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caldrail

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  1. What do we mean by brutality? At what point does the infliction of harm become gratuitous? Do we judge brutality by modern morality or the expectations of ancient Roman society? It's important to begin this short overview from a known perspective because our judgements on the conduct of Rome are not entirely objective. Rome is sometimes seen as the template for tyrannical imperialism. This is difficult to reconcile with the opinions and sentiments expressed by the Roman writers themselves, and indeed, seems to be based on little more than familiarity with the ideological tyrannies of more recent times. David Potter, author of Origins of Empire, describes Rome as "the most successful multi-ethnic, multi-cultural state in the history of Europe and the Mediterranean". Rome was a society that espoused moral values and austere lifestyles. A society that considered itself the epitome of civilisation. In much the same way we do today, as an expression of patriotic self-esteem. It was also an ambivalent society, for when wealth allowed, Romans enjoyed flouting their norms. Let's be quite clear about this - brutality is part of human behaviour, as undesirable as many of us would ordinarily see it as. Our modern societies try to protect citizens by legislation and law enforcement, but the infliction of arbitrary and excessive harm is nonetheless something that lurks among us. It lurked among the Romans too. Some might claim that it was much more overt than that, and to be fair, one would have to admit the extent of their brutality is notorious. I'm not going to dwell on the reports of individuals. As colourful and horrifying some of the antics that Roman caesars got up to might be, they represent a very tiny example of behaviour, one that distorts the overall picture. So therefore I put the Roman Empire on trial for brutality, judged by the common morality we share. The Roman Legions By far the biggest culprit were the common soldiers of Rome. In writings of the late republic and principate, one readily picks up the idea that Rome desired tough disciplined soldiers, able to follow orders without argument, able to withstand the rigours of campaigning, and to be frank - able to ram a sword into man, woman, or child without hesitation. It follows that a man prepared to be so violent isn't likely to be particularly well behaved. The Romans understood that. As it happens, Roman legions were often a disagreeable lot. They did argue with orders and were far closer to mutiny than modern armies would tolerate. Even the charismatic Julius Caesar had to ask his soldiers for consent to continue a war during the campaign against his rivals. At the death of Augustus, legions in Pannonia and Germania mutinied after being allowed time off to mourn or celebrate, seeking resolution of the harsh treatment and injustice they received daily. Heaven knows, lashes and wounds are always with us! So are hard winters and hard working summers, grim war, and unprofitable peace. Speech of Precennius - Annals (Tacitus) Nothing new there, Tacitus tells us. Harsh lives make harsh men. Roman legionaries would expect booty to reward their efforts at war, and their commanders were only too willing to please them by providing such opportunities. If there is a requisition and a soldier siezes your donkey, let it go. Don't resist and don't grumble. If you do, you will be beaten and you will still lose your donkey. Letters collected by Arrian (Epictetus) By tradition, a Roman soldier swore an oath not to steal from his comrades on campaign. Oaths may have been a serious business but they didn't always deter. Frontinus records in Stratagems that one commander, either especially stern or exasperated, ordered that any soldier caught stealing would have his right hand cut off. By tradition, a dishonoured legion undergoes a decimation - one man in ten is randomly selected and beaten to death by his colleagues. Brutality serves as a deterrent. Tough On The Streets Where human beings congregate in large urban enviroments, the levels of violence begin to rise. Rome was no exception. A certain level of thuggery was accepted, as young men of good families would roam the streets at night looking for people to beat up. But this sort of behaviour would be more or less restricted to the virile and testosterone driven male gangs. It seems unlikely that all young men behaved in this way. Your drunken bully who has by chance not slain his man passes a night of torture like that of Achilles when he bemoaned his friend, lying now upon his face, and now upon his back; he will get no rest in any other way, since some men can only sleep after a brawl. Yet however reckless the fellow may be, however hot with wine and young blood, he gives a wide berth to one whose scarlet cloak and long-retinue of attendants, with torches and brass lamps in their hands, bid him keep his distance. But to me, who am wont to be escorted home by the moon, or by the scant light of a candle whose wick I husband with due care, he pays no respect. Whether you venture to say anything, or make off silently, it's all one: he will thrash you just the same, and then, in a rage, take bail from you. Such is the liberty of the poor man: having been pounded and cuffed into a jelly, he begs and. prays to be allowed to return home with a few teeth in his head! Nor are these your only terrors. When your house is shut, when bar and chain have made fast your shop, and all is silent, you will be robbed by a burglar; or perhaps a cut-throat will do for you quickly with cold steel. Satires (Juvenal) But despite this potentially violent enviroment, there was also a curiosity among bystanders. Plutarch records how people rushed to the senate house to see the fallen body of Julius Caesar (and rushed away equally quickly just in case). There were of course occaisions when strong feelings arouse the citizens to anger. Riots were always a threat to the powerful in Rome because those caught by them might well be beaten to death, such as the fate of Cleander in the reign of Commodus. Little wonder then that the rulers of Rome were keen to divert the Roman mob with public entertainment. Sports And Games Without a doubt a major unifying element of the Roman Empire was the spread of games. Swordfights were performed for public entertainment with a very real risk of death or injury. Although fights to the death existed, the professional bout consisted of two men fighting with referees and rest periods until one or the other could not continue, his fate a decision of the games editor based more often than not on the mood of the crowd. In the morning men are thrown to the lions and the bears; but it is the spectators they are thrown to in the lunch hour. Letters (Seneca) It does the people good to see that even slaves can fight bravely. If a mere slave can show such courage, what then can a Roman do? Besides, the games harden a warrior people to sights of carnage and prepares them for battle. Letters (Cicero) The traditional swordfight with an honourable decision over the fate of those who could not continue was one thing; by the late empire, this had transmuted to displays of fighting designed to wound as a means of heightening drama. Little wonder that some experts feel that the gladiatorial games had lost their purpose in Roman society, or that Augustine records the addiction of a newbie spectator to watching violence . The Romans enjoyed other sports that carried a brutal edge. Boxing, where the bandages that protected the hand evolved into metal gloves designed to punish the opponent. The Pankration, or Greek wrestling, where there are only two rules to obey - no biting and no gouging of eyes - which got ignored in the heat of combat. Animals were slaughtered by the wagonload to thrill the public for as long as the supply of animals was practicable and affordable. At first for novelty, later for spectacle, and finally to demonstrate the power of Rome over nature. The extraordinary numbers of animals slaughtered in the arena is mind numbing, driving some species to regional extinction - something the Romans themselves were well aware. Slavery Another evil of human behaviour is the ownership of others. The problem has never entirely gone away despite the various moral advances in history. In ancient times, it was simply how life was. The Romans had mixed feelings about their possessions which were legally en par with animals. Some saw them as merely 'talking tools', others more willing to permit something approaching humane treatment. It was true that wealthy owners liked to free as many slaves as they could, in order to show how generous and humane they were, but one suspects a more expedient attitude was the motive. On the one hand, rural and industrial slaves might expect a short hard life, pushed to physical extremes and exposed to unhealthy enviroments. Others might be valued companions, loyal employees, teachers for their children, or entertainers to please the family and guests. The slaves engaged in the operation of the mines secure for their masters profit in amounts which are almost beyond belief. They themselves are however physically destroyed, their bodies worn down by working in the mine shafts both day and night. many die because of the excessive maltreatment they suffer. they are given no rest or break from their toil, but rather are forced by the whiplashes of the overseers to endure the most dreadful of hardships; thus do they wear out their lives in misery. The History of the World (Diodorus Siculus) Poor Psecas, whose own hair has been torn out by her mistress, and whose clothes has been ripped from her shoulders and breasts by her mistress, combs and styles her mistress' hair. "Why is this curl so high?" the mistress screams, and at once a whipping punishes Psecas for this crime of the curling iron and sin of a hairstyle. Satires (Juvenal) In one case, a slave had killed his master. Law demanded that all the household slaves should be executed as well. However, a crowd of protestors , trying to protect so many innocent lives, gathered and began to riot. They besieged the senate house. Within the senate house, some senators were anxious to eliminate excessive cruelty, but the majority were of the opinion that nothing should be changed. Annals (Tacitus) Sadly the outburst of popular support for the plight of the slaves achieved nothing - Nero enforced the rules. Conclusion We have to accept that brutality exists in human societies. In any such society, there is a general level of behaviour that is either tolerated or unsuppressed. Clearly this operates in both ancient and modern eras. Roman law was a reactive process, because free men had the right to free will and self determination. If you chose to exceed acceptable behaviour, then you were liable for punishment, if you were caught or brought to justice. However this means that men in authority were able to exercise whatever brutality they believed they could get away with. No doubt most maintained some semblance of moral behaviour, others were willing to test the boundaries, especially if far from close inspection. Yet much of this impression is based on reports of individuals such as badly behaved patricians and emperors. The Roman writers use the stories of brutality to describe the vices of an individual, to show what a villain he was, and one suspects that a great deal of this is exaggerated for dramatic effect. Seneca records his dismay at arena violence. Cicero records that a man was better off doing something useful than sat idly watching fights. And as much as we abhor the idea of gladiators fighting to potential death or injury for public entertainment, it was also recorded that these men were only too keen to please their masters, illustrating that violence is a part of the human psyche and sometimes socially acceptable. So - was Rome a brutal society? By design the Roman Empire was a benign state that allowed its diverse population to prosper in a spirit of competition and opportunity, a society with avenues for social advancement in spite of strict class divisions, a society that respected local customs as equally valid as Roman law, but it also had a greater capacity for greed and cruelty than we would allow. Brutality served a purpose in the Roman world, a tool that the ruthless found expedient. In other words.... What do you think I mean? I mean that I come home more greedy, more ambitious, more voluptuous, and even more cruel and inhuman - because I have been among humans. Letters (Seneca)
