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Roman Sculpture Timeline

Roman Sculpture Timeline

  • c. 10 BCE

    Statue of Augustus as Pontifex Maximus sculpted.

  • 9 BCE

    A massive altar the Ara Pacis is completed by Augustus in Rome.

  • c. 100 CE

    In Roman marble sculpture the pupil and iris of the eye begins to be sculpted rather than merely painted onto the statue.

  • 113 CE

    Trajan's column is constructed in Rome which commemorates the emperor's campaigns in Dacia.

  • c. 130 CE

    The idealised colossal marble statue of Antinous is sculpted and his cult is founded

  • c. 176 CE

    A huge bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback is erected in Rome.

  • c. 180 CE

    The Column of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina is erected in Rome. It depicts in relief sculpture the emperors' campaigns across the Danube.

  • 190 CE - 192 CE

    The bust of Commodus as Hercules is sculpted.

  • 203 CE

    The Arch of Septimius Severus is built in Rome's Forum Romanum to commemorate victories over the Parthians.

  • c. 315 CE

    Arch of Constantine I built in Rome to commemorate victory over Maxentius in 312 CE.

The Romans

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Early Christian art

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Early Christian art, also called Paleo-Christian art or primitive Christian art, architecture, painting, and sculpture from the beginnings of Christianity until about the early 6th century, particularly the art of Italy and the western Mediterranean. (Early Christian art in the eastern part of the Roman Empire is usually considered to be part of Byzantine art.) The Christian religion was part of a general trend in the late Roman Empire toward mysticism and spirituality. As Christianity developed, its art reflected the prevailing late antique artistic climate. Except for differences in subject matter, Christian and pagan works looked much the same in fact, it is possible to show that the same workshop sometimes produced sculpture for both Christian and non-Christian purposes.

The earliest identifiably Christian art consists of a few 2nd-century wall and ceiling paintings in the Roman catacombs (underground burial chambers), which continued to be decorated in a sketchy style derived from Roman impressionism through the 4th century. They provide an important record of some aspects of the development of Christian subject matter. The earliest Christian iconography tended to be symbolic. A simple rendering of a fish was sufficient to allude to Christ. Bread and wine invoked the Eucharist. During the 3rd and 4th centuries, in the catacomb paintings and in other manifestations, Christians began to adapt familiar pagan prototypes to new meanings. The early figural representations of Christ, for instance, most often show him as the good shepherd by directly borrowing from a classical prototype. He was also sometimes depicted in the guise of familiar gods or heroes, such as Apollo or Orpheus. Only later, when the religion itself had achieved some measure of earthly power, did he take on more exalted attributes. Narratives tended at first to be typological, often suggesting parallels between the Old and New Testaments. The earliest scenes from the life of Christ to be depicted were the miracles. The Passion, particularly the Crucifixion itself, was generally avoided until the religion was well established.

The beginnings of Early Christian art date to the period when the religion was yet a modest and sometimes persecuted sect, and its flowering was possible only after 313, when the Christian emperor Constantine the Great decreed official toleration of Christianity. Subsequent imperial sponsorship brought the religion popularity, riches, and many converts from all classes of society. Suddenly the church needed to produce art and architecture on a more ambitious scale in order to accommodate and educate its new members and to reflect its new dignity and social importance.

Churches and shrines were soon being built throughout the empire, many sponsored by Constantine himself. These buildings were usually five-aisled basilicas, such as Old St. Peter’s in Rome, or basilican-plan buildings centring upon a round or polygonal shrine, such as that in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Large-scale sculpture was not popular, but relief sculpture on sarcophagi, such as that of Junius Bassus (died 359), and ivory carvings and book covers continued to be produced. The walls of the churches were decorated with paintings or mosaics to instruct the faithful. The church of Sta. Maria Maggiore in Rome has an extensive mosaic program of Old and New Testament scenes that was begun in 432. Painting also illustrated liturgical books and other manuscripts.

The art of this period had its roots in the classical Roman style, but it developed into a more abstract, simplified artistic expression. Its ideal was not physical beauty but spiritual feeling. The human figures thus became types rather than individuals and often had large, staring eyes, “the windows of the soul.” Symbols were frequently used, and compositions were flat and hieratic, in order to concentrate on and clearly visualize the main idea. Although the art of the period intentionally departed from earlier naturalism, it sometimes has great power and immediacy.

