Pompeii – Life and Death in a Roman Town

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If this is your initial visit with us, we’re very excited to have you. If you’ve been here before, we’re thrilled that you think enough of us to return.

Most of our friends here know that I am presently studying to be a primary or secondary school teacher (whatever school that hires me will make the decision for me) here in the Texas Hill Country. During this time, I’m busy studying so putting out original articles must be put to the back burner for the moment.

Instead, however, we present you renowned author and Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, Mary Beard presents Pompeii – Life and Death in a Roman Town!

Just in case your are not familiar with Pompeii, it was an Ancient Roman town-city near modern Naples (in the Campania region of Italy). Pompeii, along with Herculaneum and many villae in the surrounding area, was mostly destroyed and buried under 13 to 20 ft of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

We hope you enjoyed Professor Beard and her always tantalizing tales of days past. Maybe you’ve even been inspired to make a journey to the Roman ruins yourself.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Classical Latin: From the Late Roman Republic through the Roman Empire

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Mastery of a modern language allows you join to enjoy our site. Modern language has its foundation in Latin as we have described in The Language of an Empire: How Latin Changed the World and Old Latin: The Foundation of an Empire.

The range of Latin throughout the Roman Empire (AD 60-400).

Now it’s time to take a deeper look into the language as we explore Classical Latin!

Classical Latin is the modern term used to describe the form of the Latin language recognized as standard by writers of the late Res Publica Romana (Roman Republic) and the Imperium Rōmānum (Roman Empire). In some later periods, it was regarded as Good Latin, with later versions being viewed as debased or corrupt.

Bust of Marcus Tullius Cicero, after whom the Ciceronian Period of the Golden Age was named.

The word Latin is now taken by default as meaning Classical Latin. Marcus Tullius Cicero and his contemporaries of the Late Republic, while using lingua Latina and sermo Latinus to mean the Latin language as opposed to the Greek or other languages, and sermo vulgaris or sermo vulgi to refer to the vernacular, regarded the speech they valued most and in which they wrote as Latinitas (Latinity).

Latinitas was spoken as well as written, and it was the language taught by the schools. Prescriptive rules therefore applied to it, and where a special subject was concerned, such as poetry or rhetoric, additional rules applied.

Now that the spoken Latinitas has become extinct the rules of the politus (polished) texts may give the appearance of an artificial language, but Latinitas was a form of sermo (spoken language) and as such retains a spontaneity. No authors are noted for the type of rigidity evidenced by stylized art, except possibly the repetitious abbreviations and stock phrases of inscriptions.

Latin proclamation by Roman Emperor Vespasian (Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome).

The style of language refers to repeatable features of speech that are somewhat less general than the fundamental characteristics of the language. The latter give it a unity allowing it to be referenced under a single name.

Thus Old Latin, Classical Latin, Vulgar Latin, etc., are not considered different languages, but are all referenced under the name of Latin. This is an ancient practice continued by moderns rather than a philological innovation of recent times.

That Latin had case endings is a fundamental feature of the language. Whether a given form of speech prefers to use prepositions such as ad, ex, de for “to”, “from” and “of” rather than simple case endings is a matter of style.

Latin has a large number of styles with each and every author having a style, which typically allows his prose or poetry to be identified by experienced Latinists. The problem of comparative literature has been to group styles finding similarities by period, in which case one may speak of Old Latin, Silver Latin, Late Latin as styles or a phase of styles.

Example of Latinitas (Vatican City)

The ancient authors themselves first defined style by recognizing different kinds of sermo. In making the value judgement that Classical Latin was “first class” and that it was better to write with Latinitas they were themselves selecting the literary and upper-class language of the city as a standard style and all sermo that differed from it was a different style. Style, therefore, is to be defined by differences in speech from a standard and that standard was Golden Latin.

Good Latin in philology is “classical” Latin literature. The term refers to the canonicity of works of literature written in Latin in the Late Roman Republic and the early to middle Roman Empire.

