The Party Animals

Self-indulgence did not have to be a stigma of defeat. What to great noblemen were the honeyed venoms of retirement might well to others promise opportunity.

A few short miles down the coast from Lucullus’ villa at Naples stood the fabled beach resort of Baiae. Here, out into the glittering blue of the bay, stretched gilded pier after gilded pier, cramping the fish, as the humorists put it. To the Romans, Baiae was synonymous with luxury and wickedness. A holiday there was always a source of guilty pleasure. No statesman would ever willingly admit to spending time in a town so notorious, yet every season Rome would empty of the upper classes as they headed south to its temptations. It was this that made Baiae such a hot spot for the upwardly mobile. Whether at its celebrated sulphur baths or over a dish of the local speciality, purple-shelled oysters, the resort offered precious entrées into high society. Baiae was a party town, and the strains of music and laughter were forever drifting through the warm midnight air, borne from villas, or the beach, or yachts out in the bay. No wonder that the place drove moralists apoplectic. Wherever wine flowed and clothes began to be loosened, traditional proprieties might start to slip too. A handsome social climber who had barely come of age might find himself talking on familiar terms to a consul. Deals might be struck, patronage secured. Charm and good looks might secure pernicious advantages. Baiae was a place ripe with scandal, dazzling in its aspect but forever shadowed by rumours of corruption: wine-drenched, perfume-soused, a playground for every kind of ambition and perversion, and – perhaps most shockingly of all – for the intrigues of powerful women.

The queen of Baiae, and the embodiment of its exclusive, if faintly sleazy, allure, was the eldest of the three Claudian sisters, Clodia Metelli. Her eyes, dark and glittering, had the ox-like appearance that invariably made Roman men go weak at the knees, while her slang set trends for an entire generation. The very name she adopted, a vulgar contraction of the aristocratic ‘Claudia’, reflected a taste for the plebeian that would influence her youngest brother to spectacular effect. To affect a lower-class accent had long been a mark of the popularis politician – Sulla’s enemy Sulpicius, for instance, had been notorious for it – but now, with Clodia, plebeian vowels became the height of fashion.

Naturally, in a society as aristocratic as that of the Republic, it required blue blood to make a trend out of slumming – Clodia, by virtue of marriage as well as breeding, stood at the heart of the Roman establishment. Her husband, Metellus Celer, came from the only family capable of rivalling the prestige and arrogance of the Claudii themselves. Fabulously fecund, the Metelli cropped up everywhere, often on opposing sides. So it was, for instance, that while one of the Metelli loathed Pompey so passionately that he had come within a whisker of attacking the proconsul with a full war fleet, Clodia’s husband spent much of the sixties BC on active service as one of Pompey’s legates. The great lady herself no doubt endured this separation with equanimity. Her primary loyalty was to her own clan. The Claudii, in contrast to the Metelli, had always been famously close; in the case of Clodius and his three sisters, notoriously so.

It was Lucullus, embittered and determined on the ruin of his in-laws, who had first made the rumours of incest public. On his return from the East he had openly accused his wife of sleeping with her brother and divorced her. Clodius’ eldest and dearest sister, who had let him into her bed when he had been a small boy, nervous of night-time fears, inevitably found her own name blackened by such a charge as well. In Rome censoriousness was the mirror-image of a drooling appetite for lurid fantasy. Just as it endlessly thrilled Caesar’s contemporaries to think of him as the bed partner of the King of of Bithynia, so the pleasure that Clodius’ enemies took in the accusations of incest against him never staled. No smoke without fire – and there must have been something unusual about Clodius’ relations with his three sisters to have set tongues wagging. Throughout his career, he was to display a taste for pushing experience to the edge, and so it is perfectly possible that the gossip-mongers knew what they were talking about. Just as plausibly, however, the rumours could have been fuelled by the uses to which Clodia put her status as a society beauty. ‘In the dining room a cock-teaser, in the bedroom an iceblock’:this gallant description of her by a former lover suggests the care with which she exploited her sexual appeal. For any woman, even one of Clodia’s rank, dabbling in politics was a high-wire act. Roman morality did not look kindly on female forwardness. Frigidity was the ultimate marital ideal. It was taken for granted, for instance, that ‘a matron has no need of lascivious squirmings’ – anything more than a rigid, dignified immobility was regarded as the mark of a prostitute. Likewise, a woman whose conversation was witty and free laid herself open to an identical charge. If she then compounded her offences by engaging in political intrigue, she could hardly be regarded as anything other than a monster of depravity. Seen in such a light, the charges of incest against Clodia were hardly surprising. Indeed, they marked her out as a player in the political game.

Misogyny alone, however, savage and unrelenting though it was, does not entirely explain the vehemence of the abuse that society hostesses such as Clodia provoked. Women had no choice but to exert their influence behind the scenes, by stealth, teasing and seducing those they wished to influence, luring them into what moralists were quick to denounce as a feminine world of gossip and sensuality. To the already ferociously nuanced world of male ambition, this added a perilous new complication. The qualities required to take advantage of it were precisely those that had always been most scorned in the Republic. Cicero, not one of life’s natural party animals, listed them in salacious detail: an aptitude for ‘debauchery’, ‘love affairs’, ‘staying up all night to the din of loud music’, ‘sleeping around’ and ‘spending cash to the point of ruin’. The final, clinching disgrace, and the ultimate mark of a dangerous reprobate, was to be a good dancer. In the eyes of traditionalists nothing could be more scandalous. A city that indulged a dance culture was one on the point of catastrophe. Cicero could even claim, with a perfectly straight face, that it had been the ruin of Greece. ‘Back in the old days,’ he thundered, ‘the Greeks used to stamp down on that kind of thing. They recognised the potentialdeadliness of the plague, how it would gradually rot the minds of its citizens with pernicious manias and ideas, and then, all at once, bring about a city’s total collapse.’12 By the standards of that diagnosis, Rome was in peril indeed. To the party set, the mark of a good night out, and the city’s cutting-edge craze, was to become ecstatically drunk and then, to the accompaniment of ‘shouts and screams, the whooping of girls and deafening music’, to strip naked and dance wildly on tables.

Roman politicians had always been divided more by style than by issues of policy. The increasing extravagance of Rome’s party scene served to polarise them even further. Clearly, it was an excruciating embarrassment for traditionalists that so many of their standard-bearers had themselves succumbed to the temptations of luxury: men such as Lucullus and Hortensius were ill-placed to wag the finger at anyone. Even so, the ancient frugalities of the Republic still endured. Indeed, for a new generation of senators, the backdrop of modish excess made them appear more, not less, inspiring. Even as it wallowed in gold, the Senate remained an instinctively conservative body, reluctant to glimpse a true reflection of itself, preferring to imagine itself a model of rectitude still. Politicians able to convince their fellow senators that this was more than just a fantasy might accrue considerable prestige. Sternness and austerity continued to play well.

The Walls of Constantinople collapse. November 6, 447

Author:By Marisa Ollero

Like Severus before him, Constantine began to punish the city for siding with his defeated rival, but soon he too realized the advantages of Byzantium‘s location. During 324–336 the city was thoroughly rebuilt and inaugurated on 11 May 330 under the name of “Second Rome“. The name that eventually prevailed in common usage however was Constantinople, the “City of Constantine” (Greek Κωνσταντινούπολις, Konstantinoupolis). The city of Constantine was protected by a new wall about 2.8 km (15 stadia) west of the Severan wall. Constantine’s fortification consisted of a single wall, reinforced with towers at regular distances, which began to be constructed in 324 and was completed under his son Constantius II (r. 337–361). Only the approximate course of the wall is known: it began at the Church of St. Anthony at the Golden Horn, near the modern Atatürk Bridge, ran southwest and then southwards, passed east of the great open cisterns of Mocius and of Aspar, and ended near the Church of the Theotokos of the Rhabdos on the Propontis coast, somewhere between the later sea gates of St. Aemilianus and Psamathos.

Already by the early 5th century however, Constantinople had expanded outside the Constantinian Wall, in the extramural area known as the Exokionion or Exakionion. The double Theodosian Walls located about 2 km to the west of the old Constantinian Wall, were erected during the reign of Emperor Theodosius II (r. 408–450), after whom they were named. The work was carried out in two phases, with the first phase erected during Theodosius’ minority under the direction of Anthemius, the praetorian prefect of the East, and was finished in 413 according to a law in the Codex Theodosianus. An inscription discovered in 1993 however records that the work lasted for nine years, indicating that construction had already begun circa 404/405, in the reign of Emperor Arcadius (r. 395–408). This initial construction consisted of a single curtain wall with towers, which now forms the inner circuit of the Theodosian Walls.

