Life In The Roman Empire : Books And Writing

Girl with a stylus and writing block. Wall painting from Pompeii, 1st century AD. This lovely image of a reflective young women is often called Sappho, after the famous Greek poet, althought she is equally likely to have been a bright young Pompeian with literary leanings.
Girl with a stylus and writing block. Wall painting from Pompeii, 1st century AD. This lovely image of a reflective young women is often called Sappho, after the famous Greek poet, althought she is equally likely to have been a bright young Pompeian with literary leanings.

Latin, the language of the Romans, was originally spoken only in the small region of Central Italy known as Latium. It might well have been displaced by geographically more widespread Italian tongues such as Oscan and Umbrian, but Roman conquests made it the received speech of the peninsula, and ultimately of most wealthy or educated people all over a vast empire.

Writing began in the 7th century BC, when the Latin alphabet was devised as an adaptation of the Greek letters used by the Romans Etruscan neighbours. The earliest known written Latin is on the Lapis Niger, an inscriped block of stone, found in the Forum Romanum, that probably dates from the early 6th century BC. There is no way of establishing how many Romans became literate, but written records, orders and transactions were vital to the efficient running of the Empire, while poems, plays, political and philosophical reflections, letters, prayers and graffiti provided outlets for vivid self-expression that often bring the Romans very close to us.

Commemorative inscriptions and some official decrees appeard on stone or bronze, but a variety of materials were available for other purposes. A wooden tablet with a coating of wax was particularly useful for temporary personal memoranda and school work; the metal or wooden stylus that scratched letters into the wax had a flat  top that could be employed for corrections or to erase all the written content so that the tablet could be used again. However, occasion this unstable medium also seems to have served for quite important documents.

Letters and other personal statement could be written with pen and ink on thin sheets of wood. Pens were made of metal, or sharpened reeds of feathers; Roman ink, variously mixing soot, resin and cuttlefish ink, was surprisingly black and durable, as surviving documents have shown. Those who could afford it bought a much less cumbersome, paper-like material made from the papyrus reed (an Egyptian invention from which the word paper is actually derived). This was also used for Roman books, which took the form of long papyrus scrolls. A book, or part-book, was called a volumen, or roll (the origin of the English word volume); the reader held it in both hands, simultaneously rolling and unrolling it so that the text was progressively revealed. Under the Empire, parchment and and vellum (made from hides) were also used as writing surfaces, and the book with pages, or codex, began to be made, but surprisingly it never replaced the much clumsier roll.

Roman interest in books only became intense under the influence of Greek culture in the 2nd century BC, when libraries were part of the booty brought back from the East by Sulla and other successful generals. An influx of well-educated Greek slaves facilitated the development of the book trade in Rome, where something resembling mass production was achieved by booksellers whose slaves wrote out copies of texts dictated by one of their number. The influence of ardent collectors such as Cicero helped to create a fashion for possessing a private library, and booksellers flourished in the capital and ultimately in most parts of the Empire, advertising the latest authors on the pillars outside their shops. The first public library in Rome was founded during the reign of Augustus by the retired politician-poet Gaius Asinius Pollio, and within a century there were over 20, some of which allowed members to take out books for private reading. Authors were paid an outright fee for their works, and even the most famous were unable to live on their literary income. Martial for example, complained that in spite of being read even on the Danube and in Britain, his work brought him little profit. The bookseller-publisher could not afford to be generous, since there was no copyright law and consequently he could never acquire exclusive rights to any publication. As soon as he put a work on sale, a rival bookseller could acquire a copy, put his own scribes to work on it, and publish his own edition. Impecunious authors were therefore dependent on the generosity of one or more patrons and as Martial lamented, there was not a Maecenas in every generation.

Writing materials used by Romas at various times. The hinged book was filled with wax (shown here as a separate item in ready to melt block form), which when hard could be written on with the elegant stylus; pen and inkpot are to hand for more durable writing, along with a lighted lamp, a spare wick and a seal.
Writing materials used by Romas at various times. The hinged book was filled with wax (shown here as a separate item in ready to melt block form), which when hard could be written on with the elegant stylus; pen and inkpot are to hand for more durable writing, along with a lighted lamp, a spare wick and a seal.

Source: Nathaniel Harris : History Of Ancient Rome

The Gate of Mazeus and Mythridates

The gate with three passage ways at the right of the Celsus Library was built in 40 A.D by the slaves Mazeus and Mythridates for their emperor, Augustus, who gave them their freedom.

