Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Similarities You Never Saw Coming

The popular book and television series, Game of Thrones, portrays a world rich with magic, adventure, romance, and history. While most fans of the series thoroughly enjoy the refreshing originality of the series; others would say that Game of Thrones is simply a fantastical interpretation of actual historic events and themes. In this post, I will attempt to analyze some of these historic references that may be obvious or not so obvious. While it is known that a majority of the history that Game of Thrones is based on is much earlier than Ancient Rome (1400's-1600's); I would argue that there are several examples from Ancient Rome that relate to this series.

DISCLAIMER: If you are new to the series and are not up to date on the HBO series' episodes, I should warn you that there are spoilers ahead! I will not be discussing any events that lie beyond the current HBO series (OathKeeper; Episode S4E4) as I do not wish to deter those who have not read the books from this post. Any quote from the books will not reveal any spoilers or new information.

1) The Wall vs. Hadrian's Wall
The author, George R.R. Martin, has acknowledged openly his inspiration of The Wall from Hadrian's Wall:
Certainly the Wall comes from Hadrian's Wall, which I saw while visiting Scotland. I stood on Hadrian's Wall and tried to imagine what it would be like to be a Roman soldier sent here from Italy or Antioch.  To stand here, to gaze off into the distance, not knowing what might emerge from the forest.  Of course fantasy is the stuff of bright colours and being larger than real life, so my Wall is bigger and considerably longer and more magical.  And, of course, what lies beyond it has to be more than just Scots. (SF Site Interview; found here.)
Hadrian's Wall or Vallum Aelium.

Hadrian's Wall was begun in 122 CE by Emperor Hadrian. The suggested origins for its purpose vary from military defense, to protection from immigration, smuggling, or simply a demonstration of power. Perhaps it was built for all these reason (or none of them).One text, Scriptores Historiae Augustae: Vita Hadriani, claims:
"(Hadrian) was the first to build a wall 80 miles long to separate the Romans from the barbarians"
Location of Hadrian's Wall
In the series, one of the main characters (Jon Snow) gives his account upon seeing The Wall for the first time:
Almost seven hundred feet high it stood, three times the height of the tallest tower in the stronghold it sheltered. His uncle said the top was wide enough for a dozen armored knights to ride abreast. The gaunt outlines of huge catapults and monstrous wooden cranes stood sentry up there, like the skeletons of great birds, and among them walked men in black as small as ants. - Jon Snow's first impression of  " The Wall."
The following video is of Jon Snow seeing The Wall for the first time (please excuse any add-ons; this was the only video available):

2) Daenerys  Targaryen vs. Boudicca
In Game of Thrones, the once proper and submissive princess is transformed through the series into a barbaric queen, a destitute widow, a mother of dragons, a sacker of cities, and a mother of freed slaves. Daenerys Targaryen is interesting character that evolves quite rapidly and adapts to each of her roles. She is one of the strongest female characters within the series. Here is a perfect quote concerning her character:
I know that she spent her childhood in exile, impoverished, living on dreams and schemes, running from one city to the next, always fearful, never safe, friendless but for a brother who was by all accounts half-mad...a brother who sold her maidenhood to the Dothraki  for the promise of an army.  I know that somewhere upon the grass, her  dragons hatched, and so did she.  I know she is proud. How not?  What else was left her but pride? I know she is strong.  How not? The Dothraki despise weakness. If Daenerys had been weak, she would have perished with Viserys. I know she is fierce. She has survived assassins and conspiracies and  fell sorceries, grieved for a brother and a husband and a son, trod the cities of the slavers to dust beneath her dainty sandalled feet.
Here is an example of her strength and wit from season 3:

Daenerys Targaryen is highly reminiscent of the strong barbarian queen Boudicca. According to historians,  Boudicca was a capable military leader whose hair is often remarked upon (not unlike Daenerys' white hair):
 She was "possessed of greater intelligence than often belongs to women", that she was tall and had hair described as red, reddish-brown, or tawny hanging below her waist. Dio also says she had a harsh voice and piercing glare, and habitually wore a large golden necklace (perhaps a torc), a many-coloured tunic, and a thick cloak fastened by a brooch.
Boadicea by Thomas Thornycroft, standing near Westminster Pier, London
Boadicea by Thomas Thornycroft, standing near Westminster Pier, London

