Historical Characters of Ancient Rome

    Kingdom of Rome     Early Republic     Punic Wars     Decline of Republic     Age of the Caesars     Height of Empire     Fall of Empire     Rise of Christianity



Kingdom of Rome—753 to 510 B.C.

Founding of Rome to Exile of Tarquins


Character/Date Short Biography

Legendary Rome

Aeneas
~ 1200 BC
Hero of Virgil's Aeneid. Prince of Troy who escaped from the burning city and after a long voyage, settled in Italy and became the ancestor of Romulus.
Rhea Silvia
~ 771 BC
Legendary mother of Romulus and Remus. Daughter of Numitor, king of Alba Longa, forced to become a Vestal Virgin by her usurping uncle, Amulius.
Numitor
~ 771 BC
Deposed king of Alba Longa, restored to his throne by his grandsons, Romulus and Remus.
Romulus
771–716 BC
Legendary founder of the city of Rome, with brother Remus.
Remus
~ 0
Twin brother of Romulus, killed in a conflict over who should rule the new city.
Tarpeia
~ 740 BC
Maiden who opened gates of Rome to the Sabines. Gave name to Tarpeian Rock from which Roman traitors were hurled.

Kings of Rome

Numa Pompilius
d. 674 BC
Second king of Rome, instituted calendar, holidays, worship practices.
Tullus Hostilius
d. 642 BC
Third king, conquered Alba, made Rome the greatest city of the Latins.
Horatii
~ 650 BC
Three brothers who won man-to-man combat to resolve Rome/Alba dispute.
Ancus Marcius
d. 617 BC
Fourth king, conquered Latins, built Sublican Bridge across the Tiber.
Tarquin the Elder
d. 559 BC
Fifth king, built great sewer, circus, temple of Jupiter, and forum.
Servius Tullius
d. 535 BC
Sixth king, built Servian Wall; helped plebians, murdered by daughter.
Tarquin Superbus
~ 535 BC
Killed Servius and usurped throne, eventually overthrown but tried to regain throne by force.
Tullia
~ 535 BC
Helped her husband Tarquin Superbus murder her father Sevius Tullus, and seize the throne of Rome.
Cumaean Sibyl
~ 535 BC
Legendary priestes who presided over the Oracle at Cumae. Presented the Sibylline Books to Tarquin Superbus.

War Against Tarquinii

Lucretia
d. 510 BC
Virtuous Maiden, killed herself after assault by son of Tarquin Superbus.
Junius Brutus
d. 509 BC
First Consul of Rome; executed sons for plotting against the republic.
Publicola
d. 508 BC
Consul of Rome during the wars with Porsena.
Lars Porsena
~ 508 BC
Etruscan king, and supporter of the Tarquins who raised an army to march against Rome.
Horatius
535–509 BC
Hero who held the Sublican Bridge against Porsena's entire army.
Mucius Scaevola
535–509 BC
Hero who burned his right hand to defy Porsena.
Cloelia
~ 510 BC
Roman hostage swam across the Tiber to escape from Lars Porsenna.



Early Republic—510 to 275 B.C.

Defeat of Tarquins to Unification of Italy


Character/Date Short Biography

Early Heroes

Menenius
~ 503 BC
Roman noble who negotiated with the plebeians after their walk-out during a war.
Coriolanus
500–450 BC
Hero, provoked to turn traitor. Convinced by his mother to spare Rome from destruction.
Cincinnatus
519–439 BC
Called to be dictator when Roman army was trapped. Saved them, and then returned to his farm.
Fabii
~ 480 BC
Fabian brothers build a camp on the Cremona to defend Rome from Veii. They were ambushed and slain.
Appius Claudius
d. 452 BC
Evil law giver who usurped power, then attempted to enslave Virginia.
Virginia
d. 451 BC
Heroine slain by her father to rescue her from slavery and dishonor.

Gallic Invasion

Camillus
446–365 BC
Great military leader; conquered Veii, saved Rome from Gauls, organized legions.
Marcus Manlius
d. 384 BC
Defended the capitol from the Gauls.
Brennus
d. 390 BC
Leader of the Gauls who sacked Rome in 390 B.C.
Marcus Curtius
d. 362 BC
Rode horse into a large chasm in Roman market-place.
Valerius Corvus
370–270 BC
Defeated a gigantic Gaul in one-on-one combat; lived to be 100.

