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caldrail

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  1. caldrail

    A city's Pomerium

    Settlements in the Roman Empire were rewarded for emulation of Rome, by tax breaks, concessions, or whatever. Sometimes a settlement would be awarded a higher status. At a certain level, a settlement could create its own Senate, but this was rarely achieved outside of Italy (whose partially independent tribal regions all had traditional rights to self rule, despite subsequent incorporation by the Empire)
  2. caldrail

    A city's Pomerium

    The Pomerium was a religious area traditionally said to be contained within the original boundaries made by Romulus at the founding of the city. There was no wall, just markers to show where it extended. I'm not aware of any Pomerium attached to other cities because although the Romans rewarded emulation of Roman society, there was only one Romulus. There were laws governing the Pomerium but I don't know of anyone who directly controlled it (Surely this would be against tradition in Republican Rome?), For instance, holders of imperium (basically a license to control and lead armies) did not have full power within the Pomerium, nor were weapons allowed within it. Soldiers would not appear in military guise within the boundaries for fear of losing their status as legionaries because they transgressed the law.
  3. caldrail

    What Made Caligula Crazy?

    Interesting. That more or less confirms the suspicions I have of people trying to make diagnoses on the basis of classical sources. It seems any behaviour not considered calm and logical is in some way a disorder. One might suggest why the diagnosis is being attempted on the basis of that alone. We are social animals. Like other species so blessed with complex relationships, our motives vary both in scope and intensity. Some individuals are more benevolent, others malignant. Some lash out, others are more calculating. I'm reminded of a documentary following a pack of chimpanzees. It involved the activities of one female who murdered other chimp's babies whilst she had none of her own, and at one point, even consoled a bereft mother. My contention is that there is no fixed standard of behaviour. We are subject to deviation according to many factors and it's another case of the bell curve. A happy average, with extremes in a very minor presence at each end. Truth is, everyone thinks they're sane or normal - of course they do, because otherwise their self-esteem is challenged and what other detailed frame of reference do we have but our own internal conceptualisations? But regarding this thread, what made Caligula crazy? Idle gossip and barbed writing. Not that I think he was a happy average man - far from it.
  4. caldrail

    What Made Caligula Crazy?

    I really dislike this 'disease' paradigm. I've sen all sorts of preposterous ailments put forward for just about every notable historical character that attempts to justify why he was so colourful. It seems to be a facet of human psychology that some seek diverse answers that sound clever and satisfy a need for diversity in thinking. I'm not convinced at all. The Roman sources are very keen to point out character flaws and love anecdotes of odd behaviour. The truth is that humanity is not quite sane and sensible. In any modern society you will find plenty of oddballs and powerful maniacs. It's that oddness that helps propel someone to positions of note - those of us less able to tolerate or exhibit unconventional behaviour do seem to find something beyond their conformity hard to understand. it's why they remain among the faceless crowd whilst those prepared to be different take centre stage. It happens in all walks of life. But necrotic viruses eating people? Strange mental conditions causing aggression and domination? It's all hokum.
  5. It depends on the period. Republican era gladiators, at least before Spartacus' revolt, were not viewed as especially valuable because slaves were so common, primarily prisoners of war. After Spartacus, more effort was made in training and practises introduced to prevent them becoming a threat, such as keeping speakers of the same language (other than latin) apart. Principate era gladiators were the professionals we normally think of. Note the photograph above. Neither conforms to an established class and are dressed incorrectly. No gladiator wore a breastplate - the chest was left bare as the major vulnerable area (thus a quick thrust ended the fight in a clean manner). Nor did gladiators wear tunics or robes under their equipment, for various reasons, including the possibility that bladders could be hidden and a false result concluded. Neither gladiator has a padded right arm (this was to protect the fighter from bruising himself on his own shield, the same reason for padding the left leg) Dominate era gladiators suffered from a change in emphasis. Gone were the days when the crowd thrilled at the sight of a real swordfight. Now they wanted more theatre, thus more exotic weapons designed to wound rather than kill were introduced, leading to fights where it was down to who had the best endurance against wounding as much as fitness. But then, these were also the days when gladiatorial combat was increasingly looked down upon. Septimius Seversus had already banned female gladiators, and in 393 theodosius banned pagan rituals (which was what the gladiator fights were about in theory at least) whilst in 404 Honorius banned them outright - though fights in remote areas persisted where christians weren't able to stop them. Value depended on success. A tiro gladiator had roughly a one third chance of dying in his first fight, and good chance of being paired with a veteran fighter. Eventually, with survival and experience, a gladiator could reach survival chances of about 8 in 9. Only a small proportion of human beings are natural fighters and this was reflected in the survival rates. Typically a volunteer could expect to sign on for five years. Shorter or longer contracts existed, but five was the norm. It was also usual for a gladiator who survived four years (the life expectancy of a gladiator incidentially) to be set aside as a Doctores, a trainer, such as the character Marcellus in the Kirk Douglas film Spartacus. Gladiators were owned as troupes either by lanistas or private individuals (Cicero praises his friend Attalus in a letter for his excellent troupe of fighters). When fighters for games were required, a contract would be arranged between the games organiser and the owner. It was usual for compensation at fifty times the rental price for a fighters death. In other words, the games editor had to weigh carefully which was preferable when the crowd booed a contestant who could not continue - to please the crowd, or avoid a massive bill. Some gladiators were owned as bodyguards, some by military officers who used them to train soldiers in fighting tricks - laughable when you read how useless gladiators were in battle. The gladiator was allowed to keep a proportion of the prize money. This was how gladiators got wealthy if they survived. In fact, the potential money was the biggest draw for volunteers, though some clearly dreamt of super stardom in the arena. It was possible for a gladiator to buy his freedom though in truth I haven't seen much evidence for that. In fact, it was noted that gladiators formed strong ideas about performance and pleasing their owners. Although the troupe was a familia, men fought their best friends if need be. there's an inscription on one funerary monument that a man should be careful who he spares - since although a fighter could spare an opponent, refusing an order to kill him was rebellion and the normal practice was to bring in a fresh opponent until the refuser lost. Fights to the death? Well, they did happen, because Augustus banned fights sine missione (without mercy) but these weren't the norm. A fight was supposed to continue until one or the other could not manage any more, either by exhaustion or wounds, and a decision was made on his fate. Missio, the honourable release of a loser, was quite common - costs being what they were. Obviously swordfighting was dangerous and hence a man could be killed outright. Demo fights in the morning would end at the first blood, professional bouts in the afternoon were serious, with rest periods if the match went on a long time (this practice tended to vanish in the Dominate where exhaustion was part of the drama). On the other hand, we have Seneca visiting the arena one lunchtime and he was horrified at the spectacle of death. Hoping to see some entertainment, he reports that "It was sheer murder out there". So sometimes, orderly contests went by the board.
  6. caldrail

