Theaters, Graffiti, and Phallus Monsters: 7 Weird Facts About the Romans

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Trivial Diversions

Theaters, Graffiti, and Phallus Monsters: 7 Weird Facts About the Romans

Theaters, Graffiti, and Phallus Monsters: 7 Weird Facts About the Romans

The Romans were an odd bunch. Thanks to a desire to differentiate themselves from the civilizations around them and an adherence to the good old maxim of “forget you, I’ll do what I want,” the Romans did some odd things.

  1. Fascinus

Men have long worried about the state of their penises. Romans took that a step further by making a literal deified penis called Fascinus. His amulets were used to ward off the evil eye (which could cause all sorts of maladies like impotence, crop failures, etc.). The amulets took many, very not-safe-for-work forms, including winged penises, penis/griffin hybrids, and at least one windchime in the shape of a gladiator fighting his own penis (which is form-changing into a jaguar).

  1. The Pydna monument

In 168 B.C., Roman general Aemillius Paullus defeated Macedonia’s King Perseus at Pydna, ending the Third Macedonian War. To commemorate the victory, he erected a monument showing scenes from the battle. In doing so, he made two huge jerk moves.

Normally, Roman war memorials show the victorious general, but not the Pydna monument. Instead, it shows King Perseus, on his horse and falling to the ground.

The other jerk move has to do with something the Greeks liked to do on their monuments, called “heroic nudity.” The Greeks loved them some nudity, so on Greek monuments, the heroes were usually naked. The Romans did not see it that way – their monuments were usually chastely clothed (except for Roma, who represented the city of Rome, who always had one breast out). So, on the monument, Paullus was sure to include one of the “heroically nude” Greeks lying heroically dead on the ground.

That's him, in the bottom left.

That’s him, in the bottom left.

  1. Graffiti

Romans, like all people, were writers of graffiti. Some, like one example found in a restaurant, had to do with the prices of different food items for sale. Others followed the generic “X was here” approach. And then others are more interesting, like the inscription in Pompeii’s basilica: “Chie, I hope your hemorrhoids rub together so much that they hurt worse than when they every have before!”

  1. Baths

The Romans are somewhat famous for their baths. The bathing process was quite long, including many steps, so it was used as a social gathering place. Once, a Roman Emperor was asked why he bathed once per day, and he replied “Because I do not have enough time to bathe twice a day.”

  1. Pompey’s Theater

During its time as a republic, Rome was not fond of theaters in the city – since the Senate was all wealthy men, they thought that the theaters would operate as meeting places for the poorer citizens to congregate and spread discord. So, they passed a law banning the building of theaters in the city. The Roman general Pompey wanted to build a theater, though, dang it. So, he made a “temple to Venus,” (which was a small building) where the seats of the theater were “totally just the steps up to the temple, you guys,” which all in all was “Totally not a theater, seriously, you guys.”

Don't be fooled by the inscription reading "THEATRUM."

Don’t be fooled by the inscription reading “THEATRUM.”

It is thought that Caesar was killed close by, in the same complex.

  1. Togas

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a drunken idiot run past with a bedsheet wrapped around him yelling “TOGA” (once). For the Romans, though, wearing a toga was some serious business. Everyone would wear a tunic – a sort of basic garment cinched at the waist with a rope. Wearing a toga was the big time – you could only wear one if you were a free man (so no women or slaves). One of the first things freed (male) slaves did was go buy a toga.

  1. Renewable water

The Romans were pioneers of plumbing. To make sure they had fresh water, each house was built with a hole in the roof which let rain fall into a pool called the impluvium, which drained into a cistern beneath the house. The people in the house could then lower a bucket into a well next to the impluvium to get some fresh water. If it overflowed, a pipe would funnel the excess water into the street.

Related topics Bath, Fascinus, graffiti, impluvium, Pompey, Rome, theater, toga
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