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Grand Fromage
Jan 30, 2006

L-l-look at you bar-bartender, a-a pa-pathetic creature of meat and bone, un-underestimating my l-l-liver's ability to metab-meTABolize t-toxins. How can you p-poison a perfect, immortal alcohOLIC?


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The sequel to my ryder skye porn star on the subject. I'm not sure what to talk about so you will provide the topics by asking me about Rome.

Rome is a very broad, massive topic and no man can know everything. Its history spans from April 21st, 753 BCE to Tuesday, May 29th, 1453 CE. Romans were precise. It is impossible to grasp all of it, but I know a whole lot and can find out things, and have the training to sift through the bullshit.

My background, I went to school to be a Roman historian, did some archaeology stuff too, and currently do not work in the field whatsoever because finding a job proved impossible. But I know my poo poo. The period I am most familiar with spans from the first Punic War to the death of Marcus Aurelius, so approximately 300 BCE to 200 CE. This is the big dramatic period that is most famous and best documented, full of all the names you know. Cicero, Caesar, Augustus, et cetera. Ask anything you want from any period and I will do my best to answer.

I was going to do more background information here but why step on questions? I'll just answer whatever. There are a fair number of Rome people around here, to avoid making the thread a clusterfuck I would request you don't answer any questions. However feel free to expand on my answers if you think I left something important out. If I don't know something, I'll say so and you can jump in if you know. And if I'm wrong, correct me. I'm not going to get all MAD ABOUT POSTS, I just think it'll work better.

Edit: After more thought go ahead and address smaller questions, as was suggested by an ASTUTE POSTER. I will tack on more comments to your stuff if I feel the need.

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What do the lighter shades of green signify in the map?

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Grand Fromage
Jan 30, 2006

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Those are areas nominally under Roman control at Rome's greatest extent. Crimea was a client kingdom, not technically part of the empire but they did what Rome told them. The one in the east is area taken by Trajan and then abandoned by Hadrian, who took the empire's border back to the Euphrates river. The bit at the tip of the Persian Gulf remained a Roman client for a bit until the Parthians took it back--Trajan wanted that as a port for trade to the east. There are some stories about Trajan wishing he had been younger so he could've pushed all the way to India like Alexander.

The borders on any Roman map are going to be a bit rough, things weren't as clearly defined as they are today. That one's pretty reasonable for the maximum extent of the empire.

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Alan Smithee
Jan 3, 2005


was hoping for some clarification, most Roman soldier reenactors I see use helmets and gear with a lot of stainless steel and I was under the impression this is mostly anachronistic. Throughout its height they would likely have used bronze instead, correct? I know they had steel at some point but I imagine not quite the kind of steel we're talking about today, and even then not used all the time

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Dec 29, 2006
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One of the main things I was wondering was where you'd put the end date of the Roman Empire. I'm so very very happy you place it in 1453. I strongly encourage you to never ever ever use the phrase "Byzantine"

My two questions, for now:
1. Can you tell me more about the "War of the Flames" fought during Republican times for control of NW Iberia?

2. What do you feel about Caracalla's extension of citizenship?

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Grand Fromage
Jan 30, 2006

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was hoping for some clarification, most Roman soldier reenactors I see use helmets and gear with a lot of stainless steel and I was under the impression this is mostly anachronistic. Throughout its height they would likely have used bronze instead, correct? I know they had steel at some point but I imagine not quite the kind of steel we're talking about today, and even then not used all the time

Romans did not use bronze armor in the era you're talking about. Most Roman reenactors are doing the professional legion after the reforms of Gaius Marius, and all equipment was steel. Bronze may have been used a bit very early in Rome's history but not once they started acquiring territory. Roman steel wasn't as high quality as modern but it was steel.

The biggest anachronism with those reenactors is they're usually all wearing lorica segmentata, such as this:



Lorica segmentata is totally real, but it wasn't the standard form of armor. This provides excellent protection but it's also expensive. Centurions and veteran troops would likely have it. How many of the standard legionaries would is unknown, but it probably was a minority. There's a lot of debate on this point, I'm with the faction that says lorica segmentata was used by a minority.

