Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Romans!

I believe I’m meant to be a re-responder but since there weren’t any posts I figured I’d just throw mine up here, here it goes:

Women and Gender in the Forum Romanum by: Mary T Boatwright

Mary Boatwright believes that by studying “epigraphic, sculptural, numismatic, and other information for images of women that once embellished this area and its structures, and for the Forum’s buildings that were supported by and/or closely associated with women” (Boatwright, 2011) we will be able to understand how the Forum Romanum was used, if at all, by women. In the first century CE women were seldom represented and the sources agree that women were eliminated ideologically, though they would still have been present at the forum routinely as Mary Boatwright explains as beggars, priestesses and the list goes on. Why bother removing women ideologically if they were still present in the Forum in everyday life? Was it simple because the Romans believed the appearance of women was that problematic? Many buildings in the Forum Romanum were used for other reasons than religion such as legislative assembly, diplomacy and the administration of justice, all considered to be male functions. Hence this sets the framework for a very male space, since women would not have taken part in these parts of civic life. Religion on the other hand would have seen the involvement of women, the Vestal Virgins whose shrine was one of the oldest in the forum. There were temples dedicated to both male and female deities. Mary Boatwright believes it is possible that women were accepted in the religious aspect of Roman life because it was seen as a benefit of the entire state, would you agree with Mary or do you believe there is perhaps a different reason it was acceptable for women to participate religiously?

The Other Pompeii: Life and Death in Herculaneum

This was a really interesting documentary, I’ve never given Herculaneum much thought, I guess Pompeii has always over shadowed it, which is too bad since there are some amazing finds. One of the most interesting things, I think, discussed by Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill is in regards to the vast amount of skeletons found at Herculaneum. He explains that there is more information found by examing the skeleton than the plaster casts made at Pompeii. By examing the skeleton archaeologists are able to determine what the people of Herculaneum ate and what types of work they did, among other things.  Another fascinating find, you wouldn’t see at Pompeii is an in tacked wooden sliding door. This helps use to understand better how the Romans viewed space, they could easily leave the door open to make the adjoining room look bigger or close it for private dining. Other pieces of wooden furniture were also preserved such as beds, a cradle and even a shrine. That’s not all; they even found a head to a marble statue with the color still in tacked, the red eyelashes were still visible along with a glowing red head of hair! If you haven’t yet had a chance check out the documentary!!

Information is Beautiful

Following up on today’s discussion, I invite you to explore some of the long list entries in this year’s data visualization contest, the ‘Information is Beautiful’ awards. One of the fellows on that long list is Elijah Meeks, part of the duo behind ORBIS. One could imagine following that example, for this class’ project, by mapping wikipedia articles about Rome against a map…

Elijah Meeks, ‘Historic London as seen from Wikipedia’

Varus, Varus, Give me back my buckles!

The reading I am choosing to focus upon the the commemoration of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest.

The battle is seen as the defining moment for the German people- even though the battle occurred centuries before the idea of a united Germanic people had emerged.

Though this battle has been shrouded in myth, the archaeology of the site is attempting to add some fact to this great myth.  The battleitself was a great example of the flaws in the Roman military tactics. Majority of their confrontations were fought in the classical military way; two bodies of soldiers line up and engage on a large field of battle. But here the Romans were completely caught off guard and were slaughtered over the course of four days.

What I found interesting was what the archaeology revealed of the aftermath of the battle. Based off the looting patterns that were found throughout the battlefield, it is clear that the Germans did not face a returning Roman force attempting to save their dead. Something as simple as buckles, hinges and links from armor can reveal much about a site. Things like these were taken from the Roman bodies, along with pieces of furniture, jewelery and even the metal frames from their shields.

As the article states, the archaeology of the site conflicts with the ancients sources that say that a group of Romans survived the initial slaughter, and later regrouped to reclaim the bodies of their fellow soldiers.  The archaeology does affirm the claims that the Romans were duped by their ally, Arminius or Herrman. It also shows, by the findings of ornate furniture and other luxury commodities, that the Roman army was not on the warpath when they were ambushed. They were marching back home with their possessions.  This twists the image of the German myth slightly. They were not coming across a full prepared and aware Roman force, but a docile one that believed that conflict was now where to be found.

This use of archaeology to remove history ambiguities is an important one for historians, but what effects would it have upon the myth?

Do you feel the myth and fact of this event can co-exist?


Post scriptum,


See the links below for a modern take on the battle. For those looking for more in depth reenactment, watch the longer one: