Ancient Rome

Ancient Rome


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6. Ancient Rome


To the ancient Romans, Venus wasn't a planet but a celestial body: she was the goddess of love and beauty.

The Romans built an empire of gigantic proportions. At its height, it encompassed nearly the entire European continent as well as parts of the Middle East and Africa.

The Roman Empire's tentacles stretched from England to Egypt, from Spain to Iraq, and from southern Russia to Morocco. More significantly, ancient Roman civilization thrived for nearly one thousand years. The influence of the Romans over all of those peoples over that span of time defies measure.

After adopting Christianity in the 4th century C.E., the Romans spread it to every corner of their empire. They also brought their brand of law and order to all of the territories that they conquered. Latin, the language of the Romans, became the basis for several modern European languages, including Italian, French, and Spanish.


At the height of its expansion (around 120 C.E.), the Roman Empire comprised nearly all of the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.

The Romans were particularly skilled in administration, organization, and engineering. They had a highly trained and disciplined military and an efficient bureaucracy. Without these qualities, the Romans would never have been able to manage their sprawling empire. They were not, however, as driven or original when it came to other intellectual pursuits.

In fact, the Romans basically adopted and copied much of Greek art, literature, philosophy, and even religion. The Romans had the same set of gods as the Greeks, but with different names. In Roman mythology, Zeus became Jupiter, Hera became Juno, Ares changed to Mars, and Athena was Minerva, to name a few examples. The Romans did, however, spread these borrowed ideas everywhere they went.

Romulus and Remus

According to Roman mythology, twin brothers played an important part in the founding of Rome. These brothers, named Romulus and Remus, were the sons of Mars, the Roman god of war. Abandoned at birth, the twins were raised by a wolf.

When they became older, they decided to found a city along the Tiber River near the spot where they had been abandoned. Each chose a hill upon which to begin a settlement.

As often happens among brothers, disputes led to quarreling and fighting. Angered by Remus's taunting, Romulus killed his brother in a fit of rage. Romulus went on to build the city that eventually became Rome &mdash named, of course, after Romulus.

As it turned out, Romulus chose a very good spot for his city. Rome was located on the Tiber River about 15 miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea. The Romans had easy access to the sea, and were somewhat protected from seaborne invasion. Also, Rome lay in the middle of the Italian peninsula, the boot-shaped landmass to the west of Greece. From this central position, the Romans could easily access and control all of what is today the modern country of Italy.

Finally, the Italian peninsula's central location within the Mediterranean Sea made it possible for the Romans to trade and communicate with every part of the Mediterranean world.


Religion

Latin Literature

Like today, many Ancient Romans strived to earn a living by writing. Some would read their work in public, like a musician performing on the street, or like an author promoting a new release in a bookstore today.

Roman Mythology

Roman mythology is a collection of traditional stories, beliefs and rituals that Romans used to describe the origin of Roman civilization, culture, history and religion.

Romulus and Remus

Romulus and Remus are the two legendary characters that are associated with the myth regarding establishment of Roman civilization.


Contents

For more information, and the history of Rome as a complete civilization, see Ancient Rome.

Rome timeline
Roman Kingdom and Republic
753 BC According to legend, Romulus founds Rome.
753–509 BC Rule of the seven Kings of Rome.
509 BC Creation of the Republic.
390 BC The Gauls invade Rome. Rome sacked.
264–146 BC Punic Wars.
146–44 BC Social and Civil Wars. Emergence of Marius, Sulla, Pompey and Caesar.
44 BC Julius Caesar assassinated.

Earliest history Edit

There is archaeological evidence of human occupation of the Rome area from at least 5,000 years, but the dense layer of much younger debris obscures Palaeolithic and Neolithic sites. [2] The evidence suggesting the city's ancient foundation is also obscured by the legend of Rome's beginning involving Romulus and Remus.

The traditional date for the founding of Rome is 753-04-21 BCE, following Marcus Terentius Varro, [3] and the city and surrounding region of Latium has continued to be inhabited with little interruption since around that time. Excavations made in 2014 have revealed a wall built long before the city's official founding year. Archaeologists uncovered a stone wall and pieces of pottery dating to the 9th century BCE and the beginning of the 8th century BCE, and there is evidence of people arriving on the Palatine hill as early as the 10th century BCE. [4] [5]

The site of Sant'Omobono Area is crucial for understanding the related processes of monumentalization, urbanization, and state formation in Rome in the late Archaic period. The Sant'Omobono temple site dates to 7th–6th century B.C.E, making these the oldest known temple remains in Rome. [6]

Legend of Rome origin Edit

The origin of the city's name is thought to be that of the reputed founder and first ruler, the legendary Romulus. [7] It is said that Romulus and his twin brother Remus, apparent sons of the god Mars and descendants of the Trojan hero Aeneas, were suckled by a she-wolf after being abandoned, then decided to build a city. The brothers argued, Romulus killed Remus, and then named the city Rome after himself. After founding and naming Rome (as the story goes), he permitted men of all classes to come to Rome as citizens, including slaves and freemen without distinction. [8] To provide his citizens with wives, Romulus invited the neighboring tribes to a festival in Rome where he abducted many of their young women (known as The Rape of the Sabine Women). After the ensuing war with the Sabines, Romulus shared the kingship with Sabine King Titus Tatius. [9] Romulus selected 100 of the most noble men to form the Roman senate as an advisory council to the king. These men he called patres, and their descendants became the patricians. He created three centuries of equites: Ramnes (meaning Romans), Tities (after the Sabine king), and Luceres (Etruscans). He also divided the general populace into thirty curiae, named after thirty of the Sabine women who had intervened to end the war between Romulus and Tatius. The curiae formed the voting units in the Comitia Curiata. [10]

Attempts have been made to find a linguistic root for the name Rome. Possibilities include derivation from the Greek Ῥώμη, meaning bravery, courage [11] possibly the connection is with a root *rum-, "teat", with a theoretical reference to the totem wolf that adopted and suckled the cognately-named twins. The Etruscan name of the city seems to have been Ruma. [12] Compare also Rumon, former name of the Tiber River. Its further etymology remains unknown, as with most Etruscan words. Thomas G. Tucker's Concise Etymological Dictionary of Latin (1931) suggests that the name is most probably from *urobsma (cf. urbs, robur) and otherwise, "but less likely" from *urosma "hill" (cf. Skt. varsman- "height, point," Old Slavonic врьхъ "top, summit", Russ. верх "top upward direction", Lith. virsus "upper").

City's formation Edit

Rome grew from pastoral settlements on the Palatine Hill and surrounding hills approximately 30 km (19 mi) from the Tyrrhenian Sea on the south side of the Tiber. The Quirinal Hill was probably an outpost for the Sabines, another Italic-speaking people. At this location, the Tiber forms a Z-shaped curve that contains an island where the river can be forded. Because of the river and the ford, Rome was at a crossroads of traffic following the river valley and of traders traveling north and south on the west side of the peninsula.

Archaeological finds have confirmed that there were two fortified settlements in the 8th century BC, in the area of the future Rome: Rumi on the Palatine Hill, and Titientes on the Quirinal Hill, backed by the Luceres living in the nearby woods. [13] These were simply three of numerous Italic-speaking communities that existed in Latium, a plain on the Italian peninsula, by the 1st millennium BC. The origins of the Italic peoples lie in prehistory and are therefore not precisely known, but their Indo-European languages migrated from the east in the second half of the 2nd millennium BC.

According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, many Roman historians (including Porcius Cato and Gaius Sempronius) considered the origins of the Romans (descendants of the Aborigines) as Greek despite the fact that their knowledge was derived from Greek legendary accounts. [14] The Sabines, specifically, were first mentioned in Dionysius's account for having captured the city of Lista by surprise, which was regarded as the mother-city of the Aborigines. [15]

Italic context Edit

The Italic speakers in the area included Latins (in the west), Sabines (in the upper valley of the Tiber), Umbrians (in the north-east), Samnites (in the South), Oscans, and others. In the 8th century BC, they shared the peninsula with two other major ethnic groups: the Etruscans in the North and the Greeks in the south.

The Etruscans (Etrusci or Tusci in Latin) are attested north of Rome in Etruria (modern northern Lazio, Tuscany and part of Umbria). They founded cities such as Tarquinia, Veii, and Volterra and deeply influenced Roman culture, as clearly shown by the Etruscan origin of some of the mythical Roman kings. Historians have no literature, no texts of religion or philosophy therefore, much of what is known about this civilisation is derived from grave goods and tomb findings. [16] The behaviour of the Etruscans has led to some confusion. Like Latin, Etruscan is inflected and Hellenised. Like the Indo-Europeans, the Etruscans were patrilineal and patriarchal. Like the Italics, they were war-like. The gladiatorial displays actually developed out of Etruscan funerary customs. [17] [18]

The Greeks had founded many colonies in Southern Italy between 750 and 550 BC (which the Romans later called Magna Graecia), such as Cumae, Naples, Reggio Calabria, Crotone, Sybaris, and Taranto, as well as in the eastern two-thirds of Sicily. [19] [20]

Etruscan dominance Edit

After 650 BC, the Etruscans became dominant in Italy and expanded into north-central Italy. Roman tradition claimed that Rome had been under the control of seven kings from 753 to 509 BC beginning with the mythical Romulus who was said to have founded the city of Rome along with his brother Remus. The last three kings were said to be Etruscan (at least partially)—namely Tarquinius Priscus, Servius Tullius and Tarquinius Superbus. (Priscus is said by the ancient literary sources to be the son of a Greek refugee and an Etruscan mother.) Their names refer to the Etruscan town of Tarquinia.

Livy, Plutarch, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and others. It claims that Rome was ruled during its first centuries by a succession of seven kings. The traditional chronology, as codified by Varro, allots 243 years for their reigns, an average of almost 35 years, which has been generally discounted by modern scholarship since the work of Barthold Georg Niebuhr. The Gauls destroyed much of Rome's historical records when they sacked the city after the Battle of the Allia in 390 BC (according to Polybius, the battle occurred in 387/6) and what was left was eventually lost to time or theft. With no contemporary records of the kingdom existing, all accounts of the kings must be carefully questioned. [22] The list of kings is also of dubious historical value, though the last-named kings may be historical figures. It is believed by some historians (again, this is disputed) that Rome was under the influence of the Etruscans for about a century. During this period, a bridge was built called the Pons Sublicius to replace the Tiber ford, and the Cloaca Maxima was also built the Etruscans are said to have been great engineers of this type of structure. From a cultural and technical point of view, Etruscans had arguably the second-greatest impact on Roman development, only surpassed by the Greeks.

Expanding further south, the Etruscans came into direct contact with the Greeks and initially had success in conflicts with the Greek colonists after which, Etruria went into a decline. Taking advantage of this, Rome rebelled and gained independence from the Etruscans around 500 BC. It also abandoned monarchy in favour of a republican system based on a Senate, composed of the nobles of the city, along with popular assemblies which ensured political participation for most of the freeborn men and elected magistrates annually.

The Etruscans left a lasting influence on Rome. The Romans learned to build temples from them, and the Etruscans may have introduced the worship of a triad of gods — Juno, Minerva, and Jupiter — from the Etruscan gods: Uni, Menrva, and Tinia. However, the influence of Etruscan people in the development of Rome is often overstated. [23] Rome was primarily a Latin city. It never became fully Etruscan. Also, evidence shows that Romans were heavily influenced by the Greek cities in the South, mainly through trade. [24]

Roman Republic Edit

The Roman Republic traditionally dates from 509 BC to 27 BC. After 500 BC, Rome joined with the Latin cities in defence against incursions by the Sabines. Winning the Battle of Lake Regillus in 493 BC, Rome established again the supremacy over the Latin countries it had lost after the fall of the monarchy. After a lengthy series of struggles, this supremacy became fixed in 393, when the Romans finally subdued the Volsci and Aequi. In 394 BC, they also conquered the menacing Etruscan neighbour of Veii. The Etruscan power was now limited to Etruria itself, and Rome was the dominant city in Latium.

Also a formal treaty with the city of Carthage is reported to have been made in the end of the 6th century BC, which defined the spheres of influence of each city and regulated the trade between them.

At the same time, Heraclides states that 4th-century Rome is a Greek city. [25]

Rome's early enemies were the neighbouring hill tribes of the Volscians, the Aequi, and of course the Etruscans. As years passed and military successes increased Roman territory, new adversaries appeared. The fiercest were the Gauls, a loose collective of peoples who controlled much of Northern Europe including what is modern North and Central-East Italy.

In 387 BC, Rome was sacked and burned by the Senones coming from eastern Italy and led by Brennus, who had successfully defeated the Roman army at the Battle of the Allia in Etruria. Multiple contemporary records suggest that the Senones hoped to punish Rome for violating its diplomatic neutrality in Etruria. The Senones marched 130 kilometres (81 mi) to Rome without harming the surrounding countryside once sacked, the Senones withdrew from Rome. [26] Brennus was defeated by the dictator Furius Camillus at Tusculum soon afterwards. [27] [28]

After that, Rome hastily rebuilt its buildings and went on the offensive, conquering the Etruscans and seizing territory from the Gauls in the north. After 345 BC, Rome pushed south against other Latins. Their main enemy in this quadrant were the fierce Samnites, who outsmarted and trapped the legions in 321 BC at the Battle of Caudine Forks. In spite of these and other temporary setbacks, the Romans advanced steadily. By 290 BC, Rome controlled over half of the Italian peninsula. In the 3rd century BC, Rome brought the Greek poleis in the south under its control as well. [29]

Amidst the never ending wars (from the beginning of the Republic up to the Principate, the doors of the temple of Janus were closed only twice – when they were open it meant that Rome was at war), Rome had to face a severe major social crisis, the Conflict of the Orders, a political struggle between the Plebeians (commoners) and Patricians (aristocrats) of the ancient Roman Republic, in which the Plebeians sought political equality with the Patricians. It played a major role in the development of the Constitution of the Roman Republic. It began in 494 BC, when, while Rome was at war with two neighboring tribes, the Plebeians all left the city (the first Plebeian Secession). The result of this first secession was the creation of the office of Plebeian Tribune, and with it the first acquisition of real power by the Plebeians. [30]

According to tradition, Rome became a republic in 509 BC. However, it took a few centuries for Rome to become the great city of popular imagination. By the 3rd century BC, Rome had become the pre-eminent city of the Italian peninsula. During the Punic Wars between Rome and the great Mediterranean empire of Carthage (264 to 146 BC), Rome's stature increased further as it became the capital of an overseas empire for the first time. Beginning in the 2nd century BC, Rome went through a significant population expansion as Italian farmers, driven from their ancestral farmlands by the advent of massive, slave-operated farms called latifundia, flocked to the city in great numbers. The victory over Carthage in the First Punic War brought the first two provinces outside the Italian peninsula, Sicily and Sardinia. [31] Parts of Spain (Hispania) followed, and in the beginning of the 2nd century the Romans got involved in the affairs of the Greek world. By then all Hellenistic kingdoms and the Greek city-states were in decline, exhausted from endless civil wars and relying on mercenary troops.

The Romans looked upon the Greek civilisation with great admiration. The Greeks saw Rome as a useful ally in their civil strifes, and it wasn't long before the Roman legions were invited to intervene in Greece. In less than 50 years the whole of mainland Greece was subdued. The Roman legions crushed the Macedonian phalanx twice, in 197 and 168 BC in 146 BC the Roman consul Lucius Mummius razed Corinth, marking the end of free Greece. The same year Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus, the son of Scipio Africanus, destroyed the city of Carthage, making it a Roman province.

In the following years, Rome continued its conquests in Spain with Tiberius Gracchus, and it set foot in Asia, when the last king of Pergamum gave his kingdom to the Roman people. The end of the 2nd century brought another threat, when a great host of Germanic peoples, namely Cimbri and Teutones, crossed the river Rhone and moved to Italy. Gaius Marius was consul five consecutive times (seven total), and won two decisive battles in 102 and 101 BC He also reformed the Roman army, giving it such a good reorganization that it remained unchanged for centuries.

The first thirty years of the last century BC were characterised by serious internal problems that threatened the existence of the Republic. The Social War, between Rome and its allies, and the Servile Wars (slave uprisings) were hard conflicts, [32] all within Italy, and forced the Romans to change their policy with regards to their allies and subjects. [33] By then Rome had become an extensive power, with great wealth which derived from the conquered people (as tribute, food or manpower, i.e. slaves). The allies of Rome felt bitter since they had fought by the side of the Romans, and yet they were not citizens and shared little in the rewards. Although they lost the war, they finally got what they asked, and by the beginning of the 1st century AD practically all free inhabitants of Italy were Roman citizens.

However, the growth of the Imperium Romanum (Roman power) created new problems, and new demands, that the old political system of the Republic, with its annually elected magistrates and its sharing of power, could not solve. The dictatorship of Sulla, the extraordinary commands of Pompey Magnus, and the first triumvirate made that clear. In January 49 BC, Julius Caesar the conqueror of Gaul, marched his legions against Rome. In the following years, he vanquished his opponents, and ruled Rome for four years. After his assassination in 44 BC, the Senate tried to reestablish the Republic, but its champions, Marcus Junius Brutus (descendant of the founder of the republic) and Gaius Cassius Longinus were defeated by Caesar's lieutenant Marcus Antonius and Caesar's nephew, Octavian.

The years 44–31 BC mark the struggle for power between Marcus Antonius and Octavian (later known as Augustus). Finally, on 2 September 31 BC, in the Greek promontory of Actium, the final battle took place in the sea. Octavian was victorious, and became the sole ruler of Rome (and its empire). That date marks the end of the Republic and the beginning of the Principate. [34] [35]

Roman Empire Edit

Rome Timeline
Roman Empire
44 BC – AD 14 Augustus establishes the Empire.
AD 64 Great Fire of Rome during Nero's rule.
69–96 Flavian dynasty. Building of the Colosseum.
3rd century Crisis of the Roman Empire. Building of the Baths of Caracalla and the Aurelian Walls.
284–337 Diocletian and Constantine. Building of the first Christian basilicas. Battle of Milvian Bridge. Rome is replaced by Constantinople as the capital of the Empire.
395 Definitive separation of Western and Eastern Roman Empire.
410 The Goths of Alaric sack Rome.
455 The Vandals of Gaiseric sack Rome.
476 Fall of the west empire and deposition of the final emperor Romulus Augustus.
6th century Gothic War (535–554). The Goths cut off the aqueducts in the siege of 537, an act which historians traditionally regard as the beginning of the Middle Ages in Italy [36]
608 Emperor Phocas donates the Pantheon to Pope Boniface IV, converting it into a Christian church. Column of Phocas (the last addition made to the Forum Romanum) is erected.
630 The Curia Julia (vacant since the disappearance of the Roman Senate) is transformed into the basilica of Sant'Adriano al Foro.
663 Constans II visits Rome for twelve days—the only emperor to set foot in Rome for two centuries. He strips buildings of their ornaments and bronze to be carried back to Constantinople.
751 Lombard conquest of the Exarchate of Ravenna, the Duchy of Rome is now completely cut off from the empire.
754 Alliance with the Franks, Pepin the Younger, declared Patrician of the Romans, invades Italy. Establishment of the Papal States.

Early Empire Edit

By the end of the Republic, the city of Rome had achieved a grandeur befitting the capital of an empire dominating the whole of the Mediterranean. It was, at the time, the largest city in the world. Estimates of its peak population range from 450,000 to over 3.5 million people with estimates of 1 to 2 million being most popular with historians. [37] This grandeur increased under Augustus, who completed Caesar's projects and added many of his own, such as the Forum of Augustus and the Ara Pacis. He is said to have remarked that he found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble (Urbem latericium invenit, marmoream reliquit). Augustus's successors sought to emulate his success in part by adding their own contributions to the city. In AD 64, during the reign of Nero, the Great Fire of Rome left much of the city destroyed, but in many ways it was used as an excuse for new development. [38] [39]

Rome was a subsidised city at the time, with roughly 15 to 25 percent of its grain supply being paid by the central government. Commerce and industry played a smaller role compared to that of other cities like Alexandria. This meant that Rome had to depend upon goods and production from other parts of the Empire to sustain such a large population. This was mostly paid by taxes that were levied by the Roman government. If it had not been subsidised, Rome would have been significantly smaller. [40]

Rome's population declined after its apex in the 2nd century. At the end of that century, during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the Antonine Plague killed 2,000 people a day. [41] Marcus Aurelius died in 180, his reign being the last of the "Five Good Emperors" and Pax Romana. His son Commodus, who had been co-emperor since AD 177, assumed full imperial power, which is most generally associated with the gradual decline of the Western Roman Empire. Rome's population was only a fraction of its peak when the Aurelian Wall was completed in the year 273 (in that year its population was only around 500,000). At this time, part of the Roman aristocratic class circulated in Rome following the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, which destroyed the city of Pompeii.

