2. Beginnings of Rome
3. Institutions of Early Rome
4. Etruscan Kings of Rome
5. Reorganization of Kingdom

6. Struggle against Kingship
7. Struggle for Economic Rights
8. Struggle for Equal Laws
9. Struggle for Political Equality
10. Conquest of Latium
11. Conquest of Central Italy
12. Conquest of Southern Italy
13. Supremacy of Rome in Italy
14. First Punic War
15. Second Punic War
16. Conquests in East
17. Reduction of Roman Conquests
18. Rome as a World Power
19. Times of Gracchi
20. Times of Marius and Sulla
21. Times of Pompey and Caesar
22. Times of Antony and Octavius

23. Reign of Augustus
24. Julian Emperors
25. Flavian Emperors
26. Five Good Emperors
27. Decline of Empire
28. Reorganization of Empire
29. Extinction of Western Empire
Outlines of Roman History
by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L.
New York, Cincinnati, Chicago: American Book Company (1901).



Table of contents




The Disputed Succession, I.The Reign of Vespasian (A.D. 69-79), II.The Reign of Titus (A.D. 79-81), III.Life and Manners of the Romans, IV.The Reign of Domitian (A.D. 81-96), V.


   Extinction of the Julian Line.—With the death of Nero, the imperial line which traced its descent from Julius Caesar and Augustus became extinct. We are now about to discover one of the great defects of the empire as established by Augustus. With all his prudence, Augustus had failed to provide a definite law of succession. In theory the appointment of a successor depended upon the choice of the senate, with which he was supposed to share his power. But in fact it depended quite as much upon the army, upon which his power rested for support. Whether the appointment was made by the senate or by the army, the choice had hitherto always fallen upon some member of the Julian family. But with the extinction of the Julian line, the imperial office was open to anyone.

   The War of Succession.—Under such circumstances we could hardly expect anything else than a contest for the throne. Not only the praetorian guards, but the legions in the field, claimed the right to name the successor. The rival claims of different armies to place their favorite generals on the throne led to a brief period of civil war—the first to break the long peace established by Augustus.

   Galba (A.D. 68-69).—At the time of Nero’s death, the Spanish legions had already selected their commander, Galba, for the position of emperor. Advancing upon Rome, this general was accepted by the praetorians and approved by the senate. He was a man of high birth, and with a good military record. But his career was a brief one. The legions on the Rhine revolted against him. The praetorians were discontented with his severity and small donations: He soon found a rival in Otho, the husband of the infamous Poppaea Sabina who had disgraced the reign of Nero. Otho enlisted the support of the praetorians, and Galba was murdered to give place to his rival.

   Otho (A.D. 69).—The brief space of three months, during which Otho was emperor, cannot be called a reign, but only an attempt to reign. On his accession the new aspirant to the throne found his right immediately disputed by the legions of Spain and Gaul, which proclaimed Vitellius. The armies of these two rivals met in northern Italy, and fortune declared in favor of Vitellius.

   Vitellius (A.D. 69).—No sooner had Vitellius begun to revel in the luxuries of the palace, than the standard of revolt was again raised, this time by the legions of the East in favor of their able and popular commander, Vespasian. The events of the previous contest were now repeated; and on the same battlefield in northern Italy where Otho’s army had been defeated by that of Vitellius, the forces of Vitellius were now defeated by those of Vespasian. Afterward a severe and bloody contest took place in the streets of Rome, and Vespasian made his position secure.

   The only significance of these three so-called reigns, and the civil wars which attended them, is the fact that they showed the great danger to which the empire was exposed by having no regular law of succession.


   Beginning of a New Era.—The accession of Vespasian was the beginning of a new era for Rome. Indeed, the next century may be regarded as the most prosperous in her whole history. The ideals of Julius Caesar and Augustus seemed to be realized. The hundred and eleven years which elapsed from the beginning of Vespasian’s reign to the death of Marcus Aurelius, have been called the happiest in the history of mankind. The new emperor belonged to the Flavian family, which furnished three rulers, Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian. Vespasian was an able and efficient prince. He rescued Rome from the bankrupt condition into which it had been plunged by his predecessors. He retrenched the expenses of the court and set the example of moderation. He appointed good governors for the provinces, and extended the Latin right, that is, the commercium, to the people of Spain.

   Roman Civilization in Gaul.—The first duty of Vespasian was to suppress a revolt in Gaul which, under Claudius Civilis, threatened to deprive Rome of that province. After three defeats Civilis was obliged to give up his ambitious scheme, and Gaul again was pacified. Nowhere in the West, outside of Italy, did the civilization of Rome take a firmer hold. Gaul became the seat of Roman colonies; its cities were united by Roman roads; and the Roman language, literature, law, manners, and art found there a congenial home. The ruins which we find to-day in France, of the ancient buildings, baths, aqueducts and amphitheaters, show how completely the province of Gaul was Romanized.

   Destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70).—The most unfortunate event in the reign of Vespasian was the revolt of the Jews, which finally resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem. There had been many changes in the government of Judea since its first conquest by Pompey. Some of these changes had been made to reconcile the Jews to the Roman sway. But there had been many things to awaken the opposition of the people; for example, the unreasonable prejudice against them at Rome, the insane attempt of Caligula to place his statue in their temple, as well as the harsh government of Nero. At last the Jews were provoked into a general rebellion. Vespasian was conducting the war against them when he was proclaimed emperor by his legions. The war was then left in the hands of his son Titus, who, in spite of desperate resistance, captured and destroyed the sacred city. The Jews were left without a national home; and Judea became a separate province of the empire. The representation of the golden candlestick cut upon the arch of Titus is a striking memorial of this unfortunate war.

   The Public Buildings.—By the strictest economy Vespasian was able to replenish the treasury; and by the means thus obtained he spent large sums upon the public buildings of Rome. He restored the Capitoline temple, which had been destroyed during the late civil war. He laid out a new Forum which bore his name. He built a temple to Peace, the goddess whom he delighted to honor. But the most memorable of his works was the Flavian Amphitheater, or as it is sometimes called, the Colosseum. This stupendous building occupied about six acres of ground, and was capable of seating nearly fifty thousand spectators. The sports which took place in this great structure were the most popular of all the Roman amusements.

   Amusements of the Romans.—The chief public amusements of the Romans were those which took place in the circus, the theater, and the amphitheater.

   The greatest circus of Rome was the Circus Maximus. It was an inclosure about two thousand feet long and six hundred feet wide. Within it were arranged seats for different classes of citizens, a separate box being reserved for the imperial family. The games consisted chiefly of chariot races. The excitement was due to the reckless and dangerous driving of the charioteers, each striving to win by upsetting his competitors. There were also athletic sports; running, leaping, boxing, wrestling, throwing the quoit, and hurling the javelin. Sometimes sham battles and sea fights took place.

   The Romans were not very much addicted to the theater, there being only three principal structures of this kind at Rome, those of Pompey, Marcellus, and Balbus. The theater was derived from the Greeks and was built in the form of a semicircle, the seats being apportioned, as in the case of the circus, to different classes of persons. The shows consisted largely of dramatic exhibitions, of mimes, pantomimes, and dancing. It is said that the poems of
Ovid were acted in pantomime.

   The most popular and characteristic amusements of the Romans were the sports of the amphitheater. This building was in the form of a double theater, forming an entire circle or ellipse. Such structures were built in different cities of the empire, but none equaled the colossal building of Vespasian. The sports of the amphitheater were chiefly gladiatorial shows and the combats of wild beasts. The amusements of the Romans were largely sensational, and appealed to the tastes of the populace. Their influence was almost always bad, and tended to degrade the morals of the people.


   “Delight of Mankind.”—Vespasian had prepared for his death by associating with the government his son, Titus; so the change to the new reign was attended by no war of succession or other disturbance. The great aim of Titus was to make himself loved by the people. He was lavish in the giving of public shows. He dedicated the great amphitheater built by his father with a magnificent naval spectacle. He ruled with so much kindness and moderation that he became the most popular of the emperors, and was called the “Delight of Mankind.” It is related that one evening he remembered that he had bestowed no gift upon any one, and in regret exclaimed to his friends, “I have lost a day.”

