Tag Archives: rome

Julius Caesar on stage

I went to see Bell Shakespeare’s version of Julius Caesar last night as part of my 2010 Christmas present from my mother (Much Ado About Nothing was the first half, in which I laughed harder than I ever have before in a theatre). Often Bell makes a point of shifting a play into an obviously different era – Much Ado had a 1950s Italian-American vibe going on. But Julius just had the players in suits, and other than that was quite timeless.

It was a marvellous production and I am sure there are any number of brilliant reviews already out there. There a couple of things I wanted to note. One is that Cassius was played as a woman, which worked surprisingly well in that very few of the lines actually took on any other significance – unlike when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are women, which I’ve seen, and gives their interaction with Hamlet maaaany more layers indeed. The woman who took the role was very good, although she did make her quite sharp and shrewd – interesting to consider whether I would have got this impression about a man (I haven’t seen this performed in years). Should also mention that Brutus was exceptionally good – and older than I have seen him played before, as was Caesar himself, which I really appreciated. Also Portia, Brutus’ wife, was agonisingly wonderful.

Mark Antony was appropriately young, and had a very clever transition in terms of costume: the first time he is on stage, his trousers are rolled up and he was shirtless. A bit later he was in a hoody… a while later he was in ‘office-casual’, shirt with cotton sweater; then by the end in quite a sharp suit, with his hair tied back (it had been out for the rest of the play; it wasn’t until this bit that it was obvious he had an UNDERCUT. Hello 1995!) So that was cleverly done.

The actress who played Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife, also played Octavian. Make of that what you will.

The thing that left me breathless with appreciation happened right at the end. The stage was enclosed on three side with office chairs, and the only prop on stage was a single pillar, a la the Forum, with some scaffolding around it. More of the scaffolding gets built throughout the play, by the actors themselves, in some beautifully choreographed movements. Right at the end the scaffold is built up quite high and rods attached to the top… and the final action, basically, is to hide the single pillar with drapes showing three pillars instead. O, the symbolism! I swoon in delight.

Love and Romanpunk: not a review

This is not a review. It can’t be, really. Partly because it’s by a friend – although I have reviewed Tansy’s work before, and that by other friends too (fortunately, I usually like it, so that’s no hardship). No, the main reason why this isn’t really a review is the dedication. It’s dedicated to meeee!! Tansy says that this is dedicated to Random Alex (heh), and that I am totally wrong for liking Marc Antony more than Octavian.

Of course, she is totally wrong about that. How could anyone appreciate a psychopathic megalomaniac, who played up his relationship with Caesar in order to capitalise on Roman sentimentality and killed opponents willy-nilly, who rewrote history to make him and his look better and changed laws to suit himself, and who was utterly ruthless when it came to his family? Especially when said ego-tripper is set in opposition to a man who evinced so much humanity that he loved a non-Roman woman and anticipated that his children with her would actually inherit from him, whose prowess in battle didn’t need to be eulogised by an imperial flunky, and whose generosity was legendary.

Ahem. So Tansy and I have some… issues. Clearly, however, she loves me despite our differences, and that’s very nice indeed. She did put me in a slightly awkward position, though, when I made her sign my copy: she said (in caps no less), that I HAVE TO LOVE THIS BOOK.

Oh yeh, no pressure.

I am, of course, a fan of Roman history. I studied at uni, and I even wrote my honours topic on Nero and his love of Greek things. Thinking about Tansy’s area of study, though – Roman imperial women – makes me realise that my study of Rome was entirely typical. That is, a bit of the Gracchi, Marius-Sulla-Caesar, a run through of the Empire… and a little bit of ‘daily life’ blah. Not a whole lot on women , really, except where they happen to be interesting either for genealogical reasons or because of their notoriety. Like Julia Agrippina Minor. I’ve always liked her.

The first story in this collection is “Julia Agrippina’s Secret Bestiary.” It gives a potted history of the Caesar family… with added monsters. I really enjoyed Tansy’s characterisation of the various members of this crazy family. She captures an essence, I think, of the various emperors and their wives/sisters/mothers that actually rings quite true. I particularly liked that although Gaius – Caligula – is shown to be a bit nuts eventually, he’s handled much more sensitively than most other fictional representations bother. Of course. And the monsters made a bizarre sort of sense; they fit in delightfully well with the overall vibe of the story.

The stories progress chronologically through what Tansy affectionately calls the Agrippinaverse. The second story is “Lamia Victoriana” – lamias being the Roman equivalent of female vampires. Here, in Victorian England, Fanny and Mary run away “with a debauched poet and his sister,” as the blurb has it, with the coda that “If it was the poet you are thinking of, the story would have ended far more happily, and with fewer people having their throats bitten out.” The blurb is, by the way, one of the most enticing and true to the story that I’ve read in a long time. It gives an accurate, and seductive, portrayal of each story, and teams that with snarky comments which perfectly fit the tart, sometimes lovingly exasperated, voice of the stories. This second story is the odd one out in some ways; it’s a great story, still, but it’s different in mood and tone from the other three. Darker.

“The Patrician” is the story written in a time most clearly like our own… if Australia had a recreated Roman city somewhere. This is in many ways the centrepiece of the collection. Clea Majora meets a stranger visiting her town, and gets drawn into an adventure even weirder than living in a town called Nova Ostia. There’s not much to say without giving away the awesome way in which the story develops. It’s brilliant. Everyone should read it. It stands by itself as well as being perfect within the context of the other stories.

Finally, the collection is rounded out with “Last of the Romanpunks.” Where the first story is basically historical fantasy, and the second riffs off the Gothic sensibilities of the Victorian era, and the third is beholden to urban fantasy, the fourth ventures into science fiction territory. Managing all four of those genres, clearly connecting the stories through characters and ideas but keeping the vibe of each distinct, is quite the feat. Anyway, Tansy decided to close the collection with a bang, since I think of this story as the most action-based of the four. And again, very enjoyable.

So… it wasn’t going to be a review, but I guess it sort of has. Oops.

Guest post: Aufleur and Rome

This is a guest post from the wonderful Tansy. Her second book, The Shattered City, has in theory been released recently but I’ve not found it yet (grr) 😦  . When she announced that she was going to do a Mighty Slapdash Blog Tour, I had to be a part of it – and since I got to choose her topic, I asked her to discuss the development of Aufleur, her fictional city. It’s one of the aspects I adored in Power and Majesty (the first book).

Aufleur and Rome

So, I fell in love with Rome nearly ten years ago, when an academic scholarship gave the the opportunity to spend a month there, in a little rental flat with my honey. By day, we went hunting statues of Roman imperial women, tramping across cobbled and concreted streets to various museums or archaeological sites. By night we practiced Italian recipes, copied from the restaurants we’d visited, and watched our landlady’s collection of classic Hollywood movies, or episodes of Charmed and Buffy dubbed into Italian.

Charmed is way better in Italian.

We weren’t great tourists. We barely managed to have a conversation with anyone except each other, and we didn’t shop for anything but groceries (and shiny museum books!). But we hovered in a strange, happy bubble together in the middle of an ancient city, ignoring every modern bit (I couldn’t even bring myself to visit an exhibition of my favourite Renaissance artist of all time because omg, mustn’t get distracted!) and choosing just to exist in the ancient and ruined parts of the city. Sadly these were also the bits with the most expensive sandwiches, but we survived. Later, when I began to write the Creature Court, and I needed a city, Rome was there for me. Not the real, actual city (this much became obvious when my poor mother tried to map the place) but am imaginary, dreamlike Rome, with all my favourite bits and features mushed together. Memories of walks on the Palatine and around the baths of Trajan and the Forum, and the Capitolini Musei, and along the river Tiber, and around the Teatro Argentina, swarming with cats (near which we had a lunch so accidentally expensive that we have since compared its cost to every extravagant meal we have bought in the years since) all poured into my strange, fantastical city. When Ashiol walked from Kelpie’s nest all the way to the Gardens of Trajus Alysaundre with his bare feet in Book One, I was there with him.