Crisis of the Third Century Edit

Starting in the early 3rd century, matters changed. The "Crisis of the Third Century" defines the disasters and political troubles for the Empire, which nearly collapsed. The new feeling of danger and the menace of barbarian invasions was clearly shown by the decision of Emperor Aurelian, who at year 273 finished encircling the capital itself with a massive wall which had a perimeter that measured close to 20 km (12 mi). Rome formally remained capital of the empire, but emperors spent less and less time there. At the end of 3rd century Diocletian's political reforms, Rome was deprived of its traditional role of administrative capital of the Empire. Later, western emperors ruled from Milan or Ravenna, or cities in Gaul. In 330, Constantine I established a second capital at Constantinople.

Christianization Edit

Christianity reached Rome during the 1st century AD. For the first two centuries of the Christian era, Imperial authorities largely viewed Christianity simply as a Jewish sect rather than a distinct religion. No emperor issued general laws against the faith or its Church, and persecutions, such as they were, were carried out under the authority of local government officials. [42] A surviving letter from Pliny the Younger, governor of Bythinia, to the emperor Trajan describes his persecution and executions of Christians Trajan notably responded that Pliny should not seek out Christians nor heed anonymous denunciations, but only punish open Christians who refused to recant. [43]

Suetonius mentions in passing that during the reign of Nero "punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition" (superstitionis novae ac maleficae). [44] He gives no reason for the punishment. Tacitus reports that after the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, some among the population held Nero responsible and that the emperor attempted to deflect blame onto the Christians. [45] The war against the Jews during Nero's reign, which so destabilised the empire that it led to civil war and Nero's suicide, provided an additional rationale for suppression of this 'Jewish' sect.

Diocletian undertook what was to be the most severe and last major persecution of Christians, lasting from 303 to 311. Christianity had become too widespread to suppress, and in 313, the Edict of Milan made tolerance the official policy. Constantine I (sole ruler 324–337) became the first Christian emperor, and in 380 Theodosius I established Christianity as the official religion.

Under Theodosius, visits to the pagan temples were forbidden, [46] the eternal fire in the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum extinguished, the Vestal Virgins disbanded, auspices and witchcrafting punished. Theodosius refused to restore the Altar of Victory in the Senate House, as asked by remaining pagan Senators.

The Empire's conversion to Christianity made the Bishop of Rome (later called the Pope) the senior religious figure in the Western Empire, as officially stated in 380 by the Edict of Thessalonica. In spite of its increasingly marginal role in the Empire, Rome retained its historic prestige, and this period saw the last wave of construction activity: Constantine's predecessor Maxentius built buildings such as its basilica in the Forum, Constantine himself erected the Arch of Constantine to celebrate his victory over the former, and Diocletian built the greatest baths of all. Constantine was also the first patron of official Christian buildings in the city. He donated the Lateran Palace to the Pope, and built the first great basilica, the old St. Peter's Basilica.

Germanic invasions and collapse of the Western Empire Edit

Still Rome remained one of the strongholds of Paganism, led by the aristocrats and senators. However, the new walls did not stop the city being sacked first by Alaric on 24 August 410, by Geiseric on 2 June 455, and even by general Ricimer's unpaid Roman troops (largely composed of barbarians) on 11 July 472. [47] [48] This was the first time in almost 800 years that Rome had fallen to an enemy. The previous sack of Rome had been accomplished by the Gauls under their leader Brennus in 387 BC. The sacking of 410 is seen as a major landmark in the decline and fall of the Western Roman Empire. St. Jerome, living in Bethlehem at the time, wrote that "The City which had taken the whole world was itself taken." [49] These sackings of the city astonished all the Roman world. In any case, the damage caused by the sackings may have been overestimated. The population already started to decline from the late 4th century onward, although around the middle of the fifth century it seems that Rome continued to be the most populous city of the two parts of the Empire, with a population of not less than 650,000 inhabitants. [50] The decline greatly accelerated following the capture of Africa Proconsularis by the Vandals. Many inhabitants now fled as the city no longer could be supplied with grain from Africa from the mid-5th century onward.

At the beginning of the 6th century Rome's population may have been less than 100,000. Many monuments were being destroyed by the citizens themselves, who stripped stones from closed temples and other precious buildings, and even burned statues to make lime for their personal use. In addition, most of the increasing number of churches were built in this way. For example, the first Saint Peter's Basilica was erected using spoils from the abandoned Circus of Nero. [51] This architectural cannibalism was a constant feature of Roman life until the Renaissance. From the 4th century, imperial edicts against stripping of stones and especially marble were common, but the need for their repetition shows that they were ineffective. Sometimes new churches were created by simply taking advantage of early Pagan temples, while sometimes changing the Pagan god or hero to a corresponding Christian saint or martyr. In this way, the Temple of Romulus and Remus became the basilica of the twin saints Cosmas and Damian. Later, the Pantheon, Temple of All Gods, became the church of All Martyrs.

Eastern Roman (Byzantine) restoration Edit

In 480, the last Western Roman emperor, Julius Nepos, was murdered and a Roman general of barbarian origin, Odoacer, declared allegiance to Eastern Roman emperor Zeno. [52] Despite owing nominal allegiance to Constantinople, Odoacer and later the Ostrogoths continued, like the last emperors, to rule Italy as a virtually independent realm from Ravenna. Meanwhile, the Senate, even though long since stripped of wider powers, continued to administer Rome itself, with the Pope usually coming from a senatorial family. This situation continued until Theodahad murdered Amalasuntha, a pro-imperial Gothic queen, and usurped the power in 535. The Eastern Roman emperor, Justinian I (reigned 527–565), used this as a pretext to send forces to Italy under his famed general Belisarius, recapturing the city next year, on December 9, 536 AD. In 537–538, the Eastern Romans successfully defended the city in a year-long siege against the Ostrogoth army, and eventually took Ravenna, too. [52]

Gothic resistance revived however, and on 17 December 546, the Ostrogoths under Totila recaptured and sacked Rome. [53] Belisarius soon recovered the city, but the Ostrogoths retook it in 549. Belisarius was replaced by Narses, who captured Rome from the Ostrogoths for good in 552, ending the so-called Gothic Wars which had devastated much of Italy. The continual war around Rome in the 530s and 540s left it in a state of total disrepair – near-abandoned and desolate with much of its lower-lying parts turned into unhealthy marshes as the drainage systems were neglected and the Tiber's embankments fell into disrepair in the course of the latter half of the 6th century. [54] Here, malaria developed. The aqueducts except for one were not repaired. The population, without imports of grain and oil from Sicily, shrank to less than 50,000 concentrated near the Tiber and around the Campus Martius, abandoning those districts without water supply. There is a legend, significant though untrue, that there was a moment where no one remained living in Rome. [ citation needed ]

Justinian I provided grants for the maintenance of public buildings, aqueducts and bridges – though, being mostly drawn from an Italy dramatically impoverished by the recent wars, these were not always sufficient. He also styled himself the patron of its remaining scholars, orators, physicians and lawyers in the stated hope that eventually more youths would seek a better education. After the wars, the Senate was theoretically restored, but under the supervision of the urban prefect and other officials appointed by, and responsible to, the Eastern Roman authorities in Ravenna.

However, the Pope was now one of the leading religious figures in the entire Byzantine Roman Empire and effectively more powerful locally than either the remaining senators or local Eastern Roman (Byzantine) officials. In practice, local power in Rome devolved to the Pope and, over the next few decades, both much of the remaining possessions of the senatorial aristocracy and the local Byzantine Roman administration in Rome were absorbed by the Church.

The reign of Justinian's nephew and successor Justin II (reigned 565–578) was marked from the Italian point of view by the invasion of the Lombards under Alboin (568). In capturing the regions of Benevento, Lombardy, Piedmont, Spoleto and Tuscany, the invaders effectively restricted Imperial authority to small islands of land surrounding a number of coastal cities, including Ravenna, Naples, Rome and the area of the future Venice. The one inland city continuing under Eastern Roman control was Perugia, which provided a repeatedly threatened overland link between Rome and Ravenna. In 578 and again in 580, the Senate, in some of its last recorded acts, had to ask for the support of Tiberius II Constantine (reigned 578–582) against the approaching Dukes, Faroald I of Spoleto and Zotto of Benevento.

Maurice (reigned 582–602) added a new factor in the continuing conflict by creating an alliance with Childebert II of Austrasia (reigned 575–595). The armies of the Frankish King invaded the Lombard territories in 584, 585, 588 and 590. Rome had suffered badly from a disastrous flood of the Tiber in 589, followed by a plague in 590. The latter is notable for the legend of the angel seen, while the newly elected Pope Gregory I (term 590–604) was passing in procession by Hadrian's Tomb, to hover over the building and to sheathe his flaming sword as a sign that the pestilence was about to cease. The city was safe from capture at least.

Agilulf, however, the new Lombard King (reigned 591 to c. 616), managed to secure peace with Childebert, reorganised his territories and resumed activities against both Naples and Rome by 592. With the Emperor preoccupied with wars in the eastern borders and the various succeeding Exarchs unable to secure Rome from invasion, Gregory took personal initiative in starting negotiations for a peace treaty. This was completed in the autumn of 598—later recognised by Maurice—lasting until the end of his reign.

The position of the Bishop of Rome was further strengthened under the usurper Phocas (reigned 602–610). Phocas recognised his primacy over that of the Patriarch of Constantinople and even decreed Pope Boniface III (607) to be "the head of all the Churches". Phocas's reign saw the erection of the last imperial monument in the Roman Forum, the column bearing his name. He also gave the Pope the Pantheon, at the time closed for centuries, and thus probably saved it from destruction.

During the 7th century, an influx of both Byzantine Roman officials and churchmen from elsewhere in the empire made both the local lay aristocracy and Church leadership largely Greek speaking. The population of Rome, a magnet for pilgrims, may have increased to 90,000. [55] Eleven of thirteen Popes between 678 and 752 were of Greek or Syrian descent. [56] However, the strong Byzantine Roman cultural influence did not always lead to political harmony between Rome and Constantinople. In the controversy over Monothelitism, popes found themselves under severe pressure (sometimes amounting to physical force) when they failed to keep in step with Constantinople's shifting theological positions. In 653, Pope Martin I was deported to Constantinople and, after a show trial, exiled to the Crimea, where he died. [57] [58]

Then, in 663, Rome had its first imperial visit for two centuries, by Constans II—its worst disaster since the Gothic Wars when the Emperor proceeded to strip Rome of metal, including that from buildings and statues, to provide armament materials for use against the Saracens. However, for the next half century, despite further tensions, Rome and the Papacy continued to prefer continued Byzantine Roman rule: in part because the alternative was Lombard rule, and in part because Rome's food was largely coming from Papal estates elsewhere in the Empire, particularly Sicily.

Rome Timeline
Medieval Rome
772 The Lombards briefly conquer Rome but Charlemagne liberates the city a year later.
800 Charlemagne is crowned Holy Roman Emperor in St. Peter's Basilica.
846 The Saracens sack St. Peter.
852 Building of the Leonine Walls.
962 Otto I crowned Emperor by Pope John XII
1000 Emperor Otto III and Pope Sylvester II.
1084 The Normans sack Rome.
1144 Creation of the commune of Rome.
1300 First Jubilee proclaimed by Pope Boniface VIII.
1303 Foundation of the Roman University.
1309 Pope Clement V moves the Holy Seat to Avignon.
1347 Cola di Rienzo proclaims himself tribune.
1377 Pope Gregory XI moves the Holy Seat back to Rome.

Break with Constantinople and formation of the Papal States Edit

In 727, Pope Gregory II refused to accept the decrees of Emperor Leo III, which promoted the Emperor's iconoclasm. [59] Leo reacted first by trying in vain to abduct the Pontiff, and then by sending a force of Ravennate troops under the command of the Exarch Paulus, but they were pushed back by the Lombards of Tuscia and Benevento. Byzantine general Eutychius sent west by the Emperor successfully captured Rome and restored it as a part of the empire in 728.

On 1 November 731, a council was called in St. Peter's by Gregory III to excommunicate the iconoclasts. The Emperor responded by confiscating large Papal estates in Sicily and Calabria and transferring areas previously ecclesiastically under the Pope to the Patriarch of Constantinople. Despite the tensions Gregory III never discontinued his support to the imperial efforts against external threats.

