Articles on Ancient Rome

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Writing wasn’t just invented once by a single person. Many different ancient societies invented writing at different times and places. www.shutterstock.com

Curious Kids: who came up with the first letters?

Writing has only been a part of the human story for the last 5,000 years. In comparison, humans began to communicate using speech some 50,000 years ago.
In the very beginning of the Roman calendar (more than 2000 years ago), there were only 10 months in the year. Jule Berlin/Shutterstock

Curious Kids: how did the months get their names?

December is named for the Roman word for "tenth". So, why is it the twelfth month?
Wall construction along the U.S.-Mexico border in Sunland Park, New Mexico, in 2016. AP/Christian Torres

Immigration: How ancient Rome dealt with the Barbarians at the gate

As Congress and President Trump struggle to devise a coherent immigration policy along the US southern border, there are lessons from ancient history that could prove instructive.
One important reason for the Spartans’ obsession with fighting was the constant possibility they would need these skills in war and also at home, in Sparta itself. Shutterstock

Curious Kids: who were the Spartans?

From about age seven, Spartan children learned to fight and practise obeying orders. They also staged pretend battles. Boys and girls were trained separately.
In Ancient Greek texts, the king Lycaon is punished for misdeeds by being turned into a wolf. Wikimedia

The ancient origins of werewolves

The earliest surviving example of man-to-wolf transformation is found in The Epic of Gilgamesh, from around 2,100 BC. But the werewolf as we now know it first appeared in ancient Greece and Rome.
Coins from the Hoxne Treasure, Hoxne, England, late 4th – early 5th century CE. silver 1994,0401.299.1-20 © Trustees of the British Museum © Trustees of the British Museum, 2018. All rights reserved

Rome: City + Empire contains wonderful objects but elides the bloody cost of imperialism

A major exhibition of treasures from ancient Rome presents a distinctly old-fashioned tale of the empire's rise and expansion, which is out of step with contemporary scholarly thinking.
Kevin Jackson, Robyn Hendricks and Ty King Wall in the Australian Ballet’s production of Spartacus. Justin Ridler

Spartacus: the rise and rise of an unlikely hero

When Spartacus and 70 or so of his comrades revolted and escaped from their gladiatorial school near Capua in 73 BC, everyone imagined the matter would soon be dealt with. But his rebellion has continued to inspire political movements.
A fragment of a wall painting showing two lovers in bed from the House of L Caecilius Jucundus in Pompeii, now at Naples National Archaeological Museum. Wikimedia Commons

Friday essay: the erotic art of Ancient Greece and Rome

From phallus-shaped wind chimes to explicit erotica on lamps and cups, sex is everywhere in ancient Greek and Roman art. But our interpretations of these images say much about our own culture.
It is commonly thought that anyone in ancient Rome who killed his father, mother, or another relative was subjected to the ‘punishment of the sack’. But is this true? Creative Commons

Mythbusting Ancient Rome: cruel and unusual punishment

From being thrown off a cliff to being sewn into a sack with animals, ancient Rome is notorious for its cruel and unusual punishments. But we must be careful what we take as historical fact.
Brothels in Pompeii were decorated with murals depicting erotic and exotic scenes: but the reality was far more brutal and mundane. Thomas Shahan/Wikimedia Commons

The grim reality of the brothels of Pompeii

Though their activities were depicted alluringly in murals, the sex workers of Pompeii were slaves who lived hard lives.

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