Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Silk Road-the 1st Major International Trade Route

For more than a fifteen centuries goods and ideas traveled the mostly overland trades routes from East Asia, the subcontinent, and the Middle East to the lands of the Mediterranean. These routes are most often referred to as the "Silk Road" as this was the single most valuable commodity carried by the merchant traders.
Travel along these routes was dangerous and expensive. Every Empire, kingdom and city state along the Silk Road took their fair share of the profits through taxes, service charges and the like. From the cities of China to the great Eastern Roman city of Constantinople the goods flowed and money flowed with them.  The massive wealth gained from this trade was a major reason for the long life of the Eastern Roman Empire.
But silk was not the only commodity carried, spices, gems, rare animals, slaves and numerous other valuable items traveled the route.
Gold flowed freely from West to East in a steady stream of negative trade balance from the coffers of the Europeans for the goods they treasured but could not produce.

An even more important item traveled with the merchants and their caravans-ideas. Religions, inventions, such as paper(this is an ancient Chinese paper discussing Buddhism)stories, cultural concepts, all traveled along the Silk Road helping to spread the knowledge of mankind throughout three continents.

The Ottoman conquest of the Eastern Roman Empire did not end this trade, they simply increased the "carrying charges." The increased expense, and the possibility of cutting out the "Middle Man" lead several European kingdoms to look for alternate, cheaper trade routes. So in 1492, a little known Italian, sailing with three small Spanish ships set out for the riches of Asia and discovered a new world unknown to the peoples of the East and the history of mankind was forever changed.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Eastern Roman Empire-the Rome that Survived to the 15th Century

Most often called the Byzantium Empire by history, the Eastern Roman Empire far outlasted its more famous Western namesake. The trade of the Silk Road made the Eastern Roman Empire one of the richest empires of the pre-Renaissance World. This wealth was a major factor in the long survival of the Empire as well a major cause of its eventual conquest, as enemy after enemy was attracted to the untold riches the Empire held.

>Triple Walls of Emperor Theodosian

With its capital city of Constantinople protected by three sets of impregnable walls, the Eastern Roman Empire lasted almost a millennium after the fall of the Western Empire. The wealth of the Empire maintained these great fortifications as well as the excellent military need to defend them.


Justinian the Great brought the Eastern Empire to its highpoint of power and prestige. During his rule Latin was still the language of the Empire. As time passed Greek became the official language. Unfortunately lesser emperors, civil wars and constant warfare with ever stronger enemies slowly whittled down the strength and borders of the Empire.

The Cathedral of Hagia Sophia, with its massive dome roof,is is an excellent example of the Roman engineering skills the Eastern Empire maintained for future rediscovery by Western Europe during the Renaissance.

The final collapse of the walls of Constantinople was brought about by a technology unknown to their builders-gunpowder. This 63cm (25 inch)siege cannon is similar to those that finally breached the walls of Constantinople in 1453 CE.

With the death of the last Eastern Roman Emperor, Constantine XI Palaiologos, at the hands of the Ottoman Turks of Mehmed II, twenty-two centuries of glorious and infamous rule of the Roman Empires ended, but not their influence. With the Renaissance, Western Europe rediscovered much of the knowledge of the Ancients, improved and expanded these ideas and eventually conquered the World, the Romans would have understood and been pleased.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fall of the Western Roman Empire-an Object Lesson for All

>The remains of the Great Forum of Rome-power center of the Roman World

The total destruction of the Western Roman Empire is a warning to all future cultures. Barbarians care little for the culture, art, or society of their "enemies." Barbarians will stike hard at societies that are unwilling or unable to defend themselves. The "Fall Of Rome" section of this blog lists many of the important reasons for the collapse of this great and one time powerful civilization. Some of the causes were external, but most of the reasons for Rome's collapse were internal-they aided in their own destruction! This is the greatest object lesson of all-the greatest danger to any society comes from within! Any culture can self destruct if its people are not diligent in their study of the lessons of past collapses.











