Episode 11 – Rome 1 – Athens 0

— Romans didn’t like being second, especially when it came to a little word like democracy.

King Tarquin the Proud is kicked out of Rome, and his son Sextus was the main cause. We learn of a rape that shaped the world of Rome, and perhaps the entire western world.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, in Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 11 — Rome 1 – Athens 0.

This episode has a rather soccer-type title name, because the Romans—let me repeat that, the Romans claim that their republic started in the year 509 BC.

Personally, I don’t buy it, not even for a minute, but—since all we have are the records written by the Romans themselves, and since we do not have a time machine, we have to stick to their version.

Romans didn’t like being second, especially when it came to a little word like DEMOCRACY.

Turns out that, in the year 508 BC, and according to some historians—507 BC, something happened in Greece.

A man named Kleisthenes, a noble Athenian made significant reforms to the constitution of ancient Athens, and so he set his city on a democratic footing in either 508 or 507 BC.

So, then—the reaction of the Romans, actually, the reaction of those who rewrote the hsitory of Rome some centuries later, was to make a fine-tuning to their own history.

Let us have Rome get their democarcy a year earlier.

So, Rome’s demacracy arrived to the the Romans in the year 509 BC. A clever move, and a good goal.

Partial score: Rome 1 – Athens 0.

And please notice that I said “PARTIAL SCORE” because this game is far from over, and we are centuries away from the end-game whistle.

Last week we saw that Tarquin the Proud was mistreating his people. The rich, the poor, and everyone in between, plus—the people around Rome, too.

And we got to the point where Tarqin was busy setting up a siege to a city called Ardea, near the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

But before we get to our Latin word of the day, I would like you to imagine this:

Sping in Rome, really early in the morning, way before the Sun rises.

As snow in the mountains melted, thawing rivers and streams to the east and north of Rome were feeding the plains around Rome, and many small, wooden bridges were carried away by the quiet, yet unrestrainable force of nature.

Through this landscape, a horseman was riding on his black horse, at full speed. He was heading south, and he was avoiding village crossroads and bridges, trying not to be seen. Romans rose early, and this added to his haste. Rome was fading behind him, and a lapis lazuli sliver on the sky was announcing the first break of dawn.

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Lucretia died less than a few minutes later, but while she was dying she asked the three men to avenge her life, and to make sure that Rome was free of men like Tarquin the Proud, and that son of his.

Needless to say, the three men decided to make sure, her dying wish was to be fulfilled, otherwise our story wouldn’t match now, would it?

[…]

Episode 10 – The Tyrant and the Sibyl

— Sibyls were known to possess tremendous powers.

The Tale of Rome – King Tarquin the Proud is the ruler of Rome, and it’s not a good thing for its citizen and neighbors. But an old hag with magic powers, also known as a Sybil, makes the king’s life miserable with a strange proposal…

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, in Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 10 — The Tyrant and the Sibyl.

Last week we saw the end of Servius Tullius’ life, and how his son-in-law usurped the throne of Rome. And luckily, I already gave you guys a brief description of this kings’ character, so let’s go ahead and see the first part of his reign.

[…]

The king was the law. His power over life and death, war and peace, rich and poor, were all undisputed.

The Roman Senate, utterly ignored and completely laughed at by the king himself, became a bunch of old men who just went to work, and looked forward to going back home, having survived another day.

They walked around the forum and their city in total fear when the king was around, and in total shame when the king was elsewhere, busy tormenting people outside of Rome.

To put it in one sentence, Tarquin rendered the Senate totally anemic, and too weak to fight his power.

Well, while the king’s reign progressed this way, and old woman arrived in Rome, and she immediately asked for an audience with the king.

But according to historians we know that this old hag was no ordinary old lady, and that in fact, she was really one of the legendary ten Sibyls, and she came all the way from what is today’s Turkey. Sibyls were known to possess tremendous powers, and Romans—as well as Etruscans, knew better than crossing a Sibyl and her magic.

