History of Wine: Ancient Rome

Welcome back to Rome Across Europe! A few days ago we ventured to Ancient Rome to find out how wine was The Water of Rome.

Today we are going to see how wine was made, and how modern day people feel about the wine of old.

We hope you enjoyed today’s video and learned something new in the process. We have recently acquired a new fondness for wine and will be going over more about wine in the future.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Wine – The Water of Rome

Salve! Welcome back to Rome Across Europe. Today we have a special kind of fun in store.

This was once an everyday part of life for anyone that was breathing. In America, it’s something that was once completely taken away. Nowadays it’s regulated to those 21 years of age and older, but that is another topic for another website.

We’re talking about wine, drinking wine, and the role it played in daily life. Sedens paululum bibere! Habemus autem quaedam scientia est. (Sit down and have a drink! We have some learning to do.)Small-bacchus-at-vineyard

Ancient Rome played a pivotal role in the history of wine. The earliest influences on the viticulture of the Italian Peninsula can be traced to Ancient Greece and the Etruscans.

Early Roman culture was tremendously influenced by the Ancient Greeks. All one has to do to notice this influence is check out Roman architecture or art, it’s very Greek in nature.Amphora Art

Though early Rome lacked drink by Greek standards, this view changed over the course of the Imperium Rōmānum. Wine had social, medicinal and religious roles that set it apart from other Roman food or drink.

Romans followed the Greek custom of diluting their wine with water. The common belief was that only Barbarians would drink it straight.

The setting is ultimately what determined the water content in the wine. At family meals the ratio was about 3:1 water to wine.

In taverns there was often little water mixed in. Although most everyone drank wine diluted with water, people complained if they thought they were being shortchanged.Ancient_Bar,_Pompeii

One piece of graffiti found read, “May cheating like this trip you up bartender. You sell water and yourself drink undiluted wine.Wine Prices

The wine was often safer to drink than the water. The acids and the alcohol curbed the growth of bacteria and other pathogens.

Both the Greeks and Romans held banquets where wine was used to show off wealth and prestige. Wine soon became viewed as a necessity of everyday life rather than simply a luxury enjoyed by the elite.Gathering

Marcus Porcius Cato (the Elder) believed that even slaves should have a weekly ration of over a gallon, nonetheless citing the dietary health of the slaves and the maintenance of their strength rather than personal enjoyment.

The pervasive planting of grapes ensued from the need to serve all classes of society, but was also given momentum by the changing Roman diet. In the 2nd Century BC, Romans began to shift from meals consisting of moist porridge and gruel to those more bread-based. And wine aided perfectly in this new diet.Diet

The rise of Roman power saw both technological advances in and burgeoning awareness of winemaking, which spread to all parts of the empire. Rome’s influence has had a profound effect on the histories of today’s major winemaking regions in France (Gallia), Germany (Germania), Italy (Italia), Portugal and Spain (both were Hispania).

The Roman belief that wine was a daily necessity made the drink “democratic” and global. Wine was available to slaves, peasants, women and aristocrats alike.

Just like the people of today, Romans too played drinking games. A depiction of a drinking game in The House of Chaste Lovers in Pompeii shows one person still drinking while another is slumped over a couch, defeated.Drinking Game

To ensure the steady supply of wine to Roman soldiers and colonists, viticulture and wine production spread to every part of the empire. The economic opportunities presented by trading in wine drew merchants to do business with tribes native to Gallia and Germania, bringing Roman influences to these regions even before the arrival of the Roman military.

The works of Roman writers, which we will discuss at length in the future, have provided insight into the role wine played in Roman culture as well as contemporary understanding of winemaking and grape production practices. Many of the techniques and principles developed by the Ancient Romans can be found in modern winemaking.

Though wild grapevines have grown on the Italian Peninsula since prehistory, historians are unable to determine precisely when domestic viticulture and winemaking first occurred. It is possible that the Mycenaean Greeks had some influences through early settlements in southern Italy.

The earliest recorded evidence of Greek influence dates to 800 BC. The study, science and production of grapes were widely entrenched in Etruscan civilization, which was centered on the modern winemaking region of Tuscany.rome-wine-tasting

Because the Ancient Greeks saw wine as a staple of domestic life and a viable economic trade commodity, their settlements were encouraged to plant vineyards for local use and trade with the Greek city-states. Southern Italy’s abundance of indigenous vines provided an ideal opportunity for wine production, giving rise to the Greek name for the region, Oenotria (Land of Vines).

As Rome grew from a collection of settlements to the Rēgnum Rōmānum to the Res Publica Romana and finally the Imperium Rōmānum, the culture of Roman winemaking was increasingly influenced by the regions that were conquered and integrated into the Roman Empire. Funny enough, most of these influential locations were almost completely dry before Roman waterworks were introduced.

By 270 BC, the Greek settlements of southern Italy were completely under Roman control. The Etruscans, who had already established trade routes into Gaul, were completely conquered by the 1st Century BC.Greek Wine Boy

The Punic Wars with Carthage had a particularly marked effect on Roman viticulture. In addition to broadening the cultural horizons of the Roman citizenry, Carthaginians also introduced Romans to advanced viticultural techniques, in particular the work of Mago.

When the libraries of Carthage were ransacked and burned, among the few Carthaginian works to survive were the 26 volumes of Mago’s agricultural treatise, which was then translated into Latin and Greek in 146 BC. Although his works do not survive today, Mago has been extensively quoted by Rome’s influential writers.

Wine GrapesFor most of Rome’s winemaking history, Greek wine was the most highly prized, with domestic Roman wine commanding lower prices. There was a scarcity of wine in the early time period, which is in the later writings of the Romans a lot of people looked at these writings as historical facts.

The 2nd Century BC saw the dawn the “Golden Age” of Roman winemaking and the development of grand cru vineyards (a type of early first growths in Rome). The famous vintage of 121 BC became known as the Opimian vintage, named for Consul Lucius Opimius. Remarkable for its abundant harvest and the unusually high quality of wine produced, some of the vintage’s best examples were being enjoyed over a century later.

The notable first growths of Rome included Falernum, Alban and Caecubum wines. Other first growth vineyards included Rhaeticum and Hadrianum, along the Po River in what are now the modern-day regions of Lombardy and Venice respectively.Villa Aldobrndini at Frascati near Rome

Around Rome itself were the estates of Sabinium, Tiburtinum, Setinum and Signinum. Southward to Naples were the estates of Caulinum, Trebellicanum, Massicum, Gauranium, and Surrentinum. In Sicily was the first growth estate of Mamertinum.

At this high point in the Empire’s history of wine, it was estimated that Rome was consuming over 47 million US gallons of wine annually, about a bottle of wine each day for every citizen.

One of the most important wine centers of the Roman world was the city of Pompeii, located south of Naples. The area was home to a vast expanse of vineyards, serving as an important trading city with Roman provinciae abroad and the principal source of wine for the city of Rome.

The Pompeians had developed a widespread reputation for their wine-drinking capacity. The prevalent worship of Bacchus, the god of wine, left depictions of the god on frescoes and archaeological fragments throughout the region.Mosaic-of-Bacchus

Amphorae stamped with the emblems of Pompeian merchants have been found across the modern-day remnants of the Roman Empire, including Bordeaux, NarbonneToulouse and Spain. Evidence in the form of counterfeit stamps on amphorae of non-Pompeian wine suggests that its popularity and notoriety may have given rise to early wine fraud.Amphorae from Catalonia

The 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius had a devastating effect on the Roman wine industry. Vineyards across the region and warehouses storing the recent 78 AD vintage were decimated, resulting in a dramatic shortage of wine.

The damage to the trading port hindered the flow of wine from Rome’s outlying provinces, aggravating its scarcity. Available wine rose sharply in price, making it unaffordable to all but the most affluent.Wine Boat

The wine famine caused panicking Romans to hurriedly plant vineyards in the areas near Rome, to such an extent that grain fields were uprooted in favor of grapevines. The uprooting of grain fields now contributed to a food shortage for the growing Roman population.

The subsequent wine surplus created by successful efforts to relieve the wine shortage caused a depression in price, hurting the commercial entrance of wine producers and traders. In 92 AD, Roman Emperor Domitian issued an edict that not only banned new vineyards in Rome but ordered the uprooting of half of the vineyards in Roman provinces.

Although there is evidence to suggest that this edict was largely ignored in the Roman provinces, wine historians have debated the effect of the edict on the infant wine industries of Spain and Gaul. The edict’s intent was that fewer vineyards would result in only enough wine for domestic consumption, with sparse amount for trade.Wine Cart

While vineyards were already established in these growing wine regions, the ignoring of trade considerations may have suppressed the spread of viticulture and winemaking in these areas. Domitian’s edict remained in effect for nearly 200 years, until Emperor Probus repealed the measure in 280 AD.

Among the lasting legacies of the ancient Roman Empire were the viticultural foundations laid by the Romans in lands that would become world-renowned wine regions. Through trade, military campaigns and settlements, Romans brought with them a taste for wine and the impetus to plant vines.

Trade was the first and farthest-reaching arm of their influence, and Roman wine merchants were eager to trade with enemy and ally alike. If money could be made selling you wine then it didn’t matter if you were Carthaginians and peoples of southern Spain or the Celtic tribes in Gaul and Germanic tribes of the Rhine and Danube.

During the Gallic Wars, when Pronconsul Julius Caesar brought his troops to Cabyllona in 59 BC, he found 2 Roman wine merchants already established in business trading with the local tribes. In places like Bordeaux, Trier and Colchester where Roman garrisons were established, vineyards were planted to supply local need and limit the cost of long-distance trading.Caesar

Roman settlements were founded and populated by retired soldiers with knowledge of Roman viticulture from their families and life before the military. Therefore Roman-style vineyards were planted in the soldiers’ new homelands.

While it is possible that the Romans imported grapevines from Italy and Greece, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that they cultivated native vines that may be the ancestors of the grapes grown in those provinces today.

As the Republic grew into Empire beyond the Italian borders, wine’s trade and market economy echoed this growth. The wine trade in Italy consisted of wine sales to settlements and provinces around the Mediterranean Sea. By the end of the 1st Century AD, though, Italian exports had competition from the provinces, who themselves became exporters to Rome.

The Roman market economy encouraged the provinces’ exports, enhancing supply and demand. An elevated supply of wine meant lower prices for consumers.

Because of the supply and demand economy, citizens possessed an ample supply of coinage, suggesting the existence of a complex market economy surrounding the wine trade of the Roman Empire. Adequate monetary supply meant that the citizenry put a great deal of thought into the market economy of wine.

Excessive wine consumption by women was frowned upon. Shocking, right? The early Romans restricted the access of slaves and young men in addition to women from drinking alcohol, but this attitude evolved over time.Women & Wine

In Greek and Roman comedies, women were often portrayed as drunkards and more likely to indulge in vices while under wine’s influence. The poet Juvenal claimed in his Satires that, “When she is drunk, what matters to the Goddess of Love? She cannot tell her groin from her head” (6.300–301).

Romans believed that wine had the power to both heal and harm. Roman soldiers were required to drink a liter of wine a day, and Roman families often drank wine with every meal.

The rich took the trouble to drink wine in especially beautiful places, like gardens when certain flowers were in bloom.

Wine was a recommended cure for basically everything. Mental disorders such as depression, memory loss and grief, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gout, halitosis, snakebites, tapeworms, urinary problems and vertigo all had wine as the way to fix what ailed you.

The 2nd Century AD Greco-Roman physician Galen provided several details concerning wine’s medicinal use in later Roman times. In Pergamon, Galen was responsible for the diet and care of gladiatores. Galen used wine liberally in his practice, boasting that not a single gladiator died in his care.Drawing_of_ancient_Pergamon

Wine served as an antiseptic for wounds and an analgesic for surgery. When he became Emperor Marcus Aurelius‘s physician, Galen developed pharmaceutical concoctions made from wine known as theriacs.

Superstitious beliefs concerning the “miraculous” ability to protect against poisons and cure everything from the plague to mouth sores lasted until the 18th Century AD. In his work De Antidotis, Galen noted the trend in Romans’ tastes from thick, sweet wines to lighter, dry wines that were easier to digest.Galen

The Romans were also aware of the negative health effects of drinking wine, particularly the tendency towards “madness” if consumed immoderately. Lucretius warned that wine could provoke a fury in one’s soul and lead to quarrels.

