Rome Facts and Trivia

Here are a few fun facts about Rome for you to enjoy!

Tying the Knot

A Roman romance...While "romans" is actually the root word for "romance", there wasn't a lot of it in Ancient Rome when it came to marriage. There was no one to conduct the ceremony, and no legal register of it.

A marriage was recognized when a man and woman agreed to live together, or when there was evidence of a dowry having been paid.

Divorce was a lot simpler, though. You just packed up your togas and left.

It's getting a little crowded

The Ancient city of Rome at one time boasted 2 million residents. But Rome was also the first modern city to reach a population of 1 million.

Don't drop that!

Way back in the second century A.D., Romans were turning out glass vessels at a rate that would not be seen again in the civilized world for more than a thousand years.

They produced bottles galore, usually in blue, green or brown, as clear glass was more difficult to make and therefore, more expensive. Bottles were also made in square shapes to allow more efficient packing.

The craft extended itself as an art, sometimes laying a thin sheet of beaten gold between two layers of glass, or as in the famous Portland Vase, placing a layer of one colour of glass over a second layer, and carving a design in it by removing sections of the top layer.

Rome has its ups and downs

The city of Rome is built on, or around, a series of seven hills. As legend has it, the twins Romulus and Remus began building a city at the foot of the Palatine hill where the she-wolf found them.

Interestingly, the city of Jerusalem is also built on seven hills, and there is some scholastic disagreement about whether the reference in the Book of Revelations 17, is directed at one or the other:

"Here is a clue for one who has wisdom. The seven heads represent seven hills upon which the woman sits. They also represent seven kings: five have already fallen, one still lives, and the last has not yet come, and when he comes he must remain only a short while."

Whiling away the time in Rome

In Ancient Rome, there were two ways of telling time: the sundial, or the water clock, neither of which could be worn on the wrist.

The sun-dial face was divided into the hours of the day, and time was told by the shadow cast by the sun, across the dial's centre piece.

The water clock came in various forms, but generally was either a dish into which water dripped at a steady rate, with markings along the side to indicate how much time had passed; or else it was a dish with a tiny hole in the bottom, which allowed water in at a given rate. Markings inside indicated the amount of time for it to fill to each level, and it would sink after the period of time for which it was constructed.

The day had 12 hours and the night had 12 hours. Noon was always the sixth hour of the day, and midnight the sixth hour of the night, no matter what the season, or the fact that the length of hours changed according to the time of year.

The doctor worked like a slave

A good portion of the medical community in Ancient Rome consisted of slaves, often of foreign origin. In Rome, the easiest way to obtain citizenship was to sell yourself into slavery ,where freedom could be earned after six years of satisfactory service. Or of course, there was always buying your way out, when you'd been tipped by grateful clients. As a consequence, many of the doctors were either Greeks who had come to Rome on their own, or were Roman slaves who had earned their freedom through their skills.

"All roads lead to Rome"

The origin of the expression lays in the Romans' well-deserved reputation for their construction skills. Their network of roads, all of which headed towards the capital city, meant that they literally did all lead to Rome. The expression came to have the connotation that no matter which way you chose to go, the outcome of something would be the same, with no one option being better than another.

Flush with success?

Excavations begun in 1784 at Pompeii, have uncovered bath buildings, where rooms had seats with basins underneath that emptied into the sewer system. In one building, there was evidence of a cistern above the seats, so that the "throne" room could be flushed. Another building showed a recess with seats for the servants, some still with hinges, built right in the kitchen, only feet from the main cooking area.

I'd give my right arm

It's just possible, that the origin of that expression can be attributed to (or blamed on, depending on how you see it) Pope Paul V. When St. Francis Xavier died off the coast of China in 1552, he was buried there, then exhumed some time later and buried at what was to be his final resting place in Gao, India. The key to what follows historically, may be that his first coffin was partially filled with unslaked lime.

In 1614, the Pope requested that the right arm of Saint Francis be removed and sent to Rome as a holy relic. The body when exhumed again, was said to be in perfect condition, and gushed blood as the arm was severed. When Francis was canonized as a Saint in 1622, the arm in Rome had dwindled to just the skeletal remains, while the body remained incorrupt.

Up until 1994, it was displayed publicly once every ten years, with only the feet exposed to public view. By then, time and atmospheric conditions had taken their toll, and the Saint was no longer considered to be suitable for showing, although fragments of his hand are still seen in Rome, today.

In 1952 the Bishop of Macau commissioned a Cararas marble statue of St. Francis, sculpted in Italy, and erected in front of St. Paul's Church in Gao. The night before the dedication, a huge tree fell, toppling the statue. When it was uncovered, the statue was intact... except that the right arm had broken off.

About that knife, Brutus

Yes, it's true that Brutus was a backstabber, and leader of the rebellious group that murdered Julius Caesar in 44B.C. But there seems to be some scholastic argument about whether Caesar's last words were the Latin "Et tu, Brute?" (You too, Brutus?) or the Greek "Kai su technon?" (You too, my son?)

Brutus and co-conspirator Cassius were cornered at Phillipi, by Marc Anthony's forces. Cassius committed suicide, reportedly with the same dagger that he used on Caesar. Brutus also killed himself with his own sword.