A loaf of bread made in the first century AD, which was discovered at Pompeii, preserved for centuries in the volcanic ashes of Mount Vesuvius. The markings visible on the top are made from a Roman bread stamp, which bakeries were required to use in order to mark the source of the loaves, and to prevent fraud. (via Ridiculously Interesting)
(sigh) I’ve seen these before, but this one’s particularly beautiful.
I feel like I’m supposed to be marveling over the fact that this is a loaf of bread that’s been preserved for thousands of years, and don’t get me wrong, that’s hella cool. But honestly, I’m mostly struck by the unexpected news that “bread fraud” was apparently once a serious concern.
Bread Fraud was a huge thing, Bread was provided to the Roman people by the government - bakers were given grain to make the free bread, but some of them stole the government grain to use in other baked goods and would add various substitutes, like sawdust or even worse things, to the bread instead. So if people complained that their free bread was not proper bread, the stamp told them exactly whose bakery they ought to burn down.
Bread stamps continued to be used at least until the Medieval period in Europe. Any commercially sold bread had to be stamped with an official seal to identify the baker to show that it complied with all rules and regulations about size, price, and quality. This way, rotten or undersized loaves could be traced back to the baker. Bakers could be pilloried, sent down the streets in a hurdle cart with the offending loaf tied around their neck, fined, or forbidden to engage in baking commercially ever again in that city. There are records of a baker in London being sent on a hurdle cart because he used an iron rod to increase the weight of his loaves, and another who wrapped rotten dough with fresh who was pilloried. Any baker hurdled three times had to move to a new city if they wanted to continue baking.
If you have made bread, you are probably familiar with a molding board. It’s a flat board used to shape the bread. Clever fraudsters came up with a molding board that had a little hole drilled into it that wasn’t easily noticed. A customer would buy his dough by weight, and then the baker would force some of that dough through the hole, so they could sell and underweight loaf and use the stolen dough to bake new loafs to sell. Molding boards ended up being banned in London after nine different bakers were caught doing this. There were also instances of grain sellers withholding grain to create an artificial scarcity drive up the price of that, and things like bread.
Bread, being one of the main things that literally everyone ate in many parts of the world, ended up with a plethora of rules and regulations. Bakers were probably no more likely to commit fraud than anyone else, but there were so many of them, that we ended up with lots and lots of rules and records of people being shifty.
Check out Fabulous Feasts: Medieval Cookery and Ceremony by Madeleine Pelner Cosman for a whole chapter on food laws as they existed in about 1400. Plus the color plates are fantastic.
Bread is serious fucking business.
Man the bread fandom don’t put up with shit at all.
Ides of March Special: Silver Denarius of Marcus Brutus, Macedonia, 43-42 BCE
This coin was struck in honour of Marcus Junius Brutus, one of the assassins of Julius Caesar. The reverse shows the cap of liberty given to freed slaves flanked by two daggers. This indicates Brutus’ intention of freeing Rome from Caesar’s imperial ambitions and the murder weapons employed to do so. Below is the day of the deed; EID.MAR, the ides of March.
Few coins capture a moment in history with such stark and brutal imagery. Brutus had carried out the attack with some fellow Roman Senators in 44 BC when Caesar had come unarmed to address the Senate on 15 March. This day was known to the Romans as the ides, or the middle day of the month and was recognised on a new calendar system that Caesar himself had established just two years before.
The assassins, or ‘freedom party’ as they regarded themselves, fled Rome to Macedonia to raise an army. However, they were defeated by Caesar’s allies led by Mark Antony and Octavian at the Battle of Philippi (42 BC). Brutus subsequently committed suicide.
The decision to flee east was probably influenced by the richness of the provinces of the eastern Roman Empire - raising an army was a very costly business. Supplies needed to be bought and soldiers needed wages. Amongst the coins the conspirators briefly struck to this end was this, the ‘Ides of March’ denarius.
P. Matyszak, Chronicle of the Roman Republi (London, Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2005)
M.H. Crawford, Roman republican coinage (Cambridge University Press, 1974)
this scene is so great in explaining male sexuality in rome - roman men aren’t meant to be desired, because being desired is a passive state, which is why they can fuck pretty much whomever they want, as long as they are the penetrators (… lol) - while also being, like, the funniest scene in the show. it’s so hard to screencap, though, because it’s all in lyndsey marshal’s eyebrows as she takes vorenus’ measure, and kevin mckidd practically quivering in fear.
… and then shaking with lust ;)
Brighten up your day with some striking images of Antinous, Emperor Hadrian’s young lover who is known and loved by fandom from the “Antinous farouche” that Hugo provocatively uses to describe Enjolras.
Hadrian’s very public and lasting relationship with the low-born young man scandalized the Roman elite, but the real controversy didn’t begin until Antinous mysteriously drowned and the distraught Hadrian deified him. This is actually what intrigues me most about the Enjolras comparison; the pretty and gay make for fun reading, but I’m particularly fascinated by how Antinous became an object of popular devotion, official outcry against his apotheosis notwithstanding. This absolute nobody who may even have been a slave somehow caught the emperor’s eye, became his beloved, then ascended to the heavens. Among all the aristocratic gods of the classical pantheon, Antinous represented the people. As best I can tell, his cult lasted for centuries.
His beauty was famous and his face shows up in a ton of art from the period, often as Apollo or Dionysus. Should you ever be lucky enough to find yourself in a gallery with Roman statues, you can actually play the game of trying to pick him out. Just find the prettiest marble man in the room and chances are you’ll have him.
A final note: while I absolutely love “Antinous farouche” as a descriptor, and understand why the adjective is necessary to make the comparison about something other than just sex, the actual Antinous had plenty of ferocity of his own. Don’t let Hugo make you think he was just posing on imperial couches and looking pretty. He accompanied Hadrian on his travels around the empire and the two were apparently known for hunting lions together. Lions!
The Empress Sabina, Roman, C. 130 CE
Museo Nacional del Prado, On View in Room 71
“Vibia Sabina (83-136 A.D.), a relative of Trajan, was married very young to the future emperor, Hadrian. This portrait, made towards the end of her life, around 130, denotes the intention to create an intemporal image, free of the passage of time.”
Sabina was so purty. Too bad her husband was gay. But then she probably managed to gets hers somewhere, since she had a whole palace to herself (and her many, many servants) while Hadrian was out gallivanting across Greece and Egypt.