Sex slaves, public executions – yet

glorious art like this: A majestic Roman eagle, newly unearthed in London, believed to be the best-preserved ever in London

and a gripping account of life in AD100

At a cemetery on the eastern fringes of Roman London in AD100, a sombre, yet grand ceremony was taking place.

A prosperous citizen was being buried just outside the city boundaries – no Roman, however rich, could be buried within the city walls to prevent the spread of disease.

Mourners muttered prayers to the sun god, Mithras, as the body was laid to rest in its dark mausoleum.

Overlooking the body, at the far end of the tomb, loomed a majestic stone sculpture of a Roman eagle clutching a writhing snake in its beak. This noble eagle would guarantee the protection of Jupiter, king of the gods, in the afterlife. ……

Read more from Harry Mount

from Bozo sapiens, one for the A level candidates studying Cicero this year

Cicero: Legality 

The Latin word “Cicero,” as every schoolboy knows, means “chickpea” – an insulting nickname based possibly on the shape of the family nose. Cicero was a swot from the earliest age, motivated both by a desire to excel and by a slight but rankling sense of social inferiority. Though his family was rich, it was not… precisely Roman, but Latin, from the surrounding countryside. Thus the young Cicero was apt to be treated the way Etonians treat grammar-school boys or New Yorkers treat midwesterners: “just as if he were one of us” – which is not like one of us at all.
Still, his keen brain and relentless ambition opened up for him the path to greatness: the cursus honorum by which any citizen could rise from minor office to the heights of senatorial and consular power. All agreed that his knowledge of Roman law was matched only by his command of rhetoric – and in both he had no equal. Legal battle was a spectator sport in Rome: every politician seeking glory had not only to win a victory against the barbarians, but also to conduct a successful defense and prosecution.  These performances took place in the open forum, before an audience as passionately expert in legal spectacle as its descendants are in opera or soccer: once, when Cicero finished an oration with the quick flick-flack of a double trochee, the whole court erupted in wild cheering.

He had no fondness for military life, but was not afraid to use aggressively those weapons he possessed. His first major speech was a direct challenge to the favorites of Rome’s current dictator, Sulla. Cicero hated dictatorship and felt a fierce loyalty to a republic that had not only established such an excellent legal system, “of universal application, unchanging and everlasting,” but had given a provincial like himself the rostrum from which to prove his superiority.  He was grateful – and, as he said, “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” read the rest of this article

Teacher’s Pack for the Roman Baths museum at Aquae Sulis

from Anne Dicks;
A project I have recently taken on is updating the Teacher’s Pack for the Roman Baths museum.  The education staff there are very keen to get ideas from teachers about the sort of information they would like to have included in the pack.
We want to expand the scope of the pack to include topics studied for Key Stage 3 as well as for GCSE and in the 6th form.  As well as giving help with translating the Latin on inscriptions etc. we can focus on topics like Romanisation, women, the economy – anything that might be of use for Classical Civilisation, Archaeology and Ancient History courses.  Any ideas will be very welcome!  I don’t know anything at all about IB exams ….
The museum displays are in the process of being reorganised and the route around the museum has changed, so I consider it a real privilege to be involved in liaison between teachers and the museum at this exciting time. If you have any ideas, please contact me at  anne@pyrrha.me.uk
You can find out more about Anne’s work here – 

Pyrrha’s Roman Pages website  pyrrha.me.uk

CICERO Latin competition website ciceroeuropa.eu

Suki’s own website   pyrrha.demon.co.uk/suki.html

SPQR re-enactment

Global Post

ROME — Recently, residents and tourists around the Coliseum watched in awe as a legion of Roman soldiers marched in unison down Rome’s Imperial Avenue.

“Caesar!” called out the commander in Latin as the legion came to a stop. “I, Centurion Lucius Valerius Seianus, have brought your favorite legion here to return the scepter of command to your hands!”

A horn blared as the Centurion placed a large laurel crown on the pedestal of the statue of Julius Caesar, the great Roman general who was stabbed to death in the Forum 2,053 years that day — March 15, or the “Ides of March.”

As an excited crowd of tourists snapped their cameras, the legion made its way to the Roman Forum.

“It’s our way of exporting Rome’s history without being boring,” said the Centurion, whose real name is Giorgio Franchetti. He is president of the historical reenactment group, called “SPQR.”

