 Like
the Persian Empire, Rome took shape on
the margins of the “civilized” world.
 Rome began as a small and poor city-state on
the western side of Italy in the eighth century
BCE, so weak, according to legend, that
Romans were reduced to kidnapping
neighboring women in order to reproduce.
 Rome’s
central location contributed to its
success in unifying Italy and then all the lands
ringing the Mediterranean.
 Italy was a crossroads in the Mediterranean and
Rome was a crossroads within Italy.
 Rome is located at the midpoint of the Italian
peninsula, about 15 miles from the western
coast, where a north-south road intersected an
east-west river route.
 The
Tiber River on the one side and a ring of
seven hills on the other gave Rome natural
 Even
though 75% of
Italy is hilly, there is
still ample arable
land in the coastal
plains and river
valleys to sustain a
larger population
than Greece.
 Agriculture
was the essential economic activity in
the early Roman state (and land was the basis of
wealth), and no matter how urbanized Rome later
became, Roman roots remained firmly fixed in the
 From their pioneer forebears of a hostile land,
Romans inherited respect for strength and
discipline, for loyalty, industry, frugality, and
 These
ancient values were formally recognized
by the Romans as the mos maiorum (ways of the
fathers), and always dominated their outlook.
 The Roman owed his loyalties to the gods, the
state, and the family.
 Where the Greeks had cherished their
individuality, the Roman had always
subordinated his personality to greater forces.
 Social
status and political privilege were
related to landownership.
 The vast majority of early Romans were selfsufficient independent farmers who owned
small plots of land.
 A small number of families acquired large
pieces of land. The heads of these wealthy
families formed the Senate (from the Latin for
“old men”).
The basic unit of Roman
society was the family,
made up of several
generations of family
members plus domestic
 The oldest living male, the
paterfamilias (“father of
the family”) exercised
absolute authority over the
members of his
 The
paterfamilias looked after the family's
business affairs and property and could
perform religious rites on the family’s behalf.
 If his children angered him, he had the legal
right to disown them, sell them into slavery, or
even kill them.
 Only the paterfamilias could own property:
whatever their age, until their father died, his
sons only received an allowance to manage
their own households.
 Sons
were important, because Romans put a lot
of value on continuing the family name. If a
father had no sons then he could adopt one –
often a nephew – to make sure that the family
line would not die out.
 When a child was born into the family, the
paterfamilias had the right to decide whether to
keep a newborn baby. After birth, the midwife
placed the baby on the ground: only if the
paterfamilias picked it up was the baby
formally accepted into the family.
 If
the decision went the other way, the baby
was exposed – deliberately abandoned outside.
 This usually happened to deformed babies, or
when the father did not think that the family
could support another child. Babies were
exposed in specific places and it was assumed
that an abandoned baby would be picked up
and then taken as a slave.
 Around 25 % of babies in the first century C.E.
did not survive their first year and up to half of
all children died before the age of 10.
 It
wouldn’t be difficult
for the Romans to
move from the concept
of an authoritarian
paterfamilias to that of
an authoritarian state
and ultimately an allpowerful emperor
(called paterpatriae –
father of the country).
 Roman
women usually married in their early
teenage years, while men waited until they
were in their mid-twenties. As a result, the
materfamilias (mother of the family) was
usually much younger than her husband.
 It was accepted that the materfamilias was in
charge of managing the household. In the upper
classes, she was also expected to assist her
husband’s career by behaving with modesty,
grace and dignity.
 As
was common in Roman society, while men
had the formal power, women exerted
influence behind the scenes.
 Nearly everything we know about Roman
women pertains to those in the upper classes.
 Unable to own property or represent herself in
legal proceedings, a woman had to depend on
a male guardian to advocate for her interests.
In early Rome, a woman
never ceased to be a child
in the eyes of the law. She
started out under the
absolute authority of the
 When she married, she
came under the jurisdiction
of the paterfamilias of her
husband’s family.
 Despite
limitations put on
them, Roman women
seem to have been
less constrained than
their counterparts in
the Greek world.
 Husband and wife
mosaic from
 While
service to the state could lead to
distinction, it was considered an extension of
the obligation that Romans felt toward their
 The most admired characteristic of the Roman
male was gravitas (dignity).
 Gravitas meant enduring strength rather than
delicacy, power rather than agility, mass rather
than beauty, utility rather than grace–these
were the hallmarks of Rome.
 Fact
rather than imagination dominated its art
and strength clothed in dignity was the Roman
 Swathed in his toga, a well-born Roman never
gave the impression of being in a hurry…he
always seemed to be on parade, always
conscious of his audience.
 In homage to the past, he constantly reminded
himself of the eminent forebears whom it was
his duty to emulate in every waking action.
 The
private lives of Roman gentleman were
strictly regulated by a code that defined
acceptable conduct.
 While virtually all forms of business were
closed to them, upper-class Romans found
plenty of loopholes in this code by having
“degrading” businesses run by slaves or hired
agents; lawyers, long prohibited from accepting
fees for their services, never refused gifts from
grateful clients.
 To
a Roman gentleman, the menial work of an
unskilled laborer, a fishmonger, butcher, cook,
sausage-maker, perfumer, dancer, or actor was
 The one exception was a manufacturer of
bricks (a widely used Roman building
material); because clay was a product of the
earth, brick-making was considered a branch
of “respectable” agriculture.
 According
to legend, there were seven kings
between 753-509 BCE; the first was Romulus;
the last was the tyrannical Tarquinius Superbus
(or Tarquin the Proud) who ruled from 535509 BCE.
 When his son Sextus raped his cousin’s wife
(Lucretia—who killed herself from shame), the
public outcry brought down the monarchy.
 In
507 BCE, members
of the Senate, led by
Brutus “the Liberator,”
deposed Tarquinius
Superbus (he was sent
into exile) and
instituted a res publica,
a “public possession,”
or a republic.
 The
Roman Republic, which lasted from 50731 BCE, was not a direct democracy.
 Even though all male citizens were eligible to
attend various assemblies, the votes of the
wealthy land-owning aristocrats (known as
patricians) counted for more than the votes of
the poorer citizens (known as plebeians).
 The word patrician comes from the Latin
“patres” meaning “fathers.”
