The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing

I couldn’t resist “Woman shocked peers over spectacles at upward trending graph arrow” as the lead image for this one. This is cheese personified and I love it! (Credit: geralt via Pixabay)

We all like to think we have ‘values’, and we all like to think we follow those values. There are a number of psychological processes, effects and tricks all involved in the ascribing of ‘value’ to a trait, an object or a service. The concept of ‘value’ itself is a tricky one to even pin down.

Honestly it is possibly one of the most complex areas of psychology because what the human mind ‘values’ often seems to be at odds with what the human individual suggests they ‘value’. We lie to ourselves. Any person who has attempted to start an independent business can attest to this. Their friends and family who should be championing their cause loudly and proudly instead barely whimper their support whilst sharing the same memes, Guardian articles and vox pops as everyone else.

For example take a look at my body of work. It is valued at approximately £0.00 because I release my work for free. However in so doing I present an image of my work as worthless, and despite your best intentions you perceive it thus. I happen to think my work is very valuable but I struggle for attention, a simple Facebook share, or a Retweet on twitter is as good as an extra 10-20 views to me and yet people are hesitant to give them out.

They do not specifically provide me any feedback to say why, either. Is my content something they enjoy but do not want their friends/followers to see? Do they support me out of pity but actually don’t value my output? Do they feel I am competing with them in some way and thus hesitate to promote me above themselves? I don’t know, because I never get any feedback.

I have had one person ask me if I intend to attempt to make money out of what I do and suggest they would support me. One person.

Ah, psychology – The complex, interconnected clockwork of machinations, biases, heuristics and combined rationality and irrationality that literally makes no sense but we try to make it make sense anyway because if we didn’t nothing would make sense. Make sense? (Credit: geralt via Pixabay)

I have had many people supporting my raging against the machine when I am ranting and raving about having been long-term unemployed but I have, as yet, been contacted by approximately zero people offering to pay me for what I do, suggesting roles I could fill or helping financially in any way. Except one.

I present my work for free, ergo my work, and thus, by extension, I, am worthless.

We all do it. I can’t claim to be a saint on this matter myself. I order from Amazon, have the odd McDonalds, share Guardian articles and buy books by established authors. I could sit and criticise but I understand this is an almost-universal, that this is psychology.

For starters we have what’s known as the ‘Mere Ownership Effect’ or just the ‘Ownership Effect’, this is the psychological phenomenon of people ascribing a higher value to an object in their ownership than people who do not own it do.

So if I give you something and say “That’s yours! What do you think?” you are more likely to attach greater positivity, higher value, to that something than if I simply say “Look what I have! What do you think?”

Your ownership of the object makes you more positively inclined towards it.

This came up on Pixabay when I was looking for images of ‘Ownership’. My one and only major question is…Did they deliberately make it look like a dick? (Credit: 12995263 via Pixabay)

This ties in to the ‘Endowment Effect’ where something we own is going to be more desirable to keep than if you did not own it.

So take the example from earlier, where I give you an object, only we’ll add in the scenario where, whilst in your possession, a third-party wants to buy the object.

The person who ‘owns’ the something is less likely to part with it, or only be willing to part with it for a much higher cost, than the person who simply holds, and assigns value to, the something.

It gets weirder. Say we give two people two somethings, one each; make it a biscuit and a handkerchief.  People first given a biscuit would be unwilling to trade it for a handkerchief. People first given a handkerchief would be unwilling to trade it for a biscuit. It’s weird, right?

Well in the paper describing the phenomenon by economic psychological superstar Daniel Kahneman he proposes another example of a wine investor who purchases some excellent Bordeaux at only $10 a bottle. Over time it has come to be worth $200 a bottle but still he does not sell it. Why? The Endowment Effect!

It ties into ‘loss aversion’ – this one is at least a simple concept to explain. We don’t like to feel like we have lost something. Whether it be value, an item, our sanity, we like to keep our things.

“But what about the ‘Zero Price Effect’?” I hear snooty econo-psychologists shouting from the back. Well, yes, that’s a real thing, too. You know when Starbucks has a ‘Free Coffee for Everyone!’ day and the queue is around the corner with people wasting hours of their time waiting in line for a coffee that only costs a couple of quid and no time on any other day.

fifth on the list of numbers you like to see on a calculator behind “55378008”, “5318008”, “58008” and “42069”. The value is zero. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Duck egg. Fuck all. And it’s what I feel I’m worth right now. (Credit: shotput via Pixabay)

You see that coffee already has a ‘value’ assigned to it by the company in line with, presumably, market research, economic conditions etc. etc. But the product cost something to begin with. But because it is marketed as ‘free for a day!’ everyone thinks they can save money. Instead they waste hours, time, a commodity that can be used to generate money, waiting for something that probably is of less value than the time used to wait for it. It’s irrational and yet so many people do it.

How big would that line be if Starbucks was free every day? If they never charged for a cup of coffee?

You’d expect normal size, right?

But research seems to suggest that if a coffee shop then opens up right next door selling coffee for £1 a pop, they might actually steal business from the free Starbucks!

HUH!?

That’s not a mistake, for one thing people would think free coffee must be more poorly made than coffee you have to pay for. Because the value is set at zero we assume the quality to be so aligned. We’ve looked at the ‘Halo Effect’ before and it’s a similar heuristic to that only with product values rather than human values.

Then there’s the idea of ‘Veblen Goods’ – These are luxury goods. Now with luxury goods you would expect, since the level of investment required is so vast, the demand for such goods would reduce the higher the price goes. Veblen Goods defy that trend. Demand for them increases in line with price (to an extent).

Ah, Monaco. The height of tax-dodging, society-fucking, scum-sucking, bottom-feeding, piece-of-shit luxury. Incidentally many ‘influencers’ will hire an apartment here, borrow a luxury car, withdraw all their savings or even borrow a load of money, spray it about sat on top of the luxury car/yacht in the borrowed apartment to make themselves look richer than they are so they can be ‘aspirational’ and manipulate you into giving them more money because for some reason we’re so irrational we’d rather give to the rich than the poor. Humans are dumb! (Credit: Free-Photos via Pixabay)

So, imagine if all coffee was free and then suddenly the £1 coffee place opens up and, of course they then pay to have a trend-setter go to their place for a coffee and say “Mmm! It’s better than free coffee!” Well suddenly a large amount of easily influenced people want the £1 coffee over the free coffee. But this will likely start a chain reaction! I mean, sure some sensible people will be like “It’s bitter flavoured caffeine suspension, I don’t give a shit for fashion, free is free!” But only a handful of individuals work like that, SOCIETY doesn’t work like that. Trends get set, fashion is, and leads the majority.

Marketing and advertising are the literal acts of psychological manipulation in order to encourage as many people as possible to make choices of value and invest in objects, products, goods or services that they would otherwise not value as highly! Why is Coca-Cola so much more expensive than own brand cola? Is it genuinely better? Surely since people’s tastes differ so much individually you’d expect variance, some people to prefer one over the other? Yet so many more people ‘prefer’ Coca-Cola. This is not an accident, but the product of, at this point, an historical campaign of targeting manipulation.

“We don’t know why we do what we do but we carry on and do it regardless.”
That’s a line from one of my songs (unreleased) but it is my whole attitude to psychology and behaviour in humans. Even I don’t know why I do most of the stuff I do.

Did you realise that your life choices, what businesses you support or don’t support, what products you buy or don’t buy are the subject of so many seemingly unconscious rules of thumb, and subject to manipulation of those rules by people who understand them better than you?

Then we have things like the ‘Sunk Cost Fallacy’ where you’re more willing to stick with an investment, even if it is bad, and the benefit to you of giving up is greater than the cost of continuing. Governments make stupid decisions to the tune of billions and billions of pounds, dollars, pesos and yen being led by the Sunk Cost Fallacy, do you think you’re immune?

The ‘Sunk Cost Fallacy’ or ‘Sunken Cost Fallacy’ – to use a visual metaphor – is the idea that you’d rather get wet staying in this boat, because you paid for it, than swim to shore and live your life and just get a new boat. (Credit: rumpel via Pixabay)

The idea of something having ‘value’ and the ‘value’ we give it being an individual one is patent nonsense. Whilst there is almost certainly individual variation in values of products, goods and services (some people, for example, will pay money for Funko Pops! – I know, outrageous!) Most of our perception of value is based on past experience, cultural coding and current trends.

This is how marketing works. This is why ‘influencers’ are a thing, and why marketing has got a lot more shady and underground in recent years. We’ve got DVR, we can fast-forward through ads on TV, we’ve got ad-blockers on our computers. But if we’re all following Lady Gaga on twitter and Givenchy wants to chuck a few million her way to put up a post about how great their perfume is, you get it sold to you.

The problem with all of these effects, all of this trick psychology is that we all literally end up knowing the cost of everything and the value, the true, innate value, of nothing.

And then there’s cognitive dissonance.

So the people who know about all of this stuff will agree with me, but will do nothing to share or distribute this article.

Meanwhile the people who think they know better will just ‘know’ I’m wrong and won’t even question themselves.

This is not graffiti. (Credit: KylaBorg CC-BY-2.0)

Why am I talking about this now? Because I’m not getting any younger, I have a troubled past and no perceivable future. Everything I’ve ever worked for has gone tits-up and my life’s a mess. I’m considering options and wondering quite what people would think if I paywalled my content. Have I done too much for free to make it of value to people? Or would my work be valued more if I charged money for it? Would people even support me? Are people willing to pay for my thoughts, words, interpretations and opinions on things? Does it defeat the point of ‘We Lack Discipline’? Does it remove the accessibility aspect of it? To what extent could I even make a success of it?

I can’t answer those questions. Only a half-aware, bumbling market can. That market is made up of human beings who are irrational, motivated by unconscious biases they often don’t consider and for all of my effort those people would be more likely to share the C- efforts of a BBC journalist than any A+ piece I might write.

So, I’m in a pickle, because I have to think about whether I can trust people with my future.

And we’re not smart people with conscious free-will; we’re semi-automatic idiots with a manual override.

So I don’t know what to do. Feedback and input is welcome.

