Victoria’s Cover

PBS’s Masterpiece is airing Victoria in the US. I haven’t started watching it yet but Julie has recorded the first of the eight parts and we are going to watch it together.

I was on Amazon today and I couldn’t help but notice what is certainly one of the most beautiful cover photos I’ve seen in a very long time.

See what I mean?

I was delighted to read that season two is already in pre-production.


The cover image is likely ©ITV.

The top hat!

Lord Liverpool climbed out of his carriage at Kensington Palace on June 15, 1837, under blue summer skies. He was wearing a grey suit and a top hat — the top hat was now considered the mark of a gentleman, even though the first man to sport one in public, forty years earlier, was arrested on the grounds that it had “a shiny lustre calculated to alarm timid people.” (Four women had fainted upon seeing it, and pedestrians had booed.)

Julia Baird, Victoria: The Queen, 2016

Can you imagine? Woman fainting and the wearer being arrested!

Memetic disappointment

I saw this fantastic meme on Facebook:

I love it because what he says is brilliant and because he said it some 1900 years ago. But as with many of these graphics, there are a few problems.

The guy in the image is not Aurelius. It’s Caracalla. Wrong emperor.

Even worse is that the quote doesn’t belong to Aurelius at all. According to Wikiquote,

No printed sources exist for this prior to 2009, and this seems to have been an attribution which arose on the internet, as indicated by web searches and rationales provided at “Marcus Aurelius and source checking” at Three Shouts on a Hilltop (14 June 2011)

It’s so disappointing, but I’d rather know than spread incorrect information.

Badass diplomacy

I’m reading a terrific book about ancient Rome. I hope to discuss it more in the future, once I’m finished reading it. In the meantime, this nicely self-contained passage astonished me.

The style of this imperium is vividly summed up in the story of the last encounter between Antiochus Epiphanes and the Romans. The king was invading Egypt for the second time, and the Egyptians had asked the Romans for help. A Roman envoy, Gaius Popilius Laenas, was dispatched and met Antiochus outside Alexandria. After his long familiarity with the Romans, the king no doubt expected a rather civil meeting. Instead, Laenas handed him a decree of the senate instructing him to withdraw from Egypt immediately. When Antiochus asked for time to consult his advisors, Laenas picked up a stick and drew a circle in the dust around him. There was to be no stepping out of that circle before he had given his answer. Stunned, Antiochus meekly agreed to the senate’s demands. This was an empire of obedience.

Mary Beard
SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, 2015

Rome had an empire and an army of such size and efficiency that the mere written demand, delivered by a no-nonsense envoy, that this Greek king and his army go home succeeded with no fuss. And having occurred in 168 BCE, Rome was still a republic. There was not yet a single leader with a Caesar-sized personality and reputation to cow Epiphanes.