Roman Influence

Before the arrival of heavy machinery, we dealt with many tasks by hand, and in Europe this lead to the development of the chiseled Roman square capitals known simply as Capitalis Monumentalis. Boosted by the immense power and geographic spread of the Roman Empire, they set the stage for the entire Western-type structure, later unfolding into writing styles of their own.

These included the dynamic Rustic capitals, as well as the unicase uncial, which helped shape the Carolingian minuscule lowercase ovals with their distinctive ascenders and descenders. An increasingly-literate population had a growing appetite for books, leading to some purely functional changes, such as letters becoming less wide in order to accommodate a faster writing style and save resources. The result was Blackletter (or ‘fractures’), a style of medieval handwriting that uses a broad-nibbed pen to produce heavy, often angular letter shapes, and condensed counters.

Incise examples: Trajan, Colus
Blackletter examples: Fraktur, Textura, Schwabacher

Johannes Gutenberg

One of the chief reasons for writing’s ubiquity as a communication tool is Gutenberg’s printing press, and more precisely, the moveable type that first allowed for the composition of single glyphs into longer lines of text.

The precise and limited number of alphabetic characters of the first Gutenberg font influenced its success, standing in stark contrast to the millions of possible glyph combinations in East-asian scripts, where woodcarving proved easier. Metal’s higher durability and the option for a consistent aesthetic across a single font further boosted the technology’s reputation and eventually established it as the prevalent form in Europe.

A special typeface was designed for the world’s first printed book – the first font of the Gutenberg Bible – based on Textura and Schwabacher due to their condensed counters and increased spacing. The technique would allow for more characters per line, and in turn, more information per page.


Modern historians conventionally regard Augustus as the first Emperor whereas Julius Caesar is considered the last dictator of the Roman Republic, a view having its origins in the Roman writers Plutarch, Tacitus and Cassius Dio. [6] However, the majority of Roman writers, including Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius and Appian, as well as most of the ordinary people of the Empire, thought of Julius Caesar as the first Emperor. [7]

At the end of the Roman Republic no new, and certainly no single, title indicated the individual who held supreme power. Insofar as emperor could be seen as the English translation of imperator, then Julius Caesar had been an emperor, like several Roman generals before him. Instead, by the end of the civil wars in which Julius Caesar had led his armies, it became clear that there was certainly no consensus to return to the old-style monarchy, but that the period when several officials, bestowed with equal power by the senate, would fight one another had come to an end.

Julius Caesar, and then Augustus after him, accumulated offices and titles of the highest importance in the Republic, making the power attached to those offices permanent, and preventing anyone with similar aspirations from accumulating or maintaining power for themselves. However, Julius Caesar, unlike those after him, did so without the Senate's vote and approval. [ citation needed ]

Julius Caesar held the Republican offices of consul four times and dictator five times, was appointed dictator in perpetuity (dictator perpetuo) in 45 BC and had been "pontifex maximus" for a long period. He gained these positions by senatorial consent and just prior to his assassination, was the most powerful man in the Roman world.

In his will, Caesar appointed his adopted son Octavian as his heir. On Caesar's death, Octavian inherited his adoptive father's property and lineage, the loyalty of most of his allies and – again through a formal process of senatorial consent – an increasing number of the titles and offices that had accrued to Caesar. A decade after Caesar's death, Octavian's victory over his erstwhile ally Mark Antony at Actium put an end to any effective opposition and confirmed Octavian's supremacy.

In 27 BC, Octavian appeared before the Senate and offered to retire from active politics and government the Senate not only requested he remain, but increased his powers and made them lifelong, awarding him the title of Augustus (the elevated or divine one, somewhat less than a god but approaching divinity). Augustus stayed in office until his death the sheer breadth of his superior powers as princeps and permanent imperator of Rome's armies guaranteed the peaceful continuation of what nominally remained a republic. His "restoration" of powers to the Senate and the people of Rome was a demonstration of his auctoritas and pious respect for tradition.