Since drinking wine in excess was frowned upon, the Roman politician Marcus Tullius Cicero frequently labeled his rivals drunkards and a danger to Rome. This was most notable of the infamous Marcus Antonius, who apparently once drank to such excess that he vomited in the Senate. Good times.

By the 2nd Century BC, the cult of Bacchus was present in central and southern Italy. Like its Greek counterpart, it soon came under suspicion by the ruling class.

The cult was divided into local cells, each with its own hierarchical structure and oaths of loyalty, with women constituting a majority of the membership. Their Bacchanalia festivals were believed to include animal sacrifices and sexual orgies. The Roman Senate viewed these gatherings as a threat against Roman authority, banning the cult and the Bacchanalia in 186 BC.Bacchus-Roman-God-of-Wine

As Rome assimilated more cultures, it encountered peoples from 2 religions that viewed wine in generally positive terms, Judaism and Christianity. Grapes and wine make frequent literal and allegorical appearances in both the Hebrew and Christian Bibles.

TorahIn the Torah, grapevines were among the first crops planted after the Great Flood, and in exploring Canaan following The Exodus from Egypt, one of the positive reports about the land was that grapevines were abundant.

The Jews under Roman rule accepted wine as part of their daily life. However, Roman Jews negatively regarded the excesses that they associated with Roman impurities.

Many of the Jewish views on wine were adopted by the new Christian sect that emerged in the 1st Century AD. One of the first miracles performed by the sect’s founder, Jesus, was to have turned water into wine. In addition, the sacrament of the Eucharist prominently involved wine.Christian Eucharist

The Romans drew some parallels between Bacchus and Christ. Both figures possessed narratives strongly featuring the symbolism of life after death.

Bacchus was born in the yearly harvest and faded away with the dormancy of the grape. The story of Christ was in his death and resurrection. Eucharist’s act of drinking wine as a stand-in for consuming the blood of Christ, echoes the rites performed in festivals dedicated to Bacchus.

The influence and importance of wine in Christianity was undeniable, and soon the Church itself would take the mantle from ancient Rome as the dominant influence in the world of wine for the centuries leading to the Renaissance.best-medieval-wine

We hope you enjoyed learning about wine in Ancient Rome. Please come back soon for we shall discuss the Roman art of winemaking, what Classic Roman writers thought of wine, and how your favorite European wines got spread across the Empire.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Fleming, Stuart. VINUM: The Story of Roman Wine. (Glen Mills, PA, Art Flair, 2001).

Gately, Iain (2009). Drink A Cultural History of Alcohol. New York: Gotham Books. p. 28 – 29. ISBN 9781592404643.

Jellinek, E. M. (1976). “Drinkers and Alcoholics in Ancient Rome”. Journals of Studies on Alcohol 37 (11): 1719–1741.

Phillips A Short History of Wine pp. 35–45 Harper Collins 2000 ISBN 0-06-621282-0.

Purcell, N. (1985). “Wine and Wealth in Ancient Italy”. Journal of Roman Studies 75: 1–19 [p. 8]. JSTOR 300648.

Robinson (ed) “The Oxford Companion to Wine” Third Edition pg 652 Oxford University Press 2006 ISBN 0-19-860990-6.

Johnson Vintage: The Story of Wine pg 68–74. Simon and Schuster 1989. ISBN 0-671-68702-6.

Roman Aediles

Welcome back to another edition of Rome Across Europe. We’re carrying on with Roman politics. Already we’ve discussed Consuls, Praetors, and the Cursus Honorum.

Next in the Roman Republic there was the office of Aedile. Based in Rome, the Aediles were responsible for maintenance of public buildings and regulation of dies ferialis. They also had powers to enforce public order.

There were 2 pairs of Aediles: 2 were Aediles Plebis and were held only by Plebs; the other 2 were called the Aediles Curulis and these were open to both the Plebs and to Patricii. An Aedilis Curulis was classified as a Magister Curulis.

Thanks for joining us on another Roman political outing. We hope to see you again real soon.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Top 15 Roman Commanders – #14: Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus


Welcome back to Rome Across Europe. Today we almost complete our list of Top 15 Roman Commanders in ancient Rome. As we march along, you can find the entire list here. Or you can check out the individual biographies of #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12 and #13. And now it’s time for…

14: Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (106 – 48 BC)14a

Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, commonly known as Pompey the Great or simply Pompey, was a political and military leader of the late Roman Republic. Having lived from 29 September 106 BC to 29 September 48 BC, Pompey experienced much war and conquest during his life.

He came from a wealthy Italian provincial background, and his father had been the 1st to establish the family among the Roman nobility. Pompey’s father, Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo, was a wealthy landed Italian provincial from Picenum, one of the Homines Novi (new men).

Pompeius Strabo ascended the traditional Cursus Honorum, becoming Quaestor in 104 BC, Praetor in 92 BC and Consul in 89 BC, having acquired a reputation for greed, political double-dealing and military ruthlessness. Strabo supported Sulla’s traditionalist Optimates against the popularist General Marius in the First Marian-Sullan War.

Pompeius Strabo died during the Marian siege against Rome in 87 BC. The 20-year old Pompey then inherited his father’s estates, political leanings and the loyalty of his legions.

Pompey had served 2 years under his father’s command, and had participated in the final acts of the Marsic Social War against the Italians. He returned to Rome and was prosecuted for misappropriation of plunder. Pompey’s betrothal to the judge’s daughter Antistia, however, secured him a rapid acquittal.

PompeoMagnoFor the next few years, the Marians had possession of Italy. When Lucius Cornelius Sulla returned from campaigning against King Mithridates the VI of Pontus in 83 BC, Pompey raised 3 Picenean legions to support Sulla against the Marian regime of Gnaeus Papirius Carbo.

Sulla took full control of Rome declaring himself Ad Vitam Dictatura (Dictator for Life). Sulla was impressed with Pompey’s performance, and over the course of decades, Pompey fought successful campaigns for him.