Roman History in a Nutshell – The Gallic Wars ~390 BCE – ~284 BCE

A Figurehead of Gallic chieftain, leader of the Senones, Brennus – from the French ironclad battleship ‘Brennus’. Launched in 1891 the battleship would be rendered outdated by warship advancements and would be cannabilised and scrapped by the 1920s. (Credit: Med CC-BY-SA 3.0)

In all of the history of Rome, besides themselves, there was only ever one enemy that came close to the total and complete destruction of the Roman state.

For all of the talk of a ‘decline and fall’ narrative in the 5th century CE I don’t buy it. The mechanics of the Roman state were such a clusterfuck of complexity that who was in charge and who wasn’t in charge in the West was ridiculous. So many of the so-called marauding goths and barbarians were actually foederati, Roman-associate armies, that to say a foreign force sacked Rome would be like if there was a Gurkha revolution in the UK now. Is it really a foreign invasion if it’s your own troops? Even if they come from another country?

Carthage, well they had a go, and they came close but Hannibal never breached Rome. Hannibal never walked through the gates to the steps of the Curia of the Senate. If he had you can bet we’d be talking a completely different history of almost total Phoenician Mediterranean domination.

No, between the years of its founding in 753 BCE (allegedly) and whatever date you take as the end of the ‘Roman Empire’ only one foreign power nearly made it all not happen and it was the Gauls, specifically a warband made up mostly of the Senones tribe, in 390 BCE.

A map showing the major Gallic tribes and their influence across Europe. Again, it must be stressed, as with so many other cultures at this time this was not a unified ’empire’. These tribes may have shared social, religious and linguistic similarities but they would have only associated with each other when forming councils to solve disputes, or when coming together into warbands to raid enemy territories. Had their been any sort of major unification of the Gauls European history would look mighty different! (Credit: Dbachmann by GFDL)

To start with I’ll tell you about the other fights because 390 needs detail.

In 302 BCE the Gauls crossed the alps, did a bit of pillaging and then buggered off again.

We’ll get to this with the Samnites but they join an alliance of Samnites, Etruscans and Umbrians in a long war between 298 BCE and 290 BCE.

They also besieged Arretium in 284 BCE leading to the battle of Lake Vadimo we talked about with the Etruscans.

So, 390 BCE – what’s the deal?

Firstly, what’s a Gaul? The Gauls were a non-uniform group of Celtic peoples who lived on continental Europe. They were, despite supposedly being culturally, technologically, religiously and socially ‘inferior’ to the Romans, wildly successful. They had influence down in the Iberian peninsula, in modern Spain and Portugal, across continental Europe from the West coast of France out as far as the Balkans as well as influence in Southeast England (See the map above).

But, again, this was a non-uniform group and this is across the span of hundreds of years – If they had managed to cement themselves into a cohesive empire there is every chance they would have matched Rome but they were disconnected tribes with cultural, religious, linguistic and social similarities – not a unified force.

Rumours of the involvement of these famous Gauls; Asterix (left), Obelix (centre), and Getafix (right) are entirely without evidence. Some modern conspiracy theories may attempt to prove otherwise. (Credit: Capri23auto via Pixabay)

So the group we’re going to talk about are the Senones, originating in – I suppose what would be modern day central France in the Seine basin just south of Paris.

Being a non-uniform, culturally similar group they did sometimes come together in warbands, larger groups, to go off and do a bit of looting. Similar to how Vikings would operate later on. They weren’t so much interested in conquest and expansion as looting and raiding, gather what you can, go home, share the spoils. This is a very important thing to consider in this story.

By around 400 BCE this tribe from modern central France had moved south and come to occupy territories across the Alps in what is modern Northern Italy. They drove out whatever Native tribes were there and set up their own towns. 

Around 391 BCE they moved further south still, into Etruria, the historic territory of the Etruscans and, allegedly (more Livy lies?) besieged Clusium who begged Rome for help. The Romans sent to negotiate with the Gauls allegedly caused some upset and the Gauls marched on Rome FOR REVENGE!

La Bataille de l’allia – A depiction of the battle of Allia by Gustave Surand. Even in this image the well-equipped Romans are up against a band of bare-chested barbarians. The reality was likely much different. (Credit: Surand, Public Doman)

How much of that is true is debatable. Again, their pattern was not necessarily one of conquest and expansion but of raids. It’s just as likely they robbed Clusium on their way to Rome but the political machine in Rome needed some post-hoc excuse for why Rome was attacked to protect its reputation and not make it seem like a bunch of French fellas could just turn up any minute.

This all leads up to the Battle of Allia, usually dated at 390 BCE but it was there or thereabouts (other dates put it at 393 BCE or 387 BCE). Given that it’s history and it’s war there’s a lot of lengthy discussion about this but all you need to know is the Romans got fucked, and the Gauls fucked ‘em.

According to Livy they were so shocked at the ease of their victory they stood dumbfounded, when no other soldiers came to oppose them they just walked right into a wide-open Rome.

The military forces and able men left were charged with defending the Capitoline Hill.

 Plutarch’s account is the most violent, otherwise both Livy and Diodorus Siculus describe a very lazy siege. Livy even says at one point a member of the Fabii clan was allowed to walk through the enemy lines to perform a religious rite.

By some stories (mostly by the Greek historians) after a lengthy siege the Romans paid the Senones a hefty sum of gold to piss off.

By other stories (mostly by Roman Historians) they are met by a returning Roman General, Camillus, appointed dictator in the crisis, and he refuses to let them leave with the gold, and kills them all.

What’s the likely ending? It’s hard to say. Even at 390 BCE these stories are semi-legendary, archaeological evidence for the sacking is scant, at best, and certainly, it seems, nobody has found where the bodies are supposedly buried.

An interesting image – Apparently an advertisement trading care series for Liebig Meat Extract featuring “The Supreme Authorities of Ancient Rome” this one is ‘Dictator’ and, presumably being French the most famous dictator, Gaius Julius Caesar, is off limits you know with his…gallic genocidal pacification and all. So instead they used Camillus, according to some histories (I believe Livy and Plutarch) he was one of few who survived the Battle of Allia and he was made dictator to deal with the situation. The bottom caption reads “Brennus, Chief of the Gauls, conquerors of Rome, shows pretentious exaggerations. Camillus, indignant, proclaims himself Dictator and delivers the city.

Given their patterns of behaviour, and despite the talk of a couple of historians, this does not seem like a band of Gallic nomads seeking a new home. This was a warband. They were on the path of plunder. Whether they were mercenaries on their way elsewhere has been debated. If they were, the weight of gold they would have been paid by the Romans would have sent them home sharpish with no shame at betraying their former clients.

I think they came, they saw, they conquered, they got paid, they left, all of Rome went “What the hell just happened?” and got on with dealing with the fact they had been left significantly weakened and significantly poorer, with enemies on all sides and even their Latin allies looking to exploit their weakness.

Read the other parts in our ‘Roman History in a Nutshell’ Series:
Introduction
The Founding – 753 BCE and Before
The Kingdom – 753 BCE – 509 BCE
The PIntroduction
The Founding – 753 BCE and Before

The Kingdom – 753 BCE – 509 BCE
The Patrician Era and the Conflict of the Orders – 494 BCE – 287 BCE
Wars with Etruscans Pre-753 BCE – ~264 BCE
Wars with Sabines, Veii & Fidenae ~753 BCE – ~287 BCE
The Latin Wars 7th Century BCE – ~338 BCE

The Rest of the Med ~2,000 BCE – ~3rd Century BCE
The Samnite Wars ~343 BCE – ~290 BCE

Want to read more about Romans? We’ve got a little for you.

The Mother of Rome: Livia Drusilla – Before the hit Sky TV series ‘Domina’ there was me espousing the life and works of Livia, the canny politician, the Patrician, the Patron and the wife and mother of an Empire.
The Pleb who Built Rome: Marcus Agrippa – It is my belief that the right-hand-man of Augustus had a much bigger part to play in the building and management of the Empire than did his friend with the titles. Find out why.

A New Lease of Life? – A Discussion about the new floor in the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum, and what Vespasian, who initially commissioned the building, might think.

Bad History: Boudica and Bullshit Nationalism – Looking at the use of historical figures for current political or social agendas.
Bad History: Did Rome ever Actually Fall? Questioning the ‘Decline and Fall’ narrative and looking at structures inherited from the Romans we have to this day.

The Fan-TAS-tic Virtues of Rome – A look at the moral virtues of Roman life.

What are the ‘Ides of March’ – Because I envitably get asked by my dad every Ides, I wrote about it!

Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Introduction
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Easily available abortion (CW)
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Drawing dicks on things.
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Energy Drinks
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Gender and Sexuality Liberation (CW)
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Travel and Tourist Tat.
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – AirBnB
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Bipartisan Politics
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Fast Food
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Pro-Wrestling
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Social Media (Especially Insta and Twitter)

An Update (Personal Blog)

It began as an idea. To throw a few swear words into discussions about things usually spoken about in technical terms. I wanted to break down those technical terms into simpler explanations. Individual dialects, subject-specific languages, ‘correct’ use of words are merely a trick used to disguise a topic from a public ignorant of it. It is very useful to those ‘within’ but is a wall of impenetrability to those without. It is both clouding fog and sturdy wall.

I’ve never been afraid to bash my head against those walls. I have never been afraid to be the battering ram showing his ignorance, bleeding ignorance, scarred by ignorance as he tries to fracture the impenetrable.

My hope was that others would join, be inspired my acts and see the value in it. Instead I find that those inside the walls often point and laugh at me, and those like me outside of them wonder why I’m so ‘above my station’ I’d try to break them down in the first place.

Perhaps I should be careful what I say. I am in an emotional turmoil right now. I recently had the opportunity to, for the first time in around a decade, obtain gainful employment and I failed. It might not seem like a big deal for some of you but this is a combination of ‘Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria’ and the very real recognition that chances like this come to me once every 5-10 years. I’m unemployable.  

The reasons for my failure, as far as I can tell, are those self-same scars I wear on my head, from bashing it against those impenetrable walls and trying to make the inside visible to everyone. Knowledge might be valuable, but that does not make it profitable.

I am tired. Most people who work as I do get some benefit from it. A wage, some letters after their name that let them move up the ranks, some recognition.

Me I’m busy rambling away in the gutter, handing out pamphlets on street corners that people fail to grasp out of my hands and let flitter away on the wind, before they walk to the nearest stand and grab a copy of The Metro or The Evening Standard.

