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Everything posted by Ursus

  1. With the advice and consent of the Senate (that is to say the administration and senior members), the Praetor issues the following edict: De ea re ita censuerant Debates about the comparative strengths of military units and individuals (e.g., this military unit versus that military unit, or this general versus that general) will be tolerated with one caveat - it has to be related somehow to the Roman Empire. The Legion versus the Hellenistic phalanx is acceptable. The Legion versus a Celtic raiding party or a Germanic war band is acceptable. The early Republican legion versus the late Byzantine army is acceptable. What is not acceptable is something outside the scope of Roman history. Chinese armies and Mongol hordes do not concern us. Medieval armies a la Charlemagne or William the Conqueror do not concern us. Natives from Oceania, the Americas, and sub-Saharan Africa do not concern us. Elves and Orcs and Hobbits do not concern us. The Legions did not fight these forces, and therefor do not concern us as Romanophiles. Threads started along these lines will be sent to the Underworld. Those who continually violate the prohibition can be censured if necessary. We hope you find this a reasonable compromise. We do not like impeding the ethusiasm of our citizens, but we felt it necessary to discourage some of the more off-topic discussions on this forum. Any questions regarding this can be directed to the forum moderators. Censuerunt
  2. Ancient Rome: A Military and Political History Christopher S. Mackay Many scholars these days have an agenda, but Mackay is very up front about his. In his introduction, Mackay explains he seeks to present a nuts-and-bolts, no-nonsense introduction to Roman history. He refers to his approach as "traditional" insofar as it internalizes the conventional sources and view points. By "traditional" we of course mean European males at the top of their particular socio-economic ladder, who seemed to act without regard to modern sensibilities concerning wealth and power. The author acknowledges that the new focus in modern scholarship is a revisionist agenda designed to either illuminate heretofore unsung segments of Roman culture, or radically overturn prevailing assumptions of Roman civilization. Mackay feels this new revisionist focus should "complement rather than supplant" the traditional scholarship. It is the author's intention that his readers have the core understandings of "traditional" Roman history before availing themselves of ever-expanding alternative viewpoints.... to the full review of Ancient Rome: A Military and Political History by Christopher S. Mackay
  3. "There is no crime for those have Christ," declared Shenoute, a fifth-century Egyptian abbot. For Shenoute and those like him, the call from Christ to promote, defend and preserve the new religion outweighed any other consideration and justified any means. "Violence" whether of the margins or of the center , cannot be understood without reference to the values, motives and self-preservations of its authors, explains Michael Gaddis, the book
  4. Remus, a Roman Myth Romulus, meaning "little Rome" is the eponymous ancestor of the Roman people. But who or what was his twin Remus? How did he come about and fit in the picture? The general gist of the story is that a female descendant of Aeneas copulates with the god Mars and twins are born as a result. Due to unfavorable political situations, the twins are sent away from home on a box that floats down the Tiber. The twins are rescued and nursed by a she-wolf, an animal sacred to Mars. The twins are then raised by a pastoral demi-god. When they mature they return home and reclaim their birthright by overthrowing a corrupt king.... ...read the full review of Remus : A Roman Myth by T. P. Wiseman
  5. Ursus

