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Everything posted by caldrail

  1. caldrail

    Life and times of Flavius Arbogast

    Prison in Roman times was not a punishment per se, rather a place to hold someone until a punishment was ordered (and usually relatively quickly). It might be instructive to learn that prison was not a punishment in its own right in Britain until legislation was passed in the 1860's to establish a basis for rehabilitation of a criminal. IF a man is exiled rather than executed it generally occurs because he is classed as honestiores, or basically, an upper class Roman. Humiliories, the lower classes, could not expect such leniency. As for character, ambitious career Romans tended to be opportunistic. Patricians sometimes got involved in some shady schemes on the quiet. Remember that the 'public face' of important Romans was something endemic in roman society. Even if someone were not actually guilty, rumour, gossip, information, or blatant accusation were common means of getting a rival into trouble. Accusations of witchcraft were taken very seriously. Poisonings and social misdemeanours like involvement in commerce might also be used as condemnation if enough witnesses could be found. Sometimes it was merely petty intrigue with lots of sneering and insults to destroy a man's reputation. It was such a situation that under Roman law, slaves could not offer evidence unless they had been tortured to obtain it, because their owners might have instructed them as to what to say.
  2. I think it's worth remembering that someof Rome's concrete structures have survived. There were very few building regulations in those days and no universal standards. The 'cowboy builders' of the Roman era were infamous for their quick and jerry built constructions to maximise profit at the expense of any notion of safety. Also, in the Colosseum, we have at least one example of builders using a cheap non-waterproof alternative to avoid costs.
  3. caldrail

    How 3rd century Chinese saw the Romans

    Both empires were well aware of each other, although they were a bit hazy about exactly where. The Chinese attempted once to gain Romes help in dealing with barbarian tribes - their emissary reached the Persian Gulf and asked if he could reach Rome by sea. The sailors apparently said yes, but one would have to go around Africa taking two months to more than a year if weather went against him. He was advised to take rations for three years. Needless to say, unaware the overland distance was more practicable, he gave up his quest. It's believed that the Romans sent one successful diplomatic mission to China though nothing came of it, and one Roman ship reached Chinese shores - ever. There is no record it returned safely. The Romans in particular found imported silk the must-have material for all sorts of uses and thus wanted to maintain strong trading links. Eventually as we know silk moth eggs were smuggled west and China's monopoly was lost.
  4. Well, I can't dop the maths, and I don't doubt for a minute that a lead sling bullet can kill - but the same stopping power as a .44 Magnum? Perhaps, but that does seem a little exaggerated to me. However, one should read the article and research the figures I guess.
  5. caldrail

    The XI Claudia Legion

    I can't find any solid info on this but I have a thought. We know that the XI Claudia was sending out vexillations to other parts of the empire during the mid to late imperial era. A vexillation is a non standard formation size and it's thought that many of these sent by various legions to pursue Roman military objectives never returned to the home unit. Nothing dramatic I'm afraid, it's just that as the empire wore on paying troops was getting hardr. many went without pay at all, either being rewarded by alternatives such as land or finding themselves civilian jobs. So I kind of wonder if the XI Claudia evaporated over time, troops settling in on their new territories, or simply going civilian since nobody seemed to care.
  6. caldrail

    Just Me And The Night

    As I type this blog entry it's nearly half past four in the morning. The blackness of the night is giving way to that pale blue twilight before dawn, the amber street lights still shining . It's too warm to sleep anyway. With the window open, I can hear birdsong outside in the street. Birdsong? There used to be a time when you never heard birds until the sun was up. These days I hear them chirping all night and I find it very hard to get used to it. A couple of weeks ago there was one night when the birds stayed silent - why I have no idea - and that was the comfortable familiar silence I remember from my younger days. Not even a speeding hatchback bobbing up and down to the beat of overlarge sub-woofers in the boot. Not even a distant singing contest from a drunken rabble. Not even the relentless giggles and shrieks of girls in a wobbling contest on their high heels. Nope, it's peaceful out there. I like that. A new day is coming my way. Coming for someone else too, as the first of the morning commute drives past my home. When the day progresses the noise will increase, not just because of the traffic jams of an urban main road, but the volume level of car stereos rising in direct proportion to summer sunshine. So many people adopting stereotypes and lifestyles mapped out by... ahhh... Come to think of it, who exactly dictates how we live? Stacey A colleague at work is one of those men who finds it impossible to live without a partner. It's as if blokes like him struggle to feel comfortable without a woman to define their manhood. Personally I don't suffer from that malaise. To be with someone merely for appearances, or because of some lack of identity, or an addiction to social behaviour? No, my life is not defined by who I'm with, even though a great many people in my home town seem to feel it should be and voice their disapproval regularly. Pfah. None of their business, and as for their opinons... Erm... Who are they, exactly? But my colleague needs his fix. Quite why I don't know, he has a catalogue of spectacular failures, a divorcee with restraining orders against him, children he cannot contact, the loss of property and even a roof over his head, plus the bitter memories of a prison sentence he doesn't feel he deserved. For a while he was feeling enthusiastic about Stacey, an American woman who claimed she was a US Army sergeant in Iraq (despite using a British phone number). Eventually her demands for cash and expensive presents overcame his desire to pair off. Now Stacey wants the latest Samsung smartphone worth a whopping five hundred pounds for her birthday. Money to pay for her mothers hospital bills. Money to pay for this, pay for that. Tell her where to go, I advise him, she's just a con merchant. He knows, he agrees, but he cannot let go of a contact, even if it is only a facebook friend. Luckily now he's dscovered another facebook friend to occupy his need to fill a void in his life, this time a lady in far away Indonesia. I rib him about her, enquiring whether he's jetting off to see her on the weekend. Actually it came as quite a shock to me to discover he really was planning to travel there. The red tape involved prevented his departure at short notice, and to be fair, the crash of British Airway's computer systems this week would have stopped him anyway. I hope he's made a good choice this time, and I wish him well in is search for completeness. It does beg the question though – how can people regard facebook contacts as actual friends? They’re just not. Claiming you have thousands of friends online is an exercise of ego and folly, for at best, the vast majority are only ever going to be fair weather friends, and for practical purposes, hardly any of them will ever meet you face to face. Human social dynamics mean that almost everyone will only have less than ten genuine friends at any time, and more than a hundred is unmanageable for us. Add to that the anonymity that the internet allows. Partly out of a need for security, it must be said, but I’ve seen all sorts of inflated claims by individuals seeking more respect than they deserve. Or for that matter, more money. Screenie Of The Week Doesn't that look a bit like a Lancaster bomber without gun turrets? It should do. This is the Avro Lancastrian, the civilian cargo plane version of Britain's most famous WW2 bomber. Cold, draughty, noisy, no creature comforts except a flask of tea passed around, all rattling rivets and vibrating aluminium panels. But on the plus side, long range and good lifting ability, albeit not exactly convenient to load. Carrying around nine to thirteen passengers, that's a lot of aeroplane for so few people on board, with four gas guzzling Merlin engines pumping out a total of 6500hp at full chat. We're used to thinking of military flying when talking about WW2, but the Lancastrian began its career in 1943, flying between Britain and Canada, and the similarly derived (but much more suitable) Avro York starting its transport life the year after. Pictured here turning onto the approach for Sonderborg, Denmark, my approach was spoilt by a light aeroplane on finals at the same time. In real life, I would have gotten a serious telling off for puting her down against explicit orders to 'go around', but hey, I'm tired and I want to go to bed. Time then to snooze and dream of aeroplanes past. Or whatever subconcoius chaos that goes through my head.. Right now I notice the blueness has gone, the street lights have switched off, and the passing of cars and motorbikes is stepping up in frequency. Dayligjht has arrived. Happy birthday Stacey. Sorry your present hasn't arrived, but I guess someone else will send you something expensive.
