Archive for the ‘Rome’ Category

Final Exam: Ancient Rome

Marcus AurelisI had my final for my Ancient Rome class this past Thursday.  Being an idiot, I didn’t bother to login to the classroom until the day it was due, only to discover that I needed a proctor.  Hmmmm, this sounds strangly familiar.  In may do me some good in the future to read the syllabus a little more carefully.  But I probably won’t.  Anyway, after scrambling Sunday evening and Monday morning, I was able to secure the good graces of my professor and my stand-by proctor and was allowed until this past Thursday to take the final.  Here it is, complete with grade and feedback.

Question 1 (Worth 50 points)

In 200-300 words discuss how Augustus secured his hold over the institutions of Rome and established one man rule of the vast Roman Empire. Be sure to address how he neutralized the senate, gained control of the army, and promoted the arts and religion as allies in his quest for total control.

ESSAY SUBMISSIONThe Senate was already weakening by the time Augustus came to power. Civil wars had sapped its political strength, though it still retained a great deal of prestige. Augustus realized that the appearance of a functional Senate was critical in keeping law and order and in legitimizing his power in the eyes of the people and so instituted policies that gave this impression, while maintaining its actual political impotence, subject to his control. The Senate was stripped of its power in foreign affairs, military policy and financial duties. He also added more regulation regarding who could be a senator, creating an order of property qualified members and their sons, including reducing the number of Senators to 600. Other symbolic measures were to forbid the wearing of the laticlave by the sons of knights, as this was to be reserved for Senators and their sons. These measures succeeded in keeping the Senate prestigious, but not politically strong enough to challenge the emperor.Augustus realized that to retain control of the Empire, he had to retain control of the army. Having distinguished himself on the battlefield in the days of the Second Triumvirate he had the bonus of being already revered by most in the army. Add to this that all soldiers swore the sacramentum to him alone and that he chose the legions’ legates and the provincial governors, he all but guaranteed himself the loyalty of the army. The authority he exercised made him the over-general, if you will, all battles being fought for him and in his name, thus all victories were his. In addition he made provision for his veterans by way of a pension.

Augustus also saw the value in religion to advance his quest for power. Though himself religious, and in fact a restorer of many of the traditional religious rites, he was not opposed to exploiting it for political gain. To at once restore the priesthoods and elevate himself, he took on the titles of all the notable ones. He was also not above associating his reforms with their similar religious counterpart. In all this, he paved the way for the imperial cult. He claimed to be the son of a deity, his adoptive father Julius Caesar had been deified, and building on Hellenistic influences only helped to proliferate the concept of the imperial cult.


He also rebuilt much of Rome, always gave command of large armies to relatives, maintained proconsular powers in all of the provinces that contained legions.

Points earned on this question: 48

Question 2 (Worth 50 points)Edward Gibbon believed that the Roman Empire reached its zenith under the Antonine Emperors. In 200-300 words express your opinion concerning the Antonines and Gibbon’s theory. Cite specific examples of successes and failures. Be sure to include the following elements: foreign and miliatry policy, the economy, the arts and domestic political policy.

ESSAY SUBMISSIONEdward Gibbon is probably correct in his assessment of the Antonine Empire being the height of Rome. The Five Good Emperors’ rule was characterized, mostly, by peace and economic prosperity. Upon Commodus’ ascension to Emperor, a perceptible downward slope is evident.Under the Antonines, most provinces were prosperous economically. Agriculture had always been Rome’s greatest source of wealth, and still was under the Antonines, but the areas of industry and commerce also flourished. Mines and quarries were springing up all throughout the Empire. Manufacturing was also developing. Things like textiles, furniture, and glassware, among others began to be produced in relatively larger quantities. They were nothing on the order of the modern world, but beginning to grow. Commerce also expanded as trade routes to the east and Africa complemented those already extensively in place within the Empire.

