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112 votes

Why, in ancient battles, did being encircled mean defeat?

While the total encirclement might be the most impressive thing about Cannae, remember that it's just a special case of a pincer movement where the pincer goes all the way around the enemy. A pincer ...
Gaurav's user avatar
  • 3,065
106 votes
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Why, in ancient battles, did being encircled mean defeat?

While the tactical factor (not being able to move units around) is important, the main issue is one of soldiers panicking. Remember that it does not matter what the numbers are actually; your soldiers ...
SJuan76's user avatar
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91 votes

What language did Gaius Julius Caesar speak with Cleopatra?

Most likely Greek. This is the only language which we know they definitely had in common, and both were highly proficient in it. High-born Romans learnt Greek and Julius Caesar was no exception: ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
70 votes
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Were Roman public roads built by private companies?

If the question is "did the roman government officials pay individuals, slave owners and groups of workers to build construction projects instead of using the government's direct manpower?", the ...
CptEric's user avatar
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64 votes
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Did the Romans eat breakfast?

It seems the issue may be with generalizing 'Romans' as single entity and not as a group which changed through time. Johnston in The Private Life of the Romans goes into the changes seen in the Roman ...
justCal's user avatar
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60 votes
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Did the Romans leave any technical instruction manuals behind?

The only book to survive from ancient Rome on architecture is Marcus Vitruvius Pollio's De architectura, found by the Renaissance scholar Poggio Bracciolini in 1414 after being largely forgotten. ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
59 votes
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Was it known in ancient Rome and Greece that boiling water made it safe to drink and if so, what was the theory behind this?

The Greeks and Romans did not have germ theory as we know, but they did know that boiling water purified it. The best attestation for this is found in Hippocrates, as mentioned in the Wikipedia ...
cmw's user avatar
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58 votes
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In ancient Rome, could free-born Romans become slaves?

That is for sure an overgeneralisation, but so is Wikipedia's. There are some elements of truth in both: Ancient Rome held that freedom could not be sold, and in principle a freeborn person could not ...
Semaphore's user avatar
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52 votes
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Is there any evidence that Cleopatra and Caesarion considered fleeing to India to escape the Romans?

The source for Sanjeev Sanyal's account is most likely Plutarch. In his Life of Anthony, Plutarch wrote: Caesarion, who was said to be Cleopatra's son by Julius Caesar, was sent by his mother, ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
51 votes

Were Roman public roads built by private companies?

Roman roads were largely constructed by the military, at least the long distance roads between regions and cities. The legions had work crews and civil engineers attached to them for such works, as ...
jwenting's user avatar
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51 votes

Are there historical texts in England querying where Roman structures came from?

For the Anglo-Saxons, the knowledge that it was the Romans whose city it was is less relevant than why those cities were there no more, or, well, why they were in such a poor state. However, for a ...
gktscrk's user avatar
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48 votes

After the fall of the Roman Empire, where did their armor go? Was it used by any dark ages forces?

I would dispute your claim that Roman armour was superior. Roman armour mostly consisted of a mail shirt of varying length and quality, not dissimilar to that of the germanic tribes that overran the ...
Paul Hutton's user avatar
  • 1,585
48 votes

How serious was Fermat's statement about the ancients?

There is a difference between abstract knowledge and "inventions". In the 17th century it was still widely believed that the ancient Greeks had discovered and formulated pretty much the sum total of ...
fdb's user avatar
  • 9,780
46 votes

What is the difference between the Ancient Greek religion and the Ancient Roman religion?

The biggest difference that I'm aware of is that the Classical Greek religion was much more the religion of myths that we all know, while the Classical Roman religion had fewer personifications and ...
Mark Olson's user avatar
  • 7,683
45 votes

How did the Romans do division?

The short answer, according to Turner (1951), is: we don't know. The Romans were not interested in recording theoretical mathematics, so we don't have any written accounts how they did it. It is ...
against very long user names's user avatar
43 votes
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When and why did garum disappear?

