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Everything posted by caldrail

  1. caldrail

    What Made Caligula Crazy?

    It's difficult to be certain about these things because the nature of a conspiratorial society is that paranoia and misinterpretation sometimes interfere in business. There are many anecdotes in Roman history that mention innocent people getting harshly treated under suspicion. As much as some Caesar's had fixed their own fate, others were simply caught up in the machinations of others. Ruling Rome in that period was not a defined job - it was a composite of whatever status, support, honours, titles, and offices the holder could bring to bear, and in theory anyone could attempt to dominate the empire with no agreed form of succession ever. Further, Rome was a violent society, and grievances often led to deaths. If one is extremely powerful, wealthy, and so on, it is very easy to say or do something that will upset someone. To err on the side of caution would in all likelihood result in weakness being detected and that would be fatal at some point. Basically, the Caesar's had to play the game to survive, and that meant a heavy hand and a keen eye, but of course not everyone is so paranoid and ruthless, and being human, occaisionally they got careless or made poor decisions.
  2. caldrail

    What Made Caligula Crazy?

    Caligula wasn't crazy. I agree he wasn't especially well adjusted as an individual, but then the Romans were often colourful characters. What we can easily observe is his immaturity. He takes nothing seriously except his own importance and safety. He plays games with people, he acts out roles, such as general, auctioneer, gladiator, statesman, and so on. However his sense of humour is black, and as a cruel personality, almost like a child torturing ants, he is callous to lesser individuals. In fact his sense of humour did nothing for his survival chances. Cassius Chaerea, the Praetorian Prefect at the time, was a war hero from the conflicts in Germania. Unfortunately, Chaerea also had a soft voice, and Caligula teased him mercilessly about his manhood. Right up until Chaerea - alongside other conspirators - stabbed him in a tunnel leading to the theatre. There a re a number of anecdotes that seem to portray him as a nutter. Making his horse Incitatus a senator? He threatened to, on the grounds that the Senate were useless and his horse could do a better job, but anti-Caligulan propaganda and misinterpretation by witrnesses gave birth to the stories of his madness. Did he want to be worshipped as a god? Apparently, but then, this was considered normal for rulers in Egypt and it is no surprise he considered moving his capital to Alexandria (Egypt was also forbidden for Senators by Augustan rules thus he would rule as a god-king with no interference from those pesky layabouts in the Senate). His booty gathered at the expense of Neptune? Caligula had raised three legions to invade Britain, his attempt at military credibility, which like everything else he could not take seriously, staging fun and games along the way to the continental coast, where his troops, fearful of what lay ahead, mutinied on the beach and refused to embark. Caligula shamed them by ordering them to collect seashells - if Neptune was his enemy, then his booty will be from him, and presented the collection in Rome in order that the legions would be humiliated but of course the whole point was lost. There's a great deal of speculation about all sorts of weird and wonderful ailments he suffered during his famous bout of illness but really that's like trying to diagnose disease from a story. Can you identify the mental illness suffered by Frodo as he bore the Ring toward Mount Doom? Any conclusion is possible.
  3. caldrail

    Mausoleum of Augustus

    Well yes, but then Suetonius writes that he considers Julius Caesar the first (by virtue that Caesar had himself voted Dictator-For-Life, giving him full executive power as long as he lived - the only Roman to be so empowered after the kings were removed) and that we call Roman Caesars 'Emperors' - they did not, nor was there any such official role in Roman society. Roman Caesars based their power on two aspects - control of the legions (Normally through the honorary title of Imperator "Victorious General") and social status (Princeps "First Citizen"), plus odd governmental posts and powers such as tribunates and consulships. Most of these titles and powers were renewed by the Senate as and when. In other words, although not kings, these Caesars were tying al sorts of influence and power together to achieve something like the same position without disturbing Rome's antipathy of monarchy - this is why Adrian Goldsworthy refers to the Caesars as a "veiled monarchy" though personally I see it as a transitional form of domination. As Mary Beard points out in SPQR, Augustus did not simply invent 'emperor'; he experimented and developed the role during his reign, becoming more and more powerful as he 'seduced' the Roman world. Successors partially emulated him, partially attempted to extend the official status of one person rule, and partially assume powers normally ascribed to other parts of the government such as the Senate and popular voting assemblies. This is why we have the later imperial period called the Dominate, by which time the popular vote had gone forever and the Senate effectively powerless. Because military control was so vital to the survival of Roman rulers, they usually wished to assume the title of Imperator which has become synonymous with imperial power and is the origin of the modern word 'Emperor'.
  4. caldrail

