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"The Navies of Rome" by Michael Pitassi.
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DESCRIPTION: Softcover. Publisher: Boydell Press (2014). Pages: 392. Size: 9¼ x 6¾ x 1 inches; 2¼ pounds. Summary: This publication represents the first true examination of the Roman Navy as an independent arm of the military. Though many may perceive the Roman Empire as a primarily land-based organization, an empire forged by the formidable legions of infantry, the truth is that it was as much a maritime empire as that of the British in the nineteenth century, and in fact the Roman Navy was the most powerful maritime force ever to have existed. It secured the trade routes and maintained the communications that allowed the Roman Empire to exist; and it brought previously untouchable and unreachable enemies to battle and enabled the expansion of Imperial power into areas thought hitherto inaccessible. This book, featuring detailed reconstructions of the ships themselves, provides an engaging survey of the craft, their crewmen, and the navy's major contribution to the Empire's growth.
CONDITION: NEW. New oversized softcover. Boydell Press (2014) 392 pages. Unblemished except for extremely faint (almost imperceptible) edge and corner shelfwear to the covers. Pages are pristine; clean, crisp, unmarked, unmutilated, tightly bound, unambiguously unread. Shelfwear is principally in the form of very, very faint "crinkling" to the cover spine head and heel, as well as the cover "tips" (the four open corners of the covers, top and bottom, front and back). Condition is entirely consistent with new stock from a bookstore environment wherein new books might show faint signs of shelfwear, consequence of routine handling and simply being shelved and re-shelved. Satisfaction unconditionally guaranteed. In stock, ready to ship. No disappointments, no excuses. PROMPT SHIPPING! HEAVILY PADDED, DAMAGE-FREE PACKAGING! #8579a.
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REVIEW: This publication represents the first true examination of the Roman Navy as an independent arm of the military. Though many may perceive the Roman Empire as a primarily land based organization, an empire forged by the formidable legions of infantry, the truth is that the Roman Empire was as much a maritime empire as that of the British in the nineteenth century, and in fact the Roman Navy was the most powerful maritime force ever to have existed.
It secured the trade routes and maintained the communications that allowed the Roman Empire to exist. It brought previously untouchable and unreachable enemies to battle and enabled the expansion of Imperial power into areas thought hitherto inaccessible. In the Mediterranean its power was un-rivaled and it maintained bases scattered around the coasts of Western Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
At the height of its power the Roman Navy employed tens of thousands of sailors, marines and craftsmen who manned and maintained a fleet of warships numerically far larger than anything in existence today. And yet this fascinating aspect of Roman rule has remained largely unstudied. Structured around a detailed chronology of the establishment, development and eventual decline of Rome's sea going forces, this work examines the role of naval warfare in the construction of Europe's first great empire.
Bringing together archaeological, pictorial and documentary evidence, it suggests many new avenues for research and highlights a long overlooked arena of naval scholarship.
REVIEW: The Roman Navy was the most powerful maritime force ever to have existed. It secured the trade routes and maintained the communications that allowed the Roman Empire to exist. It brought previously untouchable and unreachable enemies to battle and enabled the expansion of Imperial power into areas thought hitherto inaccessible. Without the support of its navy Rome would have been unable to survive. This work, the result of over a decade of study, examines the role of naval warfare in the development of Europe's first great empire.
REVIEW: The Roman navy was one of the most powerful maritime forces ever to have existed - it secured the trade routes and maintained the communications that allowed the Roman Empire to exist. This book is an examination of the Roman navy as an independent arm of the military.
REVIEW: A groundbreaking new chronological study of the role played by the Navy in the successful development of the Roman Empire.
REVIEW: Mike Pitassi is an independent scholar.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introduction by Michael Pitassi.
1. Beginnings: Foundation to the First Punic War, 753 to 264 B.C.
--Foundation and the Etruscans.
2. A Great Naval Power: The First Punic War, 264 to 218 B.C.
--First Punic War.
--Victories and Disasters.
3. Interbellum & The Struggle Resumed, 218 to 201 B.C.
--Cannae - Roman Lowpoint.
4. The Growth of Empire: 201 to 86 B.C.
--War in the East: Macedonia/Seleucia.
5. The Road to Civil War. 86 to 44 B.C.
--Caesar in Gaul and Britannia.
--Caesar Versus Pompeius.
6. End of the Republic- Start of Principate. 44 B.C. to A.D.13
--War Against Sextus.
--Octavius Versus Antonius.
7. The Early Empire - A.D. 12 to 70.
--Civil War: Confused Loyalties.
8. Apogee and Nadir - A.D. 71 to 285.
--Antonines: High Point of Empire.
--Instability and Invasion.
--Three Empires in One.
9. The Late Empire. Renewal and Decline. A.D. 285 to 476.
--Diocletian: A New Beginning.
Appendix I: The Kings and Emperors of Rome.
Appendix II: Navy Personnel Ranks.
Appendix III: Suggested Crew Levels of Ship Types.
Appendix IV: Glossary of Place Names.
Appendix V: Glossary of Nautical Terms.
REVIEW: Long overdue, comprehensive treatment of Roman sea power. I was in the process of editing my notes and drafts for a book I am writing on contract with Pen & Sword, provisionally titled Rome Rules the Waves, when I became aware of this book. I ordered a copy, worried that this would trump my project. My work is a kind of geo-strategic overview (how's that for a indigestible mouthful?) of Roman Sea Power at it's apogee, roughly 150 B.C. to A.D. 400.
This book provided a wealth of detail that has been hidden away in various erudite treatises on classical arcana. I had already completed most of my research when I purchased this book, but it does fill in some gaps on ship types, naval infrastructure and some minor naval engagements I had overlooked. I would highly recommend this book as a sequel to Chester Starr's 70+ year-old treatment.
It is an easy read and packs in a wealth of detail on everything you wanted to know about Roman naval history, but had no clue how to ask. My own book will be, as mentioned, what German military historians used to call "eine strategischer ueberblick". Mr. Pitassi's admirable work should be on the bookshelves alongside the noted Starr book, and Thiel's two rare (and expensive) studies on the Punic Wars prequel and review, now over 60 years old. [James J. Bloom].
REVIEW: Although scholars have long relied on the classic works by Lionel Casson and William Rodgers, a fresh work focusing on Roman naval development is both welcome and useful. The Romans became mariners not by nature but as a result of their expansionist policies, and that difference in motive sets the development of Roman sea power apart from that of the Greeks, Phoenicians, and other Mediterranean maritime powers.
Pitassi's in-depth study begins with an introduction explaining why the Romans were primarily a land-based power, why they eventually established a navy, and how they borrowed technology and organization from others and created a distinctive Roman navy that nevertheless relied on the expertise of their traditionally maritime subject peoples.
This is a narrative history as well as a focused study of the development of the ships, officers, and crews and the overall naval establishment; it includes maps, charts depicting the progression of specific battles, and more. Pitassi covers the entire period from the early days of the republic to the fall of the western empire, and includes useful appendixes and a lengthy bibliography. Highly recommended. [Lake Erie College].
REVIEW: One might wonder why the world needs another volume on the Roman Navy. That said, the classic works on the topic tend to deal with distinct sections of Roman history. For example, Thiel deals with two important periods during the Republic, as does Steinby, while Starr deals with the Empire -- and mainly the Early Empire in any case. What Pitassi has set out to achieve here is a chronological history of Rome's naval activity from the very beginnings of Rome through to the end of the Western Empire, with sections here and there devoted to various technical matters.
It must be pointed out that this is not a particularly academic book, and was presumably not intended by its author or publisher to be so. Despite this, the underlying scholarship is quite sound overall, though largely derived from other studies, and mainly Anglophone ones at that -- or so it seems. Whatever the case, the reader generally feels in safe hands. Ancient references are kept to a bare minimum and, when they do occur, are found in the form of endnotes. But it would be churlish to make too much of this, because the intended reader of the text would probably find in-text references annoying.
The novice reader is ably assisted by Pitassi in many respects. The volume includes an array of appendices that cover "The Kings and Emperors of Rome", "Roman Navy Personnel", "Suggested Crew Levels by Ship Type" (a very interesting if somewhat speculative adjunct to the main text), "Glossary of Place Names" (which usefully juxtaposes the ancient names of various locales with their modern equivalents), and, what is probably most useful of all, a "Glossary of Nautical Terms". The volume concludes with a reasonably useful bibliography and index.
The book is well made and looks rather handsome. There are off-set boxes in pale grey, which generally deal with technical matters, equipment and naval tactics. These off-set sections, of course, are worthy summaries that those new to Roman naval matters will undoubtedly find of real use and interest, such as the evolution of the trireme, naval artillery, the evolution of polyremes, and ship designs in the Late Empire. Their more or less parenthetical presentation, sometimes spread over two or more pages, might induce some readers to skip over them, without giving the content due consideration. This would be unfortunate.
It is odd that a book of this nature does not include many photographs -- it is certainly very text heavy. A case could well be made for including a greater array of photographs of iconographic, numismatic and plastic representations of Roman naval vessels, if only to provide greater visual underpinnings to the text -- and to reinforce the fact that literary sources are only one piece of a much broader puzzle. What we do find is fourteen color plates in the middle of the book ranging from ancient representations of galleys, photographs of ancient harbors, and scale reconstructions of ancient ships.
To supplement these plates are a variety of maps and diagrams scattered throughout the text. Maps of naval battles and attendant campaigns are prominent, as is to be expected, and are generally easy to decipher. Now to the text itself. What is immediately striking is that the main text is almost entirely chronological -- a history of Rome from its legendary foundation in 753 B.C. down to the deposition of the Western child-emperor Romulus Augustulus in A.D. 476. All of this is naval themed, but not always necessarily so. What this means is that the book, aside from those off-set sections discussed above, reads as a straight historical narrative.
There are glimpses of interesting independent analysis scattered here and there. Rome's history is viewed, here, through a naval lens, so the reader is likely to learn as much about Rome's political history as matters pertaining to naval history. The reader seems likely to learn as much about the Antonine Wall, the exploits of Commodus in the arena, and Diocletian's imperial system, as Roman boarding tactics in the First Punic War, or riverine battles against the Germans in the early Principate. Whatever the case, the reader certainly will not get lost. Dates are clearly signposted in the margins of the text, with months included where appropriate.
It follows that the main emphasis of the volume is on Roman military campaigning, and not necessarily naval matters. But this is hardly a surprise. That the Romans themselves more or less viewed naval campaigning as part of an overall approach to war in a modern 'combined ops' way, however simplistic that might sound, rather than as a separate theater or arena of operations becomes quickly manifest as the historical narrative is read. Accounts of battles on land blend effortlessly with descriptions of maritime activity, from the battles themselves through to securing supplies and protecting supply lines.
Riverine operations also take their place, particularly in chapter 7, which deals with "the Early Empire". Like most texts dealing with ancient navies, little attention is paid to vessels other than the more prestigious and presumably more interesting galleys. Transport ships were widely used by Rome to carry troops and supplies across the Mediterranean, and indeed along the various rivers that flowed through the empire, or constituted its borders. In view of this, they were crucial components of Roman campaigning -- if not naval warfare per se.
Despite those who would contend that the Vandals of the fifth-century A.D. had no galleys in their possession, Pitassi is clearly amenable to the contrary view (which I have strongly supported elsewhere). For example, during the destruction of Basiliscus' invasion fleet in A.D. 467, the Roman transports were "attacked with fire-ships and rams", the latter assertion is presumably based on Procopius, where the wind favored the Vandals' destructive gambit. Pitassi also makes some thought-provoking points about ship production in the ancient world.
Ancient galleys were clearly able to be built quite quickly, and in appreciable numbers. Pitassi's proposition is also demonstrated, for example, by loci in Caesar's works, though it is important to add that, if the vessels were not constructed from seasoned timber, they were likely to be slow in the water. Where Pitassi makes a potentially valid point is that there was likely to have been a large amount of prefabrication and standardized ship-building. Hence the components of the galley, which could be made some distance from the assembly point, were assembled close to where the vessel would be launched -- much like the just-in-time (JIT) approach favoured by modern automotive manufacturers.
Such an approach would have also allowed tributary towns and cities to concentrate on what they could produce best. By extension, this process led to fleets composed of very similar if not identical galleys rather than a hodge-podge of vessels with varying seaworthiness and performance. This reasoning seems to be derived from Livy, where various allies are requested by Scipio Africanus in 205 B.C. to provide equipment for his forthcoming invasion of Africa.
The Tarquinii do promise linen for sails, and Perusia, Clusium and Rusellae fir for ship-building, but it is the notice that the Volaterrae are to provide, as it states in the Loeb translation, "the interior fittings of ships" (interamenta navium) that comes closest to corroborating Pitassi's thesis. The volume reads well, so much is clear, but it is rather descriptive in tone. If you want to read a comprehensive Roman history, from the beginning of the Republic through to the Late Empire, with a naval flavor, this book would indeed have appeal. [Bryn Mawr Classical Review].<
REVIEW: In his introduction Pitassi notes that despite extensive literature on many aspects of Rome's conquests and her empire the role of her seafarers and navy are usually considered only in a passing way or as a "comparatively trivial part of the whole". Despite the obvious importance of her land forces over a twelve hundred year period Rome initially developed and then maintained and operated one of the largest navies the world has ever seen.
Rome is built on a peninsula which is never more than 70 miles from the sea and in her subsequent expansion water played a major factor in how her empire grew and developed. The first acquisitions of territory outside the city limits were towards the sea, while the major rivers of the Rhine, Danube and Euphrates eventually formed much of her boundaries. This work was written as a general maritime history and brings together much of the material relating to Rome’s naval achievements. In this it succeeds very well describing major and several minor but connected events in chronological order.
Additional notes providing background information relating to ships, weapons, seafaring navigation and trade are scattered throughout the book where the author has chosen as appropriate chronological points in the narrative. There are also around 40 pages containing illustrations and maps as well as sixteen plates and five appendices. The appendices include the obligatory list of kings and emperors of Rome but also two glossaries: one of place names and the other of nautical terms with the remaining appendices giving names of naval ranks and suggested crew levels.
Following the introduction, the book opens with a General Chronology which provides a handy overview of when key events occurred. The book itself is sorted into nine chapters following the chronological theme; opening with "Beginnings: Foundation to the First Punic War, 753 to 264B.C." and finishing with "Renewal and Decline, A.D. 285 to 476". The intervening chapters cover some of the key periods in the development and fall of the Empire including; "A Great Naval Power: the First Punic War, 264 to 218 B.C.", "The Road to Civil War, 86 to 44 B.C." and "The Early Empire, 12 B.C. to A.D. 70". Each chapter is in turn split down into 4 to 6 sub-chapters covering major events such as "Cannae: The Roman Lowpoint", "Caesar in Gaul", "Britannia", and "The Empire Divided".
This book is an ambitious undertaking and overall although I found it occasionally frustrating, it is also interesting in greater measures. It attempts and to a great extent succeeds in closing a large gap in the histories of Rome relating to the development and work of her naval power whether at sea or riverine from the early Republican period until the fall of Rome. It raises valid suggestions that much of Rome's success as well as her problems stemmed from the extent or otherwise of her support for her navy.
The linear nature of the book provides an overview format into which the author attempts to place often confusing events into context although the extended period of history covered by the book especially in the final chapter goes a long way to explaining the occasional lapses in structure and referencing noted above. The references which are there provide a very good starting point for further reading and on this basis I would recommend it for consideration by anyone wishing to look at a previously generally ignored aspect of Rome's rise and fall from power. [Ancient Roman History (unrv.com)].
REVIEW: (There is) an enormous amount of material contained in this excellent work by Michael Pitassi, which for the first time seeks to examine all aspects of the much neglected subject of Roman naval power. (It is) an academically very rigorous work of considerable substance written for both professional scholars and for those who are approaching the subject for the first time. It deserves to be on the shelves of all those with a passion for ancient naval warfare. [Journal of Mediterranean Studies].
REVIEW: Both welcome and useful...This is a narrative history as well as a focused study of the development of the ships, officers, and crews and the overall naval establishment. Recommended. [Choice].
REVIEW: The first comprehensive history of Roman fleets from their inception to the end of the Roman empire in the West...An interesting and handy overview of military Rome on sea and river. [Ancient Warfare].
REVIEW: Roman naval dominance lasted far longer than Britannia ruling the waves! This is overall an excellent account of Roman naval power from before the Punic Wars through the 450s A.D. There is some detail on administration, which some readers may find slow. There's detail on construction, force level. etc. The text is written extremely well. The book details crewing, bases, the whole business of constructing, maintaining and using navies.
The central point is that Roman naval forces were not simply legions afloat, but specialized forces integral to conquest and the maintenance of empire, including policing sea lanes and repression of piracy. The wars with Carthage are the usual focus of Roman naval actions, and the scale was huge, many thousands of sailors and soldiers aboard thousands of vessels. A storm in 255 B.C. wrecked a Roman fleet with as many as 100,000 drowned, the greatest known loss of life at sea in a single event. Pitassi maintains that the Romans out-sailored the Carthaginians, consistently beating them at sea.
The book look at Roman naval activity over many centuries, the span from before the Carthaginian Wars to the 450s is far longer than the era when Britannia ruled the waves. The best part of the book is probably the wars with Carthage, but Roman naval forces dominated the Mediterranean and Black Seas, and ventured into the Atlantic in the British provinces. There was also a kind of river navy.
REVIEW: Written as a chronology of events for the development of the Roman Navy from foundation to eventual destruction (in the West), this is an ambitious book because so little attention is paid to the Navy both in the original source material and in scholarship. This book certainly does not replace the classic Chester G Starr "The Roman Imperial Navy" but it does cover a much larger time period, and is more tightly focused on historical context (which other books often fail at providing). The book is nicely organized, the text is clearly written - this is a book written for a large audience. This is an important resource for a long-neglected area of Roman studies. If Pitassi continues in the vein of this and Roman Warships he will certainly become synonymous with Roman naval research.
REVIEW: This is an excellent and readable study of the subject. This is a comprehensive narrative history of the Roman navy, with interspersed "boxes" covering specialist details such as layouts of oar-banks and number of rowers, ship-board artillery and even shield-patterns. It is well-written and readable, although, especially in the late-empire period, it does dwell in great detail on the land campaigns - usually when there is not much naval activity - so this is actually a military history of Rome but from a naval viewpoint.
REVIEW: I saw this book for sale in Rome (totally different name) and decided to get the English version when I got home. The book is really easy to read, and although full of facts does not read like the dreaded textbook. The most interesting thing is the organization for the book. Although chapter based, the whole book is in chronological order. There are side bars on specific topics (like an annotated book). The major difference in format from the Italian version is that the plates are grouped together as opposed to being spread throughout the book. The drawn illustrations are easy to comprehend. I had a lot of books to read, but this jumped to front of list. It's a really outstanding book.
REVIEW: This book is one of the sources that gave me the inspiration and impetus to work on the thesis that I am currently writing. The descriptions, details, and arguments for the power of the Roman navy are well written and informative. The pictures and illustrations are useful and the use of archaeological evidence is sound. I am very happy to be able to reference this work in my thesis research.
REVIEW: There are few good books about the Roman Navy and this provides great summary background information for a novel about the Roman Army and Navy in the Asian provinces during the first century. The Navy during that time was a small part of the world-conquering Army. Usually ignored by Roman generals, it was allowed to function independently - thus offering many opportunities for characters to go off on their own adventures and only rarely cross paths with the Army.
REVIEW: Until I read this book, I was unaware of Rome having a navy. As a Navy veteran, I especially enjoyed reading this Roman Navy history.
REVIEW: Very thorough, well written, and well designed book. Lots of detail on the development and use of the Roman Navy.
REVIEW: What a great book this is. I really love this book. I takes me to the fantasies. I loved reading it a lot. the author of this book is also great. I appreciate his hard work on this book. It really kept me sitting on the edge of my seat. I didn’t wanted it to end. I recommend this book to everyone. Highly awesome book.
REVIEW: Five stars. Great book. Very detailed, lots of information, but easy to read.
REVIEW: Roman Naval Warfare. Military supremacy of the seas could be a crucial factor in the success of any land campaign, and the Romans well knew that a powerful naval fleet could supply troops and equipment to where they were most needed in as short a time as possible. Naval vessels could also supply beleaguered ports under enemy attack and, in turn, blockade ports under enemy control. A powerful navy was also indispensable to deal with pirates, who wreaked havoc with commercial sea-traders and even, on occasion, blockaded ports.
Naval warfare had its own unique dangers, though, with adverse weather being the biggest threat to success, which is why naval campaigns were largely limited to between April and November. Ancient naval vessels were made of wood, water-proofed using pitch and paint, and propelled by both sail and oars. Ships with multiple levels of rowers, such as the trireme, were fast and maneuverable enough to attack enemy vessels by ramming. The largest ships were the quinqueremes, with three banks of rowers, two each for the upper two oars and one rower on the lower oar (around 300 in total).
Ships could also be fitted with a platform via which marines could easily board enemy vessels - a device known as the corvus (raven). Built for speed, most warships were lightweight, cramped, and without room for storage or even a large body of troops. Such logistical purposes were better achieved using troop carrier vessels and supply ships under sail. Aside from the bronze covered battering ram below the water-line on the ship's prow, other weapons included artillery ballista which could be mounted on ships to provide lethal salvoes on enemy land positions from an unexpected and less protected flank or also against other vessels.
