History is Incessantly Incesty (Part Uno)

pojo2hu

A Song of Fire & Ice or shameless familial “bonding”

I, like 16.5 million viewers last Sunday, watched the Game of Thrones season 7 finale with bated breath. With only 6 episodes left of the entire show, a series which was born from books that are taking about as quickly to write as The York Minister Cathedral was to build, the story is furiously spiraling to its inevitable conclusions. One of which happens to be the fate of a couple I’ve personally been rooting for since Book 1 when it made little sense geographically or personally, nor does it seem likely ideal in light of recent revelations…

But what do I care? In defense of myself, I’m here to point out a few instances in history where things got a bit too close for comfort, if you know what I mean. And perhaps by contrast, make the Dragon and Wolf look guiltlessly desirable in comparison. Lord of Light, have mercy on my internet search history…

1. Lucrezia & Cesare Borgia (And maybe Pope Alexander VI)

Lucrezia_Cesare Borgia

Unlike Showtime and Victor Hugo, I personally don’t ascribe to the belief that this Renaissance Brother & Sister Power Duo were secretly boning. But, alas, contemporaries of their time assumed they might be. After-all, the family of Pope Alexander VI stood accused of liberal poisonings and murders, thievery, buying and selling church offices, adultery and rampant orgies among the papacy, fratricide, and general douche-baggery aimed toward the Papal States–was there no limit to bounds The House of Borgia knew? [6]

Late in the 15th century, when Rodrigo Borgia became Pope Alexander VI in no small part to bribery (presumably) and the assistance of rival Cardinal Sforza who was said to have personally taken a large payoff himself, Lucrezia Borgia suddenly became the most eligible, illegitimate 12-year old daughter in Italy. As a reward for his support, Cardinal Sforza saw Lucrezia married off to his nephew, Giovanni Sforza the then Duke of Milan, to solidify the alliance between the two families. This went about as well as a dinner date between the Hatfields & McCoys, and soon Pope Alexander VI was calling for an annulment while Cardinal Sforza’s other ally –just the King of France, Charles VIII, no big deal — appeared parading through Italy with the door held wide open for him to invade the papal territories. Giovanni was accused of having neglected to consummate the marriage, which incensed, caused him to lob the nefarious accusation at the Borgia family that the true reason the papacy was asking for the divorce was because Lucrezia was busy fornicating with her father and brother, a somewhat less humiliating prospect for the Duke to stomach apparently. With the promise of keeping the dowry intact for Giovanni, the marriage was soon dissolved but not so for the rumors. [1]

“It is said that Mr. Giovanni Sforza did this because the Duke used with his sister, his wife, the puppet of the pope, but of another mother” – Malipiero Letter 1497 [5

The Borgias had not yet given up on Lucrezia’s worth as a bargaining chip, and so paired her off with Alfonso of Aragon, a bastard of Naples, in the hopes of laying the ground work for Cesare Borgia to marry the daughter of the King of Naples and inherit the throne as well as another ally against Charles VIII who was still busy trouncing through doors a bit willy-nilly around Italy. Still a teenager, Lucrezia managed a hot second of a peaceful marriage before, again, her scheming brother and father (who were totally plausible lovers…of her misfortune, clearly) decided, you know what, Charles VIII just loves walking through doors and things, really good at it actually, the best–we might as well be friends and marry Cesare off to his daughter instead. Naturally, the Kingdom of Naples was a bit pissy about this new frenemy and The Borgias added another noble house of Italy to their shitlist. [2]

“Thus, Lucretia, Sextus always wants to make love to you? O fate with a horrible name! This Sextus is your father.” Epigram by Jacopo Sannazaro Italian poet (1457 – 1530) [4]

On the wrong-side of another family dispute, 18-year old Lucrezia tried to navigate her way through another marriage doomed to fail when her Neapolitan hubby was ambushed on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica by henchmen wielding a few knives, no doubt causing her to cry out “Et Tu, Pater?”. Alfonso managed to survive for the time being, held up under the “reliable” care of the papacy while propaganda papered the streets of Naples supposing that Cesare had made the idle threat “What didn’t happen at lunch may still happen at dinner.” like this was some pilot season episode of The Sopranos. Unsurprisingly, Alfonso turned up in bed strangled one morning. Perhaps by a jealous lover brother reasoned the gossip. Lucrezia, having really no energy left to deal with the mess her life had become at the hands of her family, went into mourning. [1]