    Ancient Crocodile Hunters

    I seem to recall that a display of crocodiles in the arena failed because the animals died before the show. In the reign of Augustus? I will have to read again.
  5. Hillbillies? No, rather followers of a dodgy cult. However it is worth remembering - as I did shortly after I posted previously, that Judaea was a discontented province - they did not really take too well to Roman culture and domination - and that radicals mixing politics and religion were active in Rome as well as their home province. The activities of the zealots for instance were a major part of the Jewish Revolt described by Josephus.
  6. caldrail


    Roman voting did not work as modern versions generally do. They worked on the principle that a small vote was taken, the result carried forward to a higher level as a block vote.
  7. caldrail

    Roman Army Slogan / Motto?

    I don't recall any specific such instance myself, though I do note the sources mentioning how a legion began a march in high spirits, singing, growing gradually silent as the conditions of marching begin to tell. There was the Baratus, a Roman war cry derived from tribal origins.
  8. The issue here is that we're dealing with the opinion of the lower classes which is not well recorded to say the least. The judaean origin of superstitions was probably not a problem for them given how fashionable foreign cults could be, especially those from Syria - an area that seemed to be particularly inventive and catered for all tastes in religious practice. What bothered Romans was the monotheistic nature of judaean beliefs in that pagan gods or even famous Romans deified were discarded. Most notoriously the divinity of Roman caesars was held in abeyance by Judaeans although Hollywood has perpetuated the Caligula-esque ideal of elevation during lifetime as common practice - it wasn't - the vast majority who were deified received the honour posthumously and please note that when Caligula started demanding worship as a living god the Romans were not impressed despite his popularity with the masses. It is no coincidence that Caligula wanted to move the Roman capital to Alexandria, not just for political reasons (Senators were banned by Augustan regulations to enter Egypt) but because worship of living rulers was common to ordinary Egyptians. Eye witnesses to early Christian rites misinterpreted their practises and were horrified that these cults apparently practised cannibalism, vampirism, baby sacrifice by drowning, and other grim tales. Rumour circulated and amplified these concerns. Then again, it is worth understanding that prior to Christian adoption the pagan gods were the protectors of the Romans, beings to whom one sacrificed in order to gain favour or good fortune, and that early Christianity was not a united movement but a collection of small cults each presenting their own vision of teachings. To some extent the earlier imperial period would have seen some derision by the more vocal members of the lower classes, as evidenced by the graffito. But then again, the idea of Jesus as the 'Son of God' was not universally accepted for hundreds of years, and as simply another charismatic preacher who came to a sticky end by becoming too popular with the crowds a certain disrespect is easy to understand there too, especially in a society that perpetuated ancestor and personality cults themselves. It also points toward a more worldy view of Jesus from Romans than we would normally see today, a man who was a self appointed spokesman rather than a semi-divine prophet. Given the barbaric rumours the Romans described Christianity with back then, little wonder the artist interpreted Jesus as something mockingly primitive.
  9. caldrail


    There's no certainty but we know that a candidate was selected when he achieved a 50% vote, so in other words, it was 'first past the post' and if necessary a second vote was called to select a second vacancy. It might well be, for practical purposes, that voting for consulships were separate anyway.
  10. caldrail

