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Some questions about the Roman Empire...

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by todd s, Sep 5, 2005.

  1. todd s

    todd s Well-Known Member

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    Just curious about a few things regarding the Roman Empire...

    -When did the Roman Empire begin & end?

    -I know they conquered the Greeks and adapted their pantheon of gods. So what did they worship before that?

    -How did the Romans go from believing in the pantheon of Gods. To adopting and becoming the leadership of the religion for whom they persecuted...including killing its creater?

    -What is the story with the Eastern & Western Empire?

    -How many structures from Ancient Rome are still around?


    Thanks!!

    ps-Any other tidbits of info you want to add...please do.
     
  2. David Williams

    David Williams Well-Known Member

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    I can't really speak authoritatively, since my knowledge of mythology is more a hobby (an expensive one, no less [​IMG]), but generally speaking the Romans believed in household gods (Penates) and protective spirits (Lares for the home, Numina in general). I dug up one of my old study books from school:

    "As a rule, Romans were not mythmakers and the myths they had were usually imported. The Roman gods were utilitarian, like the practical and unimaginative Romans themselves. These gods were expected to serve and protect men, and when they failed to be useful their worship was curtailed. This does not mean Romans lacked religious sentiment. They had a pantheistic sense of the divinities present in nature. But their deepest religious feelings centered on family and state. When the Romans adopted the Greek gods from the third century B.C. on, these deities were simplified to conform to the Roman religion. Mars was the chief god of the imperial age, more honored than Jupiter, since he aided and symbolized the Roman conquests."

    You can read a pretty comprehensive entry on the Wikipedia.
     
  3. Grant B

    Grant B Well-Known Member

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    Sort of like Virginia and West Virginia but with not as many Romans.
     
  4. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Well-Known Member

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    Doing a research project? [​IMG]

    OK, you [like most non-classicists] will be starting out with some knowledge of the Romans and plenty of misconceptions. For instance: it's not fair to say that the Romans conquered the Greeks and then adopted their gods. The Romans adopted every religion and every set of gods they came across [including even Judaism!] and, in order to keep track of them all, they assigned the names of their own gods which were most similar to the foreign gods. The Greeks did the same kind of thing with the names, but the Romans are the only people ever to have a specific ritual in which they promised the gods of whatever people they were at war with that if they [the Gods] would only switch sides and no longer protect their former worshippers, the Romans would give them much better worship and more sacrifices than they had ever had before.

    The number of Roman constructions still "around" is unknown, and unknowable, because many of them have been incorporated gradually into newer structures. In general, Roman building was very sturdy -- they invented concrete, and their bridges and aqueducts are still in use. In fact, one of the major contributors to the Israeli victory in the 1948 war was the Roman road through the Sinai which archaeologist Yehudi Aharoni found for their army to march on.

    The "Roman Empire" is a fluid term. The Roman Republic first began to rise to supremacy among the Mediterranean powers at the end of the First Punic War, 241 BC; a series of dictorships in the 1st century BC culminated with the assasination of Caius Iulius Caesar in 44 BC, an event followed by a years of bloody civil war; Octavianus, the great Caesar's heir, finally emerged triumphant at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC and was given the unique name or title of "Augustus" by the Senate, and began to reign as Princeps at that time, which marks what one would call the formal opening of the Imperial period.
    The final end of the Empire in the West may be dated with precision to 24 August 410 AD, when the City was sacked by Alaric the Goth, albeit a rump Imperial court, appointed from Constantinople, lingered at Ravenna for decades. Similarly, the Eastern Empire ended for good on Tuesday, 29 May 1453, when the Ottoman Turks under Mehmet II entered Constantinople. The last Emperor's niece married the Duke of Muscovy, who from that time on began to style himself "Caesar", or in his rude tongue "Tsar".

