Religion, Rituals, and War

(Members of the Ancient Rome Refocused Group got into a discussion on Facebook.  What do you think?  Either click on the comment balloon on the upper right or join in on the discusson over on Facebook.  Either way we want to hear from you.)

William Glover

In working on my research that early Roman and eastern cultures had a very strong element of ritual behavior in both the the the wars/battle began to the end of the conflicts. That was an element the the Romans in their way had modified within their culture that confounded their enemies. Thoughts?

Rob Cain

Ancient style Psychological Operations? We have the favor of the gods so get ready to die?

Antonio Rodriquez

I remember Rome’s early wars were declared by the ritual act of throwing a spear from the Forum, to the general direction of the enemy territory.  And also, of course, by an Augur reading the signs of the Gods. Many of these rituals are of Etruscan origin.

William Glover

I have given much thought to the above thoughts, as during the evolution of the Roman people and it’s Legions the legacy of Numa during the period of the kings among others had a great influence on Roman culture. The other peoples of Italy and both the East and west that helped to form Rome and it’s Legions, in looking at what evidence the archaeology offers the mosaic of languages and material culture due give hints as to their influence. The space allowed here makes it difficult to present some of ideas that have popped up during my work, such as the behavior of some Roman generals and they way they used and informed their Armies. I can think of at lest two generals in the conflicts of the 300’s and 200’s that managed to the officers and NCO’s that reminded me of the behavior of the paratroopers in the WW 2 drop into Sicily, but I go on too long.

Laura Lynch

My only comment is that is that rituals seem so innate to man since the beginning. Battle rituals (and other rituals) provide bonding and obedience, inspiration and comfort, an opportunity for storytelling, a source of propaganda (scare the enemy), a source of strength and a bit of superstitious magical thinking.

William Glover

That has been part of my thinking in working on this and in some ways the roman’s used those thoughts in both how Rome in all it’s aspect’s like other cultures did at the time and earlier, and used it for a tactical advantage against it’s enemies.

Rob Cain

I’m racking my brain on rituals before battle and the only thing I remember right now is the killing of chickens (At the battle Drepana during the First Punic War, an admiral named Publius Claudius Pulcher did not get the ritual correct I believe), the other is the ritual of the JANUS door that was left open (of course this was a large national symbol rather than an Army Level symbol…question…did not the American eagle have the lightning bolts at one time in the right hand as opposed as its now held in the left?) I’m been fascinated by an account of music being overheard leaving the city of Alexandria before Octavian took the city from Antony – the music being interpreted and I’m sure spread about the city by Anthony’s enemies as “the gods leaving and taking their protection with them.”

Antonio Rodriquez

What about the role geese played during the siege of Rome by the Gauls? And the ritual sacrifice of a dog, each year, as a reminder of their failing to warn the Romans?

William Glover

As the American eagle with lighting bolts the SAC and Air Force have that/had that in their flags and patches, and the DOD may still have that symbolism. The accounts of Legion eagles turning or being difficult to remove has been noted before battles or campaigns the when badly for the army and the generals. The knowledge of both lunar and solar eclipses were used to calm Roman troops and allies and were it seems an added element to discomfort enemy forces. Just as the reports of the turning of statues and other event of the same nature effected the political life of Rome. In Gaul the destruction of shrine sites may have been used to both effect the civilian population and push the enemy to fight on unfavorable ground or before there full forces could be consolidated, as the more disciplined legion had a advantage over the more individualist fighting style of the Gauls. having Generals such as Caesar who was both an auger and chief priest omens could be worked in a creative for your army.

(Anyone got a comment? What do you think?)

A song to Mrs. Anderson

Oh muse,

I sing a song to Mrs. Anderson

5th grade teacher,

Singer of mythological gods and goddesses

Zeus, Apollo, Athena

Bringing Olympus to those who worship gods of another pantheon

Captain Kangaroo,  Mr. Rodgers and Bozo the Clown

It was the 60s.  I sat in a class taught by Mrs. Anderson.  I am ashamed to say I can not remember her name, not even the sound of her voice.  All I remember is she looked old, as ancient as the gods themselves.  Which brings me to my points.  We started the year reading short stories from O’Henry and chapters from Twain, but the moment we turned our attention to the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece I was hooked. 

Mrs. Anderson was the one who introduced us to the subject of Greek Mythology.  Days were spent watching Hercules clean the Augean stables, learning the meaning of the sword of Damocles hanging from the ceiling, and feeling the weight of the world shift on the shoulders of Atlas.  All of this came in large illustrated books, in drawings of bright color and ink.  The classroom was now filled with picture books of centaurs, harpies, warriors with sword and shields, and beautiful maidens.  The only world I knew at that time was the street on Woodbine Avenue, this was my universe, but under Mrs. Anderson’s tutelage I traveled with Jason and his Argonauts, slept under the stars, and saw the clashing peaks.  

From her chalkboard (do they still have them in schools?) she listed the names of the gods and the goddesses, and drew Mount Olympus peeking out between the clouds.  It was when she got to the subject of Troy, the gleaming towers of Illium, that I was hooked for life.  Who can resist the stories of Paris, Hector, Agamemnon, and the greatest warrior Achilles?  And the Trojan horse – what boy does not like secreting away inside a hiding place to spring forth to everyone’s surprise?  What boy can resist the darkened raid upon the town, and burning Trojans from their beds?  To take the town by stealth is every boys dream, a ten-year-old is a natural marauder, a Spartan just inches below the skin.  Boys are barbarians barely civilized by their parents, restrained to sit at the table while fireflies cover the backyard to be chased, and home-made forts are waiting to be taken on the battlements next to the garage.  I dreamed that I was the black bearded Ajax, whose shield had painted the winking man, and the tongue stuck out for his enemies to see.  A ‘raspberry’ [phhhtttt] in the face as you attack the enemies’ line. 

“I have a special project for you all today,” Mrs. Anderson announced one day.  “I want you to team up and 3 other students and act out a myth.”

A myth, AND A PLAY AS WELL!  I am paired with two guys and one girl.  I only remember the name of one of them Jim Bell, because he followed me to high school.   Jim Bell was big on plays and theatrics. 

We were assigned to read a myth and then act it out.  We were allowed to make up the lines as we went along.  I chose the myth of Philemon and Baucus an elderly couple that receive Zeus and Hermes into their home on one rainy night.  The two great gods have come to earth to destroy mankind, having great doubts of man’s goodness.  They turned themselves into beggars, and knocked on door after door, and each time the door was slammed in their faces.  It wasn’t until they got to the house of Baucus and Philemon that the door opened, and to their wonder they were invited in.    I was Philemon, the old man, and I played it to the hilt.  His character was doddering, impatient, but basically good and upon opening the door and seeing the two gods (who according to legend looked like beggars to his eyes) dragged them inside into his hut.  I did it in high-camp, with almost vaudeville effect. 

“Eh?  Eh?  What are you two doing out in the rain?  Baucus!  Where is that woman?  Set a table for these men.”

As the story goes, every time we filled their cups with wine the jug magically refilled itself.  

My eyes pantomimed the jug filling up and up again as I poured.

“This is the first time this jug has ever done that?  I got to get another one.  Baucus who sold us this contraption?  We got to get another one.”

The class loved it. 

We then reacted the part where we decide to slaughter the goose for dinner.  The creature runs for its life, and Baucus and Philemon run about the stage, limping and trying desperately trying to get a hand on his neck. 

Pandemonium followed.

“Don’t get on his lap for protection,” I said to Mr. Goose who sits on the lap of Zeus for protection.  “He won’t help you.  Sir, grab him and twist his neck.  Dinner, by the gods.”

It is then Zeus and Hermes decide to reveal themselves.  Both students (gods) drop their cloaks, and their mortal disguises as well.  

I couldn’t help myself.  I gasped: a nice long one, boarding on silly, as if I am about to die of lack of oxygen right there in front of the classroom.