The term classicus was devised by the Romans themselves to translate Greek enkrithentes (select), referring to authors who wrote in Greek that were considered model. Therefore, classicus is anything primae classis (first class), such as the authors of the polished works of Latinitas, or sermo urbanus.

Marcus Cornelius Fronto, tutor of the stoic Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

It had nuances of the certified and the authentic or testis classicus (reliable witness). AfricanRoman lawyer and language teacher, Marcus Cornelius Fronto, in the 2nd Century AD was the original known reference to classical applied to authors by virtue of the authentic language of their works.

In imitation of the Greek grammarians, the Roman ones drew up lists termed indices on the model of the Greek lists, termed pinakes, considered classical. The classical Romans distinguished Old Latin as prisca Latinitas and not sermo vulgaris.

Medieval reprint of a page from Virgil’s Aeneid.

Each author, and therefore his work, in the Roman lists was considered equivalent to one in the Greek. For example Ennius was the Latin Homer, the Aeneid was a new Iliad, and so on.

The lists of classical authors were as far as the Roman grammarians went in developing a philology. The topic remained at that point while interest in the classici scriptores declined in the medieval period as the best Latin yielded to Medieval Latin.

The Golden Age of Roman Literature has been dated as 671–767 AUC (83 BC – 14 AD). Chronologically, this would be between the dictatorship of Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix and the death of the Emperor Augustus.

The Death of Caesar Augustus

The Ciceronian Age was dated 671–711 AUC (83 BC – 43 BC), ending just after the death of Marcus Tullius Cicero, and the Augustan 711–67 AUC (43 BC – 14 AD), ending with the death of Augustus. Authors are assigned to these periods by years of principal achievements.

The literary histories list all authors canonical to the Ciceronian Age even though their works may be fragmentary or may not have survived at all. With the exception of a few major writers, such as Cicero, Caesar, Virgil and Catullus, ancient accounts of Republican literature are glowing accounts of jurists and orators who wrote prolifically but who now can’t be read because their works have been lost, or analyses of language and style that appear insightful but can’t be verified because there are no surviving instances.

In that sense, the pages of literary history are peopled with shadows: Aquilius Gallus, Quintus Hortensius HortalusLucius Licinius Lucullus and many others who left a reputation but no readable works. They are to be presumed in the Golden Age by their associations.

The Assassination of Julius Caesar

The Golden Age is divided by the assassination of Julius Caesar. In the wars that followed the Republican generation of literary men was lost, as most of them had taken the losing side.

Marcus Tullius Cicero was beheaded in the street as he inquired from his litter what the disturbance was. They were replaced by a new generation that had grown up and been educated under the old and were now to make their mark under the watchful eye of the new Emperor.

Bust of Virgil on his tomb in Naples

As the demand for great orators was more or less over, the talent shifted emphasis to poetry. Other than the historian Livy, the most remarkable writers of the period were the poets Virgil, Horace, and Ovid.

Although Augustus evidenced some toleration to republican sympathizers, he exiled Ovid. Imperial tolerance, however, ended with the continuance of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty.

The Imperial Period, applying to the Latin and not just to the age, also changed the dating scheme from years AUC to modern. Here the Silver Age of Roman Literature (14–117 AD) took place, from the death of Augustus to the death of Trajan.

The frowning 2nd Emperor, Tiberius, limited free speech, precipitating the rise of Silver Latin, with its emphasis on mannerism rather than on solid content.

The last of the Classical Latin is the Silver Latin. The Silver Age is the first of the Imperial Period and is divided into the Julio-Claudian Dynasty (14–68 AD); the Flavian Dynasty (69–96 AD); and the Nerva-Antonine Dynasty (96–117 AD). In the late 19th Century further division of the Imperial Age were made: the 1st Century (Silver Age), the 2nd Century: Hadrian and the Antonines; and the 3rd through the 6th Centuries.

