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Introduction to Ancient History

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How do you learn about the ancient world? When did it start and stop? What areas of the world do you look at? Look here for answers.

Common Ancient History Questions
Ancient / Classical History Spotlight10

Happy Birthday!

Monday April 21, 2014
On this day in ancient history - Parilia and Rome's Birthday: What Happened on Rome's Birthday?

In ancient Rome, this was the date of the Parilia and was the accepted date for celebrating the birthday of Rome in 753 B.C.

Ovid describes the Parilia in his Fasti. After Ovid's persona invokes the relevant god, Pales, he describes the carrying of ashes of calves and bean stalks, jumping over bonfires, and the water sprinkling involved in a purification rite. Ovid connects the Parilia with the birth of Rome by suggesting, among other options, that the fire of the Parilia is like the fire burning Troy that Aeneas escaped.

Do you know how to wish someone a happy birthday in Latin? If so, please post your version on Saying Happy Birthday in Latin. If you don't know, this Latin happy birthday page provides a variety of suggestions.

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Festival of Ceres

Saturday April 19, 2014
CeresThe Romans celebrated a festival of Ceres (Greek Demeter) at around this time each year. The final day and greatest celebration was on the 19th of April, according to "Curiosities of Popular Customs And of Rites, Ceremonies, Observances, and Miscellaneous Antiquities," by William S. Walsh, which goes on to describe the events:
"They crowded in the Circus or race-course, where nuts and other trifles were thrown among them; and, besides the horse-races, it was the practice to set foxes loose in the Circus with lighted torches tied to their tails ... [symbolic] it is thought, of the red blight or rust that burns up the corn."
Ceres Picture © Clipart.com

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Birth of the Roman Emperor Gratian

Friday April 18, 2014
On This Day in Ancient History: In the year A.D. 359, the future Roman emperor Gratian was born. Gratian was the son of Emperor Valentinian I.

When Valentinian died, Gratian ruled in the west and his uncle Valens ruled in the east. Gratian had been fighting the Alamanni while Valens was dealing with the Goths at Adrianople. Gratian was scheduled to come to Valens' assistance, but arrived too late to prevent the disaster, whether because he was actually too late or Valens had jumped the gun in order to take the credit for what he wrongly assumed would be victory.

The disaster at Adrianople is one of the major turning points in the fortunes of Imperial Rome and a possible date for Rome's fall.

Read more about Gratian.

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Roman Emperor Otho's Death

Wednesday April 16, 2014
This Day in Ancient History: On this day in ancient Rome, in the year of the 4 emperors, the short reign of Emperor Otho ended when he, like Nero two emperors earlier, committed suicide. Read more about Otho. Otho committed suicide when he heard that his army had been defeated at Bedriacum, described by Tacitus Histories 2.46-50. Otho's death was treated as a nobly Stoic end and beneficial to the Republic.
It was also the time of the festival in honor of the grain goddess Ceres, who was associated with the earth goddess Tellus, known as the Cerealia. The Cerealia was one of the sets of ludi Romani 'Roman Games.

This Day in Modern History: Ancient historian Jane Ellen Harrison died in 1928.

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