Dogs of War

Welcome back to Rome Across Europe! Over the course of the past year we’ve discovered many things about the Romans and how they have greatly influenced modern-day life.

From food to military strategies to architecture, the legacy of the Imperium Rōmānum has lasted the test of time. Today we’re going to expand this further by focusing on Rome’s use of dogs in warfare.

Almost as long as dogs have been domesticated by man, dogs have had a history in warfare. Since ancient times, War Dogs have been used as scouts, sentries and trackers.

Their uses have been varied and many roles for dogs in war are obsolete and no longer practiced. The concept of the War Dog, however, still continues to exist though in modern military usage.Modern War Dog

Dogs have been used for many different purposes. Different breeds were used for different things, but always met the demands of the handlers.

In ancient times, the dogs would be strapped with armor or spiked collars and sent into battle to attack the enemy. This strategy was used by various civilizations, such as the Egyptians, Greeks, Persians, Sarmatians, BagandaAlansSlavsBritons and the Romans.spartan-dog

One of the earliest military-related uses was for dogs to be put on sentry duty. Just like today, the dogs would be used to defend camps or other priority areas day or night. The dogs would bark or growl to alert guards of a stranger’s presence.

The earliest use of War Dogs in a battle recorded in classical sources was by Alyattes of Lydia against the Cimmerians around 600 BC. The Lydian attack dogs were particularly effective against enemy cavalry, killing some invaders and routed others, according to one contemporary source.

Archeologists suspect that humans have been using dogs in warfare since the animals were first domesticated more than 15,000 years ago. As warfare has progressed the dogs’ purposes have changed greatly.

In 281 BC, Lysimachus was slain during the Battle of Corupedium and his body was discovered preserved on the battlefield and guarded vigilantly by his faithful dog.Attacking

Then in 231 BC, the Roman Consul Marcus Pomponius Matho lead the Legio Romanus through the island of Sardinia. Using “dogs from Italy” to hunt out the natives, the Romans were able to conquer the Sardinians who fought a guerrilla warfare.

In 120 BC, Bituitus, King of the Arvernii, attacked a small force of Romans led by the Consul Quintus Fabius using just the dogs he had in his army.

The year 55 BC saw Julius Caesar landing in Britannia opposed by Celtic warriors and their dogs. This makes the English Mastiff one of the oldest recorded breeds according to Caesar’s description of them in his accounts.Disrupting Cavalry

Often War Dogs would be sent into battle with large protective spiked metal collars and coats of mail armor.

It was also common practice for the Romans to strap buckets of flaming oil to the backs of their War Dogs and send them into the enemy’s front lines to disrupt the opposing cavalry. These dogs were called piriferi, or fire bearer.

Gifts of War Dog breeding stock between European royalties were seen as suitable tokens for exchange throughout the Middle Ages. Other civilizations, like the Spanish Conquistadors, used armored dogs to defend caravans or attack enemies.

The British used dogs when they attacked the Irish and the Irish in turn used Irish Wolfhounds to attack invading Norman knights on horseback. A single Wolfhound was often capable of taking a mounted man in armor off his horse, where the lightly armed handler would finish him off if necessary.

Frederick the Great used dogs as messengers during the Seven Years’ War with Russia, and Napoleon also used dogs during his campaigns. Dogs were used up until 1770 AD to guard naval installations in France.

The earliest official use of dogs for military purposes in the United States was during the Seminole WarsHounds were used in the American Civil War to protect, send messages and guard prisoners. Dogs were also used as mascots in American World War I propaganda and recruiting posters.WWI Poster

Romans gathered up dogs from throughout the Empire and separated them into 3 categories: Celere – those that ran down wild animals; Pugnaces – those that attacked wild animals; and Villatici – those that guarded farms.

These “groups” of dogs can be roughly translated into what would be modern day hounds, the Cane Corso and Neapolitan Mastiff respectively.  To augment the Canis Pugnaces abilities, dogs from England were brought back to the Empire.

It was said of the Pugnaces Britanniae “they were inflamed with the spirit of Mars the god of war”. Interestingly enough, many believe the infusion of the dogs from England is responsible for the undershot bite in the Cane Corso.

War Dogs were typically one of a pair of breeds. They were either the Molossus of the Molossia region of Epirus or Cane Corso from Italy.

The Molossus was the strongest known to the Romans, and was specifically trained for battle.Molossian

This ancient extinct breed of dog is commonly considered to be the ancestor of today’s Mastiff-type dogs and of many other modern breeds. Mastiff-type dogs are the best-known breeds of Greco-Roman antiquity.

Most scholars agree that the Molossus originated with the Molossis people in the mountainous regions of North West Ancient Greece and southern Albania. The Molossians were renowned for their vicious hounds, which were used by Molossian shepherds in the mountains of northwestern Greece to guard their flocks.

The breed later spread to Italy and other places in the Greek World by colonizing Hellenic peoples from Greece and the rest of the Balkans.

Some scholars contend that the Molossus was a dog used by the Ancient Greeks for fighting. They describe it as having a wide, short muzzle and a heavy dewlap that was used to fight tigers, lions, elephants and men in battle.Molossian Attack

Centuries later the Roman Army would routinely deploy its own War Dogs, with whole companies composed entirely of dogs. The Canis Molossus was the Legion’s preferred breed for combat.

The Romans first encountered these Molossians of Epirus during the Macedonian Wars and renamed them Pugnaces because of their willingness to fight. As was the Roman way, what they assimilated they improved upon.

Molossian dogs were also used by the Greeks and Romans for hunting (canis venaticus) and to watch over the house and livestock (canis pastoralis).

“Never, with them on guard,” says Virgil, “need you fear for your stalls a midnight thief, or onslaught of wolves, or Iberian brigands at your back.”Dogs Used

Aristotle mentions them in the history of animals and praises their bravery and physical superiority. The Molossian breed was most certainly a very large dog similar to the Mastiff we know today.

The poet Grattius, a contemporary of Ovid, writes “…when serious work has come, when bravery must be shown, and the impetuous War-god calls in the utmost hazard, then you could not but admire the renowned Molossians so much.”

A Roman copy of a Greek original sculpture of a guard dog, known as the Jennings Dog, is generally considered to represent a Molossus and can be seen at the British Museum.Molossian_Hound,_British_Museum_Jennings Dog

The Cane Corso’s genealogy can be traced back to the Canis Pugnax, a Roman War Dog from the 1st Century. They would accompany their handler onto the battlefields where they would act as an unprecedented guardian.Cane Corso Sculpted

The tenaciousness of this dog was so extreme they were used in the arenas to fight against larger wild animals, just like the Molossus.

