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First Edition

Britannica Educational Publishing

Michael I. Levy: Executive Editor
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Kathleen Kuiper: Manager, Arts and Culture

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Introduction by Laura Loria

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Ancient Rome: from Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth invasion / edited by Kathleen
Kuiper.—1st ed.
p. cm.—(The Britannica guide to ancient civilizations)
“In association with Britannica Educational Publishing, Rosen Educational Services.”
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-61530-207-9 (eBook)
1. Rome—History. I. Kuiper, Kathleen.
DG209.A55 2010

On the cover: A phalanx of statues, currently housed in the Vatican Museum, stand as
silent witnesses to the grandeur of ancient Rome. Ian Shive/Aurora/Getty Images

Photo credit pp. 17, 39, 77, 104, and 153 Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Introduction 10

Chapter 1: Rome from its Origins

to 264 BC 17
Early Italy 18
Historical Sources on Early Rome 19
Rome’s Foundation Myth 20
The Regal Period, 753–509 BC 21
The Foundation of the Republic 23
The Struggle of the Orders 24
The Consulship 26
The Dictatorship 26
The Senate 27
The Popular Assemblies 27
The Plebeian Tribunate 28
The Twelve Tables 30
Military Tribunes with Consular Power 30
Social and Economic Changes 31
The Latin League 33
Roman Expansion in Italy 34
The Samnite Wars 35
The Pyrrhic War, 280–275 BC 37

Chapter 2: The Middle Republic

(264–133 BC) 39
First Punic War (264–241 BC) 39
Between the First and Second Punic Wars
(241–218 BC) 41
Second Punic War (218–201 BC) 42
Campaigns in Sicily and Spain 45
The War in Africa 47
The Establishment of Roman Hegemony in the 54
Mediterranean World 48
Roman Expansion in the Eastern
Mediterranean 49
Roman Expansion in the Western
Mediterranean 53
Explanations of Roman Expansion 56
Beginnings of Provincial Administration 57
Transformation During the Middle Republic 58
Citizenship and Politics in the Middle
Republic 58

Culture and Religion 61

Economy and Society 66
Social Changes 72
Rome and Italy 74

Chapter 3: The Late Republic

(133–31 BC) 77
Aftermath of Victories 77
Changes in Provincial Administration 78
Social and Economic Ills 78
The Reform Movement of the Gracchi
(133–121 BC) 78
The Program and Career of Tiberius
Sempronius Gracchus 79 90
The Program and Career of Gaius Sempronius
Gracchus 81
War Against Jugurtha 82
The Career of Gaius Marius 83
Events in Asia 85
Developments in Italy 86
Civil War and the Rule of Lucius Sulla 87
The Early Career of Pompey 90
Pompey and Crassus 92
Political Suspicion and Violence 94
The Final Collapse of the Roman Republic
(59–44 BC) 95
Political Maneuvers 96
Civil War 97
The Dictatorship and Assassination of
Caesar 98
The Triumvirate and Octavian’s Achievement
of Sole Power 98 99
Intellectual Life of the Late Republic 100
Grammar and Rhetoric 101
Law and History 102
Philosophy and Poetry 102

Chapter 4: The Early Roman Empire

(31 BC–AD 193) 104
The Consolidation of the Empire Under the
Julio-Claudians 104

The Establishment of the Principate Under

Augustus 105
The Roman Senate and the Urban
Magistracies 107
The Equestrian Order 109
Administration of Rome and Italy 110
Administration of the Provinces 111
Emperor Worship 112
The Army 113
Foreign Policy 115
Economic Life 117
Augustan Art and Literature 118
Appraisal of Augustus 120
The Succession 121
Growth of the Empire Under the Flavians and
Antonines 124
The Flavian Emperors 124
The Early Antonine Emperors: Nerva and
Trajan 127
Hadrian and the Other Antonine
Emperors 129
The Empire in the Second Century 132
Trend to Absolute Monarchy 133
Political Life 134
Rome and Italy 135
Developments in the Provinces 137
The Army 148
Cultural Life 149

Chapter 5: The Later Roman Empire 153

The Dynasty of the Severi (AD 193–235) 153 142
Septimius Severus 153
Caracalla 157
Macrinus 157
Elagabalus and Severus Alexander 158
Religious and Cultural Life in the Third
Century 159
The Rise of Christianity 161
Cultural Life from the Antonines to
Constantine 163

Military Anarchy and the Disintegration of the

Empire (235–270) 164
The Barbarian Invasions 166
Difficulties in the East 167
Economic and Social Crisis 168
The Recovery of the Empire and the Establishment
of the Dominate (270–337) 170
Diocletian 172
Struggle for Power 177
The Reign of Constantine 178
The Roman Empire Under the Fourth-Century
Successors of Constantine 181
The Reign of Julian 183
The Reign of Valentinian and Valens 184 190
The Reign of Gratian and Theodosius I 186
Social and Economic Conditions 188
The Remnants of Pagan Culture 190
The Christian Church 191
The Eclipse of the Roman Empire in the West
(c. 395–500) and the German Migrations 193
The Beginning of Germanic Hegemony in
the West 194
Barbarian Kingdoms 195
Analysis of the Decline and Fall 196

Appendix A: Table of Roman Emperors from

27 BC through AD 476 198
Appendix B: Ancient Italic Peoples 202

Glossary 213
Bibliography 215
Index 221 192
Introduction | 11

A ncient Rome’s influence cannot be

overstated. The English language,
government, and culture—from basics
openness to the cultures of the lands
Rome had dominated throughout the
ancient world.
such as the alphabet and calendar to Rome was ruled by kings until the
more sophisticated legal systems—are so fabled tyrant Tarquinius Superbus was,
heavily saturated with Roman traits that according to legend, overthrown by the
it is impossible to imagine what the world populace. From then on, Rome would
would be like if Rome had not flourished. never again have a king, instead electing
Any civilization whose influence two magistrates called consuls. There
reverberates so strongly around the globe were two main social classes in the early
thousands of years after its fall deserves a republic (509–280 BC), the patricians and
closer look, and that is what this book the plebeians. In essence, the patricians
provides. Ancient Rome: From Romulus held the power and the plebeians had
and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion trans- the right to vote on laws. The consuls,
ports readers back to a time of intrigue, however, were elected by the military;
conquest, invention, and empire build- consequently, primarily generals who
ing. Readers also will be introduced to the led Rome’s armies were elected to
Caesars, warriors, senators, patricians, consulship.
and plebeians who built, governed, con- The Senate, which most likely evolved
quered, and inhabited the ever-expanding from the king’s group of advisers, was
territories under Roman rule. composed of patrician elders. Because of
From its mythical founding by their collective wealth and social status,
Romulus on Palatine Hill, Rome had the senators and their “advice” were
devised a political and social framework taken seriously. The assembly was
from which the empire would fall away slightly more egalitarian, with five classes
and return and to which emerging coun- ranging from wealthy knights to the poor
tries and civilizations would look for landless, and it passed basic legislation.
centuries to come. Popular images of A clearly defined system of law, called the
Rome conjure the picture of a fully formed Law of the Twelve Tables, was completed
state with vast lands and a multilayered about 450 BC.
government and social order, but its As leader of the Latin League, the
beginnings were humble. The once-small loosely aligned individual states of Italy,
village of Rome transformed itself into an Rome frequently sought to expand
empire through organized government, through what was deemed “justifiable
an expansionist military policy, and war,” though in reality Rome typically

Detail of Roman soldiers, taken from the carving Martyrdom Of St Paul, which can be found
in the Chapel Of Sisto IV in the Vatican. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
12 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

provoked other states into war and then countryside, though not as landowners.
claimed self-defense. The Samnite Wars Senators bought up large plots of land
(343–290 BC) brought the acquisition of from fallen soldiers and rented to tenant
Campania and 13 other colonies and the farmers or hired slaves to work it. This
establishment of the Roman navy. The relationship served both parties well for
Pyrrhic War (280–275 BC) brought Rome many years.
control over central Italy from coast to With expansion came a new emphasis
coast. Next came the Punic Wars, fought on the marketplace. The landless poor
against Carthage in the period termed flooded Rome, causing food and housing
the Middle Republic (264–133 BC), which shortages. Independent of the state, man-
brought Sicily and some small islands ufacturing and trade were still cottage
under Rome’s control through naval industries, but Rome provided numerous
supremacy and small military move- public works to facilitate growth. Infra­
ments. At the conclusion of the Second structure projects made good use of a
Punic War in 201 BC, the empire had recent construction material, concrete, to
gained control over Spain and the western build arches and shore up aqueducts. The
Mediterranean. In the east, Macedonia traditional family structure became less
was annexed as well. important, and child rearing fell to family
The vastness of the empire made nec- slaves, who often were foreigners.
essary the local rule of annexed territories, Italy was becoming homogenized in
called provinces. Local administrators, the Middle Republic (264–133 BC), as a
who were overseen annually by senatorial result of several important developments.
magistrates, enforced Lex provincae, the The massive construction of modern roads
rules of the conqueror. The administrators’ increased travel and relocation into and
main duties were to collect taxes through out of Rome. While Rome was reluctant to
publicani, private debt collectors. In Rome impose itself on provincial governments,
itself, power was officially shared among the friendly relationships between the elite
the Senate, assembly, and magistrates. of Rome and other cities naturally resulted
However, the elite of the Senate held in similarities in law. The Italian peninsula
most of the power, forcing the plebeians was united in military campaigns at their
to pass laws without their approval, creat- frontiers as Roman troops helped to main-
ing a power struggle. tain order throughout the republic.
The population was changing, too, as War was an essential part of Roman
the influx of people from conquered life during the Late Republic (133–31 BC),
lands sought Roman citizenship. Rome resulting in further conquests. But as the
was generally tolerant of other cultures empire expanded, so did maintenance
but was careful not to adopt too many costs. The governor of each province had
foreign ideas, especially from Greece. absolute power over the noncitizens of
Former slaves replaced farmers in the the city of Rome itself, which opened the
Introduction | 13

door to abuse of power in the form of His term was marked by self-interest
illegal taxation and fining. A court was and bribery, and the nobility once again
established to address these issues. controlled the Senate and exploited the
Though it did not punish the offenders, it provinces. After his term as consul, he
was a step toward making the govern- once again took up military service, gain-
ment accountable to the inhabitants of ing control over the East and its wealth.
Rome, regardless of citizenship and social Meanwhile, Julius Caesar’s star was ris-
standing. ing. Returning from a successful and
Further reform came at the hands of profitable governorship in Spain, Caesar
the Gracchus brothers, Tiberius and became consul in 63 with the initial sup-
Gaius, known in plural as the Gracchi. port of Pompey. However, that tenuous
Born into wealth, the brothers each had a alignment was soon severed. Through
turn as “tribune of the plebs,” speaking Pompey’s political maneuvers, Caesar
for the common people. Tiberius was forced into exile and a civil war
Gracchus began his service in 133 BC by began. When Caesar defeated Pompey in
attempting to enforce a legal limit to Greece, he returned to Rome and assumed
how much land an individual could own, a dictatorship. His desire to please every-
with the goal of distributing land more one, and thus his failure to end the
equally to landless citizens. Through corruption of the Republic, led to his
much bargaining, eventually a compro- notorious assassination in 44 BC. A tri-
mise was reached that put control of this umvirate consisting of Antony, Lepidus,
project into his family’s hands. After a and Octavian, the son of Caesar, assumed
group of opposing senators killed Tiberius, power, but a struggle among them led to
his younger brother, Gaius, took up the Octavian’s victory in both the military
banner. He continued to strive for more and political arenas. Rome had one ruler
equality among the people through the now, and the republic was dead.
redistribution of wealth, while also Octavian was technically Rome’s first
attempting to grant citizenship to other emperor, but he shunned titles so as not
Latins. This tactic was to be a fatal error. to provoke the wrath of his political ene-
Gaius was not reelected in 122, and was mies. By demilitarizing much of Rome
killed in a riot the next year. An uprising and offering to refuse the consulship
called the Social War, begun in 90 BC, after one term, he gained the trust of the
resulted in citizenship for anyone who Senate, who named him Augustus and
sought it, thereby resolving the issue. gave him control over much of the
Despite these advances toward empire. While the people of Rome were
egalitarianism, power struggles raged fairly powerless, they did have access to
on. Pompey, who inherited his father’s courts of law, the protection of the army,
army and captured Spain and North public works such as roads, and socio-
Africa with it, became coconsul in 70 BC. political mobility through the newly
14 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

opened channel of the equestrian order. invaders. The Antonine dynasty ended
They were taxed heavily, but were given with Commodus (180–192), who relied on
stability and growth in return. Augustan provincial governors to secure borders
art and literature reflected this stability, and thus allowed another grab for power
blending Greek form with Roman values after his death.
in the works of Virgil and Horace. The For roughly 200 years, the Roman
empire expanded in all directions under Empire was stable and relatively secure.
Augustus, who was beloved and deified The principate, or emperorship, was
by the people of Rome. widely accepted by the people. The
Augustus established a familial line emperors kept the people’s loyalty by
of succession with mixed results. The last avoiding military despotism and creating
of his line, Nero, used brute force to con- an environment that allowed prosperity
trol the empire. He committed suicide in and local self-government while still
the face of inevitable assassination by his keeping the people subject to their total
many enemies. After Nero’s death in 69, authority. The Senate’s legislative power
civil wars broke out yet again, and four was greatly decreased during the early
military commanders claimed themselves empire, though the emperors treated
emperor. At the end of that year, the senators, who were frequently foreign-
Senate and assembly ratified Vespasian born, courteously overall.
as emperor, who faced the same task The empire began to decline as soon
Augustus had—the restoration of order. as it failed to follow this format. The
He and his sons, Titus and Domitian, the dynasty of the Severi (193–235) resulted
Flavian dynasty (69–96), kept control of in a devalued currency, military distrust
the empire by strengthening the borders of the principate, and the persecution of
along the Rhine and Danube with auxil- Christians. For the next 35 years the
iary armies while creating stable posts control of Rome alternated between
for the legionaries. military leaders and favourites of the
When Vespasian’s enemies assassi- Senate. This instability afforded the east-
nated Domitian, a series of foreign-born ern provinces and barbarians to the north
emperors ascended. The Antonine the opportunity to invade and recapture
emperors, a moderate and constitutional lost lands. An economic and social crisis
succession, strengthened borders with- caused cities to barricade themselves,
out expanding. Hadrian (117–138) gave including Rome.
members of the equestrian order the Diocletian, who was proclaimed
option of civil service as an alternative to emperor in 284, recognized that Rome
the formerly required military service. was too large to sustain itself, so he aban-
Antonius Pius (138–161) had a reign of doned the principate and established
peace and prosperity and adopted son himself as the dominant member of a tet-
Marcus Aurelius (161–180) kept out rarchy, or four rulers. The city of Rome
Introduction | 15

was no longer the sole capital, as each who took great entitlements as a privi-
emperor ruled from one of four cities. lege of their position. In the west,
Diocletian increased the size of the army conditions for the poor were worse than
and fortified the borders of Rome. He in the east, most likely because of the
financed these maneuvers by means of empire’s increased emphasis on eastern
heavy taxation. When he also attached interests and the admittance of barbar-
divinity to his tetrarchy, he made enemies ians from the north into the Rhineland.
of the Christians, who now numbered 5 Pagan culture was largely restricted to
million of Rome’s 60 million inhabitants. the universities, and Christianity was
The tetrarchy died with the ascen- rapidly spreading through the west.
sion of Constantine, son of a tetrarch. Britain, Spain, France, Germany, and
Constantine, a Christian convert, was North Africa were being taken over by
sole Caesar following the surrender of his barbarians and Germanic tribes. By the
coruler, Licinius, in 324. He established a end of the 5th century, Rome possessed a
hereditary succession plan, reformed the fraction of its former territory.
military to create a border patrol and an Some attribute Rome’s fall to the
imperial guard, and christened a new spread of Christianity or to material
capital in Constantinople for its proxim- excess and self-interest of the ruling
ity to trade routes. His sons divided the class. There is also evidence that Rome
empire into eastern and western prov- simply became too large to sustain itself.
inces, with grandson Julian left standing Leadership was inconsistent, both in
after a series of murders. Julian was a form and the conduct of individual rul-
pagan and restored temples to Roman ers. The growth of the military did not
gods over the objections of the Christians. keep pace with the physical size of the
His successors, Valentinian and Valens, empire and could not police it effectively.
again divided the empire into eastern Nevertheless, ancient Rome provided
and western provinces, and their succes- much that remains fundamental to mod-
sors, Gratian and Theodosius, cemented ern Western thought, including a
the religious divide between the two. blueprint for democracy, the notion of
In the 4th century Rome had a bloated which continues to engage people
government payroll of 30,000 workers, throughout the world.
Rome from its
Origins to 264 BC

R ome must be considered one of the most successful

imperial powers in history. In the course of centuries
Rome grew from a small town on the Tiber River in central
Italy into a vast empire that ultimately embraced England, all
of continental Europe west of the Rhine and south of the
Danube, most of Asia west of the Euphrates, northern Africa,
and the islands of the Mediterranean. Unlike the Greeks, who
excelled in intellectual and artistic endeavours, the Romans
achieved greatness in their military, political, and social insti-
tutions. Roman society, during the republic, was governed by
a strong military ethos.
While this helps to explain the incessant warfare, it does
not account for Rome’s success as an imperial power. Unlike
Greek city-states, which excluded foreigners and subjected
peoples from political participation, Rome from its begin-
ning incorporated conquered peoples into its social and
political system. Allies and subjects who adopted Roman
ways were eventually granted Roman citizenship. During the
principate, the seats in the Senate and even the imperial
throne were occupied by people from the Mediterranean
realm outside Italy. The lasting effects of Roman rule in
Europe can be seen in the geographic distribution of the
Romance languages (Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese,
and Romanian), all of which evolved from Latin, the
18 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

language of the Romans. The Western only inhabitants who did not speak an
alphabet of 26 letters and the calendar of Indo-European language. By 700 BC
12 months and 365.25 days are only two several Greek colonies were established
simple examples of the cultural legacy along the southern coast. Both Greeks
that Rome has bequeathed Western and Phoenicians were actively engaged
civilization. in trade with the Italian natives.
Modern historical analysis is mak-
Early Italy ing rapid progress in showing how
Rome’s early development occurred in a
When Italy emerged into the light of his- multicultural environment and was par-
tory about 700 BC, it was already ticularly influenced by the higher
inhabited by various peoples of different civilizations of the Etruscans to the north
cultures and languages. Most natives of and the Greeks to the south. Roman reli-
the country lived in villages or small gion was indebted to the beliefs and
towns, supported themselves by agricul- practices of the Etruscans. The Romans
ture or animal husbandry (Italia means borrowed and adapted the alphabet from
“Calf Land”), and spoke an Italic dialect the Etruscans, who in turn had borrowed
belonging to the Indo-European family and adapted it from the Greek colonies
of languages. Oscan and Umbrian were of Italy. Senior officials of the Roman
closely related Italic dialects spoken by Republic derived their insignia from the
the inhabitants of the Apennines. The Etruscans: curule chair, purple-bordered
other two Italic dialects, Latin and toga (toga praetexta), and bundle of
Venetic, were likewise closely related to rods (fasces). Gladiatorial combats and
each other and were spoken, respec- the military triumph were other customs
tively, by the Latins of Latium (a plain adopted from the Etruscans. Rome lay 12
of west-central Italy) and the people of miles (19.3 kg) inland from the sea on the
northeastern Italy (near modern Venice). Tiber River, the border between Latium
Apulians (Iapyges) and Messapians and Etruria. Because the site com-
inhabited the southeastern coast. Their manded a convenient river crossing and
language resembled the speech of the lay on a land route from the Apennines
Illyrians on the other side of the Adriatic. to the sea, it formed the meeting point of
During the fifth century BC the Po valley three distinct peoples: Latins, Etruscans,
of northern Italy (Cisalpine Gaul) was and Sabines. Although Latin in speech
occupied by Gallic tribes who spoke and culture, the Roman population must
Celtic and who had migrated across the have been somewhat diverse from earli-
Alps from continental Europe. The est times, a circumstance that may help
Etruscans were the first highly civilized to account for the openness of Roman
people of Italy and were the society in historical times.
Rome from its Origins to 264 BC | 19

Historical sources “the Roman annalistic tradition” because

on early Rome many of them attempted to give a year-
by-year (or annalistic) account of Roman
The regal period (753–509 BC) and the affairs for the republic.
early republic (509–280 BC) are the most Although none of these histories are
poorly documented periods of Roman fully preserved, the first 10 books of Livy,
history because historical accounts of one of Rome’s greatest historians, are
Rome were not written until much later. extant and cover Roman affairs from
Greek historians did not take
serious notice of Rome until
the Pyrrhic War (280–275 BC),
when Rome was completing its
conquest of Italy and was fight-
ing against the Greek city of
Tarentum in southern Italy.
Rome’s first native historian, a
senator named Quintus Fabius
Pictor, lived and wrote even
later, during the Second Punic
War (218–201 BC). Thus, his-
torical writing at Rome did not
begin until after Rome had
completed its conquest of Italy,
had emerged as a major power
of the ancient world, and was
engaged in a titanic struggle
with Carthage for control of
the western Mediterranean.
Fabius Pictor’s history, which
began with the city’s mythical
Trojan ancestry and narrated
events up to his own day, estab-
lished the form of subsequent
Engraving of Livy (Titus Livius), the foremost historian
histories of Rome. During the
and prose writer of the Augustan Age. The handful of his
last 200 years BC, 16 other
books that have survived to the present day are the best
Romans wrote similarly inclu-
record of early Rome available. Kean Collection/Hulton
sive narratives. All these works Archive/Getty Images
are now collectively termed
20 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

earliest times down to the year 293 BC emperor Augustus (27 BC–AD 14), he was
(extant are also Books 21 to 45 treating separated by 200 years from Fabius
the events from 218 BC to 167 BC). Since Pictor, who, in turn, had lived long after
Livy wrote during the reign of the many of the events his history described.

Rome’s foundation Myth

Although Greek historians did not write seriously about Rome until the Pyrrhic War, they were
aware of Rome’s existence long before then. In accordance with their custom of explaining the
origin of the foreign peoples they encountered by connecting them with the wanderings of one
of their own mythical heroes, such as Jason and the Argonauts, Heracles (Hercules), or
Odysseus, Greek writers from the fifth century BC onward invented at least 25 different myths
to account for Rome’s foundation. In one of the earliest accounts (Hellanicus of Lesbos), which
became accepted, the Trojan hero Aeneas and some followers escaped the Greek destruction of
Troy. After wandering about the Mediterranean for some years, they settled in central Italy,
where they intermarried with the native population and became the Latins.
Although the connection between Rome and Troy is unhistorical, the Romans of later
time were so flattered by this illustrious mythical pedigree that they readily accepted it and
incorporated it into their own folklore about the beginning of their city. Roman historians knew
that the republic had begun about 500 BC, because their annual list of magistrates went back
that far. Before that time, they thought, Rome had been ruled by seven kings in succession. By
using Greek methods of genealogical reckoning, they estimated that seven kings would have
ruled about 250 years, thus making Rome’s regal period begin in the middle of the eighth cen-
tury BC. Ancient historians initially differed concerning the precise date of Rome’s foundation,
ranging from as early as 814 BC (Timaeus) to as late as 728 BC (Cincius Alimentus). By the end
of the republic, it was generally accepted that Rome had been founded in 753 BC and that the
republic had begun in 509 BC.
Since the generally accepted date of Troy’s destruction was 1184 BC, Roman historians
maintained Troy’s unhistorical connection with Rome by inventing a series of fictitious kings
who were supposed to have descended from the Trojan Aeneas and ruled the Latin town of
Alba Longa for the intervening 431 years (1184–753 BC) until the last of the royal line, the twin
brothers Romulus and Remus, founded their own city, Rome, on the Palatine Hill. According
to tradition, the twins, believed to have been the children of the god Mars, were set adrift in a
basket on the Tiber by the king of Alba. They survived, however, being nursed by a she-wolf, and
lived to overthrow the wicked king. In the course of founding Rome the brothers quarreled,
and Romulus slew Remus. This story was a Roman adaptation of a widespread ancient
Mediterranean folktale told of many national leaders, such as the Akkadian king Sargon (c.
2300 BC), the biblical Moses, the Persian king Cyrus the Great, the Theban king Oedipus, and
the twins Neleus and Pelias of Greek mythology.
Rome from its Origins to 264 BC | 21

Thus, in writing about early Rome, involves personal judgment, modern

ancient historians were confronted with scholars have disagreed about many
great difficulties in ascertaining the truth. aspects of early Roman history and will
They possessed a list of annual magis- continue to do so.
trates from the beginning of the republic
onward (the consular fasti ), which formed The regal period,
the chronological framework of their 753–509 BC
accounts. Religious records and the texts
of some laws and treaties provided a Romulus, Rome’s first king according to
bare outline of major events. Ancient tradition, was the invention of later
historians fleshed out this meagre fac- ancient historians. His name, which is
tual material with both native and Greek not even proper Latin, was designed to
folklore. Consequently, over time, histori- explain the origin of Rome’s name. His
cal facts about early Rome often suffered fictitious reign was filled with deeds
from patriotic or face-saving reinterpre- expected of an ancient city founder and
tations involving exaggeration of the the son of a war god. Thus he was
truth, suppression of embarrassing facts, described as having established Rome’s
and invention. early political, military, and social institu-
The evidence for the annalistic tradi- tions and as having waged war against
tion shows that the Roman histories neighbouring states. Romulus was also
written during the 2nd century BC were thought to have shared his royal power
relatively brief resumes of facts and sto- for a time with a Sabine named Titus
ries. Yet in the course of the first century Tatius. The name may be that of an
BC, Roman writers were increasingly authentic ruler of early Rome, perhaps
influenced by Greek rhetorical training, Rome’s first real king. Nothing, however,
with the result that their histories became was known about him in later centuries,
greatly expanded in length. Included in and his reign was therefore lumped
them were fictitious speeches and together with that of Romulus.
lengthy narratives of spurious battles The names of the other six kings are
and political confrontations, which, how- authentic and were remembered by the
ever, reflect the military and political Romans, but few reliable details were
conditions and controversies of the late known about their reigns. However, since
republic rather than accurately portray- the later Romans wished to have expla-
ing the events of early Rome. Livy’s nations for their early customs and
history of early Rome, for example, is a institutions, historians ascribed various
blend of some facts and much fiction. innovations to these kings, often in stereo-
Since it is often difficult to separate fact typical and erroneous ways. The three
from fiction in his works and doing so kings after Romulus are still hardly more
22 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

than names, but the recorded deeds of succeeded by Tullus Hostilius, whose
the last three kings are more historical reign was filled with warlike exploits,
and can, to some extent, be checked by probably because the name Hostilius was
archaeological evidence. later interpreted to suggest hostility and
According to ancient tradition, the belligerence. Tullus was followed by
warlike founder Romulus was succeeded Ancus Marcius, who was believed to have
by the Sabine Numa Pompilius, whose been the grandson of Numa. His reign
reign was characterized by complete tran- combined the characteristics of those of
quility and peace. Numa was supposed to his two predecessors—namely religious
have created virtually all of Rome’s reli- innovations as well as warfare.
gious institutions and practices. The Archaeological evidence for early
tradition of his religiosity probably derives Rome is scattered and limited because it
from the erroneous connection by the has proven difficult to conduct extensive
ancients of his name with the Latin word excavations at sites still occupied by later
numen, meaning divine power. Numa was buildings. What evidence exists is often

Ruins on Palatine Hill, which archaeologists believe may have been the location of the first
Roman village. On the Palatine, archaeological discoveries range from prehistoric remains
to the ruins of an imperial palace. Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images
Rome from its Origins to 264 BC | 23

ambiguous and cannot be correlated eas- Rome’s urban transformation was

ily to the ancient literary tradition. It can, carried out by its last three kings: Lucius
however, sometimes confirm or contra- Tarquinius Priscus (Tarquin the Elder),
dict aspects of the ancient historical Servius Tullius, and Lucius Tarquinius
account. For example, it confirms that the Superbus (Tarquin the Proud). According
earliest settlement was a simple village of to ancient tradition, the two Tarquins
thatched huts on the Palatine Hill (one of were father and son and came from
the seven hills eventually occupied by Etruria. One tradition made Servius
the city of Rome), but it dates the begin- Tullius a Latin. Another described him as
ning of the village to the 10th or ninth an Etruscan named Mastarna. All three
century BC, not the mid-eighth century. kings were supposed to have been great
Rome therefore cannot have been ruled city planners and organizers (a tradition
by a succession of only seven kings down that has been confirmed by archaeology).
to the end of the sixth century BC. Their Etruscan origin is rendered plau-
Archaeology also shows that the sible by Rome’s proximity to Etruria,
Esquiline Hill was next inhabited, thus Rome’s growing geographic signifi-
disproving the ancient account which cance, and the public works that were
maintained that the Quirinal Hill was carried out by the kings themselves. The
settled after the Palatine. latter were characteristic of contempo-
Around 670–660 BC the Palatine rary Etruscan cities. It would thus appear
settlement expanded down into the val- that during the sixth century BC some
ley of the later Forum Romanum and Etruscan adventurers took over the site
became a town of artisans living in of Rome and transformed it into a city
houses with stone foundations. The mate- along Etruscan lines.
rial culture testifies to the existence of
some trade as well as to Etruscan and The foundation of
Greek influence. Archaeology of other the republic
Latin sites suggests that Rome at this
time was a typical Latin community. In Ancient historians depicted Rome’s first
another major transition spanning the six kings as benevolent and just rulers
sixth century the Latin town was gradu- but the last one as a cruel tyrant who mur-
ally transformed into a real city. The dered his predecessor Servius Tullius,
swampy Forum valley was drained and usurped the kingship, terrorized the
paved to become the city’s public centre. Senate, and oppressed the common
There are clear signs of major temple people with public works. The reign of
construction. Pottery and architectural Tarquinius Superbus was described in
remains indicate vigorous trade with the the stereotypical terms of a Greek tyr-
Greeks and Etruscans, as well as local anny in order to explain the major
work done under their influence. political transition from the monarchy to
24 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

the republic in accordance with Greek and influence at the time across the Tiber
political theory concerning constitu- into Latium and even farther south into
tional evolution from monarchy to Campania. Toward the end of the sixth
tyranny to aristocracy. This explanation century, Rome may have been involved in
provided later Romans with a satisfying a war against King Porsenna of Clusium,
patriotic story of despotism giving way to who defeated the Romans, seized the city,
liberty. Tarquinius Superbus supposedly and expelled its last king. Before Porsenna
was overthrown by a popular uprising could establish himself as monarch, he
ignited by the rape of a virtuous noble- was forced to withdraw, leaving Rome
woman, Lucretia, by the king’s son. The kingless. In fact, Porsenna is known to
story is probably unhistorical, however, have suffered a serious defeat at the
and merely a Roman adaptation of a well- hands of the combined forces of the other
known Greek story of a love affair in Latins and the Greeks of Campanian
Athens that led to the murder of the Cumae. Rather than restoring Tarquin
tyrant’s brother and the tyrant’s eventual from exile to power, the Romans replaced
downfall. the kingship with two annually elected
According to ancient tradition, as magistrates called consuls.
soon as the Romans had expelled their
last tyrannical king, the king of the The struggle of
Etruscan city of Clusium, Lars Porsenna, the orders
attacked and besieged Rome. The city
was gallantly defended by Horatius As the Roman state grew in size and
Cocles, who sacrificed his life in defense power during the early republic (509–280
of the bridge across the Tiber, and Mucius BC), new offices and institutions were
Scaecvola, who attempted to assassinate created, and old ones were adapted to
Porsenna in his own camp. When arrested cope with the changing military, political,
before accomplishing the deed, he dem- social, and economic needs of the state
onstrated his courage by voluntarily and its populace. According to the annal-
burning off his right hand in a nearby fire. istic tradition, all these changes and
As a result of such Roman heroism, innovations resulted from a political
Porsenna was supposed to have made struggle between two social orders, the
peace with Rome and withdrawn his army. patricians and the plebeians, that is
One prevalent modern view is that thought to have begun during the first
the monarchy at Rome was incidentally years of the republic and lasted for more
terminated through military defeat and than 200 years.
foreign intervention. This theory sees In the beginning, the patricians were
Rome as a site highly prized by the supposed to have enjoyed a monopoly of
Etruscans of the sixth century BC, who power (the consulship, the Senate, and all
are known to have extended their power religious offices), whereas the plebeians
Rome from its Origins to 264 BC | 25

began with nothing except the right to entitled to or debarred from holding
vote in the assemblies. During the course certain minor offices.
of the struggle the plebeians, however, The discrepancies, inconsistencies,
were believed to have won concessions and logical fallacies in Livy’s account of
gradually from the patricians through the early republic make it evident that
political agitation and confrontation, and the annalistic tradition’s thesis of a
they eventually attained legal equality struggle of the orders is a gross over-
with them. Thus ancient historians, such simplification of a highly complex series
as Livy, explained all aspects of early of events that had no single cause.
Rome’s internal political development in Tensions certainly existed; no state can
terms of a single sustained social experience 200 years of history without
movement. some degree of social conflict and eco-
As tradition has it, the distinction nomic unrest. In fact, legal sources
between patricians and plebeians was as indicate that the law of debt in early
old as Rome itself and had been insti- Rome was extremely harsh and must
tuted by Romulus. The actual historical have sometimes created much hardship.
dating and explanation of this distinction Yet it is impossible to believe that all
still constitutes the single biggest aspects of early Rome’s internal political
unsolved problem of early Roman his- development resulted from one cause.
tory. The distinction existed during the Early documents, if available, would have
middle and late republic, but modern told the later annalistic historians little
scholars do not agree on when or how it more than that a certain office had been
arose; they are increasingly inclined to created or some law passed. An explana-
think that it originated and evolved tion of causality could have been supplied
slowly during the early republic. By the only by folklore or by the imagination of
time of the middle and late republic, it the historian himself, neither of which
was largely meaningless. At that point can be relied upon. Livy’s descriptions of
only about one dozen Roman families early republican political crises evince
were patrician, all others being plebeian. the political rhetoric and tactics of the
Both patrician and plebeian families late republic and therefore cannot be
made up the nobility, which consisted given credence without justification. For
simply of all descendants of consuls. The example, early republican agrarian legis-
term “patrician,” therefore, was not syn- lation is narrated in late republican
onymous with “noble” and should not be terms. Early republican conflicts between
confused with it: the patricians formed plebeian tribunes and the Senate are
only a part of the Roman nobility of the likewise patterned after the politics of
middle and late republic. The only differ- the Optimates and Populares of the
ence between patricians and plebeians in late republic. Caution therefore must
later times was that each group was either be exercised in examining early Rome’s
26 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

internal development. Many of the major major aspect of the struggle of the orders
innovations recorded in the ancient tra- was supposed to have been the plebeians’
dition can be accepted, but the ancient persistent agitation to make the office
interpretation of these facts cannot go open to them. However, if the classifica-
unchallenged. tion of patrician and plebeian names
known for the middle and late republic is
The consulship applied to the consular list for the years
509–445 BC, plebeian names are well
The later Romans viewed the abolition of represented (30 percent). It is likely that
the kingship and its replacement by the there never was a prohibition against
consulship as marking the beginning of plebeians holding the consulship. The
the republic. The king’s religious func- distinction between patrician and plebe-
tions were henceforth performed by a ian families may have become fixed only
priest-king (rex sacrorum), who held by the middle of the fourth century BC;
office for life. The king’s military power and the law of that time (367 BC), which
(imperium) was bestowed upon two specified that one of the consuls was to
annually elected magistrates called con- be plebeian, may have done nothing
suls. They were always regarded as the more than to guarantee legally that both
chief magistrates of the republic, so much groups of the nobility would have an
so that the names of each pair were given equal share in the state’s highest office.
to their year of office for purposes of dat-  
ing. Thus careful records were kept of The dictatorship
these names, which later formed the
chronological basis for ancient histories Despite the advantages of consular col-
of the republic. legiality, in military emergencies, unity
The consuls were primarily generals of command was sometimes necessary.
who led Rome’s armies in war. They Rome’s solution to this problem was the
were therefore elected by the centuriate appointment of a dictator in place of
assembly—that is, the Roman army orga- the consuls. According to ancient tradi-
nized into a voting body. The two consuls tion, the office of dictator was created in
possessed equal power. Such collegiality 501 BC, and was used periodically down
was basic to almost all Roman public to the Second Punic War. The dictator
offices; it served to check abuses of power held supreme military command for no
because one magistrate’s actions could longer than six months. He was also
be obstructed by his colleague. termed the master of the army (magister
According to the annalistic tradition, populi), and he appointed a subordinate
the first plebeian consul was elected for cavalry commander, the master of horse
366 BC. All consuls before that time were (magister equitum). The office was thor-
thought to have been patrician, and one oughly constitutional and should not be
Rome from its Origins to 264 BC | 27

confused with the late republican dictator- who submitted matters to it for discus-
ships of Sulla and Caesar, which were sion and debate. Whatever a majority
simply legalizations of autocratic power voted in favour of was termed “the
obtained through military usurpation. Senate’s advice” (senatus consultum).
These advisory decrees were directed to
The Senate a magistrate or the Roman people. In
most instances, they were either imple-
The Senate may have existed under the mented by a magistrate or submitted by
monarchy and served as an advisory him to the people for enactment into law.
council for the king. Its name suggests
that it was originally composed of elderly The popular assemblies
men (senes), whose age and knowledge
of traditions must have been highly val- During the republic two different assem-
ued in a preliterate society. During the blies elected magistrates, exercised
republic, the Senate was composed of legislative power, and made other impor-
members from the leading families. Its tant decisions. Only adult male Roman
size during the early republic is unknown. citizens could attend the assemblies in
Ancient sources indicate that it num- Rome and exercise the right to vote. The
bered about 300 during the middle assemblies were organized according to
republic. Its members were collectively the principle of the group vote. Although
termed patres et conscripti (“the fathers each person cast one vote, he did so
and the enrolled”), suggesting that the within a larger voting unit. The majority
Senate was initially composed of two vote of the unit became its vote, and a
different groups. Since the term “patri- majority of unit votes was needed to
cian” was derived from patres and seems decide an issue.
to have originally meant “a member of The centuriate assembly (comitia
the patres,” the dichotomy probably centuriata), as stated, was military in
somehow involved the distinction nature and composed of voting groups
between patricians and plebeians. called centuries (military units). Because
During the republic the Senate of its military character, it always met
advised both magistrates and the Roman outside the sacred boundary of the city
people. Although in theory the people (pomerium) in the Field of Mars (Campus
were sovereign and the Senate only Martius). It voted on war and peace and
offered advice, in actual practice the elected all magistrates who exercised
Senate wielded enormous power because imperium (consuls, praetors, censors, and
of the collective prestige of its members. curule aediles). Before the creation of
It was by far the most important delib- criminal courts during the late republic, it
erative body in the Roman state, sat as a high court and exercised capital
summoned into session by a magistrate jurisdiction. Although it could legislate,
28 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

this function was usually performed by The tribal assembly (comitia tributa)
the tribal assembly. was a nonmilitary civilian assembly. It
The centuriate assembly evolved accordingly met within the city inside the
through different stages during the early pomerium and elected magistrates who
republic, but information exists only did not exercise imperium (plebeian tri-
about its final organization. It may have bunes, plebeian aediles, and quaestors).
begun as the citizen army meeting under It did most of the legislating and sat as a
arms to elect its commander and to court for serious public offenses involv-
decide on war or peace. During historical ing monetary fines.
times the assembly had a complex orga- The tribal assembly was more demo-
nization. All voting citizens were placed cratic in its organization than the
into one of five economic classes accord- centuriate assembly. The territory of
ing to wealth. Each class was allotted the Roman state was divided into geo-
varying numbers of centuries, and the graphic districts called tribes, and people
entire assembly consisted of 193 units. voted in these units according to resi-
The first (and richest) class of citizens dence. The city was divided into four
was distributed among 80 centuries; the urban tribes. During the fifth century
second, third, and fourth classes were BC, the surrounding countryside formed
each assigned 20 units. The fifth class, 17 rustic tribes. With the expansion of
composed of the poorest people in the Roman territory in central Italy (387–241
army, was allotted 30 centuries. In addi- BC), 14 rustic tribes were added, thus
tion, there were 18 centuries of gradually increasing the assembly to 35
knights—men wealthy enough to afford a units, a number never exceeded.
horse for cavalry service—and five other
centuries, one of which was composed by The plebeian tribunate
the proletarii, or landless people too poor
to serve in the army. The knights voted According to the annalistic tradition, one
together with the first class, and voting of the most important events in the
proceeded from richest to poorest. struggle of the orders was the creation of
Because the knights and the first class the plebeian tribunate. After being worn
controlled 98 units, they were the domi- down by military service, bad economic
nant group in the assembly, though they conditions, and the rigours of early
constituted the smallest portion of the Rome’s debt law, the plebeians in 494 BC
citizen body. The assembly was deliber- seceded in a body from the city to the
ately designed to give the greater Sacred Mount, located 3 miles (4.8 km)
authority to the wealthier element and from Rome. There they pitched camp and
was responsible for maintaining the elected their own officials for their future
political supremacy of the established protection. Because the state was threat-
nobility. ened with an enemy attack, the Senate
Rome from its Origins to 264 BC | 29

was forced to allow the plebe-

ians to have their own officials,
the tribunes of the plebs.
Initially there were only 2
tribunes of the plebs, but their
number increased to 5 in 471
BC and to 10 in 457 BC. They
had no insignia of office, like
the consuls, but they were
regarded as sacrosanct.
Whoever physically harmed
them could be killed with
impunity. They had the right to
intercede on a citizen’s behalf
against the action of a consul,
but their powers were valid
only within 1 mile (1.6 km)
from the pomerium. They con-
voked the tribal assembly and
submitted bills to it for legis-
lation. Tribunes prosecuted
other magistrates before the
assembled people for miscon-
duct in office. They could also
veto the action of another tri-
bune (veto meaning “I forbid”). Plebeian tribunes were duly elected representatives of
Two plebeian aediles served as Rome’s general populace in governmental matters.
their assistants in managing Though not as powerful as their Senate counterparts,
the affairs of the city. Although tribunes could sponsor bills for legislation and punish
they were thought of as the magistrates for misconduct. Private Collection/The
champions of the people, per- Stapleton Collection/The Bridgeman Art Library
sons elected to this office came
from aristocratic families and generally Modern scholars disagree about the
favoured the status quo. Nevertheless, authenticity of the annalistic account
the office could be and sometimes was concerning the plebs’ first secession and
used by young aspiring aristocrats to the creation of the plebeian tribunate.
make a name for themselves by taking up The tradition presented this as the first of
populist causes in opposition to the three secessions, the other two allegedly
nobility. occurring in 449 and 287 BC. The second
30 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

The Twelve Tables

The first systematic codification of Roman law followed the creation of the plebeian tribunate.
The plebeians were supposed to have desired a written law code in which consular imperium
would be circumscribed to guard against abuses. After years of tribunician agitation the
Senate finally agreed. A special board of 10 men (decemviri) was appointed for 451 BC to draw
up a law code. Since their task was not done after one year, a second board of 10 was appointed
to finish the job, but they became tyrannical and stayed in office beyond their time. They were
finally forced out of power when one commissioner’s cruel lust for an innocent maiden named
Verginia so outraged the people that they seceded for a second time.
The law code was inscribed upon 12 bronze tablets and publicly displayed in the Forum. Its
provisions concerned legal procedure, debt foreclosure, paternal authority over children, prop-
erty rights, inheritance, funerary regulations, and various major and minor offenses. Although
many of its provisions became outmoded and were modified or replaced in later times, the Law
of the Twelve Tables formed the basis of all subsequent Roman private law.
Because the law code seems not to have had any specific provisions concerning consular
imperium, the annalistic explanation for the codification appears suspect. The story of the
second tyrannical board of 10 is an annalistic invention patterned after the 30 tyrants of
Athenian history. The tale of Verginia is likewise modeled after the story of Lucretia and the
overthrow of Rome’s last king. Thus the second secession, which is an integral part of the story,
cannot be regarded as historical. On the basis of existing evidence, one cannot say whether the
law code resulted from any social or economic causes. Rome was a growing city and may simply
have been in need of a systematic body of law.

secession is clearly fictitious. Many schol- the office. However, the urban-civilian
ars regard the first one as a later annalistic character of the plebeian tribunate com-
invention as well, accepting only the last plements the extra-urban military nature
one as historical. Although the first seces- of the consulship so nicely that the two
sion is explained in terms resembling the offices may have originally been designed
conditions of the later Gracchan agrarian to function cooperatively to satisfy the
crisis (see The Reform Movement of the needs of the state rather than to be
Gracchi [133–121 BC] on page 78), given antagonistic to one another.
the harshness of early Roman debt laws
and food shortages recorded by the sources MILITARy TRIBuNES wITH
for 492 and 488 BC (information likely to CONSuLAR POwER
be preserved in contemporary religious
records), social and economic unrest The creation of the office of military tri-
could have contributed to the creation of bunes with consular power in 445 BC was
Rome from its Origins to 264 BC | 31

believed to have involved the struggle of Roman citizens, assessed the value of their
the orders. The annalistic tradition por- property, and assigned them to their proper
trayed the innovation as resulting from a tribe and century within the tribal and
political compromise between plebeian centuriate assemblies.
tribunes, demanding access to the con- The increase in the number of mili-
sulship, and the Senate, trying to tary tribunes coincided with Rome’s first
maintain the patrician monopoly of the two major wars, against Fidenae and Veii.
office. Henceforth, each year the people In 366 BC six undifferentiated military
were to decide whether to elect two patri- tribunes were replaced with five magis-
cian consuls or military tribunes with trates that had specific functions: two
consular power who could be patricians consuls for conducting wars, an urban
or plebeians. The list of magistrates for praetor who handled lawsuits in Rome,
444 to 367 BC shows that the chief magis- and two curule aediles who managed
tracy alternated between consuls and various affairs in the city. In 362 BC the
military tribunes. Consuls were more fre- Romans began to elect annually six
quently elected down to 426 but rarely military tribunes as subordinate officers
thereafter. At first there were three mili- of the consuls.
tary tribunes, but the number increased
to four in 426, and to six in 406. The con- Social and
sular tribunate was abolished in 367 BC economic changes
and replaced by the consulship.
Livy indicates that according to some The law reinstating the consulship was
sources the consular tribunate was cre- one of three tribunician bills, the so-
ated because Rome was faced with three called Licinio-Sextian Rogations of 367
wars simultaneously. Because there is BC. Another forbade citizens to rent more
evidence that there was no prohibition than 500 iugera (330 acres) of public
against plebeians becoming consuls, land, and the third provided for the alle-
scholars have suggested that the reason viation of indebtedness. The historicity
for the innovation was the growing mili- of the second bill has often been ques-
tary and administrative needs of the tioned, but the great increase in the size
Roman state; this view is corroborated by of Roman territory resulting from Rome’s
other data. Beginning in 447 BC, two conquest of Veii renders this law plausible.
quaestors were elected as financial offi- The law concerning indebtedness is
cials of the consuls, and the number probably historical as well, since other
increased to four in 421 BC. Beginning in data suggest that debt was a problem in
443 BC two censors were elected about mid-fourth-century Rome. In 352 BC a
every five years and held office for 18 five-man commission was appointed to
months. They drew up official lists of extend public credit in order to reduce
32 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

private indebtedness. A Genucian law of Flavius upset conservative opinion but

342 BC (named after Genucius, tribune performed a great public service by
of that year) temporarily suspended the erecting an inscription of the calendar in
charging of interest on loans. In 326 or the Roman Forum for permanent display.
313 BC a Poetelian law ameliorated the From early times, Roman private law
harsh conditions of the Twelve Tables and legal procedure had largely been
regarding debt servitude by outlawing controlled and developed by the priest-
the use of chains to confine debt hood of pontiffs. In 300 BC the Ogulnian
bondsmen. law (after the tribunes Gnaeus and
Rome’s economic advancement is Quintus Ogulnius) ended the patrician
reflected in its replacement of a cumber- monopoly of two priestly colleges by
some bronze currency with silver coinage increasing the number of pontiffs from
adopted from the Greek states of southern four to eight and the number of augurs
Italy, the so-called Romano-Campanian from four to nine and by specifying that
didrachms. The date of this innovation is the new priests were to be plebeian.
disputed. Modern estimates range from In 287 BC the third (and perhaps the
the First Samnite War to the Pyrrhic War. only historical) secession of the plebs
Rome was no longer a small town of occurred. Since Livy’s account has not
central Italy but rather was quickly survived, detailed knowledge about this
becoming the master of the Italian penin- event is lacking. One source suggests
sula and was taking its place in the larger that debt caused the secession. Many
Mediterranean world. sources state that the crisis was ended by
The process of expansion is well the passage of the Hortensian law (after
illustrated by innovations in Roman Quintus Hortensius, dictator for 287),
private law about 300 BC. Since legal which was thought to have given enact-
business could be conducted only on cer- ments of the tribal assembly the same
tain days (dies fasti), knowledge of the force as resolutions of the centuriate
calendar was important for litigation. In assembly. However, since similar measures
early times the rex sacrorum at the were supposed to have been enacted in
beginning of each month orally pro- 449 and 339 BC, doubt persists about the
claimed in Rome before the assembled meaning of these laws. It is possible that
people the official calendar for that no difference ever existed in the degree
month. Though suited for a small agri- of legal authority of the two assemblies.
cultural community, this parochial The three laws could be annalistic mis-
procedure became increasingly unsuit- interpretations of a provision of the Twelve
able as Roman territory grew and more Tables specifying that what the people
citizens lived farther from Rome. In 304 decided last should be binding. One
BC a curule aedile named Gnaeus source indicates that the Hortensian law
Rome from its Origins to 264 BC | 33

The Latin League

Although the Latins dwelled in politically independent towns, their common language and
culture produced cooperation in religion, law, and warfare. All Latins could participate in the
cults of commonly worshiped divinities, such as the cult of the Penates of Lavinium, Juno of
Lanuvium, and Diana (celebrated at both Aricia and Rome). Latins freely intermarried without
legal complications. When visiting another Latin town, they could buy, sell, litigate, and even
vote with equal freedom. If a Latin took up permanent residence in another Latin community, he
became a full citizen of his new home.
Although the Latin states occasionally waged war among themselves, in times of common
danger they banded together for mutual defense. Each state contributed military forces
according to its strength. The command of all forces was entrusted by common assent to a
single person from one of the Latin towns. Sometimes the Latins even founded colonies upon
hostile territory as military outposts, which became new, independent Latin states, enjoying
the same rights as all the other ones. Modern scholars use the term “Latin League” to describe
this collection of rights and duties.
According to ancient tradition, Rome’s last three kings not only transformed Rome into
a real city but also made it the leader of the Latin League. There is probably exaggeration
in this claim. Roman historians were eager to portray early Rome as destined for future
greatness and as more powerful than it actually was. Rome certainly became one of the
more important states in Latium during the sixth century, but Tibur, Praeneste, and
Tusculum were equally important and long remained so. By the terms of the first treaty
between Rome and Carthage (509 BC), recorded by the Greek historian Polybius (c. 150 BC),
the Romans (or perhaps more accurately, the Latins generally) claimed a coastal strip 70
miles (112.6 km) south of the Tiber River as their sphere of influence not to be encroached upon
by the Carthaginians.
Rome’s rapid rise during the sixth century was the achievement of its Etruscan overlords,
and the city quickly declined with the collapse of Etruscan power in Campania and Latium
about 500 BC. Immediately after the fall of the Roman monarchy, amid Porsenna’s conquest of
Rome, his defeat by the Latins, and his subsequent withdrawal, the plain of Latium began to be
threatened by surrounding hill tribes (Sabines, Aequians, and Volscians), who experienced
overpopulation and tried to acquire more land. Thus Rome’s external affairs during the fifth
century largely revolved around its military assistance to the Latin League to hold back these
invaders. Many details in Livy’s account of this fighting are, however, unreliable. In order to
have a literary theme worthy of Rome’s later greatness, Livy’s annalistic sources had described
these conflicts in the most grandiose terms. Yet the armies, military ranks, castrametation (i.e.,
techniques in making and fortifying encampments), and tactics described belong to the late
republic, not the Rome of the fifth century.
34 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

made all assembly days eligible for legal The evidence concerning Roman expan-
business. If debt played a role in the sion during the early republic is poor,
secession, the Hortensian law may have but the fact that Rome created 14 new
been designed to reduce the backlog of rustic tribes during the years 387–241 BC
lawsuits in the praetor’s court in Rome. suggests that population growth could
have been a driving force. Furthermore,
Roman expansion in Italy Romans living on the frontier may have
strongly favoured war against restless
Toward the end of the fifth century, while neighbours, such as Gauls and Samnites.
Rome and the Latins were still defending The animal husbandry of the latter
themselves against the Volscians and the involved seasonal migrations between
Aequians, the Romans began to expand summer uplands and winter lowlands,
at the expense of Etruscan states. Rome’s which caused friction between them and
incessant warfare and expansion during settled Roman farmers.
the republic has spawned modern debate Though the Romans did not wage
about the nature of Roman imperialism. wars for religious ends, they often used
Ancient Roman historians, who were religious means to assist their war effort.
often patriotic senators, believed that The fetial priests were used for the solemn
Rome always waged just wars in self- official declaration of war. According to
defense, and they wrote their accounts fetial law, Rome could enjoy divine favour
accordingly, distorting or suppressing only if it waged just wars—that is, wars of
facts that did not fit this view. The modern self-defense. In later practice, this often
thesis of Roman defensive imperialism, simply meant that Rome maneuvered
which followed this ancient bias, is now other states into declaring war upon it.
largely discredited. Only the fighting in Then Rome followed with its declaration,
the fifth century BC and the later wars acting technically in self-defense; this
against the Gauls can clearly be so strategy had the effect of boosting Roman
characterized. morale and sometimes swaying inter-
Rome’s relentless expansion was national public opinion.
more often responsible for provoking its Rome’s first major war against an
neighbours to fight in self-defense. organized state was fought with Fidenae
Roman consuls, who led the legions into (437–426 BC), a town located just
battle, often advocated war because vic- upstream from Rome. After it had been
tory gained them personal glory. conquered, its land was annexed to
Members of the centuriate assembly, Roman territory. Rome next fought a long
which decided war and peace, may some- and difficult war against Veii, an important
times have voted for war in expectation Etruscan city not far from Fidenae. Later
that it would lead to personal enrichment Roman historians portrayed the war as
through seizure and distribution of booty. having lasted 10 years (406–396 BC),
Rome from its Origins to 264 BC | 35

patterning it after the mythical Trojan BC) show Rome’s sphere of influence to
War of the Greeks. After its conquest, be about the same as it had been at the
Veii’s tutelary goddess, Queen Juno, was time of the first treaty in 509, but Rome’s
solemnly summoned to Rome. The city’s position in Latium was now far stronger.
territory was annexed, increasing Roman
territory by 84 percent and forming four The Samnite Wars
new rustic tribes.
During the wars against Fidenae and During the 40 years after the second
Veii, Rome increased the number of mili- treaty with Carthage, Rome rapidly rose
tary tribunes with consular power from to a position of hegemony in Italy south
three to four and then from four to six. In of the Po valley. Much of the fighting
406 BC Rome instituted military pay, during this time consisted of three wars
and in 403 BC it increased the size of its against the Samnites, who initially were
cavalry. The conquest of Veii opened not politically unified but coexisted as
southern Etruria to further Roman expan- separate Oscan-speaking tribes of the
sion. During the next few years, Rome central and southern Apennines. Rome’s
proceeded to found colonies at Nepet expansion was probably responsible for
and Sutrium and forced the towns of uniting these tribes militarily to oppose a
Falerii and Capena to become its allies. common enemy. Both the rugged terrain
Yet, before Roman strength increased and the tough Samnite soldiers proved to
further, a marauding Gallic tribe swept be formidable challenges, which forced
down from the Po River valley, raided Rome to adopt military innovations that
Etruria, and descended upon Rome. The were later important for conquering the
Romans were defeated in the battle of Mediterranean.
the Allia River in 390 BC, and the Gauls Despite its brevity (343–341 BC), the
captured and sacked the city. They First Samnite War resulted in the major
departed only after they had received acquisition to the Roman state of the rich
ransom in gold. Henceforth the Romans land of Campania with its capital of
greatly feared and respected the poten- Capua. Roman historians modeled their
tial strength of the Gauls. Later Roman description of the war’s beginning on the
historians, however, told patriotic tales Greek historian Thucydides’ account of
about the commanders Marcus Manlius the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War
and Marcus Furius Camillus in order to between Athens and Sparta. Nevertheless,
mitigate the humiliation of the defeat. they were probably correct in stating that
Roman power had suffered a great the Campanians, when fighting over the
reversal, and 40 years of hard fighting in town of Capua with the Samnites, allied
Latium and Etruria were required to themselves with Rome in order to utilize
restore it fully. The terms of the second its might to settle the quarrel. If so, this
treaty between Rome and Carthage (348 may have been the first of many instances
36 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

in which Rome went to war after being and pushing forward its frontier through
invited into an alliance by a weaker state conquest and colonization. The Romans
already at war. Once invited in, Rome soon confronted the Samnites of the
usually absorbed the allied state after middle Liris (modern Liri) River valley,
defeating its adversary. In any event, sparking the Second, or Great, Samnite
Campania now somehow became firmly War (326–304 BC). During the first half of
attached to Rome; it may have been granted the war Rome suffered serious defeats,
Roman citizenship without the right to vote but the second half saw Rome’s recovery,
in Rome (civitas sine suffragio). Campania reorganization, and ultimate victory. In
was a major addition to Rome’s strength 321 BC a Roman army was trapped in a
and manpower. narrow canyon near the Caudine Forks
The absorption of Campania pro- and compelled to surrender, and Rome
voked the Latins to take up arms against was forced to sign a five-year treaty. Later
Rome to maintain their independence. Roman historians, however, tried to deny
Since the Gallic sack of Rome in 390 BC, this humiliation by inventing stories of
the city had become increasingly domi- Rome’s rejection of the peace and its
nant within the Latin League. In 381 BC revenge upon the Samnites.
Tusculum was absorbed by being given In 315 BC, after the resumption of
Roman citizenship. In 358 BC Rome cre- hostilities, Rome suffered a crushing
ated two more rustic tribes from territory defeat at Lautulae. Ancient sources state
captured along the Volscian coast. The that Rome initially borrowed hoplite
Latin War (340–338 BC) was quickly tactics from the Etruscans (used during
decided in Rome’s favour. Virtually all of the sixth or fifth centuries BC) but later
Latium was given Roman citizenship and adopted the manipular system of the
became Roman territory, but the towns Samnites, probably as a result of Samnite
retained their local governments. The success at this time. The manipular for-
large states of Praeneste and Tibur mation resembled a checkerboard pattern,
maintained nominal independence by in which solid squares of soldiers were
becoming Rome’s military allies. Thus separated by empty square spaces. It was
the Latin League was abolished; but the far more flexible than the solidly massed
legal rights that the Latins had enjoyed hoplite formation, allowing the army to
among themselves were retained by maneuver better on rugged terrain. The
Rome as a legal status, the Latin right system was retained throughout the
(ius Latii), and used for centuries as an republic and into the empire.
intermediate step between non-Roman During these same years Rome orga-
status and full Roman citizenship. nized a rudimentary navy, constructed its
Rome was now the master of central first military roads (construction of the
Italy and spent the next decade organizing Via Appia was begun in 312 BC and of the
Rome from its Origins to 264 BC | 37

