Jump to content
UNRV Ancient Roman Empire Forums

All Activity

This stream auto-updates     

  1. Yesterday
  2. Last week
  3. Great article from Libertarianism.org. about the influence of Cicero on John Locke and otehr Enlightenment thinkers. https://www.libertarianism.org/columns/cicero-was-lockes-greatest-inspiration guy also known as gaius
  4. Earlier
  5. During times of national stress (including economic, political, and pandemic fears), there seems to be the tendency to catastrophize events and predict the impending collapse of Western civilization. A recent thread reflected this tendency: Here's a thought-provoking article from the left-leaning Mother Jones that also predicts the fall of another empire: https://www.motherjones.com/media/2020/03/how-do-you-know-if-youre-living-through-the-death-of-an-empire/ The author, Patrick Wyman, PhD, brings up some interesting points, but I might quibble with a few of the conclusions His point about bureaucracies persisting (either out of necessity or out of habit) after the fall of the Roman Empire is insightful. (Some might cynically give the Catholic church and its bureaucratic framework as an example.) There are a couple points I might disagree with, however. I find this statement debatable: "Rome probably still had hundreds of thousands of inhabitant at the beginning of the sixth century ..." I am sure he would agree that this number is only speculation, at best. By 500 AD the city of Rome was only a pale shadow of its previous self. We can only guess but the city of Rome's population might have been under 100,000 by 500 AD. In 286 AD, Diocletian had already moved the capital of the Roman Empire from the city of Rome to Mediolanum (Milan). The death spiral for the (Western) Roman Empire and especially the city of Rome had begun long before 500 AD. After a series of civil wars, devastating plagues, and economic instability during the third century, the city of Rome was near collapse by 300 AD. The impact of regular malaria epidemics was to weaken an already debilitated city and empire. The loss of Northern Africa and control of the grain supplies to the city of Rome starting around 440 AD essentially assured the city's total downfall. I would, therefore, disagree with Dr. Wyman's conclusion, "What shrank Rome down to a mere few tens of thousands by the year 550 was the end of the annona, the intricate state-subsidized grain shipments..." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cura_Annonae I'm not sure we know for certain when the cura annonae ended or whether it could still have had any impact on alleviating hunger in the city that late in the Empire's history. The supply chain was probably too severely disrupted at this point of history. These societal breakdowns made the accumulation, storage, transportation, and distribution of food on a wide scale basis unreliable . More likely, the Goths' blocking the vital aqueducts supplying Rome in about 537 AD was the final death knell of a city already fatally weakened over the previous two centuries. I enjoyed this article, however. It made some interesting points and lends another perspective to history. guy also known as gaius (I want to thank Lapham's Quarterly for bringing this article to my attention.)
  6. I don't enjoy modern politics and I tend to be more optimistic about the future than maybe I should. British and American elites have long fretted that they, like the ancient Roman Republic before them, would soon face an inevitable collapse. British author Edward Gibbon, author of the six volume opus The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1789), remarked to a friend in 1776, just before the American Revolution: Maybe a tad premature? One of my favorite anecdotes in history involves Scottish economist and philosopher Adam Smith, author of The Wealth of Nations: guy also known as gaius
  7. caldrail

