Saturday, 17 September 2022

kleiner freiheitsbrief (10. 142)

Drafted and issued in the milieu of the conflicts between the great houses of the Holy Roman Empire and struggle for overlordship, Frederick Barbarossa signed the title deed known as Privilegium Minus that elevated the frontier march of Austria to the status of a duchy, separate from Bavaria and an inheritable fiefdom, on this date in 1156.This denotation is perfect contrast to the Privilegium Maius (der GroรŸer Freiheitsbrief), a forgery drawn up at the behest of Hapsburg duke Rudolf IV, a beneficiary and ruling by grace of the former proclamation, two centuries later in 1359 which not only raised Austria’s status higher to an archduchy, it was not intended to replace Barbarossa’s deed but rather supplant it by sourcing some of the documentation to Julius Caesar for the Roman province of Noricum (roughly modern day Austria). The original was conveniently lost and many courtiers found the new document suspect—including Petrarch, who openly declared it a fake. Any grumblings were for nought, however, with the election of Frederick III to the imperial office in 1452, who had the prerogative to confirm the authenticity, making fiction fact, and conferring in perpetuity the rights contained therein.

Tuesday, 6 September 2022

reemployed annuitant (10. 111)

In a swaggering farewell speech—as his successor Ms Truss was directed by Her Majesty in Balmoral presumably in much the same way one asks a telemarketer to call back in five minutes (credit to columnist Marina Hyde)—Boris Johnson cemented his legacy, starting out with a tinge of bitterness over Brexit shambles, incurred in part due to his own proroguing of Parliament, and compared himself—not for the first time mind you, having recycled this line from when he left the office of the mayor of London to pursue a career as an MP and apparently cursory familiarity (see also) with the Roman statesman—to Cincinnatus, retiring to his “plough—and I will be offering this government nothing but the most fervent support.” While on the surface, it may suggest that Johnson would take his place on the backbenches—George Washington also evoked the figure of Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus when he thought more than two-terms as US president unseemly, disbanded the revolutionary army and announced he was going back to his plantation—and the leader did in fact go back his farm, but to extend this analogy, Cincinnatus was recalled to suppress a rebellion and created dictator and given a small armed contingent. Handily accomplishing this feat, Cincinnatus is upheld as a paragon of virtue not for his statecraft so much but because he resigned and re-retired immediately afterwards and did not try to hold his power. We wonder if Johnson fancies he’ll be similarly deputised.

Saturday, 27 August 2022

monica of hippo (10. 089)

Protector and patron of difficult marriages, disappointing children and alcoholics, the mother of Augustine—plus Navigus and ‘Perpetua,’ all of modern-day Annaba, Algeria—is venerated in the Catholic tradition on this day as a paragon of virtue and endurance, responsible for the redemption of her son and informing the Confessions of this Doctor of the Church. A sickly child, Monica beseeched her husband, the verbally abusive and adulterous Roman consul Patricius, but Augustine’s recovery led to a quite dissolute lifestyle and having gone off to school in Carthage and returning a convert to Manichaeism, a religion that believed the third century Parthian prophet Mani was the final one following Zoroaster, the Buddha and Jesus, Monica kicked him out until a vision came to her, instructing her to reconcile their relationship. Following him to Rome, Monica eventually prevailed and convinced Augustine to convert (fรชted on the following day) to Christianity.

Friday, 26 August 2022

time in a bottle (10. 087)

A favourite topic here at PfRC being the subject of time and time-keeping and having previously covered topics of Roman hours, the French Revolutionary Decimal Calendar, Time Zones, Knocker-Uppers and Daylight Savings Time, we quite enjoyed this latest instalment of You’re Dead to Me—the comedy podcast that takes history seriously, that explores both the want to escape the tyranny of clock and how in its measurement of time, our horizons are broadened beyond the immediate to the eminent. Following one tradition that informs the generally agreed upon standard, it was the Roman conquest of Greek Sicily and bringing back the sundial of Syracuse as a war trophy and putting it on public display (despite being calibrated for Sicily-time) was the beginning of regimented time-keeping with the fabulist Titus Maccius Plautus lamented of this new installation in the forum during the Punic Wars, duplicated all over the empire, “May the gods damn the man who first discovered the hours—when I was a boy, my stomach was the only sundial, but now what there is isn’t eaten lest the sun say so.” Much more to explore at the links above.

