Constantine I 'The Great'
: 307-337 A.D. -
Founding of New Roman Capital Constantinople Commemorative
Bronze AE3 20mm (2.41 grams) Rome mint 332 A.D.
Reference: RIC 332 (VII, Rome)
CONSTANTINOPOLIS - Constantinopolis helmeted, laureate bust left, holding scepter over shoulder.
Rev: No legend Exe: RBF - Victory standing left, stepping on galley prow, cradling scepter
and resting hand on shield.
* Numismatic Note: Commemorates founding of Constantinople as new
Roman capital by Constantine I the Great.
By circa 330 A.D., Constantine the Great completed his new capital for the Roman
empire called Constantinople. For this momentous occasion, he issued two
commemorative coin types, one celebrating Rome and the other Constantinople. The
personification of Rome, Roma with the inscription VRBS ROMA and the founders of
Rome, Romulus and Remus on the reverse suckling the she-wolf. The type that
the personification of Constantinople on the obverse and Victory on a galley
sailing with a shield. This was a great way for Constantine the Great to pay
homage to both Rome and Constantinople.
You are bidding on the exact item pictured, provided with a Certificate of Authenticity and Lifetime Guarantee of Authenticity.
In ancient Roman religion , Victoria was the personified goddess of victory. She is the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Nike , and was associated with Bellona . She was adapted from the Sabine agricultural goddess Vacuna and had a temple on the Palatine Hill . The goddess Vica Pota was also sometimes identified with Victoria.
Unlike the Greek Nike , the goddess Victoria (Latin for "victory") was a major part of Roman society. Multiple temples were erected in her honor. When her statue was removed in 382 CE by Emperor Gratianus there was much anger in Rome. She was normally worshiped by triumphant generals returning from war.
Also unlike the Greek Nike, who was known for success in athletic games such as chariot races , Victoria was a symbol of victory over death and determined who would be successful during war.
Victoria appears widely on Roman coins, jewelry, architecture, and other arts. She is often seen with or in a chariot , as in the late 18th-century sculpture representing Victory in a quadriga on the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin , Germany; "Il Vittoriano" in Rome has two.
Winged figures, very often in pairs, representing victory and referred to as "victories", were common in Roman official iconography, typically hovering high in a composition, and often filling spaces in spandrels or other gaps in architecture. These represent the spirit of victory rather than the goddess herself. They continued to appear after Christianization of the Empire, and slowly mutated into Christian angels .
Constantinople was founded by the Roman emperor Constantine I on the site of an already existing city, Byzantium , settled in the early days of Greek colonial expansion, probably around 671-662 BC. The site lay astride the land route from Europe to Asia and the seaway from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean , and had in the Golden Horn an excellent and spacious harbour.
Constantine had altogether more colorful plans. Having restored the unity of the Empire, and being in course of major governmental reforms as well as of sponsoring the consolidation of the Christian church, he was well aware that Rome was an unsatisfactory capital. Rome was too far from the frontiers, and hence from the armies and the Imperial courts, and it offered an undesirable playground for disaffected politicians. Yet it had been the capital of the state for over a thousand years, and it might have seemed unthinkable to suggest that the capital be moved to a different location. Nevertheless, he identified the site of Byzantium as the right place: a place where an emperor could sit, readily defended, with easy access to the Danube or the Euphrates frontiers, his court supplied from the rich gardens and sophisticated workshops of Roman Asia, his treasuries filled by the wealthiest provinces of the Empire.
Constantinople was built over six years, and consecrated on 11 May 330. Constantine divided the expanded city, like Rome, into 14 regions, and ornamented it with public works worthy of an imperial metropolis. Yet initially Constantine's new Rome did not have all the dignities of old Rome. It possessed a proconsul , rather than an urban prefect . It had no praetors , tribunes quaestors. Although it did have senators, they held the title clarus, not clarissimus , like those of Rome. It also lacked the panoply of other administrative offices regulating the food supply, police, statues, temples, sewers, aqueducts or other public works. The new programme of building was carried out in great haste: columns, marbles, doors and tiles were taken wholesale from the temples of the Empire and moved to the new city. Similarly, many of the greatest works of Greek and Roman art were soon to be seen in its squares and streets. The Emperor stimulated private building by promising householders gifts of land from the Imperial estates in Asiana and Pontica , and on 18 May 332 he announced that, as in Rome, free distributions of food would be made to the citizens. At the time the amount is said to have been 80,000 rations a day, doled out from 117 distribution points around the city.
