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Authentic Ancient Coin of:
Trajan Decius - Roman Emperor : 249-251 A.D. -
Silver Antoninianus 23mm (5.38 grams) Rome mint: 250 A.D.
Reference: RIC 28b, C 105; sear5 #9384
IMPCMQTRAIANVSDECIVSAVG - Radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right.
VBERITASAVG - Uberitas standing left, holding purse and cornucopia.
Uberitas was the personification of fruitfulness, primarily agricultural fertility.
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The cornucopia (from Latin cornu copiae) or horn of plenty is a symbol of abundance and nourishment, commonly a large horn-shaped container overflowing with produce, flowers, nuts, other edibles, or wealth in some form. Originating in classical antiquity, it has continued as a symbol in Western art, and it is particularly associated with the Thanksgiving holiday in North America.
Allegorical depiction of the Roman goddess Abundantia with a cornucopia, by Rubens (ca. 1630)
Mythology offers multiple explanations of the origin of the cornucopia. One of the best-known involves the birth and nurturance of the infant Zeus, who had to be hidden from his devouring father Cronus. In a cave on Mount Ida on the island of Crete, baby Zeus was cared for and protected by a number of divine attendants, including the goat Amalthea ("Nourishing Goddess"), who fed him with her milk. The suckling future king of the gods had unusual abilities and strength, and in playing with his nursemaid accidentally broke off one of her horns, which then had the divine power to provide unending nourishment, as the foster mother had to the god.
In another myth, the cornucopia was created when Heracles (Roman Hercules) wrestled with the river god Achelous and wrenched off one of his horns; river gods were sometimes depicted as horned. This version is represented in the Achelous and Hercules mural painting by the American Regionalist artist Thomas Hart Benton.
The cornucopia became the attribute of several Greek and Roman deities, particularly those associated with the harvest, prosperity, or spiritual abundance, such as personifications of Earth (Gaia or Terra); the child Plutus, god of riches and son of the grain goddess Demeter; the nymph Maia; and Fortuna, the goddess of luck, who had the power to grant prosperity. In Roman Imperial cult, abstract Roman deities who fostered peace (pax Romana) and prosperity were also depicted with a cornucopia, including Abundantia, "Abundance" personified, and Annona, goddess of the grain supply to the city of Rome. Pluto, the classical ruler of the underworld in the mystery religions, was a giver of agricultural, mineral and spiritual wealth, and in art often holds a cornucopia to distinguish him from the gloomier Hades, who holds a drinking horn instead.
In modern depictions, the cornucopia is typically a hollow, horn-shaped wicker basket filled with various kinds of festive fruit and vegetables. In North America, the cornucopia has come to be associated with Thanksgiving and the harvest. Cornucopia is also the name of the annual November Wine and Food celebration in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. Two cornucopias are seen in the flag and state seal of Idaho. The Great Seal of North Carolina depicts Liberty standing and Plenty holding a cornucopia. The coat of arms of Colombia, Panama, Peru and Venezuela, and the Coat of Arms of the State of Victoria, Australia, also feature the cornucopia, symbolising prosperity.
The horn of plenty is used on body art and at Halloween, as it is a symbol of fertility, fortune and abundance.
Base of a statue of
Louis XV of France
Gaius Messius Quintus Decius (ca. 201- June 251) was the Emperor of Rome from 249 to 251. In the last year of his reign, he co-ruled with his son Herennius Etruscus until both of them were killed in the Battle of Abrittus.
Emperor Traianus Decius (Mary Harrsch).jpgEarly life and rise to power
Decius, who was born at Budalia, now Martinci, Serbia near Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica), in Lower Pannonia was one of the first among a long succession of future Roman Emperors to originate from the provinces of Illyria in the Danube.. Unlike some of his immediate imperial predecessors such as Philip the Arab or Maximinus, Decius was a distinguished senator who had served as consul in 232, had been governor of Moesia and Germania Inferior soon afterwards, served as governor of Hispania Tarraconensis between 235-238, and was urban prefect of Rome during the early reign of Emperor Philip the Arab (Marcus Iulius Phillipus).
Around 245, Emperor Philip entrusted Decius with an important command on the Danube. By the end of 248 or 249, Decius was sent to quell the revolt of Pacatianus and his troops in Moesia and Pannonia; the soldiers were enraged because of the peace treaty signed between Philip and the Sassanids. Once arrived, the troops forced Decius to assume the imperial dignity himself instead. Decius still protested his loyalty to Philip, but the latter advanced against him and was killed near Verona, Italy. The Senate then recognized Decius as Emperor, giving him the attribute Traianus as a reference to the good emperor Trajan. As the Byzantine historian Zosimus later noted:
Decius was therefore clothed in purple and forced to undertake the [burdens of] government, despite his reluctance and unwillingness.
Political and monumental initiatives
Decius' political program was focused on the restoration of the strength of the State, both military opposing the external threats, and restoring the public piety with a program of renovation of the State religion.
Either as a concession to the Senate, or perhaps with the idea of improving public morality, Decius endeavoured to revive the separate office and authority of the censor. The choice was left to the Senate, who unanimously selected Valerian (afterwards emperor). But Valerian, well aware of the dangers and difficulties attaching to the office at such a time, declined the responsibility. The invasion of the Goths and Decius' death put an end to the abortive attempt.
During his reign, he proceeded to construct several building projects in Rome "including the Thermae Deciane or Baths of Decius on the Aventine" which was completed in 252 and still survived through to the 16th century; Decius also acted to repair the Colosseum, which had been damaged by lightning strikes.
