Cloaca Maxima: Attempting to Keep Rome Clean

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If you’re here then, just like us, you have a passion for Ancient Rome. We’re glad you do for there is so much to share.

As one of the largest ancient cities, Rome probably felt like the center of the universe at the height of its power. With so much happening militarily, culturally, religiously, and constructurally above the ground we often overlook what was going on underneath it.

Well that ends today as we uncover a truly great feat (at least in its own right) as we explore the Cloaca Maxima!

Domitian-era section of the Cloaca under the Forum.

The Cloaca Maxima is one of the world’s earliest sewage systems. Constructed in Ancient Rome in order to drain local marshes and remove the waste of one of the world’s most populous cities, it carried effluent to the River Tiber, which ran beside the city.

The name literally means Greatest Sewer. According to tradition it may have been initially constructed around 600 BC under the orders of the Rex Romae (King of Rome)Tarquinius Priscus.

Capitoline Hill and Cloaca Maxima (c. 1890).

The Cloaca Maxima was originally built by the Etruscans as an open-air canal. Over time, the Romans covered over the canal and turned it into a sewer system for the city.

The system of Roman sewers was much imitated throughout the Imperium Rōmānum (Roman Empire), especially when combined with abundant supplies of water from Roman aqueducts. The sewer system in Eboracum (modern-day York) was especially impressive, and part of it still survives today.

Contained within the Cloaca Maxima there were many branches off of the main sewer, all of which seem to be official SPQR drains that would have served public toilets, thermae (bath-houses) and other public buildings. Private residences in Rome, even of the rich, would have relied on some sort of cess-pit arrangement for sewage.

Map of central Rome during the time of the Roman Empire, showing the Cloaca Maxima (in red).

The Cloaca Maxima was well maintained throughout the life of the Roman Empire and even today drains rainwater and debris from the center of town, below the ancient Forum Rōmānum (Roman Forum), Velabrum and Foro Boario (Forum Boarium). In 33 BC it was known to have received an inspection and overhaul from Agrippa, and was thought to be presided over by the goddess Cloacina.

Modern archaeology has revealed several building styles and material from various ages, suggesting that the systems received regular attention. In more recent times, the remaining passages have been connected to the modern-day sewage system, mainly to cope with problems of backwash from the river.

The Romans are recorded to have dragged the bodies of a number of people to the sewers rather than give them proper burial, the reliability of the accounts though depends upon the case.

Italian St Sebastian Thrown into the Cloaca Maxima by Lodovico Carracci.

Among those discarded in the Cloaca Maxima was the Emperor Elagabalus as well as Saint Sebastian. The latter scene was the subject of a well-known artwork by Lodovico Carracci.

The outfall of the Cloaca Maxima into the River Tiber is still visible today near the bridge Ponte Rotto (Broken Bridge), and near Ponte Palatino (English Bridge). There is a stairway going down to it visible next to the Basilica Julia at the Forum, or from the surface opposite the church of San Giorgio al Velabro.

The underground structure was much praised. Here are the words of Pliny the Elder:

Hills were tunneled into the course of the construction of the sewers, and Rome was a ‘city on stilts’ beneath which men sailed when Marcus Agrippa was Aedile. Seven rivers join together and rush headlong through Rome, and, like torrents, they necessarily sweep away everything in their path. With raging force, owing to the additional amount of rainwater, they shake the bottom and sides of the sewers. Sometimes water from the Tiber flows backwards and makes its way up the sewers. Then the powerful flood-waters clash head-on in the confined space, but the unyielding structure holds firm. Huge blocks of stone are dragged across the surface above the tunnels; buildings collapse of their own accord or come crashing down because of fire; earth tremors shake the ground – but still, for seven hundred years from the time of Tarquinius Priscus, the sewers have survived almost completely intact.

Outfall of the Cloaca Maxima as viewed today.

This public work was largely achieved through the use of Etruscan engineers and large amounts of semi-forced labor from the poorer classes of Roman Citizens. Underground work is said to have been carried out on the sewer by Tarquinius Superbus, Rome’s 7th and final King.

Although Livy describes it as being tunneled out beneath Rome, he was writing centuries after the event. From other writings and from the path that it takes, it seems more likely that it was originally an open drain, formed from streams from 3 of the neighboring hills, that were channeled through the main Forum and then on to the Tiber.

This open drain would then have been gradually built over, as building space within the city became more valuable. It is possible that both theories are correct, and certainly some of the main lower parts of the system suggest that they would have been below ground level even at the time of the supposed construction.