Constantine laid out a new square at the centre of old Byzantium, naming it the Augustaeum . The new senate-house (or Curia) was housed in a basilica on the east side. On the south side of the great square was erected the Great Palace of the emperor with its imposing entrance, the Chalke , and its ceremonial suite known as the Palace of Daphne . Nearby was the vast Hippodrome for chariot-races, seating over 80,000 spectators, and the famed Baths of Zeuxippus . At the western entrance to the Augustaeum was the Milion , a vaulted monument from which distances were measured across the Eastern Roman Empire.
From the Augustaeum led a great street, the Mese (Greek: Μέση [Οδός] lit. "Middle [Street]"), lined with colonnades. As it descended the First Hill of the city and climbed the Second Hill, it passed on the left the Praetorium or law-court. Then it passed through the oval Forum of Constantine where there was a second Senate-house and a high column with a statue of Constantine himself in the guise of Helios , crowned with a halo of seven rays and looking towards the rising sun. From there the Mese passed on and through the Forum of Taurus and then the Forum of Bous, and finally up the Seventh Hill (or Xerolophus) and through to the Golden Gate in the Constantinian Wall . After the construction of the Theodosian Walls in the early 5th century, it would be extended to the new Golden Gate , reaching a total length of seven Roman miles .
Caesar Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus (27 February c. 272 – 22 May 337), commonly known in English as Constantine I, Constantine the Great, or (among Eastern Orthodox , Coptic Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic Christians) Saint Constantine, was Roman emperor from 306, and the undisputed holder of that office from 324 until his death in 337. Best known for being the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine reversed the persecutions of his predecessor, Diocletian , and issued (with his co-emperor Licinius ) the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious toleration throughout the empire.
The Byzantine liturgical calendar, observed by the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches of Byzantine rite , lists both Constantine and his mother Helena as saints. Although he is not included in the Latin Church's list of saints, which does recognize several other Constantines as saints, he is revered under the title "The Great" for his contributions to Christianity .
Constantine also transformed the ancient Greek colony of Byzantium into a new imperial residence, Constantinople , which would remain the capital of the Byzantine Empire for over one thousand years.
The latter part of his life saw his commitment to the church rise in step with the increasing repression against old-school paganism. He left behind several sons who would, after his death, turn on each other and generally undo much of the stability that Constantine had fought so hard to bring about.
The Roman Empire (Latin: Imperium Romanum) was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization , characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean.
The Roman Empire at its greatest extent,
during the reign of Trajan in 117 AD
The 500-year-old Roman Republic , which preceded it, had been weakened and subverted through several civil wars . Several events are commonly proposed to mark the transition from Republic to Empire, including Julius Caesar 's appointment as perpetual dictator (44 BC), the Battle of Actium (2 September 31 BC), and the Roman Senate's granting to Octavian the honorific Augustus (16 January 27 BC).
Roman expansion began in the days of the Republic, but the Empire reached its greatest extent under Emperor Trajan : during his reign (98 to 117 AD) the Roman Empire controlled approximately 6.5 million km2 of land surface. Because of the Empire's vast extent and long endurance, the institutions and culture of Rome had a profound and lasting influence on the development of language, religion, architecture, philosophy, law, and forms of government in the territory it governed, particularly Europe, and by means of European expansionism throughout the modern world.
In the late 3rd century AD, Diocletian established the practice of dividing authority between four co-emperors (known as the tetrarchy ) in order to better secure the vast territory, putting an end to the Crisis of the Third Century . During the following decades the Empire was often divided along an East/West axis. After the death of Theodosius I in 395 it was divided for the last time.
The Western Roman Empire collapsed in 476 as Romulus Augustus was forced to abdicate to the Germanic warlord Odoacer . The Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire ended in 1453 with the death of Constantine XI and the capture of Constantinople to Mehmed II , leader of the Ottoman Turks .
The powers of an emperor (his imperium ) existed, in theory at least, by virtue of his "tribunician powers" (potestas tribunicia) and his "proconsular powers" (imperium proconsulare). In theory, the tribunician powers (which were similar to those of the Plebeian Tribunes under the old republic) made the Emperor's person and office sacrosanct, and gave the Emperor authority over Rome's civil government, including the power to preside over and to control the Senate.
