Category Archives: Roman Commanders

Marcus Fulvius Nobilior: Consul 189 BC

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Within history, there are those that make an impact that is so large that many volumes are written about his or her life. Then, there are those people who are still impactful yet little has been preserved over the course of time.

Today we uncover the life of one of those important people that little is known about as we explore the life of Marcus Fulvius Nobilior!

Marcus Fulvius Nobilior was a Roman General and a member of one of the most important Patrician families, the Fulvius gens. He started his political career as Curule Aedile in 195 BC.

Nobilior was grandson of Servius Fulvius Paetinus Nobilior (Consul in 255 BC), and was named for his father. He had 2 sons, both of whom obtained the Consulship: Marcus Fulvius Nobilior (in 159 BC) and Quintus Fulvius Nobilior (in 153 BC).


As Praetor (193 BC) he served with distinction in Hispania, and as Consul in 189 BC he completely broke the power of the Aetolian League. On his return to Rome, Nobilior celebrated a Triumphus remarkable for the magnificence of the spoils exhibited (of which full details are given by Livy).

On his Aetolian campaign, Nobilior was accompanied by the poet Ennius. Said poet made the capture of Ambracia, at which he was present, the subject of one of his plays.

For this Nobilior was bitterly attacked by Cato the Censor because he had compromised his dignity as a Roman General. In 179 BC, Nobilior was appointed Censor together with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus.

He restored the Temple of Hercules and the Muses in the Circus Flaminius, placed in it a list of Fasti drawn up by himself, and endeavored to make the Roman Calendar more generally known. He was a great enthusiast for Greek art and culture, and introduced many of its masterpieces into Rome, amongst them the picture of the Muses by Zeuxis from Ambracia.

We hope you enjoyed today’s journey and look forward to having you back again soon.  Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for special additions.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Macrobius. Saturnalia. 1.12.16

Marcus Fulvius Nobilior.

Richard Jackson King. Desiring Rome: Male Subjectivity and Reading Ovid’s Fasti. Ohio State University Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0-8142-1020-8.


Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If there’s something to do with Rome (City / Kingdom / Republic / Empire or otherwise) we are interested. People, places and events that impacted this history are also on our radar.

That is why today we journey through The Roman Empire – The Age of Augustus!

Augustus (full name in Latin: Imperātor Caesar Dīvī Fīlius Augustus) lived from 23 September 63 BC – 19 August 14 AD. He was the founder of the Roman Empire and its original Emperor, ruling from 27 BC until his death in AD 14.

He was born Gaius Octavius into an old and wealthy equestrian branch of the plebeian Octavii family. His maternal great-uncle Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC, and Octavius was named in Caesar’s will as his adopted son and heir, then known as Octavianus (Anglicized as Octavian).

The reign of Augustus initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana (The Roman Peace). The Roman world was largely free from large-scale conflict for more than two centuries, despite continuous wars of imperial expansion on the Empire’s frontiers and one year-long civil war over the imperial succession.

Augustus dramatically enlarged the Empire, annexing Egypt, Dalmatia, Pannonia, Noricum, and Raetia. He also expanded possessions in AfricaGermania, and completed the conquest of Hispania.

When all is said and done, Augustus was a man who made things happen. Rome was a city built of brick and dirt, but he left it one of marble!

We hope you enjoyed today’s journey and look forward to having you back again soon. If you haven’t done so already, please be sure to check us out on Facebook and Twitter for extra content.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!


Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If there’s something we love, it’s a good visual presentation about Roman history. Whether fictional or not, any television show or movie connecting us with Ancient Rome is a win.

That is why today we are taking a visual exploration of the Roman Republic!

The Res Publica Romana was the period of Ancient Roman civilization beginning with the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom, traditionally dated to 509 BC, and ending in 27 BC with the establishment of the Roman Empire. It was during this period that Rome’s control expanded from the city’s immediate surroundings to hegemony over the entire Mediterranean world.

During the initial 2 centuries of its existence, the Roman Republic expanded through a combination of conquest and alliance, from central Italy to the entire Italian peninsula. By the following century, it included North Africa, Spain, and what is now southern France.

Two centuries after that, towards the end of the 1st Century BC, it included the rest of modern France, Greece, and much of the eastern Mediterranean. By this time, internal tensions led to a series of civil wars, culminating with the assassination of Julius Caesar, which led to the transition from Republic to Empire.


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Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Constantine the Great and Christianity

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Of the reasons the Roman Empire endured as long as it did, there are 2 things that stand out. The Romans knew relied heavily upon tradition and history, but they were also able to adapt and incorporate new ideas or concepts into their lives.

The idea of tradition and incorporating something new into said tradition in a single moment can be shown with Roman Emperor Constantine the Great and Christianity.Constantine at York

While Emperor Constantine reigned (306–337 AD), Christianity began to transition to the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. Historians remain uncertain about Constantine’s reasons for favoring Christianity, but theologians and historians have argued about which form of Early Christianity he subscribed to.

There is no consensus among scholars as to whether he adopted his mother Helena‘s Christianity in his youth, or (as claimed by Eusebius of Caesarea) encouraged her to convert to the faith himself. Some scholars question the extent to which he should be considered a Christian Emperor.

“Constantine saw himself as an ‘Emperor of the Christian people’. If this made him a Christian is the subject of … debate.”, although he allegedly received a baptism shortly before his death.

Galerius_Edict_Sofia_PlaqueConstantine’s decision to cease the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire was a turning point for Early Christianity, sometimes referred to as the Triumph of the Church, the Peace of the Church or the Constantinian Shift. In AD 313, Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan decriminalizing Christian worship.

The Emperor became a great patron of the Church and set a precedent for the position of the Christian Emperor within the Church and the notion of orthodoxyChristendomecumenical councils and the state church of the Roman Empire declared in AD 380 by the Edict of Thessalonica. He is revered as a Saint and Aequalis Apostolis in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodox Church for his example as a “Christian monarch”.

The first recorded official persecution of Christians on behalf of the Roman Empire was in AD 64, when, as reported by the Roman historian Tacitus, Emperor Nero attempted to blame Christians for the Great Fire of Rome. According to Church tradition, it was during the reign of Nero that Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome.The Martyrdom of St. Peter and St. Paul

Modern historians have debated whether the Roman government distinguished between Christians and Jews prior to Nerva‘s modification of the Fiscus Judaicus in AD 96. It was at this point which practicing Jews paid the tax and Christians did not.

Christians suffered from sporadic and localized persecutions over a period of 250 years. Their refusal to participate in Imperial Cult was considered an act of treason and was thus punishable by execution.

The most widespread official persecution was carried out by Diocletian. During the Great Persecution (AD 303–311), the Emperor ordered Christian buildings and the homes of Christians torn down and their sacred books collected and burned.The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer

Christians were arrested, tortured, mutilated, burned, starved, and condemned to gladiatorial contests to amuse spectators. The Great Persecution officially ended in April 311 AD, when Galerius, Senior Emperor of the Tetrarchy, issued an Edict of Toleration granting Christians the right to practice their religion, though it did not restore any property to them.

Constantine, Caesar in the Western Empire and Licinius, Caesar in the East, also were signatories to the Edict of Toleration. It has been speculated that Galerius’ reversal of his long-standing policy of Christian persecution has been attributable to one or both of these co-Caesares.

No matter if Constantine’s mother, Helena, exposed him to Christianity or not, he only declared himself a Christian after issuing the Edict of Milan. Writing to Christians, Constantine made clear that he believed that he owed his successes the protection of that High God alone.

Eusebius of Caesarea and other Christian sources record that Constantine experienced a constantines-visiondramatic event in AD 312 at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, after which Constantine claimed the emperorship in the West. According to these sources, Constantine looked up to the sun before the battle and saw a cross of light above it, and with it the Greek words Ἐν Τούτῳ Νίκα (In this sign, conquer!), often rendered in a Latin version, In hoc signo vinces (In this sign, you will conquer).

chi_rhoConstantine commanded his troops to adorn their shields with a Christian symbol (the Chi-Rho) to distinguish them from the Roman soldiers of Maxentius. Thereafter, Constantine’s soldiers with the sign of God were victorious.

