This is SPQR News.
Reporting live from the Forum
“Hello my fellow people of Rome, my name is Anchorus Maximus. Thank you for joining us for the six o’clock news at noon. Today we have a special treat for you. We have gathered an incredible line-up of unbelievable individuals. Today we will find out what it really meant to be Roman before it was an Empire.
Rome was founded long ago and due to the fact that our investigators are so inept at their jobs (also because a lot of the records were burned) we were not able to, with full certainty, determine how it came to be… Maybe our guests can give us some insight.
Oh, and here he is… the fighter, the killer, the God of war… its Mars.
Thanks for coming down to our show Mars. Still causing trouble?”
“Well you know how it is… War and such… I love that stuff. A lot of war now a days keeping me busy. No time to rest. I have to get back to the middle east pretty soon… So you better make this end quick or I will make yours slow!”
“Hahahaha, what a joker. That’s why we love you buddy…”
“Umh… Let us get to it then, could you please tell us about your two sons Remus and Romulus.”
“Those two rascals, when they were born I was sure that they will take over and overthrow me. So, like any sensible god I left them in a basket on the Tiber river.”
“Then apparently a dumb she wolf nursed them until a shepherd found them. They grew up, and defeated the kings of that time and founded their own cities. The problem was that they each had their own opinions on where the cities should be. Being the stupid demigods that they were, they fought over everything, including whose city was better. So Romulus killed Remus and named his city after himself: Rome.”
“Wow, now that is a story. No disrespect Mr.God of War, but my sources tell me that this story is just a myth and probably the city was founded by farmers who started cities on separate hills. Coming together to eventually create the city of Rome.”
“You know what, I am done with you. Come with me, I think it is time you meet Pluto…”
“Hello, my name is Reporterus Maximus , and I will be standing in for Anchorus today. It seems that he is off to meet Pluto (God of the underworld) with Mr. Mars… I don’t think he will be coming back…
Anyway! Let us continue with Rome… After the two brothers, various kings ruled the city, the last of which was Tarquin the Proud. We were not able to get him to come in today, but between you and me, it’s a good thing… he can be quiet… Violent and cruel. After he died, the Republic of Rome was established.
Here to tell us more about it, is Lucius Junius Brutus. The First consul of Rome!
Brutus! My man. You founded the Roman republic and overthrew Tarquin. Tell us about it.”
“Well, he was my uncle. I am sure you have received word of his evil doings. He was a horrendous individual who deserved what he received. And that is all I am willing to discuss on this topic. I do promise you this though: There will never be a king in Rome again.”
“Alright, so how will the city be ruled?”
“The city will be governed by two consuls elected by the people. I will not at this moment be able to describe the whole mechanism, which is the republic, because your tiny mind will not be able to conceive the complex nature of it.”
“Of course… but can we hear the basics?”
“Alright, I will try. The two consuls would only be able to hold office for one year each and then a re-election would be held. There will be two consuls so that one can always keep the other in check . Also, one consul can deal with domestic issues while the other can travel and deal with the conquered territories. The consuls would be advised by the senate, and the senators were elected for life. In this way we insure that there is not one leader that is able to become a dictator. Also, of course, women and slaves will not be able to hold office. There are many other branches of government which I do not have time to discuss at the moment, nor do I want to. Is that clear enough of an explanation?”
“Nope, but we thank you for your time and efforts,”
“Sometimes I just despise you people… Thank you for having me.”
“The pleasure was all mine…
Finally he is gone, what a tool. Good thing that there were many, many consuls that came after him.
Okay, let us get back on track… Rome is divided into layers of society: the plebeians, the patricians and the slaves. I am a plebe, just a regular guy. The Patricians are basically royal families, if you are born into one you are guaranteed a job in the highest levels of government. There were also the slaves: house slaves and slaves owned by the government. The government slaves built infrastructure for the city and the house slaves would serve the family that owned them. The slaves came from conquered lands and sometimes were even people that sold themselves to pay off debt. A slave could be set free by the owner but they would still always have the title of “free slave”. Or they could go the way of Spartacus: start a rebellion, and lose.
Speaking of plebes, here he is, my good friend the baker! Bakus Bakarium. He is a plebeian, and I thought I would bring him on the show to tell us a little bit about his daily routine. Bakus how is it going? Why don’t you walk us through an average day as a baker!”
“Thanks for having me, man. Well I donno what to tell ya. Ya know: eat, work, wash, eat, sleep repeat! Hehehe”
“Thank you for that. But if it is possible could you please reiterate, with more detail?”