Similarly, both women find that the death of their husband (in Boudicca's case) and/or father (in Daenerys') lead to their doom and exile. However, these deaths do not defeat their spirits, but invigorate them to become warriors. For example, Boudicca leads an uprising against the Romans just as Daenerys plans to lead an uprising against those in Westeros. They both seek to take revenge upon those that have wronged (Westeros and Rome) their people/loved ones whilst avenging the injustices inflicted upon themselves. On a side note, it would seem that Boudicca's fashion was a point of inspiration for Daenerys as both Khaleesi and the Mother of Dragons  (large necklace, multi-colored tunic, etc.)
For another look at Daenerys and historic figures; check out her comparison to Henry VII: here.
3) Weddings
Wedding are known for being a joyous event in which man and woman become one family and their families in turn recognize and honor the union. However, this would seem not to be the case for weddings in Game of Thrones. They are political advancements, bring short-lived joy, and bloody.  First there was the Red Wedding and now just this week: the Purple Wedding.  In the series, weddings appear to be an event in which people die and the story's plot takes an unprecedented turn.
In Ancient Rome, there are various accounts historic and mythological that portray the setting of a wedding, but produce death and havoc.
  • Messalina's marriage to Sentaor Gaius Silius; although she was already married to the emperor. This action resulted in their deaths.
  • Wedding feast of Pirithous, which resulted in the battle of Centaurs and Lapiths (here).
  • Medea's poisoned wedding gifts to Jason's new soon-to-be wife Glauce, which killed Glauce and Medea's children.
  • Dido, who believes her and Aeneas are married due to their sexual union, kills herself on their "wedding night" because he leaves her.
  • And while it is not ancient, to anyone who didn't know that the Red Wedding was based on the Black Dinner; here.
 4) The Seven and Lord of Light vs. Roman Pantheon and Christianity
 In Game of Thrones, religion is a topic that sparks (literally in some cases) controversy, allies, and enemies. The Faith of Seven (shown as a seven pointed star) includes seven deities, the Iron Islands have the Drowned God, the North has the Old Gods, and the newest addition- the Lord of Light. The similarities between theses deities and ancient gods can be seen in every region, but within ancient Rome they are as follows:
  • The Father (JUPITER) represents divine justice, and judges the souls of the dead.
  • The Mother (JUNO) represents mercy, peace, fertility, and childbirth. She is sometimes referred to as "the strength of women".
  • The Maiden (DIANA) represents purity, love, and beauty.
  • The Crone: (CERES) represents wisdom and foresight. She is represented carrying a lantern.
  • The Warrior:  (MARS) represents strength and courage in battle.
  • The Smith: (VULCAN) represents creation and craftsmanship.
  • The Stranger: (PLUTO)represents death and the unknown. It is rarely prayed to.
These seven deities which are the most popular in Westeros and reflect (as I have implied) the Roman pantheon. The other two gods are as followed:
  • The Drowned God:  (NEPTUNE) represent maritime skills and seafaring ability.
  • The Old Gods of the Forest:  (TITANS)  represent a personal and less structured deity/religion than other religions, though some basic social violations are proscribed by it, such as kinslaying, incest, and bastardy. It also upholds the laws of hospitality.
The Old Gods seem reminiscent to the idea of "the natural order" of things. This is why I say they are symbolic for the nature and primordial titans: Cronus , Rhea, Oceanus, Themis, Hyperion (and I would include Uranus and Gaia).
All of these deities being old and ancient, but within the series become undermined by the upcoming religion of R'hllor:

  • R'hllor: The Lord of Light: (CHRISTIANITY) is a centered belief in the existence of a single, all-powerful god. R'hllor  or The Lord of Light (Judeo-Christian God) is the god of fire, which provides light, heat, and life, and struggles against darkness, cold, and death, represented by an opposing deity, the Great Other (Devil, Satan, Evil). He is often referred to as the "one true god."
The following was said of The Lord of Light by George R.R. Martin:
The R'hllor religion is strongly influenced by the real-life religion of Zoroastrianism. The central element it borrows is that it is a ditheistic religion: there is one true, "Good" God, locked in eternal combat with an evil deity. As part of this dualism R'hllor, who embodies light, fire, and heat, is opposed on the level of primordial forces by the "Great Other" who embodies cold and darkness.
 5) Wild Fire vs. Greek Fire
In Game of Thrones, wildfire is a dangerous liquid which can explode with tremendous force and burns with a fire that water cannot extinguish( only large quantities of sand can put it out). Wildfire is identifiable through the distinctive green hue of its flames. Even in its stored liquid state, it gives off a green color.

In reality, George R.R. Martin most likely took inspiration from Greek Fire:
Greek fire in use against another ship.
Greek fire in use against another ship.

Greek fire was an incendiary weapon used by the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. It was typically used it in naval battles to great effect as it could continue burning while floating on water. It provided a technological advantage, and was responsible for many key military victories. Although the term "Greek fire" has been general in English and most other languages since the Crusades, in the original Byzantine sources it is called by a variety of names, such as "sea fire," "Roman fire," "war fire," "liquid fire," or "manufactured fire."


Tyrion Lannister vs. Emperor Claudius
(As always, please excuse any language- it is after all Game of Thrones)