The first of the campaigns were in Sicily and the Roman province of Africa. Pompey secured Sicily in 82 BC and established a large grain supply for Rome, before defeating Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and the Numidian King Hiarbas in 81 BC after a hard-fought battle.

Pompey was declared Imperator by his loyal soldiers on the field in Africa and given the title Magnus (the Great) by Sulla. It seems that Sulla was reluctant to honor Pompey though for his young General was still officially a mere Privatus (Private Citizen) who had held no offices in the Cursus Honorum.Pompey

When Pompey demanded a triumphus for his African victories Sulla refused and demanded that Pompey must disband his legions. It was Pompey who now refused, presenting himself expectantly at the gates of Rome with his legiones.

Sulla finally gave in, making sure he held his own triumph first. Then Sulla allowed Metellus Pius his triumph, relegating Pompey to an extra-legal third place in a quick succession of triumphs.

Pompey attempted to upstage both his seniors by having his triumphal chariot towed by an elephant, representing his exotic African conquests, but the elephant would not fit through the city gate. Some hasty rethinking and planning was needed, much to the embarrassment of Pompey and amusement of those present.

The title Magnus was meant to insult Pompey and he himself used it only later in his career. Pompey’s career seems to have been driven by desire for military glory and disregard for traditional political constraints.

In any case, Sulla died in 78 BC and Pompey suppressed Lepidus, Sulla’s rival for Consul, on behalf of the Senate. Pompey then asked for Proconsular Imperium in Hispania to deal with the Populares‘ General Quintus Sertorius, who had held out for the past 3 years against Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius, Sulla’s most able general.

The Roman aristocracy turned him down fearing the young, popular and successful general. Going with what he knew worked Pompey refused to disband his legions until his request was granted.

The Senate reluctantly complied and granted him the title of Proconsul with powers equal to those of Metellus, and sent him to Hispania. On his way to Hispania, Pompey spent a year subduing rebellious tribes in southern Gaul and organizing the province.Naval Battle

Pompeius Magnus campaigned in Hispania from 76-71 BC and found it difficult to deliver a crushing blow to the resilient King Sertorious. It seems Sertorious successfully deployed effective guerrilla tactics against Pompey’s forces on more than once.

Though Pompey was never able to decisively beat Sertorius, and he nearly met disaster at the Battle of Sucro, he won several campaigns against Sertorius’ junior officers and gradually took the advantage over his enemy in a war of attrition. Sertorius was significantly weakened by 74 BC, with Metellus and Pompey now winning city after city.

After Sertorious was assassinated by one of his own officers, Marcus Perperna Vento, Pompey decisively defeated the young general at their first battle in 72 BC. By early 71 BC, the whole of Hispania and southern Gaul knew of the efficient organization and fair administration in the conquered province by Pompey.

Sometime in 71 BC, Pompey set off for Italy along with his army. It was in Rome where Pompey captured 5,000 gladiator rebels led by Spartacus. This infuriated the very rich Marcus Licinius Crassus, who claimed that the credit should be directed at him as the rightful one who ended the rebellion.Spartacus Death

Both Crassus and Pompey were awarded triumphs in Rome, and both were easily elected Consul in 70 BC. Two years after his consulship, Pompey was offered command of a naval task force to deal with piracy in the Mediterranean Sea.

Gaius Julius Caesar whipped up support for Pompey in the Senate and Aulus Gabinius proposed a Lex Gabinia. Over violent opposition, Pompey was granted control over the sea and the coasts for 50 miles inland. This set him above every military leader in the East.Lex Gabinia

According to Rome’s historians, pirates had freely plundered the coastal cities of Greece, Asia and even Italy itself. The fear of piracy was always potent and it was alleged that these same pirates had earlier assisted Sertorius.

By the end of that winter, the preparations were complete. Pompey allocated 1 of 13 areas to each of his Legatus, and sent out their fleets. According to Plutarch, by the end of the summer of 66 BC or 40 days, Pompey’s forces had swept the Mediterranean clear of opposition.Coins against the pirates

The grain supply was guaranteed and, once again, Pompey was a hero in Rome. He was hailed as Primus Inter Pares (the First Among Equals).

The expedience of his campaign probably guaranteed Pompey his next and even more impressive command, this time in Rome’s long-running war against Mithridates. In 66 BC, he was nominated to succeed as commander in the Third Mithridatic War against Mithridates VI of Pontus in the East.map_Mithridatic_Wars_and_Spartacus_74_BC

Pompey’s command was proposed by the Tribunus Gaius Manilius, supported by Caesar and justified by Cicero in pro Lege Manilia. Like the Lex Gabinia, it was opposed by the aristocracy but was carried nonetheless.

At Pompey’s approach, Mithridates strategically withdrew his forces. Near Armenia, Pompey managed to surprise the Pontic Army by a daring nocturnal attack and all but destroyed it.

The King had no choice but to flee in disarray to his own dominions in the Cimmerian Bosporus. Pompey then advanced to Phasis in Colchis and liaised with his Legatus Servilius before decisively defeating Mithridates.

Pompey then retraced his steps, and in 64 BC marched into Syria, deposed its king, Antiochus XIII Asiaticus, and reconstituted this as a Roman province. In 63 BC, Pompey moved south, and established Roman supremacy in Phoenicia and Coele-Syria.

In Judea, Pompey intervened in the civil war between Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II. The armies of Pompey and Hyrcanus II laid siege to Jerusalem, and in 3 months the city fell.Pompée_dans_le_Temple_de_Jérusalem

In all, Pompey had annexed 4 new provinces to the Republic: Bithynia et PontusSyriaCilicia, and Crete. Pompey’s military victories, political settlements and annexations in Asia created Rome’s new frontier on the east as far east as the Black Sea and the Caucasus.

In 61 BC, Pompey joined Crassus and Caesar in the unofficial military-political alliance known as the First Triumvirate. Pompey and Crassus would make Caesar Consul, and Caesar would use his consular power to promote their claims.First Triumvirate

Caesar’s consulship of 59 BC brought Pompey land for his veterans, confirmation of his Asian political settlements and a new wife, Caesar’s daughter Julia. Pompey was said to be head over heels in love with her.