Both the Constantinian and the original Theodosian walls were severely damaged, however, in two earthquakes, on 25 September 437 and on 6 November 447. The latter was especially powerful, and destroyed large parts of the wall, including 57 towers. Subsequent earthquakes, including another major one in January 448, compounded the damage. Theodosius II ordered the praetorian prefect Constantine to supervise the repairs, made all the more urgent as the city was threatened by the presence of Attila the Hun in the Balkans. Employing the city’s “Circus factions” in the work, the walls were restored in a record 60 days, according to the Byzantine chroniclers and three inscriptions found in situ. It is at this date that the majority of scholars believe the second, outer wall to have been added, as well as a wide moat opened in front of the walls, but the validity of this interpretation is questionable; the outer wall was possibly an integral part of the original fortification concept.

Throughout their history, the walls were damaged by earthquakes and floods of the Lycus River. Repairs were undertaken on numerous occasions, as testified by the numerous inscriptions commemorating the emperors or their servants who undertook to restore them. The responsibility for these repairs rested on an official variously known as the Domestic of the Walls or the Count of the Walls, who employed the services of the city’s populace in this task. After the Latin conquest of 1204, the walls fell increasingly into disrepair, and the revived post-1261 Byzantine state lacked the resources to maintain them, except in times of direct threat.


A term introduced in 19th-century Catholic historiography by the German scholar J. Hergenróther and others to denote the unique relationship between the imperial authority and the church in the Byzantine Empire: the head of the secular power—the emperor (caesar)—was in fact head of the church (pope) as well. The term is occasionally encountered in modern historical works as well, and not only in reference to Byzantium.

Caesaropapism does not describe the true relations between the Byzantine emperors and the church. In fact, the Byzantine Church was more dependent economically on the state than the Catholic Church; its rights were not formally defined, appointment of the patriarch remained the prerogative of the emperor, and the Byzantine clergy played a much smaller role in state administration. However, the relationship did vary. In certain periods the patriarchs exerted great influence on the state machinery, and attempts by the emperors to impose their will on the church were often unsuccessful: the emperors could not assume the right of appointing bishops and metropolitans, could not enforce Iconoclasm, and did not achieve union with the papacy. The emperors, with the exception of Justinian I and Manuel I Comnenus, did not even claim that the state held ideological authority over the church.

Theodosius I The Great

Theodosius I, called the Great, is credited with moving the Roman Empire from a general favoritism toward Christianity to a specific support of orthodox CHRISTIAN faith. He was born in SPAIN and rose to power through the army. A lost battle seemed to end his career and force him into retirement, but he was soon rehabilitated and placed in a commanding position. In 379 he became Roman emperor and fostered Eastern CAESAROPAPISM.

Shortly after becoming emperor he became ill. He was baptized as an orthodox Christian by BISHOP Acholius of Thessalonica in the fall of 380, shortly before he arrived in CONSTANTINOPLE. He took his Catholic faith seriously and moved to suppress ARIANISM, which still enjoyed strong support. Among his first acts in CONSTANTINOPLE was to expel the pro-Arian bishop and back the orthodox bishop, GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS. He subsequently called the Council of Constantinople of 381, which backed the orthodox theological position. Theodosius subsequently moved to expel all the Arian bishops from their churches in the eastern half of the Roman Empire in spite of popular opposition in Constantinople, where the majority of the population supported their cause.
In 391, Theodosius banned attendance at pagan worship sites, including the Oracle at Delphi, and barred anyone from decorating images of the pagan gods so as to acknowledge their divinity. While generally protecting pagan sites as part of the empire’s artistic heritage, he did order the destruction of the Sarapeum at Alexandria, one of the major pagan temples of the day.
For ordering an indiscriminate massacre in Thessalonika, Theodosius was excommunicated by AMBROSE OF MILAN. He did public penance for several months as part of his effort to have the excommunication lifted. Theodosius was the last great ruler of both East and West of the Roman Empire.

Further reading: Gerard Friell and Stephen Williams, Theodosius: The Empire at Bay (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1994); Neil B. McLynn, Ambrose of Milan: Church and Court in a Christian Capital. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994); John Vanderspoel, Themistius and the Imperial Court: Oratory, Civic Duty, and Paideia from Constantius to Theodosius (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995).

Corsica ,The History

Corsica, the third island of the Mediterranean in point of size, only Sicily and Sardinia being of greater extent. The distance from the French seaport Antibes, on the Riviera, to Calvi, the port of Corsica nearest to France, is one hundred and eleven miles. There is a brisk commerce between Leghorn, in Italy, and Bastia, in Corsica, the voyage being made in five hours. The island is mountainous and well watered, a large part being covered with forests and almost impenetrable thickets called maquis. The climate is mild on the coast, but cold in the elevated regions. The area of Corsica is 3367 square miles, the population 300,000. Both the natives of the interior and those of the coast, whose ancestors were Italians, are nearly all Catholics.

The island was early visited by the Phoenicians and Phocians who established colonies there. For a time it belonged to Carthage, but was taken by the Romans, who retained possession from 260 B.C. to the end of the fifth century of the Christian Era. But they never subdued the mountain tribes of the interior, and even in the time of Gregory I (590-604) there were many heathens in Corsica, which long retained its early reputation as a wild and unhospitable island. On the fall of the Western Empire (476) Corsica was taken by the Vandals, but was recovered by Belisarius, only to be captured by the Goths under Totila. Eventually, however, it became subject to the exarchs of Ravenna, and remained a Byzantine possession until the eighth century. At the end of the sixth and the beginning of the seventh century the Roman Church owned large landed estates in Corsica. By the Donation of Pepin the Short (754-55) the island came under the civil sovereignty of the popes (Liber Pontif., ed. Duchesne, I, 498; II, 104, note 35). From the eighth to the eleventh century it was frequently plundered by Saracen pirates. Pisa then set up a claim of overlordship which was soon disputed by Genoa. In 1300 the latter made good its claim to the civil and ecclesiastical influence hitherto exercised by Pisa, and despite numerous revolutions (Sampiero, 1567; Baron Neuhof, 1729; Paoli, 1755) held at least a nominal authority until 1768. In that year Genoa ceded Corsica to France, since which time the island has remained a French province. Ajaccio, its chief town, is historically famous as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte.

It has been asserted that Christianity was introduced into Corsica in Apostolic times. Ughelli, in his “Italia Sacra”, says of Mariana, one of the oldest settlements: “It received the Catholic Faith, and has had its own pastors, ever since the times of the Apostles”; but this would be difficult to establish. Another tradition which finds favor with historians is, that Christianity was spread in the island by confessors of the Faith exiled thither (Hergenrother, I, in French tr., Paris, 1901, p. 297). The Bollandists say the country was entirely Christian in A.D. 439. It gave saints and martyrs to the Church; Msgr. de la Foata, in his “Recherches” (see bibliography infra), cites the names of three Corsican Friars Minor of the Observance, Bernardino Alberti, Franceschino Mucchieli, Teofilo Designorio, whose virtues had been authoritatively declared heroic, and also claims as Corsicans St. Laurina, virgin and martyr, whose festival was celebrated as a first-class feast in the ancient Diocese of Aleria, St. Partheeus, martyr, St. Vindemialis and St. Florentius. It is said, also, that St. Julia was a Corsican.

