Category Archives: Items of Interest

Plato’s Best (and Worst) Ideas

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Today we go back before the Founding of Rome to Ancient Greece as we see Wisecrack‘s take on Plato’s Best (and Worst) Ideas!

Roman copy of a portrait bust by Silanion for the Academia in Athens (c. 370 BC).

Few individuals have influenced the world and many of today’s thinkers like Plato. He created the original Western university and was teacher to Ancient Greece’s greatest minds, including Aristotle.

But even he wasn’t perfect. Along with his great ideas, Plato had a few that haven’t exactly stood the test of time. Wisecrack gives a brief rundown of a few of Plato’s best and worst ideas.

We hope you enjoyed today’s philosophical journey and look forward to having you back soon. Be sure to check us out on Facebook and Twitter.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Top 10 Reasons the Byzantine Empire Was Among the Most Successful in History

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

You’d see a lot of changes when looking at a map of present day Europe and comparing it to a 30 year old one. Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine and the Baltic States were all part of the USSR, while Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia were still states.

The Empire at its greatest extent in AD 555 under Justinian the Great (its vassals in pink).

Go back even further and the map looks even stranger. Putting all those different people under the same banner and keeping them that way was and still is next to impossible. Many have tried and most have failed, but the first to even come close were the Romans.

Their inheritors, the Byzantines, managed to keep it together for over 1100 years. By so doing, they creating the longest-living Empire on the continent. Here’s how they did it.

We hope you enjoyed Top 10 Reasons the Byzantine Empire Was Among the Most Successful in History. We look forward to having you back for further adventures.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Mare Nostrum: Known to by all non-Romans as the Mediterranean Sea

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If you’ve ever heard of a thing called the Imperium Rōmānum (Roman Empire), then you’re probably at least familiar with the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army). However, we recently gave the Classis Romanus (Roman Navy) some love in the following articles: The Roman Navy: Unsung Champion of the Ancient Seas, The Roman Navy: From Rivers to Oceans, and Warfare of Classical Antiquity: Republican Fleet Tactics (Roman Navy).

As the Masters & Commanders of the Ancient World, the Romans were not shy about their dominance over the Mediterranean Sea. Today we explore the Roman way as we see why it was Mare Nostrum!

The Roman Empire at its farthest extent in AD 117. Note, however, that the Sea is called Mare Internum “Inner Sea” here.

Mare Nostrum was a Roman name for the Mediterranean Sea. In Latin, it literally translates to Our Sea.

The term Mare Nostrum originally was used by Romans to refer to the Tyrrhenian Sea, following their conquest of SicilySardinia and Corsica during the Punic Wars with Carthage. By 30 BC, Roman domination extended from the Iberian Peninsula to Egypt, and Mare Nostrum began to be used in the context of the whole Mediterranean Sea.

The Roman Navy at war

Other names were also employed, including Mare Internum (The Internal Sea). However, the Romans did not include Mediterraneum Mare (Mediterranean Sea), which was a Late Latin creation only attested to well after the Fall of Rome.

An Italian Empire view of the Mare Nostrum (by Hendrick Van Minderhout L’embarquement).

In the years following the unification of Italy in 1861 Italian nationalists, who saw Italy as the successor state to the Roman Empire, attempted to revive the term. The rise of Italian nationalism during the “Scramble for Africa” of the 1880s led to calls for the establishment of an Impero Italiano (Italian Empire).

The Italian poet Gabriele d’Annunzio was the first to revive the phrase. Italian writer Emilio Lupi said the following about the Mare Nostrum:

Even if the coast of Tripoli were a desert, even if it would not support one peasant or one Italian business firm, we still need to take it to avoid being suffocated in mare nostrum.

Starboard / Bow view of the Italian Battleship Roma in 1940.

The term was again taken up by Benito Mussolini for use in fascist propaganda, in a similar manner to Adolf Hitler‘s lebensraum. Mussolini wanted to re-establish the greatness of the Roman Empire and believed that Italy was the most powerful of the Mediterranean countries after World War I.

Axis Italy’s Invasion of Spain

Mussolini declared that “the twentieth century will be a century of

Italian power”. He then created one of the most powerful navies of the world in order to again control the Mediterranean Sea.

When World War II started Italy was already a major Mediterranean power that controlled the north and south shores of the central basin. After the fall of France removed the main threat from the west, the British Mediterranean Fleet (with UK-controlled bases in GibraltarMaltaCyprusEgypt, and Mandatory Palestine) remained the only threat to Italian naval power in the Mediterranean.

Patrol of the Axis navy

The invasions of AlbaniaGreece and Egypt, and the Siege of Malta sought to extend Axis control over the Sea. This policy was so great, it threatened neutral nations like Turkey, a threat that İsmet İnönü, the president of Turkey at the time of war, countered by only promising to enter the war if the Soviet Union joined the Allies.

Mussolini dreamed of creating an Imperial Italy in his Mare Nostrum and promoted the fascist project of an enlarged Italian Empire, stretching from the Mediterranean shores of Egypt to the Indian Ocean shores of Somalia and eastern Kenya. This was obviously to be realized in a future peace conference after the anticipated Axis victory

He referred to making the Mediterranean Sea “an Italian lake”. This aim, however, was challenged throughout the campaign by the Allied land & naval forces.

RN Vittorio Veneto in the Battle of Cape Spartivento.

