Civilizations of the Ancient World

Quiz Notes

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

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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 pyramids and 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 does his story tell 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 Tablet 7 of Gilgamesh, “The Death of Enkidu.” How does he feel about his approaching death, and why? What does Enkidu’s vision of the afterlife tell us about Sumerian beliefs regarding life and 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 [it was only a century or so]

EC2. In your opinion, why do you think unification was achieved in Egypt, but was impossible in Sumer? What was most different about the communities in Sumer, compared to Egypt, that might have prevented it?

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. What kinds of dangers did the Hebrews face when they returned to Canaan? How 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.

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

(c)They embraced Canaanite gods such as Dagon and Astarte and had no gods of their own

EC2. 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.

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 Persian 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 held to be 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. Egypt was conquered under which Persian king?


EC2. For what reasons do you think the Persian king released 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 is a polis? How did they come about? How did they relate to each other?

The polis was a form of city-state—a city and its adjoining territory forming a single political (and economic) unit. So the emergence of the polis involves formal political unification of an urban market center with its surrounding farmland territory, and centralization of government. Unification involves synoecism, whereby every village, town, and hamlet merge their political (and other) identities into a single unit. Also, rule by basileus (chieftain), characteristic of the dark age, gives way to collective leadership by a small group of magistrates (oligarchy) and an assembly made up of the citizens.

The aristoi—the wealthy, large-estate-holding, educated families—dominate the oligarchies and see it as their right and responsibility to govern. This creates tension with the common people (demos), who increasingly gain various levels of decision-making power.

2. Who were the Dorians? What effect did they have on Greece?

The Dorians were the second wave of Indo-European Greeks, arriving in a mass migration at the end of the Bronze Age. Their arrival in such great numbers helped to destabilize the Mycenaean Greek society, and as the Mycenaeans’ urban industrial society collapsed the Dorians settled in the countryside to the west and the remaining Greeks settled more to the east. The Dorians who settled in the southern Peloponnese, the ancestors of the Spartans, conquered the people who lived there, the Laconians and Messenians, and made them a class of conquered serfs (the helots).

3. In what ways did the Greek “competitive spirit” affect the way Greeks thought about themselves and others?

The Greek communities each sought to develop into an ideal society. Their method was to strive against each other, as individuals and as communities, so that would each push themselves to become the best in competition with others doing the same.

This competitive spirit, also called the agonal society (agon = contest), was something that the Greeks saw themselves as sharing as a culture and helped define Hellas, the Greek peoples, as civilized compared to other peoples who did not strive toward the ideal and who enslaved themselves to kings (barbarians). This common striving among rivals was deliberately invoked by instituting the pan-Hellenic games, and the Olympic games specifically.

EC1. From a Greek point of view, all of the following were barbarians EXCEPT:


EC2. How did the Greeks approach religion differently from the peoples of Mesopotamia or Egypt? What did they have in common?

The Greeks had no priestly class. No one held power by determining and wielding distinct communication with and understanding of the gods. Consequently, instead of the imagery of the gods being shaped by priests (for their own ends), as in Mesopotamia and Egypt, Greek understanding of the gods was shaped by literature, which was owned and retold by the people.

This made the Greek gods agents of human morality, punishing those whose pride, arrogance, or greed caused them to place their own needs ahead of the community’s.

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. Describe Solon’s 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. For today you read section 2 of Clouds. (a) Why does Strepsiades go to the Thinkery? (b) How does “Socrates” first enter (appear on stage)? Why do you think the playwright, Aristophanes, introduces him like this?

Strepsiades goes to the Thinkery to learn false speech in order to free himself of the debt foisted on him by his son. “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.

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

(c)The two kings and their royal families (basilei)

EC2. What would you say are some of the 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. Did the Spartans win the Peloponnesian War, or did the Athenians lose it? Explain using examples of what Spartans did right, or what Athenians did wrong, that resulted in the Spartan victory.

This is a subjective question, but some of the things that can be mentioned are as follows. For Athens to “lose” this war, would mean that Athens had an advantage that might have led to them winning, but which they squandered. One argument for this would be the overextension of their strength and resources by extending the war to Sicily. This ended up being a huge catastrophe which permanently weakened Athens’s ability to fight off Sparta. An argument could also be made for Athens losing through disaffection caused by Athens’s ruthlessness toward its allies, as exemplified by the siege and massacre at Melos. Athens was also weakened at the start of the war by the great Plague of Athens, which greatly reduced not only manpower but also many ordinary Athenians’ faith in the path they were taking.

For Sparta to “win” would mean overcoming their own disadvantages to defeat Athens through their own agency. Arguments in this line of reasoning would involve the establishment of the base at Decelea in Attica, allowing year-round raising and harassment of Attica’s countryside. Also the deal with Persia in which Persia provided naval help to Sparta, overcoming Sparta’s disadvantage at sea, in exchange for the return of the Ionian Greek states Persia had ruled over before they were taken back by the Delian League. Another, more minor factor is the unexpected ability of a laconic Spartan general, Brasidas, winning over Athenian allies to Sparta, leveraging their disaffection and overcoming their feat of Athens.

2. Who were the sophists? Why would people like Plato see them as immoral?

Sophists taught the skill of arguing a question from any or all positions, as part of the art of rhetoric, in fifth-century Athens. Democracy in Athens created a market for this service, since effectively persuading other voters to your point of view was a valuable ability in a society where ordinary votes mattered. Critics charged that sophists taught the ability to argue a position regardless of truth or morality.

