Monday, 3 January 2022

daniel of padua

Venerated on the occasion of the translation (repatriation) to the cathedral of Padua on this day in 1064, the sainted deacon under Saint Prosdocimus, the city’s first bishop dispatched by Apostle Peter, Daniel helped win converts to the faith and was later martyred (†168 CE) and is represented with the iconography of a towel and laver to signify the importance of the ritual of feet washing and of cleanliness—in sense of purity, therapy and hygiene—in general. Patron and protector of both Padua and Treviso, Daniel is invoked by army wives to guarantee their husband’s return from war and, like fellow Patavino Anthony, is called upon to find lost articles.

Saturday, 1 January 2022

saint telemachus

An ascetic monk from Asia Minor undertook a spiritual sojourn to Rome and is venerated on this day when, according to near-contemporary Church chronicler Theodoret, for trying to stop a gladiatorial match in the Colosseum. Accounts vary as to whether Telemachus, who so opposed the violence, was stabbed by the competitors or stoned to death by an angry audience but historically the last known spectacle in the city occurred on 1 January 404 CE. Emperor Honorius was reported so moved by the sacrifice and martyrdom as to enact a ban on gladiator fights. In the version of the hagiography told by Ronald Reagan in 1984 addressing the National Prayer Breakfast, he added the embellishment that the crowd was so mortified by its actions that they all departed the stadium in silence.

Friday, 17 December 2021

ante diem xvi kalendas ianuarias

First observed in the Roman Empire on this day in 497 BC and over the centuries expanded into a six-day feast ending on 23 December, Saturnalia was held in honour of the god Saturn with public banquets, role-

reversals, continual revelry and private gift-exchanges⁠—usually in the form of white elephant presents, wax or pottery statuettes (action figures, see also) of the divine called sigillaria. Theologically important for some Romans who saw the festive time as a revival of the Golden Age (just as some classicists and successor nations see the Romans), traditions heavily references its Athenian equivalent, called Kronia (ฮšฯฯŒฮฝฮนฮฑ—for Chronos), when the gods ruled the world and toil and class was unknown, though not anticipating the solstice and the gradual return of the sun after a break, dark winter, Kronia was held ahead of the first harvest in July, August during the first month of the Greek calendar beginning in the summer, Hekatombaiลn. Rumours of human sacrifice to appease Saturn were greatly exaggerated and like spread by Christian apologist (see above).

Wednesday, 15 December 2021


the hallmark channel: a treasury of classic festive films from Eastern Europe  

savage garden: the ruins of Rome’s Colosseum was once a wild green oasis full of exotic plants—via Messy Nessy Chic 

touching the sun: the Parker Solar Probe enters and safely exits the corona  

barcode architects: a new triangular high-rise for Rotterdam’s maritime district  

smart tweed: artificial intelligence predicts the next holiday, must-have gifts  

็‚ฌ็‡ต: Japanese in-situ heating solutions called kotatsu (see previously) have been around for a long time  

what day is it boy: the labour shortage hits Scrooge & Marley

Friday, 26 November 2021


limerent limerick: help in recognising unhealthy obsessions and how to work one’s way out of intrusive think—hopefully through bawdy rhymes 

there and back again: Gene Deitch’s animated short The Hobbit—the first such adaptation  

roll for perception: a collection of resources, a florilegium from a Society for Creative Anachronism member for the LARP community—via Mx van Hoorn’s cabinet of hypertext curiosities  

avenue of the sphinxes: a restored promenade between Luxor and Karnak opened with fanfare  

opiate for the masses: drug use in Antiquity 

mlhavรฝ: Martin Rak’s fog-draped forests in Saxon-Bohemia—see previously 

here’s mud in your eye: a select glossary of beer and imbibing terminology—via Strange Company’s Weekend Link Dump


