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Roman civilization is one of the great unifying factors in the history of Europe and the
Mediterranean. The extensive empire ruled by the Romans stretched from the sands of
the Sahara to the mouth of the Rhine, and from the Atlantic In the west to the
VIKING Euphrates in the east. It has left us its legacy in the form of Roman law, which still under-
lies many western-inspired legal systems, and in the Romance languages-French,
Published by the Penguin Group
Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Romanian-derived from Latin, which are still spoken
Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane, London W8 5TZ, England
Penguin BOOk.S USA Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014, USA not only in former Roman territories but in countries of the New World as well as the
Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia Old. Furthermore, Roman cities lie beneath many of our modern centres, and the state
Penguin ~oOkS Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2 religiOll of the late Roman world-Christianity-remains the dominant faith throughout
PengUin Books (NZ) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand
most of Europe today.
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: Harrnondsworth, Middlesex, England
The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome is an introduction to the Roman Empire based
on maps. The Romans themselves made maps of their empire, though little of these
First published 1995 have survived apart from the so-called Peutinger Table (a medieval copy) and fragments
Published simultaneously in Penguin Books such as the marble map of Rome. It is other sources, then, which have been used to com-
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
pile the present volume, and they are of broadly two kinds: historical and literary on the
one hand (what the Romans said about themselves), and archaeological and architectur-
al on the other
Text copyright © Chris Scarre, 1995
The moral right of the author has been asserted Each of these sources has its own particular role. The details of historical events them-
selves are known to us mainly through written texts in Latin or Greek. These include
Design and maps copyright © Swanston Publishing Limited, 1995
works of famous historians such as Livy and Tactius, and social or official documents
such as letters and laws. Coins and inscriptions provide abundant further evidence, and
All rights reserved. can often be dated precisely. Archaeology, on the other hand, can sometimes be tied
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above
into the history but essentially tells us a different kind of story. We may remember the
no p~rt of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introd~ced into
a retrieval ~ystem, or tran~mitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, Romans in terms of kings and consuls, battles and emperors, but for the majority of
mechanr~al, photocoPYing, recording or otherwise), without the prior Roman inhabitants, those who ploughed the fields and tended the olive groves, by far
written permission of both the copyright owner and the the best testimony comes from archaeological remains of ordinary houses, farms and
above publisher of this book
workshops. No one source of evidence, however, is intrinsically better then the others; it
is by using them together that we gain the fullest insight into the world of ancient Rome.

Printed and bound in Great Britain by The Bath Press, Avon Chris Scarre,

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Cambridge, 1995

ISBN 0-670-86464-11


Foreword 5 The City of Rome under the Severans 100

Timeline 8 Mystery Cults 102
Roman Mrica 104
Part I: From City to Empire 12 Three Mrican Cities 106
The Origins of Rome 20 The Empire at Bay 108
The Unification ofItaly 22 The West Breaks Away 110
The Wars with Carthage 24 The Rise and Fall of Palmyra 112
Rome's Conquest of the East 26
The Over-Mighty Generals 28 Part V: Restoration and Fall 114
Caesar's Conquest of Gaul 30 Diocletian and the Division of Power 122
Crossing the Rubicon 32 The Spread of Christianity 124
The Civil Wars 34 Constantine the Great 126
Shades of the Departed 36 Technology and Engineering 128
A Fragile Prosperity 130
Part 11: The Imperial Regime 38 The Fall of the Western Empire 132
The New Order 46 The Inheritors 134
The City of Rome under Augustus 48
Claudius and the Conquest of Britain 50 Kings, Dictators and Emperors 136
Nero and the Year of the Four Emperors 52 Further Reading 138
The Western Provinces 54 Index 139
Three Western Cities 56 Credits and Acknowledgements 144
Vespasian and the Jewish War 58
Trajan's Wars 60 J
The Roman Army 62

Part Ill: The Imperial Peace 46 I

Hadrian's Travels 72
The Eastern Provinces 74
Three Eastern Cities 76
Writing and Literacy 78
Trade and Transport 80
The Roman Amphitheatre 82 4<

Roman Spain 84
Guarding the Frontiers 86

Part IV: The Troubled Century 88

The Year of the Six Emperors 96
The Parthian Wars 98
6 7

Timeline: 800-85 BC 84 Bc-99 AD


BC 83-79 civil war: Sulla becoines
814 (trad) Carthage founded dictator and purgesoppoilcnts c. 80 ' T C;;lpl e ofFortuna.atp,:·aeneste
r. 800-750 Iron-Age settlement on 78 T abula rillll1 a t Rome
Paifl tine Hill 73-7 1 Spanacus leads slave uprising
753 (lrad) Romulus fotmds Rome Co 750 Gree k coloni es in Sic ily and S. in C:"' PU <l
Lllcr c tills (c. 99-55): philosophical
642-17 Roman power ex~c nds to tH I)ompe), cOIl'q uers Syria p oem Tht Na llt1'1' of ThillJ5l'
coasl 0:\ ROI\lans <lIllleXe Judaea U2 r()lI~ F.iliriciu5
c.616- 5 1O Rome under Eh"usean 60 First TriullwmHc: Pompcy. C.alullus (c. K4-5<1); poe ms a nd
t. ~ Porum laid ohl al'-publit c. 600 Cre el colo ny ..11 Mas::s-ili<l
e pig rams
do min;jncc (Marseill c) . Caesar, C .-aSSlIS
58-5 1 Caesar conquers CallI 55 TIlt':alre ofPoll1p ey
c. 550 Pc rsia n e mpire of Cyrus Julius Caesar (lOO-·H ): Calli,; H't~I:.s;
!):~ Crasslls clefcalcd ~nd killed b\' 55 Henn.lUs. I<lst.ln·do·Bach·ia n king.
Civil Wa l:S defealed by SCylhinns
534-510" Rome conlrols 350 sq m o f
525 ' Pei'siail kiug Cmnbyses conquc rs I~n .. thi<llls at Carrhae '
te rritory Egypt 51 Ptolcm), XXII .. nd C lcoptura
!H O Re'pu blicestablished under 2 !)10 (lr(\d) 1'emple ofJupitcr 011 the ,1$ Cacli,lf defeals Pompeyat rulers of Egy pt
a nlluall>'·t lccted consuls ~~a pi,t.~ ~ . , Pha rsalus. Pomper flees to Egypt and
486 death or Buddha i ~ kille d
46 Forulll o fJ ~llil\S Cacs,\1 -16 C"l.esar refo rms c.: ale ndar
484 Temple o(CastOr.d~dicate,(1 480 Grc-c ks dcrc;u Pe r:<;i<.l lls <ll <) 1) Caesar d e feats Pompeians at
479 death 01" Confucius Salamis Munda
45 1- 50 DecelTIvlratc,.-coullcilof10 4.-1 Cat'sar dicatawr for life;
a!lslllri c magistrates' powers 447 Parthe non begun :lliSAssillatcd by Brutl1s &.Cassius Sallust (8:6-35 BC), historian:
-1:3 Cicc ro killed. Second !ugurlhillf. lVnr, ClIlilil1f CousiJ/'mcy
Triumvjratc- Alltony, Octavian &-
431~04 Pcl~pollne~i ali W.n j· I _l~ pidll S-C l;"mented by marriage of
betw.eCl I.. Sj)a cl Ath bl .~ A nrOl l )' to O rtaviiln'ssister·Octavia
'J\:! BfIIHI S and Cassius defeated at Varm (llG-27 BC): On Rl1mtI..lfe
399 cleath of SQCI-;HeS
396 ROIWIIlS Cal)lUl"C Etiuscan city of I ~llilippi

Vcii 37 Pal-l.hi~II S invade Syri a

:1 7 :\111 0 11 )' marries Cleop."1.(ra al
390 Ce lts sack Ro me ,\III ;oc h
c,330 1'1:110 (427-347) fo unds
378 Stll vian Wal l roildd .11.0011": Ac<'cie my il l Athe ns g I OCl,\Vian &'Agripp<, defeat
356 first plebeian dict.nor. 353 MallsolClll)) of Halica rnassus .'UIIOIl}, & CleopCltJ"a (\t naval baule 01"
Actilllll Virg il (70- 19) : C.rorgics, t:dogll{,s; cpic
C . Marcus RurilllS
gO An to n), &; Cleopatra commit 28 Canhage !"(' ro llllded 3! Roma n poe m Aweid Iihks fOllnding o [ Ro mc
343 I<,SL mlth'e pha raoh of" Egypl cololl" to Horn e r's T roy
343-1 First Sanlnit(' War ollste d by Persians suicide, Oda\'i~m solcruler of Roman
wo rld . ,Egypt a Roma'n pl'ovince 28 l\huso iC' u ll1 o f Augustu s
340-38 La.lin ),Var: ROU1C wins
co nlro l of'Lati(llli 333-323 Alexan cle)' th e t.: reat 27 Oct<lvian ,a~sllm e s litleAugustu~ 27 Panlh w ll of i\farc Lls Agrippa
Strabo (64 BC--AD 21) writes his 25 Aelil.lS Gallus leads e x pe diti o n to
327-04 Second SarilIlitc 'Vat" ( Pe rsia n Empire Geography at Alexandri a
13. Theatre Or M<lIYC: Il11s MClrib (Yemen)
[-Ielle.nisLic m Ollardlics eS lablish ed Horace (65- 8 ) : Odes, CrU1l1cn
3 12 Vin Appia , Aqua Appia built frompa~'litiojl of Alex3nde i·'s J 2-H Rom:\lIs conquer Germany as 9 Am Pacis AugusLae [9 Hen'ld rebuilds Te mple a l
2HS-90 Third Samnill~'Val·.Roman under cen sor Appius Claudius empire: Ptolcmaic )dngc1om ·jn Egypt filr as rh e Elhe 2 ,F~ rlinl of,AW~llSllIS Jerusalem
tc;'rilOI-Y eXlcnds frmu Bay of Naplcli 290 Libraq' of Alexandria founded (304), e mpire in Syria & LiV}1 (59 .BC-AD 17) wriles "official"
to th e Adriatic ~-liddle East histOl)' or Rom e
2H l \ ria I}ppill eXlended to 272-:) ~ tVi;np1'an Empero r Ash o ka
2S1-275 RomallsJ"cpcI invasion by
Pyrrhus, king of Ephus T are nlul1l promotes Bud dhi sm in S. Asia
240 Banda & Pa rlhia s(~cc(k rro m (i planned conquesf of central
246-24 1 l~irst Punic ' ''lOll' gives ROnlt' Se lc tlcid e mpirc
Plautus (r.. 254-18'J) : comecties FIII"Opt' ,lhalHiOIH: d afle l' I'cbellio n ill
co n tml of Sicily 237- 2 18 C arthng in ians <':O II<] IIC'- Balbll$
SO Ulhc rn Spain O\'i~ (43 BC-AD 18): Thf A rlo!LtJtJe,
2 18- 201 Sccond Ppnic Wal-: ROImms 9 th1"(-(; legio ns IIlld ~ r Yams wiped
[linitIS (2:J9- 169) : pla)'s, allll<.lls 22J-2011 Q in c1}"nm:t)' II nitt:s C hil101 as M r lfllllorpllOses. B(\nis h ed lO Black Sea 9 Wang-Mallg de ros(~lj Ha n c1 )"1 I 'lSI)'
') \11 br (ic' n nalls. ROnlClIl rro llliel'
re pe l I-hmilibal' s invasion ofllal), (HId coaSl hy AlIg usHls, AD 8
co nq~l e r much uf Spain
sillg lc sta le t>\llIc~1 had; to Rhine in China
206 d cath o r Shih-hu a ng-li , IifSI
202-19 1 Romans conqucr CiS<llpillC cn)pcro r nfCh inn 1,1 <\u g IlSlllS dies, !Su cceeded by hi!!. 14 POnt du G<l rd aqu educl nCi-lr
Po lyhius (c. ~ OO- 1 20 ) : Historirs (Gk) 202 Chin a re united h~' Ha ll dynasty litcpsnn T ibc rius Nimcs
I f C ~ ppadoc.ia & COl1llnagclle an 15 Sa lllia n wa re p o ltc ries rounded in
I ~O 'Ro mans dcfcal Antiochus Ihe Teren ce (c. 19 0-1 f19) : comedies imperia l PI "O\;;IlCe Caul
Great at Magilesia
17'.1 l1'f-llfi M llximu.-.; rcbull t 170 exrjansi on of G raeco-Bal trial} 21 ·2 2 C asu·a Practoria
kingdom unde r D Cm e lrlllS & ~ I Tit)(~ rius n~[ires to Capri 25 Ilan d~'lla.~t)' res Lon: d
161 G):ee k p hilosophers expelled 29 Jesus Christ crucified
156-87 \Vu- li g n~ <tt esl e mpe ror of 37 Tibc l"iu s dies: Gaius (Caligllla)
from Rom e ,tlt:("cl'ds
14D-fl -11Idl'tl Runic Wur Rumi\lis Chlllese Han dY1lilst y
d ~Jl.l.roy C:u'! hi\go;· .,~.rliCll n Row:;m 149 Cn to's Origi l,.fpu blished 11 C aligula assassillated; Claudius
prnvin~e . l ' 1l 1P C I"(II"

).rI GMltmmtlJ! s,:'\oks Corilllhi Gn:(occ 12 ~I a ll l'c t;mia ;lllllc xcd

Cl Konmn provinc~ (AdtiIU) 1'16 T(l.nplo orJ"pil el~-S mlor.lint i!i ilH';'L"iclIl 0 1" Brilain. L.,'CI<l an
mnrbh: le ll\pll; .ll Ro me u1l pc: dal prnvince '
;-)11 C l:\lId illS dies: Nel"O cmpe l"Or
H cm o f Alexand ria (n . 50) in\'e n ts
l·H All"n M:lrcr.t 141 Partllians COIIC(llc r i\'lcsOpOI<1mia mci in1Clllary steam U1 r h illc
I"~ Pon s Acn'lilius (In 1"1'\'0 11 • Ii' IccI I; in BI'ilain ; crushed
135-2 ~~~~ npl'i$illg in Sh:ily in (1 1 Scn eca ( cl . 6:') : l({&g(-d.ieJ & 60 Nem scnrls ex peditio n lO ex plo re
IgS n :fo):III:l- Qflr1buHc -[1ll('Th1§ philosophy Mel"Qc (SlId ,lll)
fi I Il l! ,l l1 d pe rsc( uli o ll of Chri .~lia ns 64 Nero's "Go l<le ll House"
Cm ,(:huJ lend Lti hiS murder
ill RIlI'lf Lucall r~Y-{~5) : he roic poe m
130 Graeco-Bal; triall killgdom fa lls Phm:mlin..
10 KushallS lil; Jt'l\'ish remit
Petronius, (d. 66) : comic novel
t23-~tri b'lUO Caim Grntt hur flR-\l rc\'o" uf Vindcx & suicide 01
Satyricoll. All thl·ce writers [o r<:ed to
l\:t:rll. Civil war Ve~pashU1 emperor
I\uitder~ :tf't~r al~l:lI\ ptiIlK rdo llll 121 Vln Dom i fl~ col~lln!t sl.l k ide by Nero
i'O Sal· l;. olJt nlsal e nl
FlaviusJosephu.s (3'1--1;. 98) ,: His/ol)' of
112 ivIilhd<i:l.l cS b c-com es kill g of the1ewish War; j fT.pishA1Uiquitlfs
7\) \'1"111'1['''111 ofVesll\"ius destroys:
Pontns ~lIlcl conque rs Crim ea J'(llllPI'ii s.: HlTl"lllalH'\lllI Pliny the ·.E Ide r (2 3-79) ~ .: N"(Ifu.ral
107- 100 MadU1]:,{IJtlnlnru1l ~1 Rol ~le
106 first (aravml trndt! h e tween 80 Col osseum , Arch or Tit us, DOJllllS His~OIy. Di es observing e ruptiOll of
I Q~ MntiQ.<dor..tlI T " LllulI<'! "~'Id ParLhia &: China Fl(lyi a on Pallllin e Vesuvius .'
(10 1) Or.ttbri ~l/j ft..trlplTor DOllliliall assilssillatcd; 91 Chinese defem H siung- 1111
NC'I"\" ;"t \ ;lIlp c rn r (I-Inns) in Mongolia
>l 1-89'$od.1 \ '/br. "Rbl"e do!C;ts i\hnial (40-1 04 ): Epigl"lJllIS
!)i ;"iIIClpr S T"'~<ln
\:( 'IY<I
rebclUoLl,:llhli:\I I -:.Ilt . hul frmnu ~I~ Tr:tjal' l' l llpl~ rt)l Tacitus (c. :>5- (. 117): .1·/ln ofs; 97. Chinese ambassador Ka ll '~ n g
mi!)nr con ce 5.Sii~nl5
H istories; AJ(1ico[(I; Dermal/in \·i sitsAnlioch

8 9

Timeline: 100-363 AD 364-540 AD

PUny the Younger (61-113): Panegyric
101-2 First D~tcianWar 100 Roman cot OilY ofTimgad ofTmjan; 10 vols oflelters
founded 105 paper invented in China 364 empircdivided
105-6 Sec01ldDacian War; Daciaa Zosismns: New Histmy (Gk)
Rm11<-Ul.-province between brothers
Vakntinian (west) and 375 Aqueduct ofValens, Ammianlls Marce11inus (c. 375 Huns defeat Goths on
106 Ai"abia allnexed
112 Trajan '.'I Forum & Column Va]ens (east) ,Constantinople 330-c. 393), last great R. Dnicper; they flee
1] 3-? ParthianVVar: Alln~ni~l&;N Plutarch (c. 45-125): Famllel Lives 378 Valens defeated and Roman historian towards Danube & Roman
Mesopotamiaannexecio Tr~j<tl1dics. (Gk) of Greeks and Romans Augllsfan Hist01)! compiled territory
killed by Goths at battle of
Hadrian succeeds & halt.~ policy of
118 Pantheon rehuilL 120 Roman merchant !l.hes explores Adrianople Eunapius (345-420): Lives
Central Asia & Silk Route of the SOjJhisls (Gk)
122 Hadrian's V'/all JHvcnal (60-c. 130): Satin!.~
379 Buddhism becomes
12~ ',Hadrhul, sJrenglheils Rhine-
Danube frontier 391 Theodosius outla\vs state religion in China
124 Hadrian'sLibrary&Arch nt
130 founding of Aclia Capitolimi. Oil Athens ClaudiusPtolemy (D. 125-148)
compiles his Geogmph), at Alcxandda 396 Visigothspillage
site orJcrllsalclll sp~lI·ks JC\\'ish revolt c. 400 Nolilia Dignilalum
Suctonius (c. 75- c. 160): Lilies a/lhe lists civil and militaty posts
138 'Hadriau',dics, slIcceeded by 138 completion ofZaghouan
Caesars; lllusidaus jHen throughout empire
Alltoniinls Pills aqueduct to supply Carthagc

161. MarclIsAurelills& Lucius Verns 401-2 StilicllO repels

Apuleius (c. 125-?): The Golden Au Visigoth invasion of Italy.
1(;"6 crnb<l~ Irnm i'I'l ttrcwAu t'ollll..1
165 .. Romanscapture.Dura.Europtis, Imperial court moves from Claudian (d. 404): poems
anonymous poem Pn-uigilium Vent/·is Ic:at!h e.s China
sack Parthian capital Gtesiphon. ~man to Ravenna
(The Vigil of Venus)
167 Quadi&MalTomanili invade St Augustine of Hippo
Italy &. besiege Aquileia 406 Vandals, AlaIls & (35+'-430): Confessions; City
IGs.-:.75 i<;'ai's againstQuadi & Sucbi cross Rhine & ofGorl
M;:trcomai1ni ravage Gaul
192/3 assassination of Co mmod us 408 Stilicho executed on
leads la dvilwar in which Severns MarcusAure1ilts (121-180): 408 ArcadillS dies.
193-211S6.'('r<111 n'illg of Palatine treason cha:rge
becomes emperor palace, Scptizollium, Arch ofSeverus Meriitali01lS(Gk) Theodosius II empel'or in
(98 Scvcrus captures Nisibis ~tnd East
sacksC:tcsipholL N. i\ksopotamia a Tertullian (c.150-230): Apologia; The 410 Visiguths sack ROTllf'. 413 Theo'dosian \Nalls.
R(irimn ·pro\'ince Blood of Ch6s1 Emperor Honorius tells Constantinople
209-11 Sevenls campaigns in Brilons to defend
Cassius Dio (c. 155-230): Roman 424 1husoleum of Galla
Scotland. Dies at York Illt'IllSelVCS
I-lislOl), (Gk)
212 Cara:calla~xtend5. citizenship to Phtcidia at Ra\'enna
all free inhabithilts of empire
216 llaths l)f Canlcalia
.. ISVisigoths establish
217 Carac,llla I1mrdclW\ Antunine ilineml)' lists routes and 220 fall of Han dynasty in Chilla capital at Toulouse 421-2 East Romans defeat
milcagcs throughout Roman Empire 226 Parthian rulers ofIran
230 Persiaris invade Mesopotamia Persians
ovenhrown by Persian Sassaniau 1f2!i- 500 Angles, Saxons
2:l7-'F\ Pefsians attack Mesopotamia
dynasty & JuLes settle in Britain
250 Emperor Decius perseclItes Persian holy man ~hni (216-77) 438 Theoclosian Code
ChristiallS founds Manichaeism Pl!H)9 Vandals conquer 441-3 East Romans defeat
251 . Decitls killed inhattle against North Africa Persians, but are defeated 431-89 Sidonius
Goths 2!l2 first Persian invasion of Syria ApoJIinaris, Gallo-Roman
by Huns in Balkans
253 Persians capturcAIltioch writer
254 Marcomafllll attack RaveTllia. 151 At-tius repels I-hillS 451 Council of Cha1cedon
25fi Gothic Ocdauacks Asiaivlinor,
Franks attack lower Rhine -155 Vandab-. under
259 second Persian invasioll of Syria Gniseri c I;<lck Rome
260 Emperor Valcriail captured by
Per:~ia ns. Breakaway empire in Gaul 475-7 Emperor Zeno
Plotinus (205-69), lieo-Platonist ,176 last western emperor
262 Agri DCC\lmates abandoned philosopher influential at Rome temporarily deposed by
2G8GalliellUS defeats Coths at
dq)()sed Odoacer king at usurper Basilisclts
NaissllS but is assassinated soon <Ifter ROllle "184 Shah Firuz, Persian
269 St Antony becomes a hermit,
270 Au,ciiall emperor Dacia 480 Church of Qa'lat king, killed by HullS
founcliHg eastern mOllasticism
abaildoncd 4S1 Zeno makes Si'mon (Sim n l"i St)'lit ~~l.
273 AUI'clian n:captures Gallic & 482 Clovis king of Franks Ostrogolh Theodoric a Syria
Palmyrel1c empires 271 Aurclian 'Wall aroulld Rome consul
282 Canis invades Persia
4SS Zeno sends Theodoric
293 Diodetiall establishes tetrarch), to rule Italy
49:1 Thcodoric king at 491 A.nastasius becomes
303-5 "Great persecution" of Rotll~ emperor in East
30'1 IIsiung-nu (HullS) invade Chilla Boethins (c. 470-525): The
526 'Mausoleulll of Consolation (?f Philosophy
305 Diodetian & Maximian ahdicate 507 Franks cirin:, Visigorhs Theodoric at Ravelllla
313 freedom of worsh ip r(~stor('d to from Galll into Spain
Christians f- 31!J ,llasilica Nova completed

324 Constantine sole ruler !'i 11 Clovis dies; Frankish

325 Council of Nicaca king-dun' divided
329 Sl Peter's, Romc, comple(cd
330 Constantinople bccomes capital
ofcrilpire 324-337 Great Palace,
527 Justinian becomes
337 death ()fConstantinc; empire COllstanlinople,.chllrches of Holy emperor in East
528-9 Justinian's Code of
shared bet\\'een his 3 sons ApostIes.&St Eirene,Constantinople rl~~~ Ben diet of Nmsiil 532.JlIstinian begin.5 Civil Laws
360 first church ofStSophi<i, founds Bellcdictinc order rcbllilding ofI-Iaghia
356-60)11lian:flghtsFranks & Constanlirwpie, conlpleted ill i\lnnt ~ C,1SS1110 Sophia at Constantinople Cassiodorus (c. 490-583):
Alemaulli in Gaul
Variae (letters)
363 Empel'oi'Julian killed fighting :HO Byzantine reconquest
Persialls pr It,ll\"

1() 11

The nascent settlement of Rome soon found itself at war with its powerful
I: From City to Empire neighbours, the Sabines. According to tradition, Romulus enticed the
Sabines to a feast, during which the Romans seized the Sabine women as
The city of Rome began life as a modest village in the region of their wives. This, again, is probably legend which incorporates a germ of
truth, since Sabine influence was strong in early Rome and the eventual
Italy known as Latium. Nobody could have predicted that this
compromise, by which Rome was ruled alternately by Roman and Sabine
undistinguished settlement-merely one of several local centres
kings, may reflect Rome's origin in the coalescence of two ethnically dif-
gradually developing into cities during the 7th and 6th centuries ferent communities.
BC-would eventually become mistress not only of allltaly, but
of the entire Mediterranean world.
From Village to City

Our knowledge of early Rome is based on two sources of evidence: the The four earliest kings were shadowy characters, village leaders rather than
traditional histories written by Livy and others several centuries later; and powerful monarchs, and the settlement itself was small and undistinguished.
the findings of archaeology. Legend held that the Romans Major change began to take place during the 7th century, when tiled roofs
Above: it was the Etruscalls
traced their ancestry back to Aeneas, the hero who escaped and stone foundations appear, culminating in the draining of the Forum
who constructed the first
from the sack of Troy carrying his father Anchises on his back. major roads and bridges ill area and its laying out as a public square: a formal city centre. This coincid-
His subsequent travels took him to Carthage, where he met and celltral Italy. The road leading ed with the appearance of new rulers, the Etruscans.
north from the Etruscan city
fell in love with Dido before forsaking her and settling in Latium. of Vulci crossed the deep; nar- According to legend the first Etruscan ruler Tarquinius Priscus, took con-
There his son founded the city of Alba Longa, and it was from the row valley of the river Fiora trol of Rome by peaceful means, gaining the acquiescence and support of
011 the Ponte della Badia. The
kings of Alba Longa that Romulus and Remus, the founders of the leading families. He may well have had much to offer the early Romans,
original bridge cOllsisted of
Rome, were directly descended . stone piers supporting a since the Etruscans had a flourishing network of city-states in the region to
Much of this is evident invention. Troy, we now know, was wooden superstructure, but the north of Rome, and Rome stood at a crucial bridging point on the Tiber
the latter was retJlaced by which gave the Etruscans access to Latium and beyond. Rome never became
sacked in the 12tl1 or 13th century BC, whereas Carthage was only founded stone arches ill around the 1st
in the 8th or 9th. The idea that Trojan refugees sought refuge in central century BC. an Etruscan city-state in the strict sense of the term, but it took on many
Above: the EtruscatlS were
accomplished bronze-workers, Italy is probably also pure fiction . But the story of Romulus and Remus Etruscan trappings. It was especially important to the Etruscans since the lat-
producing distinctive and founding the city of Rome may incorpororate elements of truth. For it was ter had established a major zone of influence in Campania to the south, and
powerful sculptures. This
in the 8th century that two existing settlements, one on the Palatine Hill, the Tiber bridge was the strategic artery of communication between the
bronze chimaera-a mythical homeland and these southern outposts.
creature-was found 'lear the other on the Quirinal, coalesced to form a single village. This corre-
Arezzo and dates from the sponds in time approximately with the traditional foundation of Rome by The Etruscans gave Rome writing (an alphabet they in turn had taken from
4th century BC. Romulus in 753 BC. Early Rome has been given especially vivid form by the the Greeks), public buildings (including the Temple of Jupiter on the
discovery early this century of oval hut foundations on the Palatine Hill, and Capitol) and a new political, social and military organisation. The tradition-
by burials (both inhumations and cremations with "hut-urns") in the Forum al symbols of power, the fasces (bundles of rods and axes, which have given
valley and on the Esquiline Hill. Some of these burials date back as far as their name to fascism) were also Etruscan in origin. Under the Etruscan
the 10th century BC, long before Romulus's supposed foundation. kings, Rome became the undisputed leader of a large section of Latium
extending from the Alban Hills in the east to the Tiber mouth in the west.
Right: the most impressive of
The Romans retained their own language, however, though Etruscan fami-
Etruscan sites today is the lies took up residence in the city, and a number of Etruscan inscriptions
Ballditaccia cemetery at have been found there. Yet it was not without difficulty that the Romans
Cerveteri. FOIl1lded in the
eventually freed themselves from Etruscan overlordship.
7th century BC, this vast
lIecropoUs is dominated by a
series of large circular tombs,
mostly rock-cut, capped by The Birili of the Republic
domed mounds. Aroulld alld
amollg them are clusters of The Etruscans ruled Rome for a little over a century; the traditional dates
less gratldiose burial places, are 616 BC for the accession of the first Etruscan king; Tarquinius Priscus,
illcludillg "streets" of
rectangular tombs. and 510 BC for the expulsion of the last, Tarquinius Superbus-"the proud"
(Between them came a Latin king, Servius Tullius, son-in-law of Tarquinius
Priscus.) Livy tells us it was the rape of Lucretia by Sextus, son of Tarquin
the Proud, which incited rebellion by a group of Roman aristocrats led by
Lucius Junius Brutus. The Tarquins were expelled from Rome, and a new
constitution devised, whereby power rested in the hands of the senate (the
assembly of leading citizens), who delegated executive action to a pair of
consuls who were elected from among their number to serve for one year
Thus was born the Roman Republic.

