Category Archives: Battles & Wars

Warfare of Classical Antiquity: Republican Fleet Tactics (Roman Navy)

Ahoy and welcome to Rome Across Europe!

The Roman Fleet landing on the coast of Britain for the Emperor Claudius’ invasion, earning the title Classis Britannica.

Throughout our time here we have covered various battles and the expansion of Rome from city-state to Empire. During our travels, we have relied upon the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army) to carry the load of Rome’s development and expansion.

The Romans were late to the naval game but soon dominated the Mediterranean. If you care to dive into more depth on Rome’s maritime force, check out The Roman Navy: Unsung Champion of the Ancient Seas.

Today THFE Productions helps us set sail and explore the weapons and tactics employed by the Roman Navy!

We appreciate THFE Productions for their hard work and efforts in creating this wonderful visual presentation. Gratias for stopping by and we hope you join us on further adventures.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Trajan’s Dacian Wars: Stretching the Borders of the Roman Empire

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If there’s something that can get us going it’s warfare. Military campaigns are what made Rome and, eventually, the Roman Empire.

Most of Rome’s greatest Generals and Emperors are remembered by history due to their success on the battlefield. This leads us to today’s adventure.

Following the Viae (Roman Roads) laid down by troops on the move, today we venture to join Trajan’s Dacian Wars!

Fiery battle scene between the Romans and Dacians (detail from Trajan’s Column).

Not to be confused with Domitian’s Dacian War (86–87 AD), the focus of these 2 military campaigns (101–102, 105–106) were during the rule of Emperor Trajan. Just like the earlier war under Domitian, the wars under Trajan were between Rome and Dacia.

The focus of Trajan’s conflicts were the constant Dacian threat on the Provincia (Roman Province) of Moesia. Just in case Trajan needed another reason to fight the Dacians, he could justify the war by saying a Roman victory would increase resources and the economy of the Roman Empire (which Rome was in desperate need of).

Since the reign of Burebista, widely considered to be the greatest Dacian king (82–44 BC) the Dacians had represented a threat for the Roman Empire. Julius Caesar himself had even drawn up a plan to launch a campaign against Dacia.

Panorama of the site on which the Battle of Histria took place.

An area north of Macedonia and Greece and east of the Danube, Dacia had been on the Roman agenda since before the days of Caesar when they defeated the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army) at the Battle of Histria. The threat was reduced when dynastic struggles in Dacia led to a division into 4 or 5 independently governed tribal states after Burebista’s death in 44 BC.

Augustus later came into conflict with Dacia after they sent envoys offering their support against Mark Antony in exchange for requests, the nature of which have not been recorded. Augustus rejected the offer and Dacia put in their lot with Antony.

In 29 BC, Augustus sent several punitive expeditions into Dacia led by Marcus Licinius Crassus Dives (grandson of the famed Marcus Licinius Crassus who put down the Spartacus slave rebellion and of the First Triumvirate with Julius Caesar and Gnaeus Pompey) that inflicted heavy casualties and apparently killed 3 of their 5 kings. Although Dacian raids into Pannonia and Moesia continued for several years despite the defeat, the threat of Dacia had effectively ended.

Then, after 116 years of relative peace along the Roman frontier, in the winter of 85 AD to 86 AD the army of King Duras led by general Diurpaneus swarmed over the Danube the Roman Province of Moesia. Former Consul and present Roman Governor of Moesia, Oppius Sabinus, was killed during the attack.

Outline of the Roman Empire with the Provinces of Moesia Inferior (right) and Moesia Superior (left) highlighted.

The Dacians pillaged Moesia and initially defeated the Roman forces that Emperor Domitian sent against them. Emperor Domitian then led Legions into the ravaged province and reorganized the possession into Moesia Inferior and Moesia Superior, planning an attack into Dacia for the next campaign season.

With the arrival of fresh Legions in 87 AD, Domitian began what became the First Dacian War. General Diurpaneus sent an envoy to Domitian offering peace.

Romans don’t take too kindly to their countrymen being mistreated by foreigners, so that Dacian envoy sent requesting peace was immediately rejected on all grounds. He was probably lucky to leave Domitian’s alive.

Romans building a bridge on boats over the Danube.

The Praefectus Praetorio (Praetorian Prefect) Cornelius Fuscus hurriedly built a bridge on boats and rushed across the Danube into Dacia with 5 or 6 Legions. The Roman Army was ambushed and defeated at the First Battle of Tapae by Diurpaneus who was later renamed Decebalus (Dacian for “the Brave”) and who, as a consequence, was chosen to be the new king.

Fuscus was killed and the Legions lost their Aquilae (Eagle Standards), adding to the humiliation. However, in AD 88 the Roman offensive once more continued.

The Roman Army, this time under the command of Tettius Julianus, defeated the Dacians at the outlying Dacian fortress of Sarmizegetusa and at Tapae, near the current village of Bucova. After this defeat at the Battle of Tapae in AD 88, king Decebalus asked Domitian again for peace and was again refused.