I’m at a crossroads. Had I the option I’d sell my soul to the Devil to get the success I want, to complete my mission, but me and the devil have walked side by side in the past and he’s made it quite clear he wants nothing to do with me.

On the one hand I want to keep doing what I am doing, but I know more than anyone else that “Hard work pays off!” is a lie. It’s a big lie, at that. It is a lie that keeps us all chasing rewards that don’t exist, whose recipients have been pre-determined by luck of birth.

On the other hand if I give up I lose another opportunity for better, for change, for me to take a life ripped to shreds by an autistic burnout a decade ago and turn it around.

But I’ve been here before, and found both roads can lead to failure, and the more intense the effort the more dramatic the failure. Me and my ego, we have no safety net. When we fall, we land hard. It hurts. It breaks. This cycle of breaking-and-piecing-together-again has been my adult life.

The only thing I really want to break, besides those impenetrable walls blocking knowledge, is that fucking cycle.

Apologies if I have not been around as much on social media, though I highly doubt I have been missed. Apologies if my content has not been of the high standards I set myself, though few read it.

But I am feeling lost, alone, and very, very tired.

Roman History in a Nutshell – The Latin Wars ~7th Century BCE – ~338 BCE

Using the same image twice because it show the information you need? Perfect! The Latins (or the area of Latium) was basically everywhere around Rome and to the South. (Credit: Sémhur by Free Art License)

You might be wondering “If Romans beat up Latins why do they speak Latin?” and it’s because, like with many of these early Roman wars it was less of a conquest and more a protection racket.

Like with Sabines and Etruscans, Latins probably formed a major part of the early population of Rome. Those happy to be Roman stayed in the surrounding area and those looking to keep an aspect of their ‘Latin’ identity inhabited the area just to the south of Rome. Rome was, in essence, a Latin state, and for the most part the Latins were allies of Rome.

However as Rome grew, particularly as they started fighting with their neighbours, the other Latins got quite rightfully worried and tensions grew.

What we need to consider, at this point, I think I have mentioned before. We think of ‘Rome’ and we think of a big, uniform empire. We think of a combined ‘Roman’ identity, but we’re thinking definitely of Imperial Rome, we’re likely thinking post-Augustus – and it’s hard not to. A lot of our impression of Rome is defined by this era, a lot of our popular culture around Rome surrounds this era. In the West, our major religion of Christianity began in this era. There’s a heavy focus on it.

But in the 8th, 7th, 6th centuries BCE? Rome was just another village-turned-city-state. The Etruscans were not a uniform ‘empire’, though they had a shared culture they were separate city states, with their own rulers, who through commonalities would form alliances and ‘leagues’. The same is true of many of the cultures in the Italian Peninsula at the time, including the Latins. 

Another map! Given large groups like the Etruscans to the North, could form and attack Latium at any point, the Latin cities formed an alliance, the Latin League. The cities marked in orange were members of this alliance at some point. (Credit: Cassius Ahenobarbus CC-BY-SA 3.0)

This is where talking about ‘wars’ with these groups is difficult. To an extent the Sabine wars, the Etruscan wars, the Latin wars, these were all civil wars. In fact, according to Livy often the Kings of Rome would sack a town, displace its residents, set them up somewhere in Rome and piss off to do the same again to another poor town! Rome was, at least by a semi-legendary history, a city of forcibly diaspora-ed migrants from surrounding towns and cultures.

On to the wars;

Unlike with their other near-neighbours they didn’t immediately kick-off at the Latins and the first conflict did not happen until the reign of Ancus Marcius in the 7th century BCE. It is here that Livy mentions Marcius taking the town of Politorium and settling the people as residents on the Aventine Hill in Rome.

The next war was under Tarquinius Priscus, who raided a Latin settlement around or before 588 BCE, and then later subdued all of Latium.

In 503 BCE there was a revolt in two Roman controlled Latin towns, Pometia and Cora.

In 501 BCE Livy reports that 30 Latin cities joined in an alliance, the so-called Latin League, against Rome, but it did not come to blows until 499 BCE at the earliest. This actually led to some interesting developments. The nearby Volsci tribe attempted to get the Latins to join them in an attack on Rome in around 495 BCE. Instead the Latins warned Rome of the impending attack and gave up the Volscian ambassadors, starting an alliance between Rome and the Latin League and leading to a mutual exchange of prisoners and tribute. This was formalised in a treaty, the Foedus Cassianum or the Treaty of Cassius around 493 BCE. This would mean peace between Rome and the Latin League for a century.

Castor and Pollux fighting at the Battle of Lake Regillus as part of the Roman cavalry. This was to be a decisive battle in the Latin Wars, although again it should be stressed much of this history is semi-legendary and what actually happened is not truly known. (Credit: John Reinhard Weguelin, Public Domain)

However, in 390 BCE the Gauls caused some minor problems, reaching Rome and sacking the hell out of it. Rome’s near neighbours (Latins included) spied an opportunity to carve up what was becoming a dominant power and, according to Livy at least, sort of…Stopped helping Rome – And then started fighting against them, except of course as a League they had no formal declaration of war with Rome it’s just “If some of our guys happen to join some other guys as mercenaries…” – We’ll call it the Ukraine defence, no contemporary political reason. There is some debate about the validity of this. There is every possibility that warfare at the time was a very individual, mercenary affair. Either way Rome would not stabilise for close to five years, and by around 385 BCE all this scrapping had calmed down.

They had a war with the large, Latin city of Praeneste between 383 BCE and 379 BCE.

Likewise with Satricum in 377 BCE.

They had a fairly major war with the Latin city of Tibur between 361 BCE and 354 BCE, notable because of an alliance between Tibur and the Gauls, this Gallic threat then provided the pretext for a temporary truce.

Finally Latium would come under almost complete Roman control with The Latin War between 340 BCE and 338 BCE. Again, this was before the era of the Roman strategy of ‘Make desert, call it peace’ as Roman historian Tacitus would put in the words of the mouth of Calgacus – a Caledonian chieftain. The war ended not with total destruction or total subjugation but with an acceptance of many of the Latin cities under the Roman umbrella. They annexed some cities, left some autonomous but presumably indebted, and forged treaties. The Latin League as an entity was not dissolved so much as it was absorbed, consumed by a hungry Roman appetite for expansion.

Let’s show this map again for good measure. By the end of the Latin Wars the small dark-red projection of Rome was now expanded into the lighter shade of red around it. Whilst their near-neighbours are presumed to have been in looser organisations, there was already something of a ‘Roman’ identity being encouraged across this space. (Credit: Javierfv1212, Public Domain)

This treatment of the Latins would provide a blueprint for the treatment of much Roman military ‘diplomacy’ – again, it was a protection racket in all honesty. They’d beat you up and then go “We could do that again, or we could leave you in charge, you run it for us and just pay us taxes and worship a few of our gods, is that alright?”

Read the other parts in our ‘Roman History in a Nutshell’ Series:
Introduction
Introduction
The Founding – 753 BCE and Before

The Kingdom – 753 BCE – 509 BCE
The Patrician Era and the Conflict of the Orders – 494 BCE – 287 BCE
Wars with Etruscans Pre-753 BCE – ~264 BCE
Wars with Sabines, Veii & Fidenae ~753 BCE – ~287 BCE

The Gallic Wars ~390 BCE – ~284 BCE
The Rest of the Med ~2,000 BCE – ~3rd Century BCE
The Samnite Wars ~343 BCE – ~290 BCE

Want to read more about Romans? We’ve got a little for you.

The Mother of Rome: Livia Drusilla – Before the hit Sky TV series ‘Domina’ there was me espousing the life and works of Livia, the canny politician, the Patrician, the Patron and the wife and mother of an Empire.
The Pleb who Built Rome: Marcus Agrippa – It is my belief that the right-hand-man of Augustus had a much bigger part to play in the building and management of the Empire than did his friend with the titles. Find out why.

A New Lease of Life? – A Discussion about the new floor in the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum, and what Vespasian, who initially commissioned the building, might think.

Bad History: Boudica and Bullshit Nationalism – Looking at the use of historical figures for current political or social agendas.
Bad History: Did Rome ever Actually Fall? Questioning the ‘Decline and Fall’ narrative and looking at structures inherited from the Romans we have to this day.

The Fan-TAS-tic Virtues of Rome – A look at the moral virtues of Roman life.

What are the ‘Ides of March’ – Because I envitably get asked by my dad every Ides, I wrote about it!

Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Introduction
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Easily available abortion (CW)
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Drawing dicks on things.
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Energy Drinks
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Gender and Sexuality Liberation (CW)
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Travel and Tourist Tat.
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – AirBnB
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Bipartisan Politics
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Fast Food
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Pro-Wrestling
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Social Media (Especially Insta and Twitter)

Roman History in a Nutshell – Wars with Sabines, Veii and Fidenae ~753 BCE – ~287 BCE

It doesn’t give a precise date but this is a 5th century map of the central Italian people. Even though Veii and Fidenae were Etruscan cities you can see why they often allied with the Sabines when there was an attack on Rome, they were basically on-the-way! So there is some overlap between some of the conflicts here and some of those discussed in our ‘Wars with Etruscans’ article. (Credit: Sémhur by Free Art License)

CONTENT WARNING: Mentions rape and abduction of the Sabine women.

Much is made of Roman military history. History has enough of a hard-on for wars and conflicts as it is. I wish I could dismiss Roman military history as being little more than the fantasies of whiskey-nosed, posh, wilted flowers, who never got the chance at glory in combat and so they spent their entire lives and careers bullying others pretending it is the same thing and, during their lonely evening hours, sit and fantasise about others’ glory. The Ciceros, if you will.

Sadly this is not the case. Rome is a city, a Kingdom, a Republic and an Empire founded on war and exploitation on a mass scale. It was a consumptive war machine and its enduring legacy exists because of this ability to overpower and/or ally.

