1: The City on the Tiber
Begin with a simple question: “How did Rome become so powerful?” This core theme will run through much of this course. Here, Professor Aldrete considers the role of the city’s geography and the republic’s unique political structure, both of which allowed Rome to flourish.
2: The Monarchy and the Etruscans
The rise of Rome begins with a monarchy, though much of the city’s early years are shrouded in mystery. Unpack some of the key myths, including the epic of Aeneas and the story of Romulus and Remus, to gain insight into the city’s founding. Then reflect on neighboring civilizations such as the Etruscans.
3: Roman Values and Heroes
Tales and literature from early Rome give us only partial insight into factual history, but they give us great insight into Roman values—what the Romans themselves identified as qualities of ideal citizens. Examine how a few Roman heroes, like Mucius, Horatius, Lucretia, and others embody values of courage, resourcefulness, determination, and more.
4: The Early Republic and Rural Life
Witness the transition from the monarchy to the republic—a new era of government that would carry the city through half a millennium. Wade through the mythology and propaganda, as well as Roman historical sources such as the author Livy, to reconstruct how the transition happened, and what the new republic looked like.
5: The Constitution of the Roman Republic
One of the most lasting facets of the Roman Republic is its constitution, which inspired America’s founding fathers, among others. Continue your exploration of the early republic with a look at its system of government and its different classes of people—citizens and noncitizens, patricians and plebeians, senators, soldiers, and more.
6: The Unification of the Italian Peninsula
What distinguished Rome from neighboring city-states was the republic’s dogged persistence in matters of war. Watch as the Romans conquered neighboring territories to gain control of the entire Italian peninsula—and witness defeats against the Gauls to the north and the Greeks to the east. See how the Romans treated those it conquered.
7: Roman Religion: Sacrifice, Augury, and Magic
Most of us are familiar with some of the gods in the Roman pantheon, which included the likes of Jupiter and Mars, but one of the most fascinating aspects of Roman religion was the way it integrated elements from other cultures. Survey Roman religion as well as its institutions and personages such as the Pontifex Maximus and the vestal virgins.
8: The First Punic War: A War at Sea
The First Punic War is the longest continuous war in Greek and Roman history. Here, delve into the third century B.C.E., when Carthage commanded sea travel throughout the Mediterranean and the Roman Republic was looking to advance beyond the Italian Peninsula. Trace the first war against Carthage.
9: The Second Punic War: Rome versus Hannibal
Although the First Punic War was a major victory, the Second Punic War was, in Professor Aldrete’s words, “the crucible in which the Roman Empire was forged.” Encounter the brilliance of Hannibal, learn the strategy and impact of the infamous Battle of Cannae, and see how Roman leaders combatted and eventually defeated him.
10: Rome Conquers Greece
Although the Romans had seen great military and political victory, they were still provincial in many ways until they conquered the Greeks. At that point, Greek civilization entered and began to influence the Romans in unexpected ways. But, as you’ll learn in this lecture, the Roman expansion beyond Italy may have been something of an accident.
11: The Consequences of Roman Imperialism
Roman imperialism gave the republic great and far-flung territory, but it left many of its people wanting. Soldiers entered the military expecting riches and glory, only to come home penniless. Meanwhile, conquered people were far from happy. Review how the Romans administered their growing territory—and its effect on those in the home city.
12: Roman Slavery: Cruelty and Opportunity
Rome is one of only a few civilizations throughout history to be a true slave state. Here, learn where Roman slaves came from and find out about the nature of their servitude—including what daily life was like for many slaves. Then look at ways slaves could buy or earn freedom, and what life was like for freed slaves.
13: Roman Women and Marriage
Because Rome was such a patriarchal society, we have few historical records from women’s points of view. Nevertheless, historians have been able to deduce much about what life was like for Roman women. Life varied greatly between rich and poor, but women throughout the society were expected to marry and live sheltered lives.
14: Roman Children, Education, and Timekeeping
Continue your study of ordinary Romans—this time with a look at the life of children, which could be quite brutal by today’s standards. Learn about their toys and games, and then turn to the system of education. Finally, take a look at the Roman system of timekeeping, which organized the days, months, and years.
