Lion-Slaying Women in the Roman Arena

Performing in the Roman arena, whether as a gladiator, a beast-hunter, or some other kind of violent entertainer was mostly a man’s job, but that doesn’t mean women never took part. The poet Martial celebrated a woman (or women, Martial is vague on the details) who slew a lion as part of the games put on the emperor Domitian.

Warlike Mars, unconquered in arms, serves you, Caesar,
but this is not enough: Venus herself serves you, too.

Martial, On the Spectacles 7

Fame used to sing the tale of how great Hercules
laid low the lion in Nemea’s wide valley.
Enough of that old legend: now after your games, Caesar,
we have seen such things done by women’s hands.

Martial, On the Spectacles 8

(My own translations)

Some scholars think these are two separate poems, others that they were originally one poem and the first two lines got accidentally split off at some point when manuscripts were being copied out. In any case, it seems pretty clear that women also took up arms to perform for the crowds in Rome.

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They’re Good Dogs, Xenophon

The ancient Greek author Xenophon is best known for writing about the life of the philosopher Socrates and his own experiences in a company of mercenaries in the Persian Empire, but he also wrote a handbook on hunting, full of practical advice for youngsters taking up the sport. He devotes a fair amount of time to the proper care and handling of hunting dogs. Here’s his advice on keeping your dogs in good shape:

It is a good idea to take [dogs] into the mountains frequently, but not so much into farmed fields, for in the mountains they can hunt and track game unimpeded, but fields are not good for these exercises because of the paths. It’s good to take your dogs into rough ground even if they don’t find a hare, for this sort of terrain helps develop their feet and bodies. In summer, let them run out until noon, in winter throughout the day, any time apart from midday during the autumn, and in the evening in the spring, since this is when the temperatures are moderate.

Xenophon, On Hunting, 4.9-11

(My own translation)

Having grown up with a dog and having a number of friends who keep dogs, even if we never used them for hunting, I can’t argue with this advice.

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Living Vicariously Through Social Media: Dracula Parrots

Hey there, handsome—what an amazing coloring these Dracula parrots (Psittrichas fulgidus) have!

Flickr Peter Tan Pesquets Parrot Head Shot

Endemic to New Guinea, they are also known as Pesquet’s parrots, and can be quite sizeable: 46 cm / 18” total length and 700-800 g (24-28 oz) in weight.

Flickr Meen Zhafri Pesquets Parrot Silhouette

Apparently, habitat loss and overhunting have pushed the species into a vulnerable status, and, according to BirdLife International, the population in decreasing.

Flickr Charles Davies Pesquets Parrot in Flight

*sigh* Why can’t we as a species take better care of our nice things? It’s not like we lack the brain power.

Found via Nature & Animals on Twitter. (NB. Seems to require a login in order to see post.)

Images: Head shot by Peter Tan via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0). Silhouette by Meen & Zhafri via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0) / KL Bird Park, May 2010. In flight by Charles Davies via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Living Vicariously Through Social Media: Swans in a Winter Wonderland

Reportedly, the Swan Spring wetland park in Ili, Xinjiang, China, has some amazing winter settings. This scene definitely qualifies:

Tumblr F Yeah Chinese Garden Swan Spring Screenshot

I don’t like cold very much, but I do like the look of clean, white snow, and I love blue. This shot is astoundingly beautiful. I’m so sorry I don’t know who filmed the clip this is from.

Here in Massachusetts we have way too much snow for pandemic comfort at the moment. Some of it is pretty, yes, but instead of the graceful swans we have chunky wild turkeys, LOL! Ohwell; at least we’ll get plenty of physical activity by shoveling.

Found via Fuck Yeah Chinese Garden on Tumblr. (Follow the link for a short video.)

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Evidence for Donkey Polo in Ancient China

An interesting archaeological find was reported earlier this year from western China where the excavation of a noblewoman’s grave has provided evidence for the use of donkeys for games of polo by elite women in the Tang dynasty.

The sport of polo was popular among the Chinese aristocracy in the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE). Literary sources document that women played as well as men, and that, even though donkeys were typically associated with low social status as pack and farm animals, they were also favored by the elite for playing polo. The excavation of the tomb of a Tang noblewoman, Cui Shi, for the first time offers archaeological evidence to support the written accounts.

