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Rome Fodder

The History of "Rome"

01/24/07 - The Calendar Thingee

I've wondered about that calendar wall that the directors show to remind us of the passage of time - sort of the Roman equivalent of those fluttering calendar pages in old movies. Was this a real Roman artifact, or a creation of the series?

The answer may be a blend of the two. I've found three web pages (links here, here, and here) that describe ancient Roman calendars. The Romans frequently painted them on walls or carved them in stone. However, I've found no reference to niches in the walls or carvings used to convey the current date, as the wall on the show seems to be used. If you look at the picures in the links, they closely resemble the writing on the "Rome" calendar thingee, without the niches. The Roman word, collectively for these calendars was Fasti.


01/11/07 - Caesar's Gallic War Commentaries: Mention of Titus Pullo And Lucius Vorenus

If you watched the Season 1 extras in the On-Demand area of HBO (if you have digital cable) you might recall the producer's mention that Vorenus and Pullo were the only soldiers mentioned by name in Caesar's Gallic Commentaries. I attempted to track down that mention, and discovered the following:

Vorenus and Pullo were both Centurions!

And fierce rivals with each other. So we're seeing a little historical liberty for the sake of a good story here. But true to their characterizations in the series, Pullo seems to be the more headstrong of the two.

Their only mention is Book 5, Chapter 44. By the way, you have to search in a Latin text to find them, their names are anglicized in the translations.

Book 5 chapter 44 1-13 (LATIN)

XLIV. Erant in ea legione fortissimi viri, centuriones, qui primis ordinibus appropinquarent, Titus Pullo et Lucius Vorenus. [2] Hi perpetuas inter se controversias habebant, quinam anteferretur, omnibusque annis de locis summis simultatibus contendebant. [3] Ex his Pullo, cum acerrime ad munitiones pugnaretur, "Quid dubitas," inquit, " Vorene? aut quem locum tuae probandae virtutis exspectas ? [4] Hic dies de nostris controversiis iudicabit." Haec cum dixisset, procedit extra munitiones quaque pars hostium confertissma est visa irrumpit. [5] Ne Vorenus quidem tum sese vallo continet, sed omnium veritus existimationem subsequitur. [6] Mediocri spatio relicto Pullo pilum in hostes immittit atque unum ex multitudine procurrentem traicit; quo percusso et exanimato hunc scutis protegunt, in hostem tela universi coniciunt neque dant regrediendi facultatem. [7] Transfigitur scutum Pulloni et verutum in balteo defigitur. [8] Avertit hic casus vaginam et gladium educere conanti dextram moratur manum, impeditumque hostes circumsistunt. [9] Succurrit inimicus illi Vorenus et laboranti subvenit. [10] Ad hunc se confestim a Pullone omnis multitudo convertit: [11] illum veruto arbitrantur occisum. Gladio comminus rem gerit Vorenus atque uno interfecto reliquos paulum propellit; [12] dum cupidius instat, in locum deiectus inferiorem concidit. Huic rursus circumvento fert subsidium Pullo, [13] atque ambo incolumes compluribus interfectis summa cum laude sese intra munitiones recipiunt. [14] Sic fortuna in contentione et certamine utrumque versavit, ut alter alteri inimicus auxilio salutique esset, neque diiudicari posset, uter utri virtute anteferendus videretur.

In English (Perseus Project)

XLIV. In that legion there were two very brave men, centurions, who were now approaching the first ranks, T. Pulfio, and L. Varenus. These used to have continual disputes between them which of them should be preferred, and every year used to contend for promotion with the utmost animosity. When the fight was going on most vigorously before the fortifications, Pulfio, one of them, says, "Why do you hesitate, Varenus? or what [better] opportunity of signalizing your valor do you seek? This very day shall decide our disputes." When he had uttered these words, he proceeds beyond the fortifications, and rushes on that part of the enemy which appeared the thickest. Nor does Varenus remain within the rampart, but respecting the high opinion of all, follows close after. Then, when an inconsiderable space intervened, Pulfio throws his javelin at the enemy, and pierces one of the multitude who was running up, and while the latter was wounded and slain, the enemy cover him with their shields, and all throw their weapons at the other and afford him no opportunity of retreating. The shield of Pulfio is pierced and a javelin is fastened in his belt. This circumstance turns aside his scabbard and obstructs his right hand when attempting to draw his sword: the enemy crowd around him when [thus] embarrassed. His rival runs up to him and succors him in this emergency. Immediately the whole host turn from Pulfio to him, supposing the other to be pierced through by the javelin. Varenus rushes on briskly with his sword and carries on the combat hand to hand, and having slain one man, for a short time drove back the rest: while he urges on too eagerly, slipping into a hollow, he fell. To him, in his turn, when surrounded, Pulfio brings relief; and both having slain a great number, retreat into the fortifications amid the highest applause. Fortune so dealt with both in this rivalry and conflict, that the one competitor was a succor and a safeguard to the other, nor could it be determined which of the two appeared worthy of being preferred to the other.

Good sources for original language and translated version of many classic texts:

The University of Virginia

The Tufts University Perseus Project

- Cecil

Posted by Cecil on January 11, 2007 5:48 PM
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Several history questions arise out of the first episode, "Passover"

Roman burial practices - Was it customary to place a coin on the lips of corpses as we saw at Niobe's funeral? I thought it was on the eyes.

Is there hstorical support for the practice we saw of having a wet-nurse squeeze a few drops of milk on the lips of the departed, as we saw in Caesar's case? What was this for?

I read elsewhere that funeral pyres were by law held outside the city, that Caesar's taking place inside the city was contrary to Roman law and custom, but apparently demanded by the mob. Any comments? Scroll down below and type away.

-- Posted by: Cecil Rose at January 17, 2007 10:26 AM

Can anyone tell me if there is any historical provenance for the calendar wall that is frequently shown on "Rome" to mark the passage of time by moving objects among the niches in the wall? It's a charming device, but I've wondered if it is a real historical item or a plot device of the producers.

-- Posted by: Cecil Rose at January 22, 2007 4:23 PM

Regarding the calendar...

I have been curious about this since its first appearance in Series 1. But if it's a plot device, I think the producers dropped it by using subtitles like "three months later" which I thought was incredibly cheesy and uninspired - especially since they'd been using the calendar wall thing all along. They could have found a way to weave that in to show time passage instead of the subtitle.

-- Posted by: Angela at February 8, 2007 12:48 PM

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