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Friday Morning Latin Lesson, Vol. CXII

March 18, 2016

As referenced earlier in the week, this is a busy and fun time of the year for people who enjoy classical history and dipping into the hagiography of the Catholic church.  Which is true:  I haven't been quite this busy blogging for three or four years, at least.  Four entries in one week?  Amazing.

And what have I talked about?  Oh, the usual things.  I've just rehashed the fact that I like desserts (especially pie), drinking, and redheads.  Nothing new here, I know.  Hope you were sitting down for that shocking revelation.

I glossed over the murder of Caesar for the Ides of March post in favor of the murder of Odoacer, Rex Italiae, since I felt like mixing things up a bit for the Ides of March post this year.  Same with St. Patrick:  I didn't so much discuss Patrick's life, legend, and legacy so much as I focused on some of the peripherals that are associated with Irish "history" and St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

Anyway, as is known, Julius Caesar was murdered in the Theater of Pompey on the Ides of March--March 15th--because various senators were worried that he had accrued too much power for himself and the Republic was moving toward rule by a single citizen...which, of course, happened a few years after Caesar's murder.  His murder was the thing that precipitated the end of the Republic; I think we call that irony.

Caesar was stabbed 23 times, and according to some "forensic" studies I've read, only one of the stab wounds was really deep enough to kill him.  It may have been that murder was not what was on the senators' minds when they attacked him, but more just to teach him a lesson.  Although, 23 stab wounds is quite a lesson.  What they didn't tell you is that there was one last senator in the group who had a bunch of lemon juice to pour in those wounds.  Talk about cruel and unusual punishment!

Famously (thanks in part to Shakespeare's dramatization of the event), Caesar withstood the attack until he saw his friend Brutus among the attackers.  In the play, Caesar asked aloud "Et tu, Brute? Then here falls Caesar."  In actually, he probably said "Kai su, teknon?" (according to Roman historian Suetonius, at least), which means "And you, child?" in Greek.  Whichever is more correct is debatable (not like we can ask anyone, unless the Doctor shows up to clarify Caesar's final moments), but I like to think that right before asking either of these questions, Caesar queried the senators as such:

"Estne pugio in toga, an solum tibi libet me videre?"

Pronounced: "Est-nay poo-gee-oh in toh-ga, ahn so-loom tee-bee lee-bet may wee-dare-ay?"

That's no dagger.
Translation in the hovertext (I remembered how to do it).

Pugio was the Latin term for a dagger.  It's related to the word pugno which means "I fight" or "I combat" and several terms in English have been derived from this root, including "pugilist" which is a fancy word for "fighter" or "boxer."  To tie this all up together, my beloved Fighting Irish play their opening round tournament game today against the hated skunkbears from Michigan.  In Latin, the term for "Fighting Irish" would be "Hibernii Pugnaces," ergo I shall be watching the game tonight and shouting "Imus Hibernii Pugnaces!" at my computer screen.

Well, not really, but you get the idea.

In case you can't hovertext:  "Is that a dagger in your toga, or are you just happy to see me?"

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

March 17, 2016

If I were a better writer, I'd track down what iteration of the Saint Patrick's Day post this is.  I am not that person, however, so I'll just roll with it.  Pretend the Germans just bombed Pearl Harbor.

I've discussed in the past how Patricius (the man who would become Patrick) was a Roman citizen of Brittania who was probably a member of some minor noble family.  He was already a Christian when he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland, where he served as a slave for several years before escaping and making his way to mainland Europe.  After a trip to Rome, he returned to Ireland and drove out the snakes (symbolism for the pagans) and converted the Irish to Catholicism.  He then went on a spree of church building through the British Isles and ended up in Northern Indiana where he founded the greatest Catholic University on the Face of the Planet and Possibly the Universe.  That last part might be apocryphal.

Or he might have been a composite mixture of another Irish saint, Palladius, who also made a lot of churches but isn't nearly as tied in with the weak excuse to drink Guinness and behave like an asshole on the 17th of March.

As far as stouts go, Guinness is a pretty weak one.  Thanks to the craft beer revolution here in America, I can think of at least ten stouts that are far better than Guinness.  Stouts are actually a subset of porters, which are dark brown ales that are made with roasted malts, giving them the darker color.  They're typically stronger than their lighter-toned cousins, and the strongest of porters came to be known as "stout porters" and eventually just "stouts."  Nowadays, stouts are typically just the darkest of beers and the word "stout" has little to do with the actual alcohol content (for instance, Guinness, the "best" stout, weighs in at a paltry 4.3% abv, per the wiki entry).  And here's the real kick in the teeth for those who want to link Guinness (certainly a true Irish brewer) and stouts with Ireland:  Porters were first developed and named in London, England.  The dark color, thicker consistency, and affordability of porters made them popular with--sit down for this--porters (men who carried things).  Since the beer was cheap to make and was somewhat undesirable (philistines), it was shipped to Ireland where it quickly grew in popularity.  To lower costs even more (hooray, free market capitalism!), Guinness began brewing porters in the late 1700's and by 1780 was one of the top producers of this kind of beer.

