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Elfinspell Introduction to the Online Text


PROFESSOR FRIEDLÄNDER’S Town Life in Ancient Italy,

Translated by


This text on Italian social life outside of Old Rome is full of curious details on a variety of subjects collected in one place: what the towns looked like, their political and financial structure, as well as the social habits of the denizens of these places. The translator, W. E. Waters, says that much of the material applies to Italian country life in the Middle Ages as well. It is part of The Students’ Series, published by Benjamin H. Sanborn and Company, a Boston firm, and is therefore succinct and readable, with some annotation of source materials.

Rome of old was enlightened in some ways that we have forgotten. A prime example being that Rome did not allow their most popular events, the chariot races in the circus, to be held in any other city, because of the post-game riots that occurred, despite all the resources of the capital. In the outlying cities, if other permissable public entertainments were followed by episodes of violence, then the city could be banned from holding them for a time determined by the Emperor. This was a big deal to the cities, the example cited occurred in Pompeii after games in the amphitheater there in 59 A.D. The punishment seemed to have worked, because no later penalty in any other town is cited because the lesson was a much dreaded one for everybody, which certainly helped preserve post-game peace. International soccer and rugby would have more fans and a saner quality of spectators if this practice was adopted. Post-Spectacle violence in many countries has been a time-honored custom for years in modern times, which is a fairly blatant testimony to the persistence of our present Age of Unenlightenment.

There were few typos in the text, but they have been emended, and so noted in the source code of the page affected.

My copy of the book was discarded from the library of St. Mark”s in Southborough.

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