Standard Roman legionaries would either be wearing lorica squamata, which is a scaled armor.



Or, most commonly, lorica hamata. This is a ring mail armor adopted from the Gauls.



It's basically the same thing as the ring mail used through the Middle Ages, and the reasoning for it being more common than the plate lorica segmentata is the same--it's a lot cheaper.

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DarkCrawler
Apr 6, 2009


Who do you think is the most unappreciated general in Roman history? I understand this is slightly subjective, but I'd be interested in your opinion anyway. I've always thought that Quintus Sertorius doesn't get his fair share whenever they talk about great Roman military commanders.

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Nov 26, 2008

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Was Christianity really popular as an underground movement before Constantine the Great or is this partly a fabrication of Christian writings from the Middle Ages? When Constantine comes to power and starts his whole Christian period, he doesn't seem to really go full into being a "Christian emperor." It doesn't seem like at that time they were a large enough force to offer legitimacy to a leader. Even before his ascension, Christians seemed like a small enough group to persecute and not worry about the ramifications. If they were the force some sources make them out to be, wouldn't the Emperors have made more deals with them?

There are some scholars that claim that "Christianization" led to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire but then why did the Eastern Roman Empire survive until 1453? Was there a fundamental shift in what became Eastern Orthodoxy thinking that there wasn't in what became Western Roman Catholicism? Though the New Testament speaks mostly of peace, the Old Testament is all about war and slave owning so I never understood that theory. The Hebrews themselves were a warrior people and all the talk of beating swords into plowshares isn't until after the final Messiah comes and destroys the enemies of the Hebrews. Aside from the provisions on sex, it seemed like it would work fine and help anti-barbarian Roman propaganda.

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SpaceDrake
Dec 22, 2006

So I give this all about equal odds of either going super well or, uh, gettin' us all killed. Messily.

So a couple of prayers from you guys wouldn't hurt, yeah?


Do you have any particular "pet" theories on why the Empire fell? Ultimately it fell for a whole bunch of interconnected reasons, but it does seem like every Roman historian has a point which they prefer to give as "the point at which The Fuckening™ was irreversible". Do you have a particular point like that, or do you think it was a all a little too big to treat like that?

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I've got a few questions...

What was the normal Roman life expectancy? I imagine it could be vastly different for different classes.

What was social mobility like? Did any former slaves rise particularly high? Was there ever any kind of criticism of slavery?

I think the likes of Nero and Caligula have been discussed a lot, but the average lives of the people haven't, so if you do that I will give this thread an A++ history mark.

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THE LUMMOX
Nov 29, 2004


How much knowledge did the Romans have about the area south of Egypt/Libya/Morocco etc. What did they write about black Africans?

Also talk about food.

What your opinion about Wojtek, the Polish Bear who fought in WWII why the western roman empire fell.

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Modus Operandi
Oct 5, 2010


Does any museum have a mostly intact Roman eagle standard on display? I'm surprised that even after the fall that more of these weren't preserved since they were prized relics by even enemies of Rome.

Also did anyone ever find out what happened to the Altar of Victory in the senate? Did Theodossius melt it down or did archaeologists ever discover any clues as to what happened to it.

Also, I read in an article that forgeries of Roman artifacts was really prevalent during the 16th century onward. The estimate was that as high as 40% of everything "discovered" is fake. What do you think about this?

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Jul 5, 2003




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Who was the last Roman?

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What would be your favorite Roman dish and would it ever be feasible to recreate in modern times?

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Apr 1, 2010



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Was Christianity really popular as an underground movement before Constantine the Great or is this partly a fabrication of Christian writings from the Middle Ages? When Constantine comes to power and starts his whole Christian period, he doesn't seem to really go full into being a "Christian emperor." It doesn't seem like at that time they were a large enough force to offer legitimacy to a leader. Even before his ascension, Christians seemed like a small enough group to persecute and not worry about the ramifications. If they were the force some sources make them out to be, wouldn't the Emperors have made more deals with them?

