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NIHIL NOVUM SUB SOLE

1001 deeds, sayings, curiosities and anecdotes of the ancient world

Nero inaugurates a great gym and Demetrius will ruin the opening ceremony. (Intellectuals against the power III)

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One of the greatest contributions of Roma to Western civilization was the urbanization of the territory that was conquered with its legions. Rome built cities (urbs) and implemented a modern system of citizen life (civitas).

In this culture the water, which was profusely used, was fundamental. So as necessary was than  sometimes the Romans transported it from springs at tens of kilometers through aqueducts and pipelines that continue to cause us a deep impression.

In the built city there are several essential elements: the square or forum, temples, civil administration buildings as the Basilica, and of course, the baht, spa or  “thermae”, sportive  and cultural complex where added to several pools to satisfy the desire of citizen pleasure there is also a gymnasium where the citizens train and keep the body fit.

Note: “thermae” meants “warm baths”, from Greek θερμός , thermos = warm, name that also we apply to the cooking vessel that keeps hot the food, especially the drinks.

In all of this, the Greek experience, which took several centuries ahead to initially rough Roman,  was fundamental. The Roman architect Vitruvius widely discussed in his De Architectura the conditions of urban buildings of the city in his book V especially.

Curious note: "gym-nasium," is originally a Greek word gymnasion, assigned to the Latin as "gymnasium”. It comes from gymnos (γυμνός), gymnos, meaning "naked" and refers to the practice of physical training and performing the various sports training naked. Who trains or practice gym exercise is the "gymnast".

Incidentally I would say that this nudity allows  anoint or smear the body with toning oil. That oil, mixed with natural sweat and sticky powder after training must  to be removed with a scraper which in Latin is called "strigilis". Recall the famous Greek statue of Lysippos The Apoxyomenos”,  in which an athlete is being used that instrument. See http://en.antiquitatem.com/hadrian-thermae-roman-bads-strigilis

As I said, the relaxed Greek and eastern customs  soon were settled in the mighty Rome and were creating spas and gyms increasingly grandiose. Vitruvius spends  all Chapter 9 of Book V of his De architectura to the construction of these buildings:
Vitruvius 5.9.9 

As it appears that we have given an adequate account of them, next will follow descriptions of the arrangements of baths.  (Translate by Morris Hicky Morgan. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. London: Humphrey Milford. Oxford University Press. 1914.)

Quoniam haec nobis satis videntur esse exposita, nunc insequentur balinearum dispositionum demonstrationes.

And he continues  specifying the conditions on chapter 10.

The first sports-cultural complex with  these large-scale characteristics  built in Rome was the one commanded by the Emperor Nero and which was opened the year 61.

The construction of these baths and gym  is told by the all the historians of the period, reflecting its grandeur, which also impressed the whole society. Martial,  the poet, who was born in Bilbilis, the current Calatayud in Spain, in the year 40 and went to Rome around the year 64, for return to his hometown 34 years later, where he died six years later,  uses  the reference as a synonym topic of great, as we will see below

We read texts that give us account of the event belonging to Tacitus, Suetonius and Dio Cassius.

Tacitus, XIV, 47

Nero, the same year, established a gymnasium, where oil was furnished to knights and senators after the lax fashion of the Greeks. (Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb.Maxmillan and Co. London.1869)

gymnasium eo anno dedicatum a Nerone praebitumque oleum equiti ac senatui Graeca facilitate.

Suetonius, Nero, XII,3

He was the first who instituted, in imitation of the Greeks, a trial of skill in the three several exercises of music, wrestling, and horse-racing, to be performed at Rome every five years, and which he called Neronia. Upon the aedication of his bath and gymnasium, he furnished the senate and the equestrian order with oil. He appointed as judges of the trial men of consular rank, chosen by lot, who sat with the praetors. At this time he went down into the orchestra among the senators, and received the crown for the best performance in Latin prose and verse, for which several persons of the greatest merit contended, but they unanimously yielded to him. The crown for the best performer an the harp, being likewise awarded to him by the judges, he devoutly saluted it, and ordered it to be carried to the statue of Augustus. ( Translation by J. Eugene Reed. Alexander Thomson. Philadelphia. Gebbie & Co. 1889.)