  7. Aha, now this is right up my street. Firstly, the idea of monarchy is actually ours and comes from translation of latin texts, which lose something of the original meaning in translation. The Roman word for 'king' is Rex, but when they use that word, they don't mean the sort of monarch we immediately think of, a sort of medievalesque dynast. The word Rex means, more strictly, "Tyrant In Charge". Romans associated absolute and permanent rule by one man as tyrannical inherently. This is why the idea of being a king was so abhorrent to them after the Republic was founded. Although Rome was never properly a democracy, it did have democratic sentiments, and the Romans believed that free will and self determination was what made a human being superior to animals.(slaves were legally 'Not Human' and equivalent to animals, because they were told what to do). The idea that one man could dictate to the nation state effectively meant he was enslaving society as a whole, so perhaps you can understand why the Romans weren't happy about Rex-hood. Julius Caesar had every intention of ruling Rome. His career works toward that end. But notice how he puts on a display at one Lupercalia by refusing three times the 'Crown' offered by Marc Antony. Instead, he gets himself made Dictator for three years. Dictator was a Republican office in which a man was given full executive power to cope with an emergency. After six months, or the end of the crisis, the power should be handed back to the Senate. Or else. Caesar then got himself;f made Dictator for ten years, and finally, for life. That made him an absolute ruler, the only Roman to have that power since the end of the Roman monarchical period when Tarquin Superbus was ousted. It also made him Rex, despite his efforts to show he wasn't, and nobody was really fooled. With him permanently in power, he was too powerful, and no-one else could have their turn at the top. So the conspiracy to get rid of him began and eventually Caesar was assassinated. Augustus comes to power after surviving the civil wars in a position of supreme influence. As it happens, Augustus had once seized power illegally. A centurion had marched into the Senate and told the assemblage to make Octavian Consul, holding the hilt of his sword "Or this will". But as the man holding the reins with a victorious army, he was keen not to make the mistake that Caesar had made. In fact Marc Antony had abolished the post of Dictator after Caesar's death. yet with Augustus so influential and potentially dangerous, there were accusations of whether he was Dictator and would he please admit it. Augustus always refused. He even refused to be called 'Dominus' as he portrayed a more egalitarian image. He called himself Princeps 'First Citizen', and pursued a role of executive advisor, though few were really fooled by that either, but at least he wasn't trying to be Rex. Of course Augustus wanted to dominate and rule - he was an ambitious man, but note that Suetonius mentions that twice Augustus seriously considered giving up his role and returning power to the Senate (which is kind of interesting given that one of his first acts as ruler and victor of the wars was to hand power back to the Senate officially) Does that make him a monarch? Cassius Dio moans that he might as well have been, such was the extraordinary power and influence that Augustus successfully managed to maintain to his death of old age. For Dio, writing in a later period when the Caesars had gotten used to wielding power, it was an obvious comparison. Yet no Caesar after Julius, not even Augustus, was ever an absolute ruler. Their role in society was as the top social dog, with political offices, honours, rights, and such given to him by the Senate. Although it had overtones of dynastic rule, the job was never officially part of a Roman constitution, never actually required to run the state, never defined or regulated, with no established means of succession other than winner takes all. You grabbed power, wielded money and influence, maintained your popularity, and ttried to avoid being bumped off by those frightened of you or those that wanted to be where you are. Augustus clearly had every intention of founding a dynasty of executive advisors in his mould. fate had other ideas, and he was forced to nominate Tiberius as his successor - though this was not official - merely another Augustan guideline. Was he a monarch? Not in the modern or medieval sense, as he was never crowned or titled as such, nor was such a role ever tolerated in Rome after Ttarquin. Was he a monarch in Roman estimations? Yes. If you understand why.
  8. caldrail