In this period the Lombard kingdom revived under the leadership of King Liutprand. In 730 he razed the countryside of Rome to punish the Pope who had supported the duke of Spoleto. [60] Though still protected by his massive walls, the pope could do little against the Lombard king, who managed to ally himself with the Byzantines. [61] Other protectors were now needed. Gregory III was the first Pope to ask for concrete help from the Frankish Kingdom, then under the command of Charles Martel (739). [62]

Liutprand's successor Aistulf was even more aggressive. He conquered Ferrara and Ravenna, ending the Exarchate of Ravenna. Rome seemed his next victim. In 754, Pope Stephen II went to France to name Pippin the Younger, king of the Franks, as patricius romanorum, i.e. protector of Rome. In the August of that year the King and Pope together crossed back the Alps and defeated Aistulf at Pavia. When Pippin went back to St. Denis however, Aistulf did not keep his promises, and in 756 besieged Rome for 56 days. The Lombards returned north when they heard news of Pippin again moving to Italy. This time he agreed to give the Pope the promised territories, and the Papal States were born.

In 771 the new King of the Lombards, Desiderius, devised a plot to conquer Rome and seize Pope Stephen III during a feigned pilgrimage within its walls. His main ally was one Paulus Afiarta, chief of the Lombard party within the city. He conquered Rome in 772 but angered Charlemagne. However the plan failed, and Stephens' successor, Pope Hadrian I called Charlemagne against Desiderius, who was finally defeated in 773. [63] The Lombard Kingdom was no more, and now Rome entered into the orbit of a new, greater political institution.

Numerous remains from this period, along with a museum devoted to Medieval Rome, can be seen at Crypta Balbi in Rome.


Introduction to ancient Rome

Legend has it that Rome was founded in 753 B.C.E. by Romulus, its first king. In 509 B.C.E. Rome became a republic ruled by the Senate (wealthy landowners and elders) and the Roman people. During the 450 years of the republic Rome conquered the rest of Italy and then expanded into France, Spain, Turkey, North Africa and Greece.

Rome became very Greek influenced or “Hellenized,” and the city was filled with Greek architecture, literature, statues, wall-paintings, mosaics, pottery and glass. But with Greek culture came Greek gold, and generals and senators fought over this new wealth. The Republic collapsed in civil war and the Roman empire began.

In 31 B.C.E. Octavian, the adopted son of Julius Caesar, defeated Cleopatra and Mark Antony at Actium. This brought the last civil war of the republic to an end. Although it was hoped by many that the republic could be restored, it soon became clear that a new political system was forming: the emperor became the focus of the empire and its people. Although, in theory, Augustus (as Octavian became known) was only the first citizen and ruled by consent of the Senate, he was in fact the empire’s supreme authority. As emperor he could pass his powers to the heir he decreed and was a king in all but name.

The empire, as it could now be called, enjoyed unparalleled prosperity as the network of cities boomed, and goods, people and ideas moved freely by land and sea. Many of the masterpieces associated with Roman art, such as the mosaics and wall paintings of Pompeii, gold and silver tableware, and glass, including the Portland Vase, were created in this period. The empire ushered in an economic and social revolution that changed the face of the Roman world: service to the empire and the emperor, not just birth and social status, became the key to advancement.


History [ edit | edit source ]

The Roman Kingdom [ edit | edit source ]

Rome grew from settlements around the River Tiber and was probably founded around 900 BC by members of the Latins and the Sabines. The Etruscans were later integrated into the city and set up a monarchy, which was later overthrown and the Roman Republic was created.

According to Roman Legend, Rome was founded in 753 BCE on the 21st April by two twins descended from the Trojan hero Aeneas, Romulus and Remus (Romulus's name supposedly inspiring the name Rome). When arguing over who would rule, Romulus killed his brother and became the first of seven kings of Rome over the Latins. Legend also says the Latins invited the Sabines to a feast and stole their women, which eventually led to the Sabines living in Rome as well. The last king, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus was overthrown in 510 BCE, leading to the Roman Republic.

The Roman Republic [ edit | edit source ]

The Roman Republic was the era of classical Roman civilization beginning with the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom, traditionally dated to 509 BC, and ending in 27 BC with the establishment of the Roman Empire. It was during this period that Rome's control expanded from the city's immediate surroundings to hegemony over the entire Mediterranean world.

Roman society under the Republic was a cultural mix of Latin, Etruscan, and Greek elements, which is especially visible in the Roman Pantheon. Its political organisation was strongly influenced by the Greek city-states of Magna Graecia, with collective and annual magistracies, overseen by a Senate. The top magistrates were the two consuls, who had an extensive range of executive, legislative, judicial, military, and religious powers. Whilst there were elections each year, the Republic was not a democracy, but an oligarchy, as a small number of large families (called gentes) monopolized the main magistracies. Roman institutions underwent considerable changes throughout the Republic to adapt to the difficulties it faced, such as the creation of promagistracies to rule its conquered provinces or the composition of the Senate.

Unlike the Pax Romana of the Roman Empire, the Republic was in a state of quasi-perpetual war throughout its existence. Its first enemies were its Latin and Etruscan neighbours as well as the Gauls, who even sacked the city in 387 BC. The Republic nonetheless demonstrated extreme resilience and always managed to overcome its losses, however catastrophic. After the Gallic Sack, Rome indeed conquered the whole Italian peninsula in a century, which turned the Republic into a major power in the Mediterranean. The Republic's greatest enemy was doubtless Carthage, against which it waged three wars. The Punic general Hannibal famously invaded Italy by crossing the Alps and inflicted on Rome two devastating defeats at the Lake Trasimene and Cannae, but the Republic once again recovered and won the war thanks to Scipio Africanus at the Battle of Zama in 202 BC. With Carthage defeated, Rome became the dominant power of the ancient Mediterranean world. It then embarked in a long series of difficult conquests, after having notably defeated Philip V and Perseus of Macedon, Antiochus III of the Seleucid Empire, the Lusitanian Viriathis, the Numidian Jugurtha, the great Pontic king Mithridates VI, the Gaul Vercingetorix, and the Egyptian queen Cleopatra.

At home, the Republic similarly experienced a long streak of social and political crises, which ended in several violent civil wars. At first, the Conflict of the Orders opposed the patricians, the closed oligarchic elite, to the far more numerous plebs, who finally achieved political equality in several steps during the 4th century BC. Later, the vast conquests of the Republic disrupted its society, as the immense influx of slaves, they brought enriched the aristocracy but ruined the peasantry and urban workers. In order to solve this issue, several social reformers, known as the Populares, tried to pass agrarian laws, but the Gracchi brothers, Saturninus, or Clodius Pulcher were all murdered by their opponents, the Optimates, keepers of the traditional aristocratic order. Mass slavery also caused three Servile Wars the last of them was led by Spartacus, a skillful gladiator who ravaged Italy and left Rome powerless until his defeat in 71 BC. In this context, the last decades of the Republic were marked by the rise of great generals, who exploited their military conquests and the factional situation in Rome to gain control of the political system. Marius (between 105–86 BC), then Sulla (between 82–78 BC) dominated in turn the Republic both used extraordinary powers to purge their opponents. These multiple tensions lead to a series of civil wars the first between the two generals Julius Caesar and Pompey. Despite his victory and appointment as dictator for life, Caesar was murdered in 44 BC. Caesar's heir Octavian and lieutenant Mark Antony defeated Caesar's assassins Brutus and Cassius in 42 BC,but then turned against each other. The final defeat of Mark Antony and his ally Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, and the Senate's grant of extraordinary powers to Octavian as Augustus in 27 BC – which effectively made him the first Roman emperor – thus ended the Republic.

