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Roma is Amor Spelt Backwards

November 5, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

I just finished listening to the Modern Scholar Series (Great Professors Teaching You!) A History of Ancient Rome, as taught by Professor Frances Titchener of Utah State University.

She brought up many interesting points and historical facts, which, if you are like me and somehow missed any formal education on the “ancient” world, suddenly illuminates some of our history and how we arrived at where we are today. And, when people now make fun of Nero and compare him, say to Bush…I actually get what they mean. Hello, I am awake and listening!

Some random interesting facts that I learned while listening to this series:

1. The Romans came from Greece – the Foundation myth of Aeneas, who was a Trojan and after the battle of Troy was given a mission by Juppiter to found a new city. He left Troy with his old father, Anchises on his back and held his young son, lulus by the hand (representative of bring the past-his father, present-himself, and future-his son, with him). After being waylaid in Carthage, he was ship-wrecked at the site where he would found Rome. Members of Julius Caesar’s family trace their lineage back to lulus, and his grandmother Venus – hence the name of the city and the connection to LOVE…Roma is Amor (Latin for love) spelt backwards!

2. Romulus and Remus were abandoned by their mother and rescued by a wolf. Romulus became the first king of Rome (753 B.C.) when Juppiter sent a sign designating his location as the site to build the city of Rome. Remus was killed by Romulus when he refused to accept the new town’s boundary. Romulus populated his town by luring Sabine women for wives – this is commonly known as the “rape of the Sabine women.” However, apparently Romulus had approached the king of the Sabines and asked for some women, when refused, he asked the Sabines over for a party (so that no one would bring their weapons). At the party, Romulus kidnapped the women, by the time the Sabines returned home for their weapons, it was winter – and they couldn’t fight in winter – in the spring the Sabine women were married and pregnant…

3. The Italian population increased more rapidly than other populations due to their high caloric intake of olive oil.

4. The social structure in Rome was very important and was based on the role of the father – which led to the political role of Patron and the Client. The Pater familias, ranking male member of a clan, had the power of life and death over his family. Men could not sign contracts, own property, or marry without their father’s permission. Fathers could and occasionally did execute their sons or sell them into slavery. (Women of course were not counted and were slightly more valuable than slaves).

5. By 510 B.C. the Romans were sick of kings. Although the new form of government – where elders of the state delivered their wisdom collectively as the Senate – allowed all free men to participate, the reality was that only nobility had access to important political, military, and religious offices. (Kind of sounds like the role that the wealthy play in America today – see Plutocracy).

6. The Estruscans are responsible for much of what we attribute to the Romans – such as typical Roman city planning, where cities are laid out in grid plan, on streets intersecting at right angles; building construction, resulting in temples that were lower, and used steps, but rarely of columns; music and dancing; engineering, particularly in the form of city gates, sewers bridges, and tombs – they invented the arch, which the Romans later perfected; the Greek or Phoenician alphabet was adapted by the Etruscans and embraced by the Romans…it is the alphabet the English language is found on. Ironically, however, we cannot read the Estruscan language…it still has not been deciphered.

7. In 390 B.C. the Celts came naked, screaming and snowboarding on their shields over the Alps to attack the orderly Roman Hoplite Phalanx (the Roman Army). The Celts massacred the Romans.

8. For anyone who doesn’t know, Carthage was in northern Africa. The Punic wars were fought between Carthage and Rome from 268 to 145 B.C. mostly over Sicily which had been under the control of Carthage. Prior to the battle over Sicily, Romans had never seen the art of drama or plays. “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” is a play based loosely on some of the new comedies that Rome’s comic playwrights adapted from Greek plays encountered via Sicily. Hannibal, a Carthaginian and Rome’s most dangerous enemy, waged war against Rome for 15 years. Hannibal even trekked across the alps with elephants. Sadly, he ended his own life when he realized that he could not beat the Romans.

Ok. I could go on and on about Rome. But at some point, we have to let Rome be what it is and what it was…and besides…nothing much else of interest (in my mind) happens aside from fighting and battles and the destruction of an empire! Makes me want to pick up “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed“, by Jared Diamond and see how closely our society matches those that have failed…

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