Unfortunately, if there was one thing a noble Renaissance woman was good for other than posing for paintings, it was getting hitched– and that’s precisely what the Borgia brood were plotting to do again. This time their ambitions were with the duchy of Ferrara (And no, not for Lemonheads, that candy company is an American one) and Lucrezia was soon married off to Alfonso D’Este, another alliance Charles VIII would surely adore. Ultimately, this one worked out for Lucrezia and she was able to spend the rest of her days in Northern Italy cherished by her subjects. Not a year later, her father Pope Alexander VI collapsed of illness (or poisoning, eh it was the Renaissance after-all), sending the papacy into the awaiting hands of Borgia enemies and her brother Cesare, infamous as a subject of Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince, aesthetic model for portraiture of Jesus Christ, and number one suspect in the Tiber river murder of his brother Giovanni or “Juan” [7], died only a few years later.

It seemed almost as if Lucrezia would be fortunate enough to finally escape the sins and rumored exploits of her family, but after her death in 1519 after a troubled childbirth, the gossip again rose to a feverish pitch with little to no one left to denounce them.

“Here rests Lucrezia by name, who in reality was a Thais, the daughter, wife & daughter-in-law of Alexander.” – Epitaph written by Jaccopo Sannazaro, who wasn’t yet done slandering Lucrezia. [1]

Why did the rumors persist? Alexander’s papacy wasn’t exactly the first of its kind to churn out questionable practices nor a squeaky clean image, but perhaps the answer lies with the sheer amount of enemies The Borgia managed to collect over their years clamoring for power. Among the families already listed, they also managed to incite the animosity of the legendary House of Medici who ran Florence, the Orsini family, the Colonna house which churned out a libelous diary from Stefano Infessura who gleefully chronicled Lucrezia’s rumored licentiousness, and Pope Julius II. Before becoming pope, Julius II spent his time hating Alexander VI and worked to undermine and, if possible, unseat him. When he wasn’t trolling Michelangelo, Julius II used his papacy to try and mop up remaining Borgia territory all while torturing a Cesare Borgia loyalist for any amusing gossip he could gleefully spread about his enemies. [2]

“For the thing was known far and wide, and because my informants were not Romans merely, but were the Italian people, therefore have I mentioned it.”

-Matarazzo of Perugia, who relates the accusation of papal orgies by Pope Alexander VI with the inclusion of his daughter Lucrezia as well-known fact because it was ‘common’ gossip. [5]

As for the fate of King Charles VIII of France who featured so prevalently in the torrid politics of Lucrezia’s numerous marriages? Killed by a door. I’m not even kidding. [3]

hodor4

(To be Continued…Part 2)

Fact check it, yo!

[1] Hibbert, C. (2009). The Borgias and their enemies. London: Constable.

[2] Meyer, G. J. (2014). The Borgias: The Hidden History. Random House Inc.

[3] Markatos K., Karamanou M., Arkoudi K., Konstantinidi A., Androutsos G., A Cranial Trauma was the Cause of Death of Charles VIII of France (1470–1498), World Neurosurgery, Volume 105, 2017, Pages 745-748

[4] Fantazzi, C. (2011). Susanna de Beer, Karl A. E. Enenkel, and David Rijser, eds.The Neo-Latin Epigram: A Learned and Witty Genre. Supplementa Humanistica Lovaniensia 25. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2009

[5] Gregorovius F., Lucretia Borgia: According to Original Documents & Correspondence of Her Day.

Primaries;

[6] Diario della citta di RomaStefano Infessura (Notoriously biased & unreliable, as are the rumors)

[7] “But I understood, as the Duke of Candia died for the death of his brother, Cardinal.” Pigna dispatch Ercole, Venice Feb 22nd, 1498

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The Killing Joke

chrysippus

Stoic AF

There are many bizarre deaths in Classical antiquity and, with a people that guzzled wine like water [1], it shouldn’t be all that surprising. There was Emperor Caracalla who decided to take a pee break off the side of a road and was stabbed mid-stream [2].  Philosopher Empedocles who hurled himself into a volcano thinking he’d survive it and become a god because that sounds legit [3]. Or rich bastard Roman General Crassus who forced down molten gold because he lost a battle with the Parthians and irony [4]. There was even Saint Lawrence who earned his martyrdom by sass for quipping “Turn me over–I’m done on this side!” [5] while being cooked up on a giant grill to be served during a persecution of Christians BBQ. But speaking of jokes, my favorite has to be the tale of Chrysippus, whose death you probably just had to be there to get.

