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City of Rome as seen in the series.

This article focuses on the Ancient Roman Republic as depicted in the series, and not modern day Rome.

Rome (Latin: Rōma) was an ancient republic that, at the time of the Third Servile War, occupied the entire Italian peninsula, North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, the southern part of modern France, the lower Balkan peninsula, and western Asia Minor. The Roman Republic began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, which is traditionally dated around 509 B.C. Its lands are the setting of the story of Spartacus and his revolt.


The official language of Rome was Latin (although with Rome's continued expansion and the contact with foreign people ever increasing, it was urged that one learn many languages). The Roman currency was known as the denarius (plural: denarii), although most accounting was rendered in sesterces, one denarius being equal to four sesterces. Much of the populace lived in the city center of Rome and the other cities of the Republic, packed in apartment blocks. Men typically wore a toga, and woman a stola. The cloth and the dress distinguished one class of people from another class. Even footwear indicated one's social status. Roman religion was an everyday and vital affair. Its religious beliefs were similar to and shaped by Greek polytheism, but cults from farther east became increasingly popular throughout the later Republic.The staples of the Roman diet were grain prepared into bread and porridge, beans, olives, seafood, and pork, although wealthier individuals threw banquets at which the rarest and most exotic delicacies were consumed. Wine was a staple drink, frequently consumed at all meals and by all classes. Marriages were generally arranged by the heads of households for the advantage of the family, although it was regarded as prudent at least to take the wishes and temperaments of those to be married into some account. Homosexuality was very common, and was considered unremarkable so long as it did not interfere with one's duties to one's family.

Social Class

Roman social structure was strongly patriarchal, based on the legally absolute power of the paterfamilias, the male head of the household, over the lives and property of all members of the household. The status of the paterfamilias in society in turn depended on factors such as whether he held Roman citizenship, his status as a member of one of the patrician families tracing descent from the founding families of Rome or as a member of the plebian families who could not, the renown of his ancestors and their relation to any notable families, his wealth, his political influence measured in the number of clients dependent upon his patronage, and his personal military or political honors.

Two Roman magistrates, the censors, conducted a census of the Roman citizenry every five years. Each Roman citizen heading a household who owned property in excess of 400,000 sesterces or who was descended from one of the patrician families was classed in the highest, equestrian, class, which was grouped into six political centuriae consisting of the patrician families, and 12 political centuriae of those classed equestrian by wealth. The rest of the Roman citizenry was divided by their residence in one of 35 districts, called tribes based on their historical origin, four tribes within Rome, and 31 rural tribes outside. Each head of household possessing property worth more than 4,400 sesterces within each tribe was classed according to his wealth and age into one of 350 political centuriae, ten for each tribe, of five classes of younger men and five classes of older men. All heads of household possessing less than 4,400 sesterces of property were classed together into one out-sized centuria, the proletarii. An additional four centuriae comprised militarily significant tradesmen, such carpenters and blacksmiths, and musicians.

The 373 political centuriae formed by the census together formed the Comitia Centuriata, the Committee of Centuries, which elected the higher magistrates, declared war, and could pass law. Each centuria received one vote in Committee decisions, regardless of the number of citizens assigned to it. The members of each centuria would poll themselves, and the majority of each centuria would determine the vote of the centuria on any question. There were far fewer members of the centuriae of the equestrian and first two tribal classes, because the distribution of wealth was uneven, yet these groups together accounted for a near-majority of the Committee, while the largest and poorest segment of the population, the proletarii, had only one vote. So long as the wealthier classes were united in interest, therefore, the Committee and resulting policies of the government of Rome were tilted toward the interests of the upper classes, despite their numerical inferiority.

The political centuriae should be carefully distinguished from the centuriae of the Roman army. Although the political centuriae, prior to the reforms of Marius, were the bases from which the military centuriae were conscripted and formed, by the time of the Third Servile War the linkage between the political and military centuriae was a thing of the past. Both before and after the reforms of Marius, though, the political centuriae were the bodies which elected the chief magistrates.

In addition to the Committee of Centuries, two other assemblies of heads of household existed which held political power. The Committee of Tribes elected the lower magistrates, and could pass laws, and the Committee of Plebians elected the Tribunes of the Plebians and the two aediles plebi, and could pass laws as well. The Committee of Tribes was organized by tribe, but all heads of household within each tribe would cast votes to determine the vote of each tribe, making it far more democratic. The Committee of Plebians, like the Committee of Tribes, was organized by tribe, but only heads of households belonging to plebian families could vote. The Committee of Plebians was the basis of power of the Tribunes of the Plebians, who could veto any act of the rest of the Roman government. The Committee of Plebians therefore became the body passing most new legislation, although the implementation of the law would be in the hands of the magistrates elected by the far more aristocratic Committee of Centuries. Tension between the magistrates and Senate on one side, and the Tribunes of the Plebians on the other, was a persistent and growing tension throughout the Republic.