“Hey I’m not reiterating nothing! But I will tell ya again in more detail. Basically I get up and eat breakfast, like you, nothing much, some bread maybe, ya know. Then I work for about six hours. After work I go down to the nearest bathhouse, to clean up and hang out with my buddies : Merchimus the merchant and Justinus the lawyer, good people. Then I go home to eat some “Puls” (basically some wheat and water) and if I make some extra money I get a little meat and veggies on the side. Then back to sleep again.
The rich guys have it good, for dinner they lay on their side and get huge meals served up to them by the servants. Meals of meat fruits and fish… Man, they have it good. Although I am not very smart, because I went to a public school unlike the rich snobby kids, I am pretty happy. I am also pretty ambitious, I’m hoping to open my own bakery someday.”
“Well good luck to you, anything else you would like to add?”
“Ok buddy, seize the day. See you at the baths! Good guy, Good guy…
Oh and speaking of baths, here comes another great guy. Bobus Buildus! He is our city’s head engineer!
Bobus what have you been building today?”
“Well dear sir. It doesn’t work like that, but I can tell you, incompetent fool, about some of the astronomical things that we have engineered already.”
“Always a pleasure.”
“First of all, did you know that we have built more than 90000 km of roads and many bridges all over the territories in and around Rome? We have also built Aqueducts and public bathhouses and we will build the Colosseum soon… Oops, should have not said anything about that, that will be after the empire is established. Edit that part out….
I have designed many homes : The“Insulae”, two room tiny apartments, (very much a fire hazard). Those are for the poor. For the rich I have designed huge “Domu” mansions, with “Vestibulus” or grand entrance in the front, atriums for greeting guest, “Tablinum” the office for the man to work in, a “Triclinium” to eat in, “Cubiculum” to sleep in and “Culina” to cook in.
And of course, The Forum, the greatest design of all. The Forum holds so many marvels, statues, temples and arches… too many to list.
Now I have to go, I am wasting my brain power on this simple conversation while an engineering emergency might be occurring. So without further ado I will retreat from your simple line of questioning.”
“Okay, whatever go on your way… not that interesting anyway. You know what was interesting: Hannibal, and his army of elephants. There were three punic wars, fought against Carthage, which the Romans won, of course. The second of which was fought by Hannibal with war elephants, he was a genious general. The romans were still able to outsmart him though.
This just in! I have just received word that Julius Caesar is on his way here. Oh my god, oh my god! Did you know that he is responsible for our calendar and that he was born through caesarean section (allegedly), also he had epilepsy? Here he comes now! Oh my god, and he has an eagle!
Hail Caesar! We are so glad to see you here!”
“I am a busy man but I will do anything for the people. This is my favorite show. I would like to show my dedication to the people of Rome, and so you can ask me about anything except my hair.”
“In that case could you please tell us how you became a dictator? Also, can I say that this is an awesome eagle!”
“Thank you. I will answer your question as best I can. As you know I am a patrician. As such, I was destined for greatness. I served in the military and conquered many lands. I then ran for consul, and with the help of a dear friend, Crassus, I won and became consul. Truthfully, he wasn’t that great. Crassus became the richest man in Rome by being a scoundrel. He would provide protection to wealthy people if they payed him. If they didn’t pay, he would burn their house down and demand a fee for putting it out. He did create a pretty efficient firefighting squad, though.
So, I became consul, and together with Marcus Licinius Crassus and, the other scoundrel, Pompeius Magnus we controlled Rome. They called us the Triumvirate. While I was out fighting the Gauls and conquering lands for Rome, Crassus (he wanted to prove he was as tough as me) waged his own war against the Parthian Empire. He died. Pompeius then wanted all the power to himself so he ran for consul, won, declared me a criminal and called me back to face trial.
I was not going to stand for that, so I called upon my 13th legion and marched on Rome. The people loved that. When I crossed the Rubicon river, the people were in such awe that they still use “Crossing the Rubicon” as a saying, insinuating a point of no return. Yes, I was very popular, I famously said “the die is cast” as I crossed the river. I took over Rome, Pompeius fled and was later assassinated. I became dictator.”
“Wow thank you so much for the story,”
“That is all you get, I will be off now.”
“Thank you so much for your time. Hail Caesar!
Can you imagine that we just had the opportunity to talk to Julius Caesar himself. Unbelievable, too bad he will die from being stabbed 23 times by the senate. Not cool, just because they were worried that he, being a dictator, would end the Roman Republic. It ended anyway with the second triumvirate. Which gave rise to the Roman Empire.
Oh… look at that, my 6 hours of work are over. Time for my bath. Stay tuned for our next nine o’clock coverage at six. We still have the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire and Constantine coming up.”
Senātus PopulusQue Rōmānus (The Roman Senate and People) News brought to you by Crassus.
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