The Renaissance brought a revival of interest in restoring as much of Roman culture as could be restored and with it the return of the concept of classic, “the best”. According to Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, the term classical (from classicus) entered modern English in 1599, some 50 years after its re-introduction on the continent.

Governor William Bradford in 1648 referred to synods of a separatist church as “classical meetings” in his Dialogue, a report of a meeting between New-England-born “young men” and “ancient men” from Holland and England. In 1768 David Ruhnken (Critical History of the Greek Orators) recast the mold of the view of the classical by applying the word canon to the pinakes of orators, after the Biblical canon or list of authentic books of the Bible.

We hope that you found something enlightening in today’s adventure. Maybe you might even have been encouraged to explore some of these historic periods on your own.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Bielfeld, Baron. The Elements of Universal Erudition, Containing an Analytical Abridgement of the Science, Polite Arts and Belles Lettres. G Scott, 1770.

Citroni, Mario. “The Concept of the Classical and the Canons of Model Authors in Roman Literature”, in The Classical Tradition of Greece and Rome. Princeton University Press, 2006.

Cruttwell, Charles Thomas. A History of Roman Literature from the Earliest Period to the Death of Marcus Aurelius. Charles Griffin & Co, 1877.

Littlefield, George Emery. Early Schools and School-books of New England. Club of Odd Volumes, 1904.

Settis, Salvatore. The Future of the ‘Classical’. Polity Press, 2006.

Teuffel, Wilhelm Sigismund. A History of Roman Literature. George Bell & Sons, 1873.

Heart of Neolithic Orkney

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Last week we were in Britannia to uncover the Ironbridge Gorge.

Today we’re staying in Britannia as we check out the Heart of Neolithic Orkney!

The Standing Stones of Stenness

The Orkney Islands lie 9.3 miles north of the coast of Scotland. The monuments are in 2 areas, some 4.1 miles apart on the island of Mainland, the largest in the archipelago.

The group of monuments that make up the Heart of Neolithic Orkney consists of a remarkably well-preserved settlement, a large chambered tomb, and 2 stone circles with surrounding henges, together with a number of associated burial and ceremonial sites. The group constitutes a major relict cultural landscape graphically depicting life five thousand years ago in this remote archipelago.

The 4 main monuments, consisting of the 4 substantial surviving elliptical stones of the Standing Stones of Stenness and the surrounding ditch and bank of the henge, the 36 surviving stones of the circular Ring of Brodgar with the 13 Neolithic and Bronze Age mounds that are found around it and the stone setting known as the Comet Stone, the large stone chambered tomb of Maeshowe, whose passage points close to midwinter sunset, and the sophisticated settlement of Skara Brae with its stone built houses connected by narrow roofed passages, together with the Barnhouse Stone and the Watch Stone, serve as a paradigm of the megalithic culture of north-western Europe that is  unparalleled.

Excavated dwellings at Skara Brae, Europe’s most complete Neolithic village.

The property is characteristic of the farming culture prevalent from before 4000 BC in northwest Europe. It provides exceptional evidence of, and demonstrates with exceptional completeness, the domestic, ceremonial, and burial practices of a now vanished 5000-year-old culture and illustrates the material standards, social structures and ways of life of this dynamic period of prehistory, which gave rise to Avebury and Stonehenge (England), Bend of the Boyne (Ireland) and Carnac (France).

How This Relates to Rome:

Scotland comes from Scoti, the Latin name for the Gaels. The Late Latin word Scotia (Land of the Gaels) was initially used to refer to Ireland.

By the 11th Century at the latest, Scotia was being used to refer to (Gaelic-speaking) Scotland north of the River Forth, alongside Albania or Albany, both derived from the Gaelic Alba. The use of the words Scots and Scotland to encompass all of what is now Scotland became common in the Late Middle Ages.

The written protohistory of Scotland began with the arrival of the Roman Empire in southern and central Great Britain, when the Romans occupied what is now England and Wales, administering it as a province called Britannia. Roman invasions and occupations of southern Scotland were a series of brief interludes.

