Prior to the birth of the Roman Empire in the latter part of the first century BCE, there had existed many empires among these were the Assyrian, the Babylonian, the Persian, and the Macedonian. All of these had great leaders such as Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes, and, of course, Alexander the Great. Yet, history tells us these great men were all called kings... [continue reading]
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It is a story that has been told countless times before - an emperor is assassinated leaving no heir or successor. On April 8, 217 CE Roman Emperor Caracalla was murdered, supposedly on the orders of the man who would eventually become his successor, Macrinus. This new emperor, during his 14-month reign, would have two major distinctions - he would never... [continue reading]
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121 - 180 CE), known as the last of the good emperors (reigned 161 – 169 with Lucius Verus; 169 – 177 alone; 177 - 180 with Commodus), was born in Rome (or, according to other sources, Spain) to an aristocratic family. His birth name was Marcus Annius Verus which he held until adopted by his uncle (and Emperor Hadrian’s successor... [continue reading]
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121-180 CE) has been hailed as “one of the noblest figures in antiquity” and his work, Meditations, would certainly attest to the truth of that praise. Aurelius is known today as “the last of the good emperors” and, while his depiction in the film Gladiator(2000) is highly fictionalized (especially concerning... [continue reading]
A marble bust of Roman emperor Maximinus I, r. 235-238 CE. (The Vatican Museums, Rome).
The young Roman Emperor Alexander Severus secured the imperial throne after the assassination of his cousin Elagabalus by the Praetorian Guard in 222 CE. Thirteen years later in 235 CE, after unsuccessful assaults against the Parthians and Germans, the army, tired of his inability to command, murdered him and his mother, Julia Mamaea, and rallied behind... [continue reading]
A marble portrait head of Nero, 54-68 CE, provenance: Elis. Olympia Archaeological Museum.
Emperor Nero was the last of the Julio-Claudians to rule the Roman Empire (54 AD to 68 AD). His fourteen year reign represents everything decadent about that period in Roman history. He was self-indulgent, cruel and violent as well as a cross-dressing exhibitionist. His lavish parties combined with the burning of Rome continued the economic chaos that had plagued... [continue reading]
Mary Harrsch (Photographed at the Capitoline Museum, Rome)
published on 17 April 2013
A portrait bust of Roman emperor Nerva, 35-98 CE. (Capitoline Museum, Rome)
Marcus Cocceius Nerva was Roman emperor from 96 to 98 CE and his reign brought stability after the turbulent successions of his predecessors. In addition, Nerva helped establish the foundations for a new golden era for Rome which his chosen successor Trajan would bring to full fruition. The assassination of the Roman emperor Domitian in 96 CE brought... [continue reading]
Immediately after the assassination of Galba, Otho, the governor of Lusitania, was proclaimed emperor by the army. However, the unrest that existed in the short reign of Galba would spell doom for the newly named leader of the Roman Empire, the second in the “year of the four emperors.” The youngest of three children, Marcus Salvius Otho... [continue reading]