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Parthian-Roman Wars  

Jason M. Schlude

Founded and ruled by the Arsacid royal family, the Parthian empire (c. 250 bce–227 ce) was the native Iranian empire that filled the power vacuum in the Middle East in the midst of Seleucid decline. Arsacid interaction with the Roman empire began in the mid-90s bce, eventually established the Euphrates river as a shared border, and was peaceful in nature till 54 bce. In that year, the first of four cycles of Parthian-Roman wars began. Since the Romans carried out the initial large-scale mobilization of troops that introduced most of these wars, it is appropriate to associate these four cycles with the various Romans who coordinated the Roman military efforts: (a) Crassus to Antony (54–30 bce); (b) Nero (57–63 ce); (c) Trajan (114–117 ce); and (d) Lucius Verus to Macrinus (161–217 ce). The fundamental causes for these conflicts were Roman imperialism, which was well ingrained by the 1st century bce, and Parthian imperialism, which accelerated in the 2nd century bce, probably accompanied by the Arsacids’ attempts to present themselves as successors to the Achaemenid dynasty.

Article

Babatha  

Kimberley Czajkowski

Babatha was a Jewish woman who lived in the province of Roman Arabia in the first half of the 2nd century ce. Her documents were found wrapped up in a leather purse in the Cave of Letters, near the Dead Sea. Babatha’s archive is multilingual and dates from before and after the annexation of the region in 106 ce. It consists of legal and administrative documents, including marriage contracts, deeds of gift, land registrations, and two cases of litigation that were aimed at the court of the Roman governor. The archive therefore sheds light on various aspects of the life of one particular Jewish family in this era, particularly on everyday legal transactions in the newly annexed province and “on the ground” reactions of imperial inhabitants to the new ruling power.Babatha was a Jewish woman who lived in the province of Roman Arabia in the first half of the .

Article

Vegetius Renatus  

Michael B. Charles

Vegetius Renatus was a Latin author writing in the Late Empire. He wrote the Epitoma rei militaris, which deals with ways to improve Rome’s flagging military prowess—including revival of the antiqua legio (“old-fashioned legion”) and reduction of reliance on barbarian mercenaries—and the Digesta artis mulomedicinae, which deals with animal husbandry and the care of horses in particular. Vegetius appears to have been a Christian and likely occupied a senior post in the Roman imperial bureaucracy. It is uncertain when Vegetius was active. Vegetius dedicated the Epitoma to an unnamed emperor. Traditionally, this has been assumed to have been Theodosius I (reign, 379–395 ce) because of presumably later manuscript dedications, but the context of the text arguably suits a fifth-century date better (especially one after 425 ce). Valentinian III (425–455 ce) or Theodosius II (408–450 ce) have emerged as the most likely candidates. Given that a certain Eutropius amended the manuscript of the Epitoma in 450 ce, it is clear that Vegetius must have written before that year.

Article

portraiture, Roman  

Susan E. C. Walker

Roman portraiture is noted for its verism, and for the imitation of imperial images by private citizens of the Roman empire, notably in their funerary monuments. Portraits were regarded as substitutes for living emperors and expressed the relationship between the ruling power and local elites, notably in Mediterranean urban centres, where local benefactors were often commemorated with portrait statues. With the onset of increasing central control in late antiquity, portraits of emperors and imperial officials became vulnerable to indifference and popular discontent.

Roman portraiture is especially noted for its verism, the meticulous recording of facial characteristics including such unflattering features as wrinkles, warts, and moles, even on small-scale engraved gems (sealstone | British Museum). Though earlier portraits of Roman individuals have survived, notably the bronze bust of the so-called Brutus dated to about 300bce, verism is thought to have gained currency in the second century bce for commissions of honorific statues of distinguished Romans, especially patrons of cities in the Greek east.

Article

inequality  

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.

Article

Early and Medieval Periods in German Economic History  

Thilo R. Huning and Fabian Wahl

The study of the Holy Roman Empire, a medieval state on the territory of modern-day Germany and Central Europe, has attracted generations of qualitative economic historians and quantitative scholars from various fields. Its bordering position between Roman and Germanic legacies, its Carolingian inheritance, and the numerous small states emerging from 1150 onward, on the one hand, are suspected to have hindered market integration, and on the other, allowed states to compete. This has inspired many research questions around differences and communalities in culture, the origin of the state, the integration of good and financial markets, and technology inventions, such the printing press. While little is still known about the economy of the rural population, cities and their economic conditions have been extensively studied from the angles of economic geography, institutionalism, and for their influence on early human capital accumulation. The literature has stressed that Germany at this time cannot be seen as a closed economy, but only in the context of Europe and the wider world. Global events, such as the Black Death, and European particularities, such as the Catholic Church, never stopped at countries’ borders. As such, the literature provides an understanding for the prelude to radical changes, such as the Lutheran Reformation, religious wars, and the coming of the modern age with its economic innovations.

Article

Georgia before the Mongols  

Stephen H. Rapp Jr.

