Daily Archives: December 28, 2014

South Korea offers talks to North

South Korea offers talks to North http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-30621112

Photo of the day: Wounded Knee Massacre

Wounded Knee Massacre
Seventy-year-old Sioux chief Big Foot was killed by the 7th U.S. Cavalry during the massacre at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890. Three days later his body was found frozen where he had been killed. The South Dakota reservation had been left in disarray when Sioux leader Sitting Bull was killed by Indian police on December 15, and as Big Foot led his tribe away from the reservation on December 28, they were surrounded by 7th Cavalry troops. The next morning, when the cavalry tried to disarm the Sioux, shots broke out and during the next 6 hours, 146 Sioux men, women and children were killed. The 7th Cavalry lost 30 killed.

Image: National Archives

– See more at: http://www.historynet.com/picture-of-the-day#sthash.QjGiAaXQ.dpuf

the ALAMO: Word of the standoff ricocheted across America, prompting a deluge of supportive messages for the fatigued but tenacious holdout.

The Alamo, built in the 18th century from locally quarried limestone, rests deep in the heart of Texas. (Photo: Library of Congress)

The Alamo, built in the 18th century from locally quarried limestone, rests deep in the heart of Texas. (Photo: Library of Congress) – See more at: http://www.historynet.com/here-is-where-holding-the-fort-in-san-antonio.htm#sthash.BtnOn3Zo.dpuf

Barricaded in a freezing cold, rat-infested room inside the Alamo, the lone defender had gone almost three days without food, water or sleep after armed men had positioned themselves around the compound. Word of the standoff ricocheted across America, prompting a deluge of supportive messages for the fatigued but tenacious holdout.

“Win or lose, we congratulate you upon your splendid patriotism and courage,” read one telegram from New York signed by John B. Adams, a descendant of President John Adams. Editors from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wired San Antonio: “Commandant of the Alamo:—Will you send…a message to the women of St. Louis, who are watching with great interest your own gallant defense of the Alamo?”

The “commandant” was no military officer but a 46-year-old Texas schoolteacher named Adina De Zavala, who had commenced her one-woman siege on February 10, 1908. De Zavala replied to the Post-Dispatch: “My immortal forefathers suffered every privation to defend the freedom of Texas. I, like them, am willing to die for what I believe to be right. . . . The officers cannot starve me into submission.”

De Zavala’s impassioned statement echoed the urgent message Lt. Col. William Barret Travis had dashed off 72 years earlier, on February 24, 1836, when his 200 Texan and Tejano rebels were fortified inside the old mission, surrounded by several thousand Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna.

“To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World,” Travis wrote, “I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna—I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man—The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken—I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls—I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism, & every thing dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch. . . . If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country—Victory or Death.”

– See more at: http://www.historynet.com/here-is-where-holding-the-fort-in-san-antonio.htm#sthash.BtnOn3Zo.dpuf

Who killed Lord Darnley (Life: the greatest unsolved mysteries of all time)

Who killed Lord Darnley (Life: the greatest unsolved mysteries of all time)

Who killed Lord Darnley (Life: the greatest unsolved mysteries of all time)

Mary, Queen of Scots, was barely one week old when she succeeded to the throne in 1542. The murder 25 years later of Henry Lord Darnley, her consort and the father of the infant who would become King James I of England and James VI of Scotland, remains one of history’s most notorious unsolved crimes. On a Sunday morning in February 1567 Darnley lay sleeping on the upper floor of an Edinburgh house known as Kirk o’ Field. For weeks he had rested there, convalescing from either smallpox or syphilis. Across the city Queen Mary and the baby prince were safely ensconced at Holyrood House. Unknown to Darnley and perhaps unknown to Mary, miscreants had for some time been packing the cellars of Kirk o’ Field with enough gunpowder to blow the structure to smithereens. Around two am the building exploded, a blast heard and felt throughout Edinburgh.

According to Scottish historian Magnus Magnusson, nothing was left of the building, but in an adjoining garden beside a pear tree, townsmen found Darnley’s nightgown-clad corpse. Curiously, he appeared not to have been killed by the explosion but by strangulation. Magnusson speculates that Darnley had tried to escape just before the blast but had been intercepted by his murderer before he could flee.

Complying with royal protocol, Queen Mary observed 40 days of official mourning for her husband. But rumours circulated that Mary’s widow weeds were woven discordantly with threads of insincerity. With Darnley’s death she had, in fact, become a widow for the second time. If her two-year marriage to Darnley had been brief, so too was her earlier marriage to the Dauphin of France, a union that lasted two and a half years before the Dauphin, who had become King Francis II upon his father’s death in 1559, died at age 16 from complications of an ear infection.

Mary was 18 when she returned to her homeland from France, her youthfulness belying the royal ambition that consumed her. If, when shipped off to France some years earlier, she had been nothing more than an innocent political pawn in the game of royal power grabbing, she returned with her own shrewd agenda for Scotland.

Scotland’s renowned 19th-century man of letters, Sir Walter Scott, after noting that Parliament in 1560 had declared Scotland a Protestant nation, wrote about Queen Mary’s return home:

Her youth, for she was only 18 when she returned to Scotland, increased the liveliness of her disposition. The Catholic religion, in which she has been strictly educated, was a great blemish in the eyes of her people…

Predictably, the religious issue became an obstacle in Mary’s reign, and she recognized immediately that in order to avoid rebellion she would reconcile the interests of her Catholic and Protestant nobles. Though she continued to practice her Catholic religion privately, she scrupulously showed no favours to her fellow Catholics. She did not ratify the Reformation Act of 1560, but she made no attempt to revoke it.

