Tuesday, July 30, 2013

History mystery: The Egyptian Last Ritual!

Most of the ancient civilization believed that there is a life after death and hence they comfort their beloved’s last rituals with so many procedures like opening of the mouth ceremony, mummification of the body, funeral feast etc for their afterlife. Let us view some of the interesting last rituals of Egyptians! Most of the Pyramids and Egyptian tombs were nearer to the Nile and are more particularly at the western side of the river. This because the deceased were buried facing the eastern side to face the sun and head pointing to the north direction and they never cremated the bodies of the deceased instead they mummified them and buried them.

The Great Greek historian Herodotus elaborate the ancient the mummification methods of Egyptians in detail. According to his observations there or three types’s mummification process according to the status and wealth of the deceased. The embalmers demonstrate in detail about the royal treatment which is a costly embalming method and the second one is of deluxe treatment and the third one is the most inferior treatment for poor. In the royal treatment they suck the entire brain through the nostrils with special tools and clean it thoroughly with some special solvent and side cut the belly of the deceased with a scared flint stone knife and remove the easily decomposing organs like intestine and clean it thoroughly with special aromatics and palm wine. They wash the body thoroughly and then they heavily pack the body with aromatics and like myrrh and salt and kept the body aside for seventy days and the body was wounded with muslin cloth before handed over to the relatives. In the mean time the deceased life size wooden image was prepared and the body will be inserted into it and will be stored in the burial chamber in a upright position.

In the second type, the body was not  cut opened  instead the body was filled with aromatics and cedar oil through anus and was injected to other part and the body was soaked  completely in some aromatic pickling agents for seventy days and the body was removed from the pickling process and they remove the cedar oil through anus and the oil came out with the digested stomach parts and the body was thoroughly packed and was  handed over to the relatives. In the third process which is meant for poor; they processed  the inner body with solvent and it was pickled for the same seventy days and at the end the body was washed and handed over to the relatives of the deceased. If the deceased was a commoner then the funeral process was very simple with the gathering of friends and relatives but if the deceased was a Royal then the procession was more elaborate with detailed affairs with funeral feast, procession and with some magical rituals including the sealing of the tomb. Ancient Egyptian procession started in the early morning down towards the Nile. The professional mourners and the relatives wailed loudly throughout the procession and they rubbed themselves with mud and ashes. With the body, foods and editable items for the feast and  burial ceremony was carried.

 An ox was dragged in a stand, which was served as a scapegoat for the deceased’s evil deeds in the earthly life. At the end of the procession the mouth opening ceremony was performed to open the mouth and eyes of the deceased for the eternal life. In the mouth opening ceremony the chief priest  spelled the prayers and touched the mouth and body of the deceased with the scared flint stone to symbolize, the God Horus opens the eyes and mouth for the afterlife. If the deceased was a Pharaoh then the body would be placed in the royal palace for the ceremonial visit to the public and the pharaoh’s widow wife stood next to the feet of the body and the mouth opening ceremony was conducted by the new pharaoh himself instead of the Chief priest. The oxen which were dragged along was slaughtered and sacrificed and the right foreleg offered to the deceased. At the final goodbye the priest chant the prayers poured out the Liberations and burn huge amount of aroma. If the deceased was a poor he was placed in a hole and if he was placed in sarcophagus within the tomb with the lot of things and objects needed for his walk to other life. At the end the tomb will be sealed and the feast was commenced at the tomb with the remains of the food and sacrificed oxen. Many of the tombs have false door and some with some holes to the convenience of the deceased Pharaoh to watch the sky and stars.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

History mystery: Carthage Gateway to rich Western trade -1

Ancient Carthage was once Rome’s most dangerous rival, but the Phoenician city perished in a single orgy of destruction, leaving barely a trace of a powerful civilization that embraced both high culture and horrific ritual. CARTHAGE STANDS BESIDE ATHENS AND ROME as one of the main centres of wealth and power in the ancient Mediterranean. In fact, it almost supplanted them both as the forerunner of the Western civilization. In 216 BC, the Carthaginian general Hannibal came within a shade of destroying Rome and changing the course of history. But it was Carthage’s fate to be wiped off the face of the earth only 70 years later.

