Tag Archives: 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.”

 

 

 

 

4 Examples of Latin & Video Games

Posted on 25. Jun, 2014 by in Latin Language, Roman culture

Salve Omnes!

Video games permeate through our world from the popular game consoles, Facebook games, phone apps, and so on. But, I bet you didn’t know that some of your favorite video games…actually have Latin in them! Here is an awesome basic video that shows some of the more popular instances, but some of which I explain more in depth later on.

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POKEMON

Pokémon (or Pocket Monsters) at little creatures trainers duel with in order to win gym badges and defeat evil. Pokémon have different abilities, shapes and sizes; they usually exhibit one major element (grass, water, fighting, ground, psychic, fairy, etc.).  If you are interested in more of the origins of  Pokémon terms, names, and word; please check out this site here.

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Mereyl (Mare-sea)

Dugtrio (Tri- Latin root for 3)

Teddiursa (Urse- Bear)

Sealeo (Leo-Lion)

Litleo (Leo-Lion)

Torterra (Terra- Earth)

Luxio (Lux- Light)

Xerneas (Cernunnos Celtic god based on a deer itself from the Latin ‘cervus’)

Lunatone (luna-moon)

Solrock (sol-sun)

FINAL FANTASY XIV: A REALM REBORN

Curiously, the Final Fantasy writers utilize many ancient monster and mythological creature names for their games. There has been plenty of discussion about this facet of the game, but it  assumed that the creatures are simply not copyrighted and thus can be used.  The latest monster addition is of the mythical monster Scylla (here). However, the Latin within this game can be directly seen within some of the villain’s names.

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Gaius Van Baelsar (Legatus of the XIVth legion and overseer of the occupation of Ala Mhigo)- Gauis is a very popular first name amongst Roman men.

Nero Tol Scaeva (Members of the XIVth legion)- Nero was the popular nomen (Latin for name) for the Emperor Nero. Scaeva means a left handed person, and fittingly all his cut scene picture him using his left hand primarily.

 Livia Sas Junius (Members of the XIVth legion)- Livia is a popular name amongst Roman women, but most notably the name of Emperor Augustus’ second wife.

Solus Zos Galvus  (First Emperor of Garlemald)- Solus  means alone or only in Latin. This may refer to the fact that Solus is the emperor and the only one with power.

GAMES IN LATIN

Do you like video games? Do you want to play one that is completely in Latin? The following site (here) has Final Fantasy, Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: Adventure of Link all in Latin!

 

SMASH BROTHERS

This game is designed to allow all your favorite Nintendo characters duel against one another with various weapons and background.

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However, the Latin for this game ties in with one the most popular music tracks that can be played during the dueling.

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For the translation both official and literal, please visit here. I don’t wish to spam this post with lyrics.

 

ANCIENT ROME in VIDEO GAMES

For video games that touch upon Ancient Rome are countless, but for an entire list check here. However, one particular game that I played growing up was the city-building game known as Caesar I-III. Did anyone else play?

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For one of the more recent Ancient Rome themed video games (Ryse: Son of Rome) check out a historical analysis here.

 

June 20th: Ancient Roman Festival to Summanus

Posted on 18. Jun, 2014 by in Latin Language, Roman culture

Salvete Omnes!

I hope that everyone is enjoying their summer! I decided in honor of the summer solstice (the official first day of summer) that I would write about a unknown Roman festival and deity. As many of you know, the Ancient Romans were polytheists; thus, they had many gods they needed to appease throughout the year. June 20th, the day before the summer solstice, was actually a holiday for one of their more obscure deities: Summanus.

WHO WAS SUMMANUS?

Nocturnal Lightning. Courtesy of WikiCommons, Mathias Krumbholz, and Leviathan1983,

Nocturnal Lightning. Courtesy of WikiCommons, Mathias Krumbholz, and Leviathan1983,

Summanus was a deity of evening or nocturnal lightning, while Jupiter (or Zeus) was a deity of diurnal or daytime lightning; as St. Augustine attests to in his De Civitate Dei Book IV, Chapter 23: “diurna Jovis, nocturna Summani fulgura habentur*” Daytime lightning(s) were held by Jove, nocturnal lightning(s) were held by Summanus.”

WHAT DID THE ROMANS THINK OF HIM?

St. Augustine furthers asserts concerning Summanus: “coluerunt magis quam Jovem.”  “They cared (for Summanus) rather than Jove (Jupiter).”

640px-8646_-_St_Petersburg_-_Hermitage_-_Jupiter2

A marble statue of Jupiter from c. 200 CE Courtesy of WikiCommons, Andrew Bossi, 8646 – St Petersburg – Hermitage – Jupiter, Bobisbob

So, it clear that the Romans had a distinct affinity to this deity even over the king of gods: Jupiter. Cicero (De Divinatione Book 1 Chapter 10):

de fulgurum vi dubitare num possumus? Nonne cum multa alia mirabilia, tum illud in primis: Cum Summanus in fastigio Iovis optumi maxumi, qui tum erat fictilis, e caelo ictus esset nec usquam eius simulacri caput inveniretur.

Are we able to doubt about the (prophetic) force of lightning? Are there not many other (times) with (this) wonders/miracles? At this time, is the following not especially (an example)? When Summanus, on the pediment of greatest and best Jupiter, who (Summanus) was then made of clay (i.e a statue), from the heavens it was struck (lightning), and not anywhere was the head of his statue found.

In response to this omen, it is said that a temple was built to Summanus near the Circus Maximus.

Model of the Circus Maximus. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Pascal Radigue.

Model of the Circus Maximus. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Pascal Radigue.

As the Roman poet Ovid wrote in his Fasti 6 731-732:

“Quisquis is est, Summano templa feruntur, tum, cum Romanis, Pyrrhe, timendus eras.”

A temple was built to Summanus, whoever he is, at that time, when you, Pyrrhus, were a terror the Romans.**

It is clear by this quote that the origin and even the god “Summanus” was somewhat of an enigma amongst his own worshippers and followers.

ETYMOLOGY

Summanus may simply be an evolution from summus  meaning highest. Perhaps it is also related to manus meaning hand. Thus, the combination of the name could evoke the imagery of the highest hand throwing down lightning bolts to the earth.  Another theory concerning Summanus’ name is that it is a combination of summus and the term manus which is sort of underworld deity. [For more exploration of this deity and his name; look here.] There is an Italian mountain, Monte Summano (sometimes spelled with only one M), that may have even been named after this obscure deity.  Curiously, the mountain top is frequently hit by lightning bolts.

MOUNT SUMMANO: WHOSE MOUNTAIN?

Traditionally Mount Summano (elevation 1291 m.) in the Alps near Veneto, Italy is considered a site of the cult of god Pluto, Jupiter, Summanus and the Manes.

Monte Summano in the distance. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Twice 25.

Monte Summano in the distance. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Twice 25.

manus or the manes (plural) were chthonic deities (deities of the earth or underworld [chthonic] who were usually sacrificed dark animals as opposed to air deities [Olympian] who were offered light colored animals) that were closely resembled of the Lares or household deities. Martianus Capella (De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii  Book II, Chapter 164) thought that Summanus was simply another name for Pluto.

Lar holding a cornucopia from Lora del Rio in Roman Spain, early 1st century AD (National Archaeological Museum of Spain) Courtesy of WikiCommons & Luis García .

Pluto who was the Roman equivalent to Hades was lord of the Underworld and brother of Jupiter (or Zeus). Jupiter traditional being the king of the gods and the male supreme god of the air, ethereal region, and heavens. While, Pluto resigned in Hades where he reigned in darkness, death, and the afterlife.

Hades with Cerberus (Heraklion Archaeological Museum). Courtesy of WikiCommons, Stella Maris.

Hades with Cerberus (Heraklion Archaeological Museum). Courtesy of WikiCommons, Stella Maris.

Thus, the correlation between Pluto and Summanus at Monte Summano may not be coincidental. Agreeing with Martianus Capella, Summanus simply may be a different aspect of Pluto.  Jupiter and Pluto were brothers, but often are seen as complete opposites. One is light, and one is dark (the yin and the yang if you will.) Therefore, perhaps this “Pluto Summanus” (lord of evening lightning)  is simply the aspect of Pluto that contrasts  Jupiter’s supremacy over daytime lightning.

SANCTUARY & FLORAL POPULATION

“Archeological excavations have found a sanctuary that dates back to the first Iron Age (9th century BCE) and was continuously active till late antiquity (at least the 4th century CE). The local flora is very peculiar as in ancient times pilgrims used to bring flowers from their native lands.”

 

In research for this blog entry, I was attempting to find a picture of at least one flower that may be found on this mountain(Easier said than done!). I made an interesting discovery. In Gardeners Chronicle & New Horticulturist (view it here)  an article from 1905 on the species of the Daphne (Yes, this is taken from the Daphne who runs away from Apollo). At the bottom of the first column, there is a paragraph dedicated to this wondrous flower. The entry goes:

The plant requires sunshine and calcareous rock. I found it last year on Monte Summano exposed to the hottest sun on the dolomite rocks with hardly any soil. It forces its roots into the living rock and so finds needful freshness and nourishment.”

Daphne

Daphne petraea. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Enrico Blasutto.

As of today, this particular flower is only found in the Alps (where Monte Summano is) and is a protected plant. Due to the fact that this flower is only now existent near Monte Sumano or within a general pollinating area, I would conjecture that the original source from which the flower existed is gone. I would argue, henceforth, that this was one of the many floral offerings brought to the ancient sanctuary and thus one of the “peculiar” floral populations on Monte Sumano. For a closer and more extensive look at this flower, direct your attention here.

FESTIVAL & CELEBRATIONAS : LET THEM EAT CAKES & BBQ

Roman relief depicting a scene of sacrifice, with libations at a flaming altar and the victimarius carrying the sacrificial axe. Courtesy of WikiCommons and Wolfgang Sauber.

Roman relief depicting a scene of sacrifice, with libations at a flaming altar and the victimarius carrying the sacrificial axe. Courtesy of WikiCommons and Wolfgang Sauber.

It is said that on this day round cakes in the shape of wheels were offered to Summanus along with two dark oxen (since he is considered a chthonic deity). The round cakes were usually made from flour, milk, and honey. The wheel has often been argued by scholar to be a solar symbol. However, it is unclear as to why a nocturnal lightning god would relish in solar symbolic cakes

Modern Day    ; also known as a wheel cake.  Courtesy of WikiCommons & Reguly.

Modern Day Kolacz ; also known as a wheel cake.
Courtesy of WikiCommons & Reguly.

There is one solution to this contradiction: Pettazzoni offers in his essay on “The Wheel in Ritual Symbolism of Some Indo-European Peoples” (view it here)that the festival was actual celebrated on June 20th, because it was the natalis or birthday of his temple built by Circus Maximus.

Thus the wheel cakes known as summanalia are not in reference to the deity himself, but the time of year. June 20th is the day before the Summer Solstice . The Summer Solstice being the longest day of the year.

Diagram of the Earth's seasons as seen from the north. Far left: summer solstice for the Northern Hemisphere. Front right: summer solstice for the Southern Hemisphere. Courtesy of WikiCommons and Tauʻolunga.

Diagram of the Earth’s seasons as seen from the north. Far left: summer solstice for the Northern Hemisphere. Front right: summer solstice for the Southern Hemisphere.
Courtesy of WikiCommons and Tauʻolunga.

Finally, it should be noted that festival for any deity no matter how small or new they were taken seriously. There were taken seriously by those who were pious and fearful of the gods, and by those who wanted to party and have a great barbeque. Sometimes, the animals that were sacrificed after having been killed were eaten by the attendees of the festival and celebration. In modern day, many of us can relate with our various patriotic holidays that somehow call for us to bbq- perhaps this is where the tradition comes from!

BBQ. Courtesy of WikiCommons and Murcotipton.

BBQ. Courtesy of WikiCommons and Murcotipton.

Thanks for reading! Hope you all found this as interesting as I found it to write it!

 

 

*Fulgura is a neuter plural noun, but the word lightnings does not exist in our English vocabulary, but habentur means “were held”- which is third person plural.

**The Pyrrhic War occurred  roughly 270 BC.