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Gcse ancient History

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5.4 Attitudes towards kingship in Livy and Virgil’s writing
Livy or Titus Livius was born in Patavium, which is now called Padua, in the north of Italy in either 59 BC or 64 BC (nobody knows for sure which one). Nobody knows that much about his family but we do know that Padua was supposed to be a place where people had good moral standards but the Roman Civil Wars caused great problems there. Some people say that Livy meant his history to be an example to the Romans. They had suffered, but that had been due to their own immoral behaviour and a moral recovery was still possible, and Livy offered some inspiring and cautionary tales. It was a serious and important project, and Augustus, the Roman emperor, was interested in it. Livy did not belong to the inner circle of the emperor but the historian and the emperor respected each other and it is said that Augustus once (perhaps after the publication of Books 91-105) made a good-natured joke that Livy still was a supporter of Pompey, the enemy of Caesar. If this was a criticism at all, it was not serious. Livy is not said to have been friends with the Emperor Augustus, but he was close enough to the emperor’s circle to encourage the young Claudius (who later became emperor) to write history. Livy died in 17 CE in Padua.

Virgil or Publius Vergilius Maro, was born in 70 BC in a small village near Mantua in Northern Italy where his parents had a farm. Virgil’s family farm was confiscated during the Civil War. It was the Emperor Augustus who asked Virgil to write the Aeneid, which was written in about 29 BC. As far as Virgil was concerned, it was not finished when he died and he did not want it published. The emperor Augustus however, said that it had to be published. Virgil died in 19 BC.

Neither author lived in the time when Rome had kings so their views on them are historical, but the ways that they wroteabout them will have been influenced by recent Roman history. At the start of the first century BC (the century both writers were born in and wrote towards the end of) Rome was still a Republic, where the Senatorial elite had most of the power, but the class of equites and the common people also had a limited say in some things and a degree of protection under the laws. This had been a relatively stable political sytem and had lasted as Rome expanded her influence first within Italy and then overseas. However, during the first century BC a small number of politicians became increasingly powerful, which upset the balance of the system and led to the Civil wars. At the end of this period Octavian (who became the emperor Augustus) restored peace. Both authors lived through the Civil War and were affected by it. Both authors benefitted from the peace brought to the empire by Augustus.

Augustus was an emperor, and effectively sole ruler of the Roman Empire, however he liked to emphasise that he had restored a lot of control to the senate. When Livy criticises the later actions of the Tarquins, this should not be seen as a criticism of Augustus, because if anything Augustus would be associated with brave Brutus, who overthrew the tyrant and restored power to the senate. Comparisons could also be made with earlier kings like Numa, who brought peace and gave the Romans laws and religion, and who asked for the Senator’s approval at the start of his reign.

Remember, all writers are biased, no matter how hard they try to avoid it.

Task 5C
What is the difference between an Emperor and a King?

Think about Livy and Virgil’s possible reasons for being biased and list them.

Write down what effect you think this has on their writing.

Try to find out some more information about the Civil War and how it would have affected people.

Research the life of Augustus and what he did for Rome.


Remember, all dates are approximate or ‘traditional’ and c. stands for circa which means about. All dates are BC (before Christ), which is sometimes also refered to as BCE (before Common Era) -they both mean the same time.

1184       Fall of Troy; beginning of Aeneas' wanderings

c. 1176        Aeneas founds Lavinium

c. 1152       Aeneas' son Ascanius founds Alba Longa

c. 1152-753 Period of kings at Alba Longa

753         Traditional date of founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus

753-509    Period of Kings at Rome
c. 753-716/15    Romulus
c. 715-674/3    Numa Pompilius
c. 673-642    Tullus Hostilius
c. 642-617    Ancus Marcius
c. 616-579    Tarquinius Priscus
c. 578-535    Servius Tullius
c. 534-510    L. Tarquinius Superbus
c. 509 Overthrow of the monarchy and foundation of the Republic by L. Junius Brutus

1200 Beginning of the iron age. The Latins arrive in Italy from near the river Danube.
1000 Latins settle in the area of Latium and Etruscans move to Italy.
c. 800-750 Iron-Age settlement on Palatine Hill a simple village of thatched huts.
750 Greeks set up cities in Italy.
700 Etruscan civilisation dominates the area.
c. 600 The Roman forum is built and Etruscans build tombs
578 Cloaca Maxima, the first sewer, is built.
550 Roman city walls are built.
c. 510 Overthrow of the Etruscan Kings

Option 2: Hannibal’s invasion and defeat, 218–146 BC

Context: Relations between Rome and Carthage under Hasdrubal: Sicily and Spain

1.1 Background: Carthage: its foundation and growth

Carthage was a city founded by the Phoenicians on the northern tip of what is now Tunisia. The traditional date for the foundation of Carthage is either 814 BC or 813 BC as recorded by Timaeus of Tauromenion. It was founded by settlers from Tyre in Phoenicia, on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. The story tells of a queen, Elissa, forced to escape from Tyre because of her brother Pygmalion. In Roman legend she becomes Queen Dido who commits suicide after being abandoned by Aeneas. He goes onto settle in Italy and become the ultimate ancestor of the Romans.

