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A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the World's Greatest Empire

Overview

Here is a whimsical and captivating collection of odd facts, strange beliefs, outlandish opinions, and other highly amusing trivia of the ancient Romans. We tend to think of the Romans as a pragmatic people with a ruthlessly efficient army, an exemplary legal system, and a precise and elegant language. A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities shows that the Romans were equally capable of bizarre superstitions, logic-defying customs, and often hilariously derisive views of their fellow ...

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A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the World's Greatest Empire

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Overview

Here is a whimsical and captivating collection of odd facts, strange beliefs, outlandish opinions, and other highly amusing trivia of the ancient Romans. We tend to think of the Romans as a pragmatic people with a ruthlessly efficient army, an exemplary legal system, and a precise and elegant language. A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities shows that the Romans were equally capable of bizarre superstitions, logic-defying customs, and often hilariously derisive views of their fellow Romans and non-Romans.
Classicist J. C. McKeown has organized the entries in this entertaining volume around major themes—The Army, Women, Religion and Superstition, Family Life, Medicine, Slaves, Spectacles—allowing for quick browsing or more deliberate consumption. Among the book's many gems are:

· Romans on urban living:
The satirist Juvenal lists "fires, falling buildings, and poets reciting in August as hazards to life in Rome."

· On enhanced interrogation:
"If we are obliged to take evidence from an arena-fighter or some other such person, his testimony is not to be believed unless given under torture." (Justinian)

· On dreams:
Dreaming of eating books "foretells advantage to teachers, lecturers, and anyone who earns his livelihood from books, but for everyone else it means sudden death"

· On food:
"When people unwittingly eat human flesh, served by unscrupulous restaurant owners and other such people, the similarity to pork is often noted." (Galen)

· On marriage:
In ancient Rome a marriage could be arranged even when the parties were absent, so long as they knew of the arrangement, "or agreed to it subsequently."

· On health care:
Pliny caustically described medical bills as a "down payment on death," and Martial quipped that "Diaulus used to be a doctor, now he's a mortician. He does as a mortician what he did as a doctor."

For anyone seeking an inglorious glimpse at the underside of the greatest empire in history, A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities offers endless delights.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This cabinet is as true to the Roman world as the highbrow history it eschews. Whether we use it as a gift to friends or light reading for ourselves, the readers' understanding of the ancients will be enriched by the stories they take away from this treasure chest of curiosities." —Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"Zestful. This book could persuade the most history-hating student to fall in love with ancient Rome. It's a highly entertaining read." —Sunday Times

"Entertaining" —Times Literary Supplement

"To be enjoyed as a lighthearted Romanophile outing." —UNRV.com

"The esteemed classicist J.C. McKeown shows in his Cabinet of Roman Curiosities, the ancients were as passionate, opinionated, and curious as we are today-if not more so. A madcap smorgasbord of the ancient world."—The Daily Beast

"Readers' understanding of the ancients will be enriched by the stories they take away from this treasure chest of curiosities."—Bryn Mawr Classical Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195393750
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 6/3/2010
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 808,951
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

J. C. McKeown is Professor of Classics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the author of Ovid's Amores.

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Table of Contents

Chapter I Family Life 1

Chapter II Women 8

Chapter III Names 16

Chapter IV Education 28

Chapter V The Army 32

Chapter VI Romans at Sea 44

Chapter VII The Law 50

Chapter VIII Farming 58

Chapter IX Medicine 64

Chapter X Religion and Superstition 78

Chapter XI The Life of the Mind 92

Chapter XII Foreigners 100

Chapter XIII Slaves 111

Chapter XIV Animals 118

Chapter XV Spectacles 139

Chapter XVI Food and Drink 150

Chapter XVII Decadence 164

Chapter XVIII Buildings 171

Chapter XIX Pompeii and Herculaneum 181

Chapter XX Toilets 185

Chapter XXI Not for the Puritanical 193

Chapter XXII Tempus Fugit 199

Chapter XXIII Kings, Consuls, and Emperors 203

Glossary 233

The Coin Images 241

Illustration Credits 243

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