Sunday, 7 December 2014

Abundantia, Goddess

Goddess Abundantia

The Roman goddess Abundantia brings prosperity and abundance

In Roman mythology, the Roman goddess Abundantia was the personification of abundance. A cult in the form of temples or altars is not attested. However, she was frequently depicted on coins of the Roman Empire as a symbol of general prosperity, abundance of goods and their free availability. While she is wearing mostly a cornucopia showing valuable gifts which she pours out of her horn. Sometimes she keeps ears in the other hand. In just a few, late Roman coins, the Roman goddess Abundantia occurs also as image which scatters coins among the people.


Abundantia is the symbol of well-being and success

 In Medieval mythology, Abundantia is still present. Now she is Lady Abundantia, in old French called Dame Habonde. According to this legend, Abundantia is a kind of being that brings prosperity and abundance, when she enjoys together with her night ladies food and drinks, which have ben offered to them at night. Abundantia is thus both a Roman and a Nordic goddess of prosperity, success and abundance. The legend says that she helps all who seek her help to gain gold and wealth. And Abundantia always carries a cornucopia full of gold coins, which she lets drop behind her on the way, where ever she goes. A sign for her assistance are coins found in the most amazing places. But Abundantia brings more than just pocket money! She also gives prosperity and abundance!


The benefactress on coins

On the right, Abundantia faces Emperor Traian.

(Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

Abundantia coin

Abundantia did not need temples or altars, but the Roman goddess of prosperity and wealth was abundantly present on her own symbols – on coins. In her the difference between religion and mythology are blurred. While Abundantia is represented always as a beautiful woman, in one hand a cornucopia and in the other hand corn ears, she wears a wreath of flowers. On later Roman coinage Abundantia distributes coins among the people. According to the legend the Roman goddess visited the houses at night to bring prosperity to the people. Abundantia is a goddess who is especially kind to women, supports them and helps them to achieve and maintain leadership for inner wealth. Yet, she also looks after financial institutes. Warsaw has set her a monument in the famous Wilanów Palace Road. She holds a cornucopia as a symbol of abundance, food, and good harvest.


Monday, 1 December 2014



Roman Emperors at the “Games”

Like Emperor Commodus (180 to 192). Commodus was popular with the Roman people, especially because he showed himself often and ensured there was enough bread and games (panem et circenses). Because he wanted to reorganize the state finances – which had been strained by his father’s wars – by increasing the senators’ taxes and gave the commanders in the Praetorian Guard a great deal of influence, tensions soon arose with the Senate. It is also possible that the emperor’s love of elaborate public chariot races – as well as private gladiator fights – reported by historical sources might have played a role.
It is questionable, however, whether Commodus himself appeared publicly as a gladiator, as claimed by Herodian and the Historia Augusta and often adopted by modern authors. The most reliable source, the contemporary and eye witness Cassius Dio, reports explicitly (Cass. Dio 73,17,2) that the emperor appeared as a chariot driver and participated in venatio; Commodus only acted privately without an audience as a gladiator and never appeared as one publicly: “Moreover, he used to contend as a gladiator; in doing this at home he managed to kill a man now and then […]. But in public he refrained from using steel and shedding human blood.” The emperor fought publicly in the circus against people armed at most with a wooden sword.
It was mostly during his final years of rule that Commodus engaged in the exalted policies and self-glorification that characterized his legacy. While even before this a month had been renamed in Commodus’ honor, in 192 he renamed all the months after his various honorific titles (with Commodus for April, all the other months also received new names after Commodus such as Lucius or Aelius). Roman legions and other military units received the new name Commodiane, the city of Rome was renamed as Colonia felix Commodiana. In December 192, a conspiracy against the emperor began within his closest circle for unclear reasons. On the last day of the year 192, he was strangled in his bath at court by an athlete named Narcissus. With his death, the Antonine Dynasty, founded by Antoninus Pius, came to an end, and Commodus then received a damnatio memoriae. The Year of the Five Emperors followed.

The History of the Gladiators: The Path to the “Free Gladiators”

The “games” became increasingly important in the Roman Empire. The history of gladiator fights had begun with slaves, criminals, and prisoners of war who were forced into the role of gladiators. This changed throughout the time of the Roman Empire. Starting already in the 1st century, free men also volunteered as gladiators. Some were former soldiers, some wanted admiration and glory, and some needed money to pay their debts. Gladiators were not allowed to keep any prizes or gifts they received during the gladiator fights.
These free gladiators were called Auctorati. Although gladiators were lower than slaves on the social scale, at times interest in becoming a gladiator was so great that the Senate wanted to limit entry with a law. Towards the end of the Republic, for example, almost half of the gladiators were formerly free citizens who gave up their freedom upon their entry into the ranks of the gladiators. This goal can be better understood when taking into consideration the generally short life expectations of the time. A gladiator only had to fight between one and three times per year and was well-cared for the rest of the time. Even some female gladiators (some noble and well-to-do) appeared in the arena. Free gladiators played a surprising role in gladiator history.
The medical treatment gladiators received was exemplary. One of the most famous doctors of antiquity, Galen, collected his experiences during the time in which he cared for fighters at the gladiator school of Pergamon. The historian Fik Meijer even draws parallels between those who volunteered for gladiator service and the nobles who volunteered for service in the French Foreign Legion in the 19th and 20th centuries:
“Their situation can perhaps best be compared with some of the poorer aristocrats of the 19th and 20th centuries who signed up for service in the French Foreign Legion. Just as the legionnaires of the modern times, these Roman aristocrats wanted to get away from their former lives and decided to take on a role in which their previous status was irrelevant. From that point on, they shared their lives with proletariats and slaves who they wouldn’t have spared a glance for previously.”