The room is laughing, I even hear a chuckle out of Mrs. Anderson sitting in the back of the room.

Immediately I fall on my knees to worship.  Looking at my wife  Baucus I say, “What are you doing old woman.  Get on your knees, it’s the gods!”  I turn to Zeus, “Sorry sir, women now-a-days!”


Jim Bell (playing the role of Zeus) explains why he and Hermes are present.  “We came to destroy mankind.  Every door we came to slammed in our faces, but yours and yours alone opened in the spirit of hospitality.  In honor of your kindness, I grant you and your wife immortality.  You shall always be together.”  He waves his hands and Baucus and Philemon suddenly sprout branches where their branches intertwine. 

“I always liked holding hands with you sweety,” I said as we are transformed into trees. 


The 5th grade class applauded. 

There’s a moral to this story.  Can you guess? 

Treat everyone with dignity and with hospitality lest they be gods.  

I think there is similar advice found in Hebrews 13:2

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for be doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

If anyone related to Mrs. Anderson is reading this (she taught at the Oliver Wendell Holmes School in Oak Park, Illinois in the 1960s) I want to thank you for what she did.  She couldn’t possibly be alive, for it was so long ago, but I believe firmly that there is a setting at the gods table high on Mount Olympus for her, a place of honor, so she can listen to the gossip of the gods.  She opened up the universe to a classroom of children who knew little else but their small neighborhoods around them.  She sparked their imaginations, and for a couple of weeks we were carried across the world and back through time to Ancient Greece and the mythology of its time.

I will never forget her. 

(What teacher or professor changed your perspective on the ancient world?  Here are a few comments from Facebook:)

Joey Hill —  Mrs Mowery in my sophmore year of high school. World History, went from the fertile cresent to the modern age in one school year, and I loved every minute of it. :)

Jordan Harbour —  Dr. Shrimpton, Ancient Greek History. I walked into University a Roman man. I walked out a Greek.

William Glover – Dr. William Spallding at UCSB I learned more about archaelogy and asking the right questions of the data, over a cup of coffee with him than in hours in the classroom.   He was my mental guide in all my field work.

Justin McDonald - Mr. Anderson and Mr. Armstrong at Kingswood High school in the 80s.  Greek and Roman, both went out of their way to bring it alive, we did a extra unit of  ‘Ancient’ during lunch and before school as they wouldn’t put it in the timetable.  Great teachers, we used to have “Join the Greek Navy and sail off the End of the World”  tee-shirts.  Good Stuff.

Mark Schauss – The late Dr. Paul Avrich of Queens College in NYC.  He was the most amazing professor.  Made me love Russian history in particular.

Paul LaFountain – Dr. Carol Leonard and the link between history and economics.

Interview with Eric Shanower

Rob Cain:    We have on the phone Mr. Eric Shanower who is the writer and illustrator of the graphic novel, The Age of Bronze.  Welcome to Ancient Rome Refocused.


Writer / Illustrator Eric Shanower at the Covention Wondercon.  He is holding in his hand copies of his latest work based on the Wizard of Oz.

Writer / Illustrator Eric Shanower at the Convention Wondercon. He is holding in his hand copies of his latest work based on the Wizard of Oz.

Eric:    Thank you very much, Rob.  I’m glad to be here.

Rob:    Before we get started, I just want to say I was searching through the stacks of the library of Alexandria, my Alexandria, not the famous one, and I came across your graphic novel on Troy, and I was immediately drawn to it.  The drawings were realistic, the story line intriguing, and some of the characters seem slightly flawed which made it more interesting.  Part of the founding principles of what I’m trying to do on Ancient Rome Refocused is to talk to people that are keeping history alive either through research, education, hobbies or in their art, and I know that graphic novels are big in Europe and Japan and are certainly popular here in the US, but it seems to me that you stepped away from illustrating superheroes and have instead taken on mythological ones.  Is there much difference between the two?

 Eric:   Well, I think there is.  Drawing superheroes has never been my biggest focus in my career as a cartoonist.  I just take those jobs when they’re offered to me and I have time, but writing and drawing Age of Bronze is my major project at the moment and has been for quite a number of years and will be for a quite few more years.  It’s much more personal project to me because I’m telling the story of the Trojan War in the way that I think is the most dramatic and most exciting way to do it.  I’m just trying to re-tell the story for today’s audience and make it as exciting as possible for readers of today.

 Rob:    What drew you to this story?  Why this subject as a graphic novel?

 Eric:    I really like Greek mythology when I was a kid, and I went through a period where I read a lot of it, got lots of books out of the library, children versions of the Greek myths.  The story of Troy never really appealed to me as a child.  I knew various things about it, the things that most people know.  Helen and the wooden horse, things like that.  But it wasn’t until I was an adult and I was finishing a major project and was testing around for another project to start, and I happen to be listening to a book on tape called The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam by Barbara Tuchman who is a historian.  She is an American.

 A chapter on the Trojan War, I found it really, really intriguing.  I realized that there were many, many different versions of the story of the Trojan War that Homer’s Iliad was only the ageofbronze4abeginning, and I thought it would be a really great comic book series to take the complete story of the Trojan War, take all the different versions that I could possibly find and smush them all together and reconcile all the contradictions and also set it in the correct time period using the history and the archeology of the places where it occurred. 

 Just the idea of that made me really excited.  At that time, this is back in 1991.  I realized that it would be a very large project that I wasn’t sure I really wanted to take on something so large.  But every once in awhile, I’ll be in a bookstore and book that has something to do with the Trojan War would certainly pop from the shelves into my hands almost and after awhile I realized I did enough enthusiasm to see this project through the end.  I started working on it, started the research and eventually sold the project and have been working on the comic book for the first issue that was published in 1998.  The first collective volume came out in 2001.  So, that’s how Age of Bronze came into being, and I just thought Trojan War was a fascinating story.  It’s one of the world’s oldest stories.  It’s retold over and over again in every generation.  I guess, I’m just one of the latest re-tellers.

Rob:    How long did it take you to research the book?

 Eric:   Well, I began real researching about 1992.  I felt I had enough to at least start working on it in…let’s see.  I think I began writing scripts around ‘96, and then I actually began drawing in ‘97.  I’m still doing research, but the major stuff is I’ve complete within the first 4 or 5 years.  Every once in awhile, though, particularly for archaeological stuff that I have to draw some item that I just don’t have any information on and I have to go do some research on that.

 The story of the Trojan War has been retold so many times in so many different version that I am sure I will never find every single reference to it no matter how many years I keep looking.  Of course, all the major retellings, the Iliad, the Aeneid all with tragedies that address the Trojan War, things like that.  I was able to gather very quickly because they’re quite so prominent in our literature, but there are so many, many obscure things, obscure plays particularly like from 1700.  There weren’t major works and many of them have been lost or just in single copies, so I have to do a lot of research in library

 With things like that, often, they actually don’t have much to my knowledge of the story, the very obscure things or their parodies or developments of some episode which just won’t fit in very well, but I try to expose myself to all of these different versions and hope that aspects of them come across at least in my conception.  It’s just sort of a big…I put everything into plot and just as the story unfolds and I have to develop where it is going.  I hope that it goes to every single version that I have been exposed to will end up in the finished product.  Once Age of Bronze is finished, it will have at least an echo of every single version of the Trojan War that I’ve ever heard of, that I ever read or heard.

webRob:    Frankly, I think the drawings are magnificent.  There are beautiful renderings of the human form which made me kind of wonder.  Are you self-taught artist or did you attend a certain school?

 Eric:   Well, I’ve drawn all my life and I draw all the time.  When I was growing up, I would cover all my homework, assignments with drawings on the back.  So, in some instance, yeah, I’m self-taught, but I also have taken art lessons all my life.  My parents were supportive of my interests and they would send me to art classes.

