(Roughly) Daily

“Fortune favors the brave”*…

Cryptonauts

History is filled with almosts. With those who almost adventured, who almost achieved, but ultimately, for them it proved to be too much. Then, there are others. The ones who embrace the moment, and commit. And in these moments of truth . . . they calm their minds and steel their nerves with four simple words that have been whispered by the intrepid since the time of the Romans. Fortune favours the brave.

Adam Tooze been mulling these lines ever since he first saw the commercial for crypto.com done by Matt Damon during a football game back in the autumn of 2021:

Now he unpacks the backstory…

The phrase “fortune favors the brave” is generally attributed to Pliny the Elder, the obsessive scholar and Roman Fleet commander. He uttered it on the fateful night of August 24 79 AD when the volcano Vesuvius erupted and buried Herculaneum and Pompeii. As recalled 25 years later, at the request of Tacitus, by his nephew Pliny the Younger, Pliny the Elder ignored the advice of his helmsman and steered directly towards the eruption, hoping to pull off a famous rescue. Instead, he was overwhelmed, lost control of the situation and finally, in ridiculous circumstances, succumbed to the fumes, becoming one of the thousands of casualties…

You might say that evoking Pliny’s famous phrase was more apt than Damon or crypto.com realized.

But Vesuvius does not belong only to the classical tradition. In the 18th century, the volcano would become one of the quintessential sites of the romantic sublime…

A fascinating “close read” of an influential TV spot, its intellectual antecedents, and its (intended and unintended) message: “Fortune Favors the Brave: the making of crypto ideology, Vesuvius, and the romantic sublime,” from @adam_tooze.

* Pliny the Younger, “quoting” Pliny the Elder

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As we iron out the irony, we might recall that, on this date in 2008, the Dow Jones Average fell 8%, continuing a slide that had begun with the collapse of Lehman Brothers and other smaller financial firms. The DJI was at 8,149.09, roughly the midpoint (in both timing) of the sub-prime lending crisis and the Dow’s 54% fall to 6,469.95 (in March, 2009) from its peak of 14,164 on October 9, 2007. The recovery, of course, took much longer.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

December 1, 2022 at 1:00 am

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