Archive for the ‘Ancient History’ Category
Since the early mummification process was not a reliable one, the Ancient Egyptians covered the face of the deceased with a funerary mask that symbolically preserved the persons features.
the first examples of mummification date to the old Kingdom (2686 – 2181BC), when the body was simply eviscerated, cleaned and wrapped first in bandages, then a shroud. In some cases, the linen bandages around the head were covered with a thin coat of plaster to emphasize the facial features, and the eyes, eyebrows and mouth were coloured with ink.
From the first intermediate period (2181- 2055BC), the head was covered with a mask, usually made of inexpensive materials such as wood or cartonnage – layers of linen or papyrus stiffened with plaster. During the New Kingdom (1550 – 1069BC) metal masks, hammered out of gold leaf, began to appear. For the pharaoh, his family and certain high ranking officials, intricately worked gold plate was used, often inlaid with great quantities of glass and semi-precious stones. The deceased was believed to benefit from the precious metal, wich symbolized the incorruptible flesh of the gods.
The first true mummy masks completely covered the head and upper part of the chest, and although rare in the first intermediate period, they were popular in the middle kingdom. Only the face , framed by a long wig, and the neck, adorned with a wide pearl necklace, were represented, while the rest was painted yellow or white. At the end of the middle kingdom, bulkier masks appeared. Dainty faces formed a contrast to long, heavy wigs. Beneath the necklace, a column of text indicated the name of the deceased.
In the New Kingdom, masks were smaller and covered just the head and throat and occasionally the chest. Faces were less sterylized, but they still possessed a long wig and anecklace of strings of pearls. In the third intermediate period (1069 – 747 BC) and the late period (747 – 332 BC) funerary masks became increasingly small untill they covered only the head and neck. By the Greco-Roman period (332 BC – 395 AD), although Egyptian funerary customs remained popular, the overall shape and decoration of the mask had changed. The faces and headdresses had Egyptian gods painted on the sides, and the faces became more lifelike, forming actual portraits of the deceased.
The Mask of Tutankhamum
The discovery of the tomb Tutankhamun (1336 – 1327 BC) by Howard Carter in 1922 was one of the greatest in the history of Egypt. Among the young kings rich funerary equipment, Carter unearthed the magnificent mummy mask, made from solid gold with decorations in carnelian, obsidian, lapis lazuli and coloured glass.
When Carter opened tutankhamun’s gold sarcophagus and revealed the mask, he saw a face with the features of a god. The Ancient Egyptians regarded precious metals and stones as divine materials, and their use in the funerary equipment of the king invested him with attributes of a deity. Gold, for instance, identified the pharaoh with the sun god, Ra.
Of the spectacular treasures discovered in the famous tomb of Tutankhamun in the valley of the Kings, his mummy mask, now on display among the masterpieces of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, is on of the most remarkable.
The Attributes of the King
Dispite his association with the heretical reign of Akhenaten (1352 – 1336 BC), Tutankhamun is depicted in the traditonal regalia of the pharaohs. He wears the royal nemes headdress, striped with lapis lazuli and hanging down on either side of his face. The uraeus, or Wadjyt cobra, and the vulture goddess Nekhbet, symbols of Lower and Upper Egypt, and th kings sovereignty, sit side by side on his forehead, offering him their protection. His false beard, which identifies him the gods, is worked in a framework of gold with blue glass paste inlaid to create a plaited effect.
The Pharaohs Eyes
Tutankhamun’s expressive almond-shaped eyes are emphasized and extended by eye make up fashioned in lpis lazuli. The whites of the eyes are made from quartz, while the pupils have been inlaid with obsidian. touch of red pigment has been added to the corner of the eyes to create a lifelike impression.
The Depiction of the King
Tutankhamun’s parentage is uncertain his father may have been Akhenaten (1390 – 1352 BC). Although Tutankhamun is shown in the traditional idealized manner of the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, the influence of artistic styles popular during the reign of Akhenaten is evident. The facial features notably the elongated oval of the face, the almond-shaped eyes, the long slim nose and soft, full lips are all typical of the Armana periods intimate expressive portraiture. Tutankhamun’s pleasant, youthful face is set in a sense, slightly sad expression.
The unification of lower and upper Egypt in about 3100 BC laid the foundations of Egypt of the Pharaohs. Was Narmer the founder and ruler off the combined kingdoms- the first Pharaoh?
According to ancient Egyptian traditions, the unification of the two regionsof upper and lower Egypt was achieved by a legendary ruler called menes. He is also credited with founding the city between the two lands. Historically, however the fabled Menes has been linked to two known early rulers – Narmer and Aha.
As there are no detailed records from the time, Egyptologists continue to debate whether Narmer was a forerunner or founder of the 1st Dynasty, and some argue that he and Aha were the same person. while others claim that Aha was Narmers son and successor. A jar seal impression found at Abudos in 1985, however lists the eight rulers of the first dynasty, with Narmer first on the list, followed by Aha.
The most important archeological evidence for the unification of Egypt under Narmer is a splendid ceremonial palette found in Hierakonpolis in 1897 (perhaps of the King Scorpion) . The discovery of the mudstone palette, along with lime stone macehead, from under the floor if the temple of the old kingdom (2686-2181 BC), can be clearly identified with a king called Narmer from hieroglyphs of his name. Unfortunately, the excavations were badly recorded, but the palette shows both sides, with the king wearing the crown of Upper Egypt on one and the crown of lower Egypt on the other. On the palette, Narmer is This kind of depiction of victorious pharaohs was to be used for about 3,000 years and was repeated, with the individual ruler of the period in a triumphant pose, on every Egyptian temple until Roman rulers.
Most recently, new studies of the images on the macehead put forth the theory that the scenes are not primarily commemorative but are simply pictorial versions of year-names. The focus of the scene is the king’s figure, seen sitting robed in a long cloak enthroned under a canopy on a high dais, wearing the Red Crown and holding a flail. The enclosure within which he sits can be interpreted as a shrine or temple. He is attended by minor figures of fan-bearers, bodyguards, with long quarterstaves and an official who may be either vizier or heir-apparent. In front of Narmer three men run a race towards him, while above them stands four men carrying standards. Facing the king is a cloaked and beardless figure, over whom is a simple enclosure in which stands a cow and calf (a nome sign).
The running figures may represent Muu dancers, long associated with Buto, presenting a welcome to the new lord of the Delta. The seated figure facing Narmer may be the chief of Buto rather than a princess of the Delta.Beneath these figures are symbols of numbers. The numbers have been recently interpreted to indicate 400,000 cattle, 1,422,000 small animals, and 120,000 men (not women and children, only males.) This would have provided for a total human population of the Delta of perhaps 600,000.The macehead then commemorates the completion of the conquest of Lower Egypt, not with a royal dynastic marriage etc, but perhaps, with the first Appearance of the King of Lower Egypt, by an actual census of the Delta people, similar to and a precursor of the census taken by William the Conqueror after he won England.Some scholars speculate that Menes and Narmer may be the same person. Menes is the Greek form of the name of the legendary first human king of Egypt as given by Manetho, the historian living in Hellenistic times who constructed one form of King Lists.
