You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Justinian, Emperor of East Roman Empire
527 - 265 CE
His nephew, Justinian, though still quite young, used to manage all the affairs of state, and he brought on the Romans disasters that surely surpassed both in gravity and in number all that had ever been heard of at any period of history. For without the slightest hesitation he used to embark on the inexcusable murdering of his fellow men and the plundering of other people's property; and it did not matter to him how many thousands lost their lives, though they had given him no provocation whatsoever... this an not a single person in the whole Roman empire could escape; like any other visitation from heaven falling on the entire human race, he left no one completely untouched. Some he killed without any justification; others he reduced to penury, making them even more wretched than those who had died. In fact they begged him to put an end to their misery, by any death, however painful... The people have long been divided into two factions...Justinian attached himself to one of them, The Blues, to whom he had already given enthusiastic support... Needless to say, the Green factionalists did not stay quiet either: they too pursued an uninterrupted career of crime... everywhere there was utter chaos, and nothing was the same ever again; in the confusion that followed, the laws and the orderly structure of the state were turned upside down.

To begin with, the factionalists changed the style of their hair to a quite novel fashion, having it cut very differently from the other Romans. They did not touch the moustache or beard at all but were always anxious to let them grow as long as possible, like the Persians. But the hair on the front of the head they cut right back to the temples, allowing the growth behind to hand down in a disorderly mass like the Massagetae do. This is why they sometimes called this the Hunnish look.

Procopius, The Secret History
Penguin Edition translated by G.A. Williamson and Peter Sarris, with notes by Peter Sarris

Sarris adds the following footnote to the above passage:

The factionalists wore what in modern slang would be called "mullets." The long hair of the tribes of the Eurasian steppes was something of a preoccupation among Roman authors of a conservative mindset; Procopius' contemporary, the poet Corippus, describes an embassy of Avars that arrived at the court of Justin II as "shabby with their snake-like hair."

The Mullet. As fashionable today as it was 1500 years ago.

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