    The influence of Gaius Marius

    Marius was only using and adapting changes already in progress within Roman society. His reforms of the legions made official many changes and experiments that had already been used in the Punic Wars. So whilst he is guilty of divorcing Rome's military from the state and making military organisation a much more feudal-esque idea, that was the direction things were going in anyway. One can speculate that characters like Caesar would have made the changes that Marius already had - they certainly seized the opportunities provided.
  9. caldrail


    'Evil' is subjective, but the question asks whether the Roman Empire was evil from our perspective. Defining 'Evil' is pointless - it remains an opinion and therefore everyone has a different conception of what evil is (though most of us would be somewhere in the same ball park). Further, the idea is clouded by modern perception of what a nation state is, and a suprising number of people imagine SPQR to be some kind of centrally controlled totalitarian state much like Humanity experienced in living memory. Of course Rome was never like that. It was a city state with interests in a large swathe of self governing but ostensibly loyal provinces. Control was never absolute. It can be easily said that there were evil people within the empire, some of whom in positions of power and influence, but this was always balanced by the actions of the good or the disgruntled. I agree that Rome was tyrannical in some respects - that was a reality of ancient politics.
  10. caldrail

    Real Romans Don't Wear Pants

    It was an attempt to stifle the spread of barbarian fashions which many senior Romans objected to.
  11. caldrail

    Did Caligula Actually Make His Steed A Consul?

    No, he didn't. Caligula was not impressed with the performance of the Senate, any more than they were impressed with his antics. So, having lost his temper, Caligula told senators how useless they were. Effectively he was saying "My horse could do a better job than you lot and if you don't watch it, I'll make him Consul!". Like many such events in the lives of powerful characters, those who overheard it drew other conclusions or added emphasis in spreading the story.
  12. caldrail

    Crucifixion in Rome

    However, it is very important to underline that my information is based on a single archeological find now in a Jerusalem museum. Whilst it conforms with the known tree/timber availability in ancient Judaea and accounts of crucifixions in the sources, it is drawing conclusions from one find, and that can never be certain.
  13. caldrail

    The influence of Gaius Marius

    Remember that Caesar was brought up to be a success from childhood, and whilst I don't doubt Marius was influential to some degree, he does not stand out in the same way as Caesar would later in life. As power hungry as Marius was, he still played by the rules, unlike Caesar who would later throw the rulebook into the Rubicon and go for total control albeit in polite style, and his influence was rather more dangerous to Rome than he was personally, in that by creating a persistent legion answerable to him rather than the state, it set in motion precedents that led to the unstable politicisation of the military as legions were no longer part of a national army but instead packets of military force allocated to politicians. Would Rome have been so very different? No, not really. Specific events and details would be different of course but the same charismatic and ambitious individuals would have nonetheless behaved similarly. Marius made changes that sped up the process that led to the Principate - but those changes were waiting to develop. Roman society was not going to much the better in the circumstances prevailing.
  14. caldrail

    Crucifixion in Rome

    Evidence of crucifixions has been found in Israel. One skeletal foot still had the remains of a hefty iron nail embedded in it, and it appears that these nails were recycled after death of the unfortunate victim. In this case, a knot in the wood seems to have deflected the point of the nail such that the nail could not be removed, so they buried the victim with the nail still attached. Further, the traditional crossbeam was only viable in areas with plentiful lumber. In ancient Judaea there seems to have been rather less wood to be had, so the victim was nailed to a more lightly constructed 'X' frame closer to the ground - which probably would have been the correct form of crucifixion for jesus, thus the story of carrying the cross to the execution site has somewhat disappointing ramifcations.
  15. caldrail

    Julius Caesar: 15 Things You Didn’t Know

    The assassins were well aware of Caesar's popularity. Nonetheless, he had become Dictator, permanently. That was a republican post where a nominee was given full emergency powers until the emergency was over or six months had elapsed. To be given it for life was unprecedented - and it meant that Caesar was by any other name Rex, the title we usually translate as 'king' but the Romans saw it as something much more tyrannical that our usual quasi-medieval image. With Caesar as Dictator, no-one else stood a chance of becoming top dog, and with that sort of power it was too dangerous. Rome had become a republic to get rid of that sort of situation (The expulsion and later defeat of Tarquinus the Proud) and Rex was almost a dirty word. Caesar had made a theatrical show of refusing the crown offered by Marc Antony during a Lupercalia - it didn't fool anyone. Caesar had to go, even if he was polite and respectful of the Senate. The Romans were not really aware that the empire had grown too large for governance since at that stage it did not affect them. Provinces were not ruled from Rome. They were ruled locally by local hierarchies with a governor acting as guarantor of legal and loyalty issues. Please note that a governor did not interfere in normal day to day affairs and was the last word in both Roman and local law. The ability of future Caesars during the imperial era to rule Rome declined because they were continually bleeding off power from the Senate to rule autocratically as much as possible. Whereas under the original system the empire might well have functioned reliably, the Caesar's ambitions basically made it increasingly difficult for them to maintain rule, especially since the bonds of provincial loyalty were no longer to the state, but to individuals, with the usual human vagaries involved.
  16. caldrail

