Author: Sarah Shurts, Professor of History, Bergen Community College
History in Practice engages students in the process of "doing history" via source analysis and synthesis. Its multi-step, inquiry-based approach guides students from the basics of understanding a source to creating informed examinations of the historical world. There are three sections within each module, and each section includes the following:
The sources, historical thinking prompts, and select active learning assignments have short answer variations when you integrate these materials into your LMS. For more information, ask your Oxford University Press representative.
Tyrtaios was a Spartan lyric poet who lived during the seventh century BCE. Much of his poetry supports the traditional view of Sparta as a city devoted to military might, but he wrote during a time of war against the rebellious Messenian helots so it is not unexpected that his poetry would reflect the importance of military values and themes of war at the time.
I would neither call a man to mind nor put him in my tale for prowess in the race or the wrestling, not even had he the stature and strength of a Cyclops and surpassed in swiftness the Thracian Northwind, nor were he a comelier man than Tithonus and a richer than Midas or Cinyras, nor though he were a greater king than Pelops son of Tantalus, and had Adrastus’ suasiveness of tongue, nor yet though all fame were his save of warlike strength; for a man is not good in war if he have not endured the sight of bloody slaughter and stood nigh and reached forth to strike the foe. This is prowess, this is the noblest prize and the fairest for a lad to win in the world; a common good this both for the city and all her people, when a man standeth firm in the forefront without ceasing, and making heart and soul to abide, forgetteth foul flight altogether and hearteneth by his words him that he standeth by. Such a man is good in war; he quickly turneth the savage hosts of the enemy, and stemmeth the wave of battle with a will; moreover he that falleth in the van and loseth dear life to the glory of his city and his countrymen and his father, with many a frontwise wound through breast and breastplate and through bossy shield, he is bewailed alike by young and old, and lamented with sore regret by all the city. His grave and his children are conspicuous among men, and his children’s and his line after them; nor ever doth his name and good fame perish, but though he be underground he liveth evermore, seeing that he was doing nobly and abiding in the fight for country’s and children’s sake when fierce Ares brought him low.
Credit - “Elegy and Iambus, Volume I J. M. Edmonds, Ed.” Translated by J M Edmonds, Elegy and Iambus, Volume I, Volume 1, Tyrtaeus, The Elegiac Poems of Tyrtaeus, 1931.
Xenophon was an Athenian military commander and philosopher who lived during the fourth and fifth century BCE. As a military commander of a respected army of Greek mercenaries, Xenophon fought alongside Spartan commanders and gained great respect for Spartan soldiers and society. His histories are very favorable to the Spartan discipline and he emphasizes what he believes contributed to their military supremacy in his work.
Lycurgus thought the labour of slave women sufficient to supply clothing. He believed motherhood to be the most important function of freeborn woman. Therefore, in the first place, he insisted on physical training for the female no less than for the male sex: moreover, he instituted races and trials of strength for women competitors as for men, believing that if both parents are strong they produce more vigorous offspring. . . It might happen, however, that an old man had a young wife; and he observed that old men keep a very jealous watch over their young wives. To meet these cases he instituted an entirely different system by requiring the elderly husband to introduce into his house some man whose physical and moral qualities he admired, in order to beget children. . . . In case a man did not want to cohabit with his wife and nevertheless desired children of whom he could be proud, he made it lawful for him to choose a woman who was the mother of a fine family and of high birth, and if he obtained her husband’s consent, to make her the mother of his children. . . .
Instead of letting [the youth] be pampered in the matter of clothing, he introduced the custom of wearing one garment throughout the year, believing that they would thus be better prepared to face changes of heat and cold. As to the food, he required the prefect to bring with him such a moderate amount of it that the boys . . . would know what it was to go with their hunger unsatisfied; for he believed that those who underwent this training would be better able to continue working on an empty stomach, if necessary . . .
On the other hand, lest they should feel too much the pinch of hunger, while not giving them the opportunity of taking what they wanted without trouble he allowed them to alleviate their hunger by stealing something. . . . There can be no doubt then, that all this education was planned by him in order to make the boys more resourceful in getting supplies, and better fighting men. Someone may ask: But why, if he believed stealing to be a fine thing, did he have the boy who was caught beaten with many stripes? Because in all cases men punish a learner for not carrying out properly whatever he is taught to do. So the Spartans chastise those who get caught for stealing badly.
Credit - “Xenophon, Constitution of the Lacedaimonians E. C. Marchant, G. W. Bowersock, Tr. Constitution of the Athenians., Ed.” Translated by G W Bowersock, Xenophon, Constitution of the Lacedaimonians, Chapter 2, Harvard University Press, 1925.
Plutarch was a historian, biographer, and later priest at the Oracle at Delphi who was born in Greece and became a Roman citizen in the first century. His Sayings of Spartans is one of the very few sources on Spartan life but it is a controversial source to use on Sparta since it was written by a non-Spartan hundreds of years after the events recalled. Even the sources, now lost, that he used to write his Sayings of Spartans were written long after the Spartan lives they discuss.
Leonidas. When someone said, “Because of the arrows of the barbarians it is impossible to see the sun,” he said, “Won’t it be nice, then, if we shall have shade in which to fight them? When someone else said, “They are near to us,” he said, “Then we also are near to them.” When Xerxes wrote, “Hand over your arms,” he wrote in reply, “Come and take them.”
Lycurgus. Having introduced the abolition of debts, he next undertook to divide equally all household furnishings, so as to do away completely with all inequality and disparity. But when he saw that the people were likely to demur about assenting to this outright spoliation, he decreed that gold and silver coin should in future have no value, and ordained that the people should use iron money only. He also limited the time within which it was lawful to exchange their present holdings for this money. . . . And, by reason of this, no merchant, no public lecturer, no soothsayer or mendicant priest, no maker of fancy articles ever made his way into Sparta. The reason was that he permitted no handy coinage to circulate among them, but instituted the iron coinage exclusively, which in weight was over a pound and a quarter, and in value not quite a penny. . . . Having determined to make an attack upon the prevailing luxury, and to do away with the rivalry for riches, he instituted the common meals . . .
He took good care that none should be allowed to dine at home and then come to the common meal stuffed with other kinds of food and drink. The rest of the company used to berate the man who did not drink or eat with them, because they felt that he was lacking in self-control, and was too soft for the common way of living. . . .
When someone else desired to know why he instituted strenuous exercise for the bodies of the maidens in races and wrestling and throwing the discus and javelin, he said, “So that the implanted stock of their offspring, by getting a strong start in strong bodies, may attain a noble growth, and that they themselves may with vigour abide the birth of their children and readily and nobly resist the pains of labor; and moreover, if the need arise, that they may be able to fight for themselves, their children, and their country. . . .
In answer to a man who expressed surprise because he debarred the husband from spending the nights with his wife, but ordained that he should be with his comrades most of the day and pass the whole night in their company, and visit his bride secretly and with great circumspection, he said, “So that they may be strong of body and never become sated, and that they may be ever fresh in affection, and that the children which they bring into the world may be more sturdy.”
Credit - Plutarch. p243 "Sayings of Spartans.” Plutarch • Sayings of Spartans - 208B‑236E, University of Chicago.
Herodotus is a Greek historian of the fifth century who is often praised as the “father of history” since he is one of the first writers to collect evidence and offer analysis of events from the past. However, his work is laced with bias, inaccuracy, and even mythology and legends so it is treated cautiously as a primary source.
Lycurgus, a man of reputation among the Spartans, went to the oracle at Delphi. As soon as he entered the hall, the priestess said in hexameter: “You have come to my rich temple, Lycurgus,
A man dear to Zeus and to all who have Olympian homes. I am in doubt whether to pronounce you man or god, But I think rather you are a god, Lycurgus.” Some say that the Pythia also declared to him the constitution that now exists at Sparta, but the Lacedaemonians themselves say that Lycurgus brought it from Crete when he was guardian of his nephew Leobetes, the Spartan king. Once he became guardian, he changed all the laws and took care that no one transgressed the new ones. Lycurgus afterwards established their affairs of war: the sworn divisions, the bands of thirty, the common meals; also the ephors and the council of elders. . . .
Croesus, then, aware of all this, sent messengers to Sparta with gifts to ask for an alliance . . . [Spartans] welcomed the coming of the Lydians and swore to be his friends and allies; and indeed they were obliged by certain benefits which they had received before from the king. For the Lacedaemonians had sent to Sardis to buy gold, intending to use it for the statue of Apollo which now stands on Thornax in Laconia; and Croesus, when they offered to buy it, made them a free gift of it. For this reason, and because he had chosen them as his friends before all the other Greeks, the Lacedaemonians accepted the alliance. So they declared themselves ready to serve him when he should require, and moreover they made a bowl of bronze, engraved around the rim outside with figures, and large enough to hold twenty-seven hundred gallons, and brought it with the intention of making a gift in return to Croesus. . . .
. . . [Demaratus speaking to Xerxes] “So is it with the Lacedaemonians; fighting singly they are as brave as any man living, and together they are the best warriors on earth. They are free, yet not wholly free: law is their master, whom they fear much more than your men fear you. They do whatever it bids; and its bidding is always the same, that they must never flee from the battle before any multitude of men, but must abide at their post and there conquer or die.”
Credit - Herodotus. “Greek Texts & Translations.” Perseus Under Philologic: Hdt.+1.65.2, University of Chicago.
Plutarch was a historian, biographer, and later priest at the oracle at Delphi who was born in Greece and became a Roman citizen in the first century. His Parallel Lives provides biographical essays on famous figures from Greek and Roman history and pairs the individuals in order to show similar themes or character traits. Plutarch’s biographies of the Spartan leader Lycurgus is controversial since it was written by a non-Spartan hundreds of years after the events recalled.