Domitian’s Dacian War

Throughout most of the 1st Century AD, Roman policy dictated that threats from neighboring nations and provinces were to be contained promptly. The peace treaty following the First Battle of Tapae, followed by an indecisive and costly Roman victory on the same ground a year later, was unfavorable for the Empire.

Later Domitian accepted the offer, which led to the establishment of a truce between the Roman Republic and Dacia. This change of heart has been thought to be due to his Legions being needed along the Rhine to put down the revolt of Lucius Antonius Saturninus, the Roman Governor of Germania Superior who had allied with the MarcomanniQuadi and Yazgulyams against Domitian.

Statue of Decebalus (Deva, Romania).

Following the peace of 89 AD, Decebalus became a client of Rome, with acceptance of Decebalus as king (Rex Amicas). He received a lump sum of money, annual financial stipends, and craftsmen in trades devoted to both peace and war, and war machines to defend the Empire’s borders.

The craftsmen were used by the Dacians to upgrade their own defenses, while Decebalus continued to quietly oppose Rome. Some historians believe this was an unfavorable peace and that it might have led to Domitian’s assassination in September 96 AD.

Rome had been suffering economic difficulties largely brought on by military campaigns throughout Europe and in part due to a low gold content in Roman money as directed by Emperor Nero. Confirmed rumors of Dacian gold and other valuable trade resources inflamed the conflict, as did the Dacian’s defiant behavior, as they were “bowed and unbroken”.

Carpatian gold mines

Researchers estimate that Dacia had rich resources of iron and copper, and were prolific metal workers. A large percentage of the general Dacian population, not just the nobility like in Hispania and Gallia, owned swords.

This turn of events greatly reduced Rome’s military advantage over the Dacians. On top of that, Dacia sported 250,000 potential combatants or enough force to possibly invade Rome itself.

Dacia was allied to several of its neighbors and on friendly terms with others that Rome considered enemies. Rome had no concrete defense policy and would not have been able to sustain a war of defense.

Statue of Trajan carved from Luna and Proconessian marble in 2nd Century AD (Ostia Museum).

As such, the new Emperor Trajan, himself an experienced soldier and tactician, began preparing for war. He recommenced hostilities commence against Dacia, and even went so far as to withdraw troops from other borders leaving them dangerously undermanned.

After gaining the Senate’s blessing for war, by 101 Trajan was ready to advance on Dacia. This was a war in which the Roman military’s ingenuity and engineering were well demonstrated.

The Roman offensive was spearheaded by 2 columns of Legions, marching straight to the heart of Dacia, burning towns and villages en route. Following an uncertain number of battles, the Romans under Trajan defeated the Dacian king Decebalus in the Second Battle of Tapae in 101 AD.

With Trajan’s troops pressing towards the Dacian capital Sarmizegetusa Regia, in 102 AD Decebalus once more sought terms with Rome. The war had concluded with an important Roman victory.

Ruins of Trajan’s Bridge

A bridge, later known as Trajan’s Bridge, was constructed across the Danube at Drobeta to assist with the Legionaries’ advance. This bridge, probably the biggest at that time and for centuries to come, was designed by Apollodorus of Damascus and was meant to help the Roman Army advance faster in Dacia since the peace was actually lost by the Roman Empire.

According to the peace terms, Decebalus got technical and military reinforcement from the Romans in order to create a powerful allied zone against the dangerous possible expeditions from the northern and eastern territories by hostile migrating peoples. The resources were instead once again used to rebuild Dacian fortresses and strengthen their military.

Roman soldiers defending a fort against attack by the Dacians (detail from Trajan’s Column).

Following the first war, Decebalus complied with Rome for a time, but was soon inciting revolt among tribes against them and pillaging Roman colonies across the Danube. Soon thereafter Decebalus turned against the Romans once again and attacked Roman Castra (Fort) again in AD 105.

True to his intrepid and optimistic nature, Trajan rallied his forces in AD 105 for another war. Like the initial conflict, the next war involved several skirmishes that proved costly to the Roman military.

Faced with large numbers of allied tribes, Rome’s Legions struggled to attain a decisive victory resulting in a new temporary peace. In response Trajan again marched into Dacia, besieging the Dacian capital in the Siege of Sarmizegetusa, and annihilating it in the summer of AD 106 with the participation of the Legio II Adiutrix and Legio IV Flavia Felix and a detachment (vexillatio) from Legio VI Ferrata.

Decebalus fled, but was followed by the Equites Romani (Roman Cavalry) and committed suicide rather than submit. Thanks to the treason of a confidant of the Dacian king, Bicilis, the Romans found Decebalus’s treasure in the river of Sargesia/Sargetia (a fortune estimated at 364,865 lbs of gold and 729,730 lbs of silver).

The conclusion of the Dacian Wars marked a triumph for Rome and its Armies. Trajan announced 123 days of celebrations throughout the Empire.

Denarius issued by Trajan to celebrate the winning of the Dacian Wars.

Dacia’s rich gold mines were secured and it is estimated that Dacia then contributed 700 million Denarii per annum to the Roman economy, providing finance for Rome’s future campaigns and assisting with the rapid expansion of Roman towns throughout Europe.