    The Roman Empire by C. M. Wells

    Colin Wells The Roman Empire (Second Edition) Wells offers a general survey of the Roman Empire from the rise of Augusts to the reign of Caracalla. The book is novel in adopting an alternating view between center-periphery relations. That is to say, one chapter will adhere to the traditional focus of Roman history by exploring the political machinations of the imperial court as well as the major military initiatives of the legions during a given time frame. The successive chapter, however, will attempt to provide a broader view of Roman society by highlighting the social and economic affairs of the provinces during the same time frame.... ...read the full review of The Roman Empire by Collin Wells
  6. Latin Via Ovid: A First Course Norman Goldman, Jacob E. Nyenhuis Those Romanophiles lacking proper schooling in Latin must take the pains to teach themselves the language. There are dozens of Latin textbooks in circulation. How is one to decide among them for the best tool in self-study... ...read the full review of Latin via Ovid
  7. The Roman Soldier This book was first written in 1969, and for that reason I'm sure there are more up-to-date treatises of the Roman military. The reason I was attached to this particular treatment of the subject was its focus. ...to the full review of The Roman Soldier
  8. Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome Adkins and Adkins The two Adkins have produced a wonderful compendium on the totality of life in Ancient Rome. This delightful tome serves an excellent introduction to Rome for beginners, or as a handy quick reference for more experienced students. The Book is divided into nine major areas: Government, Military, Geography, Municipal affairs, Travel and Trade, Language and Writing, Religion, Economics, and Everyday life. Each of these broad categories is furthered reduced into logical sub-categories. The articles are concise but by no means lacking. There are plenty of photographs, illustrations and maps to provide visual aids. Every library should have a copy; it would be a wonderful resource for students researching subjects on Ancient Rome. Obviously the book is meant to be a brief reference, not an encyclopedia of minute details. Those wishing more in-depth study on any section will have to consult more scholarly reading. Extensive bibliographies at the end of each section suggest resources to do just that! This book, which already serves as a great introduction, handily provides references to more advanced study. This is honestly the first book I would recommend to a blossoming Romanophile. After reading more than the four hundred pages cover to cover, an individual will garner enough sense to know whether or not they wish to continue their studies. They will already have in their possession a bibliography to continue those studies if they so chose. To those of us already well versed in the subject, it is still sometimes necessary to have an accessible aid on general topics. The Two Adkins have produced a similar book on Ancient Greece, and I highly recommend that as well. Every good Roman should be conversant with Hellenic culture, after all. Buying the two books together will be a brilliant introduction to classical society.
  9. Ursus

    Oxford Classical Dictionary

    The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd edition. Edited by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth In a previous review I outlined Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome by the two Adkins brothers, as well as their companion volume on Greece. Those two books together constitute a handy and affordable compendium on classical society. However, if you want to get really serious, consider buying the latest edition of the Oxford Classical Dictionary. This a monster of a reference that leaves no stone in antiquity overturned. There are no pictures, no diagrams. Just 1640 pages of articles written by the very best experts from around the world. The reader will find hundreds of entries in alphabetical order. Topics are taken from the major areas of the classical world: Politics and History, Military, Economy and Society, Religion and Mythology, Geography, Science, Law and Government, Philosophy and the Arts. ...read the full review of the Oxford Classical Dictionary
  10. Ursus

