Halloween – Influenced by Rome

Happy Halloween and welcome to Rome Across Europe! This day of tricks, treats, candy, pumpkin-carving, cider-drinking and costume-wearing, has evolved immensely from Roman and Christian influences.

We love holidays of any sort and want to share the origins of all events. So today we are exploring what we know as Halloween!roman-mosaic_skeleton

Believe it or not, the origins of Halloween have a distinct Roman flavor. The explanation, however, requires a bit of explanation.

The month of Maius, for the Romans, was both a somber time and a laborious time. It was laborious in that this was a time for farmers to reap the fruits of their harvest.

If the proper deities were happy there was a somber mood for this particular month. So the rituals needed to keep harmony between man and the divine were critical.

The month belonged to the goddess Maia, goddess of growth, who was the mother of Mercury. Born from the union of Jupiter and Maia, Mercury was not only a messenger god, but a herald of the dead.

The Romans learned this trait from the Greek god Hermes and ascribed it to Mercurius. Maia, however, was also known as Maia Maiestas (Maia the Majestic), associated with the Bona Dea and the fertility goddess.

This was why the month of May, as the end of winter and the beginning of spring, was given to her. May was the month of growth.

Then there was Lemuralia where the Lemures returned for only 3 particular days a year to threaten their descendants. They were restless, malevolent ghosts whose purpose was to torture the families they left behind.roman_funeral

In order to propitiate them, a ritual was enacted by the pater familias. At midnight, the pater familias would walk barefoot through his own house to rid the Lemures with this exorcism ritual.

Holding his hand upheld in what was referred to as a fig gesture (placing the thumb between the 2nd and 3rd fingers) and filling his mouth with dried black beans, he would make the circuit around his house spitting the beans onto the floor in order to bait the ghosts.

As he walked and spit out a bean, he would recite 9 times the incantation cum hīs redimō ipsum atque familiam meam (with these I redeem myself and mine).

When the Lemures came out to eat the beans, the rest of the household would clash bronze together, like cymbals, and proclaim manes paternī exite (ghosts of my fathers and ancestors be gone)!

Lemuralia was practiced on May 9, 11 and 13, and seen as unlucky days. Around the 8th Century AD the Lemuralia faded away in popularity and practice.

The day we know as Halloween originated with Samhain, the pagan Celtic celebration of the dead and the New Year. This celebration evolved as Julius Caesar, and succeeding Roman leaders, conquered Celtic lands in northern Europe and Britannia in the first centuries BC through 43 AD.halloweenmassacreofdruids

Samhain was the end of the harvest season for the Celts, and one of the principle festivals for their culture. It was their New Year’s Day.

As the harvest ended, the Celts tended to gather up all their crops and livestock and have a single large feast as they headed into winter. This final harvest falls on October 31st, and the name for Halloween in Gaelic is Oíche/Oidhche Shamhna.

On this day, the Celts believed that those who died during the year returned. So the festival of Samhain was a way to help the dead on their journey to the otherworld.

Because this particular day the Celts believed the dead were more likely to mingle with the living, a place for the dead was set at their feasts in order to honor them. This also meant that Samhain, with all the dead returning to visit, was a time for clearer omens and prophecy.

Having their own traditions, the Romans blended their beliefs with the Celts over the course of their 400-year rule. The Romans celebrated the festival of Feralia, honoring the the Manes.

Feralia was held 21 February, aka the last day of the Roman year according to the Julian calendar, as the last of the 3 Roman festivals honoring the dead. On this day temples would be opened at noon, and the time of religious devotion, the tempus religiosum, came to a close. Magistrates would lay down their insignia of office and offer up prayers on behalf of the State.Feralia

Republican calendars are marked with FP for this day, but after Augustus they are marked simply F, for fastus. The mysterious meaning of FP may have its roots in the observance of the Feralia as a fastus (or feriapublicus during the Res Publica Romana. Because the actual rites involved in the observance of the Feralia can only be guessed at, we do not know why this change was made.

Romans also observed a day in honor of Pomona, their goddess of fruit and trees. The apple, the symbol of Pomona, was soon incorporated into the celebrations of Samhain, and early practices derived the tradition of “bobbing” for apples that is a staple of Halloween today.

The Romans made it a habit of adopting cultures and celebrations of the people it incorporated into Roman provinciae and, eventually, the Imperium Rōmānum. By 43 AD, the Exercitus Romanus had conquered the majority of Celtic territory.

So basically the Romans combined all those previously described festivals into the Celt’s Samhain, especially in Gallia and Britannia.

