Do you know that the word cereals derives from the Roman Goddess Ceres and the cult of Mother Earth (Magna Mater)?

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The Roman goddess Ceres was in origin an ancient Greek and then Italic divinity called Demeter. She was the goddess of agriculture, the cycle of the seasons, grain crops and fertility. The ancient Romans dedicated to her an important Festival called Cerealia held from mid to late April. (from the 12th to approximately the 19th of April). The festival usually organized by the plebeian aediles and included circus games the ludi circenses and included also ludi scaenici which were theatrical religious events.

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The legend says that the daughter of Ceres Persephone (Proserpina for the Romans) was  picking flowers when, all of a sudden, Hades god of the Underworld, bursts out of the ground, grabs her and dragged her down to the underworld. Her mother, Demeter after hearing her daughter’s scream, tries to know what happened but nobody can tell something. So, Demeter Wanders all over the earth to look for her and the goddess is so upset and furious that Zeus has helped Hades in kidnapping her daughter that she vows that she won’t let anything grow on earth until she sets eyes on her daughter again.

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A terrible famine assaults the eart, and people start starving everywhere. Seeing this, Zeus sends Hermes, the messenger god, down to the underworld to order Hades to let Persephone go. He agrees but, secretly slips some pomegranate seeds into her mouth. And when eating something while you are in the underworld, you have to stay there forever. When back on the earth, Persephone tells her mom how Hades tricked her into eating the pomegranate seeds. Demeter is totally ticked off and says that nothing will grow on earth ever again. It’s decided that Persephone only has to spend part of the year with Hades in the underworld. The number of months is different in various myths, and sometimes it relates to the number of pomegranate seeds that Persephone eats. Demeter reluctantly agrees with this, but says that when Persephone is in the underworld, nothing on earth will grow. This is where the seasons come from.

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The word cereals derives from the goddess Ceres, commemorating her association with edible grains. Statues of Ceres are built on top the domes of the Missouri State Capitol and the Vermont State House serving as a reminder of the importance of agriculture in state’s economies and histories. There is also a statue of her on top of the Chicago Board of Trade Building which conducts trading agricultural commodities.

 

 

Annunci

Amazing Pompeii: a travel back in time!

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A visit in Pompeii for those of you who love to travel back in time at the age of the Romans in an imperative!

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Here just a few pics of my last visit during the weekend.

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Every time I come, it is a new experience and there are new details to discover.

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Exploring the land of the Etruscans!

Whenever you feel lonely and in a bad mood, that is the moment to get out, take a wonderful day or afternoon off and can come with me for a beautiful walk in the Tuscia countryside! (The Tuscia is the territory of the norther part of Latium that was colonized by the Etruscans and then conquered by the Romans).

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Living at about 50 minutes from Rome in the northern part of the Latium region has many advantages and one of these is that I am able to go around, (whenever I want), discovering new sites. This Italian region has a millenary history: from prehistoric to pre-roman and medieval artifacts to discover. (most of them abandoned and forgotten since virtuality is changing the way of living!).

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The site I am showing is very easy to reach with the car, then to go down the cave, I must admit that requires a good capacity of hiking and not being afraid of walking in steep slopes. Anyhow the pics I’ve taken, can show you how amazing the final result was!

Be positive and get out a beautiful world is waiting for you!

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How was the Intelligence service in the ancient empires? (Part two)

Among other means of concealment were the writing of a message. For example, the signal for the revolt of the Ionian agaist the Persians in 500 B.C. was given when Histiaeus shaved the head of a slave, tatooed the order to revolt, allowed the hair to re-grow and sent the slave to Aristagores with instructions to shave his head again. Other forms of concealment were the use of a thin sheet of tin which was sewed into a sandal sole. However the evolution of written messages was in the use of invisible writing or disappearing ink.

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The earliest reference is probably Ovid (43 B.C. 17 A.D.) who gives methods for clandestine communications between lovers. He proposes writing a letter on papyrus, with new milk or stalk of moistened flax. Such writings could be readable by sprinkling with coal dust. Pliny reports that letters written on the body with tithy-mallus or euphorbia can be made visible by sprinkling them with ashes. However the use of various inorganic compounds such us oxides and salts of cobalt for secret ink, depended on the develpment of a more sophisticated chemical technology. All methods so far considered could achieve secrecy but their great failing was the lack of speed.