Fire balls (pots of burning pitch) could also be launched at the enemy vessel to destroy it by fire rather than ramming. Fleets came to be commanded by a prefect (praefectus) appointed by the emperor, and the position required someone with great skill and leadership qualities to successfully marshal a fleet of sometimes unwieldy vessels. The captain of a vessel held centurion rank or the title of trierarchus. Fleets were based at fortified ports such as Portus Julius in Campania which included artificial harbors and lagoons connected by tunnels.
Crews of Roman military vessels could be trained in such ports but they were, in reality, more soldiers than sailors as they were expected to act as light-armed land troops when necessary. Indeed, they are typically referred to as miles (soldiers) in documents and funeral monuments, and they also received the same pay as infantry auxiliaries and were similarly subject to Roman military law. Crews were typically recruited locally and drawn from the poorer classes (the proletarii) but could also include recruits from allied states, prisoners of war, and slaves.
Training was, therefore, a crucial requirement, so that the collective manpower was used most efficiently and discipline was maintained in the frenzy and horror of battle. Rome's navy swept away the Carthaginians and Cilician pirates, bringing total domination of the Mediterranean. Roman naval tactics differed little from the methods employed by the earlier Greeks. Vessels were propelled by rowers and sail to transport troops, and in naval battles the vessels became battering rams using their bronze-wrapped rams. In actual battle, sailing maneuverability was limited and so rowers propelled the vessels when at close quarters with the enemy.
Sails and rigging were stored on shore which saved weight, increased the vessel's stability, and left more room for marines. The objective was to position the ram to punch a hole in the enemy vessel and then withdraw to allow water into the stricken ship. Alternatively, a well-aimed swipe could break one bank of the enemy's oars and thus disable it. To achieve this sort of damage, the best angle of attack was to the enemy's flank or rear. Therefore, not only was maneuverability under oar a necessity but so too was speed.
This is why, over time, vessels had more and more rowers, not along the ship's length which would make the ship unseaworthy, but by piling rowers on top of each other. Thus the trireme of the Greeks, with three levels of rowers, had evolved from the brireme with two levels, and the trireme eventually evolved into the Roman quinquereme. Rome had employed naval vessels from the early Republic in the 4th century B.C., especially in response to the threat from pirates in the Tyrrhenian Sea, but it was in 260 B.C. that they built, in a mere 60 days, their first significant navy.
A fleet of 100 quinqueremes and 20 triremes was assembled in response to the threat from Carthage. In typically Roman fashion, the designers copied from, and improved upon, a captured Carthaginian quinquereme. The Romans had also recognized the inferiority of their seamanship compared to the much more experienced Carthaginians. For this reason they employed the corvus. This was an 11 meter long platform which could be lowered from the ship's bow on to the decks of enemy vessels and fixed via a huge metal spike. Roman troops (around 120 on each ship) could then board the opposing vessel and make short work of the enemy crew.
The first engagement where the corvi were employed with great effect was the Battle of Mylae off the coast of northern Sicily in 260 B.C. The two fleets were evenly matched with 130 vessels apiece, but the Carthaginians, not expecting the Romans to be any great shakes at naval warfare, did not even bother to form battle lines. The corvus proved a devastatingly successful attack weapon against the disorganized Carthaginians, and a Roman victory was the result, albeit, an unexpected one. Not only did the commander and consul Caius Duilius have the satisfaction of seeing his opposite number flee his flagship in a rowing boat, but he was also granted a military triumph for this, Rome's first great victory at sea.
The Battle of Ecnomus, in 256 B.C. off the southern coast of Sicily, was one of, if not the, largest sea battles in ancient times, and it would show that Mylae had been no fluke. The Romans, buoyed by their first success, had expanded their fleet so that they now had 330 quinqueremes with a total of 140,000 men ready for battle. The Carthaginians set sail with 350 ships, and the two massive fleets met off the coast of Sicily. The Romans organized themselves into four squadrons arranged in a wedge shape.
The Carthaginians sought to entice the front two Roman squadrons away from the rear and catch them in a pincer movement. However, whether through a lack of maneuverability or proper communication of intentions, the Carthaginian fleet instead attacked the Roman rear transport squadron whilst the front two Roman squadrons caused havoc inside the Carthaginian center. In the close-quarter fighting, seamanship counted for little and the corvii for everything. Once again, victory was Rome's. Carthage lost 100 ships to a mere 24 Roman losses.
The war dragged on, though, as Rome's immediate invasion of North Africa proved a costly failure. A notable expedition led by Gnaeus Servilius Rufus in 217 B.C. cleared Italian waters of Carthaginian raiders and the Romans did eventually defeat the Carthaginian fleet, but largely because they were able to replace lost ships and men quicker in what became a war of real attrition. Victories were mixed with defeat at Drepna in 249 B.C. and disasters such as the loss of 280 ships and 100,000 men in a single storm off the coast of Camarina in south-east Sicily.
Eventually however Rome prevailed. The war had cost Rome 1,600 ships but the prize was worth it: domination of the Mediterranean. This sea control became useful in Rome's wars with the successor kingdoms of Alexander in the Macedonian Wars. Between 198 and 195 B.C., for example, Rome repeatedly launched successful sea-borne raids against Philip V of Macedonia's ally Nabis, the Spartan tyrant. With the decline of Rhodes, which had for centuries policed the Mediterranean and Black Sea to protect her lucrative trade routes, piracy became rife in the 1st century B.C.
More than 1,000 pirate ships, often organized along military lines with fleets and admirals, were now the scourge of sea-trade. They also grew in confidence, acquiring triremes and even raiding Italy itself, attacking Ostia and disrupting the all-important grain supply. In 67 B.C. Rome once more amassed a fleet, and Pompey the Great was given the task of ridding the seas of the pirate pest in three years. With 500 ships, 120,000 men, and 5,000 cavalry at his disposal, Pompey divided his force into 13 zones and, himself leading a squadron, first cleared Sicily, then North Africa, Sardinia, and Spain.
Finally, he sailed for Cilicia in Asia Minor, where the pirates had their bases and where they had been deliberately allowed to gather by Pompey for a last decisive battle. Attacking by sea and land, and victorious in the battle of Coracesium, Pompey negotiated a pirate surrender with a sweetener of free land for those who gave themselves up peacefully. The last threat to Rome's complete control of the Mediterranean was gone. Now the only threat to Rome was Rome herself and, so it was, civil war ravaged Italy. Julius Caesar emerged the victor, and the remnants of Pompey's fleet became the backbone of the Roman navy, which was used to good effect in the expeditions to invade Britain - the larger second expedition in 54 B.C. involved a fleet of 800 ships.
Following Caesar's assassination, the fleet came under the control of Sextus Pompeius Magnus, ironically, the son of Pompey. By 38 B.C. Octavian, Caesar's heir, had to amass another fleet to meet the threat of Sextus. Giving command to Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, 370 vessels were dispatched to attack Sicily and the fleet of Sextus. Once again, a lack of well-trained seamen forced commanders to innovate, and Agrippa went for brute force over maneuverability and employed a catapult propelled grapnel on his vessels. This device allowed ships to be winched into close quarters to facilitate boarding by marines.
The weapon proved devastatingly effective in 36 B.C. at the 600-ship battle of Naulochos (Sicily again), and Sextus was defeated. In 31 B.C., near Actium on the western coast of Greece, there occurred one of the most significant naval battles in history. Still battling for control of the Roman Empire, Octavian now faced Mark Antony and his ally, Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra. Both sides amassed a fleet and made ready to attack the other. Mark Antony led a fleet of 500 warships and 300 merchant ships against Octavian's similar-sized force, although Antony had larger and less maneuverable Hellenistic-type vessels.
Agrippa, still in command, launched his attack early in the sailing season and so caught Antony by surprise. The northern outposts of Antony's forces were the target, a move which created a diversion whilst Octavian landed his army. In any case, Antony refused to be drawn from his fortified harbor in the Gulf of Ambricia. Blockade was Agrippa's only option. Perhaps, Antony was playing for time, waiting for his legions to assemble from around Greece. Octavian, though, would not be drawn into a land battle and dug-in his fleet behind a defensive mole 8 km to the north.
As disease ravaged his troops and his supply lines became increasingly threatened by Agrippa, Antony had little choice but to try and break out on the 2nd of September. Not helped by a defector giving Octavian his plans and several generals switching sides, Antony could only muster 230 ships against Agrippa's 400. Agrippa's strategy was to hold station at sea and lure Antony away from the coast. However, this would have exposed Antony to the greater maneuverability of Agrippa's vessels, so he tried to hug the coast and avoid encirclement.
As the wind rose around noon, Antony saw his chance for escape as his fleet was under sail whilst Agrippa's had stowed their sails on shore, standard practice in ancient naval warfare. The two fleets met and engaged and in the confusion, Cleopatra's 60-ship squadron fled the battle. Antony quickly followed suit; abandoning his flagship for another vessel, he followed his lover and left his fleet to be crushed by Agrippa and Octavian's combined forces. Soon after, Antony's land army, now leaderless, surrendered to Octavian with a negotiated peace.
The propaganda of the victors predictably blamed Cleopatra and Antony's cowardice for the defeat, but the fact that Antony had engaged Agrippa under sail suggests that, heavily outnumbered, he had, from the start, intended flight rather than combat. Following victory at Actium, the new emperor Octavian, now calling himself Augustus, established two 50-ship fleets - the classis Ravennatium based at Ravenna and the classis Misenatium based at Misenum (near Naples), which were in operation until the 4th century A.D. There were also later fleets based at Alexandria, Antioch, Rhodes, Sicily, Libya, Pontus, and Britain, as well as one operating on the Rhine and another two on the Danube.
These fleets allowed Rome to quickly respond to any military needs throughout the empire and to supply the army in its various campaigns. In truth though, there was no real naval competition to Rome's fleets. This is evidenced by the fact that in the following centuries, Rome was involved in only one more major naval battle - in 324 A.D. between emperor Constantine and his rival Licinius - and so, in the ancient Mediterranean at least, after Actium, the days of large-scale naval battles were over. [Ancient History Encyclopedia].
REVIEW: The Roman Navy comprised the naval forces of the Ancient Roman state. The navy was instrumental in the Roman conquest of the Mediterranean basin, but it never enjoyed the prestige of the Roman legions. Throughout their history, the Romans remained a primarily land-based people and relied partially on their more nautically inclined subjects, such as the Greeks and the Egyptians, to build their ships. Because of that, the navy was never completely embraced by the Roman state, and deemed somewhat "un-Roman".
In antiquity, navies and trading fleets did not have the logistical autonomy that modern ships and fleets possess. Unlike modern naval forces, the Roman navy even at its height never existed as an autonomous service but operated as an adjunct to the Roman army. During the course of the First Punic War, the Roman navy was massively expanded and played a vital role in the Roman victory and the Roman Republic's eventual ascension to hegemony in the Mediterranean Sea. In the course of the first half of the second century B.C., Rome went on to destroy Carthage and subdue the Hellenistic kingdoms of the eastern Mediterranean, achieving complete mastery of the inland sea, which they called Mare Nostrum.
The Roman fleets were again prominent in the 1st century B.C. in the wars against the pirates, and in the civil wars that brought down the Republic, whose campaigns ranged across the Mediterranean. In 31 B.C., the great naval Battle of Actium ended the civil wars culminating in the final victory of Augustus and the establishment of the Roman Empire. During the Imperial period, the Mediterranean became largely a peaceful "Roman lake". In the absence of a maritime enemy, the navy was reduced mostly to patrol, anti-piracy and transport duties. The navy also manned and maintained craft on major frontier rivers such as the Rhine and the Danube for supplying the army.
On the fringes of the Empire, in new conquests or, increasingly, in defense against barbarian invasions, the Roman fleets were still engaged in open warfare. The decline of the Empire in the third century took a heavy toll on the navy, which was reduced to a shadow of its former self, both in size and in combat ability. As successive waves of the Völkerwanderung crashed on the land frontiers of the battered Empire, the navy could only play a secondary role. In the early fifth century, the Roman frontiers were breached, and barbarian kingdoms appeared on the shores of the western Mediterranean.
One of them, the Vandal Kingdom, raised a navy of its own and raided the shores of the Mediterranean, even sacking Rome, while the diminished Roman fleets were incapable of offering any resistance. The Western Roman Empire collapsed in the late fifth century. The navy of the surviving eastern Roman Empire is known as the Byzantine navy. The exact origins of the Roman fleet are obscure. A traditionally agricultural and land-based society, the Romans rarely ventured out to sea, unlike their Etruscan neighbors.
There is evidence of Roman warships in the early 4th century B.C., such as mention of a warship that carried an embassy to Delphi in 394 B.C., but at any rate, the Roman fleet, if it existed, was negligible. The traditional birth date of the Roman navy is set at circa about 311 B.C., when, after the conquest of Campania, two new officials, the duumviri navales classis ornandae reficiendaeque causa, were tasked with the maintenance of a fleet. As a result, the Republic acquired its first fleet, consisting of 20 ships, most likely triremes, with each duumvir commanding a squadron of 10 ships.
However, the Republic continued to rely mostly on her legions for expansion in Italy; the navy was most likely geared towards combating piracy and lacked experience in naval warfare, being easily defeated in 282 B.C. by the Tarentines. This situation continued until the First Punic War. At that time the main task of the Roman fleet was patrolling along the Italian coast and rivers, protecting seaborne trade from piracy.
Whenever larger tasks had to be undertaken, such as the naval blockade of a besieged city, the Romans called on the allied Greek cities of southern Italy, the socii navales, to provide ships and crews. It is possible that the supervision of these maritime allies was one of the duties of the four new praetores classici, who were established in 267 B.C. The first Roman expedition outside mainland Italy was against the island of Sicily in 265 B.C.
This led to the outbreak of hostilities with Carthage, which would last until 241 B.C. At the time, the Punic city was the unchallenged master of the western Mediterranean, possessing a long maritime and naval experience and a large fleet. Although Rome had relied on her legions for the conquest of Italy, operations in Sicily had to be supported by a fleet, and the ships available by Rome's allies were insufficient. Thus in 261 B.C., the Roman Senate set out to construct a fleet of 100 quinqueremes and 20 triremes.
According to Polybius, the Romans seized a shipwrecked Carthaginian quinquereme, and used it as a blueprint for their own ships. The new fleets were commanded by the annually elected Roman magistrates, but naval expertise was provided by the lower officers, who continued to be provided by the socii, mostly Greeks. This practice was continued until well into the Empire, something also attested by the direct adoption of numerous Greek naval terms.
Despite the massive buildup, the Roman crews remained inferior in naval experience to the Carthaginians, and could not hope to match them in naval tactics, which required great maneuverability and experience. They therefore employed a novel weapon which transformed sea warfare to their advantage. They equipped their ships with the corvus, possibly developed earlier by the Syracusans against the Athenians. This was a long plank with a spike for hooking onto enemy ships.
Using it as a boarding bridge, marines were able to board an enemy ship, transforming sea combat into a version of land combat, where the Roman legionaries had the upper hand. However, it is believed that the corvus' weight made the ships unstable, and could capsize a ship in rough seas. Although the first sea engagement of the war, the Battle of the Lipari Islands in 260 B.C., was a defeat for Rome, the forces involved were relatively small. Through the use of the corvus, the fledgling Roman navy under Gaius Duilius won its first major engagement later that year at the Battle of Mylae.
During the course of the war, Rome continued to be victorious at sea: victories at Sulci (258 B.C.) and Tyndaris (257 B.C.) were followed by the massive Battle of Cape Ecnomus, where the Roman fleet under the consuls Marcus Atilius Regulus and Lucius Manlius inflicted a severe defeat on the Carthaginians. This string of successes allowed Rome to push the war further across the sea to Africa and Carthage itself. Continued Roman success also meant that their navy gained significant experience.
At the same time the Roman Navy also suffered a number of catastrophic losses due to storms. Conversely, the Carthaginian navy suffered from attrition. The Battle of Drepana in 249 B.C. resulted in the only major Carthaginian sea victory, forcing the Romans to equip a new fleet from donations by private citizens. In the last battle of the war, at Aegates Islands in 241 B.C., the Romans under Gaius Lutatius Catulus displayed superior seamanship to the Carthaginians, notably using their rams rather than the now-abandoned corvus to achieve victory.
After the Roman victory, the balance of naval power in the Western Mediterranean had shifted from Carthage to Rome. This ensured Carthaginian acquiescence to the conquest of Sardinia and Corsica, and also enabled Rome to deal decisively with the threat posed by the Illyrian pirates in the Adriatic. The Illyrian Wars marked Rome's first involvement with the affairs of the Balkan peninsula. Initially, in 229 B.C., a fleet of 200 warships was sent against Queen Teuta, and swiftly expelled the Illyrian garrisons from the Greek coastal cities of modern-day Albania.
Ten years later, the Romans sent another expedition in the area against Demetrius of Pharos, who had rebuilt the Illyrian navy and engaged in piracy up into the Aegean. Demetrius was supported by Philip V of Macedon, who had grown anxious at the expansion of Roman power in Illyria. The Romans were again quickly victorious and expanded their Illyrian protectorate, but the beginning of the Second Punic War (218–201 B.C.) forced them to divert their resources westwards for the next decades.
Due to Rome's command of the seas, Hannibal, Carthage's great general, was forced to eschew a sea-borne invasion, instead choosing to bring the war over land to the Italian peninsula. Unlike the first war, the navy played little role on either side in this war. The only naval encounters occurred in the first years of the war, at Lilybaeum (218 B.C.) and the Ebro River (217 B.C.), both resulting Roman victories. Despite an overall numerical parity, for the remainder of the war the Carthaginians did not seriously challenge Roman supremacy.
The Roman fleet was hence engaged primarily with raiding the shores of Africa and guarding Italy, a task which included the interception of Carthaginian convoys of supplies and reinforcements for Hannibal's army, as well as keeping an eye on a potential intervention by Carthage's ally, Philip V. The only major action in which the Roman fleet was involved was the siege of Syracuse in 214-212 B.C. with 130 ships under Marcus Claudius Marcellus.
The siege is remembered for the ingenious inventions of Archimedes, such as mirrors that burned ships or the so-called "Claw of Archimedes", which kept the besieging army at bay for two years. A fleet of 160 vessels was assembled to support Scipio Africanus' army in Africa in 202 B.C., and, should his expedition fail, evacuate his men. In the event, Scipio achieved a decisive victory at Zama, and the subsequent peace stripped Carthage of its fleet.
Rome was now the undisputed mistress of the Western Mediterranean, and turned her gaze from defeated Carthage to the Hellenistic world. Small Roman forces had already been engaged in the First Macedonian War, when, in 214 B.C., a fleet under Marcus Valerius Laevinus had successfully thwarted Philip V from invading Illyria with his newly built fleet. The rest of the war was carried out mostly by Rome's allies, the Aetolian League and later the Kingdom of Pergamon, but a combined Roman-Pergamene fleet of about 60 ships patrolled the Aegean until the war's end in 205 B.C.
In this conflict, Rome, still embroiled in the Punic War, was not interested in expanding her possessions, but rather in thwarting the growth of Philip's power in Greece. The war ended in an effective stalemate, and was renewed in 201 B.C., when Philip V invaded Asia Minor. A naval battle off Chios ended in a costly victory for the Pergamene-Rhodian alliance, but the Macedonian fleet lost many warships, including its flagship, a deceres.
Soon after, Pergamon and Rhodes appealed to Rome for help, and the Republic was drawn into the Second Macedonian War. In view of the massive Roman naval superiority, the war was fought on land, with the Macedonian fleet, already weakened at Chios, not daring to venture out of its anchorage at Demetrias. After the crushing Roman victory at Cynoscephalae, the terms imposed on Macedon were harsh, and included the complete disbandment of her navy.
Almost immediately following the defeat of Macedon, Rome became embroiled in a war with the Seleucid Empire. This war too was decided mainly on land, although the combined Roman-Rhodian navy also achieved victories over the Seleucids at Myonessus and Eurymedon. These victories, which were invariably concluded with the imposition of peace treaties that prohibited the maintenance of anything but token naval forces, spelled the disappearance of the Hellenistic royal navies, leaving Rome and her allies unchallenged at sea.
Coupled with the final destruction of Carthage, and the end of Macedon's independence, by the latter half of the 2nd century B.C., Roman control over all of what was later to be dubbed mare nostrum ("our sea") had been established. Subsequently, the Roman navy was drastically reduced, depending on its Socii navales. In the absence of a strong naval presence however, piracy flourished throughout the Mediterranean, especially in Cilicia, but also in Crete and other places, further reinforced by money and warships supplied by King Mithridates VI of Pontus.
Mithridates hoped to enlist the aid of the pirates in his wars against Rome. In the First Mithridatic War (89–85 B.C.), Sulla had to requisition ships wherever he could find them to counter Mithridates' fleet. Despite the makeshift nature of the Roman fleet however, in 86 B.C. Lucullus defeated the Pontic navy at Tenedos. Immediately after the end of the war, a permanent force of about 100 vessels was established in the Aegean from the contributions of Rome's allied maritime states.