Unlike sophists, who taught a skill, philosophers as a group sought the spread and increase of knowledge and understanding, whether of the physical world or of human behavior. They tended to question received wisdom and superstition in order to develop more rational explanations. Those who taught philosophy, generally, were interested in teaching their students how to question things in order to discover truth; sophists, by contrast, taught their students how to give the most convincing answer regardless of its truth or value.

3. For today you read section 4 of Clouds. What ideas do “Socrates” and Strepsiades discuss for evading debts and lawsuits?

Socrates’s idea is to keep the moon from rising, so that the end of the month does not come and debts don’t come due. Strepsiades suggests that he hang himself, since his creditors can’t collect from a dead man. Socrates becomes exasperated at this, as Strepsiades has missed the point of his teachings.

EC1. Famous tragic or comic plays from classical Athens include all of the following EXCEPT:

(d)Helaiai by Thucydides, about the murder of Herodotus by a vengeful soothsayer

EC2. The text refers to the “fundamental incompatibilities between Sparta and Athens” as part of the context for the Peloponnesian War. How were Athens and Sparta “incompatible” in this period—unable to coexist?

Sparta and Athens had incompatible visions of the Greek ideal. Sparta saw all its citizens as peers, equally accomplished and capable, with none standing ahead of the others; the prototype of this was the hoplite warrior, and Sparta bred itself into a society of hoplites to pursue this ideal.

Athens, on the other hand, saw individual accomplishment as more beneficial. Each excelled as best he could, and society was made up of all kinds, with different classes a natural outcome, and greater status according to wealth and property a given.

There was also an ethnic/dialectical difference: the more conservative Dorians, which included the Spartans, did not see themselves as having exactly the same heritage or goals as the more liberal Ionians, which included the Athenians and their eastward allies around the Aegean.

Most of all, Sparta embraced a society governed by the few, with the masses completely without a voice (only the warrior elite were citizens of Sparta). Athens embraced a society of the many, instituting radical democracy in order to give voice to a wide and diverse population. These visions of society simply could not be reconciled.

Quiz #8

1. How does Rome become a city (just before 600 BCE)? What innovations are introduced to Rome during this time?

Rome was founded around the fording-place on the Tiber River, through which a good deal of trade traffic flowed, and a cattle market was created near the fording that become a hub of economic activity.

The origins of Rome are somewhat unclear, because the Romans did not record their own history until much later. Stories about the first king, Romulus, are probably only legends. But archaeology tells us that sometime before 600 the marshy lowlands between Capitoline and Palatine hills were filled in and a forum was built, indicating the merger of separate communities on Rome’s hills into a single city.

At this time the Romans instituted an elective monarchy modeled on the Etruscan city-states to the north, as well as a senate representing the priests and the elders of the landholding families to advise the king.

2. 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 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.

3. What factors helped make Carthage the strongest power in the western Mediterranean? Consider its origins and geography.

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 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.

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


EC2. Now that you’ve finished Clouds, what messages do you think Aristophanes intended his audiences to get from the play? Give examples of what you mean.

There are a lot of possible answers to this question. Clouds calls attention to the danger posed by 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 #9

1. Rome was almost defeated in the Second Punic War against Hannibal. What were some of the reasons Rome won?

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. 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.

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

(d)The Battle of Zama Regia (202 BCE)

EC2. 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.

Quiz #10

1. How was the Second Triumvirate different from the First? How were they similar (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.

2. What were some of the factors that gave Octavian an advantage over Antony in taking control of Rome and the empire?

By 36 BCE the empire was divided between Antony in the east and Octavian in the west, but 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, breached and publicized Antony’s will, and required a loyalty oath to himself among civilians in the west in a war against Cleopatra.

Octavian was able to use Antony’s marriage to Cleopatra and betrayal of his Roman wife, Octavian’s respected sister Octavia, as propaganda against Antony, telling the appalled Romans it reflected Antony’s betrayal of Rome. This gave Octavian the edge in Rome, and the support gained helped Octavian win at the Battle of Actium. Seeing the future of Rome belonged to Octavian, both Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide.

3. What is meant by “the principate”? How did Augustus receive this power?

The principate involves the people and senate entrusting the protection of Rome and its empire to a single man who has proven himself Rome’s champion and earned the loyalty of the people, the army, and the nobility.

Crucially, the principate is not an office or a magistracy. Instead, Augustus is considered the first citizen, speaking first in debates and bearing the responsibility of protecting Rome as a private citizen.

This role was conferred on Augustus in two senatorial resolutions called the First and Second Settlements. In the First Settlement, he received the name “Augustus” and other honors reflecting his having ended the wars and restored peace. The Second Settlement is what actually shaped the principate: in the Second Settlement, Augustus received the powers of the consul, the censor, and the tribune of the plebs, without having to hold those offices and be subjected to the traditional restrictions limiting the actions of actual consuls, censors, and tribunes.

EC1. Caesar formally became an enemy of the Roman state by:

(d) Crossing the Rubicon River with his army

EC2. What do you think was Cleopatra’s goal in dealing with Caesar and Antony? What do you think was Caesar’s plan for Egypt?

Egypt was crucial, as it was (a) the last Hellenistic Empire not under Rome’s control and (b) extremely wealthy and a bountiful source of grain and other supplies. Cleopatra VII, the pharaoh, was able to keep Egypt independent by cultivating strong, personal relationships with Rome’s leaders—first Julius Caesar, then Mark Antony (both resulting in children).

Caesar saw his relations with Cleopatra as an effective way for Rome to eventually gain control over Egypt by fathering a child on the current pharaoh, Cleopatra. Their son, Caesarion, also known as Ptolemy XV Caesar, would have been the first Roman pharaoh of Egypt. However, Caesarion was later killed by orders of Octavian, aged 17, not long after Cleopatra’s suicide in 30 BCE.