    Postcards From The Car Park

    Hi there. It’s been a while since I last posted on this blog so I thought I’d let the world know I’m not a statistic. Just an hour or two ago I noticed my everyday supplies of daily essentials was running a little low. Nothing for it but to risk a journey to the local supermarket. What could possibly go wrong? As soon as I approached I saw a car park full of vehicles manoevering for entrance, space, and exit. Shoppers playing dodgems with trolleys packed with everything they never needed before but might during our current Coronavirus emergency. Inside it was as bad, with crowds of agitated shoppers queuing for space in the queues or perhaps that last morsel still on the shelf. Stand aside old lady, that packet of barbeque pork make-your-own –casserole is mine! Or at least it will be in the event I actually get close to a till. An old gentleman waddled at a ridiculous pace, reaching between queues to grab whatever caught his eye. One gets the impression he hasn’t moved that fast since Hitler’s goons were shooting at him. Another mature gent turned to someone he knew and said “How did we ever cope in the war?” We had rationing books back then. Time On My Hands I’ve been sent home. My employer can’t give me anything to do because the company we supply has sent everyone home because everyone is quarantined at home in China and not producing stuff we need to supply our manufacturing customer. At least I’m still on full pay. I can afford the stuff that isn’t on the shelves because some old lady grabbed it first. And now I have the time to wrestle her for it too. Numpties of the Week This coveted award goes not to the shoppers of rainy old Swindon, but the media companies telling us about Coronavirus, especially the BBC, whose obsessional focus on single issues has turned a matter of concern into the fall of civilisation as we know it. Hang on… No. I’ve changed my mind. The award goes to American citizens who, faced with panic buying and shortages of goods in stores, have taken to queuing up outside gun stores instead. Trump, you have made America great.
  8. Part of this issue is the current trend in the media which has lasted for a couple of decades now to highlight similarities between our time and the Roman era. That's all well and good, but it ignores the more important differences. As much as Trump likes to praise his country and citizens for strength, success, and world respect (one has to recognise a certain degree of political spin in that), America is a - from our perspective at least - a deeply divided nation that is trying to on the one hand to promote devisive issues yet limit their division on society. One could say something similar about Britain I guess, but the issues are somewhat more polarised in America. Ethnic and cultural presence, historical identities, isolationism, and all the modern 'rights'. it is very notable that the American press still defines their civil war of the 19th century in terms of slavery which study reveals to be an issue that was not at the heart of many combatants, nor was Abraham Lincoln the freedom activist he's commonly portrayed as (which proves how successful political spin can be). The issue of parallels however is more interesting because what we recognise is not necessarily situational but actually behavioural. Instinctively we tend to empathise, rightly or wrongly, with the mtives and actions of Romans, seeing these parallels not because of what they actually did or the circumstances that drove them to act, but instead the emotions and reactions familiar to us in our daily lives. Their emphasis was different. Their cultural boundaries also. But they were human beings, thus we recognise them.
  9. guy

    Stoicism Explained

    One of the best discussions on stoicism from the libertarian site "Libertarianism.org." https://www.libertarianism.org/encyclopedia/stoicism
  10. Thank you for posting. Very interesting.
  11. https://spectator.sme.sk/c/22202489/virus-probably-killed-prince-from-matejovce-1600-years-ago.html A tomb of a possible Romano-German prince from the 4th century was discovered in Matejovce, Poprad, 14 years ago. Recent skeletal analysis showed that he was hepatitis B positive. It is unclear how the study concluded that the hepatitis played any role in his demise, however. (In 2004, an estimated 350 million individuals have been infected with hepatitis B worldwide. National and regional prevalences range from over 10% in Asia to under 0.5% in the United States and Northern Europe. Source: Wikipedia.) See also this article: http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/56401 guy also known as gaius (I want to thank Lapham's Quarterly for bringing this article to my attention.)
  12. Pompieus

    Big money and fall

    Rather than just concentration of wealth, isn't it really a question of how "deep" into the population of a society does the desire (willingness?) to preserve and defend it go? If the elites and the masses are not BOTH willing to defend a society from external (or internal) challenges and divisions, can it survive? A little too much Toynbee ?
  13. caldrail

