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  1. Today
  2. What do we mean by brutality? At what point does the infliction of harm become gratuitous? Do we judge brutality by modern morality or the expectations of ancient Roman society? It's important to begin this short overview from a known perspective because our judgements on the conduct of Rome are not entirely objective. Rome is sometimes seen as the template for tyrannical imperialism. This is difficult to reconcile with the opinions and sentiments expressed by the Roman writers themselves, and indeed, seems to be based on little more than familiarity with the ideological tyrannies of more recent times. David Potter, author of Origins of Empire, describes Rome as "the most successful multi-ethnic, multi-cultural state in the history of Europe and the Mediterranean". Rome was a society that espoused moral values and austere lifestyles. A society that considered itself the epitome of civilisation. In much the same way we do today, as an expression of patriotic self-esteem. It was also an ambivalent society, for when wealth allowed, Romans enjoyed flouting their norms. Let's be quite clear about this - brutality is part of human behaviour, as undesirable as many of us would ordinarily see it as. Our modern societies try to protect citizens by legislation and law enforcement, but the infliction of arbitrary and excessive harm is nonetheless something that lurks among us. It lurked among the Romans too. Some might claim that it was much more overt than that, and to be fair, one would have to admit the extent of their brutality is notorious. I'm not going to dwell on the reports of individuals. As colourful and horrifying some of the antics that Roman caesars got up to might be, they represent a very tiny example of behaviour, one that distorts the overall picture. So therefore I put the Roman Empire on trial for brutality, judged by the common morality we share. The Roman Legions By far the biggest culprit were the common soldiers of Rome. In writings of the late republic and principate, one readily picks up the idea that Rome desired tough disciplined soldiers, able to follow orders without argument, able to withstand the rigours of campaigning, and to be frank - able to ram a sword into man, woman, or child without hesitation. It follows that a man prepared to be so violent isn't likely to be particularly well behaved. The Romans understood that. As it happens, Roman legions were often a disagreeable lot. They did argue with orders and were far closer to mutiny than modern armies would tolerate. Even the charismatic Julius Caesar had to ask his soldiers for consent to continue a war during the campaign against his rivals. At the death of Augustus, legions in Pannonia and Germania mutinied after being allowed time off to mourn or celebrate, seeking resolution of the harsh treatment and injustice they received daily. Heaven knows, lashes and wounds are always with us! So are hard winters and hard working summers, grim war, and unprofitable peace. Speech of Precennius - Annals (Tacitus) Nothing new there, Tacitus tells us. Harsh lives make harsh men. Roman legionaries would expect booty to reward their efforts at war, and their commanders were only too willing to please them by providing such opportunities. If there is a requisition and a soldier siezes your donkey, let it go. Don't resist and don't grumble. If you do, you will be beaten and you will still lose your donkey. Letters collected by Arrian (Epictetus) By tradition, a Roman soldier swore an oath not to steal from his comrades on campaign. Oaths may have been a serious business but they didn't always deter. Frontinus records in Stratagems that one commander, either especially stern or exasperated, ordered that any soldier caught stealing would have his right hand cut off. By tradition, a dishonoured legion undergoes a decimation - one man in ten is randomly selected and beaten to death by his colleagues. Brutality serves as a deterrent. Tough On The Streets Where human beings congregate in large urban enviroments, the levels of violence begin to rise. Rome was no exception. A certain level of thuggery was accepted, as young men of good families would roam the streets at night looking for people to beat up. But this sort of behaviour would be more or less restricted to the virile and testosterone