Ancient Rome: The Essential Background

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A presentation designed for Senior Ancient History classes. These slides give a quick tour of the early history of Rome prior to a unit on the collapse of the Republic.

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Ancient Rome: The Essential Background

  1. 1. ANCIENT ROMEANCIENT ROMEThe Essential BackgroundThe Essential Background
  2. 2. Rome’s FoundationRome’s Foundation THE MYTHTHE MYTH The great legend about Rome’s foundationThe great legend about Rome’s foundationtraces the story back to the Trojan War.traces the story back to the Trojan War. However, the best known feature is theHowever, the best known feature is theclaim that the Princess Rhea Silvia gaveclaim that the Princess Rhea Silvia gavebirth to twin sons; Romulus and Remus whobirth to twin sons; Romulus and Remus whowere fathered by the God Mars. Thrown intowere fathered by the God Mars. Thrown intothe Tiber River by their evil great unclethe Tiber River by their evil great uncleAmulius, the boys were raised by a she-Amulius, the boys were raised by a she-wolf.wolf. This image is one of the best knownThis image is one of the best knownrepresentations of Rome herself. Thoughrepresentations of Rome herself. ThoughRomulus would in time kill Remus this wasRomulus would in time kill Remus this wasnot until after they founded Rome in 753not until after they founded Rome in 753BC.BC. THE REALITYTHE REALITY Like everywhere in Europe, human historyLike everywhere in Europe, human historyin Italy stretches far back into the Stonein Italy stretches far back into the StoneAge. By around 5000 BC farms startedAge. By around 5000 BC farms startedappearing in Italy …but civilization thereappearing in Italy …but civilization therewas 1000 years behind Egypt in terms ofwas 1000 years behind Egypt in terms ofdevelopment.development. Archaeology has shown that by 1000 BCArchaeology has shown that by 1000 BCsmall farms were beginning to appear onsmall farms were beginning to appear onthe famous “Seven Hills” that wouldthe famous “Seven Hills” that wouldeventually house Rome.eventually house Rome. It was not until the seventh century BC thatIt was not until the seventh century BC thatthese villages on the hills began to mergethese villages on the hills began to mergeinto a single entity.into a single entity.
  3. 3. The Seven Kings of RomeThe Seven Kings of Rome Early Rome was ruled by a succession ofEarly Rome was ruled by a succession ofkings. This kingship was not hereditary andkings. This kingship was not hereditary andsome monarchs came from neighbouringsome monarchs came from neighbouringpowers such as Etruria.powers such as Etruria. The details of this early era are a blend ofThe details of this early era are a blend ofmyth and fact …even the dates which followmyth and fact …even the dates which followare approximations at best.are approximations at best. Romulus 753-716 BCRomulus 753-716 BCNuma Pompilius 715-673 BCNuma Pompilius 715-673 BCTullus Hostilius 673-641 BCTullus Hostilius 673-641 BCAncus Marcius 641-616 BCAncus Marcius 641-616 BCTarquinius Priscus 616-579 BCTarquinius Priscus 616-579 BCServius Tullius 579-535 BCServius Tullius 579-535 BCTarquinius Superbus 535-509 BCTarquinius Superbus 535-509 BC* Trivia …Rome’s biggest sewer, the Cloaca* Trivia …Rome’s biggest sewer, the CloacaMaxima was built during the reign of theMaxima was built during the reign of thefinal king. It is still in use today!final king. It is still in use today!Tarquinius Superbus (“Tarquin the Proud”)was seen as a ruthless tyrant. Eventually aconspiracy was organised by LuciusJunius Brutus, Tarquin’s nephew. He wasto be revered as the founder of the RomanRepublic although, killed in battle in 509BC, he took no part in establishing the newconstitution.* Trivia …Brutus’ direct descendantMarcus Junius Brutus would lead theconspiracy to kill Julius Caesar in 44 BC.