The remains of the mining activities are still visible, especially at Roșia Montană. One hundred thousand male slaves were sent back to Rome to help discourage future revolts.

Map of routes used during the Dacian Wars.

If that were not enough, Legio XIII Gemina and Legio V Macedonica were permanently posted in Dacia. The conquered half (southern) of Dacia was annexed, becoming a province while the northern part remained free but never formed a state.

The dual wars were notable victories in Rome’s extensive expansionist campaigns, gaining Trajan the people’s admiration and support. The conclusion of the Dacian Wars marked the beginning of a period of sustained growth and relative peace in Rome.

Trajan began extensive building projects and was so prolific in claiming credit that he was given the nickname Ivy. Trajan became an honorable civil leader, improving Rome’s civic infrastructure, thereby paving the way for internal growth and reinforcement of the Empire as a whole.

The extent of the Roman Empire under Trajan (117 AD).

With Dacia quelled, Trajan later invaded the Parthian empire to the east, his conquests expanding the Roman Empire to its greatest extent. Rome’s borders in the east were indirectly governed through a system of client states for some time. This lead to less direct campaigning than in the west during this period.

We hope you enjoyed today’s campaign and look forward to having you back again. Be sure to stop by soon for you never know where or when we’ll be headed.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Goldsworthy, Adrian. In The Name of Rome. Orion, 2004. ISBN 978-0753817896.

Luttwak, Edward N. The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire: From the First Century AD to the Third. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976. ISBN 9780801818639.

Matyszak, Philip. The Enemies of Rome: From Hannibal to Attila the Hun. Thames & Hudson, 2004. ISBN 978-0500251249.

Schmitz, Michael. The Dacian Threat, 101-106 AD. Caeros Publishing, 2005. ISBN 0-9758445-0-4.

“Assorted Imperial Battle Descriptions”De Imperatoribus Romanis.

Overthrow of the Roman Monarchy: Making the Roman Republic

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Throughout history there is one thing that is common across almost every populated continent, there are those that have an abundance of wealth and there are those who significantly lack it. Having recently explored the rise of the common people against the nobility (Conflict of the Orders: Plebeians versus Patricians) and celebrated the flight of a king (Regifugium: Celebrating the Flight of a King), we thought it only right to finish off the monarchy of Rome.

That is why today we are going to take a final look at the Overthrow of the Roman Monarchy!

A 16th Century painting by Sandro Botticelli, depicting the rape of Lucretia and the subsequent uprising.

The Overthrow of the Roman Monarchy was a political revolution in Ancient Rome in around 509 BC. It resulted in the expulsion of the last King of RomeLucius Tarquinius Superbus, and the establishment of the Res Publica Romana (Roman Republic).

The History of Rome held that 7 Kings of Rome reigned from the establishment of the city in 753 BC by Romulus up to the reign, and expulsion, of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus aka Tarquin.

Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, aka Tarquin, the last Roman King.

The accuracy, however, of this account has been doubted by modern historians. What does appear to be accepted is that: 1) there was a monarchy and 2) the last King, Tarquin, was expelled upon the founding of the Republic in the late 6th Century BC.

Tarquin was the son of Rome’s 5th King, Lucius Tarquinius Priscus. In around 535 BC Tarquin, together with his wife Tullia Minor (a daughter of the then King Servius Tullius) arranged the murder of Servius, and for Tarquin to become ruler in his stead.

Despite various military victories, Tarquin became an unpopular sovereign. He refused to bury his predecessor, then he put to death a number of the leading Senators whom he suspected of remaining loyal to Servius (one of whom was the brother of Lucius Junius Brutus).

Roman Senate in an uproar.

By not replacing the slain Senators, and not consulting the Senate on all matters of government, Tarquin diminished both its size and authority. In another break with tradition, Tarquin judged capital criminal cases without advice of counsellors, thereby creating fear among those who might think to oppose him.

Having supposedly engaged in treachery with the Foedus Latinum (Latin League), around 510 BC, Tarquin went to war with the Rutuli. At that time according to Livy, the Rutuli were a very wealthy nation and Tarquin was keen to obtain the spoils that would come with victory over the Rutuli in order, in part, to soften the anger of his subjects.

Tarquin unsuccessfully sought to take the Rutulian capital Ardea by storm, and later began an extensive siege of the city. The Roman histories tell that while King Tarquin was away on campaign, his son Sextus Tarquinius was sent on a military errand to Collatia.

Sextus was received with great hospitality at the Governor’s mansion, home of Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus, son of the king’s nephew, Arruns Tarquinius, former Governor of Collatia and originator of the Tarquinii Collatini. Lucius’ wife, Lucretia, daughter of Praefectus (Prefect) Spurius Lucretius, made sure that Tarquin’s son was treated as the son of a king should, even though her husband was away at the siege.

Titian’s “Tarquin and Lucretia” (1571).