When Christian missionaries undertook the task of changing the religious practices of the Celtic people, Samhain was gradually transformed into the modern celebration of Halloween. During the early centuries of the First Millennium, before the time of such missionaries as Patricius and Saint Columcille converted the Celts to Christianity, they practiced an elaborate religion through their priestly caste known as the Druids.saintpatrickpreaching

As a result of Christian efforts to eliminate pagan holidays, like Samhain, the Church succeeded in bringing about major transformations to Celtic festivals. In 601 AD, Pope Gregory I issued a now famous edict to his missionaries regarding the native beliefs and customs of those peoples he hoped to convert.

Rather than attempting to obliterate the customs and beliefs of native races, Pope Gregory instructed his missionaries to employ such traditions. For example, if a certain group worshipped a tree, then rather than cut that tree down, the Papa advised that it be consecrated to Christ and its worship be allowed to continue.

In terms of spreading Christianity, this was a brilliant concept and became a basic approach used in the work of Catholic missionaries. Church holy days were set to purposely coincide with native festivals.

For instance, Christmas was assigned the arbitrary date of December 25 because it corresponded with the Mid-Winter celebration of many cults. In the same manner, Saint John’s Day was set to take place on the Summer Solstice.

With its emphasis squarely upon the supernatural however, Samhain was decidedly pagan. While missionaries identified their holy days with those observed by the Celts, the earlier religion’s unearthly deities were branded as evil and said to be associated with the devil.

Representative of the Church’s rival religion, Druids were declared evil worshippers of devilish or demonic gods and spirits. Inevitably, the Underworld of the Celts became identified with Christianity’s concept of Hell.hell

Although this policy diminished beliefs in the traditional Celtic deities, it could not completely eradicate such ideas. Celtic belief in creatures of the supernatural continued to persist and the Church instituted deliberate attempts to define those who followed the old ways as being not merely dangerous, but also malicious until such people were forced to go into hiding and eventually branded as witches.

As Samhain was celebrated on October 31, the day before All Saints’ Day, the day became known as All Hallows Eve. Later, the term was made into the contraction, Halloween.All Hallows Eve

The Christian feast of All Saints, otherwise known as Hallowmas (“hallowed” being defined as “holy” or “sanctified”), continued the ancient Celtic traditions and was assigned to November 1. The day honored every known Christian Saint and particularly those who did not otherwise have a special day devoted to them.

The evening prior to All Saints’ Day was the time of the most intense activity, both human and supernatural. People continued to celebrate All Hallows Eve as a time of the wandering dead, but the paranormal beings were now thought of as evil.

Folk continued to propitiate those spirits, and their masked impersonators, by setting out gifts of food and drink. The traditional black and orange associated with Halloween also have their roots in the ancient festival of Samhain. Black represented the time of darkness after the death of the god and orange was for awaiting the dawn of his rebirth at Yule.halloween

The ancient beliefs associated with Samhain never died out entirely. The powerful symbolism of the traveling dead was far too strong in the minds of believers, who failed to be satisfied with the new and more abstract Catholic feast which honored Saints.

Realizing that something would be needed in order to subsume the original energy of Samhain, the Church tried once more in the 9th Century to supplant it with another Christian feast day. On November 2, All Souls’ Day, a time when the living prayed for the souls of all the dead, was established.

An All Souls’ Day tradition was to go “a-souling,” where the poor would ask for food door to door, in exchange for praying for the souls of dead relatives to go to heaven. The church preferred this practice to those of the pagans.Souling_on_Halloween

The poor were given “soul cakes” for their prayers, or sometimes for a song and dance. Children would also often perform for food, ale, or money.

However, people soon began celebrating the saintly and non-saintly dead on November 1, Hallowmas/All Saints Day. Halloween then, in a roundabout way, is our culture’s way of paying homage to the dead as its origins.

Go out and enjoy today, and tomorrow, for the celebration whatever your religious beliefs may be. We hope you enjoyed learning the history of Halloween and how it came about.

Come back again tomorrow to see what we have in store for you. Maybe even an exploration into All Saints Day?

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Agomuoh, Fionna. Halloween History, Roman And Christian Influences.

Magister Ricard. The Roman Origins of Halloween.



The Battle of the Milivian Bridge

Welcome to Rome Across Europe! Yesterday was quite the special day, and thusly I was a bit preoccupied.

Most importantly, it was my wedding anniversary to my wife Jennifer. She is the most amazing person in the world.

Obviously that took precedent over all.

Another event took place yesterday that was maybe just a wee bit more impactful to the world as a whole than me getting married. It’s outcome changed the course of the Imperium Rōmānum, and even Western Religion.

Today we are going to take a look back at 28 October 312 AD and the Battle of the Milivian Bridge!

The Battle of the Milvian Bridge took place between the forces of the Roman Emperors Constantine I and Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge, an important route over the Tiber leading into Rome.

Constantine won the battle and started on the path that led him to end the Tetrarchy and become the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. Maxentius drowned in the Tiber during the battle.