Via Valeria in 306), and increased the size The Pyrrhic War, 280–275 BC
of its annual military levy as seen from
the increase of annually elected military Rome spent the 280s BC putting down
tribunes from 6 to 16. During the period unrest in northern Italy, but its attention
334–295 BC, Rome founded 13 colonies was soon directed to the far south as well
against the Samnites and created six new by a quarrel between the Greek city of
rustic tribes in annexed terri-
tory. During the last years of
the war, the Romans also
extended their power into
northern Etruria and Umbria.
Several successful campaigns
forced the cities in these areas
to become Rome’s allies. The
Great Samnite War finally
ended in Rome’s victory. Dur­
ing the final phase of this war,
Rome, on another front, con-
cluded its third treaty with
Carthage (306 BC), in which
the Carthaginians acknowl-
edged all of Italy as Rome’s
sphere of influence.
The Third Samnite War
(298–290 BC) was the last des-
perate attempt of the Samnites
to remain independent. They
persuaded the Etruscans,
Umbrians, and Gauls to join
them. Rome emerged victori-
ous over this formidable
coalition at the battle of
Sentinum in 295 and spent the
remainder of the war putting
down lingering Samnite resis-
Portrait of King Pyrrhus, the famed Greek general who
tance. They henceforth were
staged a multiyear battle, known as the Pyrrhic War, with
bound to Rome by a series of Rome and its allies. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
38 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Thurii and a Samnite tribe. Thurii called Carthage; he eventually returned to Italy
upon the assistance of Rome, whose naval and was defeated by the Romans in 275
operations in the area provoked a war BC at Beneventum. He then returned to
with the Greek city of Tarentum. As in Greece, while Rome put down resistance
previous conflicts with Italian peoples, in Italy and took Tarentum itself by siege
Tarentum summoned military aid from in 272.
mainland Greece, calling upon King Rome was now the unquestioned
Pyrrhus of Epirus, one of the most bril- master of Italy. Roman territory was a
liant generals of the ancient world. broad belt across central Italy, from sea
Pyrrhus arrived in southern Italy in 280 to sea. Latin colonies were scattered
BC with 20 elephants and 25,000 highly throughout the peninsula. The other
trained soldiers. After defeating the peoples of Italy were bound to Rome by a
Romans at Heraclea and stirring up revolt series of bilateral alliances that obligated
among the Samnites, he offered peace them to provide Rome with military
terms that would have confined Roman forces in wartime. According to the
power to central Italy. When the Senate Roman census of 225 BC, Rome could call
wavered, Appius Claudius, an aged blind upon 700,000 infantry and 70,000 cav-
senator, roused their courage and per- alry from its own citizens and allies. The
suaded them to continue fighting. conquest of Italy engendered a strong
Pyrrhus again defeated the Romans military ethos among the Roman nobility
in 279 at Asculum. His losses in the two and citizenry, provided Rome with con-
battles numbered 7,500 (almost one-third siderable manpower, and forced it to
of his entire force). When congratulated develop military, political, and legal insti-
on his victory, Pyrrhus, according to tutions and practices for conquering and
Plutarch, replied “ . . . that one other such absorbing foreign peoples. The Pyrrhic
would utterly undo him.” This type of War demonstrated that Rome’s civilian
victory has since been referred to as army could wage a successful war of
Pyrrhic victory. Pyrrhus then left Italy attrition against highly skilled merce-
and aided the Greeks of Sicily against naries of the Mediterranean world.
The Middle
(264–133 BC)
R ome’s rapidly expanding sphere of hegemony brought
it almost immediately into conflict with non-Italian pow-
ers. In the south, the main opponent was Carthage. In
violation of the treaty of 306, which (historians tend to
believe) had placed Sicily in the Carthaginian sphere of influ-
ence, Rome crossed the straits of Messana (between Italy
and Sicily) embarking on war. (Rome’s wars with Carthage
are known as the “Punic Wars”; the Romans called the
Carthaginians Poeni [Phoenicians], from which derived
the adjective “Punic.”)

fIRST PuNIC wAR (264–241 BC)

The proximate cause of the first outbreak was a crisis in the

city of Messana (Messina). A band of Campanian mercenaries,
the Mamertinians, who had forcibly established themselves
within the town and were being hard pressed in 264 by Hieron
II of Syracuse, applied for help to both Rome and Carthage.
The Carthaginians, arriving first, occupied Messana and
effected a reconciliation with Hieron. The Roman com-
mander, nevertheless, persisted in forcing his troops into the
city; he succeeded in seizing the Carthaginian admiral during
a parley and induced him to withdraw. This aggression
involved Rome in war with Carthage and Syracuse.
40 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

A Roman war galley with infantry on deck; in the Vatican Museums. Alinari/Art Resource,
New York

Operations began with their joint coast, their admiral Gaius Duilius
attack upon Messana, which the Romans defeated a Carthaginian squadron of
easily repelled. In 263 the Romans advanced more maneuverable ships by grappling
with a considerable force into Hieron’s and boarding. This left Rome free to land
territory and induced him to seek peace a force on Corsica (259) and expel the
and alliance with them. In 262 they Carthaginians, but it did not suffice to
besieged and captured the Carthaginian loosen their grasp on Sicily. A large
base at Agrigentum on the south coast of Roman fleet sailed out in 256, repelled
the island. The first years of the war left the entire Carthaginian fleet off Cape
little doubt that Roman intentions Ecnomus (near modern Licata), and
extended beyond the protection of established a fortified camp on African
Messana. soil at Clypea (Kélibia in Tunisia). The
In 260 the Romans built their first Carthaginians, whose citizen levy was
large fleet of standard battleships. At utterly disorganized, could neither keep
Mylae (Milazzo), off the north Sicilian the field against the invaders nor prevent
The Middle Republic (264–133 BC) | 41

their subjects from revolting. After one suspended. At the same time, the
campaign they were ready to sue for Carthaginians, who felt no less severely
peace, but the terms offered by the Roman the financial strain of the prolonged
commander Marcus Atilius Regulus were struggle, reduced their forces and made
intolerably harsh. Accordingly, the no attempt to deliver a counterattack.
Carthaginians equipped a new army in In 242 Rome resumed operations at
which cavalry and elephants formed the sea. A fleet of 200 warships was equipped
strongest arm. In 255 they offered battle and sent out to renew the blockade of
to Regulus, who had taken up position Lilybaeum. The Carthaginians hastily
with an inadequate force near Tunis, out- assembled a relief force, but in a battle
maneuvered him, and destroyed the fought off the Aegates, or Aegusae
bulk of his army. A second Roman fleet, (Aegadian) Islands, west of Drepanum,
which reached Africa after defeating their fleet was caught at a disadvantage
the full Carthaginian fleet off Cape and was largely sunk or captured
Hermaeum (Cape Bon), withdrew all the (March 10, 241). This victory, by giving
remaining troops. the Romans undisputed command of the
The Romans now directed their sea, rendered certain the ultimate fall of
efforts once more against Sicily. In 254 the Punic strongholds in Sicily. The
they captured the important fortress of Carthaginians accordingly opened nego-
Panormus (Palermo), but when Carthage tiations and consented to a peace by
moved reinforcements onto the island, which they ceded Sicily and the Lipari
the war again came to a standstill. In 251 Islands to Rome and paid an indemnity
or 250 the Roman general Caecilus of 3,200 talents. The protracted nature of
Metellus at last staged a pitched battle the war and the repeated loss of ships
near Panormus, in which the enemy’s resulted in an enormous loss of life and
force was effectively crippled. This victory resources on both sides.
was followed by a siege of the chief Punic
base at Lilybaeum (Marsala), together Between the First
with Drepanum (Trapani), by land and and Second Punic Wars
sea. In the face of resistance, the Romans (241–218 BC)
were compelled to withdraw in 249; in a
surprise attack upon Drepanum the The loss of naval supremacy not only
Roman fleet under the command of deprived the Carthaginians of their pre-
admiral Publius Claudius Pulcher lost 93 dominance in the western Mediterranean
ships. This was the Romans’ only naval but exposed their overseas empire to
defeat in the war. Their fleet, however, disintegration under renewed attacks by
had suffered a series of grievous losses Rome. Even the Greek historian Polybius,
by storm and was now so reduced that an admirer of Rome, considered the sub-
the attack upon Sicily had to be sequent Roman actions against Carthage
42 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

aggressive and unjustified. A gross 219 Hannibal laid siege to Saguntum and
breach of the treaty was perpetrated when carried the town in spite of stubborn
a Roman force was sent to occupy defense. The Romans responded with
Sardinia, whose insurgent garrison had an ultimatum demanding that the
offered to surrender the island (238). To Carthaginians surrender Hannibal or go
the remonstrances of Carthage the to war. The Carthaginian council sup-
Romans replied with a declaration of ported Hannibal and accepted the war.
war and only withheld their attack upon
the cession of Sardinia and Corsica and the Second Punic War
payment of a further indemnity. (218–201 BC)
From this episode it became clear
that Rome intended to use the victory to It seemed that the superiority of the
the utmost. To avoid further infringe- Romans at sea ought to have enabled
ment of its hegemony, Carthage had them to choose the field of battle. They
little choice but to respond with force. decided to send one army to Spain and
The recent complications of foreign and another to Sicily and Africa. But before
internal strife had indeed so weakened their preparations were complete,
the Punic power that the prospect of Hannibal began the series of operations
renewing the war under favourable circum- that dictated the course of the war for the
stances seemed remote. Yet Hamilcar greater part of its duration. He realized
Barca sought to rebuild Carthaginian that as long as the Romans commanded
strength by acquiring a dominion in the resources of an undivided Italian
Spain where Carthage might gain new confederacy, no foreign attack could
wealth and manpower. Invested with an overwhelm them beyond recovery. Thus
unrestricted foreign command, he spent he conceived the plan of cutting off their
the rest of his life founding a Spanish source of strength by carrying the war
empire (237–228). His work was contin- into Italy and causing a disruption of the
ued by his son-in-law Hasdrubal and his league. His chances of ever reaching Italy
son Hannibal, who was placed at the head seemed small, for the sea was guarded by
of the army in 221. These conquests the Roman fleets and the land route was
aroused the suspicions of Rome, which in long and arduous.
a treaty with Hasdrubal confined the But the very boldness of his enter-
Carthaginians to the south of the Ebro prise contributed to its success; after a six
River. At some point Rome also entered months’ march through Spain and Gaul
into relations with Saguntum (Sagunto), a and over the Alps, which the Romans
town on the east coast, south of the Ebro. were nowhere in time to oppose, Hannibal
To the Carthaginians it seemed that arrived (autumn 218) in the plain of the
once again Rome was expanding its inter- Po with 20,000 foot soldiers and 6,000
ests into their sphere of hegemony. In horses, the pick of his African and
The Middle Republic (264–133 BC) | 43

Spanish levies. At the end of

the year, Hannibal, by superior
tactics, repelled a Roman army
on the banks of the Trebbia
River, inflicting heavy losses,
and thus made his position in
northern Italy secure.
In 217 the land campaign
opened in Etruria, into which
the invading army, largely rein-
forced by Gauls, penetrated via
an unguarded pass. A rash pur-
suit by the Roman field force
led to its being entrapped on
the shore of Lake Trasimene
(Trasimeno) and destroyed
with a loss of at least 15,000
men. This catastrophe left
Rome completely uncovered;
but Hannibal, having resolved
not to attack the capital before
he could collect a more over-
whelming force, directed his
march toward the south of
Italy, where he hoped to stir up
the peoples who had formerly
been the most stubborn ene-
mies of Rome. The Italians, The Carthaginian general Hannibal proved a formidable
however, were slow everywhere adversary during the Second Punic War. Henry
to join the Carthaginians. A Guttmann/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
new Roman army under the
dictator Quintus Fabius Maximus part of Rome. An exceptionally strong
(“Cunctator”) dogged Hannibal’s steps field army, variously estimated at between
on his forays through Apulia and 48,000 and 85,000 men, was sent to crush
Campania and prevented him from the Carthaginians in open battle. On a
acquiring a permanent base of level plain near Cannae in Apulia,
operations. Hannibal deliberately allowed his centre
The eventful campaign of 216 was to be driven in by the numerically supe-
begun by a new, aggressive move on the rior Romans, while Hasdrubal’s cavalry
44 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

wheeled around so as to take the enemy as evidence of divine wrath at Roman

in flank and rear. The Romans, sur- impiety, to be propitiated by punishment
rounded on all sides, were practically (burial alive) of two offending Vestal
annihilated, and the loss of citizens was Virgins and by the human sacrifice of a
perhaps greater than in any other defeat Gallic and Greek man and woman.
that befell the republic. The subsequent campaigns of the
The effect of the battle on morale was war in Italy assumed a new character.
no less momentous. The southern Italian Though the Romans contrived at times to
peoples seceded from Rome, the leaders raise 200,000 men, they could spare only
of the movement being the people of a moderate force for field operations.
Capua, at the time the second greatest Their generals, among whom the veterans
town of Italy. Reinforcements were sent Fabius and Marcus Claudius Marcellus
from Carthage, and several neutral pow- frequently held the most important
ers prepared to throw their weight into commands, rarely ventured to engage
the scale on Hannibal’s behalf. But the Hannibal in the open and contented
great resources of Rome, though terribly themselves with observing him or skir-
reduced in respect to both men and mishing against his detachments.
money, were not yet exhausted. In north- Hannibal, whose recent accessions of
ern and central Italy the insurrection strength were largely discounted by the
spread but little and could be sufficiently necessity of assigning troops to protect
guarded against with small detachments. his new allies or secure their wavering
In the south the Greek towns of the coast loyalty, was still too weak to undertake a
remained loyal, and the numerous Latin vigorous offensive. In the ensuing years
colonies continued to render important the war resolved itself into a multiplicity
service by interrupting free communica- of minor engagements, which need not
tion between the rebels and detaining be followed in detail. In 216 and 215 the
part of their forces. chief seat of war was Campania, where
In Rome itself the crisis gave way to a Hannibal, vainly attempting to establish
unanimity unparalleled in the annals of himself on the coast, experienced a severe
the republic. The guidance of operations repulse at Nola.
was henceforth left to the Senate, which, In 214 the main Carthaginian force
by maintaining a persistent policy until was transferred from Apulia in hopes of
the conflict was brought to a successful capturing Tarentum (Taranto), a suitable
end, earned its greatest title to fame. But harbour by which Hannibal might have
it also produced a severe strain, released secured his overseas communications. In
through cruel religious rites, which were 213–212 the greater part of Tarentum and
an embarrassment to later Roman other cities of the southern seaboard at
authors. The disasters were interpreted last came into Hannibal’s power, but in
The Middle Republic (264–133 BC) | 45

the meantime the Romans were sup- Italy by the army of Marcus Livius
pressing the revolt in Campania and in Salinator, reinforced by part of Gaius
212 were strong enough to place Capua Claudius Nero’s army. The battle on the
under blockade. They severely defeated a banks of the Metaurus (Metauro) River
Carthaginian relief force and could not was evenly contested until Nero, with a
be permanently dislodged even by dexterous flanking movement, cut off the
Hannibal himself. In 211 Hannibal made enemy’s retreat. The bulk of Hasdrubal’s
a last effort to relieve his allies by a feint army was destroyed, and he himself was
upon Rome itself, but the besiegers killed. His head was tossed into his
refused to be drawn away from their brother’s camp as an announcement of
entrenchments, and eventually Capua his defeat.
was starved into surrender. The Romans The campaign of 207 decided the
in 209 gained a further important suc- war in Italy. Though Hannibal still main-
cess by recovering Tarentum. Though tained himself for some years in southern
Hannibal still won isolated engagements, Italy, this was chiefly due to the exhaus-
he was slowly being driven back into the tion of Rome. In 203 Hannibal, in
extreme south of the peninsula. accordance with orders received from
In 207 the arrival of a fresh invading home, sailed back to Africa; and another
force produced a new crisis. Hasdrubal, expedition under his brother Mago,
who in 208–207 had marched overland which had sailed to Liguria in 205 and
from Spain, appeared in northern Italy endeavoured to rouse the slumbering
with a force scarcely inferior to the army discontent of the people in Cisalpine
that his brother had brought in 218. After Gaul and Etruria, was forced to withdraw.
levying contingents of Gauls and
Ligurians, he marched down the east Campaigns in Sicily
coast with the object of joining his brother and Spain
in central Italy for a direct attack upon
Rome itself. By this time the steady drain Concurrently with the great struggle in
of men and money was telling so severely Italy, the Second Punic War was fought
upon the confederacy that some of the on several other fields. To the east King
most loyal allies protested their inability Philip V of Macedon began the First
to render further help. Nonetheless, by Macedonian War (214–205) in concert
exerting a supreme effort, the Romans with the Carthaginians, when the Roman
raised their war establishment to the power seemed to be breaking up after
highest total yet attained and sent a Cannae. Although this compelled the
strong field army against each Romans to stretch their already severely
Carthaginian leader. Before reaching strained resources still further by send-
Hannibal, Hasdrubal was met in northern ing troops to Greece, the diversions
46 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Roman diplomacy provided for Philip in The conflict in Spain was second in
Greece and the maintenance of a Roman importance only to the Italian war. From
patrol squadron in the Adriatic Sea pre- this country the Carthaginians drew large
vented any effective cooperation between supplies of troops and money that might
Philip and Hannibal. serve to reinforce Hannibal; hence it was
Agriculture in Italy had collapsed, in the interest of the Romans to challenge
and the Romans had to look to Sardinia their enemy within Spain. Though the
and Sicily for their food supply. Sardinia force that Rome at first spared for this
was attacked by Carthaginians in 215, but war was small in numbers and rested
a small Roman force was enough to repel entirely upon its own resources, the gen-
the invasion. In Sicily the death of Hieron erals Publius Cornelius and Gnaeus
II, Rome’s steadfast friend, in 215 left the Cornelius Scipio, by skillful strategy
realm of Syracuse to his inexperienced and diplomacy, not only won over the
grandson Hieronymus. The young prince peoples north of the Ebro and defeated
abruptly broke with the Romans, but the Carthaginian leader Hasdrubal Barca
before hostilities commenced he was in his attempts to restore communication
assassinated. The Syracusan people now with Italy but also carried their arms
repudiated the monarchy and resumed along the east coast into the heart of the
their republican constitution. When the enemy’s domain.
Romans threatened terrible punishment, But eventually the Roman successes
the Syracusans found it necessary to were nullified by a rash advance.
cooperate with the Carthaginians. Deserted by their native contingents and
The Roman army and fleet under cut off by Carthaginian cavalry, among
Marcus Claudius Marcellus, which speed- which the Numidian prince Masinissa
ily appeared before the town, were rendered conspicuous service, the Roman
completely baffled by the mechanical generals were killed and their troops
contrivances that the Syracusan mathe- destroyed (211).
matician Archimedes had invented in 213 Disturbances in Africa prevented the
for the defense of the city. Meanwhile, the Punic commanders from exploiting their
revolt against Rome spread in the interior success. Before long the fall of Capua
of the island, and a Carthaginian fleet enabled Rome to transfer troops from
gained control of towns on the south Italy to Spain; and in 210 the best Roman
coast. In 212 Marcellus at last broke general of the day, the young son and
through the defense of Syracuse and, in namesake of Publius Scipio, was placed
spite of the arrival of a Carthaginian relief in command by popular vote, despite his
force, took control of the whole town in youth and lack of the prerequisite senior
211. By the end of 210 Sicily was wholly magistracies. He signalized his arrival by
under the power of Rome. a bold and successful coup de main upon
The Middle Republic (264–133 BC) | 47

the great arsenal of Carthago Nova the kingdom from which Syphax had
(Cartagena) in 209. Though after an recently expelled him. These disasters
engagement at Baecula (Bailen; 208) he induced the Carthaginians to sue for
was unable to prevent Hasdrubal Barca peace; but before the moderate terms
from marching away to Italy, Scipio prof- that Scipio offered could be definitely
ited by his opponent’s departure to push accepted, a sudden reversal of opinion
back the remaining hostile forces the more caused them to recall Hannibal’s army for
rapidly. A last effort by the Carthaginians a final trial of war and to break off nego-
to retrieve their losses with a fresh army tiations. In 202 Hannibal assumed
was frustrated by a great Roman victory command of a composite force of citizen
at Ilipa, near Sevilla (Seville), and by the and mercenary levies reinforced by a
end of the year 206 the Carthaginians corps of his veteran Italian troops.
had been driven out of Spain. After negotiations failed, Scipio and
Hannibal met in the Battle of Zama.
The war in Africa Scipio’s force was somewhat smaller in
numbers but well trained throughout and
In 205 Scipio, who had returned to Rome greatly superior in cavalry. His infantry,
to hold the consulship, proposed to follow after evading an attack by the Cartha­
up his victories by an attack on the home ginian elephants, cut through the first
territory of Carthage. Though the pres- two lines of the enemy but was unable to
ence of Hannibal in Italy deterred Fabius break the reserve corps of Hannibal’s vet-
and other senators from sanctioning erans. The battle was ultimately decided
this policy, Scipio gradually overbore all by the cavalry of the Romans and their
resistance. He built up a force, which he new ally Masinissa, who by a maneuver
organized and supplemented in Sicily, recalling the tactics of Cannae took
and in 204 sailed across to Africa. He was Hannibal’s line in the rear and destroyed it.
met there by a combined levy of Carthage The Carthaginians again applied for
and King Syphax of Numidia and for a peace and accepted the terms that Scipio
time was penned to the shore near Utica. offered. They were compelled to cede
But in the spring he extricated himself Spain and the Mediterranean islands still
by a surprise attack on the enemy’s camp, in their hands, to surrender their war-
which resulted in the total loss of the ships, to pay an indemnity of 10,000
allied force by sword or fire. talents within 50 years, and to forfeit their
In the campaign of 203, a new Cartha­ independence in affairs of war and for-
ginian force was destroyed by Scipio on eign policy.
the Great Plains 75 miles (120.7 km) from The Second Punic War, by far the
Utica, their ally Syphax was captured, and greatest struggle in which either power
the renegade Masinissa was reinstated in engaged, had thus ended in the complete
48 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

During the Battle of Zama, Hannibal’s elephants were easily outmaneuvered by the Roman
cavalry. The Romans eventually claimed victory. Pushkin Museum, Moscow, Russia/The
Bridgeman Art Library/Getty Images

triumph of Rome, although not because Second Punic War illustrated the superi-
of any faultiness in the Carthaginians’ ority of the strong Roman constitution
method of attack. Carthage could only over Hannibal’s individual genius.
hope to win by invading Italy and using
the enemy’s home resources against him. The establishment of
The failure of Hannibal’s brilliant endea- Roman hegemony in the
vour was ultimately due to the stern Mediterranean world
determination of the Romans and to the
nearly inexhaustible manpower from Just before the Second Punic War, Rome
their Italian confederacy, which no shock had projected its power across the
of defeat or strain of war could entirely Adriatic Sea against the Illyrians. As
disintegrate. Although Rome and its noted, Philip V of Macedon in turn had
allies suffered casualties of perhaps one- joined the Carthaginians for a time dur-
fifth of their adult male population, they ing the war in an attempt to stem the tide
continued fighting. For Polybius, the of Roman expansion but had agreed to
The Middle Republic (264–133 BC) | 49

terms of peace with Rome’s allies, the took over the command and defeated
Aetolians, in 206 and then with Rome in Philip at the battle of Cynoscephalae in
the Peace of Phoenice of 205. 197. The terms of settlement allowed
Immediately after the Second Punic Philip to remain king of Macedon but
War, the Roman Senate moved to settle stipulated payment of an indemnity and
affairs with Philip, despite the war-weary restrictions on campaigning beyond the
centuriate assembly’s initial refusal to borders of his kingdom. Flamininus then
declare war. Historians have debated sought to win the goodwill of the Greeks
Rome’s reasons for this momentous deci- with his famous proclamation of their
sion, with suggestions ranging from a liberation at the Isthmian Games of 196.
desire to protect Athenians and other To lend credibility to this proclamation,
Greeks from Philip out of philhellenism he successfully argued against senatorial
to fear of a secret alliance between Philip opposition for the withdrawal of Roman
and the Seleucid king Antiochus III. Yet troops from all Greece, including the
these suggestions are belied by the fact strategically important “Fetters” (the key
that Rome later treated the Greek cities garrisons of Acrocorinth, Chalcis, and
callously and that no fear is apparent in Demetrias).
Rome’s increasing demands on Philip Even before the Romans withdrew,
and in its refusal to negotiate seriously the seeds had been sown for their reentry
with him through the course of the war. into the East. As an active king, Antiochus
Rather, the Second Macedonian War III set out to recover the ancestral posses-
(200–196) fits the long pattern of Roman sions of his kingdom on the western coast
readiness to go to war in order to force of Anatolia and in Thrace. In response to
ever more distant neighbours to submit the Roman demand that he stay out of
to superior Roman power. Europe, the king attempted to negotiate.
When the Romans showed little interest
Roman Expansion in the in compromise, Antiochus accepted the
Eastern Mediterranean invitation of Rome’s former allies, the
Aetolians, who felt they had not been
In the winter of 200–199, Roman legions duly rewarded with additional territory
marched into the Balkans under the com- after the victory over Philip, to liberate
mand of Publius Sulpicius Galba. During the Greeks. Upon crossing into Greece,
the next two years there was no decisive however, the king found no enthusiasm
battle, as the Romans gathered allies among the other Greeks for a war of lib-
among the Greeks—not only their previ- eration and was defeated at Thermopylae
ous allies, the Aetolians, but also Philip’s in 191 by legions under the command of
traditional allies, the Achaeans, who rec- Manius Acilius Glabrio.
ognized Roman military superiority. The Antiochus returned home to gather a
consul of 198, Titus Quinctius Flamininus, larger army. In 190 Lucius Cornelius
50 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Scipio was elected consul in Rome and to adjudicate and ultimately to intervene
was authorized to recruit a force for a once again. In the Peloponnese the
campaign against Antiochus. Accom­ Achaean League was at odds with Sparta,
panying Lucius as a legate was his wishing to bring Sparta into the league
brother, the great general Scipio and to suppress the radical social pro-
Africanus. In an attempt to avert war, gram of its king, Nabis. Flamininus in 195
Antiochus offered to accept the earlier supported the independence of Sparta,
Roman terms, only to find that the but in 192 the Achaean leader,
Romans had now extended their demands Philopoemen, induced Sparta to join the
to keep Antiochus east of the Taurus league with a promise of no interference
Mountains of Anatolia. Unable to accept, in its internal affairs. When an infringe-
Antiochus fought and lost to Scipio’s ment of the promise prompted the
army at Magnesia ad Sipylum in the Spartans to secede, Philopoemen in 188
winter of 190–189. In the following Treaty led an Achaean army to take Sparta, kill
of Apamea (188), the Seleucid kingdom the anti-Achaean leaders, and force the city
was limited to Asia east of the Taurus back into the league. Although the Senate
range and was required to pay an indem- heard complaints, it took no immediate
nity of 15,000 talents and to give up its action. Then, in 184, the Senate reasserted
elephants and all but 10 ships. Rome its own terms for settlement but was cir-
punished its opponents, the Aetolians, cumvented by Philopoemen, who reached
and rewarded its supporters, notably a separate agreement with the Spartans.
Pergamum and Rhodes, which were The independent-minded Philopoemen
granted new territories, including Greek died the following year in a campaign by
cities, at the expense of “the liberation of the league to suppress a revolt of Messene.
the Greeks.” The consul of 189, Gnaeus His death led to a change of leadership,
Manlius Vulso, came east with reinforce- as the pro-Roman Callicrates (regarded
ments, took command of the legions, and by Polybius as a sycophant) began a pol-
proceeded to plunder the Galatians of icy of obeying Rome’s every wish.
Anatolia on the pretext of restoring order. Meanwhile, tensions between Rome
The withdrawal of Roman legions and Philip were increasing. Philip had
this time did not entail the withdrawal of supported Rome’s war with Antiochus in
a Roman presence from the Hellenistic the hope of recovering Thessalian and
East. On the contrary, according to Thracian territory, but in this he was
Polybius, the Romans now “were dis- disappointed by the Romans. They did,
pleased if all matters were not referred however, return Philip’s younger son,
to them and if everything was not done Demetrius, taken to Rome as a hostage in
in accordance with their decision.” 197—a reward with tragic consequences.
Continuing jealousies and disputes in the During his years as a hostage, Demetrius
Greek world offered Rome opportunities had made senatorial friendships, which
The Middle Republic (264–133 BC) | 51

aroused suspicions at home that the Licinius Crassus, to land his army on
Romans would prefer to see Demetrius the Illyrian coast unhindered—a ploy
rather than his elder brother, Perseus, decried by some older senators as “the
succeed Philip. Philip ordered the death new wisdom.”
of Demetrius in 181 and then died in 179, Perseus’s initial success against the
leaving his throne to Perseus, the last Roman army in Thessaly in 171 did not
king of Macedon. alter the massive imbalance of power; the
Perseus’s activism started a stream of Romans again refused the king’s offer to
complaints to the Senate from neigh- negotiate. Over the next three years
bouring Greek powers from 175 onward. Roman commanders devoted more effort
The king’s real intentions are unclear; to plunder than to the defeat of Perseus.
perhaps Polybius was right that he In a notorious incident, the praetor
wished to make the Romans “more cau- Lucius Hortensius anchored his fleet at
tious about delivering harsh and unjust Abdera, a city allied with Rome, and
orders to Macedonians.” The Senate lis- demanded supplies; when the Abderitans
tened to the unfavourable interpretations asked to consult the Senate, Hortensius
of Perseus’s enemies, who claimed that sacked the town, executed the leading
the king’s actions revealed an intent to citizens, and enslaved the rest. When
attack Rome. Like his father, Perseus complaints reached the Senate, weak
campaigned to extend Macedonian attempts were made to force the Roman
power to the northeast and south and commanders to make restitution. In 168
marched through Greece as far as Delphi. the experienced Lucius Aemilius Paullus
He solicited alliances with the Achaean was reelected consul and sent out to
League and other Greek states, which restore discipline. He quickly brought the
some of the leaders hostile to Rome Third Macedonian War to an end by
would have liked to accept. He arranged defeating Perseus in the Battle of Pydna
dynastic marriages with other Hellenistic in June 168. Perseus was deposed, and
kings, taking the daughter of Seleucus IV Macedonia was divided into four repub-
as his wife and giving the hand of his lics, which were forbidden to have
sister to Prusias II of Bithynia. Although relations with one another; they paid
these actions could have been viewed as tribute to Rome at half the rate they had
the behaviour expected of a Hellenistic previously paid to the king.
monarch, Eumenes of Pergamum sug- In 167 Rome proceeded to punish
gested to the Senate that Perseus was those who had sided with Perseus (such
preparing for war against Rome. After the as the Illyrian Genthius), those whose
Senate decided on war, it sent Quintus loyalty had wavered (such as Eumenes),
Marcius Philippus to propose a truce and and even those who had contemplated
to give Perseus false hopes of negotiation acting as mediators in the war (such as
in order to allow the consul of 171, Publius the Rhodians). In Illyria, Paullus, on
52 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

instructions from the Senate, swept trade, thus raising prices for their pro-
through the countryside enslaving 150,000 duce in Rome.
inhabitants from 70 Epirote towns. In The arrangements of 167 served the
Achaea, 1,000 leading men suspected of Roman policy of weakening the powers
Macedonian sympathies were taken as of the eastern Mediterranean. In the pre-
hostages to Rome. (Among them was vious year Rome had also intervened to
Polybius, who befriended the noble stop Seleucid expansion into Egypt. In a
Scipionic family and wrote his great famous episode, the Roman ambassador
history of the rise of Rome with the aid of Gaius Popillius Laenas delivered to
privileged access to the views of the sen- Antiochus IV the Senate’s demand that
atorial leadership.) Eumenes was refused the king withdraw from Egypt. When the
a hearing before the Senate on his visit to king requested time for consultation,
Italy; his fall from favour prompted his Popillius “drew a circle around the king
enemies to dispute his territory, and in with a stick he was carrying and told him
164 a Roman embassy in Anatolia pub- not to leave the circle until he gave his
licly invited complaints against the king. response. The king was astonished at this
Rhodes had thrived as the leading trade occurrence and the display of superiority,
centre of the eastern Mediterranean, but, after a brief time, said he would do all
using its considerable resources to con- the Romans demanded.”
trol piracy; now Rome undermined its The power vacuum fostered by the
economy and power by making the island Romans was not ultimately conducive to
of Delos a free port, thereby depriving stability. An adventurer, Andriscus,
Rhodes of its income from harbour dues. claiming to be descended from the
Territory in Lycia and Caria on the main- Macedonian dynasty, was able to enter
land, granted to Rhodes in 189, was now the Macedonian republics without serious
taken away. But the far harsher proposal resistance. He was successful enough in
in the Senate to declare Rhodes an enemy raising an army to defeat the first Roman
and to destroy it was opposed by senior force sent against him in 149 under the
senators such as Cato the Censor and command of the praetor Publius
was voted down. As a result of the weak- Iuventius Thalna (who was killed). A
ening of Rhodes, piracy became rampant second Roman army under Quintus
in the eastern Mediterranean (the young Caecilius Metellus defeated the pre-
Julius Caesar was captured by pirates). tender in 148. With the death of
During the next century Roman senators Callicrates, leadership of the Achaean
did not find the political will to suppress League passed to Critolaus and Diaeus,
the piracy, perhaps in part because it outspoken proponents of Greek inde-
served their interests; pirates supplied pendence from Rome. In 147 a Roman
tens of thousands of slaves for their embassy was sent to intervene in the affairs
Italian estates and disrupted the grain of the league by supporting the secession
The Middle Republic (264–133 BC) | 53

of Sparta and also by calling for the invasion of Italy, the Insubres and Boii,
detachment of Corinth and Argos from Gallic peoples in the Po valley, had
the league. The embassy provoked a vio- joined the Carthaginians against Rome.
lent reply. When further negotiations In 200 the Gauls and Ligurians combined
were blocked by Critolaus, Rome declared forces and sacked the Latin colony of
war on the Achaeans in 146, citing as Placentia in an attempt to drive the
reason the ill-treatment of their embassy. Romans out of their lands. In the follow-
Metellus (now with the appellation of ing years consular armies repeatedly
“Macedonicus”), having delayed with his attacked the Gauls. In 194 Lucius Valerius
army, marched against Critolaus and Flaccus won a decisive victory over the
defeated him in Locris. Then Lucius Insubres; in 192 the leading Boii under
Mummius Archaicus, consul of 146, took severe pressure went over to the Roman
over the command and defeated Diaeus side, signaling the coming defeat of
and the remaining Achaeans. The Senate their tribe. Following their victories, the
ordered Mummius to teach a lesson to Romans sent thousands of new colonists
the Greeks: the venerable city of Corinth to the Po valley to reinforce the older
was sacked, its treasures taken to Rome, colonies of Placentia and Cremona (190)
and its buildings burned to the ground. and to establish new colonies, notably
The nature of Roman domination in Bononia (189) and Aquileia (181).
the East began to change decisively after During the same period the Romans
these wars: in place of influence through were at war with the Ligurian tribes of the
embassies, arbitration of disputes, and northern Apennines. The serious effort
the occasional military incursion came began in 182, when both consular armies
direct rule. Macedonia was annexed as and a proconsular army were sent against
a province, to be governed and taxed by a the Ligurians. The wars continued into the
Roman proconsul, who also watched 150s, when victorious generals celebrated
over the Greek cities to the south, where two triumphs over the Ligurians. Here
the leagues were disbanded. Farther also the Romans drove many natives off
east, the kingdom of Pergamum was added their land and settled colonies in their
as the province of Asia, as a bequest to stead (e.g., Luna and Luca in the 170s).
the Roman people from Attalus III in 133. As a result of the Second Punic War,
Roman legions had marched into Spain
Roman Expansion in the against the Carthaginians and remained
Western Mediterranean there after 201. The Romans formalized
their rule in 197 by creating two prov-
If Roman military intervention in the inces, Nearer and Further Spain. They
east was sporadic in the second century, also exploited the Spanish riches, espe-
campaigning in northern Italy and Spain cially the mines, as the Carthaginians
was nearly continuous. During Hannibal’s had done. In 197 the legions were
54 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

His comments show that he

prided himself on his bravery
and lack of greed as compared
with other Roman command-
ers. Yet his narrative must
overstate the extent and deci-
siveness of his success because
fighting persisted for years to
come, as later Roman gover-
nors sought to extend Roman
control over more Spanish
peoples—the Celtiberians of
northeastern Spain, the
Lusitanians of modern-day
Portugal, and the Vettones and
Vaccaei of northwestern Spain.
In 177 Tiberius Sempronius
Gracchus celebrated a triumph
over the Celtiberians. The size
of the Roman forces was prob-
ably then reduced from four to
two legions; from 173 to 155
there was a lull in the regular
campaigning. During these
Cato the Censor was a Roman statesman noted for his decades Spanish peoples
conservative and anti-Hellenic policies. His accounts of brought complaints to Rome
life in the Roman Empire also made him the first Latin about corrupt governors.
prose writer of importance. Hulton Archive/Getty Images Annual warfare resumed
in Spain in 154, being perhaps
withdrawn, but a Spanish revolt against in part a violent reaction to a corrupt
the Roman presence led to the death of administration, and dragged on until 133.
one governor and required that the two Labeled a “fiery war” (really wars), these
praetorian governors of 196 be accompa- struggles acquired a reputation for
nied by a legion each. The situation was extreme cruelty; they brought destruction
serious enough for the consul of 195, Cato to the native population (e.g., 20,000
the Censor, to be sent to Spain with two Vaccaei were killed in 151 after giving
legions. themselves up to Lucius Licinius
From Cato comes the earliest extant Lucullus) and made recruiting legionaries
firsthand account of Roman conquest. in Italy difficult. In Further Spain the
The Middle Republic (264–133 BC) | 55

Lusitanian leader Viriathus enjoyed some Initially, the Carthaginians submis-

successes, including the surrender of a sively sought the arbitration of Rome in
Roman army in 141–140 and a favourable these disputes, but more often than not
treaty with Rome, but the next governor Roman judgment went in favour of
of the province, Quintus Servilius Caepio, Masinissa. After a series of losses, the
arranged for his assassination in 139. Carthaginians in 151 decided to act on
Two years later in Nearer Spain, the their own and raised an army to ward off
Numantines also forced the surrender of the Numidian attacks. When a Roman
an army under Gaius Hostilius Mancinus; delegation observed the Carthaginian
the Senate later disavowed the agreement army raised in breach of the treaty of 201,
of equal terms and handed Mancinus, Rome was provided with the casus belli
bound and naked, over to the Spaniards for a declaration of war in 149; Polybius,
to absolve themselves of responsibility however, claims that the Senate had
before the gods. The wars in Spain were decided on this war “long before.” The
brought to a conclusion in 133 by Publius elderly Cato had been ending his
Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus, who took speeches in the Senate since 153 with the
Numantia after a long siege, enslaved the notorious exhortation that “Carthage
population, and razed the city. must be destroyed.” Carthage desper-
It was Scipio Aemilianus (b. 185/184) ately and pathetically tried to make
who in the previous decade had imposed amends, executing the generals of the
a similar final solution on Carthage in expedition against the Numidians, sur-
the Third Punic War (149–146). After the rendering to Rome, and handing over
Second Punic War, Carthage had recov- hostages, armour, and artillery. Only then
ered to the point that in 191 it offered to did the Romans deliver their final
repay the remainder of the 50-year trib- demand: Carthage must be abandoned
ute of 200 talents per year in one lump and the population moved to a new site
sum. Rome’s refusal of the offer sug- inland. Such extreme terms could not be
gests that beyond its monetary value accepted.
the tribute had the symbolic importance The war against Carthage, with its
of signifying subjection. Carthage’s prospects of rich booty, presented no
neighbour, the Numidian king Masinissa, recruiting problems for the Romans:
had been granted as a reward for his huge land and naval forces were sent out
support of Rome at the Battle of Zama under both consuls of 149, Lucius Marcius
his paternal kingdom and the western Censorinus and Manius Manilius. The
Numidian kingdom ruled by Syphax. imbalance of resources meant that the
During the next half century Masinissa outcome was never in doubt, but the forti-
periodically tried to exploit his favour in fications of Carthage delayed the Roman
Rome by encroaching on Carthaginian victory. The young Scipio Aemilianus
territory. was elected consul for 147, and by popular
56 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

vote he was assigned the task of bringing are anachronistic impositions on the
the war to an end. He blockaded the city ancient world; ancient testimony, for
by land and sea, inflicting terrible suffer- example, gives no support to commercial
ing. Finally, in 146, the Roman army took or mercantile explanations. Cultural and
Carthage, enslaved its remaining 50,000 economic interpretations seem more
inhabitants, burned the buildings to the appropriate. Roman culture placed a high
ground, and ritually sowed the site with value on success in war: virtus (courage
salt to guarantee that nothing would ever and qualities of leadership) was displayed,
grow there again. Carthaginian territory above all, in war, and the triumph, a
was annexed as the province of Africa. parade through Rome celebrating a major
victory over an enemy, was the honour
Explanations of Roman most highly prized by the senatorial
Expansion generals who guided Roman decisions
about war and peace. Moreover, these
As one of the decisive developments in leaders, and the whole Roman people,
western history, Roman expansion has were fully aware of the increasing profits
invited continual reinterpretation by of victory; in the 2nd century command-
historians. Polybius, who wrote his his- ers and soldiers, as well as the city itself,
tory in order to explain to other Greeks were enriched by the glittering booty
the reasons for Roman success, believed from Africa and the Greek East.
that after their victory over Hannibal the Yet, it is rightly pointed out, Roman
Romans conceived the aim of dominating intervention in the East was sporadic, not
all before them and set out to achieve it in systematic, and the Romans did not
the Second Macedonian War. If one annex territory in the Balkans, Anatolia,
accepts the Roman view that they fought or North Africa for more than 50 years
only “just wars”—that is, only when pro- after their initial victories. The latter
voked—then Roman conquest emerges point, however, is not telling, since the
as “one of the most important accidents Romans regarded defeated states allied
in European history,” as Rome had to to them as part of their imperium, whether
defend itself from threats on all sides. or not they were under Roman provincial
Historians have suggested other motives administration. The sporadic timing of
for empire, such as a desire to profit from the wars would seem to support the
war, an interest in commercial expansion, Romans’ claim that they only reacted,
or a love of the Greeks, who asked for pro- justly, to provocations. But attention to
tection against Hellenistic monarchs. the individual provocations should not
Major historical phenomena of this blind the historian to the larger pattern of
kind rarely receive final, decisive inter- Roman behaviour.
pretations, but several assertions may be From 218 the Romans annually
ventured. Some of the interpretations fielded major armies decade after decade.
The Middle Republic (264–133 BC) | 57

Rome was able to go to war every year in Africa were annexed in 146, and the prov-
response to provocations only because ince of Asia (northwestern Anatolia) in
it chose to define its interests and make 133. In principle, each province was to be
alliances farther and farther afield. administered in accordance with its lex
Polybius, as noted, reveals how the provinciae , a set of rules drawn up by the
Romans were the masters of manipulation conquering commander and a senatorial
of circumstances to force opponents to embassy. The lex provinciae laid down
behave in a way they could interpret as the organization of taxation, which varied
provocative. Therefore, the Roman inter- from province to province.
pretation of “just wars” and the Polybian The provincial administrative appa-
interpretation of a universal aim to con- ratuses were minimal and unprofessional,
quer need not be contradictory. The as the Romans relied heavily on the local
concept of “just war” may have justified elites as mediators. Each year a senatorial
any given war but does not explain the magistrate was sent out to govern with
perpetual Roman readiness to go to war. nearly unfettered powers. Because ini-
For that the historian must look to tially the governors were usually praetors,
Polybius’s universal aim or to general the addition of new provinces required
political, social, economic, and cultural the election of more praetors (increased
features of Rome. Finally, it must be to four in 227 and to six in 197). The
remembered that in some instances it assignments to provinces were done by
was clearly the Roman commander who lot. The governor took with him one of the
provoked the war in order to plunder and quaestors to oversee the finances of pro-
to win a triumph (e.g., Licinius Lucullus, vincial government and senatorial
governor of Nearer Spain, in 151). friends and relatives to serve as deputies
and advisors ( legati ). Among the hum-
Beginnings of provincial bler functionaries assisting the governor
administration were scribes to keep records and lictors
with fasces (bundles of rods and axes) to
Rome dominated its Latin and Italian symbolize gubernatorial authority and
neighbours by incorporating some into to execute sentences pronounced by the
the Roman citizen body and by forming governor in criminal cases.
bilateral alliances with most of the Italian The governor’s main duties were to
city-states. After the Punic Wars, Rome maintain order and security and to col-
undertook to rule newly acquired territo- lect revenues. The former often entailed
ries directly as subject provinces. In 241 command of an army to ward off external
Sicily became Rome’s first province, fol- threats and to suppress internal disorders
lowed by Sardinia-Corsica in 238, and such as banditry. When not commanding
Spain, divided into two provinces, in 197. his army, the governor spent his time
After a 50-year hiatus, Macedonia and hearing legal cases and arbitrating
58 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

disputes. During the republic, revenue 188. Yet Rome’s glittering successes made
collection was left to private companies such openness ever more problematic.
of publicani , so called because they won For one, the city attracted increasing
by highest bid the contract to collect the numbers of Latins and allies, who wished
revenues. It was the governor’s responsi- to use their ancient right to migrate and
bility to keep the publicani within the take up Roman citizenship. The depletion
bounds of the lex provinciae so that they of Latin and Italian towns prompted pro-
did not exploit the helpless provincials tests until, in 177, Rome took away the
too mercilessly, but this was difficult. right of migration and forced Latin and
Governors expected to make a profit from Italian migrants to return to their home-
their term of office, and some collabo- towns to register for military service.
rated with the publicani to strip the Such measures were sporadically
provinces of their wealth. repeated in the following years.
In addition, the flood of slaves into
Transformation during Rome from the great conquests increased
the middle republic the flow of foreign-born freedmen into
the citizen body. Sempronius Gracchus
The Greek historian Polybius admired (father of the famous tribunes) won sena-
Rome’s balanced constitution, discipline, torial approbation as censor in 168 by
and strict religious observance as the registering the freedmen in a single
bases of the republic’s success and stabil- urban tribe and thus limiting their elec-
ity. Yet Rome’s very successes in the toral influence. Despite these efforts, the
second century undermined these fea- nature and meaning of Roman citizen-
tures, leading to profound changes in the ship were bound to change, as the citizen
republic’s politics, culture, economy, and body became ever more diffuse and lived
society. dispersed from Rome, the only place
where the right of suffrage could be
Citizenship and Politics in exercised.
the Middle Republic Polybius greatly admired Rome’s
balanced constitution, with its elements
The Romans organized their citizenry in of monarchy (magistrates), aristocracy
a way that permitted expansion. This was (Senate), and democracy (popular assem-
regarded as a source of strength by con- blies). According to Greek political
temporaries such as Philip V, who noted theory, each form of constitution was
that Rome replenished its citizen ranks believed to be unstable and susceptible
with freed slaves. The extension of citi- to decline until replaced by another. Yet
zenship continued in the early 2nd Rome’s system of balance, Polybius
century, as in the grant of full citizen thought, was a check on the cycle of decline.
rights to Arpinum, Formiae, and Fundi in By forcing the Roman constitution into
The Middle Republic (264–133 BC) | 59

the mold of Greek political theory, how- While aristocratic electoral competi-
ever, he exaggerated the symmetry of tion was tradition during the republic,
checks and balances. In reality, the Senate this period began to exhibit the escala-
enjoyed a period of steady domination tion in competitiveness that was later
through the first two-thirds of the 2nd fatal to the republic. For example, Publius
century, having emerged from the Second Cornelius Scipio Africanus emerged
Punic War with high prestige. Only from the Second Punic War as the Roman
occasionally did the developing tensions whose dignitas (prestige) far surpassed
and contradictions surface during these that of his peers. Nonetheless, a number
decades. of senators attacked him and his brother
Politics during the period was largely Lucius Cornelius with legal charges until
a matter of senatorial families competing he finally retired from Rome to end his
for high office and the ensuing lucrative life at his Campanian villa at Liternum.
commands. Because offices were won in For younger senators, however, Scipio’s
the centuriate and tribal assemblies, sena- spectacular achievement was something
tors had to cultivate support among the to emulate. The ambitious young
populus. Yet the system was not as demo- Flamininus moved swiftly through the
cratic as it might appear. Senators with senatorial cursus honorum (“course of
illustrious names and consular ancestors honors”) to win the consulship and com-
dominated the election to the highest mand against Philip V at the age of 30.
offices, increasing their share of the con- Such cases prompted laws to regulate
sulates from about one-half to two-thirds the senatorial cursus: iteration in the same
during the second century. These propor- magistracy was prohibited, the praetor-
tions can be interpreted in two ways: the ship was made a prerequisite for the
Senate was not a closed, hereditary aris- consulship, and in 180 the lex Villia annalis
tocracy but was open to new families, who (Villian law on minimum ages) set mini-
usually rose through the senatorial ranks mum ages for senatorial magistrates and
in the course of generations with the required a two-year interval between
patronal support of established families. offices. The consulship (two elected to it
Yet a small circle of prominent families per year) could be held from age 42, the
(e.g., the Aemilii, Claudii, and Cornelii) praetorship (six per year) from age 39,
were disproportionately successful, sur- and the curule aedileship from 36.
prisingly so in view of the popular Patricians, still privileged in this area,
electoral process. Since the campaigning were probably allowed to stand for these
was not oriented toward issues, the great offices two years earlier. The senatorial
families were able to maintain their supe- career was preceded by 10 years of mili-
riority over the centuries by their inherited tary service, from age 17, and formally
resources: their famous names, their began with a quaestorship, the most
wealth, and their clienteles of voters. junior senatorial magistracy (eight per
60 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

supporting popular causes,

respectively. Here again,
excess elicited restraint, and
legal limits were placed on the
lavishness of the games. More
broadly, from 181 legislation
designed to curb electoral
bribery was intermittently
The problems of electoral
competition did not disappear.
In the late 150s second con-
sulships were prohibited
altogether, but within decades
the rules were broken. Scipio
Aemilianus, grandson by
adoption of Scipio Africanus,
challenged the system. Return­
ing from the Carthaginian
campaign to Rome to stand for
the aedileship, he was elected
instead to the consulship, even
though he was underage and
had not held the prerequisite
praetorship. He was then
elected to a second consulship
for 134. Scipio had no subver-
sive intent, but his career set the
Scipio Africanus’s victory over Hannibal in the Battle of precedent for circumventing
Zama brought the Second Punic War to an end. Hulton the cursus regulations by appeal
Archive/Getty Images to the popular assemblies.
While the second century
year), at age 30 or just under. The offices was a time of heated competition among
between the quaestorship and praetor- senators, it was generally a period of
ship, the aedileship (4 per year) and the quiescence of the plebs and their magis-
plebeian tribunate (10 per year), were trates, the tribunes. Nevertheless, signs
not compulsory but provided opportu- of the upheaval ahead are visible. For
nities to win popularity among the one, the long plebeian struggle against
voters by staging aedilician games and arbitrary abuse of magisterial power
The Middle Republic (264–133 BC) | 61

continued. A series of Porcian laws were perceptible in the Aelian and Fufian law
passed to protect citizens from summary of about 150. This law, imperfectly known
execution or scourging, asserting the from later passing references, provided
citizen’s right of appeal to the assembly that a magistrate holding a legislative
(ius provocationis). A descendant of the assembly could be prevented from pass-
Porcian clan later advertised these laws ing a bill on religious grounds by another
on coins as a victory for freedom. magistrate claiming to have witnessed
Moreover, the massive annual war effort unfavourable omens in a procedure
provoked occasional resistance to mili- called obnuntiatio. In addition, the days
tary service. In 193 the tribunes started to of the year on which legislative assem-
investigate complaints about overly long blies could be held were reduced.
military service. Interpreting this as a As conservative senators worked to
challenge to magisterial authority, the restrain the democratic element in the
Senate responded with a declaration of an political processes, the plebeians sought
emergency levy, and the tribunes stopped to expand their freedom. Voting in elec-
their activity. In 151 the tribunes tried to toral and judicial assemblies had been
protect some citizens from the levy for public, allowing powerful senators more
the unpopular war in Spain. A confronta- easily to manage the votes of their clients.
tion between the tribunes and the recruiting The Gabinian law (139) and Cassian law
consuls ensued, in which the tribunes (137) introduced secret written ballots
briefly imprisoned the consuls until a into the assemblies, thus loosening the
compromise relieved the crisis. The scene control of patrons over their clients.
of tribunes taking consuls to jail was Significantly, the reform was supported
repeated in 138 during a period of by Scipio Aemilianus, the sort of senator
renewed difficulties over recruiting. who stood to benefit by attracting the
Since the Hortensian law of 287, the clients of other patrons through his per-
plebs had the constitutional power to sonal popularity. These reforms, together
pass laws binding on the entire state with the changing composition of the
without senatorial approval. During the electorate in the city, carried the poten-
next century and a half few attempts were tial, soon to be realized, for more volatile
made to use the power for purposes of assemblies.
major reform against the Senate’s will, in
part because the plebeian tribunes, as Culture and Religion
members of the senatorial order, gener-
ally shared the Senate’s interests and in Expansion brought Rome into contact
part because the plebeians benefited with many diverse cultures. The most
from Rome’s great successes abroad under important of these was the Greek culture
senatorial leadership. Yet senatorial fear in the eastern Mediterranean with its
of unbridled popular legislative power is highly refined literature and learning.
62 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Rome responded to it with ambivalence: annalistic history of Rome in Greek partly

although Greek doctrina was attractive, it in order to influence Greek views in
was also the culture of the defeated and favour of Rome, and he emphasized
enslaved. Indeed, much Greek culture Rome’s ancient ties to the Greek world by
was brought to Rome in the aftermath of incorporating in his history the legend
military victories, as Roman soldiers that the Trojan hero Aeneas had settled
returned home not only with works of art in Latium. Because Roman history was
but also with learned Greeks who had about politics and war, the writing of
been enslaved. Despite the ambivalence, history was always judged by Romans to
nearly every facet of Roman culture was be a suitable pastime for men of politics—
influenced by the Greeks, and it was a i.e., for senators such as Fabius.
Greco-Roman culture that the Roman Rome had had a folk tradition of
empire bequeathed to later European poetry in the native Saturnian verse with
civilization. a metre based on stress, but not a formal
As Roman aristocrats encountered literature. Lucius Livius Andronicus was
Greeks in southern Italy and in the East regarded as the father of Latin literature,
in the third century, they learned to speak a fact that illustrates to what extent the
and write in Greek. Scipio Africanus and development of Roman literature was
Flamininus, for example, are known to bound up with conquest and enslave-
have corresponded in Greek. By the late ment. Livius, a native Greek speaker from
republic it became standard for senators Tarentum, was brought as a slave to
to be bilingual. Many were reared from Rome, where he remained until his death
infancy by Greek-speaking slaves and (c. 204). Becoming fluent in Latin, he
later tutored by Greek slaves or freed- translated the Homeric Odyssey into
men. Nonetheless, despite their increasing Latin in Saturnian verse. Thus Latin lit-
fluency in Greek, senators continued to erature began with a translation from
insist on Latin as the official language of Greek into the native metre. Livius
government; visiting dignitaries from reached wider audiences through his
the East addressing the Senate in Greek translations of Greek plays for public
had their speeches translated—as a mark performance. Gnaeus Naevius, the next
of their subordination. major figure (c. 270–c. 201), was again not
Because Greek was the lingua franca a native Roman but an Oscan speaker
of the East, Romans had to use Greek if from Campania. In addition to translat-
they wished to reach a wider audience. ing Greek drama, he wrote the first major
Thus the first histories by Romans were original work in Latin, an epic poem
written in Greek. The patrician Fabius about the First Punic War. Naevius’s
Pictor, who, as noted above, founded the successors, Quintus Ennius from Calabria
Roman tradition of historiography dur- (239–169) and Titus Maccius Plautus
ing the Second Punic War, wrote his from Umbria (c. 254–184), transformed
The Middle Republic (264–133 BC) | 63

the Latin poetic genres by importing had erected in public a statue of

Greek metrical forms based on the length Pythagoras, a sixth-century Greek phi-
of syllables rather than on stress. Ennius losopher who had founded communities
was best known for his epic history of of philosophers in southern Italy. In the
Rome in verse, the Annales, but he also mid-second century some senators dis-
wrote tragedies and satires. Plautus pro- played an interest in philosophy. Scipio
duced comedies adapted from Greek Aemilianus, Gaius Laelius (consul 140),
New Comedy. He is the only early author and Lucius Furius Philus (consul 136)
whose work is well represented in the were among those who listened to the
corpus of surviving literature (21 plays lectures of the three leaders of the Ath­
judged authentic by Marcus Terentius enian philosophical schools visiting
Varro, Rome’s greatest scholar). None of Rome on a diplomatic mission in 155—
the plays of his younger contemporaries, the academic Carneades, the peripatetic
Caecilius Statius (c. 210–168) and Marcus Critolaus, and the stoic Diogenes. On an
Pacuvius (c. 220–130), survive, nor do the official visit to the East in 140, Scipio
once highly esteemed tragedies of Lucius included in his entourage the leading
Accius (170–c. 86). The six extant come- stoic Panaetius. In the same period,
dies of Terence (Publius Terentius Afer; another stoic, Blossius of Cumae, was
c. 190–159) provide a sense of the varia- said to have influenced the reforming
tion in the comic tradition of the 2nd tribune Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus.
century. These authors also were outsid- Yet the philosophical influence should
ers, coming from the Celtic Po valley, not be exaggerated; none of these sena-
Brundisium, Umbria, and North Africa, tors was a philosopher or even a formal
respectively. Thus, while assorted for- student of philosophy.
eigners, some of servile origin, Moreover, the sophisticated rhetoric
established a Latin literature by adapting of the philosophers—in 155 Carneades
Greek genres, metrical forms, and con- lectured in favour of natural justice one
tent, native Roman senators began to day and against it the next—was per-
write history in Greek. ceived by leading Romans such as Cato
Other forms of Greek learning were the Censor as subversive to good morals.
slower to take root in Rome. Later Romans At his urging the Senate quickly con-
remembered that a Greek doctor estab- cluded the diplomatic business of
lished a practice in Rome for the first time Carneades, Critolaus, and Diogenes in
just before the Second Punic War, but his 155 and hurried them out of Rome. This
reputation did little to stimulate Roman was part of a broader pattern of hostility
interest in the subject. Like doctors, to philosophy: in 181 the (spurious) Books
Greek philosophers of the second century of Numa, falsely believed to have been
were regarded with interest and suspi- influenced by Pythagoras, were burned,
cion. In the early third century Romans and the following decades witnessed
64 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

several expulsions of philosophers from men from the Senate on various charges
the city. In comedies of the period, the of immorality and penalized through tax-
discipline was held up for ridicule. ation the acquisition of such luxuries as
The hostility toward philosophy was expensive clothing, jewelry, carriages,
one aspect of a wider Roman sense of and fancy slaves. The worry about luxury
unease about changing mores. Cato, a was widespread, as evidenced by the pas-
“new man” (without senatorial ancestors) sage of a series of sumptuary laws
elected consul (195) and censor (184), rep- supported by Cato. During the depths of
resented himself as an austere champion the Second Punic War the Oppian law
of the old ways and exemplifies the hard- (215) was passed to meet the financial cri-
ening Roman reaction against change sis by restricting the jewelry and clothing
under foreign influence. Although Cato women were allowed to wear. In 195, after
knew Greek and could deploy allusions the crisis, the law was repealed despite
to Greek literature, he advised his son Cato’s protests. Later sumptuary laws
against too deep a knowledge of the lit- were motivated not by military crisis but
erature of that “most worthless and by a sense of the dangers of luxury: the
unteachable race.” Cato despised those Orchian law (182) limited the lavishness
senatorial colleagues who ineptly imi- of banquets; the Fannian law (161)
tated Greek manners. He asserted the strengthened the Orchian provisions, and
value of Latin culture in the role of father the Didian law (143) extended the limits
of Latin prose literature. His treatise on to all Italy. A similar sense of the dangers
estate management, the De agricultura of wealth may also have prompted the lex
(c. 160), has survived with its rambling Voconia (169), which prohibited Romans
discourse about how to run a 200-iugera of the wealthiest class from naming
(124-acre) farm, including advice on women as heirs in their wills.
everything from buying and selling The laws and censorial actions ulti-
slaves to folk medicine. Cato’s greater, mately could not restrain changes in
historical work, the Origines, survives Roman mores. Economic conditions had
only in fragments: it challenged the ear- been irreversibly altered by conquest; the
lier Roman histories insofar as it was magnitude of conspicuous consumption
written in Latin and emphasized the is suggested by a senatorial decree of
achievements of the Italian peoples 161 that restricted the weight of silver
rather than those of the few great senato- tableware in a banquet to 100 pounds—10
rial families of Rome (whose names were times the weight for which Publius
conspicuously omitted). Cornelius Rufinus was punished in 275.
Elected censor in 184 to protect Moreover, the very competitiveness that
Roman mores, Cato vowed “to cut into had traditionally marked the senatorial
pieces and burn like a hydra all luxury aristocracy ensured the spread of cul-
and voluptuousness.” He expelled seven tural innovations and new forms of
The Middle Republic (264–133 BC) | 65

