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valexylix

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  1. valexylix

    Brutality: The Human Face Of The Roman Empire

    I agree with @guy, great post. I'd like to focus especially on war, since it's the cruellest activity. We understand very well that every war brings its dose of brutality and Romans were not an exeption at all; but I think that usually people don't face the issue in the right way, especially if they don't know history very good. We tent to compare ancient civilisation with our present, not with other civilisations of the past. So, let's try a quick comparision. ROMANS 1) In abstract terms, did Romans prefer to destroy at all the enemies or to conquer without too useless losses? 2) When they used violence, were they proud of it? 3) Did propaganda show brutality without constraints, focusing on the sorrow of the losers and bloody war scenes? The answers are: 1) Romans' ideal way to rule was "to spare the subjected and to vanquish the proud" (parcere subiectis et debellare superbos, like Vergil wrote), so they didn't abandon themselves to gratuitous violence: why should they? Romans were very practical and they knew that mass killings costed time, money ant the result was only to create irreducible enemies among the survivors. For them it was more convient to turn enemies in subjected who paid taxes. 2) No, in that case they tried to hide it. Propaganda or not, Romans believed in the "bellum iustum" and animal violence was obviusly against this ideal. Bloody Ceasar's campaigns in Gaul were shocking for most of the senators and I believe to remember that there was a sort of investigation by the senate for this early war crimes. 3) Again, no. Romans loved to display their rule like a one which brought peace, wellness and order: in a word, "civilisation". What I wrote above refers a lot to propaganda, that's true: but propaganda says a lot about poeple's mindset. For us it is obvious that rulers don't want to show violence against enemies and present them like good guys, but it's absolutely not a rule: it's plenty of ancient populations who, on the contary, loved to show their power by the cruel subjugation of the enemy. Here some examples from the Ancient Near East. SUMERIANS The sumerian army marchs stepping on the corpses of the enemies. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stele_of_the_Vultures#/media/File:Stele_of_Vultures_detail_01-transparent.png AKKADIANS King Naram-Sin reaches the god climbing over piles od corpses. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victory_Stele_of_Naram-Sin#/media/File:Victory_stele_of_Naram_Sin_9068.jpg ASSYRIANS King Ashurbanipal and his wife celebrates the victory in war with a banquet; in the right corner the decapitated head of the enemy king hangs from a tree. https://www.ilgiornaledellarte.com/immagini/IMG20180926161716647_900_700.jpeg EGYPTIANS One of Ramesses II's epithet was "the one who smashes enemy's head". And so on. There are so many other examples, everyone which celebrates the king and the army as distroyer of enemies and Mesopotamian art could be very bloody, like we'll never see in Roman art. Is it just propaganda? Right, but not every propaganda is the same and it shows the ideal world that rulers pretend to create. There are no scenes of Roman emperors who merrily feast victory while a head hangs over their head. So, this is the problem: we take for granted that our (modern) mindset is normal in every time and every place. That isn't. Among the ancient populations, Romans were one of the less cruel; or, at least, they were no proud at all of using violence. And that makes an enourmous difference.
  2. valexylix

