“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 50BCE. My persona is Tullia Saturnina, a widowed midwife. Tullia’s sweetheart is Caius (my guy 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.
*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.
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!
Feed your neighbor. It’s a great way to make
friends (especially when he’s a cute new vendor with a delightfully historic
inventory and an epic beard), and it means that you weren’t crazy when you
packed enough to provision an army when there’s just two of you.
a class and learn how to make a thing, or about how grinding up gems and
drinking them will cure your epilepsy. Also, you can make nearly anything out
No trailing hems! Save your finery for hotel events: This is your big chance to go lower-class and be comfortable. When you’re standing in a wet biffy you’ll be super glad your persona couldn’t afford silk sleeves that bell to your ankles.
Extroverts: Go to parties and meet people!
Introverts: Go to parties and meet dogs!
people like to bring booze. I’m more likely to be bearing cheese.
furs and thrift shop wool blankets to keep warm. My personal favorite discovery
is the draft-blocking wonder of a sheepskin that I got cheap due to a big hole
in the center. When turned fur-side down and arranged to allow snorkel breathing
through the hole, the bottom half tucks under the covers in a ridiculously
satisfying and cozy manner.
the War! I hear it’s great. Despite attending this event 7 times I have yet to
make it down to the field. Oops. Don’t worry, you’ll get to see the fighters
slogging around before and after in their shiny getups. It’s both impressive
Support your local merchants. Remember, our
hobby is packing, driving, and unpacking a household TWICE per event. You need
to buy lots of period stuff so this is as big a job as possible. Don’t worry if
your car is full, including the nooks and crannies under your seat. Soon you’ll
buy an old van or trailer and fill that, too.
Visit the Cook’s Playdate! These talented gourmets cook all day over open fires and temporary brick ovens. In the evening they set up a long table by the main road. When they’re done eating, they start verbally lassoing passersby, handing them a paper plate, and forcing them to try historic dishes. These poor victims often wind up holding up the line because they are standing, eyes closed, savoring the amazing alchemy in their mouths. “Period food is yummy!” is the Playdate motto, and all I can say is “WITNESS!!”
Find some hot bardic action. There’s not much better in life than sitting around a campfire, telling stories, singing songs, and blaming someone else for farting. The only hard part about this for me is staying up late enough for the no-kids part of the party. Warning: 9pm naps are too late, and result in the alarm being turned off and the hole in the sheepskin being put to good use (not a euphemism).
After dark, don’t be alarmed by the sounds of a ravaging pack of howling rabid wolves taking down a large animal, probably a horse. It’s actually just a chorus of children and 2 small dogs.
When you do a midnight biffy run, stop on the way back and look at the stars. Just stand there… the longer you look, the more your eyes will adjust and the shy ones will come out, too. Pretty soon you’re floating in a sea of velvet and diamonds, with the Milky Way as a great swath across the world. This was the primal human experience for millennia, and we have robbed ourselves of this pleasure with light pollution. Soak it up. It’s good for your soul.
In all seriousness, getting away from my modern life and
taking time to smell the campfire is a superb way to recharge. Even though I’m
working every day, I come back more relaxed than my usual vacations. I know
this isn’t what Publius meant when he wrote “Si vis
pacem, para bellum (If you want peace, prepare for war),” but it works for this Roman.
“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.
Our “dormice” are sweet and crispy, with a slight crunch coming from the poppy seeds. In short, they’re delicious, and I dare say Flavia would be pleased. Much more than that, they’re seriously simple to make, allowing you to add a taste of ancient Rome to your dinner/party/classroom without the hassle of chopping herbs and grinding hard-to-find spices.
Chicken Thighs & Drumsticks
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Rinse the chicken and cut off all the nasty bits. Leave the skin on if you want the ‘mice’ to be nice and crispy! Once rinsed, pat the chicken dry.
Set the chicken onto an oiled/greased baking tray, and rub some of the olive oil into the skin. Season with salt and pepper and place into the oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes at 375 F / 190 C.
Just before the chicken is due to come out of the oven, gently heat some honey in a small pan, and sprinkle some poppy seeds out onto a plate. I find that the heat of the stove is usually enough – just set the pan on an (inactive) burner.
Roll the cooked chicken around in the honey and then the poppy seeds. The hotter the chicken is, the thinner the honey coating will be. If you want a thicker, more decadent experience, when all the pieces have been coated, pour the remaining honey and poppy seeds over the top of the plated chicken.
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. ❤
The first design had balls at the ends. I was cutting these out of 18 ga sterling silver sheet. I used a leaf stamp in two sizes, plus a little dot to create the laurel leaves. The screwy one on the left was improved by the addition of more leaves. Once I was happy with the designs, I set to with a saw, then file file file!!!
I had some leftover doubled wire from making my husband’s wedding ring, and used it for two of the bails. For the third, I cut out a rectangle of sheet silver, and soldered beaded wire on either side. The surface where they attached to the back was then filed flat before soldering.
I would have loved to leave them like this, aesthetically, but the points were a bit stabby and I didn’t want to draw blood with hugs, so I softened them with more filing. I think I did some burnishing after this pic was taken, too.
After blackening one (top left), I decided I liked it so much I did all three. It makes me very happy to be able to create things for my friends! ❤
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.
Phallic images were very popular in Ancient Rome to ward off the evil eye and generally be protective. These gold rings (British Museum collection) are child-sized. I made 2 silver rings (for Drusa and myself) and some charms. I wrote a paper on this topic a few years ago and bring a hard copy to events. It’s the one paper I don’t post online. 🙂
Note: It’s difficult to see in the pics below, but the left charm soldered with a space between the frank and the beans, so I made some 28ga wire pubic hair. I also got silly with the bail on that one, so it’s curly front and back, if you know what I mean.
These were a ton of fun to make and I might need to crank a few more out…
UPDATE: I did indeed make more – they are available for sale. Rings $50, charms $35.
Unbelievable feast by Baroness Marian Staarveld. Wreaths and my hair by Mauera Cethin.
Left to right: Caius, Tullia (me), Titus, Drusa (Pronuba), Doctore Decimus Varius Felix (Flamen Dialis), Magistra Julia Sempronia (Flaminica Dialis). Not pictured, our Pontifex Maximus, Davide Di Francesco Dominici.