15 May 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
God of financial gain, commerce, eloquence, messages, communication, travelers, boundaries, luck, trickery, merchants, thieves
Mercurius by Artus Quellinus the Elder
PlanetMercury
SymbolCaduceus, winged sandals, winged hat, tortoise, ram and rooster
Personal information
ParentsMaia and Jupiter
ConsortLarunda
ChildrenLares
Greek equivalentHermes

Mercury (/ˈmɜːrkjʊri/; Latin: Mercurius [mɛrˈkʊrɪ.ʊs] (About this soundlisten)) is a major god in Roman religion and mythology, being one of the 12 Dii Consentes within the ancient Roman pantheon. He is the god of financial gain, commerce, eloquence, messages, communication (including divination), travelers, boundaries, luck, trickery and thieves; he also serves as the guide of souls to the underworld.[1][2] He was considered the son of Maia, who was a daughter of the Titan Atlas, and Jupiter in Roman mythology.[citation needed] His name is possibly related to the Latin word merx ("merchandise"; cf. merchant, commerce, etc.), mercari (to trade), and merces (wages); another possible connection is the Proto-Indo-European root merĝ- for "boundary, border" (cf. Old English "mearc", Old Norse "mark" and Latin "margō") and Greek οὖρος (by analogy of Arctūrus/Ἀρκτοῦρος), as the "keeper of boundaries," referring to his role as bridge between the upper and lower worlds.[citation needed] In his earliest forms, he appears to have been related to the Etruscan deity Turms; both gods share characteristics with the Greek god Hermes. He is often depicted holding the caduceus in his left hand. Similar to his Greek equivalent Hermes, he was awarded the caduceus by Apollo who handed him a magic wand, which later turned into the caduceus.

History

Mercury did not appear among the numinous di indigetes of early Roman religion. Rather, he subsumed the earlier Dei Lucrii as Roman religion was syncretized with Greek religion during the time of the Roman Republic, starting around the 4th century BC. His cult was introduced also by influence of etruscan religion in which Turms had similar characteristics.[3] From the beginning, Mercury had essentially the same aspects as Hermes, wearing winged shoes (talaria) and a winged hat (petasos), and carrying the caduceus, a herald's staff with two entwined snakes that was Apollo's gift to Hermes. He was often accompanied by a cockerel, herald of the new day, a ram or goat, symbolizing fertility, and a tortoise, referring to Mercury's legendary invention of the lyre from a tortoise shell.

Hendrik Goltzius: Mercury, with his symbols

Like Hermes, he was also a god of messages, eloquence and of trade, particularly of the grain trade. He was the patron of travelers and the god of thievery as well. Mercury was also considered a god of abundance and commercial success, particularly in Gaul, where he was said to have been particularly revered.[4] He was also, like Hermes, the Romans' psychopomp, leading newly deceased souls to the afterlife. Additionally, Ovid wrote that Mercury carried Morpheus' dreams from the valley of Somnus to sleeping humans.[5]

Archeological evidence from Pompeii suggests that Mercury was among the most popular of Roman gods.[6] The god of commerce was depicted on two early bronze coins of the Roman Republic, the Sextans and the Semuncia.[7]

Mercury portrait on a bronze Semuncia (215–211 BC)

Syncretism

When they described the gods of Celtic and Germanic tribes, rather than considering them separate deities, the Romans interpreted them as local manifestations or aspects of their own gods, a cultural trait called the interpretatio Romana. Mercury, in particular, was reported as becoming extremely popular among the nations the Roman Empire conquered; Julius Caesar wrote of Mercury being the most popular god in Britain and Gaul, regarded as the inventor of all the arts.[8] This is probably because, in the Roman syncretism, Mercury was equated with the Celtic god Lugus, and in this aspect was commonly accompanied by the Celtic goddess Rosmerta. Although Lugus may originally have been a deity of light or the sun (though this is disputed), similar to the Roman Apollo, his importance as a god of trade made him more comparable to Mercury, and Apollo was instead equated with the Celtic deity Belenus.[5]

