Ancient Civ.


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. Who was Sargon? What did he create? What were the benefits of this creation?

Sargon was a king of Akkad, one of the Semitic cities that rose in Mesopotamia after the Sumerians, during the Bronze Age. He’s credited with creating the first multinational empire, after conquering or absorbing many of the lands and peoples of the Fertile Crescent.

For Akkad, empire had the benefit of direct control of distance resources that would otherwise been gotten through traders. This meant a stronger and more stable economy, allowing Akkad to become wealthier—though that wealth would have been offset by the expenses of ruling over a vast empire, suppressing its subjects, and crushing rebellions.

For the subjects of Akkadian rule, empire would have meant broader distribution of previously hard-to-get goods, as the empire developed a larger overall economy; over time this can raise the standard of living throughout the empire. Migration within the empire meant greater contact with unknown peoples and ideas; in general, a potential for broadening beyond the local. Improvements in the empires that benefitted the Akkadian overlords would have helped locals as well, such as bridges and roads.—However, subjects of empire were liable to the tribute and taxes, to misrule by alien governors, and to military service in the emperor’s wars.

2. What was the Code of Hammurabi? What kinds of things did it deal with? Why was such a Code important?

It was a law code, one of the earliest known in history, issued by Hammurabi, a king of the Old Babylonian empire during the 18th century BCE. For the most part it dealt with applying justice to conflicts between individuals, often having to do with property or commercial transactions, with different provisions depending on class.

In an empire consisting of many different peoples and traditions, the Code imposed a unified law that overrode varying and conflicting local customs. Its publication meant that law and justice were fixed, rather than being subject to the whims and avarice of officials. A unified law code was one way to help bring about trust in an empire controlled by alien rulers from far away, because locals could now be sure what to expect from their rulers.

3. For today you read Tablet 5 of The Epic of Gilgamesh, which involves Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s encounter with Humbaba. What happens in this encounter? What do you think Humbaba might represent in the story?

Gilgamesh and Enkidu defeat Humbaba, the cedar-forest guardian. The prize cedar is cut down and sent to Uruk to be used as doors to the great temple there.

The fight represents Gilgamesh’s desire for glory, which is starting to be about Uruk and not just himself, and the value of companionship, even when there is disagreement. More generally, the fight represents humanity’s assertion of power over the natural world and the taking of the resources of the wild for the purposes of civilization, a second stage of humanity’s transition from nomadic to civilized acted out by Enkidu. The gods come from the wild power of nature and so this is also an assertion of mortal power over the gods.

EC1. All of the following are true of Enheduanna, daughter of Sargon, EXCEPT:

(b) She was priestess of the goddess of blacksmithing

EC2. Who were the Hittites, and where did they come from?

The Hittites were an Indo-European people, who migrated into the Mediterranean world from the Indo-European homelands to the north of the Black Sea. Like the rest of the Indo-Europeans they were original pastoral, decentralized, nonurban, and tribal, but on encountering the prosperous city-states of the Mediterranean World they sought to emulate their stability and success, building city-states of their own.—They settled in Anatolia and, merging with the indigenous peoples there, built one of the first Bronze age industrial trade empires.

Quiz #2

1. For what reasons did the Old Kingdom pharaohs build pyramids? How did ziggurats have similar functions?

The pyramids were visible symbols of the pharaoh’s divine rule, unifying the people’s shared identity and religion. They represented power unlike any human’s and so reinforced the pharaoh’s divinity. Pyramids were also the ultimate in prestige and luxury, which was controlled by the pharaohs, and so showed precedence over all classes and over past kings as well. They employed huge numbers of people, impressing the people directly with his power and keeping them busy between harvests. They served as temples for the worship of pharaohs after death.

Like all monumental building (e.g., the ziggurats) they displayed Egypt’s (and so the pharaoh’s) immense economic power—to its own people and to outsiders as well, as well as serving as a visual focal point for a strong central identity as Egyptians and a home to a protective patron deity, in this case the pharaoh as a manifestation of Horus.