Following the battle, the new Emperor ignored the altars to the gods prepared on the Capitoline Hill and did not carry out the customary sacrifices to celebrate a General’s victorious entry into Rome. Constantine instead headed directly to the imperial palace to give thanks there.

Most influential people in the Empire had not been converted to Christianity and still participated in the traditional religions of Rome, so his actions were looked upon with hesitation. Constantine’s rule exhibited at least a willingness to appease these factions.

The Roman coins minted up to 8 years after the battle still bore the images of Roman gods. The monuments first commissioned by Constantine, such as the Arch of Constantine, contained no reference to Christianity.arch-of-constantine

In AD 313, Constantine and Licinius announced “that it was proper that the Christians and all others should have liberty to follow that mode of religion which to each of them appeared best”. A tolerance was thereby granted to all religions, including Christianity.

The Edict of Milan went a step further than the earlier Edict of Toleration by Galerius in AD 311, returning property which had been confiscated back to the Church. This edict made the Empire officially neutral with regard to religious worship.

constantine_the_great edict of milanFor the first time in Rome’s history neither the traditional religions nor Christianity were the state religion, there was simply religious tolerance. The Edict of Milan did, however, raise the stock of Christianity within the Empire and it reaffirmed the importance of religious worship to the welfare of the state.

The accession of Constantine was a turning point for Early Christianity. After his victory, Constantine took over the role of patron of the Christian faith.

He supported the Church financially, had an extraordinary number of basilicas built, granted privileges (e.g., exemption from certain taxes) to clergy, promoted Christians to high-ranking offices, returned property confiscated during the Great Persecution of Diocletian, and endowed the Church with land and other wealth.Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine

Between AD 324 and 330, Constantine built a new imperial capital at Byzantium on the Bosporos, which would be named Constantinople for him. Unlike “old” Rome, the city began to employ overtly Christian architecture, contained churches within the city walls and had no pre-existing temples from other religions.

In doing this, however, Constantine required those who had not converted to Christianity to pay for the new city. Christian chroniclers tell that it appeared necessary to Constantine “to teach his subjects to give up their rites (…) and to accustom them to despise their temples and the images contained therein.”

This led to the closure of temples because of a lack of support, their wealth flowing to the imperial treasure. Constantine did not need to use force to implement this action however.

Constantine-the-Great-christianityMany times imperial favor was granted to Christianity by the Edict. New avenues were opened to Christians, including the right to compete with other Romans in the traditional Cursus Honorum for high government positions, and greater acceptance into general civil society.

Constantine respected cultivated persons, and his court was composed of older, respected, and honored men. Although denied positions of power, men from leading Roman families who declined to convert to Christianity still received appointments and held 2/3 of the top cabinet positions.

Constantine’s laws enforced and reflected his Christian attitudes. Crucifixion was abolished for reasons of Christian piety, but was replaced with hanging, to demonstrate the preservation of Roman supremacy.

On 7 March 321 AD, Sunday, already sacred to Christians and to the Roman Sun God Sol Invictus, was declared an official day of rest. On that day markets were banned and public offices were closed, except for the purpose of freeing slaves.

There were, however, no restrictions on performing farming work on Sundays. This was the work of the great majority of the population anyhow, so it did not sense to cease this work.

Some laws made during the reign of Constantine were even humane in the modern sense, possibly inspired by his Christianity. For example, a prisoner was no longer to be kept in total darkness but must be given the outdoors and daylight; and a condemned man was allowed to die in the arena, but he could not be branded on his “heavenly beautified” face, since God was supposed to have made man in his image, but only on the feet.emperor

In AD 331, Constantine commissioned Eusebius to deliver 50 Bibles for the Church of ConstantinopleAthanasius recorded around AD 340 Alexandrian scribes preparing Bibles for Constans.

It has been speculated that this may have provided motivation for canon lists, and that Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus are examples of these Bibles. Together with the Peshitta and Codex Alexandrinus, these are the earliest extant Christian Bibles.

The reign of Constantine established a precedent for the position of the Christian Emperor in the Church. Emperors considered

themselves responsible to the gods for the spiritual health of their subjects, and after Constantine they had a duty to help the Church define orthodoxy and maintain orthodoxy.

The Church generally regarded the definition of doctrine as the responsibility of the Bishops, along with what proper worship (orthodoxy), doctrines and dogma consisted of. It was the Emperor’s role to enforce doctrine, root out heresy, uphold ecclesiastical unity, and ensure that God was properly worshiped in his Empire.

Constantine had become a worshiper of the Christian God, but he found that there were many opinions on that worship and indeed on who and what that God was. In AD 316, Constantine was asked to adjudicate in a North African dispute between the Donatist sect.

Council of NicaeaMore significantly, in AD 325 he summoned the First Council of Nicaea. This was the foremost Ecumenical Council, unless the Council of Jerusalem is so classified.

The Council of Nicaea is the first major attempt by Christians to define orthodoxy for the whole Church. Until Nicaea, all previous Church Councils had been local or regional synods affecting only portions of the Church.

Nicaea dealt primarily with the Arian controversy. Constantine himself was torn between the Arian and Trinitarian camps.

After the Nicene council, and against its conclusions, Constantine eventually recalled Arius from exile. He then subsequently banished Athanasius of Alexandria to Trier.

Just before his death in May 337 AD, Constantine was baptized into Christianity. Up until this time he had been a Catechumen for most of his adult life.

He believed that if he waited to get baptized on his death bed he was in less danger of polluting his soul with sin and not getting to heaven. He was baptized by an Arian sympathizer, but this was a result of attempting to create reconciliation in the Church, not acceptance of Arianism.

He was baptized by his distant relative Arian Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia. During Eusebius of Nicomedia’s time in the Imperial court, the Eastern court and the major positions in the Eastern Church were held by Arians or Arian sympathizers.

With the exception of a short period of eclipse, Eusebius enjoyed the complete confidence both of Constantine and Constantius II and was the tutor of Emperor Julian the Apostate. After Constantine’s death, his son and successor Constantius II was an Arian, as was Emperor Valens.

Constantine’s position on the religions traditionally practiced in Rome evolved during his reign. At first Constantine encouraged the construction of new temples and tolerated traditional sacrifices, but by the end of his reign he had begun to order the plundering and tearing down of Roman temples.

Beyond the limes, east of the Euphrates, the Sassanid rulers of the Persian Empireperennially at war with Rome, had usually tolerated Christianity. Constantine is said to have written to Shapur II in AD 324 and urged him to protect Christians under his rule.

With the establishment of Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire, Christians in Persia would be regarded as allies of Persia’s ancient enemy. According to an anonymous Christian account, Shapur II wrote to his generals:

You will arrest Simon, chief of the Christians. You will keep him until he signs this document and consents to collect for us a double tax and double tribute from the Christians … for Our Godhead have all the trials of war and they have nothing but repose and pleasure. They inhabit our territory and agree with Caesar, our enemy.

— Shapur II, A History of Christianity in Asia: Beginnings to 1500

The “Great Persecution” of the Persian Christian churches occurred between AD 340-363, after the Persian Wars that reopened upon Constantine’s death.

Constantinian Shift is a term used by Anabaptist and Post-Christendom theologians to describe the political and theological aspects of Constantine’s legalization of Christianity in the 4th Century. The term was popularized by the Mennonite theologian John H. Yoder.Baptism of Constantine by Raphael

Previously we have shared more on the life of Constantine, but you can see here that religion was a huge impact on his life. That the religion of Constantine was Christianity was simply another way in establishing this new religion for centuries to come.

We hope you enjoyed today’s journey and look forward to having you back again. Remember to stop on by soon to see what else we have in store for you.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Brown, Peter. The Rise of Christendom 2nd edition. Blackwell Publishing, 2003.

Carson, Don A. From Sabbath to Lord’s Day. Wipf & Stock Publishers/Zondervan.

Curran, J.R. Pagan City and Christian Capital: Rome in the Fourth Century. Oxford, 2000.