>Ruins of Roman City of Sbeitla, Tunisia

>Remains of a Roman Government Building in Italy

>Aqueduct of New Carthage, smashed by Barbaians

Fall of Rome: Environmental Reasons

> Ruins of the Port City of Leptis
The collapse of Rome was due to many varied reasons. It is important to remember that the collapse was not quick but rather was gradual at first and slowly gained speed as the years and centuries passed. There are so many causes that few historians agree as to which were the most important. These are some of the major environmental reasons for the Fall of the Roman Empire.

-Lead poisoning from water pipes & goblets/dishes etc.
-Erosion due to over farming and deforestation.
-Overcrowded cities.
-Pandemic Plagues from the East.

Fall of Rome: Military Causes


The collapse of Rome was due to many varied reasons. It is important to remember that the collapse was not quick but rather was gradual at first and slowly gained speed as the years and centuries passed. There are so many causes that few historians agree as to which were the most important. These are some of the major Military reasons for the Fall of the Roman Empire.

-Hired non-Romans for the Army, German/barbarians eventually make up 80% of the army who were loyal to their generals not the state.
-Barbarian invasions, 300+ years of constant pressure from ever larger barbarian tribes.
-Expensive military, eventually over 50% of the Imperial expenses.
-Generals become the main contenders for the throne often taking their armies from the frontier defenses as they marched on Rome.
-Quality and loyalty of soldiers declined.

Fall of Rome: Social Reasons


The collapse of Rome was due to many varied reasons. It is important to remember that the collapse was not quick but rather was gradual at first and slowly gained speed as the years and centuries passed. There are so many causes that few historians agree as to which were the most important. These are some of the major social reasons for the Fall of the Roman Empire.

-Rich controlled 90% of the wealth.
-Middle class shrunk to virtual non-existence.
-Huge uneducated poor class felt little support for the state.
-Poor class reduced to surviving on public welfare.
-Imperial Military and Civil Service became the number one employers

Fall of Rome: Economic Causes


The collapse of Rome was due to many varied reasons. It is important to remember that the collapse was not quick but rather was gradual at first and slowly gained speed as the years and centuries passed. There are so many causes that few historians agree as to which were the most important. These are some of the major economic reasons for the Fall of the Roman Empire.

-Inflation caused by constant devaluation of coins and rapidly rising prices.
(price of a peck of wheat: 150 C.E.-½ denarii, 200 C.E.-100 denarii, 350 C.E.-10,000 denarii)
-Heavy taxation to pay for the military and public infrastructure.
-Lack of gold & silver specie.
-Negative balance of trade, especially for animals, slaves, silk & spices.
-Huge public welfare expenses (bread & circuses).

The Fall of Rome: Political Reasons


The collapse of Rome was due to many varied reasons. It is important to remember that the collapse was not quick but rather was gradual at first and slowly gained speed as the years and centuries passed. There are so many causes that few historians agree as to which were the most important. These are some of the major political reasons for the Fall of the Roman Empire.


-Split the Empire into Eastern & Western Roman Empires.
-Defensive/isolationist mentality.
-No peaceful way to replace emperors.
- Citizens became more concerned about their life style and luxuries than involved in the workings of their government.
-Massive bureaucracy/government.
-Failed to complete the conquest of Germany in 9 C.E. and 181 C.E.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Endless Barbarian Waves


For more than three centuries the Legions of Rome fought off seemingly endless waves of Barbarian Tribes. The high quality of the legionnaires, organization of the Empire and top quality defenses, all helped to hold back the inital waves. Yet each successive assault was stronger than the last. No matter how many victories the Romans achieved there was always another tribe to face.


>Visigoth Warrior

Germans, Alamanni, Vandals, Goths, Suebi,Visigoths, Franks, Huns, Ostrogoths,Jutes, Anglo & Saxons all slammed into the Empire adding more and more pressure until the defenses began to crack.
>Saxon Warrior

At first a trickle and then a steady stream of Barbarians entered the Empire, some to raid, some to join the Roman Army and some to set up permanent homes.