 The
plebeians were the vast majority of the
population—workers, merchants, and peasants.
 Although both groups had the right to vote, only
patricians had the right to become leaders in
 So, all power was in the hands of the patricians.
 Boys
born into a patrician family would receive
an extensive education, usually from a private
 This education would focus on the subjects a
sophisticated noble would be expected to know,
as well as some required for his future career.
 Poetry and literature, history and geography,
some mythology and important languages – like
Greek – would all be taught.
 The
Romans also considered lessons in public
speaking and the law to be essential parts of a
good education.
 Most young patrician men would go on to
careers in politics and government, for which
these two subjects were crucial.
 The
patrician class enjoyed many privileges:
its members were excused from the military
duties expected of other citizens, and only
patricians could become emperor.
 But being a patrician carried its own dangers:
patricians could find themselves becoming
wrapped up in palace intrigue.
 If they ended up on the losing side, they could
easily lose their home, their lands and even
their lives.
 Apart
from the plots and politics, however,
members of both royal and patrician families
faced little work or real responsibility and were
blessed with a relatively charmed life – certainly
compared to the other inhabitants of Rome at the
 The
transition from a monarchy to a republic
seems to have been accomplished with relative
 Even though Romans had rebelled against their
kings, they continued to accept the idea of
supreme authority, which they called imperium.
 But instead of giving the power to a king who
held it for life, the Romans placed it in the hands
of two consuls who held it for one year.
 The
imperium of the consuls was
absolute, and they were advised
by the patrician Senate.
 Either consul could block the acts
of the other, but neither could
institute a change in the laws
without the other’s consent.
 A patrician in the 1st century BCE
with busts of his ancestors.
 The
Senate played the dominant role in the
politics of the Roman state, increasingly making
policy and governing.
 Senators served for life, nominated their sons for
public offices, and the Senate became a self
perpetuating entity.
 Politically the history of the early Republic is the
history of the struggle of the common people for
a larger voice in their government and for social
 The
inequalities in Roman society between
patrician and plebian became so sharply
defined, that they became separate communities.
 Plebeians couldn’t marry into the patrician class
and couldn’t hold any important offices.
 Yet plebeians were citizens, served in the
Army, paid taxes, and were every bit as Roman
in outlook and tradition as the patricians.
 The
basic difference was religious status:
certain religious rituals could only be
performed by patricians.
 Since these rituals were prerequisites for
holding important offices, plebeians were
effectively barred from advancement in the
government, and therefore in society.
 This led to periodic unrest and conflict (known
as the “Conflict of the Orders”) between 509287 BCE.
 On
a number of occasions, the plebeians
refused to work or fight, and even physically
withdrew from the city in order to pressure the
elite to make political concessions.
 One result was the first publication of Roman
laws, on twelve stone tablets (450 BCE),
which gave the plebeians some legal
protections from the abuses of judicial
 Another
reform was the creation of a new
office—the tribune—who represented plebeians
in the public assemblies.
 The tribunes served for one year and had the
power to block legislation from the Senate that
was unfavorable to the lower classes by simply
calling out “Veto!” (I forbid).
 The
person of a tribune was so respected,
anyone of any class doing him violence was
liable to punishment by death.
 Following the establishment of the tribunate, a
series of laws gave plebeians the right to
intermarry with patricians, the right to hold the
office of the consul, and finally in 287 BCE
the right to pass laws in the plebeian assembly
without the consent of the Senate.
 Romans
took great pride in this political system,
believing it gave them more freedom than most
of their more autocratic neighbors.
 Slavery
was a defining element of Roman
 Every ancient society practiced slavery, but
none to the scale of the Romans.
 By
the time of Christ, the Italian heartland of
the Roman Empire had 2-3 million slaves, or
about 33-40% of the total population (in China
and India it was maybe 1% of the population).
 Not until the modern slave societies of the
plantation complex was slavery practiced
again on such a large scale.
 Even
families of modest means frequently had
2-3 slaves to do the chores...wealthy families
might own hundreds.
 Owning slaves confirmed peoples’ positions as
free, demonstrated their social status, and
expressed their ability to exercise power.
 The vast majority of Roman slaves were
prisoners of the many wars that came with
expansion or the creation of the empire.
 After
the Third Punic War (146 BCE) and the
destruction of Carthage, the Romans enslaved
en masse over 55,000 people.
 Pirates also kidnapped thousands of people,
selling them to Roman slave traders.
 Roman merchants were able to purchase slaves
from the long-distance trading networks
extending to the Black Sea, eastern Africa, and
northwestern Europe.
 The
children of slave
mothers were also
regarded as slaves and
these “home-born”
slaves had more
prestige because they
were thought to be
less trouble (since they
had never known
 Abandoned
children could legally become the
slave of anyone who rescued them.
 Roman slavery had nothing to do with race or
ethnicity, so the slave markets had an enormous
diversity of people.
 Like slave owners everywhere, the Romans
thought their slaves were “barbarians;” lazy,
unreliable, immoral, etc. and came to think of
certain peoples as slaves by nature (Asiatic
Greeks, Syrians, and Jews).
 Slaves
were considered property; they had no
rights and were subject to their owners' whims.
 However,
they had legal standing as witnesses
in courtroom proceedings, and they could
eventually gain freedom and citizenship.
 Masters often freed loyal slaves in gratitude for
their faithful service, but slaves could also save
money to purchase their freedom.
 There
was no serious criticism of slavery,
even when Christianity became more
 Christian teaching held that slaves should
be “submissive to their masters with all
fear, not only to the good and gentle, but
also to the harsh.”
 St.
Paul used the
metaphor of slavery
to describe the
relationship of
believers to God,
saying they were
“slaves of Christ.”
 Even
Saint Augustine
described slavery as
God’s punishment for sin.
 He regarded it as another
necessary evil resulting
from humanity's fall from
divine grace.
 So
slavery was deeply embedded in the religious
thinking and social outlook of the Romans.
 Slavery was especially entrenched in the Roman
 No occupation was off-limits to slaves except
military service, and there was no distinction
between jobs that used slaves or free
people…frequently they labored side by side.
 In
rural areas, slaves were most of the labor
force that worked estates (whose products
were exported like the later plantations of the
Americas). Often they worked chained
 In
the cities, slaves often worked in their
owners’ households, but also as skilled
artisans, teachers, doctors, entertainers, and
actors. (A slave trained in medicine was worth
50 agricultural slaves).