All this, of course, means that the city is a real thing for me, something I love, so it means something personal to me when I put it
in danger. Most of the characters in my books are either desperate to save the city, or so cynical and beaten down that they are ready to see it fall. They all have some kind of relationship with it – love, or hate, or loyalty, or resentment.

One of the first images I had in my head of Aufleur was a scene of Ashiol, standing in a wreck of a city, watching scars slide and fall off his skin at the same time as the city rebuilt itself around him…. While the scene didn’t entirely survive the final manuscript, I always knew that this would be the key point of my city, that it was damaged and destroyed and beaten every night, but that it would heal itself, brick by brick, when daylight came.

Until, of course, it didn’t any more.


Tansy Rayner Roberts is the author of Power and Majesty (Creature Court Book One) and The Shattered City (Creature Court Book Two, April 2011) with Reign of Beasts (Creature Court Book Three, coming in November 2011) hot on its tail. Her short story collection Love and Romanpunk will be published as part of the Twelfth Planet Press “Twelve Planets” series in May.

This post comes to you as part of Tansy’s Mighty Slapdash Blog Tour, and comes with a cookie fragment of new release The Shattered City:

“You have a city to think of,” he said sharply. “One house shouldn’t matter. It can’t matter.”

“And that’s why you live underground, so you care about nothing?” Velody flared. “How would you feel if it was the palazzo that fell to the skybolts? If the Duchessa didn’t wake up one morning, and you knew exactly why? How many cups of wine would it take to drown that one out?”

Galactic Suburbia #19: the Greco-Roman issue

You can get us from iTunes or download us here!

While Alisa is away, Alex & Tansy play… in ANCIENT GREECE!  We talk awards, the end of publishing as we know it, stressful feminist debates, Vonda McIntyre, Twitter fiction, Stargate, and whether there’s enough Greek & Roman mythology in modern fantasy.

Tansy wins WSFA Small Press Award for Siren Beat;

Last Drink Bird Head Award Winners;

John Joseph Adams takes over from Cat Rambo & Sean Wallace as editor of Fantasy Magazine;

Realms of Fantasy dies: from Shawna McCarthy, and the publisher;

Wiscon committee disappoints through inaction (also here); and then finally moves to disinvite Elizabeth Moon as GoH (warning, many of the comments on that one are pretty awful to wade through); also here and here;

Paul Collins on how the ebook revolution isn’t working so well ;

Cat Valente on tedium, evil, and why the term ‘PC’ is only used these days to hurt and silence people;

Peter M Ball explaining how white male privilege uses requests for civility to silence the legitimate anger of others;

on Vonda McIntyre’s “Dreamsnake”, a controversial Hugo winning novel from 1979 which has been out of print for 10 years; and an interview with Vonda McIntyre about the book.

What have we been reading/listening to?

Tansy: Death Most Definite, Trent Jamieson; Blameless, Gail Carriger, Bleed by Peter M Ball, “Twittering the Universe” by Mari Ness, Shine & “Clockwork Fairies” by Cat Rambo, Tor.com.
Alex: Silver Screen, Justina Robson; Sprawl; Deep Navigation, Alastair Reynolds; The Beginning Place, Ursula le Guin; abandoned Gwyneth Jones’ Escape Plans; listening to The 5th Race, ep 1 (Stargate SG1 fan podcast).

Pet Subject

Classical mythology in modern fantasy. Can it still work? Do you have to get it ‘right’?

