The Twelve Caesars by Michael Grant.
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DESCRIPTION: Hardback with Dust Jacket: 294 pages. Publisher: History Book
Club (2000). Dimensions: 9½ x 6¼ x 1¼ inches; 1¾ pounds. Michael Grant is
considered the greatest popularizer of ancient history of the century, a highly
successful and renowned historian of the ancient world. This book is a
biography of the lives of “The Twelve Caesars” – the first twelve emperors of
Imperial Rome. The book examines the public and private lives of Julius Caesar
and the following eleven Roman Emperors. Grant investigates the myths and
legends surrounding these men and explores the effects of their public careers
on their private lives. If you’re a buff or serious student of Roman History,
this is a “must have”.
CONDITION: NEW. New hardcover w/dustjacket. History Book Club (2000) 294
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PLEASE SEE PUBLISHER, PROFESSIONAL, AND READER REVIEWS BELOW.
REVIEW: Conspiracy, suspicion, power, corruption, poison, conquests,
marauders, murders and more murders. Such is the history of Roman Empire. Then
again there are copious examples from every nation's history of such dastardly
acts to grab power, from Egyptians pharos, to Bourbons, to Indian Moguls, to
British royalty. Human nature has changed very little in two thousand years.
Now instead of murdering opponents, we vilify them to such an extent that
populace loathes and discards them in the garbage bin. Grant discounts Lord
Acton's polemical quote "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts
absolutely". Later Lord Acton had modified in saying that too much
responsibility coupled with intense fear of life corrupts absolutely. It is
very hard to imagine for us, normal souls, with two thousand years separation,
what we would do if we were given absolute power over everybody and every
thing. But would we resort to killing our own mother like Nero, or have sexual
relationships with sisters, like Caligula. It is quite possible if Nixon were
the Roman Empire and Watergate exploded on the stage, he would not have
hesitated in having few senators, congressmen dispatched in due haste.
If there are any good emperors, the vote should go to Augustus, starting from
nothing, except, Julius Caesar's adopted nephew, to emerge as victor, after
defeating all his rivals, one by one including Mark Anthony and his beloved
Cleopatra. Vespatian can also be called a hero to come up the ranks from an
ordinary family to start a dynasty and consolidate Rome after bitter civil war.
Agripina the younger stands out among all the women , (if one can discount
Livia, Augustus’s wife in Graves incomparable "I, Claudius", where he portrays
Livia as villai) who is married to aging Claudius, the fourth emperor. She runs
the kingdom in his name and manages to bypass Claudius own son and places her
son, Nero on the throne. How does Nero reward her? He lets her go out on a
faulty boat to drown. What are sons for? Few emperors, imperators were tyrants,
megalomanias and sadists and most of them were murdered by conspiracy. Why any
body wanted to be one is puzzling as no doubt they all knew the history so
well. So Lord Acton is right. It is human nature to lust for Absolute power
REVIEW: Grant is clearly an expert in his field and often provides terrific
insights. I think this is my favorite of all Grant's works that I have read.
Part of that is because I love Roman History and perhaps another factor is that
this book tends to stick more or less to a chronological narrative, preventing
it from becoming too dry. My favorite part in this book is the conclusion.
Grant's enlightened insight into the job of being an emperor is outstanding!
Overall a very good volume and an easy one to read if you are a novice in
classical history. Grant has always done a great job with somehow making a
complex topic easy to read for the masses. He covers the first twelve emperors
adequately, but to get more out of each one you really need to purchase a
separate book on each of the emperors. I liked this book because it gave a good
overview of each of them and I was intrigued enough about the lives of a few of
them to go out and buy an additional book. If you want a good overview of the
emperors without much detail then this is a great book.
REVIEW: Grant's "The Twelve Caesars" is an excellent resource through which
to learn about the first twelve Roman "emperors" - Augustus, Tiberius,
Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus, and
Domitian. I say "emperors" in quotes because, as Grant so ably explains, the
early Roman rulers, starting with Caesar Augustus, maintained every pretense
that they were merely guardians of a republic. Even the word "imperator" was
ambiguous. But as time went on, largely through the political genius of
Augustus, the system evolved into de jure as well as a de facto imperial rule.
Grant debunks as propaganda most of the salacious gossip surrounding the
Caesars - which, to any of us familiar with the story of Tiberius and his
minnows," is a little disconcerting. But truth is vastly more interesting than
fiction, and Grant delivers it in abundance.
ANCIENT ROME: One of the greatest civilizations of recorded history was the
ancient Roman Empire. The Roman civilization, in relative terms the greatest
military power in the history of the world, was founded in the 8th century
B.C.) on seven hills alongside Italy’s Tiber River. By the 4th Century (B.C.)
the Romans were the dominant power on the Italian Peninsula, having defeated
the Etruscans, Celts, Latins, and Greek Italian colonies. In the 3rd Century
B.C.) the Romans conquered Sicily, and in the following century defeated
Carthage, and controlled Greece. Throughout the remainder of the 2nd Century
B.C.) the Roman Empire continued its gradual conquest of the Hellenistic
Greek Colonial) World by conquering Syria and Macedonia; and finally came to
control Egypt and much of the Near East and Levant (Holy Land) in the 1st
The pinnacle of Roman power was achieved in the 1st Century (A.D.) as Rome
conquered much of Britain and Western Europe. At its peak, the Roman Empire
stretched from Britain in the West, throughout most of Western, Central, and
Eastern Europe, and into Asia Minor. For a brief time, the era of “Pax Romana”,
a time of peace and consolidation reigned. Civilian emperors were the rule, and
the culture flourished with a great deal of liberty enjoyed by the average
Roman Citizen. However within 200 years the Roman Empire was in a state of
steady decay, attacked by Germans, Goths, and Persians. The decline was
temporarily halted by third century Emperor Diocletian.