>the dreaded Huns, terror on horseback

Finally a flood of Barbarians broke into and over whelmed the Western Empire. The city of Rome fell to the Ostrogoths, was looted and the last Western Emperor-Romulus Augustus- was captured in 476 CE.

>Theodoric the Ostrogoth, King of Italy. The Empire and Emperor were now replaced by kings and petty states. A major turning point in world history had been reached.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Nerva–Antonine Dynasty, Rome at the Height of its Power: Five Good Emperors then Commodus

The Five Good Emperors were not the last great Roman Emperors, but they did represent the longest period of solid good leadership and took Rome to its Greatest Power. The Pax Romana allowed the people of the Empire the peace and security of a Roman Golden Age. But nothing lasts forever-even Golden Ages- by the time of Marcus Aurellus the first cracks began to appear. These weaknesses were accelerated by the disastrous leadership of Commodus!

Nerva, the old Senator turned Emperor, put Roman Government and the Imperium back on track with the renewed concept of choosing the best man as his successor (Adoptive Succession), adopting and training them for the task of leadership. Chose Trajan as his successor and son. Nerva was Emperor from 96-98 CE, died of old age when he was sixty-eight.

Trajan was a warrior first and emperor second. He is often thought to be the the greatest emperor after Augustus. Trajan increased the Empire to its greatest extent, produced a governmental surplus and was the model of the Roman ideals of virtue, dignity and military prowess. Emperor from 98-117 CE, he died of natural causes at the age of sixty-four.



Hadrian (Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus) believed in consolidation not expansion. He redrew the Empires boundaries to more defensible borders such as the Rhine River. One of the great builders of Rome, three of his structures are still visible today-Hadrian's Wall, Hadrian's Tomb (current Castle St. Angelo) and the Pantheon. Emperor from 117-138 CE, he died of disease when he was sixty-two.








Antoninus Pius was a career politician not a warrior. A fiscal conservative, he spent his reign strengthening the Empire through negotiation rather than warfare. Taxation was fair, business booming and the Empire was at peace. He was a popular Emperor among the people, the patricians and most importantly the legions (a most unusual occurrence). His reign is considered the high water point of Imperial Rome. Events beyond anyone's imagination or control were about to challenge and change the Empire forever. Emperor from 138-161 CE, he died of natural causes at the age of seventy-five.



Marcus Aurellus, last of the Five Good Emperors, was a scholar by desire and a warrior emperor by necessity as the barbarian threat was greater in his reign than it had been since the age of Julius Caesar. The constant military campaigning and waves of barbarians brought and even greater danger to Rome, one for which there was no defense-the plague. Roman medical science was powerless in the face of this invisible killer, hundreds of thousands died (a fraction of the tens of millions killed when the plague revisited Europe during the reign of the Barbarian Kingdoms descended from the destroyers of the Roman Empire). Aurellus was on the final campaign to conquer Germania Magna when he died of the disease at the age of fifty-nine, he had been Emperor from 161-180.

“For our history now descends from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust.” Was how the Roman historian Cassius Dio saw the death of Marcus Aurelius-the collapse of Rome had begun.















Commodus was the actual son of Marcus Aurellus and was definitely not the right man for the job. Instead of finishing the conquest of Germania he made a quick peace and returned with the army to Rome where he devoted his life to personal pleasures. His brutal reign saw the disintegration of the Imperial Adoptive Succession. The "Gladiator Emperor" thought himself a reborn Hercules and dressed accordingly. His strange behavior became to much for the Senate. Emperor from 180-192, he was murdered at the age of thirty-one by a gladiator in the pay of the Senate. The bad old days of choosing and "removing" emperors through murder and war had returned.




