Constantine the Great – First Christian Emperor

Youthful Official ImageYesterday we saw the birth of Constantine and his “Rise to Power”. Today we will see how a boy of lower standards became the Emperor that would change the Roman Empire forever.

In the summer of 311 AD, Maxentius mobilized against Constantine to avenge his father’s supposed murder. To prevent Maxentius from forming an alliance against him with Licinius, Constantine forged his own alliance with Licinius over the winter of 311-312 AD.

To ensure this alliance Constantine offered his sister Constantia in marriage to Licinius. Maximin considered Constantine’s arrangement with Licinius an insult to his authority. Military buildup sprung up everywhere, thus making inter-regional travel became impossible.

Constantine’s advisers, generals, and even his soothsayers cautioned against anticipatory attack on Maxentius. Constantine ignored all these concerns and, in early spring of 312 AD, he crossed the Cottian Alps with a force numbering about 40,000.

Segusium, a heavily fortified town, was the first Constantine’s army encountered. When the town shut its gates on him, Constantine ordered his men to burn the town. Needless to say, Segusium was quickly taken. Constantine ordered his troops not to loot the town, and advanced with them into northern Italy.

Advancing on western Augusta Taurinorum, a quite important city,roman_battle_1 Constantine met a large force of heavily armed Maxentian cavalry. In the following battle Constantine’s army surrounded Maxentius’s cavalry, flanked them with his own cavalry, and dismounted them with blows from his soldiers’ iron-tipped clubs. Victory fell upon the armies of Constantine.

Turin was just one of the towns that refused refuge for Maxentius and his retreating forces. While on his way to Milan, cities of the north Italian plain sent Constantine embassies of congratulation for his victory.

Constantine - Capitoline MuseumsUpon arrival in Milan, Constantine was met with open gates and triumphant rejoicing, almost as if he had freed Milan himself. Constantine rested his army there until mid-summer 312 AD, when he moved on to Brixia.

Brixia’s army was easily broken up as Constantine hurriedly moved on to Verona, and a large Maxentian force. Maxentius’s Praefectus Praetorio, Ruricius Pompeianus, was in a strong defensive position with the town was surrounded on three sides by the Adige River.

Attempting to surround the town, Constantine sent a small force north and defeated a large detachment of forces sent by Ruricius. Constantine’s forces were able to surround the town and lay siege upon it.

Ruricius escaped only to return with more forces. Constantine refused to let up on the siege, again sending only a small force against Ruricius. In the encounter that followed, Ruricius was killed, his army annihilated, and Verona surrendered soon after. The road to Rome was open for Constantine.

Aurelian WallsMaxentius sat in Rome and prepared the city for a siege. Maxentius still controlled Rome’s Praetoriani, had plenty of African grain, and was surrounded by the Aurelian Walls which seemed almost impenetrable. Maxentius left the rest of central Italy undefended, allowing Constantine to secure the support of these people without any effort.

Constantine slowly advanced along the Via Flaminia, allowing Maxentius to further weaken. No longer certain of victory from a siege, Maxentius built a temporary boat bridge across the Tiber in case escape was needed.

On 28 October 312 AD, Maxentius advanced north with forces twice the size of Constantine’s to meet in battle. Constantine’s army arrived at the field bearing unfamiliar symbols on its standards and soldiers’ shields.

The Vision of the Cross by Raphael

Constantine supposedly had a dream the night before the battle, wherein he was advised “to mark the heavenly sign of God on the shields of his soldiers…by means of a slanted letter X with the top of its head bent round, he marked Christ on their shields.”

Another version states while marching at midday, Constantine “saw with his own eyes in the heavens a trophy of the cross arising from the light of the sun, carrying the message, In Hoc Signo Vinces.

Chi-Ro-SymbolConstantine was said to have a dream the following night, in which Christ appeared with the same heavenly sign, and told him to make the labarum for his army in that form. The sign was Chi (Χ) traversed by Rho (Ρ) to give the Chi Rho: ☧, a symbol representing the first two letters of the Greek spelling of the word Christos or Christ.

Constantine deployed his own forces along the whole length of Maxentius’s line. Maxentius’s horse guards and Praetorians initially held their position, but broke under the force of a Constantinian cavalry charge. The infantry of Constantine pushed forward causing Maxentius’s soldiers to break ranks and flee.

Battle of the Milvian Bridge - Giulio Romano

Many of those that fled headed to the Tiber, where they were slaughtered. Maxentius rode with them, and attempted to cross the bridge of boats, but he was pushed by the mass of his fleeing soldiers into the Tiber, and drowned. This massive victory for Constantine is recalled as the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.

Constantine entered Rome on 29 October, where he staged a grand Maxentiusadventus, and was met with popular jubilation. Maxentius’s severed head was sent to Carthage causing no further resistance. Unlike previous victors, Constantine did not travel to Capitoline Hill and make sacrifices at the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus.

He instead chose to honor the Senatorial Curia with a visit. Here Constantine promised to restore its ancestral privileges and give it a secure role in his reformed government.

There would be no revenge against supporters of Maxentius. Property lost under Maxentius was returned, political exiles were recalled, and imprisoned political opponents were released. Because of his acts of kindness the Senate acclaimed Constantine as the “Greatest Augustus“.