(I don't want to upset you OP but since you mentioned not being too familiar with anything past AD200, I hope you won't mind if I have a go at answering this.)

It was popular well before Constantine, at least enough to bear mention in historical writings down to the first century. But at the same time, there were plenty of other popular cults and sects in the Roman Empire and Christianity was just one of them. The reason the Romans persecuted the Christians so much was because their whole belief system goes against Roman religion and the concept of the emperor. There must have been enough of them to warrant such persecution as we saw in the reigns of virtually every emperor up to Constantine.

We know that Constantine's co-ruler, Maxentius, actually ended the persecution of the Christians before Constantine did. And you're right about Constantine not going full into being a 'Christian emperor.' I suppose it's often forgotten that he had a brief flirtation with Apollo in AD310. I don't believe that Constantine became a Christian until about the middle of his reign either - so 425-26ish. His religious policy towards both 'pagans' and Christians is fairly ambiguous before this period. Obviously a lot of the information is from Christian sources (with the exception of Zosimus, I believe), but there is the odd archaeological artefact that tends to be slightly less ambigious as to Constantine's policy. :P I suppose Maxentius and Constantine were the first to make a deal with the Christians, if you want to call it that. Goodness knows Diocletian's persecution didn't do much to stop them.

Then there's the question of Julian. This is a guy who was emperor twenty years after Constantine's death and tried to bring the Empire back to the old religion. And he just couldn't. I'm reminded of a story when he went to Antioch to try and revive paganism there and instead he was greeted by a huge Christian population. I'm not sure that Constantine's reforms encouraged conversion to Christianity so much as his tolerance revealed just how many there were in the first place. Pagans were still a majority of course, but I don't recall there being any revolts by them against Christian emperors. They even seemed fairly apathetic to Julian's reforms.

I hope my musings weren't too unclear. I realised I'm a little rusty on this specific period as I haven't studied it for a bit over a year.

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Modus Operandi
Oct 5, 2010


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Then there's the question of Julian. This is a guy who was emperor twenty years after Constantine's death and tried to bring the Empire back to the old religion. And he just couldn't. I'm reminded of a story when he went to Antioch to try and revive paganism there and instead he was greeted by a huge Christian population. I'm not sure that Constantine's reforms encouraged conversion to Christianity so much as his tolerance revealed just how many there were in the first place. Pagans were still a majority of course, but I don't recall there being any revolts by them against Christian emperors. They even seemed fairly apathetic to Julian's reforms.

Christianity's popularity seemed to hinge on the fact that it had an open door policy for everyone and none of the more eclectic religious class strictures other cults/sects had at the time. It was a religion for the poor, common, and displaced. This wasn't that special in itself, if you look at the followers of Dionysus there's a lot of parallels between Jesus and Dionysus including the whole rebirth and resurrection thing. Dionysus was also very popular with the poor, displaced, and the mass of foreigners who didn't feel they had much of a part to play in Rome's more established sects.

If you trace the popularity of Christianity it's interesting that the worship of Sol Invictus (monotheistic sun god) and Dionysus all seem to pave the way in the eventual combination of all these myriad belief systems into one cult (Christianity) that incorporated everything including the same pagan holidays.

It seems like Rome viewed Christianity as a threat not so much for the basic beliefs but that Christianity seemed intent on forming a competing bureaucracy with its eventual hierarchy built from the ground up.

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Feb 4, 2008
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Thanks for this thread. I'm always interested in some Roman history.
I'd have to ask about the Roman perspective on the occult. I remember Pliny the Elder (who was also a pal of Vespasianus) being dismissive of it, and generally in the legends and myths, there was a contrast between the "divine" magic (theios aner) and the magic tricks that were almost always evil.
I'd like to know more about Roman alchemists, occultists, etc.

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Thanks guys for the info. I understand that Christianity has a lot of appeal, it still does today to the oppressed and dispossessed, but I was unsure about the sources. I remember reading and hearing from a friend of mine who is working on a doctorate in theology currently how the Roman Catholic Church just made stuff up over the years about the founding of the Church and stuff before the Dark Ages.