I? 13

In reality, the story was less simple, for the Etruscans did not so easily"relin- to pick up the pieces, rebuild the city and restore their damaged prestige.
quish control of their crucial Tiber bridgehead. Tarquin the Proud sought One of their first acts was to provide Rome itself with better defences: the
help from Lars Porsenna, ruler of the Etruscan city of Clusium. According so-called Servian Wall, 6 miles (10 km) long, which was the only city wall
to Livy, the Romans beat off this attack, notably by Horatius's heroic stand that Rome possessed until the Emperor Aurelian built a new one over 500
at the Tiber bridge. Most likely, however, Porsenna did recapture Rome, years later But it was some years before the Romans were able to return to
but failed to hold it for long. The Latin cities banded together with Rome to the offensive.
throw off the Etruscan yoke, and won a major victory at Aricia in 506 BC. Whether the Romans entertained any long-term imperialist objectives or
Henceforth, though Etruscan cultural influence remained strong, the Latin merely conquered in self-defence is open to question, but the results were
cities were politically independent. impressive in either case. In 343 they came into conflict with the Samnites, a
The victory at Aricia did not mark an end to Rome's troubles, since the new powerful tribal confederation who controlled the central backbone of
constitution was not flawless and there remained southern Italy. This First Samnite War (343-41) was brief and inconclusive,
powerful external enemies. Internally, one serious but was followed by more significant Roman gains in the Second and Third
threat was the internecine feuding of the leading Wars (327-304; 298-90 BC) . During the same period Rome strengthened its
families, many of whom commanded the support hold over Latium and renewed operations against the Etruscans.
of large numbers of clients and used them on Victory in the Third Samnite War extended Roman territory across the
occasion to subvert the power of the state. Apennines to the Adriatic Sea. This made Rome a major regional power
Another was the struggle between the leading and attracted hostile attention from the Creek. cities around the coast of
families (the patricians) as a whole and the rest of southern Italy. They called in the help of Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, an ambi-
the population, especially the underprivileged tious adventurer who arrived at Tarentum in 280 BC with a well-trained army
groups (the plebeians). After some years of con- which included war elephants, the first the Romans had encountered.
flict the plebeians forced the senate to pass a writ- Pyrrhus won battles at Heraclea and Ausculum, but with such heavy loss that
ten series of laws (the Twelve Tables) which recc they gave him little real advantage. He was eventually defeated in 275, and
ognized certain rights and gave the plebeians Tarentum fell to the Romans in 272.
their own representatives, the tribunes. It was only
later, in the 4th centmy, that plebeians were given
the right to stand for the consulship and other Rome and the Mediterranean
major offices of state.
Rome now controlled the whole of
the Italian peninsula, either
Expansion in Italy through alliance or direct con-
quest. The next wars were fought
By the 5th century BC, Rome was an important against a much more redoubtable
city, but by no means a major regional power. The opponent-the Carthaginians-and
transition came about only through piecemeal the prize this time was not merely
expansion in a series of minor wars. Their earliest Italy but the whole of the West and
enemies were their immediate neighbours to east Central Mediterranean.
and south: the Aequi and Volsci. By the end of
the 5th century these peoples had been defeated, Rome's principal advantage
and the Romans pushed forward their own fron- lay in the enormous reserves
Above: the heart of tiers, establishing colonies (settlements of Roman citizens) in strategic of Italian manpower on
Republican Rome, seen from places. This practice, extensively followed in later years, enabled Rome to which it could call. Car-
the River Tiber. Opening ;'Ito thage, on the other hand,
the river is the mouth of the hold on to conquered territories and rewarded its citizens with fertile new
farmland. was a maritime power
Cloaca Maxima, the great
sewe.· which drained the with a redoubtable fleet.
valleys between the hills of The first resounding Roman military success was to the north of the city,
Rome, making possible the where in 396 BC after a ten-year siege they captured VeiL This was the south-
laying out of the Forum. ernmost of the Etruscan cities and a major metropolis, in every sense
Originally built by the
Etruscans, it was substantially Rome's equal. Any feelings of elation must have been short-lived, however,
repaired during the reign of since six years later Rome itself was sacked by a new and more distant
Augustus (27 BC-AD 14). enemy: the Celts (or Cauls). Celtic peoples from Central Europe had been
Above it is the rOtmd temple
of Rercules Victor, built ill the
establishing themselves in northern Italy during the course of the 6th and
5th centuries, and in 391 BC a Celtic war-band launched a raid deep into Right: this po.trait bltst of a
late 2nd century BC.
Roma" aristocrat is believed
Etruria. They returned the next year in even greater strength, defeated the to represeltt Lucilts ju"ius
Romans at the River Allia, and captured the city. The citadel on the Brutus, the founder of the
Capitoline Hill held out for a few months but eventually capitulated. The Republic. It dates from the
Celts withdrew with their booty back to northern Italy, leaving the Romans late 4th century BC.

14 15

Right: the Forum Romanum, and Macedonia together became the Roman province of Achaea. In the
first laid out as a public same year the Romans at last destroyed Carthage, their old enemy, in the
square around 600 BC, was
the celttre of civic life. Third Punic War; its territory became another new province, Mrica. Shortly
Through the middle runs the afterwards, in 133 BC, they gained yet another overseas territory when the
Sacra Via, Rome's oldest road. last king of Pergamum left his kingdom to the Romans in his will.
bl the foreground is Temple of
Castor and Pollux, first Thus, almost by accident, Rome became the ruler of a great Mediterranean
dedicated in in 484 BC and empire. The provinces brought wealth to Italy, and fortunes were made
rebuilt by the future Emperor
Tiberius betweett 7 BC and through the granting of valuable mineral concessions and enormous slave-
AD 6. Beyond it is the small run estates. Italian traders and craftsmen flourished on the proceeds of the
round Temple ofVesta. In the new prosperity. Slaves were imported to Italy, too, however . and wealthy
background rises the Palatine
Hill, on which the emperors landowners soon began to buy up and displace the original peasant farmers.
later constructed their palace. By the late 2nd century this process had led to renewed conflict between
rich and poor and demands from the latter for reform of the Roman consti-
tution. The background of social unease and the inability of the traditional
republican constitution to adapt to the needs of a powerful empire together
led to the rise of a series of over-mighty generals, championing the cause of
either aristocrats or the poor in the last century 'BC.
Below: this statue of a
patrician with busts of his
ancestors dates from either the Below: the Pons Aemilius, the
first stolte bridge across the
The Fall of the Republic
1st century BC or the 1st AD.
The patricians were the Tibel; was built in 142 nc. The beginning of the end of the Republic came when the brothers
aristocracy of Rome, and The First Punic War (264-41 BC) was fought for control of Sicily. The All that survives today is
this one arch, knowll as Gracchus challenged the traditional constitutional order in the 130s and
during the later Republic they Carthaginians had long held the western end of the island and had sought
came increasingly into conflict the POlite Rotto. 120s BC. Though members of the aristocracy themselves, they sought to par-
from time to time to conquer the Greek cities of eastern Sicily, such as
with senators and generals
who took the part of the Catana and Syracuse. The cause of the First Punic War, as of many great
plebeians. In the late 2nd conflicts, was trivial in origin but revived old rivalries and alerted the
century BC the bmthers Carthaginians to the growing threat from Rome. Despite their seafaring
Gracchus tried to allocate
skill, the Carthaginians were defeated by the Romans in a number of naval
state lands to poorer citizens,
but these reforms gave rise to engagements and by the end of war Sicily was reduced to the status of a
such hostility that both were Roman province, becoming indeed Rome's first overseas possession.
The Carthaginians were slow to accept their reverse, and in 218 struck back
in the Second Punic War, with an invasion of Italy itself, led by Hannibal.
This time it was the Romans who were worsted in their chosen element, th~
land battle, but despite crushing victories at Cannae and Lake Trasimene
Hannibal could not shake Rome's hold on the Italian peninsula, and was
unable to attack the city itself. In the end the Romans turned the tables by
invading Carthaginian territory. Hannibal crossed back to Mrica to defend
his homeland but was defeated in the final battle of the war, at Zama, by the
Roman general Scipio "Mricanus" in 202 BC.
The victory over Hannibal removed Carthage as a military threat, but did
not bring the Romans any great measure of peace Instead, they found
themselves embroiled in new wars which took them further and further
afield. In the west, they became involved in a whole succession of wars in
Spain, seeking to protect and expand the territory in the south of the coun-
try which they had taken from the Carthaginians. In Italy, close to home,
they renewed the conquest of the Celtic 'lands in the north, which became
the province of Gallia Cisalpina (Gaul-this-side-of-the-Alps). But the greatest
wars of the 2nd cen:i:ury BC were fought in the Balkans and the East
Mediterranean. As the century began, the Romans declared war on Philip,
king of Macedonia, and in 196 defeated th e Macedonian army at
Cynoscephalae. The Romans did not initially seek a lasting foothold in the
Balkans, but merely wished to neutralize a military threat. A quarter of a
century later they were back fighting a new Macedonian king, Perseus, and
by 146 BC had come to realize they had no alternative to direct rule. Greece

16 17

ment Caesar became consul in 59 BC and was then made governor of the
Coin hoards
two Gallic provinces, one-Cisalpina-south of the Alps, the other-
from Italy,
Transalpina-covering the southern part of modern France. He embarked
100-3 BC
on a campaign of conquest, the Gallic War, which resulted in a huge acces-
sion of new territory, and then used his battle-hardened army to overthrow
Pompey and take supreme power for himself. Caesar's career was cut short
by his assassination at Rome in 44 BC, but rule by one man was becoming an
increasingly inevitable prospect. It was a prospect brought to fruition by
Octavian, Caesar's adoptive son. He and Mark Antony, Caesar's friend and
lieutenant, defeated Caesar's assassins at the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC.
"E'" Below: Greece became a
'0" Roman province in the middle They then established the Second Triumvirate, joining forces with MarcllS
(; of the 2nd century BC. The Aemilius Lepidus to divide power between them. The arrangement did not
Roman market at Athens (seen last, however, and eventually resolved itself into direct military connict
'" here) was built in the time of

Julius Caesar and Augustus. between Octavian and Mark Antony. Octavian's victory at the battle of
T/,e octagonal Tower of the Actium left him sole ruler and in 27 BC the Senate granted him the title
Winds beyond it was also Augustus, making him the first official emperor of Rome.
built during the period of
;;; ;::: N ~ -- oD
Roma1l domi1latio1l, ill the
:!;'" '" oD oD
'" 0; ~ '"'1 r l'.,. 'i' 'i' '"
6'" J, J, 6 J, 0'l' J: 0
~ 0
0 J, 6 J, 6 ::\ mid-1st century BC. Decorated
~ '" '" 0:> 0:> "- "- oD oD

'" "'
'" '" with ,·eliefs of the eight winds,
it was originally topped by a
weather vane. Inside was a
Above: Republican silver wafer clock, or horologium.
eel out public land to the dispossessed Italian peasant farmers. Other mea-
coins-mostly denarii-of the
2nd and 1st centuries nc. The
sures followed, but many senators came to view the Gracchi as public ene-
responsiblility for issuing mies, and both the brothers met violent deaths.
coins lay with moneyers
appointed by the Republic. The next champion of the people was Gaius Marius, a brilliant military com-
They put their names on the mander who reformed the Roman army and saved Italy from the invading
coins, and oftett chose designs Cimbri and Teutones in 102 and 101 BC. He departed from established
which reflected their family
history. The head of Roma practice by recruiting his soldiers not only from the landed citizens but
and the four-horsed chariot from landless citizens, including the growing urban proletariat. These were
which appeared on many people who, once the wars were over, looked to their commander for a
coins, however, celebrated
more permanent reward in the shape of land of their own. Thus the situa-
the city itself.
tion developed where commanders and their armies banded together in
Above right: the political con- pursuit of political objectives, the commanders seeking power and the sol-
flicts and civil wars of the 1st diers rewards.
century BC are reflected in the
number of coin hoards buried The temporary ascendancy achieved by Marius was eclipsed by that of Sulla
throughout Italy, Sicily,
Corsica and Sardinia, and not in the 80s BC. Sulla made his name in two crucial wars: the first in Italy itself,
recovered by their owners. the so-called Social War of 91-89 BC, where the Italian allies, though they
lost the war, largely won their demand for full Roman citizenship; and the
second the defeat of Mithridates, king of Pontus, who chose this moment of
Roman weakness to overrun Asia Minor and Greece. Sulla was a staunch
proponent of aristocratic privilege, and his short-lived monarchy saw the
repeal of pro-popular legislation and the condemnation, usually without
trial, of thousands of his enemies.
After Sulla's death the pendulum swung back somewhat in favour of the
people under a successful new commander, Pompey the Great. He became
immensely popular for clearing the seas of pirates and went on to impose a
new political settlement on the warring kingdoms of the East Mediter-
ranean, notably making Syria a Roman province. When he returned to
Rome in 62 BC he found himself faced by two astute political opponents: the
immensely wealthy Marcus Licinius Crassus, and the young but promising
Gaius Julius Caesar.
Rather than coming to blows, the three men reached a political accommo-
dation now known as the First Triumvirate. Under the terms of this arrange-

18 19

The Origins of Rome I/Pre-urban Rome, /

Left: the Lapis Niger inscription,
so called because it was fou1ld
u1Ider a blade stone i1l the
9th-8th century BC "
Forum Romanum, is the
The early centuries saw Rome grow from a cluster of hilltop farms Q cremation grave earliest known Latin
@ inhumation grave co text, dating from the
into a walled city with temples and a paved forum. later 6th or early
7th century BC.
Tradition held that Rome was founded in 754 BC by twin boys, Romulus and H i LL . Vimina[
"How, then, could Remus, who were abandoned by their parents but suckled by a she-wolf. HiLL

Romulus have
acted with a
Archaeology has revealed that the city actually began life in the 9th or 8th
century BC as a series of smaJl farmsteads on a group of hills overlooking the I ( ......


wisdom more
River Tiber. Between the hills were marshy vaJleys where the local people
buried their dead in cemeteries of cremations or inhumations. Early hous- ~;;i:ry ~
divine, both es, such as the so-caJled "Hut of Romulus", preserved as a pattern of post- o
(ApilQlill~ 0
holes on the Palatine, would probably have had walls of wattle and daub,
availing himself of HUl ~ EsqlliHIlC
and thatched roofs. This early settlement may weJl have flourished, situated o ".~ Forutn Flill
all the advantages as it was overlooking a convenient crossing point on the Tiber and astride ~emetery

the important salt route running inland from the river mouth. _::. Pa/aJi'lIc "
oJ the sea and /~
The crucial developme nt came in the later 7th century BC, when an I "~l=~r
- Hill
avoiding its f<t ~
Etruscan dynasty, the Tarquins, took control of Rome and began its trans- i.lit hut of Ro....,ulu.
disadvantages, formation from village into city. The Forum valley was drained by the canal- t:..' ,:'
than by placing his ization of the Cloaca Maxima, and was converted into a public square with a Hill Viminal
gravel paved surface. A woode n bridge, the Pons Sublicius, was thrown Hill
city on the bank of
a 'neveT~lailzng river
across the Tiber, and an Etruscan-style temple to Jupiter Capitolinus built
on the CapitoL There may also have been an aggm; or city wall, with a defen-
whose broad strea:m sive ditch beyond it, though the oldest defence which survives today (the so- I
caJled Servian WaJl) dates only from the 4th century BC.
.flows with
Roman historians maintained that the Romans evicted their last Etruscan
r ~
u:n:o((Tying current king, Tarquin tl1e Proud, in 510 BC, and became a republic governed by a
into the sea? " pair of annually elected magistrates, the consuls. It was a mome ntous step,
Cicero, the first in a sequence which was to take Rome in less than five centuries
from small Italian town to mistress of the Mediterranean .


r.h~ bridge of Rome:

Pons Sublicu.

of tbe dead were .placed hI

hllt-ums, pottery vessels _2 N
shaped to resemble

Right: the she-wolf which
suckled Romulus and Remus the houses of the
became the symbol of Rome, livi1tg. These
appearing in statuary, relief sbow us how
the first
carving and on coins from
houses of
Republican times on. This
bronze figure is believed to be
the one set up in the Capitol
by the aedile Ogulnius in
Rome must /
' ( 2/The first city, 7th-4th
century BC
,.,.,. Servian wall
296 !lC, although its Etruscan
workmanship suggests that it ~ bridge sewer
was made several centuries


The Unification of Italy 11,,/1I<<lii


t p liThe expansion of
Rome, 500-200 BC
The Roman conquest of Italy was slow and hardfought, but by Roman territory:
the middle of the 3rd century BC, they were masters of the
peninsula. of-qulleia
Right: this 3rd-century BC
From the early days of the Republic, Rome Cenomanl ~,~, {;/l1('1

pottery dish from Campania behaved as an expansionist power, fighting PIa(entia

Piace!lQ J'~
°verena ~ °PatIi um
Celtic settlement
shows an ['tdian elephant frequent wars to gain new territory and o 1'4 Reggium:t hd Roman or Italian city
equipped for war-probably safeguard its security. The first major An.are.-- "~""I.. l.ejil,!"m.~ 3- -- Greek colony
one of the 20 brought to Italy
by Pyrrhus, which would have
been the first the Romans had
gain was the capture of Veii, the south-
ernmost of the Etruscan cities, in 396
f llg a u ll i
~sa bat·la
1'/4 At"
Panna .. RelOOO
1: tt · i:'- Bnii
Mudn: ·
seen. BC. Any elation was shortlived, however, ~
"'j, ."
"4r frinia.tes j
1;0. / "done.
& Ariminum IJ> Q

~ orumO lmini ~.
Pyrrhus's campaigns
as six years later a Celtic raiding party g'll /' t a ~ Aorenti. CornelJi ~
descended from northern Italy, defeated
[, t 11

, :.;, Rorenc~1
. .\
fo rli
Fanum Fortunae
x Roman victory
the Romans at the River Allia and cap- Pis. ·1 A e~''t'n
'r c. oAnco na X Roman defeat
tured and sacked Rome itself. This proved ~ -. mle., ~ 298-90 BC

Below: this ivory plaque, one

merely a temporary setback, and during the d.,.bii ~A'sculum Third Samnite War--

Ascoli Roman victory at Sentmum
of a pair from Palestrjna in rest of the 4th century BC the Romans steadily (295) paves way (or final
~ ~ l eceno
Italy, gives a good impression
of the armour and equipmellt
used by Romall soldiers ill the
expanded their political and military influence tlll'Ough central Italy. They
did this by an astute mixture of warfare and diplomacy, fighting only where I Uiu. ::i Sub;"i
.... . ami,r,:- ..I. ,:::."
conquest of Samniles
<> 275 BC
3rd celltury BC. necessary. They also adopted a policy of founding Roman colonies at strate-
gic places to consolidate tlleir hold on newly conquered territory.
I ~. ..}i.II/ .•
~~ "YT~~
1. ,*>:;

G,-? ~Corfin ium

Romans defeat Pyrrhus
who leaves Italy

390BC~ ~ .-.-" Al1)a

The Romans gained mastery of Latium in the Latin war of 340-38 BC, and Celts defeat Romans Fucens""Sallln;te.
then defeated their erstwhile allies tlle Samnites in the Second and Third on River Allia and Ro~
sock Rome 1.--.::. ""
Samnite Wars of 327-304 and 298-90 BC. This extended their power east to Below: the bottom panel ; ~
the Adriatic and soutllwards to the Bay of Naples. Their next major war was f/}is calved st.lit,e from Tarrac1n.a .-::-
against a foreign invader, PYlThus, King of Epirus in northwest Greece. In III lIorthe;w Italy sflOws i TCI'r'tH::ina
280 he landed in southern Italy with an army of 25,000 men and 20 ele-
phants, the first the Romans had encountered. Despite several victories,
Pyrrhus was unable lO make significant headway and withdrew back to
Epirus five years later. This left the Romans free to consolidate their hold
Elm SCall ~/t horseback
fighting a Celtic soldier. :
siOlle dates from ~.",,,,,1,,"1Il
nc, wheu the Celts
pushillg tfJe
tpcir# ulellletlts i"
327-304 BC O
Romans win Second
Samnite War despite
defeat at Caudine Forks
- -- --==:....lIo.

340 BCO
~"!'~~~ ~
I " V
W 0
Lucall - -
on southern Italy, and cast their eyes across the straits to Sicily where, in Italy. - - - - - Romalls defeat LatinS
264, they came into direct conflict with tlle Carthaginians (~ pages 24-25).
r r h l, -rt a n 343-41 BC <>
First Samnite War gives Rome
control over Componia
2/The languages of 51 I ' (( invades
Italy, 5th century BC
f Italy

East Italic

° Rhegium
Reggio "ca
Si c i 1,\' Cabna
~ , l s. r /. Cata ne
~ 1(;1l1 0

278-5 BC 4)
Agrigentum!' N

Gelr campaigns
in Sicily
(> rl " t t>. r r rt .// n
Etruscan (! {/. S e a
[:==J ligurian


Th e Wars with Carthage 1

Rome' s expans ion into southe rn Italy brings it into conflic t with
the other major power in the Centra l Medite rranea n: Carthage.

a mantIm e
By the 3rd century BC , Carthag e h ad become the centre of
and North Mrica and
empire stretchi ng along the coasts of sO\1thern Spain
The major enemie s of the , Cartha-
includi ng the western part of Sicily.
years been the Greek cities of Sicily and ;outher n
ginians had for many Taranto
Italy, and Sicily had become a ft:equen t battlegr ound between the two sides. I
() .204 BC
~Carale$ Scipio launches
mercen ar- invasion of
Rome was sucked into the Sicilian quarrel in 264 BC when Italian Africa
inians, To counter
ies at Messina called for their help against the Carthag Hippo liIY~~r:!! ~
the powerful Carthag inian navy, the Romans had to build their own fleet. Re&!usQ UtiC~o, ,,; ' SIqIUA-(
Sy':"cus. \ I
against the Carthag inians on land at Agrigen tum -~
They were success ful ~-----t °Ca ago "
(256), but their invasion of IN U M L D 1 - - - - -7 "-'- + - - - - -1
(262) and at sea off Mylae (260) and Ecnomu s ; hmaX-
Drepan a in 249. Eight
Mrica was a disaster , and their fle e t was destroye d at . 202 BC 0 .---- _- ' 0 20JM
Above: this portmit bllst, 2/The Second Punic War, 264-41 BC SiipiCJ,J'le(ea15 Hadrumcru m HanllibaJIwithdraws
in a sea
fOlmd near Naples, is more years of war followed before the Romans won a final victory o Roman territory, 218 BC .......,. Hannibal, 218-16 BC
HalmibaJ at (rom Ita~ to defend
believed to be of Hannibal battle of ZD i
battle off the Aegates islands. "'-'" Hasdrubal. 208- 7 BC
(247-183 BC), although the Carthaginian territory. 218 BC
but did not
Victory in th e First Punic War gave the Romans control of Sicily,
workman ship dates from the .......,. Scipio, 209-06 BC
2nd ce'ttuIY AD. A talented war, directed at R om e
CJ area defecting to Hannibal ... _~ Scipio, 204 BC
from launchi ng a second
militaty stmtegist, Hannibal deter the Carthag inians X Roman Victory ... _~ Hannibal. 203 BC
was the son of Hamilcar
Barca, who had conquered
itself, in 218. The leade r of the Carth aginian forces
marche d his army from souther n Spain across the Alps
al, who
n Italy, X Carthaginian victory @ Carthaginian city I
Spain for the CatThagillians. sent against him. For 16 years h e campai gned
defeatin g the Roman armies
and souther n Italy, winning crushin g set-piec e battles at Lake
Opposite: Carthage was in central
founded in the 9th Ce1ltury BC Trasime ne and Cannae. Hannib al could not capture Rome itself,
by Phoenician traders and much of souther n Italy defected to
and althoug h at the height of his success
grew illto the capital of a tlle Romans ' hold on the peninsu la. At last, in Hannibal's lines
powerful, itarit;me empire. him, he was unable to break
forced to return to Mrica to defend Carthag e itself against a • Roman lines
This street of substantial, 203, he was
general Scipio at Zama in
well-built houses dates from Roman counter -attack. His defeat by the Roman
sholTly after the Second Punic 's stand-
Wrar, testimony to its 202 brough t the Second Punic War to an end and confirm ed Rome ~1 ___ .~

continued prosperity. ing as the regiona l superpo wer.

I:] Gaulsl

260 BC" : b
~ Spani.. rd~ §
249 BC
14Romans d!'feat , Heavy Africans Africans
lIThe First Punic Carthagi,;!ans . ·o Upara

War, 264-41 BC 9 24/ iBC

defeat Romans
I at sea Myl.e
First Phase
Second Phase


Carthaginian city
Carthaginian colony
Romari Victory
bl/ngs 6n end
at sea

Xdanor mu~ Tynd~l· i..O' ~ ° [)

t'1 esSina q
, - - - - -- - - -____ __L -__~

41 The Battle of Cannae, 216 BC

Roman lines

to the war Hannibal's lines •
~' o $olus
'X --, DI!epana ~ --
Cl Greek colony
all"N --- Tauromen iu mo, .
X Roman victory Aegates
Islands 241
' 249
.. ,

X Carthaginia n victor; "lybaeumO

.......,. Roman campaigns
, I a
omans drive out
~rthagrnian s
262 BC . - - - Agn ' entum
Q Rom/m, capture .. U

7' Cart/lOginian .~ .
headquarters 51 The Battle of
Zama, 202 BC
Hannibal's lines
• Roman lin·es
e A elephants
oman InvQsion 256 BC 9 r
C Hannibal's camp
f Africa ehc/s Romans defeat
\ Carthaginian. C Roman camp
at sea

Rome's Conquest of the East 2/The East Mediterranean

world, 100 BC
In the space of a century, Rome became the dominant political and r-I Roman province
L---.J with dote of acquisition
military power in the eastern Mediterranean. c=J Seleucid kingdom

From the end of the 4th century BC , the eastern Medite rranean was domi-
C==:J Ptolemaic kingdom

nated by the Hellenistic states which Alexander the Great's generals h ad X battle
11tl h
W\ 5.'
L,------,.-~""~:-:-:--_ _ __.l _- \,1"1
carved out of his empire after his d eath: Macedonia; the Ptolemaic king-
dom of Egypt; the Seleucid realm and, in the 3rd century, Pergamum. In
theory, the Seleucid kings ruled a vast empire stretching from the Aegean
to Mghanistan, but in practice their control was weak and patchy.
Rome entered into eastern politics at the time of the Second Punic War,
when King Philip V of Macedon made an alliance with Hannibal. To con-
tain Philip's ambitions on the Dalmatian coast, the Romans went to war in
214 and again in 200, winning a crushing victory at Cynoscephalae in 197
This was their first success over the formidable form a tion of spearmen
known as the Macedonian phalanx. Five years later the Romans became
111 I' M (T r " I 11
involved in a still more distant war when the king of Pergamum appealed tI i ( /' I I If I' 11 11 11/
for help against his eastern neighbour, the Seleucid ruler Antiochus Ill.
The Romans crushed Antiochus's land army at Magnesia in 190. Cyr~ne
Above: the ruins of the temple The legions we re back in ac tion in Mace donia 20 ye ars later, this tim e
of Apollo at Corillth. The sack
against Philip's son Perseus. At the battle of Pydna in 168 the Romans won a 30 -
ofthe city by the Rot/lall
genera/Mummius ill 146 BC decisive victory and reduced Macedonia to a Roman province. Greece was
sent shock waves through the added in 146, after a war in which the Romans destroyed the leading Greek r---~------------~ .
Greek world. The historiall city, Corinth. Rome acquired its first territory beyond the Aegean in 133,
Pallsanias recorded that "the liThe East Mediterranean
majority ... were put to the when the last king of Pe rgamum bequeathed his kingdom to the Roman
sword by the Romans, but the people; it became the province of Asia. In 101 Romans established a furth er world, 200 BC
womell and children province of Cilicia in an effort to stamp out piracy. It was not until the wars t=J Kingdom of Macedon
Mltmmills sold into slavery." allies and dependents
Mummius became rich on the
of the 1st century, however, that Rome cast its imperial noose around the of Macedon
proceeds, and built a temple entire region, from the Black Sea to Syria --~~~ Kingdom of Pergamum
to the god Hercules at Rome.
andEgyp~ Se leucid kingdom
I' H IU5 technically subject to
Ul' Seleucid kings

Ptolemaic kingdom
Roman territory
_ __~.: Istet DrI}l 1t1J1' Byzantiu m T"'pe~u.
_-~ - - ,-IlRACE Tnbzon
~ ~-
Pell. a,~ OTh-es5~lon:L
Istnnb ul
a --0
----...,,-- --
_r".s)~~ J --<>----'r --
~\~ -
197 Ma-re-
~~ ~ ,...
-O M I.enae.
Co r nth Achens~

-=- C ,-e I c--




The Over-Mighty Generals The Temple of Fortuna Primigenia at Praesneste.

