The Manipulus: Quiet a Handful

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Our creation was to champion the greatness that was the Imperium Rōmānum. Rome’s dominance came about from the conquering of other nations, along with its ingenuity. None of this would have been possible without the Exercitus Romanus and Legiones.

What made Rome’s Army so special? Why were they able to triumph over the Greek Phalanx? It was because the Romans were a handful.

Today we examine this handful as we take a closer look at the Roman Manipulus!From Above

The maniple system was adopted at around 315 BC, during the Samnite Wars (343–290 BC). The rugged terrain of Samnium where the war was fought highlighted the lack of maneuverability inherent in the phalanx formation which the Romans had inherited from the Etruscans.

The main Etruscan and Latin battle troops of this period were comprised of Greek-style hoplite phalanxes. This had been inherited from the original Greek military unit, the phalanx.

After suffering a series of defeats culminating in the surrender of an entire Legio without resistance at Caudine Forks, the Romans abandoned the phalanx altogether. Instead, a “phalanx with joints” was adopted and the more flexible maniple system came about.

PolybiusPolybius initially described the Maniple in the mid-2nd Century BC. The Manipulus was organized into 4 lines (starting at the front): the Velites, the Hastati, the Principes, and the Triarii.

These were then divided by experience, with the younger soldiers at the front lines and the older soldiers near the back. Due to the Roman culture of bravery, this allowed an initial show of individual heroics among the younger soldiers.

At the front of the Manipulus, the Velites formed a swarm of soldiers which engaged the enemy at the start of the battle. The 2nd and 3rd ranks generally formed with a one-Maniple space between each Maniple and its neighbors.

Retreating troops of the Velites could withdraw without disrupting those behind them. Where resistance was strong the Hastati would dissolve back through the Roman line and allow the more experienced soldiers in the Principes to fight.maniple 2

In turn, the Principes could yield to the hardened Triarii if necessary. It was at this point in battle the Manipulus greatly resembled the phalanx.

Sources disagree on the numbers involved, and in all likelihood they varied considerably. A generally accepted number, however, is a total of 5,000-6,000 men (approximately 10-20 120-man Maniples of Hastati, 10-20 120-man Maniples of Principes, and 10-20 60-man Maniples of Triarii).

No part of drill was more essential in action than for soldiers to keep their ranks with the greatest exactness, without opening or closing too much. Crowded troops could never fight as they should.

If their order was too open and loose, they would give the enemy an opportunity of penetrating. Whenever this happened and they were attacked from the rear, universal disorder and confusion were inevitable.manipular-legion-organization-pic

The plan would therefore be to have recruits constantly kept in the field, drawn up by the roll, and formed into a single rank. The men even learned to dress in a straight line so as to keep an equal and just distance between each man.

The men were then ordered to double the rank, which had to be performed very quickly, then instantly cover their file leaders. Next, the men doubled again to form a 4-line deep unit.

The men would then form a triangle, or wedge as it is commonly called, a formation which was found to be quite serviceable in action. They were then taught to form the circle or orb. These formations were often practiced so as to be found easy in execution in actual service.

Each Manipulus could adapt to the changing pressure of the enemy force and concentrate their own pressure where needed. This offered more flexibility than the Phalanx, which was a large unwieldy configuration.

HannibalIn their final battle against Hannibal at Zama, Roman General Scipio Africanus made the Manipulus even more fluid. In order to avoid his men being trampled by Hannibal’s war elephants, Scipio ordered his men to form lanes for the elephants to run through.Scipio Africanus

It was also the name of the Signum Manipuli (Military Standard) carried by such unit. Maniple members, seen as each other’s brothers in arms, were called Commanipulares, but without the domestic closeness of the much smaller Contubernium.

We hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about the awesomeness that was Rome’s fighting force. And for more than a few military commanders, the Romans were quite a handful.romanarmy

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



Forsythe, Gary Edward; Guisepi, Robert A. “The Samnite Wars”World History International.

Lendon, J. E. Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity. New Haven: Yale University Press (2005). ISBN 9780300106633.

The Military Institutions of the Romans (De Re Militari). Translated from the Latin by Lieutenant John Clarke (1767).

Primary sources for early Roman military organization include the writings of Polybius and Livy.

A primary source for later Roman military organization and tactics is Epitoma rei militaris (also referred to as De Re Militari), by Flavius Vegetius Renatus.

The Maniple as a Tactical Unit in the Roman Army”. Mike Anderson’s Ancient History Blog.

