Course: Introduction to Roman History Instructor: Michel Cottier
8. Roman life and culture from 264 to 133 BC
Cf. Chapters X and XI
Sources to read:
Nos. 97-98, pp. 71-78 = Columella, On Agriculture 1.6.1-11, 18-24 and Pliny the Younger, Letters 2.17 (Farms and
No. 128, pp. 95-96 = Polybius, History of the World 6.53-54.3 (Funeral of an important man).
No. 164, pp. 126-127 = Plautus, The Pot of Gold 505-522 (Tradesmen and craftsmen).
No. 175, pp. 137-138 = Livy, A History of Rome 31.13 (War bonds).
No. 198, pp. 163-164 = Diodorus Siculus, The History of the World 23.18.4-5 (Captives of war).
Nos. 211-219, pp. 173-180 = Martial, Epigrams 3.94 / Pliny the Elder, Natural History 9.39.77 / Juvenal, Satires
6.475-476, 480-484, 490-493 / Tacitus, Annals 14.42-45 / CIL 15.7194 / CIL 15.7172 / Petronius, Satyricon 97.1-8,
98.1 / Pliny the Younger, Letters 3.14 / Diodorus Siculus, The History of the World, fragments of book 34:2
(Slavery: cruelty and revolts).
No. 335, p. 298 = Livy, A History of Rome 34.2.1, 2, 8-11, 14 (Reaction of some Roman women in 195 BC against
the Oppian Law of 215 BC).
Nos. 435-436, pp. 393-397 = Livy, A History of Rome 39.8, 9, 14, 17, 18 and CIL 1.2.581 (Bacchic rites and their
suppression in 186 BC).
Justice and law = nos. 3-6, pp. 9-11: Cicero, About the Republic 3.22.33 / The Digest of Law 1.1.10 (Ulpian) / FIRA
2, p. 405 / FIRA 2, p. 407.
Philosophy = nos. 460-473, pp. 420-430: Lucretius, About the Nature of the Universe 1.107-115, 127-135, 146-148 /
Lucretius, About the Nature of the Universe 1.149-158 / Lucretius, About the Nature of the Universe 1.215-237,
250-264 / Lucretius, About the Nature of the Universe 1.265-279, 305-316, 319-328 / Lucretius, About the Nature of
the Universe 1.329-330, 334-343, 346-357 / Lucretius, About the Nature of the Universe 2.1002-1004, 72-79,
575-580 / Seneca the Younger, Letters 48.7, 8 / Seneca the Younger, Letters 124.7, 14 / Seneca the Younger, An
Essay about Providence 5.4, 6 / Seneca the Younger, An Essay about Anger 1.7.2, 3 / Seneca the Younger, An Essay
about Constancy 5.4, 5; 8.3 / Seneca the Younger, Letters 65.21, 22 / Seneca the Younger, Letters 18.1, 3, 5, 6 /
Seneca the Younger, An Essay about Providence 2.1-4; 4.1, 3, 6, 11-13.
Education = nos. 134-137, 152-153, 159-160, and 238, pp. 100-103, 113-115, 119-122, and 197-198: Plutarch, The
Life of Marcus Cato 20.4-7 / Quintilian, The Elements of Oratory 1.1.6-8, 15-17, 20 / Cicero, Letters to his Brother
Quintus 2.4.2 / Suetonius, A Book about Schoolteachers 9 / Quintilian, The Elements of Oratory 1.4.1-5 / Tacitus, A
Dialogue on Orators 34.1-6 / Cicero, About the Orator 1.16-20 / Cicero, Correspondence with Family and Friends
16.21 / Suetonius, A Book about Schoolteachers 13.
Religion = nos. 411-412, 434, and 437-438, pp. 369-372, 391-393, and 398-400: Martial, Epigrams 10.92 / Pliny the
Elder, Natural History 28.2(3).10, 11 / Livy, A History of Rome 25.1.6-8 / Livy, A History of Rome 29.14.10-14 /
Lucretius, About the Nature of the Universe 2.594-601, 606-614, 618-632.
Leisure activities = nos. 351-352, 366, 377, and 389, pp. 308-311, 320-321, 331, and 346-347: Strabo, Geography
5.3.8 / Seneca the Younger, Letters 86.1, 4-6, 8, 11, 12 / Pliny the Younger, Letters 1.6 / Suetonius, The Lives of the
Caesars: Julius Caesar 10 / Terence, The Mother-in-Law 28-57.
DATES TO REMEMBER:
- Around 211 BC: introduction of a new coinage system based on a silver coin (the 'denarius') worth 10 and later (from about 141 BC) 16 copper 'asses' (sg. 'as'). The 'denarius' fractions were the copper 'quinarius' (one-half) and
'sestertius' (one-quarter). The Roman 'denarius' was the equivalent of the Greek 'drachma' (6,000 'denarii' or
'drachmas/drachmae' made a 'talent'; a talent was a pure unit of account and never an actual coin!).
ROMAN ECONOMY AND SOCIETY (Points to keep in mind):
- Transformation of the agricultural life of Italy due to:
1. Huge casualties as a result of the two Punic wars. For instance nearly 80,000 male Roman citizens died between
264 and 203 BC.
2. Destruction caused by years of war pushed many impoverished small landowners to abandon or sell out their lands
and to leave the countryside for the newly created provinces or to settle in Italian towns and cities and particularly in
Rome, hoping for a more secure and better life.
3. Some Italian products could not compete with provincial imports, levied in some cases as tribute and taxes, from
the recently conquered territories. This was true for grain, but also in some measure for olive oil.
Remember also that transport by sea/river in antiquity was much cheaper than by land!
- Transformation of the agricultural life of Italy led to:
1. In such a changing market some small landowners were able to shift for more profitable types of products (wine,
olive oil, fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, meat, poultry, eggs, cheese) destined for urban markets and notably the
huge Roman market. However, not all of them were able to provide the necessary investment for this change of
2. Land was the natural investment for rich Romans and Italians (being aristocrats or people originating from lower
backgrounds) => appearance throughout Italy of 'large estates' ('latifundium', pl. 'latifundia') engaged in specialized
production for the urban markets (e.g. cattle for milk and/or meat; pigs for meat; sheep for wool), but also of elegant
villas devoted to more leisured activities (hunting grounds, fish ponds).
3. If at the beginning people rented parts of the 'ager publicus' (conquered territories transformed into 'Roman public
land'), as time went on holders of these rented lands started to consider them as their own and stopped paying rent to
4. Vast amount of cheap slave labour available. This also had an impact on the commercial activities of free
craftsmen (masons, carpen