This Week In History

First Punic War – March 10, 241 BC

The Romans and Carthaginians were engaged in what was called the First Punic War, beginning in 264 BC. Carthage was the superior force at the beginning of the conflict and the term “Punic” is Latin for the Carthaginians as it began as a Phoenician colony in North Africa. The conflict between the two powers was for control of the western Mediterranean Sea and began when they clashed in Messana, in Sicily, the closest city to the Italian peninsula. In 288 BC, Messana had been captured by the Mamertines, a group of mercenaries originially hired by Agathocles of Syracuse. While that was going on, rebel Campanian Romans took Rhegium. In 271-270 BC, Roman Republicans retook Rhegium and punished the rebels who still lived there. Meanwhile, the Mamertines were marauding across the countryside, unt...

Leap Year – February 29

One of the most well-known events of ancient Rome occurred on March 15, 44 BC – the assassination of Julius Caesar. But, what is the “Ides of March” of which Caesar was warned by a seer to beware? The Roman calendar didn’t mark dates numerically as we do today. Instead, they had three fixed points in each month and worked their way backwards from those three points. The three points were the Nones, Ides and Kalends. The original Roman calendar, the Calendar of Romulus, was said to have been made by the founder of Rome in 753 BC. This calendar consisted of 10 months of either 30 or 31 days, equaling 304 days, with the remainder of days in winter unassigned to any month and called the “intercalary month”. The ten months and their origins were Martius (Mars the god), Aprilis (Virilis the godd...

Christian Persecution – February 23, 303 AD

February 23, 303, saw the celebration of Terminalia in the Roman Empire – the day pagans boasted they would put an end to Christianity. During this festival, because of the encouragement of Galerius Caesar, the emperor Diocletian issued an edict ordering the destruction of the newly built Christian church in Nicomedia. The city prefect went to the church with many officers and assistants and forced open the doors, removed all of the sacred books and burned them, confiscated the treasury, then leveled the building itself, all while Diocletian and Galerius observed. Following this, a general edict was issued for the entire empire, commanding the destruction of all Christian churches and texts, along with naming all Christians as outlaws. In Nicomedia, all Christians were being rounded up and...

Jovian Dies – February 17, 364 AD

The Roman Emperor, Julian II, died in June of 363, from wounds received in battle against King Shapur II and the Sassanians. After his death, the soldiers offered to elevate the praetorian prefect, Saturninus Secundus Salutius to the throne, but he declined based on his advanced age. The next was Flavius Jovianus, son of general Varronianus. This choice was based on politics and culture, since the armies of the east and west had many disagreements and was finding it difficult to find a candidate that would be suitable to both sides. Deep into enemy territory, and among a Roman army who was beginning to starve, Jovian accepted the position, and signed a very unfavorable peace agreement with Shapur. This agreement cost the empire all territory east of the Tigris, parts of Armenia, and the ci...

Domitia Longina – February 11, 50-55 AD

Domitia Longina was born on February 11, but in which year is unclear – sources place it between 50-55 AD. Although not much is documented about her before her marriage to the Roman emperor, Domitian, in 71, her lineage is well connected. Domitia was the youngest daughter of Nero’s most renowned general, Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo and his wife, Cassia Longina. She was also the direct descendant of Augustus through her mother’s side, as a great-great-great-great-granddaughter. As such, she was one of the last living members of the Julian line. Domitia’s father was not only an accomplished general, he was also a senator and consul under Caligula. During the reigns of Claudius and Nero, Corbulo conducted military campaigns in Parthia and Germania. However, black clouds formed over the fami...

Father of the Country – February 5, 2 BC

The title of Pater Patriae, or Father of the Country, was first given to a Roman general – Marcus Furius Camillus, in 386 BC. It was an honorary title conferred by the Senate, and in the case of Camillus, it was given because of his role after the siege of Rome in the Battle of the Allia by Gallic invaders, when he routed the Senones and was determined to be the second founder of the city, after Romulus. Roman imperial coinage The title would not be used again for over three hundred years, when the Senate would confer it to consul Marcus Tullius Cicero in 63 BC, for his role in the exposing the Second Catalinarian Conspiracy to overthrow the Roman Republic by senator Lucius Sergius Catalina and various members of the senate and equestrian ranks. Cicero intercepted letters the conspirators ...

