Quiz Notes

On this page, I’ll be posting notes on each of the quizzes that we have. These quiz notes are not meant to be the “right answers” so much as information relevant to the arguments you might make in response to these questions.

PDFs:You can also find the Quiz Notes in PDF form on the Print/PDF page.

Quiz #1

1. What kind of role did the senate play in the Republic? In what ways was it a different kind of body from the comitia centuriata (the centuriate assembly)?

The senate was an advisory body consisting of an elder from the most important Roman families, especially the priesthood-holding families that became the patricians. The senate had no political power; it could only issue advisory decrees (called senatus consultum). But their collective prestige and their members’ role in providing religious advice provided them with great influence, gaining them a sense of responsibility for protecting Rome’s customs and traditions. In addition, because the elected magistrates served for only one year and so were largely focused on short-term needs and crises, it fell to the senate to consider long-term policy, especially concerning foreign affairs.

Roman assemblies were meetings of the citizen body, with the power to vote on laws and elect magistrates. Unlike the senate, these assemblies had sovereign constitutional power to govern Rome. Nonetheless, these assemblies were weighted to favor the wealthiest classes.

They voted in special groups, each group getting one vote. The centuriate assembly was essentially the citizen army meeting as a legislature. Vote was by century, and the 193 centuries were ordered and weighted by census class (the poorest with little or no landed property were lumped into a single century, the proletariat, while the upper centuries were populated by the richest citizens). For these reasons, measures could pass solely with the support of the elite.

(The tribal assembly met in the Forum and had power over domestic affairs and election of the other magistracies. Vote was by tribe, and the 35 tribes were ordered and weighted by census class—the lower classes were lumped into the four “urban tribes”, leaving the “rural tribes” in the hands of the rich estate-holders—so that measures could pass solely with the support of the elite.)

2. Describe the function and power of the paterfamilias.

The paterfamilias was the senior male figure in an extended family (all those connected by a vertical male bloodline). According to custom and law, the paterfamilias was the owner of all the family’s property, and the sole representative of its interests to the public. All that happened within the family—private matters, as contrasted with public matters (res publica)—were entirely in the hands of the paterfamilias, who had complete power (patria potestas) of justice and disposition over all the men, women, children, freedmen, slaves, and possessions of his bloodline, up to an including the right to execute or sell into slavery.

In practice this absolute power was mitigated by the need to consider the reputation of the family within the community, and by the advice of the family council and of the senior matron of the family.

EC1. Roman religious officials included all of the following EXCEPT:

(b) auctoritas (responsible for the dignity of the Romans) [auctoritas as a part of being Roman, but it wasn’t an office]

EC2. What was the Struggle of the Orders? What was the basis for the conflict, and how was it resolved?

The Struggle of the Orders was a conflict between the patricians—members of a small set of old families that controlled offices in both the state religion and in government—and the plebeians, which was essentially all nonpatricians. Plebeian families that were wealthy and powerful, and so members of the elite, fought the patricians’ strangehold on power in the early Republic; legend says they even went on strike in a way, removing themselves from Rome and organizing their own assembly and leaders.

Out of this came (a) the plebeian assembly, a subset of the tribal assembly consisting only of plebeians, which eventually was able to make laws binding on all Romans; (b) the tribunes of the plebs, a board of ten elected officials with a duty to protect plebeians’ rights against the state and possessing a veto power and a sacrosanct person; and (c) the concession to allow plebeians to be elected to the major magistracies, including consul. (Most priesthoods, however, remained in the hands of patricians throughout the Republic.)

By the mid-fourth century the plebeians were able to push through a series of reforms, most notably the Licinian-Sextian Laws (366 BCE) requiring (among other things) that one of the two consduls be plebeian. The Struggle of the Orders effectively ended with the Horatian laws (287 BCE) which made all Roman citizens subject to laws passed by the Plebeian Council.

Quiz #2

1. In your opinion, did the Romans win the war with Hannibal, or did Hannibal lose it?

Hannibal had considerable advantages at the outset. In his march toward Italy through Spain and Gaul, and later in Italy itself, Hannibal collected allies from among the local peoples who marched with him to end the looming threat of Rome. This gave him great numbers as well as making parts of Italy itself hostile territory. Two successive annihilations of Roman forces, at Lake Trasimene and at Cannae, demoralized the leadership and terrified the populace.

