Saturday, January 9, 2010


Lex Romanum
By Gaius Basilicatus Agricola

Former Scriba Curatoris Differum Lex Iuridicialis

The Twelve Tables

The title is, like the Law, a bit misleading. Not all countries can be said to have adapted a codification system similar to Roman Law. However, I believe the influence Roman Law has had on every legal system has shaped every civilized culture worldwide. This article will give the student who has a cursory interest in Roman Law and Legal History the basics to research areas of interest to them.

Roman Law was the jurisprudence system in effect throughout the age of antiquity in the City of Rome and, later, in the Roman Empire. When Roman rule over Western Europe faded out, Roman Jurisprudence was for the most part forgotten. The study of Church Canon Law became the preferred subject of serious scholars. There was a renewed interest in the law of the Romans in Medieval times, around the 11th Century. The University of Bologna was the first medieval university where Roman Law was studied. Most universities followed suit. The resurrection of Roman law at this time was a unique event in legal history and, arguably, changed the future of European law. “Shadowy figures with unusual names like Pepo and Irnerius began to teach the law of the ancient Romans at Bologna” (“Roman and Secular Law in the Middle Ages”, Kenneth Pennington).

The law taught at this time was late imperial law that had been compiled, or “codified”, by the Emperor Justinian in the sixth century. His codification, the Corpus Iuris Civilis, provided the text for teaching Roman law in the eleventh century. Its legal doctrines provided jurists with a detailed model for contracts, procedural rules, family law, wills and estates, and support for a strong monarchical constitutional system. Six hundred years after his death, the name “Justinian” became synonymous with “legislator” and “codifier”. The word “justice”, however, does have its own separate Latin origin.

Soon Roman Law came to be applied in legal practice--especially in the area of civil law. This process of adoption of Roman Law occurred over a period of time across all of Europe (England being an exception, and the subject of an upcoming article). Thus from the 16th century onward, Roman Law was in effect throughout most of Europe. It should be noted that in the process of adopting Roman law, many Roman rules were merged with the regional customs and traditions. Thus, Roman rules, applied in Europe at this period, were not identical with Roman Law from antiquity. Nonetheless, because the law that had evolved had an essentially Roman basis, common in all European countries, it was called the Ius Commune (common law). In many regions of the German Reich, Roman Law remained the primary source of legal rules until the introduction of the German Civil Code in 1900. Even today a special branch of the Ius Commune, known as Roman-Dutch Law, is the basis of the legal system in the Republic of South Africa. (“Basics of Roman Law”, Thomas Rüfner.) It is understandable that after 600 years of living and litigating under systems so closely based on Roman Law, many modern systems contain basic Roman legal concepts.

So, where did it all begin?


On a personal note, I love the Twelve Tables, more out of morbid fascination than professional curiosity. Dated to 450 BCE, in it are contained the basics, the bedrock, of Roman life and attitude towards life, harsh yet fair for the times they lived in: the proper circumstances for exposing and killing your child; compelling witnesses to testify by standing outside the witness’s house and screaming; and, of course, a lesson in math and human reproduction “A child born after ten months since the father's death will not be admitted into a legal inheritance.” Simple.

To the point. Clear. Laconic. No prolix or discursive waste. Here they are:

Table I.

1. If anyone summons a man before the magistrate, he must go. If the man summoned does not go, let the one summoning him call the bystanders to witness and then take him by force.
2. If he shirks or runs away, let the summoner lay hands on him.
3. If illness or old age is the hindrance, let the summoner provide a team. He need not provide a covered carriage with a pallet unless he chooses.
4. Let the protector of a landholder be a landholder; for one of the proletariat, let anyone that cares, be protector.
6-9. When the litigants settle their case by compromise, let the magistrate announce it. If they do not compromise, let them state each his own side of the case, in the comitium of the forum before noon. Afterwards let them talk it out together, while both are present. After noon, in case either party has failed to appear, let the magistrate pronounce judgment in favor of the one who is present. If both are present the trial may last until sunset but no later.

Table II.

2. He whose witness has failed to appear may summon him by loud calls before his house every third day.

Table III.

1. One who has confessed a debt, or against whom judgment has been pronounced, shall have thirty days to pay it in. After that forcible seizure of his person is allowed. The creditor shall bring him before the magistrate. Unless he pays the amount of the judgment or some one in the presence of the magistrate interferes in his behalf as protector the creditor so shall take him home and fasten him in stocks or fetters. He shall fasten him with not less than fifteen pounds of weight or, if he choose, with more. If the prisoner chooses, he may furnish his own food. If he does not, the creditor must give him a pound of meal daily; if he chooses he may give him more.

2. On the third market day let them divide his body among them. If they cut more or less than each one's share it shall be no crime.

3. Against a foreigner the right in property shall be valid forever.

Table IV.

1. A dreadfully deformed child shall be quickly killed.
2. If a father sells his son three times, the son shall be free from his father.
3. As a man has provided in his will in regard to his money and the care of his property, so let it be binding. If he has no heir and dies in testate, let the nearest agnate have the inheritance. If there is no agnate, let the members of his gens have the inheritance.
4. If one is mad but has no guardian, the power over him and his money shall belong to his agnates and the members of his gens.
5. A child born after ten months since the father's death will not be admitted into a legal inheritance.

Table V.

1. Females should remain in guardianship even when they have attained their majority.

Table VI.

1. When one makes a bond and a conveyance of property, as he has made formal declaration so let it be binding.
3. A beam that is built into a house or a vineyard trellis one may not take from its place.
5. Usucapio of movable things requires one year's possession for its completion; but usucapio of an estate and buildings two years. (usucapio is the basis for adverse possession-author’s note).
6. Any woman who does not wish to be subjected in this manner to the hand of her husband should be absent three nights in succession every year, and so interrupt the usucapio of each year.