    Big money and fall

    it doesn't seem likely to me. Money was a major factor in Roman society from the beginning of the Republican period - it was how status was graded. Although patricians weren't supposed to muddy their hands in tawdry business deals they naturally used proxies, allies, freedmen, or slaves, to do that for them. The economy of Rome was faltering toward the end and corruption was, as ever, the bugbear of this money-mad system. However, the 'fall' of Rome was more complex. It had elements of weakening military power, diluted public patriotism/identity, and a considerable lack of determination. Sermons from the late empire describe Romans (in exaggeration of course) as lazy, hedonistic, corrupt, even cowardly. I prefer the argument made below.... In the end, though, all the countless pages of speculation about why the border collapsed, paticularly in the west, amount to one simple fact: the empire grew old. Adapt though it might, its mechanisms for dealing with with change gradually became set and atrophied, its military 'immune system' needed more and more help from outside, and finally - faced with new generations of vigorous neighbours, who had borrowed from the empire what they needed to give their political system and their cultures strength and coherence - it died of old age. The Empire Stops Here (Philipp Parker)
  14. Just an interesting tangent on Salmonella enterica. (Thanks to Lapham's Quarterly for bring this article to my attention). This article shows how infections can be transmitted between species and evolve to become more lethal. This is important especially in light of the recent coronavirus outbreak. : https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/02/farming-gave-us-salmonella-ancient-dna-suggests guy also known as gaius
  15. Pompieus

    Most Influential Gentes of the Republic

    C C Strachan's "Nobilitas" site (www.strachan.dk) is a very useful source.
  16. hanibalhano

    Most Influential Gentes of the Republic

    Hi. Might I ask, is this fascinating discussion still alive? Are the participants still on the forum. Is it possible nowadays to find online the data/tables you were hoping to develop?
  17. Before we get carried away with the colour purple, there was no official ruling that 'Emperors' should have a purple toga, though purple was a privilege of the elite classes - an expensive one mind you. Senators had a broad purple stripe on their toga, and red dye was often used to simulate purple by excessive use. There was of course no actual job called 'Emperor'. When an individual asserted himself via politics, subterfuge, or simply marched in with an army, he was made the highest in social status - I cannot stress enough how important that was, because the Romans were intensely sensitive to their privileges and status. They would receive magisterial powers, possibly even posts in actuality, and normally recieve a military honour of Imperator, or 'Victorious General'. In fact, they liked the latter title so much they tended to use it to describe the collective authority they wielded, so much so that the word became synonymous with power and from it we derive the word Emperor in modern times - but Emperor and Imperator are actually two different things. Caligula for instance attended the games on one occaision and in the visitor VIP stand opposite, he saw a foreign king wearing a very impressive purple cloak. Deeply envious and offended, he had the hapless monarch executed for his indiscretion.
  18. https://www.courthousenews.com/rome-unveils-tomb-that-may-belong-to-wolf-suckled-king/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rome-unveils-tomb-that-may-belong-to-wolf-suckled-king https://news.yahoo.com/rome-unveil-tomb-may-belong-wolf-suckled-king-035218246.html
  19. I recently heard a delightful podcast interview with Daisey Dunn, a British classicist and author of the new book, The Shadow of Visuvius: The Life of Pliny. Although Pliny the Elder is a looming figure in the book, the book explores more thoroughly the life of his nephew, Pliny the Younger. (Of course, the book takes its title from the eruption of Visuvius of 79 AD that took the life of Pliny the Elder.) In the interview, Dunn mentions the expression "in a nutshell." She reminds us that the phrase (which means "in few words or to sum up briefly") seems to have originated with Pliny the Elder from his scientific encyclopedia The Natural History. Here's the interesting quote from Book VII, Chapter 21 "Instances of Acuteness of Sight": http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0137%3Abook%3D7%3Achapter%3D21 Daisey Dunn's book sounds like an interesting read that I will hopefully enjoy soon. guy also known as gaius
  20. An interesting article about the unusual source (sea snails) for purple dye in the ancient world. (Note that this site of purple production predated the founding of the city of Tyre, for which this dye is named, by around a thousand years.): https://www.livescience.com/amp/gold-jewels-found-on-island-purple.html The purple dye (later known as Tyrian purple) was extracted from sea snails and was both very rare and expensive. It became associated with the wealthy and ruling elites in the ancient world. The dye was colour-fast (non-fading) and possibly became more intense as the purple-dyed clothe was exposed to weather and over time. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrian_purple The imperial toga picta worn by the emperor was dyed a solid purple. The foul-smelling and disgusting source of purple: guy also known as gaius (I want to thank Lapham's Quarterly for bringing this article to my attention.)
  21. jadedmw696