At night Sextus entered Lucretia’s bedroom by stealth, quietly going around the slaves who were sleeping at her door. When she awakened, Sextus identified himself and offered her 2 choices: she could submit to his sexual advances and become his wife and future queen; or he would kill her and a slave and place the bodies together, then claim he had caught her having adulterous sex with said slave.

The next day Lucretia dressed in black and weeping went to her father’s house in Rome and cast herself down in the suppliant’s position (embracing the knees). Asked to explain herself, Lucretia insisted on first summoning witnesses to verify her story.

After disclosing the rape, Lucretia called on various Roman noblemen for vengeance. While the men debated on how to proceed, Lucretia drew a concealed dagger and stabbed herself in the heart.

Statue of Brutus holding Lucretia while swearing the oath and holding the knife.

According to legend, Tribunus Celerum Lucius Junius Brutus grabbed the dagger from Lucretia’s breast after her death and immediately shouted for the overthrow of the Tarquins. The people of Rome were summoned to the Forum Romanum (Roman Forum) and spurred by Brutus to rise up against the monarch.

Brutus revealed that his pose as fool was a sham designed to protect him against an evil king. He leveled a number of charges against the king and his family: the outrage against Lucretia (whom everyone could see on the dais), the king’s tyranny, the forced labor of the Plēbēs in the ditches and sewers of Rome.

He pointed out that Tarquin had come to rule by the murder of Servius Tullius, his wife’s father, next-to-the-last King of Rome. He “solemnly invoked the gods as the avengers of murdered parents.”

The king’s wife, Tullia, was in fact in Rome and probably was a witness to the proceedings from her palace near the Forum. Seeing herself the target of so much animosity she fled from the palace in fear of her life and proceeded to the camp at Ardea.

Brutus opened a debate on the form of government Rome ought to have; there were many speakers (all Patricians). In summation he proposed the banishment of the Tarquins from all the territories of Rome and appointment of an interrex to nominate new magistrates and conduct an election of ratification.

They had decided on a republican form of government with 2 Cōnsulēs in place of a king executing the will of a Patrician Senate. This was a temporary measure until they could consider the details more carefully.

Brutus renounced all right to the throne. In subsequent years the powers of the king were divided among various elected magistracies.

A final vote of the curiae carried the interim constitution. Lucretius was swiftly elected interrex (he was Prefect of the city anyway).

Lucretius proposed Brutus and Collatinus as the initial 2 Cōnsulēs and that choice was ratified by the Curiae. Needing to acquire the assent of the population as a whole they paraded Lucretia’s body through the streets, summoning the Plebeians to legal assembly in the Forum Romanum.

Once there they heard a further speech by Brutus. It began:

Inasmuch as Tarquin neither obtained the sovereignty in accordance with our ancestral customs and laws, nor, since he obtained it — in whatever manner he got it — has he been exercising it in an honorable or kingly manner, but has surpassed in insolence and lawlessness all the tyrants the world ever saw, we patricians met together and resolved to deprive him of his power, a thing we ought to have done long ago, but are doing now when a favorable opportunity has offered. And we have called you together, plebeians, in order to declare our own decision and then ask for your assistance in achieving liberty for our country….

A general election was held, and the final vote was in favor of a Roman Republic. The monarchy was at an end, even while Lucretia was still displayed in the Forum.

The Roman noblemen, led by Brutus, obtained the support of both the Pātriciī (Roman Aristocracy) and the Plēbēs (Common People) to expel the King and his family and to institute a republic. Leaving Lucretius in command of the city, Brutus proceeded with a group of militia to the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army) then camped at Ardea.

The King, who had been with the Army, heard of developments at Rome, and left the camp for the city before Brutus’ arrival. The soldiers who had been with Tarquin received Brutus as a hero, and the king’s sons were expelled from the camp.

Meanwhile back in Rome, the King was refused entry into the city and was forced to flee with his family into exile. Tarquin and his 2 eldest sons, Titus and Arruns, went into exile at Caere.

That uprising resulted in the exile or Regifugium, after a reign of 25 years of Tarquin and his family. The Roman Republic was then established with Brutus and Collatinus (both related by blood to Rome’s 5th King Lucius Tarquinius Priscus) as the original Cōnsulēs.

According to Livy, Brutus’ first act after the expulsion of Tarquin was to bring the people to swear an oath never to allow any man again to be king in Rome.

Omnium primum avidum novae libertatis populum, ne postmodum flecti precibus aut donis regiis posset, iure iurando adegit neminem Romae passuros regnare.

First of all, by swearing an oath that they would suffer no man to rule Rome, it forced the people, desirous of a new liberty, not to be thereafter swayed by the entreaties or bribes of kings.

This is, fundamentally, a restatement of the “private oath” sworn by the conspirators to overthrow the monarchy:

Per hunc… castissimum ante regiam iniuriam sanguinem iuro, vosque, di, testes facio me L. Tarquinium Superbum cum scelerata coniuge et omni liberorum stirpe ferro igni quacumque dehinc vi possim exsecuturum, nec illos nec alium quemquam regnare Romae passurum.

