Title: "The 24th Shitkickers Were Never The Same After The Peloponnese"

If you talk about the Romans you have to talk about the Greeks. This episode explores the ancient Greek play AJAX written by Sophocles. Included in this episode are interviews with Bryan Doerries, director and translator for the New York based THEATER OF WAR acting troupe.

MP3 File

Steven Saylor’s new book: Empire

I just received in the mail Steven Saylor’s new book: EMPIRE.  I got 4 days off coming up and I’m going to spend the time reading the book.  Look for a review here on Ancient Rome Refocused in the coming weeks.

Robert W. M. Greaves made a correction on a statement that I made in Episode 2 of “Time Travel is Easy, History is Hard” thus proving that HISTORY IS HARD.  I made the statement that “Carthage razed Corinth.”  Mr. Greaves was kind enough to point out my mistake.  I have spent the last few days trying to find where I could have picked this up.  After an extensive internet search, and flipping through the pages of my books contained in my extensive library, I have come to the conclusion that I must have misinterpreted something I read.   Misinterpreted?  Heck.  I made a mistake.

I apologize to my listeners and readers.

146 BC | Corinth was destroyed by Rome. 

Thanks Robert for the assistance.  At Ancient Rome Refocused I will attempt to educate, interpret and entertain, but like a coloring book everything must be kept strictly kept inside the facts.    

Check out Mr. Greaves blog site at:  http://www.matters-arising.blogspot.com


“If you talk about the Romans you have to talk about the Greeks. ” 

        – From Episode 5 of the podcast Ancient Rome Refocused

In Episode Five (soon to be posted) we will explore the Sophocles play Ajax.


Mr. Bryan Doerries

 I was fortunate to be in the audience for a reading of the play AJAX written by the ancient Greek general and playwrite Sophocles.  It was performed by the New York based THEATER OF WAR headed by  Mr. Bryan Doerries, translator and director.  This play is on tour performing for veterans who are learning that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been around for thousands of  years and plagued the ancient heroes of mythology.

Sophocles: playwrite, actor, general, doctor, priest.

Sophocles: playwrite, actor, general, doctor, priest.

It’s one thing to direct AJAX, it’s an other thing to translate it from the original Greek.  Mr. Dorries is exploring an old world with new eyes as he brings us the words of this ancient playwrite, general, physician, and priest and applies it to the struggles to the modern warrior.  He said at a recent preformance:
“Those that have lived lives of mythological proportion have no trouble relating to ancient myth.”
Episode Five titled “The 24th Shitkickers Were Never The Same After The Peloponnese will not only have performances of the play AJAX by well-known New York actors, but testimony from those that have seen war, and its aftermath.
 (Note*  Below is an article from the London Times.  Ever wonder why myth seems to be always have a grain of truth about it?)  

From The Times
March 28, 2006

Palace of Homer’s hero rises out of the myths

 From John Carr in Athens

ARCHAEOLOGISTS claim to have unearthed the remains of the 3,500-year-old palace of Ajax, the warrior-king who according to Homer’s Iliad was one of the most revered fighters in the Trojan War.

Classicists hailed the discovery, made on a small Greek island, as evidence that the myths recounted by Homer in his epic poem were based on historical fact.

The ruins include a large palace, measuring about 750sq m (8,000sq ft), and believed to have been at least four storeys high with more than thirty rooms.

Yannos Lolos, the Greek archaeologist who made the discovery, said he was certain that he had come across the home of the Aiacid dynasty, a legendary line of kings mentioned in the Iliad and the Classical Greek tragedies. One of the kings, Ajax (or Aias), was described by Homer as a formidable fighter who, at one point in the Trojan campaign, held off the Trojans almost singlehandedly while his fellow Greek Achilles sulked in his tent because his slave-girl had been taken away from him.

The city of Troy is believed to have fallen about 1180BC — at about the same time, according to Mr Lolos, that the palace he has discovered was abandoned and left to crumble. Ajax, therefore, would have been the last king to have lived there before setting off on the ten-year Trojan expedition.

“This is one of the few cases in which a Mycenaean-era palace can be almost certainly attributed to a Homeric hero,” Mr Lolos said.

Fellow archaeologists said that they believed that the ruins were indeed those of a Mycenaean palace. Curtis Runnels, Professor of Archaeology at Boston University, said: “Mr Lolos has really delivered the goods.”

The Mycenaean ruins appear to be at the site where Homer records a fleet of ships setting out to take part in the war on Troy. The Iliad is believed to portray conditions at the close of the dominance of Mycenae, the prime Greek power of the second millennium BC.

The ruins have been excavated over the past five years at a site near the village of Kanakia on the island of Salamis, a few miles off the coast of Athens.

The palace was built in the style of those of the period, including the vast acropolis at Mycenae.
“The complex was found beneath a virgin tract of pine woods on two heights by the coast,” Mr Lolos said. “All the finds so far corroborate what we see in the Homeric epics.”
Homer compares Ajax to a wall and describes him carrying a shield made of seven layers of thick oxhide. Unlike other heroes, he fights without the aid of deities or the supernatural. According to Sophocles, who wrote 800 years after the Trojan War, Ajax committed suicide after the fall of Troy without seeing his homeland again.
Several relics of oriental and Cypriot origin were found at the site at Kanakia, such as bronze armour strips stamped with the emblem of Pharaoh Rameses II of Egypt, indicating trade or possible war in the 13th century BC.
Salamis became famous as the site of a sea battle in 480BC in which the Greek navies destroyed the invasion fleet of the Persian king Xerxes and put paid to the Persian threat.
The other main site where archaeologists claim to have discovered relics of places recounted in the Iliad is at the castle of Pylos in southeastern Greece, believed to be the home of King Nestor.
King and warrior who appears in Homer’s Iliad, the story of the Trojan War, and in Sophocles’ tragedy Ajax                 
  • In the Iliad, he is so big that when King Priam of Troy sees him, he says: “Who is that great and goodly warrior whose head and broad shoulders tower above the rest?”                               

