Roman Empire


The Emperor’s Babe by Bernardine Evaristo

Bernardine Evaristo’s tale of forbidden love in bustling third-century London is an intoxicating cocktail of poetry, history, and fiction. Feisty, precocious Zuleika, daughter of Sudanese immigrants-made-good and restless teenage bride of a rich Roman businessman, craves passion and excitement. When she begins an affair with the emperor, Septimius Severus, she knows her life will never be the same. Streetwise, seductive, and lyrical, with a lively, affecting heroine, The Emperor’s Babe is a strikingly imaginative historical novel-in-verse.

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shadow-of-a asked:

Is there any evidence for Europeans or sub-Saharan Africans in east Asia before Marco Polo? Honestly, your blog does seem like revisionist history.

It’s funny how you ask that as if you already know the answer. Hmm, could it possibly be because you’ve already decided any evidence that exists is insufficient before you’ve even seen it? No wonder, if you’re also using “revisionist” as an unqualified pejorative.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. History is constantly being revised. Revision is the only way it can lay any claim to truth in the long term, since we are always finding new objects, new information is being discovered, and new scholars are entering the discipline with diverse perspectives and making new connections. Revision also means we need to unearth the prejudices of the past, as well as those of the present, and analyze the way it affects how we write and think about our histories. Who we are affects what we believe is “relevant”; our lived experiences and culture affect what we believe has value and importance.

Acting like histories written fifty or a hundred years ago should remain carved in stone as if they’re sacred is patently ridiculous. We don’t believe that for medicine, or law. There are always new discoveries, new evidence, new people working today to take into account, and adjust our knowledge accordingly in order to serve society better. The problem is that most of what I post is known to academia, it’s just dispersed throughout several different disciplines and sub-disciplines, and pushed aside as exceptions to a dominant narrative that is preserved, not in academia, but in popular culture and the media we produce and consume.

If you’d looked at the bibliography for this blog, or the link dumps, or the resources tag, or the static resources page, or just used google instead of scoffing in my inbox with ideas you’re soooo suuure are completely ridiculous, you’d have seen there is evidence, plenty of it, and it’s becoming a more explored and documented topic every day.

You can read about trade routes between the Roman Empire and Asia in Antiquity here:

Long-distance trade played a major role in the cultural, religious, and artistic exchanges that took place between the major centers of civilization in Europe and Asia during antiquity. Some of these trade routes had been in use for centuries, but by the beginning of the first century A.D., merchants, diplomats, and travelers could (in theory) cross the ancient world from Britain and Spain in the west to China and Japan in the east. 

You can read more about the actual routes used and their accessibility here:

You can read even more about trade and cultural exchange between various Empires in the East and the West here:

By the end of the first century B.C., there was a great expansion of international trade involving five contiguous powers: the Roman empire, the Parthian empire, the Kushan empire, the nomadic confederation of the Xiongnu, and the Han empire. Although travel was arduous and knowledge of geography imperfect, numerous contacts were forged as these empires expanded—spreading ideas, beliefs, and customs among heterogeneous peoples—and as valuable goods were moved over long distances through trade, exchange, gift giving, and the payment of tribute. Transport over land was accomplished using river craft and pack animals, notably the sturdy Bactrian camel. Travel by sea depended on the prevailing winds of the Indian Ocean, the monsoons, which blow from the southwest during the summer months and from the northeast in the fall.

You can read an exploration of a relatively new translation from a 3rd Century Chinese explorer who called the Roman Empire “a land ruled by minor kings” here:

This country (the Roman Empire) has more than four hundred smaller cities and towns. It extends several thousand li in all directions. The king has his capital (that is, the city of Rome) close to the mouth of a river (the Tiber). The outer walls of the city are made of stone.

…The ruler of this country is not permanent. When disasters result from unusual phenomena, they unceremoniously replace him, installing a virtuous man as king, and release the old king, who does not dare show resentment.

The common people are tall and virtuous like the Chinese, but wear hu (‘Western’) clothes. They say they originally came from China, but left it.