The Cane Corso spiked collars around their neck and ankles, made more dangerous by the large curved knives protruding from its ring. Sometimes they were starved before battle, then unleashed on the unsuspecting enemy.

The Corso was also an Auxilia Warrior in battles for the Romans. The story of the Cane Corso, aka Italian Mastiff, overlaps extraordinarily with the history of the Italic peoples in both splendor and misery.On Patrol

Cane Corso has maintained, through natural selection over the centuries, the closest possible contact with the environment and the roles which man has asked this companion to play.

The past of the Cane Corso is largely present and current, as if time just slipped away. From its ancestors, the Molossus and Canis Pugnax of Rome, the Corso had an aggressive and combative nature.

Its name derives from cane da corso, an old term for a catch dog used in rural activities with cattle and swine, boar hunting and bear fighting. Cane Corso were also used to guard property, livestock, and families, and some continue to be used for this purpose today.Cane Corso vs Bull

Historically it has also been used by night watchmen, keepers, and by carters and drovers. Its distribution was limited to some regions of Southern Italy, especially in BasilicataCampania, and Apulia.

The Cane Corso became excellent in interpreting human gestures through its extensive contact with humans. In small settlements in the south of Italy, the Corso has maintained an archaic system of agriculture and a multipurpose dog.Cane Corso Puppy

Not recommended for novice dog owners, Cane Corso puppies require strong leadership and consistent training. This made it a perfect dog for the Exercitus Romanus.

It’s funny that this breed was used for combat since the Corso are typically very docile and sweet in nature. Because of its training, though, Cane Corso would fight if provoked or in a protective manner.

Around the 1100’s the term Cane Corso began to be associated the light Molossian.Cane Corso

The fall of the Roman Empire predicated the fall of the Roman War Dog. However, this was not the end for this type of dog.

Unlike the Molossus which became extinct, the Cane Corso seemingly melted into the Italic landscape. While no longer the piriferi, the War Dog did find a home with the Italian country folk and with others across the world.

As long as there is warfare, “Man’s Best Friend” will always have a part in it. From scouting to sniffing out bombs to guard duty, War Dogs are simply a highly trained version of the dogs we have at home.Fun

Hopefully, even if you’re a cat person, you enjoyed reading about how dogs factored into Roman warfare. Check back soon to see what we have on deck.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



AelianOn the Nature of Animals.

Carosio, Renzo. Old World Cane Corso.

De Prisco, Andrew. The Mini-Atlas of Dog BreedsISBN 0-86622-091-7. 1990.

Di Munteanu, Corso. History of the Cane Corso.

Forster, E.S. Dogs In Ancient Warfare. Greece & Rome. (1941).

Greenhalgh, P.A.L. Early Greek Warfare: Horsemen and Chariots in the Homeric and Archaic Ages (Cambridge University Press, 1973, 2010).

Homan, Mike. A Complete History of Fighting DogsISBN 1-58245-128-1. 2000.

MHN. The Dogs of War — A Short History of Canines in Combat.

Morral, Timothy. History of the Pit Bull.

Newton, Tom. K-9 History: The Dogs of War! Hahn’s 50th AP K-9.

New York Times. Dogs of War in European Conflict; Egyptians and Romans Employed Them in Early Warfare — Battle Dogs in 4000 BC. February 21, 1915.

Stannard, David. American holocaust: the conquest of the New World.

The American Kennel Club. Get to Know the Cane Corso.

L’viv – the Ensemble of the Historic Centre

Welcome back to Rome Across Europe! Today’s journey is taking us to the Black Sea and Sea of Azov.

We are going just west of Russia to the Ukraine.  Today’s World Heritage Site is L’viv, and its Historic Centre.

The political and commercial role of L’viv attracted to it a number of ethnic groups with different cultural and religious traditions, who established separate yet interdependent communities within the city, still to be seen in the modern townscape.

Known as Old Town, L’viv is an outstanding example of the fusion of the architectural and artistic traditions of Eastern Europe with those of Italy and Germany.

The settlement on the banks of the Poltava River began in the mid-5th Century AD, at the crossing point of important trade routes linking the Baltic, Central Europe, the Mediterranean and Asia. It gradually developed by the 13th Century into an organized and well fortified town known as L’viv.

L’viv had become the capital of the joint kingdom in 1272 and remained so until that disappeared in 1340, when it was annexed to Poland by Casimir III the Great. It was made the seat of a Roman Catholic Archbishop in 1412.

The Ukrainian, Armenian, and Jewish communities were self-governing, unlike the Catholic (German, Polish, Italian and Hungarian) groups. There was intense rivalry between them, which resulted in the creation of many architectural and artistic masterpieces.

It was badly hit by the Ottoman siege in 1672 and sacked by Charles XII of Sweden in 1704. With the First Partition of Poland in 1772, L’viv became the capital of the new Austrian province.

Under Austrian rule, the fortifications were dismantled and many religious foundations were closed down, their buildings being used for secular purposes; there was also considerable reconstruction of medieval buildings. The revolutionary year of 1848 saw serious damage in the centre of the city as a result of military action.

In 1918 L’viv became part of the new Republic of Poland, but it returned to Ukraine after the Second World War.

The heart of the city is the High Castle and the area around it, which developed in the later Middle Ages. Only the castle mound still survives, with 5 churches.

The Seredmistia (Middle Town) preserves intact its original layout, an exceptional example of town planning in Eastern Europe at that time.

There is Rynok Square with a tower at its center and around it fine houses in Renaissance, Baroque, and Empire style, many of them retaining their original medieval layout. In the square is a fountain with figures from classical mythology at each corner of the square, dating from 1793 AD.

Another splendor is the Uspenska (Assumption Church) complex. Its exceptional in that it combines Renaissance building in stone with the local tradition of tripartite wooden places of worship, consisting of narthex, nave, and chancel.

The Armenian Church complex has many pieces which have been added on over the years. The church itself is from 1363, the bell tower added in 1571, the column of St Christopher from 1726, then the Armenian Benedictine convent and Archbishops’ Palace were done over 17th-18th Centuries.

The Latin Metropolitan Cathedral in Gothic style, with some Baroque features. The fortified complex of the Bernardine Monastery combines Italian and German Renaissance elements with Mannerist details.

Parts of the 14th Century defensive walls, with the City and Royal Arsenals and Gunpowder Tower.