Seventeenth-century painter Nicolas Poussin captured the ribald spirit of Bacchic worship in
A Bacchanalian Revel before a Herm. National Gallery, London, UK/The Bridgeman Art
Library/Getty Images

conspicuous consumption among the the eastern Mediterranean was perceived

elite. In contrast to the austere Cato, other as potentially subversive to a far wider
senators laid claim to prestige by collect- audience. Polybius praised the Romans
ing Greek art and books brought back for their conscientious behaviour toward
by conquering armies, by staging plays the gods. Romans were famous for their
modeled on Greek drama, and by com- extreme precision in recitation of vows
missioning literary works, public and performance of sacrifices to the gods,
buildings, and private sculptural monu- meticulously repeating archaic words
ments in a Greek style. and actions centuries after their original
Whereas the influence of Greek high meanings had been forgotten. Guiding
culture was felt principally in a small cir- these state cults were priestly colleges,
cle of elite Romans who had the wealth and priestly offices such as of pontifex
to acquire Greek art and slaves and the and augur were filled by senators, whose
leisure and education to read Greek dominance in politics was thus replicated
authors, the influence of religions from in civic religion.
66 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

In earlier centuries Rome’s innate poisoning of kin. According to Livy, more

religious conservatism was, however, than 7,000 were implicated in the wrong-
counterbalanced by an openness to for- doing, many of whom were tried and
eign gods and cults. As Rome incorporated executed. The consuls destroyed the places
new peoples of Italy into its citizen body, of Bacchic worship throughout Italy. For
it accepted their gods and religious prac- the future, the (extant) senatorial decree
tices. Indeed, among the most authoritative prohibited men from acting as priests in
religious texts, consulted in times of cri- the cult, banned secret meetings, and
sis or doubt, were the prophetic Sibylline required the praetor’s and Senate’s autho-
Books, written in Greek and imported rization of ceremonies to be performed
from Cumae. The receptivity appears by gatherings of more than five people.
most pronounced in the third century: The terms of the decree provide a
during its final decades temples were built sense of what provoked the harsh senato-
in the city for Venus Erycina from Sicily rial reaction. It was not that the Bacchic
and for the Magna Mater, or Great Mother, cult spread heretical beliefs about the gods;
from Pessinus in Anatolia; games were Roman civic religion was never based on
instituted in honour of the Greek god theological doctrine with pretensions to
Apollo (212) and the Magna Mater after exclusive truth. Rather, the growing secret
the war. The new cults were integrated cult led by male priests threatened the
into the traditional structure of the state traditionally dominant position of sena-
religion, and the “foreignness” was con- tors in state religion. The decree did not
trolled (i.e., limits were placed on the aim to eliminate Bacchic worship but to
orgiastic elements in the cult of the Great bring it under the supervision of senato-
Mother performed by her eunuch priests). rial authorities. The following centuries
The openness, never complete or a witnessed sporadic official actions against
matter of principle, tilted toward resistance foreign cults. It happens to be recorded
in the early second century. In 186 Roman that a praetor of 139 removed private altars
magistrates, on orders from the Senate, built in public areas and expelled astrolo-
brutally suppressed Bacchic worship in gers and Jews from the city. Thus the
Italy. Associations of worshipers of the reaction to eastern religions paralleled that
Greek god Bacchus (Dionysus) had spread to Greek philosoph. Both were perceived
across Italy to Rome. Their members, as new ways of thinking that threatened
numbering in the thousands, were initi- to undermine traditional mores and the
ated into secret mysteries, knowledge of relations of authority implicit in them.
which promised life after death. They also
engaged in orgiastic worship. The secrecy Economy and Society
soon gave rise to reports of the basest
activities, such as uncontrolled drinking, It seems certain that the economy and
sexual promiscuity, forgery of wills, and society of Italy were transformed in the
The Middle Republic (264–133 BC) | 67

wake of Rome’s conquest of the Mediter­ agriculture as the basis of its economy,
ranean world, even though the changes with probably four-fifths of the popula-
can be described only incompletely and tion tilling the soil. This great majority
imprecisely, owing to the dearth of reli- continued to be needed in food produc-
able information for the preceding tion because there were no labour-saving
centuries. Romans of the first century BC technological breakthroughs. The power
believed that their ancestors had been a driving agricultural and other production
people of small farmers in an age uncor- was almost entirely supplied by humans
rupted by wealth. Even senators who and animals, which set modest limits to
performed heroic feats were said to have economic growth. In some areas of Italy,
been of modest means—men such as such as the territory of Capena in south-
Lucius Quinctius Cinncinatus, who was ern Etruria, archaeologists have found
said to have laid down his plow on his traditional patterns of settlement and
tiny farm to serve as dictator in 458 BC. land division continuing from the fourth
Although such legends present an ideal- to the end of the first century—evidence
ized vision of early Rome, it is probably that the Second Punic War and the fol-
true that Latium of the fifth and fourth lowing decades did not bring a complete
centuries was densely populated by break with the past.
farmers of small plots. Rome’s military Economic change came as a result of
strength derived from its superior massive population shifts and the social
resources of manpower levied from a pool reorganization of labour rather than tech-
of small landowning citizens (assidui). A nological improvement. The Second
dense population is also suggested by Punic War, and especially Hannibal’s per-
the emigration from Latium of scores of sistent presence in Italy, inflicted a
thousands as colonists during the fourth considerable toll, including loss of life on
and third centuries. The legends of sena- a staggering scale, movement of rural
tors working their own fields seem populations into towns, and destruction of
implausible, but the disparity in wealth agriculture in some regions. Although the
was probably much less noticeable than devastation has been overestimated by
in the late republic. The fourth-century some historians, partial depopulation of
artifacts uncovered by archaeologists the Italian countryside is evident from the
display an overall high quality that makes literary and archaeological records: imme-
it difficult to distinguish a category of diately after the war enough land stood
luxury goods from the pottery and terra- vacant in Apulia and Samnium to settle
cottas made for common use. between 30,000 and 40,000 of Scipio’s
War and conquest altered this pic- veterans, while areas of Apulia, Bruttium,
ture; yet certain fundamental features of southern Campania, and south-central
the economy remained constant. Until Etruria have yielded no artifacts indicat-
its fall, the Roman Empire retained ing settlement in the postwar period.
68 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Populations have been known to so many that “Sardinian” became a

show great resilience in recovering from byword for “cheap” slave. These are only
wars, but the Italian population was given a few examples for which the sources
no peace after 201. In subsequent decades happen to give numbers. More slaves
Rome’s annual war effort required a mili- flooded into Italy after Rome destabilized
tary mobilization unmatched in history the eastern Mediterranean in 167 and
for its duration and the proportion of the gave pirates and bandits the opportunity
population involved. During the 150 to carry off local peoples of Anatolia and
years after Hannibal’s surrender, the sell them on the block at Delos by the
Romans regularly fielded armies of more thousands. By the end of the republic
than 100,000 men, requiring on average Italy was a thoroughgoing slave society
about 13 percent of the adult male citizens with well over one million slaves, accord-
each year. The attested casualties from ing to the best estimates. No census
200 to 150 add up to nearly 100,000. The figures give numbers of slaves, but slave-
levy took Roman peasants away from holding was more widespread and on a
their land. Many never returned. Others, larger scale than in the antebellum
perhaps 25,000, were moved in the years American South, where slaves made up
before 173 from peninsular Italy to the about one-third of the population. In
colonies of the Po valley. Still others, in effect, Roman soldiers fought in order to
unknown but considerable numbers, capture their own replacements on the
migrated to the cities. By the later second land in Italy, although the shift from free
century some Roman leaders perceived to servile labour was only a partial one.
the countryside to be depopulated. The influx of slaves was accompanied
To replace the peasants on the land of by changes in patterns of landownership,
central and southern Italy, slaves were as more Italian land came to be concen-
imported in vast numbers. Slavery was trated in fewer hands. One of the
well established as a form of agricultural punishments meted out to disloyal allies
labour before the Punic Wars (slaves after the Second Punic War was confisca-
must have produced much of the food tion of all or part of their territories. Most
during the peak mobilization of citizens of the ager Campanus and part of the
from 218 to 201). The scale of slavery, Tarentines’ lands—perhaps two million
however, increased in the second and acres in total—became Roman ager
first centuries as a result of conquests. publicus (public land), subject to rent.
Enslavement was a common fate for the Some of this property remained in the
defeated in ancient warfare: the Romans hands of local peoples, but large tracts in
enslaved 5,000 Macedonians in 197; 5,000 excess of the 500-iugera limit were occu-
Histri in 177; 150,000 Epirotes in 167; pied by wealthy Romans, who were
50,000 Carthaginians in 146; and in 174 legally possessores (i.e., in possession of
an unspecified number of Sardinians, but the land, although not its owners) and as
The Middle Republic (264–133 BC) | 69

such paid a nominal rent to the Roman Although based on Greek handbooks
state. The trend toward concentration discussing estate management, it reflects
continued during the second century, the assumptions and thinking of a second-
propelled by conquests abroad. On the century senator. Cato envisaged a
one side, subsistence farmers were always medium-sized, 200-iugera farm with a per-
vulnerable in years of poor harvests that manent staff of 11 slaves. As with other
could lead to debt and ultimately to the Roman enterprises, management of the
loss of their plots. The vulnerability was farm was left to a slave bailiff, who was
exacerbated by army service, which took helped by his slave wife. While Cato, like
peasants away from their farms for years the later agricultural writers Varro and
at a time. On the other side, the elite Lucius Junius Columella, assumed the
orders were enriched by the booty from economic advantage of a slave work
the eastern kingdoms on a scale previ- force, historians today debate whether
ously unimaginable. Some of the vast estates worked by slaves were indeed
new wealth was spent on public works more profitable than smaller peasant
and new forms of luxury, and part was farms. Cato had his slaves use much the
invested to secure future income. Land same technology as the peasants,
was the preferred form of investment for although a larger estate could afford
senators and other honourable men: large processing implements, such as
farming was regarded as safer and more grape and olive crushers, which peasants
prestigious than manufacture or trade. might have to share or do without. Nor
For senators, the opportunities for trade did Cato bring to bear any innovative
were limited by the Claudian law of 218 management advice; his suggestions
prohibiting them from owning large aimed to maximize profits by such com-
ships. Wealthy Romans thus used the monsense means as keeping the slave
proceeds of war to buy out their smaller work force occupied all year round and
neighbours. As a result of this process of buying cheap and selling dear. Never­
acquisition, most senatorial estates con- theless, larger estates had one significant
sisted of scattered small farms. The advantage in that the slave labour could
notorious latifundia, the extensive con- be bought and sold and thus more eas-
solidated estates, were not widespread. ily matched to labour needs than was
Given the dispersion of the property, the possible on small plots worked by peas-
new landlord was typically absentee. He ant families.
could leave the working of the farms in Cato’s farm was a model representing
the hands of the previous peasant owners one aspect of the reality of the Italian
as tenants, or he could import slaves. countryside. Archaeologists have discov-
The best insights into the mentality ered the villas characteristic of the
of the estate-owning class of this period Catonian estate beginning to appear in
come from Cato’s De agricultura. Campania in the second century and
70 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

later in other areas. The emergence of of about one million in the imperial era;
slave agriculture did not exclude the con- other Italian cities grew to a lesser extent.
tinuing existence in the area of peasants The mass of consumers created new,
as owners of marginal land or as casual more diverse demands for foodstuffs
day labourers or both. The larger estates from the countryside and also for manu-
and the remaining peasants formed a factured goods. The market was bipolar,
symbiotic relationship, mentioned by with the poor of the cities able to buy
Cato: the estate required extra hands to only basic foodstuffs and a few plain
help during peak seasons, while the peas- manufactured items and the rich demand-
ants needed the extra wages from day ing increasingly extravagant luxury
labour to supplement the meagre pro- goods. The limitations of the poor are
duction of their plots. Yet in many areas reflected in the declining quality of
of Italy the villa system made no inroads humble temple offerings. The craftsmen
during the republic, and traditional peas- and traders produced mainly for the
ant farming continued. Other areas, rich minority. The trading and artisanal
however, underwent a drastic change: the enterprises in Rome were largely worked
desolation left by the Second Punic War by slaves and freedmen imported to
in the central and southern regions Rome by the wealthy. Although honour-
opened the way for wealthy Romans to able, freeborn Romans considered it
acquire vast tracts of depopulated land beneath their dignity to participate
to convert to grazing. This form of exten- directly in these businesses, they willingly
sive agriculture produced cattle, sheep, shared in the profits through ownership
and goats, herded by slaves. These were of these slaves and through collection of
the true latifundia, decried as wastelands rents on the shops of humbler men. Thus,
by Roman imperial authors such as the manufacturing and trading were gener-
elder Pliny. ally small-scale operations, organized on
The marketplace took on a new the basis of household or family. Roman
importance as both the Catonian estate law did not recognize business corpora-
and the latifundium aimed primarily to tions with the exception of publican
produce goods to sell for a profit. In this companies holding state contracts; nor
sense, they represented a change from were there guilds of the medieval type to
peasant agriculture, which aimed above organize or control production. Unlike
all to feed the peasant’s family. The buy- some later medieval cities, Rome did not
ers of the new commodities were the produce for export to support itself; its
growing cities—another facet of the com- revenues came from booty, provincial
plex economic transformation. Rome was taxes, and the surplus brought from the
swelled by migrants from the country- countryside to the city by aristocratic
side and became the largest city of Roman landlords. Indeed, after 167 pro-
preindustrial Europe, with a population vincial revenues were sufficient to allow
The Middle Republic (264–133 BC) | 71

for the abolition of direct taxes on Roman censorship of 184), the Basilica Aemilia
citizens. et Fulvia (179), and the Basilica Sempronia
Building projects were the largest (170–169) were constructed out of the
enterprises in Rome and offered freeborn traditional tufa blocks but in a Hellen­
immigrants jobs as day labourers. In ized style.
addition to the private building needed New infrastructures were required to
to house the growing population, the early bring the necessities of life to the growing
and middle second century witnessed population. The Porticus Aemilia (193), a
public building on a new scale and in new warehouse of 300,000 square feet on the
shapes. The leading senatorial families banks of the Tiber, illustrates how the new
gained publicity by sponsoring major needs were met with a major new building
new buildings named after themselves technology, concrete construction. Around
in the Forum and elsewhere. The Basilica 200 BC in central Italy it was discovered
Porcia (built during Marcus Porcius Cato’s that a wet mixture of crushed stone, lime,

An entablature, or horizontal molding, from the Basilica Aemilia et Fulvia hints at the grandeur
of this public building, constructed in 179 BC. Manuel Cohen/Getty Images
72 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

and sand (especially a volcanic sand called Social Changes

pozzolana) would set into a material of
great strength. This construction tech- Major social changes and dislocations
nique had great advantages of economy accompanied the demographic shifts and
and flexibility over the traditional cut- economic development. Relations between
stone technique: the materials were more rich and poor in Rome had traditionally
readily available, the concrete could be been structured by the bond existing
molded into desired shapes, and the molds between patron and client. In the daily
could be reused for repetitive production. morning ritual of the salutatio, humble
The Porticus Aemilia, for example, con- Romans went to pay their respects in the
sisted of a series of roughly identical houses of senators, who were obligated to
arches and vaults—the shapes so charac- protect them. These personal relation-
teristic of later Roman architecture. The ships lent stability to the social hierarchy.
new technology also permitted improve- In the second century, however, the dis-
ments in the construction of the aqueducts parity between rich and poor citizens
needed to increase the city’s water supply. grew. While this trend increased the per-
The economic development outside sonal power of individual senators, it
of Rome encompassed some fairly large- weakened the social control of the elite
scale manufacturing enterprises and as a whole; the poor had become too
export trade. At Puteoli on the Bay of numerous to be controlled by the tradi-
Naples the ironworks industry was orga- tional bond of patron and client.
nized on a scale well beyond that of the Until the end of the 170s the impover-
household, and its goods were shipped ishment of humble citizens had been
beyond the area. Puteoli flourished dur- counterbalanced to some extent by the
ing the republic as a port city, handling founding of colonies, because dispossessed
imports destined for Rome as well as peasants were given new lands in outlying
exports of manufactured goods and pro- regions. During the middle decades of
cessed agricultural products. In their the second century, however, colonization
search for markets, the large Italian land- ceased, and the number of dispossessed
owners exported wine and olive oil to increased, to judge from the declining
Cisalpine Gaul and more distant loca- number of small landowners in the census.
tions. Dressel I amphoras, the three-foot The problem created by a growing prole-
pottery jars carrying these products, have tariat was recognized by a few senators.
been found in substantial quantities in Gaius Laelius, probably during his consul-
Africa and Gaul. Yet the magnitude of the ship of 140, proposed a scheme of land
economic development should not be redistribution to renew the class of small-
exaggerated: the ironworks industry was holders, but it was rejected by the Senate.
exceptional, and most pottery production Some of the dispossessed went to
continued to be for local use. Rome, where, together with the increasing
The Middle Republic (264–133 BC) | 73

numbers of slaves and freedmen, they legal authority (or that of his father if he
contributed to the steadily growing pop- was still alive), and her dowry merged
ulation. This density led to the miseries with the rest of the estate under the owner-
associated with big cities, which were ship of the husband. The husband
exacerbated by the absence of regulation. managed the family’s affairs outside the
By 200 BC the pressure of numbers neces- house, while the wife was custodian
sitated apartment buildings of three within. Marriage was an arrangement for
stories. Constructed without a building life; divorces were rare and granted only
code, these structures were often unsound in cases of serious moral infractions, such
and prone to collapse. Moreover, closely as adultery or wine-tippling on the part of
placed and partly made of wood, they the wife. The children of the couple were
were tinderboxes, ever ready to burst subject to the father’s nearly absolute
into flame. The population density also legal powers (patria potestas), including
increased the vulnerability to food short- the power of life and death, corporal pun-
ages and plagues. In 188 fines were levied ishment, and a monopoly of ownership of
against dealers for withholding grain, all property in the family. The father’s
attesting to problems of supply. The 180s power lasted until his death or, in the case
and 170s witnessed repeated outbreaks of of a daughter, until her marriage. When
plague. The state, which could use its the father died, his sons, his wife, and his
power to increase the grain supply, was unmarried daughters became legally
helpless against diseases. In general, the independent, and all inherited equal
republican state developed few new insti- shares of the family’s property unless
tutions to manage the growing urban otherwise specified in a will. The imperial
problems. Until the reign of Augustus, authors idealized the early republic as a
matters were left to the traditional time of family harmony and stability,
authority of urban magistrates, who were which was lost through the corruption of
unaided by a standing fire brigade or the later republic.
police force. Consequently, Rome held an When family life emerged into the
increasing potential for social discontent full light of history in the second century
and conflicts without a corresponding BC, it had changed in significant ways. A
increase in means of control. form of marriage, commonly called “free
The family, regarded by Romans as a marriage,” was becoming prevalent.
mainstay of the social order, also was Under this form, the wife no longer came
affected by the wider economic and social into her husband’s power or property
transformations of the second century regime but remained in that of her father;
BC. In the early republic the family had upon her father’s death she became inde-
formed a social, economic, and legal pendent with rights to own and dispose
unity. The woman generally married into of property. But she was not a member of
her husband’s family and came under his the family of her husband and children
74 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

and had no claim to inheritance from a specialized education by slaves or

them, even though she lived with them in freedmen. The management of aristo-
the same house. Because many women cratic households was entrusted to slaves
inherited part of their fathers’ estates, and freedmen, who served as secretaries,
they could use their independent fortunes accountants, and managers. The wife was
to exert influence on husbands, children, no longer needed as custodian of the
and people outside the house. In the household, though domestic guardian-
same period, divorce became far more ship remained an element in the
common. Moral infractions were no lon- idealization of her role. Later moralists
ger needed to justify divorce, which could attributed a decline in Roman virtue and
be initiated by either side. Frequent discipline to the intrusion of slaves into
divorce and remarriage went hand in familial relationships and duties.
hand with the separation of marital prop-
erty. There is plausibility in the suggestion Rome and Italy
that these changes were brought on by a
desire of the women’s fathers to avoid During the middle republic the peoples
having their daughters’ portions of the of Italy began to coalesce into a fairly
larger family estates slip irrevocably into homogeneous and cohesive society.
the hands of their husbands. Although Polybius, however, does not give insight
the changes in law and practice were not into this process, because, living in Rome,
motivated by any movement to emanci- he too little appreciated the variety of
pate women, the result was that propertied Italian cultures under Roman sway,
women of the late republic, always from the Gallic peoples in the mountains
excluded from the public sphere of male of the north to the urbane Greeks on the
citizens, came to enjoy a degree of free- southern coasts. Other evidence, though
dom and social power unusual before the meagre, nonetheless suggests several
20th century. processes that contributed to the increas-
Slaves came to permeate the fabric of ing cohesion.
family life and altered relationships First, the Romans built a network of
within the household. They were regu- roads that facilitated communication
larly assigned the tasks of child-rearing, across Italy. The first great road was the
traditionally the domain of the mother, Via Appia, which was laid out by Appius
and of education, until then the responsi- Claudius Caecus in 312 to connect Rome
bility of both the father and the mother. to Capua. Between the First and Second
Whereas children had acquired the skills Punic Wars roads were built to the north:
needed for their future roles by observing the Via Aurelia (241?) along the Tyrrhenian
their parents in a kind of apprenticeship, coast, the Via Flaminia (220) through
in wealthy houses sons and, to a lesser Umbria, and the Via Clodia through Etruria.
extent, daughters were now given Then, in the second century, Roman
The Middle Republic (264–133 BC) | 75

presence in the Po valley was

consolidated by the Via
Aemilia (187) from Ariminum
on the Adriatic coast to the
Latin colony of Placentia and
by the Via Postumia (148) run-
ning through Transpadane
Gaul to Aquileia in the east
and Genua in the west.
Second, internal migration—
Italians moving to Rome and
Romans being sent to Latin
colonies throughout Italy—
promoted social and cultural
homogeneity. Some of these
colonies were set alongside
existing settlements; others
were founded on new sites. The
colonies re-created the physi-
cal and social shape of Rome;
the town plans and architec-
ture, with forums including
temples to Jupiter, were mod-
eled on those of Rome. The
imposition of a Latin colony on
the Greek city of Paestum in
Lucania (273) entailed the
implantation of a Roman-style
forum in the centre of the exist- Via Appia, or Appian Way was the first and most famous
ing city in a way that rudely of the ancient Roman roads, running from Rome to
intruded on the old sanctuary Campania and southern Italy.
of Hera. The initial system gov-
erning the distribution of land to Latin the cavalrymen 140 iugera (86 acres). The
colonists aimed to replicate the Roman unifying effect of the colonies is evident
social hierarchy differentiated by wealth. in Paestum’s notable loyalty to Rome
It is recorded of the colonists sent to during the Second Punic War.
Aquileia in 181 that the 3,000 infantry- Third, although Rome did not seek to
men each received 50 iugera (31 acres), govern Italy through a regular adminis-
the centurions 100 iugera (62 acres), and tration, it influenced local affairs through
76 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

formal bonds of personal friendship legion to Etruria to fight a pitched battle

(amicitia) and hospitality (hospitium) in which many slaves were killed; and the
between the Roman elite and their local praetor of 185 dealt with rebellious slaves
counterparts. Through these ties the in Apulia, condemning 7,000 to death.
leading men of Italy were gradually The later slave revolt in Sicily (c. 135–132)
drawn into the ruling class in Rome. The was not contained so effectively and
most prominent example of the second grew to include perhaps 70,000. The
century is that of Gaius Marius of slaves defeated the first consular army
Arpinum, who, only two generations after sent in 134; the efforts of two more con-
his town had received full citizen rights, suls were required to restore order. The
began his meteoric senatorial career revolts, unusual for their frequency and
under the patronage of the great Roman size, are not to be explained by abolition-
nobles, the Metelli. ist programs (nonexistent in antiquity)
Fourth, the regular military cam- nor by maltreatment. The causes lay in
paigns brought together Romans and the enslavement and importation of
Italians of all classes under the command entire communities with their native
of Roman magistrates. The Italian troops leadership and in the free reign given to
appear to have been levied in a fashion slave shepherds who roamed armed
similar to the one used for the Romans, around the countryside serving as com-
which would have required a Roman- munication lines between slave
style census as a means of organizing the plantations. These uprisings made it
local citizenries. In the absence of direct clear that the social fabric of Italy, put
administration, military service was the under stress by the transformations
context in which Italians most regularly brought about by conquest, had to be
experienced Roman authority. protected by Roman force.
Fifth, Rome occasionally deployed its While the exercise of Roman author-
troops in Italy to maintain social order. ity and force was sometimes resented by
Rome suppressed an uprising of serfs in Italians, Rome’s power made its mores
Etruscan Volsinii in 265 and a sedition and culture worthy of imitation. The
in Patavium in 175. When the massive Latin language and Roman political
influx of slaves raised the spectre of rebel- institutions slowly spread. A request from
lions across Italy, Roman troops were the old Campanian city of Cumae in 180
deployed to put down uprisings: in 195, that it be allowed to change its official
5,000 slaves were executed in Latin Setia; language from Oscan to Latin was a sign
in 196 the praetor was sent with his urban of things to come.
The Late Republic
(133–31 BC)
T he fall of Carthage and Corinth did not mark even a
temporary end to warfare. War and military glory still
were an essential part of the Roman aristocratic ethos and,
hence, of Roman political life during the later years of the
Roman Republic.


Apart from major wars still to come, small wars on the frontiers
of Roman power—never precisely fixed—continued to provide
an essential motive in Roman history: in Spain, Sardinia,
Illyria, and Macedonia, barbarians could be defeated and
triumphs won. Thus the limits of Roman power were gradu-
ally extended and the territories within them pacified, while
men of noble stock rivaled the virtus of their ancestors and
new men staked their own competing claims, winning glory
essential to political advancement and sharing the booty with
their officers and soldiers. Cicero could still depict it as a major
disgrace for Lucius Piso (consul; 58 BC) that he had won no
triumph in the traditionally “triumphal” province of Macedonia.
Nonetheless, the coincidence of the capture of Corinth and
Carthage was even in antiquity regarded as a turning point in
Roman history: it was the end (for the time being) of warfare
against civilized powers, in which the danger was felt to be
greater and the glory and the booty were superior to those
won against barbarian tribes.
78 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Changes in Provincial commanders, it was decided to break with

Administration precedent by not increasing the number
of senior magistrates (praetors). Instead,
The first immediate effect was on the prorogation—the device of leaving a mag-
administration of the empire. The mili- istrate in office pro magistratu (“in place of
tary basis of provincial administration a magistrate”) after his term had expired,
remained: the governor (as he is called) which had hitherto been freely used when
was in Roman eyes a commander with emergencies had led to shortages of reg-
absolute and unappealable powers over ular commanders—was established as part
all except Roman citizens, within the of the administrative system: thenceforth,
limits of the territory (his provincia) every year at least two praetors would
assigned to him (normally) by the Senate. have to be retained as promagistrates.
He was always prepared—and in some This was the beginning of the dissociation
provinces expected—to fight and win. But between urban magistracy and foreign
it had been found that those unlimited command that was to become a cardinal
powers were often abused and that principle of the system of Sulla and of the
Senate control could not easily be developed Roman Empire.
asserted at increasing distances from
Rome. For political and perhaps for moral Social and Economic Ills
reasons, excessive abuse without hope of
a remedy could not be permitted. It is not clear to what extent the tempo-
Hence, when the decision to annex rary end of the age of major wars helped
Carthage and Macedonia had been made to produce the crisis of the Roman
in principle (149 BC), a permanent court Republic. The general view of thinking
(the quaestio repetundarum) was estab- Romans was that the relaxation of exter-
lished at Rome to hear complaints against nal pressures led to internal disintegration.
former commanders and, where necessary, (This has happened in other states, and
to assure repayment of illegal exactions. the view is not to be lightly dismissed.)
No penalty for offenders was provided, Moreover, the end of large-scale booty
and there was no derogation from the led to economic recession in Rome, thus
commander’s powers during his tenure. intensifying poverty and discontent. But
Nevertheless, the step was a landmark in the underlying crisis had been building
the recognition of imperial responsibility, up over a long period.
and it was also to have important effects
on Roman politics. The reform movement of
Another result of the new conquests the Gracchi (133–121 BC)
was a major administrative departure.
When Africa and Macedonia became From the state’s point of view, the chief
provinciae to be regularly assigned to effect was a decline in military manpower.
The Late Republic (133–31 BC) | 79

The minimum property qualification for and the need for a major increase in mili-
service was lowered and the minimum tary citizen manpower.
age (17) ignored. Resistance became fre- Tiberius’s proposal was bound to
quent, especially to the distant and meet with opposition in the Senate, which
unending guerrilla war in Spain. consisted of large landowners. On the
advice of his eminent backers, he took his
The Program and Career of bill, which made various concessions to
Tiberius Sempronius those asked to obey the law and hand back
Gracchus excess public land, straight to the Assembly
of the Plebs, where it found wide support.
Tiberius Gracchus, grandson of Scipio This procedure was not revolutionary;
Africanus and son of the Gracchus who bills directly concerning the people appear
had conquered the Celtiberians and to have been frequently passed in this way.
treated them well, was quaestor in But his opponents persuaded another aris-
Mancinus’s army when it faced annihila- tocratic tribune, Marcus Octavius, to veto
tion. On the strength of his family name, the bill. Tiberius tried the constitutional
he personally negotiated the peace that riposte—an appeal to the Senate for arbi-
saved it. When the Senate—on the motion tration. The Senate was unwilling to help,
of his cousin Scipio Aemilianus, who and Octavius was unwilling to negotiate
later finished the war—renounced the over his veto—an action apparently
peace, Tiberius felt aggrieved. He joined unprecedented, though not (strictly speak-
a group of senior senators hostile to ing) unconstitutional. Tiberius had to
Aemilianus and with ideas on reform. improvise a way out of the impasse. He met
Elected tribune for 133, in Scipio’s Octavius’s action with a similarly unprec-
absence, Tiberius attempted to find a edented retort and had Octavius deposed
solution for the social and military crisis, by the Assembly. He then passed his bill
with the political credit to go to himself in a less conciliatory form and had himself,
and his backers. Tiberius had no inten- his father-in-law, and his brother appointed
tion of touching private property. His commissioners with powers to determine
idea was to enforce the legal but widely boundaries of public land, confiscate
ignored limit of 500 iugera (309 acres) on excess acreage, and divide it in inalienable
occupation of public land and to use the allotments among landless citizens.
land thus retrieved for settling landless As it happened, envoys from
citizens, who would both regain a secure Pergamum had arrived to inform the
living and be liable for service. The slave Senate that Attalus III had died and made
war in Sicily, which had lasted several the Roman people his heirs (provided the
years and had threatened to spread to cities of his kingdom were left free).
Italy, had underlined both the danger of Tiberius, at whose house the envoys were
using large numbers of slaves on the land lodging, anticipated Senate debate and
80 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

had the inheritance accepted by the peo- unprecedented act, bound to reinforce
ple and the money used to finance his fears of tyranny. The elections took place
agrarian schemes. in an atmosphere of violence, with nearly
Tiberius’s opponents now charged him all his tribunician colleagues now
with aiming at tyranny, a charge that many opposed to him. When the consul Publius
may well have believed. Redistribution of Scaevola, on strict legal grounds, refused
land was connected with demagogic tyr- to act against him, Publius Scipio Nasica,
anny in Hellenistic states, and Tiberius’s the chief pontiff, led a number of senators
subsequent actions had been high-handed and their clients to the Assembly, and
and beyond the flexible borderline of what Tiberius was killed in a resulting scuffle.
was regarded as mos majorum (constitu- Widespread and bloody repression fol-
tional custom). Fearing prosecution once lowed in 132. Thus political murder and
his term in office was over, he now began political martyrdom were introduced into
to canvass for a second tribunate—another Roman politics.

The reign of brothers Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus was marked by dissension and charges
of tyranny. Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Art Resource, NY
The Late Republic (133–31 BC) | 81

The land commission, however, was served on Tiberius’s land commission

allowed to continue because it could not and had supported Flaccus’s plan. Making
easily be stopped. Some evidence of its the most of his martyred brother’s name,
activities survives. By 129, perhaps run- Gaius embarked on a scheme of general
ning out of available land held by citizens, reform in which, for the first time in Rome,
it began to apply the Gracchan law to Greek theoretical influences may be
public land held by Italian individuals or traced. Among many reforms—including
communities. This had probably not provision for a stable and cheap wheat
been envisaged by Tiberius, just as he price and for the foundation of colonies
did not include noncitizens among the (one on the site of Carthage), to which
beneficiaries of distributions. The Senate, Italians were admitted—two major ideas
on the motion of Scipio Aemilianus, stand out. The first was to increase public
upheld the Italians’ protests, transferring revenues (both from the empire and from
decisions concerning Italian-held land taxes) and pass the benefit on to the people.
from the commission to a consul. This The second was to raise the wealthiest
seriously hampered the commission’s nonsenators (particularly the equites,
activities. Marcus Fulvius Flaccus, chair- holders of the “public horse”and next to
man of the commission and consul in 125, senators in social standing) to a position
tried to solve the problem by offering the from which, without actually taking part
Italians the citizenship (or alternatively in the process of government, they could
the right to appeal against Roman execu- watch over senatorial administration and
tive acts to the Roman people) in return make it more responsible. The idea was
for bringing their holdings of public land evoked by Tiberius’s death.
under the Gracchan law. This aroused As early as 129 a law compelled sena-
fears of uncontrollable political repercus- tors to surrender the “public horse”
sions. Flaccus was ordered by the Senate (which hitherto they had also held) and
to fight a war in southern France (where possibly in other ways enhanced the group
he gained a triumph) and had to abandon consciousness and privileges of the equites.
his proposal. There is no sign of wide- Regarding the increase of public revenue,
spread Italian interest in it at this time, Gaius put the publicani (public contrac-
though the revolt of the Latin colony tors, hitherto chiefly concerned with army
Fregellae (destroyed 125) may be con- and building contracts and with farming
nected with its failure. minor taxes) in charge of the main tax
of Asia—a rich province formed out of
The Program and Career of Attalus’s inheritance, which would hence-
Gaius Sempronius Gracchus forth provide Rome with the major part
of its income. This was expected both
In 123 Gaius Gracchus, a younger brother to reduce senatorial corruption and to
of Tiberius, became tribune. He had improve efficiency. Gaius also put
82 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

eminent nonsenators (probably defined interests to share the privileges of citizen-

by wealth, but perhaps limited to the ship: the bill was defeated, and Gaius
equites, or equestrian class) in charge of failed in his attempt to be re-elected once
the quaestio repetundarum, whose sena- more. In 121, preparing (as private citi-
torial members had shown too much zens) to use force to oppose the
leniency to their colleagues, and he cancellation of some of their laws, Gaius
imposed severe penalties on senators and Flaccus were killed in a riot, and
convicted by that court. many of their followers were executed.
Finally, in a second tribunate, he During the next decade the measures
hoped to give citizenship to Latins and benefiting the people were largely abol-
Latin rights to other Italians, with the ished, though the Gracchan land
help of Flaccus who, though a distin- distributions, converted into private
guished former consul, took the unique property, did temporarily strengthen the
step of becoming tribune. But a consul Roman citizen peasantry. The provisions
and a tribune of 122 together persuaded giving power to wealthy nonsenators
the citizen voters that it was against their could not be touched, for political

war Against Jugurtha

On the whole, Roman historians were no more interested in internal factional politics than in
social or economic developments, so the struggles of the aristocratic families must be pieced
together from chance information. It would be mere paradox to deny the importance in republi-
can Rome, as in better known aristocratic republics, of family feuds, alliances, and policies, and
parts of the picture are known—e.g., the central importance of the family of the Metelli, prominent
in politics for a generation after the Gracchi and dominant for part of that time. In foreign affairs
the client kingdom of Numidia—loyal ever since its institution by Scipio Africanus—assumed
quite unwarranted importance when a succession crisis developed there soon after 120.
As a bastard, Jugurtha, relying on superior ability and aristocratic Roman connections,
sought to oust his two legitimate brothers from their shares of the divided kingdom. Rome’s
usual diplomatic methods failed to stop Jugurtha from disposing of his brothers, but the
massacre of Italian settlers at Cirta by his soldiers forced the Senate to declare war (112).
The war was waged reluctantly and ineffectively, with the result that charges of bribery
were freely bandied about by demagogic tribunes taking advantage of suspicion of aristocratic
political behaviour that had smoldered ever since the Gracchan crisis. Significantly, some
eminent men, hated from those days, were now convicted of corruption. The Metelli, however,
emerged unscathed, and Quintus Metellus, consul in 109, was entrusted with the war in Africa.
He waged it with obvious competence but failed to finish it, and thus gave Gaius Marius, a
senior officer, his chance.
The Late Republic (133–31 BC) | 83

reasons, and they survived as the chief had finally established a Roman sphere of
effect of Gaius’s tribunates. The court influence there. A road had been built
seems to have worked better than before, linking Italy with Spain, and some garri-
and, during the next generation, several son posts probably secured it. Finally, a
other standing criminal courts were insti- colony was settled at Narbonne, an
tuted, as were occasional ad hoc tribunals, important road junction (c. 118). But,
always with the same class of jurors. In unwilling to extend administrative
106 a law adding senators to the juries responsibilities, the Senate had refused
was passed, but it remained in force for to establish a regular provincia. Then
only a short time. some migrating German tribes, chief of
them the Cimbri, after defeating a Roman
The Career of Gaius Marius consul, invaded southern France, attract-
ing native sympathy and finding little
Marius, born of an equestrian family at effective Roman opposition. Two more
Arpinum, had attracted the attention of consular armies suffered defeat, and in
Scipio Aemilianus as a young soldier October 105 a consul and proconsul with
and, by shrewd political opportunism, their forces were destroyed at Orange.
had risen to the praetorship and married There was panic in Rome, allayed only by
into the patrician family of the Julii the firm action of the other consul,
Caesares. Though Marius had deeply Publius Rutilius Rufus.
offended the Metelli, once his patrons, his At this moment news of Marius’s
considerable military talents had induced success in Africa arrived, and he was at
Quintus Metellus to take him to Africa as once dispensed from legal restrictions
a legatus. Marius intrigued against his and again elected consul for 104. After a
commander in order to gain a consulship; brilliant triumph that restored Roman
he was elected (chiefly with the help of morale, he took over the army prepared
the equites and antiaristocratic tribunes) and trained by Rutilius. He was reelected
for 107 and was given charge of the war consul year after year, while the German
by special vote of the people. He did little tribes delayed attacking Italy. Finally, in
better than Metellus had, but in 105 his 102–101, he annihilated them at Aquae
quaestor Lucius Sulla, in delicate and Sextiae (Aix-les-Bains) and, with his col-
dangerous negotiations, brought about league, Quintus Catulus, on the Campi
the capture of Jugurtha, opportunely Raudii (near the Po delta). Another tri-
winning the war for Marius and Rome. umph and a sixth consulship (in 101)
During the preceding decade a seri- were his reward.
ous threat to Italy had developed in the In his first consulship, Marius had
north. Starting in 125, several Roman taken a step of great (and probably unrec-
commanders had fought against Ligurian ognized) importance: aware of the
and Gallic tribes in southern France and difficulties long endemic in the traditional
84 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Gaius Marius, carried in victory on the shoulders of his troops. Marius capitalized on an
impressive war record to win political office, eventually gaining consul status. The Bridgeman
Art Library/Getty Images

system of recruitment, he had ignored course led to the increasing prominence

property qualifications in enrolling his of the cohort (one-tenth of a legion) as a
army and, as a result, had recruited ample tactical unit and the total reliance on non-
volunteers among men who had nothing Roman auxiliaries for light-armed and
to lose. This radical solution was thence- cavalry service. The precise development
forth generally imitated, and conscription of these reforms cannot be traced, but
became confined to emergencies (such they culminated in the much more effec-
as the Social and Civil wars). He also tive armies of Pompey and Caesar.
enhanced the importance of the legion- Marius’s African army had been
ary eagle (the standard), thus beginning unwilling to engage in another war, and
the process that led to each legion’s hav- Marius preferred to use newly levied sol-
ing a continuing corporate identity. At diers (no longer difficult to find). But
the same time, Rutilius introduced arms neither he nor the Senate seemed aware of
drill and reformed the selection of senior any responsibilities to the veterans. In 103
officers. Various tactical reforms in due a tribune, Lucius Saturninus, offered to
The Late Republic (133–31 BC) | 85

pass a law providing land in Africa for them his achievement; he never thought of rev-
in return for Marius’s support for some olution or tyranny. Hence, when called on
anti-oligarchic activities of his own. to save the state from his revolutionary
Marius agreed, and the large lots distrib- allies, he could not refuse. He imprisoned
uted to his veterans (both Roman and them and their armed adherents and did
Italian) turned out to be the beginning of not prevent their being lynched.
the Romanization of Africa. In 100, with the Despite having saved the oligarchy
German wars ended, Saturninus again from revolution, he received little reward.
proved a welcome ally, arranging for the He lost the favour of the plebs while the
settlement of Marius’s veterans in Gaul. oligarchs, in view of both his birth and
An incidental effect was the departure of his earlier unscrupulous ambition,
Marius’s old commander and subsequent refused to accept him as their equal.
enemy, Quintus Metellus, who refused to Metellus was recalled. This was a bitter
recognize the validity of Saturninus’s law blow to Marius’s prestige, and he pre-
and, choosing martyrdom, went into ferred to leave Rome and visit Asia.
exile. But this time Saturninus exacted a Before long a face-saving compromise
high price. With his ally, the praetor Gaius was found, and Marius returned; but in
Glaucia, he introduced laws to gain the the 90s he played no major part. Though
favour of plebs and equites and pro- he held his own when his friends and
ceeded to provide for the settlement of clients were attacked in the courts, his
veterans of wars in Macedonia and Sicily old aristocratic protégés now found more
in the same way as for those of Marius’s promising allies. Sulla is typical: closely
war. He planned to seek reelection for 99, associated with Marius in his early career,
with Glaucia illegally gaining the consul- he was by 91 ready to take the lead in
ship. Violence and even murder were attacking Marius and (significantly)
freely used to accomplish these aims. found eager support. The oligarchy could
Marius now had to make a choice. not forgive Marius.
Saturninus and Glaucia might secure
him the continuing favour of the plebs Events in Asia
and perhaps the equites, though they
might also steal it for themselves. But as In foreign affairs, the 90s were dominated
the saviour of his country and six times by Asia, Rome’s chief source of income.
consul, he now hoped to become an elder Mithradates VI, king of Pontus, had built
statesman (princeps), accepted and hon- a large empire around the Black Sea and
oured by those who had once looked was probing and intriguing in the Roman
down on him as an upstart. To this end he sphere of influence. Marius had met him
had long laboured, dealing out favours to and had given him a firm warning, which
aristocrats who might make useful allies. was temporarily effective. Mithradates
This was the reward Marius desired for had proper respect for Roman power.
86 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Scheming to annex Cappadocia, he had Developments in Italy

been thwarted by the Senate’s instructing
Sulla, as proconsul, to install a pro-Roman The 90s also saw dangerous develop-
king there in 96–95. (It was on this occa- ments in Italy. In the second century BC,
sion that Sulla received a Parthian Italians as a whole had shown little desire
embassy—the first contact between the for Roman citizenship and had been
two powers.) But dissatisfaction in the remarkably submissive under exploita-
Roman province of Asia gave new hope tion and ill treatment. The most active
to Mithradates. Ineffectively organized of their governing class flourished in
after annexation and corrupt in its cities’ overseas business, and the more tradi-
internal administration, it was soon over- tionally minded were content to have
run with Italian businessmen and Roman their oligarchic rule supported by Rome.
tax collectors. When the Senate realized Their admission to citizenship had been
the danger, it sent its most distinguished proposed as a by-product of the Gracchan
jurist, Quintus Mucius Scaevola (consul reforms.
in 95 and pontifex maximus), on an By 122 it had become clear that the
unprecedented mission to reorganize Roman people agreed with the oligarchy
Asia (94). in rejecting it. The sacrifices demanded
Scaevola took Publius Rutilius Rufus— of Italy in the Numidian and German
jurist, stoic philosopher, and former wars probably increased dissatisfaction
consul—with him as his senior officer, among Italians with their patently inferior
and after Scaevola’s return, Rutilius status. Marius gave citizenship to some as
remained behind, firmly applying the a reward for military distinction—illegally,
new principles they had established. This but his standing (auctoritas) sufficed to
caused an outcry from businessmen, defend his actions. Saturninus admitted
whose profits Scaevola had kept within Italians to veteran settlements and
bounds; he was prosecuted for “extortion” tried to gain citizenship for some by
in 92 and convicted after a trial in which full admission to Roman colonies. The
Roman publicani and businessmen censors of 97–96, aristocrats connected
unscrupulously used their power among with Marius, shared his ideas and freely
the class that provided criminal juries. placed eminent Italians on the citizen
The verdict revealed the breakdown of registers. This might have allayed dissat-
Gaius Gracchus’s system: The class he isfaction, but the consuls of 95 passed a
had raised to watch over the Senate now law purging the rolls and providing pen-
held irresponsible power, making orderly alties for those guilty of fraudulent
administration impossible and endanger- arrogation. The result was insecurity and
ing the empire. Various leading senators danger for many leading Italians. By 92
were at once vexatiously prosecuted, and there was talk of violence and conspiracy
political chaos threatened. among desperate men.
The Late Republic (133–31 BC) | 87

It was in these circumstances that the suspending its sittings because of the
eminent young noble, Marcus Livius military danger.
Drusus, became tribune for 91 and hoped The first year of the Social War (90)
to solve the menacing accumulation of was dangerous. The tribes of central and
problems by means of a major scheme southern Italy, traditionally among the
of reforms. He attracted the support of best soldiers in Rome’s wars, organized in
the poor by agrarian and colonial legisla- a confederacy for the struggle that had
tion and tried to have all Italians admitted been forced upon them. Fortunately all
to citizenship and to solve the jury prob- but one of the Latin cities—related to
lem by a compromise: the courts would Rome by blood and tradition and spe-
be transferred to the Senate, and 300 cially favoured by Roman law—remained
equites would be admitted to it. (To cope loyal. Their governing class had for some
with the increase in business it would time had the privilege of automatically
need this expansion in size.) acquiring Roman citizenship by holding
Some leading senators, frightened at local office. Moreover, Rome now showed
the dangerous situation that had devel- its old ability to act quickly and wisely in
oped, gave weighty support. Had Drusus emergencies: the consul Lucius Caesar
succeeded, the poor and the Italians passed a law giving citizenship to all
might have been satisfied; the equites, Italians who wanted it. The measure came
deprived of their most ambitious element in time to head off major revolts in Umbria
by promotion, might have acquiesced; and Etruria, which accepted at once.
and the Senate, always governed by the
prestige of the noble principes rather Civil war and the rule of
than by votes and divisions, could have Lucius Sulla
returned, little changed by the infusion of
new blood, to its leading position in the In 89 BC the war in central Italy was won,
process of government. But Drusus and Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo celebrated
failed. Some members of each class a triumph. Attention now turned to the
affected were more conscious of the loss East, where Mithradates had taken
than of the gain, and an active consul, advantage of Rome’s troubles to expel
Lucius Philippus, provided leadership for the kings of Cappadocia and Bithynia. A
their disparate opposition. After much Roman embassy restored them, and he
violence, Drusus’s laws were declared withdrew. However, when the envoys
invalid. Finally, he himself was assassi- incited Bithynian incursions into his
nated. The Italians now rose in revolt territory, Mithradates launched a major
(the Social War), and in Rome a special offensive; he overran the two kingdoms
tribunal, manned by the Gracchan jury and invaded Roman territory, where he
class, convicted many of Drusus’s sup- attracted the sympathy of the natives by
porters until the Senate succeeded in executing thousands of Italians and
88 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

defeating and capturing the Roman com- overthrow of Sulla’s measures. Resisted
manders in the area. by his colleague Octavius, he left Rome
In Rome, various men, including to collect an army and, with the help of
Marius, had hoped for the Eastern com- Marius, occupied the city after a siege.
mand. But it went to Lucius Sulla, elected Several leading men were killed or con-
consul for 88 after distinguished service demned to death, Sulla and his supporters
in the Social War. Publius Sulpicius, a tri- were outlawed, and (after Marius’s death
bune in that year and an old friend of early in 86) another commander was sent
Drusus, tried to continue the latter’s pol- to Asia. The policy now changed to one
icy of justice to the Italians by abolishing of reconciliation: the Social War was
the gerrymandering that in practice wound up, and the government gained
deprived the new citizens of an effective wide acceptance until Cinna was killed
vote. Finding the oligarchy firmly by mutinous soldiers (84).
opposed, he gained the support of Marius Sulla meanwhile easily defeated
(who still commanded much loyalty) for Mithradates’ forces in two battles in
his plans by having the Eastern com- Boeotia, took Athens, which under a revo-
mand transferred to him. After much lutionary regime had declared for
street-fighting, the consuls escaped from Mithradates, and cleared the king’s army
Rome, and Sulpicius’s bills were passed. out of Greece. While negotiating with
Sulla’s response was totally unfore- Cinna’s government, Sulla also entered
seen. He appealed to the army he had led upon negotiations with Mithradates and,
in the Social War, which was still engaged when he heard of Cinna’s death, quickly
in mopping-up operations in Campania, made peace and an alliance with
and persuaded them to march on Rome. Mithradates, driving the government’s
He occupied the city and executed commander in Asia to suicide. After win-
Sulpicius; Marius and others escaped. tering his troops in the rich cities of Asia,
Significantly, Sulla’s officers left him. It Sulla crossed into Greece and then into
was the first time a private army of citi- Italy, where his veteran army broke all
zens had occupied Rome—an effect of resistance and occupied Rome (82). Sulla
Marius’s army reform, which had ended was elected dictator and, while Italy and
by creating a “client army” loyal chiefly all the provinces except Spain were
to its commander, and of the Social War, quickly reduced, began a reign of terror
which had made the use of force within (the “proscriptions”), in which hundreds
Italy seem commonplace. The end of the of his enemies or those of his adherents
republic was foreshadowed. were killed without trial, while their prop-
Having cowed Rome into acquies- erty went to enrich him and his friends.
cence and having passed some legislation, Wherever in Italy he had met resistance,
Sulla left for the East. Cinna, one of the land was expropriated and given to his
consuls of 87, at once called for the soldiers for settlement.
The Late Republic (133–31 BC) | 89

While the terror prevailed, Sulla used extended recent developments where
his powers to put through a comprehen- they seemed useful: the Italians retained
sive program of reform (81). Although he full citizenship; the system of standing
had twice taken Rome with a private pro- criminal courts was expanded; the prac-
letarian army, he had earlier had tice of praetors normally spending their
connections with the inner circles of the year of office in Rome and then going to
oligarchy, and after Cinna’s death some provinces for a second year was extended
eminent men who had refused to collabo- to consuls and became an integral part of
rate with Cinna joined Sulla. By the time his system. To prevent long command of
Sulla’s success seemed certain, even most armies (which might lead to careers like
of those who had collaborated were on his own), Sulla increased the number of
his side, and he was acclaimed as the praetors so that, in principle and in nor-
defender of the nobility who had defeated mal circumstances, each province might
an illegal revolutionary regime. His have a new governor every year. As for
reforms aimed chiefly at stabilizing the overriding problem of poverty, his
Senate authority by removing alternative contribution to solving it was to settle
centres of power. tens of thousands of his veterans on land
The tribunate was emasculated, the confiscated from enemies in Italy; having
censors’ powers were reduced, provincial become landowners, the veterans would
governors were subjected to stricter be ready to defend the social order, in
Senate control, and the equites, who had which they now had a stake, against the
been purged of Sulla’s opponents by the dispossessed.
proscriptions, were deprived of some At the beginning of 80 Sulla laid
symbols of dignity and made leaderless down his dictatorship and became merely
by the inclusion of 300 of Sulla’s chief consul, with the senior Metellus (Quintus
supporters in the Senate. The jury reform Metellus Pius), a relative of his wife, as
of Gaius Gracchus, seen by some leading his colleague. The state of emergency
senators as the prime cause of political was officially ended. At the end of the
disintegration, could now be undone, and year, after seeing to the election of two
the criminal courts could once more reliable consuls, Sulla retired to Campania
become a monopoly of senators. as a private citizen; he hoped that the
Sulla’s measures were by no means restored oligarchy would learn to govern
merely reactionary. His program was the state he had handed over to them. In
basically that of Marcus Drusus. His over- 78 Marcus Lepidus, an ambitious patri-
riding aim was the restoration of stable cian whom Sulla disliked and distrusted,
government, and this could only come was elected consul. Sulla did not inter-
from the Senate, directed by the principes vene. Within a few months, Sulla was
(former consuls and those they chose to dead. Lepidus at once attacked his sys-
consult). Sulla accepted and even tem, using the grievances of the
90 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

hatred because of cold-blooded

duplicity during the troubles of
88 and 87. After Strabo’s death,
young Pompey, who had served
under him and inherited his
dubiously won wealth, was pro-
tected by Cinna’s government
against his father’s enemies.
Following in his father’s foot-
steps, he deserted the
government after Cinna’s
death, raised a force among his
father’s veterans in central
Italy, and helped to conquer
Italy and, in a lightning cam-
paign, Sicily and the province
of Africa for Sulla. Although
not old enough to hold any
regular magistracy (he was
born in 106), he had, from
these military bases, black-
mailed Sulla into granting him
After initiating sweeping reforms—some wrought by force a triumph (81) and had married
and bloodshed—Sulla voluntarily gave up his dictator- into the core of the Sullan oli-
ship and receded from public life. Hulton Archive/ garchy. Out of pique against
Getty Images Sulla, he had supported
Lepidus’s election for 78, but
expropriated as a rallying cry and his he had too great a stake in the Sullan sys-
province of Gaul as a base. But he was tem to permit Lepidus to overthrow it.
easily defeated by his former colleague Meanwhile a more serious challenge to
Quintus Catulus, assisted by young the system had arisen in Iberia. Quintus
Gnaeus Pompeius (Pompey). Sertorius, a former praetor of tough Sabine
gentry stock, had refused to follow most of
The early career his social betters in joining Sulla; instead
of Pompey he had left for Spain, where he claimed to
represent the legitimate government.
Pompey was the son of Gnaeus Pompeius Although acting throughout as a Roman
Strabo, who had triumphed after the proconsul, with a “counter-Senate” of
Social War but had incurred general eminent Roman citizens, Sertorius won
The Late Republic (133–31 BC) | 91

the enthusiastic support of the

native population by his fair-
ness, honesty, and charisma, and
he soon held most of the Iberian
Peninsula, defending it success-
fully even against a large force
under Quintus Metellus Pius.
When the consuls of 77 would
have nothing to do with this war,
Pompey was entrusted by the
Senate, through the efforts of his
eminent friends and sponsors,
with the task of assisting
Metellus. The war dragged on
for years, with little glory for the
Roman commanders. Although
Sertorius had many sympathiz-
ers in Italy, superior numbers
and resources finally wore him
down, and he was assassinated
by a Roman officer. Pompey
easily defeated the remnants of
Sertorius’s forces in 72.
The death of Nicomedes
IV of Bithynia (74) led to
another major war. Like Attalus Early in his career, during his joint consulate with
of Pergamum, Nicomedes left Crassus, the great statesman and general Pompey
his kingdom to Rome, and managed to substantially repeal Sulla’s political reforms.
this provoked Mithradates, Pompey was first an associate, then an opponent, of
who was in contact with Julius Caesar. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Sertorius and knew of Rome’s
difficulties, to challenge Rome again. The command against the pirates in the east-
Eastern command again led to intrigues ern Mediterranean (whom his father
in Rome. The command finally went to had already fought in 102–100), partly,
Lucius Lucullus, a relative of Sulla and perhaps, as further reinsurance against
consul in 74, who hoped to build up a Pompey. With Italian manpower heavily
countervailing power in the East. committed, a minor slave rising led by
At the same time, Marcus Antonius, Spartacus (73) assumed threatening
father of the later Triumvir, was given a dimensions, until Marcus Crassus (an old
92 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Sullan and profiteer in the proscriptions) succeeded in persuading Cicero—an

volunteered to accept a special command ambitious young “new man” from
and defeated the slaves. At this point (71) Arpinum hoping to imitate the success
Pompey returned from Spain with his of his fellow citizen Marius by means of
army, crucified the remnants of the slave his rhetorical ability—to undertake the
army, and claimed credit for the victory. prosecution. Despite obstruction from
Verres’ friends, Cicero collected massive
Pompey and Crassus evidence against him, presented his case
to fit into the political context of the year,
Pompey and Crassus now confronted and obtained Verres’ conviction as an act
each other, each demanding the consul- of expiation for the shortcomings of the
ship for 70, though Pompey had held no Sullan order.
regular magistracy and was not a senator. The year 70 thus marked the loss of
Agreeing to join forces, both secured it. control by the Sullan establishment. The
During their consulship, the political, nobility (families descended from consuls)
though not the administrative, part of continued to gain most of the consul-
the Sullan settlement was repealed. The ships, with the old patriciate (revived by
tribunes’ powers were fully restored, Sulla after a long decline) stronger than
criminal juries were divided between for generations. The Senate still super-
senators and wealthy nonsenators, and, vised administration and made ordinary
for the first time since Sulla, two censors— political decisions, and the system con-
both supporters of Pompey—were tinued to rely essentially on mos majorum
elected. The censors purged the Senate (constitutional custom) and auctoritas
and, in compiling the registers, at last fully (prestige)—potent forces in the status
implemented the Italians’ citizenship. society of the Roman Republic. The solid
The year 70 also saw the prosecution bases of law and power that Sulla had
of Verres (son of a “new man” and Sullan tried to give it had been surrendered,
profiteer), who had surpassed the liberal however. The demagogue—tribune or
Roman conventions in exploiting his consul—could use the legal machinery
province of Sicily. For future impunity he of the popular assembly (hence such men
relied on his aristocratic connections are called populares), while the com-
(especially the Metelli and their friends), mander could rely on his army in the
his fortune, and the known corruptibility pursuit of private ambition. The situation
of the Sullan senatorial juries. But Verres that Sulla had tried to remedy now
was unlucky. First, he had ill-treated some recurred, made worse by his intervention.
of Pompey’s important Sicilian clients, His massacres and proscriptions had
thus incurring Pompey’s displeasure. weeded out the defenders of lawful gov-
Next, his case coincided with the anti- ernment, and his rewards had gone to the
Sullan reaction of 70. Finally, the Sicilians timeservers and the unscrupulous. The
The Late Republic (133–31 BC) | 93

large infusion of equites into the Senate Opposition to all this in the Senate, where
had intensified the effect. While eliminat- it appeared, was based on personal or
ing the serious friction between the two political antagonism. If the robber barons
classes, which had made the state ungov- were attacked on moral grounds, it was
ernable by 91, it had filled the Senate with because of the use they made of their
men whose tradition was the opposite power in Rome.
of that sense of mission and public ser- Politically, the 60s lay under the
vice that had animated the best of the shadow of Pompey. Refusing to take an
aristocracy. Few men in the new ruling ordinary province in 69, he waited for his
class saw beyond self-interest and chance. It came in 67 when his adherent
self-indulgence. Gabinius, as tribune, secured him, against
One result was that massive bribery the opposition of all important men, an
and civil disorder in the service of ambi- extraordinary command with unprece-
tion became endemic. Laws were dented powers to deal with the pirates.
repeatedly passed to stop them, but they Pompey succeeded within a few months
remained ineffective because few found where Antonius and others had failed.
it in their interest to enforce them. The equites and the people were
Exploitation of the provinces did not delighted because trade, including
decrease after Verres. Governors (still Rome’s food imports, would now be
with unlimited powers) feathered their secure. Meanwhile Lucullus had driven
own nests and were expected to provide Mithradates out of Anatolia and into
for all their friends. Extortion cases Armenia; but he had offended Roman
became a political ritual, with convictions businessmen by strict control and his
impossible to obtain. Cicero, thenceforth own soldiers and officers by strict disci-
usually counsel for the defense, presented pline. Faced with mutinies, he suffered a
hair-raising behaviour as commonplace reverse and became vulnerable to attacks
and claimed it as acceptable. The Senate’s in Rome. In 66 another tribunician law
traditional opposition to annexation appointed Pompey, fresh from his naval
faded out. Pompey made Syria into a victories, to take over supreme command
province and added a large part of Pontus in the East, which he did at once, studi-
to Bithynia (inherited in 74 and occupied ously insulting his predecessor. He
in 70). The demagogue Clodius annexed quickly defeated Mithradates and pro-
Cyprus—driving its king to suicide—to cured his death, then spent some time in
pay for his massive grain distributions in a total reorganization of the East, where
Rome. Caesar, finally, conquered Gaul by Asia (the chief source of revenue) was
open aggression and genocide and bled protected by three further provinces and
it white for the benefit of his friends and a ring of client states beyond the frontier.
his ambitions. Crassus would have done The whole of the East now stood in his
the same with Parthia, had he succeeded. clientela (clientship), and most of it owed
94 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

him money as well. He returned by far the for it. Pompey was miffed at having to
wealthiest man in Rome. share his fame with a municipal upstart,
and eminent gentlemen could not forgive
Political suspicion that upstart for having driven patricians
and violence to their death.
Pompey’s return was peaceful. Like
Meanwhile Roman politics had been full Marius, he wanted recognition, not tyr-
of suspicion and violence, much of it anny. He dismissed his army, to the
stirred up by Crassus who, remembering surprise of Crassus and others, and
71, feared Pompey’s return and tried to basked in the glory of his triumph and the
make his own power impregnable. There honours voted to him. But having given
was much material for revolution, with up power, he found himself caught in a
poverty (especially in the country, among net of constitutional obstruction woven
families dispossessed by Sulla) and debt by his politically experienced enemies
(among both the poor and the dissolute and was unable to have either of his
rich) providing suitable issues for unscru- principal demands met: land for his vet-
pulous populares. One such man, the erans and the ratification of his
patrician Catiline, after twice failing to arrangements in the East. It was at this
gain the consulship by traditional bribery point that Caesar returned from Spain.
and intrigue, put himself at the head of a Gaius Julius Caesar, descended (as
movement planning a coup d’état in he insisted) from kings and gods, had
Rome to coincide with an armed rising shown talent and ambition in his youth:
in Italy (late 63). Cicero, as consul, he opposed Sulla but without inviting
defeated these efforts and, relying on the punishment, married into the oligarchy
doubtful legality of a Senate vote in sup- but advocated popular causes, vocally
port, had Catiline’s eminent Roman defended Pompey’s interests while aid-
associates executed. Catiline himself fell ing Crassus in his intrigues and
in a desperate battle. borrowing a fortune from him, flirted
For Cicero—the “new man” who had with Catiline but refused to dabble in rev-
made his way to the top by his own ora- olution, then worked to save those whom
torical and political skill, obliging Cicero executed. In 63 he won a startling
everyone by unstinting service, repre- success: defeating two distinguished
senting Pompey’s interests in Rome while principes, he, who had not yet been praetor,
avoiding offense to Pompey’s enemies— was elected pontifex maximus—a post of
this was the climax of his life. Like his supreme dignity, power, and patronage.
compatriot Marius, he had saved the state Despite some cynicism among Roman
for its rulers: he had taken resolute action aristocrats toward the state religion, its
when those rulers were weak and vacillat- ceremonial was kept up and was a recog-
ing; and, like Marius, he got small thanks nized means of political manipulation;
The Late Republic (133–31 BC) | 95

surplus sufficient to pay off his

debts. On returning to Rome,
he naturally hoped for the con-
sulship of 59; but his enemies,
by legal chicanery, forced him
to choose between standing
for office and celebrating a tri-
umph. He gave up the triumph
and easily became consul.