Although sufficient to guard against Mithridates, this force was totally inadequate against the pirates, whose power grew rapidly. Over the next decade, the pirates defeated several Roman commanders, and raided unhindered even to the shores of Italy, reaching Rome's harbor, Ostia. According to the account of Plutarch, "the ships of the pirates numbered more than a thousand, and the cities captured by them four hundred". Their activity posed a growing threat for the Roman economy, and a challenge to Roman power.
Several prominent Romans, including two praetors with their retinue and the young Julius Caesar, were captured and held for ransom. Perhaps most important of all, the pirates disrupted Rome's vital lifeline, namely the massive shipments of grain and other produce from Africa and Egypt that were needed to sustain the city's population. The resulting grain shortages were a major political issue, and popular discontent threatened to become explosive. In 74 B.C., with the outbreak of the Third Mithridatic War, Marcus Antonius (the father of Mark Antony) was appointed praetor with extraordinary imperium against the pirate threat.
However Marcus Antonius failed in his task: he was defeated off Crete in 72 B.C., and died shortly after. Finally, in 67 B.C. the Lex Gabinia was passed in the Plebeian Council, vesting Pompey with unprecedented powers and authorizing him to move against the pirates. In a massive and concerted campaign, Pompey cleared the seas from the pirates in only three months. Afterwards, the fleet was reduced again to policing duties against intermittent piracy. In 56 B.C., for the first time a Roman fleet engaged in battle outside the Mediterranean.
This occurred during Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars, when the maritime tribe of the Veneti rebelled against Rome. Against the Veneti, the Romans were at a disadvantage, since they did not know the coast, and were inexperienced in fighting in the open sea with its tides and currents. Furthermore, the Veneti ships were superior to the light Roman galleys. They were built of oak and had no oars, being thus more resistant to ramming. In addition, their greater height gave them an advantage in both missile exchanges and boarding actions.
When the two fleets encountered each other in Quiberon Bay, Caesar's navy, under the command of D. Brutus, resorted to the use of hooks on long poles, which cut the halyards supporting the Veneti sails. Immobile, the Veneti ships were easy prey for the legionaries who boarded them, and fleeing Veneti ships were taken when they became becalmed by a sudden lack of winds. Having thus established his control of the English Channel, in the next years Caesar used this newly built fleet to carry out two invasions of Britain.
From then until the late third century A.D., the last major campaigns of the Roman navy in the Mediterranean would be in the civil wars that ended the Republic. In the East, the Republican faction quickly established its control, and Rhodes, the last independent maritime power in the Aegean, was subdued by Gaius Cassius Longinus in 43 B.C., after its fleet was defeated off Kos. In the West, against the triumvirs stood Sextus Pompeius, who had been given command of the Italian fleet by the Senate in 43 B.C. He took control of Sicily and made it his base, blockading Italy and stopping the politically crucial supply of grain from Africa to Rome.
After suffering a defeat from Sextus in 42 B.C., Octavian initiated massive naval armaments, aided by his closest associate, Marcus Agrippa. Ships were built at Ravenna and Ostia, the new artificial harbor of Portus Julius built at Cumae, and soldiers and rowers levied, including over 20,000 manumitted slaves. Finally, Octavian and Agrippa defeated Sextus in the Battle of Naulochus in 36 B.C., putting an end to all Pompeian resistance. Octavian's power was further enhanced after his victory against the combined fleets of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, in the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C., where Antony had assembled 500 ships against Octavian's 400 ships.
This last naval battle of the Roman Republic definitively established Octavian as the sole ruler over Rome and the Mediterranean world. In the aftermath of his victory, he formalized the Fleet's structure, establishing several key harbors in the Mediterranean. The now fully professional navy had its main duties consist of protecting against piracy, escorting troops and patrolling the river frontiers of Europe. It remained however engaged in active warfare in the periphery of the Empire.
Under Augustus and after the conquest of Egypt there were increasing demands from the Roman economy to extend the trade lanes to India. The Arabian control of all sea routes to India was an obstacle. One of the first naval operations under princeps Augustus was therefore the preparation for a campaign on the Arabian Peninsula. Aelius Gallus, the prefect of Egypt ordered the construction of 130 transports and subsequently carried 10,000 soldiers to Arabia. But the following march through the desert towards Yemen failed and the plans for control of the Arabian peninsula had to be abandoned.
At the other end of the Empire, in Germania, the navy played an important role in the supply and transport of the legions. In 15 B.C. an independent fleet was installed at the Lake Constance. Later, the generals Drusus and Tiberius used the Navy extensively, when they tried to extend the Roman frontier to the Elbe. In 12 B.C. Drusus ordered the construction of a fleet of 1,000 ships and sailed them along the Rhine into the North Sea. The Frisii and Chauci had nothing to oppose the superior numbers, tactics and technology of the Romans. When these entered the river mouths of Weser and Ems, the local tribes had to surrender.
In 5 B.C. the Roman knowledge concerning the North and Baltic Sea was fairly extended during a campaign by Tiberius, reaching as far as the Elbe: Plinius describes how Roman naval formations came past Heligoland and set sail to the north-eastern coast of Denmark, and Augustus himself boasts in his Res Gestae: "My fleet sailed from the mouth of the Rhine eastward as far as the lands of the Cimbri to which, up to that time, no Roman had ever penetrated either by land or by sea..." The multiple naval operations north of Germania had to be abandoned after the battle of the Teutoburg Forest in the year 9 A.D.
In the years 15 and 16 A.D., Germanicus carried out several fleet operations along the rivers Rhine and Ems, without permanent results due to grim Germanic resistance and a disastrous storm. By 28 A.D, the Romans lost further control of the Rhine mouth in a succession of Frisian insurgencies. From 43 to 85, the Roman navy played an important role in the Roman conquest of Britain. The classis Germanica rendered outstanding services in multitudinous landing operations. In 46, a naval expedition made a push deep into the Black Sea region and even traveled on the Tanais. In 47 a revolt by the Chauci, who took to piratical activities along the Gallic coast, was subdued by Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo.
By 57 A.D. an expeditionary corps reached Chersonesos in the Crimean. It seems that under Nero, the navy obtained strategically important positions for trading with India; but there was no known fleet in the Red Sea. Possibly, parts of the Alexandrian fleet were operating as escorts for the Indian trade. In the Jewish revolt, from 66 to 70, the Romans were forced to fight Jewish ships, operating from a harbor in the area of modern Tel Aviv, on Israel's Mediterranean coast. In the meantime several flotilla engagements on the Sea of Galilee took place.
In 68, as his reign became increasingly insecure, Nero raised legio I Adiutrix from sailors of the praetorian fleets. After Nero's overthrow, in 69, the "Year of the four emperors", the praetorian fleets supported Emperor Otho against the usurper Vitellius, and after his eventual victory, Vespasian formed another legion, legio II Adiutrix, from their ranks. Only in the Pontus did Anicetus, the commander of the Classis Pontica, support Vitellius. He burned the fleet, and sought refuge with the Iberian tribes, engaging in piracy. After a new fleet was built, this revolt was subdued.
During the Batavian rebellion of Gaius Julius Civilis (69-70), the rebels got hold of a squadron of the Rhine fleet by treachery, and the conflict featured frequent use of the Roman Rhine flotilla. In the last phase of the war, the British fleet and legio XIV were brought in from Britain to attack the Batavian coast, but the Cananefates, allies of the Batavians, were able to destroy or capture a large part of the fleet. In the meantime, the new Roman commander, Quintus Petillius Cerialis, advanced north and constructed a new fleet.
Civilis attempted only a short encounter with his own fleet, but could not hinder the superior Roman force from landing and ravaging the island of the Batavians, leading to the negotiation of a peace soon after. In the years 82 to 85, the Romans under Gnaeus Julius Agricola launched a campaign against the Caledonians in modern Scotland. In this context the Roman navy significantly escalated activities on the eastern Scottish coast. Simultaneously multiple expeditions and reconnaissance trips were launched. During these the Romans would capture the Orkney Islands (Orcades) for a short period of time and obtained information about the Shetland Islands.
There is some speculation about a Roman landing in Ireland, based on Tacitus reports about Agricola contemplating the island's conquest, but no conclusive evidence to support this theory has been found. Under the Five Good Emperors the navy operated mainly on the rivers; so it played an important role during Trajan's conquest of Dacia and temporarily an independent fleet for the Euphrates and Tigris rivers was founded. Also during the wars against the Marcomanni confederation under Marcus Aurelius several combats took place on the Danube and the Tisza.
Under the aegis of the Severan dynasty, the only known military operations of the navy were carried out under Septimius Severus, using naval assistance on his campaigns along the Euphrates and Tigris, as well as in Scotland. Thereby Roman ships reached inter alia the Persian Gulf and the top of the British Isles. As the third century dawned, the Roman Empire was at its peak. In the Mediterranean, peace had reigned for over two centuries, as piracy had been wiped out and no outside naval threats occurred. As a result, complacency had set in.
Naval tactics and technology were neglected, and the Roman naval system had become moribund. After 230 A.D. however and for fifty years thereafter, the situation changed dramatically. The so-called "Crisis of the Third Century" ushered a period of internal turmoil, and the same period saw a renewed series of seaborne assaults, which the imperial fleets proved unable to stem. In the West, Picts and Irish ships raided Britain, while the Saxons raided the North Sea, forcing the Romans to abandon Frisia. In the East, the Goths and other tribes from modern Ukraine raided in great numbers over the Black Sea.
These invasions began during the rule of Trebonianus Gallus, when for the first time Germanic tribes built up their own powerful fleet in the Black Sea. Via two surprise attacks on Roman naval bases in the Caucasus and near the Danube, numerous ships fell into the hands of the Germans, whereupon the raids were extended as far as the Aegean Sea; Byzantium, Athens, Sparta and other towns were plundered and the responsible provincial fleets were heavily debilitated. It was not until the attackers made a tactical error, that their onrush could be stopped.
In 267–270 another, much fiercer series of attacks took place. A fleet composed of Heruli and other tribes raided the coasts of Thrace and the Pontus. Defeated off Byzantium by general Venerianus, the barbarians fled into the Aegean, and ravaged many islands and coastal cities, including Athens and Corinth. As they retreated northwards over land, they were defeated by Emperor Gallienus at Nestos. However, this was merely the prelude to an even larger invasion that was launched in 268/269: several tribes banded together (the Historia Augusta mentions Scythians, Greuthungi, Tervingi, Gepids, Peucini, Celts and Heruli).
Historical records describe a force 2,000 ships and 325,000 men strong. The force raided the Thracian shore, attacked Byzantium, and continued raiding the Aegean as far as Crete, while the main force approached Thessalonica. Emperor Claudius II however was able to defeat them at the Battle of Naissus, ending the Gothic threat for the time being. Barbarian raids also increased along the Rhine frontier and in the North Sea. Eutropius mentions that during the 280s, the sea along the coasts of the provinces of Belgica and Armorica was "infested with Franks and Saxons".
To counter them, Maximian appointed Carausius as commander of the British Fleet. However, Carausius rose up in late 286 and seceded from the Empire with Britannia and parts of the northern Gallic coast. With a single blow Roman control of the channel and the North Sea was lost, and emperor Maximinus was forced to create a completely new Northern Fleet. Lacking training it was almost immediately destroyed in a storm. Only in 293, under Caesar Constantius Chlorus did Rome regain the Gallic coast. A new fleet was constructed in order to cross the Channel, and in 296, with a concentric attack on Londinium the insurgent province was retaken.
By the end of the third century the Roman navy had declined dramatically. Although Emperor Diocletian is held to have strengthened the navy, and increased its manpower from 46,000 to 64,000 men. The old standing fleets had all but vanished, and in the civil wars that ended the Tetrarchy, the opposing sides had to mobilize the resources and commandeered the ships of the Eastern Mediterranean port cities. These conflicts thus brought about a renewal of naval activity, culminating in the Battle of the Hellespont in 324 between the forces of Constantine I under Caesar Crispus and the fleet of Licinius, which was the only major naval confrontation of the fourth century.
Vegetius, writing at the end of the fourth century, testifies to the disappearance of the old praetorian fleets in Italy, but comments on the continued activity of the Danube fleet. In the fifth century, only the eastern half of the Empire could field an effective fleet, as it could draw upon the maritime resources of Greece and the Levant. Although the Notitia Dignitatum still mentions several naval units for the Western Empire, these were apparently too depleted to be able to carry out much more than patrol duties.
At any rate, the rise of the naval power of the Vandal Kingdom under Geiseric in North Africa, and its raids in the Western Mediterranean, were practically uncontested. Although there is some evidence of West Roman naval activity in the first half of the fifth century, this is mostly confined to troop transports and minor landing operations. The historian Priscus and Sidonius Apollinaris affirm in their writings that by the mid-5th century, the Western Empire essentially lacked a war navy.
Matters became even worse after the disastrous failure of the fleets mobilized against the Vandals in 460 and 468, under the emperors Majorian and Anthemius. For the West, there would be no recovery, as the last Western Emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was deposed in 476. In the East however, the classical naval tradition survived, and in the sixth century, a standing navy was reformed. The East Roman (Byzantine) navy would remain a formidable force in the Mediterranean until the 11th century.
The bulk of a galley's crew was formed by the rowers. Despite popular perceptions, the Roman fleet, and ancient fleets in general, relied throughout their existence on rowers of free status, and not on galley slaves. Slaves were employed only in times of pressing manpower demands or extreme emergency, and even then, they were freed first. In Imperial times, non-citizen freeborn provincials chiefly from nations with a maritime background such as Greeks, Phoenicians, Syrians and Egyptians, formed the bulk of the fleets' crews.
During the early Principate, a ship's crew, regardless of its size, was organized as a centuria. Crewmen could sign on as marines, rowers/seamen, craftsmen and various other jobs, though all personnel serving in the imperial fleet were classed as milites ("soldiers"), regardless of their function. Only when differentiation with the army was required, were the adjectives classiarius or classicus added. Along with several other instances of prevalence of army terminology.
This testifies to the lower social status of naval personnel, considered inferior to the auxiliaries and the legionaries. Emperor Claudius first gave legal privileges to the navy's crewmen, enabling them to receive Roman citizenship after their period of service. This period was initially set at a minimum of 26 years (one year more than the legions), and was later expanded to 28. Upon honorable discharge the sailors received a sizable cash payment as well. As in the army, the ship's centuria was headed by a centurion with a deputy, while a junior officer supervised a small administrative staff.
Among the crew were also a number of other junior officers and specialists exempt from certain duties). Some of these positions, mostly administrative, were identical to those of the army auxiliaries, while some (mostly of Greek provenance) were peculiar to the fleet. An inscription from the island of Cos, dated to the First Mithridatic War, provides us with a list of a ship's officers, the nautae: the gubernator was the helmsman or pilot, the celeusta supervised the rowers, a proreta was the look-out stationed at the bow, a pentacontarchos was apparently a junior officer, and an iatros the ship's doctor.
Each ship was commanded by a trierarchus, whose exact relationship with the ship's centurion is unclear. Squadrons, most likely of ten ships each, were put under a nauarchus, who often appears to have risen from the ranks of the trierarchi. The post of nauarchus archigubernes or nauarchus princeps appeared later in the Imperial period, and functioned either as a commander of several squadrons or as an executive officer under a civilian admiral, equivalent to the legionary primus pilus. All these were professional officers, usually peregrini, who had a status equal to an auxiliary centurion (and were thus increasingly called centuriones [classiarii] after about 70 A.D.).
Until the reign of Antoninus Pius, their careers were restricted to the fleet. Only in the third century were these officers equated to the legionary centurions in status and pay, and could henceforth be transferred to a similar position in the legions. During the Republic, command of a fleet had been given to a serving magistrate or promagistrate, usually of consular or praetorian rank. In the Punic Wars for instance, one consul would usually command the fleet, and another the army. In the subsequent wars in the Eastern Mediterranean, praetors would assume the command of the fleet.
However, since these men were political appointees, the actual handling of the fleets and of separate squadrons was entrusted to their more experienced legates and subordinates. It was therefore during the Punic Wars that the separate position of praefectus classis ("fleet prefect") first appeared. Initially subordinate to the magistrate in command, after the fleet's reorganization by Augustus, the praefectus classis became a procuratorial position in charge of each of the permanent fleets. These posts were initially filled either from among the equestrian class, or, especially under Claudius, from the Emperor's freedmen, thus securing imperial control over the fleets.
From the period of the Flavian emperors, the status of the praefectura was raised, and only equestrians with military experience who had gone through the militia equestri were appointed. Nevertheless, the prefects remained largely political appointees, and despite their military experience, usually in command of army auxiliary units, their knowledge of naval matters was minimal, forcing them to rely on their professional subordinates. The difference in importance of the fleets they commanded was also reflected by the rank and the corresponding pay of the commanders.
The prefects of the two praetorian fleets were ranked procuratores ducenarii, meaning they earned 200,000 sesterces annually, the prefects of the Classis Germanica, the Classis Britannica and later the Classis Pontica were centenarii (i.e. earning 100,000 sesterces), while the other fleet prefects were sexagenarii (i.e. they received 60,000 sesterces). The generic Roman term for an oar-driven galley warship was "long ship", as opposed to the sail-driven navis oneraria (from onus, oneris: burden), a merchant vessel, or the minor craft (navigia minora) like the scapha.
The navy consisted of a wide variety of different classes of warships, from heavy polyremes to light raiding and scouting vessels. Unlike the rich Hellenistic Successor kingdoms in the East however, the Romans did not rely on heavy warships. Rather quinqueremes, and to a lesser extent quadriremes and triremes providing the mainstay of the Roman fleets from the Punic Wars to the end of the Civil Wars. The heaviest vessel mentioned in Roman fleets during this period was the hexareme, of which a few were used as flagships. Lighter vessels such as the liburnians and the hemiolia, both swift types invented by pirates, were also adopted as scouts and light transport vessels.
During the final confrontation between Octavian and Mark Antony, Octavian's fleet was composed of quinqueremes, together with some "sixes" and many triremes and liburnians, while Antony, who had the resources of Ptolemaic Egypt to draw upon, fielded a fleet also mostly composed of quinqueremes, but with a sizeable complement of heavier warships, ranging from "sixes" to "tens". Later historical tradition made much of the prevalence of lighter and swifter vessels in Octavian's fleet, with Vegetius even explicitly ascribing Octavian's victory to the liburnians. This prominence of lighter craft in the historical narrative is perhaps best explained in light of subsequent developments.
After Actium, the operational landscape had changed. For the remainder of the Principate, no opponent existed to challenge Roman naval hegemony, and no massed naval confrontation was likely. The tasks at hand for the Roman navy were now the policing of the Mediterranean waterways and the border rivers, suppression of piracy, and escort duties for the grain shipments to Rome and for imperial army expeditions. Lighter ships were far better suited to these tasks, and after the reorganization of the fleet following Actium, the largest ship kept in service was a hexareme, the flagship of the Classis Misenensis.
The bulk of the fleets was composed of the lighter triremes and liburnians, with the latter apparently providing the majority of the provincial fleets. In time, the term "liburnian" came to mean "warship" in a generic sense. In addition, there were smaller oared vessels, such as the navis actuaria, with 30 oars (15 on each bank), a ship primarily used for transport in coastal and fluvial operations, for which its shallow draught and flat keel were ideal. In late Antiquity, it was succeeded in this role by the navis lusoria ("playful ship"), which was extensively used for patrols and raids by the legionary flotillas in the Rhine and Danube frontiers.
Roman ships were commonly named after gods (Mars, Iuppiter, Minerva, Isis), mythological heroes (Hercules), geographical maritime features such as Rhenus or Oceanus, concepts such as Harmony, Peace, Loyalty, Victory (Concordia, Pax, Fides, Victoria) or after important events (Dacicus for the Trajan's Dacian Wars or Salamina for the Battle of Salamis). They were distinguished by their figurehead (insigne or parasemum), and during the Civil Wars at least, by the paint schemes on their turrets, which varied according to each fleet. In Classical Antiquity, a ship's main weapon was the ram (rostra, hence the name navis rostrata for a warship), which was used to sink or immobilize an enemy ship by holing its hull.
Its use, however, required a skilled and experienced crew and a fast and agile ship like a trireme or quinquereme. In the Hellenistic period, the larger navies came instead to rely on greater vessels. This had several advantages: the heavier and sturdier construction lessened the effects of ramming, and the greater space and stability of the vessels allowed the transport not only of more marines, but also the placement of deck-mounted ballistae and catapults. Although the ram continued to be a standard feature of all warships and ramming the standard mode of attack.
These developments transformed the role of a warship: from the old "manned missile", designed to sink enemy ships, they became mobile artillery platforms, which engaged in missile exchange and boarding actions. The Romans in particular, being initially inexperienced at sea combat, relied upon boarding actions through the use of the corvus. Although it brought them some decisive losses, it was discontinued because it tended to unbalance the quinqueremes in high seas; two Roman fleets are recorded to have been lost during storms in the First Punic War.
During the Civil Wars, a number of technical innovations, which are attributed to Agrippa, took place: the harpax, a catapult-fired grappling hook, which was used to clamp onto an enemy ship, reel it in and board it, in a much more efficient way than with the old corvus, and the use of collapsible fighting towers placed one apiece bow and stern, which were used to provide the boarders with supporting fire. After the end of the civil wars, Augustus reduced and reorganized the Roman armed forces, including the navy.
