Q: I watched a PBS program about a small island off the coast of Italy and how it became a port for ships during Roman times. Also, an emperor's daughter was banished to the island. I would like some details. C.V.G., Brighton, Colo.

A: "Lost Ships of Rome" is an episode of the PBS series "Secrets of the Dead." Called Pandateria during Roman times (now Ventotene), the island is about 40 miles off the coast of Naples. Augustus, the first emperor of Rome, exiled his daughter Julia (39 B.C.-A.D. 14) to the island. When Augustus came to power, Rome was a decadent and morally corrupt city. Wanting to restore decency, the emperor decided to lead by example or at least when it suited him.

A free spirit, Julia had her own moral code, including several lovers. When she refused to conform, Augustus exiled her in 2 B.C. Five years later, her father sent her to Rhegium (now Reggio Calabria) in the toe of Italy. Augustus married her off three times, the last marriage to Tiberius, who became emperor in A.D. 14. Later that year, her husband cut off Julia's allowance. Some say she died of starvation, while other historians blamed her despair on learning that her only surviving son had been murdered.

Q: What is the meaning and origin of the phrase "at sixes and sevens?" A.C., email

A: Today, "at sixes and sevens" means a state of total confusion and disorder. The term is believed to have originated in the 14th century from a dice game; back then, it meant to Òcarelessly risk one's entire fortune. In print, Geoffrey Chaucer used the term in his poem "Troilus and Criseyde" in 1374. In the King James Version of the Bible, Job 5:19, we find the passage, "He shall deliver thee in six troubles: yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee." Several other possibilities exist; the bottom line is that no one knows the origin for certain.

Send your questions to Mr. Know-It-All at AskMrKIAgmail.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106.

© 2011, Gary Clothier

Distributed by Universal Uclick for UFS

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