acta diurna / by Anthony Gibbins

Meet Monas Brickvir, private detective. This is not the actual minifigure that came with the Detective’s Office; he was wearing less obvious apparel. I bought this fine chap at a Lego Show in Newcastle especially for Legonium. He originally appeared in 2011’s Series 5 of Collectable Minifigures. His real name is 8805-11 Detective and, according to an official Lego publication, he ‘has never met a mystery that he couldn’t solve.’ I was taken by the ridiculous idea of both working and dressing as a 19th century detective.

Not wanting to miss a single stereotype, Monas spends hours of each day sitting at his desk reading the acta diurna newspaper. It’s very cool that the Latin world has adopted the phrase acta diruna for this purpose. The acta part comes from ago, agere, egi, actum to do; acta, from the Fourth Principal Part, means things having been done or acts. diurna means daily. So the whole translates as something like daily acts.

In ancient Rome the acta diurna were the official daily records of events. Beginning around 131 BC, they contained the results of legal proceedings, trials and both the discussions had and the decisions reached within the senate. Over the years they were expanded to include other details such as prominent births, marriages and deaths. The notices were not made public, but taken to the archives and stored for future reference – although none exist today. This changed in 59 BC, when the then-consul Julius Caesar had them made public. From then the acta diurna were published in the Forum and other public places throughout Rome’s empire, becoming something more akin to a modern newspaper.

One of Caesar’s biographers, Suetonius, describes it thus.

inito honore primus omnium instituit ut tam senatus quam populi diurna acta confierent et publicarentur.

initio honore At the beginning of his public office primum omnium first of everything instituit he instituted ut that diurna acta the daily acts tam not only senatus of the senate quam but also populi of the people confierent would be gathered together et and publicarentur made public.

Or, as Donna W. Hurley translates it, Caesar’s very first act on entering office was to ensure that the daily register of affairs, not only of the senate but of the people as well, was written up and made public.

Monas is a private detective. At this very moment he is sitting at his desk reading the newspaper. Monas is rarely busy.