  • In Sophocles’ play, Ajax goes mad after losing the prize of Achilles’ armour and eventually kills himself

    Interview with Steven Saylor

    Mr. Saylor was featured on the podcast “Save Me a Seat at the Triumph, and Let’s throw a Cabbage at the Gaul.”    The following is a transcript of the interview. 

    ttocRob Cain:    On the telephone we have Steven Saylor who is the author of the Roma Sub Rosa series of the historical mysteries featuring Gordianus the Finder.  The action is set in the ancient Rome of Cicero and Caesar.  His latest book is The Triumph of Caesar.  Now, first of all, I want to thank you for coming on Ancient Rome Refocused.  I want you to know Steven, I’ve read all of your books and it’s a privilege to have you on the show.

     Saylor:    It’s a pleasure to be here.

    Rob Cain:    We have Mr. Saylor on a speaker phone.  The topic of this podcast is Roman triumphs and I wonder if you might describe a triumph.  What is it?

    Saylor:    I wrote my novel, The Triumph of Caesar, it’s the latest in the series, because I’ve come to that point in history when Caesar finally gets to celebrate his four triumphs which have been postponed because of the Civil War.  The triumph was of course the apex of any generals or emperor’s career.  This is a chance to show what you’ve done to bring it all home to Rome, to show the people what you’ve conquered, to boast about your accomplishments, and of course it’s also as with everything with the Romans, it’s a religious ceremony.  This is all in honor of Jupiter who makes everything possible because he favors the Roman people, so it all ends at the Temple of Jupiter with a sacrifice as well as the execution of the captured generals and dignitaries and their deaths which will be pleasing to Jupiter.  This started with Romulus.  He is celebrated the first of the triumphs when he was king of the city state of Rome which he founded after conquering one of the rival city states, and it is there he stages his first triumph.  He did it on foot walking through Rome.  Subsequently, they did begin to ride a chariot, by the time of Caesar’s it became a super spectacular event.  There’s not just the triumph but there are days and days of games and theater, feasting and celebration.  This is a huge event in the life of the Roman people.

    Steven Saylor holding his another one of his novels titled: ROMA.

    Steven Saylor holding his novel titled: ROMA.


    Rob Cain:    How did you do your research?

    Saylor:    Well, you know, this novel is kind of irresistible.  The course of the Roma Sub Rosa series sort of begins with the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic, the dictatorship of Sulla.  I wrote it forward now to vision much the end of the Roman Republic which is the dictatorship of Julius Caesar after a long civil war and often times the research just sort of fell into my lap.  I don’t think anybody has previously done a novel specifically about the triumphs of Caesar when he stages his four triumphs in Rome.  And the sources are just fantastic, we have Suetonius, we have Pliny, we have Plutarch, we have Dio Cassius, we have Appian, they all write about the triumph, plus there are many other smaller details found through the historians so that we’re able to reconstruct day by day exactly what happened at these four triumphs of Caesar.  There were staged about a day apart, they didn’t concentrate them all at one go and the historians were astounded by the things that happened so naturally they wrote them down.  So for a novelist like myself just to be able to go through each day and make a chronology, to look at what’s happening, who’s in Rome, and what’s being celebrated makes fantastic material.  It’s all very larger than life, mainly coming from ancient sources.  I think the fact that Cleopatra is in town — that’s always interesting to have a big name in town.  She gets to come on stage and one of reason she is there perhaps is to see her sister Arsinoe.  Her sister is the reason she had a civil war and she is scheduled to be in the triumph as a prisoner and to be executed at the end so Cleopatra appears to be anticipating that.  So the sources all just fall into place.

    Rob Cain:     Are the subjects in Roman history hard to talk about with modern audiences?

     Saylor:    Well, you know, it’s the bloodthirstiness of the Romans always takes at the back of it because that’s something that we have assiduously tried to breath out to our society even though we are still warlike, we do still have violent entertainment.  The Romans go places that most of us just don’t even think about going.  The coliseum hasn’t been built yet, so the great apex of the Roman entertainment, death as a spectacle, has not been reached yet.  But certainly the triumph is an expression of that.  To see the enemy paraded in chains and humiliated, to be pelted with fruit and for everyone to enjoy that, is not something that Americans would publicly allow themselves to do.  We simply wouldn’t allow that and of course to see the leader of Gaul Vercingetorix scheduled to be strangled and killed at the end of the triumph after being paraded publicly is total humiliation.  They take a great deal of joy in the misfortune and the vanquishing of others and once again this comes back to the Roman religion.  There is the reason this is happening because what you’re doing is pleasing to Jupiter and the other gods.  And so they make all this possible.  And one of the things that Jupiter and the other gods like to see is the humiliation of your enemies to their honor. 

    “We know that you help us do this Jupiter.  We’re publicly acknowledging it.  We’re going to publicly execute these people.” 