The Roman Senate decreed Constantine the “title of the first name”, which meant his name would be listed first in all official documents, and acclaimed him as “the greatest Augustus”.

History remembers Constantine as Constantine the Great, while the outcome of the day would change the world forever.

We hope you enjoyed the video and look forward to sharing more with you. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Ancient Discoveries: Ancient Special Forces

Welcome to Rome Across Europe! Whevener we come across something of interest, our purpose is to share it with everyone.

A few months ago we came across a game changer of sorts, the Roman War Dog. We shared this discovery in Dogs of War.

Having been watching some old TV episodes on the History Channel, we found there is more to share.

Today we are taking a look at Ancient Special Forces!

There’s lots going on with this video. If you care to jump straight to the dogs, then go to 24:55.

The beginning of this episode talks of Rome’s Siege of Byzantium. They share the world’s original version of today’s United States Navy SEALs.

Although Rome would go on to conquer Byzantium, they had to first go through these special ancient forces. Once Rome rebuilt the city they included the same forces they faced into the mighty Exercitus Romanus.

We hope you enjoyed this wonderful visual presentation of how the anceint world has influenced modern militaries. Come back tomorrow to see what we have in store, or check out what we’ve already shared.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Saddles & Bits – How Romans Rode Horses

Welcome to Rome Across Europe! In the past we have had an article about War Horses of the Roman Empire, and another about The Horse Mounted Forces of the Roman Army.

Now it’s time to get down to the nuts and bolts of how they came together. Today we’re talking saddles and bits!Roman_Cavalry_2

The purpose of the saddle is to lift the weight of the rider from the horse’s spine. Both the solid framed and padded styles of 4-horned saddle can meet this basic requirement.

However it’s believed the solid wooden frame of a 4-horned saddle was inflexible, and potentially painful for a horse’s back. Each saddletree would only be able to be used on one shape of horse, and even a saddle made to fit a specific horse would cease to fit if the horse lost condition on campaign.saddletree

This would result in pressure sores, calloused and thickened skin. A solid Roman saddle with a wooden frame could be made to fit most horses, and with the addition of good padding in the form of a saddlecloth or furs any problems would lessen.

Based on the surviving evidence in the form of leather covers, their stitching, stretch and wear marks, as well as metal horn plates, a working Romano-Celtic saddle can be made today. The sizes of the horns are in part dictated by the surviving copper alloy horn plates, possibly acting as stiffeners.

Some plates are of a surprising thickness perhaps suggesting they are for protection. However these protectors or stiffeners do not give an absolute indication of the angle of horns.

This can be derived from sculptural evidence. Surviving pieces of harness fitting also give clues to the nature of harness and how the saddle was attached to the horse.

Finds presented at the Carlisle Millennium Project conference in 2004 were found during excavations on the Castle Green between 1998 and 2001. Two saddle covers were illustrated which both showed stretch marks where they had been pressed down over a wooden frame.canter12

The covers were much worn and had both been patched many times. Overall the stitch pattern used on each cover was the same as has been found on other sites, but these covers retained trapezoidal flaps of leather, about half as deep as they were long, with the widest edges lowest when on the horse.

This demonstrates that rather than just being sewn up under the saddle as originally believed, leather covers could be secured over the horns and wooden frame of the saddle. These saddle covers simply hung down the sides of the horse, even having a substantial fringed curtain of leather hanging from the lower edge.

These seem to be covers from riding saddles rather than pack saddles, protecting the rider’s legs against the girth and the edge of the wooden frame. Rather than being stitched into the saddle cover as initially thought, the girth strap could be attached directly to the saddle frame for greater stability.

Padded versions of these saddles made without a wooden frame often have a metal bar towards the front of the saddle for stability. Reconstructions are generally very heavy at 24-26lbs, and larger than examples based on a wooden frame.saddle

The weight of the rider forces the seat of the saddle downward and the horns lock around the rider’s legs. While this gives a very secure seat, the rider would find it difficult to get out of the saddle if the horse falls so some movement in the saddle is to be preferred.

The angle that the saddle sits on the horse is also very important. If the rear of the saddle is not high enough, the rider’s full weight is constantly hammering on both rear horns.

However, riders get used to trusting the rear horns and therefore using their legs to grip the front horns. In a short time the rider becomes confident enough to lean well out of the saddle, instinctively riding with the bent legs and downward pointing toes familiar from Roman monuments.

However, long periods of riding can be very hard on the rider’s legs and serious cramp can result in having to be lifted out of the saddle.

Reconstructions of tack from the 1st and 2nd Centuries are generally highly decorated with copper alloy fittings, often tinned or silvered, based on archaeological finds. Throughout the Roman period there was large scale use of amulets on horse tack made from the bases of shed antlers.Tack

The most common design was a phallus, perhaps to ward off the evil eye. The use of antler may suggest that it had some special talismanic significance.