During Narmer’s reign, Egypt had an active economic presence in southern Canaan. Pottery sherds have been discovered at several sites, both from pots made in Egypt and imported to Canaan and others made in the Egyptian style out of local materials. The latter discovery has led to the conclusion that Egypt’s presence in Canaan was in the form of a colony rather than just the result of trade. While Egypt’s presence in Canaan has been explained as the result of a military invasion, this view is not generally accepted. Fortifications at Tel es-Sakan dating to this period and almost entirely Egyptian in construction suggest a military presence, if not a military invasion.
The extent of Egyptian activity in southern Canaan is shown by the discovery of 33 serekhs on pottery sherds at sites in Canaan dating from the Protodynastic Period to the beginning of the First Dynasty. Thirteen of these belong to Narmer, and came from six different sites: Tel Arad, En Besor (Ein HaBesor), Tel es-Sakan, Nahal Tillah (Halif Terrace), Tel Erani, and Lod. An additional serekh from Lod is attributed to Narmer’s probable predecessor, Ka. Significantly only one is attributable to Narmer’s successors, to Hor Aha, his immediate successor. The remainder of the serekhs either have no name on them or have a name not attributable to any known pharaoh
It seems likely that Aha founded the new capital Memphis, as his name is the first rulers recorded at Saqqara, the necropolis for the city. It is, howeve, difficult to say where exactly the center of power of the state lay. During the 1st and 2nd Dynasties, huge tombs were built in Saqqara, as well as Abydos, the most important burial site in Upper Egypt. It could be that maintaining both traditions, conflicts were avoided ant the unification was strengthen. Although we know nothing about caracter of Narmer, his lasting achievement was to forge a state with a national consciousness from regions that were widely different culturally. It is unlikely this could have been achieved with out a strong central ruler who had vision to put place an effective administration with all power invested in himsef.
How did Halloween start? The holiday goes back to the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain. Around 2000 years ago the ancient Celts from Britain and Ireland set bonfires on hilltops to ward off the evil spirits before the start of the winter season. They celebrated their new year on November 1, This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death.
People gathered to sacrifice animals, fruits, and vegetables and thank the gods for the harvest and appease the gods of the coming winter. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
Druids or celtic preiests thought that spirits in thier precense, that they could make pridictions of the future. prophecies where important for these people that lived in a cold dark world. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.
Around 43 A.D., the Romans had conquered a vast majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two Roman festivals were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of “bobbing” for apples that is practiced today on today.
In 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Later In the 8th century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated with some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween.
Later in the 9th century christian influence spread into celtic lands where it blended with other celtic rites and traditions. The catholic church would later make november 2, All souls day in 1000 A.D. a day to honor the dead. Many people today belive that the catholic church by sactioning a holiday to honor the dead it was trying to replace the celtic festival of the dead.
Halloween comes to America
Halloween came to America in the middle of the 19th century, in 1846 millions of Irish immigrants flooded America during the potatoe famine. these immigrants made this celebration popular by dressing up and going house to house asking for food or money. Later Americans began the practice that became the trick or treat tradition.
During the 1920s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide parties. By the 1930s halloween had plagued many town celebrations with vandalism. By the 1950s baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the classrooms or homes. the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. So to prevent tricks being played on them families started providing the neighborhood children with small treats. A new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday.
In 510 BC Rome witnessed a revolt against the rule of the Etruscan kings.
Sextus, the son of king Tarquinius Superbus raped the wife of a nobleman, Tarquinius Collatinus. King Tarquinius’ rule was already deeply unpopular with the people. This rape was too great an offence to be tolerated by the Roman nobles. Lead by Lucius Iunius Brutus, they rose in revolt against the king.
Brutus was the nephew of King Tarquin by marriage. Related he may have been to the king, but he had no reason to love him. Brutus was the son of Marcus, whose substantial wealth had been illegaly seized by King Tarquin at his death. Not only had Tarquin abused his power to steal Brutus’ inheritence. Brutus’ older brother had been murdered as part of the plot. Believed somewhat of a harmless fool, he had been ridiculed by Tarquin by being made second in command (Tribunus Celerum). There seems little doubt that Brutus’ elevation to this position was not meant as a promotion, but a humiliation. His inheritence stole and his brother murdered, Brutus was being mocked by a tyrant.
Now Lucius Iunius Brutus took revenge and led the city’s nobility in revolt.
Prince Sextus fled to Gabii but was killed. Meanwhile the King with his family escaped to Caere. His palace was demolished. For large image click on picture
The rebellion against Tarquinius failed to achieve final independence for Rome, but it should be the birth of the Roman republic. It was after this revolt, that the senate handed power to two consuls, although at first they were called praetors (a title which later should come to be the name of a different office of the republic). These consuls each held power for one year, in which they ruled much like joint kings of Rome.
What also needs to be kept in mind is that this rebellion was indeed a revolt by the aristocracy of Rome. Rome was never a democracy as we would understand it today, nor as the Greeks understood it. In the early days of the Roman republic all power would reside in the hands of the Roman aristocracy, the so-called patricians ( patricii).
The first ever two elected leaders of Rome were Brutus and Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus. But the people soon turned against Brutus’ colleague who was a Tarquin and hence directly related to the despised king. It wasn’t long before he left for exile, being replaced by one Publius Valerius Publicola. Soon after a substantial plot was discovered, the aim of which was to place King Tarquin back on his throne. The conspirators were sentenced to death. Among them were Brutus’ own two sons.
It is no surprise that after his ridicule, the theft of his inheritence, his brother’s murder and the execution of his sons Brutus was filled with hatred toward King Tarquin.
Aided by the city of Veii, King Tarquinius in 509 BC sought to win back his city in battle, but failed. The battle saw the death Brutus, the founder of the Republic. With Brutus dead, it fell to his co-consul Publius Valerius Publicola to lead the Romans to victory. It was therefore he, who was the first ever Roman commander to lead his troops in triumph through Rome.
But king Tarquinius, though defeated, was not yet dead. And so he called upon the help of the fellow Etruscan king of Clusium, Lars Porsenna. Porsenna duly besieged Rome. Legend tells us of the one-eyed hero Horatius Cocles fending off the Etruscan hordes at the Sublician bridge over the Tiber which he asked to be destroyed behind him as he fought.
Other legend tells of Porsenna eventually calling off the siege. A Roman hero, Mucius Scaevola, terrified Porsenna with a demonstration of how determined the Romans were to defeat him, by holding his hand over a naked flame and not removing it until it had burned away.