    The Grim Struggle With Popularity

    Some of my work colleagues are not too impressed with me right now. Pfah. As if I care. The reason is that one of the youngsters is having his birthday celebration today and I have no intention of turning up. Truth is he's always kept me at arms length as it were, and never really conversed with me. No problem, but his big party is therefore of no importance to me whatsoever. Another colleague attempted to persuade me to turn up during the queue for the end of day attendance scan - I told him I was indifferent and why, right in front of the whole shift. I certainly don't mind carousing but as an afterthought? No, I don't need popularity like youngsters do, and I don't need to get drunk just to have a good time. Get A New One Once in a while the top boss in a huge multi-national corporation will pop in and look around. As you might expect, when there's a threat of someone important wandering around the workplace, managers suddenly get very insistent on tidiness and activity. If you work for a Japanese company as I do, the issue is worse, because they have all sorts of expectations. Even if you work in a warehouse full of dust producing cardboard packaging and oil soaked parts, workers must be clean and spotless. I discovered this on my way back from break as a pair of managers assessed everyone passing by for adherence to uniform code. I failed because my hi-vis was a little dust and oil marked by lots of activity (I'm not the cleanest worker in the world as I prefer to get things done). Okay, I admit it, it was no longer a bright yellow but instead had become a sort of faded cammo pattern of dull green and grey. The subordinate team leader demanded my attention and quietly told me to get a new hi-vis. That's an order. Yes sir. The New One Doesn't Work That new tyrannosaurus of a cardboard baler is proving a problem child. We're all shaking our heads and muttering "I told them so" as the machine fails to work reliably straight from the installation. It is a big issue of course. The amount of cardboard we go through is vast - one of the mechanics working on the new machine could not believe how much cardboard our company has to deal with, a feature of having to deal with bulk supplies of auto parts that must be delivered in pristine condition, and whilst he spoke, the yard outside was filling up with temporary bins full of the stuff. They even called overtime specifically to help clear it. Now parts of the machine have failed and must go back to Germany to be redesigned and manufactured. You know, for months I was essentially the only associate working on cardboard waste within the warehouse, dealing with smaller boxes whilst the bigger external machines took care of larger packages. Now they have a regular crowd of workers trying to cope with the load and regularly get swamped. One of my colleagues said that things were easier when I was baling. Feels nice to be wanted doesn't it? Sigh. Oh well, the next order has been passed to me and packages full of auto parts must be decanted into stillages for the production line. So that's another load of oil soaked impact bars then. I can see why my colleagues want to get drunk. Screenie of the Week It's a long bank holiday this easter so a spot of virtual flying is called for. I just love those big propliners and cargo planes, this one - a Douglas C124 from the Cold War era is no exception, seen here flying important cargo and probably a few sailors on a free ticket from a naval base in the Puget Sound to Alameda in sunny California. Enjoy the pic... Drunk in charge of that wonderful machine? That's just criminal. I had a lovely evening - instead of loud crowd noise, thudding metronome beats in the background, and all the hot sweaty jostling for another drink, all I heard was the mighty rumble of four large capacity radial aero-engines. Heaven. Oh all right, I admit it, I also indulged myself with a spot of heavy metal guitar. Hell too Well, the holiday isn't over, and I have more time to wander around the supermarket to find something different and interesting.... Aha... That bottle of White Rum looks good....
  17. caldrail