Romans associated Mercury with the Germanic god Wotan, by interpretatio Romana; 1st-century Roman writer Tacitus identifies him as the chief god of the Germanic peoples.[9]

Names and epithets

Mercury is known to the Romans as Mercurius and occasionally in earlier writings as Merqurius, Mirqurios or Mircurios, had a number of epithets representing different aspects or roles, or representing syncretisms with non-Roman deities. The most common and significant of these epithets included the following:

  • Mercurius Artaios, a syncretism of Mercury with the Celtic god Artaios, a deity of bears and hunting who was worshiped at Beaucroissant, France.[10]
  • Mercurius Arvernus, a syncretism of the Celtic Arvernus with Mercury. Arvernus was worshiped in the Rhineland, possibly as a particular deity of the Arverni tribe, though no dedications to Mercurius Arvernus occur in their territory in the Auvergne region of central France.[10]
  • Mercurius Cimbrianus, a syncretism of Mercury with a god of the Cimbri sometimes thought to represent Odin.
  • Mercurius Cissonius, a combination of Mercury with the Celtic god Cissonius, who is written of in the area spanning from Cologne, Germany to Saintes, France.[10]
  • Mercurius Esibraeus, a syncretism of the Iberian deity with the Roman deity Mercury. Esibraeus is mentioned only in an inscription found at , Portugal, and is possibly the same deity as Banda Isibraiegus, who is invoked in an inscription from the nearby village of Bemposta.[11]
  • Mercurius Gebrinius, a syncretism of Mercury with the Celtic or Germanic Gebrinius, known from an inscription on an altar in Bonn, Germany.[10]
  • Mercurius Moccus, from a Celtic god, Moccus, who was equated with Mercury, known from evidence at Langres, France. The name Moccus ("pig") implies that this deity was connected to boar-hunting.[10]
  • Mercurius Sobrius ("Mercury the Teetotaler"), a syncretism of Mercury with a Carthaginian god of commerce.[12]
  • Mercurius Visucius, a syncretism of the Celtic god Visucius with the Roman god Mercury, attested in an inscription from Stuttgart, Germany. Visucius was worshiped primarily in the frontier area of the empire in Gaul and Germany. Although he was primarily associated with Mercury, Visucius was also sometimes linked to the Roman god Mars, as a dedicatory inscription to "Mars Visucius" and Visucia, Visicius' female counterpart, was found in Gaul.[10][13]
A statue of the Greek god Hermes at Hart House, Toronto

In ancient literature

In Virgil's Aeneid, Mercury reminds Aeneas of his mission to found the city of Rome. In Ovid's Fasti, Mercury is assigned to escort the nymph Larunda to the underworld. Mercury, however, falls in love with Larunda and makes love to her on the way. Larunda thereby becomes mother to two children, referred to as the Lares, invisible household gods.

Temple

Mercury's temple in Rome was situated in the Circus Maximus, between the Aventine and Palatine hills, and was built in 495 BC.[14]

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.[15]

The dedication occurred on 15 May, 495 BC.[16]

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.[citation needed]

Worship

Because Mercury was not one of the early deities surviving from the Roman Kingdom, he was not assigned a flamen ("priest"), but he did have his own major festival, on 15 May, the Mercuralia. During the Mercuralia, merchants sprinkled water from his sacred well near the Porta Capena on their heads.

Dios Mercurio from the Colombian sculptor Rodrigo Arenas Betancur-Medellin, Colombia

In popular culture

Mercury as the winged messenger on a 1949 St. Lucia stamp issued in connection with the Universal Postal Union
1956 Mercury Montclair hardtop

Mercury features in the first published comic book story of comics legend Jack Kirby Mercury in the 20th Century published in Red Raven Comics 1, 1940.[17]

The United States' so-called Mercury dime, issued from 1916 to 1945, actually features a Winged Liberty and not the god Mercury, but is so named because of a misinterpretation of the goddess's Phrygian cap as wings.[18]