Book mentioned:
The Firebrand, Marion Zimmer Bradley

Medea, Cassandra, Electra by Kerry Greenwood

Olympic Games, Leslie What

Dan Simmons’ Ilium and Olympos

Gods Behaving Badly, Marie Phillips

Troy, Simon Brown

Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad and Jeanette Winterson’s Weight, also David Malouf’s Ransom – along the same lines as Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin

Robert Holdstock’s Celtika, Iron Grail, Broken Kings

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs or on Facebook, and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes!


I am watching Rome!

That is, I’m into the second episode of the first season.

I still hate Octavian. Sorry. I like James Purefoy and Marc Antony, so that’s a lovely combination. Although I hadn’t expected him to be quite so… brutal… I like my Richard Burton view of him…

I also hadn’t expected the interest in the common people, which is cool. Nor the quantity of sex. (And the full-frontal nudity, too.)

For a TV show, this is a glorious production – as I had heard; it looks like a high-quality film! HBO must be rolling in it.

The Last Legion

Well, call me naive, but I did actually think that this movie would be at least partly based on history, which is why I was interested in watching it. Perhaps that indicates how little TV I watch, because clearly I hadn’t watched the theatrical trailer for it. Otherwise, I would have known that while the beginning is based on historical fact – the Goths being nasty buggers on Rome – the rest was a glorious fantasy.

Spoiler Alert! Stop here if you don’t want it a bit spoiled!

Once I saw little Romulus go for the sword, and read the ‘Latin’ inscription there, I realised vaguely in which direction it was heading… hello, Caliburnus! Not for nothing am I an Arthur tragic. Mind you, it did take my fuzzy little mind a while to realise the teacher was Ambrosinus and the captain Aurelius, so maybe it has actually been too long since I thought about it.

Anyway, once I realised that this was an Arthur-fantasy, I switched expectations and really quite enjoyed it. One one level, anyway, it was miles better than poor old Clive Owen’s Arthur, by which I was utterly disappointed (except for Hengist). To be honest I had been enjoying this one even before I realised what was going on: the nice prince/pauper moment at the start; Colin Firth in general; John Hannah… and the sets were quite nice too, except for that utterly CG statue the kid insisted on moping about on top of. (And as kid actors go, he wasn’t too hopeless.)

A couple of things disappointed me. Mira – well, it was cool to have a chick warrior (always is!), and it was obvious why she was included, but I thought the romance was a bit rushed. Vortigern – cool mask, but not enough back story. I was hoping to find out he was Ambrosinus’ evil brother; that would have been cool.

It does fascinate me that so often Rome is equated with either America or Britain… Firth’s not-particularly-rousing speech about Roman warriors and Roman hearts sounded like something that would appear in a patriotic movie today (it could almost be dubbed into Independence Day). Seriously, it makes me wonder whether these writers/directors know anything about that empire. Probably not.

Iris, Troy and other classical things

A while back, I became a member of the Classical Association of Victoria. I figured I should, since I go to a lot of their public lectures, and it’s not exactly expensive. As a bonus, members get a copy of Iris when it’s published – the CAV journal. I gather that this is something of a haphazard production, because everyone involved has full-time jobs and Iris isn’t it. Nonetheless, it gets produced, and I got my first copy on Friday (bent in half thanks to the postie shoving it through the little slit, instead of lifting the lid for the mailbox…).

Firstly, there’s an editorial, basically explaining why Iris was delayed and ruminating a little on the fate of Classics at various tertiary institutes (I hadn’t realised it resurrected itself at Monash; hurrah!). This is followed by a short intro to Jenny Webb, the new president of the CAV.

