Saturday, April 6, 2019

New Article: The Tale Of Breeches-Aud

The story of Breeches-Aud is one of the more memorable tales in the Icelandic Laxdæla saga, a 13th-century book filled with strong female characters that were loosely inspired by women said to have lived in the 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries. Although the exploits of many people described in the sagas were embellished or even invented, the core details (genealogy, settlement locations, poetic evidence etc.) were deemed to have enough truth that later Medieval Icelanders, such as the chieftain Snorri Sturluson (c. 1179-1241), proudly and confidently traced their ancestry back to characters in the sagas. Whether or not the sagas were histories with creative license, historical fictions or pure folklore, they were feats of impressive storytelling and, as Icelandic stories go, the tale of Breeches-Aud was one of the more unique narratives.

Read this outrageously intertaining story of a tough Icelandic woman, HERE.

New Article: The Lifelong Payments Of Tribute By King Æthelred The Unready To The Danes

Æthelred the Unready became king of England in 978, following the assassination of his brother, King Edward the Martyr. Æthelred was reportedly only ten years old when he ascended to the throne, and his epithet, Unready (Unraed), actually meant “bad counsel,” as the young king’s regent, advisors and vassals gave him little sound support during his life. Yet, the modern definition of unready also fits King Æthelred, for when a relentless wave of Viking activity began plaguing England in 980, the king and the kingdom were caught totally unprepared.

Continue reading about the enormous sums that Æthelred the Unready paid to the Vikings, HERE.

New Article: 10 More Fun Viking-Age Names And The Stories Of The People They Belonged To

The heyday of the Viking age occurred between the eighth and eleventh centuries. Yet, some Scandinavian noblemen continued to embark on Viking-like activities well into the twelfth century. Jarl Rognvald Kali of Orkney (r. 1137-1158) was one such nobleman and he ironically was said to have gone raiding in the Mediterranean while on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The Viking Age is a well-documented period, with sources from multiple sides and viewpoints. Viking Age kings wrote about their accomplishments on stone monuments, and historians such as the Icelandic Snorri Sturluson (c. 1179-1241) and the Danish Saxo Grammaticus (c. 12th-13th century) later narrated events from the perspective of Norway and Denmark. There are also substantial sources from the regions attacked by Vikings, such as chroniclers based in the British Isles and France. With such a wealth of information, much is known about the key figures from the Viking Age and their exploits during that chaotic time. Yet, Viking Age Scandinavians did not excel at only daring raids and bold seamanship—they also had some of the most creative names in all of Europe. We previously published an article listing ten fun and unique names from the Viking Age, yet that was barely scratching the surface. Here are ten more fun names and a brief summary of their lives in the Viking Age.

Check out our new and improved list of extra Viking Age names, HERE.

New Biography: The Flamboyant Tale Of King Liu Duan Of Jiaoxi

Emperor Jing (r. 157-141 BCE) and the concubine Lady Cheng had three sons named Liu Yu, Liu Fei and Liu Duan. All three brothers were quickly appointed as kings after their father’s ascendance to the throne. Liu Yu and Liu Fei were given kingdoms in 155 BCE and Liu Duan followed close behind with his appointment as the King of Jiaoxi in 154 BCE. Lady Cheng’s sons were generally well behaved when it came to respecting the authority of the emperors—they never rebelled and they had largely tranquil reigns. Liu Yu and Liu Fei both died after twenty-five or twenty-six years of rule, which had been tame and peacefully absent of drama. Liu Duan, however, who lived to rule twice as long as his brothers, quickly became the oddball of the family.
Liu Duan set up his regime in Jiaoxi like any other king. He hired an entourage of ministers and attendants to help govern his kingdom, and he also took in several concubines who would hopefully provide him with an heir to the kingdom. Yet, Liu Duan and his ministers quickly began to feud. The main point of dissent, according to Han historian Sima Qian (c. 145-90 BCE), was the relationship between the king and his concubines—or lack thereof. Apparently, Liu Duan was strictly homosexual and used every trick in the book to avoid time with his palace women. His favorite ploy was to plead illness, a tactic that allowed him to escape his concubines for months at a time.
Continue reading about the interesting life of King Liu Duan, HERE.