The elders of the tribes officially examined the infant, and if it was well-built and sturdy, they ordered the father to rear it, and assigned it one of the nine thousand lots of land; but if it was ill-born and deformed, they sent it to the socalled Apothetae, a chasm-like place at the foot of Mount Taygetus, in the conviction that the life of that which nature had not well equipped at the very beginning for health and strength, was of no advantage either to itself or the state. . . . Their nurses, too, exercised great care and skill; they reared infants without swaddling-bands, and thus left their limbs and figures free to develop; besides, they taught them to be contented and happy, not dainty about their food, nor fearful of the dark, nor afraid to be left alone, nor given to contemptible peevishness and whimpering. This is the reason why foreigners sometimes brought Spartan nurses for their children. . . .
Of reading and writing, they learned only enough to serve their turn; all the rest of their training was calculated to make them obey commands well, endure hardships, and conquer in battle. Therefore, as they grew in age, their bodily exercise was increased; their heads were close-clipped, and they were accustomed to going bare-foot, and to playing for the most part without clothes. When they were twelve years old, they no longer had tunics to wear, received one cloak a year, had hard, dry flesh, and knew little of baths and ointments; only on certain days of the year, and few at that, did they indulge in such amenities. They slept together, in troops and companies, on pallet-beds which they collected for themselves, breaking off with their hands— no knives allowed—the tops of the rushes which grew along the river . . .
. . . And they steal what they fetch, some of them entering the gardens, and others creeping right slyly and cautiously into the public messes of the men; but if a boy is caught stealing, he is soundly flogged, as a careless and unskilful thief. They steal, too, whatever food they can, and learn to be adept in setting upon people when asleep or off their guard. But the boy who is caught gets a flogging and must go hungry. . . .
The boys make such a serious matter of their stealing, that one of them, as the story goes, who was carrying concealed under his cloak a young fox which he had stolen, suffered the animal to tear out his bowels with its teeth and claws, and died rather than have his theft detected.
Credit - Plutarch. P205 "The Life of Lycurgus.” Plutarch • Life of Lycurgus, University of Chicago.
Nigel Kennell is Lecturer in the Department of Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies at the University of British Columbia. Kennell has written four books on Spartan and Greek life and countless articles. He has challenged the traditional narrative of Sparta in favor of a view of their society that is not exclusively devoted to the military.
The Spartans of our imagination are familiar from films, novels, comics and even certain history books. The men were ruled by iron discipline and an utter devotion to the laws of their city and the freedom of Greece; the women were more or less equivalent to the liberated women of modern times. These images of the Spartan way of life have been transmitted down through the centuries from the pens of ancient Greek and Roman writers through the scribes of the Middle Ages to the Renaissance humanists and thence to the scriptwriters, pundits, and novelists of the twenty-first century. . . . In recent years, however, the traditional view of Sparta has come under increasingly intense scrutiny as historians and archeologists apply new techniques, perspectives and occasionally even new pieces of evidence to the question of what it was to be a Spartan.
As a result, the long-standing consensus over the fundamental nature of Spartan society has begun to crumble. In its place, intense debate has arisen over each and every facet of what we thought we knew about Sparta and the Spartans. Even the very definition of “proper” Spartan history has changed as more and more specialists examine different aspects of post-classical Sparta. . . . In no other area of ancient Greek history is there a greater gulf between the common conception of Sparta and what specialists believe and dispute.
. . . Constructing a history of Sparta is bedeviled by two complicating factors—the lack of a corpus of writings by Classical Spartan authors that might illuminate the inner workings of Spartan institutions and the mindset of the Spartans themselves and the existence of a large corpus of writings by non-Spartans claiming to do just that. This is the famous “Spartan mirage” through which the image of the historical city gradually became transformed through the work of philosophers, biographers, historians, and romantics into that of a radically unique state unlike any other in Greece. . .
. . . If Tyrtaeus’ poems conform to our expectation of what Spartan poetry was like, Alcman’s do not. His poetry reflects a sophisticated society reveling in the good life: Song, dance, physical beauty, splendid textiles, and the brightness of gold figure prominently . . . Archeological finds, notably from the shrine of Orthia itself, also attest to a love of luxury, humor, and even frivolity in the early Archaic period that hardly jibes with the dour, militaristic Spartans of the ancient (and modern) imagination.
Credit - Nigel Kennell, Spartans: A New History, (Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester 2010), 1-25.
Stephen Hodkinson is Emeritus Professor of Ancient History at the University of Nottingham and Director of the University’s Center for Spartan and Peloponnesian Studies. His expertise on Sparta specifically and Greek warfare and society more generally have led the modern day city of Sparta to grant him honorary citizenship. He has written more than eight books and edited volumes on Spartan history.
[The aspect of Spartan military] on which I shall concentrate – is the question of the effect of the Spartans’ approach to military matters upon the character of Spartan society. Was Plato right, for instance, to claim that key institutions such as the common meals, the gymnasia, hunting and the krypteia were devised with a view to war? . . .
. . . Scholars have often wanted to view the Spartans’ need to keep the large helot populations of Lakonia and Messenia under permanent subjection as the major driving force behind their creation of a cohesive society of citizens sharing a common public lifestyle. This hypothesis has naturally led scholars to assume that the society thus created must have been dominated by the requirements of military security. . . .
However, as I have already argued elsewhere, to ascribe the transformation and subsequent character of Spartan society to the helot problem is too extreme. Sparta was not unique in reducing a native population to a condition of servitude during the archaic period. . . .
. . . Indeed, so little were the Spartans normally in fear of a helot threat that they went about their daily lives unarmed. . . . In sum, there are no grounds for assuming purely from the presence of the helots that Spartan society must have possessed an especially military character.
Clearly, there are some respects in which military affairs were more prominent in Spartiate life than within the life of citizens in other poleis. The most basic respect was that liability for military service, in its primary form of hoplite fighting, extended to all Spartiates between the ages of 20 and 60. No other Greek polis equated citizenship with military service to quite this extent; although . . . all Greek poleis had very high rates of military participation. . . .
. . . Contemporary sources are silent about the provision of specialized military training for adult Spartiates. Not only, as we have seen, are the implications of the references to collective formation drill ambiguous; there is no mention at all of weapons practice or of any sort of mock combat training. . . .
. . . Evidence for their other daily activities suggests that adult Spartiates had sizeable amounts of time available for personal business, such as approaches to their patrons or pederastic partners, political negotiations, economic transactions in the agora, and supervision of their estates. An adult Spartiate’s daily life was not excessively dominated by his civic duties, still less by those aspects of his duties that pertained to his role as a warrior.
Credit - Stephen Hodkinson, “Was Classical Sparta a Military Society?” in eds. Stephen Hodkinson and Anton Powell, Sparta and War (2006) 111-162.
Andrew Scott is Associate Professor of Classical Studies at Villanova University. His primary expertise lies in Roman civilization and the history of Cassius Dio although he has written several articles on Spartan society.
According to several ancient sources, Spartan custom allowed for plural marriage, whereby two or more men might sire children by the same woman. It has been written that “[e]vidence for the custom of wife-sharing. . . is so unequivocal that it is impossible to disbelieve it altogether.” Taking this comment as a starting point, I suggest that an understanding of the institution of plural marriage is crucial for a greater understanding of archaic and classical Sparta. . . . since the institution of the practice is attributed to Lycurgus, we are within the limits of the so-called Spartan mirage . . . The purpose of marriage at Sparta was the propagation of healthy offspring, and in such a system, the value of a marriage was calculated with regard to the ability to produce such children. Spartan men and women were meant to marry at the acme of their physical fitness and so organized exercise was prescribed for both sexes. Once the marriage had taken place, men and women were not to spend an unlimited amount of time together, and forced separation was meant to increase desire and therefore produce more vigorous offspring. . . . Men and women allegedly did not cohabit until much later in life, probably not until the time that their first male offspring would have entered the agõgê. While the mother presumably lived with the offspring of the marriage, the male lived with his fellow Spartiates while his first children were still young. This weakened sense of paternity can also be seen in the relationships between Spartiates and younger boys. As Xenophon specifically points out, all Spartan males acted as fathers to Spartan boys . . . In a social system that did not emphasize the rights and emotional engagements of paternity, the practice of wife sharing accords with the sense of collective parenting. . . . Based on its ideological association of egalitarianism and consequent similarity to other social constructs that were conceived prior to the classical period, formalized plural marriage as an institution most likely dates to the archaic period, and the goal of the institution was the production of the finest offspring and to exploit the procreative ability of the most fertile women. On an ideological level, it most likely arose out of the sense of egalitarianism that was officially imposed on various Spartan institutions at this time.
Credit - Andrew G Scott, “Plural Marriage and the Spartan State” Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, Bd. 60, H. 4 (2011), pp. 413-424
The Athenian Constitution has an unknown author who is therefore sometimes referred to as the Old Oligarch after his supposed political preferences. The piece is critical of democratic rule although it acknowledges that the Athenian system does a good job of accomplishing democracy.
There the poor and the people generally are right to have more than the highborn and wealthy for the reason that it is the people who man the ships and impart strength to the city; the steersmen, the boatswains, the sub-boatswains, the look-out officers, and the shipwrights—these are the ones who impart strength to the city far more than the hoplites, the high-born, and the good men. This being the case, it seems right for everyone to have a share in the magistracies, both allotted and elective, for anyone to be able to speak his mind if he wants to. Then there are those magistracies which bring safety or danger to the people as a whole depending on whether or not they are well managed: of these the people claim no share (they do not think they should have an allotted share in the generalships or cavalry commands). For these people realize that there is more to be gained from their not holding these magistracies but leaving them instead in the hands of the most influential men. However, such magistracies as are salaried and domestically profitable the people are keen to hold. . . . Someone might say that they ought not to let everyone speak on equal terms and serve on the council, but rather just the cleverest and finest. Yet their policy is also excellent in this very point of allowing even the worst people to speak. For if the good men were to speak and make policy, it would be splendid for the likes of themselves but not so for the men of the people. But, as things are, any wretch who wants to can stand up and obtain what is good for him and the likes of himself. Someone might say, “What good would such a man propose for himself and the people?” But they know that this man’s ignorance, baseness, and favour are more profitable than the good man’s virtue, wisdom, and ill-will. A city would not be the best on the basis of such a way of life, but the democracy would be best preserved that way. For the people do not want a good government under which they themselves are slaves; they want to be free and to rule. Bad government is of little concern to them. What you consider bad government is the very source of the people’s strength and freedom.
