Posts Tagged ‘Roman History’

Rome Reborn Project


Could it be…?  Is it…?


Why yes.  Yes, it is.

Schoolwork has taken its toll on my fragile mind.  I have the Senior Slump, otherwise known as Senioritis – that deadly disease that affects college seniors and causes them to slack off and generally not care about their school work.  Which is bad.  Obviously.

I’m graduating at the end of May next year – assuming that we all survive December 21st, the END OF THE WORLD.  Just kidding.  No, it’s more like, assuming I can get my arse in gear and turn in all my work/pass all my classes.

And I need to haul ass and work on my senior paper.  It’s going to be a 25 page monstrosity discussing the influence of the Etruscans on early Roman culture.  That, and taking classes in which I will be translating St Augustine’s “City of God” and Sophocles’ “Antigone” and “Oedipus the King”, and taking a class on Greek and Hellenistic Religions.


This post about school does tie into paganism, though, I swear.

Well, sort of.

…Er, not really.  But it is about ancient Rome!

So yesterday, I had the amazing opportunity to take a 3-D immersive, digitalized tour inside several reconstructed areas from ancient Greece.  We got to wear these weird glasses, and I kind of felt like Geordie la Forge.  Er.  One of the sites was the Pnyx, the hill on which the Athenian ekklesia (Assembly) met.  The other was the theater and adjacent Thersileon of Megalopolis, which was originally a Greek structure but was, of course, added onto by the Romans.

The guy who gave my class and I the tour is involved with a project called “Rome Reborn”.

This is a collaboration of tons of architects, scientists, and classicists and is an attempt to digitalize in 3-D the city of Rome, from the year 320 AD.  They use archaeological evidence and literary sources to do so, and have done a wonderful job so far.

Here is the website for the project, and below is a cool video – check it out!


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Well…what a find!

At a press conference on June 1st, researchers declared that they have found the site of the siege of the Aduatuci, a tribe which lived in what would become modern-day eastern Belgium.  The last stand of the tribe was written by Caesar in his de Bello Gallico after he and his troops had utterly defeated them and sold 53,000 survivors into slavery.  I remember reading this passage last year for a Latin prose course, and finding out that they may have found the exact site is just incredible.

Up until now archaeologists and historians thought that the site of the fortified town was located in Huy, Belgium – but, as new finds indicate, this may the wrong location.  Rather, it was at Thuin (in Hainaut, Belgium), west of the town of Charleroi.

Among the artifacts that have helped bring about this new discovery are Roman lead sling bullets and golden treasures.  If you interested in reading more, I have a few links for you below:

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Today is the first day of June, and a PBP day for the letter “K”, so this post is about the Kalends.

Kalends is one of those words that you can stare at for a while and your mind will begin to wonder “Why is this a word?  It’s so funny looking!”

TheKalends (or Calends in English) always fall upon the first day of each month.  They are an entirely Roman feature, not appearing in any other calendar system, and this is the reason for the expression of postponing something “ad Kalendas Graecas”, or “to the Greek Kalends”: if you do this, then you will never get whatever it is that you are postponing done.  Because the Greek Kalends don’t exist.

In ancient Rome, the pontifices would announce the days on which business could and could not be conducted for the upcoming month, and debtors had to pay off their debts.  These priests would also announce the date on which the Nones would take place.

The first day of each month was sacred to Iuno and Ianus.  As the god of beginnings, Ianus was seen to help Iuno “give birth to” the new month.  Apparently, some scholars think that these two deities were originally paired, and so the whole Kalends thing certainly could lend credence to their idea.

The Nones (in Latin, the Nonae) are the next important day of the calendar, but the day on which they fall is different for different months.  They almost always fall on the 5th of the month, with the exception of the months of March, May, July, and October, in which they fall on the 7th.  This day was sacred to the Lares, and, as was done on the Kalends, the date of the Ides was announced by the pontifices.

The Ides (in Latin, the Idus) occur 8 days after the Nones (9 if you were an ancient Roman – they counted days inclusively, so if something was happening two days from now, it would be happening tomorrow).  So, they typically fall on the 13th of the month, except for, again, March, May, July, and October.  (those rascals!)

These days were sacred to Iuppiter, and one such day – the Ides of March – has become especially infamous.  “Beware the Ides of March!”

The days preceding each of these three major days were known as Pridie: literally the “day before.”  For example, if you were to see Prid. Id. Mart. (the Romans were gung-ho about their abbreviations), that would be March 14th.  All other days were marked in a peculiar fashion: they were counted backwards from the Kalends, the Ides, or the Nones (or, in some cases, major festival days) and marked with an a.d. for ante diem.  As an example of this, a.d. III Kal. Nov. was three days before the Kalends of November, or October 30th.  Another example shows why the Romans were so good at math: a.d. XVII Kal. Nov. (17 days before the Kalends of November!) is October 16th.

In the Roman Republic, before the Julian Reform (keep an eye out for a post on this!) to the calendar system, the Romans had something called nundinae.  These were market days, and they occurred every eighth day – making the original Roman week have 8 days instead of our 7.  The days of the week on the calendar were marked with the letters A through H, the A being the nundina.

The months of the Romans were as follows: Ianuarius, Februarius, Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Iunius, Quintilis (later renamed Iulius for Caesar), Sextilis (later named Augustus for, well, Augustus), September, October, November, and December.  Before the Julian Reform, there was an additional month of 27 days squashed in between Februarius and Martius called either Mercedonius or Intercalaris, but this was done away with as of 45 BCE.  Before the Julian Reform, months alternated between having 29 days and 30 days.  After the Reform, they alternated between 30 and 31 days.

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This post is a little bit long, so at the end I added a “Tl;dr.”  I decided on the second post of the H series to be about two lesser-known heroes of ancient Rome and their myths.

What?  You might be asking right now.  Silly Iulla, the Romans had no myths of their own!

No.  The Romans did have myths of their own.  And I’m not talking about the myths which were originally Greek but given a Roman flair by changing the names of the persons and deities involved.  What I am talking about are the native myths of the Italic peoples, myths of their own gods and goddesses and of legendary heroes.

And it is the myths of the heroes that I am concerned about for today’s post.

I’m sure that you’ve heard of the most famous heroes: Aeneas, the legendary warrior who came all the way from the fallen Troy to Italy; Hercules, the Greek hero and demi-god who came to Italy to rid it of a great monster (yes, I am cheating a bit here: Hercules – or Herakles – is originally a Greek deity); and Romulus, perhaps the only native Italian of the bunch, the man who would found the city of Rome.

Unfortunately, that’s all that you’ll see about the aforementioned heroes in this post.

There are two figures from the early Republic that I want to spend some time on instead – and both of them curiously embody the virtues that a Roman citizen prided him/herself with.  There is no actual historical evidence that they existed, being written about only by one or two prominent historians, but there is no doubt that their actions served as examples to ancient Romans on virtues and justice.

One year after the death of Lucretia and subsequent expulsion of the last King of Rome in 509 BCE, the Roman-Etruscan Wars were raging across the countryside.  One of these was waged between Rome and Clusium, an Etruscan city, in 508 BCE.  The King of Clusium, a man by the name of Lars Porsena, was asked by the disgraced King Tarquinius Superbus of Lucretian fame to become his ally against Rome.  Porsena accepted, and he and his army marched on Rome.

Enter a young Roman named Gaius Mucius Scaevola.  Yes, I know what his middle name looks like, and no, it does not mean what you think it means (sorry Inigo).  He, with the approval of the Roman Senate, snuck into the camp of the Etruscans with the intent of assassinating Lars Porsena.

He failed.

Instead, Mucius Scaevola was captured, and when questioned by Porsena gave this famous reply: “I am Gaius Mucius, a citizen of Rome.  I came here as an enemy to kill my enemy, and I am as ready to die as I am to kill.  We Romans act bravely and, when adversity strikes, we suffer bravely.”  He then stuck his hand into a blazing fire in order to prove his loyalty to the Romans.

Needless to say, this was the reason for his cognomen ‘Scaevola’, which means ‘Left-Handed.’

Mucius Scaevola

A second hero might bear a more familiar name:  Cincinnatus.  While Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus was not exactly a hero to the plebeians – the average citizen of Rome – due to his staunch opposition of the establishments of their rights, the more well-off patrician families looked up to him as a man whom they should aspire to be like.

A citizen with much power himself, he was forced to sell his lands and pay a fine as a result of his son’s troublemaking in the forum (his son, Caeso Quinctius, had driven the representatives of the plebeians away from the forum in an effort to prevent them from reaching formal decisions) and retired to a small farm.

The next year Cincinnatus became a consul of Rome.  A year or two later in 458 BCE the Romans were warring with Aequian and Sabine tribes and one of the Roman consuls attempted to lead his army against them.  Unfortunately, he and his men became trapped in the Alban Hills and were fighting to escape.

A few cavalrymen escaped the battle and rode to Rome where they told the Senate what had happened.  They ordered another consul to nominate a dictator, a man who would serve the people for six months.  Cincinnatus was chosen.

Some senators travelled to his farm to tell him the news, and the newly-appointed dictator famously put down his plow and immediately donned the toga of his new office.  Sixteen days later he ended the war and returned to his farming, shedding the title of dictator with a resignation.

That was not the only time in his life that he would hold such an office: once more, in 439 BCE, he was appointed to put down a conspiracy.  This time, too, he resigned as soon as he had finished the job, and for the rest of his life was held in extremely high esteem by his fellow Romans.


Tl;dr version:  The Romans had myths and heroes of their own.  One was Mucius Scaevola, a man who attempted to assassinate a king who was an enemy of Rome, failed, and stuck his hand in a bonfire to prove his loyalty to Rome; and the other was Cincinnatus, a farmer-turned dictator who ended a war in 16 days and then returned back to his farm.

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