The final collapse

of the Roman
Republic (59–44 BC)

For his consulship Caesar fash-

ioned an improbable alliance.
His skill in having won the trust
of both Crassus and Pompey
enabled him to unite these two
enemies in his support. Cras­
sus had the connections,
Pompey had the soldiers’ vote,
and Caesar was consul and
pontifex maximus.
The combination that
Caesar had fashioned (often
misleadingly called the “first
Triumvirate”) was invincible,
especially since the consul
Julius Caesar is credited with laying the foundations for Caesar had no scruples about
the Roman imperial system and changing the course of countering legal obstruction
Greco-Roman history. Hulton Archive/Getty Images with open force. Pompey got
what he wanted, as did Crassus,
thus priesthoods could give more lasting whose immediate need was a concession
power than magistracies, in addition to to the Asian tax farmers, in whose com-
the cachet of social success. Young panies he probably had much of his
Caesar was now head of the hierarchy. capital. In return, Caesar got a special
After his praetorship (62), Caesar suc- command in Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum
cessfully governed Spain, clearing a for five years by vote of the people; the
96 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Senate itself, on Pompey’s motion, with a large army. Thus the three dynasts
extended it to Transalpine Gaul. Marriage would practically monopolize military
alliances sealed the compact, chief of power for the foreseeable future.
them Pompey’s marriage to Caesar’s Cicero, among others, had to submit
daughter Julia. and was thenceforth their loyal spokes-
Caesar left for Gaul, but Rome was man. After his achievement of 63 he had
never the same. The shadow of the alli- dreamed of leading a coalition of all
ance hung over it, making the old-style “right-thinking” men in Italy in defend-
politics impossible. In 58 Publius Clodius, ing the traditional oligarchy, but he had
another aristocratic demagogue, was tri- found little support among the oligarchy.
bune and defended Caesar’s interests. He now used this fact to rationalize his
Cicero had incurred Clodius’s enmity surrender. His brother took service in
and was now sacrificed to him: he was Gaul under Caesar.
driven into exile as having unlawfully The dynasts’ pact did not even bring
executed citizens in 63. By 57 Caesar’s peace. Clodius, as tribune, had created a
allies had drifted back into rivalry. private army, and there was no state force
Pompey secured Cicero’s return, and to counter it. Pompey could have done it
Cicero at once tried to break up the alli- by calling his soldiers in, but the Senate
ance by attracting Pompey to the Senate’s did not trust him enough to request this,
side. Just when he seemed about to suc- and Pompey did not wish to parade him-
ceed, the three dynasts secretly met and self as an unashamed tyrant. Other men
revived their compact (56). Rome had to formed private armies in opposition to
bow once more. Clodius, and one Milo at last managed to
In 55 Pompey and Crassus were con- have him killed after a scuffle (52). By
suls, and the contents of their secret then, however, Roman politics had radi-
agreement were slowly revealed. Caesar, cally and unexpectedly changed.
whom his enemies had made efforts to
recall, was prolonged in his command for Political Maneuvers
five years and (it later appeared) had
been promised another consulship Julia died in 54, breaking the ties between
straight after, to secure him against pros- Caesar and Pompey. Caesar pressed
ecution and give him a chance of another Pompey to renew them, but Pompey held
army command. Pompey was given a off, preserving his freedom of action.
special command over all of Spain, which Crassus’s Parthian campaign ended in
he exercised through deputies while he disaster and in Crassus’s death (53). By 52
himself remained just outside Rome to Pompey and Caesar stood face to face,
keep an eye on the city. Crassus, who now still nominally friends but with no per-
needed glory and new wealth to equal sonal link between them and no common
those of his allies, was to attack Parthia interests. Caesar, by conquering the
The Late Republic (133–31 BC) | 97

whole of Gaul, had almost equaled with Pompey’s silent support, worked for
Pompey’s prestige and, by his utterly Caesar’s recall, which would have meant
ruthless way of waging war, Pompey’s his instantly sharing the fate of Milo,
wealth. Unlike Pompey, he used his while Caesar and his agents in Rome
wealth to dispense patronage and buy tried to strike some bargain that would
useful friends. ensure his safety and his future in poli-
At this point Pompey cautiously tics. Finally, Pompey declared himself,
offered the oligarchy his support. It had and, early in 49, the Senate voted to out-
much to give him that he wanted—control law Caesar. Two tribunes supporting
of the administrative machine, respecta- him (one of them Mark Antony) had to
bility, and the seal of public approval. Its flee. By the time they reached him,
leaders (even the intransigent young Caesar had already crossed the Rubicon:
Cato, who had led opposition to the three he now had a cause.
individually long before their alliance
and to their joint oppression of the state Civil War
ever since) now recognized that accep-
tance of Pompey’s terms and surrender to Pompey had exuded confidence over the
his protection was their only chance of outcome if it came to war. In fact, how-
survival. Pompey at once turned firmly ever, Caesar’s veterans were unbeatable,
against Milo, who presented a political and both men knew it. To the disgust of
threat. If Milo could use the force that had his followers, Pompey evacuated Rome,
killed Clodius to keep firm control of then Italy. His plan was to bottle Caesar
Rome, he—an ambitious man of known up in Italy and starve him out. But Caesar,
conservative views—might in due course in a lightning sweep, seized Massilia and
offer an alternative and more trustworthy Spain from Pompey’s commanders, then
champion to the oligarchy. crossed into Greece, where a short cam-
But he was not yet ready. Pompey paign ended in Pompey’s decisive defeat
forced them to make their choice at once, at Pharsalus (48). Pompey fled to Egypt,
and they chose Pompey in preference. He where he was assassinated by a man hop-
was made sole consul and had Milo con- ing thus to curry Caesar’s favour. This
victed by an intimidated court. Meanwhile was by no means the end of the war.
he had made a marriage alliance with the Almost at once Caesar was nearly trapped
noblest man in Rome, Quintus Metellus at Alexandria, where he had intervened in
Scipio, who became his colleague in the a succession dispute; but he escaped and
consulship. The state had captured installed Cleopatra on the throne, for per-
Pompey (or vice versa), and Caesar stood sonal as well as political reasons. In Africa
alone in opposition to both of them. the Pompeian forces and their native
During the next two years there were a allies were not defeated until Caesar him-
series of maneuvers. The Senate leaders, self moved against them and annihilated
98 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

them at Thapsus. Cato, disdaining the planned for his own retirement. For a time,
victor’s pardon, committed suicide at honourable men, such as Cicero, hoped
Utica (46). In Spain, where Pompey’s that the “Dictator for Settling the
name was still powerful, his sons orga- Constitution” (as Caesar called himself)
nized a major rising, which Caesar himself would produce a real constitution—some
again had to defeat at Munda (45) in the return to free institutions. By late 45 that
bloodiest battle of the war. By the time he hope was dead. Caesar was everywhere,
returned, he had only a few months to live. doing everything to an almost superhuman
degree. He had no solution for the crisis
The Dictatorship and of the republic except to embody it in
Assassination of Caesar himself and none at all for the hatred of his
peers, which he knew this was causing. He
In Rome the administrative machine had began to accept more and more of the hon-
inevitably been disrupted, and Caesar ours that a subservient Senate invidiously
had always remained in control, as consul offered, until finally he reached a position
or as dictator. Those who had feared pro- perilously close to kingship (an accursed
scriptions, or hoped for them, were term in Rome) and even deification.
proved wrong. Some of Caesar’s enemies Whether he passed those hazy
had their property confiscated, but it was boundary lines is much debated and not
sold at fair value; most were pardoned very important. He had put himself in a
and suffered no loss. One of these was position in which no Roman ought to have
Cicero, who, after much soul-searching, been and which no Roman aristocrat
had followed his conscience by joining could tolerate. As a loyal friend of his was
Pompey before Pharsalus. later to say: “With all his genius, he saw no
Poverty and indebtedness were alle- way out.” To escape the problem or post-
viated, but there was no wholesale pone it, he prepared for a Parthian war to
cancellation of debts or redistribution of avenge Crassus—a project most likely
property, and many of Caesar’s adherents to have ended in similar disaster. Before
were disappointed. Nor was there a gen- he could start on it, about 60 men—former
eral reform of the republic. (Caesar’s only friends and old enemies, honourable patri-
major reform was of the calendar; indeed, ots and men with grievances—struck him
the Julian calendar proved adequate for down in the Senate on March 15, 44 BC.
centuries.) The number of senators and  
magistrates was increased, the citizenship The Triumvirate and
was more freely given, and the province of Octavian’s Achievement of
Asia was relieved of some of its tax burden. Sole Power
But Caesar had no plan for reforming the
system—not even to the extent that Sulla Brutus and Cassius, the organizers of
had tried to do, for Sulla had at least the conspiracy, expected all Romans to
The Late Republic (133–31 BC) | 99

Caesar was launching a series of political and social reforms when he was assassinated by
a group of nobles in the Senate House on March 15—the infamous Ides of March. Hulton
Archive/Getty Images

rejoice with them in the rebirth of “free- by adoption and now his heir. Although
dom.” But to the Roman people the not yet 20, Octavian proved an accom-
freedom of the governing class had never plished politician. He attracted loyalty as
meant very much. The armies (especially a Caesarian while cooperating against
in the west) were attached to Caesar and Antony with the Senate, which, under
the Senate was full of Caesarians at all Cicero’s vigorous leadership, now turned
levels, cowed but biding their time. Mark against the consul. Cicero hoped to frag-
Antony, the surviving consul whom Brutus ment and thus defeat the Caesarian party,
had been too scrupulous to assassinate with the help of Brutus and Cassius, who
with his master, gradually gained control were making good progress in seizing
of the city and the official machinery, and control of the eastern provinces and
the “liberators” withdrew to the East. armies. In 43 the two consuls (both old
But a challenger for the position of Caesarian officers) and Octavian defeated
leader of the Caesarians soon appeared Antony at Mutina, and success seemed
in the person of Octavian, Caesar’s son imminent. But the consuls died, and
100 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Octavian demanded and, by armed force, extended), even though Lepidus had
obtained the consulship. been eliminated in 36.
The armies of Italy, Spain, and Gaul Each of the two leaders embarked on
soon showed that they would not fight campaigns and reorganization in his
against one another. Octavian, Antony, half—Octavian in Illyricum, Antony par-
and Lepidus (the senior Caesarian with ticularly on the Parthian frontier. But
an army) now had themselves appointed Antony now married Cleopatra and tried
“Triumvirs for Settling the Constitution” to make Egypt his military and political
for five years and secured control of Italy base. In a war of propaganda, Octavian
by massive proscriptions and confiscations gradually convinced the western prov-
(Cicero, Antony’s chief enemy, was inces, Italy, and most of the Roman upper
among the first to die). They then class that Antony was sacrificing Roman
defeated and killed Brutus and Cassius at interests, trying to become a Hellenistic
Philippi (42) and divided the Roman king in Alexandria, and planning to rule
world among themselves, with Lepidus, the Roman world from there with
a weak man accidentally thrust into Cleopatra. In 32, though he now held no
prominence, getting the smallest share. legal position, Octavian intimidated
Octavian, who was to control Italy, met most of Antony’s remaining aristocratic
armed opposition from Antony’s brother friends into joining him, made the whole
and wife, but they got no help from Antony West swear allegiance to himself, and in
and were defeated at Perusia (41). 31, as consul, crossed into Greece to
Octavian and Antony sealed their attack Antony. On September 2 he
alliance with a marriage compact. defeated Antony and Cleopatra in a naval
Antony married Octavia, Octavian’s sis- battle at Actium. Although in itself not a
ter. Octavian then confronted Pompey’s major victory, it was followed by the dis-
son Sextus Pompeius, who had seized integration of Antony’s forces, and
control of the islands off Italy. After Antony and Cleopatra finally committed
much diplomatic maneuvering (includ- suicide in Alexandria (30).
ing another meeting with Antony),
Octavian attacked and defeated Sextus; Intellectual life of
when Lepidus tried to reassert himself, the late republic
Octavian crushed him and stripped him
of his office of Triumvir (while with con- The late Roman Republic, despite its
spicuous piety leaving him the chief turmoil, was a period of remarkable intel-
pontificate, now an office without power). lectual ferment. Many of the leading
Octavian now controlled the West and political figures were men of serious
Antony the East, still officially as intellectual interests and literary achieve-
Triumvirs (their term of office had been ment; foremost among them were Cicero,
The Late Republic (133–31 BC) | 101

Caesar, Cato, Pompey, and Varro, all of Roman traditions favoured the devel-
them senators. The political upheaval opment of certain disciplines, creating a
itself leavened intellectual life; imperial pattern that was distinct from the Greek.
senators were to look back to the late Disciplines related to the public life of
republic as a time when great political senators prospered—notably oratory, law,
struggles stimulated great oratory, some- and history; certain fields of study were
thing the more ordered world of the judged fit for diversions in leisure hours,
emperors could no longer do. and still others were considered beneath
The seeds of intellectual develop- the dignity of an honourable Roman.
ment had been sown in the late third and Areas such as medicine and architecture
early second centuries; the flowering were left to Greeks and others of lower
came in the last generation of the repub- status, and mathematics and the sciences
lic. As late as the 90s BC the Romans still aroused little interest. Greek slaves espe-
appear relatively unsophisticated. Greek cially played an important role in the
intellectuals were absorbed in debates intellectual life of the late republic, serv-
among themselves, giving only passing ing in roles as diverse as teachers,
nods to Romans by dedicating untechni- copyists of manuscripts, and oral readers
cal works to them. In 92 the censors issued to aristocrats.
an edict closing down the schools of By the beginning of the imperial era
Latin rhetoric in Rome. Serious students the maturing of Roman intellectual culture
such as Cicero had to go east in the 80s to was evident. Caesar had commissioned
receive their higher education from lead- Varro to organize the first public library
ing Greek philosophers and rhetoricians. in Rome, and Greek scholars such as the
The centre of intellectual life began geographer Strabo moved west to pursue
to shift toward the West after the 90s. As their studies in Rome.
a result of the Mithradatic wars, libraries
were brought from the East to Italy. The Grammar and Rhetoric
Hellenistic kingdoms, which had pro-
vided the patronage for much intellectual The education of the Roman elite was
activity, were dismantled by Pompey dominated by training in language skills,
and Octavian, and Greek intellectuals grammar, and rhetoric. The grammatici ,
increasingly joined the retinues of great who taught grammar and literature, were
Roman senators such as Pompey. Pri­ lower-class and often servile depen-
vate Roman houses, especially senatorial dents. Nevertheless, they helped to
villas on the Bay of Naples, became the develop a Roman consciousness about
focus of intellectual life; it was there that “proper” spelling and usage that the elite
libraries were reassembled and Greek adopted as a means of setting them-
teachers kept as dependents. selves off from humbler men. This
102 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

interest in language was expressed in to write treatises aimed at organizing

Varro’s work on words and grammar, De existing law into a system, defining prin-
Lingua Latina (43?), with its prescriptive ciples and concepts, and then applying
tone. Rhetoric, though a discipline of those principles systematically. Quintus
higher status, was still taught mainly by Mucius Scaevola was a pivotal figure: a
Greeks in Greek. The rhetoricians offered pontifex in the traditional role, he pub-
rules for composition: how to elaborate a lished the first systematic legal treatise,
speech with ornamentation and, more De iure civili, in the 80s. Cicero credited
important, how to organize a work his contemporary Servius Sulpicius
through the dialectical skills of defini- Rufus with being the jurist who trans-
tion and division of the subject matter formed law into a discipline (ars).
into analytical categories. The Romans The decisive events of the late repub-
absorbed these instructions so thor- lic stimulated the writing of history. The
oughly that the last generation of the first extant historical works in Latin
republic produced an equal of the great- (rather than in Greek) date from this
est Greek orators in Cicero. The influence period: Sallust’s Bellum Iugurtinum
on Roman culture of dialectical thinking, (Iugurthine War) and Bellum Catilinae
instilled through rhetoric, can hardly be (Catilinarian Conspiracy) and Caesar’s
overstated; the result was an increas- memoirs about his Gallic and civil wars.
ingly disciplined, well-organized habit of The rapid changes also prompted anti-
thinking. This development can be seen quarian studies as Roman senators
most clearly in the series of agricultural looked back to archaic institutions and
works by Roman authors: whereas Cato’s religious rituals of the distant past to
second-century De agricultura is ram- legitimize or criticize the present. Varro’s
bling and disorganized, Varro’s three 41 books (now lost) on Antiquitates terum
books on Res rusticae (37), with their humanarum et divinarum (“Antiquities of
division of soils into 99 types, seem things human and divine”) were influen-
excessively organized. tial in establishing the traditions of early
Rome for future generations.
Law and History
Philosophy and Poetry
Roman law, although traditional in con-
tent, was also deeply influenced by Greek Philosophy and poetry were suitable as
dialectic. For centuries the law had been pastimes for senators; few, however, were
passed down orally by pontifical priests. as serious about philosophy as the
It emerged as an intellectual discipline younger Cato and Cicero. Even Cicero’s
only in the late republic, when men who philosophical works were not technical
saw themselves as legal specialists began treatises by Greek standards. Rather, they
The Late Republic (133–31 BC) | 103

were written by humbler men

and are now lost. A survey of
their names and titles, however,
shows that stoicism was not yet
the dominant philosophical
school it later became. More in
evidence were the Epicureans,
peripatetics, and academics.
There also were revivals of
Aristotelian and Pythagorean
studies in this period.
The best-known poets of
the late republican and civil
war periods came from well-
to-do Italian families. Catullus
from Verona (c. 84–c. 54) had
a reputation as doctus
(learned) for his exquisitely
crafted poems full of literary
allusions in the Alexandrian
style. Far from cumbersome,
however, were many of his
short, witty poems that chal-
lenged traditional Roman
mores and deflated senatorial
Rome’s greatest poets,
Virgil (70–19) and Horace (65–
One of Rome’s greatest poets, Virgil wrote poems that 8), were born during the
expressed his sorrow regarding the political and social republic, came of age during
upheaval all around him. Hulton Archive/Getty Images the civil wars, and survived to
celebrate the victory of their
were presented as dialogues among lead- patron, Augustus. Virgil’s Eclogues one
ing senators in their leisure. Similarly, and nine, written during the civil wars,
Lucretius’s De rerum natura (“On the poignantly evoke the suffering of the
Nature of Things”; 50s) offered, in verse, a great upheaval that ironically inspired
nontechnical explanation of Epicurean­ Rome’s highest intellectual and artistic
ism. The technical philosophical works achievements.
The Early
Roman Empire
(31 BC–AD 193)
A ctium left Octavian the master of the Roman world. This
supremacy, successfully maintained until his death
more than 40 years later, made him the first of the Roman
emperors. Suicide removed Antony and Cleopatra and their
potential menace in 30 BC, and the annexation of Egypt
with its Ptolemaic treasure brought financial independence.
With these reassurances Octavian could begin the task of



Law and order had vanished from the Roman state when its
ruling aristocrats refused to curb their individual ambitions,
and the most corrupt and violent people could gain protec-
tion for their crimes by promising their support to those
ambitious. Furthermore, the ambitious and the violent
together could thus transform a republic based on disciplined
liberty into a turbulent cockpit of murderous rivalries.
Good government depended on limits being set to unre-
strained aspirations, and Octavian was in a position to
impose them. But his military might, although sufficiently
strong in 31 BC to guarantee orderly political processes, was
itself incompatible with them; nor did he relish the role of
military despot. The fate of Julius Caesar, an eagerness to
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 105

acquire political respectability, and his 27 BC hardly affected his military

own esteem for ancestral custom com- strength. Moreover, so long as he was
bined to dissuade Octavian from it. He consul (he was reelected every year until
wished to be, in his own words, “the 23 BC), he was civilian head of govern-
author of the best civilian government ment as well. In other words, he was still
possible.” His problem was to regularize preeminent and all-powerful, even if he
his own position so as to make it gener- had, in his own words, placed the res
ally acceptable, without simultaneously
reopening the door to violent lawless-
ness. His pragmatic responses not only
ensured stability and continuity but also
respected republican forms and tradi-
tions so far as possible.

The Establishment of the

Principate Under Augustus

Large-scale demobilization allayed people’s

fears; regular consular elections raised
their hopes. In 29–28 BC Octavian car-
ried out, with Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa,
his powerful deputy, the first census of
the Roman people since 70; and this
involved drawing up an electoral roll for
the Centuriate Assembly. Elections fol-
lowed, and Octavian was inevitably
chosen consul. Then, on Jan. 13, 27 BC, he
offered to lay down his powers. The
Roman Senate rejected this proposal,
charging him instead to administer
(besides Egypt) Spain, Gaul, and Syria for
the next 10 years, while the Senate was to
supervise the rest of the empire. Three
days later, among other honours, it
Gaius Octavius was the first Roman emperor
bestowed upon him the name by which
to rule after the republic. The Senate con-
he has ever since been known, Augustus.
ferred upon him the name Augustus, a title
As most of the troops still under
that is meant to convey Octavius’s superiority
arms were in the regions entrusted to among men. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Augustus’s charge, the arrangements of
106 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

publica at the disposal of the Senate and unlikely to rouse resentment. Indeed,
the Roman people. Augustus particularly Augustus thenceforth shrewdly propa-
wished to conciliate the senatorial class, gated the notion that if his position in the
without whose cooperation civilian gov- state was exceptional (which it clearly
ernment was impossible. But his was), it was precisely because of his tribu-
monopolization of the consulship offended nician power. Although he held it for only
the Senate, making a different arrange- one year at a time, it was indefinitely
ment clearly necessary. Accordingly, in renewable and was pronounced his for life.
23 Augustus made a change; he vacated Thus, it was both annual and perpetual
the consulship and never held it again and was a suitable vehicle for numbering
(except momentarily in 5 BC and again in the years of his supremacy. His era (and
2 BC, for a limited, specific purpose). this is true also of later emperors) was
In its place he received the tribunician counted officially from the year when he
power (tribunicia potestas). He could not acquired the tribunician power.
become an actual plebeian tribune, The year 23 likewise clarified the
because Julius Caesar’s action of making legal basis for Augustus’s control of his
him a patrician had disqualified him for provincia (the region under his jurisdic-
the office. But he could acquire the rights tion) and its armed forces. The Senate
and privileges pertaining to the office; and invested him with an imperium procon-
they were conferred upon him, apparently sulare (governorship and high command),
by the Senate, whose action was then rati- and, while this had a time limit, it was
fied by the popular assembly. He had automatically renewed whenever it
already been enjoying some of a tribune’s lapsed (usually every 10 years). This pro-
privileges since 36; but he now acquired consular imperium, furthermore, was
them all and even some additional ones, pronounced valid inside Italy, even inside
such as the right to convene the Senate Rome and the pomerium (the boundary
whenever he chose and to enjoy priority within which only Roman gods could be
in bringing business before it. Through worshiped and civil magistrates rule),
his tribunician power he could also sum- and it was superior (majus) to the impe-
mon the popular assembly and participate rium of any other proconsul. Thus,
fully in its proceedings. Clearly, although Augustus could intervene legally in any
no longer consul, he still retained the province, even in one entrusted to some-
legal right to authority in civilian affairs. one else.
The arrangement of 23 entailed an The network of favours owed him
additional advantage. The power of the that Augustus had cultivated within the
plebeian tribune was traditionally associ- state, among people of the greatest
ated with the protection of citizens, and authority over their own networks, made
Augustus’s acquisition of it was therefore his position virtually unassailable, but he
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 107

avoided provoking this high class of his dependent on him. Of that capacity, man-
supporters, senatorial and equestrian, by ifest on a grand scale, his tribunician
not drawing attention to the most novel power and proconsular imperium were
and autocratic of the many grants of only the formal expression. He was a
power he had received, the imperium charismatic leader of unrivaled prestige
proconsulare majus. Instead, he paraded (auctoritas), whose merest suggestions
the tribunician power as the expression were binding.
of his supreme position in the state. Like an ordinary Roman, he con-
After 23 no fundamental change in tented himself with three names. His,
Augustus’s position occurred. He felt no however, Imperator Caesar Augustus,
need to hold offices that in republican were absolutely unique, with a magic all
times would have conferred exceptional their own that caused all later emperors
power (e.g., dictatorship, lifetime censor- to appropriate them, at first selectively
ship, or regular consulship), even though but after AD 69 in their entirety. Thereby
these were offered him. Honours, of they became titles, reserved for the
course, came his way. In 19 BC he received emperor (or, in the case of the name
some consular rights and prerogatives, Caesar, for his heir apparent); from them
presumably to ensure that his imperium derive the titles emperor, kaiser, and tsar.
was in no particular inferior to a consul’s. Yet, as used by Augustus and his first
In 12, when Lepidus died, he became pon- four successors, the words Imperator
tifex maximus (he had long since been Caesar Augustus were names, not titles—
elected into all of the priestly colleges). that is, respectively, praenomen, nomen
In 8 BC, the eighth month of the year (in effect), and cognomen. One title that
was named after him, and in 2 BC, he was Augustus did have was princeps (prince).
designated pater patriae (“father of his This, however, was unofficial—a mere
country”), a distinction that he particu- popular label, meaning Rome’s first citi-
larly esteemed because it suggested that zen—and government documents such as
he was to all Romans what a paterfamilias inscriptions or coins do not apply it to
was to his own household. He also Augustus. But because of it the system of
accepted special commissions from time government he devised is called the
to time—e.g., the supervision of the sup- principate.
ply of grain and water, the maintenance
of public buildings (including temples), The Roman Senate and the
the regulation of the Tiber, the superin- Urban Magistracies
tendence of the police and firefighting
services, and the upkeep of Italy’s roads. Augustus regarded the Senate, whose
Such behaviour advertised his will and leading member (princeps senatus) he
capacity to improve the lives of people had become in 28, as a body
108 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

with important functions. It heard fewer To rid the Senate of unworthy mem-
overseas embassies than formerly, but bers, he reduced its numbers by
otherwise its dignity and authority successive reviews to about 600 (from
seemed unimpaired. Its members filled the triumviral 1,000 or more). Sons of sen-
the highest offices, and its decrees, ators and men of good repute and
although not formally called laws, were substance who had served in the army
just as binding. The Senate soon became and the vigintiviri (“board of twenty,”
a high court whose verdicts were unap- minor magistracy) could become mem-
pealable. It supervised the older provinces bers by being elected, at age 25 or over, to
and, nominally, the state finances as well the quaestorship. Their subsequent rank
and, in effect, elected the urban magis- in the Senate depended on what other
trates. Formally, even the emperor’s magistracies they managed to win. These
powers derived from the Senate. were, in ascending order, the aedileship
Nevertheless, it lacked real power. Its (or plebeian tribunate), the praetorship,
provinces contained few troops (and by and the consulship. No one disliked by
AD 40 it had ceased to control even these Augustus could expect to reach any of
few). Hence, it could hardly dispute them, while anyone whom he nominated
Augustus’s wishes. In fact, real power or endorsed was sure of election. Despite
rested with Augustus, who superintended the emperor’s control, there were usually
state finances and above all controlled enough candidates for keen contests.
membership in the Senate; every sena- By AD 5 destinatio seems to have
tor’s career depended on his goodwill. been the practice—that is, a special panel
But he valued the Senate as the reposi- of senators and equites selected the
tory of the true Roman spirit and praetors and consuls, and the comitia
traditions and as the body representing centuriata automatically ratified their
public opinion. He was considerate choice. In about AD 5, likewise, the
toward it, shrewdly anticipated its reac- consul­ship was shortened to six months.
tions, and generally avoided contention This not only gratified senators and
with it. He regularly kept it informed increased the number of high-ranking
about his activities; and an imperial qualified officials but also showed that
council (Consilium Principis), which he the consuls’ duties were becoming largely
consulted on matters of policy, in the ceremonial. This was also true, but to a
manner of a republican magistrate seek- far lesser degree, of the other unpaid
ing the opinion of his advisory committee, magistrates. A senator really made his
consisted of the consuls, certain other mark in between his magistracies, when
magistrates, and 15 senators—not hand- he served in important salaried posts,
picked by him but chosen by lot every military or civilian or both, sometimes far
six months. from Rome.
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 109

The Equestrian Order

One of the great institutions of the Roman Empire developed because senators were either too
proud or too few to fill all the posts open throughout the empire. Some posts were considered
menial and went to the emperor’s freedmen or slaves. Others were entrusted to equites, and
thus it was that the equestrian order developed.
Augustus decided that membership in the order should be open to Roman citizens of means
and reputation but not necessarily of good birth. Ultimately, there were thousands of equites
throughout the empire. Although this was a lower aristocracy, a good career was available to
them. After tours of duty as an army officer (the so-called militiae equestres), an aspiring eques
might serve as the emperor’s agent (procurator) in various capacities and eventually become
one of the powerful prefects (of the fleet, of the vigiles, or fire brigade, of the grain supply, of
Egypt, or of the Praetorian Guard). This kind of an equestrian career became standardized only
under Claudius I, but Augustus began the system and, by his use of equites in responsible posts,
founded the imperial civil service, which later was headed chiefly by them.
The equites also performed another function. The senatorial order had difficulty in main-
taining its numbers from its own ranks and depended on recruitment from below, which meant
from the equestrian order. Because this order was not confined to Rome or even to Italy, the
Senate gradually acquired a non-Italian element. The western provinces were already supply-
ing senators under Augustus.

Members of the equestrian order, called eques, were the Roman equivalent of an English knight.
Most were originally part of the military cavalry, later becoming members of a political and
administrative class. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
110 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Administration of he himself, with help from such aides as

Rome and Italy Agrippa, monumentalized Italian towns.
The numerous Augustan structures in
Ordinary Roman citizens who were neither Italy and Rome (as he boasted, a city of
senators nor equites were of lesser conse- brick before his time and of marble
quence. Although still used, the old afterward) have mostly perished, but
formula senatus populusque Romanus impressive ruins survive (e.g., aqueduct,
(“the Senate and the Roman people”) had forum, and mausoleum in Rome; bridge
changed its meaning; in effect, its popu- at Narni; arch at Fano; gate at Perugia).
lusque Romanus portion now meant Doubtless their construction alleviated
“the emperor.” The “Roman people” had unemployment, especially among the
become the “Italian people,” and it was proletariat at Rome.
embodied in the person of Augustus, But economic considerations did not
himself the native of an Italian town. influence Augustus’s policies much (cus-
To reduce the risk of popular demon- toms tariffs, for instance, were for fiscal,
strations in Rome, the emperor provided not protective, purposes), nor did he build
grain doles, occasional donatives, and harbour works at Ostia, Rome’s port.
various entertainments; but he allowed Italian commerce and industry—notably
the populace no real power. After AD 5 the fine pottery, the so-called terra sigillata,
Roman people’s participation in public and wine—nevertheless flourished in the
life consisted in the formality of holding conditions he created. Public finances,
occasional assemblies to ratify decisions mints, and coinage issues, chaotic before
made elsewhere. Ultimately, this caused him, were placed on a sound basis, partly
the distinction between the Roman citizens by the introduction of a sales tax and of a
of Italy and the provincial inhabitants of new levy (inheritance taxes) on Roman
the overseas empire to disappear; under citizens—who hitherto had been subject
Augustus, however, the primacy of Italy only to harbour dues and manumission
was insistently emphasized. charges—and partly by means of repeated
Indeed, Italy and justice for its inhab- subventions to the public treasury (aer-
itants were Augustus’s first cares. arium Saturni) from Augustus’s own
Arbitrary triumviral legislation was pro- enormous private resources (patrimo-
nounced invalid after 29 BC, and ordinary nium Caesaris). To keep the citizen body
Roman citizens everywhere had access pure, he made manumission of slaves
to Augustus’s own court of appeal (his difficult, and from those irregularly man-
appellate jurisdiction dated from 30 BC umitted he withheld the citizenship. His
and in effect replaced the republican many highways also contributed to Italy’s
appeal to the people). His praetorian and economic betterment.
urban cohorts provided physical security; Augustus’s great achievement in
his officials assured grain supplies; and Italy, however, was to restore morale and
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 111

unify the country. The violence and self- him alone. These imperial provinces
aggrandizement of the first century BC might be “unarmed,” but many of them
had bred apathy and corruption. To were garrisoned, some quite heavily.
reawaken a sense of responsibility, Those containing more than one legion
especially in official and administrative were entrusted to former consuls and
circles, Augustus reaffirmed traditional those with a legion or less to former prae-
Italian virtues (by laws aimed against tors; in both cases their governors were
adultery, by strengthening family ties, called legati Augusti pro praetore (“leg-
and by stimulating the birth rate) and ates of Augustus with authority of a
revived ancestral religion (by repairing praetor”). There were also some imperial
temples, building new shrines, and reacti- provinces governed not by senators but
vating moribund cults and rituals). To by equites (usually styled procurators but
infuse fresh blood and energy into dis­ sometimes prefects); Judaea at the time
illusioned Roman society, he promoted of Christ’s crucifixion was such an eques-
the assimilation of Italy: the elite of its trian province, Pontius Pilate being its
municipal towns entered the Roman governor. An entirely exceptional impe-
Senate, and Italy became firmly one rial province was Egypt, so jealously
with Rome. guarded that no senator could visit it
without express permission; its prefect
Administration of was unique in being an equestrian in
the Provinces command of legions.
The provinces paid tribute, which
Sharply distinguished from Italy were the helped to pay for the armed services, vari-
provinces of the empire. From 27 BC on ous benefactions to supporters, a growing
they were of two types. The Senate super- palace staff, and the public-works pro-
vised the long-established ones, the grams. Periodical censuses, carefully
so-called public provinces. Their gover- listing provincial resources, provided the
nors were chosen by lot, usually served basis for the two direct taxes: tributum
for a year, commanded no troops, and soli, exacted from occupiers of provincial
were called proconsuls (although only soil, and tributum capitis, paid on other
those superintending Asia and Africa forms of property (it was not a poll tax,
were in fact former consuls, the others except in Egypt and in certain backward
being former praetors). The emperor areas). In addition, the provinces paid
supervised all other provinces, and col- indirect taxes, such as harbour dues. In
lectively they made up his provincia. He imperial provinces the direct taxes (trib-
appointed their governors, and these uta) were paid to the emperor’s procurator,
served at his pleasure, none with the title an equestrian official largely indepen-
of proconsul because in his own provin- dent of the governor. In senatorial
cia proconsular imperium was wielded by provinces, quaestors supervised the
112 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

finances; but, increasingly, imperial proc- to be Roman citizens, and the form of
urators also appeared. The indirect taxes government and many other aspects of
(vectigalia) were still collected by publi- life specified in their charters bore a
cani , who were now much more rigorously thoroughly Roman character. Some
controlled and gradually replaced by coloniae, in further approximation to
imperial civil servants. Italian models, enjoyed exemption from
To reward his troops after faithful tribute. In the municipia, only those
service, Caesar had settled them on lands elected as magistrates were awarded
mostly in the provinces, in veteran towns; Roman citizenship (after Hadrian, in
and Augustus, for the same reason and to Africa, admission was sometimes
reduce the dangerous military presence extended to the whole of the local sen-
in the state generally, resorted to the ate); but the whole of the local aristocracy
same procedure on a vast scale. Thus, in in the course of time would be in this
the space of a single generation, more way gradually incorporated fully into the
than 120 new centres were organized state. In municipia, too, charters specified
across the empire in an explosion of Roman forms of government. Urban
urbanizing energy never equaled or even centres that were wholly noncitizen,
approached in later times. In the settle- called civitates, enjoyed autonomy in
ments called coloniae all residents were their own affairs, under the governor’s

Emperor worship

Many individuals and even whole communities, in Italy and elsewhere, spontaneously expressed
their thanks for the priceless gift of peace by worshiping Augustus and his family. Emperor
worship was also encouraged officially, however, as a focus of common loyalty for the polyglot
empire. In the provinces, to emphasize the superiority of Italy, the official cult was dedicated to
Roma et Augustus. To celebrate it, representatives from provincial communities or groups of
communities met in an assembly (Consilium Provinciae), which incidentally might air griev-
ances as well as satisfactions. This system began in the Greek-speaking provinces, long used to
wooing their rulers with divine honours. It penetrated the west only slowly, but from 12 BC an
assembly for the three imperial Gallic provinces existed at Lugdunum.
In Italy, the official cult was to the genius Augusti (the life spirit of his family); it was
coupled in Rome with the Lares Compitales (the spirits of his ancestors). Its principal custodi-
ans ( seviri Augustales ) were normally freedmen. Both the Senate and the emperor had central
control over the institution. The Senate could withhold a vote of posthumous deification, and
the emperor could acknowledge or refuse provincial initiatives in the establishment of emperor
worship, in the construction for it, or in its liturgical details. The energy, however, that infused
emperor worship was to be found almost wholly among the local nobilities.
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 113

eye. They paid taxes and administered was inherited from his “father,” the dei-
the rural territory around them. In the fied Julius. The allegiance was to the
west, many of them were eventually emperor personally, through a military
granted the status of municipia, and they oath taken in his name every January 1;
adopted the originally Italian magistra- and the soldiers owed it after his death to
cies (duoviri and aediles, collectively his son or chosen successor. This prefer-
quattuorviri) and senate (curia or ordo), ence of theirs for legitimacy could not be
normally numbering 100 members. The ignored because they were now a stand-
entire West rapidly came under the ing army, something that the republic
administration of urban centres of these had lacked. Demobilization reduced the
three forms, without which the central 60 legions of Actium to 28, a number
government could never have done its hardly sufficient but all that Augustus’s
job. Moreover, these centres radiated prudence or economy would counte-
economic and cultural influence around nance. These became permanent
them and so had an immense effect, par- formations, each with its own number
ticularly on the way of life of the more and name; the soldiers serving in them
backward areas. In the east, however, were called legionnaries.
urban centres, though equally important Besides the legionnaries there was a
for government purposes, had already somewhat smaller body of auxiliaries, or
been in existence and long settled into supporting troops. The two corps
their own culture and their own forms of together numbered more than a quarter
government. of a million men. To them must be added
The provinces were generally better the garrison of Italy—the praetorian
off under the empire. Appointment over cohorts, or emperor’s bodyguard, about
them as governor was now and hence- 10,000 strong—and the marines of the
forth generally granted with the imperial fleet, which had its main head-
emperor’s approval. Because he thought quarters at Misenum and Ravenna in
of himself as in some ways the patron Italy and subsidiary stations and flotillas
and defender of the provincial popula- on seas and rivers elsewhere (the marines,
tion, lax or extortionate officials could however, were not reckoned good com-
expect some loss of imperial favour, an bat forces). All these troops were
end to their careers, or an even more long-service professionals—the praetorians
severe punishment. serving 16 years; legionaries, 20; auxilia-
ries, 25; and marines, 28—with differing
The Army pay scales, the praetorians’ being the
highest. In addition to their pay, the men
It was Augustus’s soldiers, however, not his received donatives, shares of booty, and
worshipers, who made him all-powerful. retirement bonuses from a special trea-
Their allegiance, like the name Caesar, sury (aerarium militare) established in
114 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

municipal towns and the auxil-

iaries from tribal areas. The
tendency to use provincials
grew, and by the year 100 the
Roman imperial army was
overwhelmingly non-Italian.
Nevertheless, it helped
greatly to Romanize the empire.
The legionnaries were Roman
citizens from the day they
enlisted, if not before, and the
auxiliaries (after Claudius any-
way) from the day they were
discharged; and, though serv-
ing soldiers could not legally
marry, many had mistresses
whose children often became
Roman citizens. The troops,
other than praetorians and
marines, passed their years of
service in the “armed” imperial
provinces—the auxiliaries in
forts near the frontier and the
legionaries at some distance
from it in camps that showed an
increasing tendency, especially
after AD 69, to become perma-
nent (some of them, indeed,
An ivory carving depicting Roman soldiers wearing the developed into great European
legions’ familiar plumed helmets. Time & Life Pictures/ cities). There was no central
Getty Images reserve, because, although
desirable for emergencies, it
AD 6 and maintained out of the sales tax might prove dangerous in peacetime.
and Roman citizens’ death duties. Under The officers were naturally Roman
Augustus the praetorians were normally citizens. In the legions those of the highest
Italians, but many legionaries and virtu- rank (legati and tribuni) were senators
ally all auxiliaries were provincials, or equites; lower officers (centuriones)
mainly from the imperial provinces in might enter directly from Italian or pro-
the west, the legionaries coming from vincial municipalities or might rise
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 115

through the ranks; by the time they roads, paved with thick stone blocks:
retired, if not sooner, many of them were these also served the official post system
equites. In the auxiliaries the unit com- (cursus publicus) and were provided with
manders (praefecti) were equites, often rest stages and overnight lodges at regu-
of provincial birth. On retirement the sol- lar intervals.
diers frequently settled in the provinces Areas where subjugation looked
where they had served, made friends, and arduous and where Romanization seemed
perhaps acquired families. Imperial pol- problematic were left to client kings,
icy favoured this practice. Thus the army, dependent on the emperor’s support and
which had done much to introduce into goodwill and under obligation to render
the provinces Romans of all ranks, with military aid to Rome. Such satellite king-
their own way of life, through veteran set- doms spared Augustus the trouble and
tlements of the 40s, 30s, and 20s BC, expense of maintaining strong defenses
continued in the same role on a more everywhere; nevertheless, their ultimate
modest and casual scale throughout the and intended destiny was incorporation
Augustan reign and for two centuries or as soon as it suited their overlord’s con-
so afterward. venience. Usually, territory was gained
more easily by creating and subsequently
Foreign Policy incorporating a client kingdom than by
launching an expansionist war.
After Actium and on two other occasions, In the south, Augustus found suitable
Augustus solemnly closed the gates of frontiers quickly. In 25 BC an expedition
the shrine of Janus (a gesture of peace) to under Aelius Gallus opened the Red Sea
show that Rome had peace as well as a to Roman use and simultaneously
princeps. These well-publicized gestures revealed the Arabian Desert as an unsur-
were purely temporary; the gates were passed and, indeed, unsurpassable
swiftly reopened. His proconsular impe- boundary. The same year Gaius Petronius,
rium made Augustus the arbiter of peace the prefect of Egypt, tightened Rome’s
and war, and an ostensible search for grip as far as the First Cataract and estab-
defensible frontiers made his a very war- lished a broad military zone beyond it.
like reign. While the republic had left the The vast region north of the Sahara and
limits of Roman territorial claims rather the Atlas Mountains was also secured
vague and indefinite, he planned con- (c. 25) after a series of punitive raids
quests stretching to the boundaries against native tribes and the annexation
defined by nature (deserts, rivers, and of one client kingdom (Numidia) and the
ocean shores), not always, however, with creation of another (Mauretania). Three
immediate annexation in mind. When legions, two in Egypt and one in Africa (a
annexation did occur, it was followed by senatorial province), policed the south-
the construction of solidly built military ern shore of the Mediterranean.
116 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

In the west, consolidation was and Galatia, the latter a large new prov-
extended to the Atlantic. Gaul, Julius ince created in 25 BC out of Amyntas’s
Caesar’s conquest, was organized as four client kingdom).
provinces: senatorial Narbonensis and the By a show of force, Augustus’s step-
imperial three Gauls (Aquitania, Belgica, son Tiberius, in 20 BC, recovered the
and Lugdunensis). In Spain, after Agrippa standards lost at Carrhae and installed
successfully ended in 19 BC the last cam- Tigranes as client king of Armenia.
paign that Augustus had launched in Although Augustan propaganda depicted
person in 26, three provinces were formed: this as a famous victory, strategic consid-
senatorial Baetica and imperial Lusitania erations inevitably obliged the Parthians,
and Tarraconensis. Three legions enforced once they settled their internal, dynastic
Roman authority from Gibraltar to the dissensions, to dispute Roman control of
mouth of the Rhine. Augustus ignored Armenia. Thus it can hardly be said that
the advice of court poets and others to Augustus settled the eastern frontier.
advance still farther and annex Britain. Missions were sent to the East repeatedly
In the east, Parthia had demonstrated (Agrippa, 17–13 BC; Gaius Caesar, AD 1–4;
its power against Crassus and Antony, Germanicus, 18–19), and Armenia remained
and Augustus proceeded warily. He a problem for Augustus’s successors:
retained Antony’s ring of buffer client Tiberius successfully maintained Roman
kingdoms, although he incorporated influence there, but Gaius and Claudius
some, including the most celebrated of failed to do so, leaving Nero with a diffi-
them, Judaea; he made it a province in cult situation.
AD 6, respecting, however, some of the In the north, too, there was difficulty.
customs of its Jewish inhabitants. The Alps and their passes were finally
Augustus stationed four legions in Syria subjugated early in Augustus’s reign.
and obviously envisaged the Euphrates This enabled Tiberius and his brother
River and the northern extension of the Drusus between 16 and 8 BC to conquer
Arabian Desert as the desirable frontier all the way to the great rivers of central
with Mesopotamia. Farther north, how- Europe. New provinces were created in
ever, no such natural line existed. North the Alps and Tyrol (Mari­time and
of the Black Sea the client kingdom of the Pennine Alps, Raetia, Noricum) and also
Cimmerian Bosporus, under its succes- farther east (Pannonia, Moesia). Stability
sive rulers Asander and Polemo, helped along the Danube was precariously main-
to contain southward and westward tained, under Augustus and later, by
thrusts by the Scythians, an Iranian people means of periodical alliances with
related to the Parthians, and this pro- Maroboduus and his successors, who
vided protection in the north for Anatolia ruled Germanic tribes such as the
and its provinces (senatorial Asia and Marcomanni and Quadi in Bohemia to
Bithynia-Pontus and imperial Cilicia the north of the river, and by the
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 117

existence of a Thracian client kingdom to in manufacturing, and such products as

the south of its lowest course. textiles, pottery, tiles, and papyrus were
The push across the Rhine began in turned out in surprising quantities.
12 BC. Although it reached the Elbe, con- Advanced techniques were also known:
solidation beyond the Rhine proved glassblowing, for example, dates from the
elusive. A revolt in Pannonia (AD 6–9) Augustan age. Most products were con-
interrupted it, and, in AD 9, German sumed locally, but the specialties or
tribes under Arminius annihilated monopolies from any region usually
Quinctilius Varus and three legions in exceeded local needs, and the surplus
the Teutoburg Forest. This disaster was sold elsewhere, generating a brisk
reduced the number of legions to 25 (it interchange of goods.
did not reach 28 again until half a century Some traveled great distances, even
later), and it disheartened Augustus. beyond the empire: trade with India, for
Old and weary, he withdrew to the example, reached respectable propor-
Rhine and decided against all further tions once the nature of the monsoon was
expansion, a policy he urged upon his understood, and the Red Sea was opened
successor. For the watch on the Rhine the to Roman shipping. Merchants, especially
military districts of Upper and Lower Levantines, traveled everywhere, and
Germany were created, containing eight fairs were frequent. The Mediterranean
legions between them. Another seven world was linked together as never before,
garrisoned the Danubian provinces. and standardization made considerable
These figures reveal imperial anxiety for headway. In Augustus’s day Italy was eco-
the northern frontier. nomically the most important part of the
empire. It could afford to import on a
Economic Life large scale, thanks partly to provincial
tribute but above all to its own large pro-
Although widespread, Augustus’s wars ductivity. The eastern provinces, for their
chiefly affected the frontier districts. part, recovered rapidly from the depreda-
Elsewhere, peace prevailed. Indeed, never tions of the civil wars and were industrially
before had so large an area been free of quite advanced. The other provinces
war for so long. This state of affairs helped were less developed, but they soon ceased
trade. The suppression of piracy and the being mere suppliers of raw materials;
use of military roads, which the frontier they learned to exploit their natural
warfare itself brought into being, pro- resources by using new techniques and
vided safe arteries of commerce. Stable then began overtaking the more advanced
currency also aided economic growth. economies of Italy and the Greek-
Activity directly connected with the soil speaking regions. The importance of
predominated; but there were also many trade in unifying the empire should not
establishments, usually small, engaged be underestimated.
118 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

 Augustan Art and house of Livia on the Palatine. In Augustan

Literature architecture, decidedly conservative and
Hellenic, the potentialities of curving
In 17 BC Rome held Secular Games, a and vaulted spaces that had been revealed
traditional celebration to announce the in the earlier first century BC were not
entry into a new epoch (saeculum). New realized. Building was, however, very
it was, for, although Augustus preserved active and widespread.
what he could of republican institutions, The culture of the age undoubtedly
he added much that was his own. His attained a high level of excellence, domi-
Rome had become very Italian, and this nated by the personality of the emperor
spirit is reflected in the art and literature and his accomplishments. Imperial art
of his reign. Its greatest writers were had already reached full development, a
native Italians, and, like the ruler whose matter of no small moment, because
program they glorified, they used the Rome’s political predominance made the
traditional as the basis for something spread of its influence inevitable. The
new. Virgil, Horace, and Livy, as noted Mediterranean world was soon assuming
above, imitated the writing of classical a Roman aspect, and this is a measure of
Greece, but chiefly in form, their tone Augustus’s extraordinary achievement.
and outlook being un-Hellenic. It was the Yet it was an achievement with limitations.
glory of Italy and faith in Rome that His professed aim—to promote stability,
inspired Virgil’s Georgics and Aeneid, peace, security, and prosperity—was irre-
Horace’s Odes, and the first 10 books of proachable, but perhaps it was also
Livy’s history. unexciting. Emphasizing conservatism
In Augustan art a similar fusion was by precept and his own example, he
achieved between the prevailing Attic encouraged the simpler virtues of a less
and Hellenistic models and Italian natu- sophisticated age, and his success made
ralism. The sculptured portraits on the this sedate but rather static outlook
Ara Pacis (Altar of the Augustan Peace) fashionable. People accepted the routine
of 9 BC, for all their lifelike quality, are of his continuing rule, at the cost, how-
yet in harmony with the classical poise ever, of some loss of intellectual energy
of the figures, and they strike a fresh and moral fervour. The great literature,
note: the stately converging processions significantly, belongs to the years near
(Rome’s imperial family and magistrates Actium, when people’s imagination still
on one side; senators, equites, and citizens nursed heady visions of Roman victory
on the other) became the prototypes for and Italian destiny. After the Secular
all later processional reliefs. Augustan Games the atmosphere became more
painting likewise displays a successful commonplace and produced the frivoli-
combination of Greek and Roman ele- ties of Ovid and the pedestrian later
ments, to judge from the frescoes in the books of Livy.
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 119

The sculpted portraits of imperial house members, including Emperor Augustus, adorn a
wall of the Ara Pacis (“Altar of the Augustan Peace”). Roger Viollet/Getty Image
120 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Appraisal of Augustus suspected, treasonable (men were, in fact,

executed for conspiracy during his reign).
Augustus’s position as princeps cannot be But there had been no constitutional
defined simply. He was neither a Roman safeguards in the republic, under Sulla,
king (rex) nor a Hellenistic monarch Pompey, the triumvirs, or even Julius
(basileus), nor was he, as the 19th-century Caesar. Augustus’s improved police ser-
German historian Theodor Mommsen vices probably made lower-class Romans
thought, a partner with the Senate in a at least feel safer under him. The senatorial
dyarchy. He posed as the first servant of class, however, contained a minority
an empire over which the Roman Senate resentful of the sheer undeniable pre-
presided, and it would appear that his ponderance of the princeps’ power, and
claim to have accepted no office inconsis- he was the target of several unsuccessful
tent with ancestral custom was literally plots against his life.
true. Proconsular imperium was a republi- The principate was something per-
can institution, and, although tribunician sonal, what the emperor chose to make it,
power was not, it contained nothing and the relations prevailing between
specifically unrepublican. But, while emperor and Senate usually indicated
precedents can be cited for Augustus’s what a reign was like. In Augustus’s case
various powers, their concentration and they reveal a regime that was outwardly
tenure were absolutely unparalleled. Under constitutional, generally moderate, and
the republic, powers like his would have certainly effective. But, as he himself
been distributed among several holders, implied at the end of his life, he was a
each serving for a limited period with a skillful actor in life’s comedy. Later
colleague. Augustus wielded them all, by emperors lacked his sureness of touch.
himself, simultaneously and without any When Augustus died, the Senate
time limit (in practice, at least). This fact unhesitatingly pronounced him divus—
made him an emperor, but it did not nec- the deified one who had restored peace,
essarily make him a military tyrant. organized a standing army to defend the
In discharging both military and frontiers, expanded those frontiers far-
civilian functions, Augustus was no dif- ther than any previous Roman, improved
ferent from republican consuls or administrative practices everywhere,
praetors. Admittedly his military power promoted better standards of both pub-
was overwhelming; but, if he chose not to lic and private behaviour, integrated Rome
brandish it, the tone of his reign could and Italy, embellished Rome, reconciled
remain essentially civilian. Constitutional the provinces, expedited Romanization,
safeguards were indeed lacking; every- and above all maintained law and order
thing was at the emperor’s discretion, while respecting republican traditions.
and even Augustus passed legislation Augustus’s luck was hardly inferior
that made anti-imperial behaviour, real or to his statecraft. Despite indifferent
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 121

health, he headed the Roman state in one Agrippa), were groomed in turn; but they
capacity or another for 56 years. His rule, all predeceased him. Augustus, finally
one of the longest in European history, and reluctantly, chose a member of the
consolidated the principate so firmly that republican nobility, his stepson Tiberius,
what might have been an episode became a scion of the ultra-aristocratic Claudii. In
an epoch. At his death there was practi- AD 4 Augustus adopted Tiberius as his
cally no one left with any personal son and had tribunician power and prob-
memory of the republic, and Augustus’s ably proconsular imperium as well
wish came true: he had fashioned a last- conferred upon him. This arrangement
ing as well as constitutional government. was confirmed in 13, and, when Augustus
The principate endured with only minor died the following year, Tiberius auto-
changes for about 200 years. matically became emperor.
Tiberius (ruled 14–37), during whose
The Succession reign Christ was crucified, was a soldier
and administrator of proved capability
Like any great Roman magnate, Augustus but of a reserved and moody tempera-
owed it to his supporters and dependents ment that engendered misunderstanding
to maintain the structure of power that and unpopularity. Slander blamed him
they constituted together and which for the death in 19 of his nephew and heir
would normally pass from father to son. apparent, the popular Germanicus; and,
In accepting the heritage from Caesar, he when informers (delatores), who func-
had only done the right thing, and he was tioned at Rome like public prosecutors,
respected for it by his peers. None of charged notables with treason, Tiberius
them would have advised him later to dis- was thought to encourage them. By con-
mantle what he had since added to it. centrating the praetorian cohorts in a
When, for instance, he was away from camp adjoining Rome, he increased the
Rome, rather than accepting a diminu- soldiers’ scope for mischief-making with-
tion in his prerogatives of administration, out building any real security, and in 26
a senator as city prefect was deputed to he left Rome permanently for the island
represent him. Consequently, Augustus of Capreae (Capri), entrusting Rome to
began thinking early about who should the care of the city prefect. Tiberius
follow him. The soldiers’ views on legiti- heeded the aged Augustus’s advice and
macy reinforced his own natural desire to did not extend the empire. (The annexa-
found a dynasty, but he had no son and tion of Cappadocia, a client kingdom,
was therefore obliged to select his suc- represented no departure from Augustan
cessor. Death played havoc with his policy.) In general he took his duties seri-
attempts to do so. His nephew Marcellus, ously; however, by administering the
his son-in-law Agrippa, his grandsons empire from Capreae he offended the
Gaius and Lucius (Julia’s children by Senate and was never fully trusted, much
122 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

less really liked. At his death he was not important entrepôt. Claudius also pro-
pronounced divus. His great-nephew, moted Romanization, especially in the
Germanicus’s son Gaius, succeeded him. western provinces, by liberally granting
Gaius (better known by his nickname, Roman citizenship, by founding coloniae,
Caligula, meaning “Little Boot”) ruled and by inducting provincials directly into
from 37 to 41 with the absolutism of a the Senate—he became censor in 47 and
monarch. His short reign was filled with added to the Senate men he wanted,
reckless spending, callous murders, and bestowing appropriate quaestorian or
humiliation of the Senate. Gaius’s foreign praetorian rank upon them to spare the
policy was inept. Projected annexation maturer ones among them the necessity
proved abortive in Britain; it touched off of holding junior magistracies; lest exist-
heavy fighting in Mauretania. In Judaea ing senators take offense, he elevated
and Alexandria, Gaius’s contemptuous some of them to patrician status (a form
disregard of Jewish sentiment provoked of patronage often used by later
near rebellion. When assassination emperors).
ended his tyranny, the Senate contem- Claudius’s provincial policies made
plated restoration of the republic but was the primacy of Italy less pronounced,
obliged by the Praetorian Guard to rec- although that was hardly his aim. In
ognize Claudius, Germanicus’s brother fact, he did much for Italy, improving its
and therefore Gaius’s uncle, as emperor. harbours, roads, and municipal adminis-
Claudius I (ruled 41–54) went far tration and draining its marshy districts.
beyond Augustus and Tiberius in cen- The execution of many senators and
tralizing government administration and, equites, the insolence and venality of his
particularly, state finances in the imperial freedmen, the excessive influence of
household. His freedmen secretaries con- his wives, and even his bodily infirmities
sequently acquired great power; they combined to make him unpopular. Never­
were in effect directors of government theless, when he died (murdered probably
bureaus. Claudius himself displayed by his fourth wife, Julia Agrippina,
much interest in the empire overseas; he Augustus’s great-granddaughter, who
enlarged it significantly, incorporating was impatient for the succession of the
client kingdoms (Mauretania in 42; Lycia, 16-year-old Nero, her son by an earlier
43; Thrace, 46) and, more important, marriage), he was pronounced divus.
annexing Britain. Conquest of Britain Nero (ruled 54–68) left administra-
began in 43, Claudius himself participat- tion to capable advisers for a few years
ing in the campaign; the southeast was but then asserted himself as a vicious
soon overrun, a colonia established at despot. He murdered successively his
Camulodunum (Colchester) and a muni- stepbrother Britannicus, his mother Julia
cipium at Verulamium (St. Albans), while Agrippina, his wife Octavia, and his
Londinium (London) burgeoned into an tutor Seneca. He also executed many
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 123

