Didius Julianus › Dido › Saint Augustine of Hippo & His Confession of Faith » Origins and History

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  • Didius Julianus › Who Was
  • Dido › Who Was
  • Saint Augustine of Hippo & His Confession of Faith › Who Was

Ancient civilizations › Historical places, and their characters

Didius Julianus › Who Was

Definition and Origins

by Donald L. Wasson
published on 23 September 2013
Didius Julianus (Panairjjde)
Didius Julianus was Roman emperor from March to June 193 CE. On March 28, 193 CE Roman Emperor Pertinax was assassinated by the Praetorian Guard, and like his predecessor Commodus, he left no apparent successor. Two possible claimants presented themselves to the Guard. These “protectors” of the imperial throne had vowed that no new emperor would be chosen without their approval and an “auction” ensued, following which, the throne was finally awarded to the highest bidder - Didius Julianus, a former commander, governor, and consul.


Marcus Didius Julianus was born on January 30, 133 CE to Quintas Petronius Didius Severus of Milan and Aemilia Clara. He was raised in the home of Marcus Aurelius ’s mother, Domitia Lucilla. The educational advantages he received there enabled him to rise through the imperial ranks and become a successful commander in Germany, the governor of Lower Germany, and, during the time of Emperor Pertinax, a senator and co-consul. Unfortunately, his career briefly stalled when he and several other commanders were recalled to Rome by Emperor Commodus, and he was forced to temporarily retire. Although no proof exists, it was suggested that he may have been part of the conspiracy to assassinate the fallen emperor.
With the death of Emperor Pertinax, Julianus decided to use his vast wealth to buy the throne, outbidding the prefect of Rome and Pertinax's father-in-law, Titus Flavius Suspicianus. To further secure his claim, he convinced the Guard that Titus might seek revenge for the death of his son-in-law. In his Roman History, Cassius Dio spoke of the auction, “Didius Julianus, at once an insatiable money-getter and wanton spendthrift …always eager for revolution and hence had been exiled by Commodus…when he heard of the death of Pertinax, hastily made his way to the camp, and, standing at the gate of the enclosure, made bid to the soldiers for the rule over Rome.”


In his The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon also wrote about the auction, “This infamous offer, the most insolent excess of military license, diffused as universal grief, shame and indignation throughout the city. It reached at length the ears of Didius Julianus.” Yet, according to Gibbon, it was not personal ego but his wife and daughter's suggestion that convinced him to pursue the throne. Gibbon added that as the Guard carried Julianus through the streets to the Senate, they paraded a man “whom they served and despised.” Herodian, in his History of the Roman Empire, spoke of Julianus's reception by the people of Rome. “No one, however, shouted the congratulations usually heard when emperors were accompanied by a formal escort; on the contrary, the people stood at a distance, shouting curses and reviling Julianus bitterly for using his wealth to purchase the throne.”


As with Pertinax, Julianus knew he needed to maintain the support of the Praetorian Guard to remain on the imperial throne - something he would be unable to do. It wasn't long before the new emperor had to admit that he was not as wealthy as he had claimed and that there was little if any money in the treasury. Unfortunately for Julianus, his purchase of the throne made him unpopular with both the Senate and people, and with the loss of the Guards' support, his days on the throne were numbered.He also fared no better when he eventually assumed his new responsibilities. According to Herodian, “He regarded his duties to the state as of no consequence and occupied his time in luxurious living and profligate practices.”
Roman Emperor Septimius Severus

Roman Emperor Septimius Severus

Almost immediately after Julianus assumed his new duties, three commanders voiced their intentions to secure the throne from him; all three stated he had been chosen by Pertinax as his successor. The first to declare his intent was Gaius Pescennius Niger, governor of Syria and the preferred choice of many in Rome. Although he was named emperor by his troops (he even selected Antioch as his capital), he chose to wait for his march on Rome until he could muster more support - he only had four legions at his disposal. Next came Decimus Clodius Albinus, governor of Britain, to declare his intentions;however, he did so with the support of only three legions. Lastly, there was Lucius Septimius Severus, governor of Pannonia Superior, a province on the Danube. He appeared to be the strongest of the three candidates with 16 legions - the entire Rhine/Danube army.