More likely the founders of Carthage were merchants or traders who established a trading post in a situation where they could access both the east and west of the Mediterranean with good agricultural land to support them. The Carthaginians soon gained control over the native tribes who became known as the Libyans and Numidians. Once settled and eventually becoming independent of Tyre, the colony of Carthage established its own organization. During the 6th century BC it also began to set up colonies of its own, first along the Western Mediterranean and down the western coast of Africa. Archaeological evidence shows that its traders reached as far as Britain. Pliny the Elder [Natural History 2.169a] tells us that Himilco explored ‘the outer coasts of Europe’. He was probably looking for tin and other metals which could be found in those areas, including Britain.

Carthage was not the only Phoenician settlement: there were ones at Gades in Spain, and on the Mediterranean coast at Malaca. Once these colonies could no longer rely upon Tyre to help defend them, Carthage took on this role and began to unite these cities into an empire of her own. From these cities, along the African coast, Carthage gained tribute either in the form of money or in produce, but also in the form of service in her army and navy.

Carthage also helped the Phoenician cities in Sicily against the Greek colonists until, in 480 BC, she was defeated at the battle of Himera, so dividing the island between Phoenicians in the West and Greeks in the East. War started again at the end of the 5th century BC but was ended with a treaty in 405 BC. For the next 150 years there were wars between the Greeks and Carthaginians in Sicily. In one of these wars the Greeks had the help of Pyrrhus of Epirus who after leaving Sicily remarked that Sicily would be the focus of a struggle between Rome and Carthage.

Carthage also came into conflict with the Greeks in Spain at the battle of Alalia where she defeated them and took control of Sardinia and parts of Southern Spain. This gave her access to immense natural wealth and manpower, as well as control of the Atlantic trade routes. Carthage kept these closed to other traders, thus exploiting her Empire to her own advantage, and treating many of her ‘allies’ as subjects from whom she demanded money and men.

Rome and Carthage first came into contact after the removal of the Etruscan kings from Rome. The Etruscans had been allies of the Carthaginians and now they wanted a treaty with the Roman republic. The dates of the treaties are uncertain and perhaps there was one in 508 BC (as Polybius states). There was certainly one in 348 BC, which restricted where Romans could sail and what they could do. Roman traders were excluded from Sardinia and Libya, and the Western Mediterranean. This left Carthage to continue to expand her control of trade in these areas.

Task 1A: Research

Internet search for a map of the Mediterranean and locate Phoenicia, Tyre, Carthage and trade routes.

  • Search for the story of Elissa/Dido by the author Justin.

  • Research the settlement at Carthage: its position; its military and commercial advantages.

814 BCE: The traditional date for the foundation of Carthage by Phoenician traders.

6th Century BCE: Carthage extends control over nomadic African tribes (Libyan and Numidian) establishing a dominat role in North Africa, stretching from today's Morocco to the borders of today's Egypt; Carthage establishes her control also over Sardinia, Corsica, and Spain.

580 BCE: first conflicts with the Greeks in Sicily

509 BCE: first treaty with Rome (according to Polybius)

480 BCE: Battle of Himera: the Greeks defeat the Carthaginians in Sicily.

450- 20 BCE: Himilco reaches the British Isles; Hanno sails down the West African coast.

405 BCE: treaty with the Greeks in Sicily

396 BCE: A new defeat for Carthage by the Greeks of Sicily.

348 BCE: treaty with Rome renewed; Carthage establishes control of the Western Mediterranean.

306 BCE: Agreement between Rome and Carthage: Rome agrees to keep out of the affairs of Sicily and Carthage keeps out of Italy.

264 BCE: Rome’s treaty with the Mamertines of Messana: Rome in conflict with Carthage over Sicily.

1.2 Carthage: Military and Political structures

The Cathaginian Constitution:

2 ‘Judges’ or Suffetes: magistrates or officials/ generals; elected by the Assembly.

Council (30) : elected by the Assembly

Senate (300) : elected by the Assembly

Council of 104 Judges : supervised the conduct of the officials, chosen by a group of magistrates, not by the People

Assembly of the People: decisions of matters which the Senate or Council could not agree.