Decorated Cave of Pont d’Arc: Known as Grotte Chauvet-Pont d’Arc

Welcome to Rome Across Europe! For those new to the site, Sunday is typically the day we visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

These sites are all over what was once the Imperium Rōmānum. We are not so strict on if the sites were made by Romans simply that Ancient Rome impacted the location in some fashion.

Today we’re heading back to France as we take a look at the Decorated Cave of Pont d’Arc!

The decorated cave of Pont d’Arc, known as Grotte Chauvet-Pont d’Arc is located in a limestone plateau of the meandering Ardèche River in southern France, and extends to an area of approximately 91,493 square feet. It contains the earliest known pictorial drawings, carbon-dated to as early as the Aurignacian period (30,000 to 32,000 BP). The cave was closed off by a rock fall approximately 20,000 years BP and remained sealed until its rediscovery in 1994.

The cave contains the best-preserved expressions of artistic creation of the Aurignacian people, constituting an exceptional testimony of prehistoric cave art. As a result of the extremely stable interior climate over millennia, as well as the absence of natural damaging processes, the drawings and paintings have been preserved in a pristine state of conservation and in exceptional completeness.

The decorated cave of Pont d’Arc, known as Grotte Chauvet-Pont d’Arc contains the first known expressions of human artistic genius and more than 1,000 drawings of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic motifs of exceptional aesthetic quality have been inventoried. These form a remarkable expression of early human artistic creation of grand excellence and variety, both in motifs and in techniques.

The artistic quality is underlined by the skilful use of colors, combinations of paint and engravings, the precision in anatomical representation and the ability to give an impression of volumes and movements. The archaeological and paleontological evidence in the cave illustrates like no other cave of the Early Upper Paleolithic period, the frequentation of caves for cultural and ritual practices.

Hundreds of animal paintings have been catalogued, depicting at least 13 different species, including some rarely or never found in other Ice Age paintings. Rather than depicting only the familiar herbivores that predominate in Paleolithic cave art, i.e. horses, cattle, mammoths, etc., the walls of the Chauvet Cave feature many predatory animals, e.g., cave lions, panthers, bears, and cave hyenas. There are also paintings of rhinoceroses.

How This Relates to Rome:

The Gaulish culture was massively submerged by Roman culture. Latin was adopted by the Gauls and Gaul, or Gallia, was absorbed into the Roman Empire.

All the administration changed, and Gauls eventually became Roman citizens. The province of Gallia Transalpina (Transalpine Gaul) was later renamed Gallia Narbonensis, after its newly established capital of Colonia Narbo Martius (Narbonne), a Roman colony founded on the coast in 118 BC.

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

Book 5; Thought 28

Art thou angry with him whose armpits stink? Art thou angry with him whose mouth smells foul? What good will this danger do thee? He has such a mouth, he has such arm-pits: it is necessary that such an emanation must come from such things- but the man has reason, it will be said, and he is able, if he takes pain, to discover wherein he offends- I wish thee well of thy discovery. Well then, and thou hast reason: by thy rational faculty stir up his rational faculty; show him his error, admonish him. For if he listens, thou wilt cure him, and there is no need of anger. Neither tragic actor nor whore…faith-and-reason

Theatre of Sabratha (#39)

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Today we continue examining the list of 52 Ancient Roman Monuments which had been claimed as a “must see” by Touropia Travel Experts. The last location we had checked out was #40 – the Dougga Capitol.

In every article we say “Don’t Stop Rome-ing!” and we want everyone to experience the greatness that was the Imperium Rōmānum. Most often we take you to visit some place in Europe, but it seems Touropia enjoyed lots of spots on the fringe of the Empire.

Today we head to Libya as we bring you #39 – the Theatre of Sabratha!Panoramic

Best known for its ancient Greek and Roman ruins, and its Sahara desert landscapes, Libya is a country with 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Fifty miles west of the capital Tripoli, the Roman city of Sabratha became one of those sites in 1982.

The port was established as a Phoenician trading-post around 500 BC. It later became part of the short-lived Numidian Kingdom of Massinissa before being Romanized and rebuilt in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries AD.