The passages are vaulted, the front side of the vault facing the Celsus Library is made of black marble, while the other side is white. A Latin inscription with inlaid letters made of bronze is still visible on one side of the structure. Part of the inscription states: “From the Emperor Caesar Augustus, the son of the god, the greatest of the priests, who was consul twelve and tribune twenty times; and the wife of August Livia; the son of Lucus, Marc Agrippa who was consul three times, Emperor, and tribune six times; and the daughter of Julio Caesar Augustus, Mazeus and Mythridates to their master and the people.”

The small area in front of the gate was used as an auditorium. The steps around the gate, in front of the library and the round pedestal were used as seats. In Byzantine Period, the walls in the small area were built when the city walls were reduced in length.

http://www.ephesus.us

History of Ephesus

In the year of 10 BC, Androclos, the son of King of Athens-Kodros, was searching a location for establishing a site. Androclos belonged to Akhas, was running from the Dor invasion in Greece. He was leading one of the migration convoys. It was predicted by an Apollon oracle that a fish and a boar would show the location of the new settlement. Days later, parallel to the oracle’s prediction, while frying, a fish fell down from the pan, irritating a hiding boar behind the bushes. The feared boar escaped immediately. Androclos followed the boar and established the city of Ephesus, where he had killed the boar. When Androclos died in the wars with Carians, a mausoleum was built to the memory of the first king of Ephesus. The mausoleum is considered to be placed around “The Gate of Magnesia”.

Ephesus was ruled by the Lydian king, Kreisos, in the mid 6BC. The city reached the “Golden Age” and became a good model to the Antic World in culture and art, as well. As the detailed excavations have not completed yet, apart from the Artemis, the remains of that age haven’t been revealed.

Later, Ephesus was dominated by Persians. As Ephesians did not join the “Ionian Rebellion” against Persians, the city was saved from destruction. The rebellion resulted in the loss of Persian. Alexander the Great won Persians and the Ionian cities got their independence in the year of 334. Ephesus was in great prosperity during the times of Alexander the Great Until the arrival of Alexander the Great, Ephesus was consisted of two governing systems, democratic and oligarchic. But the oligarchic system was violated with the coming of a new ruler, and a rebellion existed in Ephesus.

The Temple of Artemis was fired and destroyed by the supporters of oligarchy in 356BC.But it is believed that a madman known as Herostratus set fire to the temple in order to make his name immortal on the same night in Macedonia Alexander the Great was born. As the temple became unusable, Alexander the Great proposed for repairing. But the Ephesians delicately refused for the reason that “A God can not built a temple for another God.”.So Alexander who was very proud of himself as a God, gave some special priviledges to the city. An Ephesian architect, Dinocrates restored the Temple of Artemis.

After the death of Alexander the Great, Ephesus was ruled by the general of him, Lysimakhos, in 287 BC. Lysimakhos decided to change the prior location of Ephesus to further west, due to the destruction of the port by the alluviums, and the inhabitants were forced to settle in the new place named “Arsinoeina”, the name of Lysimakhos’ wife. The city was surrounded by wide stone walls in 10 meters height and 9 meters length. And, “Arsinoeina” was changed into “Ephesus” again, to be forgotten eternally.

Ephesus was controlled by the Romans in 190 BC. The city was given to the Bergamian kings for a time. With the death of King Attalos 3 in 133BC, the city was re-ruled by the Romans. Ephesus reached to its height and was notorious for its wealth and luxury between 1-4 AD., especially during the reign of Augustus. During the period, the population of Ephesus increased to 225 000, and the city became the capital of the new Asia. By cleaning the river Caystros from the alluviums, the great trade port of Ephesus, a gateway to foreign countries, enriched the prosperity of the city and continued to thrive with commerce and culture. The city was constructed, adding new models to the former magnificence of Ephesus. “Celsus Library” clearly exemplifies the perfecta of the era, with the delicate details of the construction.

Ephesus has played significant roles during the date, in the early Christianity, as well. The prestige of Ephesus increased with the arrival of Saint Paul, for spreading the Christianity to the Ephesians worshipping to Artemis. St. Paul and the disciplines of Christianity were strictly refused by Ephesians, elderly. With the long tiring struggles of St. Paul, Christianity was accepted by the most of the population around Ephesus. St. Paul had also sent one of his most famous letters to the church in Ephesus. Additionally, St Jean and Virgin Mary visited Ephesus and Virgin Mary settled down the Mount Bulbul, located close to Ephesus, around the years of 42 AD.

Ephesus became a state of Seljukian in the year of 1090, for a time was held by Byzantine. In 1307 Seljukians controlled the city again. However, years later, the River Caystros was silted up, leaving the site far inland. Therefore, the city of Ephesus has lost its significance, due to the development of the ports of Izmir and Kusadasi in sea-trade.