[…]

Episode 9 – Killed by his own Daughter

— That’s right, Tullia, wife of Lucius, and daughter of Servius Tullius, carefully maneuvered the chariot so that the wheels sliced the old man’s body in two.

The Tale of Rome – Servius Tullius ends up under the wheels of a chariot, driven by none other than his very own daughter Tullia. We are also approaching the birth of the Republic of Rome.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, in Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 9 — Killed by his own Daughter.

Last week we saw the end of Tarquin the Elder, and how Servius Tullius became the sixth king of Rome.

This week, we’ll see how this Tale continues.

The one thing we need to highlight again, is that the last three kings were the father—Tarquin the Elder, followed by his adoptive son—Servius Tullius, and then followed by his true blood son, Tarquin the Proud.

[…]

The tale goes, that—and this is according to Livy himself, the very own daughter of Servius, took a chariot and drove over the dying body of her father, effectively finishing his reign.

That’s right, Tullia, wife of Lucius, and daughter of Servius Tullius, carefully maneuvered the chariot so that the wheels sliced the old man’s body in two.

[…]

Episode 8 – Tarquin the Elder

— So, first a fighter. Then a pacifist. Then another fighter, and finally another pacifist…

The Tale of Rome. The life and death of the first of the Tarquins, and a curious prophecy that came true.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, in Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 8 — Tarquin the Elder.

Last week we saw the life of Ancus Marcius and Rome’s expansion to the Mediterranean Sea.

This week we’ll see the life of Tarquin, aptly nicknamed “the Elder” –after he managed to send away the two sons of Ancus Marcius away from Rome, and have himself elected king of Rome by a more-than-willing-to-oblige bunch of Senators.

And here I’d like to add that the tale of the Kings of Rome can be roughly divided into two big sections.

The first one consisted of Romulus, Numa Pompilius, Tullus Hostilius, and Ancus Marcius.

So, first a fighter. Then a pacifist. Then another fighter, and finally another pacifist who saw himself forced to wage wars, and ultimately did just that.

And so, today we are officially starting the second part of the tale of the Kings, because the three kings we haven’t seen yet, they all belong to one—the same family. The Tarquins.

And first among these is Lucius Tarquinius Priscus.

Then, we have Servius Tullius, an adopted son of Tarquin the Elder, and lastly, the real son of Tarquin, whom history named Tarquin the Proud, who took the throne by force, and who ended up being such a bad king, that the Romans kicked him out of Rome, and decided never again to have kings.

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Let’s quickly mention here, that this was not out of the customary, since kings often sat at the forum, and acted as judges in people’s differences and disputes.

But then, when the king, too, was going to take his seat, one of the guys, ran to the king, and took out an axe that he had hidden in his robes.

In a single stroke, he lodged the axe, blade-deep, into the head of the king.

[…]

Episode 5 – Numa, the God Whisperer

— There could be only one such Pontifex Maximus, and the job was for life.

Life and death of the second king of Rome.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, in Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 5 — Numa, the God Whisperer.

Last week we talked about the end of Romulus, the first king of Rome.

[…]

Numa also gets credit for almost all the most important religious institutions in Rome, and here goes a short list of his achievements:

ONE – Numa created the institution of Pontifex Maximus, which was the equivalent of the highest priest of Rome. There could be only one such Pontifex Maximus, and the job was for life.

Think of a Supreme Court Justice, in the US—unless a Justice quits or resigns, he gets to have the job forever.

The number one responsibility of a Pontifex Maximus was to overview the preparation and the delivery of religious services in Rome.

The number one privilege was that he was pretty much the only person in the city who was allowed to dismiss, and in some instances, disobey, both the Senate and the king of Rome, as you will see in future episodes.

Now, check this out:

Numa knew that the future of Rome would be filled with wars, as soon as he would be gone, and he knew that if a king would also be a Pontifex Maximus, religious services all over Rome would suffer, because such king would obviously give priority to war over all other things.

