As I said last time, Romans liked colors. They painted the walls of their homes with different shades of red, white and green, often mixed with mosaics, patterns, or detailed murals. Often, the outsides of the houses were painted too. In the recreated houses in Xanthen, the color of choice was a dark-ish red. In these two photos you can see a restored restaurant, but the color was the same as on the private homes. I cannot tell you if the archeologists got that from research in Roman documents, from finds on other sites (like Pompeij) or from finds on this site, but it surely looked nice.
The restored restaurant even had a cellar, a feature many of the houses didn’t have. But the restaurant had to keep wine and vegetables cooled. Storing them underground was the best way to keep them because even in summer, the soil remained fresh and cold in a cellar. The thick walls and the buried amphorae ensured this. Food was fetched as needed.
I can’t tell how many houses shared this feature but would expect that at least the upper class had their own cellars if for wine only.
Not far from the restored restaurant were the remains of a smithy. You can see how sturdily the foundations were built. Some bricks were built in vertically to better spread out the weight of walls, floors, and furniture resting on top of them. This photo is quite interesting because by the size and form of the foundations one can determine where the walls used to be, and also where the furnace and the anvil must have stood.The open areas between the foundations were there to allow the hot air from the floor heating to circulate.
At home the Romans dressed casually but, since Germany was a comparatively cold country, with warm dresses. The Roman men adapted with time and often wore the long under-trousers that German men wore. The toys of the children were often similar to those still used today (waddling animals like ducks, spinning tops, marbles, etc.). Shoes were made of leather and protected the feet from the cold and the sharpest shards. Still, you felt every stone through the thin sole (I know because I bought a pair for myself. They’re very comfortable but much like walking barefoot).
As far as I could tell, Romans loved bright colors. The fabrics in the rooms we saw were mostly yellows, greens, reds, and the natural shades of wool. Strangely enough I didn’t see any floor coverings or wall hangings (like carpets or tapestries). I’m not sue if they didn’t exist or if the reconstructing people just didn’t think them important. To me, the rooms looked rather spartan (in the modern sense of the word since Romans most likely didn’t copy Spartan living styles 😀 )
When the Romans left the house, they had a strict dress code. The amount and quality of the fabric a person wore depended on the family’s financial situation. The more and the better, the higher your status. Togas were used for keeping warm during winter but also for showing respect. For example: women who didn’t cover their feet with the toga they were wearing weren’t respectable. In Roman times, only whores and the very poor would show their feet. A man could even divorce his wife if she was seen withe more than the tips of her toes showing beneath her toga. So the picture on the right is wrong in that regard (I’ll tell you in a later post how I learned these details).
As you can see in the picture on the left, security measures during work weren’t yet invented. Like this smith, the Romans wore comfortable clothes for even the most dangerous work. I bet there were a lot of work related accidents.
Germans wore far warmer clothing. Since they didn’t have amenities like heated floors, they wore long skirts and heavy trousers even inside their houses. Outside they usually had several layers to keep off the cold and the rain. I guess in summer they wore pretty much the same indoors as out. But our guide didn’t say anything about that, so that’s guesswork on my side.
I believe that most Romans in Xanthen bought their fabric from Germans except for the richest who surely imported theirs directly from Rome. But not everybody had the means to do that. Our guide confirmed active trading.
One of the shops we visited was a smithy. I was surprised by the tiny size of the fireplace (that’s the little gridiron in the middle of the red painted wall). I think in winter, it must have been quite cold for those people who didn’t have floor heating. After all, Germany was colder, wetter, and all in all less comfortable that Italy. I’m sure many of the inhabitants wished they’d stayed in Rome.
The smithy worked with silver if I remember correctly. For an iron forge, the furnace is too small. Not too far from the recreated houses were the remains of a iron forge, and it had three furnaces and ground heating. However, it hadn’t been reconstructed, so one had to use one’s imagination.
Everyone who owned a little shop worked and sold their wares from home (on the other side of the bellows, outside the picture, is the room-wide wooden counter for selling wares; the whole front of the room could be opened to the street). There was no separation between small and medium sized businesses and the owner’s living quarters. They were mostly in the same house. Only big industries (like the dockyards, farming, or stone masonry) had their work-spaces outside the city.