15: Food, Housing, and Employment in Rome
Food, shelter, and a livelihood are three of the most basic needs for people everywhere. In this lecture, Professor Aldrete surveys what Romans ate, where they lived, what their homes were like, and what they did for a living. While the upper classes did not work, farming and skilled trades were important jobs throughout the republic.
16: The Gracchi Attempt Reform
By 133 B.C.E., Roman society was beginning to unravel. Veterans who had lost their fortunes in war, farmers who had lost their land, and neighboring citizens who had been conquered were all disgruntled. Meanwhile, factionalism was starting to emerge within the Roman government. See how these tensions began to wear away at the republic and how an attempted reform came not from the disenfranchised, but from one of the most privileged Roman families.
17: Gaius Marius the Novus Homo
The late Roman republic was characterized by feuding aristocrats vying for power within the government. Meet Gaius Marius, an Italian warlord who went against the conventional mores and was elected 7 times as a consul. Follow his military exploits in Northern Africa and his rise to power within the republic.
18: Sulla the Dictator and the Social War
Cracks continued to appear in Roman civilization, as the Social War broke out over citizenship and leaders continued to vie for power. Among these leaders was Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who used his military laurels to march into Rome and set himself up as a temporary dictator.
19: The Era of Pompey the Great
Continue your survey of late republic military leaders. In this lecture, you’ll find out about the life of Pompey the Great, who achieved fame and glory as a young man with ambitions as large as Alexander the Great’s. Trace the events of the first century B.C.E., including the slave revolt of Spartacus.
20: The Rise of Julius Caesar
The beginning of the end of the Roman Republic starts with the rise of Julius Caesar. After setting the stage with Caesar’s early career, Professor Aldrete explores the dramatic events that led to Caesar’s election to the senate as well as his legislative and military victories. Tensions within Roman leadership were high.
21: Civil War and the Assassination of Caesar
The late republic tensions reached a conflagration the moment Caesar crossed the Rubicon River and led his army toward Rome. Follow the end of his astonishing career, from his exploits in Spain to his war with Egypt to his eventual assassination. Meet Mark Antony and the other conspirators.
22: Cicero and the Art of Roman Oratory
Before witnessing the denouement of the Roman Republic, pause for a moment to reflect on Roman oratory—an art best practiced by the senator and writer Cicero. Cicero’s insights into rhetorical strategy and human nature continue to influence us today—and in his day allowed him to play the role of peacekeeper after Caesar’s murder.
23: Octavian, Antony, and Cleopatra
Following Caesar’s assassination, there was a power vacuum in Rome. Caesar’s heir Octavian eventually took power, while Caesar’s general Mark Antony fled to his lover, Cleopatra. Trace the events from Octavian’s rise to Rome’s war with Egypt and the suicides of Mark Antony and Cleopatra.
24: Why the Roman Republic Collapsed
The course opened with a simple question: “How did Rome become so powerful?” It closes with an equally simple—if equally unanswerable—question: “Why did the Roman Republic collapse?” In this final lecture, Professor Aldrete offers several leading theories, including the possibility that the republic was a victim of its own success.
As an ancient historian, my goals are to share the enthusiasm for and fascination with antiquity that I feel, and to show some of the connections between that world and our own.
About Gregory S. Aldrete
Dr. Gregory S. Aldrete is Professor of Humanistic Studies and History at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, where he has taught since 1995. He earned his B.A. from Princeton University and his master's degree and Ph.D. in Ancient History from the University of Michigan. Honored many times over for his research and his teaching, Professor Aldrete was named by his university as the winner of its highest awards in each category, receiving both its Founders Association Award for Excellence in Scholarship and its Founders Association Award for Excellence in Teaching. That recognition of his teaching skills was echoed on a national level in 2009, when he received the American Philological Association Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Classics at the College Level-the national teaching award given annually by the professional association of classics professors. The recipient of many prestigious research fellowships including five from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Professor Aldrete has published several important books in his field, including Gestures and Acclamations in Ancient Rome; Floods of the Tiber in Ancient Rome; Daily Life in the Roman City: Rome, Pompeii, and Ostia; The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Daily Life I: The Ancient World (as editor); Unraveling the Linothorax Mystery: Reconstructing and Testing Ancient Linen Body Armor (with S. Bartell and A. Aldrete) and The Long Shadow of Antiquity: What Have the Greeks and Romans Done for Us (with A. Aldrete).