The Cloaca Maxima in the Roman Forum

The 11 aqueducts which supplied water to Rome by the 1st Century AD were finally channeled into the sewers after having supplied the many public baths such as the Baths of Diocletian and the Baths of Trajan, the public fountains, imperial palaces and private houses.

The continuous supply of running water helped to remove wastes and keep the sewers clear of obstructions. The best waters were reserved for potable drinking supplies, and the subsequent quality waters would be used by the baths, the outfalls of which connected to the sewer network under the streets of the city.

Door to the sewer (Basilicae Julia)

The aqueduct system was investigated by the General Frontinus at the end of the 1st Century AD. The General ended up publishing his report on its state directly to the Emperor Nerva.

We hope you found this journey at least somewhat enjoyable. We tried to keep it as clean as possible (considering the topic of discussion), and look forward to having you back again.

View of the Cloaca Maxima as it appeared in 1814 (Oil on canvas by Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg).

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Aldrete, Gregory S. Daily life in the Roman city: Rome, Pompeii and Ostia. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004. ISBN 978-0-313-33174-9.

Herodian. Roman History.

Hopkins, John N. N. “The Cloaca Maxima and the Monumental Manipulation of water in Archaic Rome”. Institute of the Advanced Technology in the Humanities. Web. 4/8/12

Lançon, Bertrand. Rome in late antiquity: everyday life and urban change, AD 312-609. Routledge, 2000. ISBN 978-0-415-92975-2.

Livy. Ab urbe condita.

Quilici, Lorenzo. “Land Transport, Part 1: Roads and Bridges”. The Oxford Handbook of Engineering and Technology in the Classical World. Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-19-518731-1.

Woods, Michael. Ancient medicine: from sorcery to surgery. Twenty-First Century Books, 2000. ISBN 978-0-8225-2992-7.

Darvill, Timothy; Stamper, Paul; Timby, Jane. England: an Oxford archaeological guide to sites from earliest times to AD 1600. Oxford University Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0-19-284101-8.

Rinne, Katherine W. Aquae Urbis Romae: The Waters of the City of Rome. 1998.

Rome, Cloaca Maxima”. Livius.

Roma Condita: Celebrating Rome’s Founding

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

From the world of Ancient Rome there are many things in which to be celebrated or actually were celebrated. The month of Aprilis (April) celebrates the birth of Emperors Septimius Severus (11 April 145 AD) and Marcus Aurelius (26 April 121 AD) along with the festivals of Veneralia (1) and Fordicidia (15).

If you haven’t yet got on the Roman party-train you need to jump aboard, for there’s plenty of stops to celebrate and there’s plenty of tickets available for everyone. But without a single event, no of this would happen nor would this website exist.

Today we are going to witness the impactful event that was the Roma Condita (Founding of Rome)!

Aeneas flees burning Troy by Federico Barocci, 1598 (Galleria Borghese, Rome).

One thing the Romans were certain of was the day Rome was founded, and that day is today – 4 April. What they were not so certain of was the year in which their city was established as several dates had been proposed by ancient authorities.

This is a reason they preferred to date their years by the presiding Consuls rather than using the formula Ab Urbe Condita (AUC). Dionysius of Halicarnassus, a Greek historian and teacher of rhetoric who flourished during the reign of Caesar Augustus, stated the following:

the Greek historian Timaeus, the first to write a history of the Romans, stated that Rome was founded in the 38th year prior to the first Olympiad, or 814 BC; Quintus Fabius Pictor, the first Roman to write the history of his people, stated Rome was founded in the first year of the eighth Olympiad, or 748/7 BC; Cincius Alimentus claimed Rome was founded in the fourth year of the twelfth Olympiad, or 719/8 BC; and Cato the Elder calculated that Rome was founded 432 years after the Trojan War, which Dionysius stated was the first year of the seventh Olympiad, or 752/3 BC.

Dionysius himself provided calculations showing that Rome was founded in 751 BC, starting with the Battle of the Allia, which he dated to the 1st year of the 9th Olympiad (390 BC), then added 119 years to reach the date of the primary Consuls, Junius Brutus and Tarquinius Collatinus, and then he added the combined total of the reigns of the Kings of Rome (244 years) to arrive at his own date, 751 BC. Even the official Fasti Capitolini offers its own date, 752 BC.

Building what would become The Eternal City, as Romulus plows the boundary (inset).