    The Gods Of Ancient Rome

    The Gods of Ancient Rome There comes a point when any serious Romanophile has to study Roman religion outside of an elementary school mythology class. The Romans, after all, were a deeply pious people. Religion was not separated from everyday life, it was a constant in everyday life. Every communal activity had a religious aspect and every religious activity was aimed at some level of community. To reduce Roman religion to a mere carbon copy of Greek religion, as is often opined, or to treat Roman mythology as the childish delusions of a primitive people, is to ignore the religious genius of our cultural ancestors. Regardless of whether one or not sympathizes with Roman paganism, one should at least appreciate its place in religious history and its reflection of Roman mentality... ...read the full review of Gods of Ancient Rome from Robert Turcan
  11. Let's see exactly why people become Romanophiles!
  12. http://www.selectsmart.com/FREE/select.php...nt=romanpersons Julius Caesar was my #1, followed by Augustus. :-)
  13. Paganism means different things to different people. Pagans, of course, never referred to themselves as such, the term being coined by early Christians to refer to their religious opponents. In the modern era a variety of New Age cults have lain claim to Paganism, though their connection to the cults of antiquity are tenuous at best. What then, was Paganism so-called? Paganism as such was a collection of practices, mythologies and worldviews from a variety of cultures that existed before the Christian era. The history of religion begins somewhere in the Stone Age, but those murky origins lie outside the scope of this essay. It is in the Bronze Age, with the beginning of written history, and formation of nascent classical cultures, that the student of paganism can begin on a sound footing. This essay is designed to be a brief overview. It necessarily places breadth over depth and concentrates on generalities rather than particulars. Am emphasis is placed on the Hellenistic era Ptolemaic conception of the cosmos, given the influence it would later exert on imperial Roman cults. The mythologies of the various Bronze Age cultures in the Mediterranean and Near East usually partitioned the cosmos in a similar scheme. At the center of the universe was the earth, or rather its land mass, often conceived as a flat disk. Upon this disk lay humanity and animals, and a variety of minor spirits and mythical creatures. Surrounding the earth was a watery firmament or other natural barrier against which no human could hope to pass. Beneath the earth was the underworld, where the dead were interred and where nefarious spirits resided. Above the earth were the heavens, where the highest gods were thought to reside. Students of Greek mythology can easily recognize this in the tale told by Hesiod, where three divine brothers cast lots for the cosmos. Hades gains the underworld, Poseidon the ocean, and Zeus the heavens. Earth lay in common to all three, and earth was sometimes personified as a goddess herself, perhaps even the mother of the other gods. The political reality of the early Bronze Age was dominated by the city-state. Each city-state laid claim from one to three deities whom they especially revered; patron deities, in effect. The idea was that while the gods resided in the heavens (or sometimes the ocean or underworld), they had for whatever mythical reason become attached to a particular locale on earth. City-states constructed temples to these deities, which usually had a cult statue of the deity and other relics of interest tended to by clergy. It was felt that temples and the statues provided a nexus between divinity and humanity, a focal point whereby humanity could reach out to divinity. The central idea was that a patron deity could confer certain supernatural benefits on its chosen locale (good harvests, cure for diseases, military victory) in exchange for regularly performed offerings and sacrifices. Beneath these deities were lesser powers still propitiated: demigods, heroes, local demons and the spirits of ancestors living in the underworld. Mythographers were wont to assemble the patron deities of all the city-states of a given culture into a pantheon, a kind of divine family or association. And so we have the charming, sometimes confusing and often contradictory tales associated with the gods of Greece, Egypt and other cultures. While culture-spanning mythology held a certain power over the population's imagination, the fact remains that cultic practices of deities throughout much of the Bronze Age were localized and specific. The inhabitants of the era lived in a small world after all; a small disk floating in aether, with the heavens above and hell below, and their city-state as the chief socio-political reference point in this cosmos. Their city's patron, if properly propitiated, should be enough to guide them through the rigors of earthly life. Two phenomena shattered this worldview. On a cosmological level, advances in science had expanded the celestial horizons. The Near East and Egypt had long been students of astronomy, and their science was further refined by the Greeks. The movements of the heavens could now be watched to some degree, and while the ancients still mistook the earth for the center of the universe, they were at least aware the earth shared its immediate space with other planetary neighbors. The old distinctions of earth, heaven and underworld now seemed inadequate. Politically, the trend for sometime in the Near East and the Mediterranean was the consolidation of independent city-states into multi-ethnic kingdoms. This reached the culmination in Alexander's vast if briefly held empire, uniting East and West for the first time. The city-state now found itself simply a component of a much larger realm, and its provincial gods less suited to a spanning world cosmos. These two trends slowly transformed religion. The Ptolemaic cosmos knew of the earth and the moon, and of the seven planets that could be observed with the naked eye. It also knew of the stars, but mistook them for