Consul Publius Valerius Publicola thereafter sought to win over Porsenna arguing it was for him to judge if Tarquin had not been a terrible tyrant whom the Romans were right to depose. Porsenna should decide if Tarquin or the Romans should rule Rome. Tarquin angrily refused the suggestion that Porsenna should be a judge over him. Offended, Porsenna lifted the siege and left. So much to legend.
In reality, the opposite seems to have been the case. Porsenna captured Rome. He didn’t place Tarquinius back on the throne, which seems to indicate that he instead planned on ruling the city himself. But Rome, though occupied, must have remained defiant. In an attempt to quell any future revolts Porsenna banned anyone from owning iron weapons.
But this tyranny wasn’t to last. Under Roman encouragement other cities in Latium revolted against Etruscan domination. Finally, in 506 BC things came to a head. The allied Latin forces, led by Aristhodemus, met at Aricia with an army which Porsenna had sent against them under the command of his son Arruns.The Latins won the battle. This was a decisive blow against the Etruscans and now, at last, Rome had won its independence.
War with the Sabines
Consul Publius Valerius was now at the height of his powers. It was at this point people began calling him ‘Publicola’ (‘people’s friend’). A war with the Sabines granted him the opportunity to accompany his brother, who had been voted consul after his own term was up, in leading the army to war. The brothers fought a succesful campaign, winning several victories (505 BC). More so, Publicola managed to befriend some of the Sabine nobility. One of their foremost leaders in fact decided to become Roman, bringing with him his entire tribe comprising five thousand warriors. This leader was Attius Clausus. He was granted patrician rank, land beyond the river Anio and adopted the name Appius Claudius Sabinus. He was the original ancestor of the Claudius clan. Publius Valerius Publicola was not finished yet. The Sabines launched another attack and And Publicola was at hand to reorganise the campaign. A crushing blow to the Sabines was finally delivered at their capital Cures by the commander Spurius Cassius (504 BC). The Sabines sued for peace. Soon later Publicola died. The people of Rome granted him a state funeral within the city walls.
War with the Latin League
Rome was evidently the largest city within Latium. And the confidence it gained from this knowledge made it lay claim to speak on behalf of Latium itself. And so in its treaty with Carthage (510 BC) the Roman republic claimed control over considerable parts of the countryside around it.
Though such claims the Latin League (the alliance of Latin cities) would not recognize. And so a war arose about the very matter. Rome, having won independence from the Etruscans already faced its next crisis. The very Latin force which had defeated the Porsenna’s army at Aricia now was used against Rome.
On the other hand, the man leading the Latin league against the Romans was Octavius Mamilius, the son-in-law of King Tarquin.
There may therefore have been other reasons than merely the question of supremacy within the league. In 496 BC the Roman forces met those of the Latin League at Lake Regillus. (Legend has it that the divine twins Castor and Pollux, the Gemini, appeared to senator Domitius before this battle, foretelling the Roman victory.)
Very tellingly King Tarquin was present at the battle, fighting the side of the Latin League.
The leader of the Latins, Octavius Mamilius, was killed in battle. King Tarquin was wounded. Rome claimed victory. But if this was really so, is unclear. The battle may well have been an indecisive draw. In either case, Rome’s ability to withstand the combined might of Latium, which had earlier defeated the Etruscans, must have been an astonishing fete of military prowess.
In about 493 BC a treaty between Rome and the Latin League was signed (the foedus Cassianum). This might have been due to the Latin League admitting to Roman superiority on the battle field at Lake Regillus. But more likely it was because the Latins sought a powerful ally against the Italian hill tribes who were harassing them. Either way, the war with the Latin League was over. The Roman republic now firmly established, King Tarquin retired to exile in Tusculum, not to be heard of again.
Rome‘s early history is shrouded in mythic legend, according to legend, the city was founded on 21 April 753 BC by the twins princes of Alba Longa Romulus and Remus, supposedly itself founded four centuries earlier by Aeneas a Trojan prince. The twins, his distant descendants, were abandoned as babies on orders of Amulius, who had usurped their kingdom and ordered their deaths. miraculously, a she wolf appeared from the woods and suckled them, and they were brought up as Faustinus, a kindly shepherd on the palatine hill. When they grew up, they killed the usurper and together founded a new city: Rome. But soon they quarreled, Romulus killed Remus for jumping his ploughed boundary line. Romulus then populated Rome by inviting outlaws and homeless men to join him, and abducting young women of his neighbors in the famous
” Rape of The Sabine Women”.
When the sabine men marched back in force to reclaim their women, the latter by now used to being Roman wives, intevened to prevent a battle and the two peoples intermarried. Romulus later ascended into heaven in a thunderstorm, becoming divine. From such violent, mythic beginnings sprang the eternal city of Rome. Archaeological evidence supports the view that Rome grew from pastoral settlements on the Palatine and Esquiline Hills. Beneath and between these hills were marshy valleys and it was particularly fertile spot in the mists of the tiber river it provided practical crossing upriver from the sea and good defensive positions. The settlement remained extremely primitive until the arrival of the Etruscan kings. While some archaeologists say that they ruled Rome by the mid of the 8th century BC, the date is subject to controversy. By this time Rome came under the sway of Etruscans, they were a civilized people who dominated Italy from bologna to Naples. Romes stratergic position on the tiber river meant the Etruscans, approaching the height of power, inevitably wanted control over it. In close contact with the Greek cities in the south, whose art influenced but did not overwhelm the art of the Etruscans, the were cheerful and hedonistic race fond of the arts, women, banquets and sports.
Tarquinius Priscus, the “good tarquin” who ruled between 616BC and 579BC, held the first census. Citizens were organized into three tribes, each having ten wards. From these wards the kings chose 300 patricians, or heads od extended families, to sit on the advisory council known as the senate. The Firts Assembly, the comitia curiata, it is also thought to have formed although its powers are unknown. Priscus successor, was king Servius Tullius he reorganized the states, dividing Romans into five classes acording to their wealth, each class subdivided into centuries, each century being roghly equal in wealth. All citizens were liable for the army service, apart from those in the last and poorest class, who could not arm themselves. A legion, or levy, had 6,00 infantry and 300 Calvary, the calvalry being provide the rich. In the new appointed comitia centuriata, or assembly by hundreds, each century voted as a single block the rich, the smallest century voting first. The vote was decided as soon as an absolute majority of centuries was reached, which gave the rich centuries the most influence the poorest and biggest centuries the least. Rome never operated on the principle of “one man vote”. Rome acquired Ostia at the mouth of the tiber river as well as its first wooden bridge across the river. The period culminated in the construction of the first temple to Jupiter, king of the gods, on the capitoline hill. Originally simply constructed, the temple was later rebuilt more splendidly, and become the symbol of roman power.
The founding of the republic
Around 509BC the Etruscan kings were finally expelled from Rome , and the word Etruscan, like the word king, became an insult to the Romans. According to legend the last Etruscan king, Tarquinius Superbus, meaning “the proud” angered the Roman nobles that they drove him out and declared a republic, which they dominated through the senate. From now on, the patriotic virtues, or courage was established that would serve Rome well through its coming troubles.