Some later historians such as Tacitus would say that even at Augustus' death, the true restoration of the Republic might have been possible. Instead, Augustus actively prepared his adopted son Tiberius to be his successor and pleaded his case to the Senate for inheritance on merit. The Senate disputed the issue but eventually confirmed Tiberius as princeps. Once in power, Tiberius took considerable pains to observe the forms and day-to-day substance of republican government.

Rome had no single constitutional office, title or rank exactly equivalent to the English title "Roman emperor". Romans of the Imperial era used several titles to denote their emperors, and all were associated with the pre-Imperial, Republican era.

The legal authority of the emperor derived from an extraordinary concentration of individual powers and offices that were extant in the Republic rather than from a new political office emperors were regularly elected to the offices of consul and censor. [8] Among their permanent privileges were the traditional Republican title of princeps senatus (leader of the Senate) and the religious office of pontifex maximus (chief priest of the College of Pontiffs). Every emperor held the latter office and title until Gratian surrendered it in AD 382 to Pope Siricius it eventually became an auxiliary honor of the Bishop of Rome.

These titles and offices conferred great personal prestige (dignitas) but the basis of an emperor's powers derived from his auctoritas: this assumed his greater powers of command (imperium maius) and tribunician power (tribunicia potestas) as personal qualities, separate from his public office. As a result, he formally outranked provincial governors and ordinary magistrates. He had the right to enact or revoke sentences of capital punishment, was owed the obedience of private citizens (privati) and by the terms of the ius auxiliandi could save any plebeian from any patrician magistrate's decision. He could veto any act or proposal of any magistrate, including the tribunes of the people (ius intercedendi or ius intercessionis). His person was held to be sacred.

Roman magistrates on official business were expected to wear the form of toga associated with their office different togas were worn by different ranks senior magistrates had the right to togas bordered with purple. A triumphal imperator of the Republic had the right to wear the toga picta (of solid purple, richly embroidered) for the duration of the triumphal rite. During the Late Republic, the most powerful had this right extended. Pompey and Caesar are both thought to have worn the triumphal toga and other triumphal dress at public functions. Later emperors were distinguished by wearing togae purpurae, purple togas hence the phrase "to don the purple" for the assumption of imperial dignity.

The titles customarily associated with the imperial dignity are imperator ("commander"), which emphasizes the emperor's military supremacy and is the source of the English word emperor Caesar, which was originally a name but came to be used for the designated heir (as Nobilissimus Caesar, "Most Noble Caesar") and was retained upon accession. The ruling emperor's title was the descriptive Augustus ("majestic" or "venerable", which had tinges of the divine), which was adopted upon accession. In Greek, these three titles were rendered as autokratōr (" Αὐτοκράτωρ "), kaisar (" Καίσαρ "), and augoustos (" Αὔγουστος ") or sebastos (" Σεβαστός ") respectively. In Diocletian's Tetrarchy, the traditional seniorities were maintained: "Augustus" was reserved for the two senior emperors and "Caesar" for the two junior emperors – each delegated a share of power and responsibility but each an emperor-in-waiting, should anything befall his senior.

As princeps senatus (lit., "first man of the senate"), the emperor could receive foreign embassies to Rome some emperors (such as Tiberius) are known to have delegated this task to the Senate. In modern terms, these early emperors would tend to be identified as chiefs of state. The office of princeps senatus, however, was not a magistracy and did not entail imperium. At some points in the Empire's history, the emperor's power was nominal powerful praetorian prefects, masters of the soldiers and on a few occasions, other members of the Imperial household including Imperial mothers and grandmothers were the true source of power.

Imperator Edit

The title imperator dates back to the Roman Republic, when a victorious commander could be hailed as imperator in the field by his troops. The Senate could then award or withhold the extraordinary honour of a triumph the triumphal commander retained the title until the end of his magistracy. [9] In Roman tradition, the first triumph was that of Romulus, but the first attested recipient of the title imperator in a triumphal context is Aemilius Paulus in 189 BC. [9] It was a title held with great pride: Pompey was hailed imperator more than once, as was Sulla, but it was Julius Caesar who first used it permanently – according to Dio, this was a singular and excessive form of flattery granted by the Senate, passed to Caesar's adopted heir along with his name and virtually synonymous with it. [10]

In 38 BC, Agrippa refused a triumph for his victories under Octavian's command, and this precedent established the rule that the princeps should assume both the salutation and title of imperator. It seems that from then on Octavian (later the first emperor Augustus) used imperator as a first name (praenomen): Imperator Caesar not Caesar imperator. From this the title came to denote the supreme power and was commonly used in that sense. Otho was the first to imitate Augustus, but only with Vespasian did imperator (emperor) become the official title by which the ruler of the Roman Empire was known.