For example, Greece had easily been incorporated into the Roman Empire, but the new Greek state proved to be too powerful for Italian conquest, and Greece remained independent until German forces arrived to assist the Italian invasion. Despite periods of Axis ascendancy during the Battle of the Mediterranean it was never realized, and ended altogether with the final Italian defeat of September 1943.

The term Mare Nostrum was chosen as the theme for the Inaugural Conference of the Society for Mediterranean Law and Culture, being held in June 2012 at the University of Cagliari Faculty of Law, Sardinia, Italy (La Conferenza Inaugurale della Società di Diritto e Cultura del Mediterraneo). In this contemporary usage, the term is intended to embrace the full diversity of Mediterranean cultures, with a particular focus on exchanges and cooperation among Mediterranean nations.

From November 2013 Fenice (F 557), a corvette of Minerva class, took part in the Operation Mare Nostrum rescuing the boats of illegal immigrants coming from North Africa.

Operation Mare Nostrum was a year-long naval and air operation commenced by the Italian government on 18 October 2013 to tackle the increased immigration to Europe during the latter half of 2013 and migratory ship wreckages off Lampedusa. During the operation at least 150,000 migrants, mainly from Africa and the Middle East, arrived safely to Europe. The operation ended on 31 October 2014 and was superseded by Frontex‘s Operation Triton.

In a completely different way, Mare Nostrum is an empire-building game in which 3-5 players [or 2-6 with the ‘Atlas’ expansion] lead their individual ancient empires to dominion of Mare Nostrum. Players grow their fame and glory of their empire by expanding influence into new Provinces, then extending their Trade Caravans, building Markets, and founding new Cities and Temples.

Mare Nostrum: Empires, a modern game set in ancient times.

You can recruit Heroes and create Wonders to help your cause. But beware of your “friends” because they may look upon your gains with envy and greed.

Mare Nostrum is a re-introduction by Academy Games and Asyncron of the original 2003 release with updated rules, counters, and map board. This edition includes many new components and multiple new ways to win.

In more detail, you choose an empire to lead, which begins with three Provinces. You can lead with Caesar of Rome and its powerful Legions, or with Pericles, the prominent Greek statesman and orator, with the great Babylonian lawgiver and healer King Hammurabi, or with Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, whose engineers led in the development of grain storage and irrigation, or with Hannibal, leader of the Carthaginians, whose merchants thrived on trade and commerce. Now you decide how you will grow your empire.

We hope you enjoyed our brief excursion to explore Mare Nostrum, and maybe you’ll even go out for your own voyage someday. Thanks again for stopping by and we look forward to having you back soon.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Fleming, Thomas. The New Dealers’ War. Perseus Books,2001.

Lowe, C.J. Italian Foreign Policy 1870–1940. Routledge, 2002. ISBN 0-415-27372-2.

Rhodes, Anthony. Propaganda: The Art of Persuasion: World War II. Chelsea House Publishers, 1976.

Talbert, R.; Downs, M. E.; McDaniel, M. Joann; Lund, B. Z.; Elliott, T.; Gillies, S. “Places: 1043 (Internum Mare)”. Pleiades.

Tellegen-Couperus, Olga. Short History of Roman Law. Routledge, 1993. ISBN 0-415-07251-4.

“Mare Nostrum Operation”Ministry of Defence of Italy.

“IOM Applauds Italy’s Life-Saving Mare Nostrum Operation: “Not a Migrant Pull Factor””International Organization for Migration. 31 October 2014.

“Mare Nostrum: Empires”.

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!



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!



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.


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

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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!



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´.

Decimatio: The Most Severe Punishment of the Roman Army

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Our stylish Chief of Technology

Awhile back I received a message from Matthew Rodriguez, Chief of Technology at RAE. Thus far he had been a bit shy to contribute articles, but apparently he just could not resist this one.

Just like myself, MattRod is a tad obsessed with proper grammar usage. The budding-teacher in me felt it was best we share it, and this is what we got.

Today we shall venture deeper into this previous discussion as we explore the punishment of Decimatio!

Etching of a Decimatio by William Hogarth in Beaver’s Roman Military Punishments (1725).

Decimatio comes from the Latin Decem (Ten). This form of military discipline was used by Senior Commanders in the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army) to punish units or large groups guilty of capital offences, such as mutiny or desertion.

The word decimation is Latin meaning Removal of a Tenth. The procedure was a matter-of-fact attempt to balance the need to punish serious offences with the realities of managing a large group of offenders.

Contrary to historical usage, the word decimation is often used to refer to an extreme reduction in the number of a population or force, much greater than the a tenth. It is frequently used as a synonym for the annihilation or for devastation (get a definition for either here).

Roman Legion in action

For those that are unfamiliar with the setup of the Roman Army, let us quickly explain. The Roman Army was divided into Legiōnēs (Legions) consisting of 10 Cohortes (Cohorts) (about 5,000 men), each of 4 Manipulī (Maniples) of 120 Legiōnāriī (Legionaries).

Casting lots

Decimatio was inflicted upon a selected Cohort (between 480-500 soldiers) that was then divided into groups of 10. Each group drew lots (Sortition), and the soldier on whom the lot fell was executed by his 9 comrades, often by stoning or clubbing.

The remaining soldiers were often given rations of barley instead of wheat (the latter being the standard soldier’s diet) for a few days, and required to camp outside the fortified security of the camp. Since the punishment fell by lot, all soldiers in a group sentenced to Decimatio were potentially liable for execution, regardless of individual degrees of fault, rank, or distinction.

