Kicking away the dirt hiding Roman history and finding what lies beneath...have we got the age of Rome all wrong?
Sunday 23 September 2012
Some people have all the luck
Today's Birthday boy
On this day in 63BC Gaius Octavius Thurinus was born. Big deal, you say? Never heard of him? You probably have, but like the modern era of celebrities inventing new names and personalities for themselves, he changed his name twice to buy some more chutzpah from the public. So who was he? A musician? An actor? Well, like most celebrities, he was a nobody. He was born the great nephew of a struggling Senator who had hocked himself to the eyeballs and looked like he was going to send his entire family to the dosshouse for the rest of the Roman age. That was until the family hit pay dirt. His debt stricken great uncle realised he could make some quick cash invading Gaul, and, well, the rest is history. Still, despite his great uncle's lucky streak, Gaius Thurinus would have stayed a nobody if things had gone a little differently on the morning of March 15th, 44BC. Luckily for our birthday boy, the old duffer's good run ran out at the back door of a theatre and Rome suddenly had a murder on its hands. That, and Rome's biggest fortune had to quickly find itself a worthy heir. Enter our 19-year old Gaius Thurinus...off spending his year of officer training studying Greek literature in distant Illyricum (modern day Albania). Plucked from obscurity to handle a mind boggling amount of money - starting with 700 million sesterces ($17.5 billion) that had been squirrelled away for a war on Parthia, he quickly adopted his great uncle's name - Gaius Julius Caesar - and declared war on the old man's murderers. Long story short, he won. Then he sorted out everyone else who might have had a claim on this great uncle's legacy, so that by 30BC his 39-year-old great aunt, great uncle's only son and aunty's new lover - great uncle's second cousin - had all succumbed to very untimely deaths. After that, everything must have seemed pretty dull, so with nothing else to do, he got the Senate to bestow him yet another name - Augustus - plus the title of Rome's first Emperor and then the month Sextilius renamed as a little nod to his very long lucky streak. Not bad for a nobody from a family that nearly ended up in poverty. You probably wouldn't read about it.