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Related: Ars Amatoria - decadence - bread and circuses - Pompeii - Domus Aurea - plebs
photo sourced here.
Pollice Verso (1872) - Jean-Léon Gérôme
photo sourced here.
Piranèse, Deuxième frontispice - Le Antichità Romane, tome II
Cleopatra (1934) - Cecil B. DeMille
image sourced here. [Apr 2005]
Roman empireThe Roman Empire's influence on government, law, and monumental architecture, as well as many other aspects of Western life remains inescapable. Roman titles of power were adopted by successor states and other entities with imperial pretensions, including the Frankish kingdom, the Holy Roman Empire, the Russian/Kiev dynasties (see czars), and the German Empire (see Kaiser). See also: Roman culture. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Roman_Empire [Jun 2004]
Erotic art [...]The pious Emperor Theodosius abstained from destroying the not very decent statues and other relics of the heathen, in order to perpetuate and expose all the absurdity and infamy of false religions, and to inspire contempt and hatred of them." --Sylvain Mareschal.
The ancient Roman and Greek cultures had a very different attitude about sexuality than successive European cultures, more akin to that of the Kama Sutra. This, of course, was unimaginable to latter day Europeans, who rigidly compartmentalized body, mind and spirit, and to whom any sexuality was sinful and morbid.
Some of the best artistic expressions of this can be found in the recovered city of Pompeii. Pompeii was frozen in time by the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D., and not unearthed until 1748. Pompeii was a seaside resort, devoted to the arts, relaxation, and the pursuit of pleasure. The excavators were horrified to discover erotic frescos, mosaics, statuary and phallic votive objects. The moveable erotic artifacts were taken to Naples and kept in seclusion in the Royal Museum. The erotic wall and floor art had lockable metal boxes constructed over them and were displayed to tourists for an extra fee (women and children excluded). When I visited Pompeii in the late 1960s, this peepshow was still in operation. --J. B. Hare http://www.sacred-texts.com/sex/rmn/ [Sept 2004]
Decadence in Rome
The idea of decadence refers to the supposed decline of a society because of moral weakness. The favourite example of this is ancient Rome, where, the story has it, a great empire was laid low by wicked emperors like Nero. Few bother to mention that Rome collapsed after generations of Christian rule. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decadent [Apr 2005]
On a broad cultural level
--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_decadence [Jun 2006]
- The increasing popularity of orgies: in the Roman world, the term orgy did not necessarily contain its modern sexual connotation. It referred to a party of unrestrained indulgence during which guests consumed copious quantities of food and drink to such excesses that they often relieved themselves by vomiting (though not in a room called a vomitorium).
- The increasing extravagance of popular entertainment: exemplified by the inauguration of the Colloseum under the emperor Titus. Dio Cassius said that 9,000 wild animals were killed in the one hundred days of celebration which inaugurated the amphitheatre opening.
The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776) - Edward Gibbon
The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a major literary achievement of Eighteenth Century, was written by the British historian, Edward Gibbon. Volume I was published in 1776, which went through five printings. This was a remarkable feat for its time. The second Volume was printed in 1781, and the final one in 1788. The original Volumes were not published together, but as quartos, a common publishing practice.
Often referred to as “the first modern historian,” Gibbon was a precursor for the more advanced methodologies of 19th and 20th century historians regarding his objectivity and accuracy in the use of reference material. His pessimism and detached use of irony is a common genre of his age. While not his only published book, Gibbon devoted the greater part of his life to this one work. Even his Autobiography Memoirs of My Life and Writings is devoted for the most part to his reflections on how the writing of the book consumed his entire life. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_History_of_the_Decline_and_Fall_of_the_Roman_Empire [Jan 2005]
ChristianityChristianity is based upon the teachings of Jesus, a Jew who lived his life in the Roman province of Palestine. Roman communications networks enabled Christianity to spread quickly throughout the Roman empire and eventually to the rest of Europe, and finally the entire globe.
Caligula [...]Gaius Caesar Germanicus (August 31, AD 12 - January 24, AD 41), also known as Gaius Caesar or Caligula, was a Roman emperor born in Antium (modern day Anzio) and reigned 37-41 AD. Known for his extremely extravagant, eccentric, and sometimes cruel despotism, he was assassinated in 41 by several of his own guards.
Santa Maria della Concezione
Rome is a very un-Gothic city, but lovers of the macabre will appreciate the baroque Santa Maria della Concezione in the Via Veneto (focus of Fellini's La Dolce Vita) which was once visited by the Marquis de Sade. Its crypt houses the bones of thousands of Capuchin friars. Piles of bones and skulls are one thing, but the really bizarre aspect of this ossuary is the way in which vertebrae and jawbones are arranged in patterns on the walls and ceilings. A final macabre and ogreish touch is provided by the mummified monks, child skeletons and lamps made from human bones. An inscription reads: "Quello che voi siete noi eravamo, quello che noi siamo voi sarete." (What you are we were, what we are you will be.) Another church with a strong theme of death is the Santa Maria dell'Orazione e Morte, Via Giulia, which can be found around the back of the Palazzo Farnese in the Campo de' Fiori area.
Rome is not short of churches. You can't hope to cover them all, but those with pagan sympathies shouldn't miss the Santa Maria in Cosmedin in the Aventine which contains the Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth). This has been described as a pre-4th Century "drain cover" and may represent a riverine god. It strongly recalls the bas-relief from the Roman baths at Aqua Sulis (Bath) in England. --http://www.fluxeuropa.com/rome-places_to_visit.htm
5th Century, End of the Western Roman Empire, start of the Middle AgesThe Middle Ages was the middle period in a schematic division of European history into three 'ages': Classical civilization, the Middle Ages, and Modern Civilization. It is commonly considered as having lasted from the end of the Western Roman Empire (5th century) until the rise of national monarchies and the beginnings of demographic and economic renewal after the Black Death, European overseas exploration and the cultural revival known as the Renaissance around the 15th century as well as the Protestant Reformation starting 1517. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval, Mar 2004
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