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Friday, 27 April 2007

What the Romans did for Blogging

Unless you live in what was once part of the Roman empire, you probably don't watch the TV show called 'What the Romans did for us', although you defiantly would have been influenced by the Romans in one way or another (ever heard of the butterfly effect?).

Even to the most un 'historically aware' person it is more than obvious that the Romans didn't write blogs, due to the plain and simple fact that they didn't have computers; but they did have diaries and records. The word blog, is short for 'Weblog', and for many of us a diaries is a form of log. Therefore, the Romans had one of the first blogs, they just weren’t 'online'.

I am currently studying Tacitus, a Roman historian. It is interesting to note that his motives for (b)logging is to form a record of the past and to entertain his audience, which by the way, I would say he needed to work on a little!

I do joke about how boring he is, but the truth is he does use some useful techniques that make some parts of is 'Annals of Imperial Rome' actually quite enjoyable.

Methods We Can Learn From
Getting the dirt on the individual. Like it or not, people like gossip, and mentioning names of the specific 'celebrities' you think your audience have a knowledge of is a great way to get them hooked.

Example Tacitus lets us know about how the emperor Nero tried to kill is mother Agrippina (who he committed incest with many times) by putting her in a mouldy old boat, so that she fell through the bottom. She then escaped by swimming!. While Nero clearly needed to work on his assassination methods, that little story probably didn't affect the course of history very much, but its inclusion by Tacitus made my day.

Don't spare the gory details. I have read many a blog that is full of 'okish' content. The blogger clearly knows what he/she is talking about but they leave out the figures and fail to give the details that led them to that conclusion. Tacitus includes every possible detail, making for a lengthy read, but an entertaining one.

Example Tacitus writes about how a Roman legion was being punished for rumours of a mutiny. The commander chose to have them 'decimated' like in the 'olden days'. This is when the men are all lined up and every 10th man is flogged to death. Pretty extreme? Call me sadistic, but it kept me reading.

Talk about the Scandals
This is one of the more well known blogging techniques, to get the 'scoop' on a scandalous story and milk it for all it's worth. Of course this can't be done too often or you risk losing credibility.

Example Tacitus didn't let the emperors off easy. If anything he was quite the opposite. He recorded how on one occasion Nero had a secret door built into the senate building and a Vail set up so he could hide his mother Agrippina behind it! Women were defiantly not allowed in the senate and at the time this was totally outrageous. It's even slightly funny because it shows how Nero was a 'mummas boy'... in every possible way.

The Grand finale
Hopefully I have proved that we can learn a lot from Tacitus's records of the Romans, but not that much from the Romans themselves (although Tacitus was a Roman... ). Stay tuned for more tales of interest.

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