driven male gangs. It seems unlikely that all young men behaved in this way. Your drunken bully who has by chance not slain his man passes a night of torture like that of Achilles when he bemoaned his friend, lying now upon his face, and now upon his back; he will get no rest in any other way, since some men can only sleep after a brawl. Yet however reckless the fellow may be, however hot with wine and young blood, he gives a wide berth to one whose scarlet cloak and long-retinue of attendants, with torches and brass lamps in their hands, bid him keep his distance. But to me, who am wont to be escorted home by the moon, or by the scant light of a candle whose wick I husband with due care, he pays no respect. Whether you venture to say anything, or make off silently, it's all one: he will thrash you just the same, and then, in a rage, take bail from you. Such is the liberty of the poor man: having been pounded and cuffed into a jelly, he begs and. prays to be allowed to return home with a few teeth in his head! Nor are these your only terrors. When your house is shut, when bar and chain have made fast your shop, and all is silent, you will be robbed by a burglar; or perhaps a cut-throat will do for you quickly with cold steel. Satires (Juvenal) But despite this potentially violent enviroment, there was also a curiosity among bystanders. Plutarch records how people rushed to the senate house to see the fallen body of Julius Caesar (and rushed away equally quickly just in case). There were of course occaisions when strong feelings arouse the citizens to anger. Riots were always a threat to the powerful in Rome because those caught by them might well be beaten to death, such as the fate of Cleander in the reign of Commodus. Little wonder then that the rulers of Rome were keen to divert the Roman mob with public entertainment. Sports And Games Without a doubt a major unifying element of the Roman Empire was the spread of games. Swordfights were performed for public entertainment with a very real risk of death or injury. Although fights to the death existed, the professional bout consisted of two men fighting with referees and rest periods until one or the other could not continue, his fate a decision of the games editor based more often than not on the mood of the crowd. In the morning men are thrown to the lions and the bears; but it is the spectators they are thrown to in the lunch hour. Letters (Seneca) It does the people good to see that even slaves can fight bravely. If a mere slave can show such courage, what then can a Roman do? Besides, the games harden a warrior people to sights of carnage and prepares them for battle. Letters (Cicero) The traditional swordfight with an honourable decision over the fate of those who could not continue was one thing; by the late empire, this had transmuted to displays of fighting designed to wound as a means of heightening drama. Little wonder that some experts feel that the gladiatorial games had lost their purpose in Roman society, or that Augustine records the addiction of a newbie spectator to watching violence . The Romans enjoyed other sports that carried a brutal edge. Boxing, where the bandages that protected the hand evolved into metal gloves designed to punish the opponent. The Pankration, or Greek wrestling, where there are only two rules to obey - no biting and no gouging of eyes - which got ignored in the heat of combat. Animals were slaughtered by the wagonload to thrill the public for as long as the supply of animals was practicable and affordable. At first for novelty, later for spectacle, and finally to demonstrate the power of Rome over nature. The extraordinary numbers of animals slaughtered in the arena is mind numbing, driving some species to regional extinction - something the Romans themselves were well aware. Slavery Another evil of human behaviour is the ownership of others. The problem has never entirely gone away despite the various moral advances in history. In ancient times, it was simply how life was. The Romans had mixed feelings about their possessions which were legally en par with animals. Some saw them as merely 'talking tools', others more willing to permit something approaching humane treatment. It was true that wealthy owners liked to free as many slaves as they could, in order to show how generous and humane they were, but one