Table VII.

1. Let them keep the road in order. If they have not paved it, a man may drive his team where he likes.
9. Should a tree on a neighbor's farm be bend crooked by the wind and lean over your farm, you may take legal action for removal of that tree.
10. A man might gather up fruit that was falling down onto another man's farm.

Table VIII.

2. If one has maimed a limb and does not compromise with the injured person, let there be retaliation. If one has broken a bone of a freeman with his hand or with a cudgel, let him pay a penalty of three hundred coins If he has broken the bone of a slave, let him have one hundred and fifty coins. If one is guilty of insult, the penalty shall be twenty-five coins.
3. If one is slain while committing theft by night, he is rightly slain.

4. If a patron shall have devised any deceit against his client, let him be accursed.
5. If one shall permit himself to be summoned as a witness, or has been a weigher, if he does not give his testimony, let him be noted as dishonest and incapable of acting again as witness.
10. Any person who destroys by burning any building or heap of corn deposited alongside a house shall be bound, scourged, and put to death by burning at the stake provided that he has committed the said misdeed with malice aforethought; but if he shall have committed it by accident, that is, by negligence, it is ordained that he repair the damage or, if he be too poor to be competent for such punishment, he shall receive a lighter punishment.
12. If the theft has been done by night, if the owner kills the thief, the thief shall be held to be lawfully killed.
13. It is unlawful for a thief to be killed by day....unless he defends himself with a weapon; even though he has come with a weapon, unless he shall use the weapon and fight back, you shall not kill him. And even if he resists, first call out so that someone may hear and come up.
23. A person who had been found guilty of giving false witness shall be hurled down from the Tarpeian Rock.
26. No person shall hold meetings by night in the city.

Table IX.

4. The penalty shall be capital for a judge or arbiter legally appointed who has been found guilty of receiving a bribe for giving a decision.
5. Treason: he who shall have roused up a public enemy or handed over a citizen to a public enemy must suffer capital punishment.
6. Putting to death of any man, whosoever he might be unconvicted is forbidden.

Table X.

1. None is to bury or burn a corpse in the city.
3. The women shall not tear their faces nor wail on account of the funeral.
5. If one obtains a crown himself, or if his chattel does so because of his honor and valor, if it is placed on his head, or the head of his parents, it shall be no crime.

Table XI.

1. Marriages should not take place between plebeians and patricians.

Table XII.

2. If a slave shall have committed theft or done damage with his master’s knowledge, the action for damages is in the slave's name.
5. Whatever the people had last ordained should be held as binding by law.

The Twelve Tables were written by ten men, the Decemviri Consular Imperio Legibus Scribundis, (the 10 Consuls) who were given unprecedented powers to draft the laws of the early Republic. Originally only ten laws were drafted, but two others were added, prohibiting marriage between the classes and affirming the binding nature of traditional law, what I believe to be the Western legal concept of “precedence”.

In the Twelve Tables even a layperson may recognize simple legal concepts and phrases to which we take for granted. Take, for instance, Table XI, number 6:
“Putting to death of any man, whosoever he might be unconvicted is forbidden.”

You can’t kill a man without, essentially, due process of law. Due process, a cherished, coveted, and sometimes much abused Constitutional right, so close to the heart of the American criminal defense attorney, has its origins in The Twelve Tables.

Cicero, writing in the “De Oratore” comments on his love for the Twelve Tables:
“Though all the world exclaim against me, I will say what I think: that single little book of the Twelve Tables, if anyone look to the fountains and sources of laws, seems to me, assuredly, to surpass the libraries of all the philosophers, both in weight of authority, and in plenitude of utility.”

The Twelve Tables is also the earliest surviving piece of literature coming from the Romans. From it one can discern class struggle, sexism, the basics of civil rights, the law of patronage, slave ownership, and the implied right of patricians to lead in war, religion, law, and government. It is also apparent from its contents that the Romans, at this time, are still a largely agrarian society.

The originals are, according to legend, to have been cast in bronze, and displayed in public. Further legend has them being destroyed by the lawless Gauls during their sack of Rome in 387 BCE. Other sources claim they were carved into ivory tablets. The Twelve Tables are mentioned by Roman writers under a variety of names: Leges Decemvirales, Les Decemviralis, Leges XII, and Lex XII. Tabularum or Duodecim, and sometimes they are referred to under the names of Leges and Lex simply, as being pre-eminently “The Law”.

Jus, or Law, was divided into Publicum and Privatum by the Roman jurists. Publicum Jus is defined to be that which relates to the Status Rei Romanae, or to the Romans as a State; Privatum Jus is defined to be that which relates to just one man. The Twelve Tables contained both types of Law, which related to the State and areas the State had an interest in regulating, and, essentially, the process by which private citizens may sue one another. It was common for educated boys, up unto the time of Cicero, to memorize the Twelve Tables. In the time of Cicero, edicts (written decisions from judges concerning certain legal issues) had gained preeminence over the Tables, however, the Tables were never repealed. They became the foundation of the Jus Civile, and they continued to exist together with the common tradition and customs as they evolved. Roman Law that grew up in the course of time existed in harmony with the Twelve Tables, and was a development of their fundamental principles. (George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College).

Thursday, January 7, 2010


In the two thousand seven hundred and sixth-third year of the City, the citizens
Publius Memmius Albucius and Caeso Fabius Quintilianus have entered office as consuls. Caeso Fabius Quintilianus for the second time.

For Romans it is important at the start of the year to carry out a careful
observance to ensure success in public and private affairs. The first words spoken on awakening in the morning, and the first actions accomplished within the house must be cheerful and uncomplaining. To bring luck, laurel and saffron, is placed around the door or burned on the little household altar.