Gladiator Diversity – Overview of the Types

Gladiators were often divided into different types depending on their weapons and style of fighting. In all, there were almost 30 different gladiators - and 42 different Roman emperors watched the bloodbaths in the Colosseum. The relative rarity of the elaborate and expensive gladiator fights remained mostly constant throughout the centuries. In 354 AD, 102 of the 176 festival days were used for theater performances, 64 for chariot races, and only 10 for gladiator fights. It was Emperor Honorius who ended the gladiator fights in 399. The last known gladiator fight in Rome was on January 1, 404.
In the Roman arenas, a series of different gladiator types that had developed throughout the centuries fought. The allure of the fights lay partially in having the various types fight against one another.
We can attribute most of our knowledge about the gladiators’ weapons from excavations in Pompeii, where a great deal of equipment from gladiator barracks was found. Today, the equipment is in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples. Statues and representations of gladiators on gravestones, frescoes, reliefs, mosaics, and oil lamps also give clues.
The first gladiators, who performed at funeral ceremonies or burials of noble Romans and were named bustarii after the funeral pyre (bustum), had very simple equipment. Each gladiator carried a shield and sword and was protected by a helmet and greaves. Throughout the centuries, several gladiator types developed which differed greatly from one another in terms of their equipment and fighting styles.
The earlier gladiators probably fought with weapons similar to those of the peoples who had been conquered by Rome. Later, though, a gladiator fighting as a Gaul did not necessarily have to come from Gaul. Because of the sources, the exact equipment of these earlier types is unclear.
Livius reports in his work Ab Urbe Condita (9, 40) that the Campanians allied with Rome armed the fighters who performed at their banquets with the weapons of their defeated enemies, in this case the Samnites. According to Livius, they were equipped with a plumed helmet (galea cristata), a long shield, and a left greave.
Little is known about the armor of the gladiators who fought under the name of the Gauls.