Short Answer Garum production and consumption declined because increasing instability in the late Western Empire disrupted production and trade (and not just of garum). Further, a key ingredient - ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
42 votes
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What is the significance of barley as opposed to wheat in Ancient Rome?

If any cohorts gave way in battle, he (Augustus) decimated them, and fed the rest on barley. (Suetonius, Life of Augustus, 24.2) More confirmation for the practice, not necessarily always in ...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
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40 votes
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Did Roman unmarried men have a preferred hand and finger for wearing their seal ring?

Pliny the Elder wrote about wearing finger rings in volume 33 of his Naturalis Historia. He states: "The worst crime against mankind was committed by him who was the first to put a ring upon his ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
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40 votes

How did the Romans do division?

The usage of using numerals for division neither existed nor was it necessary. Symbols were only used for recording results. This also explains why the romans used their system because it is easy for ...
Thorsten S.'s user avatar
  • 5,126
38 votes
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Did germophobia exist in classical antiquity?

What is germaphobia? It's an obsession, it "is a pathological fear of contamination and germs. " If we look for something similar in antiquity we just need to turn that onto its feet: this ...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
  • 80.9k
37 votes

How did ancient Roman family names survive to current day use?

I just want to address a few points that might help situate how to view these names. First, Cicero wasn't a last name, and Roman names did not follow the post-antique first-middle-last naming ...
cmw's user avatar
  • 2,255
36 votes

Why didn't Romans conquer/explore the African Atlantic Coast?

Because the Sahara desert goes all the way to the Atlantic coast. The Romans were not great seafarers and required the support of coastal towns to cover long distances. The Western Sahara represents a ...
Schwern's user avatar
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35 votes
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What evidence is there of the vision aids people used before the invention of eyeglasses in about 1286?

Cursory netsearch brings up very common blips of history relating to the past evolution of reading aids or eyeglasses. There are some early Greek objects that have magnifying properties, although it ...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
  • 80.9k
35 votes

After the fall of the Roman Empire, where did their armor go? Was it used by any dark ages forces?

Roman Empire did not fall suddenly. This was a slow process which lasted centuries. And there is no sharp edge between antiquity and dark ages. The period of decline was much longer than a normal ...
Alex's user avatar
  • 38.8k
35 votes

How did the Druids learn the Greek language by the time of Caesar's campaign in Gaul?

They most probably got that knowledge from cultural exchange with the greek city-states from southern France, like Massilia (Marseille), which was founded around 600 BCE and had plenty of relations ...
mikeboix's user avatar
  • 484
35 votes
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Who was this Roman General/figure of authority who, on his deathbed, named these two regrets?

Plutarch's Lives says this about Marcus Cato: He would likewise say ... and that in his whole life he most repented of three things; one was, that he had trusted a secret to a woman; ...
kimchi lover's user avatar
  • 5,952
34 votes

What was the pound (unit of weight) initially equal to?

When in doubt about an English word - check the OED. Here is its etymology and usage history for the first sense of pound: ... This pound consisted originally of 12 ounces, corresponding more or less ...
Pieter Geerkens's user avatar
32 votes

Did Roman women wear underwear? How did it look?

The commonest form of underwear was the subligaculum, a basic loincloth worn by men and women. Most people wore the subligaculum under other garments. For example, men wore the garment under the ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
32 votes

Did Roman unmarried men have a preferred hand and finger for wearing their seal ring?

Pliny the Elder answers the question. The hand part was quoted by @sempaiscuba, here is the finger part: It was the custom at first to wear rings on a single finger only, the one, namely, that is ...
Vincenzo Oliva's user avatar
32 votes
Accepted

What is meaning of 4 letter abbreviations in Roman names like Titus Flavius T. f. T. n. Sabinus?

It stands for "Titi filius Titi nepos", meaning "son of Titus and grandson of Titus" (filius and nepos mean son and grandson, respectively). This is because the consul Titus Flavius Sabinus was the ...
Semaphore's user avatar
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