Ancient Mediterranean History--Part Two



Dark Ages

1000 bc - 776 bc

Archaic Age

776 bc - 500 bc

Persian Wars

490 BC - 479 BC

Classical Athens

479 BC - 323 BC

Peloponnesian War

431 BC - 404 BC

Alexander the Great

336 bc - 323 bc

Macedonia, son of Philip II; unites Macedonia behind Persian invasion; annexes parts but retains satrapal admin; befriends locals by respecting customs (marketing himself in conflicting ways)--no heir

Hellenistic Kingdoms

323 bc - 200 bc

generals divide empire into three parts: Antigonid Macedonia, Ptolemaic Egypt (pharaohs act traditionally, but present themselves as Hellenistic leaders to Greece, richest of kingdoms) and Seleucid Asia (in charge of huge & multi ethnic empire--must delegate pwr to native satraps)

HELLENISTIC EAST: new poleis, Greeks/Macedonians: closed ruling elite

Syrian Wars

240 bc - 168 bc

Ptolemies and Seleucids rich, spend money going to war over Levant; weakens both


Early Rome

800 bc - 600 bc

Indo-European Latins settle in central-west Italy; Rome a farming village until Greek-influenced Etruscans (north Italy) occupy and urbanize it; aristocracy eventually expels Etruscan kings:
o Patricians, closed elite, earn status and votes by providing personal, legal and financial protection to hereditary clients among plebeians (masses).
o King’s powers divided among annual officials, esp. two consuls; senate (all ex-officials) formulates policy; Centuriate citizen-assembly votes yes/no and elects officials from patricians (votes weighed by wealth).

Struggle of the Orders

500 bc - 300 bc

among plebeians, as city grows, newly rich desiring political power and farmers fearing debt-bondage unite as Tribune Assembly:
o Elects ten annual Tribunes of the Plebs; can veto abusive legislation by calling a literal secession of plebeian manpower; effective as Rome under constant threat from neighbors.
o 4th c. oligarchy: growing military importance of those plebeians able to afford armor leads patricians gradually to allow them access to all offices and thus Senate.

Italian Wars

400 bc - 300 bc

Rome’s vulnerable position leads it to reform citizen militia from phalanx into more agile legions and gradually annex Italy as a buffer.
o Italians made allies with legal but not political rights; local autonomy but required to provide soldiers; share in Rome’s trade and war-spoils.
o Strategic points connected to Rome by roads and settled with its veterans, alleviating debt-bondage.

Punic Wars

300 bc - 200 bc

Romans, fearing encirclement after naval power Carthage (Phoenician colony) expands in Sicily and Spain, declare war; former’s Hannibal invades Italy only to have latter’s Scipio “Africanus” annex Spain and invade Africa behind his back, forcing surrender.
o Sicily and Spain become Rome’s first overseas provinces, lightly overseen by annual governors.

• Expansion into Greece (2nd c.): Rome reduces Macedonia and Greece to a province after former’s attempts to reassert a powerful monarchy and push west seen as a threat to Italy.
o Influx of Greek culture transforms Latin into a literary language.

Military-agricultural crisis

200 bc - 100 bc

Protracted campaigning abroad results in farms of many Roman soldiers going bust, who then no longer meet property-qualification for service; reduced force cannot defend provinces, but patrician-plebeian elite reluctant to give up land its members have snapped up to grow surplus for lucrative overseas trade.

Gracchi Brothers

130 bc - 120 bc

tribunes break ranks with elite and seek power as “popular” politicians; win limited land redistribution, but murdered with senate’s connivance.


107 bc

with Rome losing a war for (North) Africa, “popular” consul opens army to landless by promising, without senate’s approval, he will secure it booty and land; must use threat of turning his veterans lose on Rome to obtain latter.
o Dangerous precedent of client-armies: foreign emergencies now solved using soldiers wholly dependent upon, and thus loyal only to generals able to turn them on Rome.

Italian Revolt

90 bc - 88 bc

successful play for Roman citizenship, ensuring access to rewards of legions and political office.

Octavian and Marc Antony

30 bc - 20 bc

Caesar’s heir and lieutenant use assassination as a pretext for killing off their enemies at Rome and seizing power.
o Split empire, senior Antony taking the richer east and allying with Ptolemaic queen Cleopatra.
• Seleucid Empire, vulnerable to Parthians, had already been absorbed as a buffer.
o Octavian uses fear that Cleopatra has coopted Antony to unite Rome in a successful war against the two, winning sole control of empire and personal possession of Egypt’s vast wealth.
• Octavian as princeps Augustus Caesar (20s): avoids assassination by allowing senate to resume normal functions, using control of army and wealth to more subtly steer policy and veto excesses.

Pax Romana

27 bc - 180 ad

efficiency of military and administrative bureaucracy insures stability despite bad emperors; as newer provinces generate empire’s true wealth, power gradually shifts from Italy/Senate to emperor/bureaucracy (e.g. Iberian Trajan).
o Increased trade, professionalized military and diffuse citizen-body remove inhibitions against large estates farmed by citizen-tenants (coloni).

