Checking it Twice…

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naughty-or-nice-list-bannerWith the end of term and the countdown to Christmas comes the tragic (yet probably ultimately good for my happiness levels) end of my Greek tragedy module. So I thought I would tie the two together and suggest who would have made Santa’s Naughty or Nice list.

NICE: 

  • Prometheus: Without you we would be very cold during Christmas so you deserve a nice little something. Perhaps an eagle-proof vest…
  • Zeus: Ok so maybe we can forgive him for being a bit cocky and drunk on power because he was only just starting out in his new job but come on, there are people that are way worse than Prometheus. I’d put Zeus on the other side of the list but I would quite like to keep my liver and I think Santa would too so he’ll stay here for now.
  • Phaedra: So you told a big nasty lie which resulted in a lot of pain but it meant that you brought a prop on stage which is very exciting for Classicists many years later. Euripidean you belongs here, Senecan you belongs over there.
  • Helen: Oh so you didn’t fall in love with Paris, run off to Troy and cause an entire war? Despite finding that hard to believe I guess we got you wrong and you actually belong this side of the list.

NAUGHTY:

  • Antigone: You know you shouldn’t have defied the state, however it was nice of you to want to carry out the correct burial rites for your brother but did you have to be so perverted about it? Sort it out Antigone, you’re embarrassing yourself.
  • Creon: I appreciate that this role of king was forced upon you so you obviously weren’t ready for it and I feel sorry for you, I do, but I just don’t like you so coal it is this year.
  • Ismene: The original goody two-shoes! How is your sister supposed to carry the body of your brother without your help?
  • Electra: Yes your father was deeply wronged and yes vengeance would be nice but do you need to be so weird? Don’t you think you’d be happier if you got married and had some babies?
  • Orestes: An eye for an eye doesn’t work. Good luck with the Furies.
  • Clytemnestra: No explanation required.
  • Hippolytus: Yeah well, women wouldn’t want you either!
  • Theseus: You may have survived a holiday in Hades but you’re a proper eejit. Listen to your son, not an inanimate object.
  • Nurse: Stop trying to be Iago.
  • Euripides: Deus ex machina and reconciliation scenes aren’t as effective as you think they are. Go watch some Sophocles.

If you have any other ideas please let me know. I hope you all made the Nice list this year. Merry Christmas!

Exeter Odyssey

IMG_2928So I have just survived Freshers’ Week at Exeter University and I am now officially an undergraduate student – with lectures and everything! During my Freshers’ Week I walked the streets of Exeter in a toga (receiving many a ‘TOGA! TOGA!’ much to my delight), I danced around dressed as a St. Trinian, nearly killed myself doing zumba and tried out fencing and archery (because apparently I’m Susan Pevensie).

But now I cannot wait to sink my teeth into some good old fashioned Classical literature! I’m starting off the year with Latin, Greek and Roman Drama, Building Communities in Archaic Greece (which is my first lecture in an hour) and then Italian on the side. I’ll then be moving onto Roman Laughter, Roman Religion and Images of the Trojan War. I’d love to hear your comments if anyone has studied any of these/ anything similar and could let me know what I’m in for!

I’ll post again soon once I’ve had some classes and actually know what I’m doing/ where I’m going – that is, if I don’t get a sword through the stomach or an arrow through the head (or heel) first!

In Rome We Trust

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In life I have two passions – Classics and the land of my birth (America). The first time I properly thought about the two together was during my Classics lessons last year. We were studying the Aeneid and in one particular lesson, discussing the Roman political system. Off the top of my head I could think of quite a few similarities between the Roman Republic and the American Constitution, which therefore inspired me to look into the topic further. For my Extended Project Dissertation I chose to investigate the question: ‘How Far Has the American Constitution Been Influenced by the Political System of Ancient Rome?’ So this is it, I hope you enjoy!

Introduction 

It was the oldest republic, it was the newest republic,

It was the age of Romans, it was the age of Colonists,

It was the epoch of order, it was the epoch of hope,

It was the season of light, it was the season of enlightenment,

It was the birth of a republic, it was the dawn of a new nation.

 

America came into power when it broke its ties with the British crown. Rome did the same, thousands of years before, in 510 BC when the Roman monarchy was dissolved. Both nations swapped dynasties for a more democratic alternative.

In a village on the banks of the river Tiber a revolutionary idea was born. King Tarquin’s reign of tyranny inspired the Romans to develop a more equal political system. The Roman Republic was the first representative government in the world. A similar meeting took place in Philadelphia in 1787; a meeting in which the words “ambition must be made to counteract ambition”[1] were spoken and a Constitution was written.

Under two Capitol Hills, republics were formed. The world’s eyes are constantly on America but is its political greatness thanks to an older power?