While the Romans were so stricken and divided over the best response to Hannibal, however, Hannibal did not capitalize on this advantage by attacking Rome directly. Instead he allowed Rome to gain time to rebuild its nerve and its strength. The dictator Fabius pursued a strategy of avoiding battle and harassing Hannibal’s marching army, earning him the nickname Delayer, while attacking, taking, and punishing Italian, Sicilian, and Spanish cities allied with Hannibal one by one. Slowly Hannibal was hemmed in to the south, where his army was depleted and softened. Finally Scipio won support for a bold stroke against Carthage itself while its armies were holed up in Italy.

The militarization of Roman society and their deep reserve of manpower (which the invader Hannibal did not have) meant that even after the destruction of its forces it was able to equip, assemble, and field new armies for the next year’s campaign. Perhaps just as importantly, Roman military leadership was not pegged to a single mastermind like Hannibal; every year a new pair of trained and experienced generals was elected consul, allowing continued leadership even if consuls were killed in battle (as at Trasimene and Cannae); and dictators like Fabius could be appointed at need from the most seasoned and admired of Rome’s nobility. The senate was the repository of all Rome’s experience, including all the ex-magistrates. Thus, as it had against Pyrrhus and against the Samnites, Rome’s capacity for perseverance, recovery, and adaptation meant that even costly defeat in battle was only the latest crisis to be overcome.

2. What role did naval power play in the first Punic war? How was the naval situation different in the second Punic war?

At the outset of the first Punic war, Carthage was an established military power at sea, experienced in the building of ships, the equipping and operating them at sea, and naval strategy and tactics; on land, by contrast, they tended to rely on mercenary armies. Rome, however, had neither the inclination nor the expertise to be a naval power; by this time Rome had become expert at land warfare and tended to be suspicious of the sea, where their vast skills in land warfare were moot.

Now that the enemy was, for the first time, overseas, and because the object was the island of Sicily between Italy and north Africa, it was suddenly imperative to be able to fight at sea. Characteristically Rome approached this by both adapting to alien ideas and Romanizing them. A captured Carthaginian quinquireme was reverse-engineered and a contingent of merchant sailors and new recruits trained in using these speedy, maneuverable warships. Instead of relying on ramming, the primary naval tactic of the time, the Romans devised a free-turning grappling gangplank, the corvus, that enabled Roman soldiers aboard their ships to board the enemy and fight in the way Romans knew best—infantry combat.

The Romans defeated the Carthaginians so thoroughly that after the first Punic war Carthage’s naval capacity was wiped out, allowing Rome to become the dominant, indeed only, naval power of the Mediterranean. This meant that in the second Punic war it was Rome that had control of the seas, and Carthage turned to the land invasion of Italy.

EC1. All of the following are battles in which the Romans suffered disastrous defeats EXCEPT

(a)Battle of Zama (202 BCE)

[the others were disastrous defeats, but the Romans won the climactic battle of Zama, which took the war to Carthage and ended the Second Punic War]

EC2. What kinds of social and economic effects did the Romans experience because of their expansion in central Italy?

Trade and manufacturing: Increased production of manufactured goods (pottery and bronzes) and expands its markets in Italy and the west; early coinage.

Public works: Paved highways and aqueducts in Italy, plus major building boom in Rome including many new temples.

Agriculture: Conquered land redistributed to poor but also amassed into large estates, producing lucrative crops for export and a demand for slaves.

Urban: Increased urban population, free, slave, and ex-slave, from countryside and Italian cities; greater class tension as patricians defend prerogatives.

Art: New temples and homes reflecting success in war; appropriation and Romanization of Greek art forms, especially literature and theater.

Quiz #3

1. How did the Romans govern the territories over which they had direct rule?

The Romans set up territories they rules over as “provinces”—literally, a job or responsibility for an ex-magistrate. A consul or praetor, after his year in office, would have his powers continued for another year for the purpose of accepting responsibility for governing a conquered territory. He was now a proconsul (or propraetor), and was the sole Roman authority in the territory he’d been given. A large enough province might have a Roman legion stationed there, of which the proconsul or propraetor was the commander.