A large part of the fleet of Mark Antony was burned, and the rest was withdrawn to a new base at Forum Iulii (modern Fréjus), which remained operative until the reign of Claudius. However, the bulk of the fleet was soon subdivided into two praetorian fleets at Misenum and Ravenna, supplemented by a growing number of minor ones in the provinces, which were often created on an ad hoc basis for specific campaigns. This organizational structure was maintained almost unchanged until the fourth century. The two major fleets were stationed in Italy and acted as a central naval reserve, directly available to the Emperor (hence the designation "praetorian").
In the absence of any naval threat, their duties mostly involved patrolling and transport duties. These were not confined to the waters around Italy, but throughout the Mediterranean. There is epigraphic evidence for the presence of sailors of the two praetorian fleets at Piraeus and Syria. These two fleets were; 1) the Classis Misenensis, established in 27 B.C. and based at Portus Julius. Later Classis praetoria Misenesis Pia Vindex. Detachments of the fleet served at secondary bases, such as Ostia, Puteoli, Centumcellae and other harbors; 2) the Classis Ravennas, established in 27 B.C. and based at Ravenna. Later Classis praetoria Ravennatis Pia Vindex.
The various provincial fleets were smaller than the praetorian fleets and composed mostly of lighter vessels. Nevertheless, it was these fleets that saw action, in full campaigns or raids on the periphery of the Empire. The Classis Africana Commodiana Herculea was established by Commodus in 186 A.D. to secure the grain shipments (annona) from North Africa to Italy, after the model of the Classis Alexandrina. The Classis Alexandrina, based in Alexandria, it controlled the eastern part of the Mediterranean sea. The two major fleets were stationed in Italy and acted as a central naval reserve, directly available to the Emperor (hence the designation "praetorian"). The Classis Alexandrine was founded by Augustus around 30 B.C., probably from ships that fought at the Battle of Actium and manned mostly by Greeks of the Nile Delta. The two major fleets were stationed in Italy and acted as a central naval reserve, directly available to the Emperor (hence the designation "praetorian"). Having supported Emperor Vespasian in the civil war of 69, it was awarded of the cognomen Augusta. The fleet was responsible chiefly for the escort of the grain shipments to Rome (and later Constantinople), and also apparently operated the Nile river patrol.
The Classis Britannica, established in 40 or 43 AD at Gesoriacum (Boulogne-sur-Mer). It participated in the Roman invasion of Britain and the subsequent campaigns in the island. The fleet was probably based at Rutupiae (Richborough) until 85 A.D., when it was transferred to Dubris (Dover). Other bases were Portus Lemanis (Lympne) and Anderitum (Pevensey), while Gesoriacum on the Gallic coast likely remained active. During the second and third centuries, the fleet was chiefly employed in transport of supplies and men across the English Channel. The two major fleets were stationed in Italy and acted as a central naval reserve, directly available to the Emperor (hence the designation "praetorian"). The Classis Britannica disappears (at least under that name) from the mid-third century, and the sites occupied by it were soon incorporated into the Saxon Shore system. The Classis Germanica was established in 12 B.C. by Drusus at Castra Vetera. It controlled the Rhine river, and was mainly a fluvial fleet, although it also operated in the North Sea. It is noteworthy that the Romans' initial lack of experience with the tides of the ocean left Drusus' fleet stranded on the Zuiderzee. After about 30 A.D. the fleet moved its main base to the castrum of Alteburg, some 4 kilometers (2 1/2 miles) south of Colonia Agrippinensis (modern Cologne). Later granted the honorifics Augusta Pia Fidelis Domitiana following the suppression of the Revolt of Saturninus.
The Classis nova Libyca, first mentioned in 180, was most likely based at Ptolemais on the Cyrenaica. The Classis Mauretanica, based at Caesarea Mauretaniae (modern Cherchell), controlled the African coasts of the western Mediterranean sea. It was established on a permanent basis after the raids by the Moors in the early 170s. The Classis Moesica was established sometime between 20 B.C. and 10 A.D. It was based in Noviodunum and controlled the Lower Danube from the Iron Gates to the northwestern Black Sea as far as the Crimea.] The honorific Flavia, awarded to it and to the Classis pannonica, may indicate its reorganization by Vespasian.
The Classis Pannonica was a fluvial fleet controlling the Upper Danube from Castra Regina in Raetia (modern Regensburg) to Singidunum in Moesia (modern Belgrade). Its exact date of establishment is unknown. Some trace it to Augustus' campaigns in Pannonia in about 35 B.C., but it was certainly in existence by 45 A.D. Its main base was probably Taurunum (modern Zemun) at the confluence of the river Sava with the Danube. Under the Flavian dynasty, it received the cognomen Flavia. The Classis Perinthia was established after the annexation of Thrace in 46 A.D. and based in Perinthus. Probably based on the indigenous navy, it operated in the Propontis and the Thracian coast. It was probably later joined to the Classis Pontica.
The Classis Pontica, founded in 64 A.D. from the Pontic royal fleet, was based in Trapezus, although on occasion it was moved to Byzantium (in about 70 A.D.), and in 170, to Cyzicus. This fleet was used to guard the southern and eastern Black Sea, and the entrance of the Bosporus. According to the historian Josephus, in the latter half of the first century, it numbered 40 warships and 3,000 men. The Classis Syriaca, established probably under Vespasian, was based in Seleucia Pieria (hence the alternative name Classis Seleucena) in Syria. This fleet controlled the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean sea.
In addition, there is significant archaeological evidence for naval activity by certain legions, which in all likelihood operated their own squadrons: legio XXII Primigenia in the Upper Rhine and Main rivers, legio X Fretensis in the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee, and several legionary squadrons in the Danube frontier. The main source for the structure of the late Roman military is the Notitia Dignitatum, which corresponds to the situation of the 390s for the Eastern Empire and the 420s for the Western Empire. Notable in the Notitia is the large number of smaller squadrons that have been created, most of these fluvial and of a local operational role.
The Classis Pannonica and the Classis Moesica were broken up into several smaller squadrons, collectively termed Classis Histrica, under the authority of the frontier commanders ("duces"), with bases at Mursa in Pannonia II, Florentia in Pannonia Valeria, Arruntum in Pannonia I, Viminacium in Moesia I, and Aegetae in Dacia Ripensis. Smaller fleets are also attested on the tributaries of the Danube: the Classis Arlapensis et Maginensis (based at Arelape and Comagena) and the Classis Lauriacensis (based at Lauriacum) in Pannonia I, the Classis Stradensis et Germensis, based at Margo in Moesia I, and the Classis Ratianensis, in Dacia Ripensis.
The naval units were complemented by port garrisons and marine units, drawn from the army. In the Danube frontier these were: In Pannonia I and Noricum ripensis, naval detachments (milites liburnarii) of the legio XIV Gemina and the legio X Gemina at Carnuntum and Arrabonae, and of the legio II Italica at Ioviacum. In Pannonia II, the I Flavia Augusta (at Sirmium) and the II Flavia are listed under their prefects. In Moesia II, two units of sailors (milites nauclarii) at Appiaria and Altinum. In Scythia Minor, marines (muscularii) of legio II Herculia at Inplateypegiis and sailors (nauclarii) at Flaviana.
In the West, and in particular in Gaul, several fluvial fleets had been established. These came under the command of the magister peditum of the West, and were: the Classis Anderetianorum, based at Parisii (Paris) and operating in the Seine and Oise rivers. The Classis Ararica, based at Caballodunum (Chalon-sur-Saône) and operating in the Saône River. A Classis barcariorum, composed of small vessels, at Eburodunum (modern Yverdon-les-Bains) at Lake Neuchâtel. The Classis Comensis at Lake Como. The old praetorian fleets, the Classis Misenatis and the Classis Ravennatis are still listed, albeit with no distinction indicating any higher importance than the other fleets.
The "praetorian" surname is still attested until the early 4th century, but absent from Vegetius or the Notitia. The Classis fluminis Rhodani, based at Arelate and operating in the Rhône River. It was complemented with a marine detachment (milites muscularii) based at Marseilles. The Classis Sambrica, based at Locus Quartensis (unknown location) and operating in the Somme River and the Channel. It came under the command of the dux Beligae Secundae. The Classis Venetum, based at Aquileia and operating in the northern Adriatic Sea. This fleet may have been established to ensure communications with the imperial capitals in the Po Valley (Ravenna and Milan) and with Dalmatia.
It is notable that, with the exception of the Praetorian fleets (whose retention in the list does not necessarily signify an active status), the old fleets of the Principate are missing. The Classis Britannica vanishes under that name after the mid-third century; its remnants were later subsumed in the Saxon Shore system. By the time of the Notitia Dignitatum, the Classis Germanica has ceased to exist (it is last mentioned under Julian in 359), most probably due to the collapse of the Rhine frontier after the Crossing of the Rhine by the barbarians in winter 405-406, and the Mauretanian and African fleets had been disbanded or taken over by the Vandals.
As far as the East is concerned, we know from legal sources that the Classis Alexandrina and the Classis Seleucena continued to operate, and that in about 400 A.D. a Classis Carpathia was detached from the Syrian fleet and based at the Aegean island of Karpathos. A fleet is known to have been stationed at Constantinople itself, but no further details are known about it. Major Roman ports were: Portus Julius, located at Misenum Classis, near Ravenna; Alexandria; Leptis Magna; Ostia; Portus; Port of Mainz (Mogontiacum, river navy on the Rhine). [Wikipedia].
REVIEW: The vast site of ancient Rome's port city "Portus" holds the key to understanding how Rome evolved from a mighty city to an empire. Portus, now some two miles from the Mediterranean shoreline, was built by the Romans in the 1st century A.D. to be their main maritime port. A 16th-century fresco in the Vatican Palace shows an idealized reconstruction of Portus’ grand architectural and engineering features. Twenty miles southwest of Rome, obscured by agricultural fields, woodlands, and the modern infrastructure of one of Europe’s busiest airports, lies what may be ancient Rome’s greatest engineering achievement, and arguably its most important: Portus.
Although almost entirely silted in today, at its height, Portus was Rome’s principal maritime harbor, catering to thousands of ships annually. It served as the primary hub for the import, warehousing, and distribution of resources, most importantly grain, that ensured the stability of both Rome and the empire. “For Rome to have worked at capacity, Portus needed to work at capacity,” says archaeologist Simon Keay. “The fortunes of the city are inextricably tied to it. It’s quite hard to overestimate.” Portus was the answer to Rome’s centuries-long search for an efficient deepwater harbor. In the end, as only the Romans could do, they simply dug one.
Although it had previously received little attention archaeologically, over the last decade and half Portus has been the focus of an ambitious project that is rediscovering the grandeur of the port, its relationship to Rome, and the unparalleled role it played as the centerpiece of Rome’s Mediterranean port system. Keay, of the University of Southampton, is currently director of the Portus Project, now in its fifth year, but has been leading fieldwork in and around the site since the late 1990s.
He is part of a multinational team investigating Portus’ beginnings in the first century A.D., its evolution into the main port of Rome, and, ultimately, the complex dynamics of the port’s relationship with the city and the broader Roman Mediterranean. The multifaceted project involves a number of institutions, including the United Kingdom’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British School at Rome, the University of Cambridge, and the Archaeological Superintendency of Rome.
Still visible today, Portus' hexagonal basin and its adjacent canal facilitated the transfer of goods up the Tiber River to Rome. One of the difficulties the team has faced in addition to the site’s enormous size is its complexity. Portus encompasses not only two man-made harbor basins, but all of the infrastructure associated with a small city, including temples, administrative buildings, warehouses, canals, and roads. Archaeologists have taken many approaches to investigating Portus.
“Methodologically, the strategy has been to combine large-scale, extensive work using every kind of geophysical and topographic technique, with excavation reserved for relatively focused areas,” says Keay. “The aim is to try and understand a key area at the center of the port, which could provide a point from which to understand how the port worked as a whole.” The current archaeological research is offering a new understanding of just how Portus’ construction enabled Rome to become Rome.
By the dawn of the first century A.D., just before Portus was conceived, Roman territory stretched from Iberia to the Near East, enveloping all the coastal land bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Romans considered the Mediterranean such an innate part of Roman life that they often referred to it simply as Mare Nostrum, or “our sea.” However, paradoxically, as it was located nearly 20 miles inland, Rome was without a suitable nearby maritime port. This obstacle had periodically inconvenienced the city over the course of the previous millennium.
In a sense, Rome’s growth had always relied on its capacity to connect with ever-broadening Italian and Mediterranean trade networks. The more Rome expanded, the more it turned to outside resources to feed its population. Throughout its history, Rome’s size and potential always seemed to be commensurate with—and limited by—its port capabilities. During the first half of the first millennium B.C., the early Roman settlement relied on a small river harbor at the foot of the Capitoline, Palatine, and Aventine Hills, where a near-90-degree bend in the Tiber River created a small plain and natural landing for boats.
Known as the Forum Boarium and the Portus Tiberinus, the site was also where two important ancient Italic trade routes crossed. This river port was, at this early juncture in Rome’s history, the heart of its supply, communication, and redistribution activities. Archaeological evidence found there, among the earliest ever discovered in Rome, indicates that even during the city’s early days, Romans were interacting with foreign travelers and importing goods from across the Mediterranean. By the fourth century B.C., as Rome was expanding beyond the site of the original seven hills and into central Italy, it began to outgrow its limited river port.
Although Rome was connected to the sea via the Tiber River, seagoing ships and boats of substantial size could not safely maneuver up the river’s course to the city. FA significant step was taken in 386 B.C. when Rome founded the colony of Ostia at the Tiber’s mouth, some 20 miles away, not only to help supply the growing city with grain and other foodstuffs, but to enhance its connections with the Mediterranean. ounded at the mouth of the Tiber River in 386 B.C. Even after the construction of Portus, Ostia continued to function as part of the imperial port system.
While Ostia eventually became a significant Roman city and played a major role in imperial Rome’s multifaceted port system, it proved insufficient as the city’s sole port. Although adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea, the site had geographical drawbacks. “Ostia could never handle massive numbers of ships,” says Keay. “It’s a river port, and the river itself is no good. It floods, it’s treacherous at the river mouth, and it’s not really deep enough.” Still limited by its lack of a deepwater maritime port, the Romans began to look southward.
By the second century B.C., Rome controlled most of the Italian peninsula, as well as parts of Iberia, Greece, and North Africa. Roman ships were now bigger and were sailing farther abroad more frequently. The river port of Rome, Portus Tiberinus, even when combined with Ostia, couldn’t meet the increasing demands of an expanding Mediterranean-wide trade network. The establishment of Puteoli (modern Pozzuoli) on the Bay of Naples formed part of the solution. At Puteoli, the Romans finally had a natural maritime harbor that could accommodate ships of all sizes as well as increased traffic. Puteoli evolved into the principal port of the Roman Republic, and remained so for two hundred years.
But Puteoli itself was not without its limitations: Rome’s greatest commercial harbor was located more than a hundred miles south of the capital. Goods arriving on large ships had to be offloaded at the Bay of Naples and carted up to Rome overland, or transshipped onto smaller boats and ferried up the coast to Ostia, a three-day sail away. “It’s not ideal,” says Keay, adding, “The Romans realized this and toyed with the idea of building a port closer to Rome, an anchorage that would speed up the whole process and make it more efficient.”
By the beginning of the empire at the end of the first century B.C., the population of Rome and its environs had reached well over a million people. The lack of a nearby maritime port was beginning to make supplying the city a nearly impossible task. With its territory now spread from one end of the Mediterranean to the other, resources from every region sailed to Rome. Olive oil, wine, garum (a popular fish sauce), slaves, and building materials were shipped from places such as Spain, Gaul, North Africa, and the Near East. However, the most important responsibility of the Roman emperor was ensuring the steady and continuous flow of grain.
Grains and cereals were the staple of the Roman diet, either consumed in bread form or served as a porridge. It has been estimated that a Roman adult consumed 400 to 600 pounds of wheat per year. With a population of more than a million, this required Rome to stock a staggering 650 million pounds annually. Throughout Rome’s history, shortages in the grain supply led to riots. The city’s food supply was frequently interrupted by storms and bad weather, and grain ships could be lost at sea. Any such delay or loss created civil unrest.
From the second century B.C. onward, the Roman government took an increasingly active approach to monitoring and controlling the grain supply. First, the government began to regulate and subsidize the price, ensuring that grain remained affordable to the masses at all times. By the Augustan period, the emperor was doling out as much as 500 pounds of grain per head to as many as 250,000 households. The emperors realized that the key to Rome’s stability was keeping its population well fed.
Yet, by the first century A.D., Rome could no longer be sustained by Italian harvests alone. It began to exploit its newly annexed fertile provinces, especially North Africa and Egypt, which soon became the largest supplier of Roman grain. It took as many as a thousand ships, constantly sailing, just to support the demand for grain in the city. With large grain ships typically capable of hauling more than 100 tons, and sea transport at least 40 times less expensive than land transport, Rome desperately needed a deepwater port close to home.
At about this same time, Roman engineering was beginning to manifest its unparalleled capabilities. The emperor Claudius concluded that the time was right to build an artificial port within Rome’s environs, one large enough to accommodate the demands of an ever-growing city. Portus was built from scratch, a couple of miles north of Ostia, along a coastal strip on the Mediterranean near the mouth of the Tiber River. It would become the linchpin in a new imperial port system that enabled Rome to be continuously and efficiently supplied for the next 400 years.
The enormous engineering project was begun by Claudius around A.D. 46 and took nearly 20 years to complete. It was the largest public works project of its era. At its center was an artificial basin of nearly 500 acres, dug out of coastal dunes. A short distance from the mouth of this harbor were two extensive moles, or breakwaters, constructed to protect it from the open sea. A small island with a lighthouse stood between the two moles and guided ships as they approached. With a depth of 20 feet, the Claudian basin was large enough, deep enough, and sheltered enough to provide ample anchorage for large seafaring ships heavily laden with as much as 500 tons of cargo.
In addition to the large basin, this early stage in Portus’ construction involved other facilities such as a smaller inner harbor known as the darsena, and various buildings associated with the registration, storage, and distribution of goods. The harbor complex was connected to the Tiber River two miles to the south via a network of canals, the largest of which measured nearly 100 yards wide. This greatly expedited the whole process of bringing goods from cargo ships to Roman households. Enormous warehouses were built at Portus that were capable of storing many months’ worth of grain. Portus became not only the place through which foodstuffs entered Rome, but also where they were stored.
The construction of Portus brought great renown to Claudius and, later, to his successor Nero, who saw it to completion. Portus was commemorated on coins issued by the emperors and on a monumental arch erected by Claudius at the site. “There is an element to the port of Claudius that makes it clear that it is a vanity project,” says Keay, “and there is also an element that reflects the rhetoric of empire. The emperor is the great provider, who overrides nature in order to feed his people.” Enormous warehouses, such as those built by the emperor Trajan and in the later 2nd century A.D. were constructed throughout Portus in order to store the massive quantities of goods arriving at the port.
The establishment of Portus by Claudius was just the first step in a process that led to the continual expansion and enhancement of the site over the next two centuries. In the early second century A.D., as Rome grew to its greatest territorial extent, the emperor Trajan was responsible for a massive enlargement and reorganization of Portus. Trajan, whose building projects were transforming the city of Rome, turned his architects toward the redevelopment of the existing harbor. As with many Trajanic projects, the goal was not only to provide new functional facilities, but ones that also symbolically celebrated the power and glory of his empire.
At the heart of Trajan’s new harbor was another artificially dug basin just east of the existing Claudian basin. Its hexagonal shape, which has become Portus’ most iconic feature, survives today as a private lake for fishing on the estate of Duke Sforza Cesarini. The unusual design, which had no precedents in Roman harbor construction, provided increased functionality, as well as a unique aesthetic signature. The hexagonal basin not only increased Portus’ overall protected harbor space by nearly 600 acres, but the six sides of the new basin expedited the docking and unloading processes. Each of its sides, at a length of almost 1,200 feet, provided ample quayside space for berthing ships and handling cargo.
The process could not have been more streamlined. The new Trajanic harbor could accommodate about 200 ships, in addition to the 300 anchored in the Claudian basin. Rome had at last created a port suitable to its far-reaching Mediterranean maritime empire. If Claudius’ Portus was a statement of Rome’s ability to alter natural topography, Trajan’s harbor was a celebration of Rome’s design and construction capabilities. Each side of the hexagonal basin was adorned with new monumental buildings designed so that any traveler sailing into the harbor would be immediately confronted with the grandeur and power of Rome.
Sightlines from the harbor led straight to impressive porticoes, temples, warehouses, and even a statue of Trajan, all framing the waterfront. In addition to its functionality, Portus was designed to deliver the message that Rome reigned supreme. “Portus is a statement about imperial power—it controls not just the Mediterranean but nature itself. It’s really the only time that the Mediterranean has been controlled by a single political power, and this port played a key role in enabling its authority to be maintained; only the Ottomans come close,” explains Keay.
Over the last few years, the Portus Project has been working on what would have been a thin isthmus of land between the Claudian and Trajanic harbors. There the team has uncovered the foundations of what Keay refers to as a shipyard—a massive warehouse-type structure associated with the dry-docking and maintenance of ships. The 780-by-200-foot building is believed to have stood nearly 60 feet high. Its facade was divided into a series of arched bays, some 40 feet wide, that opened onto the hexagonal basin. Keay thinks that the structure could also have some association with Roman naval activity.
