Old Thoughts, Bad Thoughts – WIF Myth and Legend

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Odd Things

People Used

to Believe

Humans have believed all kinds of strange things throughout our short time on this planet. This is, in part, because humans (and our evolutionary ancestors) love stories. We gather around campfires and invent entire mediums, industries, and technologies to aid in their telling. But on the other hand, humans have always had a deep need to understand the world we inhabit, and the combination of these qualities can lead to very uninformed people believing some very strange things.

10. The Sun is Actually Really Cold

He believed that the sun wasn’t hot, that it was actually very cold, but that its outer layers were of a luminous material, or an extremely reflective ocean. The discovery of sunspots had him reeling with possible ideas, suggesting that these were either momentary glimpses at the surface beneath the atmosphere or great mountain peaks that were being exposed by the tides of a vast ocean.

Obviously, these theories were laughed out of scientific circles by a host of polymaths, and Herschel’s ideas never caught on. The sun isn’t cold, and those sunspots are actually produced by the sun’s magnetic field.

9. Isaac Newton’s Future

Isaac Newton may have been known for his scientific exploits, but he was also absolutely obsessed with Alchemy, going so far as to construct his own furnaces to produce alchemical experiments. He wrote about these things extensively, using code to hide his theories from prying eyes, believing that anything could be transformed into anything else (something we know now is very wrong). If these texts were observed by anyone from modern times, they would be seen as occult or religious tracts. He was so obsessed with Alchemy and the supernatural that it might be considered that his interest in science was his real hobby.

To Newton, the philosopher’s stone was a real thing, which he was constantly searching for.

Newton was also fiercely religious and believed that the Bible should be taken literally. He spent much of his time attempting to uncover a secret code created by the authors of the Bible, something left by God that would redeem humanity before His inevitable return.

After studying Biblical texts extensively, he concluded that the world as we know it would end in 2060 and that it would be preceded by an apocalypse.

8. Bloodletting

All the way up until the start of the 1900s, the practice of applying leeches or cutting parts of a person’s body open to drain them of their blood was not only common, it was a thriving industry. The practice comes from the erroneous belief that all illness comes from the body having too much blood in it and that to cure that illness, the excess blood needs to be drained from the patient.

This is, of course, false, and while the practice of bloodletting fell and rose throughout history, it was perhaps never more popular than in the 1800s. It was a common practice for leeches to be imported for this purpose, and it’s estimated that in France alone, 42 million leeches were imported each year. These leeches were used to drain the blood from patients, cared for by barbers (yes, you read that correctly). A patient could have as many as 100 leeches applied to them. Barbers and caregivers would coat the part of the body they wished to apply the leech to with sugar-water, milk, or blood to entice the tiny critters to start sucking. This industry caused leeches to become fairly scarce, driving the cost of them up by 300%, and forcing “care-givers” to find inventive ways to extend the life of a leech.

The first physician didn’t come out against bloodletting until 1828.

7. Lambs Grew on Trees

During the Middle Ages, it was a common belief that the cotton being imported from India came from a vegetable that had a lamb attached to it by umbilical. This inaccuracy was reported by Sir John Mandeville in the 1300s. Mandeville wrote that in Tartary (the part of the map we know of as Russia and Mongolia today) a strange plant that produced gourds containing tiny lambs was a common sight.

It turns out that much of what Mandeville wrote about his travels were either outright lies or based on notes from other travelers.

Another version of this myth suggests that these vegetable lambs would die once they ran out of food surrounding their pod if they weren’t killed by their natural predator (wolves).

Other writers would go on to claim to have seen these vegetable lambs, and the belief would not start to crumble until the 1600s.

6. Women’s Orgasms Were A Sign of Insanity

As late as the early 20th century, it was believed that women did not experience sexual desire and that the female orgasm was something that needed to be solved, rather than a thing which could be beneficial to a woman’s mental and physical health.

Sigmund Freud was one of the physicians who proposed the idea that clitoral stimulation could lead to psychosis in women, a “theory” which saw quite a few women institutionalized as a result. Women who had difficulty or could not have a vaginal orgasm were labeled as lesbians (which was also thought to be a mental illness), imbalanced, and masculine.

History has had a bad habit of demonizing the female orgasm. The vibrator was originally invented so that doctors could relieve “hysteria” (known as sexual frustration today) in women, and it was generally not believed that women were capable of experiencing sexual desire and were merely receptacles for male anatomy.

Today, we know that the female orgasm is beneficial not only to a woman’s mental health but also to her physical health as well.

5. Cosmic Ice Theory

In 1912 Hanns Hörbiger attempted to challenge the scientific community by introducing a controversial theory which suggested that humanity, the stars, and the planets were all made of… ice. Hanns and his partner, Philip Fauth, argued that the formation of the Milky Way was caused by the collision of a massive star with a dead star filled with water. This collision resulted in the formation of the Milky Way galaxy and dozens of other solar systems—all made of ice produced from the collision. When these ideas were challenged for not making any mathematical sense and for there not being any physical evidence for it, Hanns said “Calculation can only lead you astray,” and, “Either you believe in me and learn, or you will be treated as the enemy.”

This ridiculous theory didn’t catch on with mainstream science at the time, not until the conclusion of World War I at least, when Hanns decided to take his theories into the public sphere, where they might be better appreciated.

His rationale was that if the general public grew to accept the theory that they were in-fact made of ice, then the scientific community would have to accept it as well (we mean, isn’t that how science works?). While serious scientists did not accept his theory, many socialist thinkers at the time did, concluding that it was superior to theories invented by Jews.

And you are probably guessing where this is leading. Hitler, Himmler, and all of his cronies also adopted these ideas as well, along with a whole bunch of other horrifying things.

4. Doctors Didn’t Need to Wash their Hands

Before the advent of germ theory, medical professionals would go from examining dead bodies to performing live births on mothers, which as you can imagine, caused all manner of infections and a high mortality rate among patients they cared for. It wasn’t until 1840, when Ignaz Semmelweis, a 19th-century Hungarian doctor observed that one of his fellow surgeons died after cutting his finger during an autopsy.

Semmelweis surmised that because many of the doctors in his hospital often operated on corpses before treating live patients, they were inadvertently spreading “cadaveric matter.” And when he instituted the policy that all of his doctors were to wash their hands between patients, the mortality rate at his hospital dramatically dropped. Naturally, he wanted to spread this discovery with the rest of the medical world.

There was quite a bit of resistance to this idea, though, mostly because Semmelweis’ publication on the matter was barely coherent, and handwashing wouldn’t be strongly advocated for until 1860 by famous nurse Florence Nightingale. And it wouldn’t be until the discovery of germ theory that handwashing would become a staple in hospitals around the world.

3. Sexual Energy Controls the Universe

Wilhelm Reich went from being the enemy of Fascist Europe to being the enemy of the US Government, from psychoanalyst to the founder of sexual liberty in the West. Reich believed that orgasms were caused by a mysterious energy in the atmosphere called “orgone” and that this energy permeated and moved the entire universe. He suggested that a good orgasm could liberate a man or woman, and a bad orgasm could make them a prisoner.

Sexual liberation was not exactly in vogue in Hitler’s Germany at the time, so Reich was forced to flee to New York, where his ideas would be embraced by the disenfranchised left. Reich even “invented” a device that he claimed could “energize” a person with orgone. The device, called an “Orgone Energy Accumulator,”  was feared by conservatives and revered by left-leaning individuals, and some even swear by its power today. Reich’s ideas got him labeled as a communist sympathizer in the 50s, and eventually, the FDA would come after him for selling his Orgone Accumulators, demanding that they be destroyed along with all literature pertaining to them.

Reich would be arrested for violating this order and sent to Federal prison, where he would die alone in 1957.

2. Women’s Bodies were not Designed to Handle Train Rides

The resistance we’re seeing to the rise of artificial intelligence and 5G internet is nothing new, it’s age-old. When the first locomotive was unveiled, men feared that its immense speed (top speed getting up to 50 miles per hour, or 80 kilometers per hour) would cause a woman’s uterus to fly from her body.

A companion to this fear was that the human body, male or female, might melt if brought to similar speeds.

Cultural anthropologist Genevieve Bell suggests that this revulsion to new and developing technologies results from a kind of “moral panic” that a society experiences when an invention threatens to alter how we perceive time and space. Put more simply, we humans hate changes to the status quo, and we’ll kick and scream until that change either goes away or we realize it really isn’t so bad after all.

1. The Earth was the Center of the Solar System

Up until the end of the 2nd Century AD, it was thought that the Earth was the center of the universe. Although this notion is ridiculous to the vast majority of us who accept the clearly superior Heliocentric model (which purports that all bodies in the solar system revolve around the sun), to humans observing the skies in the 2nd Century, it did seem like the sun, stars, and the moon all revolved around the Earth.

Beyond famous Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Ptolemy, early Christianity taught that God had placed the Earth at the center of the universe, thereby making it unique.

Though recently, conspiracy theorists have begun a movement bordering on cult-like proportions suggesting that the Heliocentric model is a huge hoax perpetrated by world governments and that the Earth is actually flat, we don’t have to tell you that this is bullocks, do we?

The Geocentric model of the universe was so pervasive in human history, that it would remain the scientific rule until being invalidated in the 16th Century AD.


Old Thoughts, Bad Thoughts

WIF Myth and Legend

The Rise and Fall of Civilizations – WIF Into History

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Unsolved Mysteries

of

Ancient Civilizations

Archaeology has uncovered many secrets from the ancient world. But the Earth has a bad habit of eroding the past, making it difficult to piece together the stories of our ancestors. In the past couple of centuries, we’ve discovered Roman artifacts in the Americas, found ancient Greek cities in what was once thought to be the backwater of Ancient Greece, puzzled over the success of the Incan economy, and have long searched for the core of history’s first true empire.

These mysteries prove that humanity needs to keep digging to uncover the truth, lest we repeat our past mistakes.

10. The Romans May Have Discovered the New World

But the recent discovery of certain artifacts around the Americas has been putting this idea into question. We’re talking about Roman artifacts discovered both on the continent and in her waters, such as a sunken Roman ship in Brazil’s Guanabara Bay, terracotta amorphae, and tall jars clearly made during the Roman Empire’s rule.

The jars themselves date back to the 1st or 3rd century BC. Wine, grains, and olive oil were stored inside these types of jars and transported all over the Roman Empire.

Just outside Mexico City, another terracotta artifact thought to belong to the ancient Roman Empire was found. The artifact is a carved head, and experts say it’s a depiction of a Roman during the Hellenistic period, dating all the way back to 200 AD.

Finally, the discovery of several caches of Roman coins have been found buried throughout North America, and date back to the 16th century. Though some doubt has been raised as to the legitimacy of the coins, many archaeologists have seriously begun to consider the possibility that Roman settlers discovered the Americas in the ancient past.

Though, who, how, and why is still a mystery.

9. Ancient Roman Cults

Cults in the ancient Roman Empire have baffled archaeologists and historians alike because the evidence of their writings and artifacts have been poorly preserved. A mystery religion is defined by historians and archaeologists as one that offers individuals a religious experience not practiced officially by the state. The Mithraic cult, which historians seem to agree existed sometime before Christianity began to take over Rome as the primary religion, had most of its writings and artifacts destroyed after Christianity took hold. Though most scholars agree that before this, the Roman government tolerated the Mithraic cult, as its views supported the government at the time.

