Bust of the Roman Empress Tranquillina (reigned 241 – 244 CE). She was wife of Emperor Gordian III thanks to her father, the prefect of the Praetorian Guards, who were the emperor’s personal bodyguards and by this point controlled who ran the empire. Empress Tranquillina reigned with her husband for just three years before her father died and the emperor lost power – and his life.
In the Roman Republic from 450 to 445 BCE, intermarriage of patricians and plebeians was banned. It was unpopular with the people and quickly lifted.
Over 400 years later, in 18 BCE, Emperor Augustus introduced a similar set of laws that were more widely accepted, and remained in place for centuries. The new laws limited some senatorial and equestrian individuals from marrying outside their rank. It also more generally limited marriages across class boundaries by limiting the marriage of Roman citizens with people who were registered as immoral – actors, adulterers, prostitutes, and those living off prostitution like pimps.
Lapis lazuli enjoyed great popularity in the late Roman and Early Byzantine
periods; its rich purple-blue color was associated with royalty. From
the 200s on, coins and medallions often showed the emperor
carrying a scepter topped with an eagle, emblem of victory and authority.
This particular lapis lazuli eagle was found in Italy and dates to the 300s or 400s CE, meaning it may very well have once perched
on a Roman emperor’s scepter.
In about 250 BCE, a Celtic tribe known as the Parisii first settled Paris
on the Île de la Cité. In 52 BCE, the Parisii settlement was conquered
by the Romans and their general, Julius Caesar.
The Romans named the city
Lutetia, from an earlier Greek name
Lukotokía, whose origin is unknown. But the renaming did not stick. So the city of lights is known today as Paris, the name of its first founders, from over 2,200 years ago.
Archaeologists have recovered a rare and tantalising treasure just 160 feet offshore from Mallorca in Spain. Not gold or jewels, but 93 jug-like
terracotta vessels called amphorae from a Roman ship that sank 1,700
The amphorae are still intact and some are even sealed. So there is a pretty good chance that their contents survived the millennia. The amphorae are currently undergoing desalinization in a lab, to make sure that the salt doesn’t crystallize, breaking the amphorae and destroying their contents. But once that’s finished there will be some exciting news in the archaeology world!
One of the best preserved Roman stone ruins is an amphitheater in El Jem, Tunisia. The then-city was called Thysdrus and its 35,000-seat amphitheater was a towering symbol of the city’s – and the region’s – prosperity. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
A study has recently revealed that the rapid expansion of the Roman Empire in the 1st century CE assisted the spread of tuberculosis around the world. The disease is first evidence in humans in Africa around 3000 BCE. But the spread out of Africa, of four of seven investigated genetic strains of TB, occurred during the 1st century CE. Just at the time that the Roman Empire conquered the Mediterranean basin.
The out-of-Africa spread of TB is thought to have been aided by the expanding Roman’s new transportation links – those wonderful Roman roads – as well as increased movement and exploration around the Mediterranean.