Ancient Rome was much more than emperors, philosophers, and gladiatorial battles. The Romans left us many mysteries and had traditions that are rarely written about in textbooks. As a matter of fact, I truly believe that you can learn a lot more about ancient Rome or history, in general, if you do your own research outside the book.
With this said, I have collected 10 curious facts about Ancient Rome you wouldn’t normally find in history books.
1. Ancient Romans drank gladiator blood
Perhaps one of the worst facts about Ancient Rome, they believed that if they drank the blood of a slain gladiator, they received his/her life force. Several Roman authors describe how it was collected after the battles and sold as medicine. Moreover, ancient Romans thought that it could cure epilepsy and it was often used for this purpose.
2. Time was calculated as an approximate duration
The Roman hour could last 75 minutes in summer and 44 minutes in winter, as most Romans measured their time using the sun. The 12 hours of the day begin at dawn and the 12 hours of the night begin at sunset. As the length of the day in summer and winter is different, the length of each hour changed. Therefore, the Romans did not pay much attention to accuracy.
3. Eyebrows were a sign of intelligence in Ancient Rome
A curious fact about Ancient Rome is that thick eyebrows were valued among Roman women and were considered a sign of high intelligence. Roman women used various tricks to enlarge and thicken their eyebrows. For example, they used artificial replacements made of goat hair and wood resin.
4. Dental services were popular
Nowadays, we know for a fact that the ancient Romans took care of their teeth, so dentists were in high demand. Based on the discoveries of jaws with dentures, splints, artificial teeth, archaeologists conclude that they were sometimes worn as a demonstration of wealth rather than for medical reasons. Only the richest could afford a full set of teeth.
5. Philosophers were highly disliked in Ancient Rome
Famous philosophers such as Seneca and Marcus Aurelius were born in the Roman Empire. And yet, it is a rare fact about Ancient Rome that the society was rather hostile to philosophers. The practical Romans believed that philosophy and the study of the inner world of man were useless for active life and service to the state. Galen, the famous imperial physician, believed that philosophy was just as practical as drilling millet seeds.
6. Drinking poison was a tradition in Ancient Rome
At the end of the first century AD, Roman emperors began to drink a small portion of the known poisons every day to gain immunity. The tradition of drinking this mixture of poisons was called mithridatism after the ruler of Asia Minor, Mithridates VI, who is believed to have used this method for the first time.
7. Vomiting during a feast was fine
The Romans loved luxury and extravagance so much that they even introduced the tradition of vomiting during feasts. According to Seneca, the Romans always overate at feasts until they became ill. Then, they vomited to clear their stomachs and continued to eat. What a time to be alive!
8. Roman women dyed their hair
Initially, dyed hair was a hallmark of prostitutes, but Messalina, the third wife of Emperor Claudius, introduced the fashion of colored wigs. A little later, the Roman aristocracy began to dye their own hair using natural pigments instead of wearing wigs.
9. The Romans did not use soap
The Romans bathed every day but did not use soap. They rubbed various oils into their skin and used a special scraper to remove the dirt.
10. Roman generals did not fight
Works of art often depict Roman generals on the battlefield next to their soldiers. However, they did not usually go into battle. They controlled their troops from special “captain’s bridges” from which they had a better view to lead the fighting. However, another fact about Ancient Rome is that if the battle was almost lost, the commander-in-chief would have to either commit suicide or be killed by the enemy.
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