On April 9, 193 CE, with the full support of his army, Serverus declared himself emperor at Carnuntum. After gaining (or buying) the backing of Albinus, he marched southward to Rome. In desperation Emperor Julianus ordered the Guard to construct fortifications to defend the city against Severus, but they refused. Next, Julianus asked the Senate to name Severus as co-consul; they, too, refused. Gibbon wrote, “…in the invincible and rapid approach of the Pannonian legions, he saw his inevitable doom.” On June 1, 193 CE Julianus was sentenced to death by the Senate, and, while he had yet to enter the city, Severus was recognized as the new emperor. An assassin was sent to Julianus's home, and finding him alone, stabbed and beheaded him. The former emperor's last words were, “But what evil have I done. Whom have I killed?” His death would mark the end of the second emperor in the “Year of the Five Emperors.”
Unfortunately for Julianus and posterity, little is known of his accomplishments while on the throne. Most historians are restricted to comments on the manner in which he obtained power and the ignoble way he lost it.

Dido › Who Was

Definition and Origins

by Mark Cartwright
published on 29 June 2016
Dido, Carthaginian Tetradrachm (The British Museum)
Queen Dido (aka Elissa, from Elisha, or Alashiya, her Phoenician name) was a legendary Queen of Tyre in Phoenicia who was forced to flee the city with a loyal band of followers. Sailing west across the Mediterranean she founded the city of Carthage c. 813 BCE and later fell in love with the Trojan hero and founder of the Roman people Aeneas. The tale of Dido is most famously recounted in Virgil ’s Aeneid but she appeared in the works of many other ancient writers both before and after.


The earliest surviving mention of the founding myth of Carthage appears in the work of Timaeus of Taormina, a Greekhistorian (c. 350-260 BCE) whose original texts do not survive but which are referred to by later authors. Timaeus was the first to present the foundation of Carthage as occurring in either 814 or 813 BCE. An additional source on the historical Elissa is Josephus, the 1st century CE historian, who quotes Menandros of Ephesus ' list of 10th-9th century BCE Tyrian kings, which includes mention of an Elissa, sister of Pygmalion (Pumayyaton), who founded Carthage in the seventh year of that king's reign.
The most famous version of the Dido story, though, is found in Virgil's Aeneid. The 1st-century BCE Roman writer describes Dido as a daughter of Belus, the King of the Tyre in Phoenicia. We are told that her Phoenician name was Elissa but the Libyans gave her the new name Dido, meaning 'wanderer'. Virgil recounts that Dido's brother, Pygmalion, cheated his sister out of her inheritance and then, in order to keep the throne of Tyre, killed Dido's husband Sychaeus. In another version, Dido married Acherbas (Zakarbaal), her uncle and priest of Melqart (or Baal) who was similarly executed by Pygmalion to acquire his wealth. Dido then fled the city with a loyal following (which included the military commanders Bitias and Barcas) and a hoard of the king's gold to sail west and a new life.



Dido's first stopping point was Kition on Cyprus, where she picked up a priest of Astarte after promising him that he and his descendants could be the High Priest at their new colony. A group of 80 young women, prostituted there in the name of Astarte, were taken along too, and the whole group sailed for North Africa where they founded their new city. Initially, the colonists were helped by the nearby Phoenician colony of Utica, and the local Libyan people (led by King Hiarbas) were willing to trade with them and offered to rent a piece of suitable land. The condition was that they could only have the area of land covered by an ox-hide. The resourceful Dido had the hide cut into very fine strips and with these encircled a hill which, in time, became the city's citadel and known as Byrsa Hill after the Greek word for ox-hide.
The name of this new settlement was Qart-hadasht (New Town or Capital), and its location on a strategically advantageous position on a large peninsula of the North African coast was selected to offer a useful stopping point for Phoenician maritime traders who sailed from one end of the Mediterranean to the other.
Archaeological finds of Greek pottery and the remains of housing dating to the mid-8th century BCE suggest already the presence of a large settlement and so confirm at least the possibility of the traditional founding date. Phoenician cities had already founded colonies around the Mediterranean, and so Carthage was by no means the first, but in a relatively short time, it would become the most important, go on to found its own colonies and even eclipse Phoenicia as the most powerful trading centre of the time. Carthage's prosperity was based not only on its location on trade routes but it also benefitted from an excellent harbour and control of fertile agricultural land. In honour of their founder Carthage minted coins from the 5th century BCE, and some have identified the female head with Phrygian cap seen on many of them as representing Dido. Some Roman writers suggest that Dido was deified, but there is no archaeological evidence from the Carthaginians themselves that this was so.
The Meeting of Dido and Aeneas