“Portus is the place from which the emperor sails out, and it’s the place from which new governors go out to their provinces,” he says. “There was a security issue at Portus, and it makes sense that there was a naval detachment here. I think our big building is part of that in some way.” There is also some evidence that the emperor himself maintained a presence at the site. Near the shipyard, the Portus Project has also investigated the so-called Palazzo Imperiale (Imperial Palace). This multifunctional complex covered nearly seven and a half acres, with prominent views across both basins.
The three-story structure contained all of the appurtenances of a wealthy Roman villa—porticoes, mosaics, peristyles, and ornamental dining rooms, but also contained storerooms, offices, and production areas. Recently it was discovered that a small amphitheater was even added to the complex later in the third century. While the lack of epigraphic evidence makes it impossible to associate the building directly with the emperor, Keay believes it certainly would have been used by high-ranking government officials and representatives of the emperor who oversaw all aspects of port activity.
At its height, Portus may have catered to a seasonal population of 10,000 to 15,000 people, although it was not primarily a residential site. Its bustling crowds would have consisted of merchants, shippers, dockworkers, administrators, and government agents, many of whom commuted from larger cities such as Ostia or even Rome. The traffic to and from the harbor is estimated to have been several thousand seagoing ships annually, as well as hundreds of smaller boats and barges that maneuvered around the various basins and canals and up the Tiber River.
Once a ship entered Portus, it might temporarily anchor in either the inner or outer harbor basin as it awaited a berth quayside or for smaller boats to transship its cargo. After freight was registered and recorded, it was loaded into warehouses or onto smaller barges to be brought along the various canals and towed up the Tiber to Rome. Insight into the organization of the importation process and the procedures Roman officials followed has been uncovered at Monte Testaccio in Rome, where transport amphoras were discarded. Some of the amphoras bear small tituli picti—painted notations that record information about the type of product, its weight, origin, destination, merchant, or shipper.
The tituli picti demonstrate how thoroughly each product was examined and the painstaking measures employed for each shipment of goods. “I think there’s an unimaginable complexity to the registration of cargo. The person responsible for the port needs to know where to assign ships, where particular cargoes belonging to particular merchants go, how material gets from one storeroom to another and then onto the boats that go up the Tiber,” says Keay. “It’s highly complex.”
A marble relief from a 3rd-century A.D. sarcophagus gives an impression of the bustling activity and crowded conditions at Portus, which not only had dockage, warehouses, and administrative buildings, but also residential and religious structures. Ports all over the Mediterranean, including Carthage, Ephesus, Leptis Magna, and Massalia, as well as those in Italy such as Puteoli, Ostia, and Centumcellae, formed the extensive network that allowed the Romans to bring the resources of foreign lands to Rome. Many of the goods brought to Portus were destined for the capital, while others were immediately redistributed to other ports in the Mediterranean. Portus, as the primary port of Rome itself, was the cornerstone of that system.
Writing in the second century A.D., the famed Greek orator Aelius Aristides marveled at the scope and efficiency of Rome’s maritime capabilities. “Here is brought from every land and sea, all the crops of the seasons and the produce of each land. The arrivals and departures of the ships never stop, so that one would express admiration not only for the harbor, but even for the sea. Everything comes here, all that is produced and grown … whatever one does not see here, it is not a thing which has existed or exists.” As the centerpiece of Rome’s grand shipping network, Portus allowed the city to enjoy all the resources of the known world—and left foreigners such as Aristides in wonder and amazement. [Archaeological Institute of America].
REVIEW: Ahram Online reports that three Roman shipwrecks and an ancient Egyptian barque dedicated to Osiris were discovered in ancient Alexandria’s eastern harbor in the Mediterranean Sea. Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the joint team of researchers, made up of scientists from the ministry’s department of underwater archaeology and the European Institute of Underwater Archaeology, recovered a crystal head thought to represent Marc Antony, and gold coins dating to the reign of Emperor Augustus. Wooden beams and pottery may represent the site of a fourth shipwreck. [Archaeological Institute of America].
REVIEW: The cargo of a mid-first-century B.C. vessel lying under 30 feet of water about one-half mile off the coast of Alexandria has allowed researchers to reconstruct the ship's trade route. A team of six divers led by Jean-Yves Empereur, director of the Centre d'Études Alexandrines, found a mass of amphoras but no sign of the ship's hull, which was probably destroyed on the rocky seabed.
Examination of the amphoras revealed three different varieties. The majority, some 495 examples, bore stamps on their rims and handles, and a number still had their stoppers, made of fired clay sealed with pozzolana, a kind of mortar. These were manufactured on the southeastern coast of Italy, possibly in Apulia or the neighboring regions along the Tyrrhenian Sea. The contents of the vessels have not been studied and none has been raised to the surface, but traces of resin on the interior of some broken amphoras indicate they were used to transport wine.
The two other types of amphoras, roughly a dozen of each, were of Cretan and Rhodian manufacture. The Cretan and Rhodian vessels were found on the surface of the deposit, an indication of loading order and, consequently, the probable itinerary of the ship carrying them. In all likelihood, the vessel set off from southeastern Italy after loading the largest part of its cargo. It then made a stop on Crete; study of the amphoras should determine where, since a fair number of the island's ancient amphora-production workshops are known.
The ship then sailed for Rhodes, where it added a small complement to its cargo and headed for Alexandria. The team suspects the ship took a direct route rather than following the Levantine coast; fourth-century B.C. literary sources attest that ships were then making direct crossings. Whatever its adventures at sea, the unfortunate vessel was in sight of Alexandria when it must have struck a rocky outcrop, almost certainly the one at the foot of which lie the amphoras. Without enough sand to envelop and protect the ship, its wood eroded from exposure to salt water and the sea's turbulence. [Archaeological Institute of America].
REVIEW: Summoned last April to survey a construction site in Pisa, Italian archaeologist Stefano Bruni never imagined what he would find: nine well-preserved Roman ships--the largest group of ancient vessels ever discovered in a single place--and part of Pisa's classical port. Eight months of patient testing had yielded little, and construction of an office building at the San Rossore train station was proceeding. Then, in December, builders sinking a corrugated steel retaining wall to support the sides of the foundation pit realized they had bisected an ancient ship, nearly intact, its wooden frame and planks still held together by copper nails.
During the next five months, eight others were found, dating between the second century B.C. and the fifth century A.D., from Pisa's florescence as a Republican naval base to the end of the Roman Empire. Bruni's original cores had stopped in what seemed like sterile soil three inches shy of the discovery of a lifetime. Clad in a professorial tweed jacket, pipe in hand, Bruni, of the Archaeological Superintendency of Tuscany, surveys his domain with the confidence of a man whose name is made. The vast foundation pit, nearly 300 feet long and 150 feet wide, stretches out before us, a temporary concrete floor interrupted at intervals by green corrugated plastic roofs supported on scaffolding.
Beneath each shelter, archaeologists from the Florence-based contract firm Co.Idra, working under Bruni's supervision, are excavating the ships and documenting the finds. Journalists from all over Europe have flocked to see the ships, but despite the media attention Bruni remains firmly focused on their archaeological significance. "This find is extremely important not just on a local level," he tells me. "We have now discovered part of the harbor of one of the greatest ancient Mediterranean ports, with ships practically intact." Study of the vessels will allow marine archaeologists to add to their knowledge of Roman shipbuilding techniques, while analysis of their cargoes--including wine, olives, and fruit--will contribute valuable new data to the study of classical trade.
Cargoes like wine, olives, and fruit were transported in amphoras, thousands of whose sherds were found at the site. With at least two sheltered harbors, Pisa was an important Roman naval asset, and ancient sources mention fleets setting out from it for Gaul and Spain during the Second Punic War (218-201 B.C.). Thanks to Bruni's excavations, the area of San Rossore is now recognized as site of the Porto delle Conche (Port of the Basins), a small tidal lake near the mouth of the Auser River mentioned by the sixteenth-century historian Raffaello Roncioni.
In antiquity the Porto delle Conche was evidently one of Pisa's harbors, and, as in any harbor, some vessels sank or were abandoned at anchor. During the past 2,000 years, large amounts of silt washing downriver were deposited on the basin floor, covering and protecting ships as they sank and eventually filling the basin altogether. Though study of the ships is only beginning, the nine found so far seem to be utilitarian vessels like coastal freighters and small harbor craft rather than men of war.
The first wreck to be found, dubbed ship A by the excavators, was empty, but the vessel's structure is exceptionally well preserved. Floor timbers (which ran from side to side across the bottom of the ship), stringers (timbers running from bow to stern), and hull planks survive practically intact for a length of 25 feet. Neither bow nor stern was found, but the ship extends beyond the walls of the foundation pit and one end may exist in unexcavated soil. The exposed portion has been reburied to protect it until it can be moved to a conservation facility; the unexcavated part will be uncovered in the future.
Based on stratigraphy and associated finds, Bruni believes ship A dates from the mid-second century A.D., when Pisa had dwindled to a local port serving a stretch of the Ligurian coast. According to Lionel Casson, a specialist in ancient ships and shipping, the vessel was at least twice as long as the exposed 25-foot portion, an "average small coastal freighter" that could have hauled cargo of any kind from port to port along the coast. That the ship was empty suggests several potential scenarios: its cargo was unloaded before it sank; amphoras or other durable goods were recovered in antiquity shortly after it sank; or sacks of grain or other perishables decomposed, leaving no trace.
The second vessel to be found, ship B, is preserved for a length of about 16 feet near the bow. "The right wall survives with the framing, parts of the left side, and half of the oarsmen's seats," says Bruni. Fragments of amphoras found in the same levels indicate that the boat dates from the late second or early first century B.C. The boat has been excavated, and the Turin-based conservation firm Icnos has covered the surviving part of the hull with sheets of plastic and encased it in a hard, form-fitting fiberglass shell.
This shell will maintain the shape of the wood, soft from two millennia underwater and then underground, when the boat is eventually moved to the conservation facility. Near the ship was found a wooden winch with ropes still in place; a leather sandal and a wicker basket also survived, personal items that may have belonged to a member of the crew. The third, ship C, survives for a length of about 20 feet, including several beams (timbers running from side to side) in addition to the planking and framing. Along one of the beams is a graffito reading "O D A [?] ...," now meaningless but perhaps a product of some Roman mariner's idle hours.
From one gunwale a thole pin still protrudes, the ancient equivalent of an oarlock, consisting of a wooden peg to which an oar would have been loosely fastened with a loop of rope. When I was in Pisa, Icnos was giving ship C its fiberglass shell. Technicians had covered the wood with large sheets of clear plastic, inserting foam rubber pads in spaces between pieces of wood where the fiberglass could not fit. In a process recalling the make-a-piñata papier-mâché projects of grade-school art class (but much more precise), they were layering one-foot squares of fiberglass cloth three or four thick over the plastic, painting them with liquid resin to hold them together.
As the resin dries, it creates a hard shell capable of maintaining the ship's shape during transportation. Ship D is the best preserved of the lot. Some 46 feet long and 20 feet wide, it was found capsized, its frame and deck in mint condition and its hull surviving except for a portion of the bottom. Material from the same levels suggests that the boat dates from sometime after the first decades of the second century A.D. As ARCHAEOLOGY reported in "Sunken Ships of Pisa," May/June 1999, several features of the hull suggested at first that it was a warship: the shallow draft, typical of ancient men-of-war; the shape of the prow, which could have carried a ram; and the presence of a platform extending from one gunwale, similar to platforms visible on ancient images of warships.
But, says Casson, the shape and structure of the boat indicate that it is rather a work boat used for daily chores like carrying cargo between quays and large ships moored farther out in the harbor, or running errands up and down canals. Workboats had shallow drafts so they could negotiate small waterways. The ship's length-to-breadth ratio of two to one would be suitable for such craft, while war galleys normally clock in at ten to one. Likewise its simple construction, lacking proper framing and having only roughly finished timbers, is telltale. Ship D has now been encased in a fiberglass shell, while excavators continue to work inside it.
What is not clear is how the boat was propelled. Side platforms would make sense on craft that were poled rather than rowed or sailed, but a verdict will have to wait until the boat has been fully excavated and archaeologists can tell whether it had a mast, thole pins, and oarsmen's seats. The outside of the boat has been encased in fiberglass, allowing excavations to continue inside without risking collapse. Already archaeologists have exposed the beams and planks of the inverted deck and the walls of a hatchway through which the crew would have accessed the hold.
In one place excavators kept digging for several feet beneath the boat, where they discovered the fragmentary remains of yet another vessel. After excavation of the interior is finished, the whole ship will be moved in one piece to the conservation lab. The sixth ship, preserved over a length of 26 feet, is most remarkable for its cargo, primarily amphoras stacked in rows and still in place. According to Bruni, "The amphoras, of various types and mostly sealed, contained some liquid residues--now under analysis, but resembling wine--cherry, plum, and olive pits, and sand.
Analysis of the sand and study of the cobbles [used as ballast or to prop up amphoras stacked in the hold], many of Vesuvian lava, show that the cargo originated somewhere on the Bay of Naples." Why would amphoras be filled with sand? Pozzolana, a red dust from Pozzuoli on the Bay of Naples, was used in the imperial period for concrete that would set under water. "Objects related to life on board were also plentiful," say Bruni: "pottery cups, lamps, a glass cup, leather objects, and coins."
Of the three other ships, little so far is known. Excavators called one the "ghost ship" because they toiled for weeks on its cargo of amphoras, finding only scraps of the ship itself. Two others are in the very first stages of excavation. In addition, a short section of a stone quay has been found, along with a mass of cobbles (probably discarded ballast) from a beach near Portoferraio on the island of Elba, 60 miles down the coast. Bruni expects the excavations to continue through this December, a year after the first ship surfaced.
By then all of the vessels now known should have been excavated, encased in fiberglass, and moved to the conservation lab. But, and this is a big but, more vessels may be found--one is already known beneath ship D, and others may lie in layers so far untested--and this could prolong the excavation. Once in the lab, the ships' wood will be treated in preparation for eventual public display; the archaeological superintendency and the city government hope to build a special facility where people can view the ongoing restoration.
The land around Pisa had marble quarries, according to Strabo, and grew high-quality grain. These products would have been shipped out of its harbors, much of it to Rome. Everything Pisa imported would also have passed through its harbors, from wine and olive oil to frankincense and myrrh. Bruni's work is admittedly in its early stages, and the results are preliminary. Nonetheless, useful details are emerging of trade up and down the west coast of Italy and of shipboard life, a picture that complements and tests what is known from historical sources.
In the end, each boat will tell its own story--of a voyage to Pozzuoli to pick up construction materials, of a quick jaunt to Elba long before Napoleon's exile, of a sailor at loose ends carving his mark in the timbers of his ship. [Archaeological Institute of America].
REVIEW: The Roman Empire was the largest in western civilization’s antiquity. Under the Emperor Trajan, it spanned from Britain to the Persian Gulf, enveloping the perimeter and interior of the Mediterranean Sea, or as the Romans called it Mare Nostrum (“Our Sea”). On its path to becoming the dominant terrestrial and naval power in Europe, the Republic’s concerns had to evolve into consolidating its claim over the Mediterranean, leading the Roman people to branch from peninsular Italy (terra italia) and become more heavily involved in the maritime world beyond their shores.
This inevitably brought them into conflict with Carthage, a former Phoenician colony in modern Tunisia that, at the start of the Punic Wars, was the preeminent naval power. During its contest against Carthage for Mediterranean dominance in the third century B.C., the Roman Republic embarked on its odyssey toward empire: quickly developing a vast, innovative, and powerful navy; venturing far outside its homeland to places like Gibraltar and the Aegean; and establishing its first overseas provinces in Sicily and Sardinia-Corsica.
The Romans played to their strong suits while at sea, stabilizing ships and developing a way to have their superior foot soldiers overwhelm enemy vessels. By the time the dust settled and the waves calmed, Rome had become the strongest military force in classical antiquity, and the Roman hunger for land beyond the peninsula, which would bring the Republic and successive Empire into eternal glory, was whetted. Concern for sovereignty and economic greed brought the two powers into conflict in the First Punic War, which Rome very well may have lost had it not been able to integrate Carthaginian ships and Greek tactics into a Roman navy.
The Republic’s deceptive conquest of Messana and conquest of Agrigentum moved the Senate to consider conquering Sicily entirely. After the war, this notion grew, and Rome took Sardinia and Corsica. The three islands formed Rome’s first two overseas provinces, the beginnings of a vast empire, conquests which were solidified during the Second Punic War. Rome capitalized on Carthage’s fall, ultimately enveloping the whole perimeter and interior of the Mediterranean. After the Punic Wars, the previously terrestrial Roman Republic had the ability to flex its powerful army and navy almost anywhere in Mare Nostrum, having established itself with its expansionist odyssey during the third century B.C. [Indiana University]
REVIEW: Say hello to Moniatus (or Monietus) Capito, whose funeral stela has the distinction of being the first image of a Roman imperial navy officer ever discovered. Divers found the three-foot-high stela propping up a section of collapsed tunnel during an exploration of the ancient naval base at Ravenna, where Rome's Adriatic fleet was stationed.
Archaeologists date the stela to the first century A.D. based on the style of carving. According to an inscription on it, Capito was an officer on a liburna, a small, fast galley used to combat pirates, which were a particular problem in the Adriatic. The vessel's name was Aurata, or Golden, and a man named Cocneus likely paid for his friend's memorial.
The stela confirms that naval officers dressed much like their army counterparts; Capito is shown dressed in body armor with a leather skirt and sandals, and carrying a javelin and short sword. While officer Capito appears dapper and dignified in his armor and kilt, it seems that Romans far from home threw caution to the wind. We first reported on the sandals-and-socks phenomenon, as evidenced by a Roman razor handle in the shape of a man's leg clad in a thick sock and strappy shoe discovered in northern England's Tees River.
Now, divers in the same river have recovered a pottery sherd depicting a man wearing what can best be described as a G-string, and holding a whip. Archaeologists believe the man is a gladiator, but concede they've never seen one shown in such a manner before. We're waiting to see what the Tees River turns up next. Stripes with plaids? Someone wearing white after Volcanalia? [Archaeological Institute of America].
REVIEW: Though the Battle of Cynocephalae in 197 B.C. is often cited as the birth of the Roman Empire, the equally famous Battle of Actium is a better candidate. With the overthrow of the last Roman king, the Roman Republic was ruled by a senate and assembly from 509 B.C. until Julius Caesar's appointment as Dictator in 44 B.C. The battle of Cynocephalae in 197 B.C. consolidated Rome's power in the Mediterranean but did not launch the Roman Empire - that came about, at least in part, due to the dynamics in the relationships of three very strong personalities, Octavian, Mark Antony and Cleopatra, and a tragic love affair between two of them.
Born Gaius Octavius Thurinus, Octavian was adopted by his great uncle Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. and was afterwards known as Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus. When Julius Caesar was assassinated 15 March 44 B.C., Octavian was named as heir in his will and came to Rome where he allied himself with Mark Antony and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus to hunt down and punish the assassins. Forming themselves into the Second Triumvirate, the three would work well together (at least on the surface of things) until the assassins Brutus and Cassius were defeated in October of 42 B.C. at the Battle of Philipi.
Lepidus was given Africa to govern (which effectively removed him from any further power plays) while Antony took the east and headed to Egypt and Octavian governed in Rome. Julius Caesar's third cousin, once removed, Marcus Antonius was a brilliant General, much loved by his soldiers, and Caesar's best friend. As renowned as he was as a leader of men, he was equally known for his inordinate love of pleasure in the form of wine, women and gaming. In Egypt he found the perfect companion for these pursuits in Cleopatra VII.
Plutarch tells us, "Plato admits four sorts of flattery, but she had a thousand...she played at dice with him, drank with him, hunted with him...at night she would go rambling with him to disturb and torment people at their doors and windows, dressed like a servant woman". In a short time, Antony fell in love with Cleopatra and she with him. Cleopatra VII Philopator had a son, Caesarion, by Julius Caesar, and had actually met Antony years before when she was a young girl.
Much to the dismay of Octavian and the general Roman public, Antony would have three children with Cleopatra (though he was now married to Octavian's sister, Octavia Minor, since 40 B.C.) and would acknowledge them publicly. In 33 B.C. Antony divorced Octavia and, in a letter to Octavian, wrote, "What's upset you? Because I go to bed with Cleopatra? Does it really matter where, or with what women, you get your excitement?". Antony then claimed that Caesarion, not Octavian, was the true legitimate heir to Julius Caesar, calling Caesarion the "King of Kings".
Octavian, who had long resented Antony, was outraged at this and persuaded the Senate to declare war on Cleopatra knowing, naturally, that Antony would be drawn into battle. On the morning of 2 September 31 B.C. the fleets of Mark Antony and Cleopatra met the fleet of Octavian outside the Gulf of Actium in Greece. Antony's ships were large quinqueremes which were built primarily for ramming and sinking opponent's vessels. His ships, however, were seriously undermanned due to a malaria outbreak which had struck his crews.
