DID YOU KNOW THERE WAS A ROMAN EMPEROR VALERIAN WHO WAS MAYBE MURDERED BY BEING FORCED TO DRINK MOLTEN GOLD
But despite Hollywood’s near-complete refusal to acknowledge it, ancient Rome was the original melting pot. See, back then, color and prejudice weren’t linked — unlike racism and stupidity today. Rome even had at least two African emperors, Severus and Macrinus. Rome was unique in the ancient world for its inclusive citizenship. In the past, a city-state like Sparta might have conquered a people and enslaved or slaughtered them all. Rome, on the other hand, blew ancient people’s minds by assimilating or even naturalizing the conquered. The ancient Romans didn’t even force conquered peoples to give up their own languages or customs.
The important thing for the Romans was that people followed the law, paid taxes, and, oh yeah, fought in the Roman army. The Romans were no dummies: Little old Rome was never going to be able to populate the world it conquered, let alone defend it, so absorbing other peoples like a giant legionary sponge was the only way to keep enough bodies in the military and on its farms. Rome enrolled northwest Africans, Moors, Gauls, Celts, Jews — pretty much anyone who could swing a sword or throw a spear — which is how an Ethiopian soldier could find himself fighting in Britain (maybe that’s why every film Roman speaks with a British accent).
There are no exact numbers on ancient Roman diversity, but given Rome’s constant contact with Africa and the Near East, the coliseum we asked you to imagine earlier should look more like Ellis Island and less like a Dave Matthews Band concert."
Africans rose to leading positions in Rome’s service even before Septimius Severus, a North African, became a Roman emperor in 193 without any stigma about his African ancestry (Isichei, 1997, p. 169). Septimius Severus, born in 146 in Leptis Magna, Tripolitania (now Libya) was a senator, consul, and governor of Upper Pannonia, now in Austria and Hungary. He was the commander of the largest army on the Danube River and as emperor led his army to Britain to subdue some areas on the island that were not yet under Roman rule. Severus was married to Julia, a Syrian princess. Although he spoke Latin with an accent, he was distinguished enough in the military that he was proclaimed emperor by his troops to run the affairs of Rome. Severus, the son of an African equestrian, reformed the structure of the Roman imperial government, the law, and the military. He reduced the number of soldiers in the legions under the roman generals in order to prevent the rise of powerful generals. He rewarded the soldiers for their support of his leadership and permitted them to marry. He also increased the pay of the Roman soldiers.
Severus was a friend of the underprivileged and donated extensively to the urban poor. He paid particular attention to justice and fair play and appointed a praetorian prefect as head of the senatorial jurisdiction. Using the advice of renowned jurists Papinian and Ulpian, he embarked on an extensive reform of the Roman laws. He had a full treasury, although he was actively involved in building campaigns (Encyclopedia Britannica, Internet version, 1998b). Given the influence of Rome in Europe and Africa, Severus’ leadership may have had some indirect impact on the development in the territory now known as Russia.
Wisniewski notes that most people make the false assumption that Rome was “Lily White” because movies typically depict Rome’s citizenry as Caucasian. However, the Roman Empire extended into Northern Africa, Turkey, and the Arabian peninsula. It should come as no surprise that Rome was much more diverse than it tends to be depicted in popular culture.
My racial background is one that is not represented in “western fantasy” often, if ever, and I don’t expect characters with my own racial appearance to exist in ASOIAF. But the reason why I write is because I do know a lot of fans who saw themselves visually in the Rhoynar and yes, in House Martell.
Many of your readers of color (from all sorts of racial/ethnic backgrounds) read that Oberyn had olive skin, black hair, and “saturnine” features. They read that Joffrey japed about “a Dornishman and a cowflop.” From Oakheart they saw the Dornish described as hypersexualized with “peppers and strange spices.” They read about Alleras and how she was “dark as teak” and “brown as a nut” and disparaged as a “monkey.” (If she’s part Summer Islander, why qualify brown with ‘light’?) We related to those experiences and those misunderstandings. We read interviews where—while cautioning against direct analogies—you noted Palestinian, Moorish, and Welsh influences. We identified with the concept of a Targ king sorting the Dornish by phenotypical traits as part of the conquest. We saw that portrait of Arianne and we recognized that perhaps she would be the only PoV who is a woman of color.