We have seen that before and after 600 Corsica was in close dependence on the Apostolic See, and always remained so, (see Cappelletti, Le Chiese d’Italia, XVI, 307 sqq.). In 1077 Gregory VII named as his vicarius for Corsica the Bishop of Pisa. In 1092 Pope Urban II made its bishops suffragans of the Archbishop of Pisa. In 1133 Innocent II, having granted the pallium to the Archbishop of Genoa, gave him for suffragans the Corsican Bishops of Mariana, Nebbio, and Accia, the Archbishop of Pisa retaining as suffragans the sees of Ajaccio, Aleria, and Sagona. The Bishoprics of Mariana and Accia were united, January 30, 1563. About 1580 the Blessed Alexander Sauli (q.v.), known as the “Apostle of Corsica” awoke the islanders to a more earnest religious life and founded a seminary on the model of those decreed by the Council of Trent. At the time of the French Revolution there were five dioceses in Corsica: Mariana and Accia, Nebbio, Aleria, Sagona, and Ajaccio. A decree of July 12, 1790, of the National Assembly at Paris, whose members had voted the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, reduced these five bishoprics to one, giving to Bastia the pastoral care of the whole island. On May 8, 1791, the election of the Constitutional bishop took place. The choice of the electors fell upon the canon Ignatius Francis Guasco, Vicar—General of Mariana, and Provost of the Cathedral. He, however, made a public and solemn recantation December 22, 1794. The Concordat of 1801, between the Holy See and the French Republic, which officially restored Catholic worship in France, made of Corsica a single diocese with Ajaccio as its episcopal city. (See The French Concordat of 1801; Diocese of Ajaccio.) St. Euphrasius, bishop and martyr, is the patron of the diocese. Sts. Julia and Devota were declared patronesses of the island by decree of the S. C. of Rites, August 5, 1809, and March 14, 1820. The “Directorium Cleri” of the diocese for 1907 states that there are in Corsica one bishop and five hundred and ninety-seven priests, professors, directors, and chaplains. There are one vicar-general, eight titular canons, twenty-nine honorary canons, five archpriests, thirteen parishes of the first class, forty-eight of the second class, and three hundred and thirty-three chapels. Parochial councils, composed of members of the laity, assist the parish priests, since the suppression of the former boards of trustees by the separation of Church and State. In Ajaccio there was, until recently, a diocesan seminary, but the students were dispersed on account of the non-acceptance by Pope Pius X of the so-called “Law of Separation”. At the time it ceased to exist, it had thirty-eight students and ten candidates for the priesthood. Every newly ordained priest is required to present himself yearly for five consecutive years for examination in ecclesiastical sciences before a special committee. The degrees in theology may dispense from several or all of these examinations, but a young priest is never admitted to the parish ministry without having passed an examination of this kind. In Corsica there are numerous charitable and pious brotherhoods, founded in the days of Italian rule. Several of these associations assemble in their own chapels. The churches are usually of the Italian style of architecture and sometimes richly adorned. The Society for the Propagation of the Faith is directed by a diocesan committee instituted February 13, 1859. The St. Vincent de Paul Society has two conferences. An Association for free Catholic schools is supported by the subscriptions of the faithful, who also provide for the needs of Catholic worship. Before the suppression of the religious orders there were in Corsica one house of the Jesuits, six Francis-cans, one Dominican, and five Capuchin monasteries, and one house of the Oblates of Mary. These, as well as the schools of the Christian Brothers and all convent schools, have been closed by the Government. There are still six convents of nuns. In consequence of the new laws of France, the Catholic Church in Corsica, a poor country, is confronted with a crisis: the people, habituated to look to the State for the support of public worship, must now adopt new methods and make many sacrifices for the maintenance of religion.


Battle of Naulochus 38 B.C.

2055 years ago this day

On 38 BC, the Second Triunvirate was living a relatively peaceful period: in Rome, Octavian had just married Livia Drusilla, while Marc Antony lived in Athens his last happy days with Octavia, that calmed him and tried to ease relations between him and her beloved brother.
However, the marriage of Octavian meant his divorce from Scribonia, Sextus Pompey´s aunt, and this fact accelerated the breach between them. Sextus, son of Pompey, had occupied Sicily for some years as well as Sardinia and the Peloponnese having been appointed as governor by the Treaty of Misenum in 39 BC. Sicily was the main grain supplier of Rome, and it was the last stronghold of the republican resistance. Sextus was a source of conflict for the Triunvirate, as he often stopped the supply of grain, causing hunger in the capital city of the Empire.
On 38 BC, Octavian started war against Sextus, but the campaign was a disaster and had to call back the boats due to bad weather. Octavian called Lepidus and Antony for help, but when Lepidus didn´t show up, Antony returned to the East.
Octavian, seeing himself neglected by the other triunvirs, focused on the construction of a new fleet, leaving in command his great friend Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, that had just arrived from Gaul where he had obtained great military success. Agrippa, grand strategist and great as field commander, built an inner harbor, Portus Iulius, that connected Lake Avernus and Lake Lucrinus and this to the sea. This port could´t be seen from the sea, which was frequently sailed by Sextus´ ships, and was used secretly to train men in naval special warfare. They could experiment with a new weapon invented by Agrippa himself, the harpax, that improved the traditional corvus.
Octavian joined him, leaving Maecenas in charge of Rome and Italy, even though he didn´t hold public office. He called again for help of the other triunvirs. Antony, thanks to the intervention of Octavia, sent 120 ships to Tarentum in exchange for 20.000 soldiers to be used in his Partian War. Lepidus also sent help, and this way, the Triunvirate powers were renewed fot 5 more years.
On 36 BC, Octavian, Agrippa and Antony launched a triple attack against Sextus Pompey. Once again, Octavian was near death in the Battle of Taormina, where he was defeated. Agrippa defeated Sextus in the Battle of Mylae, and later, on September 3, in the Battle of Naulochus.
In front of Naulochus promontory, Agrippa met Sextus’ fleet. Both fleets were composed of 300 ships, all with artillery, but Agrippa commanded heavier units, armed with the harpax. Agrippa used his new weapon to great effect, succeeding in blocking the more maneuverable ships of Sextus and, after a long and bloody fight, in defeating his enemy. Agrippa lost three ships, while 28 ships of Sextus were sunk, 17 fled, and the others were burnt or captured.
Octavian made Agrippa consul in 37 BC, an unaffordable office for someone lowly as Agrippa. He was also given numerous properties, and was granted the hand of Caecilia Attica, daughter of Titus Pomponius Atticus, great friend of Cicero.
The Battle of Naulochus is of decisive for the Roman Empire: on one hand, it meant the end of the Republican resistance, and on the other hand it meant the disappearance of Lepidus, leaving the world in the hands of two men: Octavian in the West and Antony in the East.
“But this man, unconquerable by human power, received at this time a heavy blow at the hands of fortune, since the greater part of his fleet was wrecked and scattered in the vicinity of Velia and Cape Palinurus by a violent scirocco. This delayed finishing the war, which, however, was subsequently carried on with shifting and sometimes doubtful fortune.”

The Roman History by C. Velleius Paterculus

(d. 250) Fabian

Fabian was a farmer who happened to be in Rome when the election to replace Pope St. Anterus began.
Several important persons were under consideration,when a dove suddenly appeared and alighted on his head. The dove recalled the settling of the Holy Spirit on Christ, as described in the Scriptures. It was taken as a sign, and although he was a complete unknown, Fabian received unanimous approval on the first ballot.

During his 14-year reign, Emperor Philip was in power, and there was a lull in the persecution of Christians. Fabian was responsible for several important actions. He divided Rome into seven districts, each supervised by a deacon, and appointed seven subdeacons to collect the acta of the martyrs (that is, the proceedings of their trials). (A similar order had brought about the death of his predecessor.) He also made considerable improvements to the Catacombs of St. Callistus and had the body of Pope St. Pontian (r. 230­235) brought from Sardinia and interred there. He may also have sent St. Dionysius (Denis) and other preachers to Gaul, but this is uncertain. Fabian died a martyr on January 20, 250, when upon the death of Philip and the accession of Decius the persecutions began anew. Decius ordered all Christians to deny Christ by offering incense to idols or through some other pagan ritual; those who refused to obey were killed. Fabian’s body was interred in the Crypt of the Popes in the Catacomb of St. Callistus.
Later some of his relics were translated to the Basilica of Saint Sebastian. In art, Fabian is shown with a dove by his side; with a tiara and a dove; with a sword or club; or kneeling at a block (about to be beheaded). Sometimes he is shown with St. Sebastian, who was martyred on his feast day, or with a palm and cross. Fabian’s image is included in a painting attributed to Diamante (ca.
1430­98) in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.


The Roman Empire was a trading empire as well as a military empire, and Roman money was widely recognized throughout the region, and beyond. Latin became the language of the educated elite of the entire empire and of government offi cials and soldiers who settled in various parts of the empire. Gradually, Greek began to supplant Latin in the eastern Mediterranean, and it became the language of business and commerce in the eastern part of the Roman Empire.
Surviving tombstones show that many Romans came from distant lands. Goods were traded extensively-Rome had to import large amounts of corn and wheat to feed its growing population. Ideas also traveled throughout the Roman Empire. Initially these were connected with the Pax Romana–the Roman legal system. Under Antoninus Pius, Roman citizenship was extended in much of the eastern Mediterranean, and Roman citizens had to be tried in a Roman court, leading to Roman law becoming the standard in the eastern part of the empire. The Romans encouraged the spread of learning, philosophy, and religion. Christianity and the belief in Mithras rapidly spread to all corners of the empire, with archaeological evidence for both religions stretching from Spain to northern England and to the Middle East. Since the founding of Rome, the citizenry had traded with other empires. Roman goods found their way to the Kushan Empire in southern Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Sogdians, in Central Asia (modern-day Uzbekistan), traded with both the Romans and the Chinese, and Roman coins have been found in archaeological sites in some parts of the Far East.

Ancient Rome traded many different things, from food to leather to wood, glass, pottery, and precious metals. The Romans, like many ancient civilizations, were also involved in the slave trade.

The Roman Empire was so large and provinces so different that they each had their own special products. 

