Archive for 'Roman culture'

10 Facts about Ancient Rome that You Didn’t Know

Posted on 18. Sep, 2014 by in Roman culture

Saluete Omnes,

I hope everyone’s week is going well. My week is going okay other than the horrible heat wave in California. So for your viewing and intellectual pleasure. I will present to you 10 Facts about Ancient Rome that will make you think, giggle, and ponder the world of antiquity.

 

1.The early Romans thought Christians were literally practicing cannibalism when they heard that they consumed bread and wine as symbolic representations of the body and blood of Christ.

Courtesy of Wikicommons, Lamre, and Shizhoa.

Courtesy of Wikicommons, Lamre, and Shizhoa.

2. The abbreviation SPQR can be found on many Roman statues, buildings, and military sta.ndards. It stands for “senatus populusque romanus.” meaning “The senate and people of Rome.”

3. The Romans had gods for doors (Forculus), hinges (Cardea), and thresholds (Limentinus).

4. In response to a 73 B.C. revolt against Rome by Spartacus the gladiator, 6,000 slaves were crucified.

Crassus crucified 6,000 of Spartacus's followers on the road between Rome and Capua. Courtesy of WikiCommons.

Crassus crucified 6,000 of Spartacus’s followers on the road between Rome and Capua. Courtesy of WikiCommons.

5. Sometimes gladiator blood was recommended by Roman physicians as an aid to fertility

6. Some men were advised to use hippopotamus skin to make hair grow. Men and women would remove hair with bat’s blood or hedgehog ashes, or keep hair from turning gray by coloring their hair with oil mixed with earthworm ashes

7. The Romans sometimes trained some female slaves to fight as gladiators.

YouTube Preview Image

8. In battle, Romans sometimes grouped together and held their shields all around them in a formation called “the tortoise.

9. The Romans divided their days into 12 hours, measured by a sundial.

10. The Vestal Virgins were female priests who tended the sacred fire of Vesta, goddess of the hearth fire. If they lost their virginity, even as a result of rape, they were buried alive in an unmarked grave. In the 1,000-year history of the temple, only about 18 Vestals received this punishment (recorded).

Ancient Roman Recipes

Posted on 10. Sep, 2014 by in Latin Language, Roman culture

Salvete Omnes,

I hope everyone is doing great today! I will be honest and admit that this post is coming to fruition a bit later than I have liked. Yesterday was my birthday and I came home to a surprise party! It was very surprising to the say the least and a wonderful gesture. But as I sat there eating my surprise dinner, I wondered about the article that I would be writing for this week’s theme: Recipes.

Food of various forms and categories. Courtesy of WikiCommon and Lobo.

Food of various forms and categories. Courtesy of WikiCommon and Lobo.

I further wondered what use would a Latin or Ancient Roman Recipe be to my readers. So I have come up with two ideas. The first, I don’t know how many of you who read this throw your friends or family dinner parties, but instead of the same old boring food-why not theme it? Roman Dinner Party? Ask people to dress up toga (accurate or inaccurate) and serve only the most authentic food that will give your family and friends a taste of a different world and time! The second idea piggybacks off the first with a Roman Halloween Party! We also have a lovely post on Roman Halloween Costume Ideas here.

ROMAN DINNER PARTY

For this theme, I was asked to provide one recipe with the Latin and then the English, which is what you will see below. Although the recipe I have chosen is one of rarity is probably never cooked anymore; I hope it will lend some insight into the Roman and their food choices. Lastly, I have provided at the end of this article more options for recipes (that are not odd, rare, or obscure) for your trying.

A boy holding a platter of fruits and what may be a bucket of crabs, in a kitchen with fish and squid, on the June panel from a mosaic depicting the months (3rd century. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Sailko.

A boy holding a platter of fruits and what may be a bucket of crabs, in a kitchen with fish and squid, on the June panel from a mosaic depicting the months (3rd century. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Sailko.

The Recipe that I would love to translate and discuss today is the most intriguing in my mind: the dormouse. Most commonly known from its appearance in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland’ s Tea Party.

The March Hare and the Hatter put the Dormouse's head in a teapot. Illustration by John Tenniel.. Courtesy of WikiCommons and JasonAQuest.

The March Hare and the Hatter put the Dormouse’s head in a teapot. Illustration by John Tenniel.. Courtesy of WikiCommons and JasonAQuest.

It is often referred to as the edible dormouse, which was farmed by the Romans (which is discussed and explained here). It was mainly eaten as part of a snack,part of a main course, or even as a dessert. The text for this recipe (stuffed dormouse) is found in Apicius’ De Re Coquinaria Book 8 Chapater 9 (here):

Glires: “isicio porcino, item pulpis ex omni membro glirium trito, cum pipere, nucleis, lasere, liquamine farcies glires, et sutos in tegula positos mittes in furnum aut farsos in clibano coques.”

Dormice: “Stuff the mice with minced pork, likewise with mouse meat from all (fleshy) parts of the  mouse ground with pepper, pine kernels, laser, and garum (or broth). Sew the mouse up and put on a tile on the stove. Or roast in a portable oven.”

It should be noted that Roman recipes by Apicius ( the only “complete” recipe book that has survived) does not include measurements, ingredients, or even a cook time.

For a Modern interpretation of the dormouse recipe (a.k.a the substitution of dormouse with chicken) , please check out this wonderful recipe: here.

Seafood was very popular in the Roman cuisine as well. An array of creatures that may have been found in a "piscine." Sea creatures mosaic ( Attention to the Eel near the right bottom corner) from Pompeii; National Archaeological Museum of Naples, Italy. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Massimo Finizio.

Seafood was very popular in the Roman cuisine as well. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Massimo Finizio.

The topic of food and recipes have been discussed in this blog before, please take a look at some of our previous post that discuss terminology, popular food, (here) and even have some helpful videos(here)!

For more of  a collection of recipes in Latin and English, please see this wonderful website: Eight Recipes from Around the Roman Table-Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome (here). More Roman Recipes can also be found here.

Wedding Traditions from Ancient Rome

Posted on 04. Sep, 2014 by in Latin Language, Roman culture

 

Salvete Omnes,

I hope everyone’s Labor Day Weekends went well! My weekend was a bit exhausting, but I am recovering slowly over the work week. I wanted to take sometime this week to write an article on weddings. I am attending a wedding this weekend and wanted to do a post on Roman weddings and the traditions that permeate to modern times.

 

Roman couple joining hands; the bride's belt may show the knot symbolizing that the husband was "belted and bound" to her, which he was to untie in their bed (4th century sarcophagus). Courtesy of WikiCommons & Ad Meskens.

Roman couple joining hands; the bride’s belt may show the knot symbolizing that the husband was “belted and bound” to her, which he was to untie in their bed (4th century sarcophagus). Courtesy of WikiCommons & Ad Meskens.

Introduction on Roman Weddings:

In order for the union of a man and woman to be legitimate, there needed to be consent legally and morally. Both parties had to be willing and intend to marry, and both needed their fathers’ consent. If all other legal conditions were met, a marriage was made. The Roman purpose of marriage was not one love, but in order to produce legitimate (citizen) children.

 

Getting Ready & Attire:

YouTube Preview Image

Just as normal brides fuss, perfect, and obsess over their wedding day, the ancient bride had many facets to be concerned with as well. In modern times, the bride goes over details about the shape and fit of the dress along with needing something “new, borrowed, and blue.” The Roman bride had her own ceremonial requirements to fulfill.

HAIR:

The first thing she did was surrender her childhood toys, belongings and toga praetexta. This was to reflect her leaving of maidenhood and entry into motherhood.  The day of her wedding, her hair would be done in a unique hairstyle that only brides wore called: tutulus. This is where the hair is divided into six locks (sex crines) and was fastened with fillets (vittae) on the top of her head with a cone (meta). Then her hair was parted with a bent iron spearhead (hast recurva or hasta caelibaris). The reason for why a bride’s hair may be parted this way is somewhat uncertain. However, this ritual may have been done to keep evil spirits away from the bride and her hair.

DRESS & VEIL:

The bride’s attire, like that of today, was special and worn only once. She had a flammeum, which was flame colored veil. It was probably the most symbolic thing she wore. This tradition of wearing red continued through the Middle Ages until Queen Victoria made the white wedding dress famous.The veil was oblong, transparent and matched her shoes (lutei socci). The veil left her face uncovered and she wore a flowery wreath. Her gown consisted of a tunica recta, a white flannel or muslim tunic that had been made on an old-fashioned upright loom, and a cingulum, girdle.

TYING THE KNOT & UNTYING THE KNOT:

The ritual of bride’s belt was the Nodus Herculaneus which is known the knotted belt of Hercules.  It was suppose to symbolize the virility of Hercules, because he fathered seventy children. The belt is tied and knotted and only the groom can loosen it. This is one derivation of the ritualistic actions for the meaning of “tying of the knot.”

LATIN

The verb used for a woman marrying is nubo is related to the Latin word nubes (cloud) and means “I veil myself.” From this verb comes nupta (a married woman) or nova nupta (a bride) and nuptiae, a wedding.  You can think of a modern term like “nuptials.”

Ceremony & Choosing a Date:

YouTube Preview Image

(The following video although not professional is a fun video that explains my points concisely.)

Ceremony was usually optional for most weddings, and was not a requirement. Sometimes a wedding and marriage could be made via letter. The wedding ceremony was more of a procession from the bride’s house (paterfamilias) to the grooms house. This may be one reason why the bride walks down the aisle to the groom in modern weddings. For the Roman bride, her parents would watch for omens (bad dates, ominous weather, etc.) and would plan the wedding for the best date. Interestingly, most weddings were planned in July or (Quintilis), because it was a fortuitous month. The deductio in domum mariti or pompa, procession, moved from the bride’s home to the groom’s home, like the Greek wedding procession.

SAYING “I DO” & THE KISS

When the bride’s family would hand over the bride to the groom, there would be some verbal exchange to the effect of “Ubi tu Gaius, ego Gaia,” “Where you are Gaius, I am Gaia.” The new couple would offer up a sacrifice for good fortune. The tabulae nuptials (marriage contract,)was  drawn up beforehand and agreed upon would be presented. This marriage contract was originally sealed with a kiss which showed a loyal and “loving” agreement between the bride and groom. Although the kiss is not a formal requirement of the ceremony, most regard the gesture as a joyful start of the marriage. The most traditional way guests entice the new couple to kiss is by clinking their glasses.

THRESHOLD

Next, the bride rubbed the doorway with fat and oil and wreathed it; thus reinforcing her role as domestic wife. She then crossed the threshold very carefully or was even carried over in some instances, since it was unlucky to step on it or trip on her way into her new house. Ancients also believed that evil spirits, in a last-ditch effort to curse the couple, hovered at the threshold of their new home, so the bride had to be lifted to ensure that the spirits couldn’t enter her body through the soles of her feet.

 

Conclusion

Thank you for reading, I hope you learned something new! Enjoy your weekend.