Credit - Marchant, E. C. “Pseudo-Xenophon (Old Oligarch), Constitution of the Athenians E. C. Marchant, Ed.” Pseudo-Xenophon (Old Oligarch), Constitution of the Athenians, Chapter 3, Harvard University Press, 1984.
Thucydides, an Athenian historian and former general recognized for using evidence and methodology in his history rather than simply storytelling, included a funeral speech by Pericles in his History of the Peloponnesian War. By 430, Athens and Sparta had been engaged in a war for a year and Pericles, a general and recognized leader among the people for over a decade, was asked to provide a speech commemorating those Athenians who had died. His speech, or rather Thucydides’s depiction of it, is more a celebration of the greatness of the city of Athens, particularly its democratic government, for which these men fought than for the men themselves. Pericles’s praise of Athenian democracy was not entirely disinterested since he played a significant role in proposing legislation that strengthened the role of the working poor in the government and expanding the Athenian empire overseas.
Let me say that our system of government does not copy the institutions of our neighbors. It is more the case of our being a model to others than of our imitating anyone else. Our constitution is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people. When it is a question of settling private disputes, everyone is equal before the law; when it is a question of putting one person before another in positions of public responsibility, what counts is not membership of a particular class, but the actual ability which the man possesses. No one, so long as he has it in him to be of service to the state, is kept in political obscurity because of poverty. And, just as our political life is free and open, so is our day-to-day life in our relations with each other. We do not get into a state with our next-door neighbor if he enjoys himself in his own way, nor do we give him the kind of black looks which, though they do no real harm, still do hurt people’s feelings. We are free and tolerant in our private lives; but in public affairs we keep to the law. This is because it commands our deep respect.
We give our obedience to those whom we put in positions of authority, and we obey the laws themselves....
. . . As for poverty, no one need be ashamed to admit it: the real shame is in not taking practical measures to escape from it. Here each individual is interested not only in his own affairs but in the affairs of the state as well: even those who are mostly occupied with their own business are extremely well-informed on general politics—this is a peculiarity of ours: we do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a man who minds his own business; we say that he has no business here at all. We Athenians, in our own persons, take our decisions on policy or submit them to proper discussions: for we do not think that there is an incompatibility between words and deeds; the worst thing is to rush into action before the consequences have been properly debated. And this is another point where we differ from other people.
Credit - Thucydides. “Pericles' Funeral Oration.” Hillsdale College Online
Aristotle was a student of Plato—who was a student of Socrates—and was considered one of the greatest philosophers of the ancient world. He was a polymath who wrote on a variety of topics and fields of science, politics, the natural world, and economics. His brilliance in philosophy and other topics led to his position as tutor to Alexander the Great. Aristotle was not a supporter of democratic government since he considered it a distortion of constitutional rule but did devote much of his work on politics to analyzing and exploring its processes and principles.
Now a fundamental principle of the democratic form of constitution is liberty—that is what is usually asserted, implying that only under this constitution do men participate in liberty, for they assert this as the aim of every democracy. But one factor of liberty is to govern and be governed in turn; for the popular principle of justice is to have equality according to number, not worth, and if this is the principle of justice prevailing, the multitude must of necessity be sovereign and the decision of the majority must be final and must constitute justice, for they say that each of the citizens ought to have an equal share; so that it results that in democracies the poor are more powerful than the rich, because there are more of them and whatever is decided by the majority is sovereign. This then is one mark of liberty which all democrats set down as a principle of the constitution. And one is for a man to live as he likes; for they say that this is the function of liberty, inasmuch as to live not as one likes is the life of a man that is a slave. This is the second principle of democracy, and from it has come the claim not to be governed, preferably not by anybody, or failing that, to govern and be governed in turns; and this is the way in which the second principle contributes to equalitarian liberty. And these principles having been laid down and this being the nature of democratic government, the following institutions are democratic in character: election of officials by all from all; government of each by all, and of all by each in turn; election by lot either to all magistracies or to all that do not need experience and skill; no property-qualification for office, or only a very low one; no office to be held twice, or more than a few times, by the same person, or few offices except the military ones; short tenure either of all offices or of as many as possible; judicial functions to be exercised by all citizens, that is by persons selected from all, and on all matters . . . ; the assembly to be sovereign over all matters, but no official over any or only over extremely few; or else a council to be sovereign over the most important matters . . . ; also payment for public duties, preferably in all branches, assembly, law-courts, magistracies . . . Also inasmuch as oligarchy is defined by birth, wealth and education, the popular qualifications are thought to be the opposite of these, low birth, poverty, vulgarity. And in respect of the magistracies it is democratic to have none tenable for life.
Credit - “Aristotle, Politics.” Translated by H. Rackham, Aristotle, Politics, Book 6, Section 1319a, Harvard University Press, 1944
Demosthenes was a fourth-century Athenian orator whose most famous speeches were those against the expansion of Macedon and the threat that Philip II and Alexander the Great posed to Greek independence. His speech “Against Leptines” was actually concerned with inheritance taxes and exemptions rather than a discussion of democratic government, but in it he compares Athenian law to that of cities like Sparta and Thebes, inviting a comparison of the governments as well.
I am quite aware that the Thebans and the Lacedaemonians and ourselves do not observe the same laws and customs, nor the same form of government. For in the first place, if this is their argument, they are about to do exactly what a man cannot do at Sparta—praise the laws of Athens or of any other state; nay, so far from that, he is obliged to praise, as well as do, whatever accords with his native constitution. Then again, though the Lacedaemonians do not hold with these customs, yet there are other honors at Sparta, which our citizens to a man would shrink from introducing here. What, then, are those honors? Not to take each singly, I will describe one which comprises all the rest. Whenever a man for his good conduct is elected to the Senate, or Gerusia, as they call it, he is absolute master of the mass of citizens. For at Sparta the prize of merit is to share with one’s peers the supremacy in the State; but with us the people is supreme, and any other form of supremacy is forbidden by imprecations and laws and other safeguards, but we have crowns of honor and immunities and free maintenance and similar rewards, which anyone may win, if he is a good citizen. And both these customs are right enough, the one at Sparta and the other here. Why? Because in an oligarchy harmony is attained by the equality of those who control the State, but the freedom of a democracy is guarded by the rivalry with which good citizens compete for the rewards offered by the people. . . . The Thebans, men of Athens, plume themselves more on brutality and iniquity than you on humanity and love of justice. If a prayer may be allowed, may they never cease to withhold honor and admiration from those who do them service, or to deal with kindred states in the same way . . . And never may you cease to do the opposite, honoring your benefactors and winning your rights from your fellow-citizens by debate and in harmony with the laws!
Credit - “Demosthenes, Against Leptines.” Translated by C A Vince and J H Vince, Demosthenes, Against Leptines, Section 109, Harvard University Press, 1926
The decree of Demophantos was the first piece of legislation passed by the people once they recovered their democracy after a coup in 411 during the Peloponnesian Wars. The decree is actually an oath supporting tyrannicide and assassination of would be tyrants in order to preserve Athenian democracy in the future. It also removes the stigma of religious impurity from the killers. The two names mentioned, Harmodius and Aristogeiton, were Athenian heroes who had attempted tyrannicide against the Peisistratid family and paved the way for the reforms of Kleisthenes that are considered the foundation of Athenian democracy.
If anyone overthrows the democracy at Athens, or holds any office when the democracy has been overthrown, he shall be an enemy of the Athenians and shall be killed with impunity, and his property shall be confiscated and a tenth part of it devoted to the Goddess; and he who kills or helps to plan the killing of such a man shall be pure and free from guilt. All Athenians shall swear over unblemished sacrifices by tribes and by demes [villages] to kill such a man. The oath shall be as follows: “I shall kill, by word and deed, by vote and by my own hand, if I can, anyone who overthrows the democracy at Athens, and anyone who, when the democracy has been overthrown, holds any office thereafter, and anyone who sets himself to be tyrant or helps to set up the tyrant. And if anyone else kills him, I shall consider that man to be pure in the sight of both gods and spirits, because he has killed an enemy of the Athenians, and I will see all the property of the dead man and give half to the killer and not keep any back. And if anyone dies while killing or attempting to kill any such man, I shall care both for himself and his children, just as for Harmodios and Aristogeiton and their descendants. And all oaths that have been sworn against the people of Athens, at Athens or on campaigns or anywhere else, I declare null and void.” All Athenians shall swear this oath over unblemished sacrifices, in the customary manner, before the Dionysia, and they shall pray that he who keeps his oath may have many blessings, but that for him who breaks it destruction may befall himself and his family.
Credit - The Laws of Solon: A New Edition with Introduction, Translation and Commentary By D F Leão, P. J. Rhodes
Robin Osborne is Professor of Ancient History at Kings College, Cambridge University where he specializes in Greek history. He is also a Fellow of the British Academy. Over his long career he has written countless articles, books, and textbooks on Greek culture, art, and political life.