Following her return, the royal court was once again, according to Magnusson, the focus of the cultural life of the kingdom, ‘a glittering, cosmopolitan Renaissance court in the style of … Mary’s French in-laws. It was crowded with scholars, poets, artists, and musicians. There was much dancing and merry-making, much playing of billiards, cards and dice late into the night, and much riding and hunting during the day.’ Magnusson imparts, too, that Mary’s life was not all frivolous. She read poetry, history, and theology in several languages. And like most noble women of her time, she busied herself with embroidery and played the lute and the virginal.

For a time Queen Mary seemed in control of her realm, circumspection and intelligence consistently informing her royal decisions. Yet when it was time to remarry she made a costly mistake in her choice of a mate, settling on her first cousin Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, son of the formidable Earl of Lennox. Both Mary and Darnley were great-grandchildren of Henry VII of England, and they both had Tudor and Stuart blood in their veins. Darnley, indeed, was close in line to the thrones of both England and Scotland.

It was not only, however, his impeccable royal lineage that made him attractive to Mary; she had fallen in love. Sir Walter Scott gives us a realistic portrait of the object of Mary’s affection:

Young Darnley was remarkably tall and handsome, perfect in all external and showy accomplishments, but unhappily destitute of sagacity, prudence, steadiness of character, and exhibiting only doubtful courage, though extremely violent in his passions.

Time would prove to Mary that Darnley’s beauty and courtly accomplishments were only skin deep. At the core he was, in Magnusson’s words,’shallow, vain, weak, indolent, selfish, arrogant, vindictive and irremediably spoiled.’ In addition, he was a Lennox, a family with countless enemies both in Scotland and England.

Against the advice of her nobles and in spite of Queen Elizabeth’s expressed displeasure, Mary wed Darnley in July 1565. But as predicted, the bridegroom’s dissolute lifestyle soon angered her, causing her, of course, to second guess her decision. Most nights he roamed the streets of Edinburgh with low-life companions in search of women. He failed to participate in the business of the royal court.

Less than a year after the wedding, Darnley, unhinged by immature jealousy, became involved in the murder of David Rizzio, his wife’s private secretary. Rizzio had come to Scotland from Italy some years previously on a diplomatic mission but remained at the Scottish court as a lute player, singer, and subsequently, as Mary’s assistant. The more outraged Mary became over her husband’s stupidity and lewd behaviour, the more she looked to Rizzio for consolation. At the time she and Rizzio were close, many Scottish Protestant lords were discontent with Mary’s rule. Some of the nobles claimed that Rizzio was a secret agent of the Pope and had usurped their proper places beside the Queen. They easily cajoled the gullible Darnley into believing that Mary and Rizzio were sexual partners, an accusation that historians have found implausible. (At the time, Mary was six months pregnant with Darnley’s child.) They persuaded him to take part in a plot to murder the Italian.

On the night of Saturday, 9th March 1566, Rizzio was dragged screaming from Queen Mary’s side at her supper table in Holyrood House and stabbed some 56 times before life drained from his struggling limbs. It is unclear whether Darnley himself did the dragging or the stabbing or whether one of his henchmen performed the actual slaughter.

Amazingly, Mary forgave–or at least pretended to forgive–Darnley and cleverly managed to sever him from the group of treasonous nobles who had masterminded the Rizzio assassination. With Rizzio still fresh in the minds of the court, another threat to Darnley’s fragile self-esteem soon took centre stage. James Hepburn, fourth Earl of Bothwell (a committed Protestant himself), rushed to Mary’s aid in putting down a rebellion of Protestant conspirators.

Bothwell was Lord Admiral of Scotland, and although he possessed a reputation for bravery, he was also known to be lecherous, brutal, and power hungry. Mary regarded him as her saviour, and he quickly became her most trusted advisor.

By the time Mary gave birth to Lord Darnley’s son in June 1566, her husband had backslid into a life of debauchery, neglecting his royal duties and displaying a sullen resentment towards Mary’s relationship with Bothwell. His disappearance from court prompted talk of a possible annulment of the royal marriage. But when the Queen learned he was seriously ill in Glasgow, she travelled to his bedside and later arranged for a horse-litter to carry him back to Edinburgh to convalesce at Kirk o’ Field. For months Mary had spoken of her husband with nothing but contempt, and the gesture was out of character.

While there is no definite answer to the question of who murdered Lord Darnley, most historians agree that Bothwell–with or without Mary’s complicity–concocted the plot. A house explosion, which gave the crime such flagrant overtones and which scandalized all of Europe, was significant; a disintegrated building would cover tracks, making it impossible to prove anything. To be sure there was no direct evidence establishing Bothwell as the murderer, but for those associated with the royal court it was only too easy to guess. Bothwell was a ruthless opportunist aiming at nothing less than the kingship of Scotland.

Typical of the era, the events following Darnley’s murder were dramatic, ruthless, and bloody. Bothwell kidnapped, raped (so Mary claimed), and married the Queen. Predictably, within days of the wedding Mary was reduced to suicidal despair by Bothwell’s abuse. Yet her willingness to marry Bothwell was not as absurd as it might seem. In spite of all she had been through, Mary remained politically astute. In the political power game playing out around her, she needed a strong ally to protect her from rebellious noblemen. Indeed, Bothwell notwithstanding, less than a year after Darnley’s death the Scottish lords forced Mary to abdicate and flee to England. For the next two decades she was held prisoner by Queen Elizabeth I and finally executed in England at Fotheringhay Castle in 1587.