Drake, H. A. Constantine and the Bishops: The Politics of Intolerance. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

Eusebius. Life of Constantine.

Galerius. “Edict of Toleration,” in Documents of the Christian Church (trans. and ed. Henry Bettenson). Oxford University Press, 1963.

MacMullen, Ramsay. Christianizing The Roman Empire A.D. 100-400. Yale University Press, 1984. ISBN 0-300-03642-6.

Miles, Margaret Ruth. The Word Made Flesh: A History of Christian Thought. Blackwell Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1-4051-0846-0.

Moffett, Samuel H. A History of Christianity in Asia: Beginnings to 1500. Orbis Books, 1992.

Norwich, John Julius. A Short History of Byzantium. Alfred A. Knopf, 1997. ISBN 0-679-77269-3.

Lucius Artorius Castus: The Foundation for a King

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

A few days ago we reviewed the 2004 action/adventure film, King Arthur. We thought the film was enjoyable as we explored a new take on the legendary King Arthur.

Based on what we discovered in the film the King was of Roman origin. Nothing would make us happier than knowing the most famous King of the Britons was a Roman.

The film had Arthur’s name based on a real person in recorded history. Today we are taking a closer look at the man who just may have been King as explore the life of Lucius Artorius Castus!1

Lucius Artorius Castus was a Roman military commander and member of the gens Artoria (possibly of Messapic or Etruscan origin). He has been suggested as a potential historical basis for King Arthur.

What is known of Artorius comes from inscriptions on fragments of a sarcophagus, and a memorial plaque, found in Podstrana, on the Dalmatian coast in Croatia. Although the inscriptions cannot be precisely dated, Lucius Artorius Castus probably served in the Exercitus Romanus sometime between the mid-late 2nd Century AD or early to mid-3rd Century AD.Podstrana

The earliest unit mentioned unit for Artorius was the Legio III Gallica, which for most of the 2nd and 3rd Centuries was stationed in Syria. Artorius held the rank of Centurion in this unit.

Most Roman soldiers only achieved the rank of Centurion after about 15–20 years of service, but it was not unknown for some politically connected civilians of the Equestrian class to be directly commissioned as Centurions upon entering the Army. These Equestrian Centurions (ex equite Romano) were in the minority though.

It is not known whether or not Artorius had a lengthy career as a Legionary soldier before attaining the Centurionate since the vast majority of career Centurion’s inscriptions do not mention any ranks that they might have held below the Centurionate. Successful officers often omitted the record of any ranks lower than Primus Pilus, as Artorius did on his memorial plaque.

Legio VI FerrataArtorius was next stationed with the Legio VI Ferrata. From the middle of the 2nd Century until at least the early 3rd Century the Legio VI Ferrata was stationed in Judea.

Next on the list was the Legio II Adiutrix. From the early 2nd Century onward the Legio IILegio II Adiutrix Adiutrix were based at Aquincum (modern Budapest) and took part in several notable campaigns against the Parthians, MarcomanniQuadi and the Sassanid empire.

The Legio V Macedonica was Primus Pilus Artorius’ next command based Legio V Macedonicain Roman Dacia throughout the 2nd Century and through most of the 3rd. The unit took part in battles against the MarcomanniSarmatians and Quadi.

Artorius next acted as Provost (Praepositus) of the Misenum fleet in Italy. This title (generally given to Equites) indicated a special command over a body of troops, but somewhat limited in action and subject to the Emperor’s control.

He was next with the Legio VI Victrix based in Britain from c. AD 122 onward. Throughout the 2nd Century AD and into the 3rd, the headquarters of the VI Victrix was at Eboracum (modern York).

VI VictrixThe unit was removed briefly to Lugdunum (modern Lyon) in AD 196 by Clodius Albinus, during his doomed revolt against the Emperor Severus. The Legio VI Victrix returned to York after the revolt was quelled, and the unit would then suffer a significant defeat in AD 197.

Artorius’ position in the Legio VI Victrix, Prefect of the Legion (Praefectus Legionis), was equivalent to that of the Praefectus Castrorum. Men who had achieved this title were normally 50–60 years old and had been in the army most of their lives, working their way up through the lower ranks and the Centurionate until they reached Primus Pilus.Centurion

They acted as 3rd-in-Command to the Legionary Commander (Legatus Legionis) and Senior Tribune. Their day-to-day duties included maintenance of the fortress and management of the food supplies, sanitation, munitions, equipment, etc.

For most that had attained this rank, it would be their last before retirement. During battles, the Praefectus Castrorum normally remained at the unit’s home base with the reserve troops.

So, given his administrative position and probably advanced age, it is unlikely that Artorius actually fought in any battles while serving in Britain.

hadrians-wall-sunsetArtorius could have overseen Vexillationes of troops guarding Hadrian’s Wall, but his inscriptions do not provide us with any precise information on where he might have served while in Britain. It has been suggested by the author Linda Malcor that he was stationed at Bremetennacum with a contingent of Sarmatians (originally sent to Britain in AD 175) by Emperor Marcus Aurelius, but there is no evidence to support such a conjecture.

Given his duties as Praefectus Legionis it is reasonable to assume that he spent some, if not all, of his time in Britain at the Legio VI Victrix’s headquarters in York.

Dux LuciusBefore finishing his military career, Artorius lead an expedition of some note as a Dux Legionum, a temporary title accorded to officers who were acting in a capacity above their rank. These officers were either in command of a collection of troops (generally combined Vexillationes drawn from Legions) in transit from one station to another or in command of a complete unit (the former seems to be the case with Artorius, since the units are spoken of in the genitive plural).

The name of the units that Artorius led in this expedition, “Britanicimiae”, seems to be corrupt and might be reconstructed as *Britanniciniae or *Britannicianiae. If so, they were probably units similar in nature to the Alae and Cohors I Britannica (also known as the I Flavia Britannica or Britanniciana, among other titles), which were stationed in Britain in the mid-1st Century AD but removed to Vindobona by the late 80s AD (they would later take part in Trajan’s Parthian War of 114-117 AD and Trebonianus Gallus’ Persian war of 252 AD).

Though the name of the unit was derived from its early service in Britain, the unit was not generally composed of ethnic Britons. No units of this name are believed to have been active in Britain during the late 2nd Century.

In an inscription from Sirmium dating to the reign of the Emperor Gallienus, we have mention of Vexillationes of Legions *Britan(n)icin([i?]ae) (“militum vexill(ationum) legg(ionum) ]G]ermaniciana[r(um)] [e]t Brittan(n)icin(arum)”) – another form that is very similar to the *Britan(n)ici{m}iae from Artorius’ inscription.

Exceptionally talented, experienced and/or connected Praefects Castrorum/Legionis could sometimes move on to higher civilian positions such as Procurator, which Artorius indeed managed to accomplish after retiring from the army. He became Procurator Centenarius (Governor) of Liburnia, a part of Roman Dalmatia (today’s Croatia).arthur-modena

No dates are given in either inscription, making it difficult to offer a precise date for them, no less Lucius Artorius Castus’s floruit. The late French epigraphy expert Xavier Loriot suggested that Lucius Artorius Castus’s expedition against the Armenians could have taken place in AD 215, under the reign of Emperor Caracalla, or perhaps later in AD 232, under the reign of Severus Alexander.

Three Croatian archaeologists examined the inscriptions in 2012, as part of an international conference on Lucius Artorius Castus organized by authors Linda Malcor and John MatthewsNenad CambiŽeljko Miletić, and Miroslav Glavičić. Cambi proposes that Lucius Artorius Castus’ career can be dated to the late 2nd Century AD and his death to the late 2nd, or perhaps early 3rd Century AD.

Glavičić dates Lucius Artorius Castus’s military career to the middle- through late-2nd Century AD and proposes that he was the earliest Governor of the province of Liburnia, which Glavičić suggests was only established as a separate province from Dalmatia circa 184-185 AD. Miletić dates Lucius Artorius Castus’s military career to circa 121-166 AD and his Procuratorship of the province of Liburnia to circa 167-174 AD.