Instituit et quinquennale certamen primus omnium Romae more Graeco triplex, musicum gymnicum equestre, quod appellauit Neronia; dedicatisque thermis atque gymnasio senatui quoque et equiti oleum praebuit. magistros toto certamini praeposuit consulares sorte, sede praetorum. deinde in orchestram senatumque descendit et orationis quidem carminisque Latini coronam, de qua honestissimus quisque contenderat, ipsorum consensu concessam sibi recepit, citharae autem a iudicibus ad se delatam adorauit ferrique ad Augusti statuam iussit.

Dio Cassius, LXI, 21

These things, then, he did to celebrate the shaving of his beard; and in behalf of his preservation and the continuance of his power, he instituted some quadriennial games, which he called Neronia. In honour of this event he also erected the gymnasium,6 and at its dedication made a free distribution of olive oil to the senators and knights. 2 The crown for lyre-playing he took without a contest; for all others were debarred, on the assumption that they were unworthy of being victors. And immediately, wearing the garb of this guild, he entered the gymnasium itself to be enrolled as victor. Thereafter all other crowns awarded as prizes for lyre-playing in all the contests were sent to him as the only artist worthy of victory. (Loeb Classical Library, 9 volumes, Greek texts and facing English translation: Harvard University Press, 1914 thru 1927. Translation by Earnest Cary.)

Martial, VII, 34

How does it possibly come, Severus, that Charinus, the worst rascal in the world, did one thing well ? Do you ask ? I will tell you, and briefly. What was worse than Nero ? What is better than Nero's warm baths ? See, at once some one of the malicious crowd is ready to say in sour tones : " What do you set above the many structures erected by our Master and God?" I set Nero's warm baths above the baths of a pathic. (Translation by Walter C. A. Ker, M.A. The Loeb Classical Library)

Quo possit fieri modo, Severe,
Ut vir pessimus omnium Charinus
Unam rem bene fecerit, requiris?
Dicam, sed cito. Quid Nerone peius?
Quid thermis melius Neronianis?
Non deest protinus, ecce, de malignis,
Qui sic rancidulo loquatur ore:
'Quid tu tot domini deique nostri
Praefers muneribus?' Neronianas
Thermas praefero balneis cinaedi.

Well, there is a curious anecdote of interest in connection with the inauguration of this complex. It is the appearance on the scene of the inauguration of a famous contemporary cynic philosopher, well respected by the intelligentsia of the moment by his moral integrity, Demetrius. This critical philosopher to the power, without mincing words and unwisely  ruined the opening ceremony thought for the greater glory of the emperor. The text, although living and descriptive, it is still cold and almost of attorney. It is necessary that the reader make a small stretch of the imagination, whom  can help to compare with picturesque and grotesque, contemporary current events, also needed of a "cynical" voice to reduce the "ego" of the governor.

Note: Although it is well known by the generality, let me informed reader, to comment that the word "ego" is  the  Latin person pronoun of first person, which we translate as "I". From it quite clear terms derived meaning, according to this etymology, as egoism" and "egotism",  egocentrism,…  So well known is the term than often we say about someone full of himself that he has "a highly developed ego".

Well Demetrius criticized the famous Baths of Nero inaugurated in 61 because unhygienic and very expensive in the same opening ceremony. At that time escaped the wrath of the Emperor, but when one year later the baths collapsed as a result of lightning, the words of Demetrius were considered the cause of the collapse and Demetrius was sent into exile by Tigellinus, the praetorian prefect (chief top police and executive arm) of Nero.

