Posted by: ritagone | March 19, 2014

Sic Transit Gloria

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi small copyright

Leave it to the 21st century to come up with a system of popularity that ranks historical figures as to how famous they are.  Pantheon, a new project from the Macro Connections group at MIT’s Media Lab (and that’s a mouthful!), has recently given this a stab.

Jesus came in at #3, behind Aristotle and Plato.  Don’t ask me why those two ancient Greek philosophers were #1 and #2.  Maybe philosophers have more cache than saviours.  I found this quite surprising, to be honest.  Most young people are probably not aware of either Aristotle or Plato these days.  Too esoteric.  They have heard of Jesus, however, if only as part of an expletive in a violent movie script.

All of this is pretty silly, if you ask me.  After all, the same ranking system article that I read also ranked “Most Famous Politicians,” with the top five being, in order: Julius Caesar, Adolf Hitler, Charlemagne, Augustus, and Napoleon Bonaparte.  Also the “Most Famous Companions,” “Most Famous French People,” to which many might say, “Who cares?”, “Most Famous Guys Named John,” and “Most Famous Soccer Players of the 20th Century.”  You see, it is rather silly.  You can rank anything you want.  “Most Famous Ditzy Blondes of the 1940’s.”  “Most Famous Lefties.”  “Most Famous Companion Dogs.”

But the title itself of the article casts more interesting light on the perspective of Jesus’ place in all this: “Who’s More Famous Than Jesus?”  The author, Dwight Garner, set out to ascertain the popularity of Jesus Christ, claiming that He was the first person to achieve “fame” globally at a time when this was no small feat.  No television cameras, no iPhones, no print media helped spread the word of what Jesus said and did in a small area about sixty miles in length and width for only three years before He was killed.

It seems the team at M.I.T. has come up with a way to collect and analyze data that gives them a whole new way of deciding who’s “famous” and why.  For example, they’ve decided that if a Wikipedia page under your name exists in more than 25 languages, you qualify as famous.

That lets me out.  And probably you who are reading this.  Oh well.  Fame is fleeting for most people anyway.  You know about the clichéd 15 minutes of it.  Here one day – or one quarter of an hour – and then gone the next.  Sic transit Gloria, as they used to say long, long ago, when Plato and Aristotle were philosophizing.  “So passes the glory of the world.”

In Roman Empire times, when a general returned home to Rome after a successful battle campaign, he was welcomed back with a huge parade through the city streets, where he could show off all the foreign treasure he had captured, which included slaves, exotic animals, anything and everything of any great value.  He would ride in a chariot at the head of the parade.  He would be greeted by tens of thousands of Roman citizens lining the way cheering for him, praising him, and showering him with more gifts.  Talk about famous!  Talk about adulation.  This was enough to give one a swelled head.  This was better than winning “American Idol.”   The current Emperor of the Roman Empire, whoever that might be at the time, paranoid and concerned that the general might become too popular, too famous, too well-liked, would install a slave in the chariot with the general.  It was the slave’s job to whisper in the general’s ear throughout the length of the parade: “Sic transit Gloria mundi,” or “All the glory of the world is fading.”  In other words, “Don’t get too confident about what’s happening here today, General.  This too shall pass,” never realizing, most likely, that this verdict applied equally to the Emperor himself.

In the Middle Ages the popes of Rome as part of their coronation had someone whisper these same words in their ears, hopefully to keep the papal ego from becoming overly elevated.

We could probably all use a few whispers of “Sic transit Gloria” occasionally to keep us from the ego and pride that – no matter who we are or what we’re about – seem to be a problem for almost everyone.

I’m not famous.  Nor do I have any burning desire to be.  I have enough problems trying to keep my pride and ego in check as it is.  Fame would only enhance those problems.

So I’ll let the fellows at MIT worry about their lists of famous whatevers and whoevers and just get on with trying to figure out what Jesus – number 3 on the list of the “Most Famous People of the Last 6,000 Years,” but my Lord and Saviour – wants me to do with my life.


  1. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied
    on the video to make your point. You obviously know what youre talking about, why waste
    your intelligence on just posting videos to your site when you could be giving us something informative to read?

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