Fortuna Primigeltia was origillally a popular
mother godd.ess revered at this old Etruscan city
In the last century BC a series of generals built up military and near Rome. Sulla built this grandiose
political power, pushing the Republic towards dictatorship. temple to her arolmd 80 BC. The
massive substructure, carved
into the hillside,
The first of these over-mighty generals was Gaius Marius, who won renown still survives.
A great
for his victory over King Jugurtha of Numidia and went on to save Rome
from the threat of invasion by the Germanic war bands of Cimbri and
Teutones. Maril:'s also reformed the Roman army, making it a more disci-
plined and redoubtable fightin g force. His place as leading ge n eral was
taken by Sulla, who distinguished himself in the Social War of 91-89 BC
against Rome's former Italian allies. In 86 BC Sulla moved east to defeat
King Mithridates of Pontus, who had taken advantage of the Social War to
invade Roman territory in Asia Minor and Greece. When Sulla returned to
Rome in 82 BC, he quelled the political opposition and h ad himself made
dictator with absolute power. In 79 BC h e abdicated and retired to private
life, and died shortly afterwards. This left the field open for younger rivals,

." --~~-­
Above: this late republican including Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great). In the 70s BC
portrait bllst in the Vatican Pompey campaigned in Spain against the rebel general Sertorius, and in J double
Mllseum is believed to represent the following decade h e reached the peak of his power In 67 BC he was ramp leads up
Caills Maritls (c.157-86 BC). to a mO'ltImental
After serving with Scipio
given an extraordinary command against the pirates who were harrying staircase which connects
Aemilialllls in Spaill, Marius Mediterranean shipping, and flushed them from their Cilician strongholds. two porticoed terraces and leads to
rose through the ranks. He was He th en went on to inflict a fin al d efeat on Mithridates of Pontus n ear the sacred enclosure at the top. The scale of
in his fifties when his victories the templ~ is a measure of Sulla's ambitions; he
Nicopolis, and in 64 BC imposed a general settle- had similiar bpilding plans for Rome, but they
over the Cimbri and Telltones
made him the most powerful ment on the Near East, making the remains remained unfulfilled at his death.
man in Rome. of the Sel euc id kingdom the Roman
province of Syria, and J udaea a Roman
orEflNUS -4S0Ium.
101 B~ O I
Mantis defeats Clmbn /t/~1 300 mile,.
105 8c oI ,- "''''II,I,!.
/ Will TelllOn e. N . <> 113
r Homoo army o! ela B~

I Artluslo
)<i Germ anIC War bands of
Cimbr; and Teuto,neNle(ear

H I S 'P A I
M.uiliJ) () S~"tI~(l
l'1.rselne~ A"t-"n -rl'ove~ce
CISiU.Pl A ROmans and Inv5de Gaol

0 91--89 BC
Soqal War: Straw and Sulla
J!.' fl A i 11 /' .\

77 Bc t ~ suppress Ira/i/Jn apriSrfig; widespteolJ 13 III I h Seo

1'!lY,fcn(t~ Spain to 102 BC t _ .£0RSICA ITALlA 0 73 6C' ?-4 grams of Roman drJzcnshiP
cMh rcbel gen~ral SmarM;
;t:rlorius murdered br
defears Teutones I
Sp!'rtocus loun<h~"
o NicopOlis
0 66 at
ffis own offker 72 M 82 6C. ~U)'NIA ,~ 0 71 aC MAGEDt>NlA ...
Pomper def~ilts Mithridales
11/10 wprures Rome C:!pua Spoill1C"s . '11 d I ttl C' A np""9ClA ~.~,\~"
.~ ~' e n
' a
becomes obs I I . e ASIA "" fVJ ," of Po;;rus and receiVes
"bdlCor I 7~ u ~ (n 'Apulla; survWo~s crucified M"" Perg;unum
s n BC along tile Via APPla ._ ,I'W'I'"
~ .
0 <> 88 IlC
Mitl"idates_kin~ o[Ponws Invades PAR'llllAN
submISsion-of Armenians

r 'r", .()
.... n U 'e
. o Syracusae . 86 BC
I • :,h. ..,", Atheqae
n ... ~
E -.o
province ofAsia ~,~
I Antloch
~o.~ 64 8C

Right: this heroic stattle of a

GoIU' Marius defeat> SYfacu,e Sullo defeats Mith(uiates ~ Pompey's'Eastem Settie}lle(1t:
Killg )ugvril!Oof NI/mid/a of P9nrus 0\ ClJoeron~ <;>Yl'ij.US \ Syria becomes a Raman prQvince,
victoriolls general was fmind 111 and Orchomenus 1 CRETA / 1uda80 0 Roman depenrJency
nearPompey's Theatre in The Roman Empire , 60 BC <1/ (f'-e illle 'I ''n't7Jl ~ 68-f>7BC - - 9 67SC
Rome; it may be the one
beneath which IIIlius Caesar
c=J Ro man territory. 60 BC e q ; I f' r r (/. 11 I! tr 11
Metellus suppresses Cretoll
pirates and makes Crete a JUDAFA
Pamper suppresses
Mediterranean pira..,.
was assassinated. CllaeZlS X Roman victory Rqman PrOVillce and destroys pirate
strongholds In C/lido
Pompeius Magn Zls
(106-48 BC) who bllilt the X Roma n defeat CYRENAlCA
0 96 BC
/" ..6lexandria
theatre, was the leading man ~ Ro mans fight Romans Cyrenalca bequeothed J'TO LEMATC
at Rome IIlltil he was rebellion 10 Rome KINGUOM O~.,
chaIlelZged by Caesar, EGYPT .<!,~
pursued to Egypt and killed. :?;-


Caesar's Conquest of Gaul A~e

55-54 BC .
British tribes give aid to Gallic
bels, Caes!" sends reconnaissance 61g6e ry
1SS1On, Full scale expedition next year 0 Mou n
defeats (assi. 10llnl15 north o[ r ha . f') Cab 057 BC
In eight years of dogged fighting, Julius Caesar brought the diverse CI<~lI urn ~ 56 BC
Caesar moves against Belgqe. Ca 7sar bridges ~hihe
and independent peoples of Caul into the Roman Empire. '1(I;I,.)1.~l
He 'defeats the Nervii after and campaigns :
En glisll(' , ~ fighting 'W"", - j against Germani
The conquest of Gaul is one of the best known episodes in Roman history,
thanks to the detailed account written by Julius Caesar, commander of the
Roman forces. His Gallic Wars allows us to follow the progress of the Roman HLBC
. Gallic confederacy under .
invasion year by year, until eventually the whole of France and Belgium had Vercirgetorix rebels against
been transformed into a Roman province. Roman rul';,' but i~ '('rushed
at Alesi~
Julius Caesar was a rising star of the Roman political world when he was
appointed governor of northern Italy and southern France in 59 BC. Not
content to remain within the boundaries of his province, he quickly
embarked on an ambitious campaign of con- . 56 BC ~
V. Ve l/ e t ;
( Cen.bum
O Ilcans
0 58 BC
Helvetii ity to m(grote
l(.reSL Caesar blli§ witb-
Caesar's (le ' defeats
quest. At first, he posed as an ally of various Veneti in se bl1t1ll! 56 5<;" .~ "" '..".' A~dui.pnd defeats -
- .... \1" . w ,j{.,
Gallic peoples, aiding them in their struggles o D~r fu{f.,.l: ~ 0...., Avaricum Alesla
incomers at Bibrao;te

against their neighbours or foreign aggressors. Pie tO Il ei Bou rge~ C

By the second year of his command, however, Lemonum ~
.©BlbX--~---1 HeT,
he had decided to conquer the whole country. Poitlers .... cte
Ml'nt s.;uvray
Mare Ae dui Matisco
Cantabricum C Macon

DfI )' of
Bi scay


0"" ,.
~.....:~ 1(}J.}'l:
r ---a
- UxeUodunum l
~ Tl'ansalpinal
C,i saJp in a

;; 51-50 BcF _ I~ V'

~ Caesar invades 'i3. OD
"1;' Aquitanla and t! n f t,-
forces surrender
of Uxellodunum Aquae Sextiae
Aix-cn-P)'ovence ,
-__ ° An tlpolis

Massllln Antibes
Om Hjs p~cn i a
~' ",
Marse ille,

l/Caesar's campaigns in Gaul,

100 miles
58-50 BC
Gallia Roman provinces
2/The defeat of
Despite the popular image, the peoples of Gaul whom Caesar sought to sub- Aedlli Gallic states
Above: a reCOllstl'tlctiOI1 of the Vercingetorix, 52 BC
fOl'tificatiolls at Alesia, where due were far from disorganized barbarians. They had coins and kings, towns major Gallic oppidum
Verciltgetorix made his last
stalld against the Romalls.
and trade, and sophisticated craftsmanship in bronze and gold. They put up @ major British hill fort I J rebellious tribes

a fterce struggle, and on more than one occasion came close to inflicting major Roman city
~ Gallic oppidum
serious defeat on the Roman legions. Roman road
Caesar's route:
(0 Roman held oppidum
Six years of determined compaigning, however, including two celebrated
Above right: A Gallic coin forays to Britain, yielded results. By the winter of 53 BC it seemed as though 58 BC 54 BC -; Caesar's route
showing the head of the young Gaul was at last conquered. But the greatest test of Roman arms was yet to
warrior Vercinget011x, who
come, for the following year the Gauls rose up in revolt, led by a young
57 BC 53 BC
X battle
56 BC 51 BC
led the rebellioll agaillst
Roman rule ill 52 BC. After his
defeat he was taken to Rome
where he appeared ill Caesar's
Gallic chieftain, Vercingetorix. The climax came at the siege of Alesia,
where Vercingetorix was eventually forced into submission. Gaul was won,
and after a further two years' consolidation Caesar was ready to embark on
-X 55 BC

tdumph before being

strangled. the next stage of his career-the seizure of supreme power in Rome itself.

Egypt where, in the Alexandrian War, he defeated the ruling monarch and
Crossing the Rubicon placed Cleopatra in control. Then in 47 he marched his armies back to Italy
through t~e easter~ provinces. The survivors of Pharsalus had regrouped in
NOl'th Africa, and 111 46. ~e won a further victory against them at Thapsus.
With a powerful army at his command, Caesar was able to defeat The last sparks of oppOSItIon were stamped out in 45 BC when Caesar defeat-
his opponents and make himself the ruler of the Roman world. ed the army of Pompey' s sons at Munda in Spain.
The vic~ory at M~I~da removed the last of Caesar's enemies in the provinces.
The conquest of Gaul saw Julius Caesar at the head of a large and seasoned Senatonal OpposltlOn to the rule of one man was still deeply entrenched,
"/ foresee rw jJeace army, and in 49 BC he led it across the Rubicon into Italy. It was an act of however. and came to a head in February 44 when Caesar had himself
war, since no commander was allowed to take his soldiers outside his
that can last a appointed perpetual dictator, making him
province without express senatorial permission, and the River Rubicon was in effect the monarch of Rome. A month
yea.r~· and the the boundary of Cisalpine Gaul. Caesar marched south to occupy Rome, later, on 15 March, he was assassinated by
neaTer the while the senatorial party opposed to him fled across the Adriatic to a group of senators on the eve of his
Dyrrhachium. There they assembled their own army under the command of
struggle-and there Pompey, who was now Caesar's arch-rival. Caesar followed, and laid siege
departure for a campaign against the
is bound to be a to Dyrrhachium. Pompey broke
struggle- through his encirclement and
withdrew across the Balkans.
ajJjJroaches, the The two armies eventually m eL
nwre clearly do we at Pharsalus in Thrace, where
see the danger of on 6 June 48 BC, Caesar won an
overwhelming victory.
it. .. Gnaill,s
Pompey fled to Egypt, where he,
PomtJeY is was treacherously murdered, bUl tbis
detc/"rnirz,ed rwt to did not mark the end of resistance to
allow Gaius Caesar Caesar. Late in 48 Caesar
to be elected consul
unless he has
handed o'oer his
army and
jJ'YO'oinces; Caesar
on the other harul is
convinced that there >." \

is no safety for him PARTHIAN

if he once quits his
Phal"S. IU
arr71JI ... i . 48 BC Q
\ '
Letter from lotPhorsollls
and ~ees to Egypt
-.l - - ---=
Rome 50 BC d'i I
The war between Caesar 1 q I'
e I I I
.46 BC 7z t
and Pompey, 49-44 BC
_ Roman frontier, 44 BC
Caesar defeats
Pompeian forces
e r}l It
1Jl i4 i .
v1erilterranean \ e (I· IS
Caesar's campaigns:

49-48 BC
48--47 BC c

Cr rene
-.I 46 BC - Alexandrl,,-o
48-47 BC ~ ....:!2:!~~~C
-.I 45 BC
The Alexandrian War:
siege Caesar puts' Cleopatra
X battle
on throne of,Egypt


The Civil Wars o

_ _450 kms

o 300 miles
lIThe struggle for power, 44-31 BC
- Roman frontier at death of Caesar, 44 BC
The murder ofJulius Caesar plunged Rome into a new civil war as division of power at Peace of Brundisium, 40 BC:
his heirS and rivals struggled for supremacy. Antony
Control of the Caesarian party was disputed between Mark Antony and Lepidus
Octavian (Caesar's adopted son). Octavian wanted vengeance Gallia Octavian, spring 3 I BC
for Caesar's death, while Antony favoured reconciliation. TJ'an sa lpin a Antony and Cleopatra, summer 3 J BC
Eventually, however, Octavian persuaded Antony to take Octavian, spring-summer 30 BC
the field and together they defeated the army of Caesar's j Giillia battle
assassins Brutus and Cassius at Philippi in 42 BC. ~ < ClsaIp~a
.~ ~ Euxinuj"
Antony and Octavian agreed to divide effective power Pl'Ol'IJJcill R011l~(\' OB r onia POl1lUJ

o ./: Bolo&n. 8(ac/r Sea

between them, Octavian taking the west, and Antony
Massilia 1''',;
the east, with a smaller third share for their colleague M31'>e,/les /~
Lepidus. Octavian spent the following years build- H~spania Ofan-aco Corsica 44 BC cf-'Ome o Zela
ing up his position in the west. In 3.8 BC he Tarr~gon. Julus Caesar
Above: Marcus Junius Brutl/s murdered
(c,85-42 BC) was a member of launched a determined effort to capture Sicily at Rome
the conservative, Republican from Sextus Pomey, son of Pompey the Great,
faction at Rome, He had who had turned the island in to a base from III " Smrlillin
fought for Pompey against Gades, ' 1,( , I r e
Caesar, and in 44 BC led the which to harrass Rome's grain supplies. It took Cadl! , I I
'-....L,->--- f --
c01lspiracy to assassinate the two years to win and Octavian was then faced Sicily
dictator, After his defeat by with the task of neutralizing Lepidus when the
Antony and Octaviml at e
MA URETAl'l _lA r
Pharsalus in 42 BC, he
committed suicide,
latter attempted to stage a coup against him.
Once Octavian had consolidated his hold on the

.. S r
. 36 Bt
'I It 111

Oaavian defeats Sextus

• sUlnfl'lerf3,41~~
Oaavian defeats Antony
and Cleopatra at Aaium;
west he was in a position for a final showdown Pompey 01 sea baule of Antony and Cleopatra
"On this side the with Mark Antony. The latter had fallen under Naulochus and recovers flee !O Egypt
J6 BC 0 control of Sicily eyre,~,der and Lel)idus attemplS rls/ng ,. i Alexandri,a ~ on
against Octavion and c Cyrenaica
soldiers alike were 2/The Battle of is stripped or power;
OctMio rakes Africa
OF '€GYn'
Jidl of ardoU'l; on Actium, 2 September 31 BC
j ~
the other was Octavian's fleet salt marsh ~ J S/ll1l5 tl mbicm
(400 warships) ""//111/1 ('lIlr
12;eneral d~jection; Antony's fleet
(230 warships)
direction of wind
the influence of Cleopatra, Queen of
(),JI, the one side the
Egypt, who was mistrusted by conserva- ~~I~I
yowen- were sto'ng
Octavian's forces have
blockaded Antony by land tive Roman opinion. The breach came i
and sea. Short of supplies, in 32 BC, when Octavian drove Antony's
.and slur-d)), 0'1/. the Alltony attempts to break out, supporters from Rome and declared war
other weakened by With the wind blowing from
on Cleopatra. Antony advanced to
the northwest, AntollY's fleet
jJrivations no must get out to sea to clear Actium on the east side of the Adriatic
the Islmtd of Lel/cas and get where the final sea battle was fought on '2
one was deserting back to Egypt. Octavian's Right: Mark Al1tOIlY (Marcus
September 31 BC, After a brief struggle,
fleet backs into open water, A1Itonilts, 83-30 BC), had
from Ca.esar to giv;,'g its superior nuwbers serued ullder Caesar ill Galll, Antony and Cleopatra fled the scene,
Anton)" whilefrO'lI1 room to tnattoeuvre. The After Casesar's death, he took yielding outright victory to Octavian.
fleets weet, missiles are fired, the lead il1 the Caesariall The civil wars ended with their
Anion.')' to Caesar and Octavian's ships begin to pmty, <ll'OlIsillg the hostility
suicide in Egypt the following
encircleAntony's. To of Caesar's he;" Octavian, The
someone 0'1' other reinforce his flallks, Antony
two melt were reconciled a1zd year Octavian was now the
thins out his centre; fomled the Secolld Tril/mvirate, sole ruler of the Roman
deserted daily "

Cleopatra's squadron breaks all alliallce cemellted by
AlltollY'S marriage to
world; four years later, in 27 BC,
Vellius Paterculus, through the gap, hoists sail
and flees, Antony and some OctaViall'S sister Octavia, But he was granted the title of
ComjJendiu1!/. of 70 to 80 of his ships follow, AlltollY's relatiollship with Augustus, becoming the first
leaving the rest of his forces to ~:::::c=:.=310. kms Cleopatm reopelled the Roman emperor.
Roman History be captured. 6 miles cOllflict, leadillg to his defeat
at Actill1n ill 31 BC.


Shades of the Departed Cremation and inhumation

at the Isola Sacra cemetery,
Burial rites in the Roman Empire, \
Ostia, AD 100-250
% c:l cremation 1st century AD
The funeral monuments of the Romans reflected their belief in an 100 £:f inhumation
[:=J cremation . . . -c:
afterlife and indicated the social status of the deceased.
To the Romans the spirits of the dead were known as Manes. There was a
common understanding that they remembered with affection their ties with
living relatives, and needed to be nourished with offerings of food and
drink, and even blood. Some graves had special tubes or openings leading
down to the burial for this purpose. Quite where the dead lived was open to 40
differing interpretations. Some thought they descended into the depths of
the earth, where they were received by a kindly Mother Earth; others that
they lingered near the place where they had been buried; while others 20
believed that they ascended into the heavens.
The main source of evidence for Roman burial customs is the burials them-
selves, and the funerary monuments (together with their inscriptions) 100-125 125-175 175-250
Years AD
which were erected over them. In general, only wealthy people received
carved funeral memorials of stone. These frequently carry a portrait of the
deceased (often of several individuals buried in the same family grave) and Some prominellt Romans were
bulied ill remarkable grave
an inscription addressed to the "Dis Manibus", the spirits of the d ead. Burial mOllumetlts such as the roulld
within the city limits was strictly forbidden by law, and the principal ceme- tomb of Caecilia MeteUa
teries grew up along the arterial roads leading from the cities, such as the beside the Via Appia (right).
Via Appia south of Rome. Here, as around other cities, there are a wide vari-
ety of tombs from major monuments to simple graves. Special mention Moderately well-off
must also be made of the catacombs, undergound complexes of rock-cut tOlVllspeople would have had
graves associated with religious communities of Jews and early Christians far simpler memorials; this
olle (left), from Dyrrhachium
and found not only at Rome but also at Naples and Syracuse. (modern Durriis, in Albania),
Above: a military tombstone reads uDomitius Sarcinator,
The traditional Roman burial rite was divided into several stages. The body from Titia Nicarium the wife
from the legionary fort of
Vircollium (Wroxeter) ilt
was first washed, then anointed and laid out for burial, with a coin placed in of Domititls SarcinatOl·.
Britain. The itlScriptiolt "eads the mouth of the corpse to pay Charon the ferryman who would convey the Farewell!"
uMarctls Petronius, son of deceased over the river of Styx. On the day of the burial, the corpse would
Lucius, of the Me1leltiall tribe,
be laid on a funeral couch (for the rich) or a simple bier (in the case of the Most people had to be contetlt
from Vicetia, aged 3 8, soldier
of the 14th legioll Gemilla, poor) and carried in procession outside the city or settlement to the place with a simple pit enclosed by
served 18 years, was a of disposal. Burial itself could take the form of either cremation or inhuma- common tiles. Its position
statldard bearer and is would be marked by a pottery
tion. In Republican times, cremation was the dominant rite at Rome and vessel (left) into which {t-iends
buried here. "
throughout most of the European provinces, but under the early empire it mId family could POtty
was steadily replaced by the eastern practice of inhumation un ti!, by the end offerings of food mtd drink.
of the 2nd century AD,
Right: as i,t/1tIlIIatioll took
over from cremation as the even Roman emperors
maill method of burial, stolle were generally inhumed.
sarcophagi came into use.
Only the wealthiest sectiolls of
ROlllall society cOl/Id afford
sI/ch beautifully carved
sarcophagi as this Olle, from
Aphrodisias in Asia Millor.

Right: s01lle of the fillest

examples of Romall sculpture
call be foulld Oil i1lhumation
sarcophagi of the 211d aud 3rd
cetlt"ries AD. The exuberallt
relief carving 011 this 211d-
Cetltury sarcophagus depicts
the triumph of Dionysus.


The Augustan settlement

11: The Imperial Regime By the 1st century BC it may have become more or less inevitable that Rome
should fall under the power of a single ruler. The old Republican institu-
The Emperor Augustus gave Rome a stong, centralized tions were no longer able to cope with the incessant jockeying for power
government capable of ruling its vast territories, tactfully veiling between over-mighty generals, nor could they easily meet the demands of
his power in respect for Republican form. Wealth flooded in to the rapidly growing empire. At the end of the day, however, the position of
Rome; traders travelled throughout the empire and beyond. emperor, and its successful continuation down the centuries which fol-
Literature flourished and great buildings adorned the cities. Only lowed, owed much to the wisdom of Augustus. Above all, he succeeded
in moments of crisis, when the succession was unclear, was the where so great a man as Julius Caesar had failed: in winning acceptance
from both the senate and the Roman people at large.
underlying power of the military laid bare.

During the last two centuries BC

Rome had become the capital of a
great empire, but it was only at the
very end of that period that the
position of emperor was estab-
lished. Sulla, champion of the aris-
tocracy, had been absolute ruler of
Rome for a few years in the early
1st century BC. Julius Caesar had Right: the Ara Pacis Augustae
achieved a similar position in the (altar of the Augustan Peal'e)
short period prior to his assassina- was set up in the Campus
Martius in 13 BC. The relief
tion. Both these had been short- depil'ts the emperor's family;
lived experiments, however, and it the man with his head mvered
Right: this head of Augustus, was only in 27 BC that a constitu- is p1'Obably Augustus's trusted
from a I'olossal b1'Onze statue, lieutenant Agrippa, the vktor
tional arrangement was reached
was found beyond the fron- of Aaium. His young son
which gave Augustus supreme Gaius dings to his toga.
tiers of the Roman Empire in
Meroe (modern Sudan). It was power on a regular and agreed Augustus adopted Gaius and
probably taken from Roman basis. And it was only time which made him one of his heirs, but
Egypt as booty by raiders Gaius predeuased him.
showed that this power could be
from the south.
successfully handed on, leading to It was the victory over Antony and Cleopatra at the battle of Actium in 31
a long line of Roman emperors from Tiberius, Augustus's immediate suc- BC which gave Augustus supreme power. Learning from Caesar's example,
cessor, to Romulus "Augustulus", the last of the western emperors, almost however, he did not seek to enforce his will on the Senate but sought a solu-
half a millennium later. tion which maintained his position under the cloak of Republican forms. In
The rise of imperial Rome was not just a question of emperors and armies, his personal testament he claimed he had restored the Republic, and in a
however, but was accompanied by an enormous accession of new wealth to sense, paradoxically, that was true. Augustus's constitutional arrangement,
Italy. The most populous areas of the Mediterranean world had previously reached first in January 27 BC and then refined four years later, gave him
lain in the east, in Egypt, the Levant, and the lands bordering the Aegean overall control of the army and most of the important provinces (notably
(Greece and western Asia Minor). This is not to deny that there had been those with military garrisons). It also gave him the power to propose or veto
important Greek colonies and Etruscan cities in Italy and Sicily, nor to legislation, to overrule any provincial governor, and to sit alongside the
ignore the importance of Carthage and its dependancies, but the rise of elected consuls. For the first nine years, from 31 to 23 BC, he was elected
Rome marks a decisive shift westwards in the economic and political centre consul as well, but that was not essential to his power base, and rater emper-
of gravity. In one sense, it was a passing phase; by the later Roman period, ors could pick and choose whether they wished to be consul, or allow their
and throughout the earlier Middle Ages, it was the east once again which supporters that honour instead.
was the centre of wealth and power. But during the last centuries BC, and Augustus took particular care to consolidate his position at Rome, and
the first two centuries AD, Italy achieved a new level of prosperity which is turned the city into a capital worthy of a great empire. He claimed to have
amply reflected in the remains of cities and villas, and in the production of found it brick and left it marble, and he and his family beautified it with
luxury metalwork and jewellery. Furthermore, Italian merchants and entre- many new monuments. These included structures of an essentially propa-
preneurs, stimulated by home demand and sheltered by Roman prestige, gandist or dynastic nature, such as the Ara Pacis Augustae (Altar of the
travelled far afield in the search for new commercial openings, establishing Augustan Peace) or the huge circular mausoleum where he and his close
small colonies as distant as Arikamedu in southern India. relatives were eventually buried. One notable omission, however, was an
imperial palace. Augustus chose to concentrate instead on building public


monuments. Rome by this time had outstripped Alexandria to becomf

until the late 2nd cen tury. It was short-lived departure. When Domitian was
the largest city of the western world, with a population of around a mil-
murdered, the elderly Nerva was chosen by the sena te, and he in turn chose
lion people, and Augustus took particular pains to build new aque- Trajan, by adoption, as his son and successor
duc ts and reorganize the regular shipment of grain at state expen se
on which the urban poor depended.
The growth of empire

The imperial succession

( Augustus inherited an empire built up over two and a half centurie s of
Republican government since the acquisition of Sicily, Rome's first overseas
Perhaps the greatest of Augustus's legacies were his tactfu l han-
province, during the First Punic War (264-41 BC). There was little planning
dling of supreme power and his long life. vVhen h e died in AD 14
behind this territorial expansion until the institution of emperor itself creat-
he h ad be en emp e ror fo r over 40 years, and the idea of
Below: this mosaic fmm the ed the opportunity for centralized stra tegic thought. But emperors were
supreme p ower in the hands of one man no longer seemed a Temple of Forttm a at expected to be military men, and alongside any grand strategies they recog-
dangerous innovation. The accession of Tiberius was smoothly Palest,-;na depicts the riches of
nized the pressure from their subjects to prove themselves successful gener-
h andled, and the position of emperor was unchallenged even Egypt that fell into Roman
hands after the Battle of als. N ew conquests also brought slaves and bo oty, and provided many
when he withdrew from Rome to spend much of his last ten years Actium in 31 BC. The flo od- opportunities for Roman bureaucrats and entrep reneurs to enrich them-
on Capri. Gaius-generally known by his nickname, Caligula-in lands of the Nile provided an selves at the expense of the defeated p eoples.
turn succeeded without serious opposition, but his excesses did raise abuudant grai1l harvest, S01ne
resentment among the senatorial ar istocracy Both his predecessors of which was shipped to Rome Augustus himself greatly expanded the empire. His victory at Actium in 31
to feed the urban populace.
had faced conspiracies against their lives-as was only to be expected BC was fo llowed by the invasion of Egyp t (whither Antony and Cleopatra had
Realizing the political power
in an autocratic state-but Caligula was the first to fall prey to such this gave him, Augustus made fled for refuge) the following year. Egypt was a large and prosperous coun-
an attempt. Wh ether h e was really madder or badder than other Egypt his p"'sonal possession; try, but imder Augustus it became part of the emperor's private domain, a
he and his successors ruled it p rovince under his p ersonal supervision . I t also provided much of the grain
emperors is open to question. as pharaohs, and no senator
was allowed go there withotlt n eeded to feed the growing population of Rome .
The death of Caligula brought to the fore the power of the praetori-
imperial permission.
ans, the emperors' elite corps of bodyguards. However much the senate Augustus's major foreign wars were fou ght with the ai m of rationalizing the
may have h oped for the return of the Republic, the praetorian guards h ad
a vested interest in the institution of emperor, and appointed the unlikely
Above: one of Augustus's acts
was to refo»n the currency, Claudius, lame and stammering, in Caligula's place. He r eigned fo r 14
establishing a system which years, a period in which the imperial household, and the court officials in
survived until the middle of particular, became increasingly powerful. That continued under his succes-
the 3"d century. The silver
denarius (top left) remained sor , the notorious Nero. Again, the story of events is strongly coloured by
the backbone of the coinage, his eventual downfall, but there is no doubt that a reign which began well
tarrifed atl/zs of a gold ran into increasing opposition in later years. His brutal suppression of con-
aureus. Its half, the quinarius
(next from top) was produced
spiracy and failure to retain senatorial support undermined his position and
only spasmodically. The large le d to open rebellion in Gaul and Spain in AD 68. Deserted by his guards
brass sestertius was worth a and officials, Nero took his own life.
quarter of a denarius; this one
was struck during the reign of Nero was the last of the Julio-Claudians, the dynasty of emperors who had
Tibe,-;us (AD 14-37). Its half ruled Rome since Augustus. They were all related to each other, at least by
was the brass dupondius,
represented here by a coin of marriage, but it is striking that none was succeeded by his own son. Only
Trajan AD 98-117). The Claudius h ad a son surviving a t the time of his death, and h e was passed
radiate crown helped to over in favour of Nero. The guiding principal in determining the imperial
distinguish it fmm the
succession was adoption-Tiberius was adopted by Augustus, and Nero by
similiarly-sized as, which was
made of copper and worth Claudius.
half as much; this piece was
struck under Gaius- The death of N ero plunged Rome into a period of crisis, as successive
"Caligula" (AD 37-41). The emperors were proclaimed by their supporters, briefly seized power, and
smallest coppers, the semis then fell before a stronger contender. The year 69 saw no fewer than four
and quadrans-worth a half
and a quarter of an as
of them: Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian. The major n ew feature was
respectively-succumbed to the role of the frontier armies in promoting their own nominee, and press-
inflation and were not struck ing his claims by force where necessary. Thus Vi tellius was very much the
after the early 2nd century.
creation of the Rhine army, and Vespasian came to power through the sup-
port of the eastern legions.
The emperors of the later 1st century AD consolidated Roman rule at home
and abroad. Vespasian was followed by his sons Titus and Domitian, the
only case of direct father-son succession in the whole history of the empire