2. Who was Akhenaten? What do you think his story tells us about New Kingdom Egypt?

Akhenaten was an Egyptian pharaoh of the New Kingdom (during the 18th Dynasty). He and his queen, Nefertiti, sought to bring about religious reform in Egypt by shifting the focus of worship to Aten, calling him more important than the other gods. This brought about a form of polytheism in which one god is greatly predominant called henotheism. Akhenaten pushed the exclusive worship of Aten by changing his regnal name from Amunhotep IV to Akhenaten, building a new royal city sacred to Aten, and instituting new rituals and priesthoods.

In so doing, Akhenaten sought to undo the shift in religious power from the pharaohs, who had held unquestionable religious authority in the Old Kingdom, to the priests, who now held much greater power in the New Kingdom. The priests emphasized the significance of Amun-Ra, the sun god, in the pharaoh’s rule, so by associating the kingship with Aten he sought to wrest power from the priests. It was too late for that, however: the authority of the priests was now too well established, and the pharaoh’s power too diminished from the absolute in the New Kingdom. Egyptian religion reverted the control of the priests after the deaths of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, as signified by the regnal name of his son and eventual successor, Tutankhamun.

3. For today you read “The Death of Enkidu.” What are his reactions to his approaching death?

Enkidu is distraught at first that his death will not be meaningful—that he will waste away rather than while achieving something great for Uruk and leaving a legacy by which he overcomes death. In his grief he blames Shamhat for civilizing him, but later repents and praises her for the gift she gave him.

The House of Dust is the term used to refer to the Sumerian afterlife; the name underlines that it is what is left after the ending of life, and not a place where life continues. In his dream, Enkidu sees (among other things) past kings who were powerful and constructive during their lives, but impotent and pathetic, bemoaning the loss of their ability to achieve.

EC1. All of the following are true of the Semitic invaders who dominated Egypt between the Middle and New Kingdoms EXCEPT:

(b) They ruled peacefully over Egypt for many thousands of years

EC2. In your opinion, why do you think unification was achievable in Egypt, but impossible in Sumer?

The main point here is that the city-states of Sumer were in competition for limited resources, and so remained in rivalry with each other and were often hostile. In Egypt, however, the environment provided plenty for all, so there was no need to compete for resources, and everyone had in common the protection and nurturing of the gods—eventually manifested as a single god-king.

Quiz #3

1. What’s different about iron, compared to bronze? How did the shift to iron change things?

Iron weapons are not significantly harder or stronger than bronze. Iron ore is very common and easy to procure and control in large quantities. This meant that iron-holding societies were stronger militarily and had a higher standard of living, because they could make many more weapons and many more tools.

This contrasts with bronze because bronze required two components, copper and tin, and controlling sources of both was difficult; bronze was also difficult to produce. As a result, bronze was a luxury good, reserved for the elite, and bronze agricultural tools and weapons were produced only for the wealthy few.

The mass production of iron tools and weapons helps shift the center of gravity from the few to the many, as well as bringing about improved health (increased birth rate, reduced death rate), greater distribution of resources, and mass armies capable of more ambitious conquest and occupation of conquered territories.

2. Who were the Phoenicians, and why were they so successful? How did they affect other Mediterranean societies?

The Phoenicians were the Semitic inhabitants of several cities in the coastal north of Canaan (modern-day Lebanon). They were ideally located to import raw materials from inland and then engage in trade around the Mediterranean coast in both directions. They developed a lucrative extensive Mediterranean trade route based on luxury goods that they manufactured from imported materials like raw textiles and marble and from their two most important local commodities—cedar wood and murex, the purple dye they converted into a coveted status symbol throughout the Mediterranean world.

Also their invention of the phonetic alphabet was spread throughout their trading network, introducing literacy to the Dark Age Greeks, the Etruscans, and the Latins.

3. Now that you’ve finished reading The Epic of Gilgamesh, what do you think the story is truly about? What moments from the story most exemplify this?

This question is subjective; possible answers include the Sumerian awareness of universality of death and the consequent need to achieve lasting contributions that surpass it; the untrustworthiness of the gods requiring mortals to ensure their own fate; the importance of the bonds with others over the self; the nature of men as beasts and the role of women to convert them to citizens as mothers/wives; etc.

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

(c) They left behind lots of records and literature to richly inform us of their culture and history

EC2. What kinds of dangers did the Hebrews face when they returned to Canaan? In what ways did they overcome them?