The Roman ideal, though, was the patrician gentleman made financially secure by ownership of estates worked by slaves, traveling between the city and those estates to manage his affairs, to participate in civic events, and to participate in political affairs both directly through standing for the political offices of the cursus honorum and indirectly through the cultivation of client-patron relations with social superiors and inferiors. Women's social status was determined nearly exclusively by that of their father or of their husband, although the role of women in making or breaking marriages, their own or others', could have resounding political and even military repercussions, since so much of business and political life was based on family alliances cemented by marriage.

Beneath those holding the right of citizen in the Roman social order were the peregrini, the free non-citizens under Roman rule. After the Social War, all citizens of the allied city-states of the Italian peninsula south of the Rubicon and Arno Rivers were granted Roman citizenship, but Roman power had extended far beyond the Italian peninsula. Free inhabitants of the subjugated territories had their basic rights recognised under Roman law, but were typically discriminated against in the courts and had no right to vote in Roman elections. Unlike Roman citizens, peregrini could be tortured during criminal investigations, and they were subject to summary judgment by magistrates without right of appeal.

At the bottom of Roman social order labored the slave. Under Roman law, slaves were considered property and had no personal rights. For the most part, slaves were treated harshly and oppressively, increasingly so as Roman conquests increased the supply of slaves and so lowered the price of human life. Owners could discipline, abuse, or even kill a slave without any legal consequence. While there were many types of slaves, the lowest and most numerous worked in the fields or the mines. This oppressive treatment led often to outbreaks of violence. Before 73 B.C., there had been two "Servile Wars" involving mass slave uprisings against Roman power, but both had occurred in Sicily, an island still ruled as a conquered territory. Before the Third Servile War, the regions around Rome itself had never seen a general slave uprising, nor had slaves been viewed as potential threats to the city of Rome.


Rome had two military branches at the time: The Roman army and the Roman navy. The legion was the basic unit of the Roman army. A radical reform of the Roman army had occurred about thirty years before the Spartacus uprising, under the consul Gaius Marius, transforming it into a uniformly equipped, highly disciplined professional force. After the Marian reforms, a typical full-strength legion had 5,120 combatant legionnaires fighting as heavy infantry formed into ten cohorts of five or six centuries each, and a total strength of approximately 6,000 when officers and various non-combatants were included. A typical legionnaire would be loaded with battle equipment such as: armor (lorica squamata), a shield (scutum), a helmet (galea), two javelins (one heavy pilum and one light verutum), a short sword (gladius), and a dagger (pugio). A commander of a single legion was known as a legatus. More than one legion could be formed into an army, to be commanded by a praetor, propraetor, or one of the two consuls, the chief magistrates of the Roman Republic.

The hallmark of the Roman legion was its discipline, formed by the iron will of its centurions, the professional soldiers commanding each centuria, a group of approximately 100 soldiers. At the time of the Third Servile War, a legionnaire enlisted for a term of 16 years, giving the centurions years to hone the training of each soldier. The honor of the legion was embodied in its standard, the aquila, or eagle. The aquilifer was the most honored private soldier in the legion, entrusted to bear the visible manifestation of legion's discipline and honor in battle. Losing the aquila was thus a huge disgrace, death being preferred to such dishonor. A military unit which disgraced itself might be subject to decimatio, the brutal execution by stoning or clubbing of a tenth part of the unit, selected by lot, by the other members of the disgraced unit.

Victorious legions were rewarded with the opportunity to plunder defeated armies and cities. The commanding generals would often reward the legionnaires with additional bonuses upon the successful completion of a campaign, cementing the loyalty of the soldiers to their commander. If a legionnaire survived his term of enlistment, he would be discharged, usually with a grant of land obtained by his legatus in an area of the legion's prior conquests. This process of establishing colonies of discharged veterans in newly conquered lands not only further secured the authority of Rome in its newly conquered territories, but also enhanced the authority of the legate in his command of the legionnaires during their enlistment.

Before the Marian Reforms, Consuls and Praetors would act as the commanding generals of the legions. Consuls would command two legions each, while the Praetor commanded one. With the acquisition of more territory, veterans would be settled in military Colonia. While technically discharged, the veterans could be called upon by the incumbent governor of the province in the event of an invasion or native rebellion, so they were technically a garrison. With the professionalization of the army during the administration of Gaius Marius, legions became permanent in nature. This would increase the number of legions exponentially, regardless if the legion was funded by the state or by private citizens (see Crassus and Pompey).