Thursday, October 14, 2010

Julio-Claudian Emperors-Worlds Most Famous Dysfunctional Family


Augustus-an excellent emperor, but bad luck to be his chosen successor or his child. Lucius Caesar, Gaius Caesar, Drusus Germanicus and Agrippa Postumus were all seen as possible successors and all died before Augustus, his only daughter was banished. Only his adopted son Tiberius (son of Livia,the last wife of Augustus) survived this honor.  Augustus died of old age (or did he?). Emperor 27 BCE-14 CE




Tiberius-executed multiple family members for suspected treason as well as several thousand Roman citizens, was murdered by his adopted son. Emperor 14-37 CE


Gaius (Caligula) the first Mad Emperor-killed his adopted father (Tiberius) and his own adopted successor,Gemellus. Caligula was a brutal ruler whose paranoia led him to kill indiscriminately. Thousands were killed at his whim. He spent treasury money lavishly on personal pleasures to the point of bankrupting the Empire. He was murdered by his own guards. Emperor 37-41 CE


Claudius enjoyed gladiator games to excess, the first massive bloodletting games were instituted by him. He executed one wife, Messalina, and was poisoned by his next wife, Agrippina.
Emperor 41-54 CE

Nero-the emperor who wanted to be an actor. Emptied the treasury with his lavish life style and his "Golden Palace." He posioned his brother Britanicus (son of Claudius), had his mother Agrippina killed, executed his wife Octavia (daughter of Claudius) and murdered his pregnant wife Poppaea.  After fourteen years of his bloody rulership, the Senate declared him an enemy of the state, Nero then committed suicide, he was only thirty years old. Emperor 54-68 CE


With Nero's death the Julio-Claudian dynasty died, there were no direct family members left they had exterminated themselves!

The Keystone-Key to the Arch



The keystone-one of the greatest architectural discoveries of history.



A keystone is the architectural piece at the top of an arch. The keystone, using the pull of gravity, locks the other pieces of the arch into position.



It Can be a simple block or an elaborate decorative piece, either way it is the key to the strength of the arch design.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Roman Amphitheater


>Verona Amphitheater
One of the true hallmarks of every Roman city was the amphitheater. They were essential for the "games" that were used to entertain the populous. The wealth of a city was always evident in the size and quality of its amphitheater.

>the Flavian Amphitheater (Colosseum) the height of Roman design.










Elevators were a Roman invention that made the "game" ever more exciting. The layout of the elevator's are clearly evident in this amphitheater in Napoli.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pax Romana-the Peace of Rome


The Pax Romana, more than 180 years of Peace in the Roman World, was the hallmark of the early Imperium. This great era of peace (no major wars with in the confines of the Empire) in Western Europe, North Africa and the Mediterranean coast of the Middle East began under the reign of the Emperor Augustus. Peace reigned within the Empire from this time period up to the end of the rule of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (last of the "Five Good Emperors"). In some areas of the Empire such as Britinnia the Pax Romana lasted for over four centuries. The Pax Romana is an accomplishment yet to be duplicated in human history.

"Quinctilius Varus Give Me Back My Legions"


>Publius Quinctilius Varus suffered the greatest defeat at the hands of the Barbarians of any Roman commander during the Pax Romana (first two centuries of the Imperium). During the later years of the Imperial reign of Augustus, Publius Quinctilius Varus was given command of the new Province of Germania Magna. With three full legions, the 17th, 18th & 19th, and the bureaucracy of Rome at his disposal, Varus was responsible for the Romanization of this barbaric territory.


>Face plate from a Roman cavalry officers helmet recently found on the battlefield.
Varus was a trusted member of the extended family of Augustus but not a good choice as a military governor. He treated the Germans poorly and was very trusting of his German officers. One of the latter, Arminius-a Romanised Germanic chieftan, lead Varus and his three legions into an ambush in the marshy Teutoburg Forest. It was a massacre, the three legions, their auxiliary troops and camp followers were wiped out. Close to 30,000 Roman soldiers were lost as were the three Legion Eagles. Open revolt spread throughout Germania Magna destroying all evidence of the Romanization of the area.


When he heard of the defeat, Augustus was seen rending his clothes while screaming,"Quintili Vare, legiones redde!" ("Quinctilius Varus, give me back my Legions!"). After some brutal reprisals (and the recapture of the three Eagles), Rome abandoned all attempts to make Germany East of the Rhine into a peaceful, rich, Roman province like Gaul. A turning point in European and World History that will have ramifications through to the 20th century had occurred. The Rhine would be the new border between the Roman World and the Barbarians.  For the next 20 centuries this line would be fought over by successive hordes, empires, kingdoms and republics, ending in the last and greatest conflict-World War Two.