The first great challenge they faced was how to ensure the survival of the religion of Moses in the seductive atmosphere of Canaan. The sensuous fertility rites and worldly appeal of Canaan religion and society threatened to draw Hebrews away into the Canaanite cities.

The second great challenge was their loose, tribal structure, in which any concerted actions were undertaken as temporary alliances between tribes. This unfocused, dispersed structure made the Hebrews vulnerable, weak in both offense to take the land and cities they needed to survive in the already populated Canaan and in defense against more powerful, wealthy inhabitants (both Canaanites and Philistines). The solution was to create a warrior king, but the Hebrews, remembering the oppressive power of the pharaohs from whom they had fled, were resistant to having a king until forced by necessity.

Quiz #4

1. Describe three specific factors that you think most helped make the Persian Empire stable and successful.

Possible factors include the following:

  • The Persians lowered the chance of rebellion by ruling with as little oppression as was feasible, and by tolerating local religion and culture rather than forcefully imposing theirs.
  • The Persian king was explicitly not a god, but through ritual, trappings, and seclusion was converted into an abstract symbol that served as a focus of identity for all the diverse and unconnected peoples of the Empire.
  • The Persians did not keep standing armies, which tend to exploit and oppress local populations, and did not often go to war, having extended their frontiers to natural geographic barriers, so that the Empire’s subjects enjoyed a sense of peace and protectedness.
  • The system of satrapies was designed to ensure a sense of benevolent and protective rule in each region and culture.
  • The Great King had a system of spies whose role was to ensure the satraps were not corrupt or abusive.
  • Finally, the positive encouragement of local economies and vibrant trade within the empire brought about general prosperity, a higher standard of living, and improvements in the birth and death rates.

2. Describe the Persian religion, Zoroastrianism. What was the relationship between Zoroastrianism and the state?

Zoroastrianism is a dualist religion, describing the world as the domain of two gods, one of order and light (Ahuramazda) and of of disorder and darkness (Ahriman). Both gods are needed, and are set in a complementary and balanced dynamic.

The Persuan state’s perspective is that it stands with the side of order. Mortals choose either side; those who choose disorder and darkness (criminals, traitors, and rebels) are natural antagonists of the state.

3. What is the significance of the Persian title “King of Kings”? Why was it important the Great King was not a god?

The title is significant in two ways. First, the Persian Great King ruled over actual kings, where their kingdoms were absorbed into the Persian empire and made into “client kingdoms”, kingdoms subordinate to Persia. In these the kings would pay tribute to Persia and obey the Great King, fighting with him in his wars, in exchange for prosperity and protection.

Second, the Persian Great King stood above ordinary kings as a greater kind of ruler. Ordinary kings dealt with the mundane needs of everyday concerns, but the Persian Great King was propagandized as a more abstract role, thus serving as a focal point of identity for the subject peoples of the empire.

EC1. Persia conquered Egypt under the leadership of which king?

(b) Cambyses

EC2. What reasons might the Persian king have had for releasing the Judeans to return home and rebuild in Jerusalem?

At the times, the Jews were in exile in Babylon, confined there by the Babylonians that Persia had conquered. By allowing the Jews to return to Judea, Cyrus gained a new province inhabited by loyal and grateful subjects.

In addition, Judea was in a strategic location vital to the Persian empire, on the western frontier against the Persians’ rival in that area and its next target, Egypt. This helped make it possible for Cyrus’s successor to conquer Egypt.

Quiz #5

1. What was a hoplite army? How was adopting hoplite warfare a change from the past?

The hoplite army was a city’s citizen body—everyone who could afford the round shield, spear, and basic armor—defending the city’s property and people by creating a phalanx, or long unified row of soldiers with overlapping shields, several men deep. The hoplite army was extremely effective, uniting the power and force of the entire army by striking the enemy with one massive blow.

It’s a change because past military tactics had emphasized the role of the aristocracy, dwelling on single combat by hero types and so empowering the few over the many. The hoplite army is unified and anonymous; everyone acts together and as one, and any individual heroism actually destroys its effectiveness. It represents a social shift in power from the few to the many.

2. At the start of the Archaic period, population growth and limited resources meant “extra mouths to feed.” What were some of the ways the Greeks addressed this problem?

