The Daily Agenda for Friday, January 24
January 24th, 2014
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
Roman baths (and Greek baths before them) weren’t just places where people went to bathe. The were where the cultural and political life of the community took place. It was only natural, after all. With soap being a rare and expensive luxury, the process of bathing was time consuming, so conversations became a natural part of the experience. Over time, bathhouses (or thermae, as they were called) became more elaborate, typically with at least three pools (with hot, cold, and lukewarm water), and often featured steam and dry saunas. As the process of bathing became more elaborate, it also became much more social. Some thermae increased their social importance by adding exercise rooms, libraries, rooms for poetry readings, and small cafes. Emperors and politicians knew that building elaborate thermae was one way of gaining favor with the masses, and much of the water carried in Rome’s famed aqueducts went to supply the public baths. All of this made Rome unusually clean, with daily bathing commonplace. Which is why the baths were the epitome of clean living.
Which is, I’m sure, the thought behind this particular “bath and health club” calling itself Roman Delight. Its location in northwest Washington, D.C. just over the line from Takoma Park has changed quite a bit since 1977. With the later addition of the Metro’s Red Line and a convenient station within walking distance nearby, the block has since been re-developed into condos.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
“Gay Plague” Conservative Withdraws from Bush’s AIDS Panel: 2003. Could there possibly have been a more inappropriate pick for President George W. Bush’s AIDS advisory panel than Jerry Thacker? One might have imagined that the nominee who contracted the AIDS virus after his wife was infected by a blood transfusion might have been a good choice. But Thacker, a former Bob Jones University graduate and faculty member, had a web site where he presented his messages on AIDS prevention and caring for people with AIDS. Among his topics was a talk that he advertised, titled, “Help for Homosexuals,” in which he claimed to offer (via archive.org):
A message on the nature of homosexuality and how Christ can rescue the homosexual. Includes statistics on homosexual behavior, tips for ministry to those practicing this “deathstyle” and information on the homosexual movement and its political agenda.
Thacker also referred to AIDS as the “gay plague.” The web site was quickly scrubbed soon after the offending comments were discovered, but the damage was done. LGBT and HIV/AIDS advocates were furious. Carl Schmid, a Log Cabin Republican member and a board member for the Human Rights Campaign, had worked in Bush’s 2000 Presidential campaign. He said, “We need to have a scientific-based approach to the problems of HIV-AIDS and not this radical agenda he’s pushing.” Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-ND) also denounced the nomination: “Thacker’s characterization of AIDS as the gay plague and his offensive public statements about homosexuality indicate a disturbing bias that is completely at odds with the role the advisory commission should play.” But the panel’s co-chair, Tom Coburn (who would later become Republican Senator from Oklahoma), professed ignorance of Thacker’s opinions and claimed that Thacker’s views on homosexuality were irrelevant to the panel’s work.
A week after Thacker’s nomination, he withdrew is name from consideration. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer moved quickly to distance the administration from the controversy: “Those words are as wrong as they are inappropriate. And they are not shared by the President. That remark is far removed from what the president believes.” Thacker blamed his nomination’s failure on “gay radicals” in an interview two weeks later: “The primary tactic used by gay radicals is intimidation. They’re going to be in your face and they’re going to be noisy.”
Publius Aelius Traianus Hadrianus, the Emperor Hadrian: 76-138. Regarded as the third of the Five Good Emperors, he became emperor in 117 just as the Roman Empire was in its prime. Peace, for the most part, was at hand, which allowed the Emperor to travel to nearly every one of the Empire’s provinces. He endeared himself as the “people’s emperor,” traveling with his troops and eating the same rations. He embark on a massive public works campaign, building roads, temples, public baths, libraries, monuments and fortifications along the frontiers, including the massive Hadrian’s Wall in Britain. He was a strong patron of the arts, he wrote poetry in Latin and Greek, he reformed the legal code with respect to slavery, and he rebuilt the Pantheon with the dome that stands to this day.
Here’s a little-known note: Hadrian popularized beards. Before his time, Romans were clean shaven. Hadrian’s beard was inspired by his love of all things Greek: philosophy, literature, culture, and a particular young man, his love Antinous. When Antinous drowned in the Nile, Hadrian “wept for him like a woman.” Hadrian struck coins in Antinous’s likeness and had him deified — unprecedented acts for one who was not an emperor. He founded the Egyptian city of Antinopolis in his lover’s memory, commissioned busts and statues in his likeness, built temples to him throughout his empire, and held festivals in his honor. The Cult of Antinous became very popular, particularly with a certain class of men in the empire.
Hardian did marry, to fulfill one expectation of being an Emperor, but the marriage was childless. In 136, he adopted a consul, Lucius Ceinius Commodus, that he tapped to be his successor, but Commodus died two years later. Hadrian then formally adopted Antonius Pius, on the stipulation that Antonius would adopt Marcus Aurelius and thus securing the succession of the Fourth and Fifth Good Emperors.
If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).
And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?