From its foundation Rome, although losing occasional battles, had been undefeated in war until 386 BC, when it was briefly occupied by the Gauls. According to the legend, the Gauls offered to deliver Rome back to its people for a thousand pounds of gold, but the Romans refused, preferring to take back their city by force of arms rather than ever admitting defeat, after which the Romans recovered the city in the same year.
Roman dominance expanded over most of Europe and the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, while its population surpassed one million inhabitants. For almost a thousand years, Rome was the most politically important, richest, and largest city in the Western world, and remained so after the Empire started to decline and was split, even as it lost its capital status to Milan and then to Ravenna, and was surpassed in prestige by the Eastern capital Constantinople.
What eventually became the Roman Empire began as settlements around the Palatine Hill along the river Tiber in Central Italy. The river was navigable up to that place. The site also had a ford where the Tiber could be crossed. The Palatine Hill and hills surrounding it presented easily defensible positions in the wide fertile plain surrounding them. All these features contributed to the success of the city.
The traditional account of Roman history, which has come down to us through Livy, Plutarch, Dionysius of Halicarnassus and others, is that in Rome’s first centuries, it was ruled by a succession of seven kings. The traditional chronology, as codified by Varro, allots 243 years for their reigns, an extraordinary average of almost 35 years , which, since the work of Barthold Georg Niebuhr, has been generally discounted by modern scholarship. The Gauls destroyed all of Rome’s historical records when they sacked the city after the Battle of the Alliain 390 BC (Varronian, according to Polybius the battle occurred in 387/6), so no contemporary records of the kingdom exist, and all accounts of the kings must be carefully questioned.
GERMANICUS (15BC-AD19) Germanicus Julius Caesar (24 May 16 BC or 15 BC 10 October AD 19) was a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty of the early Roman Empire. He was born in Lugdunum, Gaul (modern Lyon). At birth he was named Nero Claudius Drusus . Germanicus was the charming and popular son of Nero Claudius Drusus and Through his mother, Antonia, Germanicus was great-nephew of Augustus, “Julian Blood” Germanicus grew up partly among soldiers. Unlike his infirm brother Emperor Nero Cladius (41–54), he was marked out early both as a general and as the successor to his father’s reputed republican principles.
By the time Tiberius became emperor in 14 AD, Germanicus had been appointed by Augustus as commander-in-chief of the Rhine forces, and Tiberius had had to adopt him as his son and heir even though Tiberius had a son of his own. Upon this adoption, Germanicus’s name was changed to Germanicus Julius Caesar. At about the same time, Germanicus married Augustus’ granddaughter, Vipsania Agrippina.
As consul in the year 12AD, he was appointed to command Gaul and the two Rhine armies. His personal popularity enabled him to quell the mutiny that broke out in his legions after Augustus’ death 14AD. Although pressed to claim the empire for himself, Germanicus remained firmly loyal to Tiberius. the Rhine commnad was much the biggest in the army, eight legions. He led his armies into Germany, where Varus had lost his life and three full legions of Roman troops where slaughtered in Germany’s Teutoberg Forest over 20,000 Romans brutally butchered on the battlefield, ambushed by an endless sea of Germanns it was one of the most humiliating and crushing defeats Imperial Rome would ever suffer.
Germanicus buried some of the remains of the dead legionaries and performed the last rites on the bodies, and buried the Romans with full military honors. In 14AD he launched a massive assault on the heartland of Arminius’ tribe his legions battle hardened troops some of whom had been veterans of the slaughter at the Teutoberg Forest inflicted several crushing defeats from his legions onslaught. The Germans regrouped for a last stand, but charging uphill under a hail of ballistae spears, arrows, and slings, the Romans smashed the enemy earthworks, broke through, and routed them.
Once the smoke cleared on the blood-soaked battlefield, Germanicus built a giant pile of weapons taken off of dead Germans and dedicated it to Mars, the God of War. He had conquered every tribe from the Rhine to the Elbe, and this would be the deepest Rome would ever penetrate into German lands. Arminius’ power was shattered, and Germanicus returned home to a triumphal parade, carrying two of the three Legionary Eagles one belonging to the 19th legion that had been stole by the Germans. It would be the last Triumph ever awarded to a man who was not the current sitting Emperor of Rome. However, Tiberius had no intention of resuming forward policy, he aroused the jealousy and fears of tiberius in 16AD Germanicus was recalled to rome.
Tacitus has him say, “i achieved more by diplomacy than by war… as for the Cherusci and other savage tribes, Rome’s vengeance has been asserted and we can leave them to quarrel among themselves.”
This proved true in May AD17 Germanicus celebrated a triumph in Rome. The following year he became consul for a second time however before taking office he was made supreme commander of all provinces in the east.
On the way he visited Egypt, thereby arousing Tiberius’ wrath incurring strong censure from Tiberius, because the latter’s predecessor, Augustus, had strictly forbidden Romans of senatorial rank to enter Egypt, Rome’s breadbasket without imperial permission. In Syria he soon quarrelled with the new governor, Gnaeus Piso. Although Piso criticized and sometimes frustrated his decisions, Germanicus managed to settle the Armenian succession, organize the previously independent states of Cappadocia and Commagene into provinces, and negotiate successfully with Artabanus III of Parthia.
When Germanicus returned to Antioch in October AD19, the differences with Piso became intolerable; finally Piso left the provinces shortly after Germanicus died. At age 34 the hero of rome was dead, when news of his death reached Rome the entire city shut down for three days. He was added to the Salian hymn, an epic song detailing the greatest heroes of Rome. It was rumoured that Piso has poisoned him through his wife, Plancina. Whether scapegoat or villain, Piso was tried for murder and he committed suicide soon after. Tiberius never escaped suspicion, if not of instigating Germanicus’ murder, at least of prompting the enmity that ended in tragedy. Germanicus had six children with his wife Agrippina, Augustus’ grand-daughter, (three sons and three daughters)of whom survived thier father became emperor: Gauis Caligula(37–41), and Julia Agrippina, mother of the emperor Nero.
