Hello everyone! May is a really hard month, because students start to have exams at university. Anyway I’m trying to keep the pace and write articles as much as possible.
Medically speaking, the ancient Romans were simultaneously well ahead of their time and utterly insane. Here’s one of the more insane examples: it was believed that the blood of a gladiator could cure epilepsy. It got so out of hand that after a gladiator was killed and his body removed from the arena, vendors would sell the still-warm blood to the crowd.
Pliny the Elder wrote in his Encyclopedia: “Epileptic patients are in the habit of drinking the blood even of gladiators, draughts teeming with life, as it were; a thing that, when we see it done by the wild beasts even, upon the same arena, inspires us with horror at the spectacle! And yet these persons, forsooth, consider it a most effectual cure for their disease, to quaff the warm, breathing, blood from man himself, and, as they apply their mouth to the wound, to draw forth his very life; and this, though it is regarded as an act of impiety to apply the human lips to the wound even of a wild beast! Others there are, again, who make the marrow of the leg-bones, and the brains of infants, the objects of their research!”
Celsus added “Some have freed themselves from such a disease by drinking the hot blood from the cut throat of a gladiator: a miserable aid made tolerable by a malady still most miserable…”
And for some reason, the fact that it came from a gladiator wasn’t even the most important thing. Around A.D. 400, gladiatorial combat was outlawed, so people began turning to the blood of executed criminals for their cure.
But why did Romans used to drink gladiators’ blood? Perhaps they linked gladiators with power, vigor and strength. As a consequence, it would have been easy for Ancient Romans to believe that gladiators’ blood could heal diseases like epilepsy.
The first Roman calendar was established by the first Roman king Romulus in 753 BC. In particular there were 10 months and the whole year was 304 days long. There were 61 wintry days that were not allocated to any month; simply the Romans would stop counting the days after December, starting to count the days again in March, which was the first month of the year.
To be more precise, the months were:
Martius. It was 31 days long and it was named after Mars, the god of war.
Aprilis. It was 30 days long and it was named for Apro, who was the translation for Aphrodite, the god of love and beauty.
Maius. It was 31 days long and it was dedicated to Maia, the goddess of fertility.
Iunius. It was 30 days long and it was named after Juno, the goddess of procreation.
Quintilis. It was 31 days long and it was named for being the 5th month of the year.
Sextilis. It was 30 days long and it was named for being the 6th month of the year.
September. It was 30 days long and it was named for being the 7h month of the year.
October. It was 31 days long and it was named for being the 8th month of the year.
November. It was 30 days long and it was named for being the 9th month of the year.
December. It was 30 days long and it was named for being the 10th month of the year.
Surprisingly, many months have the same names nowadays.
Analysing gladiators’ bones in Ephesus, Turkey, some scientists found high rate of strontium (that can be found in vegetal proteins given by vegetables, milk and grains) and low percentage of zinc (common of animal proteins). Karl Großschmidt, an Austrian doctor, highlighted the fact that, from an overall perspective of this data, gladiators were nearly vegetarian. He concluded that Romans had already understood that eating vegetables is a key – fact for gladiators, because of their properties: for instance healing wounds faster and strengtening bones. Gladiators were in fact called hordearii, barley’s eater.
6 WOMEN WITHOUT SKIRT
Not only men were gladiators. There are proofs stating that there were women who became gladiators too. They were different from men because in most cases they weren’t slaves, strangers or poor citizens as men, but people who were fond of fighting. According to Fik Meijer, teacher of Ancient History at Amsterdam University, some women were so fond of fighting that they took the field on purpose.
7 BLOODTHIRSTY AUDIENCE
Before the gladiators’ show, wild beasts’ fights and sentences of death were already held. This plan made the audience not so bloodthirsty as we commonly believe. According to historians, Romans attending games in the arena weren’t bloodthirsty or fond of death itself. Generally speaking, they only wanted to watch good fights and gladiators who were brave, skillful and respectful of the ethics’ code.
8 PAYING AUDIENCE
The audience had a main role during the games, because people lined up alongside one gladiator or another and the games’ promoter had to consider that. Listening to people’s voice had consequences on the politic reputation and represented the power and the consensus achieved.
9 VERSO POLLICE (with a turned thumb) OR NOT?
Verso pollice, widely known as a sign of death sentence, could have never existed. A lot of historians believe that grace was stated with the thumb in the fist, meaning a sheathed sword, while the sentence with an upward thumb. The turned thumb is due to the paintings of gladiators’ fights during the XIX century. Most of the fights ended up with a surrender’s request.
10 CELEBRATING DEATH
Gladiators’ games were at the beginning held among Etruscan people, in order to celebrate a nobleman’s death. Although these activities aimed to celebrate a dead person, on the other hand gladiators rarely died, especially under the Roman Empire, because their training was really expensive.
