“ROMANA SUM” (the ancient Romans didn’t have lowercase letters) translates as “I am Roman,” where the single speaker is female. An alternative translation* – one I prefer aesthetically – is “I am a woman of Rome.”
I am doing my best, within the world of the SCA, to research and recreate the material culture and life of the Late Republican period. My persona is Tullia Saturnina, a matron of Rome in 50BC. Tullia’s husband is Caius (my RL husband Robert). I live in Dragon’s Mist but I also participate with the Barony of Three Mountains, Stromgard, and at the Kingdom level. I’ve been honored with the Jambe de Lion and the Goute de Sang. I’ve been the Arts & Sciences Champion of the Barony of Dragon’s Mist and of Three Mountains, and A&S Minister of 3M.
I love doing demos and explaining Roman life to the general public. The wide variety of faces people make when I give them a sample of posca is payment enough!
My goal is historical accuracy. If you ever catch me in a mistake (TANTUMMODO OVUM SUM) or think I’d be interested in hearing about something, PLEASE drop me a note! I’ll be posting my papers, etc to the Papers page so you can see what I’m up to. The Resources page has links to lots of info, shopping, etc. I’m not sure yet how else I will use this page. I like the idea of having time go forward at some point… Maybe post some letters from Tullia to her family members about her life, her reactions to public events as Julius Caesar’s story reaches its climax…? Who knows. Feel free to join in the conversation if there’s something you’d like to see.
UPDATE 9/2022: I’ve been focusing more on jewelry making – both Roman and modern – come check out my stuff at TulliasJewels.com
*Unless you are nitpicky about Latin grammar, because it’s not in the genitive form. But “FEMINA ROMANAE SUM” doesn’t make for a snappy blog title, so bear with me.
“Research” doesn’t always have to be a deep dive, involving interlibrary loans and late nights. It’s like working out… sometimes you break out the kettlebells or the cardio playlist, and sometimes you just take a stroll around the block. In both cases, anything is better than nothing!
A few days ago, someone posted a pic in the Romans of the SCA Facebook group. It was a statue wearing platform shoes and a very wide belt.
“What time period is that?” I asked. She didn’t know – it came out of a book. The only info for it was “Musicians in the Louvre.”
Challenge accepted! I put on my deerstalker hat and went to work.
Carving intaglios has been on my “to learn” list for years. Two separate people asked about commissioning pieces within a week, so the time is now!
Ancient artisans used a bow-driven drill. I’m using a flexshaft (a fancy dremel, basically).
You have to keep the stone wet, both to prevent breathing stone dust and to keep the drill bit from overheating and shedding its diamond dust. It’s extremely slow going, and difficult to see what you’re doing (between the water, the opaque slurry the drilling creates, and the tool in the way). You almost have to work by feel. I made the additional poor choice of using a tiny stones for my first practice pieces.
These are a little rough, but for first tries on a nearly microscopic scale I’m pretty pleased.
I made this for my beloved friend Skamp. He’s well known far and wide in the kingdom for his ceaseless efforts for social justice, his leadership during Covid quarantine, and his hysterical bardic skills. I wanted to make a sturdy piece appropriate for his burly self, and he wanted lapis. His persona is Decimus Felix, a Roman soldier stationed in Britain in the 1st century CE.
I was too stressed to take advantage of all that time off, sadly… but now that life is sort of returning to normal, and I’m working again, I’m also finding myself making again! This set of pearl and carnelian melon bead necklace and earrings are SUPER Roman 🙂 except for being brass rather than gold.
The security earwires (yes, they are period) are a little tricky to get on at first but you quickly get the hang of it. I make all of my personal earrings this way now because once they’re on you can’t feel the difference and you’re guaranteed to never lose one. Documentation is here.
WAR! What is it good
for?! Seeing the stars and trees and fog, hanging out with friends, eating
wonderful period food, seeing people I love and admire being honored with
awards… HUH say it again, y’all…
An Tir / West War is a glorious experience, but one you
should be prepared for. Rather than give you all the practical advice* you find
in the usual event-prep articles, I’m going to pull back the curtain and give
you the real skinny.
*But for reals, bring baby wipes. They are essential for everything from foot-cleaning before bed to biffies without TP. And a French shower in the afternoon is surprisingly refreshing.
Remember your tent poles. All of them. If you are one short, you will have to do this!
“The dishes for the first course included… some small iron frames shaped like bridges supporting dormice sprinkled with honey and poppy seed.” – Petronius, Trimalchio’s Feast
Upper class ancient Roman kitchens were outfitted with special pottery homes, glirarium, for dormice (small rodents a bit bigger than a field mouse). They had little ledges and air holes to keep the critters happy. True to Roman life, this practice was both practical and luxurious: The dormice were fed kitchen scraps until properly fattened up, and then they made a lovely snack at the next banquet!
Sometimes they were stuffed with pork, but I prefer this honey & poppyseed delicacy.
My dear friend Vestia Antonia Aurelia was Laureled (a lifetime achievement award for the arts and sciences in the SCA) this past weekend. She does Roman and Minoan portrayals. I wanted to make something for her, and for another friend, Marya Kargashina, who joined the Order of the Laurels a few months ago. Since both Romans and Russians used lunulas (worn by women as protective charms), I decided to make these. The third one went to Julia Sempronia, my first official Roman teacher. ❤
Making Roman jewelry means learning metalsmithing, and I’ve been bitten HARD by that bug. I just set up a mini-studio in my garage so I can practice without traveling across town to Fjorlief’s studio on those rare days when our schedules are compatible.
For the past six months I’ve been agonizing about period methods. Letting go of that after Athenaeum was wonderfully freeing.
One of my long-term goals is to duplicate this bracelet, which will require soldering (I’ve got the basics already), dapping (shaping hemispheres from flat sheet metal), and die striking, casting or repousse (for the shells).
Here’s my first attempt at dapping. It was super fun!
Yesterday was the first – but certainly not the last – An Tir Athenaeum. It was an Arts & Sciences “display for comments” event. Basically I signed up for a table, put out my jewelry and papers, and had enlightening chats with people all day, surrounded by a sea of tables with OTHER peoples’ fascinating work. No forms, no judging, no losers (we were all winners!). It was a delightfully welcoming format.