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Everything posted by guy

  1. Here is an excellent article of the poetry of Augustan Rome by Professor Wiseman from "Lapham's Quarterly" (July 31, 2019). https://www.laphamsquarterly.org/roundtable/literary-arena/?ca_key_code=F98LQA1 guy also known as gaius
  2. It is staggering to think about the impact of disease, even on more modern armies. https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/they-too-gave-all-american-war-deaths-from-disease/ One can only imagine the devastation on ancient populations and armies at a time before there was any understanding of disease and its prevention . guy also known as gaius
  3. Great question and I have no idea. I guess the choice of flowers used would depend on the season and availability. Flora was the Roman goddess of flowers and the season of spring. According to Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flora_(mythology) Obviously, roses played a central role in the festival of Rose (Rosalia) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosalia_(festival) Roman poet and satirist Persius (AD 34-62) stated that during the festival of Floralia: (Both vetches and lupins are flowering plants.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floralia Lavender was frequently used in ancient Rome as soap and perfumes. I would be surprised if it weren't used in religious ceremonies. Although marigolds were common in ancient Roman gardens and were used medicinally (for wounds and cramping). It was even thought to possess magical qualities, but I am uncertain about its use in religion. Not being a botanist, I don't understand the terminology of the marigold. If my understanding is correct, however, the marigold is from the genus Calendura. If the marigold is included, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calendula https://www.permaculturenews.org/2018/03/30/calendula/ guy also known as gaius
  4. I found this interesting and entertaining video on the importance of Egypt on ancient Rome, especially as a conduit for trade (thus, a source of revenue), as well as a rich supply of Egyptian grains and other local products. Not mentioned in this fascinating video was that the Egyptian economy was a closed one (coins did not circulate into or out of Egypt. Its coins, therefore, did not compete with circulating gold and silver coins from the rest of the Empire. According to Kenneth Harl, in his book Coinage in the Roman Economy, Egypt could create the world's first successful fiduciary currency. (Fiduciary currency cannot be redeemed for a monetary reserve of a precious metal such as gold or silver. This is similar to paper currency or modern coinage.) This allowed for a stable economic system not nearly as devastated by the frequent devaluations of the coinage elsewhere in the empire. guy also known as gaius
  5. The magazine "Archaeology" from the Archaeological Institute of America is always a great source of insightful study. Here is an interesting and controversial article about the Parthenon: https://www.archaeology.org/issues/380-2005/digs/8615-digs-greece-parthenon-name guy also known gaius
  6. A nice basic video on Latin for those of us who either failed at learning Latin or never attempted: guy also known as gaius
  7. Here's an article from two years ago, offering hope for the future despite uncertain times. It still gives hope even today: ESSAY WHY I’M STAYING IN ROME, EVEN WHILE IT CRUMBLES A British Novelist Will Remain in the Eternal City Because of What Its Past Can Teach About Surviving the Present https://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2018/08/14/im-staying-rome-even-crumbles/ideas/essay/ guy also known as gaius
  8. Given the current global fiscal crisis, people are searching for historical precedents. Few of us remember the economic collapse of 33 AD during the reign of Tiberius. Despite his many faults, Tiberius and his advisors were able to navigate the banking crisis of 33 AD. The impact of the banking crisis seems to have been relieved by an early form of "quantitative easing." https://www.businessinsider.com/qe-in-the-financial-crisis-of-33-ad-2013-10 A shortage of money from bank failures and the resulting contraction of credit threatened to bankrupt the leading families of Rome and destabilize the entire Empire by 33 AD. The crisis began a few years before these bank failures, however, with the execution of the corrupt and nefarious praetorian prefect Sejanus and his allies in 31 AD. After the arrest and execution of Sejanus and his allies, their illegally confiscated lands began to flood the market. This caused a deflationary pressure in land prices and a reduction of taxes. This, of course, began a deflationary cycle as prices collapsed and tax revenue decreased. Attempts where made to stabilize land prices by Tiberius. He forced all Senators to purchase land with one third of their total wealth in an attempt to prop up these falling land prices. Senators were forced to quickly make large withdraws of money from the banks for these purchases. The banks were forced to liquidate their own assets and call in their loans to cover these overwhelming withdraws. As described in the quote above, the recent loss of ships holding a sizable amount of the banks' assets only made the situation worse. This panic caused a bank run and banks quickly began to fail. This failure of the banking system made the deflationary pressures worse. As tax revenues plummeted and the banking system collapsed, commerce and industry was disrupted. Without adequate funding as a result of decreased revenues, government and military institutions began to fail. Economic and political pressures threatened to destroy the Empire which was now at the brink of anarchy. Tiberius adroitly staved off disaster, however. In 33 AD, Tiberius offered reliable bankers interest free loans for three years. These banks were required to use land as collateral, thus stopping the deflationary spiral. These emergency measures of ancient "quantitative easing" brought calm to a broken credit system and saved the Empire. https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Influence_of_Wealth_in_Imperial_Rome/The_Business_Panic_of_33_A.D. This is better explained in the video below (at about 14:37) guy also known as gaius