Princeps Edit

The word princeps (plural principes), meaning "first", was a republican term used to denote the leading citizen(s) of the state. It was a purely honorific title with no attached duties or powers. It was the title most preferred by Augustus as its use implies only primacy, as opposed to another of his titles, imperator, which implies dominance. Princeps, because of its republican connotation, was most commonly used to refer to the emperor in Latin (although the emperor's actual constitutional position was essentially "pontifex maximus with tribunician power and imperium superseding all others") as it was in keeping with the façade of the restored Republic the Greek word basileus ("king") was modified to be synonymous with emperor (and primarily came into favour after the reign of Heraclius) as the Greeks had no republican sensibility and openly viewed the emperor as a monarch.

In the era of Diocletian and beyond, princeps fell into disuse and was replaced with dominus ("lord") [11] later emperors used the formula Imperator Caesar NN. Pius Felix (Invictus) Augustus: NN representing the individual's personal name Pius Felix meaning "Pious and Blest" and Invictus meaning "undefeated". The use of princeps and dominus broadly symbolise the differences in the empire's government, giving rise to the era designations "Principate" and "Dominate".

Evolution in Late Antiquity Edit

In 293, following the Crisis of the Third Century which had severely damaged Imperial administration, Emperor Diocletian enacted sweeping reforms that washed away many of the vestiges and façades of republicanism which had characterized the Augustan order in favor of a more frank autocracy. As a result, historians distinguish the Augustan period as the principate and the period from Diocletian to the 7th-century reforms of Emperor Heraclius as the dominate (from the Latin for "lord".)

Reaching back to the oldest traditions of job-sharing in the republic, however, Diocletian established at the top of this new structure the Tetrarchy ("rule of four") in an attempt to provide for smoother succession and greater continuity of government. Under the Tetrarchy, Diocletian set in place a system of co-emperors, styled "Augustus", and junior emperors, styled "Caesar". When a co-emperor retired (as Diocletian and his co-emperor Maximian did in 305) or died, a junior "Caesar" would succeed him and the co-emperors would appoint new Caesars as needed.

The four members of the Imperial college (as historians call the arrangement) shared military and administrative challenges by each being assigned specific geographic areas of the empire. From this innovation, often but not consistently repeated over the next 187 years, comes the notion of an east–west partition of the empire that became popular with historians long after the practice had stopped. The two halves of empire, while often run as de facto separate entities day-to-day, were always considered and seen, legally and politically, as separate administrative divisions of a single, insoluble imperium by the Romans of the time.


With the complex adding systems that we have today, it can be hard to grasp that peoples were using small stones or other objects as numerical devices from time immemorial. The word calculate itself comes from the Latin calculus, which means small stone. These methods of calculations introduced some elementary kind of abstraction, but people gradually realized that this method did not go far enough to satisfy their increasing needs. To count up to 1000, for example, they would have had to gather a thousand pebbles, which was enormous work.

That is why, once the principle of the numerical base had been grasped, the usual pebbles were replaced with stones of various sizes to which different orders of units were assigned. For example, if a decimal system was used, the number 1 could be represented by a small stone, 10 by a larger one, 100 by a still larger one, and so on. It was a matter of time someone to think of to arrange some pebbles over a big flat base stone, wire or something else.

It is unknown when exactly were developed first devices to facilitate calculation, such as the counting board, or abacus. The counting board was invented when someone grasped the idea of placing pebbles or other objects in columns marked on a flat surface, and assigning an order of units to the objects in each column. Later, loose objects in columns were replaced with beads that could slide along parallel rods.

