roman intellectual history

Roman Intellectual
…because sometimes bread and
circuses just aren’t enough.
“How much greater and more glorious
to have enlarged the limits
of the Roman mind
than the boundaries
of Roman rule”
-Julius Caesar to Cicero
• Italic language spoken by people in Latium
• The language of the Romans has become the
foundation for French, Spanish, Italian,
• Latin is still the language of the Catholic
• Although we generally use Arabic numbers,
we still use the Roman alphabet
• How many Latin phrases can you think of?
How many English words
can you create out of
these Latin prefixes?
• ambi- around, about, on both sides [ambbefore vowels]
• circum- around
• extra- {variant, extro-} outside, beyond
• post- behind, after
• inter- among, between, at intervals, mutually,
each other
• super- over, above, excessively, beyond
• trans- across, over, beyond, through
• Romans were more well known for their
literature than their philosophy
(43 BCE-18 CE)
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• Born in provincial Italy to a family of the
equestrian order - father wanted him to pursue
politics and law so sent him to study in Rome
• Metamorphoses is an epic poem that tells stories
about the transformations of humans and
nymphs into animals, plants, etc.
• It spans the emergence of the cosmos from
formless mass to the organized, material world,
to the deification of Julius Caesar
• Unlike other epics, it does not follow the journey
of a protagonist, it is more like a collection of
variations on a theme, a complex web of
• Wrote love poetry - Amoris and Ars Amatoria,
• Also wrote Heroides, a collection of epistles
wherein women (Penelope, Dido, Ariadne)
address their heroic lovers who have in some
way mistreated, neglected, or abandoned
• Some regard it as “fluff” but it gives us insight
into the side of Roman society less
concerned with gravitas.
• Ovid was exiled by Augustus, said his crime
was "a poem and a mistake"
Virgil (70-19 BCE)
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• Grew up on a farm in northern Italy
• Most famous work: Aeneid (12 books)
• This epic poem was commissioned by
Augustus. Hoped it would unite the Roman
people and increase patriotism after years of
civil war
• Romans saw their own struggle and
acheievement mirrored in Aeneas’ heroic
journey, and cemented their connection with
Classical Greece and its gods (Aeneas is the
son of Venus and a mortal man)
Livy (59 BCE- 17 CE)
• Lived at the same time as Augustus. Born in the provinces.
• Most important work: History of Rome from its Foundation
(between 26 BCE and 17 CE) - huge book, equivalent to over
9,000 modern pages - 142 volumes
• Serious, moralizing tone - claimed that the Romans had
suffered at the hands of history because they had been immoral.
They have conquered the world but lost their soul:
Let him note how, with the gradual relaxation of
discipline, morals first subsided, as it were, then
sank lower and lower, and finally began the
downward plunge which has brought us to our
present time, when we can endure neither our vices
nor their cure.
• Men had to be courageous and take responsibility for public
live; chastity and life at home were a woman's tasks, which were
equally important.
• Rhetorical skill, often inserts speeches to help
create a psychological portrait of his subjects
• Chronological arrangement - year by year
• Concerned with the truth, not imperial
• Attempts to be comprehensive, based on a
compilation of older Greek & Roman sources
• Born in Spain, son of a wealthy family
• Father was a teacher of rhetoric, sent to school in Rome and
Egypt where he got a good philosophical education and became
a stoic
• Got on the bad side of Caligula and Claudius,(who exiled him)
but came back to favour under Nero
• Nero implicated him in an attempted assassination conspiracy
and ordered him to commit suicide by bleeding to death in a
• Early Christians saw this as a baptism, believed he had been
converted by St. Paul
• His tragedies, often emphasizing gloom and horror in Greek
mythological subjects, are highly influential in Medieval and
Renaissance drama - Shakespeare, Chaucer, Thomas Kidd
claim him as an inspiration
• Satire: holds society up for ridicule
– Horace: playful and tolerant
– Juvenal: abrasive and pessimistic
• Satiric devices include irony, humour,
exaggeration, deflation
Juvenal (55-128 AD)
• His satires exposed folly and corruption
• Angered people, including the emperor
Domitian, who exiled him in 93
• Juvenal's poetry gives us important insight
into what it was like to live in Rome
• One of the few Roman writers who showed a
genuine concern for the poor.
• It is usually assumed that he tended to
exaggerate in order to make people laugh.