Because there were only eight magistrates a year (two consuls and six praetors), and therefore only eight potential new governors, once there were more than eight provinces it became increasingly necessary to prorogue, or hold over, the sitting governors in their territories, with the result that some governors ended up ruling over their provinces for several years, allowing them to build up a power base there among the local nobles and their own legions. Thus the provincial governments allowed one man to have complete executive authority (rather than two as back at Rome), without a colleague or a senate or assembly to get in the way of his ambition; and many of them stayed in place for multiple years, rather than one year only as in Rome.

2. What were some of the ways conquest and expansion changed Rome?

Economically, large and small farmers as a whole benefited from the conquests. It was easier for the wealthy to establish large slave-worked estates, especially in central and southern Italy. Farmers began to produce commercially for Italy’s rapidly growing cities, which grew from the influx of wealth from Rome’s conquests and increased trade and commerce. The inflow of precious metals helped to create a stable monetary system, and the minting of millions of coins to pay soldiers helped to monetize the economy. Wealthy Romans increased their fortunes through war booty, overseas commerce, and lucrative public contracts.

Socially, imperial expansion benefited upper-class Romans, but created numerous discontented social groups. Many provincials resented their loss of independence and felt oppressed by often corrupt and rapacious Roman governors and tax collectors. Even Rome’s Italian allies came to feel abused. They did much of the fighting, but Rome kept most of victory’s fruits and treated them more like subjects.

Successful wars flooded Italy with slaves. While some skilled slaves came to work as household servants, tens of thousands ended up in far more dangerous and hostile conditions in mines, large workshops, and the fields of great estates. In the 140s and 130s, several dangerous slave revolts broke out, particularly in Italy and Sicily.

Meanwhile poorer citizens, especially the rural and urban plebs, faced desperate social and economic conditions by the late second century. Wealthy nonsenators who made up the equestrian class resented the difficulties placed in the way of equites who sought to rise into the ranks of the consular nobility.

Culturally, the values and methods of foreign art and cultural expression, experienced by many in wars away from home and at home through immigration, the presence of foreign slaves, war booty, and burgeoning international commerce, created dissonance with the more reserved Roman culture. The process of adaptation to resolve this cultureal conflict included the use of Greek artistic tools, including epic poetry, tragedy, comedy, histiry, and philosophy, to create art that emphasized the ideals and identity of Rome.

Politically, imperial expansion strained the Republic’s system of government. The rewards that came from holding high office and commanding conquering armies greatly increased, and this in turn raised political competition among the leaders of noble or would-be-noble families in the senate to destructive levels. The expansion of the lower offices of the cursus honorum only intensified the competition for the two consulships at the top. Attempts to rein in ambitious individuals by legislating what had been traditional norms and by instituting punishments for those who violated them only produced greater efforts to evade them. At the same time, fear that someone might gain political advantage by sponsoring needed reforms prevented the senate from solving the problems that others could manipulate to their benefit. While Rome’s empire grew, the competing oligarchs who controlled it became less and less able to solve the problems it created.

EC1. Romans who adapted Greek forms included all of the following EXCEPT:

(c) Scipio Aemilianus, who composed the tragic Final Destruction of Carthage

EC2. Who were the publicani? What role did they play in Roman imperialism?

One key element of Roman provincial government was tax farming. Because the governors had no supporting bureaucracy, tax collection was outsourced to for-profit corporations run by Roman middle class businessmen (publicani). These corporations gouged the populace by collecting as much money as they could, handing over to the Roman state the fixed amount the senate decreed for that province and pocketing the rest. This resulted in resentment, rebellion, and increased need for Roman military presence and oppression in the provinces.

Quiz #4

1.Why did Tiberius Gracchus’s land bill provoke conflict?