In the 4th Century (A.D.) the Roman Empire was split between East and West.
The Great Emperor Constantine again managed to temporarily arrest the decay of
the Empire, but within a hundred years after his death the Persians captured
Mesopotamia, Vandals infiltrated Gaul and Spain, and the Goths even sacked Rome
itself. Most historians date the end of the Western Roman Empire to 476 (A.D.)
when Emperor Romulus Augustus was deposed. However the Eastern Roman Empire
The Byzantine Empire) survived until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 A.D.
In the ancient world valuables such as coins and jewelry were commonly buried
for safekeeping, and inevitably the owners would succumb to one of the many
perils of the ancient world. Oftentimes the survivors of these individuals did
not know where the valuables had been buried, and today, thousands of years
later (occasionally massive) caches of coins and rings are still commonly
uncovered throughout Europe and Asia Minor.
Throughout history these treasures have been inadvertently discovered by
farmers in their fields, uncovered by erosion, and the target of unsystematic
searches by treasure seekers. With the introduction of metal detectors and
other modern technologies to Eastern Europe in the past three or four decades,
an amazing number of new finds are seeing the light of day thousands of years
after they were originally hidden by their past owners. And with the
liberalization of post-Soviet Eastern Europe in the 1990’s, significant new
sources opened eager to share these ancient treasures. [AncientGifts].
History of Rome. According to legend, Ancient Rome was founded by the two
brothers, and demi-gods, Romulus and Remus, on 21 April 753 B.C. The legend
claims that, in an argument over who would rule the city (or, in another
version, where the city would be located) Romulus killed Remus and named the
city after himself. This story of the founding of Rome is the best known but it
is not the only one.
Other legends claim the city was named after a woman, Roma, who traveled with
Aeneas and the other survivors from Troy after that city fell. Upon landing on
the banks of the Tiber River, Roma and the other women objected when the men
wanted to move on. She led the women in the burning of the Trojan ships and so
effectively stranded the Trojan survivors at the site which would eventually
Aeneas of Troy is featured in this legend and also, famously, in Virgil's
Aeneid, as a founder of Rome and the ancestor of Romulus and Remus, thus
linking Rome with the grandeur and might which was once Troy. Still other
theories concerning the name of the famous city suggest it came from Rumon, the
ancient name for the Tiber River, and was simply a place-name given to the
small trading center established on its banks or that the name derived from an
Etruscan word which could have designated one of their settlements. Originally
a small town on the banks of the Tiber, Rome grew in size and strength, early
on, through trade. The location of the city provided merchants with an easily
navigable waterway on which to traffic their goods. The city was ruled by seven
kings, from Romulus to Tarquin, as it grew in size and power. Greek culture and
civilization, which came to Rome via Greek colonies to the south, provided the
early Romans with a model on which to build their own culture. From the Greeks
they borrowed literacy and religion as well as the fundamentals of architecture.
From the start, the Romans showed a talent for borrowing and improving upon
the skills and concepts of other cultures. The Kingdom of Rome grew rapidly
from a trading town to a prosperous city between the 8th and 6th centuries B.C.
When the last of the seven kings of Rome, Tarquin the Proud, was deposed in 509
B.C., his rival for power, Lucius Junius Brutus, reformed the system of
government and established the Roman Republic.
Though Rome owed its prosperity to trade in the early years, it was war which
would make the city a powerful force in the ancient world. The wars with the
North African city of Carthage (known as the Punic Wars, 264-146 B.C.)
consolidated Rome's power and helped the city grow in wealth and prestige. Rome
and Carthage were rivals in trade in the Western Mediterranean and, with
Carthage defeated, Rome held almost absolute dominance over the region; though
there were still incursions by pirates which prevented complete Roman control
of the sea.
As the Republic of Rome grew in power and prestige, the city of Rome began to
suffer from the effects of corruption, greed and the over-reliance on foreign
slave labor. Gangs of unemployed Romans, put out of work by the influx of
slaves brought in through territorial conquests, hired themselves out as thugs
to do the bidding of whatever wealthy Senator would pay them. The wealthy elite
of the city, the Patricians, became ever richer at the expense of the working
lower class, the Plebeians.
In the 2nd century B.C., the Gracchi brothers, Tiberius and Gaius, two Roman
tribunes, led a movement for land reform and political reform in general.
Though the brothers were both killed in this cause, their efforts did spur
legislative reforms and the rampant corruption of the Senate was curtailed (or,
at least, the Senators became more discreet in their corrupt activities). By
the time of the First Triumvirate, both the city and the Republic of Rome were
in full flourish.
Even so, Rome found itself divided across class lines. The ruling class
called themselves Optimates (the best men) while the lower classes, or those
who sympathized with them, were known as the Populares (the people). These
names were applied simply to those who held a certain political ideology; they
were not strict political parties nor were all of the ruling class Optimates
nor all of the lower classes Populares.
In general, the Optimates held with traditional political and social values
which favored the power of the Senate of Rome and the prestige and superiority
of the ruling class. The Populares, again generally speaking, favored reform
and democratization of the Roman Republic. These opposing ideologies would
famously clash in the form of three men who would, unwittingly, bring about the
end of the Roman Republic.
Marcus Licinius Crassus and his political rival, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus
Pompey the Great) joined with another, younger, politician, Gaius Julius
Caesar, to form what modern historians call the First Triumvirate of Rome
though the Romans of the time never used that term, nor did the three men who
comprised the triumvirate). Crassus and Pompey both held the Optimate political
line while Caesar was a Populare.
