Tuesday, 28 April 2015


Why, here we are at Salvius' Bar in Pompeii. Let's stop by and enjoy the friendly banter of the locals.

I won!
That's not a three, it's a two!

I got the three, scumbag, I won!
Come off it, cocksucker, I won!
Oi, you wanna fight - ahhhtside!

Oh dear, maybe we'll just find a corner and have a quiet drink.

No, it's mine!
You want it, come and get it! Oceanus, come here, drink!

Monday, 27 April 2015

Match of the Day

Here is the fight between the secutor (chaser) Astyanax and the retiarius (net-and-trident man) Kalendio.

Things (in the lower frame) look bad for spud-faced nipper Astyanax: Kalendio has enveloped him in his weighted net and is going in for the trident thrust.

But in the upper frame the tables are turned. Kalendio is down and bleeding into the sand, holding up his dagger in token of surrender, while the summa rudis (senior umpire) on the left (his assistant is on the right) turns to the editor (the giver of the games) for a decision on life or death.

Astyanax A won and the Ø by Kalendio's name shows that the editor - and the crowd - had Astyanax kill him.

Here the dismounted equites Maternus and Habilus (lower frame) are fighting. If you don't want to see the result look away now.

The text above them and the Ø for Maternus show the outcome: "While they were fighting Symmachius (the editor) gave the sword".

In the upper frame Maternus is down. The summa rudis repeats the editor's decision to the crowd, "I kill", and the crowd roar "we see this". They approve: "good call, Symmachius C".

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Urbiscus o.g.

Of the fate of the gladiator: Like Urbiscus, the secutor of Milan made famous by his epitaph, he might be killed by the hand he recently spared... "I warn you that you had better kill the man you have defeated" "Te moneo ut quis quem vicerit occidat".

Carlin A. Barton The Sorrows of the Ancient Romans (1993) p38

Readers: Not more Romans. Can't you...
Blogomachus: Okay, I'll change the subject completely. How's about the dormouse pots of the Etruscans? See, it's got air holes and a feeding tray at the top that you can refill through the lid and those dormouse-runs around the sides for exercise.
Readers: Etruscans, eh? Well I suppose that's not actually Roman per se.
Blogiarius: Of course the Romans had them too, this lovely example from Pompeii for instance.
Readers: Noooooooooooooo.
Blogutor: Wait 'til we get to the mullets.
Readers: Whew. At least we'll be back somewhere sane like the early 1980s.
Blogachaerus: I mean the ones in decanters.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Gissa Job

From a variety of evidence "you get to more than fifty ways of making a living in Pompeii: from weaver to gem-cutter, from architect to pastry cook, from a barber to an ex-slave woman called Nigella, who is described on her tomb as a 'public pig-keeper' (porcaria publica)."

Mary Beard Pompeii (2010) p168

Also, Roman matrons told their daughters to call their tendrest part porcellana, little piggy, hence porcelaine.

These are the only Imperial Roman Pig-Related Facts that I know, or at least that I know I know. Yet there must be more; there must be, there must be: more.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Either Neither Both?

The skeletons of seventeen men who perished in the Vesuvian holocaust have been recovered from the ashes of the gladiatorial barracks of Pompeii. They were trapped in a cell in which weapons were stored. Several had no possibility of escape; their legs were bound in stocks. With them was found the skeleton of a woman richly adorned with gold jewelry - a necklace of emeralds, two armbands, rings, and other ornaments - and carrying a cameo in a small casket. A lady, we will never know what brought her to the barracks. She can only tease our imaginations. Was she a ludia, one of the "groupies" who attended the "families" of gladiators? Was she like Eppia, mocked by Juvenal, the senator's wife who fled to Alexandria with her scarred "Sergiolus" and his family of fellow gladiators? Was she like those men and women whom Tertullian disdained for giving their bodies and souls to the gladiators, the actors and the charioteers? Was she like those scorned by Petronius for being "inflamed by the arena, or by a muleteer mired in dirt, or an actor disgraced by his exposure on the stage"? Did she kiss the tracks of the whips?

