Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Ancient Rome Without Research

  • The Ides happened every month, because the Romans did months weird: instead of numbering the days like rational people, they put a bunch of markers in the month and then calculated around them.
  • The first was called Kalends and then there was Nones and also Ides and I have spelled all of those wrong: anyway, the kalends was the first, so instead of the 3rd, you’d say it was “three days past Kalends” but you’d say it in Latin.
  • The 14th is the day before Ides.
  • It seems needlessly complicated, plus there were all sorts of unlucky days and auspicious days and market days: if you asked a guy in a toga what the date was, you might be there a while.
  • All Romans did not wear togas, and they never conquered India.
  • No one did yoga in a toga.
  • I am ahead of myself.
  • When Ancient Rome was founded, it was just called Rome.
  • Sticking to the sacred oath of Without Research, I am guessing, but Rome marked its birth at the year BC 752 or 753.
  • A suspiciously specific date, is the point I’m getting at.
  • The rest of the story can be believed: twin brothers Romulus and Remus–suckled at the teat of a she-wolf–established a town, called it Rome, and then Romulus immediately murdered Remus.
  • Which sounds like a mash-up of a couple other origin stories, because it is.
  • The Romans just took shit.
  • This will be a theme.
  • In the version of history that doesn’t contain magic, Rome is geographically perfect: defensible due to its seven hills, at the junction of whatever passed for several important roads, and at a strategic point along the Tiber river.
  • Stuff also grew well there, so people had lived there probably since Europe was settled.
  • Over the years, Rome grew more powerful and dominated first the Italian peninsula and later almost all the white people and renamed itself the Roman Empire, and then there were two of those (which really means there aren’t any: Empires are like quarterbacks), and then there was no “Rome” but Rome was still in charge of a lot of people and still is.
  • And that’s the history of Rome.
  • Nothing like us.
  • For example, no one is named Gracchus anymore.
  • Very much like us.
  • For example, they believed that they would rule the world forever, too.
  • Conquered.
  • Lot of conquering.
  • Romans were excellent at conquering, except in Scotland but that’s to be expected, really.
  • Trying to conquer the Scots is like fighting a puma: even if you win, you’re going to die doing it.
  • Carthaginians got the shit conquered out of them.
  • Literally the only knowledge I have of Carthage is that it pissed off Rome.
  • It may or may not be Libya now, which is testament to how hard it got conquered: when you’re still a mess two millennia later, you got conquered.
  • As with all history, there are two histories: the wars the rich folks paid for and all their fancy important bullshit, and how your average Livius or Livia spent their lives.
  • And of course the occasional slave uprising, but only one with an iconic ending and blatantly homoerotic subtext, so let’s not worry about the slaves.
  • What are you, an SJW?
  • Romans loved them some slaving, and while their version of bondage was inarguably better than the American style, they would still send rough men to snatch human beings from their homes, and then sell those human beings to one another, to be used as labor or sex or entertainment.
  • Some might argue that this was the culture, the custom: how can a man see without the lens of his time?
  • Any Roman you might ask would see no evil in slavery.
  • I mean: don’t ask a slave, though.
  • Slave’ll say they don’t like it much, but you know how slaves lie.
  • So, yeah: rapacious warmongers funded by slave labor, but their buildings were so pretty.
  • (The buildings were built by slaves.)
  • (Of course, so were certain other White Houses I could mention.)
  • With morality set aside and man’s dickishness to man covered, it should be said that the a Roman Legionnaire might have been one of the toughest sumbitches that ever lived.
  • Army Rangers and Navy Seals are hard men trained in the art of high-stakes problem-solving, but they fly to their base.
  • A Legionnaire would walk to his base, and then build it.
  • Then go kill motherfuckers.
  • It was real Iron Man football back then.
  • Plus there was no medicine.
  • Focusing back on the city, Romans had a standard of public sanitation and personal hygiene unrivaled in the Western world until today’s Purell-coated, latex-covered world.
  • Romans did one thing very well, and that was engineering: a Roman knew how to get the clean water in, and the dirty water out.
  • That said, Rome was unimaginably filthy.
  • Sure, it was better than Paris or London were up until recently, but still: feculent.
  • But, TotD: what about the public baths?