The name is an acronym in Latin from ancient Rome, Senatus Populus Que Romanus — meaning the Senate and the People of Rome. With 35 active members of all ages, “SPQR” is one of several non-profit associations in Rome devoted to experimental archeology.

“Experimental archeology means putting yourself in the shoes of ancient characters who can no longer tell you how they lived,” Franchetti said, “to experience their struggles in first person.”

Members of the group are not actors. They are passionate Romans who believe their approach to archeology helps keep ancient Rome alive, much as Civil War reenactors in the U.S. discover history by portraying period characters and recreating scenes from another era.

In addition to studying archeological findings, such as jewels, weapons and military equipment, these enthusiasts re-create an entire living environment by organizing Roman encampments, gladiator trainings and religious rituals.

Their devotion to the study and practice of the Roman Empire has turned them into a subculture of purists.

Last summer, when rumors circulated about an idea to build a theme park inspired by the Roman Empire, SPQR President Giorgio Franchetti went on alert. He feared the plan would provide a superficial rendition of Roman life with one goal in mind: making a profit.

ROME — Recently, residents and tourists around the Coliseum watched in awe as a legion of Roman soldiers marched in unison down Rome’s Imperial Avenue.

“Caesar!” called out the commander in Latin as the legion came to a stop. “I, Centurion Lucius Valerius Seianus, have brought your favorite legion here to return the scepter of command to your hands!”

A horn blared as the Centurion placed a large laurel crown on the pedestal of the statue of Julius Caesar, the great Roman general who was stabbed to death in the Forum 2,053 years that day — March 15, or the “Ides of March.”

As an excited crowd of tourists snapped their cameras, the legion made its way to the Roman Forum.

“It’s our way of exporting Rome’s history without being boring,” said the Centurion, whose real name is Giorgio Franchetti. He is president of the historical reenactment group, called “SPQR.”

The name is an acronym in Latin from ancient Rome, Senatus Populus Que Romanus — meaning the Senate and the People of Rome. With 35 active members of all ages, “SPQR” is one of several non-profit associations in Rome devoted to experimental archeology.

“Experimental archeology means putting yourself in the shoes of ancient characters who can no longer tell you how they lived,” Franchetti said, “to experience their struggles in first person.”

Members of the group are not actors. They are passionate Romans who believe their approach to archeology helps keep ancient Rome alive, much as Civil War reenactors in the U.S. discover history by portraying period characters and recreating scenes from another era.

In addition to studying archeological findings, such as jewels, weapons and military equipment, these enthusiasts re-create an entire living environment by organizing Roman encampments, gladiator trainings and religious rituals.

Their devotion to the study and practice of the Roman Empire has turned them into a subculture of purists.

Last summer, when rumors circulated about an idea to build a theme park inspired by the Roman Empire, SPQR President Giorgio Franchetti went on alert. He feared the plan would provide a superficial rendition of Roman life with one goal in mind: making a profit.

Dealing with litter along the Antonine Wall.

Volunteers have been doing battle with litter along the Antonine Wall.

The Roman fortification, which ns 37 miles from Bo’ness to Old Kilpatrick, was chosen as the launch site for National Spring Clean 2009.

Schools, youth clubs, community groups and individuals will be involved in litter picks across the country over the next month.

So far, more than 35,000 people have signed up for the Spring Clean, organised by Keep Scotland Beautiful.

John Summers, chief executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful, said: “It is amazing to see today, what the Romans achieved by working together, and if we do the same, work together to combat littering, then maybe we can leave a legacy of a litter-free Scotland.

 

National Spring Clean 2009 is a great opportunity for groups of people to really make a difference to the environmental quality of Scotland.”

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead added: “Scotland’s natural environment is worth around £17bn to our economy and the cost to our local authorities for street cleansing alone is now over £100m per annum.

“Litter is a problem which cannot be ignored.

“We want as many people as possible to get involved in this year’s campaign. It offers people throughout Scotland the opportunity to restore a sense of community pride and clean up their neighbourhoods for themselves and visitors to our country.”

Meanwhile, a campaign to encourage people to reduce, reuse and recycle the packaging that comes with their everyday products has been launched.

The initial stages of the Positive Package drive will focus on Easter egg wrapping.

Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham launched the campaign at Oakbank Primary in Perth.

She said: “Packaging is a key area in relation to waste. Some packaging helps protect products and can make them last longer, which can reduce waste. Equally, though, excess packaging is wasteful.”