Octavian's ships, on the other hand, were smaller and fully manned with healthy crews. A further blow against Antony's hopes for success was the defection of one of his generals, Quintus Dellius, to Octavian's side with all of Antony's battle plans. Octavian drew Antony's fleet out and, sometime after mid-day, Antony engaged his enemy. It was apparent, shortly, that the battle was not going well for Antony. Cleopatra, with her sixty ships, raised sail and left the battle for the open ocean. Antony immediately left his command ship and followed Cleopatra with forty of his own ships, leaving some 5,000 men and 300 ships to be destroyed by Octavian.
Why Cleopatra, then Antony, left the battle has always been a matter of conjecture and speculation. Some say Antony lost his nerve when he saw Cleopatra leaving the fight while others claim their action was a pre-planned escape should the battle go toward Octavian's side. Whatever the reason was, the result was complete victory for Octavian. Defeat followed on defeat for Antony and, the following August, he committed suicide by stabbing himself, dying in Cleopatra's arms, and she, then, allowed herself to be bitten by a poisonous asp preferring death to humiliation by Octavian.
Later that year Octavian had Caesarion murdered by strangulation (stating that “two Caesars are one too many”) and ordered the execution of Antony’s oldest son, whom he considered the only threat. Octavian then was the supreme ruler of Rome and her provinces and, in 27 B.C., was given the title `Augustus’ (Illustrious One) by the Roman Senate, becoming Augustus Caesar, first emperor of Rome; and so the Roman Empire was born. [Ancient History Encyclopedia].
REVIEW: The Carthaginians were famed in antiquity for their seafaring skills and innovation in ship design. The empire their navy protected stretched from Sicily to the Atlantic coast of Africa. Able to match the tyrants of Sicily and the Hellenistic kingdoms Carthage’s dominance of the seas would be challenged and ultimately replaced by the Romans, who were able to create a navy that became just as successful as their land army. Carthage took over the old Phoenician colonies in the Mediterranean and created many new ones so that its empire included North Africa, the Iberian peninsula, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, and many other islands.
To maintain trade contacts between these cities and to police their interests the Carthaginians used a naval fleet which became the envy of the ancient world. Such was its strength that Rome, although successful in land battles, was forced to build its first ever fleet in order to defeat Carthage and claim the western Mediterranean for its own. For three centuries prior to the Punic Wars, though, the Carthaginian fleet ruled the waves. Inheriting the skills passed on to them by the mother country Phoenicia the Carthaginians were admired across the ancient Mediterranean not only for their seamanship but also the quality of their ships.
Such were the requirements of Carthage’s large navy that ships were constructed using mass-produced pieces marked with numbers for ease of assembly. The wood used for ships was oak, fir, and pine. The size of the fleet changed depending on the period, but according to the ancient historian Polybius, Carthage had a fleet of 350 ships in 256 B.C. During the Punic Wars with Rome between 264 B.C. and 146 B.C. the fleet had to be constantly renewed to recover from losses in battles and storms. The naval fleet of Carthage was composed of large warships propelled by sail and oars which were used to ram enemy vessels using a bronze ram mounted on the prow below the waterline. Direction was controlled by two steering-oars fixed to either side of the stern.
Each oar was fitted with a horizontal bar for the helmsmen to handle. The Phoenicians had invented the trireme with three banks of rowers, but after using these in their early history the Carthaginians would later progress in the 4th century B.C. to the bigger and faster ships with four and five men per oar, the quadrireme and quinquereme. The quinquereme, so called for its arrangement of five rowers per vertical line of three oars, became the most widely used in the Punic fleet. Catapults could be mounted on the deck of these large vessels but were probably limited to siege warfare and not used in ship-to-ship battles.
The main aim in a naval battle was to ram and hole an enemy vessel or break its bank of oars. Sails were not used in battle conditions, but oar-power could give a ship a speed of 7-8 knots. Crews had to be well-trained to not only maneuver a ship as best as possible but also know when not to drive too far into an enemy ship and so become stuck when the ram impaled it. The second stage was to assault the enemy with missiles and, if necessary, board using grappling hooks and fight hand-to-hand. Polybius describes the skills and tactics of the Carthaginian navy in battle thus: "They much surpassed the Romans in speed, owing to the superior build of their ships and the better training of the rowers, as they had freely developed their line [formation] in the open sea. For if any ships found themselves hard pressed by the enemy it was easy for them, owing to their speed, to retreat safely to open water and from thence, fetching round on the ships that pursued…them, they either got in their rear or attacked them in the flank. As the enemy then had to turn round they found themselves in difficulty owing to the weight of the hulls and the poor oarsmanship of the crews, [so the Carthaginians] rammed them repeatedly and sunk many."
Attempts to ram enemy ships could be made in two ways. The first, the diekplous or breakthrough, was when ships formed a single line and sailed right through the enemy lines at a selected weak point. The defending ships would try not to create any gaps in their formation and perhaps stagger their lines to counter the diekplous. The diekplous was used with great effect in 217 B.C. by a Roman fleet to defeat the Carthaginians at the battle of Ebro.
The second tactic, known as periplous, was to try and sail down the flanks of the enemy formation and attack from the sides and rear. This strategy could be countered by spreading one’s ships as wide as possible but not too much so as to allow a diekplous attack. Positioning a fleet with one flank protected by a shoreline could also help counter a periplous maneuver, especially from a more numerous enemy. While all this chaotic ramming was going on, smaller vessels were used to haul stricken ships away from the battle lines or even to tow away captured vessels.
Aside from naval battles, the Carthaginian fleet was also vital for transporting armies, resupplying them by providing an escort for transport ships, coastal raids, attacking enemy supply ships, blockading enemy ports, and relieving Carthaginian forces when they were themselves besieged. The Carthaginian navy was also employed to sink trading vessels from rival states if they attempted to promote commercial activity in places Carthage considered it held a trade monopoly.
Command of the navy was in the hands of an admiral selected by the council of Carthage. He had equal status to the commander of the land army, and only very rarely were the two forces commanded by the same person. Each ship was run by three officers, one of whom was the navigator. A typical quinquereme crew would have consisted of 300 rowers taken from the citizenry of Carthage and allied cities such as Utica. In later times slaves were also used to meet the high demands of warfare. The lesser-skilled slaves could be used to good effect in the larger ships where two men manipulated most of the oars.
This arrangement allowed one skilled oarsman to guide the oar but also benefit from the power of the second man. The find of the Marsala shipwreck, a 3rd-century B.C. Carthaginian naval vessel that sank off Sicily, revealed not only the labeled pieces of the ship’s hull for easy assembly but also what the crew ate and drank: dried meat (poultry, horse, beef, goat, pork, and venison), almonds and walnuts, washed down with wine.
Oarsmen could not relax when beached as they were expected to fight in landing operations but not in ship-to-ship battles. Crews might also be employed in the building of siege engines, too. The larger ships were decked and would have carried complements of armed men, both archers and marines armed with spears, javelins, and swords, who could board enemy vessels given the opportunity.
The Punic naval fleet had its own harbor separate from but connected to the merchant harbor at Carthage. The naval harbor was massive and circular whilst the merchant ships anchored in a rectangular one. Both ports were manmade, about two meters deep, and they possibly date to 220-210 B.C. The center of the naval harbor was dominated by a tower structure known as the ‘the admiral’s island’ which connected to the outer ring via a causeway. Appian gives an idea of the great size of the naval harbor by describing the central island’s capacity for 30 ships and the 21-meter wide entrance.
The outer ring of ship sheds could hold another 170 ships. From recent archaeology we now know that the harbor was 325 meters in diameter and matches Appian’s description. The roofed sheds fronted by Ionic columns allowed the relatively light wooden ships to be pulled up a wooden slipway for repair and to avoid them becoming water-logged when not needed. The sheds were 30-48 meters long and 6 meters wide. The harbor also had a large platform (choma) which infantry and even chariots could use to board the ships. Both harbors were protected by massive fortification walls.
The first known sea battle involving the Carthaginian navy was in 535 B.C. against the Phocaeans off Corsica. Carthage’s seemingly never-ending battle for control of Sicily produced many naval battles throughout the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. with losses more or less equaling victories. Wars against Dionysius I of Syracuse (four), Timoleon, and Agathocles all saw naval engagements, blockades, and coastal raids. Carthage also provided its fleet for logistical support to the Romans in their war against Pyrrhus in the early 3rd century B.C.
However, the best documented naval engagements, and those most vital to Carthage’s survival, came during the Punic Wars with Rome now as enemy number one. In the First Punic War (264 and 241 B.C.) Rome quickly realized that to defeat Carthage they would have to do what they had never done before - build their own naval fleet. Accordingly, in the spring of 260 B.C. Rome constructed a fleet of 20 triremes and 100 quinquereme warships in only 60 days. Copying the design of a captured Carthaginian ship, the Romans then added a whole new feature: the corvus (raven).
This was a rotating 11-meter long platform with a giant holding spike (like a beak, hence the bird name) which could be lowered onto an enemy vessel to allow a heavy infantry unit (perhaps 80-120 men) to board them. The idea would negate the superior seamanship of the Carthaginians and make naval combat more like a land battle. This masterstroke of inventiveness was an immediate success when their fleet of 145 ships defeated the Carthaginian fleet of 130 ships at the battle of Mylae (Milazzo) in 260 B.C.
The Carthaginians, so dismissive of their opponent’s seafaring skills, had not even bothered to form battle lines. When the Carthaginian flagship was captured, the commander was forced to flee in a rowing boat. The Roman commander Duilius was honored with a Roman triumph, the first in Rome’s history to be awarded for a naval victory. Carthage seemed to have no answer to the corvus and more defeats came at Sulcis in 258 B.C. and in the battle of Ecnomus in 256 B.C. The latter was one of the largest naval engagements in history with the Romans commanding 330 ships and the Carthaginians a similar number.
The Romans formed four distinct battle groups which disrupted the Carthaginian lines. 100 of the enemy ships were destroyed compared to 24 Roman losses. Carthage fought back in 249 B.C. with an important victory at Drepana (Trapani) where their superior seamanship saw them outmaneuver the Roman fleet out at sea. The Carthaginian fleet was ably led by Adherbal who captured 93 of the 120 enemy ships. The Roman commander, Publius Claudius Pulcher, who had rashly decided to attack at night, was tried for treason back in Rome.
Round one of the Punic Wars was finally won by the Romans with their victory off the Aegates Islands (Isole Egadi) on 10th March, 241 B.C. The Carthaginian fleet, led by Hanno and sent to relieve the besieged city of Drepana on Sicily, was defeated by a 200-ship Roman fleet commanded by the consul Gaius Lutatius Catulus. Catulus had spent all the previous summer training his crews and the effort paid off when 50 Carthaginian ships were sunk, 70 captured, and 10,000 prisoners taken. This loss was not huge, but after decades of war, it drove the cash-strapped Carthaginians to seek peace terms.
The Second Punic War (218-201 B.C.) was largely fought on land, but the fleets of both sides were crucial in transporting land armies, resupplying them, and blockading ports throughout the conflict. Hamilcar Barca had already sailed in 237 B.C. with an army to conquer much of southern Spain. In 216 B.C. the fleet was used to transport an army to Sardinia in a failed attempt to take back the island and another army to Spain to relieve the pressure from Scipio Africanus the Elder. In 213 B.C. an army was transported to Sicily, but again the Carthaginians could not prevent Marcellus from taking Syracuse.
In 205 B.C. Carthage sent yet another army, led by Mago, to relieve his brother Hannibal who was by now cornered in southern Italy. Unfortunately, they could only land in Liguria, northern Italy because of the Roman naval dominance and their control of the major ports further south. In 204 B.C. Scipio managed to cross to Africa unimpeded with an army of 30,000 men. In 202 B.C. the Roman general then defeated an army led by Hannibal at the Battle of Zama. The second and most decisive round was over with Rome once again the victor.
Land battles had been decisive in the war but so too had Carthage’s lack of naval dominance. Crucially, Carthage had not been able to resupply Hannibal, join the armies of the two brothers together, or prevent Scipio from landing in Africa. The Roman dominance of the seas following the First Punic War had made them unstoppable. Part of the peace terms after the Second Punic War stipulated that Carthage could never again possess a fleet and the once great navy was limited to a paltry 10 ships.
The Third Punic War (149-146 B.C.) turned out to be something of a mismatch. Carthage, without a navy, could do nothing to prevent the Romans landing an army of over 80,000 men in North Africa. Despite valiant resistance behind Carthage’s impressive fortifications and a brave attempt to break the siege with a fleet of 50 secretly constructed ships, Rome was able to carry out the senator Cato’s famous command to the letter, Carthage was destroyed.
Rome had lost 600 ships in the Punic Wars (most of those due to storms) and more men than its opponent but its ability to replace them and the superiority of the land army meant Carthage was not only defeated time and again but the city obliterated and the population sold into slavery. The Carthaginian navy had initially been the Mediterranean’s innovators in ship design and they had enjoyed many victories against multiple enemies but by the time of the Punic Wars the world had changed.
Very few ancient wars up to that time were ever settled by sea engagements alone as land warfare remained the principal means to inflict total defeat on the enemy. Even before the Punic Wars had started, Carthage had gone a generation without having to fight a naval battle with the consequence that its mariners had little real battle experience. Rome took up naval warfare with great success and displayed an astounding ability to replace its fleets almost at will. In Spain and North Africa Romans defeated the Carthaginian armies on land. Hannibal’s four great victories in Italy proved to be the exception, not the rule, and his gamble that Rome would collapse from within failed.
Thus, Rome, with its professional army and navy of highly-trained and well-disciplined troops led by a clear command structure lusting for military glory within their term of office, swept aside Carthage both on land and at sea. Carthage was not helped by overly-conservative commanders but, in any case, it simply did not have the military or financial means to compete with the Mediterranean’s new superpower. Ancient warfare had evolved into a multi-weapon, multi-trooped, and multiple theatre activity at which the Romans excelled above all others. [Ancient History Encyclopedia].
REVIEW: The Punic Wars were a series of conflicts fought between the forces of ancient Carthage and Rome between 264 B.C. and 146 B.C. The name Punic comes from the word Phoenician (Phoinix in the Greek, Poenus from Punicus in Latin) as applied to the citizens of Carthage, who were of Phoenician ethnicity. As the history of the conflict was written by Roman authors, they labeled it 'The Punic Wars'.
Carthage grew from a small port-of-call to the richest and most powerful city in the Mediterranean region before 260 B.C. She had a powerful navy, a mercenary army and, through tribute, tariffs, and trade, enough wealth to do as she pleased. Through a treaty with the small city of Rome, she barred Roman trade in the Western Mediterranean and, as Rome had no navy, was able to easily enforce the treaty. Roman traders caught in Carthaginian waters were drowned and their ships taken.
As long as Rome remained the little city of trade by the Tiber River, Carthage reigned supreme; but the island of Sicily would be the flashpoint for growing Roman resentment of the Carthaginians. Sicily lay partly under Carthaginian and partly under Roman control. When Heiro II of neighboring Syracuse fought against the Mamertines of Messina, the Mamertines asked first Carthage and then Rome for help. The Carthaginians had already agreed to help and felt betrayed by the Mamertines’ appeal to Rome.
The Carthaginians changed sides, sending forces to Hiero II. The Romans fought for the Mamertines of Messina and, in 264 B.C., Rome and Carthage declared war on each other for the control of Sicily. Although Rome had no navy and knew nothing of sea battles, they swiftly built and equipped 330 ships. As they were far more used to fighting land battles, they devised the clever device of the corvus, a moveable gangplank, which could be attached to an enemy’s ship and held in place with hooks.
By immobilizing the other ship, and attaching it to their own, the Romans could manipulate a sea engagement through the strategies of a land battle. Even so, they lacked the expertise at sea of the Carthaginians and, more importantly, were lacking a general with the skill of the Carthaginian Hamilcar Barca. Hamilcar was surnamed Barca (meaning `lightning’) because of his speed in attacking anywhere and the suddenness of the action.
He struck without warning up and down the coast of Italy destroying Roman outposts and cutting supply lines. Had the Carthaginian government better supplied and reinforced Hamilcar, they most probably would have won the war but, instead, they contented themselves with hoarding their wealth and trusted to Hamilcar and his mercenaries to take care of the war. He defeated the Romans at Drepana in 249 B.C. but then was forced to withdraw due to a lack of man power and supplies.
According to the historian Durant, “Worn out almost equally, the two nations rested for nine years. But while in those years Carthage did nothing…a number of Roman citizens voluntarily presented to the state a fleet of 200 men-of-war, carrying 60,000 troops.” The Romans, more experienced at sea battles now and better equipped and led, won a series of decisive victories over Carthage and in 241 B.C. the Carthaginians sued for peace.
This war was costly to both sides but Carthage suffered more seriously owing to the corruption and incompetence of her government (which embezzled funds which should have gone to the military and consistently refused to send much needed supplies and reinforcements to generals in the field), the mostly mercenary army (who often simply refused to fight), and an over-reliance on the brilliance of Hamilcar Barca. Further, however, they seriously underestimated their enemy.
While Carthage would largely ignore the war, leaving the fighting to Hamilcar and his mercenaries, Rome would be building and equipping more ships and training more men. Even though Rome had never had a navy before the First Punic War, they emerged in 241 B.C. as masters of the sea and Carthage was a defeated city. During the war, the Carthaginian government had repeatedly failed to pay its mercenary army and, also in 241 B.C., these mercenaries laid siege to the city.
Hamilcar Barca was called upon to raise the siege and did so, even though Carthage had refused him the much needed supplies and reinforcements on his campaigns on her behalf and he had led most of these mercenaries in battle himself. The Mercenary War lasted from 241-237 B.C. and, while Carthage was engaged in this conflict, Rome occupied the Carthaginian colonies of Sardinia and Corsica. While Carthage was unhappy with this development, there was little they could do about it.
They concentrated their efforts on the conquest of Spain rather than trying to drive the Romans out of their former colonies. In 226 B.C. the Ebro Treaty was signed between Carthage and Rome agreeing that the Romans would hold Spanish territory north of the Ebro River, Carthage would hold the area they had already conquered south of the river, and neither nation would cross the boundary.
To the south of the border lay the city of Saguntum, a Roman ally, and, in 219 B.C., the great Carthaginian general Hannibal (Hamilcar’s son) lay siege to the city and took it. The Romans objected to this attack and demanded that Carthage deliver Hannibal to Rome. The Carthaginian senate refused to comply and so began the Second Punic War (218-202 B.C.). Hannibal, a sworn enemy of Rome, received intelligence that Roman armies were moving against him and, in a bold gamble, marched his forces over the Alps and into northern Italy.
Hannibal then proceeded to win every single engagement against the Romans, conquering northern Italy and gathering former allies of Rome to his side. Having lost many of his elephants on his march over the mountains, and lacking necessary siege engines and troops, Hannibal was caught in southern Italy in a cat and mouse game with the Roman army under Quintus Fabius Maximus. Fabius refused to engage Hannibal directly relying, instead, on cutting off his supplies and starving his army.
Fabius’ strategy might have worked had not the Romans become impatient with their legions’ inactivity. Further, Hannibal used counter-intelligence to reinforce and spread the rumor that Fabius refused to fight because he was in the pay of the Carthaginians. Fabius was replaced by Caius Terentius Varro and Lucius Aemilius Paulus who threw off caution and led their troops against Hannibal in the region of Apulia. At the Battle of Cannae in 216 B.C., Hannibal placed his Gauls in the center of his lines, expecting they would give way before the Roman forces.
When they did exactly that, and the Romans pressed what they saw as an advantage and followed them, Hannibal closed from behind and the sides, enveloping the Roman forces and crushing them. 44,000 Roman soldiers died at Cannae compared with 6000 of Hannibal’s forces. Hannibal won his greatest victory but could not build upon it as Carthage refused to send him the reinforcements and supplies he needed. Shortly after this, the Roman general, Publius Cornelius Scipio (later known as Scipio Africanus, who had fought against Hannibal at Cannae) was defeating the Carthaginian forces in Spain (under Hannibal’s brother, Hasdrubal).
Recognizing that Hannibal’s army would be recalled if Carthage were attacked, Scipio manned a fleet and sailed to North Africa where he took the Carthaginian city of Utica. Carthage recalled Hannibal from Italy to save their city but Scipio was a great admirer of Hannibal and had studied his tactics carefully. At the Battle of Zama in 202, Hannibal sent an elephant charge against the Romans which Scipio, mindful of Hannibal’s strategies, deflected easily. The Romans killed the Carthaginians on the elephants and sent the animals back into the Carthaginian ranks, then followed with a combined cavalry charge and infantry advance which caught the enemy between and crushed them.
Hannibal returned to the city and told the senate that Carthage should immediately surrender. Scipio allowed Carthage to retain her colonies in Africa but she had to surrender her navy and was not allowed to make war under any circumstances without Rome’s approval. Carthage was also to pay Rome a war debt of 200 talents every year for fifty years. Carthage was, again, a defeated city but, retaining its trading ships and ten warships to protect them, was able to struggle on and begin to prosper. The Carthaginian government, however, still as corrupt and selfish as it had always been, taxed the people heavily to help pay the war debt while they, themselves, contributed nothing.