    So that’s one of the aspects where I think it’s a bit of a reach for the modern American to get their psychologically, so in showing these triumphs, I tried to show also the excitement of the audience, what they’re getting out of this, what they expect from it.  It’s not just a publicity stunt for Caesar; it’s also a very public and a very participatory thing for the Roman people.

     Rob Cain:    What first led you down this path?  How did you get started writing about Roman history?

     Saylor:    Well, you know, I grew up in 1956.  I grew up in the absolute heyday of the old Hollywood spectacle about the ancient world, movies like Ben Hur which of course won 11 Oscars, I think the year I was born; followed by movies like Spartacus; Cleopatra, the most expensive film ever made with Elizabeth Taylor which was a huge deal when I was a child, also all those movies from Italy which starred Steve Reeves as Hercules and so forth.  There was just a huge amount of this all around the world saturating the popular culture.  So this is a boy growing up in a very small town in Texas, you know I owned a battery-operated Roman galley as a boy.

     Rob Cain:    Oh, my gosh.

     Saylor:    It’s like kids now have Star Wars or Avatar, back then we had ancient Rome, this was the world of wonder, the world of imagination.

     Rob Cain:   I just have to throw this in; you said a battery-operated…?

     Saylor:    So you still have yours?

     Rob Cain:    Oh, God, yes.  I have it.  I think the company was Remco.

     Saylor:    You know, I’m sure it came from a Sears catalogue that’s all I know.

     Rob Cain:     And the oars actually moved back and forth.

     Saylor:    Yes the oars moved.  Mine is no longer operable.  The oars are all gone, they were broken off, I have some of them and the motor is not really working now, but you can see where to put the batteries and it’s mostly intact.  It’s a beautiful object.  Yeah.  It’s a treasured thing from my childhood, so it all starts there.  And then later when I became old enough to sort of study this legitimately.  I studied history at the University of Texas at Austin.  I didn’t start as a history major but when I found I could actually do this full time and I could get away with it, I thought I just want to do nothing but take history courses.  So it’s very fortunate to have some really good profs.  I studied Roman history, classics, Greek history, Byzantine history, so I became pretty well grounded in all that, left it behind for a while.  But then I think my first trip to Rome was when I was about 29 years old and my interest in all that was really re-ignited just by being in visible contact with those ruins.  I came back to where I was living in San Francisco and I just wanted to be mentally in Rome all the time and I wanted to read a murder mystery set in ancient Rome because I was also getting very much into Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie at that time.  And at that time, the late 1980s, there really was not much of a historical mystery genre.  That’s a situation that’s changed a great deal now.  You can find sleuths in every time and place now.  But I wanted a crime novel set in ancient Rome.  I couldn’t find one.  I started reading the murder trials, the Cicero translated by Michael Grant, a wonderful Penguin volume.  Sort of a true crime fix and the very first oration was Cicero defending a man accused of murdering his own father, the most terrible crime in ancient Rome and I became riveted by that story, many fascinating details were in there, the politics factored into it.  I thought I think I can make a novel out of this and I think a year or two later, I had my first novel, Roman Blood, ready to share to an editor and from that point on for me that’s what I’ve been doing.  I’ve been writing these murder mysteries set in ancient Rome.

     Rob Cain:     Do you see any similarities between then and now?

     Saylor:    Many.  I mean there are some things that don’t change about human nature especially the bad parts:  the venal behavior, the politics, the cutthroat attitude.  One of the reasons that Rome is so popular and so fertile aground for movies and novels and popular entertainments is that we have so much material and so many kinds of material from the literary and visual sources.  We don’t just have history, we don’t just have speeches in the Senate and in courtrooms, as valuable as those are, but we also have erotic poetry.  We have cookbooks, we have all kinds of engineering manuals, we have so many things that we can get our hands on and really sort of have a touch feel experience about what the ancient Romans thought, what was important to them, how they expressed themselves.  Unfortunately, all of these works and virtually everything has been translated starting in the 1800s, scholars are still working on all of that and it’s an immense amount of material, but so much of it has remained available in so many ways, not just the literary but also the archeology.  We’re so fortunate to have had the entire city of Pompeii preserved for us, so much of Rome has been excavated; new things are being found still in the forum.  Every year there’s Yahoo headlines, just a couple of years ago, supposedly the Lupercal on the Palatine where supposedly Romulus and Remus suckled by the she-wolf and this was made into a monument by Augustus underground, supposedly they found that.  I’m a little dubious until they excavate, but there are still exciting things like that happening.  So we’re able to really kind of see ourselves in the Romans in many, many ways.  It’s a very multifaceted experience when you start researching them.

    Rob Cain:    Rome was a dangerous time, how does your hero stay alive?

