Tag Archive: Rome

Being pretty much obsessed with ancient Rome and especially Pompeii, of course I saw the new movie about the star-crossed city on its opening weekend. The action/adventure film follows Milo (Kit Harington), a gladiator enslaved in Pompeii, as he befriends his fiercest competitor in the arena (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), catches the eye of a rich but sympathetic beauty (Emily Browning), and then finds himself fighting for his life and theirs during the eruption that we all know buried the town in the year 79.

Kit Harington as Milo--the paintings on the arena walls are a nice, historically accurate detail.

Kit Harington as Milo–the paintings on the arena walls are a nice, historically accurate detail.

The director (Paul WS Anderson) is best known for sci-fi horror pics — not usually my thing — so I wasn’t sure the story would appeal to me, but I enjoyed this movie. All three protagonists have integrity and compassion, so you want to see them overcome both the bad guys and the wrath of nature. As a woman and a romance novelist, I would have preferred more emphasis on the realm of Venus than that of Mars, but the romance we get is satisfyingly, if quickly, developed, and so is the “buddy” relationship between the two main male characters.

Having visited the ruins of the real Pompeii, I also loved seeing the amazing town alive again on the big screen. The filmmakers made a good effort to depict the streets, amphitheater and villa interiors in a realistic way. While reading or watching fiction, I’m happy to suspend disbelief over details, but nitpickers will probably find most fault with the way the eruption plays out.

Compared to my new time-travel novel Templum, set in the same time and place, Pompeii has much more violence and much less sex. 🙂 Since Templum is primarily a romance, it follows that the love story in my book is more deeply explored. If you watched the Showtime cable TV series “Spartacus,” well, Pompeii has both less gore and less sex, but more likable characters and more romance. All in all, worth seeing — and best seen in the theater to do justice to the scenery and action sequences.

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Templum, my new time travel, is up on Kindle and Nook! (Print edition coming soon.) Check it out:

Cover for TemplumAfter losing her job, her boyfriend and her best friend, Brit Colladay thinks she’s hit rock bottom. Then while touring Roman ruins, she’s accidentally transported to the first century. Living as a slave near Pompeii, she fakes a gift of prophecy, but when she predicts Vesuvius will erupt, her owner doesn’t believe her.

Nicomachus, a Roman priest renowned for the “miracles” he engineers, knows a fraud when he sees one, but Brit’s brains and beauty intrigue him, and he’d rather join forces than expose her. In exchange for sharing her tricks, she wants help escaping the upcoming eruption, but helping a slave run away could get him executed.

As time runs out, they try to forge a plan. Is the answer fleeing, traveling through time, or even changing history? And can they stay together, or will survival mean living apart?

Links to Amazon and Barnes and Noble below the cover pic on left. (How do you like the cover? 🙂 )

To find on Amazon, go here.
For the Nookbook, click here.
For the UK Amazon page, use this link;
Amazon Australia, click here;
Amazon Canada, here.

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Hubby and I gave up cable TV a few years ago, so when we channel-surf, we depend on old-fashioned free-to-air entertainment. Recently, on Cozi TV, an old Rock Hudson movie called Come September caught my eye, because it was set in Rome, and you know how I love Rome. 😉 In one of the opening scenes, Gina Lollobrigida was even speaking Italian.

Picnic at Ostia Antica from the Rock Hudson film Come SeptemberHudson’s character is a filthy-rich American who owns a villa outside of Rome that he only visits one month out of the year (September). Lollobrigida is the Italian girlfriend whom he neglects as much as his villa. One year he shows up in July, surprising both the girlfriend, who’s about to marry another guy, and the villa caretaker, who has been running the property as a hotel eleven months out of the year. Adding to the fun, a group of college co-eds that includes Sandra Dee is staying at the hotel, and a group of young guys whom Hudson won’t allow in his house decides to pitch tents outside the gate. (Take that as you will.)

If you’re an archaeology buff like me, the key scene is when practically the whole cast stops to picnic among Roman ruins. The setting looked familiar to Hubby and me, and at first we thought it might be the Palatine Hill, but we soon recognized the area as the main Forum at Ostia Antica outside of Rome near Fiumicino airport. They also show a little (we think) of the baths area off the Forum of the Heroic Statue.

If you’ve read my archaeological mystery/romance The Five-Day-Dig, you may remember that in it Chaz wants to get to Ostia to study temples there for his PhD thesis. I’ve also posted here before about the ancient city, which is almost as well preserved as Pompeii, though not quite as extensive. Ostia doesn’t have bodies like Pompeii, but unlike its more famous rival, some of its multi-story buildings have survived the millennia.

To learn all about Ostia, visit ostia-antica.org. (I’ve spent hours on this site, clicking around the interactive map of the city, which the site somewhat confusingly calls a “Topographical Dictionary.”) For Come September on DVD, click here. Lollobrigida won a Golden Globe for her performance.

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As I mentioned in my last post, to me, learning about the everyday lives of our ancestors is the most fascinating part of studying the past. That’s why I love this example of a fast-food joint among the ruins of Pompeii.

A wood fire burned in the hearth (obviously), but the really clever thing is that the marble-topped brick counter is hollowed out and connected to the fireplace so heated air flowed through it. The proprietors kept hot food in the large ceramic pots set into the counter, while the shelves above the fireplace held room-temperature offerings like wine, olives, fruits and nuts.

Beyond the area in view here, dine-in customers could eat in a small seating area, but most people would have grabbed something at the counter from the sidewalk, then continued on their way. The place appears to have run so much like a modern pizzeria that it’s a little scary.

Dozens of places like this line the main drag in Pompeii, while relatively few domestic kitchens have been found, leading some archaeologists to believe that most Pompeian meals were take-out. My guess is that in the fairly warm climate, a lot of home-cooking took place outdoors (grilling on the patio, as it were). But Romans did buy their bread from large public bakeries, so they were definitely accustomed to industrialized food.

It’s stuff like this that makes me feel we “Westerners” basically just are the Romans a couple thousand years later. Our government, our creature comforts, our industriousness, and our concept of hygiene all seem to have passed down from them. Not to mention that we celebrate the same holidays, only with different names. : D If mulling over the ancients floats your boat, please consider my archaeological mystery/romance The Five-Day Dig.

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Happy Saturnalia! The ancient Roman holiday is the source for some of our own winter-solstice traditions, like gift-giving, feasting, lights (candles, back in the day) and general hustle and bustle. The seven-day festival spanned from December 17th to the 23rd and was highlighted by a role-reversal thing where masters dressed down and served a big holiday meal to their slaves before digging in themselves. (Hm, we still have something like that, too, at places of employment.)

As the name indicates, the festival honored Saturn, a god the Romans saw in a strange way. He was Jupiter’s father and had been usurped by Junior for the top position on Olympus. During his own reign, Saturn had been a nasty guy, but to the Romans he had a certain nostalgic appeal because he’d ruled during the Golden Age, when food grew without work (so no one was a slave), and the weather behaved itself, too. Saturn was a god of abundance, and our excessive holiday gift-giving might originate in that concept. (Funny how he managed to keep his day of the week, too, when Jupiter lost out to the Norse god Thor with Thursday.)

Most of what we know about Saturnalia comes from a 5th century writer, Macrobius, but even his work on the subject is full of speculation about how the holiday originated, how long it lasted, what it entailed, and the meaning behind its customs. As Winnie points out in The Five-Day Dig, we don’t know a lot about Roman ritual.

It’s pretty obvious, though, that at heart, winter-solstice holidays are a celebration of the rebirth of the sun, of the promise of future abundance, easy living (summer), and new life. May plenty of that come your way in the new year!

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