I mean, you’re talking about people moving from east Asia to Europe, which can be achieved simply by walking far enough. The Silk Road has been in use for millennia, and before that, its prehistoric version, the Steppe Road, has evidence for even earlier travelers buried deep under it.

This isn’t new, and it isn’t some kind of secret. From the perspective of World History, the ease and ubiquity of trade between Europe, Asia, and Africa means we should consider the development of those areas as an interdependent network:

World historians are becoming increasingly aware of the underlying unity of Afro-Eurasian history. Andre Gunder Frank and Barry Gills have argued that the entire Afro-Eurasian region belonged to a single “world-system” from perhaps as early as 2000 B.C.E. And William McNeill and Jerry Bentley have recently restated the case for a unified Afro-Eurasian history. But Marshall Hodgson had made the same point as early as the 1950s, when he argued that “historical life, from early times at least till two or three centuries ago, was continuous across the Afro-Eurasian zone of civilization; that zone was ultimately indivisible… The whole of the Afro-Eurasian zone is the only context large enough to provide a framework for answering the more general and more basic historical questions that can arise.

If you’re concerned with the logistics of travel, well, there’s actually an entire interactive map for that. ORBIS is the Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World, and you can input where you’d like to go and your modes of travel, and it can give you a route and how long it would take you, depending on how much money you have to spend versus how much effort you’re willing to put forth.

As for “sub-saharan Africa”, Mediterranean Europe became rather dependent on the wealth of gold and salt that came from Ghana and Western Sudan. If you’re curious about the history of the Tran-Saharan Gold trade, you can read more about it here:

 From the eighth century onward, annual trade caravans followed routes later described by Arabic authors with minute attention to detail. Gold, sought from the western and central Sudan, was the main commodity of the trans-Saharan trade. The traffic in gold was spurred by the demand for and supply of coinage. The rise of the Soninke empire of Ghana appears to be related to the beginnings of the trans-Saharan gold trade in the fifth century.

From the seventh to the eleventh century, trans-Saharan trade linked the Mediterranean economies that demanded gold—and could supply salt—to the sub-Saharan economies, where gold was abundant. Although local supply of salt was sufficient in sub-Saharan Africa, the consumption of Saharan salt was promoted for trade purposes.

This is an image of Mansa Musa, ruler of the Malian Empire. He made that particular journey himself, as far as Cairo, where his exorbitant wealth broke the local economy just from his presence:

The flow of sub-Saharan gold to the northeast probably occurred in a steady but small stream. Mansa Musa’s arrival in Cairo carrying a ton of the metal (1324–25) caused the market in gold to crash, suggesting that the average supply was not as great. Undoubtedly, some of this African gold was also used in Western gold coins. African gold was indeed so famous worldwide that a Spanish map of 1375 represents the king of Mali holding a gold nugget. When Mossi raids destroyed the Mali empire, the rising Songhai empire relied on the same resources. Gold remained the principal product in the trans-Saharan trade, followed by kola nuts and slaves. The Moroccan scholar Leo Africanus, who visited Songhai in 1510 and 1513, observed that the governor of Timbuktu owned many articles of gold, and that the coin of Timbuktu was made of gold without any stamp or superscription.

So…are we still just gonna say I’m making stuff up? Because the fact is, I could keep going. In fact, I have been for more than two years now. The Tumblr alone here has more the 5,000 posts, because I keep finding more evidence that the dominant narrative of racial and cultural isolation in the past, especially the middle ages, is blatantly false. That this dominant narrative is perpetuated through whitewashed media, wildly mis-cast films, popular fiction and even textbooks that have been subject to financial and political pressures to conform to a white supremacist narrative, rather than showing a broad perspective of world history, especially in the case of Europe’s involvement in an interdependent global history.

Who were the 99% in Ancient Rome?

Most of the information about Rome and Roman society comes from the 1.5% who had wealth, power, and literacy. The rest, the vast majority of citizens, we know next to nothing about. But we have their skeletons.  Most were buried anonymously outside the city, without epitaphs and often without grave goods to tell us who they were or what they did. Their skeletons are as anonymous in death as in life. There are between 10,000 and 20,000 plebeian skeletons languishing in Italian warehouses, without funding  or interest in investigating them.

Now, Kristina Killgrove, an archaeologist from Vanderbilt University, wants to tell their story by sequencing their DNA, and she is raising donations to do it. Since 2007, Killgrove has been studying 200 skeletons recovered from lower-class graves excavated outside Rome’s city walls. She looks at the chemical isotopes from their water, food and environment into their bones and teeth. Using modern science, she can reconstruct to a degree what they ate, where they came from, and much more. For instance, strontium and oxygen isotope levels revealed that a third of them had immigrated to Rome after their childhood, and thereafter lived similar lives to Roman-born people. To learn more about her research, and maybe donate to her project, check out Kristina’s blog, or her website Roman DNA Project


history meme: 01/03 inventions whatever i want | The Prætorian Guard

The Praetorian Guard was a tremendously powerful faction in Rome, originally created by the Emperor Augustus as his personal “secret service” bodyguards. Equal parts secret service, special forces and urban administrators, Rome’s Praetorian Guard was one of the ancient world’s most prestigious military units, an elite recruitment of Roman citizens and Latins, known to engage in espionage, intimidation, arrests and killings to protect the interests of the Roman emperor.

But even if the Praetorians’ may have been tasked with protecting the Roman Emperor, they were also the single greatest threat to his life. The unit was a major player in the webs of deceit that characterized imperial Rome, and they were willing to slaughter and install new emperors when tempted by promises of money or power. Disgruntled Praetorians famously engineered the assassination of Caligula and the selection of Claudius as his successor in A.D. 41. Among others, the Guard also played a part in the murder of Commodus in 192, Caracalla in 217, Elagabalus in 222 and Pupienus and Balbinus in 238. In some cases, the Praetorians were partially responsible for both installing and murdering a would-be emperor. Likewise, Emperor Pertinax was confirmed by the Praetorians in 193 and then slain just three months later when he tried to force them to accept new disciplinary measures.

After murdering Emperor Pertinax, the Praetorian Guard tried to cash in on the power vacuum by placing the Roman throne on the auction block. Following a brief bidding war between former consul Didius Julianus and Pertinax’s father-in-law, the Praetorians reportedly sold control of the Empire to Julianus for the enormous sum of 25,000 Roman sesterces per man. The incident is one of the most notorious episodes in the unit’s history, but some historians argue that this account of is overblown.

When Constantine the Great, launching an invasion of Italy in 312, forced a confrontation with the Emperor Maxentius, the Praetorian cohorts made up most of the army; Maxentius was defeated and died on the field. Later in Rome, the victorious Constantine definitively disbanded the remnants of the Praetorian Guard. The soldiers were sent out to various corners of the Empire, and the Castra Praetoria were dismantled.


Petrus Apianus. Astronomicum Caesareum (The Emperor’s Astronomy). 1540.

The ‘Emperor’s Astronomy’ (dedicated to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) elegantly depicts the cosmos and heavens according to the 1400-year-old Ptolemaic system, which maintained that the sun revolved around the earth. By means of hand-colored maps and moveable paper parts (volvelles), Petrus Apianus (1495-1552) laid out the mechanics of a universe that was earth and human centered. Within three years of Apianus’s book, this view was challenged by Copernicus’s assertion that the earth revolved around the sun, making this elaborate publication outdated. -LOC