The Ensemble of the Church of St Yuri the Dragon Fighter lies outside the medieval city on a hillside terrace. The existing church was built from stone and brick, combining Italian Baroque with the traditional Ukrainian spatial layout. It is richly decorated with monumental sculpture and carvings.

How It Relates To Rome

Modern human settlement in Ukraine and its vicinity dates back to 32,000 BC, with evidence of the Gravettian culture in the Crimean Mountains. By 4,500 BC, the Neolithic Cucuteni-Trypillian Culture flourished in a wide area that included parts of modern Ukraine.

During the Iron Age, the land was inhabited by Cimmerians, Scythians and Sarmatians. Between 700 BC and 200 BC it was part of the Scythian Kingdom, or Scythia.

Later, colonies of Ancient GreeceAncient Rome and the Byzantine Empire, were founded. Beginning in the 6th Century BC, settlements began on the northeastern shore of the Black Sea and thrived well into the 6th Century AD.

The Goths stayed in the area but came under the sway of the Huns from the 370s AD. In the 7th Century AD, the territory of eastern Ukraine was the centre of Old Great Bulgaria. At the end of the century, the majority of Bulgar tribes migrated in different directions, and the Khazars took over much of the land.

We hope you enjoyed today’s site and look forward to having you back soon. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Colosseum – A Gladiator’s Story

Welcome back to Rome Across Europe! Today we are venturing back to the year 80 AD.

We are going back to ancient Rome and the opening of the Amphitheatrum Flavium. Come join us as we see what it was like to be both a Gladiator and a fan of these original games.

We know it’s not the movie Gladiator, but it’s still a cool visual presentation. Hopefully you enjoyed your journey and will see you soon.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Charles V and the Holy Roman Empire

Welcome back to Rome Across Europe! With so much to discover we thought, “Hey, why not share another video?”

Having said that, we present to you Charles the V and the Sacrum Romanum Imperium

As stated in the video, there are multiple sides to every story and to every piece of history.

Charles V wasn’t in charge of a real empire. It wasn’t really holy since it wasn’t 100% Catholic. And it wasn’t really Roman since Latin wasn’t spoken.

Charles V’s motto of Plus Ultra is the official motto of Spain. The motto is closely associated with the Pillars of Hercules, which, according to Greek mythology, were built by Hercules near the Straits of Gibraltar to mark the edge of the then known world.

We hope you enjoyed today’s video and encourage you to join us again soon. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!


Tattoos of Rome

Welcome back to Rome Across Europe! There has been many fashion senses reveled thus far, but nothing considering self-defacement.

In the modern world, artistic embellishment of one’s body is seen as an art form. In ancient times it was viewed in a completely different mode.

Today we are talking about tattooing and how it was perceived in the Imperium Rōmānum.

Tattooing was only associated with barbarians in early Greek and Roman times. The Greeks learned tattooing from the Persians, and used it to mark slaves and criminals so they could be identified if they tried to escape.

The Romans in turn adopted the practice from the Greeks. In late antiquity when the Exercitus Romanus consisted largely of mercenaries, they also were tattooed so that deserters could be identified.

There is evidence that some Roman Soldiers were indeed tattooed. As tattoos were primarily used to mark slaves and as a form of punishment, it is possible that tattooing was reserved for foreign auxiliaries to discourage desertion.

The textual evidence, dating back to the 5th Century, is a passage from Publius Flavius Vegetius RenatusEpitome of Military Science in which he states that a recruit to the Roman Army “should not be tattooed with the pin-pricks of the official mark as soon as he has been selected, but first be thoroughly tested in exercises so that it may be established whether he is truly fitted for so much effort.”

There is some evidence that a tattoo was placed on a Legionary’s hand. As far as is concerned, an SPQR was as good a guess as an Aquila or any other appropriate symbol.

There is some evidence that a tattoo was placed on a Legionary’s hand. As far as is concerned, an SPQR was as good a guess as an Aquila or any other appropriate symbol.

Pre-Christian GermanicCeltic and other central and northern European tribes were often heavily tattooed, according to surviving accounts. The Picts may have been tattooed with elaborate, war-inspired black or dark blue woad designs.

Julius Caesar described these tattoos in Book V of his Gallic Wars (54 BC). Nevertheless, these may have been painted markings rather than tattoos.Scythian_tatoo

A tattoo on the right arm of a Scythian chieftain whose mummy was discovered at PazyrykRussia. The tattoo was made more than 2,500 years ago.

Tattooed mummies dating to c. 500 BC were extracted from burial mounds on the Ukok plateau during the 1990s. Their tattooing involved animal designs carried out in a curvilinear style.

The Man of Pazyryk, a Scythian chieftain, is tattooed with an extensive and detailed range of fish, monsters and a series of dots that lined up along the spinal column (lumbar region) and around the right ankle.

Just as today, tattoos were seen as both as fashion statement and a statement of personal growth. This is something to be debated for future scholars.

As far as we know, adding ink to oneself is nothing more than a form of artistic expression. Whatever the case may be, tattooing  is no longer the only form of identifying desters.

We love to see modern folks making identifiable markings of Rome’s history in ink. Why wouldn’t we love such a thing?

Hopefully you enjoyed today’s article. We wish that you come back to see our next feature.

Until next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!


Kirby, David (2012). Inked Well. Patterns for College Writing: A Rhetorical Reader and Guide: Bedford/St. Martins. ISBN 9780312676841.

Deter-Wolf, Aaron (2013). The Material Culture and Middle Stone Age Origins of Ancient Tattooing.

Mummy tattoos hint at ancient Andean acupuncture. USA Today.

Tattoos: Egyptian Mummies. Encyclopedia.

Carr, Gillian (2005). Woad, Tattooing and Identity in Later Iron Age and Early Roman Britain. Oxford Journal of Archaeology 24.

Schogol, Jeff (4 August 2012). Marines tighten restrictions on tattoos. Stars and Stripes (Arlington, VA).

The History of Tattoos. The Tattoo Collection.

Keeping the Legio Romanus Fighting

Attentio! Welcome back to Rome Across Europe! Over the course of the year we have learned a lot about the Legio Romanus.

As the backbone of Rome’s power, the Legio Romanus was broken down just like today’s modern military. From the Senior Officers to the Centurions to the Lower Ranks or the Special Duty Posts, everyone had a specific job to perform.

Upon reading historical accounts of Roman battles, it would seem that they all did their jobs well. Was it due to fearing Decimatio or because of the Vexillatio? It could have been either or both.

Today we are going to discuss what else motivated the Legio Romanus. We want to know what kept these soldiers fighting in places they never even knew existed.Legion

Pay and the potential for future spoils would top the list for a Legionarius. The rank and file Legionary received the base wage of 10 asses a day or 225 denarii a year.