Thursday, 25 November 2021

saint catherine of alexandria

Counted among the Fourteen Holy Helpers, one of the counsellors who appeared to Joan of Arc and whose cult according to some academics was cover for sympathies for the murder and defamation of Greek philosopher Hypatia with a broad patronage that includes potters, millers, milliners and spinners for her tortured martyrdom on the breaking-wheel, scholars, scribes, secretaries, stenographers, etc. was a late third century daughter of the governor of the Egyptian centre of learning who converted to Christianity, aged fourteen, and evangelised to many with her winning eloquence and persuasive reasoning—and is venerated on this day. Once persecutions of Christians resumed under the reign of Maxentius, Catherine embarked to Rome and rebuked the emperor. Rather than dispatching with her instantly, the emperor instead assembled a retinue of fifty of his most skilled and pagan orators to challenge Catherine to a debate and refute her arguments. Not only did Catherine roundly carry the day, her words also managed to garner some new converts to the faith, all of whom were summarily put to death with Catherine confined in a dungeon and made to endure terrible tortures daily. A dove and a host angels healed her wounds nightly and Catherine survived her torment for twelve days, persuading the emperor to ultimately proposing marriage to her. Refusing to yield to Maxentius’ overtures, Catherine said she was happily taken by her spouse, Jesus Christ. Enraged, the emperor first had her bound to a spiked breaking wheel (now also known as a Catherine Wheel) and then beheaded for good measure.

Saturday, 20 November 2021

acta dasii

Fรชted on this day on the occasion of his martyrdom by beheading by fellow soldiers in 303 after Diocletian’s Edicts, Dasius of Durostorum (in the Roman province of Moesia Inferior, near the modern day city of Silistra in Bulgaria) was reportedly put to death for refusing to take part in the next month’s celebrations of Saturnalia, nominated to be the festival’s “king.” Though one of the better attested ancient traditions, most of what is known about the holiday is drawn from the above hagiography—which is suspect as pious propaganda—and suggests after a month of revelry and debauchery and satisfying every carnal pleasure, the chosen one, lord of misrule (rex sacorum) dressed as the personification of the pagan god would slit his throat and sacrifice himself to Saturn. Dasius was having none of this and would rather face capital punishment than end his days in debauchery.

Sunday, 7 November 2021

facce di bronzo

Via the always superb Everlasting Blรถrt, we are not only introduced to the sensational discovery of the so-called Riace bronzes in the early 1970s but how the Italian mayor of the namesake town is planning a museum and further excavations on the fiftieth anniversary of their recovery from the waves off the Calabrian coast to see if there are more Greek warrior statues yet to be uncovered. Made in the fifth century BCE using the lost wax casting technique are among the few surviving examples of Greek artistry, most being melted down, and were found by accident by a snooping chemist called Stefano Mariottini in 1972 and are conjectured to be either anonymous Delphic soldiers as part of an ensemble monument to the Battle of Marathon or possibly as depictions of Erechtheus, foster son of Athena and legendary king of Athens, and Eumolpus, son of Poseidon and inventor of viticulture.

Thursday, 4 November 2021

museo pio-clementino

Through the lens of Michelangelo failing in a competition to restore the iconic sculptural ensemble Laocoรถn and His Sons (previously) affords us another chance to examine the subject matter, a priest of either Poseidon or Apollo, who respectively was either guilty of the transgression or potential crossing the line in exposing the Trojan Horse for what it was or for breaking his vow of celibacy. Pope Julius II commissioned a contest to determine the best design proposal to restore a conspicuously absent arm for the central figure. Both Michelangelo and Raphael—related to the judge, the Vatican’s chief architect—lost to an artist called Jacopo Sansovino’s outstretched arm. During an excavation in 1906, the arm was recovered and positioned in accordance with Michelangelo’s original suggestion.

Saturday, 30 October 2021


the motion picture that pits steel weapons against steel nerves: Joan Crawford in Herman Cohen’s 1967 Berserk! plus a medley of other horror films 

phenaskistiscopic vinyl: animated record albums—see previously  

cop26: designer installs a sinking Monopoly style house on Putney Weir ahead of this crucial climate conference 

ghostly footsteps (with chains): in 1977, BBC’s foley artists (previously) released a best-selling record of spooky sound-effects  

cloaca maxima: Rome’s revered sewer-system—see also  

auchan daily mascarpone cheese: a decade of Russian music videos  

the high-handed enemy: director Denis Villeneuve storybooks the gom jabbar scene 

 kitchen witchery: a tarot deck to divine one’s dinner

Friday, 29 October 2021

ฯ„ฮฟฯฯ„แฟณ ฮฝฮฏฮบฮฑ

Staging a grand, triumphant adventus (from the Greek แผ€ฯ€ฮฌฮฝฯ„ฮทฯƒฮนฯ‚ for escort to celebrate the return of the emperor or other dignitary with parades and decoration), Constantine the Great enters Rome following his

