“It Augurs Well”

An Augur

If you’re planning a life move, like invading Gaul, it’s good to know what the gods are thinking.

In Ancient Rome this required a chat with an Augur.

They were officials who interpreted omens and were seemingly able to provide readings on demand.

One method involved offering food to a sacred group of chickens. If they ate it, all was well; but if they turned their beaks up at the offering, or failed to leave the coop, it meant the gods disapproved.

I don’t know how much weight different individuals gave these prophecies but Publius Claudius Pulcher was certainly sceptical. He drowned a set of chickens that refused food ahead of the Battle of Sicily, declaring that they should drink since they were unwilling to eat.

He lost the battle….

Those who can teach Rhetoric

In 301 AD Emperor Diocletion set maximum prices for goods and services across the empire in order to tackle inflation, which was out of control.


Price edict2I was very excited when I stumbled upon this information because I thought it might allow me to work out whether a pint of beer was more affordable to your average 3rd century Roman or 21st century Brit.

Unsurprisingly, others have also sought to use Diocletion’s Price Edict to make judgements about ancient living standards; and it turns out that it’s rather more complex than it looks at first glance.

Still I think it’s to say lawyers did pretty well from themselves and if you had to be a Roman teacher you might want to specialise in Rhetoric.


When York ruled the world

There is something about a Roman Emperor in Yorkshire that just seems slightly unlikely.

But God’s own county was home to the Emperor Septimus Severus between 208 – 211AD when he used Roman York (Emoracum) as a base for his campaigns against the Caladonians.

Emperor Septimus Severus

He’s actually one of two emperors to have died in York. The second being Emperor Constantius who ruled between 293 and 306 AD


All roads lead to….Cirencester

Did you know Cirencester was the second biggest settlement in Roman Britain?

It was certainly news to me.

The Cotswold town, which was then known as Corinium, was at the junction of three Roman roads and is thought to have had a population of up to 20,000. If correct, that would mean there were more people living in Cirencester in the 3 and 4th centuries AD, than there are today.

Not too much remains of Roman Cirencester but you can still make out the shape of the town’s amphitheatre


Some Things Never Change

Poor stepmothers, they don’t always get a great press and it seems that’s nothing new.

In his essay, On Contentment, Plutarch tells the story of a man who hurled a stone at dog but missed and hit his stepmother: “That’s not bad either!”, he said.

Plutarch was using the story to explain how an intelligent person can find something useful in any situation.