 After high school, I attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art which is a small trade school in New Jersey which basically trains people to enter the field of comics to become cartoonists.  They also have graphic design and some animation classes, but their main thrust is comic books, and that’s what I wanted to do.

 Rob:   Do you always have an interest in ancient history?

74683-9440-77684-1-age-of-bronze_super Eric:   (Laughs)  No.  I did not.  All my knowledge of the Bronze Age Aegean has come from the necessity of studying all these stuff for Age of Bronze.  I like ancient Egypt.  I saw the travelling exhibit of the King Tut’s treasures which was in the country in ‘77.  I saw it in Chicago.  And for a long time, I wanted to do graphic novel based in Ancient Egypt.  I was actually planning this in the early 90’s but the wealth of information they have from ancient Egypt was just really overwhelming.  I was finding tons and tons of books trying to assimilate all this information into my idea for a story, and I just sort of got bug down.

 Once I had the idea to re-tell the Trojan War story, I started looking at books on the archeology of the period, and I was really, really relieved to find that all the books basically have all the same images time after time.  So while there’s nowhere near the amount of information that we have from the Bronze Age of Aegean world that we do from ancient Egypt.  It just made my task a lot easier.  I can get my head around it.

 There is a lot of information we have from ancient Greece and ancient Troy, but it’s nowhere nearer with what we have from ancient Egypt.

 Rob:   The armor of the Trojans and Greek heroes seemed to be slightly different than how it’s usually portrayed in Hollywood.  When you see certain type of helmets and everything, whenever they do anything about Greeks, it’s always portrayed in a certain way, but your armor seems more real but clunkier, harder to put on.  Did you research the armor?  Or did you find that maybe that most Hollywood film do it the wrong timeframe or… is it me?

Eric:    (Laughs) It’s not you.  Yeah, Hollywood tends to use that’s from a later period.  I guess, they think it looks cooler or else they think that’s what people are going to expect.  For instance, lots of Hollywood used Corinthian helmets or ancient Greece no matter what period it’s in, thus Corinthian helmets didn’t exist during the Bronze Age, so I can’t use those.

 I am setting Age of Bronze in the 13th century BCE specifically the time when…if the Trojan War really happened, this is what I hope it would have looked like.  I do pass a bit of a wide net.  I will take artifacts from the 14th century BCE and use them.  I can’t find something that I need from the 13th century.  So, I may be a little bit anachronistic but I’m certainly not as anachronistic as the Hollywood tends to be.

 I tried to be very, very as authentic as possible.  I can’t claim that I’m completely authentic.  Every once in awhile, I do something and then a few years later I’ll find some information that tells me what I did was wrong in the first issue of Age of Bronze.  I did some things that I wish I haven’t done, that I haven’t drawn now.  For instance, there is an animal enclosure, an enclosure for cows, and I wished I had not drawn these spear-like projections to keep predators away.  I should have just put thorny branches on the top of the walls as a deterrent to predators, but I didn’t know that at that time, and I just did the best I could.  That’s all that I can claim.  I’m doing the best I can.

 Rob:   Well, I think a lot of people when they’re writing books about ancient history, they do research and they make their best guess.  In historical novels that I’ve read, I’ve seen at the end of the book something like, “I did my best to try to put together an image of that timeframe.  If someone knows better, that’s great.”  You know, you just have to do what you can.

 Eric:   Right.

 Rob:   I’ve looked at photographs of the archeological site and I could be wrong but there’s a familiar image of two lions over a stone gate in your graphic novel, and chariots are going underneath with spearmen marching behind the chariots, and this kind of pricked my memory of seeing a similiar gate in a photograph.  Did you try to incorporate some of the walls and photography into your drawings?

The REAL Lion's gate in Mycenae.  The movie Troy puts it in Priam's Throne Room.  Shanower wonders how the producters thought no one would notice.

The REAL Lion's gate in Mycenae. The movie Troy puts it in Priam's Throne Room. Shanower wonders how the producers thought no one would notice.

 Eric:   Yeah.  Well, that specific gate, that’s the Lion Gate at Mycenae scene which is still there.  That was part of the walls of Mycenae.  Mycenae is an important location in the Trojan War.  That’s where the high king, Agamemnon, rules.  I was determined to put that into Age of Bronze since that is what would have been there at the time or probably was there at the time.  The Lion Gate was new in the late Bronze Age.  It seems to have been built about the middle of the 13th century BCE, so maybe it wasn’t up yet whatever events beside the Trojan War were happening but I have drawn it at Age of Bronze.  I tried to be as authentic as possible in all the architecture, all the aspects, all the clothes, all the hair, all the weapons, all the armor, the chariots, the landscape.  Whatever I’m drawing, I want to be authentic as possible.  As I said before, I can’t claim.  I can’t claim that this is exactly what it looked like but I’ll do my best.

I went to Troy in 2006 much, much later.  I’ve been working on a project at Oahu.  I went to Troy and hiked around the area, took lots of photos, have some videos, I did some sketching.aob30  Last fall, I went…I finally got to Greece and saw the Mycenae.  I went to sites there.  I went to Mycenae, saw the Lion Gate where they’ve retouched it with photographs, especially great.

Rob:    How did that make you feel?  I only ask because it’s something that I’ve kind of dreamed about myself.  Everybody has a different idea of what it will feel like.  So many say it’s just a stone, and some people may get all sorts of things from it.  I don’t know.  It’s just a thought.

Eric:    When I went to Troy I expected to be sort of in awe a little bit.  But when I got there, I don’t think…I wasn’t really in awe.  It was like, “Oh, yeah.  This is what it looks like,” because I’ve seen so many photographs.  I’ve seen it described.  Beside the Troy, it seemed a lot smaller than I had imagined it.  But, you know, what I was there for in the Greek Bronze Age site, was just to soak up as much information as possible.  That’s what I tried to do, is get information, just feel it and make it a part of myself.  I had drawn all those sites before so I had some familiarity with them.  Unfortunately, I’m not going to be drawing the Greek sites as much anymore because the story had gotten to the point where everybody is at Troy, the wars underway and the Greeks are camp outside of Troy and the main location is going to be there for the rest of the story.  I wish I’ve been able to get to Greece and see those sites before I had to draw them.  IHow did I feel?  I’m totally glad I went.  Going to Troy was one of those magnificent things that I’ve ever done in my life.  I was there for 12 days.  Greece, I didn’t get as much time.  I went to Mycenae, Pylos, and Tiryns and and we had a weekend, but I was actually taken around by Jack Davis and his wife, Cherie.  Jack is the current director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, and Cherie had been digging at Pylos for a couple of decades now, so I couldn’t have had a better tour guides to see these sites.  They are the experts.  I was really thankful for that. 

Rob:    I got to the Roman Forum.  I hate to admit it.  I was walking down into the forum, and I got a little misty eyed.  A grown man getting a little tear in his eye over visiting the Roman Forum, can you beat that?

 Eric:   I think that’s perfectly fine.  It’s fully understandable.

Rob:    Which brings to a question, I see a lot of movies all the time and they never talk about who really the Trojans are.  I mean, it’s as if they’re another people in armor.  They always…both sides are speaking English or ‘British English’ or whatever and such, I mean, who really were the Trojans?  Who do you think they were?

Bronze2 Eric:    Well, I’m not sure I can answer that question, who were the Trojans?  They were people that lived in the northwest corner of Turkey.  The site of Troy was occupied for about 3,000 years or more like there are nine major levels which have been subdivided into many, many, many levels.  I think it’s like 30 or 40 some levels, occupation levels.  That level that’s most closely identified with the Trojan War is the sixth level.  There was some continuity of culture to Troy Seven.  So with the question if there was a Trojan War or whatever events that inspired the Trojan War or did it take place during the time of Troy Six or was it was the time of Troy Seven?  A lot of different archeologists are arguing…they have different claims.  That’s not so during the Age of Bronze.  I don’t really have to worry about whether what was the exact point in time.  I can draw from the archeology in the early part of the story more from Troy Six and in the later part of the story, I’ll be drawing more from Troy Seven.  I don’t think it can prove me right or wrong.  Basically, the Age of Bronze is historical fiction anyway.

