Scott's GLADIATOR is a great film.
it great history?
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in the movie.
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can be nobody so petty or so apathetic in his outlook that he has no desire
to discover by what means and under what system of government the Romans
succeeded in...bringing under their rule almost the whole of the inhabited
world. Polybius Histories 1.1.5
CE d. Ruled 27 BCE-14 CE ||
Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (Augustus)
political reforms implemented by Octavian, later the Divine Augustus Caesar,
laid the foundation for a new society and influenced the western world for
over a millennium.
are his accomplishments in his own words:
from the Acts of the Divine Augustus (Res Gestae Divi Augusti)
description of Livia, his wife, from the ancient historian Tacitus:
had gained such a hold on the aged Augustus that he drove out as an exile
into the island of Planasia, his only grandson, Agrippa Postumus, who, though
devoid of worthy qualities, and having only the brute courage of physical
strength, had not been convicted of any gross offence"
Augustus of Primaporta | Marble | Vatican Museum, Rome | c. 20 BCE |
the fact was, Tiberius as he was just entering Illyria was summoned home by
an urgent letter from his mother (Livia), and it has not been thoroughly ascertained
whether at the city of Nola he found Augustus still breathing or quite lifeless.
For Livia had surrounded the house and its approaches with a strict watch,
and favorable bulletins were published from time to time... (but) Augustus
was dead and that Tiberius Nero was master of the State."
[The Diefied Augustus, appearing on the reverse of a coin of Caligula] PATER PATRIAE DIVVS AVG Augustus facing right, wearing radiate crown.
transference of the seat of government from Augustus to Livia's son Nero meant
that his power had to be sealed at all quarters. The following quote is revealing
of how power was shared among groups in Rome:
Pompeius and Sextus Apuleius, the consuls, were the first to swear allegiance
to Tiberius Caesar, and in their presence the oath was taken by Seius Strabo
and Caius Turranius, respectively the commander of the praetorian cohorts
and the superintendent of the corn supplies. Then the Senate, the soldiers
and the people did the same"
58 BCE - 29 CE: Roman empress, wife of the emperor Augustus|| Livia Drusila
23 BCE - 33 CE|| Vipsania Agrippina I (Agrippina the Elder)
was the granddaughter of Augustus, by way of his only daughter Julia,
and her husband, Augustus' faithful friend and confidant Agrippa and mother of Caligula.
was married to the popular Roman general and consul, Germanicus.
accompanied Germanicus on his military campaigns, (it is from his victories
which Germanicus posthumously secured the name "Germanicus",
similar to Scipio Africanus securing the name "Africanus") and
she apparently was very much admired by the Roman soldiers. Tacitus wrote
"that brave woman (Agrippina) took on the duties of a general throughout
those days... it is said that... she stood at the front of the bridge
and gave thanks and praise to the returning legions."
the death of Agrippa, Julia married her stepbrother Tiberius.
This was a marriage of political convenience, as had been her marriage to
Agrippa. Agrippina's mother Julia was eventually banished to
the island of Pandateria by her grandfather Augustus, due to her sexual infidelity.
Agrippina never saw her mother again; by order of Tiberius, Julia was starved
Germanicus died in the Eastern city of Antioch in 19 CE under mysterious circumstances.
It was reported that his corpse showed signs of being poisoned. It is widely
believed that if he had not died at this early age, that he would have become
emperor, for Augustus had Tiberius adopt him as his son for this purpose.
[Coin of Agrippina I] AGRIPPINA MF MAT C CAESARIS AVGVSTI Agrippina Draped bust facing right.
Tiberius was never as popular with the Roman people as was the successful
general Germanicus, and Agrippina became convinced that he was murdered
by his command. Agrippina brought her husband's ashes back to
Rome, and they were placed in the Augustan Mausoleum.
chief suspect in Germanicus' death was charged with treason, and committed
suicide. Rumor spread that he did so to avoid having to reveal the fact that
Tiberius was behind the murder plot. Graffiti stating "Rendite nos Germanicum",
meaning "Give us back Germanicus," started to appear all over Rome. Agrippina,
determined to appease the memory of her husband and bring down Tiberius, is
reported to have lead riots against Tiberius.
hostility between Agrippina and Tiberius increased, and Tiberius accused her
of having an affair with Ascinius Gallus. She was captured and flogged so
severely by a centurion as punishment that she lost an eye.
she, along with her son Nero Caesar, were banished to the island of Pandateria,
as her mother Julia had been. She died here of starvation ca. 31 CE.
early in her career she demonstrated the ancient feminine virtues of fidelity,
loyalty, and fertility, some historians argue that it was stepping outside
of this traditional role and becoming overtly political which led to her downfall.
son, the notorious Caligula, became emperor upon Tiberius' death.
The Battle of Teutoburg Forest
important defeat for the Roman military, as three legions were annihilated,
almost to a man, by the German Cherusci tribe under the leadership of Arminius.
Between 20,000 to 25,000 Roman soldiers are believed to have been massacred.
The Roman commander, Publius Quintilius Varus, committed suicide in disgrace.
The Battle of Teutoburg Forest
14 CE - 37 CE: Roman Emperor Tiberius
The Life of Tiberius
c. 23 CE b. ||
Pliny the Elder
an important writer and encyclopaedist, and authority on science. He reputedly
died in 79 while observing the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
35 CE-c. 66 CE || Petronius
is the author of the Satyricon, the oldest extant novel. The value
of the Satyricon, aside from being highly entertaining, and
whatever literary merits it may possess, is that it provides insight, rarely
provided by ancient authors, into the daily life of characters outside of
the upper echelons of Roman society.