For every Roman god, there was probably one or two cults devoted to them, most of them starting as a family or a divergent version of the official state religion taken on by a clan. These cults would persist until the state absorbed them. Most of them featured an initiation ritual (just like today’s cults) and were typically performed inside a large sanctuary.

Just how many of these cults existed in the ancient world, and what they believed, however, remains a mystery.

8. The Lost City of Paititi

The Lost City of Paititi and the quest to find it has claimed many explorer’s lives. The legend even inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World.” This lost city of gold has eluded every treasure hunter, archaeologist, and would-be explorer who have gone searching for it. Finding this city would inform much about the ancient Inca civilization which thrived between 1400 and 1533 AD, extending across western South America.

After the discovery of a letter to the pope in the Vatican archives from a missionary named Andres Lopez concerning the location of a large city rich with gold, silver, and jewels, the search for the city was renewed. Lopez’s letter claimed the city was located in the middle of the jungle and called Paititi by the local indigenous tribes. The pope and the Vatican kept the location secret for decades, but in 2016 a new expedition was set in motion. While that expedition turned up questionable artifacts in a site which is still being disputed today, the discovery of previously hidden cities throughout the Amazon (thanks to a combination of ground-penetrating radar and illegal logging and deforestation) has helped to keep the renewed fervor for the lost city alive.

7. The Economy of the Incas

Most historians agree that the Incan economy was one of the most successful in the ancient world, but perplexingly, they did not use money or gold, and only seemed to trade with outsiders. A lot of what we know of the Incas comes from the Spanish conquistadors who crushed their armies (after unleashing a plague of smallpox upon them, wiping out 90% of their population), so, much of how the Incas functioned as a society has been lost to time.

Still, the question remains how the Incas were able to create such a thriving economy without currency or even trade. Some historians believe that the secret to their great wealth came from the unique tax system they used, which required every Incan citizen to pay labor to the state. Strangely, wealthy Inca who passed away were able to continue owning property, and some historians jest that it’s almost as though they invented the idea of corporations-as-people without ever creating a market economy.

Because of the difficult terrain and harsh environment of the Amazon, much of the Incas way of life was dictated by a need to keep their people from starving, rather than developing markets and traditional forms of economics. At least, that’s what historians believe based on the little evidence that survives of the Incan civilization. Much of it still remains a mystery.

6. The Lost City of Tenea

The Lost City of Tenea was said to have been founded by prisoners of the legendary Trojan War, but it’s thought that the city was abandoned some time in the 4th century BC. Archaeologists have been on the hunt for signs of the legendary city since a sarcophagus was discovered in the Greek village of Chiliomodi in 1984.

More recently, though, archaeologists claim that the city has finally been discovered. An archaeological effort in the modern village of Chiliomodi began in 2013, leading to excavators of the site there to proclaim that proof of the legendary city was at last discovered after a series of rare coins, seven graves, and carefully constructed structures composed of clay, stone walls, and marble floors were unearthed.

Whether or not the Trojan War actually happened is up for debate, but the things learned in Tenea may provide a clue, especially if proof is found that shows that the city was indeed settled by those fleeing from their defeat in the Trojan War. Whether this was at the hands of legendary Odysseus or not, remains to be seen, and the city itself holds many mysteries which archaeologists are eager to uncover.

5. The Mystery of Teotihuacan

The ancient city of Teotihuacan stretches out for 20 square kilometers, contains nearly 2,000 single-story structures which appear to have been homes, and various impressive buildings like pyramids. The discovery of Teotihuacan may have been a major archaeological find, but its existence poses some problems for scholars, as it’s unknown who exactly built it. Originally, it was thought that the Toltec civilization must have built the city, but this was refuted when it was discovered that Teotihuacan peaked long after the Toltecs vanished.

Other theories range from the Totonacs having built the city, or immigrants fleeing the eruption of a volcano, but no conclusive theory has emerged. The city contains the hints of Mayan, Mixtec, and Zapotec cultures, further adding to the mystery.

Whoever built the city, scholars are certain Teotihuacan was originally founded in 400 BC, with the largest structures seeing their completion by 300 AD, and the city and culture reaching its peak nearly 100 years later with a population of over 200,000 inhabitants.

4. The Mystery of the Origin of the Sumerian Language

The Sumerian language appeared as early as 4000 BC and dominated Sumerian civilization for nearly 1,000 years, before being mostly replaced by Akkadian. The language was pictographic (or cuneiform) meaning that individual images represented whole words, phrases, or sentences, (much like Egyptian hieroglyphs, or later logographic languages like Chinese and Japanese).

This language is quite mysterious because beyond Akkadian there are no known ancestral forms of communication connected to it. Although some linguists think that Sumerian could be related to the Uralic languages such as Finnish and Hungarian, this view isn’t shared throughout the academic community.

Scholars suggest that, if the Sumerian people did not originate from the area of Mesopotamia, then it’s possible that their language could have been influenced by an older, still undiscovered language, but this is just a hypothesis.

3. The Fall of the Akkadian Empire

The Sumerian empire eventually fell to Sargon the Great, who established one of history’s first empires. The Akkadian Empire was ruled from Sargon’s city of Akkad. The Akkadians would succeed in nearly stamping out the Sumerian language and Sargon would be succeeded by several other rulers after his death. But sometime after Shar-Kali-Sharri took rule of the Akkadian empire, things took a turn for the worse, and eventually, what was once the world’s first true empire would collapse in 2154 BC.

What caused it, though, is a bit of a mystery.

Historians present three theories for the fall of Akkadia.

The first is that the invasion of the Gutians (a people who dwelled in the mountains) proved to be too much for the disorganized Shar-Kali-Sharri, who was already having difficulty maintaining order in the wake of his father’s death. He also waged a seemingly indefinite war with the Elamites and the Amorites at the same time the mountain people were invading.

The second is that a combination of a poor harvest, a great famine, and a great drought may have contributed or caused the collapse outright. In 2019, a study of fossil coral records from Oman provided evidence that winter dust storms, along with a longer winter than usual may have sealed the Akkadian Empire’s fate.

The third possibility is that a meteor collision with the Earth set in motion drastic changes to the Earth’s weather, causing the climate to change around an already struggling empire.

2. The Lost Ruins of Vlochos

In 2015, archaeologists uncovered what appeared to have been the site of a Greek village called Vlochos. At the time, they wrote the discovery off as of no importance, thinking that the remains atop the hill were nothing more than the remains of a Greek village. That was until they discovered the remnants of towers, gates, and a city grid which hinted at there being a deeper story to the ruins. With new information, the site is now considered to have been the center of a Greek city, one which flourished sometime during the 4th century BC, and was abandoned in the 3rd century BC.

Why it was abandoned, though, remains a bit of a mystery. Archaeologists and scholars think that a likely candidate is the invasion of Roman forces. Using ground-penetrating radar, archaeologists hope to uncover more of the lost city’s secrets.

What is interesting about this site is that this area of Greece was previously thought to have been a backwater of the Ancient Greek world, so archaeologists and scholars haven’t really paid much attention to it.

Who knows what other mysteries lie in wait for them?

1. The City of Akkad

No one knows where the city of Akkad was located. We know a great deal about the man who supposedly built it, Sargon the Great, and the empire he ruled, but the capitol city itself has long eluded scholars and archaeologists.

It has been told that Sargon the Great built the city along the bank of the western Euphrates River, possibly between the cities of Kish and Sippar, though Mari and Babylon have been offered as other potential possibilities as well.

There are a number of excavation sites which scholars think could be candidates for the City of Akkad. Most of these places are situated east of the Tigris, which is part of the Euphrates, but there is much debate as to which of these might be the true site of the capital of the Akkadian Empire.

How the city fell and where it was located is almost as great a mystery as to how the Akkadian Empire fell.


The Rise and Fall of Civilizations

WIF Into History

Odd Ruler Dudes – WIF Into History

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History’s Strangest

Ancient Rulers

The word strange is barely adequate for some of the ancient leaders described here, if the tales told of them are true. The ancient world had no shortage of outright butchers who practiced patricide, matricide, fratricide, and mass murders to consolidate and secure their positions at the head of their societies. They used brutal, though inventive methods to kill their perceived enemies and rivals, and exhibited a lust for blood and inflicting pain. Some of them appear on this list, including Commodus and Caligula.

Others exhibited downright weird behavior, on their own and at the expense of others for their personal satisfaction and comfort. Alcohol was a common denominator for some, with excessive consumption of wine and other beverages featured. The pursuit of sexual satisfaction is another. Vanity to the point of narcissism is still another. Some though, were just plainly bizarre, in their beliefs, their activities, and their behaviors. Here are 10 of the strangest, with the possible omission  of a couple recent American leaders.

10. Pharaoh Pepi II used honey covered slaves as walking flytraps

Pepi II was a pharaoh of the Sixth Dynasty, reigning more than 2,000 years before the Common Era. He became pharaoh at the age of 6, following the death of Merenre I. Throughout his reign the power of the pharaoh declined; the dynastic Old Kingdom, also known as the Age of the Pyramid Builders, collapsed within decades of his death, after lasting five centuries. While still a child, Pepi sent an expedition to Nubia to trade ivory and other goods. When the leader of the expedition, Harkhuf, one of his governors, informed the young King he had captured a pygmy, the excited young man promised substantial rewards should the prisoner arrive at his court alive. The pharaoh wanted it as a plaything. The letter to Harkhuf survives, inscribed on the governor’s tomb.

Using a pygmy as a toy is strange enough, but not the only strange behavior attributed to Pepi II. The pharaoh detested flies. Using slaves to wave fans of feathers to shoo them away was not enough, in his estimation. Aware that flies were attracted to honey, Pepi covered slaves with the substance, and stationed them around him when he was at court and when walking or riding through his dominions. Flies swarmed to the honey-swathed slaves, and thus away from him. Some claim Pepi II held the longest reign of any ruler in human history, though that is debated among Egyptologists. His pyramid lies in ruins in Saqqara.

9. Caligula named a horse as a priest of Rome

The name of the third man to hold the title of Emperor of Rome is synonymous with corruption, cruelty, brutality, sadism, and unbridled sexual indulgence and depredation. His reign as Emperor was short, as was his life, dying through assassination at the age of 28. He held the throne from 37 – 41 AD. According to most scholars, the first few months of his reign were promising, though he soon embarked on a pattern of indulging his every whim, building luxurious residences for himself. An illness during the first year of his reign – some say poisoning – transformed his personality and his attitude towards his subjects and his perceived enemies.

Several ancient historians claimed Caligula falsely accused wealthy subjects of crimes, had them executed without benefit of trial, and claimed their estates. He claimed divinity, and frequently dressed in the costumes of several Roman gods, including Mercury, Apollo, and Venus. He had the heads of various gods removed from statues throughout the empire, and replaced them with likenesses of his own. Roman historians Suetonius and Cassius Dio claimed the emperor planned to name his favorite horse, Incitatus, a consul of Rome. He did not. Instead, he appointed the horse as a priest of Rome.