Hannibal came out of retirement to try to rectify the situation, was betrayed by the rich Carthaginians to the Romans, and fled. He died by his own hand, drinking poison, in 184, aged sixty-seven. Carthage continued paying the war debt to Rome for the proscribed fifty years and, when it was done, considered their treaty with Rome completed also. They went to war against Numidia, were defeated, and had to then pay that nation another war debt. As they had gone to war without Rome’s approval, the Roman senate considered Carthage a threat to the peace again.
The Roman senator Cato the Elder took the threat so seriously that he would end all of his speeches, no matter the subject, with the phrase, “And, further, I think that Carthage should be destroyed.” In 149 B.C. Rome sent an embassy to Carthage suggesting exactly that course: that the city should be dismantled and moved inland away from the coast. The Carthaginians refused to comply with this and so began the Third Punic War (149-146 B.C.).
The Roman general Scipio Aemilianus besieged the city for three years and, when it fell, sacked it and burned it to the ground. Rome emerged as the pre-eminent power in the Mediterranean and Carthage lay in ruin for over one hundred years until it was finally re-built following the death of Julius Caesar. The Punic Wars provided Rome with the training, the navy, and the wealth to expand from a small city to an empire which would rule the known world. [Ancient History Encyclopedia].
REVIEW: Roman raiders and their lost arks. When workmen were digging foundations to erect a new Hilton hotel in Mainz, West Germany (in 1982), they excavated the well-preserved remains of nine Roman warships. Such are the small ironies of history. And now, less than a year later, two more vessels have been uncovered, buried under 12 to 15 feet of clay. The oldest of the ships was built in 81 A.D., according to the rather precise evidence of the rings in the oak.
Most of the ships, however, date from the fourth century, when the empire was far into its famous decline, leading to the sack of Rome by Alaric the Goth in 410. Historians believe the garrison at Maiz, along with this shipyard by the Rhine, must have been abandoned about 10 years earlier. These ancient warships, 30 to 70 feet long, were sleek, purposeful vessels with uncompromisingly straight keels and massive timber frames.
There was accommodation for sail amidships, but they were chiefly propelled by oars. In their sharp lines, one feels the thrust of a score of Caesars. Around 12 B.C., we know, the Emperor Drusus cut a canal from the Rhine to the Zuyder Zee. Some of these ships, part of the classis Germanicus (Rome's German navy), must have traveled on that canal. How tirelessly the empire laid down arterial roads and bridges and waterways so that its armies could move further, and yet further, from the heart of Rome!
These navies of Rome's many frontiers ferried troops and supplies, patrolled against the hostile natives, kept communications open - ruthlessly, making straight lines in a tangled and untidy world. It must have all seemed irresistibly logical to the Romans - the most logical of men. But in the end, the solution became the problem. One thing led to another - one more bridge, one more canal, one more bronze-beaked ship. There were hardly enough oak trees in the German forests to keep up with the ships. In one 18-year period the Roman navies lost nearly 1,000.
There were not enough freed slaves - from Gaul, from Spain, from Africa - to man all those oars. The last words of the Emperor Septimus in 200 A.D. were: "Pay the soldiers more." But there was no longer enough gold to ship out of Rome on those roads and waterways, financing all the garrisons of this garrison state. For what the Romans finally ran out of was will. What was it all for? National security? World order? Manifest destiny? The Romans thought they knew in the beginning.
Toward the end, there was the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, advising: "Stop being whirled about." Don't worry about what other people think, he told himself. Live in the present. Throw away material things. Discover inner peace. What did all that have to do with warships at Mainz - with all the frontier wars that Marcus Aurelius fought as a reflex of Roman duty? The Roman parallel is always fascinating to Americans. What can we learn from these 11 time-warp souvenirs, raised from the mud like monsters in a horror movie?
Some will see them as an argument for more defense; others, as an argument for less defense. Most people will "learn" what they are already convinced of. The ships sit, submerged in huge metal basins in an empty trolley barn, too waterlogged to be withdrawn from water. Polyethylene glycol is being tried as a liquid replacement. But for the moment, air is the enemy. In contrast to their military pretensions, the Roman warships now seem profoundly vulnerable - documentation for a modern historian's conclusion: "The complete failure of Rome against Germany...usefully illustrates the limitations of sea-power." And what else? Something in us parallel-seekers wants to know. Something in us doesn't want to know. [Christian Science Monitor].
REVIEW: One of the greatest civilizations of recorded history was the ancient Roman Empire. The Roman civilization, in relative terms the greatest military power in the history of the world, was founded in the 8th century (B.C.) on seven hills alongside Italy’s Tiber River. By the 4th Century (B.C.) the Romans were the dominant power on the Italian Peninsula, having defeated the Etruscans, Celts, Latins, and Greek Italian colonies. In the 3rd Century (B.C.) the Romans conquered Sicily, and in the following century defeated Carthage, and controlled Greece. Throughout the remainder of the 2nd Century (B.C.) the Roman Empire continued its gradual conquest of the Hellenistic (Greek Colonial) World by conquering Syria and Macedonia; and finally came to control Egypt and much of the Near East and Levant (Holy Land) in the 1st Century (B.C.).
The pinnacle of Roman power was achieved in the 1st Century (A.D.) as Rome conquered much of Britain and Western Europe. At its peak, the Roman Empire stretched from Britain in the West, throughout most of Western, Central, and Eastern Europe, and into Asia Minor. For a brief time, the era of “Pax Romana”, a time of peace and consolidation reigned. Civilian emperors were the rule, and the culture flourished with a great deal of liberty enjoyed by the average Roman Citizen. However within 200 years the Roman Empire was in a state of steady decay, attacked by Germans, Goths, and Persians. The decline was temporarily halted by third century Emperor Diocletian.
In the 4th Century (A.D.) the Roman Empire was split between East and West. The Great Emperor Constantine again managed to temporarily arrest the decay of the Empire, but within a hundred years after his death the Persians captured Mesopotamia, Vandals infiltrated Gaul and Spain, and the Goths even sacked Rome itself. Most historians date the end of the Western Roman Empire to 476 (A.D.) when Emperor Romulus Augustus was deposed. However the Eastern Roman Empire (The Byzantine Empire) survived until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 A.D.
In the ancient world valuables such as coins and jewelry were commonly buried for safekeeping, and inevitably the owners would succumb to one of the many perils of the ancient world. Oftentimes the survivors of these individuals did not know where the valuables had been buried, and today, thousands of years later (occasionally massive) caches of coins and rings are still commonly uncovered throughout Europe and Asia Minor.
Throughout history these treasures have been inadvertently discovered by farmers in their fields, uncovered by erosion, and the target of unsystematic searches by treasure seekers. With the introduction of metal detectors and other modern technologies to Eastern Europe in the past three or four decades, an amazing number of new finds are seeing the light of day thousands of years after they were originally hidden by their past owners. And with the liberalization of post-Soviet Eastern Europe in the 1990’s, significant new sources opened eager to share these ancient treasures. [AncientGifts].
REVIEW: History of Rome.
According to legend, Ancient Rome was founded by the two brothers, and demi-gods, Romulus and Remus, on 21 April 753 B.C. The legend claims that, in an argument over who would rule the city (or, in another version, where the city would be located) Romulus killed Remus and named the city after himself. This story of the founding of Rome is the best known but it is not the only one.
Other legends claim the city was named after a woman, Roma, who traveled with Aeneas and the other survivors from Troy after that city fell. Upon landing on the banks of the Tiber River, Roma and the other women objected when the men wanted to move on. She led the women in the burning of the Trojan ships and so effectively stranded the Trojan survivors at the site which would eventually become Rome.
Aeneas of Troy is featured in this legend and also, famously, in Virgil's Aeneid, as a founder of Rome and the ancestor of Romulus and Remus, thus linking Rome with the grandeur and might which was once Troy. Still other theories concerning the name of the famous city suggest it came from Rumon, the ancient name for the Tiber River, and was simply a place-name given to the small trading centre established on its banks or that the name derived from an Etruscan word which could have designated one of their settlements. Originally a small town on the banks of the Tiber, Rome grew in size and strength, early on, through trade. The location of the city provided merchants with an easily navigable waterway on which to traffic their goods. The city was ruled by seven kings, from Romulus to Tarquin, as it grew in size and power. Greek culture and civilization, which came to Rome via Greek colonies to the south, provided the early Romans with a model on which to build their own culture. From the Greeks they borrowed literacy and religion as well as the fundamentals of architecture.
The Etruscans, to the north, provided a model for trade and urban luxury. Etruria was also well situated for trade and the early Romans either learned the skills of trade from Etruscan example or were taught directly by the Etruscans who made incursions into the area around Rome sometime between 650 and 600 B.C. (although their influence was felt much earlier). The extent of the role the Etruscans played in the development of Roman culture and society is debated but there seems little doubt they had a significant impact at an early stage.
From the start, the Romans showed a talent for borrowing and improving upon the skills and concepts of other cultures. The Kingdom of Rome grew rapidly from a trading town to a prosperous city between the 8th and 6th centuries B.C. When the last of the seven kings of Rome, Tarquin the Proud, was deposed in 509 B.C., his rival for power, Lucius Junius Brutus, reformed the system of government and established the Roman Republic.
Though Rome owed its prosperity to trade in the early years, it was war which would make the city a powerful force in the ancient world. The wars with the North African city of Carthage (known as the Punic Wars, 264-146 B.C.) consolidated Rome's power and helped the city grow in wealth and prestige. Rome and Carthage were rivals in trade in the Western Mediterranean and, with Carthage defeated, Rome held almost absolute dominance over the region; though there were still incursions by pirates which prevented complete Roman control of the sea.
As the Republic of Rome grew in power and prestige, the city of Rome began to suffer from the effects of corruption, greed and the over-reliance on foreign slave labor. Gangs of unemployed Romans, put out of work by the influx of slaves brought in through territorial conquests, hired themselves out as thugs to do the bidding of whatever wealthy Senator would pay them. The wealthy elite of the city, the Patricians, became ever richer at the expense of the working lower class, the Plebeians.
In the 2nd century B.C., the Gracchi brothers, Tiberius and Gaius, two Roman tribunes, led a movement for land reform and political reform in general. Though the brothers were both killed in this cause, their efforts did spur legislative reforms and the rampant corruption of the Senate was curtailed (or, at least, the Senators became more discreet in their corrupt activities). By the time of the First Triumvirate, both the city and the Republic of Rome were in full flourish.
Even so, Rome found itself divided across class lines. The ruling class called themselves Optimates (the best men) while the lower classes, or those who sympathized with them, were known as the Populares (the people). These names were applied simply to those who held a certain political ideology; they were not strict political parties nor were all of the ruling class Optimates nor all of the lower classes Populares.
In general, the Optimates held with traditional political and social values which favored the power of the Senate of Rome and the prestige and superiority of the ruling class. The Populares, again generally speaking, favored reform and democratization of the Roman Republic. These opposing ideologies would famously clash in the form of three men who would, unwittingly, bring about the end of the Roman Republic.
Marcus Licinius Crassus and his political rival, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great) joined with another, younger, politician, Gaius Julius Caesar, to form what modern historians call the First Triumvirate of Rome (though the Romans of the time never used that term, nor did the three men who comprised the triumvirate). Crassus and Pompey both held the Optimate political line while Caesar was a Populare.
The three men were equally ambitious and, vying for power, were able to keep each other in check while helping to make Rome prosper. Crassus was the richest man in Rome and was corrupt to the point of forcing wealthy citizens to pay him `safety' money. If the citizen paid, Crassus would not burn down that person's house but, if no money was forthcoming, the fire would be lighted and Crassus would then charge a fee to send men to put the fire out. Although the motive behind the origin of these fire brigades was far from noble, Crassus did effectively create the first fire department which would, later, prove of great value to the city.
Both Pompey and Caesar were great generals who, through their respective conquests, made Rome wealthy. Though the richest man in Rome (and, it has been argued, the richest in all of Roman history) Crassus longed for the same respect people accorded Pompey and Caesar for their military successes. In 53 B.C. he lead a sizeable force against the Parthians at Carrhae, in modern day Turkey, where he was killed when truce negotiations broke down.
With Crassus gone, the First Triumvirate disintegrated and Pompey and Caesar declared war on each other. Pompey tried to eliminate his rival through legal means and had the Senate order Caesar to Rome to stand trial on assorted charges. Instead of returning to the city in humility to face these charges, Caesar crossed the Rubicon River with his army in 49 B.C. and entered Rome at the head of it.
He refused to answer the charges and directed his focus toward eliminating Pompey as a rival. Pompey and Caesar met in battle at Pharsalus in Greece in 48 B.C. where Caesar's numerically inferior force defeated Pompey's greater one. Pompey himself fled to Egypt, expecting to find sanctuary there, but was assassinated upon his arrival. News of Caesar's great victory against overwhelming numbers at Pharsalus had spread quickly and many former friends and allies of Pompey swiftly sided with Caesar, believing he was favored by the gods.
Julius Caesar was now the most powerful man in Rome. He effectively ended the period of the Republic by having the Senate proclaim him dictator. His popularity among the people was enormous and his efforts to create a strong and stable central government meant increased prosperity for the city of Rome. He was assassinated by a group of Roman Senators in 44 B.C., however, precisely because of these achievements.
The conspirators, Brutus and Cassius among them, seemed to fear that Caesar was becoming too powerful and that he might eventually abolish the Senate. Following his death, his right-hand man, and cousin, Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) joined forces with Caesar's nephew and heir, Gaius Octavius Thurinus (Octavian) and Caesar's friend, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, to defeat the forces of Brutus and Cassius at the Battle of Phillippi in 42 B.C.
Octavian, Antony and Lepidus formed the Second Triumvirate of Rome but, as with the first, these men were also equally ambitious. Lepidus was effectively neutralized when Antony and Octavian agreed that he should have Hispania and Africa to rule over and thereby kept him from any power play in Rome. It was agreed that Octavian would rule Roman lands in the west and Antony in the east.
Antony's involvement with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra VII, however, upset the balance Octavian had hoped to maintain and the two went to war. Antony and Cleopatra's combined forces were defeated at the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C. and both later took their own lives. Octavian emerged as the sole power in Rome. In 27 B.C. he was granted extraordinary powers by the Senate and took the name of Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome. Historians are in agreement that this is the point at which the history of Rome ends and the history of the Roman Empire begins.
History of Roman Republic.
In the late 6th century B.C., the small city-state of Rome overthrew the shackles of monarchy and created a republican government that, in theory if not always in practice, represented the wishes of its citizens. From this basis the city would go on to conquer all of the Italian peninsula and large parts of the Mediterraean world and beyond. The Republic and its insitutions of government would endure for five centuries, until, wrecked by civil wars, it would transform into a Principate ruled by emperors. Even then many of the politcal bodies, notably the Senate, created in the Republican period would endure, albeit with a reduction in power.
The years prior to the rise of the Republic are lost to myth and legend. No contemporary written history of this period has survived. Although much of this history had been lost, the Roman historian Livy (59 B.C. – 17 A.D.) was still able to write a remarkable History of Rome - 142 volumes - recounting the years of the monarchy through the fall of the Republic. Much of his history, however, especially the early years, was based purely on myth and oral accounts.
Contrary to some interpretations, the fall of the monarchy and birth of the republic did not happen overnight. Some even claim it was far from bloodless. Historian Mary Beard in her SPQR wrote that the transformation from monarchy to republic was “borne over a period of decades, if not, centuries.” Prior to the overthrow of the last king, Tarquinius Superbus or Tarquin the Proud in 510 B.C., the history of the city is mired in stories of valor and war. Even the founding of the city is mostly legend and many people have preferred the myth over fact anyway.
For years Rome had admired the Hellenistic culture of the Greeks, and so it easily embraced the story of Aeneas and the founding of Rome as penned by Roman author Virgil in his heroic saga The Aeneid. This story gave the Romans a link to an ancient, albeit Greek, culture. This mythical tale is about Aeneas and his followers who, with the assistance of the goddess Venus, escaped the city of Troy as it fell to the Greeks in the Trojan War. Jupiter’s wife Juno constantly interfered with the story's hero Aeneas throughout the tale.
After a brief stay in Carthage, Aeneas eventually made his way to Italy and Latium, finally fulfilling his destiny. His descendants were the twins Romulus and Remus - the illegitimate sons of Mars, the god of war, and the princess Rhea Silvia, the daughter of the true king of Alba Longa. Rescued from drowning by a she-wolf and raised by a shepherd, Romulus eventually defeated his brother in battle and founded the city of Rome, becoming its first king. So the legend goes.
After Tarquin’s exit, Rome suffered from both external and internal conflict. Much of the 5th century B.C. was spent struggling, not thriving. From 510 B.C. to 275 B.C., while the government grappled with a number of internal political issues, the city grew to become the prevailing power over the entire Italian peninsula. From the Battle of Regallus (496 B.C.), where Rome was victorious over the Latins, to the Pyrrhic Wars (280 – 275 B.C.) against Pyrrhus of Epirus, Rome emerged as a dominant, warring superpower in the west.
Through this expansion, the social and political structure of the Republic gradually evolved. From this simple beginning, the city would create a new government, a government that would one day dominate an area from the North Sea southward through Gaul and Germania, westward to Hispania, and eastward to Greece, Syria and North Africa. The great Mediterranean became a Roman lake. These lands would remain under the control of Rome throughout the Republic and well into the formative years of the Roman Empire.
However, before it could become this dominant military force, the city had to have a stable government, and it was paramount that they avoid the possibility of one individual seizing control. In the end they would create a system exhibiting a true balance of power. Initially, after the fall of the monarchy, the Republic fell under the control of the great families - the patricians, coming from the word patres or fathers. Only these great families could hold political or religious offices. The remaining citizens or plebians had no political authority although many of them were as wealthy as the patricians. However, much to the dismay of the patricians, this arrangement could not and would not last.
Tensions between the two classes continued to grow, especially since the poorer residents of the city provided the bulk of the army. They asked themselves why they should fight in a war if all of the profits go to the wealthy. Finally, in 494 B.C. the plebians went on strike, gathering outside Rome and refusing to move until they were granted representation; this was the famed Conflict of Orders or the First Succession of the Plebs. The strike worked, and the plebians would be rewarded with an assembly of their own - the Concilium Plebis or Council of the Plebs.
Although the government of Rome could never be considered a true democracy, it did provide many of its citizens (women excluded) with a say in how their city was ruled. Through their rebellion, the plebians had entered into a system where power lay in a number of magistrates (the cursus honorum) and various assemblies. This executive power or imperium resided in two consuls. Elected by the Comitia Centuriata, a consul ruled for only one year, presiding over the Senate, proposing laws, and commanding the armies.
Uniquely, each consul could veto the decision of the other. After his term was completed, he could become a pro-consul, governing one of the republic’s many territories, which was an appointment that could make him quite wealthy. There were several lesser magistrates: a praetor (the only other official with imperium power) who served as a judicial officer with civic and provincial jurisdiction, a quaestor who functioned as the financial administrator, and the aedile who supervised urban maintenance such as roads, water and food supplies, and the annual games and festivals.
Lastly, there was the highly coveted position of censor, who held office for only 18 months. Elected every five years, he was the census taker, reviewing the list of citizens and their property. He could even remove members of the Senate for improper behavior. There was, however, one final position - the unique office of dictator. He was granted complete authority and was only named in times of emergency, usually serving for only six months. The most famous one, of course, was Julius Caesar; who was named dictator for life.
Aside from the magistrates there were also a number of assemblies. These assemblies were the voice of the people (male citizens only), thereby allowing for the opinions of some to be heard. Foremost of all the assemblies was the Roman Senate (a remnant of the old monarchy). Although unpaid, Senators served for life unless they were removed by a censor for public or private misconduct. While this body had no true legislative power, serving only as advisors to the consul and later the emperor, they still wielded considerable authority.
They could propose laws as well as oversee foreign policy, civic administration, and finances. Power to enact laws, however, was given to a number of popular assemblies. All of the Senate’s proposals had to be approved by either of two popular assemblies: the Comitia Centuriata, who not only enacted laws but also elected consuls and declared war, and the Concilium Plebis, who conveyed the wishes of the plebians via their elected tribunes. These assemblies were divided into blocks and each of these blocks voted as a unit. Aside from these two major legislative bodies, there were also a number of smaller tribal assemblies.
The Concilium Plebis came into existence as a result of the Conflict of Orders - a conflict between the plebians and patricians for political power. In the Concilium Plebis, aside from passing laws pertinent to the wishes of the plebians, the members elected a number of tribunes who spoke on their behalf. Although this “Council of the Plebs” initially gave the plebians some voice in government, it did not prove to be sufficient. In 450 B.C. the Twelve Tables were enacted in order to appease a number of plebian concerns.
It became the first recorded Roman law code. The Tables tackled domestic problems with an emphasis on both family life and private property. For instance, plebians were not only prohibited from imprisonment for debt but also granted the right to appeal a magistrate’s decision. Later, plebians were even allowed to marry patricians and become consuls. Over time the rights of the plebians continued to increase. In 287 B.C. the Lex Hortensia declared that all laws passed by the Concilium Plebis were binding to both plebians and patricians.
This unique government allowed the Republic to grow far beyond the city’s walls. Victory in the three Punic Wars (264 – 146 B.C.) waged against Carthage was the first step of Rome growing beyond the confines of the peninsula. After years of war and the embarrassment of defeat at the hands of Hannibal, the Senate finally followed the advice of the outspoken Cato the Elder who said “Carthago delenda est!” or “Carthage must be destroyed!” Rome’s destruction of the city after the Battle of Zama in 146 B.C. and the defeat of the Greeks in the four Macedonian Wars established the Republic as a true Mediterranean power.