    Saylor:    Well, one of my explanations for this, first of all lifespan in the ancient Rome, many people think it must have been intrinsically shorter but in fact people were able to live as long then as they can live now.  We know, for example, that Cicero’s wife live to be a hundred.  Now that was a notable thing that’s why it’s recorded in the book, but it was possible for people to live to be a hundred or maybe even older.  Physically, that was possible if you had a good life, if you haven’t worked really hard, if you had a good constitution obviously, most important good teeth.  You’ve got to have the teeth.  So people could live that long.  In Gordianus’ case, in spite the fact that he courts danger because of his livelihood, he does go out sort of snooping and looking for the truth and digging up the dirt about people, meeting prisoners, meeting assassins on taverns along the Tiber and so forth, so it puts himself in harms way quite often.  And he has faced near death on more than one occasion, but if he himself explains it, apparently the gods are interested in the story of his life.  And to him that’s an explanation of why he is still around.  The Romans really believe in fate and fortune and they didn’t entirely think that it was all up to you.  There were larger forces at work, above you, all around you.  Maybe protecting you, maybe trying to harm you.  This is why they try to ward off the evil eye and so forth.  But if the gods were on your side and most importantly the God Fortuna, the goddess of fortune; if things went your way then life was easy.  This is why the dictator Sulla called himself Felix, the fortunate, because everything worked out for Sulla.  How did that happen as wild the life as he lived, as much dangers he faced?  Everything went his way and Caesar was virtually the same way right up until the last act.  So in Gordianus’ case, the gods were interested in the story of his life.  To me that translate as, as long as the readers are interested in the story of his life there will be more volumes.  So he just keeps getting through the scrapes.

     Rob Cain:    Well, that brings up an interesting point on your next book.  Can you give us any clues?

     Saylor:    In the book I’m working on right now is the next Gordianus book, which is going to be a prequel that is going to go back to his younger days and it’s going to take him to see the Seven Wonders of the World.  Most of them still existed in his time.  This is about the time that we were getting the official lists of the Seven Wonders of the World, compiled by various poets and engineers and so forth and people actually took these itineraries.  They would go and see the Seven Wonders of the World, and it was possible to see them all in about the span of a year if you travel quickly.  So that’s going to take him to see the great temples, it’s going to take him to Olympia, Halicarnassus, it’s going to take him as far as Babylon when there really only ruins of the garden and walls and ultimately to Alexandria, the Lighthouse of the Pharaohs, and of course the pyramids in Egypt.  So that’s what I’m working on now.  Researching that is a lot of fun.  Of course it’s a topic everyone finds interesting.  And having Gordianus being a younger man will also be fun for me.  The origin of Gordianus has been sort of shrouded in mystery all through the series. 

    I should say what I am doing outside the Roma Sub Rosa mystery series.  I have been embarked on a whole other enterprise which is these big massive historical novels about Rome itself, kind of in the name of James Michener or Edward Rutherford who writes the big London books and so forth.  The first one was called Roma.  It’s about the first thousand years of Rome, a family saga.  This sort of transpires from the ancient days and the trade routes along the Tiber when there was no city at all at Rome just a little settlement up to the age of Caesar.  So you see, the time of Hannibal and before that Romulus and Remus and so forth.  And the next book I’ll have out which will be September of 2010 is a followup to that which is called Empire.  The same family is being taken forward into time,  only about 180 years.  The material is so rich once you start having the reign of Augustus up to the reign of Hadrian which is the absolute height of the empire.  So that’s the next book: Empire.

     Rob Cain:    What Roman history or Roman history novelist most influenced you?

     Saylor:    Not to say a Roman history novel, but a historical fiction set in the ancient world certainly I was very influenced in my younger days by Mary Renault, who when I was young was a big bestselling international author.  She started with her novels about Alexander, Fire from Heaven, followed by the Persian Boy, and she also wrote novels about Theseus, many other aspects of the ancient Greek world that was her fascination.  And those novels were superbly written.  They really took you back to the ancient Greek world and I think I read them when I was a teenager so they had a big influence on me.  The very idea of writing historical fiction I got that from her. 

    I’ve also read some of Robert Graves.  I’ve never actually read the I, Claudius novel.  I read his novels, Hercules, My Shipmate; once again about ancient Greece and several others.  I don’t read a lot of historical fiction.  I think historical fiction like science fiction tends to date pretty quickly so that nowadays when you read a historical novel that was written in the 1950s say in America and quite a few novels are written in the ‘50s set in the ancient world, they tend to tell you more about 1950s America than they tell you about ancient Rome.  Just the whole value set, if you think of the movie Ben Hur that’s really kind of a psycho history of the United States at that time and their value system.  So that writing historical fiction is really fraught with that peril trying to find something that’s timeless that’s not going to date that isn’t really about you and and your times.  I try to transcend that to some way in my own novels.  I don’t know how successful I am, but I wish that as far as other big influences I have to say the historian Michael Grant who once again when I was growing up as a boy in the ‘60s Michael Grant already had, I don’t know how many books in print, but quite a few. 