It was then realized that sound traveled faster than messengers. Acoustic signals were limited in range by vocal strength and wind conditions. Despite such difficulties, efforts were made to extend normal voice ranges. A Group of loud-mouthed individuals was collected by Xerxes, who used them to establish a vocal relay from Persia to Greece during his invasion in 480 B.C.

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Caesar found a similar method in use among the Gauls, where important news was shouted from one person to another. A massacre of Romans at Cenabium in 52 B.C. which occurred at dawn was known among the Anverni 150 miles away before 8 o’clock at night. However the ancient commanders realized the danger of depending too much on a single means of communication. Asclepiodotus recommends training the army to recognize commands whether given by voice or visual signals. The uproar of battle, wind, fog or rain may obscure some of them but is not likely to block all simultaneously.

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although the speed of sound far exceeded that of the physical carrying of messages, it was far excelled by the speed of light. It is assumed that Greeks and Romans were highly skilled in the use of visual signaling devices such as semaphores, beacons or heliographs. The signaling supposed to have been done with a flashing shield by the Alcmaeonidae after the battle of Marathon, similarly Sinon is supposed to have been informed to open the Troja Horse by a mirror flashed from the Greek fleet.

Usually the signals were prearranged codes. Polybius describes a visual system which is eminently workable and is adaptable to the sending of the message. Polybius inscribes the alphabet into a five-by-five table in the following way:

     1   2   3   4   5

1   A  F   L  Q  V

2   B  G  M  R  W

3    C  H  N  S  X

4     D  J  O  T  Y

5     E  K  P  U  Z

By displaying an appropriate number of torches in both the right and the left hands simultaneously any letter can be indicated to the observing receiver. One torch in the right hand and four in the left, for example, would indicate the letter “D”. This system should have been nearly as fast as modern manned semaphore of light systems. Plybius also proposes, to enhance visual acuity with a binocular instrument. This dioptra was apparently made of two tubes and probably some kind of lens to magnify the field of vision.

End of part two.

 

 

How was the intelligence service among the ancient empires? (Part one)

There is a consistent evidence for intelligence service in the East with a corresponding late development of such services in the West. The earliest history of Rome, from the historian Livy portrays the simple, straightforward Latin peasants as having a disdain for anything that appeared artificial. However this had disastrous results for their Citizen militia at the beginning of their expansion.

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When the Etruscans made a raid against Rome for example, they only found out about the enemy’s approach when the farmers stampeded in from the fields for shelter. On a similar occasion the city learned of a victorious battle only when the waters of the Tiber brought the shields of their fallen enemies inside the city walls. It would have been an easy task to set up a primitive signalling system to prevent surprise Attacks. Instead, a formidable enemy as the Gauls were able to take Rome by surprise in 390 B.C. and totally destroy the city.

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By the Greek, running messengers were used. The message was usually written and it was advantageous so that the messenger was unaware of the contents of his missive. Some of those individuals such as Pheidippides became amazingly adept at long-distance running. Herodotus mentioned that in 490 B.C. he covered 160 miles between Athens and Sparta, over montainous terrain in less than 48 hours. He was the first known Marathon runner.

Rome went on to conquer the rest of the Italian peninsula, yet there seems to have been little marked progress in communications or intelligence gathering. As Rome became more powerful, this weakness became more obvious, in particular when it came to face with a fully developed Eastern intelligence service when she went to war with the Carthaginians. Hannibal, Rome’s most formidable opponent had a signalling system, messenger relays by land and sea, spies placed in Roman camps and agents abroad who would help efficiently. A highly-developed system made of hidden spies, false documents, encrypted codes, and camouflaged expeditions.

The Carthaginian Hannibal Barca is considered one of the greatest military commander in history. The young general used wigs and used disguises of every kind to move among the military camps, to probe the morale of the soldiers and to prevent riots among the military. Before attacking the Romans, he was able to place spies in Italy everywhere so as to receive as many information as possible before the invasion. He was so well informed about the Roman’s military plans that he managed to avoid the Roman army near the Rhone, when the army landed to attack him in Marseilles and to cross the Alpes with 26,000 men and 37 elephants when the snow already started to fall. His intelligence service was so good that he could send messages to his allied countries even when he was in the cities controlled by the Romans.

