State of the Author: Honest With Myself

Today, I have admitted defeat where Pompeii Fire is concerned. After three years, I have 35K words. Clearly the story is not working the way I wanted. I’m moving it to the proverbial parking lot and trying something else entirely.

I have the beginning inklings of a story for Bronwen, one of the side characters in Rose in Bloom, and already have 2.5K words after just a couple of days’ writing.

It’s time to stop banging my head against the wall of one story and let others come out.

The Misunderstood Roman Empress Who Willed Her Way to the Top | History | Smithsonian Magazine

Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Catherine the Great—to the roster of history’s unfairly maligned women leaders must be added the name of Galla Placidia Augusta. Although her name in Latin means “placidity” or “peace,” Placidia’s life was anything but; she experienced more adventures than Marie Antoinette and Amelia Earhart combined. Perhaps no other figure, male or female, enjoyed such an intimate view of the Western Roman Empire’s operatic death throes or influenced events for such a prolonged period. But the attacks on her reputation began not long after her death, with authors like Cassiodorus denouncing her rule as the nadir of Rome’s fortunes. Only in recent years have scholars gone back to read the contemporary sources with more objectivity, revealing Placidia as a far more sympathetic figure, a strong-willed leader with radical ideas on how to save the crumbling empire.

The Misunderstood Roman Empress Who Willed Her Way to the Top | History | Smithsonian Magazine

Ancient Roman concrete could self-heal thanks to “hot mixing” with quicklime | Ars Technica

The famous Pantheon in Rome boasts the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome—an architectural marvel that has endured for millennia, thanks to the incredible durability of ancient Roman concrete. For decades, scientists have been trying to determine precisely what makes the material so durable. A new analysis of samples taken from the concrete walls of the Privernum archaeological site near Rome has yielded insights into those elusive manufacturing secrets. It seems the Romans employed “hot mixing” with quicklime, among other strategies, that gave the material self-healing functionality, according to a new paper published in the journal Science Advances.

Ancient Roman concrete could self-heal thanks to “hot mixing” with quicklime | Ars Technica

Gladiator sweat and leech hair dye; how to survive in Ancient Rome – Historia Magazine

There were numerous beauty treatments available for both men and women. Skin could be made softer by an application of moist bread, wrinkles retarded by bathing in asses milk and complexions made fashionably paler by a foundation of (toxic) white lead.

Hair dyes were made from a variety of ingredients, including henna but the ickiest award goes to a potion of leeches fermented in vinegar for several months before being applied to the hair. After which you will have lovely black hair, but presumably not many friends due to the smell.

Gladiator sweat and leech hair dye; how to survive in Ancient Rome – Historia Magazine

First, I must say that L.J. Trafford’s How to Survive in Ancient Rome is a brilliant read.

This hair dye concoction referenced above is used by Stephanus the Fuller in my work-in-progress, Pompeii Fire. He hopes that his newly-darkened hair will impress Drusilla.

Click through for more interesting facts about ancient Roman medical and cosmetic treatments.

the Richest Athlete of All Time Did Nothing With His Wealth and Vanished Into History

The vast majority of charioteers were slaves, forced into competition much like gladiators. Naturally, this gave Diocles an edge. His social standing allowed him to be well fed, well rested, and better prepared than the majority of his competition — but this wasn’t enough to make it a difference on its own.

There was a definite abundance of talent that he had over most riders. The risks were ever present, though, with most charioteers being injured or killed in a matter of months after their first race. This makes Diocles’ long career even more remarkable. The reason for this high mortality rate among charioteers was innate to chariot racing, but also due to the twist that Romans put on it.

Wearing just simple leather helmets, shin guards and basic chest protectors, it wasn’t uncommon for charioteers to lose their lives during a race when turning a corner or swerving to avoid a competitor. Rather than hold the reins in their hands like the Greeks did when racing, the Romans would tie them around the charioteer’s waists.

This allowed the driver to have free hands to better steer their horses, but also meant that in the event of a crash they would be dragged around the course until they were dead, or the horses became tired. Sometimes both. As a result, drivers carried a curved knife exclusively for the purposes of cutting their reins in the event of a crash, but even then it was routinely known that should a chariot crash, the driver would likely be seriously injured or killed.

the Richest Athlete of All Time Did Nothing With His Wealth and Vanished Into History

While none of my characters are charioteers, this article is an interesting look at the sport … and at one of ancient Rome’s wealthiest athletes.