The most familiar date given for the foundation of Rome, 753 BC, was derived by the Roman antiquarian Titus Pomponius Atticus, and adopted by Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro.

Varro created a timeline of Roman History by using a combination of a list of Roman Consuls, together with a little bit of historical license to allow for periods of dictatorial rule.

Therefore Varro’s timeline is known to be slightly inaccurate, but nobody has ever provided sufficiently trustworthy evidence to propose a different calendar. Therefore his system is accepted as the standard chronology.

Despite the inaccuracies of Varro’s work, the recent discoveries by Andrea Carandini on Rome’s Palatine Hill have also yielded evidence of a series of fortification walls on the North Slope that can be dated to the middle of the 8th Century BC. According to the legend, Romulus plowed a sulcus (furrow) around the hill in order to mark the boundary of his new city.

The she-wolf feeding the twins Romulus and Remus, the most famous image associated with the founding of Rome.

You may already be familiar with the myth of Romulus and Remus, the twin brothers who were suckled by a she-wolf. The story goes that, as adults, they decided to establish a new city but disagreed on the location.

After a quarrel about the walls, Remus was killed by his brother and so Romulus named the city after himself. The foundation myth became quite commonly accepted by ancient historians, although modern scholars disagree.

We appreciate you taking this journey with us to discover the Founding of Rome. We look forward to having you join us on future adventures, for we never know where we’ll be heading.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Carandini, Andrea. Rome: Day One. Princeton University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-691-13922-7.

Forsythe, Gary. A Critical History of Early Rome: From Prehistory to the First Punic War. University of California Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-520-22651-7.

Livy. The Early History of Rome. Penguin Books Ltd, 26 May 2005. ISBN 978-0-14-196307-5.

 

Book 4; Thought 21

Everything which is in any way beautiful is beautiful in itself, and terminates in itself, not having praise as part of itself. Neither worse then nor better is a thing made by being praised. I affirm this also of the things which are called beautiful by the vulgar, for example, material things and works of art. That which is really beautiful has no need of anything; not more than law, not more than truth, not more than benevolence or modesty. Which of these things is beautiful because it is praised, or spoiled by being blamed? Is such a thing as an emerald made worse than it was, if it is not praised? Or gold, ivory, purple, a lyre, a little knife, a flower, a shrub?

Trajan’s Column: Building an Ancient, Mysterious Monument

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Two years ago yesterday we explored the details of one of the many treasures in Rome from the Imperial Era. In it we took a closer look at Trajan’s Column: A Historical Comic Book.

Today we will take all of that and share it in stop-motion animation as we present National Geographic Magazine‘s take on Trajan’s Column!

Trajan’s Column conveniently located within Trajan’s Forum.

Roman Emperor Marcus Ulpius Traianus, more commonly known as Trajan,  had a triumphal column  built in his honor commemorating his, and ultimately Rome’s, victory in the Dacian Wars.

The structure is about 98 ft in height, or 115 ft including its large pedestal. The shaft is made from a series of 20 colossal Carrara marble drums, each weighing about 32 tons, with a diameter of over 12 ft.

The 620-foot frieze winds around the shaft 23 times. Inside the shaft, a spiral staircase of 185 steps provides access to a viewing platform at the top.

Trajan’s Column around 1896, looking very much the same as it does today.

Ancient coins indicate preliminary plans to top the column with a statue of a bird, probably an eagle. After construction, though, a statue of Trajan was put in place.

This statue of Trajan, however, disappeared in the Middle Ages. On 4 December 1587, the top was crowned by Pope Sixtus V with a bronze figure of St. Peter, which remains to this day.

We hope you enjoyed the video and look forward to having you back again. Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook and Twitter.

Until next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Caesar in Britain II – There and Back Again (54 BC)

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If you are new to RAE, then welcome to the show. If you’ve been around before, then you probably have realized our fascination with the one and only Gaius Julius Caesar.

When we came across a way to share more about the man who was without a doubt so impactful on the Res Publica Romana (Roman Republic), and what would become the Imperium Rōmānum (Roman Empire) after his assassination, there was no way to pass it up.

So, without further ado, we bring to you Caesar in Britain – Part 2!

Caesar’s 2nd Invasion of Britain on the beachhead

 

In case you missed Part I, feel free to take a quick look back here.

During the course of his Gallic Wars, Julius Caesar invaded Britain twice. The original invasion, in late summer of 55 BC, would be considered unsuccessful, gaining the Romans little else besides a beachhead on the coast of Kent.