The Gracchan laws affected the Italian public lands (ager publicus)—vast amounts of lands taken by Rome in war. These lands had been settled by citizens in small freeholds still technically owned by the state but farmed by generations of Roman citizen farmers. But the shifting of the rural economy in the third and second centuries meant that more and more of this land was ending up as part of the large estates of the rich. Tiberius Gracchus’s law proposed enforcing an old law saying no one could have more than 300 acres; he hoped to redistribute the land to recreate a large population of citizen farmers out of the landless poor teeming in Rome. This was taken by the rich as a rabble-rousing attack on behalf of the poor.

Gracchus also bypassed the senate and proposed his law directly to the people. Over time it had become customary to present laws first to the senate, which would debate them and offer a resolution supporting it if they approved. Since the conservative senate contained many rich landholders and their friends, and were moreover averse to radical change that would upset customs and traditions of the Republic (which they felt duty-bound to protect), Gracchus knew his law would be opposed by the senate. But bypassing the senate angered the elite, and since Gracchus broke no laws in doing so the response to Gracchus was personal and outside of the system.

Gracchus also had the Assembly vote to remove a tribune who had threatened to veto the bill if it passed, and funded the land commission created by the law by diverting the bequest of the king of Pergamum, scorning the senate’s traditional control over foreign policy. In bypassing the senate, acting against a (pro-senate) tribune, and diverting the Pergamene bequest, Gracchus asserted a more extreme idea of the power of the People (without reference to the state) than most in the ruling class could withstand.

2.In what ways did Mithridates’s uprising in the east impact on political affairs in Rome?

His massacre of Romans and Italians in Asia province forced Rome to go to war actively against him, after years of little action against Mithridates’s casual expansionism in Anatolia. This led to a Roman effort to take direct control in a region Rome had been leaving partly to itself, which was part of what moved Rome toward taking a greater and more assertive role in controlling the east.

At home, the need for war against Mithridates was seized as an opportunity by the supporters of Marius, who got the command against Mithridates taken away from the pro-senate consul, Sulla. In the riot that followed, Sulla restored order by marching on Rome with his army, establishing a terrible precedent of generals using the army against the Roman state.

EC1.Important populists (populares) included all of the following EXCEPT:

(a)L. Cornelius Sulla [Sulla was a leader of the pro-senate factions, the optimates]

EC2.What was the senate’s “ultimate decree” ? How was it used during this period?

The senatus consultum ultimum, or “ultimate decree,” was a Senate vote to instruct the consul and other top magistrates to defend the Republic and see that no harm came to the state. It enabled the state to use violence against Roman citizens, depriving them of provocatio (a citizen’s right of appeal to the People) and other protections.

It could be wielded by a faction in the Senate (in this case the most conservative of the “optimates”). It was used justify killing C. Gracchus and thousands of his supporters.

Quiz #5

1. What do you think were the most important reasons why Octavian was able to prevail over Antonius?

The break between Octavian and Antony freed Octavian to characterize Antony as a betrayer of Rome. By 36 the empire was divided between Antony in the east and Octavian in the west; both knew the power-sharing was temporary. While Octavian trained his armies and waged a propaganda war against Antony and Cleopatra, Antony concentrated on securing his borders in the east and snubbed his wife, Octavian’s sister Octavia, celebrating instead his relationship with Cleopatra, staging a false triumph in Alexandria as if it were Rome, and waging war with her in the Aegean.

After Antony’s divorce from Octavia, Octavian implied he felt he was in danger from Antony’s friends in the senate, who decamped to Antony’s court; Octavian breached and publicized Antony’s will; and he required a civilian loyalty oath to himself in a war against Cleopatra. This framed Antony as an eastern king rather than as a Roman leader.

Octavian also had Caesar’s name and claimed his place as Caesar’s heir in the hearts and minds of the masses and the army, all of whom had loved Caesar and saw him as martyred by the elitists of the senate. Antony might have challenged this, but Octavian was in Rome, and Antony was far away and vulnerable to rumors that (for example) he wanted to move the capital to Alexandria. At the same time, Octavian also made friends and deals with the senatorial nobility as well, engendering trust among them, which the too-partisan Antony could not do.

The senate, like all Romans, was desperate for an end to a century of civil wars. Caesar, and Antony after him, had whipped up popular hatred of the senate; but by working with the senate as well as the masses Octavian proved himself to be more of a statesman, more of a leader, than either Caesar or Antony.