  2. Whilst I was on holiday I saw a television broadcast of a dramatised documentary about Boudicca's rebellion against Rome in AD60. Entertaining stuff, however biased toward the Roman account, which is admittedly our only source and written back in the day to conform to their readers expectations of an interesting and dramatic anecdote. But as I watched, I realised the presenter was making fundamental errors about Rome's provincial policies. In short, I hereby examine three statements made during the program. 1 - That Rome ruled by violence and oppression 2 - That Rome relied on the invincibility of her army 3 - That the rebellion illustrates the truth of what life was like under Roman rule. 1 - Rome ruled by violence and oppression This is a common conception. Rome is seen as a monolithic nation state that assimilates populations to produce indentikit citizens with a generation or two. This was simply not so. Rome was at heart a city state with influence over a network of territories of varying status and native populations owing them loyalty and taxes. it is true that many regions were brought into the empire via conquest of one sort or another, but let's not forget that the realm of Iceni was a client state that Rome expected to inherit. Tacitus tells us that... The imperial agent Caisu Decianus, horrified by the catastrophe and his unpopularity, withdrew to Gaul. It was his rapacity which had driven the province to war Annals (Tacitus) Imperial agent? So Decianus was there at the orders of Nero to make sure the man the Senate had sent to make sure the province was doing fine, was doing fine. Whilst the habit of being rapacious, greedy, clumsy, and brutal was an unfortunate tendency of senior Romans in Provincial assignment, clearly not all of them were. Therefore violence and oppression was a policy pursued by individual Romans at their discretion rather than any tyrannical regime the Romans had foisted upon the unfortunate Britons. But then, the Romans didn't like tyrants all that much, never mind the Britons. 2 - Rome relied on the invincibility of her army Rome's legions were not invincible and they knew it. The sources contain many references to utter defeats and indeed, some describe one legion or another as barely resembling a military unit at all. But let's read what Tacitus says about a military mission to relieve the sack of Camulodunum. The Ninth Roman legion, commanded by Quintus Perilius Cerialus Caesius Rufus, attempted to relieve the town, but was stopped by the victorious Britons and routed. its entire infantry force were massacred, while the commander escaped to his camp with his cavalry and sheltered behind its defenses. Annals (Tacitus) Oh dear. The commander ran away with his horsemen, perhaps two or three percent of a full strength legion. How invincible was that? 3 - That the rebellion illustrates the truth of what life was like under Roman rule. The 'savage' Britons ran riot, attacking Londinium, Veralumium, and eventually meeting another legionary force under the senatorial governor Suetonius, at the Battle of Watling Street. Tacitus kindly gives us the speech made by Boudicca - which is clearly invented since no-one would have recorded it for the benefit of a Roman historian. The Britons lose, and Boudicca is said to have poisoned herself - a standard Roman style fate. Nero sends replacements for the casualties suffered by the Ninth Legion. And hot off the boat is Decianus' replacement. Still the savage British tribesmen were disinclined for peace, especially as the newly arrived Imperial Agent Gaius Julius Alpinus Classicianus, successor to Caius Decianus, was on bad terms with Suetonius, and allowed his personal animosities to damage the national interests. Annals (Tacitus) Should have all been sorted. Calmly, confidently, and decisively. But as happens in these anecdotes of Roman disorder, personality is the flaw rather than politics. Nero senses things aren't working out, and sends his freedman Polyclitus to investigate, who travelled with a seriously large entourage that stretched the patience of Italy and Gaul. it even intimidated the Roman legions. The Britons were, by all accounts, quite amused. But all this was toned down in Polyclitus' reports to the emperor. Retained as governor, Suetonius lost a few ships and their crews on the shore, and was then superseded for not terminating the war. His successor, the recent consul Publius Petronius Turpilianus, neither provoking the enemy nor provoked, called this ignoble inactivity peace with honour. Annals (Tacitus) One imperial agent ran away, his replacement pursued intrigue rather than the rebels.. The senatorial governor got the sack, his replacement did nothing until the leaderless rebels gave up. Conclusion The television presenter stopped at the defeat of Boudicca, describing Rome as a tyranny that trampled rebellions with violence and oppression. What Tacitus describes is a catalogue of folly. Greed, cowardice, intrigue, indecisiveness, and clumsiness. The war is not won, merely left to fizzle out. Violence and oppression? Truth was the Romans were too busy making mistakes.
  3. caldrail