Badly damaged by earthquakes during the 4th Century, the city was rebuilt on a more modest scale by Byzantine governors. Besides the well preserved late 3rd Century theatre, that retains its 3-storey architectural backdrop, Sabratha has temples dedicated to Liber Pater, Serapis and Isis.Decorated Wall Behind the Scene

Due to soft soil composition and the nature of the Coast of Sabratha being mostly made up of soft rock and sand, the Ruins of Sabratha are undergoing dangerous periods of coastal erosion. The public baths, Olive Press building and ‘Harbor’ can be observed as being most damaged as the buildings have crumbled due to storms and unsettled seas.Map

After WWI the Fascist regime placed the Italian presence in Libya into a different context: that of reviving the ancient Roman Empire. Although Italian archaeologists had a conservative approach to the reconstruction of ancient monuments, at Sabratha they were subject to political pressure and, in order to make visible the heritage of Rome in the region, they reconstructed major parts of the town’s large theatre (the French acted similarly at Krak des Chevaliers in Syria).Sabratha WWII

On 19 March 1937, Benito Mussolini, the Italian leader of Fascism, visited Sabratha and attended the first modern performance at its theatre (Oedipus the King by Sophocles); on the next day however, during his visit to Leptis Magna, Mussolini criticized the Italian governor of Libya for the excessive reconstruction of the ancient buildings.

The theatre was constructed from 175-200 AD. It was started by Emperor Marcus Aurelius, continued by his son Commodus and completed with a lavish proscenium by Emperor Septimius Severus, who was born in Leptis MagnaReconstruction

The Theatre of Sabratha had 25 entrances and could seat approximately 5,000 spectators. Due largely to its reconstruction by Italian archaeologists in the 1930s, the Roman structure appears largely intact

The area which best survived to our time is the base of the stage which was decorated with reliefs portraying gods and scenes from comedies and dances. One relief portrays Hercules being asked by Mercury which of 3 goddesses was the fairest.Reliefs L-R_Hercules, 3 Graces, Mercury

Sabratha reached its peak under Roman rules as a coastal outlet for the products of the African hinterland. Unless absolutely essential, the US State Department and United Nations recommend avoiding travel to Libya.1

We hope you enjoyed this travel, especially since most will not visit this location outside of cyberspace. Come back soon to see what we have in store.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Birley, Anthony Richard. Septimius Severus: The African Emperor. Routledge, 1999.

Decret, Francois. Early Christianity in North Africa. James Clarke & Co, 2011.

Matthews, Kenneth D. Cities in the Sand, Leptis Magna and Sabratha in Roman Africa. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia (1957). OCLC 414295.

Ward, Philip. Sabratha: A Guide for Visitors. Oleander Press, Cambridge, UK (1970). ISBN 0-902675-05-2. Libya Facts.

Rome Art Lover. Sabratha: Eastern Quarters.

Book 5; Thought 26

Body Mind SoulLet the part of thy soul which leads and governs be undisturbed by the movements in the flesh, whether of pleasure or of pain; and let it not unite with them, but let it circumscribe itself and limit those affects to their parts. But when these affects rise up to the mind by virtue of that other sympathy that naturally exists in a body which is all one, then thou must not strive to resist the sensation, for it is natural: but let not the ruling part of itself add to the sensation the opinion that it is either good or bad.

Forged – The Roman Gladius

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Anytime we can share an idea via video we get excited. It’s just a nice change of pace to the typical learning process.

Today is sort of a “how-to” type of share as we forge a Roman Gladius!

Master bladesmith Tony Swatton takes up the task of forging a Roman Gladius entirely with the Damascus Steel technique. Cinematographer Phil Holland has brilliantly captured the painstaking procedure in 8K resolution, and compiled it into a short video with all the expressive sights-and-sounds.

Gladius was one Latin word for sword and is used to represent the primary sword of Ancient Roman foot soldiers. Early gladii were similar to those used by the Greeks.

From the 3rd century BC, the Romans adopted swords similar to those used by the Celtiberians and others during the early part of the Conquest of Hispania. This sword was known as the Gladius Hispaniensis (Hispanic Sword).

  • Gladius Hispaniensis: Used from around 216 BC until 20 BC. Blade length ~24–27 in. Sword length ~30–33 in. Sword width ~2 in. This was the largest and heaviest of the gladii. Earliest and longest blade of the gladii, pronounced leaf-shape compared to the other forms. Max weight ~2.2 lb for the largest versions, most likely a standard example would weigh ~2 lb (wooden hilt).

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

Vigiles – Rome’s Watchmen

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

The Exercitus Romanus was the most advanced fighting force of the ancient world, that’s been stated many times before. What is not known about this military body is that it was also quite innovative.

