In turn, olive oil and wine were Italy's main exports. Two-tier crop rotation was practiced, but farm productivity was low, around 1 ton per hectare. Industrial and manufacturing activities were smaller. The largest such activities were the mining and quarrying of stones, which provided basic construction materials for the buildings of that period. In manufacturing, production was on a relatively small scale, and generally consisted of workshops and small factories that employed at most dozens of workers.
However, some brick factories employed hundreds of workers. The economy of the early Republic was largely based on smallholding and paid labor. However, foreign wars and conquests made slaves increasingly cheap and plentiful, and by the late Republic, the economy was largely dependent on slave labor for both skilled and unskilled work. Only in the Roman Empire, when the conquests stopped and the prices of slaves increased, did hired labor become more economical than slave ownership. Although barter was used in ancient Rome, and often used in tax collection, Rome had a very developed coinage system, with brass , bronze , and precious metal coins in circulation throughout the Empire and beyond—some have even been discovered in India.
Before the 3rd century BC, copper was traded by weight, measured in unmarked lumps, across central Italy. The original copper coins as had a face value of one Roman pound of copper, but weighed less. Thus, Roman money's utility as a unit of exchange consistently exceeded its intrinsic value as metal.
After Nero began debasing the silver denarius , its legal value was an estimated one-third greater than its intrinsic value. Horses were expensive and other pack animals were slower. Mass trade on the Roman roads connected military posts, where Roman markets were centered. During that period, a trading vessel took less than a month to complete a trip from Gades to Alexandria via Ostia , spanning the entire length of the Mediterranean. Some economists consider the Roman Empire a market economy , similar in its degree of capitalistic practices to 17th century Netherlands and 18th century England.
The basic units of Roman society were households and families. In the upper classes, slaves and servants were also part of the household. Patria potestas even extended over adult sons with their own households: A man was not considered a paterfamilias , nor could he truly hold property, while his own father lived. Little affection was shown for the children of Rome.
The mother or an elderly relative often raised both boys and girls. Unwanted children were often sold as slaves. In noble families a Greek nurse usually taught the children Latin and Greek. Their father taught the boys how to swim and ride, although he sometimes hired a slave to teach them instead.
At seven, a boy began his education. Having no school building, classes were held on a rooftop if dark, the boy had to carry a lantern to school. Wax-covered boards were used as paper, papyrus, and parchment were too expensive—or he could just write in the sand. A loaf of bread to be eaten was also carried. Groups of related households formed a family gens. Families were based on blood ties or adoption , but were also political and economic alliances. Especially during the Roman Republic , some powerful families, or Gentes Maiores , came to dominate political life.
In ancient Rome, marriage was often regarded more as a financial and political alliance than as a romantic association, especially in the upper classes see marriage in ancient Rome. Fathers usually began seeking husbands for their daughters when these reached an age between twelve and fourteen. The husband was usually older than the bride.
While upper class girls married very young, there is evidence that lower class women often married in their late teens or early 20s. Life in ancient Rome revolved around the city of Rome, located on seven hills. The city had a vast number of monumental structures like the Colosseum , the Forum of Trajan and the Pantheon. It had theatres , gymnasiums , marketplaces, functional sewers, bath complexes complete with libraries and shops, and fountains with fresh drinking water supplied by hundreds of miles of aqueducts.
Throughout the territory under the control of ancient Rome, residential architecture ranged from modest houses to country villas. In the capital city of Rome, there were imperial residences on the elegant Palatine Hill , from which the word palace derives. The low Plebeian and middle Equestrian classes lived in the city center, packed into apartments, or Insulae , which were almost like modern ghettos. These areas, often built by upper class property owners to rent, were often centred upon collegia or taberna. These people, provided with a free supply of grain , and entertained by gladatorial games , were enrolled as clients of patrons among the upper class Patricians , whose assistance they sought and whose interests they upheld.
The native language of the Romans was Latin , an Italic language the grammar of which relies little on word order, conveying meaning through a system of affixes attached to word stems. While Latin remained the main written language of the Roman Empire, Greek came to be the language spoken by the well-educated elite, as most of the literature studied by Romans was written in Greek. In the eastern half of the Roman Empire, which later became the Byzantine Empire , Latin was never able to replace Greek, and after the death of Justinian, Greek became the official language of the Byzantine government.