Didius Julianus – January 30, 133 AD

According to Cassius Dio, Marcus Didius Severus Julianus was born in Milan on January 30, 133 AD to Quintus Petronius Didius Severus and Aemilia Clara. His father hailed from a prominent Milanese family and his North African mother from a family of rank of consuls. This well-connected parentage afforded him the opportunity to be raised in the house of Domitia Lucilla, the mother of emperor Marcus Aurelius. Domitia helped Julianus attain his first appointment at an early age – a member of the vigintivirate, a college of twenty minor magistrates in charge of everything from lawsuits to road maintenance to casting and striking coins. This college was often a stepping-stone of the sons of senators to begin their public careers and even Julius Caesar served in it as curator viarum. While in off...

Marcus Antonius Gordianus – January 20, 225 AD

Marcus Antonius Gordianus, commonly called Gordian III, was born on January 20, 225 AD to Maecia Faustina (or possibly named Antonia Gordiana) and an unknown Roman senator. Gordian I was his maternal grandfather and Gordian II was his uncle. When elevated to the sole ruler of the Roman Empire in 238, he was 13 years old and the youngest legitimate ruler of the entire duration of the empire. You will find more examples of Gordian coins at the end of this post. The year 238 was chaotic, opening with the rebellion in North Africa by some of the nobles, who were being taxed at an extreme rate by the current emperor, Maximinus I Thrax, as the method to pay for the emperor’s long, but successful campaigns. The taxes were supposedly so burdensome, they would have immediately bankrupted some of th...

First Constitutional Settlement – January 13, 27 BC

After the Battle at Actium with Marc Antony and Cleopatra in 31 BC, Octavian remained in Egypt to get everything settled and under control. Once that was completed, he headed to the eastern part of the Rome’s territory to meet with the various leaders and get their support, having defeated Antony, who had set up the previous appointments. Convinced all was well, Octavian returned to Rome in August of 29 BC to participate in celebrations for three consecutive days, given in honor of the triumps in Dalmatia, Actium and Egypt. You will find examples of Octavian coins at the end of this post. Octavian was the last man standing from the Second Triumvirate and held the position of consul from 31 BC until 23 BC. Using what he called “universal consent”, a non-legal term for his dominance of the R...

Festival of Pax – January 3

Pax was the Roman goddess of peace, carried over from the Greek goddess Eirene. She was the daughter of Jupiter (Zeus) and Justitia (Themis), the goddess of justice and order. Although sources have conflicting dates, one of the dates listed is January 3 as being when the Festival of Pax was celebrated. Celebrated as Pax Romana and Pax Augusta, she was celebrated since the 2nd century BC. In hopes of blessing of peace, images were placed at the feet of Pax during the festival to promote positive energy in their interactions. Augustus had a sanctuary dedicated to Pax erected on the Campus Martius, called the Ara Pacis. It was dedicated on January 30, 9 BC – January 30 being one of the other possible dates listed for the annual festival. Along with the altar in Rome, Seutonius writes there wa...

Pertinax Declared Emperor – January 1, 193 AD

The Roman emperor, Commodus, was murdered on December 31, 192 AD by Praetorian prefect Quintus Aemilius Laetus, Commodus’s mistress Marcia and chamberlain Eclectus. At the time, Publius Helvius Pertinax was the urban prefect and was rushed to the Praetorian camp and declared emperor on January 1, 193. Upon ascending to the throne, Pertinax immediately ran into issues with the Praetorians, who suspected he was part of the conspiracy to rid the world of Commodus and expected to be rewarded in helping him gain his new title. This is a category of  Denarius. Pertinax felt the military needed stricter discipline as they were getting too accustom to a licentious living, and instituted reforms, which they resisted and hated him for it. He also did not want to pay the Praetorians the donative they...

Galba Born – December 24, 3 BC

Servius Sulpicius Galba was born on December 24, 3 BC in Terracina, Italy to C. Sulpicius Galba and Mummia Achaica. His family was well-connected – his paternal grandfather was Servius Sulpicius Galba, praetor in 54 BC and his maternal grandfather was politician Quintus Lutatius Catulus. Galba’s mother died shortly after his birth and his father remarried Livia Ocellina, a distant relative of the Roman empress Livia. Livia adopted Galba and he changed his name to Lucius Livius Ocella Sulpicius Galba. In his youth, Galba was remarked by both Augustus and Tiberius to have great abilities and destined to be important.  This  is a category of  silver denarius. Galba married Aemilia Lepida, who was connected through the marriages of some of her relatives to various members of the house of Julii...

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