The key institution was surely the Council. The Council of 500 in which all ten of the artificial tribal units created by Kleisthenes [in] 507 were equally represented, was, more importantly, a body on which members of every community in Attica, every deme, always served, in numbers more or less in proportion to the size of the community . . . All these voices were there for the hearing. And they were there for the hearing on all the business of the state; for, with some exceptions but no systematic exceptions, it was the Council of 500 which chewed over all business that was to be discussed by the Assembly, and made more or less definite recommendations about what the Assembly should decide. No recommendation was made to the Assembly without someone from each of the communities in Attica having been able in principle to have a say, and to have a say in a body which, though large, had time enough for real deliberation. The Assembly did not always accept the advice of the Council, but it rarely formulated detailed decisions different from those recommended by the Council without referring the matter back to the Council in some way or other. The Council was not a government. It was not at all like the British Parliament. There were representatives of each community, but those representatives were chosen by lot (from whoever volunteered), not by election; they served for only a year at a time and not more than twice in a lifetime . . . Nor did the Council provide continuity; indeed it guaranteed that what came to the Assembly had been screened by a body that was constantly changing . . . Such continuity as Athenian politics enjoyed was provided not by the Council but by those who spoke in the Assembly. Once the suggestion of the Council had been read out to the Assembly, the 6,000 or so Athenians gathered on the Pnyx were asked, ‘Who wants to speak?’ Anyone could take up this invitation and there may well have been unknown faces addressing the Assembly . . . but some men spoke more than others. It was these men—some of whom gained public stature from holding repeatedly one of the few offices (the most important of which was general, which could be held more than once or twice)—who carried the corporate memory and made some degree of consistency of principle and practice possible. Democracy could not have worked without this elite.
Credit - Robin Osborne, Athens and Athenian Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2010) 1-29
Daniela Cammack is Assistant Professor of Political Science at UC Berkeley after teaching briefly at Harvard, Stanford, and Yale Universities. Her current research focus is on Athenian democracy with additional research in the work of Aristotle.
When an ancient Greek dēmos (people) deliberated, what did it do? On one view, it engaged in a form of public conversation along the lines theorized by contemporary deliberative democrats; on another, a small number of active citizens debated before a much larger, more passive audience. Both accounts represent deliberation as an external, speech-centered activity rather than an internal, thought-centered one. The democratic ideal, it is suggested, was at least occasional participation in public speech.
This article questions that interpretation. A study of βουλεύομαι, “deliberate,” and related terms from Homer to Aristotle reveals three models of deliberation: internal, dialogical, and another that I shall call “audience,” in which a deliberating audience came to a decision after hearing advice. Assembly deliberation was almost always represented as audience deliberation. The dēmos, or listening mass, deliberated, that is came to a decision about an action in its power, while those who spoke before it advised. Citizens did not fall short of a democratic ideal when they did not speak publicly. To the contrary, the dēmos was expected to exercise its authority through internal reflection, culminating in a vote.
This argument has profound implications for our conceptualization of ancient Greek democracy and its differences from its modern counterpart. A common criticism of modern representative democracy is that ordinary citizens play too small a part in it, their role typically being limited to voting in periodic elections. Ancient Greek democracy has been represented as more inclusive at least in part because ordinary citizens shaped policy through public speech. This article suggests that that view is based on a misinterpretation. The mass of citizens shaped policy by deciding it, not by speaking publicly. . . . Then as now the crucial medium of participation was the vote. . . .
. . . In Josiah Ober’s words, “if even one in a hundred citizens chose to exercise his isēgoria at any given meeting, the volume of debate that would precede the vote would cause the system to founder.” Yet meetings lasted no more than a few hours. Evidently only a tiny fraction of assemblygoers spoke at any given session; the rest simply listened and voted. . . .
. . . Audience members often shouted back to those who addressed them. Presumably still more frequently, they also spoke to one another. . . .
. . . But it was voting that enabled each attendee to participate in the decision-making process, thus giving the proceedings not only their collective character but also their deliberative one.
Credit - Daniela Cammack, “Deliberation in Ancient Greek Assemblies.”
Euripides was a highly regarded tragedian in fifth century Athens who authored as many as 92 plays, eighteen of which survive, including Medea and Electra. His story of the suppliant women tells of the aftermath of a battle for rule of Thebes between the two sons of Oedipus. When the battle is over, both brothers are dead, Creon has taken power in Thebes, and he refuses to allow the bodies of those killed in the war to be buried. The women of Thebes beg Theseus, mythical king and founder of Athens, to help them against Creon. The passage below shows Theseus challenging a Theban messenger from Creon and describing Athens as a democratic city. This is obviously anachronistic since the rule of Theseus at the founding of the city would not have corresponded to the time of reform after Kleisthenes in the fifth century. However, it allows Euripides to praise Athens for its participatory democracy and create a sense of pride in his audience.
Theban Herald. Who is the despot of this land? To whom must I announce the message of Creon . . .
Theseus. You have made a false beginning to your speech, stranger, in seeking a despot here. For this city is not ruled by one man, but is free. The people rule in succession year by year, allowing no preference to wealth, but the poor man shares equally with the rich.
Theban Herald. You give me here an advantage, as in a game of checkers; for the city from which I come is ruled by one man only, not by the mob; no one there puffs up the citizens with specious words, and for his own advantage twists them this way or that, one moment dear to them and lavish of his favors, the next harmful to all; and yet by fresh calumnies of others he hides his former failures and escapes punishment. Besides, how would the people, if it cannot form true judgments, be able rightly to direct the state? No, it is time, not haste, that affords a better understanding. A poor farmer, even if he were not unschooled, would still be unable from his toil to give his mind to politics. Truly the better sort count it no healthy sign when the worthless man obtains a reputation by beguiling with words the populace, though before he was nothing.
Theseus. . . . Nothing is more hostile to a city than a despot; where he is, there are first no laws common to all, but one man is tyrant, in whose keeping and in his alone the law resides, and in that case equality is at an end. But when the laws are written down, rich and weak alike have equal justice, and it is open to the weaker to use the same language to the prosperous when he is reviled by him, and the weaker prevails over the stronger if he has justice on his side. Freedom’s mark is also seen in this: “Who has wholesome counsel to declare unto the state?” And he who chooses to do so gains renown, while he, who has no wish, remains silent. What greater equality can there be in a city?
“Euripides, The Suppliants E. P. Coleridge, Ed.” Translated by E P Coleridge, Euripides, The Suppliants, Line 1, Random House, 1938.
Herodotus is a Greek historian of the 5th century who is often praised as the “Father of History,” since he is one of the first writers to collect evidence and offer analysis of events from the past. However, his work is laced with bias, inaccuracy, and even mythology and legends so it is treated cautiously as a primary source. His Histories are one of the main sources scholars have for information on the Greco-Persian Wars from the perspective of a relative contemporary to the events. He was born six years after the Battle of Marathon in the Ionian city of Halicarnassus.
It was decided that they should guard the pass of Thermopylae, for they saw that it was narrower than the pass into Thessaly and nearer home. . . .
The pass through Trachis into Hellas is fifty feet wide at its narrowest point. It is not here, however, but elsewhere that the way is narrowest, namely, in front of Thermopylae and behind it . . . To the west of Thermopylae rises a high mountain, inaccessible and precipitous . . . to the east of the road there is nothing but marshes and sea. . . .
These places, then, were thought by the Greeks to suit their purpose. After making a thorough survey, they concluded that the barbarians could not make use of their entire army, nor of their horsemen. They therefore resolved, that they would meet the invader of Hellas here. . . .
The sum total of [Persian] fighting men is two million, six hundred and forty-one thousand, six hundred and ten. . . .
Each [Greek] city had its own general, but the one most admired and the leader of the whole army was a Lacedaemonian, Leonidas . . .
. . . The Medes bore down upon the Hellenes and attacked. Many fell, but others attacked in turn, and they made it clear to everyone, especially to the king himself, that among so many people there were few real men. . . .
When the Medes had been roughly handled, they retired, and the Persians whom the king called Immortals, led by Hydarnes, attacked in turn. It was thought that they would easily accomplish the task. When they joined battle with the Hellenes, they fared neither better nor worse than the Median army, since they used shorter spears than the Hellenes and could not use their numbers fighting in a narrow space. . . .
The king was at a loss as to how to deal with the present difficulty. Epialtes son of Eurydemus, a Malian, thinking he would get a great reward from the king, came to speak with him and told him of the path leading over the mountain to Thermopylae. In so doing he caused the destruction of the Hellenes remaining there. . . .
It is said that Leonidas himself sent them [the other Greek soldiers] away because he was concerned that they would be killed, but felt it not fitting for himself and the Spartans to desert that post which they had come to defend at the beginning. . . .
In that place they defended themselves with swords, if they still had them, and with hands and teeth. . . .
This, then, is how the Greeks fought at Thermopylae.
Credit - “The Histories.” Translated by A D Godley, Herodotus, The Histories, Tufts University , 1920
Xenophon was an Athenian military commander and philosopher who lived during the fifth century BCE. As a military commander of a respected army of Greek mercenaries, Xenophon fought alongside Spartan commanders and gained great respect for Spartan soldiers. His work shows great admiration for the Persian empire under Cyrus the Great but he complains in the passage below that the Persians and their leaders who came after Cyrus were a disappointment in their character and physical stamina for battle.
In other ways also the Persians have degenerated. . . . All the Asiatics have turned to injustice and impiety. For what the leaders are, that, as a rule, will the men below them be. Thus has lawlessness increased and grown among them. And injustice has grown, and thieving. . . . Therefore, when any man makes war on Persia, whoever he may be, he can roam up and down the country to his heart’s content without striking a blow, because they have forgotten the gods and are unjust to their fellow-men. In every way their hearts and minds are lower than in days gone by. Nor do they care for their bodies as they did of old. It was always their custom neither to spit nor blow the nose, only it is clear this was instituted not from concern for the humours of the body, but in order to strengthen themselves by toil and sweat. But nowadays, though this habit is still in vogue, to harden the body by exercise has quite gone out of fashion. . . . Formerly no Persian was ever to be seen on foot, but the sole object of the custom was to make them perfect horsemen. Now they lay more rugs on their horses’ backs than on their own beds; it is not a firm seat they care for, but a soft saddle. As soldiers we may imagine how they have sunk below the ancient standard; . . . now the Persian grandees have manufactured a new type of cavalry, who earn their pay as butlers and cooks and confectioners and cupbearers and bathmen and flunkeys to serve at table or remove the dishes, and serving-men to put their lords to bed and help them to rise, and perfumers to anoint them and rub them and make them beautiful. In numbers they make a very splendid show, but they are no use for fighting; as may be seen by what actually takes place: an enemy can move about their country more freely than the inhabitants themselves. It will be remembered that Cyrus put a stop to the old style of fighting at long range, and by arming men and horses with breastplates and giving each trooper a short spear he taught them to fight at close quarters. But nowadays they will fight in neither one style nor the other.