Types in the Imperial Period

Augustus reformed the gladiators, and types such as Samnite or Gallus no longer appeared. However, he took on older types such as Provocator, Thraex, and Murmillo.
The Equites opened the gladiator games with their fight. They were armed with a plumed helmet with a visor, a flat, round shield, a lance, and a short sword (gladius). In contrast to all other types of gladiators, who were clothed with only a loincloth (subligaculum), they were tunics. They began their fight on horseback but then dismounted and continued with their swords. In pictorial representations, they are usually shown in the final phase of the fight, that is, on foot and fighting with swords.
The Murmillo is a very old type of gladiator that existed in the first century BC. The armor of the Murmillo, with their short sword (gladius) and large, square shield (scutum) is comparable to the Legion infantry. As protective clothing, they had an armguard (mania) and a greave on their left leg which went up to just below the knee. They wore a visored helmet with a high, straight crest that was decorated with colorful feathers and looked like a fish (mormylos = little fish). They fought against the Thracians.
This type of fighter carried a weapon designed to point to his Thracian origins. The Thraex had a sword with the curved blade (sica) and a small, rounded square shield (parmula) and wore a visored helmet with a griffin on the front of the crest. As protective clothing, he wore a quilted armguard (manica). On both legs, he wore quilted thigh-length leg guards, and on top of these were greaves which reached above the knee.
As an alternative to the matching of Murmillo against Thraex, there was the matching of Murmillo against Hoplomachus. In weaponry and protective clothing, Hoplomachus was similar to Thraex. Instead of a round shield, he had a very small form of a Greek hoplite round shield as well as a spear (hasta). For close combat, he also had a gladius. In exceptional cases, he could also fight against Thraex.
The Special Retiarius
The Retiarius was an unusual gladiator who was only mentioned starting with the reign of Emperor Caligula (37-41 AD). His exceptional weaponry was made up of a throwing net (rete), a trident (tridens, also called fuscina), and a short sword or dagger (pugio). He had neither a shield nor a helmet. His only protective clothing was a shoulder shield (galerus) and an armguard (manica) on his left arm. At first he tried to throw the net over his opponent. Once it was thrown unsuccessfully, he tried to attack him with the trident; if this failed, he still had the sword for close fighting. His opponent was usually the Secutor.
The Pontarius was a kind of game for the Retiarius. He defended a bridge (pons) with two ramp-like ends. On each side, a Secutor attacked and tried to get up on the platform. In addition to his usual equipment, the shoulder shield (galerus) and the armguard, the Pontarius had a large stockpile of throwing objects, probably rocks.
The Secutor (pursuer) was a Murmillo specialized in fighting the Retiarius. In order to avoid his opponent’s attack with the throwing net, he wore an egg-shaped helmet which only had very small eyeholes. This limitation in his vision also protected his eyes from being poked out by the Retiarius. His weapons were the short sword and a large, square shield (scutum).
This rare type of gladiator could fight against Retiarius. Just as the Secutor, he had an egg-shaped helmet with eyeholes, he also carried the short sword (gladius) in his right hand, and his right arm was also protected by an armguard. The special characteristic of the Scissor was that he had no shield, and instead his left arm was put in a rounded tube that encased his entire lower arm. At the end of the tube was a short shaft with a blade shaped like a mincing knife. With this weapon, he could cut the Retiarius’ net or parry his trident. He could also cut open his opponent with a slice of the blade. As he couldn’t protect his body with a shield, he wore knee-length chainmail called lorica hamate or scale armor (lorica squamata).
The Provocator (Challenger) is known starting in the late Republic and fought, like Equites, against others of his type. In the 1st century AD, he wore a helmet similar to a legionary helmet. Only in the 2nd and 3rd centuries did he have a helmet without a crest and with a steeply descending neck guard but with a visor. He was armed with a mid-sized square shield (scutum), a crescent-shaped breastplate (pectoral), and a gladius. As protection, he had a greave on his left leg and a manica on his right arm.
There were a few women who fought in the arena, although it was hardly commonplace. A relief from Halicarnassus (Turkey) shows their equipment. They could have fought in all types, but the two female gladiators (gladiatrices) shown are equipped the same as the Provocators.
The Essedarius was another type of gladiator that only fought against its same type. The name is derived from the term for a Celtic chariot (essedum). It is assumed that the Essedarii opened the fight on their chariots and then, similar to the Equites, dismounted and continued the fight on foot. The Essedarius had an armguard on his swordarm, a short sword, and gaiters or short bandages on both legs. In addition, he wore a helmet which in early times was similar to a legionary helmet and later to the Secutor helmet.
Very Rare Gladiators
There were also other types of gladiators who are mentioned only rarely. For example the Dimachaerus, who fought with two blades, that is, daggers or swords like the gladius. He wore padded protection on his body, bandages on his dagger arm and on the legs, and sometimes also greaves, but no helmet. His name is made up of the Greek words for “two” (dio) and “knives” (machaera). The Sagittarius (archer) is only depicted on a relief in Florence where two armed and helmed archers shoot at each other in an arena. Andabates is mentioned by Cicero but does not appear again in the imperial period. His eyes were bound, and he therefore had to rely on his hearing since only the reaction of the crowd or the sounds of breathing could give him clues as to where his opponent was located. Laquearius (lasso fighter) was only mentioned by Isidor of Sevilla. There is also little known about Paegniarius.
The Paegniarius was not armed with deadly weapons. A scene on a mosaic in Nennig is often interpreted as a representation of this type of gladiator. The fighters carry a whip in their right hand and a wooden board bound to their left arm. According to a description from Sueton, Emperor Caligula had fathers with physical handicaps fight as gladiators in the arena for entertainment. Since there are Roman representations of people of small stature with all types of weapons, these may have also appeared as Paegniarii with dulled weapons for entertainment. It is likely that the Paegniarii appeared in preliminary fights (prolusion) and venatio.
The Veles, on the other hand, was a type mentioned only by Isidor of Sevilla as well as in several inscriptions with the abbreviation VEL. The name comes from the most poorly armed Roman soldiers, velites (skirmishers), during the time of the Punic Wars. It is assumed that their style of fighting was similar to this type of soldier. The Crupellarius was mentioned by Tacitus as a Gallic fighter. A bronze statuette from France could be a representation of this fully armored fighter. The Scaeva was a gladiator who fought left-handed. Emperor Commodus, who like to privately fight as a gladiator – not in the arena -, fought as a secutor scaeva. If two left-handed gladiators were matched, it was called a left-handed fight (pugna scaevata). The Venator fought against wild animals. That is why it does not belong in the true gladiator typologies. 

Friday, 28 November 2014

Roman Clothings

All in all, Roman clothing was similar to the Greek.
The tunic was a piece of clothing for everyone. It was usually made up of two square woolen cloths which were connected at the shoulders and hung down to the knees. They were most commonly made out of uncolored wool and were therefore the color of oatmeal. - The tunic was held together at the waist with a belt. Those who were more well-to-do wore longer tunics.
The most famous piece of clothing for men was the toga, which was worn over the tunic. All freeborn were legally allowed to wear a toga. Usually, however, only men of the upper class – the “elected people” – wore a toga as a sign of an official mission: magistrates and senators wore them when they were carrying out their state obligations. But putting on such a toga was not an easy task - the material was folded and artfully draped over the shoulders! That is why they were often replaced with a cloak (pallium), but this was frowned upon in some circles.
Roman Toga
The piece of clothing that was more popular than the toga in the end was the simple tunic, which was worn by men as well as women: a simple shirt, usually of white wool or linen made up of two parts sewn together. They were worn day and night. If you wanted to relax at home, you loosened the belt. In winter, people would wear up to four tunics layered on top of one another!
A special kind of tunic for women was the stole: it was favored in particular by matrons from the upper class and was characterized by a purple border on the lower hem. Of course women wore something like underclothes under the tunic: an apron and chest band. Women of the common classes were not allowed to wear stoles and probably didn‘t have the money for such elaborate clothing.
In the imperial period, the tunic was replaced by a cloak called pallium for men and palla for women. The cloak, which was taken from the Greeks, was easy to throw over the shoulders and usually went down to the ankles. The most popular color was purple.
If the weather was bad, there was also a poncho (paenula) with a hood, made of a rough woolen material. It was a funnel-shaped all-weather cloak without sleeves. Even simple folk could afford it!
In a society like that of the Romans, in which social position was put on display with status symbols and external signs, the discrepancy between rich and poor manifested itself in the clothing and in particular in the cloak. This was done with outward splendor, opposition, attracting attention, or a purposefully unkempt appearance – just like today!
Roman clothing

