We've posed the question of "Romans vs Victorians", with the best answer winning a pretty nifty prize. One of the ongoing arguments at Pornokitsch Towers is who would win this particular smackmatch deathdown. Here's a transcript of the most recent round...
Victorians brought the sexxay. Number of romance novels set in ancient Rome: seventy-three. Number of romance novels set during the nineteenth century: nine million, six hundred and twelve. No, fourteen. No, twenty-seven. Look, eight more have been published in the time it took you to read this sentence. Pay attention, boys: cravats, top-hats and UST will always always always be nine million times sexier than leather skirts and manky sandals. No one wants to see your icky toenails. And as a corollary: where's the gladiatorpunk at, fool? Oh, that's right. THERE ISN'T ANY. All the ladies be busy readin' steampunk.
Romans had more fun. ...and not just the orgies. The Victorian idea of fun involved sipping lukewarm tea and perhaps, if the corset allowed, a gentle stroll through a hedge maze. Perhaps Underduke Timothy Piggley-Smythe might steal a look at one's well-turned ankles! Oh, the larks! In ancient Rome, "Piglet" would've been dipped in caviar and thrown to the man-eating jellyfish for being such a limp biscuit. Caligula was batshit crazy and bankrupted the empire, but he did so by providing free entertainment. Not only did he routinely flood a national monument to play wargames, but also he also invented the octopus-wrestling league, the World Cup (which Rome then won 163 times in a row, take that Brazil) and the orgasm. Caligula famously appointed his horse to the Senate just so he'd have more free time to play MMORPGs. (Incitatus never would've cut funding for the arts, by the way.)
Nothing had names until the 1832. Then the Victorians came along and realized it would be much easier to live a full and productive life if one could indicate a thing one wanted via a system of unique referents rather than just pointing and grunting, which is what everyone had been doing up until then. (This is known as the Great Reform Act; go look it up.) People wanted to record all the new names with some sort of permanency, so the Victorians invented writing, and then books to hold all the writing, and then the printing press to make books widely available, and then literacy so people could read all the books and know all the names, and thus know everything. Because knowledge is power, as famous Victorian Sir Francis Bacon once wrote down in a book you have all read.
Rome beat France. The Victorians had fancy-shmancy gunpowder, hoighty-toighty submarines and the occasional steam-Walker, but you know what they didn't have? France. All the submachine-gun-wielding cavalry in the so-called-Empire, and they couldn't take out the world's most famous collection of cheese-eating surrender monkeys. Julius Caesar took France by himself. The rest of the legions were just there to pack up all the wine and paintings. In American sports terminology, you would call this a "common opponent". One that Rome beat and the Victorians never could.
And speaking of America, Rome never would've lost it. FACT.
Julius Caesar may have had sharks for arms, but he still got his ass assassinated. You know who lived to the ripe old age of 154 and died only because the weight of his pure awesome crushed him to death? The Iron Duke himself, Arthur Wellesley, the foist Duke of Wellington. You like Mr. Rochester, right? Well, Charlotte Brontë liked Wellington so much that she wrote a book about him, where he's a giant sexy ugly beast with a foul wit and a dog called Pilot, and that book is Jane Eyre, and Jane Eyre is your favorite book ever. And Charlotte wasn't alone! All the ladies in all of history wanted to bone Wellington. So much so that they collected all their shiny pennies and melted them down and cast a gigantic naked statue of Wellington and put it up in Hyde Park. Also, Wellington was thirty feet tall and rode a half-wild T. Rex and was actually, literally iron-clad, which is why he was so good at war. Queen Victoria bigamised herself with him in secret; when Prince Albert found out he died of sadness. Who cares? Albert was a dirty German anyway.
Rome's in your history, being your heroez. St. George? A Roman. You know what the Romans didn't have? Gladstone Day. When Victorians weren't worshipping the pineapple or pinning their dicks back, they were building wee shrines to King Arthur (ROMAN) or Saints Patrick, David and Andrew (ok, that's, Ireland, Wales and Scotterland, but ROMAN ROMAN ROMAN).
The sun never set on the British Empire. Because the Victorians invented asbestos and grafted it to the skin of their hands and tossed the sun from country to country until it landed on France and burnt a hole through the planet's crust in the shape of the country, and Napoleon called out from his charred hole 40 kilometers below the surface of the Earth all "merci, Veektoreeahns; do eet again! Eet hurts so bon." And then he contracted the French Disease, which one gets from hanging out in France which is why no one in their right mind would want it, and was very sad. He's still there. Victorian ghosts hang out on the edge of the France-hole and throw pineapples down at him.
Roman roads still work. How's that Victorian-built Underground running this weekend?
Hey, do you like being able to see where you're going at night? It's called electricity and the Victorians are the ones you have to thank for it. You see, in 1854 Charles Dickens invented a steam-powered sky-train and rode it up into the aether. Once there he stole amongst the clouds and into the lightning nurseries where baby lightning lay glowing. Dickens coaxed one infant lightning into a little blue-glass lemonade bottle by promising it peppermint humbugs, and brought the lightning home and helped it grow big and strong and have lightning babies of its own, and now every single electronic gadget you own has a tiny lightning baby living inside, dreaming of peppermint humbugs.
Rome had dragons. In the Roman Empire (which lasted five hundred years, by the way - or another thousand if we include the Byzantines - Fraser to Rome's Cheers), there were dragons. They infested the skies. In fact, dragons were the only reason Romans didn't have airships and jetpacks, which is why St. George (still a ROMAN) was eventually given his hunting permit and allowed to clear them all out in AD 300. This is history.