Decimatio depicted on Trajan’s Column

The earliest documented Decimatio occurred in 471 BC during the Roman Republic‘s early wars against the Volsci, and was recorded by Livy. In an incident where his forces had been scattered, Consul Appius Claudius Sabinus Regillensis had the perpetrators punished for desertion.

Roman soldier with a flagellum or scourge.

Centuriōnēs (Centurions), Signiferī (Standard-Bearers) and Soldiers who had cast away their weapons were individually scourged and beheaded. The remainder were chosen by lot (1 in 10) and executed.

Polybius gives one of the earliest descriptions of the practice in the early 3rd Century BC:

If ever these same things happen to occur among a large group of men… the officers reject the idea of bludgeoning or slaughtering all the men involved [as is the case with a small group or an individual]. Instead they find a solution for the situation which chooses by a lottery system sometimes five, sometimes eight, sometimes twenty of these men, always calculating the number in this group with reference to the whole unit of offenders so that this group forms one-tenth of all those guilty of cowardice. And these men who are chosen by lot are bludgeoned mercilessly in the manner described above.

Decimatio during the Third Servile War against Spartacus.

The practice was revived by Marcus Licinius Crassus in 71 BC during the Third Servile War against Spartacus, and some historical sources attribute part of Crassus’ success to it. The number of men killed through Decimatio is not known, but it varies anywhere between 48-50 killed (from a Cohort of around 480-500 men) up to 1,000 killed (used on 10,000 men).

Banner of the Legio IX Hispana

Julius Caesar threatened Decimatio on the Legio IX Hispana (Spanish 9th Legion) during the Great Roman Civil War against Pompey, but never did. Maybe Caesar should have acted upon his threat for the Legion disappears from surviving Roman records after AD 120, and there is no extant account of what happened to it.

Plutarch describes the process in his work Life of Antony. After a defeat in Media:

Antony was furious and employed the punishment known as ‘decimation’ on those who had lost their nerve. What he did was divide the whole lot of them into groups of ten, and then he killed one from each group, who was chosen by lot; the rest, on his orders were given barley rations instead of wheat.

Decimatio was still being practiced during the time of the Roman Empire, although it was very uncommon. Suetonius records that it was used by Emperor Augustus in 17 BC and later by Galba, while Tacitus records that Lucius Apronius used Decimatio to punish a full Cohort of the Legio III Augusta (3rd Augustan Legion) after their defeat by Tacfarinas in AD 20.

The Martyrdom of St Maurice and the Theban Legion.

According to legend, led by Saint Maurice, the Theban Legion was decimated in the 3rd Century AD, thus becoming known to history as the Martyrs of Agaunum. The Legion had refused, to a man, to comply to an order of the Emperor, and the process was repeated until none were left.

In his Strategikon, the Byzantine Emperor Maurice forbade Decimatio and other brutal punishments. According to him, punishments where the rank and file see their comrades dying by the hands of their own brothers-in-arms could lead to a collapse of morale. Moreover, it could seriously deplete the manpower of the fighting unit.

Decimatio was not just a practice from Ancient Rome. Apparently, those from many centuries after looked to the past for inspiration and found this form of discipline appealing.

Medival illustration of Decimation

During the Battle of Breitenfeld (1642), near Leipzig, one of the many battles of the Thirty Years’ War, Colonel Madlon’s cavalry regiment was the first to flee the battleground without striking a blow. This was followed by the massive flight of other cavalry units, which was the final turning point in the battle.

The battle was a decisive victory for the Swedish army under the command of Field Marshal Lennart Torstenson over an Imperial Army of the Holy Roman Empire under the command of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria and his deputy, Prince-General Ottavio Piccolomini, Duke of Amalfi. Archduke Leopold Wilhelm assembled a court-martial in Prague which sentenced the Madlon regiment to exemplary punishment.

Battle of Breitenfeld

Six regiments, which had actually fought bravely in the battle, drew up arms and surrounded Madlon’s regiment. Having been severely rebuked for its cowardice and misconduct, Madlon’s regiment were ordered to lay down its arms as their ensigns were torn in pieces.

The general, having mentioned the causes of their degradation, erased the regiment from the register of the imperial troops. The agreed upon sentence from the council of war was thus: Colonel Madlon, his captains and lieutenants were to be beheaded; ensigns (junior officers) were to be hanged; the soldiers to be decimated; and the survivors to be driven in disgrace out of the army.

Ninety men (chosen by rolling dice) were executed at Rokycany, in western Bohemia, now in the Czech Republic, on 14 December 1642 by Jan Mydlář (junior), the son of Jan Mydlář, the famous executioner from Prague. Their mass grave is said to be on the Black Mound in Rokycany, which commemorates the decimation to this day.

On 3 September 1866, during the Battle of Curuzu of the Paraguayan War, the Paraguayan 10th Battalion fled without firing a shot. President Lopez ordered the decimation of the battalion, which was accordingly formed into line and every 10th man shot.

Tunisian Lieutenant and tirailleur from the 4th RTA during the First World War.

In 1914, in France, there was a case in which a company of Tunisian tirailleurs (colonial soldiers) refused an order to attack and was ordered decimated by the divisional commander. This involved the execution of 10 men.

Italian General Luigi Cadorna allegedly applied decimation to underperforming units during World War I. However, the military historian John Keegan records that his “judicial savagery” during the Battle of Caporetto took the form of the summary executions of individual stragglers rather than the formalized winnowing of entire detachments.