The first article – peer-reviewed and all – is “The Making of the Wooden Horse,” by Miriam Riverlea. It feels too short for its material, but is essentially looking at the treatment of the actual making of the horse at Troy, as the title suggests – how this is largely skimmed over by ancient sources, especially, and that there are variations on the theme. She suggests that like epic poetry, as part of the oral tradition, means a story is never told exactly the same way twice, the horse itself is constantly refashioned… at least, I think that’s what she meant. She finishes with a really cool look at two modern examples of the horse. The first is the horse in Troy, the building of which is shown in painstaking detail; and the object itself is now at Canakkale, the closest modern town to the suggested site of Troy (which she points out is hilarious itself – the Turks accepting a wooden horse from strangers… and she parallels this with the Chaser boys trying to get their wooden horse into various places, and it working everywhere – except the Turkish consulte.) The second example is a LEGO version, which some academic apparently finds ridiculous (no sons or brothers?): the creator took eight years to agree to posting the instructions, but now everyone can DIY….

The second peer-reviewed article is by John Whitehouse, who was my tutor way back when and to whom I owe a lot. This, I think, is a paper from his MA: it’s about the similarities between Thucydides and Tacitus, as “Historians of Disillusionment”: Tacitus disillusioned with the Roman Principate, Thucydides with war (after/during the Peloponnesian one). Interesting stuff, especially the question about how deliberately/consciously the parallels are in each from their predecessors.

I must admit to skipping the next article, by Jenny Webb: I’m just not up enough on archaeology to appreciate “Tracking Gender and Technology in Prehistory,” specifically on Cyprus in the Early Bronze Age. I did really enjoy the fourth article, though: called “‘Which of the Gods is this?’ Dionysus in the Homeric Hymns,” it does just that – tracks what the Hymns say about Dionysus (number 1, 7 and 26 if you’re curious) and examine how he is justified as being an Olympian god, despite having a mortal mother (generally this makes you a demigod, and mortal). Very cool – but I was a bit sad it was just a survey of the hymns, and didn’t actually make persuasive arguments about the repercussions on Dionysian worship, for example, or on the origins of Dionysian myth.

I also skipped KO Chong-Gossard’s “On Teaching Euripides’ Medea,” since I’m not likely to do that any time soon, but did enjoy Peter Mountford’s “From Fantasy to Reality in Epic Duels – Iliad 22 and Aeneid 12.” Like Whitehouse, this is a comparison of two ancient texts – but here they’re being compared directly. Mountford’s basic idea, as the title suggests, is that Virgil is more real than Homer, especially in his use and the role of the gods – or lack thereof – in the duels between Aeneas and Turnus, on the one hand, and Achilles and Hektor. It’s a very interesting demonstration of how much Virgil is indebted to Homer – which I already knew, but hadn’t realised how textually that was true: similes, etc, are all borrowed and, generally, re-shaped. I haven’t read The Aeneid since about third year, and didn’t like it as much as The Iliad anyway, but it’s a very engaging article.

The final, very short article is by Meg McPherson. Called “A Perfect Post,” it outlines some of the things she has done in teaching Latin at primary school! It blows my mind to think there’s a primary school that would do that. I had a very brief discussion with someone the other about the point of learning Latin (they suggested there wasn’t one); and I resolutely stayed out of a discussion the other day about whether learning a language had a point at all. Latin at primary school seems indulgent; mostly in a good way, but indulgent nonetheless.

So that’s Iris for 2008. Actually it says 2007 on the cover, but is copyright 2008, so I’m not sure if they run a year behind or what. I think I will definitely continue to support the CAV, and look forward to reading more of their journal.

Productive and critical

Watching four Roman DVDs, for school, and I think I’m going to send all four back. Three are a series – republic, empire, ‘building and empire’; the other is a stand-alone. The stand-alone was definitely for younger kids, which would be fine – since this is for yr7 kids – but the background music was appalling. The others… well, I think they’re just a bit boring. I’m sure I can find docos with more interesting narration, and less bad music. They also feel a bit dated, although I think they’re actually fairly recent; they’re just leaving me cold.