The three men were equally ambitious and, vying for power, were able to keep
each other in check while helping to make Rome prosper. Crassus was the richest
man in Rome and was corrupt to the point of forcing wealthy citizens to pay him
safety' money. If the citizen paid, Crassus would not burn down that person's
house but, if no money was forthcoming, the fire would be lighted and Crassus
would then charge a fee to send men to put the fire out. Although the motive
behind the origin of these fire brigades was far from noble, Crassus did
effectively create the first fire department which would, later, prove of great
value to the city.
Both Pompey and Caesar were great generals who, through their respective
conquests, made Rome wealthy. Though the richest man in Rome (and, it has been
argued, the richest in all of Roman history) Crassus longed for the same
respect people accorded Pompey and Caesar for their military successes. In 53
B.C. he lead a sizeable force against the Parthians at Carrhae, in modern day
Turkey, where he was killed when truce negotiations broke down.
With Crassus gone, the First Triumvirate disintegrated and Pompey and Caesar
declared war on each other. Pompey tried to eliminate his rival through legal
means and had the Senate order Caesar to Rome to stand trial on assorted
charges. Instead of returning to the city in humility to face these charges,
Caesar crossed the Rubicon River with his army in 49 B.C. and entered Rome at
the head of it.
He refused to answer the charges and directed his focus toward eliminating
Pompey as a rival. Pompey and Caesar met in battle at Pharsalus in Greece in 48
B.C. where Caesar's numerically inferior force defeated Pompey's greater one.
Pompey himself fled to Egypt, expecting to find sanctuary there, but was
assassinated upon his arrival. News of Caesar's great victory against
overwhelming numbers at Pharsalus had spread quickly and many former friends
and allies of Pompey swiftly sided with Caesar, believing he was favored by the
Julius Caesar was now the most powerful man in Rome. He effectively ended the
period of the Republic by having the Senate proclaim him dictator. His
popularity among the people was enormous and his efforts to create a strong and
stable central government meant increased prosperity for the city of Rome. He
was assassinated by a group of Roman Senators in 44 B.C., however, precisely
because of these achievements.
The conspirators, Brutus and Cassius among them, seemed to fear that Caesar
was becoming too powerful and that he might eventually abolish the Senate.
Following his death, his right-hand man, and cousin, Marcus Antonius (Mark
Antony) joined forces with Caesar's nephew and heir, Gaius Octavius Thurinus
Octavian) and Caesar's friend, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, to defeat the forces
of Brutus and Cassius at the Battle of Phillippi in 42 B.C.
Octavian, Antony and Lepidus formed the Second Triumvirate of Rome but, as
with the first, these men were also equally ambitious. Lepidus was effectively
neutralized when Antony and Octavian agreed that he should have Hispania and
Africa to rule over and thereby kept him from any power play in Rome. It was
agreed that Octavian would rule Roman lands in the west and Antony in the east.
Antony's involvement with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra VII, however, upset
the balance Octavian had hoped to maintain and the two went to war. Antony and
Cleopatra's combined forces were defeated at the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C.
and both later took their own lives. Octavian emerged as the sole power in
Rome. In 27 B.C. he was granted extraordinary powers by the Senate and took the
name of Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome. Historians are in agreement that
this is the point at which the history of Rome ends and the history of the
Roman Empire begins.
History of Roman Republic.
In the late 6th century B.C., the small city-state of Rome overthrew the
shackles of monarchy and created a republican government that, in theory if not
always in practice, represented the wishes of its citizens. From this basis the
city would go on to conquer all of the Italian peninsula and large parts of the
Mediterraean world and beyond. The Republic and its institutions of government
would endure for five centuries, until, wrecked by civil wars, it would
transform into a Principate ruled by emperors. Even then many of the politcal
bodies, notably the Senate, created in the Republican period would endure,
albeit with a reduction in power.
The years prior to the rise of the Republic are lost to myth and legend. No
contemporary written history of this period has survived. Although much of this
history had been lost, the Roman historian Livy (59 B.C. – 17 A.D.) was still
able to write a remarkable History of Rome - 142 volumes - recounting the years
of the monarchy through the fall of the Republic. Much of his history, however,
especially the early years, was based purely on myth and oral accounts.
Contrary to some interpretations, the fall of the monarchy and birth of the
republic did not happen overnight. Some even claim it was far from bloodless.
Historian Mary Beard in her SPQR wrote that the transformation from monarchy to
republic was “borne over a period of decades, if not, centuries.” Prior to the
overthrow of the last king, Tarquinius Superbus or Tarquin the Proud in 510
B.C., the history of the city is mired in stories of valor and war. Even the
founding of the city is mostly legend and many people have preferred the myth
over fact anyway.
For years Rome had admired the Hellenistic culture of the Greeks, and so it
easily embraced the story of Aeneas and the founding of Rome as penned by Roman
author Virgil in his heroic saga The Aeneid. This story gave the Romans a link
to an ancient, albeit Greek, culture. This mythical tale is about Aeneas and
his followers who, with the assistance of the goddess Venus, escaped the city
of Troy as it fell to the Greeks in the Trojan War. Jupiter’s wife Juno
constantly interfered with the story's hero Aeneas throughout the tale.
After a brief stay in Carthage, Aeneas eventually made his way to Italy and
Latium, finally fulfilling his destiny. His descendants were the twins Romulus
and Remus - the illegitimate sons of Mars, the god of war, and the princess
Rhea Silvia, the daughter of the true king of Alba Longa. Rescued from drowning
by a she-wolf and raised by a shepherd, Romulus eventually defeated his brother
in battle and founded the city of Rome, becoming its first king. So the legend
After Tarquin’s exit, Rome suffered from both external and internal conflict.
