Some low-scoring games this week. I’m willing to chalk that up to some relatively tough FJ! clues – this thread, for example. at the J!Board (the unofficial Jeopardy! internet forum) shows just how many different answers, most of which were perfectly plausible (except in that all but one are wrong, of course), there were for Wednesday’s Final, for example. For the record, I said dates (highlight to see) pretty confidently, but ended up just as wrong as the others. Anyway, I quite enjoyed the category we’re looking at this week, Historical Titles – pithy clues, a variety of historical periods, and some relatively unfamiliar names. Let’s take a look!
Jeopardy! category: HISTORICAL TITLES (25-04-2014)
$400 clue: Wilhelm I, 1871-1888
The gist: Wilhelm I was just the third-to-last to hold the title (he was followed by Frederick III and Wilhelm II), although it stretched back more than 1100 years and, etymologically, another 800 or so. The title Kaiser derives ultimately from the familiar Roman imperial title “Caesar,” which in turn originated simply as the cognomen, a sort of nickname, by which the Roman dictator Julius Caesar was known.* When Julius Caesar adopted his grandnephew Gaius Octavius (standard practice among Roman elite), the young man took his new dad’s cognomen, and when he became Rome’s first Emperor in 27 BCE he began to go by the name Augustus Caesar. Augustus’ successors, the first four of which were related to him, also took the name Caesar, and when Augustus’ Julio-Claudian dynasty came to an end with the death of Nero in 68 CE, adopting “Caesar” became a matter of course and propriety for anyone who wanted to consider himself Emperor of Rome.
But “Caesar” lived on long after there wasn’t much of the Roman Empire left. In the Byzantine Empire (AKA the Eastern Roman Empire), the Emperor’s successor(s) were usually given the title Caesar until their accession to the throne. The Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire beginning with Otto I (or Otto the Great) in 962 CE may have been the first to hold the title of “Kaiser,” the German, or in their case Saxon, equivalent of “Caesar” (and, it should be noted, more or less how the Romans actually pronounced it). The Hapsburg dynasty of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were also known as “Kaiser,” and the Russian title Czar (or Tsar) derives from the same root.
Wilhelm I was the first of the Prussian kings to hold the title Kaiser beginning in 1871. In that year, Wilhelm and his minister Otto von Bismarck succeeded in unifying the German states into the German Empire. Among his accomplishments as Kaiser include arbitrating between the United States and the British on the issue of the San Juan islands off the coast of Washington state (he ruled that they belonged to the States, ending the Pig War). He also survived several assassination attempts (surviving a severe gunshot wound in the second of 1878), dying of natural causes in 1888. He was succeeded by his son, Frederick III, who reigned for 99 days before dying of throat cancer and being succeeded by Wilhelm II, who abdicated in 1918 after World War I abolished the German monarchy.
The clue: All of the clues in this category are simply a name and a time span, so this section is going to be pretty sparse this week. I would just note that Wilhelm, of course, held many titles throughout his life – although Kaiser is by far the most well-known (and the most powerful), I wonder what the judges would have ruled had someone said “King of Prussia,” for example.
In Jeopardy!: “Kaiser” appears in 49 regular clues and one FJ! clue. This, of course, includes questions about the German Emperors – common themes include Prussia and Germany, World War I, and their eponymous bread rolls. There’s also one about Billy Bob Thornton’s role in the 1996 film Sling Blade, in which Thornton, portraying a mentally challenged man who murdered his mother, states about his weapon of choice that “some folks call it a sling blade, I call it a kaiser blade.”
*Most Romans in the late Republic (when Julius Caesar was alive) and the Roman Empire had three names; Caesar was properly known as Gaius Julius Caesar. Gaius is his praenomen, of which the Romans only used a handful. Julius was his nomen, which was hereditary and referred to his gens, or clan, the gens Julia. Because neither of those first two names were very distinct, most Romans went by their cognomen, which could be honorific, descriptive (you might be Ahenobarbus or “bronze-beard,” for example), or inherited.