So, not only is Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland from the British mainland, so too is the national beer of Ireland an English import.

Best damned leprechaun ever!
Well, the leprechaun has to be a true Irish symbol, right?  Well, yes and no.  The leprechaun, for all its connotations with being Irish, rarely appears in Irish mythology.  When the leprechaun does pop up, it is typically a mischief-maker, but more commonly is associated with being a loner who moves about the countryside repairing shoes.  A leprechaun is more similar to German sprites and gnomes than it is with any of the pantheon of Irish mythology.  In fact, the leprechaun appears so rarely in Irish stories that it's assumed to be a later addition to Irish lore than more traditional Irish spirits, such as the Banshee or the Tuatha de Danaan (which is a whole wide range of Irish spirits).  There is even confusion with what to do with a leprechaun, should you manage to catch one.  He (they are almost invariably male) will either give you his pot of gold (another property of the leprechaun that seems to be a late addition to the story) or he will grant you three wishes.  Most depictions of leprechauns center around the stereotypes of the Irish, especially in America, and many traditional Irish people look at leprechauns as just a prop for tourism.

Well...if Patrick isn't all that Irish and Guinness is a British import and a leprechaun is just a symbol for anti-Irish propaganda, what about the color green?

Green, White and Orange
has never been sexier!
Finally, we've found something that does seem to be a true symbol of Ireland...ish.  Ireland, of course, is known as the "Emerald Isle" because of the lush, verdant fields and the magnificent greenery that can be viewed in the countryside.  It makes sense, then, that the Irish national color would be green and that they would march into battle or rally behind a green banner, right?  Sure...except the green flag of Ireland is actually younger than the flag of the United States.  The "traditional" Irish flag featured a lot more blue than any other color for most of its history (Ireland, of course, being a loose conglomeration of kingdoms until the British conquests).

It wasn't until the late 1700's (Guinness is actually older than the green flag) that green began to be used as a symbol of Ireland.  Inspired by the French Revolution (and probably a little by the American Revolution), the United Irishmen raised a banner of green with a harp emblazoned on the field (the harp actually is a traditional Irish symbol) sometime around 1790.  Part of the choice of the color green was to stand in opposition to the orange color associated with the Orange Order, which was a symbol of King William of Orange and the Glorious Revolution of 1688.  William of Orange, of course, was an "English" king and was thus a symbol of British rule over the Irish.  After the Irish Rebellion of 1798, the modern Irish flag with the green, white and orange was introduced as a hopeful means of bringing a peaceful end to hostilities between the Catholic majority (the green) and the Protestant minority (the orange) of Ireland, with white being the symbol of peace in between the two groups.

Well, fuck.  It seems as though all the things we naturally associate with the Irish and Saint Patrick's day aren't all that Irish.  Unfortunately, leprechauns, the Irish spirits that most Irish want to disassociate with their Irish heritage, are the most Irish of all these symbols.

Next, you're going to tell me that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, a school in Northern Indiana with a French name by a priest of Romanian heritage isn't all that Irish either!  The nerve!!!

However you decide to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day, just remember to lay off the brogues and drink responsibly.  Maybe enjoy some basketball and don't make an ass of yourself.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Cave Idus Martias...

March 16, 2016

This particular week of the year is a big week for this blog.  One thing that always fascinates me, or at least tickles that little piece of my brain that implores me to write, are the various holidays, observances, and feast days that litter our calendar.  Monday (March 14) was Pi Day, or, if you're into that kind of thing, Steak and Blowjob day (which I've never observed/celebrated).  Thursday of this week is St. Patrick's Day, which has a special meaning to me since I went to Notre Dame AND my blog readership saw a sudden uptick in traffic when I first began writing summaries of a few of the big saint feast days, St. Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day.

But Tuesday...Tuesday was the Ides of March, which, on the Roman calendar, translated to the fifteenth of March.  In case you've been living under a rock, you should know that I love some Roman history as well as Shakespeare.  That makes the Ides of March one of those days that, as a blogger with a penchant for writing about ancient history, I should circle on the calendar and put gold stars in the little box marking the date.  It was especially fitting because Tuesday, on the Roman calendar, was dedicated to Mars...for whom the month of March was named!  The Ides of March on the day honoring Mars!  Whoa!

Stabby stabby.
And...I kind of dropped the ball on that one. 

