If you don’t mind, I’ll start with a narrative poem I wrote shortly after my visit to Pompeii . Brace yourselves, one of my hobbies is writing poetry and I like to think that this is one of my better efforts :-
A hot summer day in Naples
The dusty road shimmers with heat
Each garage passed is “chiuso”
A thirst we’ll never beat
On reaching our destination
Already I’ve seen the sign
“This way to ruined Pompeii”
Its destiny is mine
A city of Campania,
Built on volcanic rock,
Still Vesuvius mutters,
And her smoky vapours mock,
“A life of a mere eight hundred years
I gave only a short span,
When I took away what I’d given
As I drew the breath from man”
In the whisper of a breeze
I hear the City reply
“Won’t you enter the Vesuvian gate
And see who lives or dies?”
So, I take up the challenge
And look! before my eyes
By Jupiter and Apollo
The City is alive!
Follow the Via di Stabia
A major arterial road
To the Forum – the sacred Capitolium
Find the Macellum, the merchants abode
Come and see the gladiator
Drink his wine before the games
Come and see him “per favore”
With his trumpet to call the names
Hear the bucolic conversation
Old men talk of years ago
A fight with the Nocerini
Then the Senate delivered a blow
No games to be played in Pompeii
For a decade or more
“But we showed them that day,
Settled many an old score”
The quarrel with Nuceria
Concerns not the gladiator
He’s too young to remember
This ancient breach of law
And when in a moment
His dark brown eyes meet mine
He raises the vessel to his lips
He stands so tall and fine!
Then the tavern keeper
Fills his cup again
He says “Put it on my account”
Cuts X in the stone frame
I gaze upon the figure
Newly marked upon the wall
Then I feel a tremor
There is no time at all!
Maybe I had a touch of the sun when writing this or I was overcome by the atmosphere of this historic city. Whatever century we live in, we all share our flawed humanity, which transcends time. There is evidence of some poetic licence in the poem, as it is unlikely that the gladiator would have been drinking before the games! He would undoubtedly have been under the watchful eye of his coach, while waiting to go into the arena, armed with the weapon, in which he had been trained.
Gladiators lived in schools and were mainly selected from slaves, chosen for the potential they showed to take part in the games.
Pliny tells us that Gladiators were known by the somewhat derisory name of “hordearii” which translates as Barley Eaters. This refers to the fact that their main diet was barley and beans, with very little meat or dairy products. They drank a supplement made from charred plants, which boosted calcium levels.
A diet full of carbohydrates meant that as well as strength, gladiators carried extra flesh, that could withstand wounds that bled, and gave spectator value, but were not necessarily fatal. Gladiators were in the business of living to fight and not to die, which would affect the prosperity of the school.
They were in effect treated like prize racehorses are treated today and received good medical care to keep them fit. The thumbs up (not down) when given in the arena meant that the vanquished gladiator must submit bravely to death at the hands of his opponent, showing the virtue of courage admired by the Romans.
It was true that Gladiators were figures of admiration and attracted romantic attention from spectators. We can imagine excited screams from young fans and assignments, similar to the behaviour of groupies following rock bands today. The Gladiator Maximus in the film starring Russell Crowe, is a fictitious character.
Commodius, who fought with him in the film was a real Emperor and liked to fight in the arena himself, with the odds always stacked in his favour! He would fight wild animals provided they were inside their cages.
The most famous Gladiator is Spartacus, who led a revolt of the slaves. He escaped from his school and succeeded in gathering an army of nearly 100,000 slaves. His army was defeated by the Roman General Crassus.
The film Spartacus has a spectacular ending, showing his crucifixion, but there is no way of knowing how he died, other than that he was killed in battle in 71BC. Between 1992 -2000 there was a popular television show on ITV called Gladiator.
No one was killed, or had to fight wild beasts, but contestants took part in challenging games, taking on the characters, known as the Gladiators. The appetite for adventure and challenging sport in hopefully less violent expressions than the Roman games, continues today.
I seem to have come a long way from the Gladiator I met in Pompeii, so I will raise my glass to him, say “thanks for the memory” and bid him “Farewell”
In the nineteen sixties I worked in London stores. Worked as an Insurance Clerk in the City of London during the nineteen seventies. Divorced in the nineteen nineties. Now I am a retired Civil Servant, managing home and garden and escaping onto social media whenever possible.
