It’s All Greek to Me – Spartan Facts

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Horrifying Facts

About the Spartans

Sparta is one of the most extreme civilizations in Earth’s history. Relatively early in Greek history, even before the Classical World had begun, the Spartans drove through a radical social and political revolution. In effect, all Spartans are made to be equal. Really equal. And they developed key concepts we still use today, like the importance of self-sacrifice for the common good or the value of duties and of rights. In short, all Spartans aimed to be as perfectly human as humanly possible. Every single of our utopic ideas today, can draw their roots from the Spartan example.

 The biggest problem about Sparta, from a historical point of view at least, is that they left very few written records, and didn’t build grand architecture that we could then analyze. However, Spartan women enjoyed a degree of freedom, education and equality unparalleled anywhere in the ancient world. Each member of society, man or woman, master or slave, had a precise role to play, and one can’t talk about Spartan soldiers without talking about Sparta itself. And this is because every Spartan citizen was specifically molded to be the perfect soldier from birth. This preparation was often-times brutal, and we’ll take a look just how extreme the Spartans were.

10. Spartan Children Were Bred for War

Almost every aspect of the Spartan way of life was governed by the state. This included its children. Each Spartan baby was brought before a council of inspectors, who examined him for physical defects. If anything seemed out of the ordinary, they would take the newborn and leave him to die of exposure somewhere on a hillside outside the city. In a few fortunate cases, these forsaken children would be rescued by foreigners passing by, or by the helots (Spartan slaves) working the fields. In their infancy, the babies who survived this first of many tests would be bathed in wine instead of water, as to strengthen their physical attributes. They would also be frequently ignored by their parents when they cried, as to make them accustomed to a “Spartan” way of life. These parenting techniques were so highly admired by foreigners that Spartan women were often sought as nurses or nannies.

Up until the age of seven, Spartan boys lived with their family, but then they were taken by the state to live in communal barracks and start their first training regimen, called “agoge”. This program aimed to mold the young Spartans to become perfect warriors. The training involved hard physical exercises, as well as learning stealth, extreme loyalty, military and combat training, pain-tolerance, hunting, survival skills, social communication, and morality. They were also taught reading, writing, rhetoric and poetry. However, at age 12 they were stripped of all clothing and possessions, save a red cloak. They were then instructed to sleep outside and make their own beds from reeds. They were also encouraged to scavenge or steal food, but if caught they were severely punished by flogging. Spartan girls continued to live with their families after the age of seven, but they too received the famous Spartan education, which involved dance, gymnastics, as well as javelin and discus throwing. These exercises were believed to make them ready for motherhood.

9. Hazing and Fighting Among Themselves

One way through which children were toughened up as a key element in their development as soldiers was to instigate fights among them. Older men and teachers would often start various arguments among their students and encouraged them on, leading the boys to start fighting with each other. Since the main purpose of the agoge was to make these trainees highly resistant to all sorts of hardships found during war, like cold, hunger or pain, those who showed signs of weakness, cowardice, or timidity were subject to harsh punishments and humiliation by peers and teachers alike. Imagine being bullied by someone in school, and then your teacher would come over and join in. To make things even worse, girls often sang choral songs in front of dignitaries during various religious or state ceremonies, sometimes singling out specific trainees for ridicule.

Not even grown-ups were spared humiliation. Spartans absolutely loathed people out of shape. This is one of the reasons why all Spartan citizens, the kings included, had their daily meals at a syssitia, a military mess, where the food was bland and always insufficient. Together with daily physical exercises, Spartan men and women kept in shape throughout their entire lives. Those who didn’t, however, were exposed to public humiliation by everyone, and even risked being banished from the city if they didn’t fix the problem immediately.

8. The Contest of Endurance

An integral part of Ancient Sparta, and one of its most gruesome practices, was the so-called Contest of Endurance, or Diamastigosis. This tradition was said to commemorate an incident where people from neighboring settlements killed each other at the altar of Artemis. From that point on, human sacrifices were brought there annually. Since Lycurgus, however – a famous, semi-mythical Spartan lawgiver from the 7th century BC – the ceremony at the sanctuary of Artemis Orthia only involved the ephebes (adolescent boys undergoing the agoge) being flogged until they completely stained the stairs of the altar full of blood. During the event, the altar was covered with cheeses and the young boys would try to reach and take them. Older ones would wait for them with sticks in hand, flogging and beating them without mercy. This tradition was in fact an initiation ceremony where the ephebes were accepted as full Spartan warriors and citizens. The last boy standing would receive great honor for his bravery. Deaths were also not uncommon during this event.

During the Roman occupation of Sparta, the tradition of Diamastigosis endured, but lost much of its ceremonial importance. It instead became a favorite spectator sport. People from all over the empire would flock to Sparta and see how young men were being whipped in such a brutal fashion. By the 3rd century AD the sanctuary was enclosed by a theater where spectators could watch the floggings.

7. The Krypteia

When the ephebes reached the age of 20 or so, those who were marked out as potential future leaders were given the opportunity to take part in the Krypteia. This was a sort of secret police, or at least the closest Sparta got to one. It more closely resembled a guerrilla force since its main purpose was to stake out and terrorize the surrounding helot settlements. At its peak during the 5th century BC, Sparta had about 10,000 men able to bear arms, while the surrounding helot population outnumbered them 7 to 1. This was a double-edged sword for the Spartan citizens. On the one hand, the helots were providing the Spartans with all the food they would need, freeing them to become super-soldiers. On the other hand, the Spartans were constantly under threat from helot rebellions. This continuous risk of revolt was also the main reason why the Spartans developed such a highly militarized society in the first place, in which every Spartan man became a soldier by law.

Every fall these young soldiers got a chance to test out their skills, when the Spartan ephors unofficially declared war on the helot population. At night the members of the Krypteia would be armed with knives and set loose onto the surrounding countryside. They were instructed to kill any helot they encountered, especially the strongest among them. This annual slaughter of the lowest class was to ensure the helots’ obedience, as well as to keep their population in check. Only the Spartans who took part in this gruesome event as young men could hope to one day achieve the highest ranks in the army and society. Throughout the rest of the year, this “secret police” would patrol the countryside looking for any signs of unrest. Any potentially troublesome helot would be summarily executed.

6. Compulsory Marriage

While this can’t be construed as particularly horrifying, compulsory marriage by the age of 30 is something that many today consider especially frightening. We don’t think the same rules apply in modern-day Sparta, but in the ancient times they certainly did. Up until the age of 30, all Spartan men lived their lives in communal barracks and made up the active military of the mighty city-state. They would then be relieved of duty, but would act as the reserve force until they turned 60. In any case, 30 was the age when all male citizens were more or less forced to tie the knot, if they hadn’t done so already.

And since Spartans saw marriage primarily, but not exclusively, as a means of conceiving new soldiers, girls usually married at around 19 (later than other Greek girls). Bachelors were encouraged to evaluate the health and fitness of their future mates. But even if the marriage arrangements were made between the husband and his future father-in-law, this doesn’t mean the girl didn’t have any say in the matter. After all, Spartan women were equal to their men, more so than in a lot of countries today.

In the event a Spartan soldier would get married before finishing his active service when turning 30, he would live separately from his wife until that time. Likewise, if a man remained a bachelor after entering the reserves, he was seen as neglecting his duties towards Sparta itself, and would be publicly mocked at every occasion; especially during official ceremonies. If by any chance a Spartan wasn’t able to bear children, he was expected to find a suitable other who could. There were even cases of a woman having several partners and their collective children belonging to all.