So, Numa solved this by simply setting in stone that kings or any future type of supreme rulers of Rome could not be elected to the office of Pontifex Maximus, while they reigned with the city.

He simply explained that the gods would punish Rome with plagues, floods, earthquakes, and all other kinds of disasters, if ever a king was elected to that office, and if ever the services to the gods were not properly done.

And in fact, the office of the Pontifex Maximus was left in peace by rulers for centuries. It wasn’t until the first emperor of Rome, Augustus dared to take the office of chief priest of Rome in his own hands, that Numa’s rule was being respected.

And that should speak volumes. Furthermore, the office itself still exists today.

That’s right, the institution created by Numa Pompilius is currently being exercised by the Vatican’s Pope, as the head of the Catholic Church, and that’s a tradition that’s been unbroken for some 2,600 years, now.

TWO – Numa Pompilius instituted the first vestal virgins within Rome.

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Episode 4 – Throne of Thunders

— Not because they were better or smarter, or because they were right all along, and certainly not because they were God’s chosen people…

The end of Romulus’ life, the way the Romans describe it.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, in Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 4 — Throne of Thunders.

Last week we saw how Romulus dealt with three top topics of the day: the army of Rome, the female population of Rome, and the Senate of Rome.

This week we will see the rest of his life and how his life ends, not an ounce less mythological than his whole life before.

But before we start, I would like to make something clear: Rome, the city on the Seven Hills, had Seven Kings.

Right? Right.

From the year 753 BC until the year 509 BC, Rome had a grand total of Seven Kings. That means, those Seven Kings ruled Rome for 244 years.

Let’s see. Seven Kings – 244 years.

If I divide 244 by 7, I get 34.8, which means that each king must have ruled Rome for an average of 34 years and 9 months.

Even though this is not a physical impossibility, I can tell you something right away. In the course of human history, there has not been any empire, or state, or nation, or even a private company or entity that has been so blessed to rule for so long, and have only seven rulers.

The exceptional case of her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, is by far one of the longest reigns in recent history, but this cannot be seen as the norm.

Yes, she has ruled since 1952 which means she held the crown for 65 years. But that will not be repeated two, three, or—let alone, seven times.

A little more on that in a bit, but first let’s go to the Latin Word of the Week.

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A big thunder cracked down on them, and a great dust cloud rose up, all around the throne and around the people standing by Romulus.

But… When the cloud dissipated, Romulus was no longer seated on his throne.

According to the legend, the senators who were next to Romulus during the military exercise, searched everywhere, but never found the body of their king.

He was gone with a thunder while sitting on his throne!

[…]

Episode 3 – Roman M Seeking F

— After all, all those immigrants were nothing more than a bunch of despicable losers!

Romulus takes care of setting up an army and a Senate. Also, he makes sure of getting wives for his new Roman citizens.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China.

Welcome to the Tale of Rome, Episode 3 — Roman M Seeking F.

Last week we saw how, after many generations, Rome was established at the edge of the river Tiber, and we also saw how Romulus, Numitor’s grandson—and son of Rhea Silvia and god Mars, became the first King of Rome.

I think if for a common man there is nothing as sweet as having a home of his own, for a man the size of Romulus, there couldn’t have been anything sweeter than having a city of his own.

The only tiny problem for the moment was that his city was still not able to defend itself, and it also couldn’t grow.

So, we are going to see how Romulus addressed these two issues of high priority.

[…]

After Romulus founded his city, it became pretty obvious that it would be necessary to attract people to the city.

Rome needed new inhabitants.

To that end, Romulus opened the gates of his city, but what happened next was that the first immigrants to the new city were, to put it in nice words, characters of a colorful past.

OK, let’s be more honest here! The first arrivals were people on the run from other places.

Fallen or escaped gladiators, crooks and beggars, fugitive slaves and prisoners of war, people who owed too much money and people who used to collect too much money from others, pimps and smugglers, pickpockets and murderers, and a whole lot more.

