On this day:
495 BC – A newly constructed temple in honour of the god Mercury was dedicated in ancient Rome on the Circus Maximus, between the Aventine and Palatine hills. To spite the senate and the consuls, the people awarded the dedication to a senior military officer, Marcus Laetorius.
Mercury’s temple in Rome was situated in the Circus Maximus, between the Aventine and Palatine hills, and was built in 495 BC.
That year saw disturbances at Rome between the patrician senators and the plebeians, which led to a secession of the plebs in the following year. At the completion of its construction, a dispute emerged between the consuls Appius Claudius Sabinus Regillensis and Publius Servilius Priscus Structus as to which of them should have the honour of dedicating the temple. The senate referred the decision to the popular assembly, and also decreed that whichever was chosen should also exercise additional duties, including presiding over the markets, establish a merchants’ guild, and exercising the functions of the pontifex maximus. The people, because of the ongoing public discord, and in order to spite the senate and the consuls, instead awarded the honour of dedicating the temple to the senior military officer of one of the legions named Marcus Laetorius. The senate and the consuls, in particular the conservative Appius, were outraged at this decision, and it inflamed the ongoing situation.
The dedication occurred on 15 May, 495 BC.
The temple was regarded as a fitting place to worship a swift god of trade and travel, since it was a major center of commerce as well as a racetrack. Since it stood between the plebeian stronghold on the Aventine and the patrician center on the Palatine, it also emphasized the role of Mercury as a mediator.
Born on this day:
1689 – Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, English author and playwright (d. 1762)
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (baptized 26 May 1689 – 21 August 1762) was an English aristocrat, letter writer and poet. Lady Mary is today chiefly remembered for her letters, particularly her letters from travels to the Ottoman Empire, as wife to the British ambassador to Turkey, which have been described by Billie Melman as “the very first example of a secular work by a woman about the Muslim Orient”. Aside from her writing, Lady Mary is also known for introducing and advocating for smallpox inoculation to Britain after her return from Turkey. Her writings usually address and challenge the hindering contemporary social attitudes towards women and their intellectual and social growth.
Ottoman smallpox inoculation
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu defied convention most memorably by introducing smallpox inoculation to Western medicine after witnessing it during her travels and stay in the Ottoman Empire. In the Ottoman Empire, she visited the women in their segregated zenanas, making friends and learning about Turkish customs. There she witnessed the practice of inoculation against smallpox—variolation—which she called engrafting, and wrote home about it a number of her letters, the most famous being her 1 April 1 1717 “Letter to a Friend”. Variolation used live smallpox virus in the pus taken from a smallpox blister in a mild case of the disease and introduced it into scratched skin of a previously uninfected person to promote immunity to the disease. Lady Mary’s brother had died of smallpox in 1713 and her own famous beauty had been marred by a bout with the disease in 1715.
Lady Mary was eager to spare her children, thus, in March 1718 she had her nearly five-year-old son, Edward, inoculated with the help of Embassy surgeon Charles Maitland. On her return to London, she enthusiastically promoted the procedure, but encountered a great deal of resistance from the medical establishment, because it was an Oriental folk treatment process.
In April 1721, when a smallpox epidemic struck England, she had her daughter inoculated by Maitland, the same physician who had inoculated her son at the Embassy in Turkey, and publicised the event. This was the first such operation done in Britain. She persuaded Princess Caroline to test the treatment. In August 1721, seven prisoners at Newgate Prison awaiting execution were offered the chance to undergo variolation instead of execution: they all survived and were released. Controversy over smallpox inoculation intensified, however, Caroline, Princess of Wales was convinced. The Princess’s two daughters were successfully inoculated in April 1722 by French-born surgeon Claudiius Amyand. In response to the general fear of inoculation, Lady Mary, under a pseudonym, wrote and published an article describing and advocating in favor of inoculation in September 1722.
In later years, Edward Jenner, who was 13 years old when Lady Mary died, developed the much safer technique of vaccination using cowpox instead of smallpox. As vaccination gained acceptance, variolation gradually fell out of favour.
13 Things I Found on the Internet Today (Vol. CCXXXV)
1. Stevie Nicks Kicking Butt in platform shoes in a 1983 Self Defense Manual