The Ides of March are famous for being the day that Julius Caesar was murdered in the Theater of Pompey by a gang of sixty senators who feared that Caesar had grown too strong politically and was looking to consolidate his power, thus ending the Roman Republic.

Kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, then, when the murder of Caesar was one of the events that sounded the death knell for the Republic and ushered in the age of the Empire.

But, I have not come here to bury Caesar.

No, our story takes us to a time roughly 500 years later.  Even though the Roman state--kingdom, republic, empire--had existed for some 1200 years, all good things must come to an end.  By the end, the Western Empire was a ramshackle shell of itself, a ghost barely clinging to the territories that men had conquered and secured centuries before.  The last Roman Emperor--and that's a contentious title--was Romulus Augustulus, who knelt before a Germanic invader named Odoacer in 476.  This ended the Roman Empire in the west and ushered in the very first Kingdom of Italy on that fateful September morning.  Odoacer placed the crown upon his head and was ever since known as the first Rex Italiae, or King of Italy.

For all intents and purposes, Odoacer was allowed to rule in Italy (which included some of modern day France, Switzerland, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia) by the grace of Emperor Zeno, who controlled the Eastern Roman Empire (later, the Byzantine Empire).  For the most part, Odoacer was a decent king.  He settled the unrest within the kingdom, helped secure the borders against outside tribes (especially the Burgundians), and generally saw himself as a proxy ruler for the real last Roman Emperor, a man named Julius Nepos, who had been deposed (but not killed) by Romulus Augustulus' father.  Told you that "last Roman Emperor" title was contentious.

Unseating the "rightful" Roman Emperor in the West had never sat well with Zeno, and so he tried to control both parts of the empire by setting Odoacer upon what was essentially a throne in Italy.  As mentioned earlier, for the most part, Odoacer was a decent guy (for a barbarian) and a fairly good king.

It's good to be the king.
We know this both from records that exist as well as the fact that he became popular enough and powerful enough that Zeno began to worry.  A man of Odoacer's status and charisma (he was a very successful military leader, prior to becoming King of the Italians) would most likely chafe at Zeno's hegemony and eventually become a threat.  To that end, Zeno decided that Odoacer must be killed.

Odoacer, for his part, was satisfied with just being Rex Italiae and not worrying about the East so much; he saw Zeno and the Eastern Roman Empire as allies and friends and had no designs on conquest of the other half of the Roman Empire.  Zeno didn't see things that way, however.

This was not the first rodeo for Zeno in which he murdered someone he had set up on a puppet throne to ostensibly extend his rule.  Which is why Theodoric the Ostrogoth--or Theodoric the Great--was so eager to lead the invasion of the Kingdom of Italy from his home in the Balkans.  Theodoric had already seen Zeno assassinate and murder several other men who were in positions of power--positions that Zeno had set them in.  Theodoric, who was smart enough to know what was up, saw that he, too, would probably soon become one of Zeno's targets, and so he decided to get the hell out of Dodge.

Theodoric and his merry band of warrior Goths--along with some other tribes--led a very successful invasion of Italy, beating back Odaocer's forces time and again.  Odoacer managed to punch back and hold off Theodoric's forces for a while, even besieging a city in which Theodoric and a large portion of his army was trapped.  However, in a very strange, and likely one of the few moments of Gothic solidarity, one of Theodoric's cousins sent over a large force of Visigoths to savage the Italian countryside. 

This spelled doom for Odoacer.

In addition to protecting and rewarding his people, Odoacer had been good to the church.  Odoacer had been very respectful of all of the various Christian sects that were spreading out across Europe at the time, even though he, himself, was an Arian Christian.  With Theodoric's forces pressing in, Odoacer retreated to Ravenna--the seat of his power, where he had been crowned king when Romulus Augustulus abdicated--and continued to fight what he had to know was a losing battle.  Finally, in 493, the Bishop of Ravenna, a man name John, out of respect to Odoacer and all he had done for the Italian people and the church, brokered a peace between Odoacer and Theodoric.

The war ended and things were promising to become a little more normalized.  To celebrate the peace, Theodoric invited Odoacer and some of his men to a feast.
This is fabulous.

Cue the Rains of Castamere.

In a very Game of Thrones twist, Theodoric planned and planted several of his men among the crowd at the feast with the very intent of killing Odoacer and his allies.  Odoacer, who was not quite the bumbling idiot that Theodoric assumed him to be, caught wind of the plot against him and planned appropriately.  When the time came for the attacks, Odoacer and his men were able to foil them.  Theodoric, however, would not suffer defeat lightly.  In frustration, he drew his sword and hurled it at Odoacer, striking him somewhere in the upper chest/throat area--it was described as "hitting his collarbone."  Odoacer fell and died there at the feast with Theodoric standing over him.

