History of the Ancient and Medieval World - Vol. 6

History of the Ancient and Medieval World - Vol. 6

History of the Ancient and Medieval World - Vol. 6

History of the Ancient and Medieval World - Vol. 6


Beginning with prehistory and continuing to the brink of the European Renaissance, this reference set offers readers comprehensive coverage of a diversity of ancient and medieval civilizations and cultures. In addition to the Greeks and Romans, it introduces readers to the Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Phoenicians, Jews, Hittites, among many others.


The first century BC saw the end of the Roman Republic. First Pompey and then Julius Caesar gathered authority in the hands of one man. Power passed from the Senate and the Roman people to an absolute ruler. Noted for their military as well as political prowess, Pompey and Caesar brought the Mediterranean under Roman hegemony. By the end of the century, Rome controlled territories stretching from Asia Minor to the Iberian peninsula.

Augustus, the first Roman emperor, brought peace to the lands conquered by his predecessors. Under his rule literature and the arts flourished. The emperor embarked on an ambitious building program in Rome. Together with Roman political and administrative institutions, Augustan art and architecture were transported throughout the empire. solidifying the central authority of Rome. At the same time Augustus continued the military campaigns of his forebears, completing the subjugation of Spain and Germany as far as the Rhine.

Augustus was the first of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. His successors completed the solidification of the empire, centralizing the collection of taxes and all other administrative matters in the imperial authority located in the city of Rome. After the excesses of Caligula and Nero, who watched the city of Rome burn and built a sumptuous palace for himself upon its ashes, the Flavians based their rule upon concern for the Roman masses. On the site of Nero's palace, Vespasian initiated the construction of an amphitheater. later known as the Colosseum, to accommodate the gladitorial combats that fed the appetite of the bloodthirsty populace.

The second century AD dawned under the rule of Trajan, whose first priority lay in his military command. Through the conquest of Mesopotamia and Dacia, in northern Europe. he extended the already vast limits of the empire. His adopted son and successor, Hadrian, rejected aggression in favor of defense. The result was a fortified wall that bore his name, stretching across the Roman frontier in Britain (Britannia). His primary interest lay in cultural pursuits, and once again, as under Augustus, the arts flourished.

By late in the century, however, cracks had appeared in the Roman Empire. The Severan dynasty ruled as despots, their control threatened by civil wars throughout the empire, from North Africa to Asia Minor. The Persians, Goths, and Franks pressed Roman borders from all sides. The economy disintegrated and disease was rampant. Chaos reigned until the ascension of Diocletian, who reorganized the administration of the empire. While Diocletian ruled the east, he appointed a coemperor to rule the west. Each was supported by a second-in-command destined to succeed him. The sharing of power was shortlived, however, and Constantine the Great soon emerged as sole ruler. With his conversion to Christianity just prior to his death, he altered the course of history.

Tracy L. Ehrlich, PhD Department of Art History and An “haeology Columbi a University, New York . . .

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