TIMELINE: ANCIENT ROME

PAGE TWO

Provides a chronological index of the history of Ancient Rome with extensive links to internet resources. Emphasis is placed upon the use of primary source material, numismatics, and a focus upon the roles of women in ancient time.

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The timeline is divided chronologically into eight sections:

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There can be nobody so petty or so apathetic in his outlook that he has no desire to discover by what means and under what system of government the Romans succeeded in...bringing under their rule almost the whole of the inhabited world. Polybius Histories 1.1.5

 

c. 449 BCE || The Laws of the Twelve Tables

The laws of the Twelve Tables are one of the earliest extant law codes. Covering both civil and criminal matters, it is commonly believed that these laws served to codify existing custom. The actual codes do not survive, nor do we have them in their entirety. The extant codes have been compiled from fragments and references to them by authors such as Cicero. Roman historians tell us that the plebeians demanded written laws in order to protect them from the caprices of patrician magistrates, and again, as in 494, protested by seceding from Rome. Some modern scholars dispute this occurrence as an actual historical event. The tables provide not only a valuable insight into Roman law, but into Roman culture as well.

Here are some excerpts:

"Quickly kill ... a dreadfully deformed child.

If a father thrice surrender a son for sale, the son shall be free from the father.

A child born ten months after the father's death will not be admitted into a legal inheritance.

Females shall remain in guardianship even when they have attained their majority ... except Vestal Virgins.

A spendthrift is forbidden to exercise administration over his own goods.

Persons shall mend roadways. If they do not keep them laid with stone, a person shall drive his beasts where he wishes.

It is permitted to gather fruit falling down on another man's farm.

If any person has sung or composed against another person a song such as was causing slander or insult to another, he shall be clubbed to death.

If a person has maimed another's limb, let there be retaliation in kind unless he makes agreement for settlement with him.

Intermarriage shall not take place between plebeians and patricians..."

 

445 BCE || The Lex Canuleia

This law, a product of the continuing struggle between Patricians and Plebeians referred to as The Conflict of the Orders, allowed Patricians and Plebeians to intermarry.

437-426 BCE || The Roman Fidenaen war

A seminal event, Rome's success in its first major wars, first against the town of Fidenae, followed by its defeat of the Etruscan city of Veii in 406-396 BCE, are seen by some historians as laying the foundation for the militaristic underpinnings of Roman society. Success in these wars allowed for its expansion of territory, and now, as a proven formidable opponent, Rome was seen as a potential danger by some, and a desired ally by others.

300 BCE || The Ogulnian law

Named after the tribunes Gnaeus and Quintus Ogulnius, this law, illustrative of a continuing class struggle which manifested various legislative, political, and social reforms, ended the near patrician monopoly over constructing laws and legal procedure. The Ogulnian law increased the number of pontiffs from four to eight, and the number of augurs from four to nine. Most importantly, it required that the new positions were to be filled by plebeians.

287 BCE || The third secession of the plebeians

As the primary sources for this event are either lost or lacking, the actual events and their consequences are largely conjecture. What we do know is that for the first time, a plebeian, Quintus Hortensius, was made dictator. The rank of dictator in this instance is constitutional and was subject to legal restrictions, and is not to be confused with the later dictatorships of Sulla, Julius Caesar, or the contemporary use of the term.

264 BCE-146 BCE || The Punic Wars

Essentially, the three Punic Wars served to enhance and secure Roman dominance in the larger Mediterranean region. Carthage, a major city-state in North Africa, was eventually destroyed by Rome, thus ending the Third Punic War. The ground of Carthage is said to have been laid with salt in order to prevent the redevelopment of agriculture.

200-118 BCE || Polybius: The Constitution of the Roman Republic

The eventual and on-going codification of the Roman constitution was mostly the product of conflict between organized segments of Roman society. Later, the brothers Tiberius and Caius Gracchus would again serve as example of this. Today they are by some seen as heroic martyrs who fought the noble battle of the common people. To the aristocrats, they were exploiters of civil unrest in a quest to foil the Republic.

c. 185 b. BCE || Cornelia Gracchus

It is unlikely that one will find a woman held in higher esteem by the Roman people than Cornelia Gracchus. Cornelia was the daughter of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Major, the conqueror of Hannibal in the Second Punic War, and wife of Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus the elder who, Plutarch tells us "had been once censor, twice consul, and twice had triumphed, yet was more renowned and esteemed for his virtue than his honours." Nevertheless, Cornelia remains famous in her own right.