But unlike today's holiday, New Years Day in Rome then was no holiday. As the year started, so would it continue. The citizens must carry out a typical day. This means one could visit and receive your friends & clients; reciprocate good wishes to one other, give out little gifts of dates, figs and honey to sweeten the approaching year; but then the citizens would be off to work. If you were in Rome in the 200s BCE the first thing you would notice is along the Sacred Way that led to Capitoline are the temples, normally kept shut, are open to worship, and fire burns on all the altars that stands before them.

You would next notice a solemn procession of Romans along the Way, ready to make its way up to the Temple of Jupiter Best and Greatest to seek a blessing on the city and outside communities for the coming year. So early in the day (hour after sunrise) the crowds have gathered in the Forum Romanum near the Senate house. Each senator is wearing his heavy, woolen toga over the broad purple stripe of his tunic, the patricians wearing scarlet shoes, the plebeian’s regular sandals.

Of the 300 likely 250 would be present on such a special occasion-all those not hindered by illness or extreme age or absent on the public service in or outside Italy.

Those who follows them are the 'knights' or Equities: wearing their togas over the narrow purple stripe of their tunics, men rich enough to afford the expense of a horse, so that they can provide the cavalry of the army.

Next, the people of the city themselves. The shopkeepers, artisans, servants, laborers, farmers in for the day from the nearby country; and almost as numerous and not very detectable from their dress, freedmen and the slaves, immigrants or the domestics climbing towards citizenship.

The procession would form up as the Consuls, dressed in the purple and
embroidered togas of consuls, appeared from the Senate house.

At the front moved the senators and knights; then, immediately preceding the consular pair, their lictors, each with the fasces that traditional bundle of rods but no ax supported in left hand and on left shoulder showing the imperium of a Roman magistrate, having the power to punish the citizens if it was warranted. Behind the Consuls were carried the ceremonial Etruscan folding
stools of metal inlaid with carved ivory, their curule chairs (sellae curules).

Following the procession at its end would be implements of the sacrifice, the priests, a herald, flute player, the victimarius, (the slayer) and his assistant and young boy. (To follow the ancient tradition both his parents must be still living), together with the sacrifices: white oxen from the Alaskan heights or the plains of Clitunno, their horns covered in gilt.

At the foot of the Capitoline slope the congregation would turn left, and
move northwestwards towards the Capitol, past the high dais of the Temple of Saturn, up the steep slope of the paved, slightly curving Sacred Way that led along the South part of Capitoline Hill. Once through the gate and into the sacred area, they squeezed into position among the columns fronting the Temple of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. Within the doorway of the central shrine, that of Jupiter, the consuls would take their places for the first time upon their sellae curules, facing outwards towards the altar, the body and Rome.

It would be now necessary to take the auspices and make sure, that the God would accept the coming sacrifice. A special official, the pullarius, administered the cage containing the sacred chickens. If the birds scurried away instead of pecking at the pieces of pulse thrown to them, no sacrifice could be carried out. Instead the ceremony will be resumed on the morrow.

But today the pullarius reports in due course that the birds have fed. The altar fire crackles with saffron, casting a glow on the gilded coffers of the shaded pronaos. In the presence of the togate consuls, and of the Senate and People of Rome, keeping holy silence, the purple-veiled priest offered prayers for the state, formulae repeated from a written page and checked for correctness by a listener appointed for the purpose.

Any slip of the tongue, any stumble or mispronunciation tainted the proceedings, the spoken ritual would have to start from the beginning.
To muffle unlucky noises the piper played while the ritual was carried out.

Then the head of the ox was sprinkled with meal by the priest, and turned
sideways; the animal's throat was slit; the victim was disemboweled and the
entrails laid upon the altar. Only if the ritual could be duplicated undeviatingly like those of the past years could another year of success be
expected to come to Rome.

Afterwards would come a second offering, this time made by the twelve
Brethren of the Fields, an ancient and exclusive body. Its descent lay in the
faraway and obscure past, when Rome and her community was a little town dependent on the yield of the land, so this yield must be assured by reverence.

Now only a few nobles would carry on the ancient traditions. Once this
ceremony was concluded, the procession would re-form and descend the way it came. The consuls, magistrates and senators would make their way to the Senate house in the northeast corner of the Forum for the first meeting of the year.

The citizens would head for their place of employment. As it was then so it is now.

A most Happy New Year, Romans! May you all be lucky and successful in the upcoming year.

* Edited to reflect this years events and dates

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Religio Romana

The Pontifex Maximus by Jona Lendering
© Used by permission

The pontifex maximus was not a real magistrate: he did not serve for a fixed period but for life, and he remained, officially, a citizen. As the title suggests, the pontifex maximus was 'the greatest' or chairman of the college of the pontifices, 'priests'. They were responsible for the Roman state cult as a whole and for several cults in particular, viz. the cults that had no priestly college of their own (such as the augures, the decemviri sacris faciundis and the fetiales). The number of pontifices continued to grow.

There were originally 5 'real' pontifices, after the Lex Ogulnia (300/299 BCE) 9, after Sulla 15, and after Julius Caesar 16. Another member was the rex sacrorum ('king of the sacrifices') who performed the religious acts that the king had usually done. There were three (later 15) flamines, special priests for the main gods, and there were three mysterious pontifices minores.

Finally, the high priest was also responsible for the eighteen priestesses of the goddess Vesta. This may have been his most important duty, and it comes as no surprise that the residence of the pontifex maximus, the domus publica, was next to the monastery of these women.

The main task of the pontifices was to maintain the pax deorum, the 'peace with the gods'. To obtain this goal, they gave advise to the magistrates, interpreted the omens, controlled the calendar and oversaw funerals. The pontifex maximus was responsible for a large collection of omens (annales maximi); every year, he wrote down the celestial and other signs, and added the events that had followed the omens, so that future generation would be able to better understand the divine will.