Christians, accusing them of starting the uprising under Queen Boudicca; thousands
great fire of Rome in 64 (this is the first were slaughtered, and Camulodunum,
recorded Christian persecution). In Vernulamium, and Londinium were
Rome his reliance on particular favou- destroyed. In the east a major military
rites and his general misgovernment led effort under Corbulo, Rome’s foremost
to a conspiracy by Gaius Calpurnius Piso general, was required (62–65) to reestab-
in 65, but it was suppressed, leading to lish Roman prestige. A compromise
yet more executions; the victims included settlement was reached, with the Romans
the poet Lucan. accepting the Parthian nominee in
The empire was not enlarged under Armenia and the Parthians recognizing
this unwarlike emperor, but it was called him as Rome’s client king. In 66, however,
upon to put down serious disorders. In revolt flared in Judaea, fired by Roman
Britain in 60–61 the rapacity and brutality cruelty and stupidity, Jewish fanaticism,
of Roman officials provoked a furious and communal hatreds; the prefect of

Portrait of Emperor Nero committing suicide after the Roman army had overrun the city in
68 AD. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
124 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Egypt, Julius Alexander, prevented and unrest grew. Early in January 69

involvement of the Jews of the Diaspora. the Rhineland armies acclaimed Aulus
An army was sent to Judaea under Titus Vitellius, commander in Lower Germany;
Flavius Vespasianus to restore order; but at Rome the praetorians preferred Marcus
it had not completed its task when two Salvius Otho, whom Galba had alienated
provincial governors in the west rebelled by choosing a descendant of the old
against Nero—Julius Vindex in Gallia republican aristocracy for his successor.
Lugdunensis and Sulpicius Galba in Otho promptly procured Galba’s murder
Hispania Tarraconensis. When the prae- and obtained senatorial recognition; this
torians in Rome also renounced their ended the monopoly of the purple for the
allegiance, Nero lost his nerve and com- republican nobility.
mitted suicide. He brought the Otho, however, lasted only three
Julio-Claudian dynasty to an ignomini- months; defeated at Bedriacum, near
ous end by being the first emperor to Cremona in northern Italy, by Vitellius’s
suffer damnatio memoriae—his reign powerful Rhineland army, he committed
was officially stricken from the record by suicide (April 69). The Senate thereupon
order of the Senate. recognized Vitellius; but the soldiers
along the Danube and in the east sup-
Growth of the empire ported Vespasianus, the commander in
under the Flavians Judaea. In a second battle near Bedriacum,
and Antonines the Rhineland troops were defeated in
their turn, and on Vitellius’s death soon
Nero’s death ushered in the so-called year afterward an accommodating Senate pro-
of the four emperors. The extinction of nounced Vespasian emperor.
the Julio-Claudian imperial house
robbed the soldiers of a focus for their The Flavian Emperors
allegiance, and civil war between the
different armies ensued. The army of On Dec. 22, 69, the Senate conferred all
Upper Germany, after crushing Vindex, the imperial powers upon Vespasian en
urged its commander, Verginius Rufus, to bloc with the famous Lex de Imperio
seize the purple for himself. But he Vespasiani (“Law Regulating Vespasian’s
elected to support Galba—scion of a authority”), and the Assembly ratified
republican patrician family claiming the Senate’s action. This apparently was the
descent from Jupiter and Pasiphae—who first time that such a law was passed; a
was recognized as emperor by the Senate. fragmentary copy of it is preserved on
However, the treasury, emptied by Nero’s the Capitol in Rome.
extravagance, imposed a stringent econ- Vespasian (ruled 69–79) did not
omy, and this bred unpopularity for originate from Rome or its aristocracy.
Galba; his age (73) was also against him, His family came from the Sabine
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 125

municipality Reate, and with his eleva- allowed it little initiative but used it as a
tion the Italian bourgeoisie came into its reservoir from which to obtain capable
own. He and his two sons, both of whom administrators. To that end he assumed
in turn succeeded him, constituted the the censorship and added senators on a
Flavian dynasty (69–96). Vespasian faced larger scale than Claudius had done,
the same difficult task as Augustus—the especially from the municipalities of Italy
restoration of peace and stability. The and the western provinces. Already
disorders of 69 had taken troops away before 69 an aristocracy of service had
from the Rhine and Danube frontiers. arisen, and the provincialization of the
Thereupon, the Danubian lands were Roman Senate had begun; thereafter this
raided by Sarmatians, a combination of development made rapid headway.
tribes who had overwhelmed and Besides the censorship, Vespasian also
replaced the Scythians, their distant kins- often held the consulship, usually with
men, in eastern Europe. The assailants Titus as his colleague. His object presum-
were repelled without undue difficulty; ably was to ensure that his own parvenu
but the Sarmatian Iazyges, now firmly in Flavian house outranked any other. In
control of the region between the Tisza this he succeeded; the troops especially
and Danube rivers, posed a threat for were ready to accept the Flavians as the
the future. new imperial family. On Vespasian’s
Developments in the Rhineland were death in 79, Titus, long groomed for the
more immediately serious. There in 69 a succession, became emperor and imme-
certain Civilis incited the Batavians serv- diately had his father deified.
ing as auxiliaries in the Roman army to Titus (ruled 79–81) had a brief reign,
rebel. Gallic tribes joined the movement, marred by disasters (the volcanic eruption
and the insurgents boldly overran all but that buried Pompeii and Herculaneum
two of the legionary camps along the and another great fire in Rome); but his
Rhine. Vespasian sent his relative Petilius attempts to alleviate the suffering and
Cerealis to deal with the rebels, who, for- his general openhandedness won him such
tunately for Rome, were not united in popularity that he was unhesitatingly
their aims; by 70 Cerealis had restored deified after his early death.
order. That same year Vespasian’s elder Domitian (ruled 81–96), Titus’s younger
son, Titus, brought the bloody war in brother, had never been formally indicated
Judaea to its end by besieging, capturing, for the succession; but the praetorians
and destroying Jerusalem. acclaimed him, and the Senate ratified
To rehabilitate the public finances, their choice. Throughout his reign
Vespasian introduced new imposts, Domitian aimed at administrative effi-
including a poll tax on Jews, and prac- ciency, but his methods were high-handed.
ticed stringent economies. With the For him the Senate existed merely to
Senate he was courteous but firm. He supply imperial servants. He also used
126 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

equites extensively, more than any previ- governors—Petilius Cerealis, Julius

ous emperor. He held the consulship Frontinus, and Julius Agricola, the latter
repeatedly, was censor perpetuus from Tacitus’s father-in-law—enlarged the
85 on, and demanded other extravagant province to include Wales and northern
honours. On the whole, his efficiency pro- England; Agricola even reached the
moted the welfare of the empire. Above Scottish highlands before Domitian
all, he retained the allegiance of the recalled him.
troops. Although scornful of the Senate’s Along the Rhine, weaknesses
dignity, he insisted on his own and merci- revealed by Civilis’ revolt were repaired.
lessly punished any act of disrespect, real Vespasian crossed the river in 74 and
or fancied, toward himself. He became annexed the Agri Decumates, the triangle
even more suspicious and ruthless when of land between the Rhine, Danube, and
Saturninus, commander in Upper Main rivers. To consolidate the position,
Germany, attempted rebellion in 89. He he and Domitian after him penetrated
crushed Saturninus; executions and the Neckar River valley and Taunus
confiscations ensued, and delatores mountains, and fortifications began to
flourished. The tyranny was particularly take shape to the east of the Rhine, a
dangerous to senators, and it ended only military boundary complete with strong-
with Domitian’s assassination in 96. The points, watchtowers, and, later, a
Flavian dynasty, like the Julio-Claudian, continuous rampart of earthworks and
ended with an emperor whose memory palisades. Once Saturninus’s revolt in 89
was officially damned. had been suppressed, Domitian felt the
The disorders in 69 were the cause of situation along the Rhine sufficiently
some military reforms. Under the stable to warrant conversion of the mili-
Flavians, auxiliaries usually served far tary districts of Upper and Lower
from their native hearths under officers of Germany into regular provinces and the
different nationality from themselves. At transfer of some Rhineland troops to
the same time, the tasks assigned to them the Danube. To the north of this latter
came increasingly to resemble those per- river, the Dacians had been organized
formed by the legionaries. The latter into a strong kingdom, ruled by Decebalus
grew less mobile, as camps with stone and centring on modern Romania; in 85
buildings came to be the rule; and it they raided southward across the Danube,
became common for detachments from a and in the next year they defeated the
legion (vexillationes), rather than the Roman punitive expedition. Domitian
entire legion, to be used for field opera- restored the situation in 88, but
tions. This army of a new type proved its Saturninus’s rebellion prevented him
mettle in Britain, where the advance from following up his success. Domitian
halted by Boudicca’s revolt was now and Decebalus thereupon came to terms:
resumed. Between 71 and 84 three able Decebalus was to protect the lower
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 127

Danube against Sarmatian attack, and chosen in places other than Rome, their
Domitian was to pay him an annual sub- attitude imposed caution.
sidy in recompense. The Danubian Nerva, who ruled from 96 to 98,
frontier, however, remained disturbed, adopted a generally lavish and liberal
and Domitian wisely strengthened its policy, but it failed to win the soldiers
garrisons; by the end of his reign it con- over completely, and he proved unable to
tained nine legions, as against the save all Domitian’s murderers from their
Rhineland’s six, and Pannonia was soon vengeance. Unrest subsided only when,
to become the military centre of gravity overlooking kinsmen of his own, he
of the empire. adopted an outstanding soldier, Marcus
The Flavians also took measures to Ulpius Trajanus, who was governor of
strengthen the eastern frontier. In Asia Upper Germany, as his successor. Nerva
Minor, Vespasian created a large “armed” himself died a few months later.
province by amalgamating Cappadocia, Trajan (ruled 98–117) was the first and
Lesser Armenia, and Galatia; and the whole perhaps the only emperor to be adopted
area was provided with a network of mili- by a predecessor totally unrelated to him
tary roads. South of Asia Minor, Judaea was by either birth or marriage. He was also
converted into an “armed” province by the first in a series of “good” rulers who
getting legionary troops; and two client succeeded one another by adoption and
kingdoms—Commagene and Transjordan— for most of the second century provided
were annexed and added to Syria. the empire with internal harmony and
Furthermore, the legionary camps seem careful government; they are collectively,
now to have been established right on the if somewhat loosely, called the Antonine
Euphrates at the principal river cross- emperors. More significantly still, Trajan,
ings. This display of military strength a Spaniard, was also the first princeps to
kept the empire and Parthia at peace for come from the provinces; with the greater
many years. number of provincials now in the Senate,
the elevation of one of them, sooner or
The Early Antonine later, was practically inevitable. Through­
Emperors: Nerva and Trajan out his reign, Trajan generally observed
constitutional practices. Mindful of the
Marcus Cocceius Nerva, an elderly senator susceptibilities of the Senate, he regularly
of some distinction, was the choice of consulted and reported to it. Modest in
Domitian’s assassins for emperor; and his bearing, he did not claim ostentatious
the Senate promptly recognized him. The honours such as frequent consulships or
soldiers, however, did so much more numerous imperial salutations, and he
reluctantly, and, because the year 69 had mixed easily with senators on terms of
revealed that emperors no longer needed cordial friendship. This reestablished
to be Roman aristocrats and could be mutual respect between princeps and
128 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Senate. Empire and liberty, in Tacitus’s them; to rescue Achaea and Bithynia,
words, were reconciled, and the atmo- senatorial provinces, from threatened
sphere of suspicion, intrigue, and terror bankruptcy, Trajan made them both tem-
surrounding the court in Domitian’s day porarily imperial, sending special
disappeared. Trajan endeared himself commissioners of his own to them. His
also to the populace at large with lavish correspondence with his appointee in
building programs, gladiatorial games, Bithynia, the younger Pliny, has survived
and public distributions of money. Above and reveals how conscientiously the
all, he was popular with the armed forces; emperor responded on even the smallest
he was the soldier-emperor par excel- details. At the same time, it reveals how
lence. Understandably, he received the limited was access to the central govern-
title Optimus (Best), officially from 114 on ment and, consequently, how great a
(and unofficially for many years earlier). latitude for independent decisions must
Yet Trajan was a thoroughgoing auto- be left to the governors who lacked some
crat who intervened without hesitation or special claim on the emperor’s attention.
scruple even in the senatorial sphere, Trajan’s day was too short to hear every
whenever it seemed necessary. His aim speech of every delegation from the prov-
was efficiency; his desire was to promote inces, every recommendation to bestow
public welfare everywhere. He embel- favour or grant promotion, and every
lished Rome with splendid and substantial appeal to himself as supreme judiciary.
structures, and he showed his care for To assist him, he had a “bureaucracy” of
Italy by refurbishing and enlarging the only a few hundred in Rome and a few
harbours at Ostia, Centumcellae, and more hundred serving in various capaci-
Ancona. He sent officials called curatores ties in the provinces—to direct the lives of
to Italian municipalities in financial diffi- some 60 million people. Clearly, most
culties and helped to rehabilitate them. government must in fact rest in the hands
He greatly expanded an ingenious char- of local aristocracies.
ity scheme probably begun by Nerva: In the military sphere, Trajan’s reign
money was loaned to farmers on easy proved a most dynamic one. He decided
terms, and the low interest they paid went to strengthen the dangerous Danube
into a special fund for supporting indi- frontier by converting Dacia into a salient
gent children. Nor did Trajan neglect of Roman territory north of the river in
Italy’s highway network: he built a new order to dismember the Sarmatian tribes
road (Via Traiana) that soon replaced the and remove the risk of large, hostile com-
Via Appia as the main thoroughfare binations to a safer distance. Bringing to
between Beneventum and Brundisium. bear a force of 100,000 men, he conquered
Interest in Italy implied no neglect of Decebalus in two hard-fought wars (101–
the provinces. Curatores were also sent to 102; 105–106) and annexed Dacia, settling
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 129

it with people from neighbouring parts of Hadrian and the Other

the empire. On the eastern frontier he Antonine Emperors
planned a similar operation, evidently in
the conviction, shared by many eminent Hadrian (ruled 117–138), also a Spaniard,
Romans both before and after him, that was an emperor of unusual versatility.
only conquest could solve the Parthian Unlike Trajan, he was opposed to territorial
problem. Possibly, too, he wished to con- expansion. Being himself in the East in
tain the menace of the Sarmatian Alani in 117, he renounced Trajan’s conquests
the Caspian region. In a preliminary there immediately and contemplated
move, the Nabataean kingdom of Arabia evacuating Dacia as well. Furthermore,
Petraea was annexed in 105–106. Then, in four of the consular generals particularly
114, Trajan assembled another large army, identified with Trajan’s military ventures
incorporated the client kingdom of were arrested and executed “for con-
Armenia, and invaded Parthia. spiracy”; Hadrian claimed later that the
After spectacular victories in 115 and Senate ordered their deaths against his
116, he created additional provinces wishes. The only heavy fighting during
(Northern Mesopotamia, Assyria) and his generally peaceful reign occurred in
reached the Persian Gulf. But he had Judaea—or Syria Palaestina, as it was
merely overrun Mesopotamia; he had not thenceforth called—where Bar Kokhba
consolidated it, and, as his army passed, led a furious, if futile, Jewish revolt (132–
revolts broke out in its rear. The Jews of 135) against Hadrian’s conversion of
the Diaspora and others seized their Jerusalem into a Roman colony named
chance to rebel, and before the end of 116 Aelia Capitolina.
much of the Middle East besides Parthia Instead of expansion by war, Hadrian
was in arms (Cyrene, Egypt, Cyprus, sought carefully delimited but well-
Anatolia). Trajan proceeded resolutely to defended frontiers, with client states
restore the situation, but death found him beyond them where possible. The frontiers
still in the East. themselves, when not natural barriers,
Before his last illness he had not for- were strongly fortified: in Britain, Hadrian’s
mally indicated his successor. But high Wall, a complex of ditches, mounds, forts,
honours and important posts had been and stone wall, stretched across the island
accorded his nearest male relative, Publius from the Tyne to the Solway; Germany
Aelius Hadrianus, the governor of Syria; and Raetia had a limes (fortified boundary)
and, according to Trajan’s widow, Hadrian running between Mainz on the Rhine and
had actually been adopted by Trajan on his Regensburg on the Danube. Within the
deathbed. Accordingly, both Senate and frontiers the army was kept at full
soldiers recognized him. Trajan’s posthu- strength, mostly by local recruiting of
mous deification was never in doubt. legionnaries and apparently of auxiliaries,
130 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

too (so that Vespasian’s system of having the edictum perpetuum (the set of rules
the latter serve far from their homelands gradually elaborated by the praetors for
gradually ceased). Moreover, the tendency the interpretation of the law). He also
for auxiliaries to be assimilated to legion- appointed four former consuls to serve as
aries continued; even the officers became circuit judges in Italy. This brought Italy
less distinguishable, because equites close to becoming a province; Hadrian’s
now sometimes replaced senators in intent, however, was not to reduce the sta-
high posts in the legions. To keep his tus of Italy but to make all parts of the
essentially sedentary army in constant empire important. For one part of his realm,
readiness and at peak efficiency (no easy he was exceptionally solicitous: he spent
task), Hadrian carried out frequent per- much time in Greece and lavishly embel-
sonal inspections, spending about half lished Athens.
his reign in the provinces (121–125; Hadrian maintained good relations
128–134). with but was never fully trusted by the
Hadrian also was responsible for Senate. His foreign policy seemed to be
significant developments on the civilian unheroic, his cosmopolitanism to be un-
side. Under him, equites were no longer Roman, and his reforms to encroach on
required to do military service as an activities traditionally reserved for sena-
essential step in their career, and many of tors. Moreover, in his last two years he
them were employed in the imperial civil was sometimes capricious and tyrannous.
service, more even than under Domitian. Like Augustus, he had no son of his own
By now the formative days of the civil and conducted a frustrating search for a
service were over; its bureaucratic phase successor. After executing his only male
was beginning, and it offered those blood relative, his grandnephew, in 136,
equites who had no military aspirations he adopted Lucius Ceionius Commodus,
an attractive, purely civilian career. renaming him Lucius Aelius Caesar. The
Formal titles now marked the different latter, however, died shortly afterward,
equestrian grades of dignity: a procura- whereupon Hadrian in 138 chose a
tor was vir egregius; an ordinary prefect, wealthy but sonless senator, the 51-year-
vir perfectissimus; a praetorian prefect, vir old Titus Aurelius Antoninus. Evidently
eminentissimus, the latter title being intent on founding a dynasty, he made
obviously parallel to the designation vir Antoninus, in his turn, adopt two youths—
clarissimus for a senator. Thenceforth, Marcus Aurelius (the nephew of
equites replaced freedmen in the impe- Antoninus’s wife) and Lucius Verus (the
rial household and bureaus, and they son of Aelius Caesar) 16 and 7 years old,
even appeared in Hadrian’s imperial respectively. When Hadrian died soon
council. thereafter, Antoninus succeeded and
Hadrian also improved legal admin- induced a reluctant Senate to deify the
istration. He had his expert jurists codify deceased emperor. According to some, it
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 131

was this act of filial piety that won for was imprudent. Fortunately, Verus left
Antoninus his cognomen, Pius. decision making to Marcus. Marcus’s
Antoninus Pius (ruled 138–161) action was also dangerous for another
epitomizes the Roman Empire at its reason; it represented a long step away
cosmopolitan best. He himself was of from imperial unity and portended the
Gallic origin; his wife was of Spanish ultimate division of the empire into
origin. For most men his was a reign of Greek- and Latin-speaking halves. Nor
quiet prosperity, and the empire under was this the only foreboding develop-
him deserves the praises lavished upon ment in Marcus’s reign—formidable
it by the contemporary writer Aelius barbarian assaults were launched against
Aristides. Unlike Hadrian, Antoninus the frontiers, anticipating those that were
traveled little; he remained in Italy, where later to bring about the disintegration of
in 148 he celebrated the 900th anniver- the empire. Marcus himself was a stoic
sary of Rome. Princeps and Senate were philosopher; his humanistic, if somewhat
on excellent terms, and coins with the pessimistic, Meditations reveal how con-
words tranquillitas and concordia on scientiously he took his duties. Duty
them in Antoninus’s case mean what they called him to war; he responded to the call
say. Other of his coins not unreasonably and spent far more of his reign in the
proclaim felicitas temporum (“the happi- field than had any previous emperor.
ness of the times”). Yet raids and At Marcus’s very accession the
rebellions in many of the borderlands Parthians turned aggressive, and he sent
(in Britain, Dacia, Mauretania, Egypt, Verus to defend Roman interests (162).
Palaestina, and elsewhere) were danger Verus greedily took credit for any victo-
symptoms, even though to the empire at ries but left serious fighting to Avidius
large they seemed only faraway bad Cassius and the army of Syria. Cassius
dreams, to use the expression of Aelius succeeded in overrunning Mesopotamia
Aristides. Antoninus prudently pushed and even took Ctesiphon, the Parthian
the Hadrianic frontiers forward in Dacia, capital; he was therefore able to conclude
the Rhineland, and Britain (where the a peace that safeguarded Rome’s eastern
Antonine Wall from the Firth of Forth to provinces and client kingdoms (166). In
the River Clyde became the new bound- the process, however, his troops became
ary) and carefully groomed his heir infected with plague, and they carried it
apparent for his imperial responsibilities. back with them to the west with calami-
Marcus Aurelius (ruled 161–180) suc- tous results. The Danube frontier, already
ceeded the deified Antoninus and more weakened by the dispatch of large detach-
than honoured Hadrian’s intentions by ments to the East, collapsed under
immediately co-opting Lucius Verus as barbarian assault. Pressed on from behind
his full co-emperor. Because Verus’s com- by Goths, Vandals, Lombards, and others,
petence was unproved, this excess of zeal the Germanic Marcomanni and Quadi
132 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

and the Sarmatian Iazyges poured over forced the Senate to recognize his god-
the river; the Germans actually crossed head officially. He left serious business to
Raetia, Noricum, and Pannonia to raid his favourites, whose ambitions and
northern Italy and besiege Aquileia. intrigues led to plots, treason trials, con-
Marcus and Verus relieved the city fiscations, and insensate murders.
shortly before Verus’s death (169). Then, Commodus’s assassination on the last
making Pannonia his pivot of maneuver, day of 192 terminated a disastrous reign;
Marcus pushed the invaders back; by 175 thus the Antonines, like the Julio-
they were again beyond the Danube. At Claudians, had come to an ignominious
that moment, however, a false report of end. And there was a similar sequel.
Marcus’s death prompted Avidius Commodus’s damnatio memoriae, like
Cassius, by now in charge of all eastern Nero’s, was followed by a year of four
provinces, to proclaim himself emperor. emperors.
The news of this challenge undid Marcus’s
achievements along the Danube because The empire in the
it took him to the East and reopened the second century
door to barbarian attacks. Fortunately,
Cassius was soon murdered, and Marcus The century and three-quarters after
could return to central Europe (177). But Augustus’s death brought no fundamen-
he had barely restored the frontier again tal changes to the principate, although so
when he died at Vindobona (Vienna) in long a lapse of time naturally introduced
180, bequeathing the empire to his son, modifications and shifts of emphasis. By
the 19-year-old Commodus, who had Flavian and Antonine times the princi-
actually been named co-emperor three pate was accepted universally. For the
years earlier. provinces, a return to the republic was
Commodus (ruled 180–192), like Gaius utterly unthinkable; for Rome and Italy,
and Nero, the youthful emperors before the year 69 served as a grim warning of
him, proved incompetent, conceited, and the chaos to be expected if, in the absence
capricious. Fortunately, the frontiers of a princeps, the ambitions of a few pow-
remained intact, thanks to able provincial erful individuals obtained unfettered
governors and to barbarian allies, who scope. A princeps was clearly a necessity,
had been settled along the Danube with and people were even prepared to toler-
land grants and who gave military service ate a bad one, although naturally they
in return. But Commodus abandoned always hoped for a good one.
Marcus’s scheme for new trans-Danubian The princeps, moreover, did not have
provinces, preferring to devote himself to to be chosen any longer from the Julio-
sensual pleasures and especially to the Claudians. The great achievement of the
excitements of the arena in Rome, where Flavians was to reconcile the soldiers and
he posed as Hercules Romanus and the upper classes everywhere to the idea
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 133

that others were eligible. The Flavians’ avowed monarchy. Proconsular imperium
frequent tenure of consulship and cen- began to be reflected in the imperial
sorship invested their family, although titulary, and official documents started
not of the highest nobility, with the out- calling the emperor dominus noster (“our
ward trappings of prestige and the master”).
aristocratic appearance of an authentic The development of imperial law-
imperial household. The deification of making clearly illustrates the change.
the first two Flavians contributed to the From the beginnings of the principate,
same end, and so did the disappearance the emperor had had the power to legis-
of old republican families that might late, although no law is known that
have outranked the reigning house (by formally recognized his right to do so; by
69 most descendants of the republican Antonine times, legal textbooks stated
nobility had either died of natural causes unequivocally that whatever the emperor
or been exterminated by imperial perse- ordered was legally binding. The early
cution). After the Flavians, the newness emperors usually made the Senate their
of a man’s senatorial dignity and the mouthpiece and issued their laws in the
obscurity of his ultimate origin, whether form of senatorial decrees. In fact, by
it was Italian or otherwise, no longer for- the second century, the emperor was
bade his possible elevation. Indeed, openly replacing whatever other sources
Domitian’s successors and even Domitian of written law had hitherto been permit-
himself in his last years did not need to ted to function. After 100 the Assembly
enhance their own importance by never met formally to pass a law, and the
repeated consulships. The Antonine Senate often no longer bothered to couch
emperors, like the Julio-Claudians, held its decrees in legal language, being con-
the office infrequently. They did, how- tent to repeat verbatim the speech with
ever, continue the Flavian practice of which the ruler had advocated the mea-
emphasizing the loftiness of their fami- sure in question. After Hadrian,
lies by deifying deceased relatives (Trajan magistrates ceased modifying existing
deified his sister, his niece, and his father; law by their legal interpretations because
Antoninus, his wife; and so forth). the praetors’ edictum perpetuum had
become a permanent code, which the
Trend to Absolute Monarchy emperor alone could alter.
By 200, learned jurists had lost the
Glorification of the reigning house, right they had enjoyed since the time of
together with a document such as Augustus of giving authoritative rulings
Vespasian’s Lex de Imperio, helped to on disputed points (responsa pruden-
advertise the emperor’s position; and tium). Meanwhile, the emperor more and
under the Flavians and Antonines the more was legislating directly by means
principate became much more like an of edicts, judgments, mandates, and
134 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

rescripts—collectively known as constitu- two realms of service. Actually, the third

tiones principum. He usually issued such century soon showed what it meant to
constitutiones only after consulting the have a princeps whose whole experience
“friends” (amici Caesaris) who composed had been confined to camps and
his imperial council. But a constitutio was barracks.
nevertheless a fiat. The road to the later As imperial powers became more
dominate (after 284) lay open. concentrated, republican institutions
decayed; the importance of imperial offi-
Political Life cials grew, while the authority of urban
magistrates declined. Quaestorship,
Nevertheless, the autocratic aspect of the praetorship, and consulship (the last-
Flavian and Antonine regimes should named now reduced to a two-month
not be overstressed. Augustus himself sinecure) became mere stepping-stones
had been well aware that it was impossible to the great imperial posts that counted
to disguise permanently the supremacy most in the life of the empire. Governors
that accumulation of powers gained of imperial provinces and commanders of
piecemeal conferred; his deportment in legions were Roman senators; but they
his last years differed little from that of were equally imperial appointees. Clearly,
Vespasian, Titus, and the so-called five the emperor was the master of the Senate;
good emperors who followed them. Nor and it was disingenuous for him to get
had other Julio-Claudians hesitated to impatient, as some emperors did, with
parade their predominance—Claudius, by the Senate’s lack of initiative and reluc-
centralizing the imperial powers, reduced tance to take firm decisions of its own.
their apparent diversity to one all- The emperor might not even consult the
embracing imperium; Gaius and Nero Senate much, preferring to rely on his
revealed the autocracy implicit in the imperial council, in which equestrian
principate with frank brutality. bureau chiefs over the course of the sec-
What impresses perhaps as much as ond century came to constitute an
the undoubtedly autocratic behaviour of established element.
the Flavians and Antonines is the mark- The Senate, however, at least until the
edly civilian character of their reigns. reign of Commodus, was treated courte-
They held supreme power, and some of ously by most Flavians and Antonines.
them were distinguished soldiers; yet They recognized its importance as a law-
they were not military despots. For this court, as the body that formally appointed
the old republican tradition—whereby a a new emperor, and as a sounding board
state official might serve in both a civilian of informed opinion. Senators came
and a military capacity—was largely increasingly from the provinces, and,
responsible. Matters, however, were open although this meant preeminently the
to change after Hadrian separated the western provinces (the Greek-speaking
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 135

East being underrepresented), the Senate Inevitably, there was extensive trade
did reflect to some extent the views of the and commerce (much of it in freedman
empire at large. hands) in so large a city, which was also
The equites, meanwhile, steadily the centre of imperial administration.
acquired greater importance as imperial There was little industry, however, and
officials. In newly created posts they the urban poor had difficulty finding
invariably became the incumbents, and steady employment. Theirs was a precari-
in posts of long standing they replaced ous existence, dependent on the public
freedmen and publicani. During the sec- grain dole and on the private charity of
ond century equestrian procurators the wealthy. Large building programs
increased markedly in numbers as the gave Flavian and Antonine emperors the
direction of imperial business came to be opportunity not only to repair the dam-
more tidily subdivided. Four grades of age caused by fire and falling buildings
service distinguished by salary were (as stated, a frequent hazard among the
established. While the government densely packed and flimsily built accom-
assumed a more rational flow and outline, modations for the urban plebs) but also
its total number of employees neverthe- to relieve widespread urban unemploy-
less remained quite tiny, compared with ment. They also made imperial Rome a
that of the fourth and later centuries. city of grandeur. Augustus’s building
program had been vast but mostly con-
Rome and Italy cerned with repairing or rebuilding
structures already existing, and his Julio-
By the second century the city of Rome Claudian successors had built relatively
had attracted freeborn migrants from all little until the great fire made room for
over the empire; it housed, additionally, the megalomaniac marvels of Nero’s last
large numbers of manumitted slaves. years. It was under the Flavians and
These newcomers were all assimilated Antonines that Rome obtained many of
and diluted the city’s Italian flavour. The its most celebrated structures: the
vast majority of them were poor, the Colosseum, Palatine palaces, Trajan’s
handful of opulent imperial freedmen Forum, the Pantheon, the Castel Sant’
being entirely exceptional. But many Angelo (Hadrian’s mausoleum), the
were energetic, enterprising, and lucky, Temple of Antoninus and Faustina,
able to make their way in the world. Aurelius’s Column, as well as the aque-
Freedmen laboured under a social stigma, ducts whose arches spanned across
although some of them managed to Campagna to keep the city and its innu-
become equites. Their sons, however, merable fountains supplied with water.
might overcome discrimination, and Italy was much less cosmopolitan
their grandsons were even eligible for and sophisticated and, according to liter-
membership in the Senate. ary tradition, much more sober and
136 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

The remains of Rome’s famed Colosseum, built as part of a work project designed to stabilize
the economy and help the city return to its former glory.

straitlaced than was Rome. It was the mis- reign, the ascendancy of its wine, oil,
tress of the empire, although the gap marble, and fine pottery in the markets of
between it and the provinces was narrow- Gaul and Germany had already begun to
ing. Hadrian’s policies especially helped yield to the competition of local produc-
to reduce its privileged position. His use tion in the West; and, by Flavian times,
of circuit judges was resented precisely Italy was actually importing heavily not
because with them Italy resembled a only from Gaul (witness the crates of yet-
province; actually, Italy badly needed unpacked Gallic bowls and plates caught
them, and their abolition by Antoninus in the destruction of Pompeii) but also
Pius was soon reversed by Marcus from Spain. The latter province was espe-
Aurelius. Also, in Aurelius’s reign a pro- cially represented by its extraordinarily
vincial fate overtook Italy in the form of popular condiment, garum; its olive oil,
barbarian invasion; a few years later the too, was a sizable item on Italian tables
country got its first legionary garrison after AD 100, only to yield its primacy
under Septimius Severus. there, by the mid-second century, to oil
The economic importance of Italy from northern Africa. By then, Spanish,
also declined. By the end of Augustus’s Gallic, and African farm products all
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 137

outweighed Italian ones in Ostia and Ambitious men striving for a career
Rome. Against such tendencies, the naturally found it helpful, if not neces-
emperors did what they could: Domitian, sary, to become Roman in bearing and
for example, protected Italian viticulture conduct and perhaps even in language as
by restricting vine growing in the prov- well (although speakers of Greek often
inces; Trajan and his successors forced rose to exalted positions). But local self-
Roman senators to take an interest in the government was the general rule, and
country, even though it was no longer neither Latin nor Roman ways were
the homeland of many of them, by invest- imposed on the communities composing
ing a high proportion of their capital in the empire. The official attitude to religion
Italian land (one-third under Trajan, one- illustrates this—in line with the absolutist
quarter under Aurelius). trend, emperor worship was becoming
slowly but progressively more theocratic
Developments in the (Domitian relished the title of god,
Provinces Commodus demanded it). Yet this did
not lead to the suppression of non-Roman
The 18th-century historian Edward or even outlandish cults, unless they were
Gibbon’s famous description of the sec- thought immoral (like Druidism, with its
ond century as the period when men were human sacrifice) or conducive to public
happiest and most prosperous is not disorder (like Christianity, with its
entirely false. Certainly, by then people uncompromising dismissal of all gods
had come to take for granted the unique other than its own as mere demons, and
greatness and invincibility of the empire. wicked and hurtful ones at that).
Even the ominous events of Aurelius’s While there is no indication that the
reign failed to shatter their conviction central authorities consciously opposed
that the empire was impregnable, and the the increase of governmental personnel, the
internal disturbances of the preceding number of government employees cer-
reign had not given cause for much alarm. tainly grew very slowly. Thus the
The credit for the empire’s success lay responsibilities of the magnates in pro-
less with what its rulers did and could do vincial cities were correspondingly great.
than with what they did not do: they did In parts of southern Spain or in the area
not interfere too much. The empire was a south of the Black Sea, for example, where
vast congeries of peoples and races with the extent of the territories dependent on
differing religions, customs, and lan- cities stretched out over many scores of
guages, and the emperors were content to miles into the surrounding landscape,
let them live their own lives. Imperial pol- city senators had not only to collect taxes
icy favoured a veneer of common culture but also to build roads and carry out
transcending ethnic differences, but there much rural police work. Within their cit-
was no deliberate denationalization. ies, too, senators had to see to the
138 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

collection of taxes and tolls. As a group, himself. It was from the provincial elite
they had to oversee and assign the that new Roman senators were made.
income from municipal lands or build- Cities, through their elite families,
ings rented out and from endowments competed with each other across entire
established by generous citizens. They regions. City rivalries in northern Italy or
had to authorize the plans and financing western Anatolia happen to be especially
of sometimes very elaborate civic struc- well reported. Within individual cities,
tures—an aqueduct, an amphitheatre, or a elite families were often in competition
temple to the imperial family—or of great as well. In consequence, the standards of
annual festivals and fairs or of ongoing municipal beneficence rose, encouraged
amenities serving the public baths (free by a populace who on public occasions
oil for anointing oneself, heating, and assembled in large numbers in the the-
upkeep) or the public markets. In the atre, demanding yet more expenditure
eastern provinces, they had to replenish from their leaders. The emperors, who
from time to time the stock of small local realized that the well-being of cities, the
bronze coins, and they had to insure that jewels of their realm, depended on such
magistracies were effectively staffed, munificence, increasingly intervened to
even though there usually was no salary insure a continued flow of good things
of any sort to attract candidates. Magis­ from the rich of a community to their
trates and city senators generally had to fellow citizens. Legislation might, for
pay handsomely for their election and example, specify the binding nature of
thereafter make further handsome contri- electoral campaign promises or of for-
butions, as need arose and so far as they merly voluntary contributions connected
could afford, toward the adornment of with public service. As a consequence, in
their community. the second century consideration must
What attracted candidates in ade- for the first time be given to the local aris-
quate numbers were most often three tocrat unwilling to serve his city; the
inducements: the feeling of community series of imperial pronouncements exert-
approval and praise, offered in the most ing compulsion on such a person to serve
public ways (described by writers of the was to stretch far into the future, with
time with striking psychological pene- increasing severity. Attempts to stabilize
tration); the enhancement of personal the benefits arising from ambitious rival-
influence (meaning power) through the ries thus had an oppressive aspect.
demonstration of great financial means; As to the lower orders, their voice is
and finally, the social and political rarely heard in surviving sources, except
advancement that might follow on local in acclamation. So long as the rich volun-
prominence through attracting the atten- tarily covered the bulk of local expenses
tion of a governor or of the emperor and so long as they commanded the
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 139

leisure and knowledge of the world to This stratum, from the mid-second cen-
give to administration unsalaried, the tury defined in law as “the more
poor could not fairly claim much of a honourable,” honestiores, was minutely
right to determine the city’s choices. subdivided into degrees of dignity, the
Thus they acclaimed the candidacies of degrees being well advertised and jeal-
the rich and their gifts and otherwise ously asserted; the entire stratum,
gave vent to their wishes only by shout- however, was entitled to receive specially
ing in unison in the theatre or tender treatment in the courts. The
amphitheatre (in between spectacles) or remaining population was lumped
through violent mob actions. together as “the more lowly,” humiliores,
As noted above, the poor routinely subject to torture when giving witness in
solved the problems of daily life by court; to beatings, not fines; and to execu-
appealing to someone of influence tion (in increasingly savage forms of
locally; this was true whether in Palestine, death) rather than exile for the most seri-
as indicated in the Talmud, or in Italy, as ous crimes. Yet because of the existing
is evident from Pliny’s correspondence. patterns of power, which directed the
The higher one looked in society, the humiliores to turn for help to the upper
more it appeared crisscrossed and inter- stratum, the lower classes did not form a
connected by ties of kinship or of past revolutionary mass but constituted a sta-
services exchanged. It was at these higher ble element.
levels that answers to routine problems The pyramidal structure of society
were to be sought. Appeal was not suggested by the statistics given above is
directed to one’s peers, even though trade somewhat obscured by the reality and
associations, cult groups of social equals, prominence of the urban scene. In the cit-
and burial insurance clubs with monthly ies the harsh outlines of the distribution
meetings could be found in every town. of wealth were moderated by a certain
Such groups served social, not political degree of social mobility. No class offers
or economic, purposes, at least during more success stories than that of freed-
the principate. men. Especially in the West, freedmen
Accordingly, society was ordinarily are astonishingly prominent in the record
described by contemporaries simply in of inscriptions and proverbial for what
terms of two classes: the upper and the the upper classes called unprincipled
lower, rich and poor, powerful and depen- enterprise and vulgar moneygrubbing.
dent, well known and nameless. The Artisans and tradespeople—lowly folk, in
upper classes consisted of little more the eyes of someone like Cicero—in fact
than 600 Roman senators, 25,000 equites, presented themselves with a certain
and 100,000 city senators; hence, a total dignity, even some financial ease. At the
amounting to 2 percent of the population. bottom, slaves were numerous,
140 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

constituting perhaps one-tenth of the only Roman conquest but, in the East, the
population in at least the larger towns conquests of Alexander the Great centu-
outside of Italy and considerably more in ries earlier. However, the device of
Italy—as much as one-quarter in Rome. organizing conquered territories under
In the cities many of them at least cities responsible for their surrounding
enjoyed security from starvation and territory proved as successful under the
had a good roof over their heads. When Romans as under the Greeks. The intent
one turns to the rural scene, however, one of both conquerors may have been lim-
encounters a far larger, harsher world. In ited to ensuring political control and the
the first place, nine-tenths of the empire’s yield of tribute; however, in fact, they
people lived on the land and from its achieved much more: an approach to uni-
yield. Where details of their lives emerge formity, at least in the cities.
with any clarity, they most often tell of a
changeless and bleak existence. The city Urban Centres
looked down on the countryside with
elaborate scorn, keeping the rural popu- The first thing to strike the traveler’s eye,
lation at arm’s length. Very often people in any survey of the second-century
in the country had their own language— empire, would have been the physical
such as Gallic, Syriac, Libyphoenician, or appearance of urban centres. Whatever
Coptic, which further isolated them—and the province, many of the same architec-
their own religion, marriage customs, tural forms could be observed: The
and forms of entertainment. In time, the suburbs tended to have aqueducts and
very term “country dweller,” paganus , set racetracks and the cities a central grand
the rural population still further apart market area surrounded by porticoes,
from the empire’s Christianized urban temples, a records office, a council hall, a
population. basilica for judicial hearings and public
auctions, and a covered market hall of a
The Creation of a characteristic shape for perishable foods
Unified Civilization (a macellum, as in Pompeii, in Perge on
the southern coast of modern Turkey, or
In the overall context of Western history, in North African Lepcis). There also
the degree to which the Mediterranean would have been public baths with sev-
world during the period of the empire eral separate halls for cold or hot bathing
became one single system, one civiliza- or exercise, a covered or open-air theatre,
tion, is a matter of the greatest importance. grand fountains, monumental arches,
Clearly, one must distinguish between and honorific statues of local worthies by
the life of the rural masses and that of the the dozens or even hundreds. Eastern
urban minority. The former retained centres would have gymnasia (occasion-
many traits of a way of life predating not ally Western ones as well) and Western
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 141

The hot room of the imperial baths at Trier, Ger. Fototeca Unione

cities would have amphitheatres (occa- mark, can be detected at the heart of
sionally Eastern ones as well) for the places such as Turin, Banasa (Morocco),
imported institution of gladiatorial com- and Autun, all Augustan foundations, as
bats. Throughout the Western provinces, well as in Nicopolis (Bulgaria), Budapest,
public buildings were likely to be and Silchester, all later ones. As noted
arranged according to a single plan— above, orthogonal town planning was not
more or less the same everywhere—in a Roman invention, but the Romans
which a grid of right-angle streets was introduced it to new regions and with a
dominant, at least toward the central part particular regularity of their own.
of the city. Moreover, the grid of the central part of
In the West, as opposed to the East, a the city was matched, and sometimes
great deal of urbanization remained to extended on the same lines, by another
be done and was accomplished by the grid laid across the surrounding territory.
Romans. The grid plan, its particular The process, referred to as centuriation,
142 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

The ancient Roman city of Thamugadi in northeastern Algeria, founded by Trajan in AD 100.
Fototeca Unione

typically made use of squares of 2,330 the lives of conquered populations inside
feet (710 metres) on a side, intended for their own characteristic framework.
land distribution to settlers and general
purposes of inventory. Signs of it were Latinization
first detected in northern Africa in the
1830s, through surviving crop marks and The special burst of energy in the
roads, and have since (especially through Augustan colonizing spread abroad not
air photography) been traced in the envi- only the visible elements of a ruling civi-
rons of Trier and Homs (Syria) and large lization but the invisible ones as well.
areas of northern Italy, Tunisia, and else- Colonies and municipalities received
where. In the placing of cities and roads Roman forms of government according
and property boundaries, the Romans of to their charters, they were administered
the empire therefore left a nearly indelible by Roman law in Latin, and they diffused
stamp of their organizing energies on these things throughout the general pop-
the map of Europe; they also established ulation within and around them. In
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 143

frontier areas such lessons in an alien service, and by election to magistracies

civilization were pressed home by garri- or simply to the city senates of colonies
son forces through their frequent contacts and municipalities, a growing proportion
with their hosts and suppliers. By the sec- of the empire’s population had gained citi-
ond century considerable Latinization zenship; moreover, their children were
had occurred in the West. Modern citizens, whose descendants in turn were
Spanish, Portuguese, and French show Romans in the legal sense. By AD 212 this
that this was particularly true of the accelerating process had advanced so far
Iberian peninsula, which had been pro- that the emperor Caracalla could offer the
vincial soil ever since the Second Punic gift of incorporation to the entirety of his
War, and of Gaul, where Latin enjoyed the subjects without much notice being taken
advantage of some relationship to Celtic. of his generosity—it was already in the
In these regions, except in the less acces- possession of most of the people who
sible rural or mountainous parts, even the counted and whose reactions might be
lower orders adopted Latin. Today one recorded. Once citizenship was universal,
can find in Romania the tongue that is it ceased to constitute a distinction; thus
the closest to its parent, Latin, even at so the declaration of it through the custom
great a distance from its home. And Latin of funerary commemoration rapidly
can be found not only in Romance lan- passed out of favour.
guages; it has left its mark on languages
such as Basque and German. Limits of Unification
Inscriptions represent the most fre-
quent testimony to linguistic allegiance; One great flaw in the picture of the
more than a quarter of a million survive empire as one single civilization by 212,
in Latin from the period of the empire, triumphantly unified in culture as in its
the vast majority of them being funerary. political form, has already been pointed
The number of inscriptions per year out—what was achieved within the cities’
increases slowly during the first century walls did not extend with any complete-
and a half AD, thereafter ascending in a ness to the rural population, among
steep line to a point in the second decade whom local ways and native languages
of the third and then falling off even more persisted. Peasants in fourth-century
steeply. The curve is best explained as Syria spoke mostly Syriac, in Egypt
reflecting pride in “Romanness”—in pos- mostly Coptic, in Africa often Punic or
sessing not only Latin but full citizenship Libyphoenician, and in the Danube and
as well and, thereby, admission to a group northwestern provinces other native
for whom commemoration of the tongues.
deceased was a legal as well as a moral There was still another great flaw:
duty. Over the course of time, by individ- The empire was half Roman (or Latin),
ual gift from the emperors, by army half Greek. The latter was hardly touched
144 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

by the former except through what may differences was the cult of the emperors.
be called official channels—that is, law, In one sense, it originated in the fourth
coinage, military presence, imperial cult, century BC, when Alexander the Great
and the superposition of an alien struc- first received veneration by titles and
ture of power and prestige, to which the symbols and forms of address as if he
elite of the Eastern provinces might were a superhuman being. Indeed, he must
aspire. On the other hand, the Roman half have seemed exactly that to contempo-
was steeped in Greek ways. Apuleius, for raries in Egypt, where the pharaohs had
example, though born and reared in a long been worshiped, and to peoples in
small North African town of the second the Middle East, for similar reasons of
century, was sent to Athens to study rhet- religious custom. Even the Greeks were
oric. On his return he could find not only quite used to the idea that beings who
an audience for his presentations in lived a human life of extraordinary
Greek but ordinary people in the market- accomplishment, as “heroes” in the full
place able to read a letter in that language. sense of the Greek word, would never die
In Rome the Christian community used but be raised into some higher world;
Greek as its liturgical language well into they believed this of heroes such as
the third century, and the crowds in the Achilles, Hercules, Pythagoras, and Dion
Circus Maximus could enjoy a pun in of Syracuse in the mid-fourth century BC.
Greek. An aristocrat such as the emperor Great Roman commanders, like
Marcus Aurelius could be expected to be Hellenistic rulers, had altars, festivals,
as bilingual as was Cicero or Caesar and special honours voted to them by
before him or even, like the emperor Greek cities from the start of the second
Gallienus, help the Greek philosopher century BC.
Plotinus found a sort of Institute for It was not so strange, then, that a
Advanced Studies in the Naples area. freedman supporter of Caesar’s erected
Greece continued to supply a great a pillar over the ashes of the dead dictator
deal of sculpture for Western buyers or in the Forum in April 44 BC and offered
even the teams of artisans needed for the cult to him as a being now resident
decoration of public buildings in third- among the gods. Many citizens joined in.
century northern Africa. By such various Within days Caesar’s heir Octavian
means the division between the two pressed for the declaration of Caesar as
halves of the empire was for a time cov- divine—which the Senate granted by its
ered over. vote in 42. By 25 BC the city of Mytilene
had organized annual cult acts honour-
Cult of the Emperors ing Augustus and communicated their
forms and impulse to Tarraco in Spain as
Among the institutions most important well as to other Eastern Greek cities. By
in softening the edges of regional 12 BC divine honours to Caesar and
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 145

Augustus’s genius were established disquisitions on monarchy, and prefatory

through the emperors’ initiative both in announcements accompanying the pub-
the Gallic capital, Lugdunum, and in the lication of government edicts. They
neighbourhood chapels to the crossroads established a tone in which it was proper
gods in Rome. to think of Roman rule and government.
From these various points and mod- Portraits, the second means of propa-
els, emperor worship spread rapidly. ganda, included painted ones on general
Within a few generations, cities every- display in cities, sculpted ones, especially
where had built in its service new temples in the early years of each reign, based on
that dominated their forums or had official models available in a few major
assigned old temples to the joint service cities (hundreds of these survive, includ-
of a prior god and the imperial family. ing at least one in gold), and engraved
Such centres served as rallying points for ones on coins. Imperial coins offered a
the citizenry to express its devotion to more rapidly changing exhibition of
Rome and the emperor. To speak for images than even postage stamps in the
whole provinces, priests of the cult modern world. Because the dies soon
assembled during their year of office in wore out, many scores of issues had to be
central shrines, such as Lugdunum, as brought out each year, in gold, silver,
delegates of their cities, where they for- and bronze. While the images (“types”) and
mulated for the emperor their complaints words (“legends”) on them tended to
or their views on the incumbent gover- repetition, there was much conscious
nor’s administration. Whether these inculcation of topical messages. For
priests were freedmen in urban neigh- example, in the short and rocky reign of
bourhoods, municipal magnates in local Galba in AD 69, one finds the legends
temples, or still grander leaders of the “All’s well that ends well” (bonus eventus),
provinces, they perceived the imperial “Rome reborn,” “Peace for Romans,” and
cult as something of high prestige and “Constitutional government restored”
invested it and Roman rule with glory. (libertas restituta, with iconographic ref-
The emotional and political unifica- erence to Brutus’s coins of 43 BC) and
tion of the empire was further promoted superlative portraits of Galba himself. In
by submissive or flattering forms of refer- other reigns, the legends, enriched with
ence or address, adopted even by the suitable symbolism, read “the soldiers
highest personages when speaking of loyal,” “Italy well fed,” and fecunditas of
the emperor, and by portraits of the the royal family and its progeny. So far
emperors or their families with attendant as it is possible to comprehend the
written messages. Of these two most mind of the empire’s populace, there
obvious means of propaganda, the first was no significant opposition to the
survives in the texts of many panegyrics government by the second century;
delivered to the throne, rhetorical instead, there prevailed a great deal of
146 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

ready veneration for the principate as an soldiers spent their wages locally. So far
institution. as they could, they bought goods and ser-
vices of a Roman sort and generally
The Economic Factor attracted concentrations of people likely
to develop into cities of a Roman sort.
Economic factors, to the extent that they The economic impact of army payrolls
were favourable, played an obvious part was all the greater because of the cash
in promoting both cultural and political added to them from taxes raised in other,
unity. So far as acculturation was con- more developed provinces in the East.
cerned, a limit to its achievement was Much of the urbanization and enrich-
clearly set by the amount of disposable ment of the western and northern
capital among non-Romanized popula- provinces can be explained by these four
tions. The cost of such luxuries as factors.
schooling in Latin or frescoes on one’s The sources for studying the econ-
walls were high. But more and more omy of the empire were insufficient until
people could afford them as the benefits the mid-20th century. The archaeological
of Roman occupation were spreading. sources were too scarce and heteroge-
The rising levels of prosperity did not, neous to be of much help, and the written
however, result from a special benevo- ones contained barely usable amounts of
lence on the part of the conquerors, intent quantified data; economic analysis with-
as they were (and often cruelly intent) on out quantification, however, is almost a
the pleasures and profits of physical mas- contradiction in terms. Thus discussion
tery over the conquered. Rather, they can was obliged to limit itself to rather gen-
be explained, first, by the imposition of eral remarks about the obviously wide
the Pax Romana, which gave urban cen- exchange of goods, the most famous
tres surer access to the surrounding rural points of production or sale of given
areas and rural producers access in turn articles, techniques of banking, or com-
to convenient, centralized markets; sec- mercial law. This is still the case with
ond, by the sheer attractiveness of regard to the Eastern half of the
imported articles, which intensified Mediterranean world, where excavation
efforts to increase the power to buy them; has made relatively little headway; but,
third, by the economic stimulation for the West, archaeological data have
afforded by taxes, which had to be paid greatly increased in recent decades in
on new earnings but which remained in both quantity and intelligibility. As a
the provinces where they were raised. result, a growing number of significant
In the fourth place, prosperity also statements based on quantification can
rose in the regions least Romanized. This now be made. They are of special value
can be explained by the fact that they because they bear on what was eco-
tended to be heavily garrisoned and the nomically most important—namely,
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 147

agriculture. Like any preindustrial econ- identification, however, an economic one

omy, that of the empire derived the does not fit very well. Evidence, as it accu-
overwhelming bulk of its gross national mulates in more quantifiable form, does
product from food production. One would not seem to show any perceptible eco-
therefore like to know what regions in nomic decline in the empire as a whole
what periods produced what rough per- after roughly 160. Rather, Italy had prob-
centage of the chief comestibles—wine, ably suffered some decrease in disposable
oil, wheat, garum, or legumes. Thanks to wealth in the earlier first century. Gaul’s
techniques such as neutron activation greatest city, Lugdunum, had begun to
analysis or X-ray fluorescence spectrom- shrink toward the end of the second, and
etry, the contents of large samples of various other regions in the West suf-
amphorae at certain market junctures fered setbacks at various times, while all
can be identified, dated by shape of ves- of Greece continued to be poor. Other
sel, and occasionally ascribed to certain regions, however, had more wealth to
named producers of the vessel, and the spend, and as is manifest in major urban
information drawn into a graph; or, the projects of utility and beautification or in
numbers and find-spots of datable fine the larger rooms and increasingly expen-
“china” (so-called Arretine ware or later sive decoration of rural villas. Roman rule
equivalents) or ceramic oil lamps from also brought extraordinary benefits to the
named producers can be indicated on a economies of Numidia and Britain, to
map of, say, Spain or France. The yield of name its two most obvious successes.
such data underlies statements made To the extent the empire grew richer,
above regarding, for example, the super- modern observers are likely to look for an
session of Italy as producer of several explanation in technology. As noted
essential agricultural products by the above, in Augustus’s reign a new mode of
mid-first century ad, the concurrent trans- glassblowing spread rapidly from Syria
formation of Gaul from importer to to other production centres; Syria in the
exporter, and the emergence by the third third century was also the home of new
century of northern Africa as a major and more complicated weave patterns.
exporter of certain very common articles. Such rather minor items, however, only
Information of this general nature pro- show that technical improvements in
vides some sense of the shift in prosperity industry were few and insignificant. The
in the Western provinces. screw press for wine and olive oil was
In the age of the Antonines, Rome’s more efficient than the levered variety,
empire enjoyed an obvious and prosper- but it was not widely adopted, even within
ous tranquility; modern consensus has Italy. Waterwheels for power, known in
even settled on about AD 160 as the peak Anatolia in Augustus’s reign, were little
of Roman civilization. Whatever mea- used; a few examples in Gaul belong only
surement may be used in this to the later empire. Similarly, the
148 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

mechanical reaper was found only in its inadequacies by borrowing in times of

Gaul of the fourth century. Perhaps the special need; Nero’s need to harry his
most significant advances were regis- millionaire subjects with false charges of
tered in the selective breeding of strains treason in order to pay for his incredibly
of grains and domestic animals: for expensive court and spendthrift impulses
example, the “Roman” sheep (which had reflects the realities of raising revenue.
originated in the Greek East) spread So do the very cautious experiments of
throughout Europe, banishing the infe- Augustus in setting army pay and army
rior Iron Age species to a merited exile in size. Ultimately, the military strength of
the Outer Hebrides (the Soay sheep of St. the empire was insufficient—inadequate
Kilda island). What is vastly more signifi- for emergencies—because of these
cant, however, than these oddments of realities.
technological history is the minute sub-
division of productive skills and their The Army
transmission from father to son in popu-
lations adequate to the demand—for iron The army that enforced the Pax Romana
ore from Noricum, most notably, or for had expanded little beyond the size envis-
glass and paper from Alexandria. Special­ aged for it by Augustus, despite the
ization in inherited skills produced a enlargement of the empire by Claudius,
remarkably high level of proficiency, the Flavians, and Trajan. It reached 31
requiring only the security of the Pax legions momentarily under Trajan, but it
Romana for the spreading of its products usually numbered 28 under the Flavians
everywhere—transport itself being one of and Antonines until the onset of the fron-
those skills. tier crisis in Aurelius’s reign brought it to
The health of the economy no doubt 30. Without raising pay rates to attract
helps to explain the political success of recruits more easily, a large force was
the empire, which was not disturbed by seemingly beyond reach—which proba-
frequent revolts or endemic rural or bly explains why Hadrian, and later
urban unrest. On the other hand, there Commodus, halted further expansion.
were limits in the economy, which The army was used not to prop up a
expressed themselves through resistance militarist government but to defend the
to taxation. Tax levels settled at the frontiers. Shifts in enemy pressures, how-
enforceable maximum; but revenue fell ever, caused the legions to be distributed
far short of what one might expect, given differently than in Julio-Claudian times.
the best estimates of the empire’s gross Under Antoninus Pius, the Danubian
national product. The basic problem was provinces (Pannonia, Moesia, Dacia) had
the tiny size of the imperial government 10, and the East (Anatolia, Syria, Palestine,
and the resulting inefficiency of its pro- Egypt) had 9, and both regions also had
cesses. Moreover, it could not make good supporting naval flotillas; of the
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 149

remaining 9 legions, Britain contained 3 to the rewards at some frontier posting.