Is that true that they were vegetarian? Could women fight in the arena? Did politicians exploit them? Most of all, is that true that “verso pollice” (with a turned thumb) sentenced them to death?
Gladiators averaged out from 20 to 35 years old, but most of them were about 30. Their height was the same of an average person of that time: 168 cm.
2 WHAT WAS THEIR PURPOSE?
According to the modern historians, gladiators were used to curry favor with the population and to distract them from politics, in order to keep the power into upper class’ hands. Moreover, gladiators were used by politicians to gain support from the lowestclasses. Juvenal, a Roman poet active between the 1st and 2nd century AC, summarized this strategy with the words “panem et circenses” (bread and games in the arena).
3 POLITICAL PROPAGANDA
Magistrates and emperors used gladiators to promote themselves and their career. They were so important that it was mandatory for magistrates to offer to the population a game in the arena or a public facility, when they . Almost all of them chose the second, because gladiators granted the best public approval.
Most of the gladiators were not only slaves or former slaves. but also free people who fought due to a contract with a manager. They were often considered as prostitutes and actors. It was common for them to be called “infames” (people with a bad reputation).
5 SEX SYMBOL
Although gladiators were disreputable, they were actual sex symbols. They were beloved by Roman noblewomen, who could do everything for their love. For instance Eppia, a senator’s wife, who left her husband to run away with a gladiator.
More than one hundred years ago, it was found a letter from a Roman legionary to his family on a papyrus in Tebtunis (Egypt). From an overall perspective of the document, it’s possible to understand that the writer was serving as a legionary in the II Adiutrix legion located in Pannonia during the 3rd century AC. It is worth – pointing out that the soldier was trying to gain a furlough to go back to his family, which was struggling with the writer himself. It is interesting to note that surprisingly there were lively exchange letters in the ancient Roman world.
“Aurelius Polion, soldier of the II Adiutrix legion, to his brother Heron, to his sister Ploutou, to his mother Seinouphis the baker and the lady (?), best regards. I pray all day and night that you enjoy good health, and I always honour all the gods from your side. I never stop to write to you, but you never think about me. But I play my part always writing and never stopping to be close to you with my mind and my heart. Yet you never write me to tell me about your health and how you carry yourself off. I’m worried about you, because although you often receive letters from me, you have never answered, so I can’t know how you… while I was in Pannonia I have sent you some letters, but you have treat me like a stranger… I have left… And you are happy that (?)… The army. I haven’t… You… For the army, but I… I went away from you. I’ve sent you six letters… I’ll try to get a furlough from the commander and I’ll come to you so that you can understand that I’m your brother… I’ve never asked (?) something to you for the army, but I’ve let you down because although I’ve written to you, neither of you (?) has consideration. Listen, your (?) close… I’m your brother. Even you, answer me… Write to me. Whichever of you… Send me his… To me. Greet my father Aphrodisios and my (?) uncle Atesios… His daughter… Her husband and Orsinouphis and the childern of his aunt, Xenphon and Ouenophis known as Prootas… the Aureli’s… The letter… To the children and to Seinouphis the baker… From (?) Aurelius (?) Polion, of the II Adiutrix legion… From Pannonia Inferior… Given to Acutius (?) Leon (?), veteran of the legion… From Aurelius Polion, soldier of the II legion Adiutrix, so that he can deliver it home.”
The writer is always repeating “I’ve sent you some letter… You have never answered me.” The letter depicts a world which is in some ways similar to ours, because people wanted to hear news about people they loved even in that time. Yet while nowadays we have Internet, WhatsApp, Facebook and other tools that can make us feel close to other people, in that time they could be in touch only by letters. We can’t never know how it feels to be thousands of kilometers far from people we love, waiting for some news.
Hello everyone! I’m sorry if I write only now, but I had to study a lot for some exames. But now I’m quite OK!
Today I’m going to finish the previous article about Romans’ fruit. So, let’s go deep into the topic!
Plum (cereum prunum)
It comes from the Caucasian region in Asia and it was widely known for its medical and purgative properties. The most famous plums were from Damascus, where they were pitted and exported all around the Roman empire.
Cherry (prunus avium)
There were at least three qualities of cherries: the wild cherry in Europe, the sweet cherry from Turkey and the bitter cherry, which was got by a mix between the sweet cherry and the laurel oak.
Dates were firstly remembered by the Greek poet Melanippides. They were really appreciated as exotic fruit both in Rome and Greece. Plinius made a list of 50 kinds of dates,, among them the most famouse were from Thebes in Egypt and Jericho in Israel.
Grapes were one of the most important fruit in the Ancient Age. One of the greatest doctor, Galen, said that a lot of people who only eat figs, grapes and bread were healthier than others.