Jimmy Hoffa as he appeared before a Senate hearing. August 22, 1957, Washington, DC.
The story is Jimmy was getting grilled by Bobby Kennedy who was the chief counsel of the 1957–59 Senate Labor Rackets Committee under chairman John L. McClellan. On this day in 1964, Hoffa, then Teamsters Union President, was sentenced to five years in federal prison for defrauding his union’s pension fund. In 1971, President Richard Nixon commuted his sentence.
The Roman Imperial Cult:
What was the Roman Imperial Cult?
Well, first of all, throw everything you know about separating religion and politics from each other out of the window. The Roman Imperial Cult is one of the most ingenious ways in global world history of keeping order in an empire. It was a mix of religion, politics and propaganda that is hard to grasp the extent of fully.
Who did they worship?
They worshipped the numen and the genius of the Emperor, but also the genii of the entire imperial family. A loose modern translation would be the life spirit and the soul of the living Emperor. The genius is something that everyone in the empire had, and you could certainly pray to your mother’s genius if you wanted to. The numen was unique to the living Emperor. It was thanks to the numen that the Roman Empire was such a great place. The reason for which they could hold back the barbarians on the borders, enjoy gladiatorial games, walk safely on the streets, and so on.
How did it work?
To keep this immense structure in a constant and working condition it required a mass of different priesthoods and priests, as well as governors who were determined to make sure that everyone followed suit. Very few decisions about they cult emerged from the city of Rome itself. Instead most of the decisions regarding the cult were decided on a local level, either regionally or within a municipality. Thanks to this we have altars showing Gaius and Lucius Caesar, despite them never actually becoming Emperors.
What about the deification?
Only certain Emperors did in fact get deified. Although all Emperors up to and including Diocletian were divus <name>, but only a few of them got the title divi <name> when they died. The case of divi is a complicated matter which has to do with the priesthood flamines. Flamines were priests that belonged to temples, and temples were only allowed to be erected for gods. Certainly not for living Emperors.
They exception to the rule is Tiberius, who refused to have himself treated as a potential god. A refusal that was only acknowledged in the West; the East had a different history of ruler worship and did not play by the same rules as the West. Emperors that were in fact deified were divus Augustus, divus Claudius and divus Vespasianus, among others.
Did any women get deified?
Yes! Most importantly Livia, the wife of Augustus, who died 13 years after her husband. When she died in 27 AD her son Tiberius was Emperor and it has been speculated that it played part in the defification. Nonetheless, Livia Augusta became diva Augusta when she died, one of few women to hold that title.
What did the propaganda look like?
My personal favorite is this statue, called Augustus of prima porta.
Notice they artwork on the breastplate, the stout facial features, the prominent stance and the combination of a breastplate and a toga. Now imagine that it was painted as well.
Most people in the Roman Empire would never have met or even seen the Emperor. Instead this, and images like this one, is what they would be seeing. On coins, statues or similar. What they see is the pater patriae, the father of the fatherland. The man that keeps peace and prosperity in the empire through his wisdom and intelligence.
So, what can we learn from this cult today? The Roman Imperial Cult is a prime example of how a politician can use various ways to get the people on his or her side. It is also a great example of how religion can be used to strengthen the power structure in a state. More than anything it shows us the power of something else, something that distances itself somewhat from both politics and religion – the sense of belonging.
Many people today have trouble finding their true identity. So were the case also when Augustus came to power in the Roman Empire. The Imperial Cult joined together (almost) everyone in a mutual cult worship that both meant that you were Roman and at the same time that the people across the borders were not Romans.
There are lots of things to learn from this cult, a cult that kept the Roman Empire prosperous for 250 years, before the importance of the cult started to decline in favor of Christianity. If you have a hard time imagining it working in modern times, I suggest you take a look at Vladimir Putin.
The Dyatlov Pass Incident
On February 2nd, 1959, during the cold winter on Kholat Syakhl (“Mountain of the Dead”) in Russia, nine intrepid ski hikers decided to do what they do best, which is ski hike, whatever the hell that is. On February 26th, the first of their very dead bodies turned up. Man, who would have thought such a tragedy could strike on “The Mountain of the Dead?”
Image courtesy of Noah Scalin
It probably didn’t look like this, but can you imagine?
But it was the discovery of the campgrounds that added the icing to the creepy-as-fuck cake. The ski hikers’ tent was shredded. The skiers were scattered around the grounds wearing either very sparse clothing or just their underwear. Three of them were found with crushed ribs and fractured skulls, but no visible defense marks or other signs of a struggle.
Oh yeah, and one of the bodies was missing a tongue.
In case you weren’t already on the phone with Mulder and Scully, trace levels of radiation were supposedly found on their bodies. The official statement on what happened was about as vague and ass-covering as possible, saying it was caused by an “unknown compelling force.” In laymen’s terms this means, “fuck if we know.”
The story has become an internet sensation over the years, with many people blaming aliens, and then ghosts, and then the yeti, or possibly all of them working in tandem.
“So we’re agreed then: We tear up their tents, take a lady’s tongue, and never tell a soul.”
The Obvious Answer:
So there’s six things that freak people out about this one:
1. The no-tongued woman
2. A mysterious orange tan on the dead bodies
3. The ripped tents
4. The hikers’ lack of clothing
5. The crushing damage done to three of the hikers
6. The traces of radioactivity
The big fact that gets lost in the re-telling of this story is that the bodies weren’t found until weeks later. It’s not like somebody turned their back, then five minutes later all their friends were dead and half naked.
That makes the missing tongue a lot easier to explain. As disturbing as it may be, the first thing a scavenging animal is going to go for is probably the soft tissue of an open mouth, especially if it still smelled like the burrito the hiker just ate. Laying out in the sun surrounded by white snow for days also accounts for the weird tan.
The trauma and the destroyed tent points to an avalanche. Their state of undress can be explained by paradoxical undressing, a known behavior of hypothermia victims when their brains start to freeze and malfunction. In other words, it’s the kind of behavior you’d expect from a group of injured avalanche victims wandering around in the middle of the night in the freezing cold.
What about the radioactivity? Or stranger details that turn up in some accounts, like orange lights in the sky? Well, there’s the fact that none of that stuff turns up in the original documents from the incident, and appears to have been added later by people who just can’t resist making things spookier than they are.
It’s those later accounts that have stuck in the public memory, because so many of the original reports were destroyed (this was the Cold War-era Soviet Union, which treated casserole recipes as state secrets).
So none of the details on their own prove anything other than a tragic hiking accident. The conspiracy-loving public widely reject this, too busy lighting their torches and getting their pitchforks to go hunt down an, “unknown compelling force.”
Otherwise known as “snow.”