    Praetorian Guard

    Here we get a little subjective. But in fact, Caligula was murdered by a small gang of conspirators that did not include the Praetorian Cohorts, although a lead conspirator was Cassius Chaerea who was Praetorian Prefect at the time. Nero was declared an 'Enemy of the State' and yet in theory could still have called upon the Praetorians to support him in the crisis that led to his death, which was by a slave ordered to do the deed by Nero himself because he could not face suicide. Pertinax was approved by the Senate in the wake of Commodus (who was murdered by an athlete sent in by a small group of conspirators aware that Commodus might have been planning to execute them). As an experienced general of good reputation, much was expected, but Pertinax changed too much too quickly and didn't listen to advice. In particular he upset the Praetorians because he would not pay them bribes. Quite soon their tempers flared, and a large mob of drunken off-duty Praetorians entered the palace looking to confront Pertinax. He did confront them, quite bravely as it happens, but anger won out and once the violence started it got out of control instantly leaving Pertinax dead. The Praetorians shamefully auctioned off the empire to the highest bidder, a contest between Didius Julianus and his stepfather-in-law. Didiius won, but did not pay the Praetorians the sum of money he had promised, thus they did not come to his aid when news of Severus' insurrection reached Rome. Since Didius had achieved power by a sordid business deal, the Senate virtually ignored him, and sent an officer to kill him in order to curry favour with Severus when he arrived. Severus had the Praetorians parade when he took power. Unarmed, they were disbanded on the spot and replaced with loyal severan troops, with leading officers executed for their part in proceedings.
  11. A medical inspection would be more accurate. Firm muscles, good posture - open your mouth boy, I want to check your teeth... That sort of thing. Who was your father? A legionary? Excellent, you're in. And you boy? Your father was a what? A perfume seller? Ahem. Well thanks for turning up. No really, you can go. Get lost. Loyalty was not considered as recruitment point because it wasn't measured beforehand. Legionaries were made to swear oaths at various occaisions but the legions were more concerned about discipline and obedience than loyalty. In fact, the behaviour of Roman soldiers in everyday matters was nothing like the 'organised good manners' we expect of soldiers today. Romans could be quite vocal about their concerns - Roman society always shows evidence of the lower classes venting their anger and soldiers sometimes did so too. Much is made of discipline and whilst punishments could be very harsh, the troops were in fact barely under control in many circumstances. t was common policy to allow soldiers whatever time off they wanted if there was no civil project to occupy their attentions, and please note how quickly the legions in Germania and Pannonia fell into rebellious anarchy on the death of Augustus. There are letters that show other faults such as dereliction of duty, drunkenness, and theft from civilians, not to mention violence that might leave victims with serious or permanent injuries. Obedience to a centurion is a two sided coin. Whilst this was the desirable state of affairs, note that these centurions were responsible for leading their men and used strongarm tactics to keep their unit in order. Further, we have hints in the sources that soldiers would not follow the orders of a centurion they did not know or respect.
  12. caldrail

    Why Was Rome The Greatest Empire?

    What??? By gad Sir, an insult. I declare war and your country will have to suffer afternoon tea thereafter
  13. caldrail