5. Spartan Weapons & Armor

The bulk of every Ancient Greek army, Sparta included, was the hoplite. These were heavily-armored soldiers, citizens of their respective city-states, with enough material means to equip and make themselves available to fight. But while other cities’ hoplites weren’t professional soldiers and often lacked sufficient military training, Sparta’s soldiers were bred solely for war, and did nothing else their entire lives. And while other Greek city-states built massive walls to defend themselves, Sparta famously had none, considering its hoplites as its defenses.

The principle weapon of every hoplite, regardless of origin, was the spear, or dory. These spears measured around 8 feet in length and were held one handed, either over or underhand. Its tip was made out of bronze or iron, and the shaft was made from cornel wood. This wood was especially sought after because of the density and strength it gave the spear. The wood is so dense it actually sinks in water. Then in their left hand, the hoplites held their iconic round shields, the hoplon. Weighing some 30 pounds, these were used primarily for defense, but were also used for bashing. These shields were made out of wood or leather with an outer layer of bronze. Spartans marked their shields with the letter lambda. This stood for Laconia, the name of the region of Sparta.

Now, if either their spears broke off or the battle became too overcrowded, the hoplites in the front row turned to their xiphos. This was a short sword, about 17 inches long, which was used for stabbing while behind the hoplon. Spartans, however, mostly preferred the kopis instead of the xiphos, because of the nasty wounds it inflicted. The kopis was used more as an axe in the form of a thick, curved iron sword, and Spartans were often depicted in Athenian art while holding one. For extra defense, they wore bronze helmets that protected the head, the back of the neck, and the face, as well as a breastplate (thorax) of bronze or leather. Bronze graves, knemides, to protect the shins, as well as arm-guards were also worn.

4. The Phalanx

One of the signs a civilization reaches a certain point in its development is the way its army wages war. Tribal societies, for example, usually fought in loose arrangements, each warrior waving his huge broadsword or axe over his head in intimidation, and looking for personal glory on the battlefield. But more advanced civilizations fought in compact formations, with each individual soldier having a precise role to play within a larger strategy. The Romans did this, and so did the Ancient Greeks. In fact, the famous Roman Legion formations were inspired by the Greek Phalanx.

Hoplites were organized into regiments, lokhoi, of several hundred individuals, and fought in 8 rows or more. This is what’s known as a Phalanx. The men stood shoulder to shoulder in a tight formation, with their shields covering their left half, as well as the right side of the soldier next to him. Above their shields and between their heads, there was a literal forest of spears protruding outwards. The Phalanx advanced at walking speed or slightly faster, usually accompanied by rhythmic music and war-cries; something which Spartans studied intensely during the agoge. As Greek cities often fought each other, Phalanx would usually meet another Phalanx in battle, in which case they would push and stab each other until one side emerged victorious. Think of it as a much bloodier version of a rugby scrum. Nevertheless, this formation was also successfully used against the Persians on numerous occasions.

Its biggest weakness, however, was its left flank. As the Phalanx advanced and each man sought to keep behind the shield of his neighbor, the formation had the tendency to shift right, leaving the left flank exposed. A good commander would therefore put his best warriors in his own right flank in order to take advantage of this possible situation and ultimately win the battle.

3. No Such Thing as Surrender

As part of their extreme-loyalty training, Spartans despised cowardice above all else, and soldiers were expected to fight without any sense of fear whatsoever. Even to the last man, if need be. In effect, the act of surrender was seen as the epitome of all cowardice. In the highly unlikely event of a Spartan hoplite doing such an unthinkable thing, it would most likely lead him to commit suicide. The ancient historian Herodotus makes mention of two Spartans who missed out on the famous Battle of Thermopylae and who later, in their utter shame, killed themselves. One by hanging himself, and the other by dying a redeeming death during a later conflict for Sparta.

Spartan mothers were famous for saying things like: “Return with your shield or on it” to their sons just before they left for battle, referring to them either returning victorious or dead. Sparta only considered its debt fully repaid when its citizens died doing their duty for her. Men by dying in battle, and Spartan women during childbirth. In fact, only these two groups of people were ever worthy enough to have their own names forever engraved on their tombstones.

2. The Thirty Tyrants

Sparta was known for wanting to spread its own utopian views upon its neighboring states. First were the Messenians to the west, which Sparta defeated during the 7th and 8th centuries BC, turning them into their subservient helots. They later began looking towards Athens itself. During the Peloponnesian War(431–404 BC), not only did the Spartans defeat them, but would also inherit their naval supremacy over the Aegean; something that Sparta never had. Refusing to raze Athens to the ground, as was suggested by the Thebans and Corinthians, the Spartans decided instead to shape the city in their own image.

To do so, they installed a pro-Spartan oligarchy in Athens, infamously known as the Thirty Tyrants. Their main purpose was to revise or in most cases, completely erase the fundamental Athenian laws for its own style of democracy. They reformed the power structure by first lowering most citizens’ rights, and installing 500 councilors to serve the judicial functions formerly belonging to all citizens. They also hand-picked 3,000 Athenian men to “to share in the government” who were allowed more privileges than the rest. During their 13-month-long regime, some 5 percent of all the Athenian population died or simply disappeared, a lot of property confiscated, and many pro-Athenian democrats were exiled.

A former student of Socrates himself, Critias, the leader of the Thirty, was considered cruel, imposing and downright inhumane, as a man who wanted to make Athens into a mirror image of Sparta whatever the cost. Similar to the Krypteia in Sparta, all people who were considered a threat to the new establishment were quickly executed. They also employed 300 “lash-bearers” to patrol the city, harassing and terrorizing the city’s population into submission. Around 1,500 of Athens’s most prominent figures not in favor of Spartan rule were forced to take poison hemlock.

Interestingly enough, the more violent the Tyrants were with the city’s population, the more opposition they faced. This poor state of affairs eventually resulted in a successful rebellion 13 months later, lead by Thrasybulus, one of the few who managed to escape into exile. With the Athenian restoration, the before-mentioned 3,000 were given amnesty, while the rest, the Thirty included, were executed. Critias died in the initial attack. Riddled with corruption, betrayals and violence, the Tyrants’ short rule ensured severe mistrust among the Athenians themselves in the years to come.

1. The Famous Battle of Thermopylae

Made popular today by the 1998 comic book series, and the 2006 movie 300, the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC was an epic engagement between the few Greeks under the Spartan King Leonidas I and the many Persians under King Xerxes. The whole conflict began even before these two became rulers, during the reign of Xerxes’ predecessor, Darius I. He already expanded his borders into mainland Europe and then set his sights on Greece itself. When Darius died and Xerxes took power in 486 BC, he immediately began preparations for an invasion; the biggest threat Greece had ever faced.

After much deliberation between the many Greek city-states, a combined force of around 7,000 hoplites was sent to defend the pass of Thermopylae against the advancing Persian army. (Somehow the graphic novel and movie failed to mention those other 6,700 warriors, including the legendary Athenian naval fleet.) Among that 7,000 were the famous 300 Spartans lead by King Leonidas himself. Xerxes amassed around 80,000 troops for the invasion, though the numbers vary a lot. The relatively small Greek force was due in part to their unwillingness to send troops so far north. The other reason was more religious, for it was the period of the sacred games at Olympia and the most important Spartan religious festival, the Karneia, during which no fighting was allowed. In any case, Leonidas realized the peril they were facing and chose 300 of his most loyal men, who all had male heirs.

Located some 95 miles north of Athens, Thermopylae was an excellent defensive position. Only at about 50 feet wide, and cramped between an almost vertical cliff-face and the sea itself, the Persians couldn’t effectively deploy their vastly superior numbers. This gave the Greeks a tremendous advantage, coupled with a defensive wall already built there. When Xerxes finally arrived, he waited four days in the hopes of the Greeks retreating, which didn’t happen. He then sent his envoys one last time, asking they lay down their arms, to which Leonidas replied “come and get them.” For the following two days the Greeks withstood the many Persian attacks, including those of the infamous Immortals. Betrayed by a local shepherd who told Xerxes about a hidden pass through the mountains, Leonidas would soon find himself surrounded.

Learning of this unfortunate turn of events, he dismissed most of the other hoplites under his command, and kept only his Spartans and a few others to make the last stand. When the final attack came, the mighty Leonidas, as well as his 300 Spartans fell, fulfilling their duty towards their people and to Sparta itself. Even to this day, there’s an inscription at Thermopylae which says: “Go tell the Spartans, you who read: We took their orders and here lie dead.” Now even if Leonidas didn’t win the battle, what he did manage to achieve reverberated through the following wars with the Persians, leading the Spartans to lead the resistance and defeat their overwhelming conquerors. This battle also ensured that Sparta will forever be remembered in history as one of the world’s most unique and powerful civilizations.


It’s All Greek to Me

Spartan Facts

George Washington Digest – WIF Into History

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Lesser Known

Facts About

George Washington

Even as American values change and history is continually revised by new discoveries, George Washington remains one of the most venerated figures in human history. A highly esteemed soldier and general who became a pioneer politician, he appeals both to the intellectual types and those who liked to prove their worth through combat. Unfortunately, for all his acclaim, the casual reader only gets a vague impression of what he was like as a human. It’s unfortunate, because it leaves out a number of very interesting aspects of the life of a fascinating (if deeply flawed) man. Unfortunate for the average person, that is, not for George Washington. His legacy has literally been set in stone. So, let’s get to learning more about America’s most prominent Founding Father.

 10. Started the First Worldwide War

Although he’s a central figure in the American Revolutionary War, Washington had an even more significant role in a larger scale conflict that is often overlooked in American history. In 1754, Washington was a Lieutenant Colonel in command of forty troops that had been dispatched to intercept a column of French troops in Southwestern Pennsylvania. While this was technically still peace time, tensions were high, as the year before Washington had led a retinue to the French Fort Duquesne to demand they leave the territory, and it had been only through a mighty show of force that the French had surrendered the fort without a fight. So it was that on May 28, Washington’s small command found the French column, and despite having been ordered not to engage the enemy, Washington ordered a sneak attack. He was, after all, only about 22 years old and eager to prove himself, even if it meant defying orders. They killed a small number of French soldiers, wounded a few others, and took 21 prisoners.

 According to History.com, his small engagement was the flashpoint that led to the rival nations of France and Great Britain enlarging their armed forces in the colonies, and in time the war spilled over into Europe. It became known as the Seven Years’ War, and it was the deadliest conflict of the Eighteenth Century. Necrometrics. computes the number of dead from that conflict at 853,000, far exceeding the total combined forces engaged in the American Revolution, let alone the number of casualties. Makes the “Shot Heard Round the World” seem almost quaint.

9. Signed a Murder Confession

Well before it escalated to the Seven Years War, in the immediate aftermath of Washington’s unauthorized sneak attack it became clear it was a British/Colonial boondoggle. It turned out the French column was actually on a diplomatic mission, and Smithsonian Magazine states they had the documentation to prove it. The diplomat in question was an Ensign Joseph Jumonville, and according to Washington, he was killed in the immediate aftermath of the attack when a Native American, who went by the nickname Half King, put a tomahawk in his brain. A larger French force was dispatched to deal with the treacherous British and Washington responded by falling back to an improvised log defense dubbed Fort Necessity. Even after being reinforced by more than a hundred extra soldiers, Washington decided to surrender without another shot being fired. During the process Washington was made to sign a document, wherein he confessed to having murdered Jumonville.

In Washington’s defense, he signed the document under extreme duress and it was written in French, a language he was not familiar with. Rather than being court-martialed for disobeying orders and ignominiously surrendering, not to mention literally signing a confession, the British propaganda machine took Washington’s side. The British were determined to have North America for themselves and they needed to rally support for their cause instead of admitting defeat, and heaping scorn on the impulsive lieutenant colonel would do nothing to help achieve that goal. It took seven years of fighting, but eventually the British won and greatly expanded their American colonies, which as we now know would ultimately prove their undoing on that continent.

8. Did Not Have Wooden Teeth: Had Something Almost Worse

These days the historical trivia note that Washington had wooden teeth is so widely debunked that it’s probably harder to find someone who does believe it. This is not to say he had good teeth: he was having them taken out as young as 24. By 1789, the year he was elected president, he was down to one tooth still in his gums. The rest were his own refitted into dentures, nine were possibly form black people, and others were from whalebone. Even by the standards of the time they were unsightly, and the misconception they were wooden was likely due to their discolored appearance.

Although the dental problems so embarrassed Washington that he tried to keep them secret, they ultimately proved hugely advantageous in their own way. In 1781, a correspondence with a French dentist named Dr. Jean-Pierre Le Mayeur included notes that indicated Washington planned to stay in New York City. One of his letters was intercepted by the British, and they believed the letter indicated that it would be safe for a large contingent of British troops to move to a community called Yorktown. As it happened, Washington had changed his mind and moved to trap the British in the most decisive American victory of the war.

7. Signed the Most Slavery-Friendly Law

As with many of the Founding Fathers, slavery was an un-erasable stain on Washington’s legacy and a fixture of his life. The New York Times said he was an owner of ten slaves when he was only 11 years old, after his father’s death. By the time of his marriage in 1759, the number had grown to 80, and by 1776 it was 150. By the time of his death, between he and his wife Martha Custis Washington, he had 317.

Certain historical notes may seem to slightly redeem or at least complicate his feelings. In 1778 he wrote about wanting to get out of the business of owning slaves. When he died in 1799, his will stipulated that he wanted all the slaves owned by his family freed (this amounted to about half of them). But all this is overshadowed by a particularly nasty piece of legislation he urged to be pushed through congress in 1793. Known as the Fugitive Slave Act, it stipulated that slaveowners could cross any state boundaries in pursuit of escapees. It put a fine of $500 on anyone who sheltered a runaway slave or even aided them, an amount History.org tells us is more than eight years’ salary for a teacher in Virginia at the time.

6. Spent Final Years Pursuing a Single Escaped Slave

The most remembered person ever forced into servitude under Washington was Ona “Oney” Judge, one of the slaves Washington and his wife had with him in Philadelphia, whose main duty was attending to Martha’s personal needs. In May 1796, she slipped out of the Washington home. She had no shortage of help, as Philadelphia was so anti-slavery at the time that any slave that lived there for six months was automatically freed (Washington had gotten around this by merely regularly rotating his staff).

An article about Ona Judge on ushistory.org reports that Martha, for her part, seemed personally offended that a slave she felt she’d treated well would want to leave, refusing to believe Judge would ever want to leave of her own free will. Meanwhile, George initially tried to keep the incident under wraps while in abolitionist territory. Eventually he relented, had notices posted offering a $10 reward for aid in recapturing her, and asked the Secretary of the Treasury for help in bringing her back.

After being smuggled to New York City, for a time the president was able to get back in touch with her. Naturally, George was unable to persuade her to return to bondage without threat of physical force, and was worried using physical force would have caused “a riot on the docks.” Eventually she made her way to the community of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She married a local freeborn black sailor and spent the final 50 years of her life a fugitive and favorite of abolitionist papers. Even when George Washington died three years later, he still had agents on the hunt for her.