A Centurio was paid 10 times the basic wage of a Legionarius, while Special Duty Posts were paid double the basic wage. It seems that with extra responsibility comes an extra reward.

From the time of General Gaius Marius onwards, Legionaries received 225 denarii a year (equal to 900 Sestertii). This basic rate remained unchanged until Emperor Domitian, who increased it to 300 denarii.AugustusDurmius

In spite of the steady inflation during the 2nd Century, there was no further rise until the time of Emperor Septimius Severus, who increased the basic wage to 500 denarii a year. However, the soldiers did not receive all the money in cash, as the state deducted their pay with a clothing and food tax.

To this wage, a Legionarius on active campaign would hope to add the booty of war, from the bodies of their enemies and as plunder from enemy settlements. Slaves could also be claimed from the prisoners of war and divided amongst the Legion for later selling, which would bring in a sizeable supplement to their regular pay.

All Legionaries would also receive a praemia on the completion of their term of service. A praemia was a sizeable sum of money, about 3,000 denarii from the time of Augustus, and/or a plot of good farmland.Farmland_off_Roman_Road

Good land anywhere was in much demand, so farmland outside of Rome was given to veterans helping to establish control of the frontier regions and over rebellious provinces. Later, under Caracalla, the praemia increased to 5,000 denarii.

The symbols and standards of each Legio served as the next motivation to keep on as a Legionary. From 104 BC onwards, each Legio used an Aquila as its standard symbol.Aquila

Carried by an officer known as an Aquilifer, the standard and its loss was considered to be a very serious embarrassment, and often led to the disbanding of the legion itself. Normally, this was because any Legion incapable of regaining its Eagle in battle was so severely mauled that it was no longer combat effective.

In the Gallic War, Julius Caesar describes an incident at the start of his primary invasion of Britannia in 55 BC that illustrated how fear for the safety of the Eagle could drive Roman soldiers.

When Caesar’s troops hesitated to leave their ships for fear of the Britons, the Aquilifer of the Legio X Gemina threw himself overboard and, carrying the Eagle, advanced alone against the enemy. His comrades, fearing disgrace, ‘with one accord, leapt down from the ship’ and were followed by troops from the other ships.

With the birth of the Imperium Rōmānum, the Legiones created a bond with their leader, the Emperor himself. Each Legion had another officer, called Imaginifer, whose role was to carry a pike with the Imago (Image) of the Emperor as Pontifex Maximus.Legio X Gemina

Each Legio also had a Vexillifer who carried a vexillum or signum, with the Legion name and unique emblem depicted on it. It was common for a Legio to detach some sub-units from the main camp to strengthen other corps.

In these cases, the detached subunits carried only the vexillum, and not the Aquila, and were therefore called Vexillationes. A miniature vexillum, mounted on a silver base, was sometimes awarded to officers as recognition of their service upon retirement or reassignment.Vexillum

Civilians could also be rewarded for their assistance to the Roman Legions. In return for outstanding service, a citizen was given an arrow without a head. As confusing as it may sound, this was considered a great honor and would bring the recipient much prestige.

Discipline, although used only for extreme cases, was the last form of motivation used. It may not be looked at with kind eyes in today’s light, but when your life depends on the men on either side of you then everyone must be committed.

The military discipline of the Legiones was quite harsh. Regulations were strictly enforced, and a broad array of punishments could be inflicted upon a Legionary who broke them.

Many Legionarii became devotees in the cult of the minor goddess Disciplina, whose virtues of frugality, severity and loyalty were central to their code of conduct and way of life.

The following would be considered Viles Supplicia (Minor Punishments):

Castigatio – Being hit by the Centurion with his staff or animadversio fustium.

Reduction of rations or to be forced to eat barley instead of the usual grain ration.

Pecuniaria mulcta – Reduction in pay, fines or deductions from the pay allowance.

Flogging in front of the century, cohort or legion

Whipping with the flagellum (short whip) — A much more brutal punishment than simple flogging.

Gradus deiectio – Reduction in rank.

Missio ignominiosa – Dishonorable discharge.

Loss of time in service advantages.

Militiae mutatio – Relegation to inferior service or duties.

Munerum indictio – Additional duties.

There was a pair of punishments that would be considered Gravis Supplicia (Minor Punishments): Fustuarium and Decimatio.

Fustuarium was the sentence for desertion or dereliction of duty. The Legionarius would be stoned or beaten to death by cudgels, in front of the assembled troops, by his fellow soldiers, whose lives had been put in danger.Fustuarium

Soldiers under sentence of Fustuarium who escaped were not pursued, but lived under sentence of banishment from Rome.

Decimatio was the sentence carried out against an entire unit that had mutinied, deserted, or shown dereliction of duty. The each man would choose lots, with 1 out of every 10 men receiving the punishment.

The unlucky recipients would be beaten to death, usually by the other 9, with either the chosen rocks or bare hands. Afterwards those who did the beating would be forced to live outside the camp in shame, and in some instances obliged to renew the military oath or sacramentum.Decimation

There were other factors in the success of a Legio as well.

As Montesquieu wrote, “[I]t should be noted that the main reason for the Romans becoming masters of the world was that, having fought successively against all peoples, they always gave up their own practices as soon as they found better ones.”

Examples of ideas that were copied and adapted include weapons like the Glădĭus and warship design, as well as military units, such as Heavy Mounted Cavalry and Mounted Archers.Heavy Cavalry

Roman organization was more flexible than those of many opponents. Over time, the Legiones effectively handled challenges ranging from cavalry, to guerrillas, and to siege warfare.

Roman discipline, organization and systematization sustained combat effectiveness over a longer period. These elements appear throughout the Legion in such areas as training, logistics and field fortification.

The Romans were more persistent and more willing to absorb and replace losses over time than their opponents. Wars with Carthage, the Parthians and the campaigns against Pyrrhus of Epirus illustrate this.Military Organization

Roman leadership was mixed, but over time it was often effective in securing Roman military success.

The influence of Roman military and civic culture, as embodied particularly in the heavy infantry legion, gave the Roman military consistent motivation and cohesion.

Strict, uniform discipline made commanding, maintaining and replacing Roman Legionarii a much more consistent exercise. Roman military training focused on the more effective thrusting of the sword rather than the slash, resulting in higher lethality in combat, and the military system of the Romans enabled them to have far higher kill rates than their enemies.