New Article: The Disturbing Myth Of The Horatii And The Curiatii

According to tradition, the kingdom of Rome began in the mid 8th century BCE. Despite its centuries of existence, Greek scholars did not start taking serious interest in Rome until the 4th and especially the 3rd century BCE, by which time Rome had become the undisputed dominant power in Italy and began clashing with its Mediterranean rival, Carthage. The Romans, themselves, apparently never produced a historian until around 200 BCE, around which time Senator Quintus Fabius Pictor began writing the first official native Roman historical works. Unfortunately, by the time Pictor began writing, much of Rome’s written records were likely destroyed in the Gallic sack of Rome in the early 4th century BCE, and the surviving oral history about Rome’s founding would have been incredibly corrupted after untold generations of retellings. Therefore, when a Roman scholar such as Livy (c. 59 BCE-17 CE) set out to tell the story of the founding of Rome, he had to work with dubious documentation, such as historic names without historical context, and folkloric tales that were often adapted to the structure of preexistent stories of Greek mythology.
The tragic and disturbing tale of the Horatii and the Curiatii is one of the myths that Rome created as an explanation as to how Rome expanded its influence over the nearby community of Alba Longa. Historically, Alba Longa is believed to have been in existence well before 1,000 BCE and was a powerful city in Italy until the 7th century BCE, when it was presumably challenged by Rome and ultimately destroyed around 600 BCE. While we will never know specific details of the conflict between Rome and Alba Longa, writers such as Livy preserved the conflict, albeit in a dramatic and embellished fashion, within their works on the folklore of early Rome.
Continue reading about the disturbing and tragic tale of the Horatii and the Curiatii, HERE.

New Article: The Tale of Gonzalo Guerrero, The Conquistador Adopted Into Mayan Society

A large canoe appeared before Hernán Cortés at Cozumel. Seven people disembarked from the canoe, and the Conquistadors, after some double-takes and closer inspections, realized that one of the seven new arrivals was Spanish. Bernal Díaz described the man’s state: “He wore a very ragged old cloak, and a tattered loincloth to cover his private parts; and in his cloak was tied an object which proved to be a very old prayer-book” (The Conquest of New Spain, chapter 29). Upon reaching the Conquistadors, the man loudly exclaimed in Spanish a prayer to God and “the blessed Mary of Seville,” which convinced Cortés and the explorers that the man was truly a Spaniard.
After giving the man new clothes, Hernán Cortés debriefed him for information. The man claimed that he was a priest named Jeronimo de Aguilar and that, in 1511, his ship had run aground on a sandbar or shallow water somewhere between the colony of Darién, Panama, and Hispaniola. Aguilar stated that he and seventeen other people on the shipwrecked vessel loaded themselves into a rowboat and attempted to paddle to Cuba or Jamaica. Yet, storms and strong currents forced the small boat to a Yucatan beach, where a local Mayan chieftain captured the stranded Spaniards. Most of the captives reportedly suffered horrible fates. Some were said to have been killed in ritual sacrifice, and others were worked to death as laborers. Yet, Aguilar and other survivors eventually escaped and found shelter in more lenient Mayan communities. By 1519, only two of the original eighteen captives were still alive—Jeronimo de Aguilar and another man by the name of Gonzalo Guerrero.
Continuew reading about the tale of Gonzalo Guerrero and the way Spain learned of his supposed existence, HERE.

New Biography: The Odd Lifestyle Of Zhou Ren

In China during the 2nd century BCE, there lived an interesting fellow named Zhou Ren. He hailed from the region now known as Jining, Shandong, and through unknown means he managed to ingratiate himself into the imperial court of Emperor Wen (r. 180-157 BCE). While Emperor Wen was still alive, Zhou Ren became a palace counselor and joined the retinue of the imperial heir apparent, the future Emperor Jing. Before the ascendance to the throne of Emperor Jing (r. 157-141 BCE), Zhou Ren became one of the new emperor’s closest and most intimate friends. Almost immediately after Jing became emperor, he appointed Zhou Ren to be the chief or chamberlain of all the palace attendants—a position Zhou Ren would hold for the remainder of the emperor’s reign.

Continue reading about the life (and odd wardrobe) of Zhou Ren, HERE.