As the Roman Army was broken down into Legions and Cohortes the men were used in very specialized roles. Some of these roles were even civilian-based.

Today we take a look at one of these roles as we explore the Vigiles – Rome’s Watchmen!officers-and-soldiers-of-the-praetorian-guard-relief-2nd-century-ad-roman

The Vigiles or more properly the Vigiles Urbani (Watchmen of the City) or Cohortes Vigilum (Cohorts of the Watchmen) were the firefighters and police officers of Ancient Rome.

Privately owned slaves known as the Triumviri Nocturni (Three Judges of the Night) were the first organized group that combated the common problems of fire in Rome. The privately operated system became ineffective, so in the interest of keeping himself and Rome safe, Augustus instituted a new public firefighting force called the Vigiles.

romanvigilAugustus modeled the new firefighters after the fire brigade of Alexandria, Egypt. The Vigiles were also known by their nickname Spartoli (Little Bucket Fellows) which was given to them because of the buckets they carried water in, which were made of rope sealed with pitch.

In AD 6, Augustus levied a 4% tax on the sale of slaves and used the proceeds to set up the new force. They were commanded by the Praefectus Vigilum, who was of Equestrian rank, and a Subpraefectus.

The Vigiles were divided into 7 Cohorts commanded by a Tribunus, with each Cohort further divided into 7 Centuriae, each of 70–80 men commanded by a Centurio.

Each Cohort patrolled 2 of the city’s 14 administrative regions. They were doubled in size in AD 205.

Corps of VigilesEvery householder was obliged to keep equipment for fighting fires, and the men themselves were equipped with pumps, buckets, hooks (for pulling down burning material), picks, mattocks and axes. They also used ballistae for knocking down burning houses and creating firebreaks.

They even had their own Medical Support (Medici), with 4 doctors attached to each Cohort, and their own Chaplains (Victimarii). A Siphonarius operated a pump and an Aquarius supervised the supply of water. The ordinary firefighters were called Milites (Soldiers).

Every Cohort was equipped with standard firefighting equipment. The sipho (fire engine) was pulled by horses and consisted of a large double action pump that was partially submerged in a reservoir of water.bas-relief-covered-carriage

A major duty of the Vigiles was to enforce preventative measures against the outbreak of large blazes. The Digest of Justinian decrees that Vigiles are “ordered to remind everyone to have a supply of water ready in his upper room”.

While the Vigiles only had advising authority, their recommendations were often followed to avoid repercussions for negligence. Corporal punishment was the most common punishment for negligence according to the Digest of Justinia, “where persons have paid insufficient attention to their fire, the prefect … orders them to be beaten”.

vigile2The Aquarii needed to have an accurate knowledge of where water was located, and they also formed bucket brigades to bring water to the fire. Attempts were made to smother the fire by covering it with patchwork quilts (centones) soaked with water.

There is even evidence that chemical firefighting methods were used by throwing a vinegar based substance called acetum into fires. In many cases the best way to prevent the spread of flames was to tear down the burning building with hooks and levers. For fires in multiple story buildings, cushions and mattresses were spread out on the ground for people to jump onto from the upper levels.

During the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64 over one third of Rome was destroyed by flames. The young Emperor Nero helped to direct the Vigiles in fighting the flames.Great Fire

It was rumored that the Vigiles intentionally allowed the city to burn under orders from Nero, who later built his palace on land that was cleared by the fire. Regardless, Nero enacted fire code laws following the Great Fire to avoid further conflagrations. These laws called for more public access to water and prohibited buildings from sharing a common wall.

The Vigiles also acted as a night watch, keeping an eye out for burglars and hunting down runaway slaves. Starting about 27 BC, Augustus added a police function to the Vigiles to counterbalance the urban mobs that had run rampant during the latter days of the Republic.Prätorianer

The task of guarding the baths was added as a duty of the Vigiles during the reign of Alexander Severus when the baths remained open during the night. They dealt primarily with petty crimes and looked for disturbances of the peace while they patrolled the streets.

Sedition, riots and violent crimes were handled by the Cohortes Urbanae , though Vigiles could provide a supporting role in these situations. The Vigiles were considered a para-military unit and their organization into Cohorts and Centuries reflects this.

Often, the mere presence of the Vigiles was enough to keep people safe while upholding law and order. Small garrisons stationed along major travel routes could deter bandits, allowing merchants and messengers to pass in peace.