and the Rhineland 4. Tacitus in his Annals Peace and prosperity thus combined to
(4.5) rates the auxiliary troops near the make the army less and less Roman, less
turn of the era as being about as numer- and less of the centre, and more and more
ous as the legionnaries. But they soon nearly barbarous.
outnumbered them: that is, whereas The troops’ loyalty did not suffer on
legions contained somewhat more than that account. The men were no more
5,000 men each if they were at full ready to mutiny or to support a pretender
strength and thus totaled roughly around AD 200 than they had been in the
150,000 in the mid-second century, the early empire. However, experience espe-
auxiliaries numbered 245,000—again, if cially in the year of the four emperors
at full strength. Recent estimates put the (AD 69) did suggest the desirability of
actual figure for the entire army at 375,000 splitting commands into smaller units,
to 400,000. which, in turn, involved splitting up prov-
Two reasons, military and financial, inces, the number of which was constantly
explain the growing use of nonlegion- growing; by Hadrian’s day subdivision
naries. Mustered in units mostly of 500, began to anticipate the fragmentation
they were easier to move around and later carried out by Diocletian.
could be encouraged to maintain the spe-
cial native skills of their inheritance—as Cultural Life
slingers from the Balearic Islands or
Crete, in camel corps from Numidia, or as The literature of the empire is both abun-
light cavalry from Thrace. In addition, dant and competent, for which the
they could be recruited for lower wages emperors’ encouragement and financing
than legionnaries. As regards recruit- of libraries and higher education were
ment for the legions, even that higher perhaps in part responsible. The writers,
rate proved less and less attractive. however, with the possible exception of
Whereas legions in the early empire Christian apologists, were seldom excit-
could be largely filled with men born in ingly original and creative. As Tacitus
Italy and southern Gaul, by the second said, the great masters of literature had
half of the first century most of the men ceased to be. Perhaps Augustus’s empha-
had to be drawn from the provinces; sis on tradition affected more than
after Trajan, they were largely natives of political ideals and practice. At any rate,
the frontier provinces. Young men from the men of letters, too, looked often back-
inner parts of the empire, growing up in ward. At the same time, they clearly reveal
successive generations of continual peace, the success of the empire in spreading
no longer looked on military service as a Greco-Roman culture, for the majority of
natural part of manhood, and the civilian them were natives of neither Italy nor
economy appeared attractive compared Greece. Of the writers in Latin, the two
150 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Senecas, Lucan, Martial, Columella, by authors who were not native to the
Hyginus, and Pomponius Mela came from birthplace of the language. The so-called
Spain; Fronto, Apuleius, and probably Second Sophistic reverted to the atticism
Florus and Aulus Gellius, from Africa. of an earlier day but often in a Roman
Tacitus was perhaps from Gallia spirit; its products from the Asian pens of
Narbonensis. Dio Chrysostom and Aelius Aristides are
The Latin writers in general sought sometimes limpid and talented tours de
their models less in Greece than in force but rarely great literature. In Greek,
Augustus’s Golden Age, when Latin lit- too, the best work was in satire, the comic
erature had reached maturity. Thus, the prose dialogues of the Syrian Lucian
poets admired Virgil and imitated Ovid; being the most noteworthy and original
lacking genuine inspiration, they substi- literary creations of the period. Among
tuted for it an erudite cleverness, the fruit minor writers the charm of Arrian and
of an education that stressed oratory of a Pausanias, Asians both, and above all of
striking but sterile kind. Authentic elo- Plutarch abides (although Plutarch’s tal-
quence in Latin came to an end when, as ents were mediocre, and his moralizing
Tacitus put it, the principate “pacified” was shallow, his biographies, like those of
oratory. Under the Flavians and his Latin contemporary Suetonius, are
Antonines, an artificial rhetoric, con- full of information and interest).
stantly straining after meretricious Imperial encouragement of Greek
effects, replaced it. The epigrammatic culture and a conviction, no longer justi-
aphorism (sententia) was especially culti- fied, of its artistic and intellectual
vated; the epics of Lucan, Valerius superiority caused the East to resist
Flaccus, Silius Italicus, and Statius are Latinization. This attitude was bound to
full of it, and it found a natural outlet in lead to a divided empire, and thoughtful
satirical writing, of which the Latin observers must have noted it with mis-
instinct for the mordant always ensured givings. The split, however, was still far in
an abundance. In fact, Latin satire the future. Meanwhile, there was a more
excelled: witness Martial’s epigrams, immediate cause for disquiet. The pleth-
Petronius’s and Juvenal’s pictures of the ora of summaries and anthologies that
period, and Persius’s more academic talent. appeared implies a public progressively
For that matter, Tacitus’s irony and pes- indifferent to reading whole works of lit-
simism were not far removed from satire. erature for themselves. In other words,
In the East the official status of Greek the outlook for letters was poor, and this
and the favour it enjoyed from such had an unfortunate effect on the scien-
emperors as Hadrian gave new life to tific literature of the age, which was in
Greek literature. It had something in com- itself of first-class quality. Dioscorides on
mon with its Latin counterpart in that it botany, Galen on medicine, and Ptolemy
looked to the past but was chiefly written on mathematics, astronomy, and
The Early Roman Empire (31 BC–AD 193) | 151

geography represent expert scholars Flavian times this Roman artistic instinct
expounding carefully, systematically, and had asserted itself and with it the old
lucidly the existing knowledge in their Roman tendency toward lively and accu-
respective fields. But their very excel- rate pictorial representation. It can be
lence proved fatal because, as the reading seen from the reliefs illustrating the tri-
public dwindled, theirs remained standard umph over Judaea in the passageway of
works for far too long; their inevitable the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum.
errors became enshrined, and their works The narrative description dear to Roman
acted as brakes on further progress. art found its best expression in the great
Stoicism was the most flourishing spiral frieze on Trajan’s Column, where
philosophy of the age. In the East a ster- the emperor can be seen among his sol-
ile scholasticism diligently studied Plato diers at various times in the Dacian
and Aristotle, but Epictetus, the stoic campaigns; the story of the war plays a
from Anatolia, was the preeminent phi- most important part, although, like most
losopher. In the West, stoicism permeates imperial monuments, the column is meant
Seneca’s work and much of Pliny’s to exalt the leader. Under Hadrian a reac-
Natural History. Evidently, its advocacy tion made sculpture less markedly Italian,
of common morality appealed to the tra- as if to be in conformity with the slow
ditional Roman sense of decorum and decline of Italy toward quasi-provincial
duty, and its doctrine of a world directed status. Also under Hadrian, the figure
by an all-embracing providence struck a of the emperor was more prominent—
responsive chord in the second-century bigger and more frontal than the other
emperors, though they deeply disap- figures—as if to illustrate the growing
proved of its extremist offshoots, the monarchical tone of the principate. This
cynics: Marcus Aurelius, as noted, was tendency continued under the Antonines,
himself a stoic. when there was a magnificent flowering
Imperial art, dealing above all with of sculpture on panels, columns, and
man and his achievements, excelled in sarcophagi; but its exuberance and splen-
portraits and commemoration of events; dour foreshadow the end of classical art.
Roman sculpture and presumably Roman The artistic currents that flowed in
painting, also, owed much to Greek styles Rome were felt throughout the empire,
and techniques. It emerged, however, as the less developed areas being influenced
its own distinctive type. The Augustan most. In the West, provincial sculpture
age had pointed the way that Roman art closely resembled Roman, although it
would go: Italian taste would be imposed sometimes showed variations, in Gaul
on Hellenic models to produce some- especially, owing to local influences (the
thing original. The reliefs of the Augustan native element, however, is not always
Ara Pacis belong to Rome and Italy, no easy to identify). The Roman quality of
matter who actually carved them. By portraits painted on Egyptian mummy
152 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

cases shows that the Greek-speaking huge thermal establishments, the massive
regions were also affected, although solidity of the amphitheatres, and the
generally they maintained their own audacity of the soaring bridges and aque-
traditions. But by now the Greek East had ducts. The East was greatly impressed.
become rather barren; much of its pro- Admittedly, the agoras and gymnasiums
duction was imitative rather than vitally in Greek towns are hardly Roman in
creative. Greece proper contributed little, aspect, but, for most structures of a prac-
the centre of Hellenism having shifted to tical utilitarian kind, the Greek debt to
Anatolia, to places such as Aphrodisias, Rome was heavy. Sometimes Roman
where there was a flourishing school of influence can be seen not only in the
sculpture. fundamental engineering of such build-
In at least one respect the East was ings as market gateways, theatres, and
heavily influenced by Rome. The use of amphitheatres but even in such decora-
concrete and cross vault enabled Roman tive details as composite capitals as well.
architects and engineers to span wide Roman features abound in exotic Petra,
areas. Their technological achievements Palmyra, Gerasa, and Baalbek, and even
included the covered vastness of the in Athens itself.
The Later
Roman Empire
A fter the assassination of Commodus on Dec. 31, AD 192,
Helvius Pertinax, the prefect of the city, became emperor.
In spite of his modest birth, he was well respected by the
Senate, but he was without his own army. He was killed by
the praetorians at the end of March 193, after a three-
month reign.

THE DyNASTy Of THE SEvERI (AD 193–235)

The praetorians, after much corrupt bargaining, designated as

emperor an old general, Didius Julianus, who had promised
them the largest donativum (a donation given to each soldier
on the emperor’s accession). The action of the praetorians
roused the ire of the provincial armies. The army of the
Danube, which was the most powerful as well as the closest to
Rome, appointed Septimius Severus as emperor in May 193.

Septimius Severus

Severus soon had to face two competitors, supported, like

himself, by their own troops: Pescennius Niger, the legate of
Syria, and Clodius Albinus, legate of Britain. After having
temporarily neutralized Albinus by accepting him as Caesar
(heir apparent), Septimius marched against Niger, whose
troops, having come from Egypt and Syria, were already
occupying Byzantium. The Danubian legions were
154 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

victorious, and Niger was killed at the at not being associated with the empire,
end of 194; Antioch and Byzantium were proclaimed himself Augustus in 196 and
pillaged after a long siege. Septimius invaded Gaul. He was supported by the
even invaded Mesopotamia, for the troops, by the population, and even by
Parthians had supported Niger. the senators in Rome. In February 197 he
But this campaign was quickly inter- was defeated and killed in a difficult battle
rupted. In the West, Albinus, disappointed near his capital of Lugdunum, which, in
turn, was almost devastated.
Septimius Severus remained
the sole master of the empire,
but the pillagings, executions,
and confiscations left a pain-
ful memory.
A few months later, in the
summer of 197, he launched a
second Mesopotamian cam-
paign, this time against the
Parthian king Vologases IV,
who had attacked the frontier
outpost Nisibis conquered
two years previously by the
Romans. Septimius Severus
was again victorious. Having
arrived at the Parthian capitals
(Seleucia and Ctesiphon), he
was defeated near Hatra but in
198 obtained an advantageous
peace: Rome retained a part of
Mesopotamia, together with
Nisibis, the new province
being governed by an eques.
After having inspected the
East, the emperor returned to
Rome in 202. He spent most of
his time there until 208, when
the incursions of Caledonian
rebels called him to Britain,
Septimius Severus converted the government of Rome
into a military monarchy. Hulton Archive/Getty Images where he carried out a three-
year campaign along Hadrian’s
The Later Roman Empire | 155

Wall. He died at Eboracum (York) in place, Septimius Severus, aware of the

February 211. urgency of external problems, estab-
Septimius Severus belonged to a lished a sort of military monarchy. The
Romanized Tripolitan family that had praetorian cohorts doubled their ranks,
only recently attained honours. He was and the dismissal of the old staff of Italian
born in Leptis Magna in North Africa and origin transformed the Praetorian Guard
favoured his native land throughout his into an imperial guard, in which the elite
reign. He was married to Julia Domna of of the Danube army were the most impor-
Emesa, a Syrian woman from an impor- tant element. The auxiliary troops were
tant priestly family, and was surrounded increased by the creation of 1,000-man
by Easterners. He had pursued a senato- units (infantry cohorts) and cavalry
rial career and had proved himself a troops, sometimes outfitted with mail
competent general, but he was above all a armour in the Parthian manner. The
good administrator and a jurist. Disliking careers of noncommissioned officers
Romans, Italians, and senators, he delib- emerging from the ranks now opened
erately relied on the faithful Danubian onto new horizons: centurions and non-
army that had brought him to power, and commissioned grades could attain the
he always showed great concern for the tribunate and enter into the equestrian
provincials and the lower classes. order. Thus, a simple Illyrian peasant
Although he had sought to appropriate might attain high posts: this was undoubt-
the popularity of the Antonines to his edly the most significant aspect of the
own advantage by proclaiming himself “Severan revolution.” This “democratiza-
the son of Marcus Aurelius and by nam- tion” was not necessarily a barbarization,
ing his own son Marcus Aurelius for the provincial legions had long been
Antoninus, he in fact carried out a totally Romanized. Their salaries were increased,
different policy—a brutal yet realistic and donativa were distributed more fre-
policy that opened careers to new social quently; thenceforth, soldiers were fed at
classes. Indifferent to the prestige of the expense of the provincials. Veterans
the Senate, where he had a great many received lands, mostly in Syria and Africa.
enemies, he favoured the equites. The right of legitimate marriage, previ-
The army thus became the seedbed of ously refused by Augustus, was granted
the equestrian order and was the object to almost all of the soldiers, and the right to
of all of his attentions. The ready forces form collegia (private associations) was
were increased by the creation of three given to noncommissioned officers.
new legions commanded by equites, and Because more than a century had passed
one of these, the Second Parthica, was since the last raise in pay for the troops,
installed near Rome. Unlike Vespasian, despite a steady (if slow) rise in the level
who also owed his power to the army of prices, Severus increased the legionary’s
but who knew how to keep it in its proper base rate from 300 to 500 denarii, with,
156 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

no doubt, corresponding increases in other favoured by the Antonines, were more

ranks. The reflection of this step in the and more considered as administrative
content of precious metal in silver coinage wheels in the service of the state: the rich-
recalls a point made earlier: the imperial est decuriones (municipal councillors)
revenues were constrained within the were financially responsible for levying
narrow limits of political and administra- the taxes, and it was for this purpose that
tive reality. the towns of Egypt finally received a
The administrative accomplishments boulē (municipal senate).
of Septimius Severus were of great impor- The burden of taxes and forced gov-
tance: he clearly outlined the powers of ernment service was made weightier by
the city prefect; he entrusted the praeto- numerous transport duties for the army
rian prefecture to first-class jurists, such and for the annona service and was regu-
as Papinian; and he increased the num- lated by the jurists through financial,
ber of procurators, who were recruited for personal, or mixed charges. The state was
financial posts from among Africans and watchful to keep the decuriones in the
Easterners and for government posts service of their cities and to provide a
(praesides) from among Danubian offi- control on their administration through
cers. Italy lost its privileges and found the appointment of curatores rei publicae,
itself subjected, like all the other prov- or officials of the central government.
inces, to the new annona , a tax paid in The lower classes were, in principle, pro-
kind, which assured the maintenance of tected against the abuses of the rich, but
the army and of the officials. The conse- in fact they were placed at the service of
quent increase in expenditures—for the state through the restrictions imposed
administration, for the salaries and the on shipping and commercial corpora-
donativa of the soldiers, for the mainte- tions. Membership might entail forced
nance of the Roman plebs, and for contributions of capital or labour to such
construction—obliged the emperor to public necessities as the supply of food to
devalue the denarius in 194. But the con- Rome. The state became more and more
fiscations increased his personal fortune, a policeman, and the excesses of power of
the res privata, which had been previ- numerous grain merchants (frumentarii)
ously created by Antoninus. weighed heavily on the little man.
Severus’s social policy favoured both Imperial power, without repudiating
the provincial recruitment of senators the ideological themes of the principate,
(Easterners, Africans, and even rested in fact on the army and sought its
Egyptians), causing a sharp decrease in legitimacy in heredity: the two sons of
the percentage of Italian senators, and Septimius Severus, Caracalla and Geta,
the elevation of the equestrian order, were first proclaimed Caesars, the former
which began to fill the prince’s council in 196, the latter in 198; later, they were
with its jurists. The cities, which had been directly associated with imperial power
The Later Roman Empire | 157

through bestowal of the title of Augustus, revenues by bringing new elements of

in 198 and 209, respectively. Thus, during the population under tax obligations for-
the last three years of Septimius Severus’s merly limited to Romans only.
reign, the empire had three Augusti at Although little endowed with military
its head. qualities, Caracalla adopted as his patron
Alexander the Great, whom he admired
Caracalla greatly, and embarked on an active exter-
nal policy. He fought successfully against
Caracalla, the eldest son of Septimius the Teutonic tribes of the upper Danube,
Severus, reigned from 211 to 217, after among whom the Alamanni, as well as
having assassinated his younger brother, the Capri of the middle Danube, appeared
Geta. He was a caricature of his father: for the first time; he often prudently
violent, megalomaniacal, full of complexes, mixed military operations with negotia-
and, in addition, cruel and debauched. He tion and gave important subsidies and
retained the entourage of the equites and money (in sound currency) to the barbar-
jurists who had governed with his father ians, thus arousing much discontent. His
but enforced to an even greater degree ambition was to triumph in the East like
his father’s militaristic and egalitarian his hero of old and, more recently,
policy. He increased the wages of the Trajan and his own father. He invaded
army even further and, at the same time, Armenia and Adiabene and annexed
began a costly building program that Osroëne in northwest Mesopotamia, join-
quickly depleted the fortune left him by ing it to the part of Mesopotamia taken
his father. He forced the senators to pay by Septimius Severus. In April 217, while
heavy contributions, doubled the inheri- pursuing his march on the Tigris, he was
tance and emancipation taxes, and often assassinated on the order of one of his
required the aurum coronarium (a contri- praetorian prefects, Marcus Opellius
bution in gold), thereby ruining the urban Macrinus.
middle classes. To counter the effects of a
general upward drift of prices and the Macrinus
larger and better-paid army of his own
and his father’s making, he created a new Macrinus was accepted as emperor by
silver coin, the antoninianus. It was the soldiers, who were unaware of the role
intended to replace the basic denarius at he had played in the death of his prede-
double its value, although containing only cessor. For the first time an eques had
about one and a half times its worth in acceded to the empire after having been
precious metal. The only historical source no more than a manager of financial
to suggest Caracalla’s motive for his gift affairs. The senators reluctantly accepted
of universal citizenship, Dio Cassius, this member of the equestrian order, who,
states that it was meant to increase nevertheless, proved to be moderate and
158 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

conciliatory; but the armies despised him killed him in 222 and proclaimed as
as a mere civilian, and the ancient authors emperor his first cousin, Alexianus, who
were hostile to him. His reign was brief, took the name of Severus Alexander.
and little is known of him. He concluded Although well educated and full of
an inglorious peace with the Parthians, good intentions, Severus Alexander
which assured Mesopotamia to Rome showed some weakness of character by
through the payment of large sums of submitting to the counsel of his mother,
money. And to make himself popular, he Mamaea, and of his grandmother, Maesa.
canceled Caracalla’s tax increases and The Scriptores historiae Augustae, a col-
reduced military expenditures. A plot lection of biographies of the emperors,
against him was soon organized: two attributes to him a complete program of
young grandnephews of Septimius reforms favourable to the Senate, but
Severus were persuaded by their mothers these reforms are not mentioned else-
and especially by their grandmother, where. As in the time of Septimius
Julia Maesa, the sister of Julia Domna Severus, his counselors were equites.
(who had recently died), to reach for Ulpian, the praetorian prefect, was the
imperial power. The eldest, Bassianus, greatest jurist of this period, and the basic
was presented to the troops of Syria, who policies of the founder of the dynasty
had been bought with gold, and was pro- were carried on, but with less energy.
claimed in April 218. Shortly afterward, This weakening of energy had disastrous
Macrinus was defeated and killed, as was results: in Persia, the Arsacids were
his son (whom he had associated with replaced in 224 by the more ambitious
him on the throne). Sāsānid dynasty, who hoped to recover
the former possessions of the
Elagabalus and Achaemenids in the East. Their initial
Severus Alexander attacks were stopped in 232 by a cam-
paign that was, however, poorly
The new emperor was presented as the conducted by the emperor and that alien-
son of Caracalla, whose name he took ated the army as a result of its ineptitude.
(Marcus Aurelius Antoninus). He is bet- In Rome there were frequent disorders,
ter known, however, under the name and, as early as 223, Ulpian had been
Elagabalus, the god whose high priest he killed by the praetorians. While gathered
was and whom he quickly and imprudently on the Rhine to fight the Teutons, the
attempted to impose on the Romans, in soldiers once again revolted and killed
spite of his grandmother’s counsel of mod- Severus Alexander and his mother. A
eration. Fourteen years old, he caused coarse and uneducated but energetic sol-
himself to be detested by his heavy dier, Maximinus the Thracian, succeeded
expenditures, his orgies, and the dissolute him without difficulty in March 235. The
behaviour of his circle. The praetorians Severan dynasty had come to an end.
The Later Roman Empire | 159

Religious and cultural on people by the state, but the statement

life in the third century needs qualification. The cults of Rome
were certainly official in the city itself.
On the right bank of the Tiber in Rome, They were supported out of the state trea-
in the least fashionable section of town sury and by the devotion of the emperor,
among Lebanese and Jewish labourers, at least if he lived up to what everyone
Elagabalus built an elegant temple to his felt were his responsibilities. In the army,
ancestral god. He was no doubt in those too, camps had shrines in which portraits
precincts very well received when he pre- of the emperor were displayed for venera-
sided personally at its inauguration. Yet the tion on certain days of the year. A
world that counted, the world of senators third-century calendar has been found in
and centurions, reacted with indignation. an Eastern city that specifies for the gar-
Within the capital the ruler was expected rison regiment the religious ceremonies
to honour the gods of the capital, the to be carried out during the year, includ-
ancient Roman ones. At the same time, it ing a number of the oldest and most
was deemed appropriate that he reverently traditional ones in Rome. Many Western
recognize other gods, in their place. For this cities accorded special size and promi-
reason a biography presenting Severus nence to a temple in which Jupiter or the
Alexander for the reader’s admiration imperial family or both together were
records how scrupulously he offered wor- worshiped not by orders from on high, it
ship on the Capitoline to Jupiter, while is true, but spontaneously. The ubiquity
also having, in a chapel attached to his of the imperial cult has already been
domestic quarters, the images of his lares emphasized. All these manifestations of
(household gods), of the deified emperors piety gave some quality of “Romanness”
of most beloved memory, and of such to the religion of the empire.
superhuman beings as the Greeks would On the other hand, the empire had
have called “heroes,” including Apollonius been assembled from a great number of
the holy man of Tyana, Christ, Abraham, parts, whose peoples already had their
and Orpheus. The furnishing of the chapel own way of life fully matured. They were
is described by a most dubious source. not about to surrender it nor, in fact,
But if it is not history, it is at least reveal- were they ever asked to do so by their
ing of ideals. A Roman ruler was to express conquerors. What characterized the reli-
not only the piety of the capital and its gious life of the empire as a whole was
citizens but also that of all his people the continued vitality of local cults in
throughout his empire. Imperial religion combination with a generally reverent
was properly compounded of both Roman awareness of one’s neighbours’ cults. The
and non-Roman piety. emperor, for example, might openly offer
Official religion can hardly be said to personal veneration to his favourite
have existed in the sense of being pressed god, a god outside the traditional Roman
160 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

circle, while also practicing a more con- Augustus to Severus Alexander followed
ventional piety. When he was on his a somewhat different course from those
travels, he would offer cult at the chief in the West. In the East the further jum-
shrines of all the localities he visited. bling together of already well-mixed
What was expected of the emperor was traditions encouraged a tolerance that
expected of everyone: respectful tolera- eroded their edges. It became possible to
tion of all components in the religious see predominant similarities in Selene,
amalgam. Of course, there were differ- Artemis, and Isis, in Zeus, Iarhibol,
ences according to individual Helios, and Serapis, or in Cybele, Ma, and
temperament and degree of education; Bellona. From recognition of basic simi-
approaches to religion might be literal or larities one might reason to a sort of
philosophical, fervent or relaxed. Rural monotheism, by the lights of which, for
society was more conservative than persons given to theology, local deities
urban. But the whole can fairly be called were no more than narrow expressions
an integrated system. of greater truths. A juncture was then
Just as the special power of the Greek natural with Neoplatonism, the school of
gods had gained recognition among the philosophy that later came to be held in
Etruscans and, subsequently, among high regard.
the Romans in remote centuries BC or as On the other hand, in Italy, the
Serapis in Hellenistic times had come to Danube provinces, and the Western prov-
be worshiped in scattered parts of the inces, religious change and development
Ptolemies’ realm—Macedonia and Ionia, can be more easily seen in the immigra-
for example—so at last the news of unfa- tion of worshippers of Easter deities.
miliar gods was carried by their Those took root and became popular—
worshipers to distant places in the Roman none more so than Mithra, though Isis,
Empire where, too, they worked their Cybele, and Jupiter of Doliche were close
wonders, attracted reverent attention, behind. Apuleius in the closing chapters
and received a pillared lodging, a priest- of his novel usually called The Golden
hood, and daily offerings. The Pax Ass in English describes how a young
Romana encouraged a great deal more man is brought from mere consciousness
than commerce in material objects. It of Isis as a famous goddess with certain
made inevitable the exchange of ideas in well-known rites and attributes, to a sin-
a more richly woven and complex fabric gle-minded devotion to her. Aelius
than the Mediterranean world had ever Aristides, a famous rhetorician of the
seen, in which the Phrygian Cybele was time, recounts in his spiritual diary
at home also in Gaul and the Italian the development of a similar devotion in
Silvanus in northern Africa. himself to Asclepius. Both the fictional
Religious developments in the East­ and the factual account give a central
ern provinces during the centuries from place to benefits miraculously granted.
The Later Roman Empire | 161

temples, and so forth—through

which it is possible to trace the
spread of foreign cults. Eastern
cults, however, also introduced
to the West complex liturgies,
beliefs underlying beliefs that
could be explained in espe-
cially dramatic ways to special
devotees (“mysteries”), and
much rich symbolism. Of no
cult was this more true than
Mithraism, known to the 20th
century through excavation of
the underground shrines that
it preferred.

The Rise of

During the first and second

centuries, Christianity spread
with relative slowness. The
doctrines of Jesus, who was
crucified about AD 30, first
took root among the Jews of
Palestine, where a large num-
ber of sects were
proliferating—orthodox sects,
such as the Sadducees and the
Isis, the Egyptian goddess of fertility, experienced a Pharisees, as well as dissident
resurgence of popularity in the Western provinces during and sometimes persecuted
the third century. Hulton Archive/Getty Images sects such as the Essenes,
whose ascetic practices have
It was by such means that piety was been illuminated by the discovery of the
ordinarily warmed to a special fervour, Dead Sea Scrolls in the mid-20th century.
whether or not that process should be At the end of Tiberius’s reign, Christianity
called conversion. had spread to the gentiles as a result of
In any case, it produced what are known the preaching of St. Paul in Anatolia and
as the testimonies—votive inscriptions, in Greece. At the same time, Christianity
162 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

continued to make progress among the It was a peace that could not extend to
Jews of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Syria people who had (it would be alleged)
and quickly reached even Osroëne and apostasized from their own Judaism.
the Parthian towns of the Euphrates, Christians did not participate in the
where Jewish colonies were numerous. Jewish revolt of 66–73, and, under the
The Roman authorities at first had diffi- Flavians, Christianity completely severed
culty in distinguishing the “Christos” itself from its origins.
believers from the orthodox Jews, but the At this time the East was the centre of
religion of the former, on leaving its origi- the new religion, whose followers grew in
nal milieu, quickly became differentiated. numbers from Egypt to the Black Sea and
However, a familiar charge against were beginning to be noticed in Bithynia
the Jews, that they felt a hatred of man- and in Greece. Christians seemed fairly
kind, continued to pursue the Christians. numerous in Rome as early as the end of
Their expectation of the end of the world the first century. When the age of the
aroused a suspicion that that was what Apostles ended, the age of the church
they indeed desired; moreover, they began, with its bishops, presbyters, and
were also suspect for their aloofness— deacons, with its catechism, preaching,
they cut themselves off from family and and celebration of the Eucharist. In the
community—and for their meetings, second century, Christianity began to
whose purpose was obscure. Their sec- reach the intellectuals. Hellenistic cul-
ond-century spokesmen had to dispel the ture offered educated Christians the
belief, often recorded, that they practiced resources of philosophical dialectic and
magic involving cannibalism, indulged of sophist rhetoric. The example of Philo
in sex orgies (incestuous to boot), and, of Alexandria had shown in the first cen-
the most common accusation of all, that tury that it was possible to reconcile the
they were atheists—people who denied Bible with the great Platonic ideas. By
the existence of the gods and rejected the second century the Christian “apolo-
accepted cults. This last charge, which gists” tried to show that Christianity was
was, of course, exactly on the mark, must in harmony with Greco-Roman humanism
be set in the context of occasional epi- and that it was intellectually, and above
sodes of mob violence against all morally, superior to paganism.
(non-Christian) atheists or doubters. But the Christians did not succeed in
Here the association of Christians with convincing the authorities. The first per-
Jews, equally monotheistic, might have secution, that of Nero, was related to a
provided some protection for the devastating fire in the capital in 64, for
Christians, but the Jews were faithful to a which the Christians were blamed or,
cult of the greatest antiquity and, more- perhaps, only made the scapegoats. In
over, had long made their peace with any case, their position as bad people
Caesar, Augustus, and their successors. (mali homines of the sort a governor
The Later Roman Empire | 163

should try to suppress) had been estab- quieted, and the church continued to
lished, and later suppressions could be progress, favoured perhaps by the rela-
justified by reference to “the Neronian tive freedom that the law granted to
practice.” So far as criminal law was con- funerary collegia (whence the first
cerned, such a precedent had considerable catacombs).
authority, of the sort that Pliny, as gover-  
nor, was looking for in his handling of the Cultural Life from the
Christians of Bithynia-Pontus in 111. His Antonines to Constantine
master, the emperor Trajan, told him not
to seek them out but to execute those Latin literature enjoyed its “Silver Age”
who, being informed against, refused to under the Antonines, with the majority of
abjure their religion. great authors, such as Tacitus, Juvenal,
Hadrian and other successors hewed and Pliny the Younger, having begun
to the same line thereafter. Thus, the their careers under Domitian. They had
persecutions remained localized and no heirs; after Tacitus, Roman history was
sporadic and were the result of private reduced to biography. It was only in the
denunciations or of spontaneous popular fourth century that history began to flour-
protests. Under Marcus Aurelius, the dif- ish again, with Ammianus Marcellinus, a
ficulties of the times often caused the Greek writing in Latin. Satire, the Roman
Christians, who refused to sacrifice to genre par excellence, came to an end with
the state gods and to participate in the Juvenal; and Pliny the Younger, a dili-
imperial cult, to be accused of provoking gent rhetorician but with a lesser degree
the wrath of the gods. Martyrs appeared of talent, had only the mediocre Fronto
in the East, in Rome, in Gaul, and in as a successor. More original was the
Africa. Commodus’s reign was more aforementioned rhetorician, scholar,
favourable to them, perhaps because and picaresque novelist Apuleius of
certain members of his circle, not a very Madauros.
edifying one in other respects, were A Greek renaissance, however, took
Christians or Christian sympathizers. place during the second century. The
This reprieve, however, was short- Second Sophistic school reigned in every
lived: Septimius Severus inaugurated the area: in rhetoric, history, philosophy, and
first systematic persecution. In 202 an even in the sciences. Schools of rhetoric
edict forbade Christian (and Jewish) and philosophy prospered in the East—
proselytism. Members of extremist sects in Smyrna, Ephesus, Pergamum,
were persecuted for preaching continence Rhodes, Alexandria, and even in Athens—
(which violated Augustus’s laws against protected and subsidized by the
celibacy), for holding the state in con- emperors, from Vespasian to Marcus
tempt, and especially for refusing military Aurelius. The great sophists were
service. Under Caracalla, the situation Herodes Atticus, a multimillionaire from
164 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Athens; Polemon; and Aelius Aristides, a 160–after 222), Christian thought deep-
valetudinarian devotee of Asclepius. Dio ened, and theology made its appearance.
Cassius and Herodian were conscientious Clement and Origen (c. 185–c. 254), the
and useful historians (first half of the greatest theologian of the time, were
third century), as was later Dexippus the the luminaries of the church of Alex­
Athenian, whose work survives only in andria; the Roman church still wrote in
fragments. Greek and was represented by the slightly
Science was represented by the old-fashioned Hippolytus; and the church
mathematician Nicomachus of Gerasa, of Africa had a powerful personality, St.
medicine by Galen of Pergamum, and Cyprian, bishop of Carthage.
astronomy by the Alexandrian Ptolemy. The disappearance of the great lyric
Law remained the only Roman science, and poetic styles, the fossilizing of educa-
exemplified under the Antonines by tion as it came to be completely based on
Salvius Julianus and Gaius (the rhetoric (paideia), and the growing
Institutiones) and rising to its zenith in importance of philosophical and reli-
the third century as a result of the works gious polemical literature among both
of three jurists: Papinian, Ulpian, and pagans and Christians were the basic
Modestinus. Philosophy, heavily influ- traits that, as early as the third century,
enced by rhetoric and ethics, was foreshadowed the intellectual life of the
represented under Domitian and Trajan late empire.
by Dio (or Chrysostom) of Prusa, who
outlined the stoical doctrine of the ideal Military anarchy and
sovereign. The biographer Plutarch and the disintegration of the
Lucian of Samosata were more eclectic, empire (235–270)
especially Lucian, who resembled
Voltaire in his caustic skepticism. Under The period from the death of Severus
Marcus Aurelius, one of Lucian’s friends, Alexander to the time of Claudius II
Celsus, wrote the first serious criticism of Gothicus was marked by usurpations and
Christianity, “The True Word,” known barbarian invasions. After Maximinus
through Origen’s refutation of it in the the Thracian, who bravely fought the
third century. At this time philosophy Alemanni but showed great hostility
leaned toward religious mysticism: toward the Senate and the educated elite,
under the Severans, Ammonius Saccas the Gordians rose to power as a result of
created the school of Alexandria, and his a revolt by wealthy African landowners.
disciple Plotinus founded the Neo­ A senatorial reaction first imposed civil-
platonist school, which was to fight ian emperors, Pupienus and Balbinus
bitterly against Christianity. After the together, and then named Gordian III, a
apologists and, above all, Tertullian (c. youth backed by his father-in-law, the
The Later Roman Empire | 165

The surrender of the emperor Valerian to the Persian king Shāpūr, rock relief, AD 260, in the
province of Fārs, Iran. Roger-Viollet

praetorian prefect Timesitheus. Gordian His son then reigned alone, facing
III was murdered by the soldiers during a multiple invasions and several usurpa-
campaign against the Persians and was tions. He moved constantly between the
replaced, first by Philip the Arabian and Rhine and the Danube, achieving bril-
then by Decius, both soldiers. Decius liant victories (Milan in 262, the Nestus
tried to restore Roman traditions and also in 267), but the Pannonian army raised
persecuted the Christians, but he was several competitors against him
killed by the Goths in 251 in a battle near (Ingenuus, Regalianus, Aureolus). Too
the Black Sea. From 253 to 268 two Roman busy to protect the Gauls against the
senators, Valerian and his son Gallienus, Franks and the Alemanni and the East
reigned. Valerian revived the persecution against the Persians, he had to tolerate
of the Christians, but he was captured the formation of the Gallic empire under
by the Persians during a disastrous cam- the praetorian prefect Marcus Cassianius
paign and died in captivity (260). Postumus (259–268) and the Palmyrene
166 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

kingdom of Odenathus (260–267). Some necessity but had been too weak to
of his reforms were a foreshadowing of impose them.
the future. The senators were practically
excluded from the army, the equites The Barbarian Invasions
received the majority of commands and
of provincial governorships, and the com- The Goths were Germans coming from
position of the army was modified by the what is now Sweden and were followed
creation of new army corps and espe- by the Vandals, the Burgundians, and the
cially of a strong cavalry, which was Gepidae. The aftereffect of their march to
placed under the command of a single the southeast, toward the Black Sea, was
leader and charged with closing the to push the Marcomanni, the Quadi, and
breaches that the barbarians were open- the Sarmatians onto the Roman limes in
ing along the frontiers. Marcus Aurelius’s time. Their presence
Upon his father’s death, Gallienus was brusquely revealed when they
had put an end to the persecution of the attacked the Greek towns on the Black
Christians, preferring to fight the new Sea about 238. Timesitheus fought
religion through intellectual means; to against them under Gordian III, and
that end, he favoured the ancient Greek under Philip and Decius they besieged
cults (Demeter of Eleusis) and protected the towns of Moesia and Thrace, led by
the Neoplatonist philosopher Plotinus. their kings, Ostrogotha and Kniva.
These initiatives increased the number of Beginning in 253, the Crimean Goths and
his enemies, particularly among the the Heruli appeared and dared to venture
patriotic senators and the Pannonian on the seas, ravaging the shores of the
generals. While Gallienus was in Milan Black Sea and the Aegean as well as
besieging the usurper Aureolus, he was several Greek towns. In 267 Athens was
killed by his chiefs of staff, who pro- taken and plundered despite a strong
claimed Claudius II (268), the first of the defense by the historian Dexippus.
Illyrian emperors. The new emperor won After the victories of Gallienus on the
a great victory against the Alemanni on Nestus and Claudius at Naissus (Nish),
the Garda lake and overwhelmed the Goths there was for a time less danger. But the
in Naissus (269) but died of the plague in countries of the middle Danube were still
270. This fatal period brought to light one under pressure by the Marcomanni,
of the major defects of the empire: the Quadi, Iazyges, Sarmatians, and the Carpi
lack of a legitimate principle of succes- of free Dacia, who were later joined by the
sion and the preponderant role of the Roxolani and the Vandals. In spite of
army in politics. The structures that had stubborn resistance, Dacia was gradually
created the strength of the principate overwhelmed, and it was abandoned by
were weakened, and the empire required the Roman troops, though not evacuated
deep reforms. Gallienus had felt their officially. When Valerian was captured in
The Later Roman Empire | 167

AD 259/260, the Pannonians were gravely The several invasions had so fright-
threatened, and Regalianus, one of the ened the people that the new emperor
usurpers proclaimed by the Pannonian was readily accepted, even in Spain and
legions, died fighting the invaders. The Britain. He devoted himself first to the
defense was concentrated around defense of the country and was finally
Sirmium and Siscia-Poetovio, the ancient considered a legitimate emperor, having
fortresses that had been restored by established himself as a rival to Gallienus,
Gallienus, and many cities were burned. who had tried in vain to eliminate him
In the West the invasions were par- but finally had to tolerate him. Postumus
ticularly violent. The Germans and the governed with moderation, and, in good
Gauls were driven back several times by Roman fashion, minted excellent coins.
the confederated Frankish tribes of the He, too, was killed by his soldiers, but he
North Sea coast and by the Alemanni had successors who lasted until 274.
from the middle and upper Rhine.
Gallienus fought bitterly, concentrating Difficulties in the East
his defense around Mainz and Cologne,
but the usurpations in Pannonia pre- In the East the frontiers had been fixed by
vented him from obtaining any lasting Hadrian at the Euphrates. But under
results. In 259–260 the Alemanni came Nero, the Romans had claimed control
through the Agri Decumates (the territory over the kings of Armenia, and under
around the Black Forest), which was now Caracalla they had annexed Osroëne and
lost to the Romans. Some of the Alemanni Upper Mesopotamia. The Parthian empire
headed for Italy across the Alpine passes; had been weak and often troubled, but
others attacked Gaul, devastating the the Sāsānids were more dangerous. In
entire eastern part of the country. Passing 241, Shāpūr I (Sapor), an ambitious orga-
through the Rhône Valley, they eventu- nizer and statesman, mounted the throne.
ally reached the Mediterranean, and He united his empire by bringing the
some bands even continued into Spain. Iranian lords into line and by protecting
There they joined the Franks, many of the Zoroastrian religion. He also toler-
whom had come by ship from the North ated the Manichaeans and put an end to
Sea, after having plundered the western the persecutions of the Christians and
part of Gaul. Sailing up the estuaries of Jews, thereby gaining the sympathy of
the great rivers, they had reached Spain these communities.
and then, crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, In 252, with a large army at his com-
had proceeded to Mauretania Tingitana. mand, Shāpūr imposed Artavasdes on
Outflanked, Gallienus entrusted Gaul Armenia, attacked Mesopotamia, and
and his young son Saloninus to Postumus, took Nisibis. In 256 his advance troops
who then killed Saloninus and pro- entered Cappadocia and Syria and plun-
claimed himself emperor. dered Antioch, while Doura-Europus, on
168 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

the middle Euphrates, was likewise fall- supported Avidius Cassius and
ing to him. Valerian had rushed to its aid, Pescennius Niger against the legitimate
but he could not remedy the situation; emperors. In 272 unity was restored by
and in 259 or 260 he was imprisoned by Aurelian, but Mesopotamia was lost, and
Shāpūr during operations about which the Euphrates became the new frontier
little is known. Mesopotamia was lost and of the empire.
Rome was pushed back to the Euphrates.
Cappadocia, Cilicia, and Syria were again Economic and Social Crisis
plundered, and a puppet emperor was
appointed in Antioch. But these victories The invasions and the civil wars worked
were transitory. In Osroëne, Edessa had in combination to disrupt and weaken the
shown resistance, a defense was orga- empire over a span of half a century.
nized in Cappadocia and Cilicia, and Things were at their worst in the 260s, but
Odenathus, the prince of Palmyra, took the entire period from 235 to 284 brought
Shāpūr by surprise and forced him back the empire close to collapse. Many
to Iran. regions were laid waste (northern Gaul,
Having thus aided the Roman cause, Dacia, Moesia, Thrace, and numerous
Odenathus then began to act in his own towns on the Aegean), many important
interest. He continued the fight against cities had been pillaged or destroyed
the Persians and took the title “King of (Byzantium, Antioch, Olbia, Lugdunum),
Kings.” The Romans officially entrusted and northern Italy (Cisalpine Gaul) had
him with the defense of the East and con- been overrun by the Alemanni. During
ferred on him the governorship of several the crisis, the emperor either focused his
provinces; the “kingdom” of Palmyra thus forces on the defense of one point, invit-
extended from Cilicia to Arabia. He was ing attack at another, or he left some
murdered in 267 without ever having sev- embattled frontier altogether to its own
ered his ties with Gallienus. His widow devices; any commander who proved suc-
Zenobia had her husband’s titles granted cessful had the emperorship thrust upon
to their son Vaballathus. Then in 270, tak- him, on the very heels of his victories
ing advantage of the deaths of Gallienus over the invaders. Counting several sons
and Claudius II, she invaded Egypt and a and brothers, more than 40 emperors
part of Anatolia. This invasion was fol- thus established themselves for a reign of
lowed by a rupture with Rome, and in 271 some sort, long or (more often) short.
Vaballathus was proclaimed Imperator The political destabilization fed on
Caesar Augustus. The latent separatism itself, but it also was responsible for heavy
of the Eastern provinces and, undoubtedly, expenditure of life and treasure. To keep
some commercial advantages caused pace with the latter, successive emperors
them to accept Palmyrene domination rapidly and radically reduced the per-
without difficulty, as they had, in the past, centage of precious metal in the standard
The Later Roman Empire | 169

silver coins to almost nothing so as to The Pax Romana had then, in all
spread it over larger issues. What thus these manifest ways, been seriously dis-
became a fiduciary currency held up not rupted. On the other hand, in Egypt,
too badly until the 260s, when confidence where inflation is most amply docu-
collapsed and people rushed to turn the mented, its harmful effects cannot be
money they had into goods of real value. detected. The Egyptian economy showed
An incredible inflation got under way, no signs of collapse. Furthermore, some
lasting for decades. regions—most of Britain, for example—
The severity of damage done to the emerged from the half-century of crisis in
empire by the political and economic a more prosperous condition than before.
destabilization is not easily estimated A summary of the effects of crisis can
since for this period the sources of every only underline one single fact that is
sort are extremely poor. Common sense almost self-evident: the wonders of civili-
would suggest that commerce was dis- zation attained under the Antonines
rupted, taxes collected more harshly required an essentially political base.
and unevenly, homes and harvests They required a strong, stable monarchy
destroyed, the value of savings lost to in command of a strong army. If either
inflation, and the economy in general or both were seriously disturbed, the
badly shaken. A severe plague is reported economy would suffer, along with the civ-
that lasted for years in mid-century, pro- ilization’s ease and brilliance. If, on the
ducing terrible casualties. In some other hand, the political base could be
western areas, archaeology provides restored, the health of the empire as a
illustration of what one might expect. whole was not beyond recovery.
Cities in Gaul were walled, usually in In the meantime, certain broad
much reduced circuits. Villas here and changes unconnected with the political
there throughout the Rhine and Danube and economic crisis were going forward in
provinces also were walled, and road the third century. Civilians increasingly
systems were defended by lines of fort- complained of harassment and extortion
lets in northern Gaul and adjoining by troops stationed among them. Exaction
Germany. A few areas, such as Brittany, of taxes intended for the army also became
were abandoned or relapsed into pre- the target of more frequent complaint, and
Roman primitiveness. Off the coasts of demands by soldiers to interfere in civil-
that peninsula and elsewhere, too, piracy ian government, foremost by those
reigned; on land, brigandage occurred stationed in the capital, grew more inso-
on a large scale. The reentrant triangle lent. The choice of emperor became more
of land between the upper Danube and and more openly the prerogative of the
upper Rhine had to be permanently aban- military, not the Senate, and, in the 260s,
doned to the barbarians around it in senators were being largely displaced
about 260. from high military commands. The
170 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

equestrian rank, in which persons risen several “Illyrian” emperors, who were
from military careers were often to be good generals and who tried in an ener-
found, was the beneficiary of the new pol- getic way to restore equilibrium. The
icy. In sum, the power of the military, high most remarkable was Aurelian. He first
and low, was asserting itself against that of gained hard-won victories over the
the civilians. Alemanni and the Juthungi, who had
From this change, further, there flowed invaded the Alpine provinces and north-
certain cultural consequences, for, con- ern Italy. To cheer the inhabitants of
tinuing the tendencies detectable even in Rome, who had succumbed to panic, he
the first century, the army was increas- began construction of the famous ram-
ingly recruited from the most backward part, Aurelian Wall. And while crossing
areas, above all, from the Danubian prov- the Danubian provinces, before march-
inces. Here, too—indeed, throughout the ing against Palmyra, he decided on an
whole northern glacis of the empire—it orderly evacuation of Dacia, an unde-
had been state policy to allow entire tribes fendable region that had been occupied
of barbarians to immigrate and to settle by the barbarians since the time of
on vacant lands, where they dwelled, Gallienus. In the East, he defeated
farmed, paid taxes, and offered their sons Zenobia’s troops easily and occupied
to the army. Such immigrants, in increas- Palmyra in 272.
ingly large numbers from the reign of Shortly afterward, an uprising broke
Marcus Aurelius on, produced, with the out in Egypt under the instigation of a
rural population, a very non-Romanized rich merchant, who, like a great part of
mix. From the midst of just such people, the population, was a partisan of the
Maximinus mounted to the throne in 235, Palmyrene queen. In response, Aurelian
and later, likewise, Galerius (Caesar from undertook a second campaign, plunder-
293). It is quite appropriate aesthetically, ing Palmyra and subjugating Alexandria.
from Aurelian on, that these later third- These troubles, however, along with the
century rulers chose to present themselves devastation of the great caravan city,
to their subjects in their propaganda with were to set back Roman trade seriously in
stubbly chin, set jaw, and close-cropped the East. Later, rounding back on the
hair on a bullet head. Gallic empire of Postumus’s successors,
he easily defeated Tetricus, a peaceful
The recovery of the man not very willing to fight, near
empire and the Cabillonum. The unity of the empire was
establishment of the restored, and Aurelian celebrated a
dominate (270–337) splendid triumph in Rome. He also
reestablished discipline in the state,
After Claudius II’s unexpected death, the sternly quelled a riot of artisans in
empire was ruled from 270 to 284 by the mints of Rome, organized the
The Later Roman Empire | 171

About two-thirds of the Aurelian Wall, built in the 3rd century AD to strengthen Rome’s
defenses against Germanic invaders, remains intact.

provisioning of the city by militarizing 275, he was murdered by certain officers

several corporations (the bakers, the pork who mistakenly believed that their lives
merchants), and tried to stop the inflation were in danger.
by minting an antoninianus of sounder For once, his successor, the aged sen-
value. His religious policy was original. ator Tacitus, was chosen by the Senate—at
In order to strengthen the moral unity of the army’s request and on short notice; he
the empire and his own power, he reigned only for a few months. After him,
declared himself to be the protégé of the Probus, another Illyrian general, inher-
Sol Invictus (the Invincible Sun) and ited a fortified empire but had to fight
built a magnificent temple for this god hard in Gaul, where serious invasions
with the Palmyrene spoils. Aurelian was occurred in 275–277. Thereafter, Probus
also sometimes officially called dominus devoted himself to economic restoration;
et deus: the principate had definitely he attempted to return abandoned farm-
been succeeded by the “dominate.” In land to cultivation and, with the aid of
172 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

military labour, undertook works of Illyrians who had attained high com-
improvement. To remedy the depopula- mands after a long military career. Of the
tion, he admitted to the empire, as had four, only Diocletian was a statesman.
Aurelian, a great number of defeated The unity of the empire was safeguarded,
Goths, Alemanni, and Franks and permit- despite appearances, for there was no
ted them to settle on plots of land in Gaul territorial partitioning. Each emperor
and in the Danubian provinces. After the received troops and a sector of operation:
assassination of Probus in 282 by sol- Maximian, Italy and Africa; Constantius,
diers, Carus became emperor and Gaul and Britain; Galerius, the Danubian
immediately associated with himself his countries; and Diocletian, the East.
two sons, Carinus and Numerian. Carus Practically all governmental decisions
and Numerian fought a victorious cam- were made by Diocletian, from whom the
paign against the Persians but died under others had received their power. He legis-
unknown circumstances. Carinus, left lated, designated consuls, and retained
behind in the West, was later defeated precedence. After 287 he declared his
and killed by Diocletian, who was pro- kinship with the god Jupiter (Jove), who
claimed emperor in November 284 by the Diocletian claimed was his special pro-
army of the East. tector. Diocletian, together with his
Caesar Galerius, formed the “Jovii”
Diocletian dynasty, whereas Maximian and Constan­
tius, claiming descent from the mythical
Diocletian may be considered the real hero Hercules, formed the “Herculii.”
founder of the late empire, though the form This “Epiphany of the Tetrarchs” served
of government he established—the tet- as the divine foundation of the regime.
rarchy, or four people sharing power The ideological recourse to two tradi-
simultaneously—was transitory. His tional Roman divinities represented a
reforms, however, lasted longer. Military break with the Orientalizing attempts of
exigencies, not the desire to apply a pre- Elagabalus and Aurelian. Even though he
conceived system, explain the successive honoured Mithra equally, Diocletian
nomination of Maximian as Caesar and wanted to be seen as continuing the
later as Augustus in 286 and of Constantius work of Augustus. In dividing power,
and Galerius as Caesars in 293. Diocletian’s aim was to avoid usurpa-
The tetrarchy was a collegium of tions, or at least to stifle them quickly—as
emperors comprising two groups: at its in the attempt of Carausius, chief of the
head, two Augusti, older men who made army of Britain, who was killed (293), as
the decisions; and, in a secondary posi- was his successor, Allectus (296), after a
tion, two Caesars, younger, with a more landing by Constantius.
executive role. All four were related either The deification of the imperial func-
by adoption or by marriage, and all were tion, marked by elaborate rituals, tended
The Later Roman Empire | 173

to set the emperors above the rest of administration ( justice, police, finances,
mankind. But it was still necessary to and taxes). The cities lost their auton-
avoid future rivalries and to assure the omy, and the curiales administered and
tetrarchy a legitimate and regular succes- collected the taxes under the governor’s
sion. Some time between 300 and 303 direct control. The breaking up of the
Diocletian found an original solution. provinces was compensated for by their
After the anniversary of their 20-year regrouping into a dozen dioceses, under
reign the two Augusti abdicated equestrian vicars who were responsible
(Maximian quite unwillingly), and on the to the emperor alone. The two praetorian
same day (May 1, 305) the two Caesars prefects had less military power but
became Augusti. Two new Caesars were played an important role in legislative,
chosen, Severus and Maximinus Daia, judicial, and above all, financial matters:
both friends of Galerius, whose strong the administration of the annona, which
personality dominated Constantius. In had become the basis of the fiscal system,
repudiating the principle of natural in fact gave them management of the
heredity (Maximian and Constantius entire economy. Within the central
each had an adult son), Diocletian took a administration the number of offices
great risk: absolute divine monarchy, increased, their managers being civilians
which Diocletian largely established, who carried out their functions as a regu-
implies the hereditary transmission of lar career. All officials were enrolled in
power, and the future was soon to demon- the militia, whose hierarchy was to be
strate the attachment of the troops and outlined during the fourth century.
even of the population to the hereditary Great efforts were devoted to
principle. strengthening the borders, and the limes
In order to create a more efficient were outfitted with fortresses (castella)
unity between subjects and administra- and small forts (burgi), notably in Syria.
tors, Diocletian multiplied the number of The army’s strength was increased to 60
provinces; even Italy was divided into a legions (but with reduced personnel);
dozen small units of the provincial type. and, in principle, each border province
Rome, moreover, was no longer the effec- received a garrison of two legions, com-
tive capital of the empire, each emperor plemented by subsidiary troops.
having his own residence in the part of Adopting one of Gallienus’s ideas,
the empire over which he ruled (Trier, Diocletian created an embryonic tactical
Milan, Sirmium, Nicomedia). Although a army under the direct orders of the
few provinces were still governed by sen- emperor whose escort (comitatus) it
ators (proconsuls or consuls), the majority formed. The troops were most often com-
were given to equestrian praesides, usu- manded by duces and praepositi rather
ally without any military power but with than by provincial governors and were
responsibility for the entirety of civil mainly recruited from among the sons of
174 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

soldiers and from barbarians who enlisted The wars, the reforms, and the
individually or by whole tribes. In addi- increase in the number of officials were
tion, the landowners had to provide either costly, and inflation reduced the resources
recruits or a corresponding sum of money. of the state. The annona, set up by
All of these reforms were instituted Septimius Severus, had proved imperfect,
gradually, during defensive wars whose and Diocletian now reformed it through
success demonstrated the regime’s effi- the jugatio-capitatio system: henceforth,
ciency. Constantius put down Carausius’s the land tax, paid in kind by all landown-
attempted usurpation and fought the ers, would be calculated by the assessment
Alemanni fiercely near Basel; Maximian of fiscal units based on extent and quality of
first hunted down the Bagaudae (gangs land, type of crops grown, number of set-
of fugitive peasant brigands) in Gaul, tlers and cattle, and amount of equipment.
then fought the Moorish tribes in Africa, The fiscal valuation of each piece of
in 296–298, triumphing at Carthage; and property, estimated in juga and capita
on the Danube, Diocletian, and later (interchangeable terms whose use varied
Galerius, conquered the Bastarnae, the by region and period of time), required a
Iazyges, and the Carpi, deporting them number of declarations and censuses
in large numbers to the provinces. In similar to those practiced long before in
the East, however, the opposition of the Egypt. Each year, the government estab-
Persians, led by the enterprising Narses, lished the rate of tax per fiscal unit; and
extended from Egypt to Armenia. The every 15 years, beginning in 312, taxes
Persians incited uprisings by both the were reassessed. This complicated sys-
Blemmyes nomads in southern Egypt tem was not carried out uniformly in
and the Saracens of the Syrian desert and every region. Nevertheless, it resulted in
made use of anti-Roman propaganda by an improved accounting of the empire’s
the Manichaeans and Jews. Diocletian resources and a certain progress in fiscal
succeeded in putting down the revolt in equity, thus making the administration’s
Egypt and fortified the south against the heavy demands less unbearable.
Blemmyes. But in 297, Narses, the heir to In addition, Diocletian wished to reor-
Shāpūr’s ambitions, precipitated a war by ganize the coinage and stabilize inflation.
taking Armenia, Osroëne, and part of He thus minted improved sterling coins
Syria. After an initial defeat, Galerius won and fixed their value in relation to a gold
a great victory over Narses, and in 298 standard. Nevertheless, inflation again
the peace of Nisibis reinstated a Roman became disturbing by the end of the cen-
protégé in Armenia and gave the empire tury, and Diocletian proclaimed his
a part of Upper Mesopotamia that well-known Edictum de Maximis Pretiis,
extended even beyond the Tigris. Peace fixing price ceilings for foodstuffs and for
was thus assured for some decades. goods and services, which could not be
The Later Roman Empire | 175

exceeded under pain of death. The edict imposed controls. Diocletian, however,
had indifferent results and was scarcely greatly increased the weight and com-
applied, but the inscriptions revealing it plexity of all these obligations.
have great economic interest. Diocletian also changed the adminis-
Diocletian’s reforms adumbrated the trative districts in Egypt, in keeping with
principal features of late Roman society— the model found elsewhere, by designat-
a society defined in all parts that could be ing in each a central city to take
useful to the state by laws fixing status responsibility for the whole. The last
and, through status, responsibility. The anomalous province was thus brought
persons owning grain mills in Rome were into line with the others. Everywhere, the
(to anticipate developments that contin- imperial government continued to count
ued to unfold throughout the next two or on the members of the municipal senate
three generations) responsible for the to serve it, above all in tax collection but
delivery of flour for the dole and could also in the supply of recruits, in rural
not bequeath or withdraw any part of police work, billeting for troops, or road
their capital from their enterprise. Several building. As had been the case for centu-
other labour groups were similarly ries, they had to have a minimum of
restricted, such as owners of seagoing landed property to serve as surety for the
vessels that served the supply of Rome, performance of their administrative
bargees in the Tiber, Ostian grain han- duties as well as to submit to nomination
dlers, distributors of olive oil and pork for as senator, if it was so determined by the
the dole, bath managers, and limeburners. Senate. There had never been any one
A ban on moving to some other home or law to that effect, but by Diocletian’s time
job along with production quotas were the emperor had at his command a body
placed on people in trades serving state of long-established custom and numer-
factories that made imperial court and army ous imperial decisions that served just as
garments, cavalry equipment, and arms. well. Local elites were thus hereditary,
Diocletian built a number of such facto- compulsory agents of his purpose, exactly
ries, some in his capital Nicomedia, like the Tiber bargees.
others in cities close to the groups whose Two other groups were frozen into
needs they served. The laws imposing their roles in the same fashion: soldiers
these obligations affected only labour and farmers. The sons of soldiers were
groups serving the army and the capital required to take up their fathers’ occupa-
(or capitals, plural, after the promotion of tion (a law to that effect was in operation
Constantinople); and, to identify them, at least by 313); and the natural tendency
induce them to serve, and hold them in of tenant farmers (coloni) to renew their
their useful work, emperors as early as lease on land that they, and perhaps their
Claudius had offered privileges and fathers and grandfathers, had worked
176 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