suspects a more expedient attitude was the motive. On the one hand, rural and industrial slaves might expect a short hard life, pushed to physical extremes and exposed to unhealthy enviroments. Others might be valued companions, loyal employees, teachers for their children, or entertainers to please the family and guests. The slaves engaged in the operation of the mines secure for their masters profit in amounts which are almost beyond belief. They themselves are however physically destroyed, their bodies worn down by working in the mine shafts both day and night. many die because of the excessive maltreatment they suffer. they are given no rest or break from their toil, but rather are forced by the whiplashes of the overseers to endure the most dreadful of hardships; thus do they wear out their lives in misery. The History of the World (Diodorus Siculus) Poor Psecas, whose own hair has been torn out by her mistress, and whose clothes has been ripped from her shoulders and breasts by her mistress, combs and styles her mistress' hair. "Why is this curl so high?" the mistress screams, and at once a whipping punishes Psecas for this crime of the curling iron and sin of a hairstyle. Satires (Juvenal) In one case, a slave had killed his master. Law demanded that all the household slaves should be executed as well. However, a crowd of protestors , trying to protect so many innocent lives, gathered and began to riot. They besieged the senate house. Within the senate house, some senators were anxious to eliminate excessive cruelty, but the majority were of the opinion that nothing should be changed. Annals (Tacitus) Sadly the outburst of popular support for the plight of the slaves achieved nothing - Nero enforced the rules. Conclusion We have to accept that brutality exists in human societies. In any such society, there is a general level of behaviour that is either tolerated or unsuppressed. Clearly this operates in both ancient and modern eras. Roman law was a reactive process, because free men had the right to free will and self determination. If you chose to exceed acceptable behaviour, then you were liable for punishment, if you were caught or brought to justice. However this means that men in authority were able to exercise whatever brutality they believed they could get away with. No doubt most maintained some semblance of moral behaviour, others were willing to test the boundaries, especially if far from close inspection. Yet much of this impression is based on reports of individuals such as badly behaved patricians and emperors. The Roman writers use the stories of brutality to describe the vices of an individual, to show what a villain he was, and one suspects that a great deal of this is exaggerated for dramatic effect. Seneca records his dismay at arena violence. Cicero records that a man was better off doing something useful than sat idly watching fights. And as much as we abhor the idea of gladiators fighting to potential death or injury for public entertainment, it was also recorded that these men were only too keen to please their masters, illustrating that violence is a part of the human psyche and sometimes socially acceptable. So - was Rome a brutal society? By design the Roman Empire was a benign state that allowed its diverse population to prosper in a spirit of competition and opportunity, a society with avenues for social advancement in spite of strict class divisions, a society that respected local customs as equally valid as Roman law, but it also had a greater capacity for greed and cruelty than we would allow. Brutality served a purpose in the Roman world, a tool that the ruthless found expedient. In other words.... What do you think I mean? I mean that I come home more greedy, more ambitious, more voluptuous, and even more cruel and inhuman - because I have been among humans. Letters (Seneca)
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  6. Here is an excellent article about ancient Palmyra by Paul Veyne. This article first came to my attention in Lapham's Quarterly (Winter 2017: Home). This is an outstanding publication that each quarter collects works by mostly famous articles on a single theme. https://www.laphamsquarterly.org/home/oasis-palmyra One can only grieve the destruction of the ancient Palmyrene antiquities and other historic treasures. guy also known as gaius
  7. dee

