It happened today - June 1, 2016

From the many vicissitudes that have come to mankind on June 1, consider that Roman emperor Didius Julianus was assassinated, executed, or both on this date in 193. And that a monk named John Cor recorded the first known batch of Scotch whisky on June 1 1495. And now contemplate Samuel Johnson’s couplet “How small, of all that human hearts endure,/ That part which laws or kings can cause or cure.”

I have no pity for Julianus. Apparently he rushed from the banquet table to bid for the Imperial purple, at the urging of his wife and daughter, when the Praetorian guard brazenly auctioned it off after assassinating Pertinax (which is not only a cool name but he actually tried to do to good things as emperor and paid with his life, first contestant in the “Year of Five Emperors” which was as bad as it sounded).

Julianus won the auction, debauched the currency, incurred the wrath of the populace, faced revolt, fought ineffectively, bargained pitifully, was ousted and did not survive an encounter with a soldier. Phooey.

As for Scotch, well, at the risk of incurring the wrath of the populace, I don’t actually like it. But before you revolt, let me hasten to say that I’m not criticizing it. I don’t suggest that those who do like it, who savour the subtleties and enjoy discussing the merits and particular qualities of endless varieties, are in error or making it all up. (I even believe when wine critics say things like “tight” or “structured” or “long” it means something that matters and actually relates to a liquid. That’s how almost cultured I am.)

The actual record says “To Brother John Cor, by order of the King, to make aqua vitae VIII bolls of malt.” The king in question is James IV of Scotland, who was less useless than a lot of kings though his reign ended very badly. But Scotch continued to bring great joy to the human race over many centuries and will continue to do so long after Didius Julianus is forgotten.

Oh wait. He already was.