Monday, August 22, 2005

Caligula's Floating Palaces

The History Channel"Lurking beneath the blue waters of Lake Nemi lay the titans of Roman naval engineering--the Nemi Ships. These titanic luxury liners of the ancient world held inventions lost for thousands of years. But why were they built? Were they Caligula's notorious floating pleasure palaces--rife with excess and debauchery? Flagships of a giant sea force? It took the obsession of Mussolini with all things Roman to finally prise the two huge wrecks from the depths of Lake Nemi near Rome. Using an ancient Roman waterway, he drained the lake and rescued the ships, an accomplishment captured on film that we access to illustrate this astounding story. Sophisticated ancient technology was discovered in the boats that transformed the understanding of Roman engineering overnight--the Nemi ships were a breathtaking find. Yet by 1944, the adventure had turned sour and the retreating German Army torched the boats. We reveal the mysteries of the Nemi Ships and the ancient technology that made them possible."

I watched this program last night and found it fascinating. I was particularly impressed with the water management systems aboard these huge vessels. The program discussed a massive chain-drive bilge pump system and an intricate piston-driven pumping system that used gravity to distribute running water throughout the vessels. I also found it interesting that archaeologists found that the Romans used ball bearings, originally thought to be "invented" in the 14th century. Of course, as a lover of ancient sculpture, I found the bronze figures used for mooring ropes breathtaking as well.

I also was interested in the discussion of Caligula's probable conversion to the Isis cult. The narrator mentioned that the cult would have appealed to Caligula because of the brother/sister relationship between Osirus and Isis. The narrator said that cult worhsippers engaged in ritual sex and human sacrifice, both activities that would appeal to Caligula and make him rationalize some of his actions as religious practices. I found this comment a little surprising since I was unaware of human sacrifice being a part of Isis worship, especially considering the Roman aversion to ritual human sacrifice except in the most dire of circumstances - to the point of official prohibition of it by senatorial decree in 97 BCE under the consulship of P. Licinius Crassus.

See also:;;

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Rome: Engineering an Empire to premiere Sept 5 on The History Channel

NIAF & The History Channel(R) Offer Grand-Prize Trips to Rome: "Rome: Engineering an Empire chronicles the rich history of the Roman Empire, from the reign of Caesar in 44 B.C. to its eventual fall around 537 AD, detailing the remarkable works of architecture and technology that helped create Rome's indelible mark on the world. Highlights include digital re-creations of some of Rome's greatest engineering feats, from Caesar's bridge across the Rhine River to the creation of the Roman Highway, or Via Appia, the world's first modern highway and the passageway that laid the foundation for Roman expansion.

The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) is partnering with The History Channel (THC) to offer grand-prize trips to Rome for the sweepstakes promotion of Rome: Engineering An Empire, premiering Monday evening, September 5th at 9:00 p.m./8c."

I see this new program is timed to coincide with the new HBO miniseries "Rome" that will premiere August 28.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Teaching Company Offers Great Battles of the Ancient World Course

Great Battles of the Ancient World: "'Battles, for all their madness, are worthy of study if for no other reason than that they are the crucibles of history,' says Professor Fagan, who notes that a few hours of hard fighting can determine the fates of entire empires.

This course focuses on warfare in the ancient Mediterranean world, encompassing the region from Mesopotamia to Western Europe, including Egypt and North Africa.

The first eight lectures chart the development of warfare from prehistoric times down to the glory days of the great states of the ancient Near East and Egypt. After examining theories about how to define war, you survey different models for the origins of warfare in the Upper Paleolithic (c. 37,000?12,000 years ago) and Neolithic (c. 10,000?5,000 years ago), testing them against the archaeological evidence, which provides our only clues to organized violence among prehistoric peoples.

