Locusta the Poisoner—Ancient Rome’s Deadliest Assassin,

Perhaps the most feared woman in the ancient world, Locusta was a first century AD assassin who offered her services to wealthy and powerful Roman patricians, politicians, and military leaders.  So infamous were her deeds that her career was detailed by Juvenal, Seutonius, Cassius Dio, and Tacitus.  Born in Gaul (modern day France) Locusta was raised by her mother to be an herbalist, a healer who specialized in using medicinal plants and herbs. However, her career abruptly changed when she moved to Rome in search for greater opportunities, she found that her skills could put to much more lucrative uses killing people rather than healing.  Rome was rife with political intrigue, and skilled assassins were in high demand.

Locusta intensely studied poisonous plants, becoming a “master poisoner” in short time.  She knew of scores of different poisons; poisons that could bring about a heart attack, poisons that could cause a stroke, poisons that affected the nervous system, even poisons that would make it seem like the victim had died of something completely natural, such as the flu or plague.  For several years, Locusta hired out her services to wealthy patrician families and powerful politicians, or whoever was the highest bidder. In 54 AD Locusta was approached by Agrippina, wife of Emperor Claudius, with perhaps the biggest and most important job of her career; to assassinate the Emperor himself.  Agrippina wanted her son from another marriage to be Emperor, and thus Claudius had to go.  On October 13th, Locusta infiltrated Claudius’ palace, distracting a guard by placing a laxative in his drink.  She then tainted a dish of mushrooms, Claudius’ favorite dish, with strychnine.  Claudius consumed the poisoned mushrooms.  A few hours later, he began suffering strong stomach cramps, then he began foaming at the mouth and convulsing. Agrippina appeared to attempt to force Claudius to vomit the poison by sticking a feather down his throat.  Of course, the feather was also poisoned by Locusta with a potent toxin.  Emperor Claudius died a short time later.

When Nero came to throne, he made Locusta his personal assassin.  Among another of her famous hits was the poisoning of his brother, Britannicus, whom he felt threatened his rule.  Between 55 and 68 AD, Locusta was responsible for removing a number of Nero’s rivals and enemies.  Of course, Nero was not a popular Emperor, and after the burning of Rome he was stripped of his titles and declared an enemy of the state by the senate.  After Nero’s suicide Rome fell into a chaotic civil war as Roman generals and warlords fought for control over the empire.  One of these generals, a short reigning Emperor named Galba, despised Locusta because of her former status as Nero’s chief assassin.  On January 15th, 69 AD, Locusta was dragged from her home into the streets of Rome, and was publicly executed.

cosmofex  asked:

There's something i've been curious about: How do you come up with the magic-scientific terminology? Because I have previously looked up "claudication" and it turns out it's a medical term for leg cramps which, unless i'm missing steps in the logic chain, doesn't lead to "worldgate" easily. Is it just what sounds nice and sciency or is it based on actual terminology? (also confusing is online dictionaries "use in a sentence" using YW quotes, which don't match meanings, so it's not super helpful)

I really have to find a little time in the next little while to get the new installation of the Errantry Concordance kickstarted. (The old one had to be removed because it was constantly under attack by hackbots of various kinds trying to use it to house links to counterfeit Viagra.) (sigh)

Anyway: Most wizardly terminology in the YW universe is derived either from (broadly) scientific terminology or (more narrowly) medical terminology twisted slightly out of shape and/or subverted to my own purposes. Almost all terms are derived from Latin or Greek roots and assembled in ways consistent with the ways in which scientific terms are formed. (I took Latin in high school because I knew it to be a primary language of science and felt sure I’d be wanting it in college. The Greek came along with that more as a gateway into the ancient classics than anything else, but it too gets used routinely in scientific terminology.) I prefer to use genuine scientific concepts and terms to generate wizardly ones, because (a) I enjoy it and (b) I am lazy. Why waste time and energy making terms up when so many real ones are  lying around just waiting to be used? …But also: wizardly terms constructed using valid scientific usage sound more real. And the more truth you add to a lie, the stronger it gets. :)

Re claudication: The word goes back, originally, to the Latin claudo- root that means to shut or block something up. It also later came to mean a limp or lameness secondary to what was seen in ancient times as a blockage of local blood supply. This is also where the Emperor Claudius got his common appellation, by the way: Claudius is a second name, almost more a nickname than anything else – and too easily translatable as “Gimpy”. He limped from childhood, secondary to a dystonic / movement disorder from which he suffered his whole life and which caused some members of his family (and the public in general) to think of him, and treat him, as if he was mentally deficient – which he definitely was not. (The forensic medical people are still arguing over what was responsible for this disorder: possibly cerebral palsy or a childhood neurological insult via something like infectious encephalitis. See this article for what look like the best conjectures so far.)

