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Buffysquirrel
08-30-2011, 08:35 PM
I've written myself into a deep hole of my own ignorance.

It's an alternate history with ancient Romans; the time is probably somewhere in the C5th CE. Our protag is meeting a Numidian cavalryman for the first time. They're in the cavalryman's legate's house. The legate is a family friend of our protag. The legate has stepped out and asked our protag to act as host in his absence.

They're speaking Greek. Our protag's mother is Egyptian and he looks enough like one to pass.

What would they talk about? I have this idea that personal questions are out. What would be a safe topic?

Did Berbers drink alcohol before they became Muslims?

Anybody recommend any books, websites, resources? I'm drowning here. Halp.

blacbird
08-30-2011, 10:21 PM
I'm not knowledgeable about this history, but I'd venture that Berbers probably did make and drink alcoholic beverages prior to the coming of Islam. Just about every society did, and obviously the Romans were more than a little fond of their wine. The stricture against alcohol was issued by Muhammad, according to Islamic tradition. I don't believe it's actually in the Qur'an.

caw

Piper Brooks
08-30-2011, 10:24 PM
Food is a popular ice-breaker, as well. I would think that could go for most any culture, alternate or not.

And then there is the weather...:)

PrincessofPersia
08-30-2011, 10:51 PM
I'm not knowledgeable about this history, but I'd venture that Berbers probably did make and drink alcoholic beverages prior to the coming of Islam. Just about every society did, and obviously the Romans were more than a little fond of their wine. The stricture against alcohol was issued by Muhammad, according to Islamic tradition. I don't believe it's actually in the Qur'an.

caw

Alcohol is ragged on several times in the Qur'an, and in stages.


They ask Thee concerning Wine and Gambling, Say: In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit.


O ye who have attained to faith! Do not attempt to pray while you are in a state of drunkenness

Then, finally:


O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination,- of Satan's handwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper.

waylander
08-30-2011, 11:19 PM
Arak is older than Islam

Snick
08-30-2011, 11:36 PM
They probably would talk about the weather and similar unimportant matters.

Did you mean Numidian or Berber. They were completely different peoples. The Numidians were the ancient people of what is now Libya. The Berbers were, and are, the people of the western Sahara. They are thought to be partly decended from the Vandals, who disappeared from sight. The Berbers already existed and mixed with the Vandals. That may be just a story, but there are no more Vandals, and they were last known around Tunis, as I recall it.

rainsmom
08-31-2011, 12:06 AM
Family. Travel. Road conditions. Wars/skirmishes in the area. Bandits on the road. Illnesses. And so forth.

Buffysquirrel
08-31-2011, 01:35 AM
They probably would talk about the weather and similar unimportant matters.

Did you mean Numidian or Berber. They were completely different peoples. The Numidians were the ancient people of what is now Libya. The Berbers were, and are, the people of the western Sahara. They are thought to be partly decended from the Vandals, who disappeared from sight. The Berbers already existed and mixed with the Vandals. That may be just a story, but there are no more Vandals, and they were last known around Tunis, as I recall it.

I was relying on various sources that claimed Numidians were a Berber people. But I mean Numidians :).

Snick
08-31-2011, 06:37 AM
I was relying on various sources that claimed Numidians were a Berber people. But I mean Numidians :).

O.K., I was going from memory, and at 500 CE they might have been equivalent. But talking about the weather is always possible..

Rufus Coppertop
08-31-2011, 12:27 PM
According to the Oxford Classical Dictionary they were berber nomads. Clans coalesced into tribal confederacies under Syphax by the time of the Second Punic War. Under Masinissa, they gave up nomadism and became agricultural. Towns developed. One of their chief gods was Baal-Hammon.

Depending on how alternative your Roman empire is, they might discuss religion or a scandal involving a priestess at a local oracle. They might talk about who's fucking whom and who isn't getting any or the fact that the tetrarch of somewhere thinks he's a camel and his wife is worried about him. Anything appropriate to the time and place. Anything that humanizes them and lends a bit of detail to your world.

The OCD also states that Numidia produced wine, corn and olives in the plains and bred horses, sheep and cattle in the uplands. It's difficult to imagine Numidians not drinking some of the wine they produced when Islam wasn't around to tell them not to.

Rufus Coppertop
08-31-2011, 12:48 PM
Anybody recommend any books, websites, resources? I'm drowning here. Halp.

This is in English. Definitely worth reading.

http://www.uah.edu/student_life/organizations/SAL/texts/latin/classical/sallust/bellumiug1e.html

Goodman: "The Roman World" gives a lot of information about different aspects of the Roman Empire. Although its focus is 80ish BC to about 180ish CE, it's probably going to be useful to you.

Carpocino: "Daily Life in Ancient Rome"

Buffysquirrel
08-31-2011, 03:51 PM
Thanks, everyone! It's amazing how much work I create for myself with one small decision....

MeretSeger
09-02-2011, 04:30 AM
History could always be a fun topic, since they would be far enough out that it wouldn't be personal: The daughter of Cleopatra VII and Mark Anthony, Cleopatra Selene, married King Juba II of Numidia.

Smiling Ted
09-02-2011, 05:21 AM
In a world without the printing press, radio, TV or the Internet, conversation with travels always included a sharing of news. "What have you seen in your travels?" "What can you tell me about local events?"

DrZoidberg
09-02-2011, 12:49 PM
What type of alcohol was drunk was very region dependent. Romans would likely want to drink wine because it had higher status. The drink of common people would be beer. But not any beer we'd recognise today. It would be some grain (wheat?) and fruit mixture gunk that had to be drunk with a special straw to sift out all the husks. It would be spiced with local spices rather than hops. I've been told by those who have repeated a similar Babylonian recipe that it wouldn't be drunk for taste. Everybody would share one big bowl that they'd stick their straws in together.

The local wine would most likely be made from a variety of fruits rather than grapes and would also have plenty of fruit skins that had to be sifted out with the teeth and spit out. I'm not good enough with the local plant life to take an educated guess on what they used for raw materials. I doubt North Africa would be grape country at the time. I could be wrong.

Buffysquirrel
09-02-2011, 02:45 PM
Thanks again people! The 'what have you seen in your travels' reminds me how hard I'm finding it to get into this world.