One specific instance of actual decimation did occur in the Italian Army during the war, on 26 May 1916. The 120 men strong company of the 141st Catanzaro Infantry Brigade, which had mutinied, saw the execution of 1 in 10 soldiers including its officers and carabinieri.

Execution of 2 Varkaus Reds.

Decimatio can be also used to punish the enemy. In 1918 during the Finnish Civil War, after conquering the Red city of Varkaus, the White troops summarily executed around 80 captured Reds in what became known as the Lottery of Huruslahti.

According to some accounts, the Whites ordered all the captured Reds to assemble in a single row on the ice of Lake Huruslahti, selected every 10th prisoner, and executed him on the spot. The selection was not entirely random though, as some prisoners (primarily Red leaders) were specifically selected for execution and some good workers were intentionally spared.

We realize that this was a bit intense in its content, but that’s history. The story was already written and we simply chose to share it.

Hopefully you learned something new today. Maybe you were even inspired to be a better person or leader because of it.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Fogarty, Richard. Race and War in France. Johns Hopkins Press, 2008.

Goldsworthy, Adrian. Caesar: Life of a Colossus. Yale University Press, 2006.

Keegan, John. The First World War. Vintage, 2000. ISBN 0 09 1801788.

Titus Livius. Ab Urbe Condita, Book 2, Chapter 59.

Polybius Histories, Book 6, Chapter 38.

Richardson, S.; etc. The Modern Part of a Universal History: From the Earliest Account of Time (VOL. XXX) Compiled from Original Writers. London, 1761.

Strachan, Hew. The First World War. Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2003.

Thompson, George. The War in Paraguay. Longmans Green and Co, 1869.

Watson, G. R. The Roman Soldier. Cornell University Press, 1969.

Plutarch’s Parallel Lives: “Antony”. Internet Classics Archive.

“Decimate”. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition, 2000.

Assuming (aka Wearing) the Purple: Revisited

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If this is your premiere visit with us, we wish you the heartiest of thanks for deciding to join us. If we have been fortunate enough to have you journey with us previously, we cherish your loyalty to Rome.

While recently we have recently been fortunate enough to find some spare time to put out brand-new articles, this just happens to not be one of those days. Aside from working full-time, I am in the midst of taking my teaching certification courses which leaves me little time for writing.

So today we are heading back to 10 March 2015, as we revisit Assuming the Purple!

In Ancient Rome purple clothing was exclusively reserved for Emperors and Magistrates.

Purple was an original color used in prehistoric art shown in several drawings and paintings of animals and the outlines of their own hands on the walls of their caves. These Neolithic sites in France were done using sticks of manganese and hematite powder, and have been dated between 16,000 and 25,000 BC.

Manganese pigments were used in the neolithic paintings in the Lascaux cave, France.

As early as the 15th Century BC the citizens of Sidon and Tyre, 2 cities on the coast of Ancient Phoenicia were producing purple dye from a sea snail called the spiny dye-murex. Clothing colored with the Tyrian dye was mentioned in both the Iliad of Homer and the Aeneid of Virgil.

The deep, rich purple dye made from this snail became known as Tyrian purple. The process of making said dye was long, difficult and expensive, which is a reason only the rich & powerful wore it.

A shell of Bolinus brandaris aka spiny dye-murex.

Thousands of the tiny medium-sized predatory sea snails had to be found, their shells cracked, and the snail removed. The most favorable season for harvesting the sea snails is after the rising of the Dog Star, or else before spring.

The dye can be collected either by “milking” the snails, which is more labor-intensive but is a renewable resource, or by collecting and crushing the snails completely, which is destructive. Once they have discharged their waxy secretion, their juices have no consistency. This fact was unknown in the dyers’ workshops.

Snail to Purple
Milking from snail to purple.

In either event, the “milk” or the entire snails were left to soak, put in a basin, and then placed in sun. There, in the sunlit basins, a remarkable transformation took place.

The sunlight made the juice turn many colors in the following order: white, yellow-green, green, violet, and then a red which turned darker and darker. The process had to be stopped at exactly the right time to obtain the desired color for which to then dye the appropriate fabric.

The exact hue varied between crimson and violet, but it was always rich, bright and, most important, lasting.

The ancient Egyptian Papyrus of Anastasi laments: “The hands of the dyer reek like rotting fish…So awfully strong was this stench that the Talmud specifically granted women the right to divorce any husband who became a dyer after marrying”.

Cloth Dyed with Tyrian Purple
Cloth dyed with Tyrian Purple.

Mountains of empty shells have been found at the ancient sites of Sidon and Tyre. Here, archaeological data indicates that the snails were collected in large vats and left to decompose.

This produced a hideous stench that was actually mentioned by ancient authors. It took about 12,000 snails to yield 1.4 g of pure dye or less, or about enough dye to color the trim of a single garment.

The actual color of Tyrian purple seems to have varied from reddish to a bluish purple. According to 1st Century BC Roman writer Vitruvius, the Murex coming from northern waters produced a more bluish color than those of the south.

Byzantine Emperor Justinian I clad in Tyrian purple, 6th-Century mosaic (Basilica of San Vitale).

The most valued shades were said to be those closer to the color of dried blood, as seen in the mosaics of the robes of the Emperor Justinian in Ravenna. The chemical composition of the dye from the Murex is close to that of the dye from indigo, and indigo was sometimes used to make a counterfeit Tyrian purple, a crime which was severely punished.