    My collection of Roman Artifacts!

    Did the Romans possibly fear the dead? Was there an idea of afterlife before Greek influence? Your collection is fascinating I enjoyed seeing those items can't imagine how much you love keeping them. Would you happen to know if Romans ever purposely broke figures as ritual offerings?
  8. Wenceslas

    Mortuis or Defunctorum?

    I am a painter and would like to give my latest work a Latin title. I am trying to say “Chorus Of The Dead.” I get “Chorus Mortuis” and “Chorus Defunctorum.” I must say that I seem to prefer the sound of "Chorus Mortuorum." What would you suggest? Thank you.
  9. dee

    My collection of Roman Artifacts!

    Hello and thank you! With no clear opinion about the Roman belief in an afterlife; what would be the motivation for Roman citizens to keep figurines and perform rituals for deceased family members?
  10. Greetings, it will be great having access to the forum. Looking to learn. Thanks Very Much! dee
  11. Whilst I was on holiday I saw a television broadcast of a dramatised documentary about Boudicca's rebellion against Rome in AD60. Entertaining stuff, however biased toward the Roman account, which is admittedly our only source and written back in the day to conform to their readers expectations of an interesting and dramatic anecdote. But as I watched, I realised the presenter was making fundamental errors about Rome's provincial policies. In short, I hereby examine three statements made during the program. 1 - That Rome ruled by violence and oppression 2 - That Rome relied on the invincibility of her army 3 - That the rebellion illustrates the truth of what life was like under Roman rule. 1 - Rome ruled by violence and oppression This is a common conception. Rome is seen as a monolithic nation state that assimilates populations to produce indentikit citizens with a generation or two. This was simply not so. Rome was at heart a city state with influence over a network of territories of varying status and native populations owing them loyalty and taxes. it is true that many regions were brought into the empire via conquest of one sort or another, but let's not forget that the realm of Iceni was a client state that Rome expected to inherit. Tacitus tells us that... The imperial agent Caisu Decianus, horrified by the catastrophe and his unpopularity, withdrew to Gaul. It was his rapacity which had driven the province to war Annals (Tacitus) Imperial agent? So Decianus was there at the orders of Nero to make sure the man the Senate had sent to make sure the province was doing fine, was doing fine. Whilst the habit of being rapacious, greedy, clumsy, and brutal was an unfortunate tendency of senior Romans in Provincial assignment, clearly not all of them were. Therefore violence and oppression was a policy pursued by individual Romans at their discretion rather than any tyrannical regime the Romans had foisted upon the unfortunate Britons. But then, the Romans didn't like tyrants all that much, never mind the Britons. 2 - Rome relied on the invincibility of her army Rome's legions were not invincible and they knew it. The sources contain many references to utter defeats and indeed, some describe one legion or another as barely resembling a military unit at all. But let's read what Tacitus says about a military mission to relieve the sack of Camulodunum. The Ninth Roman legion, commanded by Quintus Perilius Cerialus Caesius Rufus, attempted to relieve the town, but was stopped by the victorious Britons and routed. its entire infantry force were massacred, while the commander escaped to his camp with his cavalry and sheltered behind its defenses. Annals (Tacitus) Oh dear. The commander ran away with his horsemen, perhaps two or three percent of a full strength legion. How invincible was that? 3 - That the rebellion illustrates the truth of what life was like under Roman rule. The 'savage' Britons ran riot, attacking Londinium, Veralumium, and eventually meeting another legionary force under the senatorial governor Suetonius, at the Battle of Watling Street. Tacitus kindly gives us the speech made by Boudicca - which is clearly invented since no-one would have recorded it for the benefit of a Roman historian. The Britons lose, and Boudicca is said to have poisoned herself - a standard Roman style fate. Nero sends replacements for the casualties suffered by the Ninth Legion. And hot off the boat is Decianus' replacement. Still the savage British tribesmen were disinclined for peace, especially as the newly arrived Imperial Agent Gaius Julius Alpinus Classicianus, successor to Caius Decianus, was on bad terms with Suetonius, and allowed his personal animosities to damage the national interests. Annals (Tacitus) Should have all been sorted. Calmly, confidently, and decisively. But as happens in these anecdotes of Roman disorder, personality is the flaw rather than politics. Nero senses things aren't working out, and sends his freedman Polyclitus to investigate, who travelled with a seriously large entourage that stretched the patience of Italy and Gaul. it even intimidated the Roman legions. The Britons were, by all accounts, quite amused. But all this was toned down in Polyclitus' reports to the emperor. Retained as governor, Suetonius lost a few ships and their crews on the shore, and was then superseded for not terminating the war. His successor, the recent consul Publius Petronius Turpilianus, neither provoking the enemy nor provoked, called this ignoble inactivity peace with honour. Annals (Tacitus) One imperial agent ran away, his replacement pursued intrigue rather than the rebels.. The senatorial governor got the sack, his replacement did nothing until the leaderless rebels gave up. Conclusion The television presenter stopped at the defeat of Boudicca, describing Rome as a tyranny that trampled rebellions with violence and oppression. What Tacitus describes is a catalogue of folly. Greed, cowardice, intrigue, indecisiveness, and clumsiness. The war is not won, merely left to fizzle out. Violence and oppression? Truth was the Romans were too busy making mistakes.
  12. caldrail

