Tag Archives: Roman History

Fruit Symbolism in Antiquity

Posted on 02. Sep, 2015 by in Roman culture

Produce in ancient, agrarian times played a key role in the lives of all. It’s no surprise that fruits and vegetables over the centuries had acquired varying symbolic tones and divine affiliations. Here, listed, are some examples of the most prominent mythological and everyday appearances as well as symbolic meanings ascribed to produce in antiquity.

 

1.THE PEAR

European Pear branch with two pears. Courtesy of WikiCommons

European Pear branch with two pears. Courtesy of WikiCommons

The name pear is derived from Latin pera or pira. Despite carrying generally favorable affiliations, the pear is curiously absent from myth. The pear was listed as one of the “gifts of the gods” in Homer’s (9th century BC) epic poem, The Odyssey and was considered sacred to Juno, Venus, and Pomona. Pliny the Elder (23-79), in his Historia Naturalis, wrote on several types of pears. Interestingly one type was called the Tiberiana “because Emperor Tiberius was very fond of them.”

 

2. THE POMEGRANATE

Fruit of Punica granatum split open to reveal the clusters of juicy, gem-like seeds on the inside. Courtesy of WIkiCommons

Fruit of Punica granatum split open to reveal the clusters of juicy, gem-like seeds on the inside. Courtesy of WIkiCommons

 

The pomegranate was popular in antiquity. The fruit and its seeds were often associated with female fertility, and was considered sacred to Juno and Venus. Contrastingly, the overwhelming symbolism often and still attached to the pomegranate would be its reputation as “the fruit of the dead”. One of the most famous myths including the pomegranate is the story of Proserpina and Pluto. After seeing Proserpina, Pluto stole her away to the underworld and from her mother Ceres. Ceres’ distress of losing her daughter caused the land to wither and grow cold. It was a rule of the Fates that if one would eat in the underworld they would be kept there for eternity. Before her rescue, Prosperpina ate seeds from a pomegranate and unknowingly condemned herself to stay in the underworld every year for the time that would be Fall and Winter. As a result of this myth the pomegranate is one of the foods prohibited in the Eleusinian Mystery initiations.

 

 

 

3.FIG

Fresh figs cut open showing the flesh and seeds inside. Courtesy of WikiCommons.

Fresh figs cut open showing the flesh and seeds inside. Courtesy of WikiCommons.

A popular fruit in both Greece and Rome, the fig took on generally favorable associations as being sacred to Ceres and Bacchus, and representing female fertility and femininity due to the appearance of the inside of the fruit. In myth, the fig takes on a contrasting role from the pomegranate. As Ceres was searching for her daughter Proserpina a man who had received Ceres with hospitality was given the first fig tree. From this myth the pomegranate, despite its popularity, was condemned and the fig was introduced into favor.

However, like any symbol, the fig could take on a more versatile meaning in reality. Cato the Elder, in his efforts to persuade the Roman Republic to pursue a third Punic War, presented the Senate with a handful of fresh figs that had been grown in Carthage. More than show the proximity of Carthage to Rome to illustrate the threat Cato used the fig and its symbolism to call the Senate effeminate.

 

4.BEAN

"Painted Pony" dry bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). Courtesy of WikiCommons.

“Painted Pony” dry bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). Courtesy of WikiCommons.

When thinking of beans in Antiquity it might be difficult to remember particular situations or affiliations they had. Beans make this list precisely because they were not only ignored, but neglected, in ancient narratives. Beans, without the solid explanation pomegranates earned, were a prohibited food of the mystery-cult of Ceres. The disrepute of beans was perpetuated by claims that ingesting them caused nightmares or insanity. Oracles wouldn’t eat beans for fear that their visions would become clouded. Both Hippocrates and Cicero avoided them. Roman priests would not even name beans since they were considered impure. Beans, as unpopular as they might’ve been in recipes, served another more civic function. When issues were up for vote in Roman courts the ballots were black or white beans. White representing innocence and black guilt. Despite the culinary neglect beans were also important enough that one of the more influential families, the Fabians, in Rome took it to their name.

5.APPLE

A Red Apple. Courtesy of WikiCommons.

A Red Apple. Courtesy of WikiCommons.

 

And finally, one of the most popular examples of produce in the symbolism of antiquity would be the apple. With overwhelmingly positive affiliations it was considered sacred to Juno and Venus. The apple was symbolic of love and weddings. To throw an apple at someone was to declare your love for them. An apple caught meant the subject of your affection reciprocated. If they dodged the apple, however, it was another story.

Apples in mythology originated with the creation of the first apple tree as a wedding present from Terra for Juno, the goddess of marriage. Apples, however, were often featured in mythology in a more divine hue. Golden apples appear in a couple of particularly famous myths. The Judgment of Paris, when Paris was told to present a golden apple to the fairest among the goddesses Venus, Juno, and Minerva. Paris chose Venus and was rewarded the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Troy.

 

10 Amazing Ancient History Resources

Posted on 21. Jul, 2015 by in Roman culture

This week I wanted to review some great resources for learning and discovering the Ancient World. I have chosen five digital resources in which both the expert and novice can learn new and exciting information.

The reconstructed Temple of Trajan at Pergamon. Courtesy of WIkiCommons.

The reconstructed Temple of Trajan at Pergamon. Courtesy of WIkiCommons.

1.The Library of Congress (here)

The Library of Congress offers a sundry of information on primary and secondary sources. While the database is not the most exciting of this lot, the repetuation of the Library of Congress demonstrates the relevancy of these sources.