These two figures represent the black sheep of their families. Both Tyrion and Claudius are born into prestigious families of power, and both are ridiculed and belittled for their physical abnormalities. However, none of their physical traits interfere with their witty minds and capability to lead (in Tyrion’s case: into battle a few times and in Claudius’ case: ruling Rome and into Britain).  I, of course, refer to the Emperor Claudius that many people know from Robert Grave’s series “I, Claudius.” In which, Claudius has the good sense to “play the fool” in order to be overlooked in the chaos and murders of those wishing to be emperor. Tyrion unfortunately does not have this reticent talent.  From the “I, Claudius” series:
Livia: Tiberius wants to be loved, at least after his death if not before. And the best way to insure that… [in reference to Caligula becoming emperor]
Claudius: …is to have someone worse to follow him. Yes, naturally. He’s certainly no fool.
Livia: He’s the biggest fool in my family. I’ve always thought that that was you. But I think now… I was wrong.
Claudius: [Claudius pauses, crafting a response] Grandmother, after all these years you didn’t invite me to dinner just to tell me this.
Livia: Wine has made you bold, hasn’t it.
Claudius: You said you kept in with Caligula because he was to be the next emperor.
Livia: Lost your stutter too I see.
Claudius: But if by then you’re dead, what difference can it make to you?
Livia: Oh, it makes a lot of difference. And that’s really why you’re here.
Livia: I want to be a goddess, Claudius.
Kingsguard  vs. Praetorian Guard
These two guards of the highest degree and class are sworn to protect their king and/or emperor. They are usually loyal, but are loyal (more so) to those with the large coffer. While the Kingsguard swear their lives to their king and forsake women and children; the Roman praetorian guards are body guards who were allowed to have a family. Furthermore, the Kingsguard is used as a political tool by various characters to promote their allies and give power. While the praetorian guard is both a political tool, but at the same time it becomes its own political body. They were even able to claim Claudius as emperor of Rome.
Proclaiming Claudius Emperor, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, oil on canvas, c. 1867. According to one version of the story of Claudius' ascension to the role of Emperor, members of the Praetorian Guard found him hiding behind a curtain in the aftermath of the murder of Caligula in 41, and proclaimed him emperor.
Proclaiming Claudius Emperor, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, oil on canvas, c. 1867. According to one version of the story of Claudius’ ascension to the role of Emperor, members of the Praetorian Guard found him hiding behind a curtain in the aftermath of the murder of Caligula in 41, and proclaimed him emperor.

Joffrey Baratheon vs. Caligula
Courtesy of Flickr
Caligula on the Left and Joffrey on the Right. Courtesy of Flickr

Perhaps it is madness or cruelty that is the common thread between these two individuals. In regards to Caligula: “Some scholars have suggested that an illness made him come unhinged—possibly temporal lobe epilepsy, hyperthyroidism or Wilson’s disease, an inherited disorder that can cause mental instability.” (Cohen; History Lists) If you are unfamiliar with all the crazy and “mad” actions of this Roman Emperor; read on:
He went out of his way to humiliate the senate (Suetonius says that he intended to make his horse consul), and encouraged treason trials for his own financial benefit. He also insisted on being treated as a god (in contrast to the wiser policy of Augustus). Excavations in the Roman forum in the summer of 2003 confirmed that he incorporated the ancient Temple of Castor and Pollux within his palace – a sacrilege reversed by his successor Claudius I.
Gaius had three sisters, with whom he was alleged to have committed incest, and they were given unprecedented public honors, being included in the soldiers’ oath of allegiance.
Joffrey’s cruelty and madness can be accredited to his parent’s incestuous relationship and thus producing his abnormal genetics (i.e. mind). However, George R.R. Martin neither mentions nor confirms this hypothesis. However, it should be noted that George R.R. Martin is familiar with Emperor Caligula’s exploits, because he named one of his personal deviant cats: Caligula.

*** “EUREKA” MOMENT: I say that Tyrion is like Claudius and Joffrey is like Caligula; just as Claudius and Caligula were Uncle and Nephew-so are Tyrion and Joffrey.

War of the Five Kings vs. Year of the Five Emperors
In both cases, kings and emperors claim power when they have none or seek to take power where they see weakness. But unlike the War of the Five Kings, the Year of the Five Emperors features the succession and death (assassination) of five different emperors within a year.  The War of the Five Kings is the fight and struggle of five men fighting each other within several years.
The Seven Kingdoms are at war with one another… false kings destroying the country… the Usurper is dead. The Starks fight the Lannisters, the Baratheons fight each other.                                                                      ―Daenerys Targaryen to Ser Jorah Mormont
The Year of the Five Emperors refers to the year 193, in which there were five claimants for the title of Roman Emperor. The five were Pertinax, Didius Julianus, Pescennius Niger, Clodius Albinus and Septimius Severus. All these “emperors” fought, plotted, and bribed their way to power.  You can read about the crazy year of 193; here.

In Game of Thrones, the War of the Five Kings includes Robb Stark, Joffrey Baratheon, Renly Baratheon, Stannis Baratheon, and Balon Greyjoy; all of whom are contending for the Iron Throne after Robert Baratheon’s death.