I. Sino-Roman relations

Sino-Roman relations comprised the mostly indirect contact, flow of trade goods, information, and occasional travellers between the Roman Empire and Han Empire of China, as well as between the later Eastern Roman Empire and various Chinese dynasties. These empires inched progressively closer in the course of the Roman expansion into the ancient Near East and simultaneous Han Chinese military incursions into Central Asia. Mutual awareness remained low, and firm knowledge about each other was limited. Only a few attempts at direct contact are known from records. Intermediate empires such as the Parthians and Kushans, seeking to maintain lucrative control over the silk trade, inhibited direct contact between these two Eurasian powers. In 97 AD, the Chinese general Ban Chao tried to send his envoy Gan Ying to Rome, but Gan was dissuaded by Parthians from venturing beyond the Persian Gulf. Several alleged Roman emissaries to China were recorded by ancient Chinese historians. The first one on record, supposedly from either the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius or his adopted son Marcus Aurelius, arrived in 166 AD. Others are recorded as arriving in 226 and 284 AD, with a long absence until the first recorded Byzantine embassy in 643 AD.

Periplous of the Erythreaen Sea map, according to the description from source text (Περίπλους_τῆς_Ἐρυθράς_Θαλάσσης). Original names have been transcribed to Latin alphabet when possible. For the Greek names look at the respective Greek version of the map.

In classical sources, the problem of identifying references to ancient China is exacerbated by the interpretation of the Latin term Seres, whose meaning fluctuated and could refer to several Asian peoples in a wide arc from India over Central Asia to China. In Chinese records, the Roman Empire came to be known as Daqin or Great Qin. Daqin was directly associated with the later Fulin (拂菻) in Chinese sources, which has been identified by scholars such as Friedrich Hirth as the Byzantine Empire. Chinese sources describe several embassies of Fulin arriving in China during the Tang dynasty and also mention the siege of Constantinople by the forces of Muawiyah I in 674–678 AD.

Geographers in the Roman Empire such as Ptolemy provided a rough sketch of the eastern Indian Ocean, including the Malay Peninsula and beyond this the Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea. Ptolemy’s Cattigara was most likely Óc Eo, Vietnam, where Antonine-era Roman items have been found. Ancient Chinese geographers demonstrated a general knowledge of West Asia and Rome’s eastern provinces. The 7th-century AD Byzantine historian Theophylact Simocatta wrote of the contemporary reunification of northern and southern China, which he treated as separate nations recently at war. This mirrors both the conquest of Chen by Emperor Wen of Sui (reigned 581–604 AD) as well as the names Cathay and Mangi used by later medieval Europeans in China during the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty and Han-Chinese Southern Song dynasty.

A mid-15th century Florentine map of the world based on Jacobus Angelus‘s 1406 Latin translation of Maximus Planudes‘s late-13th century rediscovered Greek manuscripts of Ptolemy‘s 2nd-century Geography. Ptolemy’s 1st (modified conic) projection.
Map of Eurasia with the Roman Empire (red), Parthian Empire (brown), Chinese Han dynasty (yellow) and Indian Kingdoms, smaller satraps (light yellow). (Partially based on Atlas of World History (2007) – World 250 BC – 1 AD, map.)

Beginning in the 1st century BC with VirgilHorace, and Strabo, Roman histories offer only vague accounts of China and the silk-producing Seres people of the Far East, who were perhaps the ancient Chinese. The 1st-century AD geographer Pomponius Mela asserted that the lands of the Seres formed the centre of the coast of an eastern ocean, flanked to the south by India and to the north by the Scythians of the Eurasian Steppe. The 2nd-century AD Roman historian Florus seems to have confused the Seres with peoples of India, or at least noted that their skin complexions proved that they both lived “beneath another sky” than the Romans. Roman authors generally seem to have been confused about where the Seres were located, in either Central Asia or East Asia. The historian Ammianus Marcellinus (c. 330 – c. 400 AD) wrote that the land of the Seres was enclosed by “lofty walls” around a river called Bautis, possibly a description of the Yellow River.

The existence of China was known to Roman cartographers, but their understanding of it was less certain. Ptolemy’s 2nd-century AD Geography separates the Land of Silk (Serica) at the end of the overland Silk Road from the land of the Qin (Sinae) reached by sea. The Sinae are placed on the northern shore of the Great Gulf (Magnus Sinus) east of the Golden Peninsula (Aurea Chersonesus, Malay Peninsula). Their chief port, Cattigara, seems to have been in the lower Mekong Delta. The Great Gulf served as a combined Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea, as Marinus of Tyre and Ptolemy’s belief that the Indian Ocean was an inland sea caused them to bend the Cambodian coast south beyond the equator before turning west to join southern Libya (Africa). Much of this is given as unknown lands, but the north-eastern area is placed under the Sinae.

Amphorae stacking. Suggestion on how amphorae may have been stacked on a galley. (Bodrum Castle (Turkey)). A Galley (from Greek γαλέα – galea) is an ancient ship which is entirely propelled by human oarsmen.


Concerning the passage of the Gauls into Italy we have heard as follows. In the reign of Tarquinius Priscus at Rome, the supreme government of the Celts, who compose the third part of Gaul, was in the hands of the Biturigians: they gave a king to the Celtic nation. This was Ambigatus, one very much distinguished by his merit, and both his great prosperity in his own concerns and in those of the public; for under his administration Gaul was so fruitful and so well peopled, that so very great a population appeared scarcely capable of being restrained by any government. He being now advanced in years, and anxious to relieve his kingdom of so oppressive a crowd, declares his intention to bend his sister’s sons, Bellovesus and Sigovesus, two enterprising youths, into whatever settlements the gods should grant them by augury: [4] that they should take out with them as great a number of men as they pleased, so that no nation might be able to obstruct them in their progress. Then to Sigovesus the Hercynian forest was assigned by the oracle: to Bellovesus the gods marked out a much more cheering route into Italy. He carried out with him from the Biturigians, the Arvernians, the Senonians, the Aeduans, the Ambarrians, the Carnutians, and the Aulercians, all that was superfluous in their population. Having set out with an immense force of horse and foot, he arrived in the country of the Tricastinians. [p. 366]Next the Alps were opposed [to their progress], and I am not surprised that they should seem impassable, as they had never been climbed over through any path as yet, as far at least as tradition can extend, unless we are disposed to believe the stories regarding Hercules. When the height of the mountains kept the Gauls there penned up as it were, and they were looking around [to discover] by what path they might pass into another world between the summits, which joined the sky, a religious scruple detained them, it having been announced to them that strangers in search of lands were attacked by the nation of the Salyans.These were the Massilians, who had come by sea from Phocaea. The Gauls considering this an omen of their own fortune, assisted them in fortifying the ground which they had taken possession of on their first landing, covered with spacious woods. They themselves crossed the Alps through the Taurinian and pathless forests; and having defeated the Etrurians not far from the Ticinus, on hearing that the land in which they had posted themselves was called Insubria, the same name as the Insubres, a canton of the Aedui: embracing the omen of the place, they built a city there, and called it Mediolanum.

Livy. History of Rome by Titus Livius, the first eight Books. literally translated, with notes and illustrations, by. D. Spillan. York Street, Covent Garden, London. Henry G. Bohn. John Child and son, printers. 1857. 1.

The National Endowment for the Humanities provided support for entering this text.

Some ruins from the imperial palace in Milan. Is just a part from an enormous complex composed by many different buildings for the emperor himself, his family, the court and the imperial bureaucracy. From this palace Costantinus and Licinius permitted the Christian religion (313). Pic from Lorenzo Fratti 2007

Milan was born as a Celtic settlement a couple of centuries before Christ. Mediolanum meaning “the central place” was the Roman name for Milan. By the fourth century AD, it was the capital of the Western half of the Roman Empire. It was here that the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, which proclaimed Christianity as the state religion of the empire.

Early Christianity split into two significant strains, orthodoxy and Arianism, which stated that Christ was not of the same substance as God. This schism led to strife. Saint Ambrose was acclaimed bishop of Milan in 374 to combat the recently deceased Arian bishop of Milan. Saint Ambrose’s most famous convert was Saint Augustine. Ambrose, who later became a saint, left such an imprint on the city that the church in Milan was relatively independent from Rome until the 11th century. The rituals of the church is still somewhat unique, the Ambrosian rite, and true Milanese today are referred to as Ambrosiani.

A bit of Roman wall (Milan, III C). 11 m high. With a 24-sided tower
shot by Lorenzo Fratti (from with explicit permission).
Ancient Roman ivory pyxis, dating from the 4th-5th century, showing a venatio (hunt inside an arena) and a chariot race. Now in the Antiquarium in Milan, Italy. Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, July 14 2007.
Roman columns in Milan, in front of Basilica di San Lorenzo
by Lorenzo Fratti from with explicit permission

the middle ages and the communes

Some time after the collapse of the Roman Empire, the name Mediolanum morphed into Mailand, meaning “the land of may”. After the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, and following the Goths, a barbaric Germanic tribe, the Lombards, invaded this region and much of the peninsula beginning in 568 AD. This fact endured centuries of chaos caused by additional waves of barbarian invasions. Feudalism took hold, as it did throughout much of Europe during the Dark Ages.