Maybe you don’t know what that kind of gothic spire is in front of Charing Cross station in London. Don’t worry we explain everything here. Edward I was a king of England in the thirteenth century and was known for his lavish lifestyle. He loved to spend money and had a fondness for extravagant items such as jewellery and tapestries. His wife, Eleanor of Castile, died in 1290 advertisement Harby near Lincoln. Charing Cross is one of twelve crosses called Eleanor Cross that the king had built to mark where his wife’s funeral procession stopped.
The cross was destroyed in the year 1647 by the Puritans during the English Civil War. After the construction of Charing Cross station in 1865, a reproduction of Eleanor Cross was created and placed outside the station and not in its original place in Trafalgar Square where the equestrian sculpture dedicated to Carlo.
The reproduction was created by the architect EM Barry himself who built the railway station. He used uncommon images available from the original. at the top, there are eight images of Eleonora, 4 as a queen, with imperial symbols and 4 represented as a Christian. Below are curved angels and shields with royal weapons and those of Ponthieu, Castile and Leon, all copied from still extant Eleanor Crosses who were at Waltham Cross and Northampton.
King Tutankhamun was the last of his family to rule Egypt 1334 – 1325 BC. He is famous because of the discovery of his treasure, together with his mummy, in his tomb, by Howard Carter in 1922. On the breastplate of the mummy, there was a winger scarab broach, fashioned from yellow glass.
Scarab beetles were worshipped in Egypt, as symbols of death and rebirth. They are active at night, finding their way by the distant rays of light from the Milky Way, rather than by bright stars. The scarab broach, belonging to King Tut, has itself an amazing connection to the cosmos.
It was discovered that the glass used, could not have been produced at the time of his death. Investigation revealed that it is desert glass, that originated in the Sahara desert. It is formed from the impact of a comet that fell to Earth, twenty eight million years ago! The discovery of the remains of a comet, a black pebble, found during excavations in the desert, was an astronomical first. Only dust fragments of comets, had been found before then.
So King Tut’s brooch is indeed a very special broach, as it was made from glass formed by the impact of a comet that fell to earth millions of years ago, an archaeological as well as an astronomical first.
Possibly some people today may not have heard of Mrs Beeton, who in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, was a household name. She was well known for Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, published in 1859 – 61, which contained everything a prosperous Victorian housewife, would need to know for running the home. The public then and in the years that followed, visualized her as a matronly cook, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Isabella Mary Mayson was born 14th March 1836, in Milk Lane, London. Her father died when she was young and her mother remarried, Henry Dorling, who worked as a clerk at Epsom racecourse. The family had lodgings there, and Isabella was able to see at first hand, the organisation involved in running kitchens, that catered for large numbers of people.
On 10th July 1856 Isabella married Samuel Beeton, a publisher of books and magazines, and she started writing articles on cookery, to be included in his publications. Isabella lived a surprisingly modern married life, commuting with her husband into the London office by train from Pinner. She also made annual trips to Paris, enabling her to write articles on fashion. At the same time, in the short space of eight years,
Isabella had numerous miscarriages and still births, giving birth to four sons, only two of which, survived to adulthood. These experiences were excessive even at a time of high infant mortality rate. Isabella died in 1865 at the age of twenty eight following the birth of her youngest son.
Isabella ‘s publishing success, while facing these health difficulties , was therefore a tremendous achievement. Her famous book on Household Management contained over 1,112 pages, with many coloured illustrations and nine hundred recipes. She taste tested these recipes in her kitchen and in the severe winter of 1858, handed out a nourishing beef and vegetable broth, to poor families for a penny a quart.
Nevertheless, her skill was not in cooking, but in collecting and editing material for the book. In later years, the two sons who survived to reach adulthood, heard some mockery of the scale of the ingredients in some of the recipes. However Mrs Beeton was writing for very large Victorian families, who would require dishes made, for example with twelve eggs!
Samuel Beeton, Isabella’s widower, continued to promote the image of her as a matronly cook, in order to publicise the book, and that is the image of her that has persisted throughout history.