By this guiltless blood before the kingly injustice I swear – you and the gods as my witnesses – I make myself the one who will prosecute, by what force I am able, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus along with his wicked wife and the whole house of his freeborn children by sword, by fire, by any means hence, so that neither they nor any one else be suffered to rule Rome.

Brutus also replenished the number of Senators to 300 from the principal men of the Equites. The new Consuls also created a new office of Rex Sacrorum to carry out the religious duties that had previously been performed by the kings.

Brutus in the Forum denouncing Collatinus as a traitor who delighted in war and the profits of tyranny.

The Roman people loathed the name and family of the exiled King Tarquin. It was taken to such an extent that the Consul Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus was forced to resign from his office and go into exile.

After his exile, Tarquin made a number of attempts to regain the throne. At first, he sent ambassadors to the Senate to request the return of his family’s personal effects, which had been seized in the coup.

In secret, while the Senate debated his request, the ambassadors met with and subverted a number of the leading men of Rome to the royal cause, in the Tarquinian conspiracy. The conspirators included 2 of Brutus’ brothers-in-law, and his 2 sons Titus and Tiberius. The conspiracy was discovered, and the conspirators executed.

“The Lictors Bring Home the Sons of Brutus” by Jacques-Louis David (1784).

Although the Senate had initially agreed to Tarquin’s request for a return of his family’s effects, the decision was reconsidered and revoked after the discovery of the conspiracy. The royal property was instead given over to be plundered by the Roman populace.

Tarquin’s next attempted to regain Rome by force of arms. He began by gaining the support of the cities of Veii and Tarquinii, recalling to the former their regular losses of war and land to the Roman state, and to the latter his family ties.

Model version of the Battle of Silva Arsia.

The armies of the 2 cities were led by Tarquin against Rome in the Battle of Silva Arsia, with the king commanding the Etruscan infantry. Although the result initially appeared uncertain, the Romans were victorious.

The Roman victory wasn’t without its own perils for both Brutus (the Consul) and Arruns (the King’s son) were killed in the battle.

Another attempt by Tarquin relied on military support from Lars Porsenna, king of Clusium. The war led to the siege of Rome, and finally a peace treaty leaving Tarquin unable to regain the Roman throne.

Castor and Pollux fighting at the Battle of Lake Regillus, 1880 illustration by John Reinhard Weguelin.

Tarquin and his family left Clusium, and instead sought refuge in Tusculum with his son-in-law Octavius Mamilius. In about 496 BC, Tarquin and his son Titus fought with Mamilius and the Latin League against Rome, but lost, at the Battle of Lake Regillus where Mamilius perished.

Once more Tarquin was forced to flee, and he took refuge with the tyrant of Cumae, Aristodemus. It was there, in Cumae, in 495 BC that Rome’s last King finally expired.

Overthrow of the Roman Monarchy summarized as a storyboard.

With the rise of the Roman Republic, and the death of its last King, Rome would carry on from 509 – 27 BC (or 482 years for those that are particular). During that stretch Rome would see a lot of growth and troubles, that would all culminate with a General named Julius Caesar.

Gaius Julius Caesar

We hope you enjoyed today’s journey and look forward to having you back again soon. Make sure to check us out daily for you never know who we’ll be checking out or where we’ll be traveling.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Cornell, TimThe Beginnings of Rome. Routledge, 1995. ISBN 978-0-415-01596-7.

Gale, Robert L. A Herman Melville encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995. ISBN 978-0-313-29011-4.

Livy. Ab urbe condita.

The History of the Romans: Every Year

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

From the Foundation of Rome through the Fall of the Byzantine Empire, there has been constant growth and change in what was the Roman Empire. With so much going on, how could you possibly know everything?

That issue gets decided today as we witness the History of the Romans: Every Year!

See the entire history and progression of Roman civilization from the city-state Kingdom all the way to the last Byzantine successor state.

This video was originally published on 31 December 2015, with musical credits of “Majestic Hills”, “Hero Down”, and “Teller of the Tales” all by Kevin MacLeod.

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure, maybe you even learned something new or exciting. We look forward to having you join us again soon.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Commentarii de Bello Gallico: Commentaries on the Gallic War by Julius Caesar

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If this is your initial visit with us, let us begin with a heartfelt ‘Thank You’. We realize there are many other sites out there and that you chose to check us out really means quite a bit.

For those who follow us on a regular basis, thanks for sticking around. Hopefully everyone who’s ended up here can find something to fit his or her own needs.

Recently we re-explored HBO’s Rome, a TV series which we find to be amazing. You can check out the article here if you wish.

We happen to think very highly of Julius Caesar and admire his accomplishments. What we did not initially know about the show is that it was based partly off of Caesar’s own manuscripts.

With that in mind, today we uncover Gaius Julius Caesar’s firsthand account of the Gallic Wars as we explore the Commentarii de Bello Gallico!

Literally the Commentaries on the Gallic War, this is the Roman Proconsul‘s firsthand account written as a third-person narrative. Some may refer to the text simply as Bellum Gallicum (Gallic War).