Tablet found at Bo’ness (ca. AD 142) depicting Roman Cavalryman trampling Picts.

According to the Roman historian Tacitus, the Caledonians attacked Roman forts and skirmished with their Legions. In a surprise night-attack, the Caledonians very nearly wiped out the whole 9th Legion until it was saved by General Gnaeus Julius Agricola‘s Cavalry.

The Romans erected Hadrian’s Wall to control tribes on both sides of the wall so the Limes Britannicus became the northern border of the Roman Empire. Although the Roman Army held the Antonine Wall in the Central Lowlands for 2 short periods, the last during the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus from 208 until 210, Rome would never control the land known today as Scotland.

Thanks for taking the tour with us today. We hope you’re inspired to take further adventures within the Roman Empire.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Ancient Roman Food – Feeding Soldiers, Gladiators, Plebs and Priests!

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

When most people think of food from Ancient Rome there is a high likelihood that pasta comes to mind, and that makes sense since Italy produces the largest volume of pasta annually in the world (the USA is #2). The point is, however, that pasta as we know it today wasn’t around in Ancient Rome and really wasn’t in Italy until around 1154 AD.

Having said that, today we take a light-hearted look at some of the food of Ancient Rome (be certain to take it with a pinch of salt, and a gallon of garum)!

A table showing some of the common foods eaten by everyday Romans.

Whether you are a Legionnaire, Gladiator, Pleb or Priest, we’ve got something for you to enjoy.

We hope you enjoyed today’s visual exploration. Maybe you might even have been inspired to try to eat like a Roman (maybe not so much the garum though).

In any event…till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Book 5; Thought 23

Often think of the rapidity with which things pass by and disappear, both the things which are and the things which are produced. For substance is like a river in a continual flow, and the activities of things are in constant change, and the causes work in infinite varieties; and there is hardly anything which stands still. And consider this which is near to thee, this boundless abyss of the past and of the future in which all things disappear. How then is he not a fool who is puffed up with such things or plagued about them and makes himself miserable? for they vex him only for a time, and a short time.

Gaius Marcius Coriolanus: Legendary General or Man of Myth

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

With so much to discuss about Ancient Rome, sometimes we ask ourselves were to begin or what to share today? We all know that events abound during this historical period from the Founding of Rome through the Decline of the Byzantine Empire, and that numerous people stood out as well.

Having recently watched the move Coriolanus, starring Ralph Fiennes and Gerard Butler, we were curious if this was the imagination of William Shakespeare or if this was truth. In any case, the story was awesome (check out our take on the film here – Ralph Fiennes Presents William Shakespeare’s ‘Coriolanus’) and the search for the truth would be worth it.

Join us today as we hunt for the real Gaius Marcius Coriolanus!

Gaius Marcius Coriolanus

Gaius Marcius (Caius Martius) Coriolanus was a Roman General who is said to have lived in the 5th Century BC. In later ancient times, it was generally accepted by historians that Coriolanus was a real historical individual, and a consensus narrative story of his life appeared, retold by leading historians such as LivyPlutarch, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus.

Map of Coriolanus’ Campaigns

Coriolanus came to fame as a young man serving in the Army of the Consul Postumus Cominius Auruncus in 493 BC during the siege of the Volscian town of Corioli. While the Romans were focused on the siege, another Volscian force arrived from Antium (modern Anzio and Nettuno) and attacked the Romans.

It was at this moment that the besieged soldiers of Corioli also launched a counter-attack against the Romans. Marcius, who held watch at the time of the Volscian attack, quickly gathered a small force of Roman soldiers to fight against the rallying Volscians from Corioli.

Not only did Marcius repel the enemy, but he also charged through the town gates and began setting fire to some of the houses bordering the town wall. The citizens of Corioli cried out, and the whole Volscian force was dispirited and was ultimately defeated by the Romans.

Land of the Volsci

The town was captured by the Romans, at least in part due to Marcius. He received the toponymic cognomen “Coriolanus” because of his exceptional valor in the siege of said Volscian city.