 Today, little remain of the great city which once overlooked the Gulf of Tunis. It was so thoroughly obliterated by the Romans that only a shadowy idea of Carthaginian achievements survives, gleaned from the biased and incomplete writings of its Greek and Roman enemies – and from the patient work of archaeologists. Carthage was founded by the Phoenicians, ancient inhabitants of the modern Syrian and Lebanese coasts in the eastern Mediterranean. The Phoenicians were related to the Jews of the Old Testament, sharing their Semitic languages and cultural heritage. The Bible refers to them as Canaanites or Tyrians, and the Hebrew patriarchs were scandalized by their idolatry. The Bible also portrays them as businessmen and seafarers who voyaged to distant lands in search of valuable minerals. The Greeks knew the Phoenicians mainly as merchants, in particular through their exports of a highly-prized purple dye extracted from a shellfish native to the Lebanese coast. The eastern cities of the Phoenicians enjoyed their heyday between the 12th and 8th centuries BC. The mineral riches of the West drew the Phoenicians like a magnet, and it is known that voyages to the western end of the Mediterranean were taking place as early as the 12th century BC. They set up new trading bases, and established regular communications with outposts as far away as the Atlantic coast, at Lixus in Morocco, and at Gadir (Cadiz) in Spain – an area especially valued for its precious ores.

Carthage was founded on the route to these treasures. Some uncertainty surrounds the city’s origins. The traditional date of its foundation – 814 BC, as recorded by the Greek historian Timaeus – was long considered an exaggeration. But recent discoveries of remains form the early 8th century BC give the date some credibility. Carthage is said to have been founded by a group of exiles from Tyre (in present-day Lebanon), under the leadership of the king’s sister, Elissa (or Dido, as the Roman poet Virgil calls her). The reality is probably that political rivalries forced a section of the Tyrian ruling class into exile with their followers, and that they eventually settled at a key point on the trade routes. Virgil’s story makes Dido, founder of Carthage, a contemporary of the Trojan prince Aeneas, founder of Rome, and tells of their love but ends with Dido’s suicide as Aeneas follows the instructions of the gods and sails away to Italy and his destiny. The name Carthage derives from the Phoenician Qarthadasht, or New City. Occupying the seaward end of a peninsula jutting out from Tunisia’s northern coast, it is not far from the point where the southern and western shores of the Mediterranean are closest. Carthage, then, had strategic importance, commanding the narrow passage between the Mediterranean’s eastern and western seas.

 Nestling on its promontory, Carthage began to profit by an expansion of commerce in the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, in the east, Phoenicia’s light was failing. Its small city-states of Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos (present-day Jubayl) were being eclipsed by the growing might of Assyria. After the Assyrian Empire collapsed at the end of the 7th century BC, Babylon and Persia successively cast long shadows over the Phoenician homeland. Phoenician culture maintained its characteristics over the centuries (its bold seafarers are even credited with having sailed round Africa in about 600 BC), but it was left to Carthage to carry the torch as the centre of Phoenician civilization. Carthage began to develop colonies of its own. By the 4th century BC, settlements with Phoenician-speaking inhabitants dotted the coast of North Africa. Parts of southern Spain, the whole of Sardinia and western Sicily were also settled. Rivalries with Greece and Etruria (in northern Italy) led to warfare over trading frontiers such as Corsica and Sicily. Carthage suffered a dark period towards the end of the 4th century BC when Agathocles, ruler of Syracuse (the chief Greek power in Sicily), took in army to North Africa. After the wars, the Carthaginians relied less exclusively on commercial networks and more on territorial control as the basis of their power.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Know Something about Music, Dance and Song -1

Ballet: Artistic dance form which originated in the formal dances of French court entertainments, notably under Louis XIV. Dancing on the tip of the toes was introduces early in the early in the early 19th century, and modern ballet developed in the early 20th century, influenced by Russian dancer and choreographer Mikhail Fokine and Russian impresario Sergeio Hiaghilev.

