My birthday has rolled around again – 65 !!! Two years ago I did a sort of omnibus of anniversaries and birthdays for the day, followed with a recounting of significant birthdays past which I promised not to repeat the following year:
I kept my word:
This year I’ll look at a few more birthdays and anniversaries. It’s quite a day. I’ll begin with a slight puzzle.
Quite a few websites say something to the effect that today was the Day of Bau in ancient Babylonia. For example:
Bau had various names in Mesopotamia including Nintinugga, goddess of healing and consort of Ninurta in the Babylonian pantheon. She is identical with the goddess of Akkadian mythology, known as Bau or Baba, though it would seem that the two were originally independent. She was the daughter of An and Ninurta’s wife. She had seven daughters, including Hegir-Nuna (Gangir). She was known as a patron deity of Lagash, where Gudea built her a temple. But I cannot find any primary sources that refer to 30th March as a special day for her. Yet numerous “pagan” sites list today as a special day for her. This seems to be a case where one person asserts something, and numerous others repeat the “fact” without checking.
We’re on slightly more solid ground in ancient Rome. 30th March was, for a time, the feast day of Janus and Concordia, a day celebrating peace and harmony at the end of what was the first month before the introduction of the Julian calendar. While Janus is sometimes surnamed belliger (warrior) and sometimes pacificus (peacemaker) in accord with his general function of beginner of things, he is mentioned as Janus Quirinus in relation to the closing of the rites of March at the end of the month together with Pax, Salus and Concordia: Janus Quirinus which stresses the quirinal function of bringing peace to Rome and the hope that soldiers will return victorious. In the Fasti, a multi-volume work on the origins of Roman festivals, Ovid says:
When, counting from that day, the shepherd has four times penned
The sated kids, and the grass four times whitened with fresh dew,
Janus must be adored, and with him gentle Concord,
And the Safety of Rome, and the altar of Peace.
I’m inclined to believe that the legendary martyrdom of Quirinus of Neuss on this date in 116 is an early Christian conflation of events in Rome in the 2nd century with Janus Quirinus, but sources are fragmentary. Saint Quirinus of Neuss (German: Quirin, Quirinus), sometimes called Quirinus of Rome (which is the name shared by another martyr) is venerated as a martyr and saint of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. His cult was centered at Neuss in Germany, though he was a Roman martyr.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, a Roman martyr named Quirinus was buried in the Catacomb of Prætextatus on the Via Appia. The Martyrologium Hieronymianum mentions Quirinus’ name and place of burial. Legends make him a Roman tribune who was ordered with executing Alexander, Eventius, and Theodolus, who had been arrested by order of Trajan. Quirinus converted to Christianity, however, after witnessing miracles performed by these three saints, and he was baptized along with his daughter Balbina. He was then martyred on March 30 by being decapitated.
According to a document from Cologne dating from 1485, Quirinus’ body was donated in 1050 by Pope Leo IX to an abbess of Neuss named Gepa (who is called a sister of the pope). In this way the relics came to the Romanesque Church of St. Quirinus at Neuss (Quirinus-Münster) which still exists.
Inhabitants of that city invoked him for aid during Siege of Neuss by Charles the Bold that occurred in 1474-5. His cult spread to Cologne, Alsace, Scandinavia, western Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy, where he became the patron saint of Correggio. Numerous wells and springs were dedicated to him, and he was invoked against the bubonic plague, smallpox, and gout; he was also considered a patron saint of animals. Pilgrims to Neuss sought the Quirinuswasser (Quirinus water) from the Quirinusbrunnen (Quirinus spring or pump-room).
A farmers’ saying associated with Quirinus’ feast day of March 30 was “Wie der Quirin, so der Sommer” (“As St. Quirinus’ Day goes, so will the summer”).
On March 30, 1791, the French Academy of Sciences defined the length of a meter. Before this date, there were two definitions for a meter: one based on the length of a pendulum and the other based on a fraction of the length of a half-meridian, or line of longitude. The Academy chose the meridian definition. One meter was defined as one ten-millionth of the distance from the Equator to the North Pole. Not awfully accurate, I’m afraid, but it was a start. Today, a meter is “the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1/299,792,458 of a second.”
One more birthday:
John Astin (1930 and still going), whom I remember as Gomez in the 1960s series, The Addams Family. Fond memories.
Speaking of the 60’s, Jeopardy!, originally hosted by Art Fleming had its debut on this date in 1964.
I don’t normally record death dates in these posts except in reference to saints, but three on this date are worthy of note:
1840 – Beau Brummell, English-French fashion designer (b. 1778)
1925 – Rudolf Steiner, Austrian philosopher and author (b. 1861)
2004 – Alistair Cooke, English-American journalist and author (b. 1908)
Last year I was in China and had a rather muted celebration because I had to work, and was living in a hostel with no kitchen.
Here’s an album:
This year’s album will get here at some point. It’s 4 am right now and I’ve got a long day. Dinner is in the works (cream is the theme):
Appetizers: Italian ham and cheeses plus deviled eggs (with cream filling).
Soup: Cream of wild mushroom and leek.
Fish: Fresh anchovies with a crème of smoked salmon.
Main: Braised quail, rabbit and beef in a spicy cream sauce.
Dessert: Wild berries in a chilled custard of eggs, cream, and mascarpone.
Every recipe is my own creation. I hope my guests don’t go home hungry.