Maxentius’s image was systematically purged from all public places, Temple-of-Romulusand the honors he had granted to leaders of the Senate were invalidated. All structures built by Maxentius were re-dedicated to Constantine, including the Temple of Romulus and the Basilica of Maxentius.Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine

A stone statue of Constantine holding the Christian labarum in its hand was erected at the basilica. The inscription bore the message: By this sign Constantine had freed Rome from the yoke of the tyrant. Constantine was shown in an idealized image of the “liberator”.

Maxentius’s strongest supporters in the military were neutralized when the Praetoriani and Equites Singulares Augusti were disbanded. On 9 November 312 AD, barely two weeks after Constantine Archbasilica of St. John Laterancaptured the city, the former base of the Imperial Horseguard was chosen for redevelopment into the Lateran Basilica. The Legio II Parthica was removed from Alba and the remainders of Maxentius’s armies were sent to do frontier duty on the Rhine.

Constantine gradually consolidated his military superiority over his rivals in the crumbling Tetrarchy in the following years. In 313 AD, he met Licinius in Milan to secure their alliance and agreed on the Edict of Milan, officially granting full tolerance to Christianity and all religions in the Empire.

The document had special benefits for Christians, legalizing their religion and granting them restoration for all property seized during Diocletian‘s persecution. It repudiates past methods of religious coercion and used only general terms to refer to the divine sphere of “Divinity” and “Supreme Divinity”, Summa Divinitas.

The conference was cut short when news reached Licinius that rival Maximin had crossed the Bosporus and invaded European territory. Licinius departed and defeated Maximin, gaining control over the entire eastern half of the Roman Empire. Relations between Constantine and Licinius, the two remaining emperors, deteriorated when a compatriot of Licinius attempted to assassinate Constantine.

Licinius-ConstantineIn either 314 or 316 AD, the two Augusti fought against one another at the Battle of Cibalae, with Constantine again victorious despite being outnumbered. They clashed again at the Battle of Mardia in 317 AD with both sides inflicting heavy injuries on each other.

A settlement was agreed to in which Constantine’s sons Crispus and Constantine II, and Licinius’ son Licinianus were all made Caesars. After this arrangement, Constantine ruled the dioceses of Pannonia and Macedonia. From his residence in Sirmium, he waged war on the Sarmatians in 322 AD and on the Goths in 323 AD.

In the year 320 AD, Licinius allegedly reneged on the religious freedom promised by the Edict of Milan and began to oppress Christians once more seeing the Church as a force more loyal to Constantine than to the Imperial system in general. This eventually became a challenge to Constantine in the West causing the great civil war of 324.

Licinius, aided by Goth mercenaries, represented the past and the ancient pagan faiths. Constantine and his Franks marched under the standard of the labarum, and both sides saw the battle in religious terms.

Hellespont Sea BattleOutnumbered, but fired by their fervor, Constantine’s army was victorious in the Battle of Adrianople, again at the Battle of the Hellespont, and finally the Battle of Chrysopolis on 18 September 324 AD. Licinius and Martinianus surrendered to Constantine at Nicomedia on the promise their lives would be spared.

Licinius was sent to live as a private citizen in Thessalonica while Martinianus was sent to Cappadocia to do the same. In 325 AD Constantine accused Licinius of plotting against him and had both Licinius and Martinianus arrested and hanged, while Licinius’s son was also killed.

This left Constantine as the sole emperor of the Roman Empire. InSaint Constantine the West, Christianity and Latin-speaking were the standard. The defeat of Licinius came to represent the defeat of pagan and Greek-speaking political activity in the East. This led to proposal for a new Eastern capital to be the center of learning, prosperity, and cultural preservation for the whole of the Eastern Roman Empire.

Many locations were proposed for this alternative capital. With Constantine saying “Serdica is my Rome” many thought Serdica to be the spot. Having already been extensively rebuilt on Roman patterns of urbanism Constantine decided to work on the Greek city of Byzantium.

The century prior Byzantium had already acknowledged for its strategic importance by other emperors. Thus the city was founded in 324 AD, dedicated on 11 May 330 AD, and renamed Constantinopolis aka Constantine’s City.

To honor the event special commemorative coins were issued in 330Church of the Holy Apostles AD. The new city was protected by the relics of the True Cross, the Rod of Moses and other holy relics. The figures of old gods were restored or incorporated into the structure of Christian symbolism. Constantine built the Church of the Holy Apostles on the site of the Temple of Aphrodite. The capital would often be called Nova Roma Constantinopolitana, the “New Rome of Constantinople”.


The story of Constantine is not over. The conclusion is still to come. Untill then, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Constantine the Great – Rise to Power

Today we celebrate the birth of Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinusconstantine bust Augustus, better known as Constantine the Great or Saint Constantine. Constantine was a ruler of major historical importance. He has always been a controversial figure since there are no surviving histories or biographies dealing with Constantine’s life and rule. The closest text comes in the period of Eusebius of Caesarea’s Vita Constantini written between 335 and 339 AD.

On 27 February 272 AD, Flavius Valerius Constantinus, as he was originally named, was born to an Illyrian family. It was in the city of Naissus, part of the Dardania province of Moesia, that the Roman Empire would unknowingly change forever.

Constantius ChlorusThe boy’s father was Flavius Constantius, a native of Dardania province of Moesia. Constantius, as he was referred to, was an officer in Emperor Aurelian‘s Imperial Bodyguard. This respected position kept Constantius always on the move, so Constantine saw very little of his father. Constantius advanced through the ranks, earning the Governorship of Dalmatia from Emperor Diocletian in 284 or 285 AD.