Milan formed one of Italy’s first commune (or commonwealth) by 1024 under the leadership of the bishop Heribert. With the commune, he founded a parliament and a citizen’s militia. The communal government along with the growth of manufacturing, banking and nearby agriculture led the city into a period of rapid growth, and subsequent strife with the neighborhood city-states. Milan’s great rivals during this time were Pavia, Como, Bergamo, Lodi and Brescia. By the 12th century, Milan and much of the Lombardy region was prospering at rate unseen since the highlight of Roman times, and much ahead of the rest of Europe. Milan subjugated the surrounding area and cities of Como, Pavia and Lodi. In response to a request from Lodi, the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick I Barbarossa, came to Italy in 1154 and eventually sacked Milan in 1158. Afterwards, the Milanese did not behave according to Barbarossa’s wishes and he returned, laid siege and eventually devastated Milan. Instead of being an example to the other independent-minded city-states, this instead spurned the creation of Lombard League that consisted of all of nearby cities (except for Pavia which despised Milan too much to participate). When Barbarossa returned to Italy a third time, this united Lombard League defeated him. During his fifth trip while preparing to lay siege to Milan in 1176, he was crushed at Legnano outside of Milan. This unity did not last long, and the city-states resumed to their desired occasional warfare amongst themselves after the Treaty of Constance was signed with the Emperor in 1183, which kept him out of their business.

By 1300 the Holy Roman Emperor and the Holy See turned their attention away from Italy. The emperors worried about German affairs while the popes spent the time trying to spread its influence over the rest of Europe, and met considerable resistance from the French, who moved the papacy to France during this time. This lack of interference lasted in northern and central Italy until nearly 1500. The Black Death of 1347-48 killed about a third of the population of Italy. This put a temporary halt to the 400 years of continued prosperity and growth.

the sforza family domination

From the mid-13th century, the city was governed by a succession of important families: the Torrianis, the Viscontis and the Sforzas. Under the latter dynasties, Milan enjoyed considerable wealth and power. Under the leadership of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Milan conquered much of northern Italy before he died of the plague in 1402. He began the Duomo in 1386 and founded the Certosa in nearby Pavia in 1396. There was a brief attempt at democracy with the Ambrosian Republic which lasted only from 1447 to 1450, which ended when Francesco Sforza was peacefully invited to become the Duke of Milan. He successfully ruled until 1466, improving the water transport and agriculture, and remained at peace through an alliance with the Medici who ruled the great power of Florence.



ALTHOUGH the earliest authentic records of Roumania or, more I correctly speaking, of Dacia, the Roman province which embraced Roumania, Transylvania, and some adjoining territories of to-day, do not reach further back than about the century immediately preceding the Christian era, a good deal of information is to be gathered from the writings of Herodotus, Dion Cassias, and other early historians regarding the Getæ, race from whom the Dacians sprang. The Getæ were all probability a branch of the Thracians, who were amongst the earliest immigrants from the East; and for some time before they appeared in Dacia, which was situated on the northern side of the Danube (or Ister, as it was called by the Romans), they had settled between the south bank of that river and the Balkans (Mount Hæmus of the Romans). About the fourth century B.C., however, the Getæ had crossed the river, either driven north by an inimical neighbouring tribe, the Triballi, or in consequence of the growth of the nation itself. When they were first encountered by the Greeks, they occupied the eastern part of Dacia, reaching probably to one portion of the Black Sea; and some account of them is given by Ovid, who was exiled to their vicinity, but little is known of them until they came in contact with the Roman armies. The Getæ have little direct interest for us, but as we find associated with them the names of Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great, and Lysimachus, a few words concerning their connection with those heroes may not be out of place, and will at least serve to fix a period in the history of the people. Whilst they were still seated on the southern side of the Danube, they are said to have been the allies of Philip in his expedition against the Scythians, and in his contest with the Triballi ; but Alexander the Great found them on the northern bank of the river when he undertook the conquest of the Thracian tribes prior to his expedition into Persia. He is said to have crossed the Danube at a place not clearly defined (B.C. 335), and to have defeated about 10,000 foot and 4,000 horsemen. These took refuge with their families in a wooden town, from which they were also dislodged, and fleeing to the steppes they escaped from the victorious Greeks. Now it is that we find the name Getæ changed into that of Dacians,and in the events which followed during the reign, of Lysimachus they are known by both designations. After the death of Alexander the Great, Lysimachus inherited Thrace, and subsequently acquired Macedonia and Asia Minor; but in order to secure the first-named territory he found it necessary to cope with barbarian tribes, who formed a coalition against him. These he defeated; but inasmuch as the Getæ or Dacians, under their king (hellenised) Dromichætes, had co-operated with the barbarians, he undertook an expedition into their country north of the Danube shortly afterwards. Penetrating to their barren plains, he sustained a defeat, and was captured along with his whole army. According to certain Greek writers he was treated with great magnanimity by the Dacian king; but all are agreed that the latter only liberated him for a ransom of some kind, either in money or territory. Paget thinks he secured a large treasure, as many thousands of gold coins have been found, some of them bearing the name of Lysimachus. `I am in possession of some of these coins,’ he says, ` and though many were melted down by the Jews in Wallachia, to whom they were conveyed across the frontier in loaves of bread, they are still [1850] very common, and are frequently used by the Transylvanians for signet rings and other ornaments. 

From the time of Lysimachus until about that of Augustus Cæsar we hear little or nothing of the Getæ or Dacians, and we will therefore pass on to what may be called Roman period.

1Full accounts of the relations, or supposed relations, between the Thracians, the Getæ, and the Dacians will be found in Smith, Geog. Dict., articles ‘Dacia,’ Geography; I Thracia,’ p. 325 ; ‘ Mœsia,’ p. 677; and Dacia,’ p. 679. In Dierauer (pp. 63-4 and note 1) and Roesler (chap. i.) everything of interest from the Greek and Roman historians is fully discussed, but the other German, French, and English writers treat the matter with more or less brevity, in some instances dismissing it in a few words.
2 Vol. ii. pp. 105-106. The whole question is involved in obscurity.


Some modern writers are of opinion that when the Romans first became acquainted with the country north of the Danube, they found two allied or germane tribes, the Getæ in the eastern, and the Dacians in the western part the territory; but according to Dion Cassius the Romans called all the inhabitants north of the Inter `Dacians,’ no matter whether they were Thracians, Getæ, or Dacians, and the probability is that the Getæ; had spread themselves gradually over the plains westward, then acquired possession of the Carpathian mountains, and descended into the plains of Transylvania. 

Their fastnesses, called forts or cities, were built of wood, and were situated in the mountains, and there it was that their fiercest contests with the Roman arms took place previous to their complete subjugation.

The first we hear of them is that under a powerful chief Burvista or Boerebestes, they conquered their neighbours, the Boii, Jasyges, and probably other tribes, at the eastern boundary of their territory, driving them from their possessions, and from that time they appear as a distinct nation constantly threatening the safety of the Roman provinces in their vicinity. Julius Caesar, it is said, proposed to attack them shortly before his death, as they made periodical inroads into the Empire, more especially into Mœsia, the country lying between the Danube and the Balkan mountains, of which the Romans had secured the possession. Every winter, as soon as the Danube was frozen over or blocked with ice, they descended from their mountain fastnesses, crossed the broad stream, and carried fire and sword into the Roman territory. Before the latter people had time to gather their forces, their barbarous enemy had retreated, and, the river being once more open, the Dacians endeavoured to prevent the landing of the Roman troops, or, failing that, they made good their retreat to the mountains, whither the Romans feared to follow them. Nor were the Dacians by any means despicable opponents. Although many of the fought bareheaded and clothed in a light tunic, they we well acquainted with the use of armour, and possessed standards, shields, helmets, breast-plates, and even chain and  plate mail, fighting with bows and arrows, spears, javelins, and a short curved sword somewhat resembling a sickle.