Triplet straps hanging from the front and rear of the saddle were very useful as well for securing equipment. They were believed to have helped secure the leather cover to the wooden frame.

Horses would be directed by weight distribution, leg pressure, verbal commands and primarily the bit in the horse’s mouth held by the reins and bridle. Every horse is different and needs varying degrees of direction.

Romans used either the snaffle bit of Celtic origin, not unlike a modern bit, or the potentially severe curb bit. The Romans could also use the hackamore to increase leverage on the horse’s jaw.

Bit LessVarious metal examples have been discovered, yet many more could have been made of leather or even dried grass. A simple hackamore would have no bit, and the 1st Century tombstone found in 2005 in Lancaster seems to show a bit less bridle.

Today this system is useful for young horses, or those with sensitive mouths, but generally has not been associated with Romans. Roman hackamores would have been covered with sheepskin for the horse’s comfort.

Horsemen had to learn to neck rein, using one hand to control the horse by exerting pressure on the horse’s neck with the reins, or even at times his shield.

In the 4th Century the steppe saddle was introduced into the west by the Huns and their allies. It was a simple and strong design.4th Century steppe saddle

The proportions of the pommel and cantle can only be deduced from surviving metal decorations. The earliest such fittings from Europe are a set of early 5th Century curved and triangular-shaped gold sheet mounts from Mundolsheim, Alsace.

These suggest a very high-fronted saddle, used to display wealth and status. Lower status riders would have used lower fronted saddles, for which rare, small and functional fittings have been found from later dates.

The steppe saddle didn’t need integral padding and could be left as just bare wood, weighingabout 14lbs. It sat on several layers of wool or fur to protect the horse.

It didn’t need breast or breaching straps, although they may have been of use over long distances and rough terrain. Coming from a four-horned saddle, the Roman rider was initially concerned about sliding out of the “side door”.

They tried and hooked their legs under the front cantle to secure them in the seat, as they would hook their legs under the front horns of the 4-horned saddle. But the steppe saddle wasn’t designed for this type of riding and the position soon became very uncomfortable.

Instead, the rider would have to use a straight leg and a very deep seat when cornering. Such a position’s relatively easy on the riders’ legs and can be maintained for long periods of time.

The issue of just how Romans mounted their horses is still unresolved. Contemporary books mention mounting from either side of the horse.

Fences and Infantry were both good mounting blocks and, in armor, it’s just possible to mount while stationary with the assistance of a spear. Rope attached to the spear and used to carry the weapon over the shoulder could’ve made a simple mounting step.In Armor

The rider needed to trust his mount unconditionally. Not only did the Equites Romani lack stirrups, but for some maneuvers he would also not be using any reins.

Control came from weight distribution, verbal commands and leg pressure. Roman horses were probably unshod, and took time for the horse to learn how to respond to neck reining.

Cavalry horses also had to become used to the Roman saddle, as well as the rider’s armor and equipment. Riders then had to find a way of carrying their shield, bow, arrows, lance and javelins, either hanging from the saddle or themselves.

As the late 6th Century Strategikon states, riders must be able to hang their lance from their shoulder while drawing the bow and placing an arrow on the string. They must then be able to replace the bow and ready the lance.

Put simply riders must learn to look like Roman Cavalrymen, comfortable with their kit and weaponry.Late Riders

The bits placed in the horse’s mouth and connected to the reins were often harsh so as to provide an immediate response from the animal. There is ample evidence that Roman riders wore spurs as well.

Horses and riders trained in purpose-built pens and then progressed to long marches and the practice of maneuvers, such as charges and counter-charges on a variety of terrains. There were also hippika gymnasia to provide incentive to perfect riding skills.

When all is said and done, the quality of Roman riders came down to their saddles and bits. It’s just that simple.Ancient Roman horse bits

We hope you had an enjoyable enough time today learning the intricacies of the Roman Cavalry riding. Please come back tomorrow to see what we have in store for you.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Comitatus. Recreating Roman Cavalry.

Mary Beard’s – Why Ancient Rome Matters to the Modern World

Welcome to Rome Across Europe! We’ve shared so many things here since the site began.

What we haven’t done is shared another author’s work. Well, that stops today.

Today we share Mary Beard’s – Why Ancient Rome Matters to the Modern World.

Take a look and see Cambridge University Professor Beard’s ideas on Rome today. Why we don’t need to agree on everything presented, it’s various points of view that allow us to better form our own opinions.

Thanks for stopping by and check us out again soon to see what we have in store. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!


Historic City of Toledo

Welcome back to Rome Across Europe! If you’ve been here before you’ll know that today we visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We’re headed to Spain, where in the past we’ve checked out the Roman Walls of Lugo and the Historic Centre of Cordoba.