Archaic Roman religion , at least concerning the gods, was made up not of written narratives , but rather of complex interrelations between gods and humans. Romans also believed that every person, place or thing had its own genius , or divine soul. During the Roman Republic , Roman religion was organized under a strict system of priestly offices, which were held by men of senatorial rank.
The College of Pontifices was uppermost body in this hierarchy, and its chief priest, the Pontifex Maximus , was the head of the state religion. Flamens took care of the cults of various gods, while augurs were trusted with taking the auspices. The sacred king took on the religious responsibilities of the deposed kings. In the Roman Empire, emperors were deified,   and the formalized imperial cult became increasingly prominent.
As contact with the Greeks increased, the old Roman gods became increasingly associated with Greek gods. The Roman gods also assumed the attributes and mythologies of these Greek gods. Under the Empire, the Romans absorbed the mythologies of their conquered subjects, often leading to situations in which the temples and priests of traditional Italian deities existed side by side with those of foreign gods.
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Beginning with Emperor Nero in the 1st century AD, Roman official policy towards Christianity was negative, and at some points, simply being a Christian could be punishable by death. Under Emperor Diocletian , the persecution of Christians reached its peak.
However, it became an officially supported religion in the Roman state under Diocletian's successor, Constantine I , with the signing of the Edict of Milan in , and quickly became dominant. Like many ancient cultures, concepts of ethics and morality, while sharing some commonalities with modern society, differed greatly in several important ways. Because ancient civilizations like Rome were under constant threat of attack from marauding tribes, their culture was necessarily militaristic with martial skills being a prized attribute. Indeed, one of the primary purposes of the gladiatorial games was to inoculate Roman citizens from this weakness.
Contrary to popular descriptions, Roman society had well-established and restrictive norms related to sexuality, though as with many societies, the lion's share of the responsibilities fell on women. Women were generally expected to be monogamous having only a single husband during their life univira , though this was much less regarded by the elite, especially under the empire. Women were expected to be modest in public avoiding any provocative appearance and to demonstrate absolute fidelity to their husbands pudicitia.
Indeed, wearing a veil was a common expectation to preserve modesty. Sex outside of marriage was generally frowned upon for men and women and indeed was made illegal during the imperial period. Roman painting styles show Greek influences, and surviving examples are primarily frescoes used to adorn the walls and ceilings of country villas , though Roman literature includes mentions of paintings on wood, ivory , and other materials.
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The first style of Roman painting was practiced from the early 2nd century BC to the early- or mid-1st century BC. It was mainly composed of imitations of marble and masonry , though sometimes including depictions of mythological characters. The second style of Roman painting began during the early 1st century BC, and attempted to depict realistically three-dimensional architectural features and landscapes. A small architectural scene, landscape, or abstract design was placed in the center with a monochrome background.
The fourth style, which began in the 1st century AD, depicted scenes from mythology, while retaining architectural details and abstract patterns.
Portrait sculpture during the period [ which? During the Antonine and Severan periods, ornate hair and bearding, with deep cutting and drilling, became popular.
Advancements were also made in relief sculptures , usually depicting Roman victories. Latin literature was, from its start, influenced heavily by Greek authors. Some of the earliest extant works are of historical epics telling the early military history of Rome. As the Republic expanded, authors began to produce poetry, comedy, history, and tragedy. Roman music was largely based on Greek music , and played an important part in many aspects of Roman life.
Most religious rituals featured musical performances, with tibiae double pipes at sacrifices, cymbals and Tambourines at orgiastic cults , and rattles and hymns across the spectrum. The graffiti , brothels , paintings, and sculptures found in Pompeii and Herculaneum suggest that the Romans had a sex-saturated culture. Ancient Roman cuisine changed over the long duration of this ancient civilization.
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Dietary habits were affected by the influence of Greek culture, the political changes from kingdom to republic to empire, and empire's enormous expansion, which exposed Romans to many new, provincial culinary habits and cooking techniques. In the beginning the differences between social classes were relatively small, but disparities evolved with the empire's growth.
Men and women drank wine with their meals, a tradition that has been carried through to the present day. The youth of Rome had several forms of athletic play and exercise, such as jumping , wrestling , boxing , and racing. For the wealthy, dinner parties presented an opportunity for entertainment, sometimes featuring music, dancing, and poetry readings. Public games were sponsored by leading Romans who wished to advertise their generosity and court popular approval; in the Imperial era, this usually meant the emperor.
Several venues were developed specifically for public games.