Carlin A. Barton "The Sorrows of the Ancient Romans: the Gladiator and the Monster" (1992) p81

And then, of course, there was the richly jewelled lady found in one of the rooms in the gladiators' barracks, This has often been written up as as a nice illustration of the penchant of upper-class women for the brawny bodies of gladiators. Here, it seems, is one of them caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, her adultery exposed to the gaze of history. It is, in fact, a much more innocent scene than that. Almost certainly the woman was not on a date at all, but had taken refuge in the barracks, when the going got too rough on her flight out of the city. At least, if this was an assignation with her toy-boy, it is an assignation she shared with seventeen others and a couple of dogs - all of whose remains were found in the same room.

Mary Beard "Pompeii: the Life of a Roman Town" (2010) p5

Is this a case of Carlin Barton getting all superheated-steam over the extreme psychic paradoxes tormenting the Romans of the late Republic and early Empire? Or of Mary Beard channelling Joyce Grenfell at her bluestocking best (date???)?

As Mary Beard remarks elsewhere (p15), there is "what we might call the 'Pompeii paradox': that we simultaneously know a huge amount and very little about ancient life there".


Both books get a demi-Satchmo from this reader (ie me) and it's very hard to do better than that.

 Carlin A. Barton (Prof. History UMassAmherst) doesn't appear to keep a blog.
Mary Beard (Prof. Classics Cantab) does: A Don's Life.

Brrroken Brrroadband Brrritain.

Hello. You'd think in 21st Century Britain that broadband, fibre-optic cable and ultra-fast internet communication could be taken for granted as a vital underpin to our economic future.

Well, you'd be wrong. We present Broken Broadband Britain, a nation where modern telecomms is limited to a few city centres and shocking swathes of the country are still forced to live in the olden days of yore.

Our first vistit takes us to Rockall in the deprived North West, and we meet Tavish McTavish McGonagall, who has established his hi-tech business hub in a disused Cold War bunker 100 feet below the surface.

To protect his anonymity we've changed his name and he spoke to us in Morse by banging a rock on the lower rungs of the access ladder. His code is transcribed by an actor.

"I had a good job and a big house in Manchester but the pace of life was just too slow and the city completely stifles innovation so I moved here to start up a truly dynamic future enterprise. It's just ridiculous. Fibre-optic hasn't even arrived yet and the wi-fi signal is intermittent to non-existent. No, I haven't called BT to complain. I don't have a mobile and how can I order one when I don't even have internet access? Well no I don't have a computer, how can I order one when I don't even have internet access? How am I supposed to build a dating-to-fux website without internet access? It's ridiculous in modern-day Britain and the Government should act immediately. Action this very day! What do you mean, there's no Government? What election?"

Tragically it's not just in  the North West that the Broadband Deficit is stalling enterprise and growth. Our next visit takes us to the vibrant South West and a buzzing new Silicon Valley on Bodmin Moor, and we meet Rupert St John Halibuthead, whose thrusting hi-tech business is run from a converted sink-hole.

To protect his anonymity we've changed his name and he spoke to us from behind a large stack of empty gin bottles using a scrambler device of his own invention which rendered his speech incoherent to avoid giving away tell-tale details. His ramblings are interpreted by an actor.

"I han a good job and a big flat big flat in Cam'n Town but the pace of life was jus too slow an the city completely stifles innovation. I moved here to.... yes. Yes. I moved here. Iss a taxi service bit like Über only the drivers have to be whores and there's a funh fleeen fully-stock minibar in every vehicle. Bloody good idea 'f you ask me. 'S jus farcical. I can't find the firbror firebrobole fibre-optic and I haven't even seen a broadban. The Government mus act immediately today not tomor today. Iss jus farcical. Whass you mean there's no Government?"

Next week we talk with a consortium of rail engineers whose plans for a hi-speed maglev train tunnel linking South Uist to the Scilly Isles, essential for Britain's economic survival into the 2020s, have so far been ignored by the authorities. Time is running out. More then.

Blogger's note: there hasn't been a run recently of utter retards hi-tech entrepreneurs who've relocated to places called St Leonard-under-Armpit or Grunty Hogben and are calling Radio 4 to whine about how feeble telecomms are thwarting their development projects and how the taxpayer ought to shell out and fix it. No, there hasn't. Because obviously your bleeding-edge telecomms wizard is no more going to set up business in an area known for shite telecomms than a boatbuilder is going set up shop in the middle of the Sahara.

Breaking News: Whispering Dunes BoatResh demands £38bn canal project to ensure survival of British economy into the 2020s. "It's just ridiculous in this day and age" spokesperson says.