Maybe we were just imagining what we wanted to see: a more diverse Westeros with a level of verisimilitude closer to that of actual medieval Europe rather than modern fantasy’s monochrome. Dorne gave your readers of color hope that they could be seen as a part of a medieval fantasy world, just as people of color were a part of medieval history and lore. Sir Palamedes, Safir, and Segwarides sat at Arthur’s roundtable—surely nonwhite characters could sit on a Westerosi Small Council. If Alessandro de’Medici was the Duke of Florence, why not a brown man as the Prince of Dorne?"
how is it possible to love fictional characters this much and also have people always been this way?
like, did queen elizabeth lie in bed late sometimes thinking ‘VERILY I CANNOT EVEN FOR MERCUTIO HATH SLAIN ME WITH FEELS’
was caesar like ‘ET TU ODYSSEUS’
sometimes i wonder
oh my GOD
the answer is yes they did. there’s a lot of research about the highly emotional reactions to the first novels widely available in print.
here’s a thing; the printing press was invented in 1450 and whilst it was revolutionary it wasn’t very good. but then it got better over time and by the 16th century there were publications, novels, scientific journals, folios, pamphlets and newspapers all over Europe. at first most were educational or theological, or reprints of classical works.
however, novels gained in popularity, as basically what most people wanted was to read for pleasure. they became salacious, extremely dramatic, with tragic heroines and doomed love and flawed heroes (see classical literature, only more extreme.) books in the form of letters were common. sensationalism was par the course and apparently used to teach moral lessons. there was also a lot of erotica floating around.
but here’s the thing: due to the greater availability of literature and the rise of comfy furniture (i shit you not this is an actual historical fact, the 16th and 17th century was when beds and chairs got comfy) people started reading novels for pleasure, women especially. as these novels were highly emotional, they too became…highly emotional. there are loads of contemporary reports of young women especially fainting, having hysterics, or crying fits lasting for days due to the death of a character or their otp’s doomed love. they became insensible over books and characters, and were very vocal about it. men weren’t immune-there’s a long letter a middle-aged man wrote to the author of his favourite work basically saying that the novel is too sad, he can’t handle all his feels, if they don’t get together he won’t be able to go on, and his heart is already broken at the heroine’s tragic state (IIRC ehh).
conservatives at the time were seriously worried about the effects of literature on people’s mental health, and thought it damaging to both morals and society. so basically yes it is exactly like what happens on tumblr when we cry over attractive British men, only my historical theory (get me) is that their emotions were even more intense, as they hadn’t had a life of sensationalist media to numb the pain for them beforehand in the same way we do, nor did they have the giant group therapy session that is tumblr.
(don’t even get me started on the classical/early medieval dudes and their boners for the Iliad i will be here all week. suffice to say, the members of the Byzantine court used Homeric puns instead of talking normally to each other if someone who hand’t studied the classics was in the room. they had dickish fandom in-jokes. boom.)
I needed to know this.
See, we’re all just the current steps in a time-honored tradition! (And this post is good to read along with Affectingly’s post this week about old-school-fandom-and-history-and-stuff.
Ancient Iliad fandom is intense
Alexander the Great and and his boyfriend totally RPed Achilles and Patroclus. Alexander shipped that hard. (It’s possible that this story is apocryphal, but that would just mean that ancient historians were writing RPS about Alexander and Hephaestion RPing Iliad slash and honestly that’s just as good).
And then there’s this gem from Plato:
“Very different was the reward of the true love of Achilles towards his lover Patroclus - his lover and not his love (the notion that Patroclus was the beloved one is a foolish error into which Aeschylus has fallen, for Achilles was surely the fairer of the two, fairer also than all the other heroes; and, as Homer informs us, he was still beardless, and younger far)” - Symposium
That’s right: 4th Century BCE arguments about who topped. Nihil novi sub sole my friends.
