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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Gibraltar, Malta, Cyprus, Egypt, and Mandatory Palestine) remained the only threat to Italian naval power in the Mediterranean.
The invasions of Albania, Greece 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.
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.
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.
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.
Well that ends today as we uncover a truly great feat (at least in its own right) as we explore the Cloaca Maxima!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
The aqueduct system was investigated by the GeneralFrontinus 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.
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.
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)!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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, epilepsy, diabetic 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 ByzantineEmperor 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 Anastasilaments: “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”.
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 Murexcoming from northern waters produced a more bluish color than those of the south.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
The first question, sites we want to see, was fairly easy to answer. We want to see it all!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, theBibliothèque 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.
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.
The 4th is the oldest part of Paris. With designer boutiques and fancy cuisine, lots of hipsters have taken to this area.
Notre-Dame de Paris, or simply Notre-Dame, is a medieval Catholiccathedral widely considered to be one of the finest examples of FrenchGothic architecture. It is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world.
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.
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.
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.
Another Arrondissement loaded with tourist attractions. The 8th is like Oprah-rich.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Batignolles was an independent village outside Paris until 1860, when the EmperorNapoleon III annexed it to the capital. The Palais des congrès de Paris is a concert venue, convention center and shopping mall.
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.
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.
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 20thArrondissements, there is a large community of young prostitutes.
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.
The final, and mostly residential, Arrondissement is cosmopolitan and has no real attractions. The 20th still gets its fair share of tourists.