New Biography: The Life Of St. Magnus And His Supernatural Revenge

Around 1098, the Norwegian crown placed Orkney under direct royal control, but Hakon Paulsson, the son of a formal jarl of the region, was appointed to govern Orkney within a year or two after Sigurd the Crusader became king of Norway in 1103. Jarl Hakon Paulsson was portrayed as a willing retainer of the Norwegian kings in the Orkneyinga saga. Yet, Hakon had a cousin called Magnus Erlendsson who was less enthusiastic about being ordered around. Instead of behaving like Hakon Paulsson and serving his Norwegian liege, Magnus Erlendsson fled to Scotland and found shelter with King Edgar (r. 1097-1107). Magnus’ stay in Scotland, however, was only temporary and he decided to return home not long after Jarl Hakon Paulsson was appointed as jarl of Orkney.
Like Hakon, Magnus Erlendsson’s father was also a former jarl of the islands and he intended to press his claim. Multiple jarls coexisting in Orkney was nothing new—according to the Orkneyinga saga, the practice of dividing the governance of Orkney into halves and thirds was at least a century old by that time. When Magnus Erlendsson arrived in Orkney, he had powerful friends that flocked to back his claim, and the island population seemed accepting to the idea of a second jarl. Hakon Paulsson was undoubtedly less than enthusiastic about sharing power with his cousin, but he was convinced to accept the Norwegian crown’s decision on whether Magnus Erlendsson should become a jarl. The claimant sailed to Norway around 1107 and, to Hakon’s disappointment, Magnus Erlendsson was recognized as a rightful jarl of Orkney.
Continue reading about the life, martyrdom and supernatural revenge of St. Magnus, HERE.

Friday, March 1, 2019

New Article: The Great Athenian Baiting Of Syracuse

(a trireme from a panel of the Temple of Isis, Pompeii; Naples Archaeological Museum, Italy, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

In 415 BCE, a fleet of over 130 Athenian and allied trireme ships, accompanied by more than a hundred supply boats, reached the eastern shores of Sicily on the pretext of combating the potential threat posed by Syracuse. While most Sicilian communities on that stretch of coastline wanted nothing to do with the Athenian expedition, the cities of Naxos and Catana allowed the foreigners into their walls, albeit the latter city took some coercion. After expelling the minority pro-Syracusan party in Catana, the Athenians built their camp there, reportedly housing more than 7,000 hoplites, skirmishers and some cavalry in or around the premises.

At least one prominent member of the pro-Syracusan party managed to stay behind in Catana. The unnamed man began taking notes about the Athenian forces, such as repetitious schedules, the locations of armories and even the positioning of their sleeping quarters. After memorizing such details, the man departed from Catana and rushed to Syracuse. As the refugee was a well-known member of the downfallen pro-Syracusan party in Catana, the contacts that he had in Syracuse vouched for his loyalty, and the military leaders of the city took his words with all seriousness. Once allowed to speak, he vividly described to the Syracusans the layout of the Athenian camp, as well as their daily routine. He claimed that the camp became especially lazy at night and that the Athenian warriors would leave their weapons outside the city walls while they slept without their armor in makeshift barracks within Catana. In addition to this, the informant also swore that there was still a spirited pro-Syracuse core of the population in Catana that would betray the Athenians if given a chance.
Read about the intriguing plot twists that occurred in this confrontation between Athens and Syracuse, HERE.

New Article: The Deadly Ghost Story Of Killer-Hrapp

(Scene of Gudrun and the ghost by Andreas Bloch (1860–1917), based on a passage from the Laxdæla saga, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

According to Icelandic folklore, a belligerent and bullying farmer named Hrapp immigrated to Iceland from the Hebrides sometime in the 10th century. He built a farmstead called Hrappsstadir, which was adjacent to lands owned by the leading settlers of the Laxardal region in Iceland. As portrayed in the Laxdæla saga, which was centered on that region of Iceland, Hrapp and the dominant chieftain of the region, Hoskuld, jostled for power and influence in their community. Hrapp never surpassed Hoskuld in importance, yet the stubborn farmer maintained a fierce reputation in Laxardal until the day he died. He came to be known as Killer-Hrapp, but whether he gained this name before or after he died is unclear. Whatever the case, the legend of Killer-Hrapp only continued to grow after his death.

