30 December 2023

30 December

- For a Few Dollars More released in Italy

Second in Spaghetti Western trilogy

The movie For a Few Dollars More, the second in what became known as the Dollars Trilogy of Spaghetti Westerns, was released for public viewing in Italy on this day in 1965.  Directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood as the Man with No Name, the film followed the unexpected success of the low-budget feature A Fistful of Dollars, released 15 months earlier, which overcame poor initial reviews to become, for a time, the biggest-grossing movie in Italian cinema history.  Released for Italian audiences as Per Qualche Dollaro in PiĆ¹, the follow-up proved even more commercially successful than its predecessor. By 1967, it had displaced A Fistful of Dollars as the highest-grossing Italian production, generating 3.1 billion lire ($5 million) in ticket sales from more than 14 and a half million admissions.  Eastwood, who had been little known outside America before A Fistful of Dollars catapulted him to international fame, had been paid a reputed sum of just $15,000 for his role in the original film, from a production budget of only $200,000.  This time Leone had more money at his disposal after teaming up with Italian producer Alberto Grimaldi.  Read more…


Titus – Roman emperor

'Good' ruler who helped victims of Vesuvius eruption

The Roman emperor Titus was born Titus Flavius Vespasianus on this day in AD 39.  He was emperor from AD 79 to 81 and is remembered for capturing Jerusalem and for completing the Colosseum in Rome.  Two months after his accession, on August 24, AD 79, Mount Vesuvius in Campania began erupting, eventually killing thousands of people around Pompeii and Herculaneum.  Titus appointed officials to coordinate the relief effort, while donating large amounts of money from the imperial treasury to aid the victims. He visited Pompeii twice.  Titus was a member of the Flavian dynasty and succeeded his father Vespasian after his death, becoming the first Roman emperor to come to the throne after his biological father.  Titus was believed to have been born in Rome on December 30, AD 39, the eldest son of Titus Flavius Vespasianus, who was commonly known as Vespasian.  His father had earned prestige as a military commander, taking part in the invasion of Britain in AD 43 under the emperor Claudius.  Titus served under his father in Judea during the first Jewish-Roman war.  Read more…


Alessandra Mussolini – politician

Controversial granddaughter of Fascist dictator

The MEP Alessandra Mussolini, niece of actress Sophia Loren and granddaughter of Italy’s former Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, was born on this day in 1962 in Rome.  Formerly an actress and model, Mussolini entered politics in the early 1990s as a member of the neofascist Movimento Sociale Italiano, which had its roots in the Italian Social Republic, the German puppet state led by her grandfather from September 1943 until his death in April 1945.  Her views have changed in more recent years and she has become known for embracing modern issues including abortion, artificial insemination, gay rights and civil unions from a progressive standpoint that has more in common with left-wing feminism.  She has left behind her association with the far right and serves in the European Parliament as representative for Central Italy under a centre-right Forza Italia ticket.  However, she is not without some admiration for the policies of her grandfather.  Only recently she caused consternation when asked her opinion on what to do about an escalating Mafia war in the Roman seaside resort of Ostia by claiming that “granddad would have sorted this out in two or three months.”  Read more…


Galeazzo Alessi – architect

Brilliant designer left legacy of beautiful palaces and churches

Italian architect Galeazzo Alessi, who designed some of the most impressive buildings in Genoa and Assisi, died on this day in 1572.  Born in Perugia in 1512, Alessi studied drawing for both civil and military architecture and developed great enthusiasm for ancient architecture, although he was also later influenced by Michelangelo.  He became known throughout Europe for his distinctive style and towards the end of his career was commissioned to design churches and palaces in France, Germany, Belgium and Spain.  A lot of his work can still be seen in Perugia and Assisi, where, in collaboration with another architect, Alessi designed the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in 1568.  In Genoa he designed some of the beautiful palaces with ornate decoration that have now been listed as Unesco world heritage sites and he was involved in planning the lay-out of the streets and the restoration of the city walls.  Alessi died at the age of 60 in Perugia before the designs that he had drawn up for El Escorial, the residence of the King of Spain, could be carried out.  Perugia, Alessi’s home town, is the capital city of the region of Umbria and one of the main Etruscan cities of Italy.  Read more…


Camila Giorgi - tennis player

Italian who specialised in beating big names

The tennis player Camila Giorgi was born on this day in 1991 in Macerata, a city in the Marche region.  Giorgi rose to 26 in the Women’s Tennis Association world rankings at the end of 2018, at which time there was no other Italian woman in the top 100.  This followed a breakthrough year for Giorgi in which she reached the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam event for the first time, at the Wimbledon Championships in London in June.  Giorgi was not seeded but after defeating 21st seed Anastasija Sevastova in the first round, she advanced through her section of the draw with three more victories, culminating in a straight-sets win over former world No 8 Ekaterina Makarova in the fourth round.  That earned Giorgi a last-eight meeting with seven-times Wimbledon champion and world record grand slam winner Serena Williams.  Giorgi won the first set but Williams fought back to win the match.  Earlier in the 2018 summer, Giorgi had delivered her best performance at the French Open by reaching the third round. Later in the year, she won her second career WTA tournament, the Linz Open in Austria.  Read more…


Book of the Day: Roman Emperors: A Guide to the Men Who Ruled the Empire, by Mario Bartolini 

Roman Emperors is a concise chronological guide to the emperors who ruled the Roman Empire. It covers the period from the establishment of the Empire by Augustus in 27 BCE to the abdication of Romulus Augustus in 476 CE, an event that marks the official end of the existence of the Roman Empire as a political entity in Western Europe. After a useful introduction to the late Republic and its transformation into the Empire, each of the eighty-five emperors customarily recognized as legitimate are presented in the order in which they reigned. This includes both Eastern and Western emperors for those periods where the empire was divided, and each one is illustrated. A useful glossary of technical terms is also provided.

Mario Bartolini is a retired political analyst and officer in the Canadian army reserve, with a long-held interest in Roman military history. He has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in political history from the Université de Sherbrooke, Canada, and a second master’s degree in war studies, obtained at the Royal Military College of Canada. 

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