But it is better tell us all the ancient texts themselves:

About the  lightning,Tacitus tells us in Tacitus. Annales XV.22:

In the same consulate, the Gymnasium was struck by lightning and burned to the ground, a statue of Nero, which it contained, being melted into a shapeless piece of bronze.

Isdem consulibus gymnasium ictu fulminis conflagravit effigiesque in eo Neronis ad informe aes liquefacta.

And Philostratus, Life of Apollonius IV 42 (it is necessary that we will put in  a little imagination on our part to color the story):

Now Demetrius being attracted to Apollonius, as I have said above in my account of the events at Corinth, betook himself subsequently to Rome, and proceeded to court Apollonius, at the same time that he launched out against Nero. In consequence our sage's profession was looked at askance, and he was thought to have set Demetrius on to proceed thus, and the suspicion was increased on the occasion of Nero's completion of the most magnificent gymnasium in Rome:[1] for the auspicious day was being celebrated therein by Nero himself and the great Senate and all the knights of Rome, when Demetrius made his way into the gymnasium itself and delivered himself of a philippic against people who bathed, declaring that they enfeebled and polluted themselves; and he showed that such institutions were a useless expense.
He was only saved from immediate death as the penalty of such language by the fact that Nero was in extra good voice when he sang on that day, and he sang in the tavern which adjoined the gymnasium, naked except for a girdle round his waste, like any low tapster.
Demetrius, however, did not wholly escape the risk which he had courted by his language; for [the praetorian prefect] Tigellinus, to whom Nero had committed the power of life and death, proceeded to banish him from Rome, on the plea that he had ruined and overthrown the bath by the words he used; and he began to dog the steps of Apollonius secretly, in the hope that he would catch him out too in some compromising utterance
.  (Translated by F.C. Conybeare)

It is easy to imagine the face that they would put the entire Roman high society, with Emperor Nero to his head, listening to the cynical gadfly Demetrius (Socrates, from whom he learned many things his pupil Antisthenes, founder of the Cynic school,  is considered by himself  in Plato's Apology of Socrates  a “gadfly”;  we would say today in more explicit language “pain in the neck” or more colloquial pain in the ass)  ruin the event with two heavy motivated reviews:  that is a waste of resource  and also in public bathrooms all you can catch is a disease ...

Started our imaginative process, we can assume that at the opening ceremony not just "they cut the ribbon" but that senators and the other guests were bathed and smeared with oil.  Therefore gives us rise  the explicit reference of  the cited authors that Nero gave them the oil, at the Greek way.

It is also a cause for reflection the attitude of "policeman" Tigellinus regarding Apollonius secretly spy to catch him in the act and then, punch …

Without any doubt, it would have been very appropriate  in our time the presence of some cynical philosopher as Demetrius in the ghostly opening of an airport without airplanes, a freeway without cars or a bridge without river.
          …….
Postscript Note: First the word "posdata”, “postscript" means or refers to the "already offered, and given, and exposed," especially to the date or dating that closes the document and therefore I want to adjectival this note, because it comes to below the  text and date of the article.

Secondly with the note I want to explain the term "inaugurate", with them I headlined the article. The Romans, like many other  people, did not perform any action of public nor private importance unconnected with the feel of the gods. The augurs were the priests, from Etruscan origin,  who "predicted" or scrutinized the will of the gods or the future; the "omen" , augurium, figured in various ways, such as observing the flight of birds, operation called  “auspicium”, “auspices” from “avis”, bird,  and spicere, to see,  meant the agreement of the gods. The favorable omen,  augurium,  was especially necessary when engaging in battle;  do not forget that Rome is a great empire founded on the strength of their legions. Who had a "omens", a particularly favorable “augurium” was the emperor Octavian Caesar and because it he is called "Augustus", that means  something like "favored, loved by the gods."; "ausugustus" is translated into Greek as ἱερὸν, hieron, sacred.

   
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