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Classical Studies 202 Ancient Roman Society Lecture # 10 -TAKE UP TEST #2- -MYSTERY RELIGIONS- -CHRISTIANITY- -BREAK- -IMPERIAL ART & ARCHITECTURE- -LIFE AT ROME- -FINANCE- MYSTERY CULT RELIGIONS Traditional State religions & Imperial cult too impersonal to satisfy needs of the individual

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Classical Studies 202 Ancient Roman Society Lecture # 10

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classical studies 202 ancient roman society lecture 10
Classical Studies 202Ancient Roman SocietyLecture # 10








mystery cult religions
  • Traditional State religions & Imperial cult too impersonal to satisfy needs of the individual
  • Common people turn to exciting Eastern religions

-upper classes turn to philosophy

  • Mystery religions offered purification, monotheism, communion, life after death

-secret rites & levels of initiation

  • Cults come from eastern Mediterranean (exotic); often involve ecstasy (dancing, intoxication, worse?)
greek hellenistic cults
  • Greece:
  • grain goddess Demeter (Eleusinian mysteries)
  • wine god Bacchus (fertility, free from inhibitions; banned 186 BC)
  • Cybele (Asian mother goddess): brings boyfriend Attis back to life

-fertility goddess, protectress (wears walled crown), wild animals(lion attendants), cures and oracles

-wild ecstatic state (feel no pain)

-cult reaches Rome in 2nd Punic war

-later patronized by Claudius (priesthoods opened)

cybele cult cont d
Priests (orig. eastern) could be Roman but must castrate selves, run through Rome and toss genitals at a house

festival: fasting, purification, taurobolium (bath in bull's blood) and carry around bull’s genitals

popular with women

Cybele Cult (cont’d)
the cult of isis
  • Isis (Egyptian saviour goddess)

-puts husband Osiris back together

  • priests = Egyptian

-use Nile water, street parade, drama, penitents, festivals, banquets, interpretation of dreams

  • ideal mother (nurses son Horus)

-cult popular among women

  • Apuleius’ Golden Ass (2nd c.) describes initiation (ecstacy and flagellation)
  • Serapis another similar god (sky/healing god)

-state-of-the-art temple at Alexandria

the cult of mithras
  • Mithras (Asian/Persian god of light, truth, and good god)

-battles forces of darkness

-known as “Lord of Light”, God of Truth”, “Saviour from Death”, “Giver of Bliss”, “Warrior” and “Victorious”

  • comes to Rome in the later half of the 1st c. AD
  • followers must be tough, disciplined; popular with army, merchants and all social classes
  • bull-slaying scene, reproduced in underground shrines: meaning?

-link to astronomy

  • temples built in caves or built to look like caves
  • belief in prosperity and an afterlife
sol invictus cult
Sol Invictus Cult
  • Sol Invictus(“Sun Unconquered”)

-Sun God cult

  • conical black stone is Syrian cult image
  • weird rites (perversions?)

-drums, cymbols and anthems sung by women

-rites include baptism and ceremonial meal

-rites often linked to Mithraism

  • Christianity (Jewish Palestinian carpenter's son, claimed to be son of Yahweh)
  • 30 AD crucified by Pontius Pilate (prefect)

-came back to life after death (reign of Tiberius)

  • promote love, forgiveness of sins, equality, and everlasting life, purification, community, communion

-cult was open to everyone (and so unpopular with mainstream Judaism of the time)

-attracted the poor, slaves, cripples, women, and society’s outcasts at first

-spread by travels of early disciples

christian persecutions
Christianity denied emperor's divinity, thus was treasonous

Rites misunderstood

-secret meetings in catacombs, bird and fish secret symbols, murder, cannibalism, incest

various persecutions beginning in 64 AD under Nero

“Alexemenos prays to his god”

Christian Persecutions
constantine s role in the growth of christianity
312 AD wins Battle of Milvian Bridge with divine aid

"In Hoc Signo Vincas" / "In this sign you will conquer“

Constantine first to use “Chi-Rho” symbols

Christianity legalized by emperor Constantine (313) in the "Edict of Milan"

321 AD Sunday a legal holiday (brilliant move!)

325 AD Council of Nicaea

Constantine’s Role in the Growth of Christianity
triumph of christianity
Triumph of Christianity
  • 380 AD Emperor Theodosias the Great makes it the official State religion and bans paganism

-Christians then begin to persecute pagans!

