Monday, 22 May 2023

fontana di trevi (10. 761)

Name derived from the Latin trivium—the intersection of three streets, Via De’Crocicchi, Via Poli and Via Delle Muratte—the Trevi Fountain was officially opened and inaugurated on this day in 1762 by Pope Clement XIII, his numerical predecessor having commissioned its construction some three decades earlier—awardee determined by competition and popular acclaim, as was the fashion during the Baroque era—to architect Niccolรฒ Salvi, finally finished by an ensemble of sculptors including Pietro Bracci and Giuseppe Pannini. The site of the well-spring predates this overpowering landmark by more than a millennium, sourced back to the sacking of Rome by the Ostrogoths (previously here and here) damaged the aqueducts that brought water to the city. According to traditional a maiden discovered a new source of fresh water and the theme of the iconography suggests the harnessing and taming of the waters with Tritons and horses guiding the shell chariot of Oceanus. An estimated three-thousand euro worth of coins is tossed into the fountain daily, with monies collected going to the poor of the city.

Saturday, 13 May 2023

sancta maria ad martyres (10. 738)

Gifted to Pope Boniface IV by Byzantine Emperor Phocas and rededicated as a Christian basilica in honour of St Mary and the Martyrs on this day in 609, the ancient Rome temple, built half a millennia earlier by Hadrian and commissioned to replace an earlier structure that had burnt down during the reign of Marcus Agrippa (hence the inscription, M·AGRIPPA·L·F·COS·TERTIVM·FECIT, “son of Lucius made [me] during his third term as consul,” is unique for its rotunda and oculus skylight (telling the time like a sun-dial but with light instead of shadow) and counted among the best preserved works of Roman architecture by dint of its continuous use. Though probably not a shrine sacred to the every deity since it was prescribed that temples should be devoted to a single god or goddess lest a single building be struck by lighting or be otherwise desecrated and probably a popular nickname for the many statues that lined the portico or for the vaulted ceiling that opened up to the heavens. In order to dispel pagan demon worship and sanctify the space, twenty-eight cartloads of remains—said to be Christians put to death during the Diocletian Persecution—were brought up from the catacombs and reinterred in a porphyry tomb beneath the altar and stripped the interior of its decoration, shipping the ornaments off to Constantinople. Used also as a final resting place for members of the House of Savoy, the interior niches have been richly decorated over the centuries and structurally is one of the most architecturally influential buildings, typifying the neo-classic style and echoed in many government buildings and public institutions.

Saturday, 6 May 2023

10x10 (10. 724)

shark tank: MS Teams has a suite of customisable in app stickers  

let him love fellows of a polecat: recalling a scholar’s naรฏve but noble translation attempt of Lorem ipsum—see previously here and here 

i was there (at the coronation): a 1953 calypso song by Young Tiger s s minow: Federal Communications Commission who called television a vast wasteland (see previously) has passed away, aged 97

like family, but with more cheese: more on that pizza commercial produced by AI  

brownstone: Ruxandra Duru collects colour swatches of Brooklyn townhouses  

some disassembly required: a proposal to construct a Dyson’s Sphere (see previously) around the Earth using Jupiter for raw materials  

yeoman’s work: Penny Mordaunt as the unwavering bearer of the Sword of State stole the show—see more here and here 

native tongue: research shows nearly half of the world’s linguistic diversity at risk  

dark patterns: digital services make it difficult to unsubscribe—via Waxy

Thursday, 4 May 2023

sankt florian (10. 719)

Fรชted on this day on the occasion of his martyrdom by drowning in the River Enns in the year 304, Florianus from the ancient Roman outpost of ร†lium Cetium—modern day St Pรถlten, in the province of Noricum north of the Danube—is the patron-protector of Linz, Oberรถsterreich and Poland as well as soap-makers, brewers, firefighters and chimney sweeps. Rising in the ranks to commander of the imperial army, Florian had the extra detail of organising fire brigades (there no long being a monopoly on public safety) but once rumours spread that Florian was not enforcing restrictions against practising Christianity among his soldiers, Diocletian opened an inquiry. Summarily, the emperor’s ombudsman ordered Florian to be burned at the stake for defy the edict, but after scoffing at a death by fire, the executioners instead tied a millstone around his neck and tossed him into the water. Invoked against fire, flood and the pains of Purgatory—in Austria and Germany used as the universal call sign for a fire emergency—a saying, Sankt-Florians-Prinzip, in the Sprachraum has developed following the sentiment of the fantastic word ฮŸแฝฮบแพฐฮปฮญฮณฯ‰ฮฝ out of a slightly ironic prayer “O heiliger Sankt Florian, verschon’ mein Haus, zรผnd’ and’re an”—that is, Saint Florian, spare my house and set another alight.