It’s another case where the mass-media presentation likely shapes our ideas of something. When we talk of the ‘Roman Army’ between the 8th Century and 5 th Century BCE we are talking of little more than farmers in helmets and breastplates with weapons! It’s easy to consider the ‘Roman Army’ as the disciplined, well-drilled, well-equipped unit we might see in Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator’ but that movie is 1,000 years removed from the timelines we’re talking about here. (Credit: Unknown, taken from Weaponsandwarefare.com, used without permission)

That might seem a little reductive. Pre-Roman hill-tribes had their own lives, their own beliefs, their own art, and their own cultures. The Etruscans, who would play a huge part in the founding of Rome and its baby steps as a flourishing city state, are really only known to us through their cultural artefacts. But they, as much as Sabines, Oscans and Latins helped shape what became ‘Rome’. Much of what made Rome great was imported. Much of the reason for our thinking them great is exported. Their taking of land from their Latin neighbours and forming alliances with their surrounding tribes, or else conquering them, gave them the leverage they needed to perform the wholesale plunder of Greek art, architecture, knowledge and culture. With this they spread their words, their borrowed buildings, their influence and their structures across the Mediterranean basin and with trade that influence reached as far East as China, as far South as the Sahara and as far West as Ireland.

Much of this rapid expansion, the materials to craft the buildings, the cities, the armour, the weaponry, the food to feed the workers and soldiers, to keep grain coming into Rome itself  – it was not through buying and selling, Rome was not a mercantile empire. The currency of their expansion was conquest. The main capital was human; soldiers for the conquest and slaves for the work.

So as much as I don’t want a hundred articles about the wars of ancient Rome and would much rather speak of their Gods and Goddesses, their graffiti and customs, their foundation is in conflict. One cannot give the history of Rome without including war.

During the reign of King Servius Tullius the army underwent some reforms. More organisation and regimentation (via classes – literally classis) was introduced as well as the adoption of the Hoplite (A soldier with a round shield and a long pole-weapon, usually a spear (trasmitted likely from Greeks to Etruscans and then via Etruscans to Romans) and the Phalanx formation (A tight, rectangular unit of hoplites using their shields to protect with protruding spears so they basically form a moving spiked wall. (Credit: Mike Bishop CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Apologies for the slightly more serious tone, but war is serious business. Literally a matter of life and death! Again, without it Rome would have struggled to be more than a small town.

So as I mentioned with regards to the founding, Rome and the surrounding area were not uninhabited, a variety of different peoples, tribes if you will, would have lived there and there is every evidence the city of Rome itself was founded by multiple different people of these tribes, we know some of the kings were definitely of Etruscan origin for example.

I also mentioned the abduction and rape of the Sabine women, so one of the first of these neighbouring tribes to come into conflict with Rome was the Sabines.

I think, given the circumstances, it’s pretty understandable. If I popped next door to my neighbours’ house and started having it away with the lady of the house, even consensually, I would expect there to be some conflict once her partner or husband found out – Never mind abducting and potentially sexual assaulting and raping, an entire tribe’s women.

The Sabines are believed to be from the Northeast of Rome, in the central Apennines, the mountains.

A south-Etrurian pot (an aryballos) found within a Sabine town. The closest thing I could find to material evidence of the Sabines that wasn’t directly link with THAT event in Rome’s founding! Even though it is likely the Sabines had lives and cultures of their own, I can seem to find little in the way of material history on them. This pot, however, does show the liklihood of trade links between Sabines and Etruscans, and likely there was trade with Latins, too. (Credit:
Jona Lendering CC-BY-1.0)

Again, many Sabines would have joined the Roman cause, become Romans themselves and joined this successful settlement but those that chose not to and remained in the mountains became a thorn in the side of the Romans for several hundred years.

Wars with the Sabines would take place from the 8th century BCE to the 6th century BCE. How much of it is legend and how much is truth is difficult to tell with this point in Roman history, but I will try to give a brief of the approximate timeline of conflicts.

  • The rape of the Sabine women is where it began
  • Then in the 7th century BCE, during the reign of Tullius Hostilius, the Sabines and the Romans had a scrap again
  • Then under Ancus Marcius in the 7th century BCE
  • Then in the early 6th century BCE against king Lucius Taquinius Priscus
  • They fought with the last King of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus
  • Various times between the establishment of the Early Republic and around 475 BCE, including a couple of one-day wars!
  • A combined tribal effort of the Veii-Sabine alliance in 475 BCE was probably one of the most serious Sabine assaults on Rome
  • Then, finally, between 470-468 BCE there was another war.

For most of the details of these conflicts Livy is the main source, although Dionysius of Helicarnassus also provides some details.

Apparently, after the women had been abducted and likely raped by Romans, the Sabines were a bit miffed and went to give them what-for. The Sabine women allegedly intervened to stop the conflict and protect their abductors and rapists. It’s a weird story, to be honest! Also why one of the Roman soliders is butt-naked except for sandals I don’t know. Why there are babies wrestling, I dont know. Why an elderly lady appear to be about to flash her breasts, I don’t know. I’m fairly certain, judging by the look on its face, that horse on the right is just as confused as me! (Credit: Jacques-Louis David, Public Domain)

A lot of this early history is semi-legendary, and a lot of the spats are little more than raids, or responses to raids. It’s small time civilisation stuff. But, the treatment of their near neighbours, Sabines, Latins, Veii, and Etruscans would become the means by which Rome as a territory grows and would set a blueprint. If you beat up nearby people you can either take their stuff, or convince them to give you stuff for peace.

We will see as we move into further conflicts how this would help turn a small town into a city, a small city into a city state, a city state into a territory and a territory into an empire.

Read the other parts in our ‘Roman History in a Nutshell’ Series:
Introduction
The Founding – 753 BCE and Before

The Kingdom – 753 BCE – 509 BCE
The Patrician Era and the Conflict of the Orders – 494 BCE – 287 BCE
Wars with Etruscans Pre-753 BCE – ~264 BCE

The Latin Wars 7th Century BCE – ~338 BCE
The Gallic Wars ~390 BCE – ~284 BCE
The Rest of the Med ~2,000 BCE – ~3rd Century BCE
The Samnite Wars ~343 BCE – ~290 BCE

Want to read more about Romans? We’ve got a little for you.

The Mother of Rome: Livia Drusilla – Before the hit Sky TV series ‘Domina’ there was me espousing the life and works of Livia, the canny politician, the Patrician, the Patron and the wife and mother of an Empire.
The Pleb who Built Rome: Marcus Agrippa – It is my belief that the right-hand-man of Augustus had a much bigger part to play in the building and management of the Empire than did his friend with the titles. Find out why.

A New Lease of Life? – A Discussion about the new floor in the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum, and what Vespasian, who initially commissioned the building, might think.

Bad History: Boudica and Bullshit Nationalism – Looking at the use of historical figures for current political or social agendas.
Bad History: Did Rome ever Actually Fall? Questioning the ‘Decline and Fall’ narrative and looking at structures inherited from the Romans we have to this day.

The Fan-TAS-tic Virtues of Rome – A look at the moral virtues of Roman life.

What are the ‘Ides of March’ – Because I envitably get asked by my dad every Ides, I wrote about it!

Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Introduction
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Easily available abortion (CW)
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Drawing dicks on things.
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Energy Drinks
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Gender and Sexuality Liberation (CW)
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Travel and Tourist Tat.
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – AirBnB
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Bipartisan Politics
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Fast Food
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Pro-Wrestling
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Social Media (Especially Insta and Twitter)

Caturday Special: Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus)

The Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) is a beautiful, muscular cat, built for swimming and with a teddy-bear like round head with little rounded, back-set ears that make it look permanently shocked by something! HUG IT! (Credit: Kelinahandbasket CC-BY-2.0)

The fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) is probably the first cat since the Pallas cat that we have covered that looks like a teddy bear. These things are so damn adorable looking. They do not have a typical feline headshape, instead they have these little tucked-back ears on a little round head that makes it look like the kind of animal you just want to hug.

They’re another of Asia’s wildcats and as their name would suggest they are pretty at home around water. Wetlands, rivers, lakes and mangroves are all places this little kitty calls home with populations mainly in Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh, although it ranges down into Southeast Asia too. This disconnection, the fragmentation in its habitat, as well as exploitation of, and decline in its preferred wetland habitats have made this cat vulnerable. They are also subject to persecution where wetlands, rivers or lakes are converted to aquaculture, fish-farming and the like.

It is honestly sad to read about, knowing this is a vulnerable species we might be talking hundreds of animals a year dying due to human-related causes, whether that be exploitation, persecution, over-fishing reducing their prey species etc.

The distribution of the fishing cat based upon IUCN data from 2016. As you can see its distribution is what is known as ‘fragmented’, it has lots of small, unconnected populations. The reason this is a concern is it prevents gene-flow, shagging between the populations, preventing inbreeding and encouraging genetic diversity. One of the key conversation aims should be to link up some of these populations with safe ‘corridors’. (Credit: BhagyaMani CC-BY-SA 4.0)

I’ve been having lots of discussion recently about living with, not against, nature, especially after my Top Ten Hated (But Misunderstood) Animals series of articles. There is a lot we humans do to wall ourselves from the intrusion of the natural, there is a lot of ruin we do to keep our habitat pristine but at the expense of everything else. We disconnect ourselves from species that cannot live with us and feel uncomfortable with those that can. This little cat here is a perfect example.

This is no tiger, it’s no tiddler, but it’s no tiger either. I wouldn’t even call it a medium-sized cat. It is the largest known of all ‘small cat’ species. It is around 60-70cm head to body, with a short tail (Feline Pop-Quiz: What would it having a shorter tail suggest about its lifestyle?) of maybe 20-30cm, so It’s about 80-100cm total length, maybe 30-40cm shoulder height. We’re talking about twice the size of a domestic cat, with females at the dramatically lower end of the size scale (hitting around 6kg, whilst males can be up to 16kg). My sister’s cat, Bob, we’ve seen him before, is anywhere from 7-9kg depending on season and whether he’s been sneaking food elsewhere!

Awwwww! How can you not love a cat that loves to swim. There’s something about cats swimming that just toasts my heart with love. (Credit: blende12 via Pixabay)

They have shortish fur that can range from yellow to grey, with characteristic stripes moving backwards from the face and becoming spottier as it moves back until it becomes a banded pattern at the tail. This fur is, like other aquatic or semi-aquatic animals, layered to provide insulation. They have a short layer and a longer layer of guard hairs.

Then we have the ears! Such cute little ears! Rounded more than pointed and set low and backwards so it looks like the cat is permanently spooked by something! It’s adorable.