Romans loved luxury, and those who could afford it, wanted to celebrate like in Rome. So there were restaurants with bed-sofas. Each of the little rooms (see picture) could hold nine men (no women allowed there unless they were whores). It surprised me to learn that Romans didn’t always lie down for eating. That was only done for feasting. At home, they had wooden tables with chairs or stools. The children often stood while eating.
Romans also insisted on cleanliness. Bath houses were spread throughout the city so every citizen had access. There was a really big one for the higher classes near the town center, but the park’s owners had built the museum on top of it. Still, there were enough foundations to understand the basic layout. Also, they had reconstructed on of the bath houses.
The genders bathed in different facilities. The first room a customer entered was a cold room for undressing. The next one was already quite warm and had basins with warm and cold water. It as often used for shaving and washing before one went on to the last room. Upon one’s return it also served for cooling down slowly. It was heated extremely well and the water was as warm as it is in one of today’s bathtubs. The main point of this room was relaxation (and surely talking business as well). The big bathhouse had some smaller rooms at the side for massages or whoring or simply for resting, but the reconstructed bathhouse didn’t have those.
I was most delighted by the colorful designs of the houses. The archeologists used historical finds from other areas to recreate the rooms, and they were much more colorful than what I’d anticipated.
Truly spectacular was the reconstructed housing complex. The new houses were built over the foundations of the original Roman houses but with a security layer so the originals wouldn’t get harmed in any way. The whole complex was surrounded by roof covered sidewalks. The ground of the sidewalks differed from one property to the next since every home owner had their preference. They were allowed to use different sorts of paving or stamped earth.
Visiting the houses brought to life the way humans have lived so long ago. Each house had a little garden with a shed or another small building on it. The outhouses usually contained the toilet and rooms for the slaves, equipment, and provisions. In the main house the family rooms were on the first floor. The ground floor consisted mostly in a shop that was open to the paved road outside. Only a wooden counter separated the shop from the sidewalk.
The houses were built of tamped loam and decorated prettily with bright colors. The roofs were mostly tiled, only a few of the sheds were shingled. An interesting fact is that none of the houses had chimneys, even though every room had a small fire place, and the houses of the richer people had floor heating. The view from a rear window or balcony resembles those of a serial house today: long, narrow garden, walls (today it’s fences) between the properties, and grass (often with a few bushes) on the ground.
The rooms of the family on the first floor were beautifully decorated but sparsely furnished. Romans were very fond of bright colors and regular patterns. The room in the picture would have been the bedroom of a whole biological family (there was a crib in the other corner but it didn’t fit into the picture and I didn’t dare move it), most likely the home owner’s. The parents would sleep in the double bed, the children in the spare bed, and the baby in the crib. Servants slept on the same floor in rooms with less decoration. Everyone owned a trunk for their belongings.
Only the slaves did not stay in the houses over night. They had a separate platform above important equipment and/or provisions. All slaves slept on the platform in bedrolls.
I found it surprising how much comfort the Romans already had. Their lifestyle wasn’t all that different from ours. When one thinks of the Iron Age, one doesn’t expect this kind of lifestyle. The recreated houses impressed on me how much the Germans missed out on when Arminius defeated the Romans. True, they weren’t exactly easy masters, and freedom is important. However, the kind of civilization they would have brought might have changed my home country in a way that would still matter today.
Eventually we came to the reconstructed houses and the part that interested my husband a lot: the toilets (after all, he’s head of a waste water disposal facility). As we already knew from books, the Romans used toilets with more than one seat and no separations between (see photo). They often met in toilets to talk business. Below the wooden (or sometimes stone) seats, there was running water that took the feces away. The Romans used sticks with a cloth wrapped end that they dipped into the water to clean their private parts.
No one was offended by using a toilet with other people. There were toilets for men and for women but also toilets where men and women went together. As our guide said, toilets were a favorite place for whores to hang around.
Interesting enough, the proverb ‘money does not stink’ (pecunia non olet) does not come from a tax on multi-people toilets as I’d thought. It is ascribed to the Roman emperor Vespasian who put a tax on the distribution of urine from public urinals (the Roman lower classes urinated into amphorae which were emptied into cesspools). The urine collected from public urinals was sold as an ingredient for tanning, for laundry, and for cleaning and whitening woolen togas.
The Romans also knew that waste water for more than a handful of people needed to be taken care of (after all there were ca. 5,000 people living in that town). Therefore, they build a deep, covered canal (the Cloaca Maxima, see photo) with sidearms to every block of houses. Smaller canals came from the individual houses to these sidearms. The water that ran constantly through the toilets flushed the Cloaca Maxima and the feces ended up in the Rhine that took them away.
In some places there were access hatches indicating that there were people who took care that the Cloaca Maxima didn’t get clogged. Imagine the stink in the tight place there (the height of the Cloaca Maxima in Xanthen was barely 1.5 m), and you know how miserable a person had to be (or how high the pay) to take that job. 😀
Clean drinking water did not come from the Rhine (and for very good reasons, imho) but from a spring in the nearby mountains. An aqueduct brought it directly into the city where it was distributed to the houses, to the bath houses, and especially to the toilets. However, for washing and other water-consuming tasks, Romans often used rainwater collected in cisterns. In other towns there were also water supply wells but not here.
Already filled to the brim with interesting facts and marvelous sights, hubby and I traveled onward to Xanthen. The medieval part of that little town is fascinating. It even has two windmills, one directly in the town, the other a bit outside. However, the crowning jewel is the archeological park with the partly reconstructed Roman buildings. Right after entering, there’s a three-dimensional map that shows the reconstructed buildings in dark grey and the areas that still need to be examined in light grey. In the Photo, I colored the Rhine in blue so you can see how close it was to the city. These days. the bank is a lot wider since the river has moved in the last 1500 years.
Xanthen was founded as a Colonia, which means it was a civilian city with a lot of privileges. It was designed by (or more likely the design was approved by) Emperor Traian. It was destroyed around 275 and abandoned. There also was a permanent military fort nearby, but that wasn’t the focus in the museum park.
Naturally the town had everything a Colonia had to have: a Colosseum, temples, bathhouses, houses for living, houses for governing, waste water disposal, fresh water pipelines and so on.
My husband and I were particularly fascinated by the partially reconstructed Colosseum. Look how symmetric the supports were. It was absolutely great to see that the original supports were still partially visible after more than 1500 years when most of the stones from the other buildings had been taken away and used for building the new town in the Middle Ages.
It wasn’t a particularly big Colosseum but there was room enough for all the people in town (roughly 1500 Romans). The sandy arena was big enough to watch wild boar and bear fights as well as Gladiator fights. It was not big enough for horse and cart races.
Although Gladiators were mostly slaves, they were often the center of a lot of admiration. Sometimes they were set free for being really good in the arena. There were strict rules as how the “game” had to be “played” with the armament dictated down to the last buckle. Also, there were rules as to who could fight whom (sorry about the quality of that photo. It was pretty dark where I took it and brightening it up dissolved the descriptions. But you can find more information about gladiators here).
They also had several display dummies arming up as Gladiators. But I think they didn’t proportion them well. Gladiators must have had a lot of muscles because their equipment was pretty heavy AND they were training and fighting on sand (have you ever run on a beach? Then you’ll know how exhausting that is). The average fight lasted only a few minutes, said our guide.
About ten years ago, archeologists discovered a Roman-Germanic battle field not 20min car drive away from where I live. They kept it quiet for a long time to keep pot hunters away. Eventually they had to talk about it though because it was a sensation.
Up to the discovery of said battle filed, scientists had thought that no big Roman army ever ventured far into Germany after the disaster of Varus’ lost battle (9 aC). However, coins found in this dig dated the site to 235/236 aC. It was later discovered that a translator of an ancient Latin text had thought the claim that Maximinus Thrax took his army all the way to the Elbe as an exaggeration and adjusted the given mileage downward by a generous margin (several hundred miles less).
My husband and I became interested from the very beginning and visited many presentations, the only exhibition of the original finds so far, and (naturally) several guided tours over the Harzhorn (always worth it if you’re near). So when we were faced with the “hard” decision what too look at during our first kid-free holiday in years, “Roman culture in Germany” was a no-brainer.
By the way, you can click on the photos for full size.