Then you move into the historical era, starting with the first battles for which we have written accounts. These took place between the city-states of early Sumer (c. 3000?2350 B.C.), with armies of infantry using rudimentary chariots clashing over honor, irrigation rights, and boundaries. Next you travel to Egypt and survey the changing nature of warfare in the Old to New Kingdoms (c. 2700?1070 B.C.), including the first fully recorded battle in history: the Battle of Megiddo between Pharaoh Thutmose III and a coalition of Syrian lords, fought outside the walls of a town in Palestine. You examine the fearsome Assyrian war machine as it developed ca. 900?612 B.C., and the sophisticated army that allowed the Assyrians to forge the largest empire yet seen in the region. You also address disputed matters of the Trojan War and Homeric warfare.

In the next eight lectures you cover warfare among the Greeks and their distinctive form of combat using hoplites, a type of armored infantryman who fought in a close formation called the phalanx. You study the Persian invasions of Greece (490?479 B.C.), examining the battles of Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis, and Plataea that decided this titanic clash. The disastrous Athenian expedition against Sicily (415?413 B.C.) during the Peloponnesian War is next, followed by the military revolution in the 4th century B.C., which saw the creation of a new and formidable fighting unit spearheaded by the cavalry and a reformed phalanx. This integrated and flexible army reached its pinnacle of efficiency under Alexander the Great, and you survey the battles at the Granicus River, Issus, and Gaugamela that made Alexander king of Persia.

In the third part of the course you study the legions of Rome, which evolved brutally effective tactics that gave them dominion over the entire Mediterranean basin. It is unclear how Roman legionary armies actually fought, and you explore various theories before following the legions into combat in their colossal struggle with Hannibal in the Second Punic War (218?202 B.C.). Then you compare the Roman legion and Macedonian phalanx?the two most efficient killing machines of the day?in duels fought in Italy in the 3rd century B.C. and in the Balkans and Asia Minor in the 2nd century. Next you consider Roman skill in siege warfare as exemplified by Julius Caesar's siege of Alesia (52 B.C.) and the siege of Masada in Judea in 72?73 A.D. The final two battles covered are Roman defeats and introduce the German tribal warrior. These are the battles of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 A.D., considered one of the most important battles in European history, and Adrianople in 378 A.D., which heralded the decline of Roman imperial power.

In the final lecture, Professor Fagan considers the recent proposal by scholar Victor Davis Hanson that there is a distinctively "Western way of war," traceable from the Greeks to the modern age. This intriguing view represents hoplite warfare as a unique development of Greek conditions that casts its shadow down to the present. Despite the theory's attractive simplicity, it has problems that Dr. Fagan details in a fascinating glimpse of scholarly debate in action."

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Roles of Patrician and Plebeian Women in Their Religion in the Republic of Rome

by Lesa A. Young
East Tennessee State University

This paper investigates the roles of Roman women in their religion. It includes both
patrician and plebeian women, as well as public and private roles and focuses on the
period of the Republic (509-30 BCE). Some of the questions to be looked at are: To what
extent were mothers responsible for private rituals at home? What type of activities did
they participate in as private citizens in the public festivals? How extensive were public
religious positions held by women? What role did the Vestal Virgins play in Rome?

The paper is divided into five chapters: The Period of the Republic, Private Rituals,
Life Rituals, Public Rituals, and Public Roles. The Period of the Republic gives
background information about the history, politics, and the role of women in these areas
throughout the Republic. During the Republic wars, droughts, famines, and other crises
made an impact upon the laws pertaining to women and the roles they played. As many
men were killed or away from Rome, women had to take a more active leading role in
affairs. This impacted attitudes, as well as events, and knowing this helps to understand
the women in the Republic. Also included in the first chapter are the mythological stories
from Rome?s pre and early Republican days. The Rape of the Sabine women, the Rape
of Lucretia, and the story of the mother of Coriolanus all represent the traditions of ?good
Roman women?. Then looking at the passage of the lex Oppia and eventual repealing, it
becomes evident that women moved from the secondary position of coercing the men to
achieve their goals, to having the courage and ability to speak out somewhat directly for
their own desires. It never evolves into women having full male rights, but steps are made
toward women being responsible for their own interests and welfare.