was confirmed by imperial decisions—to emperors, as outraged by the Christians

such effect that, in 332, Constantine could as many private citizens, considered it
speak of tenants on his Sardinian estates their duty to maintain harmony with the
as bound to the acres they cultivated. gods, the pax deorum, by which alone
This is the earliest explicit pronounce- the empire flourished. Accordingly,
ment on what is called the “colonate.” Soon Decius and Valerian in the 250s had dealt
the institution was extended beyond severely with the Christians, requiring
imperial estates to tie certain categories them to demonstrate their apostasy by
of tenants to private estates as well. The offering sacrifice at the local temples, and
emperors wanted to ensure tax revenue for the first time had directly struck the
and, for that, a stable rural labour supply. church’s clergy and property. There were
The empire, as it is seen in abundant scores of Christians who preferred death,
legislation for the period of Diocletian though the great majority complied or
and beyond into the fifth century, has hid themselves. Within a matter of
been called a “military dictatorship” or months after he had begun his attacks,
even a sort of totalitarian prison, in which however, Decius had died (251), and the
every inhabitant had his own cell and his bloody phase of Valerian’s attacks also
own shackles. This may well have been lasted only months (259/260). His son
the rulers’ intent. By their lights, such a Gallienus had issued an edict of toler-
system was needed to repair the weak- ance, and Aurelian was even appealed to
nesses revealed in the third-century by the church of Antioch to settle an
crisis. The principle of hereditary obliga- internal dispute.
tions was not, after all, so very strange, Christianity had now become open
set against the natural tendencies of the and established, thanks to the power of
economy and the practices that had its God so often, it seemed, manifested in
developed in earlier, easier times. Yet miraculous acts and to the firmness with
Diocletian’s intentions could not be fully which converts were secured in a new
realized, given the limits on governmen- life and community. The older slanders—
tal effectiveness. cannibalism and incest—that had
After a period of initial indifference troubled the Apologists in the second
toward the Christians, Diocletian ended century no longer commanded credence.
his reign by unleashing against them, in A measure of respectability had been
303, the last and most violent of their per- won, along with recruits from the upper
secutions. It was urged on him by his classes and gifts of land and money. By
Caesar Galerius and prolonged in the the end of the third century Christians
East for a decade (until 311) by Galerius actually predominated in some of the
as Augustus and by other emperors. As smaller Eastern towns or districts, and
in earlier persecutions, the initiative they were well represented in Italy, Gaul,
arose at the heart of government; some and Africa around Carthage. All told,
The Later Roman Empire | 177

they numbered perhaps as many as 5 Constantius died at Eboracum in 306, the

million out of the empire’s total popula- armies of Britain and Gaul, without observ-
tion of 60 million. Occasional meetings ing the rules of the tetrarchic system, had
on disputed matters might bring together hastened to proclaim Constantine, the
dozens of bishops, and it was this institu- young son of Constantius, as Augustus.
tion or phenomenon that the Great Young Maxentius, the son of Maximian
Persecutions sought to defeat. (who had never wanted to retire), there-
The progress of a religion that could upon had himself proclaimed in Rome,
not accept the religious basis of the tet- recalled his father into service, and got rid
rarchy and certain of whose members of Severus. Thus, in 307–308 there was
were imprudent and provocative, as in great confusion. Seven emperors had, or
the incidents at Nicomedia (where a pretended to have, the title of Augustus:
church was built across from Diocletian’s Maximian, Galerius, Constantine, Max­
palace), finally aroused Galerius’s fanati- entius, Maximinus Daia, Licinius (who
cism. In 303–304 several edicts, each had been promoted Augustus in 308 by
increasingly stringent, ordered the Galerius against Constantine), and, in
destruction of the churches, the seizure Africa, the usurper Domitius Alexander.
of sacred books, the imprisonment of the This situation was clarified by suc-
clergy, and a sentence of death for all cessive eliminations. In 310, after
those who refused to sacrifice to the numerous intrigues, old Maximian was
Roman gods. In the East, where Galerius killed by his son-in-law Constantine, and
was imposing his ideas more and more in the following year Alexander was slain
on the aging Diocletian, the persecution by one of Maxentius’s praetorian pre-
was extremely violent, especially in fects. In 311 Galerius died of illness a few
Egypt, Palestine, and the Danubian days after having admitted the failure of
regions. In Italy, Maximian, zealous at the his persecutions by proclaiming an edict
beginning, quickly tired, and in Gaul, of tolerance. There remained, in the West,
Constantius merely destroyed a few Constantine and Maxentius and in the
churches without carrying reprisals any East, Licinius and Maximinus Daia.
further. Nevertheless, Christianity could Constantine, the best general, invaded
no longer be eradicated, for the people of Italy with a strong army of faithful Gauls
the empire and even some officials no and defeated Maxentius near the Milvian
longer felt the blind hatred for Christians Bridge, not far from Rome. While attempt-
that had typified previous centuries. ing to escape, Maxentius drowned.
Constantine then made an agreement
Struggle for Power with Licinius, and the two rallied the
Eastern Christians to their side by guar-
The first tetrarchy had ended on May 1, anteeing them religious tolerance in the
305; the second did not last long. After Edict of Milan (313). This left Maximinus
178 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Daia, now isolated and regarded as a per- some time before. The second Flavian
secutor, in a weak position; attacked by dynasty was thus founded, and Constan­
Licinius near Adrianople, he fell ill and tine let it be believed that his father,
died soon afterward, in 313. This left the Flavius Constantius (Chlorus), was
empire with two leaders, Constantine and descended from Claudius Gothicus.
Licinius, allied in outward appearances Constantine’s conversion to Christi­
and now brothers-in-law as a result of anity had a far-reaching effect. Like his
Licinius’s marriage to Constantine’s sister. father, he had originally been a votary of
the Sun. Worshiping at the Grand Temple
The Reign of Constantine of the Sun in the Vosges Mountains of
Gaul, he had had his first vision, albeit a
Constantine and Licinius soon disputed pagan one. During his campaign against
among themselves for the empire. Maxentius, he had had a second vision—a
Constantine attacked his adversary for lighted cross in the sky—after which he
the first time in 316, taking the dioceses had painted on his men’s shields a figure
of Pannonia and Moesia from him. A that was perhaps Christ’s monogram
truce between them lasted 10 years. In (although he probably had Christ con-
316 Diocletian died in Salona, which he fused with the Sun in his manifestation
had never felt a desire to leave despite as summa divinitas [“the highest divin-
the collapse of his political creation. ity”]). After his victory he declared
Constantine and Licinius then reverted himself Christian. His conversion
to the principles of heredity, designating remains somewhat mysterious and his
three potential Caesars from among their contemporaries—Lactantius and Eusebius
respective sons, all still infants, with the of Caesarea—are scarcely enlightening
intention of securing their dynasties (two and even rather contradictory on the
sons of Constantine and one of Licinius). subject. But it was doubtless a sincere
The dynastic concept, however, required conversion, for Constantine had a reli-
the existence of only a single emperor, gious turn of mind. He was also
who imposed his own descendance. progressive and greatly influenced by the
Although Constantine favoured the capable bishops who surrounded him
Christians, Licinius resumed the perse- from the very beginning.
cutions, and in 324 war erupted once Until 320–322 solar symbols appeared
again. Licinius, defeated first at on Constantine’s monuments and coins,
Adrianople and then in Anatolia, was and he was never a great theologian. Yet
obliged to surrender and, together with his favourable policy toward the
his son, was executed. Next, Constantine’s Christians never faltered. Christianity
third son, Constantius, was in turn named was still a minority religion in the empire,
Caesar, as his two elder brothers, Crispus especially in the West and in the country-
and Constantine the Younger, had been side (and consequently within his own
The Later Roman Empire | 179

army), thus excluding the possibility of Diocletian’s persecutions. The Arian her-
any political calculation on his part. But it esy raised even more difficulties. Arius,
was enthusiastically welcomed in the an Alexandrian priest and disciple of
East, and thanks to Constantine the new Lucian of Antioch, questioned the dogma
religion triumphed more rapidly; his offi- of the Trinity and of the godhead of
cial support led to the conversion of Christ, and his asceticism, as well as the
numerous pagans, although with doubt- sharpness of his dialectics, brought him
ful sincerity because they were indifferent many followers. He was convicted several
in their moral conviction. times, but the disorders continued.
The church, so recently persecuted, Constantine, solicited by both sides
was now suddenly showered with favours: and untroubled by doctrinal nuances that
the construction of magnificent churches were, moreover, foreign to most believers
(Rome, Constantinople), donations and in the West, wished to institute a univer-
grants, exemptions from decurial duties sal creed. With this in mind he convened
for the clergy, juridical competences for the general Council of Nicaea, or Nicene
the bishops, and exceptional promotions Council, in 325. He condemned Arius and
for Christian officials. Pagans were not declared, in spite of the Easterners, that
persecuted, however, and Constantine Jesus was “of one substance” with God
retained the title of pontifex maximus. the Father. Nevertheless, the heresy con-
But he spoke of the pagan gods with con- tinued to exist, for Constantine changed
tempt and forbade certain types of his mind several times; he was influenced
worship, principally nocturnal sacrifices. by Arian or semi-Arian bishops and was
In 331 he ordered an inventory of pagan even baptized on his deathbed, in 337, by
property, despoiled the temples of their one of them, Eusebius of Nicomedia.
treasure, and finally destroyed a few Between 325 and 337 Constantine
Eastern sanctuaries on the pretext of effected important reforms, continuing
immorality. Diocletian’s work. The division between
The churches were soon to feel the the limitanei border troops and the tacti-
burden of imperial solicitude: the “secular cal troops (comitatenses and imperial
arm” (i.e., the government) was placed at guard) led by magistri militum was clari-
the service of a fluctuating orthodoxy, fied, and military careers became
for the emperor was impressionable to independent of civil careers. At the same
arguments of various coteries and time, however, he lodged an increasing
became quite lost in theological subtle- number of troops in or next to cities, a
ties. In 314 the Council of Arles had tried process whose objective was ease and
in vain to stop the Donatist schism (a economy of supply. However, training
nationalistic heretical movement ques- and discipline were harder to enforce
tioning the worthiness of certain church because of it, and the men hung about
officials) that arose in Africa after in idleness.
180 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

It was also under Constantine that a gave first rank in the central administra-
barbarian commander in the Roman tion to the palace quaestor, the magister
army attained a historical significance. officiorum, and the counts of finance
He was Crocus the Alaman, who led the (comes sacrarum largitionum, comes rei
movement among the troops that resulted privatae). The diocesan vicars were made
in Constantine’s seizure of the rank of responsible to the praetorian prefects,
Augustus in 306 immediately after his whose number was increased and whose
father Constantius’s death. A similar fig- jurisdictions were now vast territories: the
ure was the great commander Bonitus, a prefectures of Gaul, Italy, Illyricum, and
Frank, in the years 316–324. Constantine the East. The unification of political
credited his victories against Maxentius power brought with it a corresponding
in 311–312 principally to his barbarian decentralization of administration.
troops, who were honoured on the trium- In order to reorganize finances and cur-
phal Arch of Constantine in Rome. In rency, Constantine minted two new coins:
opposition to him, Licinius mustered the silver miliarensis and, most impor-
drafts of Goths to strengthen his army. tant, the gold solidus, whose stability
Goths were also brought in by Constantine, was to make it the Byzantine Empire’s basic
to the number of 40,000, it is said, to help currency. And by plundering Licinius’s
defend Constantinople in the latter part of treasury and despoiling the pagan temples,
his reign, and the palace guard was thence- he was able to restore the finances of the
forward composed mostly of Germans, state. Even so, he still had to create class
from among whom a great many high taxes: the gleba for senators, and the chrys-
army commands were filled. Dependence argyre, which was levied in gold and silver
on immigrants or first-generation barbar- on merchants and craftsmen in the towns.
ians in war was to increase steadily, at a Constantine’s immortality, however,
time when conventional Roman troops rests on his founding of Constantinople.
were losing military value. This “New Rome,” established in 324 on
Constantine raised many equestrians the site of Byzantium and dedicated in 330,
to senatorial rank, having in his earlier rapidly increased in population as a result
reign the still rapidly increasing ranks of of favours granted to immigrants. A large
the civil service to fill—it was at least 50 number of churches were also built there,
times the size of the civil service under even though former temples were not
Caracalla—and having in his later reign a destroyed; and the city became the admin-
second senate to fill, in Constantinople. istrative capital of the empire, receiving a
A rapid inflation in titles of honour also senate and proconsul. This choice of site
took place. As a result of these several was due not to religious considerations, as
changes, the equestrian order ceased to has been suggested, but rather to reasons
have meaning, and a new nobility of that were both strategic (its proximity to
imperial service developed. Constantine the Danube and Euphrates frontiers) and
The Later Roman Empire | 181

After Emperor Constantine personally embraced Christianity, the empire itself evolved into
a Christian state.

economic (the importance of the straits (Crispus, the eldest son, had been exe-
and of the junction between the great cuted in mysterious circumstances in
continental road, which went from 326), supported by the armies faithful to
Boulogne to the Black Sea, and the east- their father’s memory, divided the
ern commercial routes, passing through empire among themselves and had all
Anatolia to Antioch and Alexandria). the other members of their family killed.
Constantine died on May 22, 337. Constantine II kept the West, Constantius
  the East, and Constans, the youngest
The Roman Empire under brother, received the central prefecture
the fourth-century (Italy, Africa, and Illyricum). In 340
successors of Constantine II tried to take this away
Constantine from Constans but was killed. For the
next 10 years there was peace between
After some months of confusion, the two remaining brothers, and Constans
Constantine’s three surviving sons won acceptance for a religious policy
182 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

favourable to the Nicaeans, whose leader, Shāpūr II. Nearly every year the Persians
Athanasius, had received a triumph in attacked and pillaged Roman territory;
Alexandria. In 350 a mutiny broke out the Mesopotamian towns were besieged,
in Autun. Constans fled but was killed in and Nisibis alone resisted. There was a
Lugdunum by Magnentius, a usurper lull between 350 and 357, while Shāpūr
who was recognized in Gaul, Africa, and was detained by troubles in the eastern
Italy. Constantius went out to engage regions of his own kingdom. The war
Magnentius, and the Battle of Mursa resumed, however, and Mesopotamia was
(351) left the two strongest armies of partly lost when the emperor had to leave
the empire—those of Gaul and of the in order to fight Julian.
Danube—massacred, thus compromising Constantius had fought Shāpūr con-
the empire’s defense. Magnentius retreated scientiously, but his generals were
after his defeat and finally committed mediocre, except for Urisicinus, and he
suicide in 353. himself was clumsy. In the meantime, the
Thenceforth, Constantius reigned Rhine and Danube were threatened fre-
alone as Augustus, aided by a meddle- quently, because the troops had been
some bureaucracy in which mission withdrawn from there and sent to the East.
deputies (agentes in rebus), informers, and Constantius, moreover, had made a mis-
spies played an important role. He named take in sending Chnodomar, the
two Caesars in succession, his two young Alemannic king, against Magnentius in
surviving cousins, Gallus in the East and 351, for his tribes had gone on to ravage
Julian in Gaul. Constantius eventually had Gaul. Julian, however, soon revealed him-
to get rid of Gallus, who proved incompe- self to be a great military leader by winning
tent and cruel and soon terrorized Antioch. several well-fought campaigns between
Julian, however, was a magnificent suc- 356 and 361, most notably at Strasbourg
cess, a fact that aroused Constantius’s in 357, and by restoring approximately 70
jealousy and led to Julian’s usurpation; plundered villages. His abandonment, in
for the latter was proclaimed Augustus, AD 358, of the district of Toxandria, roughly
in spite of Constantius’s opposition, at equivalent to modern Belgium, to its bar-
Lutetia in 361. Civil war was averted when barian squatters, on condition of their
Constantius died in November 361, leav- defending it against other invaders, was
ing the empire to Julian, the last ruler of no doubt a realistic decision. Constantius
the Constantinian family. defeated the Quadi and the Goths on the
At the time of his death in 337, Danube in 359, but court intrigues,
Constantine had been preparing to go to Magnentius’s usurpation, and the inter-
war against the Persians. This legacy minable war against the Persians allowed
weighed heavily on the shoulders of the barbarians to wreak great havoc.
Constantius, a military incompetent when Constantius was primarily interested in
compared to the energetic Sāsānian king religious affairs. His interventions created
The Later Roman Empire | 183

a “caesaro-papism” that was unfavourable The religion he himself espoused

to the church, for after the Battle of Mursa was compounded of traditional non-
the emperor had become violently Arian. Christian elements of piety and theology,
The Christological problem had moved to such as might have been found in any
the forefront. In 360 Constantius obtained fairly intellectual person in the preceding
a new creed by force from the Council of centuries, along with elements of
Constantinople, which, rejecting the notion Neoplatonism developed by Porphyry
of “substance” as too risky, declared only and Iamblichus of two or three generations
that the Son was like the Father and thus earlier, and, finally, much of the organiza-
left the problem unresolved. Pagans as well tion and social ethic of the church. From
as orthodox Nicaeans (Homoousians) Neoplatonism he learned the techniques
and extremist Arians (Anomoeans) were of direct communication with the gods
persecuted, for in 356–357 several edicts (theurgy) through prayer and invocation.
proscribed magic, divination, and sacrifices From the church he adopted, as the church
and ordered that the temples be closed. itself had adopted from the empire’s civil
But when Constantius visited Rome in organization, a hierarchy of powers:
357, he was so struck by its pagan gran- provincial, metropolitan, urban, with
deur that he apparently suspended the himself as supreme pontiff. His deep love
application of these measures. of traditional higher culture, moreover,
provoked his war on Christian intellectu-
The Reign of Julian als and teachers who, he protested, had
no right to Homer or Plato. Many
Julian, who had been spared because of Christians both before and later con-
his tender age from the family butcher- curred with him, being themselves
ing in 337, had been brought up far from troubled by the relationship between
the court and was undoubtedly intended Christianity and inherited literature and
for the priesthood. Nevertheless, he had thought, steeped as both were in pagan
been allowed to take courses in rhetoric beliefs.
and philosophy at Ephesus and, later, at In the latter part of his 18-month
Athens. He developed a fondness for reign, Julian forbade Christians from
Hellenic literature, and he secretly apos- teaching, began the rebuilding of the
tatized around 351. When he became sole Temple at Jerusalem, restored many pagan
emperor at the end of 361, Julian pro- shrines, and displayed an exaggerated
claimed his pagan faith, ordered the piety. Whereas Constantine (and his sons
restitution of the temples seized under to a lesser degree) had introduced a huge
Constantius, and freed all the bishops number of coreligionists into the upper
who had been banished by the Arians, so ranks of the army and government,
as to weaken Christianity through the achieving a rough parity between the
resumption of doctrinal disputes. members of the two religions, Julian
184 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

began to reverse the process. Within a Julian’s successor, Jovian, chosen by

short while Julian was successful enough the army’s general staff, was a Christian,
in his undertaking to have aroused the but not a fanatic. He negotiated a peace
fear and hatred of the Christians, who for with Shāpūr, by which Rome lost a good
a long time thought of him as the part of Galerian’s conquests of 298
Antichrist. (including Nisibis, which had not surren-
In the political realm, Julian wished dered) and abandoned Armenia. He also
to return to the liberal principate of the restored tolerance in religious affairs, for
Antonines—to a time before the reforms he neither espoused any of the heresies
of Diocletian and Constantine, whom he nor persecuted pagans. In February 364
detested. He put an end to the terrorism he died accidentally.
of Constantius’s eunuchs and agentes in
rebus and reduced the personnel and The Reign of Valentinian
expenditures of the court, while he him- and Valens
self lived like an ascetic. In the provinces
he lightened the financial burden on Once again the general staff unanimously
individuals by reducing the capitatio, chose a Pannonian officer—Valentinian,
and on cities, by reducing the aurum an energetic patriot and, like Jovian, a
coronarium and restoring the municipal moderate Christian. But Valentinian had
properties confiscated by Constantius. to yield to the rivalry of the armies by
On the other hand, he increased the dividing authority. Taking the West for
number of curiales by reinstating numer- himself, he entrusted the East to his
ous clerks in an attempt to return the brother Valens, an inexperienced man
ancient lustre to municipal life. Thus, he whom he raised to the rank of Augustus.
earned the gratitude of pagan intellectuals, For the first time the two parts of the empire
who were enamoured of the past of free were truly separate, except for the selec-
Greece; and Ammianus made him the tion of consuls, in which Valentinian had
central hero of his history. precedence.
Taking up Trajan’s dream, Julian Although he served the state with
wished to defeat Persia definitively by dedication, Valentinian could be brutal,
engaging the empire’s forces in an offen- choleric, and authoritarian. His foreign
sive war that would facilitate a national policy was excellent. All the while he was
reconciliation around the gods of pagan- fighting barbarians (the Alemanni in Gaul,
ism. But his army was weak—corrupted the Sarmatians and Quadi in Pannonia)
perhaps by large numbers of hostile and putting down revolts in Britain and
Christians. After a brilliant beginning, he Africa (notably that of the Berber Firmus)
was defeated near Ctesiphon and had to with the aid of his top general, Theodosius
retrace his steps painfully; he was killed the Elder, he was taking care to improve
in an obscure encounter on June 26, 363. the army’s equipment and to protect Gaul
The Later Roman Empire | 185

by creating a brilliant fortification. His favours that aroused violent reactions

domestic measures favoured the curiales from the orthodox, whose power had
and the lower classes: from then on, taxes increased in the East. Valens’ policies
would be collected exclusively by officials. made the East prey to violent religious
The protection of the poor was entrusted passions.
to “defenders of the plebs,” chosen from On the Danube, Valens fought the
among retired high officials (honorati). Visigoths and made a treaty with their
Nevertheless, the needs of state obliged king, Athanaric, in 369; but in 375 the
him to accentuate social immobility, to Ostrogoths and the Greutingi appeared
reinforce corporation discipline and offi- on the frontiers, pushed from their home
cial hierarchization, and to demand taxes in southern Russia by the powerful Huns.
ruthlessly. At first he was benevolent to In 376 Valens authorized the starving
the Senate of Rome, supervised the provi- masses to enter Thrace; but, being
sioning of the city, and legislated in exploited and mistreated by the officials,
favour of its university, the nursery of they soon turned to uncontrollable pil-
officials (law of 370). But beginning in laging. Their numbers continually
369, under the influence of Maximin, the increased by the addition of new bands,
prefect of Gaul, he initiated a period of until finally they threatened Constanti­
terror, which struck the great senatorial nople itself. Valens sent for aid from the
families. Meanwhile, religious peace West, but without waiting for it to arrive
reigned in the West, tolerance was pro- he joined battle and was killed in the
claimed, and after some difficulty, Rome Adrianople disaster of 378, which to some
found a great pope in Damasus, who, critics foreshadowed the approaching fall
beginning in 373, actively supported the of the Roman Empire.
new bishop of Milan, St. Ambrose, an The Goths, who were also stirring up
ardent defender of orthodoxy. Thrace and Macedonia, could no longer
In the East, Valens, who was incapable be driven out. The provinces subject to
and suspicious, had fallen under the influ- their pillaging soon included Pannonia
ence of legists, such as the praetorian farther up the Danube, where Gratian
prefect Modestus. The beginning of agreed with a cluster of three tribal
Valens’ reign was shadowed by the armies to settle them as a unit under their
attempted usurpation of Procopius (365– own chiefs on vacant lands (380). By a far
366), a pagan relative of Julian’s who more significant arrangement of the
failed and was killed by the army, which same sort two years later, Theodosius
remained faithful to Valens. Modestus assigned to the Goths a large area of
instituted harsh persecutions in Antioch Thrace along the Danube as, in effect,
of the educated pagan elite. Valens was a their own kingdom. There they enjoyed
fanatic Arian, who exiled even moderate autonomy as well as a handsome subsidy
Nicaean bishops and granted to Arians from the emperor, exactly as tribes
186 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

beyond the empire had done in previous On Jan. 19, 379, before the army,
treaties. They were expected to respond Gratian proclaimed Theodosius, the son
to calls on their manpower if the Roman of the recently executed general, as East­
army needed supplementing, as it rou- ern emperor. Theodosius was chosen for
tinely did. Although the Goths considered his military ability and for his orthodoxy
this treaty ended with Theodosius’s death (Gratian, extremely pious, had come under
and resumed their lawless wanderings for the influence of Damasus and Ambrose).
a while, it nevertheless represented the The East was enlarged by the dioceses of
model for subsequent ones, again struck Dacia and Macedonia, taken from
with the Goths under their king Alaric Valentinian II. Gratian and Theodosius
(from 395) and with later barbarian tribes. agreed to admit the Goths into the empire,
The capture of the empire had begun. and Gratian applied the policy also to the
Salian Franks in Germany. Theodosius
The Reign of Gratian soon dominated his weak colleague and
and Theodosius I entered the battle for the triumph of ortho-
doxy. In 380 the Arians were relieved of
Following Valentinian’s sudden death in their churches in Constantinople, and in
375, the West was governed by his son 381 the Nicaean faith was universally
Gratian, then 16 years old, who had been imposed by a council whose canons
given the title of Augustus as early as established the authority of the metropol-
367. The Pannonian army, rife with itan bishops over their dioceses and gave
intrigue, quickly proclaimed Gratian’s the bishop of the capital a primacy simi-
half-brother, Valentinian II, only four lar to that of the bishop of Rome.
years old. The latter received Illyricum In ecclesiastical affairs, the separation
under his older brother’s guardianship, between East and West was codified. The
and this arrangement satisfied every- Westerners bowed to this policy, satisfied
body. Valentinian’s advisers were with the triumph of orthodoxy. Gratian
executed; Maximian was sacrificed to then permitted Ambrose and Damasus to
the spite of the Senate and Theodosius the deal harshly with the Arians, with the
Elder became the victim of personal support of the state. Paganism also was
jealousies. Gratian announced a liberal hounded: following Theodosius’s lead,
principate, supported in Gaul by the Gratian refused the chief priesthood,
wealthy family of the Bordeaux poet removed the altar of Victory from the hall
Ausonius and in Rome by the Symmachi of the Roman Senate, and deprived the
and the Nicomachi Flaviani, representa- pagan priests and the Vestal Virgins of
tives of the pagan aristocracy. His their subsidies and privileges. The pagan
generals defeated the Alemanni and the senators were outraged, but their protests
Goths on the Danube but arrived too late were futile because Gratian was watched
to save Valens. over by Ambrose.
The Later Roman Empire | 187

This militantly orthodox policy Nov. 8, 392, proscribed the pagan reli-
aroused the displeasure of the pagans gion. Then Arbogast, after Valentinian
and of the Western Arians: thus, when II’s death in 392 under shadowy circum-
Gratian left Trier for Milan, the army of stances, proclaimed as emperor the
Gaul and Britain proclaimed its leader, rhetorician Eugenius. When Theodosius
Maximus, in 383. He conquered Gaul refused to recognize him, Eugenius was
without difficulty, and Gratian was killed thrown into the arms of the pagans of
in Lyons. Maximus, who, like Theodosius, Rome. But this last “pagan reaction” was
was Spanish and extremely orthodox, was short-lived. In 394, with his victory at
recognized by the latter. In the meantime, the Frigidus (modern Vipacco) River,
the third Augustus, Valentinian II, had between Aquileia and Emona, Theodosius
taken refuge in Milan after suffering put an end to the hopes of Eugenius
defeat in Pannonia. He was effectively and his followers. His intention was to
under the domination of his mother, place his son Honorius, proclaimed
Justina, an Arian who sought support for Augustus in 393, over the West, while
her son among the Arians and pagans of returning his eldest son, Arcadius, to the
Rome and even among the African East. But Theodosius’s sudden death in
Donatists (a Christian heresy). In 388 January 395 precipitated the division of
Maximus, after arriving in Italy, first the empire.
expelled Valentinian and then prepared Theodosius had successfully dealt
to attack Theodosius. The latter, accept- with the danger of the Goths, although
ing the inevitability of war, strengthened not without taking risks, and had both
his resolve and gained several victories. established a dynasty and imposed the
Maximus was killed at Aquileia in 388, strictest orthodoxy. A compromise peace
and thenceforth Theodosius ruled both with the Persians had given Rome, in 387,
West and East; he was represented in the a small section of Armenia, where he
East by his son Arcadius, an Augustus had founded Theodosiopolis (Erzurum).
since 383. Valentinian II was sent to Trier, He had survived two pretenders in the
accompanied by the Frankish general West. These military successes were,
Arbogast to control him. however, won with armies in which bar-
After a few years’ respite, during the barians were in the majority, which was
prefectureships of Nicomachus Flavianus not a good sign. The barbarian presence
in Rome and Tatian in the East, paganism is reflected in the names of his com-
waged its last fight: Theodosius, influ- manding officers, including such Franks
enced by Ambrose, who had dared to as Richomer, Merovech, and Arbogast,
inflict public penance on him in 390 after and the half-Vandal Stilicho, who
the massacre at Thessalonica, had deter- through his marriage to Serena,
mined to eliminate the pagans completely. Theodosius’s niece, had entered the
After a few hostile clashes, the law of imperial family.
188 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Social and Economic currency was not money but favours and
Conditions services. Such a code was swept away by
the rapid increase in the size of govern-
During the fourth century the emperor’s ment in the later third century and the
power was theoretically absolute, the tra- rise to high civil and military posts by
ditions of the principate having given men recruited from the ranks rather than
way to the necessities of defense. from the upper classes. As they had
The emperor was both heir to the bought their own promotions or appoint-
Hellenistic basileus (absolute king) and ments, so they expected to recoup their
the anointed of the deity. Pagans and Chris­ expenses (and more besides) by such
tians alike considered him “emperor by means as selling exemptions and extor-
the grace of God,” which, strictly speaking, tion. The more intrusive and demanding
rendered the imperial cult unnecessary. the military tax collection or the state’s
Indeed, he hardly needed the ceremonies control of the rosters of city senates, the
and parade of god-awfulness with which more profit there was for a pervasively
Diocletian and his successors were sur- corrupt administration. Those close to
rounded. Yet imperial authority had the emperor could, for a price, generally
actually lost much of its effectiveness screen him from knowledge of what was
due to the growth and nature of late going on. Constantine, for example, com-
Roman government. Its ranks can be esti- plained quite in vain—and the complaint
mated at more than 30,000 men—perhaps was endlessly repeated by his successors—
an insignificant number compared with that the city senates were being “emptied
that of modern governments but gigantic of persons obligated to them by birth,
when set against the total of only a few who yet are asking for a government post
hundred a century earlier. The problem, by petition to the emperor, running off to
however, lay not in numbers but in the the legions or various civil offices.” Such
assumption, held throughout both posts could easily be bought. A great deal
bureaucracy and army, that a position of of imperial planning was thus vitiated by
power ex officio entitled the holder to a sale. Many of the profiteers started life in
rake-off of some sort, to be extracted both the urban upper classes, but, as nouveaux
from the citizenry with whom he came in riches, they joined the older landed nobility
contact and from fellow members of the after a term in the emperor’s service.
service in ranks below his own. In a few areas where measurement is
This ethos was not new, but during possible, one can see that a process of
the principate it had been restrained by consolidation of landownership had been
higher officers and officials, who oper- going on for a long time, bringing the
ated according to a different, essentially rural population increasingly into depen-
aristocratic, code expressed in patron- dence on the larger property holders.
dependent relations and mutuality. Its Diocletian’s new system of property
The Later Roman Empire | 189

assessment accelerated this process. It central Gaul. Italy of the third and fourth
was more thorough and thus exposed the centuries was not perceptibly worse off
poor and ignorant to exploitation by local than before, though wealth in the Po
officialdom. In response, they sought the region was more concentrated in the cit-
protection of some influential man to ies north of the river. Northern Africa
ward off unfair assessments, selling their seems to have maintained nearly the
land to him and becoming his tenants. In same level of prosperity as in earlier cen-
areas disturbed by lawlessness, a large turies, if proper weight is given to
landowner offered them safety as well. ecclesiastical building after Constantine.
The strength of rural magnates in their For Egypt, no clear picture emerges, but
formidable, even fortified, dwellings, with all the other Eastern provinces enjoyed in
a dependent peasantry of 100 or even the later empire the same level of eco-
1,000 around them made much trouble nomic well-being as before or a still
for tax collectors, and landowners thus higher one, with more disposable wealth
became the target of many laws. and an increasing population. These con-
Consolidation of ownership, however, ditions continued into the fifth century.
was not apparent in northern Africa, and The vast differences between the
the reverse process has been established European and the Eastern provinces are
for a carefully researched area of Syria. best explained by the shifting focus of
Regional differences cannot be disre- imperial energies. It can be traced in the
garded. They were responsible for guiding locus of heaviest military recruitment, in
the development of the later empire along the lower Danube, as the third century
quite varied paths. The archaeological progressed; in the consequent concentra-
data, which reflect these developments tion of military expenditure there; and
most clearly, register such changes as the in the siting of the emperors’ residence
degree of wealth in public buildings and as it was moved from Rome to Milan in
the use and elegance of carved sarcophagi the 260s, then to the lower Danube later
or of mosaics in private houses. Broadly in the third century (where much fight-
speaking, a decline is noticeable through- ing occurred), and subsequently to
out the European provinces; it tends to Nicomedia (Diocletian’s capital). None of
affect the cities earlier than the rural areas the Tetrarchs chose Rome—its days as the
and is detectable sometimes by 350, gen- imperial centre were over—and when,
erally by 375. In the Danube provinces, the from among various Eastern cities he
evidence fits neatly with political history considered, Constantine decided on
following the Battle of Adrianople in 378, Byzantium as his permanent residence,
after which their condition was continually he simply made permanent a very long-
disturbed by the Visigothic immigrants. term development.
There is, however, no such obvious Meanwhile the Rhine frontier and the
explanation for areas such as Spain or upper Danube were repeatedly overrun.
190 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

As can be inferred from the signs of forti- villages, and the smaller towns also
fication in Pannonia, Gaul, Britain, and reverted to villages. Only the larger
Spain, internal policing was neglected. towns, such as Bordeaux, Arles, or
Commercial intercourse, which had been Cartagena, maintained their vitality.
the key to raising the economy and the Although there was considerable
level of urbanization, became less safe inflation (culminating under Theodosius),
and easy. Villas turned into self-sufficient in spite of a deflationary fiscal policy, com-
mercial transactions ignored
barter and were based instead
on currency throughout the
empire at the end of the cen-
tury. The economy was
partially under state direction,
which was applied to agricul-
ture through bias toward the
settler system on imperial
estates and to industry through
the requisitioning of corpora-
tions (artisans, merchants,
carriers) and the creation of
state workshops (especially for
manufacturing military goods).
Opinions differ on the inten-
sity of trade, but there was
certainly clear progress in
comparison with that of the
third century.

The Remnants of
Pagan Culture

The spread of Christianity in

no way harmed the flourishing
of pagan literature. Instruction
in the universities (Rome, Milan,
Mosaic from the Villa Romana del Casale. Archaeologists
Carthage, Bordeaux, Athens,
have noted a decline in such household and public
Constantinople, Antioch, and
building refinements in the later days of the empire.
DEA/G.Dagli Orti/Getty Images
Alex­andria) was still based on
rhetoric, and literature received
The Later Roman Empire | 191

the support of senatorial circles, especially destruction, especially in the East. It is,
in Rome (for example, those of the nonetheless, likely that a majority of the
Symmachi and the Nicomachi Flaviani). population was still non-Christian in 400,
Latin literature was represented by although less so in the cities and in the
Symmachus and the poet Ausonius. The East and more so in rural and mountain-
last great historian of Rome was ous areas and the West. Efforts by the
Ammianus Marcellinus, a Greek who church to reach them were intermittent
wrote in Latin for the Roman aristocracy; and lacked energy. Bishops generally
of his Res gestae, the most completely expected rural magnates to do their job
preserved part describes the period from for them; and the church leadership was,
353 to 378. The works of Sextus Aurelius in any case, of a social class that viewed
Victor and Eutropius, who ably abridged the peasantry from a great distance and
earlier historical works, are fairly accu- wanted to keep it that way. Except by
rate and more reliable than the Scriptores such unusual figures as Martin of Tours
historiae Augustae, a collection of imperial or Marcellus of Apamea, little effort was
biographies of unequal value, undoubtedly made to convert people who were hard to
composed under Theodosius but for an reach. As always in antiquity, it was in the
unknown purpose. Erudition was greatly cities where changes occurred—with
prized in aristocratic circles, which, the exception of monasticism.
enamoured of the past, studied and com- Only in the reign of Constantine,
mented on the classic authors (Virgil) or and about simultaneously in Egypt and
the ancestral rites (the Saturnalia of Palestine, had monasticism, a religious
Macrobius). Greek literature is repre- movement whose followers lived as her-
sented by the works of philosophers or mits and pursued a life of extreme
sophists: Themistius, a political theoreti- asceticism, become more than the little-
cian who advocated absolutism; Himerius regarded choice of rare zealots. Near
of Prusias; and above all Libanius of Gaza and in the desert along the eastern
Antioch, whose correspondence and side of Jerusalem a number of tiny clus-
political discourses from the Theodosian ters of cells had been made from caves
period bear witness to his perspicacity and taken as residence by ascetics, from
and, often, to his courage. whose fame and example that way of life
later spread to many other corners of
The Christian Church the Levant. The bishop of Jerusalem,
Cyril, by mid-century could speak of
In the last decade of the fourth century “regiments of monks.” But it was in the
the harsh laws against the perpetuation desert on both sides of the Nile that
of the old pieties promulgated by similar ascetic experiments of much
Theodosius gave impetus and justifica- greater importance were made, by the
tion to waves of icon and temple hero of the movement, St. Anthony, and
192 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

others. True monasticism, tempered only St. Pachomius around 330, vigorously
by weekly communal worship and orga- directed and diffused by him until mid-
nizing, established itself on Anthony’s century, when both he and Anthony
model and under his inspiration in the died. Basil of Caesarea was to establish
first decade of the fourth century. It took monastic communities in Cappadocia
root above all in the desert of Scete, just under the influence of what he saw in
west of the base of the Nile delta. Egypt on his visit there in the year of
Coenobitism, joint life in enclosed Anthony’s death; and Athanasius was
communities, was the model preferred by shortly to write a biography of that saint
of enormous influence and to
carry word of his life to Italy
and Gaul during his own exile
there. The biography was
soon translated into Latin
and inspired a scattering of
experiments in asceticism or
coenobitism in the West—in
Vercellae in Italy, for example,
by 330, and at Tours in the 370s
under Martin’s direction. Tours
became the first monastery in
the West comparable to those
in the East, but development
subsequently was slow com-
pared to the 10,000 or more
monasteries founded in Egypt
by AD 400.
The most distinct and well-
reported phenomenon during
the century after the conver-
sion of Constantine was the
continued religious rioting
and harrying in the cities, both
in all the major ones and in
dozens of minor ones. The
death toll exceeded the toll
St. Jerome in His Study by Albrecht Dürer. St. Jerome
among Christians at the hands
was a central figure in the rise of Christian literature in
late Rome. Rafa Rivas/AFP/Getty Images of pagans in earlier persecu-
tions. It was rarely of Jews or
The Later Roman Empire | 193

pagans at the hands of Christians or of Chrysostom of Antioch, the greatest

Christians at the hands of pagans, but preacher of his time. The Westerners, too,
ordinarily of Christians at each others’ had great scholars and brilliant writers:
hands in the course of sectarian strife. For St. Hilary of Poitiers, enemy of the Arians
a time, no one sect enjoyed a majority and of Constantius; St. Ambrose, admin-
among Homoousians, Arians, Donatists, istrator and pastor, whose excessive
Meletians, and many others. Bishoprics authority was imposed on Gratian and
were fiercely contested and appeals often even on Theodosius; and St. Jerome, a
made to armed coercion. The emperors desert monk and confessor of upper-class
had assumed the right to interfere and Roman ladies. St. Jerome was a formidable
often did so. But under Theodosius, Pope polemicist who knew Greek and Hebrew
Damasus and St. Ambrose reacted. The and made the first faithful translation of
state was to restrict itself to furnishing the the Old and New Testaments (the
“secular arm,” while the church, in the name Vulgate) as well as of a chronicle of world
of evangelical ethics, claimed the right history, which was a translation and con-
to judge the emperors, a policy that had tinuation of the work of Eusebius. Finally,
grave implications for the future. The St. Augustine, the bishop of Hippo, was a
“caesaro-papism” of Constantius later great pastor, a vigorous controversialist,
gained adherents under the Byzantine a sensitive and passionate writer (the
emperors. In the meantime, the Goths Confessions), and the powerful theologian
had been converted to Arianism by of The City of God. The century that
Ulfilas during the period of Constantius developed these great minds cannot be
and Valens, thus presaging conflicts that considered decadent.
were to come after the great invasions.
Orthodox missionaries had converted The eclipse of the Roman
Osroëne, Armenia, and even some coun- Empire in the West
tries on the Red Sea. (c. 395–500) and the
The Christian literature of the fourth German migrations
century is remarkable. Its first represen-
tative is Eusebius of Caesarea, a friend After the death of Theodosius, the
and panegyrist of Constantine and a Western empire was governed by young
church historian whose creation of a “polit- Honorius. Stilicho, an experienced states-
ical theology” sealed the union between man and general, was charged with
the Christian emperor and the church. assisting him and maintaining unity
St. Athanasius wrote apologetic works with the East, which had been entrusted
and a life of St. Anthony. Also prominent to Arcadius. The Eastern leaders soon
were the great Cappadocians: St. Basil rejected Stilicho’s tutelage. An anti­
of Caesarea, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, barbarian reaction had developed in
St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. John Constantinople, which impeded the
194 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

objectives of the half-Vandal Stilicho. He great many of these barbarians arrived in

wanted to intervene on several occasions Spain and settled in Lusitania (Suebi)
in the internal affairs at Constantinople and in Baetica (Vandals, whence the
but was prevented from doing so by a name Andalusia). As soon as Gaul had
threat from the Visigoth chieftain Alaric, become slightly more peaceful, Athaulf’s
whom he checked at Pollentia in 402, Visigoths arrived, establishing themselves
then by the Ostrogoth Radagaisus’s raid in Narbonensis and Aquitania. After rec-
in 406, and finally by the great invasion ognizing them as “federates,” Honorius
of the Gauls in 407. The following year he asked them to go to Spain to fight the
hoped to restore unity by installing a new Vandals.
emperor in Constantinople, Theodosius Meanwhile, the Roman general
II, the son of Arcadius, who had died pre- Constantius eliminated several usurpers
maturely; but he succumbed to a political in Gaul, confined the Goths in Aquitania,
and military plot in August 408. The divi- and reorganized the administration (the
sion of the two partes imperii was now a Gallic assembly of 418). But he was unable
permanent one. to expel the Franks, the Alemanni, and
Honorius, seated in Ravenna, a city the Burgundians, who had occupied the
easier to defend than Milan, had only northern part of the country, nor to elimi-
incompetent courtiers surrounding him, nate the brigandage of the Bagaudae. He
themselves animated by a violent hatred was associated with the empire and was
of the barbarians. Alaric soon reappeared, proclaimed Augustus in 421, but he died
at the head of his Visigoths, demanding shortly afterward. His son, Valentinian
land and money. Tired of the Romans’ III, succeeded Honorius in 423 and
double-dealing, he descended on Rome reigned until 455.
itself. The city was taken and pillaged for
three days, thus putting an end to an era The Beginning of Germanic
of Western history (August 410). An Hegemony in the West
Arian, Alaric spared the churches. He
died shortly thereafter in the south; his During the first half of the fifth century,
successor, Athaulf, left the peninsula to the barbarians gradually installed them-
march against the Gauls. selves, in spite of the efforts of the Roman
Fleeing from the terrifying advance General Aetius, at the head of a small army
of the Huns, on Dec. 31, 406, the Vandals, of mercenaries and of Huns. Aetius took
Suebi, and Alani, immediately followed back Arles and Narbonne from the Visi­
by the Burgundians and bands of goths in 436, either pushed back the Salian
Alemanni, crossed the frozen Rhine and and Ripuarian Franks beyond the Rhine
swept through Gaul, effortlessly throwing or incorporated them as federates, settled
back the federated Franks and Alemanni the defeated Burgundians in Sapaudia
from the frontiers. Between 409 and 415 a (Savoy), and established the Alani in
The Later Roman Empire | 195

Orléans. The other provinces were lost: who maintained real power through pup-
Britain, having been abandoned in 407 pet emperors. In 457–461 the energetic
and already invaded by the Picts and Majorian reestablished imperial author-
Scots, fell to the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes; ity in southern Gaul until he was defeated
a great Suebi kingdom, officially federated by Gaiseric and assassinated shortly
but in fact independent, was organized in afterward. Finally, in 476, Odoacer
Spain after the departure of the Vandals, deposed the last emperor, Romulus
and it allied itself to the Visigoths of Augustulus, had himself proclaimed king
Theodoric I, who were settled in the in the barbaric fashion, and governed
country around the Garonne. Italy with moderation, being de jure
In 428 the Vandal Gaiseric led his under the emperor of the East. The end of
people (80,000 persons, including the Roman Empire of the West passed
15,000 warriors) to Africa. St. Augustine almost unperceived.
died in 430 in besieged Hippo, Carthage
fell in 435, and in 442 a treaty gave Barbarian Kingdoms
Gaiseric the rich provinces of Byzacena
and Numidia. From there he was able to Several barbarian kingdoms were then
starve Rome, threaten Sicily, and close off set up: in Africa, Gaiseric’s kingdom of
the western basin of the Mediterranean the Vandals; in Spain and in Gaul as far
to the Byzantines. as the Loire, the Visigothic kingdom; and
Shortly afterward, in 450, Attila’s farther to the north, the kingdoms of the
Huns invaded the West—first Gaul, where, Salian Franks and the Alemanni. The bar-
after having been kept out of Paris, they barians were everywhere a small minority.
were defeated by Aetius on the Campus They established themselves on the great
Mauriacus (near Troyes), then Italy, estates and divided the land to the bene-
which they evacuated soon after having fit of the federates without doing much
received tribute from the pope, St. Leo. harm to the lower classes or disturbing
Attila died shortly afterward; and this the economy. The old inhabitants lived
invasion, which indeed left more legend- under Roman law, while the barbarians
ary memories than actual ruins, had kept their own “personality of laws,” of
shown that a solidarity had been created which the best-known is the judicial
between the Gallo-Romans and their composition, the Wergild. Romans and
barbarian occupiers, for the Franks, the barbarians coexisted but uneasily.
Alemanni, and even Theodoric’s Among the obstacles to reconciliation
Visigoths had come to Aetius’s aid. were differences in mores; social and
After the death of Aetius, in 454, and political institutions (personal monar-
of Valentinian III, in 455, the West became chies, fidelity of man to man), language
the stake in the intrigues of the German (although Latin was still used in adminis-
chiefs Ricimer, Orestes, and Odoacer, tration), and, above all, religion. The
196 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Arianism of the barbarians permitted the urgency, among historians of the West,
Roman Catholic bishops to retain their for it has been natural for them to see or
hold over their flocks. The only persecu- seek parallels between Rome’s fate and
tion, however, was under the Vandals, that of their own times. In any choice of
whose domination was the harshest. explanations there is likely to be a hidden
Two great kingdoms marked the end sense of priorities determining the defi-
of the fifth century. In Gaul, Clovis, the nition of “civilization,” or specifically the
king of the Salian Franks (reigned civilization of “Rome” or of “the classical
481/482–511), expelled Syagrius, the last world.” If, for example, classical civiliza-
Roman, from Soissons, took Alsace and tion is identified with the literature of the
the Palatinate from the Alemanni (496), ancients at what one conceives to be its
and killed Alaric II, king of the Visigoths, best, then “the end” of this civilization
at Vouillé (507). His conversion to has to be set at some point of decline and
Catholicism assured him the support of explanations for its coming to be sought
the bishops, and Frankish domination in the preexisting conditions. If not on
was established in Gaul. At the same literature but on political domination,
time, Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, then some other point in time must be
reigned in Italy. He had been charged by chosen and explained in terms of what
the emperor Zeno to take back Italy from seems to have led up to it.
Odoacer in 488, and in 494 he had him- There have been endless variations
self proclaimed king at Ravenna. His on this search, and there will continue to
Goths, few in number, were established in be more, no doubt, since it is agreed that
the north. Elsewhere he preserved the old literature did, in fact, diminish in quality,
imperial administration, with senators as did jurisprudence, although at a differ-
as prefects. Externally, he kept Clovis ent date, and oratory, and vigorous
from reaching the Mediterranean and political debate in the capital, and power-
extended his state up to the valley of the fully innovative philosophy, and sculpture,
Rhône. Theodoric died in 526. Ten years and civic patriotism, and the willingness to
later Justinian charged his general die for one’s country. “Civilization” turns
Belisarius with the reconquest of Italy, a out to be not one single entity but a web
costly, devastating, and temporary opera- of many strands, each of its own length.
tion that lasted from 535 to 540. Perhaps the view attracting the most
adherents, however, has focused on the
Analysis of the ability of the empire to maintain its polit-
Decline and Fall ical and military integrity—that being the
strand apparently most central and sig-
The causes of the fall of the empire have nificant—and the juncture at which that
been sought in a great many directions ability is most dramatically challenged
and with a great deal of interest, even and found wanting—the period of “the
The Later Roman Empire | 197

barbarian invasions,” meaning 407 and administration of the cities no longer

roughly the ensuing decade. If this junc- enjoyed the efforts of the urban elites,
ture in turn is examined and the who by 407 had long since fled from
antecedents of the empire’s weakness active service to some exempt govern-
sought in internal developments, they ment post or title.
can only be found in the government. For the same reason, finally, correc-
Belief in and obedience to the monarch tive measures needed against these
was not lacking, nor military technology systemic weaknesses could not be devel-
at least matching that of the invaders, nor oped by enlightened men at the centre
a population large enough to field a large because they were screened from the
force, nor the force itself (on paper, at truth of things, were at the mercy of
least), nor the economic potential ade- incompetent or venal agents, or were
quate to the arming of it. unable to maintain themselves in power
Particular defeats described by con- against the plotters around them. The
temporaries in reasonable detail are details of all these charges that can be
almost uniformly attributable to the rot- made against late Roman government
tenness of government, rendering are writ large in the great collection of
soldiers undisciplined, untrained, fre- imperial edicts published in 438, the
quently on indefinite leave, and without Theodosian Code, as well as in the works
good morale or proper equipment. of roughly contemporary writers from
Soldiers were unpaid because of various East and West, such as Synesius,
abuses in the collection and delivery of Augustine, Libanius, Themistius,
supplies and money from taxpayers, and Chrysostom, Symmachus, Bishop
they were distracted from their proper Maximus of Turin, and, above all,
duties by their own and their officers’ Ammianus Marcellinus. An empire that
extortionate habits in contact with their could not deliver to a point of need all the
civilian hosts. For the same basic reason— defensive force it still possessed could
that is, abuse of power wielded through not well stand against the enemy
service in the army or bureaucracy—the outside.
Appendix A: Table of
Roman Emperors from
27 BC through AD 476
Roman Emperors
Augustus (Augustus Caesar) 27 BC–AD 14
Tiberius (Tiberius Caesar Augustus) 14–37
Caligula (Gaius Caesar Germanicus) 37–41
Claudius (Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus) 41–54
Nero (Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus) 54–68
Galba (Servius Galba Caesar Augustus) 68–69
Otho (Marcus Otho Caesar Augustus) 69
Vitellius (Aulus Vitellius) 69
Vespasian (Caesar Vespasianus Augustus) 69–79
Titus (Titus Vespasianus Augustus) 79–81
Domitian (Caesar Domitianus Augustus) 81–96
Nerva (Nerva Caesar Augustus) 96–98
Trajan (Caesar Divi Nervae Filius Nerva Traianus Optimus Augustus) 98–117
Hadrian (Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus) 117–138
Antoninus Pius (Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus
Augustus Pius)
Marcus Aurelius (Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus) 161–180
Lucius Verus (Lucius Aurelius Verus) 161–169
Commodus (Caesar Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus) 177–192
Pertinax (Publius Helvius Pertinax) 193
Didius Severus Julianus (Marcus Didius Severus Julianus) 193
Septimius Severus (Lucius Septimius Severus Pertinax) 193–211
Caracalla (Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Augustus) 198–217
Septimius Geta (Publius Septimius Geta) 209–212
Macrinus (Caesar Marcus Opellius Severus Macrinus Augustus) 217–218
Appendix A: Table of Roman Emperors from 27 BC through AD 476 | 199

Roman Emperors
Elagabalus (Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus) 218–222
Alexander Severus (Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander) 222–235
Maximinus (Gaius Julius Verus Maximinus) 235–238
Gordian I (Marcus Antonius Gordianus Sempronianus Romanus) 238
Gordian II (Marcus Antonius Gordianus Sempronianus Romanus
Pupienus Maximus (Marcus Clodius Pupienus Maximus) 238
Balbinus (Decius Caelius Calvinus Balbinus) 238
Gordian III (Marcus Antonius Gordianus) 238–244
Philip (Marcus Julius Philippus) 244–249
Decius (Gaius Messius Quintus Trianus Decius) 249–251
Hostilian (Gaius Valens Hostilianus Messius Quintus) 251
Gallus (Gaius Vibius Trebonianus Gallus) 251–253
Aemilian (Marcus Aemilius Aemilianus) 253
Valerian (Publius Licinius Valerianus) 253–260
Gallienus (Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus) 253–268
Claudius (II) Gothicus (Marcus Aurelius Claudius Gothicus) 268–270
Quintillus (Marcus Aurelius Claudius Quintillus) 269–270
Aurelian (Lucius Domitius Aurelianus) 270–275
Tacitus (Marcus Claudius Tacitus) 275–276
Florian (Marcus Annius Florianus) 276
Probus (Marcus Aurelius Probus) 276–282
Carus (Marcus Aurelius Carus) 282–283
Carinus (Marcus Aurelius Carinus) 283–285
Numerian (Marcus Aurelius Numerius Numerianus) 283–284
Diocletian (Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus) East only 284–305
Maximian (Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus) West only
Galerius (Gaius Galerius Valerius Maximianus) East only 305–311
Constantius I Chlorus (Marcus Flavius Valerius Constantius) West only 305–306
200 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Roman Emperors
Severus (Flavius Valerius Severus) West only 306–307
Maxentius (Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maxentius) West only 306–312
Licinius (Valerius Licinianus Licinius) East only 308–324
Constantine I (Flavius Valerius Constantinus) 312–337
Constantine II (Flavius Claudius Constantinus) 337–340
Constans I (Flavius Julius Constans) 337–350
Constantius II (Flavius Julius Constantius) 337–361
Magnentius (Flavius Magnus Magnentius) 350–353
Julian (Flavius Claudius Julianus) 361–363
Jovian (Flavius Jovianus) 363–364
Valentinian I (Flavius Valentinianus) West only 364–375
Valens (Flavius Valens) East only 364–378
Procopius East only 365–366
Gratian (Flavius Gratianus Augustus) West only 375–383
Valentinian II (Flavius Valentinianus) West only 375–392
Theodosius I (Flavius Theodosius) 379–395
Arcadius (Flavius Arcadius) East only 395–408
Honorius (Flavius Honorius) West only 395–423
Theodosius II East only 408–450
Constantius III West only 421
Valentinian III (Flavius Placidius Valentinianus) West only 425–455
Marcian (Marcianus) East only 450–457
Petronius Maximus (Flavius Ancius Petronius Maximus) West only 455
Avitus (Flavius Maccilius Eparchius Avitus) West only 455–456
Leo I (Leo Thrax Magnus) East only 457–474
Majorian (Julius Valerius Majorianus) West only 457–461
Libius Severus (Libius Severianus Severus) West only 461–467
Anthemius (Procopius Anthemius) West only 467–472
Olybrius (Anicius Olybrius) West only 472
Glycerius West only 473–474
Appendix A: Table of Roman Emperors from 27 BC through AD 476 | 201

Roman Emperors
Julius Nepos West only 474–475
Leo II East only 474
Zeno East only 474–491
Romulus Augustulus (Flavius Momyllus Romulus Augustulus)
West only
Appendix B: Ancient
Italic Peoples
T he following is a select list of the
peoples—diverse in origin, language,
traditions, and territorial extension—who
Romanization of that people. The
Volscians (see page 212) were their con-
stant allies.
inhabited pre-Roman Italy, a region heav-
ily influenced by neighbouring Greece, Apulians
with its well-defined national characteris-
tics, expansive vigour, and aesthetic and The Apulians (Apuli) inhabited the
intellectual maturity. Italy attained a uni- southeastern extremity of the Italian pen-
fied ethnolinguistic, political, and cultural insula. The ancients often called this
physiognomy only after the Roman con- group of tribes Iapyges (and their terri-
quest, yet its most ancient peoples remain tory Iapygia, in which “Apulia” [modern
anchored in the names of the regions of Puglia] may be recognized).
Roman Italy—Latium, Campania, Apulia, The territory of Apulia included the
Bruttium, Lucania, Samnium, Picenum, Salentinians and Messapians peoples in
Umbria, Etruria, Venetia, and Liguria. the Salentine Peninsula (Calabria) and
the Peucetians (Peucetii) and Daunians
Aequians (Dauni) farther north. Ancient tradition
insists upon an overseas origin for these
The Aequians (Aequi) originally inhabited tribes, held to be Cretan or Illyrian.
the region watered by the tributaries of the Sometimes the designations Iapyges and
Avens River (modern Velino River). Long Messapians are used interchangeably.
hostile to Rome, they became especially The Iapygian or, more commonly,
menacing in the fifth century BC, advanc- Messapic language is known from a con-
ing to the Alban Hills. Although repulsed siderable series of public funerary, votive,
by the Romans in 431, the Aequians were monetary, and other inscriptions written
not completely subdued by Rome until in the Greek alphabet and found in the
the end of the Second Samnite War (304 Apulian area, especially in the Salentine
BC), when they received civitas sine Peninsula, from words reported by the
suffragio (“citizenship without voting ancient writers, and from toponomastic
rights”). The establishment of the Latin (local place-name) data. Messapic is with-
colony of Carsioli (302 BC) and the exten- out doubt an Indo-European language,
sion of the Via Valeria through the distinct from Latin and from the Umbro-
territory of the Aequians aided the rapid Sabellic dialects, with Balkan and central
Appendix B: Ancient Italic Peoples | 203