Dr Nicki Souter, from Waste Aware Scotland, said: “There are many things we can all do to limit the amount of waste that packaging generates, such as looking for products with less packaging or reusing things like carrier bags and refillable products.

“Over and above that, we can also all recycle more of our packaging, as this can then be used again to make new products.”

Medieval recycling – or robbing Roman walls

Medieval News

Archaeologists in Gloucester have unearthed evidence that recycling is not just a twenty-first century idea. An archaeological investigation in the centre of the city has discovered that medieval settlers used parts of a Roman wall to construct buildings.

Gloucestershire County Council’s archaeology team is exploring the area where Kimbrose Triangle meets Southgate Street before work begins in the summer to connect the Quays to the city centre. But they were frustrated in their search for the line of the old Roman wall.

Gloucestershire County Council project officer Paul Nichols said: “We found Roman deposits about one metre below the pavement level. The earliest deposits were soil layers containing shards of Roman pottery and fragments of wall plaster. Above that was a mortar floor surface, which we believe was the internal floor of a Roman building.

“We didn’t find any evidence for the Roman wall, suggesting that we were just inside the line, but it’s also possible that parts of it may have been recycled and used to build later buildings. It was certainly a worthwhile exercise and we will be providing a full report that will be of benefit to city planners.”

The nearest remains of the wall are inside Gloucestershire Furniture Exhibition Centre on the corner of Southgate Street and Parliament Street, and Blackfriars. Henry Hurst uncovered the wall at Bearland in 1969. It runs under Berkeley Street, to the nearest corner of the Cathedral, to St Aldate Street, through King’s Walk, Brunswick Road, and Parliament Street.

“They could have been just inside the city wall, if the wall is there,” said Gloucester Civic Trust’s Nigel Spry. “It may be that it’s been taken away during later periods to use in other buildings.”

Message from Alan Chadwick.

This message is from Alan Chadwick. (I am handing over this blog to a colleague, and am concentrating on a personal blog, in which I am hoping to record my thoughts, feelings and experiences while facing terminal cancer. This the URL: http://streetinsomerset.blogspot.com/)

Hi David,

Sorry, I’ve not been keeping as up-to-date with your blog as I ought, so I don’t know if you’ve seen this website below.

In fact, it’s just a graphic – a Virgilian pastiche on Facebook if you like. I think it is very good, if a bit “contemporary” for some of our more reserved colleagues, although even they would wish to join Turnus’ new group.

Here is the link.

A Roman Diet Question

About.com usually provides pretty reliable information, so people may find this useful.

Friday March 27, 2009
At least that’s how I chose to read it. People have started asking me questions on Twitter instead of via email, so I can’t claim this is an email question:

Do you have any suggested reading on diet and everyday life in late antiquity / early Dark Ages?

One problem with answering questions on Twitter is the 140-character limit. My initial reaction to the question was that this is something Melissa Snell, Medieval History Guide, probably has lots of information on, and that’s still my answer, but I did find and recommend an interesting article: “Female Longevity and Diet in the Middle Ages,” by Vern Bullough and Cameron Campbell. Speculum, Vol. 55, No. 2 (Apr., 1980), pp. 317-325. The point made is that around the 9th century women started outliving men because there was finally enough protein and iron in the diet. This came following a change in farming methods. The earlier, Roman diet had consisted of mostly bread, made of rye, wheat, or barley mixtures, and a broth made from whatever was available. In the ninth century, a new plow was developed and a three-field rotation replaced a two-field rotation. In addition, by the time of Charlemagne, protein-providing and plentiful rabbits had been introduced from Spain making meat more available for peasants.

Seneca’s Oedipus to be staged

From Leigh Valley

Moravian College works with Touchstone Theatre
School receives outside assistance to stage Roman version of classic tragedy “Oedipus.”
Saturday, March 28, 2009
By ADAM RICHTER
The Express-Times

Christopher Shorr thinks the nation could use a healthy dose of Roman theater.

Shorr, a visiting assistant professor of English at Moravian College who runs the school’s theater department, says the visceral nature of Roman drama helped guide his decision to have his students perform “Oedipus” by Seneca.

The Greek “Oedipus Rex” by Sophocles, is the more famous play. But Shorr wanted to produce Seneca’s later version, because he wanted to challenge his students and because he thought the timing seemed right.