The army at the time of the Antonines was a mostly defensive army. Its job was to protect the Empire from outside invasion. As such, it was often numerically smaller than at other times. This was partially offset by the high standards of training required and also by the use of forts, walls, and other defensive structures. There were in fact barbarians within the frontiers of the Empire, but these were to be integrated into the citizenry and protected thusly. Those barbarians outside the frontier were the enemy and must be kept at bay. Throughout the Antonine Empire this goal was attained. The threat of force by the Roman legions was as much an asset to defense, and peace, as the legions themselves were.

The Antonine Emperors saw themselves, for the most part, as the divinely guardians of Rome. They saw as their duty to protect and guide Rome. As such, they were absolutely confident that they alone were the ones to be in control. The Senate remained, but was more or less an administrative body and than a legislative one. The Emperor was in supreme control.


The great gift of the Antonines was that they solved the question of succession by adopting talented heirs. This avoided the curse of civil war and allowed the empire to prosper in peace.

Points earned on this question: 45

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CincinnatusThis was question asked by my professor, not a reader.  A reader has proposed a question and I do intend to answer it soon, so stay tuned for that.  In the meantime here is the answer to the above question, which was one of my assignments.

To me the greatest Roman was Cincinnatus. Not only for what he did for Rome, but for being the inspiration and role model of a great leader that would follow over 2000 years later.

In the very early days of the Republic, Cincinnatus had served as consul, but was really just a farmer at heart. He was known for his simplicity and virute and when crisis befell Rome, the Aequi and Volscians were threatening the city, the Senate pleaded with him to accept their appointment of him as dictator to save the city. Knowing this would mean the sacrifice of his farm and the possibility of starvation for his family, he answered duty’s call. The invaders were repelled and order restored.

With legally obtained dictatorial powers, he could have relatively easily refused to relinquish them. But being the quintessential virtuous Roman, he willingly gave up power and returned to his humble farm.

Similarly, in the late 18th century, George Washington would be the unanimous choice for President of the newly created United States. Many wanted to make him the king, but he refused such a title or its powers. He reluctantly left his farm at Mt. Vernon to do what he felt was his duty to lead the country through its crucial formative years. After two terms as President, there were no limits then, he more than willingly laid aside the mantle of power to return to his beloved Mt. Vernon. Cincinnattus was greatly admired by Washington and provided the model for a virtuous Republican leader 2000 years in the future.

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Ancient Rome: An Exam

Caesar AugustusAs you may have noticed, my current class on Ancient Rome has not been a goldmine of postable material.  I don’t have a lot of writing assignments, just a multiple choice weekly quiz.  That wouldn’t make for very compelling blogging.  However, I did have my mid-term last week, which consisted of four essay questions.  I present those to you now.

 But before I do, a funny, or at least mildly amusing, story about the exam.  I have until the end of each Sunday to finish my quizes and exams for the week.  I’ve found the texts for this class to be pretty dry and less than engaging, so I rarely complete the readings for each week.  All the quizes are open book and/or note, so on the Sunday the test is due to be finished, I’ll look at the questions and then skim the book and the internet for the answer.  I’ve gotten all B’s so far in this manner.  Well, Sunday I logged in and clicked on the exam link only to discover that this was the week of the mid-term.  Instead of about 25 multiple choice questions, there were four essay questions, each requiring an answer 300 to 500 words in length.  Long story short, the test took me a lot longer than I had expected as I had to cram some major research into a very short period of time.  A couple of the questions were pretty easy, as they dealt with one specific event.  Others called for me to discuss the developement of things over time, a much more difficult thing to research in the little time I had.  When I finished, I wasn’t too confident.  I didn’t think I’d completely bombed it, but wasn’t sure if I had pulled off the B which is crucial since my work will only pay for my classes if I finish with at least a B.  I got my results today.  I got a 94 out of 100.  That’s an A in case you didn’t know. This is not going to be good for my study habits.  Anyway, here’s the exam, my answers, and the professors responses.