Backing up a little bit, let’s lay the foundation for this set-up. Chrysippus was a famous Greek philosopher who was tearing up the streets of Athens a few hundred years after Socrates daintily sipped an aromatic cup of freshly brewed hemlock tea. He was a stoic, the guys confused in modern days with sociopathy and Commander Spock, but taught his students about the aether of the Universe and living a life in congruence with the will of Fate and aligning oneself with Nature. So more like a Jedi rather than someone who refuses to smile at puppies. He also tinkered around with math, created prepositional logic, and started some early ancient therapy sessions hoping to assist folks with unruly passions. Chrysippus was kind of a big deal, logical in thinking and focused entirely on formulating an impressive philosophical rapt sheet. So let’s fast-forward to a now 73 year-old man with this impressive a career to behold.

Invited by his pupils to a sacrificial feast which, in those days, was probably akin to a professor attending a wild on-campus keg party, Chrysippus downed copious amounts of wine as one is want to do. It was noted by Diogenes Laertius, a Classical biographer of the Greek philosophers, that this particular wine was undiluted–no water, just pure sweet straight up wine which was sure to get even the most stoic philosopher congruently drunk in accordance with Nature. Stumbling around in the throes of intoxication, Chrysippus was giddy in delight when a donkey escorted by an old woman happened by him and immediately started to consume the remaining figs Chrysippus must have been carrying around from the party. [6]

Struck with the genius of his own cleverness, Chrysippus seized upon the moment to hurl the greatest joke to which would ever be uttered in the history of hilarity:

Now give the ass a drink of pure wine to wash down the figs! [6]

Howling with laughter, Chrysippus was beside himself with his own joke, the old woman we can only assume, struggling to find the humor at all in this line. Delirious and overtaken with his own comedic timing, Chrysippus fell into such a violent fit of hysterical giggles about the prospect of giving a donkey wine or something, I don’t know, I don’t get you Chrysippus, that he promptly died on the spot–in the wake of his own comedy. [6]

The dude literally died laughing at his own joke.

And it wasn’t even that funny.

Fact Check it, yo!

[1] Wine and Rome. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2017, from http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/wine/wine.html

[2] Goldsworthy, A. K. (2009). How Rome fell: death of a superpower. New Haven: Yale University Press. P. 74.

[3 & 6] Laertius, D. (1980). Diogenes Laertius: Lives of Eminent Philosophers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

[4] Nuwer, R. (2014, June 10). Here’s What Actually Happens During an Execution by Molten Gold. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/heres-what-happened-people-who-were-executed-having-molten-gold-poured-down-their-throat-180951695/?no-ist

[5] Miller, O. F. (2017, March 06). Saint Lawrence. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-lawrence/

A Touch of Classical Wisdom VI

The fortunate man, in my opinion, is he to whom the gods have granted the power either to do something which is worth recording or to write what is worth reading, and most fortunate of all is the man who can do both.

-Pliny the Younger in a letter to Tacitus describing the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD and the death of his famous uncle Pliny the Elder. [1]

Rome in Transition

History Notes!

Emperor NOT Keanu Reeves

Emperor NOT Keanu Reeves

New Rome: Constantinople 324AD

  • Founded as Roman Capital in the East by Constantine.
  • Viable defendable capital.
  • Walls 30 feet above and under ground.
  • Best part of the Empire fo’sho!
  • Everything of old Rome, Constantinople emulates too!
  • (Grain Dole- Free food for Urban poor)

 

Barbarian Vs. Roman (Because we all saw this coming)

  • Generals- Barbarian. Barbarians have the army (Because that’s what happens when they are your soldiers), use puppets.
  • Stilicho (c. 359-408) vs. Aetius (c. 396-454)
  • Stilicho tells Honorius what to do.
  • So we don’t need Roman Emperor…
  • Stilicho’s father is barbarian, mother is Roman.
  • False Idea- Barbs taking over. Wanted citizenship.
  • 455- Vandals sacked Rome. “Vandalism”.
  • Bishop= Elite ministrator. Bishop would negotiate with Huns and Vandals.

