The Assassination of Caligula

The emperor Caligula was assassinated on this day in the year 41 AD, less than 3½ years after coming to the throne upon the death of his uncle Tiberius. His reign was famously marked by insanity and bizarre, tyrannical behavior; one of the best-known episodes (and one of the few with a PG rating) was […]

Theodosius Augustus

A few days ago, we noted the anniversary of the granting of the title “Augustus” to the first Roman Emperor. On this day in 379, it was granted to one of the most important figures in late antiquity, the emperor Theodosius I. By this time, the Roman Empire had already been divided into two parts, […]

The First Emperor and the First Tsar

On this day in 27 BC, the first Roman emperor, Julius Caesar’s nephew and adopted son Octavian, officially received the title “Augustus” from the Roman Senate, during his seventh consulship. This date is attested in a calendar originally set up in the very early first century in the public square of Praeneste, now known as […]

Alea Jacta Est!

January 10th is traditionally said to be the day on which Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 BC, precipitating the great civil war that began the end of the Roman Republic, and its transformation into an empire. I say “traditionally”, however, because the exact date is not reported in any ancient source, but is […]

Macrobius on the Massacre of the Innocents

The late antique Latin writer Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius is usually referred to by his first name only, in part, perhaps, because he shares his other names with two of the most prominent men of the late 4th century, St Ambrose of Milan and the Emperor Theodosius. Almost nothing is known about him; his birth is […]

Pace Pessimus, Bello Non Spernendus

The first civil war of the Roman Empire is famously known as the year of the Four Emperors. After the last of the Julio-Claudians, the horrifying Nero, was declared a public enemy and committed suicide in June of 68 AD, he was succeeded over the following ten months by three men, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius. […]

The Pope Who Gave Us the Agnus Dei

On this day in the year 687, St Sergius I was elected to the papacy; he would reign for nearly 14 years. Like that of his contemporary St Theodore of Tarsus, his life and career show the endurance of the transnational culture created by the Roman Empire, and the role that culture played in spreading […]

The Resignation of Pope St Celestine V

On this day in the year 1294, Pope St Celestine V abdicated from the Papacy in the fifth month of his reign, a strange denouement to one of the strangest episodes in the Church’s long and complex history. He was born in 1215 with the name Peter Angelerio, in a tiny town in south-central Italy […]

The “Secret History” of the Emperor Justinian

Yesterday marked the anniversary of the death of the Roman Emperor Justinian I in the year 565, the 83rd of his life, and the 38th of his reign. Although he was born in Macedonia, his family was Roman, as evidenced also by his name; he was a native Latin-speaker, likely the very last such among […]

Pope St Leo the Great, the Deliverer of Rome

Today marks the anniversary of the death of Pope St Leo the Great in 461, after a reign of just over 21 years, the tenth longest in the Church’s history. His feast day was traditionally kept on April 11th, the anniversary of the placement of his relics in the basilica of St Peter, where they […]