Samnite Wars

Decius Mus
d. 340 BC
Sacrificed self in war against the Latins.
Manlius Torquatus
d. 384 BC
Consul who slew his son for a minor disobedience.
Caius Pontius
~ 321 BC
Samnite general who captured the Romans at Caudium Pass.
Fabius Rullianus
d. 291 BC
Hero of the Battle of Sentinum, against the Gauls and Samnites.

Pyrrhic Wars

Appius Claudius
340–273 BC
Built first auqeduct, public buildings, and "Appian Way", the great Roman road to Capua.
Fabricius
~ 284 BC
Incorruptible Roman ambassador who negotiated with Pyrrhus. Emblem of Roman Republican virtue.
Pyrrhus
318–272 BC
Renowned general, won victories in Macedon, Italy, and Greece, but failed to follow up wins.



Punic Wars—274 to 146 B.C.

First Punic War to Destruction of Carthage


Character/Date Short Biography

First Punic War

Regulus
300–250 BC
Captured by Carthage in first Punic war; urged Rome keep fighting at cost of his own life.
Xanthippus
~ 255 BC
Spartan mercenary general in first Punic War; captured Regulus, led Carthage to victories.
Hamilcar
d. 229 BC
Carthage's most able general in first Punic War; father of Hannibal.

Second Punic War

Hannibal
247–182 BC
Carthaginian general, invaded and laid waste to Italy for sixteen years.
Fabius Cunctator
250–203 BC
Elected dictator to resist Hannibal; counseled delay, not direct assault.
Cornelius Scipio
d. 211 BC
Tried to intercept Hannibal in Gaul, but was defeated at Ticino River and Trebbia.
Aemilius Paulus
d. 216 BC
Consul at the Battle of Cannae; opposed the confrontation, but died on battlefield.
Varro
~ 216 BC
Led Rome to disastrous defeat at Cannae. Survived and tried to rally the troops.
Marcellus
268–208 BC
Besieged Syracuse during the second Punic War, but the ingenious war weapons of Archimedes frustrated the Romans.
Hasdrubal Barca
d. 207 BC
Fought against Scipios in Spain; killed after he crossed the Alps to aid Hannibal.
Masinissa
238–148 BC
King of Numidia, allied with Rome against Carthage; fought at Zama.
Scipio Africanus
234–149 BC
Roman hero of second Punic War. Led armies in Spain and Africa. Defeated Hannibal at Zama.

Third Punic War

Cato (the censor)
234–149 BC
Roman censor, urged destruction of Carthage before third Punic War.
Scipio the Younger
185–129 BC
Led the siege of Carthage during the third Punic War.
Polybius
203–120 BC
Taken as Greek hostage during Macedonian wars; historian of Punic Wars.

Macedonia Wars

Flamininus
230–175 BC
Led Rome against Philip V in second Macedonian War.
Aemilius Paulus
229–160 BC
Led Rome against Macedonia at the Battle of Pydna and was victorious.



Decline of Republic—146 to 60 B.C.

Age of Gracchi to Pompey Defeats Pirates


Character/Date Short Biography

Gracchi Land Reforms

Scipio the Younger
185–129 BC
Led the siege of Carthage during the third Punic War.
Cornelia
185–100 BC
Mother of the Gracchi. Highly revered Roman matron.
Tiberius Gracchus
163–132 BC
Promoted Land Reform and fought for people's rights. Murdered by senators.
Gaius Gracchus
154–121 BC
Continued reforms of his brother, but was undermined by the senate.

Marius/Sulla Civil War

Metellus
d. 91 BC
Commanded troops in Numidia against Jugurtha. Enemy of Marius.
Marius
155–86 BC
Renowned general. Modernized legions. Waged a bloody feud with party of Sulla.
Cinna
d. 84 BC
With Marius, raised an army, and took possession of Rome for populist Party.
Sulla
138–78 BC
Defeated Mithradates in Greece. Marched on Rome, defeated the party of his enemy Marius.
Lucullus
120–70 BC
Led Rome against Mithradates in third Mithradatic War. Known for extravagant lifestyle.
Crassus
110–53 BC
Very wealthy general. Fought Spartacus. Formed triumvirate with Pompey and Caesar.
Pompey
106–48 BC
Very renowned general. Defeated pirates. Led opposition to Caesar in civil war.

