Tag Archives: Ancient Rome

Ancient Rome & China: Five Examples of their Relationship

Posted on 26. Feb, 2015 by in Roman culture

In honor of Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year (February 19th), I wanted to write a post on the relations between Ancient Rome and China. I did not want to examine the minute details for the expert scholar, but rather provide a survey or summary of my research for anyone that was curious about the two empires and their communication.

CHINA AND ROME

In classical sources, the problem of identifying references to ancient China is tied to the interpretation of the Latin term “Seres,” whose meaning could refer to a number of Asian people in a wide arc from India over Central Asia to China. In Chinese records, the Roman Empire came to be known as “Da Qin”, Great Qin, apparently thought to be a sort of counter-China at the other end of the world. For ancient China, the Roman Empire would have been a great ally in trade and commerce, but at the same time would be a difficult acceptance due to Chinese mythological notions about the far west.

The trade relations between Rome and the East, including China, according to the 1st century BC navigation guide Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. Courtesy of George Tsiagalakis / CC-BY-SA-4 licence

The trade relations between Rome and the East, including China, according to the 1st century BC navigation guide Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. Courtesy of George Tsiagalakis / CC-BY-SA-4 licence

1. SILKS

Maenad in silk dress, Naples National Museum.. Courtesy of Wikicommons.

Maenad in silk dress, Naples National Museum.. Courtesy of Wikicommons.

Trade with the Roman Empire, confirmed by the Roman craze for silk, started in the 1st century BCE.

Pliny the Elder wrote about the large value of the trade between Rome and Eastern countries:

“By the lowest reckoning, India, Seres and the Arabian peninsula take from our Empire 100 millions of sesterces every year: that is how much our luxuries and women cost us.”

—Pliny the Elder, Natural History 12.84.
2. ASTRONOMY
    Caesar’s Comet also known as Comet Caesar and the Great Comet of 44 BC was perhaps the most famous comet of antiquity. The seven-day visitation in July was taken by Romans as a sign of the deification of the recently dead dictator, Julius Caesar (100–44 BC).
Coin minted by Augustus (c. 19–18 BC); Obverse: CAESAR AVGVSTVS, laureate head right/Reverse: DIVVS IVLIV[S], with comet (star) of eight rays, tail upward. Courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. and Wikicommons

Coin minted by Augustus (c. 19–18 BC); Obverse: CAESAR AVGVSTVS, laureate head right/Reverse: DIVVS IVLIV[S], with comet (star) of eight rays, tail upward. Courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. and Wikicommons

    In China, the comet was also seen but a few months before. Both civilizations took the comet as a sign or omen to mean something more (as were most astronomical events). However for historians and scientists alike, the comet’s recording was done more mathematical and was more heavily written on in China than in Rome. You can read more on this here.
3. DIPLOMATS & ENVOYS
The Roman historian Florus describes the visit of numerous envoys including the “Seres” to the Roman Emperor Augustus:

Even the rest of the nations of the world which were not subject to the imperial sway were sensible of its grandeur, and looked with reverence to the Roman people, the great conqueror of nations. Thus even Scythians and Sarmatians sent envoys to seek the friendship of Rome. Nay, the Seres came likewise, and the Indians who dwelt beneath the vertical sun, bringing presents of precious stones and pearls and elephants, but thinking all of less moment than the vastness of the journey which they had undertaken, and which they said had occupied four years. In truth it needed but to look at their complexion to see that they were people of another world than ours.

A later “Seres” envoy by the name of Gan Ying gave an account of what he thought of the small part of empire he saw:
The Chinese impression of the Daqin people, from the Ming Dynasty encyclopedia Sancai Tuhui. Courtesy of Wikicommons. [Daqin was the Chinese word for Roman Empire.]

The Chinese impression of the Daqin people, from the Ming Dynasty encyclopedia Sancai Tuhui. Courtesy of Wikicommons. [Daqin was the Chinese word for Roman Empire.]

Its territory extends for several thousands of li [a li during the Han equaled 415.8 metres],They have established postal relays at intervals, which are all plastered and whitewashed. There are pines and cypresses, as well as trees and plants of all kinds. It has more than four hundred walled towns. There are several tens of smaller dependent kingdoms. The walls of the towns are made of stone.4.
5. GLASS TRADE
Roman glass from the 2nd century CE. Courtesy of Wikicommons.

Roman glass from the 2nd century CE. Courtesy of Wikicommons.

High-quality glass from Roman manufactures in Alexandria and Syria was exported to many parts of Asia, including Han China. Further Roman luxury items which were greatly esteemed by the Chinese were gold-embroidered rugs and gold-coloured cloth
Lastly, although it does not relate to China- I found it rather interesting. “A glass dish unearthed from a burial mound here is the first of its kind confirmed to have come to Japan from the Roman Empire.” Can you even imagine the trade route and years it took for that glass dish to make from the Roman Empire to Japan?!? You can read the entire article here.

