Today's history lesson involves war, ambition, sibling rivalry and a brutal murder.
It begins with a death 1,802 years ago today and ends with an equally weird assassination six years later.
Let's set the scene with a quick history lesson.
A man named Septimus Severus killed the reigning Roman emperor in the year 193 in what historians call the Year of the Five Emperors. But the murder of Didius Julianus, who had actually purchased the emperor's position from the guards who looked after the ruler, was just the first step.
A pair of Roman generals quickly challenged him but Severus defeated them both in battle.
Since some of the machinations of Roman history can be dry even to history buffs, we'll move the story from 193 to 208, a period in which Severus proved to be an able ruler.
Severus did suffer from one common flaw among Roman emperors, which was overriding ambition to enlarge the empire. (For the purposes of this column, we'll gloss over the fact that persecution of Christians continued in his reign.)
In 208, Severus went to Britain hoping to expand the empire's boundaries north in the island. Severus was accompanied by his sons Geta and Caracella. The latter was a year younger.
As usual, the Romans eventually discovered that conquering the wild tribes in the north was a tall order.
That's where our story begins. Severus suddenly got sick and the army withdrew. And then the emperor died on Feb. 4, 211.
The Roman empire was in the hands of a pair of twenty-somethings.
They returned to Rome and were declared co-emperors, something that would eventually become the norm as the empire was essentially split in two. But the odds of it lasting weren't very good with a pair of extremely ambitious young men in charge.
You can't even completely blame Geta and Caracella. There was something about the Roman character in that time that bred and encouraged unrestrained ambition.
The relationship between the brothers quickly fell apart between Caracella, the impetuous violent brother, and Geta, who by all accounts was more intellectual. After Caracella tried to murder Geta, their mother finally stepped in.
She told the two men that they would meet in her apartment to come to terms. Weapons and guards were prohibited.
But one of them hid both. With the three "alone" in the apartment, the hidden men burst out and began stabbing. Legend has it that the plotting brother delivered the killing blow, with the other brother dying in his mother's arms.
Geta, considered the best hope for the empire of the two, lay dead. Caracella would rule Rome.
His reign proved to be surprisingly good. It was also short.
In 217, he was travelling with a small group of guards. When he left his carriage to relieve himself, his personal escort turned away.
Another soldier ran over and killed him with a sword.
Roman history is full of these stories about talented men falling prey to the ambitions of others.
Together, the brothers might have ruled Rome for decades and led it to untold glory.
Instead, one died in his mother's arms and the other by the side of a road.
There's a lesson in there somewhere.
• • •
My first full winter in Prince Albert has been a challenging one.
I was reflecting on that on Thursday morning as I shivered while filling up my vehicle. It’s one thing to be taking my old dog out in the morning for a walk because I’m bundled up.
It’s quite another to be standing outside in dress pants waiting for the gas tank to fill.
In a column in November, I wrote about nearly drowning in the Assiniboine River trying to rescue my dog. The one lasting side-effect has been that my hands and feet are always cold.
So this Prairie boy now enjoys the really chilly days even less.
But be careful what you wish for.
If it warms up, that seems to bring the snow. I don’t know about your driveway, but I’m getting to the point where I’m shovelling up instead of over. At the start of winter, I cleaned to the edges of my driveway after every storm.
Now I’m at a point where I had to let the snow eat up a couple of feet of my wide driveway on each side just so that I could pile it somewhere.
To compound the agony, I’m noticing that the same cold weather exodus that happened every year in Brandon is common here in Prince Albert as well.
It’s one thing to suffer with everybody else; it’s entirely another to suffer when your friends are in Cuba.
• • •
With nearly 26 years in the newspaper industry, it took me a little while to grow accustomed to the care and feeding of a website.
In my first months here, I was so busy with the actual print product that I didn’t spend much time on it.
I can actually pinpoint the day that my attitude changed. On civic election night in October, I posted four videos on paherald.sk.ca that updated what was going on.
They eventually drew a total of more than 30,000 views.
I’m still doing my recap of the top five stories of the week on our website and they are now drawing more than 10,000 viewers a week. I’ve also started doing one earlier in the week looking at some of the stories we’ll be doing that week.
Another focus has been on slideshows. I shoot pictures at Raiders games and invariably end up with more than images. At best, a couple make it into the paper.
As a result, I’m now in the habit of putting up to 20 pictures on the website after every game.
You can find them in the section marked Latest Slideshows, which you can find on our website in the middle of the page if you scroll down a bit.
We actually put up 11 slideshows in January, our new record. They include hockey games involving the Raiders, Mintos and Bears, Tuff Enuff, the Outdoor Classic, Idle No More and the Kenny Rogers concert.
It’s one more reason to visit a busy website that we’re working hard to improve.