Read about the chilling ghost story of Killer-Hrapp, HERE

New Article: The Costly Battle of Champoton

(17th-century depiction of the entrance of Hernan Cortés into the city of Tabasco, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

In early 1517, over one hundred Spaniards on three ships set out from Cuba to explore the Yucatan Peninsula. The expedition, led by Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba, was met with mixed receptions whenever it made landfall. In some regions, the natives attempted to ambush the explorers when they came ashore. Yet, in other locations, locals received the conquistadors in peace, allowing the foreigners to tour their communities for a limited amount of time while under supervision. All in all, the expedition must have seemed lackluster—they had suffered casualties in the ambush and had found very little gold. Nevertheless, they were still making progress, if only in mapping the shores of the Yucatan Peninsula and learning about the local population.
Around early April, 1517, the Spaniards had traveled a fair distance down the western shore of the Yucatan Peninsula. In a fateful decision, the explorers decided to anchor their ships and paddle their rowboats to shore in order to gather water from some freshwater pools that they could see further inland. There were approximately one hundred conquistadors that were healthy in the expedition at the time, and all of them went ashore with their weapons. When they reached the freshwater pools, they saw signs of life—there were some small buildings nearby, and enough corn was planted there to make the Spaniards believe it was a local plantation.
Read about the confrontation between the conquistadors and the natives on the farmland near Champoton, HERE.

New Biography: Liu Pengli—The Serial Killer King Of The Han Dynasty

(painting from the wall of Xu Xianxiu's Tomb of Northern Qi Dynasty, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

History has long hinted that absolute power can tempt even virtuous leaders into corruption. Yet, what happens when the one who gains power was never virtuous in the first place, but instead had murderous fantasies and psychopathic tendencies. This horrific second option reportedly became reality in China during the 2nd century BCE, when Liu Pengli became the king of Jidong. The Grand Historian, Sima Qian (c. 145-90 BCE), was a contemporary of the infamous king and wrote a short description of the dark events that supposedly occurred in Jidong during Pengli’s reign. The killer king was seemingly a figure that the Han Dynasty wanted to forget about, and consequently Sima Qian only devoted one measly paragraph to describing Pengli’s life. Nevertheless, the brief information that the Grand Historian packed into those few sentences was terrifying.

Read about this man's allegedly monstrous life, HERE.

New Biography: The Life And Paranoid Retirement Of Marquis Zhou Bo

Terracotta warrior, [Public Domain] via and Creative Commons

Zhou Bo was a decorated military officer and political official who served under the first emperors of the Han Dynasty. He came from humble origins, supposedly working as a silkworm rack manufacturer and a part-time musician in Pei. Yet, when widespread rebellions against the Qin Dynasty erupted in 209 BCE, Zhou Bo joined the rebels as a crossbowman and eventually became a follower of the distinguished rebel leader, Liu Bang.
Zhou Bo’s fortunes rose with the political ascendance of Liu Bang. Between 209 and 206 BCE, the rebels demolished the Qin Dynasty and began to restructure China into new kingdoms led by rebel leaders. The power vacuum allowed commoners like Liu Bang and Zhou Bo to rise to amazing heights. When Liu Bang became a marquis, he brought Zhou Bo along as a magistrate. In 206 BCE, when Liu Bang became the King of Han, Zhou Bo was appointed as one of his marquises. Finally, when the king of Han defeated his rebel rivals in 202 BCE and became known as Emperor Gaozu, the victorious emperor granted Zhou Bo even more land and bequeathed upon him the title of Marquis of Jiang.
Read about Zhou Bo's path to retirement and the odd incidents he experienced after stepping down from public life, HERE.

New Biography: King Irminfrid—A Thuringian Monarch Who Gained Sole Rule By Killing Two Brothers, Only To Lose His Kingdom To The Franks

Image of the Thuringian princess, Radegund, being brought before King Chlotar I, depicted in a medieval painting housed in the Bibliothèque municipale de Poitiers, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons

King Bisinus of Thuringia was a contemporary of Kings Childeric (r. 456-481 and Clovis (r. 481-511) of the Franks. In fact, according to The History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours (c. 539-594), Childeric’s wife (Clovis’ mother) was Bisinus’ ex who ran away from Thuringia to be with Childeric in the land of the Franks. Therefore, it is possible that King Clovis and the sons of Bisinus were half-brothers. Whatever the case, King Bisinus died about the same time as Clovis (d. 511), and in the aftermath of the two leaders’ deaths, the Frankish Empire and the Thuringian kingdom both were divided among the sons of the deceased rulers. After Clovis’ death, the empire of the Franks was ruled by his sons: Theuderic, Chlodomer, Childebert and Chlotar. Similarly, the Thuringian kingdom of the late King Bisinus was divided between his sons: Baderic, Irminfrid (or Hermanfrid) and Berthar.