An excellent look at the pelage, the coat or fur, of the fishing cat. You can see how the stripes become spotty past the shoulders, forming stripes again near the rump and then the banded tail. Also, bonus points for mlem! (Credit: blende12 via Pixabay)

Let’s answer the Pop-Quiz question? A shorter tail would suggest this cat does not heavily rely on balance to hunt, so it’s likely not a very arboreal (tree based) hunter (like the clouded leopard which has a very long tail) or a sprint hunter like the cheetah (also has quite a long tail). It’s not a bob-tail, though, so they can’t do without it, crawling along the branches in mangroves clearly requires some counterweight.

I asked you to think of that question for a good reason, and I was doing the same thing with my niece at the zoo the other week. There are certain inferences you can make about the lifestyle of an animal by looking at features of their anatomy. This ‘comparative anatomy’ is very important in evolutionary biology and phylogeny (where things go in the tree of life) but I think it’s also an awesome thing for a lay-audience to learn for if they spot something new or different.

KITTEN TAX! This baby, born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, shows you the density of their fur pretty well! This is to provide a sort of water-proofing, plus thermal insulation, especially since they are mainly nocturnal hunters they don’t exactly get to dry off in the heat of the sun! But look at this little cutie! (Credit: Smithsonian’s National Zoo CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

There are things you can spot, e.g. it’s got a long tail, which can combine with other things, e.g. it’s got a greenish-grey colour with spots or stripes, that you can combine with even more features, e.g. it’s got relatively long, sharp teeth – and it all comes together into “This is a tree-dwelling or hunting carnivore species, it is camouflaged for life in vegetation, the long tail suggests it requires balance and the teeth suggest it eats other animals.”

The common genet, Genetta genetta, we’ve come across these before in our article about Feliformia, the cat-like carnivores. Why is it here? Well, notice how it has a long tail? Dusky spotted or striped coat? Look at those big ears, as well, all the better for hearing small prey like insects or small rodents. I bet if we had a look in its mouth it’s got sharp teeth! … “This is a tree-dwelling or hunting carnivore species, it is camouflaged for life in vegetation, the long tail suggests it requires balance and the teeth suggest it eats other animals“! (Credit: Steve Garvie CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

You might be wrong! But this is part and parcel of any science, learning the ‘heuristics’ – the rules of thumb – to make inferences or predictions and then using observations and evidence to see if you are correct.

Common names are also quite useful for this. What do you reckon the ‘fishing cat’ eats?

If you guessed ‘fish’, you’re approximately 75% correct! Analysis of their poo in India suggests around three quarters of their diet is made up of fish, with molluscs, small reptiles, rodents, birds and insects making up most of the rest.

They are, unlike most feline species, strong swimmers and very comfortable in the water, even swimming underwater. They are believed to be mostly nocturnal and they have been seen hunting both at the sides of water, fishing almost as a domestic cat would at a pond, but also diving into the water to nab their fish.

EXTRA KITTEN TAX! A mother teachers her kittens how to fish! You get to see just how natural these cats are in and around water. (Credit: PBS Nature)

Across much of Asia, in multiple different languages, this cat is named some variation of ‘fish tiger’. That’s awesome! It’s a cute little cat, but sadly human exploitation and conflict have put it in very real danger. Even with plans in place, even with protection orders across much of its habitat, many cats will die due to unnatural causes, mainly human. A study in Thailand that was radio-collaring the cats found 84% of them died due to poaching or ‘unknown causes’. They are prone to trapping, poisoning and snaring, too.

I always hate having to be so negative near the end of an article but to me it’s like someone killing their pet cat because they paw at the dinner on their plate, you know? These human/wildlife conflicts so often seem to come down to that. I get it, these areas of Asia aren’t exactly bursting with millionaires and these cats can probably come in and snatch several fish per evening. At the same time there are ways to peacefully co-exist, even to turn the fishing cat into an ally. Sadly for many of these people taking time, energy, money to learn how to co-exist with these cats is seldom an option.

Nothing to see here, just the incredibly boopable schnoot of a sleepy fishing cat that looks like it is smiling because its happy to just be a cat. (Credit: Wildfaces via Pixabay)

It’s a tough problem. This is not like with tigers where I can be outright angry because poaching is the lazy way to make money off of them, because programmes and tourism schemes have shown demonstrably that wild tigers are bank, the promotion of wild tigers is in the financial interest of the communities who coexist with them. Are people going to invest in wildlife tourism to watch a fishing cat hunt? I would but I’m not ‘most people’ – I’m a feline freak!

There are charities and NGOs working right now in various areas to save this cat. To ensure its protection by finding ways to work with locals to slow conversion or habitat and create schemes where local communities can earn money with alternative means so they do not have to damage the habitats of these gorgeous wild cats, or directly persecute the cats themselves due to conflict.

Hopefully we see the fruits of these labours paying off in the coming decades, and fishing cats can find a comfortable, welcoming home by the rivers, lakes and mangroves of Asia.

Feline fine and in the mood to cat? We’ve got plenty more cat articles for you to purrr-use at your leisure!

Top Ten Cats: Introduction – The basics of cat biology, evolution and natural history.
Top Ten Cats #10 – The Pallas’ cat – a small, very fluffy pika-hunter from Asia.
Top Ten Cats #9 – Jaguarundi – A unique and little known Puma relative.
Top Ten Cats #8 – Clouded Leopard – A stealthy and stunning Asian cat.
Top Ten Cats #7 – Jaguar – Beauty in spades, loves swimming, cracks skulls with teeth…
Top Ten Cats #6 – Lion – Emblematic, beautiful and social, an amazing cat.
Top Ten Cats #5 – Black-footed cat – one of the smallest, yet most deadly wild cats.
Top Ten Cats #4 – Smilodon – Going prehistoric with the sabre-toothed cats.
Top Ten Cats #3 – Tiger – One of the most gorgeous animals to have ever existed.
Top Ten Cats #2 – Cheetah – The placid lovechild of a sportscar and a murderer.
Top Ten Cats #1 – Domestic cats – Saviour of our foodstores and loving companions.

Caturday Special: The Origin StoryProailurus and Pseudaelurus – The progenitor species of all modern cats examined.
Caturday Special: The Snow Leopard – The ‘Ghost of the Mountains’ gets an examination, a beautiful cat with some remarkable characteristics.
Caturday Special: The Scottish Wildcat – Once an emblem of so many Scottish clans, now this poor, cute, and feisty wildcat is struggling to survive due to historic persecution and current ongoing interbreeding with domestic cats.
Caturday Special: The Serval – Find out about this elegant and beautiful medium-sized African wildcat and how it has become part of our domesticated cat lineage!
Caturday Special: The Kodkod – The smallest cat in the Americas and endemic to only a small part of Chile and Argentina, find out about this amazing little boopster.
Caturday Special: The Feliformia and the Spotted Hyena – Did you know that hyenas are actually more closely related to cats than to dogs? They are members of sub-order of carnivores called ‘Feliformiae‘ or the cat-like carnivores. Learn more about them, the hyena and the hyena’s remarkable genitals here.
Caturday Special: The Cougar – The second biggest cat in the Americas is actually more closely related to your domestic moggy than the lion! Learn more!
Caturday Special: The Eurasian Lynx – One of my continent’s most handsome predators and one that certain groups are looking to get reintroduced to the UK after a 1,000 year absence in the hope it will control rabbit and roe deer numbers. I’m all for it!
Caturday Special: Hybrids – Looking at the phenomenon of hybrid species, with focus on cats like the liger, the pumapard and the Kellas cat, as well as some talk about domestic hybrids like chausie, bengals and caracats.

Roman History in a Nutshell – Wars with Etruscans Pre-753BCE to ~264 BCE

An Etruscan mural from a necropolis in Tarquinia – Once a large Etruscan settlement and likely the birthplace of the ‘Tarquin’ Roman Kings. A lot of the art we have of Etruscans depicts them having a good ol’ time! They seemed to love music and dance. This would lead to them being given an ‘effeminate’ reputation amongst Roman men. (Credit: Yann Forget, Public Domain)

‘Everybody needs good neighbours,’ so said the theme tune to the (at least in the UK) popular Australian TV series ‘Neighbours’ about a group of, would you believe it, neighbours.

Now whether or not Rome was the bad neighbour (stealing your neighbours’ women – see our last entry about the Sabines – would indicate as much) or whether those around them just didn’t like this upstart town, Rome seemed to have a lot of beef with its neighbours.

If the founding myth is correct and the whole city began with fratricide we’d have to imagine much of the responsibility for being bad at relationships with nearest and dearest is with Rome.

The Etruscans were already an established culture when Rome was founded. It probably pre-dates Rome by a century or two, has its own established towns, art style, culture, Gods (that seem to owe a lot of inspiration to those of the Greeks) and so they were, at least in legend, one of the first enemies of the Romans. Yet also likely one of their founding cultures, and many early Romans were likely Etruscan.

This famous statue? Remember this? Almost certainly an Etruscan bronze wolf, the infants being likely later additions. (Credit: Carole Raddato CC-BY-SA 2.0)

It’s easy to see why when you see the extent of their reach. Etruria itself, the main area where Etruscans lived, was basically smack-bang in the centre of Italy and they expanded from there down into the Latin territory to the south, north up to around modern Venice and along the Po valley and taking Corsica at some point.

According to Livy, before Rome was even founded the Pre-Romans led by Latinus and Aeneas were fighting Etruscans, led by Mezentius, and the Rutuli led by Turnus.

This is East Coast vs. West Coast, Crips vs. Bloods, Celtic vs. Rangers, British vs. Everyone – Until Carthage the Etruscans would be the longest lasting, biggest pain in the arse for Rome.

The problem seems to have been that Rome wanted to be friends with all of its neighbours, except being Rome’s friend involved giving them lots of stuff or else they’d hurt you. Their neighbours, also, didn’t seem to particularly like them much and when you are already an established culture, with an established military tradition, some young punk turning up and going “Hi, can I be your friend – give grain please!” is probably going to rub you up the wrong way.

