The Roman Empire: Geography, Communication, and Culture. Lecture 33

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1 The Roman Empire: Geography, Communication, and Culture Lecture 33

2 Fundamental characteristics of the Roman Empire - Limitations imposed by its geography - Linguistic and ethnic diversity - Rule by one emperor, backed by highly mobile army - Relative homogeneity of its urban and elite culture - Religious pluralism (with limits)

3 Key sources for today s lecture -Res Gestae ( Things Done by Emperor Augustus) - Other inscriptions and graffiti - monuments, sculpture, mosaics, and other art

4 Note the distinction between Senatorial and imperial provinces on this map. Which provinces did Augustus maintain under direct imperial control and why? The areas shown in yellow were ruled by client kings. ROMAN EMPIRE AT THE DEATH OF AUGUSTUS

5 The geographic boundaries of the Roman Empire remained relatively stable -- with a few notable additions -- for more than three hundred years after the reign of the emperor Augustus.

6 Note also on this map the distribution of cities. The small cluster of cities north of the Danube were built in the Roman province of Dacia. It was possible to travel from one end of the Roman Empire to the other speaking Latin or Greek the whole way. But outside the urban centers, a wide range of local languages continued to be spoken (and, in a few cases, written).

7 Augustus, founder of the Principate (The Roman Empire) - from Latin princeps (first man) At the top of the social pyramid stood the emperor. The long reign of Octavian/Augustus (23 B.C.-14 C.E.) firmly established the principle that the empire was to be ruled by a single man. This period of Roman history is sometimes referred to as the Principate, after the Latin word princeps, the name that Augustus chose for himself.

8 The Roman Empire is divided into dynasties, in which reigning emperors named their successors.

9 Augustus honored as pharaoh in Egypt In the eastern portions of the empire, the emperor was frequently depicted as god, sometimes in Greco-Roman style as with previous Hellenistic kings, but in Egypt in more traditional form as the new pharaoh. Under Roman control, the ancient priestly lines were deprived of their power, but the temples remained open for worship of the traditional Egyptian gods.

10 POWER BEHIND THE THRONE The Praetorian Guard In Rome, the authority of the emperor was bolstered and protected by the Praetorian Guard, a core of elite troops stationed on the edge of the city. Augustus established the guard of ca (or possibly 9000) troops in 27 B.C., setting their pay at three times that of normal legionaries. More than once, however, the Guard intervened to become king-makers, naming their own emperors

11 The Roman army was concentrated along the empire s northern and eastern frontiers. The squares on this map mark the location of legionary bases. DISTRIBUTION OF THE ROMAN ARMY

12 TRAJAN S COLUMN ERECTED IN 116 C.E. TO CELEBRATE CONQUEST OF DACIA (ROMANIA) Modern scholars have reconstructed many aspects of the daily life of Roman soldiers, thanks to the numerous documents created by the army and its veterans, as well as archaeological and art historical sources, especially the Column of Trajan in Rome.

13 The Roman army was wellequipped, well trained, highly disciplined, and merciless in its pursuit of its foes. Many scenes on the Column of Trajan show the death, capture, or surrender of the Dacian tribes.

14 Roman troops create a tortoise-shell formation with their shields to protect themselves as they attack a Dacian fortress. The opening scene of the movie Gladiator convincingly evokes Roman battle tactics against Germanic foes on the empire s Rhine frontier.

15 Historical re-enactment of Roman military history is nearly as popular in England as Civil War reenactment is in modern America.

16 As in ancient Egypt and Assyria, the official art of the Roman Empire frequently depicted scenes of complete conquest and the merciless punishment of the defeated. Here, Roman soldiers prepare to execute a Dacian man, while young Dacian women are hauled away to be sold as slaves. Other plaques from the column show the decapitation of Dacian warriors.

17 When not fighting, soldiers were put to work as builders under the direction of some of the empire s most skilled and experienced engineers.

18 Hadrian s wall in northern England is an impressive example of the fortifications erected by Roman soldiers to mark the boundaries of the empire.

19 Vindolanda, a Roman fort on Hadrian s Wall The Roman fort at Vindolanda has yielded valuable insights into the daily life of soldiers and civilians along Hadrian s Wall. For more information, see the official website (http:// or any of the recent documentaries about the fort.

20 A literate and wellorganized bureaucracy oversaw the supply of the Roman army with all of its necessities delivered, wherever possible, by river or sea, which was much faster and less expensive than overland transport.

21 MEDITERRANEAN TRADE The Romans called the Mediterranean Mare Nostrum, Our Sea. Under the Empire, the capital was regularly supplied with grain imported from distant Alexandria. Here, a rare fresco of a Roman grain ship.

22 Trade blossomed under the Roman Empire, with extensive sea-borne exchange of commodities such as grain, olive oil, wine, and textiles.

23 Roman Road England Roman Road The extensive Roman road system facilitated the movement of troops and trade throughout the empire. Segments of these ancient roads have survived intact in many parts of Europe and the Middle East. Italy THE OTHER WAY TO TRAVEL AND SHIP GOODS

24 The cities of the Roman Empire shared numerous features of Greco-Roman urban amenities, including baths, theaters (or, in the West, amphitheaters), and libraries of Greek and Latin literature. CITIES: EPICENTERS OF GRECO-ROMAN CULTURE

25 THE BASICS There were no real public schools in the Roman Empire, but wealthy families (and some cities) hired tutors to educate the youth. The curriculum was heavily literary in orientation. In the West, lessons began with Virgil (here depicted in a mosaic from North Africa); in the Greek East, the educational canon began and ended with Homer and Classical Athenian writers.

26 Greek culture and literature was admired all over the Roman world. Here, in a fresco from Pompeii, the ancient story of Europa and the bull, which we last encountered in our lectures on the origins of Minoan civilization; according to the story, Zeus disguised as a bull carried Europa from Phoenicia to the island of Crete. GREEK MYTHOLOGY IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE

27 Roman Theater at Bosra (Syria) All over the Roman Empire, local donors poured money into the construction of new monuments in honors of their cities and themselves. The city of Bosra in southern Syria boasts the world s best preserved Roman theater.

28 Mimes and other performers entertained crowds with a combination of music, dancing, and parody. Wealthy homeowners frequently hired artists to depict theatrical scenes in their homes. Here, a stunning mosaic from the city of Antioch.

29 Throughout the empire, many cities also paid for the construction of aqueducts, which exponentially increased the amount of water available for muchadmired urban amenities, such as fountains, baths, and sewage systems. AQUEDUCT (PONT DU GARD, FRANCE)

30 The ancient Roman baths in Bath, England.

31 More often, the remains of ancient Roman baths look more like this. The open shafts in the flooring allowed the circulation of steam to heat the room. Roman baths required thousands of pounds of firewood and large staffs of slaves or other laborers to keep the heat on!

32 The public toilets (for men) at Ephesus. Romans would probably have found modern expectations for bathroom privacy very strange.

33 The Roman aqueduct at Segovia in Spain. As you might imagine, very precise engineering was required to keep the water flowing into the cities.

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