5. A Moonshine Distiller

A popular misconception is that, since George Washington and other Founding Fathers grew hemp on their plantations, they must have been smoking it. That’s extremely unlikely, as they grew a species of hemp with little THC in it, which would have been nearly worthless for getting a buzz. Besides, Washington had a much more viable source of inebriation at Mount Vernon in the form of a huge whiskey distillery.

How huge was it? Big enough that it yielded more than 11,000 gallons a year, according to CBS, making it one of the nation’s largest. Of course, Washington couldn’t go through all that even if he threw lavish house parties, so he sold most of it off at a tidy profit. It’s enough to make you wonder if Sam Adams should really be the Founding Father whose name we most associate with alcohol.

4. HATED Becoming the President

An ambitious go-getter on the battlefield and a math enthusiast, you would think the highest office in the country of his birth would be a plum position for Washington. It should have seemed all the sweeter when the results came in from Congress on February 4 and said that of the sixty-nine votes, he’d won all of them. He was the only American president to be elected by unanimous vote. As History.org tells us, Washington was aware that in 1789 he had the support of the public as well as the landed gentry.

Nevertheless, Washington hated assuming the position. He’d spent months trying to get around being appointed to the position, or flat out refusing it prior to his unanimous election. In private, he removed any sense of ambiguity about his feelings, such as when he wrote to his friend Edward Rutledge that accepting the office meant “giving up all expectations of private happiness.”

3. Presidency Massively Criticized by Other Founding Fathers

Despite initial overwhelming support for Washington in Congress, the press, and the public, by the start of Washington’s second term it was a very different story. One of the milder critics was John Adams, who said the president was “too illiterate, unread, and unlearned for his station.”

Thomas Jefferson took a much harsher attitude in 1795 after Washington signed the controversial Jay Treaty, which gave favorable trading deals to Great Britain in exchange for moving British troops out of forts in territory outside the United States. He accused Washington of treason over that. Just before Washington left the office, Thomas Paine went to the press to accuse him of monopolizing for his own profit and his favorites, and depriving veterans. Amidst all this, many other newspapers criticized Washington too, of their own volition, and it was a large contributor to his decision to retire.

2. Invented Farming Equipment and Designs

After leaving the presidency, Washington devoted his twilight years to what had been his true passion all along: Farming. But being the sort of man he was, he of course needed to be in some way exceptional at it. He created an object called a “drill plow,” which was a huge time saver in that it planted seeds at the same time it tilled the soil.

But more significant was his 1797 innovation, the Threshing Barn. Essentially, it was a 15-sided brick building that was two stories tall, and the top floor was used to beat the wheat against the floor until the chaff was sorted out and the seeds fell to the bottom floor. Of course, it should be mentioned that working in it was something Washington delegated to the slaves.

1. Experimental Blood Transfusion Proposal

On December 14, 1799, at age 67, Washington passed away from an obstructive epiglottis, having only noticed the symptoms of it the day before. It must be said, though, that his condition was very likely not helped at all by the team of doctors dispatched to help him, and who concluded that bleeding was Washington’s best hope. Over 12 hours, they drained a staggering 40 percent of his blood. After he expired, in part because so much blood had been removed, a very odd proposal came up: Putting blood from another creature in. Yes, you read that right. Not another person’s blood. Another creature’s.

One of those present at Washington’s death was a William Thornton, a student from Edinburgh in Scotland. Since blood transfusions were relatively new to the field of medicine, some had claimed they could work medical miracles, including reviving the dead. Despite those outlandish claims, when he offered to give the corpse a transfusion of lamb’s blood, the family understandably declined.


George Washington Digest

WIF Into History

The Crusades – The Real Story

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Facts About

the Crusades

At some point, slightly over a millennia ago, the entire civilized world decided to collectively go nuts. European armies rampaged through the Middle East, Islamic armies rampaged through the Balkans, and a whole lotta people died in a crazy religious war. Known as the Crusades, this state of affairs lasted the best part of 200 years.

 Since then, the Crusades have taken on an almost mythic resonance in both cultures. Everyone knows them… or at least thinks they know them. But the history we’re sold of the Crusades isn’t exactly the full version. In fact, go digging through the tall tales and mountains of propaganda, and you’ll uncover a whole lot of information suggesting the Crusades were even crazier than you ever thought possible.

10. They Weren’t Totally Unjustified

The standard image of the Crusades is one of opportunist European mercenaries trashing the Middle East under the guise of ‘religion’. While there’s plenty of evidence that individual crusaders didn’t care much about spreading Christianity, the same can’t be said of their commanders. According to historian Rodney Stark, the decision to launch the first crusade was both religiously motivated and totally justified.

Before the Franks started devastating Asia Minor and the Levant, the Islamic Empire had undergone a crazy period of expansion. Mohammed had turned his tribe from a minor group into a global power, and they’d moved out of the East and into Europe. Spain, Sicily and Southern Italy had undergone extreme wars of conquest, and Seljuk Turks were threatening Christian Constantinople. In Stark’s view, Pope Urban III’s call to the First Crusade was an example of Europe getting its act together to defend itself from an expansionist superpower.

On a personal level, too, some of the crusaders had justifiable motives. Many knew relatives who’d been killed on pilgrimages to Jerusalem, and signed up to fight to avenge them. Popular history may say the Crusades were an unprovoked attack, but Stark’s reading suggests otherwise.

9. The Arab World Hasn’t Held a Grudge All this Time

Osama bin Laden used the Crusades as justification for 9/11. Islamist terror groups use them to spread an ideology of vengeance. Even mainstream Arab politicians consider the Crusades a dreadful historical wrong that should be taught in schools. Way to bear a grudge, right?

Not exactly. See, the idea that the Arab-Muslim world has stewed over the Crusades for a thousand years may sound plausible, but it’s anything but. Until the mid-19thcentury, Arabic didn’t even have a word for ‘Crusades’.

By the 18th century, most Arabic societies had long forgotten about the Crusades. They were wars that had happened centuries ago; about as relevant to their lives as the 30 Years War or the Battle of Agincourt are to yours. The only reason they came back into the public consciousness is because early-19th century French scholars ‘rediscovered’ them at around the same time France invaded Algeria. Suddenly, these 800-year old battles were being used in Paris as justification for the current ‘civilizing’ war.

But the real trigger came with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. As European powers gobbled up Turkish territory after WWI, Arab scholars searched for a historical analogue for their present suffering. They seized on the crusades, and they’ve stayed in people’s minds ever since.

8. They Weren’t Just about Christianity vs. Islam

In our current, troubled, times, the desire to look back on the Crusades as an epic clash between Muslims and Christians is strong on both sides. To be sure, the majority of battles did take place between those two groups. But all of them? Not even close. An integral part of many of the Crusades was the elimination of everyone from Jews to pagans.

These guys weren’t just accidentally caught up in the crossfire. They were the targets of the Crusaders themselves. In the First Crusade, for example, Count Emicho switched the Levant for the Rhineland in modern Germany, where he laid siege to Jewish towns and massacred their inhabitants. The Albigensian Crusade of 1208-29 took place in France itself, and only targeted members of the Albigensian-Christian minority. Then there were the Baltic Crusades of 1211-25, which went after pagans in places like Transylvania. For those involved in these wars, seeing even a single Muslim or a patch of desert was as likely as you seeing an escaped rhinoceros on your way to work.