 Especially prized were educated Greek slaves,
who became the tutors for the children of
Rome’s elite class.
 Others
maintained the temples and shrines and
kept Rome’s water system running.
 Certain classes of slaves lived lives of absolute
misery, especially those who worked in
construction or those who were forced into the
empire’s many mines and stone quarries where
they labored under brutal conditions.
 Often fed a bare subsistence diet, they worked
until they were too old or too sick, then they
were abandoned.
pound of Chinese silk was typically worth
12 slaves.
 Some slaves, in the service of the Emperor,
were trained in special schools to become
 Saturnalia
was a traditional celebration like
Christmas in which slaves and masters
switched places. In this celebration, the master
became the slave and performed all the tasks
of the slave, and the slaves did the opposite.
 Roman
slaves, like slaves everywhere
responded to enslavement in many ways.
 Most simply did what they had to survive but
there were cases of prisoners of war
committing mass suicide rather than become
 Slaves sometimes resorted to “weapons of the
weak,” pretending illness, working poorly,
putting curses on their masters.
 Sometimes
slaves escaped into the large
crowds or to remote rural areas, prompting a
growing business of catching runaways.
 Occasional murders of slave owners made
masters conscious of the dangers they faced
and prompted the Roman saying “Every slave
we own is an enemy we harbor.”
 Several
times in Roman history there were
slave led rebellions, the most famous
happening in 73 BCE. It was led by the slave
gladiator Spartacus.
 Spartacus
initially led seventy slave-gladiators
to freedom…their success attracted a growing
number of slaves.
 At the height of the rebellion, it is estimated
there were 120,000 slaves in revolt.
 They set Italy ablaze for nearly three years,
sometimes crucifying captured slave owners or
making them fight to the death gladiator style.
Eventually the
movement collapsed
when the slaves
encountered the superior
Roman legions.
 Some 6,000 rebel slaves
were nailed to crosses
along the Apian Way
from Rome to Capua,
where the revolt had
 Nothing
on the scale of the Spartacus rebellion
occurred again in the Western world until the
Haitian Revolution of the 1790’s.
 But Haitian rebels wanted to create a new society,
free of slavery altogether.
 None of Rome’s slave rebellions, including
Spartacus’, had any such plan or goal. They
simply wanted to escape from slavery.
 As a result, aside from the perpetual fear of slave
owners, the slave system in Rome was unaffected.
 Slave
owners were supposed to provide their
slaves with the necessities of life (food,
shelter, protection, etc).
 This often meant slaves had a more secure life
than impoverished free people who had to fend
for themselves, BUT the price of that security
was absolute subjection to the will of the
 Beatings,
sexual abuse, and sale to another
owner were constant possibilities.
 Having no legal rights, slaves couldn’t legally
marry, and if they accumulated money or
possessions, it legally belonged to their masters,
who could seize it at any time.
 If
a slave murdered his/her master, Roman law
demanded the lives of all the victim’s slaves.
 When one Roman official was killed by a slave
in 61 CE, all 400 of his slaves were
condemned to death.
 In Rome, like Greece, slavery was widespread.
But in Rome, unlike Greece, freedom was
accompanied with citizenship.
 Slave
labor was so widely used by both the
Greeks and Romans that neither culture found
much need for technological advances as
labor-saving devices.
 As a result, the Mediterranean world fell
behind the technological level of China and
India in the areas of agriculture and
 Even
though Roman citizens were equal before
the law, there were sharp social stratifications
among them.
 A Roman’s education, marriage, military
service, career—even the decorations on his
clothes—reflected his social status.
By the First Century CE, three distinct divisions of
society had developed among free Romans.
 The
upper class was made up of the hereditary
office holders, the nobiles—the old patricians.
 Next were the equestrians—or more properly,
knights—who were mainly businessmen. They
were involved in major commercial ventures,
like finance or insurance.
 The plebeians—along with the freedmen
(liberated slaves who didn’t have the full rights
of citizenship) made up the largest part of the
population. Shop keepers and artisans were
 Marriage
was usually arranged by parents with a
keen eye for status and material advantages.
Close friends often served as matchmakers.
 Once a match had been made, the betrothal was
formalized in a ritual. The dowry was stipulated,
and the bride-to-be, usually 14 or 15, received
gifts and a pledge of marriage from her fiance.
 Symbolic of the pledge was a metal ring worn on
the third finger of her hand, from which a nerve
was believed to lead directly to the heart.
 There
were three forms of a marriage service,
two of which made the wife legal chattel of her
spouse—but that didn’t keep a wife from
exercising profound influence (even control)
over her husband.
 The most formal form of marriage was called a
confarreatio (used only by patricians) was a
formal contract and a woman’s person and
property were surrendered to her husband.
 For
women who wanted more freedom, a less
rigid form of marriage (called coemptio) the
groom symbolically “bought” the bride from
 In the usus (similar to a modern common-law
arrangement) the couple lived as husband and
wife without any religious ceremony. After a
year they were considered legally married. If
the woman owned property she could retain the
rights to it if she didn’t sleep with her husband
and in her their home for 3 nights every year.
 Weddings—especially
the confarreatio—were
very ceremonial. The date was selected with
great care: many days of the year, including all
of March and May and half of June were
considered unlucky.
 On her wedding day, the bride wore a special
tunic fastened about the waist by a woolen girdle
tied in a “Hercules knot,’’ which only the groom
could untie. Over this she wore a saffron cloak
and a veil of flaming orange. Her elaborately
arranged hair was topped by a crown of flowers.
 The
wedding was conducted by two priests.
The couple sat side by side on stools covered
with a single sheepskin, and shared a sacred
wheat cake while holding hands (as a sign of
union) as the marriage contract was read.
 After the ceremony, the bridal party proceeded
to the home of the groom, accompanied by
flutists and boys who threw nuts to children
(nuts symbolized fertility).
 At
their new home, the bride was carried over the
threshold (but not by the groom)…if she
stumbled it was considered a bad omen!
