Popular culture can provide us with information on many things about the world. In this way, it is possible to learn a lot of information from historical events to life itself. However, some information in popular culture is also likely to be deceptive. The rapid production and dissemination of popular culture information can be cited as the reason for this. Especially some information dictated by serials and movies is the most common area where these erroneous sharings are seen. Some basic information about Ancient Rome undoubtedly gets its share from this situation. So what we know and hear about Ancient Rome is true?
If you are ready, let’s see what are the known mistakes about Ancient Rome together 👇
1. Did Julius Caesar really ask “you too, Brutus”?
While Julius Caesar was attacked in the senate by his fellow senators, a final blow came from his close friend Brutus. In response, Caesar’s famous “You too, Brutus?” allegedly asked the question. So, was this phrase really coined by Caesar or was it a fabrication of popular culture?
In the book titled “Twelve Caesars” written by Suetonius in the 2nd century AD, information about the origin of this event was shared. According to the book, Caesar did not say anything during his own murder and died where he was. Another source, Plutach (1-2nd century AD), confirms that the situation was similar in his book Lives. That is, it is stated that Caesar did not speak when he died.
2. Were Rome’s ships pulled by rowing slaves?
Another opinion that popular culture has formed through movies is about ship slavery. Accordingly, slaves; In Rome, they took on a task limited to rowing only. They were worked under harsh conditions, often with chains and whips. Many references to this example were made in the 1959 movie Ben Hur. In the movie, the rowers who were slaves were employed on Roman ships.
But did this reflect reality? Historian Alex von Tunzelmann claimed the opposite in a statement to the Guardian newspaper. Tunzelmann said that Roman slaves worked for a large wage. While He preferred this, he added that they wanted it with a free choice. So he completely denied that there was paddle slavery in Rome.
3. Was the ancient Roman city built entirely out of marble?
People’s perception of Rome is similar in many parts of the world. We think that the city of Rome was made entirely of marble. This perception was created especially through movies named Gladiator, Ben Hur and Julius Caesar. However, many historians state that Rome was actually built with various building materials. For example, expressions describing the incident of Emperor Nero’s burning of Rome can be cited as a source for this situation. Sky History’s post that “houses, mostly made of brick, wood, and concrete, burned rapidly” proves that Rome was not entirely made of marble.
4. Were the names of the Roman gods actually modifications of the names of the Greek gods?
This is one of the popular culture claims that has spread with movies called Immortals, Clash of the Titans, Hercules and the 12 Missions of Asterix. Allegedly, the names of the Roman gods were derived from Greek gods. Therefore, the claim that Roman gods actually originated in Ancient Greece has been frequently expressed. So what do the real sources say about this issue?
According to historians, this is a complete fabrication! As evidence for this, it will suffice to examine the hierarchy of gods belonging to the Romans themselves. Rome had created and named its gods within their historical context. In addition, the Romans had a more complex system of gods than the Greeks. They worshiped minor gods and goddesses as well as major gods.
5. Did all Romans speak the same language?
This was one of the unfounded claims about Rome made through pop culture. Roman citizens could not speak and communicate in one language. Yes, Latin was a widely spoken language, but it was not a language that belonged to the whole society. Latin was used effectively especially when it came to state and military affairs. Despite this, the borders of the Roman Empire were wide. Communities from various tribes lived in it. As a result, these communities spoke their own language. Therefore, a serious mistake was made in movies like The Eagle, Rome (TV series) Gladiator and The Last Legion. In these films, the same language was spoken in every inch of Rome, which was a complete fabrication.
6. Did everyone wear a Toga in Rome?
Popular culture claimed through movies and TV series that everyone in Rome wore a toga. Especially movies like Gladiator, Agora and Pompeii created such a perception. However, this in itself is a false proposition. In Rome, not everyone wore a toga, with a uniform logic.
Because the toga was woolen and multi-piece, it could only be worn by the wealthy. In addition, the toga was the preferred garment only in imperial affairs and in the senate. A very serious part of the Roman people did not wear toga. People mostly preferred clothes made of cotton, silk and even simple fabrics according to their income level.
7. Did gladiators always fight to the death?
Another unfounded popular culture claim spread by TV series and movies! Gladiators were fierce and fierce warriors, but the main purpose of the fights was not to cause death. Gladiators were recruited and trained by merchant trainers called Lanistae. These warriors were earning serious financial income per game they fought. As a result, the trader would earn a lot in trainers. For this reason, no one wanted their gladiators to die. For this reason, the games were generally based on the motto of giving up.
Works such as Gladiator, Spartacus, and Shadow of Rome (video game) are the main owners of this groundless claim of popular culture.
8. How true is the claim that Rome was not founded in a day, but was destroyed overnight?
This is partly true and partly false. Yes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It has made a name for itself by rising in the historical process. The claim that it was destroyed overnight is one of the popular culture fabrications. This unfounded claim, especially derived from the films “The Fall of the Roman Empire” and “The Last Legion”, caused serious confusion. According to these films, Rome was attacked by barbarian tribes and was destroyed overnight.
The process leading to the destruction of the Roman Empire actually covers a long period. The factors that gradually overthrew Rome were not one but a combination of many. Climate, economy, diseases, political and military events were the events that paved the way for the destruction of Rome. The empire was divided into east and west. The Western Roman Empire entered the process of collapse after it was plundered by the Visigoths in AD 410. The East, on the other hand, was erased from the stage of history when the Ottoman Empire put an end to this empire. As can be understood from this information, Rome was destroyed not overnight, but over a period of decades.
9. Did the Romans only have white skin?
When we examine the films of Gladiator, Pompeii, Ben Hur and even The Eagle, we witness an interesting situation. According to these films, everyone in the regions spread within Rome’s vast borders has an overwhelmingly white complexion. This is an impossible fabrication in terms of both ethnicity and the DNA structure of that period.
So how was ethnicity in the Roman Empire? The borders of Rome were spread over a very wide area. People of various races and appearances lived within these broad borders. There were many examples from blacks to white-skinned Gauls and to the darker Thracian peoples. The city of Rome, on the other hand, owed its cosmopolitan nature to being the capital of the empire. It was not possible for this genetic pool of people of all colors and races to display a uniform appearance. As a result, this claim of popular culture about Rome is also unfounded!
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