Constantine’s mother was Helena, a Bithynian/Thracian womanHelena who is often referenced as a stable-maid. It is uncertain whether she was legally married to Constantius or if it was simply a common law marriage. Historians have said Helena met Constantius as he served in the Asia Minor. They were said to both be wearing identical silver bracelets as they met, which made Constantius believe Helena was a god-given gift to him. What is known for certain is that Helena would be a wonderful mother to Constantine, and would hold a position of influence throughout her son’s life.

MaximianIn 288 AD, Maximian appointed Constantius to serve in Gaul as his Praetorian Prefect. Constantius left Helena to marry Maximian’s stepdaughter in 288 or 289 AD. Diocletian had again divided the Empire in 293 AD, thus appointing two Caesars to rule over further subdivisions of East and West. Each would be subordinate to their respective Augustus but would act with supreme authority in his assigned lands. This system would later be called the Tetrarchy. Diocletian’s first appointee for the office of Caesar was Constantius.

On 1 March, Constantius was promoted to the office of Caesar, and dispatched to fight the rebels Carausius and Allectus. In spite of the political philosophy which holds that power should be vested in individuals almost exclusively according to merit, the Tetrarchy retained vestiges of hereditary privilege. This made Constantine the prime candidate for future appointment as Caesar as soon as his father took the position. Thus Constantine went to the court of Diocletian, where he lived as his father’s presumptive heir.

In the East, at Diocletian’s court, Constantine received a formal education of Latin literature, Greek, and philosophy. He may have attended the lectures of Lactantius, a Christian scholar of Latin inLactantius the city. Because Diocletian did not completely trust Constantius, none of the Tetrarchs fully trusted each other, Constantine was held as something of a hostage to ensure Constantius’s best behavior. Constantine was nonetheless a prominent member of the court. Constantine fought for Diocletian and Galerius in Asia, and served in a variety of offices. He campaigned against barbarians on the Danube (296 AD), fought the Persians under Diocletian in Syria (297 AD), and under Galerius in Mesopotamia (298–99 AD).

By late 305 AD, Constantine had become a Tribunus Ordinis Primi, or Tribune of the First Order. Constantine had returned to Nicomedia from the Eastern Front by the spring of 303 AD. He was witness to Diocletianthe beginnings of Diocletian’s “Great Persecution”, the most severe persecution of Christians in Roman history. It is unlikely that Constantine played any role in the persecution. In his later writings he would attempt to present himself as an opponent of Diocletian’s bloody violence against the “worshippers of God”.

GaleriusIn the West, Constantine recognized the danger in remaining at Galerius’s court as a virtual hostage. His career depended on returning to his father in the West. Constantius was quick to intervene. In the late spring or early summer of 305 AD, Constantius requested leave for his son to help him campaign in Britannia.

After a long evening of drinking, Galerius granted the request. Constantine later described how he fled the court in the night, before Galerius could change his mind, riding from post-house to post-house at high speed till he wore out each horse. When Galerius finally awoke, Constantine had covered too much ground to be caught. Just as planned Constantine joined his father in Gaul, at Bononia before the summer of 305 AD.

From Bononia they crossed the Channel to Britannia and made their way to Eboracum. This was the capital of the province of Britannia Secunda, as well as home to a large military base. Constantine spent a year by his father’s side, campaigning against the Picts beyond Hadrian’s Wall. Constantius’s campaign, like that of Septimius Severus before him, advanced far into the north but achieved very little for the Empire.

Over the course of his reign Constantius had become severely sick, and died on 25 July 306 AD in Eboracum. Before dying, Constantius OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAdeclared his support for Constantine raising his son to the rank of full Augustus. The Alamannic King Chrocus then proclaimed Constantine as Augustus. The troops loyal to Constantius’s memory followed him in acclamation, in typical fashion. Gaul and Britannia, areas ruled by Constantius, quickly accepted Constantine’s rule.

Constantine sent Galerius an official notice of his father’s death and his own acclamation to Augustus. Along with the notice, Constantine sent a portrait of himself in the robes of an Augustus. Constantine requested recognition as heir to his father’s throne, and passed off responsibility for his unlawful ascension on his army, claiming it had been forced upon him. Galerius was put into a fury by the portrait and message.

His advisers calmed him, and argued that outright denial of Constantine’s claims would mean certain war. Galerius compromised by granting Constantine the title Caesar rather than Augustus. Wishing to make it clear that he alone gave Constantine legitimacy, Galerius personally sent Constantine the emperor’s traditional purple robes. Constantine accepted knowing that the decision of Galerius would remove doubts as to his own legitimacy.

Constantine’s share of the Empire consisted of Britannia, Gaul, and Hispania; therefore commanding one of the largest Roman armies. After his promotion Constantine remained in Britannia, driving back the tribes of the Picts and secured control in the northwestern dioceses. He completed the reconstruction of military bases begun under his father’s rule, and ordered the repair of the region’s roadways.

Following Galerius’s recognition of Constantine as Caesar, Constantine’s portrait was brought to Rome, as was customary. Maxentius mocked the portrait’s subject as the son of a harlot, and lamented his own powerlessness. Maxentius, envious of Constantine’s authority, seized the title of Emperor on 28 October 306 AD. Galerius refused to recognize him, but failed to unseat him. Galerius sent Severus against Maxentius. During the campaign, however, Severus’s armies defected, and Severus was seized and imprisoned.