Until the Lex Ogulnia, all pontifices were patricians; this law introduced the possibility that plebeians were to be pontifex as well. The pontifex maximus was elected by the comitia tributa, an assembly of the people that was divided into voting districts.

After 104 BCE, the ordinary pontifices were also elected - until then, they had been co-opted. Julius Caesar was elected pontifex maximus in 63 BCE and kept the office until his death. The house where he spent the night before he was killed was the domus publica.

After his death, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus became pontifex maximus (44-12 BCE); when he died, the emperor Augustus became responsible for the state cult. He also put an end to the election of the pontifices. From then on, a position in the college of pontifices was a sign of special imperial favor, comparable to a decoration in our age.

The word pontifex is sometimes explained as 'bridge builder', but is in fact related to the Etruscan word pont, 'road', and means something like 'preparer of the road'. The pope still calls himself pontifex maximus.

Because the pontifex maximus was not a real magistrate, he was not allowed to wear the toga with the purple border. However, he could be recognized by the iron knife (secespita).

Editor's Note: Mr. Jona Lendering’s work can be see at "Livius" a non-commercial Website on ancient history. Since 1996, Jona Lendering from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, maintains it. He read history at Leyden University (where he graduated in 1993) and specialized in Mediterranean archaeology and history at the Amsterdam Free University (until 1996), where he has been teaching methodology and theory for a brief period and where he has lectured on ancient history to elderly people since 1997.
This site is meant as a 'bridge' between what academic scholarship has to offer and what the larger audience demands. It also tries to offer on-line information on subjects that are still (almost) absent on the world wide web (e.g.,
ancient Persia).
Jona Lendering is the author of six books, all in Dutch. We wish to thank him for permission to reprint material from his website.

A Brief History of Roman Libraries

A Brief History of Roman Libraries
by Javier Rodriguez

Editor’s Note: With the establishment of the Nova Roma book Club last month I thought that a brief history of Roman Libraries might be in order. We would like to thank Mr. Javier Rodriguez and the Roman Empire Website for permission to reprint his article.

The intellectual prestige of the Greek world was consolidated through the Hellenistic libraries, mainly the library of Alexandria and the one of Pergamum. The first became the greatest library of Antiquity, and the fame of the wise people of the Museum extended across the Mediterranean world.

The library of Pergamum, on the other hand, served as model to the Roman libraries in its organization.

The libraries at the republican era

The first Roman libraries were private, and were constituted by the books that were seized by the glorious generals in the East campaigns, along with gold and jewels, sculptures and literate slaves. One knows that general Lucius Emilius Paulus, winner in the decisive battle of Pydna (168 B.C.E.), took as booty the books that constituted the library of the last Macedonian king, Perseus, soon to offer it to his sons, amongst whom was the famous Scipio the African. Sulla, on the other hand, seized in Athens the books of Aristotle acquired by Apelicon.

Also Lucius Licinius Lucullus, during its conquests in Asia Minor, collected a great amount of books. The new owners of the libraries opened them with generosity to those who wished to consult them and Cicero, according to his own accounts, devoured the books of the library of Sulla.

Although already in the 2nd Century B.C.E Latin books circulated, these first libraries consisted of Greek works that spread through the Roman world enhancing the glory of Greece. It was Horace, talking about Polybius and the thousands of hostages who were carried to Rome after Pydna, wrote its famous sentence: 'Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit' ('overcome Greece, conquer a conqueror'). Also important were the conferences that Crates, director of the library of Pergamum, held in Rome with remarkable success, to such an extent that the public libraries that were constructed later in Rome were following the example of the one in Pergamum.

Standing next to a temple the library consisted mainly of a large storage room for books and a porch on which one might read, or from where one could take a walk in the gardens or from where works could be recited aloud to an audience.

Meanwhile the building would be of splendid architecture and adorned with many paintings and busts. Evidently at this time libraries did not include reading tables, since these were introduced during Middle Ages, when parchment rolls and papyrus began to replace by the book.

Philosophical, historical and literary works abounded in these libraries, but so too other books, instructing the Romans to taking care of agriculture, the arts of war, the medicine or engineering. As for content they are classified in two sections, according to they were the books written in Greek or Latin. The idea to found a library with sections on Latin and Greek was Caesar's, whom having spent time in Alexandria, wished to equip Rome with a great public library and ordered his friend Marcus Terentius Varro to acquire and classify the books. But Caesar never saw this project realized due to his premature death. It is arguable that Julius Caesar had sought to turn Rome into the intellectual center of the Mediterranean world.

Caesar’s idea for the library was carried out five years later, in the 39 B.C.E, by Caius Asinius Pollio (in words of Saint Isidoro, Primus romae bibliothecas publicavit Pollio, graecas latinasque), general, historian and poet, of whom Pliny the Elder said that ingenio hominum rem publicam fecit, " he made men’s talents a public possession ". Asinius Pollio introduced to Rome the custom of decorating the library with busts of dead writers, although it made an exception with Varro, whose bust included during the writer's lifetime.

It is necessary to point out that the first libraries were not buildings specially designed to house books. Simply, the books were stored in shelves located in the rooms or warehouses, whereas the reading was made outdoors, taking a walk or simply seated under a porch. One important aspect of the diffusion of books, known also in Greece, but practiced foremost in Rome, were recitationes, in which works were read publicly.

Nevertheless, according to the apparent idea that the books transmitted culture to their owner, and therefore prestige, one began to adorn the places in which the books were housed, with paintings, statues and mosaics. The public libraries, on the other hand, assimilated architectonic and sculptured canon of beauty, being beautifully constructed buildings with splendid colonnade facades, through which they were ascending beautiful stairs, so that, more than merely entering a library one ascended into a " Temple of the Wisdom".

