A Day Around Town

I saw the notable woman Antonia, a wife of a senator, in the streets today. Word had gotten around that her aunt had died and it was clear that she had been crying recently. I had always  had a bit of a grudge against the senatorial class, with all their arrogance and pompousness, but I found a little beauty in the moment, taking solace in the fact that the struggle for life seems to be evident in all classes and death is a universal enemy of all of us.

Her husband, Aelianus was consoling her, but I had a very different set of emotions for him. Although he had also lost a family member, although not by blood, when I saw him all I could think about was my murdered father and how a man like Aelianus killed him simply when he was trying to even the radically uneven distribution of wealth through the theft of something so trivial such as jewelry. Sometimes I question Roman law and the classes.

On the topic of classes, I spoke to Marcus, a third class citizen, as he was making his way back from the baths. He didn’t have much time for me, but he did have just enough to boast his trip to Rome. It’s amazing what a difference several classes can make.  I saw him then run of with his strong family, which I was jealous of, having lost many family members.

To ease my temper I headed towards a gladiator game being held in the local amphitheater, there I saw Rutilius a local gladiator. He was famous for embarking on the life of a gladiator by choice, an odd decision in my opinion, as death is almost a certainty, but he was very skilled in his battle and was victorious. He is the heartthrob of many young girls.

In the crowd, I caught a glimpse of Cordia, a young girl of the Proletarius class like myself and the apple of my eye. She had been sick for a while, just like my sister, but her mother took tremendous care of her and took her to a Folk-healer. I went to her door everyday with flowers, hoping to win her favor. I wished to speak to her, but the crowd was heavy and sweaty on that hot August day.

Interestingly, I also caught Narcissus, who I know is a slave at the games. This bothered me somewhat, not only because it seems as though he escaped from his master’s hold just to see the game, but he quite the smile on his face, enjoying the mischief. Here I was trying to survive day to day and he was enjoying his shenanigans, even as a slave. I surely do live in a city of diverse classes, with quite a variety of characters.

 

Caught

When orators speak of the glory of Rome, I sometimes feel as though they forget to mention plight of the lesser members of the empires. Us of the Proletarius class lead far from glamorous lives, as you probably can tell from my previous journal entries. Well, as time goes by my family’s situation worsens even still.

Following the death of my sweet sister, my father fell into a deep depression with this tragedy compounded with our already terrible living conditions. His performance at the glass factory was severely effected. His attendance was streaky at best, and even when he did attend, his work was sub par. It was not long until he was let go.

My mother’s prostitution was simply not enough to support the entire family, even with my sister passing. Even in the most peaceful eras of Roman history, theft has always been very alive throughout the empire (Fuhrmann 46), its appeal is to people like us, desperate and struggling to feed ourselves. Dating back to the republic, many believed morality in their lifetime had a direct correlation with the quality of after life (Fuhrmann 4). Perhaps times have changed, but in many ways my father had no choice as he put his family before his salvation.

My father chose the villa of a man of equite status as his target. He went in the dark of night in order to maintain a level of secrecy,attention is the thieves greatest enemy (Fuhrmann 57). My father entered the villa with ease, and went after some golden jewelry which he hoped to pawn to for grain for his wife and children. His rummaging must have caught the attention of the owner and he did not hesitate to grab his dagger, stab my father multiple times and kill him. This killing is completely legal, unfortunately, according to The Laws of the Twelve Tables (Mellor 2) because it took place at night. The owner secured the jewelry, the authorities were contacted and nothing more was done, as it was a legal kill.

My father took a risk, perhaps he was driven out of despair for his lost young daughter or just to keep his families bellies full for just a couple more weeks, but he failed to complete the task. Now three remain of the original five, the main breadwinner has been legally killed, with no reimbursement for us. My mother now prostitutes her self to such a degree that I hardly ever see her anymore, but it is the only means of survival. I am angered by the circumstances of our social class, but there is nothing I can do but try to survive and aid my last remaining family members.

Works Cited

Fuhrmann, Christopher J. Policing the Roman Empire: Soldiers, Administration, and Public Order. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2012. Print.

Mellor, Ronald. The Historians of Ancient Rome. New York: Routledge, 1998. Print.

Tragedy

Why is it that us Proletarius, already subject to poverty, and the unhygienic conditions which accompany it, are always victim to ravages of disease and death? My dear younger sister, Cassia, so young and so beautiful, has been taken away from us. She was taken from us at the very eve of autumn, a time when many unfortunate souls leave our world (Gigante). It seems so unjust, as she was just a young innocent girl, never given an opportunity to disgrace her family or the entirety of Rome, yet she was taken before she could enjoy the prime of her life. Her fever worsened every day that passed. Her shaking became more violent and chills more extreme, eventually she began to vomit (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Our family does not have the means to hold the extravagant ceremonies and funerals which some of the more privileged Romans are lucky enough to enjoy, but we said our good-byes the best we could in a traditional Roman way. We approached her individually and gave our last thoughts and comforts. Lastly, my mother, who was closest to dear Cassia, gently shut her eyes and caught her fleeting souls with a light kiss on the lips, before we began the cremation process (Toynbee 43-44). These traditions were performed gracefully and allowed for a proper grieving process. The most important thing was that we were close to her as she passed, so that she would not go alone.

This whole ordeal has no doubt been a scarring and painful experience for my entire family, but we must remain optimistic in times such as these. Although some others might be skeptical , I’m inclined to believe that Cassia’s individuality is still present, even following her earthly existence and, in fact, her soul now enjoys an even greater, beautiful existence (Toynbee 38). My mother has been most effected by this incident, as she was closest to Cassia. She now remains as the sole female in our household and continues her embarrassing work as a prostitute. There is no break for us however, to stop and mourn for even several days would spell starvation and greater debt for us. My father continued his work at glass making and I stepped up my petty theft. Perhaps the one silver lining of this whole ordeal is the fact that there is one less mouth to feed. For individuals in our social position, sometimes I feel as though there is no hope for a better life.

