Questions About Ancient Rome

Did Romans basically just rename the gods of the Greeks? Was it a way of incorporating the cultures--or why did they do it?
The Romans had their own gods, but because they admired the Greeks so much they assimilated their own pantheon to that of the Greeks. Jupiter became thought of as the "Roman Zeus" and Venus as the "Roman Aphrodite," and so on; but it wasn't simply a matter of renaming gods. They saw similarities and drew analogies and merged the two systems together, adopting many Greek religious practices while maintaining many of their own.

Who were the gladiators and what exactly did they do?
Slaves trained to fight to the death against other gladiators or wild animals for entertainment. Some lucky ones became famous after many victories and were freed and even became rich, but most died in the arena.

Why did the volcano destroy Pompeii?
Lava buried some of the city, but most of it was buried under a thick layer of hot ash. Gasses had suffocated many of the people first, so they were quickly buried by the ash.

I would like to know more about the mystery religions.
This is a huge subject, covered in many books on the origins of Christianity. There is a good discussion of it in the last of the videotapes in the "Testament" series. The "From Jesus to Christ" Web site also has a good deal of detail about them.

I would like to know more about Roman architecture.
The videotape "Art of the Western World," part one, has a good survey of Greek and Roman architecture.

I'd like to hear more about the family life in Rome and the role of women and children.
I highly recommend volume 1 of The History of Private Life, Philippe Ariès and Georges Duby, general editors: GT2400 .H5713 1987. It's easy to read, filled with illustrations, and has wonderful essays on these topics.

Were the Romans influenced by any other cultures, besides the Greeks?
As your textbook points out, their civilization was profoundly influenced by the Etruscans. Certain Egyptian influences are also present, particularly in religion; but the overwhelmingly greatest influence was Greek.

Did Romans speak Italian?
Ancient Romans spoke Latin. Italian is a language that evolved out of Latin after the fall of the Roman Empire.

I know that Rome got a lot of their literature, religion, education, etc. from Greek civilization. So did the Romans change any of the interpretation of the literature, religion, education?
This is too big a question to answer here. The short answer is "yes." Example: they traced their own ancestors to descendents of the Trojans, putting them on the opposite side of the Trojan War from Homer's Greeks. They often bought Greek slaves to use as teachers.

I thought it was interesting that some slave owners had a fear of their slaves. It was a shock to me when I read about some slaves actually murdering their owners.
For a great movie on the most famous slave revolt of all time, see the recently restored version of Stanley Kubrik's Spartacus.

I thought it was cool to see the operating tools the doctors used! Do they have displays that show what each was used for?
I imagine some museums may, but I haven't seen them. Medieval medical treatises were often based on Roman ones, and had illustrations in them; but whether they were at all accurate I wouldn't know.

Like Mt. St. Helens, were there any warnings of the Vesuvius blowup?
There was a big, disastrous earthquake 17 years earlier, but the actual explosion seems to have caught them by surprise.

Does anyone know how the Romans made their aqueducts water-tight? They had to seal those cracks somehow. About how long did they take to make?
I'm afraid I don't know the answers to these questions, but I know that aqueducts ran most of their length underground, in pipes, and that the valley-crossing arched kind I showed you was covered to inhibit evaporation.

What was the % of Romans in the army at the fullest extent of the empire?
I don't know whether statistics are really available on this. I do know that long-term service in the army was one way to become a citizen, and that toward the end there were almost no Romans in the army--it became made up of foreigners.

Did Rome transform into Italy?
The ancient country of Rome plus part of southern Gaul became what we call today "Italy."

Did the Romans take or believe in their gods and goddesses as seriously as the Greeks?
About the same; that is, not very. The Olympian gods were often joked about. Worshippers took the gods of the mystery religions more seriously.

For more on Rome, try
S.P.Q.R. Online
the Pompeii Forum Project

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