A map showing the incredible reach of the Etruscans. Like many civilisations at this point they were not a unified, structured ’empire’, but a collective of city states with a shared culture. Some of these cities (Veii! I’m looking at you!) would cause Rome more problems than others. (Credit: NormanEinstein GNU-FDL)

In many ways, though, the evolution of Rome and the destruction or dominance over its near neighbours is not too dissimilar to many of the Greek Poleis, or other Mediterranean cultures and how they grew. Let’s not forget we’re talking 9th century, 8th century BCE here! It’s not like they’ve got laser-guided bunker busters, a lot of these conflicts were just farmers throwing rocks at each other while wearing leather armour!

It’s also debatable whether Etruria, or the Etruscan culture overall ‘lost’ or whether their culture, and many of their people, were assimilated into Roman life. It might be tempting to ask “What’s the difference?” but when we think of ‘Roman culture’, the popular idea of it, what we really think of is ‘Greco-Roman culture’. The periods around the early 3rd century BCE to the mid-2nd century BCE, after Rome had invaded Greece, fallen in love with its culture, been in awe of the majesty of its buildings and replicated them, with columns towering into the sky, colonnaded porticoes giving temples a sense of grandeur and then mimicked the art, sculpture, drama, theatre and poetry the likes of which they had never seen.

Much of what came before then, though? It was likely heavily influenced by the established Etruscan culture. In fact pre-Grecian influence Rome would have had Etruscan written all over it, except, oddly enough, in its writing. As I have mentioned several times, many of the Kings of Rome were of Etruscan origin, the Etruscan language appears to have survived in Rome for hundreds of years after the last Roman-Etruscan conflict. To an extent the cultural foundations of Rome were laid by Etruscans, and then built over, first by Greco-Roman influence and only later by an established ‘Roman’ identity itself.

Some of the most incredible artefacts left behind by Etruscans were their statues, particularly their bronze work. This is believed to represent Sleep and Death carrying off Sarpedon. This is a legend in Greek myth and there are many similarities between Greek and Etruscan mythology. (Credit: Daderot, Public Domain)

For all this we know little of the Etruscans. There are plenty of ruins and artefacts but little (unbiased) evidence of how to interpret them. Even their language, of which they left many loan words to the Latin language, the roots of which form words we inherit to this day, is a mystery. Only a few hundred words are understood with any degree of certainty (words like nephew, military and person are all believed to have Etruscan origins, via Latin).

But this isn’t talking about the wars, is it? So let’s have a rundown again!

As mentioned, pre-foundation of Rome there was a scrap.

In the 8th century BCE the Etruscan cities of Fidenae and Veii combined forces against Romulus and lost.

They did it again in the 7th century BCE when Rome was ruled by Tullus Hostilius, apparently because the bloke in charge of Alba Longa – another Roman neighbour – was upset the Romans had twatted him upside the head.

In the 6th Century BCE, under King Servius Tullius, those pesky Veii again caused trouble.

After the ousting of the kings of Rome in 509 BCE, the final king, Lucius Tarquinus Superbus (I still just think of a superhero bus) went back to his people, the Tarquinii, from the city of Tarquinia, Etruscans, and riled them up for another scrap against his usurpers, getting the Veii involved again! It didn’t go well, presumably.

We know it didn’t go well because in 508 BCE the Super Bus combined forces with the King of Clusium, one Lars Porsena, for another go at it. This time it worked out a lot better for the Etruscans and the Romans were forced to sign a peace treaty.

Between 483 and 476 BCE we get the Fabian war with, wouldn’t you know it, Veii! Called the Fabian war because apparently the Fabian family, gens Fabia, featured heavily in the military operations of the Roman side. Everything went quite well for the Veientes until Rome closed its doors and then they lost later. Old wars are weird.

Effectively the first line of defence against Roman attack and offence towards conquering Rome, the city of Veii clashed with the Romans in the name of the Etruscan cause, as well as often as an ally of the Sabines (we’ll get to them next time.) It’s easy to see why that city could be such a thorn in the side of the Romans. (Credit: ColdEel & Ahenobarbus CC-BY-SA 3.0)

For the year 475-474 BCE the Veii (AGAIN!) and the Sabines formed an alliance and caused some trouble.

Then, believe it or not, about a century of peace! I know, not even the Veii caused a stir.

After the sack of Rome by Gauls in around 390 BCE it is believed a variety of Etruscan communities looked to exploit the chaos and win territory and power back from Rome. This lasted until about 386 BCE and involved a lot of towns chopping and changing hands.

Then there’s another 40-50 years of peace before the Tarquinii cause a bit of trouble with some help from the Falerii, in around 359-358 BCE.

There would be several battles at Lake Vadimo, between about 310-280BCE.

Finally, the end of the Roman wars with Etruria and the Etruscans are usually dated to around 264 BCE with the defeat of the Volsinii.

Again the main contemporary source is Livy’s Histories and most of what we know is likely semi-legendary anyway. Certainly with many of the conflicts that take place in the mid-Republic it’s believed these were real wars but the narrative given by Livy is often questioned.

And as I said earlier, a lot of the time this was just farmers throwing rocks at each other! Okay, later on there may have been organised units, swords and spears but the early fighting between Rome and its near-neighbours was early-human raiding. It was robbing a bit of grain from this town, pillaging the wealth from that town. It’s easy to build up a narrative of it being a BIG IMPORTANT WAR in your head because ‘Rome’ came to mean so much. But certainly early on Rome was little more than some ramshackle houses on some hills near a river. It wasn’t until approaching the end of the era of the Kingdom of Rome that the foundation, the City, the start of this goliath that would be Rome happened.

An Etruscan Funerary Urn (left – Credit: Alun Salt CC-BY-SA 2.0) and a Roman Funerary Monument (right – Credit: Mary Harrsch CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0) Notice the similarities in the reclined posture. Roman funerary monuments often included valued family members or tools of their trade. Many Roman graves, like the Etruscan one seen here, also featured scenes of battles, scenes from the life of the deceased, or some indication of their lifestyle or occupation. The Etruscan urn is likely from aroun 200-100 BCE, though the style dates back a century further still, the Roman monument is 1st century CE. Potentially 400 years of time and still the reclining man on a funeral monument motif persists.

By the end of their wars with the Etruscans, though, Rome was a Mediterranean power and one not to be ignored. The Sabines were small potatoes, and next time out I shall talk about their conflicts with the Latins, but the Etruscans were established, organised, had a unity and a discipline about them.

History being different we could be talking about a Mediterranean empire emanating from any of the large Etruscan cities. But it is Rome that won the wars, who found the balance of integration and conquest to dominate the central Italian peninsula and cement itself as a major power.

Read the other parts in our ‘Roman History in a Nutshell’ Series:
Introduction
The Founding – 753 BCE and Before

The Kingdom – 753 BCE – 509 BCE
The Patrician Era and the Conflict of the Orders – 494 BCE – 287 BCE

Wars with Sabines, Veii & Fidenae ~753 BCE – ~287 BCE
The Latin Wars 7th Century BCE – ~338 BCE
The Gallic Wars ~390 BCE – ~284 BCE
The Rest of the Med ~2,000 BCE – ~3rd Century BCE
The Samnite Wars ~343 BCE – ~290 BCE

Want to read more about Romans? We’ve got a little for you.

A New Lease of Life? – A Discussion about the new floor in the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum, and what Vespasian, who initially commissioned the building, might think.

Bad History: Boudica and Bullshit Nationalism – Looking at the use of historical figures for current political or social agendas.
Bad History: Did Rome ever Actually Fall? Questioning the ‘Decline and Fall’ narrative and looking at structures inherited from the Romans we have to this day.

The Fan-TAS-tic Virtues of Rome – A look at the moral virtues of Roman life.

What are the ‘Ides of March’ – Because I envitably get asked by my dad every Ides, I wrote about it!

The Mother of Rome: Livia Drusilla – Before the hit Sky TV series ‘Domina’ there was me espousing the life and works of Livia, the canny politician, the Patrician, the Patron and the wife and mother of an Empire.
The Pleb who Built Rome: Marcus Agrippa – It is my belief that the right-hand-man of Augustus had a much bigger part to play in the building and management of the Empire than did his friend with the titles. Find out why.

Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Introduction
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Easily available abortion (CW)
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Drawing dicks on things.
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Energy Drinks
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Gender and Sexuality Liberation (CW)
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Travel and Tourist Tat.
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – AirBnB
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Bipartisan Politics
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Fast Food
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Pro-Wrestling
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Social Media (Especially Insta and Twitter)

Roman History in a Nutshell: The Patrician Era and the Conflict of the Orders 494 BCE – 287 BCE

A bronze bust believed to be Lucius Junius Brutus, a semi-legendary figure in Roman history believed to have expelled the last King, Tarquinius Superbus and been one of the first Consuls of the Roman Republic. (Credit: Jastrow, Public Domain)

Well, the Kings were gone, and in their stead we had a shower of sneering poshos who thought they knew everything. If they were so clever how come they didn’t have Playstations!? Hmm? Smart arses.

Anyway, life was, allegedly, good. Most people had some land to farm. Some people owned lots of land and had lots of surplus they could trade for money or other luxury goods. Some people had just enough land for their family to subsist without needing to depend on anyone else, maybe with a little surplus to make some leisure cash. Some people had barely enough to live off of and some people had no land at all and worked for other people.

For the latter group life was fucking shit, to be frank. To not own land, a small part of the ager publicus – the public land – Roman land, well it made you less than Roman. You were a slave or a beggar. You were as nothing.

Some land around Lake Bracciano, to the northwest of Rome. Would this have been ager publicus? Who knows, but its damn nice to look at. (Credit:
Albarubescens CC-BY-SA 4.0)

Even having just enough land was tough. Farmers found they had lean years and, to get by, they went to their wealthier patrons…PAUSE

I’ve explained the Roman patronage system (clientela) before, but I’ll explain it here again. Romans were a society that recognised it was hard to get by on your own. Wealthier people needed poorer people to do stuff for them, and poorer people sometimes needed wealthier people to give them a hand. So a patronus – a patron, would have cliens – clients. Benefits to the patron were a strong network of connections possibly with tradespeople and artisans so you could impress your own patrons and colleagues with finer goods, or as we shall see, perhaps a chance to enrich yourself. The benefits to the client included access to borrowing, as we describe here, but also legal protections and, again, being part of a greater network so, whatever your trade, you would have someone who would always bring your name up.

Wish I had a patron.

UNPAUSE… they went to their wealthier patrons and asked for assistance. The wealthy patrons asked for their land and farm as collateral on the borrowing and the next thing you know – boof – another lean year, you’ve lost your farm, some rich twat now owns it and you work for him.

The rich, known as the ‘Patrician’ class, found various ways to get richer while the poor ‘Plebeian’ class got poorer – An oh-so-familiar pattern.

This early Rome was not stable, and it was far from the vast empire it was to become. It was still barely bigger than the modern area of Greater Rome today. It was surrounded by various other hill tribes, competitors and barbarians and they would always be marauding and raiding. We will be covering the many battles that led to the expansion of Rome after this entry. The Romans had a well organised, well drilled military but it depended on the landed classes to fill it. If you couldn’t afford the weapons and armour you didn’t qualify to join the military. Army recruits were few, expansion was restricted, the poor were getting poorer, the rich were getting richer and something had to give.

The First Secession of the People to the Mons Sacer – One of the first major clashes between the plebs and the patricians, occuring some time around 495 BCE, and sparked by disagreements about debt. The plebs basically upped and left to settle on Mons Sacer, the Sacred Mount. Obviously this left the Patricians with nobody to boss around and actually do work so some agreement had to be made. The result was the creation of the political position of “Tribune of the Plebs” who would have the ability to represent plebeian interests to the patricians and the consuls. (Credit: Bartolomeo Barloccini, Public Domain.)

It possibly did. ‘The Conflict of the Orders’ happened. Well, some allege it didn’t but what we do know is at one point the plebeians were totally politically voiceless and the next thing they had tribunes and their voice counted for something.

But I’m condensing. This was a process hundreds of years in the making. From the ousting of the Kings, the founding of the Republic, the establishment of the Republic, the formalising of the political classes, the disagreements with that formalisation, the fighting on behalf of the plebs to get some voice – This was not 500 words worth of time. From the formalisation of Patrician power in around 494 BCE to the end of the so-called ‘Conflict of the Orders’ with the enactment of the lex Hortensia, the Hortensian Law which stated that no longer would Plebeian Council acts have to be ratified by Patricians, in 287 BCE, this was a 207 year long process!

While all of this was going on, though, much was brewing elsewhere. Rome was constantly at war with its near neighbours. Gathering strength, might and money nearby were the powers of the Etruscans, the Samnites, the Latins and Gauls; slightly further afield the Greeks and the Carthaginians were exerting their influence, too.

It goes a little beyond our timeline here but it is a great example of how small Rome and its influence was and how it expanded over time. Again we think of ‘Rome’ and we think of a vast empire, dominating the European continent and the Mediterranean basin. But that dark red blotch, that tiny spot, on this entire Italian penisula, is how it started. That tiny dot had to find ways to make deals with, integrate with, or otherwise dominate all these other cultures around them. (Credit: Javierfv1212, Public Domain)

It will become a common facet of Roman geopolitics that their ability to react to outside threats is marred by infighting. But we’ll get to those later. For now her seven hills are settled, the plebeians placated by a promise of shared power and the Patrician’s wondering how they can minimise the impact on themselves.

Read the other parts in our ‘Roman History in a Nutshell’ Series:
Introduction
The Founding – 753 BCE and Before

The Kingdom – 753 BCE – 509 BCE

Wars with Etruscans Pre-753 BCE – ~264 BCE
Wars with Sabines, Veii & Fidenae ~753 BCE – ~287 BCE
The Latin Wars 7th Century BCE – ~338 BCE
The Gallic Wars ~390 BCE – ~284 BCE
The Rest of the Med ~2,000 BCE – ~3rd Century BCE
The Samnite Wars ~343 BCE – ~290 BCE

Want to read more about Romans? We’ve got a little for you.
Bad History: Boudica and Bullshit Nationalism – Looking at the use of historical figures for current political or social agendas.
Bad History: Did Rome ever Actually Fall? Questioning the ‘Decline and Fall’ narrative and looking at structures inherited from the Romans we have to this day.

A New Lease of Life? – A Discussion about the new floor in the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum, and what Vespasian, who initially commissioned the building, might think.

Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Introduction
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Easily available abortion (CW)
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Drawing dicks on things.
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Energy Drinks
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Gender and Sexuality Liberation (CW)
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Travel and Tourist Tat.
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – AirBnB
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Bipartisan Politics
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Fast Food
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Pro-Wrestling
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Social Media (Especially Insta and Twitter)

The Fan-TAS-tic Virtues of Rome – A look at the moral virtues of Roman life.

What are the ‘Ides of March’ – Because I envitably get asked by my dad every Ides, I wrote about it!

The Mother of Rome: Livia Drusilla – Before the hit Sky TV series ‘Domina’ there was me espousing the life and works of Livia, the canny politician, the Patrician, the Patron and the wife and mother of an Empire.
The Pleb who Built Rome: Marcus Agrippa – It is my belief that the right-hand-man of Augustus had a much bigger part to play in the building and management of the Empire than did his friend with the titles. Find out why.

Roman History in a Nutshell: The Kingdom 753 BCE – 509 BCE

The stone known as the ‘Lapis Niger’ or the Black Stone. Believed to date to around the 6th or 5th century BCE it is the only solid archaelogical evidence we have of a mention of ‘Kings’ of Rome. Even then, it is unclear if this is referring to a ‘King’ in the Tarquin sense or the Rex Sacrorum – a sacred priest. Early Roman history is HARD! (Credit: sailko CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Rome was founded, this much we know, as it exists. At least we think it does, there’s a big place on the River Tiber called ‘Rome’ and archaelogical evidence from there and the surrounding area suggests has been inhabited by humans for quite some time.

Besides mentions in Livy’s histories and one engraved stone there is little we know of the Roman Kings. Many were likely Etruscan in origin and they were all definitely called Tarquin which helps you understand why they all became violent, tyrannical warlords. I think I would be, too, if I were called Tarquin. Sorry Tarquins.

Look! ‘Roma’ that’s Italian for ‘Rome’ It’s on a map – It exists! I knew it did! I told you! You can also see ‘Ostia Antica’ on that map too, that’s Rome’s main ancient port. (Credit: joechristie via Pixabay)

The truth is they revolutionised the Roman way of fighting, changed how they approached battles, how they conscripted troops from the population, taught them new strategies and formations and began using them to ‘pacify’ their neighbours and begin the process of expansion.

It is always heart-warming to see someone overcoming the adversities they were born with. To take the misfortune of being called ‘Tarquin’ to propel themselves far in life. Most Tarquins are so toffy they’ll rot your teeth and tug your fillings out. These guys, though, put down a foundation of a city on solid enough ground to become an empire.

Rome would, as a result of their rule, become, quite ironically, a king-slaying republic for hundreds of years, but to fail to acknowledge the importance of the Roman Kings is stupid.

Anyway I shall name these kings and give a brief, and inaccurate, summary of what they did of significance.

One of these infant wolf molesters is Romulus (Credit: Matthias_Lemm via Pixabay)

King I – Romulus – Became King for the regal act of murdering his brother because he didn’t respect a fence.

All the rest of the portraits are from “Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum” by Guillaume Rouille and are public domain.

King II – Numa Pompilius – Elected by some poshos because he was Romulus’ brother in law. His political chants of “Make me king, oh, Numa-Numa, yeah, Numa Numa, yeah! Numa Numa Numa, yeah!” helped.

King III – Tullus Hostilius – Another elected by the poshos, weird given you’d think he’d be a bit standoffish with a name like that.

King IV – Ancus Marcius – Hostilius’ son in law, Pompilius’ grandson, pure nepotism. Ancus? Wancus, more like.

King V – Lucius Tarquinius Priscus – Almost certainly Etruscan in origin, was elected because the nepotistic choice was a bit too young and I suspect Priscus had a sharp metal object to hand during the discussions.

King VI – Servius Tullius – Some murders by some nepotistic parties happened and Tullius sort of…Just said he’d step in while everyone was busy killing each other. It worked. Ultimate fake-it-till-you-make-it King.

King VII – Lucius Tarquinius Superbus – Always on time, comfy seats, functional Wi-Fi – Better than the Megabus, A super bus. Related to Priscus and definitely didn’t do a murder on Tullius to get where he got. Maybe plotted it, but didn’t do it.

The thing is these guys ruled Rome from, allegedly, around 753 BCE to 509 BCE – A fair few years, and the foundations they built, their councils, their buildings, their organisations, were the beginnings of the Republic to come. That republic itself was likely built out of the families who had made their wealth and status, earned their authority, their auctoritas, off of these kings.

Let’s not get it twisted, either. These King-slayers who would build a republic didn’t do it in the name of the people. Sure, they didn’t want all the power in the hands of just one man. But that’s because they wanted to each have a little bit of it themselves.

This was a power-sharing arrangement by influential and wealthy families. SPQR – Senatus Populusque Romanus – The Senate and People of Rome – The order of the words there, I think, is important.

SPQR – A brand so popular it would be added to statues, to graves, even the modern day sewer grates of Rome have it on them.
Now my Latin is bad-to-non-existant but I will do my best.
This is a statue to Paulus Aemilius Zephirus Heironymus Moronus – Now Zephyr is like wind and moronus is stupid – So I assume he was a farty idiot.
He liked to trick snakes (Consss) and was part of the Pompeiian Cavalry (Pompeius Cavalerius).
He and his friend Dominic previously decapitated a Ferrero Rocher (Dominicus de capite ferreo prior)
Hello from 1590 (An salut MDXC)
That’s completely wrong, please consult someone who reads Latin.
(Credit: J. Miers CC-BY-SA 1.0)

The Senate comes first. After all, they enact the ‘will’ of the ‘people’ of Rome and I’m sure over the course of history ‘The Will of the People’ could never become a distracting Big Lie intended to divert attention away from the fact that often these powerful people, this Senate, would behave in self-interest.

SPQR would become a logo, a brand, a stamp of majesty on tiles, shields and flags. Rome turned itself from a monarchy with an ultimate power to an oligarchy, where the powerless were just as powerless and what power there was, was shared by a select few.