    Moving the Roman army

    A lot of what is said about Roman logistics is a little exaggerated. The truth is they were not as well organised on a daily basis as is usually claimed. To undergo a march, especially if not planned for, legions would mount a requisition of the local area, basically acquiring anything they thought desirable from the local populace who could do very little about it and risked violence if they did. Legions were capable of great logistical feats but this depended on who was in charge and where the army was - a stationary site was far easier to supply than a marching column and for that matter, troops went with a certain amount of field rations or resources (up to around seventeen days worth at most depending on what they had in store). The situation grew worse in the late empire because there was less enthusiasm and ability to organise. let alone conduct a campaign. Unlike columns of later eras, Roman armies did not have central supply bases sending trains of wagons to supply them (they did try this for a while in the late empire unsuccessfully). Therefore a lot of Roman logistics was about local foraging - this is supported by the sources - and pre-arranged supply drops by ship if possible, though clearly there was room for disaster in this approach and this was something the Romans were well aware of. In fact, if you notice, the legions were supposed to be as self-sufficient as possible, though by the late empire this ability had eroded. Later Roman armies were far better at what Goldsworthy calls 'low level warfare' than large scale campaigning. In that style of warfare, small raiding forces move quickly and cannot rely on logistics at all, being dependent entirely on what they carry or can acquire. PS - I did forget to underline that in most cases the Roman legions marched with a wagon train in the column. Although the speed of their marches is sometimes praised, the forced marches would have to dispense with this most basic of supply situation because with a wagon train, the march is at the average speed of the animals which is quite slow. Also with a train in tow a complement of camp followers and adventurous merchants would be tagging along.
  18. Well into the middle ages in secret, reactivated as fashionable alternatives from the Rennaisance onward, but with Christianity dominant and in post Roman times very intolerant of paganism, it was never going to gain any popular acceptance. For instance,... http://www.loyno.edu/~history/journal/1986-7/horton.htm
  19. caldrail

    Oh Yes, It Will Be Mine

    Money is a funny thing. Some people are almost supernaturally capable of accruing it, others simply take what others earn without permission, and most of us get by with what we can get. How we spend our cash is another matter. Younger people tend to be hedonistic - there's a young lad at work who has spent his entire monthly pay cheque in two days each and every time. To be fair, he doesn't moan about the hassles of having no money like some do, but all the same time, he desperately needs some financial advice and discipline. On the other end of the scale is one guy I often talk to who wanted to propose to his girlfriend. So he went out and bought an engagement ring. Nine pounds? Don't be silly. Ninety points? Not good enough. Nine hundred pounds? Doesn't make that big statement. No, he squandered his savings, nine thousand pounds, on the ring. Happily she said yes. Given how depressed he gets by the end of a working shift maybe that's just as well. I must confess I do sometimes spend on impulse. The other day I wandered past the local pawnbroker and thought that since I had some time on my hands, why not have a browse? It's sometimes interesting what people will sell. I went over to the line of guitars hanging on the wall. One stood out immediately, a gothic metal style electric guitar with a huge price tag. I looked closer. Floyd Rose tremolo, Seymour Duncan pickups, 24 frets with gothic inlays, full locking, and a feel of quality. Oh yes. It will be mine. Right now, hey, Mr Manager, I want this..... So I have ownership of an upmarket electric guitar retailing at nearly a thousand pounds, though I got it considerably cheaper as secondhand.. At first it was horrendous to play because the action (the height of strings above the fretboard) was ridiculous. Too high and the fingers have to make clumsy, slow, and overlong movements. Too low and you get fret buzz and a nasty truncated sound. But adjust it correctly and.... Please excuse me while an adult male goes glassy eyed and rather excited by a smooth and heavyweight distorted guitar sound. Money can be so useful sometimes. Oh No, Not Scotland Again... That detestable Sturgeon woman just won't shut up. She and other Scottish Nationalists are spouting their demands for another referendum on independence. This time we had Alex Salmond, the politician who failed last time to persuade the Scots to leave the United Kingdom, claiming that the British government cannot ignore democracy. Excuse me? I seem to remember the Scots have had a referendum on independence and chose to remain within the United Kingdom. Sorry Mr Salmond, but you cannot ignore democracy. Worse still the Nationalists seem to believe that if you don't like the result of a referendum then vote again until you do. What's democratic about that? But where is Scotland going to get the money from? North Sea oil and gas revenues having vanished, the only option is to stay in the EU. Which they cannot do as part of the UK since Brexit is now enabled by parliamentary law and signed off by the Queen. As an independent country? What they don't seem to realise is that as a new country, even if they get independence before Brexit is finalised, they still have to apply for EU membership, require full consent of current members, and won't have the financial perks hard won by British politicians over the years. A colleague at work suggested the English should have a referendum to decide whether we want the Scots with us or not. I'm starting to agree with him. Get rid of those moaning minnies up north and forget them. Close the border and deport all those terrible Scottish people in our midst. I'm not the only one who has noticed that the Scots up north are the nicest people in the world whilst those living in England are just the rear end of human society, a comedian said exactly that on television. I don't really want to wish the Scottish any hardship but I confess I would take great pleasure in watching Scotland stumble.
  20. caldrail