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Roman Bookseller

Booksellers in Ancient Rome

In antiquity, the author wrote the original manuscript of his work himself or dictated to a scribe slave. The manuscript was then given to a publisher, who had it copied by professional scribes, who were usually slaves. Before distribution, the ancient Roman books were proofread by an editor (lat. corrector) for mistakes. However, sometimes this was done rather poorly, as the geographer Strabon (63 BC – 19 AD) complained about error-ridden copies in Rome and Alexandria’s bookstores. From an exchange of letters between Cicero and his publisher and friend Atticus, it can be seen that Atticus even recalled books that were already at the booksellers upon Cicero’s request in order to make late corrections.

Roman books - bookseller

For early Christianity, we are given indications for the entire process of editing, publishing, distributing and selling of books in the city of Rome and beyond. In the so-called Shepherd of Hermas we read:

(2) The elderly woman came and asked if I had already given the book to the presbyters. I said that I had not. 'You have done well', she said, 'for I have some words to add. Then, when I complete all the words, they will be made known through you to all those who are chosen. (3) And so, you will write two little books, sending one to Clement and the other to Grapte. Clement will send his to the foreign cities, for that is his commission. But Grapte will admonish the widows and orphans. And you will read yours in this city, with the presbyters who lead the church.[1]
If this short note reflects a typical praxis, then books were published and distributed by the author, once they had been read by a few insiders and amendments had been made by those first readers. But the publishing remained the author’s responsibility, as did the first copying and sending out of the book. The first copies, then, went to specifically commissioned people, as in this case to Clement who was the agent for foreign cities. These agents made further copies (as otherwise Clement could not have sent the book to a number of foreign ‘cities’), while others, as here Grapte, used their copy for instruction. The reading out of the book to the leading people in the community, the presbyters, without handing it out, lay with the author. Books, therefore, did not simply make their way into the public domain. As today, there existed proper structures and procedures for writing, correcting, proof-reading, revising, publishing, copying and distribution processes that led to a diverse readership with regards to location, purpose and intent.

[1] Herm. vis 2.4 [8], trans. B.D. Ehrman, Loeb Library.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Roman School Experience today

Look what Reading Classicists, and especially Professor Eleanor Dickey as the main organizer have achieved:

Reading ancient schoolroom a great success

More than 100 local and not-so-local schoolchildren, teachers, and parents came to Reading on November 19th for Experiencing Ancient Education, an event in which research by Reading Classicists on how ancient schools functioned was presented in action by creating a replica ancient schoolroom for a day. Roman clothes were produced specially for the event by copying the garments on an ancient picture of a school, and all participants dressed in these costumes and learned in a room decorated as a replica of a real ancient schoolroom recently excavated in Egypt. Windows looking out on the Nile river were contributed by an artist connected to the department, and the walls were painted by enthusiastic students and staff. Participants practiced reading from a scroll of papyrus written in ancient fashion (i.e. no spaces between the words or other reading aids), writing on wax tablets, copying poetry onto ostraca (pieces of broken pottery), and doing mathematical calculations in Roman numerals.
To read more, click here


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Ancient Books

Ancient Roman Books

In antiquity, the standard form of books was taken from Pharaonic Egypt, scrolls usually made of papyrus and rarely of parchment. In ancient Rome, these book scrolls were widespread with Greek and Latin texts starting in the 3rd / 2nd century BC. The oldest Greek literature is likely that of Homer from 700 BC. It was not preserved as contemporary scrolls. Still, it can be assumed that the use of scrolls in Greece goes back to archaic times. In Greece, pictorial representations of scrolls exist from the 5th century BC.
But the oldest original findings of Greek papyrus scrolls come from Egypt. They date back to the 4th century BC. At that time, the great philosophical schools of Athens already owned book collections. The founding of libraries in several capital cities of Hellenic kingdoms, for example in Alexandria or Pergamon, helped the ancient book production gain momentum. There is evidence that books were copied in the library of Alexandria and also for these other libraries. The philologists therefore must have had their own book production, or at least one linked to the library.

Ancient Roman Scribes

The scribes in ancient Rome were paid according to the number of written lines. In a Diocletian
price edict (306 AD), three pay levels are listed. In the margin of the text, the lines were counted (stichometry). Since the price for private copies was calculated the same way, copies with stichometric numbers did not necessarily have to come from a bookseller. However, one sample from a bookseller might be a papyrus at the University of Milan, which contains the name Sosos in Greek script at the end of a commentary on Ilias. The papyrus, found in Egypt, could be from the Roman publishing house of the brothers Sosius. The epistles of Horace (65 – 8 BC) were also published by the brothers Sosius.