In the Late Republic, the Consuls, Proconsuls or Propraetors would be in overall command of the individual legions, but since they commanded in other areas of military and civil administration, they would appoint a deputy in the form of the Legatus. Legati were often of senatorial rank and would be the relatives, friend or political allies of the Consul or provincial governor. Legatus translates as "deputy" or "representative", in which they represented the Senate in the oversight of the legion.

The Legate was assisted in his duties by the Tribunes. By the time of the Principate era of Rome, Tribunes would be officially designated as Laticlavii (legionary second-in-command) or Tribunes Angustoclavii (Equestrian staff officers). But were defind by a range of other destinctions during the Late Republican Era.

The acting third-in-command was a full-time professional officer called the Praefectus Castorum (prefect of the camp), who was usually an ex-centurion. Following him in prestige was the Primus Pilus who was the most senior-serving centurion in the legion and the commander over the First Century of the First Cohort, an elite veteran unit in which protected the legions eagle and its bearer, the Aquilifer.

Centurions of other grades from the Primi Ordines to the Hestati Posteriors in descending order of rank, commanded the individual centuries in the legion.

The deputies of the centurions were collectively known as the Principales, who were of NCO rank. The first of which was the Optio, who commanded the rearward ranks of the century in the battleline. The Tessarius, who seconded the Optio, would command the sentries, kept the watchword from his commanding officer and performed other administrative tasks. After them came the Signifer, who carried the century's own standard, and the Cornicen who blew the horn and stood beside the Signifer and the Centurion to draw the attention of the troops to their commanders.

Immunes were legionaries with special skills which were vital to the maintenance of the legion and exempted them from fatigue duties. The Decanus was the equivalent of a corporal and commanded a Contubernium or "tent-group" which was a squad of eight men. A Duplicarius was a "double-pay soldier" regardless of his actual rank. At the bottom were the remaining Milites (soldiers) or Legionarii (legionaries).

The Roman Navy, known as Classis or "the fleet" was considered inferior in prestige to the army and often was considered a supporting branch to the latter. During the Late Republican era of Roman history, a fleet commander was known as a Navarchus, a title of Greek origin which would later be replaced by the office of Praefectus Classis. Navarcha (plural) were of the same status of Legionary Tribunes and would directly answer to the overall commander who was often of Consular or Praetorian rank. A ship captain was called a Triarchus, which is also also a title of Greek origin referring to the commander of a Trireme, though in practice the title applied to just about any size of ship. The Centurio Navarchus, assisted by an Optio, the Suboptio and the Signifer, would command the Milites Classiarii (soldiers of the fleet), who were shipboard marines armed and trained in the manner of legionaries. The Gubernator (helmsman) manned the steering oar at the rear of the ship. The Beneficiarius Stolarchi was responsible for provisions. The Hortator instructed the oarsmen. And the Nautae were the sailors whom manned the oars and rigged the sail. While Milites Classiarii would have often been Roman citizens, the Nautae would have been recruited from the Peregrini (non-citizens) or from client states (Socii Navales), particualrly from subject peoples with a strong maritime culture such as the Illyrians, Greeks and the Phoenicians. When Rome first established it's navy during the First Punic War, a lot of the sailors were recruited from Greek cities in Italy such as Neopolis (Naples) and Taras/Tarentum (Tarento).


Rome was founded as a monarchy, but after the overthrow of the Etruscan ruler Tarquinus Superbus, Rome became Res Publica for the first time. The official name of the Roman nation was the Senatus Populusque Romanus (abbr: SPQR), translated as the Senate and the People of Rome.

The office of Dictator was a Magistratus Extraordinarius, whom were only appointed in times of national emergency, such as a foreign invasion (Second Punic War), and was referred to as "Rei Gerundae Causa" (for the matter to be done). The second most common purpose for a temporary dictatorship was "Comitiorum Habendorum Causa" for the purpose of holding elections. And in the event of a pestilence, where a nail had to be ceremonially driven into the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus referred to as "Clavi Figendi Causa". An elected Dictator had power for a limited term of six months, and were expected to relinquish their offices once the emergency was over. The other titles associated with a Dictator was Magister Populi (master of the people) Magister Perditum (master of the infantry) and Praetor Maximus. The Dictator's deputy was the Magister Equitum (master of the cavalry). Dictators, while they were in office, were escorted in public by a squad of twenty-four Lictors.