Friday, 28 April 2023

8x8 (10. 703)

iter vestrum: a journey to the ends of the Roman Empire with contemporary routing guides—see previously 

the bartender’s travelling book: the secret history of the drinks recipe anthology that has crossed the globe 

eigengrau: a colour palette of what people report to see with their eyes closed—see previously—via Web Curios 

chirper: a social media network only for AI—via ibฤซdem  

casas del turuรฑuelo: first figural representations of the Bronze Age Tartessian culture found, an Iberian people spuriously linked to the myth of Atlantissee also 

aurabesh: a very thorough Star Wars inspired typeface—see also—via Kottke 

toby mug: an assortment of East End brewery labels  

bradshaw’s guide: a travelogue of modern Europe with a Victorian era itinerar—check out Messy Nessy’s new look

Sunday, 25 April 2021


One of a number of Roman celebrated during this time of year to ensure a good growing season and bountiful harvest, the feast of the for the god Robigus was held on this day in the agricultural outskirts of the city.
The god, which was designated as the divine representation of fungal blight or rust needed to be propitiated in order to ensure that the crops wouldn’t spoil in the fields. Understood as a separate, corrupt manifestation of the same infestation that could be harnessed for fermentation, the games held at this time with their attendant feasts (see also) were also marked by rather dark sacrifices that expressed their anxieties over crop failure—especially for one this late in the growing seasons that wouldn’t be easy to recover from. Whereas animal sacrifice generally was reserved for livestock that was part of the Roman diet and was shared in a communal meal, Robigalia rather gruesomely demanded a dog with a red coat—that matched the rust disease—as form of homeopathic magic.
Other observations included a celebration of—for whatever reason—of male sex-workers, professional female prostitution having had their own honours in the previous days, specifically on Vinalia urbana, the grape harvest on 23 April. Though without the cruel bits, thankfully—or the fun bits either, I suppose, the holiday is preserved in Western Christianity with the same day of prayer and fasting known as Rogation (from the Latin to beseech—to ask God for protection from calamity) and was done to cleanse the body and mind in anticipation of the Ascension and farmers often had priests bless their crops, often holding mass and processionals in the fields.

Saturday, 20 March 2021

the thracian

Acclaimed by the Praetorian Guard as emperor in the West on this day in 238—a year later labelled by history as the Year of the Six Emperors (see also)—and reluctantly confirmed by the Roman senate who did not find the prospect of putting an oafishly large barbarian bandit in charge, Gaius Julius Verus Maximinus “Thrax” would rule for three years, the first to attain such the pinnacle of government without coming from the elite classes of the Senฤtus or knights eques. Thrax’ tumultuous reign is considered to have set in motion the Crisis of the Third Century which eventually led to its downfall and dissolution in the West and ruled mainly from Mogontiacum, capital of Germania Superior along the Rhein and from the province of Israel, where there is archaeological evidence of starting on some infrastructure work with an unfinished roadway, never able to come to Rome herself. Paranoid and focused on consolidating power inciting accusations and cultivating a court of informers, Thrax doubled soldiers’ pay and waged continuous warfare—financing these policies through raising taxes and appropriation of church property and violent confiscations, earning almost universal distrust from those outside of the army and his inner circle. Marching on Rome in May of 238, Thrax was assassinated by his own troops at a camp outside the city walls at Aquileia, the gates closed to the advancing siege of the unpopular emperor by order of the senate, the soldiers disaffected and suffering from privation with taking the fortified city not as simple of a matter that they had been led to believe.

Monday, 15 March 2021

bewarned the ides of march

Though speculation and debate has continued for centuries, shifting from one camp to another with the present academic consensus rejecting the Shakespearian conceit that an unmitigated reaction to being assassinated would have been in Latin, scholarship has Julius Caesar (previously here and here) speaking Greek ฮบฮฑแฝถ ฯƒฯ, ฯ„ฮญฮบฮฝฮฟฮฝ; (And you child?) with a somewhat different landing than Et tu Brute? The latter is only attested to in the Middle Ages and in accordance with Roman custom, it would have been more honourable, in the case of the former with Caesar being a long-time romantic companion of Servilia—mother of Marcus Junius Brutus—to have him die silently as a soldier. Some academics say it was misheard and more likely Caesar said “Tu quoque, fili mi?”—which is closer to the Greek—or “Quรฆso te, non!” –Stop it, please! and even the playwright seems to acknowledge the debate or unknowable nature of it with the earlier idiom in the tragedy, It’s all Greek to me, said by Casca to Cassius on Cicero and the co-conspirators, “…but those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own part it was Greek to me.” It is perhaps doubtful that even a great orator could summon the wherewithal to deliver some famous last words after being stabbed twenty-three times by a mob of mutinous senators. Despite the line’s purchase on popular culture, even within the framework of the play itself, the last utterance before expiring is “Then fall, Caesar.”