The proconsular powers (similar to those of military governors, or Proconsuls , under the old Republic) gave him authority over the Roman army. He was also given powers that, under the Republic, had been reserved for the Senate and the assemblies , including the right to declare war, to ratify treaties, and to negotiate with foreign leaders.
The emperor also had the authority to carry out a range of duties that had been performed by the censors , including the power to control Senate membership. In addition, the emperor controlled the religious institutions , since, as emperor, he was always Pontifex Maximus and a member of each of the four major priesthoods. While these distinctions were clearly defined during the early Empire, eventually they were lost, and the emperor's powers became less constitutional and more monarchical.
Realistically, the main support of an emperor's power and authority was the military. Being paid by the imperial treasury, the legionaries also swore an annual military oath of loyalty towards him, called the Sacramentum .
The death of an emperor led to a crucial period of uncertainty and crisis. In theory the Senate was entitled to choose the new emperor, but most emperors chose their own successors, usually a close family member. The new emperor had to seek a swift acknowledgement of his new status and authority in order to stabilize the political landscape. No emperor could hope to survive, much less to reign, without the allegiance and loyalty of the Praetorian Guard and of the legions. To secure their loyalty, several emperors paid the donativum , a monetary reward.
While the Roman assemblies continued to meet after the founding of the Empire, their powers were all transferred to the Roman Senate , and so senatorial decrees (senatus consulta) acquired the full force of law.
In theory, the Emperor and the Senate were two equal branches of government, but the actual authority of the Senate was negligible and it was largely a vehicle through which the Emperor disguised his autocratic powers under a cloak of republicanism. Although the Senate still commanded much prestige and respect, it was largely a glorified rubber stamp institution. Stripped of most of its powers, the Senate was largely at the Emperor's mercy.
Many emperors showed a certain degree of respect towards this ancient institution, while others were notorious for ridiculing it. During Senate meetings, the Emperor sat between the two consuls , and usually acted as the presiding officer. Higher ranking senators spoke before lower ranking senators, although the Emperor could speak at any time. By the 3rd century, the Senate had been reduced to a glorified municipal body.
No emperor could rule the Empire without the Senatorial order and the Equestrian order . Most of the more important posts and offices of the government were reserved for the members of these two aristocratic orders. It was from among their ranks that the provincial governors, legion commanders, and similar officials were chosen.
These two classes were hereditary and mostly closed to outsiders. Very successful and favoured individuals could enter, but this was a rare occurrence. The career of a young aristocrat was influenced by his family connections and the favour of patrons. As important as ability, knowledge, skill, or competence, patronage was considered vital for a successful career and the highest posts and offices required the Emperor's favour and trust.
The son of a senator was expected to follow the Cursus honorum , a career ladder , and the more prestigious positions were restricted to senators only. A senator also had to be wealthy; one of the basic requirements was the wealth of 12,000 gold aurei (about 100 kg of gold), a figure which would later be raised with the passing of centuries.
Below the Senatorial order was the Equestrian order. The requirements and posts reserved for this class, while perhaps not so prestigious, were still very important. Some of the more vital posts, like the governorship of Egypt (Latin Aegyptus), were even forbidden to the members of the Senatorial order and available only to equestrians.
During and after the civil war, Octavian reduced the huge number of the legions (over 60) to a much more manageable and affordable size (28). Several legions, particularly those with doubtful loyalties, were simply disbanded. Other legions were amalgamated, a fact suggested by the title Gemina (Twin).
In AD 9, Germanic tribes wiped out three full legions in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest . This disastrous event reduced the number of the legions to 25. The total of the legions would later be increased again and for the next 300 years always be a little above or below 30.
Augustus also created the Praetorian Guard : nine cohorts ostensibly to maintain the public peace which were garrisoned in Italy. Better paid than the legionaries, the Praetorians also served less time; instead of serving the standard 25 years of the legionaries, they retired after 16 years of service.
While the auxilia (Latin: auxilia = supports) are not as famous as the legionaries, they were of major importance. Unlike the legionaries, the auxilia were recruited from among the non-citizens. Organized in smaller units of roughly cohort strength, they were paid less than the legionaries, and after 25 years of service were rewarded with Roman citizenship , also extended to their sons. According to Tacitus there were roughly as many auxiliaries as there were legionaries. Since at this time there were 25 legions of around 5,000 men each, the auxilia thus amounted to around 125,000 men, implying approximately 250 auxiliary regiments.