There is no hint of any culpability on Queen Mary’s part in regard to the Darnley murder in Sir Walter Scott’s romantic epitaph:

Thus died Queen Mary, aged a little above 44 years. She was eminent for beauty, for talents, and accomplishments, nor is there reason to doubt her natural goodness of heart, and courageous manliness of disposition. Yet she was in every sense one of the most unhappy Princesses that ever lived, from the moment she came into the world, in an hour of defeat and danger, to that in which a bloody and violent death closed a weary captivity of 18 years.

– See more at: http://www.historynet.com/the-murder-of-lord-darnley.htm#sthash.jMVAtWp5.dpuf

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What is the Voynich Manuscript? (LIFE: the greatest unsolved mysteries of all times)

LIFE:  the greatest unsolved mysteries of all times

LIFE: the greatest unsolved mysteries of all times (Click to enlarge)

Voynich manuscript
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
Voynich Manuscript (170).jpg

One of the foldout pages in the Voynich manuscript
Type Codex
Date Early 15th century[1][2]
Place of origin Possibly Northern Italy[1][2]
Language(s) Unknown
Scribe(s) Unknown
Author(s) Unknown
Compiled by Unknown
Illuminated by Unknown
Material Vellum
Size 23.5 by 16.2 by 5 cm (9.3 by 6.4 by 2.0 in)

The Voynich manuscript is an illustrated codex hand-written in an unknown writing system. The vellum in the book pages has been carbon-dated to the early 15th century (1404–1438), and may have been composed in Northern Italy during the Italian Renaissance.[1][2] The manuscript is named after Wilfrid Voynich, a Polish book dealer who purchased it in 1912.[3]

The pages of the codex are vellum. Some of the pages are missing, but about 240 remain. The text is written from left to right, and most of the pages have illustrations or diagrams.

The Voynich manuscript has been studied by many professional and amateur cryptographers, including American and British codebreakers from both World War I and World War II.[4] No one has yet succeeded in deciphering the text, and it has become a famous case in the history of cryptography. The mystery of the meaning and origin of the manuscript has excited the popular imagination, making the manuscript the subject of novels and speculation. None of the many hypotheses proposed over the last hundred years has yet been independently verified.[5]

The Voynich manuscript was donated by Hans P. Kraus[6] to Yale University‘s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 1969, where it is catalogued under call number MS 408.[7][8] A digitized high-resolution copy is also accessible freely at their website.



The manuscript measures 23.5 by 16.2 by 5 centimetres (9.3 by 6.4 by 2.0 in), with hundreds of vellum pages collected into eighteen quires. The total number of pages is around 240, but the exact number depends on how the manuscript’s unusual foldouts are counted.[8] The quires have been numbered from 1 to 20 in various locations, with numerals consistent with the 1400s, and the top righthand corner of each recto (righthand) page has been numbered from 1 to 116, with numerals of a later date. From the various numbering gaps in the quires and pages, it seems likely that in the past the manuscript had at least 272 pages in 20 quires, some of which were already missing when Wilfrid Voynich acquired the manuscript in 1912. There is strong evidence that many of the book’s bifolios were reordered at various points in its history, and that the original page order may well have been quite different from what it is today.[9][10]

The binding and covers are not original to the book, but date to during its possession by the Collegio Romano.[8]

Every page in the manuscript contains text, mostly in an unknown script, but some have extraneous writing in Latin script. Many pages contain substantial drawings or charts which are colored with paint. Based on modern analysis, it has been determined that a quill pen and iron gall ink were used for the text and figure outlines; the colored paint was applied (somewhat crudely) to the figures, possibly at a later date.[10]


A page showing characteristics of the text

 The bulk of the text in the manuscript is written in an unknown script, running left to right. Most of the characters are composed of one or two simple pen strokes. While there is some dispute as to whether certain characters are distinct or not, a script of 20–25 characters would account for virtually all of the text; the exceptions are a few dozen rarer characters that occur only once or twice each. There is no obvious punctuation.[11]

Much of the text is written in a single column in the body of a page, with a slightly ragged right margin and paragraph divisions, and sometimes with stars in the left margin.[8] Other text occurs in charts or as labels associated with illustrations. There are no indications of any errors or corrections made at any place in the document. The ductus flows smoothly, giving the impression that the symbols were not enciphered, as there is no delay between characters as would normally be expected in written encoded text.

The text consists of over 170,000 characters,[12] with spaces dividing the text into about 35,000 groups of varying length, usually referred to as “words”. The structure of these words seems to follow phonological or orthographic laws of some sort, e.g., certain characters must appear in each word (like English vowels), some characters never follow others, some may be doubled or tripled but others may not, etc.[citation needed] The distribution of letters within words is also rather peculiar: some characters occur only at the beginning of a word, some only at the end, and some always in the middle section.[citation needed] Many researchers have commented upon the highly regular structure of the words.[13]

Some words occur only in certain sections, or in only a few pages; others occur throughout the manuscript. There are very few repetitions among the thousand or so labels attached to the illustrations. There are practically no words with fewer than two letters or more than ten.[12] There are instances where the same common word appears up to three times in a row.[12] Words that differ by only one letter also repeat with unusual frequency, causing single-substitution alphabet decipherings to yield babble-like text. Elizebeth Friedman in 1962 described such attempts as “doomed to utter frustration”.[14]

Various transcription alphabets have been created to equate the Voynich characters with Latin characters in order to help with cryptanalysis, such as the European Voynich Alphabet. The first major one was created by cryptographer William F. Friedman in the 1940s, where each line of the manuscript was transcribed to an IBM punch card to make it machine-readable.[15]


Much of the early history of the book is unknown,[20] though the text and illustrations are all characteristically European. In 2009, University of Arizona researchers performed C14 dating on the manuscript’s vellum. The result of that test put the date the manuscript was made between 1404 and 1438.[2][21][22] In addition, the McCrone Research Institute in Chicago found that the paints in the manuscript were of materials to be expected from that period of European history. It has also been suggested that the McCrone Research Institute found that much of the ink was added not long after the creation of the parchment, but the official report contains no statement to this effect.[10]


Joannes Marcus Marci (1595–1667) sent the manuscript to Athanasius Kircher in 1666.