fixed points of light just beyond the observable planets. The major deities were often equated with the sun, moon, planets and stars. Their movements around the earth exacted a certain sympathetic reaction on earth and its creatures. Beneath the moon lay a variety of elemental and demonic powers that also exerted influences on hapless humans. But unlike the planetary deities, these lesser powers might be negotiated with or even controlled. And beyond the fixed stars, beyond human vision, were the empyrean heavens where resided the highest deity, by whatever name he or she was known, the real power of the universe and the origin of creation. When one starts building a vast and clock-like universe, one begins to wonder how much free will one really has amidst a flood of impersonal cosmic forces. Fate, Chance, Fortune - whatever it may be called, this was now felt the real master of those born beneath the sublunar realm. Astrology became increasingly popular as a way of predicting the influence of the planetary deities on earthly life. Side by side, and often in conjunction with this, the art of magic gained acceptance as a way of dealing with the demonic spirits of the earth. While the cults of the city-state gods still formally existed, these newer forces in religion proved quite influential with the masses. The political heads of the new superstates were regarded as divine themselves. For what were gods and spirits but forces of vast power that could intercede in human affairs for better or worse? From that perspective, there was no more immediate manifestation of said power than the Monarch who headed a vast multi-ethnic state, commanding armies and a bureaucracy with the power of life and death over its subjects. The ruler cult flourished, and the monarch was entreated as another god who could save the suppliant from an often unfortunate fate. But even this was not enough. For it was construed that the highest deity who lived in the Empyrean, beyond the fixed stars, might be persuaded to come down from its lofty heights and rescue men from the march of Fate. Amazingly enough, these soteriological deities were, in the midst of patriarchal societies, usually construed as feminine. Perhaps the old cults of the Mother Earth Goddess that had been common in the Bronze Age were simply elevated to Supreme Celestial Goddess once Ptolemy had expanded the cosmos. However it was, cults of goddesses that had once been localized were now universalized into savior goddesses. Within closed societies, initiates learned mysterious rites that would appeal to the savior goddess and implore her to intercede in the life of her adherents for a better fate. Demeter from Greece, Atagartis from Syria, Cybele from Phyrgia - all formerly culturally specific goddesses now elevated to the level of the empyrean savior. But the most successful of these was the Egyptian Isis, whose cult captured all the major port towns in the Mediterranean and beyond. In an increasingly intellectual age, the intellectual elite took things a step further. Perhaps the city-state gods were mere social conventions, quaint metaphors for common people who could not understand the true nature of the cosmos? Thus the cosmos was seen by philosophers as a creature of a single divine force. It could be one of two things. If one were a Stoic, one believed in a pantheistic universe (call it the fire of Zeus if you like!) exerting a fate to which all must peacefully submit. Or if one was a Platonist, one believed the universe had an ultimate point of divine origin that emanated through various layers, until the bottom realm we humans inhabit was but a shadowy pale reflection of higher truth. But in a syncretic age, things often blended together whether they were intended to or not. The fatalistic pantheism of the Stoics merged quite nicely with astrology. The Platonic belief in an ultimate reality was reconciled with soteriological savior cults and their deities of the empyrean. Under the Roman Empire, which expanded and refined the Hellenistic Age, these two trends merged further still, along with a widespread belief in magic. Thus by the Late Empire, the last breath of paganism was exemplified by Neoplatonic philosophers. In the furthest heavens of the Empyrean, they believed, lived the highest god, the ultimate source of creation, the first spark of the divine. Through him emanated various lesser deities and powers, the planets and the stars, and all these exerted their various level of influences on humanity. Through a practice known as theurgy, the magician could learn to recognize and navigate the various levels of a divine universe, until finally the human conscious could absorb the likeness of godhood and ascend into the empyrean. The last pagan Emperor, Julian, belonged to this school of thought. This evolution of paganism came to a screeching halt when Christianity came into possession of Roman imperial power. Fittingly though, Christianity was itself a product of the times. Yahweh was no longer merely the patron god of parochial Hebrew tribes, as he once had been, but had become the universal Creator deity of all humanity before whom no other gods could be placed. His presumed son, Yeshua, called the Christ or "anointed one" by his adherents, embodied in his person various of the soteriological devices of the age. In a syncretic age wrought by the empires of the Greeks and then the Romans, Christianity blended the cultural religions of the Hebrew with the Hellene. Some versions of the cult such as the Gnostics, later considered heretical by the Pauline churches, were even more firmly entrenched in the various syncretic movements of the era before their eventual eradication. Works used and further resources Martin, Luther. Hellenistic Religions: an Introduction. Rives, James. Religion in the Roman Empire. Turcan, Robert. Cults of the Roman Empire.
  14. http://www.archaeology.org/0909/abstracts/acropolis.html
  15. What cultures really interest you and deserve discussion on the forum Peregrini? (They must be related to the Roman Empire. Aztecs do not count, nor does China despite the Silk Trade)
  16. Ursus