I think my greatest asset to the experts, the archeologists, is in my ability to reconstruct our daily life, what it might have looked like at Troy so that they can picture because if you are an archeologist, you’re not necessarily an artist who cannot reconstruct things.  I think that’s part of what my value is at least in academic world.  I mean that’s not my main thought.  I’m telling the story I guess for literary reasons.

Rob:    You know what, I looked at the faces of your characters and they’re so full of expression.  You could see fear, hate and at times even boredom on their faces, I mean, the hero seemed to have faults and we just don’t see one face presented to the reader.  There’s a whole array of emotions, good and bad.  I mean, was this intentional?


 Eric:   Well, absolutely.  I’m telling a dramatic story with characters who have emotions and the story is character in conflict, and without any conflict, we don’t have a very interesting story.  Obviously, the story of Trojan War is one of the oldest conflicts that we know of.

The characters have been pretty well established over the centuries.  I’m trying to stay well within the tradition of who the characters are – Achilles, Agamemnon, Odysseus, all the familiar characters.  So, yeah, they have to show their emotions.  That’s the way I tell the story.  That’s the way readers relate to these human beings.  You know these characters have pedigrees, that go back thousands of years.  They essentially are because human beings just like us.  That’s one of the reasons I enjoyed the story and I’m re-telling it, is to show people, yeah, you may think that this is some drive that is classic, but these characters are people just like you are.  They have to live their lives.  They have to make decisions.  They come into conflict with others.  They have to deal with all the necessities of life just like we do now.  They’re just from a different time.

Rob:    In your version of the story, Troy, I really don’t see any gods in the story like I think there have been versions where we see what Jupiter or Zeus is thinking and various gods and goddesses, and there was a centaur, Chiron, I believe.  You drew him with a thick horsetail down at the back of his tunic.  Was this an editorial decision to keep the gods at arm’s length?

Eric:    Yeah.  One of my basic reasons in re-telling the story, one of my goals is to show the story of the Trojan war on a human level and to remove all the supernatural on it so the gods don’t come down and actually they don’t fight with the warriors.  They don’t tell what to do simply because I want to present it from the human perspective.  There are gods that the characters worship of course.  The Achaeans, the Greek character, have worshipped the familiar Greek pantheon, at least the ones that we know of that were attested with confidence from the late Bronze Age.  The Trojans however worshipped the Hittite gods.  This goes back a little to the question about who were the Trojans, location that has been identified as Troy in northwestern, but he was on the fringes of the Hittite empire, the great Hittite empire which flourished in the Bronze Age.  We have documents from the Hittites talking about Troy, and it had been pretty well conclusively proven that the site excavated in the 1800 is the site that Homer used for Troy, and there are various linguistic and written alphabetical inscriptions that give really strong evidence that that was Troy that we know today.  Certainly there were conflicts in that area.  It’s situated geographically at a point where lots of trade routes particularly sea routes or traders would have met.  It’s situated like the point where Europe and Asia meet and many ships would have been sailing from the Aegean Sea which is the Eastern Mediterranean up to the Black Sea.

Certainly, we have documents from Egypt showing trade routes and some of these places were around the Aegean work on Egyptian trade routes and we have artifacts from all over the area in all of the different places.  We know that Troy was very strong.  And because Troy was situated very advantageously, they obviously were rich town and people would have wanted to attack them so that’s why there are probably things like that are where the story of the Trojan broke throughout, but these are all very human things, human reasons or conflict and that’s what I concentrate on not showing the gods come and tell the people what to do.


A human looking centaur that trains Achillies for manhood.

This gives me real interesting problem because they are many version of the Trojan War.  The gods could instigate many of the actions but that’s really fascinating, a fascinating problem to me to have to figure out in my version of the story how to keep the plot going without the gods to show the characters coming to their own decisions and advancing things about the intervention of the gods as characters.  Of course, a lot of the characters say, “Well, I was inspired by the God,” or, “obviously, the gods want me to do this.”  But as a reader we know that all these decisions are motivated purely by the human reasons.

Rob:     Well, what has the public’s reaction been to your series, Age of Bronze?

Eric:     Overall, it’s overwhelmingly positive.  It’s one of words.  It sold well.  The Age of Bronze was first published as comic book, 20 pages of art at that time, which come out periodically and then every once, every few years, those are collected into the graphic novels. The novels really sell well and those have been very well received.

At first, not everybody likes everything about the series and I get reactions from people.  Let me see.  Some negative reactions were they can’t tell some of the characters apart.  At the beginning, all the Trojan princes, I designed them all to look like brothers since they are brothers, and I probably didn’t design them well enough to be able, for readers to immediately tell them apart which I regretted at this point, but that’s one of those things where I can’t go back and re-do everything.  So, I tried to, since then, have certain aspects of the characters like Paris, one of the main Trojan princes, the one who kidnapped Helen, wears a lion, not a lion skin but a cat skin or rabbit skin over his shoulder almost every time I draw him.  So, I hope the readers will be able to identify him by that symbol. 

I did much better job on many of the Greeks, the Achaean warriors to differentiate, and I think people don’t have any problem telling them apart.

Rob:  Well, I never had any problems even when you put Achilles in a dress.  I still could figure out who he was.

Eric:     OK, yeah.

 Eric:    And I recognize the face and strange enough, even while he was in a dress, I recognized his attitude.  He was hiding a secret and it’s the person hiding, you say, “Uh, that’s Achilles,” so that wasn’t a problem for me at all. 

 Eric:    Well, good.

[Editor’s note*  There is a tale that Achillies mother hid her son in a woman’s dress to protect him from going to Troy.  Interesting ploy to avoid the draft, don’t you think?)

 Rob:    Well, speaking of Achilles, OK, he was the greatest warrior of the Greek coast, but in your novel, and if I’m wrong, please let me know, but in your novel, he seems young, maybe a little untested, he is full of youth, OK.  He is battle ready.  He certainly wants to go to battle but what made him important to the cause?  What made Achilles more important than any other warrior?

 Eric:    Well, I’m not sure.  I’m not certain that he is important, more important than any other warrior.  He is important in literary culture because he is the main character of the Iliad which is one of the oldest and greatest stories that we have.

 In Age of Bronze, he starts out very young, at about 12 years old.  By the time he gets to the point where he died towards the end of the story, he’ll about 25.  But, yeah, when he is young, he is untested.  He goes through a path.  He has to grow and turn into the person that we know from the Iliad, the warrior who is more interested in his own noble nature in his own honor than he is in the rest of the, any reason for the war, this sort of pointless war that could just go on and on and everybody becomes frustrated with. 

 Rob:    Maybe, it’s really an unfair question.  I mean, because when you think about it, here I’m complaining why we are talking about Achilles, but see, that’s the character they chose to talk about.  So, he is one of the lead characters in the story, so that was the one chosen.  Some of the minor characters, they didn’t make the lead. 

Eric:     There’s a number of characters in the story who go through significant life decisions that they have to go.  They start at one point they have to go and end up at another point.  Achilles is one of those.  Yeah, he starts out very young, untested, lots enthusiasm but he doesn’t really know what he is getting into.  I mean, he has an overprotective mother.  He has sort of absent father.  He has many, many different relationships, romantic and sexual relationships during the story.  But by the time, he gets to his final battle he is a very different person than who he is when he started out.

 There are other characters who have to go through a journey, go through…contract problems, make decisions and those are the characters who are the most interesting and the most important to the story.  People like Hector, the great Trojan prince.  Helen, herself, she is the character that a lot of people seem to really dislike because she makes certain reprehensible decisions very early on.  She decides for her husband and go off with a young Trojan prince who is several years younger than she is, who is not a very likeable character, but who is very charismatic and fascinating.