Much of the 5th century B.C. was spent struggling, not thriving. From 510 B.C.
to 275 B.C., while the government grappled with a number of internal political
issues, the city grew to become the prevailing power over the entire Italian
peninsula. From the Battle of Regallus (496 B.C.), where Rome was victorious
over the Latins, to the Pyrrhic Wars (280 – 275 B.C.) against Pyrrhus of
Epirus, Rome emerged as a dominant, warring superpower in the west.
Through this expansion, the social and political structure of the Republic
gradually evolved. From this simple beginning, the city would create a new
government, a government that would one day dominate an area from the North Sea
southward through Gaul and Germania, westward to Hispania, and eastward to
Greece, Syria and North Africa. The great Mediterranean became a Roman lake.
These lands would remain under the control of Rome throughout the Republic and
well into the formative years of the Roman Empire.
However, before it could become this dominant military force, the city had to
have a stable government, and it was paramount that they avoid the possibility
of one individual seizing control. In the end they would create a system
exhibiting a true balance of power. Initially, after the fall of the monarchy,
the Republic fell under the control of the great families - the patricians,
coming from the word patres or fathers. Only these great families could hold
political or religious offices. The remaining citizens or plebians had no
political authority although many of them were as wealthy as the patricians.
However, much to the dismay of the patricians, this arrangement could not and
would not last.
Tensions between the two classes continued to grow, especially since the
poorer residents of the city provided the bulk of the army. They asked
themselves why they should fight in a war if all of the profits go to the
wealthy. Finally, in 494 B.C. the plebians went on strike, gathering outside
Rome and refusing to move until they were granted representation; this was the
famed Conflict of Orders or the First Succession of the Plebs. The strike
worked, and the plebians would be rewarded with an assembly of their own - the
Concilium Plebis or Council of the Plebs.
Although the government of Rome could never be considered a true democracy,
it did provide many of its citizens (women excluded) with a say in how their
city was ruled. Through their rebellion, the plebians had entered into a system
where power lay in a number of magistrates (the cursus honorum) and various
assemblies. This executive power or imperium resided in two consuls. Elected by
the Comitia Centuriata, a consul ruled for only one year, presiding over the
Senate, proposing laws, and commanding the armies.
Uniquely, each consul could veto the decision of the other. After his term
was completed, he could become a pro-consul, governing one of the republic’s
many territories, which was an appointment that could make him quite wealthy.
There were several lesser magistrates: a praetor (the only other official with
imperium power) who served as a judicial officer with civic and provincial
jurisdiction, a quaestor who functioned as the financial administrator, and the
aedile who supervised urban maintenance such as roads, water and food supplies,
and the annual games and festivals.
Lastly, there was the highly coveted position of censor, who held office for
only 18 months. Elected every five years, he was the census taker, reviewing
the list of citizens and their property. He could even remove members of the
Senate for improper behavior. There was, however, one final position - the
unique office of dictator. He was granted complete authority and was only named
in times of emergency, usually serving for only six months. The most famous
one, of course, was Julius Caesar; who was named dictator for life.
Aside from the magistrates there were also a number of assemblies. These
assemblies were the voice of the people (male citizens only), thereby allowing
for the opinions of some to be heard. Foremost of all the assemblies was the
Roman Senate (a remnant of the old monarchy). Although unpaid, Senators served
for life unless they were removed by a censor for public or private misconduct.
While this body had no true legislative power, serving only as advisors to the
consul and later the emperor, they still wielded considerable authority.
They could propose laws as well as oversee foreign policy, civic
administration, and finances. Power to enact laws, however, was given to a
number of popular assemblies. All of the Senate’s proposals had to be approved
by either of two popular assemblies: the Comitia Centuriata, who not only
enacted laws but also elected consuls and declared war, and the Concilium
Plebis, who conveyed the wishes of the plebians via their elected tribunes.
These assemblies were divided into blocks and each of these blocks voted as a
unit. Aside from these two major legislative bodies, there were also a number
of smaller tribal assemblies.
The Concilium Plebis came into existence as a result of the Conflict of
Orders - a conflict between the plebians and patricians for political power. In
the Concilium Plebis, aside from passing laws pertinent to the wishes of the
plebians, the members elected a number of tribunes who spoke on their behalf.
Although this “Council of the Plebs” initially gave the plebians some voice in
government, it did not prove to be sufficient. In 450 B.C. the Twelve Tables
were enacted in order to appease a number of plebian concerns.
It became the first recorded Roman law code. The Tables tackled domestic
problems with an emphasis on both family life and private property. For
instance, plebians were not only prohibited from imprisonment for debt but also
granted the right to appeal a magistrate’s decision. Later, plebians were even
allowed to marry patricians and become consuls. Over time the rights of the
plebians continued to increase. In 287 B.C. the Lex Hortensia declared that all
laws passed by the Concilium Plebis were binding to both plebians and
This unique government allowed the Republic to grow far beyond the city’s
walls. Victory in the three Punic Wars (264 – 146 B.C.) waged against Carthage
was the first step of Rome growing beyond the confines of the peninsula. After
years of war and the embarrassment of defeat at the hands of Hannibal, the
Senate finally followed the advice of the outspoken Cato the Elder who said
Carthago delenda est!” or “Carthage must be destroyed!” Rome’s destruction of
the city after the Battle of Zama in 146 B.C. and the defeat of the Greeks in
the four Macedonian Wars established the Republic as a true Mediterranean power.
The submission of the Greeks brought the rich Hellenistic culture to Rome,
that is its art, philosophy and literature. Unfortunately, despite the growth
of the Republic, the Roman government was never meant to run an empire.
According to historian Tom Holland in his Rubicon, the Republic always seemed
to be on the brink of political collapse. The old agrarian economy could not
and would not be successfully transferred and only further broadened the gap
between the rich and poor. Rome, however, was more than just a warrior state.