The date:  March 15th, 493.

In another very Game of Thrones twist, Theodoric hunted down and killed Odoacer's family, including his wife and daughter.  His son was exiled to Gaul, but when he entered Italy later in life, Theodoric had him captured and executed. 

So, while the Ides of March are most famous for being the day that Julius Caesar was cut down for having too much power and potentially tearing down the fabric of the Republic, the Ides of March are also famous for being the day that the first King of the Italians was cut down for having too much power and potentially tearing down the fabric of Zeno's rule in the East.

If you're an Italian ruler, you would be wise to beware the Ides of March, indeed.

Happy Pi Day!

March 14, 2016

As a man who has enjoyed a few sugary treats over my forty years of life, I have come to the conclusion that desserts fall into three categories:  cake, ice cream, and pie.  All desserts are just some subset of these three, with pudding being the superfamily over all of them.  See what I did there, Britain?  No angry messages left in the comments.

Bears...always funny.
Each one of these delicious treats has a certain aura and mystique surrounding them.  Cake, for instance, is celebratory.  Marking another successful circuit around the sun on an annual basis after springing forth from your mother's womb?  Have some cake!  Finally shuffling off that employment coil and heading into the sunset of retirement?  Have some cake!  Decided to stick your dick in one vagina for the rest of your life?  Cake me, baby!  Even at bachelor parties, the stripper jumps out of a cake.  Cake is for celebrating.  You're never having sex again?  Let's eat cake! 

Ice cream is fun.  Hot day?  Let's have some ice cream.  Celebrating a birthday?  Well, hell, let's have some ice cream along with that cake (see paragraph 2).  On a date?  Well, we're not quite to the marriage and wedding cake step, so let's have some ice cream!  Even the ice cream man drives around in a fun, festive cart with Pop Goes the Weasel or some other song from your childhood blaring over the loudspeakers while he patrols the neighborhood like some sort of angry, frozen dairy treat bearing predator of the sea.  Sure, he has his victims bound and gagged in the back of his festive refrigerated van, but, man, for a few moments while you're picking out the overpriced, frozen dairy treat from the menu on the side of the truck, the ice cream man sure seems fun!  Who wants a side of chloroform to go with this drumstick knock-off?  Me!!!!!!...zzzZZZzzz...

I went to a dark place again, didn't I?

Pie, however, isn't really celebratory (the stripper doesn't jump out of a giant pie, does she?), nor is it as fun as ice cream (man, this pie just doesn't fit into the sugar cone like I was hoping!).  No, pie is something completely different.

Pie is pure sex.

Pie is a lot of work.  Sex is a lot of work.  When you make pie, you have to make the crust, you have to fill the crust, and then you have to put another crust over the top of the filling.  And the crust?  Yeah, it's so flaky and delicious because it has lots of layers.  There's some sex pun in there, but it's late and I can't be bothered to connect the dots.  When you make cake, you just dump some stuff into a bowl, crack a few eggs, stir, bake, done.  You don't need to frost cake; cake is pretty damned delicious as is.  Frosting is just...well, the icing on the cake!

No, pie is something more, something that is in tune with the deepest seated needs and wants of our psyche.  Eating pie makes us feel good, sure, but it also makes us feel a little naughty after enjoying it.  There's something a little lascivious about enjoying a pie. 

Hell, pie is even used as a euphemism--and I use that term lightly--for sex.  A woman's vagina has been likened to a slice of pie for a long time running.  Maybe it's because the shapes of the two are somewhat similar in appearance.  Maybe it's because they're both delicious.  Maybe it's because your face is a mess when you eat either of them without using your hands.  I'm not sure, but I do know that it does sound a lot nicer to liken a vagina to a pie than it is to describe it as cakey in any way.  When Eugene Levy was encouraging Jason Biggs to shove his dick in a dessert, he didn't tell him to fuck a cake.  No sir.  It was pie!  American Pie!  Yum.  *pukes*

 And, do I really need to mention Warrant and their assault on our early 90's radio experiences?  I didn't think so.  But it tastes so sweet it makes a grown man cry...

I apologize for any and all earworms this spawns.

Even though there's no real relationship between the value pi, which is the ratio of the diameter of a circle to it's circumference, and pie the delicious, salacious treat, we've still come to associate the dessert pie with March 14th, which is 3.14...or the first three digits of pi the mathematical value.  At least in America.  Those silly Europeans write March 14th as they don't celebrate pi day until the 31st of April.

Oh.  Right.

So, join me today in celebrating a unique number, pi, by treating yourself to a lascivious and tasty indulgence, pie the round circle dessert.  Oh, hey!  There's our connection!

Mind.  Blown.  Indeed.