The possibility that Lucius Artorius Castus was the inspiration for the figure of Arthur in Medieval European literature was first suggested by Kemp Malone in 1924 and has recently been championed by authors C. Scott Littleton and Linda Malcor (who was a research consultant for the 2004 movie King Arthur and on whose hypotheses regarding Artorius the screenplay was based).2

Although Artorius was not contemporaneous with the Saxon invasions of Britain in the 5th Century, it is possible that he was remembered in local tales and legends that grew in the retelling. As it stands today, there is no definitive proof that Lucius Artorius Castus was the “real” King Arthur.

In the film King Arthur, Artorius is partially identified with King Arthur. It is stated in the film that Arthur’s Roman name was “Artorius Castus” and that Artorius was an ancestral name derived from that of a famous leader.

His floruit, though, is pushed several centuries later so that he is made a contemporary of the invading Saxons in the 5th Century AD. This would then be in agreement with native Welsh tradition regarding Arthur, though his activities are placed many decades earlier than the medieval sources assign to him.

Lucius Artorius Castus is the real name of the character Askeladd in the manga Vinland Saga, who is descended from Arthur himself.

In Rome: Total War: Barbarian Invasion, one of the historical battle scenarios features the Battle of Badon Hill with Lucius Artorius Castus as commander of the Romano-British forces.

St Martin ChapelThe sarcophagus inscription, which was broken into 2 pieces at some point prior to the 19th Century and set into the wall of the Church of St Martin in Podstrana Croatia, reads (note that “7” is a rendering of the symbol used by scribes to represent the word centurio; ligatured letters are indicated with underlines):











Manfred Clauss of the Epigraphik-Datenbank Clauss-Slaby (EDCS) expands the text as:

LACinscriptD(is) [M(anibus)] | L(ucius) Artori[us Ca]stus |(centurio) leg(ionis) | III Gallicae item [|(centurio) le]g(ionis) VI Ferratae item |(centurio) leg(ionis) II Adi[utr(icis) i]tem |(centurio) leg(ionis) V M[a]c(edonicae) item p(rimus) p(ilus) eiusdem praeposito classis Misenatium [pr]aef(ectus) leg(ionis) VI Victricis duci legg(ionum) [triu]m Britan(n)ic{i}{mi}arum adversus Arme[nio]s proc(urator) centenario(!) provinciae Li[burniae iure] gladi(i) vivus ipse sibi et suis […ex te]st(amento)

Anthony Birley translates this as:

“To the divine shades, Lucius Artorius Castus, Centurion of the Third Legion Gallica, also Centurion of the Sixth Legion Ferrata, also Centurion of the Second Legion Adiutrix, also Centurion of the Fifth Legion Macedonica, also Chief Centurion of the same Legion, in charge of (Praepositus) the Misenum fleet, Prefect of the Sixth Legion Victrix, Commander of two British Legions against the Armenians, Centenary Procurator of Liburnia with the power of the sword. He himself (set this up) for himself and his family in his lifetime.

As of 2009, the 2 stone fragments bearing this inscription have been removed from the wall of the Church of St. Martin for scientific analysis and restoration. They have also since been replaced by a copy.Burial

The memorial plaque, which was discovered not far away from the first inscription and was also broken at some point prior to the 19th Century, reads:







Which Clauss expands:
L(ucius) Artorius | Castus p(rimus) p(ilus) | leg(ionis) V Ma[c(edonicae)] pr|aefec[t]us leg(ionis) | VI Victric(is)|[…]

Lucius Artorius Castus, Primus Pilus of the legion V Macedonica, Prefect of the Legion VI Victrix [….]

An undated, unprovenanced inscription on a stamp, supposedly discovered in Rome but recorded as being in Paris in the 19th Century reads:

  • LVCI •
    • ARTORI
    • CASTI •

Without further information on the inscription, we cannot say whether or not it refers to our Lucius Artorius Castus, or simply another man of the same name.

CoinWhether or not Lucius Artorius Castus is the King Arthur of legend shall always be up for debate, especially since Arthur is mythology of sorts. No matter what you believe, there was a Roman Military Officer in Britannia that could be the foundation for the tale.

We appreciate you stopping by and look forward to have you join us on further quests and explorations into Rome’s past.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Birley, Anthony. The Roman Government of Britain. Oxford, 2005.

Breeze, David John; Dobson, Brian. Roman Officers and Frontiers. Franz Steiner Verlag, 1993.

Dixon, Karen R.; Southern, Pat. The Roman Cavalry: From the First to the Third Century AD. Routledge, London, 1997.

Dobson, Brian. “The Significance of the Centurion and ‘Primipilaris’ in the Roman Army and Administration”. Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II. Berlin/NY 1974.

Goldsworthy, Adrian Keith. The Roman army at war: 100 BC-AD 200. Oxford University Press, 1998.

Haverfield, Francis. The Romanization of Roman Britain. Oxford, 1912.

Hübner, Emil. “Exercitus Britannicus”. Hermes XVI, 1881.

Jackson, Thomas Graham. Dalmatia, the Quarnero and Istria, Volume 2. Oxford, 1887.

Kennedy, David. “The ‘ala I’ and ‘cohors I Britannica'”. Britannia, Vol. 8 (1977).

Keppie, Lawrence. The Making of the Roman Army: from Republic to Empire. University of Oklahoma Press, 1998.

Littleton, C. Scott; Malcor, Linda. From Scythia to Camelot: A Radical Reassessment of the Legends of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table and the Holy Grail. New York, Garland, 2000.

Malcor, Linda. “Lucius Artorius Castus, Part 1: An Officer and an Equestrian”. Heroic Age, 1999.

Malcor, Linda. “Lucius Artorius Castus, Part 2: The Battles in Britain”. Heroic Age, 1999.

Malone, Kemp. “Artorius”. Modern Philology 23 (1924–1925).

Mommsen, Theodor; Demandt, Barbara; Demandt, Alexander. A history of Rome under the emperors, Routledge. London & New York, 1999 (new edition).

Southern, Pat; Dixon, Karen R. The Late Roman Army. Routledge, London, 1996.

Tully, Geoffrey D. “A Fragment of a Military Diploma for Pannonia Found in Northern England?” Britannia, Vol. 36 (2005).

Webster, Graham. The Roman Imperial Army of the first and second centuries A.D. University of Oklahoma Press, edition 3, 1998

Wilkes, J. J. Dalmatia, Volume 2 of History of the provinces of the Roman Empire. Harvard University Press, 1969.

Titus Statilius Taurus: The First of Four

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve showed you some great places and items of interest. What we failed to do is share the life of any interesting Roman.

Well that ends today as we present you, Titus Statilius Taurus!Titus_Statilius_Taurus

Titus Statilius Taurus was the name of a line of Roman Senators, of which there were 4 total. The first known and most important of these (our focus for today) was a Roman General and two-time Consul prominent during the Triumviral and Augustan periods.

The elder Taurus was a Novus Homo (New Man or Self-made Man) from the region of Lucania. Initially a partisan of Marcus Antonius (Mark Anthony), by whom he was chosen as Consul Suffectus (Suffect Consul) in 37 BC, he subsequently was sent by Antonius with a fleet to aid Octavian in his war against Sextus Pompeius.

After Pompey was driven from Sicily, Taurus crossed the sea to the province of Africa (Africa Proconsularis), which he secured without any difficulty and for which he was awarded a triumph in 34 BC. He returned to Rome, where he began work on the city’s first permanent amphitheatre.

In 34 BC, Taurus accompanied Octavian on campaign to Dalmatia, and after Octavian’s return to Rome, Taurus remained in command of the troops stationed there. When war with Mark Anthony and Cleopatra broke out, Taurus chose Octavian’s side.

Battle_of_ActiumDuring the Battle of Actium, Taurus was in command of Octavian’s land force. Antony’s land forces surrendered to him rather than fight him.

This greatly accelerated the victory of Caesar Octavian. After the death of Anthony, Taurus was sent in 29 BC to Hispania where he defeated the CantabriansVaccaei and Astures.

He was later made Consul Ordinarius (Ordinary Consul) for the year 26 BC alongside Augustus, as Octavian was now known. In 16 BC, when Augustus left Italy for Gaul, he left Taurus in Rome as Praefectus Urbi.