 

Christianities

  • Settle an issue, another issue comes up!
  • Ecumenical Council, all Bishops of world get together and argue until they can agree. Establishes correct belief.
  • But can be overturned by later Councils so a lot of good that did…
  • If Jesus is equal to god, is he human? Christiological; about Christ’s Nature.
  • Nestorius, doesn’t like calling Mary “Mother of God”.
  • One Nature believers; Monophysites
  • Two Nature believers; Duophysites
  • God dammit…COUNCIL CALLED!

*Council of Chalcedon*

An Ecumenical council summoned to determine Christ’s nature. One or two? 5th century, Late Roman Empire. 451AD.

WHY it is important:

  • We believe Jesus has two natures.
  • Monophysites DO NOT ACCEPT THIS CRAZY TALK. (Egypt and Syria; Eastern)
  • EAST VS WEST. Soon to be Catholics vs Orthodox!
  • Patriarchies. City where Bishop is given higher authority than others.
  • Rome (WEST)
  • Constantinople (EAST)
  • Jerusalem (EAST)
  • Antioch (EAST)
  • Alexandria (EAST)
  • …See what is happening here?

 

The Henoticon (482)

  • Crap! Can’t piss off Egypt, they feed us. = Statement of Faith to make Monophysites happy without overturning council decision.
  • Acacius (Constantinople Bishop) gives this statement to Patriarchs. Rome Bishop gives resounding GTFO in the form of EXCOMMUNICATION.
  • Acacian Schism. 483.
  • LOL shunned. West and East.

History Notes! Society and Culture of Rome (3rd-4th Century)

"Don't worry, friends! The lion has come to join us in prayer!"

“Don’t worry, friends! The lion has come to join us in prayer!”

 

Elite Men: Triumph of Otium (Leisure, remember?)

  • Senate has no status, cities suck. Elite Men run to the countryside and neglect responsibilities.
  • Someone else must pick up the burden….*Cough* Middle Class *Cough* Sound familiar?

 

Elite Women: Triumph of Christianity

  • Earlier, had role of Wife and Mother.
  • Christianity now gives the role of “Virgin”.

-Higher calling than Wife or Mother.

-Celibacy elevated to a new ideal.

  • They could act like men! Manly virgins!
  • Patronize shrines of martyrs. (Cult of the Leader. Christians wouldn’t participate so Diocletion starts offing them during The Great Persecution)
  • Martyrs get survivor remorse. They essentially become heroes of Christianity, like super Christians.
  • Build shrines around the tomb!

Curicale Class and the Urban Plight

A) Curiale Class, lowest class of the Elite. Barely made the cut-off! (Middle Class)

  • Stuck with the bill. Cannot afford it, obviously. Cannot join the army either. Lulz ensue.
  • Also can’t become priests. CAN’T LEAVE THE CITY.

B) Bishop (Leader of church community)

  • Makes sure to take care of his people.
  • Good administrators, not good Christians…
  • Move into position of maintaining cities.

AD 312- Christianity Becomes Legal.

A) Multiple Christian groups competing with each other over correct belief.

B) Constantine: “All Christians believe same thing!! NOW!” because that’s realistic given these problems:

  • Issue of Forgiveness: If you survive persecution, are you still Christian?

-NO! Sin, against teachings. DENOUNCE DENOUNCE!

-OF COURSE, God forgivessss.

  • Relationship of the Trinity: (God the father, God the Son, Holy Spirit) What is the status?

-Father, OBVIOUSLY!

-They were equal, The Word was ‘Jesus’.

C) So. Correct belief?

  • ALWAYS determined through argument and compromise.
  • If not….then HERETIC!