The Roman navy (Latin: Classis, lit. "fleet") not only aided in the supply and transport of the legions, but also helped in the protection of the frontiers in the rivers Rhine and Danube . Another of its duties was the protection of the very important maritime trade routes against the threat of pirates. Therefore it patrolled the whole of the Mediterranean, parts of the North Atlantic (coasts of Hispania, Gaul, and Britannia), and had also a naval presence in the Black Sea . Nevertheless the army was considered the senior and more prestigious branch.
Until the Tetrarchy (296 AD) Roman provinces (lat. provincae) were administrative and territorial units of the Roman Empire outside of Italy . In the old days of the Republic the governorships of the provinces were traditionally awarded to members of the Senatorial Order . Augustus' reforms changed this policy.
Augustus created the Imperial provinces . Most, but not all, of the Imperial provinces were relatively recent conquests and located at the borders. Thereby the overwhelming majority of legions, which were stationed at the frontiers, were under direct Imperial control. Very important was the Imperial province of Egypt , the major breadbasket of the Empire, whose grain supply was vital to feed the masses in Rome. It was considered the personal fiefdom of the Emperor, and Senators were forbidden to even visit this province. The governor of Egypt and the commanders of any legion stationed there were not from the Senatorial Order, but were chosen by the Emperor from among the members of the lower Equestrian Order .
The old traditional policy continued largely unchanged in the Senatorial provinces . Due to their location, away from the borders, and to the fact that they were under longer Roman sovereignty and control, these provinces were largely peaceful and stable. Only a single legion was based in a Senatorial province: Legio III Augusta , stationed in the Senatorial province of Africa (modern northern Algeria).
The status of a province was subject to change; it could change from Senatorial towards Imperial, or vice-versa. This happened several times  during Augustus' reign. Another trend was to create new provinces, mostly by dividing older ones, or by expanding the Empire.
As the Empire expanded, and came to include people from a variety of cultures, the worship of an ever increasing number of deities was tolerated and accepted. The Imperial government, and the Romans in general, tended to be very tolerant towards most religions and cults, so long as they did not cause trouble. This could easily be accepted by other faiths as Roman liturgy and ceremonies were frequently tailored to fit local culture and identity. Since the Romans practiced polytheism they were also able to easily assimilate the gods of the peoples the Empire conquered.
An individual could attend to both the Roman gods representing his Roman identity and his own personal faith, which was considered part of his personal identity. There were periodic persecutions of various religions at various points in time, most notably that of Christians. As the historian Edward Gibbon noted, however, most of the recorded histories of Christian persecutions come to us through the Christian church, which had an incentive to exaggerate the degree to which the persecutions occurred. The non-Christian contemporary sources only mention the persecutions passingly and without assigning great importance to them.
In an effort to enhance loyalty, the inhabitants of the Empire were called to participate in the Imperial cult to revere (usually deceased) emperors as demigods . Few emperors claimed to be Gods while living, with the few exceptions being emperors who were widely regarded at the time to be insane (such as Caligula ). Doing so in the early Empire would have risked revealing the shallowness of what the Emperor Augustus called the "restored Republic" and would have had a decidedly eastern quality to it. Since the tool was mostly one the Emperor used to control his subjects, its usefulness would have been greatest in the chaotic later Empire, when the emperors were often Christians and unwilling to participate in the practice.
Usually, an emperor was deified after his death by his successor in an attempt by that successor to enhance his own prestige. This practice can be misunderstood, however, since "deification" was to the ancient world what canonization is to the Christian world. Likewise, the term "god" had a different context in the ancient world. This could be seen during the years of the Roman Republic with religio-political practices such as the disbanding of a Senate session if it was believed the gods disapproved of the session or wished a particular vote. Deification was one of the many honors a dead emperor was entitled to, as the Romans (more than modern societies) placed great prestige on honors and national recognitions.
The importance of the Imperial cult slowly grew, reaching its peak during the Crisis of the Third Century . Especially in the eastern half of the Empire, imperial cults grew very popular. As such it was one of the major agents of romanization . The central elements of the cult complex were next to a temple; a theatre or amphitheatre for gladiator displays and other games and a public bath complex . Sometimes the imperial cult was added to the cults of an existing temple or celebrated in a special hall in the bath complex.
