Archive for 'Roman culture'

Part I of Ancient Roman Pets: Popular Pets

Posted on 30. Jul, 2014 by in Latin Language, Roman culture

Salvete Omnes!

How is everyone’s summer going? I hope it is going well! So this week’s (and next’s) theme is pets within Ancient Rome. This post will attempt to look at the discuss the popular pets within Ancient Rome. Next week, we will look at the most interesting and bizarre pets from ancient Rome! The following order will be from the least popular to the most popular!

 

The “Most Unpopular” Popular Pet: The Cat (Latin: Feles or Cattus)

1st-century BC mosaics in Italy. Courtesy of WikiCommons, Marie-Lan Nguyen, and Jastrow.

1st-century BC mosaics in Italy, Ancient Roman mosaics in the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Birds in ancient Roman mosaics. Courtesy of WikiCommons, Marie-Lan Nguyen, and Jastrow.

Popularity Scale: 4/10

Evidence of the Pet: There are two popular cat mosaics one I provided to the right’ the other is seen under a later pet section. Respectively, the latter is from the House of Faun at Pompeii. The cat as a pet is rarely mentioned (except in the case of a BIG CAT owner- which will be discussed next week). The cat, according to Pliny the Elder, was a practical pet to keep in order to keep mice, ferrets, and moles at bay.

Famous Examples: While not very popular in Ancient Rome, they do have a prevalent presence in Ancient Egypt. Here is an amazing article that examines the feline influence through the ancient world. The cat is often associated with the goddess of freedom, Libertas (for that story- check it out here.)

Roman Mosaic from House of Faun. Courtesy of WikiCommons, Marie-Lan Nguyen, Jastrow.

Roman Mosaic from House of Faun. Courtesy of WikiCommons, Marie-Lan Nguyen, Jastrow.

Fun Facts:  I am personally a lover of cats, but apparently they were not popular in Ancient Rome. This may be due to several reasons including the fact that cats are very highly thought of and respected in Ancient Egypt. Perhaps it is this “foreign admiration” that deterred Rome from picking cats as their favorite pet. However, the fact that cats were “unpopular” in Rome does not mean they did not exist. There are a few examples of cats in artwork as I have already listed and provided. Also, this idea that cats are associated with the Roman goddess Libertas or freedom is quite humorous (in my opinion). For any cat owner will tell you that cats don’t listen, care, or really pay attention to their owner unless they have food. They don’t like leashes and are quite “liberal,” “free,” or “independent creatures.”

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The Most Beloved Child Pet: The Bird (Latin: Avis)

Mosaic from a Roman funerary monument, depicting a young boy sitting, with a fixed glaze; his right hand holds a partridge, his left a bunch of grapes with a thrush pecking at them. Beginning third century Sousse mausoleum. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Ad Meskens.

Mosaic from a Roman funerary monument, depicting a young boy sitting, with a fixed glaze; his right hand holds a partridge, his left a bunch of grapes with a thrush pecking at them. Beginning third century Sousse mausoleum. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Ad Meskens.

Popularity Scale: 7/10

Evidence of the Pet: There are several examples of birds on gravestones of children, on mosaics, and in sculptures. WikiCommons provides an ample source of references here.

Famous Examples: One only needs to recall Catullus’ poem to Lesbia and her “sparrow.” (I would rather not discuss whether the sparrow is an actual bird or an analogy. For the sake of this post, let’s say it is a bird.) The poem may be found here. Birds were even kept as “pets” by priest who would house them as a tool for prophetic or divine interpretation(this was known as augury). Emperor Augustus launched the fashion of parakeets and ravens who could speak, and used to pay large amounts for such birds.

Child playing with a bird. Marble, Roman artwork of the Imperial era,. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Jastrow.

Child playing with a bird. Marble, Roman artwork of the Imperial era,. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Jastrow.

Fun Facts:  While birds are now thought to be pets that can be slightly dangerous (due to their disease transmission abilities), they are very popular for Romans. Their presence with children and gravestones is quite interesting and may be a literal portrayal or a symbolic one. For an analysis of the gravestone bird presence; check here.

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The Hardest & Easiest Pet: The Fish (Latin: Piscis)

An array of creatures that may have been found in a "piscine." Sea creatures mosaic from Pompeii; National Archaeological Museum of Naples, Italy. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Massimo Finizio.

An array of creatures that may have been found in a “piscine.” Sea creatures mosaic from Pompeii; National Archaeological Museum of Naples, Italy. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Massimo Finizio.

Popularity Scale: 7.5/10

Evidence of the Pet: There are several examples of fish on mosaics. Varro even records good habits to maintain while providing and caring for fish; which can be seen here. In addition, evidence of piscina (referring to fish ponds or swimming pools) have been found. More on the structure, habitats, and history of piscine may be found here.

