15 October 2020

15 October

- Virgil – Roman poet

Writer’s epic poem commemorates achievements and ideals of Rome

Regarded as the greatest of the Roman poets, Virgil, or Publius Vergilius Maro as he was originally named, was born on this day in 70 BC in the village of Andes near Mantua, in what is now Lombardy.  Virgil is famous for his work, the Aeneid, which told the story of Rome’s founder and the Roman mission to civilise the world under divine guidance. It is widely considered one of the most important poems in the history of Western literature.  Experts have high regard for Virgil’s poetry, not only for the music and diction of his verse and for his skill in constructing an intricate work on a grand scale, but also because of what it reveals about Roman life and behaviour.  Virgil was born of peasant stock and his love of the Italian countryside and the people who worked in it is well reflected in his poetry.  He was educated in Cremona, Milan and Rome and acquired a thorough knowledge of Greek and Roman authors and was trained in rhetoric and philosophy.  When Virgil was 20, Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon and began the series of civil wars that did not end until Augustus’s victory at Actium in 31 BC.  Hatred and fear of civil war is powerfully expressed by Virgil in his poetry.  Read more…


Roberto Vittori – astronaut

High-flying Colonel contributed to space research

Roberto Vittori, the last non-American to fly on board the US Space Shuttle, was born on this day in 1964 in Viterbo.  An Italian air force officer, Vittori was selected by the European Space Agency to be part of their Astronaut Corps and has participated in three space flights.  In 2011 Vittori was on board the Space Shuttle that travelled to the International Space Station to install the AMS-02 cosmic ray detector to examine dark matter and the origin of the Universe.  Vittori had to grapple the six-tonne AMS-02 with the Space Shuttle’s robotic arm and move it to the station for installation. This was to be the final flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour.  He is one of five Italians to have visited the International Space Station. The others are Umberto Guidoni, who was the first European to set foot on board when he flew on Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2001, Paolo Nespoli, who visited as recently as 2017 and at 61 is the European Space Agency’s oldest active astronaut, Luca Parmitano and Samantha Cristoforetti, the first Italian woman in space.  Nespoli, who has participated in three International Space Station missions, was coming to the end of a 159-day stay when Vittori visited.  Read more…


Gibbon's moment of inspiration

Walk around the Forum sparked idea for epic work 

The English writer and historian Edward Gibbon claimed that the inspiration to write the book that - unbeknown to him - would grant him literary immortality came to him while exploring the ruins of the Forum in Rome on this day in 1764.  Gibbon, who had enjoyed modest success with his first book, entitled Essay on the Study of Literature, was in Rome after deciding to embark on the Grand Tour, taking in the Italian cities of Florence, Naples and Venice as well as the capital.  Later, in his memoirs, Gibbon wrote that:  "It was at Rome, on the fifteenth of October 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefooted friars were singing Vespers in the temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the City first started to my mind."  In the event, the book expanded to cover rather more than the city of Rome.  The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire ran to six volumes and as many as 5,000 pages in the original version and saw Gibbon, whose second work - Memoires Litteraires de la Grande Bretagne - had been dismissed as having little merit by fellow writers and historians, eventually recognised as in the forefront of historians in Europe.  Read more…


Angelo Schiavio - footballer

Scored goal that won Italy's first World Cup

Angelo Schiavio, the hero of the Italian football team’s first World Cup victory in 1934, was born on this day in 1905 in Bologna.  The centre forward, a prolific goalscorer for his home-town club in Serie A, scored the winning goal in the final against Czechoslovakia to hand victory to the Azzurri in the 16-team tournament, of which the Italians were hosts.  In the final at the Stadio Flaminio in Rome, the Azzurri had gone behind to a goal by the Czech winger Antonin Puc with 19 minutes remaining, but equalised 10 minutes later through Raimundo Orsi, the Argentina-born forward from Juventus, taking the match into extra time.  Schiavio struck the decisive goal, driven home with his right foot from a pass by Enrique Guaita, another Argentine – one of 12 to represent Italy and Argentina in the days before playing for more than one nation was outlawed.  It was his fourth goal of the tournament, sparking massive celebrations in Rome and across Italy, albeit in a mood of triumph hijacked by Benito Mussolini and his Fascist regime.  Rumours circulated, almost inevitably, that match officials had been bribed to make decisions favouring the Italians.  Read more…


Giovanni Migliara – painter

19th century artist captured many beautiful views for posterity

Giovanni Migliara, who rose from working as a theatre set designer to becoming court painter to King Charles Albert of Sardinia, was born on this day in 1785 in Alessandria in Piedmont.  He was first apprenticed to the sculptor Giuseppe Maria Bonzanigo, but then went on to study at the Brera Academy.in Milan with Giocondo Albertolli.  He began working as a set designer with Teatro Carcano in Milan in 1804 and then moved to La Scala in 1805, where he served under the direction of Alessandro Sanquirico until 1809. His theatre work enabled him to acquire skills as a landscape artist and a creator of perspective.  Migliara had to stop working while he was suffering from a serious lung problem but from about 1810 he started painting miniatures and then moved on to watercolours and then oils on canvas, silk and ivory, drawing inspiration from Venetian painters.  In 1812 he exhibited four views of Milan at the Brera Academy, officially signalling his return to the world of art.  Migliara specialised in painting views and romantic, historical subjects. Because of the high quality of his work he became a favourite of the aristocracy living in Milan at the time.  Read more…


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