The following video is from the episode “The Lion and the Rose” in which Joffrey has a performance of the War of the Five Kings shown to his guest:

The Mad King vs. Emperor Nero
Robert Baratheon: “What about Aerys Targaryen? What did the Mad King say when you stabbed him in the back? I never asked. Did he call you a traitor? Did he plead for a reprieve?
Jaime Lannister: “He said the same thing he’d been saying for hours… “Burn them all.”
— The Mad King’s last words.
The Mad King, also known as Aerys II Targaryen, was known for his madness and his obsession with fire and burning people alive. His madness is often attributed to the incestual relationships his family, the Targaryens, were known for having. Jaime Lannister, also known as the King Slayer, reveals exactly how mad the Mad King was (WARNING-there may be some language):

The reason I pair the Mad King to Nero is due to the infamous phrase “Nero played the fiddle while Rome burned.” This phrase that portrays this emperor as uncaring and slightly delusional. First, I should state that the phrase itself is anachronism. There were no fiddles during the Great of Fire ( 64 CE). Nero thus played a fiddle-like instrument known as the lyre. Suetonius records Nero’s singing and playing in his “Life of the Twelve Caesars:”
"For six days and seven nights destruction raged, while the people were driven for shelter to monuments and tombs…Viewing the conflagration from the tower of Maecenas and exulting, as he said, in “the beauty of the flames,” he sang the whole of the “Sack of Ilium,” in his regular stage costume."
Artwork depicting the Great Fire of Rome
Artwork depicting the Great Fire of Rome

Thus, I feel as if their love for fire and "mad" attitude render them worthy comparisons.

Roman Empire vs. Map of Westeros
 My final point is to illustrate the remarkable resemblance between Westeros and the Ancient Roman empire in maps. Here is Westeros:
A cleaner more precise map; can be found here in an interactive map (like google maps).
Ancient Rome

Roman Empire by Trajan.
Roman Empire
As you can see, the capital (Rome or King’s Landing) is in the southern realm of the map, the Wall (Hadrian or Night’s Watch) is north, the East is exotic and unfamiliar (like Egypt, Ancient Near East, etc.) and so on. The climates are quite similar to the ancient world with northern being colder and southern being more Mediterranean. Here is a behind-the-scenes look on how the HBO production staff handled the realms, worlds, and sets. And you will be able to see how the makers of Game of Thrones pulled from history (and the real world) to create the HBO series.

Monday, May 12, 2014

5 Things You Didn't Know About Roman Fashion

1. Not everyone wore togas. Only free-born  men  were allowed to wear togas (as a sign of  citizenship), while women wore stolas. Prostitutes and adulterers wore togas, because they were not allowed to wear stolas and this male garment was a sign of their female disgrace and shame. This is even reminiscent of Hawthorne’s Scarlett Letter.
HBO’s Rome Series
2. Hair dyeing was popular among women. Red and blonde were the most popular colors. Dye colors were achieved through ingredients like goat fat, beech wood ashes, henna, saffron, and bleach. Even modern day women dye their different colors to achieve a new look. There is even a popular scene in Rome, where Atia is choosing amongst her dyed wigs (only the extremely wealthy had wigs) of blonde, red, orange and even blue. Henna was used by the Egyptians in 1500 B.C.E.  More on hair dying and other cosmetics can be found here.
Spiny dye-murex
3. Purple clothing was a high status symbol; reserved only for emperors or senators. To achieve the color, a dye was made from murex seashells or the tyrian seashell. It was treason for anyone other than the emperor to dress completely in purple. However, it is often mistaken that it was a fine or royal purple as modern people know purple; instead the purple was closer to that of a rich maroon. The science behind the seashell dye can be discovered here.

A strigil used to collect strigmentum.
A strigil used to collect strigmentum.
4. Gladiator sweat was used as cosmetics. The sweat of gladiators and the fat from animals use to be sold in “souvenir pots” outside the arena to improve complexion. The sweat would have been captured by means of a strigil and the oily sweaty mixture known as strigmentum would have been bottle and sold for cosmetics and even as an aphrodisiac. The notion that gladiator sweat was good for one’s complexion or even their sexuality even not a difficult conception. The virality of the gladiator continues to appeal to modern consumers as can be seen with Le Male Gladiator Jean Paul Gaultier. The BBC has an amazing website that discusses this at length; here.
Bronze Phallic Wind chime( tintinabulum).
5. Phalluses were worn on necklaces and considered good luck charms. They were worn as charms on necklaces or hung in doorways as wind chimes as a way to ward off evil spirits. However, this Roman “fade” may be seeing a resurgence with Kei$ha’s newest “penis”  jewelry line, as can be seen here.
Keisha's Jewelry Line

Although, I doubt her phallic jewelry has any symbolic or magical properties other than being avant-garde to modern society’s standards.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ancient Roman Women in Film

In honor of March being National Women’s History Month, I thought it appropriate to pay respect to those ancient Roman women who have been portrayed (accurately or inaccurately) in film and television. For it is often through television and film that ancient people or historic events pick up popularity amongst modern society.

Moreover, I stand to prove that most ancient women portrayed in film fit the theme “Behind Every Great Man is a Great Woman.”  In addition to this idea, their portrayals most often are exaggerated in order to shock or overwhelm audiences of the exotic and foreign nature of the past. Rarely are any of these women (that I discuss at least) portrayed accurately, but they are shown through a highly stylized light which allows the audience to see the clear distinction between ancient women and modern women. However, this distinction is only seen in “period” scenarios such as dining, dresses, politics, societal mores, etc. Each of these women is also shown in a light that reflects those deep rooted feminine mores in which any women from any period would identify with: being a mother, being a wife, part of family unity, head of a household, avenging themselves, avenging injustices upon their family or country, and being true to herself.

