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A Brief History of Rome
Transcript of A Brief History of Rome
Romulus & Remus
A Growing Force
From its founding under 'Romulus' the first 'King' of Rome, and under his successor Numa Pompilius, the city's growth was rapid, leading to the narrative as told again by Livy with the 'Rape of the Sabine Women'.
How does this narrative further expand our understanding of the Roman mindset?
How did Rome feel about itself in comparison to its neighbours?
Birth of the Republic
Common Roman sources and legend suggest that the seventh and last King of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus was overthrown in the year 509BC after his son committed the now famous 'Rape of Lucretia' and for which the people rose up against the Tarquinians.
To fill the legislative gap, the Senate was pushed to the fore, along with increasing numbers of executive elected positions, for the people of Rome to govern themselves. While this was still subject to class differences and ultimately somewhat divisive, the Republican Senate became to be seen as the true symbol of the Roman Republic and an inherent distrust of Kings and Single Leaders grew out of the narratives and re-tellings of their past.
War, War, War...
From the founding of the Republic, Rome went on throughout the 5th, 4th and 3rd Centuries BC to conquer, subjugate or otherwise establish hegemony over the Italian peninsula, wrenching it away from the Etruscans.
While the wars initially were often defensive and reactionary, there is no doubt that they transitioned into a much more imperial nature as time went on.
Triumvirates and the Roman Civil Wars
Towards the end of the Republic, Rome was torn apart by a series of civil wars. Each of them involved a Triumvirate (three-way leadership) that was wrestling for power.
Cicero, Livy, Virgil, Horace and Ovid
Five of the most prominent writers of their period, they have been credited with significant developments of both Latin as a language, and the development of a national Roman and Italian identity.
Despite great fame and status, the political uncertainty of the period made it a dangerous time, even for a writer!
Ovid's poetry suggested morals that didn't agree with Augustus' new moral code for Rome and was exiled, whereas Cicero's political opposition to Mark Antony saw him gruesomely dismembered and his head and hands nailed to the walls of the forum!
In his reign as Emperor, Augustus sought to bring peace, prosperity and a new unity to Rome. He established the Pax Romana with his political tying of military leaders across the empire to himself - ruling out further civil wars and making Rome unchallengeable militarily.
With his borders secured, he moved to bring Roman society back to its fundamental core values and re-invent itself on its spirit of old. Here are some of his reforms:
A programme of restoration for religious monuments and buildings.
Reintroduction of religious festivals, including the Ludi Secularae.
Elevation of the already venerable Vestal Virgins
Financial rewards for families with three or more children
Financial punishments for older unmarried men and potentially childless couples.
Divorce was made much harder to obtain.
Adultery was made a crime against the state - punishable by banishment or even execution in certain cases.
Prohibitive public restrictions on the basis of class.
A Brief History of Rome
L.O. - To understand the development of the Roman state and develop links to The Aeneid
End of the 5th Century BC
The Italian peninsula has evidence of being populated from at least the 11th Century BC,
but the real development of significant civilisation outside of the northern Celts and signs of minor tribes can be found with the development of the Etruscans in the 8th Century.
While the Romans were forming out of their Latin tribes, alongside the Samnites, Italians and the other small societies, the Etruscans held a large sway over the peninsula - taking influence from both the Celtic cultures, the Phoenicians and Ancient Greeks with whom there is significant evidence of trade, with many Greek artistic styles being imported into Etruscan civilisation.
This same 8th Century is used as a rough date for the founding of Rome as a city, with the myth of Romulus and Remus being the commonly accepted narrative.
The earliest and fullest recorded history that we have for a lot of Rome's foundational myths & narratives comes from what remains of Livy's History of Rome.
Writing throughout the Augustan period, he charts the course of Roman civilisation - blending in reality with myths and often embellishing the heroic deeds of the Romans - from the Aenean settling to after the death of Augustus himself.
Both the narratives themself, and how Livy portrays them, offer an insight into the Romans' self-conception.
Read the narrative of Romulus and Remus and the founding of the City. What does it suggest about the characteristic traits of Rome?
How does it as a city and people view itself?
Patrician: The wealthier aristocracy of Rome, often descended from the initial Senators.
Plebian: The lower classes of Rome, who were initially denied office but went on to obtain them in increasing numbers.
The Senate: While it had existed throughout the Kingdom of Rome, the Senate was essentially an advisory body of (at least initially) Patricians who would serve and provide suggestions to the elected Consuls.
