This week marks the anniversary of the Great Fire of Rome, one of the worst disasters ever to hit the city of Rome. This tragic event took place during the reign of Nero in 64 A.D. The fire began in the merchant area of the city near the Circus Maximus and rapidly spread through the dry, wooden structures of the Imperial City. According to Tacitus, the fire burned for six days and seven nights. Only four of the fourteen districts of Rome escaped the fire; three districts were completely destroyed and the other seven suffered serious damage.
Stories tagged Rome
Accidentally discovered by a French farmer in 1830 CE, the spectacular hoard of gilt-silver statuettes and vessels known as the Berthouville Treasure was originally dedicated to the Roman god Mercury. Following four years of meticulous conservation and research at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles, CA, Ancient Luxury and the Roman Silver Treasure from Berthouville allows visitors to appreciate their full splendor and offers new insights about ancient art, technology, religion, and cultural interaction in Late Roman Gaul. James Blake Wiener, Communications Director at Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE), learns more about this exhibition from Mr. Kenneth Lapatin, Associate Curator of Antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, in this exclusive interview.
The Appian Way — Rome’s gateway to the East — was Europe’s first super highway and the wonder of its day. Built in 312 B.C., it connected Rome with Capua (near Naples), running in a straight line for much of the way. Eventually it stretched 400 miles to Brindisi, from where Roman ships sailed to Greece and Egypt.
While our modern roads seem to sprout potholes right after they’re built, sections of this marvel of Roman engineering still exist. When I visit Rome, I get a thrill walking on the same stones as Julius Caesar or St. Peter. Huge basalt paving blocks form the sturdy base of this roadway. In its heyday, a central strip accommodated animal-powered vehicles, and elevated sidewalks served pedestrians.
Fortunately, about the first 10 miles of the Appian Way is preserved as a regional park (Parco dell’Appia Antica). In addition to the roadway, there are ruined Roman monuments, two major Christian catacombs, and a church marking the spot where Peter had a vision of Jesus.
The assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar on March 15, 44 BCE is one of the most dramatic and notorious events in Roman history. Many of us living in Anglophone nations are familiar with the events of Caesar’s demise thanks in large part to William Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar. However, Shakespeare dramatized only a few vignettes of a story written in cold blood. In The Death of Caesar: The Story of History’s Most Famous Assassination, by acclaimed military historian Barry Strauss, the reader learns how disaffected politicians and officers carefully planned and hatched Caesar’s assassination weeks in advance, rallying support from the common people of Rome. One is also introduced to fascinating character of the man who truly betrayed Caesar — the wealthy and intelligent Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus. In this exclusive interview to commemorate the Ides of March, James Blake Wiener, Communications Director at Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE), speaks with Dr. Barry Strauss about his new title and why he chose to revisit the world of late Republican Rome.
The life of St. Helena — Roman empress, Christian saint, and mother to the celebrated Constantine the Great — remains shrouded in mystery, controversy, and intrigue. To commence the start of the holiday season, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. María Lara Martínez — a talented Spanish historian and writer — about her award winning novel on St. Helena, The Veil of Promise (El Velo de Promesa), in this exclusive English language interview.
The reconstruction of ancient recipes challenges experimental archaeologists and chefs alike, while concurrently offering unique glimpses into the culinary tastes of diverse ethnic groups. Ms. Laura Kelley, author and founder of The Silk Road Gourmet blog, analyzes the links between recipes, civilizations, and trade across great distances and over long periods of time. As a frequent traveler, Laura first noted the commonalities between recipes and cooking methods, which in turn provided the catalyst for her research as an independent scholar.
In this interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Laura about her interest in cooking — past and present — as well as how she has been able to reconstruct recipes from ancient Central Asia, Mesopotamia, and Rome.
A symbol of fertility, immortality, and divinity, wine was the favored drink of choice across the ancient Near East and Mediterranean. Wine is mentioned frequently in biblical scriptures, and was used for everyday purposes in cooking and medicine. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Mr. Joel Butler, co-author of Divine Vintage: Following the Wine Trail from Genesis to the Modern Age, about the religious, cultural, and social importance of wine across the centuries.
Sicily evokes the fiery majesty Mt. Etna, the wine-dark hues of the surrounding sea, and the delicious flavors of arancini and limoncello. Situated at a pivotal intersection between Greece, Italy, and North Africa, Sicily is not only the largest island in the Mediterranean, but the site of over 5,000 years of human history. Few are aware, however, that Sicily experienced a spectacular golden age from the fifth century to the third century BCE, while under the rule of ancient Greek émigrés. Enriched by its immense agricultural bounty, the sociocultural milieu of Hellenic and Hellenistic Sicily was diverse and innovative, rivaling the sophistication and refinement of the “mother country” during its classical apex.
Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome — an exhibition at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles, California — presents the grandeur and glory of ancient Sicily or “Sikelia” in all its complexity, beauty, and ingenuity. In this exclusive interview with the Ancient History Encyclopedia, James Blake Wiener speaks to Dr. Alexandra Sofroniew, co-curator of the exhibition, about Sicily’s special role in Mediterranean antiquity.
In 2008, archaeologists unearthed an extremely rare and impressive marble mausoleum, along a section of ancient road, in Rome, Italy. The largest and most ornate tomb was commissioned by a famous Roman general, Marcus Nonius Macrinus (fl. 161 CE), who had loyally served the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (r. 161-180 CE). Macrinus’ life and exploits provided the model for Russell Crowe’s character, Maximus, in the award-winning film Gladiator (2000, Ridley Scott). Few archaeological discoveries have struck a such chord with a worldwide audience, and over time the international press came to refer to the site as the “Tomb of the Gladiator.”
Four years later, with no end in sight to the current financial crisis in Europe, the funds needed to support many heritage sites have evaporated, including those for the “Tomb of the Gladiator.” In this interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks with Dr. Darius Arya, CEO of the American Institute for Roman Culture, about the historical importance of the “Tomb of the Gladiator” and what is being done to prevent its reburial. Dr. Arya shares his opinions, opening up a dialogue on how best to conserve our ancient, cultural patrimony.
How to Win an Election: An Ancient Guide for Modern Politicians is the latest publication by Professor Philip Freeman, the Orlando W. Qualley Chair of Classical Languages at Luther College, in Decorah, Iowa. In 64 BCE, Marcus Cicero (106-43 BCE) ran for consul and faced the challenge of a lifetime: winning the highest office in the Republic. Fortunately, his younger brother, Quintus Cicero (102 – 43 BCE), was able to impart advice on managing a successful political campaign: The Commentariolum Petitionis. Although the Cicero brothers lived an age in which politics was localized and intensely personal, Quintus’ short maxims to his brother delineate many political truths still valid in modern times. Accessible and entertaining, Freeman translates an “unashamedly pragmatic primer.”