    Gladiatrix - source?

    Interesting, because the padding would only apply to one leg (the one leading which would be under her shield and therefore prone to bruising injuries). Sources mention female gladiators in passing, from their arrival as comedy sets during the reign of Nero to their ban as proper fighters by Septimius Severus. I don't know the source you're looking for but it would seem to be a private letter.
  7. caldrail

    Overlaps, Based on True Events, and Historical Fictions

    Giants are universally present in ancient literature in some form or fashion. Even the Bible mentions a race of them (There is currently a belief in many researchers that a race of giant hominoids lived on Sardinia. So far real evidence is lacking among accusations of cover-ups and conspiracy theories, but to be honest, giant species wouldn't normally evolve on an island - the small enviroment tends to promote smaller individuals). But culture can adopt literature all too easily. The classic example is the "Holy Grail". There was a 'Holy Chalice' mentioned in three biblical gospels, but the Grail - not originally holy, first arrives in the late twelth century as a prop in a story called Perceval written by Chretien Des Troyes. The hero witnesses a ritual in which the grail is used, but the author died before finishing it, so we don't discover exactly what it is. Some time later Robert De Boron wrote Joseph D'Aramathie, which describes the Grail in a christian context for the first time. The christian church has long been happy to fuse the two objects together and now around two hundred objects are claimed to be the Grail. Then of course you have that silly Blood Royal alternative. In other words, people are seeking reality from a prop in a medieval romance. Just don't get me started on the Bible
  8. That sort of parallel has been on forums for the last twenty years. Strictly speaking, the context is wildly different thus a true comparison is not possible. However, the recent indecisive politics in British Parliament has made me wonder about the parallel with the senate of the late Republic. Of itself, merely a phase we're going through, since really it's effective and charismatic leadership we lack. But on the other hand, the chaotic factionalism makes me wonder if we're risking extremist government in the same way that the Senate failed to obstruct the rise of warlords in the period I previously mentioned. If so, we're in danger of a government we really don't want. On the other hand, as has been said a number of times on television interviews with politicians and members of the public, we're British, and therefore will eventually muddle through irrespective of the ridiculous situation we've created for ourselves.
  9. caldrail

    Heirs of Augustus

    I really need to reread the sources at some point - I can't find the quote I was thinking of. However, I did note that Casius Dio mentions the suspicion of her involvement in the death of Marcellus and Tacitus is none too full of praise of her. Augustus was said to have died while kissing her, telling her to remember their marriage as he said goodbye, but one suspects this was normal Roman dramatics and the anecdote shouldn't be taken too seriously.
  10. caldrail

