English 230

                                                       Greek-Roman Transition Class


Geographic Comparison:


Athens: location dictated by high ground above a natural harbor at Piraeus (compare Mykene and Argos, only closer). Populated nearly continuously from Neolithic period through 267 CE when Gothic tribe (Heruli) raided and sacked the old city.  Occupied by Alaric's Visigoths in 395; re-established to the old walls in 400 CE.  Part of Roman and Byzantine empires until fifteenth century Turkish occupation ending in wars of independence, 1821-31.


Rome: location on the high ground on the Tiber controlled river trade down to Ostia (later sedimentation of upper Tiber makes it un-navigable as far as Rome and Ostia becomes the port city, compare London and Deptford); population continuous from Etruscan times through settlement  and conquest by Latin tribes in 600-500 BCE; occupied by Visigoths in 410 CE and controlled by Ostrogoths in 476; Gothic "empire" retaken by Henry IV of Germany (1083-4), sacked by Normans (1084), etc.  [Note that Rome's eastern provinces became so big and important as a source of tax revenues, food, and soldiers, that it got its own capital at the site of ancient Byzantium in 330 C.E..  This city, renamed Constantinople by Emperor Constantine, ruled a Greek speaking Orthodox Christian Roman Empire that lasted until the Ottoman Turks conquered it in 1453 C.E., fifty-three years after Chaucer died and less than forty years before Columbus sailed.  Of this city and its Greek literature, English 230 currently has nothing to say, alas.  So much empire, so little time!  But the Athenians and other Greeks identified themselves as "Roumeli" or "Romans" by association with this empire's language, religion, and culture, so in a way, we have already covered the Byzantine Greeks.]


Size Comparison:


Athens--whole walled city including Piraeus, c. 5 1/2 square miles

            --city proper, c. 2.4 square miles

            --population, 50,000 adult male citizens, 150,000 women, children, slaves, "xenoi"

            --wartime civilian muster, c. 35,000 including navy (no standing armed forces)


Rome--4 square miles encompassing seven hills (Capitoline, Quirinal, Viminal, Esquiline,Vaelian, Palatine, and Aventine) and a temple complex very like the Acropolis.

            --population at peak, 800,000 to 1,200,000 people, including perhaps 30-50% slaves.  (After loss of aqueducts in late Middle Ages, 35,000.)

            --large standing armies by the end of the Civil Wars (30 BCE) nearly 60 legions, reduced in Augustus' time to 28, numbering perhaps 300,000    

           --as an empire, a network of cities and roads and navy-protected sea routes extending from the Scottish border in the West, East to the shores of the Black Sea, and South to the rim of Saharan Africa to what is now Syria and Turkey.   http://orbis.stanford.edu/orbis2012/#


Government Comparison:


Athens--governed by democracy involving suffrage for all adult male citizens regardless of class, family status, etc. (Periclean law requires both parents are citizens)

            --client states of "Delian League" send tribute and mercenaries in times of need but no regular taxation system; religious shrines and periodic games or theatrical competitions anchor each city- or island-state's culture upon worship of a variety of "Olympian" gods and protective founding-hero cults.

 Rome--early aristocratic oligarchy ruled by Patricians yields to representative republic ruled by tribunes and other officers under the Senate; after Augustus (30 BCE), an empire ruled by the imperial house and representative Senate with varying degrees of power to resist government by imperial decree.

             --colonies and conquered provinces pay annual taxes and special levies, are given aid in natural disasters and to repel invasions, are governed by imperial appointees, and are allowed to worship their own gods (including those worshiped in the Greek city states).

Cats and Dogs Comparison:

        "Mr. Grimm gives us an engaging account of how dogs and cats came to be our best friends, examining the status various societies accorded them, from ancient Egypt, which revered the cat (Herodotus wrote that Egyptians, faced with a burning building, 'appear to be occupied with no thought but that of preserving their cats') to medieval Europe, which reviled cats as 'incarnations [of] Satan' [a practice which] 'eventually led to the slaughter of so many of them that the rodent population exploded, hastening the spread of the Black Plague.'

        Mr. Grimm describes a tiny limestone sarcophagus made around 1350 B.C. for an Egyptian prince's cat named Tamyt, who, according to an inscription, asked the sky goddess to grant its wish to become an 'imperishable star.'  And he notes that Romans not only interred their dogs 'in the same prominent locales as people,' but also chiseled touching epitaphs on their graves ('To Helena, foster child, soul without comparison, and deserving of praise').

         In one of the few passages in this book that remind the reader that Mr. Grimm is a cat, and not a dog, person (he dedicates this volume to his wife and their twin kitties, Jasper and Jezebel, 'who inspired me'), he writes that while 'many Greeks continued the Egyptian tradition of revering the cat,' Romans preferred the dog: 'Chalk it up to a difference in philosophy: While the Greeks valued liberty and autonomy, the Romans prized loyalty and obligation.'"

Michiko Kakutani, "Cats and Dogs Reigning" [review of David Grimm, Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs, N.Y.: Public Affairs, 2014), The New York Times, 4/18/14, C25.