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Eskimos use refrigerators to stop their food from freezing.

Boots fitted with springs were forbidden by the original Queensberry Rules for boxing.

In 2014, a single parking space in London was sold for £400,000.

There is a Canadian skeleton racer called Dave Greszczyszyn.

Paris and Rome have only each other as sister city, following the motto “Only Paris is worthy of Rome; only Rome is worthy of Paris.”

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If the empty space in atoms could be removed, the entire human race could fit into an average sugar cube.

The most common surname in China is Wang.

Originally, the traditional Argentine game of pato, which is a combination of rugby, polo and basketball, was played – as the Spanish name suggests – with a live duck in a basket. Nowadays, a leather ball is used.

There are 117 road accidents in Rome every day.

No country in history has imprisoned more citizens than the United States.

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The Birth of Romulus and Remus

According to legend, the story of the founding of Rome begins with the fall of another great ancient city, Troy. After Troy’s destruction, the Trojan hero Aeneas escaped with a small group of followers, eventually managing to reach the coast of Italy, where he landed on the estuary of the Tiber River and made a new home. He married a local princess, and their son, Ascanius, founded the city of Alba Longa on a site just southeast of present-day Rome. Ascanius’s descendants reigned there for 14 generations, until the ruling king Numitor was dethroned by his brother Amulius.

Amulius arranged for Numitor’s daughter, Rea Silvia, to become one of the Vestal Virgins, the priestesses who tended the sacred hearth of the goddess Vesta. They were all forbidden to indulge in sexual intercourse. Nevertheless, Rea Silvia was seduced by Mars, the god of war, and gave birth to twin boys in the sanctuary of Vesta. When the children were discovered, Amulius threw Rea Silvia into a dungeon and had the infants put in a wicker basket and set adrift on the river. The basket became caught in the bulrushes, where the babies were suckled by a she-wolf until they were found by a shepherd. He took the twins home, adopted them, and named them Romulus and Remus.

– Harris. T., Lowe. L. et al. (2011) Ancient Rome: An Illustrated History Tarrytown, NY, United States p. 6

Rome and the Modern World

‘After conquering the world, Rome impressed her language, laws, customs of living, and modes of thinking upon the subject nations, and they became Roman; and the world has remained largely Roman ever since. Latin continued to live, and the knowledge of Latin was the only light of learning that burned steadily through the dark ages that followed the downfall of the Roman Empire. Latin was the common language of scholars and remained so even down to the days of Shakespeare. Even yet it is more nearly than any other tongue the universal language of the learned. The life of to-day is much nearer the life of ancient Rome than the lapse of centuries would lead one to suppose. You and I are Romans still in many ways, and if Cæsar and Cicero should appear among us, we should not find them, except for dress and language, much unlike men of to-day.’

– D’Ooge. B.L. 1909. Latin For Beginners Boston, Massachusetts, United States: The Athenaeum Press, Ginn and Company (1911) p. 2-3

The Spread of Latin

‘For some centuries after Rome was founded, the Romans were a feeble and insignificant people, their territory was limited to Latium, and their existence constantly threatened by warlike neighbors. But after the third century before Christ, Rome’s power grew rapidly. She conquered all Italy, then reached out for the lands across the sea and beyond the Alps, and finally ruled over the whole ancient world. The empire thus established lasted for more than four hundred years. The importance of Latin increased with the growth of Roman power, and what had been a dialect spoken by a single tribe became the universal language. Gradually the language changed somewhat, developing differently in different countries. In Italy it has become Italian, in Spain Spanish, and in France French. All these nations, therefore, are speaking a modernized form of Latin.’

