Tag Archives: Roman History

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.

=

 

 

 

 

 

5 Ancient Beauty Tips…You Don’t Want to Try!

Posted on 23. Jul, 2014 by in Roman culture

SALVTE OMNES!

So today we will be talking about beauty tips or abduction habits. Do you personally have a beauty regiment? Do your friends or partner think are strange, because you will only buy a certain type of shampoo? Conditioner? Cologne? Hair Gel? Do you have a strict way of applying eyeliner or eye shadow? While none of these items (that I have mentioned) are extreme- in today’s era, there are some extreme methods of achieving  “beauty.”  Modern society promotes these ways for the sake of beauty; I am referring to the “starvation, nip and tuck, injections, and so on.” However, I should put the question to you- which do you think is worse? Modern day or Ancient Times?

 

Well, prepare to be amazed at what the people of antiquity use to use in their own beauty regiments!

 

COMPLEXIONS- “SKIN WHITE AS SNOW & CHEEKS ROSY AS BLOOD”

 

Mosaic showing Roman women in various recreational activities. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Disdero.

Mosaic showing Roman women in various recreational activities. Courtesy of WikiCommons & Disdero.

WHY: Romans enjoyed the look of fairer skin due to its association to the “non-working” high class. Furthermore, rosy cheeks were a sign of healthiness and vitality.

HOW IT WAS ACHIEVED: (SKIN) chalk powder, white marl and white lead( which was poisonous).

HOW IT WAS ACHIEVED: (CHEEKS) poppy and rose petals, red chalk, crocodile dung, mulberry juice, wine dregs, cinnabar and red lead (these two were poisonous!).

SKINCARE METHODS-:Ancient Romans had a vast number of creams and lotion to help fight and hide wrinkles, pimples, sun spots, freckles and flaking. These include: masks of lentels, barley, lupine, honey, sulphur, vinegar, goose grease, basil juice, placenta and even excrements of  the kingfisher or calves! Pimples were cured with a mixture of barley flour and butter; while, sun spots were treated with the ashes of snails (Slimy goodness?). Historically speaking, a famous method used was the process of bathing in asses’ milk which worked like a chemical peel and was used by such as historic figures as Cleopatra VII and Poppaea Sabina.

 

EYES: “BIGGER IS BETTER”

Portrait of the baker Terentius Neo with his wife found on the wall of a Pompeii house (LOOK TO THE WIFE'S EYES) Courtesy of Wikicommons & Anonimiski

Portrait of the baker Terentius Neo with his wife found on the wall of a Pompeii house (LOOK TO THE WIFE’S EYES) Courtesy of Wikicommons & Anonimiski

WHY: Romans liked large eyes with long eyelashes and eyebrows that almost met (unibrows).

HOW IT WAS ACHIEVED: (EYEBROWS) They would darken eyebrows with antimony or soot.

HOW IT WAS ACHIEVED: (EYES) On the eyes, they would apply kohl.  The kohl was applied with a glass, ivory, wood or bone sticks that had to be dipped into either water or oil before putting them on the eyes ( I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to put glass or bone near my eyes for any reason!).

LIPS, NAILS, TEETH- ” NOTHING TOO BIG, WEIRDLY SHAPED, or DISCOLORED!”

Fingernails before and after application of red nail polish. Courtesy of Wikicommons & Deerstop & Zitona

Fingernails before and after application of red nail polish. Courtesy of Wikicommons & Deerstop & Zitona

 

WHY: Romans enjoyed having their partners looking natural, but the best they could. No one would want someone with hideous long creepy curly nails, nor someone with scared lips, and lastly not someone with black pointy teeth. It is not an unreasonable societal ideal, because it still exists today.

HOW IT WAS ACHIEVED (LIPS): Unfortunately there no such evidence has materialized to indicate that the Romans ever colored their lips, but it is not a far off speculation that if cheeks were given a rosy color that lips weren’t. Then again, I imagine most of what they were applying to their cheeks would have not tasted good on their lips.

HOW IT WAS ACHIEVED (NAILS): The mixture in which is thought to have been applied to nails is red dye (imported from an Indian insect). Also, a mixture made with sheep fat and blood was used.

HOW IT WAS ACHIEVED (TEETH): White teeth were prized by the Romans, and so false teeth, made from bone, ivory and paste, were popular items. One way to whiten teeth was to use powder like hartshorn, which had ammonia bleaching properties. Also, they used human urine as a mouthwash and teeth whitening substance, which also had ammonia and was used in laundering. Human urine became so valuable that the emperor Nero ( and later emperors) even placed a taxes on it.

 

PERFUME- “WHAT’S THAT SMELL?”

Perfume Bottles & Glass Bottles. Courtesy of the Getty Villa Museum, Brittany Garcia & the glass blowers who made them thousands of years ago.

Perfume Bottles & Glass Bottles. Courtesy of the Getty Villa Museum, Brittany Garcia & the glass blowers who made them thousands of years ago.

WHY: Who wants to be around someone who is smelly? The Ancient Romans were no fools; they considered that if an individual smelled good that they were in good health, socially savvy, and a pleasure to be around.

HOW WAS IT ACHIEVED (PERFUME): Perfumes were made from flowers, some food (lemon, olives, grapes), leaves, roots and kept either liquid, sticky or solid form. These mixtures were incorporated into types of deodorants made with rose petals or irises. In regard to breath fresheners, baking soda was used perhaps to masks the smell of urine.

 

HAIR-” COLORFULLY OUTRAGEOUS & ONLY ON YOUR HEAD”

Exaggerated hairstyle of the Flavian period (80s–90s CE). Courtesy of Wikicommons & Tetrakyts.

Exaggerated hairstyle of the Flavian period (80s–90s CE). Courtesy of Wikicommons & Tetrakyts.

WHY: The expectation for beauty is sometimes beyond understanding; however, beauty is often that which is considered rare and hard to attain. Thus the colored hair/wigs would be highly rare and therefore- desirable. In concerns to body hair, most men/society do not approve of their women feeling hairy like men. However, there are bound to be a few women who could care less!

HOW IT WAS ACHIEVED (COLORFUL HAIR): Roman women wore wings to hide white hair or hair that was damaged by hair dyes. In addition, the Romans used dyes to accentuate hair colors. Blonde hair was created with beeches ash and goat’s fat. Red hair was done by pulverizing the leaves of the Lawsonia Inermis ( similar to henna plant). Black hair instead was obtained by black antimony with animal fat. (SO, Lots of animal fat).

HOW IT WAS ACHIEVED (BODY HAIR): Women would remove them by plucking or shaving. In alternative, they also used a resin paste to strip them or a pumice stone to scrape them (OUCH!)

 

Well I hope this was an interesting read and that you learned something that you did not know about those Latin speakers of old.