Famous Examples: While it may be unclear which fish were kept by Romans; what is clear is that like today- they were easy pets to maintain. However, the more exotic the fish (saltwater vs. freshwater) the more difficult to maintain. Famously, Augustus’ nephew, Hirrus, was noted to owning and keeping extravagant fish ponds.

Thus Hirrus, who, on one occasion, lent Caesar 6,000 muraenae, at a subsequent period obtained 4,000,000 of sesterces (upwards of 30,0001.) for an ordinary villa, chiefly in consequence of the ponds and the quantity of fish they contained. (Greek & Roman Dictionary; here)

An example of a piscine as reconstructed at the Getty Villa. Courtesy of WikiCommons &  Dave & Margie Hill / Kleerup .

An example of a piscine as reconstructed at the Getty Villa. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Dave & Margie Hill / Kleerup .

Fun Facts:  Quintus Hortensius, a Roman orator, is said to have mourned the loss of his pet fish as if a person- or family member- had died. Historians are quite sure that while fishes were kept as pets; they were never used for the famous condiment known as Garum. This obviously makes sense since even farmers who raise pigs, cows, etc. have a difficult time (if they are able to at all) to eat their livestock if they treat them more like pets.

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The Most Popular Pet: The Dog (Latin: Canis)

CAVE CANEM "Beware of Dog!" Mosaic. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Radomil

CAVE CANEM “Beware of Dog!” Mosaic. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Radomil. For more on this piece: here.

Popularity Scale: 9/10

Evidence of the Pet: The evidence for the popularity in dogs is the same as the other pets listed above: artwork, literature, etc. However, the reason I would argue that this pet was the most popular is the undying terminology of “Man’s Best Friend.” One fine scholar examines the dogs role (including the lap-dog) in the Classical Journal: here.

Famous Examples: The most famous examples have been provided in the images in this post. The “Beware of Dog” mosaic and the gravestone of Helena.

“To Helena, foster daughter, the incomparable and worthy soul.” 150-200AD Courtesy of Brittany Brittaniae.

“To Helena, foster daughter, the incomparable and worthy soul.” 150-200AD
Courtesy of Brittany Brittaniae.

Fun Facts:  The name “Fido” has often been coined as a popular name for a dog. The name actually comes from the Latin word Fidus meaning faithful, loyal, trustworthy. This common name shows a nice parellal that cats (libertas) and dogs (fidus) have.  The blog has also written a whole article dedicated to this gravestone of Helena, which can be read here. Also, the following page (here) has a sundry of artworks, coins, and descriptions of dogs as pets. This of course outweighs and outshines previously mentioned pets; thus, this confirms my statement that dogs were the “most popular pets.”

 

 

 

 

5 Ancient Beauty Tips…You Don’t Want to Try!

Posted on 23. Jul, 2014 by in Roman culture

SALVTE OMNES!

So today we will be talking about beauty tips or abduction habits. Do you personally have a beauty regiment? Do your friends or partner think are strange, because you will only buy a certain type of shampoo? Conditioner? Cologne? Hair Gel? Do you have a strict way of applying eyeliner or eye shadow? While none of these items (that I have mentioned) are extreme- in today’s era, there are some extreme methods of achieving  “beauty.”  Modern society promotes these ways for the sake of beauty; I am referring to the “starvation, nip and tuck, injections, and so on.” However, I should put the question to you- which do you think is worse? Modern day or Ancient Times?

 

Well, prepare to be amazed at what the people of antiquity use to use in their own beauty regiments!

 

COMPLEXIONS- “SKIN WHITE AS SNOW & CHEEKS ROSY AS BLOOD”

 

Mosaic showing Roman women in various recreational activities. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Disdero.

Mosaic showing Roman women in various recreational activities. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Disdero.

WHY: Romans enjoyed the look of fairer skin due to its association to the “non-working” high class. Furthermore, rosy cheeks were a sign of healthiness and vitality.

HOW IT WAS ACHIEVED: (SKIN) chalk powder, white marl and white lead( which was poisonous).

HOW IT WAS ACHIEVED: (CHEEKS) poppy and rose petals, red chalk, crocodile dung, mulberry juice, wine dregs, cinnabar and red lead (these two were poisonous!).

SKINCARE METHODS-:Ancient Romans had a vast number of creams and lotion to help fight and hide wrinkles, pimples, sun spots, freckles and flaking. These include: masks of lentels, barley, lupine, honey, sulphur, vinegar, goose grease, basil juice, placenta and even excrements of  the kingfisher or calves! Pimples were cured with a mixture of barley flour and butter; while, sun spots were treated with the ashes of snails (Slimy goodness?). Historically speaking, a famous method used was the process of bathing in asses’ milk which worked like a chemical peel and was used by such as historic figures as Cleopatra VII and Poppaea Sabina.

