Strange habits in ancient Rome

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Strange habits in ancient Rome

Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Fri Mar 05, 2004 5:18 pm


Reading Suetonius' biography of Domitianus, I stumbled upon the following funny anecdote :

III. Inter initia principatus cotidie secretum sibi horarum sumere solebat nec quicquam amplius quam muscas captare ac stilo praeacuto configere, ut cuidam interroganti, essetne quis intus cum Caesare, non absurde responsum sit a Vibio Crispo, ne muscam quidem.

III. At the beginning of his reign he used to spend hours in seclusion every day, doing nothing but catch flies and stab them with a keenly-sharpened stylus. Consequently, when someone once asked whether anyone was in there with Caesar, Vibius Crispus made the witty reply: "Not even a fly."

Does anyone else know similar strange anecdotes about famous Romans ?


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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Fri Mar 05, 2004 9:00 pm

Well, that same Domitianus is also reported to have written a book on... baldness.

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Wed Dec 08, 2004 5:25 am


Pliny, Natural History Liber 28

19: Indeed everyone fears being jinxed; that is what makes us break the shells of eggs immediately after we have eaten them, or pierce them with the spoon we have just used

28: Similarily, to cut hair on the 17th or 29th day of the month is believed to prevent hair loss

You will find some other anecdotes in the same book, and btw Pliny is now available in English ... .+Nat.+toc

Now, about flies, you'll have to look it up in Valerius Maximus. I forget who it was, but there was a fellow who use to wear a sack around his neck with a live fly buzzing inside as a means of warding off illness.

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Postby Quintus Servilius Priscus on Wed Dec 08, 2004 6:27 am


The Historian Pliny the Elder makes reference to a M. Servilius Nonianus, who was one of the leading men in Rome, and who was terribly worried about losing his sight. To prevent this from happening he wore a lucky charm around his neck consisting of the two Greek letters alpha and rho. He did not lose his sight. I found this tidbit while doing research on the Servilii. The info I gathered helped me establish Gens Servilia in the OP.

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