Credit - “CYROPAEDIA.” Edited by John Bickers et al., Cyropaedia, by Xenophon, Project Gutenberg
Jack Balcer was Professor of History at Ohio State University until his death in 2004. His research included study of the Athenian Empire, the Persian Empire, and the cultural interactions between Greeks and non-Greeks in Western Asia Minor.
The Persians lost their wars in Greece, in part, because the triumphant Greeks wrote the histories and other texts that survive. . . . Yet, amid all the ancient explanations about excessive Persian hubris and despotic indifference to human dignity in contrast to Greek freedom, initiative, and arete, it was the critical Thucydides who noted that the Persians were defeated mainly through their own errors. . . . Let us, therefore, return to Thucydides’ often overlooked observation and ask what were the Persian military errors in Greece. Certainly they were far more complex than noted by the Byzantine scholiast that King Xerxes and the Persian navy had simply erred in trying to fight in the narrow straits of Salamis . . .
Once King Xerxes’ troops dismantled the two pontoon bridges that spanned the Hellespont, the supplies that had supported Persian forces during the land conquests of India, Egypt, and Nubia were critically lacking for the Persian conquest of Greece. Our ancient sources do not indicate that new Persian supply ships came to Xerxes’ support once his own supply fleet entered the European waters. The problems of the shortage of supplies began to appear as the Persians entered Thessaly south of Mt. Olympos and began their long approach to the critical pass at Thermopylae. Following the battle at that pass, food shortages necessitated that the Persians had to act militarily sooner than would have been desirable. At Salamis and at Plataia, if the Persians could have waited perhaps two to four weeks before engaging the Greek forces, the small united Greek defenses would have crumbled . . . The thesis of this article, therefore, is that time and supplies became the critical factors that led to the Persian failures and defeat in Greece, thus the errors alluded to by Thucydides. . . . The petty parochialism and antagonisms that had plagued the East Greeks during the Ionian Revolt also abounded in mainland Greece. If only the Persian forces could wait for that parochialism to fracture the Greek forces, the Persians could gain Greece and transform it into the satrapy of Ionia; but at each major event the lack of food and supplies forced the Persians to attack before the Greek military fractures occurred . . . To have relied upon perhaps two hundred ships for all supplies, food, water, cavalry supplies, and equipment, created for the Persians a significant reliance upon gaining food and supplies for the soldiers from the Greek lands . . .
Credit - Jack Martin Balcer, “The Persian Wars against Greece: A Reassessment,” Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, Bd. 38, H. 2 (1989), 127-14
Jonathan Price is Fred and Helen Lessing Chair of Ancient History at Tel Aviv University. He has written extensively on the ancient world including ancient Jerusalem, Roman Judea, and the work of Thucydides.
Thucydides . . . reconstructs ancient history on the theory that ‘great’ and ‘noteworthy’ accomplishments by states or peoples required . . . organization around a strong power . . . This is not two processes but one, a voluntary combination by powers of unequal strength for mutual benefit: the weaker powers gave up independence while the stronger accepted responsibility for them . . . The combination of strong and weak for mutual benefit repeats as a kind of historical law in the Archaeology. Such combination, to be sure, was not always completely voluntary, but the question of coercion is irrelevant to Thucydides’ main point, which is that the Hellenes accomplished noteworthy things only when they had both mastered the sea and combined forces under the leadership of the strongest power. . . . While the Hellenic states were fighting each other after the Trojan War they did nothing noteworthy precisely because of that disunity. The Lelantine War is cited as the outstanding example of this, for that Hellenic war, far from representing an advance in the string of ever-greater accomplishments, represents rather a failure to unite for worthy accomplishment. . . . . In a similar way, the tyrants in various cities (Thucydides sees them as occupying a discrete period in Hellas’ history) did not lead Hellas to any worthy achievement because they were too concerned with their own private interests to take any common interest in Hellas or a union of Hellenic states, so that “no noteworthy achievement was accomplished by them”(Thucydides, 1.17) . . . Thucydides allows for the possibility of Hellenic unions being based on the equality of its members, but this is not offered as a preferable alternative to the unequal alignment of states of unequal strength, only as one possibility of Hellenic union for common action . . . Like the Trojan expedition, the defense of Greece against Persia is designated a ‘common effort’ and in each instance the strongest power assumed leadership. . . . When Thucydides says that ‘the Lacedaemonians, because they were the most powerful assumed leadership of the Hellenes’ and that ‘by a common effort they [the Hellenes] repelled the barbarian’, the Hellenic victory in the Persian Wars seems to follow the pattern, laid out in the previous chapters, by which the Hellenes combine under the leadership of the strongest power and do something ‘noteworthy.’ . . . Hellenic disunity had occurred in the past, of course, . . . [but these are] cited by Thucydides as a source of weakness and the reason for the failure to accomplish any great achievement.
Credit - Jonathan J. Price, “A Puzzle in Thucydides 1.18,” Mnemosyne, Fourth Series, Vol. 50, Fasc. 6 (Dec., 1997), pp. 665-67
Simonides of Ceos became famous for his elegies of fallen soldiers including the commemoration of the Spartan 300 at Thermopylae. His services as memorialist were also requested for this inscription on the altar placed at the battleground of Plataea.
This altar of Zeus the Liberator did the Hellenes erect, an ornament for Hellas such as becomes a free land, after that, obeying their brave hearts’ impulse, they had driven out the Persians by the might of their hands and by the toil of battle.
Credit - “SIMONIDES : EPIGRAMS.” Translated by W R Paton, Simonides: Epigrams - Translation, 1916.
Cassius Dio (155–235 CE) was a Roman historian who wrote eighty books on the history of Rome from the arrival of Aeneas in Latium to his own lifetime. Cassius Dio was equally involved in the political life of Rome, serving as a senator, provincial governor, and suffect (interim) consul under emperors Commodus and Severus Alexander.
[While] he had put into effect very many illegal and unjust regulations during the factional strife and the wars . . . he abolished them all by a single decree. . . . When, now, he obtained approbation and praise for this act, he desired to exhibit another instance of magnanimity, that by such a policy he might be honoured all the more and might have his sovereignty voluntarily confirmed by the people, so as to avoid the appearance of having forced them against their will. Therefore, having first primed his most intimate friends among the senators, he entered the senate in his seventh consulship and read the following address: “I am sure that I shall seem to some of you, Conscript Fathers, to have made an incredible choice. . . . You see for yourselves, of course, that it is in my power to rule over you for life; for every factious element has either been put down through the application of justice or brought to its sense by receiving mercy, while those who were on my side have been made devoted by my reciprocating their friendly services and bound fast by having a share in the government. . . . My military is in the finest condition as regards both loyalty and strength; there is money and there are allies; and, most important of all, you and the people are so disposed toward me that you would distinctly wish to have me at your head. However, I shall lead you no longer, and no one will be able to say that it was to win absolute power that I did whatever has hitherto been done. Nay, I give up my office completely, and restore to you absolutely everything,—the army, the laws, and the provinces,—not only those which you committed to me, but also those which I myself later acquired for you. Thus my very deeds also will prove to you that even at the outset I desired no position of power, but in very truth wished to avenge my [adoptive] father [Julius Caesar], cruelly murdered, and to extricate the city from great evils that came on unceasingly. . . . From all this I have derived no gain for myself except that I have kept my country from perishing; but as for you, you are enjoying both safety and tranquility. . . . Receive back also your liberty and the republic; take over the army and the subject provinces, and govern yourselves
Credit - “Vol. VIp193 Book LIII.” Cassius Dio - Book 53, University of Chicago, .
Publius Cornelius Tacitus (56–120 CE) was a Roman historian whose two greatest works were the Annals and the Histories which together covered the history of Rome from the final years of Augustus to the reign of Vespasian in 70 CE. Tacitus also wrote an ethnography of the Germanic tribes and a history of General Agricola (Tacitus’ father in law) and his conquest of Britain. Tacitus is known for his somewhat cynical attitude toward political power and its corruption despite his own career as a senator.
Augustus, who, under the style of “Prince,” gathered beneath his empire a world outworn by civil broils . . . When the killing of Brutus and Cassius had disarmed the Republic; when Pompey had been crushed in Sicily, and, with Lepidus thrown aside and Antony slain, even the Julian party was leaderless but for the Caesar; after laying down his triumviral title and proclaiming himself a simple consul content with tribunician authority to safeguard the commons, he first conciliated the army by gratuities, the populace by cheapened corn, the world by the amenities of peace, then step by step began to make his ascent and to unite in his own person the functions of the senate, the magistracy, and the legislature. Opposition there was none: the boldest spirits had succumbed on stricken fields or by proscription-lists; while the rest of the nobility found a cheerful acceptance of slavery the smoothest road to wealth and office, and, as they had thriven on revolution, stood now for the new order and safety in preference to the old order and adventure. Nor was the state of affairs unpopular in the provinces, where administration by the Senate and People had been discredited by the feuds of the magnates and the greed of the officials, against which there was but frail protection in a legal system for ever deranged by force, by favouritism, or (in the last resort) by gold. Meanwhile, to consolidate his power, Augustus raised Claudius Marcellus, his sister’s son and a mere stripling, to the pontificate . . . Marcus Agrippa, no aristocrat, but a good soldier and his partner in victory, he honoured with two successive consulates . . . Each of his step-children, Tiberius Nero and Claudius Drusus, was given the title of Imperator . . . for he had admitted Agrippa’s children, Gaius and Lucius, to the Caesarian hearth, and even during their minority had shown, under a veil of reluctance, a consuming desire to see them consuls designate with the title Princes of the Youth. . . . The officials carried the old names; the younger men had been born after the victory of Actium; most even of the elder generation, during the civil wars; few indeed were left who had seen the Republic. It was thus an altered world, and of the old, unspoilt Roman character not a trace lingered. Equality was an outworn creed, and all eyes looked to the mandate of the sovereign.