The next invasion did achieve more. The Romans installed a king, Mandubracius, who was friendly to Rome, and they forced the submission of Mandubracius’s rival, Cassivellaunus.

The bottom line was that no territory was conquered and held for Rome. Instead, all Roman-occupied territory was restored to the allied Trinovantes, along with the promised tribute of the other tribes in what is now eastern England.

As we all know, however, that would not be the end of Julius Caesar. He would go on to campaign in Gallia (Gaul), which we will share with you soon.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Signaculum: The Dog Tag of Ancient Rome’s Fighting Forces

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Since the formation of humans into social groups there has been fighting. From the fighting, more often than not there have been deaths.

But if the fighting, and possibly dying, occurred far away from where one’s family lived how would they know what happened to you? That’s part of the reason the modern Dog Tag came into existence, to solve this problem.

How and when Dog Tags were created is what we shall explore today as we take a closer look at the Signaculum!

The Signaculum was a means of identification given to the Roman Legionnaire at the moment of enrolment. The Legionnaire Signaculum was a lead disk with the name of the recruit and the indication of the Legio (Legion) of which the recruit was part.

The disk was put in a leather pouch with a leather string around it so as to be worn around the neck of the Roman Soldiers. This procedure, together with enrolment in the list of recruits, was made at the beginning of a 4-month probatio (probationary period).

The recruit got the military status only after the Sacramentum (Oath of Allegiance). At the end of probatio, meaning that from a legal point of view the Signaculum was given to a subject who was no longer a civilian, but not yet fully in the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army).

Acting to identify a body the same way a modern dog tag does, the Signaculum was stamped with a seal  to authenticate it. Similar items for identifying civilian goods and equipment have been found as well.

Signacula of this variety were not discs that were carried on one’s person, as with the Roman Army equivalent, but were more like modern-day product labels. They gave information on an item’s manufacturer and affiliates.

Although the origins of exactly when or why the Exercitus Romanus decided to use the Signaculum for their men are not clear, regardless, there are references to its use in some historical documents. Said pages indicate its composition, as well as the fact that it was given after it is determined a man is fit to serve the Legio.

In a document from AD 295, Maximilianus, an early Christian martyr, is being recruited as an Officer in the Roman Army against his wishes:

When he was being got ready, Maximilianus replied: ‘I cannot serve as a soldier. I cannot do evil. I am a Christian.’ Dio the Proconsul replied, ‘Let him be measured.’ When he had been measured, his height was read out by an equerry. ‘He is five feet, ten inches.’ Dio said to the equerry, ‘Give him the Signaculum.’ Maximilianus resisted and replied, ‘I do not accept the Signaculum. I will break it, because it has no validity. I cannot carry a piece of lead around my neck after the sign of my Lord.’ Dio said, ‘Remove his name.’

In the film Gladiator, Maximus (Russell Crowe) cuts out his Signaculum from his upper arm.

There is some evidence suggesting that by the time of the late Roman Army, it became common practice to instead give soldiers that were found to be fit for service in the Legio, an indelible Soldier’s Mark (like a brand or tattoo). This was feasibly to discourage desertion by making any former or deserting Soldiers clearly identifiable in the public.

In De Re Militari (390 AD), one of the few writings of Roman Military writer Vegetius Renatus, it is stated that, after the initial selection process, a recruit is then placed through a 4-month testing period to ensure his physical capability.

De re militari edition bound in goatskin (Republic of Venice c. 1486–1501).

many, though promising enough in appearance, are found very unfit upon trial. These are to be rejected and replaced by better men; for it is not numbers, but bravery which carries the day. After their examination, the recruits should then receive the military mark, and be taught the use of their arms by constant and daily exercise.

Slaves were also known to wear tags on their person, typically in the form of an irremovable metal collar. Said collars would typically be inscribed with messages such as:

If you find this slave, he has run away. Please return him to his owner at the following address. You will be rewarded.

These, along with branding and tattooing, were common ways for Roman slaves to be separated from the rest of the Roman social system. Again, it made for an easy punishment should they make their escape.

In more recent times, Dog Tags were provided to Chinese soldiers as early as the mid-19th Century. During the Taiping revolt (1851–66), both the Imperialists (i.e., the Chinese Imperial Army regular servicemen) and those Taiping rebels wearing a uniform wore a wooden tag at the belt, bearing the soldier’s name, age, birthplace, unit, and date of enlistment.