Ancient World Movies in 2015 & Beyond

Posted on 20. Jan, 2015 by in Roman culture

Hello Everyone,

It’s that time of the year again….MOVIES! Here is a list of ancient movies of Roman, Egyptian, Greek and Biblical backgrounds.

Title:#1 DRAGON BLADE

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Time Period: Han dynasty (206-220 CE) 

Plot: Action packed film filled with lost prisoners (Roman and Chinese) trying to navigate their way through China.

Popular Players: Jackie Chan, Adrien Brody, John Cusack and more!

Release Date: February 18, 2015 in China; No USA date release.

 

Title #2: THE LOST LEGION

Europe in 476, from Muir's Historical Atlas (1911). Courtest of Wikicommons.

Europe in 476, from Muir’s Historical Atlas (1911). Courtest of Wikicommons.

Time Period: Shortly after the Fall of the Roman Empire; 476 CE 

Plot: It promises “sex, corruption, betrayal and the final death throws [sic] of a once powerful empire. Where enemies become allies, allies become pawns and one man’s struggle to survive is the last chance for a new Rome.” According to IMDB, the plot is “following the fall of the Roman Empire, a Roman woman plots to make her son the new Emperor and to fulfill the former glory of the city.”

Popular Players: Tom McKay, Michelle Lukes, etc.

Release Date: January 20, 2015 with a spin-off TV series.

 

Title#3: SINBAD THE FIFTH VOYAGE

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Time Period: Mythical Story by c.1st Century CE.

Plot: According to IMBD, the plot is “When the Sultan’s first born is taken by an evil sorcerer, Sinbad is tasked with traveling to a desert of magic and creatures to save her.”

Popular Players: Narrated by Sir Patrick Stewart

Release Date: Streaming began in 2014; DVD February 3, 2015.

 

Title #4: Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar Bust. Courtesy WikiCommons.

Julius Caesar Bust. Courtesy WikiCommons.

Time Period: 44 BCE

Plot: A chilling film adaptation of Shakespeare’s shocking tale of ambition, betrayal, murder and… the supernatural.

Popular Players: Sean Bean as Caesar (retracted), Mackenize Crook, John Bradley, Tom-Weston Jones, etc.

Release Date: 2015

Title #5: THE ARK

Noah's Ark (1846), a painting by the American folk painter Edward Hicks. Courtesy of WikiCommons.

Noah’s Ark (1846), a painting by the American folk painter Edward Hicks. Courtesy of WikiCommons.

Time Period: 2700 BC (if approximately around Gilgamesh time period)

Plot: A retelling of the Biblical story of Noah and the Ark.

Popular Players: David Threlfall as Noah

Release Date: 2015

5. THE ARK

The Ark projected for broadcast on BBC in 2015. The weirdly charismatic David Threlfall will play Noah in this biblical retelling.

Title #6: THE REDEMPTION OF CAIN (previously titled: Legend of Cain)

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Time Period: Biblical Time Period (debatable dates)

Plot: “Redemption of Cain is a re-imagining of the Biblical brother tale of Cain and Abel – with “a vampiric twist.” 

Popular Players: Will Smith (Directing Debut)

Release Date: SUMMER 2015

 

Title #7: Gods of Egypt

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Time Period: Ancient Egypt

Plot: A common thief joins a mythical god on a quest through Egypt.

Popular Players: Nikolaj Coster-Walkdau, Gerald Butler, Geoffrey Rush, Rufus Sewell, etc.

Release Date: 2016

 

Title#8: THE MUMMY REBOOT

Theatrical release poster. Courtesy of WikiCommons.

Theatrical release poster. Courtesy of WikiCommons.

Time Period: UNDETERMINED

Plot: “We’re reaching into the deep roots of The Mummy, which at its beating heart is a horror movie and then an action movie, and putting it into a context that is real and emotional. It’s still a four quadrant film but as a lot of recent movies have proven, audiences are hungry for more than they used to be. You can still have a family movie, an action movie that’s more grounded than these used to be. Without saying too much, we’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from Michael Crichton’s books, and how he ground fantastical sales in modern-day science.”

Popular Players: Len Wiseman (director of Underworld Trilogy fame).

Release Date: 2016

 

Title #9: Jason and the Argonauts: Kingdom of Hades

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Time Period: Mythical Time Period of Archaic Greece

Plot:  It based on the graphic novel of the same name, which follows the fortunes of the Argonauts after the quest for the Golden Fleece—essentially a sequel to the 1963 movie Jason and the Argonauts.See a preview of the graphic novel-here

Popular Players: TBD

Time Release: 2016

Title#10:BE-HUR REBOOT

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Time Period: 1st Century CE

Plot: It is based on the classic novel about a wealthy Jew who falls from grace, then finds another kind of grace thanks to Jesus, with slavery, sea battles and chariot races along the way.

