Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Surena – The Heroic One

Surena is also known as Rustaham Suren Pahlav, a Parthian during the 1st century BC and a member of the House of Suren who was well known for defeating the Romans in the Battle of Carrhae. Suren means `the heroic one, Avestan sura meaning strong, exalted.

General Surena was the son of Arakhsh and Massis and was one of the most distinguished men in wealth, birth as well in honor that was paid to him and the Surenas were one of the most outstanding families in the Parthian empire.

After King Hydrodes was defeated and expelled from Parthia, the Surena recaptured the Kingdom. Surena ranked next to the king, both in courage and ability and was the foremost Parthian of his time. He had no equal both in stature and personal beauty.

Whenever he travelled on his own in the country, he was often accompanied by a huge harem of concubine which needed two hundred wagons to transport including military campaigns which also included 1,000 dromedaries, 1,000 armored cavalry, with more Iight armed cavalry who acted as escorts while the total number of this cavalry along with his vassal and slaves amounted to around 100,000 men.

 At the coronation of the King of Parthia, he had the right to be the first to place the crown on his head being an ancient privilege of his family.

Surena Gained Recognition

The Surena gained recognition due to the defeat of the Roman commander Crassus in 53 BC and the family became influential later with the right to crown the Parthian kings at the beginning of the third century BC.

When Crassus decided to capture the Parthian Empire at the battle of Carrhae, he was reduced to one of the most embarrassing situation of the Roman Army by Surena and his men. When he was given the option to surrender, Crassus had asked his men to take flight and sent them all to their deaths and the Surena chased them and killed all of them while Crassus was personally beheaded by the Surena and molten gold was poured down his neck. Such was his pitiful end at the hands of the Surena.

Description of Great Suren by Plutarch

Plutarch description of the great Suren was, `the Suren was not an ordinary person, but in fortune, family and honor, he was the first after the king and in point of courage and capacity, and in size and beauty, superior to the Parthian during his time.

If he went on excursion in the country, he went along with his baggage and two hundred carriages for his concubines and was attended by a thousand heavy armed horse with many more of the light armed that rode before him. He had the hereditary privilege in his family of placing the crown or the diadem on the king’s head.

It was Surena who conquered for him the great city of Selucia, the first to scale the wall and beat his enemy with his own hands and though he was not even thirty years of age, his counsel esteemed the best and his discernment seemed very strong.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Myth of Pope Joan, A Female Pope!

The Legend of Pope Joan

Pope Joan 1
A legend perhaps fabricated somewhere in the thirteenth century according to Alain Boureau had persisted in some form or the other about a brilliant young woman, named Joan, in the ninth century who disguised herself as a man in order to follow her lover into an exclusive male domain of scholarship.

She is also said to have been an astute theologian as well as a wise ruler tough no decree or theological teaching are documented to this day. Boureau investigates the historical and ecclesiastical situation under which the myth of Pope Joan sprung up and the different uses to which it was put over the years.

He portrayed how the Catholic clerics justified the exemption of women from the papacy as well as the priesthood by employing the myth in misogynist moral tales to find the Popess they had created had turned against them in an anti Catholic propaganda during the Reformation.

She was so successful with her disguise that she ascended the Catholic hierarchy in Rome and was elected Pope eventually where her pontificate lasted for two years till she became pregnant and died after giving birth during a public process from the Vatican.

Many Versions to Her Story

Pope Joan 2
Many other versions of her story describe Joan as a learned and talented, a courageous feminist, a clever opportunist, a brilliant scholar who under the guise of a man most often at the behest of a lover and due to her abilities rose through the church hierarchy where she eventually got elected as a Pope.

Another legend relates that she was granted a vision by God where she was shown two option of her fate, either of being discovered and disgraced by the world or roasted in fire (hell) for her crime where she chose the former. Another version goes on to tell that she got pregnant by one of the advisors and managed to maintain the charade till she finally gave birth to the child.

When her secret was disclosed and she was deposed as pope, she was sent to the convent to do penance for the rest of her life and the child born to her later on, went on to become the bishop of Ostia which was about 30 miles southwest of Rome. When she died, he buried her body there though there is no evidence to support this.

