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Classical Rome: Rise, Fluorescence, and Fall
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Classical Rome: Rise, Fluorescence, and Fall


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Describe the rise of the Roman republic and empire, its culture from law and government to architecture, arts, and engineering, and its long-term decline.

Describe the rise of the Roman republic and empire, its culture from law and government to architecture, arts, and engineering, and its long-term decline.

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  • 1. Rome: Republic and Empire Rise, Fluorescence, and Fall
  • 2. Introduction
    • A classic civilization in its own right, but in different ways.
    • A model of government of law, of military strategy—and the roads
    • The gods were inherited from the Greeks
    • Art: Realism
    • Architecture: The arch, the vault, and the dome
    • Provided the organizational framework of the church that bore its name: the Roman Catholic Church
  • 3. Overview of Rome
    • Its rise
    • Its Republican phase
    • The Imperial phase
    • Demise and Transformation
  • 4. Rome: Its Location
    • Rome: Republican Phase: 750-500 BC
    • Rome: Maximum Extent of Empire, AD 63
  • 5. Rise of Rome
    • Latins invaded the peninsula in 1000 BCE
    • By 800 BCE, founded Rome at the lower valley of the Tiber River, central locus for control of the rest of Italy
    • Other ethnicities migrated to the region: Etruscans, Phoenicians, Greeks
    • Unlike the other villages, Rome encouraged other ethnic groups to migrate there
  • 6. Multiethnic Contributions to Rome
    • Phoenicians contributed maritime and commercial skills and phonetic alphabet
    • Etruscans brought urban planning, chariot racing, the toga, bronze and gold crafting—and the arch
    • Greeks: the pantheon of gods and goddesses, linguistic and literary principles, and aesthetic
  • 7. Roman Republic: Roots
    • Etruscans ruled the Latins but were overthrown in 509 BC
    • Gradually, monarchy gave way to government by the people ( res publica )
    • Predominately comprised the patricians (aristocrats) and the plebians (farmers, artisans, and other common folk.
    • Slaves formed a third category as the empire expanded
    • The rise of the republic was a slow process
  • 8. Structure of the Roman Republic
    • Patricians through the Senate controlled the lawmaking process
    • However, plebians filled the ranks of the Roman army and exercised veto power over the decisions of the Senate
    • Eventually, through their leaders, the tribunes, acquired the right to hold executive office and lawmaking power
  • 9. The Centrality of the Roman State
    • Expectations of the citizen
    • Obedience to the state
    • Service in the military—which could be profitable (left)
    • The soldier had to finance his own spear, shield, armor and helmet (left)
    • Both were essential to the rise of the Roman emporium, the empire
  • 10. From Republic to Empire I
    • Rome then began to build an empire
    • Conquest of the known world was the extension of conquest of the Italian peninsula by the Latins
    • War with the Phoenicians of Carthage (Punic Wars) was the first phase of Roman expansion
    • Other expeditions led to Roman control of the entire Mediterranean ( Mare Nostrum, “Our Sea”) and much of Europe: Hispania (now Spain), Gallia (France) Britannia (England) and part of Germania (Germany)
  • 11. From Republic to Empire
    • Led by military dictators, of which Julius Caesar was the best known
    • He expanded the empire to include western and central Europe
    • He directed the construction of a wooden bridge to enable the troop to invade and conquer Germania (central Europe)
    • Under Caesar Augustus, the empire entered into a pax romana (peace under Rome)
    • This, which brought in a long era of high culture and stability
  • 12. Military Organization
    • The army was the tool of imperial expansion
    • The Roman army was a highly disciplined force and the backbone of Rome
    • Initially, all free men served two-years
    • Later, professional soldiers filled the ranks
    • As the empire expanded, non-Romans joined to gain Roman citizenship
    • The phalanx was the basic unit (left)
    • Later it would be divided into smaller units
    • These units could combine to form a legion if necessary.
    • See pp. 133-134, Fiero, for the Jewish scholar Josephus’s description of an army regiment
  • 13. Roman Law
    • Formed the model of legal systems throughout European countries except England, which relied on common law
    • The term jus meant both the law and justice
    • The system of customary law ( ius ) was written down as codes ( lex )
    • These were displayed as the Twelve Tables of Law at the Forum.