Reign of Romulus
Romulus (c. 771 BC–c. 717 BC) and Remus (c. 771 BC–c. 753 BC) Romulus was not only Rome”s first king but also the city”s founder. In 753 B.C., Romulus began building the city upon the Palatine Hill. After founding Rome, he invited criminals, runaway slaves, exiles, and other undesirables by granting them asylum. In this manner, Romulus populated five of the seven hills of Rome .To provide his citizens with wives, Romulus invited the neighboring Sabine tribe to a festival where he abducted the Sabine women and brought them back to Rome (remembered as The Rape of the Sabine Women). After the ensuing war with the Sabines, Romulus brought the Sabines and Romans under the diarchy of himself and Titus Tatius. Romulus divided the people of Rome between the able bodied men and those unfit for combat. The fighting men became the Roman legions consisting of 6,000 infantry and 600 cavalry. The rest became the people of Rome and out of these people, Romulus selected 100 of the most noble men to serve as senators in an advisory council for the king, the Roman Senate. These men he called patres, and their descendants became the republican nobles and elite, the patricians. With the union between the Romans and Sabines, Romulus added another 100 members to the Senate of Sabine birth. Under Romulus, the augurs became an official part of the Roman religion and the Comitia Curiata was instituted. To form the basis of the Comitia Curiata, Romulus divided the people of Rome into three tribes: one for Romans (ramnes), a second for Sabines (tities), and a third for all others (luceres). Each tribe elected ten representatives, known as curiae, to form a single voting body. Romulus would convene the Curiate and lay proposals from either himself or the Senate before the Curiate for ratification. All proposals passed before the Comitia Curiata were either unanimously supported or unanimously defeated as the majority of curiate voting was viewed as the opinion of the entire Curiate. After 38 years as king of Rome, Romulus had fought in several successful wars, expanding the control of Rome over all of Latium and many of the surrounding areas. Romulus would be remembered as early Rome”s greatest conqueror and as one of the men with the most pietas in Roman history. After his death at the age of 54, Romulus was deified as the war god Quirinus and served not only as one of the three major gods of Rome but also as the deified likeness of the city of Rome.
Reign of Numa Pompilius
Numa Pompilius (753-673 BC; king of Rome, 717-673 BC), according to legend, was the second king of Rome, succeeding Romulus. After Romulus died, Romans in the city elected a Sabine man to be king, so as to make him loyal to both tribes in Rome. In 717 BC, shortly after the death of Romulus, Numa was offered the kingship of Rome. Though at first he refused, his father and kinsmen persuaded him to accept. Numa was later celebrated for his natural wisdom and piety; legend says the nymph Egeria taught him to be a wise legislator. Wishing to show his favour, the god Jupiter caused a shield to fall from the sky on the Palatine Hill, which had letters of prophecy written on it, and in which the fate of Rome as a city was tied up. Recognizing the importance of this sacred shield, King Numa had eleven matching shields made. These shields were the ancilia, the sacred shields of Jupiter, which were carried each year in a procession by the Salii priests. Numa was credited with dividing the immediate territory of Rome into pagi and establishing the traditional occupational guilds of Rome:
“So, distinguishing the whole people by the several arts and trades, he formed the companies of musicians, goldsmiths, carpenters, dyers, shoemakers, skinners, braziers, and potters; and all other handicraftsmen he composed and reduced into a single company, appointing every one their proper courts, councils, and religious observances.” (Plutarch)
Numa also instituted the Vestal Virgins. Plutarch, in like manner, tells of the early religion of the Romans, that it was imageless and spiritual. He says Numa “forbade the Romans to represent the deity in the form either of man or of beast. Nor was there among them formerly any image or statue of the Divine Being; during the first one hundred and seventy years they built temples, indeed, and other sacred domes, but placed in them no figure of any kind; persuaded that it is impious to represent things Divine by what is perishable, and that we can have no conception of God but by the understanding”. Numa Pompilius died in 673 BC of old age. He was succeeded by Tullus Hostilius. His history is considered legend because of a number of inconsistencies in the data historically recorded about him. The most famous was that he was a friend of Pythagoras, who is traditionally thought to have died around 500 BC. There are many related to Pompilius, including Julia Pompilius.
Reign of Tullus Hostilius
Tullus Hostilius (673 BC – 641 BC) was the third of the legendary Kings of Rome. He succeeded Numa Pompilius, and was succeeded by Ancus Marcius. His successful wars with Alba Longa, Fidenae and Veii shadow forth the earlier conquests of Latin territory and the first extension of the Roman territory beyond the walls of Rome. It was during his reign that the combat between the Horatii and Curiatii, the representatives of Rome and Alba Longa, took place. He is said to have been struck dead by lightning as the punishment of his pride. Son of Hostilius, Tullus Hostilius was chosen by the senators because he was a Roman and because his grandfather Hostius Hostilius had fought with Romulus against the Sabines, where he died, who later married his grandmother Hersilia, by whom he had Prima and Aollius or Avilius. After the death of Numa Pompilius the spirit of peace seemed to weaken. Friendly feelings between the Romans and the countrymen of Alba Longa in the hills outside of Rome gave way to quarreling because people began to raid each other’s fields for crops and animals. When the ruler of the Albans complained to Tullus Hostilius, he rebuked them with the argument that they had initiated the hostilities, not the Romans. The Alban and Roman armies prepared to fight. On the proposal of the Alban dictator, Mettius Fufetius, the two sides agreed that the dispute would be resolved by combat between two sets of triplet brothers, with the losing side submitting to rule by the victorious one. The Roman Horatii brothers defeated the Alban Curiatii in a battle fought with sword and shield, a single Horatius alone surviving. The Albans thus became subjects of the Roman state. When they refused to help Rome in a battle, Hostilius had the dictator of Alba, Mettius Fufetius, torn in two by chariots running in opposite directions. He had Alba Longa destroyed and gave the Albans the Caelian Hill to live on. Legend has it that Tullus was so busy with one war after another that he neglected any service to the gods. A dreadful plague came upon the Romans. Even Tullus was stricken with it. He determined to practice secret sacrifices to Jupiter to ask for his favour and help. However, he did not complete them properly and the god struck him down with a thunderbolt for his wrongful practice of religion. This was seen as an omen to the Romans that they had better choose a new king who would follow the peaceful example of Numa Pompilius. They chose Ancus Marcius, the grandson of Numa Pompilius.
Reign of Ancus Marcius
Ancus Marcius ( 640 BC – 616 BC) was the fourth of the Kings of Rome, possibly a legendary figure. Like Numa, his reputed maternal grandfather (he was the son of Marcius II and wife Pompilia), he was a friend of peace and religion, but was obliged to make war to defend his territories. He conquered the Latins, and a number of them he settled on the Aventine Hill formed the origin of the Plebeians. He fortified the Janiculum, threw a wooden bridge across the Tiber, the Pons Sublicius, founded the port of Ostia, established salt-works and built a prison which was founded in 625 B.C. and was used to hold people until they decided what to do with them. Before this time, a popular punishment was to exile people. Ancus Marcius is in many ways merely a duplicate of Numa, as is it could deduced by his second name, Numa Marcius – the confidant and pontifex of Numa, thus being none other than Numa Pompilius himself, represented as a priest. The identification with Ancus is shown by the legend which makes the latter a bridge-builder (pontifex), the constructor of the first wooden bridge over the Tiber. It is in the exercise of his priestly functions that the resemblance is most clearly shown. Like Numa, Ancus died a natural death. He was the ancestor of the Marcii. He was succeeded by Lucius Tarquinius Priscus.