    Living With Audiences

    Fame! I'm gonna live forever I'm gonna learn how to fly Those of us scarred and traumatised by the 1980's will no doubt recognise lyrics from that song belonging to a television series which I'm pleased to say I managed to avoid entirely. But what is fame? A reputation? A state of being? A mysterious blessing from fate? Curiously enough, people generally either see it with some degree of religious awe or an excuse for utter contempt. I made the mistake once of describing myself on my CV as 'known worldwide' for one thing or another. At the time I considered that appropriate given the attention I was getting on the internet, though to be truthful I never counted thousands of followers on social websites. I naively thought it would add some colour to my dreary collection of dead end jobs and idle interludes. To my suprise the manager of a certain catering company, interviewing me for some worthless office job, asked "So you think you're famous?" Erm... What? No, I don't think I'm famous. "It says here," He said, looking at my CV before him, "that you're known around the world.". Oh good grief. Well I explained that fame was a measure of attention people paid to you, that it was not an on/off switch, more like shades of grey. I did not use the word 'famous'. If I thought I was, I would've described myself as such. "To me this says you're famous" He snarled, holding up his copy of my CV and pointing at it like it was evidence of criminal behaviour. No point being reasonable with this sort of attitude, so I quite correctly told him my name was mentioned in print and that was good enough for me. I didn't get the job. I did learn to fly eventually. Still working on living forever though experience suggests I might struggle with that one. Audience With King George I seem to be getting into the habit of an annual visit to STEAM, Swindon's modest railway museum. It's not a bad experience, and the dummies in period costume are disturbingly real at first glance. A young mother just ahead of me was fooled, she suddenly realised that the old lady sat at a typewriter behind a desk wasn't quite as alive as she thought. I always enjoy that open door to a small office where the manager is telling his employee that if he's late for work once more there'll be a parting of the ways. I like the way the museum starts with this administration background, moves on to stores, then trades, then a diorama of wartime steam engine manufacture with two female mechanics chatting, until finally you wander into a large space with just Caerphilly Castle on her own, a full on express steam locomotive from those glorious days of God's Wonderful Railway. Looking a little shabby these days, but still a powerful exhibit. Secretly though I have another engine to visit. The first GWR King class, No.6000 George V. Not because I especially like that class of engine, or I admire the technical excellence, or respect the history of that particular locomotive, but because as a little boy I briefly stood on the footplate when it had stopped at Swindon station. George had been retired from mainline service long before. On one particular day though, a special train was due to pull into town and my mother took me and a friend along to see it. By sheer chance, I happened to be standing by the cab when a kindly engine driver kidnapped me to experience that forbidden metal cavern where the crew drove this engine for real. I remember the darkness with the firebox closed, the patina of grime, and a few burnished copper pipes. Truth was, I felt a little intimidated, and didn't have the questions the proud crew were hoping to answer. So they kindly returned me to freedom. Of course George is now somewhat cleaner in the cab, bereft of any coal or water in her tender, her firebox cold and empty. Machines are always female, whatever the name. It's hard to describe how I feel when I pause at the top of the steps to look around the empty cab. Part of me is pleased to be there. Nostalgia for that brief insight into a lost era, sensing that attachment to a piece of history, a complex and powerful machine, built by craftsmen in days gone by. All the same I cannot help feel sad the engine no longer steams, no longer moves. All that noise and motion of George in her heyday gone, possibly forever. Like visiting a disabled relative stifled by the regime of an old people's home, it's time to move on, so I pat the side of the cab wall. Great to see you again George. Audience Waiting Back in those heady days of the eighties, my main concern was striving for fame, to live forever, to learn how to... Well, you know the score. It was a time when music stores were commonplace, where you purchase all manner of instruments, gizmos, and accessories to help you on your way to rock stardom. When did I last play a drumkit in public? Must be more than twenty years now. You would think it would be all forgotten, but a reputation is a hard thing to suppress, whether justified or not, and let's be honest, I've never shied away from reminding peple that I used to be a working musician. I passed a bunch of lads lurking in an alleyway between shops on the high street. I heard them point me out, debate the merits of asking me to fill the vacant spot in their band, until one bright spark observed that I was almost old enough for a bus pass, that irrevocable indicator of old age and disqualilication for entry into rock stardom. My music career died long ago, but it seems fate just won't let me me forget it. Audience of the Week The pubs have closed for the night. So gangs of revellers tramp up and down the road outside on their way to a nightclub or maybe just struggling to get home without falling over. Most laugh, shout, or throw punches at each other. Some however continue to make appraisals of me as they pass. Scorn, anger, and amusement. So it seems everyone has an opinion about me, good or bad. Just the price of fame I guess.
  13. Crispina

    My collection of Roman Artifacts!

    Thank you for sharing. Enjoyed it very much.
  14. Steve Exeter

    Septimus Severan's ethnicity?