Credit - “The Internet Classics Archive: The Annals by Tacitus.” The Internet Classics Archive | The Annals by Tacitus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Marcus Velleius Paterculus (19 BCE–31 CE) wrote The Roman History covering the period of the Trojan Wars through the death of Augustus’s wife Livia. Velleius Paterculus had a long military career serving in Macedonia, Greece, and Germany under Tiberius and a political career as a quaestor and praetor before being put to death, possibly due to his support for the corrupt prefect of the Praetorian Guards, Sejanus. He wrote under the patronage of Tiberius and his portrayal of the emperor is flattering rather than reliable.
There is nothing that man can desire from the gods, nothing that the gods can grant to a man, nothing that wish can conceive or good fortune bring to pass, which Augustus on his return to the city did not bestow upon the republic, the Roman people, and the world. The civil wars were ended after twenty years, foreign wars suppressed, peace restored, the frenzy of arms everywhere lulled to rest; validity was restored to the laws, authority to the courts, and dignity to the senate; the power of the magistrates was reduced to its former limits, with the sole exception that two were added to the eight existing praetors. The old traditional form of the republic was restored. Agriculture returned to the fields, respect to religion, to mankind freedom from anxiety, and to each citizen his property rights were now assured; old laws were usefully emended, and new laws passed for the general good; the revision of the senate, while not too drastic, was not lacking in severity. The chief men of the state who had won triumphs and had held high office were at the invitation of Augustus induced to adorn the city. In the case of the consulship only, Caesar was not able to have his way, but was obliged to hold that office consecutively until the eleventh time in spite of his frequent efforts to prevent it; but the dictatorship which the people persistently offered him, he as stubbornly refused. To tell of the wars waged under his command, of the pacification of the world by his victories, of his many works at home and outside of Italy would weary a writer intending to devote his whole life to this one task. As for myself, remembering the proposed scope of my work, I have confined myself to setting before the eyes and minds of my readers a general picture of his principate.
Credit - “;p177 Book II: Chapters 59 93.” LacusCurtius • Velleius Paterculus - Book II, Chapters 59 93, University of Chicago
Darryl Phillips is an Associate Professor of History at Connecticut College who specializes in the culture and history of the late Republic and early Principate during the time of transition under Augustus. His work tends to emphasize the continuity of the past rather than dramatic change, particularly during this transition period. His current project involves commentary on Suetonius’ Life of Augustus.
The institution of suffect [interim] consulships became a regular feature of Roman government toward the middle of Augustus’ principate. Though the development of this institution is noted by constitutional and political historians, little detailed attention has been paid to the procedural particulars that brought the suffect consuls to office . . . Suffect magistrates replaced other holders of office after the start of their term . . . .Thus from the start of the Republic we find that suffect consuls might be elected to replace either a consul who resigned from office or one who died in office. . . . During the Republic, when suffect consuls were usually elected to replace a consul who had died in office, there would be no need to put off the assumption of office. In the imperial period, however, when pre-planned suffect magistracies were introduced to increase the number of consulships available, it would often be expedient to elect suffect consuls well in advance of the planned start of their term in office. . . . Suffect consulships were relatively uncommon throughout the Republican period, but gradually became a regular feature of imperial government. The first suffect consul under Augustus was elected to replace the princeps who stepped down from his eleventh consulship on July 1, 23 B.C. Suffect consuls were later elected for the years 19, 16, and 12 B. C. and for almost every year after 5 B.C. With the introduction of annual suffect consulships we would expect to find a clear limit to the terms of office of the magistrates and set dates for the annual election of suffect officials. Our evidence however suggests no fixed rules existed for the terms of office or for the date of election of suffect consuls, at least not before 1 B.C. . . .The evidence for suffect magistracies between 23 B.C. and l B.C. shows a marked variance in the dates and lengths of tenure of office. After several years of experimentation with annual suffect consulships starting in 5 B.C., a set pattern emerged shortly after 1 B.C. and served as the model for suffect magistracies for years to come.
Credit - Darryl A. Phillips, “The Conspiracy of Egnatius Rufus and the Election of Suffect Consuls under Augustus,” Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, Bd. 46, H. 1 (1st Qtr., 1997) 103–12.
Raymond Starr is Theodora Stone Sutton Professor of Classics at Wellesley College. He has published widely on Vergil, the circulation of Roman literature, and especially the Res Gestae of Augustus. His current work focuses on how readers in ancient Rome read texts and how these were circulated and reproduced.
The Res gestae divi Augusti begins with famous words: annos undeviginti natus exercitum pri vato consilio et privata impensa comparavi, per quern rem publicam a dominatione factionis oppressam in libertatem vindicavi. The opening phrase, annos undeviginti natus, is usually taken at face value and assumed to mean no more than “at the age of 19” or to position Augustus in relation to other famous conquerors. Yet the words do more: they connect Augustus to Romulus . . . . Augustus’ emphasis on his age of 19 also sets up an implied (and positive, needless to say) comparison with other historical figures: he was younger than Alexander the Great when Alexander took the throne, only a little older than the age at which Scipio Africanus burst on the stage, and younger than Pompey, who raised an army at 23. There is, however, another point of comparison for Augustus at such a young age, previously unnoted: Romulus. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who wrote under Augustus himself, emphasizes Romulus’ youth: “. . . after having been king for thirty-seven years, he died in his fifty-fifth year; for he became ruler extremely young, at 18, as all agree who have written his history” . . . Romulus, as has long been recognized, appears repeatedly in the campaign Augustus waged for Roman hearts and minds throughout his reign. Augustus had considered taking the name Romulus in 27 BCE (Suet., Aug. 7.2), to suggest that he was the second founder of Rome, an attractive message soon after the Battle of Actium, the Triple Triumph, and the start of his massive building program in the northern Campus Martius. Dio reports that Augustus “was extremely proud . . . that on the first day of the elections, when he entered the Campus Martius, he saw six vultures, and after that, when he was giving a speech to the soldiers, twelve others. For, comparing it with Romulus and the omen that befell him, he expected to obtain his royal power as well.” Augustus’ house on the Palatine, the location of the casa Romuli, connected him to Romulus, as we see in Dio’s remark that Augustus’ “residence received a certain fame from the [Palatine] Hill as a whole also, because Romulus had lived there previously.” . . . A connection to Romulus in the opening of the Res gestae divi Augusti, then, would be just one part, albeit the last to appear, of Augustus’ decades-long assertion of a connection with Rome’s founder.
Credit - Raymond J. Starr, “Annos Undeviginti Natus: Augustus and Romulus in Res Gestae 1.1,” Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, Bd. 58, H. 3 (2009) 367–69.
William Turpin is Professor of Classics at Swarthmore College. His research began in the law codes of late antiquity but his interest has returned to questions of the transformation of the classical world and his current book projects center on the ancient historian Tacitus and the poet Horace. The references to RG indicate the line numbers of the Res Gestae.
The idea of publishing such a self-satisfied account of one’s own doings is so alien to our modern sensibilities that we tend to read the Res Gestae as though Augustus were capable of saying almost anything. We have concluded too easily, therefore, that at RG 34.1 Augustus is telling an outrageous lie, or at least an outrageous half-truth. After saying that he ended the civil wars, and acquired supreme power, Augustus claims to have handed over the state to the senate and the people of Rome. On traditional reading this last claim is seriously misleading; Augustus may have handed over the state, but he fails to mention that the senate handed it back. This paper will argue that Augustus’ claim is a much more reasonable one. The transfer of the state so important in R.G. 34 is normally understood to be the event which forms the dramatic climax to Dio’s detailed account, the speech in which Augustus offered, disingenuously, to retire from public life. I will argue instead that . . . what Augustus talks about at RG 34.1 is the reaction his speech provoked: the senate and people declared that he was indispensable and supreme, and Augustus describes this not unreasonably as the acquisition of supreme power with universal consent. The transfer of the state came next: once he had been confirmed in power, Augustus handed over a number of provinces to the senate, and he voluntarily defined his magistracy as one of limited duration. . . . The decision to limit his powers did not, of course, amount to a restoration of the Republic. But it was something that could reasonably be described as a transfer of the state to the authority of the senate and people of Rome. . . . It is important to recognize that the focus of chapter 34 is on the name Augustus and the other honours received in early 27. The famous conclusion, on auctoritas and potestas, explains not so much the constitutional position of Augustus as the nature of his prestige from that point on. For Dio, the interesting thing about the settlement of 27 was what went on behind behind the scenes and his account of Augustus’ manipulation of traditional institutions has an almost Tacitean tendentiousness. Dio’s cynicism is attractive, but it is important that we look beyond it, to appreciate the picture that Augustus himself was trying to present.
Credit - William Turpin, “Res Gestae 34.1 and the Settlement of 27 B. C.,” The Classical Quarterly 44, no. 2 (1994) 427–37.]
Publius Vergilius Maro (70–19 BCE) is the author of the pastoral poems the Georgics and the Bucolics but is best known for his epic the Aeneid which was possibly commissioned by his patron Augustus. Vergil was an early supporter of Augustus, lending his pen to support for Augustus as early as the civil war with Marcus Antonius. His work became essential to a Roman youth’s education and remains part of the curriculum in many schools today.
