Ten crazy laws that ancient Romans lived by

In the ancient world, Rome was a proud spotlight for civilization. The empire was considered by many as the sign of dignity and virtue, and the civilization had one goal in mind.

They were to progress the world of philosophy by surpassing the Greek legends that transformed modern society.

This led to a series of laws that would baffle even the most conservative rulers in the world. Here are 10 ways you could break the law as a Roman.

10.Wearing Purple Wasn’t Frowned Upon – It was Illegal

The Empress Theodora, the wife of the Emperor Justinian, dressed in Tyrian purple.
The Empress Theodora, the wife of the Emperor Justinian, dressed in Tyrian purple.

In ancient Rome, purple was the sign of royalty, and only the most powerful could wear the color. Purple was the most majestic color inside of the culture and wearing it was viewed as a right only given to a proud few. Emperors would dress in the finest purple togas; they were so stylish that they made the purple color exclusive among the elite.

The law was set inside of the sumptuary class, which prevented the lower class from extravagantly showing off the extra income they could acquire. The goal was to make it possible to immediately determine a person’s social status in a simple glance. Royalty wanted to make sure they didn’t mingle with the peasants; the value of the attention of the empire’s elite was precious.

In turn, peasants were banned from wearing togas and purple was reserved for none other than the emperor. This was due to the fact that purple dye was priced through the roof during this era. It came all the way from Phoenicia, where the dye was created from mollusks. A single purple toga required thousands of mollusks to be crushed, making them an expensive item.

9.Crying During Funerals Was Illegal for Women

Fragment of a relief from a sarcophagus depicting stages of the deceased's life: religious initiation, military service, and wedding (mid-2nd century AD)
Fragment of a relief from a sarcophagus depicting stages of the deceased’s life: religious initiation, military service, and wedding (mid-2nd century AD) Photo Credit

Roman funerals were very precise rituals. They started with a group of people walking the dead down the street, crying as they carried the deceased.

It was believed that the amount of people crying directly reflected a person’s popularity at death. Sometimes, this was considered incredibly important to the family of the dead, who would pay criers to show up at the ceremony. The goal was to impress the elite with the importance the family had within the city. This served as an important part of the family legacy. Women who never even knew the dead would be paid to make quite a scene while walking through the streets. They would quite literally rip out their hair and scratch their own faces in dismay.

Due to these actors, funerals became far too hectic and often transformed into a publicity stunt rather than a moment of passage. To stop the actors from inserting themselves into the ceremonies, crying became outlawed.

8.Fathers Were Allowed to Murder their Daughter’s Love in Cold Blood

If a husband caught his wife red-handed while she was having affair with another man, he was legally obligated to follow a procedure.

First, he had to hold his wife captive with her newly discovered lover.

Roman couple joining hands; the bride's belt may show the knot symbolizing that the husband was "belted and bound" to her, which he was to untie in their bed (4th century sarcophagus) Photo Credit
Roman couple joining hands; the bride’s belt may show the knot symbolizing that the husband was “belted and bound” to her, which he was to untie in their bed (4th century sarcophagus) Photo Credit

Next the husband was supposed to gather up all of their neighbors so they could bear witness to the shameful crime that was committed. The man had a full twenty hours to get the neighbors together so everyone could see the man responsible for the betrayal.

The husband then had three days to make a public statement. He was to describe where his wife was having an affair, who was having an affair with her, and any other details that would develop the case. After the statement, the husband was legally required to file for divorce or instead be charged with the crime of pimping out his wife.

If the man chose, he could ultimately murder his wife’s lover if he turned out to be either a prostitute or slave. However, it got a little more complicated if the lover was a citizen. The husband would have to talk to the father of the wife. This was because in Rome, the only men who could murder lovers was the father of the daughter. No matter how important the citizen was, a father had full discretion.