  4. 4. The New ConstitutionThe New Constitution Roman historians credited Publius Valerius Poplicola (560-503 BC) with the creationRoman historians credited Publius Valerius Poplicola (560-503 BC) with the creationof Rome’s new constitution. The constitution was based upon one key underliningof Rome’s new constitution. The constitution was based upon one key underliningprinciple:principle: “That in the Republic no-one was to have permanent political power.”“That in the Republic no-one was to have permanent political power.” Three significant features within the constitution are at the basis of our study ofThree significant features within the constitution are at the basis of our study of“poltical centrism” in Rome.“poltical centrism” in Rome. 1. The office of King was1. The office of King was prohibited foreverprohibited forever.. 2. Two senators called consuls were to be2. Two senators called consuls were to be elected annuallyelected annually to run the state. Theseto run the state. Thesetwo men would havetwo men would have supreme powersupreme power over the law and the conduct of war. Each hadover the law and the conduct of war. Each hadthethe power of vetopower of veto …the right to reject the decisions of the other.…the right to reject the decisions of the other. 3. In times of national crisis, the constitution allowed for the appointment of a3. In times of national crisis, the constitution allowed for the appointment of a dictatordictator(a “magister populi” …a magistrate of the people). A dictator’s power was not to last(a “magister populi” …a magistrate of the people). A dictator’s power was not to lastbeyond six months.beyond six months.The only known inscription bearing the name of Poplicola.
  5. 5. Patricians .v. PlebeiansPatricians .v. Plebeians After Rome had eliminated the kingship, societyAfter Rome had eliminated the kingship, societywas split into two distinct halves. The upper classeswas split into two distinct halves. The upper classeswere known as the “patricians” whereas the lowerwere known as the “patricians” whereas the lowerclasses were referred to as “plebeians” or simplyclasses were referred to as “plebeians” or simply“plebs.”“plebs.” In the earliest years of the Republic all the top jobsIn the earliest years of the Republic all the top jobswere reserved for the aristocrats; most especiallywere reserved for the aristocrats; most especiallythe new role of consul. The majority of people werethe new role of consul. The majority of people wereof course “plebs” and filled all the ordinary jobsof course “plebs” and filled all the ordinary jobsincluding serving in the army without pay.including serving in the army without pay. Not surprisingly, the tension between the classesNot surprisingly, the tension between the classessoon erupted into a 200 year “war” that historianssoon erupted into a 200 year “war” that historianshave dubbed the “Conflict of the Orders.” The keyhave dubbed the “Conflict of the Orders.” The keyoutcome of this conflict was the creation of theoutcome of this conflict was the creation of thetribunate. However, it always remained difficult for atribunate. However, it always remained difficult for abrilliant man of a poor background to attain realbrilliant man of a poor background to attain realpower in Rome.power in Rome. Eventually, clever politicians such as Caesar wouldEventually, clever politicians such as Caesar wouldcome to recognize the “power of the mob.” By thecome to recognize the “power of the mob.” By theend of the Republic only 15 or so pure patricianend of the Republic only 15 or so pure patricianfamilies remained having been decimated byfamilies remained having been decimated byintermarriage and the financial need to join with richintermarriage and the financial need to join with richplebeian families.plebeian families.Gaius Julius Caesar was from a famouspatrician family that could trace its lineage backto Rome’s foundation. He was the principalarchitect of the downfall of the Republic.Caesar’s immense popularity amongst the plebswould carry him to ultimate power.