    History Mystery - Roman dodecahedron

    I know this topic is old. but I saw something on the roman dodecahedron today and had to put my 2 cents in someplace on the internet. Idea 1. since it was found in with coins a few times it could be a way to measure currency, I saw different dodecahedrons. some looked to have small holes. those could be to size and find value to gems. idea 2. this reminded me immediately of a toy my great grandmother had for me to play with when I would go to her house. it was wooden though and had a thin rope with a wooden stick on the end. I could then tread the string through different holes. since the roman dodecahedron has different size holes. it could have been a puzzle toy. where a thin rope had different size balls and you would have to thread the string through in the right order or it would not get through all the way as they would not fit unless in the correct order.
  22. One should not paint Roman legions with modern expectations. Whilst some of their behaviour was utterly predictable and quite similar to modern militaries, there were aspects that are quite different. Enslavement was a loss of humanity in one sense and marked one for life. The legions would not recruit former or runaway slaves and dire punishments awaited those found to have lied about their social status. When Augustus raised emergency forces from manumitted slaves in ad9, regular legionaries would not serve alongside these third class troops, and they were not armed with regular Roman equipment deliberately. The question of contract gladiators - this became a common practice for those seeking fame, fortune, or to avoid debt by desperate means. Nonetheless, gladiators were slaves, even the temporary ones. It is entirely possible that an ex-gladiator joined up here and there - I doubt he would have broadcast his past. You do raise an interesting point on this as there is bound to be something of a grey area. Roman slave law wasn't exactly simple either as the questions of status and rights got hugely complex from the Principate onward. Of course there would have been contests between soldiers being the aggressive competitive types that successful colonisers produce. But keep it in context. An arm wrestle between two soldiers out on the booze isn't going to offend anyone. Gymnastics? Isn't that getting a little Greek? Trust me, Roman military practice was sufficient to keep them fit. A weekly route march, twice daily at the palus with heavier practice swords and shields, and if we believe Josephus, staged brawls in formation to build character as much as physical condition. Add to that the possibility of hard physical labour all day if a local civil engineering project required lots of manual labourers the contractors could not afford. having said that, the typical Roman soldier was keen to avoid physical stuff as much as he could, usually by bribing his centurion (this was later frowned upon but never stopped. In fact, the practice of bribing a centurion for extra leave was later countered by a bonus paid to the centurion for any of his soldiers sent on leave officially) Don't be misled by Vegetius. His De Re Militaris is often described as a manual - it wasn't anything of the sort. he wrote a treatise about what the legions should be doing, after finding lots of good but unique examples of activity in the histories he had available (better than ours, for completeness if not accuracy). He says as much in the preface.
  23. What hope has one forgotten soldier of bringing an emperor to justice?Winter, 382 AD. The Gothic War is over. After years of bloodshed, the Eastern Roman Empire and the Goths have struck a deal for peace. Imperial heralds crow about the treaty as if it were a triumph. Feasts and celebrations take place across the Eastern provinces. Every hero of the war is honoured and acclaimed... except one.Tribunus Pavo languishes in exile, haunted by a dark truth: that it was Gratian, Emperor of the West – the most powerful man alive – who caused the war and manipulated its every turn. Tormented by memories of loved ones lost during the great conflict, one word tolls endlessly through Pavo’s mind: Justice!But in this great game of empire, justice rarely comes without a grave cost… Sound good? You can pick up a copy for a couple of quid here
  24. valexylix