The earliest historical information about the manuscript comes from a letter found inside the cover—written in 1666 to accompany the manuscript when it was sent by Johannes Marcus to Athanasius Kircher—which claims that the book once belonged to Emperor Rudolf II (1552–1612), who paid 600 gold ducats (~2.07 kg gold) for it. The book was then given or lent to Jacobus Horcicky de Tepenecz (died 1622), the head of Rudolf’s botanical gardens in Prague.

The next confirmed owner is Georg Baresch, an obscure alchemist also in Prague. Baresch apparently was just as puzzled as modern scientists about this “Sphynx” that had been “taking up space uselessly in his library” for many years.[23] On learning that Athanasius Kircher, a Jesuit scholar from the Collegio Romano, had published a Coptic (Egyptian) dictionary and “deciphered” the Egyptian hieroglyphs, Baresch sent a sample copy of the script to Kircher in Rome (twice), asking for clues. His 1639 letter to Kircher is the earliest confirmed mention of the manuscript that has been found so far.[24]

It is not known whether Kircher answered the request, but apparently, he was interested enough to try to acquire the book, which Baresch refused to yield. Upon Baresch’s death, the manuscript passed to his friend Jan Marek Marci (1595–1667) (Johannes Marcus Marci), then rector of Charles University in Prague, who a few years later sent the book to Kircher, his longtime friend and correspondent.[24] Marci’s 1666 cover letter (written in Latin) was still with the manuscript when Voynich purchased it:[11]

“Reverend and Distinguished Sir, Father in Christ: This book, bequeathed to me by an intimate friend, I destined for you, my very dear Athanasius, as soon as it came into my possession, for I was convinced that it could be read by no one except yourself. The former owner of this book asked your opinion by letter, copying and sending you a portion of the book from which he believed you would be able to read the remainder, but he at that time refused to send the book itself. To its deciphering he devoted unflagging toil, as is apparent from attempts of his which I send you herewith, and he relinquished hope only with his life. But his toil was in vain, for such Sphinxes as these obey no one but their master, Kircher. Accept now this token, such as it is and long overdue though it be, of my affection for you, and burst through its bars, if there are any, with your wonted success. Dr. Raphael, a tutor in the Bohemian language to Ferdinand III, then King of Bohemia, told me the said book belonged to the Emperor Rudolph and that he presented to the bearer who brought him the book 600 ducats. He believed the author was Roger Bacon, the Englishman. On this point I suspend judgement; it is your place to define for us what view we should take thereon, to whose favor and kindness I unreservedly commit myself and remain,

—At the command of your Reverence,
Joannes Marcus Marci of Cronland
Prague, 19th August, 1666[11]


Wilfrid Voynich (1865–1930) acquired the manuscript in 1912


A page from the biological section showing “nymphs” Unknown – Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University ([1]). A page from the mysterious Voynich manuscript, which is undeciphered to this day.

There are no records of the book for the next 200 years, but in all likelihood it was stored with the rest of Kircher’s correspondence in the library of the Collegio Romano (now the Pontifical Gregorian University).[24] It probably remained there until the troops of Victor Emmanuel II of Italy captured the city in 1870 and annexed the Papal States. The new Italian government decided to confiscate many properties of the Church, including the library of the Collegio.[24] According to investigations by Xavier Ceccaldi and others, just before this happened, many books of the University’s library were hastily transferred to the personal libraries of its faculty, which were exempt from confiscation.[24] Kircher’s correspondence was among those books—and so apparently was the Voynich manuscript, as it still bears the ex libris of Petrus Beckx, head of the Jesuit order and the University’s Rector at the time.[8][24]Beckx’s “private” library was moved to the Villa Mondragone, Frascati, a large country palace near Rome that had been bought by the Society of Jesus in 1866 and housed the headquarters of the Jesuits’ Ghislieri College.[24]Around 1912, the Collegio Romano was short of money and decided to sell some of its holdings discreetly. Wilfrid Voynich acquired 30 manuscripts, among them the manuscript that now bears his name.[24] He spent the next seven years attempting to interest scholars in deciphering the script while he worked to determine the origins of the manuscript.[11]

In 1930, after Wilfrid’s death, the manuscript was inherited by his widow, Ethel Lilian Voynich (known as the author of the novel The Gadfly and daughter of famous mathematician George Boole). She died in 1960 and left the manuscript to her close friend, Miss Anne Nill. In 1961, Nill sold the book to another antique book dealer, Hans P. Kraus. Unable to find a buyer, Kraus donated the manuscript to Yale University in 1969, where it was catalogued as “MS 408”.[16] In discussions, it is sometimes also referred to as “Beinecke MS 408”.[8]

Obama marks end of combat in Afghanistan

Obama marks end of combat in Afghanistan

Watch daring rescue from ferry blaze

Watch daring rescue from ferry blaze

Passengers endure 24 hours on burning ferry

Passengers endure 24 hours on burning ferry

AirAsia, MH370 incidents very different

AirAsia, MH370 incidents very different

historic Pics: Agatha Christie -Portrait-1926

historic Pics: Agatha Christie -Portrait-1926

historic Pics: Agatha Christie -Portrait-1926

An Agatha Christie Mystery

An Agatha Christie Mystery-1

An Agatha Christie Mystery-1


An Agatha Chrisite Mystery-2

An Agatha Christie Mystery-2


Travellers’ quest: where to go- fimd some answers here



Parsley- private reserve



Beautiful. Flowers – 2



Beautiful flowers


From NPR News: Fleeing To Dismal Swamp, Slaves And Outcasts Found Freedom

Fleeing To Dismal Swamp, Slaves And Outcasts Found Freedom http://n.pr/1wtNV2t

From NPR News: Which World Leader Had The Best And The Worst Year In 2014?