References

  1. ^ Glossary to Ovid's Fasti, Penguin edition, by Boyle and Woodard at 343
  2. ^ Rupke, The Religion of the Romans, at 4
  3. ^ http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/turms_(Enciclopedia-dell%27-Arte-Antica)/
  4. ^ Caesar, Gallic War, at 55
  5. ^ a b Littleton, C. Scott (Ed.) (2002). Mythology: The Illustrated Anthology of World Myth and Storytelling (pp. 195, 251, 253, 258, 292). London: Duncan Baird Publishers. ISBN 1-904292-01-1.
  6. ^ Beard, Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town at 295–298
  7. ^ Sear, David R. (2000). Roman Coins and Their Values – The Millennium Edition. Volume I: The Republic and The Twelve Caesars, 280BC-AD96 (pp. 187–189). London: Spink. ISBN 1-902040-35-X
  8. ^ De Bello Gallico 6.17
  9. ^ Germania 9
  10. ^ a b c d e f Green, Miranda J. (1992). Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend (pp. 148–149). London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-01516-3.
  11. ^ Alarcão, Jorge de (1988). Roman Portugal. Volume I: Introduction (p. 93). Warminster: Aris and Phillips.
  12. ^ Potter, David. "Review of "Rome and Carthage at Peace" by R.E.A.Palmer". Bryn Mawr Classical Review. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  13. ^ Espérandieu, E. (1931). Recueil Général des Bas-relief, Statues et Bustes de la Germanie Romaine. Paris and Brussels.
  14. ^ Livy, Ab urbe condita, 2:21
  15. ^ Livy, Ab urbe condita, 2.27
  16. ^ Livy, Ab urbe condita, 2.21
  17. ^ Marvel Visionaries, Jack Kirby, Marvel Comics, 2004
  18. ^ "1916-1945 Mercury Silver Dime Value". Coinflation.

15 May 1648

The Treaty of Westphalia is signed.

The Peace of Westphalia refers to the pair of treaties signed in October and May 1648 which ended both the Thirty Years’ War and the Eighty Years’ War. The treaties were signed on October 24 and May 15, 1648 and involved the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III, the other German princes, Spain, France, Sweden and representatives from the Dutch republic. The Treaty of the Pyrenees, signed in 1659, ending the war between France and Spain, is also often considered part of the treaty.

The peace as a whole is often used by historians to mark the beginning of the modern era. Each ruler would have the right to determine their state’s religion—thus, in law, Protestantism and Catholicism were equal. The texts of the two treaties are largely identical and deal with the internal affairs of the Holy Roman Empire.

The Peace of Westphalia continues to be of importance today, with many academics asserting that the international system that exists today began at Westphalia. Both the basis and the result of this view have been attacked by revisionist academics and politicians alike, with revisionists questioning the significance of the Peace, and commentators and politicians attacking the “Westphalian System” of sovereign nation-states. The concept of each nation-state, regardless of size, as of equal legal value informed the founding of the United Nations, where all member states have one vote in the General Assembly. In the second half of the twentieth century, the democratic nation state as the pinnacle of political evolution saw membership of the UN rise from 50 when it was founded to 192 at the start of the twenty-first century. However, many new nations were artificial creations from the colonial division of the world, reflecting the economic interests of the colonizers rather than local cultural, ethnic, religious or other significant boundaries which serve as the foundation of cohesive societies.

Peace negotiations between France and the Habsburgs began in Cologne in 1641. These negotiations were initially blocked by Cardinal Richelieu of France, who insisted on the inclusion of all his allies, whether fully sovereign countries or states within the Holy Roman Empire. In Hamburg and Lübeck, Sweden and the Holy Roman Empire negotiated the Treaty of Hamburg with the intervention of Richelieu. The Holy Roman Empire and Sweden declared the preparations of Cologne and the Treaty of Hamburg to be preliminaries of an overall peace agreement.

Dutch envoy Adriaan Pauw enters Münster around 1646 for the peace negotiations
The main peace negotiations took place in Westphalia, in the neighboring cities of Münster and Osnabrück. Both cities were maintained as neutral and demilitarized zones for the negotiations.