8. Emperor Zhou Xin of China created a lake of wine, and swam in it

Zhou Xin is a pejorative name given to Di Xin, following his death in 1046 BCE. The records of his life and reign were deliberately falsified and exaggerated by succeeding dynasties, according to most scholars, and separating fact from fiction regarding his extravagances is difficult. During his reign he abandoned any concept of morality, hosted massive orgies, and indulged heavily in his favorite beverage, wine. He was completely enamored with wine. To the point he created a lake filled with wine, surrounded by a forest of meat trees. Constructed on the palace grounds, the lake accommodated several boats.

The meat trees surrounding the lake were real trees, from which cooked meat suspended from the branches. Zhou Xin used the lake for canoeing, bathing, consorting with his concubines, and of course, drinking. Following his defeat at the hands of King Wu of Zhou, he retreated to a pavilion at the lake, with his jewelry and other symbols of his wealth, and had it set afire, killing himself in the flames. His death marked the end of the Shang dynasty in China, and introduced the Zhou Dynasty. Recent excavations confirm the existence of the lake, and nearby water wells established the lake was not built as a water reservoir as some argued, legitimizing the tales of the lake of wine.

7. Chinese Emperor Wu used goats to decide which of his more than 5,000 concubines he should visit

Emperor Wu of Jin was the first emperor of the Jin Dynasty, reigning from 266 to 290, CE. In 280 he defeated the forces of Eastern Wu, and became emperor of a unified China. The conquest of Eastern Wu increased his domains, his prestige, his personal wealth, and most importantly to him, the number of his concubines. Beginning in 273 he banned marriages until he had personally examined women, and either taken them for his own or rejected them. The conquest of Eastern Wu awarded him another 5,000 concubines from the palaces of his defeated enemies. From that point Wu focused his energies on gluttony, drinking, and visiting his concubines.

Decisive in battle, Wu was the opposite when selecting which concubine, or concubines, to visit. Or maybe the sheer number of women at his disposal intimidated him when it became time to choose. So, he left the decision to goats. He had a small cart fashioned, pulled by goats. He rode in the cart, and wherever the goats stopped when wandering the palace grounds occupied by the concubines, the lustful Emperor in tow, he went in. Some claim women desirous of the Emperor’s attentions placed bamboo and salt outside their rooms to entice the goats to stop. Wu died in 290 of an unknown illness, which one may surmise was exhaustion.

6. Byzantine Emperor Justin II liked to bite his courtiers and visitors

Justin II held the throne of the Eastern Roman Empire from 565 until he abdicated in 574, four years before his death. In 572 he exhibited growing signs of insanity, or at the least, strange behavior. John of Ephesus, a leader of the Syriac Orthodox Church and an historian, left written accounts of the Emperor’s increasingly strange actions in the last years of his reign. He demanded organ music played in his presence around the clock. Those who approached the Emperor found him likely to bite them. Not just a nip. Justin bit and held the bite, snarling like a wild animal, sometimes biting several times. At others he bit and chewed, organ music swirling in the background.

Which of his courtiers came up with the idea of amusing and distracting the biting Emperor with a wheeled throne is unreported. John of Ephesus recorded the Emperor’s chair had wheels installed, and Justin delighted in being rolled about in his chair. It often served to distract him sufficiently that he forgot to bite visitors or servants. In 574 he accepted the suggestion of his wife, Sophia and adopted Tiberius, a general, as his son and his designated heir, and abdicated the Byzantine throne. Sophia and Tiberius ruled as regents until Justin’s death, when Tiberius ascended to the throne as Tiberius II Constantine.

5. Korean Prince Sado required a presentation of 30 outfits to choose from before dressing

Prince Sado, the second son of Korean King Yeongjo, never served as the leader of his people, though he became the presumed heir to the throne following the death of his elder half-brother. Sado was not an ancient either, being born in 1735 CE, but in a pre-modern society and culture. Sado’s palace included eunuchs, concubines, and ladies-in-waiting, the latter of whom he frequently beat and raped. He once beheaded one of the eunuchs and carried the head to his wife and her ladies-in-waiting, forcing them to look at it as he held it in his bloodied hands.

Whenever His Highness desired to dress, which was several times per day as the mood struck him, servants were forced to display up to 30 different sets of clothing from which he chose. Those which displeased him he often burnt. He reported seeing ghosts in the palace, and outfits which he believed would upset the ghosts were similarly burnt. Servants required to dress him trembled as they did so, fearful of an act which would anger the prince and lead to their punishment, or even death. In 1762 his father had enough of his bizarre and violent son, and had him executed by placing him in a rice chest until he died.

4. Chinese Emperor Zhou Houshao had an invisible friend as an alter-ego

Born Zhou Houshao, he ascended to the throne as Emperor Zhengde at the age of 14. Zhengde meant “rectification of virtue.” When applied to his reign the term is very much a misnomer. The eleventh Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, his reign ended when he contracted an illness after falling into the Yellow River. Some say it was the Grand Canal. He was drunk, a common occurrence during his reign. During the fifteen years he held the throne he preferred the company of his eunuchs. He expressed interest in work only when preparing actions against those who displeased him, including against his own adoptive son, whom he had jailed. He was later executed.

To entertain himself, the Zhengde Emperor invented invisible friends, and his own fictional alter-ego, which he forced his ministers to accept. He spent much of his time playing outside of the palace, frustrating his ministers and advisors. He preferred the company of Muslim men and women in his sexual trysts as an adult, and enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle. His banning the slaughter of pigs and preference for Muslim company led to speculation that he converted to Islam, though he did not adopt that religion’s views on the consumption of alcohol. Throughout his life he continued to act like a child, with imaginary friends, and a penchant for playing childish games.

3. Herod the Great kept his wife’s body preserved in honey

King Herod the Great achieved infamy in the New Testament, after the visitation of the Magi informed him of the birth of a Jewish King. Most of the details of his life appear in The Antiquities of the Jews, by the historian Josephus. His reign as King of Judea as a client of Rome is debated due to differences in religious sources and those of historians. It is known that Herod executed numerous members of his immediate family during his reign, including his wife Mariamne I. Even that event is disputed, the Talmud claims she committed suicide, while Josephus reports her execution after trial in 29 BCE.

The Talmud is also the source of the story of Herod’s expansive grief over the death of his wife, and that he ordered her body preserved by placing it in a casket filled with honey. The Talmud refers to the implied saving of the body for sexual gratification one of the “deeds of Herod.” Josephus is silent on the honey story, and recounts Herod tried to overcome his grief through manly pursuits such as hunting, and through feasting and drinking copiously.

2. Commodus declared himself the reincarnation of Hercules

Commodus became one of the better-known Roman Emperors through the release of the film Gladiator in 2000. Joaquin Phoenix portrayed the corrupt and amoral son of Emperor Marcus Aurelius memorably, though in truth the real Commodus makes the fictional depiction an Eagle Scout in comparison. Commodus served as co-Emperor with his father for three years, became sole Emperor when Aurelius died in 180 CE, and reigned for another 12 years. Throughout his reign, his government became more chaotic. He suspected everyone, fought in the arena with “gladiators” who were in fact partially disabled men, their disabilities disguised, and did the same with wild beasts.

He had statues placed around the empire depicting him in the guise of Hercules, and later announced he was the reincarnation of the Roman god. His claim to be Hercules allowed him to claim direct descent from Jupiter, the head of the Roman hierarchy of gods. As a god he claimed immortality, a fact proved untrue when his wrestling partner, Narcissus, strangled him to death in his bath, at the behest of conspirators which included his mistress, Marcia. Following his death, the statues of the god-Emperor across the empire were destroyed.

1. Mithridates VI took poison daily to build up tolerance against assassination attempts

Mithridates VI of Pontus ruled Pontus and Armenia Minor as King from sometime in the second century BCE until 63 BCE. His father Mithridates V, was murdered via poison during a banquet. The death of his father gave the son a lifelong fear of suffering the same fate. Mithridates, at some point in his youth, began to immunize himself from poisons by taking them, in increasing doses. He did so while in hiding in the years immediately following the death of his father. During the time in hiding his mother, Laodice, and his brother, Chrestus, ruled the kingdom. When Mithridates returned he overthrew his mother and brother, assumed the throne, and had both imprisoned, where they died (some say executed). He gave them both royal funerals, after which he married his sixteen year-old sister, also named Laodice.

The Mithridatic Wars against the Romans and their puppet states did not go well for the king for whom they were named. After his final defeat at the hands of the Romans under Pompey, Mithridates fled to the region of the Black Sea, at first hoping to raise another army and continue the war. When the local populace rebelled against him, he opted for suicide over capture and execution by Pompey. He tried to kill himself with poison, but his efforts to build up a tolerance for poisons had been too successful. The poison didn’t kill him. Nor could be bring himself to use a sword to end his own life. It took some of his followers to kill him with swords and spears. Pompey had him buried in his ancestral grounds.


Odd Ruler Dudes

WIF Into History

By the Sea, By the Contentious Sea – WIF @ War

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Largest Battles

Ever Fought

at Sea

The fate of nations and empires have depended upon control of the high seas throughout civilization. From well-populated coastlines to the most remote ocean depths, sunken vessels lie dormant in a vast watery graveyard, serving as a reminder of the countless battles waged.

Here’s a rundown of some largest and most decisive naval battles that not only changed the tides of war but altered the course of world history.

8. Battle of Lepanto

Long simmering tensions between the Ottoman Empire and Catholic states in the Mediterranean reached a boiling point when Muslim forces captured the Venetian island of Cyprus in 1570. This following year, roughly 500 ships clashed at the Battle of Lepanto, marking the last major engagement powered mostly by oar-driven vessels in the Western world.

Viewed by both sides as a religious mandate, the conflict saw the formation of the Holy League, a coalition assembled by Pope Pius V, consisting of Spain, Venice and the Papacy. Although they would face a battle-tested Turks led by Ali Pasha, command of the alliance was handed to John of Austria, an ambitious tenderfoot with a checkered past.

As the illegitimate son of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and half-brother, King Philip II of Spain, “Don Juan” led a charmed life as a member of the House of Habsburg. The 24-year-old playboy was not the Pope’s first choice to lead the Holy League’s fleet, but when Phillip agreed to finance the righteous rumble, the young admiral received the nod. Miraculously, he exceeded all expectations.

The Ottomans sailed westward from their naval station in southwestern Greece near Lepanto (today Nafpaktos) into the Gulf of Patras. There, they collided with the Christian fleet equipped with more than 200 galleys and bolstered by 44-gun Venetian galleasses (much larger galleys).

By the time fighting ceased, the Holy League had captured 117 Turkish galleys and liberated around 12,000 enslaved Christians. Moreover, the victory effectively thwarted Ottoman military expansion into the Mediterranean.

7. Battle of Jutland

Big, bloody, and befuddled is one way to summarize the First World War‘s biggest sea skirmish. ‘Stalemate’’ is another. Fought over 36 hours beginning on May 31, 1916, the Battle of Jutland involved more than 250 ships and 100,00 men and produced the only instance in which British and German ‘dreadnought’ battleships directly engaged each other.

Under the command of Admiral Reinhard Scheer, the German High Seas Fleet attempted to cripple the Royal Navy by luring Admiral Sir David Beatty’s battlecruiser force out into the open. However, the British caught a whiff of the plan and quickly dispatched Admiral Sir John Jellicoe’s Grand Fleet that had been stationed at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands.

