because history just ain't what it used to be

Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

Game Review: Death in Rome

In Games, Internet Resources on March 11, 2010 at 12:25

Death in Rome

reviewed by Ryan Noone


This game is very interactive and challenging. You are a Roman detective trying to figure out who the murderer is after a mysterious death in Rome. This game is appropriate for high school students, but the changing difficulty levels should be suited for younger kids as well. To solve the mystery you have to put together the pieces of the puzzle given to you and listen to the people tell you about what they saw. In the end, you have to put it all together and figure out the mysterious death in Rome.


The Prison System: Rome 509 BCE vs. USA 2010 CE

In History, Opinion on March 10, 2010 at 16:49

by Bryan Fidler

The purpose of correctional facilities has changed greatly since the Roman Republic established their first prisons. Romans did not use prisons for the same purposes that we do in the United States. In fact, Roman law did not recognize imprisonment as a form of punishment.

In 451 BCE, with the issuance of the Twelve Tables, the main function of the jail was to provide a place to keep state prisoners pending execution, and for people awaiting trial. The wealthy were held under house arrest at the home of a friend, who would guarantee their appearance in court ( The only instance of imprisonment in the Twelve Tables occurs in the laws concerning debt. Debtors who could not or would not pay were incarcerated for sixty days and were to have their debts announced publicly in the marketplace three times. If their debt was paid, they were released, if not they were executed or sold into slavery outside the city (Morris and Rothman, 15).

If Romans were caught in the act, or confessed to the crime, their sentence was immediately imposed and no trial was held (Morris and Rothman, p.18). Conviction for some offenses was “an eye for an eye”, but a frequent penalty for a crime was death. Capital punishment took many forms such as burning alive for those convicted of arson, throwing off the Tarpeian Cliff for perjury, hanging for theft and burying alive the vestal virgins who violated their oaths of chastity (Morris and Rothman 14). Exile might be chosen by a convicted felon as an alternative to execution, in exchange for loss of their property and citizenship. Those exiled could be killed if they returned to Rome.

The Carcere Mamertino, or Mamertime Prison, is an ancient Roman prison typical during the Roman Republic. It served as the State Prison and had an underground cell which was a hole twelve feet below ground into which prisoners were lowered. It was basically a dungeon, where the conditions were so deplorable that many died before reaching trial, or the completion of the decided penalties. It was the death chamber for those sentenced to strangulation or starvation (Morris and Rothman, 19). High profile prisoners of war were also kept in the prison, where they stayed until a public procession could be held when they were paraded and strangled in public (Morris and Rothman, 22).

In the United States today we use prisons to hold inmates awaiting trial, but also for punishment. Capital punishment is rarely used as evidenced by the statistic that only 52 inmates were executed in 2009, as compared to 1,610,446 people being held as prisoners ( Also, the methods of capital punishment are considered to be more humane than during the Roman Republic, with the use of lethal injection or electrocution being the most common. The punishment of “an eye for an eye” no longer exists, and we now have an alternative or adjunct to incarceration under the system of parole and probation, where prisoners are released into the community under certain conditions, which only if not met, result in re-incarceration. Unfortunately, in 2008, over 7.3 million people were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole at year-end, which is 3.2% of all U.S. adult residents, or 1 in every 31 adults. Furthermore, expenditures on corrections have increased 660% from $10 billion in 1982 to $68 billion in 2008 ( From a local perspective, in 2009 the Harford County Detention Center in Maryland housed, on average, 500 people per day, at a cost of $45/day. This amounts to an annual cost of $8,311,050 for a County with a population of approximately 250,000, which is the same approximate population of Rome at the beginning of the Roman Republic. (

So the prison system today in the United States is more humane than during the Roman Republic, which shows progression. Prisons are regulated at the Federal, State, and local levels by government. Prisoners are not kept in unsanitary places or starved and in Roman times, and in fact, “three hots and a cot”, is the current standard. Prisons now even provide job training and education to inmates to prepare their re-introduction into society.

But how effective is punishment as a deterrent to crime?

In a 15 State study conducted from 1983-1994, over two-thirds of released prisoners were rearrested within three years ( Punishment is defined as a process of presenting a consequence, delivered after a behavior, which serves to reduce the frequency or intensity with which the behavior occurs( If the purpose of incarceration in United States prisons is punishment, the tremendous costs and recidivism rates indicate that the prison system is not working. Indeed, the Roman Republic process seemed a more efficient — if utterly less humane — form of handling and deterring the commission of crimes.

“Annual Report.” Harford County Sheriff’s Office. Jan 2010. Harford County Government, Web. 5 Mar 2010.(

“Key Facts: Corrections.” Office of Justice Programs. 7 Jan. 2010. U.S. Department of Justice, Web. 5 Mar 2010. (

Morris, Norval, and David Rothman. The Oxford History of the Prison. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1995. Print., pp. 14-22.

“punishment.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2010.Merriam-Webster Online. 5 March 2010 (

“Roman Prisons.” UNRV History. 2003-2010., Web. 5 Mar 2010. (

What’s So Ancient About Rome?

In History on March 8, 2010 at 21:27

by Jim Knell

Rome, a city that was hardly known at all when it was founded in 753 BC by Romulus, soon flourished and expanded its empire to conquer the known inhabited world.

This may have been aided by various factors such as the formation of the very powerful Roman Republic, elements of which are still incorporated into modern governments, as well as strategic war generals such as Scipio Africanus, Roman beliefs and values, and the inventions that they created. Rome was one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever seen and their radical ideas irreversibly changed the course of history.

Rome was a civilization that took pleasure in fantasy tales, especially ones that included themselves. The first of such stories is the story of the formation of Rome. The story begins with two brothers Romulus and Remus. As it is recounted by Plutarch, “Their minds being full bent upon building, there arose presently a difference about the place. Romulus chose what was called Roma Quadrata, or the Square Rome, and would have the city there” ( This was a main point in the fable of the origins of Rome that did include some events that actually occurred but also myths incorporated into the story.

A belief of Romans and a few select other civilizations that were indeed influenced by the Romans was Stoicism. This philosophy is defined as “conduct conforming to the precepts of the Stoics, as repression of emotion and indifference to pleasure or pain” ( This is not to say that Stoics were suicidal or went to great lengths to induce pain upon themselves, but that they simply embraced pain if and when it was unavoidable. In a poem written in the first century BC by Horace, he says, “You could not gain a moment’s breath or move the haughty king below nor would inexorable death defer an hour the fatal blow” ( This view on death is not taken up by many people or nations as it was back then, but it could have been the reason why the Romans fared so well in battles and wars. When they realized that they must risk their own life for the sake of their nation they accepted the reality and pushed onward.
Another characteristic of Ancient Rome that did not actually resist the tug of history and fell to the ages was the specific law the Romans decreed upon its borders. The laws deemed integral to Rome’s development were assembled into the Twelve Tables. Some laws pertaining to the treatment of women and children have not been practiced for centuries, such as: “A child born after ten months since the father’s death will not be admitted into a legal inheritance” (Table 4, Article 5);  and “Females should remain in guardianship even when they have attained their majority” (Table 5, Article 1). Both of these laws treat women and children as objects and other specific laws even less than that. These laws are not practiced today and women have more rights and children are not treated as harshly.
A law that is not accepted anymore in most, if not all, of the world is in table 11, article 1. “Marriages should not take place between plebeians and patricians” ( This restricted who could rule at a given time. If one was to wed a plebeian and be a patrician one thing had to go. The royal population could not mix with the commoners as it was seen to only cause problems.
Rome was a civilization that went through an entire roller coaster of success and failure. They came up with many revolutionary ideas that astounded nations some of which are still incorporated into modern life. The fact cannot be overlooked, however, that Ancient Rome fell and took some its ideas with it. From its humble beginnings to present Rome, much like the entire globe, has changed dramatically and the very foundations and early ideas of Romans are what make Rome such an ancient though integral civilization.
“The Internet Classics Archive: Romulus by Plutarch.” The Internet Classics Archive: 441 Searchable Works of Classical Literature. Web. 06 Mar. 2010. <>.
“Stoicism: Define Stoicism at” Find the Meanings and Definitions of Words at Web. 06 Mar. 2010. <>.
“Horace: We All Must Die.” Washington State University – Pullman, Washington. Web. 06 Mar. 2010. <>.
“Ancient History Sourcebook: The Twelve Tables, C. 450 BCE.” FORDHAM.EDU. Web. 06 Mar. 2010. <>.
“File:Lupa Romana.jpeg -.” Wikimedia Commons. Web. 06 Mar. 2010.

Virtual Legion – Interactive History Site for the Inner Legionnaire

In History, Internet Resources on March 5, 2010 at 22:28

by Bryan Doherty

Virtual Legion is a Flash-based site that shows and explains the Roman Legionnaire and his equipment.

It’s great for visual reference. It’s also very helpful for learning about the tactics and equipment that the Romans used in the military.

By use of an interactive map, the site also shows the tactics used by the legions and how they fought.

If you would like to know more about the individual soldiers and the legions themselves during Ancient Rome, this site is great!

What was the attitude of the Romans towards women and children?

In History on March 5, 2010 at 22:04

by Becca Kotula and Hannah Griffith

The Romans did not reserve many rights for children or women.

They did not think of children as cute little kids, or even necessarily that any kid could have potential in life, like we do today. They just looked at the child to see if he/she would be of any use to them.

If the child was deformed, they considered it unneeded. In the Twelve Tables, it is said: “IV. 1: A dreadfully deformed child shall be killed.”

Women were not treated much better.

They had more laws restricting them than the men did, and they were considered a man’s property — whether it be her husband or her father. They viewed as lower then all men, and had very little rights. Table Four gives men the “Rights of fathers (paterfamilias) over the family”.

And in these families, women were not treated with the same sort of respect we often consider common in Western societies today.

For example: “VI. 2: Marriage by ‘usage’ (usus): If a man and woman live together continuously for a year, they are considered to be married; the woman legally is treated as the man’s daughter.”

In other words, the woman is just automatically the man’s property.

Also, women were not supposed to show public displays of emotion: “X. 4: Women must not tear cheeks or hold chorus of ‘Alas!’ on account of a funeral.”

Overall, women in Rome were not treated nearly as well as women are treated today. Their attitude towards women and children was that they were viewed that their lives were less worthy then men’s lives. The men came first above all women and children and it was viewed almost as if the men owned the women and children.


“THE TWELVE TABLES.” California State University, Northridge. Internet Ancient History Sourcebook. Web. 05 Mar. 2010.