In Münster, negotiations took place between the Holy Roman Empire and France, as well as between the Dutch Republic and Spain. Münster had been, since its re-Catholicisation in 1535, a strictly mono-denominational community. It housed the Chapter of the Prince-Bishopric of Münster. Only Roman Catholic worship was permitted, while Calvinism and Lutheranism were prohibited.

Sweden preferred to negotiate with the Holy Roman Empire in Osnabrück, controlled by the Protestant forces. Osnabrück was a bidenominational Lutheran and Catholic city, with two Lutheran churches and two Catholic churches. The city council was exclusively Lutheran, and the burghers mostly so, but the city also housed the Catholic Chapter of the Prince-Bishopric of Osnabrück and had many other Catholic inhabitants. Osnabrück had been subjugated by troops of the Catholic League from 1628 to 1633 and then taken by Lutheran Sweden.

15 May 1929

A fire at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio kills 123 people.

The Cleveland Clinic fire was a major structure fire at Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio on May 15, 1929. It started in the basement of the hospital and it was caused by nitrocellulose x-ray film that ignited when an exposed light bulb was too close to the film. The fire generated poisonous gas and two separate explosions. The fire claimed 123 lives, including that of one of the clinic’s founders, Dr. John Phillips. Policeman Ernest Staab was killed by the gas while rescuing 21 victims.

The Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit Ohio corporation, founded in 1921 by four physicians. Late in the morning of May 15, 1929, an exposed light bulb too close to some nitrocellulose x-ray film ignited the film. The burning nitrocellulose film quickly produced a significant amount of poisonous gas, causing victims to suffocate, the faces of the victims turning yellowish brown within minutes. Further complicating fire-fighting, nitrocellulose continues to burn even while immersed in water, and fighting the film-fueled fire simply caused more poisonous smoke to accumulate, raising the death toll.

A first explosion came at a few seconds past 11:30 am; a clock on the third floor balcony stopped at that time. After the hollow center of the building was filled with poisonous gas, a second explosion shattered the skylight and sent the vapors into every corner of the clinic. Many of the building occupants succumbed to the poisons.

Despite the heavy loss of life, firemen estimated the property damage at only $50,000.

According to investigators, the clinic was not at fault for the fire. Nonetheless, the disaster was responsible for influencing significant changes to fire-fighting techniques. The city of Cleveland issued gas masks to its fire departments and proposed a city ambulance service. Nationally, the disaster prompted medical facilities to establish standards for the storage of nitrocellulose film and other hazardous materials.

Some historians have argued that the Cleveland Clinic fire was also a catalyst for the development of non-flammable, non-toxic chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants. Nevertheless, most of the deaths were from breathing highly toxic carbon monoxide and nitric oxide rather than methyl chloride itself, and even at the time of the disaster chemical companies were aware of the hazards of existing refrigerants.

15 May 1958

The Soviet Union launches Sputnik 3.

On May 15, 1958, the USSR launched its Third Artificial Satellite. While two previous Soviet orbiters were propelled into space by mostly political considerations, Sputnik-3, as it became known in the West, was designed to be a true scientific laboratory. According to original plans, it was supposed to be the first Soviet satellite, but, as it transpired decades later, it became the fourth, after its sibling crashed in a botched launch less than three weeks earlier.

A 8A91 rocket No. B1-1 with the second copy of Object D lifted off on the morning of May 15, 1958. This time, the ride to orbit went without a hitch. (473) A total of four objects were detected by Western radars after the launch: the satellite itself, the core stage of the R-7 rocket and two halves of a payload fairing, while the front tip of the fairing was probably too small to be registered.

On May 29, a press-release dedicated to the mission revealed general dimensions of the satellite and boasted that the third Soviet spacecraft was 2.5 times heavier than the second satellite and 16 times heavier than the first. (199)

As it transpired decades later, most systems onboard the third satellite functioned for more than two weeks, even though its data recorder failed earlier. The onboard system for orbit tracking was misbehaving in the first days of the mission.