Every one knew how laborious the usual Method is of attaining to Arts and Sciences; whereas by his Contrivance, the most ignorant Person at a reasonable Charge, and with a little bodily Labour, may write Books in Philosophy, Poetry, Politicks, Law, Mathematicks and Theology, without the least Assistance from Genius or Study.

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Gulliver's Travels:
Voyage to Laputa





Laputan Logic

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Laputan Logic*
Fanciful. Preposterous. Absurd.
As regular readers will know this blog has been on a break for several months. Posting will resume eventually when time permits however in the meantime, rather than just leave the site idle, I thought it might be fun to recycle (and in some cases rework) some of the better posts from the archives.

I expect to update the site on a semi-regular basis every 3 days or so.
Roma, Romolo, Remo


The twin founders of Rome : Romulus and Remus

The Roman sources are quite insistent on the point that Rome was founded in the middle of the eighth century BC. Most of them settling on the specific date of the 23rd of April, 753 BC when the first settlement was built on the Palatine Hill. According to the myth Romulus chose the Palatine while his twin brother Remus preferred the Aventine.

Things had gotten a bit testy between the brothers after they both decided to found a city on the same spot and couldn't agree on who should be its king. When Romulus built a simple earthen wall around his settlement, Remus contemptuously jumped over it jeering:

"See? That was a piece of cake, Dork Face."

Infuriated, Romulus took out his sword and killed him on the spot.

"See? Yes I see! And that goes for anyone else hanging shit on my walls - or calling me Dork Face!"

What can you say? Brothers. Those are direct quotes btw.

A model of the Regia which is part of Robert Garbisch's astonishingly detailed model of the Roman Forum. For a guided tour of the whole model, go here.

Despite this adamence from traditional sources, archaeology hasn't been too forthcoming on this early age of Rome, only occasionally turning up the odd rustic village or burial ground and finding very little in the way of stone dwellings or city streets.

It has been long assumed that Rome's origins had been very humble indeed and the greatness attributed to its heroic age was mostly a fabrication of later times when people were seeking to find a fitting foundation myth for a city that later became the inheritor of the known world.

The first kings must have lived in huts rather than palaces goes this notion and, by way of example, one only has to look at the humble little dwelling on the Forum which was known as the Regia that was located opposite the great convent of the Vestal Virgins and was dwarfed by the much later Temple of the Divine Julius. The Regia has often been associated with the original residence of the first Roman kings and in Republican times it served as the official residence of the pontifex maximus, the high priest of the Roman state religion. The divine Julius Caesar himself had once lived there because, apart from being one of the most ambitious and talented generals that Rome had ever seen, he was also, at the same time, serving as their pope.

Anyway, it's the simplicity of this ancient regal dwelling which is my point but recently a structure of palatial proportions and dating from the eighth century BC, in other words at the time of Rome's traditional founding date, has come to light only tens of meters away from the Regia. The building, which had been buried under seven metres of soil, had an imposing entrance which opened up into a 240 square metre courtyard and a further 100 square metres under tiled roof. It was about ten times larger than the average dwelling of the time and was decorated with elaborate furnishings and ceramics.

Surprisingly, this palace may have actually stood in the Forum up until as late as 64 AD (that is, for eight hundred years) before being finally consumed by the famous Great Fire during the reign of the emperor Nero. Until that time it served as the official residence of the rex sacrorum (sacred king), another priestly office which was appointed for life by the Pontifex Maximus to perform the sacred ceremonial duties that before Republican times could have only been performed by the king.

Today the remains of the palace actually lie below the evocatively named Temple of the Divine Romulus. Actually, this was dedicated to a completely different and much later Romulus but, still, one can't help wondering whether the memory of this site's association with Rome's first king had completely perished by this time.

Furthernore, this temple now serves as the vestibule of that extraordinarily versatile chapel of Santi Cosma e Damiano.

The Temple of Romulus from the excellent Illustrated History of the Roman Empire website

Romulus and Remus

OH, LITTLE did the Wolf-Child care--
When first he planned his home,
What city should arise and bear
The weight and state of Rome.

A shiftless, westward-wandering tramp,
Checked by the Tiber flood,
He reared a wall around his camp
Of uninspired mud.

But when his brother leaped the Wall
And mocked its height and make,
He guessed the future of it all
And slew him for its sake.

Swift was the blow--swift as the thought
Which showed him in that hour
How unbelief may bring to naught
The early steps of Power.

Forseeing Time’s imperilled hopes
Of Glory, Grace, and Love--
All singers, Cæsars, artists, Popes--
Would fail if Remus throve,

He sent his brother to the Gods,
And, when the fit was o’er,
Went on collecting turves and clods
To build the Wall once more!

--- Rudyard Kipling