How to be a Successful Roman Epic Poet (after Virgil): A Guide for the Perplexed
  • Be sure to begin your epic with a nauseatingly sycophantic address to the reigning Emperor.  (“Humble worm that I am, I would never dream of singing of you, o great Caesar; your virtue is too vast, your deeds too amazing, and have I mentioned how well your new toga brings out the color of your eyes?”)
  • Never, under any circumstances, address a given character by his or her actual name.  Instead, use an obscure genealogical reference that’s guaranteed to send your reader scrambling for the nearest mythology handbook.  (“And so Coronis’ noble grandson drew his sword and challenged the stout-hearted nephew of Inachus to battle, while Theseus’ second cousin’s step-sister’s former gym teacher watched in awe…”)
  • When describing a scene that takes place at night or in the Underworld, pile up as many synonyms for “dark” as humanly possible.  (“Atra nox caeca erat et opaca, plena umbris fuscis et tenebris obscuris, sine ulla luce…”)
  • Constantly change singular nouns into plurals for the sake of the meter, even when the resulting sentence makes no sense whatsoever.  (“The mighty eagle plucked at Prometheus’ livers, and he shook his heads in agony…”)
  • Spice up your narrative with bombastic similes referring to peoples who live beyond the boundaries of the Empire.  The less they have to do with reality, the better.  (“Learning of his brother’s betrayal, Polynices raged with the ferocity of the far-off Hyrcanians, who wear floral-print muu-muus and hunt their prey astride velociraptors, if the tales I hear be true…”)
  • And above all, remember: obscurity is your friend; clarity, your mortal enemy.  If you haven’t left generations of irritated readers and squabbling textual critics in your wake, you haven’t really done your job.

Inhabited since prehistoric times, Butrint has been the site of a Greek colony, a Roman city and a bishopric. The settlement became an important stop along the merchant trade routes and reached the height of its glory in the 300s BCE as one of the major maritime and commercial centers of the ancient world. The sight of the fortifications alone, which date from the 500s BCE, evokes the military and economic potential of the city at the time. The amphitheater (pictured in the image gallery) dates from the 200s BCE, and held nearly 1,500 people. Under the rule of the Romans the city was allowed to slowly fall into decay. In the palaeo-Christian period, two basilicas and a baptistry were built. Butrint’s later medieval history was turbulent. The town was involved, first, in the power struggles between Byzantium and successive Norman, Angevin and Venetian states and then the town was dragged int0 the conflict between Venice and the Ottoman Turks. Under Ottoman administration, the marshes that had grown around the nearby lake poisoned the city’s underground water supply. Butrint was abandoned, and left for the forests and marsh to cover its ancient and medieval ruins. (Photography credit to Pete Heck and Ko Hon Chiu Vincent)

Glass dish unearthed in Nara came from Roman Empire

KASHIHARA, Nara Prefecture–A glass dish unearthed from a burial mound here is the first of its kind confirmed to have come to Japan from the Roman Empire, a research team said.

A round cut glass bowl, discovered with the glass plate, was found to have originated in Sassanid Persia (226-651), the researchers said.

The dish and bowl were retrieved together from the No. 126 tumulus of the Niizawa Senzuka cluster of ancient graves, a national historic site. The No. 126 tumulus dates back to the late fifth century.

The researchers’ scientific studies show that fifth-century Japan imported glasswork, and that there was a wide range of trade between the East and the West. Read more.

The Roses of Heliogabalus by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. 1888. Oil on canvas. Private collection.

M. Aurelius Antoninus, known to history as Elagabalus or Heliogabalus, reigned as Roman emperor from 218 to 222 A.D. after the death of the emperor Caracalla, his mother’s cousin. He held the hereditary priesthood of the sun god Elagabalus at Emesa in Syria and stirred resentment when he tried to make the deity the supreme god of the Roman Empire. The emperor also married (and divorced and then took back) the Vestal Virgin Aquilia Severa before being murdered and replaced by his cousin Severus Alexander

This famous painting by the Dutch-born British artist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema is based on the story that Elagabalus killed his courtiers at a banquet by covering them in petals, as told in the Historia Augusta:

“In a banqueting-room with a reversible ceiling he once overwhelmed his parasites with violets and other flowers, so that some were actually smothered to death, being unable to crawl out to the top.” 


 roman modern au fall of the republic, rise of the empire . idris elba as julius caesar; sean teale as marcus junius brutus; lindsey morgan as cleopatra vii; bob morley as marc antony and nathan stewart-jarrett as octavian/augustus.

“he wants to be a fucking king, i’m telling you. him and his whore and his dogs. and the people! the people bloody love him.” “then i guess this settles it, eh? let’s kill caesar