    Mausoleum of Theodoric

    I think you're right @Northern Neil. The Mausoleum of Theodoric is not an Ostrogothic building, because this is Roman architecture and, not to denigrate the Goths, but it seems unlikely that they could lift such an enormous and heavy stone dome. Germanic people used to be excellent goldsmiths and blacksmiths rather than architects: their masterpieces were jewellery and ornaments, like brooches, since they didn't live in big cities and they moved quite often, so they couldn't develop a great art of architecture. At that time Goths should have relied on local manpower and architects and I cannot understand why this could seem strange to some people. Even if at different times and in different ways both Goths and Lombards adapted to the Roman/Byzantine/Italian representation of power, which involves building great buildings like palaces, mausoleums and even churches. Think of the Tempietto di Cividale del friuli, for example: the chapel is built around 750 AD and architecture, sculptures and paintings are clearly classical (maybe the artists were Greek-Byzantine). After 2 very complicated centuries of cohabitation with the locals, Lombards embraced the Mediterranean style in art and representation of power (for reasons that now would be too long to explain). Cividale is an example of Lombard art too, but this doesn't mean that it was made by the Lombards, just like the Mausoleum of Theodoric was not built by the Goths. Finally, think of the Normans in Sicily. When they arrived they hadn't the abilities to build great buildings like the Byzantines and the Arabs, so they employed them to build the Cappella Palatina in Palermo, a wonderful example of melting pot culture. The Mediterrean art was better than the "barbarian" one to glorify the kings, so the barbarian kings who came to Italy just adapted. Different cultures, different arts: the art of the Gothic and Lombard kings were similar to Roman and Bizantine art since they were kings of Italy, or at least kings in Italy.
  25. I'm relieved to see that some forums are still Invision. That said, this one is not very intuitive to navigate. I had trouble finding my own account. What a shame the old Invision smileys aren't around anymore.
  26. Valka D'Ur

    Significance of Avatar/ Profile Name

    Wow, some of these threads haven't been used in years! But since I'm here, I might as well answer. My name here is one I use on a gaming forum. My avatar was cropped from a lolcat picture. The cat is wearing a toga and laurel wreath. His name is Clawdius.
  27. I'm quite skeptical of this claim considering plenty of soldiers came from manual commoner background esp manual labor, agricultural, and poverty backgrounds. Sure the aristocrats, educated (esp intellectuals), and richer Romans probably look down on it (just like upper class Americans today look down on even baseball). But commoners? I mean you do have poor people working as Gladiators before joining army out of need for cash and some gladiator champions did come from military backgrounds. So I don't buy it esp Rome's machismo toxic masculine culture. And the fact so many soldiers (since much of them came from peasant background) grew up adoring not just gladiators but various athletes of different stripes including boxers and chariot racers. Not to mention military culture historically had fighting sports as the norm. I mean every culture from the Aztecs to the Egyptian and Mongols had some form of wrestling, boxing, or even MMA bout as something to kill time esp when left in an isolated fortress. So I doubt the Roman legion wouldn't have formal competition with rules based on wrestling or boxing or even MMA. Esp since Greece's influence on Rome was so damn strong and the Greek loved not just fighting sports but sports as a whole I don't buy it. You mean to tell me Roman culture even looked down on military men having running contests, arm wrestling games, gymnastics, and other athletics? It doesn't make sense considering commoner Romans often went to gyms and practised gymnastics, acrobatics, and other Greek sports to keep in physical conditioning. Hell several emperors such as Commodus even partook in wrestling and other athletic games! So it doesn't make sense!
  28. It depends which time we are talking of. I'm not sure about the early imperial period, but during the late Roman era, one of the things that made the Germanic tribes so dangerous was their degree of Romanisation. Also many of them had served as soldiers in the Roman army. As the smaller tribes coalesced to form the super-tribes of Goth, Allemanni and Frank, larger forces were mobilised. I believe Ammianus Marcellinus (I cant be sure some of my books are packed away) made references to Germanic tribesmen using illegally sold Roman weapons, and employing tactics against the Romans that some had learnt when in service with the Roman army.
  1. Load more activity