    Psychology of Legionnaries

    Deep seated approval of military service? You might be shocked how little there was. For most, legion service was a guaranteed career for a couple of decades in imperial times assuming nothing untoward happened (the vast majority never saw anything more violent than a tavern punch-up ). However, the regard of most people was that the legions were a necessary evil or a business opportunity. Living near soldiers was a dubious benefit for some considering they often appropriated whatever they felt like and there was no real legal address other than complaints to the legion command, which got you nowhere, or worse, beaten up once or twice - and very severely - by outraged soldiers whose perks you interfered with. This is attested to in the sources. Note also that legion service was already beginning to become undesirable in the reign of Augustus. We have an account of a man punished for cutting off the thumbs of his sons so they would never serve, and Tiberius was asked to look into how many men were avoiding military service by hiding in rural slave barracks. The situation only got worse. By the end of his reign we have mutinies in Germania and Pannonia over conditions of service and the apparent withdrawal of normal retirement rights, caused by legion commanders who found it more cost effective to keep long serving veterans on the payroll by hook or by crook than waste time looking for raw recruits to replace them. And of course it got worse still over the course of the imperial period. People cutting their thumbs became a scandal, a real issue, such that Constantine ruled men without thumbs were still capable of civic roles. Valentinian ordered them burned alive, and Theodosius recruited them anyway on the basis that two men without thumbs were as good as one fully able man. By then recruitment was a corrupt affair with recruiters pocketing budgets and hiring cheaper migrants. Religion was making recruitment all the more difficult.
  21. It works a heck of a lot better than the old software. Thumbs up (or down, if you accept this new fangled interpretation of traditional symbolic getsures )
  22. caldrail

    Question about Latin and Trade

    The demand of the Roman world for people to speak latin only really impacts upon administration and politics, where we see the local Italian languages become recessive and maternal in persistence whereas latin dominates the paternal line because of the need to earn a living in a more expansive state, instead of the tribal regions cooperating but not actually run from Rome. I don't dispute that latin spread through trading, but learning the native language, or adopting a hybrid slang, would ordinarily be more conducive to getting a good deal.
  23. caldrail

    Praetorian Guard

    These should answer many questions... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scholae_Palatinae www.fectio.org.uk/articles/scholae.htm The Praetorians may have been disbanded by Constantine but the position of Praetorian Prefect remained as a political office.
  24. caldrail