Today we’re going to the Historic City of Toledo!

Located in central Spain, Toledo is a municipality and the capital of the province of Toledo and the autonomous community of Castile–La Mancha. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1986 for its extensive cultural and monumental heritage and historical co-existence of ChristianMuslim and Jewish cultures.

Toledo is the repository of more than 2,000 years of history (since the Bronze Age) and one of the luxuries found in Spain. Its privileged location, and the natural turn of the of the Tagus River, together with its continuous population from ages ago, create a unique city in which beautiful and harmonious buildings of an array of architectural styles.

In its medieval past, Toledo appears as one of the cradles of Western culture through its Toledo School of Translators, which in itself is an example of the tolerance and coexistence of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian cultures. Because of this, Toledo is referenced as the “City of the Three Cultures”.

The Cradle of Monarchs and the seat of principal archbishops, Toledo is also known as the “Imperial City” for having been the main venue of the court of Charles I.

How This Relates to Rome:

Toledo (Toletum) is mentioned by the Roman historian Livy (ca. 59 BC – 17 AD) as urbs parva, sed loco munita (a small city, but fortified by location). Conquered by the Roman General Marcus Fulvius Nobilior in 193 BC, it became an important Roman colony and the capital of Carpentia.

It grew in importance during Roman times, being a main commercial and administrative center in the Provincia Rōmānum of Carthaginensis.

After the fall of the Imperium Rōmānum, Toledo served as the capital city of Visigothic Spain, beginning with Liuvigild, till the Moors conquered the Iberian Peninsula in the early years of 8th Century (711–719).

In 1085, the city fell to Alfonso VI of Castile as the first major city in the Christian Reconquista.

Thanks for stopping by and we hope you come back soon to see what we have in store for you. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

The Palladium – Protector of Troy & Rome

Welcome to Rome Across Europe! We welcome back any returning followers and are happy to have any new visitors.

Classical antiquity is filled with icons, images and cults that inspired many people to take notice. Christianity could be included in this as well.

No matter what though, symbols are what inspire nations and empires. That is why today we explore the Palladium Troiae!Nike_warrior

In Greek and Roman mythology, the palladium was a cult image on which the safety of Troy, and later Rome, was said to depend. The xoanon of Athena, which Odysseus and Diomedes stole from the citadel of Troy, was later taken to the future site of Rome by Aeneas.

The Roman story is related in Virgil‘s Aeneid and other works.aeneid

Among these ancient images of Athena none is more celebrated than the Palladium Troiae, concerning which there was the following tradition.

Athena was brought up by Triton. His daughter, Pallas, and Athena once were wrestling together for the sake of exercise.

Zeus interfered in the struggle, and suddenly held the aegis before the face of Pallas. Pallas, while looking up to Zeus, was wounded by Athena and died.

Athena in her sorrow caused an image of the maiden to be made, round which she hung the aegis, and which she placed by the side of the image of Zeus. Subsequently when Electra was dishonored, she fled to this image, and Zeus threw it down from Olympus upon the earth.zeus1

The Palladium came down at Troy, where Ilus, who had just been praying to the god for a favorable omen for the building of the city, took it up, and erected a sanctuary to it. King Ilus was said to be blinded for touching the image to preserve it from a burning temple.

According to some, the image was dedicated by Electra, while others claim it was given by Zeus to Dardanus. The image itself is said to have been 3 cubits in height, its legs close together, and holding in its right hand a spear, and in the left a spindle and a distaff.

The Palladium was linked to the Samothrace mysteries through the pre-Olympian figure of Elektra, mother of Dardanus, progenitor of the Trojan royal line, and of Iasion, founder of the Samothrace mysteries.

The arrival at Troy of the Palladium, as part of the city’s founding myth, was variously referred to by Greeks from the 7th Century BC onwards.

This Palladium remained at Troy until Odysseus and Diomedes contrived to carry it away, because the city could not be taken so long as it was in the possession of that sacred treasure.Diomedes_Odysseus_Palladion

During the Trojan War, the importance of the Palladium Troiae was said to have been revealed to the Greeks by Helenus, the prophetic son of Priam. After Paris‘ death, Helenus left the city but was captured by Odysseus.

The Greeks somehow managed to persuade the warrior-seer to reveal the weakness of Troy. The Greeks learned from Helenus, that Troy would not fall while the Palladium remained within the walls of Troy.

The difficult task of stealing this sacred statue again fell upon the shoulders of Odysseus and Diomedes. The pair was said to have made their way to the citadel in Troy by a secret passage and carried it off.

In this way the Greeks were then able to enter Troy and lay it waste using the deceit of the Trojan Horse.