Council: There were multiple councils from which a variety of positions could be elected. Using a form of direct democracy each member of their respective councils would vote for whichever position they were required to, and in the later Republic, even legislative functions were enacted via the Council.
Consul: The highest elected position in Rome, a pair of Consuls would be elected each year to provide direct governance of both state and military affairs, often being the top commanders. The pair was maintained so that they had the power to veto one another. While initially they were predominantly Patrician eventually laws were passed to ensure Plebian consulship.
Praetor: Below Consulship, the Praetors again were responsible for either judiciary civil duty, or the leading of an Army.
Plebian Tribune: As another measure against singular rule, the Tribune of the Plebians often retained the right to veto any of the decisions made by the Consuls or other Magistrates. A key figure for the majority of Rome.
5th Century - Predominantly minor wars with local neighbours, drew attention from outside the peninsular but was largely against Etruscans, Samnites and Gauls.
390 BC - During one of many Roman-Gallic wars, the city of Rome was sacked by the Gallic leader Brennus.
343-282 BC - Rome fought 3 wars with the Samnite people, as well as one against their Latin allies that they had established in the 5th Century. Eventually, these wars saw off the end of Etruscan and Samnite influence and established predominant Roman hegemony.
280-275 BC - Pyrrhic War - Expansion into the south of Rome saw the Romans come into conflict with the dominant military force of the period - that of the Greeks. Invading Magna Grecia, allies of the Samnites allowed them to call in the notable general Pyrrhus who brought a large army, elephants included to Italy. While initially successful his victories were costly and with no defecting Italians, an alliance with Carthage and mounting Greek losses, the Romans were victorious. This proved a huge boost to national military confidence.
264-146 BC - Punic Wars - The First Punic War saw Rome clash with their former allies Carthage over Sicily and Rome's naval force was essentially created, limiting Carthaginian influence over the Mediterranean. The Second War in 218 saw Hannibal Barca cross into the Alps and occupy Roman territories for a long time before Rome's general Scipio Africanus demolished the Carthaginian Home forces in Africa, ending the war in 203BC. The Third War was little more than a glorified extermination and was finished in 146BC with the annihilation of Carthaginian culture.
219–18 BC - Conquest and subjugation of the Iberian peninsula, wiping out or subduing a range of native tribes and peoples.
215-146 BC - Continued period of 5 wars against Macedonia, with other wars against Greek alliances. Victory at Corinth saw Rome establish Hegemony over Greece.
135-71 BC - Three Servile wars, the last against the famed Spartacus.
59-50 BC - Caesar's campaigns in Gaul. Subjugates much of Gaul and reaches Britain
49-30 BC - Triumvirates and civil wars...
The first, much more informal, triumvirate consisted of Julius Caesar, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey) and Marcus Licinius Crassus. It formed as a way of ensuring changes to the government, relying on Caesar's popularity, Pompey's fame as a general and Crassus' financial support. Caesar's increasingly independent actions in Gaul drove a rift between himself and Pompey, and with Crassus' death in 53 BC the triumvirate fell apart, leading ultimately to Caesar and his Populares' victory over Pompey and his Optimates (conservative supporters) - and with it the establishment of Caesar as 10-year Dictator.
In Caesar's brief reign as Dictator he started to push through several reforms, expanding the Senate and Magistrates to his own liking, centralising the Republic and making alterations to the calendar that we still notice today! After four years, the Senate's increasing mistrust in the potentially increasing power of their singular ruler, especially after he was declared Dictator for life, led to his assassination within the senate himself, leaving his Grandnephew Gaius Octavius (Octavian) as his legal heir.
The second was made official in 43BC, shortly after Caesar's death and essentially made Octavian, Caesar's supporter Mark Antony and Marcus Lepidus three-dictators of Rome. Despite initial success defeating the murderers of Caesar, the triumvirate quickly fell apart. Antony's dislike of Octavian drove him east and into Egypt with Cleopatra, whereas Lepidus was ultimately stripped of power, rank and wealth when we was exiled from Rome by Octavian. Antony's lavish Egyptian lifestyle came back to haunt him when Antony illegally 'obtained' his will and used it to suggest that Antony was devolving his wealth and Roman possessions to the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt. Rome quickly rallied behind Octavian's forces and crushed Antony in Egypt, whereafter Octavian now having undergone a rename as 'Augustus' was named as Rome's first Emperor...
From what we have covered today:
What do you think helps in your understanding of the Aeneid?
What would you like to develop your understanding of even more?