Fraud Dislosed

 Pope Joan 3
The most common detail that these legends have in common is that Pope Joan was discovered due to her intimacy with a cardinal or secretary resulting in pregnancy and the childbirth disclosed her fraud. The main legend is the most disgraceful at this point since Pope Joan while riding in a portable throne in which the pope is carried and as her procession is passing the Coliseum on its way from St. Peter’s Basilica towards St. John Lateran Cathedral goes into labor.

The procession is interrupted and the woman gives birth to the child amidst confused and angry onlookers who kill her as well as the baby on the spot. Some account that she was stoned to death while others say that she died in childbirth as the mob watching the spectacle shouted and insulted her.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Amazons, Ancient Female Warriors without Breast!

Amazons, a Nation of all Female Warriors

The Amazons also known as Oiorpata in the Scythian language was a nation of all female warrior in Greek mythology as well as Classical antiquity. They were placed in a region bordering Scythia in Sarmatia, the modern territory of Ukraine, by Herodotus while other historiographers placed them in Asia Minor or at times in Libya. Notable queens of the Amazons who participated in the Trojan War were Penthesilea and her sister Hippolyta and her magical girdle given to her by her father Ares was the cause of one of the labors of Hercules.

 The Amazons got connected with various historical people throughout the Roman Empire period and the Late Antiquity. There are various accounts of Amazon raids in Asia Minor in Roman historiography and from the Early Modern period, their name came to be termed for female warriors in general. The first mention of the Amazons comes from two epics regarding the Trojan War, the famous Iliad of Homer and lesser acquainted poem known as the Aethiopis which is attributed to Arctinus of Miletus and it is presumed to be written in the 8th or 7th century BC.

Amazons Women Equal to Men in Fighting ability

Amazons 2
The Iliad mentions that the Amazons had two or three in passing and the Trojan king Priam and the Greek hero Bellerophon had fought separate wars against the Amazons of two generation before the event of Iliad, at Asia Minor. Homer also mentions about a tomb of Troy belonging to Myrine and later tradition made her an Amazon.

Homer, describe the Amazons as fighting women, equal to men in fighting ability with no further mention made about them. It is believed that the legendary Amazons lived in Pontus which is a part of modern day Turkey towards the southern shore of the Euxine Sea or the Black Sea who had formed an independent kingdom under the reign of queen Hippolyta.

Many Versions of the Legend

Amazons 3
It was presumed that the Amazons had formed many towns some of which were Smyrna, Sinope, Ephesus and Paphos. According to some they had lived in Scythia (modern Crimea) in the distant past at the Palus Maeotos while according to Plutarch, the Amazons lived in and around the Don River which the Greeks called the Tanais but the Scythians called it Amazon.

They later moved on to Themiscyra – modern Terme on the River Thermodon and Herodotus called them killers of men or Androktones. Amazons was given a popular etymology, among Classical Greeks, as from a-mozos meaning without breast connected with an etiological tradition that the Amazons had the right one cut off or burnt out to improve their archery.

Amazons 4
It was a possibility that these practices occurred in order to steady their bows better and draw their arrows straight across the chest while the other could support or hold the quiver in place and also for the purpose of child rearing. This proposed breast less etymology was widely known in the ancient times somewhere in the 5th century BC but the supporters did not agree about its exact significance and many are speculating on its legend.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Wow Signal – Brief Burst of Radio Waves

Wow Signal
The Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence, SETI, has seen many astronomers touring the sky with hopes of receiving artificially generated radio signals sent by alien civilization. Nicknamed the `Wow’, signal, saw a brief burst of radio waves detected by astronomer Jerry Ehman, on August 15, 1977, a strong narrowband radio signal, while he was working on a SETI project at the Big Ear radio telescope, of the Ohio State University which was then located at Ohio Wesleyan University’s Perkins Observatory in Delaware, Ohio.

The signal was so remarkable that Ehman circled it on the computer printout with a `Wow’, in the margin and unintentionally gave the received radio signal the name for which it became very famous. The signal had the unexpected hallmarks of non terrestrial and non solar system origin and it lasted for the full seventy two second window that Big Ear was ever able to observe and has not been detected again. This signal has been the subject of significant media attention ever since.