[1] James Madison

 

The Foundations 

  Rome took its first breath as a farming settlement along the banks of the river Tiber. Tradition states that it was founded in 753 B.C. but the area was claimed before that, according to legend, by Aeneas after escaping the fall of Troy. After his death Aeneas’ son, Iulus Ascanius, became the king of Alba Longa and therefore the first ancestor of the Julian Family. His descendants ruled the Latin city for many generations. When one descendent, Amulius, decided to overthrow his older brother, Numitor, and claim the power for himself, things became very interesting. Numitor’s sons were murdered and his daughter, Rhea Silvia, was made a Vestal (a virgin dedicated to the goddess of the hearth, Vesta). However the ultimate Roman power that was Fate supervened. The virgin was raped by whom she believed to be Mars, the god of war and she gave birth to twin sons. The twins’ great-uncle abandoned them beside the Tiber where they were eventually found and suckled by a she-wolf and then raised by the king’s herdsman. Once these twins, Romulus and Remus, had come of age they returned to defeat Amulius and restore the power back into the hands of their grandfather, Numitor. They founded their own settlement on the Palatine Hill but sibling rivalry prevented a happy ending. The twins were unable to decide upon who should be the one to lead this new community. Discussion soon turned to violence and Remus was killed. In 753 B.C. Romulus gave his name to this newborn city and became the first king of Rome.

According to tradition, Romulus was the first of seven kings to rule Rome. The kings’ successful reign spanned almost two and a half centuries. The last king of Rome was Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, also known as ‘Tarquin the Proud’. His way of ruling was through tyranny, holding all his people in fear. He went with what he wanted and completely ignored the Senate, the men there to advise the king. His sons were just as bad and the results of their behaviour sparked a major and drastic turning point in Roman history. The sons were very boastful and one night the youngest, Sextus Tarquinius, raped a friend’s wife at sword point, taking exactly what he wanted and not caring for the consequences, just like his father. Lucius Junius Brutus, the ancestor of the conspirator against Julius Caesar, was appalled and rallied together the Roman people to expel Tarquin and his sons and therefore dissolve the monarchy. (It is very interesting to note that the Roman Republic both started and finished with a Brutus). In 510 B.C. the tyrannical reign of kings was over and the Republic was born.

 

Pratricians Versus Plebians

 As the famous saying states – Rome was not built in a day. The Roman Republic was developed gradually in the centuries after the expulsion of Tarquin. Throughout those years Rome faced both internal and external conflict but managed to conquer much of Italy, forever gaining more power. Rome was creating a system completely unlike anything that had been seen before. Between 510 and 275 BC Rome grew to dominate and become the ultimate leading power in the Italian peninsula. During their time of expansion, Rome dramatically changed their social and political systems. The Romans were divided into patricians and plebians. The former being the powerful aristocratic families and only they had the right to religious and political offices, the latter being everyone else. We naturally think of the plebians as the poor and whilst some of them indeed were, some had just as much money as the patricians but because they were not born into one of the great families they were therefore not entitled to the same rights. Tension was inevitable. The longest plebian fight for some social rights was known as the Conflict of the Orders. In 494 BC the plebians were very unhappy with how the patricians were treating those of the lesser class that fell into debt and so they planned a revolt. There was no help available to those who fell into debt because the political system was controlled by the aristocratic families. So the plebians went on strike. In 494 BC, when ordered to move out as an army, they refused and instead gathered together outside Rome, insisting that they would only move once they had been given some form of representation. Eventually the plebians were given the right to meet in their own assembly, the Concilium Plebis, and the right to elect their own officials who would protect their rights (the tribunes of the plebs). However tensions continued to be high until another breakthrough in c. 450 BC when the Twelve Tables were composed. Until then Roman law was not written down which meant that it was very easy for the upper class to take advantage. From then onwards the plebians were privy to the laws they had to live by and gradually their positions became stronger. Eventually, the plebians were granted access to the vast majority of political and religious roles.

 

The Republic and the Roles to Play

  This new, more equal Republic was divided into three main components: the Magistrates, the Senate and the Popular Assemblies. Magistrates were elected annually and their job was to run the daily business of the government. The most important of these were the two consuls, they had imperium (executive power), they were the direct replacements of the king and one had to be plebian. They held the office for a year and were seen as the political and military heads of state. They had many responsibilities. They presided over the Senate, surveyed the laws (changing and making them where appropriate), commanded the army, and controlled foreign relations. The two consuls were equals and together gave their names to the year. The fact that two consuls were elected and that this consulship could only be held for the maximum of one year prevented a single man from gaining too much power (clearly Tarquin the Proud had a lasting effect).

The lesser magistrates were below the consuls and they too were elected annually. The main offices belonged to the praetor, aedile, quaestor and the tribune of the plebs. Apart from the consuls, the praetor was the only other office that held imperium, the right to command armies and preside over the Senate. However, the difference was that the praetors were originally military leaders and that their main role was civil.

Then there were the aediles. They looked after the maintenance of Rome and were in charge of city matters such as roads, water supply, food and games. The aediles were two plebian officials elected into office by the Council of the Plebs. It was because of the revolts of their predecessors that enabled them to hold such high offices.

The most junior magistrate office was that of the quaestor. The two were the legal and financial assistants to the consuls. They were the ones in charge of taxes and fines but also the management of the land acquired through continual conquest.

With the tribunes of the plebs, ten tribunes were elected each year to protect the plebians from any possible unjust behaviour inflicted upon them by the patricians so therefore they had a lot of power. Not only could they preside over Senate meetings but they could also intervene when a citizen was being arrested by a magistrate and dismiss any proposals made by the other magistrates. These important roles show that Rome was definitely working together to build a more sound and equal system.

The other magistrate office was that of the censor. There were two censors and they were elected about every five years. However, they held their office only until they had completed everything they needed to and never for longer than eighteen months. They were there to assess both the property and the morality of the Roman citizens because apparently there was a connection between the two. They also supervised the Senate, making sure that no Senator was guilty of improper behaviour and removed them if they were.

An aspiring young Roman man would start his political career at the age of twenty-eight, beginning as a quaestor. He would then move to either an aedile or go into the tribune of the plebs. After that he could stand for election as a praetor. The well renowned men could strive even higher for consulship or even perhaps censorship.  You started at the bottom and worked your way up – a philosophy preached by all generations of Americans.

The next branch was the Senate. The Senate was a body of three hundred men that represented the most rich and powerful clans of Rome. Once advisers to the king, within the Republic they now advised the magistrates. They had a very heavy influence in absolutely every area of the government.

 The Senate had to have their decisions confirmed by the third and final component of the Republic – the Popular Assemblies. They approved laws and elected magistrates. There were various assemblies within the Republic but the ones that held the most power were the Comitia Centuriata and the Concilium Plebis. The former were involved in lawmaking, elections and capital cases. They were also the ones that declared war and peace, whereas the Concilium Plebis elected the tribunes of the plebs and passed plebiscites (decrees).

The Republic was clearly very sophisticated and attracted great attention for being the first of its kind. Every single Roman citizen was allowed a voice whilst at the same time the power was kept with the nobility. It was not just in the saying the ‘Senate and the People of Rome’ (S. P. Q. R.) that the senate came first.

 

Checks and Balances

  The Roman assemblies voted orally until 139 BC when the secret ballot was introduced. Tablets were inscribed with either a ‘V’ or an ‘A’ and deposited into the box. The ‘V’ was an abbreviation of ‘uti rogas’ (‘as you request’) so therefore this was inscribed if the voter was in favour of what was being proposed. However if they were against it, they would inscribe ‘A’ which was short for ‘antiquo’ (‘as things were before’). The Romans were clearly affected by what they had been through, wherever possible they made things equal and attempted to ensure that no one man could gain ultimate power. They did not want to revert back to what the tyrannical monarchy brought. “Office had to be earned through election, occupied for a limited period, and exercised together with one or more colleagues”[1]. Offices were over before an ego had the chance to swell. Or so they thought.

The Beginning of the End

  The Roman Republic was the most powerful force known to man and yet the cause of their destruction and downfall came from within. The Republic fell as the result of one very human emotion – ambition. One man named Sulla triggered the initial demise. In 88 BC, when threatened with the possibility of his powers being passed to his nemesis, Gaius Marius, he decided to march on Rome, asserting authority rather than giving in. Sulla succeeded in claiming Rome and placed politics on the back burner, concentrating instead on personal revenge. Upon his return to the eternal city, he found himself faced with many enemies but with the help of Crassus and Pompeius he was able to defeat them and come to rule the Republic. However, much to the Romans’ dismay, Sulla decided that in order to maintain the power he wanted, he must become dictator. The office of dictator was only meant to be held for a maximum of six months and only when absolutely necessary in the face of a crisis; Sulla planned on holding the office for considerably longer, therefore making himself essentially a king – exactly what the Romans did not want. To add insult to injury, for the first time in Roman history, Sulla introduced proscriptions and executed all who did not please him. There were over 2680 known deaths or exiles but the actual figure is likely to have been far greater. Sulla’s need for a dictatorship and elimination of lives without any means of a trial made him an extremely hated man. If there was one thing the Romans did not like, it was a man with too much power. Despite this, Sulla was determined to re-examine the Republic and prevent ambitious men from gaining too much power and disrupting the Senate. He introduced minimum ages for offices and controlled the rate in which politicians progressed through their careers. He also changed the tribunes of the plebs, diminishing their veto power. Then, much to the shock of everyone, once he was happy with his changes he resigned all power and removed himself from the public eye. Before he died in 78 BC, Sulla described himself as “no better friend, no worse enemy”. Had his reforms saved the Republic? Unfortunately not, all changes were about to be destroyed by Gnaeus Pompeius.

 

The Teenage Butcher

  Pompeius was exactly what Sulla despised – a disrupter of established order that lacked respect for all politics. It seemed though that the Senate was devoid of the power to control the adulescentulus carnifex’s[2] growing popularity and reputation. Pompeius was determined to reach great heights; this sheer determination is expressed in what he supposedly told Sulla, “more men worship the rising than the setting sun”. Pompeius had his eyes on the prize.

As a result of an attempted attack made by Marcus Aemiluis Lepidus, it soon became apparent that the Senate had a very severe weakness – there was no army in place to prevent rebel attacks. Pompeius thought he was doing good by defeating Lepidus and then going abroad to Spain to defeat another enemy causing trouble. When he arrived back, he stood for consulship with Crassus. Once in power they went completely against Sulla’s reforms and restored all previous powers back to the tribunes of the plebs.

However it was not long until Pompeius’ head got a little too big. During the time, the Mediterranean suffered from a very serious problem – piracy. Pompeius was granted the power to try and eradicate this threat in 67 BC but after his success and subsequent renaming of Cilicia to Pompeiopolis, it was apparent that his ego was swelling at great speed; an ego that was about to meet its match.

 

Veni, Vidi, Vici[3]

  Caesar, a man of claimed divine ancestry, rose to political prowess and soon came to loggerheads with Pompeius. A century later the poet Lucan summed up their volatile relationship in one sentence, “Caesar would accept no superior, Pompeius would accept no equal”. Eventually Caesar came out on top but his fall was a great one. He took a step too far and asked to be elected as dictator for life. As we have seen before, the Republic were keen to stamp out anything that too closely resembled a king. On 15th March 44BC, the hated man walked to the Senate meeting and on his way “Caesar met the soothsayer and greeted him jestingly with the words: ‘the Ides of March have come’. To which the soothsayer replied in a soft voice: ‘yes, but they have not yet gone’”[4]. Caesar met his fate in the Curia and ironically fell at the feet of the Pompeius statue, blood pouring from his fifty-five stab wounds.

 

Non Omnis Moriar[5]

The men that conspired against Caesar and brought him to his end, the ‘Liberators’, failed to see what would happen once the dictator had been executed. Perhaps they thought that the vital pieces of the Republic would fall back into place with him gone. They did not. The most revolutionary political system of the time had died. However, is death truly the end?

 

The New World; The New Rome?

  Let us now travel west, across the Atlantic Ocean and fast-forward a few thousand years in time. In its early stages of the 17th and 18th centuries, the New World was divided. America was split into thirteen colonies and each one was very different because of the location and the type of people that settled there.

The Northern Colonies were known as the religious colonies because they were founded by the Puritans. The development of the north was determined by the land. Not only was it rocky but the winters were also hard so they turned their attentions to the water and away from the impossible prospect of farming. Soon there were large ports ready to trade with the rest of the world.
In contrast, the south was flat and warm and therefore more suited to farming. Whilst the north concentrated their efforts on religion, the south were determined to make a new England. “They created a nice little wanna-be English gentry population, that created the whole southern hospitality image”[6].

 

A Traitor is Everyone Who Does Not Agree With Me[7]

  All the while the Colonists were trying to settle in, England, with their various taxations, were asserting their authority over America, “the British wanted to dip their hand into the pie of America prosperity”[8]. Little did King George III know that his power move would in fact ignite the separate states to eventually join as one. Uniting was never originally on the Colonies’ agenda but it is surprising what a common enemy can do for you.

In the wake of the Boston Tea Party, the separate colonies decided to come together for a meeting in Philadelphia in 1774. The first union was known as the Association. The Association’s job was to assert ‘colonial rights’. The next meeting again took place in Philadelphia but this time a year later. Together three men, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin wrote the Declaration of Independence. America announced their independence on July 2nd 1776 (having it approved by the Second Continental Congress two days later). Within the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote of the rights man is entitled to and summarized the ways King George III acted as a tyrant so therefore it was necessary for them to form their own government. It could be argued that King George III was the Tarquin of his time. America and its democratic ancestor, Rome, took matters into their own hands and cut the umbilical cord from their mothering monarchies.

 

One Nation Under God … Not George!

 However, unlike Rome, America actually fought a war for its right to be reborn. England finally accepted this right in 1783 when the treaty was signed, acknowledging America’s independence. “America’s fight for independence was a long and hard one and was eventually attained in the end … Now came the hard part – making a nation”[9].

The first attempt made by America to create their nation was the formulation of the Articles of Confederation. However these articles were flawed because they gave “too much power to the states”[10]. America owed money but the problem caused by the Articles was that the states could refuse to pay up such money. The Articles of Confederation also lacked a legal branch (later Judicial with the Constitution) and a sound law-enforcing system. “Knowing the colonies were in deep trouble, the nation’s leading politicians held the Philadelphia Convention at Independence Hall in 1787. Their mission: make a replacement for the Articles of Confederation”[11]. And so the Constitution was born. “The Constitution was written to: make a better union, create fair courts, keep peace within America, give America independence”[12] and “support a good army”[13]. The word Constitution itself comes from the Latin constituo which means to set up. It is very interesting to note that many of the founding fathers of the Constitution had Classics backgrounds with their degrees and during the Constitutional Convention I would imagine that the subject of the Romans was brought up quite quickly.

 

The Following table has been taken from Eric Burnett’s The Best American History Book In The World:

 

Article

Branch Common Name Job Work Place

I

Legislative Congress Makes and passes laws Capitol Hill

II

Executive President Enforces laws White House

III

Judicial Supreme Court Checks if laws are legal Supreme Court

 

“A chief aim of the Constitution as drafted by the Convention was to create a government with enough power to act on a national level, but without so much power that fundamental rights would be at risk. One way that this was accomplished was to separate the power of government into three branches, and then to include checks and balances on those powers to assure that no one branch of government gained supremacy”[14]. This quote was taken from the official White House website however, to me, if you take it away from its context this could have easily been written about Rome.

 

The Constitution and the Roles to Play

 Where Rome’s three branches were Magistrates, Senate and Popular Assemblies, America’s are Executive, Legislative and Judicial.  The Executive Branch is composed of the President, Vice President, Executive Office of the President and the Cabinet. The President is the head of state, government and armed forces and the overseer and enforcer of laws created by Congress (much like the Roman consul). To be a President, one must be at least thirty-five years old, a natural born American citizen and lived in the U.S. for at least fourteen years. The President also elects the heads of the federal agencies and the Cabinet (those “responsible for the day-to-day enforcement and administration of federal laws”[15]). The Vice President’s job is to be ready to step in at any given moment if for whatever reason the President is unable to perform their duties. They are also the President of the United States Senate. They have overriding authority when the Senators come to a tie in a decision. The Executive Office of the President is there to support the President with whatever they might need to successfully manage. “The EOP has responsibility for tasks ranging from communicating the President’s message to the American people to promoting… trade interests abroad”[16].

The Legislative Branch is made up of Congress. Congress is split into the House of Representatives and the Senate (a word taken directly from the Roman Republic. The word itself is derived from the Latin senatus, its root being senex meaning old man, hence the high by Roman standard age requirement). To hold such a high office, one must comply with certain requirements. In order to be able to enter the House of Representatives, the candidate must be at the very least twenty-five years old and a U.S. citizen for a minimum of seven years. You also have to be originally from the state you intend to run for. This office can only be held for two years. There are strict requirements for a Senator also. A candidate must be thirty years old or more (the age requirement for a Roman Senator was thirty-two), a citizen for at least nine years and a permanent resident of America. Together the House of Representatives and the Senate create laws, declare war, preside over presidential meetings, create taxes, defend Americans, preside over property if America wins a war, make roads and many more. These particular aspects were deemed important by the Romans too: aediles looked after roads, quaestors controlled taxes and property won by conquest, the Comitia Centuriata declared war and the tribune of plebs defended the plebians of Rome. Some may argue that this is purely coincidence because these matters are important to any state but I do think it is very interesting that these are the specific roles mentioned for various offices within each republic. To me it seems that the House of Representatives is America’s answer to the Roman Magistrates. Before a law can be presented to the President, both halves of Congress must agree upon it. However if “the President vetoes a bill, they may override his veto by passing the bill again in each chamber with at least two thirds of each body voting in favor”[17]. I personally found this quite surprising. Being the head of state, I would have thought that the President would have the ultimate and overriding say but thinking back to the quote describing what was desired from the Constitution, it is clear to see that their desire to not allow one branch to gain too much power was achieved. During the Philadelphia Convention James Madison said, “ambition must be made to counteract ambition”. The Roman Republic was the first form of government to include checks and balances to prevent one man from gaining too much power, each office could only be held for a limited period of time (most offices only being held for one year, Censor for five). America clearly thought this was a good idea so incorporated it into their republic too (Presidents are reelected every four years and can only serve two terms, Congress is reelected every two years). Rome was concerned with one man gaining too much power, so too is America but the Constitution also makes sure that one branch does not gain too much power either. Both republics were built on restraint.

The third and final branch of the American Constitution is the Judicial Branch. The people of America elect the Executive and Legislative branches into power. In contrast, those in the Judicial Branch are designated by the President and verified by the Senate. The Judicial Branch is made up of the Supreme Court and the lesser courts. The Supreme Court interprets Constitutional law and decides how it should be applied to individual cases. The lesser courts do the same but the interpretations they apply must be those of the Supreme Court. Unlike the offices within the Executive and Legislative branches and the branches of the Roman Republic, the judges of the Judicial have no time limit on their office; they serve until “death, retirement, or conviction by the Senate”[18]. According to the official White House website, “by design, this insulates them from the temporary passions of the public, and allows them to apply the law with only justice in mind, and not electoral or political concerns”[19]. Perhaps here you could say rather than adopting from the Romans, the Americans learned from them in that not everyone should be up for election otherwise everything would become very political.

 

Washington’s Toga

 It is not just with the political system that a Roman influence is apparent. Most states and Ivy League universities have Latin mottos; there is Latin on the currency; a lot of buildings and monuments in Washington look Roman, in particular the National Statuary Hall could easily be a child of the Pantheon; the White House contains marble busts of previous Presidents (this is a very Roman thing to do); the founding fathers used Roman pseudonyms during the Constitutional debates; arriving in Washington D.C. the Union Station has a certain look of a Roman temple; there is even a Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas! Perhaps most interesting is the Roman imagery surrounding one of the most important Americans of all time – George Washington. George Washington retired from the army after the victory of the War of Independence much to the people’s confusion but this was a move he learned from the Roman Cincinnatus, a man who stepped in, led the Romans to glory and then went back to his humble life as a farmer. There is a statue of Washington likened to Cincinnatus on which he is wearing a toga. Also, the Apotheosis of Washington is a fresco in the eye of the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol (where Congress meet and another word borrowed from the Romans). It depicts Washington being raised to heaven. He has a toga-esque material draped over his knees and is surrounded by Roman gods and goddesses who are each looking after other famous figures in American history. War is also depicted with “Armed Freedom and the eagle defeating Tyranny and Kingly Power”[20]. Rome defeated the exact same demons when they expelled King Tarquin.