This dispersed policing role explains how soldiers so often found themselves spread across the provinces and so becoming local administrators. Egyptian papyri record many occasions when people appealed to local officers to investigate and punish the perpetrators of thefts, assaults, and threats.roman-army-9

Vigiles were also stationed at the harbor cities of Ostia and Portus. A Vexillatio (detachment) of 4 Centuriae was detached from Rome for 4 months at a time, with 2 Centuriae being stationed at each city.

In the beginning, the corps had difficulty recruiting men. In an effort to entice men to enlist the Lex Visellia was passed in 24 AD, granting full citizenship and a bonus cash stipend to Vigiles after 6 years of service. By the 2nd Century, citizens were also allowed to enlist.

The first Vigiles sequestered private homes and buildings to use as their command posts. It was not until the mid-2nd Century that official stations were built explicitly for the Vigiles to use. By the early 3rd Century sub-stations (excubitoria), which held 40-50 men, were constructed to accommodate the expanding city and the surrounding suburbs.

The locations of 4 of the 7 Cohort barracks have been fairly definitively identified:

I Cohort: On the east side of the Via Lata opposite the Saepta;Graffito_Vigiles_Trans_Tiberim

III Cohort: On Viminal;

IV Cohort: Near Baths of Caracalla;

V Cohort: On Caelian Hill near present site of S. Maria in Domnica.

VII Cohort was probably housed in a station provisionally identified near the Aemiian Bridge.

During the 3rd Century AD, prominent jurists with a legal background began serving as Praefectus to fulfill the magisterial capacity of the office. As a judge, the Prefect made rulings in his court for the common thieves caught during the night.Receiving a Witness

Eventually, the Prefect was given jurisdiction over daytime petty crimes as well. According to Justinian, in the event of more serious crimes the decision was made by the Praefectus Urbi, “if the offender is a person of such thuggish and infamous character … the case is sent on to the prefect of the city”.

Beyond the office of the Prefect, the Vigiles were ordered by rank similar to the military. While some terms of service could extend beyond 20 years, most commissioned ranks were much shorter. Since the Vigiles never achieved the prestige of the Praetorian Guard or the Urban Cohorts, serving in the corps was usually only a means of achieving more honorable and lucrative posts.

We hope you enjoyed learning about the force designed to keep Rome safe. It may not be the “world’s oldest profession” but the Vigiles were the forerunner for units that are needed in today’s societies.Soldier

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



Bunson, Matthew. Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire. Facts on File Inc. New York, NY (1994).

Daugherty, Gregory N. The Classical Journal, Vol. 87, No. 3. Classical Association of the Middle West and South, Inc. (1992).

Justinian I. The Digest of Justinian. Book I, XV (529). Translated by Monro, Charles Henry. Cambridge University Press (1904).

Reynolds, P.K. BaillieThe Vigiles of Imperial Rome. Chicago, Illinois (1996). ISBN 0-89005-552-1.

Tacitus, Publius Cornelius. The Annals. In: The Complete Works of Tacitus. Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb (1942).

4 Civilian Jobs Done by Roman Legionaries. War History Online.

Conflagrations in Ancient Rome. The Classical Journal, Vol. 27, No. 4. Classical Association of the Middle West and South, Inc. pp. 270–288.

Castor and Pollux: The Worlds First Twins

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

As we all know mythology made up a huge part of the creation of Ancient Rome. The Imperium Rōmānum swelled to include the peoples all over Europe, around the Mediterranean, and into the Middle East. Rome was never against incorporating gods and goddesses from other religions, as long as it would be a benefit to Rome.

The biggest influence on Roman mythology, however, was Greek mythology. It basically amounted to the Romans renaming all of the Greek gods with Latin names. For instance, the Greek goddess of love & beauty, Aphrodite, became the Roman Venus and the Greek god of War, Ares, became the Roman Mars.

CastorSo today we take a look at a Roman pair known as the Dioskouri. Today we check out Castor and Pollux!

PolluxCastor and Pollux were twin brothers from their mother was Leda. Castor, though, was the mortal son of Tyndareus, the king of Sparta, while Pollux the divine son of Zeus, who seduced Leda in the guise of a swan.

Though accounts of their birth are varied, they are sometimes said to have been born from an egg, along with their twin sisters and half-sisters Helen of Troy and Clytemnestra. In Latin the twins are also known as the Gemini or Castores.

When Castor was killed, Pollux asked Zeus to let him share his own immortality with his twin to keep them together, and they were transformed into the constellation Gemini. The pair was regarded as the patrons of sailors, to whom they appeared as St. Elmo’s fire, and were also associated with horsemanship.