We started in Haltern am See (Haltern at the lake) with the Roman museum there. It wasn’t a very big museum, but the folks running it had given a lot of thought to it. Most of the exhibits were thoughtful and interesting for all ages. There were lots of fun things to see or do for children (like the village of Asterix & Obelix), but also plenty of interesting displays for teens and adults (diorama or a full sized pottery kiln; see below).
Haltern was an important military fort, called a Kastell in German, where boats brought supplies up the Lippe river. Therefore the Roman army had fortified the place. But they were also open for trading with the locals (mainly blond hair, pelts, carvings and fresh vegetables and fruit).
The length of the army of Varus’ legions in Playmobil was impressive. There were ten donkeys carrying the tents for each Centurie. The row of little figures went all the way through the room and back and then another bit diagonally. People at the front of the train probably never realized what happened a mile behind them. That surely was part of there reason Arminius won that battle. A really interesting museum that my husband and I have visited several times already is in Kalkriese near Osnabrück, Northern Germany. Scientist are fairly certain that they’ve discovered the battle field of the so called Battle of Varus there, and the museum is quite interactive.
The tents housed six Roman soldiers when the army was on tour. When they stayed at a Kastell, they shared a barely bigger room in a barrack (we saw that the next day in Xanthen). Every day they had to set up a camp surrounded by a rampart and ditch and a wooden palisade, dig latrines, put up their tent and cook their own food. In the mornings they had to take everything apart again and fill in ditch and latrine. Each soldier carried 14kg (that’s nearly 30lbp) luggage plus just as much for protection (helmet, chain mail and so on). These guys must have had bigger muscles than the average body builder, and they were probably a lot faster and more agile too. My husband surely is no weakling, but he was glad when he could put the carrier down again (btw, did you notice the difference in luggage back then [carrier] and today [trouser pants]? :D).
I was most impressed by the tiny glass fragments. I had known that Romans already knew how to produce glass (I mean that alone is incredible. After all, it was still only the Early Iron Age). However, I wasn’t aware how colorful their glasses could be. From the bits that I’d seen so far, I’d concluded (prematurely) that their glasses were dull-ish and normally colorless or grey or brown-ish. That isn’t true. Just marvel at the brightness of the shards… Romans seemed to like bright colors (we saw more proof for that later).
But the highlight of the museum stood on a separate field just a few minutes away by foot. They had reconstructed the wall of the military fort the Romans used to have there. Well, that was impressive. Although it was only a small part of the wood-earth-wall that used to surround the whole fort, it made me feel insignificant and small. To imagine being a historical German farmer, used to living in a small village of 3-6 houses and low fences (e.g. to keep animals out of gardens) who took provisions to the Roman army the first time, spawned a whole string of new stories. The fort must have been awe inspiring for the locals (although they’d probably rather died that admitted it).
Since the birth of my grandson, I’m having problems to keep my blog up to date. I know you don’t mind (much). However, it’s not only his fault. I couldn’t think of anything beside “buy my books” (naturally you may do that but I don’t want to be reduced to that). So I came up with two themes that have been on my mind recently and decided I’ll post about them.
First, there’s all this cool and weird stuff I do for research. I discover so many interesting facts that it’d be a shame not to share. I’ll start with the Romans, because hubby and I were lucky enough to be able to go on a journey through parts of Germany. During that trip we visited many historical sites with remains from the Romans (you see, immigration happened 2000 ago too). I’l try to post these regularly on Mondays from the beginning of October on (I need to build up a buffer).
Closer to the end of a week, maybe on Fridays, I’ll talk about my path toward a cure or at least a betterment of my Diabetes Type II. In a first step I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing the last three years since diagnosis and what helped. After that, I’ll post a fortnight worth of data collected from a healthy person (I couldn’t find those on the Internet, and hubby graciously agreed to be my guinea pig) and then, I’ll post my progress. Maybe that way I can help people with similar problems.
If there’s still time (or just in between), I’ll point out new releases like my Upper Middle Grade or Lower Young Adult book “Beasthunter”. It can be pre-ordered as an eBook already and will be delivered on October 21.st, the day the paperback will be available on Amazon too.
Here are the blurb and the cover:
To turn his ghostly sister back into a human, twelve-year-old fraidy-cat Tom must fight the Beast, a century old demon stealing kid’s souls.