Until the 2nd consulship of Tiberius in 7 BC, Taurus was the last man to hold multiple consulships. It appears Augustus was experimenting with a “share the honors” program before he consolidated enough power to rule as the official “unofficial” Emperor.

Statilius Taurus’ amphitheatre was completed in 29 BC, opening with a number of gladiatorial contests. These were received with so much acclaim that the people’s assembly accorded Taurus the right to name a praetor every year.Amphitheatre

Taurus is said to have maintained a private bodyguard of German slaves in Rome.

Taurus had 3 sons and possibly a pair of daughters, though it is uncertain whether all these children were by the same woman. The eldest son, also named Titus Statilius Taurus (II), was a Triumvir Monetalis, but did not reach consular years.

His 2nd son, also named Titus Statilius Taurus (III), was Consul in 11 AD. The 3rd son was Sisenna Statilius Taurus, and was Consul in 16 AD.

It seems certain that he had at least one daughter, Statilia L. Pisonis, who married Lucius Calpurnius Piso the Augur (Consul in 1 BC). The other daughter may be the Statilia who died at the age of 99 in the reign of Claudius, although she may have been a sister to this Taurus.

TombFrom New Man to elder statesman, Titus Statilius Taurus was a true Roman and part of reason there was a Pax Romana. It was with the help of men like Taurus that allowed Augustus to succeed as Rome’s original Emperor.

We hope you enjoyed the look at this Roman commander and politician. We look forward to having you back again soon.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Goldsworthy, Adrian. Augustus: First Emperor of Rome. Yale University Press, 2014. ISBN 9780300178722.

Stern, Gaius. “T. Statilus Taurus, Augustus’ Left-hand Man”. Nov. 2008.

Syme, RonaldAugustan Aristocracy. Oxford University Press, 1989. ISBN 9780198147312.

Trajan – Rise to Emperor

Welcome to Rome Across Europe! We’ve been away for a little bit, but we’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

During this lapse a lot has happened. My wife and I had our first son (just before the break), we moved from a 1-bedroom apartment to a 3-bedroom house, and had to get a new internet provider (suddenlink is horrific). But now it’s time to get back to business.

We thought we’d come back with an article about someone both captivating and polarizing. Without further adieu, we bring you Imperator Caesar Nerva Traianus Divi Nervae Filius Augustus!Büste_des_Kaisers_Trajan

Born 18 September 53 AD, Trajan was Roman Emperor from 98 AD until his death in 117 AD. Officially declared by the Senate Optimus Princeps (Best Ruler), Trajan is remembered as a successful soldier-emperor who presided over the greatest military expansion in Roman History, leading the Empire to attain its maximum territorial extent by the time of his death.

Hispania_10ADIn the city of Italica, in the Roman province of Hispania Baetica, Marcus Ulpius Traianus was born to a non-Patrician family of Italian and perhaps Iberian origin. Although frequently designated the original Provincial Emperor, Trajan appears to have hailed, at least on his father’s side, from the area of Tuder (modern Todi) in northern Umbria.

Trajan’s birthplace of Italica was founded as a Roman military colony in 206 BC, although it is unknown when the Ulpii arrived there. No matter what Trajan’s ancestors at least became Romans when the city became a Municipium with Latin citizenship in the mid-1st Century BC.

Trajan was the son of Marcia and Marcus Ulpius Traianus, a prominent Senator and General from the gens Ulpia. Marcus Ulpius Traianus the elder served Vespasian in the First Jewish-Roman War, commanding the Legio X Fretensis.Inscription_of_10th_legion_in_Jerusalem

As a young man, Trajan rose through the ranks of the Exercitus Romanus, serving in some of the most contentious parts of the Empire’s frontier. In AD 76–77, Trajan’s father was Legatus Pro Praetore Syriae (or Governor of Syria), where Trajan himself remained as Tribunus Legionis.

After his father’s replacement, Trajan then seems to have been transferred to an unspecified Rhine province, and Pliny the Younger implies that he engaged in active combat duty during both commissions.

In about AD 86, Trajan’s cousin Publius Aelius Hadrianus Afer died, leaving his young children Hadrian and Paulina orphans. Trajan and a colleague of his, Publius Acilius Attianus, became co-guardians of the 2 children, raising them in their respective households.

Around AD 91, Trajan was nominated as Consul, and he brought Apollodorus of Damascus with him to Rome. Around this time he married Pompeia Plotina, a noble woman from the settlement at Nîmes.

Legio VII GeminaAs the details of Trajan’s military career are obscure, it is only sure that in AD 89, as Legate of Legio VII Gemina in Hispania Tarraconensis, he supported Domitian against an attempted coup. Trajan was stated to have later held some unspecified consular commission as Governor of both Pannonia and Germania Superior . Pliny attributes to him, at the time, various and unspecified feats of arms.

As Domitian’s successor, Nerva was unpopular with the Army and had just been forced by his Praetorian Prefect Casperius Aelianus to execute Domitian’s killers. Nerva then felt the need to do something in order to avoid ousting by gaining the support of the military.

To accomplish this, Nerva named Trajan as his adoptive son and successor in the summer of AD 97. This was allegedly based solely on Trajan’s outstanding military merits, but there are hints in contemporary literary sources that Trajan’s adoption was imposed on Nerva.

Historia AugustaAccording to the Historia Augusta, it was the future Emperor Hadrian who brought word to Trajan of his adoption. Hadrian was then retained on the Rhine frontier by Trajan as a Tribunus Militum.

When Nerva died on 27 January 98, Trajan succeeded to the role of Emperor without any outward incident. Instead of heading straight to Rome upon news of his succession, Trajan made a lengthy tour of inspection on the Rhine and Danube frontiers.

This hints to the possible fact that Trajan’s power position in Rome was unsure and that he first had to assure himself of the loyalty of the soldiers on the front lines. It is noteworthy that Trajan ordered Praefectus Aelianus to attend him in Germany, where he was apparently executed, and said post being taken by Attius Suburanus.

In any event, Trajan’s accession would qualify more as a successful coup than an orderly succession.

Sculpture, London, United Kingdom
Sculpture, London, United Kingdom

This brings us to a halt on the beginning portion of Trajan’s life. Tomorrow we shall continue with his life as Emperor along with his legacy.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Ancel, R. Manning. SoldiersMilitary Heritage. December 2001. Volume 3, No. 3: 12, 14, 16, 20 (Trajan, Emperor of Rome).

Bennett, J. Trajan: Optimus Princeps, 2nd Edition. Bloomington: Indiana University Press 2001. ISBN 0-253-21435-1.

Bowersock, G.W. Roman Arabia. Harvard University Press, 1983.

Finley, M.I. The Ancient Economy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. ISBN 0-520-21946-5.

Fuller, J.F.C. A Military History of the Western World. New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1987 and 1988.

Isaac, B. The Limits of Empire, The Roman Army in the East, Revised Edition. Oxford University Press, 1990. ISBN 0-19-814891-7 OCLC 20091873.

Kennedy, D. The Roman Army in Jordan, Revised Edition. Council for British Research in the Levant, 2004. ISBN 0-9539102-1-0 OCLC 59267318.

Lepper, F.A. Trajan’s Parthian War. London: Oxford University Press, 1948. OCLC 2898605.

Luttvak, Edward N. The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire: From the First Century AD to the Third. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979. ISBN 0-8018-2158-4.

Wildfeuer, C.R.H. Trajan, Lion of Rome: the Untold Story of Rome’s Greatest Emperor. Aquifer Publishing, 2009. ISBN 0-9818460-6-8 OCLC 496004778.

Cassius Dio, Roman History Book 68, English translation.

Aurelius Victor (attrib.), Epitome de Caesaribus Chapter 13, English translation.

Pliny the Younger, Letters, Book 10, English translation.

Vespasian – A Belated-Birthday Tribute

Welcome to Rome Across Europe! With so much going on in the world, it’s hard to keep track of everything out there.

Like other media sources, articles on our site were completed well before they are posted. Because of this not every event gets to match up with the proper corresponding date in which it took place.