  • 14. Twelve Tables of Roman Law
    • The Twelve Tables of Law formed the basis of all Roman law
    • These tenets were engraved in stone and mounted at the speakers’ forum near the Temple of Saturn (left)
    • The Tables were destroyed by the Celts in AD 700
    • The Tables summarized such tenets as civil procedure, parents and children, debts, constitutional law, and crime
  • 15. Other Concepts of Roman Law
    • The Romans also:
    • Invented and evolved case law, focusing on bringing commonsense solutions to private disputes
    • Invented the concept of equity , putting the spirit of the law above the letter of the law
    • After the fall of Rome and the rise of Christianity, Justinian codified the law into jus juris civilis
  • 16. Roman Philosophy
    • Much of philosophy was derived from the Stoics of the Hellenistic empire, who saw life as adversity to be endured
    • Happiness lies in acceptance of things as they are
    • Seneca (left) was a proponent of Stoicism
    • Lucretius in The Nature of Things saw the world in a purely materialistic light and denied the existence of gods or a spiritual dimension
    • This belief system encouraged the sense of duty and also the equality of all, which had a humanizing effect on Roman law
    • This world view anticipated the beliefs of the early Christians, emphasizing personal responsibility and the equality of all
  • 17. Roman Literature
    • Best known for prose, writing as a vehicle for providing information
    • Provided the first geographies and encyclopedias
    • Other media: instruction manuals, histories, and biographies
    • Titus Livius (Livy) provided a detailed history of Rome from the 8 th century BCE to his own day (1 st century BCE) (upper left)
    • Also masters of oratory, exemplified by Tullius Cicero (106-41 BCE); read his “On Duty” on pp. 138-139, Fiero text
    • Cornelius Tacitus was both historian and orator; see his “On Oratory” on pp. 139-140 (lower left)
  • 18. Roman Literature: Epic Poetry
    • Under sponsorship of Octavian, produced a golden age of poetry
    • Virgil (Publius Vergilius Mato) wrote the epic poem Aeneid , on Aeneas, the mythical Trojan founder of Rome (left)
    • Virgil accompanies Dante in the Purgatorio and Inferno in the Divine Comedy
    • Catullus, a Sicilian, wrote lyric poetry, some of it inspired by his adulterous affair with Clodia, wife of a Roman consul, and the collapse of the affair
    • Publius Ovidus Naso (Ovid) covers the art of seduction, work which earned him exile
    • Horace was the master of satire that addresses Stoic themes, such as Carpe Diem (Seize the Day)
  • 19. Roman Drama
    • Mostly modeled after the comedies of Greece; unlike Greek tragedies, designed purely for entertainment
    • Romans preferred comedy to tragedy; mostly obscene themes
    • Stock characters included the good-hearted prostitute, the clever servant, the shrewish wife
    • Horace (depicted right with Caesar Augustus, left) wrote numerous satirical plays
    • One story: said to have tried to have sex with a girl who didn’t show up for the date—and woke up next morning with an embarrassing wet dream
    • He could be the subject of satire himself
  • 20. Roman Architecture
    • Noted for the paved roads, still used today
    • They extended from Tigris and Euphrates to the Atlantic Ocean
    • Tenements (8 or 9 stories) to accommodate thousands of people in Rome were also built
    • Constructed 18 aqueducts to supply Rome with water
  • 21. The Arch
    • Rome built on the arch, contributed by the Etruscans
    • The principle appears left; weight is evenly distributed from the keystone to the sides
    • It could provide so much strength that other structures could be built above it
    • This aqueduct in Nimes, France, is one example (lower left)
    • Notice that the lower row of arches support the upper row and the canal at the top.
  • 22. The Vault
    • They also contributed the vault, a three-dimensional extension of the arch
    • Notice how a wider surface supports the weight (upper left)
    • It formed the basic architecture of medieval
    • This Gothic cathedral in Pamplona, Spain, includes a row of vaults (lower left)
  • 23. The Dome
    • The dome was a third form of rooftop architecture in Rome (upper left)
    • It is created by rotating a round arch through 180 degrees on its axis
    • They must be buttressed from all sides
    • The weight must be evenly distributed at all sides
    • The dome included a circular skylight (interior of dome, lower left)
  • 24. Domestic Architecture
    • Entrance to a home was an atrium (left)
    • This was a large hall entered through a corridor from the street,
    • An open compluvium (skylight) which let in rainwater and sunlight
    • Rainwater was collected in a sunken basin in the floor (impluvium) and channeled off into a cistern
  • 25. Architectural and Engineering Professions
    • Roman architecture and engineering were considered to be one discipline
    • The most influential manuals were Vitruvius’s Ten Books on Architecture
    • Function to the Roman architecture determined design
    • Classic architecture emphasized size to accommodate 1 million people of Rome: the coliseum, the amphitheaters, all designed for entertainment, whether gladiators, drama, or circuses
  • 26. Public Architecture: The Forum
    • A rectangular open space, usually with a temple at one end