European analogies. This confirms the independence, tenaciously defended

overseas provenance of the Iapyges from against the Greeks, until the age of the
the Balkans, the more so because there Roman conquest.
existed in Illyria a tribe called the Iapodes
and because a people known as the Auruncians
Iapuzkus lived farther north, on the Adri­
atic coast of Italy. Rather than a true The Auruncians (Aurunci, or Ausones)
immigration, however, there was a gradual were an ancient tribe of Campania. They
prehistoric penetration of trans-Adriatic were exterminated by the Romans in 314
elements. The expansion of the Iapyges BC as the culmination of 50 years of
must have brought them to Lucania and Roman military campaigns against them.
even to what is now Calabria, as would be They occupied a strip of coast situated
deduced from traditional and archaeo- between the Volturnus and Liris (Volturno
logical indications. and Liri) rivers in what is now the prov-
The Apulian civilization, which was ince of Caserta, with their capital at
considerably influenced by that of the Suessa Aurunca (modern Sessa Aurunca).
nearby Greek colonies, developed from No written record of their language sur-
the ninth to the third century BC. In the vives, but the frequency of the use of the
most ancient period there were pit graves, “-co” suffix in that part of the coast sug-
sometimes in large stone tumuli. In the gests that the Auruncians spoke Volscian,
Siponto area, near what is now the same Italic dialect as their northern
Manfredonia, the graves were accompa- neighbours, the Volscians. The name
nied by anthropomorphic stelae with Ausones, the Greek form from which the
geometric bas-reliefs. Geometrically Latin Aurunci was derived, was applied
painted ceramics in linear motifs per- by the Greeks to various Italic tribes, but
sisted to the threshold of the Hellenistic the name came to denote in particular the
Age. Later graves took the form of large tribe that the great Roman historian Livy
trunks and of catacombs with paintings called Aurunci. The name was later
on the sides. Burial was the disposition applied to all Italians, and Ausonia
exclusively used. became a poetic term, in Greek and Latin,
Beginning in Archaic times, large for Italy.
cities developed, linked to each other by
bonds of confederation. These included Bruttians
Herdonea (now Ordona), Canusium
(Canosa di Puglia), Rubi (Ruvo di Puglia), This group inhabited what is now south-
Gnathia, Brundisium (Brindisi), Uria western Italy, occupying an area
(Oria), Lupiae (Lecce), Rudiae, and coextensive with modern Calabria, an
Manduria. They preserved their area sometimes referred to as the “toe of
204 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

the boot.” This area was separated from right of coinage even after their final
Lucania (corresponding to modern subjugation by the Romans. The influ-
Basilicata) on the north, and it was to the ence of Hellenism over the Bruttians can
whole or to a part of this peninsula that be seen in finds in tombs and their use of
the name Italia was first applied. the Greek language in addition to their
In alliance with the Lucanians, the own. The mountainous country, ill suited
Bruttians (Bruttii) made war on the Greek for agricultural purposes, was well
colonies of the coast and seized on Vibo adapted for these hardy warriors, whose
in 356 BC. Though for a time overcome training was Spartan in its simplicity and
by the Greeks who were aided by severity.
Alexander of Epirus and Agathocles, The Bruttians first confronted the
tyrant of Syracuse, they reasserted their Romans during the war with Pyrrhus, to
mastery of the town from about the whom they sent auxiliaries. After his defeat,
beginning of the third century BC and they submitted and were deprived of half
held it until it became a Latin colony at their territory in the Sila forest, which was
the end of the same century. declared state property. In the war with
At this time the Bruttians were speak- Hannibal, they were among the first to
ing Oscan as well as Greek, and two of declare in his favour after the battle of
three Oscan inscriptions in a Greek Cannae, and it was in their country that
alphabet still testify to the language Hannibal held his ground during the last
spoken in Vibo in the third century BC. stage of the war (at Castrum Hannibalis
Despite their use of the Oscan language, on the Gulf of Scylacium). The Bruttians
the Bruttians were not actually akin to the entirely lost their freedom at the end of the
Samnite tribe of the Lucanians, who also Hannibalic war; in 194 BC colonies of
spoke Oscan. The name Bruttii was used Roman citizens were founded at Tempsa
by the Lucanians to mean “runaway and Croton, and a colony with Latin
slaves,” but it is considerably more likely rights at Hipponium called thereafter Vibo
that this signification was attached to the Valentia. In 132 BC the great inland road
tribal name of the Bruttians from the his- from Capua through Vibo and Consentia
torical fact that they had been conquered to Rhegium (Reggio di Calabria) was
and expelled by the Samnite invaders. built, but neither in the Social War nor in
The Bruttians were at the height of the rising of Spartacus, who held out a long
their power during the third century BC. time in the Sila (71 BC), do the Bruttians
Their chief towns were Consentia (modern play a further part as a distinct group.
Cosenza), Petelia (near Strongoli), and
Clampetia (Amantea). To this period Etruscans
(about the time of the Pyrrhic War) is
assigned the series of coins they struck, The Etruscans (Etrusci) were an ancient
and they appear to have retained the people of Etruria (between the Tiber and
Appendix B: Ancient Italic Peoples | 205

Arno rivers west and south of the River by the strong Italic Umbrian people
Apennines), whose urban civilization settled beyond it on the south and the
reached its height in the sixth century Picenes on the east. To the northeast no
BC. Many features of Etruscan culture such united power opposed their expan-
were adopted by the Romans. sion, since the Apennine mountains in
The origin of the Etruscans has been Aemilia (modern Emilia) and Tuscany
a subject of debate since antiquity. The were held by scattered Italic tribes.
Greek historian Herodotus, for example, Through these the Etruscans were able,
argued that the Etruscans descended in the middle of the sixth century, to push
from a people who invaded Etruria from into the Po River valley.
Anatolia (what is now Turkey) before 800 As capital of this northward region
BC and established themselves over the they established the old Villanovan cen-
native Iron Age inhabitants of the region, tre at Bologna (the Etruscan city of
whereas Dionysius of Halicarnassus, also Felsina) and on the banks of the Reno
a Greek historian, believed that the founded Marzabotto. On the Adriatic
Etruscans were of local Italian origin. coast to the east, Ravenna, Ariminum
Both theories, as well as a third 19th- (modern Rimini), and Spina traded with
century theory, have turned out to be Istra (modern Istria) and the Greek
problematic, and today scholarly discus- Dalmatian colonies. From the Po valley,
sion has shifted its focus from the contacts were made with the central
discussion of provenance to that of the for- European La Tène cultures. Etruscan con-
mation of the Etruscan people. quests in the northeast extended to
In any event, by the middle of the sev- include what are now the modern cities of
enth century BC the chief Etruscan towns Piacenza, Modena, Parma, and Mantua.
had been founded. Before reaching the To the south they were drawn into Latium
Arno River in the north and incorporat- and Campania from the end of the sev-
ing all Tuscany in their dominion, the enth century, and in the sixth century
Etruscans embarked upon a series of con- they had a decisive impact on the history
quests initially probably not coordinated of Rome, where the Etruscan dynasty of
but undertaken by individual cities. The the Tarquins is said to have ruled from
pressing motive for expansion was that 616 to 510/509 BC. It is possible that the
by the middle of this century the Greeks Roman Tarquins were connected with a
not only had obtained a grip on Corsica family called Tarchu, which is known
and expanded their hold on Sicily and from inscriptions.
southern Italy but also had settled on the Rome before the Etruscan advent was
Ligurian coast (northwestern Italy) and a small conglomeration of villages. It
in southern France. was under the new masters that, accord-
Etruscan expansion to the south and ing to tradition, the first public works
east was confined at the line of the Tiber such as the walls of the Capitoline hill
206 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

and the Cloaca Maxima (a sewer) were Spoletium (modern Spoleto) in the north
constructed. Considerable evidence of and Fossombrone in Liguria their power
the Etruscan period in Rome’s history has was not, however, to last long; Cumae felt
come to light in the region of the Capitol. the first of sharp waves of resistance
That there were rich tombs in Rome itself coming from Greeks, Samnites, Romans,
cannot be doubted—tombs similar to and Gauls. In 509 BC the Etruscans were
those in the Latin town of Praeneste chased from Rome, as reflected in the
(modern Palestrina). story of the expulsion of Tarquinius
Meanwhile, by the beginning of the Superbus, the intervention of Lars
sixth century the Etruscans had included Porsena of Clusium, and the Latin victory
Faesulae (modern Fiesole) and Volaterrae over Aruns Porsena’s son at Aricia. When
(modern Volterra) in their northern limits Latium was lost, relations between Etruria
and at the same time began to push and its Campanian possessions were
southward into Campania. Capua became broken with disastrous effect. A series
the chief Etruscan foundation in this of piecemeal feuds between Etruscan cit-
region and Nola a second; a necropolis ies and Rome led to the incorporation
has been found in the Salerno region of the former into the Roman sphere—
and Etruscan objects in low levels at first the nearby town of Veii in 396 BC,
Herculaneum and Pompeii. The coastal after which Capena, Sutri, and Nepet
region was still, however, in Greek hands. (modern Nepi) fell in turn, thus begin-
When the Etruscans attacked the Greek ning the end of the first of many
foundation of Cumae in 524 BC, their unsuccessful attempts at unifying Italy.
advance was finally checked by their Nevertheless, the Etruscans had
defeat at the hands of Aristodemus of established a thriving commercial and
that city. agricultural civilization. Characteristic of
The rivalry between Greek trade in their artistic achievements are the wall
the western Mediterranean and that car- frescoes and realistic terra-cotta portraits
ried on between the Etruscans and found in their tombs. Their religion
Carthage had already come to a head at employed elaborately organized cults and
the battle of Alalia in 535 BC, a battle rituals, including the extensive practice
which the Greeks claimed to have won of divination.
but which so upset them that they deter-
mined to abandon Corsica to Etruscan Hernicians
and Carthaginian influence.
In the last quarter of the sixth cen- The territory of the Hernicians (Hernici)
tury, when Etruscan power was at its was in Latium between the Fucine Lake
height from the Po to Salerno, small (modern Fucino) and the Trerus (modern
settlements of Etruscans might have Sacco) River, bounded by the Volscians
been planted beyond these limits. At on the south and by the Aequians and the
Appendix B: Ancient Italic Peoples | 207

Marsians on the north. In 486 BC they their dead and deposited their ashes in
were still strong enough to conclude a urns of Villanovan type—a biconical, or
treaty with the Romans on equal terms. two-storied, form covered with a bowl—as
They broke away from Rome in 362–358. well as in hut-shaped urns that were faith-
In 306 their chief town, Anagnia (modern ful imitations of the huts of the living.
Anagni), was taken by the Romans and The decoration of these funerary contain-
deprived of its independence and their ers is of a simple geometric type, similar
league was broken up. By 195 their terri- to that engraved on bronze objects found
tory was not distinguished from Latium in these tombs, such as razors, spindles,
and they were regarded as Latins, both weapons, and brooches. The material
politically and in language. Their original used for the tombs in the Alban Hills
language is unknown. resembles the material found in contem-
porary tombs in Rome but is occasionally
Latins rougher and coarser in appearance.
In approximately 600 BC, when the
The Latins (Latini) inhabited Latium in Etruscans occupied Latium and settled in
west-central Italy. Originally this territory Rome, the influence of Etruscan civiliza-
was limited to a region around the Alban tion and art made itself felt as much in
Hills, but by about 500 BC it extended the other Latin towns as in Rome itself.
south of the Tiber River as far as the But Rome soon became a large city, simi-
promontory of Mount Circeo. It was lar to the powerful cities of southern
bounded on the northwest by Etruria, on Etruria, and it took precedence over its
the southeast by Campania, on the east neighbours. According to the annalistic
by Samnium, and on the northeast by the tradition, it was a specifically Roman
territory of the Sabines, Aequians, and uprising that drove the Etruscans from
Marsians. Rome in 509. In fact it was a coalition of
The Latins were sprung from those Latins and Greeks that led to the
Indo-European tribes that, during the Etruscans’ withdrawal from Latium in
second millennium BC, came to settle in 475 BC.
the Italian peninsula. By the first centu- After the departure of the Etruscans
ries of the first millennium BC, the Latins the fortunes of Latium changed; it
had developed as a separate people, orig- became impoverished. Rome lost its pre-
inally established on the mass of the eminence over the neighbouring cities
Alban Hills, which was isolated and easy and took a long time to recover it.
to defend. The Latin tribes that settled Throughout the fifth century BC the
there were influenced both by the civili- Latin League imposed its policy on Rome.
zation of the Iron Age of southern Italy Every year the delegates of the Latin cit-
and by the Villanovan civilization of ies elected a dictator who commanded a
southern Etruria. The Latins cremated federal army, which included Roman
208 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

troops. In this league Tusculum seemed coast from the mouth of the Ebro River
to exercise the leadership that Rome had in Spain to the mouth of the Arno River in
held in the Etruscan period. The territory Italy in the first millennium BC.
of Rome did not extend beyond the sixth No ancient texts speak of Ligurians
mile from the city. in southern Gaul as nations or attribute
The Latin people were threatened by definite ethnic characteristics to them.
the proximity of turbulent peoples: the Vol­ They were apparently an indigenous col-
scians, who dwelt in Antium, and the lection of Neolithic peoples living in
Aequians, who ruled Praeneste and Tibur. village settlements in remote places, and
The legendary story of Coriolanus shows it was probably to loose political group-
how, in the early fifth century BC, Rome ings of these people that ancient authors
began to extend its territory toward the attached the name. Such authors as the
south by fighting on the side of Ardea and Greek geographer and historian Strabo
Aricia against the Volscians. At the end and Greek historian Diodorus Siculus
of the fifth century Roman colonies were described them as a rough and strong
established in the Monti Lepini. In the people whose piracy the Romans
fourth century BC Rome began to take deplored. These views, however, appear
precedence among the sister cities of in late texts and refer to the Celticized
Latium, weakened by their dissensions. In Ligurians (Celtoligures) between the
358 BC, however, Rome and the Latin con- Rhône and Arno rivers. Strabo declared
federacy concluded a treaty of alliance on that they were a different race from the
a basis of equality. They nominated in turn Gauls or Celts, and Diodorus mentioned
the dictator of the league. But the strength that they lived in villages and made a dif-
of Rome grew, and it established two tribes ficult living from the rocky, mountainous
in Volscian territory. In 340 war broke out soil. In any event, their reputed boldness
between Rome and the Latins. It ended in caused them to be in great demand as
338 in the defeat of the Latins and the mercenaries. They served the
dissolution of their league. The Latin cities Carthaginian commander Hamilcar in
were given political statutes that limited 480 BC and the Sicilian Greek colonies in
or abolished their autonomy. Thereafter the time of Agathocles and openly sided
Roman hegemony in Latium was an accom- with Carthage in the Second Punic War
plished fact, and the life of the Latin country (218–201 BC). Steps were not taken for
was soon modeled on that of the city. their final reduction by Rome until 180
BC, when 40,000 Ligurians were deported
Ligurians to Samnium and settled near Beneventum
The Ligurians (Ligures) constituted a The name Ligurian, or Ligures, has
collection of ancient peoples who inhab- been used by modern archaeologists to
ited the northwestern Mediterranean designate a stratum of Neolithic remains
Appendix B: Ancient Italic Peoples | 209

in the region from northeastern Spain to extinct Illyrian languages that were
northwestern Italy. spoken on the east side of the Adriatic.)
They frequently fought the Greeks of the
Marsians nearby Spartan colony of Tarentum
(modern Taranto), but they supported
The Marsians (Marsi) inhabited the east- Tarentum and Pyrrhus of Epirus in their
ern shore of Lake Fucinus (now drained) wars against Rome (280–275 BC). In 266
in the modern province of L’Aquila. In the Messapians were conquered by
304 BC they and their allies, the Vestinians, Rome, and they rarely appeared in his-
Paelignians, and Marrucinians, made an tory after that.
alliance with Rome that lasted until the
Social War, sometimes called the Marsic Picenes
War (90–89 BC). This war ended when
the allies were finally given Roman The Early Iron Age inhabitants of the Adri­
citizenship. atic coast of Italy from Rimini to the
The earliest pure Latin inscriptions Sangro River were known as Picenes
of the Marsians are dated to about 150 (Piceni, or Picentes). Men and women
BC, whereas the earliest inscriptions in dressed in wool; men wore armour,
the local dialect date from about 300 to weapons, and ornaments of bronze or
150 BC. The Marsians were among those iron; women had numerous fibulae,
who worshipped Angitia, a goddess of torques, bracelets, girdles, and ornamental
healing, and, because they practiced a pendants. They had two main centres,
medicine based on superstition, their one at Novilara in the north, and another
country was held by the Romans to be the around Belmonte and Fermo farther
home of witchcraft. The name of the tribe south. The Picenes traded with the
is derived from the god Mars. Greeks as early as the seventh century
BC, but there is little evidence of trade
Messapians with Etruria, except at the inland site of
Fabriano. The evidence suggests that
The Messapians (Messapii) lived in the Picenes were warlike, with little artistic
southeastern part of the Italian peninsula ability of their own, but wealthy enough
(Calabria and Apulia) and with the closely to sustain a flourishing trade. In 268 BC
related Apulians they probably pene- their territory was annexed by Rome.
trated Italy from the other side of the
Adriatic Sea about 1000 BC. They spoke Sabines
Messapic (Messapian), an Indo-European
language. (Messapic inscriptions date The Sabines (Sabini) were located in the
from the sixth to the first century BC. The mountainous country east of the Tiber
language is believed to be related to the River. They were known for their religious
210 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

practices and beliefs, and several Roman and Pentri. The league probably had no
institutions were said to have derived federal assembly, but a war leader could
from them. The story recounted by the be chosen to lead a campaign. Although
Greek biographer and author Plutarch allied with Rome against the Gauls in
that Romulus, the founder of Rome, 354 BC, the Samnites were soon involved
invited the Sabines to a feast and then in a series of three wars (343–341, 327–
carried off (raped) their women, is leg- 304, and 298–290) against the Romans.
endary. Though there was a considerable Despite a spectacular victory over the
Sabine infiltration into Rome, the view Romans at the Battle of the Caudine
that the Sabines conquered the city in the Forks (321), where a Roman army was
first half of the fifth century BC is improb- forced to march under the yoke, the
able; rather, the Romans had many Samnites were eventually subjugated.
skirmishes with the Sabines before their The Romans surrounded Samnite land
victory in 449. Nothing is known thereaf- with colonies and then split it with colonies
ter until in 290 the Sabines were at Beneventum (268) and Aesernia (263).
conquered and granted civitas sine suf- Although reduced and depopulated,
fragio; in 268 they received full Roman the Samnites later helped Pyrrhus and
citizenship. Hannibal against Rome. They also fought
The Sabines probably spoke Oscan. from 90 BC in the Social War and later in
No inscription has survived of their dia- the civil war against Lucius Cornelius
lect, but a large number of single words Sulla, who defeated them at the Battle of
are attributed to them by Latin writers. the Colline Gate (82 BC).
The tradition that the Sabines were the The longest and most important
parent stock of the Samnite tribes is prob- inscription of the Samnite dialect is the
ably correct. small bronze Tabula Agnonensis, which
is engraved in full Oscan alphabet. In
Samnites June 2004, archaeologists in Pompeii
discovered the remains of a wall from a
The Samnites were a collection of warlike temple built by Samnites.
tribes inhabiting the mountainous centre
of southern Italy. These tribes, who spoke Sicans
Oscan and were probably an offshoot of
the Sabines, apparently referred to them- According to ancient Greek writers, the
selves not as Samnite but by the Oscan Sicans (Sicani) were the aboriginal inhab-
form of the word, which appears in Latin itants of central Sicily, as distinguished
as Sabine. from the Sicels (Siculi) of eastern Sicily
Four cantons formed a Samnite con- and the Elymi of western Sicily. Archaeol­
federation: Hirpini, Caudini, Caraceni, ogically there is no substantial difference
Appendix B: Ancient Italic Peoples | 211

between Sicans and Sicels in historical this area spoke an Indo-European dialect
times; but the Greek historian Thucydides closely related to Oscan (Umbrian). It is
believed the Sicans to be Iberians from best known from the ritual texts called
Spain who were driven by the invading the Iguvine Tables. The Umbrians never
Sicels into the central parts of the island. fought any important wars against the
Romans; in the Social War (90–89 BC), for
Sicels instance, they joined the rebel allies tar-
dily and were among the first to make
Sicels (Siculi) were an ancient people that peace with Rome. Ancient authors
occupied the eastern part of Sicily. Old described the Umbrians as closely resem-
tales related that they once lived in central bling their Etruscan enemies in their
Italy but were driven out and finally habits, and the Umbrian alphabet was
crossed to Sicily, leaving remnants undoubtedly of Etruscan origin.
behind—e.g., at Locri. They are hard to
identify archaeologically, although some Venetians
words of their Indo-European language
are known. Phases of the Italic Apennine An ancient people of northeastern Italy,
culture have been identified on the Eolie the Venetians (Veneti) arrived about 1000
(Aeolian) Islands off the northeast coast of BC and occupied country stretching
Sicily and in northeastern Sicily, which south to the Po and west to the neigh-
may indicate emigration from Italy during bourhood of Verona. They left more than
the late Bronze Age. The Sicels lived in 400 inscriptions from the last four cen-
independent towns; thus, they were easily turies BC, some in the Latin alphabet,
displaced by the Greek colonists who others in a native script.
migrated to Sicily, and they did not react The chief Venetic settlement was
en masse until the 450s BC under Ducetius. Este (later the Roman colony of Ateste),
Their most important gods were the Palici, which was also the cult centre of their
protectors of agriculture and sailors; important divinity Reitia, possibly a god-
Adranus, perhaps the father of the Palici; dess of childbirth. The horses bred in
and the goddess Hybla, or Hyblaea. Venetia were famous in the Greek world,
and there was other commerce both with
Umbrians Greek lands and with the Alps and north-
ern Europe, including some control of
The Umbrians (Umbri) were an Etruscan the amber route from the Baltic. The
people who gradually concentrated in Venetians were friendly to Rome through-
Umbria (in what is now central Italy) out and assisted Rome against the Gauls,
in response to Etruscan and Gallic pres- especially in the war of 225 BC. The col-
sure. By about 400 BC the inhabitants of ony of Aquileia, founded in 181 BC,
212 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

protected Venetia from raids by its moun- They belonged to the Osco-Sabellian
tain neighbours, and a century of peace group of tribes and lived (c. 600 BC) in
and Romanization followed, though prob- the valley of the upper Liris River. Later
ably much land was bought up by Roman events, however, drove them first west-
settlers. The towns were given Latin ward and then south to the fertile land of
rights in 89 BC and full citizen status in southern Latium.
49 BC. Knowledge of the Volscians depends
largely upon Roman accounts of their
Vestinians mutual wars. To increase their pressure
against Rome and the Latins, the Vol­
The Vestinians (Vestini) were an ancient scians allied themselves with the
Sabine tribe, which occupied the eastern Aequians. Rome and the Latins in turn
and northern bank of the Aternus (mod- joined in alliance with the Hernicians,
ern Aterno) River in central Italy. They who lived between the Aequians and the
entered into the Roman alliance in 302 Volscians. For about 200 years cam-
BC and remained loyal until they joined paigns dragged on intermittently
the Social War (90–89 BC), by which they between these opponents. The Volscians
won Roman citizenship. are said to have made peace with Rome
The Vestinian local dialect, belonging in 396 but profited by Rome’s weakness
to the Northern Oscan group, probably after the Gauls sacked the city in 390 to
survived until this time. The oldest renew their warfare. In the course of
known Latin inscriptions of the district these struggles the Romans established
are not earlier than 100 BC, and they indi- several colonies in the fifth and fourth
cate that the Latin first spoken by the centuries to stem the advance of the
Vestinians was not that of Rome but that Volscians. In 340 the Volscians joined
of their neighbours, the Marsians and the the Latin revolt but were defeated (338),
Aequians. and they had finally submitted to Rome
by 304. Thereafter they became
Volscians Romanized so quickly and completely
that it is difficult to ascertain their origi-
The people known as Volscians (Volsci) nal culture. Their language is known
were prominent in the history of Roman from an inscription (early third cen-
expansion during the fifth century BC. tury) from Velitrae.
aedile A magistrate of ancient Rome didrachm Ancient Greek currency.
who originally had charge of the ethos The distinguishing character,
temple and cult of Ceres. sentiment, moral nature, or guiding
anachronistic A person or thing that beliefs of a person, group, or
is chronologically out of place, institution.
especially as it pertains to one item exigency A state of affairs that makes
from a former age that is incongruous urgent demands.
in the present. hegemony A preponderant influence or
annalistic Relating to the writing of authority over others.
historical events. homogeneity The quality of being of
aphorism A concise expression of uniform structure or composition
doctrine or principle or any throughout; having equal parts that
generally accepted truth conveyed are similar or the same.
in a pithy, memorable statement. imperium The supreme executive
apostasy The renunciation of reli- power in the Roman state, involving
gious faith. both military and judicial authority.
ascetic One who practices strict self- manumission Formal emancipation
denial as a measure of personal or from slavery.
spiritual discipline. megalomaniacal Having delusions of
capricious Impulsive and unpredictable. personal omnipotence.
censor In ancient Rome, a magistrate meretricious Tawdrily and falsely
whose original function of register- attractive.
ing citizens and their property was oligarchy Government by the few,
expanded to include supervision of especially despotic power exercised
senatorial rolls and moral conduct. by a small and privileged group for
collegium A group in which each corrupt or selfish purposes.
member has approximately equal panegyric Eulogistic oration or laudatory
power and authority. discourse that originally was a speech
deification To glorify as if a god; to delivered at an ancient Greek general
make someone or something an assembly (panegyris), such as the
object of worship. Olympic and Panathenaic festivals.
demagogue A leader who makes use of philhellenism Admiration for Greece
popular prejudices or false claims in and the Greeks.
order to gain power; in ancient polemicist One who stages an aggres-
times, one who championed the sive attack or refutation of another’s
cause of the common people. opinions or principles.
214 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

pomerium A sacred, open space located of mind and certainty of moral

just inside the wall surrounding the worth; when capitalized, a school of
four hills of early ancient Rome. thought that flourished in Greek and
praetor A judicial officer who had broad Roman antiquity.
authority in cases of equity, was tetrarchy A collegium of emperors
responsible for the production of comprising two groups: two Augusti,
the public games, and, in the older men who made the decisions,
absence of consuls, exercised and two younger Caesars with a
extensive authority in the more executive role
government. tribune Any of various military and
sacrosanct Treated as if holy. civil officials in ancient Rome.
sarcophagus A stone coffin. triumvir One of three officers that mutu-
stoicism The belief that the goal of all ally share the same administrative role.
inquiry is to provide a mode of usurpation To seize or hold office or
conduct characterized by tranquillity powers by force or without right.
General works of Greece and Rome; and in Naphtali
Lewis and Meyer Reinhold (eds.), Roman
A wealth of information on ancient Civilization: Selected Readings, 3rd ed.,
Roman civilization is provided by the vol- 2 vol. (1990).
umes in The Cambridge Ancient History
(1923– ), some in newer 2nd and 3rd edi- Rome from its
tions; by N.G.L. Hammond and H.H. Origins to 264 BC
Scullard (eds.), The Oxford Classical
Dictionary, 2nd ed. (1970, reprinted 1984); Archaeological evidence on early Rome
and by John Boardman, Jasper Griffin, is discussed and analyzed by Raymond
and Oswyn Murray (eds.), The Oxford Bloch, The Origins of Rome, rev. ed. (1963;
History of the Classical World (1986). originally published in French, 1946); T.J.
Michael Grant and Rachel Kitzinger Cornell, “Rome and Latium Vetus,”
(eds.), Civilization of the Ancient Archaeological Reports, 26:71–88 (1979–
Mediterranean: Greece and Rome, 3 vol. 80); and Robert Drews, “The Coming of
(1988), discusses the geography, inhabit- the City to Central Italy,” American
ants, arts, language, religion, politics, Journal of Ancient History, 6:133–165
technology, and economy of the area (1981). The archaeology of early Italy in
from the early 1st millennium BC to the general is covered in David Trump,
late 5th century AD. Broad coverage of Central and Southern Italy Before Rome
the physical and cultural settings and (1966). Livy’s work on early Rome is care-
of archaeological discoveries is also fully annotated and commented on in
provided by Tim Cornell and John part by R.M. Ogilvie, A Commentary on
Matthews, Atlas of the Roman World Livy, Books 1–5 (1965, reissued 1984). A
(1982); and Nicholas G.L. Hammond (ed.), good survey of Livy’s annalistic prede-
Atlas of the Greek and Roman World in cessors is E. Badian, “The Early
Antiquity (1981). Overviews of the histo- Historians,” in T.A. Dorey (ed.), Latin
ries of Roman civilization include M. Historians (1966), pp. 1–38. The single
Cary and H.H. Scullard, A History of best modern treatment of the regal period
Rome Down to the Reign of Constantine, and the early republic is Jacques
3rd ed. (1975); and Michael Vickers, The Heurgon, The Rise of Rome to 264 B.C.
Roman World (1977, reissued 1989). Many (1973; originally published in French,
ancient historical sources are available in 1969). A complete chronological listing
The Loeb Classical Library series, with of all known magistrates of the Roman
original text and parallel English transla- Republic with full ancient citations can
tion; in the series Translated Documents be found in T. Robert S. Broughton, The
216 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Magistrates of the Roman Republic, 2 vol. Constitution of the Roman Republic

and a supplement (1951–60, reprinted 1940–1954,” Historia, 5:74–122 (1956), sur-
1984–86). A collection and modern analy- veys modern scholarship on a number of
sis of ancient sources concerning Rome’s important constitutional problems of
economic development is Tenney Frank early Roman history. Staveley has dis-
(ed.), An Economic Survey of Ancient cussed the problem of the distinction
Rome, 6 vol. (1933–40, reprinted 1975). between patricians and plebians in “The
The legal evidence from early Rome is Nature and Aims of the Patriciate,”
treated by Alan Watson, Rome of the XII Historia, 32:24–57 (1983). A collection of
Tables: Persons and Property (1975). essays by different scholars addressing
The evolution of Rome’s foundation this same problem is Kurt A. Raaflaub
myth is discussed by E.J. Bickerman, (ed.), Social Struggles in Archaic Rome:
“Origines Gentium,” Classical Philology, New Perspectives on the Conflict of the
47(2):65–81 (April 1952). Bickerman treats Orders (1986), which contains an excel-
a number of important methodological lent bibliography on early Rome. A
questions on early Rome in “Some detailed and novel approach to the prob-
Reflections on Early Roman History,” lem of patricians and plebeians is Richard
Rivista di Filologia e di Istruzione E. Mitchell, Patricians and Plebeians: The
Classica, 97:393–408 (1969). Richard I. Origin of the Roman State (1990). The
Ridley, “Fastenkritik: A Stocktaking,” single best treatment of the military tri-
Athenaeum, 58(3–4):264–298 (1980), sur- bunes with consular power and related
veys various modern views on the questions is Kurt von Fritz, “The
reliability of the consular fasti. The single Reorganization of the Roman Government
best treatment of the Roman ruling class in 366 B.C. and the So-called Licinio-
is Matthias Gelzer, The Roman Nobility Sextian Laws,” Historia, 1:3–44 (1950).
(1969; originally published in German, The best modern discussion of
1912). The Roman assemblies and voting Roman imperialism is William V. Harris,
procedures are thoroughly examined by War and Imperialism in Republican
George Willis Botsford, The Roman Rome, 327–70 B.C. (1979). Harris’s Rome
Assemblies from Their Origin to the End in Etruria and Umbria (1971), examines
of the Republic (1909, reprinted 1968); Rome’s relations with those two regions.
and Lily Ross Taylor, Roman Voting Other informative works on Roman
Assemblies from the Hannibalic War to expansion include R.M. Errington, The
the Dictatorship of Caesar (1966). Taylor Dawn of Empire: Rome’s Rise to World
has also carefully studied the origin and Power (1971); Erich S. Gruen, The
development of the 35 urban and rural Hellenistic World and the Coming of
voting tribes in The Voting Districts of Rome, 2 vol. (1984); and E. Badian, Foreign
the Roman Republic (1960). E. Stuart Clientelae, 264–70 B.C. (1958). E.T.
Staveley, “Forschungsbericht: The Salmon, Roman Colonization Under the
Bibliography | 217

Republic (1969), surveys the methods, reissued 1988); G.H. Stevenson, Roman
aims, and consequences of Roman Provincial Administration till the Age of
colonization. the Antonines (1939, reprinted 1975); and
C.H.V. Sutherland, The Romans in Spain,
The Middle Republic 217 B.C.–A.D. 117 (1939, reprinted 1982).
(264–133 BC)
The Transformation of
H.H. Scullard, A History of the Roman Rome and Italy During
World: 753–146 BC, 4th ed. (1980), pro- the Middle Republic
vides a reliable narrative. Gaetano de
Sanctis, Storia dei Romani, 4 vol. (1907– Citizenship, constitution, and politics
65), is more detailed. The standard are discussed in Theodor Mommsen,
reference work on Polybius is F.W. Römisches Staatsrecht, 3rd ed., 3 vol. in 5
Walbank, A Historical Commentary on (1887–88, reprinted 1969); A.N. Sherwin-
Polybius, 3 vol. (1957–79). On the wars White, The Roman Citizenship, 2nd ed.
with Carthage, Ulrich Kahrstedt, (1973, reissued 1987); and C. Nicolet, The
Geschichte der Karthager von 218–146 World of the Citizen in Republican Rome
(1913, reprinted 1975), provides source (1980; originally published in French,
criticism. Military aspects of this period 1976). Arnold J. Toynbee, Hannibal’s
are presented in Johannes Kromayer and Legacy: The Hannibalic War’s Effects on
Georg Veith, Antike Schlachtfelder, vol. 3 Roman Life, 2 vols. (1965); P.A. Brunt,
in 2 parts (1912); Johannes Kromayer and Italian Manpower, 225 B.C.–A.D. 14 (1971,
Georg Veith (eds.), Schlachten-Atlas zur reprinted 1987); and Keith Hopkins,
antiken Kriegsgeschichte, 5 parts (1922– Conquerors and Slaves (1977), explore the
29); J.H. Thiel, A History of Roman social and economic consequences of
Sea-power Before the Second Punic War Rome’s victories. P.A. Brunt, Social
(1954), and Studies on the History of Conflicts in the Roman Republic (1971,
Roman Sea-power in Republican Times reissued 1986), presents an excellent
(1946); J.F. Lazenby, Hannibal’s War: A brief account. Many important aspects of
Military History of the Second Punic War second-century politics and culture are
(1978); and H.H. Scullard, Scipio covered in Alan E. Astin, Scipio
Africanus: Soldier and Politician (1970). Aemilianus (1967).
Stéphane Gsell, Histoire ancienne de
l’Afrique du Nord, 3rd ed., 8 vol. (1928); The Late Republic
and B.H. Warmington, Carthage, rev. ed. (133–31 BC)
(1969), deal with Carthage. Works on the
provinces include David Magie, Roman The best outline in English for the late
Rule in Asia Minor to the End of the Third republic is the first half of H.H. Scullard,
Century After Christ, 2 vol. (1950, From the Gracchi to Nero, 5th ed. (1982),
218 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

with excellent notes and bibliography. Continuity and Change in Roman

The classic reference work is W. Drumann, Religion (1979); Bruce W. Frier, The Rise
Geschichte Roms in seinem Übergange of the Roman Jurists (1985); and George
von der republikanischen zur monar- Kennedy, The Art of Rhetoric in the Roman
chischen Verfassung, 2nd ed. edited by World, 300 B.C.–A.D. 300 (1972).
P. Groebe, 6 vol. (1899–1929), giving biog-
raphies (with full source material) of all The Early Roman Empire
prominent figures of the period, arranged (31 BC–ad 193)
by families. Classic interpretations of the
fall of the republic are Ronald Syme, The Colin Wells, The Roman Empire (1984), is
Roman Revolution (1939, reissued 1987); an intelligent short history up through
P.A. Brunt, The Fall of the Roman Republic the Severi. The history is carried further
and Related Essays (1988); Lily Ross by Michael Grant, The Climax of Rome:
Taylor, Party Politics in the Age of Caesar The Final Achievements of the Ancient
(1949, reissued 1975); Erich S. Gruen, The World, A.D. 161–337 (1968). Donald Earl,
Last Generation of the Roman Republic The Age of Augustus (1968, reissued
(1974); and Matthias Gelzer, Caesar: 1980), is useful in providing a little more
Politician and Statesman (1968; origi- depth. As to governmental institutions,
nally published in German, 1940). The Fergus Millar, The Emperor in the Roman
army and expansion are analyzed in World, 31 BC–AD 337 (1977), offers a mon-
Emilio Gabba, Republican Rome, the Army, umentally detailed study of the ruler in
and the Allies (1976; originally published his capacity as civil governor up through
in Italian, 1973); and E. Badian, Roman Constantine; and Richard J.A. Talbert,
Imperialism in the Late Republic, 2nd ed. The Senate of Imperial Rome (1984),
(1968). Aspects of public and social life describes the role and actions of the
are dealt with in T.P. Wiseman, New Men ruler’s partner. On provincial govern-
in the Roman Senate, 139 B.C.–A.D. 14 ment, as well as much else, Fergus Millar
(1971); Israël Shatzman, Senatorial (ed.), The Roman Empire and Its Neigh­
Wealth and Roman Politics (1975); Susan bours, 2nd ed. (1981; originally published
Treggiari, Roman Freedmen During the in German, 1966), is informative and
Late Republic (1969); A.W. Lintott, readable. Commentary on the economy
Violence in Republican Rome (1968); and is supplied by Kevin Greene, The
E. Badian, Publicans and Sinners: Private Archaeology of the Roman Economy
Enterprise in the Service of the Roman (1986). Géza Alföldy, The Social History
Republic (1972, reissued 1983). On cultural of Rome (1985), on the structure of society;
development, the standard work is and Ramsay MacMullen, Roman Social
Elizabeth Rawson, Intellectual Life in the Relations, 50 B.C. to A.D. 284 (1974), on
Late Roman Republic (1985); it may be the feelings uniting or dividing groups
supplemented by J.H.W.G. Liebeschuetz, or strata, are complementary works.
Bibliography | 219

Provincial history broadly interpreted and for the other half of the empire, by
may be sampled in Sheppard Frere, S.R.F. Price, Rituals and Power: The
Britannia: A History of Roman Britain, Roman Imperial Cult in Asia Minor
3rd ed. rev. (1987); Paul MacKendrick, The (1984). Ramsay MacMullen, Paganism in
North African Stones Speak (1980); and the Roman Empire (1981), provides a
A.H.M. Jones, The Greek City from comprehensive view. Military history is
Alexander to Justinian (1940, reissued made accessible through G.R. Watson,
1979), still useful, since archaeology has The Roman Soldier (1969, reissued 1985).
little touched the eastern end of the An explication of a major aspect of cul-
Mediterranean world. Bernard Andreae, ture may be found in the latter half of a
The Art of Rome (1977; originally pub- work by a notable historian, H.I. Marrou,
lished in German, 1973), a large, A History of Education in Antiquity (1956,
luxuriously illustrated work with an reprinted 1982; originally published in
equally rich scholarly text; and Niels French, 1948). Albin Lesky, A History of
Hannestad, Roman Art and Imperial Greek Literature (1966; originally pub-
Policy (1986; originally published in lished in German, 2nd ed., 1963), may be
Danish, 1976), deal with their material paired with H.J. Rose, A Handbook of
in quite different ways: the former is Latin Literature, from the Earliest Times
conventionally art-historical, the latter to the Death of St. Augustine, 3rd ed.
uses his material to illuminate its context. (1966); and with the more elegant study
Architecture is best approached through by Gordon Williams, Change and
W.L. MacDonald, The Architecture of the Decline: Roman Literature in the Early
Roman Empire, rev. ed., 2 vol. (1982–86), a Empire (1978). On the church, W.H.C.
well-written, imaginative account; and Frend, The Rise of Christianity (1984), is
through such specialized studies as John readable and comprehensive up through
Percival, The Roman Villa: An Historical the 6th century.
Introduction (1976, reissued 1988).
Philippe Ariès and Georges Duby (eds.), The Later Roman Empire
A History of Private Life, vol. 1, From
Pagan Rome to Byzantium, ed. by Paul André Piganiol, L’Empire chrétien (325–
Veyne (1987; originally published in 395), 2nd ed. updated by André
French, 1985), is a social history in an old- Chastagnol (1972), offers an exception-
fashioned sense by a master of the most ally rich and informative narrative
up-to-date approaches. The importance among modern works. Diana Bowder,
of emperor worship is well argued in the The Age of Constantine and Julian
detailed work by Duncan Fishwick, The (1978), is good on those two reigns.
Imperial Cult in the Latin West, vol. 1 in 2 A.H.M. Jones, The Later Roman Empire,
vol. (1987); and, with more interpretation 284–602: A Social Economic and
220 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Administrative Survey, 2 vol. (1964, (1988), includes an up-to-date survey of

reprinted 1986), is extraordinarily clear evidence for decline, and also argues a
and detailed on these topics. On a major thesis. Herwig Wolfram, History of the
development, monasticism, Derwas J. Goths (1988; originally published in
Chitty, The Desert a City: An Introduction German, 2nd ed., 1980), is a superb study
to the Study of Egyptian and Palestinian of a crucial player in the 4th to 6th cen-
Monasticism Under the Christian turies. Walter Goffart, Barbarians and
Empire (1966, reissued 1977), is highly Romans, A.D. 418–584: The Techniques of
readable. Ramsay MacMullen, Accommodation (1980), carries the
Corruption and the Decline of Rome account further.
Achaean League, 50, 51, 52–53 Bacchic worship, 66
aedile, 59, 60 Balbinus, 164
Aelian and Fufian law, 61 barbarian invasions, 166–167, 169, 185–186,
Aemilia, Via, 75 193–197
Aeneas, 20, 62 Britain, 116, 122, 123, 126, 129, 131, 147, 149, 153,
Aequi, 33, 34 154, 167, 169, 172, 177, 184, 187, 190, 195
Africa, 17, 40, 41, 42, 45, 46, 47–48, 56, 57, 63, Brutus, Marcus Junius, 98, 99, 100, 145
72, 82, 83, 84, 85, 90, 97, 111, 112, 115, 136,
140, 142, 143, 144, 147, 150, 155, 160, 163,
164, 172, 174, 176, 177, 179, 181, 182, 184,
189, 195 Caesar, Julius, 27, 52, 83, 84, 93, 94–98, 99, 101,
Agrippa, Marcus Vipsanius, 105, 110, 116, 121 102, 104, 106, 112, 113, 120, 121, 144, 162
Albinus, Clodius, 153, 154 Caesar, Lucius, 87
Alexander the Great, 140, 144, 157 calendar, history of, 18, 32, 98
amicitia, 76 Caligula (Gaius Caesar), 122
Antiochus III, 49, 50 Campania, 35–36, 43, 44, 45, 67, 69, 76, 88, 89
Antonine emperors, 127–132, 133, 134, 135, 147, Capua, 35, 44, 45, 46, 74
148, 150, 151, 155, 164, 169, 184 Caracalla, 143, 156, 157, 158, 180
Antoninus Pius, 130–131, 133, 136, 156 Carneades, 63
Antony, Mark, 97, 99, 100, 104, 116 Carthage, 33, 35, 37, 38, 39–41, 42, 43, 44,
Apamea, Treaty of, 50 45–48, 53, 55–56, 77, 78, 81, 195
Appia, Via, 36, 74, 128 Cassian law, 61
Armenia, 93, 116, 123, 127, 129, 157, 167, 174, Cassius, Avidius, 131, 132
184, 187, 193 Cassius Longinus, Gaius, 98, 99, 100
Asia, 17, 50, 53, 57, 81, 85–86, 87, 88, 91, 93, 98, Catiline, 94
111, 116, 123, 127 Cato the Censor, 52, 54, 63, 64, 65, 69, 70, 102
Attila, 195 Catullus, 103
auctoritas, 86, 92, 107 Catulus, Quintus, 83, 90
Augustan military, 113–115 censor, 27, 31, 58, 64, 71, 86, 89, 92, 101, 107,
Augustine, Saint, 193, 195, 197 122, 125, 126, 133
Augustus (Octavian), 20, 99–100, 103, centuriate assembly, 26, 27–28, 31, 32, 34, 49,
104–107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 115, 59, 105, 133
116, 117, 118, 120–121, 122, 125, 130, 132, Christianity, 122–123, 137, 140, 144, 149, 161–163,
133, 134, 135, 136, 144, 145, 147, 148, 149, 164, 165, 166, 167, 176–177, 178, 179, 183–184,
150, 155, 162, 184 186, 187, 188, 190, 191–193, 196
Aurelian, 170–171, 172 Cicero, Marcus Tullius, 77, 92, 93, 94, 96, 98,
auxiliaries, 113, 114, 126, 129, 130, 149, 155 99, 100–101, 102, 139, 144
222 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Cimbri people, 83, 86 divorce, 74

Cinna, Lucius, 88, 89, 90 dominate, establishment of the, 171
Civil War, 84, 97–98 Domitian, 125–127, 128, 130, 133, 137, 163, 164
Claudian law of 218, 69 Drusus, Marcus Livius, 87, 88, 89
Claudius I, 109, 116, 122, 125, 134, 148 Duilius, Gaius, 40
Claudius II, 164, 166, 170
Cleopatra, 97, 100, 104 E
clientela, 93
early republic of Rome, 24–38
Clodia, Via, 74
early Roman empire, 104–152
Clodius, Publius, 96, 97
edictum perpetuum, 130, 133
Clovis, 196
Egypt, 52, 97, 100, 104, 105, 109, 111, 115, 124,
Commodus, 132, 134, 137, 148, 153, 163
129, 131, 143, 144, 148, 153, 156, 162, 168,
Constantine, 177–181, 182, 183, 189, 192, 193
169, 170, 174, 175, 177, 189, 191, 192
Constantinople, 175, 179, 180, 183, 185, 186,
Elagabulus, 158, 159, 172
190, 193, 194
emperor worship, 98, 112, 113, 120, 125,
Constantius, 172, 173, 174, 177, 181–183, 193
129, 130, 131, 133, 137, 144–146, 159,
constitutions principum, 134
171, 172, 188
consulship, 26, 30, 31, 34, 59, 60, 82, 83, 85, 88,
Ennius, Quintus, 62–63
89, 92, 94, 95, 96, 97, 105, 106, 107, 108, 111,
equestrian order (equites), 81, 82, 83, 85, 87,
126, 134
89, 93, 108, 109, 110, 111, 114, 115, 118, 122,
Corinth, 53, 77
126, 130, 135, 139, 154, 155, 156, 157, 158,
Council of Nicaea, 179
166, 170, 173, 180
Crassus, Marcus, 91–92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 98, 116
Esquiline Hill, 23
Critolaus, 63
Etruria, 34–35, 37, 43, 45, 67, 74, 76, 87, 160
Crocus the Alaman, 180
Etruscan people, 18, 23, 24, 33, 34, 36
cursus honorum, 59, 60

Fabius Maximus, Quintus, 43, 44
damnatio memoriae, 124, 132 Fabius Pictor, Quintus, 19, 20, 62
Danube region, 17, 116, 124, 125, 126–127, 128, 129, Fannian law, 64
131, 132, 143, 148, 153, 155, 157, 160, 165, 166, farming, 67, 68–70
169, 170, 172, 174, 177, 180, 182, 185, 186, 189 fasces, 18, 57
De Agricultura, 64, 69, 102 fetial, 34
Decebalus, 126 Fidenae, 34, 35
Decius, 165 Flaccus, Marcus Fulvius, 81, 82
Demetrius, 50–51 Flaminia, Via, 74
dictator, history of office of, 26–27 Flamininus, Titus Quinctius, 49, 50, 59, 62
Didian law, 64 Flavian emperors, 124–127, 132, 133, 134, 135,
Diocletian, 149, 172–177, 179, 184, 188 148, 150, 162
Diogenes, 63 free marriage, 73–74
Index | 223

G Herculaneum, 125
Hieron II, 39, 40, 46
Gabinian law, 61
Hieronymus, 46
Galba, 124
Honorius, Flavius, 193, 194
Galerius, 170, 172, 173, 174, 176, 177
Horace, 103, 118
Gallienus, 165–166, 167, 170, 173
Horatius Cocles, 24
Gallus, Aelius, 115
Hortensian law, 32–33, 61
Gaul, 18, 42, 45, 72, 75, 85, 90, 93, 95, 96, 97,
Hortensius, Lucius, 51
100, 105, 116, 136, 143, 147, 148, 149, 151,
hospitium, 76
154, 160, 163, 167, 168, 169, 171, 172, 174,
176, 177, 178, 180, 182, 184, 185, 186, 187,
189, 190, 192, 194, 195, 196
Gaul, people of, 34, 35, 37, 43, 45, 53, 116, 165, Italy, 17, 18, 19, 20, 28, 32, 35, 36, 39, 42, 43, 44,
167, 177, 194 45, 46, 47, 48, 52, 53, 54, 62, 63, 64, 66, 67,
Geta, Publius Septimius, 156, 157 68, 70, 71, 74–76, 81, 86–87, 88, 90, 91, 94,
Glabrio, Manius Acilius, 49 97, 99, 100, 106, 109, 110, 111, 117, 124, 130,
Glaucia, Gaius, 85 131, 132, 136–137, 138, 139, 140, 147, 149,
Gordian III, 164–165 156, 172, 173, 176, 177, 180, 189, 192, 196
Goths, 131, 165, 166–167, 172, 180, 182, 185, 186,
187, 189, 193, 194, 195, 196 J
Gracchi reform movement, 78–85, 86, 89 Jerome, Saint, 193, 195
Gracchus, Gaius, 81–83, 86, 89 Jews, 66, 116, 122, 124, 125, 129, 159, 161, 162,
Gracchus, Tiberius Sempronius, 54, 63, 79–81 163, 167, 174, 192
grammar, 101–102 Judaea, 111, 116, 122, 123, 124, 125, 127, 129, 151
grammatici, 101 jugatio-capitatio system, 174
Gratian, 186, 187, 193 Jugurtha, war with, 82, 83
Greece, 17, 18, 20, 23, 37–38, 44, 45, 49, 50, 51, Julian, 182, 183–184
53, 56, 74, 88, 100, 118, 130, 144, 149, 152, Julio-Claudian emperors, 104–124, 126, 132,
161, 162, 166 133, 134
culture of, 61–63, 65, 101, 102, 118, 140, 144, Juvenal, 150, 163
147, 150, 152, 160, 163, 166, 191
grid plan, 141–142 L
late empire of Rome, 153–197
H late republic of Rome, 25, 26, 27, 33, 74, 77–103
Hadrian (Publius Aelius Hadrianus), 112, latifundia, 69, 70
129–130, 131, 133, 134, 136, 148, 149, 150, Latinization, 142–143, 150
151, 163, 167 Latin League, 33, 36
Hadrian’s Wall, 129, 154–155 Latin War, 36
Hamilcar Barca, 42 Latium, 18, 24, 33, 35, 36, 62, 67
Hannibal, 42–43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 53, 56, 67, 68 legionaries, 113, 114, 126, 127, 129, 130, 149
Hasdrubal, 42, 43, 45, 46, 47 Lepidus, Marcus, 89–90, 100, 107
224 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Lex de Imperio Vespasiani, 124, 133 Numantia, 55

lex provinciae, 57, 58 Numidia, 82, 86, 115, 147, 149
lex Villia annalis, 59
lex Voconia, 64 O
Licinio-Sextian Rogations, 31
obnuntiatio, 61
Licinius, 177, 178, 180
Octavia, 100
Livius Andronicus, Lucius, 62
Octavius, Marcus, 79, 88
Livy, 19–20, 21, 25, 31, 32, 33, 66, 118
Odenathus, 168
Lucius Verus, 130
Odyssey, the, 62
Lucretia, 24, 30
Ogulnian law, 32
Lucullus, Lucius, 91, 93
Oppian law, 64
Orchian law, 64
M Otho, Salvius, 124
Macedonia, 45, 49, 50–51, 52, 77, 78, 85 Ovid, 118, 150
Macedonian Wars, 45, 49, 50–51, 56, 85
Macrinus, Marcus Opellius, 157–158 P
manipular battle formation, 36
Palatine Hill, 20, 23
Marcellus, Marcus Claudius, 44, 46
Parthia, 86, 93, 96, 98, 100, 116, 123, 127, 129,
Marcus Aurelius, 130, 131, 132, 136, 137, 144,
131, 154, 155, 158, 162, 167
148, 151, 155, 163, 164, 166, 170
patria potestas, 73
Marius, Gaius, 76, 82, 83–85, 86, 87, 92, 94,
patricians, 24–25, 26, 27, 31, 122
132, 134
Pax Romana, 146, 148, 160, 169
Masinissa, 46, 47, 55
Perseus, 51
Maximian, 172, 173, 174, 177, 186
Pertinax, Helvius, 153
Maximinus, 158, 164, 170
Petronius, Gaius, 115
Maximus, 187
Philip the Arabian, 165
Metelli family, 82, 83, 92
Philip V, king of Macedon, 45–46, 48, 49, 50,
Metellus, Quintus, 82, 83, 85, 89, 91
51, 58, 59
middle republic of Rome, 25, 26, 39–76
Philopoemen, 50
military tribunes, 30–31, 35
philosophy, 63–64, 101, 102–103, 144, 151, 160,
Mithridates VI, 85–86, 87, 88, 91, 93, 101
162, 163–164, 166, 183, 191, 196
mos majorum, 80, 92
plague, 169
Plautus, Titus Maccius, 62–63
N plebeians, 24–25, 26, 27, 28–29, 31, 32, 60–61, 135
Naevius, Gnaeus, 62 plebeian tribunes, 28–30, 31, 60, 61, 79, 80, 82,
Nero, Gaius Claudius, 45, 116, 122–124, 132, 83, 84, 106, 108
134, 135, 148, 162 Pliny the Younger, 128, 139, 151, 163
Nerva, Marcus Cocceius, 127, 128 poetry, 102
Nicomedes IV, 91 Polybius, 33, 41, 48, 50, 51, 52, 55, 56, 57, 58,
Niger, Pescennius, 153, 154 65, 74
Index | 225

Pompeii, 125, 136, 140 Res Rustica, 102

Pompey (Gnaeus Pompeius), 84, 90–92, rhetoric, 101, 102, 144, 162, 163, 164
93–94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 101, 120 Rhodes, 50, 52, 163
pontifex maximus, 86, 94, 95, 107, 179 Roman annalistic tradition, 19–21, 24, 28,
Porticus Aemilia, 71–72 29–30, 31, 32, 33, 62
Postumia, Via, 75 Roman Forum, 30, 32, 71, 144, 151
Postumus, Marcus Cassianius, 165, 167 Roman state, the,
praesides, 173 citizenry in, organization of, 58–59,
praetor, 27, 31, 34, 51, 52, 54, 57, 59, 60, 66, 76, 139–152, 188–189
78, 83, 85, 89, 90, 94, 95, 108, 111, 122, 124, colonial conquests by, 17, 34–41, 42–57, 75,
125, 130, 133, 134, 153, 173, 180 85–86, 87–89, 115–117, 122, 129, 174
praetorian cohorts, 113, 155, 158 culture of, 61–65, 100–103, 118–120, 149–152,
principate, establishment of the, 105–107, 163–164, 191
132–133 early history of, 18–23
principes, 87, 89, 94 economy of, 66–72, 78, 110, 117, 146–148,
Probus, 171–172 168–169, 171–172, 174–175, 190
prorogation, 78 family life in, 73–74
provinicial administration, 57–58, 78, 89, 93, housing in, 73, 135
106, 110, 111–113, 128, 137–140, 173, 175, 184 law of, 31–32, 34, 102, 111, 120, 133–134, 138,
publicani, 58, 81, 86, 135 174–175
Punic Wars, 57, 68 politics of, 58–61, 78, 92–93, 94–97, 110, 120,
First, 39–41, 74 134–135, 168–169, 188
Second, 19, 26, 39, 42–48, 49, 53, 55, 59, 62, religion of, 65–66, 111, 112, 137, 144–146, 158,
63, 64, 67, 68, 70, 74, 75, 143 159–163, 171, 172, 176–177, 178–179, 181–184,
Third, 55 186, 191–193
Pupienus, 164 Romulus and Remus, 20
Pydna, Battle of, 51 Rutilius Rufus, Publius, 83, 84, 86
Pyrrhic War, 19, 20, 32, 37–38
Pyrrhus, 38 S
Pythagoras, 63
Sack of Rome, 35, 36
Q Sagunto, 42
salutation, 72
quaestio repetundarum, 78, 82
Samnite people, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38
quaestor, 28, 31, 57, 59, 60, 79, 83, 108, 111, 122,
Samnite Wars, 32, 35–37
134, 180
Saturninus, Lucius, 84, 85, 86, 126
Quirinal Hill, 23
Scaevola, Publius Mucius, 24
Scaevola, Quintus Mucius, 86, 102
R Scipio, Gnaeus Cornelius, 46
regal period of Rome, 21–23 Scipio, Lucius Cornelius, 49–50, 59
Regulus, Marcus Atilius, 41 Scipio, Publius Cornelius, 46–47
226 | Ancient Rome: From Romulus and Remus to the Visigoth Invasion

Scipio Aemilianus, Publius Cornelius, 55–56, Theodosius I, 186, 187, 190, 191, 193
60, 61, 63, 79, 81, 83 Tiberius, 116, 121–122, 161
Scipio Africanus, 50, 60, 62, 67, 79, 82 Tiber River, 17, 18, 24, 33, 71, 107, 159, 175
Second Parthica, 155 Titus, 125, 134
Secular Games, 118 Traiana, Via, 128
Senate, 17, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28–29, 30, 31, 34, 38, Trajan (Marcus Ulpius Trajanus), 127–129,
44, 50, 51, 52, 53, 55, 58, 59, 61, 62, 65, 66, 133, 137, 148, 149, 163, 164, 184
72, 78, 79, 81–82, 83, 84, 86, 87, 89, 91, 92, tribal assembly, 28, 29, 31, 32
93, 94, 96, 97, 98, 99, 101, 102, 103, 105, tribunicia potestas, 106, 107
106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 114, 120, Triumvirs, 100, 120
122, 124, 125, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, Troy, 20
133, 134–135, 138, 139, 144, 153, 156, 157, Twelve Tables, 30, 32, 32
158, 164, 169, 171, 180, 185
Sertorius, Quintus, 90–91 U
Severi dynasty, 153–159
Severus Alexander, 158, 159, 160, 164 Umbria, 37, 74, 87
Severus, Septimius, 136, 153, 153–157, 158, urban centres in the empire, overview of,
163, 174 140–142
Sextus, Pompeius, 100
slavery, 68, 69, 70, 74, 76, 79, 91–92, 101, 109, V
111, 139–140
Vaballathus, 168
Social War, the, 84, 87, 88, 90
Valens, 184–185, 186
Spain, 42, 45, 46, 47, 53, 54, 55, 57, 77, 88, 90,
Valentinian, 184–185, 186, 187
94, 95, 96, 98, 99, 100, 105, 116, 136, 137,
Valerian, 165
144, 147, 150, 167, 189, 190, 194, 195
Varro, Marcus Terrentius, 101, 102
Sparta, 50, 53
Veii, 31, 34–35
Spartacus, 91
Verres, Gaius, 92, 93
Stilicho, Flavius, 193–194
Verus, Lucius, 130, 131, 132
Sulla, Lucius, 27, 77, 83, 85, 86, 88–89, 90, 91,
Vespasian, 124–125, 126, 127, 130, 134, 155, 163
92, 94, 98, 120
Virgil, 103, 118, 150, 191
Sulpicius, Publius, 88
Vitellius, 124
Syphax, king of Numidia, 47, 55
Volscians, 33, 34
Syracuse, 39–40, 46
Syria, 105, 116, 127, 131, 142, 143, 147, 148, 153,
155, 162 Y
year of the four emperors, 124
Tacitus, 126, 128, 149, 150, 163, 171
tetrarchy, origin of the, 172 Zama, Battle of, 47, 55
Theodoric, 196 Zenobia, 168