The Birth of St. Dominic

The Church traditionally celebrates the feasts of the Saints on what it has from time immemorial called their “dies natalis”, Latin for “birthday.” This is a specifically Christian technical use of the term, in that it really means the day of their death, which is to say, the day on which they are born into […]

The Dog-Days of Summer

Since yesterday we talked about dogs in connection with both pagan and Christian religious observances in the early days of August, today we look at the “dog-days” of summer, and a Christian feast that is related to the heat of this season. The term “dog-days” comes from the Latin “dies caniculares”, a translation of the […]

The Dogs of August

One of the strangest aspects of ancient Roman religion was an annual sacrifice known as the “supplicia canum – the punishments of the dogs”, which an early Byzantine writer, John the Lydian (ca. 495-565), says took place on August 3rd. (Earlier sources give no specific date for it.) This consisted of suspending live dogs on […]

Vocabula Mira: ‘Macte Virtute’

Yesterday, we presented a selection from Livy’s account of the death of the consul L. Aemilius Paullus at the Battle of Cannae. (Ab Urbe Condita 22, 49 and 50) When a military tribune offers to carry him off the battlefield to safety, the consul begins his reply with the words “tu quidem … macte virtute esto.” […]

The Battle of Cannae

August 2nd is the anniversary of one of ancient Rome’s great military disasters, the Battle of Cannae, which took place in the year 216 BC, during the Second Punic War. This was the Romans’ third major defeat in as many years after the famous Carthaginian general Hannibal had invaded Italy in 218 and was followed within […]

The Chains of St. Peter

Today is the traditional date of a feast which is called in Latin “Sancti Petri ad Vincula”, translated literally as “(the feast of) St Peter at the chains”, although it is usually given in English less exactly as “the feast of St Peter’s Chains” or “of St Peter in Chains.” Like many specifically Roman feasts, […]

St. John XXIII and St Lawrence of Brindisi

St. Lawrence of Brindisi was born on July 22nd, the feast of St Mary Magdalene, in 1559, and died on the same day in 1619, at the age of sixty. His family was Venetian, but lived in the major port city of Brindisi, then in the Kingdom of Naples, far down Italy’s Adriatic coast. After […]

Latin Poems by Pope Leo XIII

Today marks the anniversary of the death of His Holiness Pope Leo XIII in 1903. According to an ancient tradition, St Peter had been Pope for 32 years, one less than the years of Christ’s earthly life, but had spent the first seven of those in Antioch, and was, therefore, bishop of Rome for only […]

The Great Fire of Rome

During the night between July 18 and 19 of the year 64 A.D., there broke out the great fire of Rome, which would eventually wipe out 10 of the city’s 14 districts. On June 30, we described how this fire led to the first persecution of the Christians in Rome, whom Emperor Nero scapegoated for […]

Blessed Hermann of Reichenau

On July 18 in the year 1013, one of the greatest scholars of the Middle Ages, the Benedictine monk now known as the Blessed Herman. In English, he is usually called “Hermann the Cripple” or “the Lame”, but his Latin appellation “contractus – the deformed” (literally ‘the contracted one’) is really more accurate, as is […]