Book 7; Thought 22

Roman solid brass galloping horse

The universal nature out of the universal substance, as if it were wax, now molds a horse, and when it has broken this up, it uses the material for a tree, then for a man, then for something else; and each of these things subsists for a very short time. But it is no hardship for the vessel to be broken up, just as there was none in its being fastened together.

Bastille’s “Pompeii”: A Modern Song About An Ancient Place

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Thank you for joining us today, whether it is your first time or you’ve been with us from the start. We try our best to bring you as many forms of media about Ancient Rome as possible.

Today we bring back the music as we share a modern take on an ancient location as we share Bastille’s Pompeii!

And if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like you’ve been here before?

Pompeii is a song by English indie rock band Bastille. It is the 4th single from their debut studio album Bad Blood and the first to get major airplay and promotion.

The video follows Bastille frontman Dan Smith, as he wanders about an empty-looking Los Angeles, before realizing the few people around all have unnatural vacant black eyes. He steals a car and drives into the desert to escape them, but the car breaks down and he soon realizes he’s been infected as well.

He climbs a mountain and looks out at the view, before turning around to reveal his own eyes meanwhile have turned black as well. The story is an allegory for the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Pompeii.

The official music video was filmed in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, California. The video was first released onto YouTube on 20 January 2013.

Lyrically, the song is about the Roman town of the same name, which met its fate with the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. It was nominated for British Single of the Year at the 2014 BRIT Awards.

We hope you enjoyed today’s musical interlude. Maybe you’ll even have a Pompeii experience of your own, real or imagined.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!


Rome: The Punic Wars – The Conclusion of the Second Punic War

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Whether it was fighting  in a civil war or fighting to expand/defend the Kingdom, Republic, or Empire, Rome rarely rested on its laurels. Previously we’ve brought you Rome: The Punic Wars – The First Punic WarRome: The Punic Wars – The Second Punic War Begins, and Rome: The Punic Wars – The Second Punic War Rages On.

Thanks to Extra Credits, today the war rages on as we conclude our viewing of The Second Punic War!

Carthaginian war elephants engage Roman infantry at the Battle of Zama (202 BC).

In Hispania, a young Roman commander, Publius Cornelius Scipio (later to be given the agnomen Africanus because of his feats during this war), eventually defeated the larger but divided Carthaginian forces under Hasdrubal and 2 other Carthaginian generals. Abandoning Hispania, Hasdrubal moved to bring his mercenary army into Italy to reinforce Hannibal, but never made it and was defeated by Roman forces near the Alps.

Carthage lost Hispania forever, and Rome firmly established her power there over large areas. Rome imposed a war indemnity of 10,000 talents (300 tonnes/660,000 pounds), limited the Carthaginian navy to 10 ships (to ward off pirates), and forbade Carthage from raising an army without Roman permission.

The Second Punic War was brought to a conclusion on the plains of Zama.

The Numidians took the opportunity to capture and plunder Carthaginian territory. Half a century later, when Carthage raised an army to defend itself from these incursions, Rome destroyed her in the Third Punic War (149–146 BC).

By her victory, Rome had taken a key step towards what ultimately became her domination of the Mediterranean world. But that wouldn’t be it for Rome.

Thanks for joining our adventure today. Be sure to stop by again soon to check out The Third Punic War, and other adventures we may have.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Mithraeum of the Circus Maximus: Paying Homage to an Ancient & Mysterious Cult

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Religion and politics are touchy subjects these days, but in Ancient Rome they were whole-heartedly part of daily life. One did not have to walk on eggshells about a particular topic, only speak with facts and conviction in an open debate.

Just like now, however, some things were kept secret. For those considered special enough there were secret societies and cults not open to the general citizenry of Rome.

Get your spelunking hats on because today we’re headed underground in Rome as we explore the Mithraeum of the Circus Maximus!

Before we begin our journey, let’s understand what exactly a Mithraeum was. A Mithraeum (Latin pl. Mithraea) is a Mithraic temple, erected in classical antiquity by the worshippers of Mithras, designed to hold up to 40 people at a time.

Mithraeum in the lowest floor in the Basilica of San Clemente.

The Mithraeum was either an adapted natural cave or cavern, or a building imitating a cave. When possible, the Mithraeum was constructed within or below an existing building, such as the Mithraeum found beneath Basilica of San Clemente in Rome.