Thursday, 18 August 2022

bona stabularia (10. 069)

Referred to by some historians as a “goodly stablemaid” and likely from humble roots in Bithynia (Anatolia)—though other counterclaimants, as with Charlemagne or any number of the artefacts she collected vying for authenticity, are out there including Augusta Treverorum, Mesopotamia, Palestine, the Pyrenees and Camulodnum (Colchester—a princess of the legendary Ole King Cole)—widowed wife and empress dowager of Constantius, relic-hunter and mother to Constantine I, Helen (Flavia Iulia Helena) is fรชted in the Roman Catholic Rite on this day as patron protector of the Holy Places and archaeologist, converts and divorcees. Helen was assigned this last benefaction as Constantius divorced her when Constantine was a teenager to take a wife of higher status, Theodora, and the two of them were exiled to the court of Diocletian in Dalmatia. After his father died in battle fighting against the Picts at Eboracum (York) and Constantine was proclaimed emperor, Helen returned to the imperial court and after her son’s consequential victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge and subsequent conversion to Christianity was appointed Augusta Imperatrix with unfettered access to the treasury and given the special assignment of collecting objects of Christian veneration, including the True Cross—the place of discovery now hosting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Holy Tunic.

Saturday, 30 July 2022

7x7 (10. 025)

spectacular vernacular: 99% Invisible celebrates milestone episodes with an exploration of vintage architectural styles, via Pasa Bon!  

conlang: fluency in Esperanto—see previously  

122 CE: a colourful gate house installed at Hadrian’s Wall 

the electric lucifer: the musical stylings of Bruce Haack 

civic duty: a resonant “I Voted” sticker for Ulster County, New York

isochrone: an interactive map illustrates how far one can travel from any European train station in under five hours 

la maison sculptรฉe: Jacques Lucas’ hand-sculpted home in Rennes

Friday, 29 July 2022

arbeia (10. 024)

Though we did not get the chance to survey Hadrian’s Wall this go around, on our way back to the port of Newcastle on Tyne we got to see among other things such as successive traffic roundabouts the ancient Roman garrison which guarded the main sea route to the fortified border near the South Shields docks in Tyne & Wear, so named because originally skilled boatmen from Mesopotamia were stationed there following the conquest of Persia by Septimus Severus (see previously).

Command-and-control for attempted incursions on Scotland, Fort Arbeia ultimately became a logistics base to supply activities along the frontier and preventing Pictish infiltration and once hosted over six hundred troops. The western gate is a modern reconstruction (see also) and contains a museum of artefacts found here and an education centre.



Saturday, 9 July 2022

8x8

carina nebula: first five subjects for JWST announced  

a pharmacopeia with balneological appendix: a primer and point of departure for the mysterious pre-Renaissance volume, the Voynich Manuscript—see previously

putt-putt for the fun of it: a time-capsule of miniature golf courses 

trap daddy: spoof Russian history on Chinese Wikipedia introduces us to a catch-phrase for the deception hoax—see also, see previously  

jubilee: inflexibility applied to finance and debt contributed to the downfall of the Roman Empire  

spatter platters: morbid 1960s teen tragedy songs

hushed-tones: a neural network makes a nature documentary about ants  

hudf: JWST takes deepest image of the Cosmos without even trying plus other space news briefs

Tuesday, 5 July 2022

santca zoe


Moved to speak again after being rendered mute for some six years after our friend Saint Sebastian made the sign of the cross over her whilst ministering to fellow imprisoned Christians, Zoe of Rome, wife of the imperial chancellor Nicostratus, under the reign of Diocletian, is feted on this day on the occasion of her martyrdom. Having her power of speech restored by witnessing said Sebastian imploring other inmates not to renounce their faith, Zoe and her retinue demanded instant conversion at the miracle, singing the praises of Jesus and Saint Peter. Fervently praying at the tomb of the latter, Zoe was arrested—along with her husband and other converts—and hung by her hair over a bonfire until stifled by the raising smoke, unceremoniously tossed in the Tiber.

