Tag Archives: Latin language

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.

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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.

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.”