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Everything posted by caldrail

  1. caldrail

    ORBIS - Travelling in the Roman Empire

    No. it expresses a model of Roman transport based on modern paradigms. For instance, it does not model the ignorance of the casual traveller - many Romans, whether freeborn or enslaved messengers, had no idea where their destination was whereas the user of ORBIS clearly would do. Optimal travel routes are therefore a bit fortunate. Granted the Romans had some access to route maps but these would have been rare and expensive. To be a bit nitpicky, it does not model risks of travel such as weather, violence, or crime. Travellers were sometimes at risk of capture by unscrupulous individuals and enslavement in rural barracks, or similar treatment from pirates.
  2. caldrail

    How Did the Political Structure in Rome influence U.S. Political Structure

    The founding fathers, among others, were learned men and had a grounding in the classics, thus they were well aware of the ancient governmental systems of Rome and Greece as they were understood back then. Many people criticise the Roman system - and to be fair, it was never really conducted in the manner intended - but as an example of a civilisation that threw off the yoke of tyrannical kings in favour of representation and so forth, the Republican system had a lot to offer the Americans who were miffed at the lack of representation in England.
  3. caldrail

    The influence of Gaius Marius

    There was a notable change for the worse. However, Marius had always been prone to personal rivalries, particularly Metellus and Sulla, thus in a sense one wonders if he wasn't his own worse enemy. In fact, in order to secure consular command on one occaision he attempted to spark a war with Pontus by insulting their king, who was a little wiser than Marius hoped for.
  4. caldrail

    The Boot Shape of Italy

    Sailors used to navigating the waters around might have had some clear idea but most people didn't have the same geographical/spacial awareness we take for granted today. The Romans often used maps based on linear depictions of their road network, showing connections rather than placement. It has been noted that many Romans began long journeys across their empire or even beyond without any real idea of where their stated destination actually was. In the grand scale, both Rome and China knew about the other by way of tales and rumour spread by merchants (a bare minimum of diplomatic contact was attempted either way without any real success) but the exact area of the other would not have been known.
  5. Personally I'm not convinced by the explanations of Jesus as something immortal, divine, or mission oriented. That's nothing to do with your scholarship I have to say but rather that Christianity has a very long history of explaining away awkward inconsistencies or statements by the very sort of contextual tweaking you relayed above. I saw the same thing in a tv series once, by way of analogy, where a solider goes to his padre and asks why he can be a paid solider for his country when the ten Commandments says he cannot kill. Ahh, said the Padre, but the rule is that you cannot murder. Killing is just fine as long as it's justifiable. Phew said the soldier, I was in a tight spot there. Okay, that's a bit of drama on television which we shouldn't take too seriously, but the message is there in a different context, an underlying concept that Christianity has a moral prerogative and as long as you can stretch the rules to fit, then the rules still apply and everything's good. That is for me one of the reasons I reject Christianity as a personal belief, but that's another subject. Purges against Christians in the Principate were hardly consistent or frequent. it is true that Christian cults had attracted rumours of such things as cannibalism, vampirism, sacrifice of infants, all misinterpretations of rituals observed, but there was little actual accusation of rebellion, the most glaring being the accusation made by Nero, correctly or not, that Christians were responsible for the Great Fire of Rome in 64. It is true there were a great many disaffected Judaeans around. Groups dedicated to political violence, pretty much an ancient manifestation of terrorism if you like, existed, much like the hard line Islamic State is among modern Islamic communities, and behaved in similar ways. There is also the Book of Revelations, which although the modern end-timer faithful insist is a modern prophecy which has failed to transpire since the first public proclamations of 1844, can be read as anti-Roman propaganda, and indeed some scholars have put forward the view it was written by Judaean exiles in protest of the Roman occupation. it is true that the Judaean people had religious beliefs that did not sit well with Roman culture, either way, and Pilate's habit of decorating his home with images of Roman military and religious icons caused Tiberius to order him to cease the practice for the outrage among the province it caused. Tiberius did not order a persecution of the Jews, merely told Pilate to stop annoying them.
  6. Jesus is not unique. There had been a line of charismatic prophets attracting large crowds - all came to a sticky end from the authorities. What is unusual is the persistence of Christianity but I suppose I have to credit adoption by Rome for that, though in fairness, the cult was growing in numbers prior to the 4th century. Now whether jesus had a divine mission is a matter of faith. Historically, he did apparently claim to be the Son of God, but this is a somewhat vague accolade under investigation because it was never clarified what he meant. Did he mean that he was actually the progeny of God? Did he mean was a son of God in a Romanesque adoptive style? Or was it analogous, claiming he was in a special relationship with God? It doesn't actually matter, because Pilate saw an opportunity to claim that Jesus was not giving the Roman Caesar due deference and indeed by denying Roman religion was being rather insulting to Rome. I don't see any particular struggle in judaean hearts and minds. Some would have accepted Jesus at face value, swept away by the moment and the presence of Jesus in sermons. Others, probably most, would have been curious but not actually committed. A fair number would have been there to see what all the fuss was about and likely thought Jesus an amusing act or perhaps an outright liar. We have to note that there was no sudden suppression of the cult by Pilate even though he had a reputation, well deserved, for such brutality (He would eventually be arrested and exiled for a slaughter), nor were the followers of Jesus arrested at all. It was enough in Roman eyes to decapitate the movement, for without Jesus, regardless of the messages or sermons, would not have their charismatic leader. The disunited condition of the early churches was sufficient for the Roman/Judaean authorities to feel assured that no insurrection was possible.
  7. It's wrong to see the Roman Empire in quite that way. For instance, the universal census you claim was ordered by Caesar Augustus has no evidence for it. The political actions of Pontius Pilate were clumsy and brutal - which eventually caused his demise - but otherwise no different to any provincial governor in that he was there to oversee the province - not to rule it as such, though like all governors he was in position to influence events and profit from them. The local government had gotten a little worried by Jesus because his ability to draw crowds was disruptive and potentially politically dangerous. They were unable to stop him sufficiently thus turned to the governor, Pilate, to ask if he could sort it it out. Pilate duly had Jesus arrested and under questioning found some cause to have him punished for. Threat removed. In that respect the Four Gospels relate historical events but the narrative is hugely creative. The supposed miracles are quite similar to acts of Indian gods, known to the Roman world at the time, and it's incredibly hard to imagine that a man who could walk on water, cure any illness or disability, and feed thousands out of thin air was not going to receive an express ticket to Capri to demonstrate these powers to Tiberius himself. What is true is that early Christianity was not a united movement. It consisted of local churches and hierarchies. When Constantine looked around for ways to cement his shattered empire back together he could see Christianity and its non-roman communal aspect of worship as something inherently social, as a military man might well do. Therefore he patronised Christianity and pushed them to unite and conform to a common theme, hence the description of Ammianus Marcellinus of "roads filled with galloping bishops" as they realised that land and wealth were theirs if they complied. The concept of enrichment, hardly alien to Roman mindset, was part of the Romanised christianity from the start, and one 4th century writer said "make me a Bishop of Rome today and I'll become a Christian tomorrow", referring to the wealth that cult leaders attracted. It is from this time that the Four Gospels were chosen as canon and other gospels rejected, though the charge of heresy and pressure to conform did not succeed in fully uniting the Church - and never would.
  8. caldrail

