Yes, I can be certified as a masochist. I am still reading “A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome”. This alleged study of Roman study has actually proved quite suspenseful. It is a gripping mystery: not a “who-done-it” but a “what didn’t”. Author Alberto Angela consistently makes historical statements that are wrong: What didn’t happen. And I have become engrossed; I can’t wait to read the next howler.
In just the last 24 hours, I marvelled at these revelations.
Are you familiar with the Roman Emperor Jordanus? Well, no one else is, either. I know the names of all the Roman Emperors–many in stupefying detail–and I was amazed to learn of Jordanus. Was he the one in a denim toga? Me, I prefer the Emperor Sidney. He melted cheeze on a matzoh and invented the pizza.
Did you know that the Lombards invaded Italy during the High Middle Ages? I thought that they had dropped by some six centuries earlier–the 6th century instead of the 12th. Perhaps my sundial is running slow. In fact, the Lombard invasion was the start of Italy’s Low Middle Ages–also known as the Dark Ages. Even then, Italy was not completely eclipsed. My friends the Byzantines held much of the peninsula and Sicily; and however obnoxiously arrogant they were (the Ivy Leaguers of the Middle Ages) they preserved civilization.
You may be getting the impression that Alberto Angela lacks some credibility. Well, he is on television. In fact, I am now inclined to check anything he says. (An atlas did confirm the existence of Italy.) So, when he wrote of the derivation of the peach, I naturally had my doubts. Does the name peach allude to the fruit’s origin in Persia? To my amazement, that is true. The Romans referred to the peach as the “malum persicum”–the Persian apple. Of course, the author would never be content with getting anything right; he had to add erroneous details. He asserts that the Emperor Trajan, after conquering Mesopotamia, introduced the “malum persicum” to Rome.
Well, Trajan did conquer Mesopotamia although he never got back alive from there. (That’s proved a consistent problem with Mesopotamia.) And its very name ”malum persicum” tells a different story. The Latin word for apple is pomum; the Greek word is malon. Four centuries before Trajan, some Greeks and Macedonians had overrun Mesopotamia and Persia. Their commander may have limited himself to fermented grapes, but the soldiers evidently sampled the local produce. One favorite was subsequently named the Persikon Malon; and it was cultivated in the Hellenic kingdoms set up in the fragments of Alexander’s empire. When the Romans conquered those kingdoms (two centuries before Trajan), they also acquired a taste for peaches.
At least Angela did not claim that Peaches was the wife of the Emperor Jordanus.