   Destruction of Herculaneum and Pompeii.—But the reign of Titus, delightful as it was, was marked by two great calamities. One was a great fire which consumed the new temple of the Capitoline Jupiter, which his father had just erected; and which also injured the Pantheon, the baths of Agrippa, and the theaters of Pompey and Marcellus. But the greatest calamity of this reign was due to the terrible eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, which destroyed the two cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii; situated on the Bay of Naples (see map, p. 233). The Romans had never suspected that this mountain was a volcano, although a few years before it had been shaken by an earthquake. The scenes which attended this eruption are described by
the younger Pliny, whose uncle, the elder Pliny, lost his life while investigating the causes of the eruption. The buried city of Pompeii has been exhumed, and its relics reveal in a vivid way the private life and customs of the Roman people.


   Houses of the Romans.—The uncovered ruins of Pompeii show to us a great many houses, from the most simple to the elaborate “House of Pansa.” The ordinary house (domus) consisted of front and rear parts connected by a central area, or court. The front part contained the entrance hall (vestibulum); the large reception room (atrium); and the private room of the master (tablinum), which contained the archives of the family. The large central court was surrounded by columns (peristylum). The rear part contained the more private apartments—the dining room (triclinium), where the members of the family took their meals reclining on couches; the kitchen (culina); and the bathroom (balneum). The Romans had no stoves like ours, and rarely did they have any chimneys. The house was warmed by portable furnaces (foculi), like fire pans, in which coal or charcoal was burned, the smoke escaping through the doors or an open place in the roof; sometimes hot air was introduced by pipes from below. The rooms were lighted either by candles (candelae) made of tallow or wax; or by oil lamps (lucernae) made of terra cotta, or of bronze, worked sometimes into exquisite designs.

   Meals.—There were usually three daily meals: the breakfast (ientaculum), soon after rising; the luncheon, or midday meal (prandium); and the chief meal, or dinner (cena), in the afternoon. The food of the poorer classes consisted of a kind of porridge, or breakfast food (farina), made of a coarse species of wheat (far), together with ordinary vegetables, such as turnips and onions, with milk and olives. The wealthy classes vied with one another in procuring the rarest delicacies from Italy and other parts of the world.

   Dress.—The characteristic dress of the men was the toga, a loose garment thrown abouy the person in ample folds, and covering a closer garment called the tunic (tunica). The Romans wore sandals on the feet, but generally no covering for the head. The dress of a Roman matron consisted of three parts: the close-fitting tunica; the stola, a gown reaching to the feet; and the palla, a shawl large enough to cover the whole figure. The ladies took great pains in arranging the hair, and possessed the usual fondness for ornaments—necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and costly jewels,

   Writing Materials.—For writing the Romans used different materials: first, the tablet (tabula), or a thin piece of board covered with wax, which was written upon with a sharp iron pencil (stylus); next, a kind of paper (charta) made from the plant called papyrus; and, finally, parchment (membrana) made from the skins of animals. The paper and parchment were written upon with a pen made of reed sharpened with a penknife, and ink made of a mixture of lampblack. When a book (liber) was written, the different pieces of paper or parchment were pasted together in a long sheet and rolled upon a round stick. When collected in a library (bibliotheca), the rolls were arranged upon shelves or in boxes.

   The Employments of the Romans comprised many of the chief occupations and trades with which we are familiar to-day, including professional, commercial, mechanical, and agricultural pursuits. To the learned professions belonged the priest, the lawyer, the physician, and the teacher. The commercial classes included the merchant, the banker, the broker, the contractor, to whom may also be added the taxgatherer of earlier times. The mechanical trades comprised a great variety of occupations, such as the making of glass, earthenware, bread, cloth, wearing apparel, articles of wood, leather, iron, bronze, silver, and gold. The artisans were often organized into societies or guilds (collegia) for their mutual benefit; these guilds were very ancient, their origin being ascribed to Numa. The agriculturists of Rome comprised the large landowners, who were regarded as a highly respectable class, and the small proprietors, the free laborers, and the slaves, the last mentioned forming a great part of the tillers of the soil. In general, the Roman who claimed to be respectable disdained all manual labor, and resigned such labor into the hands of slaves and freedmen.

   Marriage.—The marriage customs comprised, first, the ceremony of betrothal (sponsalia), which included the formal consent of the bride’s father, and an announcement in the form of a festival or the presentation of the betrothal ring; secondly, the marriage ceremony, which might be either a religious ceremony, in which a consecrated cake was eaten in the presence of the priest (confarreatio), or a secular ceremony, in which the. father gave away his daughter by the forms of a legal sale (coemptio). In the time of the empire it was customary for persons to be married without these ceremonies, by their simple consent, During this time, also, divorces became common and the general morals of society became corrupt.