-take what is familiar (& pagan) and make it Christian to explain their theology

  • Christianity combined the strengths of

-Greek Philosophy…

- Roman Administration…

- and the Jewish faith

imperial art and architecture
  • Combine Etruscan, Greek and Oriental ideas (eclectic in all things)
  • Reflects the values and ideals of a culture
  • Also a way to show off wealth and power


  • intimately linked with Roman funerary practice

-busts often displayed in homes or at funerals

-portraiture both idealistic and realistic

  • Glorification of the Emperor begins with Augustus
roman sculpture
Roman Sculpture
  • Begins to decay in late 2nd century

-anatomy not as well done

-expressions more serious and troubled (art imitating life?)

  • can be huge (head of statue of Constantine is 2.5 m tall alone!)

-reflect Eastern god-like awe

  • Romans could not work the stone as well as the Greeks

-Roman copies of Greek originals are supported by a tree stump, flowing robes or other small attachment at the base of the legs

  • Cameos common and popular
mural painting
Mural Painting
  • Found on walls, canvas and ceilings
  • Roman artists were renowned for their renditions of social or leisure events, mythological themes, and nature scenes and landscapes
  • “Pompeiian” style most popular
  • House of the Mysteries in Pompeii

-distance, space, light, expression and perspective are shown in great detail

-painting material was very colourful and realistic

  • Often paint outdoor scenes as if looking through a window
  • Most interior Roman painting has maintained its colours
portrait painting
Portrait Painting
  • An area where the Romans excelled in art (original?)

-usually painted on canvas or wood

-facial features are distinct and portray the personality of the subject (lady from Egypt with stylus)

-captures the true spirit of the subject

-realistic vs idealistic

  • Clothing is very detailed, with folds and creases appearing quite realistic
  • Colours used for the subject are soft and subtle, while the background is full of vibrancy
  • Portraits of the upper classes are also found on glass medallions, with a blue background, and gold and white outline painting
  • Reached its zenith under the Flavian Emperors (late 1st century AD)
roman mosaics
Roman Mosaics
  • Located mostly on floors
  • Labour intensive & expensive
  • Geometric or abstract patterns with a two-dimensional design

-commonly used materials were marble, glass paste and naturals shells

-pebbles used were mostly black and white

-black silhouettes with white outlining was popular

-usually contained figures of humans, animas, and mythological figures, all contained within a floral-type border

  • Were placed in houses like carpets, for example, in the middle of rooms or near doors
  • -Caveat Canum (“Beware of Dog) in front of door in Pompeii
the roman forum
The Roman Forum
  • Centre of city life (// Greek agora)
  • Shops, statues, meeting places, public speaking podiums
  • Various additions built over the centuries

-Forum of Caesar (46 BC)

-Forum of Augustus (2 AD)

  • Rectangular, covered building
  • Courts, businesses and social gatherings
  • Built to be seen from the inside (opposite to Greek designs)
  • Early Christian churches were converted basilicas, or based on their design
roman temples
Follow Etruscan, and later Greek, lines

-built on a huge podium

-cella, columned porch, and triangular pediment

Romans experimented freely with it

Temple of Castor and Pollux in Rome on a huge, concrete, landscaped podium

Roman Temples
the roman baths
The Roman Baths
  • Combined bath, library, gymnasium and community centre

-enclosed gardens

-about a penny to enter them

  • Rrooms heated through the flow of warm air through the flues in the wall

-frigidarium (cold rooms)

-tepidarium (warm heat)

-laconia (sweat baths)

  • Pompeii’s bath (75 BC) an early example
  • Baths of Caracalla (217 AD) in Rome had libraries, lecture halls, gymnasiums, pools, lounges and vast vaulted public spaces decorated in statues, mosaics, stuccos and paintings

-held 1,600 bathers in marble-lined pools

  • By the middle of the 4th century AD there were 952 operating bath facilities in Rome
  • Huge race tracks

-elongated rectangles, curved at one end

-spina (spine) runs down the middle of the track (horses run around)

  • Rome’s Circus Maximus is 2,000 feet long and hold ½ million spectators
the roman amphitheatre
The Roman Amphitheatre
  • Semicircular
  • Much use of arch and concrete
  • -Colosseum, in Rome, begun by the Emperor Vespasian and opened by his son, the Emperor Titus, in 80 AD