There is an unproved information, that similar to abacus device was used in Babylonia as early as 2400 BC. The word abacus itself is a Latin word, which comes from Greek ά&beta&alpha&kappa&alpha&sigma (board or table). The Greek word probably comes from the Semitic abk, which means sand, dust or to wipe the dust, which can suggest to us, that Greeks accepted the idea of abacus from the Phoenicians (which is the case with the Greek alphabet, inspired by the Phoenician alphabet). Actually the Romans applied the word abacus (and also the word calculi, which comes from calculus (stone, pebble) to various objects, all with the common characteristic of having a flat surface: tables used in different kinds of games, sideboards and the calculating device still known as the abacus. The Greeks used besides the above-mentioned type of abacus, also so called dust abacus&mdasha box, full of sand (or dust), divided into columns, over which can be arranged pebbles or other small objects.

The first written information about the abacus, survived to the present, is from the Greek historian Herodotus (480-425 B.C.), who mentioned also, that the ancient Egyptians used abacus. The oldest abacus, survived to the present day, is so called Salamis abacus (see the nearby figure). It was named after the greek island of Salamis, in the vicinity of which it was found in 1846 and was described later by the Greek archaeologist Alexander Rizo-Rangabe.
The Salamis abacus (kept now in Epigraphical Museum of Athens) is dated around 300 B.C. and is a large slab of white marble (broken in half now), 149 cm long and 75 cm wide, with five parallel lines engraved into it and, below them, eleven parallel lines divided in half by a perpendicular line. The third, sixth, and ninth of these eleven lines are marked by crosses at their points of intersection with the perpendicular line. Three nearly identical series of Greek characters, which are numerical signs for noting sums of money in the greek monetary system (the basic unit is drachma, but there are also 2 smaller units&mdashobols and khalkoses, and 2 bigger, which actually were never minted&mdashminas and talents), are engraved on three sides of the slab.
The four columns on the top, were used for fractions of the drachma, the first one corresponding to khalkoses (1/48 of a drachma), the second to quarter-obols (1/24 of a drachma), the third to half-obols (1/12 of a drachma), and the fourth to obols (1/6 of a drachma). The next five columns were associated with multiples of the drachma: the first on the right corresponded to units, the second to tens, the third to hundreds, and so on. The last five columns (in the bottom part) were respectively associated with talents, tens of talents, hundreds, and so on. Since a talent was equivalent to 6000 drachmas, counters representing 6000 drachmas were replaced with one counter in the talents column. By means of these different divisions, the reckoner could perform addition, subtraction, and multiplication.

There is also another interesting old Greek artifact, the so called Darius Vase, dated about 500 B.C., in the museum at Naples, which contains a picture of a abacus-like instrument (see the drawing below).

The "abacus" detail from Darius Vase

Pictures (but not an artifact yet) of a Roman table abacus were found on an Etruscan cameo, on a Roman pier and on a relief of the Capitoline Museum in Rome.

A modern replica of a Roman hand abacus from 1st century CE

The Roman abacus was similar to the greek one (see the upper photo). It consisted of a small metal tablet with parallel grooves, usually nine of them, each corresponding to an order of units, in which spherical counters slid. The abacus in the upper figure has 8 decimal positions (leftmost), for the units, tens, hundreds and so on to the 100 millions (marked with I, X, C…). When the units of a certain order did not go beyond four, the reckoner indicated them in the corresponding lower groove by pushing up as many counters as necessary. When they reached or went beyond five, he first pushed down the counter in the upper groove (representing five units in the order of that groove), then pushed up as many counters as necessary in the lower groove. The ninth position from the left (marked with ) has an upper part containing one counter and a lower part containing five. It served to indicate multiples of an ounce, each lower counter representing one ounce and the upper counter six ounces. The rightmost groove is divided into 3 parts and is used to indicate a half-ounce, a quarter-ounce, and a duella, or third of an ounce.

During the so called Dark Ages in Western Europe the art of counting with abacus was more or less forgotten. One of the first scientists, which not only popularized the Hindu-Arabic digits, but also reintroduced the abacus, was (surprise!) Gerbert d’Aurillac (c. 946-1003), archbishop of Rheims and chancellor of France, well-known as Pope Sylvester II (see the nearby image). Gerbert lived some time in Spain and took the idea of the abacus from Spanish Arabs (in 967, he went to Catalonia to visit the Count of Barcelona, and remained three years in the monastery of Vic, which, like all Catalans Monasteries, contained manuscripts from the Muslim Spain and especially from Cordoba, one of the intellectual centres of Europe at that time). The abacus that Gerbert reintroduced into Europe had its length divided into 27 parts with 9 number jetons, so called apices (this would exclude zero, which was represented by an empty column) and 1000 apices in all, crafted out of animal horn by a shieldmaker of Rheims. For example, with the Gerbert’s abacus, the number 308 will be expressed with a apex for 3 in the hundreds column and with a apex for 8 in the column of units. According to his pupil Richer, Gerbert could perform speedy calculations with his abacus, that were extremely difficult for people in his day to think through in using only Roman numerals, that was one of the reasons Gerbert to be suspected as a magician and servant of the Devil:-) Due to Gerbert’s reintroduction, the abacus became widely used in Western Europe once again during the 11th century.