 The groom presented his bride with a lighted
torch and a filled vessel, the symbols of fire and
water, essential for maintaining the Roman
 The bride lit the hearth fire, then tossed the torch
to the bridal company, which scrambled for it as
a lucky memento, a custom which survives
 In
addition to the ties of family and class, all
Romans except slaves were bound in another
relationship that has no modern counterpart.
 This was the patron-client association, which
required large numbers of Romans above the
plebeian class to assume an obligation for the
well-being of certain of their inferiors.
 Clients sought the help and protection of
patrons, men of wealth and influence.
senator might have dozens or even hundreds
of clients to whom he provided legal advice
and representation, physical protection, or
loans of money or food in tough times.
 In return, the client was expected to follow his
patron into battle, support him in the political
arena, work on his land, and most importantly,
openly show loyalty and respect whenever the
two met..
 Every
morning between 7-9 AM, the streets of
Rome were filled with throngs of clients
awaiting their patrons so they could accompany
them to the Forum for the day’s business.
 The
client never addressed his patron by name
(a major faux pax) and called him dominus—
 A slip in etiquette might cost the client dearly
in terms of what he’d receive from the patron.
 This relationship always provided a vain man
with a retinue to follow him through the
 Despite
Rome’s glorious architecture, only the
richest citizens enjoyed the good life – most lived
in dangerous, cramped and smelly housing.
 Sitting next to the grandeur of imperial Rome,
however, would have been the tiny, rickety
homes of normal people, whose lives were far
less fabulous.
 Most
citizens living in Rome and other cities
were housed in "insulae."
 These were small, street-front shops and
workshops, whose owners lived above and
behind the working area.
 Several insulae would surround an open
courtyard and would, together, form one city
 The
insulae…crowded and cramped living.
 The
insulae were
usually badly built
and few had any
running water,
sanitation or heating.
 Constructed from
wood and brick, they
were dangerously
vulnerable to fire or
Romans – including those who lived
in the countryside – lived in a domus.
 They lived in beautiful houses – often on the
hills outside Rome, away from the noise and
the smell.
 Wealthier
 Usually
theirs was a single-storey house built
around an unroofed courtyard, or atrium.
 The atrium acted as the reception and living
area, while the house around it contained the
kitchen, lavatory, bedrooms and triclinium
(formal dining room).
 The rooms and furnishings reflected the wealth
of the family and, for some, would be incredibly
 The
wealthiest Romans might have a private
bath or library, while others kept two homes –
one in/near the city, the other in the clean air
and quiet surroundings of the countryside.
 Wealthy
Romans might have several dining
rooms so they could entertain more guests – or
they might eat outside in warm weather.
 Tables were often “U” shaped…the servants or
slaves would serve the food from the empty
fourth side of the table.
 Diners would then eat the food with their
fingers or, if necessary, with a small knife.
would lie on their sides – leaning on
their left elbows – facing the table.
 Diners
 Wealthy
families would usually have three
courses. The appetizers, or gustatio, would
include eggs, shellfish, or vegetables.
 The entrees, called prima mensa, would usually
be cooked vegetables and meat.
 The dessert, or mensa secunda, would be sweet
dishes, such as fruit or pastry.
 Plebian
meals were centered around corn or
wheat (grain), oil, and wine.
 Cereals were the staple food, originally in the
form of husked wheat being made into
porridge, but later wheat was made into bread.
 Bread was the single most often eaten food in
Ancient Rome, and was sometimes sweetened
with honey or cheese and eaten along with
sausage, domestic fowl, game, eggs, cheese,
fish, or shellfish.
Romans loved wine, but they drank it watered down,
spiced, and heated.
 Undiluted wine was considered to be barbaric, and
wine concentrate diluted with water was also
 Pasca was probably popular among the lower
classes. It was a drink made from watering
down acetum, low quality wine similar to
vinegar. Beer and mead were most commonly drunk
in the northern provinces. Milk, typically from sheep
or goats, was considered to be barbaric and was
therefore reserved for making cheese or medicines.
 Fish
and oysters were especially popular;
meat, particularly pork, was in high demand as
 Elsewhere in Rome, delicacies, such as snails
or dormice, were specially bred.
 A variety of cakes, pastries, and tarts were
baked commercially and at home, often
sweetened with honey.
 Vegetables,
such as cabbage, parsnips, lettuce,
asparagus, onion, garlic, radishes, lentils,
beans, and beets were imported.
 Fruits and nuts were also available to the
consumer, as was a variety of strongly flavored
sauces, spices, and herbs, which became very
popular in Roman cuisine.
 Romans
generally ate one large meal daily.
 Breakfast, if taken, was a light meal at best,
often nothing more than a piece of bread.
 This was followed by the main meal of dinner
at midday, and a small supper in the evening.
 Later, dinner was eaten as a large meal in the
evening, replacing supper and adding a light
lunch, or prandium.
For the poor, meals consisted of porridge or bread
with meat and vegetables, if available.
 For the poor, tableware probably consisted of coarse
pottery, but for those willing to spend the money,
tableware could be purchased in fine pottery, glass,
bronze, silver, gold, and pewter.
 Bronze, silver, and bone spoons existed for eggs and
liquids. These spoons had pointed handles that could
be used to extract shellfish and snails from their
Roman Beliefs:
 Much
of the culture of the Romans was
adopted from the Greeks.
 The Greek alphabet, which was adopted from
the Phoenicians, was passed onto the Romans,
who modified the letters and transmitted their
alphabet throughout the various parts of their
 Many
aspects of Greek rational thought,
including the works of Aristotle and the
philosophical school of Stoicism, became part
of Roman life.
 Stoicism taught that men should use their
powers of reason to lead virtuous lives and to
assist others.
 Early
Romans believed in invisible, shapeless
forces known as numia.
 The Romans tried to maintain a pax deorum
(“peace of the gods”), a covenant between the
gods and the Roman state.
 Priests (from the aristocracy) performed rituals
and sacrifices to win the gods’ favor and in
return, the gods were expected to bring success
to the undertakings of the Roman state.
 When
the Romans came in contact with the
Greeks living in southern Italy, they adopted the
Greek gods and their myths.
Zeus = Jupiter
 Hera = Juno
 Poseidon = Neptune
 Athena = Minerva
 Dionysus = Bacchus
 Ares = Mars
 Artemis = Diana
 Hades = Pluto
 Hephaestus = Vulcan
 Hermes = Mercury
 By
contrast to the earlier Greeks, the Romans
were not preoccupied with speculative
morality. The Romans would examine a
problem, determine what needed to be done,
did it, and moved onto the next task. They
were very pragmatic.
 Romans tended to be very conservative and
justified resistance to change by believing that
the old ways had been the best ways.
Roman gentleman saw himself as a paragon
of sober propriety, and he looked down upon
the more artistic and less inhibited Greeks as
frivolous and feckless.
 A Roman gentleman strove for dignity and
always tried to create the impression of a
reserved spectator; he would not play a
musical instrument, get sweaty in a
gymnasium, or write philosophy.
 Like
the American pioneers, an early Roman
farmer was prepared to leave his plow and
family to fight his enemies.
 Officially accepted Roman history insisted that
the Romans were invincible. According to
Roman history (of themselves), winning was
as natural as water running downhill.
 The occasional loss was explained as some
divine chastisement for some transgression or
as a lesson to be more alert and disciplined.
 The
Romans often told the legend of Cincinnatus,
who according to the Roman historian Livy
“merits the attention of those who despise all
human qualities in comparison with riches, and
think there is no room for great honors or for
worth but amidst a profusion of wealth.”
 During an invasion in 458 BCE, a delegation of
Roman officials went to tell Cincinnatus that he
had been given dictatorial powers in order to repel
the invaders.
 Cincinnatus,
his modest farm,
accepted command of
the Roman forces for
six months.
 In just 16 days he had
defeated the invaders,
surrendered his
dictatorship, and went
back to his plow.
 The
expansion of the Roman Republic (not the
Empire) reached its peak in the 2nd century
 Some believe expansion was fueled by greed
and the aggressiveness of a people with a
fondness of war.
 Others think it was the two consul system
(they had one year in office—and they
couldn’t be reappointed—to gain glory).
 All
male citizens who
owned a specified amount of
land were subject to military
 The Roman soldier
resembled the Greek hoplite,
but Roman tactics were
more flexible, with small
units that could operate
The Roman military machine:
 The
Roman writer
Vegetius famously
said “He who desires
peace should prepare
for war.”
 The Romans became
experts in siege
 A Roman assault
Romans seemed to be
bred for warfare and to
some contemporaries, it
seemed as if their
weapons were
permanently attached to
 A Roman ballista could
throw flaming objects
2,000 ft.
 Starting
in the 490’s BCE, Roman control of its
Latin neighbors in central Italy began, and
within a few hundred years, Rome controlled
almost all of Italy.
 As the Romans moved into the southern “foot”
of Italy, they came into conflict with the Greek
colonies that had long been established there.
 Answering the appeal of their Greek cousins
for aid, the mighty king of Epirus, Pyrrhus,
arrived with thousands of soldiers.
Even though the Greeks
soundly defeated the
Romans in battle twice,
the Greeks lost so many
men king Pyrrhus
famously said “Another
such victory and I am
lost,” giving rise to the
expression “Pyrrhic
victory” for battles that
are too costly.
 The
Romans succeeded in defeating Pyrrhus
the third time and he sailed home, leaving
Rome master of the whole Italian peninsula.
 This victory over Pyrrhus gave Rome the
status of a first-class power—which brought it
into conflict with Carthage, the mistress of the
Western Mediterranean.
 Rome considered every other power a threat
and would spend the next several centuries
trying to neutralize them.
 Between
264 and 146 BCE, Rome fought three
protracted and bloody wars against Carthage (the
Punic Wars) eventually winning and becoming
the undisputed naval and land power in the
western Mediterranean. This brought Rome’s
first overseas territories: Sicily, Sardinia, and
 The term Punic comes from the Latin word
Punicus (or Poenicus), meaning "Carthaginian",
referencing their Phoenician ancestry.
 Fighting
in the Punic Wars.
 Rome
was so brutal in
victory (146 BCE),
legend has it that the
Romans burned
Carthage to the ground,
then salted the earth to
keep anything from
ever growing there.
 All the inhabitants
were either killed or
After the Punic Wars, Rome
focused on the eastern
Mediterranean and conquered
Greece, Egypt, and
 The conquest of the Celtic
peoples of Gaul by Rome’s
most brilliant general, Gaius
Julius Caesar, between 59-51
BCE led to Rome’s first
territorial expansion in
Europe’s heartland.
 Rome’s
success in creating a vast empire
eventually destroyed its republican system of
 Many peasant farmers, away from home for
long periods serving in the military (they were
the backbone of the Roman legions), had their
farms repossessed by the wealthy who created
large estates. These estates found it more
profitable to graze animals or make wine instead
of grow wheat (the staple food of Rome).
 Rome
became dependent on imported grain.
 Cheap slave labor (prisoners of war) made it
hard for peasants who lost their farms to find
work in the countryside.
 When they moved to Rome (or other cities),
there wasn’t work there either and they existed
in dire poverty.
 The growing urban masses, idle and prone to
riot, created chaos for the republic.
consequence of fewer peasant farmers was
fewer men for military service.
 Some army leaders achieved political
prominence by accepting poor, property-less
men into the legions.
 These men were promised farms upon
retirement from the military.
 Men like Sulla, Pompey, Caesar, Crassus, Mark
Antony, and Octavian commanded armies more
loyal to them than to the state.
 This
led to several
bloody civil wars
between military
 Probably the most
famous was Julius
Caesar’s take over of
Rome and proclaiming
a Triumvirate (rule of
three) in 60 BCE.
 The
Triumvirate was Caesar, Crassus (for his
wealth) and Pompey, a rival general who had
commanded actions against Mediterranean
pirates and conquered Eastern provinces.
 Caesar’s conquest of Gaul (Gallic Wars 58-51
BCE) and being the first Roman general to
cross the Rhine river gave him enormous
popularity and power.
 When Crassus died in battle in 53 BCE, the
balance of power was in serious trouble.
 Power
was now in the hands of two men who
openly opposed each other.
 Caesar, as the proconsul of Gaul, was adding
to his popularity and political stature through
military victories north of the Alps.
 Pompey was consolidating his power in Rome.
 In 49 BCE Pompey persuaded the Senate to
order Caesar to disband his army.
Caesar ignored the
Senate’s order and in open
violation of the law, he
and his army crossed the
river Rubicon, the
southern limit of his
military command.
 It was clear he meant to
march on Rome and face
Pompey and his army and most of the Senate had fled
to Greece where he planned to mount a campaign
against Caesar.
 Caesar struck first and routed Pompey’s army in
Greece. Again Pompey fled, this time to Egypt, with
Caesar in pursuit.
 But as Pompey stepped from his ship in Egypt he was
stabbed to death by an agent of the boy-king Ptolemy.
This gained Ptolemy nothing for when Caesar arrived,
he was immediately beguiled by Ptolemy’s beautiful
young sister, Cleopatra.
 Soon
installed as Caesar’s mistress, Cleopatra
dominated Egypt after her brother’s death in
battle against the Romans.
 By
46 BCE Caesar won the civil war and
returned to Rome as its sole ruler.
 To secure his position, he needed an heir. With
no son of his own, he adopted his 17 year old
great-nephew Octavian (63 BCE-14 CE).
 Caesar used his power well…he pardoned old
enemies, he created a stronger, more efficient
administrative system, he undertook extensive
colonization projects, he provided work for the
poor, and tightened laws against crime.
 He
planned a highway across Italy and gave
Rome (and Western civilization) the Julian
 He even had laws made against such
ostentatious behavior as wearing pearls in
public and building mausoleums.
 But less than two years later Caesar was
assassinated by senators (on the Ides of March,
44 BCE).
Marc(us) Anton(ius)y was Caesar’s close friend and
famously said, according to Shakespeare (Julius
Caesar Act III, scene II) “Friends, Romans,
countrymen, lend me your ear…” as Antony was
trying to promote the virtues of Caesar while leading
the Roman mob against Brutus.
 Caesar’s
heirs were the 19 year old Octavian
(his legal heir) and Marc Antony, his coconsul.
 The Senate supported Octavian but the men
created an alliance, forming the Second
Triumvirate along with one of Caesar’s top
lieutenants, Lepidus.
 Antony commanded the East, Octavian the
West, and Lepidus Africa (and all three shared
the Italian homeland).
 The
first order of business was to destroy the
men that killed Caesar.
 In 36 BCE Octavius ousted Lepidus, took over
Africa, and laid claim to all of Italy.
 Marc Antony was completely captivated by
Cleopatra, rejected his legal wife (Octavius’
sister), and then married Cleopatra.
 The two men were now completely alienated.
 In
32 BCE Octavius produced a document that
he claimed was Antony’s will and read it to the
Senate…it bequeathed all of Rome’s Eastern
territories to Cleopatra.
 The angry Senate promptly gave Octavius
permission to annul Antony’s powers and
declare war on Cleopatra.
 In
31 BCE, Octavius defeated Antony (and
Cleopatra) at the Battle of Actium (Egypt).
 When
he returned to Rome, Octavius went to
the Senate, announced that the Republic had
been restored, then in a show of humility,
offered to resign.
 The Senate proclaimed him princeps (“first
citizen”) and Augustus (“revered one”).
 Because of his many names, it is common to
call him Octavian (events 63-44 BCE);
Octavius (events 44-27 BCE); and Augustus
after 27 BCE.
 Augustus
never called
himself king or emperor.
 So the period following
the Republic became
known as the Roman
 Augustus
was able to cleverly manipulate the
Senate so that they had no real power.
 In his 45 year rule, he overhauled the
government, the military, and the economy,
creating a system that lasted another 250 years
without major changes.
 When he died, no one even remembered the
One of Augustus’ many accomplishments was the
creation of a new civil service administration that
managed the huge empire with efficiency and honesty.
 The civil servants were known as equites, a class of
Italian merchants and landowners, not patricians (they
were second in wealth to the patricians, so they were
respected and powerful).
 The army was reduced and became one of professional
soldiers, not farmers. The navy was reorganized to
effectively combat pirates.
 These
professional soldiers became an
engineering force that built paved roads and
public works all over the empire.
 The
Romans were pioneers in the use of
arches, which allowed the even distribution of
great weight without thick supporting walls.
 They also pioneered the use of concrete—a
mixture of limestone powder, sand, and
water—that could be poured into molds...this
allowed the Romans to create their domed
interior/exterior spaces.
 They
were also the first to create vaulted,
domed structures.
 The
reforms of Augustus ushered in the Pax
Romana (“Roman peace”), the 200+ year period
(31 BCE-180 CE) of peace and prosperity when
the empire reached its largest extent and Roman
strength was generally unchallenged.
 After
the Pax Romana ended (c 180 CE), Rome
settled into a decline that eventually ended in its
conquest in 476 CE.
 Even though Augustus never regarded
succession as hereditary, when he died he was
so popular, four members of his family
succeeded to the position of “emperor” even
though these men had serious personal and
political shortcomings (Tiberius, Caligula,
Claudius, Nero).
 Why
was the first century so turbulent? The
first answer is simple: hereditary rule.
 For most of this period, emperors were not
chosen on the basis of their ability or honesty,
but simply because they were born in the right
 Emperors had no elections or term limits, no
early retirement or pension plans. It was a job
for life, so if an emperor was mad, bad or
dangerous, the only solution was to cut that life
short. Everybody knew it, so paranoia ruled.
 Tiberius,
Caligula, Claudius, and Nero
 Before
Augustus died (14 CE), he had chosen
his stepson Tiberius to be his successor.
 Tiberius hated Augustus because the emperor
forced him to divorce his beloved wife, and
marry his daughter Julia (they didn’t like each
 Tiberius only became the heir after Julia’s two
sons died (so he knew he wasn’t the preferred
choice of Augustus).
 Tiberius
quickly ruined much
of the prestige Augustus had
 Morose, suspicious, unpopular,
and almost 55 at the time of his
succession, he quickly gained a
reputation as a depraved and
brutal ruler who disposed of
anyone he so much as
suspected of treachery.
 The
Roman historian Suetonius wrote “Not a
day passed without an execution, not even
days that were sacred and holy...some were
executed with their children…the word of no
informer was doubted.”
 Tiberius’ nephew was the fabled General
Germanicus, who was sent by his uncle to
quell mutinous armies in the north and bring
peace to the Eastern provinces.