  • Ah: the public baths.
  • The public.
  • Baths.
  • That existed before the invention of bleach, or the knowledge of germs that would make the non-invention of bleach a problem?
  • No one can estimate the amount slap-and-tickle going on in these water-logged fuck parks, plus there was nude calisthenics going on all over the place
  • Stop it with the baths.
  • Ah, but TotD: there were even public bathrooms, so nobody pooped in the street.
  • It is true that “anything other than pooping in the streets” is better than pooping in the streets, yes, but toilet paper hadn’t been invented yet, so people wiped their asses with a communal sponge.
  • No matter how interesting the past may seem, do not go there because it is terrible.
  • Togas were worn more rarely than cartoons and statues led us to believe: they were only for rich people or fancy events and were a pain-in-the-ass; it’s just big semi-circular tablecloth a guy (slave) had to help you put it on and was kept in place with your elbow.
  • That’s why they did that pose: it was the only thing keeping them from being naked at the symposium.
  • Most days called for a tunic; women wore tunics, too, but they were long and therefore are called dresses.
  • Rome rose early, and business might start at dawn; this is because nighttime in Ancient Rome was a horror.
  • Cramped streets.
  • Lightbulb was 2,000 years away, as was even the most rudimentary flashlight app.
  • Cops had also not been invented.
  • All you had was the social contract, and at night the contract becomes more of an oral agreement.
  • Roman Emperors included: Julius Caesar (OG); his son (not really) Augustus; Germanicus, Tiberius, Claudius (these were the first Emperors with British accents); Hadrian, Trajan (boyfriends); Caligula, Nero, Commodus (villains); Marcus Auerelius (Richard Harris) Jusitinean, Diocletian (plague, broke up the band); Theodosius (adopted Christianity and that’s all she wrote).
  • Roman Emperors did not include: Waximillion, Flatus II, Blogrodil the Worm of God, Vicodinius, Oprah.
  • Things Ancient Rome did right:
  • Math. (They stole it from the Greeks, but they were good at it.)
  • Roads.
  • Phalanxes.
  • Strappy sandals.
  • Repelled all four Godzilla attacks so thoroughly that they don’t even appear in historical records.
  • Plus, the Romans were way ahead of Twitter on the inclusivity front, in a religious sense.
  • When they conquered you, you could keep worshipping your gods: hell, if the Romans liked your gods, they would steal them and rename them and worship them right along with you.
  • Unless you started hollering about how there was only one god, and that He was God, and Roman gods are puny gods and false idols and causing a racket.
  • Looking at you, Jews.
  • I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that I’m Jewish.
  • That fact notwithstanding, when a large man with a sword asks me what gods I believe in, I say “What gods do you believe in? Because I believe in those.”
  • And then you go off and do whatever the fuck you want.
  • Because otherwise you would be peronally involved with one of the things the Romans did wrong:
  • They crucified so many people that it might best be understood as a societally-possessed fetish.
  • Romans were cruel bastards, and vain: they would have been excellent at social media.
  • Jesus was the most famous crucifixee.
  • But, you know: he had to die.
  • Jesus’s crucifixion was like Canada beating us in hockey: it’s sad, but it’s the way the world is supposed to work out.
  • Christ was not alone on Cavalry Hill, though: the Biblical canon was them recorded merely as two thieves, but somewhere in the Apocrypha, we learn their names were Barabas and Dismas.
  • They died for their own sins.
  • Crucified for stealing?
  • C’mon, Rome: chop a guy’s head off. 
  • After the Roman Empire fell, the Catholic Church took its place smoothly, like Indy exchanging the sandbag for the idol.
  • Nothing changes, everything lasts.
  • The city of Rome remains, but it’s barely in charge of itself at this point.
  • Everything changes, nothing lasts.


  1. You forgot to mention a few parallels that make Rome snap to life for today’s youth: massive empire based on grotesque military spending? Xenophobic hatred of outsiders bordering on the irrational? Vested control of the government by a handful of monied families? Love of football…er, bloodsports?

    Nothing changes.

  2. The women’s dresses were called stolas or pallas.

  3. 2 things:

    First, I ACTUALLY READ THIS POST! I was making sure your… musings? were historically correct. (Which they were; good on you.)

    Second, what is that line you always use? Everything changes, nothing lasts… Don’t tell me it’s a Warren Zevon song.

  4. Luther Von Baconson

    March 16, 2016 at 11:10 am

  5. Bang on about the Scots…

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