 

Works Cited

“Disease.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2015.

Gigante, Linda. “Death and Disease in Ancient Rome.” In Nominate Society. University of Louisville, n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2015.

Toynbee, J. M. C. Death and Burial in the Roman World. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1971. Print.

Desperate Times

As we advance through the month of January, I’m afraid our situation is deteriorating. My father’s wage, which he receives from the glass workshop, is failing to sustain a family of five sufficiently. We are becoming increasingly malnourished and desperate for more money for grain. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so my mother has taken up prostitution to provide the family with extra income.  I suppose many Romans forget that a man can use the strength of his body for a number of labors, but a woman is limited to sex as a use of her body for income (Knapp 236). In many ways, my mother had no choice if she wanted her children to survive.

I fear for her, the life of a prostitute is not an easy one. Actually the fact that she is not a slave endangers her more. While no one is looking out for my mother, at least slave prostitutes receive some security from their master, as they do not wished to have damaged goods (Knapp 237). However, while my father is working at the glass factory, my mother is unprotected from the brutality of her clients and especially prone to physical and psychological damage or even murder. She refuses to enlist the aid of a pimp as she wants to maintain some degree of respect for her husband.

My mother attempts to avoid the authorities as much as she can. Prostitutes are, for the most part, untouched by the Roman government, but a tax on prostitution has been present since the mid first century (Knapp 239-240), which my mother attempts to avoid at all costs to maximize her profit. She can evade these authorities rather swiftly as she doesn’t not belong to a slave owner or brothel, she works privately and therefore has no connections which authorities could trace to her and discover her status.

To her credit, she spends many hours at work in an attempt to maximize her total clients and feed us. The money isn’t a significant amount, but the increase to our total income has made a noticeable difference in the amount of food we can afford and rent we can pay, creating a securer environment for ourselves. One might see a life of prostitution as negative. It is degrading and humiliating for the individual, not to mention extremely dangerous.. However, it is common place in families like ours as a supplementary source of income and I therefore see it as more of a necessary evil.

 

Work Cited

Knapp, Robert C. Invisible Romans. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2011. Print.

 

I, Lucius Labienus

My father migrated with my mother from Rome in 136 CE, when I, Lucius Labienus, was born, to escape the over packed tenement homes of Rome, in which they were practically stacked shoulder to shoulder with others (Rawson 211), so that I could live in a more wholesome environment. My father has always seemed to be cursed with debt wherever he travelled. His intentions were always pure, to feed his young children and his wife, but fate never brought him enough to compensate his loaners. Alas, we travelled from small city to small city to escape any humiliation and punishment that is promised by the twelve tables until we found peace in Aphrodisias in this year, 150 CE.

The census bestows the title of “Proletarius” on my father, and our family extension. Rightfully so, considering how we have been emptied by debt. One might consider this an insult to a Roman’s prestige. After all, the title implies that all we can attribute to Rome is children, as if we were animals. I, Lucius Labienus, consider it all a matter of perspective.  To be born healthy and survive the Roman judgment of physical health is one thing (Rawson 116), but considering that the risk of everyday life significantly slims the hopes of surviving to the teenage years (Rawson 220), I’m overjoyed to be part of a full family with my brother and sister, in addition. Most importantly despite our class, we are still Romans, and that is more than many poor souls can say.

My father works as hard as he can to provide for our family by working in a secondary glass workshop. Here his workshop accepts broken and unwanted fragments of glass imported from other regions of the empire and converts them into finely crafted vessels which can be used to for a variety of purposes.(Mahon and Price 168). Sometimes I visit him during the day, it is hard not to sweat with the furnace blazing at unimaginable temperature and our small tenement home at the heart of the city feels like a dream in comparison. Sometimes I wonder how he does it.

I am genuinely concerned that our family will fall victim to the debt again, as my father has continued to turn to loaners to provide us with enough grain, as sometimes his payments from the workshop are just not enough. If he were ever to fail to pay his debts again, I fear we would revert to our nomadic lifestyle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

MacMahon, Ardle, and J. Price. Roman Working Lives and Urban Living. Oxford: Oxbow, 2005. Print.

Rawson, Beryl. Children and Childhood in Roman Italy. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003. Print.

 

 

30 questions

Everyday Life
-As a child of the proletariat class, what would I expect my education to be like?
-What are some everyday tasks I would have to perform for the family?
-what are some luxuries, if any, I enjoy?
-What kind of food do I enjoy?
-What kind of physical exercises do I partake in?
-What are some of the religious aspects of my life?
-What kind of social activities do I participate in?
-How common is death?
-How often does someone close to me die/get imprisoned/get exiled/go to war?
-Would I have to speak anything other than Latin in my day to day life?
Family
-Where do I lie in the hierarchy of the family? (Do I proceed girl children?)
-What is expected of me as I mature into a man?
-How does my family make a living?
-What are some of the discipline techniques of my father?
-What does my father do for money?
-How can I provide monetary support for the family in any way?
-How close am I to my mother and father?
-Do we ever travel outside the city? Why?
Location
-Where would I reside in the city?
-What kind of structure would I live in?
Class
-Do I have authority over lower classes?
-At what age am I considered a legal man?
-Do I do anything to prepare for military life?
-What kind of taxing does my family experience?
General Background
-How did my family come to be in Aphrodisias?
-Which people may I have animosity towards?
-What’s my attitude toward the Roman government?
-What is the climate like?
-Are earthquakes a common occurrence?
-Am I literate?