-tiers of seats surround arena

-arena (“sand”) in the centre, measuring 500 x 620 feet

-rooms, passageways, and elevators beneath arena floor

  • 4 stories tall, decorated in statues on the outside

-partial retractable canopy on top

-hold 45,000 spectators

-buy a seat

-can be emptied in 10 minutes

  • Oval amphitheatre with a semi-circular stage
  • Built on Greek models from southern Italy an across the eastern Empire
  • Intricate backdrops were contributed under the Empire
  • Stage and seating area
  • Theatre of Pompey (55 BC)
  • Theatre at Bosra could seat 15,000 & add 6,000 standing
  • Victorious sculpture
  • Arch of Titus in Rome commemorates the capture of Jerusalem after the Jewish Revolt in 71 AD
  • Arch of Constantine (315 AD) covered in sculpture from earlier monuments of Trajan, Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius

-round medallions on it from Hadrian’s reign

-earlier sculpture re-worked to look like Constantine

  • Popular commemorative sculpture
  • Trajan’s Column (113 AD)

-tells the story of the Dacian War in sculpture

-spiral band of relief winds up the column (3 ½ feet tall and 800 feet long)

-reads like a scroll

-2,500 figures on it

-Finer sculpted figures near the bottom

-painted, gilded and metal work

  • Built by the Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD)

-“House of all Gods”

  • Cylindrical, drum-shaped building, capped by huge dome and entered through a deep porch with Corinthian columns
  • Top of dome is 110 feet tall (= to the distance of the diameter of the drum)

-many square recesses in inside of roof to hold statues of deities (represents the heavens)

-small oculus (eye) opening in top of dome to let in light (represents the sun)

  • Originally roof gilded in gold!
  • Water from mountain streams could be carried from 40 miles away using gravitational flow to reservoirs near cities
  • Channels in arches were lined with hard, water-proof cement
  • Often built into bridges and supported by arches
  • Water then went through smaller pipes made of lead, wood or terra cotta, into fountains, houses or public baths
  • 1st century AD Rome had a population of 1 million

-aqueducts provided 455 L of fresh water/person/day

  • Rich have running water on main floor, in kitchen and lavatory
  • Many public fountains (some still used today)
roman roads
Roman Roads
  • 4.5 m wide, with a 120 cm foundation
  • 85,000 km of roads built
  • 1 Roman mile = 1,000 paces
  • “Mile” comes from the Latin “milia passuum” ("one thousand of paces“), which was approximately 1620 yards, 1480 meters
  • each mile marked by a 2-metre tall pillar, called a Milestone (miliarium)
  • Most roads originally built by “Marius’ Mules”
roman housing and furniture
  • The Roman house (domus):

-compluvium (opening in roof to let in light and rain)

-impluvium (collects rainwater from compluvium)

-atrium (central living room surrounded by other rooms)

-hortus (small garden furthest away from the front door)

-lararium (shrine to household gods)

-fauces (entrance passage)

-tablinum (passage room)

the roman house domus
The Roman House (Domus)

-triclinium (dining room)

-cubiculum (bedroom)

-peristylium (elaborate colonnaded garden)

-hypocaust (heating system beneath floor)

-rich could have running water

-tabernae (shops) in front rooms facing the street (in wealthier homes)

  • Very bright and airy homes
  • All decoration on the inside

-façade is plain and whitewashed

roman apartments
Roman Apartments
  • Insulae/”islands” (apartment blocks)

-built in grid blocks

  • Stone main floor (shops or expensive apartments)

-wood and stone “filler” upper floors

  • Could have central courtyard (air & light)
  • No limit to occupancy
  • Cook on open braziers (fire hazard)
  • Problem with disrepair
  • Augustus limits height to 21 m (69 feet)
  • 350 AD 1,790 private homes and 46, 602 insulae
roman furniture
Roman Furniture
  • Few pieces of furniture
  • sella (backless arm-chair)
  • cathedra (high-backed ladies' chair)
  • Cubile (bed) of simple frame, leather webbing and thin mattress stuffed with straw or wool
  • Arca (chest for blankets or clothes)
  • Lasanum (chamber pot)
  • -busts, statues, decorations, lamps, tables (tables are expensive and often ornate)
life at rome
  • (sources: Horace, Juvenal, Martial)

-Martial describes Rome as noisy, smelly, crowded, hot & foul!