Note that the printing press in China is invented much earlier and it has basically the same effect. Social conservatives in the censor bureau censored huge amounts of literature and poetry because of the devastating effect it had on the literati class (who formed most of the government bureaucracy, let’s not forget: So your state governor can’t work this week because he’s having Baoyu / Daiyu feels.) This did not stop it from leaking out anyway, in secret editions and hand-copied versions. And OMG the feels that these people have. There’s basically a constant struggle between the censors and this underground fandom, most novels are copied chapter-by-chapter, with people inserting fanfic chapters when they don’t have all the material (so if you have chapters 2, 3, 4, 10, 12 of your favorite book you might write your own 5-9 and circulate them) or just writing straight-up fanfic (famously in Water Margin and Red Chamber it _becomes canon_ after the author’s death.)
This post is the best thing, every part of it. Nothing to add except wow.
I’ve reblogged this before, but it had less information on it then. Shakespeare is almost entirely stuff we’d call fanfiction nowadays and his histories are RPF. We have evidence medieval nobility did things a lot like weekend-long LARP as entertainment, with paid performers as game organizers and NPCs. For centuries, there have been rumors that Queen Victoria knighted Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in order to pressure him into retconning Reichenbach and continuing to write Sherlock Holmes stories.
I was an enormous Tolkien geek in middle school, and went as far as reading a lot of his letters/a lot of Simarillion meta. The short version is, he deliberately left gaps in the Silmarillion because Tolkien, as a professor of language and mythology, believed that for nearly all of human history storytelling had been participatory and involved many tellers of the same tales. He thought early-to-mid 20th century pop-culture and mass media were destructive because people did far less telling of stories, claiming of stories, and reworking of stories. I am pretty sure that, despite being a stuffy old professorial Christian white dude who would probably not read any porny fic or watch shippy vids, Tolkien is beaming in his grave over such things’ existence - over participatory storytelling having finally made its glorious comeback, over the 20th century’s approach to narrative being firmly established as an abberant nightmare that is thankfully mostly over. Did we get mythos we all reference and participate in to come back in style? Oh, by Harry Potter’s scar and every Jedi’s lightsaber, have we ever pulled that one off.
I follow the smartest people.
One hand slid up her thigh and underneath her smallclothes. When he tore them away, he saw that her moon’s blood was on her, but it made no difference.
Today’s topic is menstruation. I know, I know, but after last week’s topic, smallclothes, I received several questions about how one dealt with this issue in a world without drawers. Cersei is wearing her tear away panties in this scene, so presumably she could use something, although Jaime makes no note of it. (Can you imagine if he had? People are already disturbed by the menstrual blood in this sex scene, as opposed to the body of their dead son being right there.) It begs the question: what did medieval women use? It might actually turn out that in potentially using nothing, Cersei is more medieval than you’d expect.
Hilary Mantel, “Royal Bodies” (London Review of Books)
I am reading this right now because a) Hilary Mantel is brilliant, and b) the entire internet seems to be in a tizzy about it, which is really saying something for an essay in the LRB. And let me tell you, it is FANTASTIC.
i wholeheartedly recommend this piece! the internet and some non-internet places seem to think it’s some kind of hit piece on kate middleton, which literally could not be farther from the truth? so idk what line they read out of context before ignoring the rest (probably the machine-turned limbs bit? which: ugh so jealous of her phrasing), but the rest (which is more of a hit piece on vulture culture and the commodification of celebrity and reproduction among other things? imo?) is pretty fucking fantastic.
so go read it okay great
I know I’m an old but Jim Lehrer Office Space’ing all over the stage isn’t the worst debate moderation of all time, you guys. It’s not even the worst of the last thirty years.
Just a simple question in 1988 from debate moderator Bernard Shaw tripped up then-Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis: “Governor, if [your wife] Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?”