On the plus side, though, since they’re all 30-45 min long – being average, I’ve been skipping through the chapters a bit; has made it a lot faster than I expected! I’ve got a couple of French and Russian Rev (eek! They’ve just shown a clip of a picture from a brothel – one of the awfully explicit ones; really not sure if I can show this to my 7s!) DVDs to preview, too, and a couple of other Roman and ancient Greek ones – hopefully they’ll be better than these.

Octavian and his position: a lecture

This lecture was given last Thursday by Frederik Vervaet, who received his PhD from Ghent University, Belgium. His accent was a little hard to follow at the start, but once I got into the rhythm it was quite lovely to listen to.

The proper title for the lecture was “The Secret History: The Official Position of Caesar Octavianus at the time of the Restitutio Rei Publicae (31-27BC).” Before I get to that, a note on the guy who introduced the lecture, who pronounced it ‘Kaiser Octaweeanus’ – that is, correctly, as far as we know the pronunciation of Latin. What I can’t figure out is whether he was simply being pretentious and showing off, or whether (since he is actually a Classicist), he knows Latin well enough that it’s simply second nature. Got no idea; interesting to consider, anyway.

Vervaet started off by talking about what it actually meant for Antony, Lepidus and Octavian to be triumvirs, from 43 onwards, because only by understanding that, and their power, can you get the pre-Augustus few years. He also asked two preliminary questions: when did the second triumvirate period conclude? (probably 32, is his conclusion); and how did the triumvirate fit into the idea of extraordinary magistracies? (nicely; and can only be abdicated – doesn’t simply conclude with the end of the year).

The issue of abdication becomes important when looking at Dio Cassius, and what he records of Octavian in 27: a speech that sounds remarkably like an abdication. So, although he hadn’t seemed to be holding the triumviral position up to this stage (because he would have been a solo triumvir, Lepidus having been forced out before the first 5 years finished and poor old Antony suiciding in 30), he seems to have continued exercising it. So why did he not acknowledge it? Vervaet talked about Octavian’s own concealment, and ‘artful delusion’, particularly in the Res Gestae and other bits of propaganda. I also liked the phrase ‘Augustan ambiguity and deceitfulness’. The nomenclature had also started to disappear during the second triumvirate anyway – emphasising his consular position, for example, instead.

After establishing Octavian’s position, then, Vervaet proceeded to ask two other questions: why continue as triumvir (alone), and why did he conceal it – since he didn’t seem to have any trouble with big-noting himself in other ways? As to the first question, it could be argued that the purpose of the triumvirate – to restore order to Rome – had not been achieved until 31 (because of the war with Cleopatra and Antony), so he shouldn’t abdicate; and after that there was (apparently) universal demand that he hang around. The second question needs you to remember that this is still the Republic: keeping hold of power was Bad and Evil and Frowned Upon. As well, when Antony and Octavian were having their spat, there was propaganda on both sides about the other not being willing to give up the power, so you don’t want to prove enemy slanging to be correct, do you? Finally, there’s also the fact that keeping hold of power unconstitutionally doesn’t sit so well with positioning oneself as the champion of tradition and constitutional propriety.

So… Octavian. I’ve always been anti-Octavian. Antony is more my man. This was a really great lecture, thoroughly enjoyable.

Concrete in Rome

So I went to a public lecture at Melbourne Uni on Tuesday, called “From the Colosseum to the Baths of Diocletian: What Concrete can tell us about Social Change in Imperial Rome.” It was given by Lynne Lancaster of Ohio University. This was the first cool thing about the night: it was a woman, talking about concrete and stress points and vaulting ribs… very cool. The first funny thing was that it took two heads of departments (Classics, a bloke; Engineering, a woman [I think she was the head; I could have been wrong]) to turn some lights down so everyone in the audience – and there was a lot of people – could see the slides properly.

So, a number of things I found out are listed here. Lancaster has a book out at the moment, talking about some of these things; she made some joke about wantin a ‘sexier’ name, which I didn’t think was that sexier, but her publishers insisted that her title be searchable. So it’s really not sexy.