The seriousness of this belief is unclear. Some Romans ridiculed the notion that a Roman emperor was to be considered a living god, or would even make fun of the deification of an emperor after his death. Seneca the Younger parodied the notion of apotheosis in his only known satire The Pumpkinification of Claudius , in which the clumsy and ill-spoken Claudius is transformed not into a god, but a pumpkin or gourd . An element of mockery was present even at Claudius's funeral, and Vespasian 's purported last words were Væ, puto deus fio, "Oh dear! I think I'm becoming a god!".
Since Roman religion did not have a core belief that excluded other religions, several foreign gods and cults became popular.
The worship of Cybele was the earliest, introduced from around 200 BC. Isis and Osiris were introduced from Egypt a century later. Bacchus and Sol Invictus were quite important and Mithras became very popular with the military. Several of these were Mystery cults . In the 1st century BC Julius Caesar granted Jews the freedom to worship in Rome as a reward for their help in Alexandria.
Druids were considered as essentially non-Roman: a prescript of Augustus forbade Roman citizens to practice "druidical" rites. Pliny reports that under Tiberius the druids were suppressed—along with diviners and physicians—by a decree of the Senate, and Claudius forbade their rites completely in AD 54.
While Judaism was largely accepted, as long as Jews paid the Jewish Tax after 70 AD, there was anti-Judaism in the pre-Christian Roman Empire and there were several Jewish-Roman wars .
The Crisis under Caligula (37–41) has been proposed as the "first open break between Rome and the Jews", even though problems were already evident during the Census of Quirinius in 6 and under Sejanus (before 31).
Until the rebellion in Judea in AD 66, Jews were generally protected. To get around Roman laws banning secret societies and to allow their freedom of worship, Julius Caesar declared Synagogues were colleges. Tiberius forbade Judaism in Rome but they quickly returned to their former protected status. Claudius expelled Jews from the city; however, the passage of Suetonius is ambiguous: "Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus he [Claudius] expelled them from the city." Chrestus has been identified as another form of Christus; the disturbances may have been related to the arrival of the first Christians , and that the Roman authorities, failing to distinguish between the Jews and the early Christians, simply decided to expel them all.
Historians debate whether or not the Roman government distinguished between Christians and Jews prior to Nerva's modification of the Fiscus Judaicus in 96. From then on, practising Jews paid the tax; Christians did not.
Christianity emerged in Roman Judea as a Jewish religious sect in the 1st century AD. The religion gradually spread out of Jerusalem , initially establishing major bases in first Antioch , then Alexandria , and over time throughout the Empire as well as beyond.
Christianity shares numerous traits with other mystery cults that existed in Rome at the time. Early Christianity placed a strong emphasis on baptism, a ritual which marked the convert as having been inducted into the mysteries of the faith. The focus on a belief in salvation and the afterlife was another major similarity to other mystery cults. The crucial difference between Christianity and other mystery cults was the monotheism of Christianity. Early Christians thus refused to participate in civic cults because of these monotheistic beliefs, leading to their persecution.
For the first two centuries of the Christian era , Imperial authorities largely viewed Christianity simply as a Jewish sect rather than a distinct religion. No emperor issued general laws against the faith or its Church, and persecutions, such as they were, were carried out under the authority of local government officials. A surviving letter from Pliny the Younger , governor of Bythinia, to the Emperor Trajan describes his persecution and executions of Christians; Trajan notably responded that Pliny should not seek out Christians nor heed anonymous denunciations, but only punish open Christians who refused to recant.
Suetonius mentions in passing that during the reign of Nero "punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition " (superstitionis novae ac maleficae). He gives no reason for the punishment. Tacitus reports that after the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, some among the population held Nero responsible and that the emperor attempted to deflect blame onto the Christians.
One of the earliest persecutions occurred in Gaul at Lyon in 177 . Persecution was often local and sporadic, and some Christians welcomed martyrdom as a testament of faith . The Decian persecution (246–251) was a serious threat to the Church, but while it potentially undermined the religious hierarchy in urban centers, ultimately it served to strengthen Christian defiance. Diocletian undertook what was to be the most severe and last major persecution of Christians , lasting from 303 to 311. Christianity had become too widespread to suppress, and in 313, the Edict of Milan made tolerance the official policy. Constantine I (sole ruler 324–337) became the first Christian emperor, and in 380 Theodosius I established Christianity as the official religion.
