Hope you had a pleasant weekend. We managed to get out on the boat, and for once there was the right combination of sun, wind and waves. Then, back home from the coast, Sunday evening saw a storm, so a welcome few degrees drop in this tiresome August heat.
Where have we got to? More than eight centuries have passed since the myth-shrouded foundation of Rome, a lot of the most famous bits have already been covered (Caesar and Cleo, etc.), and we’re now at about the point where the inflated balloon that was the Roman empire is puffed up just about as big as it could be, without popping. Yet.
Anyone who has visited Rome will likely be familiar with Trajan’s Column which is difficult to miss, being ninety-eight feet tall and decorated with a spiral bas relief showing Roman armies slaughtering people in the Balkans. The monument recounts and celebrates Traiano’s expansion of the Roman empire in the east, in what is now Romania but was then Dacia (also a brand of budget automobile, produced in Romania, of course, and vengefully exported to clog up Italy’s roads!)
Whilst British schoolchildren, most of whom have no idea where Romania is and care even less, all know about Hadrian’s Wall, which can be found at more or less at the extreme opposite end of Roman-controlled territory and was a seventy-three mile border defense erected to keep innocent Romans safe from Mexican rapists and drug smugglers, pardon me, I mean Ancient Britons.
What do these two impressive feats of stonework have in common, other than their connection with remote locations? I’m delighted you asked. It’s the fact that they were the work of emperors who were adopted. Yes, adopted!
Wasn’t that nice of the Romans? To take on some poor orphan child and give him (it was always a him) supreme power, so as to partially make up for not having a mommy and daddy?
Well no. Our writer explains it like this:
“La scelta e adozione del nuovo princeps tra persone esterne alla famiglia dell’imperatore, è una misura utile a garantire la selezione di un personaggio davvero meritevole. Si cerca di scegliere l’optimus princeps, capace di amministrare un impero complesso come quello romano.”
Insomma, the family business had got too extensive for any given ruler to rely on his natural kids, spoilt brats that they probably were, to be able to administer it. And given that there weren’t any MBA programs or reality TV shows to poach talent from, the solution they came up with was to look around for someone competent outside of the family, ideally a general with an impressive record of conquer and domination, adopt him, and so continue the family’s tight grasp of the reins of power, and the wealth that accompanied it. Sorry son, needs must.
Hence the title of today’s free article: Inizia il principato adottivo (96 d.C.- 138 d.C.)
Heard the one about the train driver who got off to have a quick smoke but forgot to apply the brakes? You know, the train rolled ten kilometers downhill before derailing and slightly injuring the only passenger? Embarrassing!
You have? Well you won’t be interested in Saturday’s bulletin of ‘easy’ Italian news, then. Although there is a fasciating story about students protesting for democracy in Thailand adopting costumes and gestures from the Harry Potter and Hunger Games film franchises.
Plus there’s a poisoned Russian opposition leader, a rather implausible technology story regarding how recycled cellphones are saving the Amazon rainforest, and cheese again (I love cheese!)
This time it’s Pecorino Romano, which apparently was what the Roman legions marched on, other than their sandals. 27 grams of grated sheep’s cheese per soldier per day and you’re good to subdue Dacia or fight off Ancient Brits.
A mercoledì, allora.