 You know, the character that everyone thinks is very important is Odysseus.  He starts out more mature than a lot of the other character, but he discovers many things about himself, about his place in the world, about his relationship to the world around him over the course of the story, too.  He goes through a lot more after the Trojan War ends.  So, the story of the Odyssey history comes from the Trojan war, but he is also one of the more fascinating characters. 

Agamemnon, the high king, the leader of the Greek forces, he is not a very likeable character but he also goes through a lot of stuff, has to make a lot of decisions, knows a lot of things about who he is, about how relates to the world.  In the second graphic novel, he confronted with the problem of sacrificing his eldest daughter and basically saying “Yeah.  You can kill her because there is no other way we’re going to be able to reach Troy,” and he has to make that decision.

One of my challenges was how do I show a human being making the decision to let his daughter die, and I hope I told that as believably as possible.  It’s not that I advocate anybody to go around killing their daughters.  But I wanted to show how that could…how a human could be pushed to the point of making that decision just having such overwhelming conflict that someone actually goes there and says, “OK.  I can’t make any other decision at this point but to let my daughter die.”

I think I pulled off successfully at least from the actions that I’ve gotten from readers.

Rob:     What I liked was how he [Achillies] was calling out to Agamemnon’s daughters, you know, yelling up that: “I’m here!”  That kind of touched me in a big way that he was giving her an out.  It added more drama to the scene.  It impressed me. 

 Eric:    You are talking about Achilles.

 Rob:    Yeah, Achilles shouting out that “I am here!”  So all she had to do was call out to save her life if she chose to do so.


               OK.  I’m about to ask the big question now.  I don’t know if I’m going to regret this but what did you think of the Hollywood movie, Troy?

 Eric:     The one in 2004?

 Rob:    Yeah.

 Eric:    Yeah.  It wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be.  There were a couple of things, major things that I didn’t like about it.  One was at the beginning.  They put some sort of date on it.  Yet, they then proceed to put all these anachronistic costuming and ships and architecture into it, stuff from other periods, stuff that they just made up.  I’m fine with telling the story of the Trojan War as a fantasy, but if you’re going to put a date on it, you can’t tell if it’s really a fantasy.  That is stick to the date if you’re going to say…if you’re going to give a date, stick to the date.  If you’re going to give a date, you can do whatever you want.

 People have re-told the story over and over and over and over again, thousands of years and it’s been pushed, pulled, twisted, done tons of stuff to, and Hollywood can do whatever they want with it, but I object to mixing your genres.  If you’re going to tell it as historical fiction then use historical fiction.  I’ve no problem with using mythology and fantasy whatever you want to call it, but make your decision.  So, I did object to the anachronistic use of research.

 They took the Lion Gate and they put the lion relieving triangle for lions above the gate.  They stuck it right into Agamemnon’s throne room which made absolutely no sense whatsoever.  They probably looked cool but I don’t care what looks cool.  It looked stupid to me if you’re putting this in there.  It’s laughable.  There is no architectural reason for it to be there or there is architectural reason for it to be in the wall of the gate.  I mean it actually looked stupid to me.  I guess, the few people  know what they’re talking about know better don’t really matter as long as they got there 10 bucks or whatever it cost to get in the movie.  Who cares?  But I just thought it was insulting. 

 What I did like about the movie were some of the performances.  I liked at the end when they have some of the Trojan characters escaping from Troy including like Paris who is really suppose to die in the traditional story.  It is sort of weird.  When they have Aeneas going and with Aeneas, they have this old man which the script doesn’t refer to and no one in the movie paid attention to this old man but that’s clearly Aeneas’s father, who in the traditional story, Aeneas carries out of Troy.

Yeah.  The traditional story is that Aeneas carries his father and his son out of Troy.  They didn’t have a son here.  They just had the father, but I wish I put more stuff like that in just little things where he noted real story, you would just go, “Oh, I know what’s going on there in the background.”  It doesn’t really matter to the overall movie, but it’s just been fun little things like that, and they did that with Aeneas’s father, Anchises, but they didn’t do enough of that for me, so overall I was disappointed with the movie. I think obviously it was rather disappointing to almost everybody.  It certainly didn’t make much of an impression on the movie world.  It is not a movie that everyone talks about anymore.

 Troy-movie-brad-pittRob:    But Brad Pitt looks good in armor, right?

 Eric:    I thought he would look better if his armor was from the real period. 

 Rob:    Oh, OK.

 Eric:    No.  I came to the movie with my prejudices, my preconceived notions.  They can do whatever they want, obviously.  This is their version of the story, andIMG090113 certainly there have been so many, many, many versions of the story.  I don’t agree with the people who get upset because they didn’t stick to a more traditional view of the story.  I guess I’m no purest as far as tradition goes, not in the way I am purest as far as the archeology goes.  They could do whatever they wanted, and I would not have that much of a problem with it.  People get upset because they made Achilles and Patroklus cousins in the Troy movie, but there is a version of the story where they are cousins, so that is perfectly legitimate as far as I’m concerned.  So, I would like to make, I guess, I just want to make it clear that as far as their version of the actual story, I didn’t have really any problem with it.

 Rob:     OK.  At the end of your book, I just thought you might want to tell us a little something about the Institute for Mediterranean Studies.  Is this an organization you’ve been involved with?

 Eric:     The Institute for Mediterranean Studies is part of the classics department at the University of CincinnatiThe University of Cincinnati in Ohio is the American partner in the current excavations at Troy.  These excavations began in 1988.  They’re led by the University of Tubingen from Germany, but it’s an international effort so they have scholars from all over the world.  The excavations have sort of…they haven’t quite ended but they’ve been greatly reduced for the past, I don’t know, eight years or so.

 The University of Cincinnati isn’t really active there anymore, but they are still the American partner at Troy.  They are basically researching post-Bronze Age, not the period that I’m interested in, but they, as the American partner, they do represent the entire excavation in the US, and they’re still seeking funds so I do put a little bit of money every once in awhile and I do publicize their efforts at raising money with Age of Bronze since I think it’s really important site.

 Obviously, Troy is a major, major site that’s important in the world for both science and the art.  The excavations that are going on there now, it’s the fourth…fourth major excavation, yeah.  The last time Troy was excavated was in the 30’s and 40’s.  Is that right?  I can’t remember at all.  I’m sorry.  I may be getting this wrong.  The Blegen expedition was earlier, but the current expedition which was led by Manfred Korfmann and is now led by Ernst Pernicka is important because we have so much greater technology than the last time the excavations were ran that we have discovered many, many new things about Troy, just the magnetometer capability that we have, we discovered the lower town from the Bronze Age which was totally unknown previous to that.  We sort of knew that there had to have been a lower town, but no one knew exactly where it was and there was no evidence for it, but now we have it in the mid-‘90’s they found it, found the circuit ditch.

 And also, funding these researches even after the excavations have been reduced.  The publication of all of the material and all of the discoveries and the analysis and all that stuff is also going to cost money.  This is important as actually having the archeologist go to the site and dig and do all their activity there.  So, I do what I can to publicize the fact they’re still going to need money.

 The Institute of Mediterranean Studies accepts donations and they have a very informal organization called Friends of Troy which if you donate so you belong automatically, and they send out reports, excavation reports once a year.  They send out little newsletters, interesting things that are happening around the excavations about Troy, about the Bronze Age, Mediterranean world.  They send that about two times a year. 

 Rob:      Are you working on anything now that you want to tell the public about?

 Eric:     Well, I’m still doing Age of Bronze.  I’m working on Issue 32 which will be part of the fourth book, the fourth graphic novel.  This section I’m working on right now is the Troilus and Cressida story.  In fact, the pages I’m working on right now are Cressida being turned over to the Achaeans against Troilus’s wishes.  This is actually a section of the story that is not from Ancient Greece.  It is a development out of the medieval tradition of the story.  Probably, the way most people know this section of the story is from Shakespeare from his play, Troilus and Cressida.  There’s also a major poem by Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Cressida which I’m also using as reference for the story.  That’s what I’m working on right now.