The Romans tended to portray their foreign enemies as uncivilized barbar-

ians, but the truth was rather different. The Britain attacked by Claudius was
already organized into kingdoms with coinage and towns (though not the
kind of market-place coinage in use in the Roman world). Dacia was still
more sophisticated, a powerful kingdom with a ruler who had already suc-
cessfully resisted Roman aggression some 20 years earlier.
The key to Roman military success was of course tile army, stationed mainly
in camps spread out along the vulnerable frontiers. They had both a defen-
sive and an offensive role, being d eployed and redeployed as the needs of
individual campaigns or emergencies dictated. One m~or change from the
days of the Republic was the more static conception of the military establish-
ment. It was Augustus who first fixed tlleir pay, and their numbers remained
relatively constant, at around 28 legions plus a similar number of auxiliaries,
throughout the 1st and 2nd centuries. What did change was the nature of
Below: the southem parts of
their accommodation, as during the late 1st century the original camps of
Gaul, where Greek colollists timber and turf were steadily rebuilt in stone. The frontiers too were
had already introduced the strengthened by watchtowers and forts, a first step towards the continuous
trappings of civic life, we,.. frontier barriers built by Hadrian.
quickly integrated into the
Roman Empire. The theatre at
Right: Arabia Petraea was Arausio (Orallge), i1l Gallia
annexed by the Emperor Nm·bo1le1lsis, was built 'mder The rise of the provinces
Trajan in AD 106. Its principal Augustus; his statue stands
city, Petra, was a major trad- in the celttralniche above Within the frontiers , the 1st century was a time of growing prosperity. As the
ing centre in the Jordanian the stage. new provinces became better integrated and steadily m ore Rom anized,
desert, famous for its impres- provincials themselves played an increasingly prominent role in the govern-
sive tombs such as the Deir
(seen here), which were carved ment of the empire. Roman citizenship was gradually extended to whole
directly from the rock where towns and cities in the provinces (though always excluding women and
they stood. slaves), and provincials soon came to form significant minorities in
the senate at Rome.
imperial frontiers. He conquered the northern Balkans, so as to carry the
frontier to a suitable natural barrier, the River Danube. Rivers were chosen At the same time, the economic bal-
as boundaries in the east and west as well. In the east, it was the River ance between Italy and th e
Euphrates which marked the boundary between the Romans and their east-
ern neighbours the Parthians. Augustus waged no major wars on this front.
It was in the west that the greatest trouble lay. When Caesar conquere d
Gaul he h ad made the Rhine the fro ntier of his new province. That left an
awkward salient of unconquered territory in the Alps, between Gaul and
Italy. Augustus sought to remove this by conquering the Alpine tribes and
carrying the fronti er forward here, as in the Balkans, to the Danube. The
next step was to move the Rhine frontier forward to the Elbe. That seemed
to have been achieved, and the Romans were poised to advance still further
into central Europe, when rebellion in the Balkans caused the withdrawal of
troops for operations there instead. Three years later, in AD 9, three Roman
legions were destroyed by the Germans while crossing the Teutoburg
Forest, and the territories beyond the Rhin e were abandoned.
Augustus left his successors with the advice not to extend imperial territory,
but to consolidate what they already held. There was nonetheless a steady
acquisition of new provinces during the 1st and early 2nd centuries AD, dri-
ven partly by strategic considerations and partly by the quest for military
glory. Sometimes, new provinces were created peacefully by absorbing what
had hitherto been client kingdoms. Such was the case with Mauretania in
AD 44 and Thrace in AD 46. But other provinces were acquired by direct con-
quest. The most notable instances are Britain, invaded by Claudius (an
emperor desperate for military glory) in AD 43; and Dacia, conquered by "
Trajan in the two fiercely-fought Dacian wars of1 0 1-2 and 105-6.


and encouragement to Horace, Virgil and Livy. Other wealthy Romans

added their patronage of the poets and historians of the day. The greatest
literary work was without doubt Virgil's Aeneid, an epic poem which retold
the origins of Rome in the legend of Aeneas fleeing the sack of Troy to
make a new beginning in Italy. Other literature took a more practical slant.
There were for instance the Natural History, an enormous encyclopaedia by
Pliny the elder, who died in the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79, and the ten
books On Architecture by Vitruvius, which exerted such influence on the
architects of the Renaissance. There was even a treatise on the Roman water
supply. In histo rica l terms, however, our knowledge of the 1st century
comes mainly from historians who were writing after its close, above all
Tacitus and Suetonius.
In terms of buildings and other monuments, the 1st and early 2nd centuries
have left ample remains, including some of the most impressive achieve-
ments of Roman architecture. Rome itself saw an upsurge of building under
the early emperors. This included a series of adjoining imperial fora (public
Right: August." had
purchased a villa on the squares with temples, offices and law courts), supplementing the facilities of
Palatine before he became the original Forum Romanum at the heart of the city. The last and greatest
emperor, and his successors of these, the Forum of Trajan, is notable today for the striking Trajan's
gradually bought up much of
Column, with its spiral relief record of the emperor's Dacian Wars. Mention
the rest of the hill. The
sUlviving rui/1s m'e Imxely the Below: Trajmt's Markets at must also be made of the Colosseum, the largest amphitheatre of the
work of tl,e Flavian empero,' Rome. In the f01'eground are Roman world, which was dedicated in AD 80. The legacy of the early empire
Domitian (81-96), who built the foundations of his f01'tl11l.
extends far beyond Rome itself, however, and includes buildings both pub-
an exte/1sive palace combinitlg The largest of all the Imperial
state rooms, gardetls and Fora, it contained law courts, lic and practical. The great arched aqueducts of Nimes and Segovia belong
private apartme11ts. This offices alld, above all, the to this period, as do the artificial harbours at Ostia and Caesarea. It is these,
tratlsformation of the Palatine ellormOI/S Basilica Ulpia, now as much as the monuments of the emperors themselves, which convey the
Hill into an imperial residence lm-gely buried beneath the Via
has give1! "ise to the modem dei Fori Imperiali. Both confidence and power of Rome at its apogee.
word "palace". Forum and mm'hets we"e built
with the proceeds ofTrajalt's
conquest of Dacia.
provinces began to change, as the latter began to benefit from the opportu-
nities offered by Roman rule. At one level , the empire was an enormous
trading zone where import taxes were held to a minimum. African olive oil
and Gaulish Samian ware could now easily be shipped to markets m Italy
and beyond, along with the highly prized garum (fish sauce) from Spain .
This was a trade in everyday items, not expensive luxuries, and helped to
give the whole empire a feeling of community, even though important dif~
ferences still remained b etween the east (where Greek was spoken) and the
west (where Latin was now the official language) .
Trading opportunities were not restricted to the empire itself, however, but
extended far beyond. This was especially true in the east, where merchants
fro m the Roman Empire (mostly from Greece or the eastern provinces)
sailed the Indian Ocean or travelled the Silk Route to bring eastern luxuries
such as Chinese silks or exotic spices and perfumes to the markets of the
East Mediterranean . Roman pottery and glassware travelled east in return,
but it was gold and silver coins which provided the main means of payment,
draining the empire of an estimated 100 million sesterces every year.

The imperial legacy

To the modern observer, the legacy of imperial Rome resides mainly in its
literature and monuments. In literary terms, the 1st century AD was part of
the golden age of Latin writing which had begun with authors such as
Cicero and Catullus in the late Republic. Augustus considered patronage of
the arts to be one of the duties of his role as first citizen, and gave support


The New Order Oceananus Gennanicus

Nodh S'ea I ~ 9 AD 100 miles

( I Three Roman legions N
Fossa Drusiana - • ) ~ Chanci ", I

under command of
The Emperor Augustus imposed a new unity on the Roman world, canal dug by Drusus [0 :.: ~~ ~~----' Qui,]tilius Varus
but victory escaped him in Germany.
take Roman (leet from
Rhine to North Sea
nt<! ;
\ ·"' V
I <\g.
,, ~
,~ am~ushed and annihilated
1 \\ by Gernians
"'-A1iso "'o"Ir - C1, e
2/Augllstus's campaign Iiil , IQ! . Anfep~en
In 31 BC Octavian defeated Mark Antony at Actium and became undisputed vet~~- ~ ~ 11 1 8C
"Augustus he/Jt fOT master of the Roman world. Four years later he reached a constitutional set-
in Germania, ) Oberaden
R'I"'an advance along 1
tlement with the Senate at Rome which gave him the title "Augustus" and
12 BC-AD 9 J'lfuSS~Sllgalllbri tippe and establish
hiInself all the more Roman frontier i ~ Colonia Agrlppina advance base _ , 9 BC
made him the first Roman emperor Under this agreement, the provinces - 12BC
vig;orous jno1linces were divided into two categories. Those which were considered peaceful
J\ Vbii
. / / -
, leads army to flbe but
I dies /i'om·q ridIng acaden! on
limit of pacified area,
-those that could were left in the conu-ol of senatorial governors; while in frontier and other - AD6 )•
t wen ,
. ,
_ " he return journey

not be sajdy provinces where military action might still be needed, Augustus chose his -.# Drusus, 12-9 BC t~\<lo ~ ~ Ma,· cOII/"III.;

admznistered l~y an
own nominees to govern them. He also retained control of Egypt, th e -.#Tiberius's projected
campaign. AD 6
!--.~~/ \VVa"!!,''o"e' He"II/""(I" ~'i
68' prepares pincer
wealthy kingdom which he had conquered the year after Actium, and which \ ,!y'emetes • Hermundurl become auack on Marcomanni
___ military canal
annu,al gO'uernor ... came to provide most ofthe grain for Rome's urban populace. loyal allfes orRome from Wesl and souch
legionary bases or
He nearly airoa:ys Augustus's foreig n wars were undertakel1 to strengthen the frontiers . marching camps:
Northern Spain was brought under effective Roman rule, while in the Alps [jj founded before 12 BC
restored hingrioJns ~ founded 12 BC- AD 6
and the Balkans the frontier was carried northward to the Danube. The (:
he had conq'uered to most serious setback was in Germany, where Augustus resolved to create a X Roman defeat C.rnuntum IQ)
their defoated new fronti er on the River Elbe. His stepson Drusus fought a series of suc- r
" -"
dynasties ... linhing cessful campa igns between 12 and 9 BC, and by AD 6 the
Roman armi es (under Drusus's brother Tiberius) were
together his royal poised to invade the kingdom of the Marcoman ni and liThe Roman· provinces
allies ties complete their conquest of cen tral Europe. At the last in the age of Augustus,
offriendshif) and moment a rebellion in the Balkans forced the 31 BC-AD 14
plan to be shelved, and three years later in imperial province
i'n ternZ'(lTrirltre " AD 9 the Germans ambushed and slaugh-
senatorial province
Sue tonius, tered three Roman legions in the Teuto- client kingdom
burg Forest. The Roman frontier was
Life of A ugust'I.J.S BO il'UO,!{AN
imperial frontier
pulled back to the Rhine, where it was provincial capital or
to stay until the fall of th e western other major city
P00-".... .
empire four centuries later. fc,
°Bo~onla ,~ Pb ul1L · Euxiuu ,\
Bolog\1a lJ I n ,-k SI'O
Emeri Salona'? OSinope
ctralTaco Ilalia Split
Co ca Byzantium ARMENIA
Tarragona Isra nbul
° Rome
Tarentum o
::'CRrthago Nova Sardinia
Cartagena - CAPPADOCIA
Tangier \ ta,!!s.a rca I\chaea' -
-., Sidlia - ~~enae
~UlillTANlA Athens
9: Syracusae (
\ o
I~ Syracuse ~ Syria almyra
Cyprus ""' Dam. c1Js
Tyre o X
Right: Augustus took the .1 I/fare
Int e rnuMz
u .
security of the emp;'·e velY N
e d rt I' )' ,. tL It I' fI. 11 ,.

se,iousiy, acti"g as . ) e lt
com11lallder-i,,"chief of the
Roman armies. This Ist-
ce"t,uy BC statue from the
Prima Porta i" Rome shows
him itl full dress uniform, Cyrenaica
stressi"g the importatlce of
150 nvl ~s
his military powe,' base.

46 47

The City of Rome under Augustus

Under Augustus, Rome became the greatest city of the western
world, graced with impressive new public buildings,

By the end of the 1st century BC, Rome had a population of around a mil-
"Sin ce the city was lion people, from wealthy senators to craftsmen , shopkeepers and slaves.
not adorned as the Realizing that th e city's infrastructure had not kept pace with its rapid
growth, Augustusdivided Rome into 14 administrative regions, each under
dignity of the an appointed magistrate, set up a police force and fire brigade, and built or
ernj)ire dernanded, r estored several aqueducts. To prevent flooding he h ad the River Tiber
Above: the Horologiu';;' QI'
and was exposed to dredged and widened; according to his biographer Sue tonius it had "for Solarium Augusti-" Augllstrts,'s
some time been filled with rubbish and narrowed by jutting buildings. " Sundial"- llIas set up aroulld
flood and fire, he so Crucially, Augustus took personal responsibility for the corn dole, the 10 BC, using all obelisk from · \
Egypt as a pointer.. 0" the \
beautified it that he monthly distribution offree grain to the city's poor emperor's birthday it poillted
towards the AI';' Pads Augusta.e, '
@ ~ausoleum of I
co'uld 1UStl,)
J .J
boast Augustus also spent enormous sums on the aggrandisement of the city, ugustus
a.n alta>' cOmmemi)mting the
that he had fOtlnd making it a worthy capital for so great an empire , He boasted that he found peace Atlgustits had broug!;t to
Rome brick and left it marble, and the claim was not ill-founded. At the the empire. ' .. - -'r ",Ara Pad:'
it built of brich and _ &1> ~ \ ,....., (AI.:ar:bl
h eart of the metropolis , many of th e existing buildings of the Forum r- '-b ,"';"s Fl'l>1'J1o ,~"" Horologiu')1pf Peace) !
l~ft it in marble. ' Romanum were faced in marble for the first time during his reign. Nearby r~ ~!:!...- ---- o-i \' Aug4stus
S ~ (solar clo£k) ,
h e built his own new Forum to serve as a lawcourt and administrative cen- c a rr~'\J 'I>
Sue ton ius, Life of .
tre. In his rebuilding of the city, Augustus was assisted by members of his VI
ilu,g,'ustus family and by trusted fri ends and lieutenants such as Statilius Taurus and
above all Marcus Agrippa. In the Campus Martius region to the north of the
r-'---Ik-__.T;;.emple o f Juno Moneta
city, Agrippa was responsible for a whole series of new buildings: the origi- 4th SC) / 1\
nal Pantheon, th e Baths of Agrippa and the Saepta .Julia. North of these (offiCial ccord office)
Augustus erected an enormous sundial, the Horologium, with an obelisk BC} /- Portico
brought from Egypt as its pointer. Nearby, standing within a p ark, was the ot'Au,nlSltuSI

circular Mausoleum, d esigned to rese mble an Etruscan burial mound,

where in AD 14 the ashes of Augustus himself were finally laid to rest.
Portico of Octavia
(Sister of Augustu~)

. .... -_ ....
Above: among the many
public buildings of Augustan 2 Pons Aemilius (piers 179 BC,
Rome were places of arches 142 BC: first stone bridge) .
elltertainme1lt. The Theatre of "'c\)()o
Marcelius, completed in 11 BC Pons Cestius (c. I st BC) '\ ~
and IIamed after the emperor's
4 Pons Fab"icius (62 BC) ~
nephew, can be seen here
behind the columns of the 5 Theatre .of Marcell us
earlier Temple of Apollo. (nephew of Augu,:,tus)
The city of Rome in the age
Right: the Fon"n of Augllstus of Augustus, 3 I BC-AD 14
was dedicated in 2 BC. Its major buildings:
centrepiece was the te11lple~f
Mars Ultor (Mars the pre-Augustan
Avellger) to commemorate the
N db Augustan

fact that Augustus had
aVe1lged the mu/·der ofIuUus
Caesar, The statues proclaim
Augustus's family Ut/eage, ,000 m
administrative region
going back to the city's ' 0 1000 yds
legendary fomlder Aeneas.

48 49

Claudius and the Conquest of Britain q 21 Agricola's campaigns in Scotland, AD 79-84

'--"" Agricola, AD 79-84
IiI legionary fort
The Romans invaded Britain in AD 43, and went on to most of the marching camps:
island under direct rule by the end of the 1st century. oil. definitely this period
probably of this period

Britain was a relatively late addition to the Roman Empire. Julius Caesar X Battle of Mons Graupius (suggested locations)
had made two expeditions to southern England in 55 and 54 BC, but though
he received the nominal submission of several southern leaders there was
no follow-up, and Britain lay beyond direct Roman control for another cen- North Sea
tury. It was politics at Rome rather than any military or economic necessity I1 The invasion of Britain,
which eventually led the Emperor Claudius to invade the island in 43. ~===='EO====~1S kms AD 43-75
Claudius's reign, following the murder of Caligula in January 41, had got _ Atrebates, absorbed AD 70s
off to a shaky start, and he badly needed a military victory to shore up his - Iceni, conquered AD 60-61
prestige. The invading force consisted of four legions and was commanded Brigantes, conquered AD 69-74
Above: this bronze head of the
Emperor Claudius by Aulus Plautius, who became the first governor of Roman Britain. The
(r. AD 41-54) may have come main army put ashore at Richborough, forced its way across the Medway
from the temple of Claudius and the Thames and captured Colchester, capital of the powerful
at Colchester. It was founde in suppression of Icenian
the River Aide in Suffolk, Catuvellaunian kingdom. revolt, AD 47
'--"" further campaigns, AD 47-50
where it was probably thrown During the following years the Romans steadily expanded their control over ' - " Petilius Cereal is, AD 69-74
after being torn from a statue
taken as booty during the rest of southern Britain and into Wales. In 47 they suppressed a rebel- (8 town sacked by Iceni, AD 61
Boudicca's revolt. lion among the Iceni, who had earlier allied themselves with Rome; four X battle
years later they defeated and captured the native leader Caratacus. The last
~ legionary fortress
serious opposition in southern Britain was the revolt led by Boudicca, queen ® tribal centre
"T'he quarrels of
of the Iceni, in 60-61, which was only suppressed after serious reverses. ~ hill fort
j)etl~y chieftains .Ill Roman villa
At first the Romans attempted to control northern England through their
di'oide them; TW'i' allies, the Brigantes. But in 69 an anti-Roman faction gained control of the Oceanus

OceanllS Hibem,iclls Germanicus
i'ndeed hmJc (oe an)' tribe, leading to military intervention which brought the area under direct
Irish Sea
Roman rule. From 79 the famous general Agricola embarked on the con- S ea
weajJOll . . 'IIwre quest of Scotland, and four years later won a great victory over the natives at
+AD 60

effective than tfns, Mons Graupius. At this point, however, trouble on the Danube frontier Om

that they h(Z'ue no forced the emperor Domitian to withdraw troops from Britain and give up
the attempt to conquer the whole island. Agricola's conquests were steadily
com,mon jJ'l.ujJose: abandoned, and by the end of the century the frontier had been pulled
ra-relywill two or back to the Tyne-Solway isthmus, where Hadrian was to build his wall
three slates conjtrr to (~page86-7). •
rejm lse n. common,
danger; accorrlzngly
inrHvidualZy and
are collectzvc(y a
co'nquered . ..
Tacitus, /igricola

Right: a Roman ballista bolt

lodged in the spine of a
skeleton buried at Maiden
Castle in Dorset. The victim
may have been killed during
the Roman siege of this hill
fort, or in the massacres
that followed.


Nero and the Year of Four Emperors 2/0tho v. Vitellius, 3Nitellius v. Vespasian,
AD69 AD69
~ Otho's forces ~ Vitellius's forces
Nero's unpopularity brought the rule of Augustus's family to an
.lidt"iaticum ~ Vitellius's forces ~ Vespasian's forces
end, and plunged the empire into civil war.
X battle X battle

Nero (r. 54-68) was the last of the Julio-Claudians, the dynasty founded by l'

Augustus. He was only 16 when he succeeded his adoptive father Claudius, ....~ Mo,...Apr
ViEelJius's forces Invode
but he was guided by able advisers and the first years of the reign were later l(aly in Ewa divisions mid-Aug
regarded as a golden age. As time went by, however, there was growing con- under Valens and Coedna Vespasian's supporters
J\,f al t
en(rust Amori/4S Pr/mus
flict with the senate, and in 65 a wide-ranging conspiracy against Nero was L igtl ,f ll ('l.I '"
widJ Invasion of 1r<1ly
early April(1,
discovered and brutally suppressed. He also became unpopular among the Vale~s ~n~Coedna (..1) + late Aug
wealthy for confiscating property, and was suspected by many of having
intentionally started the Great Fire which destroyed the centre of Rome in 29 r
1 A
pr 1 N
q r
, ac;cupies

or1jo's forces t"" ""
64. The suspicion was untrue, but Nero did not help matters by buying up defeated "
'17)uly. O
i ll , ' the land to build his Golden House, a lavish garden villa set in the heart of
:I l)l9km' Vitelfjus"
ent.ers Ro"ne Ra
" " the capital. \
,', ~ , r,J "-..
The end came in 68, when first Vindex in Gaul and then Galba in Spain
broke out in open rebellion against him. Vindex was quickly defeated, but
Nero lost support at Rome and was driven to suicide in June. H e was suc-
ceeded by the elderly Galba, who arrived in Rome in the autumn of 68 but
was murdered in the Forum in January the following year. His murder-
er O tho seized power at Rome, but the Rhine legions had alre ady
declared in favour of their own commander Aulus Vitellius. Otho had
Above: the four emperors who relatively few troops at his disposal in Italy and had been defeated by the
followed Nero in rapid
succession, as depicted on
invading Vitellian forces at the First BattIe of Cremona
their silver coins. All were in April. Vitellius now took control of Rome, but by
expe,ienced administrators or July another rival emperor had been proclaimed ill Adriati cum
military men. Calba (top) was
the east: Thus Flavius Vespasianus (Vespasian), {
the governor of Hispania
Tarraconensis and already commander in the Jewish War . The Danu be 2• \1' elllons
over 70 when declared legions d e clared for Vespasian a nd led by ol(ondrln
Hostllia and
emperor. Otho (second from
top), a friend and supporter of
Antonius Primus defeated the Vitellians at the c~entrate " o '- 100 kms

Nero, had gone over to Calba Second BattIe of Cremona in September 69. Emeri o(4emono
, I

in the hope of being named as In December the Flavian forces fought the ir
his successor. When Calba way into Rome, dragged Vitellius from his
appointed someone else, Otho
had them both murdered.
hiding place and killed him, in his turn, in the
Soon after, Vitellius (second Forum. Vespasian became undisputed ruler of
from bottom) marched on the Roman world, the fourth and last emperor
Rome. He seized power, only
of the eventful year 69.
to be deposed by the
supporters ofVespasian

Right: a contemporary Roman

portrait bust of Nero.
Declared a public ellemy by lIThe wars of succession,
the Sellate, he fled Rome alld
AD 68-9 1 n t e r· n
committed suicide, aged 31, at m
the suburban villa of O1le of II1II Roman Empire
r r a n (! a 'l I

his freedmen. According to the provincial capital or

S (! a
biographer Sueto1lius, his ID
major city
dying words were, "How ugly Vindex, Mar-May 68
a1ld vulgar my life has
Galba, Apr-autumn 68 N
become!" Despite his

unpopularity with the Sellate Vitellius, Jan- July 69
and the army, Nero was not Vespasian, July-Dec 69
without his supporters, who battle
co1lti,zued to place flowers on
his grave for years afterwards.

52 53

The Western Provinces Right: the western provinces

remained predominantly
agricultural, This brom;e
model found at Piercebridge
in County Durham shows a
Romes's western provinces included a wide range of cultures, from British ploughman, hooded
the urban south to the rural Celtic north. against the cold, with his team
of two oxen.

The southwestern provinces of the Roman Empire were the rich Mediter-
"'Today the ·whole ranean regions of Spain (~ pages 84-5), southern France, and Italy itse lf,
world has its where city life had been established long before the spread of Roman rule.
Further north, in Gaul, Britain and the Germanies, were the less urbanized
Orae co-Roman, lands of the Celts and others. To all these regions Roman rule brought cer-
cultu're. Smar-t tain benefits-notably peace and wider trading opportunities-and the
Gau1ish professon weste rn provinces steadily took on more and more of the trappings of
Roman culture, New cities were founded with grid-plan street layouts, classi-
a're ['r aining the cal temples and municipal baths. Amphitheatres were built in or beside the
lawyen of major towns, supplemented by theatres in the more literate south.
Elaborate aqueducts provided fresh drinking water to the cities, while roads
Britain ... "
and bridges ensured better communications. Rome's western
The provinces soon became closely incorporated in the imperial system provinces, 1st-2nd
Satire XV itself; the Emperor Claudius gave leading Gaulish citizens the right to century AD 3000
became senators at Rome, and the spread of power from Italy to the pro- IliI provincial capital 2000
vinces continued in the centuries which followed, Britain and the Ger- IiI legionary fort 1000
manies also took a leading part in the political life of the empire through o other city 500
the size of their military garrisons: three to four legions in Britain and eight fortified land frontier 200
(later reduced to four) along the Rhine, supported by substantial auxiliary rlver frontier Om
Below right: the trappjllgs of
sophisticated Ilrban life were forces. It was the Rhine legions which backed Vitellius's bid for power in - -- major road
established early jll the AD 69 (~ pages 52-3) , and the army of Britain which supported Clodius
southem parts of Gaul-the , Albinus in the 190s (~pages 96-7). The most telling legacy of Roman rule,
temple of August"s and Livia 250 ,'n:Ues
however, is the fact that many of their centres have remained important to IV

at Vienne was built in the
early 1st century AD, the present day, including the modern capitakof London, Paris and Bonn .
Far right: the foundations of a
Celtic temple at Oisseau-Ie-
Petit ill 1Iorthem France, The OCEANUS
celltral temple was
surrounded by a temenos, or A TfANTlC OCE'lN
sacred enclosure, a plall found
throughout northem Gaul and
Britain. Celtic gods-often
identified with their Roman
cOlmterparts-contitlued to be
worshipped in the northem

Below: this ceremonial

scabbard was found in the
Rhille. Richly decorated with
gold a1ld silver, it bears the
A Alp"" Graiae et
P01T1'ait of the Emperor
Pocnin ae
Tiberil/s (r. AD 14-37). The
B Alpcs Cottiae
Rhine legions could make 01'
break emperors, and such gifts . (::. Alpes Marilimae
to senior officers would have
helped to ensure their loyalty.

lHme fnlemum
,H~rlill'l'Il(/1N1I/ \'/'1/

Si .


Three Western Cities London, founded after the invasion of Britain in AD 43 at an important
crossing of the Thames, soon be ami': the capital of the province. In the fol-
lowing decades it was furnished with a forum and basilica, a governor's
palace, and (in the early 2nd century) an amphitheatre. The city walls were
bui)tinc.190, completed by the addition of riverside defences in the late
3rd or early 4th century. London was never Olle of the great Roman cities,
however: new evidence suggests that after a peak in the early 2nd , century
there was a sharp decline in population, though it remained a centre of gov-
ernment until the collapse of Roman r\lle in the 5th century.

Above: this geometrical

mosaic floor was discovered
in 1869 close to the Mansion
House in the City of London.
It dates from the 3rd century
AD, and its quality and
sophistication shows the
continuillg importance of
London in the later Romall
Above: Vesuvius smoulders Pompeii owes its fame to the blanket of ash that rained down from period, evell though the city -I< temple
behind the Temple of Apollo Vesuvius in August 79, entombing the inhabitants, sealing bread in the was by then in decline as an wharf
in the maill religious
mclosure of Pompeii. The
ovens and election graffiti on the walls, and leaving the most fully pre- urban centre.
• mosaic

IOllic column to the left was

served of ancient Roman cities. Since the 18th century, excavations have b. bath house
set up as a sundial by the uncovered large areas and revealed priceless information on city life. cemetery
duumvirs Sepunius and There were the customary public buildings: the forum or marketplace, a
theatre and gymnasium, and the amphitheatre where gladiatorial displays
were held. The sumptuous villas of the wealthy were adorned with peri- Trier was founded by the Emperor Augustus and developed into the leading city of northeast Gaul.
style courts and sophisticated wall paintings, while the shops, bars and tav- The grid-plan street layout probably dates from the 1st century AD, as does the stone bridge across the
erns, the bakeries and brothels, show how ordinary people lived. Moselle, but the greatest buildings of Roman Trier belong to the 3rd and 4th centuries, when the city
Porta Nola rose to prominence as an imperial residence first under the breakaway Gallic emperors (260-74) and
I temple of the Genius of Augustus then under Constantius and Constantine (293-337). The city walls and the imposing Porta Nigra
2 temple ofthe Lares were probably built during this period. There was also a great imperial palace, with an audience hall
3 temple of Fortunae Augustae
Porta (basilica) and a circus or race track, and adjacent to it the enormous Kaiserthermen or Imperial
Baths. At its height, the city may have had a population of 80,000 .
Left: the PortaNigra, the ~==~400m
north gate of the Roman city 400 yds
of Trier, was probably built in
the 3rd century AD. It owes its
survival to the fact that it was
later converted into a church
and palace for the
bishops of Trier.

• bakery
N " brothel
if) fountain
o loom! hypothetical
~Yd' T ,,~~, grid of streets

56 57

Vespasian and the Jewish War Right: this relief, from the
arch set up at Rome to
commemorate Titus's victory,
shows the Temple treasures
being carried off by the
Roman control ofJudaea was resented by religiously-committed Romans.
Jews, and in the spring of 66 discontent turned into open revolt.

