How Economic Warfare Backfired in Rome

An Ancient Conflict Sheds Light on the Consequences and Limits of Sanctions

Attacks on a state’s economy can inflict immense damage, but sanctions and other tools of economic warfare are unlikely to defeat a superior military power. Instead, economic disruptions may prompt the state to fight even harder to defend itself. The anger and anxiety economic disruptions produce can accelerate rather than conclude a war.

A failed economic assault on ancient Rome offers a window into the possibilities and perils of this strategy.

This ancient case study begins in the late summer of 89 BC, when Mithridates VI of Pontus—the ruler of a medium-sized …

Let’s Respond Like Romans to the Jan. 6 Attack on the Capitol

How 5th-Century Senators Took Responsibility, Accepted Punishment, and Restored Trust in Government After a Damaging Insurrection

How should we respond when our capital is attacked?

One enduring answer to that question lies in the ways that Romans responded after the sacking of Rome by the Visigoths and …

Why Romans Grew Nostalgic for the Deadly Plague of 165 A.D. | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Why Romans Grew Nostalgic for the Deadly Plague of 165 A.D.

The Empire’s Resilience to Smallpox Included Appealing to the Gods and Affirming the Power of Community to Stand Together Amidst Personal Horror

Around 165 A.D., the Anatolian town of Hierapolis erected a statue to the god Apollo Alexikakos, the Averter of Evil, so that the people might be spared from a terrible …

Why I’m Staying in Rome, Even While It Crumbles 

A British Novelist Will Remain in the Eternal City Because of What Its Past Can Teach About Surviving the Present

When I tell Romans I have been a resident of their city for the last 16 years and have no desire to live anywhere else, they’re often a little baffled. …