During the American Civil War (1861–1865) some soldiers pinned paper notes with their name and home address to the backs of their coats. Other soldiers stenciled identification on their knapsacks or scratched it in the soft lead backing of their army belt buckle.

From a soldier in the 13th New Hampshire Regiment in the American Civil War.

Manufacturers of identification badges recognized a market and began advertising in periodicals. Their pins were usually shaped to suggest a branch of service, and engraved with the soldier’s name and unit.

Machine-stamped tags were also made of brass or lead with a hole and usually had (on one side) an eagle or shield, and such phrases as “War for the Union” or “Liberty, Union, and Equality”. The other side had the soldier’s name and unit, and sometimes a list of battles in which he had participated.

Some tags (along with similar items such as MedicAlert bracelets) are used also by civilians today to identify their wearers and specify them as having health problems that may
(a) suddenly incapacitate their wearers and render them incapable of providing treatment guidance (as in the cases of heart problems, epilepsydiabetic coma, accident or major trauma) and/or
(b) interact adversely with medical treatments, especially standard or “first-line” ones (as in the case of an allergy to common medications) and/or
(c) provide in case of emergency (ICE) contact information and/or
(d) state a religious, moral, or other objection to artificial resuscitation, if a first responder attempts to administer such treatment when the wearer is non-responsive and thus unable to warn against doing so.

Military personnel in some jurisdictions may wear a supplementary medical information tag.

A pair of blank Dog Tags on a ball chain ready to be customized.

Dog Tags have recently found their way into youth fashion by way of military chic. Originally worn as a part of a military uniform by youth wishing to present a tough or militaristic image, Dog Tags have since seeped out into wider fashion circles.

They may be inscribed with a person’s details, their beliefs or tastes, a favorite quote, or may bear the name or logo of a band or performer. Since the late 1990s, custom dog tags have been fashionable amongst musicians (particularly rappers), and as a marketing give-away item.

Rapper Nelly showcasing his fashion Dog Tags (2009).

Numerous companies offer customers the opportunity to create their own personalized Dog Tags with their own photos, logos, and text. Even high-end jewelers have featured gold and silver Dog Tags encrusted with diamonds and other jewels.

All of this started with a simple lead disk used to identify you as a Roman Soldier. My have things evolved since then.

We hope you enjoyed today’s journey and look forward to having you join us again soon. Maybe you’ll even have your own Signaculum to showcase.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Clarke, John. The Military Institutions of the Romans, 1767.

Macmanus, Barbara. “Bronze Stamp of Coelia Mascellina”.

Southern, Dixon. The Late Roman Army. Batsford, 1996.

Wooley, Captain Richard W. “A Short History of Identification Tags”Quartermaster Professional Bulletin, December, 1988.

“Il Giuramento romano”. Imperium Romanum.

“A Battlefield Souvenir?” – The Story of a Union Identity Disk in the Civil War´.

Stećci Medieval Tombstones Graveyards

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Last week we were in the Roman Gaul as we explored the Roman Theatre and its Surroundings and the Triumphal Arch of Orange.

Today we’re headed back to Croatia as we check out the Stećci Medieval Tombstones Graveyards!

Stećci is the name for monumental medieval tombstones that lie scattered across Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the border parts of southern Croatia, western Montenegro and western Serbia. An estimated 60,000 are found within the borders of modern Bosnia and Herzegovina and the rest of 10,000 are found in what are today Croatia (4,400), Montenegro (3,500), and Serbia (4,100), at more than 3,300 odd sites with over 90% in poor condition.

Stećci were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016. It includes a selection of 4,000 Stećci at 28 necropolises – of which 22 from Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2 from Croatia, 3 from Montenegro, and 3 from Serbia.

Appearing in the mid-12th Century, with the first phase in the 13th Century, the tombstones reached their peak in the 14th and 15th Century, before disappearing during the Ottoman occupation in the very early 16th Century.

The Stećci, mostly carved from limestone, are laid out in rows, as was the common custom in Europe from the Middle Ages. They feature a wide range of decorative motifs and inscriptions that represent iconographic continuities within medieval Europe as well as locally distinctive traditions.

They were a common tradition amongst Bosnian, Catholic and amongst BosnianCatholic and Orthodox Church followers alike, and are often related to the autochthonous Vlach population. The epitaphs on them are mostly written in extinct Bosnian Cyrillic alphabet.