The best-known story of the twins’ birth is that Zeus disguised himself as a swan and seduced Leda. Thus Leda’s children are frequently said to have hatched from 2 eggs that she then produced.

The Dioskouri can be recognized in vase-paintings by the skull-cap they wear, the pilos, which was explained in antiquity as the remnants of the egg. Whether the children are thus mortal or half-immortal is not consistent among accounts, nor is whether the twins hatched together from one egg.

In some accounts, only Pollux was fathered by Zeus, while Leda and her husband Tyndareus conceived Castor. This explains why they were granted an alternate immortality. It is a common belief that one would live among the gods, while the other was among the dead.

Castor and Pollux are sometimes both mortal, sometimes both divine. One consistent point is that if only one of them is immortal, it is Pollux. In Homer‘s Iliad, Helen looks down from the walls of Troy and wonders why she does not see her brothers among the Achaeans.Helen Watching From Walls of Troy

The narrator remarks that they are both already dead and buried back in their homeland of Lacedaemon, thus suggesting that at least in some early traditions, both were mortal. Their death and shared immortality offered by Zeus was material of the lost Cypria in the Epic cycle.

The Dioskouri were regarded as helpers of humankind and held to be patrons of travelers and of sailors in particular, who invoked them to seek favorable winds. Their role as horsemen and boxers also led to them being regarded as the patrons of athletes and athletic contests. They characteristically intervened at the moment of crisis, aiding those who honored or trusted them.Mastering Horses

Ancient Greek authors tell a number of versions of the story of Castor and Pollux. Homer portrays them initially as ordinary mortals, treating them as dead in the Iliad, but in the Odyssey they are treated as alive even though “the corn-bearing earth holds them.” The author describes them as “having honor equal to gods,” living on alternate days due to the intervention of Zeus.

In both the Odyssey and works of Hesiod, they are described as the sons of Tyndareus and Leda. In Pindar’s poetry, Pollux is the son of Zeus while Castor is the son of the mortal Tyndareus.

The theme of ambiguous parentage is not unique to Castor and Pollux. Similar characterizations appear in the stories of Hercules and Theseus.

Cicero tells the story of how Simonides of Ceos was rebuked by Scopas, his patron, for devoting too much space to praising Castor and Pollux in an ode celebrating Scopas’ victory in a chariot race. Shortly afterwards, Simonides was told that 2 young men wished to speak to him; after he had left the banqueting room, the roof fell in and crushed Scopas and his guests.

Both Dioskouri were excellent horsemen and hunters who participated in the hunting of the Calydonian Boar and later joined the crew of Jason‘s ship, the Argo.Argonauts

During the expedition of the Argonauts, Pollux took part in a boxing contest and defeated King Amycus of the Bebryces, a savage mythical people in Bithynia. After returning from the voyage, the Dioskouri helped Jason and Peleus to destroy the city of Iolcus in revenge for the treachery of its king Pelias.

Castor and Pollux deliver HelenWhen their sister and half-sister Helen was abducted by Theseus, the half-brothers invaded his kingdom of Attica to rescue her. In revenge they abducted Theseus’s mother Aethra and took her to Sparta while setting his rival, Menestheus, on the throne of Athens.

Aethra was then forced to become Helen’s slave. She was ultimately returned to her home by her grandsons Demophon and Acamas after the fall of Troy.

Castor and Pollux aspired to marry the Leucippides (Daughters of the White Horse), Phoebe and Hilaeira, whose father was a brother of Leucippus (White Horse). Both women were already betrothed to cousins of the Dioskouri, so Castor and Pollux carried the women off to Sparta wherein each had a son. Phoebe bore Mnesileos to Pollux and Hilaeira bore Anogon to Castor.Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus

Sometime later, Idas and Lynceus visited their uncle’s home in Sparta. The uncle was on his way to Crete, so he left Helen in charge of entertaining the guests, which included both sets of cousins, as well as Paris, Prince of Troy. Castor and Pollux recognized the opportunity to exact revenge, made an excuse that justified leaving the feast, and set out to steal their cousins’ herd.

Idas and Lynceus eventually set out for home, leaving Helen alone with Paris, who then kidnapped her. Thus, the 4 cousins helped set into motion the events that gave rise to the Trojan War.helen-abduction

Meanwhile, Castor and Pollux had reached their destination. Castor climbed a tree to keep a watch as Pollux began to free the cattle. Far away, Idas and Lynceus approached.