At the end of his consulship, Caesar secured command as Proconsul in Gaul. Pompey was given the governorship of Hispania Ulterior, but remained in Rome to oversee the grain supply as curator annonae.

Despite his preoccupation with his new wife, Pompey handled the grain issue well. His political shrewdness was less sure as Clodius turned on him, thus recalling Cicero from exile in 57 BC for support.

With Cicero back in Rome as Pompey’s defender and Clodius’ antagonist, Pompey himself retreated to his lovely young wife and his theatre plans. Obviously such behavior was not expected of the once dazzling young general.

Pompey might equally have been obsessed, exhausted and frustrated. Some tried to persuade him that Crassus was plotting his assassination, while Caesar seemed set on outstripping both his colleagues in generalship and popularity.

By 56 BC, the bonds between the 3 men were fraying. Caesar called Crassus, then Pompey, to a secret meeting, the Lucca Conference, in the northern Italian town of Lucca to rethink their joint strategy. They agreed that Pompey and Crassus would again stand for the consulship in 55 BC.firsttriumvirate

Once elected, they would extend Caesar’s command in Gaul by 5 years. At the end of their joint consular year, Crassus would have the influential and lucrative governorship of Syria, and use this as a base to conquer Parthia. Pompey would keep Hispania in absentia.

As planned, Pompey and Crassus were elected as consuls in 55 BC, against a background of bribery, civil unrest and electioneering violence.

In 54 BC, Julia died in childbirth along with her baby. Pompey and Caesar shared their grief and condolences, but Julia’s death broke their family bonds.Julia Caesaris

The following year, Crassus, his son Publius and most of his army were annihilated by the Parthians at the Battle of Carrhae. Caesar, not Pompey, was now Rome’s great new general and the fragile balance of power between them were under threat.

With public anxiety spilling over, rumors circulated that Pompey would be offered dictatorship for the sake of law and order. After the deaths of Julia and Crassus, Pompey sided with the Optimates, the conservative faction of the Roman Senate.

However, trouble was brewing in the Triumvirate after Crassus was killed at the disastrous Battle of Carrhae, and Pompey was growing increasingly jealous of the huge military success Caesar was experiencing.

Caesar sought another matrimonial alliance with Pompey, this time offering his grandniece Octavia (the sister of the future Emperor Augustus) but Pompey refused. Once order was restored, the Senate and Cato avoided granting Pompey dictatorship.

Pompey was instead made sole Consul by the Senate giving him sweeping, but limited, powers. A Dictator could not be lawfully punished for measures taken during his office. As sole Consul, Pompey would be answerable for his actions once out of office.Pompey the Great

While Caesar was fighting against Vercingetorix in Gaul, Pompey proceeded with a legislative agenda for Rome. Its details suggested covert alliance with Caesar’s enemies: among his various legal and military reforms was a law allowing retrospective prosecution for electoral bribery.

Caesar’s allies correctly interpreted this as a threat to Caesar once his imperium ended. Pompey also prohibited Caesar from standing for the consulship in absentia, though this had been permitted under past laws.

Finally, in 51 BC, Pompey was more forthright stating Caesar would not be permitted to stand for Consul unless he relinquished his armies. This would, of course, leave Caesar defenseless before his enemies.

As Cicero sadly noted, Pompey had been diminished by age, uncertainty, and his fear of Caesar and the strain of being the chosen tool of a quarreling oligarchy of Optimates. The coming conflict seemed inevitable.

Crossing the RubiconIn the beginning, Pompey claimed he could defeat Caesar and raise armies merely by stamping his foot on the soil of Italy. By the spring of 49 BC, however, with Caesar crossing the Rubicon and his invading legions sweeping down the peninsula, Pompey ordered the abandonment of Rome.

Pompey’s legions retreated south towards Brundisium, where he intended to find renewed strength by waging war against Caesar in the east. In the process, neither Pompey nor the Senate thought of taking the vast treasury with them. It was left conveniently in the Templum Saturni when Caesar and his forces entered Rome.

Barely eluding Caesar in Brundisium, Pompey crossed over into Epirus where he had gathered a large force in Macedonia during Caesar’s Spanish campaign. Comprising 9 legions reinforced by contingents from the Roman allies in the east, Pompey’s fleet controlled the Adriatic.

Nevertheless, Caesar managed to cross over into Epirus in November 49 BC, and proceeded to capture Apollonia. Pompey managed to arrive in time to save Dyrrhachium, and he then attempted to wait Caesar out during the Battle of Dyrrhachium, scoring a victory.Battle of Dyrrhachium

Yet, by failing to pursue at the critical moment of Caesar’s defeat, Pompey threw away the chance to destroy Caesar’s much smaller army. As Caesar himself said, “Today the enemy would have won, if they had a commander who was a winner” (Plutarch, 65E).

With Caesar on their backs, the Optimates led by Pompey fled to Greece. Caesar and Pompey had their final showdown at the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC.Battle of Pharsalus

The fighting was bitter for both sides. Caesar, though, was determined the victor after the decisive Battle of Pharsalus, in which Caesar’s brilliant tactics and superior veterans defeated Pompey’s larger overall numbers.

On the island of Mytilene, Pompey met his wife Cornelia Metella and his son Sextus Pompeius to figure out where to go and what to do next. The decision of running to one of the eastern kingdoms was overruled in favor of Egypt.La_Fuite_de_Pompée

After his arrival in Egypt, Pompey’s fate was decided by the counselors of King Ptolemy XIII. On the beaches of Pelusium, a day after his 59th birthday, Pompey was stabbed to death by his betrayers AchillasSeptimius and Salvius.Killed

His head and seal were presented to Caesar, who mourned this insult to the greatness of his former ally and son-in-law. Caesar punished Pompey’s assassins and their Egyptian co-conspirators, putting both Achillas and Pothinus to death. Pompey’s ashes were eventually returned to Cornelia, who carried them to his country house near Alba.

In Appian’s account of the Civil War, Caesar has Pompey’s severed head interred in Alexandria, in ground reserved for a new temple to the goddess Nemesis, whose divine functions included the punishment of hubris.

The career and defeat of Pompey are significant in Rome’s subsequent transformation from Republic to Principate and Empire. He was a hero of the Republic, who seemed once to hold the Roman world in the palm of his hand.

