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.

Roman ink and paint - was it a dangerous to health?

Ancient ink was often carbon-based, but was also made with metals like copper, which, sometimes, was concocted with little or no sulfur. During the Roman Empire and towards the medieval times, we notice a move towards the famous iron gall inks (made with iron sulfate) which became popular and remained so until modern times. A good example for the transition can be seen in the Coptic fragments of the famous, only recently re-discovered Gospel of Judas which links the ancient world to the modern, as the scribe used iron gall ink that also included black carbon soot bound with a gum binder.
This move is interesting also from a health perspective. Although iron sulfate in larger quantities are dangerous for the human body, smaller quantities are even used as general iron supplement in humans without any reports of adverse long term health effects. The added Oak gall apples' fluid (produced from cooking Oak gall apples for half an hour) were also a natural product. Oak gall apples grow on Oak trees, induced by wasps and their eggs.
For a long time, people have seen the beneficial benefits for women’s health and general health as well from Oak extracts. These have natural antiseptic properties that are effective in eliminating bacteria, yeast and fungal infection, the main cause of itching and unpleasant odor in the intimate area. Hence the gall apples did not only physically protect the wasp's egg, it did so also biologically.

As binding material, the Romans used Gum arabic, a natural gum made of hardened sap that is taken from two species of the acacia tree and links the Roman economy to central Africa and the Senegal or Somalia, although the species have also been historically cultivated in Arabia.
Now, Gum arabic is famous still today as source of the sugars arabinose and ribose and better known
in the food industry as an edible stabilizer (E number E414). As in antiquity, where it was (and in some countries still is) used to make a chilled, sweetened, and flavored gelato-like dessert. It is the basis for many soft drink syrups, "hard" gummy candies such as gumdrops, marshmallows, chocolate candies, and edible glitter, or for popular modern cake-decorating staple.


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Parchment - writing an animal skins?

In the Roman times parchment was a common writing material, although quite expensive, as it was made of animal skin, also known as “membrana”. The actual name “parchment” was found later in late antique times in sources by Edict of Diocletian (VII38).

Parchment started competing with Papyrus from around 400 A.D. and eventually took over papyrus.
This happened especially because parchment was easier to produce since it was available nearly everywhere due to the simple raw materials needed. Papyrus was a lot more difficult to produce and production availability was limited to plants that only grew in a few regions such as North Africa and Syria.

This was the beginning of the use of parchment in the literary world also because writing errors can easily be erased and fixed in parchment, unlike with papyrus which was harder to fix.

The production of parchment happens in several steps. The animal skin is put in lime lye where the hair detaches. Adjacent is the skin stretched into a wooden frame and still in wet condition scraped with a knife.
When all hair residues are removed, the surface can be smoothened to become a writable surface. This costly process hasn’t changed for thousands of years and is still today traditionally exercised.

Writing on goat or sheep skin is not only a special writing experience, but one can produce something that is durable and eccentric – decorative, rustic and impressionable – but also suitable for the day to day use like to protect books. Hence, it is not only something that was used by Romans, but still very common for important documents in the Middle Ages, but also in modern times.