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Research - Ancient Rome - Emperor Constantine

The leaders of Rome faced many trials and deceptions especially as the empire grew larger and more power and the rise of Emperor Constantine was no exception.

Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus, or Constantine, was born on February 27th 272 AD to Constantius Chlorus (an important military figure in Diocletian's army) and mother Helena (a Greek).

As a child he lived in the emperor Diocletian's household along with the other co-emperors' children. Life in the household was strict and emphasis was placed on citizenship. Diocletian persecuted Christians and forced the people to worship his Pagan gods; those who did not make sacrifices for the gods were put to death. In 303 AD, the "Great Persecution" took place where all known Christians were put to death, usually with a fake trial and public execution.

When Diocletian falls ill, Constantine finds himself shut out of the royal inheritance and returns to his father's side in Gaul. Together, they fight the Picts (in present-day Scotland), but Constantius falls ill and dies. Constantine takes over leadership of the troops and they continue to battle barbarians.

Maxentius, one of Diocletian's co-emperors, siezes power of Rome but becomes power-hungry and murders another co-emperor. He begins to choke the people of Rome and they eventually revolt.

Constantine takes advantage of the situation and arranges a partnership with a leader of the eastern territories, Licinious, and promises to split the empire with him if they get rid of Maxentius. As a guarantee of their partnership, Constantine arranges a marriage with his half-sister, Constantia, to Licinious.

They scare off the tyrant and divide the empire (east and west). But Maxentius is not ready to disappear completely and a battle between the three ensues eventually ending at the Milvian Bridge where Maxentius drowns.

Together, Constantine and Licinious issued the Edict of Milan in 313 which proclaimed religious tolerance throughout the empire. This is the first time in Roman hisotry that the faith of the people is shared with the emperor. In 337 AD, Constantine is officially baptized.

Now, Licinious begins to feel hunger for more power (as most co-emperors do) and the two battle. Finally, after a long campaign, Licinious is imprisoned in Nicomedia, punished, exiled, and finally executed. The empire is now united. Constantine makes the new capital Constantinople.

Constantine also makes his heir, Crispus (son of his first wife), junior emperor of the west, much to the irritation of his new wife, Fausta (because she wants her own sons to be emperors). So Fausta tricks Constantine into thinking his son has sinned against him and exiles him (to be executed). When he learns she has tricked him, Constantine has her executed but, sadly, is too late to save his son.

He continues to pursue his newfound religion and builds many churches and the infamous Basilica of St Peter.

Constantine died May 22, 337 AD in Nicomedia.




Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire:

Picture Credits:

Research - Ancient Rome - The Baths of Caracalla

One of the largest and most lavish baths in roman history was the Baths of Caracalla (also known as Thermae Antoninianae) dedicated in 216 AD by Emperor Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Augustus (nicknamed Caracalla) (the older son of Emperor Septimus). Caracalla was assinated in 217 AD (at the young age of 29).

The baths fell out of use in the 6th century when the aqueduct was destroyed during a Gothic invasion of Rome.

The exact numbers of laborers varies, but it is estimated that around 13,000 prisoners of war were used to prepare and level the building site (which was upon a hill). An estimated 6,000 tradesmen performed the majority of the construction, while 600 specialty workers (marble workers) created the ornamentation and statues.

Wikipedia has a great listing of the estimated amounts of stones used, many of which were imported:
Pozzolanna: 341,000 m³
Quick lime: 35,000 m³
Tuff: 341,000 m³
Basalt for foundations: 150,000 m³
Brick pieces for facing: 17.5 million
Large Bricks: 520,000
Marble columns in Central block: 252
Marble for columns and decorations: 6,300 m³

The floors were covered with mosaics - some black and white and others brightly colored from imported stones (yellow, green, purple, grey, pink).

There were also marble statues throughout the bath - such as these two. The first is the Farnese Hercules and the second is the Farnese Bull (portraying the binding of Dirce to a mad bull). One statue of Asclepius was over 4 meters tall.

1600 people could visit the bath at a time. As you can imagine, the baths must have been very noisy. There are written accounts of visitors complaining about the deafening level of noises.

Bathing and going to the bathroom were open and public - people did not feel the same modesty that we do today. Toilets were out in the open. Waste was carried out of the latrines through a channel of water that led to a sewer system.

People could exercise in the open courtyards (palaestra) - clothed or nude. The areas measured 1,076 x 1,315 ft (328X400m). Men typically lifted weights, wrestled, or played hand ball while women tended to swim in the large outdoor pools (called natatio) or play Trochus (a game where the player would roll a metal hoop with a stick).