Odysseus, according to the Epic Cycle, in Proclus‘s summary of the Little Iliad, went by night to Troy in disguise and entered the city as a beggar. There he was recognized by Helen, who told him where the Palladium was.

After killing some of the Trojans, he returned to the ships. He and Diomedes then re-entered the city and stole the Palladium.

Diomedes is sometimes regarded as the person who physically removed the Palladium and carried it away to the ships. There are several statues and many ancient drawings of him with the Palladium Troiae.

In the Narratives of the Augustan period it was summarized that on the way to the ships, Odysseus plotted to either kill Diomedes and claim the Palladium or at least take credit for gaining it for himself.

He raised his sword to stab Diomedes in the back, but Diomedes was alerted to the danger by glimpsing the gleam of the sword in the moonlight. Diomedes disarmed Odysseus, tied his hands, and drove him along in front, beating his back with the flat of his sword.

From this action was said to have arisen the Greek proverbial expression “Diomedes’ necessity”, applied to those who act under compulsion. Because Odysseus was essential for the destruction of Troy, Diomedes refrained from punishing him further.Diomedes_with_the_Palladium

Diomedes took the Palladium with him when he left Troy. According to some stories, he brought it to Italy. Some say that it was stolen from him on the way.

According to some accounts Troy contained a pair of Palladia, one of which was carried off by Odysseus and Diomedes, and the other carried by Aeneas to Italy. Another thought is the Palladium taken by the Greeks was a mere imitation, while that which Aeneas brought to Italy was the genuine one.Aeneas with Palladium

The idea of twin Palladia could be more than an invention to account for its existence in more than one place. Several towns both in Greece and Italy claimed the honor of possessing the ancient Palladium Troiae.

It was believed that on his return from Troy, Diomedes landed on the Attic coast at night not knowing what country it was. Diomedes began to plunder the site, which happened to be Athens.

Demophon, who hastened to protect the country, took the Palladium from Diomedes. This Palladium at Athens, however, was different from another image also called Palladium, which already stood on the Acropolis.

In Italy the cities of Rome, Lavinium, Luceria and Siris likewise pretended to possess the Palladium Troiae. Figures reminding us of the description we have of the Trojan Palladium are frequently seen in ancient works of art.caesar_aeneas_den_rev

Pliny the Elder said that Lucius Caecilius Metellus had been blinded by fire when he rescued the Palladium from the Aedes Vestae in 241 BC. This episode was alluded to by Ovid and Valerius Maximus.

When the controversial Emperor Elagabalus transferred the most sacred relics of Roman religion from their respective shrines to the Elagabalium, the Palladium was among them.

In Late Antiquity, it was rumored that the Palladium was transferred from Rome to Constantinople by Constantine the Great and buried under the Column of Constantine in his Forum Constantinopolis. Such a move would have undermined the primacy of Rome, and was naturally seen as a move by Constantine to legitimize his reign.

In English, since around 1600, the word palladium has been used figuratively to mean anything believed to provide protection or safety. In contexts of Christianity, it was a sacred relic or icon believed to have a protective role in military situations for a whole city, people or nation.Virgin_and_Child

Such beliefs initially became prominent in the Eastern Church during the period after the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, and later spread to the Western Church. Palladia were carried in procession around the walls of besieged cities and sometimes carried into battle.

We hope you enjoyed hearing about this symbol that not one but two major historical powerhouses relied upon. Whether true or not, it was something these people believed in and caused inspiration and unity.

Come back tomorrow to see what we have in store for you. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Augustan History. Life of Elagabalus.

Cameron, Averil. The Later Roman Empire.

Palladium. The Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion.

Palladium. Greek Myth Index.

Ruck, Carl and Staples, Danny. The World of Classical Myth.

Triphiodorus. Taking of Ilios.

Mead – Drink It Down

Cheers and welcome to Rome Across Europe! If this is your first time visiting us then you’re in for a treat.

We cover so many various topics in order to allow our readers the choice to follow what they enjoy. Since our goal is to share anything past or present that happened, or stands, in what was once the Roman Empire, it gives us plenty to talk about.

In my family, October is a busy month for all of the birthdays going on. This leads to parties, which have food, which turns to drink.

So instead of fighting to keep back the alcohol, we’re letting it flow. Today we talk Mead!liquidMead

Mead (or Mel as the Romans knew it) is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits, spices, grains or hops. Hops act as a preservative and produce a bitter, beer-like flavor.

The alcoholic content of mead may range from about 8% ABV to more than 20%. The defining characteristic of mead is that the majority of the beverage’s fermentable sugar is derived from honey.

Mead may be still, carbonated or naturally sparkling. It may also be dry, semi-sweet or sweet.

Mead is known from many sources of ancient history throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. Some regard it as the “ancestor of all fermented drinks”.