  9. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/18/remaining-calm-in-adversity-what-stoicism-can-teach-us-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic
  10. We are all learning to appreciate the devastation that a pandemic can have on a society. Both pandemics and environmental disasters can have underappreciated lasting impacts on society. https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/today-in-1815-the-great-volcano-of-tambora/ guy also known as gaius
  11. There was a very timely article in the Wall Street Journal (March 21, 2020) by Ben Zimmer dealing with the concept of a "Black Swan" event. Zimmer explains that this term "a black swan" is being used to describe the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, with the resulting financial market meltdown. He explains: "A 'black swan,' for market prognosticators, is a rare, unpredictable event with serious and avoidable effects." A Black Swan, therefore, is an event which is extremely rare and unexpected but has great unanticipated consequences. Zimmer reminds us that the term was first mentioned around 100 AD by the Roman poet Juvenal in his "Satires" 6.165. So, as Juvenal searched for the woman with his desired attributes, he laments that such a woman was "rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno (a rare bird in the lands, and very like a black swan)." https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Juvenal_and_Persius/The_Satires_of_Juvenal/Satire_6 https://www.macmillandictionary.com/us/buzzword/entries/black-swan.html Ben Zimmer does a great job explaining how the term "a black swan" later became part of everyday speech. Juvenal was the initial source of this term. guy also known as gaius
  12. Great article from Libertarianism.org. about the influence of Cicero on John Locke and otehr Enlightenment thinkers. https://www.libertarianism.org/columns/cicero-was-lockes-greatest-inspiration guy also known as gaius
  13. During times of national stress (including economic, political, and pandemic fears), there seems to be the tendency to catastrophize events and predict the impending collapse of Western civilization. A recent thread reflected this tendency: Here's a thought-provoking article from the left-leaning Mother Jones that also predicts the fall of another empire: https://www.motherjones.com/media/2020/03/how-do-you-know-if-youre-living-through-the-death-of-an-empire/ The author, Patrick Wyman, PhD, brings up some interesting points, but I might quibble with a few of the conclusions His point about bureaucracies persisting (either out of necessity or out of habit) after the fall of the Roman Empire is insightful. (Some might cynically give the Catholic church and its bureaucratic framework as an example.) There are a couple points I might disagree with, however. I find this statement debatable: "Rome probably still had hundreds of thousands of inhabitant at the beginning of the sixth century ..." I am sure he would agree that this number is only speculation, at best. By 500 AD the city of Rome was only a pale shadow of its previous self. We can only guess but the city of Rome's population might have been under 100,000 by 500 AD. In 286 AD, Diocletian had already moved the capital of the Roman Empire from the city of Rome to Mediolanum (Milan). The death spiral for the (Western) Roman Empire and especially the city of Rome had begun long before 500 AD. After a series of civil wars, devastating plagues, and economic instability during the third century, the city of Rome was near collapse by 300 AD. The impact of regular malaria epidemics was to weaken an already debilitated city and empire. The loss of Northern Africa and control of the grain supplies to the city of Rome starting around 440 AD essentially assured the city's total downfall. I would, therefore, disagree with Dr. Wyman's conclusion, "What shrank Rome down to a mere few tens of thousands by the year 550 was the end of the annona, the intricate state-subsidized grain shipments..." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cura_Annonae I'm not sure we know for certain when the cura annonae ended or whether it could still have had any impact on alleviating hunger in the city that late in the Empire's history. The supply chain was probably too severely disrupted at this point of history. These societal breakdowns made the accumulation, storage, transportation, and distribution of food on a wide scale basis unreliable . More likely, the Goths' blocking the vital aqueducts supplying Rome in about 537 AD was the final death knell of a city already fatally weakened over the previous two centuries. I enjoyed this article, however. It made some interesting points and lends another perspective to history. guy also known as gaius (I want to thank Lapham's Quarterly for bringing this article to my attention.)
  14. This was an interesting article because it gives insight into the American founders' respect and reliance on ancient Rome for guidance and example: https://beta.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/09/17/why-knowing-roman-history-is-key-preserving-americas-future/ guy also known as gaius
  15. I don't enjoy modern politics and I tend to be more optimistic about the future than maybe I should. British and American elites have long fretted that they, like the ancient Roman Republic before them, would soon face an inevitable collapse. British author Edward Gibbon, author of the six volume opus The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1789), remarked to a friend in 1776, just before the American Revolution: Maybe a tad premature? One of my favorite anecdotes in history involves Scottish economist and philosopher Adam Smith, author of The Wealth of Nations: guy also known as gaius
  16. guy