 

Conclusion

Some may argue that the American Constitution is a unique form of government and it is but delving deeper, it is hard to ignore its Roman feel. The Roman Republic and the American Republic were born under very similar circumstances. The Roman Republic was the first government of its kind and dominated the Mediterranean with no worthy equal. However it was easily corrupted and unpinned by the human desire for ambition. America borrowed so much from Rome for their Constitution but also learned from them too – “ambition must be made to counteract ambition[21]. America could have ended the influence the Romans had on them there, but they did not. Concentrated mainly in Washington D.C. but also seen throughout the rest of America too, this Roman influence is perpetuated. You see it in the architecture, on the currency, in the names, in the mottos. America looks to her capital for guidance and she receives a very Roman response. America is by no means a carbon copy of ancient Rome however the influences are inextricably woven into their society and most importantly their politics. America is relatively new in its age, linking to ancient Rome; “the grandeur that was Rome”[22] gives them the feel that they are much older than they are. The links help highlight the greatness that is America. Perhaps you could even go as far to say that Rome helps with American patriotism. Whether you agree that America is influenced so heavily or not, it is very difficult to deny that the links are there, symbolically, togas are worn underneath those suits and ties. The American Constitution (and more) is indeed influenced by the political system of ancient Rome.

 

 

 


[1] David M. Gwynn, The Roman Republic A Very Short Introduction

[2] Latin for ‘The Teenage Butcher’

[3] Julius Caesar, Latin for ‘I came, I saw, I conquered’

[4] Plutarch courtesy of David M. Gywnn, The Roman Republic A Very Short Introduction

[5] Horace

[6] Eric Burnett, The Best American History Book In The World

[7] King George III

[8] Eric Burnett, The Best American History Book In The World

[9] Eric Burnett, The Best American History Book In The World

[10] Eric Burnett, The Best American History Book In The World

[11] Eric Burnett, The Best American History Book In The World

[12] Eric Burnett, The Best American History Book In The World

[13] Eric Burnett, The Best American History Book In The World

[20] John Weber, An Illustrated Guide To The Lost Symbol

[21] James Madison

[22] Edgar Allen Poe

And Now for Something Completely Different…

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P1000769I’ve recently just come back from Cancun, Mexico and despite the innumerable mozzie bites, it was the best holiday I have ever had. I met some lovely people and made some unforgettable memories, one of which was visiting Chichen Itza, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World (two down, only five more to visit)!

We piled onto the coach at about six in the morning and were driven for hours until we reached the heart of the Mexican jungle. When we eventually arrived and found ourselves in the extremely crowded main building, I ordered myself a Mayan Cartouche. It has my initials in Mayan hieroglyphs on and I love the fact that they are made especially for you by Mayans whilst you walk round the site. It is an amazing piece of jewellery and the perfect keepsake for such a fantastic day (I also picked up a couple of stones from outside the Ball Court but shh)!

P1000793Despite the fact that it was early in the morning, it already felt like you were walking round in a giant furnace (thank goodness for Hawaiian Tropic). We were led down a bumpy makeshift pathway lined with tables full of fascinating (and scary) looking souvenirs. One man made me jump when he blew into this animal shaped horn (yours for only $1) and the most peculiar screech call came out. However I was quickly distracted by the first glimpses of the ruins. I will never forget the feeling of pure astonishment when I first saw El Castillo (the main temple) through the branches of the trees. I always thought it would be big but never expected it to be so HUGE! The scale is absolutely incredible.

P1010873P1010909Even though I was standing on an ancient archaeological site it all felt relatively new compared to what I know, so I was very surprised to learn that Chichen Itza was in fact first occupied just nineteen years after the fall of the Roman Empire. I was very excited to be learning about a different culture and to be visiting my first archaeological site in the middle of a jungle.

Our extremely charismatic guide concentrated mainly on how the site had managed to be preserved and why, in his opinion, it was named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. One of the main gods, Kukulcan, was represented as a feathered serpent. Around Chichen Itza there are many feathered serpents carved at the side of the steps of the temples. However only the serpent heads (lacking their feathery bodies) appear on El Castillo. This is because during the Equinoxes the sun shines on the temple creating feather shaped shadows, making it look like the god is descending down the side. It was fascinating finding out about how much Mayans knew about astronomy (particularly highlighted through the fact that the windows of the Observatory were positioned according to where the sun would shine during the Solstices and Equinoxes).