 Germanicus
did both
extremely well and was
called a hero. Tiberius
was said to be extremely
jealous of his nephew’s
hard won popularity and
had him poisoned (19 CE).
 Warning
that Germanicus’ family was plotting
against the emperor, Tiberius’ most trusted
advisor, Sejanus (known as the “cheat”) exiled
the dead hero’s widow before killing her two
elder sons.
 Only the youngest, Caligula, was spared.
 Tiberius knew of this atrocity and chose to do
 Tiberius
ruled for 23 years, spending the last 11
far from Rome (and his enemies) on the island
of Capri.
 While on Capri, Sejanus controlled the
government in Tiberius’ name while Tiberius
scandalized Roman society with his astrology
and drunken debauchery.
 Almost completely cut off from Rome, Sejanus
was the only one allowed to visit Tiberius on
 “The people were so glad of his death,” Suetonius
wrote of Tiberius, “that at the first news of it some
ran about shouting ‘Tiberius to the Tiber’ while
others prayed to Mother Earth…to allow the dead
man no abode except among the damned.”
 Tiberius was succeeded by his grandnephew Caligula
(sometimes known as Gaius 37-41 CE).
 Caligula
was not a family name, he was named
after a soldier’s footwear known as a caligae.
When he went on military campaigns with his
father (legendary General Germanicus), the boy
wore miniature versions of a soldier’s footwear.
 Germanicus’ troops nicknamed the boy Caligula
which means “Little Boots” or “Booties.”
 Caligula hated the name and wanted to be called
 At
first, Caligula was hailed as a popular hero for
he pardoned political offenders, banished
informers, brought back people exiled by Tiberius,
reduced taxes, sponsored lavish games, and
burned the records of the treason trials of Sejanus.
 But seven months into his reign, he fell gravely ill
(some think epilepsy). He eventually recovered
but was very different.
 He
soon carried the powers of the princeps
beyond all bounds.
 Dressed in silk robes and covered in jewels,
Caligula pretended he was a god.
 He forced senators to grovel and kiss his feet
and seduced their wives at dinner parties.
 He restored the hated treason trials of Tiberius,
executing both rivals and close allies, including
the head of the Praetorian Guard, his personal
protection squad.
 He
had two large
pleasure barges built on
Lake Nemi complete
with marble décor,
mosaic floors, statues,
and lead plumbing
bearing the inscription
“Property of Gaius
Caesar Augustus
 He
proposed that his horse
Incitatus be elected consul;
he outfitted his horse for
office by giving it a marble
stall, a jewel studded collar,
purple blankets, and servants
that fed the animal oats mixed
with gold flakes.
 In
40 CE, he led an army north into Gaul,
robbing its inhabitants before marching to the
shore to invade Britain.
 Just as the army was about to launch its attack,
he ordered them to stop and gather seashells.
He called these the spoils of the conquered
 Wanting to be revered as a god, he ordered his
statue to be placed in the Temple at Jerusalem.
 When
the treasury was
bankrupted by his extravagance,
he blackmailed patricians to
bequeath their wealth to the
state (on pain of death and
confiscation of their property).
 His cruelty bordered on
madness and outraged all of
Rome, including members of his
palace troops, the Praetorian
 In
41 CE (four months after returning from
Gaul) a group of advisors and officers
assassinated Caligula and hastily buried the
body, leaving Rome without an emperor or a
successor (he was only 30 and hadn’t named
one yet).
 So there would be no reprisals, they killed his
wife and daughter too.
 While the Senate debated the problem, the
Praetorian Guard decided to pick their own
 Roaming
through the
palace, members of
the guard found
Claudius, the 50
year-old uncle of
Caligula (and
grandson of
Augustus), cowering
behind a curtain, and
promptly made him
 Partially
paralyzed and ungainly, some thought
him to be a fool (mentally challenged).
 Left
disfigured by a serious illness when he
was very young, Claudius was also clumsy and
coarse and was the butt of his family’s jokes.
When he dozed after dinner, guests pelted him
with food and put slippers on his hands so that
he’d rub his eyes with his shoes when he woke
 As a boy, his grandfather Augustus
acknowledged he had brains but was ashamed
to have Claudius sit with him in public.
 During
his 13 year reign (41-54 CE), Claudius
was known for working hard, often starting his
work day after midnight.
 He expanded and reformed the civil service
while making it more efficient and he granted
new powers to the imperial governors abroad.
 He made major improvements to Rome’s
judicial system, he passed laws protecting sick
slaves, and he increased privileges for women.
 Where
his grandfather (Augustus) believed in
the Empire’s borders being contained at the
Danube, the Rhine, and the Euphrates, Claudius
expanded northward to Britain.
 Britain had resisted Roman rule for over a
century but was conquered by Claudius, who
created client kingdoms to protect the frontier.
He had succeeded where Caesar had failed.
 This was the most important addition to the
empire since the time of Augustus.
 Augustus
seldom extended Roman citizenship
to provincials (they should be of Italian
ancestry); Claudius was much more liberal.
 In 48 CE he even had Celtic chieftains
admitted into the Senate.
 Roman citizenship was now theoretically
available to any qualified person of the Empire.
 The
paradox of the weakness of the man and
the strength of his government has some
historians suggesting that Claudius promoted
his doltish reputation as a form of self
preservation, to lull the Praetorians and
possible rival claimants.
 As a man, he had awful taste in women and
they proved to be his undoing.
 When
Claudius’ 3rd wife was caught having an
affair with a nobleman, she committed suicide.
 Within a year, Claudius horrified Roman
society by marrying his niece Agrippina
(Caligula’s sister).
 An opportunist, she persuaded Claudius to
adopt her son Nero and make him heir over
Claudius’s son Britannicus (from his 3rd wife).
 Once
Nero was made heir, Agrippina had
Claudius poisoned with mushrooms, delivered
by a faithful servant.
 When he seemed to recover, Agrippina had the
emperor’s doctor pretend he was helping
Claudius vomit by putting a feather dipped in
poison down his throat.
 Nero
became Emperor
at the age of 16, and
within a year, he had
Britannicus killed by
poison (he was almost
 Later, he decided his
own mother needed to
be dispatched as well.
 Agrippina and Nero.
 Nero
started out well…he ended secret trials
and gave the Senate more independence.