How This Relates to Rome:

In 9 AD, the territory of today’s Croatia became part of the Imperium Rōmānum (Roman Empire). Emperor Diocletian built a large palace in Split when he retired in AD 305.

During the 5th Century, one of the last Emperors of the Western Roman EmpireJulius Nepos, ruled his small empire from the palace. The period ends with Avar and Croat invasions in the first half of the 7th Century and destruction of almost all Roman towns.

Roman survivors retreated to more favorable sites on the coast, islands and mountains. The city of Dubrovnik was founded by such survivors from Epidaurum.

We hope you enjoyed today’s journey. Hopefully you’ll join us again soon to check out another World Heritage Site, or just to see where we’ll be off to.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

From Centurion to Saint: The Path of Longinus

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

For our readers of the Christian faith, our Lenten journey is coming to an end. Hopefully  all of the prayer, doing penancerepentance of sins, almsgivingatonement, and self-denial was not too taxing.

Since it is Good Friday today, that means Easter Sunday is right around the corner. The stories of Easter and the Nativity of Jesus (aka Christmas) are easily the most recognizable, even for those not following the faith.

Keeping that in mind, today we take a look into the life of a man who played a part of the Easter story as we explore the life of Longinus!

Saint Longinus in Bom Jesus do Monte (Tenões, Portugal).

Longinus is a legendary name of Christian history given in medieval and some modern Christian traditions to the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus in his side with a lance, the Holy Lance (Lancea) during the Crucifixion. This act created the last of the Five Holy Wounds of Christ.

This individual, unnamed in the Gospels, is further identified in legend as the Centurion present at the Crucifixion, who testified “This man certainly was the Son of God.” But who was this Roman who left us with a single, very cool quote?

View of Cappadocian landscape

In tradition, he is called Cassius before his conversion to Christianity, and was said to be born in Cappadocia. However, an old tradition links the birthplace of Longinus with the village of Anxanum (Lanciano), Samnite territory, in today’s Abruzzo region of Central-Southern Italy.

Longinus did not start out as a saint, especially since no name for him was actually given in the Gospels. The name Longinus is instead found in the pseudepigraphal Gospel of Nicodemus that was appended to the apocryphal Acts of Pilate.

An early tradition, found in the 4th Century pseudepigraphal “Letter of Herod to Pilate“, claims that Longinus suffered for having pierced Jesus. He was supposedly condemned to a cave, where every night a lion came and mauled him until dawn. Every morning his body healed back to normal, in a pattern that would repeat till the end of time.

Later traditions turned him into a Christian convert, but as Sabine Baring-Gould observed:

The name of Longinus was not known to the Greeks previous to the patriarch Germanus, in AD 715. There is no reliable authority for the Acts and martyrdom of this saint.

Jesus’ side is pierced with a spear, Fra Angelico (circa 1440), Dominican monastery of San Marco, Florence.

The name is probably Latinized from the Greek lonche, the word used for the lance mentioned in John 19:34. It first appears lettered on an illumination of the Crucifixion beside the figure of the soldier holding a spear.

Written, perhaps contemporaneously, the name is in horizontal Greek letters, LOGINOS (ΛΟΓΙΝΟC). This was mentioned in the Syriac gospel manuscript illuminated by a certain Rabulas in the year 586 AD, housed in the Laurentian Library, Florence.

The spear used is now known as the Holy Lance, and even more recently as the Spear of Destiny, which was revered at Jerusalem by the 6th Century, although neither the Centurion nor the name Longinus were invoked in any surviving report. As the Lance of Longinus, the spear figures in the legends of the Holy Grail.

In some medieval folklore, such as the Golden Legend, the touch of Jesus’s blood cures his blindness:

Christian legend has it that Longinus was a blind Roman centurion who thrust the spear into Christ’s side at the crucifixion. Some of Jesus’s blood fell upon his eyes and he was healed. Upon this miracle Longinus believed in Jesus.

Veneration of Longinus

Longinus is said to have subsequently converted to Christianity after the Crucifixion, and returned to his home in Cappadocia where he made many conversions. He was sentenced to torture and death by beheading under the orders of Pontius Pilate, the Governor of the Roman Judaea who presided over the trial of Jesus and ordered his crucifixion.

The body of Longinus is said to have been lost twice. Its latter recovery was at Mantua in 1304, together with the Holy Sponge stained with Christ’s blood, wherewith it was told that Longinus had assisted in cleansing Christ’s body when it was taken down from the cross.