Since we got caught up with other articles we missed an Emperor’s birthday. We figured it’s close enough to still bring some celebration and shout Happy Birthday for this historical figure.

Today we check out the life of Titus Flāvius Caesar Vespasiānus Augustus, aka Vespasian!Vespasian

The Vespasiānus family was relatively undistinguished and lacking in pedigree. Vespasian’s paternal grandfather, Titus Flavius Petro, was first to distinguish himself as he rose to the rank of Centurio and then becoming a debt collector upon his retirement from the Exercitus Romanus.

Petro’s son, Titus Flavius Sabinus, worked as a customs official in the provincia of Asiana and became a money-lender on a small scale among the Helvetii. He gained a reputation as a scrupulous and honest “tax-farmer”.

Sabinus married up in status, to Vespasia Polla, whose father had risen to the rank of Praefectus Castrorum and whose brother became a Senator.

Sabinus and Vespasia would have 3 children. The eldest child was a girl who died in infancy.

The elder boy, Titus Flavius Sabinus entered public life and pursued the Cursus Honorum. He would become a military Tribunus, be elected Quaestor, Aedilis and then Praetor under Emperor Caligula.

The 3rd child was born on 17 November 9 AD in a village north-east of Rome called Falacrinae. The youngest child, Vespasian, seemed far less likely to be successful, initially not wishing to pursue high public office.

Little is known about Vespasian’s childhood other than he followedWife in his brother’s footsteps, especially when driven to it by his mother’s taunting. During this period he married Flavia Domitilla, the daughter of Flavius Liberalis from Ferentium and formerly the mistress of Statilius Capella, a Roman equestrian from Sabrata in Africa Proconsularis.

Vespasian and Domitilla had 2 sons, Titus Flavius Vespasianus and Titus Flavius Domitianus, and a daughter, Domitilla. Sadly, his wife and his daughter both died before Vespasian became Emperor in AD 69.

After the death of his wife, Vespasian’s longstanding mistress, Antonia Caenis, became his wife in all but formal status, a relationship that survived until she died in AD 75.

In preparation for a Praetorship, Vespasian needed 2 periods of service in the minor magistracies, one military and the other public. Vespasian then went to Thrace for about 3 years to serve in the military.

PortraitOn his return to Rome around AD 30, he obtained a post in the Vigintisexviri, most probably in one of the posts in charge of street cleaning. His early performance was so unsuccessful that Emperor Caligula reportedly stuffed handfuls of muck down his toga to correct the unclean Roman streets, formally his responsibility.

Not a good start at all.

After completion of a term in the Vigintisexviri, Vespasian was entitled to stand for election as Quaestor. Lack of political or family influence meant that Vespasian served as Quaestor in one of the provincial posts in Crete, rather than as assistant to important men in Rome.

Longing to hold the Imperium, Vespasian needed to gain a Praetorship. This would be difficult since non-Patricii and the less well-connected, like himself, had to serve in at least one intermediary post as an Aedile or Tribunus.

Although Vespasian failed at his initial attempt to gain an aedileship he was successful in his following attempt, becoming an Aedile in AD 38. Despite his lack of significant family connections or success in office, the next year Vespasian achieved praetorship at the youngest age permitted (30 years old), during a period of political upheaval in the organization of elections.

His longstanding relationship with freedwoman Antonia Caenis, confidential secretary to the Emperor’s grandmother and part of the circle of courtiers and servants around the Emperor, may have contributed to his success (wink, wink).

As LegateUpon the accession of Claudius as Emperor in AD 41, Vespasian was appointed Legate of Legio II Augusta, stationed in Germania. In AD 43, Vespasian and the Legio II Augusta participated in the Roman invasion of Britain.

Here Vespasian distinguished himself under the overall command of Aulus Plautius. After participating in crucial early battles on the rivers Medway and Thames, Vespasian was sent to reduce the south west, with the probable objectives of securing the south coast ports and harbors along with the tin mines of Cornwall and the silver and lead mines of Somerset.

Vespasian marched from Noviomagus Reginorum to subdue the hostile Durotriges and Dumnonii tribes, captured 20 oppida (towns or hill forts, including Hod Hill and Maiden Castle in Dorset). He also invaded Vectis, finally setting up a fortress and legionary headquarters at Isca Dumnoniorum.

During this time he injured himself and had not fully recovered until he went to Egypt. These successes earned Vespasian triumphal regalia (ornamenta triumphalia) on his return to Rome.Romano_Triumph_of_Titus_and_Vespasian

The success of Vespasian as the Legate of a Legion earned him a consulship in AD 51, after which he retired from public life. He came out of retirement in AD 63 when he was sent as Governor to Africa Province.

Vespasian used his time in North Africa wisely. Instead of extorting huge amounts of money to regain the wealth spent on previous political campaigns, like most Governors or Consuls did, Vespasian made friends.

Vespasian’s decision would be far more valuable in the years to come. During his time in North Africa Vespasian did find himself in financial difficulties, but was able to revive his fortunes via the mule trade and gained the nickname mulio (muleteer).

In 66 AD, Vespasian was appointed to suppress the Jewish revolt underway in Judea. The fighting there had killed the previous Roman Governor, and routed the governor of Syria as well.

Two Legiones, with 8 Cavalry squadrons and 10 Auxiliary Cohorts, were then dispatched under the command of Vespasian. His elder son, Titus, arrived from Alexandria with another.Vespasian-Rescued-By-His-Son-Titus

During this time Vespasian became the patron of Flavius Josephus, a Jewish resistance leader captured at the Siege of Yodfat, who would later write his people’s history in Greek. Ultimately, thousands of Jews were killed and the Romans destroyed many towns in re-establishing control over Judea and Jerusalem.

Vespasian is remembered by Josephus, in his Antiquities of the Jews, as a fair and humane official, in contrast with the notorious Herod Agrippa II whom Josephus goes to great lengths to demonize.

After Nero’s death in AD 68, Rome saw a succession of short-lived rulers and a year of civil wars. Galba was murdered by supporters of Otho, who was defeated by Vitellius. Otho’s supporters, looking for another candidate to support, settled on Vespasian.

According to Suetonius, a prophecy ubiquitous in the Eastern provinces claimed that from Judaea would come the future rulers of the world. Vespasian eventually believed that this prophecy applied to him, and found a number of omensoracles and portents that reinforced this belief.

Although Vespasian was a strict disciplinarian and reformer of abuses, Vespasian’s soldiers were thoroughly devoted to him. All eyes in the East were now upon him.

While in Caesarea, Vespasian was proclaimed Emperor on 1 July 69. It was originally by the Army in Aegyptus under Tiberius Julius Alexander, and then by his own troops in Judaea on 11 July.vespasian-portrait-1

Nevertheless, Vitellius occupied the throne and had the veteran Legions of Gallia and the Rhineland on his side. But the feelings in Vespasian’s favor quickly gathered strength, and the forces in Moesia, Pannonia and Illyricum soon declared for Vespasian.

This made him the de facto master of half of the Roman world.

While Vespasian himself was in Egypt securing its grain supply, his troops entered Italy from the northeast under the leadership of Marcus Antonius Primus. They defeated Vitellius’s army at Bedriacum, sacked Cremona and advanced on Rome.

Vitellius hastily arranged a peace with Antonius, but the Emperor’s Praetoriani forced him to retain his seat. After furious fighting, Antonius’ army entered Rome.

On receiving the tidings of his rival’s defeat and death at Alexandria, the new Emperor Vespasian at once forwarded supplies of urgently needed grain to Rome, along with an edict in which he gave assurance of an entire reversal of the laws of Nero.

Vespasian was declared Emperor by the Senate while he was in Egypt in December of AD 69. The Egyptians had declared him Emperor in June of the same year.

In the short-term, administration of the Empire was given to Mucianus who was aided by Vespasian’s son, Domitian. Mucianus started off Vespasian’s rule with tax reform that was to restore the Empire’s finances.

After Vespasian arrived in Rome in mid-70, Mucianus continued to press Vespasian to collect as many taxes as possible. Vespasian and Mucianus renewed old taxes and instituted new ones.

