History: Actual, Fictional and Legendary discussion

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message 1: by Ed, Chief Curmudgeon (last edited Mar 05, 2010 07:38PM) (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 622 comments Mod
We don't know as much about this aspect of Roman Society as we do the activities of the Emperors and the Generals. We do know quite a bit more, though, than we do of any preceding civilizations or even life in early medieval times. Why is this so?

Can you imagine what it would be like to live as a Roman Citizen in the days of the early Empire?

During the high point of the Empire, say, during the reign of Antoninus (AD 139 - AD 161)?

During the last 100 years of the Empire?

What was the significance of being a Roman Citizen?

Why did the City of Rome maintain its influence on people's attitudes and behaviors for so long?

What was the significance of the Forum in Roman daily life?

Was the client system a good thing or a bad thing? Why?

How did the role of women change from the days of the Republic to the days of the Empire?

It has been said that without Slaves, Rome could not have maintained its Empire. Do you agree? Disagree? Why? Why not?

What were the drawbacks to the slavery system in Rome?

Did Romans see slavery as any kind of moral or ethical issue? Why? Why not?

Was education of the young a high priority in Imperial Rome? Why? Why not?

The grain dole given to the poor has been accused of undermining Rome's civilization. What do you think?

What is your opinion of the "Vomitorium" and the "Purple Feather" as aspects of upper class feasting?

Imperial Rome had, at its peak, 159 holidays a year during which the famous entertainments of Theater, Chariot Racing, Gladiatorial Combat, Wild Beast Hunts, Sea Battles, and Public Executions took place. In your opinion was all this free entertainment a good thing or not? Why?

How important were immediate Families and gens (clans) to life and prosperity in Imperial Rome.

What was the role of sex and marriage in Roman society?

On balance was Roman Society and civilization strengthened or weakened by the change from Republic to Empire? Why?


message 2: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads, Crazy Cat Lady (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 310 comments Mod
I found Alberto Angela's A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome: Daily Life, Mysteries, and Curiosities very interesting on this subject.


message 3: by Silvana (new)

Silvana (silvaubrey) Sex was definitely not defined as today. It was regarded to be normal practice in Roman life, even if it was conducted outside marriage. It was not even meant to create some kind of bonding between the perpetrators, I guess.

Homosexuality was also interesting, as it gradually developed into something 'normal' within the Empire. There were times when it was banned, e.g. the issuance of a law called Lex Scantinia (around 200 BC), which outlawed among others same-sex practices and of course, the Christian era.


message 4: by Ed, Chief Curmudgeon (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 622 comments Mod
Sex outside marriage was OK for men but if a wife committed adultery and was caught, the best she could hope for was to escape with her head still on her shoulders.

Since most marriages were contracted for by the heads of the family, sex was mostly a tool for creating progeny. Sex for fun, was usually pursued outside of the home. Prostitutes were a part of daily life.

Homosexuality was acceptable as long as Rome still treasured the strong Greek influence in their culture and as long as those who were married produced sons and daughters. All else was acceptable.

The Grass Crown by Colleen McCullough which describes the rise of Sulla best illuminates the sexual practices of, at least, the upper classes.


message 5: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads, Crazy Cat Lady (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 310 comments Mod
A book I just got out of the library (Roman Life: 100 B.C. to A.D. 200) looks interesting and is on the general subject. It also has a CD-Rom tour of The House of the Vetii in Pompeii attached. Apparently it has several different tours, depending on whether you tell it you're a slave, a clint, the owner, etc. Looks thoroughly illustrated, as well, which I like.


message 6: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads, Crazy Cat Lady (last edited Apr 09, 2010 11:15AM) (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 310 comments Mod
Roman Life was interesting (and had many pictures), but The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found is first-class. It asks what do we know about ancient Pompeii, and how do we know it?

I have already gotten through such topics as one-way streets, the "Four Styles problem," how do we know a brothel when we see one, and the question of the population (estimates range from 6400 to 30,000 - that's quite a range) and if the area was self-supporting in food or not. Among many others.


message 7: by Hayes (last edited Apr 09, 2010 11:34AM) (new)

Hayes (hayes13) Susanna wrote: "...how do we know a brothel when we see one..."

Are there copies of those frescoes (from the Golden House, I think it was) in the book? If it aint a brothel, it's the next best thing... and I don't shock very easily!

ETA: it wasn't called the Golden House... I can't remember if it even had a name, but the frescoes are very graphic... I was travelling with a group of American/Canadian college students too. *squirm*


message 8: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads, Crazy Cat Lady (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 310 comments Mod
Nero's Golden House was in Rome, so I doubt there are pictures of it in this book.

There are some rather "frisky" pictures, yes.


message 9: by Hayes (new)

Hayes (hayes13) I meant the brothel there in Pompeii, not Nero's place in Rome... I was confusing the names.


message 10: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads, Crazy Cat Lady (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 310 comments Mod
There's been some discussion of sex industry, but I think the main chapter is a bit later than I've gotten so far.


message 11: by Ed, Chief Curmudgeon (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 622 comments Mod
More titles for my endless TBR list. Thanks!


message 12: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads, Crazy Cat Lady (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 310 comments Mod
Well, I was on to the sex industry discussion last night. Very interesting. There was definitely at least one brothel in town. Some think there were up to 35, but their criteria for deciding what's a brothel seems rather ... skimpy ... in some cases.


message 13: by Silvana (new)

Silvana (silvaubrey) Speaking about sex, there is something interesting about Hadrian. He contentiously showed off his (male Greek) lover, Antinous everywhere, and he even brought this Antinous everywhere during his travels across the Empire, with his wife as part of the entourage. When Antinous died drowning in the Nile, Hadrian erected temples for his honor, and deified him as well.

As far as I know, even if the previous Emperors had had their share of same-sex lovers, they never showed it in public unlike Hadrian, I presume?
It was because Romans thought homosexuality was Greek culture (And Hadrian was an avid fan of Greek culture).


message 14: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads, Crazy Cat Lady (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 310 comments Mod
Ended up giving Fires of Vesuvius 4.5 stars. Very interesting book.


message 15: by Ed, Chief Curmudgeon (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 622 comments Mod
Silvana wrote: "Speaking about sex, there is something interesting about Hadrian. He contentiously showed off his (male Greek) lover, Antinous everywhere, and he even brought this Antinous everywhere during his tr..."

Sometimes, I think, the Romans were as conflicted about homosexuality as we are now.


message 16: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads, Crazy Cat Lady (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 310 comments Mod
From what I understand, it had a lot to do with who was being perceived as the penetrator.


message 17: by Ed, Chief Curmudgeon (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 622 comments Mod
Susanna wrote: "From what I understand, it had a lot to do with who was being perceived as the penetrator."

Interesting speculation. Would fit with the idea of Roman Men as macho types.


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