The first printed book on arithmetic and the operation of the abacus in Europe was the anonymous Arte dell&rsquoAbbaco, (Treviso, 1478). The most popular kind of abacus still in use during the Renaissance in Europe was a table on which lines marked off the different decimal orders (so called reckoning table). The pebbles previously used as counters have been replaced by specially minted coin-like objects (like apices, introduced by Gerbert) that are cast, thrown, or pushed on the abacus table. They are called jetons from jeter (to throw) in France, and werpgeld for &ldquothrown money&rdquo in Holland. All administrations, merchants, bankers, lords, and rulers had reckoning tables with counters bearing their own marks, made of base metal, gold, or silver, depending on their rank or social position.

The value of a counter depended on its position. On consecutive lines, going from bottom to top, it was worth 1, 10, 100, 1000, and so on. Between two consecutive lines, it was worth five units of the line immediately below it. Addition was done in the left (or forward) part of the frame, by placing counters corresponding to the numbers involved, then reducing them and taking account of the value assigned to each location. To multiply two numbers, the reckoner began by representing the first one in the left part of the frame, then he eliminated one by one the counters representing this number as he replaced them in the right (or rear) part of the frame with their products by the second number. Computation on the reckoning table was taught till the eighteenth century. The fact that it was discussed in many European arithmetic books in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries gives an idea of how common it was. It was so firmly anchored in European tradition, that even when written computation with Hindu-Arabic numerals was becoming general, results obtained in that way were always checked on a reckoning table, just to be sure.

The reckoning table made addition and subtraction easy, but for more complex operations it was slow and required long training. This drawback must have been what prompted the fierce controversy that began early in the sixteenth century between the abacists, who clung to the reckoning table and the archaic Greek and Roman numerations, and the algorists, who advocated a form of written computation (see the lower figure). Written computation was quickly adopted by the scientists (especially by mathematicians and astronomers), while the reckoning table continued to be used in business and finance.

Typus Arithmeticae, woodcut from the book Margarita Philosophica, by Gregor Reisch, Freiburg, 1503. The central figure is Dame Arithmetic, watching a competition between Boethius, using pen and Hindu-Arabic numerals, and Pythagoras, using the counting board. She looks toward Boethius, which obviously is in favor.

A quite different and much more advanced form and methods for calculation can be seen in the development of abacus in Asia. The Chinese started to use counting boards, the prototype of abacus, as early as 4th century BC. The chinese counting board was a wooden plate, divided into columns, and calculations were made by means of bamboo or ivory sticks (see the nearby figure for the 2 ways of representation of digits). In the rightmost column are denoted units, in the next&mdashtens, and so on. Some historians even claim, that this namely was the first use of the decimal numbering system in the world. In the most famous Chinese mathematical text&mdashChiu chang suan shu (Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art), which dates from the period of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to A.D. 220), gives details of algebraic operations on the counting board, including the solution of a system of equations with unknowns.

The long and gradual improvement of the chinese counting board leaded to development (sometimes in 2nd century) of a more convenient type of abacus&mdashthe bead abacus, mentioned in the book of Xu Yue, Supplementary Notes on the Art of Figures, written about the year 190 A. D. The Chinese bead abacus (so called suanpan) has a rectangular wooden frame with thin rods across it. On each rod are placed seven glass or wooden beads: five (the number of fingers of a human) below the strip of wood, that divides the frame into two unequal parts, and two above it (the number of hands).

