The Roman World (History of Civilization)


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In some courts, juries, made up of ordinary citizens, could by strong. In criminal cases, it was up to the victim to bring an accusation of wrongdoing, there being no public prosecutor. Punishments for the most serious crimes were execution, and for lesser ones, flogging. The law protected a whole range of basic rights for citizens. These rights, originating and evolved within the Republic, were not taken away under the emperors, at least for the majority of the population who were not within the personal reach of the emperor.

The great legal digests of the Late Empire enshrined these principles and passed them on to future European civilization. Roman religion was very similar to that of the Greeks. Like the Greeks, the Romans worshiped a pantheon of gods and goddesses, headed by the chief of the gods, Jupiter.

Other gods included Minerva, goddess of wisdom and learning; Mars, god of war; Venus, goddess of love; Ceres, goddess of the Earth; and Pluto, god of the underworld. As well as these major gods, numerous lesser deities, gods of hearth and home, and forest and field, populated the spirit world. Roman religion placed great emphasis on proper rituals — it was important to do things right. Roman priests were, by and large, not professional, full-time religious practitioners. They tended rather to be the leading people in their community, magistrates and senators.

Unlike Greek religion, Roman religion had a strong moral dimension. This was to do with behaving in an honest and dignified way towards others, keeping oaths and agreements on the shake of a hand, and in displaying courage and fortitude when misfortune struck. The Romans were very superstitious, always looking for good or bad omens before embarking on a course of action. Like the Greeks, they also consulted famous oracles — priests or priestesses at certain shrines who, in a trance, uttered messages from the gods.

One innovation that the emperors introduced was their own cult, emperor-worship. To what extent this was a real religion rather than an outward show of loyalty is difficult to say; however, in most Roman towns a temple to the emperor would be among the larger buildings. As with Greek religion, Roman religion was not aimed at meeting private spiritual needs — it was a public, outward thing.

As time went by, new religions and cults became popular in the Roman world: the Eleusian Mysteries and cult of Orpheus from Greece; the cult of the Egyptian goddess Isis ; the religion of Mithras, from beyond the empire, in Iran; and later, Christianity. Despite or because of? However, it was the conversion to Christianity of the emperor Constantine, and the favor bestowed on the Christian Church by succeeding emperors, that turned it into the most popular religion in the empire.

In the s it was made the official religion of the empire, a development which would have a huge impact on the future history of Europe. Roman art was closely related to late Greek art — indeed, as the Romans conquered more and more Greek cities, more and more Greet art found its way to Rome.

The same is true of Greek artists, who found in the Roman ruling classes keen patrons of their work. Culturally, the Roman period is to a large extent an extension of the Hellenistic period, especially in the eastern parts of the empire. Nevertheless, Roman sculpture in particular has an unmissable characteristic all its own. The sculptural portraits of leading Romans of the late Republic and early Empire are simple and dignified, and above all startlingly realistic.

10. The Incan Civilization

We really do know what Julius Caesar looked like! What is true for art is even more true for architecture.


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One can see Greek influences powerfully at work in the buildings of Ancient Rome, but transformed into a uniquely Roman style. There was nothing in Greek architecture similar to the arched facades of the Colosseum or of the theater of Pompey; nor to the arched construction of the great Roman aqueducts, or the triumphal arches which adorn many Roman cities.

The arch is a new innovation in Roman architecture, reflecting Roman engineering capabilities in solving the problem of carrying greater weight.

When was Julius Caesar Born?

The same is true for the dome, which appeared most famously in the Pantheon, in Rome, and which allowed Roman architects and builders to span much greater spaces than before. The theme here is size and grandeur — the Romans built big to reflect their power and confidence. Roman literature is written in the Latin language. The Latins were a people who had settled in central Italy some centuries before Rome was founded; Rome was originally one of their towns, and although the Romans came to be of somewhat mixed Italian stock Latin, Sabine, Etruscan , they spoke the Latin dialect.

Writing came to the Latins as for other Italians via the Greeks, and early Latin writers modeled themselves on Greek precursors when they were not actually translating Greek works into Latin.

6. Ancient Rome

However, as the Republic neared its end, and the Empire lived through its first century, a group of Roman writers turned Latin into a great literary language in its own right, which later ages admired enormously, and sought to emulate. One of the extraordinary features of much Latin writing is that, to a degree probably without precedent in any other literature, much of it was produced by busy politicians.

Some of these reached the highest eminence in their own turbulent lifetimes: Cicero, Caesar, Seneca all these died violent political deaths. Throughout all this literature there permeates a realism and reflectiveness which comes from the practical lives these men led. Other Latin writers of the period lived more conventional literary lives: the poets Virgil, Catallus, Horace, Ovid, Martial and Juvenal; the historian Livy.

In fact these too were all near the seat of power, but as writers, not as politicians.