    Living With Audiences

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

    Just thought I'd drop in with this

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

    Friendly physical contact among Romans

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

    Walking On A Wilder Side

    The weather forecast had already warned us of storms crossing Britain late into the night. As luck would have it, I was on a late shift, and that meant walking home during the period when I was most likely to be drenched in minutes or used by nature to light the vicinity when hit by lightning. There was every risk of both, and to be honest, I’ve always had a policy of avoiding such weather conditions by the clever use of indoors. Not last night then. One colleague at work told me that storms were already crossing France and would be here in two hours. Really? That would require winds in excess of gale force. There was barely a breeze and whilst thirty odd degrees centigrade isn’t hot by some standards around the globe, for Britain it was sweltering. In any case the winds weren’t from France, but the Atlantic southwest, as usual. Damp air then. Perfect for the odd electrical storm. I have to say working to very high targets in that sort of humid temperature was not for the faint hearted. By the close of shift, I was, as they say, ker-nackered. So. Time to go home. Almost as soon as I left the premises the display started. Around the sky flickers of light went off almost continuously, an extraordinary sight and one I found quite weird given not a rumble of thunder could be heard. I could see the mass of storm cells encroaching on Swindon. Sooner or later the rain would start. I wonder? Could I make it to the McDonalds outlet about halfway home without incurring a sudden outbreak of dampness? It worked. I made it to the rest stop barely seconds before the first cloudburst opened up. Perfect. Fast food, dry shelter, and bewildered staff to impress with my knowledge of storms. “Ahh” Said one McDonald droid, “it’s stopped. I can go home now.” You think? I’m staying here for another hour yet. He chuckled and headed for the door only to be greeted with a huge fork of lightning over the area. Your move mate. Cunning Move Whilst I was walking to McDonalds I spotted a fox on the other side of the road. Normally at that distance they either don’t care, or find a more discreet place to be. This one simply hunkered down. I know mate, it is warm isn’t it? Howls Of Badgers Badgers are the quietest of animals. They snuffle around, usually looking happy as Larry, but a week or two ago I encountered one on a footpath going home. Badgers aren’t the most alert of creatures. I’ve often walked very close to them before they realised I was there, but always they scarper, and scarper quickly they can. This one saw me coming and hooted very loudly. Wow. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard a badger. A born sergeant major that one. Big Beetles On the outskirts of an industrial estate I saw movement on the road, again lat at night. This was a black beetle, alarmingly huge. Two or three inches long, much larger than anything I’ve seen plodding around British countryside. This one was not only large, but fast too, scurrying around like demon possessed. A foreign import off a lorry? We don’t usually get beetles like that outside of zoos. Boris Of The Week This week’s star prize goes to our new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who takes over from Theresa May today. There’s a sort of inevitable aspect to his new found glory. Can he sort out the mess and get a deal on Brexit past the hordes of British MP’s determined to frustrate the British public’s decision to leave Europe? The battlefield is the same as it’s been for three years and cost May her job. Who knows, perhaps the outsize beetle was an omen. Perhaps the gods welcomed Boris with a spectacular lightning display. Somehow I doubt he got rained on last night.
  8. The Romans were very concious of social status, far more than we are today, and this permeated their military system too, so your idea of grading authority into categories does indeed equate to their system. The only caveat is that you observe the anomalies, such as Optio. It means "Chosen Man", and for a reason. Romans were usually literal about titles. Originally a centurion could choose his right hand man. Not an ordinary promotion, as technically any soldier deemed suitable was eligible. Later the post-Augustan tribunes chose men and foisted them on centurions. Note however the style of command. The centurion is boss, top dog, and runs his command as his. The Optio is there to back him up and watch his back as well. It's very direct, a hangover of the distant past where Praetores "Leaders" led gangs of men on raids and ambuscades. There's little breakdown of command at all and indeed, small unit tactics are a modern thing and certainly something Roman soldiers would be shy of - safety in numbers. Some responsibilities however could be placed on others, so we have for instance one title Tesserarius which has a limited authority. One might well see this policy as common sense, because whilst the Romans preferred to keep command as simple as possible, a centurion could not be everywhere at once, yet at the same time giving power to lower orders was for them inherently dangerous - note the propensity for rebellion and mutiny that bribes, leave, and stern discipline held off.
  9. caldrail