The color is not what mattered about Tyrian purple. It was all about its luster, richness, resistance to weather and light, and its high price.

The color-fast dye was an item of luxury trade, prized by Romans, who used it to color ceremonial robes. It is believed that the intensity of the purple hue improved rather than faded as the dyed cloth aged.

Re-imagined view of the curtains of the Tabernacle.

Tyrian purple became the color of kings, nobles, priests and magistrates all around the Mediterranean. It was mentioned in the Old Testament in the Book of Exodus.

God instructs Moses to have the Israelites bring him an offering including cloth “of blue, and purple, and scarlet” to be used in the curtains of the Tabernacle and the garments of priests.

In the 2nd Century BC, myth has it that the purple dye was originally discovered by Hercules, or his dog, whose mouth was stained purple from chewing on snails along the coast of the Levant.

Hector battles Ajax in the Iliad.

In the Iliad, the belt of Ajax is purple and the tails of the horses of Trojan warriors are dipped in purple. In the Odyssey, the blankets on the wedding bed of Odysseus are purple.

In 950 BC, King Solomon was reported to have brought artisans from Tyre to provide purple fabrics to decorate the Temple of Jerusalem. Alexander the Great, when giving imperial audiences, wore Tyrian purple.

Jesus, in the hours leading up to his crucifixion, was dressed in purple by the Roman garrison to mock his claim to be ‘King of the Jews’.

Toga Praetexta
Painting from a lararium in Pompeii depicts both the Tunica Laticlavia and Toga Praetexta.

The Roman custom of wearing purple togas may have come from an Etruscan tomb painting from the 4th Century BC showing a nobleman wearing a deep purple, embroidered toga. In Ancient Rome, the Toga Praetexta was an ordinary white toga with a broad purple stripe on its border.

It was worn by freeborn Roman boys who had not yet come of age, magistrates, certain categories of priests, and a few other categories of citizens.

Toga Picta
Painting of a man wearing an all-purple Toga Picta, from an Etruscan tomb (about 350 BC).

The Toga Picta was solid purple, embroidered with gold. During the Roman Republic, it was worn by Generals in their triumphus and by the Praetor Urbanus when he rode in the chariot of the gods into the circus at the Ludi Apollinares.

During the Empire, the Toga Picta was worn by Magistrates giving public gladiatorial games, and by the Consuls. The Emperor was wore the Toga Picta on special occasions.

Roman Sumptuary Laws (Sumptuariae Leges) were imposed by the rulers of Ancient Rome to curb the expenditure of the people in relation to food, entertainment and clothing. The Sumptuary Laws of Ancient Rome dictated that only the Emperor could wear a purple toga.

An immediate way of distinguishing the elite of Ancient Rome, along with identifying rank and privilege, was through clothing. The best example would be only the Roman Emperor was permitted to wear a purple toga.

Statue of Emperor Augusts in the Toga Picta (when painted it would have shown the purple with gold trim).

The penalties for violating Sumptuary Laws could be harsh: fines, the loss of property, title or even life. The Roman Sumptuary Laws ensured that their class structure was fully maintained regardless of the wealth of a person.

Purple also came to represent spirituality and holiness because the ancient emperors, kings and queens that wore the color were often thought of as gods or descendants of the gods.

However, during the Roman Empire, purple was more and more associated exclusively with the Emperors and their officers. The Emperor Caligula had the King of Mauritania murdered for wearing a purple mantle better than his own.

Emperor Nero

Nero made it punishable by death for anyone else to wear the color. Sometimes, however, the dye was too expensive even for royalty. Third-century Emperor Aurelian famously wouldn’t allow his wife to buy a shawl made from Tyrian purple silk because it literally cost its weight in gold!

In antiquity, as is still true today, different statuses are associated with specific colors. At a funeral in the West, mourners expect the widow to wear black or some other dark, somber hue.

In Republican Rome, freed slaves had red Phrygian caps. After a great military victory a general’s troops might proclaim the leader Imperator, and help him to receive a triumph from the Senate.

The title Imperator came to be used for the one-man ruler or Princeps, aka Emperor. The cloak that identified the Imperator was purple.

Emperor Constantine, founder of the Byzantine Empire.

Through the early Christian era, the rulers of the Byzantine Empire continued the use of purple as the imperial color. Byzantines also used purple for diplomatic gifts, as well as for imperial documents and the pages of the Bible.

Gospel manuscripts were written in gold lettering on parchment that was colored Tyrian purple.

Empresses gave birth in the Purple Chamber, and the Emperors born there were known as “born to the purple”. This separated them from Emperors who won or seized the title through political intrigue or military force.

Bishops of the Byzantine church wore white robes with stripes of purple, while government officials wore squares of purple fabric to show their rank.

The production of murex purple for the Byzantine court came to an abrupt end with the sack of Constantinople in 1204 AD, the critical episode of the Fourth Crusade. Murex fishing and dyeing with genuine purple are attested for Egypt in the 10th to 13th centuries.

Crusader-King Charlemagne

In Western Europe, the Emperor Charlemagne was crowned in 800 AD wearing a mantle of Tyrian purple. Charlemagne was buried in 814 AD wearing a shroud of the same color, which still exists today.

However, after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 AD, the color lost its imperial status. The great dye works of Constantinople were destroyed, and gradually scarlet, made with dye from the cochineal insect, became the royal color in Europe.

In 1998, through a lengthy trial and error process, an English engineer named John Edmonds rediscovered a process for dyeing with Tyrian purple. He researched recipes and observations of dyers from the 15th to the 18th Century.