Only after having learned the lesson with Hannibal, Julius Caesar developed introduced the principles of tactical and strategic organization. During his campaigns in Gaul in 54 B.C. Julius Caesar, having learned the lesson, was able to send word to the besieged Quintus Cicero by having a javelin with a message attached, Flying against the wall of Cicero’s camp.

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End of part one.

La Devotio romana un sacrificio magico per la vittoria!

The Roman Devotio a magical votum of self-dedication for the victory!

 

Questo antico rito quasi magico di richiesta di aiuto a Giano ed al Dio Marte, arriva sino a noi attraverso la storia del console Publio Decio Mure che nella famosa battaglia delle nazioni 340 a.C. (una coalizione di Galli, Senoni, Etruschi e Umbri contro Romani e Piceni) era ormai prossimo alla sconfitta, completamente lordo di sangue e polvere, si accorge che non c’era un momento da perdere e decide di chiedere l’intercessione degli dei per ribaltare le sorti della battaglia. Si dice pronto ad effettuare questo scambio e richiedere una “devotio” perché gli stessi potessero aiutarlo nella sua vittoria. Il console a quel punto, indossa la toga e rivolgendosi ad alta voce, di fronte ai suoi soldati pronuncia una invocazione propiziatoria e si scaglia verso i suoi nemici per essere ucciso. La battaglia terminò con la vittoria dei romani e questa azione così estrema riusciva a dare ai soldati una carica incredibile. Pensare che il proprio comandante sacrificava la sua vita prima dei suoi soldati per la patria era un supremo sacrificio pazzesco!

This ancient Roman ritual in which a commander dedicated his life to the Gods Janus and Mars is known to us because Livius mentioned what happened during the famous battle of the nations 340 B.C. (a coalition of Gallic, Senons, Etruscans and Umbri against Romans and Picentes). The consul Publius Decius Mus was practically loosing the battle and completely covered with blood and dust, decided that it was the moment for a request of the Gods’ intercession and only them could give the Romans the possibility to win the battle. The devotio was an extreme form of votum in which a Roman general vowed for sacrifice his own life in Exchange for victory. The battle was won by the Romans and this particular action managed to give to the soldiers an incredible strength. Thinking that the commander was ready to sacrifice his life before his soldiers was an amazing consacration in the name of the homeland.

Patrio exemplo ete me dicabo atque animam devoro hostibus, quibus rem summam et patriam nostram quondam adauctavit pater. (As before my father made my homeland more illustrious and glorious, I will too consecrate for the victory of my homeland mine).

 

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O Giano, o Giove, o Marte Padre, o Quirino, o Bellona, o Lari, o déi Novensili, o déi Indigeni, o déi che avete potere su di noi e sui nemici, e voi, o déi Mani, vi prego, vi supplico, vi chiedo e mi riprometto la grazia che voi accordiate propizi al Popolo Romano dei Quiriti potenza e vittoria, e rechiate terrore, spavento e morte ai nemici del Popolo Romano dei Quiriti. Come ho espressamente dichiarato, io immolo insieme con me agli déi Mani e alla Terra, per la Repubblica del Popolo Romano dei Quiriti, per l’esercito, per le legioni, per le milizie ausiliarie del Popolo Romano dei Quiriti.

 

 

La medicina al tempo dei romani, dagli oracoli ai chirurghi…

The medical science at the time of the Romans, from the oracles to real surgeons

 

 

Il primo medico nell’antica Roma era il pater familias che, come principale responsabile familiare gestiva la vita di tutto il gruppo dei consanguinei ed era a lui che ci si rivolgeva in caso di malanni. le antiche conoscenze erano molto semplici e si limitavano all’uso di erbe, infusi ed impacchi. Si usava olio di oliva, vino ed il cavolo era considerato una pianta miracolosa. Nella Roma monarchica e nei primi secoli della Repubblica, si usava portare il malato al tempio di Esculapio o di Iside affinché venisse guarito o perlomeno che gli apparisse in sogno per indicargli la cura. Un altro metodo prevedeva che venisse portato nei portici pubblici, perchè si sperava che qualche passante nel vederlo potesse avere un rimedio già utilizzato per se stesso ed efficace. Le malattie erano considerate una punizione divina e la guarigione era spesso affidata a preghiere e sacrifici.

The first doctor of the ancient Rome was, the pater familias who, was responsible of the entire family and managed the life of the people living in his home. All the blood relatives went to him in case of diseases and misfortunes. The ancient scientific knowledge was very simple and foresaw the use of herbs, infusions and compresses. Olive oil, wine and cauliflower were the principle remedies. During the ancient Monarchy and early years of the Roman Republic, people brought ill people to the Temple of Aesculapius or Isis hoping for his or her recovery, or at least that the oracle would appear in their dreams, telling the possible cure. Another remedy was to bring the ill to the public forum, hoping for someone who could have something, already tested on himself and effective for that illness. Diseases were considered God’s punishments and the recovery often relied on prayers and offering to the temples.

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Il primo medico di cui si ha notizia attraverso quanto descritto da Plinio il Vecchio e da Catone, si chiamava Archagatos ed era arrivato a Roma dal Peloponneso. Ma la sua fortuna non durò a lungo nonostante all’inizio venne accolto in modo straordinario, infatti la disinvoltura con cui praticava interventi cruenti ed amputazioni gli fecero conquistare la fama di carnifex e il suo atteggiamento provocò una certa diffidenza verso questa nuova professione. Comunque alla fine preferirono seguire l’evoluta scienza degli stranieri d’oriente piuttosto che le formule magiche degli antenati. I malati si recavano nelle tabernae medicinae, simili alle tabernae dove si mangiava ma, con un arredo differente. Nella stanza vi erano panche, sgabelli, arredi dove contenere farmaci, bende, acqua, olio, a volte anche delle brande dove far coricare l’infermo.

The first physician of whom we know about (mentioned by Plinius the Old and Marcus Porcius Cato) was Archagatos and came from Peloponnesus. Notwithstanding the fact that he was welcomed in Rome in an extraordinary way (he was immediately given the Roman Civis), his easy practices of cruel surgeries and amputations made him call the carnifex (the executioner) and his attitude provoked certain distrust in the new medical practice. Anyhow the Romans preferred to follow the newly developed science of the eastern foreigners, to the magical formulas of the ancestors. The ill went to the tabernae medicinae, which were similar to the tabernae, where people could eat or buy goods, but had a very different kind of furniture.

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Accanto, a volte, una sala dove i malati più gravi erano seguiti tutto il giorno e la notte. Il medico era aiutato da alcuni assistenti, utili in caso di interventi. Gli anestetici erano conosciuti ma, il dosaggio era ancora piuttosto empirico. A partire dal I secolo d.C. la medicina si specializzò e quindi cominciarono ad apparire: chirurghi (chirurgi), oculisti (ocularii), otorinolaringoiatri (auricularii). Con la Lex Aquilia promulgata nel 286 a.C. in caso di morte del paziente, per aver agito con trascuratezza, il medico era ritenuto il principale responsabile. Accanto ai medici privati, che ricevevano in ambulatori propri, come ad esempio nei valetudinaria, lavoravano i medici nelle aziende agricole, ve ne erano altri che operavano sotto il controllo statale, prestando servizio nell’esercito, nelle scuole dei gladiatori e nelle corporazioni artigiane.

Near the main room, there was another one where the most serious diseased people were followed night and day. The doctor worked together with one or two assistants who, were usefull during surgeries, (to keep people still). Anesthetics were known already but, its dosage was definitely empirical. After the first century a.C., the medical science specialized and appeared: surgeons (chirurgi), ophtalmologists (ocularii) and otorhinolaryngologists (auricularii). The Lex Aquilia (286 b.C.) hold accountable the doctor who was responsible of neglecting the ill, this was the first step to safeguard the people who need help. There were private doctors, who visited their patients in private places, like the valetudinaria, in which worked the doctors in farms. Or Others who worked for the State in the army, the gladiator’s schools or the artisans’ corporations.

 

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I medici riducevano le fratture con manovre e steccature, ma se erano scomposte non vi era altro rimedio che amputare l’arto. Con il bisturi si interveniva sulle imperfezioni come l’intervento del labbro leporino che è rimasto in uso sino ad oggi. L’unico problema era incognita delle infezioni post-operatorie, spesso letali. Il medico infatti aveva a disposizione solo aceto, piante medicinali ed impacchi disinfettanti.

The doctors reduced bone fractures with maneuvers or sticks, however displaced fractures needed the amputation of the limb. The scalpel was utilized to improve imperfections as the surgery of the cleft lip that is still used today. The only problem was the possibility of post-surgical infections, often lethal. The physician could only use, vinegar, medical herbs and low disinfectant compresses.