Sunday, November 3, 2019

A clock that swings with no tick tock

No, the Romans didn't have 8 hour days, but their time
measurement was chaotic. 
As mentioned in the last post, I will be talking about time. The Romans had a 24 hour day like we do, but it differed significantly due to the technology they had available to them. The Romans used sundials in daylight and water clocks at night. But how they used them is odd.

They divided day and night into 12 hours, there was exactly 12 hours of each. But what about seasonal adjustments? Forget it. They simply made each hour longer or shorter. An hour could vary between 45 minutes and 75 minutes in length.

Oh, that is a headache.

Also, the typical Roman wasn't much of a breakfast eater. They would shovel in whatever they had left over and be on their way. They only had between 540 and 700 minutes of daylight in their 12 hour day. At night, watches were divided into 3 hour shifts for a total of 4.

Remember the rules about vehicles in Rome? With very few exceptions, no one rode by day. So walking was the only means of transport.

So did the Romans have traffic cops?

Yes, they did. Two types in the Empire. The first was the Vigiles, a fire brigade. Since the city of Roman was sacked and urban planning went out the window, Rome had 7,000 Vigiles to monitor the city for fire and address traffic issues at night. These men were former slaves or freedmen and they would gain their citizenship after a number of years of service, usually 6. You'd think that they would have loyalty issues, but this had been done in Greece, Alexandria, etc. with no problem. It was an age old solution to the issue of fire.

The Vigiles not only handled traffic infractions, but the recapture of runaway slaves and the arrest of law breakers. During daylight hours, the Urban Cohorts took over these duties. They number about 3,000.

Prior to this, in the Republic, the Three Men of the Night would do these duties. They were called a triumviri and were responsible for administrative functions. This would have been the leadership of the groups of men that would have performed these functions, they numbered more than 3. When the Urban Cohorts and Vigiles took over, the Three Men became prison wardens. The triumviri give their name to the First and Second Triumvirate, the most powerful people in the government.

The main difference between the Republic's triumviri and the Urban Cohorts and Vigiles is, the triumviri were also judges and executioner which explains their shift to prison duty.

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