ancient rome, journal

Roman roots and other origins

Here’s hoping everyone had a lovely Christmas and/or Holiday/weekend. To update, I unfortunately have not discovered the graves of any long-lost rulers*, or the remains of any ancient civilisations. but I am working on it (in theory).

Because Christmas and Boxing Day this year landed on a Saturday and a Sunday, the Public Holidays in Australia were designated for Monday and Tuesday, so people working the traditional weekdays could have their breaks.

So, confusingly, today we are observing Boxing Day. This seems like a very Australian thing to do – milk every holiday for as much time off work as possible – but perhaps it’s international?

Apparently the origin of Boxing Day is debated, but may have to do with a late Roman/early Christian tradition of placing boxes of alms and offerings in churches after Christmas Day (Source: Wikipedia).


Of some new words I learnt this week, the one which I thought the funniest was vomitorium. The Latin root is the verb vomō/vomere, “to spew forth”. A vomitorium is – or was – a passage which vomits a large amount of people out of the amphitheatre after a show.

A vomitorium

Other interesting derivatives:

• the English word ‘palace’ is derived from Palatine Hill, the very place where Rome was founded.

• The Latin word anima has a broad meaning, connoting ‘breath’, ‘life’, ‘soul’.

I was thinking about the English word ‘animate’, connoting movement, and the Chinese word for ‘animal’, 動物, which is literally “moving thing”. I can’t help but think that maybe the earliest hunters must have been trying to differentiate between bovine and boulders while hunting – “No, Steve, we throw the spear at the one that runs!”

In other news, I am waiting to hear back from a colleague who came down with flu-like symptoms on Christmas Day – so unlucky – for their COVID test results, to see if I am to isolate as a close contact. Hopefully everything turns out fine.

That’s all for the time being! Stay safe all.

*I meant to write an On This Day post to mark the publication of King Tut’s excavation which appeared in the Illustrated London News in December 1922, but I got busy and missed the date. How cool though, that this discovery happened just over exactly 99 years ago.

Images from Wikimedia Commons.


20 thoughts on “Roman roots and other origins

  1. I first came across vomitorium in a history essay where it was referenced to the Prussian army which had vomitoriums (for the function the word suggests) next to the dining-halls of the officers. They had hand-rails to hold on to as they vomited the results of over-drinking! And today The Guardian had a full-page spread about the digital scanning of the mummified body of Pharoah Amenhotep l. How exciting is that!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think it will also be on Guardian online but it’s on Page 11 in the print edition. The Prussian Vomitorium was like a massive sink (or urinal) into which they vomited while standing up and holding on to the rails. Revolting image. Imagine a room full of military men with pointy helmets spewing up their guts!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Roman roots and other origins — Dreams of Digging | THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON...

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