Across the whole Crusader period, significant battles were being fought with nary a Muslim in sight. And, while we’re on the subject…

7. The Crusaders Totally Sacked Christian Cities, Too

If anyone out there still believes the main goal of the Crusades was a clash of Islam and Christianity, we invite them to explain the Fourth Crusade. Called by Pope Innocent III, it started with Christian armies marching off to invade the Levant… and ended with the Crusaders sacking the Christian city of Constantinople and massacring its inhabitants.

At the time, Constantinople was the beating heart of the Byzantine Empire, an Eastern offshoot of the bygone Roman Empire that had traded pagan worship for Christian. No other city on Earth was so central to the spreading of Christianity about the world. And still the Crusaders declared it a target and destroyed it. On April 12, 1204, they entered the city and massacred thousands of their co-religionists.

There were semi-logical reasons for this course of action, related to the split between Western and Eastern Christianity and the internal politics of the Byzantine Empire (most of which is too complex or confusing to go into here). But the result was still one of the nastiest Christian-on-Christian massacres of the entire Crusades. Not the sort of outcome you’d expect if you truly believed this was a holy war between Allah and God.

6. Islamic Commanders Spent More Time Fighting Other Muslims than Christians

Given all this infighting and confusion in the Christian lands, you might expect to hear the Islamic commanders took advantage of it to portray a united front. Well, you’d be wrong. Just like the Crusaders themselves, the Muslim forces weren’t into this whole clash of civilizations narrative. By which we mean they spent almost as much time fighting other Muslims as they did the European invaders.

 Seriously, just look at the story of Saladin. A Muslim commander famous today for standing up to the Crusaders, Saladin was way more two-faced than his reputation suggests. Between 1174 and 1187, he spent most of his time beating on other Muslims, netting his family a vast dynasty that stretched all the way from Aleppo to Mosul, via Damascus. During this period, he even made truces with the Crusaders to free up his forces to fight his fellow Muslims.

Nor was he the only one. Saladin’s teacher, Nur al-Din, spent the time between the Second and Third Crusades riding into Egypt to whup Shi`ite Fatimid butt, ignoring the outposts of Christendom all around him. If these two were motivated by a hatred of all things Christian, they sure hid it well.

5. No One Realized for Ages that the Crusades Were Meant to be Religious

The First Crusade started way, way back in 1096. It was remarkably successful. By 1099, Jerusalem had been captured, Christian states had been established at Tripoli, Antioch and Edessa, and the Levant was no longer purely under Muslim control. With such a blaze of religious violence, you might have expected everyone to see the Crusades as we do now. But that simply wasn’t the case. According to history Professor Jonathan Phillips, no one realized the Crusades were meant to be religious for ages.

You gotta remember that the medieval period wasn’t a nice one to live in. Empires were constantly clashing, raiding parties routinely massacred entire towns, and pirates dominated the coastlines. So when a bunch of Europeans swept through the Levant, toppling Islamic governments and killing Muslims, most locals simply shrugged and decided they were just another raiding party.

It wasn’t until the First Crusade had ended that anyone realized there was something deeper going on than mere opportunism. Rather than sack Jerusalem and run off with its riches, the Crusaders stayed around, ruling their new territories as part of Christendom. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until 1105 that conquered Muslims began talking about waging a jihad in response, and it wasn’t until 1144 that anyone actually agreed to do so.

4. It Wasn’t Just the Catholics

It’s an undeniable fact that the First Crusade was called by the Pope, at a time when most of Europe was Catholic. As a result, many still fervently believe that the Crusades were carried out entirely by Catholics. However, this version of events misses some pretty fundamental truths about religious alliances in the 12th and 13th centuries. Far from going it alone, the Catholics were often joined by members of the Orthodox Church.

One of the most-famous was Patriarch Heraclius, who fought alongside the Crusader nobleman Balian during the Siege of Jerusalem. Another was the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, who got the Crusades kick-started by appealing to the Pope to save Constantinople from Turkish hordes (eventually leading, ironically, to the sacking of Constantinople by those same Crusaders). On a lower level, there were Greek Christians involved in various crusades, alongside Armenian Christians and even some Russian Orthodox.

In short, many different branches of Christianity got involved, and the same was true on the Muslim side. Sunni, Shi’ite and various sub-divisions all piled in, creating a multi-faceted campaign where no group was obviously pulling all the strings.

3. The Mongol Conquests Were Much, Much Worse

Pretty much everyone agrees the Crusades were bloody. There’s a reason groups like ISIS love to bring it up as an example of Christians beating on Muslims. But the idea that they were unprecedented is, frankly, nonsense. From an Arab perspective alone, the Crusades were far from the worst calamity to hit the region. The Mongol Conquests were much, much worse.

If the European invasion was like having a gang of masked men ransack your house, its Mongol counterpart was like having your house torched while you’re still tied up inside it. The Mongols swept across the Middle East, laying waste to everything in their path. When they sacked Baghdad in 1258, over 200,000 people were put to the sword, and the Caliph viciously beaten to death. This followed on from their total destruction of the Sunni Muslim Khwarezmid Empire, which had seen around 1.25 million slaughtered in less than three years.

It’s impossible to state how much the region suffered under the Mongols. From 1240 to 1300, various Khans laid waste to Aleppo and Damascus, and conducted repeated raids into the Levant. Unsurprisingly, it was these super-massacres Arab historians tended to remember, rather than the less-violent Crusades.

2. One of the Great Muslim Commanders Wasn’t Even Religious

A lot of this article has dealt with how our beliefs about the Crusades and religion are kinda misguided. Well, prepare to have your minds blown all over again. It wasn’t just the Christian side that had a great big mixed bag of religious viewpoints. One of the greatest commanders of the Muslim armies, Zengi, wasn’t even religious at all.

In a 2010 article for History News Network, Professor Johnathon Phillips claimed that Zengi was a “secular individual.” This is pretty shocking, as Zengi was one of the great commanders of the Muslim fightback against the invaders. In 1144, he captured the major Crusader city of Edessa, inspiring Saladin to get involved in the wars, which led to Christians being driven out of many areas. Yet all available evidence shows Zengi wasn’t really interested in religion at all. When he wasn’t retaking Crusader strongholds, he was busy sacking Muslim cities, as part of his personal crusade to (presumably) get rich or die tryin’.

1. The Crusades May Have Led to the Discovery of America

The Ninth and last Crusade ended in 1272. Columbus discovered America over 200 years later, in 1492. In temporal terms, he was as distant from the rest of this article as you are from the Napoleonic Wars. So how could one possibly lead to the other? To answer that, we’ll have to hand over to cultural anthropologist Carol Delaney. In 2011, Delaney published a book on Columbus’s motives for discovering the New World. Rather than a thirst for adventure, or a desire to enrich himself, she maintains that Columbus was secretly hoping to find enough gold to finance a Tenth Crusade.

At the time, Jerusalem had been in Islamic hands for centuries. According to Delaney, Columbus considered this an affront against his religion. So he set off to collect the funds needed to raise an army and take Jerusalem back for Christendom. It was while on this mission that he accidentally stumbled across America.

 If true, that would mean that everything from New York, to the Brazilian football team, to Eva Peron and Simon Bolivar, to this very website are all a historical accident caused by the inconclusive end to the medieval Crusades. Now there’s a weird thought.

The Crusades

The Real Story

THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 43

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 43

…It’s like we’re getting dragged into the future…

All this atomic hoo-ha does not go unnoticed in in the 51 states called America. With the possible exception of Puerto Rico, Washington State, North Dakota, Colorado and the other 29 states whose marijuana aura spares them much worry, dusty bomb shelter doors have been opened for the first time since the beginning of the Cold War.