    I grew up in the town of Gulf Lake, Texas population 12,000, and as I began to be interested in something more serious about ancient Rome and say my Roman galley and see movies, I would go to the library and lo and behold whatever the subject I was looking for whether it was a biography of Cleopatra or Nero or book about the ancient historians, it seemed like Michael Grant had written a book about this, very prolific author and I guess his quality then struck me as very fine and it does even now as much history as I read, as many historians as I read when I read Michael Grant I just feel so comfortable in his scholarship, I feel so informed by his wisdom.  He’s no longer with us, but I’m actually dedicating Empire, my latest novel, to his memory.  We corresponded a very small amount.  I never actually meet him, I’m sorry to say.  But when I was writing Empire, one of the things that was really stomping me, this was getting me away from my comfort zone of the Roman Republic where the Roma Sub Rosa novels of Gordianus takes place and into the Empire which is kind of a different animal as far as the politics and the kind of history you read.  It’s all about the emperors; it’s all about the psychotherapy of the emperors.  You get away from the sort of politics of the Republic and I was having a little trouble getting a grip on the thought world of the Romans in this early imperial days.  Their thought world is so fraught with superstition, astrology, of course the ancient Roman religion which is still holding on, ideas about fate and fortune and of course the stoicism, philosophy is very important, man’s place in the world, submission to faith and so forth, but I was having a hard time threading this needle.  Trying to understand why, for example, astrology was so important.  The Roman emperors themselves accepted the importance of astrology.  They frequently ban all the astrologers in Rome because if you can get hold to the emperor’s horoscope, you might bring him down.  This was like a state secret.  Hadrian wouldn’t even allow anybody else to cast his horoscope.  He did it himself.  This was too private and important a matter.  But I was just having a hard time understanding why the Romans were so taken with this Babylonian practice of astrology as well as many other crazy cults they get started around this time.  And I’ve read a couple of books by Michael Grant about the specific period, one is called The Climax of Rome and the other is called The World of Rome.  And in many ways, they are companion volumes.  They were written a number of years apart, but they cover exactly the same ground which is the first centuries and the apex of the Roman Empire under people like Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius.  And I have to say, Michael Grant once again came to my rescue as he did with his translations of Cicero’s murder trials, as he did when I was a child and I was just looking for, you know good books about anything to do with ancient Rome.  When those two books, The Climax of Rome and The World of Rome, he lays out the Roman thought world in a way that I found so comprehensible, so compelling, so convincing that I just have to say Michael Grant is, by far, my favorite historian of the ancient world.

     Rob Cain:    Well, I want to thank you for coming on the show.  We’re looking forward to your next book and I hope you have a good day.

     Saylor:    Well, it’s been a pleasure and thank you for your podcast about ancient Rome, a subject which is still important today.

     Rob Cain:    I think so too. 


    How do we know?

     Someone googled the following question into their web site before coming to Ancient Rome Refocused.

    “How do we know that Spartacus died if his body was never found?”


    It is said when filming the scene where Spartacus was crucified that the director purposely called lunch for the crew and actors leaving Douglas still on the cross.

    It is a nice idea to think about.  That maybe he was able to get away, and wound up living on some island, but unfortunately reality is never quite like that.  Anyway, if he was captured after the battle he would have wound up with the same fate of being crucified on the road back to Rome.   The 1964 movie Spartacus with Kirk Douglas makes this claim, and this was in accordance with historical records which said over 6000 prisoners were crucified on both sides of the road all the way back to the gates of Rome. 

    No.  There is no direct evidence.  But in addition I doubt very many people laid eyes on  him.  Their encampment was probably very large,  over 140,000 slaves, and those familar with him were probably only the army’s leaders and his close family.   If the camp moved, it came by word of mouth.  If there were instructions, it came from underlings.   I am doubtful that there was anything even close to a camp roster.  Many in the Spartacus War died anonymously.  We know that there was a Spartacus, we know because of the meticulous accounting of slaves (seen as property) at that time.  We know he escaped to begin the slave war, and that is probably the one solid piece of data we have on him.  There were no pictures to record his likeness and only the rich could afford to have images made in their likenesses to preserve their names.

    Anyway, didn’t Spartacus kill his horse to prove to his army that he was going to stand with them to the end?  If this final act was true, it tells that he knew that there was no escape.


    pompeii1I noticed that someone dropped in on my blog site after googling the following: Funny skits about the Roman Empire.  One place to go to if you are looking for such entertainment is the 70s TV show: UP POMPEII.  No,  you would not find this on commercial American television, for it was far too bawdy, but it was right in keeping with the tradition of ancient Roman theater.   Believe it or not, it used to be on American Public Television usually running late at night.  It was a good show starring Frankie Howerd (correct spelling).  He played the part of Lurcio (prononced LURK-IO).  Now what you got to remember many Roman names had meanings, so a common joke is to give characters names that reflect their character.  “A slave that lurks…thus LURK-IO” get it?  He is owned by a master named Ludicrus Sextus (I suppose having sex with him would be ludicrous?) and a daughter named Erotica (who can’t get enough?).  And you can’t forget the son Nausius (another way to say nauscious?) who is in a continual state of virginity.  I think by now you caught on.  If you wonder what kind of show it was, it was probably right in line with the tradition of Roman Comedy.  There were lots of double entendres and many risque gags.   What influenced this show were the plays of Plautus for one thing, and during the 70s there was a hit broadway musical and film: A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM. 

    Titus Maccius Plautus (c. 254-184 B.C.) Writer of comedy, wrote bawdy and swift moving plots.  His plays were vulgar in the attempt to appeal to the uneducated classes.  Shakespeare borrowed his plot from the play THE TWIN BROTHERS for his comedy A COMEDY OF ERRORS.   The 70s stage musical and movie A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM was also based on his works.  

    Up Pompeii was made into a movie.  Below is the opening credits.  It is not high brow stuff, but why would you want your comedy to be high brow when you can  have scantily clad women, and off color jokes.  If  you don’t approve of such things, that’s OK!  The action of the TV show all took place in a town that would meet its fate soon enough at the foot of Mount Vesuvius.   Divine justice, right?


    Gladiators found in Ancient Britain

    Thanks to Art for sharing this article.  The comments in red are mine.

    June 7, 2010
    National Public Radio web site:

    Ancient skeletons excavated under the city of York in northern England have archaeologists wondering whether they’ve discovered a well-preserved cemetery full of fallen Roman gladiators. The first of the skeletons was discovered in 2003, and since then, more than 80 have been identified.