  6. 6. The Cursus HonorumThe Cursus Honorum The diagram opposite shows the ladder ofThe diagram opposite shows the ladder ofpolitical advancement in Ancient Rome. Thepolitical advancement in Ancient Rome. The“Cursus Honorum” was literally the “course“Cursus Honorum” was literally the “courseof honours” followed by politicians.of honours” followed by politicians. The “course” was a mixture of military andThe “course” was a mixture of military andpolitical posts which was originally reservedpolitical posts which was originally reservedfor “patricians.” Each office had a minimumfor “patricians.” Each office had a minimumage for election and minimum intervalsage for election and minimum intervalsbetween holding successive offices. Lawsbetween holding successive offices. Lawsforbade repeating an office.forbade repeating an office. These rules were altered and flagrantlyThese rules were altered and flagrantlyignored during the last century of theignored during the last century of theRepublic; the time span of our inquiry topic.Republic; the time span of our inquiry topic. To have held each post at the youngestTo have held each post at the youngestpossible age was considered the ultimatepossible age was considered the ultimatepolitical success …but few achieved it.political success …but few achieved it. Only those offices marked with an asterixOnly those offices marked with an asterixcarried “imperium” which allowed the holdercarried “imperium” which allowed the holderto command an army.to command an army.
  7. 7. The Key MagistraciesThe Key Magistracies CONSULS (2): The two chief magistratesCONSULS (2): The two chief magistrateswho presided over the Senate, initiatedwho presided over the Senate, initiatedlegislation, served as army commanders-in-legislation, served as army commanders-in-chief and represented Rome in foreignchief and represented Rome in foreignaffairs. This position was the pinnacle ofaffairs. This position was the pinnacle ofpower in Republican Rome.power in Republican Rome. QUAESTORS (20): These were largelyQUAESTORS (20): These were largelyfinancial positions both within the statefinancial positions both within the statetreasury and in provinces. Election astreasury and in provinces. Election asquaestor gained a man admission to thequaestor gained a man admission to theSenate.Senate. TRIBUNES (10): These officials had to beTRIBUNES (10): These officials had to be“plebeian” and were to protect the rights of“plebeian” and were to protect the rights ofthe lower classes. They could veto the actthe lower classes. They could veto the actof any magistrate and they were by lawof any magistrate and they were by law“sacrosanct.”“sacrosanct.” AEDILES (4): Two had to be plebeian butAEDILES (4): Two had to be plebeian butthe other two could come from either order.the other two could come from either order.These magistrates controlled public places,These magistrates controlled public places,the games and the grain supply.the games and the grain supply. PRAETORS (8): These were primarily thePRAETORS (8): These were primarily thejudges in the law courts. They couldjudges in the law courts. They couldhowever convoke the Senate and assumedhowever convoke the Senate and assumedthe duties of the consuls if they were awaythe duties of the consuls if they were awayfrom Rome.from Rome.The ivory “Curule”chair was asymbol of highoffice.Magistrates withimperium wereaccompanied andguarded by lictors.
  8. 8. Roman ReligionRoman Religion The Romans seemingly adopted a limitlessThe Romans seemingly adopted a limitlessnumber of Gods from other cultures withnumber of Gods from other cultures withwhich they came in contact.which they came in contact. They saw the great Gods of their pantheonThey saw the great Gods of their pantheonin human form; Gods were immortal andin human form; Gods were immortal andspent their time controlling human affairs.spent their time controlling human affairs. Each God had a personality, particularEach God had a personality, particularpowers, faults and favourites and somepowers, faults and favourites and somewere linked by family relationships.were linked by family relationships. JUPITER (or JOVE or JUPITER OPTIMUSJUPITER (or JOVE or JUPITER OPTIMUSMAXIMUS) was the King of the Gods. HisMAXIMUS) was the King of the Gods. Hisworship was a regular part of the stateworship was a regular part of the statecalendar.calendar. JUNO was Jupiter’s wife and the mother ofJUNO was Jupiter’s wife and the mother ofMars; she symbolised motherly virtues.Mars; she symbolised motherly virtues. MARS was God of War but was alsoMARS was God of War but was alsoassociated with healing, agriculture