Reign of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus
Tarquinius Lucius, Tarquinius Priscus, also called Tarquin the Elder or Tarquin I, was the fifth King of Rome from (616 BC to 579 BC). His wife was Tanaquil. According to Livy, Tarquinius Priscus came from the Etruscan city of Tarquinii. Livy claims that his first name Lucius was a Latinization of his original Etruscan name Lucumo, but since Lucumo (Etruscan Lauchme) is the Etruscan word for “King”, there is reason to believe that Priscus’ name and title have been confused in the official tradition. Disgruntled with his opportunities in Etruria, he migrated to Rome with his wife Tanaquil, at her suggestion. He had been prohibited from obtaining political office in Tarquinii because of the ethnicity of his father, Demaratus the Corinthian, who came from the Greek city of Corinth. Legend has it that on his arrival in Rome in a chariot, an eagle took his cap, flew away and then returned it back upon his head. Tanaquil, who was skilled in prophecy, interpreted this as an omen of his future greatness. In Rome he attained great respect through generosity and skill. King Ancu Marcius himself noticed him and adopted him as his son, also appointing him guardian of his other sons. After the death of Ancus Marcius, Tarquinius Priscus was able to convince the People’s Assembly that he should be elected king over Marcius’ natural sons. His military ability was immediately tested by an attack from the Sabines. The attack was defeated after dangerous street fighting in Rome, and he then further subjugated the Etruscans. Thus the cities Corniculum, Firulea, Cameria, Crustumerium, Americola, Medullia and Nomentum became Roman. After each of his wars, which were always extremely successful, he brought rich plunder to Rome. He doubled the size of the Centuriate Assembly to 1800 people, and added another hundred men to the Senate from the ranks of the lower classes. Among them was the family of the Octavii, the family of the future first emperor Augustus. He also concerned himself further with state festivals and with the expansion of the state. At first he erected the Circus Maximus as a separate building for horse racing. Previously the spectators watched the races between the Aventine and Palatine hills sitting on wooden platforms at best. From then on large games were regularly organized there. After a great flood, the damp lowlands of Rome were drained by the construction of the Cloaca Maxima (great sewer) to create a site for the Forum Romanum. As his last great act he began the construction of a temple in honour of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline Hill, partially funded by plunder seized from the Latins Sabines. Many of the Roman symbols both of war and of civil office date from his reign, and he was the first to celebrate a Roman triumph, after the Etruscan fashion, wearing a robe of purple and gold, and borne on a chariot drawn by four horses. Meanwhile the now adult sons of his predecessor Ancus Marcius thought that the throne should fall to them. Thus they arranged for Tarquinius Priscus to be assassinated with an axe blow to the head. Thanks to the intelligent foresight of the queen Tanaquil however, the sons of Ancus were not chosen, but rather Tarquinius’ son-in-law Servius Tullius, husband of his daughter Tarquinia, was elected as his successor. Tarquinius reigned for 38 years. His other daughter Tarquinia married Marcus Junius Brutus, and his sons were Lucius Tarquinius Superbus and Aruns Tarquinius, who married his niece Tullia, daughter of Servius Tullius, and by her was murdered at the instigation of his son-in-law, who succeeded him.
Reign of Servius Tillius
Servius Tullius was the sixth legendary king of ancient Rome and the second king of the Etruscan dynasty. The traditional dates of his reign are 578-535 BC. Described in one account as originally a slave, he is said to have married a daughter of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, and succeeded him after the latter’s assassination in 579 BC. He was the first king to cometo power without the consultation of the plebeians, having gained the throne by the contrivance of Tanaquil, his mother-in-law. In this account (found in Livy) Tullius was anointed as a young child to become king, after a ring of fire was seen around his head. He was then raised as a prince. Incidentally, Livy did not believe that Servius Tullius was born a slave. Livy postulated that Tullius’ mother was a queen of an Etruscan city which had been sacked by the Romans. His mother was captured and to pay homage to her regal origins she was allowed to live in the palace. Another version, quoted in a speech to the Senate by Claudius, represented him as a soldier of fortune originally named Macstarna, from Etruria, who attached himself to Caelius Vibenna. After various adventures Caelius was beaten but Macstarna came to Rome with the remnants of his army. Macstarna named the Caelian Hill after his deceased friend, but some suppose Caelius Vibenna to have placed a settlement there. King Servius Tullius, according to the Roman historians, initiated the first census. The noun comes from the participle of the Latin verb, censere, “to judge” or “to estimate”. The census was an estimation of the total personal assets of Rome. Servius Tullius used it as a gauge of military capability. The Roman census as practiced by Servius was quite different from our census, which aims at counting and locating people. Servius made sure those functions were performed, but he was primarily interested in property assessments. Dividing the populace into classes according to their wealth, he used the census to determine the number of potential soldiers and the amount of arms and equipment they could provide to Rome, as the army at that time was primarily funded by private, not public resources. Servius wanted to know who could fund what, who was bearing an unfair burden, and who may have been shirking their responsibilities to the kingdom. Neither the census nor the classification significantly altered social status in Rome. Servius ordered that Roman senators must own at least 800,000 sesterces to sit in the Senate, although the senators already all owned that and much more. Similarly, Roman or knights, needed to own at least 400,000 sesterces, but there is no record of being disenfranchised because of a lack of property or assets.
Reign of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus
Lucius Tarquinius Superbus (also called Tarquin the Proud or Tarquin II) was the last of the seven legendary kings of Rome, son of Tarquinius Priscus and son-in-law of Servius Tullius, the sixth king. The historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus may have divided one historical figure named Tarquin into two separate kings because of problems with dating their legendary events. Traditionally he was of Etruscan descent and ruled between 535/534 BC and 510 BC, in the years immediately before his expulsion and the founding of the Roman Republic Tarquin’s reign was characterised by bloodshed and violence; his son Sextus Tarquinius’ rape of Lucretia laid the seeds for the revolt, led by Lucretia’s kinsman Lucius Junius Brutus (himself a member of the Tarquin dynasty) and Lucretia’s widowed husband. The uprising resulted in the expulsion of most of the royal family, after Tarquin had reigned for twenty-five years, and Brutus became one of the first consuls of the Roman Republic.After his exile, Tarquin attempted to gain the support of other Etruscan andLatin kings, claiming that the republicanism would spread beyond Rome. Even though the powerful Etruscan lord Lars Porsenna of Clusium (modern Chiusi) backed Tarquin’s return, all efforts to force his way back to the throne were in vain. He left two older sons, Titus Tarquinius and the Aruns Tarquinius, who was killed in 509 BC in one of his father’s wars to regain the throne. Tarquin died in exile at Cumae in Campania in 496 BC. Tarquin’s death ended the time of the Kings; the Roman people would no longer trust sole power in one ruler and so a Republic was formed.