    A city's Pomerium

    A settlement that reached a certain status (I'm not sure which, but I'm assuming it was civitas) was allowed a local senate to conduct admin/government - remember that the empire was not centrally governed nor was it territorial in nature, but focused on settlements.. Although Rome had the final word as it were, provinces were governed internally on local/regional matters. Governors were not ruling the province per se, but represented the final word in both Roman and native law, and generally did little governing other than to exploit the region for personal profit - note the Roman policy of assimilating local rulers to plug into the Roman network to exploit the existing chains of loyalty.
  10. I would urge some caution because the idea the Romans employed 'ranks' in the same manner as we do today is merely a convenient assumption. Most of the titles you will find are not referring to levels of authority but instead refer to specific roles. I have written a good deal about this on the internet but people generally prefer a modernesque view - it's more familiar and comfortable for them intellectually. However, I would point out that the modern pyramidical system evolved from the use of gunpowder on the battlefield. The Roman system was not based on levels of authority but status and role. For instance, NCO's (my favourite gripe). Such ranks are often classed along with the principales but the latter denote soldiers with 'principal' jobs on double pay, and as yet, I don't know of anyone who has posted or published a convincing table of ranks for the legions. Roman society is not strictly differentiated from military guise, thus the most senior plebian class equite are traditionally those able to purchase horses and form cavalry. The senior officer classes in fact were not career roles at all, with politicians servuing in the military for experience and qualification for future political careers (which might involve having to take temporary command of military forces). It is of course also true that a proportion of patricians saw military service as a safer alternative to a political career in Rome and were quite happy to serve for long periods on the frontier. Important that you should note that promotion was not so straightforward as merit in the modern system. A soldier might take ten or fifteen years to be considered for the centurionate, a class apart from the men they led. Their internal ranks denote status - a soldier did not address a centurion as 'Primus Pilus', but simply as 'Centurion'. Did soldiers salute? Not like today. In fact the sources suggest that salutations were ad hoc rather than required by military discipline. One did not get promoted to senior officer status ordinarily - too much societal and political influence over that sector, though I have to confess there are recorded instances of a very small minority who achieved such advancement, but they did so in spite of the system, not because of it. In general, it should be noted that in the modern world role and authority are seperate. In the Roman era, they are not seperated. A modern soldier can be any rank, Private, Sergeant, Captain, or General, and maintain that rank whatever task the army gives him. In the Roman legion, your title is your task with appropriate status and authority attached. Fod for thought then. You will no doubt interpret things as you find them, but always beware of putting togas on the modern world. We are not Roman.
  11. caldrail

    A city's Pomerium

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

    A city's Pomerium

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

    What Made Caligula Crazy?

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

    What Made Caligula Crazy?

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

    Gladiatrix - source?

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

    Overlaps, Based on True Events, and Historical Fictions

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

    Heirs of Augustus

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

    Heirs of Augustus

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

    What would happen if a commoner wore Toga Picta

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

    Treatment of conquered land and peoples

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

    Treatment of conquered land and peoples

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