Texas is still part of the U.S. and of course their bomb shelters are bigger, easily big enough to lodge the NASA staff, which has had a front-row seat for the dastardly doings of those hasty Koreans.

Words are few at GLC, though exhales resound in unison.

“Can you say ‘overreaction’?” You can count on Gus McKinney to cut-to-the-quick.

No one in this group could have predicted that UKP would unleash a missile barrage in response to a single incident involving the mysterious Lorgan.

“You reap what you sow.” Former UKP ally Fletcher Fitch gets a manner of satisfaction. Maybe now the death squads that have h(a)unted him all these years will go away. But his death will not happen until sometime long after he assimilates all that forward-looking technology that has fallen into their laps.

“Is it possible that the deflector shield was meant to protect us from Korean nukes?” Gus wonders.

“Unlikely since it came too late. We aren’t going to back-down from our program, not now,” Roy speculates. “Someone, maybe your Mom/hallucination, wants us to have this material and hopes that we won’t let it go to waste.”

“I’ve already outfitted SEx with the disruptor weapon, it was relatively easy,” Fitch assures. “It gloms onto the molecular stabilizer, the same concept in reverse.”

It’s like we’re getting dragged into the future. If not for these enhancements, Gus and Deke are goners, SOL would be a pie-in-the-sky do-over and we’d be scared into a corner – frozen stiff on this merry mess of a planet.”

Gus & Co. are haunted by that empty pilot’s seat aboard the ship about which they ruminate. Is Deke really a goner and was that O apparition he saw on the way back from the Sun for real?


THE NULL SOLUTION

Episode 43


page 47

THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 42

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 42

…It is obvious {to the most casual observer} that UKP started the nuclear fracas and the United States response was appropriate and timely…

Related image

In response to their failed attempt to bring down the “Giant Ball”, the United Korean Peninsula launches more than two dozen Taeopodong Unha-5s a in the direction of any world power suspected of producing Giant Ball or possessing nuclear weapons. India, Pakistan, China, Taiwan, France, Israel, Iran, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Somalia, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, Great Britain and quite naturally the USA are recipients of Jong-Un-Family doomsday targeting.–

— When it comes to nuclear aggression, there is not much time for humans to react and react they do.

In the same order as listed above:

  1. India = Were in the process of installing an anti-missile system – RESULT – Too late. Their own warhead is fired across the border to the North
  2. Pakistan = RESULT – Two birds (with India) slain with one stoneTop Magic Missile Stickers for Android & iOS | Gfycat
  3. China = Too close to react in time  – RESULT – Warhead takes out the dam on Yellow River, 2 billion drowned in floodplain
  4. Taiwan = Too small to be defensive – RESULT – It will take 100 years to recover, Mainland China sheds no tears
  5. France = Overlooked, too timid – never mind
  6. Israel = Prepared for anything – RESULT – Warhead destroyed before re-entry into atmosphere
  7. Iran = Champing at the bit to use their arsenal on their neighbors – RESULT – They are trumped by Israel, who were looking for an excuse to take out Iran’s nukes
  8. Ukraine = Wish they had not listened to Russia – RESULT – Crimean region laid waste, the Bosporus reduced to an unrecognizable puddle
  9. Saudi Arabia = Too rich to be destroyed – RESULT – They paid a ransom to UKP before the launch
  10. Russia = They know UKP like the back of their mischievous hands – RESULTDestroyed 5 missiles before they reached the stratosphere
  11. Somalia = Had a hijacked missile in their possession – RESULT – They are now out of the pirating business
  12. Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey = Not enough missiles to go around
  13. Great Britain = Depends on the USA – RESULT – Missile aimed at London taken out by the antiballistic missile shield
  14. USA = After shooting nukes out of the sky like so many clay pigeons and seeing the damage done by more UKP mischief, President Harper Lea Bassett takes the advice of her joint chiefs and unleashes limited-nuclear-weapon hell upon military facilities in the former North Korean territoryRESULTWWIII remains on hold. It is obvious {to the most casual observer} that UKP started the nuclear fracas and the United States response was appropriate and timely.–

Destruction..by roiter475 on Deviantart.com


THE NULL SOLUTION

Episode 42


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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 41

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 41

…the United Korean Peninsula finds itself overheating after failing to immediately rid their skies of what they are calling Giant Ball…

It does not take long for the Ÿ€Ð to react to being exposed to the penetrating harshness of their star. The impenetrable cloud deck that they have benefited from from their inception has gone away, just like the usefulness of those 3 Seljuk outposts.

But that is where the comparisons end.

Seljuk views the loss as a warning, from the angle of the nail, choosing to ally themselves with Eridanus and Earth, going so far as sharing a space warrior’s tools.Related image

The Ÿ€Ð interpret their blazing nakedness as the need to be the hammer, electing to restore their entire fleet of warships out of mothballs. Peace among the galaxy elite is about to be threatened, like the olden times when Ÿ€Ð were the bully and everybody else did hide away for fear of being conquered.

But priorities are taking precedent, while scores of its inhabitants are dying from radiation poisoning, they have forgotten more about screening out IR & UV rays, flares and heat, than the current technology at their disposal; so immediate was the de-cloaking.

So, the sleeping antagonist has been aroused.

And —

Similarly, the United Korean Peninsula finds itself overheating after failing to immediately rid their skies of what they are calling 거 대 한 공{Giant Ball} and are considering the destruction of their nuclear submarine as an act of aggression towards them, when in fact it was they who fired the offending warhead.

Never mind the facts. Facts only get in the way of irrational behavior.

More than a dozen Taeopodong Unha-5s are launched in the direction of any world power suspected of producing Giant Ball or possessing nuclear weapons. India, Pakistan, China, Taiwan, France, Israel, Iran, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Somalia, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, Great Britain and quite naturally the USA are recipients of Jong-Un-Family doomsday targeting.–


THE NULL SOLUTION

Episode 41


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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 35

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 35

…On a normally ugly, smelly day, early in the year StarDate 2052, the Ÿ€Ð are thrown for a loop by the critical combination of an unsolicited trespasser and fate…

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CHAPTER FOUR

Friend or Foe

 

The Definition of an Alliance;

An alliance is a pact, coalition or friendship between two or more parties, made in order to advance common goals and to secure common interests. It can be a political agreement between countries to support each other in disputes with other countries, making them allies.

Alliances on a planet are pretty straightforward. Separated only by borders {ocean, river or imaginary}, they are leagues fashioned through philosophical similarities.

  1. On Earth, certain countries align themselves together {distinct factions}.
  2. On Eridanus, the many towered cities are filled to the top with people connected by brainwaves {except the Null}.
  3. The Seljuk can be called “reclusive”, preferring to keep things private {but things change}.
  4. The Ÿ€Ð are the Ÿ€Ð, an alliance unto themselves {whatever that means}.

The 4 planetary systems are separated by 64 combined parsecs {ea. 3+ light years}. They are 4 civilizations that could not be more dissimilar. 4 fates are being tethered together by an uneasy, unidentified, unwanted, unaware or unwittingly urgent alliance.

Choose a lane or it will be chosen for you.

The Ÿ€Ð {#4 above} have always been a wildcard in this corner of infinity. They are unsightly in the eyes of 95% of known species and revolting to the rest. To make their palatability worse, they carry an odor that would offend a Venusian Wasteworm.  Add to this unsavory list, Ÿ€Ð do not possess a shred of decency. They assume the worst in all things and act accordingly.