Archaeological chemists consider the presence of beeswax markers and gluconic acid, in the presence of other substances known to ferment, to be reasonably conclusive evidence of the use of honey in ancient fermented beverages.

Mead has played an important role in the beliefs and mythology of some peoples. One such example is the Mead of Poetry, a mead of Norse mythology crafted from the blood of the wise being Kvasir which turns the drinker into a poet or scholar.mead of poetry

The terms “mead” and “honey-wine” are often used synonymously. Honey-wine is differentiated from mead in some cultures.

Hungarians hold that while mead is made of honey, water and beer-yeast (barm), honey-wine is watered honey fermented by recrement of grapes (or other fruits).

greeceIn Europe, mead is first attested in residual samples found in the characteristic ceramics of the Bell Beaker Culture (c. 2800 – 1800 BC). During the Golden Age of Ancient Greece, mead was said to be the preferred drink.

Aristotle discussed mead in his Meteorologica and elsewhere, while Pliny the Elder called mead milities in his Naturalis Historia and differentiated wine sweetened with honey or “honey-wine” from mead. Around AD 60, the Spanish-Roman naturalist Columella gave a recipe for mead in De re rustica:

Take rainwater kept for several years, and mix a sextarius of this water with a [Roman] pound of honey. For a weaker mead, mix a sextarius of water with nine ounces of honey. The whole is exposed to the sun for 40 days, and then left on a shelf near the fire. If you have no rain water, then boil spring water.

There is a poem attributed to the Brythonic-speaking bard Taliesin, who lived around AD 550, called the Kanu y med or “Song of Mead”. The legendary drinking, feasting and boasting of warriors in the Mead Hall is echoed in the mead hall Din Eidyn as depicted in the poem Y Gododdin, attributed to the poet Aneirin, a contemporary of Taliesin.

In the Old English epic poem Beowulf, the Danish warriors drank mead. In both Insular Celtic and Germanic cultures mead was the primary heroic drink in poetry.

Later, taxation and regulations governing the ingredients of alcoholic beverages led to commercial mead becoming a more obscure beverage until recently.

Some monasteries kept up the old traditions of mead-making as a by-product of beekeeping, especially in areas where grapes could not be grown. A well-known example of this is at Lindisfarne, where mead continues to be made to this day, albeit not in the monastery itself.monestaries

The yeast used in mead making is often identical to that used in wine making. Many home mead makers choose to use wine yeasts, especially those used in the preparation of white wines, to make their meads. The problem with this is that the honey-based must does not have a sufficient quantity of nutrients to produce wholesome mead.

To circumvent the nutrient issue, both commercial and homebrew mead makers add specific quantities of diammonium phosphate, thiamine, vitamin B12, niacin, biotin and other key minerals.

These are often added based on a staggered addition schedule in order to achieve high-quality readily-drinkable mead. In some cases, the mead prepared with a staggered nutrient addition can be consumed the moment it is bottled as opposed to waiting over one year for it to age.

Meads will often ferment well at the same temperatures in which wine is fermented. After primary fermentation slows down significantly, a secondary fermentation takes place.

Some larger commercial meaderies are designed to allow both primary and secondary fermentation to happen inside of the same vessel. If the mead maker wishes to back sweeten the product or prevent it from oxidizing, potassium metabisulfite and potassium sorbate are added prior to being bottled and distributed.moonlightmeadery

Mead can have a wide range of flavors depending on the source of the honey, additives including fruit and spices, the yeast employed during fermentation and the aging procedure. Some producers have marketed white wine sweetened and flavored with honey after fermentation as mead, sometimes spelling it “meade”.

This is closer in style to a Hypocras. Blended varieties of mead may be known by the style represented; for instance, a mead made with cinnamon and apples may be referred to as either a cinnamon cyser or an apple metheglin.

Mead that contains fruit is called a melomel, which was also used as a means of food preservation, keeping summer produce for the winter. Mead that is fermented with grape juice is called a pyment.

Mulled mead is a popular drink at Christmas time, where mead is flavored with spices and sometimes various fruits. It’s served warmed, traditionally by having a hot poker plunged into it.mulled mead

Some meads retain some measure of the sweetness of the original honey, and some may even be considered as dessert wines. Drier meads are also available, and some producers offer sparkling meads.

There are faux-meads, which are actually wines with honey added after fermentation as a sweetener and flavoring. Mead can also be distilled to a brandy or liqueur strength.

A version called Honey Jack can be made by partly freezing a quantity of mead and straining the ice out of the liquid, a process known as freeze distillation, in the same way that applejack is made from cider.

mazer cupMead is quite popular in America where there are several festivals focusing on the drink. Every year in March, the Mazer Cup International Mead Competition and Tasting Event, Sponsored by Gotmead.com, is held in Boulder, Colorado.

