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John MacGinnis and David Michelmore

The history of Arbela (cuneiform Urbilum/Urbel/Arbail, modern Erbil) is documented in archaeological and textual sources. From the point when it first entered history in the middle of the 3rd millennium, the city’s fortunes alternated between periods of independence and incorporation within the super-regional states of Mesopotamia, including the Ur III kingdom and, more briefly, the Upper Mesopotamian empire of Shamshi-Adad I. In the later 2nd millennium the city was incorporated within the Assyrian Empire, rising to become a regional capital of major importance. Following the fall of Assyria, the city was incorporated within the Achaemenid, Seleucid, Arsacid, and Sasanian empires. A period of independence as an emirate in the early mediaeval period was a golden age. This came to an end with the city’s submission to the Mongols, after which it came under the control of the Black Sheep and White Sheep Turcomans and the Safavid and Ottoman empires.Arbela—modern Erbil—is a city in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq with a documented history going back more than four thousand years. It is situated in the trans-Tigris region at the interface of the Zagros Mountains and the fertile plains of .


Column of Trajan, reception of  

Elizabeth R. Macaulay

Since Late Antiquity, architects, leaders, and nations have emulated, adapted, and reinterpreted the Column of Trajan. Its appeal has been due to its height, ability to dominate the surrounding landscape, and complex spiral reliefs detailing the emperor Trajan’s annexation of Dacia as a Roman province. Its form has inspired countless honorific, triumphal, and commemorative monuments in the post-antique era.

Honorary columns were erected in Rome, possibly as early as 439bce; they were certainly known by 318bce. Rostral columns—columns with the beaks of captured warships attached—were erected in 260 and 255bce to celebrate Roman victories over the Carthaginians. None were so important in the tradition of erecting monumental, honorific, columns as the Column of Trajan (figure 1). Erected by the Senate in the Forum of Trajan in honour of Trajan’s two successful campaigns in Dacia (101–102ce; 105–106ce), it stood between the forum’s two libraries and the Basilica Ulpia. The Column (38 m tall and 3.7 m in diameter) was topped by a bronze statue (4.7 m) of Trajan in military attire. The column is hollow and contains a spiral staircase to the platform at the top of the column’s capital. The Column is famous for the finely carved helical sculptural relief program that depicted the Dacian wars. If rolled out, this frieze would be approximately 200 m long. There are 155 scenes with more than 2,600 figures, each at about two-thirds life size. The height of the frieze increases, as it spirals up the Column, from 0.89 m to 1.25 m.


triumphal arches, reception of  

Kimberly Cassibry

Triumphal arches originated in the Roman Empire and have been constructed for over two thousand years. These free-standing portals are more accurately known as arch monuments, commemorative arches, or honorific arches due to their diverse functions. Arcuated shapes allow these monuments to span significant roads; multiple façades create space for dedicatory inscriptions, relief sculptures, and statues. Varied reception of this fundamental design concept—a free-standing portal with words and images—is evident in each commemorative arch. Reception of individual arch monuments can be traced through descriptions, representations, and interventions.

The Roman arches dedicated to the emperors Titus (c. 81 ce), Septimius Severus and his sons (c. 203 ce), and Constantine I (315 ce) have strongly influenced the monument’s modern reception, even though they do not represent the monument’s full range of ancient designs and functions. In major European revivals since antiquity, ephemeral arches have adorned political processions, and permanent monuments have commemorated imperial military victories. In the 20th century, arch monuments arose in cities around the globe, often amid debates about national identity.



John Weisweiler

The just distribution of social goods was fiercely debated in the ancient Mediterranean and the ideologies of egalitarianism and inegalitarianism developed in Rome and Athens shaped Euro-American political thought from the Enlightenment onward. By contrast, the study of actual income and wealth distributions in ancient societies is a more recent development. Only in the early 21st century have scholars begun to make systematic attempts to quantify levels of inequality in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East. Since we lack the documentary sources on which the study of inequality in contemporary economies is based, most of these reconstructions rely on a combination of modelling and the interpretation of isolated figures found in literary texts. This fragmentary evidence suggests that in the best-attested regions of the ancient Mediterranean and Near East inequality was considerable. In particular, the formation of large territorial states—most notably the empires of Babylon, Persia, and Rome—facilitated the concentration of wealth into fewer hands. But it is unclear whether inequality increased over time. At least, there is no unambiguous evidence that wealth and income were more unequally distributed in late antiquity than in earlier periods of Roman history.


economy, ancient, approaches to  

Neville Morley

The Greeks and Romans did not develop a concept of “the economy” or discuss economic matters at any length; the study of the ancient economy therefore began only in the late 18th century, in parallel with the developing study of contemporary economic development, and was heavily influenced from the beginning by the question of the relationship between antiquity and modernity. The field has long been dominated by two different but closely connected debates about the nature and degree of development of the ancient economy (was it “primitive” or, on the contrary, proto-modern?) and about the correct theoretical and methodological tools for studying it, with constant anxieties about the dangers of anachronism. A notable trend has been the increasing weight given to material as compared with literary evidence, as archaeologists have accumulated ever greater information about economic activity, leading to calls in recent years to focus on ancient economic performance rather than on the structures of culture and thought that supposedly inhibited ancient development.


citzenship and mobility, legal aspects of  

Claudia Moatti

While migration and mobility have become crucial themes in the study of the Roman world, their relationship with citizenship has been underestimated and understudied. Yet, migrants were not only foreigners who came to Rome voluntarily or by force. Citizens moved too: those, peasants or new citizens, who had come to settle in the city, or those who emigrated from Rome to a colony in Italy and, later, to a provincial city. What was the impact of this mobility on the conception and practice of citizenship? What did the Romans think of these citizens who travelled or lived abroad?