3 Planets by ENDESGA on DeviantArt.com

No good things can come of things, which they do not understand. Such is their attitude when an intruder dare enter their space without permission. On a normally ugly, smelly day, early in the year StarDate 2052, they are thrown for a loop by the critical combination of an unsolicited trespasser and fate..

The Ÿ€Ð star system is a simple one; three planets, of incremental size, in orbit far enough apart as not to exert gravitational influence on the others. Only one of these is suitable to sustain their species {not too warm, shrouded by dense clouds, extremely humid}{as opposed to Eridanus which is equally muggy but much warmer}. The clouds are an artificial blanket that covers over them, like a drapery over a window, so no one can see in.

One can imagine the horror that ensues when a shiny smooth O takes up an orbit beneath that protective security layer. They frantically scan and analyze in the brief time they have. Before a strategy can be formulated, a bright illumination clears away their synthetic security. For the first time in eons, the Ÿ€Ð are exposed to the harsh ultraviolet radiation of their star.

They are forced to make the proper environmental measures to ensure inhabitability of their world.

If there is one Ÿ€Ð-ian credo, it is “Attack first, ask questions later”. Galactic harmony has gone on too long for their taste. Their leaning would be to exact a measure of revenge.


THE NULL SOLUTION

Galactic Harmony

Episode 35


page 39

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

Pandemic Overload (1918) – WIF Medicine

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Facts About

the Spanish Flu

Pandemic 1918

A Little Perspective

Spanish flu, the deadliest pandemic of the 20th century, struck the world in a series of waves, and left between 50 and 100 million people dead in its wake. It may have appeared in the trenches of World War I in Europe as early as 1916, according to some researchers. It first appeared in the United States in the spring of 1918. Numerous contending theories of its source of origin continue to be debated. Some say it began in the United States, some say in Europe, and still others argue it originated in Asia. There is no debate over its impact, though, with one-third of the world’s population contracting the disease during its peak in 1918-19. It continued to appear well into 1920, though with significantly less impact.

Differing from other forms of influenza, the virus had a significant impact on young, otherwise healthy adults, who usually had stronger immune systems. It struck the wealthy and the poor. Franklin Delano Roosevelt contracted the illness. The King of Spain nearly died of it. A young nurse in Toronto, Amelia Earhart, contracted the disease, which damaged her sinuses to the point surgery was required. The scars left her with sinus problems for the rest of her life. In the United States, 675,000 Americans died from the flu, most of them during the deadly second wave in 1918. That year American average life expectancy dropped by 12 years as a result of the flu. Here are 10 facts about the Spanish flu pandemic at the end of the First World War…

10. Nobody knows for certain where it originated

While there is some disagreement among scholars over the place of origin, the consensus is that Spanish flu did not originate in Spain. When the pandemic spread rapidly across Europe in 1918, wartime censorship conditions affected most news reports. Censorship did not apply to neutral Spain. News reports of the flu’s virulence there appeared in newspapers and magazines, with references to “this Spanish flu.” The name stuck. Reports of the disease in Spain increased substantially when King Alphonso XIII contracted the flu in the spring of 1918. Ironically, as reports of the King’s illness and being near death for several days increased references to the Spanish flu in Western newspapers, the Spanish referred to the disease as the French flu.

Since the pandemic (and in part during it), China, Great Britain, the United States, and France, as well as Russia, have all been suggested as the disease’s starting point. The first case in the United States appeared in March 1918, at a Kansas army post. More recently, researchers identified potential cases as early as 1916, at army receiving and marshaling stations in France. Another earlier outbreak occurred at a British Army base in Aldershot in the early spring of 1917. The UK staging camp at Etapes, in northern France, saw 100,000 troops go through daily, either returning from the front or on their way to it, in densely crowded conditions. Hundreds exhibited symptoms of the pandemic flu during the spring and fall of 1917, a fact later identified by army pathologists.

9. More American soldiers died of Spanish flu than in combat during World War One

Americans were stunned at the casualties suffered by their troops during the First World War, though in comparison to the European combatants they were low. Mobilization placed 4.7 million American men in uniform. Of those, about 320,000 became ill and recovered, or suffered wounds in combat from which they survived. 116,516 American troops and sailors died during the war. Combat deaths totaled 53,402. The rest — 63,114 — died of disease, with most of the deaths occurring from the Spanish flu in the camps in the United States, in Europe, and in ships bound for Europe. Once such ship was a former German liner. In 1917 the United States converted the German steamship Vaterland, interned in New York, into a troopship, renamed USS Leviathan.

On September 29, 1918, Leviathan departed New York for the French port of Brest, carrying 9,000 American doughboys, and a crew of 2,000 sailors (one of the sailors was a young New Yorker named Humphrey Bogart). Spanish flu appeared in the ship during the crossing. When Leviathan arrived at Brest it carried 2,000 men already diagnosed with the Spanish flu, which wreaked havoc in the crowded conditions aboard, and overwhelmed the ship’s medical facilities and personnel. 80 men died during the crossing, many more after landing ashore in France, during the height of the pandemic. A similar outbreak occurred on the ship’s return voyage to the United States.

8. It affected the Treaty of Versailles

The combat during World War One came to an end via an armistice, which began at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of November, the 11th month of the year, 1918. Many issues of the war remained unresolved. The leaders of the Allied nations agreed to meet in Paris in early 1919 to discuss the issues facing Europe. Woodrow Wilson, then President of the United States, went to Europe to join the discussions, present his famous 14 Points, and to argue for the establishment of the League of Nations. He favored more lenient terms for Germany than those proposed by the leaders of France, Italy, and Great Britain. Wilson intended to use American prestige to obtain less punitive measures against the Germans, especially in the form of reparations.

During the negotiations for the treaty, which took place in Paris rather than the Palace of Versailles for which it was named, Wilson came down with the Spanish flu. Several members of his entourage suffered through the flu during the voyage to France. Wilson’s illness was covered up, though he became severely ill in Paris, unable to attend multiple sessions of the negotiations. His physician, Navy Admiral Cary Grayson, wrote of the President as “violently sick.” When Wilson did partially recover and returned to the negotiations, several participants wrote of his lack of attention, fatigue, and listlessness. He failed to ease the reparations imposed by the Allies on the Germans, and the resulting Treaty of Versailles created conditions in Germany that led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the war which followed the War to End All Wars.

7. The federal government did little regarding the flu’s impact

In the United States, the federal government did relatively little to combat the Spanish flu, other than issue advisories telling Americans of the dangers presented by the illness. Congress adjourned in the fall of 1918, with the second wave of the pandemic at its peak. The Supreme Court did the same. The United States Public Health Service, then an agency within the Department of the Treasury, issued posters warning against spitting on sidewalks. It also advised workers to walk to work, which seems strange to modern eyes, until one considers that most commuting at the time involved streetcars or railroads. It also warned Americans to avoid becoming over-fatigued.

Before Woodrow Wilson went to Europe, Edith (the President’s wife) sent 1,000 roses to young women serving in the war effort in the District of Columbia, who were sickened by the flu. That was about the extent of the federal effort. Battling the effects of the pandemic, the lost work hours, burying the dead, and combating the spread of the disease was left in the hands of local governments, which responded in varying ways across the country. Some imposed severe restrictions on movement, crowds, and schools, easing them as the pandemic passed through their communities. Others continued to promote large gatherings to support Liberty Bond drives, including a parade in Philadelphia after which thousands died in the city from the rapid spread of influenza which ensued.