At home Romans believed in the importance of the family and the value of
religion. They also believed that citizenship or civitas defined what it meant
to be truly civilized.
This concept of citizenship would soon be put to the test when the Roman
territories began to challenge Roman authority. However, this constant state of
war had not only made the Republic wealthy but it also helped mold its society.
After the Macedonian Wars, the influence of the Greeks affected both Roman
culture and religion. Under this Greek influence, the traditional Roman gods
transformed. In Rome an individual’s personal expression of belief was
unimportant, only a strict adherence to a rigid set of rituals, avoiding the
dangers of religious fervor. Temples honoring these gods would be built
throughout the empire.
Elsewhere in Rome the division of the classes could best be seen within the
city walls in the tenements. Rome was a refuge to many people who left the
surrounding towns and farms seeking a better way of life. However, an
unfulfilled promise of jobs forced many people to live in the poorer parts of
the city. The jobs they sought were often not there, resulting in an epidemic
of homeless inhabitants. While many of the wealthier citizens resided on
Palatine Hill, others lived in ramshackle apartments that were over-crowded and
extremely dangerous - many lived in constant fear of fire and collapse.
Although the lower floors of these buildings contained shops and more
suitable housing, the upper floors were for the poorer residents, there was no
access for natural light, no running water, and no toilets. The streets were
poorly lit and since there was no police force, crime was rampant. Refuse, even
human waste, was routinely dumped onto the streets, not only causing a terrible
stench but served as a breeding ground for disease. All of this added to an
already disgruntled populace.
This continuing struggle between the have and have nots would remain until
the Republic finally collapsed. owever, there were those in power who tried to
find a solution to the existing problems. In the 2nd century B.C., two
brothers, both tribunes, tried but failed to make the necessary changes. Among
a number of reform proposals, Tiberius Gracchus suggested to give land to both
the unemployed and small farmers. Of course, the Senate, many of whom were
large landowners, vehemently objected. Even the Concilium Plebis rejected the
Although his suggestion eventually became law, it could not be enforced.
Riots soon followed and 300 people, including Tiberius, were killed.
Unfortunately, a similar destiny awaited his brother. While Gaius Gracchus also
supported the land distribution idea, his fate was sealed when he proposed to
give citizenship to all Roman allies. Like his big brother, his proposals met
with considerable resistance. 3,000 of his supporters were killed and he chose
suicide. The failure of the brothers to achieve some balance in Rome would be
one of a number of indicators that the Republic was doomed to fall.
Later, another Roman would rise to initiate a series of reforms. Sulla and
his army marched on Rome and seized power, defeating his enemy Gaius Marius.
Assuming power in 88 B.C., Sulla quickly defeated King Mithridates of Pontus in
the East, crushed the Samnites with the help of the generals Pompey and
Crassus, purged the Roman Senate (80 were killed or exiled), reorganized the
law courts, and enacted a number of reforms. He retired peacefully in 79 B.C.
Unlike the Empire, the Republic would not collapse due to any external threat
but instead fell to an internal menace. It came from the inability of the
Republic to adjust to a constantly expanding empire. Even the ancient Sibylline
prophecies predicted that failure would come internally, not by foreign
invaders. There were a number of these internal warnings. The demand of the
Roman allies for citizenship was one sign of this unrest - the so-called Social
Wars of the 1st century B.C. (90 – 88 B.C.).
For years the Roman allies had paid tribute and provided soldiers for war but
were not considered citizens. Like their plebian kindred years earlier, they
wanted representation. It took a rebellion for things to change. Although the
Senate had warned the Roman citizens that awarding these people citizenship
would be dangerous, full citizenship was finally granted to all people (slaves
excluded) in the entire Italian peninsula. Later, Julius Caesar would extend
citizenship beyond Italy and grant it to the people of Spain and Gaul.
About this time the city witnessed a serious threat to its very survival when
Marcus Tillius Cicero, the Roman statesman and poet, uncovered a conspiracy led
by the Roman senator Lucius Sergius Catiline to overthrow the Roman government.
Cicero also believed that the Republic was declining due to moral decay.
Problems such as this together with fear and unrest came to the attention of
three men in 60 B.C.: Julius Caesar, Gnaeus Pompey and Marcus Licinius Crassus.
Crassus had gained fame by his defeat of Spartacus and his followers in 71 B.C.
Pompey had distinguished himself in Spain as well as in the East.
Caesar had proven himself as an able commander. Together, the three men
formed what historians have named the First Triumvirate or Gang of Three. For
almost a decade they controlled both consulships and military commands. After
Caesar left the office of consul in 59 B.C., he and his army moved northward
into Gaul and Germania. Pompey became the governor of Spain (although he ruled
from Rome) while Crassus sought fame in the east where, unfortunately for him,
he was eventually defeated and killed at the Battle of Carrhae.
Growing tension between Pompey and Caesar escalated. Pompey was jealous of
Caesar’s success and fame while Caesar wanted a return to politics. Eventually
these differences brought them to battle, and in 48 B.C. they met at Pharsalus.
Pompey was defeated, escaping to Egypt where he was killed by Ptolemy XIII.
Caesar fulfilled his destiny by securing both the eastern provinces and
northern Africa, returning to Rome a hero only to be declared dictator for life.
Many of his enemies, as well as several allies, saw his new position as a
serious threat to the foundation of the Republic, and despite a number of
popular reforms, his assassination on the Ides of March in 44 B.C. brought the
Republic to its knees. His heir and step-son Octavian subdued Mark Antony,
eventually becoming the first emperor of Rome as Augustus. The Republic was
gone and in its ashes rose the Roman Empire.