7.The Ultimate Death Sentence was Drowning with Animals

"Ertränken im Fass oder Sack", a 1560 sketch showing capital punishment
“Ertränken im Fass oder Sack”, a 1560 sketch showing capital punishment

If you committed an average crime, you’d be treated to a simplistic beheading. But if your crimes were thought to be unspeakable, things could get pretty rough. You could be taken to the top of a prison and thrown off it to your death. However, no crime was deemed as terrible as murdering your father in cold blood. If you were found guilty, you would be robbed of light for the rest of your life. The murderer would be blindfolded and then taken out to a field on the outskirts of the city. He was then stripped of his clothes and beaten with rods until he could truly suffer no more.

After this, the man was thrown into a sack with a serpent, a dog, an ape, and even a rooster. The collection of animals would then be thrown together into the ocean to ensure death by drowning.

6.Prostitutes Were Forced to Make their Hair Blonde

Wall painting from the Lupanar (brothel) of Pompeii, with the woman presumed to be a prostitute wearing a bra
Wall painting from the Lupanar (brothel) of Pompeii, with the woman presumed to be a prostitute wearing a bra

The Roman empire was filled with natural brunettes. Blondes in the area were considered barbarians, and were usually Gauls. Since no prostitute was given the full rights of other Roman women, they had to ensure that they looked like barbarian scum.

Oddly, this rule didn’t end up working out for the lawmakers. Roman women became jealous of the blondes and started dying their own hair. Some ladies even went as far as to cut off their slaves’ hair and transform them into wigs. The result left the city in dismay, as it was then impossible to tell the difference between the woman of class from prostitutes.

5.Suicide Must Have Been Approved by the Senate

Sometimes the Roman empire thought that preparation for suicide was a sign of forward thinking.

Emperors and kings were known to always keep poison within reach if things turned south. Even sick people would be encouraged to poison themselves to end their suffering.

Representation of a sitting of the Roman senate: Cicero attacks Catiline, from a 19th-century fresco in Palazzo Madama, Rome, house of the Italian Senate.
Representation of a sitting of the Roman senate: Cicero attacks Catiline, from a 19th-century fresco in Palazzo Madama, Rome, house of the Italian Senate.

While many Romans were gifted with the ability to control their own fate, soldiers, fugitives and even slaves were banned from the prospect of suicide in order to keep the economy intact. Once you were a soldier inside of the Roman army, you were forced to serve out your term until given permission to leave. Criminals were also stripped of the right to end their lives because without conviction the empire couldn’t legally own the criminal’s property. If a slave ended his own life, the owner was usually given a refund of the slave to protect the income of the influential people of Rome.

It even got to the point that suicide became formal. A depressed person could file a document to the senate asking for the granting of death. If the senate determined that the person was better off dead, they’d be granted a free bottle of poison to end their lives.

4.Someone Killed By Lightning Wasn’t Allowed to Receive a Proper Burial

Marcus Aurelius sacrificing Photo Credit
Marcus Aurelius sacrificing Photo Credit

 

If lightning hit a citizen of Rome, it was believed to be a result of the wrath of Jupiter. The Romans believed that if lightning struck an establishment or person, Jupiter was furious with whatever was hit.

If your loved one was struck down by the gods, it was forbidden to bury him or her. You couldn’t even lift the body up past the knees in order to keep peace with the gods. Any breach of these rules would be seen as robbing Jupiter of his sacrifices. And if you chose to break the law, you’d become Jupiter’s next sacrifice from the Roman empire.

3. A Father Only Had Only a Few Opportunities To Sell Their Sons Into Slavery

If you had children in Rome, you had the right to temporarily sell them into slavery.

This was done through an agreement with a buyer – while the buyer would gain possession of the child, he was always expected to bring the children back home.

Roman mosaic from Dougga, Tunisia (2nd century CE): the two slaves carrying wine jars wear typical slave clothing and an amulet against the evil eye on a necklace; the slave boy to the left carries water and towels, and the one on the right a bough and a basket of flowers Photo Credit
Roman mosaic from Dougga, Tunisia (2nd century CE): the two slaves carrying wine jars wear typical slave clothing and an amulet against the evil eye on a necklace; the slave boy to the left carries water and towels, and the one on the right a bough and a basket of flowers Photo Credit

Luckily for the children, a father who sold off their child three times was declared as a person unfit to parent. After the third term of slavery, the child would be declared emancipated from his home. He would have to finish his third session as a slave because a deal is a deal, but afterward, he would be legally emancipated from his parents. While there was a limit to how much a single child could be sold off, there was no limit to the number of children that could be sold off to buyers.

2.If a Woman Didn’t Leave Home During Three Days Every Year, She Would Become Property

Dido embracing Aeneas, from a Roman fresco in the House of Citharist in Pompeii, Italy; Pompeian Third Style (10 BC - 45 AD)
Dido embracing Aeneas, from a Roman fresco in the House of Citharist in Pompeii, Italy; Pompeian Third Style (10 BC – 45 AD)

Another odd set of laws the Romans had were ones named usuacpio. These were the laws that declared how long a person could hold on to a possession before it automatically became their property.

The objects inside this law also included people. As a result, a wife had to leave her home on three days each year, exploring the city or simply going on a walk. It was believed that Roman women had a right to freedom as long as they left the house for three straight days once a year.

1.Fathers Had the Right to Murder the Entire Family

Ara Pacis showing the Imperial Family of Augustus Photo Credit
Ara Pacis showing the Imperial Family of Augustus Photo Credit

During the early era of Rome, fathers were given complete control over their family. Fathers could freely use any form of punishment and abuse.

The power of the father extended so far that if the father deemed fit, he could murder his children in cold blood without any repercussions. Even after the kids left home, fathers still held the right to murder their kids. This created a suitable situation for family lineage. For example, it was pretty standard for daughters to be afraid of punishment from their dads even after they got married and started a family. Boys in the family were free of their fathers’ rule upon death. After the empire developed awhile, these rules began to become more strict. By the last century BC, the laws that allowed fathers to have complete control over the destiny of children were diminished. For example, fathers only reserved the right to murder if their son was convicted of a crime.

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Badbury Rings – An Iron Age hill fort – video

The Iron Age hill fort in East Dorset, England, known as Badbury Rings,  was most probably constructed by the Durotriges tribe who inhabited the area before the Roman invasion.

It is believed that the Durotriges were the first real opposition that the Romans encountered and were one of the two tribes that fought against the future emperor Vespasian and the 2nd Legion in the early phases of the invasion.

Hill forts had existed in Britain from the Bronze Age, but what is interesting about the Durotriges is the fact that they still occupied hill forts when the Roman invasion started. One of the most fascinating of these Durotrigan hill forts is Badbury Rings.

Badbury Rings is one of the largest Iron Age forts in Britain.
It has three concentric ditches and ramparts and is nearly a mile in circumference.

 

Aerial view of Badbury Rings

Badbury Rings consists of three concentric rings of a bank and ditch construction, dug to a depth of almost 20 feet. However, it seems that this was not enough to stop the advance of Vespasian and the 2nd legion who managed to conquer Badbury Rings.

Although there’s no clear evidence, it is speculated that the Romans established a town outside the fort called Vindocladia. It is said that Vindocladia became one of the biggest Roman towns in Dorset and excavations that started at the beginning of the 1990s uncovered pottery, robber trenches, tesserae and evidence for iron working.

Toposcope in the center of Badbury Rings hill fort

Apparently, Badbury Rings was of a great strategic significance for the Romans since their road network cut across Dorset. There were five Roman roads near Badbury Rings, including a military road from the Lake Farm fort, 3 miles southeast of Badbury, that passed by the northeast side of Badbury Rings on its way to Hod Hill further north. In the later Roman period, another road was built that passed through Vindocladia and led to the roman town of Dorchester.

Excavations also revealed that West of Badbury Rings there is a Roman/Celtic temple that was used from about 0AD to 400AD. Nearly 200 Roman coins and more than 20 Durotrigan coins were found at the site, as well as roofing tiles, painted wall plaster, jewelry, and pottery.

Badbury Rings is the fifth in a series of Iron Age earthworks, starting from Hambledon Hill, and also including Hod Hill, Spetisbury Rings, Buzbury Rings, Badbury Rings and Dudsbury Camp.

 

During the Roman era, five Roman roads formed a complex junction on the north side of Badbury Rings.

Some people believe that Badbury Rings is the site of Mons Badonicus (Mount Badon), where King Arthur fought his greatest battle against the Saxons. There is no firm evidence to back this up, but the similarity between the names Badbury and Badon suggest that there is a possibility that Badbury Rings is the location of the battle.

A legend has it that at midnight King Arthur and his Knights return to haunt the battlefield. Another legend tells how marching Roman legionaries haunt Badbury Rings. But, of course, these legends are just a part of the fascinating history of Badbury Rings.

The site belongs to the National Trust.

The site, which was privately owned until 1983, is now part of the Kingston Lacy estate and it belongs to the National Trust, who have provided free access. It is a popular tourist destination that offers fabulous views across the Dorset countryside and a history that goes back thousands of years.

 

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Training Your Intuition – Manly P Hall

Manly P Hall was recognized as a 33º Mason (the highest honor conferred by the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite) in 1973, despite never having practiced the craft.

He has been widely recognized as a leading scholar in the fields of religion, mythology, mysticism, and the occult.

Carl Jung, when writing Psychology and Alchemy, borrowed material from Hall’s private collection.

He is perhaps most famous for his work The Secret Teachings of All Ages: An Encyclopedic Outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbalistic and Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy.

In his over 70-year career, Hall delivered approximately 8,000 lectures in the United States and abroad, authored over 150 books and essays, and wrote countless magazine articles.

Some people use the word “wise” a bit too freely – I have zero compunction however, applying the word to this man – an excellent example, if not the epitome of…

 

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Pacal the Great – King of Palenque

Way back in 1952, when Yuri Knorozov made his breakthrough discovery that the Mayan glyphs were mostly syllabic, not phonetic, most Mayan scholars failed to believe him. Michael Coe, David Kelly and Floyd Lounsbury were among the few exceptions. Since that time, thanks to those old-hand epigraphers and such relative newcomers as Linda Schele and Peter Mathews, steady progress has been made in deciphering the wealth of Mayan texts. Though these numerous inscriptions tell us nothing about what the common people were up to, we are now able to read and understand a little of the fascinating history of important rulers like Pacal, King of Palenque, and his lifelong struggle to prove his right to the throne.

K’inich Janaab’ Pacal was born on March 23, 603 CE, the son of  Lord K’an Mo’Hix and Lady Sak K’uk’, the reigning Queen of Palenque. Because the royal family claimed the throne through the First Mother, affectionately known to scholars as Lady Beastie, theirs was one of the few pre-Colombian dynasties that allowed a woman to take the crown in default of a male heir. Even so, she was expected to step down the moment any son of hers reached maturity. Pacal, whose name means “Shield” in the Mayan tongue, was crowned king by his mother on July 29th, 615, shortly after his 12th birthday.

The passing of the crown from mother to son was not unknown. It had taken place not many years before when Pacal’s great-grandmother, Lady Kanal-Ikal was queen and her son, Ac-Kan succeeded her. Despite this precedent and the fact Pacal proved to be an unusually wise and capable ruler during his long reign, his right to rule at all was always in question. Since, in all other matters of inheritance the Palenque society property and titles passed only from the father to his heirs, other noble houses felt their claims to the throne to be more valid.

Apparently to refute such claims, Pacal and the son who reigned after him, K’inich Chan B’alam II, kept adding magnificent buildings to their capitol city. Every new temple and pyramid prominently displayed images of the Kings and glyphic texts proclaiming their Royal lineage. Most of the existing structures on view today date back to their combined reigns during the seventh century CE.

Chan B’alam II was responsible for the construction of the Temple of the Cross, the Temple of the Foliated Cross and the Temple of the Sun.

This trio of lovely buildings crowns the slopes overlooking the Palace Complex. Pacal himself commissioned the building of such major works as the Temple of Olvidado, the Temple of the Count the Royal Palace.

This huge complex has many surprising architectural innovations. The roofs were mansard-type, with overhanging eaves to protect the outer walls which were studded with bas beliefs of gods, kings, priests and important ceremonials. The numerous rooms with interior courts overlooked a four-story tower which probably served as both lookout and observatory. The most unusual feature was a long, corbelled vault through which an underground stream flowed assuring the occupants a constant supply of fresh water, an engineering feat of no mean caliber.