After studying an incomplete ancient recipe for Tyrian purple recorded by Pliny the Elder and then collaborating with a chemist, Edmonds hypothesized that an alkaline fermenting vat was necessary. By altering the percentage of sea salt in the dye vat and adding potash, he was able to successfully dye wool a deep purple color.

Dye bath of Tyrian purple

Tyrian purple was also recreated, at great expense, when the German chemist Paul Friedander tried to recreate it in 2008. Friedander needed 12,000 mollusks to create 1.4 ounces of dye.

It was enough to color a handkerchief. In the year 2000 a gram of Tyrian purple made from 10,000 mollusks, according to the original formula, cost 2,000 euro.

Throughout the years purple has been adopted by various groups or people. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance there was a decrease in usage among Church clergy and royalty, but professors of many of Europe’s new universities began to wear purple.

In the 18th and 19th Centuries, purple regained its status among British royalty and was used more among the leading painters of the time. In the 20th and 21st centuries purple was used in the Women’s Suffrage movement in America, worn by Nazi German prisoners, assimilated with the counterculture of America’s youth in the 60’s and 70’s, used by American musician Prince from the 80’s onward, and worldwide amongst business leaders in neckties from the 21st century forth.

Prince in Purple Rain

Purple is a color of history. Purple is a color of stature.

Purple is a color of revolution. Purple is a color of fashion.

Throughout everything, though, purple has been a color to take notice of.

Here at Rome Across Europe, we hope that if purple is not your thing you at least Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

The History of the Romans: Every Year

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

From the Foundation of Rome through the Fall of the Byzantine Empire, there has been constant growth and change in what was the Roman Empire. With so much going on, how could you possibly know everything?

That issue gets decided today as we witness the History of the Romans: Every Year!

See the entire history and progression of Roman civilization from the city-state Kingdom all the way to the last Byzantine successor state.

This video was originally published on 31 December 2015, with musical credits of “Majestic Hills”, “Hero Down”, and “Teller of the Tales” all by Kevin MacLeod.

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure, maybe you even learned something new or exciting. We look forward to having you join us again soon.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

First Time In Paris? We Haven’t Been Yet Either

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It was about 2 years to the day that my wife and I had planned out the trip of a lifetime to Paris. We had planned to spend Christmas and New Years in Paris, France not Paris, TX.

It was to be an adventure since neither of us had ever been before. But that trip never happened for not too long after we found out that we were going to have a child, and that the due date of the baby was to be 2 weeks before our vacation.

Trip over.

Since we haven’t yet traveled overseas due to the arrival of our son on 29 November 2015, today we revisit our plan for traveling to Paris!

Eiffel Tower New Years
Fireworks above the Eiffel Tower on New Year’s Eve.

When we began the planning, after securing our airfare and hotel accommodations, we were about a year away from the trip. Questions were coming hard and fast.

What are we interested in seeing? How do we want to travel? Do we want to get plane tickets own their own, or bundle them together with the hotel?

Do we want to stay in one location the entire trip, or move about? Are we traveling on a budget? The questions can go on and on.

Notre Dame de Paris

The first question, sites we want to see, was fairly easy to answer. We want to see it all!


Seriously though, Jenn and I want to get the best from our first Paris experience. We are tourists and we want to see the major tourist locations: Notre Dame de Paris, Arc de Triomphe, The Louvre, and The Eiffel Tower.

Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe

These are just obvious. However, we were not against becoming part of the “City of Lights” and strolling off of the tourist path.

To make lasting memories, the plan will be to experience as much as we possibly can. Hopefully this can also be accomplished in the most cost efficient means available.

To do so, the next most important decision is the location in which to stay. This is where some speed bumps will arise.

Arrondissements of Paris

Paris is a very large city. As most cities of a similar size, like London or New York, the city is broken up into smaller districts.

The Parisians call their smaller areas Arrondissement (neighborhoods). They are divided up into 20 of these municipal areas.

If you imagine a spiral, how it starts in the center and continues to loop clockwise around from there, this is how the Arrondissements are formed.

The River Seine divides Paris almost in half, thus creating a Right (North) Bank and a Left (South) Bank. The Right Bank contains the following Arrondissements: 1-4, 8-12, and 16-20 while the Left Bank contains Arrondissements: 5-7 and 13-15.

The Louvre

One would think that it would not be so challenging to choose which Arrondissements to stay in due to the breakdown. Well that is not the case.

Each neighborhood has its own feel and its own charm. Plus there is at least 1 attraction in each neighborhood that visitors want to see.

From sites that I have gone through, it appears all of the districts are safe. If you have yet to visit “The City of Love” then here are brief descriptions of each.

1st Arrondissement

The Colonnes de Buren in the Cour d’Honneur of the Palais-Royal.

The least populated, but most expensive, of the 20 Arrondissements is right in the center of Paris. What’s here? The Louvre Museum, Palais-Royal, Tuileries Garden, Forum des Halles, Bourse du Commerce, and the upscale Place Vendôme.

The Palais-Royal is opposite the Louvre. The larger inner courtyard, the Cour d’Honneur, has since 1986 contained Daniel Buren‘s site-specific art piece Les Deux Plateaux, known as Les Colonnes de Buren.

2nd Arrondissement

The Paris Bourse

Primarily a business district, the 2nd, aka the smallest Arrondissement, is also home to a number of historic shopping arcades. What’s here? The Paris Bourse, the Bibliothèque nationale de France, lots of cafés and delivery trucks.