Which World Leader Had The Best And The Worst Year In 2014? http://n.pr/1wo9jq2

From BBC: Fire forces Italy ferry evacuation

Fire forces Italy ferry evacuation http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-30615721

History of Art: Gemma Augustea: Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna – the story about this marvelous low-relief cameo

Gemma Augustea (detail) Kunsthistoriches Museum Vienna

Gemma Augustea (detail) Kunsthistoriches Museum Vienna (Click to enlarge)

The Gemma Augustea (Latin, Gem of Augustus) is a low-relief cameo engraved gem cut from a double-layered Arabian onyx stone. It is commonly agreed that the gem cutter who created the Gemma Augustea was either Dioscurides or one of his disciples, in the second or third decade of the 1st century AD.

Creation and characteristics

The Gemma Augustea is a low-relief cameo engraved gem cut from a double-layered Arabian onyx stone.[1] One layer is white, while the other is bluish-brown. The painstaking method by which the stone was cut allowed minute detail with sharp contrast between the images and background, also allowing for a great deal of shadow play. The size of the gem also made for easier manipulation and a grander scene. It stands 7½ inches tall with a width of 9 inches and an average thickness of ½ inch.

It is commonly agreed that the gem cutter who created Gemma Augustea was either Dioscurides or one of his disciples. Dioscurides was Caesar Augustus’ favorite gem cutter, and his work and copies of it are seen from all over the ancient Roman world. The gem is “set” as though in the period c. AD 10–20, although some scholars believe it to have been created decades later because of their interpretation of the scene.

If Dioscurides, or cutters following his example, made it, the gemma was probably made in the court of Caesar Augustus. At some time in antiquity it moved to Byzantium, perhaps after Constantine I had officially moved the capital of the empire there. Augustus, though fully accepting and encouraging cult worship of the emperor outside Rome and Italy, especially in more distant provinces with traditions of deified rulers, did not allow himself to be worshiped as a god inside Rome. If this gem was made during his lifetime (he died in AD 14), it would perhaps have been made as a gift to a respected family in a Roman province or client kingdom. Alternatively, if the gem was made after Augustus’ death, the identity of one or more of the portraits may be different from the usual identification. Another viewpoint is that the gem does portray Augustus as a god in his lifetime, but was cut specifically for a close friend or relative in the inner court circle. Similar issues arise with other Imperial cameos such as the Blacas Cameo in the British Museum.

The whereabouts of the gemma is undocumented, though it still remained relatively intact and was probably always above ground, until 1246 when it is recorded in the treasury of the Basilica of St. Sernin, Toulouse. In 1533, Francis I of France appropriated it and moved it to Paris, where it disappears from records around 1590. Not long thereafter it was sold for 12,000 ducats to Rudolph II, Holy Roman Emperor. During the 17th century, it was set in German gold. This setting shows that the gem must have been damaged, the upper left side being broken with at least one other figure missing, probably before Rudolph II bought it, but definitely before 1700. The gem is now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.[2]

Interpretations of the figures and scenes


Gemma Augustea, with reference numbers.

Upper tier

The throned figure, #1 in the numbered illustration, is usually taken to be Augustus, although in some interpretations, it could represent a later Roman ruler. Figure #3 is the most readily identifiable, having characteristics held by no other. The woman is Oikoumene – the personification of the inhabited world. This inhabited or civilized world is either that of the early Roman Empire, or more likely the Mediterranean world conquered by Alexander the Great.[3] She wears upon her head a mural crown and veil. She is crowning figure #1 with the corona civica of oak leaves – used to commend someone for saving the life of a Roman citizen. In this grand scale depiction, however, it is given to figure #1 because he saved a multitude of Roman citizens.

Figure #5 and #6 seem to be closely related. Figure #5 is Oceanus or Neptune whose significance is often seen as one balancing the scene across from #4 and #7, and also an important onlooker, as he represents the realm of water. Below him is a reclined personification of either Gaia or Italia Turrita. The scholars who see Gaia link her with the cornucopia and the children surrounding her, who may represent seasons. It might be odd that Gaia holds the horn of plenty when it seems as if the horn is not presently producing anything. This supports an argument that she is not Gaia, but Italia, for historically there was famine at the scene’s event. Also, she wears a bulla, a locket of some sort, around her neck, which, again, would seem odd for Gaia to wear. Either way, the children represent seasons, probably summer and fall, as one of them carries ears of corn.

Figure #10 is the eagle of Jupiter. The eagle could be showing that figure #1 is seated in the role of Jupiter. Seated next to figure #1 is Roma. The helmeted goddess holds a spear in her right arm while her left hand lightly touches the hilt of her sword, probably showing that Rome was always prepared for war. Besides showing her feet resting upon the armor of the conquered, Roma seems to look admiringly towards figure #1. Though there might be a dispute as to who #1 is, it is often said that the image of Roma strongly resembles Livia, Augustus’ long-lived wife. Not only was she his wife, but from a previous marriage, the mother of Tiberius. The reason for the cutting of this gem is also called into question when it is noted that Roma was not worshiped inside Rome till around the rule of Hadrian. Thus the gem might have been custom cut for a friend in the provinces.