    When Constantine gained his victory over Maxentius at the battle of Milvian Bridge on 28 October 312 AD, he became undisputed ruler of the Empire. Realising that administering a territory stretching from Morocco in the West, to Scotland in the North, to Russia in the East was a real problem, he decided to reorganise the whole thing. He set up a new capitol, Nova Roma, at the site of a fishing village on the Dardanelles called Byzantium, although later generations mostly called it Constantinople, the City of Constantine. He then divided the Empire into two halves, according to the geographic regions where the common languages were Latin and Greek, and appointed a deputy emperor to govern the Latin half from Rome.
    At the same time, as a courtesy to his Christian mother, he legalised Christianity -- he always claimed that he had recieved Divine assistance at Milvian Bridge, but which God had helped him varied according to who was listening -- and, since doctrinal disagreements among Christians were leading to violence in the streets, he told the Christian bishops that they needed to get together and figure out what their teachings actually were. This resulted in the Oecumenical Council of Nicaea. From the First Century AD, the bishop of Rome had commanded a place of special authority among Christian teachers as the "successor of Peter the chief of the Apostles", and in the decadent period of the Empire this primacy [as it was called] became more pronounced. At the time of the Sack in 410, the Bishop of Rome was basically the only authority left in the City, and the people turned to him for political as well as spiritual guidance, which marks the beginning of the Papacy as we know it -- an event well symbolised by the removal, at that time, of the doors of the Roman Senate to the cathedral church of Rome, the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The doors are there to this day, the oldest continuously used doors in the world, dating back about 2250 years [along with the doors of the Temple of Romulus]. In fact the name of the Senate building itself, the Roman Curia, became transferred to the Pope's government, which retains it to this day.

    Does that tell you what you want to know?
     
  5. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Well-Known Member

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    For completeness, I should add that the Western Empire was revived at Christmas, AD 800, under Charles King of the Franks [Charlemagne/Carolus Magnus/Karl der Grosser], persisted under the style of the Holy Roman Empire as the major political organising body in Europe and especially German Europe for a thousand and five years, and was dissolved after Napoleon's victory at Austerlitz [5 Dec 1805] and replaced by the Empire of Austria [later the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy, comprising the Empire of Austira and Kingdom of Hungary], which perished with the Treaty of the Trianon in 1920.
     
  6. David Williams

    David Williams Well-Known Member

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    Two very excellent points! It sparked a memory from a book I read on Celtic Mythology (Heroes of the Dawn). The Romans also picked up more than a few Celtic gods (among others) during their World Tour through Gaul and Britain, along with area-specific protective/fertility deities like Vosegus. Sequana, Sabrina, etc. Remember the Romans were very big on what deities could do for them.
     
  7. Yee-Ming

    Yee-Ming Well-Known Member

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    Pet peeve: whenever people refer to Julius Caesar as "Emperor" -- he never was, he was "merely" Dictator.

    Perhaps Latin speakers could clarify something: as I understand it, Latin does not have "soft" "Cs", only hard, so wouldn't "Caesar" be properly pronounced as "Kaiser", like the German, rather than "see-zer"?
     
  8. Scott Merryfield

    Supporter

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    What would a discussion of the Roman Empire be without a little excerpt from Monty Python's Life of Brian? [​IMG]

     
  9. Kirk Gunn

    Kirk Gunn Well-Known Member

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    Great - now you propose throwing the entire food-service-industry into a tailspin !


    I was always under the impression Latin was only written and not spoken.
     
  10. todd s

    todd s Well-Known Member

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    No report. Just curious. Thanks for the info.


    ps-All this talk makes me want to watch the original Trek episode "Bread & Circuses". Where the Roman Empire never fell. [​IMG]
     
  11. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Well-Known Member

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    Of course Latin is a spoken language! It was spoken 500 years and more before Christ, when there were several other Latin dialects in addition to that of Rome, and it is spoken today, and it has never ceased to echo in the ears of mankind!

    There are, as it happens, two systems of pronouncing Latin. The ecclesiastical system, used by the Church, has seen a certain degree of drift in its pronunciation over the years, basically following the pronunciation of Italian [a degenerate colloquial form of Latin to begin with]. This system allows for a semi-soft "C", approximately similar to our English "ch", and some of its vowel combinations are not quite the same as the two independent vowels added together.
    Thew classical system used by scholars represents, as its name implies, an attempt to reconstruct from textual and other evidence, the pronunciation used by the Romans in the days of Augustus when their language and culture were in full flower. Its "C" is always pronounced as "K" because the Romans of old made no distinction between them: in fact, the only two words they habitually spelled with "K" are two we always spell with "C", namely "Carthage" and "calendar". In the classical systems a combination of two vowels is always the simple sum of the two sounds -- "Caesar" is "k-ah-eh-s-ah-r" and does wind up very like its German derivative, not surprisingly in light of the history of the Holy Roman Empire.