Another major project that I do is write scripts for a comic adaptation of the Oz books by L. Frank Baum.  These are published by Marvel Comics working on the scripts for the fourth Oz but right now, Dorothy and the Wizard in OzOzma of Oz, the third book is being serialized and will be out in graphic novel form in the fall, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the first book, and The Marvelous Land of Oz, the second book, are out now.  Those were published within the last couple of years.

Age of Bronze also is undergoing a web.  It will be on the web in interactive digital enhanced book very soon.  The major announcement of that will be this summer in July.  It’s going to be available on the web and every page is going to be annotated with my sources and discussions of how the story developed through the ages, artistic sources, archeological sources and literary sources.  There is going to be areas for discussions of that if you download the digital enhanced book.  You can go on to the discussion for and give your reactions and discuss with other readers things about the story.

The major market that we see is educational but it certainly not going to be limited to educational so this is going to be published by Throwaway Horse

Rob:       Throwaway Horse, that’s the company?

 Eric:     Yeah.  Age of Bronze itself, the comics and graphic novels, are published by Image Comics which I neglected to mention but I would like to mention that. 

 Rob:     Sure thing.  Well, I just have one more question.  Is there anybody in your series of the Age of Bronze that you identify with?

 Eric:     Well– (sounding amused)

 Rob:     Any hero that you want to pick out.

 Eric:     As the creator of Age of Bronze, I have to identify with every single one of the characters that I write about because as I said it is historical fiction, I’m telling it dramatically, it’s a story full of conflict, and you were talking about the emotions on the characters’ faces so I have to be able to understand every single character, every action, every event that happened, and I’m telling you on human levels.  So what I’m trying to bring out is the human aspect of everything.  So, I can identify with every character.  I guess, I’m not, a lot of the background characters, a lot of the other solders stories you don’t have, just worried or standing around or finding the battlefield in the background.  I can’t say I identify along with them.  But, yeah, on a human level, I have to understand everything that’s going to the heads of every single one of my characters.  But that said, I think Hector is possibly my favorite character in the story.  Even though he dies not a very glorious way, all he is ever trying to do is do the best he can to be outstanding.  I guess, that’s part of his fatal plot, too.  He feels such responsibility for his place in his society in Troy that that’s why he died because he cannot walk away from it.  He cannot say this is not a good situation for me.  I got to get out of this right now.  So, I think that’s admirable.  Unfortunately, it is also the reason that he dies.

 Rob:     Well, listen, Mr. Shanower, I want to thank you for taking the time and talking with us. 

 Eric:     OK. I just want to say thank you very much for this opportunity, and I’ve enjoyed talking to you.

(End of Interview.   The interview is available on the Ancient Rome Refocused podcast (Season 2, Episode 8) titled: “Ancient Troy, Graphic Novels and Brad Pitt?”  If you want to read more about Eric Shonower go to his web site at: )

Title – "Ancient Troy, Graphic Novels, and Brad Pitt?" Mr. Cain travels back to Ancient Troy just as the Goddess Aphrodite guides Aeneas from the city. Interview with Eric Shanower the writer and illustrator of the graphic novel THE AGE OF BRONZE. Learn about the research that goes behind a truly artistic retelling of the Trojan War. Yes, Brad Pitt is discussed and the movie TROY.

MP3 File

( A discussion of Livia was started by Kristina Wood.  Many others joined in at the Facebook Ancient Rome Refocused Group site.  Either read it there or read it below.)

Kristina Wood

I’m just wondering…I’m reading Robert Graves’ “I, Claudius,” and was wondering, how accurate is it? Was Livia really as horrible as the story paints her or is she painted that way simply for the plot’s sake?

Paul Weimer

I suspect Rob could do an entire episode on the Julio-Claudian dynasty.

Robert W. M. Greaves

My understanding is that “I, Claudius” is pretty much based on some of the gossip that was flying round in ancient Rome. How much of it was true would depend on who you asked.

Gustavo Oliveri

Well, it’s ALWAYS a version .. :/

Daniels McLean

Read the chapter on Claudius in Suetonius’Lives of the Twelve Caesars.  [His full name] Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus. If you have a kindle or other e-reader, it’s available for free from Amazon or Project Gutenberg.

Rob Cain

I was watching HBO’s Rome.  There was a scene where a young Livia tries to push Atia — Augustus’s mother — out of line when they are all about to step out onto a balcony to welcome Augustus back from Egypt. 

“It’s a matter of precedence.” I think was her excuse, before Atia Balba Caesonia (by the way, daughter of Julius Caesar’s sister)  used some choice words to tell her where to go. 

I couldn’t help thinking that maybe Livia’ s demeanor was a younger version of what was seen in the 70s TV show I CLAUDIUS…which was a murderous maternal hellion in letting nothing from stopping her son Tiberius from rising to the imperial purple.

I wonder how much scriptwriters and writers of fiction and movies influenced by what was written before.

Was Livia really this way?  Did she really have a hand in the deaths of Marcellus, Marcus, Agrippa, Gauis and Lucious Caesar, Agrippa Posthumus, Germanicus, to top the list off with her own husband?

Tacitus in his ANNALS OF IMPERIAL ROME merely has accusations, a book written a century after the events and based what scholars might say is ‘uncertain accuracy.’

Well, he was certainly closer to events than I am. 

Livia does get a fair shake from Suetonius (THE TWELVE CAESARS) which is neutral and somehow favorable to her.

So who is right?

The attempts to get inside what the Windsors are actually like (and their ‘family business’ as they call it) is just as hard as interpreting the motives of the first Roman Imperial family.  Historians, artists, and playwrights have filled in gaps and suspicions.

Here is a small example (and a small one).  A few years ago a movie came out called CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.  It was based on the adventures of Frank Abagnale Jr., a 16 years old boy who posed as an airline pilot and through check fraud amassed millions of dollars. 

In the book (Frank Abagnale SENIOR was a hard working guy who came upon hard times).  In the movie there were many deviations from the actual story, but Abagnale’s father is portrayed as someone skirting the law and eventually getting into trouble with the IRS.  How else can you explain having such a ‘bad’ son? (note* He was caught, did time, and started his own security business).

The book at the end includes a Q and A session with the author that asks the about the portrayal of his father.  Abagnale Jr. responds: “It’s just a movie.”

 That’s true…it is…but imagine that that was YOUR father (or any relative you held high in esteem).  In a way its changing history and I think there are many historical figures that are bent and shaped for the purpose of drama and good story telling.

Sure, Livia could have been a murderous viper, and then again maybe not.  Who is telling the story?  How close are they to the main characters?  How close are they  to them in history?  What did they based their research on – history, word of mouth, or fiction?  Is the historian or storyteller, a roman republican, someone hurt by the imperial family, a secret Christian or someone who liked gossip?

 Do we really know anyone, and why let gossip get in the way of good storytelling?

 (What do you think?  Comment.  Let’s hear from you.)


If you talk about the Romans, you have to talk about the Greeks…and if you talk about the Greeks, eventually you have to talk about the Trojans.

–Rob Cain, Ancient Rome Refocused

The artwork of Eric Shanower

The artwork of Eric Shanower

I always wanted to ‘quote’ myself. 

The next Ancient Rome Refocused has an interview with Eric Shanower who is the author illustrator of THE AGE OF BRONZE.  This is a fantastic graphic novel of the adventures of the ancient heroes of Ancient Greece, and has a very realistic take on the story of Ancient Troy. 