It was at this time that Longinus’ role was extended into an almost mythical state. The relic, corpuscles of alleged blood taken from the Holy Lance, enjoyed a revived cult in late 13th Century Bologna under the combined drive of the Grail romances, the local tradition of Eucharistic miracles, the chapel consecrated to Longinus, the Holy Blood in the Benedictine monastery church of Sant’Andrea, and the patronage of the Bonacolsi.

Frescoe of Longinus in Basilica of St Peter and St Paul (Vyšehrad, Prague).

The relics are said to have been divided and then distributed to Prague and elsewhere, with the body taken to the Basilica of Sant’Agostino in Rome. However, official guides of the Basilica do not mention the presence of any tomb associated with Saint Longinus.

It is also said that the body of Longinus was found in Sardinia. Greek sources assert that he suffered martyrdom in Gabala, Cappadocia.

Longinus’ legend grew over the. He is traditionally venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic ChurchEastern Orthodox Church, and several other Christian communions.

There are two categories of saints: martyr and confessors. A Christian martyr is regarded as one who is put to death for his Christian faith or convictions, while confessors are people who died natural deaths.

Longinus is venerated, generally as a martyr, in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Armenian Apostolic Church. His feast day is kept on 15 March in the Roman Martyrology, which mentions him, without any indication of martyrdom, in the following terms:

At Jerusalem, commemoration of Saint Longinus, who is venerated as the soldier opening the side of the crucified Lord with a lance.

St. Longinus is the patron of Mantua which is where his relics are preserved. There is a patron for virtually every cause, profession or special interest, so prayers are considered more likely to be answered by asking a patron directly for intercession on their behalf.

Bernini’s statue of Saint Longinus (Saint Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City).

The statue of Saint Longinus, sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, is 1 of 4 in the niches beneath the dome of Saint Peter’s BasilicaVatican City. A spear point fragment from the Holy Lance is also conserved in the Basilica.

It is helpful to be able to recognize Saint Longinus in paintings, stained glass windows, illuminated manuscripts, architecture and other forms of Christian art. Since artistic representations reflect the life or death of saints, or an aspect of life with which the person is most closely associated, Saint Longinus is represented in Christian Art wearing the uniform of a Roman soldier, and has a lance or spear in his hand.

In Irving Pichel‘s 1939 film, The Great CommandmentAlbert Dekker portrays Longinus as the commanding officer of a Roman Army company escorting a tax collector about Judea. Subsequently, he is converted to Christianity through the kindness of Joel bar Lamech and by his own experiences at Golgotha.

John Wayne as Longinus in The Greatest Story Ever Told.

In the George Stevens‘s 1965 film The Greatest Story Ever Told, Longinus is identified with the Centurion who professed, “Truly this man was the Son of God” on Golgotha. This moment of conversion was portrayed by John Wayne in a cameo role.

Longinus is a leading character in the 2005 4-issue comic The Light Brigade by DC comics. The comic takes place in 1944 during World War II and features an immortal Longinus doomed to walk the Earth to atone for his deed by fighting fallen angels and their allies.

Casca Rufio Longinus, in a popular series entitled Casca by Barry Sadler, accidentally ingests some of Christ’s blood after lancing him. He is condemned by Christ to walk the earth as a soldier until they meet again at the Second Coming.

Moriones Festival in Marinduque

Longinus and his legend are the subject of the annual Moriones Festival held during Holy Week on the island of Marinduque, the Philippines.

The “Moriones” are men and women in costumes and masks replicating the garb of biblical Roman soldiers as interpreted by local folks. The Moriones tradition has inspired the creation of other festivals in the Philippines where cultural practices or folk history is turned into street festivals.

The mask was named after the 16th and 17th Century Morion helmet. The masked and costumed penitents march around the town for 7 days searching for Longinus, scaring the kids, or engaging in antics or surprises to draw attention.

More from the Moriones Festival

The festival is characterized by colorful Roman costumes, painted masks and helmets, and brightly colored tunics. The towns of Boac, Gasan, Santa Cruz, Buenavista and Mogpog in the island of Marinduque become a gigantic stage.

We hope you enjoyed today’s journey from Soldier to Saint. Stop back again soon to see where we’ll be or what we’ll being doing.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Bunson, M. Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire. Facts on File, 1994. ISBN 0-8160-2135-X.