Roman military equipment, particularly armor, was more withstanding and far more omnipresent than that of most of their opponents. Soldiers equipped with shields, helmets and highly effective body armor had a major advantage over warriors protected, in many cases, with nothing other than their shields, particularly in a prolonged engagement.Armor

Roman engineering skills were second to none in Ancient Europe, and their mastery of both offensive and defensive siege warfare, specifically the construction and investiture of fortifications, was another major advantage for the Roman Legions.

As history shows, Rome fought its way from a small tribe of outcasts to a world leader. It could not have been accomplished without the Legio Romanus.

We hope you enjoyed learning more about the motivating factors and strategies that led Rome’s fighting men to continue forth. Please join us again soon to see what else we have in store.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Adrian Goldsworthy. Roman Warfare.

Adrian Goldsworthy. The Complete Roman Army.

John Keegan. A History of Warfare.

Peter Connolly. The Roman Army and Greece and Rome at War.

Trevor N. Dupuy. The Evolution of Weapons and Warfare.

Flavius Vegetius Renatus. De Re Militari (with English translation on-line).

Julius CaesarThe Gallic War.

Victor Davis Hanson. Carnage and Culture.

Arther Ferrill. The Fall of the Roman Empire: The Military Explanation. 1988.

Albert Harkness. The Military System of the Romans.

Sumner, G. and Raffaele D’Amato. Arms and Armour of the Imperial Roman Soldier. Frontline Books, 2009.

Watson, G.R. The Roman Soldier. Cornell University Press, 1993.

Matyszak, Philip. Legionary: the Roman soldier’s (unofficial) manual. Thames & Hudson, 2009.

Cowan, Ross, and Angus McBride. Roman Legionary: 58 BC – AD 69. Osprey Publishing, 2003.

August – The Month of an Emperor

Welcome back to Rome Across Europe! We are nearing the end of August, and today ends the Dog Days of Summer.

In Ancient Rome, the Dog Days ran from July 24 through August 24. In many European cultures (GermanFrenchItalian) this period is still said to be the time of the Dog Days.

We knew that the month of August was named for the Imperātor Caesar Dīvī Fīlius Augustus. What we didn’t know is how and when this came about.augustus

So today, we are finding out more about August!

August is the 8th month of the year (between July and September) in the Julian and Gregorian calendars and 1 of 7 months with a length of 31 days. The Perseid meteor shower always takes place in around July and August.

In the Southern Hemisphere, August is the seasonal equivalent of February in the Northern Hemisphere. In many European countries, August is the holiday month for most workers.

This month was originally named Sextilius in Latin, because it was the 6th month in the original 10-month Roman calendar under Romulus in 753 BC, when March started the New Year.

About 700 BC it became the 8th month when January and February were added to the year before March by King Numa Pompilius, who also gave it 29 days. Julius Caesar added 2 days when he created the Julian calendar in 45 BC, giving it its modern length of 31 days.

In 8 BC the month was renamed in honor of Augustus. Despite common belief, Rome’s original Emperor did not take a day from February (see the debunked theory on month lengths).

According to a Senatus consultum quoted by Macrobius, he chose this month because it was the time of several of his great triumphī, including the defeat and suicide of Antony and Cleopatra along with conquest of Egypt.Augustus Triumph

Augustus was in favor of the Roman month of Sextilius being renamed after himself for his great-uncle and predecessor Julius Caesar had done with July.

August’s birthstones are the peridot and sardonyx. Its birth flower is the gladiolus or poppy, meaning beauty, strength of character, love, marriage and family.

The zodiac signs for the month of August are Leo (until August 22) and Virgo (from August 23 onwards).

There were many Roman Festivals celebrated in the newly renamed August.

August 3 – Supplicia Canum

Supplicia CanumThe Supplicia Canum (Punishment of the Dogs) was an annual sacrifice of ancient Roman religion in which live dogs were suspended from a furca (fork) or crux (cross) and paraded. It appears on none of the extant Roman calendars, but a late source places it on August 3.

In the same procession, geese were decked out in gold and purple, and carried in honor. Ancient sources who explain the origin of the Supplicia say that the geese were honored for saving the city during the Gallic siege of Rome.

When the Gauls launched a nocturnal assault by stealth on the citadel, the geese raised a noisy alarm. The failure of the watch dogs to bark was thereafter ritually punished each year.

In some stories, Marcus Manlius led the way in responding to the alarm, warding off the initial Gaul to reach the top of the Capitoline cliff, or alternatively expelling them from the Temple of Jupiter, which they had entered through tunnels.

Manlius is described once as a custos (guard) of the citadel, perhaps in command of the Juventus, the young warriors as a collective. A few years later, Manlius had attempted to capitalize on his reputation for heroism and to establish himself as a tyrannos, a much-despised role in Republican Rome.

Roman narrative traditions regarding the Gallic siege are complex, “a hopeless jumble of aetiological tales, family apologias, doublets, and transferences from Greek history”, including an improbable last-minute victory or at least the holding of the citadel itself, thanks to the geese.Raising Alarm

Some scholars have suspected that the citadel was breached and that the Romans ameliorated the disaster with layers of legend over time. The incongruity of Manlius’s legendary heroism and his execution for treason a relatively short time later could conceal a military disgrace.

The crucified dogs may originally have been intended to serve as a pharmakos or scapegoat. The Christian writers Arnobius and Ambrose indicate that geese and dogs were kept on the Capitoline well into the 4th Century.

August 15 – Ferragosto

Assumption-of-MaryFerragosto is an Italian and Sammarinese public holiday coinciding with the major Catholic feast of the Assumption of Mary. By metonymy, it is also the summer vacation period around mid-August, which may be a long weekend (ponte di ferragosto) or most of August.

The Feriae Augusti (Festivals [Holidays] of the Emperor Augustus) was introduced by Augustus in 18 BC. This was an addition to earlier ancient Roman festivals which fell in the same month, which celebrated the harvest and the end of a long period of intense agricultural labor.

The Feriae Augusti, in addition to its propaganda function, linked the various August festivals to provide a longer period of rest, called Augustali, which was felt necessary after the hard labor of the previous weeks.

During these celebrations, horse races were organized across the Empire and beasts of burden were released from their work duties and decorated with flowers. Such ancient traditions are still alive today, virtually unchanged in their form and level of participation during the Palio dell’Assunta which takes place on 16 August in Siena.ferragosto-festival-in-italy-Palio-siena

Indeed the name Palio comes from the pallium, a piece of precious fabric which was the usual prize given to winners of the horse races in Ancient Rome.