The Meeting of Dido and Aeneas


Roman writers, perhaps starting with the 3rd century BCE poet Naevius in his Bellum Poenicum, have Dido meet the Trojan hero Aeneas, who would found his own great city: Rome. In the myth of Rome's founding father, Aeneas came to Italy after the destruction of Troy at the end of Trojan War. This was four centuries prior to the founding of Carthage, so it is, therefore, chronologically impossible the two did meet if indeed they ever existed anyway. Virgil then follows with his own take on the myth in his Aeneid in what has become the classic version of the story. He informs us that Aeneas is blown off course in a storm but is directed by Venus to land at Carthage. Dido had been resisting a long line of suitors ever since her husband was murdered back in Carthage, but when she was struck by Cupid's arrow at the command of Venus, she fell in love with the hero. Once, separated from their entourage in a storm, the two make love in a cave. Unfortunately, the romance is short-lived for Mercury, sent by Jupiter, then prompts Aeneas to leave his love and continue the voyage which will fulfil his destiny as Rome's founder. When the Trojan resists Dido's calls to stay and sails away, it is then that the queen throws herself on a funeral pyre, but not before she pronounces a terrible curse on the Trojans, thus explaining the inevitability of the brutal Punic Wars between Carthage and Rome:
Let there be no love between our peoples and no treaties. Arise from my dead bones, O my unknown avenger, and harry the race of Dardanus with fire and sword wherever they may settle, now and in the future, whenever our strength allows it. I pray that we may stand opposed, shore against shore, sea against sea and sword against sword. Let there be war between the nations and between their sons for ever. (Bk. IV: 622-9)
According to another tradition, earlier than Virgil, Dido was forced to marry the Libyan king Hiarbas. To avoid this arrangement Dido built a large fire as if she were about to make an offering but then threw herself into the flames. It is also interesting to note that in Virgil's version Dido is given a sympathetic portrayal and this perhaps reflects the Augustan age when Carthage, no longer the hated enemy of previous centuries, was being rehabilitated into the Roman Empire.
Carthage during the Punic Wars

Carthage during the Punic Wars


The legend of Dido became popular with later writers such as Ovid (43 BCE – 17 CE), Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 240 CE), the 14th-century authors Petrarch and Chaucer, and she appears as a central figure in the operas of Purcell ( Dido and Aeneas ) and Berlioz ( Les Troyennes ) amongst others. A female leader was exceptionally rare in ancient reality and mythology, and so Dido has captured the imagination for millennia. As the historian D. Hoyos summarises, 'The romantic and dramatic story of Elissa quite possibly rests on a basic historical reality, even if efforts to treat all its details as sober fact should be avoided' (12).This position is supported by MEAubet, 'there are too many coincidences between the eastern and the classical sources to allow us to think that the story of Elissa had no historical basis' (215).

Saint Augustine of Hippo & His Confession of Faith › Who Was

Ancient Civilizations

by John S. Knox
published on 18 July 2016
St. Augustine

St. Augustine

In Augustine's Confessions, he presents an autobiographical account of his life leading up to his conversion to Christianityand discusses the aftermath of that monumental spiritual event. Throughout Confessions, Augustine offers honest and vulnerable rumination on his wayward past and former worldly attitudes, and poignantly and painstakingly traces his path to reconciliation with his Divine Creator.


Although Augustine has become "the most prominent and most widely studied author" in Western Christianity, he did not begin his life as a saint—quite the opposite (Drobner, 17-33). He grew up in a typical Roman family of the day. His father, Patrick, was not a Christian, but his mother, Monica, was and prayed unceasingly for his conversion. Augustine's depiction of himself is uncomplimentary, to say the least. He offers a portrayal of a pagan, self-centered wanderer who, although knowing morally what he should do, arrogantly chose to blaze a path of selfishness and hedonism. Augustine states of his childhood, "I disobeyed, not because I had chosen better, but through sheer love of play" (Book 1, ch. 10). Lying, stealing, and anger were all too common in his life at that time.


Growing older, Augustine became more cognizant of God and his own personal self-destructive ways, but still enjoyed the cravings of his body too much to cease—the classic battle between mind and flesh. As Augustine describes it, "The first course delighted and convinced my mind, the second delighted my body and held it in bondage" (Book 8, ch. 5). He truly was a self–conflicted man, wanting to be healed but enjoying his carnal activity too much to stop; he recollected thinking, "Give me chastity and continence, but not just yet" (Book 8, ch. 7).
As an adult, Augustine became a professor of Rhetoric and Philosophy and rose to the top of Roman academic circles despite being disappointed with the prosaic Roman school system that he found to be predictable and vacuous. Yearning for greater things, he moved closer to Roman political life and was appointed the Royal Court teacher, perhaps one of the most sought out positions in the Roman Empire for its social advantages. Still, Augustine laments, he felt dissatisfied with life. "I held my heart back from positively accepting anything, since I was afraid of another fall, and in this condition of suspense I was being all the more killed" (Book 6, ch. 4).


