San Marino #615 (1965)

San Marino #615 (1966)

San Marino #615 (1965)
San Marino #615 (1965)

The Republic of San Marino (Repubblica di San Marino), also known as the Most Serene Republic of San Marino (Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino), is an enclaved microstate surrounded by Italy, situated on the Italian Peninsula on the northeastern side of the Apennine Mountains. It is on the border between the regioni of Emilia Romagna and Marche and about 6.21 miles (10 km) from the Adriatic coast at Rimini. Its hilly topography, with no flat ground, is part of the Apennine mountain range. The highest point in the country, the summit of Monte Titano, is 2,457 feet (749 meters) above sea level. There are no bodies of water of any significant size. San Marino is the third smallest country in Europe, with only Vatican City and Monaco being smaller. It is also the fifth smallest country in the world. Its size is just over 24 square miles (61 km²), with a population of 33,562. Its capital is the City of San Marino and its largest city is Serravalle. San Marino has the smallest population of all the members of the Council of Europe.

The country takes its name from Marinus, a stonemason originating from the Roman colony on the island of Rab, in modern-day Croatia. In 257 CE, Marinus participated in the reconstruction of Rimini’s city walls after their destruction by Liburnian pirates. Marinus then went on to found an independent monastic community on Monte Titano in 301 CE; thus, San Marino lays claim to be the oldest extant sovereign state as well as the oldest constitutional republic. so goes the legend though no such independent state would have been tolerated by the Roman Empire except as a legally recognized city-state, civitas or municipalty, municipium, with its own constitution.

San Marino is governed by the Constitution of San Marino (Leges Statutae Republicae Sancti Marini), a series of six books written in Latin in the late sixteenth century, that dictate the country’s political system, among other matters. The country is considered to have the earliest written governing documents, or constitution, still in effect.

The country’s economy mainly relies on finance, industry, services and tourism. It is one of the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP (per capita), with a figure comparable to the most developed European regions. San Marino is considered to have a highly stable economy, with one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe, no national debt and a budget surplus. It is the only country with more vehicles than people. Under a diplomatic point of view, following the leadership of Italy it is one of the core members of the Uniting for Consensus group.Saint Marinus left the island of Arba in present-day Croatia with his lifelong friend Leo, and went to the city of Rimini as a stonemason. After the Diocletianic Persecution following his Christian sermons, he escaped to the nearby Monte Titano, where he built a small church and thus founded what is now the city and state of San Marino. The official date of the founding of what is now known as the Republic is September 3, 301.

Its independence was recognized by the Papacy beginning in 1631.

The advance of Napoleon’s army in 1797 presented a brief threat to the independence of San Marino, but the country was saved from losing its liberty thanks to one of its Regents, Antonio Onofri, who managed to gain the respect and friendship of Napoleon. Thanks to his intervention, Napoleon, in a letter delivered to Gaspard Monge, scientist and commissary of the French Government for Science and Art, promised to guarantee and protect the independence of the Republic, even offering to extend its territory according to its needs. The offer was declined by the Regents, fearing future retaliation from other states’ revanchism.

During the later phase of the Italian unification process in the nineteenth century, San Marino served as a refuge for many people persecuted because of their support for unification. In recognition of this support, Giuseppe Garibaldi accepted the wish of San Marino not to be incorporated into the new Italian state.

The government of San Marino made United States President Abraham Lincoln an honorary citizen. He wrote in reply, saying that the republic proved that “government founded on republican principles is capable of being so administered as to be secure and enduring.”

During World War I, when Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary on May 23, 1915, San Marino remained neutral and Italy adopted a hostile view of Sammarinese neutrality, suspecting that San Marino could harbor Austrian spies who could be given access to its new radiotelegraph station. Italy tried to forcibly establish a detachment of Carabinieri in the republic and then cut the republic’s telephone lines when it did not comply. Two groups of ten volunteers joined Italian forces in the fighting on the Italian front, the first as combatants and the second as a medical corps operating a Red Cross field hospital. The existence of this hospital later caused Austria-Hungary to suspend diplomatic relations with San Marino.