By the 5th century Christian hegemony had rapidly changed the Empire's identity even as the Western provinces collapsed. Those who practiced the traditional polytheistic religions were persecuted, as were Christians regarded as heretics by the authorities in power.
The language of Rome before its expansion was Latin , and this became the empire's official language. By the time of the imperial period Latin had developed two registers : the "high" written Classical Latin and the "low" spoken Vulgar Latin . While Classical Latin remained relatively stable, even through the Middle Ages , Vulgar Latin as with any spoken language was fluid and evolving. Vulgar Latin became the lingua franca in the western provinces, later evolving into the modern Romance languages : Italian , French , Portuguese , Spanish , Romanian , etc. Greek and Classical Latin were the languages of literature, scholarship, and education.
Although Latin remained the most widely spoken language in the West, through to the fall of Rome and for some centuries afterwards, in the East the Greek language was the literary language and the lingua franca. The Romans generally did not attempt to supplant local languages. They generally left established customs in place and only gradually introduced typical Roman cultural elements including the Latin language. Along with Greek, many other languages of different tribes were used but almost without expression in writing.
Greek was already widely spoken in many cities in the east, and as such, the Romans were quite content to retain it as an administrative language there rather than impede bureaucratic efficiency. Hence, two official secretaries served in the Roman Imperial court, one charged with correspondence in Latin and the other with correspondence in Greek for the East. Thus in the Eastern Province, as with all provinces, original languages were retained.
Moreover, the process of hellenisation widened its scope during the Roman period, for the Romans perpetuated "Hellenistic" culture,[nb 4] but with all the trappings of Roman improvements. This further spreading of "Hellenistic" culture (and therefore language) was largely due to the extensive infrastructure (in the form of entertainment, health, and education amenities, and extensive transportation networks, etc.) put in place by the Romans and their tolerance of, and inclusion of, other cultures, a characteristic which set them apart from the xenophobic nature of the Greeks preceding them.
Since the Roman annexation of Greece in 146 BC, the Greek language gradually obtained a unique place in the Roman world, owing initially to the large number of Greek slaves in Roman households. In Rome itself Greek became the second language of the educated elite.It became the common language in the early Church (as its major centers in the early Christian period were in the East), and the language of scholarship and the arts.
However, due to the presence of other widely spoken languages in the densely populated east, such as Coptic , Syriac , Armenian , Aramaic and Phoenician (which was also extensively spoken in North Africa), Greek never took as strong a hold beyond Asia Minor (some urban enclaves notwithstanding) as Latin eventually did in the west. This is partly evident in the extent to which the derivative languages are spoken today. Like Latin, the language gained a dual nature with the literary language, an Attic Greek variant, existing alongside spoken language, Koine Greek , which evolved into Medieval or Byzantine Greek (Romaic).
By the 4th century AD, Greek no longer held such dominance over Latin in the arts and sciences as it had previously, resulting to a great extent from the growth of the western provinces. This was true also of Christian literature, reflected, for example, in the publication in the early 5th century AD of the Vulgate Bible , the first officially accepted Latin Bible . As the Western Empire declined , the number of people who spoke both Greek and Latin declined as well, contributing greatly to the future East –West / Orthodox –Catholic cultural divide in Europe.
Important as both languages were, today the descendants of Latin are widely spoken in many parts of the world, while the Greek dialects are limited mostly to Greece, Cyprus , and small enclaves in Turkey and Southern Italy (where the Eastern Empire retained control for several more centuries). To some degree this can be attributed to the fact that the western provinces fell mainly to "Latinised" Christian tribes whereas the eastern provinces fell to Muslim Arabs and Turks for whom Greek held less cultural significance.
Life in the Roman Empire revolved around the city of Rome, and its famed seven hills . The city also had several theatres , gymnasia , and many taverns , baths and brothels . Throughout the territory under Rome's control, residential architecture ranged from very modest houses to country villas , and in the capital city of Rome, to the residences on the elegant Palatine Hill , from which the word "palace" is derived. The vast majority of the population lived in the city centre, packed into apartment blocks.
Most Roman towns and cities had a forum and temples, as did the city of Rome itself. Aqueducts were built to bring water to urban centres and served as an avenue to import wine and oil from abroad. Landlords generally resided in cities and their estates were left in the care of farm managers. To stimulate a higher labour productivity, many landlords freed a large numbers of slaves. By the time of Augustus, cultured Greek household slaves taught the Roman young (sometimes even the girls). Greek sculptures adorned Hellenistic landscape gardening on the Palatine or in the villas .
