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Happy Floralia

April 28, 2014

I wouldn't want to break with tradition here, and since today marks another obscure Roman holiday, I thought I would go ahead and write about that.  I mean, I could be doing work.  Or writing about work.  But I'm not.  I'm also heading a lot of sentences with conjunctions, which is a no no.  But, what are you going to do?  Not read my blog?  You and 7 billion other people.

Anyway, April 28th is the first day of Floralia, sometimes known as ludi Florae, or the Games of Flora.  Flora was an ancient goddess sacred to the Romans, most likely arriving in their culture via all the Sabine women that they kidnapped and raped incorporated  into their society.  A temple dedicated to Flora was built on the Aventine Hill, very near the Circus Maximus.  There was a second temple dedicated to her, or to Flora Rustica (she liked it rough), on the Quirinal Hill.  One or both of these were dedicated during the Roman "regal period," when Rome was ruled by a king, before the Republic and the Empire.

If I keep this up, I'll name all seven of the Roman hills.  Four more to go, meretrices!

Flora was a goddess of flowers, plants, vegetation, and fertility.  You probably could have guessed that much without the explanation, just based on her name along.  With the coming of the new growth and the reemergence of green vegetation after the winter, it was natural for the celebrations surrounding Flora to occur during the spring.  Thanks to this, she was assumed to be a personification of the spring, or a goddess of the spring.  Thus, she was venerated during the games that came at the end of April; her celebration lasted for six days.  While she was not one of the "big" names in Roman mythology, she was nevertheless important, especially considering her association with the spring, rebirth, and the growing of plants.

One important note about the Games of Flora, especially for us Westerners and especially for Christians:  animals, especially goats, rabbits and hares, were released during the games to celebrate Flora and her gift of fecundity.  These animals were chosen based on their "fertile and salacious" nature, according to Roman poet Ovid.  Another interesting tie-in with modern Christianity, although possibly more loosely tied-in, is the notion that, for Floralia, Romans eschewed the wearing of white garments and instead chose more colorful attire, similar to the pastels we associate with the spring and especially with Easter.  Hell, might as well stretch all the way to the coloring of eggs, too, right?  Why not.  It's Floralia, after all!

The celebrations involved plays, dances, and, of course, games.  Two things of note for the Floralia, though:  one, it was more a Plebian holiday, whereas most of the other celebrations in Rome heavily favored the Patrician families.  Since the common folks participated so readily in the celebration, Floralia was popular with the people, even if Flora was not considered one of the big, important goddesses--especially if you compare her to Ops or Ceres.  The other interesting thing about Floralia was that prostitutes actively participated in the games.  Normally, prostitutes were kept on the edges of society, no matter how valuable their services were to the populace.  Since most prostitutes were slaves, they were excluded from society and were not considered citizens of Rome.  Even women who were not slaves but entered into prostitution were thusly excluded from society.  However, all prostitutes, even prostitutes who were not slaves, participated in the games, showing that even the whores were not completely excluded from Roman society.  Their activities, aside from the obvious, included mock gladitorial battles, dancing naked (now we're talking!) in public displays, and performing their own plays--hopefully naked, as well.  Hooray, prostitutes!

So, gather up your goats and rabbits, pelt your friends with beans and lupins, and go watch some strippers dance around a pole or two.  It's Floralia!  Get out there and celebrate it!

Felix Dies Natalis, Roma!!!

April 21, 2014

I keep meaning to tell you about my new life, but, hahahahahahahahahahaha, whatevs.  I'll get to it eventually.

The one thing that has struck me as strange is that I picked up a new follower, though I can't identify who the noob is.  I find this remarkable because I've been staring at the same 107 pictures and names for the past year or so, and then someone new pops up and confuses me.  Regardless, welcome to the fold, my new friend.  I hope you're not scared away by the word "vagina."

The reason for not telling you about the "exciting changes" in my life today, however, is that we have a very important birthday to celebrate today:  Rome's.  That's right, the Eternal City was founded on April 21st, 753 BC.  In Roman terms, this was year 0 AUC, which stands for ab urbe condita, or "from the founding of the City."  It was a Roman demarcation of time, which makes sense.  The Romans didn't give much of a shit about what happened before their majestic home and city was founded.

They didn't give much of a shit, not because they were proud (well, okay, they were a little full of themselves), but because the place where Rome currently sits was a majestic slophole of a swamp prior to Romulus cracking his brother over the head with a spade and then breaking ground on his new home.  A slophole, I might add, that was inhabited by a bunch of fucking savages--like a town in New Jersey with a Quick Stop.

You've heard about the Seven Hills, right?  The Seven Hills are the seven hills (duh) surrounding the Tiber river on which the city of Rome was built.  The ancient Romans chose to live on those hills because the valley was an insufferable bog rife with malaria-bearing mosquitoes, and the lowland wasn't really all that habitable until the Cloaca Maxima (or, "largest sewer") was constructed.  Even then, in the beginning, it was more for draining the lowlands and may not have been the best at removing waste from the city itself.  It took subsequent improvements on the sewer system to make it more effective.  In the beginning, it was still open the atmosphere around, so mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects could still breed in the water that was being transported away.

It's kind of strange to think about how far we've come in 2700 years...

Romulus went on to become the first king of Rome.  We don't know who his parents were, because he was found in the wild and suckled by a she-wolf until he became a man, along with his twin brother, Remus.  I mean, his real parents.  Romulus and Remus were the offspring of a Vestal Virgin and Mars, the Roman god of war (and, originally, agriculture).  However, Virgil, while writing the Aeneid, was able to link Romulus and Remus (they're a package set, until it became king-making time) to the hero Aeneas, who fled the burning city of Troy after Odysseus et al. snuck into the city and ended the war.  You remember that, right?  Big wooden badger horse and all?  Good.

Aeneas, after doing his own tour of the Mediterranean world--including plowing Dido, Queen of Carthage--went on to become one of the people who helped found Rome.  After plowing Dido's fields for a while (figuratively, as Carthage didn't have a lot of agricultural lands), Dido wanted a little more commitment, and Aeneas said, "Pax, ex sum!"  He then crossed the Mediterranean from north Africa to the boot of Italy.  There, he met a cat named Evander who told Aeneas where a great place to found a great city was.  That place, naturally, was the Seven Hills (and nasty swamp).

So, here we are, celebrating Rome's birthday, with three possible founders.  Incidentally, Evander was a Greek who fled the southern part of Greece and settled with his many followers on one of the hills of Rome--the Palantine Hill, if you must know.  It is from here that we get the word "palace."  When Evander was showing Aeneas around, he probably said something like, "See, this is my hill.  You go over there and settle on one of those other six hills.  Capisce?"  He totally said that, because it's Italian, and when in the place where Rome will eventually be founded, do as the people who will eventually become Roman do.  Er, yeah.

This is what the founding of Rome most likely was:  an accumulation and aggregation of the tribes that lived on the seven hills under one crown, the king being Romulus.  From there, with the city founded, they went on to war with the surrounding tribes, including the Latins (from whom the Romans stole a language), the Sabines (from whom the Romans stole women), and the Etruscans (from whom the Romans stole a peninsula).

So, in your post-Easter ham coma, and before we start planting trees on Earth Day tomorrow, if you're feeling like you need a reason to celebrate, why not take a moment to wish Rome a happy 2767th birthday.  Darling, you look marvelous, not a day over 2500, if I do say so, myself.