6. Some cities made wearing masks mandatory, with criminal penalties

The first wave of Spanish flu in America occurred in the spring of 1918. Compared to what came in the second wave it was mild. The second wave came in September 1918, in the Eastern cities, and gradually moved westward. San Francisco escaped the first wave, and its Chief of the Board of Health, Dr. William Hassler, assured citizens of the city the second wave would not affect them. On September 24, a recent arrival from Chicago became ill with the flu. By mid-October over 4,000 cases were in the city. That month the city passed an ordinance making the wearing of gauze masks mandatory, with Hassler touting them as 99% effective in stopping the spread of the flu between persons.

In truth, the masks were likely of little benefit, and on November 21, 1918,  the city rescinded the order to wear them. Several other cities issued similar orders, with varying degrees of punishments for violators. In San Francisco, violators went to jail. The city suffered 2,122 deaths during the lethal second wave. The third wave struck in December, and lasted through the winter, raising the death toll in San Francisco to over 3,500 out of a population of about half a million. Nearby Oakland was similarly hit. Oakland also enacted an ordinance requiring masks, virulently opposed by the city’s tobacco store owners. One such owner designed a mask with a flap over the mouth, allowing smokers to enjoy their cigars, cigarettes, and pipes while remaining in compliance with the law.

5. The 1918 baseball season was shortened, though not because of the flu

Major League Baseball shortened its season in 1918 in response to the American war effort. The last game of the regular season was played on September 2, 1918. Teams played just over 120 games that year. When the season ended, the second wave of Spanish flu was underway on the East coast. The league champions, the Boston Red Sox of the American League and the National League’s Chicago Cubs, met in the World Series. Public health officials in both cities argued against playing the World Series due to the crowds gathering during the course of an epidemic, but baseball went ahead. Boston’s only concession to the flu came in an agreement to play in Fenway Park, rather than in the larger Braves Field, where they had played in the preceding World Series.

During the World Series a young Red Sox pitcher started two games, winning both, despite suffering from the flu at the time. He started in the outfield in the other four games. His name was George Herman Ruth. Throughout the games he lay down between innings, weakened by the fever and body aches symptomatic of the flu. Some of his teammates assumed Ruth was simply suffering from a bad hangover, a common problem of ballplayers of the day. But throughout the series, Ruth was notably absent between games, even spending time on the train to Chicago in his sleeper, rather than consorting with teammates. The Red Sox won the series four games to two. It was the only World Series in history played entirely in September. That winter, Ruth was sent to the Yankees.

4. Franklin Roosevelt contracted the flu while returning from France

Franklin Delano Roosevelt served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in the Wilson Administration, and in that capacity went to Europe in 1918. His mission included the coordination of naval activities against the German U-boat threat, and arranging for convoying and port facilities used by US Navy ships. In September 1918 he returned to the United States aboard USS Leviathan. Upon arrival FDR was carried off the ship on a stretcher, having contracted the flu either in France or, what is more likely, aboard the ship. Leviathan’s crew had been exposed to and ravaged by the flu on several voyages. FDR returned to the United States deathly ill, and required several weeks convalescence at his family’s Hyde Park home before resuming his duties.

FDR’s illness and its severity are often overlooked, largely because of his being later stricken with polio, which left his legs paralyzed. His flu is often described as a mild illness, though he left Leviathan with double pneumonia, high fever, and debilitating weakness. His distant cousin, former President Teddy Roosevelt, who had encouraged him to go to Europe, wrote him during his convalescence. “We are deeply concerned about your sickness, and trust you will soon be well,” wrote the former President, adding that, “We are very proud of you.” Had FDR not survived the flu, which killed so many Americans who went to Europe in 1918, the remainder of the 20th century would have been very different indeed.

3. The flu’s second wave was its deadliest by far

The second wave of influenza in 1918 swept across Western Europe and the United States from September through the end of the year and into January. It was the deadliest of the three main waves of the pandemic. In Philadelphia, America’s hardest hit city, about 16,000 died after city leaders refused to cancel a parade scheduled to promote the sale of Liberty Bonds. Cincinnati closed schools and businesses, shut down streetcars, and ordered the wearing of masks. For a time it closed all restaurants, though it allowed saloons to remain open. At one point in November, believing the worst to have passed, the city reopened businesses and schools. Within days the death rate skyrocketed, forcing the city to shut down again. Over 1,700 Cincinnatians succumbed to the flu in the fall of 1918.

Sailors at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center brought the flu to Chicago. In September Chicago’s Health Commissioner announced the flu was under control. At the end of the month there were fewer than 300 cases reported in the city. By mid-October the city reported 1,200 new cases per day. Chicago shut down schools, businesses, banned public gatherings, closed parks, and requested for churches to curtail services. Chicago reported over 38,000 cases of influenza, and 13,000 cases of pneumonia attributed to the flu, before restrictions were lifted in mid-November. One restriction imposed, vigorously opposed by conservative newspapers and businesses, had been the banning of smoking on streetcars and elevated trains. The Chicago Tribune opposed the ban and referred to the Health Commissioner who imposed it as “his highness.”

2. Authorities in Philadelphia announced the flu was no worse than seasonal flu and held a parade to sell war bonds

In mid-September 1918, influenza was present in all the major Eastern cities of the United States, with Boston suffering the highest number of cases. Philadelphia had seen some cases of the flu, though health officials in the city regarded it lightly. The city’s Health Commissioner, Wilmer Krusen, a political appointee, ignored the pleas of doctors and public health experts to ban large public gatherings. Krusen announced the flu was no worse than any seasonal flu, despite the evidence presented by other cities. The Health Commissioner warned the people of Philadelphia to be careful, covering their faces when they coughed or sneezed, and allowed the city’s scheduled Liberty Bonds parade to take place on September 28, a patriotic spectacle attended by an estimated 200,000 people.

By the middle of November, over 12,000 Philadelphians had died of influenza. The city’s morgue, designed to hold 36 bodies, was obviously overwhelmed, and bodies were stored in the city wherever space was found. A streetcar manufacturing company was hired to build simple wooden boxes to serve as coffins. In the tenements, whole families were stricken and died, undiscovered for weeks. Only three days after the parade, every hospital bed in the city was filled. Over 500,000 cases of the highly contagious flu struck Philadelphia before the end of the year. The final death count was over 16,000. In contrast to Philadelphia, the city of Milwaukee, which imposed the most stringent social distancing laws in the nation, also saw the lowest death rate of any city in the United States.

1. One-third of the world’s population contracted the flu during the pandemic

The 1918-20 influenza pandemic, the worst of the 20th century, caused at least 50 million deaths, and probably as many as 100 million across the globe. In remote Tahiti, 10% of the population died. In British ruled India more than 13 million citizens died, with some estimates ranging up to 17 million. German Samoa lost 22% of its population. American Samoa imposed a blockade, and escaped the pandemic unscathed. Brazil’s 300,000 dead included its President, Rodrigues Alves. In the United States over a quarter of the population contracted the flu during one of its several waves. Official death counts usually cite 675,000 American deaths, though some estimates include deaths on Indian Reservations and in Alaskan communities, and elevate the count to 850,000.

Bacterial pneumonia, a complication brought on by the flu, served as the primary killer. When the flu returned for its third wave in the late winter and early spring of 1919, rates of death were comparatively low. Sporadic outbreaks continued in the fall of 1919 and the winter of 1919-20. As the 1920s began the pandemic faded from memory, and remained largely forgotten until the coronavirus pandemic restored it to public attention. All the weapons used to control the spread of coronavirus — distancing, closing of schools, banning large crowds and gatherings, shutting down businesses, and others — were deployed against the Spanish flu. History shows that those communities which deployed them most stringently, throughout the first and second waves, were most successful saving lives.


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