The two belligerents then tangled northwest of the Danish peninsula, where the outgunned Germans managed to inflict severe damage, sinking the HMS Indefatigable and HMS Queen Mary, which exploded when enemy shells hit their ammunition magazines. Although the British lost more ships and twice as many men, both sides claimed victory. Fittingly, the muddled outcome mirrored the same futility found on land in trench warfare.

The German fleet was forced to return home, having failed to break the Royal Navy’s blockade of the North Sea. The retreat reaffirmed Britain’s stranglehold on vital shipping lanes, a critical factor that contributed to Germany’s eventual defeat two years later.

6. Battle of the Masts

In one of the first major naval engagements between Muslim forces and the Christian Byzantine Empire, the Battle of the Masts unfolded off the coast of southern Anatolia in 655 CE. The fight for control the Mediterranean saw both sides suffer heavy casualties, resulting in what has been hailed as “The first decisive conflict of Islam on the deep.”

The Rashidun Caliphate, having recently conquered Egypt and Cyprus, then set its sights on bringing Byzantium under Muslim control. Led by Abu’l-Awar, 200 Arab boats sailed north towards the harbor of Phoenix (modern day Finike), where they encountered the 500-ship Byzantine navy, commanded personally by Emperor Constans II.

Fuelled by hubris and a vast numerical superiority, Constans (Constantine the Bearded) didn’t bother to bring his fleet into formation and instead plowed straight into the enemy. Big mistake. The blunder created heavy congestion, nullifying the Byzantine advantage as a clutter of masts flying either a cross or a crescent would give the battle its name. Constans barely escaped the carnage by switching uniforms with one of his officers. The result also marked the beginning of significant Muslim influence on the Mediterranean.

5. Battle of the Philippine Sea

Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan is credited with discovering a previously uncharted body of water that he named ‘Pacific’ for the calmness of the water. Ironically, the exploration soon led to his violent death, slain by natives in an archipelago that came to be known as The Philippines. Some 400 years later, the same area saw more mayhem with the largest aircraft carrier battle in history.

The Battle of the Philippine Sea began on 19 June 1944 and rapidly progressed in favor of the Allies. A total of fifteen aircraft carriers from the U.S. Fifth Fleet’s Fast Carrier Task Force (T.F. 58) flexed plenty of muscle as part of the most extensive single naval formation ever to give battle. The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) quickly became overwhelmed, losing three aircraft carriers and 395 carrier-based planes. American airmen described the action as a “turkey shoot” that included six confirmed kills in eight minutes by Navy pilot Lieutenant Alexander Vraciu.

By comparison, U.S. losses were light in comparison with one battleship damaged and 130 aircraft destroyed. The Japanese not only lost one third of its carriers but nearly all of its carrier-based aircraft. Remarkably, the depleted Japanese forces would continue fighting to the bitter end for another 14 months.

4. Battle of Actium

The stakes couldn’t have been any higher as opposing naval forces led by Mark Antony, and Octavian squared off for control of the Roman Republic on September 2, 31 BCE. The evenly matched sea battle involved 800 ships, colliding near the Greek peninsula at Actium.

The assassination of Julius Caesar some 13 years earlier still weighed heavily on both sides, adding to the high drama. The famed general was Octavian’s great-uncle, and Antony formed a personal and military partnership with Cleopatra of Egypt, who just happened to be Caesar’s former flame.

According to historian Plutarch, the fighting quickly took on the characteristics of a land battle in which the two sides launched flaming arrows and heaved pots of red-hot pitch and heavy stones at one another’s decks. Antony’s large, well-armoured galleys were equipped with towers for his archers, large battering rams, and heavy grappling irons. Octavian counter-attacked with a fleet of smaller vessels provided greater speed and maneuverability, tactics that ultimately won the day.

The conquering hero would take the name “Augustus” to become Rome’s first Emperor, launching a prosperous reign that lasted 40 years. As for Antony and Cleopatra, things didn’t end well. The star-crossed lovers fled back to Egypt, where they committed suicide. The tragic romance later spawned a Shakespeare play and slew of big-budget Hollywood flicks. Reviews were mixed.

3. Battle of Salamis

Centuries of fighting between the Greeks and Persians produced one of the more spirited rivalries in ancient warfare. Following their victory at Battle of Thermopylae and the sacking of Athens, forces led by King Xerxes I of Persia looked to expand further with an amphibious invasion in 480 BCE. Historians have long debated the size of the Persian armada, but some accounts list a surplus of well over 1,000 ships.

Facing total ruin, the Greeks hatched an ingenious trap by luring the enemy into a narrow and winding strait between the island of Salamis and the Greek mainland. The defenders occupied a position next to an inlet perpendicular to the entrance with a fleet of 370 triremes and began ramming and boarding Persian vessels in the congested waterway.

As panic ensued, the numerically inferior Greek force sank more than 300 of Xerxes’ ships. The defeat forced the Persian to put the invasion on hold — a significant turning point in the Greco-Persian war that saved Hellenic culture from annihilation.

2. Red Cliffs

In the waning days of the Han Dynasty in China, a classic battle occurred featuring a smaller force overcoming tremendous odds to defeat a much larger navy. A trio of warlords had been vying to seize power in the winter of 208 AD, before finally erupting in one of the more spectacular naval engagements in ancient history.

Troops under Cao Cao prepared to invade the southern territory surrounding the Yangtze River Valley with a massive armada and 250,000 men. In response, Liu Bei and Sun Quan hastily formed a coalition with a combined force of 50,000 troops. However, the undersized alliance relied on a cunning battle plan based on deception — a ruse that worked to perfection.

While feigning surrender, the defenders floated several dozen ships filled with oil and straw towards Cao Cao’s fleet, which had been bunched together in a narrow space near an area known as the Red Cliffs. A favorable wind helped propel the ‘defectors’ ships’ forward as fire quickly spread throughout the invader’s entire formation, resulting in chaos and panic among Cao Cao’s men. The Southern allies exploited the advantage, unleashing the bulk of its navy to destroy the retreating enemy.

The outcome determined new borders of the Three Kingdoms period. Red Cliff would also inspire countless works of art, including a 2007 blockbuster film directed by John Woo.

1. Battle of Leyte Gulf

Considered by many historians as the largest naval battle of all time, the Battle of Leyte Gulf involved a series of engagements between the United States, and Japan fought off the Philippine islands of Leyte, Samar, and Luzon. The Americans’ plan was designed to achieve two main objectives: liberate the Japanese-occupied Philippines while regaining strategic bases in the Pacific to hasten the end of World War II.

By October 1944, the once-mighty Imperial Japanese Navy had been severely weakened from previous campaigns. Nonetheless, they still managed to assemble a formable array of heavy-gun warships as well as the first use of organized kamikaze attacks. The Allies countered with the full juggernaut of the U.S. Third and Seventh Fleets with a combined total of about 200,000 personnel.

The battle stretched over three days in which the Japanese suffered catastrophic losses, crippling its ability to fight as an effective naval force for the remainder of the war. Twenty-six Japanese ships and around 300 planes were destroyed — either by anti-aircraft fire or kamikaze attacks — and more than 12,000 Japanese sailors and airmen died. During an interrogation after Japan’s surrender, Admiral Mitsumasa Yonai, the Navy Minister, said of Leyte, “I felt that that was the end.”


By the Sea, By the Contentious Sea

WIF @ War

A Pessimist’s View of Ancient Legends – WIF Myths and Legends

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Ancient Places

of Legend

That May

Never Existed

History books tell us of ancient places with amazing architecture, and world wonders long past. Archaeological discovery has learned much about the world before us. The idea of many of these locations has inspired imaginations for many years. However, the truth is that history gets distorted over time both through constant re-telling and sometimes through historical records that were actually just fanciful stories written after the fact. Many of the most famous locations may not have existed at all. Many of those that did, were much different than most people usually imagine.

The Holy Bible is a source of stories that Believers will never dismiss as fiction.

10. The Legend of El Dorado Didn’t Start Out About a City

The City of El Dorado, also known as the City of Gold, was popularized in myth. Fairly recently, it was retold in a very shiny and colorful Disney movie. The myth claims that there was a city of gold, told of by the South American natives. Many explorers went searching for it in the hopes of finding amazing riches. However, the original legend was actually about a person, not a city. It morphed into a city that needed to be searched for, because many of the natives were happy to lead the explorers on a wild chase.

The original legend told of an ancient leader who was so rich, that every morning he would be doused in gold dust. Then every evening, he would bathe in sacred waters, washing the dust off again. This was an example of his absolutely ridiculous wealth. However, while the legend is based on this, it isn’t actually true either. Archaeologists have discovered that the original story began because of the Musica people who would perform a similar ritual when anointing a new king. But they certainly weren’t wasting that kind of gold every day. It was for very special occasions.

9. The City of Troy May Not Be At All Like People Think

The City of Troy has captured people’s imaginations ever since The Iliad and The Odyssey. More recently, there have been very visually stunning movies that have helped rekindle modern interest in the ancient city. Many people assume the city and the famous siege that took place may have been similar to how it was described in Homer’s work, or in the movies. But the issue of Troy is extremely complicated.

To begin with, much of Homer’s original work that would complete the two famous stories is missing, and may never be found. This makes it difficult to understand how much of his work was fact, and how much was fiction. Also, for some time historians weren’t sure the city of Troy existed at all. Now they have found an archaeological site that they believe may contain the city, but that has only made the problem even more complicated. The site has several layers built on top of each other, which means that even if Troy was once there, figuring out which layer was the Troy described in Homer’s epic would be incredibly difficult.

Archaeologists also have good reason to believe at this point that the siege described in Homer’s work actually took place over the course of many years. There also may have actually been more than one siege, of more than one Troy, over the course of history — all on the same spot. For this reason, trying to get a historically accurate picture of Troy may be next to impossible.

8. The Lost City of Atlantis Was Probably a Myth, Or Just a Regular Destroyed Island

The Lost City of Atlantis has been popularized in myth for millennia. The idea of a lost city of prosperous people, who perhaps had interesting knowledge or technology is a fascinating idea. Some myths even go so far as to suggest that the people of Atlantis somehow continued to survive underneath the ocean. Wilder myths even suggest they are responsible for the Bermuda triangle — bringing down anything that gets too close to the truth of their hidden existence.

However, in all likelihood if Atlantis did exist, it was just an ordinary island struck by natural disaster. The first references to such a place were in an allegory by Plato about the suddenness that something could disappear, and about the hubris of not being prepared for danger. Many people are convinced this is the truth, and that there was no Atlantis. But, people often write about what they know. There is evidence that a prosperous island fairly near Plato was swallowed up almost instantly by a volcano, so he could have been making a reference to that event. Either way, there was nothing particularly special about the city Plato was referencing.

7. The Fabled Hanging Gardens of Babylon Were Probably Not That Advanced

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are one of the wonders of the ancient world. They also probably never existed at all. Many people have an idea from artwork of a huge city of mostly sandstone, with beautiful terraced gardens throughout, despite being in the middle of the desert. It certainly captures the imagination, but the first references to such a place were not written until hundreds of years after the city of Babylon was gone, greatly calling into doubt their existence.