victory at Milvian Bridge (previously), at a strategically important crossing of the Tiber with the supporters of unrecognised emperor Maxentius whose defeat Constantine supposedly attributes to his marching under the sign of the Cross (), on this day in 312. While divine intervention was an accepted cause for winning or loosing in a struggle, contemporary accounts have little no no references to credit Christianity and no overly Christian iconography. Amid the fanfare Constantine over the body of his drowned enemy fished out of the river and beheaded. Despite the veracity of the miracle supposedly witnessed by Constantine and his entire army, the above letter form, Chi Rho—the first two letters of Jesus Christ and the commandment that came to him in a dream, “In this sign you will conquer,” Christianity was later decreed to be the state religion of the empire.

Thursday, 21 October 2021

saint ursula and companions

Though little reliable contemporary details of her hagiography and that of her eleven-thousand handmaidens and the virginal princess went unnamed for centuries, they are venerated on this day (see previously) and are the namesake of both the Ursuline order (the name Latin for little she-bear) and the Virgin Islands, marking the occasion of their mass-martyrdom in 383 at Kรถln on the banks of the Rhine. The Daughter of legendary King Dionotus of Dumnonia (Devon, Cornwall) was betrothed to pagan governor of the province of Armorica, whom after a miraculous storm transported her and her retinue across the sea in just the space of a day resolved that they should all undertake a pan-European pilgrimage, heading first to Ravenna and Rome and persuading the pope to join them. Their encampment was besieged by the Huns at the frontier city with a basilica dedicated to them on the spot of the massacre. Officially stricken from the calendar of saints in 1969 as fantastical, scholarship suggest that the large number of companions may be due to a misreading of the Latin numerals or a single virgin martyr with the name Unidecimilla, the error transmitted through the ages.

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

artemius of antioch

Invoked for relief of hernias and maladies afflicting the testicles—for no ostensible reason that we could divine—Roman general Flavius Artemius is feted on this day, venerated as a saint in the Catholic rite and a megalomartyr in the Orthodox church. Though the chronology seems somewhat off, Artrmius supposedly played an influential role in the court of Constantine and fought heroically in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge (later placed in charge of missions seeking relics and recovering the bodies of the apostles), only to be later put to death by the emperor’s successor, his cousin Julian (called the apostate) that rejected Constantine’s state sanction for Christianity and returned the empire to pagan pantheism.

Thursday, 9 September 2021


By modern calendars and scholarly concensus the ambush described by contemporary historians as Clades Variana (the disaster of General Publius Quinctilius Varus) and familiar to subsequent generations as the Battle of the Teuotburg Forest occurred on this day in the year nine when an alliance of Germanic peoples routed three Roman legions under the leadership of Arminius, the defeat seen as a pivotal moment in the course of history as Roman ambitions and imperial expansion were checked.

Thoroughly Romanised, after the advances of Drusus I two decades earlier, Arminius’ father, chieftain of the Cherusci, called Segimerus the Conqueror sent his sons to Rome as tribute, hostages where he received a military education and citizenship. Eventually becoming a trusted advisor to Varus and familiar with the terrain, Arminius returned to the frontier and in secret negotiated a pact among tribes that were generally hostile to one another out of collected grievance about how the Romans were treating the native population. No truce was ever reached in part because the winning alliance had captured the legions’ aquilae, the eagle standard, and the Romans, with no other territorial or material gains, spent years in retalitory skirmishes and recovery missions. The monument to the victory, the Hermannsdenkmal, erected some one thousand eight hundred and sixty-four years later, became a symbol for German nationalism and focus of anti-Napoleon sentiment (see also), provocatively facing France.

Monday, 6 September 2021

ฤlea iacta est

Via the ever excellent Everlasting Blรถrt, we are directed to this pair of Roman anthropomorphic dice, silver squatting figurines weighted (equitably presumably) to fall in one of six (tesserae, though usually in games in the Empire tossed in threes) positions.