Figure #4 is Victoria driving the chariot that holds the descending figure #7. She is obviously the deliverer of the victorious but not necessarily there for celebration, as it seems she might be impatiently urging figure #7 on to his next campaign. In associating Victoria with the chariot, it is necessary to analyze some historical importance relating to the chariot and the horses around it. The two foreshortened horses in front of the chariot are part of the chariot team, whereas the single horse to the side cannot be, and might belong to figure #8. Historically, a victory chariot was driven by four horses forming a quadriga, not the mere two represented on the gemma, a bigae. This might show that figure #7 is not a triumphator.

Lower tier: erection of tropaion


The lower register


Key to lower register


A fully erected tropaion with shackled and adorsed seated male and female Sarmatian captives (the right-hand female with head resting on hand, possibly a representation of the defeated “Sarmatia”) tied to base. Dupondius from reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, AD 161-180

The lower scene, in which the figures are less readily identifiable, depicts the erection of a tropaion. In some interpretations of the scene, all the lower figures are by design anonymous. Other interpretations attribute definite real or mythological persons to the figures. At left, the seated male and female figures (combined in #11) are either Celts or Germans, as is apparent from their clothing and hair styles, including the man’s beard, and represent prisoners of war, symbolizing the Roman victory. The man is bound with his hands behind his back, and both are apparently about to be tied to the base of the as yet half-erected tropaion (figure #19_, a trophy of war displayed upon winning a battle, usually fixed into the ground at the position of the “turning-point” of the battle in favour of the victors. The trophy consists of a wooden cross, designed to support human clothing. A helmet is placed on top, and the breastplate and weaponry of the enemy is placed upon it. In the scene, four young men are raising the trophy into a vertical position. Figure #18 is the least identifiable, but his helmet has led some to believe that he may be a Macedonian soldier of King Rhoemetalces[disambiguation needed], who helped Tiberius in Pannonia.
Figure #15 is often identified as a personification of the god Mars with his armor and flowing cape. Although figures #16 and #17 seem less important, they look very much alike and may represent the constellation Gemini. Gemini is the more difficult constellation to pick out, and it might represent the hidden identity of figure #8. Two others, however, are more obvious. Figure #20 is a shield with a large scorpion emblazoned upon it. Tiberius was born in November, and thus might be represented with such an item. Figure #9 shows Augustus’ favorite sign, the Capricorn. Although Augustus might have been conceived during December, he claimed the Capricorn as his constellation. The sun or moon, which were necessary to show the full power of a constellation, is seen behind the sign. Mars is represented by figure (#15), andthus at least three signs of the Zodiac are evident.

Figure #13 is probably Diana, identified with the moon, although some commentators believe her to be a mere auxiliary troop with #14. Diana holds spears in her left hand and her right hand seems to rest on the head of the man in figure #12, but not gripping his hair as supposed by many. Another identifying feature of Diana is her bountiful hair, bound up for the hunt, and her hunting clothes. Figure #14 might be an auxiliary, but more likely he personifies Mercurius (Mercury/Hermes), identified by his rimmed hat. Mercurius seems to be dragging the female in figure #12 by her hair towards the tropaion. The scene is clearly complex. Many interpretations insist that the ‘auxiliaries’ are dragging the barbarian prisoners to join their kindred in being bound to the trophy. However, there are indications that this might not be the case at all. First, the man on his knees is begging for mercy from Diana, who does look down on him. That same man wears around his neck a torque, suggesting him to be a Celt or German. It may be significant that Diana has her back turned to the observer and possibly the scene itself. She is the only one as such, and perhaps to contrast the celebration of victory in battle, she shows instead mercy to one pleading for his life. In addition, since the man is a leader, it makes for better propaganda that he should beg for mercy before a Roman goddess. Mercurius might not be dragging the woman to be bound to the trophy, but might be bringing her to kneel before Diana to beg for mercy as well. She shows the sign of a truce by placing her hand upon her chest. Perhaps Diana and Mercurius are sheltering them, perhaps offering them salvation in the final moments of victory. Whatever the case, the couple in #12 are not comparable to the despairing couple in #11, with whom they appear both to balance and contrast; balance by having barbarians on the right and left, literally balancing the composition, and contrast as one couple being doomed to be bound at the trophy, and the other begging for what looks like a chance of mercy.

Overall scene


A different view

The upper and lower scenes take place at different times, and are basically cause and effect. The lower scene takes place at the northern frontiers, just after a battle won by the Romans, who erect a victory trophy. Gathered prisoners of war are waiting for their punishment in grief or begging for mercy at the hands of assisting gods. The triumph on the battlefield precedes the triumph on the upper plate.

The upper scene is a fusion of Rome, Olympus, and the world of cities. Augustus is conspicuously above the birth sign he claimed, while the eagle personifying him as Jupiter sits below. He ended many years of internal strife for Rome and will forever wear the oak crown. In his right hand he holds a lituus – his augury stick in which he reads the signs and declares wars to be just. He faces Roma, representing all he united and saved from civil bloodshed. He sits equal to Roma, personifying a god. His feet lay upon armor, which could be identified with the newly conquered barbarians, or it may depict the descent of the Julian family from Mars through his human children Romulus and Remus. Unlike all the other figures, except for #7 and #8, the depiction of Augustus is considered to be an actual portrait because of the iris seen in his eye. Tiberius, Augustus’ adopted son, recently having fought in the north, comes back momentarily – for Victoria anxiously urges that he continue on to fight new battles and receive his triumph.