 

EYES: “BIGGER IS BETTER”

Portrait of the baker Terentius Neo with his wife found on the wall of a Pompeii house (LOOK TO THE WIFE'S EYES) Courtesy of Wikicommons & Anonimiski

Portrait of the baker Terentius Neo with his wife found on the wall of a Pompeii house (LOOK TO THE WIFE’S EYES) Courtesy of Wikicommons & Anonimiski

WHY: Romans liked large eyes with long eyelashes and eyebrows that almost met (unibrows).

HOW IT WAS ACHIEVED: (EYEBROWS) They would darken eyebrows with antimony or soot.

HOW IT WAS ACHIEVED: (EYES) On the eyes, they would apply kohl.  The kohl was applied with a glass, ivory, wood or bone sticks that had to be dipped into either water or oil before putting them on the eyes ( I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to put glass or bone near my eyes for any reason!).

LIPS, NAILS, TEETH- ” NOTHING TOO BIG, WEIRDLY SHAPED, or DISCOLORED!”

Fingernails before and after application of red nail polish. Courtesy of Wikicommons & Deerstop & Zitona

Fingernails before and after application of red nail polish. Courtesy of Wikicommons & Deerstop & Zitona

 

WHY: Romans enjoyed having their partners looking natural, but the best they could. No one would want someone with hideous long creepy curly nails, nor someone with scared lips, and lastly not someone with black pointy teeth. It is not an unreasonable societal ideal, because it still exists today.

HOW IT WAS ACHIEVED (LIPS): Unfortunately there no such evidence has materialized to indicate that the Romans ever colored their lips, but it is not a far off speculation that if cheeks were given a rosy color that lips weren’t. Then again, I imagine most of what they were applying to their cheeks would have not tasted good on their lips.

HOW IT WAS ACHIEVED (NAILS): The mixture in which is thought to have been applied to nails is red dye (imported from an Indian insect). Also, a mixture made with sheep fat and blood was used.

HOW IT WAS ACHIEVED (TEETH): White teeth were prized by the Romans, and so false teeth, made from bone, ivory and paste, were popular items. One way to whiten teeth was to use powder like hartshorn, which had ammonia bleaching properties. Also, they used human urine as a mouthwash and teeth whitening substance, which also had ammonia and was used in laundering. Human urine became so valuable that the emperor Nero ( and later emperors) even placed a taxes on it.

 

PERFUME- “WHAT’S THAT SMELL?”

Perfume Bottles & Glass Bottles. Courtesy of the Getty Villa Museum, Brittany Garcia & the glass blowers who made them thousands of years ago.

Perfume Bottles & Glass Bottles. Courtesy of the Getty Villa Museum, Brittany Garcia & the glass blowers who made them thousands of years ago.

WHY: Who wants to be around someone who is smelly? The Ancient Romans were no fools; they considered that if an individual smelled good that they were in good health, socially savvy, and a pleasure to be around.

HOW WAS IT ACHIEVED (PERFUME): Perfumes were made from flowers, some food (lemon, olives, grapes), leaves, roots and kept either liquid, sticky or solid form. These mixtures were incorporated into types of deodorants made with rose petals or irises. In regard to breath fresheners, baking soda was used perhaps to masks the smell of urine.

 

HAIR-” COLORFULLY OUTRAGEOUS & ONLY ON YOUR HEAD”

Exaggerated hairstyle of the Flavian period (80s–90s CE). Courtesy of Wikicommons & Tetrakyts.

Exaggerated hairstyle of the Flavian period (80s–90s CE). Courtesy of Wikicommons & Tetrakyts.

WHY: The expectation for beauty is sometimes beyond understanding; however, beauty is often that which is considered rare and hard to attain. Thus the colored hair/wigs would be highly rare and therefore- desirable. In concerns to body hair, most men/society do not approve of their women feeling hairy like men. However, there are bound to be a few women who could care less!

HOW IT WAS ACHIEVED (COLORFUL HAIR): Roman women wore wings to hide white hair or hair that was damaged by hair dyes. In addition, the Romans used dyes to accentuate hair colors. Blonde hair was created with beeches ash and goat’s fat. Red hair was done by pulverizing the leaves of the Lawsonia Inermis ( similar to henna plant). Black hair instead was obtained by black antimony with animal fat. (SO, Lots of animal fat).

HOW IT WAS ACHIEVED (BODY HAIR): Women would remove them by plucking or shaving. In alternative, they also used a resin paste to strip them or a pumice stone to scrape them (OUCH!)

 

Well I hope this was an interesting read and that you learned something that you did not know about those Latin speakers of old.

 

 

5 Things You May Have Not Known About Julius Caesar

Posted on 09. Jul, 2014 by in Latin Language, Roman culture

Salvete Omnes!

I do hope everyone’s Fourth of July was safe and nice. Well moving right along- let’s talk about July and the famous man it was named after!

MONTH OF JULY

July panel from a Roman mosaic of the months (from El Djem, Tunisia, first half of 3rd century AD). Courtesy of WikiCommons & Ad Meskens

July panel from a Roman mosaic of the months (from El Djem, Tunisia, first half of 3rd century AD).
Courtesy of WikiCommons & Ad Meskens

The month of July, formerly known as Quintilis, was the fifth month or quintus mensis  of the Roman calendar.* Quintilis was renamed July after Julius Caesar in 43 BCE; this was done after Julius Caesar’s death as an honorary gesture by his adopted son and nephew Octavian or Augustus Caesar. The reason that Quintilis was picked for Julius Caesar is due to the fact that this was the month in which Julius Caesar had been born.

*For more information on the names of days and months of the Roman calendar, see our earlier post here.

CAESAR COMES FROM….

Courtesy of Wikicommons, Alexander R, and CNG Coins.

Courtesy of Wikicommons, Alexander R, and CNG Coins.

Many people know of Julius Caesar, but not many know how or where he obtained the cognomen “Caesar.” One historian postulated that it was due to the fact that one of his ancestors was born via caesarean section. The term caesarean probably derives from the Latin verb caedere “to cut” or its perfect (past) stem caes-. The famous Historia Augusta suggests three interesting proposals:

  1. Julius Caesar had bright grey eyes (Latin= oculis caesiis)
  2. Julius Caesar had thick hair (Latin= caesaries)
  3. Or, Julius had killed an elephant at some point in battle (Moorish or Punic= elephant=  caesai)

The latter point is considered to be one that Julius Caesar agreed or favored since there have been many discoveries of coin depicting Caesar’s name and elephants.

CAESAR THE PRIEST?

Flamines, distinguished by their pointed headdress, as part of a procession on the Augustan Altar of Peace. Courtesy of Wikicommons and WolfgangRieger.

Flamines, (Flamen being one priest and the highest one; flamines meaning many and usually comprising of those of less authority) distinguished by their pointed headdress, as part of a procession on the Augustan Altar of Peace. Courtesy of Wikicommons and WolfgangRieger.

According to Paterculus’ Roman History, Julius Caesar was intended for a very different life. After the death of his father (85BCE), he was nominated by his uncle, Gaius Marius, and his political ally, Cinna, to be the new high priest of Jupiter or Flamen Dialis.** However, he was striped of this title and other honors following Sulla’s victory, because Sulla was Marius rival during a civil war. Could you imagine if he had been a priest?

** The extreme honors and restrictions of this position can be found here, and they are discussed at length.

IT’S THE PIRATES LIFE FOR ME!

The traditional "Jolly Roger" of piracy. Courtesy of WikiCommons, Edward England, Manuel Strehl, and WarX.

The traditional “Jolly Roger” of piracy.
Courtesy of WikiCommons, Edward England, Manuel Strehl, and WarX.

Around the late 80′s and early 70′s BCE, Caesar was kidnapped by Cilician pirates and held prisoner. It is reported by Plutarch that Caesar maintained a haughty sense of superiority throughout his captivity.  For example, when the pirates demanded a ransom of twenty talents (measurement explained here) of silver, he insisted they ask for fifty. After that ransom was paid, Caesar was bent on revenge. He raised a fleet, pursued and seized the pirates, and imprisoned them. However, his revenged was not done there; he had them crucified ( as he had promised while in captivity…a promise the pirates had taken as a joke).  This chapter of Caesar of life has actually been taken as a topic for a Hollywood film! (More details on the film and its collaborators here).

THE MOVIES GOT IT ALL WRONG

The following clip is from HBO’s Rome series and it depicts the death of Caesar. WARNING: It may be a bit graphic from some.

YouTube Preview Image

On the Ides of March (15 March) in 44 BCE, Caesar was due to appear at a session of the Senate. However, the Senate was currently meeting in the Theatre of Pompey, because the old Senate House or curia was being reconstructed (Most films and TV series do not depict this difference). Furthermore, Caesar’s famous last words “Et tu, Brute?!” are actually a Shakespearean invention.  Ancient Historian have never attributed him to saying anything when he dies. Suetonius reports that OTHERS said that Caesar said “καὶ σύ, τέκνον” ( Ancient Greek for “And you, child?”), but Suetonius does not actually agree or state that Caesar uttered a last phrase. Plutarch simply dictates that Caesar said nothing and was seen to try to hide himself (or shame) by covering his face with his toga.

 

 

Well, thank you for reading and have a wonderful rest of the week!