Lynceus, named for the lynx because he could see in the dark, spied Castor hiding in the tree. Idas and Lynceus immediately understood what was happening. A furious Idas ambushed Castor and fatally wounded him with a blow from his spear, but not before Castor called out to warn Pollux.

In the ensuing brawl, Pollux killed Lynceus. As Idas was about to kill Pollux, Zeus, who had been watching from Mt. Olympus, hurled a thunderbolt, killing Idas and saving his son.

Returning to the dying Castor, Pollux was given the choice by Zeus of spending all his time on Mount Olympus or giving half his immortality to his mortal brother. He opted for the latter, enabling the twins to alternate between Olympus and Hades.

geminiThe brothers became the 2 brightest stars in the constellation Gemini (The Twins): Castor (Alpha Geminorum) and Pollux (Beta Geminorum). As emblems of immortality and death, the Dioskouri, like Heracles, were said to have been initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries.

Castor and Pollux are consistently associated with horses in art and literature. They are widely depicted as helmeted horsemen carrying spears. The Pseudo-Oppian manuscript depicts the brothers hunting, both on horseback and on foot.

On votive reliefs they are depicted with a variety of symbols representing the concept of twinhood, such as the dokana, 2 upright pieces of wood connected by 2 cross-beams, a pair of amphorae, a pair of shields, or a pair of snakes.

They are also often shown wearing felt caps, sometimes with stars above. They are depicted on metopes from Delphi showing them on the voyage of the Argo and rustling cattle with Idas.Sarcophagus depicting Dioscuri rape_Vatican

Greek vases regularly show them in the rape of Phoebe and Hilaeira, as Argonauts, as well as in religious ceremonies and at the delivery to Leda of the egg containing Helen. They can be recognized in some vase-paintings by the skull-cap they wear, the pilos, which was already explained in antiquity as the remnants of the egg from which they hatched.

The Dioskouri were worshipped by the Greeks and Romans alike; there were temples to the twins in Athens, such as the Anakeion, and Rome, as well as shrines in many other locations in the ancient world.

Their herōon or grave-shrine was on a mountain top at Therapne across the Eurotas from Sparta, at a shrine known as the Meneláeion where Helen, Menelaus, Castor and Pollux were all said to be buried. Castor himself was also venerated in the region of Kastoria in northern Greece.

They were commemorated both as gods on Olympus worthy of holocaust, and as deceased mortals in Hades, whose spirits had to be propitiated by libations. Lesser shrines to Castor, Pollux and Helen were also established at a number of other locations around Sparta.

The pear tree was regarded by the Spartans as sacred to Castor and Pollux, and images of the twins were hung in its branches. The standard Spartan oath was to swear “by the two gods”.

The rite of theoxenia (god-entertaining) was particularly associated with Castor and Pollux. The 2 deities were summoned to a table laid with food, whether at individuals’ own homes or in the public hearths or equivalent places controlled by states. They are sometimes shown arriving at a gallop over a food-laden table.

Although such “table offerings” were a fairly common feature of Greek cult rituals, they were normally made in the shrines of the gods or heroes concerned. The domestic setting of the theoxenia was a characteristic distinction accorded to the Dioskouri.

From the 5th Century BC onwards, the brothers were revered by the Romans, probably as the result of cultural transmission via the Greek colonies of Magna Graecia in southern Italy. An archaic Latin inscription of the 6th or 5th Century BC found at Lavinium, which reads Castorei Podlouqueique qurois (To Castor and Pollux, the Dioskouri.

Temple of Castor and Pollux_RomeThe construction of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, located in the Roman Forum at the heart of their city, was undertaken to fulfill a vow (votum) made by Aulus Postumius Albus Regillensis in gratitude at the Roman victory in the Battle of Lake Regillus in 495 BC. The establishing of the temple may also be a form of evocatio, the transferral of a tutelary deity from a defeated town to Rome, where cult would be offered in exchange for favor.

According to legend, the twins fought at the head of the Exercitus Romanus and subsequently brought news of the victory back to Rome. The Locrians of Magna Graecia had attributed their success at a legendary battle on the banks of the Sagras to the intervention of the Twins. The Roman legend may in fact have had its origins in the Locrian account and possibly supplies further evidence of cultural transmission between Rome and Magna Graecia.