Continue reading about the strange politics of the Thuringian brothers. HERE.

Monday, February 4, 2019

New Biography: The Daring Life of The Ancient Chinese Vigilante, Guo Xie

(Man sharpening a sword, hanging scroll (14th-17th century), color on silk, 170.7 x 111 cm. Located at the Palace Museum. [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

Guo Xie was a contemporary of Grand Historian Sima Qian (c. 145-90 BCE), and they both lived during the reign of Emperor Wu (r. 141-87 BCE). Although Guo Xie was not from a noble or wealthy background, he became one of the most famous men of his day. Sima Qian met the man in person and (unlike many other officials of the Han Dynasty) thought very highly of Guo Xie. With brutal honesty, Sima Qian described him as a short and ugly man, whose speech was not at all charismatic. Yet, through daring and vigilante justice, Guo Xie became a folk hero of the Chinese masses.

Continue reading about Guo Xie's remarkable life, HERE.

New Biography: The Bold Tale Of Jarl Einar Of Orkney

(Jomsvikings at the Battle of Svolder, by Nils Bergslien (1853–1928), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

Jarl Rognvald was one of the Norwegian chieftains that aligned with Harald Finehair (r. 860-940), the first king to spread his influence over all regions of Norway. The last vestige of Norwegian resistance against Harald’s rule was crushed in the Battle of Hafrsfjord, which was dated to have occurred in 872 by medieval historians, but now is believed to have taken place possibly as late as 900. Jarl Rognvald became one of Finehair’s staunchest and most powerful supporters, and the jarl was greatly rewarded for his loyalty. According to the Norwegian-Icelandic tradition, King Harald gave Rognvald control of North More, South More and Romsdal. In addition to that, Finehair also offered the jarl control of Orkney and Shetland after Rognvald’s son, Ivar, was killed during a campaign to claim those islands for Norway and to clear them of disloyal Vikings. Jarl Rognvald, however, was content with his land in Norway and decided to transfer control of Orkney and Shetland to his brother, Sigurd.

Although Sigurd proved to be a capable leader, even expanding his territory into parts of Scotland, he unfortunately died of an infection. Sigurd’s sickly son, Guthorm, inherited control of the islands, but he, too, died after only a year. When Guthorm died childless, control of Orkney passed back to Jarl Rognvald of More. Yet, once again, he did not want to keep the lands for himself. This time, Rognvald decided to give the islands to one of his sons. At the time, the jarl was said to have had five living sons—Hrolf the Walker (who would become a duke of Normandy), Thorir, Hallad, Hrollaug and Einar. Rognvald eventually chose Hallad to become the new ruler of the islands.

Hallad quickly became disillusioned in Orkney. Beleaguered by Viking raids and annoyed by local grumbling farmers, Hallad eventually grew homesick and returned to Norway, abandoning the islands. In his absence, Viking crews once more overran the region and the islands were virtually cut off from Norwegian control. According to the Orkneyinga Saga, two Vikings from Denmark took over the region. Their names were supposedly Thorir Tree-Beard and Kalf Scurvy, and they set up their main camp in Orkney.

When Rognvald heard that Hallad had abandoned Orkney and that the region was now occupied by Vikings—Danish Vikings no less—the jarl became enraged and called a meeting with his sons (excluding Hallad). At the time, Hrolf the Walker was apparently away on an expedition, so only Thorir, Hrollaug and Einar spoke with their father. Rognvald was said to have undervalued Einar (his mother was allegedly a slave), so the jarl ignored him and asked only Thorir and Hrollaug which of them wanted to reclaim Orkney from the Vikings. When both sons dryly stated that they would follow their father’s wishes, but did not show much enthusiasm for the prospect, Einar stepped forward and confidently volunteered himself for the task. 

Continue reading about the exciting life of Jarl Einar, HERE.