There are problems with this interpretation, however. The chariot is not one of victory. It would be unusual for a two-horse chariot to be used for the triumph. Also, Tiberius wears the toga. The toga represents civility and peace, not war. Perhaps this is a way to hand the victory to Augustus’ auguries. Tiberius steps down from the chariot, doing obeisance to Augustus, giving his adoptive parent the triumph and victory. If all this is true, then figure #8 could still be one of two persons, Drusus or Germanicus. By this age, Drusus was probably already dead, having fallen from his horse and suffered irreparable injuries. It could be, then, a representation of Drusus, and his memory, since he was fondly regarded by almost all. Since he is clad in fighting garb, the helmet probably beside him under the chariot, and coincidentally standing next to a horse, this could very well be Drusus. In addition, there are three constellations relating to the three portraits. Drusus would claim Gemini, though the Gemini is quite covert. If the portrait represented Drusus as alive, however, the gem would have been made about the same time as the Ara Pacis and the Altar of Augustus, sometime before 9 B.C., the year of Drusus’ death.

Others, though, think that Figure #8 is Germanicus, son of Drusus.[4] If the gem was commissioned no earlier than A.D. 12 and referred to Tiberius’ triumph over the Germans and the Pannonians, it would stand to reason that Germanicus, born in 13 B.C., was old enough to don gear and prepare for war, years after his father’s death. Germanicus was also looked upon quite fondly by Augustus and others. The dispute carries on.

Gemma Augustea is a beautiful work of art that seems to be based on dramatic Hellenistic compositions. The refined style of execution was more common in the late Augustan or earlier Tiberian age, though more likely Augustan. It is said that the image of Augustus as Jupiter is linked to future Roman triumphs by Horace in his Odes:

He’ll be brave who trusts himself to perfidious foes,
and he will crush the Carthaginians in a second war
who has tamely felt the chains upon his fettered
wrists and has stood in fear of death.
Such a one, not knowing how to live life secure,
has mixed peace with war.
O mighty Carthage, you rise
all the higher upon Italian ruins!
Tis said he set aside his wife’s chaste kisses and his
little children, as one bereft of civil rights,
and sternly bent his manly gaze upon the ground
till he should strengthen the Senate’s wavering purpose
by advice ne’er given before,
and amid sorrowing friends should hurry forth a glorious exile.
Full well he knew what the barbarian torturer was making
ready for him; and yet he pushed aside the kinsmen
who blocked his path and the people who would halt his going
with no less unconcern than if some case in court
had been decided, and he were leaving the tedious
business of his clients, speeding to Venafran fields,
or to Lacedaemonian Tarentum.

— Horace, Odes III 5

National Geographic – the Magic

National Geographic-the Magic

National Geographic-the Magic

Rancho California 1972 – Real Estate-“Illusions are real”

Rancho California 1972 - Real Estate-Illusions are real

Rancho California 1972 – Real Estate-Illusions are real

New York City may ban Styrofoam cups

New York City may ban Styrofoam cups

Angela Lansbury returns to US stage

Angela Lansbury returns to US stage http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-30615940

Libya air force bombs Misrata rebels

Libya air force bombs Misrata rebels http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-30616817

Hamas blocks children’s Israel visit

Hamas blocks children’s Israel visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-30617664

From NPR News: Hundreds Being Evacuated From Burning Ferry In Adriatic Sea

Hundreds Being Evacuated From Burning Ferry In Adriatic Sea http://n.pr/13MSTkz

From NPR News: Thalidomide Victims In Spain Still Waiting For Compensation

Thalidomide Victims In Spain Still Waiting For Compensation http://n.pr/1zVkLNI

Gioachino Rossini – Sonata No. 5 in E flat major

Gioachino Rossini – Sonata No. 5 in E flat major

Claude Debussy – Suite bergamasque

Antonin Dvorak – Romance in F minor Op 11 – Violin and piano

Antonin Dvorak – Romance in F minor Op 11 – Violin and piano

Chopin Nocturne – No 5 in F Sharp Major Op 15-2

Chopin Nocturne – No 5 in F Sharp Major Op 15-2

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Marche in C major KV 408/1 (383e)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Marche in C major KV 408/1 (383e)

Greco-Catolic.ro: rugaciune catre Sfantul Anton – martea|Novena de nouă marţi

Novena de nouă marţi     Rugăciune de începere:  Mărite Sfinte Antoane, cerescul meu ocrotitor, în cinstea ta încep eu, cel mai nevrednic dintre cinstitorii tăi, această novenă, având credinţa nestrămutată că mă vei ajuta şi pe mine, cum ai ajutat pe toţi cei care, cinstindu-te, au alergat cu credinţă şi evlavie la mijlocirea şi ocrotirea ta. Unind credinţa şi evlavia mea cu credinţa şi evlavia tuturor ce te iubesc, din adâncul inimii mele te rog, nu trece cu vederea rugăciunile mele din aceste nouă marţi, ci fă ca, prin mijlocirea ta, să se ridice la Tronul Celui mărit întru sfinţii Lui, la Dumnezeul şi Creatorul meu, să-şi reverse asupra mea mila şi harul Său. Ocroteşte-mă şi mă apără de toţi duşmanii văzuţi şi nevăzuţi şi mijloceşte-mi darul (aici aminteşti scopul pentru care faci novena) pentru care alerg la ajutorul tău.  Preamilostive Isuse, care ai învrednicit de ascultare atâtea rugăciuni ce s-au înălţat prin mjlocirea Sfântului Anton, nu trece cu vederea nici glasul inimii mele, ci mă ajută pentru vredniciile cerescului meu ocrotitor. Amin.  Tatăl nostru... Născătoare... Mărire... Şi acum... Sfinte Antoane, ajută-mă!