Plutarch wrote that:

"after the death of Scipio who overthrew Hannibal, (Tiberius Sempronius) was thought worthy to match with his daughter Cornelia, though there had been no friendship or familiarity between Scipio and him, but rather the contrary."

| Portrait of a Young Woman | Fresco | House in Pompeii | c. 50 CE |

Cornelia bore 12 children, however only three lived to adulthood, the famous brothers Tiberius and Caius, who died championing the rights of the common people, and daughter Sempronia, wife of Scipio Aemilianus (Scipio the Younger) the destroyer of Carthage.

After the death of her husband Tiberius in 154 BCE:

"Cornelia, taking upon herself all the care of the household and the education of her children, approved herself so discreet a matron, so affectionate a mother, and so constant and noble-spirited a widow, that Tiberius seemed to all men to have done nothing unreasonable in choosing to die for such a woman; who, when King Ptolemy himself proffered her his crown, and would have married her, refused it, and chose rather to live a widow."

The Ptolemys were the rulers of Egypt, the most famous, and the last, being Cleopatra. Interestingly, we do not know for certain which Ptolemy this was. Some say Ptolemy VI Philometor, others Ptolemy VIII Euergetes. The problem is these two were joint rulers from 170 to 164 BCE, and Plutarch simply says "Ptolemy".

Tiberius, Caius, and Sempronia "she brought up with such care, that though they were without dispute in natural endowments and dispositions the first among the Romans of their time, yet they seemed to owe their virtues even more to their education than to their birth."

Cornelia is credited with inspiring her children towards civic duty, and ensuring that they obtained the education necessary to accomplish great deeds. As the attitudes towards the agrarian democratic reforms proposed by her sons ranged from outrage to admiration, so too does opinion towards Cornelia, as to whether she motivated her sons action, or sought to temper their brashness.

As Plutarch says:

"some have also charged Cornelia, the mother of Tiberius, with contributing towards it, because she frequently upbraided her sons, that the Romans as yet rather called her the daughter of Scipio, than the mother of the Gracchi."

Cornelia lived in a period of political turmoil, of which her family was often the center. Clearly Cornelia exercised political influence. Her son Caius "proposed two laws. The first was, that whoever was turned out of any public office by the people, should be thereby rendered incapable of bearing any office afterwards; the second, that if any magistrate condemn a Roman to be banished without a legal trial, the people be authorized to take cognizance thereof.

One of these laws was manifestly leveled at Marcus Octavius, who, at the instigation of Tiberius, had been deprived of his tribuneship. The other touched Popilius, who, in his praetorship, had banished all Tiberius's friends; whereupon Popilius, being unwilling to stand the hazard of a trial, fled out of Italy. As for the former law, it was withdrawn by Caius himself, who said he yielded in the case of Octavius, at the request of his mother Cornelia."

The Roman citizenry "had a great veneration for Cornelia, not more for the sake of her father than for that of her children; and they afterwards erected a statue of brass in honour of her, with this inscription, Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi."

Plutarch ends his Life of Caius Gracchus with an eloquent description of Cornelia:

"It is reported that as Cornelia, their mother, bore the loss of her two sons with a noble and undaunted spirit, so, in reference to the holy places in which they were slain, she said, their dead bodies were well worthy of such sepulchres. She removed afterwards, and dwelt near the place called Misenum, not at all altering her former way of living. She had many friends, and hospitably received many strangers at her house; many Greeks and learned men were continually about her; nor was there any foreign prince but received gifts from her and presented her again. Those who were conversant with her, were much interested, when she pleased to entertain them with her recollections of her father Scipio Africanus, and of his habits and way of living. But it was most admirable to hear her make mention of her sons, without any tears or sign of grief, and give the full account of all their deeds and misfortunes, as if she had been relating the history of some ancient heroes. This made some imagine, that age, or the greatness of her afflictions, had made her senseless and devoid of natural feelings. But they who so thought were themselves more truly insensible not to see how much a noble nature and education avail to conquer any affliction; and though fortune may often be more successful, and may defeat the efforts of virtue to avert misfortunes, it cannot, when we incur them, prevent our hearing them reasonably."

The timeline is divided chronologically into eight sections:

This symbol indicates a link to a primary source text

Click here to learn the real story

behind the events and characters portrayed in the movie Gladiator.

Kindly report any suggestions, problems, errors, or dead links by emailing david(at)exovedate.com

Copyright © David Neelin: All Rights Reserved

Using info from this site?

For detailed copyright information and bibliographic citation, click here

contact the author by emailing david(at)exovedate.com (note: replace (at) with the @ symbol)