Here is a top list of 20 history facts you probably didn't know about the ancient Roman Empire. From bloody gladiator fights at the colosseum to insane emperors drinking poison. From women sporting a unibrow to gluttony to the point of vomiting. Find out what Julius Caesar and the Senate were really up to.
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List of top 20 craziest things the Romans did:
Did you know that drinking gladiator blood could cure epilepsy? Or that unibrows are actually sexy? I didn’t either! Here are 20 things I bet you didn’t know about the Romans.
Roman physicians would recommend consuming a gladiator’s blood or liver to cure epilepsy and infertility. It had to be fresh, but if you couldn’t afford it you could always go to a public execution and get a criminal’s blood to drink. I’m sure the effects would be about the same. Ewww….
Speaking of gladiators, gladiatorial fighting was not the most popular form of entertainment. To be fair, the arena for gladiatorial combat, aka the Colosseum, was huge. Modern archaeologists estimate that it could accommodate over 50,000 people. However it was dwarfed by the Circus Maximus that at one point in time could accommodate 250,000 people. That was a quarter of Rome’s entire population. Imagine losing your kid in that stadium!
Do you know which stadium is the largest stadium in the world today?
Even though the average life expectancy in Rome was only about 25, this did not mean that no one lived into their thirties or on into old age. The average was skewed by the number of women who died giving birth, and by high infant mortality. Once a Roman made it to maturity, they were likely to live as long as people do today.
Currently, the largest stadium in the world is the Rungrado 1st of May Stadium in North Korea that can hold 150,000 people. Here’s a picture since most of us will probably never see it in real life.
Very few Roman hours lasted an hour. Like us, the Romans divided the day into 24 hours. But, since the length of the sunlight varied with the seasons, this also meant that the length of the hour changed. In the winter an hour was about 45 minutes and in the summer, about 75 minutes.
Purple clothing was all the rage but was a status symbol and reserved only for emperors or senators. To achieve the color, a dye was made from murex seashells. What’s that? Here’s a picture. It was treason for anyone other than the emperor to dress completely in purple.
Ancient Roman ladies loved dark eyebrows that almost formed a unibrow- a la Frida Kahlo- and they would use soot to make their eyebrows more dramatic and noticeable. Fabulous!
White teeth were prized by the Romans, and so false teeth, made from bone, ivory and paste, were very popular.
Stretching from the Atlantic to the Tigris, the Roman Empire contained perhaps about 65 million inhabitants. While Latin was the language of the army and of Roman law, many people incorporated into the empire continued to speak their native tongue (Punic, Coptic, Aramaic, Celtic) instead of Latin. The Roman elite was bilingual speaking both Greek and Latin. For them, Greek was a badge of status.
The empire produced eminent philosophers such as Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. Yet some Romans hated philosophy for two main reasons: first, it was a Greek invention, and the Greeks were a conquered race and therefore inferior. I know I just said that Greek was a badge of status but apparently speaking Greek is wayyyy better than being Greek. Second, the study of philosophy focused on yourself….. and your feelings… which is not good for soldiers that are sacrificing everything as a group to serve the Empire.
Although in art they liked to be depicted in heroic and martial posture, Roman generals were ‘battle managers’, not warriors. Only in the most exceptional circumstances were they expected to fight hand-to-hand. If a battle was lost, the commander should either kill himself with his own sword or, let the enemy kill him.
Roman emperors adopted the daily habit of taking a small amount of every known poison in an attempt to gain immunity. The mixture was known as Mithridatium, after the creator of the practice, Mithridates the Great, king of Pontus. He believed he had developed the formula to gain immunity to everything. Yeah, I don’t know who he was either but apparently he lived into his 80s…so…maybe we should try it…