Caligula (reign 37 AD-41AD) was born Gaius Julius Caesar, He was name after his ancester Gaius Julius Caesar. It is believed that he was born somewhere at Tiber but according to Pliny the Elder he was born in Treveri in a village of Ambitarvium. Agrippina bore 3 girls Agrippina the Younger, Drusilla, and Livilla and 3 boys Nero, Drusus and Gaius (later knows as Caligula). Little Gaius earned his surname when Agrippina dressed Gaius in a miniature soldiers uniform with soldiers boots name caliga, which meant “”little boots”” Gaius saw his father Germanicus go into battle to defeat the Germanic Tribes that massacred the legions of Publius Quinctilius Varus. One of the worst defeats in Roman history. On Germanicus return from Germania to Rome he had a magnificent triumph. Later on was sent to Syria and suddenly fell ill and died. It has been said that Gnaeus Piso was the one that poisoned Germanicus on orders of Tiberius. Later on Piso was executed or commited suicide. Germanicus last words were said to be to Agrippina telling her that he suspected that Tiberius had sent someone to poison him and to stay quiet for the sake of their children. It was wise advise but agrippina did not listen instead spoke publicly about Tiberius. Later Tiberius persuaded the Senate to execute Agrippina, Nero and Drusus as public enemies. The 3 girls and lil Gaius were saved by their youth but Nero, Drusus and Agrippina the Elder weren’t so lucky. They were first exiled on a remote island. Agrippina is believed to starved to death and Nero and Drusus either commited suicide or starved to death. The children were sent with their grandmother Livia then after she died with their other grandmother Antonia.
With the death of his mother and 2 brothers Gaius didn’t have anyone but his sisters to turn to. According to Suetonius he had incest with his sister drusilla. While living with his grandmother with Antonia he was summoned by Tiberius on the island of Capreae at the age of 18. Gaius didn’t know what to expect and was scared and nervous at the time. Courtiers tried every trick to lure or force him into making complaints againts Tiberius; always, however, without success. Tiberius once said:
I am nursing a viper for the Roman people!
Soon Gaius married Junia Claudilla, daughter of Marcus Silanus. Later on died in childbirth. He was appointed Augur, in the place of his brother Drusus, and then promoted Priesthood. This encouraged him to become Tiberius successor.
In Capraea he witnessed many executions of condemned. He loved watching excutions. They were throwned off a cliff and by any chance they would of survived there were sailors waiting to strike them in the head to death. Gaius loved seeing tortures and executions. At night he would wear a cloak and wig to go out to orgies and adulterous livings. He mentioned once tha at night once he went into Tiberius bedroom, he sneaked in with a dagger with the intent, only to avenge his mother and brothers, But only in pity, threw the dagger and went out. Tiberius was perfectly aware of what had happened, yet never dared to question him or take any action on the matter.
Some believe the downfall of Sejanus was he was trying to murder the Imperial Family. Sejanus was summoned by Tiberius, then executed. According to Suetonius he murdered Drusus, Tiberius son, so with that he had no option but to make Gaius and Gemellus his Heirs. It was also said that Gaius smothered him with a pillow and then asked for Tiberius ring. When the news arrived to Rome “”one might almost say, to the whole world – like a dream come true.””
THE NEW EMPEROR
On the arrival, the Senate granted him full powers and authority upon him. He delivered a funeral speech in Tiberius honor to a vast crowd and gave him a magnificent burial. As soon it was over he sailed to Pandataria and the Pontian Islands to fetch batch the remains of his mother and his brother Nero. He arranged that the most distinguished Knights available should carry them to the Mausoleum in two Biers. He chose his uncle Claudius as his Co-Consul and adopted Tiberius Gemellus when he came of age, also giving him the official title “”Prince of Youth.”” He recalled all exiles and the dismissal of all criminals charges whatsoever that had been pending. He completed certain projects half finished by Tiberius: namely, the Temple of Augustus and Pompey’s Theater; and began the construction of an aqueduct in the Tibur district, and of an amphitheatre near the Enclosure. Gaius also built the ruinous ancient walls and temples of Syracuse.
REIGN OF MADNESS
When he fell ill, anxious crowds besieged the palace all night. Some swore that they would fight as gladiators if the gods allowed him to recover. Others even carried placards volunteering to die instead of him. After his recovery his reign of terror began. Gemellus was among the first to die. Anyone who criticized him or his entertainment was to put death. Anyone who had finer hair than his was put to death. Once there was a condemned man in the arena that yelled out that he was innocent, Caligula pulled him out of the arena had his tongue cut off and then carried out the sentence.
He made advances to almost every woman of rank in Rome. After inviting a section of them to dinner wit their husbands he would slowly and carefully examine each in turn while they passed his couch, whenever he felt so inclined he would send for whoever pleased him the best and leave the banquet in her company. A little later he would return, showing obvious signs what he had been about, and openly discuss his bed-fellow in detail, dwelling on her good and bad physical points and commenting on her sexual performance, to some of these unfortunates. He issued, and publicly registered, divorces in the names of their absent husbands.
Often he would he would send for men whom he had secretly killed, as though they were still alive, and remark off-handedly a few days later that they must of committed suicide. More than once he closed granaries and let the people go hungry. At one time he collected wild animals for one of his shows. He found butcher’s meat too expensive and decided to feed them criminals instead. Many were condemned in cages and had to crouch on all four like animals, or were sawn in half but merely criticizing his shows, or failing to swear by his genius.
The method of execution he preferred was to inflict numerous small woulds; and his familiar order: ‘Make him feel that he is dying!’ soon became proverbial. Once, when the wrong man had been killed, owing to a confusion of names, he announced that the victim had equally deserved death; and often quoted Accius’ line:
Let the hate me, so long as they fear me
When his sister Drusilla died he made it a capital ofence to take a shower or have dinner with your families. He made a magnificent funeral for her. He exiled his two sisters for a conspiracy and tried to assassinate him and put their husbands to death.
Soon he met Caesonia, she was neither young nor beautiful, and had three daughters by a former husband, Besides being recklessly extravagant and utterly promiscous. Yet he loved her with a passionate faithfulness and often, when reviewing the troops, used to take her out riding in helmet, cloak, and shields. For his friends he even paraded her naked; but would not allow her the dignified title of wife until she borne him a child. He name the child Julia Drusilla, and carried her around the temples of all the goddesses in turn before finally entrusting her to the lap of Minerva.
On 24 January just past the midday, Gaius seated in the Theater, he could not make up his mind whether to adjourn for lunch; he felt a little queasy after too heavy a banquet on the previous night. His friends persuaded him to come out with them. Chaerea came up behind Gaius as he stood talking to the boys and with a cry of ‘Take this!’ gave him a deep sword-wound in the neck, whereupon Sabinus, the other colonel, stabbed him in the breast. Gaius lay writhing on the ground. ‘Im still alive!’ he shouted, but the word came around ‘strike again’ he succumbed to thirty further wounds, including sword-thrusts thorough the genitals. His bearers rushed to help him, using their litter-poles and soon his German bodyguards appeared, killing several of the assassins and a few innocent senators into the bargains.
