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The Ancient Rome Portal

Ancient Rome was a civilization which began as a small agricultural community on the Italian Peninsula in the 8th century BC. Rome became a large empire which straddled the Mediterranean Sea. In its twelve centuries of existence, Roman civilization was firstly a monarchy, then a republic that combined oligarchy and democracy, and finally became an autocratic empire. Through conquest and assimilation, it came to dominate Western Europe, the entire Mediterranean Basin including the Near East and North Africa, the Balkans, and the Black Sea.

The Roman empire went into decline in the 3rd century AD, and began to collapse in the 5th century AD. Plagued by internal instability and attacked by various migrating peoples, the western part of the empire, including Hispania, Gaul, and Italy, broke into independent kingdoms in the 5th century. The eastern part of the empire, governed from Constantinople, survived this crisis, and remained intact for another millennium, until its last remains were finally annexed by the emerging Ottoman Empire. This eastern, medieval stage of the Empire is usually referred to as the Byzantine Empire by historians.

Roman civilization was part of the period of classical antiquity, alongside ancient Greece—a civilization that inspired much of the culture of ancient Rome. Ancient Rome made significant contributions to the development of law, war, art, literature, architecture, technology, and language in the Western world, and its history continues to have a great influence on the world today.

Bust of Gaius Julius Caesar.

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The censor was a magistracy in Rome, held by two citizens at once, and which maintained the census, regulated some aspects of the government's finances, and supervised public morality. The censors' regulation of public morality is the origin of the modern meaning of "censorship" and "to censor". The office of censor was created by the sixth king of Rome, but it fell into disuse (with the consuls taking up the duties of censor) between the abolition of the Roman Kingdom and 442 BC. Two censors were elected every five years, to hold office for eighteen months, by the Centuriate Assembly. The censors had no imperium, and accordingly no lictors, but was nonetheless regarded as the highest dignity in the state. Their duties were regarded as so important that the death of one censor necessitated the resignation of his colleague and the election of two new censors; and the funeral of a censor was conducted with the same pomp and revere as the funerals of the later Roman Emperors would be. Their duty to supervise public morality was what caused their office to be one of the most revered and the most dreaded in the Roman state, and they were colloquially known as Castigatores ("chastisers").

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The Roman Forum (Latin: Forum Romanum) was a rectangular forum at the heart of the city of Ancient Rome. The Forum was used for military triumphs, elections, criminal trials, gladiatorial matches, and as a meeting- and business-place. The Forum survives today in ruins, and is the oldest structure in the modern city of Rome.

The Roman Forum (Latin: Forum Romanum) was a rectangular forum at the heart of the city of Ancient Rome. The Forum was used for military triumphs, elections, criminal trials, gladiatorial matches, and as a meeting- and business-place. The Forum survives today in ruins, and is the oldest structure in the modern city of Rome.

Photo credit: Howard Hudson

Quotes

[...] Caesar is a god in his own city. Outstanding in war or peace, it was not so much his wars that ended in great victories, or his actions at home, or his swiftly won fame, that set him among the stars, a fiery comet, as his descendant. There is no greater achievement among Caesar’s actions than that he stood father to our emperor. Is it a greater thing to have conquered the sea-going Britons; to have lead his victorious ships up the seven-mouthed flood of the papyrus-bearing Nile; to have brought the rebellious Numidians, under Juba of Cinyps, and Pontus, swollen with the name of Mithridates, under the people of Quirinus; to have earned many triumphs and celebrated few; than to have sponsored such a man, with whom, as ruler of all, you gods have richly favoured the human race? Therefore, in order for the emperor not to have been born of mortal seed, Caesar needed to be made a god. [...]

Augustus, his ‘son’, will ensure that he ascends to heaven as a god, and is worshipped in the temples. Augustus, as heir to his name, will carry the burden placed upon him alone, and will have us with him, in battle, as the most courageous avenger of his father’s murder. Under his command, the conquered walls of besieged Mutina will sue for peace; Pharsalia will know him; Macedonian Philippi twice flow with blood; and the one who holds Pompey’s great name, will be defeated in Sicilian waters; and a Roman general’s Egyptian consort, trusting, to her cost, in their marriage, will fall, her threat that our Capitol would bow to her city of Canopus, proved vain.