    Incidentally, with regard to religion, the Romans believed that the true religions were those which had come down from the earliest times, while new beliefs they regarded as spurious additions onto the old, or "superstitions". They accepted Judaism as an ancient religion, even though its practices went against the Civil Cult of the Empire [which effectively used the gods and their worship to keep civil order], but when the Christians began to do the same thing the Romans went to the Synagogues of the Jews to inquire. The Rabbins told them, in effect, "we don't know these people -- they have some kind of new religion, but they aren't Jews", and so the Romans banned Christianity and subjected Christians to the more or less severe penalties [depending upon time and place] alotted to anyone who failed to give the State Cult its due reverence.
     
  12. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Well-Known Member

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    So Caesar handed Brutus a note that said, "Et tu, Brute" after he got stabbed? [​IMG] (Yes, I know, that's Greek but - never mind. [​IMG])

    Seriously, think about it. If Latin were "only written", what language would Caesar and Cicero and Cato would have spoken to one another in the Senate or on the street? Why would they speak one language and write in another? (Since Caesar and Cicero in particular are known for their written works.)

    There had to be an international spoken language, as well as a written one, for the educated classes of Europe during the Middle Ages. Italian, French, Spanish and Portugese all derived from the same parent language. They are called the "Romance" language because they derive from the language f the Romans. Surely these spoken and written languages could not have derived from a language that only existed as writing?

    No, Latin was spoken first and then written - like most human languages.

    There are disagreements over how Latin was pronounced, but it does seem likely that Caesar's name would have been pronounced "Ky-zer". But after all these years I think we can just accept that the English version of the name is "See-zer". It would just be too confusing and distracting to try to change that now, especially in a popular drama.

    The title "Emperor" derives from the word "Imperator" - understood to mean "one who is worthy to command Romans". Being hailed by his troops as Imperator on the field of a victory over an enemy was one of the requirements a general had to meet before he could petition the Senate for permission to return to Rome and march his army in the traditional victory parade. (Called a triumph if the enemy was foreign, an ovation if servile or domestic.)

    Caesar was certainly hailed as "Imperator" many times in his career. Although Octavian (later Augustus) established the Principate (as "First Citizen", from which "Prince" as a name for a ruler derives) and a form of "Imperator" later became attached to that position, it has been tradition to regard Gaius Julius Caesar the Dictator as the founder of the line of Emperors and at leaast honorary First Emperor. That is why "Caesar" which was his family nickname and the name by which he was best known to contemporaries became the commonly used title for all future emperors, rather than Octavian's honorific of "Augustus". (Although that was the official title of many future emperors.)

    So it is a quibble.

    "Dictator", by the way, was not a term of abuse in Roman times, and did not imply abuse of power illegal action. "Dictator" was a constitutional office as much as tribune, praetor, consul or censor. The Senate had the power to appoint a Dictator in cases of emergency or insurrection. Traditionally the Dictator served for a term of six months only (although there is some indication that this could be renewed.) The Dictator had essentially absolute power, might or might not govern through colleauges (elected or appointed) serving as consuls, and was immune from prosecution for any actions he might take, even after he left office.

    Rome very rarely resorted to Dictators, and almost never extended their terms. Up until Caesar's lifetime there hadn't been a dictator in at least 100 years. But after the Civil War between Lucius Cornellius Sulla and Gaius Marius and later his allies, Sulla was offered the dictatorship to rebuild a smashed Roman society. But Sulla initially refused the offer, insisting that the job ahead of him was too vast to accomplish in six months. When the Senate offered to renew his dictatorship every six months, he also refused, rightly thinking that they would never renew his powers once they saw how he planned to use them. Since Sulla had the only fully trained and disciplined military force in the area of Rome under his command, the Senate finally caved in and made Sulla dictator until such time as he decided to surrender the office. In doing so they either introduced a new Constitutional precedent or utterly destroyed the old Constitution. (The Roman Constitution, like the British, was unwritten and consisted of legal precendents, institutions and commonly accepted traditions.)

