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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Rome: A fascist past

Walking through the streets of Rome, visitors are reminded of Italy’s dark, fascist past in many places. I am talking about Italy in the twenties, thirties and forties of the previous century, Benito Mussolini’s Italy. Sometimes the visitor is hardly aware that he or she is near or even on…

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Portugal: Santarém

Santarém is the capital of the Santarém District in the Ribatejo region in central Portugal. It is by no means a large city, with a population of about 30.000. Yet it has many interesting monuments and is definitely worth a visit. Just do not go there on a Monday or…

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Portugal: Tomar

The description of Tomar in our travel guide was particularly promising: a picturesque town in the shadow of a crusader castle and monastery perched on a hill. Since both the Convento de Christo and the Castelo dos Templários are listed as UNESCO World Heritage, we decided to take the car…

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Boekbespreking: Een korte geschiedenis van de Tachtigjarige Oorlog

Het boek Een korte geschiedenis van de Tachtigjarige Oorlog van auteur Roel Tanja uit 2014 leest gemakkelijk weg. In minder dan 200 pagina’s wordt de lezer meegevoerd langs de belangrijkste gebeurtenissen tijdens dit voor Nederland cruciale conflict, dat tegenwoordig overigens vaker en wellicht ook correcter ‘De Opstand’ wordt genoemd. Het…

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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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Portugal: Alcobaça

It was a pleasant drive to Alcobaça, a small town with a population of about 16.000. Alcobaça is home to Portugal’s largest church and the church was the main reason we came here. Just to the east of the church and monastery is a large car park with ample space…

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Portugal: Óbidos

From our apartment in Vila Nova, near Cadaval, it was about 30 minutes to Óbidos by car. The weather was lovely and so was the scenery. This part of Portugal is known for its vineyards and pear orchards. People have lived in and around Óbidos for centuries. The area was…

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Rome: Santa Maria in Cosmedin

The Santa Maria in Cosmedin is a church that is located on the Forum Boarium, Ancient Rome’s cattle market. Just to the north was another forum, the Forum Holitorium, which was a vegetable market. Both forums were obviously very important trading locations in Antiquity. A reconstruction of early Rome from…

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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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Rome: Santo Stefano Rotondo

The Santo Stefano Rotondo is located on the summit of the Caelian hill, just opposite the Santa Maria in Domnica, but somewhat hidden behind a wall and trees (see the last image of this post). The church was built in the fifth century and it is the oldest surviving church…

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Rome: Santa Prassede

Getting there The first challenge is to actually find this church. It is just a stone’s throw away from the Santa Maria Maggiore, yet it is still very easy to miss. The Santa Prassede is somewhat hidden between other buildings and the church’s campanile is completely invisible. One enters the…

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