Popular Players: Timur Bekmambetov (director of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), Roman Downey and Mark Burnett (The Bible miniseries).

Release Date: 2016

UPDATES

HANNIBAL

Vin Diesel long ago announced his intention to make his directorial debut and star as “Hannibal the Conqueror.” However, there has been a long silence on this project. In April 2014, Vin announced that the project was back in pre-production, and credited his friend and co-star the late Paul Walker for inspiring him to get the project back on track. “He would always say, ‘You need to do Hannibal. It will be your life’s work.’ Vin also indicated his intention to expand the project into a trilogy. “We must go further back in time, to grasp the magnitude and relevance of this underserved historic character. The first film in this trilogy will do just that, by introducing us to an even more obscured yet extremely pivotal character, Hannibal’s father.”

 

Star Wars & Ancient Rome

Posted on 31. Dec, 2014 by in Roman culture

Salvete Omnes,

Star Wars Collage. Courtesy of Flickr.

Star Wars Collage. Courtesy of Flickr.

So over the last week of November, there was the trailer release of Episode VII of the Star Wars series. For those of you who have been living under a rock, here is the trailer:

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For any fans, one can actually see that there are several parallels between Star Wars and Ancient Rome. I have prepared to list quite a few of them. Please note that I am not going to address the extended lore (video games, literature, tv shows), but all the points I address are made and seen within Star Wars: Episodes I-VI.

1.Politics & Political Figures: Republics, Empires, Dictators, & More.

If one would to consider Ancient Rome, one would know that prior to the Empire (ruled by the Caesars) it was a Republic (consuls and co-consuls). In Star Wars, the Galactic was known as the Galactic Republic or the Old Republic and eventually became the Empire ruled by the Emperor.

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Both Julius Caesar and Senator Palatine were in their position much longer than they were supposed to be. They were given extended rule and power for the sake of the safety of the Republic.

Emperor or Palpatine from Stars Wars.  Courtesy of Flickr & TaymTaym.

Emperor or Palpatine from Stars Wars.
Courtesy of Flickr & TaymTaym.

However, they were both seized with either ambition or vanity and continued to pursue more power and a higher title. Both Palpatine and Julius Caesar were betrayed by someone they trusted, and were killed. (Brutus and Vader).

Bust of Julius Caesar. Courtesy of WikiCommons.

Bust of Julius Caesar. Courtesy of WikiCommons.

Another similarity between the Roman Empire and the Star Wars movies is the way that the two became Empires. They were both Republics, and both civilizations had a strong amount of confidence that the Republic would exist forever, in both Star War’s Galactic, and in Ancient Rome. In both civilizations there was a series of wars fueled by the Republic’s desire to conquer and expand. In the history of Ancient Rome, these wars were primarily the Punic Wars with Carthage. In Star Wars’ lore, there were a series of different wars namely The Old Sith Wars, the New Sith Wars, and The Clone Wars.

 

2. Games & Entertainment: Racing, Fighting, & More

The Star Wars franchise has two distinct scene that resonate with Ancient Rome: The Circus Maximus and the Colosseum. This first scene shows the pod racing clip from Episode I.

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This reminds me of the Ben Hur racing scence that takes place in the Circus Maximus. While, the other scene takes place in an alien Colosseum:

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3. Architecture

There are countless scenes in Stars Wars that are reminiscent of Ancient Roman scenery, architecture, etc.

The two prime examples would have to be Naboo’s governmental buildings and the Pantheon AND the Jedi Temple and Ancient Egyptian. I draw the Egyptian comparison only the light that Ancient Rome and Egypt had close ties during the Empire.

Naboo reconstruction. Courtesy of Flickr.

Naboo reconstruction. Courtesy of Flickr.

 

An 1835 view of the Pantheon by Rudolf von Alt, showing twin bell towers, often misattributed to Bernini. Courtesy of Wikicommons.

An 1835 view of the Pantheon by Rudolf von Alt, showing twin bell towers, often misattributed to Bernini. Courtesy of Wikicommons.

If one were to look at the building and structure of the Jedi Temple in comparison to some Ancient Egyptian architecture.

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Do you see similarities? Well I did.

Djeser-Djeseru is the main building of Hatshepsut's mortuary temple. Courtesy of Wikicommons.

Djeser-Djeseru is the main building of Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple. Courtesy of Wikicommons.

 

I do look forward to anyone’s parallels they can bring to this conversation.