Although polo has traditionally been played on horseback, the authors of this study, led by archaeologist Songmei Hu, mention that donkeys may sometimes have been preferred because their natural response to stress and danger, something a polo match would frequently present, is different. While horses, as herd animals, have developed a sensitivity to commotion among nearby animals and tend to respond by fleeing, donkeys, with a more solitary history, are less perturbed by the kinds of chaos that a polo field might present.

The authors identified the remains of at least three donkeys in Cui Shi’s tomb. For animals more traditionally connected with the peasantry than the elite, this was an unusual find for the grave of a woman whose family moved in the higher circles of the imperial aristocracy. But the family’s status was also connected to polo: written sources document that Cui Shi’s husband, Bao Gao, was promoted by the emperor to the rank of general on the strength of his skill in the sport. The bones of the donkeys themselves also show signs that they may have been used for playing polo, as they show patterns of growth reflecting strong and sudden stresses, such as animals suddenly starting, stopping, and changing direction on the polo field would experience, rather than those typical of animals used for carrying burdens or pulling carts.

This find is both an example of how archaeological and literary evidence can support one another and a view into the lives of elite women in ancient China who weren’t content to let the men have all the fun of donkey polo!

Image: Tang dynasty polo players via Wikimedia (tomb of Prince Zhang Huai, Qianling Mausoleum, Xi’an; 706 CE; wall painting)

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

A Bird in the Hand

The fall is coming, and for a lot of us this fall will be bringing anxiety and stress. So, for a moment of relaxation, enjoy this scene of hunting wildfowl in the marshes, from the tomb of Nebamun, a scribe who lived around 1350 BCE in Egypt.

Hunting scene from the tomb of Nebamun, photograph by Marcus Cyron via Wikimedia (currently British Museum, London; c. 1350 BCE; paint on plaster)

And for added joy, just look at that cat! Have you ever seen a cat so happy as when it has two birds in its claws and a third in its teeth?

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Living Vicariously Through Social Media: Cross Foxes

Cross foxes are a color variation of the red fox (like the silver fox, which I have heard of before). They seem to inhabit the more nothern reaches of the Northern hemisphere.

Flickr Humane Society US Cross Fox Father Child

Looks like they can have a variety of fur coloring, from mostly black and grey with only a little red, to almost half and half.

Flickr Robert Kowaluk Cross Fox

What I can’t tell from the photos and texts is how bright the red coat might naturally be—I’ve seen some striking photos with really bright red and deep black. I suspect those may be photoshopped, but of course individual variation is always possible. And, naturally, if you wanted to use cross foxes with saturated red-black coats as inspiration for a fantasy story, no-one’s stopping you! 🙂

Flickr Stephen Brown Cross Fox Closeup

Aren’t they handsome?

Found via Jonathan Webers on Twitter.

Images via Flickr: Father and child by The Humane Society of the United States (CC BY-ND 2.0). Side profile by Robert Kowaluk. Closeup by Stephen Brown.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Living Vicariously Through Social Media: Exact Opposites Cats

Seriously, this is amazing: a pair of cats. One black, the other white. One has a blue left eye and a green right eye, the other a green left eye and a blue right eye.

Twitter Land of Cuteness Exact Opposites Cats

Granted, this is the Internet, and Photoshop is a thing. (And please note I didn’t intend to post this as an April Fool’s joke. As far as I know it isn’t, but as I said, this is from the Internet and who really knows.)

However, even if it were edited, it’s still a damn awesome photo. I immediately thought of a magic-user’s familiar or some such special pet. Wouldn’t cats like these be just astounding?

Found via Land of Cuteness on Twitter.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Visual Inspiration: Cayuga Duck

The cayuga duck is a breed known for its black to metallic green plumage, and—just like the black squirrels in NYC—to me they look absolutely marvellous!

Flickr Simon Redwood Cayuga Duck

There seems to be disagreement over the breed’s origin, but according to Wikipedia they were popularized around the Finger Lakes region (Cayuga being one) of the state of New York.

Flickr Dana Kee Cayuga Duck

Looking cayugas up also taught me that drake is the English word for a male duck. Live and learn!

Found via Good Stuff Happened Today on Tumblr.

Images via Flickr: side profile by Simon Redwood (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Frontal view by Dana Kee (CC BY 2.0).

The Visual Inspiration occasional feature pulls the unusual from our world to inspire design, story-telling, and worldbuilding. If stuff like this already exists, what else could we imagine?