You name it, Rome had it!

Anyone who offended any of men’s laws or any of god’s laws, moved to Rome to have a fresh start.

[…]

Episode 2 – Immaculate Conception

— What was it about Greece that Romans loved so much?

Romulus and Remus are born, grow and help their grandfather Numitor to retake Albalonga’s throne. Afterwards, they found Rome.

 

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China.

Welcome to the Tale of Rome, Episode 2 — Immaculate Conception.

Last Week we saw how Aeneas managed to escape Troy, and how he finally settled on the western coast of Italy. And we saw how his son came to found a city named Albalonga.

Today we will see how his grand-grandchildren prepare the stage for us, so that we get to see how Rome as founded.

And to get there, today we’ve got it all.

Traitors.

Vultures bring messages from the gods.

An amazing saving of two babies floating in a basket along a river. We even have a woman conceiving children in a rather miraculous way, something that people in the western civilizations call an “Immaculate Conception.”

[…]

After Ascanius, the kingship was passed from father to son for many generations, until we got to the 13th generation, and the power came to rest upon the shoulders of a man called Numitor.

As Numitor became King of Albalonga, his brother Amulius watched, filled with jealousy and hatred.

Soon enough, Amulius decided to take the throne all to himself, and by lying to the people of Albalonga, and by using false rumors, Amulius managed to chase Numitor out of the city.

The sons of Numitor were killed without any mercy.

But Amulius decided to spare the life of Numitor’s daughter, a woman called Rhea Silvia, and instead of killing her, he ordered her to become a Vestal Virgin. By converting her into a Vestal, Amulius felt assured that she would not have any children, and there would be no threat to his own future generations.

A Vestal Virgin, as historians explain to us, spent her whole life dedicated to the service of the goddess Vesta, goddess of the home and the heart.

Vestals had to fulfill three conditions in order to be accepted in the temple of Vesta, where they would be in charge of keeping the divine flame on, for all eternities.

One: they had to be virgin.

Two: they had to come from a prominent family of the society.

Three: they had to be incredibly beautiful.

[…]

Episode 1 – Once Upon a Time

— We will also see who was the father of the father of Rome, because I think, the father of the father of Rome had to be somebody really important, right?

Aeneas leaves Troy, stays in Carthage for a while, and later navigates to Italy. There, he joins the forces of King Latinus. Later on, Ascanius founds Albalonga.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China.

Welcome to the Tale of Rome, Episode 1 — Once Upon a Time.

Rome was founded in the year 753 BC, but to start our tale we need to do two things:

ONE — I want to tell you a bit about this podcast, as a project, and TWO — we need to travel a little bit back in time. Some 500 years back, to the twelfth century BC.

To the Trojan War, to be more exact.

Alright, let’s go with ONE, and let me sum up this podcast in exactly three sentences.

I was born in what once was called West Germany, and being fond of the history of both China and Rome, I began writing historical fiction novels, one of them being set in Roman Egypt during the latter part of the 2nd century AD.

I soon realized I needed more research to write my book, and after going through many other books, documentaries, maps, and podcasts, I decided I had to create my own account of what actually happened before I could continue with my writing.

Knowing that podcasting was a totally new field to me, I first decided to delve into a narration of the story of Rome in Spanish language—a language I acquired in both Miami and Argentina, while always keeping an eye set on an English version of the same podcast, once the time was right.

So, here we have it. Three sentences.

The Spanish podcast is LIVE since April, and this—the English version, is coming to the world right now, as you are hearing me speak.

And I guess, by now you know where my accent comes from, even though I lived for almost half my life in the States.

And yes, I do live in China now, but that is stuff for some other footnote, in some other episode.

Perhaps.

I also like to say that I started podcasting as a way to talk about the things I like to talk about, such as ancient Rome.

Now, let’s go with TWO. Let’s go to the last years of the Trojan War.

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