Romans By The Fantastic Five

Not all Romans spoke Latin

Stretching from the Atlantic to the Tigris, the Roman empire contained perhaps about 65 million inhabitants. While Latin was the language of the army and of Roman law, many peoples incorporated into the empire continued to speak their native tongue, either as well as, or, especially in the countryside, instead of Latin. Thus variants of Celtic and Syriac, and more obscure languages such as Cappadocian and Thracian, survived.

The Roman elite was bilingual. For them, knowledge of Greek was a badge of status – as such it was similar to French for aristocrats across Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. So internalised was the Roman usage, when the senators assassinated Julius Caesar, some shouted out not in Latin, but Greek.

taking a small amount of every known poison in an attempt to gain immunity. The mixture was known as the Mithridatium, after the originator of the practice, Mithridates the Great, king of Pontus (who reigned from 120bc to 65BC).

A drinking vessel made from the horn of the one-horned horses or donkeys, believed by the Romans to have lived in India, was thought to be an antidote to fatal poisons.

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