andassociated with healing, agriculture andproperty boundaries.property boundaries. Other key Gods of the public arena includedOther key Gods of the public arena includedApollo, Mercury, Neptune, Venus andApollo, Mercury, Neptune, Venus andVulcan.Vulcan. VESTA was the Goddess of the “HearthVESTA was the Goddess of the “HearthFire” who was worshipped in every homeFire” who was worshipped in every homeand in the city itself. Her eternal flame wasand in the city itself. Her eternal flame waskept by the Vestal Virgins.kept by the Vestal Virgins. From our study of Pompeii you willFrom our study of Pompeii you willremember the importance of householdremember the importance of householddeities; the Lares.deities; the Lares. * Trivia: Forculus was the God of Doors* Trivia: Forculus was the God of Doorswhilst Cardea watched over the hinges!whilst Cardea watched over the hinges!JUPITER
  9. 9. What’s In A Name?What’s In A Name? Roman citizens of the “respectable classes”Roman citizens of the “respectable classes”typically had atypically had a tria nominatria nomina which was madewhich was madeup of aup of a praenomenpraenomen (forename or what we(forename or what wecall a Christian name), acall a Christian name), a nomennomen (the clan(the clanname or “family branch”) and aname or “family branch”) and a cognomencognomen(family surname). E.g. Gaius Julius Caesar(family surname). E.g. Gaius Julius Caesar Some also had anSome also had an agnomenagnomen (an additional(an additionalsurname, used to distinguish them fromsurname, used to distinguish them fromothers with the same name.) This agnomenothers with the same name.) This agnomenwas sometimes an awarded title or awas sometimes an awarded title or anickname.nickname.E.g. Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (theE.g. Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (theScipio who defeated Hannibal in Africa)Scipio who defeated Hannibal in Africa)Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica (the ScipioPublius Cornelius Scipio Nasica (the Scipiowith the big nose!)with the big nose!)* Trivia: Men who came from a non-noble family* Trivia: Men who came from a non-noble familywere treated with great resentment. Theywere treated with great resentment. Theywere referred to aswere referred to as novi hominesnovi homines; new men.; new men.Scipio AfricanusMarcus Tullius Cicero“New Man”
  10. 10. The Punic WarsThe Punic Wars In the era between 264 and 146 BC Rome fought three great wars against the greatIn the era between 264 and 146 BC Rome fought three great wars against the greatMediterranean power of Carthage. Undoubtedly the best known of these was the Second PunicMediterranean power of Carthage. Undoubtedly the best known of these was the Second PunicWar (218-202 BC) which saw Rome pitted against Hannibal.War (218-202 BC) which saw Rome pitted against Hannibal. Having invaded Italy from the north Hannibal won a series of great battles against Rome atHaving invaded Italy from the north Hannibal won a series of great battles against Rome atTrebia, Lake Trasimene and Cannae. The last was one of the greatest defeats in Rome’s longTrebia, Lake Trasimene and Cannae. The last was one of the greatest defeats in Rome’s longhistory; on that one day they are estimated to have lost 70,000 legionaries.history; on that one day they are estimated to have lost 70,000 legionaries. Scipio Africanus became the Republic’s first great military hero. He was the first to “overcome”Scipio Africanus became the Republic’s first great military hero. He was the first to “overcome”the restrictions of the “Cursus Honorum” by being appointed consul at a young age. He invadedthe restrictions of the “Cursus Honorum” by being appointed consul at a young age. He invadedAfrica and defeated Hannibal at the great Battle of Zama. As a result Rome gained its firstAfrica and defeated Hannibal at the great Battle of Zama. As a result Rome gained its firstoverseas provinces; the Empire was born.overseas provinces; the Empire was born.Hannibal“The Father of Strategy”Hannibal’s famous trekacross the Italian Alpswith his army and warelephants
