" stolen from the shrine of Aesculapius at Agrigentum "
Aesculapius (the Greek Asclepius
) was the son of Apollo and a god of healing. His shrines and sanctuaries were places that the sick would visit in the hope of a cure, sometimes offering small votive gifts in the shape of their afflicted body part. Aesculapius’ symbol, a snake-entwined staff, is sometimes still used as a symbol of medicine today.
" the old flower market in the Forum Boarium, in front of the Temple of Portunus "
The Forum Boarium
was the largest meat and fish market of ancient Rome, one of the main ports, and a place of bustling commercial activity.
Click here to see a map of Rome with the Forum Boarium marked on it.
" At the age of thirteen she had been humiliatingly jilted by her fiancé "
Roman girls married young – often engaged by the age of eleven or twelve – to an older Roman man. To them this was perfectly natural and would not have seemed immoral or strange.
" Metellus Pius, pontifex maximus "
Marcus Aurelius as Pontifex Maximus, making sacrifice in front of the Temple of Jupiter - Credit: antmoose on Flickr
The pontifex maximus
was the head priest of the college of pontiffs, an important man in charge of all Roman religion and festivals. This was a very prestigious position that came with a certain amount of political influence. The position was held for life but was not a full time job; the pontifex maximus was not prohibited from seeking political office or serving in the military.
" Then the massive, plodding white bulls, destined for sacrifice "
Roman religion involved sacrificing animals to the gods. The animals were killed in a ritual manner; they would be led to the altar, hit from behind with a blow from a hammer, and their throat then slit. The portion of meat and fat to be offered would then be burned so that the smoke could rise to the gods. The offering might also include incense and libations of wine or other liquids. White animals, such as the white bulls described here, were popular choices for sacrifice because of their symbolic purity.
" and behind him a public slave to whisper in his ear that he was only human and all this would pass. "
The public slave’s function was to remind the triumphator, who wore purple robes and was treated like a king during his triumph, of his mortality, humility and place in Rome. Rome would not tolerate any man with ambitions to become sole ruler, so did not want to overly encourage any lust for personal power in the mind of the victorious general. The actual words of the slave are not known, but suggestions are: ‘look behind you, remember you are only a man,’ and, ‘remember that you are mortal.’
" his most eminent prisoners were lowered into the depths of the Carcer and garrotted "
The Carcer was a prison in the Forum Romanum in Rome, where it appears that high profile prisoners were kept.
" The walls around us were lined with the masks of the Scipiones "
Among the important Roman elite (senators who had held office), death masks
were created of the deceased’s face using wax, perhaps moulded on the actual dead man’s face, or perhaps using a bust created in his likeness. These death masks would be handed down through the family and displayed with pride by their descendents. They would often be hung in the atrium or public area of a house so that visiting clients would see a display of a family’s powerful lineage. At funerals, the death masks would be worn by actors to represent and honour the deceased’s long line of important ancestors.
" This was the first occasion, I believe, on which Cicero met Servilia, who was later to become the most formidable woman among the many formidable women who lived in Rome. "
As half-sister of Cato the Younger, a favourite mistress of Julius Caesar, and the mother of Brutus, Servilia held influence with three men who would become very important in Rome’s future. More information on her can be found here, but be aware that this may include plot spoilers.
Servilia is a popular figure in historical fiction. She appears as one of the main characters in the HBO TV series Rome. She also appears as a highly fictionised character in The Gates of Rome and other Emperor books by Conn Iggulden, as well as in Caesar's Women, by Colleen McCullough.
" The rebuilt Temple of Jupiter was at that time nearing completion under the guiding hand of Catulus "
This would be the second rebuilding of the unlucky temple, which had previously burnt down in the political chaos of Sulla’s dictatorship. This second building would also burn down in 69 AD when Vespasian fought to enter Rome. Vespasian rebuilt the temple on the same foundations, but it was once again lost in flames in the great fire of 80 AD under the reign of the emperor Titus. A fourth building was constructed by the emperor Domitian. The Temple of Jupiter sat on the Capitoline Hill and is also known as the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, or the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus