Virtual Tour: Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was one of the most fierce and thriving civilizations in human history. Located on the Italian Peninsula along the Mediterranean Sea, Roman civilization expanded to dominate territories once seized by preceding civilizations. In fact, it became one of the largest empires in the ancient world. The Roman Empire conquered the Mediterranean region with brute force and assimilation. It was the superpower of the Classical Antiquity era. The Roman ruling powers included recognizable names, such as Julius Caesar, Cicero, and Horace. Scholarly philosophers and great thinkers have praised Roman culture, including its military and political prowess.
Ancient Roman society consisted of a hierarchical class system, with slaves at the bottom, freedmen slightly above them, and free-born citizens at the peak. Furthermore, free-born citizens were divided by class, with the patricians who could trace a direct bloodline to the founding fathers, and the plebeians who did not have a direct connection with one of the patriarchs. The only exception to this caste system came with the Roman Republic, whereby some plebeian families earned wealth and entered into politics, and some patrician families struggled to remain autonomous. During the Roman Republic, any patrician or plebeian who had a family lineage that included a consul could count themselves as noblemen; however, the most prestigious positions were reserved for patrician descendants.
Voting rights ranked in descending order, starting from the patrician class and trickled down to the poorer members of society. Each member of society would cast their votes from the richest of the patricians and continued until reaching the total number of required votes. This often meant that the poorest of the Roman Republic never received the chance to vote. In addition, military service members were chosen based on the hierarchical class structure. The wealthiest belonged to the Senatorial class, which dominated politics and command of the army. The equestrians were those who could afford a warhorse; and held a sizable role in the mercantile class. The proletariat were citizens who owned no property; therefore, ineligible to serve in the military.
The core of Roman society revolved around family households. Households included the head of the household, wife, children, and extended relatives. Patrician and plebeian families also included slaves and servants as part of the household. The head of the household dictated what the other family members could do, including arranging marriages, divorce, selling his children into slavery, claiming his children's property as his own, and even punished or killed his family members. In addition, the head of household's dependents could not own property as long as he lived. The earlier phases of Roman civilization placed the daughter-in-law under the control of her husband's head of household; however, this practice ceased to exist as women chose to continue honoring her blood family. All of the dependents from this marriage fell under the authority of the husband's head of household. Therefore, groups of blood-related members formed a family unit.
The children of Rome rarely experienced affection from their family and friends. The mother and elderly relative would raise both genders, while unwanted children were sold as slaves. Children waited on family tables, but could not participate in the family discussions. Male children started their education at the age of seven, and often attended their school sessions on a rooftop. Schoolboys carried wax-covered boards to complete their assignments. Rich schoolboys had slaves accompany them.
Art, Music, Literature, and Religion
Roman painting styles reflect Grecian influences, including frescoes that were primarily used to cherish the walls and ceilings of country villas. Roman literature mentions paintings on wood, ivory, and other materials. Archeologists have uncovered Roman paintings on the island of Pompeii that reveal four different styles. The first Roman painting style was depicted during the 2nd century B.C. to the early or mid-1st century B.C. These painters used marble and masonry to depict mythological characters. The second style of painting started around the early 1st century B.C., and depicted three-dimensional architectural structures. The third Roman painting style first appeared during the reign of Augustus, and it rejected the realism depicted in the second style. The fourth style started in the 1st century A.D., and it depicted mythological scenes, while retaining the realism of the architectural structures and abstract designs.
Latin literature was heavily influenced by Grecian authors. Some early Roman literary works depict historical epic tales that tells the early military history of Rome. As Rome's Republic expanded, Latin authors produced poetry, comedy, history, and tragedy. Roman music was also heavily influenced by Grecian musicians. Music played an intimate role in Roman culture. For instance, the Roman military used musical instruments, such as the tuba and the French horn, to give numerous commands. Most ceremonial rites featured musical performances that incorporate several instruments during sacrifices to the Roman gods, such as Jupiter, Zeus, Mars, Ares, Neptune, and Poseidon. Scattered artistic depictions reveal that Roman culture was completely focused on sexually related activities.
Games and Recreation
Roman culture was immersed in recreational games, including traditional athletic sports. The wealthy also engaged in fishing and hunting during their spare time. The Romans also played an archaic form of handball. In addition to athletic sports, the Romans spent time playing dice, board games, and gambling games. Women were not allowed to partake in these activities. Most recreational activities took place during dinner parties and other social events that featured music, dancing, and poetry performances. Children played with toys and traditional pastime games, such as leapfrog.
People would also gather in a Colosseum to watch the gladiatorial games. Gladiators used a variety of weapons against a opponent until either drawing blood or incurring death. These combative games achieve their popularity under Emperor Claudius who placed the outcome of each match with a common hand gesture. The gladiatorial shows did not always feature human-to-human combat. In fact, many of the matches included animals. These matches initiated when an armed or unarmed prisoner or gladiator was thrown into a pit with a ravaging animal. The Romans enjoyed horse and chariot races in a popular site called the Circus Maximus.