Question 1 (Worth 25 points)

Discuss the development of Roman religious and family values and how they were impacted by the introduction of Greek culture and philosophy into Roman society after 200 BC.

ESSAY SUBMISSION:  Family and religious life was very important to the Roman. Marriage was primarily an institution which had as its purpose the continuing of the family line, the passing on of moral characteristics and the honoring of the ancestors. The family was ruled by the paterfamilias, the oldest living male of the family, who headed the household and had absolute authority of everyone in it, including that of life and death. The household would include the paterfamilias’ sons and their wives and children. The sons of the paterfamilias’ sons would marry, but it was rarely for love. Marriages were typically arranged affairs and a loving relationship was believed best to be cultivated over time afterward. The wife was subordinate to the husband. The husband had control over his own family only, not all members of the household, which was the right reserved for the paterfamilias. Divorce, adultery and other practices that damaged the family were looked down upon, as was infertility. However, as Helleniztion of the culture increased, the family unit began to deteriorate. Divorce became more acceptable and marriages without children became increasingly more common and acceptable.In addition to the worship of ancestors in the home, Roman religion was varied. In the early days of the Republic it owed much of its tradition to Etruscan mythology. The gods of this mythology were not personified like those of the Greeks and there worship involved many ceremonies and sacrifices. After the conquest of Greece, as Rome became more Hellenized, the Greek gods began to be integrated into Roman religion, not in a direct sense, but in syncretization to Roman gods. For example, the Roman ruler of the gods Jupiter is associated with the Greek ruler of gods, Zeus.


Good answer.

Points earned on this question: 25

Question 2 (Worth 25 points)Describe and discuss the factors that lead to the Roman Revolution of 133-31 BC.

ESSAY SUBMISSION:  The Roman Revolution of 133-31 BC was the beginning of the end for the Republic. Economic problems had been plaguing the Republic for years due to the almost constant war-making and conquests that had taken place in prior centuries. The Republics borders were burgeoning, but at what cost? At that time peasants had made up most of the foot soldiers in the Roman army. As the wars continued to rage and they were kept from their homes, those homes and farms would often fall into the hands of others, usually the wealthy. Upon returning from battle, they would find themselves landless and without work. The economic landscape was becoming increasingly unbalanced and without a thrifty peasantry from which to form an army, the Republic was in danger of weakening what had been one of its greatest strengths, the army. Reforms were needed.In 133 Tiberius Gracchus was elected tribune and though he did not fit the profile of a revolutionary, having come from a very wealthy and prestigious family, he would set in motion reforms that would foster jubilation among the poorer classes, and anger among the wealthy. He proposed land reforms that would put a cap on the amount of public land a person or family could possess. The superfluous land would than be parceled and distributed to the lower classes. Since many Senators were the ones who now possessed these disputed public lands, Tiberius knew that his measure would have difficulty getting voted through the Senate, so he took it directly to the people. The Senate tried to get Marcus Octavius, a fellow tribune with Tiberius, to block its passage, but Tiberius had him deposed. Tiberius then angered the Senate even more when he ran for the tribune for a second consecutive time, breaking the annual tradition. This act coupled with the fact that the three-man commission to administer the land reforms consisted of Tiberius, his brother Gaius, and his father-in-law lead the Senate to call a meeting to discuss Tiberius’ attempt for a second tribune run. At the meeting factions for and against Tiberius broke into a fist fight. Soon the anti-Tiberius faction, lead by Publius Scipio Nasica, marched to where Tiberius was and killed him and 300 of his followers.


The death of the Gracchi introduced violence into the Roman political process that would eventually lead to the fall of the Republic.

Points earned on this question: 22

Question 3 (Worth 25 points)Discuss the causes, conduct and results of the Second Punic War.

