The gems marked with a green arrow show Fortuna, the goddess of luck. All these gems were lost down a drain by their owners. Discuss.
DIVINE HADRIAN, FORMER ROMAN EMPEROR AND PRETENTIOUS WINDBAG: Finally, some sign of civilization from that empty bog they call Brittania. I assume these intaglios were offerings left for me by my former subjects once I became a god.
BRITANNIA: First of all, I’m standing right here. Second of all, they weren’t deliberate offerings. They’re gems that fell off of the rings they were set in, and then were washed down the drain in a bathhouse.
MITHRAS, EASTERN MYSTERY GOD FAVORED BY ROMAN SOLDIERS: Hadrian, you’re collecting drain jewelry now? That’s pretty random. I approve. I collect random animals, like scorpions, and snakes, and dogs, and bulls…
HADRIAN: You and I are nothing alike. You perform nonsensical rituals in a cave with soldiers. I rebuilt Athens to her former glory.
MITHRAS: From what I heard, you enjoyed a little cave time with the lads yourself, if you know what I mean.
HADRIAN: I am sure I do not.
BRITANNIA: These gems may have been worn by women, you know. At least one of them shows the goddess Venus holding a mirror.
MITHRAS: (laughing uproariously) Oh, come on! Women! Near a fort!
HADRIAN: (also laughing uproariously) You must be joking! This was an active military frontier. Women were nowhere near the area. Or certainly not proper Roman women.
MITHRAS: Can you imagine? I can’t.
BRITANNIA: In terms of proper Romans, whatever that means, these are personal gems found in a Roman bathhouse. I don’t know what else you would want as evidence of elite Romans. And the mortals also found over 40 hairpins and beads from a necklace. That sounds like women to me.
HADRIAN: Well, I certainly never saw a Roman woman near my wall. Except perhaps my wife Sabina. I can never remember if she accompanied me on any given trip.
MITHRAS: I never saw any Roman women either.
BRITANNIA: Maybe if you two spent more time outside of your man caves, you would have noticed all the women around you. It’s not as if there isn’t a ton of evidence for elite women in Roman forts along the Wall. Shoes, a letter from one officer’s wife inviting her sister to her birthday party…
HADRIAN: Stuff and nonsense. A whore could write a birthday letter and wear shoes. Probably at the same time.
BRITANNIA: I’m not sure what that proves.
MITHRAS: I think Britannia’s just jealous because she doesn’t have any other females to hang out with up here. Maybe if you had a cooler cult, like mine, you’d attract more followers.
BRITANNIA: What did go on in your cult, anyway?
MITHRAS: No idea. I was always too blitzed by the end of the night to remember. But I bet it was epic. Maybe it involved hair pins? And women’s jewelry? Mystery cults solve all archaeological mysteries.
BRITANNIA: So, Hadrian’s explanation for finding hairpins in a Roman bath is that all women were well-paid whores, and your explanation, Mithras, is that a bunch of soldiers got drunk in a cave together and it somehow involved women’s clothing. And those are easier solutions than “Roman women were everywhere.”
HADRIAN: Simple philosophical logic. Aristotle would approve.
BRITANNIA: The guy who thought a woman’s uterus wandered through her body and put literal pressure on her brain to make her moody? Yeah, I bet he would.
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To explore how the Roman emperors and the armies they led shaped history and the modern world, enroll in CLAS-C 387 Roman History, coming up Fall 2023, no pre-reqs or previous experience required. Or for more strange ideas modern scholars have had about ancient Roman women, check out our new course CLAS-C 491 Silent Voices: Sex and Gender in the Roman World, coming up Summer II 2023, online asynchronous with no pre-reqs. And as always, be sure to check back for more adventures of Hadrian, Britannia, and Mithras. Can’t get enough of Ancient Greece and Rome? Earn a Classics Minor in just 15 credits!