Visitors could change their clothes in the Apodyterium (changing/dressing room). They kept their items in little cubbies or cubicles that had no locks. A capsarius, a slave attending the cubicles, could watch the belongings for a fee. The wealthy brought their own slaves to watch their stuff, carry their bath supplies, etc.

After working up a sweat, the visitor would then head to the tepidarium (warm water bath) before going to the caldarium (hot water bath) and then finally the frigidarium (cold water bath).

The caldarium measured 115 ft wide (35 meters) and topped with a dome. The waters were heated by an underground furnace in a system called a hypocaust. The hot steam would move through the floor and between the walls, escaping out hollowed-out spaces. It was stoked with wood by slaves. The heated pool was about 3 feet deep. A slave might pour cool water over the visitor in a dish called a patara to keep them from overheating.

The frigidarium measured 183 ft x 79 ft (55.7 meters x 24 meters).

Bathers didn't use soap but were anointed with oil and had their dirt scraped off with metal tools (a process called strigiling). Seems gross now, but back then they enjoyed it. There are some cultures today that use scraping as a form of therapy for illnesses, leaving a person's torso or back red with scratches before applying stinging "healing" ointment.

In addition to scraping off dirt, the workers would pluck hair off the visitor's body since hairless bodies were en vogue. Sounds painful. They could also get massages.

There were other forms of entertainment available. Two libraries, one of Latin writings and one of Greek writings, were available as well as a theatre for poetry reading or plays. There were also shops, restaurants or cafes, an athletic track, gardens, salons, museums and music rooms.

Interestingly, people during this period thought going to the baths made them healthier, but quite the opposite was true. People who were ill shared the same bath water, so diseases such as tuberculosis, bowel issues, lice, typhus, and even malaria were spread here. In the second century, Emperor Hadrian imposed specific hours for bathers with illnesses (which probably really didn't matter since the diseases could live in the warm waters for long periods of time - ewww!)


PBS - Interactive Tour


A View on Cities

Wikipedia - Baths of Caracalla

Wikipedia - Caracalla

Italy Guides


Every day life in Ancient Rome:

Ancient Mysteries - Incredible Monuments of Rome:

When Rome Ruled:

Photo credits:

MrJennings - http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrjennings/120267581/

Research - Ancient Rome - Quick History of Rome

Perhaps this should have been the first topic, but it seems to fit well after a small taste of Roman culture - the gladiators and the infamous Colosseum.

Legend says that Rome was named after the god Romulus who killed his twin brother, Remus, both orphaned and raised by a wolf mother. The spot on the hill where they were raised by the she-wolf became the founding point of the city.

Rome was founded on Palatine Hill (8th century BC) amid a wet, swampy area that was rife with malaria. How ironic, that from such humble beginnings, Rome grew into the most powerful civilization in the ancient world. Palantine Hill also became the favorite spot for emperors to live.

600 BC, construction of the permanent city began; channels of open drains were cut to remove the excess water and were later covered.

Around 500 BC, the infamous Roman Republic was formed.

27 BC - Rome's first emperor, Augustus, gains power, starting the "golden age". He reportedly said he found Rome a city of bricks and turned it into a city of marble, which he certainly tried with all his building projects.

The empire stretched over 2 million square miles.

There were several reasons why Roman influence was able to spread so quickly.

First, the Roman army was well-organized, disciplined and modernized. The technique of forming lines of shields to fight helped them conquer unorganized "barbarians". That's not to say Roman armies won all the battles they fought but they won enough to become powerful.

Second, the appeal of Roman culture led many to surrender in exchange for a taste of the finer things - such as wine and olive oil. This is why there are Roman baths throughout England.

Third, Rome was very willing to give citizenship. Citizenship had its priviledges, which appealed to "barbarians" who otherwise had no rights in their own countries.

Around the First Century AD, Rome had over a million people - possibly one of the most populus cities in the world at this time.

By the Second Century AD, there were over 60 million people living in the Roman Empire, making it one of the greatest in the western world.

To compare, today there is about 2.8 million people living in Rome.

At its height, Rome was the richest city on Earth. Most of their wealth came from conquering and plundering villages or from taxes they collected from their conquered barbarians.

In 476 AD, the last emperor was overthrown, chaos ensued and Rome fell apart. The population dropped from over a million to about 100,000 and without proper maintenance, the aqueducts dried up and buildings fell into disrepair.

We'll talk about the emperors in more detail later...


Official Site of Rome

Wikipedia - History of Rome

History Learning Site

Map courtesy of Wikipedia