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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.

Urine in ancient Rome

In ancient Rome, urine was a versatile and valuable commodity that had many uses, from medicine to cleaning to manufacturing. While some of these uses may seem strange or even repulsive today, it’s important to remember that the Romans were skilled and resourceful people who used every resource available to them.

Public latrine in ancient Rome

Why did Romans use “crooked” dice to play?

Two researchers of ancient items believe they may have solved the mystery of why people living during the Roman Empire used “crooked” dice in their games. In their article published in the journal Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, Jelmer Eerkens and Alex de Voogt describe their research on bones.

Roman dice

Great fratricidal fight

Period of civil wars of the 1st century BCE was a time of a great fratricidal struggle between the very citizens of Rome. As Marcus Favonius, Cato’s friend, noted: “Civil war was worse than the most illegal monarchy”1.

Battle of Philippi in 42 BCE

Bellum sociale

War of the allies (so-called bellum sociale) fought in 90-88 BCE was a conflict between the Roman Republic and its Italian allies (socii). For years, the policy of “divide and conquer” allowed to keep many cities and peoples of Italy under the rule. The controversial death of the people’s tribune, Marcus Livius Drusus, who pushed for, among other things, the granting of civil rights to all free inhabitants of Italy, as well as the division of all public lands, caused a violent outbreak of rebellious Italian tribes.

Legionaries in the graphic

Banishment in Rome

Banishment was commonly used in ancient Rome. One of its variations was the punishment interdicere aquae et ignis (“to prohibit fire and water”). The convict was forced to leave Roman lands and automatically lost his property to the state. If the exile returned he was still treated as an outlaw; had, among others forbidden to use fire and water, and could be killed without trial.

J.M.W. Turner, Ovid Banished From Rome

Did Romans drink beer?

Beer, currently an extremely popular drink, was not popular in Greek and Roman civilizations. Pliny the Elder referred to beer as barley wine and treated it very contemptuously.

Did Romans drink beer?

Aes signatum – precursor of Roman money

Aes signatum was a primitive form of Roman money, succeeding aes rude – copper nuggets. The exact date of the introduction of these “coins” is unknown, but it is believed that it took place in the middle of the 5th century BCE, and is related to the codification of Roman law (the so-called law of the Twelve Tables).

Aes signatum from 4th century BCE

Patria potestas – paternal authority

In the Roman family, the husband and father were the head of the family. “Paternal authority” (patria potestas) lasted as a rule for life. It died out only with the death patris familias. Then the wife of the deceased (if she was subject to his authority), his children (but not grandchildren) and further descendants became persons sui iuris ([persons] of their right).

Virgil has mosaics as pater familias

Correction of morals under Augustus

Octavian Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire (27 BCE – 14 CE), from the beginning of his office, proclaimed the need to correct morals, criticizing promiscuity and a taste for luxury. As it turned out, he had to start repairing Roman society from his own home.

Statue of Octavian from Prima Porta

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