Nestled in one of Eurasia’s most energetic crossroads, Georgia has a long and multifaceted history. The remains of Homo georgicus excavated at Dmanisi in southern Georgia belong to the oldest hominids yet discovered outside Africa. They have been reliably dated to 1.8 million years ago. Subsequent Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and Bronze Age sites are distributed throughout the region between the Black and Caspian Seas. But it is not until the early 1st millennium bce that the immediate ancestors of modern Georgians emerge in the historical record. Their attestation sharpens in the Achaemenid and early Hellenistic epochs. The peoples of Caucasia were thrust upon the Eurasian stage principally as a result of their associations with Iran. They were, at the same time, active members in the first Iranian Commonwealth, a massive cross-cultural enterprise stretching from Central Asia to the Balkans. Toward the end of the 4th century bce, the disruption triggered by Alexander’s conquest of Achaemenid Persia sparked the formation of a kingdom anchored in the eastern Georgian territory of Kʻartʻli (Iberia). Caucasia’s Iranian and especially Iranic (“Persianate”) cultures proved remarkably durable. The Irano-Caucasian nexus pushed into the medieval period, having endured the Christianization of the realms of Kʻartʻli, Armenia, and Caucasian Albania. As was the case elsewhere, Christianity’s long-term success hinged on its adaptation to the existing social pattern. Caucasia’s social landscape continued to be dominated by dynastic noble houses, but the hybrid Zoroastrianisms they had long favored were eclipsed by Christianity starting in the 4th century. Meanwhile, in western Georgia the polities based in Egrisi (cf. Greek Colchis) fell under the stronger influence of the Graeco-Roman Mediterranean. They too were brought into the Christian fold in late antiquity. The Kʻartʻvelian monarchy was abolished by the Sasanians circa 580 and remained in abeyance until 888. In the afterglow of the interregnum, the ascendant Bagratid dynasty—following the “Byzantinizing” path blazed by the Georgian Church—consciously reoriented kingship from an Iranian to a Byzantine basis as it politically integrated eastern and western Georgia for the first time. Nevertheless, at the height of the all-Georgian kingdom, many aspects of Iranic culture flourished, including epic literature. Mongol hegemony across much of the 13th century marks a crucial turning point in Georgian history. Under Īlkhānid rule, Caucasia’s access to the Eurasian ecumene expanded significantly, but the political fragmentation of Georgia intensified. In the new phase of imperialism ushered by Timur (Tamerlane), the Irano-Caucasian nexus blossomed one last time under the Safavids before the isthmus fell under Russian and then Soviet control.

Article

The Garamantes in North Africa in the Roman Period  

David J. Mattingly

Roman North Africa has traditionally been studied from a Mediterranean and colonialist perspective, in part reflecting the development of the field during the modern colonial era when archaeology was too readily recruited to the aid of modern imperial projects. The traditional approaches have emphasized the exogenous contribution to the emergence of North Africa as one of the richest and most important regions of the Roman Empire’s core territory. The corollary of this has been a lack of investigation of the cultural, political, and economic institutions of the autochthonous peoples of the region prior to the Roman conquest, with the partial exception of Phoenician coastal settlements. Such approaches are very outdated in the early 21st century and in need of revision, taking account of important new knowledge of North African peoples. The Garamantes, who were a people of the Libyan Sahara external to the Roman Empire, provide an excellent case study for an alternative approach that considers the story of Africa in the Roman Empire in its broader Maghrebian and Saharan context.

Article

Martin Luther and the Saxon Electors  

Marjorie Elizabeth Plummer

Although born in the territory of the Counts of Mansfield, Luther’s connection to Saxony began early. He attended school in Eisenach (1498–1501), located in electoral Saxony, and enrolled in university (1501–1505) and later entered the Augustinian monastery (1505–1508) in Erfurt, an independent city with close economic and political ties to Saxony. Luther’s association with Saxony and its electors, however, was sealed with his 1508 arrival at the University of Wittenberg, followed by his return to Wittenberg in 1511, where he was to reside for the most remainder of his adult life. His relationship with the rulers in Ernestine and Albertine Saxony and their reaction to his reform movement proved fundamental to Luther’s life and career, just as Luther has become inextricably linked to the history of Saxony and Wittenberg. Scholars have concentrated on Luther’s interactions with the elector of Saxony Frederick III, “the Wise” (1463–1525, r. 1486–1525), during the early Reformation. Less scholarly attention has been paid to the relationship between Luther and the electors of Saxony during the reign of Frederick’s brother John the Steadfast (1468–1532, r. 1525–1532) and nephew John Frederick (1503–1554, r. 1532–1547), despite the vital role that these rulers played during the development of the new confessional identity. Discussions of Luther’s interaction with these Saxon electors were featured in 16th-century publications and art as well as early histories of the Reformation and of Saxony. Over the course of subsequent centuries, the relationship between Luther and the Ernestine electors has become central to the story of the Reformation and to Saxon history.

Article

Diocletian, Roman emperor, 284–313 CE  

Monica Hellström

Although not the watershed once considered, it remains justified to treat Diocletian’s reign (284–305 ce) as the beginning of Late Antiquity. Its length allowed for changes to take root, and the introduction of a ruling college of two Augusti (Diocletian and Maximian) and two Caesares (Galerius and Constantius I, also made sons-in-law) deterred civil wars by creating predictable lines of succession. Even so, serious civil conflicts arose in Gaul, Britannia, and Egypt, while peoples across the Rhine and Danuble required constant attention. The most glorified campaign was against Sasanian Persia (295/6–298/299), concluded by a signal victory celebrated at a joint triumph/jubilee in Rome (303). Diocletian enlarged the army but did not radically transform its structure, concentrating on consolidation. The empire retained its integrity, and evidence for permanent imperial residences is lacking, but Nicomedia emerges as an eastern imperial centre. Better substantiated is the subdivision of provinces, which increased the presence and capacity of the bureaucracy. The fiscal reform (287–) supported the war effort, making extraction predictable and effective (if not necessarily heavier). A new, global coinage was introduced in 294, and the Edict of Maximum Prices (301) set maxima for commodities, likely to contain inflation.