Category Archives: History of Rome

A Pair of Pious Popes (amended)

Pius XI / reformation.org

Pius XI / reformation.org

Pius XI was born in 1857 and was Pope from 1922 for eighteen years, during which he inadvertently caused the collapse of the Catholic Popular Party. He did not like the idea of mixing religion with politics anyway, and spoke out against such an idea. He saw the CPP as far too radical in its views, and forbade it utterly to form alliances with any other parties who wished to oppose the rise of Benito Mussolini. For this he was seen by all as a supporter of the Italian leader. Continue reading

The Middle Ages

Middle AgesHistorians disagree about exact dates, but I believe it is generally accepted that the phrase ‘Middle Ages’ denotes the period in Europe from around 700 A.D. to around 1500. Before 700 were ‘The Dark Ages’ – dark in many senses but mainly because professional historians did not exist after the decline of the civilised Roman Empire in the west, and countless barbarian invasions/occupations in the 5th and 6th centuries after Christ. Continue reading

The Emperor Constantine (known as ‘the Great’)

The statue of Constantine before York Minster / york-united-kingdom.co.uk

The statue of Constantine before York Minster / york-united-kingdom.co.uk

Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus was born around 274 AD. His was a patrician family in Rome and his father was Constantius I who died in the year 306, when our subject was thirty-two years old. He should have succeeded immediately, because the army declared him emperor, but there were, as always, complications; several other patricians rather thought they should rule, among them Licinius. Constantine showed consummate skill in staying alive, at the same time ‘removing’ the competition according to the ancient rules of the game. Continue reading

The Roman emperor who died in Britain

Septimius Severus, died at York / heritagedaily.com

Septimius Severus, died at York / heritagedaily.com

A few of you clever bloggers will deny it, but it is a fair bet that nobody knew that a Roman emperor died in Britain. Everybody knows that Hadrian, Julius Caesar and even Co-Clo-Claudius visited Britain, but Lucius Septimius Severus Pertinax, a.k.a. Septimius Severus (146 – 211 AD) breathed his last there. Continue reading

The time when there were THREE Popes

   At this very moment the cardinals gathered in the Vatican are arguing about who shall be the next Pope, following Benedict XVI’s resignation on grounds of health. While the octogenarian Ratzinger rests ( and he certainly deserves to) in Castelgandolfo, dozens of seniors of the Catholic Church will shortly approach the moment when they must vote for the new Pontiff, and we will see white (or possibly) black smoke puffing from the famous chimney, installed again only two days ago. But many Catholic co-religionists do not even know that at the time of the Great Schism in the fourteenth century, there were at one time three popes! Continue reading

Frederick II (‘Stupor Mundi’)

To avoid confusion, one remembers that there were two Frederick IIs, Frederick ‘The Great’, an eighteenth century monarch, and our subject in this article, Frederick ‘Stupor Mundi’ a title given him by his courtiers, meaning ‘wonder of the world’.

He was born in 1194, son of Henry VI King of ‘Germany’ (Germany was divided into kingdoms, principalities, dukedoms, archdukedoms and palatinates) and a mother whose background was Sicilian. His grandfather was Frederick I, known as ‘Barbarossa’. Continue reading

The Battle of Cannae

Cannae / forums.taleworlds.com

Cannae / forums.taleworlds.com

This was not just an armed, bloody struggle between fighting men. It was one of the classic victories in military history. Carthage’s general Hannibal (q.v.) faced a Roman army with larger infantry units, but Hannibal had more cavalry, well-trained and armed horsemen, kept out of sight. The armies were engaged at the village of Cannae, in southern Italy. Continue reading

Historians Polybius, Sallust, Seneca, Suetonius & Tacitus

POLYBIUS (204 – 122 BC) had the good luck (from the intellectual point of view) to be a historian during the rise of Rome after the 2nd Punic War. He was a Greek of noble blood not without political importance, but he was taken toRome with several other Greeks as hostages. This happened after the Roman intervention in Athens by Aemilius Paullus and others. Polybius formed a circle of clever fellows around his captor who became his mentor. Continue reading

Scipio, Aemilianus (Africanus Numantius)

Scipio / makethelist.net

Scipio / makethelist.net

This extraordinary Roman general was born in 185 BC, and was later adopted by Publius Cornelius Scipio. One must be careful to avoid confusion, because both adoptive grandfather Publius and our subject were nicknamed ‘Africanus’ for the same reason!  Grandson Aemilianus earned the tribute for destroying Carthage during the 3rd Punic War, and Publius for merely defeating Carthage in the 2nd Punic War. The adoptive grandfather, born in 236 BC, was actually called ‘Africanus Major’. Continue reading

Who were the Anglo-Saxons?

Anglo-Saxon men / fashion.era.com

Anglo-Saxon men / fashion.era.com

They were Jutes, a Germanic tribe whose names are preserved today in Jutland and Juteborg. They invaded Britain in the 5th century under the leadership of Hengist and Horsa. The Venerable Bede tells us they occupied the Isle of Wight, parts of the Hampshire coast, and Kent with its capital at Canterbury. They were also Saxons,  (Germanic) though they came from the Danish peninsula, and lived partly from piracy from the 3rd century AD to the 5th, when they invaded Britain at the end of Roman supremacy. Their name survives in Wessex, Essex, Sussex and Saxony in Germany itself. The Saxons and Jutes were joined by the Angles,  Germanic in origin who probably came from the area of Schleswig-Holstein or neighbouring Denmark. They settled down in East Anglia and Northumbria. Their name survives in the gradual metamorphosis from Anglo-Saxon England to Englaland and thence to England. Continue reading