– D’Ooge. B.L. 1909. Latin For Beginners Boston, Massachusetts, United States: The Athenaeum Press, Ginn and Company (1911) p. 1-2

The Foundation of Rome

‘You will remember that Romulus and Remus drove the wicked king Amulius from the throne and put their old grand-father, Numitor, in his place. After this little excitement they felt they needed a kingdom of their own. They set off to the place where Faustulus had first found them in the she-wolf’s cave. This would make a good place for a new city, they thought, but who should be king? The two twins looked around at the seven hills, rising above them. Then, deciding to rely on augury (a form of fortune-telling, using signs or omens from the natural world) for the answer to their problem, Romulus climbed the Palatine Hill and Remus climbed the Aventine, There they waited to see what the birds would tell them.

After a while Remus got all excited when he saw six vultures, flying across the sky above him. Taking this to be a good omen, he ran down the hill and up the Palatine to tell his brother. However, when he got there Romulus said the he had seen twelve vultures and so it was decided that the city should be called Rome after its first king, Romulus.

A few days later, Remus, who was quite sulky about the outcome of the birdwatching spree, jumped over a wall which was in the process of being built around the city. His brother was not impressed and killed Remus with the words ‘truth perish anyone who jumps over my walls!’

– Oulton. N.R.R. 2010. So You Really Want To Learn Latin Book I Tenterden, Great Britain: Galore Park Publishing (1999) p. 34

The Bad Popes

A brief historic overview of five of the arguably worst criminals and sinners ever to be elevated to the chair of St. Peter. In chronological order of their pontificate:

– Pope Stephen VI (896–897)

Stephen is chiefly remembered in connection with his conduct towards the remains of Pope Formosus, his last predecessor but one. Fuelled by Stephen’s fury with his deceased predecessor, he exhumed the rotting corpse of Formosus and put it on trial in the so-called Cadaver Synod – or Synodus Horrenda – in January 897. With the corpse propped up on a throne, a deacon was appointed to answer for the deceased pontiff, who was condemned for performing the functions of a bishop when he had been deposed and for receiving the pontificate while he was the bishop of Porto.

Jean-Paul Laurens, Le Pape Formose et Étienne ...

The Cadaver Synod by Jean-Paul Laurens

The corpse was found guilty, stripped of its sacred vestments, deprived of three fingers of its right hand – the blessing fingers – clad in the garb of a layman, and quickly buried; from where it was later re-exhumed and thrown in the Tiber. All ordinations performed by Formosus were annulled.

The trial excited a tumult. Though the instigators of the deed may actually have been Formosus’ enemies of the House of Spoleto who had recovered their authority in Rome at the beginning of 897 by renouncing their broader claims in central Italy, the scandal ended in Stephen’s imprisonment and his death by strangling that summer.

In the pontificate of Pope Sergius III (904 – 911) a laudatory remark was placed on Stephen VI’s tombstone. Sergius III – an admirer of Stephen VI – then reportedly had the much-abused corpse of Formosus exhumed once more, tried, found guilty again, and beheaded, thus in effect conducting a second Cadaver Synod.

– Pope John XII (955–964)

Before his death, Alberic administered an oath to the Roman noble clergy, that on the next vacancy of the papal chair his only son Octavianus should be elected pope. At only seventeen years of age, Octavianus succeeded his father as Patrician of Rome in 954. One year later, after the death of the reigning pontiff Agapetus II, he was actually chosen his successor on 16 December, 955. His adoption of the apostolic name of John XII was the third example of taking a regal name upon elevation to the papal chair, the first being John II (533–535) and the second John III.

Deutsch: Italienische Tarot Karte: Johanna mit...

Pope Joan portrayed as the Whore of Babylon

Pope John XII was depicted as a coarse, immoral man in the writings which remain about his papacy, whose life was such that the Lateran was spoken of as a brothel, and the moral corruption in Rome became the subject of general disgrace. He gave land to a mistress, murdered several people, and was eventually killed by a man who caught him in bed with his wife.