The libraries in the imperial era

Augustus, conscious that “a man is remembered by his works”, created in Rome two great libraries with corresponding sections of Latin and Greek: one on the Campus Martius, the Portico of Octavia, in the year 33 B.C.E. It was one of the architecturally most beautiful buildings of Rome, locked by one double colonnade, in the interior of which there were two temples, one dedicated to Jupiter and another one to Juno. The other, founded in the year 28 B.C.E., was on the Palatine, next to the temple of Apollo, and was constructed, like the temple, to commemorate the battle of Actium. It contained on a great porch, pictures of famous writers and a colossal statue of Apollo. Its books of this one were the collection of the notorious Pompeyus Macer, although the library director was Iulius Higinius, a Spanish freeman of Augustus.

Also Tiberius created a library next to his palace. Already at this time, there by now being enough a sufficient number of imperial libraries, Tiberius created the position of Procurator bibliothecarum, main director of libraries. The idea that this position was very important is confirmed because it belonged to the administrative Cursus Honorum, at the some occasion, the director of the library of Alexandria was promoted to this position. But the most famous of all was the historian C. Suetonius, the author of The Life of the Caesars.

Vespasian build another library in Rome, next to the temple of Peace. The most important library of all in Rome was the established by Trajan (113 C.E.), well known as the Ulpia, rival of Pergamum and Alexandria, sited in the Trajan’s Forum, to both sides of the famous Trajan’s Column. There were thousands of books and public documents. The books were classified in shelves named pegmata, the hollow sections of the shelves being called nidi, they were further divided into a sort of honeycomb structure with the individual hollows being called foruli or locumenta, hence the books were archived by nidi, foruli et locumenta.

In spite of such efforts, Roman libraries were not important to education, being generally small collections, and because the demand of public reading was limited, since the Romans preferred to work in their private libraries or those of their friends.

Private libraries became widespread throughout the empire in the 1st Century AD.

Among most important ranks the Villa dei Pisoni, in Herculanus, buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the 79 AD, and in which were founded carbonized papyruses. Also we know the one that Pliny the Younger founded in his native city, Como. In Asia Minor it is possible that there was at least one library in each one of the great cities, like in Pergamum, although the most outstanding Roman library of which we know is the one of Ephesus, constructed in the days of Trajan, with its beautiful monumental facade.

In Antioch we know of another important library, donated by Trajan. Also there are ruins of libraries in Nysa and Sagalassos,of which there are recent with recent studies. Hadrian, who was a great lover of Hellenistic culture, created an important library in Athens. Other important libraries were founded in Patras, Tibur, Timgad, and probably some in Hispania, maybe in Emerita Augusta, Asturica Augusta or Tarraco.

Between the private libraries located in the city of Rome we know of the one Cicero and the one of Titus Pomponius Aticus, although most likely most of the wealthy possessed a library in one of their grand houses, be they senators, members of liberal professions, intellectual men, etc. The poet Aulus Persius Flacus had one of 700 volumes, and Epafroditus other one with 30,000, and we know thereafter of other collections.

This fashion irritated Seneca, who said in 'De tranquilitate animi' that the book collections "are destined to embellishment the house walls".

Also Petronius in 'Satiricon', shows us Trimalcius ignorant though conceited of possessing numerous books.

The end of the Roman Empire

From the beginning of the third century AD, Rome suffered a series of internal crises, which was reflected in its cultural world. However, we know that in Constantine's time there was twenty-eight libraries in Rome, among them the renamed Ulpia. And with the capital transferred from Rome to Constantinople, and Rome in decay, Amianus Marcellinus described the libraries as "closed like tombs". The disintegration of the Roman Empire also brought about the collapse of the old traditional social order, and the light of the world that represented Rome first languished and finally it was extinguished for always.

The cities were left, and the libraries that conserved were set ablaze, destroyed or simply left to ruin. Many of the works that filled the libraries disappeared for always, and only few books, by different ways, was preserved until today. If the Romans had not acquired from the Greeks the taste to collect written works, an essential part of their universal culture would be have lost forever.

For that reason one can but ask what our understanding of history might be if the many works which once lined those shelves had arrived at our hands...

Sodalitas Militarium

By Marcus Minucius Audens

THE CAMPAIGN April, Italy 69 CE Part One

With the suicide of Nero in 68 CE the empire went through a period of anarchy known as the 'Year of the Four Emperors.' The first of the four new emperors was Servius Sulpicus Galba, the propraetor of Hither Spain who had rebelled against Nero's rule with the help of his legio the sixth. He took office with the support of the Senate and the Praetorian Guard, but ignored the person who had brought him the purple, Lucius Otho, the Governor of Lusitania province in southwest Spain. When hearing that the 72-year-old Galba was going to name a different person as his successor, Otho went to the Guard, who themselves were dissatisfied with the emperor's stinginess.

Otho promised lavish rewards to those who would get him the purple. Fifteen Praetorian Guards, so encouraged, organized a revolt in which Galba and his adopted son were killed in Janus 69, and handed the office to Otho (Suetonius' The Twelve Caesars "Life of Otho." 5, 6).

But as Tacitus noted in "The Histories": "The secret of Empire was out, Emperors could be made elsewhere than in Rome." (Tact. History I. 50) and indeed, soldiers stationed outside Rome had decided to become involved. The legions in Germania and the Rhine had once been commanded by Galba and were fond of him. When it was heard that Otho had been proclaimed Imperator after murdering their former General, the legate of lower Germany, Fabius Valens, acclaimed his general and the Governor of lower Germany Aulus Vitellius as Emperor, and the legate of higher Germany, Alienus Caecina followed suit. (Tact. I. 57.)

