The Official Blog of the
Williamstown Theatre Festival

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dramaturgy | Snapshot: Rome 200 BCE

by Rachel Lerner-Ley, Dramaturg

City of Rome: At this point in time, Rome is over 500 years old. The city sits along the Tiber River and contains the famous 7 hills on which sit the homes of the elite, temples, and government buildings. Streets are paved with raised stones. Living quarters are made of stone and are either 1-2 story private houses or multi-level apartment buildings. Oftentimes, the ground floor is occupied by a store. These stores pour out onto the streets, which are filled with people selling their wares. There are no street numbers so you have to rely on description to find a residence.  The forum is the center of the city, home to religious and government institutions as well as large open air market.  Aqueducts—at this point mainly underground—deliver water to the city, allowing for many fountains and bath houses. Like any city, graffiti of all sorts appears on buildings.

Slavery and Prostitution: Slaves are ubiquitous. Almost every household, rich and poor, has at least one slave (some estimate that the ratio of free to slave was 1:3 by the end of the republic!). Slaves are typically former prisoners of war that were sold at markets held in the forum.  Children of slaves automatically became slaves.  Slaves could buy their freedom by saving up the small allowance doled out by their master or could be granted it by their master as a reward for good service. Slave-owning is a status symbol, and so many ex-slaves go on to purchase slaves of their own. Slaves wear brown tunics made of coarse fabric. Like slavery, prostitution is accepted as a necessary social institution with its own set of laws (social and governmental). Prostitutes are of the lowest social order.

Father Knows Best: The Roman family is dictated by the notion of patria potestas. The father has complete control over all members and aspects of his family: wife, children, children-in-law, grandchildren, slaves, and property. A father may emancipate his son, allowing him to become the paterfamilias of his own family.

Midlife Crisis at 20? Average female life expectancy is 34. Average male life expectancy is 46.5.

Marriage: Girls are married off between the ages of 12 and 14. Their future husbands can be as young as 14 and as old as…well, there’s no upper limit. The girl is given away by her father with a dowry that can be returned if there is divorce. The marriage is a signed contract, and weddings include feasts and processions. An important custom: the groom must carry the bride over the threshold of their home.

Drink up!: Wine is the beverage of choice for everyone and is served at almost all meals.  A typical dinner for Romans is an egg dish served with sweet wine followed by a main entrĂ©e (usually fish or poultry) served with wine. Dessert is fruit served with—you guessed it—wine!

TOGA! TOGA! Men wear knee length white tunics covered by white togas. If a man holds a position of power, he has a purple stripe along his tunic and toga. Women wear long white tunics with sleeves. Over the tunics, they wear a stola: a draped dress dyed in a solid color. Togas are always worn in public; not necessarily worn in the home. Sandals are casual, at-home wear; shoes are outdoor, proper attire.

V’s are W’s: Latin is the language of the day. When spoken, “v” is pronounced as “w.”

Sources: Ecce Romani IA,IB,IIA,IIB. White Plains, NY: Longman Publishing Group, 1995. Hornblower, Simon and Antony Spawforth, eds. The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd edition revised. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

No comments:

Post a Comment