ESSAY SUBMISSION:  The Second Punic War officially began with Hannibal’s sacking of the city of Saguntum. The city was far south of what even Rome declared as its northern most border, in Hispania, but was under the protection of Rome. This was probably due to the fact that the area was rich in silver. Rome had sent an envoy to Hannibal warning him to leave the city alone. Hannibal was insulted by this Roman meddling in his sphere of influence. Add to this that the Romans and Carthaginians had been at war no more than twenty-three years before this and that, according to legend, Hannibal had pledged to his farther, Hamilcar Barca, an undying hatred for Rome and the tensions were clearly high between the two sides. Hannibal attacked Saguntum in 218, but it wasn’t until about a year later that Rome finally responded demanding Hannibal’s surrender. He refused.His first move was the now famous trek across the Alps, with his war elephants, to invade Italy on their doorstep in hopes of fracturing Rome’s allies away from her. Hannibal lost many of his men and most of his elephants on the journey, but still won tremendous victories in Italy, most notably at Cannae where his army killed over 50,000 Romans while losing only 6,000 of his own men. Despite this and other major victories, Hannibal lacked the men and equipment to force surrender from Rome itself and the war dragged on for sixteen years.While doing well in Italy, Carthage was having more difficulty in other theaters. Rome had expanded the war into Hispania which prevented Hasdrubal Barca, Hannibal’s brother, from sending reinforcements. Eventually, Hasdrubal was forced to retreat into Italy and was finally killed in battle. Fighting also went on in Sicily where the Romans held sway with relative little difficulty.

After forcing Hasdrubal out of Hispania, a Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio, better known as Scipio Africanus, took the fight to Carthage. He invaded the African coast which forced Hannibal, still unable to decisively defeat Rome or splinter her allies, to return home. Scipio and Hannibal faced off in the Battle of Zama where Hannibal was defeated.

The war ended Carthage as a significant threat to Rome. It had military limits imposed on it and when it did try to raise an army fifty years later to defend itself from Numidian encroachments on its land, Rome once again crushed it. The results were quite the opposite for the victor. Rome would become the undisputed ruler of the Mediterranean and would continue to grow in power.


Good answer.

Points earned on this question: 25

Question 4 (Worth 25 points)Discuss the development of the Roman Army from its early days as a citizen militia to the professional armies of the 1st century BC.

ESSAY SUBMISSION:  The Roman army at its peak was one of the most powerful military forces the world has ever known. Though it was always a cornerstone of the Roman way of life and political culture, it was not static in its makeup or constitution. It changed with the times, just as Rome itself underwent changes. Before the Republic the legio were conscripted and the Greek phalanx was the preferred method of battle. From the earliest days of the Republic, the army was made up only of Roman citizens who could afford to purchase their own equipment, much like the hoplites of Greece. Servius Tullius instituted a census in the 5th Century and the people of Rome were divided into classes during that time period, according to wealth, and it stands to reason that the army was divided into corresponding “classes” also. The wealthiest had the best equipment, armor, shields, spears, and so forth, while the lowest class might be armed with only a sling. Serving was an honor and a duty and the wealthiest often served the most as they had the most to lose if Rome were to be conquered. Enlistments were usually shorter than they would be in the late Republic. An army would be raised for a campaign, and then released to go back home for the growing season. As the wars of the Republic began to expand and the borders began to widen, longer enlistments were required and men would sometimes be in service for twenty years or more.At the end of the second century BC, Gaius Marius would institute reforms that would transform the army into a large standing professional army. There were many poor and unemployed citizens who likely had served in the army before, only to return home from a years long campaign to find their land had been usurped. The Marian reforms looked to make this group into a standing professional army whose equipment could be provided by the state. In addition, all Italian provinces were granted full citizenship, which created a larger pool of men from which to create a large standing army, as well as a larger tax base to help finance it.


As a result of the Marian reforms the new legionaries looked to their commanders for loot and retirement benefits and their loyalty was to the commander not to the state.

Points earned on this question: 22

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