Enemy Chieftains

Jugurtha
156–104 BC
Numedian king, flagrantly bribed senate to maintain power. Enemy of Rome.
Mithridates
160–104 BC
King of Pontus, enemy of Rome, raised rebellions in Greece and Asia Minor.
Sertorius
122–72 BC
Led rebellion against Rome in Spain; held out for 8 years.
Spartacus
111–71 BC
Gladiator who led a slave revolt. Held out for two years.



Age of the Caesars—60 B. C. to 14 A.D.

First Triumvirate to Death of Augustus


Character/Date Short Biography

First Triumvirate

Julius Caesar
100–44 BC
Conquered Gaul, prevailed in civil war. Mastermind of Roman empire. Killed by senators.
Pompey
106–48 BC
Very renowned general. Defeated pirates. Led opposition to Caesar in civil war.
Crassus
110–53 BC
Very wealthy general. Fought Spartacus. Formed triumvirate with Pompey and Caesar.
Cicero
106–43 BC
Orator. Leader of aristocratic party. Put down Catiline conspiracy. Well known writer.
Catiline
108–62 BC
Led conspiracy to overthrow Senate; discovered and put down by Cicero.
Cato (the younger)
95–46 BC
Highly principled republican who opposed Caesar, killed self after defeat of Pompey.
Clodius
93–52 BC
Violent enemy of Cicero. Populist rabble-rouser and demagogue.

Second Triumvirate

Augustus Caesar
63–14
First emperor. Reigned for over fifty years. Established the Imperial system.
Cassius
d. 42 BC
Mastermind of conspiracy to assassinate Caesar. Committed suicide at Philippi.
Marcus Brutus
84–42
Leader of conspirators to assassinate Caesar. Committed suicide at Philippi.
Antony
83–30 BC
With Octavius, led empire after Caesar's death. Liaison with Cleopatra caused downfall.
Fulvia
77–40 BC
Wealthy and scheming Roman matron. Married to Clodius, then to Mark Antony. Enemy of Cicero.
Cleopatra
70–20 BC
Queen of Egypt. Lover of both Caesar and Mark Antony.

Augustan Age

Maecenas
70–8 BC
Advisor and ambassador of Augustus. Patron of art and literature.
Virgil
70–19 BC
Great epic poet of the Augustan age. Wrote The Aeneid.
Horace
65–8 BC
Great lyric poet and satirist of the Augustan age.
Agrippa
63–12 BC
Most trusted general and advisor of Augustus Caesar. Married Augustus's daughter Julia.
Livia
58–29
Wife of Augustus Caesar. Empress of Rome for over fifty years.
Livy
59–17
Roman historian. Wrote History of Rome from its Founding.
Julia Caesara
39–14
Profligate daughter of Augustus Caesar. Fell from grace and was banished from Rome.
Hermann
16–21
Hero of Germany. Annihilated three Roman legions at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest.



Height of Empire—14 to 235 A.D.

Reign of Tiberius to Last Severan Emperor


Character/Date Short Biography

Julio-Claudian Emperors

Tiberius
42–37
Second emperor. Stepson of Augustus. Retired to Capri.
Drusus
38–9 BC
Son of Livia, father of Germanicus. Died on campaign in Germany.
Sejanus
d. 31
Leader of Praetorians. Conspired to seize the throne from Tiberius.
Germanicus
15–19
Roman military hero and heir to the throne. Probably murdered.
Agrippina the Elder
14–33
Granddaughter of Augustus Caesar; accused Tiberius of killing her husband Germanicus.
Caligula
12–41
Third emperor. Sadistic and probably insane.
Claudius
10–54
Fourth emperor. Manipulated by wicked wives, Messalina and Agrippina.
Messalina
17–48
Wicked, profligate, and promiscuous wife of Claudius.
Agrippina the Younger
16–59
Mother of Nero. Murdered Claudius to make way for his rise to the throne.
Nero
37–68
Fifth emperor. Murdered mother, wife, and brother. Fiddled while Rome burned.
Seneca
3–65
Tutor and minister to Nero. Forced to commit suicide after falling from grace.
Poppaea
d. 65
Wicked mistress of Nero. Urged him to kill his mother and first wife.
Boadicea
d. 61
Queen of the Iceni. Led the largest revolt of Celtic Britons against the Romans.