History of Roman Empire: The Roman Empire, at its height (circa 117 A.D.), was
the most extensive political and social structure in western civilization. By
285 A.D. the empire had grown too vast to be ruled from the central government
at Rome and so was divided by Emperor Diocletian (284-305 A.D.) into a Western
and an Eastern Empire. The Roman Empire began when Augustus Caesar (27 B.C.-14
A.D.) became the first emperor of Rome and ended, in the West, when the last
Roman emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was deposed by the Germanic King Odoacer
476 A.D.). In the East, it continued as the Byzantine Empire until the death
of Constantine XI and the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453
A.D. The influence of the Roman Empire on western civilization was profound in
its lasting contributions to virtually every aspect of western culture.
Following the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C., Gaius Octavian Thurinus, Julius
Caesar's nephew and heir, became the first emperor of Rome and took the name
Augustus Caesar. Although Julius Caesar is often regarded as the first emperor
of Rome, this is incorrect; he never held the title "Emperor" but, rather,
Dictator", a title the senate could not help but grant him, as Caesar held
supreme military and political power at the time. In contrast, the senate
willingly granted Augustus the title of emperor, lavishing praise and power on
him because he had destroyed Rome's enemies and brought much needed stability.
Augustus ruled the empire from 31 B.C. until 14 A.D. when he died. In that
time, as he said himself, he "found Rome a city of clay but left it a city of
marble." Augustus reformed the laws of the city and, by extension, the
empire’s, secured Rome's borders, initiated vast building projects (carried out
largely by his faithful general Agrippa, who built the first Pantheon), and
secured the empire a lasting name as one of the greatest, if not the greatest,
political and cultural powers in history. The Pax Romana (Roman Peace), also
known as the Pax Augusta, which he initiated, was a time of peace and
prosperity hitherto unknown and would last over 200 years.
Following Augustus’ death, power passed to his heir, Tiberius, who continued
many of the emperor’s policies but lacked the strength of character and vision
which so defined Augustus. This trend would continue, more or less steadily,
with the emperors who followed: Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. These first five
rulers of the empire are referred to as the Julio-Claudian Dynasty for the two
family names they descended from (either by birth or through adoption), Julius
Although Caligula has become notorious for his depravity and apparent
insanity, his early rule was commendable as was that of his successor,
Claudius, who expanded Rome’s power and territory in Britain; less so was that
of Nero. Caligula and Claudius were both assassinated in office (Caligula by
his Praetorian Guard and Claudius, apparently, by his wife). Nero’s suicide
ended the Julio-Claudian Dynasty and initiated the period of social unrest
known as The Year of the Four Emperors.
These four rulers were Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian. Following
Nero’s suicide in 68 A.D., Galba assumed rule (69 A.D.) and almost instantly
proved unfit for the responsibility. He was assassinated by the Praetorian
Guard. Otho succeeded him swiftly on the very day of his death, and ancient
records indicate he was expected to make a good emperor. General Vitellius,
however, sought power for himself and so initiated the brief civil war which
ended in Otho’s suicide and Vitellius’ ascent to the throne.
Vitellius proved no more fit to rule than Galba had been, as he almost
instantly engaged in luxurious entertainments and feasts at the expense of his
duties. The legions declared for General Vespasian as emperor and marched on
Rome. Vitellius was murdered by Vespasian’s men, and Vespasian took power
exactly one year from the day Galba had first ascended to the throne.
Vespasian founded the Flavian Dynasty which was characterized by massive
building projects, economic prosperity, and expansion of the empire. Vespasian
ruled from 69-79 A.D., and in that time, initiated the building of the Flavian
Amphitheatre (the famous Coliseum of Rome) which his son Titus (ruled 79-81
A.D.) would complete. Titus’ early reign saw the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in
79 A.D. which buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Ancient sources are universal in their praise for his handling of this
disaster as well as the great fire of Rome in 80 A.D. Titus died of a fever in
81 A.D. and was succeeded by his brother Domitian who ruled from 81-96 A.D.
Domitian expanded and secured the boundaries of Rome, repaired the damage to
the city caused by the great fire, continued the building projects initiated by
his brother, and improved the economy of the empire. Even so, his autocratic
methods and policies made him unpopular with the Roman Senate, and he was
assassinated in 96 A.D.
Domitian's successor was his advisor Nerva who founded the Nervan-Antonin
Dynasty which ruled Rome 96-192 A.D. This period is marked by increased
prosperity owing to the rulers known as The Five Good Emperors of Rome. Between
96 and 180 A.D., five exceptional men ruled in sequence and brought the Roman
Empire to its height: Nerva (96-98), Trajan (98-117), Hadrian (117-138),
Antoninus Pius (138-161), and Marcus Aurelius (161-180).
Under their leadership, the Roman Empire grew stronger, more stable, and
expanded in size and scope. Lucius Verus and Commodus are the last two of the
Nervan-Antonin Dynasty. Verus was co-emperor with Marcus Aurelius until his
death in 169 A.D. and seems to have been fairly ineffective. Commodus,
Aurelius’ son and successor, was one of the most disgraceful emperors Rome ever
saw and is universally depicted as indulging himself and his whims at the
expense of the empire. He was strangled by his wrestling partner in his bath in
192 A.D., ending the Nervan-Antonin Dynasty and raising the prefect Pertinax
who most likely engineered Commodus’ assassination) to power.
Pertinax governed for only three months before he was assassinated. He was
followed, in rapid succession, by four others in the period known as The Year
of the Five Emperors, which culminated in the rise of Septimus Severus to
power. Severus ruled Rome from 193-211 A.D., founded the Severan Dynasty,
defeated the Parthians, and expanded the empire. His campaigns in Africa and
Britain were extensive and costly and would contribute to Rome’s later
financial difficulties. He was succeeded by his sons Caracalla and Geta, until
Caracalla had his brother murdered.