The rebels seized control of Jerusalem, and at Beth-Horon they defeated

"As for Tit-us, his the force which Cestius Gallus, the Roman governor of Syria, led against
them. This success allowed the rebels to seize control of large areas of
i'magination dwelt
Judaea and Galilee. Realizing that a determined campaign was now needed
on R o'me, wealth to suppress the revolt, the Emperor Nero despatched an experienced mili-
and j)leas'UTe: it tary commander, Titus Flavius Vespasianus (Vespasian), with a force of
three legions and numerous auxiliaries. In 67 Vespasian recovered Galilee
would be long bej(n'C
and restored control over the coastal cities ofJudaea, and the following year
these rir'CG'lns were captured Jericho and Emmaus, leaving Jerusalem increasingly isolated.
realized if1erusalem Vespasian was preparing for the final assault when news came that Nero had
were destined not to been overthrown. Military operations were largely suspended while the situ-
ation at Rome was unclear. Then, in July 69, Vespasian himself was pro-
fall in the
claimed emperor by the eastern legions, and a few months later he depart-
iJ)unediatefutwY:!. ' ed for Alexandria and then Rome, leaving the completion of the Jewish War
'Tacitus, Histories to his son Titus. In September 70, after a seven-month siege, Titus captured
Jerusalem. The rebel cause was now hopeless, but groups continued to hold . 69 AD
out in the fortresses of Herodium, Machaerus and Masada, until they too VespasiQ,n
were taken by the Romans. cmp ro,;n July

r Cl1J1nti

~~F::'Tr.::==---"----'-~;"-:'~+---.,..'---------3h '-

2/Jerusalem under siege, E==~==?5?00 '"

500 yd.
70BC r---~--~~

In March 70 Titus began a

siege ofJerusalem which was ..L.-'--+--- ~1
to last for seven months. The INov66 AD • -
two outer walls fell in May, rebels defeat
and the ,'est was encircled by (estius Gallus
a siege-work, but it was not Emmau,
until September that the
Romans finally broke through ~. Hierosolyma
Right: the last action in the the third wall. Jerusalem and
its Temple were destroyed,
i====:;:::=~lo~km' ~ Jerusalem
war was the siege of Masada '0 20 mil.. 35°
and the inhabitants killed or
in spring 74. The Roman
commander Flavius Silva
erected an encircling wall
.. sold into slavery.

......, Roman advance

lIThe Jewish War, 66-74 BC
border of Roman province 2000
with attached forts. He of Judaea 1000
eventually captured the rocky JeWish counterattack Vespasian, 67 AD
citadel only by building a
great siege ramp on a natural *'
.. Roman camp
wall breached
Vespasian, 68 AD
Titus, 70 AD

spur against its western face,
at which point the defenders
committed suicide rather than
Roman defeat *
Bassus and Silva, 71-4 AD

fall into Roman hands.

58 59

Trajan's Wars M ar e Euxinus

The Emperor Trajan (98-117) was the first Roman ruler for several B/ (/I:k S elt
decades to conquer new territories and establish new provinces of
the empire. Y;F,----
,) \ '\ ~
His two great wars were fought against the Dacians and the Parthians. The
Dacian kingdom lay north of the Danube in the area of modern Romania. \\"
Under its powerful king Decebalus, Dacia had become a threat to Roman
supremacy and had defeated Roman armies during the reign of Domitian
(81-96). Tr~an determined to put an end to this situation by forcing Dacia
into submission. During the first Dacian War (101-102), Trajan defeated ~ _ _..l.:
'/ ,f,- __......,_ _ _

the Dacians in heavy fighting, and Decebalus came to terms. When he

broke these in 105, Trajan embarked on a second campaign aimed at noth-
ing less than the conquest of the whole kingdom, which became the Roman IR A. N
province of Dacia.
By 114 the emperor was back on campaign, fighting against Rome's great + 117 \
Romans i.ylall Pqrthian
eastern rivals the Parthians. That year he conquered the mountain kingdom client king ~d witbdraw
of Armenia, and the following turned north-
ern Mesopotamia into another Roman
f/"tJ1"(l southe,,\MesoPolomla
province. His most dramatic success came . eteslphon
in 116, when his army occupied southern
Mesopotamia and advanced as far as the ...... ... ~
~ ~

1/6 . '
Persian Gulf. The new conquests could Romans UJke~<lfi/lion \, ~
not be held, however, and Trajan had winler caPl'fJD1 ~

, ""
, 1
already been forced to abandon southern \ ~
~4;, -~
Mesopotamia when he died in August
\ ... "tiles r"'jan earnes
117. Roman oc~upation ... _ Persian Gulf
Right: a relief carving of
of southern Mesopotamia ......
Roman standard bearers, from
the monument set up at
,11 6-117 ...
... ,
... ...
Tropeum Traiani (modern
Adamc/isi) by Trajan to SA U DJ ........
commemorate his successful
Dacian campaigns. ARA B IA

lIThe Dacian Wars, 101-6 A ~ 101 o lOO lOO l OO km>

Dacian counter- o loo 100 mites.
_ frontier of Roman attack defeated
Empire, 101
B ~Iate 101
c::=:J annexed 105-6 Dadons inflict
heavy losses on Roman legions
2/The Parthian War, 114-7
- - - frontier of Roman Empire
Dacian capital
C $102
Above: The Dacian War Trojan moves part of temporary Roman occupation, I 14
brought Trajan enormous capital of Roman his army downstream to Oescus
province annexed 114
wealth from spoils and the D $Iate 102
sale of slaves. He used this to Roman legionary base
Roman armies annexed 115
build a great forum and converge for (Inal assault.
First Dadan War: Dadans make peace Parthian Empire, 114
market at Rome, which were
dedicated in 112. The Senate -.#" Roman campaigns
added the monument known E +105 • Parthian capital
-.#" Dacian counter attack Trojan builds bridge
as Trajan's Column (above). across Danube • capital of Roman province
Carved with a spiral frieze Second Dadan War:
showing episodes from the F .106 • Roman legionary base
Roman campaigns
war, it serves as a memorial to Trojan takes Dadan
battle capital ~ Roman campaigns
the campaigns and a valuable
record of the equipment and site of Trajan's G ~ 106 El town captured
appearance of the Roman victory monument Dadan leader
army in Trajan's day. Decebalus commits suidde

60 61

The Roman Army changed by the establishment of a mobile cavalry force, and under
Constantine the army was formally divided into frontier troops (or limitane~)
and a field army (comitatenses) both consisting of cavalry and infantry. The
field army continued to be a powerful and professional force throughout
Rome grew to greatness on the strength of its army, a disciplined the 4th century and into the 5th, though increasingly composed of
fighting force that proved superior to all its opponents. Germanic mercenaries rather than citizen recruits.

From the last centuries BC and throughout the early imperial era, the back-
bone of the army was the legions, infantry uriits of around 5000 men, all 2lThe legio nary fort
of Novaesium,
highly trained and well equipped. Each legion was divided into centuries 1st century AD
commanded by junior officers or centurions. Six centuries made up a NovaeSll11t (Net/ss) ill tbe
cohort, and ten cohorts a legion. Legionaries fought mainly with short provillce of Germallia
[,,{erior is a flypicaL
sword and throwing javelin, protected by a rectangular shield and body- iegi.ouflIY fort, and has been
armour. The real strength of the legion lay in its professionalism and disci- thoroughly excavated.
pline, which enabled it to carry out complex manoeuvres in the heat of bat- Situated Oil the crucial
Rhine frolltier, it oould hold
tle. Legionaries were also responsible for building roads, forts and bridges, Above: one of the best sources
up to 5000 mel/. Legioll XX
and were adept at siege warfare as wen as set-piece battles. of evidence for the Roman
Valeria 1111/5 stationed here
army in actiotl is the spiral
IIntil they were tmllsferred
Alongside the legionaries were the all-important auxiliaries, non-Roman sol- relief on Tra;an's Column at
to Bri tait. to take part ill the
Rome, commemorating the
diers recruited from the native peoples of the empire. These operated in il/vasiotl of 43 BC.
Dacian Wars of 101-6. The
cohorts of 500 or 1000 men under the command of a Roman officer, some lowest section shows supplies
of them specialist units (such as Syrian archers) fighting with their own pre- being loaded ottto river boats;
above this, a boar, a ram atld
CJ officers' hOU$CS
ferred weapons. Auxiliaries served for a longer period and were less well cavalry barracks
a bull are led to sacrifice
paid than legionaries, but on discharge were granted Roman citizenship. while a messe/lger falls from
his horse as Trajan watches
CJ Infancry Darr.icks
The legions, on the other hand, were recruited only from Roman citizens. from a rostrum; a/ld on the CJ cenrurlons' Darracks
In the early Republic they had been taken from landed citizens and peasant
farmers with sufficient property to afford to provide their own equipment.
/lext level, the soldiers build a
camp while a Dacian
CJ granaries and scores

Above: modern replicas of the Marius changed all that in the late 2nd century BC, allowing landless citi- prisoner, possibly a spy, is CJ workshops
weaponry of the Roman dragged before the emperor.
zens (including the growing urban proletariat) to enlist. In 31 BC, at the
legionary: the gladius or short
sword, a stabbing weapon end of the civil wars, a huge force of 60 Roman legions was under arms.
which could be used Augustus reduced these to 28, stationing them along the frontiers where
effectively in close combat; the they were most needed. That still left a Roman army of around 300,000
pilum, a heavy javelin with a
point designed to bend on
men, half legionaries and half auxiliaries, representing a huge ongoing
impact so that it could not be commitment in terms of public expenditure.
re-used by the enemy; the
shield (scutum), and helmet. Under the early empire, legionaries were paid 900 sesterces a year, and
signed up for a period of 20 years. They were forbidden to marry during /
Right: a modern reconstruction their service, though many did of course form lasting relationships, and
of a Roman carro-ballista. The
vertical chambers at the front
their illegitimate children could by the 2nd century win citizenship them-
contained the coils used to selves by joining up as their fathers had done. Domitian
tension the bow, which raised soldier's pay in the late 1st century. and
could propel a foot- Septimius Severus again a century later. Severus also
long (30-cm) bolt to a
distance of 1000 feet allowed legionaries to marry and to live with their
(300 m). A similiar families outside the camp. Such concessions may
weapon is depicted have strengthened the soldiers' loyalty or simply
on the frieze of
Tra;an's recognized existing reality; but they made
the Roman army less mobile and flexible.
During the course of the 3rd and 4th
centuries the army was reformed ' to
Cvrenaica r
counter new enemies and changing
strategies. Up to this time, forces had
lIThe Roman legions, AD 24-1 50 I r~ ~ r
Roman frontier: Roman legions:
been thinly spread along the frontiers, 1 Alpes Poenlnae
AD 24 n AD 24 2 Alpes Cottiae
leaving no reserve army for emergencies AD 74 III AD 74 3 Alpes Maritimae
or special campaigns. The army had also r=I AD 150 ~ AD 150 i BOO km, III mJl.ENAfC
been dominated by the legions of soo miles IITRAI..
infantry. In the mid-3rd century this was

62 63

Ill: The Imperial Peace

The 2nd century was a period of relative stability in the history of
the Roman Empire. Trajan's wars carried Roman rule across the
Danube into Dacia and southeast into Arabia and Mesopotamia.
Under Hadrian, some of the eastern gains were given up, but this
still left an empire greater in territorial terms than it had ever been
before. Secure within its borders, the Roman state flourished in
relative peace and prosperity. Yet this was no happy
commonwealth. Despite the pageantry of the monuments and the
paternalism of the emperors it remained a world of harsh class
divisions, with slaves, peasant farmers and the urban poor eking
out a meagre living alongside senators and the rich.

The Frontiers Consolidated

The history of Rome in the 2nd century is much more than that of of indi-
vidual emperors and their policies, yet there are significant changes from
reign to reign which reflect the responses of central government to new
problems and circumstances, and some of these bear the stamp of individ-
ual rulers. Trajan had been a keen military man, and however much the
conquest of Dacia was a strategic necessity, the eastern campaigns at the
end of his reign clearly were not. Hadrian sensibly reined back the mili-
tary machine and set his sights on consolidation rather than conquest.
This was shown most clearly by the construction of linear barriers on cer-
tain frontiers. The most famous of them are Hadrian's Wall in northern
Britain and the German frontier between the Rhine and the Danube.
Both were enormous undertakings. The German frontier work consisted
of a substantial timber palisade running for almost 350 miles (550 km).
Hadrian's British frontier, though much shorter in length-a mere 75
miles (120 km)-made up for this in its even greater solidity: a stone-built
structure up to ten feet wide at the base and originally 12 feet (4 m) high,
at least in its eastern two thirds-the western section was initially built of
Opposite: the Pantheon, a turf and only later reinforced witj1 stone.
temple to all the gods, was
fou1lded by Augustlls's trusted Hadrian's consolidation of the frontiers was perhaps good policy, but it
frie1ld Agrippa in 27 BC.
Hadria1l e1ltirely remodelled marks a transition in the history of the Roman Empire. The great period
it, retai1ling Agrippa's porch of expansion was over, and the role of the army and the emperor was no
but replacing the original longer to conquer new territory but to defend what they already con-
recta1lgular structure behind
trolled. This had to some extent been the case since the death of Augustus
by a daring cir,ular building
with an enomious dome eve1l a century before-he had warned his successor to keep within existing
larger i1l diallleter than that of boundaries and 1l0t to embark on any risky foreign adventures. Yet piece-
St Peter's in the Vatican. It meal expansion had continued, culminating in Trajan's wars of the early
provides ample proof of
Roman mastery of new build- 2nd century. Hadrian's frontier policy marked the rejection of further ter-
ing techniques, especially the ritorial expansion, and gave it physical expression in structures of timber
use of brick and concrete, and and stone. The army became more and more a defensive force, there to
of their new cOtlcepts of archi-
tectural desigll. AIOIle mno1lg
repel foreign invaders and put down rebellions rather than to embark on
ROlllan temples it has retained aggressive wars of conquest. The momentum of expansion was halted, but
its stucco and marble veneer it was difficult to maintain stability, and as time wore on the Roman
to the present day,providing a
unique example of the inter-
empire found itself increasingly fighting rearguard action against pres-
lIal appearance of a great sures from without. This pressure would ultimately lead to the fall of the
Roman buildillg. Roman Empire in the west.

64 65

Government and Rebellion The Antonine Age

Hadrian spent much of his 21-year reign The accession of Antoninus Pius i"n 138 marked the beginning of the
travelling around the empire, gaining a Antonine age, a period later looked back to as a kind of golden age in the
level of first-hand experience unrivalled history of the Roman empire. Antoninus himself reigned for 23 years and
since Augustus. His journeys took him to was followed by his adopted son, the famous philosopher-emperor Marcus
both eastern and western provinces, and Aurelius. Both were considered estimable rulers in their own rather differ-
were a mixture of business and pleasure. ent ways. Antoninus Pius comes over to us as a benign and paternalistic fig-
In the Roman world the centre of govern- ure. In sharp contr.ast with his predecessor Hadrian, he never left Italy once
ment was the emperor and his entourage, after his accession, and even in earlier life may only have been overseas on
wherever they might be, and supplicants or one occasion. A number of wars were fought on his orders, but all of them
litigants wishing for an audience or com- at a distance. The most important was the re-occupation of southern
manded to appear before the emperor Scotland, which had been abandoned in the time of Domitian . In 159
might find themselves facing a lengthy and Antoninus ordered the construction of a new wall, the Antonine Wall, to
expensive voyage. It was only by visiting the run between the estuaries of Clyde and Forth. Built of turf and timber
provinces themselves, therefore, that an rather than stone, it was nonetheless a major undertaking though the area
emperor could hope to gain an accurate conquered was hardly in itself of world significance. Wars were also fought
impression of their problems and needs. in Mauretania and along the Danube frontier, but Antoninus was fortunate
Hadrian's travels mark a stage in the grad- to face no major crisis and threats alone were sufficient to deter the
ual transition from an empire of con- Parthians, Rome's eastern neighbours, from breaking the peace.
quered provinces ruled by an Italian aris- Right: this "elief pallel depict-
tocracy, to a commonwealth stretching illg the Emperor Marcus
from the Syrian desert to the Atlantic AuYelills (161-180) comes
Ocean. It is significant, too, that Hadrian from a 1I0w-va1lished mOllU-
mellt, possibly a triumphal
himse lf, like Trajan before him, was of arch cOlllmemomtillg his
Spanish extrac tion although, unlike campaigns 011 the Da1lube.
Trajan, Hadrian was actually born at
It was on Hadrian's third voyage that he
hit upon the scheme that was directly to
cause the only major war of his reign.
Passing through Palestine, h e decided to
Above: the Casa di Dialla at refound the city of Jerusalem as the colony of Aelia Capitolina, "Ae lius"
Ostia, the port of Rome, was being his family name. Jerusalem and its temple had been destroyed by
built i1l the mid-211d celltury
AD. The gYOImd-floor level Titus half a cen tury before, but still held powerful associations for the
was occupied by shops, while J ewish community, and the idea of a pagan settlement on their sacred site
stairways lead to apartme1lts stirred them into armed rebellion : Led by Simon Bar Cochba, they waged a
011 the floors above.
four-year campaign of open warfare and guerrilla fighting which was serious
enough to demand the presence of Hadrian himself.
By the time h e returned to Rome in 135 he was a relatively old man, and his
final years were devoted to the question of the succession. He himself had
been adopted by Trajan, officially on the latter's deathbed (though there
were some who claimed that Trajan's widow had manipulated the story and
the adoption had never actually taken place). Hadrian too was childless,
which once again left him free to name a successor of his choice. He chose
Antoninus "Pius", an upright and wealthy Italian nobleman of rather con-
servative views. As part of the deal Antoninus in turn adopted Marcus
Aurelius as his eventual successor. This system of adoption served the
Roman Empire well, from Nerva's adoption of Trajan in 97 to Marcus
Aurelius's death in 180. It ensured that each new emperor had proved him-
self capable of government before he assume d power It removed the
vagaries of heredity, which could produce bad emperors as well as good-a
point which was brought home when Marcus Aurelius was succeeded not by
an adopted emperor but by his own son, the unstable Commodus.

66 67

While the reign of Antoninus Pius was relatively

untroubled, his successor Marcus Aurelius was less
fortunate. He assumed power jointly in 161 with his
adoptive brother Lucius Verus, but within a year of
their accession Verus had had to leave for the east to
counter a serious Parthian invasion. In 165 the
Romans achieved a major victory, capturing and sack-
ing the Parthian capital of Ctesiphon in southern
Mesopotamia. When they returned to Rome the fol-
lowing year, however, they brought back more than
just loot-they brought the plague. An epidemic of
unspecifi~d nature (though probably not the bubon-
ic plague of Black Death fame) raged throughout the
empire in the year 168, carrying off thousands ofvic-
tims in Rome and other major cities. Perhaps sensing
this weakness, Germanic peoples chose this moment
to cross the Danube and attack Italy.
This was the start of the Germanic wars which were to
preoccupy Marcus Aurelius for the rest of his reign
(Lucius Verus dying in 169). They mark, in a sense, Imperial Buildings
the end of Rome's unchallenged greatness, the first
The 2nd-century emperors were great builders, using the resources of the
time for over 200 years that any foreign people had
state on a range of impressive projects. Some of them were for the private
invaded Italy, and a foretaste of worse things to come.
enjoyment of the emperors themselves. Hadrian, Antoninus Pi us and
The principal protagonists on this occasion were the
Commodus all had their preferred country villa, in addition to the official
Quadi and Marcomanni, Germanic peoples living
imperial palace on the Palatine at Rome. Greatest of all was Hadrian's pala-
north of the Danube. Their descent on Italy in 170
tial residence at Tivoli, a series of massive pavilions set in ornamental gar-
Above: the great bronze doors created a crisis which took several years to settle. At length order was
of the Pantheon date from dens and richly decorated with sculptures and carvings. Hadrian was espe-
restored, but not before large areas of the frontier zone had been devastat-
Hadrian's reconstruction of cially keen on Greek art and many of the sculptures were copies of famous
the building in the 2nd ed. Meanwhile Marcus Aurelius was committing his philosophical thoughts
Greek masterpieces. Antoninus Pius too had his country villa, at Laurentum
century. to a notebook, entitled simply "To Himself' It is this that has come down to
on the coast south of Rome. Though much less survives than at Tivoli, tl1is
us as the Meditations, presenting a gloomy picture of stoicism in the face of
too was set within an extensive estate. Commodus in turn chose to spend
hardship and adversity.
much of his time away from Rome, though not far away, at the Villa of the
Quintillii on the Via Appia, some 6 miles (10 km) from the city centre.
The End of a Dynasty Roman expansion spread the
trappings of Greek civic
The last years of Marcus Aurelius were occupied by renewed attempts to cult",·e throughout the
conquer central Europe, a project which had been abandoned by Augustus Mediterranean and beyond.
almost 200 years before. Then in 180 he died, and all thoughts of advancing Comedians (right) d,·ew their
inspiration from the Greek
the frontier were shelved. Commodus, the new emperor, quickly showed playwright Me11ander and his
signs of insecurity and megalomania. Leaving it to powerful officials to carry Roman imitators Plautus and
on the work of government, his regime soon became unpopular for its cor- Te,·ence. By the time the
theatre at Dougga, Tunisia
ruption, a situation which was not helped by the idiosyncratic behaviour of
(above) was built in the 2nd
the emperor himself. He displayed a great enthusiasm for gladiatorial spec- centu,y AD, the great age of
tacles, in which he was not only audience but actually participated, taking Roman drama was long dead;
the role of a secular, armed with sword and shield, against the retia/ius with the last playwright of any
stature had been Seneca (d.
his trident and net. His behaviour may not have been as mad as it is report- AD 65), the tutor of Nero and
ed to us by the Roman historians, but it alienated the elite and eventually author of a number of gory
posed a threat even to Commodus's own court officials. He planned to tragedies. Audiences
preferred mime and farce, and
make a grand entry into the amphitheatre on New Year's day 193, dressed many theatres even staged
(once again) as a gladiator. Instead he fell victim to assassination on the last wild beast fights.
day of 192, being first poisoned and then strangled in his bed. His death
marked the end of the Antonine dynasty.

68 69

Rome remained the heart of the ,empire, however, and continued to receiye of four successive emperors whose characters and authority commanded
much attention in terms of new public buildings and monuments to imperI- involun tary respect."
al glory. Victories abroad were marked by the construction of triumphal
There is some truth in this picture. It was in this period, for example, that
arches or commemorative columns. The Arch of Constantine is now known
the state established (and encouraged wealthy private citizens to establish)
to be largely the work of Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius followed Trajan's
alimentary schemes, where money was lent to landowners and the interest
example in erecting a great column with spiralling frieze to commemorate
used by local towns and cities to feed and cloth the children of needy fami-
his victories in the northern wars. It was Hadrian, however, who devoted the
lies. The state also stepped in to help cities which had borrowed money to
greatest attention to new building at Rome during this period. He complet~
embark on public building projects, and become bankrupt as a result.
ed the reconstruction of the city centre which had been begun by Domitian,
but he is famous above all for the rebuilding of the Pantheon. One further Yet the picture of the age is not altogether a rosy one. Outbreaks of epi-
series of imperial buildings at Rome deserves particular mention: the tem- demic disease in the 160s and after were one unpleasant feature. Another
ples of the deified emperors. Tr~an, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus was the beginnings of a division of society into honestiores and humiliores.
Aurelius were all deified by the senate after their death (Hadrian only after Previously all Roman citizens had been equal before the law. The major
some opposition from the senate). Each then received the temple owing to distinction had been between citizens and non-citizens. With the extension
a god. Trajan's, completed by Hadrian, was in his Forum. The columns of of the Roman franchise, however, new social pressures came into being
Hadrian's may still be seen in the side of the Stock Exchange in the Piazza which called fOf a division between rich citizens and poor So during the
di Pietra at Rome. The temple of Antoninus and Faustina (his empress), 2nd century a process was set in train which gradually gave more legal privi-
remodelled in the 17th century as the church of S Lorenzo in Miranda, still leges and indemnities to the rich, the honestiores, at the expense of the
stands in the Forum Romanum, and gives some idea of the immense scale poorer citizens, the humiliores. An example is a law of Hadrian specirying
which these monuments to the imperial dynasty assumed. punishments for those convicted of moving boundary stones (i.e. stealing
land). Men of standing were merely to be banished, but the rest were to be
Imperial building was not confined to Rome or Italy. One of the largest pro-
sentenced to a beating and two years' hard labour. Still harsher treatment
jects of the Antonine period was the great baths built on the seafront at
was meted out to marginal groups such as Christians who refused to sacri-
Carthage. Hadrian on his travels round the empire also donated buildings
fice to the traditional gods.
in the places he visited, notably the Library and Forum at his much-beloved
Athens. And over and above these civil constructions we must reckon the Social changes were coupled with economic decline in some regions of the
enormous effort put into military camps and frontier works, such as the empire. It is doubtful indeed whether Rome ever really adapted to the con-
walls of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius in Britain. cept of a fixed territorial base unsupported by the windfall profits of expan-
sionist wars. The capital itself continued to prosper, buoyed up by its posi-
tion at the heart of a great empire. Other Italian cities were becoming less
Literature prosperous, however, and the centre of gravity was steadily shifting away
from Italy towards what had once been the dependent provinces. Gaul, the
The early decades of the 2nd century caught the tail end of the greatest
Rhineland, and Africa, in particular, underwent an economic boom in the
period of Latin literature with the historical writings of Tacitus and the later
2nd century, at the expense of traditional Italian industries. As the econom-
satires ofJuvenal. Only slightly later than these are the famous biographies
ic geography of the empire changed, so did its politics, with provincials
of the first 12 Caesars by Suetonius, who served as secretary to the Emperor
becoming ever more prominent and powerful. This, and the growing pres-
Hadrian until he was dismissed for misconduct. These were almost the last
sures on the frontiers, were to be hallmarks of the following century.
great Latin writers in the classical mould. The later part of the century saw
Apuleius's comic novel The Golden Ass. An anonymous and enigmatic poem
called Pervigilium Veneris (The Vigil of Venus) may also belong to this per-
iod. But Greek had enjoyed a resurgence and was now the main literary lan-
guage once again, at the expense of Latin. Marcus Aurelius, though a
Roman by birth and upbringing, chose Greek as the most appropriate lan-
guage in which to write his Meditations. The greatest Greek writer of the age,
however, was· undoubtedly Plutarch, a native of Chaeronea in Greece who
wrote essays, dialogues and parallel lives of famous Greeks and Romans.

Right: the Emperor

Commodus (r. AD 181-192)
Roman Society in the 2nd Century sought to identify himself with
the gods; this portrait bust
The historian Edward Gibbon began his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire portrays him as Hercules. In a
with the words "If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the fit of megalomania he
world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and renamed the African grain
prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from fleet, which brought vital food
supplies to Rome,
the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus. The vast extent of Commodiana Herculea, and
the Roman Empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of the city of Rome itself Colonia
virtue and wisdom. The armies were restrained by the firm but gentle hand Commodiana.

70 71

Hadrian's Travels Right: the legacy of Hadrian's

travels may be seen in the
palace which he built at Tivoli
(Tibllr) near Rome. T he vast
The reign of the emperor Hadrian (117-138) was a time of complex of buildings stretched
for almost a mile, and
consolidation and retrenchment for the Roman empire. iJlcorporated a variety of
architectural features iflspired
Hadr ian began his reign by abandoning Trajan's eastern conquests (save by, and named after, places he
had visited on his travels. The
for Arabia which had come peacefully under Roman rule in 106) . Then in colonnaded pool named the
121 he embarked on the first of a series of j ourneys which took him to prac- Can opus was modelled on a
tically every corner of the empire. famous canal i" Egypt, while
the StOtl Poecile, 0>' "painted
One of his major concerns was the security of the frontiers, and to this end portico" was based on the
he strengthened the defences in several areas, including the all-important original at Athens. There was
also a theatre (foreground)
Rhine and Danube. Hadrian's most famous frontier work was the construc- and a circttlar pavilion,
tion of the wall in northern England which still bears his name, built to containing apartments,
divide the Romanized Britons from the barbarians beyond (~page s86-7) . sltrmullded by a moat and
edged by a semicircular
Above: this four-drachma coin H adrian had a great love of Greek culture and much of his travelling was in colonnade.
was struck at Alexandria in Greece and the Hellenized eastern provinces. He spent at least three win-
the 10th year of Hadrian's ters at Athens, e ndowing the city with a library, fo rum and arch. Hadrian
reign (AD 127-28). One side
shows the emperor's portrait, also visited Egypt, travelling up the Nile as far as Thebes. His last eastern
the other a Canopic jar used journey was however from military necessity rather than tourism; for his
by the Egyptians to preserve plan to refound Jerusalem (destroyed by Titus in AD 70) as the Roman city
internal organs removed from
the body during of Aelia Capitolina sparked off a serious revolt among the Jews which took
IIltllmnificatiolt. four years of fierce fighting to suppress.

r ~ , 1 '..'"
Da (') [::=J Roman empire. 117-138
Hadrian's routes:
......, 121 - 125
"H is villa at Tibu'r Noricum 0.0·,

'~ ')~ '"

wasmarvellousl), 128-132

constructed, and he M 0 e s rebellion against Roman rule

act1lalZ'Y gave to
j)m'ts of it the /
names oj'provinces
and places
Lycewn, Acadernia, ,J r

CanojYllS, Poecile ~ F( - .
. "
and Tern/Je. A nd in
( ~~
oTder 'not to omit I

anything, he even (/ --A. -

made a Hades. " Vf ( .... (


Life of Hadrian, 1\ I Cyrenaica Thebes

- - - ' Luxor
fro m the O~
~ ~~
H istima Augusta
J/S k.m$
250 miles


The Eastern Provinces

Cities and provinces of ISO mites

When Rome took control of Asia Minor, the Levant and Egypt in the East, 2nd century AD
the 1st and 2nd centuries BC, she acquired some of the wealthiest border of Roman Empire
provincial capital
territories of the Mediterranean world.
This was a region where sophisticated urban cultures had been established other major town
for centuries. The common language here was Greek rather than Latin, but
beneath the Hellenized veneer were a myriad of older local traditions and
languages. These included exotic religions such as the cult of many-breast-
ed Artemis at Ephesus, the sun-worship of Heliopolis (Baalbek) and Emesa,
and the pharaonic religion of Egypt-not to mention the uncompromising
monotheism of the Jews, who were not only to be found in Judaea but also
at Alexandria and other centres.

