This Week In History

Britannicus and Nero – February 11, 55 AD

Tiberius Claudius Germanicus was the son of Roman emperor Claudius, and his third wife, Valeria Messalina. He was born on February 12, 41 AD, less than a month after Claudius had begun his reign. Two years later, Claudius was offered the title of “Britannicus” by the senate, to honor him for his invasion of Britain. He declined the offer, instead passing it on to his two-year old son, who would then be known as Tiberius Claudius Caesar Britannicus. Suetonius records that Claudius loved Britannicus greatly, picking him up during public events and saying “Good luck to you, my boy!”, to which the viewers would echo the sentiment. All seemed to be going well for the heir-apparent, until 48 AD. This is a category of  nero coins. Valeria Messalina, while still wife of Claudius, married Gaius Sil...

Octavian and Livia Married – January 17, 38 BC

During the period of the Second Triumvirate, Tiberius Claudius Nero was fighting on the side of Julius Caesar’s assassins, against the triumvirs. After the Battle of Philippi, he continued to fight on the side of Lepidus and Marc Antony against Octavian. When the triumvirs came to a peace agreement, and the proscriptions began, Tiberius Claudius Nero was forced to flee Italy with his wife, Livia Drusilla, and son and future emperor, Tiberius. In 40 BC, Octavian married Scribonia, relative of Sextus Pompey. It was a political maneuver, but it did result in the only known offspring Octavian would foster – a daughter named Julia (the Elder or Major). In 39 BC, a general amnesty was announced between the triumvirs and the Pompeian faction. During this time, Tiberius Claudius Nero returned to R...

The Gladiator Emperor – December 31, 192

Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus was born in 161 AD, at Lanuvium, to the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and Faustina Junior. Even though the practice of naming genetic offspring as the next ruler had fallen out of fashion with end of the Flavian Era, Commodus and his younger brother, Annius Verus, were made co-Caesar when they were both elevated at 5 or 6 years old and 3 respectively. Only Commodus lived to adulthood, however – Annius Verus died around six years old. Commodus accompanied Marcus Aurelius on campaigns during his early adolescent years, where he began his training. When Commodus was 15, his father elevated him to co-Augustus and he married Crispina. Marcus Aurelius died only three years later and Commodus abandoned pretty much everything his father worked to achieve on...

Io Saturnalia – December 17-23

Although initially, the feast of Saturnalia began on December 17 in ancient Roman times, it was later expanded run to December 23. The Roman god, Saturn, presided over several aspects of life, including agriculture, wealth, liberation and time. As such, his festival period was a time to exchange gifts and engage in social activities otherwise not acceptable. Slaves were allowed to reverse roles with their masters during feasting and were allowed free speech. The traditional Roman toga was replaced with brightly-colored Greek synthesis, or cenatoria (dinner wear). Citizens and slaves alike were allowed to wear the pileus, as opposed to the bare-headed norm. During the festivities, gambling and playing dice was permitted by everyone. It was a time of over-eating and over-drinking. Horace wro...

The Year of Four Emperors – 69 AD

When January 1, 69 arrived, Servius Sulpicius Galba was on the throne of the Roman Empire, following the suicide of Nero in June the previous year. It was a tumultuous time in the empire, with civil war breaking out in several regions. Galba himself rose to the purple through the machinations of the Praetorian Guard prefect, Nymphidius Sabinus, after the failed attempt of Vindex to promote Galba, while he was governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, to replace Nero. Galba marched into Rome with the Legion VII Galbiana, which would later be renamed VII Genima. Support was tenuous for Galba in the beginning as it was, even though he was confirmed by the Senate. Two of the legions in Gaul refused to support him and instead wanted the governor of their region, Aulus Vitellius Germanicus, proclaimed...

Cicero: Orator, Lawyer, Politician – December 7, 43 BC

Marcus Tullius Cicero came from a wealthy family of the equestrian order in the ancient Roman Republic. His prose influenced European languages through his Latin for thousands of years and is considered one of the greatest orators of Roman times. His letters, rediscovered in the 14th century, are often cited as the spark for the renaissance of public affairs and Roman culture. Coupled with all of his linguistic abilities, Cicero was also an accomplished politician and successful lawyer. This is a catgory of  roman republic coins. His political career began in 75 BC as quaestor in western Sicily. He was honest and trustworthy in this position accounting for the public treasuries, and as such was pleaded by the public to take up a case against Gaius Verres, a local corrupt governor (some thi...

