Lecture Handout

Not Just a Human Head
Laura Leibman
A. Everyday Life in Ancient Rome
B. Roman Poetics and Auditory, Visual, Kinesthetic Learning
The Strange Land of Ancient Rome
A. Roman Arena (Kinesthetic)
B. Graffiti (Auditory)
Key differences Between Roman Graffiti and Our Own:
i. Not marginal
ii. Private as well as public
iii. Greetings
iv. Sound play
v. Poetic allusions
vi. Graffiti influenced politics
C. House Decorations (Visual)
The Strange Land of Contemporary America
1. I was forced to learn about the wanderings of some legendary fellow named Aeneas (forgetful of
my own wanderings) and to weep over the death of Dido who took her own life from love…. What is
more pitiable than a wretch without pity for himself who weeps over the death of Dido dying for
love of Aeneas, but not weeping over himself dying for his lack of love for you, my God, light of my
heart, bread of the inner mouth of my soul? (St. Augustine, Confessions p. 15)
Roman Arena
2. A man fell in combat. A great roar from the entire crowd struck him with such vehemence that he
was overcome by curiosity…he opened his eyes. …As soon as he saw the blood, he drank in
savagery and did not turn away. His eyes were riveted. He imbibed madness… [and] was
inebriated by bloodthirsty pleasure. (St. Augustine, The Confessions Chapter VI.viii (13), pp. 100101)
3. In the morning they throw men to the lions and the bears; at noon, they throw them to the
spectators. The spectators demand that the slayer shall face the man who is to slay him in his turn;
and they always reserve the latest conqueror for another butchering. The outcome of every fight is
death, and the means are fire and sword. This sort of thing goes on while the arena is empty. You
may retort: "But he was a highway robber; he killed a man!" And what of it? Granted that, as a
murderer, he deserved this punishment, what crime have you committed, poor fellow, that you
should deserve to sit and see this show? (Seneca, On Crowds, Letter VII).
4. Three times I gave shows of gladiators under my name and five times under the name of my sons
and grandsons; in these shows about 10,000 men fought. … Twenty-six times… I gave the people
hunts of African beasts in the circus, in the open, or in the amphitheater; in them about 3,500 beasts
were killed. (Augustus, Res Gestae 22)
5. I gave the people a spectacle of a naval battle, in the place across the Tiber where the grove of the
Caesars is now, with the ground excavated in length 1,800 feet, in width 1,200, in which thirty
beaked ships, biremes or triremes, but many smaller, fought among themselves; in these ships
about 3,000 men fought in addition to the rowers. (Augustus, Res Gestae 23)
...his armor splashed
with brains; his head is dangling in equal halves
from either shoulder...
(Virgil, Aeneid 9.1003-6)
7. Greetings to those who have come here. (Baird & Taylor, Ancient Graffiti in Context 39)
8. Secundus says hello to his friends. (House of Verus; between the two doors of the house; Corpus
Inscriptionum Latinarum, Volume 4.4838)
9. Oh wall, so many men have come here to scrawl,
I wonder that your burdened sides don’t fall (Lindsay, The Writing on the Wall 116)
10. Watch it, you that shits in this place! May you have Jove's anger if you ignore this.
[Cacator cave malum, aut si contempseris, habeas Iovem iratum.]
11. Too late. The queen is caught between love’s pain
and press. She feeds the wound within her veins;
she is eaten by a secret flame...
…His face, his words hold fast
her breast. Care strips her limbs of calm and rest. (Virgil, Aeneid IV.1-6, p. 79)
12. They all fell silent. [contquere omnes]. (Virgil, Aeneid 2.1, p. 29)
13. I sing the fullers and the screech owl, not arms and the man [Fullones ululamque cano, non arma
virumque] (Milnor “Literary Literacy in Roman Pompeii,” 299-300)
14. I sing of arms and the man, he who, exiled by fate,
first came from the coast of Troy to Italy
[Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris
Italiam, fato profugus, Laviniaque venit] (Virgil, Aeneid 1.1-2)
15. Apollinaris, the doctor of the emperor Titus, defecated well here (Herculaneum, on the exterior
wall of a house; Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, Volume 4.10619)
House Decorations
16. …while he waited for the queen, he studied
everything in that huge sanctuary,
marveling at a city rich enough
for such a temple….
He sees the wars of Troy set out in order:
The battles famous now through all the world,
The sons of Atreus and of Priam and
Achilles, savage enemy to both.