“Maybe America is ready for some Roman tragedy,” says Shorr. “There are things that are happening in our society that show that we’re not as young and optimistic as we once were, and as the Greeks once were.”

“Oedipus” opens Thursday at Moravian College’s Arena Theater and runs through April 5. The Moravian College Theatre Company is producing the play, in conjunction with Touchstone Theatre.

Romans borrowed a great deal of their culture from the Greeks, adding their own cultural twist. So instead of Zeus, the Romans had Jupiter. And they may not have changed the name of “Oedipus,” or the central storyline — a man tries to avoid his fate of killing his father and marrying his mother and ends up doing just that — but Shorr points out some key differences.

For one thing, there’s a lot more blood.

“One of the major differences bet Greek tragedy and Roman tragedy, in general, is that in Greek tragedy more violence happens offstage, whereas in Roman tragedy the violence happens onstage,” Shorr says.

This creates subtle changes in the plot, too. (Spoiler alert.) In Sophocles’ play, Oedipus blinds himself (offstage) after his wife/mother, Jocasta, commits suicide. In the Roman version, Jocasta discovers her son already blinded, and stabs herself, onstage.

Shorr reached out to Touchstone Theatre for help with staging “Oedipus.” A former Virginia resident, Shorr says he knew of the South Bethlehem theater company’s reputation before he moved to the Lehigh Valley. Touchstone ensemble member James Jordan says the troupe had not collaborated with Moravian before, and the opportunity seemed right.

Jordan consulted on the technical aspects of “Oedipus,” pushing the students to come up with creative solutions to the problems of Seneca’s play. They responded well, Jordan says.

“I’ve been amazed at some of the students and their willingness to immerse themselves in the work,” he says. “It’s neat to … pass the torch and give them the knowledge.”

Shorr says the collaboration with Touchstone was a success, and made sense from the start.

“Because the theater program is very small, we don’t have a faculty of acting teachers and directing teachers and designing teachers … we just have me,” he says.

Jordan agrees: “It’s just this perfect match, and such a fulfilling experience,” he says.

“Oedipus” stars Moravian College student Jason Ginther in the title role, student Becky Kolacki as Jocasta and professor Christopher Jones as Creon. Because of the play’s violence and mature themes, it is not suitable for children.

Adam Richter can be reached at 610-258-7171 or by e-mail at arichter@express-times.com.

The Independent on Vespasian

The Independent

His name is immortalised in modern Italian as the word for a public urinal, but tomorrow that humiliation will be forgotten as Rome sets about throwing a massive party for the Emperor Vespasian’s 2,000th birthday. Naturally enough, the celebratory bash – which takes the form of a 10-month exhibition – is focused on the building for which he is most famous, the Colosseum.

By far the largest amphitheatre the ancient Romans built, it is capable of holding at least 50,000 and perhaps as many as 70,000 screaming plebs. When it was inaugurated, in the reign of Vespasian’s son and heir Titus, 5,000 wild animals were put to the sword over 100 days for the amusement of the punters, and despite the halt called by Constantine, the emperor who converted to Christianity, bloody gladiatorial combat remained standard fare until it was banned early in the fifth century.

As the crowning monument of a civilisation, the Colosseum has always had its detractors. Some scholars of the ancient world regard it as hideous, without architectural merit. On its own terms, however, the mega-structure known originally as the Flavian Amphitheatre, after Vespasian’s family name, Flavius, was a great advance on what it replaced. It was located close to the heart of the grounds of Domus Aurea, the “House of Gold” built for the Emperor Nero, the great monument to his vanity and greed. Vespasian expropriated those grounds and, in place of Nero’s self-indulgence, provided the greatest forum ever built for the self-indulgence of the multitude: aesthetically crude perhaps, lacking in delicacy and taste, but stunningly bold. And an appropriate monument to an extraordinary man.

Look at the surviving marble busts of Vespasian and the centuries fall away. You can see his descendants in any Roman street. He was burly and thick-set with a bald, bull-like head, steely eyes and a tense, frowning mouth, teeth clenched in determination. One of his contemporaries remarked that he looked as if he was sitting on the lavatory, and having a hard time of it. Above all it is a common face. There was nothing aristocratic about this emperor. He was Roman social mobility incarnate.