    Greco-roman Philosophy

    Does anyone take any inspiration from any of the classical philosophers? I find Aristotle's ethics a rational guide to life and have taken some inspiration from them.
  17. Ursus

    Alternate history

    I have been amusing myself by reading through the alternate history wiki. Here is someone's overly simplified yet interesting idea of an alternate Rome. Marcus Aurelius chooses a better heir than Commodus, beginning an alternative jumping off point.. The Empire becomes federated, and survives into the nuclear age with the emperor as Christian theocrat. http://althistory.wikia.com/wiki/Roman_Empire_(Superpowers) Other alternative timelines: The Confedarate States of America win. The Nazis win. You know, the usual alternate history stuff .
  18. Egypt: Land and Lives of the Pharaohs Revealed. Ancient Civilizations. This is a brilliant "coffee table book" that surveys all areas of Egyptian history. Highly informative for a mass market book. Great photos and illustrations. Includes an informational CD. To be enjoyed by casual and serious students alike. No public library should be without it. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Ian Shaw. Not for the casual student, but delivers some great essays on all areas of Egyptian history. Quality varies with essay (some of these Oxford professors are extremely long winded), but overall an excellent reference guide. Handbook to Life in Ancient Egypt. Rosalie David. If you only read one book on Ancient Egypt, read this. Written for the general reader, it summarizes all areas of life. It has one of the best summaries of AE's long history to be found anywhere. Best of all, it is cheap! Egyptian Mythology. Geraldine Pinch. A very readable introduction to the various deities of Ancient Egypt and their mythologies. Ancient Egyptian Literature: An Anthology. John. L. Foster. A sweeping survey of Egyptian literature as recovered from papyri and epigraphy. Includes religious hymns, folk tales, wisdom literature, and funerary dedications.
  19. Tom Holland. Rubicon.
  20. Ursus