    Note*  I think I have heard about this report before,  except when I heard it  they were identified as Soldiers. I am a little surprized they are  now saying it was gladiators.    To execute 80 gladitors at once seems to me excessive and extremely costly, but to execute 80 Soldiers that were captured in war is something else.   

    The remains date between the 2nd and 3rd centuries, the period during which the Romans occupied northern England. The skeletons had been decapitated — and that was a key reason researchers thought they had been gladiators, says John Walker, chief executive of the York Archaeological Trust, which conducted the research.

    Two other clues that they could be gladiators: One arm is generally bigger than the other, and the bones overall are heftier than usual.

    Note*  Again…why does it have to be gladiators?  Twenty five years in the legions, and you tell me how your arm would look? 

    “They were big men for the time — 5-foot-7, 5-foot-8 — two inches bigger than average. They were heavy guys — about 170, 175 pounds, which was big for them — and very muscular,” Walker tells NPR’s Melissa Block. “So then we had all these big sturdy guys, all of whom had been decapitated.”

    Walker says a muscular person’s bones will be different from those with a slight build.

    “A very slightly built person will have very smooth bones with no real ridges,” Walker says. “Somebody who’s very muscular, the bone is actually quite different — you get these ridges that develop on them.”

    In addition, Walker says, some of the skeletons had been hit on the head with a hammer before being decapitated.

    “That has always been suspected as a thing that happens to some gladiators. They get hit on the head first to render them unconscious,” Walker says.

    Note*   A common foot Soldier though smaller in stature than most people today, would still be quite muscular considering you are able to march 25 miles a day and carry 75 pounds on your back.  Because they were big does not convince me that they had to be gladiators.  I am not disputing the use of the hammer but, “to render them unconscious” was not the purpose of using a hammer on the back of the head.  The purpose is to kill them.  Yes, it’s true…the hammer was applied to dispatch badly wounded gladators, and to make sure they were not faking their wounds.   I just don’t think that its use proves their identify.  

    What’s more, there is evidence of large animal teeth marks in some bones, suggesting lion or tiger bites.

    Now, some theories about these skeletons don’t involve gladiators.

    For example, Walker says, these men might have been prisoners. But where that theory falls apart is the animal bites. “Normally we’d expect those kinds of executions to really be quite straightforward, quite clean, no exposure to animals or anything else,” Walker says. “They’re a military discipline thing, not a spectacle.”

    Note * Why not prisoners?  Why not Soldiers that were captured in one of the many revolts that took place in BRITAIN.  The excuse that because they had animal bites they had to be gladiators doesn’t hold water for me because we don’t know what kind of executions the indigenious British Culture would have found acceptable.  Anyway, the Romans were  quite fond of throwing people to animals for entertainment.   Why wouldn’t the early Briton’s like a good bestarii show of their own.  No one was ever thrown to the wolves or a bear in England before?

    There is other evidence that gladiators may have fought in northern England during the Roman Empire.

    “There is an arena we believe somewhere in York, but we haven’t found it,” Walker says. “What we do have is a couple of stone inscriptions from about a half-mile away that by the way they’re phrased suggest possible gladiatorial links. We also have a drawing from a tomb; carved into the stonework of the tomb is a gladiator as well.”

    On June 14, the researchers will launch a Web site with the basic evidence so the public can vote. The vote is a good way of introducing people to the problems of archaeology, Walker says.

    Note* If they are launching a website so that the public can vote, tells me that the researchers are not entirely sure themselves.

    “All our statements are a balance of probabilities. The past always remains an unknown thing,” Walker says. “But I like to think that after 40 years of digging holes, maybe my guess is slightly better than the average, but not a lot.”

    Note* The last quote is a very true statement, and I applaud the guy for it.


    Results of Time Travel Survey

    Time Travel Survey Report

     Subject: Review of Statistics and possible conclusions.

     Background: The data in this survey was inspired from the podcast: Time Travel is Easy, Time Travel is Hard.  On the blog site a survey was placed asking respondents to answer twelve questions on the premise that they were being recruited to travel back to 51 B.C. for a period of two years.  The information gathered was to test psychological and motivation for survival in this period. 

    Due to low survey numbers the results in this report are open to wide interpretation.  The readers of this post are encouraged to give their opinion in the comments box provided (shape of a thought balloon at the top of the post).

    Question 1.

    Are you willing to risk your life by traveling to 51 B.C.?

    Yes: 25 votes

    No:  15 votes

    Total: 40

    Analysis:  We have no shortage of volunteers for this mission.  There are many brave people out there who would gladly face the unknown.  After all, exploring is in man’s nature, and what greater adventure other than exploring new worlds is this opportunity?  Wait…in a way this IS EXPLORING A NEW WORLD.  I am guessing most people are willing to say yes, for a variety of motives.  This we did not explore in the survey.   Question.  Would our numbers have changed if time travel was a certainty like the certainty of using a car?        

    Question 2.

    What kind of weapon are you skilled with?

    Short sword and shield:  2 votes.

    Long sword:                         5 votes

    Dagger:                                   8 votes

    Spear:                                      1 vote

    Bow and Arrow:                 7 votes

    Sling:                                      2 votes

    Hand to Hand:                    9 votes.