User: Advanced-Expert

A winner of a Roman chariot race, from the Red team.

A winner of a Roman chariot race, from the Red team.

Young aulos-player riding a dolphin: red-figure stamnos, ca 360-340 BCE, found in Etruria, (National Archeological Museum, Madrid).. Courtesy of WikiCommons.

Young aulos-player riding a dolphin: red-figure stamnos, ca 360-340 BCE, found in Etruria, (National Archeological Museum, Madrid).. Courtesy of WikiCommons.

  1. BBC Ancient History (here)

This website offers a limited area of coverage, but it does so in a manner that allows users to find information easier. All the information is categorized and laid out logically. However, this website is an archived website, which leads one to think that it does not receive adequate updates. This database does provide sources at the end of each article and the option for viewing galleries on the topic. However, the information is extremely basic and leaves more advanced learner wanting more.

User: Beginner, Intermediate

800px-Olympia_-_Hera_Temple

  1. History: Ancient History (here) 

This database is in partnership with the History Channel. The database is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and has an abundance of information.  The categories and areas of research are unparalleled to the previous sources. The database contains videos, photos, and tons of information. In addition, the posts and articles seem to be engaging and interesting. They resemble the “Buzzfeed” or “BookRiot” articles.

User: Beginner to Advanced

Commodus as Hercules, Capitoline Museums. Courtesy of WikiCommons and Marie-Lan-Nguyen.

Commodus as Hercules,
Capitoline Museums. Courtesy of WikiCommons and Marie-Lan-Nguyen.

  1. Ancient History Encyclopedia (here)

This databases is both engaging and colorful. The information is presented in a fresh and revigorating manner. In addition, there are various ways and methods for obtaining information from searching, indexing, timelines, or even maps. The information is constructed in a way that the beginner users would be able to navigate it well. In addition, the information is presented with pictures, videos, and references.

User: Beginner to Expert

Game of Thrones Season Finale: A True Roman Ending

Posted on 18. Jun, 2015 by in Roman culture

Anyone that knows me and my blogger style know that I love looking at pop culture and seeing

how Ancient Rome or the Latin language resonates within it. So this week is no exception, I will

be looking at the Season Finale of Game of Thrones. Just like everyone else that watched it, I

was excited and pumped! So let’s do this…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~XXXXXXXXXXXXXSpoilers Below.XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX~~~~~~~~~~~~

So, here we go! Now while I want to talk and dish about all the fan theories concerning this

scene- let’s just focus on the scene and what it mimics from ancient history.

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Now if I was a meaner person I would have entitled this post: Et Tu Olly? But that may have made some people quite upset.

 

Here is the scene I want to focus on- and you guess it- Jon Snow’s “final” scene (no pun

intended). Here is a clip from HBO’s Game of Thrones:

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Now, I couldn’t have been the only one that noticed the UNCANNY resemblance to ANOTHER

famous stabbing murder-right? Julius Caesar? March 15th 44 B.C.E? In the theater of Pompey?

Here is a clip from HBO’s Rome:

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So, let me get this straight…

Jon Snow vs. Julius Caesar

1. Both men in power- Lord Commander vs. Dictator or Rex (King).

PICTURE

2. Both “Murdered” by stabbing (Jon Snow was stabbed by four knives before losing

consciousness & Julius Caesar was stabbed 23 times.)

3. Stabbed by “friends” or “brothers.”

4. Both betrayed by one person they thought wouldn’t betray them (Jon Snow-Olly & Caesar-

Brutus).

Morte di Giulio Cesare ("Death of Julius Caesar"). By Vincenzo Camuccini, 1798

Morte di Giulio Cesare (“Death of Julius Caesar”). By Vincenzo Camuccini, 1798

*However, it should be noted that Olly was a show creation and not part of the books. What

other purpose does Olly serve in the series other than an empathetic reminder of the cruelty of

Wildlings AND to serve as a Brutus type figure.

5. Both considered “traitors.” Jon Snow betrayed his Night Watch and Brothers. He betrayed

their ultimate neutrality in the book. Caesar betrayed the senators by betraying the Republic.

Ironic Moments:

1. Jon Snow is ultimately betrayed by Bowen. “The final straw for Bowen (Old Pomegranate) is

when Jon reads aloud a letter sent by Ramsay Bolton and Jon states intention to march on House

Bolton at Winterfell, threatening the neutrality of the Night’s Watch. Bowen and fellow

conspirators stab Jon Snow several times” Bowen who is known as the Old Pomegranate, which

is considered a food of the Underworld and Pluto.

La Mort de César (ca. 1859–1867) by Jean-Léon Gérôme, depicting the aftermath of the attack with Caesar's body abandoned in the foreground as the senators exult

La Mort de César (ca. 1859–1867) by Jean-Léon Gérôme, depicting the aftermath of the attack with Caesar’s body abandoned in the foreground as the senators exult

2. Caesar’s last words is a topic of much discussion. However,Suetonius reports that it was

Greek “”καὶ σύ, τέκνον” meaning “You too, child?” I find this to be somewhat ironic, because

Brutus is not a child. Thus, this term child must be a term of endearment or Caesar’s thoughts on

Brutus.

2a. For Jon, he does not utter last words- but it is not hard to imagine that he thought something

similar with Olly delivering the final blow.

Conclusion:

This, as always, was fun to write and explore. If you would like to see some other comparisons I have found between Ancient Rome and GoT (Game of Thrones) here.