Tag Archives: Roman mythology

Pop Culture + Antiquity

Posted on 10. Sep, 2015 by in Roman culture

Salvette Omnes!

This week we will be discussing pop culture and antiquity. The everlasting influence of antiquity can be still be felt in our modern culture, particularly, popular culture. Television shows, movies, and other mediums of entertainment have included ancient mythology and culture for generations. What are most interesting, however, are the examples of references made to ancient times and that are served without exposition.

Even without explaining the references story writers continue to incorporate ancient ideas quietly into pop culture, even into movies or shows that have very little to do with antiquity. Here are some examples you might have missed:


  1. The Simpsons
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The Simpsons might have had a few classically themed episodes, including the episode featuring Homer as Ulysses in their own version of The Odyssey. But, one of the most fleeting yet deep classical references on the show would be Mr. Burns’ address. The local,  billionaire Mr. Burns happens to live on the corner of Mammon Lane and Croesus St.

What’s the reference? You may ask.

Mammon, in the New Testament of the Bible, is greed or material wealth, and in the Middle Ages was often personified as a deity, and sometimes included in the seven princes of Hell. Scholars do not agree about its etymology, but it is theorized that Mammon derives from Late Latin mammon, from Greek”μαμμωνάς mammonas“, Syriac mámóna (“riches”), Aramaic mamon (“riches, money”), a loanword from Mishnaic Hebrew ממון (mamôn) meaning money, wealth, or possessions.

In Greek and Persian cultures the name of Croesus became a synonym for a wealthy man. Croesus’ wealth remained proverbial beyond classical antiquity: in English, expressions such as “rich as Croesus” or “richer than Croesus” are used to indicate great wealth to this day. Croesus is credited with issuing the first true gold coins with a standardized purity for general circulation.

2. Futurama

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Seen in the episode “Crimes of the Hot” is the indulgent automaton Hedonismbot. The name alone could remind one of certain circles in Antiquity but the overall design of the robot is certainly, yet never blatantly explained, to remind the viewer of a certain god of wine and pleasure- Bacchus. In the clip above, Hedonism bot sponsors an opera, which is reminiscent of the delegations of theater the Roman god Bacchus has.

Hedonism is a school of thought that argues that pleasure is the primary or most important intrinsic good. In very simple terms, a hedonist strives to maximize net pleasure (pleasure minus pain). This school of thought was practiced as a type of philopsphy one should live their life around not only during Greek times, but Ancient Roman times as well.


At one point or another you might have heard kids yell the word “Shazam!” with the same enthusiasm as other comic book sound effects like “Kapow!” To anyone without extensive knowledge of graphic novels it seems like a simple, fun, and made-up word. Although it is made-up its also an acronym using the names of a few entities you might recognize.

The comic hero Billy Batson (also known as Shazam or Captain Marvel)  would yell the word “Shazam!” to invoke powers, specifically, the genius of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the unbreakable will of Atlas, the lightning of Zeus, the power of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. While the clip is a bit silly and retro, it gets the point across!

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*Hercules is Roman version of the name while Herakles is the Greek. Zeus is known as Jupiter in Roman mythology, and Mercury is known as Apollo in Greek mythology. So, SHAZAM actually invokes both Greek and Roman deities alike.

4. Disney Pixar’s The Incredibles (Spoilers Below)

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The Incredibles was an interesting and completely unexplained reference to the myth of Saturn. After some intense investigation one of the main characters discover the name of the main villain’s master plan: “Kronos” or (Greek god: Saturn, Roman god: Saturn).

Painting by Peter Paul Rubens of Cronus / Saturn devouring one of his children

Painting by Peter Paul Rubens of Cronus / Saturn devouring one of his children

Mad with jealousy and a desire “to even” the playing ground (or to be the strongest himself!)  for those of the population without superpowers, the villain created a killing machine to defeat all superheroes. Unexplained to the children in the audience is how this alludes to Saturn’s madness for power that drove him to devour his children to prevent any one of them from growing stronger than himself.


Although it was a cool name, the villain should’ve remembered how it ended for Saturn.

5. MUSIC!- Arcade Fire – Reflektor

We’ve even seen allusions to ancient times in our modern music, such as with Arcade Fire’s album named Reflektor.

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The album cover art is a photograph of Auguste Rodin’s 1893 sculpture “Orpheus and Eurydice”. Two songs in particular, “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)” and “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)”, reference the Orpheus myth.

The Orpheus Myth is retold my the Roman poet Ovid in the Metamorphoses. I have written other post on Ovid such as Dating Tips by Ovid and The Original Fan Fiction.

This myth, perhaps not famously remembered by general audiences, is not explained in the lyrics themselves but the story’s romantic and tragic tones can be felt in the songs. The only direct reference is in “Its Never Over (Oh Orpheus)” which starts with the lyrics  “Hey, Orpheus! / I’m behind you / Don’t turn around / I can find you.”

If you are interested in more classical reference in pop culture- check out my post about Disney Mythology vs. Greco-Roman Mythology.


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.



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.”



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.





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.



"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.


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


  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