It's kind of interesting that a lot of cults at the time were popular like Sol Invictus, Dionysus, and Mithras but Christianity was the one with the lasting appeal. It kind of has many of the common aspects but was more approachable.

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Foyes36
Oct 23, 2005

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What was Rome's relationship to the area now known as Ethiopia? Did Nero ever plan an invasion, or did I read that wrong?

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Oct 5, 2010


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It's kind of interesting that a lot of cults at the time were popular like Sol Invictus
Rome even had a ladyboy emperor who tried to gradually replace all Rome's pagan religions with the worship of Sol. If he succeeded it might have replaced Christianity as the monotheistic religion of choice.

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Who do you think is the most unappreciated general in Roman history? I understand this is slightly subjective, but I'd be interested in your opinion anyway. I've always thought that Quintus Sertorius doesn't get his fair share whenever they talk about great Roman military commanders.

This probably doesn't count since they are well known and respected among anyone who is aware of the fact Rome did in fact exist past 476, but I think Belisarius, and even Narses to a lesser extent deserve some fame. Given what they managed to accomplish, especially Belisarius, given that Justinian was wary of ever giving him an army of any significant size. Both their names would probably be far more famous if they fell under the more common known span of Roman history.

quote:

There are some scholars that claim that "Christianization" led to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire but then why did the Eastern Roman Empire survive until 1453?

Well the east was always in a better position in terms of resources than the west, and I think one thing above all that helped was in the later 5th century, the eastern Empire managed to subdue the behind the scenes power of the foederati, something the west was never able to achieve. One interesting thing though about the rise of Christianity in the east was how cities altered. Eventually over time public life became, well not so public. You now had a new religion with a new set of morals, and most importantly morals that revolved around the Earth just being a stepping stone to the afterlife. The "debauchery' of cities that had made them great, the races, the gambling involved with them, plays, taverns, forums and such, basically most of public life beyond going to the market or church started to be looked less favorably upon. This process moved along slowly until the 7th century when Byzantium entered basically a dark age so to say. Cities dwindled substantially, and when they finally began to recover in 9th-10th centuries, the process was complete. Even in Constantinople by this point the Hippodrome, the center of urban social life, only ran on a few special occasions in the year.

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Grand Fromage
Jan 30, 2006

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You sniped me. Belisarius is my vote for general who was recognized as being a massive badass in his day but gets ignored in history. He was one of the finest military minds Rome ever produced.

For someone just generally unappreciated I'll have to think more. I will pound out these questions at school tomorrow, glad there are a bunch.

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How gay were the Romans? Can you opine on if they had more or less gay sex than the Greeks (as a cultural thing, not raw #)?

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How gay were the Romans? Can you opine on if they had more or less gay sex than the Greeks (as a cultural thing, not raw #)?
Openly gay relationships were frowned upon. Hadrian was a pretty good emperor but there was always a lot of grumbling about his teenage boy toy. There were jokes about Julius Caeser being the gay lover of the King of Bythnia. I mentioned Elgabalus already but he was very open and flamboyant even referring to himself as a Queen and taking up with a chariot driver.

So, i'd say it was definitely looked down on but not in the way of modern thinking. It's probably because engaging in official homosexual relationships was viewed as a sign of wanton decadence and limited your choice of heirs. Gay trysts weren't unusual though.

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Both their names would probably be far more famous if they fell under the more common known span of Roman history.

This makes me curious: stephanie seymour nude video Why is that particular period the famous one, exactly? I mean it's hazy for me, as an average joe: I know there was still stuff going on, but we just don't seem to care after a while.

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May 31, 2011


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One of the main things I was wondering was where you'd put the end date of the Roman Empire. I'm so very very happy you place it in 1453. I strongly encourage you to never ever ever use the phrase "Byzantine"

Is this a general trend for scholars now to move away from designating the East as Byzantium, or just your personal feeling?

Because of course Byzantine is a historian's creation, and the East still called itself Roman, but I think Byzantine serves itself well as a reference to that period.

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However feel free to expand on my answers if you think I left something important out. If I don't know something, I'll say so and you can jump in if you know. And if I'm wrong, correct me. I'm not going to get all MAD ABOUT POSTS, I just think it'll work better.