    From The Land OF Snow

    It was bound to end in tears. A movement of cold air from Siberia plus an Atlantic storm coming up from the Bay of Biscay. Swindon rarely gets any snow despite being inland. Usually the worse areas are the eastern half of England, Scotland, and Ireland This time Swindon would not escape. To be fair, we were on the edge of amber weather warnings and didn't get hit as hard as some parts of the country, but up to foot of snow in Swindon is almost a natural disaster of memorable proportions. It was fun watching the foreigners at work. They were transfixed by the heavy snow flurries, constantly wandering to the nearest door to gaze at the unaccustomed weather. You would think the Poles were used to cold weather and the odd snowdrift, but they too shivered in the bitter English wind and moaned about the snow, though one or two snowballs were smuggled into the warehouse for special targets. A lady from Columbia simply had to take photographs. Lads from Goa stared at the unfamiliar sight of whiteness and suffered from the cold, which at around minus five centigrade was something a great deal less than the tropical sun of their homeland. In fact, on Friday morning I phoned the hotline to see whether the shift was going ahead. Nope. Cancelled due to inclement weather. So was my water supply at home. Oh great. I know. I'll phone the landlord. Sorry, he said, there's nothing he can do. Oh great. I know, I'll phone a plumber. Sorry, the receptionist said, there's nothing they can do. Frozen pipes you see. Yeah, I think I get the message. So I trudged back and forth buying bottled water and anyone who has been in that situation quickly learns how much water the average person gets through. The water came back on by itself. That was a little odd given the temperatures hadn't risen, but hey, let's not complain. Later last night the valve in my toilet cistern decided the new water supply was too much and popped open, releasing water all over the floor. I was lucky to hear the noise, and realised there was a problem. Water was spreading around the bathroom and probably downstairs too. An emergency! This is a job for.. erm... me. I don't know anything about plumbing. Quick, shut the water off. The inside tap was jammed solid. Quick, shut the water off on the outside tap. jammed solid. When you're in danger, when you need help, you need the Plumber - if you can find him. I phoned a series of numbers with 'Please hold' or simply no answer. Saturday night you see. Emergency call outs and 24hr service don't count for a lot when they want time off to socialise. Eventually I got through to one. My toilet is flooding the house. "Sorry Love," The lady answered, "But I've got nothing before Tuesday". What?!!! Your advert is in front of me. It says you deal with emergencies. "Yes, but we can't deal with it before Tuesday,.Sorry". Eventually I found a plumber willing to come out and assist. Only problem was he insisted on cash and probably wasn't keen to get his hands dirty with his domestic routine upset. Eventually I put the phone down on him. As luck would have it, the lady downstairs had called the landlord and of course chivalry won out over being capable. Toilet restored to working order. Panic over. The world is returning to sanity. From The Land Of Snow I watched as Putin gave his 'state of the nation' speech. He really is an old fashioned dictator, isn't he? The west was to blame, and Russia would not be pushed around, so here's the list of new weapon systems we're putting together to push the west around. With a belligerent President Trump - who will no doubt be keen to earn his wings by ordering a war somewhere or other as democratic leaders often do, and not just the American ones, it does not bode well. NATO troops already stationed in the Baltic states to ward off potential Russian expansion and the evening news talking about a new Cold War. Oh great. Well at least our Prime Minister, Theresa May, is upbeat about Brexit. Good. At least then we won't have to deploy long range smart cruise missiles to get a few concessions in negotiations with the EU team.
  14. A parallel is no surprise, for two reasons. Firstly we tend to spot similarities by nature (it's the basis of being able to recognise danger, other people, hunt animals, find forage, read books, or generally create outlandish conspiracy theories). Secondly Christianity has rather shamelessly rebranded beliefs, legends, and sacred sites to suit their needs since it became powerful in the latter stages of the Roman Empire. Interestingly enough however where Christianity became powerful was in the west, with Rome's power fading and it's half of SPQR evaporating from outside pressure and internal squabbles. In the east, where Constantine had based his power with the bulk of Roman wealth, the greek form of Christianity never did achieve the same hold on the populace and actually dwindled over the centuries. One suspects that hardship fosters hope in faith and so forth, whereas the comparatively well off east saw little need for formal worship. Why has god allowed us to become weaker and more miserable than all the tribal peoples? Why has he allowed us to be defeated by the barbarians, and subjected to the rule of our enemies? We enjoy immodest behaviour, the goths detest it. We avoid purity, they love it. Fornication is considered by them a crime and a danger, we honour it. Salvian (priest from Marseille, 440's)
  15. You have to be joking. I agree they were ruthless, determined, and capable of engineering that some armies couldn't match, but much of the methodology was derived from the greeks, and Egyptians in periods gone had been equally capable and it seems just as well organised. People sometimes place too much emphasis on te Roman model of warfare I think - which evolved into a one-trick tool. They used a heavy infantry army, useless against Surena's mounted archer army at Carrhae. Paulus' unelnlightened tactic of attack in a huge mass led to a spectacular defeat at Cannae. The Roman system worked not because of any innate superiority - they had any number of defeats to their credit - but because they always tried to exercise initiative, though the advantages of scale increasingly worked for them too. By the late empire the Roman legions were not exactly capable, nothing like their peak in the early empire. What is true is that the Romans often found capable leaders and that made the difference. A poor commander and the legions were not better than anyone else, even lacklustre in performance (Titus nearly had many junior officers executed when he was threatened by zealots during the siege of Jerusalem, and lwgionaries were not following simple regulations of having weaponry to hand during their siegeworks). Well led, a Roman legion was a difficult beast to defeat. Bear in mind, nearly half the major battles fought by Romans were against each other.
  16. When he was in Spain, Caesar was visiting a town with friends and spotted a statue of Alexander. He started to weep. His friends asked what was causing his misery. "This man" Caesar said, "at my age had conquered the world. I have done nothing". Alexander did not merely conquer a large area, he set in place a greek-orientated culture across the regions he had dominated that lasted long after he was dead. These regions demonstrate extensive ruins and remains of the period to this day, some now in obscure or difficult areas. Caesar did not inspire the same pro-Roman culture - that was the result of later influence or prior work by merchants. Had Alexander reached the age of sixty it's unlikely he would have extended his reach much further because his army in India had already threatened to mutiny if he did not stop.
  17. caldrail