Caracalla ruled until 217 A.D., when he was assassinated by his bodyguard. It
was under Caracalla’s reign that Roman citizenship was expanded to include all
free men within the empire. This law was said to have been enacted as a means
of raising tax revenue, simply because, after its passage, there were more
people the central government could tax. The Severan Dynasty continued, largely
under the guidance and manipulation of Julia Maesa (referred to as `empress’),
until the assassination of Alexander Severus in 235 A.D. which plunged the
empire into the chaos known as The Crisis of the Third Century (lasting from
This period, also known as The Imperial Crisis, was characterized by constant
civil war, as various military leaders fought for control of the empire. The
crisis has been further noted by historians for widespread social unrest,
economic instability (fostered, in part, by the devaluation of Roman currency
by the Severans), and, finally, the dissolution of the empire which broke into
three separate regions. The empire was reunited by Aurelian (270-275 A.D.)
whose policies were further developed and improved upon by Diocletian who
established the Tetrarchy (the rule of four) to maintain order throughout the
Even so, the empire was still so vast that Diocletian divided it in half in
285 A.D. to facilitate more efficient administration. In so doing, he created
the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire (also known as the
Byzantine Empire). Since a leading cause of the Imperial Crisis was a lack of
clarity in succession, Diocletian decreed that successors must be chosen and
approved from the outset of an individual’s rule. Two of these successors were
the generals Maxentius and Constantine. Diocletian voluntarily retired from
rule in 305 A.D., and the tetrarchy dissolved as rival regions of the empire
vied with each other for dominance.
Following Diocletian’s death in 311 A.D., Maxentius and Constantine plunged
the empire again into civil war. In 312 A.D. Constantine defeated Maxentius at
the Battle of the Milvian Bridge and became sole emperor of both the Western
and Eastern Empires (ruling from 306-337 A.D.). Believing that Jesus Christ was
responsible for his victory, Constantine initiated a series of laws such as the
Edict of Milan (317 A.D.) which mandated religious tolerance throughout the
empire and, specifically, tolerance for the faith which came to known as
In the same way that earlier Roman emperors had claimed a special
relationship with a deity to augment their authority and standing (Caracalla
with Serapis, for example, or Diocletian with Jupiter), Constantine chose the
figure of Jesus Christ. At the First Council of Nicea (325 A.D.), he presided
over the gathering to codify the faith and decide on important issues such as
the divinity of Jesus and which manuscripts would be collected to form the book
known today as The Bible. He stabilized the empire, revalued the currency, and
reformed the military, as well as founding the city he called New Rome on the
site of the former city of Byzantium (modern day Istanbul) which came to be
known as Constantinople.
He is known as Constantine the Great owing to later Christian writers who saw
him as a mighty champion of their faith but, as has been noted by many
historians, the honorific could as easily be attributed to his religious,
cultural, and political reforms, as well as his skill in battle and his
large-scale building projects. After his death, his sons inherited the empire
and, fairly quickly, embarked on a series of conflicts with each other which
threatened to undo all that Constantine had accomplished.
His three sons, Constantine II, Constantius II, and Constans divided the
Roman Empire between them but soon fell to fighting over which of them deserved
more. In these conflicts, Constantine II and Constans were killed. Constantius
II died later after naming his cousin Julian his successor and heir. Emperor
Julian ruled for only two years (361-363 A.D.) and, in that time, tried to
return Rome to her former glory through a series of reforms aimed at increasing
efficiency in government.
As a Neo-Platonic philosopher, Julian rejected Christianity and blamed the
faith; and Constantine’s adherence to it, for the decline of the empire. While
officially proclaiming a policy of religious tolerance, Julian systematically
removed Christians from influential government positions, banned the teaching
and spread of the religion, and barred Christians from military service. His
death, while on campaign against the Persians, ended the dynasty Constantine
had begun. He was the last pagan emperor of Rome and came to be known as
Julian the Apostate" for his opposition to Christianity.
After the brief rule of Jovian, who re-established Christianity as the
dominant faith of the empire and repealed Julian’s various edicts, the
responsibility of emperor fell to Theodosius I. Theodosius I (379-395 A.D.)
took Constantine’s and Jovian’s religious reforms to their natural ends,
outlawed pagan worship throughout the empire, closed the schools and
universities, and converted pagan temples into Christian churches.
It was during this time that Plato’s famous Academy was closed by Theodosius’
decree. Many of his reforms were unpopular with both the Roman aristocracy and
the common people who held to the traditional values of pagan practice. The
unity of social duties and religious belief which paganism provided was severed
by the institution of a religion which removed the gods from the earth and
human society and proclaimed only one God who ruled from the heavens.
Theodosius I devoted so much effort to promoting Christianity that he seems
to have neglected other duties as emperor and would be the last to rule both
Eastern and Western Empires. From 376-382 A.D., Rome fought a series of battles
against invading Goths known today as the Gothic Wars. At the Battle of
Adrianople, 9 August 378 A.D., the Roman Emperor Valens was defeated, and
historians mark this event as pivotal in the decline of the Western Roman
Various theories have been suggested as to the cause of the empire’s fall
but, even today, there is no universal agreement on what those specific factors
were. Edward Gibbon has famously argued in his The History of the Decline and
Fall of the Roman Empire that Christianity played a pivotal role, in that the
new religion undermined the social mores of the empire which paganism provided.
The theory that Christianity was a root cause in the empire’s fall was debated
long before Gibbon, however, as Orosius argued Christianity’s innocence in
Rome’s decline as early as 418 A.D. Orosius claimed it was primarily paganism
itself and pagan practices which brought about the fall of Rome.