2. According to the text, “Upper-class women played a significant role in the intellectual and political life of the late Republic.” What were some of the ways in which this was true?

Upper class women played a significant intellectual and political role in the late Republic. Some received advanced education, including the daughters of Cicero and Cato; Hortensius’s daughter led a public delegation of women against a tax on wealthy women, and several resourceful wives supported and assisted the political activities of their husbands. A premium on well-connected upper-class women for marriage alliances between families gave women an advantage and a political “in”, but virtue, even alongside untraditional behavior, was still praised—one of the best-remembered women of the end of the Republic is Octavian’s sister Octavia, who was strong and learned but also a paragon of serene selflessness. Charges of promiscuity were often men’s reactions to a perceived increase of noble women’s independence. Their intelligent and unconventional behavior are harbingers of even stronger women in the early principate.

EC1. All of these relationships had a major impact on events leading to the end of the Republic EXCEPT:

(d)Lepidus and Junia Secunda

EC2. Describe at least one of the Greek philosophies becoming progressively important in Late Republic Rome. What was the appeal for the Romans? How did it help shape the culture of the Late Republic?

Prominent Greek philosophies in Late Republic Rome included:

Stoicism, which adhered to ethics and virtue over poersonal need and emphasized the virtues characteristically ascribed to a Roman noble: magnanimity, benevolence, generosity, and public service;

Epicurianism, which asserted humans aere merely matter and advocated shunning fears related to death, marriage, and politics in favor of a quiet life of moderated pleasure; and

The Peripatetic movement, which followed the practical teachings of Aristotle.

Quiz #6

1.So… what was the principate, exactly? How specifically was Octavian (Augustus) given power?

The principate gave Octavian, now called Augustus, the authority to act on behalf of the Roman state, but did not quite create a governmental office.

Instead, starting with what historians call the Second Settlement Augustus was granted a bloc of powers associated with offices of the Republic for five or ten year intervals. The most important of these were (a) the imperium and the powers of a consul; (b) the powers and privileges of the plebeian tribunate, including the veto, the right of appeal to the people on behalf of a citizen, and sacrosanctity; and (c) the powers of a censor, which included conducting the census and ordering the membership of the senate. He also afterwards acquired the title of pontifex maximus, which put him in control of the state religion.

More generally, the princeps was the person in whom the people, the soldiers, and the nobles invested their faith and loyalty after the brutality and divisions of the civil wars, creating strength and unity of identity where the actual government of Rome and institutions like the senate had failed to do so.

2.What were some of the ways Augustus reformed and stabilized Rome and its empire? What were the effects?

His reforms and actions included centralizing authority in Rome, subordinating governors to himself and limiting opportunities for generals to establish their own power bases, with certain provinces under his direct control to prevent corruption and infighting in the senate; restructured the membership and privileges of both the senatorial and the equestrian orders; reorganized the provincial legions to create permanent, standing defense forces, while reducing and streamlining the overall size of the military and establishing retirement benefits for veterans; passed social legislation designed to promote family life and the production of legitimate children; reformed the protections available to slaves and freedmen; created improved infrastructure for Rome itself, including new watches and fire brigades, roads, and aqueducts/water storage; organized the religious institutions, reviving or revising cults and priesthoods and restoring temples; and reformed the currency, establishing new mints and new coinage and consolidating the revenue and treasure of the state. By sharing power with the senate and retaining his authority at the same time, Augustus was able to benefit from the counsel of the nobility and prevent them from feeling excluded as they had under Caesar.

In general, his military and economic policies promoted stability in Rome and throughout the empire, leading to the decades of immense prosperity known as the pax Romana.

EC1.The Augustan Age included contributions to Latin literature by all of the following Romans EXCEPT:

(b)Homer, author of the Iliad and the Odyssey

EC2.Augustus claimed to have restored the Republic. Do you agree? Explain your answer in terms of the meaning of “Republic” as you understand it.

This could be answered in a number of ways. The case against restoration would include arguments relating to the Republican machinery of government—consuls, censors, the senate, etc.—had completely lost their independence and ability to act on behalf of the people, since the will of the Roman commonwealth was now exercised by Augustus. The people were also partially disempowered, since their ability to elect consuls was now virtually meaningless.

