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Scandals in sandals

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

Ever heard of the cross-dressing tribune thrown out of an all women’s party? How’s about the queen who sank her own ships? Or the daughter who got banished? Neither had I but the Greeks and the Romans certainly did. Our home-grown politicians and problematic celebrities seem like vestal-virgins compared to the exploits of the Greeks and Romans.

Like any civilisation which came to the peak of its powers. The Greeks and Romans certainly knew how to disgrace their hallowed name. Scandal and subterfuge were as much of a part of these societies as our own. So before you blame Kim Kardashian or Meghan Markle or Hailey Beiber for their outrageous behaviour, remember they’re only following in a fine tradition.

Queen Artemisia was one of Perisan king xerxes’ most prominent allies and perhaps one of the most duplicitous people in all history. The term “fair weather friend” doesn't quite do it when it comes to Artemisia. She's the kind of character the creators of among us were thinking of when programming the game. In the second invasion of Greece, At the battle of salamis, Artemisia was right with Xerxes all the way, someone he could rely on through thick and thin. She provided five of the most impressive ships in the Persian navy, so far so good. The only problem was, only feeling the heat, Artemisia exited the kitchen, in the most astonishing act of betrayal. Realising that the greeks were going to destroy the Persian Navy and realising that part of that destruction would mean that she would die, this paragon of fortitude opted to not only run but to deliberately sail one of her own ships into one of Xerxes’ so the Greeks would assume she was one of them. Now we all know that people always get what they deserve, but Artemisia didn't, she got away.

Our favourite Nepo baby, Julia the elder, daughter of princeps Augustus, was an apple who fell not only far from the tree but outside the Orchard. Her father, After essentially ending years of civil war and bringing peace to the republic, had established himself as the de facto emperor of Rome. Augustus, which officially translates to, “holy one”, dedicated his life to bringing a moral, righteous, upstanding ethos to the Roman world. And while pontificating on this new ethos, Julia was doing her utmost to embarrass him. Lets just consider the charges against her, The daughter of the holy one was married three times and arrested for adultery and treason and was ultimately banished from the Roman world by her own dad. A Paris Hilton of old only way way more hardcore.

Perhaps one of the greatest scandals was the Bona Dea scandal, this story delves into the riveting life of the It girl of ancient Rome, Julius Caesar. Each year the wives of prominent senators conducted a secret rite of the Bona Dea to which only women were admitted. In 62 BC the event was hosted by the wife of the pontifex maximus - Julius Caesar, Pompeia. It was noticed that one of these guests was in fact... a man! He managed to escape unidentified but rumours spread that it was in fact the tribune Clodius. This truly shocked and outraged the conservative opinion in Rome and rumours of sexual promiscuity in Rome's upper echelons began to take over. This encouraged Caesar to divorce his wife and Clodius was put on trial. Bribery secured his exoneration but for all the presumption of innocence - mud sticks. Within ten years... Clodius was dead!

So the next time your parents take you to the British museum, remember they were no different to us, they just wore sandals.

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