The most usual heads of state in the Republic of Rome, however, were a pair of annually-elected Consuls whom were chosen amongst the ranks of the Senate. Consuls were civic leaders in peace time and generals of the army in war. Consuls would each command two legions in the field. Consuls would be escorted in public by a group of twelve Lictors.

After the Consuls, came the Praetors. One was the Praetor Urbanus, who was the chief justice in cases involving Roman citizens. While the Praetor Peregrinus was responsible in presiding over court cases involving foreign residents of the Roman Republic, and also held Imperium, which entitled him to command one Legion, until the Reforms of Gaius Marius in the late Second Century BCE. Praetors were escorted in public by six Lictors.

The Princeps Senatus was an esteemed senator who was charged with the responsibility of being the main speaker of the Senate, calling sessions of the Senate, meeting with foreign dignitaries and imposing the rules in the Senate during session. The Princeps Senatus was of Consular rank and was chosen once every fives years by the Censors.

The Censors were a pair of officials appointed by the Senate to select the Princeps Senatus, to oversee state finances, maintaining the census, and supervising public morality. Censors were elected by the Comitia Centuriata, or Centuriate Assembly,

Four Aediles, two elected from the Patrician class, known as Aediles Curules, and two elected from the Plebian order, or Aediles Plebi, were responsible for the maintainance of temples and public works, and were charged with recording deposits made into the Aerarium, the Roman state treasury, which was kept within the Temple of Saturn. Aediles were also charged with law and order in the city of Rome. Curule Aediles were entitled to a security detail of two Lictors.

Quaestors were young senators whom were sent to the territories outside the city to oversee the revenue streams from the provinces, and to act as the governor's deputy in provincial administration. Quaestors, whenever the situation called for it, were also permitted to command legions. Quaestors were also entitled to the security detail of one Lictor.

The Roman Senate was the top political institution in the Republic, which was believed to have been first created by the legendary first king of Rome, Romulus, as an advisory body. In the early Republic, it was composed of the aristocratic Patrician order before they were joined by rising Plebeian dynasties. The Senate would pass decrees called "Senatus Consulta" which was officially 'advice' toward the interim officials (consuls, praetors and provincial governors). These did not have legal force, but were often heeded in practice.

The Comitia Curiata (Curiate Assembly) was the principle assembly of the Roman Republic during its earliest days. The Roman people were divided into thirty Curia, which were all affiliated with all thirty of the original Patrician families in Rome. Only Patricians could vote in the assembly, though Plebians could attend in witness. The Assembly was presided over by the Consuls, whom were elected by the Curiate assembly. In time, the Curiate would lose much of its power to the Century Assembly and the Tribal Assembly.

The Comitia Centuriata (Century Assembly), so-called as it divided the Roman citizen-body into one hundred (and later 197) groups, Each century would present a vote, even while there was more than one voter in the assembly, and the number of centuries whom voted one way would determine the outcome of the issue. The Comitia Centuriata was the only assembly which could declare war in the Roman state, or elected the Consuls (formerly the right of the Comitia Curiata), the Praetors and the Censors. The Comitia Centuriata could also pass laws in respect of a magistrate's authory such as the Lex de Imperio (law on military command) for consuls and praetors, and Lex de Posteste Censoria (law on censorial powers). The Comitia Centuriata also served as the high court of appeal for matters involving capital punishment, and ratified the results of a census.

The Comitia Tributa (Tribal Assembly) was the democratic institution for the thirty-five tribes of Rome (four urban tribes, thirty-one rural tribes). The Consuls or Praetors would alternately act as the presidents of the Comitia Tributa, which elected the Curule Aediles, the Quaestors and the Consular Tribunes(defunct office before the First Century BCE). The Comitia Tributa would also try judicial cases. The assembly would also elect twenty-four young men annually to serve as military tribunes in the legions.

The Concilium Plebis (Plebeian Council) was the principle popular assembly of Rome, which functioned as a legislative assembly. The Concilium Plebis was created in 471 BCE in the wake of the Conflict of the Orders. The assembly would elect citizens to the office of the Tribunus Plebis (Plebeian Tribune) as well as the Plebeian Aediles. Plebeian Tribunes could veto laws passed by the Senate if he felt they were against the interests of the Plebian order. The Plebeian Tribune would preside over meetings of the Concilium Plebis and his office was considered sacrosanct to the point that Plebians were under oath to kill anyone whom physically interfered with the exercise of the Tribune's office. Plebeian Tribunes also had the power to arrest individuals. 