The chapter on Private Rituals investigates the rituals, roles, and practices of a Roman
matron in her own home. As the mater, she is responsible for carrying out the requests of
the paterfamialias and for educating her children in the religious rituals, especially her
daughters. Particularly the religious tasks that are typically related to women?s work fall
to the mothers and daughters, such as weaving wreaths, preparing the salt-cakes, reciting
prayers for specific tasks, etc. Numina, Lararium, Lares, Penates, Vesta, Parilia,
Lemuria, and Ambarvalia are discussed in this chapter. Explanations of the rituals and the
tasks of women are given for each.

The chapter on Life Rituals explores the rituals and beliefs of the Roman women
concerning her major life occurrences. These include birth, marriage, and death. Also
included are brief descriptions of divination and dream interpretations. As women, they
were not allowed to read the auspices or interpret dreams. But as superstitious people,
the outcome of these practices definitely impacted women as Romans. The
interpretations would define how/what she could do.

The Public Rituals includes the women?s roles in public festivals. How they could
participate is explored, as well as a number of the festivals. By the end of the Republic,
there were so many festivals and holidays that it was a daily occurrence. The men
brought foreign beliefs and practices back from wars and included them in the religious
calendar so as to not offend any gods. Those investigated in this chapter are the
participation in sacrificial rituals, temple/shrine worship, feasts/festivals, circuses, and

The chapter on Public Roles looks at the role of the Vestal Virgins and also at the few
other minor public positions, such as the wife of the flamen of Jupiter. These leading
religious positions were few in number but played a powerful role as far as women were
concerned. The Vestals had more independence than any other women, although they
still answered to the Pontifex Maximus. He played the role of the paterfamialias for
them. And they walked the line between the genders, being women, having some typical
female tasks to do for Rome?s hearth, but also having some of the legal rights normally
reserved for the males.

The Role of Government in Ancient Rome and Legionary Capitalism

By Karl Moore
Winnipeg, Manitoba Faculty of Management
McGill University

David Lewis
Citrus College

We argue that the government of the Roman Republic and Empire played a
centre role in the development of business of that era. The form of economy
of Rome was what we label Legionary Capitalism, where considerable
business activity arose in order to fulfil needs of the Roman Legions.

The role of government in the economy is a controversial one in today?s world. At one
end of the spectrum we have the lassie fare capitalism of Hong Kong with little government
involvement and on the other, the intertwining of government, business and other societal
institutions found in Japan and France. We believe that a historical perspective is a useful one to
consider the question of whether governments matter? In this paper we take the long view and
focus on the history of Roman and examine the role of the government during first the Roman
Republic and later the Roman Empire. We will show how the role of government evolved over
time and how government was central to the way Roman business operated, organized, expanded and interacted with the rest of society. By considering an exemplar of a society which lasted many centuries and controlled and/or highly influenced the majority of the known world we believe that the current debate is enriched and given greater perspective.


In 509 BCE a patrician revolution created a constitutional republic in Rome. Prior to the
revolution key foundations of the Roman world: the Roman legion, the aristocratic Senate and an
assembly of freemen, with very limited powers, had been laid. During the 600 and 700?s the
monarchy presided over Rome's transformation into a city-state, in which streets were paved and a number of public buildings constructed. However, enough chaffed under the rule of the King to desire a republic (Tacitus, 1971).

The Roman Republic was based upon checks and balances designed to prevent the
installation of another king. The Republic would be administered by two elected Consuls who
could veto one another's actions. Real power lay with the patrician landowners of the Senate. It
was in the context of the new Roman constitution and government which provided a stable social
framework that permitted Roman business to develop in a way it had not been allowed under the monarchs (Freeman, 1996).

As important as the stability of the Roman constitution it was the increase of the role
Roman legions which was more critical to our story. Despite its excellent locational advantages
along the Tiber and the roads of Italy, Rome was still largely an economic backwater selling grain to nearby hill tribes. The same hill tribes such as the Aequi and Volsci Rome sold grain to wanted her farmlands and Rome had to defend them. This led Rome's citizens to war, and it is from war that Roman capitalism received its greatest impetus (Moore and Lewis, 1999, 2000).

