Ancient Rome


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 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.

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)

EC2. The senate and the assemblies are all gatherings of people. What was the senate’s role in the governance of the Republic, and how was that different from that of an assembly (e.g., 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.)

Quiz #2

1. What factors do you think led Rome to start expanding aggressively into central Italy in the 300s? (Consider both what made it possible and what made it necessary.)

The Romans were spurred to expansion partly because of the Sack of Rome, which drove them to ensure that the city Rome never be vulnerable to invasion or sack again. This required control over central Italy as a protective zone (which created its own issues).

The expansion was made possible by a number of factors. First, the greatly increased wealth that came from the capture of Veii meant Rome had more economic resources. Second, increased territory meant more peoples subject to taxation and military service, which meant larger armies of Romans and allies could be put in the field. Third, poltical reforms stabilized the conflict between the patricians and the plebeians, allowing more unified action. Finally, military reforms, including the advent of the manipular army in place of the hoplite phalanx, meant more versatile azrmies and a greater wealth of tactics and strategies.

2. According to Roman history, what precedents did the first three dictators lay down for future dictators?

The first three dictators were appointed in response to a public perception that a crisis needed emergency resolution by the man most qualified to do so. The first dictators therefore saw their total power as bound to that specific need only, and each resigned immediately in the resolution of the crisis. All future dictators understood the office as bound to a specific mandate and resigned at the earliest moment, restoring normalcy to Rome.

The first dictators also appointed a magister equitum as their first act.

EC1. The Roman system of alliances and citizen communities in Italy included all of the following EXCEPT:

(c) Canes felesque (cities treated affectionately by Rome and given regular food allowances)

EC2. What were some of the ways expansion into central Italy impacted on Rome? Be specific and give examples.

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.

EC3. How did the Romans choose their dictators? What made Cincinnatus the right choice and Glycia the wrong choice?

Dictators were appointed by the consuls in response to a public perception of nered. The duty of the consul was to choose the needed man for any crisis, regardless of family or status.

Cincinnatus was chosen for his utter humility, representing core Roman values and rejecting any thought of glory, power, or wealth from office as un-Roman. Glycia was the wrong choice because the consul, Claudius Pulcher, deliberately chose him as the most unsuitable person he could think of to take command of the fleet out of sheer pique. Both cases ilustrate the dictatorship depended on the honor of the consuls choosing them as much as that of the doctators themselves.

Quiz #3

1. In your opinion, did the Romans win the war with Hannibal, or did Hannibal lose it? In other words, is the outcome of the Second Punic War due more to Roman successes, or to Carthaginian failures? Explain your answer.

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 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.

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

(a) Battle of Zama (202 BCE)

EC2. According to the text, what were some of the factors contributing to Carthage’s power and stability leading up to their wars with Rome? Be specific and give examples.

Carthage controlled vital mining resources around the western Med, giving them access to lead, zinc, copper, tin, iron, and silver. They also controlled quantities of highly-prized grains, olive oil, wine, and fruit. As with their Phoenician forebears, they leveraged wealth in natural resources into lucrative luxury trade, including pottery, textiles, and jewelry.

The Phoenician seafaring tradition and the excellent harbors at Carthage ensured superior shipbuilding and expertise in sea trade. Carthage was also able to establish a powerful navy to protect its ships, ports, and land resources.

Not unlike Rome, Carthage was governed by its landholding familes via an assembly, a senate, and elected magistrates.

Quiz #4

1. Why did Tiberius Gracchus’s land bill provoke conflict? Consider both the content and the way it was passed.

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. How 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” (senatus consultum ultimum)? 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. How did Caesar die? What do you think were the main reasons it happened? Be specific and give examples.

Caesar was assassinated at a senate meeting by a small group of nobles led by Cassius, a former dissident whom Caesar had treated with clemency, and Brutus, who was known for his virtue (and whose ancestor had evicted Tarquin Superbus nearly 500 years before).

The motivations varied. Some, like Cassius, felt slighted by Caesar. Others, like Brutus, feared for the Republic. Caesar’s reforms were entirely populist, his every action turning the people and the armies against the senate and the conservative elite. The senate had retained a pretense of control over Caesar’s power as they were the ones to grant him his honors, including four successive dictatorships; but when Caesar arranged for an automatically renewing dictatorship (dictator perpetuum) this sense of control was lost.

2. What role does Pompey the Great play in the civil wars? How would you describe his motivations? Give examples.

After pledging himself and his illegal private army to Sulla, Pompey was then ordered to mop up Sulla’s enemies, including the Marian holdout Sertorius, who controlled part of Roman Spain. He then allied with Crassus, joining him in a consulship that finished the unraveling of Sulla’s pro-senate reforms. Pompey and Crassus then joined with a young Caesar to form the so-called first triumvirate, an informal union of three powerful men to control Roman politics behind the scenes.

