Log inskip to content

Archive for the 'World Civ-Ancient Rome' Category

Wandering Through a Roman Emperor’s (Digitally) Reconstructed Villa

Saturday, January 4th, 2014

Hadrian’s digs, 2,000 years later

In Our Time: Romulus and Remus

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Romulus and Remus, the central figures of the foundation myth of Rome. According to tradition, the twins were abandoned by their parents as babies, but were saved by a she-wolf who found and nursed them. Romulus killed his brother after a vicious quarrel, and went on to found a city, which was named after him.

The myth has been at the core of Roman identity since the 1st century AD, although the details vary in different versions of the story. For many Roman writers, the story embodied the ethos and institutions of their civilisation. The image of the she-wolf suckling the divinely fathered twins remains a potent icon of the city even today.

Then and Now: Why the rich look down on the poor

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

In the ancient world, the rich held themselves to very different standards from the poor. Not much has changed, argues classical historian Mary Beard

“By and large, posh Romans didn’t have much time for poor Romans, free or slave – although they were no doubt a bit scared of them too. They regularly referred to them as a “turba” (rabble) or “multitudo” (the masses).

Interestingly, given the recent fuss, plebs wasn’t usually their insult of choice. It’s true that they did sometimes use the word in that way.

The historian Tacitus, for example, wrote of the plebs sordida (and you don’t need me to translate that). But plebs was just as often used to refer, in neutral or even complimentary terms, to the noble stock of the worthy Roman yeomanry.

It was only in English, and in the late 18th Century that the word lost its final “s” and became solely derogatory, as in “you filthy little pleb”…

The other way in which the comfortably-off traditionally talk of those less fortunate than themselves is, of course, to divide them into the Good Poor and the Bad Poor.

In fact, when Tacitus wrote of the plebs sordida it was explicitly to contrast them with what he called “the respectable elements among the common people”.

Talking about the death of the monstrous emperor Nero, he claimed the “filthy poor”, the squanderers and the racing addicts, lamented the death (for Nero had been an easy touch for entertainments and hand-outs).

Predictably enough, the “respectable elements” were those who welcomed the new regime of austerity and cost-cutting under the in-coming emperor Galba.

That division is still with us. The 19th Century notoriously had its “deserving” and “undeserving poor”. Our own equivalent of the “deserving poor” is “hard-working families”.

The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Spanning one-ninth of the earth’s circumference across three continents, the Roman Empire ruled a quarter of humanity through complex networks of political power, military domination and economic exchange. These extensive connections were sustained by premodern transportation and communication technologies that relied on energy generated by human and animal bodies, winds, and currents.

Conventional maps that represent this world as it appears from space signally fail to capture the severe environmental constraints that governed the flows of people, goods and information. Cost, rather than distance, is the principal determinant of connectivity.

For the first time, ORBIS allows us to express Roman communication costs in terms of both time and expense. By simulating movement along the principal routes of the Roman road network, the main navigable rivers, and hundreds of sea routes in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and coastal Atlantic, this interactive model reconstructs the duration and financial cost of travel in antiquity.

Taking account of seasonal variation and accommodating a wide range of modes and means of transport, ORBIS reveals the true shape of the Roman world and provides a unique resource for our understanding of premodern history.

Classicism and the American Revolution

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

The symbols, slogans, ideas and architecture of the Founding Fathers were Classicism and the American Revolution. (History Today)

Advice from ancient Rome for the 2012 presidential candidates

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Turns out the rules for winning this campaign are the rules that have governed every political campaign for decades … or even longer. How long?

How about 2,076 years? Historian Philip Freeman has translated the Commentariolum Petitionis, a short tract written in 64 BC. In the Commentariolum, Quintus Tullius Cicero compiled political advice for his brother Marcus. The elder Cicero took the advice and won, becoming a consul of Rome—apparently an underdog upset of Obamanian proportions. Now Princeton University Press has published Freeman’s translation with a catchier yet somehow less dignified title: How to Win an Election. Would you believe it? The advice holds up. These candidates must have classics scholars on staff, because a close read of Cicero reveals they’re following his counsel.


Ancient Roman Text Offers Tips On Winning Elections

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

Robert Siegel talks with Classics professor Philip Freeman about his translation of the book, “How to Win an Election: An Ancient Guide for Modern Politicians.” The book was written by the brother of Marcus Cicero, for when Marcus ran for office in Rome in 64 B.C. But the ancient Roman guide for campaigning still holds lessons for today’s elections.

Durant, Caesar and Christ

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Here is a PDF copy of the whole book Will Durant: Caesar and Christ

The Life of Sulla

Monday, December 26th, 2011

Plutarch’s take on Sulla (c. 138 BC – 78 BCE).


Polybius Histories Book 6: Constitution of the Roman Republic

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Polybius is our best source on the Roman Constitution. Here he describes and analyzes the Roman political system during the Republic.