Pompey was idealized as a tragic hero almost immediately after his murder. Plutarch portrayed him as a Roman Alexander the Great, pure of heart and mind, destroyed by the cynical ambitions of those around him.

As Caesar’s enemy in the Civil War, he was defeated several times. Some people see him as a mediocre commander. However, we shouldn’t forget his military campaigns in Spain and against the pirates, and especially his campaign against Pontos and Armenia.

Pompey’s military glory was second to none for a few decades. Pompey’s tactics were usually efficient, albeit not particularly innovative or imaginative.

At times, he was reluctant to risk an open battle. While not hugely charismatic, Pompey could display tremendous bravery and fighting skills on the battlefield, something which provided inspiration to his men.

Pompey still lives on today in Rome with his theatre that was inaugurated in 55 BC. It was Rome’s 1st permanent theatre, a gigantic, architecturally daring, self-contained complex on the Campus Martius.Theatre of Pompey

It was complete with shops, multi-service buildings, gardens and a temple to Venus Victrix. The latter connected its donor to Aeneas, a son of Venus and ancestor of Rome itself.

In its portico, the statuary, paintings and personal wealth of foreign kings could be admired at leisure. Pompey’s architectural triumph carried on as an ideal meeting place for his supporters.

For the historians of his own and later Roman periods, Pompey fit the trope of the great man who achieved extraordinary triumphs through his own efforts, yet fell from power and was, in the end, murdered through treachery.

We hope you enjoyed learning more about a great military leader of Rome. Come on back to see the last commander on Rome Across Europe’s Top 15 Roman Commanders.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Abbott, Frank Frost (1901). A History and Description of Roman Political Institutions. Elibron Classics (ISBN 0-543-92749-0).

Goldsworthy, Adrian. In the name of Rome: The Men Who Won the Roman Empire. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004 (hardcopy, ISBN 0-297-84666-3); New York: Phoenix Press, (paperback, ISBN 0-7538-1789-6).

Plutarch, Parallel Lives, Life of Pompey (Loeb Classical Library, 1917).

Southern, Pat. Pompey the Great: Caesar’s Friend and Foe. Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Tempus Publishing, 2002 (paperback, ISBN 0-7524-2521-8).

Stockton, David. The First Consulship of Pompey, Historia 22 (1973), 205-218.

Augustus of Prima Porta

Welcome back to another edition of Rome Across Europe! Today we are going to time travel back to the days of Augustus Caesar in Rome.

No, we are not doing it Doctor Who-style in a TARDIS but via YouTube. We are going to see what the Augustus of Prima Porta might have actually appeared, in color!

Augustus of Prima Porta (Italian: Augusto di Prima Porta) is a 6.7 ft high marble statue of Augustus which was discovered on 20 April 1863, in the Villa of Livia at Prima Porta, near Rome.

Augustus Caesar’s wife, Livia Drusilla, now known as Julia Augusta, retired to the villa after his death. The sculpture is now displayed in the Braccio Nuovo (New Wing) of the Vatican Museums.

The dating of the Prima Porta piece is widely contested. It is thought to be a copy of a bronze original, possibly done by a Greek sculptor.

This original, along with other high honors, was devoted to Augustus by the Senate in 20 BC and set up in a public place. As we know, though, the marble statue was found in Livia’s private villa.

The original Augusto di Prima Porta was probably a gift from Tiberius Caesar to his mother Livia after Augustus’ death, and in honor of the woman who had campaigned so long for him to become the next Caesar.

This would explain the divine references to Augustus in the piece, notably his being barefoot, the standard representation of gods or heroes in classical iconography.

Also, the relievo rilievo in the heroic cuirass depict the retrieval of Crassus’ standards captured by the Parthians. The young Tiberius took part in this event, serving as an intermediary with the Parthian King.

The act is shown in the central scene of the armor, and was possibly Tiberius’ grandest service to his adoptive father Augustus.

With the introduction of Tiberius as the figure responsible for the retrieval of the standards, he associates himself with Augustus, the emperor and the new god, as Augustus himself had done previously with Julius Caesar.

Under this hypothesis, the dating of the statue can be placed during the first years of Tiberius’ reign as emperor (AD 14 — AD 37).

We have seen the Augustus of Prima Porta firsthand and found it to be inspiring. After seeing how it appears in color, and the Romans did love to have color everywhere, we like how the plain marble seen today seems to bring more to the imagination.

In any event, we hope you enjoyed today’s journey and hope you will return again. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Book 11; Thought 2

a-roman-dance-sir-lawrence-alma-tademaThou wilt set little value on pleasing song and dancing and the pancratium, if thou wilt distribute the melody of the voice into its several sounds, and ask thyself as to each, if thou art mastered by this; for thou wilt be prevented by shame from confessing it: and in the matter of dancing, if at each movement and attitude thou wilt do the same; and the like also in the matter of the pancratium. In all things, then, except virtue and the acts of virtue, remember to apply thyself to their several parts, and by this division to come to value them little: and apply this rule also to thy whole life.

The Roman Villa Borg – A Villa Rustica

Welcome back to another edition of Rome Across Europe. We are glad to have you back. If you are a first time reader, then we hope this isn’t your last visit.

Yesterday we were in Germania visiting Ponte Druso. Today we are going to stay in Germania and visit Villa Borg, a reconstructed villa rustica (countryside villa).Die-Villa-Borg_my_medium

Villa rustica was the term used by the Ancient Romans to denote a villa set in the open countryside. This often would serve as the hub of a large agricultural estate (latifundium).

The adjective rusticum was used to distinguish a country villa from an urban or resort villa. The villa rustica would thus serve both as a residence of the landowner and his family (and retainers) and also as a farm management center.

It would often comprise separate buildings to accommodate farm laborers and sheds and barns for animals and crops. In modern British archaeology, a villa rustica is commonly and misleadingly referred to simply as a “Roman Villa”.plan

The villa rustica‘s design differed depending on the architect, but usually it consisted of 3 parts; the urbana (main house), agricultural center and the rusticana (farm area).