    Translation Request

    Of course without context a simple translation could mean anything. If the latin phrase is something genuinely Roman, then it likely refers to the pagan god Janus Bifrons, normally known as Janus but in rural areas, particularly Etruria, alternatively known as Bifrons which might inmdicate an early example of Roman assimilation of local deities. Note how the Christian church has demonised pagan mythology over the centuries
  18. In North Korea, any overt religious display would be suspicious to the authorities. I imagine owning the Koran wouldn't be any less provocative. That's because it's a communist country which supplants religion with political worship. Russia used to do that - it was only their desperation in the early days of the Patriotic War that Stalin allowed churches to reopen in order to bolster civilian morale. I suspect something similar might be seen as a marker of DPRK's perception of their plight.
  19. Indeed, but that region had long been variable. Ramses the Great had moved his captal from Thebes to a city on the eastern branch of the Nile Delta, called Pi-Ramesses. Around a century or two after he died, the city was in trouble because the waterway it was built on had silted up and the water taken another course. It transpires that the populace moved their city, stone by stone, to a new site at Tanis - which also went dry only this time the city was abandoned.
  20. caldrail

    Translation Request

    Using Google Translate I get In the past, things bifrons prudence affairs / elicited keen mind and a sound reflector. This is a curious sentence as it appears more medieval than Roman because it refers to ... The Demon Bifrons. Therefore we have someone telling us that Bifrons used to be a source of information and encouraged learning, typical of an older view of sorcery which was magic learned from demons and thus a crime against God.
  21. I think we often forget how much the coastline changes around Britain. The white cliffs of Dover (mentioned by Cicero in his letters) have eroded around a kilometre inland since Caesar's time. Beaches have come and gone, harbours built and lost, and so forth. Finding a historical landing point isn't something I would have thought was a simple exercise unless you're lucky to be talking about an area that hasn't changed much and has reliable and generous information. Let's be honest, whilst the Romans left a great of writing for us, they rarely go into much detail about their subjects.
  22. Given how much religious persecution Christianity has handed out over the centuries, seeing them complain that it's happening to them is a bit hypocritical in my book.
  23. Why are Christians getting a star treatment? What colour did the Colosseum get lit for the plight of the Rohingya moslems? Okay, some Christians are having problems. So are some moslems, hindus, Buddhists, or other faiths. Come to think of it, why hasn't anyone worried themselves about the continuing plight of Christians in parts of Africa beset with some of the worlds worst atrocities? A good cause? No, no better than anything else, just one cause someone wanted to make a big deal out of. Not that lighting the Colosseum is going to make the slightest difference whatsoever.
  24. caldrail

    Mausoleum of Augustus

    As often happens in human societies the problem of what to do with the dead changes with the scale of the problem. In the same way that the Victorians eventually accepted the necessity of cremation to deal with the sheer numbers of deceased in London, so the Romans adapted their methods to deal with the relative lack of space in burial grounds around Rome. After all, Roman settlements are notable for the long lines of small mausoleums and memorials built along roadsides out of town.