V. The Gracchi

The Gracchi
A 19th-century sculpture of Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus. The two brothers came to be seen as the voice of the Roman people’s anger at the rampant social injustice of their time.


Tiberius Gracchus was no typical Roman noble. Born around 169 BC, he was the son of a plebeian father and an aristocratic mother. On his mother’s side Tiberius was also a grandson of the famous Roman general Scipio Africanus, and his early career involved Continue reading V. The Gracchi

IV. Conquest and Consequence: Rome’s Eastern Expansion

With the end of the Second Punic War, the victorious Roman Republic was now a serious contender for dominance across the Mediterranean. Now that Carthage had been defeated, Rome was free to expand its interests further afield. With the western Mediterranean firmly in Roman hands, the logical course of action was for Rome to now turn its attention to the Greek-speaking east.


The eastern Mediterranean was the Hellenistic world born from the conquests of Alexander the Great. While the Roman Republic had still been in its infancy, Alexander had been Continue reading IV. Conquest and Consequence: Rome’s Eastern Expansion

III. The Punic Wars: Baptism of Fire

Hannibal Barca crosses a river with his army during his journey through the Alps. Hannibal's crossing of the Alps is one of the most iconic events of the Punic Wars.
Hannibal Barca crosses a river with his army during his journey through the Alps. Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps has become one of the most iconic events of the Punic Wars.


By 264 BC, both Carthage and the Roman Republic had become well-established powers.


Rome had secured its dominance over the Italian peninsula, using armies to smash its enemies and inclusive sociopolitical policies to turn defeated foes into friends.


Carthage, on the other hand, was a city in what is now North Africa that had begun Continue reading III. The Punic Wars: Baptism of Fire

II. Dawn of the Roman Republic

For hundreds of years, early Rome was ruled by kings. Supposedly Romulus became the city’s first king, cementing his place in Roman legend regardless of whether or not the man ever actually existed. In either case, the kings of Rome that came after him would follow his example and rule the city as they saw fit. Some kings helped Rome expand its power by conquest, some devoted themselves to religious matters, some planned construction projects across the city. Whatever their priorities, the kings of Rome all had one thing in common: once they had acquired the title of king the position, and all its powers, were theirs for life.


However, after centuries of royal rule a dispute between a king of Rome and his people would result in the end of the monarchy and the beginning of a new form of government, with far-reaching consequences for both Rome and the world. It would be the dawn of the Roman Republic.


The Romans themselves leave us the story of a Continue reading II. Dawn of the Roman Republic

I. Humble Origins?

Romulus, Remus and the she-wolf
The legend of Romulus and Remus features prominently in Roman mythology.


The city of Rome has existed for thousands of years, and we know few details for certain about its origins. Additionally, there are no written records by the Romans themselves that survive from the time of Rome’s founding. The Romans themselves began their calendar with what they set as the year of the city’s founding, a year that corresponds in our modern calendar as 753 BC.


Today, we know from archeological studies that permanent settlers had been living in the area since around 1000 BC, but these could have instead been a collection of small tribes living in nearby but separate villages clustered around the Seven Hills of Rome. Since these ‘early Romans’ may not have considered their settlements as parts of a greater city, we generally accept 753 BC as at least a rough estimate of Rome’s beginning as a city, if not a settled area.


The Romans themselves shared two legends of the founding of their city: the story of the twin brothers Romulus and Remus, and the tale of Aeneas, the Trojan prince who escaped his doomed homeland to find himself a new home in Italy. The story of Romulus and Remus probably originated mostly from local folklore, whereas Continue reading I. Humble Origins?

Roman Citizenship

Roman citizens


What did it mean to be a citizen of ancient Rome?


There were not only sharp divisions in Roman society between citizens and noncitizens, but also a distinct hierarchy of class within the citizen body. As time went on Roman society naturally evolved and became more complex, and this hierarchy evolved along with it.


Like the ancient Greeks before them the Romans considered citizenship a privileged status. Citizenship offered Continue reading Roman Citizenship