Persecution of Christians
In January 250, Decius issued an edict for the suppression of Christianity. The edict itself was fairly clear:
All the inhabitants of the empire were required to sacrifice before the magistrates of their community 'for the safety of the empire' by a certain day (the date would vary from place to place and the order may have been that the sacrifice had to be completed within a specified period after a community received the edict). When they sacrificed they would obtain a certificate (libellus) recording the fact that they had complied with the order.
While Decius himself may have intended the edict as a way to reaffirm his conservative vision of the Pax Romana and to reassure Rome's citizens that the empire was still secure, it nevertheless sparked a "terrible crisis of authority as various [Christian] bishops and their flocks reacted to it in different ways." Measures were first taken demanding that the bishops and officers of the church make a sacrifice for the Emperor, a matter of an oath of allegiance that Christians considered offensive. Certificates were issued to those who satisfied the pagan commissioners during the persecution of Christians under Decius. Forty-six such certificates have been published, all dating from 250, four of them from Oxyrhynchus. Christian followers who refused to offer a pagan sacrifice for the Emperor and the Empire's well-being by a specified date risked torture and execution. A number of prominent Christians did, in fact, refuse to make a sacrifice and were killed in the process including Pope Fabian himself in 250 and "anti-Christian feeling[s] led to pogroms at Carthage and Alexandria." In reality, however, towards the end of the second year of Decius' reign, "the ferocity of the [anti-Christian] persecution had eased off, and the earlier tradition of tolerance had begun to reassert itself." The Christian church though never forgot the reign of Decius whom they labelled as that "fierce tyrant".
At this time, there was a second outbreak of the Antonine Plague, which at its height in 251 to 266 took the lives of 5,000 a day in Rome. This outbreak is referred to as the "Plague of Cyprian" (the bishop of Carthage), where both the plague and the persecution of Christians were especially severe. Cyprian's biographer Pontius gave a vivid picture of the demoralizing effects of the plague and Cyprian moralized the event in his essay De mortalitate. In Carthage the "Decian persecution" unleashed at the onset of the plague sought out Christian scapegoats. Decius' edicts were renewed under Valerius in 253 and repealed under his son, Gallienus, in 260-1.
Military actions and death
The barbarian incursions into the Empire were becoming more and more daring and frequent whereas the Empire was facing a serious economic crisis in Decius' time. During his brief reign, Decius engaged in important operations against the Goths, who crossed the Danube to raid districts of Moesia and Thrace. This is the first considerable occasion the Goths — who would later come to play such an important role — appear in the historical record. The Goths under King Cniva were surprised by the emperor while besieging Nicopolis on the Danube; the Goths fled through the difficult terrain of the Balkans, but then doubled back and surprised the Romans near Beroë (modern Stara Zagora), sacking their camp and dispersing the Roman troops. It was the first time a Roman emperor fled in the face of Barbarians. The Goths then moved to attack Philippopolis (modern Plovdiv), which fell into their hands. The governor of Thrace, Titus Julius Priscus, declared himself Emperor under Gothic protection in opposition to Decius but Priscus's challenge was rendered moot when he was killed soon afterwards.
The siege of Philippopolis had so exhausted the numbers and resources of the Goths that they offered to surrender their treasure and prisoners, on condition of being allowed to retire. Decius, who had succeeded in surrounding them and hoped to cut off their retreat, refused to entertain their proposals. The final engagement, in which the Goths fought with the courage of despair, under the command of Cniva, took place during the second week of June 251 on swampy ground in the Ludogorie (region in northeastern Bulgaria which merges with Dobruja plateau and the Danube Plain to the north) near the small settlement of Abrittus or Forum Terebronii (modern Razgrad): see Battle of Abrittus. Jordanes records that Decius' son Herennius Etruscus was killed by an arrow early in the battle, and to cheer his men Decius exclaimed, "Let no one mourn; the death of one soldier is not a great loss to the republic." Nevertheless, Decius' army was entangled in the swamp and annihilated in this battle, while he himself was killed on the field of battle. As the historian Aurelius Victor relates:
The Decii (ie. Decius), while pursuing the barbarians across the Danube, died through treachery at Abrittus after reigning two years....Very many report that the son had fallen in battle while pressing an attack too boldly; that the father however, has strenuously asserted that the loss of one soldier seemed to him too little to matter. And so he resumed the war and died in a similar manner while fighting vigorously.
One literary tradition claims that Decius was betrayed by his successor Trebonianus Gallus, who was involved in a secret alliance with the Goths but this cannot be substantiated and was most likely a later invention since Gallus felt compelled to adopt Decius' younger son, Gaius Valens Hostilianus, as joint emperor even though the latter was too young to rule in his own right. It is also unlikely that the shattered Roman legions would proclaim as emperor a traitor who was responsible for the loss of so many soldiers from their ranks. Decius was the first Roman emperor to die in battle against a foreign enemy
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.
File:Roman Empire Trajan 117AD.png
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.
Senators and equestrians
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.
The Temple of Bacchus in Baalbec, Lebanon
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.
The Pantheon, the present structure built during Hadrian's reign, was dedicated to the worship of all Roman deities.
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.
The Augustus of Prima Porta, showing Augustus in military outfit holding a consular baton (now broken off)
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!".
Absorption of foreign cults
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.
The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer, by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1883). Roman Colosseum.
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.
Roman public baths (Thermae) in Bath, England (Aquae Sulis in the Roman province of Britannia).
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,
Clothing, dining, and the arts
Fresco of a Roman woman from Pompeii, c. AD 50.
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.
Roman fresco with banquet scene from the Casa dei Casti Amanti (IX 12, 6-8) in Pompeii.
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.
Woman playing a kithara, a wall mural from Boscoreale, dated 40–30 BC
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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