From 1923 to 1943, San Marino was under the rule of the Sammarinese Fascist Party (PFS).

During World War II, San Marino remained neutral, although it was wrongly reported in an article from The New York Times that it had declared war on the United Kingdom on September 17, 1940. The Sammarinese government later transmitted a message to the British government stating that they had not declared war on the United Kingdom.

Three days after the fall of Benito Mussolini in Italy, PFS rule collapsed and the new government declared neutrality in the conflict. The Fascists regained power on April 1, 1944, but kept neutrality intact. Despite that, on June 26, 1944, San Marino was bombed by the Royal Air Force, in the belief that San Marino had been overrun by German forces and was being used to amass stores and ammunition. The Sammarinese government declared on the same day that no military installations or equipment were located on its territory, and that no belligerent forces had been allowed to enter. San Marino accepted thousands of civilian refugees when Allied forces went over the Gothic Line. In September 1944, it was briefly occupied by German forces, who were defeated by Allied forces in the Battle of San Marino.

San Marino had the world’s first democratically elected communist government — a coalition between the Sammarinese Communist Party and the Sammarinese Socialist Party, which held office between 1945 and 1957.

San Marino is the world’s smallest republic, although when Nauru gained independence in 1968 it challenged that claim, Nauru’s land mass being only 8.1 square miles (21 km²). However, Nauru’s jurisdiction over its surrounding waters covers 166,000 square miles (431,000 km²), an area thousands of times greater than the territory of San Marino.

San Marino became a member of the Council of Europe in 1988 and of the United Nations in 1992. It is neither a member of the European Union, nor of the Eurozone although it uses the euro as its currency.

The postal history of San Marino can be traced to October 7, 1607, with the introduction of public postal services. The republic’s postal needs were handled by a post office in nearby Rimini, Italy; the first San Marino post office opened in 1833.

When postage stamps were introduced in the mid-nineteenth century, San Marino signed a postal treaty with Italy to use Italian stamps for its mail. On March 2, 1877, a new agreement was signed between the two countries that enabled San Marino to issue its own stamps.

The first San Marino postage stamps were a definitive stamp set consisting of two designs covering seven denominations. The stamps, which depicted the Three Towers of San Marino at Monte Titano, were created by the design firm Fratelli Pellas in Genoa and were printed on Italian watermarked paper by the Officina Carta e Valori in Turin. Commemorative stamps were introduced in 1894.

Over the years, the attractive designs of San Marino’s stamps have been extremely popular with philatelists around the world. It is estimated that 10% of the republic’s revenue is generated by the sale of its postage stamps to international collectors.The government of San Marino has the world’s only philatelic minister of state, Simone Celli, who carries the title (in Italian) La Segreteria di Stato per le finanze, il bilancio e la programmazione, l’informazione, i rapporti con l’azienda autonoma di stato filatelica e numismatica.

I asked my students to choose today’s stamp; the choices were stamps illustrating horses, artworks, and a sole aquatic dinosaur. The dinosaur, as seen on Scott #615, won out. This was part of a set of nine dinosaur stamps released by San Marino on June 30, 1965. The 4 lira photogravure stamp, perforated 14, depicts Elasmosaurus, a genus of plesiosaur with an extremely long neck that lived in the Late Cretaceous period (Campanian stage), 80.5 million years ago. The name come from the Greek ελασμος elasmos ‘thin plate’ (referring to thin plates in its pelvic girdle) + σαυρος sauros ‘lizard’).

At 34 feet (10.3 meters) in length, Elasmosaurus was among the largest plesiosaurs. It differs from all other plesiosaurs by having six teeth per premaxilla (the bones at the tip of the snout) and 72 neck (cervical) vertebrae. The skull was relatively flat, with a number of long pointed teeth. The lower jaws were joined at the tip to a point between the fourth and fifth teeth. The neck vertebrae immediately following the skull were long and low, and had longitudinal lateral crests. Like most elasmosaurids, Elasmosaurus had around three pectoral vertebrae. The tail included at least 18 vertebrae.

