, separated from the church membership and, more important, the state. The church message of universal salvation and resurrection proved to be a powerful message to Romans of the 3rd century at a time when the empire appeared to be corrupt and foundering.

In the 4th century Roman emperors from Diocletian to Theodosius helped to foster the tremendous growth in popularity of the Christian church. Diocletian (284 305 CE) harbored monotheistic beliefs although he was pious, it is doubtful that he was Christian, although his wife and daughter were reported to be Christian. Diocletian is best remembered for the formalization of the Tetrarchy two Augustans and two Caesars, one pair ruling the west and the other the east. The empire was more concerned with the instability of its borders than it was of the internal problems, including the church. This period of benign attention allowed the church to strengthen its communities and providing assistance to the poor and needy. As the state grew more impersonal, the church grew more responsive to the needs of the community. Under Diocletian, however, persecution of Christians continues. Constantine (306 337 CE) is known to history as the first Christian emperor although he was not baptized until the end of his life. In reality, he was most likely power hungry and saw in the Christian God, a source of power not available to him through the state religion. In 312 CE he puts down a revolt led by his brother-in-law, Maxentius and emerges as sole leader of the empire. It is reported that in a dream, on the eve of battle, Constantine was instructed to place the symbol of the cross upon his soldiers shields, he did so and achieved a dramatic victory in the battle of the Milvian Bridge. In 313 CE he issues the Edict of Milan the first official toleration of the Christian church throughout the empire.

Constantine also presided over the first major rift or controversy in the church the Arian Controversy which denied the co-equal relationship between Jesus and God. In 325 CE he summoned the First Ecumenical Council of the church at great palace hall of Nicaea forming the basis of the Nicene Creed although it was revised later in 381-2 CE at the Council of Constantinople.
In 391 CE, Theodocius (378 395 CE) officially adopts Christianity as the state religion by passing a series of laws banning pagan practices and at his death in 395 CE, splits the empire in two to be ruled by his two sons, in the west the capital is Rome and in the east, the capital is Constantinople, a Christian city from its origins. The bishop Ambrose of Milan excommunicates Theodocius in 390 CE because the emperor ordered the deaths of thousands of the inhabitants of Thessalonica for the murder of one of his generals. His rule is marked by two bloody civil wars and strife in the Balkans, invaded by the Goths

Decline and Fall of the Empire


From its height in the early 2nd century, the Roman Empire began a decline that ended in 476 CE when Rome finally collapsed, from causes both internal and external to the empire. The armys rise in political power during the 3rd century left its indelible mark form military monarchies under the Severan dynasty(193 235 CE) to a 50 year period of military anarchy (235 284 CE) in which Romans saw 22 emperors quickly rise to power then fall. Only two of those did not suffer violent ends at the hands of the military Romans failed to develop a workable political system; suffered from failed economic policies, periods of rampant inflation, and poor trade practices; it lacked the military might to sustain the empire against internal strife and foreign enemies, but more importantly stagnated in their strategic and tactical thinking rendering them obsolete; in addition to inconsistent domestic and foreign policies, internal political strife, and a lack of vision toward the future. Ultimately the Huns, great warriors from the Asian steppes moved westward forcing the Goths, Vandals and others into conflict with the Roman empire, conflicts that they could not win.

Wracked by political in-fighting and costly civil wars, Rome suffered in terms of resources, both financially and in manpower. Periods of weakness were times of other troubles, uprisings in the provinces, rebellions by their armies that were increasingly manned by barbarian troops with little allegiance to Rome.
Christianity is also cited as a cause with its emphasis on a spiritual kingdom undermining traditional Roman martial values and patriotism. Other causes that have been identified to some degree also include: the use of lead pipes in the water supply system causing brain problems and mental deficiencies; population decimated by plague; failure to advance technologically and dependency upon slavery; and, the increase of non-Italians in political and military leadership roles. Some of these have a basis in fact, others are quite a stretch. The fact is that Rome reached its limits and the world continued to press forward.

Quiz #4

In a long essay (3 pages), examine the social, economic, political, and religious aspects for the decline of the Roman empire from its high point in the second century. What do you think was the most significant cause of Romes decline and why?