He halted. As he wept, he cried: “Achates,
where on this earth is there a land, a place
That does not know our sorrows?”...
…With many tears and sighs he feeds
his soul on what is nothing but a picture. (Virgil, Aeneid 1.642-659)
17. Four parts of the Roman house:
i. Shops and Entryway
ii. Atrium & Bedrooms
iii. Tablinum
iv. Garden surrounded by Pillars
18. Vitruvius remarked that decorating houses with "the figures of the gods or detailed mythological
episodes" such as "the battles at Troy, or the wanderings of Ulysses" was in good taste, unlike
"paintings of monstrosities" which offended the eye and corrupted the viewer (Vitruvius, The Ten
Books on Architecture 211-12).
19. Six Scenes in the Atrium:
Hera and Zeus
Aphrodite and unrecognized male
Briseis and Achilles
Helen and Paris
Amphrite and Poseidon
Achilles and Agamemnon
20. Fucked, I say, fucked, with legs held up, was the Roman citizens’ pussy wherein no other but the
sweetest and holiest sounds were heard [futuebatur inquam futuebatur civium Romanorum a(t)tractis
pedibus cu(n)nus in qua (re) nul(la)e aliae vices errant nisissei dulcis(s)im(a)e et pi(i)ssimae] (Corpus
Inscriptionum Latinarum 4.1261, quoted in Baird & Taylor, Ancient Graffiti in Context 112)
Baird, J.A. and Claire Taylor, ed. Ancient Graffiti in Context. NY: Routledge, 2011.
Bergmann, Bettina, "The Roman House as Memory Theater: The House of the Tragic Poet in Pompeii," The
Art Bulletin. LXXVI (2) June 1994: 225-56.
Clarke, John R. The Houses of Roman Italy. Berkeley: U. of Calif. P.,1991.
Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum. http://cil.bbaw.de/cil_en/index_en.html
Davis, William Stearns ed., Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, 2 Vols. Boston:
Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13. Vol. II: Rome and the West, pp. 260-265.
Dixon, Suzanne, "Continuity and Change in Roman Social History," Inventing Ancient Culture, ed. Golden
and Toohey. London: Routledge, 1997.
Dupont, Florence. Daily Life in Ancient Rome. Oxford: Blackwell, 1989.
Galinsky, Karl. Augustan Culture. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1996.
Gransden, K.W. Virgil. The Aeneid. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990.
Lewisohn, Cedar. Street Art: the Graffiti Revolution. NY: Abrams, 2008.
Lindsay, J. The Writing on the Wall. London: Frederich Muller, 1960.
Milnor, Kristina. Graffiti & the Literary Landscape in Roman Pompeii. NY: Oxford, UP, 2014.
Milnor, Kristina. “Literary Literacy in Roman Pompeii: the Case of Vergil’s Aeneid,” Ancient Literacies: the
Culture of Reading in Greece and Rome, ed. William A. Johnson and Holt N. Parker. NY: Oxford UP,
2009. 288-329.
Richardson, L. Pompeii: An Architectural History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins U.P., 1988.
Tertulian, The Shows, or De Spectaculis, http://www.tertullian.org/
Thompson, Mary Lee. Programmatic Painting in Pompeii. PhD Diss: NYU, 1960.
The True Story of the Roman Arena (video). British Broadcasting Corporation.; Lionheart Television
International, Inc.; Films for the Humanities, 1994. Library or
Vitruvius. The Ten Books on Architecture, tr. Morris Morgan. NY: Dover, 1960.
Wallace-Hadrill, Andrew. Houses and Society in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Princeton: Princeton U.P.,
Next page: Paintings in the House of the Tragic Poet
from Bettina Bergmann’s "The Roman House as Memory Theater,” 239.
Key to Rooms:
1. Fauces (corridor)
2. Tabernae (shops)
3. Atrium (central hall/reception room)
4. Atriensis' Room (slave/usher in charge of
5. Vestibulum (entryway) and Storeroom
6. Cubicula ("bedrooms")
7. Ala (alcove)
8. Tablinum (dining and entertainment
9. Corridor
10. Porticoes and Peristyle (pleasure
11. Aedicular Lararium (shrine to the
household gods)
12. Possibly another cubiculum
13. Kitchen with Latrine
14. Cubicula
15. Entertainment Room
16. Posticum (minor entrance)