They increased the tribute of the provinces, and kept a watchful eye upon the treasury officials. The Latin proverb Pecunia non olet (Money does not smell) was created when Vespasian introduced a urine tax on public toilets.

When Vespasian first returned to Rome, in mid-70 AD, Vespasian immediately embarked on a series of efforts to stay in power and prevent future revolts. He offered gifts to many in the military and much of the public.

Soldiers loyal to Vitellius were dismissed or punished. He also restructured the orders of the Senators and Equites, removing his enemies and adding his allies.

Regional autonomy of Greek provinces was repealed. Additionally, he made significant attempts to control public perception of his rule.

Many modern historians note the increased amount of propaganda that appeared during Vespasian’s reign. Construction projects bore inscriptions praising Vespasian and condemning his predecessors.

Nearly 1/3 of all coins minted in Rome under Vespasian celebrated military victory or peace. The word vindex was removed from coins so as not to remind the public of rebellious Vindex.vespasian (1)

Vespasian also gave financial rewards to writers. The ancient historians who lived through the period such as Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus and Pliny the Elder speak suspiciously well of Vespasian while condemning the Emperors who came before him.

Those who spoke against Vespasian were punished. A number of stoic philosophers were accused of corrupting students with inappropriate teachings and were expelled from Rome.

Between AD 71 and 79, much of Vespasian’s reign is a mystery. Historians report that Vespasian ordered the construction of several buildings in Rome. Additionally, he survived several conspiracies against him.

After the civil war, Vespasian helped rebuild Rome. He added the temple of Peace and the temple to the Deified Claudius.

In AD 75, Vespasian erected a colossal statue of Apollo, begun under Nero, and he dedicated a stage of the theater of Marcellus. He also began construction of the Amphitheatrum Flavium, aka the Colosseum, using funds from the spoils of the Jewish Temple after the Siege of Jerusalem.Colosseum facade

Even with claims of constant conspiracies against Vespasian, only one conspiracy is known specifically. In AD 78 or 79, Eprius Marcellus and Aulus Caecina Alienus attempted to kill Vespasian but the reason why is unknown.

In AD 78, Agricola was sent to Britannia, and both extended and consolidated the Roman dominion in that province, pushing his way into what is now Scotland.

While in his 9th Consulship, Vespasian had a slight illness in Campania and returned to Rome at once. He left for Aquae Cutiliae and the country around Reate, but his illness worsened.

According to Suetonius’s The Lives of the Twelve Caesars: “At last, being taken ill of a diarrhea, to such a degree that he was ready to faint, he cried out, “An emperor ought to die standing upright.” In endeavoring to rise, he died in the hands of those who were helping him up, upon the eighth of the calends of July [24 June], being sixty-nine years, one month, and seven days old”.

Vespasian was known for his wit and his amiable manner alongside his commanding personality and military prowess. He could be liberal to impoverished Senators and equestrians and to cities and towns desolated by natural calamity.

He was especially generous to men of letters and rhetors, several of whom he pensioned with salaries of as much as 1,000 gold pieces a year. Quintilian is said to have been the first public teacher who enjoyed this imperial favor.

Vespasian distrusted philosophers in general, viewing them as unmanly complainers who talked too much. It was the idle talk of philosophers, who liked to glorify the good times of the Res Publica Romana, which provoked Vespasian into reviving the obsolete penal laws against this profession as a precautionary measure.

According to Suetonius, Vespasian bore the frank language of his friends, the quips of pleaders, and the impudence of the philosophers with the greatest patience. He was also noted for his benefactions to the people.

Much money was spent on public works and the restoration and beautification of Rome: a new forum, the Temple of Peace, the public baths and the great show piece, the Colosseum.

Vespasian debased the denarius during his reign, reducing the silver purity from 93.5% to 90%. The silver weight dropped from 0.105 ounces to 0.101 ounces.coins

In modern Romance languages, urinals are still named after him (for example, vespasiano in Italian, and vespasienne in French) in reference to a tax he placed on urine collection. Vespasian appears as the King of Paltisca in Saxo Grammaticus‘ Gesta Danorum.

We hope you enjoyed this belated-birthday tribute to Vespasian. Love him or not, one of the world’s greatest buildings bears his name and has stood for centuries.rome-colosseum

Come back tomorrow to see what we have in store for you. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Tacitus. Histories.

Suetonius. The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Vespasian.

Cassius DioRoman History, Books 64, 65 and 66.

Flavius Josephus. The War of the Jews, Books 2, 3 and 4.

Lissner, I. Power and Folly: The Story of the Caesars. Jonathan Cape Ltd., London (1958).

Courtney, H. Vespasian. Routledge (1999). ISBN 0-415-16618-7.

Morgan, G. 69 AD. The Year of the Four Emperors. London: OUP (2006). ISBN 9780195124682.

Roberts, J. Vespasian. Oxford University Press (2007).

The Conquerors: Caesar – Conqueror of Gaul

Hello and welcome to Rome Across Europe! Over the past few days we have taken a deep look into the Gallic Wars of Julius Caesar with Pars I and Pars II.

If you haven’t seen those articles, you should check them out. Now it’s time to get visual.

Today we are taking a look at one of the greatest conquerors of the ancient world, Julius Caesar – Conqueror of Gaul!

We hope you enjoyed today’s video and found it a complementary conclusions to our previous articles. Come back tomorrow to see what we have in store for you.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Titus – The Emperor and Legacy

Greetings fellow Citizens, and welcome to Rome Across Europe! In our III-part series on Titus Flāvius Caesar Vespasiānus Augustus we have examined Titus – The Early Life and Titus – The Military Commander.

We march on now with Part III. Today we check out Titus – The Emperor and Legacy!Emperor_Titus_1622

When we ended yesterday it was 23 June 79 AD and Titus’ father, Emperor Vespasian, had unexpectedly died of an infection. Titus had immediately been proclaimed to succeed his father and became Emperor of the Imperium Rōmānum.

Prior to his ascension to the throne, he was considered by many as unpopular and venomously loathed. Because of his many alleged vices, many Romans feared that he would be another Nero.

Against these expectations, however, Titus proved to be an effective Emperor and was well loved by the population, who praised him highly when they found that he possessed the greatest virtues instead of vices. Historians consider the abrupt change in the personality of the new Emperor to be a true mystery.

Cassius Dio attempted to explain his sudden change in character: “This may have been because he had really undergone a change, indeed, for men to wield power as assistants to another is a very different thing from exercising independent authority themselves.”

Unlike many of his predecessors who relied on information from informers to suppress conspiracies and plots, Titus disliked them. One of his first acts as Emperor was to order a halt to trials based on treason charges, which had long plagued the principate.

The law of treason, or lex maiestatis, was originally intended to prosecute those who had corruptly “impaired the people and majesty of Rome” by any revolutionary action. Under Augustus, however, this custom had been revived and applied to cover slander and libel as well.

This led to numerous trials and executions under Tiberius, Caligula and Nero, and the formation of networks of Delatores, which terrorized Rome’s political system for decades.Bust2

Titus put an end to this practice, against himself or anyone else, declaring:

It is impossible for me to be insulted or abused in any way. For I do naught that deserves censure, and I care not for what is reported falsely. As for the emperors who are dead and gone, they will avenge themselves in case anyone does them a wrong, if in very truth they are demigods and possess any power.

Consequently, no Senators were put to death during the reign of Titus. He thus kept to his promise that he would assume the office of Pontifex Maximus “for the purpose of keeping his hands unstained”.

The informants were publicly whipped, clubbed, banished from the city or even sold into slavery. Titus further prevented abuses by making it unlawful for a person to be tried under autrefois acquit.

As Emperor he became known for his generosity, and Suetonius states that upon realizing he had brought no benefit to anyone during a whole day he fremarked, “Friends, I have lost a day.”

In addition, sources state that Titus discovered that his brother Domitian was plotting against him but refused to have him killed or banished.