Such questions make it necessary to distinguish between the period when Rome was still one city among others (6th–3rd centuries) and the period of its conquests, when Rome extended its hegemony through the Mediterranean and became a so-called imperial republic (3rd–1st centuries) before becoming an Empire (27 bce–476 ce). In the first period, apart from the double movement of immigration and emigration of citizens, various measures concerning mobility shed light on the very close link between citizenship, property, and territory (loss of citizenship by emigration, recall of citizens every five years for the census, right to return, privileges granted to the Latins who settled in Rome, expulsions of non-citizens, etc.). In the second period, new practices (like the end of civic exclusivism) led, on the one hand, to limits on the immigration of new citizens to Rome, and, on the other hand, to efforts to facilitate emigration to the provinces (these included, in particular, the recognition of legal domicile outside of Italy, and the development of controls and protections for absentees). All these practices suggest the image of a rather fluid world, one which did not end in Late Antiquity. However, this freedom of movement has to be considered alongside the multiple rules aimed at controlling certain categories of people. Over time, mobility and migration progressively became a significant topic within Roman law, as is shown by the semantic evolutions of the main terms designating migrants.


sea power, Roman  

Carsten Hjort Lange

Sea power as a concept is a question of input (the fleet, shipsheds, and related maritime industry) and output and control (influence exerted on other people’s use of the sea). This can be approached theoretically from two classic angles: the destruction of the enemy fleet in decisive naval battles (power at sea) vs. how sea power can influence the outcome of events on land (power from the sea). In reality, sea control may have been impossible due to the limitations of ancient ships, whereas sea denialdenying the enemy the local use of the sea—was not. Ancient naval history is consequently not just about naval battles, but also about naval infrastructure: harbours, ships, trained sailors, shipsheds, and a complex naval organization. Roman naval activity before 260 bce is highly disputed, but whatever we make of this, the First Punic War and Cn. Duilius’ victory at Mylae in 260 bce marked a radical departure from traditional Roman strategy. The fleet turned into a tool of aggression. The prize was Sicily. After the First Punic War, Roman fleets were involved in numerous hostilities and wars. However, the Roman fleet was an ad hoc organisation: there was no permanent fleet, and temporary fleets arose circumstantially in order to confront crises and emergencies. With the victory of Augustus came a standing Roman fleet, protecting Rome and Italy with naval bases. It was only at this late stage that the navalists—champions of a permanent fleet—won the day. After Actium, Rome controlled the Mediterranean and there was simply no room for any enemy naval bases.


metrology, Roman  

Andrew M. Riggsby

There is a large body of evidence for Roman use of weights and measures. In theory, they would have been able to measure a variety of quantities with great precision, given the variety of different-sized units at their disposal and an elaborate system of fractional subdivisions of those units. Moreover, those measurements could have been accurate with respect to a shared system because of publicly available exemplary standards, a theoretical connection between the definitions of the most important measurements, and the existence of state officials who could enforce the standards. As a result, Romans could, in principle, have conveyed very specific metrological information across a great deal of space and time. In practice, measurement was considerably less predictable and less precise. Actual measurement did not necessarily avail itself of the full resources of the theoretical system, and sometimes did not appeal to any general system. Moreover, overtly competing systems coexisted with the “official” ones at all times. Finally, it is not clear how coherent that official system was, nor were the actual systems of enforcement particularly robust. As a result, measurement was often imprecise and/or tightly localized (which probably generated weak expectations of being able to replicate measurement across different contexts).



Rebecca Futo Kennedy and Katherine Blouin

Natural environments such as the air currents, temperatures, waters, and topography were thought to shape humans, animals, and plants. For humans, the impact was physical, behavioural, and cultural. For animals, the impacts were mostly physical (e.g., oxen in Scythia have no horns because of the cold). This is typically referred to as environmental or climatic determinism. Early explicit examples of this idea include the HippocraticAirs, Waters, Places and occasional comments in Herodotus, but arguments for such a relationship between identity and environment as early as Homer’s Odyssey and Hesiod have been made.1 There is a long-standing tradition beginning with Homer and extending through the Roman imperial period of humans, animals, and their hybrids being associated with geographic distance from an imagined centre, dwelling in designated climate bands, or being earth-born or autochthonous (gēgenēs, autochthōn) that may reflect early forms of environmental determinism. The ideas continue to circulate in much the same form as found in the Hippocratic Airs in Roman authors such as Vitruvius, Manilius, Pliny the Elder, and Vegetius.


Eustathius of Epiphania  

Laura Mecella

Eustathius of Epiphania (modern-day Hama, Syria), late 5th–early 6th ce. He authored a lost summary of universal history in Greek, known only from Evagrius Scholasticus, John Malalas, the Suda, and Nicephorus Callistus Xanthopoulos (14th century). It seems likely that both Evagrius and Malalas had direct access to it, while the Suda knew its existence only from Hesychius of Miletus’s Table of Eminent Writers (Onomatologos). We do not know the details of the link with Nicephorus, who quotes Eustathius in a passage concerning Theodosius II’s reign and Attila’s campaigns against the Romans (Historia ecclesiastica 14.57). A Patmos manuscript attests the existence of Eustathius’s work as late as the 13th century, so such direct access by Nicephorus cannot be ruled out.1 However, Nicephorus’s narrative is based on several different sources, and it is impossible to identify what could have been taken from Eustathius.2 Furthermore, the possibility that many fragments of John of Antioch’s Chronological History preserve a large part of Eustathius’s work has little credibility: according to this hypothesis, both John Malalas and John of Antioch would have drawn widely on Eustathius’s history, copying it extensively.