The Portonaccio Sarcophagus

The Portonaccio Sarcophagus is a large sarcophagus that can be found in the Palazzo Massimo, one of the four locations of the Museo Nazionale Romano. It is an impressive piece of second century craftsmanship. The sarcophagus was found in 1931 near the Via Tiburtina and can be dated to around…

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Opus sectile

I was not familiar with the technique called opus sectile until I visited an exhibition in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam about Constantine’s influence on the Christianisation of the Roman Empire. Part of the exhibition was a mosaic depicting a man in a chariot and four horsemen in the colours…

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Filibuster in Antiquity

‘Filibustering’ refers to politicians holding endless speeches in parliament, touching upon all sorts of issues that are more or less off topic. The sole intention is to prevent the debate from being closed so that a vote can be called. As far as I know, we find the oldest known…

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The Republican Roman army

Rome began as a collection of villages on several hills near the river Tiber. Life there was neither comfortable, nor safe. War was always looming. Neighbouring tribes and cultures envied Rome for its favourable position on the Tiber, from which it controlled the salt trade in Central Italy. Rome itself…

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Thoughts about the Roman Empire

The Principate was the monarchy created by the first Roman emperor, Augustus. Although he presented it to the Senate and People of Rome as a restoration of the Roman Republic, Augustus and his successors held positions of supreme power, ultimately based on control of the army. I have discussed this…

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Roman cavalry

I have heard and read it time and time again: Roman cavalry was terrible. It was only good at riding down enemy troops that had already routed. The Romans neglected their cavalry and therefore lost important battles. And because of this neglect, they were ultimately unable to fight off foreign…

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Book review: Antony and Cleopatra

Adrian Goldsworthy (1969) is primarily known for his authoritative publications on the Roman army. A few years ago, he switched to Roman history in general, with a special interest in political history. Since then, Goldsworthy has written a superb biography of Gaius Julius Caesar, Caesar: The Life of a Colossus…

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The Imperial Roman army

Although the Roman army had already been transformed from a conscript army into a professional fighting force during the Late Republic, we must credit Augustus with the creation of a professional standing army. In the year 6, he established the aerarium militare, the military treasury from which the soldiers were…

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Augustus and the Republic

The Principate After emerging triumphant from the Civil War, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus created a system of government known as the Principate. It was based on the well-known Republican offices and institutions. The younger Caesar did not become dictator for life (dictator perpetuo), like his adoptive father – the Divine…

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