  11. 11. The Roman ArmyThe Roman Army For hundreds of years up to and including the Punic Wars Rome had relied upon a “citizen army”For hundreds of years up to and including the Punic Wars Rome had relied upon a “citizen army”to come to her aid in times of need. However, as she acquired overseas territory it became clearto come to her aid in times of need. However, as she acquired overseas territory it became clearthat to administer an empire a permanent, standing army of professional soldiers would bethat to administer an empire a permanent, standing army of professional soldiers would beessential.essential. The Roman Army was in a very real sense created by the military genius who was Gaius Marius.The Roman Army was in a very real sense created by the military genius who was Gaius Marius.Like Cicero, he was a “new man” born in the provincial town of Arpinum. Faced by great militaryLike Cicero, he was a “new man” born in the provincial town of Arpinum. Faced by great militarythreats from all sides Rome turned to Marius as their saviour. He held the consulship seventhreats from all sides Rome turned to Marius as their saviour. He held the consulship seventimes, including five years (illegally) in succession from 104-100 BC.times, including five years (illegally) in succession from 104-100 BC. Marius began hiring, training and equipping volunteers from amongst the poor of Rome. CruciallyMarius began hiring, training and equipping volunteers from amongst the poor of Rome. Cruciallyand significantly for our Inquiry Topic, these men were loyal to their leader Marius rather than toand significantly for our Inquiry Topic, these men were loyal to their leader Marius rather than tothe Roman Senate. During times of peace he used the army to build roads and bridgesthe Roman Senate. During times of peace he used the army to build roads and bridgesthroughout the growing empire.throughout the growing empire.GaiusMariusIt was Marius who adoptedthe eagle as the symbol ofthe legions. SPQR stands forsenatus populusqueRomanum …”the Senate andPeople of Rome.”
  12. 12. The City of Rome: 6 Odd FactsThe City of Rome: 6 Odd Facts Some interesting facts about the city of Rome itself ( …in no particular order but nonetheless theSome interesting facts about the city of Rome itself ( …in no particular order but nonetheless thefirst two are actually important!)first two are actually important!) 1. The Romans very definitely believed that they were superior to everyone else and had a1. The Romans very definitely believed that they were superior to everyone else and had apreordained destiny to rule the world. Therefore, the greatest of all prizes was to be grantedpreordained destiny to rule the world. Therefore, the greatest of all prizes was to be grantedRoman citizenship.Roman citizenship. 2. Soldiers were not permitted in the city of Rome itself except for the celebration of a triumph. A2. Soldiers were not permitted in the city of Rome itself except for the celebration of a triumph. Ageneral who crossed thegeneral who crossed the pomeriumpomerium (city boundary) lost all power and could be liable to(city boundary) lost all power and could be liable toprosecution.prosecution. 3. Romans kept both dogs and cats as pets; largely to control rodents. Dogs were also kept in3. Romans kept both dogs and cats as pets; largely to control rodents. Dogs were also kept intemples and trained to lick the injured and blind …their saliva was believed to have curativetemples and trained to lick the injured and blind …their saliva was believed to have curativepowers!powers! 4. Rome was the first civilization to create such services as a police force, a fire brigade and4. Rome was the first civilization to create such services as a police force, a fire brigade andcharities to care for uneducated and orphaned children. Entertainment was a big focus; by thecharities to care for uneducated and orphaned children. Entertainment was a big focus; by theheight of the Empire around half the year was dedicated to religious holidays with games.height of the Empire around half the year was dedicated to religious holidays with games. 5. Gaius Appuleius Diocles was Rome’s most famous charioteer. He competed in nearly 4,5005. Gaius Appuleius Diocles was Rome’s most famous charioteer. He competed in nearly 4,500races of which he won 1,462. He died in a race fall when only 26 years of age. During his careerraces of which he won 1,462. He died in a race fall when only 26 years of age. During his careerhe amassed a fortune of 35 million sesterces (…the annual wage of 30,000 years in the army!)he amassed a fortune of 35 million sesterces (…the annual wage of 30,000 years in the army!) 6. “Monte Testaccio” in Rome is a massive rubbish dump holding the fragments of an estimated6. “Monte Testaccio” in Rome is a massive rubbish dump holding the fragments of an estimated50 million olive oil amphorae dumped in the first three centuries AD. They would have held50 million olive oil amphorae dumped in the first three centuries AD. They would have heldapproximately 6 billion litres of oil.approximately 6 billion litres of oil.

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