Why enumerate foreign countries or the nations living on either ocean shore? Wherever earth contains habitable land, it will be his: and even the sea will serve him!

Ovid, Metamorphoses, XV, 745-842

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Selected biography

MarcoAurelio.png
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (April 26, 121, – March 17, 180) was Roman Emperor from 161 to his death in 180. He was the last of the "Five Good Emperors" who governed the Roman Empire from 96 to 180, and is also considered one of the most important stoic philosophers.

His tenure was marked by wars in Asia against a revitalized Parthian Empire, and with Germanic tribes along the limes Germanicus into Gaul and across the Danube. A revolt in the East, led by Avidius Cassius, failed.

Marcus Aurelius' work Meditations, written on campaign between 170–180, is still revered as a literary monument to a government of service and duty and has been praised for its "exquisite accent and its infinite tenderness."

Did you know?

  • ...That When Caesar's troops hesitated to leave their ships for fear of the Britons, the aquilifer of the tenth legion threw himself overboard and, carrying the eagle, advanced alone against the enemy?
  • ...That the most well paid athlete in human history, Gaius Appuleius Diocles, was an illiterate Roman Chariot racer, and earned the equivalent of $15 Billion US Dollars.

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713 news items

 
Times Higher Education
Wed, 23 Jul 2014 15:52:30 -0700

In Laughter in Ancient Rome, Mary Beard takes a shot at it by asking what made the Romans laugh, and whether we can really get their jokes. This teasing book prefers questions to answers, bounding away after yet another Snark. Conversational, clear and ...

Neos Kosmos

Neos Kosmos
Mon, 21 Jul 2014 18:41:15 -0700

Elections in republican Rome were annual events at which the Roman people selected their leaders - not their representatives. They were central to the political life of Rome and fundamental to the dynamic relationship between the senate and people of ...

ABC Local

ABC Local
Wed, 02 Jul 2014 01:48:45 -0700

Your lesson this week this week is tales from the sewers of Ancient Rome. Your teacher is Anne Rogerson,Charles Tesoriero Lecturer in Latin, University of Sydney. We've all heard the story about the crocodiles in the sewers of New York. The story goes ...

The Daily Star

The Daily Star
Sun, 13 Jul 2014 11:38:19 -0700

And that kind of variety is nothing new, according to epigraphist Angela Donati, an expert in ancient Roman inscriptions who teaches at the University of Bologna. "Most of the messages on the streets of ancient Rome were adverts. But there were also ...
 
Hurriyet Daily News
Thu, 24 Jul 2014 05:06:32 -0700

“Most of the messages on the streets of ancient Rome were adverts. But there were also odes to the glory of gladiators or boasts of supposed sexual exploits like the ones found on the walls of brothels,” Donati said. “Unfortunately the examples of ...
 
Smithsonian
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 03:07:30 -0700

The smackdown was set for a day in the 14th year of the Roman emperor Gallienus in the city of Antinoopolis, on the Nile: A final bout in the sacred games honoring a deified youth named Antinous featured teenage wrestlers named Nicantinous and ...

Telegraph.co.uk

Telegraph.co.uk
Tue, 01 Jul 2014 03:52:30 -0700

Laughter in Ancient Rome might seem lean on satisfying conclusions. Yet Beard began it with only two pledges: to make the study of laughter messier rather than tidier; and that, despite wending further into unknowables and uncertainties, her road would ...

Hindustan Times

Hindustan Times
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 06:30:00 -0700

And that kind of variety is nothing new, according to epigraphist Angela Donati, an expert in ancient Roman inscriptions who teaches at the University of Bologna. "Most of the messages on the streets of ancient Rome were adverts. But there were also ...
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