    Gobble gobble

    Gobblum gobblum.
  9. caldrail


    By the standards of the late empire the commanding officer would be keen to get his slice of the action. The feoderati however would feel aggrieved that they were having to purchase something that they would ordinarily expect to 'requisition' or be supplied with, thus arguments and thefts would break out even if Rome's soldiers were expected to swear an oath not to steal from each other - but then, they would argue that this was not a military supply but a commercial transaction from an individual. The other side of the coin is that the bad feeling would cause issues for the smooth order of army business, something a more cautious general would most definitely be concerned about. It's also likely by the way that the legionaries would know what was going on and given their penchant for verbal messages, would no doubt inflame the situation with some mockery of the feoderati's plight. In short, you're are eventually looking at a mutiny of the feoderati who would no doubt see the official's money chest as rightfully theirs.
  10. caldrail

    Latrine Duty

    How clean were Roman latrines? I think assuming they were very clean is something I would avoid, for some obvious reasons. None of them were self flushing and that's why they employed running water whenever possible. Nonetheless as with any drain sometimes the channels would get clogged and needed clearing, especially sine the drainage system of the Roman Empire generally is a little exaggerated and in particular those of a Roman camp are likely to be primitive. Clean superficially, given they were regularly mopped out, but let me take this moment to remind everyone that cleaning a soldiers backside was done by a sponge on a stick, shared among the men, and cleaned by swishing it in a water channel.
  11. The Romans themselves answered those questions many times. Active campaigning tended to make better soldiers, idleness created the worst. There's a letter from Lucius to Fronto that describes Syrian legions as always wandering off their posts, always getting drunk, and basically making a poor show of military service, and for that matter, Nero ordered Corbulo to march to Armenia with Syrian legions that had never done any military duties at all. That ought to point to a major possibility in legionary excellence - the presence of a commander who is capable of leadership, motivation, and training. Also note that Plutarch mentions in the Life of Marius that legionaries love commanders who share their food and labour - we can read how the airs and graces of senior men contributed to the mutinies in Pannonia. Josephus describes the legion, without meaning to be complimentary, by the famous phrase "Roman drills are bloodless battles; their battles are bloody drills". In other words, the installation of relentless training made better soldiers, though clearly this was dependent on the commander not being especially lazy himself. Underlying all of this was the divorce that Marius gave the Legion. After him, they were no longer loyal to the state but effectively independent and loyal to their commanders whom they saw as responsible for their welfare. Thus later, legions became aware of their potential political clout and tended to use it - thus generals sometimes found themselves being urged by their men to march on Rome and take over by virtue of popularity. Bear in mind that almost half the major battles fought by Roman legions were against each other. Roman legions were not regiments in a state army - don't be fooled by modern thinking - there was no army organisation above legion level. Each legion was a separate packet of military power assigned to politicians to further their interests in security (or as often happened, personal ambition)
  12. caldrail

    Augustus, good or bad emperor?

    Surely that's a subjective argument. Whilst he went to great pains to maintain the public image of humility, authority, and in particular the protector of morality, he was in private just as paranoid as other rulers of SPQR - and given he had effectively worked toward becoming Rome's back seat driver in defiance of the same traditions that got his adoptive father killed, the idea that "I found Rome in brick and left in marble" represents genuine beneficence is also rather flawed - he was bribing Rome, either specifically, such as rewarding military commanders with triumphs they had not actually qualified for, or generally, such as civic improvement. He squandered a vast sum of money making sure his public reputation remained intact, even after his daughter rebelled and flouted his moral stand by sleeping around excessively, and his need for more cash to bribe, build, and fund the lavish games he staged for free public entertainment led directly to one of Rome's worst military disasters.
  13. There's a view (which I don't share) that tradition creates credibility - how Roman is that? The Greek pagans are doing what most reconstructists have always done and created a cult of their own for fashionable alternative - or just as likely, the buzz of doing so, of being slightly rebellious and exclusive of mainstream public. For that matter the Romans had shown this sort of behaviour too, with egyptian and Syrian cults proving hard to subside. McEverdy is looking at established and recognised pagan religions in the early medieval world, but of course, his attention is only on such religions within the otherwise Christian sphere. Into the medieval period for instance the Teutonic Knights and other crusaders fought deep into what is now Prussia and Lithuania against people who were definitely not Christian.
  14. caldrail


    I saw something odd the other night. The moon was high in the night sky, a bright crescent - but what the.... The bottom corner was apparently lopped off, as if some unseen object was out there between Earth and our favourite orbital body. Or was it a huge terrain feature on the lunar surface as my work colleague suggested? It was a bit unexpected and not a little weird.
  15. caldrail

    The sudden death of Alaric

    As well intended as it is, I'm always very sceptical of these sort of diagnoses, made on the back of flimsy description or evidence, and some are incredibly exotic. I do accept that malaria is potentially the cause - Rome was increasingly prone to this sort of disease with so much standing water about - the drainage system of Rome is hugely exaggerated.
  16. caldrail

    Gentes patricae during the early principate

    The only list the Romans may have passed on even close to your requirements was the census of Claudius, the Caesar before Nero. The Census was important in the Republic but from Sulla onward it had a more sporadic treatment. The last republican census was called in 22BC by Augustus, although some Caesars found it useful to call one ad hoc for admin purposes - particularly Claudius, the immediate predecessor of Nero. Whether this census list still survives I couldn't say, but that's what you need to look for. Bear in mind however that the increasingly turbulent senatorial political arena had many members preferring to be as anonymous as possible, enjoying the prks of senatorial status, avoiding the risks, and basically moving in temporary factions for safety. Whilst your intent to be historically accurate is commendable, in this respect you would be excused for some poetic license. Populate the Senate with the people your story needs - even romanophiles like me aren't likely to insist on exact placement - although using references to famous or infamous members would add period accuracy. You can get such from the works of Tacitus, Suetonius, and Dio.
  17. caldrail