40" H-


Above: this 5th-century The Roman peace allowed trade and agriculture to flourish in this multi-
ntosaic from. Daphlle, near ethnic, polyglot world. Buildings and monuments of the early centuries AD
Antioch, displays the lively
metropolitan life of the
bear ample testimony to the prosperity of both individuals and communi-
Roman east. On the far left a ties. The major cities of Antioch and Alexandria each had populations num-
reclining man is served by an bering hundreds of thousands, and even lesser centres such Aphrodisias in
attendant. Past the three Asia Minor or Gerasa (Jerash) in the Levant were embellished with theatres
fignres to his right is the
Olympic stadium. Beyond it, and fountains.
a man rides up to a bath
house. On the far right are the Egypt occupied a special place in the Roman scheme. The fertility given by
springs fo,- which Daphne was the annual Nile flood enabled it to produce substantial agricultural surplus-
famous. es, and grain from Egypt was shipped each year to Rome to feed the urban
populace. So important was Egypt within the empire that Augustus forbade
Far right: the temple complex any senators from visiting the province without specific permission from the
.-- @
at Phi/ae in sottthem Egypt, emperor, who ruled it as his person- eyrene
situated 0" an island in the a l domain and was worshipped Euphesperides
Nile, was begun u"der the Bengh3zj
Ptolemies and completed
there as a pharoah. )
dllriltg the Roman period. The Cyrena e a
The security of the e astern
names of Allgustus, Caligula L IBY A
and Claudius are recorded i1l provinces were badly affected by the 30" - - - - - - - - - - -
CQ1,touches in the colonnades, rise of the powerful Persian empire SAUDI
a1ld Trajan added a kiosk i1l during the 3rd century AD, but the
the 211d century. Philae ARABIA
remai1led a major ce1ltre for imperial capital itself was moved
the worship of Isis and Osiris from Rome to Constantinople in
well into the CI",stia1l age, 330 and the east continued to flour-
until the cult was suppressed
in the 6th century,
ish while the westel-n provinces of
Britain, Gaul and Italy itself went
into decline. It was only the Islamic
Right: the theatre at Bostra invasions of the 7th century which
was built in the 2nd century
AD. This Nabatean city
brought an end to Roman hegemo-
became the capital of the ny in the region.
Roman provillce of Arabia,
annexed by Traja1l in 106,
During the ,'eign of Severns
Alexander (222-35) it became
a Roman colonia.

74 75

Three Eastern Cities

Ephesus under Roman rule was the
leading city of the eastern Aegean and
capital of the province of Asia. In the
early centuries AD it was extens ive ly
rebuilt with colonnaded stree ts, large
bathing complexes and other fine pub-
lic buildings including a richly decorat-
ed library. The life-blood of the city was
the thriving port, linked to th e sea by a
narrow channel and to the city centre Above: this mosaic of a table setting provides a glimpse
by a street edged with colonnades and of the casltal elegaltce etl;oyed by wealthy citizens of
Antioch in their palatial villas itl the southem
lit by oil lamps at nigh t. Another suburb of Daphne.
sourc e of wealth was the cult of the
goddess Artemis, housed in a splendid Antioch on the Orontes was the capital of
temple just outside the city and focus the province of Syria and a city noted for
of a lively pilgrim trade. wealth and luxury. Its prosperity derived
from trade and from the agricultu ral
Above: one of the most st.,.ikillg remains of Romatl Ephestts is the
library, bi'ilt as a memorial to Tiberilts jltlilts Celslts in the early produce of the adjacent plain, notably wine
2nd cClltUry AD. Richly adomed with marble colltmtls and an d o live oil. Unlike many major Roman
faci/lgs, it has /liches to hold liP to 12,000 scrolls; Celslts cities it was some 15 miles from the sea, but
left a legacy of 25,000 denarii to pay for their lmrchase. 1\1011111
it was connected by a good road to its own Silpi,,~
h arbo ur town of Seleucia. The city walls al-e
testimony to the fact that from th e 3rd
century AD Antioch was vulnerable to
Persian attack, but it remained an
important centre of commerce and
government. The sophistication oflate
Roman Antioch is best illustrated by the N

luxurious villas of Daphne, a southern
50:0 m
subu rb noted for its natural beauties.
1500 h

o 500 m Alexandria was the second la rges t city o r the Roman world , with a
o 1500 ft population of around h a lf a million people. Found e d by
/1. Pharos Alexander the Great in 33 1 BC, it stood at the western edge of the
(I.\ghthouse) Nile Delta and was the point from which Egyptian grain was
Pharo [,land Y '-i\'· shipped to Rome. It was also a thriving cultural centre, home
I to Hero, inventor of an e lemen tar), steam turbine, and to
Pmtll'i l,itwosllIs
1I~,\II'I'lIllm/~J/l1 Porfus IHag-nlls the geograph er and astronome r Claudius Ptole mae us.
1~'(I.\'If'rn l'm/mlll'
From the 2nd century it beca me a I1lcyor ce ntre of
~'(J<ullin'''-... Christian the o logy an d sea t of one of the four
Patria r c hs. Though a great city, Alexand r ia
was n o t a peaceful one , but was notorious
for its riots an d street violence.

N 8)00 Right: much of Romall

Alexalldria lies buried belleath

the modem city; this small

Left: a R01llatl copy of the eltlt

sfah,eo'f Arte",is. The matly-
breasted represelltation of the
1=:=======:::;:5500 m
semi-circu lar theatre is one of
the few buildings visible
today. Arol/nd the ,.ear were
marble COl"'1l11S imported from
Italy. Scratched on the seats
goddess at Epheslls was IIl1tch 1500 ft Lake M (lTeotis
are drawings of charioteers.
visited by pilgrims.

76 77

Writing and Literacy

Writing was a key feature of Roman society: in monumental
inscriptions, literary works, personal letters and bureaucratic
records-even as graffiti on the walls.

"Here a:re my johes

a'nd witticisms, my
loves, my sorrows, Above: III Roman libraries, the everyday writing of workmen's accounts or simple letters was relatively
comjJlaints and vex- the scrolls were stored in
widespread, at least among the urban populace, as was the ability to read
pigeonholes; a small parch-
ations; now my style m ent label was fixed to the public posters and inscriptions.
zs simjJle, TWW'fIWTC end of each scroll. This
Several different materials were used for written documents. In the east, and
engraving was made from a
elevated . . . " Calving found in the 17th cen- even in Italy, papyrus was widely employed. This was made from the pith of
Pliny the t,ay at Neumagen near Trier, an Egyptian marsh plant, pounded in layers to make a form of paper which
but subsequently lost.
Younger, Letten could then be written on in ink. Several papyrus documents of the Roman
Above right: this 3rd-centu1Y period have been preserved in the dry sands of Egypt. They include the old-
papyrus front Oxyrhynchus in est surviving gospel fragment, part of StJohn's gospel, written probably in
Egypt prese,ves an epitome of
the Romatl historian Livy the 2nd ce ntury AD. An alternative to papyrus where that was either unavail-
(59 BC-AD 17). Many ancient able or too expensive was parchment or vellum, made from the skins of cat-
works have survived only as tle, sheep and goats. Wooden stylus tablets, with a recessed surface covered
epit~mes (abridgements). Livy
wrote 142 books of history; of in coloured wax, were another possibility. Here the written message was
these, 35 survive intact, many inscribed in the wax using a bronze or iron stylus. Stylus tablets could be re-
of the rest as epitomes. used by smoothing out the wax ready to receive a new message (as scratches
Below: many cities of the on the underlying wood often reveal) but were not only for temporary writ-
highly-literate eastem ings but for wills and legal contracts.
provinces had fine public
libraries. The Emperor Wooden leaf tablets (thin sheets of wood) were also written on in ink. They
Right: this wall painting from
Hadrian, an art-lover with a were so thin that they could be folded, and an address written on the outer
Pompeii shows a young strong interest in Greek face. Alternatively, they could be tied together at the edges in a concertina-
woman with stylus and set of cultu"e, had this library built
at Athens after his uisit in like arrangement. Parchment and papyrus documents during the early
wooden writing tablets
(1st century AD). AD 124. Rom an period (as in classical Greece) were stored mainly in the form of
rolls, up to 16 feet (5 m) long, occasionally with rollers at
Below right: amcmg the many e ither end. They could be kept in boxes or on shelves, but
wooden writing tablets ,'ecov- How many Romans could read or write for themselves is rather a difficult were clumsy and cumbersome for easy reference. A major
ered at the fort of Vindolanda
question. The wealthy were taught th ese skills by a private teacher as part of innovation (tl10ugh one which was slow to catch on) was the
on the northem frontier of
Roman Britain was this invi- their childhood education. The less privileged had to rely on other means invention of the book or codex, in which leaves of parch-
tation to a birthday party, of learning, persuading a friend or relative to teach them, or (in towns and ment were bound toge ther down one edge. Books made
written around AD 100: cities) attending a school. Education was rarely free, but it seems that even
"Claudia Severa to her
their first appearan ce in the 2nd century AD, mainly for
Lepidina, greetings. among the poor there were some who could read and write. High-flown Christian texts, but it was not until the 4th century that they
I send you a warm invitation prose and artful rhetoric may have been the preserve of a small elite, but came into general use.
to come to us of September
11th, for my birthday celebra- Right: pens of reed and metal
tions, to make the day more (bronze or im,,) were used
enjoyable by your presence. to wIlte 0" papyrtls a,·
Give my greetings to your vellu",. Ink, made
Ceria lis. My Aelius greets you from a solutio" of
and your sons. soot and water, was ..-,
1 will expect YOil, sister. kept in elegant
Farewell sister, my dearest inlaid bmnze
soul, as 1 hope to prosper, and inkpots.
greetings ."
Sulpicia Lepidina was the
wife of the garrison comtlll;m-
der. Her friend's greeting at
the end of the letter is the
earliest ktlOwn writing in
Latin by a woman.

Trade and Transport

Efficient road and sea communications allowed goods to be
traded throughout the Roman Empire and far beyond its frontiers.

The Romans are famous for the roads they built to connect the far-flung 30·
provinces of their empire. These allowed the armies to be deployed
rapidly, and helped to stimulate the economy by assisting the transport
of goods from town to town. The Romans used both two-wheeled and
four-wheeled carts pulled by horses or oxen, There may even have been
a rule abou t keeping to one side of the road, though whether right or - 15"---- -
left is still disputed. Armies and emperors travelled mainly by road, but
for the transport of bulky goods water transport was more ~-----~--~

efficient: from the Edict of Prices laid down by the Emperor

Diocletian in 301 we learn that it was cheaper to ship grain 2/Roman trade with the East
~ Silk route _ major trade centre
from Spain to Syria than move it 75 miles inland. Large numbers,.
~ other trade route incense-producing area
Above: this bronze coin of of Roman shipwrecks around the shores of the Mediterranean tes-
Nero (AD 54-68) was issued to
commemorate the comptetio"
tify to the scale of maritime trade, as well as its risks. Among the
most important commodities were wine, olive oil and grain.
\-_~ _ _ _ _-r_ _~~_.-_ _~~__~__~~==~==~13~~·
800 miles

of the hal'bour of Ostia at the

mouth of the River Tiber "ear Wine and olive oil travelled in large pottery amphorae packed
Rome, It shows a bird's eye in straw, though wine could also be carried in casks. Grain
view of the basill surrounded IfTrade in the Roman
by wharfs m.d full of
had a particular place in the Roman eco nomy, being
Empire, 2nd century AD
shippillg, The reclilling figure shipped from Egypt and Africa (modern Tunisia) to Rome
Roman frontier
in the foreground represents to provide the monthly corn dole for the urban citizenry.
the Tiber. sea route
Most inhabitants of the empire survived, as they had always, with usual sailing time
main roads
done, on the produce of their local area. The
exception was the rich, who used their wealth
OCEANUS c:J production areas

to purchase exotic luxuries, These included

silks from China, incense from Arabia and
spices from Southeast Asia. Some of the e
M e't Is ~
Below: this stretch of Roman goods travelled along the so-called Silk
road at Vu/d, Ita/y, still Route through Central Asia, others by Mal01s-....
SIlrvives in remal'kably good
repair. These essential arteries sea across the Indian Ocean In j
of comnuutication were exchange, Roman merchants traded, !
solidly cOllstructed to gold, glassware and other manufac-
withstand the elements
and provide all tures, which turn up today as far
all-weather surface. afield as Malaysia and Vietnam.

i==:;::==:t:==~50~D kms
300 miles

80 81

The Roman Amphitheatre Left: lions, bears, leopards,

wolves and even ostriches
were trapped and transported
The Roman passion for gladiatorial games led to the construction from far afield fo,' the games.
Some were set agail1st
of vast amphitheatres. Their impressive ruins can still be seen unarmed prisoners, others
across Europe and North Africa. used ill stage-managed hunts
involving elaborate scenery
The games played a major p art in Roman life, especially in Italy and the incuding real trees. This
"1 chan ced to stop western provinces, where they were the scene for frequent and often bloody mosaic, from Moknine in
Tunisia, shows a leopard
in at a midday displays. The most familiar are the contests between gladiators, trained being killed in the arena,
show, exjJeeting; fighters not unlike the boxers of today, but armed in much deadlier fashion while the perform~rs' pay is
with net and trident (the retianus) or sword, shield and helmet (the secutar). brought in.
fun, wit; mul some These were the classic combatants, but there were other kinds of gladiator,
relaxation. Tt was often heavily armoured. Not all those taking part were trained or prepared. Left: the biggest of all the
Criminals condemned to death-including Christians on occasion-were arenas was the Colosseum at
just the reverse . .. in Rome. Begun by the Emperor
sometimes compelled to fight each other or exposed naked to wild animals Vespasian (AD 69-79) and
the morning- men in the arena. Thousands of animals perished in these spectacles-as many completed in AD 80 by his son
are thrown to the as 11,000 in the great games held by Trajan in 107. Most elaborate of all Titus (AD 79- 81), it could
were the sea-fights, fough t (if we may believe it) in flooded amphitheatres hold as many as 50,000
lions and the bears, spectators. The 76 entrances
or on special lakes built for the purpose. and 160 passages allowed the
a t noon they are enth'e audience to seat
The violence of Roman gam es has troubled many modern-and some themselves within tet! 1IIinutes,
thrown to theiT spec- ancient-commentators, but it does not mean that the Roman spectators and the stm,ds were miginally
tators. 'Kill him! were any more bloodthirsty than modern viewers of violent films and televi- covered by m, adjustable
canvas awning.
Lash him! Burn sion series. This was violence at a distance, in a carefully controlled context.
Gladiatorial combats were eventually banned by the Emperor Honorius
him!. .. ' And when (395-423) , but the tradition of the Roman games lives on in the bullfights
Amphitheatres and
the show stops for of Spain and Southern France.
the animal trade
intermission , 'Let :s' r---n-
---;-;llk>~'~'r:I-~~--:s;fu;-;;;,;;;-;;;~-.:--F;-;:"'~;;;:~:---:-;;t;----Jr~ ~-~-'---:------------------------------,..---.....,..--~ r----l
'!t '
Roman empire,
I "~ n\' L(;n'dlnlum F co ,;;'ia. 10'-"' _ ' _ .~ 'JIi' ~It 't\''' Trape, us ",~ L-J 2nd century AD
have men killed L~dOI1 Agri~pina ® ,c" I' (I TrMl20n ,/ ~) amphitheatre
C.rn~ntum \> ~ ." ~
mea n while! L et\ Vlolfhound I v'''
\ ~--....'---~,00008ne-
' I c:?
~ Aug.l'lta '~
Wil Boar AuracTIs - @" 'Pctrbnell "' \1 X ~ source of animals for
not ha'(Je nothrng <! Treverorum / <; ",':"~f Nori c un~ \ y ~ci a ,/ " "" \\ l(\( Bi lb y nia( / [; - .>.,.- Roman arena

O'Oi n (T on! '"

1 I, · \ Trler\ f ~~ , <l> -} .. Po~tll'/ / et ~ ~_
6 b ) e ' nn\" /. ...) ~
Sen eca, lVloral OCEANUS k~ a -{)fr, / Iil' - I>qljljOljia -:S\:r" " 2\N:comedia ( ~Q,~'to ~uo Tige(
,J 7 UL"rr f( (J eL I ,IV 'L Lugdtmufll ' ~~~ '~ 0 ,\,zmft Galat i ;> (i \
Ej)istles 1 '" l,.yW Megiolanum® /1, Thr a in Y Antlocb-:- Syria

N~au sus
• '"
I ';ro-
... "'MUatf
~ .r
.. I .
, q
t- ; C I' ftJ

Mac e don i a _
... DyrM~a ch lum. Mn,.,.
As i a
\ 'V ..
<;l;> Cif' '::'
'" OPalmyra

~@I~ w~
'" Arela!e Cl) R'ome • ~phesus
..; Aries
6-P~$ - Pomf1clI
" Aella Capltolina
ID ® \_"L. "--~ \r. ,\ __ lo/"usalem

. \: ~ _~
~_~- --=>
e Tarraco

~~ // IIIfIt
(lj , ~i<'
.\ d j'i ((
11" , Hi s pan i a
~O·I _,E" m,~,!a_'--
__ ~ii!if
Si li a
fii){ yracus.• e
/ Hippopolomus
M a l' c'. Arabia
Rome ~ ...
' Augusta
,- . Horse
~tage I
-~ ~~ r ~II
® e r 11

Lambaesis Thysdrus'" l~"

'" ® Ei Djem M' tip,

.- Dv
- \,
T Y ,. h " 11 11
.~ ~
I 11 1

S a
, WildAss
1\{ a u r e l 't\ n i a
Rhino(eros ~==========ffi!
)7S I,""
I I \ lSO miles


Roman Spain I/Roman Spain,

c. 2nd AD
Right: the aqueduct at Segovia
was probably built during the
reign of Trajan. The great
_ provincial boundary arches that tower 128 ft
(39 metres) over the city are
The Iberian peninsula was one of the most prosperous regions of @ provincial capital
just the final section of a
the Roman Empire, with great cities and a thriving export trade. ~
seat of provincial watercourse that starts in the
council hills 10 miles (16 km) away.
[jJ legionary base
The peninsula was divided into three separate provinces: Lusitania in the
west, Baetica in the south, and Tarraconensis in the east and north. The 0 other centre

Roman conquest was a long drawn-out affair, beginning in 206 BC with the - - - Roman road

capture of Carthaginian possessions in the south (~ pages 24-5) and ending SILVER natural resource
with the crushing of the last resistance in the northwest in 19 BC. By this modem boundary
time, the southern region of Spain was thoroughly Romanized. A network
of roads connected its towns and cities, crossing the major rivers on fine ~=="""'E====i'~50 kms
stone bridges such as the one that spans the Tagus at Alcantara. Several f-- 3000
100 miles

Iberian cities, including Emerita Augusta (Mcrida), Corduba (Cordoba),

Hispalis (Seville) and Carthago Novo (Cartagena), were substantial places
with all the trappings of urbanized Roman life; at : l1:erid a, the 2nd-century
theatre, with its impressive porticoed stage-front (scaenae frons), survives and
is still used for theatrical productions.

Above: pottery containers At the end of the 1st century, Spain provided the first Roman emperor of
(ampborae) for transporting provincial origin in the person of Trajan (r. 98-117), born probably at
Spanish wine, olive oil and Italica near modern Seville. Trajan's successor Hadrian (r. 117-138) was
fish sauce have been found all
around the shores of the also of Spanish origin. Families such as those of Trajan and Hadrian drew
western Mediterranean. They much of their wealth from the agricultural produce of southern Spain, par-
form one of the main ticularly from the export of wine and olive oil. Spain was also an exporter of
components of the rubbish
mounds behind the waterfront
the highly-prized fish sauce known as garum, which was processed in facto-
at Rome and some, with ries along the southern coast. The most obviously profitable of Roman
manufacturers' marks from Spain's resources, however, were its metals: gold in the northwest, copper
Spain, have been found as far and silver in the sQuthwest. In the Rio Tinto area remains of the screw
afield as Wroxeter in Britain
and Heddernheim in pumps and water wheels used to drain the deep workings still survive, pro-
Germany. viding vivid evidence of Roman hydraulic capabilities (~ pages 128-9) ,

2/Roman Italica
ltalica was the first community
of Roman citizetls in Spain,
founded by Scipio Africallus in
the 3rd century BC as a home for
vetera"s of the war agaillst
Carthage. For much of its
existe1lce it was overshadowed by
nearby Hispalis (Seville), and its Pi[)'llsa~ .
main claim to fame was that the lI;i{'r(

Emper01' T rajml was born there.

When HadrialttJisited Spain i1l
122 he embellished the city by
adding a completely new quarter
alongside "the old municipium,
FISH Mare Internum
New Town complete with a lllOnumenfal
fontm and an amphitheatre
M ed i /111"1" 11 11. e (/ n S ea
capable of seating 25,000
spectators. This gave the city a
T rajan baths
considerable boost-elegant
town houses with elaborate
mosaic (/oors were built-
but it was a somewhat
artificial Olle, and by the next J
century ltalica's importance had ')
E=======~======~1~400m waned once agaill.
400 yds

84 85

the fronti er ran along the Rhine and the Danube, which themselves formed
Guarding the Frontiers a sufficient obstacle. Forts, camps and watchtowers were built along their
banks, and a strong frontier-work was constructed be tween the upper reach-
es of the two rivers. New frontier defences continued to be built during the
The peace and prosperity of the empire depended on the defence of late Roman period, especially along the Danube where pressure from the
its frontiers, which were guarded by fo rts, watchtowers and north was intense . These include a series of boundary earthworks, the
ramparts. Devil's Dykes and Brazda lui Novac du Nord, built by Constantine (306-37)
Until the middle decades of the 3rd century, Rome had no mobile field to protect tributary peoples beyond the Danube from the Goths.
army held in reserve, and' military units were concentrated in camps and
forts along the frontiers. It was the defence of these frontiers which gave the 10'
provinces the security which allowed their economies to flourish and pro- 2/The Danube frontier in the 4th century
vide taxes for the imperial treasury. Not surprisingly, then, maintaining and Roman frontier " ••. fort or for tlee
strengthening the frontiers was a major preoccupation of government. At provincial earthwork
first this was achieved by building a chain of forts and watch-towers linked
by a military road to allow the rapid deployment of troops. Under Hadrian
Vi i go tlls
(117-38) , however, crucial sections of the frontier
began to be fortifie d in more substantial man-
ner by the building of a continuous rampart
or wall. The most famous and elaborate
is H adrian's Wall, the 70-mile (1l2-km)
stone wall running from the mouth of
the Rive r Tyne to the Solway Estuary,
and extended down the Cumbrian coast
by forts a nd watchtowers. In its
ce ntra l se ction Hadrian ' s Wall
runs across rugged terrain, and
substa ntial stretches of the wall
an':! its forts, mile castles and tur-
re ts can still be seen.
On the Europe an m a inl a nd
there was generally no need fo r
such a continuous barrier, since


Above: a stretch of Hadrian's
I/Hadrian's Wall in the 2nd century

\~ BI
wall. 11, the foreground is a ",-" .Bi rren s
turret, which would have
been used for observati01' and
defence. The wooden
, 'CIIstl'tl E)(ploratul11 )
Netherby j
~nu,, / '::ocidii~ 1
B:2:0 N
0 fort abandoned
after wall was built
outpost or
superstructure is based on the
turrets depicted on Trajan's
Column at Rome. In the
! e
~ ,.J Bewcastle \ ~
O m !~ ..
4b back-up fort
Roman road
distance is a milecastle, a Ituna l! A e st .r--'
more substantial defence with S o lm /IV Fitll!

ban'ack accommodation.
There Were two turrets o Cllur nu m Oceanus
between each milecastle. 6.<> Vindolanda Cn.s~r,.,
Gel'llwn i cus

Beckfoot it ( Ch","" NlYrll!.
... "i(,1I


t.. Old Cadisle

1 Sogedun um
0 W~ llscnd

~"" Co.., ) ) Vindomora

\ )


IV: The Troubled Century

The century following the death of Commodus was marked by a
remarkable series of shifts in Roman fortunes, greater than the
empire had ever experienced before. A period of firm government
by the early Severans was followed by a gradual decline of central
authority. Coupled with the appearance of more powmjul enemies
on the imperial frontiers, this led to a crisis in the security and
stability of the empire which lasted throughout the middle decades
of the 3rd century. Riven by internal faction and assailed by
foreign enemies, the empire broke up into a number of regional
powers. For a moment it looked as though all was lost, as though
the Roman empire was at an end. But a series of capable military
emperors managed to restore the position during the course of the
270s, laying the groundwork for the major reorganization Right: the Emperor Septimius
undertaken by Diocletian after his accession in 284. Severus (r.193-211), with his
wife Julia Damna and thei,'
sons Caracalla and Geta.
Severus left the empire to his
The murder of Commodus on New Year's Eve 192 brought to an end the two SOilS, but in 212
Antonine age, but while Commodus himself had been unpopular with both Caracalla murdered his
the Senate and the praetorian guard, his demise did not at once usher in brother. Thousands of Geta's
supporters were also killed,
peace The assassins, with the support of the Senate, made the elderly his statues smashed and his
Pertinax emperor. He was a respected statesman and distinguished military portraits-including this
commander, but he too lacked the support of the praetorians and was mur- one-defaced.
dered by elements of the guard in March 193.
his mother's sister's grandchildren Marcus Aurelius (Elagabalus) (218-22)
This marks the high point of praetorian fortunes; never again were they to
and Alexander Severus (222-35), both of whom were pure Syrian.
exercise such power at Rome. Their immediate move was to offer the posi-
tion of emperor to the person who would pay them the most money, and
the choice thus fell upon the wealthy but ineffectual Didius Julianus. He
The Empire under the Severans
had no support in the provinces, and the frontier legions soon began to
declare for their own candidates: Pescennius Niger in the east, Clodius Septimius Severus relied heavily on the support of the army both to bring
Albinus in Britain, Septimius Severus on the Danube. Severus was the even- him to power and to retain it. He naturally paid particular attention to mili-
tual winner, largely by being bolder and more ruthless than his competitors. tary matters, waging a series of wars, raising new legions and improving the
He marched on Rome and easily disposed of Didius Julianus, but had hard soldiers' pay and conditions for the first time since Domitian a century earli-
fighting to do before he overcame Pescennius Niger and Clod ius Albinus. It er. Legionaries were now allowed to marry and to live with their wives and
was not until 197, over four years after Commodus's death, that Severus had families in civilian accommodation outside the military camps.
undisputed rule over the whole empire.
His major wars against foreign enemies were in Britain and the east. Severus
With one short break, members of the Severan family were to govern Rome fought two separate campaigns against the Parthians, in 195 and 197-8, and
for more than 40 years. This marks a further step in the growing impor- created two new imperial provinces (Mesopotamia and Osrhoene) in the
tance of the provincials, especially those from the Mrican and easter! Parthian borderlands beyond the Euphrates. These were the first significant
provinces. Severus himself was born at Lepcis Magna in Cyrenaica (modern additions to the empire since Trajan's conquest of Dacia some 90 years
Libya) His rival Clodius Albinus came from Hadrumetum (Sousse) in mod- before. The war in Britain came near the end of the reign, and was nothing
ern Tunisia. By this time, a large proportion of the senators at Rome were less than an attempt to revivs;" the plan of conquering the whole of Scotland.
of Mrican origin. Most of them in fact supported Albinus rather than Neither this nor the Parthian wars may be considered to have been a strate-
Severus, which caused Severus to instigate a purge of 29 senators once he gic necessity, though they brought booty and glory to the army. One further
had defeated Albinus. Severus's Mrican origins were plain for all to hear in objective of the British war, we are told, was to remove Severus's trouble-
his Mrican accent, which he never lost.
To Mrican was mixed a Syrian element, since Severus was married to Julla
Domna, daughter of the High Priest of the sun-god Elagabal at Emesa
1 some sons from the hothouse politics of Rome.
Another area where Septimius Severus took serious military action was
North Mrica, his home territory. Lepcis Magna received a suite of impres-
(modern Homs). Thus Caracalla (211-17), Severus's successor, was half sive new public buildings befitting the birthplace of an emperor. Severus
Mrican, half Syrian, and he in turn was succeeded after a brief interlude by also campaigned against the desert nomads and ordered the construction of

88 89

a new system of roads and forts which pushed the frontier significantly fp.r- Rome itself, however, was neither neglected by the Severans nor abandoned
ther to the south. He also created the new province of Numidia. The impor- as an imnerial residence. Quite the contrary. Severus added a new wing to
tance of Africa went well beyond its close links with the imperial family. It the Palatine palace, a triumphal arch in the Forum, and may have begun
continued to be one of the most prosperous provinces of the empire, pro- construction of the baths named after his son Caracalla. The later Severans
ducing huge quantities of oil from vast olive groves, and continuing to be a also built at Rome, Elagabalus, for instance, erecting an enormous temple
major supplier of grain for the city of Rome. The economic success of the on the Palatine to the sun god he worshipped.
African provinces is amply demonstrated by great building projects of the
2nd and early 3rd centuries, such as the amphitheatre at El Djem. Right: Septimius Sevents came
from Lepcis Magna in
In Italy, on the other hand, the Severan period was characterized by contin- Tripolitana, a region then at
uing economic decline. Politically, Italians were becoming steadily less the zenith of prosperity. The
important as provincials took more and more of the key positions. The sOurce of this wealth was the
agricultural produce of the
influence of the Senate, too, was falling, as members of the equestrian order fanning villas and their
(many of them as wealthy as senators, but distinguished from them by being surrounding estates. This one,
non-political) were given plum commands. The realities of power were at Utica in Byzacena (modern
Tunisia), is one of the best-
reflected by Severus's stationing of one of his three new legions in Italy, as if
preserved in the Roman
it were just another province. The legion was based at Albanum, a mere 20 world.
miles from Rome, as a visible proof of the emperor's authority over Senate
and capital.