Maximian left for Gaul to confer with Constantine in late 307 AD. He offered to marry his daughter Fausta to Constantine, and elevateFlavia Maxima Fausta him to Augusta. In return, Constantine would reaffirm the old family alliance between Maximian and Constantius, and offer support to Maxentius’s cause in Italy. Constantine accepted, and married Fausta in Trier in late summer 307 AD. Constantine now gave Maxentius his meager support, offering Maxentius political recognition.

Over the spring and summer of 307 AD, Constantine left Gaul for Britannia to avoid any involvement in the Italian conflict. To further distance himself from the Italian turmoil, Constantine sent his troops against Germanic tribes along the Rhine. In 308 AD, he raided the territory of the Bructeri and made a bridge across the Rhine at Colonia Agrippinensium.

When not campaigning, he toured his lands advertising his benevolence, and supporting the economy and the arts. His refusal to participate in the war increased his popularity among his people, and strengthened his power base in the West. Maximian returned to Rome in the winter of 307-308 AD, but soon fell out with his son. In early 308 AD, after a failed attempt to usurp Maxentius’s title, Tetrarchs - Diocletian and MaximianMaximian returned to Constantine’s court.

On 11 November 308 AD, Galerius called a general council at the military city of Carnuntum to resolve the instability in the western provinces. In attendance were Diocletian, Galerius, and Maximian. Maximian was forced to abdicate again and Constantine was again demoted to Caesar. Licinius, one of Galerius’s old military companions, was appointed Augustus of the West. The new system did not last long for Constantine refused to accept the demotion, and continued to style himself as Augustus on his coinage.

In 310 AD, Constantine marched to the northern Rhine and fought the Franks. The Frankish kings and their soldiers were fed to the beasts of Trier’s amphitheater in the adventus celebrations that followed. It was now that a dispossessed Maximian rebelled against Constantine while Constantine was away campaigning against the Franks. Maximian announced that Constantine was dead, and took up the Imperial Purple. In spite of a large pledge to any who would support him as emperor, most of Constantine’s army remained loyal him, thus causing Maximian to leave.

Constantine soon heard of the rebellion, abandoned his campaign against the Franks, and marched his army up the Rhine. Maximian fled to Massilia to withstand a long siege but it made little difference, however, as loyal citizens opened the rear gates to Constantine. Maximian was captured and reproved for his crimes.

Some clemency was granted by Constantine, but Maximian was strongly encouraged suicide. It was July 310 AD when Maximian hanged himself. Along with using propaganda, Constantine instituted a damnatio memoriae on Maximian, destroying all inscriptions referring to him and eliminating any public work bearing his image.

The death of Maximian required a shift in Constantine’s public image. He could no longer rely on his connection to the elder emperor Maximian for legitimacy. Breaking away, Constantine Statue of Constantine as Apollofocused on his ancestral choice to rule, rather than principles of imperial equality. Constantine was said to have experienced a divine vision of Apollo and Victory granting him laurel wreaths of health and a long reign. This religious shift is paralleled by a similar shift in Constantine’s coinage. In his early reign, the coinage of Constantine advertised Mars as his patron. From 310 AD on Sol Invictus was seen.Unconquered Constantine with Sol Invictus 313 AD This proclamation strengthened Constantine’s claims to legitimacy and increased his popularity among the citizens of Gaul.

Constantine had risen like his patron Sol Invictus. The light of his strength had not yet reached its peak, but was gaining strength. Please join us tomorrow and see how Constantine was about to change the Roman Empire forever. Till then, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

How Rome Does Revenge

The Disaster

Publius Quinctilius Varus, a noble from a Patrician family who wasPublius Quinctilius Varus related to the Imperial family, was a general and an experienced administrative official. He was assigned to consolidate the new province of Germania in the autumn of 6 AD.

Then nearly half of all Roman legions in existence were sent to the Balkans to end a revolt. Due to this massive redeployment of available legions, when Varus was named Legatus Augusti pro praetore in Germania, only three legions were available to him.

Varus’s forces included his three legions (Legio XVII, Legio XVIII, and Legio XIX), six cohorts of auxiliary troops and three alae. Most lacked combat experience, especially against Germanic fighters in the unique local conditions of Germania.

The Roman forces were not marching in combat formation, and a large numbers of camp followers were traveling with the soldiers. As they entered the forest northeast of Osnabrück, the road became narrow and muddy. To add to the problems, a violent storm had also arisen. Among other errors it appears that Varus also neglected to send reconnaissance parties ahead of the main body of troops.

The line was now stretched out between 15 and 20 kilometers, which made it ripe for an attack. Germanic warriors armed with light swords, large lances and narrow-bladed short spears took advantage at this moment. The tribesmen surrounded the entire Roman army, and showered all sorts of weapons down upon the vulnerable Romans.

After taking heavy losses, the Romans had managed to set up a fortified night camp. The next morning these Roman survivors broke out into the open country north of the Wiehen Hills, again taking heavy losses. As torrential rains pounded, a further Roman attempt to escape was attempted by marching through another forested area. The rain prevented the legions from using their bows because the wet sinew strings had become slack, and their waterlogged shields rendered them virtually defenseless.

The Romans undertook a night march to escape, but marched into another trap that Arminius had set. A sandy, open strip was left for the Romans to march on, constricted by a hill, with a gap of only about 100 meters, the woods and the Battle of Teutoburg Forestswampland. The road was further blocked by a trench, and an earthen wall had been built along the roadside by the forest edge. This all permitted the Germanic tribesmen to attack the Romans from cover. The Romans made a desperate attempt to storm the wall, but failed.