The Legend of Rome: Romulus and Remus

Later writes continued the tradition of combining politics with writing — most notably an emperor, Marcus Aurelius, who jotted down his thoughts on philosophy. Right at the end of the Roman period, Ausonius the poet, Symmachus the man of letters and Boethius, the philosopher, all held high office while producing literature which is still read today. Meanwhile, in a completely different social setting, an entirely different genre was being produced.

This was the writings of early Christian thinkers. Most of these spoke and wrote Greek, but from the third century onward some major Christian Latin writers appeared.

Their works, of encouragement and exhortation, theology and pastoral concern, are still regarded as classics of Christian literature. He was a man right at the top of Roman society, and a deeply committed Christian. He wrote works reflecting on his life and times, and in doing so greatly influenced western thinking for centuries to come. Roman thinkers looked to Hellenistic philosophy for inspiration. From Cicero, in the late Republic, though Seneca and later Marcus Aurelius, under the Empire, Stoicism continued to exercise a strong attraction over Roman minds.

Epicureanism was also popular in some circles, with poets such as Lucretius championing its teachings. Like Stoics, Epucureans believed that life is ultimately without hope, and that one should focus on living daily life in a positive spirit. A major philosophical strand of thought in the later Roman empire was Neoplatonism. Given the large overlap between the Hellenistic and Roman civilizations, it is sometimes hard to disentangle which civilization took some technological steps. In a sense it doe not matter, as Rome rose to power within a Hellenistic context, and carried forward the Hellenistic culture a further few centuries.

Some of the greatest technological achievements of the Roman period were in construction engineering. These rested on the development of the first form of concrete in history, a step that took place in southern Italy in the 2nd century BCE. This material which used volcanic lava as its base was crucial to Roman architectural innovations such as the arch and the dome.

ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS : Ancient Rome and Romans in Africa

These allowed Roman engineers to span much larger spaces than ever before. Huge stone bridges, the first of their kind, were thrown across rivers; multistoried aqueducts marched across valleys; and awe-inspiring buildings such as the Pantheon in Rome, and much later the Cathedral of S. Sophia in Constantinople, used domed roofs to enclose larger areas than any other building until the 16th century. The Romans were clearly adventurous and highly skilled engineers.

More than anything else, this is seen in their roads, which ran for hundreds of miles across all sorts of terrain, and played an important part in knitting the empire together so effectively. Laying out these roads involved advanced surveying techniques, using instruments which were adapted from those used by astronomers to measure angles. The Romans seem to have been the first to use mechanical means for the ubiquitous task of grinding corn, which previously, had always been done by hand.

Dating from the second century BCE, heavy millstones have been found which would have ground grain with the aid of animal power. The Roman world saw the next major step along this path with the building of the first water mills recorded by history. They probably originated in the Greek-speaking eastern empire, but in the first century CE, one mill, in southern France, had no less than sixteen overshot water wheels, fed by the main aqueduct to Arles.

It has been estimated that this mill could supply enough bread for the entire 12,strong population of Arles at that time. Roman science was an extension of the Hellenistic scientific activity — indeed, most of the scientific thinkers of the Roman period were Greeks or Greek speakers living in the Greek-speaking eastern part of the empire. One exception was Pliny the Elder, a senior Roman official writing in Latin.

He compiled a huge collection of facts interspersed with many fictions! In many cases he sought to explain natural phenomena — for example, he was the first to realize that amber is the fossilized resin of pine trees. Ptolemy of Alexandria one of the great cities of the Hellenistic world systematized Greek knowledge of astronomy. His theories of the movements of the heavenly bodies would have a profound influence on later European thinkers. The doctor Galen also systematized Hellenistic anatomical knowledge; but he also extended this knowledge considerably, based on his own careful dissections of animals.

He was the first to assert that veins carried blood, not air; and his writings formed the primary foundation for Medieval medical theory and practice. The rise and fall of Ancient Rome formed a crucial episode in the rise of Western civilization.

The Digital Atlas of Roman and Medieval Civilizations

Through Rome the achievements of ancient Greek civilization passed to Medieval Europe — with unique Roman contributions added. Roman architecture, sculpture, philosophy and literature all built on Greek models, developed their own distinct elements, and then left a legacy for later periods of Western civilization to build on. However, it was in law and politics that Roman influence can be felt most strongly today. Much European law is still derived from Roman law. We will deal further with the impact of Rome when we look at the roots of Western civilization.

The Rise of the Roman Empire. History of the Roman Empire. History of the Later Roman Empire. Government and Warfare under the Roman Republic. Etruscan civilization. History of the ancient Middle East , showing the role the Roman empire played in that region. Ancient Europe , showing the rise and fall of the Roman empire in the context of European history. The Middle East , showing the impact of the Roman empire on that region.

Location The term Ancient Rome refers to the city of Rome, which was located in central Italy; and also to the empire it came to rule, which covered the entire Mediterranean basin and much of western Europe. Economy and society Ancient Roman society originated as a society of small farmers. Reproduced under GFDL Stretching away from the forum were the cities streets, forming a grid pattern so that a map of a city would look like a multitude of square blocks.

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