Right: the praetorian guard,

shown here in a relief carving
from Rome, were the elite
bodyguard of the emperors.
They reached the height of
their power and influence in
193 when, after assassinating
the Emperor Pel1inax, they
put the empire up for sale to
the highest bidder.

The Severan Succession

SeptimiusSeverus died at York in 211 and was followed by his sons Marcus
Antoninus (nicknamed Caracalla after his favourite type of cloak) and Ceta.
The two were constantly at odds with each other, and though each built up
a substantial following at Rome, it was Caracalla who eventually won the
struggle, having Ceta murdered after only a few months of joint rule.
Caracalla spent the rest of his reign on a grand tour of the eastern
provinces. The notoriety he gained by murdering his brother was reinforced
by his unexplained massacre of the young male population of Alexandria
when he visited the city in 215. Like his father he increased the pay of the
soldiers, on whom he depended, and like him too he mounted a major war
against the Parthians. The first foray, in 216, wa~ an unqualified success, so
far as it went, though by early the following year the Parthians had
regrouped and were poised for a major counter-offensive. Caracalla did not
live to face the threat, since he was murdered by one of his bodyguard, a
man with a private grievance, in spring 217.
He left two great monuments to his five-year reign, one physical, the other
constitutional. The physical monument was the enormous Baths of
Caracalla, the greatest of Roman bathing complexes, which was dedicated
90 91

It was during the weak reign of Severus Alexander that the first signs
emerged of the serious external pressures which were to bring the empire
almost to its knees in the decades to come. One of the most important of
these events was the establishme nt of a n ew imperial power on the eastern
frontier Since the last centuries BC the Near East beyond th e limits of
Roman rule had been dominated by the empire of the Parthians. In AD 226,
the last Parthian king, Artabanus V, was overthrown by one of his vassals, the
Persian ruler Ardashir. In the 6th century BC the Persians had conquered
the lands around the East Mediterranean, including Asia Minor and Egypt,
and Ardashir in a show of bravado now laid claim to these form er territo-
ries. In 230 he invaded Roman territory. forcing the unwarlike Severus
Alexander to stage a powerful coun ter-attack. It was enough to halt Ardashir
in his tracks, but failed to win any great victories. When two years later (235)
Alexander preferred do a deal with the Germans on the Rhin e frontier
r l'ather than fight them, his soldiers decided they had had enough. They
murdered Alexander and his mother, and proclaimed as emperor one of
their own commanders, Maximinus the Thracian.

Right: Dougga, in modem

Tunisia, was olle of the
flourishing Roman cities of
The Slide towards Crisis
North Africa. Its grand public
The army had always been a major power-broker in the imperial game, but
buildings included the
capitol-a temple of the the policies of the Severans and their rejection of senatorial authority had
Capitoline triad of deities, m ade the office of emperor more dependent on the military than ever
Jupiter, Juno and Mine/·va. before. The relationship became even closer during the middle decades of
This was dedicated in
AD 166, and the pediment the 3rd century when the continual threat of foreign invasion made control
sculpture depicts the of the army and military competence th e essential prerequisites for a suc-
apotheosis of the Emperor cessful reign. The Roman empire was now clearly on the defensive Those
Anto>zinus PillS, who had died
emperors who failed met a speedy and violent end.
five years earlier.
The drift towards mIlitary autocracy is well represented by Severus
in 216 but further added to during the 220s. The constitutional reform for Alexander's successor Maximinus. He was neither senator nor equestrian,
which he is best known is the granting in 212 of Roman citizenship to all but an ordinary soldier who had risen through the ranks. Faced with the
the free male inhabitants of the empire. It was not as radical a move as it threat of German invasion , he spent most of his reign on the Rhin e and the
seemed. Many provincials already possessed Roman citizenship th rough Danube, a nd ignored Rome entirely. His place was with the army, not court-
grants by earlier emperors. It did remove a major constitutional distinction ing politicians in the capital. His only visit to Italy as emperOl" was at the end
between Italians and non-Italians, but the important difference in law was of his reign, when the Senate put lip two of their own candidates to oppose
now that between rich and poor, honestiores and hmniliores. him . Even on that occasion he didn't reach Rom e but was mUl'de red while
Caracalla was succeeded by another African emperOl', Macrinus, a Moor besieging the rebellious city of Aquilcia (at the head of the Adriatic) in
who had trained as a lawyer and then joined the army in search of better April 238.
prospects. He was an innovation in one important respect, being the first The emperors who ruled Rome from Philip the Arab (244-9) to Gallienus
non-senator to become emperor. But he did not reign for long. He failed to (253-68) presided over a situation of increasi ng crisis. The military struggle
defeat the Parthian counter-attack in 217 an d was forced to seek a humiliat- was made a ll the more difficult by the need to defend several frontiers
ing peace. Then, early the following year, the Syrian legions restored the simultaneously. In the west, a German co nfederation known as the
Severan family to power in the person of Caracalla's niece's son Elagabalus. Alemanni threatened the Rhine and Upper Danube. On the lower Danube,
Elagabalus was only 14 years old at the time, and real power reste d with his the principal enemy was the Goths (another Germanic people, recently set-
moth er and grandmother, both Syrian princesses, the latter of them the sis- tled in the Ukraine). In the east, th e Persians under a new aggressive ruler
ter of Severus's empress Julia Domna. While they and their officials ran the Shapur I, mounted periodic invasions of Syria and adjacent provinces. The
business of government, Elagabalus devoted himself to his role as hereditary nadir was reached in 260. In that year, the Emperor Valerian was captured
High Priest of the sun god of Emesa. The sacred black stone of Emesa, sym- by the Persians and ended his days in captivity. No longer able to control
bol of the god, was brought to Rom e and installed in a special temple on the east, his son Gallienus was forced to rely on help from the rulers of
th e Palatine. Elagabalus himself engaged in exotic rituals and strange sexual Palmyra, who used their position to establish a quasi-independent state. At
practices in the service of his god. When these became such an embarrass- the same time the western provinces broke away to form a separate Gallic
ment that they posed a threat to the regime, he was done away with and his empire, and the truncated body of the central empire was afflicted by a rash
more acceptable (though still very young) cousin Severus Alexander made of pretenders.
emperor in his place.

92 93

Against all expectations, the empire was slowly put to rights 'cby Persecution was suspended in 260, an admission of failure on the part of the
a series of soldier-emperors of Balkan origin, referred to as authorities, and for the next 40 years the Christians were left in peace.
the Illyrian emperors. Claudius II (268-70) defeated the Christianity was by now recognized to be more than just another Oriental
Goths. Aurelian (270-75) suppressed the breakway cult, but it was still very much a minority religion in the empire as a whole.
Palmyrene and Gallic realms and reunited the empire as The attempts to stamp it out were harsh and violent, invoking prison, tor-
a single unit. Cams (282-3) turned the tables on the ture and death, but they must be judged in the context of the 3rd century
Persians by invading Mesopotamia and sacking the crisis. Christianity could all too easily be seen as yet another force for divi-
impprtant city of Ctesiphon. But the Roman empire sion in a realm which the emperors were fighting desperately to hold
did not escape from its ordeal unscathed. Large areas together. Few could have predicted that, within a century. it would have
suffered invasion and destruction, and there was wide- become the official state religion.
spread economic dislocation.

Saints and Martyrs

Below: Portchester Castle
Christianity was by no means a new religion in the 3rd century, but near Portsmouth is the best-
Above: the economic collapse began at this time to feature increasingly prominently in the affairs of the preserved of the chain of
of the mid-3rd century led, in empire. The first great Christian persecution was that ordered by the coastal forts built on both
the Western provinces, to a sides of the English Channel
proliferation of imitations of emperor Decius in 250. Christians incurred official displeasure (along with
in the late 3rd and early 4th
the official Roman coinage. Jews) because they refused to offer traditional pagan sacrifice for the wel- c€1tturies. The rounded
These are often known as fare of empire and emperors. But Jewish beliefs were tolerated, whereas projecting towers m'e typical
"barbarous radiates~' on of later Roman military
account of their crude style
Christians were persecuted, ostensibly on the charge of "atheism". We hear
m·chitecture. In the
and the radiate crown which of famous public martyrdoms from the 2nd century onwards: of the slave- 4th century this and the
is the most prominent feature girl Blandina and her colleagues in the amphitheatre at Lyons in 177; or of other coastal f011;s were
of the design. They do not placed under the command of
Perpetua and Felicity at Carthage in 203, to celebrate the birthday of
appear to have been forgeries a single military officer, the
in the sense of coins intended Severus's son Geta. The persecution of 250, however, was on an altogether comes litoris Saxonici-Count
to deceive-many are far different scale, and was followed by a second imperial edict in 257, forbid- of the Saxon Shore-whose
smaller than their Roman pro- ding public worship, and a third in 258 which was directed against Church job was to protect eastern
totypes-and are probably the Britain from the activities of
result of local initiatives to leaders and Church property.
Saxon pirates.
pmvide small change, suitable
Yet despite these persecutions (which were enforced to differing degrees in
fOI' everyday transactions, that
the state was unable or different provinces) Christianity continued to win new converts, and the
unwilling to supply. deaths of martyrs, although a deterrent, added a touch of heroic lustre.

-;;;- 70
~ 60

.8 50 I

40 I
(:urnenc,y "in colla:gse. 2nd c:entLJry AD ?

20 \
10 ~

04---, ,---,---,---,---,---,---,,---,---,---,---,---,---, ---,---, ---,P

1.90 195 200 '205 1 10 215 no 225 230 235 240 245 250 25S 260 265 270
Y~3 rs AD

94 95


Clodi"s Albin"s (below) was

The Year of the Six Emperors Sever"s's longest-lived rival.
Sevems granted him the title
Caesar;n 193, b"twhen
Albin"s was proclaimed
The assassination of Commodus shattered the political stability Augustus by his tmops in 195,
of the preceding century and plunged the empire into civil war. war between the two emperors
was inevitable. Albin"s set "p
his govemmellt at Lyon,
The bloodthirsty eccentricities of the Emperor Commodus (180-92) made capital of Gal/ia Lugduniellsis
him unpopular with aristocracy and court officials alike, and he was eventu- and one of the great cities of
the Roman west (right, the
ally murdered on the last day of 192. His successor WaS the Prefect of Rome, theat,·e). After his defeat by
Pertinax, but he too was assassinated just three months later. Power then Severus just outside the city
passed to a rich senator called Didius Julianus in return for a huge bribe to early jn 197, Albinus
committed suicide.
the praetorian guard. The commanders of the frontier armies were unwill-
ing to accept this state of affairs, and in April 193 two rival emperors were
proclaimed: Pescennius Niger in the east and Septimius Severus on the
Above: the eventual victm' of Danube. Severus marched quickly on Rome and overthrew Julianus. Mter
the civil wars of 193-7 was only a brief pause to settle affairs in the capital, he then m arched east to
Septimi"s SeverzlS confront Niger. His army crossed the Sea of Marmara and d efeated Niger's
(r.193-211). Bom at Lepcis
Magna in North Africa, he
forces at Cyzicus and Nicaea. They pressed forward through Asia Minor,
was prefect of Upper overwhelming Niger in a final, decisive encounter at Issus, the same spot
Pa1lltonja when proclaimed where Alexander the Great had defeated the Persians 500 years earlier
emperor by his troops. This
portrait appears on a Niger fled to Antioch, where h e was captured and killed. Severus spent
sestertius strztck later in his a few months consolidating his hold on the eastern provinces and
reign. The wars of succession, AD 193-7
mounting a short campaign against the Parthians (.. pages 98-9).
Before returning to Rome h e went to confront another rival: - Roman frontier ......"
Clodius Albinus, the governor of Britain. Albinus and Severus had Septimius Severus: area supporting
......" march on Rome, 193 Pescennius Niger
become allies in 193, but by the end of 195 they were openly hostile, area supporting
and war broke out the following year. Albinus had the army of war against Niger. 193-4 Clodius Albinus
Britain at his command, but failed to win over the powerful German
legions. Severus defeated him outside Lyon in February 197, bringing an
end to four years of civil unrest.

The Events of 193

31 Dec 192 Commodus assassin ated.
1Jan 193 Praetorian guard proclaim
the City Prefect of Rome,
P. Helvius Pe rLinax, e mperor.
Their choice is ratified by
the Senate.
28 Mar Pertinax, forced to make
unpopular economies, is
assassinated by the
praetorian guard. Didius
Julianus, a rich senator, is
proclaimed emperor in
return for 25,000 sesterees to
e ach prae to rian.
Apr-May C. Pescennius Niger, legate
of Syria, and P. Septimius .0 Apr 193
Pescenniuf Niger
Severus, legate ofPann,onia,
proclaimed Emperor
both proclaimed emperor I n .t. e Mar 194
by their troops. Severus Niger.rees[O AlI!loch . .[
T an e
marches on ROlne. Se nate bilt is captWed 'and killed Pala,,)tiJla
condemns ]nlianus and ~~
Above and right:
ratifies nomination of
Severus's predecessors ~cP""'<, r
and rivals, as depicted on Memph1sdC
2June Didius Julianus executed Cyrenaica
10June Septimius Severus en te rs
their silver coins. From top:
Rome at the head of his Publius He/vills;
troops. Marcus DidillsJulianlts a"d
Gaius Pescennius Niger.

96 97

The Parthian Wars "(Seuerus1


,onstrucled boats on
Civil strife among Rome's eastern rivals, the Parthians, allowed the Enphrates and
the emperors Severus and Caracalla to expand their territory. pmceeded Ion.aCl-rd
·Rome's eastern frontier ran up against the empire of the Parthians, who
partly 11)' sailing and
had progressively taken control of Iran and Mesopotamia in the final cen- jHlrtly /l)1 marching
turies BC. They had inflicted a crushing defeat on the Roman general ala ng the river
Crassus at Carrhae in 53 BC, and had inflicted heavy casualties on Mark
Antony's retreating army in 36 BC. By the 2nd century AD, however, they
Late); upon
were no longer the force they had been. Trajan successfully invaded cajJi'w ing Ctesiphon,
Mesopotamia in 114, and briefly controlled the whole country. Half a centu- he permitted the
ry later, during the joint reign of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, the
Romans invaded again and sacked Ctesiphon, the Parthian capital of soldiers to pt'under
Above: a contemporary Mesopotamia. lhe ent2're cit)~ and
portrait bust of the Emperor - Roman frontier, 193
Caracalla (r. 211-17). On the During the reign of Septimius Severus (193-211) the Parthian realm was he sl(,w a vast C:=J annexed 195
death of Septimius Severus, riven by internal political divisions and proved even easier prey. Severus
Caracalla inherited the throne number of peotJle, annexed 198
jointly with his brother Geta, conducted a short campaign in northern Mesopotamia in 195 to punish the
but promptly murdered him. Parthians for supporting his rival Pescennius Niger (~ pages 96-97). Nisibis besi.des taking as ~ Roman ally
Caracalla's reputation for
cruelty was increased by his
was captured, and a new Roman province of Osrhoene established. Two ma.ny as (t hundred @ Parthian capital
late 197 *
years later he was back again, sacking Ctesiphon for the second time in 50 .... Roman campaigns:
unexplained massacre of the thousand wpLives. " Severus captures I
young men of Alexandria in years and taking a further chunk of Parthian territory to form the Roman '-' 195 Ctesiphon I
the spring of 216. province of Mesopotamia. Cassius D10, '-'" summer 197
E;::::;;:e;=$3ISO kms
~Jf 9 11"
Roman Histo?~'Y -..., autumn 197-winter 198
I OOmle'i

\ ~
Mare caspiuml ~ The next major development came under Severus's son and successOr
\ S'&1
(..'OSlJ1lr.TI fr"
Caracalla (211-17). Caracalla spent much of his reign travelling through
Below: Dura Europus, on the
west bank of the Euphrates,
the eastern provinces. His main objective was a further invasion of Parthia,
was captured by the Romans which he began in 216 with a surprise attack on Arbela in Media, beyond
in 165 and became a strategic the River Tigris. Although the Parthians were yet again weakened by rival
Ar\<lx~ f1'Ontie,' town. The citadel
claimants to the throne, they struck back in 217 and forced the Romans to
served as both an inner refuge
Armenia and as a strongpoint come to terms. By that time, however, Caracalla was dead, murdered on the
controlling the river traffic. road from Edessa to Carrhae.

J,.t::;::::::~,..A,rb~li\ • spring 2/ 6
s,urprises Parthian king
Artabanus V. f!,oman\
f~rces raid widely,
largely unappas' d \

~ ,
iMar e,lnternum

Med i te n an ea n

.....\, . -
@ Parth,an capital

The City of Rome under the Severans

As capital of a great empire, the city of Rome was the site of
massive building projects in the first three centuries AD.

Among the most spectacular were a series of bathing establish-

ments, beginning with those of Trajan but best represented
today by the remains of the Baths of Caracalla. Entertainment
of a different kind was provided by the Colosseum, the largest
amphitheatre of the Roman world, capable of seating some
50,000 spectators (~ pages 82-3). Nearby, in the heart of the
city, were the Imperial Fora, a series of temples and adminis-
trative buildings built by successive emperors to complement
and expand the facilities of the original Forum Romanum. The
emperors also also built for their own comfort, and Septimius
Severus (AD 193-211) added his own palace to those of his predeces-
Above: this fragme1/t of a
marble map of Rome shows
sors on the Palatine Hill. Imperial monuments of a different kind were the
temples to the deified emperors and the great circular imperial mausolea
;~" , l 'tt
part of the Aventine Hill, with ..,." i J
built by Augustus and Hadrian.
the temples of Diana
Comificialla mId Mine,va.
The map ",as made mnund
Throughout this period Rome was unwalled, confident and secure at the .~- ~ li ,l
heart of a powerful empire. It was therefore a sign of more troubled times " ,
AD 200 and shows the
rebuilding of the area round when in 271 the Emperor Aurelian ordered the construction of the great
the Forum Pacis, which had circuit of defensive walls and gates which bears his name. In the following
been damaged by fire some 50 years Rome received new buildings from Diocletian and Constantine, but 2/The Palatine Hill,
some years earlier. It was
originally displayed there ill a by the middle of the 4th century the centres of power had moved elsewhere c. 235
hall near the Temple of Peace. and the city was in decline. The im/>erial palace complex 011 the Palatille Hill
contailled ,'esidellces built by emperors from Augustus onwards,
and was massively elllarged by DOlllitian (AD 81-96). It overlooked the
Circus Maximus, a1/d a passageway led directly to the ill/perial box, Neat'by lay the
liThe City of Rome, ,c. 235 private apartments of the emperor himself, grollped arou"d a small ornamental garden.
Guarded by the pr~et0/1m~ gllard (who had tbeir own walled camp on the Ito,theastem edge of tbe city), the Palatine
ren,wmed tbe pl'lllc.pal reSIdence of tbe empero,'s iltto the 3,'d centllly. By this time, the hilltop was crowded witb

~ Aurelian Wall butl~mgs; to ma,ke roOI1l for his OIVIl residet1ce, Septimitls Sevems had to build a massive vaulted platform Ollt fl'Om
aqueduct the s,de of the 1,,1/, Th,s was partly concealed by a free-standing ornamental fa,ade, the Septizollittm, at ground
major bu'ildings: level. 0" the no"thwest side of the hill, a late,' Severan empel'Or Elagabalus (218-22) added a vast temple,
I ' 'Coloss,e um
2 Baths of Trajan
Praetorian Camp Right: in the sOllth of the city,
the Empe,'o,' Caracal/a
4 Baths of Caracalla
(211-17) built the largest and
,5 Circus Maximus most extravagallt baths Rome
6 Imperial Palace had yet seen. These were the
7 Temple of Deified Claudius leisure complexes of their age,
8 Mausoleum of Hadrian complete with art galleries,
9 Mausoleum of Augustus libraries and exercise halls.
Lavishly decorated with
marble and mosaics, the Baths
II of Caracalla could hold up to
12 1500 people,

1000 m

1.000 yds


Mystery Cults Right: many popular cults

originated in the eastent
provinces. This fresco, from
the Temple of Canon at Dura
The traditional Roman gods were gradually overshadowed by Europus in Syria, dedicated in
AD 70, shows priests, wearing
Oriental "mystery" cults and their deities: Cybele, Isis, cOllical hats, lightillg a
Mithras-and Christ. sacrificial fire.
The religious beliefs of ancient Rome were mixed and varied . At their heart
"A nd now comes in lay the traditional pantheon of Roman gods, headed by Jupiter and Juno.
a procession/ During the late r Republic, the se came increasingly to be equated with
Greek deities of similar func tion, Jun o, for example, being considered the
Devotees of the
Roman equivalent of Hera, and Diana of Artemis. The Romans also adopt-
frenzied Bellona, ed a number of Greek gods, including Apollo.
Below right: during the
and Cybele, }vlother The most significant newcomers in Roman religious life during the late centuries of suppressioll,
Christialls used seC1'et
of Gods/Led by a Republic were not however Greek gods or r ituals, but cults of a more dis-
symbols. Scratched on this tile
tant, Oriental origin . These reflected the growth of Roman political influ-
giant eunuch, the fmm Corillium (Cirencester in
ence in the east Mediterranean; but the earliest of these introductions, dle Gloucestershire) is alt
idol of his lesser/ cult of Cybele or Magna Mater, took place when the Romans had h ardly set apparently ill/tOcellt word
game: "Arepo the sOwer
Comj)anions in, foot east of the Adriatic. This was in 204, during the second Punic War, guides the wheels carefully "
when ilie black stone of Cybele was brought fro m her sanctuary at Pessinus readable either vertically or
obscenity. Long ago, in Anatolia and installed in a temple on the Palatine, in obedience to a horizOlltally. But the Latin
with a sherd,! prophecy which foretold she would h elp the Romans against Hannibal. words are all anagram of
Pater Noster, A 0 (alpha alld
He sliced o.ff his Other Oriental cults fo llowed the in troduction of Cybele to Rom e. One omega). The C;"mcester tile
call1lot be dated accurately,
g;enitals: now was that of Atargatis, a fertility deity often referred to simply as the "Syrian but a frag","lIt of the same
goddess". There were also Egyptian d eities, notably Isis and Serapis, the lat- palindrome has been fou1!d Otl "Mysteries ", sacred truilis revealed only to the initiated, were a feature of
neither the howLing ter developed from the cult of the sacred Apis bulls at Memphis. These a late 2I1d-ce1!tury amphora
m any cults, and m ade conversion an emotive experience. This is true of two
rabble/Nor the sherd from the Roman fort at
were brough t to Rom e through commercial contacts and though generally Manchester. other eastern religions which b ecame widespread in the early e mpire'
hettlednuns can discouraged by ilie state, they spread throughout the empire in the early Mithraism and Christianity. During the 3rd century the state
centuries AD. Below: the cult of the Syrian r e ligion itself became merged with eastern beliefs.
oulshriek him. " SUII god was ill traduced to
These cults drew their popularity fro m the fact tha t they offered their Rome;'1 218 by the Empemr
Aurelian (270-5) built a huge temple at Rome to Sol
Juvcnal, adherents the hope of immortality and a m ore personal and spiritual Elagabalus. Reintroduced by Invictus (the Un con qu ered Sun) Thi s cult re-
SatiTe VI belief than the official state religion. Each cult h ad its own special fe a- Aurelian later ill the celltury, mained a key elemen t of official worship un til
it became an importallt part the conversion of the Emperor Constan-
tures. The worship of Cybele , for example, was famous for the ritual of ill the state religion. This
taurobolium, in which the individual stepped down into a pit where he or lead plaque shows the sun god tine in the early 4th century, marked the
she was bath ed in the blood of a bull sacrificed above the m. This was i1! his chariot; a female final stage in the vic tory of Orienta l
divillity flanked by horsemen religion over the traditional Roman gods
clearly a ceremony of purification , though som e times perform e d on below and, at the base, a
(~page 124-5).
behalfof the emperor and the state. ballquet scene. Found ill the
Right: the god Mithms was of former Yugoslavia, it dates
Persian origin, anti became fmm the late 3rd or early 4th
particularly popular with the ce1!tury whell the cult was at
Romananny. He was depict- its height.
ed ill his slnines slayillg the
Illystic bull whose blood was
the source of life. Mithraic
believers sought lIlom./ purifi- Right: this relief from Rome
catiofl through "'tdergoitlg caroi1Zg frOl1l- Rome shows an
physical ordeals. archigallus, the eutluch high
priest of the cult of Cybele,
also kllowlt as Maglla Mater.
Wearillg the robes and mitre
of his callillg, he cames a
flail-the rites involved
flagellatioll-and a vessel of
pine kernels, which w ere
sacred to the goddess. AroU1td
him are the musical
instrumeltts used to drive the
worshippers ;tlto a frenzy ()f
ecstatic dallcillg.


Roman Mrica 2/0live oil extraction

The olive oil on which much of Roman press floor
Africa's wealth was based was extracted
The North African provinces, from the borders of Egypt to the at countless farms throughout the Room I
Atlantic coast, were among the most prosperous in the empire, provinces. This oil processing building
was excavated at Wadi umm el-Bagel in
modern Libya. The "arbores" in Room 1
With the Sahara Desert to the south and the Mediterranean to the north, held a wooden beam with a weight at the water tank
"Throughout its the Mrican provinces were fertile lands with sufficient rainfall for farming, other end. This was used to press the
backed up by irrigation where necessary. Olives and cereals were the princi- olives. The oil would run into a tank full
znhabiterl area it is of water, where the sedimellt sank to the
pal crops, and both were widely exported. Roman North Mrica was second bottom. The oil floated 011 the top and C spout ~,l Cl
extmonlinariZy only to Egypt as a supplier of grain for Rome, and such was the abundance drained through a gully into a tank. The .: ) 'I ]
fertile, fynt, since the of olive oil that only the poorest households were unable to afford oil lamps best oil would be fade/led into vats, Room 5 .... ()
.~- . -~ ":):J :)~
while the heavier grade oil went through ·' C' Q '-,
to light their homes. The gr eat cities lay mostly in the old Carthaginian ;:) -8 ","
greater jJart of it is a spout to Room 5, where amphorae :7) '
lands of the east. Thysdrus (El Djem) and Lepcis Magna were prosperous (storage jars) were waiting to receive it. -------.. -...-..-'-
u.ncultivated and oil producers, but the greatest of all Mrican cities was Carthage.
covered by stnile ,=====,===,=="'== :::i5m
North Afri ca possessed one notable a dvantage over th e European or
sands " it is more Levantine provinces of the empire, in that its long land frontier was less
threatened by foreign enemies and demanded considerably fewer troops. A Right: by the 3rd century AD,
abandoned than system of forts and military roads was built, nonetheless, to form a protec- I/Roman Africa,
Thysdrus (El Djem) in modern
Tunisia had grown so wealthy
settled. " tive shield against nomadic raiders, and physical barriers were erected at 3rd century AD 011 the profits of olive oil that

specially vulnerable places or across seasonal pastoral routes leading south province it was able to build an
Pomponius Mela into the desert. There were occasional raids, even so, but the relative secm-i- @ provincial capital
amphitheatre surpassed ilt size
only by the Colosseum at
on Africa ty of North Mrica is shown by the fact that only a single legion was stationed Iil legionary base Rome.
there, compared with 14 or more on the Rhine-Danube frontier. o other centre
Roman road
Left: the splendid mosaics o frontier fort
from TUllisia give a vivid
frontier barrier
picture of life ilt Romalt
Africa. Eve" modest hill-
tOWltS could afford mosaics U tll
for public buildings or bouses f
of the wealthy. Malty of them t /I
depict rural villas surrou"ded
by trees and livestock; farms a
(l " I
such as these we,'e the t1
backbone of tbe region's
economy and the key to
Roman Africa's success.

"1 (;u,/ rJj ( .111,,-,

r , Tacapae
~. •6 G.fIbes /}jl'l{/fl /I
Tingi '~ q ' ~
Tangier , Doutert Nepete
Nefta ------"~- .
~ r.nlj
J 01
"lOOOm 6 Sirle


500 Ghfrza
Q il'2ah
200 o

104 105

Three Mrican Cities Tinzgad is one of the finest examples of a Roman colonia, a
city created specially for retired soldiers of the Third
Augustan Legion who were based at Lambaesis nearby. The
city was founded in AD 100 by order of the Emperor Trajan;
its rigid geometrical plan testifies to its military origin.
Within the grid, space was found for a forum, theatre and
public baths, but other buildings such as the Capitolium (a
temple to the Capitoline triad of Jupiter , Juno and
Minerva) were relegated to the suburbs. Colonies such as
Timgad were intended to serve as strongpoints for the sur-
rounding area, and the city was provided with walls from
the start. As it grew, Timgad acquired all the usual ameni-
ties of a prosperous Roman city, including a library and no
fewer than 14 public baths. Many houses were decorated
with ornate floral mosaics.

