Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Ante Diem III Kalendas September

Ante Diem III Kalendas September
Third Day to the Kalends of September

This is one of the dies comitiales when committees of citizens could vote on political or criminal matters.

August was originally called Sextilis, or the sixth month (after March). It was renamed in honor of Augustus Caesar, the most revered of the Roman emperors.

This day was Thoth 1 of the Egyptian calendar (after a leap year), the beginning of the civil new year, during the post-Ptolemaic Roman period in Egypt.

The Death of Cleopatra
Due to HBO's presentation of "ROME", I thought of adding info on Cleopatra to this post. The Pharaohs of Egypt were considered Gods by the Egyptians and there was a cult devoted to Cleopatra during the time of her reign.

On this day in 30 BCE, Cleopatra committed suicide, after hearing of Mark Antony's death and Octavian's plans to parade her as a captive through the streets of Rome. Cleopatra was a Greek by descent, being of the family of Ptolemy, one of Alexander's generals. Her son, fathered by Julius Caesar, did not survive.

When Cleopatra VII ascended the Egyptian throne, she was only seventeen. She reigned as Queen Philopator and Pharaoh between 51 and 30 BC, and died at the age of 39.

The demise of the Ptolemies power coincided with the rise of the Roman Empire. Having little choice, and seeing city after city fall into Rome's grip, the Ptolemies decided to ally with the Romans, a pact that lasted for two centuries. During the rule of the later Ptolemies, Rome gained more and more power over Egypt, and was even declared guardian of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Cleopatra's father, Ptolemy XII had to pay tribute to the Romans to keep them away from his Kingdom. Upon his death, the fall of the Dynasty seemed even closer.

Hence the controversy over Cleopatra's real motives. Was she trying to save her throne, or did she have a more noble cause? Was she protecting her Dynasty, or was she preventing more interference from the Romans in Egypt?

As children, Cleopatra and her siblings wittnessed the defeat of their guardian, Pompey, by Julius Caesar in a duel. Meanwhile, Cleopatra and her brother/husband Ptolemy XIII were duelling, albeit silently, over the throne.

In the middle of all this turmoil, Julius Caesar left Rome for Alexandria in 48 BC. During his stay in the Palace, he received the most famous gift in history: an oriental carpet... with a 22 year old Cleopatra wrapped in. She counted on Caesar's support to alienate Ptolemy XIII. With the arrival of Roman reinforcements, and after a few battles in Alexandria, Ptolemy XIII was defeated and killed.

In the summer of 47 BC, having married her younger brother Ptolemy XIV, Cleopatra and Caesar embarked for a two month on trip along the Nile, aboard a her legendary boat. Together, they visited Dendara, where Cleoptara was being worshipped as Pharaoh, an honor beyond Caesar's reach. They became lovers, and indeed, she bore him a son, Caesarion. In 45 BC, Cleopatra and Caesarion left Alexandria for Rome, where they stayed in a palace built by Caesar in their honor.

Caesar's acts were anything but overlooked by the Romans. In 44 BC, he was killed in a conspiracy by his Senators. With his death, Rome split between supporters of Mark Antony and Octavian. Cleopatra was watching in silence, and when Mark Antony seemed to prevail, she supported him and, shortly after, they too became lovers.

Mark Antony's alliance with Cleopatra angried Rome even more. The senators called her a sorceress, and accused her of all sorts of evil. The Romans became even more furious as Antony was giving away parts of their Empire - Tarsus, Cyrene, Crete, Cyprus, and Palestine - one after the other to Cleopatra and her children.

It was the boiling point when Octavian declared war on Cleopatra, and off the coast of Greece in the Adriatic Sea they met in one of the most famous battles in history, Actium. The Egyptian defeat was often attributed to the early withdrawal of a coward Cleopatra from the battle scene, although this claim is now discredited by most

Octavian waited for a year before he claimed Egypt as a Roman province. He arrived in Alexandria and easily defeated Mark Antony outside the city, near present day Camp C├ęsar. Antony was asked to be taken to Cleopatra. He died in her arms and was burried as a King.

Ocatvian entered Alexandria in 30 BC. Cleopatra was captured and taken to him, and the Roman Emperor had no interest in any relation, reconciliation, or even negotiation with the Egyptian Queen. Realizing that her end is close, she decided to put an end to her life. It is not known for sure how she killed herself, but many believe she used an asp as her death instrument.

With the death of Cleopatra, a whole era in Egyptian history was closed. Alexandria remained capital of Egypt, but Egypt was now a Roman province. The age of Egyptian Monarchs gave way to the age of Roman Emperors, and Cleopatra's death gave way to the rise of Rome. The Ptolemies were of Macedonian descent, yet they ruled Egypt as Egyptians - as Pharaohs. And, Cleopatra was the last Pharaoh.

St Fiacre
An Irish hermit who went to France in the seventh century, he was known for his misogyny which is why he is the patron of sufferers from venereal diseases, and for his passion for gardening, which is why he is the patron saint of gardeners. He became the patron saint of taxi drivers simply because the stand for hired carriages in Paris was near the Hotel Saint-Fiacre. He is also invoked by those suffering from hemorrhoids, and there is a stone in Brittany which supposedly bears the imprint of his buttocks on which sufferers sit to be cured. According to Tobias Smollett, the English King Henry V, who died of piles, got them after sacking a Scottish chapel dedicated to Saint Fiacre, and thus complained that he was not only plagued by
living Scots but also by dead ones.


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