In 491 BC, just 2 years after the victory over the Volscians, Rome was recovering from a grain shortage. A significant quantity of grain was imported from Sicily, and the Senatus Romanus (Roman Senate) debated the manner in which it should be distributed to the Plebis (Common People).

Coriolanus advocated that the provision of grain should be dependent upon the reversal of the pro-Plebeian political reforms arising from the First Secessio Plebis (494 BC). The Senate thought Coriolanus’ proposal was too harsh.

The populace were infuriated at Coriolanus’ proposal, and the Tribuni (Tribunes) subsequently put him on trial. The Senators argued for the acquittal of Coriolanus, or at the least a merciful sentence.

Tom Hiddleston as Caius Martius Coriolanus

Coriolanus refused to attend on the day of his trial, and he was convicted. He was subsequently exiled from Rome.

Oddly enough, Coriolanus fled to the Volsci in exile. He was received and treated kindly, and resided with the Volscian leader Attius Tullus Aufidius.

Plutarch’s account of his defection tells that Coriolanus donned a disguise and entered the home of Aufidius as a supplicant. It was almost as if Coriolanus was hoping this would be made into a movie or play one day.

Coriolanus and Aufidius then persuaded the Volscians to break their truce with Rome and raise an army to then invade Rome itself. Livy recounts that Aufidius tricked the Senatus Romanus into expelling the Volsci from Rome during the celebration of the Ludi Romani (Great Games), thereby stirring up ill-will among the Volsci.

Ralph Fiennes (front left) as Coriolanus with Gerard Butler (front right) as Attius Tullus Aufidius.

Coriolanus and Aufidius led the Volscian army against Roman towns, coloniae (colonies) and allies. Following this Volscian victory, Roman colonists were then expelled from Circeii.

The pair then campaigned and retook the formerly Volscian towns of SatricumLongulaPollusca, and Corioli. The Volscian army followed this by taking Lavinium, CorbioVitelliaTrebiaLavici, and finally Pedum.

From there the Volsci marched on Rome and besieged it. The Volscians initially camped at the Fossae Cluiliae (Cluilian Trench), 5 miles outside Rome, and ravaged the countryside. Coriolanus directed the Volsci to target plebeian properties and to spare the patricians’.

Coriolanus at the Walls of Rome.

The Consuls, now Spurius Nautius Rutilus and Sextus Furius Medullinus Fusus, readied the defenses of Rome. But the Plebeians implored them to sue for peace.

The Senate was convened, and it was agreed to send petitioners to the enemy. Initially ambassadors were sent, but Coriolanus sent back a negative response.

The ambassadors were sent back to the Volsci, but were refused entry to the enemy camp. Next priests adorned in their regalia were sent by the Romans, but achieved nothing more than had the ambassadors.

Veturia at the Feet of Coriolanus by Gaspare Landi.

Then Coriolanus’ mother Veturia (known as Volumnia in Shakespeare’s play) and his wife Volumnia (known as Virgilia in Shakespeare’s play) and his 2 sons, together with the matrons of Rome, went out to the Volscian camp and implored Coriolanus to cease his attack on Rome. Coriolanus was overcome by their pleas, and moved the Volscian camp back from the city, ending the siege.

Rome honored the service of these women by the erection of a temple dedicated to Fortuna (a female deity). Coriolanus’ fate after this point is unclear, but it seems he took no further part in the war.

One version says that Coriolanus retired to Aufidius’ home city of Antium. Coriolanus had committed acts of disloyalty to both Rome and the Volsci, and Aufidius raised support to have Coriolanus first put on trial by the Volscians, and then assassinated before the trial had ended.

Plutarch’s tale of Coriolanus’ appeal to Aufidius is quite similar to a tale from the life of Themistocles, a leader of the Athenian democracy who was a contemporary of Coriolanus. During Themistocles’ exile from Athens, he travelled to the home of Admetus, King of the Molossians, a man who was his personal enemy.