     Total: 34

     Analysis: This question is flawed.  I should have had a box that asked, “NO WEAPON SKILLs.’  I wonder if the answers are more “What I would like to use”  than actual skill.  Yet, Hand to Hand and the Bow and Arrow are two skills still in vogue today.  Many people use archery as a sport, hobby, (including hunting), and the over all popularity of Karate, Judo and other forms are self-defense can be seen in almost every city.  Hand to hand is required training in most military and police occupations.  I have no reason to doubt the results.  The numbers gathered on the use of Short sword and shield and long sword I am not so sure of, unless there are a few members of the Anachronistic Society taking this survey.  These are folk skilled in such weaponry, and can be see at exhibitions bashing each other over the head, which takes considerable skill and fortitude and to me is keeping history alive through weaponry.   The numbers on the dagger surprised me, but this too I can understand for it is easily concealable, and knife collecting is still a pastime. But the sling is the most surprising to me.  There are people that have practiced with a sling?  Those of you that checked this box please tell me about it?  Is there an Olympic Division in this sport?  

     Question 3. 

     Do you faint at the sight of blood?

     Yes: 1 vote.

    No:  37 votes

    Total 38

    Analysis: I judge the validity of the results to this question to be high. 

    Question 4.

    What skills do you have that would make money in a pre-electronic age?

    Baker:             4 votes

    Bricklayer:   6 votes

    Surgeon:       3 votes

    Soothsayer:   10 votes  

    Analysis:  This question may be slightly flawed in that I should have opened it up to other inputs.  However, many people are quite capable of baking bread and doing bricklaying.  Bricklaying had the second highest score and I am assuming that there are many people that have tried their hand, or they have manual skills that are quite capable of handling such a task.  Surgeon surprised me at a score of 3.  I have to think we have either had 3 doctors who read my blog, or 3 people that fully realize that any medical knowledge from the modern era would be a vast improvement of what they knew then.  A nurse practitioner could set up a very nice practice in 51 B.C. or even a guy with a book titled: The American Red Cross First Aid and Safety Book.    And as for Soothsayer coming in with a score of 10 tells me that I have some very smart people taking the survey.  In truth, being from the future YOU ARE A SOOTHSAYER.  This is a very easy job, and would be the most effective if your clients included Caesar, Pompey, Antony, or Octavian.  Soothsaying was big at that time, but a warning.  Your knowledge of the future would be limited to large events, and people that made the history books of the time, but you have NO knowledge of let’s say…Sismosis of Tarsus (this is no one special, I just made the name up) who is visiting Rome.  He is lost to history, and your predictions would have as much credence as any other horoscope reading today.  Wait…that isn’t so bad considering many of them make a very good living at it.

    Question 5.

    What ancient language do you speak?

    Latin:                  7 votes

    Greek:                 4 votes

    Persian:              1 vote

    No ancient Language:    20 votes

     Total votes: 31

     Analysis:  I judge the validity of the results to this question to be high.  The score of 20 on No ancient Language increases my confidence of the results.   People are basically honest.  Latin at the second highest score of 7 is not surprising as it is used in the sciences, classical historians, and the Catholic Church.   And even Ancient Greek is studied today, and I know of a person that took classes where they translated the Illiad from the original Greek to English.  Latin would be a good first choice, with Greek as a good follow up for it was considered a mark of a good education.  Persian?  Maybe I should have added the following choices: Aramaic? Balkan?  Anatolian? Indo-Iranian?   The question is how many people would have understood these languages in Rome, but I am happy to note that we had a reader who studies it.    

     Question 6

     Do you wear corrective lenses?

     Yes:                     12 votes

    No:                       21 votes

    Contact lens:   3 votes

     Total 36

     Analysis:   I judge the validity of the results to this question to be high, but the reader may question why this question was asked at all.  What difference does it make?  Well, if you are going back into time, corrective lenses are something that would make you stand out, and that is something you don’t want to have happen.  Glasses were invented just a few hundred years ago, and at one time were considered to be high technology.  If you decide to take the trip back to 51 B.C. your vision better be pretty good.   You want to see the dangers coming at you so you can decide if its time fight or run!

     Question 7.

     You meet Julius Caesar.  In conversation he says that his ancestor is the Goddess Venus.  You do the following.

     Laugh in his face: 1 vote

    Ask to sacrifice in his name at the closest temple: 23 votes

     Analysis:  I have a hard time believing that the person who answered “Laugh in his face” took the survey seriously.  If you want a death wish, go ahead…laugh in his face.  Caesar killed thousands in the pursuit of power, what do you think he would do to you if you insulted his ancestry AND his dignatus? Saying that he is the ancestor of Venus, is NOT A JOKE.  He actually believed it, or was determined for others to believe it for it added to his prestige. I am again gratified at the intelligence of the survey takers in that the majority recognized the context of the conversation and answered “Ask to sacrifice” as important to their survival.  Good job.

     Question 8.

     Have you ever been in a fight where your life was at stake?

     Yes: 9 votes

    No:  29 votes

     38 Total.

     Analysis:  I judge the validity of the results to this question to be high.  Now, why should I ask this question at all?  Send a time traveler back you better have someone used to the possibility of danger.  Law enforcement began at home.  Weapons were kept for hunting and protection.  In the times we live in now, it is VERY possible that the 9 who answered YES may have indeed fought for their lives in any number of circumstances.  It all depended if they live in a very rough neighborhood (the surbura and certain parts of LA could be compared very easily) or are now members of the armed forces that are now “fighting for their lives” in actually battle.  If my survey was truly accurate and scientific we would need additional information on those that answered yes.