The highest-ranking officer next to Varus, Legatus Numonius Vala, abandoned the troops by riding off with the cavalry. His retreat was in vain though as Vala was overtaken by the Germanic cavalry and killed shortly thereafter. The Germanic warriors stormed the field and slaughtered the crumbling Roman forces. Varus committed suicide, and Praefectus Ceionius dishonorably surrendered, later taking his own life. Praefectus Eggius was the only one to die heroically as he attempted to save his doomed troops.

Roman casualties have been estimated at 15,000 to 20,000 dead, and many of the officers were said to have taken their own lives by falling on their swords in the approved manner. Tacitus wrote that many officers were sacrificed by the Germanic forces as part of their indigenous religious ceremonies, cooked in pots and their bones used for rituals. Others were ransomed, and some common soldiers appear to have been enslaved.

All Roman accounts stress the completeness of the Roman defeat. Around 6,000 pieces of Roman equipment were found at Kalkriese, with only part of a single Germanic spur, clearly indicate minimal Germanic losses. The victors, more than likely, removed the bodies of their fallen and buried their warriors in battle gear per their religious practice.

The victory was followed by a clean sweep of all Roman forts, garrisons and cities east of the Rhine. The pair of Roman legions left in Germania, commanded by Varus’s nephew Lucius Nonius Asprenas, remained content to try to hold that river. One fort, Aliso,Teutoburg Forest fended off the Germanic tribes for a few months. After the situation became untenable, the garrison under Lucius Caedicius, accompanied by survivors of Teutoburg Forest, broke through the siege and reached the Rhine.

Upon hearing of the defeat, the Emperor Augustus, according to the Roman historian Suetonius, in De vita Caesarum (On the Life of the Caesars), was so shaken that he stood butting his head against the walls of his palace, repeatedly shouting:

“Quintili Vare, legiones redde!“ (Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!)

Give Me Back My Legions

The legion numbers XVII and XIX were not used again by the Romans, unlike other legions that were reconstructed. Augustus’ Tiberiusstepson Tiberius took effective control, and prepared for the continuation of the war. Legio II Augusta, XX Valeria Victrix, and Legio XIII Gemina were sent to the Rhine to replace the lost legions.

Arminius sent Varus’s severed head to King Maroboduus of the Marcomanni, the other most powerful Germanic ruler, with the offer of an anti-Roman alliance. Maroboduus declined, sending the head to Rome for burial, remaining neutral throughout the ensuing war.

The Retribution

Though the shock at the slaughter was enormous, the Romans immediately began a slow, systematic process of preparing for the reconquest of the country. In 14 AD, just after Augustus’s death and the accession of his stepson Tiberius as heir, a massive raid wasGermanicus1 conducted by the new emperor’s nephew Germanicus.

In a surprise attack, Germanicus went after the Marsi. Other Germanic tribes were incited by the Roman attack and ambushed Germanicus on the way to the winter quarters. This was a bad decision for these other tribes because all were defeated by Germanicus and all had heavy losses.

With a large army of between 55,000 to 70,000 men, backed by naval forces, two major campaigns and several smaller battles came about in 15 AD. In the spring, Legatus Caecina Severus invaded the Marsi a second time with around 30,000 men, causing mayhem and destruction.

Meanwhile on Mount Taunus, Germanicus’s 30,000 some troops had built a fort from where they marched against the Chatti. Many of the Chatti fled across a river and hid themselves in the forests. Germanicus next marched on Mattium and burned the place down.

After initial successful skirmishes in summer 15 AD, including the capture of Arminius’s wife Thusnelda, the army visited the site of the disastrous Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. According to Tacitus, they found heaps of bleached bones and severed skulls nailed to trees, which they buried, “…looking on all as kinsfolk and of their own blood…” A Roman Legionary Standard from the lost battle was also recovered.

Roma e i barbari a Venezia

Skirmishes with the Germani were constant but the Romans could not draw them into open battle. Germanicus launched a massive assault on the heartland of the Cherusci. Arminius initially lured Germanicus’s cavalry into a trap and inflicted minor casualties.

Successful fighting by the Roman infantry caused though the Germans to break ranks and flee into the forest. This victory, combined with the fact that winter was fast approaching, meant Germanicus’s next step was to lead his army back to its winter quarters on the Rhine.

Germanicus2In spite of doubts on the part of his uncle, Emperor Tiberius, Germanicus managed to raise another huge army and invaded Germania again in 16 AD. He forced a crossing of the Weser River and then met Arminius’s army at Idistaviso, further up the Weser.

This engagement is called the Battle of the Weser River; it has also been referred to as the first Battle of Minden or the Battle of Idistavisus. The battle marked the end of a three-year series of campaigns by Germanicus in Germania.

The Germanic tribes generally avoided open large-scale combat but by repeated Roman incursions deep into Germanic territory, Germanicus was able to force Arminius the Germanic coalition, into response for one final battle fought at the Angivarian Wall.Germanicus

Germanicus’s leadership, command qualities, and superior tactics were put on display as his better trained legions, along with their Chauci auxiliaries, inflicted huge casualties on the Germani army with only minor losses.

The many Germanic fatalities once more forced the tribes to flee. Arminius and his uncle, Inviomerus, evaded capture and fled with the remnants of their army into the forests. Germanicus then withdrew behind the Rhine for the winter.

