Cassius Dio - Dio Cassius

Cassius Dio (an historian who wrote in Greek) is sometimes called Dio Cassius. In an inscription from Macedonia he is called (transliterated from Greek into Roman letters) Cl (for Claudius) Cassius Dion. Sometimes he is called Cassius Dio Cocceianus. The cognomen Cocceianus is used by Pliny the Younger for the rhetor, Dio Cocceianus, who is known by others as Dio Chrysostom. The Gothic historian Jordanes confuses the historian and rhetor/orator because the orator, stepping into a somewhat different hat, wrote a history of the Goths. Confusion continues in the areas of the identity between the two men and the relationship between them -- some claiming that the historian was the grandson of the orator.

Read more about Cassius Dio.

Pompeii - Harris and Polanski

Director Robert Polanksi and writer Robert Harris have agreed to create a movie based on the novel Pompeii. The cost is projected to be $197 million. Harris has 8 weeks to write the screenplay and Polanski is scheduled to film the epic this summer.

Pompeii, by Robert Harris, is a retelling of the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius from the perspective of an ancient aqueduct engineer.
It is a carefully researched modern thriller set in August A.D. 79 in Campania. Robert Harris tells the story of corruption, politics, love, Roman superstition, slavery, and engineering, all set against the power of Mt. Vesuvius.

Read my review of Pompeii.

Plautus (c. 254-184 B.C.)

Renowned as a Roman writer of comedies, Plautus ('Flatfoot') was born in Umbria where he may have joined a traveling acting group that performed farces. He then became a Roman soldier, where, while stationed in southern Italy, he was exposed to Greek New Comedy and the plays of Menander. Although based on Greek comedy, the behavior of the characters in the plays of Platus was very Roman, although Plautus himself may never have been a Roman citizen. Read more about Plautus.

Constantine the Great

Gaius Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus, better known as Constantine I, emperor of Rome from A.D. 306 until his death in A.D. 337, is called the most important Roman emperor in late antiquity. He was born on February 27, in the early 270s, in what is now Serbia, but was then the Roman province of Moesia. His father was to become Emperor Constantius I, but was a military officer at the time of Constantine's birth. His mother was Helena, who became a saint in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church. Constantine completed the major necessary administrative reorganization of the Roman emperor that had been begun by Emperor Diocletian (ruled 284-305), waged successful wars against barbarians -- the Franks, Alamanni, Visigoths, and Sarmatians -- on the borders of the Empire, moved the capital of the Roman Empire to Byzantium, and legalized Christianity.

Continue reading "Constantine the Great" »

The Founding of Carthage © N.S. Gill

Tyre was a Canaanite city in what is now Lebanon or Syria whose inhabitants the Greeks called "Phoenicia" for the color of the dye they applied to their garments. Tyre became very wealthy through trade in these garments, whose deep hues made them fit for kings, precious glass, and wooden objects, as well as through the establishment of colonies throughout the Mediterranean, the sea that linked Spain, Greece, Italy, and northern Africa with the western edge of Asia. One such colony was Carthage, which eventually took over as leader of the loose Phoenician trading empire when Tyre fell to the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar of Biblical fame, in 575 B.C.
We don't really know when or how Carthage was founded, but we do have guesses and some legends that make glamorous a land that the Greeks and Romans did much to defame. One example of this is that Roman and later, Christian writers described with horror a supposed Carthaginian custom of sacrificing infants to the gods in times of trouble. Whether or not they actually did so is a matter of scholarly dispute even today, but no matter whether they actually engaged in this appalling practice, the Carthaginians were used by their enemies as examples of most undesirable traits.

Continue reading "The Founding of Carthage © N.S. Gill" »

The Roman Army

hrough its military operations, Republican Rome came to dominate all of Italy. The Roman Empire, created by the conquering army, extended through most of Europe, and into Africa and Asia. Originally Roman or at least Italian, the conquering legions spread the culture of Rome wherever they went. Initially, when native populations were added to the army they adopted the Roman customs and brought them back home with them. The army of Rome began during the time of the kings, roughly 753 B.C., and lasted well over a millennium.

Read more basic information on the Roman army.

St. Nicholas

t. Nicholas Day is December 6. St. Nicholas is a legendary figure connected with Christmas gift-givers like Santa Klaus. He is thought to have lived in the 4th century, and to have been born in Lycia in Asia Minor. He was probably bishop in the Lycian city of Myra. Nicholas is thought to have been wealthy and to have given his gold away to help others. There is a story that he provided bags of gold as dowries for three daughters of a poor man to keep them from having to become prostitutes.

Read more at St. Nicholas


Romans called epilepsy by various names, including "morbus caducus" [the falling sickness] and "morbus comitialis" [disease of the assembly hall]. It is still sometimes referred to as the falling sickness, but the idea that it was the disease of the assembly hall seems just bizarre. The explanation for it is that if someone had an epileptic attack in the assembly, it had to be shut down for ritual purification. Read more about the Romans and epilepsy.

Plutarch - Bona Dea Scandal

Plutarch Bona Dea Scandal
The story of Clodius, Caesar, and the Bona Dea Scandal in Plutarch comes from section 9 of Plutarch's Life of Caesar. In this, Clodius attends the women-only December feast of the Bona Dea which is being held at the home of Caesar and hosted by his wife Pompeia, thought to have been having an affair with Clodius. A roughly 30-year-old Clodius shows up dressed in women's garb, although presumably not the diaphonous flute-girl garb, looking so much like a woman that he passes until he opens his mouth. As a result of his intrusion, the sacred rites of the Vestal Virgins are violated and it is held to be a sacrilege landing Clodius on trial facing Cicero. Although Clodius is acquitted and Caesar doesn't actually accuse his wife of adultery, Caesar divorces Pompeia because, he says, Caesar's wife must be above suspicion.

In "The Early Career of P. Clodius Pulcher: A Re-Examination of the Charges of Mutiny and Sacrilege," by David Mulroy (Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974-), Vol. 118. (1988), pp. 155-178.) Mulroy argues that Clodius was doing little more than party-crashing when he attended the festival. The sacrificial rite was not a necessary part of the event, which may have been a Bacchanalian festival, for which transvestism would have been appropriate, so Clodius may not have known that he was committing sacrilege. Cicero claims the Bona Dea festival was a revered ancient festival, but there is reason to think it was imported from the Greeks after the fall of Tarentum in 272 B.C., making it 210 years-old at the time of the scandal.

Asia Minor

Ancient Asia Minor
Asia Minor is that name the Romans gave to the area now called Anatolia or the Asian part of Turkey. When the Romans finally defeated Mithridates, they were able to add the Bithynia and Pontus areas of Asia Minor to the Roman provinces in 63 B.C.. During the Roman Empire, the provinces of Lycia and Galatia, both also in Asia Minor, were added.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.2