No Identification for Signal’s Source

No identification has been found for the signal’s source inspite of great efforts without repeated signal found which turns out to be a mystery. The only conclusion drawn was that if the signal could have originated in deep space then it could either be an astrophysical phenomenon which was never seen before or it could have been an intercepted alien signal.

After trying and failure in finding any repeat of the signal, the Wow signal researchers faced difficulty and Ehman became skeptical of its origin stating that `something suggest it was an Earth sourced signal that simply got reflected off a piece of space debris’, and when he made attempts to investigate the explanation, he faced more problems.

Signal’s Intensity

Wow Signal  Location
On investigations, it was found that the signal could have probably originated on Earth with likely reflection off a piece of space junk. The received signal being specific, the explanations required too many assumptions and a logical thinking pattern known as Occam’s razor pointed towards this signal with an astrophysical origin though it did not provide an explanation.

The signal’s intensity at the start was noticed to rise and fall over a period of 72 seconds, consistent with the Earth’s rotation with a single source tracking in the sky with the help of the Big Ear telescope which gave the signal a characteristic signature caused by object seen in the sky. This would be impossible to match for any Earth bound object.

Amazing Frequency – Sharp Transmission

The signal also stood out over the background noise found in deep space, about 30 times louder than anything else and the most amazing thing about it was its frequency which was sharp transmitting at only a single frequency.

Natural radio sources do not operate that way but spread across a range of frequencies, in other words, the same signal covers a broad band of transmission and the Wow signal is far from it showing only one specific frequency of 1420 MHz approximately which is also known as the hydrogen line, a frequency which is internationally banned from use by terrestrial radio signals due to its use in radio astronomy.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Gorgias of Epirus

Gorgias of Epirus
Gorgias’ Birth in his Mother’s Coffin

Gorgias of Epirus was born in his dead mother’s coffin when the pallbearers heard him crying out as they carried his mother’s coffin to the grave. As they stopped to figure out the sound coming out of the dead coffin, they discovered little Gorgias. He was a Greek sophist, pre-Socratic philosopher and a rhetorician, a native of Leontini, which was a Greek colony in Sicily and often called the home of Spartan rhetoric. His father was Charmantides and had two siblings, a brother Herodicus and a sister who had dedicated a statue to Gorgias in Delphi.

He formed the first generation of Sophists along with Protagoras and it was reported that he was a pupil of Empedocles, though he was a few years younger to him. Like many Sophist he was considered an itinerant, practicing in many cities as well as giving public exhibitions on his amazing skills at the great pan Hellenic centers of Olympia and Delphi. He would charge huge fees for his performances and instructions and his special feature of display was the invitation of miscellaneous queries from the audience and providing them with prompt replies. Besides this, his chief claim for being recognized was in the fact the he transplanted rhetoric from his native land, Sicily to Attica, contributing to the diffusion of the Attic dialect as the language of literary prose.

Admired for his ability to speak on any topic

He was sent to Athens in 427 BC, at sixty, by his fellow citizen at the head of an embassy to ask for Athenian protection against the aggression of the Syracusans and subsequently settled there, due to the popularity he gained on his style of oratory as well as the profits made from his performance together with the rhetoric classes. Gorgias is said to have lived to reach one hundred and eight years and died at Larissa in Thessaly.

He had won admiration for his ability to speak on any topic accumulating a considerable amount of wealth, which was enough to commission a gold statue of himself for a public temple. The Greeks, after his Pythian Oration, installed a gold statue of Gorgias in the temple of Apollo at Delphi. He was also known as `the Nihilist’, due to his beliefs regarding the concept of existence and Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless with nothing can be communicated or known and is often related to extreme pessimism and radical skepticism which condemns existence.

His Philosophy – Nothing Exists

His belief or philosophy is that nothing exists at all and the full extent of this is portrayed in his `On Non-existence’, where he developed three sequential arguments, first that nothing exists, and second that even if existence does exist, it is inapprehensible to humans and third that if existence is inapprehensible, it cannot be communicated or interpreted to another.

Gorgias’ writing was also both rhetorical and performative and he would go to great lengths in order to exhibit his ability of making an absurd and argumentative topic appear stronger. He was also of the belief that his magical incantations would bring about healing to the human psyche on controlling powerful emotions, paying more attention to the sounds of words, which would captivate the audience like poetry.