Romans: Hair, the Emperors, and an Exhibition

I’ve been a Roman nerd since I was a kid. Not a I-know-every-minute-detail-about-them kind of nerd, more of a fascinated dilettante kind of nerd. I’m drawn to Roman culture and history, especially art and the emperors (“I, Claudius” was shown on PBS in my formative years). I did my master’s thesis on Roman mosaics. And I wrote a book on Hadrian.

So, when I saw the news about the recreation of the hairstyle of the Vestal Virgins, I got a bit excited. I mean, how cool is that? It’s even cooler because Janet Stephens, the woman who did the research on hair, is an amateur archaeologist (and clearly a Roman nerd). She made a video detailing the braiding and arrangement of the hair, with a bibliography(! OMG!) at the end:

In other news, if you happen to be in Rome before May 5, 2013, check out the exhibition at the Capitoline Museum (Musei Capitolini), “L’età dell’equilibrio: Traiano, Adriano, Antonino Pio, Marco Aurelio” or, “The Age of Balance: Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius” (I think I prefer “equilibrium” for the translation) (also, all of those guys are characters in my novel). The New York Times reviewed the exhibition favorably and included this academic tidbit:

The reputation the second century won as a golden age was substantially based on the unusual stability of the political establishment during this period and on the economic prosperity that [it] helped to nurture.

That stability was largely the result of the abandonment of the direct hereditary principle in the imperial succession in favor of the practice of adopting suitably talented candidates. Thus Nerva adopted Trajan in 97 A.D.; Trajan’s second cousin Hadrian succeeded him in 117; Hadrian adopted Antoninus Pius in 138, who adopted his son-in-law Marcus Aurelius as his own successor.

So many emperors, so little time, am I right? If you want to know more about these and all the other Roman emperors, I strongly recommend the site De Imperatoribus Romanis, known fondly (by me, at least) as the DIR. For Roman history and culture there’s LacusCurtius: Into the Roman World a treasure trove of ancient and not so ancient texts, most with English translations.

There is so much Roman history material out there on the Internet, it is quite astonishing. Sometimes I think it was the railroad fans, the genealogists, and the Roman history buffs who first wrested the Internet away from the military-industrial complex, realizing what a fantastic resource it could be.

UPDATE: Here’s another story about Janet and her awesome hair stylings!