I'm going to politely disagree. I think it would be a lot easier for you to to focus on the hard and long answer questions, and let other people handle to smaller stuff. You can always correct us, and i thinkthat woudl be easier then you having to answer everything first, and having everyone interested in the topic waiting for your next reply. If you think its not working I'll shut up.

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Who was the last Roman?

Depends on your definition of a Roman. The Catholic Church operated under the Empire, and never stopped, and is still going today. If you mean a citizen of the Empire, its whenever the refugees from the sack of Constantinople in 1453 finally died off.

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What was the normal Roman life expectancy? I imagine it could be vastly different for different classes.

This got mentioned in the thread that spawned this one. In general in the ancient world, child mortality was just ridiculously high. This brings the overall rate way down. If you made it past childhood, you actually had a pretty good chance of living to old age. Disease and infection could still knock you off a whole bunch easier then they can now. What then separated the classes was medical care. If yo umade it past childhood, you were likely going to live into your 50s. There is a great graph of this here. naked teen girls lesbian

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How gay were the Romans? Can you opine on if they had more or less gay sex than the Greeks (as a cultural thing, not raw #)?

Out of respect for OP I won't answer this question. But I will point out that huge numbers of residents in the Republic/Empire were Greek-speaking Greeks in various stages of becoming acculturated into a Romano-Italian empire. Assimilited territories, manumitted slaves, voluntary immigrants, etc etc. Greeks are virtually everywhere throughout Antiquity, and they are literally everywhere in the Roman Med. So there are potentially alot of false positives, just like how a thousand years from now someone excavating in San Antonio or New York's Chinatown might get some very skewed ideas about the American relationship to mariachi music or jellyfish as a food item. But unlike America, you can't pick up stakes and go excavate in Ohio or Montana and realize, oh, most Americans didn't actually listen to mariachi. Because in the Roman world, Greeks are everywhere.

So ultimately, the question can only make sense if framed by a strict definition of "Roman", and a specified time period and location.

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You sniped me. Belisarius is my vote for general who was recognized as being a massive badass in his day but gets ignored in history. He was one of the finest military minds Rome ever produced.

For someone just generally unappreciated I'll have to think more. I will pound out these questions at school tomorrow, glad there are a bunch.

Just read up on him on Wikipedia, he sounded absolutely incredible. Any other cool generals I should read about? I love Roman history and particularly like reading Roman historical fiction, so this thread is pretty awesome

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Oct 5, 2010


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Out of respect for OP I won't answer this question. But I will point out that huge numbers of residents in the Republic/Empire were Greek-speaking Greeks in various stages of becoming acculturated into a Romano-Italian empire. Assimilited territories, manumitted slaves, voluntary immigrants, etc etc. Greeks are virtually everywhere throughout Antiquity, and they are literally everywhere in the Roman Med. So there are potentially alot of false positives,

Homosexuality wasn't especially prevalent in just Greeks though. People focus on Greeks and homosexuality because it's depicted a lot in art and literature.

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I remember learning that much of Christianity's adoption was driven by the desire of the equestrian class to have a new social hierarchy that reflected their political and economic power. Is that true?

Could someone explain populares and optimates?

And what about nefas and tribunes?

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Just read up on him on Wikipedia, he sounded absolutely incredible. Any other cool generals I should read about? I love Roman history and particularly like reading Roman historical fiction, so this thread is pretty awesome

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Aurelian (not to be confused with Marcus Aurelius) is another awesome general/emperor who pretty much saved the Roman empire during the bloody 3rd century.

He's also one of the few emperors who bootstrapped himself up to the top from a common soldier.

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What then separated the classes was medical care.

Aside from governmental ideas, America took so many other ideas from the Romans

On that note though, people often overlook the fact the Romans did in fact have medicine beyond "Here's some herbs, pray to some gods". Now this of course like all ancient medicine doesn't necessarily correlate into "good" medicine, but the Romans basically weren't equaled until well into the enlightenment.
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The article itself is short and of lesser concern than the picture of surgical tools found at Pompeii. You have to admit that's a pretty impressive array of tools for 79AD. Also, can you imagine getting a Roman catheter?