The government of Carthage was controlled by a small group of noble families. These families gained their wealth and position from both commerce and large estates in Africa, worked by cheap slave-labour.

The Military Organisation: The Army

The original army of the Carthaginians consisted of citizens, in the same way as Rome and Mainland Greek city states. However, once Carthage began to dominate first in Africa, then the Western Mediterranean, she used the armed forces of those peoples she conquered and she began to pay mercenaries to fight in her army and navy. It is likely that, at least in wars outside Africa, the citizens of Carthage did not fight in the wars, except as generals and officers. In the Punic wars, the army included:

Libyphoenicians (perhaps the core of the infantry and cavalry); they fought in a phalanx and armed with round shield, a spear between 5 and 7 metres long like the Macedonians according to Polybius), and a short sword in typically Greek style

Spaniards: 8000 of Hannibal’s 20,000 infantry were Spanish; there were two types – swordsmen and slingers; they used a large shield, a short javelin, and a short sword (which was eventually taken up by the Romans – the gladius with a 45 cm blade;they also used a barbed javelin called a saunion. They wore a sort of hood rather than a helmet. Spain also supplied a cavalry unit who were armed in much the same way as the infantry.

Gauls and Celts: They were armed like the Spaniards with a long oval shield and short sword but tended not to wear body armour.

Balearic islanders: they were used a slingers.

Italians and Greeks: they fought in their native armour and weapons.

Numidians: light armed cavalry, armed with javelins, small round shield.

Libyans: they provided both heavy infantry and troops lightly-armed with javelins and a small shield.

Elephants: were of the smaller north-African type.

Because we have accounts of the Carthaginian army from Greek and Roman writers, it is difficult to be certain about the military organisation.

Task 1B

Read Livy 21.21-22 about Hannibal’s forces.

A description of the forces at Cannae:

At dawn Hannibal sent his Balearic slingers and light-armed troops out ahead, and then crossed the river with the main body of his army. He deployed them in position as they crossed, with Gallic and Spanish cavalry on the left wing, near the river bank, facing the Roman cavalry, and the Numidian cavalry on the right wing. In the centre he stationed his infantry, strengthening the whole formation by putting his African troops on both flanks, with Gauls and Spanish soldiers placed between. You would have thought that the Africans were an almost totally Roman battle line. Their weaponry consisted mainly of the spoils of Trasimene, but also of Trebia. The Gauls and Spanish troops had shields that were broadly similar, but the swords differed in size and design, the former having long swords which had no points, the Spanish short and pointed ones, since their fighting technique was to stab rather than slash their enemy. The effect of these tribesmen was uniquely terrifying, both for their giant physique and ferocious looks. The Gauls were naked from the waist up; the Spanish, with their linen tunics edged with purple, presented an extraordinary line of dazzling white. When fully deployed, their overall numbers came to 40,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry.

Livy 22.46

The Navy:

The Carthaginain fleet included ships with two or three banks of rowers (triremes), and warships with four and five banks of rowers on no more than 3 levels (quadriremes and quinquiremes). The rowers in the fleet came from the poorer parts of the citizens of Carthage and her subjects. The author Appian says that the docks at Carthage could hold 200 ships. Polybius tells us that in 256 BC Carthage had a fleet of 350 ships. Parts of two Carthaginian ships were discovered near the harbour of Lilybaeum which allows us to gain a picture of what they were like.

Task 1C:

  • Research the organization of the Carthaginian army and navy.

  • Look up the finds at Lilybaeum and the remains of the ships.

  • Find out about the different armour and weapons and tactics of the Carthaginian army.

1.3 The Carthaginian Empire and the First Punic War

By 264 BC Carthage was the dominant power in the Western Mediterranean; she had a strong commercial hold on the trade routes, with a large income from her subjects; her navy was the largest and her rowers the most experienced. Her leaders were highly professional and her generals had been largely successful. The city itself had been constructed to be impossible for an enemy to capture. However, she relied on mercenaries to some extent and her ‘allies’ were really her subjects and expected to obey her wishes. The state was controlled by a small number of rival families competing for power.

Rome, on the other hand, had built up control of most of Italy; her allies provided manpower for the army but her relationship with them was not like Carthage and her subjects. Rome had made her allies loyal by fair treatment to some extent. She had a citizen army which had fought a number of wars in Italy. Her government had developed from the time of the removal of the kings into a relatively stable system. However, she had no navy to speak of. Her generals were appointed only for one year as magistrates of Rome, usually the consuls.

The conflict over Sicily began when Rome decided to help the Mamertines, mercenaries who had taken over the city of Messana against the Carthaginians. The Roman people in the Assembly may have thought that Carthage was planning to extend its influence into Southern Italy, since Messana was on the tip of Sicily right opposite the toe of Italy.

Timeline of the First Punic War

262 BC Capture of Agrigentum by the Romans

260 BC Roman naval victory at Mylae

258 BC Roman naval victory at Sulci

257 BC Roman naval victory at Tyndaris

256 BC Roman naval victory at Ecnomus

255 BC Regulus and the Romans defeated in Africa. Naval victory at Cape Hermaeum.

250 BC Roman naval victory at Panormus

249 BC Carthaginian naval victory at Drepana

241 BC Roman naval victory at Aegates Islands; Peace with Carthage; Romans occupy Sicily.

The Romans started with the limited intention of restricting Carthage from Italy, but by 262 BC they realised they could not do this without challenging Carthage at sea; the capture of Agrigentum encouraged them to think of taking Sicily from Carthage and to do that they needed a fleet. This would also mean they could attack Africa and Carthage itself as well as the cities of Sicily.

Polybius describes this in his Histories Book 1.20. In sections 21 and 22 he describes how the Romans built the ships and trained the rowers, but also how they invented the ‘corvus’ or ‘raven’. This was a plank designed to be dropped onto the deck of the enemy ship and allow the Romans to board it, making the sea battle into a land battle.
The effect of Rome’s success was that Rome had her first overseas ‘province’. She was now committed to administering this possession and collecting the tax from the provincials. Sicily became an important source of grain for Rome. It meant, among other things, that more officials had to be created to do the job of governing Sicily. In 238 BCE Sardinia was added to Rome’s possessions, creating more work for the magistrates.
Rome was now a small, but significant, Mediterranean power. She was gaining in wealth but also commitments. Her leading citizens could also see the benefits from expanding Rome’s ‘empire’.

This conflict showed too the extent of the loyalty of Rome’s allies which was to prove vital in the struggle with Hannibal.

Task 1D

  • What were the reasons for Rome’s success against Carthage?

  • Polybius describes Hamilcar Barca, the father of Hannibal, as the greatest general during this war (1.64) – research what Hamilcar did and consider why Polybius praises him so much.

1.4 Importance of Spain to Carthage

With the loss of Sicily and Sardinia, Carthage needed to recover some income and revenues. It affected the wealth of the traders and also the opportunities of the craftsmen and seamen. In addition there was a war indemnity to pay to the Romans. The Carthaginians and Hamilcar Barca in particular therefore looked to Spain as an alternative source of manpower and money. Spain had supplies of timber, minerals and soldiers. Hamilcar was sent there in 237 BC, perhaps also because the ruling families of Carthage were becoming worried at his growing popularity and power.

It is questionable whether Hamilcar, and afterwards Hannibal, had really been planning to renew the war with Rome and take revenge for the defeat from the start of the campaign in Spain. In Spain Hamilcar could train and develop support for an army without intervention from the Romans. He could not have acted without the support of the government in Carthage and the supply of money and goods ensured support. In 231 BC a Roman embassy came to check on what he was doing and he replied that he was simply getting money to pay of the war indemnity to the Romans. In 226 BC Hasdrubal agreed a treaty with the Romans that he would not cross north of the River Ebro with an armed force.

1.5 Saguntum

Saguntum was south of the Ebro, but also an ally of Rome. When Hannibal demanded its surrender, Rome ordered him to respect their ally. The Romans went onto Carthage itself but did not get an agreement there either. One group in Saguntum had appealed to Rome to help over a dispute with a local tribe (the Torboletae) who were allies of Carthage. Rome had therefore interfered with a Carthaginian ally and Hannibal came to help them in the spring of 219 BC. After an 8 month siege, the city was captured by Hannibal. At this time Rome was occupied with a threat from the Illyrians. The Romans waited until March 218 BC before sending an ultimatum to Carthage demanding the surrender of Hannibal and his staff – this was rejected and war declared.

Hannibal’s attack on Saguntum was not justified for military reasons; while Saguntum was a Roman ally south of the Ebro, it was not a military threat. Hannibal used Saguntum to push Rome into making the declaration of war, so that the government of Carthage would see Rome as the aggressors and so support him. Both Hannibal and his father, Hamilcar, probably saw that Carthage’s extension of power in Spain might renew the rivalry with Rome. They wanted to be prepared for such a war and to fight the war on land. Hasdrubal had maintained good relations with Rome through his treaty. However, they had seen Rome take Sardinia when Carthage was in no position to defend her rights to it. Over Saguntum, Hannibal was not willing to give in again.

However, Livy (21.5) and Polybius (2.36) have no doubt that from the moment Hannibal took command he intended to make war on Rome.

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