The Outcome

E0702 PILOTY WAF771Although only a small number of soldiers died it was still a bad ending for a brilliantly fought campaign. After a few more raids across the Rhine, which resulted in the recovery of two of the three legion’s aquila lost in 9 AD, a feeling came that Roman honor had been avenged.

Tiberius called an end to the costly military campaigns in northern Germania. Germanicus was ordered to return to Rome, where he was granted a Triumphus by Tiberius on 26 May 17 AD. Arminius would be later assassinated on the orders of rival Germanic chiefs.Germanicus Triumph

The Romans took any assault on themself, or on their Empire, quite personally. So it was no shock that after a massive defeat at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest there would be a price for their enemies to pay. That price was paid to Germanicus.

We hope you enjoyed this bit of history and may have even learned something new today. From all of us here at Rome Across Europe, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar

Bosnia has been inhabited since at latest the Neolithic Age, with the earliest of people here known as the Illyrians. Historical evidence for this period is scarce, but it appears the region was populated by a number of different peoples speaking distinct languages. Conflict between the Illyrians and Romans started in 229 BC.

In what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rome fought one of its most difficult battles since the Punic Wars. This Roman campaign was known in history as the Great Illyrian Revolt. This uprising of the Illyrians against the Romans was a revolt against Tiberius‘s attempt to recruit them for his war against the Germanic tribes.

The Illyrians put up a fierce resistance to the most powerful army on earth at the time from 6 AD to 9 AD. This was when Rome finally completed its occupation of the region. In the Roman period, Latin-speaking settlers from the entire Roman Empire settled among the Illyrians, and Roman soldiers were encouraged to retire in the region.

Following the split of the Roman Empire between 337 and 395 AD, Dalmatia and Pannonia became parts of the Western Roman Empire. By the 6th century, Emperor Justinian had reconquered the area for the Byzantine Empire. Evidence of Roman occupation was discovered beneath the present town of Mostar.

Till we visit our next Worl Heritage Site, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Arch of Augustus – Susa, Italy

The architecture of the ancient world has been an inspiration that has lasted throughout the centuries. The styles, shapes, and reason a piece was built have modern-day people gather to see these pieces that paid homage to the ancients. Come join Rome Across Europe today as we venture to Italy and examine one such lasting design.

Susa was founded by the Gauls, but it voluntarily became part of theThe city of Susa, Italy. Roman Empire in the late 1st Century BC . Remains of the Roman city have been found in the excavations of the central square, the Piazza Savoia. Susa was the capital of the province of Alpes Cottiae . According to the medieval historian Rodulfus Glaber, Susa was “the oldest of Alpine towns”.

Arco_di_Augusto-SusaThe Arch of Augustus, the best preserved of all Augustan arches in Italy, is an important monument found in the city of Susa. It is located in the Piedmont province of Turin on the road leading to the Alpine crossing to Gaul. The arch was created to record the peace between Emperor Augustus and Marcus Julius Cottius. The arch, together with other remains from the period, underlines the importance that the city of Susa had during the Roman Empire.

From above, the arch forms a rectangle of almost 12 meters longSusa_Roman_Arch_of_Augustus and about 7.5 meters wide. Constructed with white marble from Foresto, it rests on two large bases. There is only one archway. The arch has a unique arcade, in which the archivolt is supported by pilasters. The entablature rests on four Corinthian columns placed at the extremities of each corner, such that a quarter of each drum is embedded in the monument.

A of AThe lowest architrave is composed of three bands. Above the architrave, a frieze composed of a bass relief which stretches around all four sides. Above that is the cornice which has 22 corbels on each face and 12 on each side of the arch. The corbels’ panels are decorated with roses. On top of that rests the attic, which displays an inscription on both faces.

The following dedication is recorded on the attic:


CIL V 7231

Marcus Julius Cottius, son of King Donnus, leader of the communities which follow: the Segovii, Segusini, Belaci, Caturiges, Medulli, Tebavii, Adanates, Savincates, Ecdinii, Veaminii, Venisamores, Iemerii, Vesubianii, and Quadiates, and the [aforementioned]communities who were under this leader [dedicated this arch] to Imperator Caesar Augustus son of a god,Augustus as Pontifex Maximus Pontifex Maximus, awarded Tribunician Power 15 times and acclaimed Imperator 13 times.

The frieze represents the sacrifice of the suovetaurilia. The scene has a great number of symbolic meanings, but above all indicates that the sacrifice is the focus and nothing else. On the western side some representatives of the Cottian communities Augustus with personifications of land and seamentioned in the inscription are depicted. On the southern side a second sacrifice, officiated by Cottius, is depicted. On the eastern side the scene has been completely destroyed by the ravages of time.

On the two thousandth anniversary of the death of the Emperor Octavian Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD), a conference was held in Susa to highlight the achievements of Arch at Susarecent survey excavations and interventions carried out on the Arch of Augustus.

Research and studies on the Susa Valley company and the Town of Susa aimed to check the particular theme of Augustan political propaganda through the reading of his architectural and historical monuments in Italy and the western provinces at that time.

The leaders of Ancient Rome were never against people celebrating them, or their achievements. Apparently that is simply part of the human condition for it seems a trait that is still around today. We hope you had as much fun reading this article as we did writing it. Til next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

The Portrait of the Four Tetrarchs

the four tetrarchsThis is a variety of igneous rock sculpted of four Roman Emperors dating from around 300 AD. Since the Middle Ages, it has been fixed to a corner of the facade of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy. The statues probably originally decorated the columns of the porch of the Philadelphion in Constantinople. They were plundered by the Venetians when Constantinople was sacked during the Fourth Crusade in 1204 AD. In the 1960s, the heel part of theHeel_portion missing foot was discovered by archaeologists in Istanbul close to the Bodrum Mosque. This part is housed in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.

The Roman Empire was, for a time after 293 AD, ruled by a Tetrarchy due to its Diocletiansize. This was instituted by Emperor Diocletian, a military general from the cavalry that was elected by his troops. He believed the Tetrarchy, Greek for “Rule by Four”, should consist of two Augusti (senior emperors), one in the west and the other in the east. Each would have a junior emperor, Caesars (younger emperors) to serve underneath the seniors. The model would allow for the junior emperors to succeed their senior counterpart upon their death, and appoint a new junior emperor. This would continue the smooth transition of power.

Rather than providing four personal portraits, each Tetrarch looks the same. That is without any individualized characteristics. The portraiture symbolizes the concept of co-rule and cohesiveness Beard & No Beardinstead of the power of the individual. There are two, probably representing the older Augusti, that have beards, and the other two do not. The group is divided into pairs, each embracing, which unites Augusti and Caesars together. The overall effect suggests unity and stability as the figures are stiff and rigid. Thus four men are working together to establish peace and stability throughout the empire. The very choice of material, the durable red porphyry, symbolizes a permanence of the kind reminiscent of Egyptian statuary and the early Kouros figures.

Piazza San Marco - Venice, ItalyThe Procurator of St. Mark’s made an exact replica of all Four Tetrarchs in Venice and the foot found in Istanbul. The fragments were combined in one perfect piece. The results have confirmed that indeed the same material was used for the Venice Tetrarchs and the Istanbul foot fragment. The findings from the study were also discussed during a meeting in Venice with various professionals. Typically both Roman and Byzantium history are best understood through art and monuments.

After Diocletian and Maximian retired in 305 AD, internal strifeMaximian Herculius erupted among the tetrarchs. The Tetrarchy was short lived and very quickly became unstable, as the four emperors sought to take power for themselves after Diocletian and Maximian retired or stood down.

Stylistically, this portrait of the Tetrarchs is done in Late Antique style, which uses a distinct squat, formless bodies, square heads, and stylized clothing clearly seen in all four men. The Tetrarchs have almost no body. Instead of their clothes molding to the form of their bodies underneath, the clothes of the Tetrarchs form to their bodies into chunky rectangles.

Some art historians believe that this portrait seems contrived and awkward. Though there are those who also view the statue as a contradiction. The four emperors are embraced, yet grasping their swords ready for war.Clasping Swords

Details such as the cuirass, skirt, armor and cloak are highly stylized and based on simple shapes and the repetition of lines. Despite the culmination of this artistic style, the rendering of the Tetrarchs in this manner seems to fit the connotations of their rule and need for stability throughout the empire.

Despite the stylistic changes in sculpture, the style of Roman architecture continued to be based on classical models and forms. Diocletian's palaceDiocletian’s palace demonstrates the Roman use of vaults in the substructure and the use of columns, peristyles and entablatures to create monumental spaces. The central court of the palace demonstrates the stylistic and monumental use of these architectural elements. The central court was also sunken and a flight of stairs enclosed the court and lead up to the decorative Peristyle and surrounding rooms. This increased the feeling of monumentality while emphasizing Diocletian’s imperial power. Members of the court would have had to stand several steps below the entrances to the temples, mausoleum, and court rooms.

This Tetrarchy lasted until around Licinius324 AD, when following Licinius’ defeat and execution. It was then that Constantine suspended the tetrarchy system to rule the empire alone.

The age of Constantine marked a distinctconstantine_the_great_of_byzantium turning point in the history of the Roman Empire. He built a new imperial residence at Byzantium and renamed the city Constantinople after himself. It would later become the capital of the Empire for over one thousand years.

Later, the same reliefs are to be found on the Arch of Constantine inArch of Constantine Rome. It took 810 years for the official confirmation that the group of sculptures known as the Portrait of the Four Tetrarchs originated in Constantinople. It was designed to emphasis the union of the four emperors and their uncompromising stance in the face of internal and external pressures.

Each of the Tetrarchs has a different story to tell. Each can be looked upon as a champion or villain. That is not the point of this article. Rome Across Europe simply wants to share something wonderful from history that has been preserved. Hopefully this was a new experience or provided some new information for you all. In any event, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Paris…A Modern City Built By Ancient Romans

It was around the middle of the 3rd century BC when the ParisiiCeltic Languages 3rd Century inhabited the Paris area. This was a major north-south trade route which crossed the Seine on the île de la Cité, serving as a meeting place of land and water trade routes. As is typical with major trade routes, a town gradually formed and then became an important trading center. The Parisii traded with many river towns as far away as modern-day Spain. Because they had such a far reaching trading area, the Parisii minted their own coins.

In 52 BC, Julius Caesar led the Romans and conquered the Paris-Julius Caesarbasin. After making a garrison camp, the Romans began extending their settlement in a more permanent way to Paris’s Left Bank. The Gallo-Roman town was originally called Lutetia Parisiorum. It became a prosperous city with a forum, baths, temples, theatres, and an amphitheatre.