…Whatever: where were we? When I was studying nursing, the term claudication was in general use to describe a narrowing or constriction of blood vessels (up to the point of obstruction, anyway, at which point other terminology cuts in). So when I started thinking about the concept of giving wizards a little portable pocket in spacetime, the word “claudication” naturally suggested itself, and “temporospatial” seemed an unavoidable add-on.

Therefore the entry in the Concordance defines claudication as:

A pinching or obstruction in some structure or medium through which another medium is normally meant to pass or flow freely. In wizardly usage, a constriction – normally artificial, but occasionally natural – in the structure of space, or (in the case of temporospatial claudications) of spacetime.

The most frequent casual usage for the term describes a small, “pinched-off” volume of space. Since space is already amenable to this kind of pinching (a much gentler version of which manifests itself as gravity), many wizards use one of these to keep personal belongings in. A claudication can be “hooked to” or associated with a specific mass – usually the wizard’s own body – so that it permanently follows the wizard around and is always within reach.

The definition for temporospatial claudication is a bit more specific:

Any pinching or constriction that affects both a volume of space and a segment of time or timeflow. Usually a temporospatial claudication is artificially induced, but there are occasional incidences of the effect in nature. (Black holes, for example, can sometimes have temporospatial claudications associated with them.)

The term is also used to describe a small pinched-off volume of spacetime kept for wizardly purposes. (SYWTBAW, et al)

So there you have it. Thanks for asking!

A heart-shaped box of chocolate is a sign of love, a symbol — and often tool — of romance, and an intrinsic part of Valentine’s Day.

From at least the time of the Aztecs, chocolate has been seen as an aphrodisiac. So it’s reasonable to assume that it has been connected to love’s dedicated day of celebration for many centuries. But, that isn’t the case.

The roots of Valentine’s Day are ancient but far from clear, and likely originated in the pagan Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia. Those Romans, though, exchanged not candies but whippings — part of a complicated fertility ritual that began with sacrificing a goat and dog.

This morphed into a tamer Christian feast day in A.D. 496, when Pope Gelasius I commemorated a martyred saint, Valentine. Or saints. In the third century, the Roman emperor Claudius II executed two men named Valentine on Feb. 14th, albeit in different years.

How Chocolate Became A Sweet (But Not So Innocent) Consort To Valentine’s Day

Illustration: Alex Reynold/NPR


The Roman Emperor

The roll of Emperors spans more than 500 years of Roman History. All of those listed below bore the title; ten of the most famous are pictured above. The list has been simpilfied by excluding certain usurpers, claimants and co-emperors of little importance. The emperors’ reigns varies enormously. The Golden Age of Augustus lasted 41 years, and Theodosius II served for 42 years; but in the troubled years of 68-69 AD, Galba, Otho and Vitellius averaged less than six months on the throne. By the end of the 4th Century, during the reign of Honorius, the empire had been permanently divided, with separate rulers for the West, in Rome, and for the East, in Constantinople. 


October 13th 54 AD: Claudius dies

On this day in 54 AD, the Roman Emperor Claudius died in Rome aged 63. Claudius was the fourth emperor after the Empire was consolidated by the first emperor Augustus. Tiberius, the second emperor, was Claudius’s uncle, and the young Claudius came to power after Tiberius’s successor, the insane Caligula, was assassinated by his own guard. Claudius proved a much more moderate and even-tempered leader than his predecessor, despite having previously been excluded from power due to his health problems. The new emperor had a strained relationship with the Roman Senate, who believed they did not have enough power under Claudius. However, the fourth emperor is responsible for several notable achievements, perhaps most importantly the Roman conquest of Britain, which greatly added to the territorial power of the Roman Empire. After his wife Messallina was executed for plotting against him, Claudius married his niece Agrippina. However, Agrippina had ambitions and supporters of her own, and feared Claudius would name his own son as his heir rather than her son Nero. Emperor Claudius died the day after holding a sumptuous banquet, and Roman opinion believed he was poisoned by Agrippina herself in order to secure her son’s succession. She was successful, and Nero became Roman Emperor, thus beginning the brutal rule of one of Rome’s most infamous emperors.

Everything, members of the senate, which is now considered to be of the highest antiquity was once new.
—  Claudius, Roman emperor from 41-54 AD, who drew from past historical events in Roman history to justify his actions in excepting Gauls into the senate in 48 AD. Many senators saw this as an affront to Italian pride and claimed that it was an insult to Italians to draw from other provinces, however close to Rome, in order to fill the ranks of the senate.