DISCLAIMER**Please note that some of these observations include SPOILERS; so if you have not seen the film or series discussed move to the next historic figure.

Name: Lucilla or Annia Aurelia Galeria Lucilla
Film: Gladiator (2000)
Attributes in the Film:  Strong, Loving, Tactical, Empathetic, Motherly, Victim to her Brother
Film Quote:  ”If only you had been born a man…What a Caesar you would have made….I think you would have been strong.I wonder if you would have been just?” -Marcus Aurelius

Hollywood’s Version: Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) is the sister of Emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), daughter of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris), and implied ex-lover of General Maximus(Russell Crowe). She is portrayed as the concerned mother of her son, Lucius, because she fears that her brother will murder him since he is next in line to be emperor. Her relationship with her brother is a strange one that straddles of the lines of incestuous and fraternal love- however, this is not her doing, but her brothers. She is also shown to be working with the Senate of Rome to overthrow her brother and restore the Republic.
Attributes in History: Strong, Ambitious, Tactical
History’s Version:  As the daughter of Marcus Aurelius, she was married off to his co-ruler: Lucius Verus. They had three children including a son named Lucius, but only their daughter Lucilla Plauta survived. Since her husband was co-ruler of Rome, she had high aspirations to become an empress of Rome. But these dreams were cut short, when her husband Lucius died. And, she was promptly married off again. This time it was to a less influential man and she began to see her dreams of being empress fade. Even more so were her dreams dissipated, when her father died and her brother Commodus became emperor.  With Commodus’ unstable rule, Lucilla decided to take part of a plot to assassinate her brother and replace him with her husband and herself as emperor and empress. She had many allies in this conspiracy including formal consuls, the imperial guard, and even her daughter, Lucilla Plauta. The former consul, Quintianus, sent his nephew to kill Commodus, but alas it was a failure. Upon revealing his dagger, the nephew yelled,”Here is what the Senate sends to you!” His exclamation gave the emperors guards enough to time to deflect the attack. Lucilla was banished to Capri and a year later Commodus sent a centurion to execute them.
Her Hollywood Formula: Her historic and theatric versions differ enormously. The only similarity is her attempt to overthrow her brother. In the film, she succeeds for the good of the Roman people; in history, she fails at her attempt to make herself empress. Therefore, Hollywood has taken Lucilla and shaped her into a widow that only cares for her son. She is never seen in the film as ambitious, treacherous, or cruel. If she plots (as she did in history), she does so for the general good and everyone she loves. She is the epitome of a caring mother, a loyal citizen, an empathetic soul, and the right arm of justice. Hollywood’s choice to put her in such a predominant role reveals their conscientious choice to portray a female character in manner other than a victim (Maximus’ wife or female gladiators). Finally, it is only through Lucilla efforts that Maximus is freed from being a gladiator, released to his family, and Rome is restored. Thus, fitting the theme: “Behind Every Great Man is a Great Woman.”
Name: Atia of the Julii or Atia Balba Caesonia or Atia Balba Secunda
Film: HBO’s Rome (2005)
Attributes in the Series Ambitious, Plotting, Sensitive, Loving, Family Oriented, Selfish, Lustful, Blunt, Ruthless
Series Quote: ”By the five Furies, if I was not a gentle woman, I would have you flayed, and hung from a bracket at the door!” – Atia of the Julii
Hollywood’s Version: Atia (Polly Walker) is the series’ epitome of the Roman upper-class woman. She is wealthy, enjoys her rights, has slaves, eats how she pleases, and takes part in religious and social practices with ease. Like most upper-class women, she is concerned for her appearance, her family’s reputation, her dinner parties and most of all her children’s future: Octavia (Kerry Condon) and Octavian( Max Pirkis). She is the symbol and perhaps the original meddlesome mother. She is not married and therefore acts alone in her decisions and choices. Her mannerisms and diction are quite blunt when addressing her children and their maturation, sexual practices, and political choices. In this aspect, she may be both humorous and boorish to the audience. She often tells her children what they should do, how they should do it, and uses them as political pawns until they are too old for her to maneuver. She is also the Roman lover of Marc Antony (James Purefoy), who appears to be her only weakness.
Attributes in History: Good Mother, Attentive, Loyal, Cautious, Sensible,
History’s VersionAtia was married to Gaius Octavius with whom she had Octavia and Octavian. However, her husband died and she remarried Lucius Marcius Philippus. Both were supporters of Julius Caesar. Atia and Philippus equally took the time and patience to raise her children and educated them properly. When her son, Octavian(later Augustus) was announced Caesar’s heir; Atia was so fearful for her son’s safety that she and Philippus urged him to renounce his rights as Caesar’s heir. She died during her son’s first consulship, in 43 BC.
Her Hollywood Formula: While the series and history have some common ground such as: her raising her children and being a devoted mother. Her affair with Antony provided HBO with one of its means of for explicit content which I imagine increases ratings. She is shown as the mother behind the great man that was Augustus Caesar; however within the series, she is shown to be cruel, selfish, manipulative, and in her final episode weak and vulnerable. Hollywood creates a memorable character who is both humorous and spiteful, but at the end the audience plainly see a woman who simply tried her best for her family and never to appear weak.


