Archive for 'Roman culture'

Ancient Vesuvius Scrolls Read with X-Ray

Posted on 31. Mar, 2016 by in Roman culture

In the recent news, scientist and historians are working together to attempt to read some the ancient scrolls preserved by Vesuvius.


For those of you who do not know the story of Pompeii and Herculaneum: Check out some previous blogs (here and here)! So, for the short and sweet version, two entire cities were well preserved in ash which means artifacts and people were preserved.

ANCIENT SCROLLSPompeii_Garden_of_the_Fugitives_02

“The papyri have been burnt, so there is not
a huge difference between the paper and the ink,” Mocella told Live Science. That made it impossible to decipher the words written in the documents.

Papyrus discovered at the Villa of the Papyri. Courtesy of WikiCommons.

Papyrus discovered at the Villa of the Papyri. Courtesy of WikiCommons.

Though eventually metallic inks made their way into the mix, it was assumed that this happened well after 79 AD. But when the scientists took fragments of the scrolls and put them in a particle accelerator, the technique revealed quite a lot of lead in the ink. Lead is something that X-rays, if sensitive enough and calibrated the right way, can pick up on. The scientists have plans to X-ray the scrolls in Naples this year. This method has left many historians hopeful for the potential information and even library under the Villa of Papyri.

Villa of the Papyri.Courtesy of WikiCommons & Eirk Anderson

Villa of the Papyri.Courtesy of WikiCommons & Eirk Anderson

For more information and news, check it out here.

Julius Caesar: Father of the Leap Year

Posted on 02. Mar, 2016 by in Roman culture

First and foremost, hello everyone and Happy Leap Year!


Julius Caesar was behind the origin of leap year in 45 BC. The early Romans had a 355 day calendar and to keep festivals occurring around the same season each year- a 22 or 23 day month was created every second year.

Roman calendar


The calendar was  regulated by the movement of the moon, and this had made it a bit of mess and confusing. Caesar replaced this calendar with the Egyptian calendar, which was regulated by the sun. He set the length of the year to 365.25 days by adding an intercalary/leap day at the end of February every fourth year.

Bust of Julius Caesar. Courtesy of WikiCommons.

Bust of Julius Caesar. Courtesy of WikiCommons.

Furthermore, in order to bring the calendar into alignment with the seasons, he decreed that three extra months be inserted into 46 BC (the ordinary intercalary month at the end of February, and two extra months after November).

For a post more about the calendar, check it out here and here!

This is known as the Julian Calendar which started on on 1 January 45 BC. Also, this calendar is almost identical to the current Western calendar.

Months (Latin) Lengths before 45 BC Lengths as of 45 BC Months (English)
Ianuarius 29 31 January
Februarius 28 (in common years)
In intercalary years:
23 if Intercalaris is variable
23/24 if Intercalaris is fixed
28 (leap years: 29) February
Mercedonius/Intercalaris 0 (leap years: variable (27/28 days)
or fixed)
Martius 31 31 March
Aprilis 29 30 April
Maius 31 31 May
Iunius 29 30 June
Quintilis(Iulius) 31 31 July
Sextilis (Augustus) 29 31 August
September 29 30 September
October 31 31 October
November 29 30 November
December 29 31 December

I should note that the actual calculation for the calendar were made by Caesar’s astronomer, Sosigenes.

Pope Gregory XIII

Pope Gregory XIII

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII further refined the calendar with the rule that leap day would occur in any year divisible by 4.

So there you have it a condensed and concise overview of the leap year! Well I hope you enjoyed


The Fugalia Festival

Posted on 25. Feb, 2016 by in Latin Language, Roman culture

Festival Time!!!!!

In ancient Roman religion, Regifugium or Fugalia (“King’s Flight”) was an annual observance that took place every February 24. The Romans themselves offer varying views on the meaning of the day. According to Varro and Ovid, the festival commemorated the flight of the last king of Rome,

Tarquinius Superbus by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, depicting the king receiving a laurel; the poppies in the foreground refer to the "tall poppy" allegory (see below)

Tarquinius Superbus by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, depicting the king receiving a laurel; the poppies in the foreground refer to the “tall poppy” allegory (see below)

,[ Lucius Tarquinius Superbus (died 495 BC) was the legendary seventh and final king of Rome, reigning from 535 BC until the popular uprising in 509 that led to the establishment of the Roman Republic.

He is commonly known as Tarquin the Proud, from his cognomen Superbus (Latin for “proud, arrogant, lofty”) ] in 510 BC. Plutarch, however, explains it as the symbolic departure of the priest with the title rex sacrorum.

Statue of Ovid Courtesy of Wikimedia Common and Author Kurt Wichmann

Statue of Ovid Courtesy of Wikimedia Common and Author Kurt Wichmann

In his Fasti, Ovid offers the longest surviving account of the observance:

Now I must tell of the flight of the King, six days from the end of the month. The last of the Tarquins possessed the Roman nation, an unjust man, but nevertheless strong in war.

Nunc mihi dicenda est regis fuga. Traxit ab illa sextus ab extremo nomina mense dies. Ultima Tarquinius Romanæ gentis habebat regna, vir iniustus, fortis ad arma tamen.

Plutarch holds that the rex sacrorum was a substitute for the former king of Rome here as in various religious rituals. The rex held no civic or military role, but nevertheless was bound to offer a public sacrifice in the Comitia on this date. The “flight of the king” was the swift exit the proxy king was required to make from that place of public business. It may be that the two versions are to be reconciled by taking the “flight” of the rex sacrorum as a reenactment of the expulsion of Tarquinius.