Elasmosaurus platyurus was described in March 1868 by Edward Drinker Cope from a fossil discovered and collected by Dr. Theophilus Turner, a military doctor, in western Kansas, United States. Although other specimens of elasmosaurs have been found in various locations in North America, Carpenter (1999) determined that Elasmosaurus platyurus was the only representative of the genus.

When E. D. Cope received the specimen in early March, 1868, he had a preconceived idea of what it should look like, and mistakenly placed the head on the wrong end (i.e. the tail). In his defense, at the time he was an expert on lizards, which have a short neck and a long tail, and no one had ever seen a plesiosaur the size of Elasmosaurus. Although popular legend notes that it was Othniel Charles Marsh who pointed out the error, there is no factual justification for this account. However, this event is often cited as one of the causes of their long-lasting and acrimonious rivalry, known as the Bone Wars. In fact, although Marsh personally collected at least one plesiosaur from Kansas, and had several more from Kansas in the Yale Peabody collection, he never published a single paper on them.

An outdated historical depiction of Dryptosaurus confronting Elasmosaurus, with two Hadrosaurus in the background. By Edward Drinker Cope, 1869.
An outdated historical depiction of Dryptosaurus confronting Elasmosaurus, with two Hadrosaurus in the background. By Edward Drinker Cope, 1869.

Other elasmosaurus fossils have been discovered in Montana and Alaska’s Talkeetna Mountains, north of Anchorage.

Elasmosaurus fossils have been found in the Campanian-age Upper Cretaceous Pierre Shale of western Kansas. The Pierre Shale represents a period of marine deposition from the Western Interior Seaway, a shallow continental sea that submerged much of central North America during the Cretaceous.

Like most plesiosaurs, Elasmosaurus was incapable of raising anything more than its head above the water as it is commonly depicted in art and media. The weight of its long neck placed the center of gravity behind the front flippers. Thus, Elasmosaurus could only have raised its head and neck above the water if in shallow water, where it could rest its body on the bottom. The weight of the neck, the limited musculature, and the limited movement between the vertebrae would have prevented Elasmosaurus from raising its head and neck very high as well.

One study found that the necks of elasmosaurs were capable of 75–177˚ of ventral movement, 87–155° of dorsal movement, and 94–176° of lateral movement, depending on the amount of tissue between the vertebrae. “Swan-like” S-shape neck postures which required more than 360° of vertical flexion were not possible. The head and shoulders of the Elasmosaurus most likely acted as a rudder. If the animal moved the anterior part of the body in a certain direction, it would cause the rest of the body to move in that direction. Thus, Elasmosaurus could not have swum in one direction while moving its head and neck either horizontally or vertically in a different direction.

Elasmosaurus was a slow swimmer and may have stalked schools of fish. The long neck would allow Elasmosaurus to conceal itself below the school of fish. It then would have moved its head slowly and approached its prey from below. The eyes of the animal could have had stereoscopic vision, which would help it find small prey. Hunting from below would also have helped by silhouetting the prey in the sunlight while concealing Elasmosaurus in the dark waters below.

Elasmosaurus probably ate small bony fish, belemnites (similar to squid), and ammonites (molluscs). It swallowed small stones to aid its digestion. Plesiosaurs’ long necks evolved to overcome the defense mechanisms of the fish they targeted: namely their lateral line and school formation. By approaching a school from the rear and pacing it, the marine reptile’s head (which was similar in size to its prey) created a minimal disturbance in the water. The pressure wave generated by its body was effectively masked by its long neck, causing the fish at the rear of the school to assume that the approaching plesiosaur was just another member of the school.

Elasmosaurus is believed to have lived mostly in open ocean. The paddles of Elasmosaurus and other plesiosaurs are so rigid and specialized for swimming that they could not have come on land to lay eggs. It most likely gave live birth to its young like modern sea snakes. While direct evidence of reproduction in Elasmosaurus is not yet known, the contemporaneous plesiosaur Polycotylus is known to have given birth to live young.

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