Name: Cleopatra or Cleopatra VII Philopator (While not Roman herself, during Roman times)
Film: Cleopatra (1963)
Attributes in the Film Sensual, Loving, Strong, Ambitious, Attractive, Demanding, Natural Leader
Film Quote:  ”I will not be told where I can go and where I cannot go!”-Cleopatra

Hollywood’s Version: She (Elizabeth Taylor) is the Queen of the Nile who seduces not one man, but two influential Roman men. Wife to both Julius Caesar (Rex Harris) and Marc Antony(Richard Burton), Cleopatra ruled Egypt and aspired to rule Rome. Her life’s story is extensive, but can be read: here. However, the film deals with Cleopatra’s dealings and relationships with Caesar and Antony.
Attributes in History: Sensual, Strong, Ambitious, Tactical
History’s VersionThe events that follow in the 1963 version of Cleopatra do not stray far from the accounts of ancient historians. The film itself makes some anachronisms with the presence of the Arch of Constantine, interior design issues and others (here). Furthermore, it is never really disclosed that Cleopatra was a beautiful woman, but more so she was a woman of extravagance and luxury. Her beauty is a long debated attribute.
Her Hollywood Formula: In comparison to the other women, Cleopatra lived the most outrageous and exotic life; Cleopatra’s life has love, affairs, seduction, allure, power, war, assassination and suicide. Her life and story do not need Hollywood to invent something new. Hollywood, at times, take the opportunity to portray her weak at moments like Caesar’s death, Antony’s death, etc. However, it doesn’t get anymore Hollywood than her life; and for this reason Cleopatra has had over 14 television series and films that feature her. Her portrayals began in 1899 and the newest movie in development may feature Angelina Jolie (check out more upcoming ancient films: here). Furthermore, it would appear that Cleopatra was actually a great woman behind two men: Julius Caesar and Marc Antony.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Star Trek and Ancient Rome

Whilst trying to decide what to write for this week’s article, I was torn by many different avenues that inspire me. I am personally an avid fan of gender studies and societal transgressions, but these topics seemed a bit…heavy for this week. So, if you are by chance excited to see a blog on gender studies; please look forward to next week’s article on “Ancient Women in Modern Film.”
However, for this week I am interested to examine Star Trek and the depths within it that are of the Classical Tradition.  By “Classical Tradition,” I mean to show the degrees in which this science fiction world has drawn from antiquity to create a universe that has a large and loyal fan base.
Let’s start off with the most obvious.
1. Romulus and Remus
Capitoline Wolf suckles the infant twins Romulus and Remus.
In Roman mythology, they are the twin sons of Mars and Rhea. Romulus is fated to find Rome (which is hence named after him), while Remus is destined to be killed at the hand of his brother.
In Star Trek mythology, Romulus and Remus were “twin planets” which revolved around the same star. However, their inhabitants and terrain were polar opposites. Romulans were related to Vulcans and came from a planet very similar to Earth or Vulcan (Class M planet); while Remus was a harsh planet whose inhabitants were considered of a lower class.
2. Vulcan
Courtesy of the page below and Tom Allred.
In Roman mythology, Vulcan was another name for the god Hephaestus. He was the god of crafting, blacksmithing, and even volcanoes.
In Star Trek mythology, Vulcans came from a planet, Vulcan, which was full of volcanoes. Vulcans were known for being skilled with crafting and creating new technology. One writer touches upon the subject very nicely (here).
3. Planet Names [which do not have connecting features between the name and terrain/inhabitants]
Many of the planet names in Star Trek derive from mythological characters or beings; these include (but are not limited to)
-Nausicaa, Cerberus, Gaia, Isis III, Janus VI, Kronos, Minos, Oceanus IV, Persephone V, Pollux IV, Sarpedion V,…
4. Orion(s)
In Roman mythology, he was a skilled hunter and friend of Artemis. But when Artemis felt herself tempted by his prowess she sent a giant scorpion to kill him. Thus the constellations Orion and Scorpio were formed.
In Star Trek mythology, Orion was a planet. It inhabitants were known as Orions and were a race of green (or blue) skinned humanoids. They were an animalistic and primal race in which the women used the men as slaves. (This is somewhat reminiscent of the mythical Amazons and mirror Artemis’ nature more so than Orions.)