The Roman Villa Borg is located near the villages of Borg and Oberleuken, not far from the GermanLuxembourg border. It stands as an impressive reminder of how the privileged lived 2000 years ago.grand ballroom

Discovered at the end of the 19th Century, the site was excavated in the late 1980s. Reconstruction began in the mid-1990s and was virtually completed in late 2008, although further excavation work is still continuing.

Around the year 1900, local schoolteacher Johann Schneider first came across the site after noticing unnatural mounds in the area. Schneider soon discovered the remains of walls as well as Roman pottery.

Partly as a result of the World Wars, little was done until the mid-1980s when the Saarland authorities fenced the site off after illegal excavations started to threaten its survival. Since 1 April 1987, the cultural foundation for the district of Merzig-Wadern in collaboration with the state conservation office, the public employment service and the municipality of Perl, have all been involved in the scientific and systemic excavation of the Roman villa in Borg.Saar-Moselle area

It has emerged that the site hides the remains of one of the largest Roman villa complexes in the Mosel-Saar region. In 1994 the decision was taken to reconstruct the entire site in line with the discoveries made during excavation work and current knowledge of Roman villas.

The excavations soon revealed evidence of pre-Roman inhabitation directly below the foundations of the Roman villa. Not only were there traces of Iron Age structures but also of Beaker culture settlements. Tools dating from the Neolithic period were also found on the site.

The site consists of a large pars urbana (palatial residence) and a pars rustica (economic area). Because there has been little activity on the site since Roman times, the result is that the Roman remains are still in very good condition.

The Villa Borg is one of the largest estates in the Saar-Moselle region and is of the so-called “longitudinal axial villas”. These are distinguished in that they have a basic rectangular shape and the building line up symmetrically left and right of a central axis.gatehouse

Transverse to the central axis of the entire Gutsbezirkes is the central mansion that served residential and representative purposes. The 15 unexcavated outbuildings of the pars rustica are characterized clearly as a mound from which lines up on the perimeter, along the north-west adjoining woodland on either side.

Reconstruction work was designed to present an authentic representation of the buildings as they originally stood so that visitors could better appreciate archaeology and antiquity. The reconstructed buildings now stand on the Roman foundation walls, revealing their probable appearance in the 2nd to 3rd Century.Laubad

Late Antiquity coins, glass and ceramics show that the villa was in use until the early 5th Century. The question of whether the facility has been used beyond that date cannot be answered at the current stage of excavation.

The current buildings comprise: the baths which are fully functional consisting of a frigidarium (cold bath), caldarium (hot bath) and tepidarium (tempered bath) together with latrines, a dressing room and a relaxation area. The manor or main building has a large reception hall and a number of adjacent rooms in which the most important finds from the site are displayed; with a recently completed Roman kitchen; a residential building with workshop area; a gatehouse; and a tavern, which was not part of the original villa.baths

The rebuilt bath, in its original way, gives an indication of how important the bathing culture was in the Roman Empire. The tavern offers Roman dishes and special drinks which are served and prepared according to original recipes of the gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius.foods

The gardens, which have been designed as authentically as possible on the basis of pollen analysis and relevant literature, consist of an herb garden with spices and remedial plants as well as a kitchen garden with fruits and vegetables. The rose garden and the inner court garden are also based on Roman models and give an idea of Roman garden architecture with their fountains and footpaths.gardens

The initial rebuilt section was villa baths with tavern which was completed in 1997. The manor house and the courtyard, decorated with water basins, have been opened to the public since May 1999.tavern

The 3rd wing, used in ancient times as a residential and commercial area, has been completed since the early summer of 2001. The reconstructed gate system was established in 2004, and the addition of the Roman cuisine began in 2008.

The site is a popular tourist attraction with some 50,000 visitors per year. Roman Days (Römertage) are held at the villa during the first weekend in August and include shows of Roman-era historical reenactment.Legiona-re-in-der-Villa

You can experience Roman legionnaires, traders and craftsmen put up their camp on the estate of the Villa Borg and present the ancient way of life. There is even spectacular gladiator fights that are not to be missed.gladiator

Excavation work on the site, which covers an area of more than 18.5 acres, is ongoing. This means the nature of the work and the appearance of the complex changes almost daily.

Villa Borg is open Tuesday through Sunday, excluding holidays. April through October the villa is open from 10am till 6pm.

February, March and November the villa is open from 11am till 4pm. All Mondays, and the months of December and January the villa is closed.

Admission is 5 Euro for Adults; 2 Euro for Children 6 – 14; and Free for Children 6 and under. There are special rates for groups, students, families, and those requiring special assistance, as well as for guided tours of the villa.group

Guests of Villa Borg can also experience adventure tours with either the slave Jatros or hostess Valentina, and enjoy anecdotes from the Roman period.

Jatros (arrowheads remover) was a doctor in the Rhine legions. He escaped the lions in the amphitheater to be sold as a slave in the market to the hostess of Villa Borg for 600 Silberdenare.

The slave Jatros guides a 90 minute adventure tour Life in the Roman Villa Borg. The cost for this tour is 80 Euro for Adults and 65 Euro for Children. This is in addition to admission costs without the multimedia show.

The hostess Valentina returns from her trip from Trier back to Borg. She has a lot to report on the latest hairstyles and clothes fashion.hostess

Valentina chats about their rights and obligations as a Roman Matrona, by her nurse, the education of their children, her husband’s shops and everything a hostess employed in their lives. This 2 hour tour costs 90 Euro for Adults and 80 Euro for Children. This is in addition to admission costs without the multimedia show.Römische_Villa_Borg

Thank you again for joining us. We hope you enjoyed learning about and that you may visit Villa Borg if ever in the area. Until next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Alfred Frazer: The Roman villa: villa urbana. UPenn Museum of Archaeology 1998, ISBN 978-0-924171-59-8.

Alexander Gordon McKay: Houses, villas, and palaces in the Roman world . JHU Press 1998, ISBN 978-0-8018-5904-5.

Bettina Birkenhagen, “The German Experiences and the Roman Villa of Borg (Saar, Germany)”. Retrieved 18 June 2015.



Ponte Druso – Bridging the Nahe

Guten Tag! Welcome back to Rome Across Europe. Today we are venturing into Germania near the city of Bingen am Rhein as we take a look at Ponte Druso, or the Drusus Bridge.Nahe_Bingen_Drususbruecke3

This ancient Roman bridge is located on the Nahe River, a tributary of the Rhine. Ponte Druso is the only remaining Roman bridge in the city.