Tom is afraid of his own shadow. What if it turns into a monster and attacks? Luckily his older sister, Sally, protects him from everything that scares him: classmates, teachers, shadows…
One night during a heavy thunderstorm, a real monster attacks Tom in his very own bed. At the last moment, their new neighbor’s dog saves him from the Beast. But even the Beasthunter and his not so doggish dog can’t stop the creature from turning Sally into a ghost.
Will Tom find the courage to confront the Beast to find out if he can rescue his beloved sister? He has no effective weapons. All he can count on are his ability to see through the Beast’s disguises and the imagination that has given him scares for all his life.
Since I can’t afford to hire a top-of-the-art cover designer, I have to do my own covers. Since I was never quite happy with the results, but couldn’t say why, I took a course on how to create professional looking covers. It opened my eyes.
With only a few minor tweaks, my covers changed from good but not spectacular Indie covers to professional looking covers. Let’s take Scotland’s Guardians as an example. The artist I hired captured exactly what I wanted, and still the cover did not satisfy me.
Then, I tweaked it a little bit. The changes are barely noticeable if you don’t have the covers side by side. But the new version looks much more like I wanted it.
The best example of my learning curve (from when I started out 2 1/2 years ago) to now is Urchin King. The first cover is extremely busy and indicates historical novel rather than fantasy. Also, it has no color scheme whatsoever and not much to do with actions in the book. The second cover at least tries to show what the book is about (the royal twins). But it is clearly visible that the designer (me) was an amateur. Again, it didn’t even begin to hint at fantasy.
The third cover is a little better, although it still doesn’t hint at the fantasy genre. For the fourth cover, I finally found the right piece of art. But even with a fantasy feel to the picture, the cover still didn’t look like one by a traditional publisher. The fifth and final version does.
Let me know what you think. Can you deduct what I learned just by looking at the pictures?
Sabio Marten is probably the most intelligent person on the Gendarmerie Magique. Aside from doing his work and inventing new gadgets to improve crime scene investigations, he teaches in Salthaven’s university. Here is one of his lectures for freshmen of Investigative Crime Detection (Sabio insisted I use his original papers including his graphics so I won’t get things muddled). Please keep in mind that the information presented is difficult, so if you don’t get it, don’t worry. You can eat your greens without understanding the details of how plants create matter from sunlight and magic.
Lecture on Photomagysynthesis by Commissaire Sabio Marten Basic Magical Theory – Transcript
In my opinion, Magical Basics should be obligatory for all university courses. It isn’t. Thus, I’m all the more grateful that so many of you attended this course. Let’s dive right in.
I’m sure all of you know the basic formula of Photomagysynthesis. However, I’m better safe than sorry. Photomagysynthesis is the process plants, from tree size to the smallest algae, use to turn sunlight, magic, water and carbon dioxide into sugar while giving of oxygen. For those of you chemically challenged, specialists would write it like this:
6 H2O + 6 CO2 + magic + light –> ΘC6H12O6 + 6 O2
Just to make sure you understand this correctly, the numbers of hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), and carbon (C) have to be the same on either side of the arrow. The Θ indicates the magical enhancement. For those of you who don’t know, most sugars have a ring like structure of carbon atoms with hydrogen and oxygen atoms attached. In enhanced sugars, the magic curls up like a ball and sits in the center of the ring of carbon.
With the basics in mind, let’s look at how plants do what they do. Surely you’ve all heard of cells. All plants have cells with green organelles called chloroplasts. These contain so-called thylakoids. Those are membrane-bound compartments inside chloroplasts that look like piles of green coins stacked on top of each other. Their membranes contain molecule-complexes which absorb all colors of light except green. By the way, that’s the reason why plants are usually green. Only a few organisms use predominantly molecules reflecting red or yellow, and they don’t do Photomagysynthesis. They create unenhanced sugars. Their process is called Photosynthesis which is part of every basic biology lecture, so I won’t go into details here.
To make the molecule-complexes very effective, they have antennas using chlorophyll and other light absorbing molecules. Each antenna holds two to four hundred molecules absorbing energy and is referred to as a Photosystem. So, the membranes of the thylakoids hold everything necessary for the first step of the Photomagysynthesis, the light reaction.
During the light reaction, the chlorophyll molecules in Photosystem II use the sunlight’s energy to give off electrons that are then snatched up by a chain of electron transporting molecules. Every molecule in the chain uses up some of the electron’s energy and triggers the combination of Magie Sauvage with ADP and Phosphor to ΘATP. Yes?