On the other hand, Augustus ended the civil wars and restored the normal operation of government, which meant that people could trust in the system again and reliably expect the state to provide defense, leadership, services, and justice. Augustus also stood for respect for the old ways, the mos maiorum, which meant he was aggressively seeking to restore traditional values and customs as a part of his rehabilitation of Rome and the Roman identity. Finally, Augustus, unlike the populist leaders that came before him (Caesar, Antony), aggressively sought to be the leader of all the Romans, not just the masses and soldiers.

Quiz #7

1.Why are Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius called the “Five Good Emperors”?

These five emperors were thought to be most like the best models for the emperorship from its founding years: Augustus, Vespasian, and Titus: They came to power as mature, experienced men, and approached rule by understanding and embracing the responsibilities involved. They sought the loyalty and protection of the three constituencies of the princeps—the army, the masses, and the senate. These five emperors involved themselves deeply in the functioning of the empire, several of them spending many years in the provinces working to improve their protection and prosperity.

They were also extraordinarily fortunate, experiencing few natural or military disasters. They contrast markedly with the self-centered rules before and after them, Domitian and Commodus.

2.What trends in religion developed during first two centuries of the principate?

While Rome could not easily export its state religion, the gods and practices of local cults throughout the empire were aligned with Rome’s, bringing about a sort of international paganism that tied locals to Rome without repressing their traditions and identity.

As the sense of personal agency was affected by the almighty power of the emperor in Rome, there was a desire for sources of religious and magical power, such as oracles, astrologers, and miracle workers, while mystery cults offered a secret alternative identity.

Also, since a group of local pagan gods seemed weak compared to the central power of Rome, gods that could claim universal power. This opened up new cults like that of Isis and Mithras, but most benefitted Christianity, whose one, all-powerful god was not tied to one ethnic group or place, as most earlier gods were, and who moreover promised salvation and eternal life to both the rich and the downtrodden and despised.

EC1.The “silver age” of literature under Claudius and Nero included all of the following EXCEPT:

(d)The seagoing Agrippa (M. Vipsanius Agrippa) [Agrippa was Augustus’s general and original heir]

EC2.How was the principate involved in the periods of growth and decline in Roman literature?

Augustus was both a great patron of the arts and an inspiration to great pride and enthusiasm for Rome, its culture, and its future. The paranoia and prosecutions for speech-related treason under Tiberius and Caligula stifled creativity, and even Claudius’s exile of Seneca instilled caution.

Nero’s recall of Seneca and his indulgence of the arts signaled a new era, only to have a whole generation of writers wiped out by Nero’s purge, and the Flavians banished the philosophers and seemed to oppose too much freedom of expression.

Increasingly artistic and scholarly expression was being found among the Greeks, further from Rome’s intrigues, leading up to a Greek literary movement called the Second Sophistic. Early Christians were also inspired to write about their experiences and beliefs.

Quiz #8

1. Just what was the “Third Century Crisis”? What were some of the factors that brought it about?

The most obvious feature of the Third Century Crisis was the instability of the principate, especially in the years 235 to 285. At the same time, the empire was experiencing widespread economic disaster, involving spiraling inflation tied to a shortage of metal, continual debasement of the coinage, and the financial drain of standing armies at Rome’s frontiers, which Rome increasingly could not afford to man or supply. Vanishing markets for finished goods also meant the disappearance of skilled laborers, delaying the economy’s ability to recover when markets began to resurface without the craftsmen to supply them.

This political, economic, and military weakness encouraged invasions on multiple fronts, so that by mid-century many of Rome’s frontier provinces were occupied and had to be retaken. Natural disasters further weakened Rome’s strength and delayed its recovery, including two virulent plague epidemics that wiped out broad swaths of the population, eliminated both skilled and unskilled labor.

2. Marcus Aurelius carefully prepared Commodus for the principate. What went wrong?

First, Marcus Aurelius expected his experienced advisors to guide Commodus, but they divided over issues like whether to continue Aurelius’s war with the Marcomanni; this division carved the royal family, important senators, and military leaders into antagonistic factions.