The Drusus Bridge was 1st made of wood and can be dated to the time of Emperor Vespasian (69-79 AD). The bridge was completely restored in March 2006.

Initially the bridge was built with 7 arches, but during construction of the Prussian railway the arch next to the left bank of the Nahe River was destroyed. The remaining 6 arches were destroyed in 1945 at the end of the World War II. Between 1951 and 1952 they were rebuilt with stones retrieved from the river.Ponte-Druso-1930

Bridges have a long tradition in the area near the mouth of the Nahe River. The initial bridge was constructed in the century before the birth of Christ. At that time Drusus secured the left Rhine border of the Imperium Rōmānum by building fortresses and also built a wooden bridge over the Nahe.Drusus_the_elder_bust

After the destruction of the wooden bridge in 70 AD, the 1st stone bridge was built. This stone bridge lasted till 891 AD when it was felled by the Normans.

It wasn’t until over 100 years later that Archbishop Willigis erected a new stone bridge across the Nahe. The French destroyed the 2nd stone bridge in 1689, but then had it rebuilt in 1772.1903

In March 1945 a special commando blew up the arches of the bridge as the allied troops were advancing. Today the Drusus Bridge is again a main feature of Bingen.drusus-bridge

Ponte Druso was named for Nero Claudius Drusus, the stepson of Emperor Augustus. Drusus launched the 1st major Roman campaigns across the Rhine and began the conquest of Germania, becoming the 1st Roman General to reach the Weser and Elbe rivers.

The modern Drusus Bridge was built in the years 1930-1931 by Eugenio Mozzi, a high level designer, and builder of dozens of bridges.

The new Drusus Bridge was inaugurated 28 October 28 1931, the anniversary of the Marcia su Roma by Benito Mussolini. It was a date in which each year ushered in public works to celebrate his National Fascist Party‘s regime.

Initially Ponte Druso did not include any particular decoration, only metal streetlights. To give the work a symbolic meaning it was then thought decorations should be added.

Sculpted fasces, gladii, scuta, and 4 large Aquilae were added, the latter entrusted to the chisel of Rovereto Alcide Ticò.Ponte-Druso-1930-Eagles

After the fall of fascism some symbols were damaged, but the complex remained until 1974, when the eagles were removed. The eagles now lie in the Municipal Gardens, in the expectation that they will return to the public, with a minor and underpowered focus as a testimony of a bygone era.eagle

We hope you enjoyed learning more and seeing a reconstructed gem originally brought about by Rome. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!







Old City of Berne

The etymology of the name Bern is uncertain. According to the local legend, based on folk etymologyBerchtold V, Duke of Zähringen, the founder of the city of Bern, vowed to name the city after the first animal he met on the hunt, and this turned out to be a bear.

It has long been considered likely that the city was named after the Italian city of Verona, which at the time was known as Bern in Middle High German. The bear was the heraldic animal of the seal and coat of arms of Bern from at least the 1220s. The earliest reference to the keeping of live bears in the Bärengraben dates to the 1440s.

In antiquity, a Celtic oppidum stood on the “Engehalbinsel” north of Bern, fortified since the 2nd Century BC, thought to be 1-of-12 oppida of the Helvetii mentioned by Caesar. During the Roman era, there was a Gallo-Roman vicus on the same site. The Bern zinc tablet has the name Brenodor “dwelling of Breno”. In the Early Middle Ages, there was a settlement in Bümpliz, now a city district of Bern, some 2 miles from the medieval city.

The medieval city is a foundation of the Zähringer ruling family, which rose to power in Upper Burgundy in the 12th Century. According to 14th Century historiography, Bern was founded in 1191 by Berthold V, Duke of Zähringen.

In 1218, after Berthold died without an heir, Bern was made a free imperial city by the Goldene Handfeste of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II.

The structure of Bern’s city centre is largely medieval and has been recognized by UNESCO as a Cultural World Heritage Site. Perhaps its most famous sight is the Zytglogge (Bernese German for “Time Bell”), an elaborate medieval clock tower with moving puppets. It also has an impressive 15th Century Gothic cathedral, the Münster, and a 15th Century town hall. Thanks to 4 miles of arcades, the old town boasts one of the longest covered shopping promenades in Europe.

Since the 16th Century, the city has had a bear pit, the Bärengraben, at the far end of the Nydeggbrücke to house its heraldic animals. The current 4 bears are now kept in an open-air enclosure nearby, and 2 other young bears, a present by the Russian president, are kept in the Dählhölzli zoo.

The Rose Garden (Rosengarten), from which a scenic panoramic view of the medieval town centre can be enjoyed, is a well-kept Rosarium on a hill, converted into a park from a former cemetery in 1913.

There are eleven Renaissance allegorical statues on public fountains in the Old Town. Nearly all the 16th Century fountains, except the Zähringer fountain which was created by Hans Hiltbrand, are the work of the Fribourg master Hans Gieng.

One of the more interesting fountains is the Kindlifresserbrunnen (Bernese German: Child Eater Fountain but often translated Ogre Fountain) which is claimed to represent a Jew, the Greek god Chronos or a Fastnacht figure that scares disobedient children.

Bern is home to 114 Swiss heritage sites of national significance.

It includes the entire Old Town, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and many sites within and around it. Some of the most notable in the Old Town include the Cathedral which was started in 1421 and is the tallest cathedral in Switzerland, the Zytglogge and Käfigturm towers, which mark 2 successive expansions of the Old Town, and the Holy Ghost Church, which is one of the largest Swiss Reformed churches in Switzerland.

Outside the Old Town the heritage sites include the Bärengraben, the Gewerbeschule Bern (1937), the Eidgenössisches Archiv für Denkmalpflege, the Kirchenfeld mansion district (after 1881), the Thunplatzbrunnen, the Federal Mint building, the Federal Archives, the Swiss National Library, the Historical Museum (1894), Alpine Museum, Museum of Communication and Natural History Museum.

We hope you enjoyed the journey with Rome Across Europe, and cannot wait to have you back. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!