The Roman Empire [ edit | edit source ]

The Roman Empire was the post-Roman Republic period of the ancient Roman civilization. Ruled by emperors, it had large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Caucasus. From the constitutional reforms of Augustus to the military anarchy of the third century, the Empire was a principate ruled from Italy, the homeland of the Romans and metropole of the empire, [8][9]  with the city of Rome as capital (27 BC – 286 AD). The Roman Empire was then ruled by multiple emperors and divided in a Western Roman Empire, based in Milan and later Ravenna, and an Eastern Roman Empire, based in Nicomedia and later Constantinople. Rome remained the nominal capital of both parts until 476 AD when Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustus after capturing Ravenna and the Senate of Rome sent the imperial regalia to Constantinople (Byzantium in Ancient Greek). The fall of the Western Roman Empire to barbarian kings, along with with the Hellenization of the Eastern Roman Empire into the Byzantine Empire, is conventionally used to mark the end of Ancient Rome and the beginning of the Middle Ages.

The previous Republic, which had replaced Rome's monarchy in the 6th century BC, became severely destabilized in a series of civil wars and political conflict. In the mid-1st century BC Julius Caesar was appointed as perpetual dictator and then assassinated in 44 BC. Civil wars and proscriptions continued, culminating in the victory of Octavian, Caesar's adopted son, over Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. The following year Octavian conquered Ptolemaic Egypt, ending the Hellenistic period that had begun with the conquests of Alexander the Great of Macedon in the 4th century BC. Octavian's power was then unassailable and in 27 BC the Roman Senate formally granted him overarching power and the new title Augustus, effectively making him the first emperor.

The first two centuries of the Empire were a period of unprecedented stability and prosperity known as the Pax Romana ("Roman Peace"). It reached its greatest territorial expanse during the reign of Trajan (98–117 AD). A period of increasing trouble and decline began with the reign of Commodus. In the 3rd century, the Empire underwent a crisis that threatened its existence, but was reunified under Aurelian. In an effort to stabilize the Empire, Diocletian set up two different imperial courts in the Greek East and Latin West. Christians rose to power in the 4th century following the Edict of Milan in 313 and the Edict of Thessalonica in 380. Shortly after, the Migration Period involving large invasions by Germanic peoples and the Huns of Attila led to the decline of the Western Roman Empire. With the fall of Ravenna to the Germanic Herulians and the deposition of Romulus Augustulus in 476 AD by Odoacer, the Western Roman Empire finally collapsed and it was formally abolished by emperor Zeno in 480 AD. The Eastern Roman Empire, known in the post-Roman West as the Byzantine Empire, collapsed when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks of Mehmed II in 1453.

Due to the Roman Empire's vast extent and long endurance, the institutions and culture of Rome had a profound and lasting influenceon the development of language, religion, architecture, philosophy, law, and forms of government in the territory it governed, particularly Europe. The Latin language of the Romans evolved into the Romance languages of the medieval and modern world, while Medieval Greek became the language of the Eastern Roman Empire. Its adoption of Christianity led to the formation of Christendomdudring the Middle Ages. Greek and Roman art had a profound impact on the late medieval Italian Renaissance, while Rome's republican institutions influenced the political development of later republics such as the United States and France. The corpus of Roman law has its descendants in many legal systems of the world today, such as the Napoleonic Code. Rome's architectural tradition served as the basis for Neoclassical architecture.


Period of Kings (625-510 BC)

The first period in Roman history is known as the Period of Kings, and it lasted from Rome’s founding until 510 BC. During this brief time Rome, led by no fewer than six kings, advanced both militaristically and economically with increases in physical boundaries, military might, and production and trade of goods including oil lamps. Politically, this period saw the early formation of the Roman constitution. The end of the Period of Kings came with the decline of Etruscan power, thus ushering in Rome’s Republican Period.


Ancient Rome 101

Spanning over a thousand years, ancient Rome was a civilization of constant evolution. This great empire flourished through innovation and incorporation of the diverse cultures they conquered, such as the adoption of Latin and gladiatorial combat. Learn about the rise and fall of this ancient civilization and how its influence still endures today.

Geography, Human Geography, Social Studies, Ancient Civilizations, World History

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Ancient Rome: Health and Medicine

Ancient Rome, just like Greece and Egypt before it, dedicated a huge amount of time to the study of medicine and health. Rather than focusing on cures, the Romans preferred to seek out new methods of disease prevention. However, this manifested itself as an emphasis on public health facilities as opposed to the development of medical theories, as was the case in Ancient Greece.

Although many of the discoveries made by the Romans were not necessarily considered pure medicine, the lack of hygiene that plagued Roman citizens meant any attempt at improving public health had a significant impact on society.

Despite the differences between the way the two civilisations approach medicine and health, the Romans sourced a lot of their information from the Ancient Greeks. This was aided by the relationship between the two having first come into contact around 500 BC, part of Greece had actually become a division of the roman Empire by 146 BC.

In fact, by 27 BC, the control of Greece and other lands around the Mediterranean was seized by the Romans. As such, many of their medical theories reflected the ideas of the Greeks, but reflected Rome’s more practical approach to research and development.

Instead, the Romans were concerned with directly improving quality of life of their empire, and this applied to all aspects of life. This was effectively summed up by Greek geographer Strabo, who claimed:

“The Greeks are famous for their cities and in this they aimed at beauty. The Romans excelled in those things which the Greeks took little interest in such as the building of roads, aqueducts and sewers.”

Cicero, the famous writer, mirrored this opinion:

“The Greeks held the geometer in the highest honour, and, to them, no-one came before mathematicians. But we Romans have established as the limit of this art, its usefulness in measuring and reckoning.”

During the early years of the Roman Empire there were no practicing medical professionals. Instead, the head of each household was given the responsibility of gaining enough knowledge of herbal cures to make it possible for them to treat illnesses and injuries at home.

Pliny, another Roman writer, reflected this in his description of Roman medicine:

“Unwashed wool supplies very many remedies… it is applied… with honey to old sores. Wounds it heals if dipped in wine or vinegar… yolks of eggs… are taken for dysentery with the ash of their shells, poppy juice and wine.”

Once the Roman Empire had expanded into Greek territory their attitude to medicine began to slowly change. Initially, many of its doctors were relocated to Italy, with some (as prisoners of war) purchased by wealthy Romans to work in their household. Eventually, some of these physicians were able to buy their own freedom and set up practices in Rome. However, many Romans were uncertain of their trustworthiness.