Vitellius accepted the commission of being Galba's avenger and he and his followers prepared to march on Rome with two legiones, 21st Rapax and 5th Alaudae, and vexillatii from six more. Tacitus tells us: "After the force from Britannia had joined him (three vexillatii from the 2nd, 9th, 20th, probably 2,000-3,000 men, eight auxilii, 4,000 men) Vitellius, who had now a prodigious force and vast resources, determined that there should be two generals and two lines of march for the contemplated war.

Fabius Valens was ordered to win over the Gauls, if possible, or, if they refused his advance, to ravage the provinces of Gaul, and to invade Italy byway of the Cottian Alps. Caecina was to take the nearer route to Italy and to march down from the Penine range. To Valens were entrusted the picked troops of the army (i.e., the vexillatii from lower Germany legiones 4th, 14th, 15th, 2nd) along with the 5th legion (minus two cohorts) and the auxiliary infantry and cavalry, (including the famous Batavi) to the number of 40,000. (This seems high unless Tacitus is including all the support personal.

By my count Valens' force should be around 18,000 fighting men.) Caecina commanded 30,000 from Upper Germany, (again this seems high, 14,000 seems more likely.) his force being one legion, the 21st, 2 vexillatii (from the 1st and the 13th) German auxiliaries, (which are later called from Gaul, Lusitania, and Rhaetia so they are not German at all [Tact. I. 70]) and from this source Vitellius was later to follow with his whole military strength." (Tact. I. 61.)

Tacitus may be inferring that Vitellius was waiting for the rest of the army to assemble before following after his two legates. The British units couldn't arrive until sailing season commenced which was sometime in March. The campaign was well under way by then. The "source" might refer to the legionary base at Cologne. It allows for easy movement up the Rhine, and troops can move into Gaul, where Vitellius would be (at Lyons) when Cremona was fought.

This is all speculation. Tacitus does not tell us. It also could be that Tacitus' numbers refer to all the troops under both legates at the end of the campaign in June.

Meanwhile Otho upon hearing that the Vitellians were coming over the Alps mobilized his own forces. He started to lose troops in Cisalpine Gaul upper Italy to the Vitellians (apparently no one likes a tyrannicide and Galba was liked) including the Silius' horse and wished to stop that rot as quickly as possible. He sent the legio composed of naval marines once stationed at Misenum, now called Adiutrix (supportive) still in the capital for Nero's aborted 68 CE campaign, and detached 5 cohorts of Praetorians. There were Italian auxiliaries as well, including2,000 Gladiators.

He had Annius Gallus, and Vestricius Spurinna in command. He ordered Spurinna to take 3 cohorts of the five guards (1500) and occupy the Padus to contest Caecina's crossing (Tact. II. 12.) He planned to join with his loyal forces from Pannonia and Dalmatia. He followed several days later with the rest of the Praetorians in Rome (2,000), the guard horse (Equites Singularies) (500) and citizens' levies (3 cohorts 1,500?) and his household. (Tact. I. 87.)

His expedition did not fair well in its beginning. Since bad luck started with the expedition the Romans felt that Otho would have a hard time in prevailing.
To quote Plutarch: "As to the prodigies and apparitions that happened about this time, there were many reported which none could answer for, or which were told in different ways; but one which everybody actually saw with, their eyes, was the statue, in the capitol, of Victory carried in her chariot with the reins dropped out of her hands, as if she were grown too weak to hold them any longer; and a second, that Gaius Caesar's statue on the island of Tiber, without earthquake or wind to account for it, turned round from west to east; and this was a most unfortunate prodigy.

But now when the news came that Caecina had possessed the Alps, the Emperor sent Dolabella, a patrician who was suspected by the soldiery of some evil purpose, for whatever reason, whether it were fear of him or of any one else, to the town of Aquinum, (base of Silius' horse) to give encouragement there, and proceeded then to choose which of the magistrates should go with him (Otho) to the war, he named amongst the rest Lucius, Vitellius brother without distinguishing him by any new marks' either of his favor or displeasure." (Plutarch Lives. Otho)

Meanwhile Caecina had accepted the defection of Silius' horse, a loyal Galbian formation. The valley of the Padus (Po) was open. (Tact. II.17) He captured 1,000 marines, and 100 horses, during his advance as well as a cohort of Pannonians near Cremona. (Tact. II. 17.)

He also found out that the 13th legio from Pannonia was near by. This was because the 13th was responding to Otho's request to come to Italy. The Armies of Pannonia and Dalmatia were all sending troops: "These comprised of 4 legiones from each (army) of which 2,000 troops had been sent on in advance. The 7th had been raised by Galba, the 11th 13th 14th were all veteran soldiers." (Tact. II. 11.) The 13th and the auxiliaries from Pannonia were in the advance, around 5,000 men. As Caecina moved deeper into the valley of the Padus he decided to advance against Placentia (It. Piacenza).

By taking this fortress city, at the junction of Po and the Trebia rivers, he could have a base of operations as well as a secure place to await Valens. He discovered the Othoians had rushed advanced forces under the command of Spurinna to Placentia. These were 3 cohorts of Praetorians, 2 cohorts of veteran citizen Auxilii (one is called the 17th Coh.) and a "handful of horse." (Tact. II. 18.)

The Vitellians under Caecina prepared to storm the place. They had already been successful in several skirmishes as they advanced across the Po valley, and their war fever was very high. Caecina attempted to get them to wait for Valens, but the impetuous army wished to attack right away.

Tacitus tells us what happened next: "The first day, however, was spent in a furious onset rather than in the skillful approaches of a veteran army. Exposed and reckless, the troops came close under the walls, stupefied by excess in food and wine.