August 17 – Tiberinalia

TiberinaliaThe Tiberinalia is a Roman festival of late antiquity, recorded in the Calendar of Filocalus (354 AD), the same day as the archaic Portunalia. As a festival honoring Father Tiber, it may reflect renewed Imperial patronage of traditional Roman deities, in particular the dedication made to Tiberinus by the Emperors Diocletian and Maximianus.

August festivals deal with themes of agricultural bounty ensured by sun and water. It was represented in large letters on extant fasti, indicating that it was regarded as among the most ancient holidays that were on the calendar before 509 BC.

Portunes was originally a guardian of gateways and only later by extension a harbor god, and his relation to Tiberinus as god of the river is debatable. Mommsen inferred that the 2 gods were the same, but other scholars have rejected the identification.

Varro says that the Portunalia marks the institution of aedes (shrine) to Portunes in Portu Tiberino, but the meaning of portus here is unclear.

August 18 – Consualia

ConsualiaThe Consuales Ludi or Consualia was the name of 2 ancient Roman festivals in honor of Consus, a tutelary deity of the harvest and stored grain. Consuales Ludi were held at the time of harvest, and again on December 15, in connection with grain storage.

The shrine of Consus was underground, it was covered with earth all year and was only uncovered for this one day. Mars, as a protector of the harvest, was also honored on this day, as were the Lares, the household gods that individual families held sacred.

During the celebration horses, mules, and asses were exempted from all labor, and were led through the streets adorned with garlands and flowers. Chariot races were held this day in the Circus Maximus, which included an odd race in which chariots were pulled by mules.

In Roman mythology, the Consulia was founded by Romulus as an occasion to gather his Sabine  neighbors. When the community was assembled and in a state of drunken festivity, Romulus’s men abducted the daughters of the Sabines to become their brides (see “The Rape of the Sabine Women“).Rape of Sabine Women

There were also sacrifices to Consus on 7 July. Consus’ feasts were followed by those of the related goddess Ops.

According to Livy, the festival honors Neptune.

August 23 – Volcanalia

vulcanaliaThe festival of Vulcan was celebrated each year when the summer heat placed crops and granaries most at risk of burning. During the festival bonfires were created in honor of the god, into which live fish or small animals were thrown as a sacrifice, to be consumed in the place of humans.

It is recorded that during the Volcanalia people used to hang their cloths and fabrics under the sun. This habit might reflect a theological connection between Vulcan and the divinized Sun.

Another custom observed on this day required that a person should start working by the light of a candle, probably to propitiate a beneficial use of fire by the god.

The Ludi Volcanalici, was held just once on 23 August 20 BC, within the temple precinct of Vulcan, and used by Augustus to mark the treaty with Parthia and the return of the Aquila that had been lost at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BC.

flamen, one of the flamines minores, named flamen Volcanalis was in charge of the cult of the god.

Vulcan was among the gods placated after the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64. In response to the same fire, Domitian established a new altar to Vulcan on the Quirinal Hill. At the same time a red bull-calf and red boar were added to the sacrifices made on the Volcanalia, at least in that region of the city.Great Fire of Rome

August 25 – Opiconsivia

MosaicoThe Opiconsivia was an ancient Roman religious festival held in honor of Ops (Plenty), also known as Opis, a goddess of agricultural resources and wealth. The festival marked the end of harvest, with a mirror festival on December 19 concerned with the storage of the grain.

The Latin word consivia derives from conserere (to sow). Opis was deemed a chthonic goddess who made the vegetation grow.

Since her abode was inside the earth, Ops was invoked by her worshipers while sitting, with their hands touching the ground, according to Macrobius. Consus seems to be an alternate name of Saturn in the chthonic aspect as consort, since he is also held to be the husband of Ops.

Although Ops is a consort of Saturn, she was also closely associated with Consus, the protector of grains and subterranean silos.

The Opiconsivia festival was superintended by the Vestals and the Flamines of Quirinus, an early Sabine god said to be the deified Romulus. The main priestess at the regia wore a white veil, characteristic of the Vestal Virgins.Festival

chariot race was performed in the Circus Maximus. Horses and mules, their heads crowned with chaplets made of flowers, also took part in the celebration.

August 27 – Volturnalia

VolturnaliaVolturnalia was the Roman festival dedicated to Volturnus, god of the waters & fountains. Volturnus was a tribal river god who later was identified as god of the Tiber.

The Volturno River, in southern Italy, is named for him. Volturnus was the father of the goddess Juturna, who was first identified with a spring in Latium near the Numicus River and later with a pool near the Temple of Vesta in the Forum Romanum.

They were both honored on this day with feasting, wine-drinking, and games.

So apparently the Romans kept themselves quite busy, and entertained, during the month of their original Emperor. Today, we still know about this former world leader because of our use of the Julian calendar.

We hope you’ve been enjoying your August as much as the Romans did. With any luck you also enjoyed this piece.

Thanks for stopping by and we look forward to having you back soon. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



August. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.

Sarolta A. Takács. Vestal Virgins, Sibyls, and Matrons: Women in Roman Religion (University of Texas Press, 2008).

Rufus FearsThe Cult of Virtues and Roman Imperial Ideology. (1981).

Corbishley, Mike. Ancient Rome. Warwick Press 1986 Toronto.

Warde FowlerThe Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic: An Introduction to the Study of the Religion of the Romans. (1899) ISBN 0-548-15022-2.

Livy. The History of Rome by Titus Livius: The First Eight Books, trans. D. Spillan. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853.

Douglas Boin. Ostia in Late Antiquity (Cambridge University Press, 2013).

H.H. ScullardFestivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic (Cornell University Press, 1981).

Jonathan Boardman, Rome: A Cultural and Literary Companion.

Pliny, Natural History 29.57; H.H. Scullard, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic (Cornell University Press, 1981).

Nicholas Horsfall. From History to Legend: M. Manlius and the Geese. Classical Journal 76.4 (1981).

Salted Fish – To Be Eaten At One’s Leisure

Welcome back to Rome Across Europe! I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of eating.

It doesn’t really matter what as long as it tastes good. I’m always up to try something new, at least once.

Today we are going to check out a mainstay of the Roman diet, Salted fish. Check out this video on how to actually salt fish.

Salted fish, such as kippered herring or dried and salted cod, is fish cured with dry salt and thus preserved for later eating. Drying and/or salting, either with dry salt or with brine, was the only widely available method of preserving fish until the 19th Century.

Dried fish and/or salted fish are a staple of diets in the CaribbeanNorth AfricaSoutheast AsiaScandinavia, coastal Russia, and in the Arctic. Like other salt-cured meats, it provides preserved animal protein even in the absence of electrically powered refrigeration.