    Stoicism Explained

    One of the best discussions on stoicism from the libertarian site "Libertarianism.org." https://www.libertarianism.org/encyclopedia/stoicism
  17. https://spectator.sme.sk/c/22202489/virus-probably-killed-prince-from-matejovce-1600-years-ago.html A tomb of a possible Romano-German prince from the 4th century was discovered in Matejovce, Poprad, 14 years ago. Recent skeletal analysis showed that he was hepatitis B positive. It is unclear how the study concluded that the hepatitis played any role in his demise, however. (In 2004, an estimated 350 million individuals have been infected with hepatitis B worldwide. National and regional prevalences range from over 10% in Asia to under 0.5% in the United States and Northern Europe. Source: Wikipedia.) See also this article: http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/56401 guy also known as gaius (I want to thank Lapham's Quarterly for bringing this article to my attention.)
  18. I always believed that the infection that destroyed the indigenous populations in the Western Hemisphere was smallpox. Similarly, I thought that smallpox was the most likely culprit for Galen's Antonine Plague and as well as probably many of the other plagues of Ancient Rome. This article makes me reconsider this notion. https://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2018/01/contagion-conquistadors-dna-points-germ-wiping-out-most-16th-c-mexico https://www.archaeology.org/issues/298-1805/trenches/6524-trenches-mexico-colonization-salmonella This bacterium, relatively uncommon today, causes an extremely virulent paratyphoid fever. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paratyphoid_fever Excavated structure at the northern edge of the Grand Plaza at Teposcolula-Yucundaa. Architectural investigations of the Grand Plaza resulted in the unexpected discovery of a large epidemic cemetery associated with the 1545-1550 cocoliztli epidemic. The cemetery was found to contain numerous mass burials, attesting to the catastrophic nature of the epidemic. Photo: Christina Warinner/Teposcolula-Yucundaa Archaeological Project guy also known as gaius
  19. Just an interesting tangent on Salmonella enterica. (Thanks to Lapham's Quarterly for bring this article to my attention). This article shows how infections can be transmitted between species and evolve to become more lethal. This is important especially in light of the recent coronavirus outbreak. : https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/02/farming-gave-us-salmonella-ancient-dna-suggests guy also known as gaius
  20. An interesting article about the unusual source (sea snails) for purple dye in the ancient world. (Note that this site of purple production predated the founding of the city of Tyre, for which this dye is named, by around a thousand years.): https://www.livescience.com/amp/gold-jewels-found-on-island-purple.html The purple dye (later known as Tyrian purple) was extracted from sea snails and was both very rare and expensive. It became associated with the wealthy and ruling elites in the ancient world. The dye was colour-fast (non-fading) and possibly became more intense as the purple-dyed clothe was exposed to weather and over time. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrian_purple The imperial toga picta worn by the emperor was dyed a solid purple. The foul-smelling and disgusting source of purple: guy also known as gaius (I want to thank Lapham's Quarterly for bringing this article to my attention.)
  21. https://www.courthousenews.com/rome-unveils-tomb-that-may-belong-to-wolf-suckled-king/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rome-unveils-tomb-that-may-belong-to-wolf-suckled-king https://news.yahoo.com/rome-unveil-tomb-may-belong-wolf-suckled-king-035218246.html
  22. I recently heard a delightful podcast interview with Daisey Dunn, a British classicist and author of the new book, The Shadow of Visuvius: The Life of Pliny. Although Pliny the Elder is a looming figure in the book, the book explores more thoroughly the life of his nephew, Pliny the Younger. (Of course, the book takes its title from the eruption of Visuvius of 79 AD that took the life of Pliny the Elder.) In the interview, Dunn mentions the expression "in a nutshell." She reminds us that the phrase (which means "in few words or to sum up briefly") seems to have originated with Pliny the Elder from his scientific encyclopedia The Natural History. Here's the interesting quote from Book VII, Chapter 21 "Instances of Acuteness of Sight": http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0137%3Abook%3D7%3Achapter%3D21 Daisey Dunn's book sounds like an interesting read that I will hopefully enjoy soon. guy also known as gaius
  23. guy