Street Musicians | Mosaic | Dioskourides of Samos | Pompeii | c. 100 BCE |
himself was quite a character, and in the end committed suicide, after having
been accused, perhaps falsely, of taking part in a plot against the Emperor
Nero, for whom he was the arbiter elegantiae, or put simply, in charge of
designing the most entertaining parties possible for the pleasure of Nero
and his guests. As a member of Nero's court and former governor of Bithynia
and consul, Petronius was certainly not from the lower stratum of Roman society.
But he was no stranger to the wilder side of Roman life either.
passed his days in sleep, and his nights in business, or in joy and revelry.
Indolence was at once his passion and his road to fame. What others did by
vigor and industry, he accomplished by his love of pleasure and luxurious
ease. Unlike the men who profess to understand social enjoyment, and ruin
their fortunes, he led a life of expense, without profusion; an epicure, yet
not a prodigal; addicted to his appetites, but with taste and judgment; a
refined and elegant voluptuary.
the man to design entertainments for the Emperor Nero, the self proclaimed
artiste, and lover of lavish, decadent amusements. Tacitus says that "Without
the sanction of Petronius nothing was exquisite, nothing rare or delicious."
favour with Nero did not sit well with others:
the jealousy of Tigellinus, who dreaded a rival in the good graces of the
Emperor almost his equal; in the science of luxury his superior. Tigellinus
determined to work his downfall; and accordingly addressed himself to the
cruelty of the Prince,-- that master passion, to which all other affections
and every motive were sure to give way. He charged Petronius with having lived
in close intimacy with Scaevinus, the conspirator; and to give color to that
assertion, he bribed a slave to turn informer against his master."
with this accusation, Petronius took his life:
opened his veins, and closed them again, at intervals losing a small quantity
of blood, then binding up the orifice, as his own inclination prompted. He
conversed during the whole time with his usual gayety, never changing his
habitual manner, nor talking sentences to show his contempt of death.
not without some revenge upon Nero, for, knowing the secrets of Nero's vices
with intimate detail he:
written, under the fictitious names of profligate men and women, a narrative
of Nero's debauchery and his new modes of vice, he had the spirit to send
to the Emperor that satirical romance...Nero saw with surprise his clandestine
passions and the secrets of his midnight revels laid open to the world."
suggests that this was not the Satyricon, and unfortunately, does not
The Satyricon tells of the wicked adventures of the friends, rivals, and
petty thieves Encolpius, Ascyltos, and the younger Giton, thus providing valuable
insight into the morality and values of the day.
it is important to interpret the Satyricon as the satirical fiction
that it is, it does provide us with a look at some female character types
that the historians tended to leave out of their works.
for instance, "a very handsome woman, who had come with Lichas, master
of a ship and owner of estates near the seacoast" quickly becomes intimate
with Encolpius and as he says "readily acceded to my wishes." She
also "was desperately enamored of Giton."
surprisingly, Tryphaena and Encolpius quarrel:
proclaimed her baseness to the crowds of people our altercation had attracted,
and in token of the truth of my allegations, I showed them Giton pale and
bloodless and myself brought to death's door by the strumpet's wantonness.
The crowd burst into loud shouts of laughter, which so abashed our adversaries
that they withdrew, crestfallen and vowing vengeance..."
they encounter a secret mystery cult, comprised of women:
nightfall we met in a remote spot two respectably robed and good-looking women,
and followed them slowly and softly to a small temple, which they entered, and from which a strange humming was audible, like the sound of voices issuing
from the recesses of a cavern. Curiosity impelled us likewise to enter the
temple, and there we beheld a number of women, resembling Bacchantes, each
brandishing an emblem of Priapus (the god of fertility) in her right hand.
This was all we were permitted to see; for the instant they caught sight of
us, they set up such a shouting the vault of the sacred building trembled,
and tried to seize hold of us. But we fled as fast as our legs would carry
The God Priapus | Fresco | House of the Vettii, Pompeii | c. 60 CE |
confronted by one of the participants:
wrings my heart and drives me almost to despair is the dread that in your
youthful levity you may reveal what you saw in the shrine of Priapus, and
betray the counsels of the gods to the common herd. his legacy of debauchery was in fact so strong to the Romans that even centuries later, historians contemporary to both Commodus and Elagabalus invoked his memory as a "monster" in order to compare the perversions between these men who have now become remembered as the three most eccentric of Rome's rulers.
37 CE - 41 CE: Roman Emperor ||Caligula
Caligula remains the gold standard in the archetypical debauched, perverted, and maniacal ruler, not nearly up to the task that fate has handed him, and who thus escapes via his own self-destruction.
Although history has exaggerated him, his legacy of debauchery was in fact so strong to the Romans that even centuries later, historians contemporary to both Commodus and Elagabalus invoked his memory as a "monster" in order to compare the perversions between these men who have now become remembered as the three most eccentric of Rome's rulers.
[Coin of Caligula] Reverse: AGRIPPINA DRVSILLA IVLIA SC All standing with cornucopaie, robed, bare midriff and leg, laureate.
Similarly each of these emperors became marginalized even to the point that all in turn were ex-judicially murdered, and if not justified by codex, the act was certainly not opposed in any great measure, in each case, for the sake of the preservation of a viable political state, and for the sake of preserving the core Roman values that had been seen to have been tortured by them during their corresponding reigns.
Life of Caligula
CE b. 65 CE d.|| Marcus Annaeus Lucanus (Lucan)
poet and historian, wrote:
Pharsalia (The Civil Wars)
41CE - 54 CE: Roman Emperor ||Claudius
Life of Claudius
Died 59 CE: Roman Empress ||Agrippina Minor