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Posts Tagged ‘Roman history

“The key of the success of Studio 54 is that it’s a dictatorship at the door and a democracy on the dance floor”*…

 

In 1977, at the height of the disco craze, a club opened at 254 West 54th Street in New York City. Studio 54 was—and, arguably, remains—the world’s most renowned and legendary disco. Regularly attended by celebrities such as Andy Warhol, Elizabeth Taylor, Mick Jagger, Bianca Jagger, Jerry Hall, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones, Michael Jackson, Calvin Klein, Elton John, John Travolta, Brooke Shields and Tina Turner, the club fostered an atmosphere of unadulterated hedonism for New York’s art and fashion set. Hasse Persson [c.f., here] and his camera were frequent club guests from 1977–80. The images he photographed there have become legendary, capturing the club’s famed revelers, dancers in costume and general, drunken exhilaration—and yet, incredibly, Studio 54 (published by Max Ström) marks the first time in history that they have seen publication. Almost 35 years after the club’s unceremonious and sudden closure, this beautiful hardback volume superbly documents the zeitgeist…

More at “Never Before Published Photos of Studio 54” and at Persson’s own site.

* Andy Warhol (seen, holding his camera, at the bottom of the photo above)

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As we look for the “Hot Stuff,” we might recall that it was on this date in 37 CE that the Roman Senate conferred the Principate on Caligula.  His great-uncle Tiberius had left the office jointly to his grandson, Gemellus, and to Caligula; but Caligula had the will nullified on the grounds of Gemellus’ supposed insanity.

Caligula reigned until his assassination three-and-a-half years later by members of his own Praetorian Guard; the first two years of his tenure were marked by moderation– but accounts of his reign thereafter paint a portrait of extraordinary sybaritic excess and cruel, extravagant, and perverse tyranny…  leading many historians to suspect that Caligula succumbed in his last months to neurosyphilis.

A marble bust of Caligula restored to its original colors. (The colors were identified from particles trapped in the marble.)

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Written by LW

March 28, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”*…

 

As this interactive graphic from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reveals, the number of nuclear weapons in the world peaked in the late 80s.  But there are still roughly 10,000 nukes floating around the world, and in the hands of an increased number of countries…

Explore the Nuclear Notebook.

* J. Robert Oppenheimer, quoting the Bhagavad Gita as he recalled the Trinity Test (the first atomic bomb detonation)

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As we duck and cover, we might recall that today is the Ides of March.  An occasion in the Roman calendar for religious observances, it retains a certain notoriety as the date, in 44 BCE, of the assassination of Julius Caesar– becoming, thus, a turning point in Roman history… and the prompt for Shakespeare’s immortal warning (from a soothsayer to Caesar in Julius Caesar): “Beware the Ides of March.”

The Death of Caesar (1798) by Vincenzo Camuccini

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Written by LW

March 15, 2015 at 1:01 am

“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)

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Written by LW

August 24, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Veni, vidi, vici”*…

 

A young (and unshaven) Julius Caesar

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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Written by LW

January 15, 2013 at 1:01 am

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