Marcus Aurelius Promoted – December 1, 147 AD

Marcus Aurelius was born to Marcus Annius Verus and Domitia Lucilla in 121 AD. Although his parents were wealthy, they were not descendants of the current emperor, Hadrian, or his lineage. However, these were different times in the Roman Empire from when Augustus began it the century previous – these were the times of adoptive lineage. Aurelius spent his childhood in his family’s estate, with private tutors, and later credited his family for all of his upbringing and good personality traits. Although his father died when he was only three, he credits him with instilling “modesty and manliness” through his teachings and his posthumous reputation. He credits his mother for his “piety, simplicity of diet and avoiding the ways of the rich”. Aurelius also credited his tutors for shaping h...

The Second Emperor – November 16, 42 BC

The ascension to the throne, and the reign of Tiberius Claudius Nero, were both typical and predictably self-serving. He was born in Fondi, Italy, on November 16, 42 BC to Livia Drusilla and Tiberius Claudius Nero, head of the Claudii family. His father was a strong supporter of the old Roman Republic, and opposed the Triumvirate. At first, Tiberius sided with Marc Antony and went to join Antony’s brother in Perusia, taking Livia and the younger Tiberius with him. By the time they arrived, Octavian’s forces had already taken the city and they were forced to flee. In 40 BC, the elder Tiberius took up arms against the Triumvirate, having joined with Sextus Pompey, and lost a battle against Octavian, forcing him to flee to Achaea to join Marc Antony, until the following year. Tiberius and fam...

The Second Triumvirate – November 11, 43 BC

Octavian had been involved in conflicts with Marc Antony and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, but in October of 43 BC, they decided to meet to unify their power. Officially ending the Roman Republican period, they met near modern-day Bologna on November 11, 43 BC, to draft the Lex Titia, creating the legally established Second Triumvirate when signed into law two weeks later. The term was for five years, at which time it would be reviewed and renewed. The Triumvirate, which held supreme authority, was officially titled Triumviri Rei Publicae Constituendae Consulari Potestate, translating to “Three Men for Confirming the Republic with Consular Power”. The titles are shown on coins as III VIR R P C and the name of the triumvir. Before the new alliance began, their parts of the Roman World were split...

Nerva Born – November 8, 30 AD

Marcus Cocceius Nerva was born in Italy-Narni on November 8, 30 AD (or 35 AD – there are conflicting sources) to a lineage of very well-connected politicians. His grandfather and father were both consuls and the Cocceii family was connected to the Julio-Claudian dynasty through marriage. Most of Nerva’s life was spent in the background of Roman politics, but was apparently very productive. He was appointed praetor-elect in 65 and was one of Nero’s advisors. He helped expose the Pisonian Conspiracy in 65, plotting the assassination of Nero. Whatever his involvement in exposing the plot, it must have been considerable as Nero gave him triumphal honors and the right to have his statues placed around the palace. Nero was also very fond of Nerva’s literary skills. Also in Nero’s circle at the t...

Maxentius, “the Rebel” – October 28, 306 AD

Born c.278 AD, Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maxentius was the son of Maximianus and Eutropia. When his father was promoted to co-emperor of the Roman Empire by Diocletian in 285, it was assumed he would follow in his father’s footsteps and eventually be declared emperor as well. However, when Diocletian and Maximianus retired and abdicated, Maxentius and Constantine I were passed over and the previous Caesars, Constantius Chlorus and Galerius became co-Augustii and promoted Severus II and Maximinus II Daia to co-Caesarii. Constantius Chlorus was the father of Constantine I and Galerius was the father-in-law of Maxentius, through the marriage of his daughter, Valeria Maximilla. After Constantius died in 306, Constantine I was promoted to Caesar. In later 306, the Tetrarchy was planning to disba...

“In This Sign Ye Shall Conquer” – October 28, 312 AD

After the death of Galerius in 311 AD, the Roman Empire was split between four Augustii – Constantine I in the western provinces allied with Licinius I in the Balkans, Pannoniae and Illyria and Maxentius controlling Italy and Africa, allied with Maximinus II Daia in Asia and Egypt. Each of the four viewed the others as hostile, so the alliances that did exist were out of convenience to choose sides for the inevitable civil war. Constantine invaded Italy to confront Maxentius, even though he was vastly outnumbered militarily. What he had on his side was discipline and tactics. The armies of Maxentius had many veterans who were enjoying the finer things in Rome after having served their emperor. The younger recruits were not yet fully trained. Constantine, however, had well-seasoned troops a...

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