Salt inhibits the growth of microorganisms by drawing water out of microbial cells through osmosis. Concentrations of salt up to 20% are required to kill most species of unwanted bacteria.Tunisie_Néapolis_musée_8

Butcher’s meat was an uncommon luxury, and seafood, game and poultry were more common. Fish was the most common of all, and seems the easiest to acquire.

Some fish were greatly esteemed and fetched high prices, such as mullet raised in the fishery at Cosa, and “elaborate means were invented to assure its freshness.”Usines_de_Salaison_I_Neapolis

Salted fish was the cheapest and most available to the general population due to its mass production. It was well preserved and could be rehydrated for cooking whenever it was to be consumed.

Boiling, baking, frying or roasting were all ways to prepare salted fish. Take a look at this video on how to prepare salted fish for yourself.

We hope you enjoyed learning how to both salt and prepare fish that have been thusly salted. It’s one of those foods that just has to eaten to get a full appreciation for it.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon to see what’s on the plate.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Women in Ancient Rome

Welcome back to Rome Across Europe! We’ve gone through and discovered lots of various things across the Imperium Rōmānum, most of which have been male dominated.

Since it was men that fought in battles, served as politicians and wrote Rome’s history it was therefore given a very strong male orientation. As sad as it is from a modern perspective, women were just not a huge part of the social culture in Ancient Rome.Roman Women

With what little knowledge of Roman women, we here at RAE are going to provide as much as we can to better include our female audience. Today we begin the start of a series of articles focusing on the lives of and activities of the Ladies of the Empire.

Freeborn women in ancient Rome were Cives, but could not vote or hold political office. Because of their limited public role, women are named less frequently than men by Roman historians.

But while Roman women held no direct political power, those from wealthy or powerful families could, and often did, exert influence through private negotiations. Exceptional women who left an undeniable mark on history range from the semi-legendary Lucretia and Claudia Quinta; fierce Republican-era women such as Cornelia; women of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, most prominently Livia; and the Empress Helena.Vision St.Helen

As is the case with male members of society, elite women and their politically significant deeds eclipse those of lower status in the historical record. Inscriptions and especially epitaphs document the names of a wide range of women throughout the Roman Empire, but often tell little else about them.

Some vivid snapshots of daily life are preserved in Latin literary genres such as comedysatire and poetry, offer glimpses of women in Triclinia and boudoirs, at sporting and theatrical events, shopping, putting on makeup, practicing magic and worrying about pregnancy.

All, however, are done through male eyes.

The published letters of Cicero, for instance, reveal informally how he interacted on the domestic front with his wife Terentia and daughter Tullia. As Cicero’s speeches demonstrate, Roman women could enjoy a free-spirited sexual and social life.

Roman children played a number of games, and their toys are known from archaeology and literary sources. Girls are depicted in Roman art as playing many of the same games as boys, including hoop-rolling, and knucklebones.

Dolls have been found in the tombs of those who died before adulthood. The figures are about 6 inches tall with jointed limbs, and made of materials such as wood, terracotta, bone and ivory.

Girls coming of age dedicated their dolls to Diana, the goddess most concerned with girlhood, or to Venus when they were preparing for marriage.goddess_diana

Just like today, girls went to a public primary school. Ovid and Martial imply that boys and girls were educated either together or similarly.

Children of the elite were taught Greek as well as Latin from an early age. Children of both genders learned to behave socially by attending dinner parties and other events.School

Girls and boys participated in religious festivals. Both girls and boys sang formal compositions in choirs, for instance, at the Ludi Saeculares in 17 BC.

Among the upper classes, women seem to have been very well-educated, and were sometimes praised by the male historians for their learning and cultivation. Cornelia Metella, the young wife of Pompey the Great at the time of his death, was distinguished for her musicianship and her knowledge of geometry, literature, and philosophy.

This degree of learning indicates formal preparation. But because women took no official part in public life, the lives of boys and girls began to diverge dramatically after they formally came of age, and memorials to women recognize their domestic qualities far more often than intellectual achievements.

The skills a Roman matron needed to run a household required training, and mothers probably passed on their knowledge to their daughters in a manner appropriate to their station in life, given the emphasis in Roman society on mos maiorum.Family

Both daughters and sons were subject to patria potestas, the power wielded by their father as head of the familia. A Roman household was considered a collective corpus, over which the pater familias had dominium.

In the early Empire, the legal standing of daughters differed little if at all from that of sons. If the father died without a will, the right of a daughter to share in the family property was equal to that of a son, though legislation in the 2nd Century BC had attempted to limit this right.

Even apart from legal status, daughters seem no less esteemed within the Roman family than sons.

The pater familias had the right and duty to find a husband for his daughter, and first marriages were normally arranged. Technically, the couple had to be old enough to consent, but the age of consent was 12 for girls and 14 for boys, though in practice boys seem to have been on average 5 years older.romanwedding

Among the elite, 14 was the age of transition from childhood to adolescence, but a betrothal might be arranged for political reasons. In general noble women married younger than women of the lower classes, but most Roman women would have married in their late teens to early 20s.

An aristocratic girl was expected to be a virgin when she married, as her young age might indicate. A daughter could legitimately refuse a match made by her parents only by showing that the proposed husband was of bad character.

In the Early Republic, the bride became subject to her huband’s potestas, but to a lesser degree than their children. By the early Empire, however, a daughter’s legal relationship to her father remained unchanged when she married, even though she moved into her husband’s home.Household

This arrangement was one of the factors in the degree of independence Roman women enjoyed relative to those of many other ancient cultures and up to the early modern period. Although she had to answer to her father legally, she didn’t conduct her daily life under his direct scrutiny, and her husband had no legal power over her.

A daughter was expected to be deferential toward her father and to remain loyal to him, even if it meant having to differ with her husband. Deference was not always absolute though.

Children of either gender usually took the father’s name, the family name (nomen), for life no matter if they got married or not. In the Imperial period, however, children might sometimes make their mother’s family name part of theirs, or even adopt it instead.

matrimonio-romanoDuring the classical era of Roman Law, marriage required no ceremony, but only a mutual will and agreement to live together in harmony. Marriage ceremonies, contracts, and other formalities were meant only to prove that a couple had actually married.

Under early or archaic Roman law, marriages were of 3 kinds: confarreatio, coemptio (by purchase) and usus (by mutual cohabitation). Patricians always married by confarreatio, while plebeians married by the latter two kinds.