    I've recently published a book about the life of Severus, focusing in detail on the influence of his wife Julia Domna and their two sons. Severus follows the amazing true story of a rebellious boy who grew up in an African province and became the first Black Caesar of the Roman Empire, the head of a dynasty that would lead Rome through bloody civil wars and rapidly changing times. As a young man, Severus hates the Romans and conspires to humiliate them. What begins as a childish prank unfurls into a bloodbath that sends Severus careening into his future. Through a tragic love affair, dangerously close battles and threats both internal and external, Severus accrues power — and enemies — in his unlikely rise to become the most powerful man in the ancient world. There is old world magic and tradition clashing with new world expectations. Severus has political intrigue, romance and familial drama. Treachery from his advisors and his own wife gets closer every day and his son emerges as a ruthless and disturbed emperor-in-waiting. Even in its ancient setting, the book addresses timely questions of home, family and parenting, immigration and assimilation. What has a man abandoned when he fights against something he used to believe in? Is it growth? Is it betrayal? Who gets to rule and what makes a good leader? There is also the eternal, unanswered question: is history always doomed to repeat itself? The book is available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback format: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07WLNS4W1/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=unrv00-20&linkId=4875ecb7c914a128c502092add617350 https://www.amazon.com/dp/1086355393/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=unrv00-20&linkId=2aaa88b668ed4e62305594374ffef027
  15. My inner Scotsman and Italian approve of this message (Scottish group Simple Minds filmed in Verona, Italy):
  16. Sorry I haven't been too active on this forum lately, but I did just post up a video on my YouTube channel featuring my modest collection of Roman artifacts. Feel free to check it out! (And I apologize for the obvious gaffe; I said 31 AD for 31 BC there at the end!)
  17. Roman murals are so vibrant and beautiful after 2000 years, imagine what they looked like when they were in use!
  18. Glad to see Dr. Hawass still in business! I hope this dig pans out!
  19. Reviewing my post from last year, I have now become increasingly convinced that Galen's plague was NOT smallpox as currently believed. There are two features from Galen's clinical description of the plague that still need to be explained: -Lack of blisters typical of smallpox with its near universal scarring and frequent blindness as sequelae. -The typical appearance of "black pustules" consistent with a hemorrhagic fever and not from smallpox. Picture of Ebola: I feel that Galen's plague was almost certainly a form of hemorrhagic fever (such as Ebola). It has been suggested that the hemorrhagic form of the bubonic plague could have also have been a culprit. The bubonic plague, referred to as the "Black death" in Europe (1347-1670), was either a more virulent form of bubonic plague (caused by Yersinia pestis) or actually a rarer, now extinct form of hemorrhagic fever: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15879045 It must be emphasized the reason for the various clinical manifestations of the bubonic plague has also been recently debated: https://www.livescience.com/15937-black-death-plague-debate.html guy also known as gaius
  20. There is a great article in July's BBC History Revealed by Philip Matyszak: "Happy Plants and Laughing Weeds: The hidden history of drug use in antiquity." As usual, Maty has written a well researched and entertaining article on the use and abuse of drugs in the ancient world. The article is chock-full of insights and captivating anecdotes about this little-discussed aspect of the ancient world. "Opium could be purchased as small tablets in specialized stalls in most Roman marketplaces. In the city of Rome itself, Galen recommends a retailer just off the Via Sacra near the Forum." "Galen describes how hemp was used in social gatherings as an aid to 'joy and laughter.'" "There were no traces of food remnants, as is usually the case in ancient kitchens; analysis of the containers found there leaves little doubt that this room was used solely for the preparation of psychotropic pharmaceuticals. In other words, the ancient world had large-scale drug factories 3,000 years ago." This was a great article that I enjoyed thoroughly. I do have two regrets, however. First, I wish I had access to this insightful article a few years back. I had given a lecture on the practice of medicine in the ancient world and this informative article would have been a great resource. Second, delightful articles like this force me to continue my subscription to BBC History Revealed magazine. (I have come to loathe the BBC.) Recommend highly! guy also known as gaius
  21. Welcome back to the fold Neil.
  22. Hmm... am I at the right place? Anyway as I have been away from good old UNRV for several years I thought I'd re-introduce myself as a lot of things will have changed and moved on since I was last here. As for me too - I drifted from Roman history, to 'late antiquity' and then into mediaeval and modern history and have come full circle back to my true historical love. I have also drifted from the North of England to Central France where there is of course just as much - if not more - Roman stuff than the North of England, albeit of a different nature. It must be about 6 years since I last contributed anything, and probably 2 years since I last logged in. So - Hello!
  23. caldrail

