‘Straight to the Pool Room’

By skepticlawyer

It’s so nice to know that other civilisations had their equivalent of bogans, chavs, neds… and the attendant tatt.

Blog regulars will know that my partner and I went to Italy for our summer holidays. One of the museums we visited was Rome’s Capitoline museum, which had (among other things) a special exhibit on what can only be described as ‘Roman knick-knacks’. You know, dust-collectors, ornaments — often fascinatingly ugly. Everything from Granny’s silver service to the wall-hangings eldest son brought home from some foreign adventure to the badly-painted statue of a fat lad pissing into a clamshell some long-forgotten suitor gave to youngest daughter.

Like dad in The Castle, it seems Roman families collected their tatt in a dedicated room (very convenient, that), for future archaeologists to unearth. Awful ceramic. Marble busts of boyfriend and girlfriend cast as Venus and Mars (without a hint of irony or awareness, either — that divine liaison was an adulterous one). Sometimes a so-so sculptor would leave a neckline where busts of real people’s heads were affixed to idealised ‘heroic’ or ‘beautiful’ bodies: him a chinless wonder, her a face attached to a nose. Then there’s the upwardly mobile husband-and-wife shoemaking team, both of them plying their respective tools of trade, with hairdos copied from the Emperor and Empress. If I recall correctly, the reigning emperor in that period had a ‘Beatle cut’ and really did look like Paul McCartney, while the Empress was shaven short up the back but had a pile of hair in the front that would do credit to Jimi Hendrix. It was a sort of Roman ‘anti-mullet’.

It all went straight to the pool room, no doubt.

This one, however, is my favourite. Eat your heart out, Franklin Mint.

He’s meant to be a Romanised version of Anubis, of course, and remember he’d have been brightly–even garishly–painted. The first time you see something like this, you think it must be some sort of mistake, that the artist ballsed it up. Then you see multiple identical versions and realise that they came from the Roman version of B&Q.




















For those of you who’ve spent the last however many years living under a rock, here’s the cultural referent:



  1. kvd
    Posted July 14, 2011 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    I have one of those in a sno globe; so you’re saying I should get rid of it?

    But I do like the B&Q site – all those useful tips:
    Hi,i have a mirror the size of a wall in the bathroom what can i do to put a pattern/design on it…something simple please
    Depending how confident you are in your artistic ability, draw on it using permanent marker or lipstick.

    DEM’s new career opportunity…

  2. Posted July 14, 2011 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    The neck is rather disturbing, yes. But then, so is the whole ensemble. No less disturbing is the common Roman take on windchimes. When not a couple bonking, or something else musically smutty, they tend to look like this. [Very much NSFW].

    Apparently the rules for locating and constructing them bore a strong resemblance to Feng Shui.

  3. Posted July 14, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s strong evidence that Scooby Doo was around in Roman times and Shaggy was already carrying him around with his head poking out the top of his clothing.

  4. Posted July 14, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    Aaah, that thing in the windchimes, like so many magical monsters of those ages, couldn’t be weakened by brute force or frontal attacks, there was always a trick. In this case, the weapon to use would not be a sword, but a cold spoon.

    As to Shaggy … you may be onto something, if I read my Herodotus correctly, he was a Scythian, an area occupied well by the time Rome was (putting on my reactionary toga) corrupted and enfeebled by eastern cults. That said, while currently illegal, what the Scythians, and apparently Shaggy inhaled is not a hallucinogen. I’m unaware of accusations (particularly given other meanings of “Scooby”) that Shaggy was ever a practical mycologist, and you’d DEFINITELY need alkaloids from fungal sources to dream up such a statue.

  5. Posted July 14, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    DEM’s new career opportunity…

    Don’t tempt me kvd – I’m already considering crafting up tea towels and flogging them on Etsy to raise cash.

    (And by the way if you DO have a mirror or glassware you want to decorate you can buy acid etching paste and use a decorative stencil to block out your pattern. Once it’s eaten into the glass to give you the white ‘etched’ look, you wash it off. Permanent decoration.)

    I don’t know how I know this. I just do. =8-(

  6. Movius
    Posted July 14, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    According to wikipedia that Scooby Doo is actually Hermanubis the merging of Hermes and Anubis. Which would actually make it a Hellenised Anubis rather than Romanised, though it seems the Romans loved it too.

    In my expert opinion, the side effects of innumerable generations of Ptolemaic incest adequately explain the mental state required to endorse such a statue’s existance.

    Also, according to the Steam new releases list, DEM has taken on the new career of Skeleton Knight

    Resurrect the classic era of RPGs with the retro parody RPG, Breath of Death VII: The Beginning. Join Dem the Skeleton Knight, Sara the ghost historian, Lita the vampire techie, and Erik the zombie prince as they explore an undead world in search of the secrets of the past. Laugh! Cry! Laugh some more!

  7. Posted July 15, 2011 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    [email protected] Maybe it was zeus/jupiter’s antics (Europa and bull, Leda and swan) that caused this? I know in the superb “Cartoon History of the Universe”, Helen and Klytaemnestra were drawn with bills on their faces, and occasionally called “ducky”. At least dynastic egypt didn’t have the pharoah’s family amenable to the amorous advances of a different species.

  8. Posted July 15, 2011 at 4:30 am | Permalink

    Ah yes, the blurry pagan species boundary. Addressing that was a barrel of laughs (not) when writing _Bring Laws and Gods_… which reminds me, Dave, I need to send you the final edit. Will be there next week I think.

  9. Posted July 15, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    sl – thoroughly enjoying (again) the version I’ve got, but the final edit after publisher action will be nice.

    On the species barrier and sky fairies: if the sky fairy making advances had wings, blonde hair, a green miniskirt, a fistful of pixie dust, and my grandson doesn’t get over his apparent obsession (he wants me to buy him fairy wings)… Only the mechanical impossibilities would prevent him from crossing the line.

  10. Movius
    Posted July 16, 2011 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    It wasn’t a bull, it was just the sideshow operator in a mask.

    and he would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for Hermanubis and his meddling disciples.

  11. Posted July 16, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] You can make perfectly nice fairy wings with two wire coat hangers and sparkly stockings. Twist the hooks of the hangers together so you have two triangular frames and then pull the stocking over them and tie them in the middle. Having a couple of bits hanging down actually adds to the wing effect.

    (Wings Granddad made should be cooler than store wings.)

  12. Posted July 17, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    [email protected]: Thanks for the tip, but the lad has seen how well done wings can be… shopping in Target (found a steampunk-ish top for him) when he spies a Tinkerbell suit… “Can you get the wings but not the dress” he pleads. Anything I’d do would be pathetic by comparison in his eyes, and I know my skills in the real world are dangerous enough to mess up if I bought the dress to take the wings off. (A too true joke: “What’s the only thing more dangerous than a hardware engineer with a software patch? A software engineer with a screwdriver in hand”)

  13. FDB
    Posted July 22, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    Is this gear from Ars Cuprum, or Menta Franklinus?

  14. Posted July 22, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    FDB, that’s very funny.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Sharing the love « The Lady Garden on July 16, 2011 at 7:16 am

    […] Ancient Roman tatt, courtesy of Skeptic Lawyer. NB: Entirely safe for work (c/f Emma’s excellent Pompeian murals) […]

  2. […] of ancient Rome. On a recent trip to Rome’s Capitoline museum, Skepticlawyer stumbled across an exhibit of not particularly tasteful ancient Roman knick-knacks: "It’s so nice to know that other civilisations had their equivalent of bogans, chavs, […]

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