“There is no doubt that all these physicians in their hunt of popularity by means of some new idea, did not hesitate to buy it with our lives. Medicine changes everyday, and we are swept along on the puffs of the clever brains of the Greeks… as if thousands of people do not live without physicians - though not, of course, without medicine.”

Despite these concerns, many Greek physicians were actually supported by the Emperor, making them incredibly popular among the Roman public. In fact, Pliny wrote about how Thessalus, a popular physician, was more popular at the time than any of the famous actors or chariot riders.

On the other hand, there were still many Romans who invested more in ensuring their own fitness rather than on physicians and their cures, believing that those who were physically fit were more likely to be able to fight an illness.

The Romans as a civilisation also believed that improved public health systems would ensure their success Romans believed that illnesses were caused naturally and that unclean water and sewage could cause bad health. Public health services were developed to ensure the health of the wealthy and to secure the continued labour of the poorer classes. In fact, the Romans are considered by many to have been the first civilisation to introduced public health services that spanned the classes.

The belief of the Romans in the importance of hygiene resulted in many cities, forts and villas in Rome being built in what were considered the healthiest areas.

Scholar and writer Marcus Varro wrote:

“When building a house or farm… care should be taken where there are swaps in the neighbourhood, because certain tiny creatures which cannot be seen by the eyes breed there. These float through the air and enter the body by the mouth and nose and cause serious disease.”

Of course, the health of Rome’s legions was also considered a top priority as the empire’s reign was linked to their success. In fact, a huge amount of emphasis was placed on legionnaires having access to clean water and they were encouraged to keep fit, while officers were told to camp away from swamps so they would only drink clean water. Additionally, it was believed that they could pick up diseases if they stayed in the same place for too long, so legions were regularly moved.

Cities, forts and towns were built as close to fresh springs as possible, though water was transported in when these places began to grow. The water supply in Rome was particularly important as it was the capital city, and it had its own Water Commissioner - Julius Frontinus - appointed in 97 AD. The city grew so large the an estimated 1,000 million litres of water were transported to Rome each day.

Public baths were another important place for the Roman public, who put great emphasis on personal hygiene. Similarly, toilets were round in many Roman houses, as well as on the streets, so they were able to be used by all classes. In fact, by 315 AD it is believed that Rome had 144 public toilets that were all flushed by clean running water. Toilets were also located within forts and, thanks to the development of sewers, were served by an effective drainage system.

According to Pliny, many Romans believed sewer systems were the Romans biggest achievement. The sewers were designed so seven rivers would flow through them and flush away any sewage. This made it possible for the cities and it’s important facilities to stay hygienic.

Ostia Toilets

Cities, villas and forts in Rome were built in healthy places, as the Romans knew the difference between a good place to build and less suitable places.

Marcus Varro, a scholar and writer, describes this process:

" When building a house or farm special care should be taken to place it at the foot of a wooded hill where it is exposed to health-giving winds. Care should be taken where there are swamps in the neighbourhood, because certain tiny creatures which cannot be seen by the eyes breed there. These float through the air and enter the body by the mouth and nose and cause serious disease. "

Columella, another Roman, describes the agricultural perspective:

" There should be no marshes near buildings, for marshes give off poisonous vapours during the hot period of the summer. At this time, they give birth to animals with mischief-making stings which fly at us in thick swarms. "

The health of Rome’s legions was naturally considered very important as without them, the Roman Empire would fall. A lot of emphasis was placed on legionnaires having access to clean water and keeping fit , while officers were discouraged from camping near swamps so they would not drink the fetid water. They were also moved around regularly as it was feared they may pick up the existing diseases if they stayed in the same place for too long.

The Romans valued clean water very much, writes the architect Vitruvius:

“ We must take great care in searching for springs and, in selecting them, keeping in mind the health of the people.”

Cities, towns and forts were all built near fresh springs. Though when these grew, water needed to be brought in from further away. Naturally, as the population grew, the need for clean water did too. As the empire’s capital city, Rome had to have a water supply that would make a good impression. This was designed by Julius Frontinus who was appointed the Water Commissioner in 97 AD. An estimated 1,000 million litres of water a day was carried into Rome.

Personal hygiene was also a constant issue in the Romans lifestyle, which placed an important factor onto the public baths.

There were also toilets in Roman houses and on streets - something which was also a part of other civilisations but were designed to show wealth. By 315 AD Rome was said to have had 144 public toilets all flushed clean by running water. All forts had toilets, and to complement them an effective drainage system was needed. According to the Roman writer Pliny, many Romans believed that Rome sewers were the city’s biggest achievement.

Seven rivers were designed to flow through the city’s sewers and flush any sewage out. Military hospitals also had a focus on hygiene importance, as the Romans believed injured soldiers would recover quicker in a clean environment.


Ancient Rome

The Romans lived in a wide variety of homes depending on whether they were wealthy or poor. The poor lived in cramped apartments in the cities or in small shacks in the country. The rich lived in private homes in the city or large villas in the country.

Most people in the cities of Ancient Rome lived in apartments called insulae. The wealthy lived in single family homes called domus of various sizes depending on how rich they were.

The vast majority of the people living in Roman cities lived in cramped apartment buildings called insulae. Insulae were generally three to five stories high and housed from 30 to 50 people. The individual apartments usually consisted of two small rooms.

The bottom floor of the insulae often housed shops and stores that opened out to the streets. The larger apartments were also near the bottom with the smallest at the top. Many insulae were not constructed very well. They could be dangerous places if they caught fire and sometimes even collapsed.

The wealthy elite lived in large single family homes called domus. These homes were much nicer than the insulae. Most Roman houses had similar features and rooms. There was an entryway that led to the main area of the house called the atrium. Other rooms such as bedrooms, dining room, and kitchen might be off to the sides of the atrium. Beyond the atrium was the office. In the back of the home was often an open garden.

  • Vestibulum - A grand entrance hall to the house. On either side of the entrance hall might be rooms that housed small shops opening out to the street.
  • Atrium - An open room where guests were greeted. The atrium typically had an open roof and a small pool that was used to collect water.
  • Tablinum - The office or living room for the man of the house.
  • Triclinium - The dining room. This was often the most impressive and decorated room of the house in order to impress guests that were dining over.
  • Cubiculum - The bedroom.
  • Culina - The kitchen.

While the poor and the slaves lived in small shacks or cottages in the countryside, the wealthy lived in large expansive homes called villas.

The Roman villa of a wealthy Roman family was often much larger and more comfortable than their city home. They had multiple rooms including servants' quarters, courtyards, baths, pools, storage rooms, exercise rooms, and gardens. They also had modern comforts such as indoor plumbing and heated floors.


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