   Life in the Towns.—The towns of the empire were in their general appearance reflections of the capital city on the Tiber. Each town had its forum, its temples, its courthouse (basilica) and its places of entertainment, Its government seemed to be copied after the old city government of Rome. It had its magistrates, chief among whom were two men (duumviri), something like the old consuls. It had its municipal council or senate (curia), controlled by a municipal aristocracy (curiales). Its people delighted in the same kind of shows and amusements that we have seen at Rome (
p. 249). At Pompeii we find in the graffiti, or writings left upon the walls of buildings, some remarkable evidences of the ordinary life of the townsmen. Some of these writings hardly rise above the dignity of mere scribblings. They are most numerous upon the buildings in those places frequented by the crowds. There we find advertisements of public shows, memoranda of sales, cookery receipts, personal lampoons, love effusions, and hundreds of similar records of the common life of this ancient people.

   If we should attempt to draw a distinction among the various towns of the empire, we might observe that the people of the Western towns became more Romanized than those of the Eastern towns. The Latin language prevailed in the West, and the Greek language in the East. But still the Latin was used as the official language in the East as well as in the West; and, on the other hand, the knowledge of the Greek was a mark of culture in the West as in the East.


   Exceptional Tyranny of Domitian.—The happy period begun by Vespasian and Titus was interrupted by the exceptional tyranny of Domitian, the younger brother of Titus. Domitian seemed to take for his models Tiberius and Nero. He ignored the senate and the forms of the constitution. He revived the practice of delation, and was guilty of confiscations and extortions. He teased and irritated all classes, He persecuted the Jews and the Christians. Like Tiberius, he was suspicious, and lived in perpetual fear of assassination. His fears were realized; a conspiracy was organized against him, and he was murdered by a freedman of the palace.

   Agricola in Britain.—The chief event of importance in the reign of Domitian was the extension of the Roman power in Britain. Agricola had already been appointed governor of Britain by Vespasian; but it was not until this time that his arms were crowned with marked success. The limits of the province were now pushed to the north, and a new field was opened for the advance of civilization. Britain became dotted with Roman cities, united by great military roads. As in Gaul, the Roman law and customs found a home, although they did not obtain so enduring an influence as in the continental provinces.

   The Silver Age of Roman Literature.—The period of Roman literature which followed the age of Augustus is often called “the Silver Age.” The despotic rule of the Julian emperors had not been favorable to literature. Only two names of that period stand out with prominence, those of
Seneca, the Stoic philosopher, and Lucan, who wrote an epic poem describing the civil war between Pompey and Caesar. Under the Flavians occurred a revival of letters, which continued under the subsequent emperors. Among the most noted writers who flourished at this time were Juvenal, the satirist; Tacitus, the historian; Suetonius, the biographer of the “Twelve Caesars”; Martial, the epigrammatist; Quintilian, the rhetorician; and Pliny the Younger, the writer of epistles. Although the writings of the Silver Age do not equal those of the age of Augustus in grace of style, they show quite as much vigor and originality.


Capes, Early Empire, Ch. 9, “Vespasian,” Ch. 10, “Titus,” “Domitian” (
Merivale, Gen. Hist., Ch. 60, “The Wars of Succession” (1).
Bury, Empire, Ch. 31, “Roman Life and Manners” (7).
Thomas, Ch. 1, “At Pompeii”; Ch. 8, “Country Life” (16).
Merivale, Empire, Vol. IV., Ch. 41, “Life in Rome” (7).
Inge, Ch. 9, “Amusements” (16).
Guhl and Koner, pp. 553-564, “Amphitheatrical Games” (16).
Preston and Dodge, II., “The House and Every Day Life” (16).
          See also Appendix (16), “Life and Manners.”


   THE ROMAN HOUSE.—Inge, pp. 245-258 (16); Eschenburg, pp. 290-292 (8); Guhl and Koner, pp. 365-375, 437-460 (16); Harper’s Dict. Antiqq., “Domus” (8); Becker, Gallus, pp. 231-314 (16).

1 The figure in parenthesis refers to the number of the topic in the
Appendix, where a fuller title of the book will be found.


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