Category Archives: History of Ancient Rome

XIV. The Troubled Dynasty

A bust of Septimius Severus. More of a warlord than an emperor, Septimius and his successors openly disregarded any matter of state that did not concern the Roman army. This would produce dire long-term consequences.


The Severans would be the last imperial family to rule Rome before the chaos of the third century AD, and the changes that followed, would permanently alter the nature of the imperial office itself.


For Rome, the Severan dynasty was Continue reading XIV. The Troubled Dynasty

XIII. The Five Good Emperors: Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius

A bust of Marcus Aurelius. Remembered as one of the most able, temperate and conscientious of Rome’s emperors, Marcus was also an accomplished Stoic philosopher.


For over twenty years, Hadrian ruled the Roman Empire with wisdom, diligence and a firm, steady hand. However, like Trajan before him, Hadrian had no sons of his own. By about 136 AD the emperor’s health was in decline, and so Roman politics turned yet again towards the question of the imperial succession.


At first the childless Hadrian had sought to follow Nerva’s example by adopting a son to Continue reading XIII. The Five Good Emperors: Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius

XII. The Five Good Emperors: Nerva, Trajan and Hadrian

Domitian Wearing Laurel Crown
A bust of Domitian. The assassination of this paranoid emperor in September 96 AD was followed by the accession of Nerva, the first of the Five Good Emperors.


On 18 September, 96 AD the Year of the Four Emperors threatened to repeat itself when the Emperor Domitian was murdered in his palace. A son of the much-beloved Vespasian, Domitian had ruled as Roman Emperor for 15 years after the deaths of his father and older brother. Domitian was popular with the Roman army but hated by most Roman senators for refusing to pay lip service to the Senate’s admittedly limited role in imperial politics. This didn’t seem to bother the emperor; Domitian was an autocrat, and apparently he saw no reason why he shouldn’t behave like one.


However, as the years went by Domitian, much like Nero, became increasingly Continue reading XII. The Five Good Emperors: Nerva, Trajan and Hadrian

XI. The Year of the Four Emperors

Battle of Bedriacum
Legionaries of Otho and Vitellius clash at the Battle of Bedriacum on 14 April, 69 AD. Tens of thousands of Roman soldiers perished during the battle, the tragic but predictable outcome when the highly-trained men of the Roman army were forced to fight each other. Image courtesy of Pinterest and Osprey Publishing


Nero was dead. The throne was vacant. The rebellious governor of Spain, Servius Sulpicius Galba, began preparing to take it as soon as he heard the news. By October, 68 AD he had reached Rome with an army at his back. By that time, the nervous and defenseless Senate had already ratified Galba’s appointment to the imperial office.


As he ascended the throne, Emperor Galba had every reason to Continue reading XI. The Year of the Four Emperors

X. The Early Caesars: Claudius and Nero

Claudius Caesar
A bust of Claudius. Although he was never expected to rule, Claudius became emperor after Caligula’s murder in 41 AD. “Claudius_MAN_Napoli_Inv6060” by Marie-Lan Nguyen is licensed under CC BY 2.5


Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (or simply Claudius, as he’s better known) was an abnormality in more ways than one.


No one had ever expected Claudius to rule Rome. Though he had Continue reading X. The Early Caesars: Claudius and Nero

IX. The Early Caesars: Tiberius and Caligula

Tiberius Caesar
A bust of the Emperor Tiberius. A grim and unhappy man, he succeeded to the throne in 14 AD.


As Augustus approached the end of his lifetime, he had every reason to feel proud of himself.


His incredibly accomplished career had brought an end to a hundred years of instability and civil strife. He had unified, strengthened, enriched and expanded the Roman world, masterminding its transformation from Continue reading IX. The Early Caesars: Tiberius and Caligula

VIII. Augustus and the End of the Republic: Part 2

Augustus wearing the laurel crown


It had taken nearly 15 years of blood, sweat and sleepless nights but now Octavian, like Caesar before him, had finally clawed his way to the top and made himself master of the Roman world. However, his work was far from finished, and the question Octavian now had to Continue reading VIII. Augustus and the End of the Republic: Part 2

VII. Augustus and the End of the Republic: Part 1

Augustus of Prima Porta
Statue-Augustus” by Till Niermann is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0


Gaius Octavius Thurinus was no one special. At least, that was how he would’ve seemed to anyone who knew him as a boy. As the clever but perpetually ill son of a minor Roman nobleman, no one could have known that little Gaius would grow up to change the course of Roman history. No one could have known that Continue reading VII. Augustus and the End of the Republic: Part 1

VI. Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar


By the end of the second century BC, stability in Roman society and politics was starting to unravel. Though the Roman Republic itself was stronger, larger and wealthier than ever before, the Roman people had never been more divided.


Upper-class Romans were becoming increasingly rich and powerful, profiting from successful wars of foreign conquest and prestigious careers in politics, but most citizens Continue reading VI. Julius Caesar

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