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Posts Tagged ‘Julius Caesar

“I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.”*…

 

Tax Haven

 

The United States and Britain had a treaty under which they agreed not to tax each other’s companies’ profits. Such double-taxation treaties are foundational to the globalised economy because they ensure that a company that operates in more than one country isn’t taxed twice on the same money… this treaty extended to Britain’s overseas colonies, which exposed a flaw at the heart of this system: if one country undercuts the other on tax rates, companies that base themselves there can dramatically reduce the amount of tax they pay in the other.

Most big countries won’t play this game, because it would destroy their tax bases. The BVI, being small and having a weak economy, had no such considerations because it didn’t have much tax revenue to lose: the new business the islands attracted from relocating companies gained them more in fees than they lost in taxes. Such countries are now understood and referred to as tax havens, but back in the 1970s they were a new phenomenon and businesses were exploring them with relish.

In the 1970s, corporations in the BVI paid 15 per cent tax on their profits, while in the United States they paid 50 per cent. If an American incorporated her business in the Caribbean she could export her dividends and cut her effective tax rate by more than half. All she needed was a local lawyer. And, dating from 1976, when US clients first found him, that lawyer was Michael Riegels…

The extraordinary story of the British ex-pat in the British Virgin Islands who founded the now-global off-shore tax haven “industry,” currently estimated to hold $7-10 trillion in assets (up to 10% of global assets) anonymously and outside the reach of home country authorities: “The Second Career of Michael Riegels.”

* Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

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As we salt it away, we might recall that it was on this date, the Ides of March, in 44 BCE that Julius Caesar, who was reputedly “born of the knife” (via cesarean section), died by the knife– stabbed to death by Brutus, Casca, and 58 others in the Roman Senate.

In fact, the early history of cesarean section remains shrouded in myth and is of dubious accuracy.  Even the origin of “cesarean” has apparently been distorted over time.  It is commonly believed to be derived from the surgical birth of Julius Caesar, however this seems unlikely since his mother Aurelia is reputed to have lived to hear of her son’s invasion of Britain.  At that time the procedure was performed only when the mother was dead or dying, as an attempt to save the child for a state wishing to increase its population.  Roman law under Caesar decreed that all women who were so fated by childbirth must be cut open; hence, cesarean.  Other possible Latin origins include the verb “caedare,” meaning to cut, and the term “caesones” that was applied to infants born by postmortem operations. [source]

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The Death of Caesar, Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1867

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“A great library contains the diary of the human race”*…

 

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In 48 BCE, embroiled in a campaign against his rival Pompey, Julius Caesar laid siege to the Egyptian city of Alexandria…

The Roman ruler laid siege to the city and decided there was only one way to break the stalemate and maintain military control of the harbor — he lit his docked fleet on fire.

The ensuing blaze quickly spread through the city as fires were wont to do in the days of wooden ships and nonexistent fire departments. The flames soon reached the beloved Library of Alexandria. It is believed that nearly 10 percent of the building went up in flames that day, although the specifics of what was burned and the extent of the damage are unknown.

It was the first time the library — a grand church of universal knowledge and scholarship the likes of which the world had never seen — was attacked. It wouldn’t be the last… [source]

But what if things had unfolded differently?

Julius Caesar’s Egyptian excursion almost ended in catastrophe. Battles broke out in Alexandria, and from the burning ships, the flames moved to the structure of the great, famous library. Already a good 200 years old, it contained the entirety of ancient knowledge and culture. It’s frightening just to think what dark ages would have fallen on the Earth if we had lost this invaluable collection of books.

We owe the rescue of this treasure to Julius Caesar himself. It was he, seeing that the building with tens of thousands of books was threatened, who ordered the Roman soldiers to halt their attack, and threw himself into the battle against the flames. While putting out the fire he was severely burned, losing his left thumb. It was then that he said the famous words: “When books are burning, it’s time to lay down the sword.” Ever since that moment, the divine Julius has been sculpted and painted without his left thumb. And the Roman salute – the left hand raised, with the thumb hidden – gained popularity as a sign of people who are educated and hungry for wisdom….

In this engaging alternative history, the literature preserved in the library, notably Greek writings about steam power, are enough to kick-start an industrial revolution in ancient Rome.  Roman steamships cross the Atlantic and discover America.  The great historic event of 1492 was the first Moon landing.  Contemplate it in its entirety: “Empire of the Alexandrinas: An alternative literary history.”  [Via The Browser]

For more on the actual history of Alexandria’s amazing library, see “The Library of Alexandria Is Long-Gone – And All Around Us.”

* George Mercer Dawson

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As we explore the road not taken, we might recall that it was on this date in 1520 that Martin Luther burned his copy of the papal bull Exsurge Domine outside Wittenberg’s Elster Gate.  The Bull had been published the prior June, in response to Luther’s teachings (which, of course, opposed the views of the Church).  It censured forty one propositions extracted from Luther’s Ninety-five Theses and subsequent writings, and threatened him with excommunication unless he recanted.  Luther refused and responded instead by composing polemical tracts lashing out at the papacy– and by publicly torching a copy of the bull.  As a result, Luther was indeed excommunicated in 1521.

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Title page of the first printed edition of Exsurge Domine

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“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

By their fruit (or sled or mask or…) ye shall know them…

 

click the image above, or here

 

As we whisper “Rosebud,” we might watch our backs, recalling that it was on this date– the Ides of March– in 44 BCE that Julius Caesar, who’d assumed power as Dictator of the Roman Republic, was stabbed to death by Marcus Junius Brutus, Gaius Cassius Longinus, Decimus Junius Brutus and a gang of other Roman senators.

Muccini’s depiction of the tyrannicide (source)

 

Lifestyles of the Rich and Fictional…

Home of Gerald & Ellen O’Hara, Katie Scarlett O’Hara, Suellen & Carreen (Gone With The Wind)  2007, India ink and graphite on vellum, 30 x 42 inches.

For artist Mark Bennett, it’s all about the context…  pushing his pens into corners that the cameras can’t reach, he provides floorplans for the homes of famous movie and television characters, from the O’Hara’s to Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson; from the Jetsons to Jeannie.

Explore them here and here.

As we wrestle with Zillow, we might recall that this was a bad date for Roman republicanism:  on this date in 42 BCE, Brutus’s army was decisively defeated by Mark Antony, Octavian, and their troops at the Second Battle of Philippi in the Roman Republican Civil War.  Brutus, who’d joined Cassius in the conspiracy to assassinate Julius Caesar two years earlier, committed suicide.

Brutus, resting before the battle (source: Heritage History)

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Even more graphic!…

Your correspondent promises to rest his obsession with visualization (at least briefly)– but not before sharing this helpful round-up from the naughty-but-nice folks at COED Magazine: “The 50 Funniest Internet Infographics“…  some will be already familiar to long-time readers, as they’ve been featured here before; many others, likely new…

As we loosen our belts we might reconsider that toga, as it was on this date in 55 BCE (or very nearabouts, scholars suggest) that Julius Caesar and his Roman force first invaded Britain.  Contrary to a rather widely-held belief, Caesar did not on this occasion say “veni, vidi, vici.”  Rather, he wrote those famous words in a report to Rome in 47 BCE after defeating Pharnaces II of Pontus at Zela (in Asia Minor– in just five days… and with no pants).

Edward Armitage’s reconstruction of the first invasion

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