At the time of the Third Servile War, Rome was recognized as the most powerful nation in the known world. Roman power had expanded through military conquest and the political domination of nation after nation. Examples of its victorious ascent were the nearly simultaneous conquests of its rivals Carthage and Macedonia, resulting in the political subjection of Carthage's former allies, such as Numidia, and Macedonia's former clients such as the tribes of Thrace. Roman power had grown by the discipline of the legions, based on the commitment of the Roman people and leaders to the authority and dignity of the family and the state.

Growth and Effect

The steady expansion of Roman power through conquest brought plunder, slaves and land to those who commanded the armies, raising the ruling families to spectacular wealth. The spoils of conquest were parceled out to the troops of the legions, sustaining their loyalty and creating a professional standing army, and to political allies, building a web of political alliances of patron and client through which eventually nearly all business was conducted.

The availability of slave labor, though, steadily eroded the position of the small farmers and laborers who had previously formed the foundation of the Roman army. A growing stream of poor migrated to the cities, where they became the objects of political contest, the newly-wealthy with political ambitions buying the favor and votes of the dispossessed, essentially all they had left, by subsidized or free grain and regular public spectacles.

Gladiatorial Games

Gladiatorial games were one of the most popular such forms of entertainment. Originally a religious funeral ritual, having men fight to the death before public audiences dated back to the earliest days of the Republic, and had over centuries acquired its own ritualized forms and code of honor. In order to supply gladiators for the contest, training enterprises called ludi (singular: ludus, meaning "game") were established throughout the Republic. In these schools, aspiring gladiators, usually slaves, were taught the skills to fight in the public spectacles, and the code of behavior expected. Not all gladiators were slaves, though; some were willing free men seeking the fame and fortune accorded to successful veterans who could become favorites of the crowd. Death was routine in these games, but a defeated gladiator might be spared if such mercy pleased the crowd in the stands or a politically influential spectator in one of the seats of honor of the pulvinus.

Roman Empire

The Roman empire was the empire that streched out from Italy to Hispania (modern-day Spain) and all the way to Egypt. It was first ruled by kings. That idea of rule was thrown out after 200 years because they were afraid of tyrannical kings. It was then ruled by the Roman Republic. Which lasted 500 years. And then had dictators called emperors. Augustus was the first emperor leading to Tiberius leading all the way to Constantine and Julian. During the reign of Julian, It fell to the Goths and the reign of the Roman Empire was over.

Slave Rebellion

In 73 B.C., the pressures of a system built on dominance and violence exploded into the Third Servile War when a band of gladiators in the ludus of Batiatus rebelled. The gladiators and other escaped slaves, led by Spartacus, at first were seen by the ruling families as a minor threat that would quickly be eliminated. However, the continued military success of the uprising, ultimately involving between 120,000 and 150,000 slaves and gladiators, caused growing alarm to the Roman Senate. As the slaves defeated Roman troops again and again, the Senate eventually dispatched eight legions under the leadership of Marcus Licinius Crassus to confront and destroy this threat to the entire social order of Rome.


The outcome of Spartacus' rebellion shaped the next 50 years of Roman history, decisive to the history of the Republic: the rise of Crassus to power in thinly-concealed rivalry with Pompey; Julius Caesar's ascent from Crassus' client into a political force in his own right; Caesar's rebellion against the Senate and declaration as perpetual dictator, leading to the final collapse of the Republic and the rise of Octavian Augustus, transforming the 500 year-old Roman Republic into the Roman Empire.

Roman Calendar Era

Until the Principate era in Roman history, the Romans would name the year after the reigning Consuls. For example, 44 BCE was known as the Consulship of Gaius Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius to contemporary Romans. During the reign of Augustus, one Marcus Terrentius Varro, due to his year-by-year calculations in his work the Varronian Chronology, would popularize the term Ab Urbe Conditia (from the founding of the city [Rome]) as a comprehensive dating system for Roman history, though, the Romans would continue to name the year after the reigning consuls, and, by the 200 CE, by the regnal year of the emperors. Year 1 Ab Urbe Conditia would be 753 BCE, while the founding of the Republic took place in 245 AUC/509 BCE. The Third Servile War would have taken place in 680-682 AUC, while the year of the death of Juilus Caesar would be 709 AUC. Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (Augustus) after defeating Mark Athony and Cleopatra's naval forces at the Battle of Actium, conquering Egypt, became the undisputed leader of the Roman Republic in 723 AUC, otherwise known at the time as the Consulship of Marcus Antonius and Caesar Octavianus (31 BCE), though Mark Athony was practically replaced in his office by the Suffect-Consul Marcus Valerius Massalla Corvinus. The first year of the Common Era/Anno Domini era was 754 AUC.

Notable Romans

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