5. Magna Roma

In Roman mythology, this was the Latin phrase for “Great Rome.” It referred to both the city of Rome and the female entity that was consider Rome.
In Star Trek mythology, it was the name of a planet (or 892-IV) that is visited in the episode “Bread and Circuses.” The planet is almost identical to Earth and therefore referred to as a” parallel planet.” It was classified as a parallel planet, because it showed what Earth may have become if the Roman Empire had not fallen. The presence of gladiatorial game, slaves, the Senate, and even the Praetorian Guard were present in the 23rd century.
6. Klingons
In accordance to ancient history, the Klingons seem to mimic the famous Spartans and their militaristic society. One argument (although weak) attributes the Klingon name to the ancient Greek κλίνω (kiln-o) [Latin form inclinare] meaning “to incline, to bend, to lean, to turn” (perhaps in reference to the Klingon forehead), but κλίνω can also have the meaning “to turn the ride of war.” Both meanings would serve the Klingons accurately.
You have seen the film 300, but have you heard of 300 Klingons? Watch on…

7. & 8. Jean Luc Picard and The Federation
Jean Luc Picard is as captain of the starship Enterprise is criticized by his mentor/father figure that:
“You’re like a Roman centurion off patrolling the provinces — the maintenance of a dull and bloated Empire.”
The parallel to the captain as a centurion, the planets as provinces, and the Federation to the Roman Empire is often eluded to, but not often stated in the Star Trek series. This lines offers to its audience a chance to meld antiquity and historic references to science fiction ones in a direct manner (which is not often seen).
*Fun Fact: Patrick Stewart, who plays Jean Luc Picard, actually plays a centurion in I, Claudius.
9. James Tiberius Kirk and Nero
In the recent Star Trek franchise, the 2009 film Star Trek, an alternative reality is created and affects all the character’s lives. It is ironic that our hero James Tiberius Kirk would be born and shortly afterwards the villain Nero makes his appearance. What I am attempting to hit on here are the names: Tiberius and Nero.
In history, Tiberius was an ancient Roman emperor and was often known for his lewd and lusty behavior, but he was also known for making spectacles of himself. While Nero was to be the second emperor after him and brought destruction and chaos. Is there perhaps a bit of mirroring with these Star Trek characters and the emperors? It is interesting that Roman emperor’s names would be used so freely in a science fiction series.
10. Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges
“Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” is the name of an episode of Star Trek (Deep Space 9 to be exact), which employs a Latin title. The title is actually a quote from the ancient Roman orator Cicero meaning ” In time of wars; the law falls silent.” The title and quote are actually used to justify a questionable tactic to which one person asks “”Is that what we have become? A 24th-century Rome?” The question rings clear in both its parallelism and its indications of the Romulan Empire and the Roman Empire.
There is a clear and distinctive portrayal of antiquity with Star Trek. Whether it be through mythology, historical people, quotes, or epics, Star Trek makes good use of the wealth of information from antiquity. While some references may simply be in the form of a planet’s name or a vessel name, other times the parallel between the historical or mythological and the science fiction are clear. It is important to observe these similarities, because it further emphasizes the influence antiquity still has on modern day audiences. It shows how ancient ideals and mores are still used today to explore a story’s message. The Classical Tradition is not dead, but in fact far from it. It would seem that science fiction is the new frontier for antiquity to be employed and make its outreach.
There have been several episodes that have had an ancient theme to them such as:
Bread and Circuses; read on it (here).
Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges; read on it  (here).
Plato’s Stepchildren; read on it  (here)
Who Mourns for Adonis?; read on it  (here)
Side of Paradise; read on it  (here)
You can watch most of these on a Netflix or Hulu subscribe Account.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ovid's Heriodes: The Originial Fan Fiction

Within antiquity there are several mythological love stories that touch our hearts, souls, and mind. When attempting to provide an example of "true love," people generally name couples like Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, Helen and Paris, and so on. These couples which are often tragic and short lived romances.
As enthusiasts for Latin, we most often share an appreciation for the world of the Romans and their mythology. Within Roman (and indirectly Greek) mythology, there are couples that perhaps we wished would have had more time or that things would have turned out differently if fate had permitted. Here are a few of my favorites:

Dido and Aeneas
The Meeting of Dido and Aeneas by Sir Nathaniel Dance-Holland
Phaedra and Hippolytus
Phaedra (1880) by Alexandre Cabanel
Jason and Medea
Jason and Medea by John William Waterhouse (1907)
Sappho and Phaon (one of the only historic references)
Sappho and Phaon. 1809 Jacques-Louis David
While most of know the sadness behind most of these couple, we often wish we could rewrite the mythology and find a more suitable ending. Perhaps Dido does not kill herself after Aeneas leaves? Perhaps Medea could have played hard to get so Jason would appreciate her more? Or Phaon could never leave Sappho? Better yet, Helen and Paris should have run away and lived in exile? Or how about Penelope moving on immediately since Odysseus obvious had several affairs (Circe and Calypso)?
Ovid, Statue (1887) by Ettore Ferrari  commemorating Ovid's exile in Tomis
Ovid, in my opinion, is first author to truly take the time to write his version of a "fan fiction." A fan fiction is when a "fan" of a show, book, or series takes the time to write an alternative ending or even a sequel to the already established lore. (For other authors who wrote fan fiction; check out this article.) Ovid composes the works known as the Heroides in order to breathe new life into these Heroines and give the much needed character work to these mythical women who have been frozen in time. [ This character work is lacking for the modern woman, but for its cotemporary audience it would have been for these heroines to have the last word with their lovers.]
The Heroides are essentially letters addressed from the heroine to her lover, who has often mistreated, neglected, or even abandoned her. Ovid chooses the genre of the epistles for these women to express themselves. While this choice has been questioned by various scholars (one such argument is presented: here), it is difficult to see how else Ovid could have approached this work in order to give his heroines a voice, but not over-step bounds and write an entire fictitious mythology.   The following is a summation of the Heroides by Penguin Classics:
In the twenty-one poems of the Heroides, Ovid gave voice to the heroines and heroes of epic and myth. These deeply moving literary epistles reveal the happiness and torment of love, as the writers tell of their pain at separation, forgiveness of infidelity or anger at betrayal. The faithful Penelope wonders at the suspiciously long absence of Ulysses, while Dido bitterly reproaches Aeneas for too eagerly leaving her bed to follow his destiny, and Sappho - the only historical figure portrayed here - describes her passion for the cruelly rejecting Phaon. In the poetic letters between Paris and Helen the lovers seem oblivious to the tragedy prophesied for them, while in another exchange the youthful Leander asserts his foolhardy eagerness to risk his life to be with his beloved Hero.
While, Ovid is a male author assuming the female voice of mythological characters and attempting to transgress the boundaries of gender language, diction, and characteristics (all through meter). He is still capable of invoking such emotion that anyone who has experience heartbreak knows:
Death of Dido, by Guercino, AD 1631.
alter habendus amor tibi restat et altera Dido                  Another love awaits for you and Another Dido
 quamque iterum fallas, altera danda fides.    and who once more you shall deceive, having given another promise
(Excerpt from Dido's Letter to Aeneas. Letter VII)
In my mind, well put Dido! Bitterness envelopes her entire speech; once a liar-always liar. Right? Well, what's the saying?
"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."
While, not all of Ovid's heroines come off so...bitter; each one accurately reflects her place, position, and circumstance. He does over dramatize her feelings or reactions, but they appear natural and eloquently put in order to touch the reader. For information on the work, its meter and where to read it- refer below!
The Heroides consist of 15 poems that have mythological females address their heroic lovers.  These epistolary poems are written in Latin elegiac couplets (demonstrated here and in depth here), which is a type of meter used in poetry. You may see a small sample of the Heroides here, which provides part of the letter, the heroine writing, and to whom she is addressing the letter too. Or you may see the entirety of his work here. Ovid also composed the Double Heroides which include another 6 poems; which start here. These, unlike the Heroides, include three separate exchanges between the heroic and mythical lovers.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Lupercalia

Lupercalia is an ancient fertility Roman festival that was held February 13-15. The festival was held to both promote fertility along with purging the city of evil and illness. Although it was an ancient festival; it was celebrated for many centuries.
The Lupercalian Festival in Rome (ca. 1578–1610), drawing by the circle of Adam Elsheimer, showing the Luperci dressed as dogs and goats, with Cupid and personifications of fertility
In Roman mythology, Lupercus is a god sometimes identified Faunus (equivalent to Greek god: Pan). Lupercus is the god of shepherds. Faunus' or Lupercus' festival was held on the founding of the temple (which is Febraury 15th). The Lupercalia was held in his (Lupercus) honor or in honor of the lupus or she-wolf.

Capitoline Wolf. Traditional scholarship says the wolf-figure is Etruscan, 5th century BC, with figures of Romulus and Remus added in the 15th century AD by Antonio Pollaiuolo. Recent studies suggest that the wolf may be a medieval sculpture dating from the 13th century AD.[1]
Capitoline Wolf. Traditional scholarship says the wolf-figure is Etruscan, 5th century BC, with figures of Romulus and Remus added in the 15th century AD by Antonio Pollaiuolo.
The rites were directed by the Luperci, the "brothers of the wolf (lupus)", a corporation of sacerdotes (priests) of Faunus or Lupercus, dressed only in a goatskin. The festival began with a sacrifice by the Luperci  of two male goats and a dog. Next two young patrician Luperci were led to the altar, to be anointed on their foreheads with the sacrificial blood, which was wiped off the bloody knife with wool soaked in milk, after which they were expected to be happy and jolly. sdfasdfdsaf
The sacrificial feast followed, after which the Luperci cut thongs from the skins of the animals, which were called februa, dressed themselves in the skins of the sacrificed goats, in imitation of Lupercus, and ran round the walls of the old Palatine city, the line of which was marked with stones, with the thongs in their hands in two bands, striking the people who crowded near. Girls and young women would line up on their route to receive lashes from these whips. This was supposed to ensure fertility, prevent sterility in women and ease the pains of childbirth.
The Lupercalia according to Plutarch Life of Caesar:
"Lupercalia, of which many write that it was anciently celebrated by shepherds, and has also some connection with the Arcadian Lycaea. At this time many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy."
A drawing depicts the death of St. Valentine — one of them, anyway. The Romans executed two men by that name on Feb. 14 of different years in the 3rd century A.D.
The evolution of Valentine's Day is a debated and long discussion. The idea that two martyred priest, both by the name Valentine, who later became saints and to whose honor a holiday of love was established is an interesting and complex story. You can read the dark history of Valentines Day: here. Also, the Lupercalia is still discussed today by Stephen Colbert: here.

To my Readers...

Thank you.