The site of Babylon was only recently found, and wasn’t exactly where archaeologists expected, either. It turns out it was closer to a neighboring city known as Nineveh. The people of Nineveh had taken over the Babylonian culture through war. But they liked to assimilate the enemies’ names into their own cities, making archaeological identification difficult at first.

Archaeologists have not yet been able to prove the existence of any kind of hanging gardens or super advanced irrigation system. But even if they had, it wouldn’t have been that impressive to begin with. It turns out that the actual site of Babylon is not particularly arid, and would be quite useable for growing vegetation.

6. The Bermuda Triangle Is A Modern Myth, Not An Ancient Danger For Mariners

The Bermuda Triangle is a place that will cause many people to short circuit the logic part of their brain. They’ll start talking about the silliest paranoid conspiracy theories imaginable. Nearly everyone knows a mysterious story or two about the area. While most people would agree it is a natural phenomenon, the average person is convinced that something is going on there.

However, the truth is that there is no such thing as the Bermuda Triangle in the first place. What we mean by this is that there is no map in the world that has ever considered that particular region to be anything special to avoid or not. The entire idea of the triangle was made up by folklore.

Statistics show that there are no more accidents or disappearances of boats and planes in the triangle than anywhere else in the ocean. In other words, you could draw a triangle anywhere in the ocean and you would be just as likely to find a similar set of mysterious disappearances. This is because weather can cause ships and boats to go under, and the ocean is incredibly vast. Any part of the ocean can be dangerous. But there’s no evidence that particular area is any more dangerous than any other.

5. The Garden Of Eden Was Probably Philosophical, Not Physical

The Garden of Eden is a subject that has caused some controversy for many years. Certain Christians are convinced that the Garden of Eden was once a physical location somewhere on the globe, and have done a lot of research to suggest various possible locations. Most of them are somewhere in the Middle East, fairly near the locations mentioned in the early days of the bible.

Interestingly though, the Jewish faith never believed in the Garden of Eden as a physical place to begin with, but as a state of being. When men were first created, in their view, they were in a state of perfect harmony. The sin of man broke that harmony and they were no longer in the Garden of Eden, but harshly viewing the world as it actually was — alone, in the desert to fend for themselves. Many Christian scholars have increasingly taken up a similar viewpoint over the years.

4. The Tower of Babel was Probably Just an Unfinished Building

The legend in the bible says that after the great flood, many people who spoke the same language came together and arrogantly forgot about God. They planned to build a tower to reach the heavens. Partway through their building, God struck them with confusion. Now, they had many languages, and they scattered across the globe. Some people dismiss the entire thing as just a story, and some people have looked for archaeological evidence. The truth is a little more complicated.

There is no evidence to support the biblical story itself. However, there is evidence of a great Ziggurat that could fit the description of the tower that existed in the Babylonian Empire while the Hebrews were their slaves. The Ziggurat was unfinished during that time. Despite being quite grand, multiple attempts had been made to finish it. Some historians believe that the Jewish writers of the time, looking for allegories to teach important lessons, were inspired by the unfinished Ziggurat nearby.

3. Ponce De Leon was Probably Never Actually Searching for a Fountain Of Youth

We already know there was no actual fountain of youth. The idea of a magical fountain that could restore the vitality to anyone who bathed in it is quite ridiculous. However, while no one today really believes the story, some assume that the people of a few hundred years ago would have been stupid enough to believe it.

The legends claim that Ponce De Leon wasted years of his time in Florida searching for this mythical fountain. A fountain, it turned out, that was a trick allegedly played on him by the natives. However, there is no evidence in his writings he was searching for any such thing. The only source for his alleged search was a fanciful account written by a suspect source, trying to gain political favor with his views. It is more than likely the entire legend was a complete fabrication from beginning to end.

2. Jericho Was Probably Just Built on a Fault Line

Many people have heard the story of the fabled Wall of Jericho. Jericho was an ancient city in biblical days, held under siege. God was to help bring down the city, but needed the help of His chosen. The army was to blow their trumpets and march around the city continuously, and He would bring the city walls down for them. After several days, the walls came down, and the people of God were victorious.

Now, while the city of Jericho was real, many historians believe this story was far stranger than many people first realized. The city was actually in an area that would have been prone to earthquake activity. With armies using up nearby waters during a siege, it could increase the risk. Some historians would say that the army got lucky. Or, that someone knew the earthquake activity in the area and hoped to use it to their advantage. Believers would suggest that perhaps God chose that moment to activate an earthquake along that particular fault-line. No one will ever know.

1. Roswell is Really Just Home to an Old, Unused Air Force Base

We know the military presence at Roswell was hardly anything ancient. But with the belief many people have in ancient aliens, and their connection to Area 51 and the US government, it brings the entire thing full circle. Now, we aren’t saying that the town of Roswell, New Mexico doesn’t exist. But we are saying that there is a lot of confusion over what exactly Roswell is. Most people know that it’s the town where there was an alleged crash of a UFO. The Air Force would later claim it was just a weather balloon. Over time, most secret government projects have been associated with Area 51. Somehow the two places — Roswell and Area 51 — have often become conflated in the popular mindset.

While there was an Air Force Base located at Roswell, it has not been functioning for many years now. And it was never used for highly secret projects. In fact, Walker Air Force Base was a fairly generic and unimportant military post. When budget cuts came near the end of Vietnam, it was one of the first bases to close up shop. There’s a museum celebrating the legacy of the base, but what is left now serves commercial purposes. And no, there are no aliens there.


A Pessimist’s View of Ancient Legends

WIF Myth and Legend

Chance Fluke Luck Quirk Random – Historical Coincidences

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Bizarre

Historical

Coincidences

Given how many humans have existed in the world and how many events and incidents, both big and small, happen every day, history is littered with examples of strange coincidences. But the ones we will be looking at today are so unusual that they strain credulity and, should they have come from the pages of a book, they would have been deemed contrived or unbelievable.

10. Poe’s Tale of Cannibalism

At one point, the ship wrecks during a storm and only four men survive and are washed ashore. With no food whatsoever, after a few days they resort to the most drastic solution – cannibalism. They draw straws and the unlucky one is a young man named Richard Parker who is killed and eaten.

At first, this would seem like a straightforward, albeit grisly story. But then we move forward 46 years and something strange happens. In 1884, a yacht called the Mignonette left England headed for Sydney, Australia. Carrying four men, it also shipwrecked and left the seafarers stranded with no food. As a last resort, they also cannibalized one of their own – a 17-year-old named Richard Parker. The only main difference was that the survivors saw no need to draw straws as the real-life Parker had fallen ill after drinking seawater and was considered a goner.

Eerie coincidences aside, the case that followed after the remaining men were rescued and arrested for murder represented a landmark ruling in English law. It stated that necessity does not excuse murder, meaning you cannot kill someone else to save your own life.

9. Where the War Began and Ended

On July 21, 1861, the First Battle of Bull Run marked the first major engagement in the American Civil War. Of course, the war was horrible for many people, but it was a particularly strange inconvenience for one wholesale grocer named Wilmer McLean. He lived on a plantation near Manassas, Virginia, and the Bull Run River passed right through his land. In fact, most of the battle took place on his property and the Confederate leader, General P.G.T. Beauregard even commandeered McLean’s house to use as his headquarters.

Obviously, McLean and his family couldn’t live in the middle of a war so they relocated. A few years later, they were residing in a house near a village called Appomattox Court House. As it happens, that is where the last battle of the Civil War took place. Afterwards, Confederate General Robert E. Lee officially surrendered to Union leader Ulysses S. Grant. And he did it in the parlor of Wilmer McLean’s new home.

The McLeans later moved back to their previous estate and simply abandoned the house in Appomattox County. They also defaulted on the loans they took out to buy it so “Surrender House”, as it came to be known, was confiscated and sold at auction. Today, it operates as a museum and it is a designated National Historical Monument.

As for Wilmer McLean, he liked to say that the Civil War “began in his front yard and ended in his front parlor.”

8. The Curse of Tecumseh

Ever since 1840, American presidents have died according to a pattern which is remarkable enough that people have ascribed it to a curse. Every president who is elected in a year ending in 0 (something which happens every two decades) is fated to die in office.

First was William Henry Harrison. Elected in 1840, he died of pneumonia a month after being sworn in. Then, in 1860 came Abraham Lincoln, and we all know how that ended. In 1880, James Garfield was elected president and he was also assassinated by a man named Charles Guiteau.

William McKinley might have escaped this alleged curse if he stuck at just one term. Alas, in 1900 he was elected president to his second term, and a year later, he was shot and killed by an anarchist. Next up was Warren G. Harding, who suffered a stroke three years after being elected in 1920. Afterwards came Franklin Roosevelt who passed away of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1945. While he did die in office, he didn’t actually die during the term which allegedly sealed his fate. And last, but not least, there was JFK, who won the 1960 election and whose assassination is all too well-known.

As you can see, seven presidents followed this extraordinary pattern. Many see it for what it probably is – a series of incredible coincidences, but others claim it is a curse placed originally on William Henry Harrison by Tecumseh, leader of the Shawnee people, for the former’s role in Tecumseh’s Rebellion.

Ronald Reagan would have been next in line. He was elected in 1980 and, although someone did try to kill him, he survived his injuries and died of old age decades after he left office. Even if the curse was real, it appears that he broke it.

7. The Church Explosion

At 7:25 p.m., March 1, 1950, the West Side Baptist Church in Beatrice, Nebraska, exploded due to a natural gas leak ignited by the fire from the furnace. It was a Wednesday and every Wednesday at 7:20 p.m. sharp, the church choir gathered there to practice. People were expecting the worst as they approached the smoking rubble, but it soon became apparent that nobody had been injured in the blast. Even though the choir director was very strict about tardiness, on this particular night, none of the 15 choir members arrived on time.

It wasn’t one single thing that caused the delays, either, but rather a series of minor occurrences that detained each person enough to evade the deadly blast. The reverend and his family, for example, were late because his wife had to iron a dress at the last moment. Two sisters both had car trouble. Two high school girls wanted to finish listening to a radio program, while another student was struggling with her geometry homework. The pianist fell asleep after dinner. A man was late because he wanted to finish writing a letter he kept putting off, while one woman was simply feeling lazy because it was cold outside and her home was warm and cozy.

And so went all the other excuses. Unsurprisingly, given the nature of the circumstances, some people considered it divine intervention.

6. Right Place, Right Time

Joseph Figlock became a hero of Detroit due to a bizarre series of events that happened over the course of a year. One morning in 1937, Figlock was at his job as a street sweeper when he was struck by something that landed on his head and shoulders. That “something” was a baby girl who fell out a four-story window. Because Figlock broke her fall, the infant survived her drop that, otherwise, would have almost surely been fatal.

A year later, the street sweeper was back at his job when he was, again, hit by a falling object. And you guessed it – it was another baby. This time, it was 2-year-old David Thomas who also fell out of his window on the fourth floor. This baby did sustain some injuries but, once more, had escaped certain doom thanks to Joseph Figlock being in the right place, at the right time.

5. Miss Unsinkable

Violet Jessop was born in Argentina to Irish immigrants in 1887. When she turned 21, she found work as a ship stewardess and, in 1911, secured a position aboard the RMS Olympic, the first of the Olympic-class ocean liners built by the White Star Line at the start of the century.

