Sunday, April 3, 2011

Everything (well almost) everything you wanted to know about Ancient Rome. told from the non-sanitized side of history.

 The image is Etruscan but since that's where the Romans got a lot of their beliefs, it will do as well as any other image. Besides, It's colorful and interesting.

I have been laid out flat for almost a week with a lethal combination of flu, cold and allergies. It's rare for me to be this sick but but by mid-week, I had no choice but to stay home and go to bed. I've been distracting myself by reading a hilarious series of posts by a LJ (that's live journal friend for those who don't know) on Ancient Rome. Not only is she funny, learned and wise, she actually responds to posts and e-mail, something that is not always the case.

Naturally, as a former classical scholar and one who still loves the ancient world (with reservations), I pounced on these, both for their entertainment value and ensuing hilarity. The newest post is on top but do yourself a favor and read the whole thing. Some of the funniest parts are in the comments

Ask a Roman a question

So ask me about an animal and I will tell you a Roman belief about it. Or an anecdote featuring it. It has to be an animal they knew about (that covers quite a few). Or a mythical animal. I can also do Greeks because I am multi-functional that way... (Hang on a second, that came out wrong.)

Because the Cicero post will take a while to write and also involve me looking at his delicious invectives which are in my office, I give you...BIRDS.

The Romans loved auspices. They were like bird crack to them. They loved them as much as they loved ablative absolutes and that, my friends, is a lot of love.

( Want to take auspices? This is the entry for you! Also with bonus sacred chickens. )

I apologise for clogging up your flist with horrific knowledge about the Romans - sometimes I just can't stop myself sharing these things. THE WORLD MUST KNOW.

Hyneas - the miracle animal of the Roman Empire:

(Quite a lot of this comes from Pliny the Elder's wonderfully whacky Natural History Book 28 which I highly recommend to anyone who is interested in ancient Rome and Greece. It's a wonderful glimpse into what people believed.)

Romans seem to have thought that hyenas were hermaphrodites/or could switch gender (Ovid thinks the females do so right after having sex - no idea where he thought the womb went.). That makes it magical, so its body will have all sorts of magical effects. It was also thought to be sexually voracious, which means that it is very useful in love magic, where by a process of sympathy you could get that appetite transferred to the object of your desire.

Pliny lists 79 remedies from the hyena (I think the max for other animals is 19 and that's for the crocodile). I present a selection:

1. A hyena's anus worn as an amulet will make you irresistible to the ladies - one look and they will follow you. (You call also rub a tick on her groin if that doesn't get her going.)

"If I give her crabs, she'll totally want me."

How did these people manage to reproduce at all?

There are posts on mules, on the varieties of Venus (oh go ahead and read it, you know you want to). And more...

1 comment:

A Cuban In London said...

First of all, wish you better with your cold. Secondly, this was such a fun post to read. Many thanks for the recommendation.

Greetings from London.