D) *Theodosian Decrees* (391-392)

  • All people living in Roman Empire are now Christian! (Paganism outlawed)
  • WHY Is this important: For most of history, Rome was an incorporator. Major reversal of this practice! Didn’t want to offend, kept everyone happy, now though…safety comes from making sure everyone believes in one single idea to create uniformity! (Encourage stability and stop the fireeesssss)

 

History Notes! Restoring Order in Rome

The beginning of a beautiful relationship between Barbarians and Rome...

The beginning of a beautiful relationship between Barbarians and Rome…

 

The Dominate =”Late Empire”

a) 284AD- Diocletian “Dominus” =Lord and Master (Make status sacred because that’s never been done before ever…)

  • Problems:

-Size

-Army (In the business of “Emperor Making”. Also not big enough to do the job. That’s what she said.)

-Economy and Urban Decline (INFLATION! Moved out of cities due to epidemics and high inflation)

  • Solutions:

-Augusti and Caesars. Appoints co-ruler. Establishes the Tetrarchy. (Rule by 4.)

-2 Senior Emperors (East and West)

-Emperor didn’t live in Rome

-Also a “Caesar” or junior partner in East and West.

-Was trying to stabilize by putting Emperor in trouble spots

-Augustus would step down after 20 years and the Caesar would be promoted.

  • Soooooo did it work?

-Call Failblog.

b) 284-5th century. Emperor in East and West.

c) Constantine!

  • Comitatus and Mercenaries

-Cavalry Unit! Instead of foot soldiers, make forts and send our cavalry when there is trouble!

-Hire Mercenaries! Why not have barbarians fighting barbarians? Doesn’t this sound like the most spectacular idea ever? /sarcasm.

-Army becomes barbarian! Whoohoo! Offer status and citizenship to join! That’ll keep the barbarians out of Rome! …er…wait.

  • Tax Reformation

-Caput (head); That’s right! A Head tax! Pay it in coin, beetches.

-Iugum (Land tax); taxed by how much your land could produce. A “Tax in kind”

-These were all designed to pay the army…the barbarian army. Will contribute to decline of cities, without Army consumers–demand falls; economy falls.

 

 

History Notes! Society and Culture During the Principate

(Short and sweet history TL;DR! Previous–>The Principate)

"Why don't you go read a book, WOMAN."

“Why don’t you go read a book, WOMAN.”

 

 A) Elite  Men: “Paideia” (Greek word for education); Read Greek works.

  • Greek Rhetoric, the art of crafting an argument. Hey-o, Aristotle!

-Elite men took up the role of Patron of someone who was of lesser status.

-They would help them out, obligated, argue on behalf of.

  • Negotium (work)-  Job of being a Patron. Expected of all Elite Men, all men should be useful.
  • Otium (Leisure; Not at work;)- Life of leisure, doing what you want.

-LOL Vomitorium? Nah, that’s just an amphitheatre passage, bro.

 

B) Elite Women: Educated, almost as well as a man.

  • Never citizens, never adults. (Britany Spears song insert) Legal minor. Cannot make legal decisions on their own.

-Always needed a legal guardian. (Typically husband or father)

-When they could CHOOSE their guardian, however, NEVER the husband or father. Someone with less authority, obviously.

  • “Fiction” of not being in charge but, ladies were sooooo in control of their guardians. The neck moves the head, afterall.
  • Uncommon not to be married.

-Had responsibility to discuss politics with their husband. Give advice.

-Manipulate the system like we doooo, naturally.

 

C) Lower Class: Clients

  • Soldiers. People would cut off their toes to avoid this.
  • Merchants. Oh how the tides have turned.
  • Freedmen (Former Slaves): Always at bottom of social status because reasons.

 

D) Culture:

  • Literature: Virgil, anything before Octavian. Homer, Greek philosophy.
  • Art: Fresco (Wall paintings), Hellenistic style (anatomically correct)
  • Science: High understanding. Incredible architecture. Indoor plumbing. (Take that, Middle Ages)
  • Medicine: Galen (Physician in gladiatorial arena). Dissection, stitching. Generally decent understanding of the human body and the foundation of medical knowledge but then there was…

-Humoral Theory; Four Fluids: Blood (Heat), Phlgem (Cold), Green Bile, Black Bile

  • Geocentric: Ptolemy.
  • Philosophy and Religion: Stoicism.
  • Mystery Religions: Because why the hell not? Concerned with Salvation. Agape= “Unconditional Love”.