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Posts Tagged ‘Roman history

“Life is like a beautiful melody, only the lyrics are messed up”*…

 

Seinfeld caps + Kanye West lyrics: SeinYeWest

* Hans Christian Andersen (in translation)

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As we do the mash, we might recall that it was on this date in 410 that Rome was sacked by the Barbarian Visigoths, led by Alaric.  Rome was no longer the capital of the Western Roman Empire (it had moved to Mediolanum and then to Ravenna); but it remained the Empire’s spiritual and cultural center.  And it had not fallen to an enemy in almost 800 years (the Gauls sacked Rome in 387 BCE).  As St. Jerome, living in Bethlehem at the time, wrote: “The City which had taken the whole world was itself taken.”

A 15th-century depiction of the Sack of Rome (with anachronistic details)

source

 

Written by LW

August 24, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Veni, vidi, vici”*…

 

A young (and unshaven) Julius Caesar

source

In chapter 2 of his Life of Julius Caesar, the Greek historian Plutarch of Chaeronea (46-c.120) describes what happened when Caesar encountered the Cilician pirates, who infested the Aegean Sea, in 75 BCE.  To that point, the Cilician’s had regularly offered the Roman senators slaves, which the nobles needed for their plantations in Italy– and which the Senate accepted as tribute, refraining from sending the Roman navy against the pirates.

The translation below was made by Robin Seager.

First, when the pirates demanded a ransom of twenty talents, Caesar burst out laughing. They did not know, he said, who it was that they had captured, and he volunteered to pay fifty. Then, when he had sent his followers to the various cities in order to raise the money and was left with one friend and two servants among these Cilicians, about the most bloodthirsty people in the world, he treated them so highhandedly that, whenever he wanted to sleep, he would send to them and tell them to stop talking.

For thirty-eight days, with the greatest unconcern, he joined in all their games and exercises, just as if he was their leader instead of their prisoner. He also wrote poems and speeches which he read aloud to them, and if they failed to admire his work, he would call them to their faces illiterate savages, and would often laughingly threaten to have them all hanged. They were much taken with this and attributed his freedom of speech to a kind of simplicity in his character or boyish playfulness.

However, the ransom arrived from Miletus and, as soon as he had paid it and been set free, he immediately manned some ships and set sail from the harbor of Miletus against the pirates. He found them still there, lying at anchor off the island, and he captured nearly all of them. He took their property as spoils of war and put the men themselves into the prison at Pergamon. He then went in person to [Marcus] Junius, the governor of Asia, thinking it proper that he, as praetor in charge of the province, should see to the punishment of the prisoners. Junius, however, cast longing eyes at the money, which came to a considerable sum, and kept saying that he needed time to look into the case.

Caesar paid no further attention to him. He went to Pergamon, took the pirates out of prison and crucified the lot of them, just as he had often told them he would do when he was on the island and they imagined that he was joking.

* (“I came, I saw, I conquered”) Julius Caesar, in a letter to the Roman Senate, 46 BCE (after his short war against Pharnaces II of Pontus)

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As we exclaim “Great Caesar’s Ghost!”, we might recall that it was in this date in 1914 that Franz Ferdinand, 51 year old heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was assassinated in Sarajevo, then the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovnia, where he was visiting to inspect the Empire’s troops.  A member of the Black Hand nationalist group, Gavrilo Princip, shot and killed both the Crown Prince and his wife as they were being driven through the city.  The assassination– triggering, as it did, competing accusations and the “calling” of interlocking alliances– ignited World War I, which broke out one month later.

Franz Ferdinand

source

 

Written by LW

June 28, 2014 at 1:01 am

The rich really *are* different…

On the heels of a study revealing that 59% of the tuna sold in the U.S. isn’t (tuna), more toxic news…

In a finding that surprised even the researchers conducting the study, it turns out that both rich and poor Americans are walking toxic waste dumps for chemicals like mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium and bisphenol A, which could be a cause of infertility. And while a buildup of environmental toxins in the body afflicts rich and poor alike, the type of toxin varies by wealth…

While America’s poor are “rich” in toxins that come from plastics and cigarettes,

… People who can afford sushi and other sources of aquatic lean protein appear to be paying the price with a buildup of heavy metals in their bodies, found Jessica Tyrrell and colleagues from the University of Exeter. Using data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Tyrrell et al. found that compared to poorer people, the rich had higher levels of mercury, arsenic, caesium and thallium, all of which tend to accumulate in fish and shellfish.