Friday, 12 March 2021

selective-service or solider of christ

Venerated on this day on the occasion of his martyrdom under order of African Proconsul Cassius Dio in 295 (*274), Saint Maximilian of Tebessa (Numidia, Roman Algeria) was obliged to enlist in the Roman army as the son of a solider, Fabius Victor, on his twenty-first birthday. Refusing on religious grounds, Maximilian was beheaded immediately and posthumously made patron of conscientious objectors—giving rise over the millennia to several pacifist organisations, including the Order of Maximilian, a group of aligned clergy members opposed to the continuing war in Vietnam (see also) that fought against conscription and the draft.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

sancta francesca romana

Made patron of automobile drivers (see also) in 1925 by Pope Pius XI due to anecdote that her guardian angel lit her path before her while she travelled, Saint Frances of Rome (*1384) was a caregiver and mystic who excelled as an organiser of charitable services and founded a community of oblates, a mendicant order who lives with the general population and not cloistered, uniquely without religious vows and is venerated on this day, on the occasion of her death in 1440. Living at the time of the Western Schism and wars between rival popes and anti-popes, Francis felt it incumbent on her to use her station and wealth to provide succour and aid to the suffering amidst the collapse of a social safety net and sought to recruit the company of like-minded individuals.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

quo vadis?

First screened on this day in 1951, the cinematic adaptation (one of several) of Nobel Laureate author Henryk Sienkiewicz 1896 eponymous novel, the title, Latin for “Where are you going?” is from the non-canonical Acts of Peter—the apocryphal gospel first relating the account that the Apostle requested to be crucified upside-down (see previously)—was produced by Sam Zimbalist and starred Deborah Kerr, Peter Ustinov and Robert Taylor. Future stars Bud Spencer and Sophia Loren both appear as extras—though uncredited. The film went into general release in theatres on 8 November of the same year. A commercial success and critically acclaimed, the film helped rescue Metro-Goldwyn Mayer from insolvency, Quo Vadis portrays the final years of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and the treatment of Christians that eventually disrupts the Empire’s social order.

Monday, 22 February 2021

cathedra petri

Gifted to Pope John VIII in 875 by Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Bald (Karl der Kahle), the simple wooden stool that tradition claims was the pontifical throne of Saint Peter as Bishop of Rome and encased in a magnificent reliquary by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the mid seventeenth century. The chair—which research suggests only dates to the seventh century—has metal loops, suggesting it was used as a sedia gestatoria (see also)—is venerated on this day with a feast celebrating the relic as a synecdoche (ฯƒฯ…ฮฝฮตฮบฮดฮฟฯ‡ฮฎ, simultaneous understanding) to reflect on the importance of episcopal office, locally and globally.

Sunday, 21 February 2021


Marking the end of a nine-day festival honouring familial ancestors called Parentalia (dies parentales, ancestral days), as historian and poet Ovid records in his book on Fasti, Romans across the Empire were prohibited in worship of the gods and instead were to visit the tombs of their departed and lay wreaths and leave offers of violets, salt and wine-soaked bread. More elaborate votives were permitted but this was sufficient to appease the spirits and the practice was strictly enforced, lest Rome return to a time when Ferฤlia was neglected and restless ghosts haunted the streets. As with most Roman holidays, observance was mostly a domestic, private affair and what public rites were held are an obscured and confused accounting, the only surviving description involving a drunk woman holding seven black beans (see also) in her mouth and lighting incense over the grave of a mouse, and sewing shut the mouth of a fish—then proclaiming, “Hostiles linguas inimicaque uinximus ora,” I have gagged spiteful tongues and muzzled unfriendly mouths.

Monday, 15 February 2021

hungry like the wolf

The three-day pastoral festival traditionally ending on the ides of February (the instruments of purification, februum, bunches of branches used like a broom and in the extended sanctified sense below, is the name gives the month its name and is the source of the modern inheritance called Spring Cleaning) called Lupercalia is a syncretism and has been assimilated into Christian traditions of Saint Valentine’s Day, but originally focused on mysterious annual rites and sacrifices that a special priesthood performed in the cave below the Forum where the She-Wolf nursed Romulus and Remus and the site where Rome was founded. Young men of the city’s patrician families formed a collegia (association) called the Luperci (Brothers of the Wolf), performing various cleansing rituals and ablutions—sacrificing a herd of goats plus a dog at the altar. Following the feast, the men fashioned girdles out of goatskin (also called februa) and paraded wearing only these thongs along Rome’s original boundaries and circled the Palatine Hill in an anti-clockwise procession, lashing marriageable women with surplus stripes of flayed skin for fertility.