Augustan Rule

20 bc - 14 ad

• Provincial Reforms: Augustus adopts a non-expansionist agenda; concentrates on keeping current holdings
• Consolidates territory, making it easier to manage
• Puts allies in charge
• Extends citizenship and creates class of freedmen
• Promotes Roman culture abroad→Romanization
• Military Reforms: professionalizes army and encourages their loyalty
• Strategic stationing along the borders
• Creates praetorian guard led by equestrians (non-senatorial bureaucracy)
• Pays soldiers annual salaries (donatives)
• Domestic Reforms: proclaims “golden age” of peace and prosperity
• Transforms “city of brick to city of marble”; makes “clocks run on time”
• Casts self as restorer of peace, of religious/cultural tradition, and of morals
• Becomes a literary patron: e.g. Livy and Virgil; they project a good image of Augustus

• Emperor and Senate: Augustus wins over civil-war-weary Senate by restoring latter's normal functioning and direct control over empire’s core (especially Italy); but outer (and, in east, wealthier) provinces, where army stationed as a border patrol, under emperor's exclusive authority and administered by equestrian bureaucracy loyal to him.
o Equestrians wealthy but lack senatorial ties (often provincial citizens), so emperor their easiest avenue to political influence.
• Romanization: low taxes for economic benefits of imperial security (trade via roads, no pirates, common currency and strong laws) win provincial loyalty; promise of eventual citizenship for assimilated communities furthers integration.
o Security and citizenship provided by emperor, not Senate.

Severan Dynasty

193 - 235

dynastic void allows Libyan Severus, commanding forces along Danube, to seize power; distrusted by Senate, he reassigns much of its institutional power to the army; he and his successors court latter through pay increases, relying increasingly on debased coinage; ensuing inflation-crisis leads army to mutiny.
o Soldiers mainly from Rhine-Danube frontier, including defeated barbarians resettled and enlisted.
o To increase tax base, Severans extend citizenship to empire’s entire population, divided between honestiores (senators, equestrians, soldiers) and humiliores with fewer legal protections.
o Increased tab for army means emperors no longer have resources for sponsoring public works to Romanize cities.

50 Year Crisis

235 - 284

northern border comes under pressure from powerful new Germanic confederacies (Franks, Alamanni, Goths), east from aggressive Sassanid (Persian) dynasty in Parthia; power constantly shifts among generals of regional armies killed in civil and defensive wars; coinage-debasement accelerates.
o Many of these “soldier-emperors” are, like their troops, from the Balkans.

Diocletian's Dominate

284 - 305

Balkan soldier-emperor stabilizes empire; creates mobile field-army to assist vulnerable border-points; funds it by rationalizing division and management of provinces, expanding civil service’s size and exploitative reach; avoiding silver, most taxes and payments in kind; to discourage rivals, remakes emperor as god-like king, complete with traveling court (visits Rome only once).
o Civil servants drawn mainly from educated Greek east.

Divided Empire

300 - 400


306 - 337

founds new capital, Constantinople (New Rome: it’s own Senate, decorating with Art sucked up from old west), in Greek east, acknowledging area’s importance; forced sale of private gold allows him to introduce stable new currency; gains support by closely associating throne with popular Christianity, fostering standardization of church-administration and doctrine (e.g. Nicene Creed).


379 - 395

Last emperor to rule both east and west; makes Christianity the empire's exclusive religion.


400 - 500

internal Senatorial elite shut out of power, proto-feudal barons in the west who come to terms with Germanic ppl who overrun the western empire, share land, Germanic ppl agree to let preexisting leaders stay and assimilate into culture—sub-roman kingdoms in west, model what was there before, just split up, Germanic invaders—ruling caste
o Semi-romanized barbarian ruling class in west
o Identify with roman identity, because everything after roman empire still Roman-like
o East will eventually be eclipsed by rise of Islam, which will try to characterize East as different from West; Islam characterizes self as non-Roman

Byzantine Empire


Balkans and Anatolian interior supply east’s army, so west’s dangerous dependence on Germanic tribes avoided; relative peace allows for economic recovery; emperors function as head of church and state.


527 - 565

spends accumulated reserves on impressive building program (esp. Hagia Sophia), and reconquering North Africa and Italy; but army in west gives northern barbarians and Sassanid Persia an opportunity to pillage much of eastern empire.
o Codifies Roman law; later basis of European legal tradition.


610 - 641

comes to power as brilliant Persian king Chosroes II overruns east except Constantinople; uses empire’s famous naval superiority to invade Persia from the Black Sea, forcing Chosroes to return east; after exhausting their resources, two empires make peace based on former borders.

o First “Byzantine” Emperor: makes Greek official language; adopts title of basileus ("king").
• Gets rid of last Latin vestiges of Empire
• New Greek title for king