Many aspects of Roman culture were taken from the Etruscans and the Greeks . In architecture and sculpture , the difference between Greek models and Roman paintings are apparent. The chief Roman contributions to architecture were the arch and the dome.
The centre of the early social structure was the family, which was not only marked by blood relations but also by the legally constructed relation of patria potestas. The Pater familias was the absolute head of the family; he was the master over his wife, his children, the wives of his sons, the nephews, the slaves and the freedmen, disposing of them and of their goods at will, even putting them to death. Originally, only patrician aristocracy enjoyed the privilege of forming familial clans, or gens, as legal entities; later, in the wake of political struggles and warfare, clients were also enlisted. Thus, such plebian gentes were the first formed, imitating their patrician counterparts.
Slavery and slaves were part of the social order; there were slave markets where they could be bought and sold. Many slaves were freed by the masters for services rendered; some slaves could save money to buy their freedom. Generally mutilation and murder of slaves was prohibited by legislation. It is estimated that over 25% of the Roman population was enslaved Professor Gerhard Rempel from the Western New England College claims that in the city of Rome alone, during the Empire, there were about 400,000 slaves.
The city of Rome had a place called the Campus Martius ("Field of Mars"), which was a sort of drill ground for Roman soldiers. Later, the Campus became Rome's track and field playground. In the campus, the youth assembled to play and exercise, which included jumping, wrestling , boxing and racing . Riding , throwing, and swimming were also preferred physical activities.
In the countryside, pastimes also included fishing and hunting. Board games played in Rome included Dice (Tesserae or Tali ), Roman Chess (Latrunculi), Roman Checkers (Calculi), Tic-tac-toe (Terni Lapilli), and Ludus duodecim scriptorum and Tabula, predecessors of backgammon. There were several other activities to keep people engaged like chariot races, musical and theatrical performances,
Roman clothing fashions changed little from the late Republic to the end of the Western empire 600 years later. The cloth and the dress distinguished one class of people from the other class. The tunic worn by plebeians (common people) like shepherds and slaves was made from coarse and dark material, whereas the tunic worn by patricians was of linen or white wool. A magistrate would wear the tunica augusticlavi; senators wore a tunic with broad stripes, called tunica laticlavi. Military tunics were shorter than the ones worn by civilians. Boys, up until the festival of Liberalia, wore the toga praetexta, which was a toga with a crimson or purple border. The toga virilis, (or toga pura) was worn by men over the age of 16 to signify their citizenship in Rome.
The toga picta was worn by triumphant generals and had embroidery of their skill on the battlefield. The toga pulla was worn when in mourning. Even footwear indicated a person's social status: patricians wore red and orange sandals, senators had brown footwear, consuls had white shoes, and soldiers wore heavy boots. Men typically wore a toga, and women a stola . The woman's stola looked different from a toga, and was usually brightly coloured. The Romans also invented socks for those soldiers required to fight on the northern frontiers, sometimes worn in sandals.
In the later empire after Diocletian 's reforms, clothing worn by soldiers and non-military government bureaucrats became highly decorated, with woven or embroidered strips, clavi, and circular roundels, orbiculi, added to tunics and cloaks. These decorative elements usually consisted of geometrical patterns and stylised plant motifs, but could include human or animal figures. The use of silk also increased steadily and most courtiers of the later empire wore elaborate silk robes. Heavy military-style belts were worn by bureaucrats as well as soldiers, revealing the general militarization of late Roman government. Trousers—considered barbarous garments worn by Germans and Persians—were only adopted partially near the end of the empire in a sign for conservatives of cultural decay. Early medieval kings and aristocrats dressed like late Roman generals, not like the older toga-clad senatorial tradition.
Romans had simple food habits. Staple food was simple, generally consumed at around 11 o'clock, and consisted of bread, salad, cheese, fruits, nuts, and cold meat left over from the dinner the night before. The Roman poet, Horace mentions another Roman favourite, the olive , in reference to his own diet, which he describes as very simple: "As for me, olives, endives , and smooth mallows provide sustenance." The family ate together, sitting on stools around a table. Fingers were used to eat solid foods and spoons were used for soups.
Wine was considered a staple drink, consumed at all meals and occasions by all classes and was quite cheap. Many types of drinks involving grapes and honey were consumed as well. Drinking on an empty stomach was regarded as boorish and a sure sign for alcoholism , whose debilitating physical and psychological effects were known to the Romans. An accurate accusation of being an alcoholic was an effective way to discredit political rivals.