    Mausoleum of Theodoric

    First, the vast majority of Italians would never have thought themselves as Ostrogoths. (Similarly, I don't think many in England (except the ruling elite, of course) would have thought of themselves as French after the Norman invasion.) Second, by 490 AD, the disruption of the Roman Empire was complete. I'm not so sure many in Italy still thought of themselves as Roman, either. The irreversible preeminence of the city state had already begun. Even Belasarius, the "Last of the Romans," could not reassemble the fractured empire by 539 AD. As an aside, even modern Italians have been resistant to the concept of a national state. With the formation of modern Italy in 1861, Prime Minister d'Azeglio wrote, "L'Italia è fatta. Restano da fare gli italiani." ("We have made Italy. Now we must make Italians.") Many in Italy even today doubt that d'Azeglio's dream of a unified Italy has been realized. guy also known as gaius
  24. I am probably the least knowledgeable here to comment on military matters. It would be wrong to describe "barbarian" tactics as monolithic. More precisely, a group of combatants (such as the Celts) would have been diverse in their tactics, differing among specific subgroups and evolving over time. Through military contact or assimilation over the years, the many disparate groups would coalesce, while developing Roman tactics and technologies. That said, a more loosely organized and less disciplined force such as the Celts would be better at improvisational fighting or fighting in small groups. The early Roman legions were well-organized and tightly disciplined killing machines. Possibly the best chance at defeating the Roman legion was by ambush in unfamiliar terrain. Examples of this would the complete defeat and annihilation of legions at the Battles of Teutoburg Forest or Abritus. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Teutoburg_Forest https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Abritus guy also known as gaius
  25. guy

    Big money and fall

    .Professor fears was a fine historian who could present history in an entertaining way. (He passed away in 2012.) That said, he could be more entertaining and superficial than accurate at times. I think his general views about the fall were correct, however. A nice introduction to the fall of the Roman Republic is Tom Holland's Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic. I read this book about 15 years ago, but I think it still holds up. By the way, the fall of the Venetian Republic (which lasted more than a thousand years) had less to do with internal politics than did the fall of the Roman Republic. The Venetian Republic, a maritime power, was better suited for trade and control of the Mediterranean. The Venetians could not compete with the emerging strength and naval technologies of the Atlantic powers. The Atlantic powers also benefited from changing trade routes. Also, Venice was guilty of imperial overreach, wasting limited resources by venturing onto the Italian mainland. Napoleon only administered the coup de grâce to an already fatally weakened state. guy also known as gaius