     Question 9.

     You have been given an invitation to a gladiatorial game.  Accepting this invitation no doubt you will watch men being slaughtered in combat, or men killed and eaten by wild animals.  This person offering the ticket could make your life very pleasant if you accept.  What do you do?

     Say no. It would be horrible:              2 votes

    Pretend to watch, but keep my eyes down:   7 votes

    Make an excuse at the last minute:         4 votes

    Are you kidding?  It would be great!:      23 votes    

     Analysis:  This one worried me.  More said they would be happy to attend a gladiatorial game.  Ouch.  On the other hand if you were one of the individuals that said ‘yes’ to taking in the gladiatorial game with gusto you would have been put at the top of the selection list.  In this situation ‘fitting in’ is the most important thing.  But I warn you, to those of you that think you would not be affected by witnessing the games, read the writings of Saint Augustine.  He tells the tale of his friend Alphius.  The law student was dragged to the game when he boasted that he would turn his eyes away from the carnage, but when his determination was tested by his ‘friends’ he became totally trapped by it.  Afterwards, he attended the game on his own, and took others to view it.  He began to love it.  Those of you that said that you would “Pretend to watch” which was 7 of you, remember that is what Alphius tried to do and FAILED. 

     Question 10.

     It is 51 B.C.  You have been given the choice of throwing in your lot with Julius Caesar, Pompey, or Marc Antony.  Which faction do you join?

     Caesar:   23 votes

    Pompey:  2 votes

    Antony:  8 votes     

     Analysis:  This was a test for the respondent to grade their awareness of history, and situational awareness.  Most of those surveyed passed the test.  Respondents answered 23 for Caesar and 8 for Antony.  Caesar was dominate during this time period, and the 8 that picked Antony is not a bad answer either since he was Caesar’s right hand man.  Those who picked Pompey might have a problem.  Your armies will be defeated, and you will be on the run.   Of course, if you knew that Pompey eventually gets defeated and you were trying to change history, then that is another post for another blog.

     Question 11.

     A friend of your believes in the God Mithras.  He wants you to join him/her in a ritual where each of you will shower in the blood of a slaughtered bull to wash away your sins and bring forth vast powers in your spirit.  You need this person’s friendship to survive the next two years in relative comfort.  What do you do?

     Turn them down politely: 3 votes

    Tell him/her that you belong to a special sect of Apollo that forbids you from taking part: 3 votes

    Look at him/her like they are crazy and walk away: 3 votes

    Take the show in the bulls blood and like it: 27 votes<

     Analysis: When in Rome, do what the Roman’s do. Those that answered “take the shower” are more likely to survive.  The majority of respondents understood what was at stake.  In ancient Rome FRIENDS are the most important thing one can have.  I predict if you are flexible enough to bath in bull’s blood, you are flexible enough to do anything to survive.       

     Question 12.

     How much money would it take for you to consider taking the trip to 51 B.C.?

     Do it for nothing: 6

     One person said, “In it for the adventure.”

     One Hundred dollars:    1

    Five hundred dollars:     1

    One thousand dollars:   1

    Five thousand dollars:   1

    One Hundred Thousand:   1

    One million:                           1

    Three million:                       1

    Five million:                         5 

    10 million:                             1

     Assorted sums in Yen and Euro

     One person said, “Twenty Thousand gold coins.” (Note* I like how this person thinks.)

     Analysis:  Those that said they would do it for the adventure tells me the allure of the past is strong.  Imagine coming back and writing your book.  What would you call it? 

     Suggested Title: Real Time in Ancient Rome. 

     It would be on the best seller list for years.

     Many of you indicated that a payment was necessary.  I can understand this.   There should be an award for risking your life.  Why not?  

     End of Survey.


    SDC10136My wife bought me a gift, in honor of conducted an interview the author Steven Saylor.  To my surprize Saylor and I  both had the same REMCO Galley ship toy when we were both kids.  Check out my podcast (Episode 4) of ANCIENT ROME REFOCUSED,  and my earlier post here on the blog titled: “Sail on the Wine Blue Sea” to see a photo of the original toy from the 60s.   My wife got me the PlayMobil Roman Galley, making it clear that it was for 5 to 8 year-olds…so it would be perfect for me.  HA!

    It now sits on my book shelf as a  reminder of my old one, and a place for my imagination as I work on another episode for the podcast.   I have christened her: THE SEA CHASER.

     Unfortunately, the crew ran into the sea monster Charybdis.

    Chaybdis (aka Sherlock) of the Sea

    Charybdis (aka Sherlock) attacks! The crew made a valiant effort to fight the sea monster off. Those of you that have a hard time with carnage, please look away.

    The crew noticed it had an unnatural desire for the rigging of the ship.   It seemed determined to pull the rigging off the ship and chew on it.  Horrors! 

    The sea monster goes for the rigging.  Why?  By the Gods!


    The crew used the Scorpian (spear catapult) to fight off the creature, and before we knew it Charybdis used it’s giant teeth in an attempt to bite the rope from the mast.    
    Burp!  Sorry.

    Burp! Sorry.

    Oh great Jupiter!  Save us from this hairy beast. Soon the creature calmed down and looked up from the carnage and said: “Send me more Romans!  For I am hungry.” 

    Fortunately, a salmon treat satisfied his blood lust.   Thank you God Neptune!  (Director’s Note*  No cat was hurt in the making of this post to Ancient Rome Refocused).


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