" Senator – believe me – he plans to have me crucified. "
was a particularly cruel and painful form of execution, usually reserved for slaves, pirates and enemies of Rome. The criminal was tied or nailed to a cross, often after being whipped and beaten, and left to a long, draw-out death of blood loss or dehydration. The most famous victim of crucifixion at the Romans’ hands was Jesus Christ in the 1st
" into the stink and smoke and racket of Subura. "
Subura was the lower class area of Rome, infamous for its crime and prostitutes.
" at that time there were six or seven law courts in almost permanent session, each set up in a different part of the forum "
Trials could be held in a number of different types of public building, such as basilicas and temples, and sometimes even in private houses. A basilica
was a public hall in which business was transacted, meetings held, and legal matters attended to. There were a number of basilicas in the Forum in Rome, including the Basilica Porcia, the official building for the plebeian tribunes, and the Basilica Aemilia.
Learn more about Roman law courts from the author of the Roman Mysteries books here.
" the praetor of each court "
The praetors were the magistrates whose duties included overseeing court cases; they would keep order in court, read the verdict and pronounce sentence, but were not themselves allowed to cast a vote in the case. They came one step below the consul in terms of power and authority. The praetorship was a highly sought after position on the career ladder of political success.
" Like Cicero, they were often ‘new men’ "
Most Roman senators and magistrates could trace their ancestry back through a long line of men who had also held political power in Rome. A ‘new man’ in Roman politics was a man who was the first of his family to achieve political success. A ‘new man’ typically entered the ranks of the senate and worked his way up the cursus honorum
(the political career ladder) using only his own personal resources and skill, without the backing or prestige of an important family. ‘New men’ tended to come from plebeian, not patrician, families. They were often looked down on by the older families and more traditional members of the senate, and had a harder time proving themselves than their more privileged colleagues.
" waiting until the entrails had been inspected and the auguries declared favourable before summoning the senators inside. "
Roman religion involved the reading of omens and portents (augury) in the entrails of animals, and in the ‘signs’ of the natural world, such as bird flight or thunder. Romans have often been described as a generally superstitious people; minor deities and spirits were assigned to every detail of life, no matter how superficial (even a goddess of door hinges!), and auguries were taken before any important business or undertaking could begin. Some of the Roman elite dismissed these beliefs as the childish fears of the uneducated, but it is clear that most took it very seriously. On an official level, religious matters were at all times treated with the utmost reverence and respect.
Follow this link for a list of minor Roman deities.
" The old senate house was a cool, gloomy, cavernous temple of government, split by a wide central aisle of black and white tile. "
Unfortunately the old senate house no longer exists, but the new senate house (curia) still stands in the ruins of the Roman Forum today. Black and white mosaic designs, like the one described here decorating the senate house floor, were popular in Italy at this time.
" he later campaigned enthusiastically for election to the college of Augurs. "
The priestly colleges in Rome were orders of priests who oversaw the religious activity of the state. There were four main colleges: the augurs
, who interpreted the will of the gods through reading the auspices (reading omens in the flight of birds), the pontiffs
, the highest ranking priests in control of the vestal virgins and other important orders, the quindecimviri sacris faciundis
(the order of fifteen
), who looked after the Sibylline Books said to foretell the history of Rome, and the Epulones
, in charge of religious feasts and festivals. A Roman priest was not prohibited from marrying and having children, and membership of one of the priestly colleges could often be a step up on the route to political power.
" was putting down Spartacus’ slave revolt with great severity. "
Spartacus was a leader in the great slave revolt (known as the Third Servile War) of 73 BC. Spartacus was a slave himself, one of a number of gladiators at the gladiatorial school in Capua who managed to escape, arm themselves, and create a base on Mount Vesuvius. Hoping to win fame and glory, Crassus offered to take on the task of defeating the slaves and bringing them to justice. The story of Spartacus has captured the imagination of many artists and storytellers, and is the subject of a famous film from 1960 starring Kirk Douglas.
" In Spain, Pompey the Great, after six years’ fighting, was mopping up the last of the rebel armies. "
had been sent to Spain to deal with the rebel army of Sertorius, a Roman statesman and general who had seized control of the country with his army and held it for six years. In the civil wars (88 and 83 BC) between Sulla
(representing aristocratic interests) and Marius
(representing popular interests), Sertorius had backed Marius’ populares
cause. After the return of Sulla to Rome and the collapse of populares
power, Sertorius retreated to Spain.
" that Catalus who had triumphed over Hamilcar in the First Punic War "
The Punic Wars were the three wars fought by Rome against Carthage, a city of Phoenician origins on the coast of North Africa and the centre of a large maritime empire at this time. The First Punic War (246-241) began when Rome became sucked into the Sicilian quarrel in 264 BC when a group of Italian mercenaries in Messana asked for their protection. Hamilcar was a Carthaginian military leader in the war.
" virtually from the time since the she-wolf suckled Romulus. "
According to Roman legend, Romulus
and his brother Remus, the descendents of the Trojan prince Aeneas and sons of Mars, were suckled by a she-wolf as babies. When grown, Romulus founded the city of Rome.
" Most of the attendants were either his slaves or his freedmen "
If a Roman master chose to free a slave then he or she would become a freedman or freedwoman, gaining limited citizenship and the right to marry and begin their own household. Freedmen became the clients of their former masters, took part of their name as their own, and were expected to always respect and support them. Some slaves could collect money and eventually ask to buy their own freedom, but the choice of whether to actually free his slaves or not rested entirely with the owner. Many chose to free slaves in their will.
" I found Cicero lying on a couch beside Terentia. "
The Romans reclined on couches to dine, with the exception of children and slaves who ate sitting on chairs. This Roman floor mosaic looks as though it has been deliberately designed to fit around the curved shape of the dining couches, so that the decoration can be enjoyed by the recliners.