The above phrase attributed to Julius Caesar by the historian Suetonius when the general brought his provincial army into the capital is like other quotations a likely translation from the Greek borrowing from the humorist Menander, «แผˆฮฝฮตฯฯฮฏฯ†ฮธฯ‰ ฮบฯฮฒฮฟฯ‚», let a die be cast in either form the phrase meaning metaphorically reaching a point of no return from whose juncture the decisions are irreversible.

Thursday, 2 September 2021

second triumvirate

Of course while the lurch towards despotism by the government and the governed did not go unnoticed, Rome never acknowledged that it shifted from being a republic to an imperial power and maintained the trappings of democracy amid tyranny and some aspects of the transformation were gradual and inuring but one pivot point is the Battle of Actium, which took place on this day in 31 BCE, with the fleets of Octavian, ambitious politicians and grand-nephew of Julius Caesar and adopted ‘son,’ and Cleopatra VII Philopator and Mark Anthony fighting in the Ionian sea. First allied (read more), Octavian had a falling out with Mark Antony after he abandoned his wife Octavia Minor, Octavian’s sister, to go to Egypt and foster a long-term liaison with Cleopatra, raising the son of Julius Caesar, Caesarion by the Pharaoh, as his own. Octavian convinced the Senate that the couple were a threat to Rome and were forming a separatist faction that would undermine Roman unity, installing a child king and moving the capital to Alexandria, and with this propaganda campaign and was able to gather his forces. With superior numbers, Octavian was able to claim victory, pursuing Antony and Cleopatra and their defeated ships for nearly a year back to the Egyptian capital where trapped they both dispatched themselves, and consolidated power ubi et orbi, adopting the title Princeps, Number One Citizen, and awarded the title of Revered One—Augustus—by the Senate for saving Rome.

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

genesius of arles

Conflated with a contemporary saint of the same name in Rome who was a stand-up comedian and spontaneously converted to Christianity in the middle of a routine satirizing these Jesus-y upstarts (let that be a warning) and with a pooled patronage, Saint Genรจs as he is known in French was a personal secretary of the magistrate of Gaul and is venerated on this day on the occasion of his martyrdom in 303 under the persecutions of Maximian and Diocletian (see previously) for objecting to a legal writ that would sanction further maltreatment of the religious sect. Together with his Roman counterpart, Genesius is patron and protector of notaries, secretaries, stenographers, clowns and comedians.

Monday, 23 August 2021


Held annually to propitiate the deity with bonfires and sacrifice at a time when crops and granaries were most prone to burning, the Roman fastus to Vulcan falls on this day in what was originally Sextilis and was part of a larger cycle of agrarian holidays of the summer and the beginning of the harvest season, a human commission as opposed to placating untamed Nature observed in July. Games were held with the additional rituals of hanging clothes on a line out-of-doors and beginning to work after sundown by candle-light darkness already coming noticeably sooner and harnessing the potentially destructive nature of fire for something productive. The tubilustria ceremonies were also held at this time—the ritual purification of trumpets and similar instruments which were considered sacred to Vulcan.

Sunday, 22 August 2021

wadi musa

Familiar to only a few locals and unknown to the West until its rediscovery on this day in 1812 by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, the capital of the Nabataeans called Raqmu by its denizens is commonly referred to Petra (Al-Batrฤสพ) after its designation as a client state of the Empire after Rome annexed their kingdom as Arabia Petaea.

The settlement in southern Jordan between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqada is only accessible via a narrow gorge and was a major regional trading hub in antiquity, controlling routes from Gaza to Damascus and onto the Persian Gulf. Accustomed to privation and periods of drought and deluge, the Nabatean city includes advanced methods of gathering and storing rainwater and flood control, allowing the population to thrive and supporting numbers approaching twenty-thousand residents at its height. A marvel of engineering and with many cameos in popular culture, in most years, Petra greets over a million international tourists annually.

Thursday, 12 August 2021

fava beans and a nice chianti

Our gratitude again to Nag on the Lake for the update on this incredibly, impeccably preserved ancient thermopolium (see previously) excavated on the site of Pompeii is opening to the public. With only the wealthy cooking at home, most Romans would have patronised such snack bars, with more than eighty found in the rubble of this ill-fated city alone. Much more to explore at the links above, including an amazing gallery of frescos advertising the menu.