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Fascinating Facts About Ancient Rome We Just Learned That Made Us Say 'Really?'

September 2, 2020 5.5k votes 890 voters 97.6k views15 items

List RulesVote up the ancient Roman facts you just learned today.

Ancient Rome wasn't all gladiatorial games and bloody conquest. Sometimes, it was just about taxing urine and weaving asbestos into your clothes.

Fun facts about the Roman Empire range from the grotesque (how they mixed theater and justice) to the heartfelt (they really loved their dogs). The following ancient Rome facts were shared by various Redditors over the years. Vote up the facts that change your perspective on this fascinating culture.

  • 1

    When Poorer Romans Got Sick Of The Upper Classes, They Left The City En Masse

    From Redditor u/Pjotr_Bakunin:

    TIL that in ancient Rome, commoners would evacuate entire cities in acts of revolt called "Secessions of the Plebeians," leaving the elite in the cities to fend for themselves.


    New information?
  • 2

    Roman Concrete Gets Stronger Over Time

    From Redditor u/FriesWithThat:

    TIL that after the fall of the Roman Empire, the technology to make concrete was lost for 1,000 years.


    [Editor's Note: The research done on ancient Roman concrete is fascinating. Science Alert has a great writeup on it. There's also the following passage from Science's Zahra Ahmad, which explains the chemical reaction that makes Roman concrete grow stronger over time: "[R]esearchers studied drilled cores of a Roman harbor from Pozzuoli Bay near Naples, Italy. When they analyzed it, they found that the seawater had dissolved components of the volcanic ash, allowing new binding minerals to grow. Within a decade, a very rare hydrothermal mineral called aluminum tobermorite (Al-tobermorite) had formed in the concrete.... [W]hen seawater percolates through a cement matrix, it reacts with volcanic ash and crystals to form Al-tobermorite and a porous mineral called phillipsite..." Over centuries, Ahmad explains, these minerals actually make the concrete stronger and less vulnerable to erosion.]

    New information?
  • 3

    Romans Wove Asbestos Into Fabrics And Cleaned Them By Throwing Them In The Fire

    From Redditor u/LeonInJapan:

    TIL that Romans weaved asbestos fibers into a cloth-like material that was then sewn into tablecloths and napkins. These cloths were cleaned by throwing them into a blistering fire, from which they came out unharmed.


    New information?
  • 4

    The Chinese Referred To The Romans As 'Great China' (Daqin) Because They Believed Them To Be Their Civilized Counterpart In The West

    From Redditor u/TCTriangle:

    TIL the Chinese referred to the Roman Empire as "Great China" (Daqin) because they thought of Rome as a civilized counterpart to the Chinese Empire. One account reads, "The people of this country are all tall and honest."


    New information?
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