The rich also had higher levels of benzophenone-3, aka oxybenzone, the active ingredient in most sunscreens, which is under investigation by the EU and, argue some experts, may actually encourage skin cancer

Read the whole story in Quartz

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As we “just say no” to nigiri, we might send dissolute birthday greetings to the poster boy for excess, Caligula; he was born on this date in 12 CE.  The third Roman Emperor (from from 37 to 41 CE), Caligula (“Little Boots”) is generally agreed to have been a temperate ruler through the first six months of his reign. His excesses after that– cruelty, extravagance, sexual perversity– are “known” to us via sources increasingly called into question.  Still, historians agree that Caligula did work hard to increase the unconstrained personal power of the emperor at the expense of the countervailing Principate; and he oversaw the construction of notoriously luxurious dwellings for himself.

In 41 CE, members of the Roman Senate and of Caligula’s household attempted a coup to restore the Republic.  They enlisted the Praetorian Guard, who killed Caligula– the first Roman Emperor to be assassinated (Julius Caesar was assassinated, but was Dictator, not Emperor).  In the event, the Praetorians thwarted the Republican dream by appointing (and supporting) Caligula’s uncle Claudius the next Emperor.

 source

Written by LW

August 31, 2013 at 1:01 am

From A to B…

Dutch designer Ruben van der Vleuten wondered what happened to the packages he sent between the time he shipped them and their arrival.

What happens when you send something by mail? What happens in between you sending it off and someone else receiving it? What people and processes are involved and how many steps does it take?

Those all were questions I was dealing with and wanted to find out. So instead of sitting back I started a simple project to actually see it myself. I put a small camera in a box, build a timer circuit using Arduino and shipped it.

That’s as simple as it is. The timer circuit was set to make a 3 sec video every minute and make longer videos while the box was moving: to not miss on the ‘interesting’ parts.

See the resulting video, “From A to B”.

email readers click here

[TotH to Flowing Data]

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As we add some extra bubble wrap, we might send stoic birthday greetings to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; he was born on this date in 121 CE.  The last the “five good emperors” of Rome, Marcus Aurelius is considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers.  His Meditations, written in Greek while on campaign during the Marcomannic Wars between 170 and 180, and describing how to follow nature to find and preserve equanimity in the midst of turmoil, is considered by many to be the urtext of the philosophy of service and duty.

Look beneath the surface; let not the several quality of a thing nor its worth escape thee.

- Meditations, Book VI, 3

 source

Written by LW

April 26, 2013 at 1:01 am

Listing…

 

From The New Yorker, The Hundred Best Lists of All Time.

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As we rankle at the rankings, we might note that this was the Feast Day of the Ass in ancient Rome.  The festival honored Vesta, the daughter of Chronos (Time) and Rhea (Earth), and legendary founder of the Vestal Virgins, a cult of six virginal women priestesses who were charged with keeping alive the flame burning in their temple at the center of Rome.  The celebration was named as it was in honor of the donkey that saved Vesta’s honor:  As told by Propertius, the young Vesta was being sought by the “horned” Priapus, who approached one night as she lay sleeping.  Her ass’s loud braying awakened her in time to defend herself from his advances.

 source

 

Written by LW

January 15, 2013 at 1:01 am

“In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality”*…

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8478/8242458991_b4eebedba0_o.gif “Enough of symbolism and these escapist themes of purity and innocence.”    8½ (1963)

From If We Don’t, Remember Me, “a gallery of living movie stills”…

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8487/8243529928_b21532dff4_o.gif “I just hate all these extroverted, obnoxious, pseudo-bohemian losers.”     Ghost World (2001)

* Alfred Stieglitz

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As we find our inner stillness, we might recall that it was on this date in 43 BCE that Rome’s greatest orator, Marcus Tullius Cicero was executed (his head and hands were amputated) for his Philippics, a series of speeches attacking Mark Antony and calling for a restoration of the Republic.  Sic semper prōtestor.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8478/8243527748_ab6d5f6fa9_o.jpg source

Written by LW

December 7, 2012 at 1:01 am

Caveat emptor…

From Least Helpful, “Daily Dispatches from the Internet’s Worst Reviewers”…

 

As we hone our critical faculties, we might recall that it was on this date in 193 that Didius Julianus (Marcus Didius Severus Julianus Augustus) out-bid his rivals in an auction to become Emperor of Rome; the sale was held by the Praetorian Guard, which had just assassinated the prior Emperor, Pertinax.  The method of his ascension and his bone-headed moves on taking power (e.g., arbitrarily devaluing Roman currency) precipitated the Roman Civil War of 193-197…  but Julianus didn’t live to see the outcome; he was murdered in his palace three months after acceding to the throne, and succeeded by Septimus Serverus.

 Didius Julianus (source)

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