P1010890After our tour had finished we were given some time to wander round by ourselves. My dad and I chose to walk round El Castillo some more and then have a look at the Ball Court. It amazes me that the captain of the winning team, rather than the captain of the losing team, was sacrificed to the gods after the games, but apparently a win meant that you had a better soul, it’s just a shame that he had so little time to celebrate!

My other favourite part of our twelve hour excursion was when we visited a Mayan village on the way back to our hotel. When we were walking down to the incredibly beautiful yet incredible creepy cenote, a man in traditional Mayan clothing asked if any of us wanted to try on a headdress. I jumped at the chance and much to my surprise as soon as it was placed on my head, he grabbed me round the waist and shouted, ‘SHE’S FOR THE NEXT SACRIFICE!’  

P1000794I absolutely loved the trip and really enjoyed learning about a different and modern (by my standards) culture. I would definitely like to learn more about Mayan religion and day-to-day life. I am very lucky to be able to say that I have visited Chichen Itza and I will always cherish the memory of first glimpsing it through the trees … and narrowly avoiding being sacrificed!

Top 5 Holiday Reads

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holiday-reading-bannerIt’s getting to that time of year where everyone starts going off on their holidays so I thought it would be good to look at some Classical books to read alongside the standard holiday murder mysteries. I purposefully chose small books or books that are available on Kindle so that they’re easy to read/ transport (silly weight limits).

5) The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller 
Granted, not the most intellectually stimulating book, nor the best written but if you’re looking for an entertaining, easy to read, pool-side romance (yes Achilles and Patroclus are the greatest couple of all time) then this is it!
Warning #1: it’s a weepy so wear sunglasses to hide your tears.
Warning #2: this book won’t be quite so romantic to the enemy (Hector lovers).

Packing advice: the paperback is reasonably small and could fit down the side of your suitcase. Kindle version also available.

4) Vote For Caesar by Peter Jones 
If, like me, you love things that show direct comparisons between us and the ancients and how we face similar problems to the ones they did (such as traffic and overcrowding) then you’ll love this book. Full of information yet nice and light-hearted for the holiday-mode brain.

Packing advice: Kindle version not available so will fit nicely next to your Song of Achilles.

3) The Greek Gazette by Fergus Fleming  
This is one of those books that you wish you’d written yourself (well I do anyway). The stories and myths of ancient Greece have been transformed into highly amusing newspaper articles and adverts. A personal favourite of mine is ‘Spartan Specials’: “items can be purchased individually but for complete killing chic we offer the whole range at 30% discount”!

Packing advice: although quite large, it’s very thin so will fit nicely at the bottom of your suitcase underneath your t-shirts.

2) Pompeii by Mary Beard 
It’s clear that this is the summer of Pompeii and who better to learn about Pompeii from than the queen of Classics herself, Mary Beard?! I love how detailed her descriptions are so that even if you haven’t been to Pompeii before, you still have a very clear picture in your mind. I was lucky enough to have my copy of this book signed at the Heffers Classics Festival last year!

Packing advice: nice sized paperback and available of Kindle too so can fit just about anywhere.

1) How to Insult, Abuse & Insinuate in Classical Latin by Michelle Lovric & Nikiforos Doxiadis Mardas 
You really can’t help but laugh out loud when reading this book! I remember learning about Shakespearean insults in English and thinking that they were hilarious – they’re nothing compared to these! Perfect for all levels of Latin but especially for beginners because where’s better to start than with the insults?!
Warning: read by the pool at own risk, may receive weird looks due to excessive giggling.

Packing advice: lovely small book that will fit easily into either your suitcase or carry on luggage.

If you decide to read any of these on your holiday then I hope you enjoy them and do let me know what you thought. Also, I would love to hear if you have any holiday book recommendations yourself.

Bon voyage! 



Pompeii Live

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pompeii-live-banner2Last week I went to see Pompeii Live. I was very excited and it managed to completely exceed all my expectations! I loved that as soon as you walked into the cinema you were greeted with a rather large countdown and as soon as it reached ten it counted down in Roman numerals (my dad and I joined in with counting down, yes we were that excited)!

I was absolutely blown away by how interesting and well put together it was. The exhibition itself looks amazing and each person was so fascinating to listen to – even my favourite chef, Giorgio Locatelli, made an appearance! What I was most impressed by was how they made it feel like the people of Pompeii and Herculaneum are no longer distant and intangible. With this exhibition and live broadcast from it, we are allowed to look into the lives of people long gone and actually see quite familiar concepts staring back at us – beauty regimes and the occurrences within a bar to name but a few (I’d like to think that the Pan statue isn’t a familiar concept)! History really has come alive.

In my opinion the most haunting aspect of the entire broadcast and exhibition – I still can’t stop thinking about it now – is that key. Someone escaped with their key, they had hope that they would return. This small glimmer of hope makes it all the more tragic for me.

I also really enjoyed learning about all the things that were found in the sewers. It’s amazing to think that someone may have been thinking, “ugh where has my ring gone?” unaware that thousands of years later, people would be observing it as an insight into the way they lived.