Which actually leads into this:

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This makes me curious: the rescuers naked girl Why is that particular period the famous one, exactly? I mean it's hazy for me, as an average joe: I know there was still stuff going on, but we just don't seem to care after a while.

Why? Because all glory to Rome, SPQR and all that jazz. For one thing, it's geographical, as far as most of the west is concern the Roman empire ended in 476 AD because we're western European-centric, if we lived in Greece we'd probably be educated on how the Byzantine empire was in fact a continuation of Rome and in many ways helped save some of the best parts of western civilization. However Byzantium in its heydays(I'd say there were two, the early era up through Justinian, and that around the Macedonian and Komnenian dyanasties starting in the 9th century) still couldn't even come remotely close to comparing to the awesome power that was Rome despite basically being one of the richest states in the world during many periods. The era from the later Republic up to the crisis of the third century is probably one of the most impressive bouts of history ever. Rome was a state that I would say was just ahead of its time. Their political and legal systems were not only advanced for their time, but so advanced they laid the foundation for our current systems. Their engineering feats were spectacular in size and scale, and this in itself is huge for the fact it makes Rome impossible to ignore. Even if its hundreds of years after the fall of the western empire and you're living in feudal Europe and you've basically never read anything beyond the bible(assuming you're one of the few who knows how to read), Rome is still all around you. These giant crumbling monuments, roads, fortifications, amphitheaters, bathhouses, hippodromes, ect, basically even in the dark ages, if you lived in western Europe, you could not forget Rome, the massive monuments of its peak served as a constant intriguing reminder, and probably a sad reminder at that, people in the dark ages weren't sure what happened, but they were aware life had not always been as it currently it was. It's a powerful reminder that was carried down through the enlightenment, and at that point people once again began to focus on everything that was good about Rome during its peak.

Also of note, going back to a western-centric view that often ignores the continuation of the eastern half of the empire, I think people are also just really fascinated with the fall of the Roman Empire. Regardless of any problems Rome had, it just seems ridiculous how the empire in the west collapsed in on itself, by outward appearances it should've never happened, at least as it did, yet it did happen, and it remains endlessly fascinating since there's no one right answer on what caused it.

It's also leaves the question of when did Rome truly fall. Romulus Augustus is generally considered the last emperor who was overthrown in 476, but he and those before him were just puppets of Germanic rulers. The Ostrogoths than overthrew Odovacer in 493, but they all saw themselves as the legitimate succession of the Roman state and in fact tried to keep Roman institutions going, case in point the Senate kept functioning well into the 6th century. And during all of this they still paid lip service to the emperor in Constantinople who was supposed to the de jure emperor in Italy as well even if this was no where near the reality. One could make the argument the Roman state never truly fell until the Lombards came storming down.

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Homosexuality wasn't especially prevalent in just Greeks though. People focus on Greeks and homosexuality because it's depicted a lot in art and literature.

Yep, the thing is that the concepts of homo- and heterosexuality didn't even exist until the 18th century. Romans (well, mostly the men) could screw whoever they please, that was no problem, although a depraved sex life was still frowned upon, the roman ideal being the stoic men keeping his pulsions to himself.
For the record, the church allowed homosexuality for a long time too, but homosexual sex was a sin (since you didn't procreate...).

It's always interesting to see how close and yet so far the Romans and the Greeks were to us, culturally speaking