They fought on horseback as well as on foot, and it is said that they sent showers of poisoned arrows into the ranks of their enemies. Of their further proceedings in war as well as in peace we shall have occasion to speak hereafter. About the year 10 B.C. the Emperor Augustus sent one of his generals, Cn. Lentulus, to punish them for having entered and devastated Pannonia under a chief Kotiso; but the expedition was ineffectual, and for a long series of years they continued to harass the Empire, often threatening to overrun whole provinces. One such enterprise is mentioned by Tacitus :—

`Commotions about the sumo time broke out amongst the Dacians, a people never to be relied on, and since the legions were withdrawn from Mœsia there was no force to awe them. They, however, watched in silence first movements of affairs. But when they heard that Italy was in a blaze of war, and that all the inhabitants were in arms against each other, they stormed the winter quarters of the cohorts and the cavalry, and made themselves masters of both banks of the Danube. They then prepared to raze the camp of the legions, when Mucianus sent the sixth legion to check them, having heard of the victory at Cremona, and lest a formidable foreign force should invade Italy on both sides, the Dacians and the Germans making irruptions in opposite quarters. On this, as on many other occasions, fortune favoured the Romans in bringing Mucianus and forces of the East into that quarter, and also in that we had settled matters at Cremona in the very nick of time.’ 

It was in the reign of the Emperor Domitian, however, that the inroads of the Dacians assumed their most formidable proportions. About this time it is probable that the Dacians were divided into several tribes, and that one leader more powerful than the rest had secured the chieftainship of the whole nation. This chief is known to historians as ‘Decebalus,’ although there is great difference of opinion as whether that was his name or his title.

In the year 86 A.D., he gathered together a great host, and, crossing the Danube into Mœsia, defeated and hilled the praetor Oppius or Appius Sabinus, seizing several of the Roman fortresses an driving their army to the foot of Mount Hæmus. As soon as the defeat and the position of the Roman forces became known, Domitian collected an army in Illyria, and placed it under the command of Cornelius Fuscus, a general of more bravery than experience, who entered Mœsia, and, finding that Decebalus, according to precedent, had retired across the Danube, followed him into his own country, only, however in his turn to be defeated and slain. Upon this the Roman again recrossed the river, leaving behind them their baggage and many prisoners. Tacitus writes in great indignation concerning these reverses :–

`So many armies in Mœsia, Dacia, Germania, and Pannonia, lost through the temerity or cowardice of their generals ; so many men of military character with numerous cohorts defeated and taken prisoners ; whilst a dubious contest was maintained, not for the boundaries of the Empire and the banks of the bordering rivers, but for the winter quarters of the legion and the possession of our territories.’ 

Whilst these events were occurring, Domitian is said to have been making progresses and indulging in all kinds of excesses, but, fortunately for him and for the honour of the Roman arms, another general succeeded in stemming the tide of invasion, and eventually (A.D. 89) in assuming the offensive. This was Tertius Julianus, who had already distinguished himself in Mœsia under Otho and Vespasian. Following Decebalus into his own dominions, he was not content to remain in the plains, but pursued him into his mountain retreats, where he completely overthrew him in pitched battle and compelled him to sue for peace. It is in the accounts of this expedition that mention is first made of regular roads in Dacia,, and two passes, the Vulcan and Rothenthurnr (or Red Tower), are referred to. A place called Tapæ also named, near to which Julianus is said to have overthrown Decebalus, and where subsequently Trajan obtained a victory over the same prince; but so much doubt attaches to the movements of Julianus that it will be better for the present to defer any reference to those localities. The whole account of Julianus’s campaign in Dacia is mixed up with legendary tradition. It is said that he threatened the capital of Dacia, Sarmizegethusa, and that he would have succeeded in capturing it and in reducing the whole country but for a stratagem of Decebalus, who caused trees to be cut down to a man’s height in the woods through which the Romans had to pass, and clothed them in armour, which so terrified the soldiers as to stay their progress. According to another account he cut the trees through their trunks but owed them to stand, and when the Romans attempted to force their way through with their engines of war, the trees fell on them and killed them. Whether it was the difficulty encountered by the Roman general in attempting to cope with his warlike enemy in his mountains and forests, where the arts of war as practised by the former were not so readily applicable as in the plains, or the more probable circumstance that Domitian had been unsuccessful in an expedition against two other tribes, the Quadi and Marcomanni, and needed the port of Julianus certain it is that the overtures of Decbalus were at length received favourably, and a peace was included with hirer in the year 90, which was less favourable to the victors than to the conquered. Decebalus refused treat in person with the Roman general, but sent one of chiefs (some historians say his brother), with whom the conditions were arranged. According to Roman accounts Decebalus restored the Roman prisoners, acknowledged the supremacy of Domitian, and accepted sovereignty at his hands. It subsequently transpired, however, that this was the whole treaty, and that Domitian agreed to pay the Dacian king an annual tribute, and to send him a number of skilled artificers to teach him the art of constructing works the and fabricating arms upon the Roman model. Domitian then celebrated a triumph, which was however made a subject of ridicule by those who were aware of the actual result of the expedition.

We now approach a crisis in the history of Dacia. During the short reign of Nerva nothing was undertaken against the country, and Decebalus continued to harass and annoy the Romans in Mœsia until Trajan (who had been adopted by Nerva) ascended the throne (A.D. 98).

This emperor at once began preparations for putting an end to his humiliating relations with Decebalus and his people, and although there have been many conjectures concerning his motives and intentions, there can be little doubt that his object was eventually, if not immediately, to incorporate Dacia with his empire. Already in the reign of some of his predecessors the construction of a military road along the the right or south bank of the Danube had been proceeding, and the first operation of Trajan was to hasten the completion of this road for the passage of his troops.

With this by object he is said to have reconnoitred in 98 and 99, and the cot road probably attained completion as far as the bank opposite Orsova, about A.D. 100, as the tablet at Gradina, to which reference has already been made, indicates. It is impossible for us to estimate the difficulties which must have attended this undertaking. Possessing as we do explosives and rock-borers with which to break a passage through mountains and to blast rocky embankments, we can hardly understand how a people, with such limited mechanical appliances as then existed, can have surmounted the obstacles that presented themselves to their progress. In one place the way was a plank road resting on beams, which were driven into the perpendicular face of the solid rock a few feet above the water’s edge, whilst a little further on it is seen to wind along terraces cut artificially, high up on the hillsides. Hundreds if not thousands of lives must have been sacrificed in the work, for it must be remembered that the Roman generals and artificers had not only to combat natural difficulties, and to overcome the same obstacles as those which our modern engineers have to face, but that they were harassed by the savage but skilled enemy front the heights above, or from the opposite bank of the river, which here and there narrows itself into defiles 150 or 200 yards wide.

As soon as the road was sufficiently advanced for the passage of his array, A.D. 101, Trajan commenced his first expedition into Dacia. The constitution and number of his forces are not accurately known.

They varied, according to different accounts, from 60,000 to 80,000 Romans, with a considerable number of allies, Germans, 8armatians, Mauritanian cavalry, &c., the last-named under Lucius Quietus and these Trajan is said to have assembled at a place some here south of Viminacium, which subsequently served as e base of his operations. 

Pages upon pages have been devoted by ancient and modern historians to surmises concerning the routes taken Trajan in his expedition and the localities where his encounters with the Dacians took place, but in every case the ascertained facts have been few in number. The best history of the campaigns is delineated in the bas-reliefs on Trajan’s Column at Rome, and many details have been collected from fragmentary writings of Dion Cassius and other old historians.

For the convenience of crossing the Danube the army divided into two parts, and the river was crossed by bridges of boats at two points, one near Viminacium and the other opposite Orsova. The first section then skirted the western slopes of the Carpathians through the valley of the Theiss, and so entered the Dacian highlands; the other marched up the valley of the Tierna (Czerua), past the baths  of Mehadia, which already existed in the Roman period, and the two divisions of the army formed a junction at Karansebes,or at Tibiscum close by, where two Roman roads met; Trajan is known to have accompanied and led the eastern division until the junction was completed. It is probable that in that year (101 A.D.) no serious encounter took place between Trajan and Decebalus, who had been occupied for some time in preparing for his defence, and had now received reinforcements from many of the neighbouring tribes. One of these in the name of the allied tribes sent a threatening message to Trajan, written or scratched upon a fungus, warning him to withdraw his troops, but lie heeded neither this admonition nor overtures of peace proceeding from Decebalus himself. His army went into winter quarters, and early in 102 A.D. he commenced operations by forcing the Iron Gate pass in the Carpathians,11 and encountered the enemy, it is said, at the same place where Julianus had previously defeated Decebalus, namely, Tapæ Here the Dacians again met with a sanguinary defeat, but the Romans also sustained severe losses, and Trajan secured himself in the affections of his soldiers by tearing up his garments to make bandages for the wounded. After this reverse Decebalus sought to reopen negotiations with Trajan, but on his refusal to receive the emissaries of the emperor, who decline to meet him in person, hostilities were renewed, and the war was prosecuted by the Dacians with great fierceness and barbarity. The discipline and warlike resources of Rome however, maintained the ascendency for her arms. Decbalus was pressed from stronghold to stronghold, and defeated in one encounter after another, until at length his capital Sarmizegethusa was threatened by his triumphant enemy. Then it was that he sued earnestly for peace, and accepted the unfavourable conditions offered him by Trajan. He was compelled to give up all his war material and artificers, to raze his fortresses, to deliver up all Roman prisoners and deserters, to conclude a treaty defensive and offensive with me, and to appear before and do homage to the emperor. Dacia thus became a vassal but autonomous province of the Empire, and, content with his victory, Trajan returned to the capital, taking with him certain Dacian chiefs, who repeated the act of homage in the senate. He then celebrated a triumph, and received the distinctive title of ‘Dacicus.’

