The Gourdification of Claudius

Yesterday, we noted the anniversary of the death of Emperor Claudius, and how it is treated by the Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius, and by the televised miniseries based on the historical novels of the British author Robert Graves, I, Claudius and Claudius the God. The title of the latter book reflects the fact that despite the generally […]

The Death of the Emperor Claudius

Today marks the anniversary of the death of Emperor Claudius, the fourth emperor, and next to last of the Julio-Claudians; at the time of his death he was 64, and in the 14th year of his reign. The older sort of historiography that took judgment as its duty as much as mere description (with both good […]

Latin and Vatican II

Today, the Church marks the 60th anniversary of the official opening of the Second Vatican Council, which was announced by Pope St John XXIII in January 1959. The Council was held in four sessions, the last of which ended on December 8, 1965; Pope John, however, presided over only the first one and died on June […]

Pope Leo XIII on the Holy Rosary

In the course of his Papacy, the fourth longest in history, Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903), who was a superb Latinist, issued eleven encyclicals on the Rosary, in the years 1883, ’84 and ’87, and then each year from 1891-98. All of them were published in September (except one, at the very end of August), looking […]

The Notitia Dignitatum, the Org. Chart of the Late Roman Empire

One of the most important historical documents surviving from Late Antiquity is known as the “Notitia dignitatum”; the full title explains its purpose: “Notitia dignitatum et administrationum omnium tam civilium quam militarium. – The list of all dignities (or ‘titles’) and administrative posts, both civil and military.” The weight of scholarly opinion seems to hold […]

1582, the Year of 355 Days

The calendar instituted by Julius Caesar in 45 BC was unquestionably an improvement over the very irregular system used by the Romans before him. However, its regular leap year every fourth year without exception is still inaccurate, since the solar year is shorter than the 365¼ days per year that the Julian calendar counts, by […]

“Thou Art A Ciceronian!”

From its very beginning, Christianity had to struggle with the question of what to do with the culture of the pagan world into which it was born. Some early Christian writers saw nothing useful in it, as exemplified by Tertullian’s famous question, “Quid ergo Athenis Hierosoymis? Quid academiae et ecclesiae? – What has Athens to […]

St. Gregory the Great on the Nine Choirs of Angels

Today’s feast of St Michael the Archangel originated with the dedication of a basilica in his honor about seven miles from Rome up the via Salaria, sometime before the mid-6th century. The memory of this is retained in the feast’s title in the usus antiquior, “The Dedication of St Michael”, even though this basilica disappeared centuries ago. […]

The Death of Pompey the Great

On this day in the year 48 B.C., Pompey the Great, Julius Caesar’s rival, was assassinated, less than two months after he was defeated at the Battle of Pharsalus in Greece, and the day before his 58th birthday. Following the battle, Pompey fled through various parts of Greece, first to collect some money at Amphipolis, then […]

The First Church in the Roman Forum

September 27th is the traditional date for the feast of Ss Cosmas and Damian, two brothers who were killed in the persecution of Diocletian ca. 304 A.D. The written accounts of their lives and martyrdom are considered to be historically unreliable; they are said to have been doctors who treated their patients for free and are […]