Changes in Ancient Books

The ancient papyrus scroll remained the predominant form for books until the 2nd century AD. In addition, since the 6th century BC there were early forms of the so-called codex in Greece. The ancient codex (plural codices) originally denoted a stack of wood or wax tablets with writing or that were intended for writing. Later these were also folded or bound papyrus or parchment “stacks” enclosed with two wooden blocks. In Latin, by the way, codex (originally caudex) means “trunk of a tree” or “block of wood”, and later the word meant “book” or “booklet.” In the Roman imperial period, both the Codex as well as the older book form, the scroll, were in use.
In the 4th century AD, the codex became the predominant form of book in late antiquity. Up to modern times, the book form changed very little. With the replacement of scrolls with the codex, however, papyrus was also increasingly replaced by the more precious and expensive parchment, which was also, however, dependent on imports.

Ancient Wooden Tablet Codices as the Predecessor of the Modern Book

The ancient wooden tablet codices remained in use for various purposes in the form of so-called diptych (also triptych or polyptych depending on the number of “pages”) throughout the entire ancient Roman period. This developed in the form of the codex made of parchment papers (rarely from papyrus) bound between two covers. The ancient codex was first in use at the same time as the book scrolls, but by late antiquity (4th/5th century AD) had replaced these as the standard form of ancient books. The oldest papyrus scrolls were even systematically copied to parchment codices. The reason: it was more convenient to use the codices and they were preferred by Christians. The late antique codex in this form is the predecessor of the Middle Age and modern book. 

Monday, 17 November 2014

Roman Baths and Thermae

Roman Baths

The Romans were famous for their baths and thermae. The ancient baths were set up along a central axis. In the thermae, there was a smaller space for the tepidarium, which was a warm bath. The frigidarium, a cold bath, was located in the basilica. In addition, there was the caldarium, a hot bath, and the natation, an open-air bathing pond. Symmetrically on both sides of the thermae were the changing rooms and rooms for massages, hair removal, or medical treatments. From the changing rooms (apodyteria), the people went to the sports areas (palaestra), and from there to a sauna (laconica) in order to sweat some more. After bathing in the caldarium, the skin was cleaned with a strigil. Then they went to the cooler tepidarium and, finally, to the frigidarium, with a leap into the cold water!

Roman Bath Thermae Archeon

Daily baths

For the Romans, bathing meant health and propriety. The Romans washed their arms and legs daily, as their everyday clothing left these parts of their body uncovered. The Romans washed their bodies once a week. At home, they washed in a primitive kind of washroom that was close to the kitchen so that the water could be heated on the stove and brought to the washroom without too much effort.

Public baths

But of course it was the Roman public baths and thermae that were so famous. During the last century of the Republic, the bathing habits of the Romans changed. Bathing in the public thermae became a part of the Romans’ daily life. They enjoyed visiting the public baths, which were soon opened in all areas of Rome. Even in smaller Italian cities and the provinces, public baths were operated. Often they were built where hot or mineral springs were found. These public institutions offered the Romans all kinds of baths, diving pools, showers, and (Turkish) massages. In many Roman baths, recreational activities were offered after the Greek model. There were gymnastic exercises, courts for various games, areas for reading and conversation, libraries and gymnastic equipment – everything that a sports club or modern gym and cultural clubs offer their members today. Soon, the bath’s amenities were more important than bathing itself. And the thermae became places of relaxation and pleasure. In places where there were no public baths or where they were too far away, well-to-do Romans had baths installed in their houses. Regardless of how expensive and luxurious these private baths were, they were only ever a second-best option to the public baths, where social concerns also had a high priority. Many Roman business was conducted in the thermae.
The ruins of numerous public and private baths could be found throughout the Roman world, so that today we can have a good idea of what the Roman public baths. Several elements were standard for the luxurious baths of antiquity.
There was always a warm anteroom and a hot as well as a cold bath. In addition, there was a place for oil rubs. There was an exercise room (palaestra) with a pool on one side (piscina) for a cool diving pool. There was also a side room (destrictarium) where sweat and dirt was scraped off with a strigil before and after bathing.

Baths, wine, and love!

The more simple bathing houses in earlier times as well as the bath itself was called balneum (balineum). As the public Roman baths became more complex, they were called balneae, and as they added Greek elements of recreation including an exercise room, they were finally called thermae. The basic equipment of a bath included a changing room and all kinds of baths: cold (frigidarium), warm (tepidarium), and hot (caldarium) baths, and steam or sweat baths (laconicum) similar to today’s saunas. The Roman baths were a center for leisure activities and communication. Around the water basin there were training, game, gymnastics, and massage areas. Especially the ball games was taken from the Greeks and very popular with the Roman bath guests. Around the large bathing houses there were expansive gardens and parks. The bath guests could go for a stroll there or take a sunbath on the terraces. If they were hungry or thirsty, the Romans went to one of many restaurants and taverns where merchants and cooks openly hawked their wares. For intellectual needs, museums and libraries were available. And there were even prostitutes for the Roman men’s leisure time in the thermae! In the Roman baths, the three most important things in life were combined: baths, wine, and love!

Artistic baths

The thermae were usually ostentatiously decorated. Floors and walls were often covered with colorful, picturesque mosaics. Ceilings were decorated with gold. In addition to artfully designed pillars made of granite and bathtubs of basalt and porphyry, famous artwork was discovered in the thermae: For example the Laocoon Group in the famous Baths of Trajan.

Personal hygiene and other well-being

The public baths were heated with charcoal. An oven ensured comfortable temperatures, and the warm air was even pressed into the hollow spaces of the floors with a large tube. The bath houses served on the one hand for maintaining good health, but they were also a place of leisure and pleasure. Personal hygiene included utensils like oil, cleaning supplies, or hair tonics. The Roman bath guests brought these materials and towels with them as well as their own servant if they could afford one. The servants guarded the cloakroom, massaged their masters, and helped them with personal hygiene and hair removal. Extensive salves, hairdressing, and make-up after bathing were also a part of the Roman bathing ritual. Those who didn’t have their own servants could rent a bather or a masseur.

Times for bathing

The opening hours of the Roman thermae were the same everywhere. The thermae were usually only open in the afternoons. They were sometimes also opened in the night or in the morning. At the beginning, they opened the doors to the baths around midday. But after Hadrian’s reign, they only opened in the early afternoon at the eighth hour. The baths were closed at sundown. The typical bathing time for the Romans was between the midday break and the main meal.
Men and women bathed separately. Often the baths were in the same building complex but with different entrances for men and women. Sometimes different bathing hours were also set if the complex was not big enough to separate men and women. Then there was the option of simply having one bathing day for women and one for men. In addition, in Rome smaller bathing houses (balnae) were reserved for women. At the time of the emperor Trajan, the women were probably allowed to go to the larger thermae as well, but bathing together with men was viewed as improper. Especially because it was not usual for clothes to be worn while bathing – the Romans had nothing like swim trunks or bikinis -, bathing together would have led to a scandal. During Hadrian’s time, a prohibition against bathing together was made. This also resulted in different bathing times. Both sexes could be present at the same time outside of the baths, however, in the other rooms and areas of the baths like the sports areas, the parks, museums, etc.

Bath plan Roman thermae

Sponsors for the baths

The price of admission into the Roman baths was not the same everywhere, but it was usually affordable. Children could often enter for free, but women often had to pay more than men. The lower prices also made it possible for people from lower classes to visit the baths. Their popularity therefore steadily increased. Soon bathing was no longer considered a leisurely pastime but was a daily activity. This led to greater demand but, at the same time, to ever greater competitive pressure. The architecture and amenities of the baths became more elaborate, and the decorations in the public baths became more expensive. Well-to-do citizens or politicians therefore endowed the baths or paid the admission fees for one year. Of course, that not only increased the popularity of bathing but also the reputation of the sponsors!

Donors to the baths

One example of an extremely generous bath sponsor was Agrippa, who paid the admission fees to all 170 bath houses in Rome in 33 BC and charged no admission fees in the bath house he later built himself. He was thus very popular with the people. Even emperors such as Nero, Titus, Trajan, or Caracalla had baths built. Of course each wanted to outdo his predecessor in terms of the size, beauty, and costliness of his baths. The emperors Titus and Hadrian even enjoyed bathing together with the people in order to gain popularity. Because baths were open to everyone, wealthy citizens often also had their own pools. The wealthier a person was, the bigger their pool! Some were even as large as the public baths. And the design and decoration of the private Roman baths of the wealthy was usually more expensive and artistically valuable than the already very ornately decorated public Roman bath houses.

Expansion of public Roman baths

Public Roman baths only became known after the Second Punic War. The number of Roman baths quickly increased, however. At least 170 baths were operated in Rome in 33 BC, and later there were more than eight hundred bath houses for Roman citizens. Baths spread just as quickly throughout all of Italy and in the Roman provinces. All Roman cities and even many villages had at least one public bath. The baths were only public in the sense that they were accessible for all citizens. Admission fees were usually modest for using the baths. There were no free baths. However, generous and wealthy citizens or candidates for a Roman political office would make it possible for people to visit the bath for free by paying the fees and operational costs of the bath themselves for a period of time. For example, in 33 BC, Agrippa opened all 170 bath houses in Rome for free for the citizens of the city. He was greatly respected and enjoyed a great deal of prestige among the citizens for this. Some rich citizens also put in their testament that the baths should be opened to all citizens for free for a certain period of time.

Roman baths as businesses

The first public Roman baths were opened by individuals for speculative purposes. They wanted to earn money. Others were built by wealthy men as a gift to their city or their place of birth. The city was responsible for managing the public baths, and the agencies maintained the buildings in which there were public baths. The operation of public baths was paid by the admission fees, however. There were also public baths which were built with city funds. These were later attributed to the emperors. Most Roman baths were leased to an owner and an operator. They paid a set amount for a certain period of time to a manager who covered his costs with the admission fees and made a profit from the other charges.