Therefore, as historical evidence, Juvenal's
poetry has to be used with caution
This one, of course is
entirely true…
Juvenal, Satire VII (c. AD 125)
What schoolmaster, even the most successful,
commands a proper return for his labours?... What's
more, parents demand quite impossible standards from
any master... They'll waylay him on the way to the public
baths, and expect him to answer their questions. Straight
off the cuff - who was Anchises' nurse, what was the
name of Anchemolus' stepmother, and where did she
come from? How old was Acestes when he died?... He
must, they insist, be a father to all his pupils, and stop
them getting up to tricks... "See to it," you're told, "and
when the school year's ended, you'll get as much as a
jockey makes from a single race."
Horace (65 BCE-6 CE)
• Horace was born in Venusia in south-east Italy in 65 BC. His
father was an ex-slave who later became a successful
• After the assassination of Julius Caesar, Horace became a
senior officer in Brutus' army. When Brutus was defeated by
Octavian in 42 BC, Horace's family's property was confiscated.
• Forced to earn a living as a scribe, he spent his spare time
writing poetry. His work was brought to the attention of
Maecenas, (Emperor Augustus' unofficial Minister of
Propaganda). Horace was given a villa and financial help so that
he could write full-time.
• Horace's work reflects strong support for the achievements of
Augustus, and occasionally attacks government enemies such
as Mark Antony and Cleopatra.
This girl really knows her stuff…you guys had
better get to work!
“Let justice be done though the heavens fall”
- Roman saying
- One of Rome’s greatest legacies is its
commitment to the rule of law and justice
- These ideas have shaped western civilization
and continue to in the present
Justinian Code
• From the original Twelve Tables (450 BCE), the code had
grown into thousands of laws that ordered life in Rome and
in the whole empire.
• In A.D. 528 the Emperor Justinian began a review of the
old Roman laws. The emperor chose ten men to review
1,600 books full of Roman Law and create a simpler legal
code. These men were able to create the Justinian Code
with just over 4,000 laws.
• Laws are divided into 4 books
I. Rights Of Persons.
II. Rights Of Things.
III. Private Injuries And Actions.
IV. Crimes And Punishments.
Impact of Justinian Code
• The laws seem to have disappeared during
the “dark ages” but resurfaced in Medieval
period and became the foundation of civic law
• Also influenced Canon Law of the Catholic
• Solidifies the status of Christianity as the
state religion - provisions against heresy and
Science - Medicine
• The Romans started by learning what the Greeks thought about
medicine, and in fact most Roman doctors were from Greece, or
of Greek origin.
• The most important Roman doctor was Galen whose book about
medicine was the main medical book that doctors used in Europe
for the next thousand years and more.
• Galen repeated a lot of Hippocrates' work on the four humors, but
he also added a lot of observations about how the human body
worked that he learned from looking at internal anatomy. He saw
the insides of people by looking at wounded soldiers and
• Galen certainly knew more about anatomy than Hippocrates did that the heart pushed blood around the body, for instance, that
nerves controlled the movement of the body, and that people
thought with their brains.
Pliny the Elder
“The fortunate man, in my opinion, is he to whom the gods
have granted the power either to do something which is
worth recording or to write what is worth reading, and most
fortunate of all is he who can do both. Such a man was my
- Pliny the Younger, Letters 6.16.3
• Born into a wealthy equestrian family
• Sent to Rome to study, then traveled extensively
as a soldier in wars against Gallic and Germanic
• Most famous work is the encyclopedic Natural
History. Includes geography, astronomy, zoology,
anthropology, botany, horticulture, medicine,
magic, geology etc.
• Died investigating the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius
The original Roman calendar was said to be invented by Romulus,
around 753 BCE.
Started the year in March (Martius) and consisted of 10 months, with 6
months of 30 days and 4 months of 31 days.
The winter season was not assigned to any month, so the calendar
year only lasted 304 days with 61 days unaccounted for in the winter.
Calendar of Romulus:
Martius - 31 Days
Aprilis - 30 Days
Maius - 31 Days
Iunius - 30 Days
Quintilis - 31 Days
Sextilis - 30 Days
September - 30 Days
October - 31 Days
November - 30 Days
December - 30 Days
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Julian Calendar (45 BCE)
• Julius Caesar consulted with an Alexandrian
astronomer named Sosigenes to create a
more regulated civil calendar based entirely
on the Earth's revolutions around the sun.
• The Julian calendar has a regular (common)
year of 365 days divided into 12 months with
a leap day added to the month of February
every four years (leap year).
• Replaced by the Gregorian Calendar in 1582
- a few modifications in leap year calculations