In his narrative, Caesar describes the battles and intrigues that took place in the 9 years he spent in Gallia (Gaul). It was during this time that Caesar and his Legions were fighting the Germanic peoples and Celtic peoples  that opposed Roman conquest.

Map of Gaul

The Gaul that Caesar refers to is sometimes all of Gaul except for the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis (modern-day Provence), encompassing the rest of modern France, Belgium and some of Switzerland. On other occasions, he refers only to that territory inhabited by the Celtic peoples known to the Romans as Gauls, from the English Channel to Lugdunum (Lyon).

The work has been a mainstay in Latin instruction because of its simple, direct prose. It begins with the frequently quoted phrase “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres“, meaning “Gaul is a whole divided into three parts”.

The full work is split into sections, Book 1 to Book 8, varying in size from approximately 5,000 to 15,000 words. Book 8 was written by Aulus Hirtius, after Caesar’s death.

Julius Caesar by Coustou (Louvre).

The victories in Gaul won by Caesar had increased the alarm and hostility of his enemies at Rome, and his aristocratic enemies, the Boni (Good Men), were spreading rumors about his intentions once he returned from Gaul. The Boni intended to prosecute Caesar for abuse of his authority upon his return, when he would lay down his Imperium (Power to Command).

Such prosecution would not only see Caesar stripped of his wealth and citizenship, but also negate all of the laws he enacted during his term as Consul and his dispositions as Proconsul of Gaul. To defend himself against these threats, Caesar knew he needed the support of the Plebeians, particularly the Tribunus Plebis (Tribunes of the Plebs), on whom he chiefly relied for help in carrying out his agenda.

The Commentaries were an effort by Caesar to directly communicate with the Plebeians to propagandize his activities as efforts to increase the glory and influence of Rome. This action would thereby circumvent the usual channels of communication that passed through the Senatus Romanus (Roman Senate).

Wood engraving of the Landing of Caesar during the Gallic Wars (1918).

By winning the support of the people, Caesar sought to make himself unassailable from the Boni. The work is an archetype of proper reporting and stylistic clarity.

Though often lauded for its polished, clear Latin, Caesar’s book is traditionally the paramount authentic text assigned to students of Latin, just as Xenophon‘s Anabasis is for students of Ancient Greek. Both works are autobiographical tales of military adventure told in the third person which contain many details, they also both employ many stylistic devices to promote political interests.

The books are valuable for the many geographical and historical claims that can be retrieved from the work. Notable chapters describe Gaulish custom (VI, 13), their religion (VI, 17), and a comparison between Gauls and Germanic peoples (VI, 24).

Astérix (left) and Obélix (right)

Since Caesar is one of the characters in the Astérix and Obélix albums, René Goscinny included gags for French schoolchildren who had the Commentarii as a textbook. One example is having Caesar talk about himself in the third person as in the book.

Some English editions state that Astérix’s village of indomitable Gauls is the so-called 4th part of Gaul. It is this part of Gallia which Caesar has not yet conquered.

Ray Stevenson as Titus Pullo (Left) and Kevin McKidd as Lucius Vorenus (Right).

In Book 5, Chapter 44 the Commentarii de Bello Gallico notably mentions Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, a pair of Roman Centurions of the Legio XI Claudia (Claudius’ 11th Legion). The 2005 TV series Rome gives a fictionalized account of Caesar’s rise and fall, featuring Kevin McKidd as the character of Lucius Vorenus and Ray Stevenson as the character of Titus Pullo of the Legio XIII Gemina (13th Twin Legion).

During World War I the French composer Vincent d’Indy wrote his Third Symphony, which bears the title De Bello Gallico. D’Indy was adapting Caesar’s title to the situation of the current struggle in France against the German army, in which he had a son and nephew fighting, and which the music illustrates to some extent.

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure. Who knows, maybe you were even inspired to go get a copy of the Commentarii de Bello Gallico for yourself.

In any event till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Caesar. In Hans Herzfeld[de] (1960): Geschichte in Gestalten (History in figures), vol. 1: A-E. Das Fischer Lexikon[de] 37, Frankfurt 1963.

As translated by H.J. Edwards in the Loeb Classical Library edition.

Albrecht, Michael. Geschichte der römischen Literatur Band 1 (History of Roman Literature, Volume 1). Munich, 1994.

Peck, Harry Thurston, ed. “Caesar, Gaius Ilulius”. Harper’s Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities. Cooper Square Publishers, Inc. 1963 (1898).

Rines, George Edwin, ed. “Cæsar’s Commentaries“. Encyclopedia Americana, 1920.

At Perseus ProjectCaesar’s Gallic War—De Bello Gallico, English translation by W. A. McDevitte and W. S. Bohn (1869); Latin text edition.

“Dickinson College Commentaries” Selections in Latin with notes, audio, and resources for the study of Caesar.

Roman War Tactics

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If this is your initial visit to RAE, then be prepared to have your mind blown (at least that’s what the video tells us). We cover a lot of things, both past and present, that have a connection to the Ancient Rome and the Roman Empire.