(a) They expanded their territory through the use of their military. (b) They created colonies that expanded their population and economy to new locations. (c) Their trading economy increased, increasing both imports (to feed the growing population) and exports (to strengthen their trading power).

3. This week you read the first sections of Clouds. At the very beginning of the play, what is troubling the father, Strepsiades? Why does he go to the Thinkery to solve it?

Strepsiades is upset because of the horse-racing debt accumulated by his playboy son, Pheidippides. He decides to send him to the Thinkery, so he can learn how to argue away his debts.

EC1. Among the Greeks, a “tyrant” was:

(d) An illegal ruler sponsored by groups disadvantaged by the aristocrats

EC2. What are some of the ways Homer’s works were significant to the Greeks?

Homer’s works told the story of the Bronze Age past and the failure of the Mycenaean civilization. It contrasted the venal, prideful, and selfish Mycenaean Greeks (like Agamemnon and Achilles) with the noble, honorable, and civic-minded Trojans (like Hector and Priam).

In the Archaic period and forever afterward, Homer’s works served as the basis for Greek education. The Greeks (and those seeking to learn their tongue) learned their language and cultural values from the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Most of all, Homer’s works were the basis for the Greeks’ understanding of the gods and their relationship with mortals. From Homer the Greeks learned that the gods’ primary role was to respond to the destructive selfishness of mortals—ambition, greed, hubris, and arrogance—with punishment and destruction, not only for the offenders but for their families and even whole communities.

EC3. In Clouds, how does “Socrates” first enter (physically appear on stage)? Why do you think the playwright, Aristophanes, introduces him like this?

“Socrates” appears descending from above in a basket, much like gods at the end of a tragedy descending to dispense wisdom and justice (“deus ex machina”), only “Socrates” talks not about the wisdom of the gods but the “natural functions” and physical processes of the temporal heavens. His scruffy appearance presents him as a false god. He also starts out with his head literally in the clouds.

Quiz #6

1. Who were the helots? Why were they so important to the Spartan system? What risks did they pose for the Spartans?

The helots were state-owned serfs. In origin they were the conquered peoples of Laconia and neighboring Messenia, subdued early in Sparta’s history and permanent “prisoners of war.” Each helot family farm provided a fixed amount of food year-round for a Spartan warrior, freeing the Spartans from the distractions of managing land, laborers, and produce. The helot families retained for their own use anything beyond what was levied, which is why they are at least nominally considered serfs and not slaves.

The Spartan system was heavily dependent on the helots. Because they greatly outnumbered the Spartan citizenry, which was restricted to the warrior elite (the homoioi), the Spartans were constantly alert to the dangers of uprising among the helots and feared marching their armies too far from home. To reinforce their status as prisoners of war, young Spartans were required to literally hunt helots as part of their training. Helots were also paraded before the young warriors drunk and humiliated to train them to think of helots as an inferior class.

2. Who was Solon? What were his contributions to the Athenian system?

Solon had the trust of both aristocrats and the commoners and so was able to enact reforms that benefitted Athens as a whole. He weakened the power of local and family influence by making participation in Athenian politics dependent on wealth, not blood, creating new classes that cut across local and family loyalties in order to strengthen Athenian unity and the prosperity that would come from a stronger and more vibrant unified economy. He strengthened Athenian agricultural production and relieved the debt slavery crisis that was crippling the poor peasantry. He fought not for the poor against the rich (as with the tyrants), or vice versa, but for a stronger Athens.

3. In Clouds, what kind of arguments does “Socrates” make about Zeus and the gods?

“Socrates” venerates natural phenomena and human cleverness; as such he denigrates the gods. He says there’s no such being as Zeus, since the things he’s given credit for, such as rain and thunder, are the work of the Clouds.

EC1. Powerful groups in democratic Athens included all of the following EXCEPT

(c) The two kings and their royal families (basilei) [Athens had no kings]

EC2. How were boys trained in Sparta (agogē)?