The Arènes de Lutèce is among the most important remains fromArènes de Lutèce the Gallo-Roman era, in what is now Paris’s Quartier Latin. Constructed in the 1st century AD, this amphitheater is considered the longest of its kind constructed by the Romans. The sunken arena of the amphitheater was surrounded by a podium 2.5 m (8.2 ft) high, with a parapet placed on top. The presence of a 41.2 m (135 ft) long stage allowed scenes to alternate between theatrical productions and gladiatorial combat. A series of 9 niches aided in improving the acoustics. Five cubbyholes were situated beneath the lower terraces, 3 of which were animal cages that opened directly into the arena. Historians believe that the terraces, which surrounded more than half of the arena’s circumference, could accommodate as many as 17,000 spectators.

Slaves, the poor, and women were relegated to the higher tiers. The lower seating areas were reserved for Roman male citizens. For comfort, a linen awning sheltered spectators from the hot sun. Think of this as today’s modern stadium with a retractable roof. From its vantage point, the amphitheater also afforded a spectacular view of the Bièvre and Seine rivers.

The Thermes de Cluny are the ruins of Gallo-Roman thermal baths Thermes de Clunylying in the heart of what is now Paris’s 5th arrondissement. They are partly absorbed by the Musée national du Moyen Âge and another existing feature in today’s Paris. The best preserved room is the frigidarium, with intact architectural elements such as Gallo-Roman vaults, ribs, consoles, and fragments of original decorative wall painting and mosaics is entirely incorporated within the museum and houses the Pilier des Nautes.

It is believed that the bath complex was built by the influential guild of boatmen of the 3rd-century Romans, as evidenced by the fact that the consoles on which the barrel ribs rest are carved in the shape of ships’ prows. Like all Roman Baths, these baths were freely open to the public, and were meant to be a means of romanizing the ancient Gauls. As the baths lay across the River Seine on the Left Bank they were unprotected by defensive fortifications. This left the baths as easy prey to roving barbarian groups who apparently destroyed the bath complex sometime at the end of the 3rd century.

The bath complex is now partly an archeological site, and partlyNational Museum of the Middle Ages incorporated into the Musée national du Moyen Age. Although somewhat obscured by renovations and reuse over the past two thousand years, several other rooms from the bath complex are also incorporated into the museum, notably the gymnasium which now forms part of Gallery 9 (Gallery of French Kings and Sculptures from Notre Dame). The caldarium and the tepidarium are both still present as ruins outside the Musée itself and on the museum’s grounds.

When Lutèce was sacked during the barbaric invasions of 280 AD, some of the structure’s stone work was carted off to reinforce the Compagnie Générale des Omnibuscity’s defenses around the Île de la Cité. Centuries later the surrounding neighborhood had retained the name les Arènes, Then Théodore Vaquer during the building of the Rue Monge (between 1860–1869 AD) this is when the Compagnie Générale des Omnibus sought to build a tramway depot on the site.

Spearheaded by the author Victor Hugo, a preservation committee called la Société des Amis des Arènes undertook to save thela Société des Amis des Arènes archaeological treasure. After the demolition of the Couvent des Filles de Jésus-Christ in 1883, a third of the arena was uncovered. The Municipal Council dedicated funds to restoring the arena and establishing it as a public square, which was opened in 1896.

After the tramway lines and depot were dismantled in 1916 and Line 10 of the Paris Métro was constructed, the doctor and anthropologist Jean-Louis Capitan (1854–1929) continued with additional excavation and restoration of the arena toward the end of World War I. Standing in the centre of the arena one can still observe significant remnants of the stage and its nine niches, as well as the grilled cages in the wall. The stepped terraces are not original, but historians believe that 41 arched openings punctuated the façade.

By the end of the Roman Empire, the town was known simply as Parisii. Christianity was then introduced in the middle of the 3rd Saint-Deniscentury AD. According to tradition, it was brought by Saint-Denis, the first Bishop of Paris. When he refused to renounce his faith, he was beheaded on the hill which became known as the “Mountain of Martyrs“. His burial place became an important religious shrine. The Basilica of Saint-Denis was built there and became the burial place of the French Kings.

It is hard to think of a modern city as anything else as is it is today. Things change and places evolve. An ancient city might evolve into a major, modern city of today. Paris happens to be one of those places. As you venture out amongst ancient cities, remember to Keep On Rome-ing!

Book: 1; Thought: 16

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn my father I observed mildness of temper, and unchangeable resolution in the things which he had determined after due deliberation; and no vainglory in those things which men call honours; and a love of labour and perseverance; and a readiness to listen to those who had anything to propose for the common weal; and undeviating firmness in giving to every man according to his deserts; and a knowledge derived from experience of the occasions for vigorous action and for remission.

Historic Centre of Brugge

The Historic Town of Brugge is an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble. Archaeological excavations have shown evidence of human presence in the area of Brugge from the Iron Age and the Gallo-Roman period. It was the military and administrative centre of the region, and commercial links with Scandinavia started at the same time.

The Belgic confederacy in Gaul attempted to oppose Julius Caesar’s conquest of the area, resisting until 54 BC, but could not hold out. In 57 BC, Caesar and his 9,000 men were victorious. In 58 BC the Belgic confederacy supported the Veneti against Caesar, and was again defeated. The first fortifications were built after Julius Caesar’s conquest, in the first century BC, to protect the coastal area against pirates.


Bruges received its city charter on 27 July 1128 AD, and new walls and canals were built. This led to the city’s “Golden Age” from the 12th to 15th century AD. Trade was prosperous, the world’s first stock exchange opened here (1309 AD), and a city militia was maintained as a permanent paramilitary body.

Brugge, Belgium