Flavian Emperors

Galba
3–69
Declared emperor after Nero was deposed. Served less than a year.
Otho
32–69
Emperor for three months in 69 A.D. Committed suicide rather than continue civil war.
Vitellius
d. 69
Emperor for nine months in 69 A.D. Known as an incompetent glutton.
Vespasian
9–79
First emperor of humble origins. Founder of Flavian dynasty.
Titus
40–81
Second Flavian emperor. Conquered Jerusalem. Reigned with father Vespasian.
Domitian
51–96
Third Flavian emperor. Known for purges and persecutions near end of reign.
Pliny ( the Elder)
23–79
Scholar, author of encyclopedias, naturalist. Wrote Natural Histories. Died at the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
Josephus
37–100
Jewish historian. Captured by Romans at Jotapata. Wrote the Jewish War.
Agricola
40–93
Roman general and statesman. Governor of Britain. Pacified Wales.
Martial
40–102
Poet and satirist. Wrote twelve books of Epigrams.
Plutarch
46–122
Most outstanding moralist and biographer of ancient times. Wrote Lives of Greeks and Romans.
Tacitus
55–120
Historian. Related to Agricola. Wrote Germania, Histories, and Annals.

Five Good Emperors

Nerva
30–98
First of the "Five Good Emperors." Ruled briefly between Domitian and Trajan.
Trajan
53–117
Second of "Five Good Emperors." Ruled with justice and integrity. Conquered Dacia.
Pliny the Younger
63–113
Roman statesman and and orator. His letters are important historical sources.
Hadrian
76–138
Third of "Five Good Emperors." Talented artist and architect, good administrator.
Antoninus Pius
86–161
Fourth of "Five Good Emperors." Continued policy of consolidation. Ruled justly.
Marcus Aurelius
121–180
Fifth of "Five Good Emperors." Stoic philosopher. Improved condition of poor.
Commodus
161–192
Corrupt son of Aurelius, misruled for twelve years and was murdered.

Severan Emperors

Septimus Severus
146–211
Seized Imperial throne after the death of Commodus. Put down many rebellions.
Caracalla
188–217
Brutal and iron-fisted emperor. Murdered brother Geta. Built "Baths of Caracalla."



Fall of Empire—235 to 565 A.D.

Military Anarchy to Reign of Justinian I


Character/Date Short Biography

Military Anarchy

Maximinus
d. 238
Thracian giant. Rose to head of army, seized imperial throne, and reigned as a barbarian.
Aurelian
214–275
Emperor who reunited the empire during the Military anarchy. Led campaign in Palmyra against Zenobia.
Zenobia
~ 267
Queen of Palmyra. Attempted to control the eastern empire, only to be crushed by Rome.

Diocletian/Constantine

Diocletian
245–313
Restored order to the empire after fifty years of chaos. Broke empire into four regions.
Constantine
272–337
First Christian emperor. Unified empire. Moved capital to Constantinople near Black Sea.
Julian the Apostate
331–363
Last emperor of the Constantinian dynasty. Tried to restore paganism.
Ulfilas
310–383
Missionary bishop who translate the bible into the Gothic language and converted the Goths to Arian Christianity.

Late Western Empire

Stilicho
359–408
Roman general who fought off the Visigoths before they overran Rome. Murdered by Emperor Honorius.
Aetius
396–454
Last great General of the Western Empire. Defeated Attila the Hun at Chalons.
Ricimer
405–472
Visigoth General who was master of Rome during the final years of the Empire.
Alaric the Visigoth
370–410
Chieftain who led the Visogoths into northern Italy, and then besieged and sacked Rome.
Attila the Hun
406–453
Barbarian chieftain who overran and terrorized much of Europe. Defeated at the Battle of Chalons.
Genseric
390–477
Leader of Vandals. Conquered Northern Africa and Sicily. Invaded and ransacked Rome.
Odoacer
435–493
Deposed last Roman Emperor and became King of Italy. Later overthrown by Theodoric the Ostrogoth.
Theodoric the Ostrogoth
454–526
Ostrogoth king who invaded Italy and successfully formed a Gothic-Roman kingdom.
Alboin
d. 573
King of the Lombards who crossed the Alps and invaded Northern Italy. Made Pavia capital of Lombards.
Clovis
466–511
Founder of the Frankish Kingdom. Converted to Christianity by his wife Clotilda.