At the time, these were the largest, most luxurious ships in the world. Jessop was probably thrilled with her new job but, pretty soon, she might have reconsidered her fortunes. In September 1911, Jessop was onboard the Olympic when it collided with a warship called the HMS Hawke. The collision wasn’t too bad and the ocean liner managed to make it to port without any fatalities.

This incident didn’t deter Jessop from continuing her career as a stewardess. Although she was content aboard the Olympic, her friends persuaded her that it would make for a much more exciting experience to work aboard the White Star Line’s new ocean liner. After all, this vessel was proclaimed to be “unsinkable” and its name was the Titanic.

You already know how this went down – just four days into its maiden voyage, the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank. Jessop survived the ordeal as she was lowered down into lifeboat 16 which was later picked up by the RMS Carpathia. She later recalled that, as the boat was being lowered, an officer put a baby in her lap. Later, aboard the Carpathia, a woman leaped at her, snatched the baby and ran. Jessop always assumed that was the mother, but she never saw either one of them again.

Then World War II started and Jessop served as a nurse for the British Red Cross. She worked aboard the Britannic, which was the third and last of the Olympic-class ocean liners and had been repurposed into a hospital ship. In 1916, the vessel suffered damage from a mine explosion and sank in the Aegean Sea. For the third time in five years, Violet Jessop had survived a shipwreck, retroactively earning her the nickname “Miss Unsinkable.”

4. The Opposing Graves

Just outside the Belgian town of Mons sits the St. Symphorien Military Cemetery which serves as the final resting place for over 500 soldiers who died in the First World War.

Many of these men perished in the Battle of Mons which took place on August 23, 1914, and is considered to be the first major action of the British army in the war. One of these men, however, died a little earlier. John Parr was a private who was born in London and lied about his age so he could enlist. He served as a reconnaissance cyclist and scouted the area ahead of his battalion. However, he was gunned down by enemy fire and died on August 21, at only 17 years of age. He is generally considered to be the first British serviceman killed in action during the First World War.

His grave is at St. Symphorien and opposite of it, just a few yards away, is the grave of Private George Ellison. He died years later on November 11, 1918. This date is significant because it is, in fact, the day that Germany and the Allies signed an armistice, bringing an end to the war. George Ellison was killed just 90 minutes before peace was declared, thus giving him the unfortunate distinction of being the last British soldier killed in the war.

These two graves face each other, although this was done completely unintentionally as nobody was aware of their “first” and “last” positions when they were buried.

3. Death at Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam was one of the greatest, most ambitious engineering projects of its day, but it came with a heavy price as a lot of people died during construction.

Exactly how many is a matter of debate. Officially, the death toll was 96, but historians argue that the real number would be much higher because the official version didn’t take into account workers who died off-site of construction-related injuries or illnesses. An inquiry by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation increased the number to 213 deaths between 1921 and 1935.

The first fatality was a surveyor named John Gregory Tierney who drowned in the Colorado River on December 20, 1921, after he got caught in a flash flood. Technically, another worker named Harold Connelly died first, but his demise was completely unconnected with the project as he drowned in the river when he went swimming.

Here is the truly tragic part – the last fatality registered during construction of the Hoover Dam occurred on December 20, 1935, exactly 14 years to the day after Tierney drowned, when a 25-year-old electrician’s helper plummeted 320 feet from one of the intake towers. That man was Patrick Tierney, the surveyor’s son.

2. The King and His Double

Some say that we all have a doppelganger somewhere in the world, a person who isn’t related to us in any way but they look just like us. King Umberto I of Italy found his doppelganger in 1900 when he went to eat at a little restaurant in Monza. He discovered that the proprietor looked almost exactly like him but, more than that, they had been born on the same day.

At this point, you would think this was more a case of twins separated at birth, but the coincidences did not stop there. Both men had married women named Margherita and had sons named Vittorio. Moreover, the restaurant owner had opened his establishment the day of King Umberto’s coronation.

Shocked to his core by these revelations, the king invited his doppelganger or long-lost twin to an event taking place the next day. Sadly, neither one made it. The next morning, the restaurateur was killed under unexplained conditions. Just hours later, when King Umberto found out about his demise, he was assassinated by an anarchist named Gaetano Bresci.

1. The Writer and the Comet

The life of American writer Mark Twain has been inexorably linked to the passing of Halley’s Comet from beginning to end.

This famous comet visits us every 75 to 76 years. It will next be visible in 2061, but a noteworthy appearance happened in November 1835. Just two weeks after its perihelion (meaning the point of its orbit which is closest to the Sun), Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri. He would go on to adopt the pen name Mark Twain and become America’s most celebrated author.

Throughout his life, Twain took a keen interest in science and he was well-aware of his connection to Halley’s Comet. In the early 20th century, the writer was getting on in years and knew that the end was near. However, he also knew that the comet was due to pass by Earth again soon, and he was convinced that he would not die before that happened. As he put it: “Now there are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.”

He could not have been more right. Mark Twain died on April 21, 1910, just one day after Halley’s Comet reached its perihelion.


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Historical Coincidences

Not Chuck Norris’ Texas Rangers – WIF Into History

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Exciting Adventures

(and Sometimes Dark)

of the Texas Rangers

Older than Texas’s status as one of the United States of America, the humble beginning of the Texas Rangers was when Stephen F. Austin formed a militia of 10 men in 1823 because he didn’t think Mexican militias were sufficient protection from Native American raids. Today there are 166 rangers and 68 support members. They’re such a beloved organization that there are state statutes barring them from being disbanded. Whole television shows and movies, such as 2019’s The Highwaymen, have been devoted to singing their praises.

It has been an incredibly active unit, and still is. In 2018 alone the Rangers launched 2,726 investigations that resulted in 504 convictions and 758 confessions. Let’s have a look at some of the most significant incidents from that long and storied record.

10. Mexican-American War Heroes

The Texas Rangers rode into the national spotlight in 1847, during the Mexican-American War. In late February, Zachary Taylor led an army of roughly 5,000 near Monterrey, Mexico. Counts vary on how many troops were in the Mexican army under Santa Anna, but at a minimum the Americans were outnumbered three to one. They also were in unfamiliar territory, and as Mexican army closed in, the American army was situated on the plains of Agua Nueva, which would have been exactly where a larger army full of cavalry like Santa Anna’s would have wanted them.

Fortunately for the Americans, Rangers under Henry McCullough were acting as scouts. On February 21 they reported the close proximity and overwhelming force of the Mexican army to Taylor, who promptly withdrew to the hills of Buena Vista. The high ground massively improved the effectiveness of Taylor’s artillery, and allowed the Americans to win a surprise — if costly — victory, which was vital to winning him the presidency in 1849 (although he’d die just over a year into his term). Taylor singled out the scouting by McCullough in his report and made the Rangers so acclaimed that Winfield Scott, who’d be the commanding general of all Union armies at the beginning of the American Civil War, specifically requested that they be transferred to his army.

9. Little Robe Creek

The dozen or so tribes of the Comanche Empire that spanned through Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma to Kansas have been chronicled before, but this will be the first time we mention their most notable clash with the Texas Rangers. In 1858, 100 Texas Rangers crossed the Red River into enemy territory in reprisal for horse raids. They had with them a roughly equal number of Native American allies from the Brazos Reservation. The fact their target community had roughly 600 natives in it meant that John S. Ford turned to deception for his attack, and thus had the native allies approach first without making their intent clear. That drew the Comanche’s attention while the Rangers moved in for an undetected attack.

Little Robe Creek was less a battle than a massacre, as when they charged the Rangers were running into villagers instead of warriors. Ford would report that he killed about 72 Comanches, including Chief Iron Jacket (so named because he wore old Conquistador armor), while only two Rangers were killed in the attack. It would turn out none of the horses that the tribe had were among the contraband mounts, so it was very likely an attack on an innocent community. Nevertheless, the attack was considered a sign in the United States that the Comanche were vulnerable to encroachment, and the Empire’s days were numbered.

8. Round Rock Robbery

About 20 years after their attack on the Comanche, the Rangers performed one of their most high profile pieces of law enforcement, especially for the early period. In 1878, the Rangers received a telegram from a gang informant that they were going to Round Rock to rob the bank. The event took on particular regional stakes because the gang was led by Sam Bass, a train robber of such a high profile that an estimated 200 books were written about his life and crimes. Even with a gang of only four, including the informant, Bass’s gang was considered especially formidable.

Two Rangers were immediately dispatched to Round Rock, but Bass’s gang got there first. They were unable to get word to local law enforcement, so it was only by nasty luck that Deputy Sheriff Grimes happened to be near the Round Rock bank, saw that Bass was carrying one more firearm that town ordinances permitted, and was shot immediately while trying to confiscate it. A prolonged shootout broke out, and it wasn’t until the Rangers arrived that Bass’s gang was driven out of town, with Bass being mortally wounded. Thus did the legendary law enforcers end another legend.

7. Battle of Tres Jacales

On June 29, 1893, Company D under Frank Jones of the Rangers was dispatched to Tres Jacales, an island community near San Elizario. In a mounted chase, they pursued suspected livestock smugglers into a settlement of four adobe buildings. Jones, whose wedding was only a few days before, approached the outlaws to demand their surrender. Instead, he was shot dead.

Rather than the Rangers coming to the rescue, this time they were bolstered by an  armed citizen force that raised their numbers to roughly 100 soldiers. The subsequent fighting was described by Ranger Corporal Kirchener as “his narrowest escape.” Although the Rangers triumphed in the end, it set the tone for many years along the border.

6. Porvenir Massacre

According to Ranger Captain J. M. Fox, on January 28, 1918, a force of Rangers, regular US Cavalry, and civilian ranchers rode into the farming community of Porvenir and were ambushed by some murderers that had taken part in a raid of a nearby ranch in December 1917. They were able to overcome the attackers and kill 15 of them. They then didn’t feel the need to report the incident for a few weeks.

In October 2019, the other side of the story came out on PBS. According to Harry Warren, the schoolmaster for the 140 person town and the son-in-law of one of the people killed on that day, the deaths were murders, to an extent that none of the victims had even been armed. Other accounts, such as those by the Flores family, collaborated his written account and pointed out how the way the Rangers described some of the people they’d shot was completely inaccurate. By this account it seems the only real reason that the killings took place was that the victims were of Mexican descent.

5. The Borger Raid

As impossible as this may be to imagine now, the 1920 prohibition of alcohol in America under the 14th Amendment and the subsequent Volstead Act were especially amenable to the state government of Texas. Counties in Texas had been banning hard alcohol since the 1870s, and by 1908, more than 60% of all Texas counties had banned it completely. Still, Prohibition is notorious for the raucous corruption it caused, which the Rangers naturally had to put down. In April 1927, the oil boom town of Borger in particular drew the organization’s eye, and Frank Hamer, the officer who later put an end to Bonnie and Clyde, was dispatched with seven officers to clean up the town.

The results were so extreme they were comical. For example, more than 200 slot machines were destroyed in raids. The mayor, the city commissioners, and almost the entire police force, including the chief, were compelled to resign. But most of all, in one day, supposedly 1,200 prostitutes were driven from the town, which sounds like so many that it must have massively disrupted the local economy. Borger remained so committed to vice that it wasn’t until February 1929 that the Rangers left the town.