 He banned capital punishment, reduced taxes,
and allowed slaves to sue unjust masters.
 He provided assistance to cities that had
suffered disasters, gave aid to the Jews, and he
established open competitions in poetry, drama
and athletics.
 But
the young Nero had a dark side…before
long stories were circulating that he seduced
married women and young boys, and that he
had castrated and "married" a male slave.
 He also liked to wander the streets, murdering
innocent people at random.
 His mother and his tutor (the famous writer
Seneca) tried to control him but his
relationships with them soured.
 Nero
always fancied himself an artist and
insisted on giving public performances where
he would sing and play the lyre.
 This outraged Roman patricians who believed it
scandalous for a noble to be seen on stage…but
their attendance was compulsory.
 Agrippina
knew Nero would try to poison her so
she built up an immunity by taking small doses.
 When the poison didn’t work, Nero arranged for
the ceiling in her bedroom to collapse.
 When this failed to crush her, he sent for her to
meet him at a seaside resort.
 Nero had the ship constructed so that it would
fall apart at sea (but she swam to shore).
 Finally
Nero took direct
action and accused her
of plotting against the
Empire and had her
executed by loyal
 Rome was appalled.
Matricide – the murder
of one’s own mother –
was among the worst
possible crimes.
 When
the Great Fire of Rome swept through the
city in 64 CE, Nero was suspected of starting it
because he said he wanted to rebuild the city in
his own glory…it burned for six days and
destroyed 10 of Rome’s 14 districts, including
many homes, shops, and temples.
 Nero
offered to house the
homeless, but it was too
late...rumors spread about his
possible involvement.
 When an assassination attempt
in 65 CE failed, Nero’s
paranoia unleashed a wave of
terror on Rome, and hundreds
of people, including Seneca,
were executed or forced to
commit suicide.
 Rome
had had enough so the Senate declared
Nero a public enemy. This meant that anyone
could kill him without punishment.
 Terrified, Nero fled to the country with his few
remaining slaves and committed suicide.
Legend has it that his last words were “What
an artist the world is losing!”
 Without any heirs, the Roman Empire now had
no leader. With the ultimate prize up for grabs,
rival generals began moving their troops
towards Rome and civil war.
 Since
the position of Emperor was not
necessarily hereditary, after Nero other
families obtained the post.
 In theory, early emperors were chosen by the
Senate, in reality they were chosen by the
 By
the second century CE, a series of capable
emperors instituted a new mechanism for
succession: each adopted a mature man of
proven ability as his son, designated him as his
successor, and shared offices and privileges
with him.
 The Romans also imitated Alexander the Great
and the Hellenistic kings by deifying
(regarding as gods) many of their emperors
after their deaths.
 And
a cult of worship of the living/dead
emperor developed as a way to increase the
loyalty of subjects.
 The development of this “imperial cult” would
regard the emperor and his family as gods.
 On his death, Julius Caesar was officially
recognized as a god, the Divine ('Divus')
Julius, by the Roman state.
 And
in 29 BCE Caesar's adopted son, emperor
Augustus, allowed the culturally Greek cities
of Asia Minor to set up temples to him.
 This was really the first manifestation of
Roman emperor-worship.
 Worshipping the emperor helped unify and
focus the loyalty of the far flung provincials
throughout the empire.
While worship of a living emperor was culturally
acceptable in some parts of the empire, in Rome itself
and in Italy it was not.
 There an emperor was usually declared a 'divus' only
on his death, and was subsequently worshipped
(especially on anniversaries, like that of his accession)
with sacrifice like any other gods.
 The apotheosis of Antoninus Pius
 and his wife (161 CE).
 The
spreading of Latin language and the Roman
way of life—Romanization—was one of the
most enduring consequences of the empire,
particularly in the western provinces.
 Greek language and culture, a legacy from the
Hellenistic kingdoms, dominated the eastern
 The empire gradually granted Roman citizenship
to those living outside Italy.
 Men
who completed a 25 year term of service in
their native military units that backed up the
Roman legions were granted citizenship and
could pass this status onto descendants.
 In 212 CE the emperor Caracalla granted
citizenship to all free, adult, male inhabitants of
the empire.
 But
defending borders that stretched for
thousands of miles was a great challenge, both
in terms of cost and manpower.
 The Roman army was reorganized to go from
an offensive to a defensive posture.
 Many borders were mountains, deserts, and
seas…but some were rivers that could be
breached (like the Rhine and Danube).
 The
Romans created strings of forts with small
garrisons to battle raiders, and on some
frontiers, like Britain and N. Africa, they built
 Hadrian’s Wall (northern Britain):
the 3rd century CE the empire began to fall
apart during what has been called the “thirdcentury crisis” (235-284 CE).
 Constant military, political, and economic
problems almost destroyed the empire.
 More than 20 men claimed the throne during
these 50 years, some merely lasting a few
months before they were deposed or killed by
rivals or their own troops.
 In
 In
284 CE Diocletian pulled the empire back
from the brink. A commoner and soldier, he
ruled for more than 20 years and died in bed.
 His reforms included halting inflation by
government control of prices for various
commodities and services.
 To ensure an adequate supply of workers, he
froze people in their professions and required
they train their sons to succeed them.
 When
resigned (305CE), he
was eventually replaced
by Constantine.
 Constantine, with his
Edict of Milan, halted the
persecution of Christians
and guaranteed the
freedom of worship of all
 In
324 CE he moved
the imperial capital
from Rome to
Byzantium, an
ancient Greek city on
the Bosporus (the
people of the eastern
Mediterranean were
better educated and
more were Christian).
 This
eastern empire will be known as the
Byzantine Empire when Rome falls.
 The great Roman legacy was primarily in law,
bureaucratic administration, finance, and
 The size and diversity of the empire called for
flexibility in the law that combined effective
central control.
Some of their legal inventions include:
 1. The concept of precedent (how to rule in subsequent
 2. The belief that equality among all citizens should be
the goal of the legal system;
 3. Interpretation of the law, or the responsibility of judges
to decide what a law means and how it should be applied;
 4. Natural law, an idea that is the foundation of European
and American societies, or the belief that humans have
basic rights in nature that cannot be taken away.

Rome - Hempfield Area School District / Overview