Clarke, Howard W. The Gospel of Matthew and Its Readers: A Historical Introduction to the First GospelIndiana University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-253-34235-X.

Godwin, Malcolm. The Holy Grail: Its Origins, Secrets & Meaning Revealed. Viking Penguin, 1994. ISBN 0-670-85128-0.

Sniadach, Keith. Relics of God: A Supernatural Guide to Religious Artifacts, Sacred Locations & Holy Souls. Keith Sniadach, 2010.

Torretto, Richard. A Divine Mercy Resource: How to Understand the Devotion to Divine Mercy. iUniverse, 2010.

John 19:34

Mark 15:39

Matthew 27:54

Cinco, Maricar. “Last of Moriones mask makers looking for heirs”. Philippine Daily Inquirer. 13 April 2014.

One of the Philippines most Colorful Festivals

The Reliquary of Saint Longinus

Catholic Forum: St. Longinus

St. Longinus

Catholic-Saints St. Longinus

Revisiting Calvary: Where the Crucifixion of Jesus Took Place

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

As we get closer to the end of the season of Lent, we here at RAE are going back to the past to bring something new today. This article about will have 3 different videos to watch, and will also be supplemented with some data to read.

So kick up your feet as we journey to Calvary!

The Way to Calvary
The Way to Calvary

Most people are at least familiar with the story of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. After he was found guilty by the Jews and condemned under Governor Pontius Pilate, Jesus was made to haul the cross on which he was to be crucified on through the streets of Jerusalem to a mount just outside the city walls.

 

Calvary, also called Golgotha, was a site immediately outside Jerusalem’s walls and just north of Mount Zion according to the Gospels. Calvary as an English name for the place is derived from the Latin word for skull (calvaria or Calvariæ Locus), which is used in the Vulgate translation of “place of a skull”.

This explanation is given in all 4 Gospels of the Aramaic word Gûlgaltâ which was the name of the place where Jesus was crucified.

Calvary
Panoramic view of Calvary as seen today.

The text does not indicate why it was named Calvary or Golgotha, but there are 3 prominent theories. First is that as a place of public execution, Calvary may have been strewn with the skulls of abandoned victims.

This would be contrary to Jewish burial traditions, but not the Romans.

Second is that Calvary is named after a nearby cemetery which matches modern sites. Third is that the name was derived from the physical contour of its location meaning the mount appears to look like a skull.

https://youtu.be/PL-hSwWjSZw

(Crucifixion begins at 30:54)

The Gospels describe it as a place near enough to the city that those coming in and out could read the inscription Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. The location itself is mentioned in all 4 Gospels:

Matthew: And when they came to a place called Gol’gotha (which means the place of a skull).

Mark: And they brought him to the place called Gol’gotha (which means the place of a skull).

Luke: And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left.

John: So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Gol’gotha.

https://youtu.be/uiZLQHyWWNo

The traditional location of Golgotha derives from its identification by Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, in 325 AD. A few yards nearby, Helena also identified the location of the Tomb of Jesus and claimed to have discovered the True Cross.

Constantine then built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre around the whole site. In 333 AD, the Pilgrim of Bordeaux wrote in the Itinerarium Burdigalense, entering from the east described the result:

On the left hand is the little hill of Golgotha where the Lord was crucified. About a stone’s throw from thence is a vault [crypta] wherein his body was laid, and rose again on the third day. There, at present, by the command of the Emperor Constantine, has been built a basilica; that is to say, a church of wondrous beauty.

Jerusalem is not in Europe so this may be passed our limits. There is a connection with the Roman Empire though, and Easter is almost upon us.

We hope you will join us again here at Rome Across Europe for more fun and exploration.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!Calvary Hill

References:

Ball, Warwick. Rome in the East: The Transformation of an Empire.

Chisholm, Hugh, ed. “Calvary”. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press, 1911.

Clermont-Ganneau, Charles. Archaeological researches in Palestine during the years 1873-1874.

Hunt, Emily Jane. Christianity in the second century: the case of Tatian. Psychology Press, 2003.

Lande, George M. Building Your Biblical Hebrew Vocabulary Learning Words by Frequency and Cognate. Resources for Biblical Study 41. Society of Biblical Literature, 2001. ISBN 1-58983-003-2.

Lehmann, Clayton Miles. “Palestine: History”. The On-line Encyclopedia of the Roman Provinces. The University of South Dakota, 22 February 2007.

Wilson, Charles W. Golgotha and The Holy Sepulchre, The Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, 1906.