Monday, January 14, 2019

New Article: A Small Dog Reportedly Led To The Death Of Jarl Rognvald Brusason Of Orkney

(Image of Lancelot from BL Royal 14 E III, f. 146, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and

In the year 1030, Rognvald Brusason, son of Jarl Brusi of Orkney, fought on the side of King Olaf II of Norway (Saint Olaf) at the Battle of Stiklestad. Rognvald had first joined Olaf’s retinue as a political hostage, meant to keep his father in line, but he grew to become a well-respected and trusted member of the king’s court. Unfortunately, Saint Olaf was killed during the battle, but Rognvald was credited with saving the slain king’s half-brother, a fifteen-year-old future king who would come to be known as Harald the Ruthless. Rognvald, Harald and other supporters of the late Saint Olaf fled to the lands of the Kievan Rus. Harald went on to join the Varangian Guard in service to the emperors of Constantinople, while Rognvald became a respected mercenary working under the kings of Kiev. Magnus, a son of Saint Olaf, was also present with the Rus. When Magnus “the Good” was invited back to Norway to become king in 1035, Rognvald Brusason followed him back to the kingdom and became a close acquaintance of the king.
While staying in Kiev or upon his return to Norway, Rognvald discovered that his father, Brusi, had died and that Rognvald’s uncle, Jarl Thorfinn, had claimed Brusi’s land for himself. According to the Orkneyinga Saga, the Jarls of Orkney not only ruled their title’s namesake, but also administered Shetland and Caithness. Jarl Thorfinn was also reportedly expanding his influence into the Hebrides at that time. Once King Magnus was firmly back in control of Norway, Rognvald brought up the topic of Orkney and asked the king to help him claim his inheritance from Jarl Thorfinn. King Magnus agreed to help, naming Rognvald as a jarl of Orkney, as well giving him a small fleet of three ships.
Inheritance and division of rule had long been a tense issue in the jarldom of Orkney. During the reign of Saint Olaf, the jarldom had been divided into thirds. According to the Orkneyinga Saga, Jarl Brusi (Rognvald’s father) ruled one-third of the jarldom, Jarl Thorfinn ruled another third, and the last third belonged to the Norwegian crown. The kings of Norway, however, gave their own third to the jarl of their choice, making that chosen jarl of Orkney dominant in the region. Saint Olaf reportedly chose Jarl Brusi as his governor of the royal third in Orkney, yet Jarl Thorfinn was given control of the royal third when King Canute sent Saint Olaf into exile in 1028. In keeping with the tradition of Norwegian kings giving control of their third of Orkney to their favorite jarl, King Magnus sent Rognvald not only with the authority to claim his father’s land, but appointed him as administrator of the royal third, as well.
Read about how Rognvald fared against his uncle, and his about his odd death, HERE.

New Biography: The Promising Life And Bizarre Death Of King Edmund I Of England

(Miniature of King Edmund Iof England from the MS Royal 14 B VI, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

Edmund I was the half-brother and successor of King Æthelstan (r. 925-939). It was a tough act to follow, as Æthelstan was the first king of Wessex to claim authority over the whole of England. Yet, instead of being lost in his brother’s long shadow, Edmund I learned from Æthelstan’s success. He even played a leading role in one of the key events in Æthelstan’s reign—the Battle of Brunanburh (c. 937), in which the forces of England triumphed over a coalition of Britons from Strathclyde, Scandinavians from Ireland and York, as well as the army of Scotland, led personally by King Constantine II. King Æthelstan died only two years after that decisive battle, passing the baton of rule to his eighteen-year-old brother, Edmund.

Continue reading about the short, but admirable, reign of Edmund, HERE.

New Biography: The Wild Tale Of Asiaticus

(a resting gladiator painted by José Moreno Carbonero (1860–1942), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

The Vitellii were a family of vague origins that had risen to a position of prominence by the 1st century. Whether the Vitellii were founded by an ancient Latin king or a poor freedman cobbler (both origins were recorded by Suetonius), the family eventually joined the senatorial class and received distinguished government and military appointments. One such high-status member of the Vitellii family, named Lucius, married a noblewoman by the name of Sestilia, and from their union was born Aulus Vitellius, a future emperor of Rome. By the time of Vitellius’ birth in year 12, his family had become considerably wealthy. The family fortune allowed Aulus Vitellius to enjoy chariot races and dicing with wild abandon—these pastimes would get him into the good graces of Caligula (r. 37-41), Claudius (r. 41-54) and Nero (r. 54-68). The wealth of the Vitellii also meant that the family could own slaves. The name of one of these slaves was Asiaticus, and his life would become an extraordinarily wild ride.

Continue reading about the remarkable rise and fall of Asiaticus, HERE.