Tag Archives: Classic culture

Augustus’ 2,000th Death Anniversary

Posted on 19. Aug, 2014 by in Roman culture

Salvete Omnes!

Do you know what today is? I’ll give you a hint: the world has been planning and excited for today! It has been 2,000 years in the making. This date marks the 2,000th anniversary of Augustus Caesar’s death.

The statue known as the Augustus of Prima Porta, 1st century. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Soerfm.

The statue known as the Augustus of Prima Porta, 1st century. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Soerfm.

If you are not familiar with Augustus or Octavian Caesar, please refer to one of our past and information posts: here. However, this article is somewhat dated (2009) and I will be writing a new one soon. So fret not.

On this day, it should be known and celebrated that several archaeological sites have been brought to the attentions of the public. The demand for restoration, visiting, and access is a matter that now plagues the news and media beyond academics and journalists. Hopefully the world may see more sites restored and open for learning and inspiring.  The following place, the House of Augustus, is one of the areas that will hold special hours and be on display:

Fresco paintings inside the House of Augustus, his residence during his reign as emperor. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Cassius Ahenobarbus.

Fresco paintings inside the House of Augustus, his residence during his reign as emperor. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Cassius Ahenobarbus.

The Ara Pacis (Altar of Peace) will be open as well for extended hours and was aptly prepared for the ominous day. Namely the Ara Pacis will have a laser light projection upon it to show the original (or similar to the original) color palette. If you seek more knowledge of this famous artifact, you may also read on the Ara Pacis: here.

Ara Pacis Augustae, the "Altar of Augustan Peace", as reassembled.Courtesy of WikiCommons & Manfred Heyde

Ara Pacis Augustae, the “Altar of Augustan Peace”, as reassembled.Courtesy of WikiCommons & Manfred Heyde. For a colorful image; check it out here.

One of the most highly debated structure is the actual Mausoleum of Augustus, which according to The Telegraph:

“Officials have said the city of Rome did seek a sponsor to help restore Augustus’ mausoleum in time for the 2014 celebrations, but found no takers. With just two million of a required four million euros available, work will now be finished in 2016. (Kington)”

However unfortunate the finances may be, it is simply a marvel that such monuments still exist!

The Mausoleum of Augustus. Courtesy of WikiCommon &Soerfm.

The Mausoleum of Augustus. Courtesy of WikiCommon &Soerfm.

I find it marvelous the probably hundred if not thousands of events that will be taking place today in honor of this first emperor of Rome. A list of some of the more popular events including museum tours, educational talks, festivals, etc. are reported on this site by country: here. Also, here is an article of the events and places that Rome has to offer.

On a more personal note, I went to the Getty Villa Museum this last weekend (as I often go) I took a stroll around to see what I could find that was Augustan. Please browse my findings below:

Bust of Augustus Caesar 25-1BC in marble. Courtesy of the Getty Villa.

Bust of Augustus Caesar 25-1BC in marble. Courtesy of the Getty Villa.

 

Courtesy of the Getty Villa.

Courtesy of the Getty Villa.

 

Courtesy of the Getty Villa.

Courtesy of the Getty Villa.

 

Funeral Crown (perhaps Augustus wore something like this?) 50-25 BCE made from gold and glass. Courtesy of the Getty Villa.

Funeral Crown(perhaps Augustus wore something like this?) [50-25 BCE] made from gold and glass. Courtesy of the Getty Villa.

Well that is all I have on this news, but I am sure you will find much more information as the events of today unravel across the world! I hope that you take some time out of your busy day to indulge yourself in something Roman. From sitting and watching a Roman film or TV series to cooking a Roman meal (check out some ideas here) or maybe simply raising a toast to a man that changed the face of Western Civilization. Since it is from Augustus’ politics, beautification, laws, and standards that we have many of our current ideals, laws, and mores.

Valete Omnes!

The Oddest & Weirdest Pets of Ancient Rome

Posted on 07. Aug, 2014 by in Latin Language, Roman culture

 

The bond between humans and pets is an interesting and odd bond. The love and friendship that transgress species is an interesting relationship that deserves special attention. Most of us are familiar with the ever persisting sites that our friends show us the most unlikely of friends. These examples range from dogs and chimps, tigers and pigs, cats and birds, and so on. I am hopeful that this post will show that these odd and weird bond existed even in Ancient Rome between man and beast.  The order is from the least odd to the most bizarre (in my opinion).

 

Courtesy of WikiCommons, Boing-Boing, and Steve Garvie.

Courtesy of WikiCommons, Boing-Boing, and Steve Garvie.

Historical Person: Julius Caesar

Pet: Giraffe

Name: He didn’t even bother…. ( I assume)

Love: 3 out of 10 hearts.