All boys who survived the weeding out of the unfit as infants were removed to the barracks at age 7 to undergo a collective education by the state designed to train each succeeding generation in the all-importance of training to become invincible warriors. The education was built entirely around building the endurance and training necessary to live and fight as idealized hoplite warriors in harsh and unforgiving conditions. The boys were expected to become tough and cunning. They continued this training up through the age of thirty, remaining in the barracks even if they got married, as they were allowed to do after 20. The shared experience, in small bands and larger groups that shared a mess and quarters, fostered loyalty, solidarity, and cooperativeness, but did not educate boys in arts, science, or anything else besides the skills necessary to become a Spartan warrior. As such it reflected the Spartan culture’s fixed perception that any pursuit but war was a distraction that could debase an individual Spartan and weaken and make vulnerable Sparta herself.

EC3. What do you think might be some potential disadvantages of radical democracy, as practiced in Athens?

One problem noted by those who favored the aristocracy is that the poorer classes were not educated (education was only available to the wealthy in the ancient world).—More generally, dangers faced by pure democracy include demagoguery (unscrupulous people gaining votes by telling people what they want to hear); division into faction, making consensus difficult to achieve; and tyranny of the majority, where interests of smaller groups of voters are locked out by the needs and wants of the majority.

Quiz #7

1. What factors helped make Carthage the strongest power in the western Mediterranean?

Carthage was founded by the Phoenicians, and inherited their trading model based on converting natural resources into high-value luxury goods and entrepreneurial trade routes in which master traders took a handful of ships great distances to trade with many markets.

Geographically, Carthage was positioned at the choking point between the western and eastern Mediterranean, putting it in a position to control east-west trade and dominate the western Med. In addition, Carthage was possessed of two excellent natural harbors, making it an ideal trading port and shipbuilding facility. Carthage became a powering trading power and maritime force at a time when few other important cities had developed along the coasts of the western Mediterranean; with those cities that were there, including the Greek colonies in Sicily, the Etruscan city-states, and early Rome, Carthage made trading partnerships or treaties of mutual benefit.

2. In Rome, who was the paterfamilias? What kind of authority did he have?

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 and 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.

3. How did the Roman monarchy end?

According to legend, the son of the tyrannical seventh king, Tarquin Superbus, raped the most virtuous woman in Rome, Lucretia. This sparked an uprising among the nobility, who ended the monarchy and declared a Republic.

EC1. Early Italy was inhabited by all of the following EXCEPT:

(b) Egyptians

EC2. What stories did the Romans tell of the founding of their city? What do these stories suggest to you about how the Romans saw themselves?

There were two separate traditions regarding the founding. One was that Aeneas founded Rome, giving Rome a heroic founder who, as a Trojan, was on a level with the Greeks (whom the Romans saw as culturally advanced).

The more common story is that Rome was founded by Romulus, who was abandoned as a baby with his brother Remus and nursed by a she-wolf. Romulus killed Remus and became the first king. His actions and association with the wolf suggest that Romans saw themselves as ruthless men who do what is necessary.

EC3. Now that you’ve finished Clouds, what do you think Aristophanes intended his audiences to get from the play?

There are a lot of possible answers to this question. Clouds calls attention to the danger posed by the abandonment of traditional beliefs and religion, which until recently had been Athens’s moral foundation.

The sophists teaching relative morality, and people like Socrates challenging traditional beliefs, leads directly to the dissipation of Pheidippides, who spends heedlessly, selfishly puts his father in debt, and ultimately attacks his father because he has been taught morality is whatever you want it to be.

The peril is urgent, as already Pheidippides (whose father starts and ends embracing tradition) and the audience itself (during the debate) is compromised and corrupted.

Quiz #8

1. Rome was almost defeated in the Second Punic War against Hannibal. How did Rome win?

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. How did the Gauls’ Sack of Rome in 390 BCE change things for the Romans?

Rome was sacked by invading Gauls in 390. During the sack, there were many deaths and rapes, and buildings and possessions were damaged and destroyed. According to some stories, the Gauls were made to depart only after paying a large tribute in gold.

The most important effect was psychological, creating a permanent dread of violation of the city by barbarians. It came at the climax of a century of defensive war with the Oscans and came at a time when Rome’s allies, the Latins, were increasingly unreliable. The sack demonstrated a vulnerability of the city of Roman that the Romans now found intolerable. From this point onward the Romans are obsessed with having the strongest armies and to ensure the safety of their frontiers through expansion and Romanization.