4. Amy McNeil

Wealthy banker Don McNeil’s daughter Amy was walking to school on January 11, 1985 when a group of four men and one woman swooped in and kidnapped her. They issued a $100,000 ransom demand and told McNeil where to go for a subsequent phone call, the location also intended to be the rendezvous point where they would exchange the prisoner for the money. McNeil reported the kidnapping and received an escort of Rangers. McNeil’s limousine stalled on the way, but luckily, the kidnappers happened to drive by and Amy McNeil was spotted in the vehicle. This began a chase that lasted nearly 48 hours, went through three counties, and about 600 miles. According to the Chicago Tribune, it also involved the perpetrators firing shotguns out the car windows while fleeing.

Finally, at 4:30 a.m. on January 13, the chase came to an end. In a standoff, Ranger John Dendy rushed the kidnappers and successfully retrieved the abducted 13-year-old. Two of the kidnappers were wounded in the process, but Amy McNeil was uninjured — a satisfying capper to one of the most dramatic high speed pursuits in law enforcement history.

3. Headbutting the FBI

The 1993 Waco Standoff that resulted in the destruction of the Branch Davidian Church under David Koresh was one of the most controversial, emotionally charged events of the 1990s. There have been theatrically distributed documentaries such as the 1997 film Waco: Rules of Engagement devoted to how the situation was handled. But as far as the Texas Rangers were concerned, even while it was in progress, they were open about their belief that the incident was a farcical failure on the FBI’s part.

On April 7, 1993 — 39 days into the siege that would ultimately last 51 — the Baltimore Sun reported that the FBI’s use of armored vehicles meant that they crushed rooms containing evidence that the Rangers would need for making a case against the church in the investigation of the murders of four ATF agents. Additionally, FBI negotiators also gave away to the cult pieces of evidence that law enforcement would need for their later case and which the cult set about destroying. When the situation ended in flames 12 days later, presumably the Rangers were unsurprised.

2. Ralph McLaren Standoff

Before the decade was out, the Rangers were involved in another high profile standoff with another deeply unstable man. In 1980, Ralph McLaren began issuing property liens in Dallas that added up to $1.8 billion in fraudulent claims. By the ’90s, he had begun to claim that by legal technicality Texas had never formally joined the US and declared himself the Republic’s leader. He gathered together four people that were also willing to be citizens of the Republic at the Davis Mountains Resort. The situation became really serious when the Republic took Joe and Margart Ann Rowe hostage in response to one in their ranks being jailed.

The hostage situation dragged out for over a week and involved 300 officers and Rangers. The hostages were freed in exchange for the release of the jailed comrade. In one of the cannier moves that ended the standoff much less violently than Waco, Ranger Captain Barry Caver signed a cease-fire document for the Republic of Texas, therefore recognizing the group as an independent nation. McLaren ended up being sentenced to 99 years in prison while his second in command got a 50-year sentence.

1. Suspect Provided Equipment

Despite their high profile and success rate, the Texas Rangers have a history of funding problems. It was especially bad in the 19th Century, and in the 1920s at one point the Ranger management admitted they couldn’t even get enough funding to cover their medical bills. It’s seemed to continue into the 21st Century, so the Rangers have apparently had to turn to some unorthodox methods of procuring resources.

Most significantly, in November 2018, the Rangers busted a driver in Donley County hauling nearly three tons of marijuana and THC. Chapter 59 of Texas Code meant that the Rangers could sell off the vehicle at auction. However, short on funds and with a large area to patrol, by May 2019 the Rangers had converted the vehicle into a mobile command center. It had, after all, been converted with enough technology that it was valued at $270,000. Thus did the Rangers oversee one of the most cost-effective times that criminals gave back to the community.


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Not Your Cleveland Indians – WIF Into History

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Misconceptions About

Native Tribes of

North America

Whether or not you think it’s disrespectful to have Native American terms attached to sports teams or not, television, specifically Westerns may have unintentionally provided us with more than a few misconceptions.

Never mind that the cowboys, gunfighters and saloon girls were mostly figments of fertile imaginations.

North Americans tend to generalize when considering the native tribes that once populated the continent. An idea that they all lived in small villages, in tents of animal skins or small wooden lean-to’s predominates. It is an image presented by Hollywood, television, and the western novels of Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey. The image is inaccurate in most cases. The Native American tribes were of several nations, diverse cultures, and their impact on modern life remains immeasurable.

They changed the way the world ate, and still eats. They were the first society to cultivate corn, potatoes, and the southwestern Native Americans and those of Mexico gave the world chocolate. Though some lived in primitive conditions, others developed large and complex societies, with class systems and forms of government which rivaled those of contemporaneous Europe. Here are 10 misconceptions about the native tribes of North America, and some insights into tribal life when the Europeans first came to the New World.

10. They were primitive tribes of hunter-gatherers

The ancient city of Cahokia alone belies the idea that North American natives were primitive tribes, living in tents of animal skins, or simple wooden huts. Archaeological studies prove Cahokia was a thriving city covering more than six square miles of Illinois land across the Mississippi River from present-day St. Louis. More than 100,000 people lived there four centuries before the coming of Christopher Columbus. Houses were placed in a manner similar to modern American cities, with open public spaces and parks, in a grid marked by wide streets. Evidence of water distribution systems exists in the ruins of the ancient city, which was abandoned around the beginning of the 13th century, for reasons as yet unknown.

The Algonquian tribes of North America built large towns, with multi-storied dwellings in many cases, surrounded by fields of crops and orchards. Game and fish provided a significant portion of their diet, and roving bands from within their own tribe and others often competed for food, and raided the villages of other peoples. The majority of North American natives spent their lives near the place of their birth, unless war or natural disasters forced them to move to more promising areas. There were tribes of nomadic peoples, such as the Apache in the southwestern states and the Plains Indians, but the majority of native tribes occupied lands for centuries, and defended them against their enemies.

9. They had no concept of land ownership

The often cited idea that American Indians had no concept of land ownership and property rights is completely devoid of fact. They did. Native Americans claimed ownership of vast tracts of land, on which they lived, hunted, and farmed. They claimed territorial rights based on conquest, purchase, exchange, and inheritance. They bought and sold land, to each other and to arriving European settlers. Often, in dealing with the latter, they sold property rights to lands which were claimed by other tribes, essentially swindling the Europeans. The mythical sale of Manhattan Island to the Dutch for $24 worth of trinkets was one such instance. The natives (Canarsees) that sold the island to Peter Minuit, for sixty Dutch guilders (about $1,000), conveyed land which was not theirs to begin with. The Weckquaesgeeks tribe controlled the island.

Later, the Cherokee sold the rights to live in the Transylvania region of then-Virginia, now Kentucky, in the Sycamore Shoals treaty. The Cherokee sold lands which were not strictly theirs, it being shared by mutual agreement as hunting grounds with the Shawnee and Wyandot. The Cherokee nation splintered following the treaty, with numerous bands of warriors attacking the ensuing white settlements in the Blue Grass region. Similar events with the Shawnee and allied tribes, such as the Mingo and Miami, occurred in the regions which became Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. American history is replete with incidents in which native American tribes sold or traded lands in agreements which tribal elements refused to accept, and started wars with the settlers who occupied the lands.

8. The European and later American settlers broke every treaty made with them

The idea of the white settlers scamming the Native Americans, treating with them under false pretenses and violating every treaty made with them out of greed gained precedence in the 1950s and 1960s. The acceptance of the concept coincided with the civil rights movement in the United States. Both sides broke treaties, just as both sides committed atrocities on the other. For example, in 1757 the British garrison at Fort William Henry in New York surrendered to a French and Indian force under Louis-Joseph de Montcalm. Montcalm promised the British and American troops, and several of their families, safe passage. His Indian allies ignored the agreement, and massacred men, women, and children.

Pontiac’s Rebellion, Tecumseh’s Confederation and the Northwest Indian War, and the Black Hawk War, all began with native violations of treaties negotiated and agreed to by tribal elders. Conversely, the Great Sioux War and other conflicts with the western tribes began following encroachments of American settlers on Indian lands in violation of treaties. The history of negotiations and treaties with the American Indian tribes contains incidents of false dealings, misrepresentations, and out and out falsehoods by Indians and whites, going back to the earliest days of colonization of the Americas by the Europeans.

7. They lived in humble dwellings of earth, wood, and animal skins

Well, some tribes did live in such abodes. The tepees, wooden huts, and igloos of Hollywood and history were real. Not all Native Americans lived in crude structures, however, and some resided in dwellings of considerable sophistication. When General John Sullivan commanded the punitive expedition against the Onondaga, Seneca, and Cayuga in 1779, his troops were surprised at the native villages they encountered. They observed well-built homes of stone and wood, many with multiple stories and windows  with real glass. More the forty such villages and large towns were destroyed by the troops during the campaign, breaking the back of the longstanding Iroquois Confederacy.

Elsewhere, American Indians built elaborate homes with an eye towards their architecture. Tribes of the American southwest built roomed homes of mud and adobe. The Navajo constructed permanent homes known as hogans, with wooden frameworks forming a dome, covered with mud and stone. In the southern plains, houses covered with grass protected the inhabitants from the elements. Long before the arrival of the Europeans to the Pacific northwest, Native Americans used cedar planks lashed to wooden frames to erect houses and to serve as drying sheds for the fish they harvested from the region’s streams and the water of the Pacific.

6. They were a largely egalitarian society

Class status among the vast majority of American Indian tribes followed family lines, with some tribes based on matrilineal societies and others patrilineal. For nearly all, status was conferred based on the degree of relationship with tribal leaders. Among the Cherokee, for example, women owned the property belonging to the family. Women brought their husbands into the family, often into the family home. The descent of tribal chiefs in matrilineal clans, and thus control over tribal affairs, was through the mother. Men marrying into the family in matrilineal tribes had no standing within the clan, not even as fathers raising their children. The mother’s brothers, or sons, assumed the role of raising their nieces’ or sisters’ children.

Among the northern plains tribes, particularly the Lakota and Dakota, the longstanding myth of women serving as humble squaws, subservient to their husbands, is false. Lakota women and girls were trained in the arts of hunting and war, and frequently fought enemies in defense of the home, though they seldom joined raiding parties. Their standing within the community depended on their abilities to serve the tribe, as did that of the men. In matrilineal tribes the male leader, known as the chief, remained in practice subservient to his mother, by tradition and by unwritten law.

5. The Southwestern tribes roamed the deserts and mountains

Some did, particularly after the horse was introduced to the continent when the Spaniards arrived. The Apache and Comanche in particular adapted to the horse for both hunting and raiding enemies. Centuries before that event, the Ancestral Pueblo peoples resided in the area now known as the Four Corners, where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona meet. Eight centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ they cultivated corn, in the form of maize, to supplement their diet of game. They built irrigation systems to support their crops which included waters routed from the Rio Grande, Colorado, and Little Colorado Rivers. Their irrigation systems allowed the planting of beans and squash to supplement their crops of corn.

The Apache and Navajo roamed the region, hunting the area to exhaustion over the centuries, and leaving to pursue the game. The Ancestral Pueblos endured several extended droughts, followed by flooding which destroyed much of their farmlands and irrigation systems. By the time the Spanish arrived, most of them were gone from the region, having fled the area and the Apache and Navajo raiders. The Spaniards encountered their relatively few descendants, still living in the multi-story dwelling complexes which the Europeans called pueblos, or villages. Most were located along the rivers which had once fed the complex system of canals and dams watering their crops.