    Friendly physical contact among Romans

    Thanks for your reply. Yes, it's really difficult to find information about cultural questions. I think it's quite sure that the "roman forearm handshake", like the last one you mentioned, is just a modern invention. There are no proves that in ancient times men greeted like this, while we have a lot of mentions of kisses and handshakes. These posts have some good examples: http://the-history-girls.blogspot.com/2017/05/the-roman-kiss-of-greeting-by-caroline.html?m=1 https://blogs.transparent.com/latin/the-history-of-kissing-the-ancient-roman-fascination/ It could be possibile, that handshakes were more formal and people used them to demonstrate a political alliance or in religious rituals (reliefs show both this type of scenes) and kisses and handshakes again were typical of more informal situations, like greeting relatives and friends. Military salute is another question, but in the forum there's already a good discussion about it (https://www.unrv.com/forum/topic/14819-salute/).
  3. I read in Florence Dupont's "Daily Life in Ancient Rome" that Romans, especially during the Republican times, avoided as much as possible physical contact. I don't know how to consider this statement since written sources and art show us that handshakes and kisses as greetings existed. Maybe she just spoke in general terms, so I wonder if slaps on the back and so on were uncommon: historical novels are plenty of this type of friendly gestures and it would be interesting understand if they are just a consequence of the authors' modern mentality. Do you know something more about it?
  4. Yes, you're right: gladiators were an investment and no one wanted to waste his money. Usually gladiators were professionists and didn't die fighting; the public enjoyed the fight but death was something that involved mostly who was condemned to death (and for it there was a special "show", like the damnatio ad bestias). Gladiators could be men condemned to death too, but it was not always like this (see above). So in the cities of average size, gladiators could hope to survive for some years, even if obviuosly their job was dangerous and the chances to die in the fight were high. I wrote about medium-sized cities, like Pompei or Capua, because Rome was different: even there gladiators not always died during the fight, but the entrepreneurs were so rich that they could afford more losses, so often fightings in the capital were bloodier. Anther misconception is that all the gladiators were slaves or prisoners of war: free men could become gladiators but this job was really infamous. There was a law that listed jobs and behaviours which were not allowed for candidates to the elections (lex Iulia Municipalis) and among them there was gladiators job. Just very poor people decided to became one of them. Anyway, sometimes free men did it because they were attracted by the celebrity gladiators could reach. This looks like a contradiction, but gladiators were equally despised and loved; especially common people loved them and on the walls of Pompeii there are some declarations of love from women to their favourite gladiator. Finally, gladiators could become very very rich and gain freedom.
  5. Hi. First of all… Emperor Cincinnatus? Cincinnatus was not an emperor at all, on the contrary he is one of the most famous symbol of the republican value system, in which freedom played a big role. He lived in the 5th century BC and he was an important politician/general (during the republican times political and military power went together), who became a “dictator” to face a military crisis. Dictator had not the bad meaning that we know now, instead it was a special role thought to better manage a crisis, usually during wars: so for 6 months his power was greater than the two consuls’ one and having just one man, rather than two, to head the army was obviously better when romans needed to take fast decisions. It was though an office that was held just in exremely dangerous situations and only for few months, because the romans were afraid that if a man had too much power for too much time, he could have tried to establish the monarchy again. Cincinnatus was considered a model of virtue because after he defeted Rome’s enemies, he renounced the office after just two weeks or little more, even if he had the right to held the power for the whole 6 months. About what to read… I don’t know if there are some modern biographies; I just know that the ancient authors wrote about him, like Livy (Ab Urbe condita, III, 26-29). It’s not a lot and it would always be better to read something modern that could prevent us to accept fictional events as they were real, like sometimes happens with the ancient sources, but it’s better than nothing.
  6. valexylix

    Republican marching camps

    This is a really great answer, thank you very much! I didn't think of how much they discuss the behaviour of guards, very interesting remark. Even if I studied ancient history, there are some technical questions for which it's very difficult to have an explanation. I'm quite new on the site and it's great to find so many people here who have the same interests and be able to put together what we know. I hope to help in the future too.
  7. Hi, I’ve some questions about the Roman marching camp during the republican times, especially Punic Wars. I read that the Romans were used to bring with them the wooden elements of the palisade for the vallum, but I can just find informations about the later camps: I don’t think that the sudes were used already two centuries B.C. Livy writes that Romans had shorter stakes than the Greek ones and they were placed close, but were they so close that there was no space between them? I’d really like to see a reconstruction image, but it’s just plenty of images of permanent imperial camps and it’s not what I’m looking for. The other question is about the gates. I couldn’t imagine that there were big gates with hinges, since even if they managed to carry them during the march, how could they place them? it’s something complicated, I think, not very suitable for a marching camp just for one night or a little more. But if there were no gates with hinges, how they closed the entrances? I hope someone will help me with my doubts!
  8. Hi everyone I study Archeology at the University and of course I'm interested a lot in Ancient Rome. I think this site has some very good discussions and materials and I'm here to have access to both. Also, as an Italian I find great seeing how many people from all over the world joined this forum, having the same passion for Ancient History.
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