The Paris Bourse  is the historical Paris stock exchange, known as Euronext Paris from 2000 onward. The Bibliothèque nationale de France is the National Library of France, and is the national repository of all that is published in France.

3rd Arrondissement

The main entrance of the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (CNAM), or National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts.

Another small Arrondissement, the 3rd contains the northern part of the historic Marais district. What’s here? The Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, the Picasso Museum and the Carnavalet Museum.

The Place des Vosges, originally Place Royale, is the oldest planned square in Paris and one of the finest in the city. It is located in the Marais district of Paris, and was a fashionable and expensive square during the 17th and 18th Centuries.

The Musée Picasso is an art gallery located in the Hôtel Salé in rue de Thorigny, dedicated to the work of the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso.  The Carnavalet Museum is dedicated to the history of the city, and occupies 2 neighboring mansions: the Hôtel Carnavalet and the former Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint Fargeau.

4th Arrondissement

Place des Vosges
Place des Vosges

The 4th is the oldest part of Paris. With designer boutiques and fancy cuisine, lots of hipsters have taken to this area.

What’s here? Notre-Dame, the Place des Vosges, City Hall and the Gothic Tour St-Jacques. To contrast all the historic buildings is the modern Centre Georges Pompidou.

Notre-Dame de Paris, or simply Notre-Dame, is a medieval Catholic cathedral widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. It is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world.

5th Arrondissement

Arènes de Lutèce, the most important remains from the Gallo-Roman era in Paris.

The 5th, or Latin Quarter, holds the renowned Sorbonne University. The school brings a more youthful crowd.

What’s here? The Panthéon, the Val-de-Grâce, the Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, the Cluny Museum, Jardin des Plantesand the Roman-era Arènes de Lutèce and Thermes de Cluny.

The Arènes de Lutèce was a Roman amphitheater that could once seat 15,000 people and was used to present gladiatorial combats. The Thermes de Cluny are a Roman Bath complex built by the influential guild of boatmen of 3rd Century Roman Paris (Lutetia), as the consoles on which the barrel ribs rest are carved in the shape of ships’ prows.

6th Arrondissement

Church of Saint-Sulpice
Church of Saint-Sulpice

The iconic 6th is what Paris’s Left Bank is all about. It is popular with locals and visitors alike, which makes it a popular place to stay.

What’s here? The Jardin du Luxembourg, the Odéon Theatre, the Church of Saint-Sulpice, and the 11th Century Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

The Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe is 1 of France’s 6 national theatres. Saint-Sulpice is a Roman Catholic church, only slightly smaller than Notre-Dame, and is dedicated to Sulpitius the Pious.

7th Arrondissement

Les Invalides
Les Invalides

The 7th is filled with government institutions and major landmarks. This is also quite an upscale Arrondissement.

Being expensive overall, if money is any concern of yours then this is not the place to stay. What’s here? The Eiffel Tower, the Invalides (with Napoleon‘s Tomb), the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée Rodin, the Musée du Quai Branly, the Palais Bourbon, and the UNESCO Headquarters.

Les Invalides (The National Residence of the Invalids) is a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the building’s original purpose.

8th Arrondissement

Élysée Palace
Élysée Palace

Another Arrondissement loaded with tourist attractions. The 8th is like Oprah-rich.

This is where fashion meets Sex and the City finale. What’s here? The Champs-Élysées (probably the world’s most famous boulevard), the Place de la Concorde, the Arc de Triomphe, Grand Palais, Petit Palais, the Élysée Palace, Madeleine church, and Monceau Park.

The Place de la Concorde is the major public squares in Paris, at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées. The Élysée Palace has been the official residence of the President of France since 1848.

9th Arrondissement

Église de la Sainte-Trinité

A multifaceted Arrondissement, the 9th holds prestigious boulevards in the south and not so prestigious red light district (Pigalle area) in the north. The Rue Saint-Denis is where senior citizen prostitutes can be found.

What’s here? The former Opéra Garnier, the Galeries Lafayette, and Sainte-Trinité.

The Galeries Lafayette is an upmarket French department store chain, with its flagship store is on Boulevard Haussmann. The Église de la Sainte-Trinité is a Roman Catholic church of the Second Empire period, built as part of the beautification and reorganization of Paris under Baron Haussmann.

10th Arrondissement

Facade of the Church of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul.

The 10th is noted as being very “down to earth”. It is spread out too, so it is no wonder that both of Paris’s main railway stations (the Gare de l’Est and Gare du Nord) are found in the 10th.

What’s here? Canal Saint-Martin and Saint-Vincent-de-Paul.

The Canal Saint-Martin is a 2.8 mile long canal connecting the Canal de l’Ourcq to the river Seine, and runs underground between Bastille (Paris Métro) and République (Paris Métro). The Church of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul is a church dedicated to Saint Vincent de Paul.

11th Arrondissement

Church of Saint-Ambroise
Church of Saint-Ambroise

A very low profile Arrondissement, known around the city as the Oberkampf, the 11th is mostly residential. This Right Bank district is better known for its nightlife than its landmarks, so it may feel a little too “festive” for a first time visitor to Paris.

What’s here? The Cirque d’Hive and the Church of Saint-Ambroise.

The Cirque d’Hiver (Winter Circus) has been a prominent venue for circuses, exhibitions of dressage, musical concerts, and other events, including exhibitions of Turkish wrestling and even fashion shows. The church of Saint-Ambroise was named after its neighborhood, the quartier Saint-Ambroise.

