"Sed fortuna, quae plurimum potest cum in reliquis rebus tum praecipue in bello, parvis momentis magnas rerum commutationes efficit; ut tum accidit."

C. Iulius Caesar - Commentarii de Bello Civili Bk III.68

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Pompeii - ancient Roman cuisine


Archaeologists in Pompeii give visitors a taste of ancient Roman cuisine

Sauces made from fermented fish entrails. A quiche-like pastry shell filled with bay leaves and ricotta cheese. For dessert, peaches with aromatic cumin and honey.

Those tastes may not be for everyone's palate, but the specialties of ancient Pompeii are being revived for a month at the site of the ruins by a research project intended to give new insights into how the Romans lived.

Pompeii's busiest restaurant was buried with the rest of the prosperous city when Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79. The eruption killed thousands of people, but a 20-foot-deep cocoon of volcanic ash kept the city almost intact, providing precious information on domestic life in the ancient world.

Starting Thursday, visitors will do more than stroll around the restaurant's tables and gaze at the kitchen tools that have stayed where residents left them when they were surprised by the eruption.

Researchers have tried to revive the city's food by replanting the fruits and vegetables that were part of the Roman diet: figs and olives, plums and grapes, as well as poppy, broom (a flowery bush), bramble (a prickly shrub), and mallow (an herb).



Thursday, May 26, 2005

Off with their heads!

The long period of drought on the Main List momentarily broke today. A faint splash of acrimony fell on our heads, or to be more accurate on the head of the hapless Publius Minius Mercator.

This new and eager citizen had the temerity to not only have an idea but also tried to demonstrate the advantages of it by a test implementation of his proposed forum. Did this display of enthusiasm prompt a round of “hurrahs”? Was the list witness to posts congratulating, if not the actual idea, at least his proactive attempt at improving Nova Roma? Some posts did appear in that vein. One was not so generous.

On the Main List I encouraged people not to douse new citizens with cold water, but in reality the liquid used was in fact quite acidic. Having myself been quite responsible for dousing more established citizens with verbal solutions ranging from mild vinegar to sulphuric acid, it may seem somewhat incongruous that I appealed for mercy on behalf of Mercator.

The explanation is that while I am more than comfortable entering the arena of written (and if I had the opportunity – verbal) combat with seasoned veterans of the Nova Roman political scene as my opponents, I see absolutely no point in selecting a new citizen for such treatment. It is utterly counter-productive to continued recruitment efforts.

This was a minor incident but it is actually quite illustrative of one of the principal problems we face in recruitment. As I have said in previous articles, new citizens arrive and find that there is little direction awaiting them. Oh yes, there is the page on the Nova Roman web site that attempts to provide a guide as to “what next?” but there is little assistance on a one-to-one basis, or even an actual live “greeter”.

While on the one hand I shudder at the thought that we may have to sink to the level of Wal-Mart and have someone pressing the flesh of new citizens and leading them on some virtual induction tour, some guidance and contact is necessary. Currently we offer perfunctory congratulations on their probationary citizenship and then open the door of the Censor’s office and usher them into the forum and then close that door firmly behind them. If like Mercator you have the temerity to have an idea and act on it you may hear the clink of the nails as someone starts preparing the cross they intend to crucify you on.

We could of course expect new citizens to remain silent and unseen as they dutifully plough through the annals of Nova Roma, on the now defunct web forum, the old Yahoo Main List and the current Main List. Possibly by the time their tax payment came due the following year they may have at least assimilated 75% of the information. In reality though expecting people to play the role of the dormouse in our version of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party is unrealistic. New citizens are fired up and want to become involved. This does inevitably result in some of our citizens feeling as though Ground Hog day has struck again. So we are faced with two choices; patiently explain the background and previous discussion threads, or, start drenching them in acid rain. I think anyone who is relatively sane and rational will agree that the former is the only choice.

This anal retentive obsession with petty fogging details is a hallmark of where Nova Roma currently rests its sagging bottom. Process and protocol are important but if we as a “state” make so little effort to officially provide new citizens with the tools necessary to master those aspects of life in Nova Roma, then how on earth can we be surprised when some eager and keen new citizen drops a “clanger”?

As “clangers” go this one could not be classified as horrendous, dangerous, let alone as was suggested subversive. Even the reaction didn’t even register on the scale of Nova Roma eruptions – for us as onlookers or third party participants. For Mercator though, he may have been left feeling as though he was caught in the leading edge of a storm, and possibly that he should like the dormouse have climbed into the teapot and hid from view for at least six months. I would be most surprised if he didn’t feel he had fallen down Alice’s hole. We came close, very close, to having the Queen of Hearts appear shrieking “Off with their heads!”

So what is the solution? Possibly the only practical thing we can do is recommend that new citizens equip themselves with a copy of “Alice in Wonderland” and use it as a survival guide to the insanity that is life in Nova Roma.

Alice: “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?”

Ah Alice – your dream has become reality – well virtual reality. From the wreckage and flotsam of what was once Nova Roma now arises Nova Womaland, where everything is back to front.

Alice: “It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.”

After a few months in Nova Womaland Alice would quickly realise that having things make sense would be an even more unlikely event than her being able to grow and shrink in size

So let me provide, through of course a slight alteration in dialogue, an insight into how a simple act of enthusiasm becomes an act of sedition in our topsy-turvy world:

Queen of Hearts: Who's been using my Nova Roman flag? WHO'S BEEN USING MY NOVA ROMAN FLAG? / Who dares to hate through vulgar imitate / The royal communication gag? / For using my Nova Roman flag / Someone's head will fall in the bag.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Beware the Dogs of Life

Press Release Source: AuthorHouse

Author Takes Readers on Enthralling Epic through the Ancient World

In a new novel set against the backdrop of the Roman Empire, Cave Canem (Beware of Dog) (now available through AuthorHouse), author Richard B. Schmidt presents an epic of the interweaving destiny of three lives.

Set in the first century, the book follows the exploits of three characters whose very different lives intertwine in an ironic tapestry of fate woven around several compelling mysteries that do not unravel until the climatic end.



Sunday, May 22, 2005

Rebirth of the Roman villa

VICENZA, Italy There are over 3,500 historic villas in the Veneto and Friuli regions of northeastern Italy, many of them built in the Palladian style. The number of houses and public buildings in the rest of the world inspired by the 16th-century architect would be impossible to calculate.



Monday, May 09, 2005

Roman treasure in Suffolk, UK

For nearly 2,000 years a treasure trove of Roman coins lay hidden just below the surface of an Ipswich field.

But today around 1,000 coins are being examined at the British Museum after being unearthed by two metal detecting enthusiasts.

After Suffolk had thundered to the sound of the Roman legions, the coins lay undisturbed through two world wars, invasions of the Saxons and Vikings and the reigns of numerous kings and queens.....

And all it took to unearth them was two men from Chantry with a metal detector.