Thursday, 30 June 2022

7x7

stare decisis: the phrase “to stand by things decided,” the doctrine of affording preference to precedent is post-Classical Legal Latin  

day at the beach: Ludwig Favre immerses himself at Brooklyn’s Coney Island—via Nag on the Lake 

kunst und keksdose: the art vintage German biscuit tins 

tubeway army: Are ‘Friends’ Electric? by Gary Numan climbs to the top of the charts on this day in 1979   

merrily, merrily, merrily: distinguishing dreams from waking  

full-stop: Gertrude Stein and others on punctuation  

hallux: Latin’s lack of distinction for fingers and toes—see also here and here

Sunday, 12 June 2022

you dare ask the proconsul of rome to kneel—i asked it of julius caesar. i demand it of you

Among the most successful sword-and-sandal epics filmed in Cinecittร  and lavished with well-deserved critical acclaim—though not a commercial success and nearly bankrupting the studio, the Joseph L. Mankiewicz adaptation of the 1957 historical novel The Life and Times of Cleopatra by Carlo Maria Franzero (with additional material from Plutarch and Shakespeare) featuring the acting talents of Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison and Roddy McDowall opened in US theatres on this day in 1963. After decisively suppressing rebellion in Greece and earning the title of dictator for life, Julius Caesar travels to Egypt as the executor of the late pharaoh’s estate, where Cleopatra successfully petitions Caesar to restore her to the throne and banish her younger brother the usurper. Both with imperial ambitions, they marry and have a child, Caesarion, publicly proclaimed as Caesar’s heir—disquieting for the Senate as the idea of returning Rome to a heredity monarchy is an anathema for democracy. Stemming from this fear, a conspiracy of senators assassinate Caesar, precipitating a revolt, put down by an alliance formed by Octavian (Caesar’s adopted son and to Cleopatra’s betrayal named in the will as opposed to their child), General Mark Antony and Marcus Ameilius Lepidus. Mark Antony, short on funds after the civil war, turns again to Egypt and forges his own personal allegiance with Cleopatra.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

apicius

We quite enjoyed revisiting the topic of a mysterious, most-favoured herb of Antiquity called silphium (previously)—considered a gift from Apollo and used as condiment, perfume, aphrodisiac, and seasoning and with medicinal uses ranging from anti-haemorrhoidal to contraceptive, imported into the Greek and Roman world from a narrow, microclimate in Syria that was resistant to transplantation. Over-harvesting and over-grazing coupled with climate change curried its abrupt disappearance from cupboards and medicine cabinets two millennia hence and serves as a warning best heeded about our own culinary staples and how familiar and enriching flavours and seasoning might meet the same fate. Much more at the links above.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

matthias the apostle

Formerly venerated on the sixth day before the Calends of March but with the calendar revisions of 1969, the commemoration of the Apostle Matthias, nominated by an assembly of disciples rather than chosen by Jesus himself to replace Judas Iscariot, was translated to this day as to take the celebration out of Lent and closer to the historical date (and as patron-protector against smallpox, coincides with the first inoculation administered by Edward Jenner in 1796 on eight-year-old James Phipps, the son of the family gardener). Though there are scant canonical details regarding his life, tradition places Matthias on the Caspian coast and evangelising to the people of the region that is modern day Georgia. Matthias’ patronage also includes tailors, carpenters, Billings Montana, Gary Indiana, Trier and alcoholics.

Thursday, 28 April 2022

hollywood on the tiber

Dedicated on this day in 1937 by Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, the sprawling studio complex in Rome, Cinecittร , was built in accordance with the motto ”il cinema รจ l‘arma piรน forte“—that is, movies are the most powerful weapons. Their aims however were not exclusively for propaganda with the primary goal of reviving the country‘s flagging film industry, which had virtually collapsed in the early 1930s. Subject to bombardment during World War II and post-war was host to an encampment for displaced persons. Rebuilt in the early 1950s, the studio site garnered the titular nickname with over three-thousand productions, including Roman Holiday, Quo Vadis, Ben-Hur, Cleopatra, The Agony and the Ecstasy plus numerous films by Franco Zeffirelli and Federico Fellini. More recently the the studios were the set of the BBC/HBO co-production Rome and The Young Pope, a full-scale mock-up of St Peter’s and the Sistine Chapel on site, just a few kilometres away from the actual location.

Sunday, 24 April 2022

never look a gift horse in the mouth

Though this kind of exact date for something semi-legendary, laden with cultural baggage and millennia hence is notoriously hard to pin down, the attestation by among others Eratosthenes, polymath and librarian of Alexandria who calculated the circumference and axial tilt of Earth to a remarkable degree of accuracy (thanks in part to his access to extensive geological data at the library), traditionally places the Fall of Troy, the end of the decade-long siege of the impenetrable city by the Achaean armies when they were let into the gates, hiding inside a wooden horse, a ruse thought up by Odysseus—a creature sacred to the Trojans, on this day in 1183 BCE. Left on the beach as an offering for their return home, the Greeks had apparently decamped. Many were suspicious, including Cassandra and Laocoรถn—with of course no one listening to the former and the latter being devoured by a sea serpent along with his sons sent by Athena to keep the priest’s mouth shut but they ultimately decided to keep the horse and celebrated the end of their long blockade with an evening of drunken revelry. Most of the population was massacred in their sleep as the Greeks sacked the city—save for Aeneas who went on to found Rome in some traditions, with most of the Greeks also denied a safe homecoming by the gods for their atrocious behaviour as victors and for their desecration of temples and holy sites and were doomed to wrack and ruin.