The senate, trusting him more than Crassus and Caesar, sent him on more extraordinary commands, first to wipe out the pirates of southern Italy, then to reorganize the Roman east. Pompey’s arrangements in the east were long-lasting, shaping Rome’s relationship with its Hellenistic provinces for centuries to come; but his absence from Rome left it in political disorder, and Caesar strove to match his power as governor of the three Gauls. Finally, the senate called on Pompey to defend Italy against the invasion by Caesar.

Pompey is generally seen as an opportunist, using his advantages (mainly control over an army inherited from his father and the division of the nobles) to establish himself as a warlord who was not to be ignored. Though he joined with Sulla, and later fought for the senate, this was not out of loyalty to their platform, and he was just as happy to work with Crassus to dismantle Sulla’s aristocratic constitution.

EC1. All of the following are true of Caesar’s dictatorships (49 to 44 BCE) EXCEPT:

(a) He was cruel and vengeful to his political opponents, refusing to extend magnanimity and clemency

EC2. Whom did Crassus crucify along the Appian Way (the road to Rome), and why? What conflict resulted in this act?

When the gladiator Spartacus led a slave revolt against the Roman aristocracy, Rome had great difficulty putting it down. (This is known as the Third Servile War.) Roman troops were mostly busy in other wars away from Italy. The consuls initially assumed the revolt would be easy to quash, not apprehending quickly enough that Spartacus had amassed a great army of slaves, some with military experience. Spartacus racked up victory after victory over the Roman legions sent against them under the consuls’ command.

Finally, the state commissioned Crassus to destroy the revolt. Not underestimating Spartacus as the consuls had, Crassus amassed a powerful Roman force of eight legions and used Spartacus’s weaknesses against him. Pompey was still able to gain credit for Spartacus’s defeat owing to a minor action, but Crassus demonstrated that the victory was of his making by subjecting 6,000 of the slave rebels to crucifixion—the ancient Roman punishment for treason. (Spartacus was not included: he died in battle but his body was not found.)

EC3. What is the significance of Caesar crossing the Rubicon? How does it change things for himself and Rome?

In 49 BCE Caesar and Pompey’s increasing power as warlords personally controlling great swaths of the Roman empire led senate extremists to attempt to pass the “ultimate decree” against Caesar and have him declared a public enemy. Though vetoed by Caesar’s ally Antony, who held a plebeian tribuneship that year, this move by the senate spurred Caesar to action. The tribunes were forced to flee, and Caesar used the defense of the sacred rights of the tribunes as his pretext to end the current government of Rome.

Caesar took the nearby city of Rimini, across the boundary between his province (Cisalpine Gaul) and Italy proper. This boundary was a minor river called the Rubicon. Caesar knew that this would be understood as him invading Italy, and that there was no turning back. Thus his famous use of the quote from Menander, “The die is cast.”

Quiz #6

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. 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 personal need and emphasized the virtues characteristically ascribed to a Roman noble: magnanimity, benevolence, generosity, and public service;
  • Epicurianism, which asserted humans are 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.

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. 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.

EC3. How was the triumvirate of Octavian, Antony, and Lepidus different from the previous triumvirate of Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar? What did the two triumvirates have in common (apart from consisting of three men)?

The First Triumvirate was a private deal between the three most powerful men in Rome—Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar—to manage the running of Rome from behind the scenes. It was unsanctioned and illegal, but the state could do little about it because of the social, political, military, and economic power held by these three men.

The Second Triumvirate involved the Republic formally granting executive powers to Octavian, Antony, and Lepidus for a specific term of five years, charging them with maintaining the state on behalf of the Roman people. During these two five-year terms, Octavian and Antony (and Lepidus while he lasted) were the official heads of state of the Roman Republic.

In both cases, the triumvirates came about because the three men involved were, at the time, more powerful than the government of Rome itself.

Quiz #7

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. Augustus claimed to have restored the Republic. Do you agree?

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.

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

(b) Bilbonus, author of There and Back Again

EC2. 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.

Quiz #8

1. Explain why Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius are 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 the principate’s first centuries, as Rome became a universal empire?

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)

EC2. How was the principate involved in the periods of growth and decline in Roman literature during the first two centuries CE? What kinds of other factors helped and hindered literary expression during this time? Give examples.

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.

EC3. What stood out to you as the most significant element of Hadrian’s reign, and why?

Hadrian was known for shifting from aggressive warfare to defense of the frontiers, which angered some in the army and created a sharper boundary between “us” (the empire) and “them.” He geared military recruitment more toward provincials and reformed military tactics. He also ensured the stability of succession, choosing the next two emperors, and established a more self-perpetuating bureaucracy. He executed a handful of political enemies in Rome, and his extreme favoritism of Antinoös created ill will among other nobles.

Quiz #9

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 of 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.