    Red Dawn

    Apparently they are remaking Red Dawn. The Chinese invade America and occupy Detroit. http://www.reddawn2010.com/ Chris, what would you do if you saw PLA troops in your back yard?
  21. ~Egyptian and Ptolemaic origins~ In Memphis the Apis bull was the most sacred of animals, and something of a national mascot for all Egypt. In life the animal was considered a manifestation of the creator deity Ptah. But in death the creature was considered as embodying Osiris. When the animal died it was treated as if Osiris had died, and was given lavish rites due its station. We therefore cannot repeat an old and now demonstrably false adage that Ptolemy Soter invented the god Serapis, for the conflation of Osiris with the Apis bull was an ancient Egyptian tradition. However, we might be able to say with somewhat more truth that Ptomely Soter reinvented the cult, or at least gave it new marketing for a new audience. Accustomed as they were to Homeric deities and beautiful anthropomorphic depictions of said gods in art, what the Greeks (and later Romans) objected to most in Egyptian religion was its inherent animal fetish. The Greeks who theoretically were in awe of Egypt's ancient and mysterious legacy were most often in practice derisive of its animal headed deities. Thus if Ptolemy were to promote an Egyptian cult to his Greco-Macedonian companions, iconographically the deity had to be rendered more aesthetically pleasing to Hellenic sensibilities. Serapis was often portrayed as a benign Pluto, with elements of other deites such as Dionysus and Zeus. The refashioned cult of Serapis did indeed begin to pentrate into the Hellenic psyche. Under Ptolemy III a Serapeum was built in Alexandria that quickly became one of the largest and most prestigious sanctuaries in Antiquity. In this large complex of buildings, which included an annex to the famous Library of Alexandria, the cult practiced incubation - sleeping to obtain divinely inspired dreams, usually a prophecy as to how to cure an illness. Serapis thus resembled Pluto iconographically, was linked mythologically with Osiris as lord of the underworld, and in cult shared powers with some of the Greek healing gods. He could also be indentified with Dionysus-Sabazius as another resurrected vegetation deity. His consort Isis could be linked with the Greek Demeter or Greek Aphrodite. These identifications helped the cult of Isis and Serapis spread to other Hellenes throughout the Mediterranean. ~Journey to Rome~ Sailors, traders and emmigrants from Alexandria did much to further the spread of the cult. We find cults of Isis and Serapis formed as private associations throughout many major port towns of the Mediterranean, with official temple cults erected not long thereafter. Egyptian slaves sold in foreign markets often carried the cult with them to new lands. Interestingly enough, foreign merchants and slave traders were just as likely to adopt the cult, for they found in Isis and Serapis universal deities with powers to grant great boons. Serapis made a home fairly early at Delos, one of Apollo's island sanctuaries. It seems there was even some rivalry between these two gods of healing, not least of which is because the cult of Serapis was linked with Ptolemaic imperialism. From the slave trade at Delos, Serapis and Isis spread to the Italian ports. In importance and prestige Isis always seemed to eclipse her consort. The conservative Republican Senate treated the cults with suspicion and did not allow them to be permitted within the sacred city limits. Private chapels to the gods were ordered destroyed - but they were quickly rebuilt by the faithful. The cults were increasingly practiced not only by Greco-Oriental slaves and emmigrants, but by native Italians as well. With the memory of Cleopatra in mind, who had proclaimed herself Isis on earth, Augustus was not keen on officially promoting any Egyptian cult in Rome, and in fact discouraged it. Yet within the house of the imperial family one could see paintings with a strong Egyptian theme! Tiberius was no hypocrite; he despised the cult and in fact strongly persecuted it after a sex scandal involving the cult became public. ~Imperial Ascendance~ Caligula was descended through Marc Antony, and perhaps it is not surprising a touch of Alexandrian devotions remained with the family. Caligula's chamberlain was an Egyptian who perhaps assisted the emperor in the study of the cult's mysteries. Caligula had a temple to Isis built on the Field of Mars. From now on the Nilotic gods would be at home on the Tiber. The Flavian and Severan dynasties became duly enamored with the Nilotic cults. Vespasian claims to have been proclaimed emperor by an oracle from Serapis, and with the deity's help performed a healing "miracle." But it was not until Caracalla that Serapis finally moved out under an Isiac shadow. The emperor erected a special cult to Serapis as god of healing and issued coins with his likeness. After a retreat to the Serapaeum at Alexandria , he was bestowed with the title philosarapis, or beloved of Sarapis. The zenith came when Caracalla constructed a gigantic temple to Serapis which seems to have dwarfed that to Captoline Jupiter, who had for centuries been officially the patron god of Rome. The Serapia of April 25th may have been to celebrate the commemoration of this temple. By Caracalla's reign Serapis was increasingly equated with such other deities as Mithras and Helios, and became a solar and sky deity. Mithraeum in Caracalla's baths show such syncretic inscriptions. The number of Egyptian slaves serving in the imperial household seems to have been large. From Emperor to slave the religion of Serapis thrived. There was no port in the empire where it did not spread, but always it was linked to that of the Isiac cult. Apuleius does however inform us that the Mysteries of Serapis were separate from those of Isis. The related cults of Isis and Serapis would remain a major religious force in the Roman empire until their outlaw by Christian emperors. In many ways, the destruction of the Serapeum at Alexandria signified the death of paganism in Antiquity. Robert Turcan. _Cults of the Roman Empire_ Geraldine Pinch _Egyptian Mythology_ Apuleius _The Golden Ass _
  22. Someday you can get a free online certificate from Harvard (but not a degree). So how many of you would take the classical history, archaeology and language courses? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-18191589 The online courses are promised to be as rigorous as anything else from MIT or Harvard - but successful students will get a "certificate of mastery" and not a degree or any formal university credit. It's being set at arm's length from what's on offer for the paying customers.
  23. If you were called Sacratus, Constitutus or Memorianus, and had some bad luck in Roman Kent, archaeologists may have discovered why. A "curse tablet" made of lead and buried in a Roman farmstead has been unearthed in East Farleigh. Inscribed in capital letters are the names of 14 people, which experts believe were intended to have bad spells cast upon them. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-19267181