Roman History in a Nutshell: Introduction

The Pantheon – The Temple of All Gods. First comissioned by Marcus Agrippa (That what the words on the front are all about), later rebuilt, twice, due to fires because Rome had a lot of those. It’s a timeless temple, walking into it today you could believe it was built last week, in 1890, 1750, 1612, 1402, 1117…I could keep numbering. (Credit: Nono vlf CC-BY-SA 4.0)

I am not an historian. In fact I never particularly liked history as a topic. I do find a lot of people develop more of an interest the older they get and the more they become some part of it. I’ve got a videogame collection I am fairly certain in a couple of generations youngsters will think is a damn museum!

That said a visit to the Eternal City was enough to make me realise that there have been times, events, societies, people, technologies, sports, ideas, literature, paintings, sculptures and foods that have had huge impacts on who we are today and how we live.

I am from Great Britain, the country of England. I live on the Kentish coast, only a short drive from where Gaius Julius Caesar would have had trouble landing his ships in 55 BCE (and again in 54 BCE – he didn’t do so well the first time) before having a little bit of a scuffle with some local tribes. A few people got killed, a few hands were shaken and then he buggered off, as did Roman occupation of UK territory for a century.

The stretch of beach between Walmer and Deal (in the far distance, out in the sea you can see Deal Pier) is believed to be one of the potential landing sites for Caesar’s invasion of 55 BCE. The invasion did not go well for Caesar but he was nothing if not master of triumph through failure. They had intended to land at Dover but the site was too heavily defended. The actual landing sites may have been between here and Pegwell Bay, all the way up in Thanet! The boats ended up mostly grounded in the shallows and the Romans had to jump out and walk through the sea, again potentially being fought off by locals. Definitely a bad day at the office. (Credit: © Copyright Marathon CC-BY-SA 2.0)

I have visited Richborough Fort, Rutupiae, where Claudius’ fleet would have landed for their invasion of Britain. Future emperor Titus Flavius Vespasianus, Vespasian, would have been among them as Legate, the big cheese in charge, of the Legio II Augusta, the only legion known to have taken part in the invasion.

From the Byzantine-soaked East to the West Coast of the United States the influence of Rome stretches across the planet. Small pockets of culture remain relatively untouched, Southeast Asia, Oceania and sub-Saharan Africa, for example. But even there have they escape the Roman inspired republics, representative democracies, senators, scholars, Latin words, Latin-derived languages, Catholics and Christians?

There is an awful lot, linguistically, religiously, politically and socially to represent the legacy of Rome.

I felt this, deeply, when visiting Rome. I realised that whilst I had, at the time, no innate interest in history I was, at most, a droplet of spray on a wave of my current culture, the force of which was pulled by tides and currents that go back thousands of years.

It also helped that Romans were cruel, bloodthirsty, conniving, scummy, divided, contrary, horny little toerags.

They were, from the lowliest class to the highest office, a soap opera incarnate.

As one of the first societies to provide lots of written documentation, from earnest (if inaccurate) histories to trade receipts, they are also one of the first historical civilisations to provide ample material for comparison with our own lives.

Some of the many Vindolanda tablets. This isn’t quite ‘War and Peace’ though, rather a series of letters between one Octavius and one Candidus concerned the supply of sinews, hides and wheat. The gripping dramas of the Roman Empire! (Credit:Michel wal CC-BY-SA 3.0)

So here’s my plan. I’ve read some shit, from as pop as pop-history gets to academic essays, about Rome, but a lot of you haven’t.

So We Lack Discipline is going to do what it does.

We’re going to give you the grown up primary school rundown on Roman history.

It will be inaccurate, no-nonsense and piss-takey.

This is the springboard, a starting point, and nothing more.

So there it is, strap in and get ready – it’s a hell of a ride.

Vivant Stulti Curiosi!

Move on in our timeline of ‘Roman History in a Nutshell’

The Founding – 753 BCE and Before

The Kingdom – 753 BCE – 509 BCE
The Patrician Era and the Conflict of the Orders – 494 BCE – 287 BCE
Wars with Etruscans Pre-753 BCE – ~264 BCE
Wars with Sabines, Veii & Fidenae ~753 BCE – ~287 BCE
The Latin Wars 7th Century BCE – ~338 BCE
The Gallic Wars ~390 BCE – ~284 BCE
The Rest of the Med ~2,000 BCE – ~3rd Century BCE
The Samnite Wars ~343 BCE – ~290 BCE

Want to read more about Romans? We’ve got a little for you.
Bad History: Boudica and Bullshit Nationalism – Looking at the use of historical figures for current political or social agendas.
Bad History: Did Rome ever Actually Fall? Questioning the ‘Decline and Fall’ narrative and looking at structures inherited from the Romans we have to this day.

A New Lease of Life? – A Discussion about the new floor in the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum, and what Vespasian, who initially commissioned the building, might think.

Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Introduction
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Easily available abortion (CW)
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Drawing dicks on things.
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Energy Drinks
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Gender and Sexuality Liberation (CW)
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Travel and Tourist Tat.
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – AirBnB
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Bipartisan Politics
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Fast Food
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Pro-Wrestling
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Social Media (Especially Insta and Twitter)

The Fan-TAS-tic Virtues of Rome – A look at the moral virtues of Roman life.

What are the ‘Ides of March’ – Because I envitably get asked by my dad every Ides, I wrote about it!

The Mother of Rome: Livia Drusilla – Before the hit Sky TV series ‘Domina’ there was me espousing the life and works of Livia, the canny politician, the Patrician, the Patron and the wife and mother of an Empire.
The Pleb who Built Rome: Marcus Agrippa – It is my belief that the right-hand-man of Augustus had a much bigger part to play in the building and management of the Empire than did his friend with the titles. Find out why.





Published by Karl Anthony Mercer

Like a dark-chocolate fountain at a weight loss party, Karl Anthony Mercer is an under-utilised river of bittersweetness. When not busy researching or writing about any and all non-fiction topics for 'We Lack Discipline' Karl can often be found walking, staring at wildlife or writing poetry.

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