Watching Pompeii Live was like having your own private exhibition tour with your dream guides. I thought it was a wonderful idea that was executed beautifully and I would love to see similar things in the future. I for one always feel disheartened if I miss an exhibition, perhaps in the future people won’t have to! I absolutely loved what Bettany Hughes tweeted before the live broadcast and thought it summed all of this up brilliantly – ‘non omnis moriar’ – through the incredible work of archaeologists, Classicists, curators, historians and many more, a part of Pompeii and Herculaneum will always live on despite the awful tragedy, a part that we are so lucky to have and to be able to peer into.

Now I’ve just got to plan my trips to the exhibition and Pompeii itself!

If you watched Pompeii Live or in fact have been to the exhibition then please let me know your thoughts. I would love to hear what your favourite artefact is! Also, if you watched Pompeii Live and downloaded the British Museum app then I would highly recommend looking at it again, it’s great fun looking through the images and shouting – ‘I’ve seen that!’

Semper Fidelis: Dating Tips From Odysseus

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odysseus-dating-tips-banner1. Girls love it when you carve your furniture from trees in your house. To really impress, leave the bed attached to the trunk – they won’t be able to resist!

2. Ignore the consequences, always woo a demigoddess if the opportunity presents itself. It’s all about the kleos, baby!

3. If you find yourself living with a nymph for a year or so, make sure you cry on her beach every day – she’ll think you’re really sensitive and want you.

4. Woo all the women you want so long as you come home at the end of the day.

5. Twenty years is nothing!

6. Basically just do what you want so long as you remain faithful in your heart.

Book Review: ‘The Secret History’ by Donna Tartt

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book-review-secret-history-banner“Under the influence of their charismatic Classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and for ever.”

This synopsis alone was enough for me to hit ‘buy now’ on Amazon. Normally when purchasing a book I spend ages looking through all the reviews but something told me there was no need with The Secret History and I was not wrong.

This book looks at the lives of a group of Classicists and the consequences of their choice to live “without thinking”; the group choose to recreate an ancient ritual and get far more than they bargained for.

The story is told through the eyes of Richard, someone who is both included and excluded from the enigmatic Classicists (much like we are as the reader). We discover things as he does and feel everything he feels. Tartt has the uncanny ability to make you go through all the different emotions they do and even empathise, despite the fact that I didn’t actually like any of the characters. Normally I have a favourite character when reading a book so this was different but Tartt’s engaging writing style and unique talent still makes the characters truly fascinating.

I have read books based around Classical characters so to read about Classics students was really interesting. Especially when their whole lives are affected by an attempt to live like the ancients. Classicists will appreciate the various references but I think anyone will like it if you’re into ‘whydunits’. This book questions morality and the constraints we choose to live within, making you take a step back and question your own beliefs. It’s such an accomplished book and especially amazing to think that she wrote it whilst at university!

I won’t say too much more because I don’t want to give anything away but if you’re looking for something Classics related but slightly different or simply a great read, then I definitely suggest reading this book. I could not put it down!

Pocket-Sized Pompeii

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pompeii-bannerI was very interested to find out that the British Museum had bought out an app to go alongside their new Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition. It is slightly more expensive than the average app (£3.99 for HD and £1.99 for standard) but I do think it is definitely worth it.

The app icon is of the lovely Pompeii couple fresco so it definitely helps to make your home screen look nice! When you first go into the app you are instantly greeted by a captivating video – a recreation of people walking through the streets of Pompeii followed by sneak-peeks of the artefacts to be found in the exhibition.

Within the app there is another video – a detailed graphic demonstration of the eruption of Vesuvius, which shows you the destruction in both Pompeii and Herculaneum at various time points. This is immediately followed by details of the aftermath and good quality pictures that you can zoom in on.

However my most favourite feature has got to be the interactive maps. Not only can you choose what area you want to look at and the type of city feature, but you can also zoom in for finer details and discover where exactly a specific artefact was found with information to go with it. Also each time you click on one of the menu options (commerce or food and drink for example) there is a little video icon in the bottom right hand corner and when you tap on it there is a short clip of the exhibition curator discussing this particular topic. This app is so well put together and has got me even more excited for the exhibition and for Pompeii Live. I would highly recommend downloading it!

There is nothing like this on the mobile app market at the moment. All I have been able to find are knowledge quizzes, the standard Greek and Latin vocab lists and the rather crude ‘Pompeii Run Volcano Escape‘. Speaking as a student, I believe that this amount of detail seen with the Pompeii app, especially the interactive maps, would be an amazing concept to use alongside studies. There could be a map of Odysseus’ journey home with details of all his stopovers app or simply a general map of the Aegean describing what life was like in each place alongside which Greek hero lived where. I would also love an app full of red and black figure vases that allows you to zoom in for finer details and spin around for a 360 degrees view. Personally, I think apps would be a great aid for studying Classics in the 21st century.

By utilising modern technology, you help bring Classics to the masses and like Mary Beard said (at the Heffers Classics Festival last year), each generation discovers Classics again for themselves and wouldn’t it be brilliant to spread the wonders of the ancient world to more people than ever before?