The submission of the Greeks brought the rich Hellenistic culture to Rome, that is its art, philosophy and literature. Unfortunately, despite the growth of the Republic, the Roman government was never meant to run an empire. According to historian Tom Holland in his Rubicon, the Republic always seemed to be on the brink of political collapse. The old agrarian economy could not and would not be successfully transferred and only further broadened the gap between the rich and poor. Rome, however, was more than just a warrior state. At home Romans believed in the importance of the family and the value of religion. They also believed that citizenship or civitas defined what it meant to be truly civilized.
This concept of citizenship would soon be put to the test when the Roman territories began to challenge Roman authority. However, this constant state of war had not only made the Republic wealthy but it also helped mold its society. After the Macedonian Wars, the influence of the Greeks affected both Roman culture and religion. Under this Greek influence, the traditional Roman gods transformed. In Rome an individual’s personal expression of belief was unimportant, only a strict adherence to a rigid set of rituals, avoiding the dangers of religious fervor. Temples honoring these gods would be built throughout the empire.
Elsewhere in Rome the division of the classes could best be seen within the city walls in the tenements. Rome was a refuge to many people who left the surrounding towns and farms seeking a better way of life. However, an unfulfilled promise of jobs forced many people to live in the poorer parts of the city. The jobs they sought were often not there, resulting in an epidemic of homeless inhabitants. While many of the wealthier citizens resided on Palatine Hill, others lived in ramshackle apartments that were over-crowded and extremely dangerous - many lived in constant fear of fire and collapse.
Although the lower floors of these buildings contained shops and more suitable housing, the upper floors were for the poorer residents, there was no access for natural light, no running water, and no toilets. The streets were poorly lit and since there was no police force, crime was rampant. Refuse, even human waste, was routinely dumped onto the streets, not only causing a terrible stench but served as a breeding ground for disease. All of this added to an already disgruntled populace.
This continuing struggle between the have and have nots would remain until the Republic finally collapsed. owever, there were those in power who tried to find a solution to the existing problems. In the 2nd century B.C., two brothers, both tribunes, tried but failed to make the necessary changes. Among a number of reform proposals, Tiberius Gracchus suggested to give land to both the unemployed and small farmers. Of course, the Senate, many of whom were large landowners, vehemently objected. Even the Concilium Plebis rejected the idea.
Although his suggestion eventually became law, it could not be enforced. Riots soon followed and 300 people, including Tiberius, were killed. Unfortunately, a similar destiny awaited his brother. While Gaius Gracchus also supported the land distribution idea, his fate was sealed when he proposed to give citizenship to all Roman allies. Like his big brother, his proposals met with considerable resistance. 3,000 of his supporters were killed and he chose suicide. The failure of the brothers to achieve some balance in Rome would be one of a number of indicators that the Republic was doomed to fall.
Later, another Roman would rise to initiate a series of reforms. Sulla and his army marched on Rome and seized power, defeating his enemy Gaius Marius. Assuming power in 88 B.C., Sulla quickly defeated King Mithridates of Pontus in the East, crushed the Samnites with the help of the generals Pompey and Crassus, purged the Roman Senate (80 were killed or exiled), reorganized the law courts, and enacted a number of reforms. He retired peacefully in 79 B.C.
Unlike the Empire, the Republic would not collapse due to any external threat but instead fell to an internal menace. It came from the inability of the Republic to adjust to a constantly expanding empire. Even the ancient Sibylline prophecies predicted that failure would come internally, not by foreign invaders. There were a number of these internal warnings. The demand of the Roman allies for citizenship was one sign of this unrest - the so-called Social Wars of the 1st century B.C. (90 – 88 B.C.).
For years the Roman allies had paid tribute and provided soldiers for war but were not considered citizens. Like their plebian kindred years earlier, they wanted representation. It took a rebellion for things to change. Although the Senate had warned the Roman citizens that awarding these people citizenship would be dangerous, full citizenship was finally granted to all people (slaves excluded) in the entire Italian peninsula. Later, Julius Caesar would extend citizenship beyond Italy and grant it to the people of Spain and Gaul.
About this time the city witnessed a serious threat to its very survival when Marcus Tillius Cicero, the Roman statesman and poet, uncovered a conspiracy led by the Roman senator Lucius Sergius Catiline to overthrow the Roman government. Cicero also believed that the Republic was declining due to moral decay. Problems such as this together with fear and unrest came to the attention of three men in 60 B.C.: Julius Caesar, Gnaeus Pompey and Marcus Licinius Crassus. Crassus had gained fame by his defeat of Spartacus and his followers in 71 B.C. Pompey had distinguished himself in Spain as well as in the East.
Caesar had proven himself as an able commander. Together, the three men formed what historians have named the First Triumvirate or Gang of Three. For almost a decade they controlled both consulships and military commands. After Caesar left the office of consul in 59 B.C., he and his army moved northward into Gaul and Germania. Pompey became the governor of Spain (although he ruled from Rome) while Crassus sought fame in the east where, unfortunately for him, he was eventually defeated and killed at the Battle of Carrhae.
Growing tension between Pompey and Caesar escalated. Pompey was jealous of Caesar’s success and fame while Caesar wanted a return to politics. Eventually these differences brought them to battle, and in 48 B.C. they met at Pharsalus. Pompey was defeated, escaping to Egypt where he was killed by Ptolemy XIII. Caesar fulfilled his destiny by securing both the eastern provinces and northern Africa, returning to Rome a hero only to be declared dictator for life.
Many of his enemies, as well as several allies, saw his new position as a serious threat to the foundation of the Republic, and despite a number of popular reforms, his assassination on the Ides of March in 44 B.C. brought the Republic to its knees. His heir and step-son Octavian subdued Mark Antony, eventually becoming the first emperor of Rome as Augustus. The Republic was gone and in its ashes rose the Roman Empire.
History of Roman Empire: The Roman Empire, at its height (circa 117 A.D.), was the most extensive political and social structure in western civilization. By 285 A.D. the empire had grown too vast to be ruled from the central government at Rome and so was divided by Emperor Diocletian (284-305 A.D.) into a Western and an Eastern Empire. The Roman Empire began when Augustus Caesar (27 B.C.-14 A.D.) became the first emperor of Rome and ended, in the West, when the last Roman emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was deposed by the Germanic King Odoacer (476 A.D.). In the East, it continued as the Byzantine Empire until the death of Constantine XI and the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 A.D. The influence of the Roman Empire on western civilization was profound in its lasting contributions to virtually every aspect of western culture.
Following the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C., Gaius Octavian Thurinus, Julius Caesar's nephew and heir, became the first emperor of Rome and took the name Augustus Caesar. Although Julius Caesar is often regarded as the first emperor of Rome, this is incorrect; he never held the title "Emperor" but, rather, "Dictator", a title the senate could not help but grant him, as Caesar held supreme military and political power at the time. In contrast, the senate willingly granted Augustus the title of emperor, lavishing praise and power on him because he had destroyed Rome's enemies and brought much needed stability.
Augustus ruled the empire from 31 B.C. until 14 A.D. when he died. In that time, as he said himself, he "found Rome a city of clay but left it a city of marble." Augustus reformed the laws of the city and, by extension, the empire’s, secured Rome's borders, initiated vast building projects (carried out largely by his faithful general Agrippa, who built the first Pantheon), and secured the empire a lasting name as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, political and cultural powers in history. The Pax Romana (Roman Peace), also known as the Pax Augusta, which he initiated, was a time of peace and prosperity hitherto unknown and would last over 200 years.
Following Augustus’ death, power passed to his heir, Tiberius, who continued many of the emperor’s policies but lacked the strength of character and vision which so defined Augustus. This trend would continue, more or less steadily, with the emperors who followed: Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. These first five rulers of the empire are referred to as the Julio-Claudian Dynasty for the two family names they descended from (either by birth or through adoption), Julius and Claudius.
Although Caligula has become notorious for his depravity and apparent insanity, his early rule was commendable as was that of his successor, Claudius, who expanded Rome’s power and territory in Britain; less so was that of Nero. Caligula and Claudius were both assassinated in office (Caligula by his Praetorian Guard and Claudius, apparently, by his wife). Nero’s suicide ended the Julio-Claudian Dynasty and initiated the period of social unrest known as The Year of the Four Emperors.
These four rulers were Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian. Following Nero’s suicide in 68 A.D., Galba assumed rule (69 A.D.) and almost instantly proved unfit for the responsibility. He was assassinated by the Praetorian Guard. Otho succeeded him swiftly on the very day of his death, and ancient records indicate he was expected to make a good emperor. General Vitellius, however, sought power for himself and so initiated the brief civil war which ended in Otho’s suicide and Vitellius’ ascent to the throne.
Vitellius proved no more fit to rule than Galba had been, as he almost instantly engaged in luxurious entertainments and feasts at the expense of his duties. The legions declared for General Vespasian as emperor and marched on Rome. Vitellius was murdered by Vespasian’s men, and Vespasian took power exactly one year from the day Galba had first ascended to the throne.
Vespasian founded the Flavian Dynasty which was characterized by massive building projects, economic prosperity, and expansion of the empire. Vespasian ruled from 69-79 A.D., and in that time, initiated the building of the Flavian Amphitheatre (the famous Coliseum of Rome) which his son Titus (ruled 79-81 A.D.) would complete. Titus’ early reign saw the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. which buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Ancient sources are universal in their praise for his handling of this disaster as well as the great fire of Rome in 80 A.D. Titus died of a fever in 81 A.D. and was succeeded by his brother Domitian who ruled from 81-96 A.D. Domitian expanded and secured the boundaries of Rome, repaired the damage to the city caused by the great fire, continued the building projects initiated by his brother, and improved the economy of the empire. Even so, his autocratic methods and policies made him unpopular with the Roman Senate, and he was assassinated in 96 A.D.
Domitian's successor was his advisor Nerva who founded the Nervan-Antonin Dynasty which ruled Rome 96-192 A.D. This period is marked by increased prosperity owing to the rulers known as The Five Good Emperors of Rome. Between 96 and 180 A.D., five exceptional men ruled in sequence and brought the Roman Empire to its height: Nerva (96-98), Trajan (98-117), Hadrian (117-138), Antoninus Pius (138-161), and Marcus Aurelius (161-180).
Under their leadership, the Roman Empire grew stronger, more stable, and expanded in size and scope. Lucius Verus and Commodus are the last two of the Nervan-Antonin Dynasty. Verus was co-emperor with Marcus Aurelius until his death in 169 A.D. and seems to have been fairly ineffective. Commodus, Aurelius’ son and successor, was one of the most disgraceful emperors Rome ever saw and is universally depicted as indulging himself and his whims at the expense of the empire. He was strangled by his wrestling partner in his bath in 192 A.D., ending the Nervan-Antonin Dynasty and raising the prefect Pertinax (who most likely engineered Commodus’ assassination) to power.
Pertinax governed for only three months before he was assassinated. He was followed, in rapid succession, by four others in the period known as The Year of the Five Emperors, which culminated in the rise of Septimus Severus to power. Severus ruled Rome from 193-211 A.D., founded the Severan Dynasty, defeated the Parthians, and expanded the empire. His campaigns in Africa and Britain were extensive and costly and would contribute to Rome’s later financial difficulties. He was succeeded by his sons Caracalla and Geta, until Caracalla had his brother murdered.
Caracalla ruled until 217 A.D., when he was assassinated by his bodyguard. It was under Caracalla’s reign that Roman citizenship was expanded to include all free men within the empire. This law was said to have been enacted as a means of raising tax revenue, simply because, after its passage, there were more people the central government could tax. The Severan Dynasty continued, largely under the guidance and manipulation of Julia Maesa (referred to as `empress’), until the assassination of Alexander Severus in 235 A.D. which plunged the empire into the chaos known as The Crisis of the Third Century (lasting from 235-284 A.D.).
This period, also known as The Imperial Crisis, was characterized by constant civil war, as various military leaders fought for control of the empire. The crisis has been further noted by historians for widespread social unrest, economic instability (fostered, in part, by the devaluation of Roman currency by the Severans), and, finally, the dissolution of the empire which broke into three separate regions. The empire was reunited by Aurelian (270-275 A.D.) whose policies were further developed and improved upon by Diocletian who established the Tetrarchy (the rule of four) to maintain order throughout the empire.
Even so, the empire was still so vast that Diocletian divided it in half in 285 A.D. to facilitate more efficient administration. In so doing, he created the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire (also known as the Byzantine Empire). Since a leading cause of the Imperial Crisis was a lack of clarity in succession, Diocletian decreed that successors must be chosen and approved from the outset of an individual’s rule. Two of these successors were the generals Maxentius and Constantine. Diocletian voluntarily retired from rule in 305 A.D., and the tetrarchy dissolved as rival regions of the empire vied with each other for dominance.
Following Diocletian’s death in 311 A.D., Maxentius and Constantine plunged the empire again into civil war. In 312 A.D. Constantine defeated Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge and became sole emperor of both the Western and Eastern Empires (ruling from 306-337 A.D.). Believing that Jesus Christ was responsible for his victory, Constantine initiated a series of laws such as the Edict of Milan (317 A.D.) which mandated religious tolerance throughout the empire and, specifically, tolerance for the faith which came to known as Christianity.
In the same way that earlier Roman emperors had claimed a special relationship with a deity to augment their authority and standing (Caracalla with Serapis, for example, or Diocletian with Jupiter), Constantine chose the figure of Jesus Christ. At the First Council of Nicea (325 A.D.), he presided over the gathering to codify the faith and decide on important issues such as the divinity of Jesus and which manuscripts would be collected to form the book known today as The Bible. He stabilized the empire, revalued the currency, and reformed the military, as well as founding the city he called New Rome on the site of the former city of Byzantium (modern day Istanbul) which came to be known as Constantinople.
He is known as Constantine the Great owing to later Christian writers who saw him as a mighty champion of their faith but, as has been noted by many historians, the honorific could as easily be attributed to his religious, cultural, and political reforms, as well as his skill in battle and his large-scale building projects. After his death, his sons inherited the empire and, fairly quickly, embarked on a series of conflicts with each other which threatened to undo all that Constantine had accomplished.
His three sons, Constantine II, Constantius II, and Constans divided the Roman Empire between them but soon fell to fighting over which of them deserved more. In these conflicts, Constantine II and Constans were killed. Constantius II died later after naming his cousin Julian his successor and heir. Emperor Julian ruled for only two years (361-363 A.D.) and, in that time, tried to return Rome to her former glory through a series of reforms aimed at increasing efficiency in government.
As a Neo-Platonic philosopher, Julian rejected Christianity and blamed the faith; and Constantine’s adherence to it, for the decline of the empire. While officially proclaiming a policy of religious tolerance, Julian systematically removed Christians from influential government positions, banned the teaching and spread of the religion, and barred Christians from military service. His death, while on campaign against the Persians, ended the dynasty Constantine had begun. He was the last pagan emperor of Rome and came to be known as "Julian the Apostate" for his opposition to Christianity.
After the brief rule of Jovian, who re-established Christianity as the dominant faith of the empire and repealed Julian’s various edicts, the responsibility of emperor fell to Theodosius I. Theodosius I (379-395 A.D.) took Constantine’s and Jovian’s religious reforms to their natural ends, outlawed pagan worship throughout the empire, closed the schools and universities, and converted pagan temples into Christian churches.
It was during this time that Plato’s famous Academy was closed by Theodosius’ decree. Many of his reforms were unpopular with both the Roman aristocracy and the common people who held to the traditional values of pagan practice. The unity of social duties and religious belief which paganism provided was severed by the institution of a religion which removed the gods from the earth and human society and proclaimed only one God who ruled from the heavens.
Theodosius I devoted so much effort to promoting Christianity that he seems to have neglected other duties as emperor and would be the last to rule both Eastern and Western Empires. From 376-382 A.D., Rome fought a series of battles against invading Goths known today as the Gothic Wars. At the Battle of Adrianople, 9 August 378 A.D., the Roman Emperor Valens was defeated, and historians mark this event as pivotal in the decline of the Western Roman Empire.
Various theories have been suggested as to the cause of the empire’s fall but, even today, there is no universal agreement on what those specific factors were. Edward Gibbon has famously argued in his The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that Christianity played a pivotal role, in that the new religion undermined the social mores of the empire which paganism provided. The theory that Christianity was a root cause in the empire’s fall was debated long before Gibbon, however, as Orosius argued Christianity’s innocence in Rome’s decline as early as 418 A.D. Orosius claimed it was primarily paganism itself and pagan practices which brought about the fall of Rome.
Other influences which have been noted range from the corruption of the governing elite to the ungovernable vastness of the empire to the growing strength of the Germanic tribes and their constant incursions into Rome. The Roman military could no longer safeguard the borders as efficiently as they once had nor could the government as easily collect taxes in the provinces. The arrival of the Visigoths in the empire in the third century A.D. and their subsequent rebellions has also been cited a contributing factor in the decline.
The Western Roman Empire officially ended 4 September 476 A.D., when Emperor Romulus Augustus was deposed by the Germanic King Odoacer (though some historians date the end as 480 A.D. with the death of Julius Nepos). The Eastern Roman Empire continued on as the Byzantine Empire until 1453 A.D., and though known early on as simply `the Roman Empire’, it did not much resemble that entity at all. The Western Roman Empire would become re-invented later as The Holy Roman Empire, but that construct, also, was far removed from the Roman Empire of antiquity and was an `empire’ in name only.
The inventions and innovations which were generated by the Roman Empire profoundly altered the lives of the ancient people and continue to be used in cultures around the world today. Advancements in the construction of roads and buildings, indoor plumbing, aqueducts, and even fast-drying cement were either invented or improved upon by the Romans. The calendar used in the West derives from the one created by Julius Caesar, and the names of the days of the week (in the romance languages) and months of the year also come from Rome.
Apartment complexes (known as `insula), public toilets, locks and keys, newspapers, even socks all were developed by the Romans as were shoes, a postal system (modeled after the Persians), cosmetics, the magnifying glass, and the concept of satire in literature. During the time of the empire, significant developments were also advanced in the fields of medicine, law, religion, government, and warfare. The Romans were adept at borrowing from, and improving upon, those inventions or concepts they found among the indigenous populace of the regions they conquered.
It is therefore difficult to say what is an `original’ Roman invention and what is an innovation on a pre-existing concept, technique, or tool. It can safely be said, however, that the Roman Empire left an enduring legacy which continues to affect the way in which people live even today. [Ancient History Encyclopedia].
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All of our shipments are sent via insured mail so as to comply with PayPal requirements. We do NOT recommend uninsured shipments, and expressly disclaim any responsibility for the loss of an uninsured shipment. Unfortunately the contents of parcels are easily “lost” or misdelivered by postal employees – even in the USA. That’s why all of our domestic shipments (and most international) shipments include a USPS delivery confirmation tag; or are trackable or traceable, and all shipments (international and domestic) are insured. We do offer U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail, Registered Mail, and Express Mail for both international and domestic shipments, as well United Parcel Service (UPS) and Federal Express (Fed-Ex). Please ask for a rate quotation. We will accept whatever payment method you are most comfortable with. If upon receipt of the item you are disappointed for any reason whatever, I offer a no questions asked return policy. Send it back, I will give you a complete refund of the purchase price (less our original shipping costs).
Most of the items I offer come from the collection of a family friend who was active in the field of Archaeology for over forty years. However many of the items also come from purchases I make in Eastern Europe, India, and from the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean/Near East) from various institutions and dealers. Though I have always had an interest in archaeology, my own academic background was in sociology and cultural anthropology. After my retirement however, I found myself drawn to archaeology as well. Aside from my own personal collection, I have made extensive and frequent additions of my own via purchases on Ebay (of course), as well as many purchases from both dealers and institutions throughout the world - but especially in the Near East and in Eastern Europe. I spend over half of my year out of the United States, and have spent much of my life either in India or Eastern Europe. In fact much of what we generate on Yahoo, Amazon and Ebay goes to support The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, as well as some other worthy institutions in Europe connected with Anthropology and Archaeology.
I acquire some small but interesting collections overseas from time-to-time, and have as well some duplicate items within my own collection which I occasionally decide to part with. Though I have a collection of ancient coins numbering in the tens of thousands, my primary interest is in ancient jewelry. My wife also is an active participant in the "business" of antique and ancient jewelry, and is from Russia. I would be happy to provide you with a certificate/guarantee of authenticity for any item you purchase from me. There is a $2 fee for mailing under separate cover. Whenever I am overseas I have made arrangements for purchases to be shipped out via domestic mail. If I am in the field, you may have to wait for a week or two for a COA to arrive via international air mail. But you can be sure your purchase will arrive properly packaged and promptly - even if I am absent. And when I am in a remote field location with merely a notebook computer, at times I am not able to access my email for a day or two, so be patient, I will always respond to every email. Please see our "ADDITIONAL TERMS OF SALE."
Price distribution "Roman Navy Mediterranean Black Sea Rhine Carthage Greek Wars Britain 750BC-450AD" vs 26 similar items
Average price: 615.71$
Low price: 30$
High price: 3995$
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