Other influences which have been noted range from the corruption of the
governing elite to the ungovernable vastness of the empire to the growing
strength of the Germanic tribes and their constant incursions into Rome. The
Roman military could no longer safeguard the borders as efficiently as they
once had nor could the government as easily collect taxes in the provinces. The
arrival of the Visigoths in the empire in the third century A.D. and their
subsequent rebellions has also been cited a contributing factor in the decline.
The Western Roman Empire officially ended 4 September 476 A.D., when Emperor
Romulus Augustus was deposed by the Germanic King Odoacer (though some
historians date the end as 480 A.D. with the death of Julius Nepos). The
Eastern Roman Empire continued on as the Byzantine Empire until 1453 A.D., and
though known early on as simply `the Roman Empire’, it did not much resemble
that entity at all. The Western Roman Empire would become re-invented later as
The Holy Roman Empire, but that construct, also, was far removed from the Roman
Empire of antiquity and was an `empire’ in name only.
The inventions and innovations which were generated by the Roman Empire
profoundly altered the lives of the ancient people and continue to be used in
cultures around the world today. Advancements in the construction of roads and
buildings, indoor plumbing, aqueducts, and even fast-drying cement were either
invented or improved upon by the Romans. The calendar used in the West derives
from the one created by Julius Caesar, and the names of the days of the week
in the romance languages) and months of the year also come from Rome.
Apartment complexes (known as `insula), public toilets, locks and keys,
newspapers, even socks all were developed by the Romans as were shoes, a postal
system (modeled after the Persians), cosmetics, the magnifying glass, and the
concept of satire in literature. During the time of the empire, significant
developments were also advanced in the fields of medicine, law, religion,
government, and warfare. The Romans were adept at borrowing from, and improving
upon, those inventions or concepts they found among the indigenous populace of
the regions they conquered.
It is therefore difficult to say what is an `original’ Roman invention and
what is an innovation on a pre-existing concept, technique, or tool. It can
safely be said, however, that the Roman Empire left an enduring legacy which
continues to affect the way in which people live even today. [Ancient History
SHIPPING & RETURNS/REFUNDS: We always ship books domestically (within the
USA) via USPSINSURED media mail (“book rate”). Most international orders cost
an additional $15.49 to $46.49 for aninsured shipment in a heavily padded
mailer. There is also a discount program which can cut postage costs by 50% to
75% if you’re buying about half-a-dozen books or more (5 kilos+). Our postage
charges are as reasonable as USPS rates allow.ADDITIONAL PURCHASES do receive a
VERY LARGE discount, typically about $5 per book (for each additional book
after the first) so as to reward you for the economies of combined
Your purchase will ordinarily be shipped within 48 hours of payment. We
package as well as anyone in the business, with lots of protective padding and
containers. All of our shipments are fully insured against loss, and our
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free by the USPS for certain countries, other countries are at additional cost.
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Mail for both international and domestic shipments, as well United Parcel
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will accept whatever payment method you are most comfortable with.
If upon receipt of the item you are disappointed for any reason whatever, I
offer a no questions asked 30-day return policy. Send it back, I will give you
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ABOUT US: Prior to our retirement we used to travel to Europe and Central
Asia several times a year. Most of the items we offer came from acquisitions we
made in Eastern Europe, India, and from the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean/Near
East) during these years from various institutions and dealers. Much of what we
generate on Etsy, Amazon and Ebay goes to support The Hermitage Museum in St.
Petersburg, as well as some other worthy institutions in Europe and Asia
connected with Anthropology and Archaeology. Though we have a collection of
ancient coins numbering in the tens of thousands, our primary interests are
ancient jewelry and gemstones. Prior to our retirement we traveled to Russia
every year seeking antique gemstones and jewelry from one of the globe’s most
prolific gemstone producing and cutting centers, the area between Chelyabinsk
and Yekaterinburg, Russia. From all corners of Siberia, as well as from India,
Ceylon, Burma and Siam, gemstones have for centuries gone to Yekaterinburg
where they have been cut and incorporated into the fabulous jewelry for which
the Czars and the royal families of Europe were famous for.
My wife grew up and received a university education in the Southern Urals of
Russia, just a few hours away from the mountains of Siberia, where alexandrite,
diamond, emerald, sapphire, chrysoberyl, topaz, demantoid garnet, and many
other rare and precious gemstones are produced. Though perhaps difficult to
find in the USA, antique gemstones are commonly unmounted from old, broken
settings – the gold reused – the gemstones recut and reset. Before these
gorgeous antique gemstones are recut, we try to acquire the best of them in
their original, antique, hand-finished state – most of them centuries old. We
believe that the work created by these long-gone master artisans is worth
protecting and preserving rather than destroying this heritage of antique
gemstones by recutting the original work out of existence. That by preserving
their work, in a sense, we are preserving their lives and the legacy they left
for modern times. Far better to appreciate their craft than to destroy it with
Not everyone agrees – fully 95% or more of the antique gemstones which come
into these marketplaces are recut, and the heritage of the past lost. But if
you agree with us that the past is worth protecting, and that past lives and
the produce of those lives still matters today, consider buying an antique,
hand cut, natural gemstone rather than one of the mass-produced machine cut
often synthetic or “lab produced”) gemstones which dominate the market today.
We can set most any antique gemstone you purchase from us in your choice of
styles and metals ranging from rings to pendants to earrings and bracelets; in
sterling silver, 14kt solid gold, and 14kt gold fill. When you purchase from
us, you can count on quick shipping and careful, secure packaging. We would be
happy to provide you with a certificate/guarantee of authenticity for any item
you purchase from us. There is a $3 fee for mailing under separate cover. I
will always respond to every inquiry whether via email or eBay message, so
please feel free to write.