Friday, August 05, 2005

Caesar, Pompey, and the Collapse of the First Triumvirate

Caesar, Pompey, and the Collapse of the First Triumvirate
Honors Thesis
by Kristopher Stenson

The creation of the the ?First Triumvirate? of Gaius Julius Caesar, Gnaius Pompeius Magnus, and Marcus Licinius Crassus certainly stands as one of the most pivotal events in Roman Republican history. Ironically, its inception, and the resulting power swing that it created, was the beginning of the end for that very republic. Where as the men had weaknesses while
separate, together they were nearly untouchable by the optimates that sought to reduce the ?Triumvirs?? influence. What, then caused the breakup of these men? The alliance seemed, at least at the beginning, to be the perfect combination for controlling Roman politics, but ultimately the personalities of the three led them in different directions. While the destruction of the Triumvirate is frequently blamed upon the deaths of Crassus and Julia,2 this is an overly simplistic explanation.

To understand the reasons for the rift one must first understand the men who comprised the amicitia. It brought together three powerful men who all wanted to be in ultimate control. Pompey was the hero of the past, Caesar the hero of the future, but both wanted to be the hero of the present. Crassus was the man whose own significant achievements were overshadowed by
both. His drive to show up Pompey was his undoing, as he met an ignoble death in a catastrophic defeat. The alliance among them was thus doomed from the beginning, with three men clambering for the same place; to be First Man in Rome. Caesar proved to be the most cunning, as Pompey was far too prone to believe the flattery constantly heaped upon him by those who
would sway him to their interests, namely the optimates who so vehemently hated Caesar. To Caesar, the Triumvirate was a tool to be utilized, and he was a master at using that tool as best he could, even when the situation was adverse. The civil war that followed the men?s split was unfortunate, but was merely the final step in Caesar?s rise to the top of the Republic.
The success of the Triumvirate, at least in the beginning, was based upon a mutual need for support among the three.

For one, the money of Crassus and Pompey, by the 60?s BC the two richest men in Rome, allowed for plenty of ?greasing the gears of state?. There were few things or people that these two men could not buy, and their money was used extensively in the securing of friendly Tribunes and other magistrates throughout their alliance. The money was also lavishly spent to secure the Consular elections of Caesar and Pompey. While Caesar did not contribute a great deal of money to the cause, what he did bring was a noble family name combined with a formidable political presence that gained the support of the populus with ease.

Especially in its early incarnation, the alliance among these men was seen by contemporaries as being dominated by Pompey, not Caesar, as would become the dominant belief among later historians. Certainly Pompey and Caesar were the leading figures of the three, with the aging Crassus definitely the ?third wheel?. Given that the purpose of this study is primarily to
examine the relationship between Caesar and Pompey, Crassus will not be scrutinized in great detail.

Though my aim is not to give a biography for these three men, a small amount of background on each is nonetheless necessary, so that one can better understand their dynamic together. I will focus primarily on their lives as they neared their pact.

Gnaius Pompeius Magnus was a living legend in his own time, and even more so in his own mind. During his rise to the top of Roman politics he made his mark as both a capable general and a brilliant administrator. As a young man he took it upon himself to levy troops in support of Sulla during the civil wars, meeting the latter as he entered Italy in 83. He was merely 23 at the time, but this movement on his part catapulted him to the forefront of Roman politics. He served for several more years under Sulla, and accounted for himself quite well in actions in Africa and Spain against the Marians. His success garnered him high praise from Sulla, who showed the young man respect that he scarcely ever showed to older, more experienced commanders.

Following his successes in Africa Pompey, who had yet to even enter the Senate, was granted
proconsular imperium and was given the task of taking on Sertorius in Spain. I do not wish to labor through every single engagement or command that Pompey was involved with, but these early posts were pivotal in creating the man that Pompey would become in later years.