History : Oct-Nov 2015
DAILY LIFE THE HOUSE OF VENUS in Pompeii is representative of the comfortable city villas in which the rich had bedrooms overlooking a tranquil garden. THE BEST NIGHT YOU CAN BUY ROME’S PLEBEIANS were mostly crammed into small apartments in noisy blocks known as insulae. Wealthy residents had a much better chance of a good night’s sleep, as their bedrooms, although often small, opened onto cool courtyard gardens that sheltered them from the worst of the city’s nighttime noise. SILVER MIRROR FROM POMPEII, FIRST CENTURY A.D. ALBUM Paulus around a.d . 200. “Nighttime burglaries were considered the most heinous; those caught were severe- ly beaten, then sent off to work in the mines. Those who burgled by day were similarly beaten, but then sent off to do forced labor for a set amount of time.” The vigiles were not considered to be an especially effective deterrent for felons, as the second-cen- tury poet Juvenal noted: “There’ll be no shortage of thieves to rob you, when the houses are all locked up, when all the shutters in front of the shops have been chained and fastened, everywhere silent. And, every so of- ten, there’s a vagabond with a sudden knife at work.” In fact vigiles patrols were so conspicuous that most crim- inals simply slipped away on hearing their approach. Juvenal considered the city streets more dangerous than some of the most notoriously crime-ridden rural areas, explaining: “Whenever the Pontine Marsh, or the Gallinarian Forest and its pines, is temporarily rendered safe by an armed patrol, the rogues skip from there to here, heading for Rome as if to a game preserve.” Traveling by Night A significant contribution to the ca- cophony of Roman nights was made by heavy traffic. A decree by Julius Caesar (49-44 b.c.) had prohibited the move- ment of carts between dawn and dusk. This stringent restriction was aimed at reducing the risk of pedestrians be- ing run over and to prevent the mix of people, animals, and wagons causing gridlock on the crowded streets. The only vehicles allowed to move freely by day were those actively taking part in processions, military triumphs, public games, or in the demolition or construc- tion of public buildings. All other traffic entered Rome by night, turning the city into a bustling hive of activity. Its dark streets rang with the relentless clatter of hooves ARALDO DE LUCA A ROMAN TOMBSTONE FROM THE SECOND CENTURY A.D. ORONOZ/ALBUM Funerals were regarded as events that augured ill, so Romans initially held them at night, out of public view.
Dec 2015-Jan 2016