While a majority of Mithraea are underground, some feature open holes in the ceiling to allow some light in, perhaps to relate to the connection of the universe and the passing of time. The site of a Mithraeum may also be identified by its singular entrance or vestibule, which stands opposite from an apse-shaped wall in which a pedestal altar at the back stood, often in a recess.

Also its “cave”, called the Spelaeum or Spelunca, with raised benches along the side walls for the ritual meal. Many Mithraea that follow this basic plan are scattered over much of the former territory of the Imperium Rōmānum (Roman Empire), particularly where the Legiones Romanae (Roman Legions) were stationed along the frontiers (such as Britannia).

Romans vs Sassanid Persians

Though scholars debated its origins, it seems the Mithraic cult came to Rome in the 1st Century BC from Persia, brought back by Roman soldiers who had been fighting in the east. Although the Mithras worshipped in Rome is not identical to the Mithra of Persia, there are enough similarities to imply that they are somehow related.

The Mithraeum primarily functioned as an area for initiation, in which the soul descends and exits. The Mithraeum itself was arranged as an “image of the universe”.

It is noticed by some researchers that this movement, especially in the context of mithraic iconography, seems to stem from the neoplatonic concept that the “running” of the sun from solstice to solstice is a parallel for the movement of the soul through the universe, from pre-existence, into the body, and then beyond the physical body into an afterlife.

The Tauroctony, Mithras slaying the Cosmic Bull (Museo Nazionale, Roma).

The cult and religious sanctuaries were open only to initiates, and their rituals secret. The central imagery is of the god Mithras slaying a bull, a motif known as Tauribolium, found in most if not all Mithraea.

Most Mithraea can be dated between 100 BC and AD 300. Although several Mithraea have been discovered throughout the ancient holding of the Roman Empire, including sites in Londinium, and several in Germania, Gallia, and Pannonia, little is known about the actual religious practices of the movement’s followers.

The Circus Maximus was Rome’s largest venue for Ludi (Public Games) connected to Roman religious festivals. Ludi were sponsored by leading Romans or the Roman state for the benefit of the Roman people (Populus Romanus) and gods.

Model of the Circus Maximus in all its glory.

Even at the height of its development as a chariot-racing circuit, the Circus remained the most suitable space in Rome for religious processions on a grand scale, and was the most popular venue for large-scale venationes. With the advent of Christianity as the official religion of the Empire, Ludi gradually fell out of favor.

Banquet scene on the Fiano Romano Mithraic relief. At bottom are Cautes (l) and Cautopates (r).

Dating back to the 2nd Century AD, one of the largest secret Mithraic temples is in Rome hidden next to the famous Circus Maximus. The site features 5 parallel but separate chambers with a central sanctuary paved in white marble, with 2 niches for statues of Caute and Cautopates, and a place of honor which would have held a statue of Mithras.

Beside the Circus Maximus, an ex-pasta factory and current Rome Opera scenery storage facility sits atop the ruins of a sanctuary dedicated to the god Mithras. Discovered in 1931 as part of Rome’s fascist-era building projects, the small subterranean space was once dedicated to the mystery cult.

Who knows what lies beneath the streets of Rome?

Buried 25 feet beneath the modern city, the 2nd Century AD place of worship was adapted from a preexisting public building of the 1st Century AD. The rooms of the original structure were converted into the sacrificial and ritual areas where followers of the god Mithras would venerate their god, make sacrifices, and participate in a ritual meal of bread and wine.

The Mithraeum of the Circus is one of the many places in Rome that reveal the complex urban stratification of the city. The building was built on top of, filled in with silt from the Tiber and debris, and forgotten about until its rediscovery in the 19th Century.

It’s here waiting for you to make an appointment.

Today, the Mithraeum under the Circus Maximus is accessible by appointment only.

We hope you enjoyed today’s journey and look forward to having you back again for more. Please make sure to check extra posts on Facebook and Twitter.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Beck, Roger. “Ritual, Myth, Doctrine, and Initiation in the Mysteries of Mithras: New Evidence from a Cult Vessel”, The Journal of Roman Studies, vol. 90. 2000.

Bowersock, G.; Green, P.; Grabar, O. Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World. Harvard University Press, 1999.

The Mithraeum at Circus Maximus”. Atlas Obscura.

Mithraeum of the Circus Maximus”. Katie Parla.

Book 7; Thought 17

Is any man afraid of change? Why what can take place without change? What then is more pleasing or more suitable to the universal nature? And canst thou take a bath unless the wood undergoes a change? And canst thou be nourished, unless the food undergoes a change? And can anything else that is useful be accomplished without change? Dost thou not see then that for thyself also to change is just the same, and equally necessary for the universal nature?

La Grand-Place, Brussels

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Last week we were in Classical Anatolia (or modern Turkey) as we head to  to check out the Archaeological Site of Ani.

It’s been awhile, but today we’re traveling back into Belgium as we explore La Grand-Place!

Around a cobbled rectangular market square, La Grand-Place in Brussels, the earliest written reference to which dates back to the 12th Century, features buildings emblematic of municipal and ducal powers, and the old houses of corporations. An architectural jewel, it stands as an exceptional and highly successful example of an eclectic blending of architectural and artistic styles of Western culture, which illustrates the vitality of this important political and commercial center.

The Grand-Place testifies in particular to the success of Brussels, mercantile city of Northern Europe that, at the height of its prosperity, rose from the terrible bombardment inflicted by the troops of Louis XIV in 1695. Destroyed in 3 days, the heart of the medieval city underwent a rebuilding campaign conducted under the supervision of the City Magistrate, which was spectacular not only by the speed of its implementation, but also by its ornamental wealth and architectural coherence.

Today the Grand-Place remains the faithful reflection of the square destroyed by the French artillery. It testifies to the symbolic intentions of the power and pride of the Brussels bourgeois who chose to restore their city to its former glory rather than rebuild in a contemporary style, a trend commonly observed elsewhere.

A pinnacle of Brabant Gothic, the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), accentuated by its bell tower, is the most famous landmark of the Grand-Place. The King’s House has been occupied for decades by the City Museum.

Each house has a name and specific attributes, heightened with gold, reminiscent of the status of its occupants. It is interesting to note that this is a rare example of a square without a church or any other place of worship, which emphasizes its mercantile and administrative nature.

How This Relates to Rome:

During Antiquity, the region now known as Brussels was already home to Roman occupation, as attested by archaeological evidence discovered near the center. The origin of the settlement that was to become Brussels lies in Saint Gaugericus‘ construction of a chapel on an island in the river Senne around AD 580.

Provincia Belgica within the Roman Empire (22 BC–5th Century).

The name Belgium is derived from Gallia Belgica, a Roman province in the northernmost part of Gaul that before Roman invasion in 100 BC, was inhabited by the Belgae, a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples.

Thanks for taking the tour with us today. We hope you’re inspired to take further adventures within the Roman Empire.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

History Channel’s Documentary: History of The Byzantine Empire

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Every now and again, it’s nice to just kick up your heels and watch something special. Give yourself a break.

Today we help make that happen, and you’ll learn something, as we present the History Channel documentary History of the Byzantine Empire!

Territorial development of the Byzantine Empire, AD 330–1453 (click image to view expansion).

This history of the Byzantine Empire covers the history of the Eastern Roman Empire from late antiquity until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 AD. Several events from the 4th to 6th Centuries mark the transitional period during which the Roman Empire’s east and west divided.

In AD 285, the Emperor Diocletian (r. 284–305) partitioned the Roman Empire‘s administration into eastern and western halves. Between AD 324 and 330, Constantine I (r. 306–337) transferred the main capital from Rome to Byzantium, later known as Constantinople (City of Constantine) and Nova Roma (New Rome).

Under Theodosius I (r. 379–395), Christianity became the Empire’s official state religion and others such as Roman polytheism were proscribed. And finally, under the reign of Heraclius (r. 610–641), the Empire’s military and administration were restructured and adopted Greek for official use instead of Latin.

Thus, although it continued the Roman state and maintained Roman state traditions, modern historians distinguish Byzantium from Ancient Rome insofar as it was oriented towards Greek rather than Latin culture, and characterized by Orthodox Christianity rather than Roman polytheism.

We hope you enjoyed today’s travel and look forward to having you join us again soon. Please be sure to check us out on Facebook and Twitter since we always have new things going on.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Aurelian Walls: Enclosing an Expanding Rome

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Whenever one thinks of in Rome, Italy, most will conjure up images of amazing architecture or events that took place during the Golden Age of Rome. That would be fair since basic utilities and mundane daily activities typically go without recognition.

That’s not going to be the case today as we explore some city walls while we take a closer look at the Aurelian Walls!

Interior view of the Aurelian Walls near Porta San Sebastiano.

The Aurelian Walls are a line of city walls built between AD 271 – 275 during the reign of the Roman Emperors Aurelian and Probus. The walls enclosed all the Seven Hills of Rome plus the Trastevere district.

The banks of the Tiber within the city limits appear to have been left unfortified, although they were fortified along the Campus Martius. The entire enclosed area comprised 3,500 acres and superseded the earlier Servian Wall built during the 4th Century BC under Roman King Servius Tullius.

Map of Ancient Rome with the Aurelian walls (red) and the Servian Walls (blue).

By the 3rd Century AD, the boundaries of Rome had grown far beyond the area enclosed by the old Servian Wall due to expanse of the Res Publica Romana (Roman Republic). Rome had remained unfortified during the subsequent centuries of expansion and consolidation due to lack of hostile threats against the city.

The citizens of Rome took great pride in knowing that Rome required no fortifications because of the stability brought by the Pax Romana and the protection of the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army). However, the need for updated defences became acute during the Crisis of the Third Century, when barbarian tribes flooded through the Limes Germanicus (Germanic Frontier) and the Roman Army struggled to stop them.

3rd Century AD Roman soldiers battling Gothic troops, as depicted on a contemporary Roman sarcophagus (c. 250 AD – National Museum, Rome).

In AD 270, the barbarian Juthungi and Vandals invaded northern Italy, inflicting a severe defeat on the Romans at Placentia (modern Piacenza) before eventually being driven back. Further trouble broke out in Rome itself in the summer of AD 271, when mint workers rose in rebellion causing 1,000 deaths in the fierce fighting that resulted.

Aurelian’s construction of the walls as an emergency measure was a reaction to the barbarian invasion of 270. The historian Aurelius Victor states explicitly that the project aimed to alleviate the city’s vulnerability.

Radiate of Emperor Aurelian.

It may also have been intended to send a political signal as a statement that Aurelian trusted that the people of Rome would remain loyal, as well as serving as a public declaration of the Emperor’s firm hold on power. The construction of the walls was by far the largest building project that had taken place in Rome for many decades, and their construction was a concrete statement of the continued strength of Rome.

Roman soldiers building Hadrian’s Wall.

The construction project was unusually left to the citizens themselves to complete as Aurelian could not afford to spare a single Legionarius (Legionary) for the project. The root of this unorthodox practice was due to the imminent barbarian threat coupled with the wavering strength of the military as a whole due to being subject to years of bloody civil war, famine, and the Plague of Cyprian.

Although the walls were built in only 5 years, Aurelian himself died before the completion of the project. Progress was accelerated, and money saved, by incorporating existing buildings into the structure.

These buildings included the Amphitheatrum Castrense, the Castra Praetoria, the Pyramid of Cestius, and even a section of the Aqua Claudia aqueduct near the Porta Maggiore. As much as one sixth of the walls is estimated to have been composed of pre-existing structures.

Sentry passage near Porta Metronia.

An area behind the walls was cleared to enable it to be reinforced quickly in an emergency. To aide in the reinforcement, sentry passages were also built

The actual effectiveness of the wall is disputable, given the relatively small size of the city’s garrison. The entire combined strength of the Praetorian Guard, Cohortes Urbanae (Urban Cohorts), and Vigiles Urbani (Watchmen of the City) of Rome was only about 25,000 men (which everyone knew this was far too few men to adequately defend the City).

However, the military intention of the wall was not to withstand prolonged siege warfare since it was not common for the barbarian armies to besiege cities. Instead, the wall was a deterrent against the hit-and-run raid tactics barbarian used against ill-defended targets.

The Mausoleum of Hadrian, usually known as Castel Sant’Angelo.

Parts of the wall were doubled in height by Maxentius, who also improved the watch-towers. In AD 401 under Honorius, the walls and the gates were improved, and the Tomb of Hadrian (located across the Tiber) was incorporated as a fortress in the city defenses.

The full circuit ran for 12 miles surrounding an area of 5.3 square miles. The walls were constructed in brick-faced concrete, 11 feet thick and 26 feet high, with a square tower every 100 Roman feet (97 feet).

A latrine (circled in red) built into the wall near the Porta Salaria.