An account of later charges levelled against him from the Patrologia Latina include:

‘Then, rising up, the cardinal priest Peter testified that he himself had seen John XII celebrate Mass without taking communion. John, bishop of Narni, and John, a cardinal deacon, professed that they themselves saw that a deacon had been ordained in a horse stable, but were unsure of the time. Benedict, cardinal deacon, with other co-deacons and priests, said they knew that he had been paid for ordaining bishops (an act of simony), specifically that he had ordained a ten-year-old bishop in the city of Todi.

They testified about his adultery, which they did not see with their own eyes, but nonetheless knew with certainty: he had fornicated with the widow of Rainier, with Stephana, his father’s concubine, with the widow Anna, and with his own niece, and made the sacred palace into a whorehouse.

They said that he had gone hunting publicly; that he had blinded his confessor Benedict, and thereafter Benedict had died; that he had killed John, cardinal subdeacon, after castrating him; and that he had set fires, girded on a sword, and put on a helmet and cuirass.

All, clerics as well as laymen, declared that he had toasted to the devil with wine. They said when playing at dice, he invoked Jupiter, Venus and other demons. They even said he did not celebrate Matins and the canonical hours nor did he make the sign of the cross.’

– Pope Benedict IX (1032–1044, 1045, 1047–1048)

Benedict’s terms were interrupted because he sold the Papacy in an act of simony.

Pope Benedict IX (1032–1044; 1045; 1047–1048) ...

Pope Benedict IX

He reportedly led an extremely dissolute life, and also allegedly had few qualifications for the papacy other than connections with a socially powerful family, although in terms of theology and the ordinary activities of the Church he was entirely orthodox.

St. Peter Damian described him as feasting on immorality and called him a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest in his Liber Gomorrhianus. Even the Catholic Encyclopedia calls him a disgrace to the Chair of Peter.

He was also accused by Bishop Benno of Piacenza of many vile adulteries and murders. Pope Victor III, in his third book of Dialogues, referred to his rapes, murders and other unspeakable acts. Pope Victor III writes: ‘His life as a pope so vile, so foul, so execrable, that I shudder to think of it.’

– Pope Boniface VIII (1294–1303)

Pope Boniface VIII is lampooned in Dante’s Divine Comedy. In his Inferno, Dante portrayed Boniface VIII as destined for hell. The reader is reminded of the pontiff’s feud with the Colonnesi, which led him to demolish the city of Palestrina, killing 6,000 citizens and destroying both the home of Julius Caesar and a shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Boniface’s ultimate fate is confirmed by Beatrice when Dante visits Heaven.

It is notable that Dante did not adopt Guillaume de Nogaret’s aspersion that Boniface VIII was a sodomite as some contemporary sources would have us believe.

– Pope Urban VI (1378–1389)

When Charles III of Naples besieged the Castel Sant’Angelo – at the time, the Roman papal palace castle – Urban was forced to flee. Following this sacking, Urban took the bull by the horns and set out to confront Charles in Naples, the pope’s birthplace. After all, what would an earthly prince do against the holy father?

Castel Sant'Angelo from the bridge. The top st...

Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome

Urban was imprisoned in Nocera about twenty kilometres south-east of Naples. According to contemporary sources he cursed and damned his captors with bell, book and candle.

However, he was still to be rescued. The fighting men of two Neapolitan barons succeeded in rescuing the holy father and escort him to Genoa.

Several among his cardinals who had been shut up in Nocera with him and had followed him to Genoa were determined to make a stand against him: they were determined that a pope, who by his incapacity or blind obstinacy might be put in the charge of one of the cardinals. In other words; they questioned the authority, and even the competency of the pope. An indictment – especially to the medieval mind – that was absolutely shocking. Urban had them seized, tortured and put to death.

However, the chronicler Egidio da Viterbo remarked to the sentences passed by Urban against his cardinals as crimes unheard of through the centuries. Whether one frowns or tips his cap, we have to consider that Urban VI succeeded in passing sentences of punishment that were extremely cruel – even for the 14th century. On top of that, according to popular history, he complained that he did not hear enough screaming when the condemned cardinals were tortured.

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