As we have already stated, the story of Trajan’s expeditions into Dacia is recorded in the bas-reliefs of the column bearing his name and still existing in Rome. These bas-reliefs have been subject to various readings and interpretations, but we have so far avoided referring to them under the impression that they can only be taken in a general sense to resent the exploits of Trajan, and that any attempt to extract from them the names of localities is at best a hazardous experiment. With these reservations, however, it is safe say that they vividly represent incidents of the campaign and bring us face to face with the warlike character and cuss of the contending nations. The progress of the expedition, as shown on the column, is divided into sections, placed one above another, and separated by stems of trees which coil round the column; in the first of these sections see the passage of the army across the Danube over two bridges of boats. The Roman soldiers are chiefly bared, carrying their shields and helmets, and many bearing standards with eagles, images of the gods, and other devices. Some of the objects carried are supposed to be lanterns, which it is inferred that the passage took place at night. In advance are the trumpeters bearing long curved horns, and the led horses of Trajan and his generals. The named have already crossed the river, and Trajan is seated on a platform surrounded by his officers, haranguing his men. Next we find ourselves in the enemy’s country, although there are no signs as yet of the Dacians, and the two succeeding sections of the column are occupied by the progress of the Roman arms. The soldiers are felling timber, removing obstructions, and building forts and bridges, over all of which operations Trajan is seen to preside in person. In the fourth division the Dacians appear, suing for peace; the emissaries are clad in long robes, and Trajan meets them outside a fort. Then follow further incidents in the campaign; encounters take place between the opposing forces, in which the Dacians are defeated and their dead lie scattered on the ground. They are then seen retreating with their women and children, devastating the country and slaying their cattle which are heaped up in piles. Trajan is again present, sparing the old men, women, and children, and making prisoners Now the Dacians are the attacking party, and the Romans defend themselves behind forts; and then again the army is in motion with Trajan at its head, crossing rivers, and erecting fortifications. In the next section the Dacians have made a stand, and the scene represents a pitched battle in which they are again defeated with great slaughter. All the incidents of the fight are vividly depicted: Romans fighting from their chariots, Dacians an their allies mounted and on foot, prisoners brought in, an a roan, apparently a spy, bound before Trajan himself. Then follows a further advance, which occupies some of the succeeding scenes of the panorama. Here the Romans fall into an ambuscade, from which they extricate themselves; there  they pass a post of danger, apparently a wooden stronghold of the Dacians, under cover of a wall of shields held aloft by the soldiers; and at length they arrive before a fortified town, where Trajan is again seen seated upon a platform, surrounded by his generals, whilst the Dacians, one of whom is supposed to be Decebalus himself, kneel round about, suing for peace. In this scene the attire, emblems, and accoutrements of the two contending nations are presented in marked contrast. The Roman standards and eagles have already been mentioned; those of the Dacians generally represent serpentine monsters at the end of a long pole.Whilst the Romans carry their tall, curved, oblong shield, the oval ones of the Dacians ornamented with floral devices lie heaped confusion. Most of the Dacians are bareheaded, but some, opposed to be chief’s, wear a head-dress resembling a cap of liberty. Another section completes the panorama of the first expedition, representing the embarkation and landing of rajah ; the sacrifices, triumph, and rejoicings in the capital. But Decebalus had no more intention of abiding by the terms of his treaty with the Roman emperor than had Trajan with that of his predecessor. The Dacian king no sooner seen his enemy’s back than he repaired his tresses, armed his people afresh, sought new alliances with his neighbours, and commenced depredations upon territories of Rome and her allies. Than it was that Trajan prepared to chastise the barbarians, and this time He determined to crash the Dacian power completely, and to annex the conquered country as a Roman province. Although he is said to have been in Mœsia in A.D. 104, the actual movements against Dacia only commenced the following year, and in this as in the preceding expedition routes pursued by the Roman army have not been clearly defined. The bridge across the Danube from Gladowa to Turnu-Severin was most likely completed, and part, if not the whole, of Trojan’s army crossed there. Those writers who believe that in the first expedition a portion of the forces entered from Pannonia, say that, knowing the geography of the country better, Trajan now sent a division up the valley of the Theirs, crossing. the Danube at Viminacium; a whilst there is little doubt that a portion of the army continued the march eastward along the Mœsian bank of the Danube, crossed at a station opposite the mouth of the Alutus (now Oltu), landed near the modern Celeiu, and, crossing the plain, entered the mountain fastnesses through t the Rothenthurm pass.

By whatever routes Trajan’s army invaded the dominions of the doomed king, it is known that his advance was prompt and successful, and that this time the fame of the Roman arms prevented Decebalus from securing many allies. He once more sued for peace; but Trajan’s terms being a virtual relinquishment of his independence, he prepared himself for a supreme and desperate effort for the defence of his kingdom. At first it is said that he attempted to remove Trajan by assassination, but that his emissaries were detected and put to death. Another expedient seems to have been temporarily successful. He managed to decoy into his power Longinus, a Roman general, said to have been a great favourite of Trajan, and, holding him as hostage, Decebalus demanded extravagant terms of peace. To this proposal Trajan gave an evasive reply, in order, if possible, to save the life of his officer. The last-name however, with true Roman patriotism, had a message conveyed to Trajan by his freedman, advising him to proceed with his operations, and at the same time he himself took a dose of poison in order to relieve his master from further perplexity on his account. Decebalus then offered to give up the body of the Roman general and certain other captives in return for the escaped freedman, but Trajan returned answer to his proposal. Very little is known of the incidents of thin campaign, excepting that Trajan forced the passes of the Carpathians, and, taking one defended post after another, drove the enemy into the vicinity of his capital ; that the tribes who lad allied themselves with the Dacians, amongst whom the Sarmatians, Jasyges, and Burri are named, deserted them one by one, and that the Romans at length laid siege to Sarmizegethusa, where Decebalus had taken refuge. After a brave but ineffectual defence the king, rather than yield himself a prisoner, committed suicide with his sword; whilst his followers, after setting fire to the town, imitated the example of their leader by taking poison. The head of Decebalus was cut off and sent Rome by Trajan, who discovered and divided amongst his soldiers vast spoils and treasures which the Dacians had endeavoured to conceal, and then returned to Rome, where (A.D. 106) a triumph was celebrated on even a grander scale after the conclusion of his first expedition.

Before drawing to a close this hasty survey of the rise fall of the Dacian monarchy, let us turn again for a moment to the bas-reliefs upon Trajan’s Column, the indelible and, after all, the most trustworthy record of his second expedition. Passing hastily over the first scenes, which any comprise the landing of his troops, the assault and capture war of a fortified place, the defeat of the Dacians, and what appears to be a refusal on the part of Trajan to grant them peace, we leave a very faithful and circumstantial picture of a halt, where the emperor is present at the offering of a bull as sacrifice. Then there is a continuance of the march inland, followed by fierce contests between the two armies. At length the Romans arrive before a walled city (probably Sarmizegethusa) where all the incidents of a siege, including personal adventures, are portrayed. A Roman soldier, standing at the top of a scaling ladder, has struck off the head of one of the Dacians on the wall, whilst the latter are seen hurling stones and other missiles at those engaged in the assault. Then comes another application for peace, a Dacian prince kneeling at the feet of Trajan ; whilst in it the same section, separated only by a couple of thin trees, we have the scene of the Dacians setting fire to their city, and in close contiguity is their dying leader. The remaining scenes depict the Roman soldiers dividing the spoil. Trajan is addressing them, distributing rewards, and bidding them adieu.. Then follow secondary incidents; the building of fortresses by the Romans; one or two more contests in which Trajan’s generals defeat the Dacians, driving them into the mountains, whither they are seen fleeing with their flocks, women, and children. One of the last scenes represents the second triumph of Trajan, with soldiers who arrive bearing the head of Decebalus. Some of the minor incidents in the panorama are intended to exhibit the barbarity of the Dacians, one being the exhibition of a row of heads stuck upon spears on the walls of a town or fortress; another the burning and torturing of naked Roman prisoners by Dacian women. Altogether these bas-reliefs, which are said to be the work of several artists, present anything but an edifying spectacle of the ancient mode of warfare.