The Aeneid, written by Vergil under the reign of Augustus, tells the story of Aeneas, a Trojan hero who survived the Trojan war and settled in Latium. At the end of the Aeneid, Vergil has Aeneas’ dead father Anchises share with him a prophesy about the future of the Trojan people as Romans saying, “Come, I will now explain what glory will pursue the children of Dardanus, what descendants await you of the Italian race, illustrious spirits to march onwards in our name, and I will teach you your destiny.”
Yes, and a child of Mars will join his grandfather to accompany him,
Romulus, whom his mother Ilia will bear, of Assaracus’s line.
See how Mars’s twin plumes stand on his crest, and his father
marks him out for the world above with his own emblems?
Behold, my son, under his command glorious Rome
will match earth’s power and heaven’s will, and encircle
seven hills with a single wall, happy in her race of men:
as Cybele, the Berecynthian ‘Great Mother’, crowned
with turrets, rides through the Phrygian cities, delighting
in her divine children, clasping a hundred descendants,
all gods, all dwelling in the heights above.
Now direct your eyes here, gaze at this people,
your own Romans. Here is Caesar, and all the offspring
of Iulus destined to live under the pole of heaven.
This is the man, this is him, whom you so often hear
promised you, Augustus Caesar, son of the Deified,
who will make a Golden Age again in the fields
where Saturn once reigned, and extend the empire beyond
the Libyans and the Indians (to a land that lies outside the zodiac’s belt,
beyond the sun’s ecliptic and the year’s, where sky-carrying Atlas
turns the sphere, inset with gleaming stars, on his shoulders):
Even now the Caspian realms, and Maeotian earth,
tremble at divine prophecies of his coming, and
the restless mouths of the seven-branched Nile are troubled.
Truly, Hercules never crossed so much of the earth,
though he shot the bronze-footed Arcadian deer, brought peace
to the woods of Erymanthus, made Lerna tremble at his bow:
nor did Bacchus, who steers his chariot, in triumph, with reins
made of vines, guiding his tigers down from Nysa’s high peak.
Do we really hesitate still to extend our power by our actions,
and does fear prevent us settling the Italian lands?
Credit - Virgil, The Aeneid. Book 6, Page 777-807. Translated by A.S. Kline, Virgil (70 BC–19 BC) - Aeneid: VI, Poetry in Translation, 2002.
Tacitus tells the story of his fellow historian Cremutius Cordus who was accused of treason under the reign of Tiberius for writing lines in praise of Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Julius Caesar. Cordus was accused by accomplices of Sejanus, the head of the Praetorian Guard who was given much authority over the administration of Rome while Tiberius retired to Capri.
XXXIV. In the year of the consulship of Cornelius Cossus and Asinius Agrippa, Cremutius Cordus was arraigned on a new charge, now for the first time heard. He had published a history in which he had praised Marcus Brutus and called Caius Cassius the last of the Romans. His accusers were Satrius Secundus and Pinarius Natta, creatures of Sejanus. This was enough to ruin the accused; and then too the emperor listened with an angry frown to his defence, which Cremutius, resolved to give up his life, began thus:—“It is my words, Senators, which are condemned, so innocent am I of any guilty act; yet these do not touch the emperor or the emperor’s mother, who are alone comprehended under the law of treason. I am said to have praised Brutus and Cassius, whose careers many have described and no one mentioned without eulogy. Titus Livius, pre-eminently famous for eloquence and truthfulness, extolled Cneius Pompeius in such a panegyric that Augustus called him Pompeianus, and yet this was no obstacle to their friendship . . . Again, that book of Marcus Cicero, in which he lauded Cato to the skies, how else was it answered by Caesar the dictator, than by a written oration in reply, as if he was pleading in court? The letters of Antonius, the harangues of Brutus contain reproaches against Augustus, false indeed, but urged with powerful sarcasm; the poems which we read of Bibaculus and Catullus are crammed with invectives on the Caesars. Yet the Divine Julius, the Divine Augustus themselves bore all this and let it pass, whether in forbearance or in wisdom I cannot easily say.”
XXXV. He then left the Senate and ended his life by starvation. His books, so the Senators decreed, were to be burnt by the aediles; but some copies were left which were concealed and afterwards published. And so one is all the more inclined to laugh at the stupidity of men who suppose that the despotism of the present can actually efface the remembrances of the next generation. On the contrary, the persecution of genius fosters its influence; foreign tyrants, and all who have imitated their oppression, have merely procured infamy for themselves and glory for their victims.
Credit - “Cornelius Tacitus, The Annals Alfred John Church, William Jackson Brodribb, Ed.” Cornelius Tacitus, The Annals, BOOK IV, Chapter 34, Random House, 1942.
Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BCE-18 CE) is a Roman poet who wrote during the age of Augustus and is best known for his work of mythological narrative poetry the Metamorphoses, and his love poetry Amores and Ars Amatoria. In 8 CE, he was banished to Tomis a town on the Black Sea on the edge of Roman territory, for an unknown reason. Scholars believe it must have been due to poetry that challenged the moral reforms, perhaps those of the Lex Julia on adultery, that Augustus wished to see implemented in Rome. This selection from the collected letters—Tristia— is a poetic plea to Augustus to be allowed a closer place of exile.
Spare me, father of the country, don’t take away
all hope of placating you, forgetful of my name!
I don’t beg to return, though we believe the great gods
have often granted more than that prayer.
If you granted me a milder, closer place of exile
a large part of my punishment would be eased.
Thrust among enemies, patiently I suffer the extremes,
no exile’s more distant from his native land . . .
and while others have been banished with greater cause,
no one’s assigned a remoter place than mine.
There’s nothing further than this, except frost and foes . . .
This is the furthest land subject to Italian law,
barely clinging to the edges of your Empire.
So, a suppliant, I beg you to banish me somewhere safe,
so that peace as well as my home aren’t taken from me,
so as not to fear the tribes the Danube scarcely checks,
so your subject can’t be captured by the enemy.
Justice forbids any man of Roman blood
to suffer barbarian chains while Caesars live.
Credit – Ovid. “Tristia, III.” Internet Archive.
Cassius Dio (155–235 CE) was a Roman historian who wrote eighty books on the history of Rome from the arrival of Aeneas in Latium to his own lifetime. Cassius Dio was equally involved in the political life of Rome, serving as a senator, provincial governor, and suffect consul under Emperors Commodus and Severus Alexander.
Though he at first forbade any one to set up images of him . . . he afterwards ordered temples to be erected and sacrifices to be offered to himself as to a god.
. . . . He did not consider it any great achievement to drive a chariot on dry land; on the other hand, he was eager to drive his chariot through the sea, as it were, by bridging the waters between Puteoli and Bauli. Of the ships for a bridge some were brought together there from other stations, but others were built on the spot, since the number that could be assembled there in a brief space of time was insufficient, even though all the vessels possible were got together—with the result that a very severe famine occurred in Italy, and particularly in Rome. In building the bridge not merely a passageway was constructed, but also resting-places and lodging-room were built along its course, and these had running water suitable for drinking. When all was ready, he put on the breastplate of Alexander (or so he claimed), and over it a purple silk chlamys, adorned with much gold and many precious stones from India; moreover he girt on a sword, too a shield, and donned a garland of oak leaves. Then he . . . entered the bridge from the end at Bauli, taking with him a multitude of armed horsemen and foot-soldiers; and he dashed fiercely into Puteoli as if he were in pursuit of an enemy. There he remained during the following day, as if resting from battle; then, wearing a gold-embroidered tunic, he returned in a chariot over the same bridge . . .
One of the horses, which he named Incitatus, he used to invite to dinner, where he would offer him golden barley and drink his health in wine from golden goblets; he swore by the animal’s life and fortune and even promised to appoint him consul, a promise that he would certainly have carried out if he had lived longer. . . .
And when he reached the ocean, as if he were going to conduct a campaign in Britain, and had drawn up all the soldiers on the beach, he embarked on a trireme, and then, after putting out a little from the land, sailed back again. . . . Then of a sudden he ordered [the soldiers] to gather up the shells. Having secured these spoils (for he needed booty, of course, for his triumphal procession), he became greatly elated, as if he had enslaved the very ocean; and he gave his soldiers many presents. The shells he took back to Rome for the purpose of exhibiting the booty to the people there as well.
Credit - projects, Contributors to Wikimedia. “Dio's Roman History.” Wikisource, the Free Online Library, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 11 July 2018.
Philo Judaeus of Alexandria (25 BCE–50 CE) was a Jewish philosopher who was both a Roman citizen and a respected spokesman for the Jewish community of Alexandria Egypt. He was chosen as the representative of this community in an embassy to Caligula charged with resolving the conflict between Jews and Greeks in Alexandria. His On the Embassy to Gaius is his recollection of this meeting.
The golden age was said to have existed during the reign of Saturn upon earth . . . on account of the universal prosperity and happiness which reigned everywhere, and the absence of all grief and fear, and the daily and nightly exhibitions of joy and festivity throughout every house and throughout the whole people, which lasted continually without any interruption during the first seven months of his reign. But in the eighth month a severe disease attacked Gaius who had changed the manner of his living which was a little while before, while Tiberius was alive, very simple and on that account more wholesome than one of great sumptuousness and luxury; for he began to indulge in abundance of strong wine and eating of rich dishes, and in the abundant license of insatiable desires and great insolence . . . and in lust after boys and women, and in everything else which tends to destroy both soul and body, and all the bonds which unite and strengthen the two; for the rewards of temperance are health and strength, and the wages of intemperance are weakness and disease which bring a man near to death . . . . He began at first to liken himself to those beings who are called demigods, such as Bacchus, and Hercules, and the twins of Lacedaemon . . . in comparison of his own power. In the next place, like an actor in a theatre, he was continually wearing different dresses at different times, taking at one time a lion’s skin and a club, both gilded over; being then dressed in the character of Hercules; at another time he would wear a felt hat upon his head, when he was disguised in imitation of the Spartan twins, Castor and Pollux; sometimes he also adorned himself with ivy, and a thyrsus, and skins of fawns, so as to appear in the guise of Bacchus. . . . But the madness and frenzy to which he gave way were so preposterous, and so utterly insane, that he went even beyond the demigods, and mounted up to and invaded the veneration and worship paid to those who are looked upon as greater than they, as the supreme deities of the world, Mercury, and Apollo, and Mars. And first of all he dressed himself up with the caduceus, and sandals, and mantle of Mercury, exhibiting a regularity in his disorder, a consistency in his confusion, and a ratiocination in his insanity.