The rods correspond to numerical values increasing tenfold from right to left. (Base 10 is not obligatory, of course another base, such as 12 or 20, could be used if an adequate number of beads were placed on the rods.) If the first rod on the right corresponds to units, the second one corresponds to tens, the third to hundreds, and so on. Users of the suanpan, however, do not always begin with the first rod on the right to represent whole numbers: they sometimes begin with the third from the right, reserving the first two for centesimal and decimal fractions.

Each of the five beads on the lower part of a rod has the value of one unit of the order corresponding to the rod, and each of the two beads on the upper part has the value of five units. Numbers are formed by moving beads toward the crossbar separating the upper and lower parts of the rods. To form the number four, for example, the user simply raises four beads on the lower part of the first rod on the right. For eight, he lowers one upper bead on that rod and raises three lower ones.

As it can be seen, there is some kind of redundancy in the notation of numbers in suanpan. Nine units of the order corresponding to a given rod are represented by one upper bead with the value of five units and four lower beads with the value of one unit each. Five beads are thus enough to represent nine units. This raises the question of why each rod has seven beads, which allowed a total value of 15 to be entered. The reason is that in doing division on an abacus, it is often helpful to indicate, temporarily, a number greater than 9 on a single rod. For the three other operations, five beads on each rod are enough. In the case of division, however, calculation may be simplified if a partial result greater than 9 is temporarily indicated on one rod.

Some time in the late 16th century the Chinese suanpan was adopted in Japan, under the name soroban. The soroban however was gradually simplified, and from the middle of the 17th century, the number of the beads in the lower part was reduced to 4, while in the upper part remained only 1 bead. This means, that the redundancy of the suanpan was removed, due to the fact, that the older Chinese division method, which makes use of the cumbersome division table, was formerly replaced by the Japanese division method, which makes use of the multiplication table.

Another country, in which the bead abacus was extremely popular, apart from China and Japan, at least in recent times, it is Russia. The Russian abacus, so called русские счёты (russkie schoty) (see the nearby photo) was first mentioned in 1658, in an inventory book. The construction of schoty probably was based on the chinese suanpan, but was quite different in the design. The main difference between suanpan and schoty is the horizontal position of the rods in the schoty (so the beads are slided right-to-left), and the rods have a slight curvature to prevent the "counted" beads from accidentally sliding back to the home-position. The typical schoty have several (usually 8 to 10) decimal positions, and 1 position with 4 beads (which not only acts as a separator or for fractions, but can be also used for calculations in polushki, the russian monetary system in this time was constituted by polushki, kopeiki (1 kopeika equal to 4 polushki), and roubles (1 roubla equal to 100 kopeiki)).

The Russian abacus has some improved variants, like Markov’s abacus (счетьi Маркова), double abacus (двойньiе счетьi), Ezerski’s abacus (счетьi Езерскаго), Kompaneiski’s abacus (счетьi Компанейскаго), etc.

The Russian abacus is still in common use today in shops and markets throughout the former Soviet Union, although it is no longer taught in most schools. Around 1820, the Russkie schoty was brought to Europe (first to France, under the name boulier-compteur), though not as a calculating device, but rather as a didactic tool for beginning course of arithmetic.

American indians also used calculating tools. In the beginning of 1600s the Quechua nobleman Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala wrote a letter to the King of Spain, containing 1179 pages. The letter includes several drawings which show quipus (recording devices used in the region of Andean South America, consisting of colored, spun, and plied thread or strings) and a picture of a counting board in the bottom left hand corner of one of them (see the lower picture). This is called the yupana and is presumed to be the counting board of the Incas.

Roman Town Planning.

Where it was possible, Roman towns and cities were laid out on a system of streets intersecting at right angles, a type of layout also used for Roman military camps. It is thought that this system may have been inherited from Etruscan town planning, but some Greek cities had also used a grid and it is difficult to prove the exact derivation of the Roman plan. In the Roman system the main north-south street was called the cardo and the main east-west street the decumanus. These two streets were always wider than others and acted as the axes of the plan. Near their crossing in the center of a town were located the forum, the major temples, the main ceremonial and administrative buildings, and other structures central to the life of the community such as the major bathing establishments. In urban town planning some elements were standard and necessary to Roman life. The most obvious necessity was a type of dwelling which in Roman usage could range from a humble structure to a great palace. The provision of clean water for consumption and bathing was probably the next most important consideration—hence the emphasis on developing methods of transporting water over great distances such as the Roman aqueduct. The need for structures devoted to religion and the worship of the gods engendered a large variety of temple designs. The commemoration of military victories or the glorification of emperors and commanders was satisfied by the erection of monuments, columns, and arches, and the entertainment of the people was provided for by a well-developed system of theaters and arenas. The final necessary architectural form was the tomb structures for the burial of the dead.