Around the Roman bath

The admission fee (balneaticum) for visiting the public Roman baths was little more than nominal. The person brought his own towel, creams, and oils. Women often paid more than men, sometimes twice as much, while children up to a certain age were allowed to use the public baths for free. The price varied depending on the place, size of the bath, and the amount of luxury offered. Higher prices were probably set in the baths that were more luxurious and therefore were considered more exclusive and fashionable.
Women went to public bath houses just like today except that they were only amongst other women. They enjoyed the opportunity to meet with their friends to talk just as the men did. In big cities, there were separate public baths only for women or only for men. However, within the same bath house there was also the possibility to separate the sexes. The rooms for men were usually larger than those for women. Maybe that means more men visited the public Roman baths. In smaller cities which only had small bath houses and couldn’t have separate bathing activities, the public bath was open at different times for men and women. Later in the Roman Empire there were supposedly bathing houses that men and women used together. However, these were mostly women without a respectable status.
Baths were regularly taken between the meridiatio and cena. The hour varied in the different seasons, however, and for different classes. In general it is said that the bath was taken at the eighth hour, and at this time all bath operators were contractually obligated to open the bath house and have everything ready. Many Romans preferred to bath at prandium – about the time of second breakfast around midday – and at least in larger cities the public baths needed to be open then for guests. But actually, all public baths were regularly operated until sundown. In smaller cities were there were not many public baths, it is even probable that the baths were kept open after sundown. Many lanterns were found in the Roman bath houses in Pompeii, anyway, which indicate bathing was done in the evening hours. In general, the operators kept the doors to their bath houses open as long as it was profitable for them!

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Friday, 14 November 2014

Roman Architecture

Roman Architecture

The word architecture refers to the art and science of conceptualizing and erecting buildings. The ancient Romans were masters of architecture, design, and erecting buildings. The skill of the Romans in erecting and constructing buildings, including the invention of concrete, led to the creation of different types and styles of Roman architecture in building fortresses, villas, temples, even entire city quarters, baths, large walls, and roads. Roman construction and architecture permanently changed the face of Europe.

Architecture of the Romans

An overview of Roman architecture, and of the construction, planning, and building of Roman architecture in antiquity had clear characteristics. These are reflected even today in the basilica, in baths, amphitheaters like the Coliseum, the Arc de Triomphe, old villas, temples, streets, forts and palisades, cities, and aqueducts. The fact that the Romans discovered concrete is a true journey of discovery that leads one through the Roman world of the famous pillars and arches.

A Colossus of Roman Architecture

The symbol of the power and wealth of the Roman Empire was the Coliseum, built in the center of Rome. In less than 10 years, the Romans erected this ancient construction that demonstrated the perfection of Roman architectural expertise. It was conceptualized and built by outstanding and famous engineers. The remarkable accomplishment of Roman architecture is a monument for one of the most famous Roman inventions: concrete. The Roman arches stand prominently around the building, and the pillars demonstrate the various styles of architecture: Tuscan pillars on the underside of the Colosseum, Ionic, and, finally, on the third level, Corinthian pillars.

Historical Information on Roman Architecture

The Roman time marked the shift of the Western world from a region populated by barbaric clans to the civilization of the global conqueror: the Roman Empire. The time of Roman architecture starts with the founding of the Republic in 509 BC. It stretches to the transfer of the capital of the empire from Rome to the Eastern Empire in Constantinople in 330 A.D. The history of Roman architecture is separated into two periods. During the first period, the period of the Republic, the origins of Roman architecture can be traced back to the Etruscans who carried on the Greek and Phoenician traditions. An example of this is the erection of large temples to honor their gods.
The second period of architecture began in 27 BC and is considered the period of the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire stretched over thousands of miles from Europe to North Africa and the Middle East. The large number of countries conquered by the Romans in the course of time brought with them a rich cultural diversity that was reflected in Roman architecture. The result was an eclectic architectural style, a Roman architecture, that melted together numerous elements from the diverse regional styles and architectural traditions and made something new.

Ancient Roman Architecture - Instructions from the Roman Era

The era of Roman architecture in the shift from the Republic to the imperial period was a time of development in Roman architecture and creation of completely new constructions. For example, the old Romans are responsible for the so-called forums. These were squares framed by temples, stores, and basilica. Basilica were also first created during this time. Baths were a special challenge of typical Roman architecture. Markets such as the Trajan Market in Rome were created. This is a five-story building complex with stores, bars, and restaurants.
The architects in Rome became famous for the amphitheaters like the famous Coliseum and the Circus Maximus as well as for theaters. Triumphal arches celebrated the Roman victories. Villas, temples, streets, forts and palisades, cities, and aqueducts are evidence of Roman architecture.

All Roads Lead to Rome – Social and Cultural Change in Roman Architecture

The Roman Empire was expanding and Roman architecture increasingly changed. The splendor of Roman architecture reflected the social changes of people in Rome. After all, the Romans were the conquerors of half of the civilized world. The great stone and marble constructions of the Romans presented their civilization and their wealth, their dominance and power to all who lived in slavery. In order to rule the Roman Empire and show its power, it was necessary to be able to quickly access all regions and provinces. Roads were needed to be able to more quickly travel from one Roman region to the next. Over 82,000 km of roads were built in a star form around the capital to all provinces and regions. It is therefore no wonder that even today people say: “All roads lead to Rome.”