Eventually, Augustine admits the force of God's love proved too much for him to ignore and he was overwhelmed by his conscience's awareness of the need for change. Augustine states, "When my most searching scrutiny had drawn up all my vileness from the secret depths of my soul and heaped it in my heart's sight, a mighty storm arose in me, bringing a mighty rain of tears" (Book 8, ch. 12). Despite all his great accolades and social victories, he still felt an emptiness inside. He writes, "I recall how miserable I was, and how one day [God] brought me to a realization of my miserable state" (Book 6, ch. 6).
Seeking spiritual fulfillment, Augustine began to dabble in religious groups, first becoming involved with the Manichean sect, a Persian religious movement started by Manes (216–276 CE) that syncretized Christianity, Judaism, Gnosticism, and Paganism. After nine years with them, Augustine left the Manicheans and joined the Neo-Platonists, whose philosophy was based on the dualistic teachings of Plato (428/427–348/347 BCE) and altered by Plotinus (204–270 CE), but also incorporated mystical monotheism, the existence of transcendent One, and hundreds of intermediate gods, angels, and demons into its doctrine. Neither group brought peace to Augustine's soul, though. He writes, "For those that find their joy outside them easily fall into the emptiness and are spilled out upon the things that are seen and the things of time, and in their starved minds lick shadows" (Book 9, ch. 4).


Propitiously, during a teaching appointment in Milan, Augustine had the opportunity to hear and meet with Saint Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, whose teachings would change Augustine's life forever. Ambrose was an eloquent speaker who courageously challenged the heresies and heretics of the day—Arianism, Paganism, and Emperor Valentinian. Moreover, Ambrose, too, was a Roman citizen, prominent in the public sphere, a prolific writer and preacher with a clear purpose and powerful message of God's righteous love for humanity, which attracted a spiritually–thirsty Augustine. As Paulgaard concludes, "Bishop Ambrose of Milan had a major influence on Augustine's life as he journeyed from heresy to orthodoxy and from sexual immorality to celibacy."
St. Ambrose

St. Ambrose

Shortly thereafter, as detailed in Confessions, Augustine describes a supernatural occurrence that he experienced in a villa garden wherein he heard a child's voice telling him to "Tolle lege, tolle lege" —"Take up and read, take up and read" (Book 8, ch. 12). Picking up a bible laying near him, what Augustine discovered seemed to point directly to his own personal vices and weaknesses. The scriptural passage from the Epistle to the Romans states, "Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof" (Romans 13:3).
For Augustine, this metaphysical event indicated a clear command from God to cease the rationalization and excuses for his immorality and chaotic spiritual life, and to submit to the Truth of God. He writes, "You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you" (Book 1, ch. 1). Augustine's understanding of himself and worldly treasures changed, dramatically, and he submitted to this new found reality—relinquishing all his will, his ego, and his life, to God.
From that moment on, Augustine began a new path of spiritual commitment by being first baptized by St. Ambrose, and then by embracing a secluded monastic lifestyle; however, the quiet life would not be allowed for Augustine whose gifts of rhetoric and theological understanding were too much in demand by the struggling Christian community. Olson writes,
In 391, Augustine was virtually forced to receive ordination by the Christian congregation in Hippo... Then when the elderly bishop of Hippo desired a co-bishop, Augustine was once-again pressed into service... During his tenure, he became deeply embroiled in the affairs of church life and politics and gained a reputation as one of Christendom's wisest leaders. (259-260)
Despite a past of hedonistic exploitation of the world, Augustine's future would be one of ministry and unselfish service to the world.
Augustine of Hippo

Augustine of Hippo


Although St. Augustine is best known for his taxonomy and systemization of Christian faith and doctrine, his journey from disbelief to spiritual reconciliation cannot and should not be understated or ignored. In Confessions, Augustine showed that it was/is proper and beneficial to discuss personal struggles, to be an honest seeker, because, according to Augustine, everyone is on a spiritual journey through life.
St. Augustine sums up his understanding of the frailty of humanity and the greatness of God when he concludes,
No one knows what he himself is made of, except his own spirit within him, yet there is still some part of him which remains hidden even from his own spirit; but you, Lord, know everything about a human being because you have made him... Let me, then, confess what I know about myself, and confess too what I do not know, because what I know of myself I know only because you shed light on me, and what I do not know I shall remain ignorant about until my darkness becomes like bright noon before your face. (Book 10, ch. 5)


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