    Just thought I'd drop in with this

    I suppose a lot would depend on how the stunt was being presented. Is it a prisoner sent to his doom? Or a genuine stunt to thrill and wow the crowd by a daring athlete? The former requires failure in the most horrible terms possible, the latter requires absolute success. Either would please the crowd in context. And just to add spice, some hungry wolves or big cats roaming below (a venator could polish them off in the following event). But it strikes me that horses are being risked here. Expensive and valuable animals. Also the charioteer is riding a ceremonial chariot which is too heavy for the stunt (actually, a racing chariot, despite being light enough, would not be strong enough). I wonder if the horse would refuse the jump? Of course, it could be morning entertainment and therefore a comedy item :D
  24. caldrail

    Friendly physical contact among Romans

    I am reminded of Ovid, the poet who wrote some stuff about how to get a girl, and banished by Augustus for his trouble. He says that a man should lightly brush the breast of the lady he fancies, pretending to wipe away dirt. Well. That will get her attention.
  25. caldrail

    Walking On A Wilder Side

    The weather forecast had already warned us of storms crossing Britain late into the night. As luck would have it, I was on a late shift, and that meant walking home during the period when I was most likely to be drenched in minutes or used by nature to light the vicinity when hit by lightning. There was every risk of both, and to be honest, I’ve always had a policy of avoiding such weather conditions by the clever use of indoors. Not last night then. One colleague at work told me that storms were already crossing France and would be here in two hours. Really? That would require winds in excess of gale force. There was barely a breeze and whilst thirty odd degrees centigrade isn’t hot by some standards around the globe, for Britain it was sweltering. In any case the winds weren’t from France, but the Atlantic southwest, as usual. Damp air then. Perfect for the odd electrical storm. I have to say working to very high targets in that sort of humid temperature was not for the faint hearted. By the close of shift, I was, as they say, ker-nackered. So. Time to go home. Almost as soon as I left the premises the display started. Around the sky flickers of light went off almost continuously, an extraordinary sight and one I found quite weird given not a rumble of thunder could be heard. I could see the mass of storm cells encroaching on Swindon. Sooner or later the rain would start. I wonder? Could I make it to the McDonalds outlet about halfway home without incurring a sudden outbreak of dampness? It worked. I made it to the rest stop barely seconds before the first cloudburst opened up. Perfect. Fast food, dry shelter, and bewildered staff to impress with my knowledge of storms. “Ahh” Said one McDonald droid, “it’s stopped. I can go home now.” You think? I’m staying here for another hour yet. He chuckled and headed for the door only to be greeted with a huge fork of lightning over the area. Your move mate. Cunning Move Whilst I was walking to McDonalds I spotted a fox on the other side of the road. Normally at that distance they either don’t care, or find a more discreet place to be. This one simply hunkered down. I know mate, it is warm isn’t it? Howls Of Badgers Badgers are the quietest of animals. They snuffle around, usually looking happy as Larry, but a week or two ago I encountered one on a footpath going home. Badgers aren’t the most alert of creatures. I’ve often walked very close to them before they realised I was there, but always they scarper, and scarper quickly they can. This one saw me coming and hooted very loudly. Wow. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard a badger. A born sergeant major that one. Big Beetles On the outskirts of an industrial estate I saw movement on the road, again lat at night. This was a black beetle, alarmingly huge. Two or three inches long, much larger than anything I’ve seen plodding around British countryside. This one was not only large, but fast too, scurrying around like demon possessed. A foreign import off a lorry? We don’t usually get beetles like that outside of zoos. Boris Of The Week This week’s star prize goes to our new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who takes over from Theresa May today. There’s a sort of inevitable aspect to his new found glory. Can he sort out the mess and get a deal on Brexit past the hordes of British MP’s determined to frustrate the British public’s decision to leave Europe? The battlefield is the same as it’s been for three years and cost May her job. Who knows, perhaps the outsize beetle was an omen. Perhaps the gods welcomed Boris with a spectacular lightning display. Somehow I doubt he got rained on last night.
  26. valexylix