Monday, 25 January 2021

collezionare capolavori

Though in stasis and awaiting visitors, the storied and seldom seen Torlonia Marbles from a private collection are gathered together for public viewing for the first time, resulting from an agreement four decades in negotiation and agreed upon four years before the exhibition was scheduled to open. Not only was the loan to Rome’s Capitoline Museum controversial and fraught with compromise and conciliation, there’s some intrigue associated with its collectors as well—the family once the bankers and economic advisors to the Vatican and master and model for the attainment of prestige and status through art collecting.

Friday, 1 January 2021

xlv bc

Contemporaneously known as the Year of the Consulship of Caesar without Colleague—or 709 Ab urbe condita reckoning time passed since the founding of Rome—the Empire adopts the eponymous Julian calendar as its official civil calendar, a solar calendar synchronised with that of the Egyptians, with dates aligned to political terms for around a century at this point. Later in year 45 BCE, Caesar is named dictator for life and three years later, on 1 January (named after the two-faced god Janus who could look forwards and back simultaneously but not yet widely accepted as New Year’s Day) 42 BCE, is posthumously deified by the Roman senate.

Monday, 28 December 2020


Previously we’ve covered this exciting find in the ruins of Pompeii suggesting a well-preserved snack bar, and appreciated the update regarding the excavation and research into this Roman fast food franchisee. Such stalls (from the Greek ฮธฮตฯฮผฮฟฯ€ฯŽฮปฮนฮฟฮฝ for “a place where something hot is sold” but colloquially known also as popina, caupona or hospitium) were common all over the Empire but this discovery represents the first complete short-order diner uncovered and is yielding insights into the dining habits and diets of the patrons from two millennia ago. Preliminary analysis shows that pig, duck, fish and snail were among the menu items.

Thursday, 3 December 2020

bona dea

A tradition imported from Magna Grรฆcia during the middle Republic period, the good goddess was honoured with a bi-annual celebration, once in May at her temple on the Aventine Hill and then a more exclusive wintertime feast for the real housewives of Rome on this day, hosted by the spouse of the city’s magistrate—or Pontifex Maximus—for invited patrician matrons and their attendants. Both parties were the preserve of women alone and were the two occasions that women were allowed strong wine and blood sacrifices—no boys allowed, and therefore not much is divulged of the mysteries other than the iconography of a snake and cornucopia though the cult itself included men and women of all backgrounds and ranks in society. The most controversial Bona Dea occurred 62 BCE, hosted by Pompeia, third wife of Julius Cรฆsar, when the party was crashed and scandalised by the figure of Publius Clodius Pulcher dressed as a woman with the intent to seduce the hostess. Clodius was a populist politician, street agitator and ally of Cรฆsar and could raise gangs of thugs to riot against any opposition, which is ostensibly why Clodius was ultimately acquitted during his trial for desecrating the holiday proceedings, a serious crime, and for Cรฆsar’s subsequent divorce of Pompeia, insisting his spouse must be above rebuke, though she had no control over Clodius’ antics. Though of the eldest gens of Rome, the aristocratic pater familius of the Claudians, Clodius arranged his adoption by someone with obscure roots so he could run and be elected the tribune of the plebians. Pompeia went on to remarry another politician but one of less notoriety and Clodius was ultimately killed during a feud by the bodyguard of a political rival. Clodius’ window, Fulvia, also remarried—taking Mark Antony for a husband after Clodius’ death.

Thursday, 24 September 2020

liber pontificalis

Notably the first of the early popes not to be venerated as a saint in the Roman Rite (though fรชted in the Eastern Orthodox Church on 27 August and on 4. Pi Kogi Enavot in the Coptic Church, one of the calendar’s epagomenal, “monthless” days), Liberius (*310 - †366) was Bishop of Rome from May of 352 until this death, on this day. Liberius was the first pontiff to associate the winter solstice—celebrated at the time as Sol Invictus—with Christmas, not only as means of co-opting a popular pagan holiday but also in line with the reasoning that great figures did not live life in fractions of years.  This date was also championed by his predecessor Pope Julius I and penned down in subsequent years.

Thursday, 17 September 2020


Presumably sourced to the agnomen of Marcus Tullius Cicero (previously), which itself means chickpea or garbanzo bean, in reference to the orator and statesman’s loquacity of speech, a cicerone is a mostly antiquated way of identifying (possibly self-appointed) a guide or docent who conducts sightseers in touristed locales and explains items of historic and artistic interest for their benefit and edification.
During the age of Grand Tours, such retained escorts and chaperons were known colloquially as bear-leaders (referencing the cruel and medieval practise of bear-baiting and conducting the poor animal from village to village) and were responsible for keeping their charges out of trouble whilst ensuring that they got the most educational value out of their trips abroad and had due appreciation for the places they visited. In the United States, a cicerone is a by-word and certification programme for a sommelier that specialises in beer who can speak to hobby-brewing, glassware and food-pairings.