Today we are in for a visual treat as we explore Roman War Tactics!

Roman war tactics refers to the theoretical and historical deployment, formation and maneuvers of the Roman Infantry from the start of the Roman Republic to the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

For in depth background on the historical structure of the infantry relevant to this article, see Structure of the Roman military. For a history of Rome’s military campaigns see Campaign history of the Roman military. For detail on equipment, daily life and specific Legions see Roman Legion and Roman military personal equipment.

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure and look forward to having you back again soon.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Asterix the Gaul

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Recently we ventured from Rome across the Alps and into Gallia. Here we discovered Roman Gaul: Paving the Way for Modern Europe.

Staying on that theme, today we present to you a cartoon film from 1967 entitled Asterix the Gaul!

In the year 50 BC Gaul is occupied by the Romans – nearly. But the small village, Armorica, of Asterix and his friends still resists the Roman Legions.

With the aid of their druid’s magic potion, which gives superhuman strength, these Gauls duke it out with the Romans. Learning of this potion, a Roman Centurion kidnaps the druid to get the secret formula out of him.

We hope you enjoyed today’s throwback adventure. If you haven’t yet done so be sure to check us out on Facebook and Twitter.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Florence: From Flowering Roman City to Cradle of the Renaissance

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

With the extent of the Roman Empire being so vast, as well as lasting for quite some time, there is so much to discuss and discover. If we were just to speak of Rome herself, we could spend years exploring all she has to offer.

While we will we not be uncovering anything today in the Eternal City, we shall be staying in Italia. We thought we should stay in the light of the Tuscan sun and take a brief look into its most populous city.

Stick around for today we explore the Founding of Florence and the Siege of 405 (AD)!

Sunset view of modern Florence
Sunset view of modern Florence

Florence (ItalianFirenze) is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the Metropolitan City of Florence. As one of the world’s most beautiful and popular tourist destinations, Florence has a long and eventful history dating back as far as 59 BC.

Florence’s beauty is defined by its ancient buildings, cobblestone streets, museums, art, historical and eclectic architecture, and bustling city center. Originating as a Roman city, and later, after a long period Florence flourished as a trading and banking medieval commune, and was the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance.

Caesar
Caesar

The Etruscans initially formed a small settlement in 200 BC as the settlement of Faesulae, which was destroyed by Lucius Cornelius Sulla in 80 BC in reprisal for supporting the Populares faction in Rome. A Colonia was founded in the area we now call Florence by Julius Caesar in 59 BC as a settlement for his veteran soldiers.

The settlement was originally named Fluentia owing to the fact that it was built between 2 rivers, the Arno and the Mugnone. Later, the name was changed to Florentia (flowering).

The settlement was built in the style of an army camp. For added defense, the city also used the rivers as natural borders.

Rectangular in plan, it was enclosed in a wall about 5906 feet long. The built-up area, like all the cities founded by the Romans, was characterized by straight roads which crossed at right angles.

Piazza della Repubblica (present)
Piazza della Repubblica (present)

The main streets, the Cardo and the Decumanus, led to 4 towered gates and converged on a central square, the Forum Urbis, now the Piazza della Repubblica. Here the Curia and the Temple were dedicated to the Capitoline Triad (Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva).

Archaeological finds, many of which came to light during the course of works which “gave new life” to the old city center, have made it possible to locate and identify the remains of various important public works. These include the Capitoline Baths, the Baths of Capaccio, the sewage system, the pavement of the streets and the Temple of Isis, in Piazza San Firenze.

Capaccio Baths (left) and remains of Temple of Isis (right)
Capaccio Baths (left) and remains of Temple of Isis (right)

At that time the Arno was outside the walls, with a river port that constituted an important infrastructure for the city. In Roman times the river was navigable from its mouth up to its confluence with the Affrico, upstream from Florence.

Situated at the Via Cassia, the main route between Rome and the north, and within the fertile valley of the Arno. The settlement quickly became an important commercial center.

The River Arno, which now cuts through the old part of the city, is as much a character in Florentine history as many of the people who lived there. Historically, the locals have had a love-hate relationship with the Arno – which alternated between nourishing the city with commerce, and destroying it by flood.

Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River
Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River

The first bridge in Florentine history was built upstream from today’s Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), around the 1st Century BC. Held up by stilts, the Ponte Vecchio features a multitude of shops built upon its edges, and the bridge also carries Vasari’s elevated corridor linking the Uffizi to the Medici residence (Palazzo Pitti).

Although the original bridge was constructed by the Etruscans, the current bridge was rebuilt in the 14th Century. It is the only bridge in the city to have survived World War II intact.

The city developed rapidly thanks to its favorable position and the role it played in the influence of the territorial organization in the region. So much so that it soon superseded Arezzo as the leading center in northern Etruria.

Florence in the Roman Age
Florence in the Roman Age

Economic power was the driving force behind the urban growth of the young colony. Commercial activity and trade thrived thanks to the fact that important communications routes, land and water, intersected at Florentia.

