I love coming across unexpectedly modern (seeming) things that the Romans had or did. That’s why I included details about ancient central heating in my Regency romance Lord St Leger’s Find and about 2,000-year-old flush toilets in my contemporary, The Five-Day-Dig.
Recently, I stumbled across this cute depiction on the left of cherubs playing hide-and-seek. This scene is from a fresco found in the House of the Tragic Poet in Pompeii. It’s so reminiscent of kids playing the game today.
In the carved relief seen below of slaves helping a wealthy Roman woman with her toilette, I was surprised to notice that the woman is sitting in a wicker chair. Fortunately, we no longer have slaves, but the wicker chair looks just like one you could still buy new.
And shown in this last photo are ancient Roman pots and pans on display in the Museo Archeologico in Naples, Italy. I have almost all of these in my own kitchen.
For more intriguing examples like these, check out the collection of photos posted in the discussion here.
At one point in my archaeological mystery/romance, The Five-Day-Dig, Chaz speculates that the building he and Winnie are excavating is an ancient purgatorium, like the one (shown below) that visitors to Pompeii can see on the grounds of the Temple of Isis. A purgatorium isn’t as scary as it first may sound. The name has the same root as the word purge, and this type of building was used for ritual cleansing with water from the Nile — sort of a pre-Christian baptism.
Though Isis is an Egyptian goddess, her worship spread to ancient Greece after Alexander conquered Egypt in the fourth century BCE. From there, the goddess reached the Roman Empire. At the time of Vesuvius’ big eruption in the year 79, she was a popular deity, and her temple in Pompeii is the best-preserved one in town. An inscription records that it had been rebuilt after an earthquake about a decade before the eruption.
What made Isis so popular in the Greco-Roman world? Well, she is often pictured with baby Horus — a mother-and-child image that many people are instinctively drawn to. Her mythology as the reassembler of her murdered husband’s body parts also paints her as a devoted wife and connects her to the idea of resurrection and eternal life. She was also a patron deity of sailors, an important occupation in the ancient economy.
The original paintings and sculpture from her temple in Pompeii are now a half-hour away by train in Naples at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale. Wouldn’t you know that Hubby and I missed them while we were there? But that gives us a reason to go back.