A Greek amphora showing athletes, 4th century B.C.
©Trustees of the British Museum. (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
The idea that the athletic contests – held in honour of the Greek god Zeus for over a thousand years – were shut down by a puritanical Christian emperor makes for a good story. But is it true?
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?
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.
The Peutinger Table. Reproduction by Conradi Millieri - Ulrich Harsch Bibliotheca Augustana.
Today the phrase 'all roads leads to Rome' means that there's more than one way to reach the same goal. But in Ancient Rome, all roads really did lead to the eternal city, which was at the centre of a vast road network.
An equestrian statue of a Julio-Claudian prince, originally identified as Caligula.
©Trustees of the British Museum: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.
The emperor Caligula lavished attention on his favourite horse Incitatus, holding parties for friends in the steed's grand stables. But did he make his horse a consul?
A Roman Feast by Roberto Bompiani (late 19th century).
via Wikimedia Commons
Roman decadence reached its peak with the vomitorium: a room where feasting elites threw up to make room for more food. Or so the story goes ...
Was persecution a consistent imperial policy, and what types of punishments were inflicted on Christians?
The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1883)/Wikimedia Commons
The image of cowering Christians being thrown to the lions by Roman emperors is a grisly staple of popular culture. But how accurate is it?
Nero: had a reputation as an arsonist even in antiquity.
The image of a crazed and capricious Emperor Nero is immortalised in popular culture: from fiddling while Rome burns to having a sexual relationship with his mother. The historical evidence, however, is rather different.