    Doris, Dunces, and Dubious Practice

    Doris has been across England. It just isn't English to have storms and gale force gusts blasted the country, and someone really ought to do something about this freak weather. I mean, really.... But it happened. So I trudged four miles to work in a sort of unsteady zig-zag pattern depending on which way the wind was blowing. Luckily the rain held off. It was damp, a sort of fine spray, but no deluge made my life even more miserable than having to brave the elements each working day and endure the long hours of labour. Feed Me Our new big waster crusher is installed. It cost a vast sum of money - modesty and company privacy prevents me from mentioning the enormous wad of cash the installation has demanded. Over the last few months I've been getting familiar with each small baler and it's foibles. Reliable Olive, bad tempered Barney, lazy old Bob, neglected Nessie, and all the others. The engineer in charge of the new baler inadvertently called it 'Doris', and that is the name by which it shall be called. Doris it is. Now Doris is not a small machine. It's a veritable T Rex of a baler, permanently open mouthed and a 'feed me' expression it's sheet steel face. But times move on, I'm being put back on general duties, and Doris will have new keepers to tend to it's voracious appetite. Good. Boys Will Be Boys The high winds caused other problems for us, not least blowing rubbish down storage racking aisles that imposed obstacles for our long suffering forklift trucks. The answer that the managers conjured was to move an industrial 40ft skip inside the warehouse instead of leaving it out in the yard, so filling it could be done with doors closed. That would be fine, but one young colleague of mine, a former retail manager with a penchant for treating the workplace like an adventure playground, found organising the push as a great chance to climb, point, shout, and generally play at being important. The thing is I watched horrified as he rode the huge skip on top of a ladder whilst the forklift lifted, bumped, and edged the container forwards. That was visibly risky, and as soon as he was separate from everyone else, I headed over to remind him of Health & Safety in the Workplace. You see, in Britain this much hated concern has a very real relevance. If I see someone doing something dangerous and don't report or take action upon it, then any accident is just as much my own fault. That's enshrined in law. LP was not interested in my advice. "Yeah well you keep your opinions to yourself. You're not a manager." He told me firmly over his shoulder. Perhaps, but in view of his disrespect and blatent disregard for his own well-being, I had a word with a team leader who had a word with him. Of course that has now soured the relationship. We used to converse and joke together but frankly someone who once worked as a manger and keeps going on about becoming one again really ought to know better. He doesn't. His understanding of industrial practises are woeful, his attitude increasingly self important as managers come to rely on his organisational flair. Nonetheless, just as he reminded me, he isn't a manger either. And lately he's been given some very hard lessons on activity within the workplace, responsibility, and the prerogatives of status. Silly boy. But life is a learning process and hopefully for him, a safer one. Holiday Procedure of the Week This most coveted award must go to the agency I work for. I discovered a few days ago that if I don't book all my outstanding holiday by March 31st, I lose them, and the pay that goes with it. Oh great. Three Bank Holidays and a Spring Shutdown with no holiday allowance left afterward? Worst still, they gave me conflicting instructions on how to book a holiday. So as in most cases of these kinds, my internal emotional thermometer went straight to boiling point and angry phone calls were followed by visits of the agency rep to put me straight. A peace treaty concluded, I was told that my outstanding entitlement - which has to be calculated at Head Office - will be passed on to me by the end of the week. No, the end of the next week. No, the Wednesday after that. What a farce. Holiday request pending.
  25. caldrail


    The Roman world is often seen in modern popular opinion as an evil empire - but this is a reflection of more recent experience such as the vast scale of the ideological conflicts of the last century which more or less started in 1914 and haven't completely yet tailed off. The Roman Empire is a title one needs to be cautious of - they were not a unified society in terms of culture (many don't realise this - common perception is everyone got 'romanised' after being conquered, but that just isn't true, and the image of latin culture we get introduced to at school is incredibly misleading). Nor was their empire a coherent centrally controlled nation state - it was a patchwork of loyal territories with varying status. Mainland Italy for instance never achieved provincial status until the reign of Diocletian. Evil? Well, the Romans certainly got up to things we see as morally or ethically wrong. Politically they toy with tyranny to suit themselves. Their political system was not gentlemanly and often involved murder. Their justice system was very harsh and often partisan, their military functionally independent of state control and for that matter often barely under control, their entertainment heavily skewed in favour of violence and risk of death. Their Caesars were often power hungry, domineering, dangerous men. One or two genuinely flakey. That's accepted. In actual fact the Roman Empire was relatively benign, nothing like as cruel and overbearing to its own citizens as say the Sassanid Persian Empire. There was a genuine chance of social mobility, opportunities to prosper, ways of making your mark upon the world. The simple fact is, regardless of circumstance, the desire of former territories to look back upon the Roman Empire as a sort of 'golden age' is very expressive of the lingering attachment the bonds of latin dominance have left us - we still bear those marks today and it colours modern politics.