4. The New World was sparsely settled at the time of Columbus

When the first Europeans arrived at what they soon called the New World, they encountered spaces like nothing ever seen before. Vast virgin forests stretched to nearly the water’s edge in some areas. Others found open plains and what they believed, and reported, as small populations of natives. In Meso-america the Spaniards and Portuguese encountered the cities of the Mayan, Incan, and Aztec civilizations. In North America the early European arrivals reported the Indians living in relatively small villages and towns. With no idea of the size and diversity of the North American continent, rulers and scholars in Europe believed the New World sparsely populated by uncivilized peoples, as wild as the game which teemed in the woods.

In truth, between 60 and 70 million natives lived on the North American continent, from the Arctic Circle to its southernmost extremity. Numerous cultures emerged on the continent before the European arrival, including the mound builders, the Confederation of the Iroquois, the Hopi and Pueblo, and the Inuit in the north. The various Indian nations and clans were connected by a complex system of trails through the eastern woods and on the plains, cut by migrating buffalo. Elaborate diplomatic relationships developed, with alliances and agreements over the use of hunting grounds, water rights, and tribal property. Trade between tribes, such as furs and game for crops and weapons, was in place. The Europeans understood none of it, nor the extent of the population in North America which exceeded that of the continent from whence they came.

3. The North American natives did not engage in warfare with each other

Beginning in the 1960s and continuing through the present day, a myth over inter-tribal warfare among the American tribes gained acceptance. The myth essentially blames the Europeans for introducing warfare to North America. Its proponents claim the native tribes did not make war on each other, other than in demonstrations of courage by touching an enemy with a coup stick. The claim is utter nonsense, archaeological evidence and the various tribes’ own folklore describe centuries of warfare between tribes across the entire continent. Cannibalism among the North American tribes was ritualized, eating the flesh of enemy warriors killed in battle, or tortured as prisoners, was recorded contemporaneously by witnesses.

The western plains saw numerous wars between the various tribes competing for the resources offered by the land. The nomadic tribes followed the buffalo, their chief source of meat, furs, and tools manufactured from the bones. In the eastern woodlands, European explorers found many of the tribes living in villages and towns protected by palisades, and extensive alarm systems in place to warn of an impending encroachment. The completely peaceful, idyllic existence described by some required neither. Warfare between tribes did not end with a united attempt to wipe out the arriving Europeans, instead many tribes allied themselves with the new arrivals, happy to have their superior weapons available for use against ancient enemies.

2. Their religions were based on a Great Spirit

Hollywood created the myth of all Indians worshiping a “Great Spirit,” though they had other gods and spiritual entities as well. The North American Indians had as many religious systems as tribes, and differing ways of worshiping. Some, such as the Pueblo, worshiped the crops as they grew in the fields. Some tribes believed spirits controlled the weather and developed rituals to appease them. Nearly all worshiped the sun in some form or another, as well as the moon and other celestial bodies. Omens, revealed through trances achieved by various means, bore great spiritual significance, and affected the direction of personal and tribal affairs.

The Iroquois did believe in a Great Spirit, the creator of all things, including the spirit which flowed through all things. The Mohawk, like many eastern tribes, believed in all existence imbued with spirit. Nearly all the North American Indians held similar beliefs, creating religions based on animism – the idea that all things possess life in some form, and hence are animated. The belief extended to rocks, water, the weather, animals, birds, trees, and even sounds. The spirits in control could be either evil or good, with existence a continuous struggle between the extremes. Many eastern tribes believed the smoke from tobacco carried messages to the spirits, and smoking was a major part of religious ceremonies.

1. They grew only simple crops to supplement their diets of meat and fish

Native American tribes are connected to maize, a type of corn which they grew so extensively it came to be known as Indian corn. They also grew beans of several types, gourds to serve as utensils, pumpkins for food, and other forms of squash. Along the eastern seaboard Indians husbanded tobacco crops from Florida to the Connecticut Valley. Through time, myths emerged about the Indians which led to the belief they sustained themselves with game and fish, supplemented by just a few berries and nuts harvested from the forests. Not so. Many Indian villages had extensive farms, with the crops grown communally.

As with all farmers, crops grown depended on the local climate and soil conditions. The Spanish in the south were astonished to see Indians eating freely of tomatoes, at the time believed in Europe to be poisonous. In the southwest, progressive farming techniques such as terracing and crop rotation were applied by Indian farmers. Indian crops included potatoes and sweet potatoes, several types of peppers, peanuts, avocados, sunflowers, and wild rice. Most Indian villages had communal storehouses to store crops for the winter months. Orchards cultivated by Indians provided cherries, apples, and crab-apples. They also resorted freely to native plants for greens, including dandelion and chicory.


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TJeff and the Philly Gang – Independence Day

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United States of America

Independence Day

If you you liked “Hamilton”, you will be thrilled with “TJeff & the Gang”

The Declaration of Independence is the usual name of a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies,then at war with Great Britain, regarded themselves as thirteen newly independent sovereign states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. Instead they formed a new nation—the United States of America. John Adams was a leader in pushing for independence, which was unanimously approved on July 2. A committee of five had already drafted the formal declaration, to be ready when Congress voted on independence. The term “Declaration of Independence” is not used in the document itself.

Adams persuaded the committee to select Thomas Jefferson to compose the original draft of the document, which Congress would edit to produce the final version. The Declaration was ultimately a formal explanation of why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The national birthday, Independence Day, is celebrated on July 4, although Adams wanted July 2.

After ratifying the text on July 4, Congress issued the Declaration of Independence in several forms. It was initially published as the printed Dunlap broadside that was widely distributed and read to the public. The source copy used for this printing has been lost, and may have been a copy in Thomas Jefferson’s hand. Jefferson’s original draft, complete with changes made by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, and Jefferson’s notes of changes made by Congress, are preserved at the Library of Congress. The best known version of the Declaration, a signed copy that is popularly regarded as the official document, is displayed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. This engrossed copy was ordered by Congress on July 19, and signed primarily on August 2.

The sources and interpretation of the Declaration have been the subject of much scholarly inquiry. The Declaration justified the independence of the United States by listing colonial grievances against King George III, and by asserting certain natural and legal rights, including a right of revolution. Having served its original purpose in announcing independence, references to the text of the Declaration were few for the next four score years. Abraham Lincoln made it the centerpiece of his rhetoric (as in the Gettysburg Address of 1863), and his policies. Since then, it has become a well-known statement on human rights, particularly its second sentence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This has been called “one of the best-known sentences in the English language”, containing “the most potent and consequential words in American history”. The passage came to represent a moral standard to which the United States should strive. This view was notably promoted by Abraham Lincoln, who considered the Declaration to be the foundation of his political philosophy, and argued that the Declaration is a statement of principles through which the United States Constitution should be interpreted.

It provided inspiration to numerous national declarations of independence throughout the world. Historian David Armitage, after examining the influence of the American “Declaration” on over 100 other declarations of independence, says:

The American Revolution was the first outbreak of the contagion of sovereignty that has swept the world in the centuries since 1776. Its influence spread first to the Low Countries and then to the Caribbean, Spanish America, the Balkans, West Africa, and Central Europe in the decades up to 1848…. Declarations of independence were among the primary symptoms of this contagion of sovereignty.

Thirteen Colonies
United States
Coat of arms or logo
Type
Type
History
Established May 10, 1775
Disbanded March 1, 1781
Preceded by First Continental Congress
Succeeded by 1st Confederation Congress
Seats Variable; ~60
Meeting place
1775–1777: Pennsylvania State House,Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1775–1781: Variable
Footnotes
Though there were about 50 members of the Congress at a given time, it was the states that had votes, so there were effectively only 13 seats.


TJeff and the Philly Gang

– Let Freedom Ring

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #333

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #333

… pure fictional genius…

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Nearly all of the main Tallahassee characters were real people. I used their actual names and because of the volatile nature of the events, especially in the 1950’s, I may have the legal department pulling out their hair. If I had fictionalized their names, I could never have kept them all straight. Who they were and what was their relation to A.O. Campbell needed to be as is. Perhaps it is due to my simple mind, but George Lewis, Charles latobsd3-001Wilson, Franklin McLoud, the Dr.’s nurses, the Dr.’s attorneys, the Prosecutors, Starke Prison and Audrie Franich, all appearing in chapter 1 & subsequently, are real.

Now, some of the machinations surrounding his trial and subsequent imprisonment, well that is a combination of speculation and fictionalization on my part. None of this tinkering affects the end result.

Robert Ford-001Carolyn Hanes and Capt. Robert Ford do have a big role in the book. Bob Ford did indeed pilot the Pacific Clipper at the outbreak of WWII and had to fly it back to New York counterclockwise. Carolyn Hanes is pure fiction. You may think she is my alter ego. That is left for you to imagine.

Ferrell's Grocery-001   In chapter 2, the Ferrell family is foundational to the story line. Most all of them are true, in the fact that they did exist. I may have exaggerated their role, but they do and did contribute to Leon County past.

Laura Bell/Olla is a key to the complicated bloodlines of the Campbell family. She is the mother of Maggie Lou, though Maggie’s erotic conception may be subject to my imagination. Maggie Lou does go on to marry the doctor in 1916.Campbell Home-001

The Campbell family, headed by Willy and Amanda, is the all-in-all. Alfrey (A.O.) Campbell had four brothers and sisters. Hosea is the most infamous, but was he such a rascal, I do not know?

More than likely, the Campbell’s were slaves at some point, but the evil Jefferson Smythwick did not exist and his Fort Sumter South plantation occupies made-up ground. You must admit though that the escape by Alfrey et al was an exciting treat. Take that mean old slave owners!

Anti-slavery-001 Chapters 3 and 4 contain the fictional Southeast Anti-slavery Society, headed by the great Herbert Love. I call him great because he is the person, who I posit, providing for the Dr.’s education. In fact, I have since learned that A.O.’s extended family may have sacrificed holdings to finance his education.Sec. of Ag-001

Love never made Secretary of Agriculture in a McKinley administration, but he would have had the qualifications. He was engaged in farming of some sort, though he takes on a lion’s share philanthropy for my purposes.

San Luis Lake-001 Siegfried and Frieda Endlichoffer, the German couple across the lake from John Ferrell, are based on a personal acquaintance. They are a sweet augmentation to the Tallahassee landscape and what better neighbors could anyone have?

Of course the Spanish American War was real. It represents the USA’s first foray into imperial policy, which has led to our global role as policeman to the world.mckinley-at-pan-american-exposition

The Horizons of chapters 5 and 6 are the recounting of what was going on the last time we entered a new century. 1900 had as many amazing changes as we have in the Catfish AL-001year 2000. President McKinley was indeed assassinated in 1901 and that was preceded by the Galveston hurricane, the Great Plague and followed by the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Harv Pearson is a huge player in LATOBSD. He marries Judith Eastman in chapter 7, who is fictional and they start the Pearson-Eastman Journal, a make believe publication that gives this book the legs to reach out to the entire flat world… pure fictional genius.

Continued

… one Episode to go…

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Alpha Omega M.D.

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Episode #333