Second, Commodus’s reliance on the Greek freedman chamberlain Saoterus aroused jealousy among the Roman elite, and fed the senators’ sense that Commodus scorned them.

Third, his inexperience and willfulness reminded the Roman elite of previous young, inexperienced emperors whose reigns were disastrous, like Caligula, Nero, and Diocletian.

Fourth, Commodus’s ending his father’s great wars deprived senatorial generals of opportunities for glory and advancement, arousing resentment.

Fifth, Commodus’s marriage failed to produce an heir, encouraging others to try for the throne.

Finally, his quest for popular adoration through gladiatorial shows was expensive, and his participation in them was thought undignified.

EC1. All of the following are true of Palmyra EXCEPT:

(b) It was the site of Rome’s watershed victory against the Seleucids back in the days of the Republic

EC2. What is a codex book? Why was its introduction significant?

The spread of education and literacy created a need for a less expensive and less cumbersome alternative to the large rolls on which books had always been produced, and which were mainly useful to the elite man of leisure.

The parchment codex introduced the modern idea of a book: a stack individual leaves of paper (or parchment, in this case) bound together on the left side. It was better for taking notes and doing exercises as a student, but even more importantly, the codex was cheap and convenient, making learning much more accessible to a wider public. The codex was an important means by which the Christians spread their gospel.

Quiz #9

1. What do you think were Constantine’s motivations for his policies toward Christianity?

A number of arguments could be made, but it should be remembered that the Christian church had become powerful throughout the empire during the third-century crisis, stepping in to help the people when the state could not. Christianity held universal appeal across class, ethnicity, and gender, and the church was deftly making use of the persecutions of Christians to venerate the victims as martyrs and saints. Christianity was a more and more formidable enemy; it would also be an equally powerful tool in the hands of the emperor himself. The Romans knew they had nothing no offer the provincials in terms of an identity-giving religion; the answer was the coopt Christianity, just as the Romans had coopted naval warfare from the Carthaginians, or the cult of the Magna Mater from Anatolia.

At the same time, it’s also possible that Constantine saw hope and potential in the Christian god as such. Unlike pagan gods, he was not bound to place and powers; and the Jewish god was bound to a single nation. If the Christian god was real, he might well be more powerful than the other gods, and worthy of the adherence of the Roman emperor.

2. In your opinion, was Julian’s apostasy (reverting the empire to paganism) doomed? Why or why not?

A number of arguments could be made, but consider this. After the legitimation of Christianity under Constantine and Constantius II, Julian attempted to reassert Greco-Roman paganism as the primary religion of the empire, largely out of personal conviction. His paganism was a strange mix of traditions that was outside the pagan mainstream, so that he had trouble rallying non-Christians to his support; as an ascetic, he removed himself from popular entertainment, alienating himself from the people of the cities.

Meanwhile Christianity was strongly organized even before Constantine, and was easily able to maintain its strength and reassert itself after Julian’s death.

EC1. The Christian heresy which stated that Christ was not of the same substance as the Father was known as:

(a) Arianism

EC2. In what ways was the Empire of the fourth century different from that of the first or second centuries?

Most obviously, the empire was formally divided between east and west; perhaps more importantly, each empire was systematically organized by diocese and province, with infrastructure and a hierarchy of government officials. At the top of each empire, the tendency became for emperors to rule with

junior-co-emperors, and with other members of the imperial family serving as regional Caesars.

All of this helped to stabilize the empire, strengthening its process both at the top and at the local level. The strengthening of the regions and provinces minimized the threat from provincial commanders and from barbarians beyond the frontiers, though the alliances with frontier tribes and reliance on them to defend the further reaches of the Roman world spelled eventual doom for the western empire.

The advent of Christianity as the favored and then official religion helped unite the empire in terms of identity, while at the same time providing a system of support parallel to the state’s taking up the slack locally where the Romans fell short. At the same time, Christianity was politicized by the intrusion of the emperors and those around him, as witnessed from the beginning by Constantine presiding over the Nicene Creed. Christianity’s official status also meant that the religion was made unified (Catholic) anyone not believing in the official creed could be persecuted for heresy, setting the stage for endless wars and martyrs on behalf of Catholic orthodoxy.