His website can be found on:

Episode 8 deals talks how enduring the story has been over the ages.  Most great artists, authors and playwrights have tried their hand at telling the tale of Ancient Troy.  It has everything: sex, betrayal, love, hate, magic, the Gods and Man in conflict.  Can you ask  for more?  There is even the most beautiful woman in world, and the great warriors of the age.  

This story always had appeal.  Remember John McClane of the Die Hard Series?  Remember Rambo?  What of Matt Damon in the Bourne Series?  Our modern fiction is filled with memories of the heroic age.  While modern day Homers use the classics as inspiration, the story Troy itself is retold and retold to audiences of every generation that never seem to tire of it. 

Is it the way it’s told, or are we hardwired to be thrilled by such stories?

Watch for Episode 8 coming soon to this site, hipcast and itunes.

A Comment in the Margins

I was in the library taking notes and came across a copy of “Sailing in the Wine Dark Sea” by Thomas Cahill.  Frankly I am fascinated by what people scribble in the margins of books.  Other people may get bent out of shape about it, but to me its pure theater (a quick glimpse into someone’s mind) and frankly not too different from someone writing into the blog or sending me a comment for the podcast. 

It seems an Irish scribe in some post-Roman era, read an account of Hector’s death in Latin.  He wrote in the margins the following:

“I am greatly greaved at the above mentioned death.”

Why We’re All Romans

From the Podcast: “Washington Wore a Toga.”  The following is the introduction.

WWARimageWe have an interview with Professor Carl Richard.  He has written a book called “Why We Are All Romans” subtitled, “The Roman Contribution to the Western Word.”  His books include: The Founders and the Classics: Greece, Rome, and the American Enlightenment (1994); Twelve Greeks and Romans Who Changed the World (2003); The Battle for the American Mind: A Brief History of a Nation’s Thought (2004); Greeks and Romans Bearing Gifts: How the Ancients Inspired the Founding Fathers (2008); and The Golden Age of Classics in America: Greece, Rome, and the Antebellum United States (2009). 

So let’s go to the interview.


Rob Cain:       In your book I’ve read the line which said something like, “Polybius agreed with Aristotle that the best constitution assigned approximately equal amounts of power to the three orders of society.”  I couldn’t help but thinking of our own government the Judicial, the Executive, and the Legislative.  Is it possible that there were some founding father read this from a Latin text and formulated an idea of a new American Republic?

DR. RICHARD:        Well, yes.  I mean they definitely were influenced by not only Aristotle but Polybius and Cicero, and many of the ancients who talked about mixed government.  And by a mixed government they meant a balance of power between the one, the few, and the many, being the leader executive, the rich and the well-born on the one hand and the masses on the other hand; the one, the few, the many.  And the founders definitely have that in mind when they wrote the constitution because they created a balance between the one the president whose kind of a king, a limited king, but still a king, and the senate which was the designed to represent or protect the rich from being plundered by the masses, and the senate would do that, and then the house which was supposed to be so called democratic branch, the branch that would represent the masses.

Rob Cain:       What do you teach at your school?

DR. RICHARD:        Well, I mostly teach American history, but I also teach history of Greece and Rome, which is an unusual combination, but most of my research has been the influence of Greece and Rome in America so it makes sense.

Rob Cain:       The title of your book is, “How We Are All Romans.”  Well, if we are all Romans then were the Romans Greek?

DR. RICHARD:        Well, the Romans certainly received many ideas from the Greeks.  The Greeks were the older civilization and more advanced in many ways.  And early on, they ran into the Greeks, in Southern Italy, the Greeks had colonized Southern Italy.  And they got many things early on including alphabet, the same alphabet we use today which is called the Modern Latin.  There have been a few changes but it’s mostly the Latin alphabet.  They got that from the Greeks.  They got many things from the Greeks, but one thing I emphasized in the book is that they didn’t just adopt these ideas they adapted them.  They adapted them.  They brought them down to earth and then of course they spread them throughout their vast empire.  So the title “Why We Are All Romans” is based on Percy Shelley, the British poet who said, “We’re all Greeks.”  And I don’t dispute that, I think so many of our ideas are Greek.  But I put a twist on it and say we’re all Romans because it’s the Romans who not only adopted those ideas but adapted them, brought them down to earth and then spread them throughout Western Europe.  And so if not for the Romans…it’s the Romans who made us all Greek in a sense so that’s the reason for the title.

Rob Cain:       In your book you write that you hope to demonstrate the surprising ways in which we modern Westerners are indeed still Romans.  Could you share with us some examples of how this is true?

DR. RICHARD:        Yes.  I think in many ways Americans especially we’re much like the Romans in terms of our pragmatism, traditionally hard work and discipline.  You know some people think those things are breaking down, but historically Americans have been that way.  And there are other things too.  I mean I can’t help but laugh when I read some of the Romans, there’s so many of them, they’re complaining by the first century AD that the people are getting soft into there’s so much luxury and people are just getting soft, and it’s so much like what we hear today.  And there are other things too that things that you wouldn’t necessarily think about, but French has their passion about sports.  Of course they had gladiatorial combat, a very violent form of entertainment, much more violent even than the forms of entertainment we have, but very passionate about them, the sport they were most passionate about was chariot racing.  And when you read about how passionate they were either for the blue team or the green team, it reminds me a lot of American men especially in our passion about our favorite teams.  All kinds of things like that, things that you would not think of but when you read the ancient Roman texts they come up.  There’s one about global warming.  Columella the Roman agricultural writer writes in his work that everybody knows that it’s getting warmer, the last generation it’s getting warmer.  And he thinks it’s a good thing because it leads to more food production and so on.  And so you find little things like that you don’t expect to find, it’s interesting.  And then some things are just basic humanities, things that all people share.  There’s a marvelous letter from Pliny the Younger to a friend of his about a mutual friend who has lost his daughter.  She passed away at 12 or 13, I think.  It’s just a heartbreaking letter.  So there are some things that I guess are just universal.

Rob Cain:       From your study of the ancient Romans is there anything going on today you wish to warn us about?

DR. RICHARD:        Well, one thing that strikes me in the late Roman Empire is the increased taxes, but beyond that when that fail to meet the needs because they were just spending like crazy, the government was, they began devaluing the currency.  And by the end of the Roman Empire the currency was so worthless that even the Roman government wasn’t taking it in taxes.  They were demanding goods, back to a barter system virtually because they had so devalued the coinage.  The so called silver coins no longer had any silver in them, and the gold coins no longer had any gold in them.  And I can’t help but notice it in the last couple of years the Federal Reserve has printed $2 trillion in currency.  Well, I shouldn’t say printed, they don’t print it anymore they just say it exists and that’s a concern.  I think military power follows economic power.  And so I think if our economic power declines because of too much debt or too much devaluation or whatever that this is going to impact our military power just as it did Rome.

Rob Cain:       What influence did Cicero have on the founding fathers?

DR. RICHARD:        Well, Cicero, I think may have been the most influential of all the ancients.  And I say that, and this is a big theme in my book.  I say that because the educational system throughout medieval and modern Europe and America was so heavily focused on Latin.  Not much more than Greek, they did take a little bit of Greek but it was mostly Latin.  And so Cicero was of course the greatest Latin writer at least of prose, I guess Virgil was the greatest poet, but Cicero was the greatest writer of prose and he was a politician, he was interested in political theory.  And so what they read from Cicero was all about the foundational principles of a political system.  Popular sovereignty, you know, this idea that the government is by the consent of the natural law, this idea that there’s a universal right and wrong, which is where we get natural rights from, the idea that the individual has rights.  And we met some mixed government, it was a third idea.  These were all Greek ideas, Cicero did not invent them.  He just put them into Latin and into a very beautiful Latin that was very powerful.  And so I think it’s through Cicero that the founders got in touch with all these Greek ideas and then incorporated them into our political system.

Rob Cain:       I saw a movie about John Adams where Abigail Adams was teaching her children Latin.  How were the Romans incorporated into early education?  Why was it important for children in our early republic to know their early republic?