She started the lecture talking about factors affecting innovation, which I think she said she stole from someone else. Most of the rest of the lecture revolved around these issues, and how it affected concrete in Rome.
1. Accumulated knowledge
2. Evident need
3. Economic ability
4. Cultural/social/political acceptability

1. The accumulated knowledge required for buildings such as the Pantheon and other buildings of the early empire (her focus) was that of the arch (there’s evidence that there were arches from the 6th century BC – cool!), and use of pozzolana – volcanic ash used to reinforce the mortar.

2. Vaults got larger, which allowed for larger groups of people gathering together – which was convenient, since amphitheatres, theatres (numerous small vaults people sat on), and baths (fewer large vaults covering people) were becoming ever more popular.

3. Becoming an empire, rather than a good ol’ republic, brought different ways of collecting money for Rome – it also led to the wealth of one individual, or family, rivalling that of the state. And that wealth was often used on construction. The top builders, in her opinion, were Nero; Vaspasian; Trajan; Hadrian; Caracalla; Diocletian; and Constantine.

*Tangent-ish: the debasement of the coinage, which started under Nero. The denarius was about 97% silver under Augustis, but was only about 50% by the mid-third century. By this time, the coinage was so bad that the government wanted its taxes in kind, rather than money! This ended up having interesting repercussions for the building industry… see below…*

*Interesting tangent #2: When Trajan built his own little forum, he also modified Caesar’s – including a latrine. The cool thing about this is that the latrine was built on the second floor, meaning they had to use lots of arches to channel the weight. It also had nice windows….*

*And, just because: the Pantheon (I think Lancaster has a thing for the Pantheon…) has a 43m dome – the largest unsupported vault (I think I got that right), and two times larger than any previous dome: so interestingly, no incremental changes. It also has hollow, 6m wide walls, with extruded brick ribs…*

4. Brick industry development paralleled the increase in the use of vaults.
Under Trajan, politicians had to own land (I think I got that right – I might have missed something there). One way to profit from this was to sell clay, to make bricks. Brick use explodes from this time – it’s probably consequential. There’s evidence of bricks allowing for social advancement (slaves becoming freemen, etc). As well, there’s evidence that women owned and even produced bricks…. So in all of these ways there were incentives to Make Bricks.

**Break for a human demonstration of the necessity of ribs and vaults!**
Four women called up, to act as ribs – then Lancaster hung from their hands! and asked them where the tension was. And then, four men came up and put their hands on their shoulders – queue hanging again – and the women reported that there was less tension. Very, very cool.

Then there was scoria. It’s basically solidified volcanic foam, and was the only non-decorative stone imported into Rome, and it was used on imperial buildings. Most of the stuff that was used was from Pompey, but was brought after 79 – when the explosion from Vesuvius had covered the stuff – so it was hard to get to, but still they did it. Hello, lucre…

The Basilica Ulpia: why use columns, rather than a vaulted roof? Columns make the roof flat, and there was increasing interest in showing off colourful stone from captured territory. It also probably provided a very nice viewing platform for Trajan’s Column – so convenient!

Also at this time came the introduction of the use of window glass (from late in the first century). This led to huge changes in Roman perceptions of light and space, and raised expectations through the roof (tee hee). Buttresses become important for this development, and allows for baths to get bigger – good from a social and imperial point of view – and the light showed off the captured marble very, very nicely.

There were other bits and interesting pieces in the lecture – which I really enjoyed, if I haven’t mentioned that – but the last thing I wanted to mention related to that comment about taxes and debased coinage. Diocletian made a huge change by imposing a property tax on people living in Rome. The urban prefect, who was in charge of the area within a 100 mile radius of the city, used a form of barter to get building materials – and, on the other side, to reduce the taxpayer’s tax burden. Very, very clever.

Yay for public lectures! I love the Classics department at Melbourne!