Why: In 48 BC, Julius Caesar embarked on a campaign where he eventually started his affair with Queen Cleopatra. Before leaving her, he decided to bring back a sundry of exotic beasts including lions, panthers and green monkeys. The most strange one was long-necked creature known as a giraffe. The Romans saw it as half camel and half panther (due to its spots). Perhaps he brought the beast back to remind him of Cleopatra or perhaps he simply liked it.

Habits: The historian Pliny thought the giraffe was a “wild sheep.” Whatever the case, Caesar soon grew bored with his “pet.” He fed the giraffe to the lions in a Coliseum in front of a baying Roman public; his gesture (offering up his pet as a prize) may have been a sign of his wealth and magnanimity. This is somewhat sad though.

Sources: Pliny, Strabo

 

YouTube Preview Image

Historical Person: Caligula

Pet: Horse

Name: Incitatus

Love: 6 out of 10 hearts

Why:  There is much speculation amongst historians as to why Calgula prized his pet horse so much. While it should be stated that his horse was a race horse- perhaps its victory and magnificence were contributors to Caligula’s fondness for it. Or perhaps, he liked the horse for its ability to ridicule and embarrassed his subjects. I am afraid we will never know for sure.

Habits:  Incitatus had a stable of marble, an ivory manger, purple blankets, and a collar of precious stones. Dio Cassius has indicated that the horse had its own servants, and was fed food mixed with gold flake. How wasteful!  Suetonius also wrote that it was said that Caligula planned to make Incitatus a consul. Furthermore, the horse  “invite” dignitaries to dine with him in a house outfitted with servants there to entertain such events.

Sources: Suetonius, Cassius Dio

 

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.

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.

Historical Person(s): Quintus Hortensius (Famous Orator), Antonia (Daughter of Marc Antony, Niece of Augustus and Mother of Emperor Claudius) , Crassus (either Marcus Licinius Crassus [defeated Spartacus] or Lucius Licinius Crassus [orator and censor in 92 BC].

Pet: Eels or  Murena

Names: Unrecorded

Love: 8 out of 10 hearts

Why: Probably initially raised for food (as was the case for Gaius Hirrius, the first person to have ponds solely for raising eels, supplied six thousand to Caesar for his triumphal banquets); their evolution to beloved pets must have been gradual and somewhat of an acquired taste.

Habits: The orator, Quintus Hortensius, is said to have wept when his favorite murena died. Another pet murena, kept there by Antonia, the niece of Augustus, was adorned with earrings, which prompted some to visit and see the oddity. Crassus, too, was said to have adorned a pet eel with earrings and small necklaces “just like some lovely maiden,” training it to respond to its name and swimming up to eat what was offered.

Sources: Aelian, Plutarch, Macrobius, Varro

 

Depiction of Virgil, 3rd century AD .Courtesy of WikiCommons, Giorces, Mattes.

Depiction of Virgil, 3rd century AD
.Courtesy of WikiCommons, Giorces, Mattes.

Historical Person: Virgil

Pet: House Fly

Name: I don’t believe it was named.

Love: 9 out of 10 Hearts (Virgil must have surely loved it!)

Why: In reality, Virgil didn’t keep a fly as a pet, but conveniently found one to be his pet. This is due to the fact that he discovered that the government was planning to confiscate the lands of the rich (i.e: his lands too!), and give them to war veterans, except for those lands that contained mausoleums. So Virgil the clever poet he was had an idea. Virgil held an incredibly lavish funeral (with mourners, an orchestra, invited celebrities and lots of poetry reading) organized for “pet.” Then, the poor insect’s body was buried in an expensive mausoleum. The whole thing costed Virgil about 800.000 sesterces ( approx. $1.6 million).

Habits: I assume if one had a pet fly- buzzing around your ears and eating garbage would be part of their habits. However, it would seem as if this doesn’t matter in the case of Virgil. Humorously it said that Virgil coined  the expression “time flies” (tempus fugit).

Sources: Suetonius

 

 

HONORABLE MENTION

Tigress. Courtesy of WikiCommons, Sumeet Moghe, Chiswick Chap.

Tigress. Courtesy of WikiCommons, Sumeet Moghe, Chiswick Chap.

Pet: Tigress

Name: Phoebe

Why:  It is said that Nero first saw her fighting  in a Colloseum, where he was impressed by her ruthlessness. For she was said to cause more havoc than three other tigers combined. Thus, Nero decided to spare her life and keep her as his personal companion. He named her Phoebe.

Habits: He had his servants build a golden cage for her in the palace grounds, but she wasn’t locked up all the time.  She was allowed to roman around and even  when the Emperor had guest at his table! Of course, anyone who annoyed or irritated Nero in any way would end up as Phoebe’s dessert. It is also said that she was trained by a famous animal trainer which allowed Nero to eat from her hand!

Sources: None that I could find; thus this is a honorable mention.

=

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.”