This ring from an officer of the 19th Legion is mute testimony to the personal cost of the disaster.

October Study Guide

Roman October 2010 Study Guide

Be able to define/describe/explain all key terms from the chapters on Rome
and the following:
B.C., B.C.E./A.D., C.E. - Keystone - Barbarian - Province - Pax Romana - Aqueduct - Tribune - Consul - Senate - Amphitheater - SPQR - Forum - Gaul - Dictator - Consul - Veto - Patrician - Silk Road - Legion - Legionnaire - Circus Maximus - Pilum - Coliseum - Punic Wars - Plebeian - Mosaic - Polytheism - Roman Baths


Be able to discuss/list/identify five quality facts for each of the following:
Rome Sections 1 and 2(pgs 228-245) - Roman Buildings - Octavian/Augustus - Roman Days of the Week - Roman Months - Roman Government - Roman Engineering Feats - Julius Caesar


Remember that all answers must be given using complete sentences.

What Is In a Name


Augustus understood the power names held. Throughout his life he changed his names several times and added many titles. Born Gaius Octavius Thurinus, he belonged to an equestrian family, his father was a minor Senator- Gaius Octavius. To avoid confusion, the Young Gaius was often called Octavian. When his great uncle, Gaius Julius Caesar was murdered, Octavian was surprised to learn he had been adopted by Julius in the latter’s will. To honor his new father, and remind everyone of his new lineage, Octavian took the new name Gaius Julius Caesar as his official title.

After defeating Cleopatra VII and Marcus Antonius, Octavian took many new titles that proclaimed his power in the Roman World. These included:

Princeps' - First Citizen of Rome
Pater Patriae - Father of his country
Caesar 'divi filius' - 'son of the divine' after Julius was proclaimed a god
Augustus – Revered One
Imperium Proconsulare Maius - Consul for life
Tribunicia Potestas - Tribune for life
Imperator – Commander of the Army

Friday, October 8, 2010

Divine Augustus-First Emperor of Rome

By 27 BCE, Octavian controlled the government of the Empire and the loyalty of the Army. Learning from the mistakes of his adopted Father (Julius Caesar) he never proclaimed himself Dictator. Instead he ruled through the Senate and assemblies. This was a fine line of distinction where he always "asked" the Senators to vote and provide input on his laws and running the government. Before each vote he "advised" the Senators on his opinion on the case the Senators were voting on. The appearance was that the Senate was an active participant in the ruling of the Empire but in fact the power was totally in the hands of Octavian.

With a free hand he rebuilt Rome, enlarged and secured the Empires borders, redesigned the government and generally created the foundations of the Roman Empire that was to last for the next four centuries. The grateful Senate and people showered Octavian with titles, to the people he was the Augustus Imperator- the Revered Commander of the Army. The total power held by Augustus changed the government to that of a true Empire, the old Republic was now dead to the cheers of the populous! After his death Augustus, like his adopted father, was elevated to divine by the will of the Senate and the people of Rome.



>Silver coin from Pergamum showing the Temple of the Cult of the Divine Augustus, circa 50 CE.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Roman Fortified Camps-Protection for the Legion

Be it wood and dirt or stone and concrete, the Roman fortified camp was both a place of rest and refuge for the soldiers of the legion.
At the end of each days march, the legionnaires would sleep in a fortified camp. If no permanent base was on hand the legionnaires would build a temporary one for the night.
A Roman fortified camp facing the Gauls at Alesia. The double trench design shown here was used in areas of greater danger. A single trench was more common.
For long term garrisons the camp would be made of stone, cement and fire proof tiles.



Regardless of the building materials, all Roman camps were set out in the exact same pattern. This allowed rapid construction and more importantly instant knowledge of ones surroundings in any legion camp in the Empire.