Tag Archives: Roman History

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).

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:

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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:

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(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.

 

 

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!