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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.

Epic work of Nero

According to historian Cassius Dio, Nero decided to write a huge, epic work about Roman history. Only one question occupied his mind – how long should this work be?


Herd of elephants surrounded by people

Pliny the Elder mentions in his encyclopedic work Natural History that a herd of elephants surrounded by hunters position themselves in such a way that the individuals with the smallest fangs were at the front. In this way, they supposedly want to convince people that it is not worth trying ivory.

Herd of elephants

Lions and boars on battlefield?

Lucretius – Roman poet and philosopher from the 1st century BCE – in his work De rerum natura (“On the Nature of Things”) made various philosophical and scientific considerations. He believed that early humanity used all sorts of wild animals on the battlefields, including lions and wild boars.

Mosaic showing a lion

Consuls and their funny nicknames

Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, a consul for 137 BCE, was so obese that any movement and effort over time became a great problem for him. Due to his physical condition and clumsiness on the battlefield, he was given the nickname Porcina (“Pig”).

Pig in Roman uniform

Galen – expert in human anatomy

Galen (Aelius Galenus) was a Roman physician of Greek descent, who lived in the 2nd century CE he was regarded in his time as a great expert on human anatomy. Roman law forbade autopsies from 150 BCE. Thus, Galen relied only on dissections of animals (mostly monkeys and pigs).


Gladiator had to know how to die

Gladiators were taught to kill and die stoically. Defeated, who failed to obtain the so-called missus or grace, could choose the way of death. He could kneel on the ground in front of his opponent, lean over and wrap his left arm around his left knee, thus exposing his neck. One quick cut to the throat severed the major arteries and ensured a quick but bloody death.

Mosaic showing gladiators during the fight

Good elephant rider

When having war elephants, it was extremely important to have experienced drivers of these animals, i.e. mahouts. Their task was to take care of the animal every day: feeding, watering, cleaning, and in the event of wounds or illness, special care. In addition to caring for the elephant, the mahout’s most important function was guiding the elephant.

Elephant on a Roman mosaic

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