    Friendly physical contact among Romans

    Thanks for your reply. Yes, it's really difficult to find information about cultural questions. I think it's quite sure that the "roman forearm handshake", like the last one you mentioned, is just a modern invention. There are no proves that in ancient times men greeted like this, while we have a lot of mentions of kisses and handshakes. These posts have some good examples: http://the-history-girls.blogspot.com/2017/05/the-roman-kiss-of-greeting-by-caroline.html?m=1 https://blogs.transparent.com/latin/the-history-of-kissing-the-ancient-roman-fascination/ It could be possibile, that handshakes were more formal and people used them to demonstrate a political alliance or in religious rituals (reliefs show both this type of scenes) and kisses and handshakes again were typical of more informal situations, like greeting relatives and friends. Military salute is another question, but in the forum there's already a good discussion about it (https://www.unrv.com/forum/topic/14819-salute/).
  27. The Romans were very concious of social status, far more than we are today, and this permeated their military system too, so your idea of grading authority into categories does indeed equate to their system. The only caveat is that you observe the anomalies, such as Optio. It means "Chosen Man", and for a reason. Romans were usually literal about titles. Originally a centurion could choose his right hand man. Not an ordinary promotion, as technically any soldier deemed suitable was eligible. Later the post-Augustan tribunes chose men and foisted them on centurions. Note however the style of command. The centurion is boss, top dog, and runs his command as his. The Optio is there to back him up and watch his back as well. It's very direct, a hangover of the distant past where Praetores "Leaders" led gangs of men on raids and ambuscades. There's little breakdown of command at all and indeed, small unit tactics are a modern thing and certainly something Roman soldiers would be shy of - safety in numbers. Some responsibilities however could be placed on others, so we have for instance one title Tesserarius which has a limited authority. One might well see this policy as common sense, because whilst the Romans preferred to keep command as simple as possible, a centurion could not be everywhere at once, yet at the same time giving power to lower orders was for them inherently dangerous - note the propensity for rebellion and mutiny that bribes, leave, and stern discipline held off.
  28. caldrail

    A city's Pomerium

    A settlement that reached a certain status (I'm not sure which, but I'm assuming it was civitas) was allowed a local senate to conduct admin/government - remember that the empire was not centrally governed nor was it territorial in nature, but focused on settlements.. Although Rome had the final word as it were, provinces were governed internally on local/regional matters. Governors were not ruling the province per se, but represented the final word in both Roman and native law, and generally did little governing other than to exploit the region for personal profit - note the Roman policy of assimilating local rulers to plug into the Roman network to exploit the existing chains of loyalty.
  29. I'm aware that the Roman ranks never really scaled with modern-day ranks, I basically used the term for lack of a better one really. When I said "make a comparison chart", it was strictly in the context of how the Roman Army itself evolved on its own terms: Who commanded a Legion at any given time (Legatus Legionis, Praefectus Legionis, Dux, Comes, etc.), a Cohort (Centurion, Centenarius, etc.), rather than say, "Oh, a Centurion is some strange hybrid of a Captain and a NCO at the same time due to their responsibilities". Useful for fiction, but without context, it's very misleading and wrong. However, a thought did occur to me. Would it make sense/ be logical to organize the chain of command within the Roman Legion by Command Level? (e.x Arrange Legates, Tribunes, and Prefects as "Legionary-Grade Officers"; Centurions, Options, and Signifers as "Cohort-Grade Officers", and so forth as you get down to the smaller levels like Vexillations and such? I guess the reason I began this topic in the first place was because I wanted some more information on the difference between the "New Model Legions" Diocletian and Constantine made, versus the Old Model Legions of the Late Empire, since I find many referencing talking about the two, and wanted to compare them both with the Principate Era Legion... hence wanting to make that Evolution chart. Apologies if this response came out rather disjointed...
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