Although his reign was short, Titus was considered “naturally kindhearted” and although frugal, he was able to finish several community projects. Emperor Titus completed the Amphitheatrum Flavium, begun by his father, and building new imperial Thermae.

Construction of the Colosseum was begun in 70 AD under Vespasian but finally completed in 80 AD under Titus. In addition to providing spectacular entertainments to the Roman populace, the building was also conceived as a gigantic triumphal monument to commemorate the military achievements of the Flavians during the Primum populi Romani bellum in Iudaeos.Roman-Coliseum

The inaugural games lasted for a hundred days and were said to be extremely elaborate, including gladiatorial combat, fights between wild animals (elephants and cranes), Naumachia for which the theatre was flooded, horse races and chariot races.

During the games, wooden balls were dropped into the audience, inscribed with various prizes (clothing, gold, or even slaves), which could then be traded for the designated item.

Adjacent to the amphitheatre, within the precinct of Nero’s Domus Aurea, Titus had also ordered the construction of a new public bath-house, the Thermae Titi. Construction of this building was hastily finished to coincide with the completion of the Flavian Amphitheatre.

Practice of the imperial cult was revived by Titus, though apparentlyTemple it met with some difficulty as Vespasian was not deified until 6 months after his death. To further honor and glorify the Flavian dynasty, foundations were laid for what would later become the Templum divi Vespasiani, which was finished by Domitian.

Although his administration was marked by a relative absence of major military or political conflicts, Titus faced a number of major disasters. On 24 August 79 AD, a mere 2 months after his accession, Mount Vesuvius erupted.Volaire, The Eruption of Mt Vesuvius

The eruption almost completely destroyed the cities and resort communities around the Bay of Naples. The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried under meters of stone and lava, killing thousands of citizens.

Immediately, Titus toured the devastated areas, seeing to it that relief was provided. He appointed 2 ex-Consuls to organize and coordinate the relief effort, while personally donating large amounts of money from the imperial treasury to aid the victims of the volcano.

However, while he was away viewing the devastation at Pompeii, a fire broke out in Rome that lasted 3 days and 3 nights, destroying an area from the Capitol to the Pantheon.

Although the extent of the damage was not as disastrous as during the Great Fire of 64 AD, crucially sparing the many districts of insulae, Cassius Dio records a long list of important public buildings that were destroyed.2nd Fire

Damages included Agrippa’s Pantheon, the Temple of Jupiter, the Diribitorium, parts of the Theatre of Pompey, and the Saepta Julia among others.

Once again, Titus personally compensated for the damaged regions. He even stripped his own home of decorations and distributed them among the damaged temples and public buildings.

Although much of the rebuilding occurred under Domitian, Titus saw to the construction of a new Aedes Iovis Optimi Maximi Capitolini.

Titus later said of the fire, “This has ruined me.” Concerning the fire, Cassius Dio denied any possible human cause, saying it was of “divine origin.”

The last catastrophe to strike his reign was a severe plague. According to Suetonius, a plague also broke out during the fire.Plague

Suetonius wrote, “Titus attempted to control the plague by every imaginable means, human as well as divine – resorting to all sorts of sacrifices and medical remedies.” The nature of the disease, however, or the death toll is unknown.

At the closing of the games, Titus officially dedicated the amphitheatre and the baths, which was to be his final recorded act as Emperor. In the summer of 81 AD he left Rome with his brother to the Sabine hills where his family had a villa.

Sadly, Titus fell ill at the first posting station where he died of a fever, possibly malaria. Reportedly this was the same farm-house that his father died in.

Some suspect Domitian of poisoning his older brother for position and power. Domitian recommended an ice bath for Titus, placing him in a snow-packed chest.

Domitian then left his brother, hurrying back to Rome where he sat waiting to claim the throne. On 13 September 81 AD Titus died.

His final words were “I have made only one mistake.”  No one is sure of its meaning.

Did he regret sleeping with his brother’s wife (she denied it)? Or as some believe, was the mistake not killing his brother when he had the chance?

Titus had ruled the Roman Empire from the death of his father in 79 AD to his own on 13 September 81 AD. Dying at the age of 42, Titus served 2 years, 2 months and 20 days as Emperor.

He was succeeded by his brother Domitian, whose initial act as Emperor was to deify his brother.

Historians have speculated on the exact nature of his death, and to which mistake Titus alluded in his final words. Philostratus writes that he was poisoned by Domitian with an Aplysia depilans, and that his death had been foretold to him by Apollonius of Tyana.

Suetonius and Cassius Dio maintain he died of natural causes, but both accuse Domitian of having left the ailing Titus for dead. Consequently, Dio believes Titus’s mistake refers to his failure to have his brother executed when he was found to be openly plotting against him.

The Babylonian Talmud attributes Titus’s death to an insect that flew into his nose and picked at his brain for 7 years, in a repetition of another legend referring to biblical King Nimrod.

Titus’s record among ancient historians stands as one of the most exemplary of any Emperor. All the surviving accounts from this period, many of them written by his own contemporaries, present a highly favorable view towards Titus.

His character has especially prospered in comparison with that of his brother Domitian.

The Wars of the Jews offers a first-hand, eye-witness account of the Jewish rebellion and the character of Titus. The neutrality of Josephus’ writings has come into question however, as he became a Roman citizen and took on the Roman nomen Flavius and praenomen Titus from his patrons.Bust

Another contemporary of Titus was Publius Cornelius Tacitus, who started his public career in 80 or 81 AD and credits the Flavian dynasty with his elevation. The Histories, his account of this period, was published during the reign of Trajan.

Suetonius Tranquilius gives a short but highly favorable account on Titus’s reign in The Lives of Twelve Caesars, emphasizing his military achievements and his generosity as Emperor, in short describing him as follows:

Titus, of the same surname as his father, was the delight and darling of the human race; such surpassing ability had he, by nature, art, or good fortune, to win the affections of all men, and that, too, which is no easy task, while he was emperor.

Finally, Cassius Dio wrote his Roman History over 100 years after the death of Titus. He shares a similar outlook as Suetonius, possibly even using the latter as a source, but is more reserved, noting:

His satisfactory record may also have been due to the fact that he survived his accession but a very short time, for he was thus given no opportunity for wrongdoing. For he lived after this only two years, two months and twenty days—in addition to the thirty-nine years, five months and twenty-five days he had already lived at that time. In this respect, indeed, he is regarded as having equaled the long reign of Augustus, since it is maintained that Augustus would never have been loved had he lived a shorter time, nor Titus had he lived longer. For Augustus, though at the outset he showed himself rather harsh because of the wars and the factional strife, was later able, in the course of time, to achieve a brilliant reputation for his kindly deeds; Titus, on the other hand, ruled with mildness and died at the height of his glory, whereas, if he had lived a long time, it might have been shown that he owes his present fame more to good fortune than to merit.

Pliny the Elder, who later died during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, dedicated his Naturalis Historia to Titus.

The war in Judaea and the life of Titus, particularly his relationship with Berenice, have inspired writers and artists through the centuries. The bas-relief in the Arch of Titus has been influential in the depiction of the destruction of Jerusalem, with the Menorah frequently being used to symbolize the looting of the Second Temple.Arch_of_Titus_Menorah

As Emperor, he is best known for completing the Colosseum and for his generosity in relieving the suffering caused by 2 disasters, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 and a fire in Rome in 80 AD.Emperor_Titus

This concludes our series on Titus, his early life, as a military commander and as Emperor. We hope you enjoyed learning about a man who did so much in so little time.

We hope you come back and join us soon for another adventure. Till then, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



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Jones, Brian W. The Emperor Domitian. London: Routledge (1992). ISBN 0-415-10195-6.

Jones, Brian; Milns, Robert . Suetonius: The Flavian Emperors: A Historical Commentary. London: Bristol Classical Press (2002). ISBN 1-85399-613-0.

Kerrigan, M. A Dark History: The Roman Emperors. Amber Books (2008).

Scarre, C. Chronicles of the Roman Emperors. Thames and Hudson (1995).

Suetonius. The Twelve Caesars.

Tacitus, Histories, Books 24 and 5. English translation.

Wasson, Donald L. . Titus. June 2013.