History : Oct-Nov 2015
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HISTORY 11 sounding the alarm with a large trumpet. In practice the vigiles duties went beyond fighting fires. They also act- ed as night watchmen, confronting a wide variety of nocturnal delinquents, including arsonists, burglars, cutpurs- es, muggers, murderers, and rapists. In spite of the presence of this urban militia, the nights were dangerous in imperial Rome, possibly because the vigiles were indeed more focused on firefighting than preventing or stopping crime. The hours of darkness were con- sidered such a problem that the law had heavier penalties for crimes committed between sunset and sunrise. “Punish- ments for theft varied,” wrote jurist MUSICIANS AND DANCERS enliven a banquet held at nightfall in a lavish Roman residence in this 19th-century oil painting by Henryk Siemiradzki. Rome’s Royal Nights of Danger and Debauchery THE MOST COLORFUL accounts of Roman nightlife often feature emperors such as the belligerent Nero or empresses such as Messalina, famed for her depravity. At sunset, such royal figures would sneak out of their palaces in disguise to taste the pleasures of the sordid side of the city. It is said that in the first century a.d . Messalina, wife of the Emperor Claudius, would put on a yellow wig and go to a brothel, where she would offer her services until dawn. Nero indulged his quarrelsome nature by passing himself off as a freed slave and roaming the plebeian areas of Rome provoking fights. In the second century the emperor Commodus, an aficionado of gladiatorial combat, was a habitual hell-raiser in bars and brothels. Like his infamous predecessors, he reveled in the low life that the imperial capital could offer in abundance.
Dec 2015-Jan 2016