Lepcis Magna, like Carthage, was founded as a Phoenician

colony and only came under Roman rule in the 2nd century
BC. Its wealth derived from a fertile hinterland where cereals
and olives were grown, and from the trade which passed
through its harbour. By the early 1st century AD the city had
been furnished with a new forum and basilica, and a fine
theatre and market with twin central kiosks. In the early 2nd
century Trajan and Hadrian added a triumphal arch and
public baths respectively. The city reached its greatest distinc-
tion at the end of the century when Septimius Severus, born
at Lepcis, became Roman emperor He built a grand new
N forum and colonnaded street, and improved the harbour

t late Roman city walls:

facilities by adding warehouses and a lighthouse .
Above: the theatre at Lepcis Magna was
built ill AD /-2 by a I'lIl1ic 1lobleman
All110bal Rufus and refitrbished ill the bid

surviving or excavated
Mui iin'lw !Uifi SI'fI
8 lighthouse
L:..::.:.J Roman cemetery
warehouses \..:).

Carthage had been Rome's great enemy during the three Punic Wars, and Above: the hypocaust piers of
the Antonine baths on the harbour
was destroyed by them in 146 BC. It was too good a site to be ignored, how- waterfront at Carthage. Built
ever, and in 29 BC the Emperor Augustus officially founded a new Roman on the instructions of the
city of Carthage. It soon grew to be one of the four greatest cities of the Emperor Antoninus Pius
between AD 145 and 162, this
Roman world, alongside Alexandria, Antioch and Rome itself. The
magnificent baths complex
Emperor Hadrian augmented the city's water supply by constructing the ternpl e~
was one of the largest outside
impressive Zaghouan aqueduct in the mid-2nd century, and his successor Rome itself
Antoninus Pius donated the immense Antonine baths overlooking the sea
front; Carthage became a wealthy and sophisticated metropolis, and by the
3rd century had gained additional standing as a centre of Christianity. The
city was captured by the Vandals in 439, but remained a major centre until
the 7th century, when it was eclipsed by the new Arab foundation of
Tunis nearby.

106 107

The Empire at Bay Right: the capture of the

Emperor Valerian by the
Persians in 260 is
commemorated in this rock
carving at Naqsh-i Rustam,
The middle of the 3rd century saw the Roman Empire threatened near Persepolis. Valerian died
by internal strife and foreign invasions. in captivity, and it was
rumoured that his stuffed
body was displayed as a
In the eastern provinces the main adversaries were the Goths and the trophy in the Persian court.
"T hree hun dred Persians. The Goths were a Germanic people who had recently settled True or not, the story reflects
around the northern shores of the Black Sea. From the 240s to the 270s the humiliation inflicted on
and twent:v Rome by the capture of the
they posed a continuous menace to the Balkan provinces and Asia Minor. emperor.
thousand Goths They defeated and killed the Emperor Decius in 251 at Abrittus, but did not
have invaded attempt to settle within the imperial frontier. In 256 they mounted mar-
R oma'n territory . . . itime raids on Asia Minor, and in 268 launched a combined land and sea
offensive, sacking Athens. The Persians had overthrown their Parthian over-
The whole H:jJUblic lords in the 220s to establish a new empire east of the Euphrates. They
is fatigued and staged a series of assaults on Rome's eastern provinces
exhausted. " from the 230s, culminating in the great invasions of
253, when Antioch was sacked, and 260, when they
Life of Claudius took the Emperor Valerian prisoner at Edessa. In
II, from the addition to foreign attack Valerian's son GaIlienus
(r. 253-68) was also challenged by a succession of
Historia Augusta
rivals. Some aimed at total power, while others
formed breakaway states in the east and west.
Germanic peoples broke through the western fron-
tiers on several occasions, most seriously in 260 when
they invaded Gaul and raiding parties reached as far
as Tarraco in Spain. There were
major invasions of Italy in 259,
268 and 271. The Romans
Below: the Emperor Trajan fought back successfuIly on all
Decius (r. 249-51), depicted fronts, however; within a few
on one of the last silver years the Persians had been
tetradrachms issued by the
mint at Antioch, capital of
driven back beyond the
Roman Syria. Two years after Tigris and the Goths
Decius's death in battle beyond the Danube. By
against the Goths, Antioch the end of the 270s the
was sacked by the Persians
and this long-running coin empire had been reunited
series came to an end. and its frontiers restored.

Roman frontier. 260 ......,

~ Germanic invasions.

CJ maximum extent of
Gallic Empire. 260 X Roman victory

XX Roman defeat
CJ maximum extent of

Palmyrene Empire. 260 city sacked

108 109

The West Breaks Away Right: the city walls of Le Mans

date from the second half of the
3rd century. Many cities through-
out the empire, but particularly in '
the west, were surrounded by
A larmed by Rome's failureto defend them from attack, the defensive walls during this period
western provinces break away and choose their own emperor. of invasions and
military emergencies.

Beset by invaders on his northern and eastern frontiers, the Emperor

Gallienus (r. 253-68) was unable to hold the empire together. Many provin-
cials preferred to put their faith in regional leaders, who could be seen to
be defending their frontiers, than in a distant and ineffectual ce ntral
authority. The most successful regional ruler was Postumus, governor of
Lower Germany, whose revolt in the autumn of 260 led to the creation of a
Gallic Empire which survived as a separate state for almost 15 years. The Above: a silver coin of the
core of this breakaway empire was formed by the three provinces of Gaul Gallic Emperor Postttmus ~. '-v
(Lugdunensis, Aquitania and Narbonensis) plus the two Germanies with (r. 260-69). An effective and'., ~
their powerful frontier forces. By 261, Britain and Spain had also gone over poplllar Ytlle~, he suc~essfully~
quashed an t1tsurrectwn by "
to Postumus, and even Raetia was briefly in his control. Laelianus at Mainz, but WM, 1
murdered when he ref~~~dto "I)
The Gallic Empire won support from the people of these provinces by con- allow his troops to pyrai;e the _ / I
centrating on the defence of the Rhine frontier; neither Postumus nor any ~~ty. ' ~~
of his successors made an attempt to march on Rome. Instead, they recog-
nized the distinctive personality of the western Roman provinces and sought The Gallic Empire,
to make this a source of strength. Prosperous and self-sufficient, the Gallic 260-273
Empire survived the death of its founder, though Spain seceded in 269 and Gallic Empire of
Postumus. 261
the lands east of the Rhone were conquered by Claudius 1I (T. 268-270). Gallic Empire of
Four years later the last Gallic Emperor, Tetricus, was defeated in a hard- Tetricus.271
fought battle at ChiHons-sur-Marne and the provinces of Gaul, Britain and Roman Empire. 261
Germany were reabsorbed into the Roman Empire by Claudius's successor capital of Gallic
Attrelian(r 270-75) .
"" Gallic mint
fortified land frontier
river frontier
major road

,17LIJ'v71C OCl,'!I ,\'

'id'-1~ ~ Raetia held by Postumus

c. 262
Raetia recovered by Gallienus Romiill
The prosperity of
Gau/ and the Rhineland
in the 3rd century is clearly
demonstrated by the many villas to be Sardinia N

found throughout the countryside. A villa was the
nerve-celltt'e of a farming estate. In the inner courtyard
was the residence of the owners, who may also have had a house MaT e fnt eTn U17l
in a nearby town. The day-to-day running of the estate would have
been left to a manager, whose house ca" be seen facing onto the outer AI (i cl i t {" r r (l Tit' a n Se a
courtyard. This was where produce would be brought for storage, and Cadiz , /c
whet'e faming equipment and some livestock wOllld be kept. Many villas
would also have had light industry, possibly a small metalworks, attached.

110 1 11

The Rise and Fall of Palmyra I/Palmyra and the East,

Roman frontier, 260
As Rome lost its grip on its eastern provinces, the powerful
Roman Empire, 271
trading city of Palmyra assumed the leadership of the region.
Empire of Palmyra, 271

During the first two and a half centuries AD, the city of Palmyra operated as Palmyrene victory
"In the 'lJwn'ner of a semi-independent power on the fringes of Roman Syria, but its great Roman victory
the Penians opportunity came when the Persians overran the eastern provinces in 260 Palmyrene campaigns, 260-70
and captured the Roman Emperor Valerian at Edessa (.. pages 108-9).
[Zenobia] receiT;ed Aurelian's reconquest, 272
Valerian's son Gallienus was distracted by troubles on the northern frontier,
·worship . .. b'ut in by the need to deal with a series of rival claimants, and by the secession of
the manner ofa the Gallic Empire, and was unable to counter the Persian threat in person.
This left the field clear for the Palmyrenes under their ruler Odenathus to
R onlan emperor she take the lead in defending the eastern provinces. At first they operated as
ca'me j(rrth to jnlblic allies of Gallienus, and achieved some notable successes: they recovered the
assemblies, wearing province of Mesopotamia from the Persians, and in 266 defeated them in
front of their capital Ctesiphon.
a helmet and girt
The greatest expansion of Palmyrene power came after Odenathus's death
with a pU'Jp le fillet in 267 Although he was nominally succeeded by his son Vaballathus, the
Her face was real power was exercised by his widow Zenobia. In 270-71 she embarked on
dark . . her eyes were a programme of conquest which brought Egypt and large areas of Asia
Minor under her rule. It was a short-lived triumph, however, since in 272
black and powerjid the Emperor Aurelian (r. 270-75) launched a determined campaign to
a r e I n e r n u

. . . her stJirit recover the eastern provinces and destroy Zenobia's power. He advanced
d t e r r a 1J. e (L n S

divin,ely g;reat, her through Asia Minor, winning victories at Tyana, Immae, and Emesa, and
besieging Zenobia in Palmyra itself. She was caught fleeing to Persia on a
beauty incredible. " camel, and after appearing in Aurelian's triumph was allowed to retire to a
The Thirty villa near Rome. The eastern provinces were brought back peacefully under
Roman control, but the Palmyrenes had not learned their lesson. In 273
Tyrants, from the Cy~en;l' i ca
they tried to assert their independence once again; the revolt was put down
Historia A ugusta and the city destroyed. _'30 0 _ - - - -

North Gate 2/The City of

I Palrnyra
The oasis city of Palmyra
ih tbe Syrian desc,1 becdme
an important. centre on tI~e
o (OIrg-qist4lIC;e trade youies
honorific leading to the populot,s
column ci#es of the East
Mediterrti1tlidh. The
Clsp ring Palmvr~nesgrew u;ealthy
. J)ctl.!ary of 0." tb~ p/'Ofits of tbis t;dde
'/I1ITI/"t~HHOo{f~oo!j...tI." 1 S~amlri and adol'llcd their,city ",jtb
colono~ded monumental patrician tempies and colonnades. At
I" streets ~Ch ~ ~
h~U5"~ the liearl of the City was the.
remp le \). "
g~-ellt sanctuaty of Bel an
of Neb.o CIIDI'llIOIlS tell/J,le standi/Ig
<1 ' withi.. a· great rectangular
~ eridOS,,,re.
~~~~p- ~~~ary

01 Ail.mi
tom~; '" IJ tower of

/..,.- -"<
" [J

112 113

V: Restoration and Fall Right: this missorium, or silver

dish, shows the Emperor
Theodosius (r. 379-95) ilt all
the majesty with which the
The later 3rd century was marked by a programme of recovery 4th-century rulers of Rome
sought to buttress their power.
and consolidation begun in the 270s but brought to fruition in the The realism of earlier Imperial
reign of the Emperor Diocletian. The following decades were portraiture has given way to a
,'emote, icolt-like depictiolt,
,marked by the firm government of Diocletian 's colleagues and with more emphasis on the
successors, culminating in the reign of Constantine, the first trappings of power-the robes
and diadem-than on the
Christian emperor. Thereafter, though paganism lived on, physical appearance of the
Christianity was the official religion of the Roman Empire, and individual emper01'.
remained so during the declining years of Roman rule, until the
abdication of the last western emperor in 476.

The Roman world of the 4th century was very different from the empire of
the Julio-Claudians three hundred years before, Despite the modest eastern
conquests of Diocletian, Constantine's victories north of the Danube, and
Julian's ambitious Persian campaign, the Roman Empire was now very
much embattled against foreign enemies. Furthermore from the middle of
the 4th century, and definitively from 395, it was divided into two halves,
each of which went its separate way.

Defence of the Realm

When Diocletian came to power in 284 it must have seemed that he was just
another Illyrian army officer who would rule for a few years and then be
murdered by the troops to make way for a successor This had been the pat-
tern for the past 30 years. Even an emperor as strong and successful as
Aurelian had fallen victim to assassination. Yet Diocletian proved himself
equal to the situation, establishing a position of power which he held for
over 20 years until yielding not to murder. or even a natural death, but vol-
untarily abdicating to spend his last years in peaceful retirement. Given the
turbulence of recent decades, this was a remarkable achievement.
On his accession Diocletian was faced by two major security concerns: the
security of the empire and its frontiers; and the security of the imperial
office itself. The security of the empire he addressed by increasing the size The Expression of Power
of the army. Many new legions were created, but though these were still the The frequent imperial assassinations had been a destabilizing factor during
well-drilled infantry units familiar from earlier periods they were often sub- the 3rd century. Diocletian sought to counter this by introducing elaborate
stantially smaller, some of them composed of only around 1000 men, as court ceremonial, which made the emperor remote and aloof. Henceforth,
opposed to the earlier 5000. But the army as a whole was larger than it had when emperors appeared in public on state occasions, they wore a jewelled
been in the 2nd century, and perhaps numbered as many as 400,000 men, diadem, jewelled shoes, and robes of purple and gold. Subjects who wished
an increase of a third. In addition, Diocletian spent much effort and outlay to approach them had to prostrate themselves at their feet and kiss the hem
on the strengthening of the frontier defences. of their robe. Gone were the days when the emperor was simply jJrinceps or
These measures must have placed considerable strain on the resources of "first citizen". That had always been something of a fiction, but now the
the state, and Diocletian accompanied them by tax reforms which sought emperor cast off all pretence and became dominus et deus, "lord and god"
to ensure that the army was regularly paid and adequately supplied. These Gone also were the days when the emperor pretended to rule in consulta-
new taxes were paid partly in coin, but partly in kind, itself a reflection of tion with the Senate; he was now absolute monarch, with a council of advis-
the decline of the monetary economy which was a hallmark of the late ers appointed by himself.
Roman period. Imperial security was improved still further by changes in the organization
of the empire. Many of the rebellions of the previous half century had been
made possible by the fact that a provincial governor in an important fron-
tier province had both civil and military forces at his command. This combi-

114 115

nation made it possible for him to defy central government with little Iqcal western provinces as his father's successor, but only
Diocletian's Edict on Maximum Prices, 30 I
opposition. Diocletian changed all that by separating civil and military grudgingly accepted by the other tetrarchs. At about
In 301 the Emperor Diocletian published this
authority. The commanders of the army no longer had civilian fun ctions as the same time Maxentius, son of Diocletian ' s col-
edict in an attemp t to check inflatio n , which h e
well; each province had .both a civil governor and a military commander or attributed to "u nli mited and fren zie d avarice". league Maximian, declared himself emperor at Rome,
'dux '. The boundaries of the provinces had been redrawn once before by Prices are given in denarii, but by this p eriod the and took possession of Italy and North Africa. The
Septimius Severus. Now the Severan provinces were yet furtl1er subdivided, denariuswas merely an accounting unit, and not. consequence was a series of civil wars and political set-
so that provincial governors controlled smaller territories and had even less represented by a physical coin. Its relationship to tlements which ended only with the overth row of the
individual power. Britain, for instance, which had originally been a single the actual coins stru ck by Diocletian and his tetrarchy and the victory of Constantine as sole ru ler
successors is still not und erstood. in 324.
province, was divided into two by Severus, and into four by Diocletian. The
provinces in turn were grouped into 12 larger units, or dioceses, controlled I: Under Constantine, the programme of administrative
by "vicars" directly responsible to the imperial administration. wheat 1 army modius* 100 and military reform continued. He was responsible for
The mos t radical change in the position of emperor was Diocletian's co- barley I army modius 60 dividing th e Roman army into frontier troops a nd
option of colleagues. This arose from the recognition that the problems fac- rye I amlymodius 60 mobile field un its, a move which was criticized by
ing the empire (and especially the frontier threats) were too great to be some observers since they felt it weakened the fron -
lentils 1 army nwdius 100 tiers. Constantine himself was a successful military
handled by one ruler a lone. Diocl e tian appointed his first colleague,
Maximian, as "Caesar " Uunior emperor) in 285, and promoted him to commander, however, who won no t only civil wars but
"Augustus" (senior emperor , on an equal footing with himself) a year later. 11. Likewise, fo r wines: a lso campaigned successfu lly against Germans and
'In 293, the number of emperors was increased to four by tl1e appointment Picene 1 Italian sextarius 30 Goths. But his most famous innovation was not mili-
Tiburtine 1 Ita lian sextarius 30 tary or administrative, it was religious: the adoption of
of junior emperors in both west and east. This division of power-known as
the tetrarchy- had important consequences for the future . It institutional- Christianity as the official state religion.
ordinary 1 Italian sextmius 8
ized the distinction between eastern and western halves of the empire, Christians had had a bad start to the 4th century. In
which was to become more firmly fixed in the course of the 4th century, beer, Gallic or 1 Ita lian sextmius 4 February 303 the eastern emperors Dio cletian and
and was to lead after 395 to a situation where the two halves operated inde- Pannonian
pendently of each other. beer, Egyptian 1 Italian sextmius 4
Ill. Likewise, for oil:
from unripe o lives 1 Italian sextaTius 40
Constantine and Christianity second quality 1 Italian sexta1ius 24
Diocle tian's reforms set the pattern of imperial administration for decades
to come. The tetrarchy itself, however, soon fell victim to individual ambi- IV. Likewise, for meat:
tion. When Diocle tian a bdicated in 305 he forced his senior colleague pork I Ita lian pound 12
Maximian to do so also, and together they passed on the m an tle of govern- beef I Italian pound 8
ment to their junior colleagues Constantius and Galerius, who became the
new senior emperors. They in turn appointed new junior colleagues, so that V. Lilcewise, for fish:
ilie tetrarchic arrangement was continued. "\The n Constantius died in 306, sea fish I Italian pound 24
however, cracks began to show. His son, Constantine, was recognized by the fish, second quality I Italian pound 16
river fish, best quality 1 Italian pound 12
Right: the Basilica NOlla was river fish,
begml by Maxentius, who secon d quality 1 Italian pound 8 Above: all illteg1'al pa>1 of Diocletial1's refonus was his ,'estomtiim of
seized power at Rome in 306, oysters 100 100 a stable CIln·eucy. Millts that bad sp1'ung up throughout the empire to
but only completed after meet the eme1'gencies of tbe 3rd century were regulm'ized, and new
Constantine's victory at the VII. For wages: Olles created. All strncl~ to a sta>.dard design, and the millt's i1litials
f"trlU labourer, 0" the reverse allowed allY lapse in quality to be traced to its sotlrce.
M ilvian bridge brought the
Like the crisis money of the later 3rd centtlry, Diocletial1's coins were
city u"der his COl/trot. with maintenance daily 25
of bronze with a thi1l silver wash 011 the smiace, but they were mllch
carpenter , as a bove daily 50 la1'ger and more carefully made. Tbe agg1'essive, bull-headed ponraits
wall painter, as above daily 75 of Diocletia1l al/d his colleagues illustrate the;" militm), preoccllpa-
picture painter, ti01ls alld the need to imp,-ess thei1' power Itpon the populace.
as above daily 150
baker, as above d aily 50 Galerius had issued an edict ordering the destmction
of churches and scriptures. It was followed soon after-
elementary teacher,

t p er boy

check-room attendant
p er bather daily
monthly 75

wards by other edicts, culminating in the command
tlut everyone must offer sacrifice to the pagan gods.
This the Christians refuse d to do, and they died in
their thousands in consequence. The persecution con-
tinued in the eastern provinces until 312, but after the
* a standard sized contain er used for dry goods.
initial onslaught it became spasmodic and haphazard


in nature, and never had mlJ;ch The Successors of Constantine

impact in the west. By the time Constantine died in 337 he had divided the empire among his
It was one thing to tolerate, another three surviving sons Constantine II, Constantius II and Constans. He had
actually to adopt the Christian reli- intended his step-brother's son Flavius Iulius Dalmatius to be a fourth
gion. Yet that was what Constantine Caesar, but Constantine's sons murdered him within six months. Next to go
did, after his victory over Maxentius was Constantine 11, killed in battle against his brother Constans in 340.
at the Milvian bridge just north of Constans himself was killed fleeing from the usurper Magnentius in 350.
Rome in October 312. He claimed to Only Constantius survived to die a natural death, in November 360, but even
have seen a vision of the cross in the he reached only 44, and he was about to do battle with his cousin Julian
noonday sky shortly before the bat- when he was carried off by a fever.
tle, with the divine command Constantine's sons may have had few scruples in dealing with their rivals- or
"Conquer by this". Whatever the indeed with each other-but they all claimed to be Christian emperors.
truth, whether through policy or Julian, however, was a staunch advocate of fue traditional religion, and tried
personal conviction, Constantine in various ways to turn back the clock. He removed the tax exemption which
henceforth became a committed Constantine had given to Christian clergy, and renewed the practice of pagan
Christian. He took an interventionist sacrifice wifu great enfuusiasm. He provoked Christians even further by arbi-
line in the affairs of the Christian trarily closing the Great Church at Antioch
church, presiding in person at and threatening to rebuild the Temple at
Church councils, while at the same Jerusalem as a counterpoise to Constantine's
time admitting Christian bishops to church of fue Holy Sepulchre. Actions such as
his inner circle of counsellors. these unsettled even many pagan believers,
Above: this wall painting, Temple treasures were confiscated and used to fund a maJor programme but Julian did not survive to carry out all his
from a villa at Lullingstotte in of church building, including the first St Peter's at Rome and the churches schemes. He was killed in his ambitious but
Kent, depicts two Christians built over the Holy Places at Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Paganism did not
praying with outstretched abortive Persian campaign of 363.
hands. It dates from the mid- suddenly disappear, however, and despite edicts designed to discourage or
4th century, when a small prohibit pagan practices, non-Christians continued to hold high positions Julian's successors were Christians, but it was
room in the villa appears to at court throughout the 4th century. not until the final years of the 4th century
have been converted into a that they began to take further steps to eradi-
chapel. One final feature of Constantine's reign was the further eclipse of Rome cate pagan belief. In 384 fue regional gover-
as a centre of imperial government. Constantine himself had at one time nor Cynegius ordered the closure of temples
planned to be buried there, but in 330 he dedicated a new capital at in Egypt. Seven years later, the Emperor
Constantinople on the Bosphorus. This was a Christian capital, without Theodosius issued a series of further edicts
the heavy legacy of pagan temples and institutions so conspicuous at Above: silver coins of the prohibiting pagan sacrifice and withdrawing subsidies from pagan priests.
Rome. It also illustrated an importance shift in the imperial centre of later 4th century. As part of The strength of feeling against pagans drove groups of Christians-even
gravity, with the eastern provinces increasingly important as the west his reform, Diocletian had
reintroduced coins of fine monks-to attack pagan temples and synagogues. Christianity was so power-
slipped into decline. silver, but they were never ful that a prominent bishop such as Ambrose of Milan could even impose
issued in very large quantities humiliating public penance on the Emperor The.odosius himself.
Right: the early 6th-century and the denomination uJas
chttrch of St Sergius and soon debased. It was not until For the ordinary people, those working the land, the 4th century was a
Bacchus at Rasafah, an the reign of Consta1ttius II time of increasing repression. A law of 332 tied tenant farmers to the land,
important late Roman (337-61) that the empire once
again had a silver coi1tage to prevent them avoiding payment of poll tax. This was one of many exam-
garrison town in Syria. The
west end of the church was plentiful e"ough to form a ples of the growing authoritarianism of the late empire. Another trend
formed by a pair of towers; at regular part of the currency. was the increasing wealth of the very rich, at the very same time as the
the east end, the semi- The large "umber of silver
hoards fou1td j" Britian
poor were suffering taxation and oppression Wealthy landowners
circular apse was covered
by a half dome. reflects both the success of this amassed enormous estates and lived on them in palatial villas surrounded
coinage and the prosperity of by storerooms and workshops which could take on the character of small
the province during its last towns. While some regions of the empire were in economic difficulty, oth-
decades of Roman rule.
ers, such as Syria and· North Mrica, experienced renewed prosperity as the
century drew to its close.
Knowledge of the official administrative and military structure at this period
comes to us from a 1551 copy of an official 4th-century document, the Notitia
Dignitatum ("list of offices"), which details the civil and military commands of
fue empire and preserves the name and even the insignia of individual mili-
tary units. It also lists the imperial factories established by Diocletian to sup-
ply the army wifu weapons and other materials.


Right: the Ostrogothic King The Gothic Invasions marsh es. The western empire was indeed already in crisis, beset not only by
Theodoric ousted Odoacer Goths but by rival emperors and by armies of Vandals, Alans and Suebi who
from Rome ill 493, with In m i li tary terms, the last
Byzantine support. His had crossed the Rhine and were ravaging Gaul. The Goths themselves left
decades of the 4th century were
magnificent palace is depicted Italy and were eventually ceded a kingdom centred on Toulouse in 418.
dominated by the menace of
ill this mosaic i" the church of Honoriu s survived five more years, dying of disease in 423. By that timc,
StApo/lillare Nuovo at the Goths. T his Germanic peo-
Britain, together with large areas of Gaul and Spain, were effectively beyond
Rave,ma, but after his ple had settled north of the
successors were driven out by his control.
Black Sea and had already raid-
the Byzalltille reconquest in
the 540s, his portrait alld the ed Asia Minor and the Balkan Honori us's successors in the west fared little. be tter. The long reign of
f/a"hing figures of his p rovinces of the Roman empire Valentinian III (423-55) saw the d efeat of the Hunnish leader Attila at the
courtiers were carefully during th e middle decades of battle of the Catalaunian Fields in 453, but failed to turned back the trend
excised from the mosaic.
the 3rd cen tury. By the later to fragmentation. North Mrica fell to the Vandals in 439 . The western
4th century the Goths found emperors who followed Valentinian g radu a lly yielded more and more
the mselves under considerable power to the Germanic commanders who controlled their armies, eventual-
pressure from a new nomadic ly becoming little more tllan figureh eads. The last of all, Romulus Augustus
enemy, the Huns, on their east- (known dismissively as Augustulus, "the little Augustus"), abdicated in 476,
ern flank, and sought refuge within the territories of the empire. Valens, withdrawing with a comfortable pension to Campania.
th e eastern emperor, allowed one group to enter, but later so badly mal-
The abdication of Romulus Augustus marks the end of the Roman empire
treated them that they rebelled. In a great battle fought at Adrianople in
in the west, which henceforth was a mosaic of Germanic kingdoms ruled by
378 the army of the eastern empire .suffered a crushing defeat, and Va\ens
Below: this ivory diptych Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Vandals, Franks, Saxons and others. Within these ter-
himself was killed.
shows the Emperor HOllorius ritories, the Roman aristocracy survived, reading and writing in Latin as
(r. 395-423). He holds a By this time the empire was definitively divided into two h alves, east and before (on ly in Britain was Latin displaced), and putting their administra-
stalldard with the legelld "Ill west. The division took its final form when Valentinian I (364-75) gave con-
the ,wme of Christ, you will
tive skills to the service of new maste rs. In the east, by contrast, the Roman
always conquer," recalling the trol of the east to his brother Valens (364-78) . Yet in 378, in this moment of empire remained strong. Its emperors fre que ntly intervened in western
cross ill the sky which crisis for the eastern empire, authority reverted to Valentinian 's son and affairs; the most powerful of them, Justin ia n I (527-65), actually re con-
appeared to COllstantine successor in the west, the Emperor Gratian (367-83). He install ed his army quered a substantial part of the lost western provinces. Much of this territo-
before the battle of the
Milvian Bridge bearillg the commander Theodosius I as the new eastern emperor To Theodosius fell ry was lost again in tlle century that followed, but the Byzantine realm sur-
inscription "conquer by thisn. the enormous task of clearing the Goths from the Balkans, or at least bring- vived, its Greek-speaking rulers continuing to style themselves "Emperor of
III fact, Honorius was ullable ing them under control. This was ac hieved only by allowing them to settle the Romans" u n til the last of them died by th e city walls when the Ottoman
to prevellt the Goths from
invading Italy alld sachillg
wi thin the empire under their own king, normally as an ally of Rome but Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453.
Rome itself effectively as an armed and autonomous people.

The Sack of Rome

When Theodosius died in 395 his young so n s
Arcadius and Honorius were installed as respec-
tively eastern and wes tern emperors. The Go ths
chose this moment to break into open rebellion.
Under their n ew leader Alaric they advanced on
Constantinople and then embarked on an orgy of
killing and looting in Greece. The year 397 found
them in Epirus (northwest Greece), and there
they settled for four years until in 401 they made a
first invasion of Italy. That was turned back by
Stilicho, th e army command er appointed by
Theodosius to take care of Honorius. A second Right: the Genllallic peoples
who invaded the ROil/ail
invasion in 407 was bought off. They we re back
Empire ill the 5th celltuIY did
tlle following year, however, and in 410, after two 1Iot set Ollt to overthrow it,
years seeking to negotiate with the vacillating gov- but to share ill its wealth. This
ernment of Honorius, they lost patience and late 5th- or 6th-celltury
mosaic from Carthage depicts
sacked Rome. a Valldallord who has
successfully acquired the
The event was regarded as a catastrophe by con- trappings of Romall life,
temporaries, even though Rome was no longer includillg a comfortable villa
the seat of imperial government in Italy; that had ill the lush North Africatl
been moved to Ravenna, safe behind its coastal farmlalld.

120 121

Right: the only Roma"

Diocletian and the Division of Power emperor to abdicate
vo/tmtmily, Diocletial! bl/ilt
hi",self this vast villa at Split.
The colonnaded peristyle, or
The accession of Diocletian in 284 brought an end to 50 years of cOl/rtym'd, led to the
imperial decline and ushered in a period of reorganization and 11Iauso[etmz. i,l which
Diocletian was evel/tl/ally
One of Diocletian's first acts was to name a colleague, Maximian, as emper-
or with responsibility for the western provinces. That was in 285. Eight years