12th Arrondissement

Bastille Opera House
Bastille Opera House

The 12th is large and mostly residential, but it is affordable and safe with access to major metro lines. What’s here? The Bastille Opera House, AccorHotels Arena, along with the Vincennes.

The Opéra Bastille (Bastille Opera House) is a modern opera house and the main facility of the Paris National Opera, France’s principal opera company. Vincennes is a commune in the Val-de-Marne department in the eastern suburbs of Paris, famous for its castle, the Château de Vincennes, and its park, the Bois de Vincennes.

13th Arrondissement

The Mazarin entrance to the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital.

Largely residential, the 13th is more out of the way from the typical tourist sites. It is home to the city’s largest Chinatown, while Butte-aux-Cailles (Quail Hill) boasts a stretch of restaurants, cafés and bars.

What’s here? The Hôpital de la Pitié-Salpêtrièrel.

Today the Butte-aux-Cailles area assembles a young, trendy and festive Parisian population in its many small bars and restaurants. The Pitié-Salpêtrière University Hospital is a celebrated teaching hospital of Sorbonne University, and is 1 of Europe’s largest hospitals.

14th Arrondissement

Catacombs of Paris

Not considered a lively Arrondissement, the 14th does have its own sleepy charm and quiet streets. What’s here? The Paris Catacombs, Place Denfert-Rochereau, and the Observatoire de Paris (how the 14th Arrondissement got its name).

The Catacombs of Paris are underground ossuaries which hold the remains of more than 6 million people in a small part of the ancient Mines of Paris tunnel network. The Paris Observatory is the foremost astronomical observatory of France, and 1 of the largest astronomical centers in the world.

15th Arrondissement

Tour Maine Montparnasse
Tour Maine Montparnasse

As a hit-or-miss district, the 15th is the largest of the 20 Arrondissements in Paris (both in size and population). Filled mostly with concrete 1970s high-rises, the 15th is not very lively unless you go to where it borders the 7th.

What’s here? Tour Maine Montparnasse and the Parc André Citroën.

Maine-Montparnasse Tower, also commonly named Tour Montparnasse, is a 689 ft office skyscraper located in the Montparnasse area of Paris. Parc André Citroën is a 35 acres public park located on the Left Bank of the river Seine.

16th Arrondissement

Palais de Chaillot
Palais de Chaillot

The 16th has the reputation of being the richest, with lots of Americans living here with their families. It is also viewed as being very safe, but more quiet and residential.

What’s here? The Palais de Chaillot, the Musée Guimet, the Palais de Tokyo, and the Musée Marmottan.

The Palais de Chaillot was also the initial headquarters of NATO, and the buildings now house a number of museums. Musée Marmottan Monet is a museum featuring a collection of over 300 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works by Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Paul Gauguin, Paul Signac and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

17th Arrondissement

Pétanque, the outdoor bowling-game, as played in Batignolles.

This is a diverse Arrondissement outside the center of Paris most visited by tourists. The 17th is home to up-and-coming Batignolles area that houses many established French artists and writers.

What’s here? The Batignolles Cemetery, the Square des Batignolles, and the Palais des Congrès.

Batignolles was an independent village outside Paris until 1860, when the Emperor Napoleon III annexed it to the capital. The Palais des congrès de Paris is a concert venue, convention center and shopping mall.

18th Arrondissement

Moulin Rouge
The famous Moulin Rouge

Home of the famous Moulin Rouge, the 18th is like a vintage postcard of Paris. The once bohemian, and still village-like, district is often inundated with tourists.

That being said, avoid any hotel or hostel that is off of the Barbès-Rochechouart or Château Rouge metro stop. This is not the best district for wondering around the desolate side streets at night.

What’s here? Sacré-Coeur Basilica and the Place du Tertre.

Moulin Rouge (Red Mill) is best known as the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica and often simply Sacré-Cœur, is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

19th Arrondissement

Panoramic view of the island within the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont.

Another large Arrondissement, the 19th is a bit out of the way for Paris newcomers. The markets here are interesting to do as a day trip. Come night fall in Belleville, an area bordering the 19th and 20th Arrondissements, there is a large community of young prostitutes.

What’s here? The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont and the Parc de la Villette.

The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is a public park occupying 61 acres, was opened by Emperor Napoleon III. The Parc de la Villette is another public park which houses 1 of the largest concentration of cultural venues in Paris, including the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie (City of Science and Industry, Europe’s largest science museum), 3 major concert venues, and the prestigious Conservatoire de Paris.

20th Arrondissement

Père Lachaise Cemetery

The final, and mostly residential, Arrondissement is cosmopolitan and has no real attractions. The 20th still gets its fair share of tourists.

What’s here? The Cimetière du Père-Lachaise.

Père Lachaise Cemetery is the largest cemetery in the city (110 acres) and is notable for being the original garden cemetery, as well as the original municipal cemetery.

So now Jenn and I know what we are up against. With some information on our side, finding a place to stay will not seem so daunting.

The key to collecting information on traveling is to get different views. One website may not like a past experience and may downplay what happens to be true.

I found using a more “hip” site and a more “informative” site helped balance things. With the boy now, I’ll probably have to go check out a “family friendly” site.

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure, and maybe were even inspired to check out Paris for yourself. Whenever our own trip gets set up again, we shall be certain to keep you updated.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!