To be continued

“Hey Roman, What’s Cooking ”?

By Falavi Galerius Aurelanus
Former Scriba Curatoris Differum

PANIS-VITIS VITUM (Bread-The Staff of Life)

Bread and Circuses! The great cry associated with Rome representing the theory that the masses would stay content if you fed and entertained them (hmm...sound familiar). Bread was, without a doubt, the principal mainstay of the Roman annona, or public dole, of bread, oil, salt, and wine that was instituted in the Late Republic to keep Rome fed. Can modern Nova Romans obtain the same kind of bread that was baked over 2,000 years ago? I certainly hope not!

That bread was full of husks and bran from the imperfect winnowing process and grit from the querns and mills made from volcanic tufa stone. It was frequently adulterated with chalk, millet, rice, and seawater and could be made without salt or worse--kneaded with seawater. It could be chewy, heavy, flavorless, and could keep you in the balneum for hours while it scoured out your insides. To paraphrase Paul Hogan, "roman bread could keep you alive but it tastes like s**t."

There were many different grains used in the period from the founding of Rome to the beginning of the Empire that we are familiar with today--wheat, triticale, spelt, rye, barley, rice but you would be hard pressed to find any modern flour made from emmer, einkorn, millet, lentils, or beans. Yet these were very common grains for human consumption in the ancient Greco-Roman world. Einkorn is probably the oldest of the domestic grains grown by mankind with archaeological finds dating back to the Late Neolithic Period. It had a hard husk that was difficult to separate from the good parts of the grain-the germ, the endosperm, and the bran-and had a lower yield than millet, barley, or spelt.

However, it was more resistant to cold, heat, drought, fungous diseases, and bird predation that any other grain. Emmer wheat was also fairly common although it too had a small yield, its husk was easily removable and the groats (hulled grains) found their way into many porridges and polentas during the days of Socrates, Cato, and Hannibal. Emmer and barley were the most staple cereal grains during the period of the Greek city-states and of Rome under the Kings. Emmer is similar to modern durum wheat and semolina that is used for pastas and polentas today.

Before we go in to this article any farther, it might be a good idea to define a few terms for the Nova Roman that may not have an extensive knowledge of agriculture and the process of bread and porridge making.

a. BERRY - the whole kernel of wheat, rye, triticale, and other more grains in the high-yielding wheat family but not to barley, emmer, or American corn. The berry contains the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. The term is interchangeable with hulled grain and groats.

b. BOLTING - the process of winnowing and sieving flour for fineness.

c. BRAN - a coating under the inedible husk of many grains surrounding the germ and endosperm and designed by Ceres to protect these nourishing treasures. The bran may be in several layers and may be a significant amount of the overall grain. While an excellent source of fiber, it may be sifted out. Leaving it in produces a more rustic flour or meal.

d. FLOUR - The berry or groat ground down to a powder.

e. GRIST - Grains, seeds, beans, nuts, and lentils suitable for grinding into meal or flour

f. GROATS - The term applied to hulled grains, especially buckwheat, barley, emmer, einkorn, and millet.

g. GERM - The embryo of the grain that sprouts into new life. It contains many vitamins, minerals, oil, and fat. Flour made with the germ goes rancid faster than flour made without it.

h. ENDOSPERM - The largest part of the berry consisting of starch. White all-purpose flour is about 99% endosperm.

i. MEAL - Similar to flour but not as finely ground. The Roman soldier's grain ration was usually meal rather than flour.

j. CRACKED GRAIN - Very coarse meal imminently suitable for porridges the inhabitants of the Greco-Roman world found that glutinous wheat made the best bread. The closest approximation to flour from the period of the Republic that one can find today is stone ground whole-wheat flour. This has had the husk removed but much of the bran is retained along with the germ and the endosperm. It is a healthier product than most modern flours but because of the oil in the germ, it can go "off" fairly quickly. I recommend that you transfer it from the bag to some glass jars with lids that can be kept in the refrigerator until needed.

Like the modern American and many Europeans, Romans judged the quality of bread by its whiteness, so the flour could be adulterated to make it whiter. Emmer and einkorn could be milled with chalk or white clay to give it a superior whiteness. Different classes and regions of the Roman world also made flour from lentils, beans, carob (St. John's Bread), millet, rice, and acorns. This could be done to extend wheat flour or for use during famines and shortages. I will not be discussing rye in this article as it was used less in the ancient Mediterranean world that it is today.

The ancient baker usually took his leavening from a portion of the previous day's dough. He would add some of the dough to an equal mixture of flour and water, then allow it to season into a leavening "sponge" such as is used to make sourdough bread. Other leavening agents were beer barm or foam in Gaul and parts of Spain and "must" from young wine. Of course, many Romans in the Republic preferred unleavened bread believing it to be healthier for the digestion. Pliny the Elder commented that salt was sometimes milled into the flour at the government mills but this was not always the case. He wrote that some unscrupulous bakers would save on the cost of salt by kneading their dough with seawater. This makes an acceptable bread but Roman and Greek physicians said the practice was unhealthy. I recommend that sea salt be used for your baking on the recipes in this article.

Bread was indeed the most common foodstuff in both ancient Greece and Rome, although porridges were a close second for those that had no access to ovens or public bakeries. The varieties of bread were infinite in type, size, and composition--milk, rice, eggs, oil, hone, cheese, sesame, poppy seed, flax seed, salt, pepper, herbs, spices; leavened and unleavened; flat, spirals, twists, sliced loaf, long, large, unmoded, baked in pans, et cetera. In the next section, I will give you several recipes that will approximate Greco-Roman breads and porridges. The recipes will be somewhat detailed since some citizens may not have done much baking or cooking.

Panis Quadratus (similar loaves found in Pompeii. D. Solomon & I suggest you eat this before 2000 years have passed.)