    Heirs of Augustus

    Suetonius reported that many thought Livia was guilty of machinations to get her son (by a previous husband) Tiberius into succession. There were some suspicious deaths. Marcellus died of an illness - Augustus had apparently caught the same bug but survived, and so did his sons Gaius and Lucius.
  11. caldrail

    What would happen if a commoner wore Toga Picta

    The Romans were intensely aware of social status and the privileges accrued. Sitting in the wrong seat at the theatre in the days of the Principate was seen as breaching this sort of thing. Wearing a toga you weren't entitled to was likely to end in something ridiculously harsh (Caligula executed a visiting foreign king because he wore an especially fine purple cloak to a public event). Much depended on who you were. A commoner, humiliores, would expect the most extreme punishments anyway. According to degree of offence, the guilty man (or rather ignorant victim) could be burned alive, set upon by wild beasts in the arena, required to fight over a dagger in the arena as a noxus, the winner required to pass the dagger to the next criminal ushered into the arena, or enslavement in manual labour (the least deadly option and even then not survivable for any length of time, and please note, galley oarsmen were professional sailors in ancient Rome, not slaves)
  12. caldrail

    Treatment of conquered land and peoples

    Cassius Dio mentions a number of times how someone was made a slave of. He's not talking about legal servitude as a servant, but rather that the individual was in a position such that he was obliged to do as he was told. My views on colonialism are guided very much by archeology but also the sources, which occaisionsally give off clues. The ownership of a roman pot does not make you Roman. What matters is context, in this case, the nature of settlement and who lived there. Often the Roman state didn't want external land - an expedition was punitive and designed to quell a security threat before marching home again. This was more true of the imperial period than republican. The Italian tribal lands had retained their status as parts of a loose federation within the empire because originally Rome had won a war with them and accepted their good behaviour as allies afterward, based on comparable civilisation. When dealing with 'barbarian' lands, there was far less consideration. The incorporation was not about land but about population. Wilderness - of which there was plenty in Roman times - was of no concern to the Romans whatsoever, and areas were used to bundle more important land such as settlements or resources. Transformation of land was always a later initiative, particularly since the Augustan Franchise, in which the state rewarded settlements with tax breaks and concessions (or other important benefits) for emulating Rome, which clearly favoured urban development. The estates of the wealthy tended to be in certain regions, particularly Italy, but also Sicily, Greece, North Africa, southern France, and parts of Spain. This was as much to do with convenience as availability or suitability. OF course there were always exceptions, thus one can find large estates in the SE of England where Romanesque culture was strongest - but beware - some, if not the majority - of these provincial estates were in fact owned by wealthy locals who would have not necessarily have been exhibiting total conversion to Roman lifestyles but enjoying as much as they preferred and could afford. War veterans were not usually well served with gifts of land. One of the complaints that led to mutinies on the death of Augustus was the poor land they knew they would get on retirement.
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  14. caldrail

    Treatment of conquered land and peoples

    Rome was not concerned with lifestyles at all other than loyalty and tribute to Rome were observed. For instance, in my home area, a hillfort was occupied by the local Britons throughout the occupation and the Romans don't seem to have bothered them. Remember that free will and self determination were extremely important in Roman culture - it was what made human beings superior in their eyes - anything else was either a slave or an animal. Of course obedience was necessary sometimes such as military discipline in the legions, but these were accepted exceptions. Note what happened in Germania after Publius Varus took control. He was sent there to administer the occupied territories (Rome had not officially annexed them) and to secure tax revenue for Augustus, keen to fund games and civic improvements. Although Varus was told that the German tribes were going to revolt, he believed that they would see Roman law as superior and adopt the invaders culture willingly, an impression aided by the apparent complicity of the tribes. He was well and truly fooled. People often talk about 'Romanisation' today, declaring that within a generation or two Roman culture was adopted and to all intents and purposes the empire was solidly Roman from one end to the other. This is a very deep misinterpretation. It didn't matter if the locals chose not to Romanise - that was their choice. Tacitus sneers at the Britons for their attempts to mimic Roman culture, and mentions the Gauls as most closely emulating them. It was an example of the bell curve. At the extremes, a local might discard anything Roman, or adopt the culture completely. In between, the majority took on board whatever level of Roman ways that suited them. Naturally the Romans offered their culture both as a reward and a means of compatibility, thus they persuaded local leaders to become 'Roman' and thus they could be plugged straight into the Roman political network and employ their local networks of loyalty usefully. Then again, malcontents might expect something a great deal harsher.
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