Credit - “The Works of Philo.” Translated by Peter Kirby, Philo: On the Embassy to Gaius, Early Christian Writings
David Woods has been a Senior Lecturer at University College Cork in Ireland since 2008. His research interests are in the Roman imperial age, particularly the reigns of Caligula and Nero and the Constantinian dynasty.
When Caligula ordered his soldiers to collect the conchae, he was referring to some small boats, not seashells. The surviving tradition is simply mistaken. We ought not to forget that ancient authors were quite capable of misinterpreting their sources despite their relative proximity to the events in question. So whose were these boats that Caligula ordered the soldiers to assemble? In so far as our main sources all agree that Caligula thought of these conchae as the spoils of war, it is clear that they must have been enemy boats, probably British. Hence Caligula merely ordered his soldiers to gather together some British boats which they had captured in the English Channel. The advantage of this interpretation is that it makes good sense also of the ballistas and other artillery which Caligula had apparently had arrayed upon the shore at this time . . .
Caligula did not order his soldiers to collect seashells for transport back to Rome as the spoils of the ocean. Rather our main sources for this event are heirs to a hostile tradition which misinterpreted Caligula’s original instruction to assemble some captured enemy ships, to which he derisively referred as conchae, ‘shells’, for transport to Rome. This is not to claim that the author of the original source which lies at the root of our surviving accounts of this event—Cluvius Rufus—deliberately misinterpreted this term. He made a genuine mistake. It is not difficult to see why, in the context of a discussion of events on a beach, he should have immediately assumed that the conchae were seashells. However, the wider context ought to have alerted him to the possibility that he was misinterpreting this term. He ought to have recognized the inherent improbability that any emperor would ever have ordered his soldiers to collect seashells, but his prejudice against Caligula was such that he was prepared to believe almost anything of him, however improbable. He, or perhaps some of those who used him later, then added to the original tradition on the basis of this misinterpretation. So, for example, Suetonius’ claim that Caligula ordered his soldiers to collect the seashells in their helmets and gowns surely represents a late addition to this original tradition, whether or not by Suetonius himself . . . The result was a very colourful story which has played a large part in the continued denigration of Caligula even to the present day.
Credit - David Woods, “ Caligula’s Seashells,” Greece & Rome, Second Series 47, no. 1 (Apr., 2000), 80–87
M. Gwyn Morgan is Professor Emeritus of Classics and History at the University of Texas Austin where he has been a professor of Classics and history since 1970. Much of his work dealt with Metellus, Caligula, Catullus, and Tacitus and his most notable book was on the period of the four emperors after the fall of Nero. This piece provides insight into both the original designation of Caligula as insane and the revisionist interpretation of his illness and recovery.
Robert S. Katz has emphasized the need to reconsider the traditional view of Caligula, and he has attempted to show that even if the emperor was not entirely normal, he was certainly not insane in our meaning of the term. There can be no doubt that it is past time for a reassessment of Caligula, but there can also be no doubt that the thesis advanced by Katz is unacceptable in detail. In essence, he maintains that Suetonius’ description of the emperor’s physical appearance points to his being a man suffering from hyperthyroidism, that this thyroid malfunction was brought on by the “emotional shock and psychic trauma of newly-gained imperial power after years of virtual impotency under Tiberius,” and that the task of being emperor exacerbated this condition, producing the breakdown—physiological rather than psychological—of September A.D. 37. There are two major flaws in this theory. First, it takes for granted the accuracy of Suetonius’ description of the emperor’s physical appearance. And second, it attaches excessive significance to the illness which Caligula suffered . . . In either case we have no option but to conclude that Suetonius’ description has been conditioned by his preconceived ideas of the emperor’s character. And when the description itself differs so markedly from the representations of Caligula to be found in Roman art, we cannot simply dismiss the latter as untrustworthy idealizations. Suetonius’ picture is no less distorted, and therefore cannot be used to support theories about the emperor’s physiological condition. This is not to say that we must return to the view that the illness of September A.D. 37 was a “nervous breakdown,” even if this is widely held by modern scholars. It may be emphasized first that neither Suetonius nor Dio consider that illness a significant element in the emperor’s behavioral patterns . . . This leaves Philo our principal source; and his evidence has too often been misinterpreted. He states clearly that the illness was strictly physical and, no less clearly, that the emperor made a full recovery. To decide whether Caligula was mad is a problem which requires a much fuller and more thorough discussion than it can be given here. For the moment, it is enough to recognize that the illness of September A.D. 37 was purely physical. Let us hope that the myth of Caligula’s “nervous breakdown” can now be consigned to the oblivion it so richly deserves.
Credit - M. Gwyn Morgan, “Caligula’s Illness Again,” The Classical World, Vol. 66, No. 6 (Mar., 1973), 327–29.
Titus Flavius Josephus (37-100 CE) was a Jewish scholar born in the Roman province of Judea. Josephus had fought against Rome during the first Jewish–Roman war but flattered Vespasian after the surrender by proclaiming a Jewish prophesy foretold Vespasian would become emperor. When Vespasian became emperor, he gave Josephus his freedom, Roman citizenship, and the emperor’s own family nomen, Flavius. He later took the praenomen Titus after Vespasian’s heir, the next emperor Titus. He claimed to provide a fair and unbiased approach to both Jews and Romans in his two main works, The Jewish War and The Antiquities of the Jews.
Gaius [Caligula] did not demonstrate his madness in offering injuries only to the Jews at Jerusalem, or to those that dwelt in the neighborhood; but suffered it to extend itself through all the earth and sea, so far as was in subjection to the Romans, and filled it with ten thousand mischiefs; so many indeed in number as no former history relates. But Rome itself felt the most dismal effects of what he did, while he deemed that not to be any way more honorable than the rest of the cities; but he pulled and hauled its other citizens, but especially the senate, and particularly the nobility, and such as had been dignified by illustrious ancestors; he also had ten thousand devices against such of the equestrian order, as it was styled, who were esteemed by the citizens equal in dignity and wealth with the senators, because out of them the senators were themselves chosen; these he treated after all ignominious manner, and removed them out of his way, while they were at once slain, and their wealth plundered, because he slew men generally in order to seize on their riches. He also asserted his own divinity, and insisted on greater honors to be paid him by his subjects than are due to mankind. He also frequented that temple of Jupiter which they style the Capitol, which is with them the most holy of all their temples, and had boldness enough to call himself the brother of Jupiter. And other pranks he did like a madman; as when he laid a bridge from the city Dicearchia, which belongs to Campania, to Misenum, another city upon the sea-side, from one promontory to another, of the length of thirty furlongs, as measured over the sea. And this was done because he esteemed it to be a most tedious thing to row over it in a small ship, and thought withal that it became him to make that bridge, since he was lord of the sea, and might oblige it to give marks of obedience as well as the earth; so he enclosed the whole bay within his bridge, and drove his chariot over it; and thought that, as he was a god, it was fit for him to travel over such roads as this was.
Credit - “Antiquities of the Jews - Book XIX.” Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIX, University of Chicago.
Titus Livius (59 BCE–17 CE) was a historian and author of the immediately popular, extensive volumes of The History of Rome which covered the period from the mythological founding of the city to the reign of Augustus during which Livy lived. Livy was neither a soldier nor a statesman but devoted himself wholly to his writing. He wrote under the reign of Augustus but although he did mentor the future emperor Claudius there are no clear indications of patronage.
The Sabines, too, came with all their people, including their children and wives. They were hospitably entertained in every house, and when they had looked at the site of the City, its walls, and its numerous buildings, they marvelled that Rome had so rapidly grown great. When the time came for the show, and people’s thoughts and eyes were busy with it, the preconcerted attack began. At a given signal the young Romans darted this way and that, to seize and carry off the maidens. In most cases these were taken by the men in whose path they chanced to be. Some, of exceptional beauty, had been marked out for the chief senators, and were carried off to their houses by plebeians to whom the office had been entrusted. One, who far excelled the rest in mien and loveliness, was seized, the story relates, by the gang of a certain Thalassius. Being repeatedly asked for whom they were bearing her off, they kept shouting that no one should touch her, for they were taking her to Thalassius, and this was the origin of the wedding-cry. The sports broke up in a panic, and the parents of the maidens fled sorrowing. They charged the Romans with the crime of violating hospitality, and invoked the gods to whose solemn games they had come, deceived in violation of religion and honour. The stolen maidens were no more hopeful of their plight, nor less indignant. But Romulus himself went amongst them and explained that the pride of their parents had caused this deed, when they had refused their neighbours the right to intermarry; nevertheless the daughters should be wedded and become co-partners in all the possessions of the Romans, in their citizenship and, dearest privilege of all to the human race, in their children; only let them moderate their anger, and give their hearts to those to whom fortune had given their persons. A sense of injury had often given place to affection, and they would find their husbands the kinder for this reason, that every man would earnestly endeavour not only to be a good husband, but also to console his wife for the home and parents she had lost. His arguments were seconded by the wooing of the men, who excused their act on the score of passion and love, the most moving of all pleas to a woman’s heart.
Credit - Livy. "History of Rome." Translated by Benjamin O. Foster, Topsongtexte