The Mazer Cup is the largest mead event in the world, with over 300 home meads and over 200 commercial meads in competition. There is a Friday tasting event with the gold medal winning commercial meads from the previous year, plus feature meads from around the world.

Real Ale Festival in Chicago, Illinois, includes categories for mead as well as cider and perry.

The Woodbridge International Mead Festival claims to be the only mead festival east of the Mississippi. While few types of mead are available, all are homemade and go through a rigorous judging process.

On the 2nd Saturday in May, the Orcas Island Cider and Mead Festival (Sponsored by the Northwest Cider Association) is held on Orcas Island in Washington State. It includes cider and mead producers along the West Coast of the United States and Canada.

Mead goes farther than just consumption. It has been written about throughout history.

Mead is featured in many Germanic myths and folktales such as Beowulf, as well as in other popular works that draw on these myths. Notable examples include books by Tolkien, George R. R. MartinT. H. White, and Neil Gaiman.Beowulf

It is often featured in books using a historical Germanic setting and in writings about the Viking age. Mead is mentioned many times in Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel, American Gods, where it is referred to as the drink of the gods.

In the Inheritance Cycle series by Christopher Paolini, the protagonist, Eragon, often drinks mead at feasts. Mead is also referenced in Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicle novel series, where the protagonist Kvothe is known to drink metheglin.

The popularity of mead has also led to many variants around the world. There is a native Mexican version of mead known as Balche.

methe_botMetheglin is a traditional Welsh mead with herbs or spices added. Some of the most common metheglins are ginger, tea, orange peel, nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon, cloves or vanilla. Its name indicates that many metheglins were originally employed as folk medicines.

In Brittany there is a version of mead called Chouchenn. Polish mead, made using 3 units of water for each unit of honey, is called Czwórniak.

Tej/Mes is an Ethiopian and Eritrean mead, fermented with wildTej yeasts and the addition of gesho. Recipes vary from family to family.

Braggot, of Welsh origin, is brewed with honey and hops, later with honey and malt. Hops can either be added or not.

There is also Mõdu, an Estonian traditional fermented drink with a taste of honey and an alcohol content of 4.0%. Pitarrilla was a Mayan drink made from a fermented mixture of wild honey, balché-tree bark and fresh water.

Dandaghare is mead from Nepal, combines honey with Himalayan herbs and spices. It has been produced since 1972 in the city of Pokhara.

Medica is a Slovenian and Croatian variety of mead. Mead commercially available in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and presumably other Central and Eastern-European countries, is Medovina.

There is Medovukha, an Eastern Slavic variant (honey-based fermented drink). The Greek Rhodomel is made from honey, rose hips, rose petals or rose attar, and water.Medovukha

MidusLithuanian for mead, is made of natural bee honey and berry juice. Infused with carnation blossoms, acorns, poplar buds, juniper berries and other herbs, it is often made as mead distillate or mead nectar, some of the varieties having as much as 75% of alcohol.

Sima is a quick-fermented low-alcoholic Finnish variety of mead. It’s seasoned with lemon and associated with the festival of Vappu.

Finally, there is Sack Mead. This refers to mead that is made with more honey than is typically used.

The finished product contains a higher-than-average ethanol concentration (meads at or above 14% ABV are generally considered to be of sack strength) and often retains elevated levels of sweetness, although dry sack meads can be produced.

According to one theory, the name derives from the fortified dessert winesherry that, in England, once bore the nickname “sack”. Another theory is that the term is a phonetic reduction of Sake the name of a Japanese beverage that was introduced to the West by Spanish and Portuguese traders.

Upon its creation, mead was popular in Eastern Europe and in the Baltic states. Since the 19th Century, mead has remained popular in the Russian drinks medovukha and sbiten long after its decline in the West. Sbiten is often mentioned in the works of 19th-Century Russian writers, including Nikolai Gogol and Fyodor Dostoevsky.

During secondary fermentation, raisins are added to control the amount of sugars and to act as an indicator of readiness for consumption since they rise to the top of the bottle when the drink is ready.

In the USA, mead is enjoying a renaissance, starting with small home meaderies and now with a number of small commercial meaderies. As mead becomes more widely available, it is also seeing increased attention and exposure from the news media.outside-meadery

Thanks for stopping by today and we hope you’ll enjoy some mead in your future. Come back soon to see what we have in store for you.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



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Gayre, Robert; Papazian, Charlie. Brewing Mead: Wassail! In Mazers of Mead. Brewers Publications (1986). ISBN 0-937381-00-4.

Kerenyi, Karl. Dionysus: Archetypal Image of Indestructible LifePrinceton University Press (1976). ISBN 0-691-09863-8.

Schramm, Ken. The Compleat Meadmaker. Brewers Publications (2003). ISBN 0-937381-82-9.