His full name was Titus Flavius Sabinus Vespasianus and after his death, like all deceased emperors, he was worshipped as a god. He started out his life in an altogether different key, born the grandson of a centurion and the son of a tax collector in the rustic district of Sabina, north of Rome. He had only a mediocre education; in later life they made fun of him for his poor grasp of Latin. But you can read Vespasian’s ticket to glory in his simple, powerful face: he became a first-rate soldier, and beloved of the men he commanded.

He was in his early thirties when he made his mark, participating in the second invasion of Britain, seizing the Isle of Wight for Rome, and developing tactics for overcoming the Britons’ formidable defensive earthworks. Back in the Eternal City in furlough, he was ill at ease among the corrupt ruling class. AD66 he went to Greece as a member of Nero’s entourage but made the serious error of falling asleep during one of the megalomaniac emperor’s singing recitals. He saved his skin by fleeing to a remote province.

The following year the faux pas was forgiven when Nero realised that he had need of this man. Rebellion had broken out among the Jews in Judaea and the Roman forces were having a frustrating time trying to oust them from their walled cities. Vespasian’s success in winkling out the walled-up Britons was remembered and he was sent to Judaea with orders to suppress the rebellion and bring the Jews to heel. He did exactly that, and although many Jewish towns were destroyed and thousands of people killed, he was remembered as a fair and honest administrator. The defeat of the Jewish rebellion was the making of Vespasian. He was the hero of his army, and the loot he amassed would later go into the building of the Colosseum.

Rome descended into chaos and civil war after Nero’s suicide, getting through four emperors in a single year. All this time, Vespasian was plotting his path to power. With his devoted army at his back, and with two grown sons offering the promise of dynastic continuity, he was acclaimed emperor twice, first by his army in July AD69, then nearly six months later by the Senate. Vespasian would always be respectful and attentive to the Senate but he never had any doubt about the source of his power, and dated his accession from the first acclamation, not the second.

In the judgement of one contemporary historian, Vespasian was the first emperor whose character actually improved after he attained the throne. He took drastic measures to restore sanity to the Roman Empire’s finances, which had been emptied by Nero’s extravagance.

He raised taxes steeply, making himself instantly unpopular, and famously introduced a tax on public urinals, which is why in Italy they are associated with him to this day. When his son Titus remonstrated with him over this measure, the emperor held out a handful of coins for him to sniff. These come from the urinal tax, he said, “Pecunia non olet” (money has no smell). It was his most famous aphorism.

Vespasian retained his simple martial tastes despite all the temptations of his position; when a youth to whom he had given an important promotion came to him reeking of perfume, he sent him away in disgust, saying “I’d rather you stank of garlic”, and cancelled the new position.

Yet in his achievements he succeeded in transcending his humble origins and the brutalising years of military service: he created schools for grammar and oratory – thus laying the foundations for classical education all over Europe. He recruited a new class of administrators from the business class to run the empire on more professional lines.

And he set in train the greatest building boom of the century. When he came to power, Rome was full of ruins and abandoned sites, the result of the civil war that had preceded his coronation. To bring the city back to its former glory, Vespasian gave anyone with the desire and the necessary funds the right to build on those sites. The result was many of the breathtaking buildings in and around the Roman Forum that tourists still admire to this day. They include the Temple of Peace, the Domus Flavia and the Temple of Divo Vespasiano, his own cult.

To mark Vespasian’s big day, Rome is breathing new life into the ancient city he did so much to change. Busts, bas-reliefs, weapons, coins and paintings are among the 110 archaeological treasures that will be exhibited from today until next January in the Colosseum, the Curia in the centre of the Forum and the Criptoportico, a building on the Palatine Hill that has never before been open to the public. There will also be a new guided route through the Forum, with explanatory panels shedding light on the buildings for which the emperor was responsible.

Filippo Coarelli, the curator of the extravaganza, commented: “The element of chance in Vespasian’s success cannot hide the profound manner in which that success resonates with the whole history of Rome: the mobility which was intrinsic to that society, which allowed it to access the energy of emerging classes.”

Despite these achievements, and despite the Colosseum, which was still under construction when Vespasian died in 79, it was his determination to tax Romans to the hilt for which they most remembered him, the image of the stingy, money-grubbing son of a tax-collector that stuck.

During his elaborate funeral, the procession was led by a popular clown called Favor who mimicked the dead emperor. “How much did this funeral cost?” he demanded of the organisers at one point, according to Suetonius. “A hundred thousand sestertii,” came the reply. To which the Emperor’s caricature retorted: “Give me a hundred and chuck my body in the Tiber!”