Pacal’s greatest architectural triumph, however, was the magnificent Temple of the Inscriptions. This, like the Great Pyramids of Egypt, was designed as the King’s last resting place. The tomb chamber lies below ground level and was completed, with the massive sarcophagus in place, before the towering temple structure was built over it. Everything was provided for, including a speaking tube leading to the upper temple through which the deified king could communicate with his priests and advise his people from the otherworld.

All was in readiness long before it was needed. Pacal lived long enough to see to the expansion of Palenque’s power over the western part of the Lowland Maya territory and preside over a veritable florescence of arts and engineering. Pacal the Great died on March 31st, 683 at the ripe old age of 80. He had ruled Palenque for 68 years.

Even his sarcophagus was designed to bear witness to Pacal’s right to rule. The flat, heavy lid of his sarcophagus shows the dead King falling toward the Xibalba. (Not an astronaut at the controls of a spaceship as Eric von Daniken’s book, Chariots of the Gods, proposes.) The sides and ends, however, are carved with a royal portrait gallery showing the kings and queens who had ruled before him. His mother and father are there. So are Lady Kanal- Ikal, her son Ac Kan and others from far back in time.

All this came as a surprise to 20th century scholars. An actual burial in a pre-Columbian monument was unheard of before 1948 when Mexican archaeologist, Alberto Ruz, raised a stone slab set in the floor of the temple to find a steep flight of steps with 18 inch risers leading precipitously down into the bowels of the pyramid.  The passage had been sealed with tightly packed rubble throughout its narrow, twisting descent to the tomb chamber. Removing this fill took Ruz and his crew another four years.

It was not until 1952 that they cleared the elaborately decorated burial chamber and found Pacal the Great, together with the richest treasure in grave offerings ever found in Mesoamerica. The jade portrait mask that was still in place and the full suit of jade plaques connected with gold wire that still covered his ancient bones alone were worth a fortune.

There has been some debate as to whether the body found in the tomb is really Pacal’s.  The wearing down of the skeleton’s teeth, they say, indicates a man half the age of the King at the time of his death. Several far-fetched reasons are offered to explain the anomaly–a mistake in dates, another king of the same name, etc.

The most logical explanation is that, having spent his entire life as either Crown Prince or King, he was not confined to the common man’s diet of gritty, stone-ground maize, stringy root vegetables and tough meats. Royal personages would certainly have always dined on the softest and most refined of foods. Perhaps it is more surprising that a person 80 years old and had any teeth left to be examined. At any rate, the majority of scholars agree that it was indeed Pacal who was found in Pacal’s tomb.

Considering the length of his reign, Pacal’s propaganda campaign can be considered an unqualified success. He also succeeded in making his name as permanent and unforgettable as his architecture.

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Manly P. Hall – Mystical Life of the American Indians

Manly Palmer Hall was a Canadian-born author and mystic. He is perhaps most famous for his work The Secret Teachings of All Ages An Encyclopedic Outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbalistic and Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy, which is widely regarded as his magnum opus, and which he published at the age of 27.

He has been widely recognized as a leading scholar in the fields of religion, mythology, mysticism, and the occult.  In 1934, Hall founded the Philosophical Research Society (PRS) in Los Angeles, California, dedicating it to an idealistic approach to the solution of human problems. The PRS claims to be non-sectarian and entirely free from educational, political, or ecclesiastical control, and the Society’s programs stress the need for the integration of philosophy, religion, and science into one system of instruction. The PRS Library, a public facility devoted to source materials in obscure fields, has many rare and scarce items now impossible to obtain elsewhere.

In 1973 (47 years after writing The Secret Teachings of All Ages), Hall was recognized as a 33º Mason (the highest honor conferred by the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite), at a ceremony held at PRS on December 8th, despite never being initiated into the physical craft.  In his over 70-year career, Hall delivered approximately 8,000 lectures in the United States and abroad, authored over 150 books and essays, and wrote countless magazine articles.

Read more at:

http://www.manlyphall.org/

http://www.prs.org/