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Curiosities of ancient Rome (Unknown facts)

The world of ancient Romans abounded in a number of amazing curiosities and information. The source of knowledge about the life of the Romans are mainly works left to us by ancient writers or discoveries. The Romans left behind a lot of strange information and facts that are sometimes hard to believe.

When did Rome begin to fall into ruin?

Whenever I look at the ruins of ancient Rome, I wonder: how could these magnificent buildings be allowed to perish? Why have they not survived to our times? What a pity you can’t see them today…

The Arch of Constantine the Great on a postcard from the early 20th century

Rhineland hides real Roman treasures

Further interesting discoveries are being made in the Rhineland (western Germany), which is rich in brown coal. In ancient times, the borders of the Roman Empire reached here. Roman cities included: Cologne, Aachen, Bonn and Jülich.

Rhineland hides real Roman treasures

Forgotten hippodrome of mad emperor

When we think of chariot races in ancient Rome, the first thing that comes to mind is Circus Maximus. But the “Great Circus” was not the only racetrack existing in ancient Rome. Many of you probably remember that Emperor Caligula also started building his hippodrome in the Vatican (the work was finally completed by Nero). A memento of him is the obelisk currently standing on pl. St. Peter. Recently, I also wrote about the Maxentius Hippodrome on the Appian Way.

Circus Varianus in Rome visible preserved foundations of the north-western end of the racetrack

Victim or aggressor – Christianity in ancient Rome

In the popular consciousness, there are only two facts in the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity: first, the persecution of Christians (especially during the reign of Nero in the 1st century CE and Diocletian in the early 4th century), and then the adoption of Christianity by Constantine the Great, who made the whole the empire had converted to a new faith. The triumph of Christianity seems as sudden as it is obvious and historically just.

Tombstone of a certain Licinia Amias

Spoliarium – place where corpses of gladiators were kept

In front of the entrance to the arena of Roman amphitheatres, there was a special space – the so-called spolarium. In this place, the corpses of fallen gladiators were kept, which were deprived of weapons and armament. The weapons and equipment of the fallen were given to the slave owner or to the local armory (armamentarium).

Spoliarium - Juan Luna

Dictator and magister equitum – a unique case

In Roman Republic there could be only one dictator. But for a short time in the most turbulent period in the history of Rome a single exception took place. Commander of the cavalry appointed by Quintus Fabius Maximus gained power equal to that of the dictator.

Roman fasces

Polybius square

Polybius square is (known also as Polybius checkerboard) a type of monoalphabetic cipher (the hidden letter corresponds to the open letter), which owes its name to the famous ancient historian and writer – Polybius. As Polybius himself tells us in his “Histories”, the author of the cipher are the Greeks – Cleoksenos and Democletus – but it was he who undertook to improve the mechanism.

Polybius square with Greek letters

Pugilatio – bloody sport of antiquity

Probably everyone who was in Rome and visited the Palazzo Massimo Alle Terme museum drew attention to the famous “Qurinal boxer” – a bronze sculpture found near the ruins of the Baths of Constantine. A naked, muscular man in a sitting position looks to the side, slightly up. The more attentive would have noticed deep, bloody wounds on his body.

Ancient sculpture of a boxer from Palazzo Massimo Alle Terme

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