He died at the age of twenty-nine after ruling for three years and ten months, and eight days. his body was moved secretly to the Lamian Gardens, half-cremated on a hastily-built pyre, an then buried beneath a shallow covering of sods. Later when his sister returned from exile they exhumed, cremated and entombed it. His wife Caesonia and his daughter had the same fate as Gaius and did not survived. They were both also assassinated by the pretorian guards.
source: Suetonius – The Twelve Caesars
Around 800 BC this enclosed, static society began to change. The spur was increasing population, growing prosperity at home and renewed contacts with traders from the Levant. The traders were Phoenicians, a Semitic people from the coast of modern Lebanon who founded Carthage near modern Tunis in 814 BC. The use of iron also spread, giving Greek farmers metal axes, ploughs and other useful implements. But Greek society remained essentially aristocratic, meaning ruled by aristori (the best), as hereditary nobles modestly called themselves.
Eastern influence first appear in art, depicting humans and animals, often mythical such as sphinxes, in freer if not yet realistic ways. But the greatest single change was revival of literacy. Around 770 BC Greeks, probably poets, adopted the Phoenician alphabet, adding the vowels needed for Greeks to make 24 letters and adjusting the symbols. Semitic aleph became Greek alpha, the first letter. More flexible and easier to learn than the 300 character Mycenaean system, the new alphabet spread around the the Greek world. Our own Roman alphabet derives directly from it. One of the first users of literacy was to record the works of homer, the greatest Greek poet.
HOMER’S ILIAD AND ODYSSEY
There are no reliable details about Homer’s life but he probably lived around 750 BC on the island of Chios or the Ionian mainland, and perhaps was blind. Whether the two great Homer poems, The Iliad an The Odyssey
, were written by the same person is still debated. Homer’s theme in The Iliad is wrath of Prince Achilles and disastrous effects on the last stages of the ten year Trojan War, of wich he gives only fleeting glimpses. In this grand tragedy he lauded heroic values such as philotimon (love of honour), arete (meaning variously courage, excellence, perfection), endurance and a fiercely competitive individualism.
By contrast in The Odyssey, his adventure story comedy, Odysseus triumphs chiefly by craftiness. Homers description of an aristocrat society led by kings, with the voices of common people such as Thersites firmly ignored, inadvertently mingles current Iron Age customs with those of the Bronze Age. His heroes ride into the battle in Mycenaean chariots and carry Bronze Age giant shields but they are cremated not buried as Mycenaean were. Although they lived in palaces , these are simply large houses of real Mycenae or Pylos. Queen Penelope, wife of wandering Odysseus her own wool. Homer’s influence on later Greeks has compared to that of the Bible an Shakespeare combined.
All Greeks with any education could quote Homer, and he inspired men as diverse as the philosopher Socrates and Alexander The Great. In portraying the twelve Olympians (the chief gods on Mt Olympus) light hardheartedly as super-sized humans, Homer’s writing had beneficial side effects. If even Zeus, king of the gods, could be portrayed as hen pecked by his wife Hera, there was small danger of Greeks being totally over-awed by their gods majesty. The Greeks never had a special priestly caste or clergy. This helped philosophy that quest for truth by non-religious means to spring up in Ionia two centuries later.
THE POET HESIOD
Balancing the exuberant aristocratic splendor of Homer’s world are the theognis and works and days of Hesiod, a poet who lived slightly later around 700 BC in rural Boeotia, an area noted for its dullness. An independent small farmer, Hesiod grumbles at the rich and at the weather, but provides useful advice to his feckless brother on when to sow or plough. He has a strong distrust of seafaring and a peasant attitude to accruing more land. In his Theognis hegave a systematic genealogy for the gods and an account of divine myths, darker in tone than Homer’s, that also prove very influential on later generations.
In the 3rd millennium BC a prosperous Bronze Age culture developed in the Greek peninsula in small towns in the Peloponnese. Around 2000bc they were destroyed by invaders, probably from the north, and for a time urban life totally disappeared.
Then in 1600 bc a new civilization emerged from the ashes and built amazing tombs at Mycenae in the north west Peloponnese filled with many gold artifacts. This was probably due to the rise of powerful new kings, not new invasions, but its not known for sure.
In Greek legend, including Homer’s great poems The Iliad and The Odyssey written in the 8th century BC, Mycenae was a paramount kingdom, so the first Greek civilization was called Mycenaean. But in Achaean, the term used by both Homer and contemporary Hittite kings in Anatolia who had diplomatic relations with them, is more apposite. Nothing suggests that Bronze age Greeks were politically united under Mycenae, although it probably controlled the Argolid plain beneath its citadel, from which paved roads radiated.
MYCENAEAN CULTURE EMERGES
Among cultural imports from Crete was writing in Linear B, subsequently adopted in Mycenaean centers. These included nearby Tiryns, Thebes and Orchomenus in central Greece, Athens and Pylos in the south west Peloponnese. Excavations at Pylos have unearthed a complete Mycenaean palace, with elegant tapering columns and murals depicting hippogriffs and other mythical figures. Uniquely, Pylos was unwalled Linear B tablets found they reveal a bureaucracy trying to control almost every aspect of daily life. Mycenaean culture spread north to Thessaly, across the Aegean to Miletus on the Asian shore and east to Cyprus. There was probably a palace near Sparta in the fertile Eurotas valley, but none has been found.
Mycenaean wealth grew throughout the 14th century BC. It probably came from both trading and raiding piracy, Thucydides noted, was socially perfectly acceptable in legendary times. Greek artifacts mainly pottery, have been found as far as Sicily and as far east as Syria. Mycenaean outposts replaced Minoans after 1400BC, but the Mycenaeans soon ventured further north than Cretans had ever sailed. To protect Mycenae against threats from abroad or at home, massive new walls were built around its citadel, incorporating the earlier grave circles. The towering Lions Gate, with two lions flanking a pillar, dominated the new approach. Below, houses belonging to nobles, craftsmen and traders made up a little city. Most palaces had a pillared megarron (throne-room), but a few reveal much evidence of planning.
THE ENIGMA OF TROY
Up by the Hellespont (Dardanelles) the Mycenaeans found the ancient trading city of Troy, controlling trade routes from the Black Sea, a good enough cause for war. The Trojan War, the epic ten year war siege variously estimated to have occurred between 1250 and 1190BC, remains one of archeology’s enigmas. There was a city destroyed around there and then, Troy VIIA, and recent excavations have shown that this was larger than once thought, with impressive palaces. Perhaps a Greek army led by Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, did besieged Troy to retrieve Helen, the beautiful wife of the Spartan king, that was abducted by the Trojan prince Paris, as recounted by homer’s Iliad. Or perhaps it did not. But the 13th century certainly ended in general wars. Mycenaean civilization, top-heavy, collapsed soon after.