    • Bounded on three sides by colonnades (rows of columns)
    • Fourth side by a basilica
    • Best known: Forum Romanum (upper left) and Forum Julium
    • The plan of Imperial Fora (lower left)
  • 27. Basilica
    • A large roofed building, usually at one end of a forum
    • Divided into three aisles, one large central one and one smaller aisle on either side (upper left)
    • The nave (raised section of center aisle) allowed construction of a second story
    • The apse was a recessed part at one end
    • Trajan’s marketplace was one example
  • 28. Roman Roads
    • “ All roads lead to Rome” is an apt description of Roman roads
    • The network on this map show how the Roman army could go anywhere (upper left)
    • Later, it also indirectly contributed to the spread of Christianity throughout the empire
    • The paving was basic to the rapids transport of troops (lower left)
  • 29. Aqueducts
    • Romans left their marks in the form of Aqueducts built in Rome and through Europe
    • They were built so that water could flow hundreds on miles using gravity
    • Notice how arches were so strong that several could be built atop one another (left)
    • They were used long after the Fall of Rome
  • 30. Roman Sculpture
    • Emphasized Roman victories: triumphal arches and victory columns (obelisks redesigned in Roman style)
    • Sculptures of Roman emperors, in realistically detailed Roman breastplate and idealized faces and proportions (Caesar Augustus, upper left
    • Equestrian statues were added in the 2 nd Century BCE
    • Emphasis on realism was evident in balding senators and matronly women
    • Fig leafs in nude male statues such as Mercury (left) were a Roman invention after conversion to Christianity;
    • Greek statues had shown male organs in detail
  • 31. Equestrian Statues
    • Equestrian statues were a Roman invention reproduced throughout history
    • This statue of Marcus Aurelius is typical
    • It depicts both horse and rider in Grecian naturalistic design
    • The veins and muscles of the horse are visible as it raises its foreleg, a triumphal pose
  • 32. Roman Painting
    • Paintings depicted realistic representations of mythical themes, historical events, and landscapes
    • Murals in atria (sing. Atrium), large airy rooms, were commonplace
    • Mosaics were commonly used
    • Frescos gave the impression that viewers were looking out into actual gardens ( trompe l’oeil , or “fool the eye”)
    • Still life styles were also common
  • 33. Murals
    • Scene from the Villa of the Mysteries (upper left)
    • An initiate is flagellated (by a winged woman out of view)
    • Another women plays cymbals while in a frenzied dance
    • The technique give a three-dimensional image on a two dimensional surface
    • Portraits were common, as seen in Young Woman With a Stylus (lower left)
    • This was probably the Lesbian poet Sappho—from the Isle of Lesbos, but not necessarily homosexual
  • 34. Rome: Decline and Fall
    • This is a complex issue
    • The Edict of Milan of 313 CE allowed Christians freedom of worship and toleration became official policy
    • The state religion of the empire itself was Christianity by the end of the fourth century
    • When the fall finally came, Christianity was established in Rome
    • Rome was divided into the West and the East in 286 as an administrative convenience, but set the stage for the Eastern and Western churches.
  • 35. Rome: Date of Its Decline and Fall
    • Edward Gibbon fixes the date of the fall in 476 CE, when Odoacer, a Germanic officer in the Roman army overthrew the last emperor Romulus Augustulus
    • Odoacer leads the “Barbarians at the Gates” (Upper left)
    • Others fix the date at 410 CE with the First Sack of Rome, a siege led by another Germanic officer Alaric; lack of food induced Alaric’s army induced it to leave
    • Alaric (lower left) died in 411, after his forces left
    • Dates vary from 410 CE to as recent as 1453, when Constantinople fell to the Turks; clearly this is a matter of definition
  • 36. Factors Involved in the Fall of Rome
    • Christianity: Rome proved unable to resist the spread of Christianity despite persecution, partly because of its widespread appeal (details in the next presentation on roots of Christianity)
    • Bread and circuses (including gladiator contests at the coliseum) were used to support and entertain the returning soldiers after the conquests ended
    • Moral and political decline: The emperor as office became a source of wealth, corruption, and an object of contention between armed factions
    • Social conditions: most Romans lived in poverty as the urban infrastructure declined
    • Division of the empire: the empire was divided into east (Greek) and west (Latin) by Diocletan in 296 CE
    • Several explanations, not just one, satisfactorily explain the decline.
  • 37. Conclusion
    • Romans were imperialists first and republicans second
    • Even the Republican era was one of conquests in the Italian peninsula—much like manifest destiny in the United States during the 19 th century
    • Much of the themes emphasize war and conquest
    • The arts mostly had a practical side
    • Toward the end of the era, wealth mattered more than duty that had marked Rome’s earlier years
    • The insecurity of the latter years also opened the populace to new ideologies: mystical cults, revivals of older beliefs from Egypt—and Christianity