This, that, a nod to Asterix in our latest collection of antiquarian curios 🙂
The picture on the is from recently uncovered Roman slave quarters in Pompeii. Readers of my novels know the attention I pay to the “invisible people” of society, those who weren’t mentioned much in the writing of the 1% elite. Because the rich and famous didn’t care enough to write about the people without whom their lives would be possible, we are left looking (mostly) at archaeological discoveries like these. There are plenty of pictures in the article, and a short video which although in Italian gives a great glimpse into the artefacts as they are being uncovered.
For the interested, other sources of understanding into the lives of the commoners and slaves are things like plays. Plautus and Terence had plenty of social commentary, even as they established the stock characters and themes. If you want a modern take on them, I highly suggest watching the 1970’s sitcom, Up Pompeii. If you’re more into reading, Invisible Romans by Robert Knapp is an excellent resource, with just enough original quotes to illustrate the lives of Roman commoners and slaves without being overwhelming. (A full book review would follow, when I get to it).
Speaking of plays and comedies, here is an excellent articles on What the Romans Found Funny. It’s a fairly lengthy one, but well worth the read. It illuminates a lot about the common people in Ancient Rome and their world-views (well, everyone, really — as far as we can make a generalisation about any large body of people).
The article does a great job of using original sources to highlight both similarities and differences with modern perceptions. This helps us understand the Romans, but also ourselves: how people have changed, and how they’ve stayed the same in over two millennia.
It’s both funny and not, which leads us to the next section.
Not all fun and games, the end of the Western Roman empire is popularly attributed to Odoacer in 476. I say “popularly”, because everyone who has read more than a bit know it’s a pretty much a myth.
Still, I was surprised by some of the things I found on this article: Rome Didn’t Fall When You Think It Did. Here’s Why That Fabricated History Still Matters Today.
Specifically, I always thought that was an 18th century convention by Gibbon, which just used Odoacer claim to be ‘King of Italy’ — a title that would have been abhorrent to Romans — as a handy breaking point, more than it being meaningful in the lives of actual Romans (as in, those living in the city rather than the empire at large).
Though Gibbon’s books tell more about 18th century scholars than about Rome, it turns out that the date of 476 has a much longer — and more complicated — history.
More than that, not only was Odoacer (and his successor, Theodoric) were actually pretty good for the people of Italy. Odoacer (who may not even have been a Goth, and his use of the title of Kig was limited) ruled for 17 years, and Theodoric ruled for 33 — amazingly stable lengths, considering what came before them.
No, the actual final destruction of Rome came from… Romans. Specifically, from the Eastern Roman Empire (aka Byzantium), where the venerated Justinian in his effort to ‘reclaim’ Italy from the Barbarians effectively demolished the country.
Oh, and the date of 476? Was first promulgated on by Marcellinus in 510 in Constantinople, where Justinian was the heir, for purely propagandist reasons. Seems like realpolitik and spin-doctoring were alive and well throughout human history.
Anyway… A couple of heavy articles, and I did promise you a nod to Asterix. So to finish with a lighter tone, it seems like the (modern) city of Rome is inundated with wild boars.
Yes, you read it right. Wild boards a re roaming the streets, digging through rubbish, and being a nuisance. Don’t believe me? Watch this:
Hilarious, innit? After you watch this, go read (or watch) some Asterix, because sometimes life does just cries for a little bit of well-deserved, excellent nostalgia.
That’s it for now. Hope you found something to tickle your fancy — whether through provoking or simple glee — in this week’s collection. Until next time!
Enjoying the articles, but wondering why I’m so obsessed with daily life in Ancient Rome? Glad you asked! Meet Felix. He’s the protagonist of the Togas, Daggers, and Magic series, an historical-fantasy blend of a paranormal detective on the background of ancient Rome.