Late Eastern Empire

Valens
328–378
Eastern Emperor embroiled in wars in Persia and with the Goths. Died fighting Visigoths at Adrianople.
Theodosius
346–395
Emperor excommunicated by Ambrose for massacre of civilians at Thessalonia.
Justinian the Great
483–565
Ruled Byzantine Empire for 40 years. Well known for legal reforms known as Code of Justinian.
Empress Theodora
500–548
Born in humble circumstances, she married Justinian the Great and became his trusted advisor.
Belisarius
505–565
General associated with Julian the Great, reconquered much of lost Roman territory.



Rise of Christianity—50 to 600 A.D.

Death of Apostles to Gregory the Great


Character/Date Short Biography

Apostles

St. James the Greater
d. 44
Apostle who preached in Spain before being beheaded by Herod. Patron Saint of Spain.
St. Peter
d. 64
Leader of the Apostles and first Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.
St. Philip
d. 80
Apostle who preached in Greece, Syria and Asia Minor. Martyred in Asia Minor by crucifixion.
St. Paul
3–67
Apostle who traveled throughout the Eastern Roman Empire spreading Gospels. Wrote Epistles.
St. John
d. 101
Long-living apostle who preached in Asia Minor. Authored the Gospel of John and Revelation.

Church Fathers

Ignatius of Antioch
35–107
A follower of the Apostle John, Ignatius was on of the early fathers of the church. Died as a martyr in the arena.
St. Irenaeus
~ 190
Early Christian theologian, bishop in Roman Gaul, recognized as a Father of the Church.
Cyprian of Carthage
200–258
Bishop of Carthage who battle heresies and suffered with his flock through persecutions.
Athanasius
298–373
Bishop of Alexandria. Opposed the Arian heresy.
Basil of Caesarea
330–379
Influential bishop and important church father, particularly revered in the Orthodox churches. Opposed Arianism.
Ambrose
340–397
Bishop of Milan. Resisted Arian heresy, advised emperors, advocated for Church interests.
St. Jerome
340–420
Translated the Bible into the Latin Vulgate.
St. Chrysostom
347–407
Bishop in Syria and Constantinople. Great orator, and notable ascetic.
Augustine of Hippo
354–430
Greatest Christian theologian of the Middle Ages. Wrote Confessions and City of God.

Martyrs

St. Cecilia
d. 117
Noblewoman of Rome who was martyred under the reign of Marcus Aurelius.
St. Dorothea
295–311
Martyr Virgin who refused to worship the Roman Gods and was put to death.
St. Lawrence
225–258
Deacon of Rome who was martyred during the persecutions of Valerian by being grilled on a gridiron.
St. Alban
d. 304
First martyr of England. Killed for hiding a priest in his home.

Early Saints

St. Christopher
d. 250
Early Christian saint whose name means "bearer". Said to have born the burdens of the Christ child."
St. Denis
d. 250
Saint of the third century who was martyred in Roman Gaul by druid priests for converting Celts to Christianity.
Paul the Hermit
228–341
First Christian hermit. Fled to the Theban desert to avoid persecution of Decius.
St. Helena
248–329
Wife of Constantius Chlorus and mother of Constantine. Influenced her son to become Christian.
St. Nicholas
d. 343
Bishop in fourth century Asia Minor, known for his generosity.
Martin of Tours
317–397
Roman soldier who gave up his military career to follow Christ. Bishop of Tours and early monastic personality.
St. George
275–303
Patron saint of England. Soldier who killed a dragon and died a martyr's death.
St. Germanus
380–448
Renowned Bishop from Gaul visited Britain in order to help combat Pelagianism heresy.
St. Synesius
d. 414
Bishop in Africa near the city of Cyrene, and associate of Hypatia.
Benedict of Nursia
480–547
Established the Benedictine order of monks. Founded the monastic movement in Europe.
Clotilda
d. 545
Christian wife of Clovis; converted him to Christianity, and built a church.
St. Simeon
521–597
Hermit who lived for many years on the top of a pillar, practicing penance.
Gregory the Great
590–640
Increased the power of the papacy by church reforms and effective management.

Arians

Arius
250–336
Founder of the Arian Heresy, which insisted that the Son was not eternal, but created by the Father.
Ulfilas
310–383
Missionary bishop who translate the bible into the Gothic language and converted the Goths to Arian Christianity.