Roman wives were expected to bear children, but the women of the aristocracy showed a growing disinclination to devote themselves to traditional motherhood. By the 1st Century BC, most elite women avoided breast-feeding their infants themselves, and hired wet-nurses.

Since a mother’s milk was considered best for the baby, aristocratic women might still choose to breast-feed, unless physical reasons prevented it. If a woman chose to forgo nursing her own child she could visit the Columna Lactaria, where poor parents could obtain milk for their infants as charity from wet nurses, and those who could afford it could choose to hire a wet nurse.Columna_Lactaria

The extent to which Roman women might expect their husbands to participate in the rearing of very young children seems to vary and is hard to determine.

Large families were not the norm among the elite even by the Late Republic. A family of 6 kids was considered unusual.

The birth rate among the aristocracy declined to such an extent that the original Roman Emperor Augustus passed a series of laws intended to increase it. This included special honors for women who bore at least 3 children (the ius trium liberorum).Vibia_Sabina

Women who were unmarried, divorced, widowed, or barren were prohibited from inheriting property unless named in a will.

Roman women were not only valued for the number of children that they produced, but also for their part in raising and educating children to become good citizens. To rear children for successful lives, an exemplary Roman mother needed to be well-educated herself.

One of the Roman women most famous for their strength and influence as a mother was Cornelia, the mother of the GracchiJulius Caesar, whose father died when he was only a young teen, had a close relationship with his mother, Aurelia, whose political clout was essential in that of the future Imperator.aurelia-cotta

Aristocratic women managed a large and complex household. Since wealthy couples often owned multiple homes and country estates with dozens or even hundreds of slaves, this responsibility was the equivalent of running a small corporation.

Since the most ambitious aristocratic men were frequently away from home on military campaign or administrative duty in the provinces, sometimes for years at a time, the maintenance of the family’s property and business decisions were often left to the wives.

For instance, while Ovid, Rome’s greatest living poet, was exiled by Augustus in 8 AD, his wife exploited social connections and legal maneuvers to hold on to the family’s property, on which their livelihood depended. Ovid expresses his love and admiration for her lavishly in the poetry he wrote during his exile.Ovid_Banished_from_Rome

Frugality, parsimony, and austerity were characteristics of the virtuous matron.

One of the most important tasks for women to oversee in a large household was clothing production. In the early Roman period, the spinning of wool was a central domestic occupation.

This indicated a family’s self-sufficiency, since the wool would be produced on their estates. Even in an urban setting, wool was often a symbol of a wife’s duties, and equipment for spinning might appear on the funeral monument of a woman to show that she was a good and honorable matron.loom

Even women of the upper classes were expected to be able to spin and weave in virtuous emulation of their rustic ancestors, a practice ostentatiously observed by Livia.

The only major public role reserved solely for women was in the sphere of religion in the priestly office of the Vestals. Freed of any obligation to marry or have children, the Vestals devoted themselves to the study and correct observance of rituals which were deemed necessary for the security and survival of Rome but which could not be performed by the male colleges of priests.

Women were present at most Roman festivals and cult observances. Some rituals specifically required the presence of women, but their participation might be limited.

As a rule women did not perform animal sacrifice, the central rite of most major public ceremonies, though this was less a matter of prohibition than the fact that most priests presiding over state religion were men. Some cult practices were reserved for women only, for example, the rites of the Bona Dea.vestal virgins

The Vestals possessed unique religious distinction, public status and privileges, and could exercise considerable political influence. It was also possible for them to amass considerable wealth.

Upon entering her office, a Vestal was emancipated from her father’s authority. In archaic Roman society, these priestesses were the only women not required to be under the legal guardianship of a man, instead answering directly and only to the Pontifex Maximus.

The Vestals participated at least symbolically in every official sacrifice, as they were responsible for preparing the required ritual substance Mola Salsa. The Vestals seem to have retained their religious and social distinctions well into the 4th Century AD, until the Christian Emperors dissolved the order.

The dual may reflect the Roman tendency to seek a gender complement within the religious sphere;

Most divine powers are represented by both a male and a female deity, as seen in divine pairs such as Liber and Libera. Thusly dual male-female priesthoods were a reflection of the 12 major gods,  presented as 6 gender-balanced pairs.Liber_and_Libera

Although less documented than public religion, private religious practices addressed aspects of life that were exclusive to women. At a time when the infant mortality rate was as high as 40%, divine aid was solicited for the life-threatening act of giving birth and the perils of caring for a baby. Invocations were directed at the goddesses JunoDianaLucina, the Di Nixi, and a host of divine attendants devoted to birth and childrearing.

Roman women were not confined to their house as were Athenian women in the Archaic and Classical periods. Wealthy women traveled around the city in a litter carried by slaves.

Women gathered in the streets on a daily basis to meet with friends, attend religious rites at temples, or to visit the Thermae. The wealthiest families had private baths at home, but most people went to bath houses not only to wash but to socialize, as the larger facilities offered a range of services and recreational activities, among which casual sex was not excluded.The-Roman-Bath

Until the late Republic, evidence suggests that women usually bathed in a separate wing or facility, or women and men were simply scheduled at different times. But there is also clear evidence of mixed bathing from the late Republic until the rise of Christian dominance in the later Empire.

Some scholars have thought that only lower-class women bathed with men, or those of dubious moral standing such as entertainers or prostitutes, but Clement of Alexandria observed that women of the highest social classes could be seen naked at the baths.

Emperor Hadrian prohibited mixed bathing, but the ban seems not to have endured. Most likely, customs varied not only by time and place, but by facility, so that women could choose to segregate themselves by gender or not.

For entertainment women could attend debates at the Forum, the ludichariot races and theatrical performances. By the late Republic, women regularly attended dinner parties, though in earlier times the women of a household dined in private together.

Agripina_MaiorThough the practice was discouraged, Roman generals would sometimes take their wives with them on military campaigns. Caligula‘s mother Agrippina the Elder often accompanied her husband Germanicus on his campaigns in northern Germania. The Emperor Claudius was born in Gallia for this reason.

Wealthy women might tour the Empire, often participating or viewing religious ceremonies and sites around the empire. Rich women traveled to the countryside during the summer when Rome became too hot.

It was not the most horrible thing to be a woman in Rome, but it did not offer the possibilities the life of a man did. More than anything it was wealth that determined the kind of life a Roman would have.

The richest woman could hold influence and power compared to that of a poor male citizen. Not too far off from today’s money-dominated society.

We hope you enjoyed the initial article on women across the Empire, and look forward to having you back for subsequent articles.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



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