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Why? Because all glory to Rome, SPQR and all that jazz. For one thing, it's geographical, as far as most of the west is concern the Roman empire ended in 476 AD because we're western European-centric, if we lived in Greece we'd probably be educated on how the Byzantine empire was in fact a continuation of Rome and in many ways helped save some of the best parts of western civilization. However Byzantium in its heydays(I'd say there were two, the early era up through Justinian, and that around the Macedonian and Komnenian dyanasties starting in the 9th century) still couldn't even come remotely close to comparing to the awesome power that was Rome despite basically being one of the richest states in the world during many periods. The era from the later Republic up to the crisis of the third century is probably one of the most impressive bouts of history ever. Rome was a state that I would say was just ahead of its time. Their political and legal systems were not only advanced for their time, but so advanced they laid the foundation for our current systems. Their engineering feats were spectacular in size and scale, and this in itself is huge for the fact it makes Rome impossible to ignore. Even if its hundreds of years after the fall of the western empire and you're living in feudal Europe and you've basically never read anything beyond the bible(assuming you're one of the few who knows how to read), Rome is still all around you. These giant crumbling monuments, roads, fortifications, amphitheaters, bathhouses, hippodromes, ect, basically even in the dark ages, if you lived in western Europe, you could not forget Rome, the massive monuments of its peak served as a constant intriguing reminder, and probably a sad reminder at that, people in the dark ages weren't sure what happened, but they were aware life had not always been as it currently it was. It's a powerful reminder that was carried down through the enlightenment, and at that point people once again began to focus on everything that was good about Rome during its peak.


It's also leaves the question of when did Rome truly fall. Romulus Augustus is generally considered the last emperor who was overthrown in 476, but he and those before him were just puppets of Germanic rulers. The Ostrogoths than overthrew Odovacer in 493, but they all saw themselves as the legitimate succession of the Roman state and in fact tried to keep Roman institutions going, case in point the Senate kept functioning well into the 6th century. And during all of this they still paid lip service to the emperor in Constantinople who was supposed to the de jure emperor in Italy as well even if this was no where near the reality. One could make the argument the Roman state never truly fell until the Lombards came storming down.


I'd like to nuance a bit your statement about the "dark ages" (which is also a modern concept that appeared during the enlightenment). Roman achievements are undeniable, but there was no such thing as a dark age during which everything they did was forgotten.

The western empire was not as developed (well, except Italy) as the eastern empire, where highly developed civilizations already existed before and where the big urban centers lay; it was mostly rural (all the big European cities were essentially small roman towns), and most infrastructure was built or built upon by the Romans.
The fall of this Western Roman Empire was a gradual process, not one big invasion that ended all; Germanic tribes were migrating massively into the Empire, driven by other steppe tribes like the Huns. There were several waves of migration, leading to tensions between the locals and the "immigrants" (which by the way often served in the Roman Army) and civil unrest (you could say riots and mutiny). The western emperor often gave the barbarians wide stretches of land in order to reduce tensions, but as more and more of them were coming, and the emperor holding less and less power, these vassal kingdoms to Rome became more and more independent. The sack of Rome was more of a final act that showed Rome was not as powerful as it once was.

Now, the newly established barbarian rulers adopted roman (and local) culture and faith as you said, so the western roman empire lived on through its influence. People knew their ancestors were roman. There was a decline in wealth and overall human development that resulted from those migration waves, civil unrests and the "balkanization" of the Empire. Small states can't afford to build and/or maintain huge projects the way a bigger empire could. Also, all the big intellectual centers (except Rome) have always been in the eastern part of the empire; philosophy and science remained Greek, the Romans were a lot more down-to-earth and pragmatic. With the separation between the two parts of the Empire, ideas didn't spread to the west as much as they did anymore.

However, that decline only lasted about three centuries, and starting in the 9th century, there was a first so-called Carolingian Renaissance, thanks notably to Charlemagne, during which culture flourished again, and new innovations (three-field rotation, minuscules, etc.) were made. Roman culture and christian faith (both went hand in hand since Justinian the Great) expanded into Scandinavia and eastern Europe, and the Arabic Empire discovered, built upon and improved Roman and Greek innovations.

The Carolingian Renaissance spurred population growth and city development throughout what once was the Western Roman Empire; universities where founded, architecture advanced (for example Gothic cathedrals), and new inventions were made (wind mills, clocks, printing (though not movable type), better ships) or adopted from other countries (paper, gunpowder, the astrolabe, arabic numerals, the compass).

So you see, the western roman empire didn't end in 476. It was transformed from the ground up, but it remained there "in spirit", along with the eastern empire. The Holy Roman Empire isn't just Roman for propaganda (okay, maybe a little), but because it's foundation was the Roman Empire.