rugaciune catre Sfantul Anton-Martea

Novena de nouă marţi

Rugăciune de începere:

Mărite Sfinte Antoane, cerescul meu ocrotitor, în cinstea ta încep eu, cel mai nevrednic dintre cinstitorii tăi, această novenă, având credinţa nestrămutată că mă vei ajuta şi pe mine, cum ai ajutat pe toţi cei care, cinstindu-te, au alergat cu credinţă şi evlavie la mijlocirea şi ocrotirea ta. Unind credinţa şi evlavia mea cu credinţa şi evlavia tuturor ce te iubesc, din adâncul inimii mele te rog, nu trece cu vederea rugăciunile mele din aceste nouă marţi, ci fă ca, prin mijlocirea ta, să se ridice la Tronul Celui mărit întru sfinţii Lui, la Dumnezeul şi Creatorul meu, să-şi reverse asupra mea mila şi harul Său. Ocroteşte-mă şi mă apără de toţi duşmanii văzuţi şi nevăzuţi şi mijloceşte-mi darul (aici aminteşti scopul pentru care faci novena) pentru care alerg la ajutorul tău.

Preamilostive Isuse, care ai învrednicit de ascultare atâtea rugăciuni ce s-au înălţat prin mjlocirea Sfântului Anton, nu trece cu vederea nici glasul inimii mele, ci mă ajută pentru vredniciile cerescului meu ocrotitor. Amin.

Tatăl nostru… Născătoare… Mărire… Şi acum… Sfinte Antoane, ajută-mă!

Saint of the Day for Sunday, December 28th, 2014: St. Anthony the Hermit

Image of St. Anthony the Hermit

St. Anthony the Hermit

Anthony was born about circa 468 at Valeria in Lower Pannonia. When he was eight years old, his father died and he was first entrusted to the care of St. Severinus. After the death of Severinus, an … continue reading

More Saints of the Day

today’s holiday: Holy Innocents’ Day (2014)

Holy Innocents’ Day (2014)

Also known as Innocents’ Day or Childermas, this day commemorates the massacre of all the male children two years and younger in Bethlehem as ordered by King Herod, who hoped that the infant Jesus would be among them. Not surprisingly, this day has long been regarded as unlucky. In ancient times, the “Massacre of the Innocents” was reenacted by whipping the younger members of a family. But over the years, the tables turned, and in some countries it has become a day when children play pranks on their elders. In Mexico, Childermas is the equivalent of April Fools’ Day. More… Discuss

today’s birthday: Woodrow Wilson (1856)

Woodrow Wilson (1856)

Wilson served as US president from 1913 to 1921, a period that spanned the country’s involvement in World War I. Following the war, Wilson hoped to achieve world peace through his “Fourteen Points,” but his progressive vision suffered numerous setbacks, and he ended his term incapacitated by a stroke. While trying to implement his plan at the Paris Peace Conference, he became the first US president to travel to Europe while in office. On what rare unit of US currency is Wilson’s image featured? More… Discuss

quotation: Life is a voyage that’s homeward bound. Herman Melville (1819-1891)

Life is a voyage that’s homeward bound.

Herman Melville (1819-1891) Discuss

this day in the yesteryear: William Semple Files Chewing Gum Patent (1869)

William Semple Files Chewing Gum Patent (1869)

Existing in various forms since prehistoric times, chewing gum is one of the oldest types of candy still widely consumed today. Early chewing gums were made from plant resins. In 1869, dentist William Semple patented a rubber-based chewing gum that he envisioned as a tooth cleaning product. Around that time, confectioners discovered that chicle, a natural latex that was being explored as a possible rubber substitute, was an ideal gum base. What country banned chewing gum in 1992? More… Discuss

Birds Heard Tornados, Flew to Safety

Birds Heard Tornados, Flew to Safety

Just a day before a devastating tornado outbreak swept through the US this year, a handful of songbirds in the region evacuated by flying hundreds of miles away. The scientists tracking the birds as part of a larger study speculate that they sensed the approaching twisters by detecting tornado-produced infrasound, a low frequency noise that can travel thousands of miles. The birds fled just days after finishing their 3,100-mile (5,000-km) seasonal migration from Colombia. They then flew 400 miles (700 km) south to the Gulf of Mexico, and returned almost immediately after the storms ended. More… Discuss

Swiss Cheese

Swiss Cheese

Swiss cheese is the generic name in the US for several related varieties of cheese that resemble Switzerland’s Emmentaler cheese. The cheese’s distinctive holes, which are called “eyes,” are formed during ripening when the bacterium used to produce the cheese releases carbon dioxide gas that causes large bubbles. In general, the larger the eyes, the more pronounced the cheese’s flavor, although large eyes make the cheese more difficult to slice. Swiss cheese without eyes is known as what? More… Discuss

word: circumspect


Definition: (adjective) Heedful of circumstances and potential consequences; prudent.
Synonyms: discreet
Usage: Because the drug was shown to have adverse side effects, physicians are now more circumspect about recommending its use. Discuss.

From France 24: US-led coalition marks end of ‘longest war’ in Afghanistan

US-led coalition marks end of ‘longest war’ in Afghanistan


From BBC: AirAsia airliner missing

AirAsia airliner missing http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/world-asia-30615089

From BBC: AirAsia flight to Singapore missing

AirAsia flight to Singapore missing http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-30614627

From BBC: ‘Injured parrot’ was Christmas hat

‘Injured parrot’ was Christmas hat http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-30576363

From BBC: Japan’s ‘solo’ weddings

Japan’s ‘solo’ weddings http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-30574801