  • Flooding of the Tiber (smell, mess, health & safety hazard)
  • Campus Martius ("field of Mars")
  • health: Cloaca Maxima (central sewer)
  • air pollution and fire hazards (cooking over open fire, fires, candles, bad air days)
  • overcrowding: insulae (apartment blocks) often collapse
  • -unsafe streets: contrast Pompeii, Antioch
  • Forum (market and business centre)
  • Basilica (meeting hall, law court)
literature on life in rome
Literature: On Life in Rome
  • Novius is my neighbour – I can lean out the window and touch him by hand. (Martial I, 86, 1-2)
  • He observed that every day in Rome buildings caught fire, or collapsed, because they were so large and close to each other. (Plutarch, Crassus, III)
  • Two of the tabernae have fallen down, and the walls of the others have all cracked: my tenants are gone – and the mice as well! (Cicero, ad AttXIV, 9.1)
literature on life in rome beware the barbers
Literature: On Life in Rome“Beware The Barbers”
  • Those scars you see on my chin, like the marks on some old boxer’s face, were not made by my angry wife in one of her tempers, but by the cursed hand and blade of Antiochus. The he-goat is the only beast with any sense – he wears a beard to escape Antiochus. Martial, Epigrams, 11.84)
the daily routine in rome according to martial epigrams 4 8
The Daily Routine in Rome, According to Martial (Epigrams, 4.8)

The first and second hours wear out the

Clients at their morning salutation.

The third hour puts the hoarse barristers

Through their paces:

Rome’s varied businesses last right

Through the fifth hour:

The sixth hour gives the exhausted time

To rest, until

The seventh hour wakes them up again.

From the eighth to the ninth is enough

For the well-greased wrestlers:

The ninth hour invites us to dent the

Cushions on the dinner-couches,

But the tenth – that is the time for my


roman coinage f i n a n c e
  • early Rome: wealth based on property
  • coinage begins 3 rd century B.C. (no paper money)
  • The as is the smallest coin in value

-1 sesterce = 4 asses (singular: as)

-1 denarius = 4 sesterces

-1 aureus = 25 denarii

  • -as is made of bronze (later copper)
  • -sesterce is made of silver (later brass)
  • -aureus is made of gold
  • Values change over time based on inflation and devaluation
sample prices from diocletian s edict of maximum wages and prices 301 ad
Sample prices from Diocletian’s Edict ofMaximum Wages and Prices (301 AD)
  • ¼ bushel of wheat 100 denarii
  • ¼ bushel of beans 60 denarii
  • 1 pint of good Falernian wine 30 denarii
  • 1 pint of ordinary wine 8 denarii
  • 1 pint vinegar 6 denarii
  • 1 pint best quality honey 40 denarii
  • 1 pound beef 8 denarii
  • 1 pound pork 12 denarii
  • 1 pound fattened goose 200 denarii
  • 1 pound second quality fish 16 denarii
sample prices from diocletian s edict of maximum wages and prices 301 ad41
Sample prices from Diocletian’s Edict ofMaximum Wages and Prices (301 AD)
  • Farm workers’ or Mule Drivers’

1st quality boots w/o hobnails 120 denarii

  • Patrician’s shoes 150 denarii
  • Womens’ boots 60 denarii
  • Farm labourer, with meals, daily 25 denarii
  • Baker, with meals, daily 50 denarii
  • Barber, per man 2 denarii
  • Painter, walls, with meals, daily 75 denarii
  • Clothing guarder at baths, per bather 2 denarii
  • Unskilled day labourer, per day 1 denarius
  • Elementary teacher, per boy, monthly 50 denarii
  • Mule driver, with meals, daily 25 denarii
  • (Note: a teacher would need 15 fulltime students to make the same wages as a mule driver in one month!)
controlling finance
Controlling Finance
  • Temple of Juno Moneta: mint (board of three)
  • Temple of Saturn: holds aerarium (state treasury)

-controlled by quaestors (financial magistrates)

-under Empire, fiscus (fund controlled by emperor)

  • coin dies: anvil (heads), punch (tails)
  • coins spread by government, army, and

money-changers (also test coins)

  • money-lenders (give credit at auctions; accept deposits)
gathering revenues
Gathering Revenues
  • revenues: from rentals, mines, booty
  • provincial taxes (Italy exempt): fixed sum or part of harvest
  • publicani (holders of state contracts)
  • census every 5 years (tax registration)
  • taxes become city responsibility in Empire
  • customs duties
  • taxes on inheritance(5 %), manumission, slave sales, auctions
  • tax collectors hated!(some things never change…)