The Romans in Britain

The Romans with their well-organised armies became the dominant power in the ancient world. Julius Caesar entered the history books when he led his Roman legions to conquer Gaul and then in 55BC he attacked Britain. The Romans did not settle in Britain until they renewed their attack on the island nearly a hundred years later. Then they ruled much of Britain until the legions departed to protect Rome nearly four hundred years later.

Use our resources to discover more:

Food in Romano Britain

The Roman invaders contributed to the long-term improvement of the British diet by introducing proper vegetables to the island.

They brought new farming practices and crops and new breeds of animals.

Learn how the rich and the poor and even the Roman Army ate.

Image courtesy © 'Grosvenor Museum, Chester City Council'

Technology in Romano Britain

History Books and Resources

Search Resources For History for historical information and find interactive history resources related to the Romans and Celts in Britain.

How Did The Roman Empire Rise ?

The rise of the Roman Empire began in the year 510 B.C. and stopped altogether on 4 September 476, with the final collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Legend has it that Romulus killed his twin brother Remus and became the Rome's first king in 753 BC. He populated the city by capturing and assembling brave men from other countries.

He also abducted the Sabine women to provide these men with wives. Rome soon became a large city, well-known for its adventure. During this time, the warriors who ruled Rome were designated as Kings. These kings were considered to be the supreme power in the region and ruled over themselves.

In the early part of the 16th century, the last Roman King Tarquinii was overthrown and the Roman Kingdom became the Roman Republic with the establishment of the republic form of government. A group of wise men, called the Senate, was elected to determine the laws. It was the Senate that appointed a consul to rule the Roman Republic as an emperor for one year. The Roman Republic lasted for 482 years (510 BC -23 BC) until a series of civil wars caused its insurrection into the Roman Empire with a Principate form of government.

The most important event in the history of the Ancient Roman Republic was the invasion of Italy by the Carthaginian General Hannibal. Carthage was an important city of North Africa and was completely devastated by the Roman military towards the end of 146 BC. The geographical boundaries of the Republic were extended from central Italy to the farthest ends of the Mediterranean world by the end of the first two centuries. During the third century of existence of its existence, the Roman Republic managed to expand its territory to North Africa, Greece, Southern France, and the Iberian Peninsula. In the last two centuries, the Republic grew further to dominate the east and the rest of France. At this point, the stage was set for the collapse of the Republic.

The exact event that triggered the end of the Roman Republic and its transformation into the Roman Empire is a matter of elucidation. Towards the end of the republican era, a group of Roman leaders began to dictate the political arena to an extent that they went beyond the restrictions of the Republic as a rule. Many historians believe that the main reasons and events that led to the fall of Roman Republic included the selection of Julius Caesar as a permanent dictator in 44 BC, the defeat and death of Mark Antony in the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, and the award of unusual powers to Octavian (Augustus) by the Senate in 27 BC.

Besides a rich culture and a set of religious beliefs, the Roman Empire was also known for its technological achievements and inventions that played an important role in shaping up other civilizations. The Romans were considered to be experts in adaptive innovation. More..

8. Triumphal arches

The Arch of Constantine was built to celebrate the commemorate Emperor’s defeat of Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge. Photo by David Jones via Wikimedia.

The Romans celebrated their military triumphs and other achievements by building gigantic arches over their roads.

The Roman’s mastery of the arch may have given this simple shape a special significance to them. Early examples were being built by 196 BC when Lucius Steritinus put up two to celebrate Spanish victories.

After Augustus limited such displays to emperors only, the men at the top were in an ongoing competition to build the most magnificent. They spread throughout the Empire, with 36 in Rome alone by the fourth century.

The largest surviving arch is the Arch of Constantine, 21 m high in total with one arch of 11.5 m.

Watch the video: Το Αρχαιολογικό Μουσείο Θηβών Archaeological Museum of Thebes presentation (January 2022).