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 (baptised 26 May 1689 – 21 August 1762) (née Pierrepont) 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 address and challenge the hindering contemporary social attitudes towards women and their intellectual and social growth.
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Thomas Kennerly Wolfe Jr. (March 2, 1930 – May 14, 2018) was an American author and journalist, best known for his association with and influence in stimulating the New Journalism, in which literary techniques are used extensively.
He began his career as a regional newspaper reporter in the 1950s, but achieved national prominence in the 1960s following the publication of such best-selling books as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (a highly experimental account of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters), and two collections of articles and essays, Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers and The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. In 1979, he published the influential book The Right Stuff about the Mercury Seven astronauts, which was made into a 1983 film of the same name directed by Philip Kaufman.
His first fiction novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, published in 1987, was met with critical acclaim, and also became a commercial success. It was adapted as a major motion picture of the same name, directed by Brian De Palma.
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