Whatever uncertainty attaches to the details of Trajan’s expeditions, there is none as to their ultimate result, nor concerning the chief operations of the conqueror and his successors in the newly-acquired territory, which was for many annexed as a province of the Empire. Some historians d have attempted to define with great minuteness the boundaries of the new province, but more cautious writers content themselves with naming approximate limits; and these have done wisely, as there is no doubt that the movements of the neighbouring tribes and even of the conquered Dacians (for it is a mistake to suppose, as some do, that they went out of existence) prevented any strict line of demarcation. The nominal boundaries of Roman Dacia were the river Theiss on the west, the Pruth on the east, `barbarians’ on the north, and the river Danube on the south. The country actually colonised embraced the Banate of Temesvar, Transylvania, (Siebenbürgen), and Roumania as they exist to-day. There were several centres of colonisation, of which the chief was Ulpia Trajana, including the old capital of Decebalus, Sarmizegethusa (now Varhely), and other important centres were Apulum and Cerna or Tierna.

Trajan and his successors built fortifications, walls, and towns; and, attracted partly by the fertility of the plains and partly by the gold mines of the Carpathians, the Roman  colonies soon swelled in numbers and importance. 

Different opinions have been expressed concerning the character of these colonists. One modern writer, Carra, who is considered an authority in Roumanian history, says that the Romans regarded Dacia as the French, Cayenne, and sent thither a colony consisting of the scum of the principal towns of Greece and the Roman Empire. Their descendants, he adds, who inherited their vices and cowardice, were turn by turn conquered and enslaved by the Sarmatians, Huns, and Tartars. This is a statement which rather affects the feelings of modern Roumanians than the current of historical events, and it brings us face to face with an enquiry which we shall have to handle with great circumspection, namely, the descent of the modern Roumanians from the old Daco-Roman colonists, lest we find ourselves involved in a controversy that would fill volumes. So far as the records of Roman history enable us to judge, Carra has done great injustice to the colonists of Dacia. It is true that the Romans banished some of their malefactors, and especially political offenders, to their colonies, as Ovid was expatriated; and that Trajan colonised Dacia from various parts of the Empire; but the custom of the Roman generals, which Trajan would doubtless have followed, was to divide the most fertile districts amongst their veteran soldiers,4 and therefore, if the charges of cowardice and debauchery made by Carra were true, they would apply to the bravest in the legions who had conquered the almost indomitable Decebalus. But Carra lived and wrote at a time (A.D. 17 77) when cool judgment could hardly be expected in a writer on Roumania, and if he were alive to-day he would be surprised to hear that there is a school of modern historians who, using his very  authorities, deny that the descendants of the Daco-Roman colonists were ever to be found on Dacian ground during the incursions of the eastern barbarians. But of that more here after.

The history of the Roman occupation of Dacia, which lasted from the time of Trajan until it was evacuated by Aurelian,affords little to interest the reader. Dada was, so to speak, the outwork of the Empire which served to hold the barbarians at bay during its ` decline and fall; ‘ and the country was more prosperous than during the period of its independence, when the tribes were constantly at war with one another and there was no settled government. That the attitude of the barbarians was threatening even a few years after the death of Trajan is, however, more than probable, for his immediate successor, Hadrian, contemplated with drawing his legions, and destroyed the bridge across the Danube, 118 or 120 A.D. Some writers, indeed, attribute this act to his jealousy of Trajan, others to his hatred of Apollodorus, the architect; but most probably the cause assigned by Dion Cassius, that it was to prevent its being used by the barbarians for making inroads into Mœsia, was the true one.During the reigns of Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius for about half a century, the barbarians were kept in check, although even during that period they a had managed to encroach upon the Roman territory.

At the beginning of the third century, however, the Roman hold on Dacia began to be very precarious, and we approach the time when the dark veil of the so-called barbarian ages is drawn over the history of Europe. That the Roman emperors had to contend, with very varying fortunes, with barbarous tribes is certain, and that their arms were still frequently successful is proved by the erection of fortresses and towns, named after their emperors, on the borders of their possessions. For example, Caracalla defeated certain barbarous hordes about A.D. 212, and assumed the name of ‘Geticus,’ but whether the conquered tribes were Dacians or Goths is uncertain.

A few years later the Quadi and Marcomanni made inroads into Western Dacia, but they were held in check by the proconsul Varus, who built a tower or fort in close proximity to Trajan’s bridge, of which the ruins are still visible to travellers on the Danube, and which has given its name to the modern town of Turnu-Severin. But the Goths, a people of Scandinavian origin, had been for some time previously drawing nearer to the borders of the Roman Empire. Between the beginning of our era and the end of the second century they had spread themselves, associated with the Vandals, in the direction of the Carpathians and the Ukraine, and in the reign of the Emperor Philip (243-249) they made irruptions into Mœsia. In that of Decius they invaded the Roman territory a second time under a chief, Cniva, and, after defeating the Romans and compelling the emperor to flee, they took and sacked Pbilippopolis. Shortly afterwards Decius met them again, but he was again defeated and slain. The barbarians then retired with their plunder.

The next event of importance was the defeat of the Goths (about 268 or 269 8)by Marcus Aurelius Claudius. They had once more entered Roman territory, had overrun Mœsia and Illyria, and were approaching the capital ; it was therefore found necessary to raise a powerful army and drive them over the frontier. This time they were defeated with great Freeman (General Sketch of European History) says 260-270 A.D. slaughter at Naissos in the Balkans and elsewhere, and were then driven across the Danube. Marcus Aurelius, who took the name of ‘Gothicus,’ describes the fate of the enemy in I these terms: We have annihilated 320,000 Goths, and have I sunk two thousand of their ships. Everywhere rivers are covered with their shields, all the banks with their swords and ears, whilst the fields are sown with their bones. The roads are indistinguishable; much baggage is taken. We have captured so many women that every soldier is able to possess two or three of them.9 And yet, notwithstanding this decisive victory of Marcus Aurelius, his successor Aurelian found himself very shortly afterwards in deadly conflict with these same Goths, and his contests were so doubtful in their results that lie was glad to make a treaty of peace with them d leave them in undisturbed possession of Trajan’s Dacia. That he decided to ,withdraw the Roman legions (about 270 or 275 A.D.) from Dacian territory, that he offered protection to all colonists who were prepared to follow them across the Danube, and that a new colony, called Dacia Aureliani, was founded along the south bank of the Danube : these are uncontradicted facts. But when we come to enquire into the details of the withdrawal and the composition of the remaining population, we find such a conflict of authorities that it is impossible to come to a definite conclusion. Nay, not only do the historians differ from one another in regard to the conditions under which Aurelian evacuated Dacia, Trajana, or Dacia, north of the Danube, but in some cases they even contradict themselves, and, after a careful perusal and comparison of the statements of many of them, we are quite disposed to accept the opinion expressed by our own historian Gibbon, who, after saying that Aurelian withdrew the Roman legions from Dacia and offered the alternative of leaving to those colonists who were disposed to follow him, ads :–

‘The old country of that name (Dacia) detained, however, a considerable number of its inhabitants who dreaded exile more than a Gothic  master. These degenerate Romans continued to serve the Empire whose allegiance they had renounced by introducing amongst their conquerors the first notions of agriculture, the useful arts, and the convenience of civilisation. An intercourse of commerce and language was gradually established between the opposite banks of the Danube, and after Dacia became an independent State it often proved the firmest barrier of the Empire against the invasions of the savages of the north. A sense of interest attached these more settled barbarians to the alliance of Rome and a permanent interest very frequently ripens into sincere and useful friendship.’ 

And Gibbon, who had read and studied the works of Eutropius and his successor Vopiscus, as well as other more recent historians, gives us further details of the negotiations that took place between Aurelian and the Goths, which remove any doubts as to the accuracy of his views. Aurelian treated with the barbarians after a battle had been fought which was by no means adverse to the Roman arms, and he stipulated with the Goths that they should contribute an auxiliary force of 2,000 men to the Roman army. He moreover secured a large number of hostages, being the sons and daughters of Gothic chiefs, whom he sent to Rome to be educated. He adds, concerning the constitution of the province north of the Danube : ` This various colony which filled the ancient province, and was insensibly blended into one great nation, still acknowledged the superior renown and authority of the Gothic tribe, and claimed the fancied honour of Scandinavian origin.’ 

But this is not all. The great historian, whose views can only be rejected on what we may call a political or partisan theory, believed the Roman colonists to have been industrious agriculturists ; for when he speaks, in another place, of the temptations which led the wandering Goths in the first instance to cast longing eyes upon Dacia, he says: `But the prospects of the Roman territory were far more alluring, and the fields of Dacia were covered with a rich harvest; sown by the hands of an industrious, and exposed to be gathered by a warlike people.’