    This current eclipse isn't visible in Britain, but I remember the last full eclipse that was. Sadly typical British weather meant I couldn't actually observe it - but I went outside to experience it alone and the effect was peculiar. There was a silence, even in an urban setting, birds ceasing their constant twittering and immobile, nothing moving. It was all over in a few minutes of course but the experience is strangely profound.
  18. caldrail

    unidentified relic

    A number of possibilities occur to me, not least that it might 'horse furniture'.
  19. caldrail

    Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

    Many years ago I wrote a piece on the internet about my departure from a company's employment in scathing terms. Back then I wrote how the place would close and the site redeveloped. It has been announced that such will come to pass, my prophecy having been proven correct. Working there in the good ol days was a different experience than you normally get in warehouses today. There were no agencies involved in finding jobs there, a family atmosphere, and good rates of pay. The rot set in when the influx of young lads and the retirement of older women made the atmosphere much more like a school playground. The change from old fashioned hierarchy to modern style office class system reduced peoples motivations to work toward a career and a future in the company, making careers a lottery rather than the result of hard work and merit. Finally, the older hands were gotten rid of by hook or by crook, seen as obstructive and stuck in their ways. Truth is, they knew their jobs whereas the new generation of workers, managers or labourers, did not. New ideas haven't helped. Placing the management of warehouse production in the hands of a sub-contractor has done no good. The idea was to let a specialist handle it instead of the hamfisted efforts of what amounted to amateur managemnt, but profit proved hard to achieve. So the company has finally decided that it's time to give up, uproot, amd start again elsewhere. Good luck. Welcome Back It was great to see W back at work. I wasn't on the premises when it happened but he'd been crushed by a forklift truck whose driver (the very same driver who nearly knocked me flying once before) hadn't been too observant. Luckily his injuries weren't too serious and now he's fit to resume duties again. Is it just me or has W grown up a little? His experience seems to have done him a favour. Not So Welcome A politician claims that older people voting for Brexit have 'shafted the young generation wholesale'. What a load of nonsense. Far too many young people are lazy, indifferent, and assume that the world owes them a living. That's the sort of world that being a member of the EU has encouraged. If forcing the younger population to work toward an independent Britain they can be proud of is shafting them, then shaft away. Some might see this as hypocrisy given I spent the better part of the last decade as unemployed. I would point out that I was not given the choice, and ultimately, I was thrown to the wolves by the Job Centre who see stopping peoples money as a positive move. That was despite making nearly ten times the quantifiable effort to find emloyment than I was officially expected to achieve. So I got shafted. And as the spokeman for the Job Centre proclaimed in a television interview, I too found paid work within six months. Not the success story that the Job Centre wanted to advertise me as, but one of those who got off their bottoms and went to work when the opportunity presented itself. Why should ex-EU Britain be any different? Not Welcome At All The EU were clear that Britain would not be punished for choosing to leave the Union. They are keen to avoid giving Britain favourable terms to prevent encouraging other members to opt out, and indeed, there are sentiments of that sort evident in France, Greece, Holland, Italy, Spain, and probably other countries. Nonetheless the EU are demanding a high price for leaving, a 'divorce bill' they're insisting on. Since Britain used to be one of the major contributing nations within the EU, the proposed bill can hardly be seen as simply a necessary legal payment but rather an attempt to squeeze whatever they can at the last moment, a feature of EU administration that has been clear for a very long time and one of the reasons people have become dissatisfied with EU membership. The other reasons are the covert suppression of national identity and the influx of migrants assisted by the open border policies of the EU. Why are we so suprised that this is happening? The Roman Empire went through a similar process, becoming larger, bureaucratic, corrupt, facing ever increasing immigration and political uncertainty, not to mention rebellions and at least one break-away empire (that included the British Isles curiously enough). If ever there was a reason to see the value of history, current events are proving it like nothing else, especially since the EU exists to recreate the Roman Empire in a parallel sense. Gildas, a sixth century monk, described Britain as an island 'Rich in usurpers'. He wasn't wrong. Unwelcome Weather Of The Week Saturday overtime. Mandatory. Grumble as I might I had no choice but to turn up to work. The weather was supposed to be about sunshine and showers but toward the end of the shift all hell broke loose. I have never seen hail like that in England before. Neither had the Goans, who raced to the door to experience the sort of weather that probably doesn't happen in India. It doesn't normally happen in England but we didn't let on. Although the hail was not as fierce as some countries in the world expect, for England, it was pretty impressive.
  20. caldrail

    Life and times of Flavius Arbogast

    The best defence of an elite Roman is to have friends, allies, spies, or if you like, just be better at petty intrigue than your opponents.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.