Saturday, 26 March 2022

see something, spray something

 

My workplace located in the extended concrete canvas of The Meeting of the Styles (previously) international street artist collective and noticing some of the murals being given a new layer, I took a stroll around Mainz-Kastel through the train depot and some unwalkable places to document some of the expansive graffiti, especially noting those that referenced the district’s Roman connections and the neo-Classical redoubt / reduit bridgehead fortress that’s just across the tracks on the bank of the Rhein from the station.  We’ll see if we’re host to a whole new gallery of works soon.


 

Tuesday, 15 March 2022

ut annare perannareque commode liceat

Originally corresponding to the first full moon of the New Year, this day, the Ides of March, was marked by the Feast of Anna Perenna, a public holiday with much feasting and sacrifice to secure a propitious and healthy year ahead. Revelers beseeched the deification of the passage of time to grant them as many more fruitful years as cups of wine they could imbibe and observed despite calendar reforms and the pivot away from lunar cycles. Associated with the assassination of Julius Caesar who ignored the warnings of a seer, a practitioner of haruspicy—that is divination through entrails—called Spurinna, the festivities changed and were formalized after the civil war as an imperial procession marking the end of a holy week of sorts in honour of the Cybele, the Magna Mater, and her consort Attis, who represented the cycle of the seasons, and passion plays (performed by tree-bearing priests called dendrophoroi) that marked the birth and death of that figure in anticipation of the vernal equinox.

Saturday, 12 February 2022

7x7

forum gallorum: step into this unassuming salon to inspect a piece of Roman London, reminiscent of discovering this shopping mall in Mainz—via Nag on the Lake  

burds: just a fun little cleanse—cartoony birds hopping about—via Waxy  

shred, white and blue: the totally normal and perfectly legal ways the White House handled official records 

neft daลŸlarฤฑ: a decaying offshore oil platform in the middle of the Caspian Sea  

the thoughtful spot: the Phrontistery (ฯ†ฯฮฟฮฝฯ„ฮนฯƒฯ„ฮฎฯฮนฮฟฮฝ, Greek for the thinking place) catalogues a treasury of rare and obscure words—via Kottke  

gumshoe: the bygone era of the hotel detective—via Strange Company’s Weekend Link Dump  

be mine: the Lupercalia and the origins of Saint Valentine

Friday, 4 February 2022

de finibus bonorum et malorum

Spotted by Super Punch, New York Times sports writer Andrew Keh took note of the inspiring captions on posters for the Winter Games in the hotel he’s based out of. Lorem ipsum is placeholder text used in draft copies before the final version is available (see previously) and is adapted from a passage from the above Socratic dialogue of Roman orator Cicero (meaning on the ends of good and evil, a rather heavy subject for a throw-away endeavour), popularised in typesetting since the 1960s by a Letraset transfer sheets ad campaign, this pictured call-out begins “the pain is important to me” but non-standard, breaks down from there. Traditionally, the passage, which could very much apply to the spirit of competition, continues: “[B]ut occasionally circumstances happen wherein toil and pain can procure some pleasure. To take a trivial example, whom of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with one who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no pleasure?”

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

hypapante

One of the earliest Christian celebrations and pre-dating by centuries the establishment of Christmas and Easter, the Feast of the Presentation, reckoned forty days postpartum when couples (mostly the mother and the separation period was doubled for baby girls) partook in a ritual purification ceremony with burnt offerings to cleanse both infant child and themselves and reintegrate into the community, Candlemas and its later backformations became popular during the fourth century Plague of Justinian and it may be an appropriation of the feriae and fasti of Lupercalia and Ferฤlia that fell later in the month, the former itself a purification festival to promote health and fertility—February itself named after februa, the brooms to sweep away the detritus of the old year. Traditionally in some communities, decorations are finally taken down and candles are brought to local churches for blessing and used throughout the year.