Read the other parts in our ‘Roman History in a Nutshell’ Series:

Introduction
The Founding – 753 BCE and Before


The Patrician Era and the Conflict of the Orders – 494 BCE – 287 BCE
Wars with Etruscans Pre-753 BCE – ~264 BCE
Wars with Sabines, Veii & Fidenae ~753 BCE – ~287 BCE
The Latin Wars 7th Century BCE – ~338 BCE
The Gallic Wars ~390 BCE – ~284 BCE
The Rest of the Med ~2,000 BCE – ~3rd Century BCE
The Samnite Wars ~343 BCE – ~290 BCE

Want to read more about Romans? We’ve got a little for you.
Bad History: Boudica and Bullshit Nationalism – Looking at the use of historical figures for current political or social agendas.
Bad History: Did Rome ever Actually Fall? Questioning the ‘Decline and Fall’ narrative and looking at structures inherited from the Romans we have to this day.

A New Lease of Life? – A Discussion about the new floor in the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum, and what Vespasian, who initially commissioned the building, might think.

Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Introduction
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Easily available abortion (CW)
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Drawing dicks on things.
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Energy Drinks
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Gender and Sexuality Liberation (CW)
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Travel and Tourist Tat.
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – AirBnB
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Bipartisan Politics
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Fast Food
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Pro-Wrestling
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Social Media (Especially Insta and Twitter)

The Fan-TAS-tic Virtues of Rome – A look at the moral virtues of Roman life.

What are the ‘Ides of March’ – Because I envitably get asked by my dad every Ides, I wrote about it!

The Mother of Rome: Livia Drusilla – Before the hit Sky TV series ‘Domina’ there was me espousing the life and works of Livia, the canny politician, the Patrician, the Patron and the wife and mother of an Empire.
The Pleb who Built Rome: Marcus Agrippa – It is my belief that the right-hand-man of Augustus had a much bigger part to play in the building and management of the Empire than did his friend with the titles. Find out why.

Roman History in a Nutshell: The Founding – 753 BCE and Before

It is easy to see why you’d want to settle here. Technically the ‘7 Hill of Rome’ are…well, 5 hills one of which has three projections. But Either way, those hills are defensible and make danger easy to spot. Also, protection of homes from flooding by the Tiber, which creates fertile land on the surrounding fields. It’s a dream for a group of farmers and shepherds in 800 BCE! (Credit: Renata3 GFDL & all CC-BY-SA)

CONTENT WARNING: Discusses abduction and sexual assault. Photo of statue penis.

It’s a tale as old as time, so common, right? You’re busy fannying about doing whatever and then next thing you know you’ve rubbed genitals with someone, given birth to twins, been killed by your brother, twins sent down the river, where they fortuitously washed up to be suckled by a female wolf who presumably just happened to be lactating, they grow up to form competing villages before one ruthlessly slays the other and goes on to found the city of Rome and a politico-cultural legacy that would last to this very day. S’normal. Definitely a true story.

Giambologna’s (pronounced jam-baloney if you’re American) famous ‘Rape of the Sabines’ statue in the Loggia dei Lanzi, an amazing covered, outside gallery of statues in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence. You can see the copy of Michelangelo’s David in the background. It is one of the most famous artworks relating to this part of Roman history. (Credit: Arnold Paul CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Vivat Rome.

Requiescat in pace Reme.

Let’s move on.

Throw in a little bit of stealing women from neighbouring tribes with intent to rape them, only to have them allegedly so enjoy your…err…passion… (I dunno mate, 800-700BCEish was a weird time…Rape apologia was apparently taken care of by the survivors) So much that they defend you to their marauding previous fathers and husbands.

When you piece together the ‘myth’ of the founding of Rome it all sounds a bit suss. I guess, to some extent, many places have bullshit stories of ‘founding fathers’ – brave, individual pioneers who planted a flag firmly in a spot and said “This shall be the centre of our universe.” It’s mostly bollocks, though, isn’t it?

I mean, Romulus? Romulus for fuck’s sake. Okay let me throw this one at you.

Escaping the tyranny of the cold, harsh weather up North a family of ancient Britons walked tirelessly seeking their destiny. Before they could reach their hallowed land their mother fell deathly ill and the father into a languid depression. As a result, the babies were unattended and, making mischief, found their way into the river.

They were rescued by an eagle who would regurgitate food down their gullets to keep them fed. The children’s names were Mr. Londonica and Mr. Landinicus.

Having been sufficiently nourished by bird vomit they grew up to be strong men and decided to found a settlement, choosing as their location a shitty swamp by a massive river. Two islands in this river were established as the borders of the individual settlements but, one day, in a fit of madness about the bitterness of his tea, Mr. Landinicus popped over to the other island to see if he could borrow a cup of sugar. The answer was no and death. He was killed and Londonica’s settlement grew very big and now we call it London. The End.

Romulus likely didn’t found Rome any more than Londonica founded London, Jonathan Henry New York founded New York or Bruce Wayne the town of Batman in Turkey (real place, look it up.)

The Lupa, the She-Wolf, the Capitoline Wolf – A bronze statue of a frankly confused looking she-wolf wondering why two human children have taking to nibbling at her nips. This is allegedly how Romulus and Remus were raised. I recently purchased a t-shirt from Neo-Classicst on RedBubble featuring this image and I suggest you do the same because it is the best t-shirt ever.

The fact is Rome’s site is prime real estate (see the opening diagram!). Multiple hills surround a valleys and a plain touched by a pretty quick flowing river. The hills are good for housing and defence, the land by the riverside rich in nutrients and great for arable crops and pasture. Shit hot place to live, you’d never catch it on ‘Location, Location, Location’ because the Location’s taken by one of the world’s major cities, it’s that good.

Maybe there was an analogue, maybe a pair of brothers once did have homes on hills near Rome, maybe there was a fight but they would not have had a firm ‘Roman’ identity. ‘Rome’ didn’t exist then and chances are the community was a group of fragmented hill tribes, possibly migrants from various cultures nearby. Fratricide is a strong theme in human myths, but wanting to kill your brother is also quite common, so it’s hard to pull the false from the true.

The likelihood is that various peoples from around the area – Latins, Etruscans, Sabines, Oscans – there were lots of pre-Roman Italian tribes surrounding the area that would be Rome – spread. The famous Seven Hills of Rome make it a wonderful place for multiple close-proximity settlements.

Those settlements would need arrangements to stop them acting like dicks to each other. So they’d have representatives meet up and arrange rules, systems and laws. Again, maybe two of these early representatives were brothers who had a falling-out and one killed the other? We don’t know. The next thing you know you’re not three or four scattered villages, you’re one big community.

An Etruscan tomb in the ruins of Fiesole, near Florence. Whilst much of the excavation here reveals the Roman settlement of Faesulae, the Etruscan town of Viesul likely predates even the founding of Rome by 100-200 years. Etruscan culture was, pre-Roman, possibly one of the widest spread and most dominant cultures in Italy, and much of it was incorporated into future Romanitas. (Credit: Eric Parker CC-BY-NC 2.0)

Then some of these people find their way to being warlords allegedly and organise the military might of that community of villages, forming a City in the process.

In one founding story, the Romulus and Remus story, two infants with an ungodly natural pull to wolf titties were destined to found a great city. In the other version it happened by happy accident.

What little high-grade education I got was in biology and, if it taught me anything, it’s that things always evolve by happy accident – no matter how big the mutations.

The truth is Rome was a mongrel haven, a taker of all comers who could prove worthy of the three ‘F’s vital for starting a community – Fighting, farming and fucking. People from the local region all found a way to unite for a greater good.

Incidentally the she-wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus? You know what she-wolf is in latin? Lupa. That would also be a likely slang word for a female sex worker. So even if Romulus and Remus were real they were basically some abandoned kids raised by a prostitute. That’s no judgement on sex workers, that’s a judgement on myth workers. A beautiful lie is still a lie.

Is the myth more beautiful than the reality? More romantic, sure. More beautiful? Not to me. Do you know why Romulus killed Remus? Because he stepped over a fence.

Having successfully defended the honour of his fence, Romulus’ first act was to invent ‘The Dab’. As you can see he didn’t quite do it in its modern form, but the addition of an elongated arrow makes it quite impactful. Remember kids – Never hop a fence, you never know who might kill you. (Credit: Unknown, I nicked it off pinterest. Frankly if this old etching isn’t Public Domain the ‘owner’ can fuck off.)

If that’s a beautiful myth then you’re a romantic fool.

It all started the way every big city did. People smart enough to realise the agricultural value of an area mixed with luck.

Read the other parts in our ‘Roman History in a Nutshell’ Series:

Introduction

The Kingdom – 753 BCE – 509 BCE
The Patrician Era and the Conflict of the Orders – 494 BCE – 287 BCE
Wars with Etruscans Pre-753 BCE – ~264 BCE
Wars with Sabines, Veii & Fidenae ~753 BCE – ~287 BCE
The Latin Wars 7th Century BCE – ~338 BCE
The Gallic Wars ~390 BCE – ~284 BCE
The Rest of the Med ~2,000 BCE – ~3rd Century BCE
The Samnite Wars ~343 BCE – ~290 BCE

Want to read more about Romans? We’ve got a little for you.
Bad History: Boudica and Bullshit Nationalism – Looking at the use of historical figures for current political or social agendas.
Bad History: Did Rome ever Actually Fall? Questioning the ‘Decline and Fall’ narrative and looking at structures inherited from the Romans we have to this day.

A New Lease of Life? – A Discussion about the new floor in the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum, and what Vespasian, who initially commissioned the building, might think.

Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Introduction
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Easily available abortion (CW)
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Drawing dicks on things.
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Energy Drinks
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Gender and Sexuality Liberation (CW)
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Travel and Tourist Tat.
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – AirBnB
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Bipartisan Politics
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Fast Food
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Pro-Wrestling
Top Ten Modern Things Romans Would Love – Social Media (Especially Insta and Twitter)

The Fan-TAS-tic Virtues of Rome – A look at the moral virtues of Roman life.

What are the ‘Ides of March’ – Because I envitably get asked by my dad every Ides, I wrote about it!

The Mother of Rome: Livia Drusilla – Before the hit Sky TV series ‘Domina’ there was me espousing the life and works of Livia, the canny politician, the Patrician, the Patron and the wife and mother of an Empire.
The Pleb who Built Rome: Marcus Agrippa – It is my belief that the right-hand-man of Augustus had a much bigger part to play in the building and management of the Empire than did his friend with the titles. Find out why.