Themistocles

Themistocles came to Admetus in disguise and appealed to him as a fugitive, just as Coriolanus appealed to Aufidius. Themistocles, however, never attempted military retaliation against Athens.

More recent scholarship has cast doubt on the historicity of Coriolanus. Some portray Coriolanus as either a wholly legendary figure, or at least disputing the accuracy of the conventional story of his life or the timing of the events.

According to Plutarch, his ancestors included prominent patricians such as Censorinus and even an early Rex Romae (King of Rome).

Other modern scholars question parts of the story of Coriolanus. It is notable that accounts of Coriolanus’ life are initially found in works from the 3rd Century BC, some 200 years after Coriolanus’ life. There are few authoritative historical records prior to the Gallic sack of Rome in 390 BC.

Whether or not Coriolanus himself is a historical figure, the saga preserves a genuine popular memory of the dark, unhappy decades of the early 5th Century BC when the Volscians overran Latium and threatened the very existence of Rome. The story is the basis for The Tragedy of Coriolanus, written by William Shakespeare, and a number of other works, including Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture (based not on Shakespeare but on the play Coriolan by Heinrich Joseph von Collin).

Shakespeare’s Coriolanus is the last of his “Roman plays”. Its portrayal of the hero has led to a long tradition of political interpretation of Coriolanus as an anti-populist, or even proto-fascist leader.

President Coriolanus Snow in the film The Hunger Games.

Bertolt Brecht‘s version of Coriolanus (1951) is one of those that stresses this anti-populist view. Suzanne Collins also references the anti-populist interpretation in The Hunger Games trilogy with her character President Coriolanus Snow, a totalitarian dictator who preserves order in the degenerate society of the books, though this character has little in common with the figure Coriolanus.

Heinrich Joseph von Collin‘s 1804 play Coriolan portrayed him in the context of German romantic ideas of the tragic hero. Beethoven’s 1807 Coriolan Overture was written for a production of the von Collin play.

T. S. Eliot wrote a sequence of poems in 1931 entitled Coriolan. Shakespeare’s play also forms the basis of the 2011 motion picture Coriolanus, starring and directed by Ralph Fiennes, in which Coriolanus is the protagonist.

This is the front cover art for the book Roma: The Novel of Ancient Rome written by Steven Saylor.

Steven Saylor‘s 2007 novel Roma presents Coriolanus as a Plebeian, the child of a Patricius (Patrician) mother and Plebeian father. His attitudes toward the changes occurring in Rome during his lifetime are reflective of what has been described.

He achieves Senatorial status thanks to his military valor and connections. When he calls for the abolition of the office of Tribune, he becomes a target of the Plebeians and their representatives.

Coriolanus flees before the trial which would ruin him and his family socially and financially, and seeks the alliance with the Volsci described above. His military campaign against Rome is successful and his forces are approaching the walls of the city until the appeal of the Roman women, including his Patrician mother and his wife. When he orders his troops to withdraw, he is killed by them.

The front cover art for the book The 48 Laws of Power written by Robert Greene.

The 48 Laws of Power uses Coriolanus as an example of violating Law #4: “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” citing his constant insulting of the plebeians as the reason for his exile.

We appreciate you joining us on the adventure to find the truth about Coriolanus. Since it seems inconclusive, we hope that you will make an informed decision on your own.

Thanks again for stopping by. Please make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Lendering, Jona. “Gnaeus Marcius Coriolanus”.

LivyAb Urbe Condita.

Vittucci, Paola Brandizzi. Antium: Anzio e Nettuno in epoca romana. Bardi, 2000 ISBN 88-85699-83-9.

Willett, John. The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht: A Study from Eight Aspects. Methuen, 1959.

The Life of Coriolanus – Full text of 17th-century English translation by John Dryden (HTML)

The Life of Coriolanus – Full text of 19th-century English translation by Aubrey Stewart and George Long (multiple formats for download)

Coriolanus – Full text of Shakespeare’s play based on Plutarch (HTML)