Coin featuring Roman emperor Nero (L) and his mother Agrippina. Agrippina poisoned her husband (and emperor) Claudius in order to make her 16-year-old son (from a previous marriage) emperor. Despite the closeness of their appearances on the coin, she was in turn murdered by Nero – he first arranged a “boating accident” for her which failed, so he had her stabbed to death.  

anonymous asked:

Hi! I was reading about Claudius, which really means crippled in latin, and I remembered that the emperor Claudius had some kind of infermity, which he possibly faked all along. He was the mad emperor's UNCLE, and the only male relative to survive the emperor's killing spree thanks to him playing the fool. He was thought to be mental therefore harmless; as an emperor he was pretty competent though. Are these amazing coincidences? Also Caligula's madness is quite similar to Hamlet's in kind

Hello! I covered a little bit of the history of the Roman emperor Claudius in this post, and you’re right. The fact that he married his brother’s widow helps with the parallels too.

I don’t think it’s just coincidence. Given the grammar school education of the time, it’s very likely that Shakespeare had a lot of knowledge of Roman history, and it’s quite possible that the name ‘Claudius’ suggested itself to him because of the similarities between that story and the Amleth story he got from Belleforest. I wouldn’t go as far as to suggest that the play draws on the story of emperor Claudius, but it could very well be a reference and an indication of thematic correlation.

Still, the fact that Claudius’ name is never mentioned in the play does imply that it’s not an allusion that Shakespeare chooses to make explicit. Since the audience has no way of knowing his name it’s clearly not as important to the meaning of the play as it could be. 

Still interesting though.

Emperor Claudius applied his scholarly interests to reforming the Latin alphabet. He introduced three new letters, known as the “Claudian letter” whose purpose was to represent sounds in the Latin alphabet which did not have a specific letter of their own. The anisigma, like a backwards C, replaced BS and PS. The digamma, Ⅎ, a turned F denoted the consonant v. (The v we use today, then denoted the vowel u.) The sonus medius, Ⱶ, marked the sound which fell between a u and an i before a labial consonant. For instance, maximus would now be written maxⱵmus. Following Cladius’ death, however, his carefully thought-out reforms fell into disuse. Even though they were entirely non-political.

More drawings !!

This time it’s a more realistic version of Claudius and the so called “Antonia” (aka the Malta-Leptis Typus). Both are a major part of my upcoming disseratation, so I have been thinking about them a lot lately.

Again my phone camera doesn’t really show the quality. :/


January 24th 41 AD: Caligula killed

On this day in 41 AD, the Roman Emperor Caligula was assassinated by his guard in Rome. Born in Italy in 12 AD as Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus, he is today known by his nickname Caligula (‘Little Boot’) which Roman soldiers on the German frontier called him when he was a young boy because of his footwear. As great-grandson of the first Emperor Augustus the young Caligula was born with imperial blood. After his parents were killed by imperial forces he was adopted by his great uncle Emperor Tiberius and eventually became the third emperor upon Tiberius’s death in 37 AD. With the support of the army he quickly moved to eradicate any challenges to his reign, having Tiberius’s grandson and rival heir executed. As emperor, Caligula lavished Rome with grand games and building projects but soon became despised for his increasing megalomania and apparent insanity that seems to have stemmed from an illness early in his reign. He supposedly tried to humiliate the Senate by making his favourite horse Incitatus a senator. Caligula also reversed previous imperial trend by actively encouraging worship of himself as a god. For example he frequently dressed up as the Roman gods at public games and decreed statues of him should be built in temples. His reign was also brutal in its vicious treason trials and frequent executions of dissenters; he even made it a capital offence to mention a goat in the presence of the very hairy Caligula. Emperor Caligula also had imperial aspirations, and undertook military campaigns in Germany and planned one to Britain. In 41 AD, after a four year reign, the increasingly unpopular Caligula was assassinated aged 29 by his own bodyguards. He was succeeded by his uncle Claudius, who proved a much more even tempered and moderate leader.


If you’re very good, tomorrow night I’ll tell you the story of Emperor Claudius, who was betrayed by those closest to him. By his own blood. They whispered in dark corners and went out late at night and conspired and conspired… But Emperor Claudius knew they were up to something. He knew they were busy little bees. And one night he sat down with one of them and he looked at her and he said, “Tell me what you’ve been doing, busy little bee, or I shall strike down those dearest to you. You shall watch as I bathe in their blood.”