This event instilled in the Romans an obsession with ensuring that their territory and people would never again be vulnerable to such attack. As a result their policy became to control the territory surrounding Roman lands, leading to a natural need to continue to expand. The Roman fear of the Gauls also drove them to make sure that conquered barbarians were made to be civilized (i.e., Romanized) to ensure they are no longer the kind of threatening “other” the Gauls were at the time of the sack.

3. Pyrrhus famously said “another victory like this and I shall be totally ruined”. What did he mean? Why did Rome win the Pyrrhic War even after losing its two most important battles?

Pyrrhus won two victories over the Romans, but both sides suffered great casualties. The Romans could replenish their troops because they had large numbers of both citizens and allies to draw from, but Pyrrhus’s army was far from home; large losses of manpower permanently weakened him, and he was not much closer to taking Rome than he had been before his victories. It’s from this that we get the phrase “Pyrrhic victory”, meaning a victory that is more costly to the winner than the loser.

EC1. All of the following were disastrous defeats for Rome EXCEPT

(d) The Battle of Zama (202 BCE)

EC2. Why did Popillius Laenas draw a circle in the sand around Antiochus IV? What does this tell us about Rome’s standing at the time?

Rome was concerned about Antiochus IV of Syria becoming too powerful, which would be very likely if he conquered the wealthy and fertile lands of Egypt. They dispatched a small delegation of Senators to Egypt; the senators told Antiochus to leave Egypt and Cyprus immediately and return to his own lands, or be at war with the Roman Republic. When he asked for time to consider and discuss with his counselors, the leader of the senate delegation, C. Popillius Laenas, drew a circle around Antiochus and told him that when he stepped out of that circle he must give his reply to Rome. Antiochus IV agreed, and stepped out of the circle to Popillius’s warm greeting.

Antiochus, a great king with troops massed behind him to attack Egypt, submitted to an old man in a toga who barred his way. This represents the potency Rome had in the east without needing to bring troops to bear on every occasion, and Rome’s increasing dominion of the east had much to do with nations choosing to be friends with Rome rather than risk their hostility, just as Antiochus IV did. Only symbolic examples of Rome’s destructive power at war were necessary—Magnesia, Pydna, and Corinth were enough. Popillius stood for the majesty of Rome, and Rome’s military prowess was only a part of the clout and influence that was at stake in friendship with Rome.

Quiz #9

1. What is the significance of Caesar crossing the Rubicon River? What happened afterward?

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.”

2. Discuss Cleopatra’s role in Roman affairs during this period.

Cleopatra was secured on the throne of Egypt by Caesar, who then developed a relationship with her that produced a son, Caesarion. This son was intended to be the first Roman pharaoh of Egypt.

After Caesar’s death, Antony sought to use Egypt as a base of operations, making use of its wealth and resources. He became involved with Cleopatra and eventually married her, spurning his Roman wife, Octavia, the sister of the man he was sharing power with, Octavian. Octavian was able to use Antony’s marriage to a foreign queen and rejection of a virtuous noblewoman to turn the nobles against Antony, while presenting himself as a champion of Roman values.

Antony and Cleopatra declared war on Octavian, but were defeated at the battle of Actium (31 BCE). Antony was killed, and Cleopatra committed suicide to avoid being paraded through Rome in chains at Octavian’s triumph.

3. What is the Principate? What kinds of powers were granted to the princeps?

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.

EC1. The “Second Triumvirate,” established after the death of Caesar, included all of the following EXCEPT:

(d) Vercingetorix

EC2. What did Caesar and Sulla have in common? How were they different?

Sulla and Caesar both led armies against Rome and claimed the dictatorship, which they used to institute reforms.

They differed in that Sulla was a conservative (optimate) and Caesar was a populist. Sulla resigned his dictatorship, but Caesar did not (and was assassinated when he assumed perpetual dictatorship).

EC3. What kinds of reforms did Caesar institute while in power? Do you think he was good for Rome?

Caesar instituted a number of reforms favorable to the common people, including a sweeping debt relief measure that was much needed after the disruption of the civil wars. He also reformed the calendar, which had been falling behind the seasons; this resulted in the Julian calendar still in use today (with minor modifications).

However, Caesar’s rule was divisive. He ruled on behalf of the people against the nobles, rather than on behalf of all Romans. This faction rule created frictions and animosity that all but guaranteed a renewal of civil war.