3 cups (750 ml) stone-ground whole wheat flour 1.5 teaspoons (7 ml) sea salt
1.5 cups (375 ml) warm water 1 packet of active dry yeast
1 tablespoon (15 ml) warmed honey some good olive oil (optional)

Put .5 cup (125 ml) warm water in a good-sized bowl and sprinkle the yeast over the top of the water. Wait 10 minutes and add the honey to it, stirring gently with a wooden spoon (olivewood is good but not essential) until thoroughly mixed. Add a cup (250 ml) each of warm water and flour, stirring vigorously until well mixed. Cover the bowl with a clean ea towel that has been dampened with warm water and wrung out. Put the bowl in a warm, draft-free place and let sit for 1-12 hours.

Uncover the bowl and sprinkle in the salt, stirring well. Slowly add the flour a bit at a time until the dough begins to separate from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be damp and sticky but no dry areas should be visible. Let the dough rest for a few minutes while you sprinkle your kneading surface and the top of the dough (or the dough in the bowl, if you are kneading it there) with a couple of tablespoons (30 ml) flour. Knead for 10-15 minutes adding the flour until the dough is smooth and elastic but no longer sticky. Turn the dough onto your warm, damp tea towel and clean out the mixing bowl with hot water until clean. Rub some olive oil over the whole ball of dough, put it back in the bowl, cover with your tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes to an hour. Preheat you oven to 400 degrees F. /200 degrees C.

Uncover bowl and punch down the dough. Knead for a couple of minutes and shaped loaf into a flattened round. Slash the top with a sharp knife into four or eight sections about a fourth of the way into the loaf. Place on a lightly oil-baking sheet (or pizza bricks, if you have some for the baking sheet) and bake for 30 minutes.
To approximate the effect of a Roman furnace (oven) take your tea towel, wet it down with warm water, and wring out. After you put the bread into the oven, hang the tea towel over the oven door on the inside for the first 10 minutes of baking, and then remove it.

When the loaf is golden brown on top, remove the sheet from the oven. The best test for doneness is to turn the loaf over using a tea towel or potholder and tap it with your finger. If it sounds hollow, it is done. Let cool, slice (or rip off a piece, dip in flavored olive oil (garlic & dill is a good one), and enjoy with a little watered Shiraz, some feta, and a few pickles or olives.

MUSTACEI (must rolls)

1 pound (450 g) stone-ground whole wheat flour 1.25 cups (300 ml) must or young wine (Beaujolais)
2 tblsp (30 ml) anise seeds 3.5 ounces (100 g) lard
2 tblsp (30 ml) cumin seeds* 3.5 ounces (100 g) crumbled feta or chevere cheese
20 whole bay leaves

[This recipe can also be made with active dry yeast if you want to lighten the rolls as they are very chewy otherwise.]

Pour some must over half the flour in a good-sized bowl and stir gently with a wooden spoon until you get a sticky dough. Stir in the anise & cumin seeds (*this recipe comes from a translation of Cato that I do not agree with as cumin was not introduced to Rome until after the Censor was dead but the cumin does add some interesting flavor). Blend in the lard and the cheese with a fork or a pastry blender. Add more flour until the dough becomes less sticky and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Sprinkle more flour on top of the dough, flour your hands, and knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is elastic and does not stick to your hands.

This takes a little time as you may need more must or flour to obtain the right texture. When you have a dough you can easily handle, form small rolls, and put a bay leaf under each roll before you put them on your lightly oiled baking sheet. You can put the rolls so that they touch or leave a little space between each roll. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F. /180 degrees C. for 30-35 minutes using the damp tea towel in the oven door method from the first recipe. Remove the bay leaf before eating the rolls, place in a basket, and eat with a little honey and some of the young wine.

[For the yeast method, warm the wine to body temperature and put about .25 cup (63 ml) in a bowl. Sprinkle about two packets (20 g) of active dry yeast over the wine and let sit for 10 minutes. Then proceed with the recipe through "until you get a sticky dough." Let the mixture rest for about 30 minutes and then proceed with the rest of the recipe. -Flavi]

PULS PUNICA (Carthaginian Porridge)

.75 cup (120 g) ounces semolina or emmer groats 10-12 ounces (300-375 g) ricotta cheese
2 tblsp (30 ml) honey 1 small egg, beaten

Put the semolina or groats in a medium saucepan in just enough water to cover. Soak for 30 minutes or until the grain is soft, then drain off any remaining water. Add the ricotta cheese, beaten egg, and honey and stir until well mixed. Heat this slowly until just below boiling; look for little bubbles along the sides of the pan and then cook at this temperature for about five minutes.

The porridge can be eaten with a little additional honey or sweet herbs like anise may be added.
[Believe it or not, we have this recipe compliments of Cato the Censor who may have wanted Carthage destroyed so he could take credit for this nourishing, pour able porridge.]

KYKEON (Homeric Porridge)

.75 cup (120 g) barley meal or quick cooking barley Enough young wine to cover the barley
10-12 ounces (300-375 g) ricotta or crumbled feta cheese 3 tblsp (45 ml) honey

Put the barley in a medium saucepan in just enough wine to cover. Soak for 30 -60 minutes until the barley is soft, then drain off any remaining wine. Add the ricotta cheese and honey, stirring until well blended. Simmer just below the boiling point for 5-10 minutes. Serve with more honey.

[For a variation of this that I got from Harry Turtledove, omit the honey but add 2 ounces (60 g) sliced dried beef, some onion, and a clove of crushed garlic. According to Harry, this variation was a popular method of using barley when Caesar was campaigning in Gaul. Of course, the legions soaked the barley overnight in water or posca to soften it enough to make the porridge.-Flavi]