Roman literature was from its very inception influenced heavily by Greek authors. Some of the earliest works we possess are of historical epics telling the early military history of Rome. As the empire expanded, authors began to produce poetry, comedy, history, and tragedy. Virgil represents the pinnacle of Roman epic poetry. His Aeneid tells the story of flight of Aeneas from Troy and his settlement of the city that would become Rome. The genre of satire was common in Rome, and satires were written by, among others, Juvenal and Persius . Many Roman homes were decorated with landscapes by Greek artists. Portrait sculpture during the period utilized youthful and classical proportions, evolving later into a mixture of realism and idealism. Advancements were also made in relief sculptures, often depicting Roman victories.
Music was a major part of everyday life. The word itself derives from Greek μουσική (mousike), "(art) of the Muses ". Many private and public events were accompanied by music, ranging from nightly dining to military parades and maneuvers. In a discussion of any ancient music, however, non-specialists and even many musicians have to be reminded that much of what makes our modern music familiar to us is the result of developments only within the last 1,000 years; thus, our ideas of melody, scales, harmony, and even the instruments we use would not be familiar to Romans who made and listened to music many centuries earlier.
Over time, Roman architecture was modified as their urban requirements changed, and the civil engineering and building construction technology became developed and refined. The Roman concrete has remained a riddle, and even after more than 2,000 years some Roman structures still stand magnificently. The architectural style of the capital city was emulated by other urban centres under Roman control and influence.
Following various military conquests in the Greek East , Romans adapted a number of Greek educational precepts to their own system. Home was often the learning centre, where children were taught Roman law , customs , and physical training to prepare the boys for eventual recruitment into the Roman army . Conforming to discipline was a point of great emphasis. Girls generally received instruction from their mothers in the art of spinning , weaving , and sewing .
Education nominally began at the age of six. During the next six to seven years, both boys and girls were taught the basics of reading , writing and arithmetic . From the age of twelve, they would be learning Latin , Greek , grammar and literature , followed by training for public speaking . Oratory was an art to be practised and learnt, and good orators commanded respect. To become an effective orator was one of the objectives of education and learning . In some cases, services of gifted slaves were utilized for imparting education.
The invention and widespread application of hydraulic mining , namely hushing and ground-sluicing, aided by the ability of the Romans to plan and execute mining operations on a large scale, allowed various base and precious metals to be extracted on a proto-industrial scale.
The annual total iron output is estimated at 82,500 t, assuming a productive capacity of c. 1.5 kg per capita. Copper was produced at an annual rate of 15,000 t, and lead at 80,000 t, both production levels not to be paralled until the Industrial Revolution ; Spain alone had a 40% share in world lead production. The high lead output was a by-product of extensive silver mining which reached an amount of 200 t per annum. At its peak around the mid-2nd century AD, the Roman silver stock is estimated at 10,000 t, five to ten times larger than the combined silver mass of medieval Europe and the Caliphate around 800 AD. Any one of the Imperium's most important mining provinces produced as much silver as the contemporary Han empire as a whole, and more gold by an entire order of magnitude.
The high amount of metal coinage in circulation meant that more coined money was available for trading or saving in the economy (monetization).
The imperial government was, as all governments, interested in the issue and control of the currency in circulation. To mint coins was an important political act: the image of the ruling emperor appeared on most issues, and coins were a means of showing his image throughout the empire. Also featured were predecessors, empresses, other family members, and heirs apparent . By issuing coins with the image of an heir his legitimacy and future succession was proclaimed and reinforced. Political messages and imperial propaganda such as proclamations of victory and acknowledgements of loyalty also appeared in certain issues.
Legally only the emperor and the Senate had the authority to mint coins inside the empire. However the authority of the Senate was mainly in name only. In general, the imperial government issued gold and silver coins while the Senate issued bronze coins marked by the legend "SC", short for Senatus Consulto "by decree of the Senate". However, bronze coinage could be struck without this legend. Some Greek cities were allowed to mint bronze and certain silver coins, which today are known as Greek Imperials (also Roman Colonials or Roman Provincials). The imperial mints were under the control of a chief financial minister, and the provincial mints were under the control of the imperial provincial procurators. The Senatorial mints were governed by officials of the Senatorial treasury.
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