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Disasters waiting to happen: Publius Quintilius Varus & his Three Legions

Varus losing his legions / en.wikipedia.org

Varus losing his legions / en.wikipedia.org

Varus was a Roman general and consul commanding a Roman army in Germany in 13 AD, during the long reign of Augustus Caesar (q.v.). He and his three legions fell into a trap laid by the cleverest of the Teutonic commanders, Arminius, in the middle of an almost boundless wood called the Teutoburg (near what is now Bielefeld) (more…)

Disasters waiting to happen: Marcus Licinius Crassus

Olivier plays Crassus in the film Spartacus / morphsplace.com

Olivier plays Crassus in the film Spartacus / morphsplace.com

Crassus was not the first man to combine business with politics and, through lack of foresight, or because he was too proud to think, come a terrible cropper. He was born around 115 BC, both parents patrician. Naturally he went into the Roman army.

Still a young and inexperienced officer, he supported Lucius Cornelius Sulla during a civil war between Sulla and Gaius Marius. When the latter seized the city of Rome in 87 BC, Crassus vanished as fast as he could, but came back to help Sulla take power in 82. Historians agree that the origin of Crassus’ hatred of Pompey lie in the latter’s clear preference for Sulla. (more…)

‘Emancipation’ of the Catholics


The Christian Church first came into Britain through the north of Ireland and Scotland, probably with St. Augustine. The Roman Catholic Church was soon established throughout Ireland, Scotland and England, ruled inexorably from Rome by the Pope. The Pope’s bishops then ruled both the Church and much more, in association with kings of England when they established themselves. The first king of all England was a Norman Viking called William the Conquerer, and he was a Catholic and a bastard. (more…)

Ancient gods at these Olympics

I suppose we are about half way through the London Olympics of 2012 – sad for some, radiant news for others. I suppose I will be accused of being a dry old stick (if not something much worse) but I used to enjoy the Olympic Games when in order to take part you had to be amateur. The moment the Committee plumped for professionals the Games gained a little glamour but lost all interest; for me anyway, and a few more like me. 

   And now the British Royal Mint makes gold coins to celebrate the Games. The coins’ designer explains that his inspiration was the first Games held ‘in ancient Greece, where athletes pledged their allegiance to the gods of Olympia’. Oh dear me no! There weren’t any ‘gods of Olympia’. 


Roman law, Roman religion & Romance Languages

The Romans believed in law, and tried to live by it, frequently failing when political necessities seemed more important, or integral to the purpose. Roman Law developed (in Rome) for around one hundred years before the birth of Christ, and continued after his death to circa. 220 AD.

Nevertheless, more centuries were needed before the Emperor Justinian (justly named: 482-565) codified it in his Corpus Juris Civilis which we translate as ‘Body of Civil Law’. Then, a long time after lawless Germanic bands had destroyed Rome itself and the remnants of its Empire (q.v.) Roman law emerged again in the 11th century as a popular subject for study in Italian universities. (more…)

The Roman Legion

In the same way as the British Army is divided into divisions (usually 3 in an army), battalions (any number), companies (4 in a battalion) and platoons (4 in a company), each with a commander of certain rank (general, colonel, major and lieutenant respectively), the Roman Army was divided too. The most important section was the legion, which itself derived from the citizen militia staying in permanent preparation for war in defence of the state.

During the 2nd Punic War (q.v.) it was the strategist Scipio who was responsible for re-organising the battle array, thus improving the army’s tactics and strength. (more…)

By | 2012-06-02T18:05:04+00:00 June 2nd, 2012|History of Rome, Italian History|0 Comments

Three Roman Emperors: Hadrian, Tiberius & Julian

A rather imaginative impression of Tiberius / biography.com

A rather imaginative impression of Tiberius / biography.com

Publius Aelius Hadrianus was born just seventy-six years after the birth of Christ, his birthplace Spain, or what was then the Iberian Peninsula. Member of a patrician family, he was actually the ward of the Emperor Trajan. As Emperor he was a cultivated admirer of Greek civilization and tradition, which helped him unify and consolidate Rome’s enormous Empire. As a poet and writer he was prolific and talented, and his study of the science of architecture produced theories and practices which have endured. (more…)

Julius Caesar & the Caesars

Julius / ancienthistory.about.com

Julius / ancienthistory.about.com

Gaius Julius Caesar was a successful general and apparently reluctant dictator. He was born into a patrician family around 100 BC and became Pontifex Maximus (a species of high priest) as part of a deal he had fixed up with Pompey (q.v.) and Crassus (the multi-millionaire general). It might have been the Mafia and ‘Chicago BC.

They called this the ‘First Triumvirate’. As consul Gaius Julius obtained the provinces of Illyricum, Cisalpine and Transalpine Gaul. Never anything else but a fine general, he conquered Gaul (modern Germany and France), crossed the Rhine, inspired constant loyalty in his troops, and even made to expeditions to heathen, dangerous, unpredictable Britain. (more…)

By | 2012-05-25T13:34:36+00:00 May 25th, 2012|History of Rome, History of the Cinema|0 Comments

The Roman Civil Wars

These internal conflicts that tortured the last century of the Roman Republic lasted from 88 BC to 28 AD and led directly (some would say inevitably) to the institution of of unchallengable authority in one man, or if not in one, in a Triuvirate.

Political life in Rome had been unstable from the period of Sulla’s dictatorship, and the Catiline Conspiracy (64, 63 BC). Then two really important names emerged: Julius Caesar and Pompey (q.v.). At first these two difficult, overpoweringly ambitious men had formed an alliance. Then Caesar defeated the armies of Pompey on the battlefields of Spain in 49, at Ilerda. One year later he smashed Pompey himself at Pharsalus, going on to win further victories in Asia and Africa. (more…)

By | 2012-05-24T11:01:35+00:00 May 24th, 2012|History of Rome|0 Comments

Caesar Augustus

Octavian, adopted son of Julius Caesar / blog.iese.edu

Octavian, adopted son of Julius Caesar / blog.iese.edu

Many rulers of Rome have names so obscure the average student is ignorant of them. On the other hand names like Julius Caesar, Hadrian, Tiberius, Caligula and especially that of the first Emperor, Augustus Caesar, have rung down the centuries like so many turbulent bells.

Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus was born sixty-three years before the birth of Christ, and died fourteen years after the Crucifixion. (more…)

By | 2011-11-14T18:49:26+00:00 November 14th, 2011|History of Rome, World History|2 Comments
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