    Sulla remained dictator until he retired not long before his own death. Although Caesar was at pains not to emulate Sulla in some respects (no wholesale murder of his enemies, no property seized and auctioned to favorites) the fact is that Sulla provided Caesar with important precedents, having been the first Roman to dare march an army against Rome herself and the first to establish a dictatorship beyond the old six month term. Caesar was originally appointed dictator for a period of five years, only later having the title given for life. (Which turned out to be less than another five years, if I recall the timing correctly. [​IMG])

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  13. Jassen M. West

    Jassen M. West Well-Known Member

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    "Like Jeff the god of biscuits, and Simon the god of hair-do's" - Eddie Izzard
     
  14. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Well-Known Member

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    It's been a while, but I believe that's Latin ("Brute" being the vocative of "Brutus"). [​IMG]

    M.
     
  15. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Well-Known Member

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    Sorry, that's Latin, but he is reported to have said whatever he said ("You, too, my son" or "You, too, my child") in Greek. Shakespeare rendered it in Latin. The words may have been a quotation from a play or poem they both knew. (As was the line, "Let the dice fly high" - which is one version of what he said, also in Greek, at the Rubicon. That seems more likely a thing to have come from Caesar, a lifelong gambler, than the more fatalistic "The die is cast.")

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  16. Holadem

    Holadem Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG]

    --
    H
     
  17. Grant B

    Grant B Well-Known Member

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    I have read that Greek not Latin was the universal language in the roman empire.

    Concerning the East / West Divison; mostly I have heard/read that it was done because the empire grew so large ....communication could take up to 9 months which is not very good when trying to govern. By spliting it up, they split that time in half. The Western empire disappeared early on but the Eastern half also called the Byzantine Empire lasted another 1000 years.
    The city Byzantine became Constantinople and then Istanbul after the Ottoman Turks captured it.

    The Romans were great for Conquering a country and then instead of destroying it, they turned it into an allie and incorporated many parts of it's culture into it's own. One pecular aspect was the transition from Republic to dictorship, the change was never codifide so technically it was still a Republic but not really.

    Byzantine Empire Fun Facts: The ruler Constantine ruled for almost 6 months after he died and the empire hummed along without a problem.
     
  18. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Well-Known Member

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    In the First Century AD educated people throughout the Roman Empire spoke Greek, but it was the common language of trade and communication only to the south and east of Rome, in Sicily, the provinces of South Italy known as Magna Graecia [Greater Greece], and the territories which had been part of the Alexandrine Conquest [everything from Egypt to Afghanistan, basically].
    By the 4th century the use of Greek in the West had largely died out, and in fact the revival of Greek learning had to wait until the sack of Constantinople when refugees fleeing West met Europeans with printing presses. The result is what we call the Rennaisance.
    Incidentally, since the Ottomans also blocked off the old trade routes to the East for spices and silks [the Roman Emperors are reported to have sent ambassadors to the court of Han China], the nations on the western edge of Europe had an incentive to try and find a way around the land mass of Africa to Asia. Then, of course, some Italian goof named Colon, on the basis of Irish and Icelandic manuscripts he conveniently forgot to tell anyone about, began to claim that he could reach Asia by sailing West because it was only half as far away as the geographers said it was. People ridiculed him because his calculations made the earth into a spindle when the Greeks had proven it was a sphere, but he found something and refused to admit it was not the Indies...
     
  19. Greg Morse

    Greg Morse Well-Known Member

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    Constantinople didn't officially become Instanbul until 1930. The Ottomans called it Instanbul, but officially it's name was Konstantiniyye until it was renamed by the Republic of Turkey.
     
  20. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Well-Known Member

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    I'll add that maybe 98% of original roman paved roads are still in use today. They just have been repaved several times in the last few millenia.

    And according to a History Channel program on Roman medicine, they invented catarac surgery, the "traction" bed, brain surgery, permenantly implanted false teeth (iron, gold, silver, ivory, and ceramic), antiseptics, anesthesia, hinged artifiical limbs, hospitals with seperate wards, and massage girls. [​IMG]

    Although personally I'd take modern eye surgery anyday.
     

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