Student: What is ADT and ATP?
Oh, you really want to know? Don’t say I haven’t warned you. ADP’s full name is Adenosine diphospate and ATP accordingly Adenosine triphosphate. You can imagine the molecule as a lorry for transporting energy to places where energy is needed – say for growth or movement. It’s just that ATP-molecules don’t keep, so life had to find a way to store energy for longer than the normal ATP-lifecycle. That’s where the sugar comes in. And that’s why we need to know about Photomagysynthesis.
Now, to get back its electrons, the chlorophyll steals new electrons from water inside the thylakoid. That action breaks the water molecule. This process is called the photolysis of water. The oxygen atoms combine into O2 and travel out of the plant. Lucky for us or we couldn’t breathe.
light reaction part one
They leave behind hydrogen atoms that are missing an electron – and a lone rider like that is called… correct… a proton. The protons are transported out of the thylakoid by an enzyme that works like a one way revolving door. As the proton is pushed from the inside of the thylakoid to the outside, the enzyme creates more ATP, this time unenhanced. To fill up the void left by the protons, new water streams into the thylakoid through the membrane, thus keeping the photolysis going.
creation of ATP and transport of protons out of the thylakoid
At the same time, the electrons that went through Photosystem II and the chain of electron transporting molecules reach a second photosystem. Photosystem I re-charges them with sunlight, and hands them to a second chain of electron transporting molecules. At the end of this chain, the electrons are used to combine two waiting protons with a stuff called NADP… what? No I won’t tell you the full name this time – go join a biology class…
As I said, two protons combine with NADP and Magie Sauvage to ΘNADPH2+. This molecule is like a shopping cart for protons. It takes them to the place where the second step of the Photomagysynthesis takes part. Here’s a graphic presenting the whole light reaction at once.
full light reaction
Now for the second step – The molecules produced during the light reaction are used to build sugars out of carbon dioxide. Since the second step isn’t directly dependent on light, it is often referred to as light-independent or dark reactions. But because it uses molecules from the light reaction, it still is indirectly dependent on light, so the expression is misleading.
The second step of the Photomagysynthesis is called the Calvin cycle, named after a poor guy who spent half his life watching the grass grow. It takes part in the Chloroplast but outside of the thylakoids, and it starts with an enhanced five-carbon-sugar grabbing a carbon dioxide molecule. The newly produced six-carbon-sugar splits up into one enhanced three-carbon-sugar molecule and a normal three-carbon-sugar molecule.
The normal three-carbon-sugar molecule grabs more carbon dioxide molecules and uses ΘATP and ΘNADPH2+ from the light reaction to recreate the initial five-carbon-sugar in several steps. It’s a form of recycling to make sure the plant doesn’t run out of five-carbon-sugars.
The second, enhanced three-carbon-sugar merges with another of its kind. The result is what we commonly refer to as sugar. Since it was built from two enhanced molecules, it is also magically enhanced with the magic caught in the center of the ring structure.
This sugar is then transported out of the chloroplast and distributed to wherever in the cell it is needed, or it is put into storage. When the enhanced sugar gets digested, the magic inside the molecules has been significantly altered by being balled up. It is set free as Magie Générale.
Herbivores or omnivores like us keep part of the enhanced molecules in their metabolism. Carnivores and omnivores receive their share of Magie Générale from what remains in the food chain. Are there questions?
Student: So I get more magic when I eat more greens?
Unfortunately not. It has been proven that the limiting factor for the amount of magic a human can hold is not related to the amount of plant matter consumed. There’s no need to become a vegetarian if you’re not so inclined.
Student: Is there a way to make someone’s magic stronger? What does limit the accumulation of magic?
The limit is defined by a genetically predetermined threshold that differs for every individual. Research suggests… No, I think I’ll better stop here. This is not about Photomagysynthesis any more, and I don’t think the university would be happy if I held you captive for one of my rants. Thank you for listening today, and I hope to see you again when I talk about our relationship with nerls, next week. Good bye.
(editors note: Did you understand all that? Where did you stop? I did tell you he’s a geek, right? Let me tell you a secret: so am I – I love this stuff!)