This also offers an explanation for the presence of oriental merchants in Florence, probably on their way from Pisa. It was these merchants who initially introduced the cult of Isis and then, in the 2nd Century AD, Christianity.

In centuries to come, the city experienced turbulent periods of Ostrogothic rule, during which the city was often troubled by warfare between the Ostrogoths and the Byzantines. This may have caused the population to fall to as few as 1,000 people.

The Barbarian Invasions seriously impaired the importance of Florentia. It began in AD 405 with the Germanic hordes invaded the Roman Empire by crossing the Danube into Pannonia and northern Italy. It was at this point that the Barbarians divided into 3 armies.

Barbarian Invasion
Barbarian Invasion

The Goths, under the leadership of Radagaisus, were 1 of the divided armies. In August of AD 405, Radagaisus’s force of about 20,000 fighting men attacked Florence.

Many of the fighters were accompanied by their families and other noncombatants. This means that the total size of Radagaisus’s group may have been closer to 100,000 people.

Radagaisus invaded Italy without passing through the Balkans, indicating that his invasion began somewhere on the Great Hungarian Plain, west of the Carpathian Mountains. Archaeological finds of coin hoards, buried by residents who were apparently aware of Radagaisus’s approach, suggest that his route passed through southeastern Noricum and western Pannonia.

Roman General Stilicho (ca AD 395)
Roman General Stilicho (ca AD 395)

The Western Roman Empire under Stilicho mobilized 30 Numerii (about 15,000 men) from the Roman Army in response to Radagaisus’s invasion. Another Cohort of Roman troops, possibly recalled from the Rhine frontier, complemented the Roman forces.

Radagaisus’s forces had the run of northern Italy for at least 6 months while the Empire mobilized its forces. The Barbarians eventually made their way to Florentia, where they blockaded the city.

While mobilizing his own troops, Stilicho also received help from Gothic Auxilia under Sarus and Hunnic forces under Uldin. Stilicho gathered his force at Ticinum, and withdrew to Fiesole just before the battle.

Romans vs Goths
Romans vs Goths

Stilicho’s army relieved the siege of Florentia as the city was approaching the point of surrender. The Roman counterattack was extremely successful, and the Romans were able to cut off the Ostrogoth supply lines.

The invaders were massacred and Radagaisus was forced to retreat into the hills of Fiesole, about 5 miles away. There, Radagaisus abandoned his followers and tried to escape, but was captured by the Romans.

Historian Peter Heather hypothesizes that Radagaisus’s escape attempt may have been compelled by a revolt within his forces. Radagaisus was executed on 23 August 406.

Around 12,000 of his higher-status fighters were drafted into the Roman Army. Some of the remaining followers were dispersed, while others were sold into slavery.

The city managed to halt the hordes of Radagaisus, but later it could not avoid being involved in the disastrous Gotho-Byzantine War. Its strategic position as bridgehead on the Arno and strong point in the communications route between Rome and Padania explains why the city was so keenly contested between the Goths and the Byzantines.

Florence pre-Middle Ages
Florence pre-Middle Ages

Over the next couple hundred years, Florence was controlled by alternating powers, the Byzantine and the Ostrogoths. After years of fighting, at the end of the 6th Century, Florence was under Lombard rule and peace was found for a little while.

Florence was conquered by Charlemagne in AD 774 and became part of the Duchy of Tuscany, with Lucca as capital. The population began to grow again and commerce prospered.

This prosperity in Florence culminated into a special era in Europe and is known as the “cradle of the Renaissance” (la culla del Rinascimento) for its monuments, churches, and buildings. Due to this fact, Florence has consistently been one of the most highly regarded and enjoyed tourist destinations in the entire world over the last decade.

archFrom this point on, Florence would never again be the same. The city holds a special place in history and it all began with its Roman foundations.

We hope you enjoyed today’s travel through time and look forward to having you back soon. Be sure to check us out on Facebook and Twitter for more special updates.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Bury, J. B. History of the Later Roman Empire, 1923.

Chamberlin, Russell. Travellers Florence & Tuscany, 3rd: Guides to Destinations Worldwide. Thomas Cook Publishing, 22 May 2008. ISBN 978-1-84157-844-6.

Chaney, Edward. A Traveler’s Companion to Florence, 2003.

Gibbon, Edward. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 2.

Heather, Peter. The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians, 2nd ed. 2006.

Machiavelli, Niccolò. Florentine Histories.

Schevill, Ferdinand. History of Florence: From the Founding of the City Through the Renaissance, 1936.

Remains of Temple of Isis found in Florence courthouse”. Italy Magazine. 29 May 2009.

406CE”. WikiHistory.com

Florence: A Bit of History”. TheTravelingCookAbroad.com

History of Florence”. AboutFlorence.com

The Capaccio Baths – Via Calimala”. izi.Travel

THE ROMAN EMPIRE – THE AGE OF AUGUSTUS

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!

ROME – RISE OF THE REPUBLIC

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.

 

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure and look forward to having you back again for more. Please check us out on Facebook and Twitter, and tell your friends about us.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!