In the 4th Century AD, remodeling doubled the height of the walls to 52 feet. By 500 AD, the circuit possessed 383 towers, 7,020 crenellations, 18 main gates, 5 postern gates, 116 latrines, and 2,066 large external windows.

The Aurelian Walls continued as a significant military defense for the city of Rome until 20 September 1870, when the Bersaglieri of the Kingdom of Italy breached the wall near the Porta Pia and captured Rome. The walls also defined the boundary of the city of Rome up until the 19th Century, with the built-up area being confined within the walled area.

The Aurelian Walls remain remarkably well-preserved today, largely the result of their constant use as Rome’s primary fortification until the 19th Century. The Museo delle Mura near the Porta San Sebastiano offers information on the walls’ construction and how the defenses operated.

Section of Aurelian wall between the Porta Ardeatina and Porta San Sebastiano.

The best-preserved sections of the walls are found from the Muro Torto (Villa Borghese) to Corso d’Italia to Castro Pretorio; from Porta San Giovanni to Porta Ardeatina; from Porta Ostiense to the Tiber; and around Porta San Pancrazio.

From the northernmost location (moving clockwise), a list of gates (porte) is as follows: Porta del Popolo (Porta Flaminia) – where the Via Flaminia begins; Porta Pinciana; Porta Salaria – where the Via Salaria begins; Porta Pia – where the new Via Nomentana begins, Porta Nomentana – where the old Via Nomentana began; Porta Praetoriana – the old entrance to Castra Praetoria, the camp of the Praetorian Guard; Porta Tiburtina – where the Via Tiburtina begins; Porta 

Section of wall near the Pyramid of Cestius.

Maggiore (Porta Praenestina) – here 3 aqueducts meet and the Via Praenestina begins; Porta San Giovanni – near the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano; Porta Asinaria – where the old Via Tuscolana began; Porta Metronia; Porta Latina – where the Via Latina begins; Porta San Sebastiano (Porta Appia) – where the Appian Way begins; Porta Ardeatina; Porta San Paolo (Porta Ostiense) – next to the Pyramid of Cestius, leading to Basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura, where the Via Ostiense begins.

From the southernmost location (moving clockwise), a list of gates in Trastevere is as follows: Porta Portuensis; Porta Aurelia Pancraziana; Porta Settimiana; and the Porta Aurelia-Sancti Petri.

We hope you enjoyed today’s wall climbing experience. Be sure to check us out for updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Aldrete, Gregory S. Daily Life In The Roman City: Rome, Pompeii, And Ostia, Greenwood Press, 2004. ISBN 0-313-33174-X.

Claridge, Amanda. Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide. Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-19-288003-9.

Southern, Pat. The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine, Routledge, 2001. ISBN 0-415-23943-5.

Aurelius Victor. De Caesaribus.

Mancini, Rossana. The Aurelian Walls of Rome: Atlas of a Masonry Schedule. Quasar, Rome, 2001. ISBN 88-7140-199-9.

Museum of the Walls official website

Rome: The Punic Wars – The Second Punic War Rages On

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Whether it was fighting  in a civil war or fighting to expand/defend the Kingdom, Republic, or Empire, Rome rarely rested on its laurels. Previously we’ve brought you Rome: The Punic Wars – The First Punic War and Rome: The Punic Wars – The Second Punic War Begins.

Thanks to Extra Credits, today the war rages on as we continue to view The Second Punic War!

Route of Hannibal’s invasion of Italy during Second Punic War.

While fighting Hannibal in Italy, Hispania, and Sicily, Rome simultaneously fought against Macedon in the First Macedonian War. Eventually, the war was taken to Africa, where Carthage was defeated at the Battle of Zama (201 BC) by Scipio Africanus.

The Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army) under Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus intentionally deprived Hannibal of open battle in Italy for the rest of the war, while making it difficult for Hannibal to forage for supplies. Nevertheless, Rome was also incapable of bringing the conflict in the Italian theatre to a decisive close.

Roman Legions during the Second Punic War.

Not only did the Legiones Romanae (Roman Legions) contend with Hannibal in Italy and with Hannibal’s brother Hasdrubal in Hispania, but Rome had embroiled itself in yet another foreign war, the first of its Macedonian wars against Carthage’s ally Philip V, at the same time.

We hope you enjoyed today’s encounter and look forward to having you join us again soon. Make sure to stop by again since we will be concluding the Second Punic War.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!