DR. RICHARD:  Yes.  Well, the educational system went back to the middle ages and it was dominated by Greek and Latin but especially Latin.  There was a little bit of Greek thrown in but it was mostly Latin.  And in fact this term grammar school which we are familiar with term grammar school as a synonym for elementary school, that actually they didn’t refer to English grammar for the Latin grammar, Latin and Greek mostly Latin.  So you know you went to school not to study English, they didn’t add English to the curriculum until after the Revolutionary War because they thought, “Well you know English is kids stuff, you learn that at home, you come to school to study serious things like Latin and Greek.”  And so from grammar school all the way through college the educational system was focused on Latin and Greek especially Latin.  And the founders then were immersed in it from childhood days which have a very powerful effect, anything that you’re immersed in from childhood days will have that powerful effect on you.  They saw themselves as recreating the Roman Republic in many ways and that’s why they used terms like Senate which is a Roman term.  And only this time they thought they had a greater chance of success.  They were going to recreate the Roman Republic but this time it would last.  That’s how they looked at it.

Rob Cain:       What is the state of classical study in the U.S. today?

DR. RICHARD:        Well, it’s interesting because I think the scholarship is probably never been better.  I mean it’s never been more advanced, we’ve never known more I think than today about the Romans.  But the level of popular knowledge is much lower than in the days of the founding fathers.  Their whole educational system was Latin and Greek, Roman history was very popular.  So they knew an awful lot about Romans that the public doesn’t know today.  I think most people today their knowledge of Rome and of Greece is based on films.  And of course films can be very entertaining and so on, but they’re not always that accurate.  And so you know the films like Gladiator and in the case of Greece, the 300, and then you have miniseries like Rome miniseries, and they learned some things that I think from these films and miniseries, but there are also a lot of liberties taken.

Rob Cain:       Is there a Roman attitude about the world that Americans seem to have?

DR. RICHARD:        Well, Americans do for a long time I think Americans have had this feeling that it’s natural for the United States to be the world leader.  And Romans felt that way.  They felt Rome was protected and guided by the gods.  And so even when the Romans lost the battle, even a major battle like to Hannibal for instance, there was always a sense that, “Well, the gods may just be trying to humble us, but they’re really on our side, and it’s natural for us to be the leaders of the world.”  And I forgot who it was, one of the Roman authors who said, I think it was Livy the Roman historian who said, “It is as natural for Romans to win battles as for water to go downhill.”  And I think there’s long been that sense by Americans at least in the 20th and 21st century that as we’re the natural leaders of world.  And of course as we talked about earlier that can change, you know countries or empires can go downhill.  But I think that’s one common attitude I think.

Rob Cain:       Do you think that Roman attitude is where we as Americans got the idea of Manifest Destiny?

DR. RICHARD:        There is a kind of Manifest Destiny with the Romans and as I just mentioned they really believed the gods are behind them.  They were enormously ritualistic and I think that’s something that went into the Roman Catholic Church, an inheritance there.  And part of that was they thought if we do the rituals exactly right the gods will bless us.  And so they were extremely…they had a ritual for everything, even just having a meal there was a ritual.  And if you messed something up you would go back to the beginning, even if the ritual is hours long.  But it was all tied up in this belief that the gods were behind them.  And I think we see this throughout American History as well, but a god singular is behind this.

Rob Cain:       How is your book doing?

DR. RICHARD:        I don’t really know.  I haven’t gotten the royalty statement from last year which it came out last year.  But it has been adopted by the History Book Club, and in the past I had another book called Greeks and Romans Bearing Gifts which was adopted by the History Book Club and that seems to do well per se also I’m hopeful.

Rob Cain:       Are you working on something else that you can share with us?

DR. RICHARD:        Yes.  It’s completely different.  I mean I’ve published six books thus far and all of them have been about Greece and Rome and the influence of Greece and Rome.  And this book has nothing to do with that.  I’m finishing up a book manuscript which is basically an adaptation of my master’s thesis from a long time ago.  It’s called, “When the United States Invaded Russia: Doughboys in Siberia 1918 to 1920.”  Woodrow Wilson sent roughly 8000 American troops to Siberia in 1918 and the goal was to help the anti-Bolsheviks overthrow the Soviet government in hopes of recreating the Russian front against the Germans in World War I.  But even after the Germans were defeated, the soldiers stayed there for about a year and a half just trying to overthrow the Soviet government in its infancy.  And it’s a very interesting story.  I mean it was a tragic failure I would say.  It was the first counterinsurgency operation by the United States on foreign soil in the Eastern Hemisphere.  Of course the United States had often intervened in politics in our own hemisphere, but to go across the world and send troops to try to overthrow some other government and keep them there for a year and a half was unprecedented.  And I think, obviously, there’s a lot of influence or a lot of a connection I think to things today because we’re involved in so many counterinsurgency operations.  And so the obvious questions of, should you intervene in other people’s civil wars, and if you do, what do you need to do to succeed or a lot of interesting questions there.

Rob Cain:       Just one final question.  I wonder if there’s something you can tell us about the university you teach at?

DR. RICHARD:        Yes.  University of Louisiana at Lafayette, we have about 16,000 or 17,000 students.  I think it’s the second largest in the state behind LSU, of course LSU is twice as big, but it’s a good university.  We don’t have a PhD program in history but we do have masters, and we often send people…they get their masters here and go on to very good programs and get PhDs and I really enjoy it here.  The people are very friendly.

Rob Cain:       Well, thank you very much.  Thanks for giving us the time.  That was Dr. Carl J. Richard who wrote the book, “Why We’re All Romans: The Roman Contribution to the Western World.”  Sir, you have a good day.

DR. RICHARD:        Thank you.

The ROBIAD (About Rob) Entry 1

( To my understanding the Illiad means basically ‘about Illium.’   Welcome to ‘the Robiad.’

“Washington Wore a Toga” is on itunes and hipcast.  It is also posted on this blog.  Now I can hear some of you saying…what took you so long?

I admit I’ve been distracted.   I am going to make a very real change of jobs soon…so I am trying to decide what my future is going to be.   I admit I was away from the podcast too long and missed it…but then…I DISCOVERED THE POWER OF SKYPE.  With this new found power I have interviewed Eric Shanower of the graphic novel “Age of Bronze” and Natalie Haynes from London who has written the book “The Ancient Guide to Modern Life.”   Both interviews will be in future podcasts.   

Mark Schauss of the podcast RUSSIAN RULERS HISTORY gave me an interview, and some comparisons between the CZARs and the Caesars.  I strongly suggest that you check out his site as well.

I would very much like to hear from you.  Please pick up the phone and call me at the number 855-209-6230.  No, no, I can hear you from here.  Your saying what would I talk about? 

The following are some suggested subjects, ready?

1.  A movie review on a film about Rome.

2.  A questions about Rome or Greece.

3.  A museum exhibit you went to.

4.  Something on one of the podcasts you either: a) agreed with  b) disagreed with 

(This I will definitely put on the show.  If you think we got it wrong, then discuss it with  us.  Cite your evidence, convince us, educate us on your position.  Just keep it in the house rules:

1. Educate through ideas
2. Share with us what you know
3. No profanity
4. Cite your sources if possible
5. Attack ideas not people

5.  Something about a vacation you went on to a place of antiquity

(I’m not asking for you to sound like a professor, tell us about your vacation.  What was best about it.  Your experiences will let others explore with you, what you thought of the forum, or what you thought of the wine in Italy.  Either way you are exploring and sharing with the viewing audience.) 

6.  A book review.

7.  Or just a shout out, “Hey Rob, I really love the show.”

Title – "Washington Wore a Toga." The Founding Fathers were inspired by the classics in setting up a new country. Dr. Carl J. Richard is interviewed about his new book: WHY WE'RE ALL ROMANS, The Roman Contribution To The Western World.

MP3 File