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Ice Phisherman
Apr 12, 2007

We'll always have our memories won't we? Those special memories that I’ll always treasure. You, writhing from the jellyfish sting, me, urinating on the wound.

If you are interested in a long (very long) history of Rome from the beginnings to the final sacks, you should look up the history of Rome podcast at yoga positions for sex or look for it through iTunes. There are 179 20-40 minute episodes and for an amateur podcast was done with the professionalism of a modern lecturer. I am listening to the last five episodes now. Great stuff if you want a huge overview.

OP, can you go into depth about how many of the citizens in the mid to late empire became what amount to beggars via the old patron/client system?

Also, can you go more into the myth of the battle which Constantine supposedly ordered his soldiers to paint a cross on their shields? I know it has some basis in fact but much of it has been mythologized and hijacked by Christian scholars. What's the actual facts as recorded by history here?

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Modus Operandi
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Yep, the thing is that the concepts of homo- and heterosexuality didn't even exist until the 18th century. Romans (well, mostly the men) could screw whoever they please, that was no problem, although a depraved sex life was still frowned upon, the roman ideal being the stoic men keeping his pulsions to himself.

I figure that most homosexual relationships also had a power component to it too. A Roman man in a position of power could screw whoever they want but engaging in a real gay relationship (with emotions and feelings) with a peer or someone closer to your rank dilutes your perceived power. This is the same reason why being the younger submissive gay man of high rank in a relationship with someone older of lower rank was considered contemptible. It's a form of submission. The real insult in calling Julius Caeser the lover of the King Bythnia was basically saying he submitted to an older man not so much that he may have been bisexual. Praetorians and the like were disgusted by the behavior of Elgabulus because the Roman emperor was never supposed to submit like that to anyone.

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Chikimiki
May 14, 2009


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I figure that most homosexual relationships also had a power component to it too. A Roman man in a position of power could screw whoever they want but engaging in a real gay relationship (with emotions and feelings) with a peer or someone closer to your rank dilutes your perceived power. This is the same reason why being the younger submissive gay man of high rank in a relationship with someone older of lower rank was considered contemptible. It's a form of submission. The real insult in calling Julius Caeser the lover of the King Bythnia was basically saying he submitted to an older man not so much that he may have been bisexual. Praetorians and the like were disgusted by the behavior of Elgabulus because the Roman emperor was never supposed to submit like that to anyone.

Exactly. And it was also a sign of weakness for the ruler to indulge in his desires. When Caesar's troops joked that he was every woman's man, it was also very mocking, since this meant he couldn't help but screw any women that offered herself to him.

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Could someone explain populares and optimates?

Those come from the Republican period, and were the name of two poltical tendencies that a lot of politicians associated themselves with - the optimates were the supporters of the rule by the traditional aristocracy that made up the Senate, the populares advocated more power for the Assembly of the whole Roman people and the tribunes that represented it. They usually went for populist measures in a general sense too - I seem to remember cancelling debts was one of them.

This makes them sound a bit like modern conservatives and liberals, but the reality of Roman politics was that most of it was driven by personal and family ambition rather than ideology. These guys would often simply advocate whatever got them votes at the time with total cynicism. There weren't any political parties in the modern sense.

As someone mentioned (correctly) the importance of Greeks in the Roman Empire, I'll just add that "Greeks" often weren't ethnically Greek, since Alexander the Great's conquests had expanded Greek culture over a wide area. A lot of them were people from various parts of Asia Minor and the Near East who spoke Greek and were influenced by Greek culture.

Also, whilst they were heavily influenced by the Greeks, the Romans were capable of outright racism towards them. There's quite a well known passage where the writer Juvenal goes off on a rant about Greeks corrupting honest Roman youth and basically does everything but accuse them of "taking our jobs."

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Are there records of ancient Roman conspiracy theories, written down by ancient Roman Truther or Alex Jones analogs?

Any records of secret societies or intelligence organizations, working groups, etc. in ancient Rome?

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