The Romans believed that the twins aided them on the battlefield. Their role as horsemen made them particularly attractive to the Roman Equites and Cavalry. Each year on July 15, the feast day of the Dioskouri, the 1,800 Equestrians would parade through the streets of Rome in an elaborate spectacle in which each rider wore full military attire and whatever decorations he had earned.BattleOfLakeRegillus

Even after the rise of Christianity, the Dioskouri continued to be venerated. The 5th Century Pope Gelasius I attested to the presence of a “cult of Castores” that the people did not want to abandon.

In some instances, the twins appear to have simply been absorbed into a Christian framework. Fourth Century AD pottery and carvings from North Africa depict the Dioskouri alongside the Twelve Apostles, the Raising of Lazarus or with Saint Peter.

The church took an ambivalent attitude, rejecting the immortality of the Dioskouri but seeking to replace them with equivalent Christian pairs. Saints Peter and Paul were thus adopted in place of the Dioskouri as patrons of travelers, and Saints Cosmas and Damian took over their function as healers.

The New Testament scholar Dennis MacDonald identifies Castor and Pollux as basis characters for the appearance of James son of Zebedee and his brother John who appear in the narrative by Mark the Evangelist. MacDonald cites the origin of this identification to 1913 when J. Rendel Harris published his work Boanerges, a Greek term for Thunder, the epithet of Zeus father of Pollux in what MacDonald calls a form of early Christian Dioscurism.

Two brothers named Castor and Pollux Troy feature in the movie, Face Off. Castor is the main antagonist in the movie and Pollux is somewhat of sidekick to him, so the reference may be ironic.

In The Hunger Games, Castor (Wes Chatham) and Pollux (Elden Henson) are brothers who make up Cressida’s camera crew from the Capitol. They often wear “insect shells”, that is, a wearable carapace holding the camera and equipment. The brothers’ names derive from the twins of Greek mythology. In the myth, as in Mockingjay, Castor was killed, while Pollux lived on, alone.Hunger Games

We hope you enjoyed learning about the ancient world’s most revered set of twins. And to all those twins out there, please avoid skull-caps.

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



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Cotterell, Arthur. “Dioscuri”, A Dictionary of World Mythology, Oxford University Press (1997).

de Grummond, Nancy Thomson; Simon, Erika. The Religion of the Etruscans. University of Texas Press (2006). ISBN 0-292-70687-1.

Howatson, MC; Chilvers, Ian, eds. “Dioscūri”, The Concise Oxford Companion to Classical Literature. Oxford University Press (1996).

Kazhdan, Alexander; Talbot, Alice-Mary. “Dioskouroi”, in The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Oxford University Press (1991).

Kerenyi, KarlEleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter. Princeton: Bollingen (1967).

McDonnell, Myles Anthony. Roman Manliness. Cambridge University Press (2006). ISBN 0-521-82788-4.

Mommsen, TheodorThe History of Rome II. Kessinger Publishing (2004). ISBN 1-4191-6625-5.

Roberts, John, ed. “Dioscūri”, Dictionary of the Classical World. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2007).

Smith, Christopher. “The Religion of Archaic Rome”, A Companion to Roman Religion. Blackwell (2007).

“Castor and Polydeuces”, Who’s Who in Classical Mythology. London: Routledge (2002).

City of Graz – Historic Centre and Schloss Eggenberg

Welcome to Rome Across Europe! For those new to the site, Sunday is typically the day we visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

These sites are all over what was once the Imperium Rōmānum. We are not so strict on if the sites were made by Romans simply that Ancient Rome impacted the location in some fashion.

Today we’re heading back to Austria as we take a look at the City of Graz!

The City of Graz – Historic Centre and Schloss Eggenberg bear witness to an exemplary model of the living heritage of a central European urban complex influenced by the secular presence of the Habsburgs and the cultural and artistic role played by the main aristocratic families.

They are a harmonious blend of the architectural styles and artistic movements that have succeeded each other from the Middle Ages until the 18th Century, in the many neighboring regions of Central and Mediterranean Europe. They embody a diversified and highly comprehensive ensemble of architectural, decorative and landscape examples of these interchanges of influence.

How This Relates to Rome:

The oldest settlement on the ground of the modern city of Graz dates back to the Copper Age. Settled in ancient times, the Central European land that is now Austria was occupied in pre-Roman times by various Celtic tribes.

The Celtic kingdom of Noricum was later claimed by the Roman Empire and made a province. Present day Eastern Austria was an important army camp turned capital city in what became known as the Upper Pannonia province.

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