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 The Roman Empire

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Reiki_LayDee
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PostSubject: The Roman Empire   Wed Oct 04, 2006 2:21 pm

The Origins of Rome

The origins of Roman history are ambiguous; however, it seems likely that the city/state of Rome was formed around 750 B.C.E. when Etruscans from the north settled in the area and proceeded to mold early Roman civilization into a style that was heavy with Greek and Near Eastern elements, but was never the less amply distinctive in its own right.

The nobility of Rome overthrew their Etruscan king in 509 B.C.E. and set up a Republic with a government comprised of a number of civic officials, advisory councils, and legislative bodies, such as the Senate. The early Romans were committed to the state. Their outlook on life was serious, austere, and disciplined. By 265 B.C.E., much of Italy was under Roman control. During the Punic wars, from 264 to 146 B.C.E., Rome fought bitterly against Carthage, a city in northern Africa whose power rivaled Rome’s. Eventually, the Carthaginians were defeated. Contrary to the mystique of Roman military superiority; their military victories were accomplished more through pit bull determination than skill. At the end of the second century B.C.E., Rome had conquered all the Hellenistic kingdoms of the Mediterranean world, and as a consequence, Rome fell increasingly under the influence of Greek culture.

Eventually, the old Roman Republic was laid low by political corruption and internal conflict. When a military commander named Julius Caesar took authoritarian control in 48 B.C.E., the Roman Empire was born and conquest followed conquest. The five hundred year reign of the Empire saw Roman dictators as brilliant as Augustus, and others as cruel as Nero and Caligula. Though individual Roman liberty lost ground during the Empire, for the most part, there was relative peace and stability. Among Roman citizens there was also a new sense of optimism. In the early second century C.E., the Roman Empire included a vast region of approximately three thousand miles from east to west. It included the areas of modern day Italy, France, Spain, England, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and the northern coast of Africa. Under the umbrella of the Roman Empire, Graeco-Roman culture spread across the western world. One product of this combination of Roman political ingenuity and Greek contemplative thought, was Roman law, a body of social principles that has become the basis of western legal systems.
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PostSubject: Roman Gods   Wed Oct 04, 2006 2:23 pm

Roman Gods

From its earliest days, Rome was exceedingly receptive to spiritual influences from the outside. Some believe that the ancient Romans, 753-43 B.C.E., had no mythology of their own, but simply plagiarized and renamed the pantheon of the Greeks. However, there were differences between the Greek deities and the Roman gods, even though the latter absorbed much of the character and mythos of the former. Thus the Roman Jupiter was not identical to the Greek Zeus, and Minerva was subtly different than Athena. The ancient origins of the Roman pantheon were generally Etruscan. Upon this framework, the Hellenic mythology was heavily layered.

Roman myths were generally less complex, less elaborate, and more coherent. Their gods were more abstract, utilitarian, and less personalized. Additionally, the purposes and functions of the Roman legends were different from their Greek counterparts. Whereas Greek mythology focused more on the deities themselves, Roman myths tended to emphasize how the gods affected history, social functions, and city life. The gods of Rome were mainly considered protectors of the state and of the family. But here, as in other parts of the world, agricultural deities always played an important role. When the politically savvy Romans conquered ancient lands, they built temples to the gods of the conquered peoples on Roman soil. Thus, even foreign deities took on the responsibilities of protecting Rome and its culture. Throughout the Empire there was also numerous unofficial cults that existed under the tolerance of the state. There was no recognized monopoly on spiritual truth, and so a single person could be a member of several pagan cults. Thus the Roman pantheon was a mosaic of different elements, including Etruscan, Sabine, Alban, Syrian, Greek, Persian, and Egyptian.

The one truly Roman god was Janus, who originated as a solar deity. With time, Janus became known as the god of all doorways and gateways. He was also the deity of harbors, communication, navigation, beginnings, initiative, and the creation of the world. According to Ovid, when the elements first separated out of chaos, the chaos took on the form of Janus. This “father of the gods” status was higher even than Jupiter. Janus is portrayed as an older bearded man with a double face that permits him to look within and outward. His symbols were the key, to open and close doors, and the stick, to drive intruders away from the threshold. The correspondence between the most prevalent Greek and Roman gods are as follows:

Greek Roman

Cronus Saturn

Gaea Tellus

Zeus Jupiter

Hera Juno

Poseidon Neptune

Hades Pluto

Hermes Mercury

Ares Mars

Aphrodite Venus

Athena Minerva

Artemis Diana

Hestia Vesta

Hephaestus Vulcan

Apollo Apollo

Selene Luna

Eros Cupid

Demeter Ceres

Ascelpius Aesculapius

Dionysus Bacchus

Persephone Proserpina
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PostSubject: Families in Ancient Rome   Wed Oct 04, 2006 2:24 pm

Families In Ancient Rome

Many of the marriages in Rome were arranged by the parents of the couple. The favorite month for marriage was in June. The girl was often around thirteen years old at marriage, while the boy was a couple of years older on average. The bride would take her childhood toys and clothing and offer them to either the goddess Venus or to household gods called lares and penates. A pig would be sacrificed on the day of the wedding, and prayers would be made to Juno. The father of the bride would sign the marriage contract and gifts from the brides family would be given to the grooms family. The wedding day would end with the groom pretending to take the bride away from her mother as a remembrance of the legendary story of the Sabian women in early Rome. Many wives had difficulty in marriage. They were under the rule of their mother-in law. When a couple had children, especially the first boy, the wife would gain a little more authority; but she still had to answer to the mother-in-law's authority. Women had few rights in marriage. A husband could divorce his wife if she did not bear a child or did not bear a son. If there were a divorce, the children would stay with the father. A woman could not divorce her husband. She had few property rights. "She could not inherit all her husband's property after he died, nor could she leave all her money to her children" (Williams 2003).

Families in Rome were paterfamilias. This means that the father had all the authority in the family. The father's authority was absolute. As long as the father was alive, he controlled all the property for the children and his wife. The father could even go as far as whipping his children, selling them into slavery, or even killing them if they did not obey his wishes. After the death of the father, the eldest son would take the role of the head of the family.


Women in Roman society were not given much power. Politics and trades were the domain of men. In fact, the Romans often feared powerful women such as queens. For example, the Romans did not look favorably on Cleopatra, fearing that their Emperor Julius Caesar was under the spell of this foreign queen. Another woman, Queen Boudicca, lead a revolt in Britain. Yet there were times in which women influenced the political process. For example, in the time after the assassination of Julius Caesar, the political leaders targeted 1,400 rich women to raise taxes for their war. Hortensia, the daughter of a lawyer, spoke out against the tax which caused the political rulers to tax only 400 of the women.

The lives of woman varied greatly based on their position in society. The women who came from the wealthy level of society had much of their daily labor done by slaves. A slave would help wash the female master's face, give her a rubdown with scented oils, and spend hours setting her hair into curls. The wealthy women would spend much of their days socializing and planning their next entertainment with their friends. Few women were fortunate enough to lead a life of leisure. Women were in charge of raising children and keeping house. Since there was no birth control in Roman times, women were often pregnant. Men would leave the house in the morning for work till about noon, and then spend the afternoon relaxing at the baths or a public entertainment event. When a man returned home, he expected to find his house in order. Women would have to wash clothes by hand on a weekly basis. Clothes were washed in a large tub with a type of soap know as lye. They would be laid on bushes or on the ground to be dried by the wind and the sun. Large blankets were taken to a local stream, while small items were washed in a bowl in the kitchen. Rich women would have slaves do all the work, or they would take the clothes to a wash store. Women were also expected to keep house. They cleaned the house with twig brooms and brushes made of animal hairs. Fire and oil for lamps were the women's responsibility as well as providing fuel for the fire in the cold months. Shopping for food and essentials at the local market was also on the daily task for many a Roman woman. On top of these responsibilities, women were in charge of spinning yarn and making clothing for the family by hand.

Many women also worked in areas outside the home. In the countryside, men were in charge of working the fields and the harvests. Women were put in charge of making cheese, pickling and washing of wool. In the cities, women often worked with their craftsmen husbands running the store. There was a good number of women entertainers, though the position was not highly thought of in the society. There is even some evidence that women may have even been gladiators at different times in the society.

In the early days of Rome, the father, not the mother, would decide whether a child would live or die. If the father chose, the child could be abandoned to die. When a child was eight or nine days old, the father chose a name for the child. Three names would be given to a boy. The child's first name was a personal name, the second was that of their clan, and the third name was the family name. Girls were only given one name in early Rome, but later a second name was added, which was the family name.
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PostSubject: Traditional Roman Beliefs about Death   Wed Oct 04, 2006 2:25 pm

Traditional Roman Beliefs about Death

The Romans believed that the soul of the dead would go underground to the river Styx. The soul had to cross the river. A coin was placed in the mouth of the deceased to pay Charon, the boatman of the underworld, for the passage across. If the body was not properly buried and did not have a coin, the soul was forced to stay for one hundred years before being allowed to cross the river Styx. This was seen in the mythological story of Aeneas, when he met up with a shipmate who was swept off the ship by a wave. The shipmate swam a long distance to shore and was killed by barbarians who left his body unburied.
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