THE ANCIENT ROMANS
History can be a dull subject to learn and teach depending of course on who’s doing the learning and the teaching.
As a child I once talked in class and the teacher threw a piece of chalk at me. He then said: That’ll teach you to talk in class!
And as it happened a long time ago it is history; so I learnt then a history lesson which I remembered to this day.
If you pay attention; you’ll learn a bit more history in the next few minutes or so.
Let’s go back to Roman times. When men were tough and strong and women told them what to do. Women always had the ability to make men obey their wishes by hiding the remote control even then. But I digress.
In ancient Roman times there were a lot of sculptures of Roman emperors and famous people; these were usually sculptures of their heads and busts and faces, although you could also get sculptures of the whole person if you were rich enough to have one done.
The history behind all these sculptures is quite fascinating I must say.
You see, in Roman times there were a number of check-points by the Roman guards along the Appian Way. That’s the strategic main road connecting Rome to Brindisi and Apulia. The road was named after the Roman censor Appius Claudius Caecus.
He it was who held a census in the year something or other AD, and having discovered that most Romans did not like broccoli was frightened out of his census.
Anyway, the Roman Centurion guards along the Appian Way always stopped all chariots and checked that the drivers had a driving license.
Unfortunately, as cameras had not been invented at the time, all owners of chariots, such as emperors, senators and the like, carried a sculpture of their heads or faces with them as a form of Roman Identity Card.
That’s why there are only Roman sculptures of famous people and not the peasants and plebs.
As I said, some Romans were rich enough to carry a sculpture of their whole body with them in their chariots rather than just the head or face. Unfortunately the statues were so heavy that they often broke the chariots and fell to the ground.
This happened to a Roman lady called Venus whose statue fell off the chariot and the arms got broken. Historians have still to work out why she was not wearing any clothes when her sculpture was made; and exactly where her arms were when she posed for the stonemason.
When asked by Venus’ angry husband whether she had posed in the nude for him, the stonemason tried to deny it and said that he did the statue from memory. This didn't help his case and the husband punched him on the nose.
History also teaches us that ancient Romans collected urine. By that I don’t mean that they resisted going to the toilet and walked around cross-legged. I also don’t mean that they collected it like you or I would collect stamps, or books or whatever else people collect as a hobby.
No … they collected urine in large tubs left around in the street. People would walk by and when nature called they deposited their half-pint in the tub – there in public!!!
The collected deposits were then used in washing all those white togas. Apparently the ammonia in the urine acted like a bleaching agent and turned the togas extra clean and white.
And when all the senators met and debated in the senate and some jeered at one of them making a controversial speech by shouting “You stink!” – they meant it quite literally as well as referring to his speech.
And whilst we're on this subject ... what subject?
Keep quiet and pay attention!
I want to mention another person born in Italy who was a famous Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, astronomer and all round big head know-it-all.
His name was Archimedes and although he was a Greek he was born in Syracuse in Southern Italy. No doubt his mother was on vacation there at the time; but the least said about it the better!
Anyway, one day this Archimedes fellow was asked by King Hiero II to find out whether a crown he had made was pure gold or whether it contained silver; which is cheaper.
Archimedes thought hard about this problem, especially since he was not allowed to break or damage the crown in any way.
One night as he got home tired he decided to have a bath. Now in those days they didn't have baths like we do today with running water and drainage. All they had was a metal tub which they placed in the middle of the living room and sat in it washing themselves and watching TV.
As TV had not yet been invented they normally put a statue in the corner of the room and watched that instead.
Anyway, as Archimedes entered his house pondering about the crown dilemma he discovered the tub there in the living room with water already in it. He was so tired that he gladly took off his clothes and jumped in the water thus displacing some of the volume therein.
Unbeknown to Archimedes, his wife had filled the tub with sea water and put a few crabs there to keep them fresh until lunch.
Archimedes jumped out of the tub and ran in the street naked shouting "Eureka" which in Greek means "I've found it". However, he also added a few other choice words in his native language which loosely translated mean "Who is the **** who put crabs in my bath? My manhood will never be the same again!"
Later on, as he calmed down a little and nearly got arrested for indecent exposure, he realised that as a body, (his and the crabs), is placed in a tub of water it/they displace an equal amount of water as the volume of said bodies. That didn't mean much to him; so he Googled his crown problem and solved the mystery of how to ascertain whether it was pure gold or not. He could of course have checked for any Hallmarks as we do now and save himself all the trouble of an encounter with a dozen crabs.
This concludes our history lesson for now. I hope you’ll remember what you’ve learnt here today.
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