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December 16, 2016     Post-Gazette
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PAGE 2 POST-GAZE'I'rE, DECEMBER 16, 2016 During the coming months, this column will present a concise history of our so-called "Twelve Caesars." I believe that readers will find these articles very informative, especially those who have had no formal background in classical studies. A study of all of the stories, events, and the characters as- sociated with the rise and fall of the Roman Empire would be like reading an entire library, and would probably take a hundred years to fully under- stand and record its beauties. A capsule explanation divides the history of Classical Rome into three distinct periods: 1. The Regal Period (the legend- ary kings like Romulus), 753 to 510 B.C.; 2. The Republic {the time of the great Roman Senate, ending with the death of Julius Caesar}, 510 to 27 B.C.; 3. The Empire (the period of Roman emperors starting with the great Augustus and ending with the pitiful Romulus Augustulus], 27 B.C. to 365 A.D. by Prof. Edmund Turiello A weekly column highlighting some of the more interesting aspects of our ancestry.., our lineage.., our roots. THE CAESARS TWELVE During the period called the "Empire," there were many good emperors like Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninous Pius, and Marcus Aurelius. Unfor- tunately, along with the good, they also had to contend with the bad. There were rulers like Caracalla, who not only built one of the world's largest bath- tubs, but was also noted for his brutality; Heliogabalas, who was noted for his debauchery; and Commodus, the son of Mar- cus Aurelius, who was reported to have been the most blood- thirsty and unruly emperor that has ever been.recorded in all of history. Those of us who are in good health pay a daily tribute to the memory of this character. Then there was Nero, the archenemy of all Christians, who was one of the cruelest, most de- praved, and despotic emperors that ever ruled Rome. Finally there was a =nut cake" named Caligula, who was just plain off his =Roman rocker." His reign got offto a pretty good start, but the finish just defies description. The name =Caesar" probably was originally derived from ancient Roman legends. Some say it came directly from the word "caedo," meaning that the first bearer of the name was cut from his mother by "Caesarean operation." Others derive the name from =Caesades," because the first Caesar was born with a full head of hair. Still others attach the name to "Caesiusf as applied to the color of the skin or eyes. Caesar was the family name of Gaius Julius Caesar, and af- ter his death the title of Caesar was given to all of the Roman emperors from Augustus to Hadrian. References are still being made to these 12 Cae- sars whose popular names, in chronological order, are: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Ves- pasian, Titus, Domitian, Nerva, Trajan, and Hadrian. NEXT WEEK: The First Triumvirate by Girard A. Plante As the annual traditions of the Christmas season consume our daily lives, I am reminded of three anecdotes that reinforce the ceaseless spirit of this season of rejoicing and giving every day of the year. During the late 1980s through 1992, I saw a man who looked to be 70 years old occupy the same seat in the same corner of a cozy eatery that served up a fantastic breakfast in my hometown in upstate New York. He appeared every Sunday around 1:00 pm to sit silently, glancing up only to read the newspapers he brought to breakfast. The words he uttered were meant exclusively for a certain waitress. He never spoke to others. He wore the same tweed jacket, button-down shirt, necktie, and wool fedora, no matter the season. One Sunday, as I passed through a crowd of patrons awaiting an empty table, I was forced to exit past the man's corner table and noticed him staring blankly at his coffee, talking softly as though another person sat with him. My intense interest in his situation grew over the next several days. The following Sunday, I asked the waitress tending to the man about his routine. She quickly looked toward him as he ate breakfast, saying: =He's a former professor of Chemistry at Columbia University. You'd never know by looking at him that he is a brilliant man." Though impeccably dressed, his clothes were never clean. Before I could ask her to explain how he became unkempt, she continued. "He and his wife moved to Utica (my hometown) upon his retirement after teaching 41 years at Columbia. His wife taught English at Vassar. Pleasant people. Less than a year after relocating, his wife died suddenly from a brain aneurism. Shortly after her death, their only child died from cancer. She was 38. That's all he told me. I began chatting with him after not seeing his sweet wife. Since their deaths, he has changed dramatically. His clothes are never clean. And his hygiene has suffered. He's a broken man." Upon returning to the diner from vacation a few weeks later, I noticed the corner table the man occupied weekly, empty. The same waitress cheerily greeted us as we ordered breakfast. I inquired about the man. "He's no longer here," she replied. I asked why. "I learned where he lived from our conversations the past several years and, after not seeing him for several days, I drove to his house to check in. A few people were removing furniture from his home and said he passed away. His close friend and neighbor walked over to tell me he died in his favorite chair. A letter written by his dying daughter was on his lap." Another anecdote involves two young ladies working weekends to earn money for college expenses at a busy and lucrative donut shop in my hometown. They gave a donut and cup of coffee free to the man whose father ordered him out of the house every day by 10:00 a.m. He would stop in the donut shop to wait for a bus that brought him to a sheltered workshop. As he didn't own proper clothes for rain or cold, the two women bought him a knee-length wool coat, scarf, hat and gloves. The man was intellectually challenged. His pleasant demeanor and interest in the two college students and their courses of study inspired a desire to ease the man's plight. One morning while rushing into work, the donut shop's manager confronted them. When they happily admitted their selfless acts, he fired them. The students expressed their indignation. Donuts, coffee and various breads were tossed into the trash every night. The man sat at a table listening to the dust-up. Finally he stood, walked over to the manager, and asked him why he hated the two young students. The shop's other customers fell silent. Patrons stared at the manager as he nervously tugged at his apron. The ladies set quickly to work. Finally, two weeks ago, Greater Boston residents traveled about the streets and sidewalks in mid-afternoon as a fast-moving fire required ten fire companies to battle a massive explosion that consumed several buildings and vehicles in a neighborhood near Kendall Square in Cambridge. Smoke could be seen for miles. As darkness moved in, the tenants were caught outdoors with only the clothing on their shivering bodies, helplessly watching the fire jump from building to building. They lost all their possessions. News reports by local media caught the attention of the largely unwary public. Soon after, a GoFundMe account was set up on Social Media. Within three days, the account held over $600,000. With the help of the American Red Cross, Boston city officials, churches and nonprofits, some of the fire victims are already retuming to new apartments and houses. The 100 people displaced by the fires may never meet the good deed-doers who gave money because they saw an urgent need. The marvel of social media can be used for a greater good. You see, amidst the swirling selfishness in a world filled with angst amidst uncertain times, we witness the eternal goodness that spans generations of givers. That's America. Giving to causes is what we do in times of tragedy. Merry Christmas! WWW.BOSTONPOSTGAZETTE.COM