The ancient Romans are well-known for keeping an abundance of written records about their society. Sometimes, it almost seems as though we know more about them than we do about ourselves.
Of course, World History and History of Western Civilization courses and textbooks always cover the history of the Romans. After all, so much of modern society and politics mirrors their achievements. However, some facts never seem to come up in class, many of which are quite strange. Some even border on the fantastical.
10. The Romans Closely Guarded Books That Foretold Events To Come
Locked away from prying eyes were books written in spidery Greek that spoke of the future of Rome and her citizens, including its inevitable end. These tomes were kept within the Temple of Jupiter where only the most skilled interpreter was permitted to trace his gnarled finger across the faded lines to determine what was to happen and how best to prevent it.
Legend has it that an old lady approached King Tarquin way back when Rome was still ruled by Etruscan kings. She offered him nine books at an absurd price, which he promptly refused with a hearty “Harrumph!”
She proceeded to burn three of the books and then returned with the remaining six, still demanding the same price. Once again, he refused. But this time, he began to question what he was turning down.
When she returned with three books after burning three more, he quickly bought the tomes. Upon perusing the battered manuscripts, it was apparent that they were books of prophecy for they told of Rome’s imminent rise and fall.
Many associated the old lady with a sibyl who had foretold the fall of Troy. From that day forward, the books were kept secret and closely guarded, only to be brought out when Rome was in peril and in need of answers.
9. Crassus’s Fire Brigade Was The Most Corrupt Fire Department Ever
Rome’s First Triumvirate consisted of three very powerful men: Julius Caesar, Gnaeus Pompey, and Marcus Crassus. Due to the overwhelming shadow of Caesar and Pompey, Crassus tends to fall by the wayside in most history classes. This is a shame because he was a veritable misanthrope whose avarice and lack of humanity were legendary.
One of the lesser-known stories about him concerns his fire brigade. After all, what great municipality would be complete without emergency units to respond to catastrophes such as a raging fire threatening to engulf one’s home?
Except this unit would arrive on the scene only to refuse their services until the owner sold his property cheap to Crassus. Imagine seeing your home lit up like a bonfire, just begging to be doused by the firefighters standing not 5 meters (15 ft) away, and your only options are to let it all burn away or sell it for far less than it’s worth.