Theater for the People

The massive antique amphitheaters were built for the people. The old Roman games were a form of entertainment while they also displayed power and dominance. Men’s brutal blood sacrifices, for example when fighting against exotic creatures like crocodiles, leopards, elephants, lions, and tigers, were designed to show the Roman Empire’s prominent position of power. However, the changing needs of the people also demanded innovations in ancient Roman architecture. The Roman emperors needed the support of the people to stay in power, and this meant that large public construction projects were taken on. Games were held in the massive amphitheaters like the Coliseum and the Circus Maximus. Spectacular triumphal parades through the broad Roman streets and through the triumphal arches of the forums were a way for the regents to enthuse the people.
These usually culminated in worship of the gods in the splendorous temples. Public baths became popular in ancient Rome, not only for the rich, but for all people - of course with differences in terms of Roman architecture. Well-to-do Roman patricians wanted to demonstrate their wealth and had magnificent villas built. Here there was a true competition and innovation in Roman architecture. Cities were built in this time, or conceptualized and constructed, and for everyone there was a public bath – the focal point of Roman society and social life.

Construction Materials and Work in Roman Architecture

Which materials were easy for the Roman architects to access? At first, many buildings created by Roman architects were made of wood. Stone and marble were often too expensive. Many skills had to be acquired through the course of time in order to achieve the high standards of ancient Roman architecture. In order to be able to build large structures and cities, thousands of workers were needed. For the Romans that was no problem! After all, they had millions of slaves from the conquered areas. They took the best ideas and concepts from the buildings in these regions as models and also had the Roman army, which was responsible for building the giant network of old Roman roads. The wonderful and exemplary buildings of ancient Roman architecture were only made possible when the Romans invented concrete. Without this, buildings like the Pantheon or the arches and the Coliseum wouldn’t have been architecturally possible.

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Friday, 19 September 2014

The Roman goddesses and gods - an introduction

The Pantheon of Roman gods and the Greek gods with their description


Roman Name of the Roman goddesses and gods
Roman Name of the Greek goddesses and gods
god of the Sun, poetry, music, Oracle
god of wine
goddess of agriculture
god of love
goddess of the hunt
goddess of animals
goddess of flowers and spring
goddess of happiness
god of the beginning and the end
the goddess of marriage
god of heaven and king of the gods
god of war
Messenger of the gods and God of finances, poets and writers
Pallas Athena
goddess of wisdom
god of sea
god of the underworld and death
god of time, harvest and agriculture
goddess of love and beauty
goddess of the heart, the home and the Roman State
god of fire and the forge

Ever more new-Roman deities

The Roman goddess Vesta was borrowed from the Greek, and corresponded to Hestia, the goddess of the hearth fire. She was worshipped in the Temple of Vesta in the Forum. Their circular Temple corresponded to the ancient italic round hut. The eternal flame, which was guarded by six vestal virgins, burned in the temple with 20 columns. She lived in a neighboring House and their "service" took 30 years. The Roman virgins to guard the Temple had to live as virgins. If one of them fell, she was walled up alive. And if one did not pay attention and let the external fire extinguish, she was scourged to death by the Pontiff Maximus. However, when a criminal who had been sentenced to death, on his way to the execution met a vestal virgin, he was pardoned. Vestal virgins were so highly regarded that even Senators made place for them when they met in the street. The Roman rulers deposited their testaments in the Temple of Vesta.

Examples of how Romans paid homage to their gods

Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, was worshipped when a famine in Rome broke out in the year 496 BC. To her together with Liber (gr. Dionysos) and Libera (gr. Persephone) a temple was donated. Mars was the God of war and thus the God of the soldiers and the military. The month of March was dedicated to him, because he was originally the old Latin god of agriculture and of spring. On March 1, the Roman Mars priests who came from twelve noble families, held their celebrations in honor of Mars. The farmers went with a bull, a pig and a sheep goat across the fields and sacrificed the animals to the deity of Mars. Mercury was the God of traders, poets and writers. At the Circus Maximus, who was at the same time also the Corn Exchange of Rome, he had his temple. Here was also the seat of the panel of the Roman merchants (mercuriales).

Venus is the goddess of love and beauty. She is the mother of Aeneas and thus the ancestress of the family of the Iulier which they worshipped as Generix. She was also the Roman goddess of the garden for the farmers. Neptune as God of the water was the Greek Poseidon in the Roman pantheon. Apollo, initially considered as a healing god, later became the god of arts, divination, the exiles and the displaced persons. In the Roman Empire, he was also Sol, the Sun God of the Romans. His sister was Diane, who was the Greek god artemis, a goddess of the hunt.

Roman gods

In addition to the old and new gods, Romans worshipped further divine beings, the Lares, Penates and Manes. The Lares were the gods of the house and the spirits of the deceased who looked after the house. They even remained when a Roman family left their house. The Penates were the gods of the inhabitants of the houses. You were dependent on their health and prosperity. Her name is derived from the Latin word penus meaning supplies. The Penates accompanied the families, but alsoe the State had his Penates. The Manes were the souls of the dead, which were worshipped by the Romans. They were not only worshipped, even a Festival was celebrated to their honour on 21 February (feralia). Marriage was forbidden on that day, the temples were closed and Roman officials were not allowed to wear official clothing. The Manes are often mentioned under the symbol DM - dis manibus - on Roman gravestones manibus.