Cantata: Musical composition for voice and instruments; normally a small scale oratoria for solo singers accompanied by a small chorus and orchestra. The master of this form was Bach, who composed more than 200 cantatas.

 Baroque: In music, the term applied to the elaborate, much ornamented music of composers between 1600 and 1750. Baroque composers include Monteverdi, Purcell, Vivaldi, Bach and Handel.

 Bass: Bass is the lowest range of the male singing voice. Also it is an abbreviation for the lowest stringed instrument, the double bass. The word is Italian for ‘low’.

Alto: Lowest range of the female singing voice- also called contralto – or the highest adult male voice apart from countertenor. The word is Italian meaning ‘High’.

Tenor: Highest normal range of the male voice, apart from Alto. Famous tenors include Enrico Caruso, Luciano Pavrotti and Placido Domingo.

Swing: Style of jazz in the 1930s and 1940s characterized by a lively rhythm suitable for dancing. Swing was played in an organized fashion by big bands, as opposed to the improvised jazz played by smaller groups. The Swing Era had its heyday between 1935 and 1944 and featured the bands of CountBasie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller.

Contralto: Lowest range of the female singing voice.

Aria: Aria song for a solo voice in an opera, oratorio or cantata, such as Nessun Dorma from Puccini’s opera Turandot. The word is Italian for ‘air’ or ‘tune’

Fugue: Instrumental or vocal composition in which individual tunes or voices are harmoniously interwoven. A fugue begins with a short tune which is sung or played alone. This tune is called the subject and recurs throughout as the main theme. As the first voice finishes the subject, a second voice picks it up in a different pitch, and this second entry of the subject is called the ‘answer’. While the second voice goes through the answer, the first voice continues with a new theme that combines with the answer. If third and fourth voices enter, they repeat the process, eventually creating a fourth part texture. The fugue continues in a similar manner. The greatest exponent of the fugue was Bach.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

History mystery: The Siege of the Alamo

The siege at the Alamo is steeped in legend – the tales of Bowie and Crockett will always endure – but what did happen on that fateful day? THE DEFENSE OF THE ALAMO IS ONE OF THE classic battles of the story of American freedom, its legend embellished, embroidered, and devoured by generations of schoolchildren. But there are many ways to “remember” an event: For historians, the task is accomplished by uncovering the details of the occurrence, while to those who cherish the myth; it is remembrance that gains more importance. The challenge is to honor the myth and the facts at the same time. The story of the Alamo begins in the 1820s, when Mexico, faced with lands populated by unruly Indians, opened her northern territories to American pioneers, a potentially stabilizing force. Though abiding by Mexico’s laws was a condition of settlement, once Americans flocked to the territories they soon rankled under Mexico’s levying of taxes, trails without juries, and abolition of slavery.

 In 1835, the settlers finally rebelled against the Mexican government, and Mexico’s dictator, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, quickly moved troops into the region, determined to quell the insurgency by any means necessary. After conducting a string of battles against the insurgents, Santa Anna focused on a group of Texans who since December had occupied a mission-fortress in San Antonio – the Alamo. Sam Houston, the commander of Texa’s army, had ordered the fort abandoned; but the men, under the leadership of James Bowie and William Travis, had decided to defend it. Santa Anna determined that the area was essential to his conquest of the region. By January of the next year, he arrived at the fort with a sizable army. Santa Anna’s official siege began on February 23, 1836, with 2,400 well-trained men, though the troops also included boys aged 13 to 14 from a nearby military academy. At first, only 145 settlers guarded the Alamo; that umber was increased to 187 when reinforcements arrived eight days later. A week and a half later, on March 3, Travis told his men that the future looked grim, and offered those who wished to leave the fort and try to slip through enemy lines the chance. Only one man, Louis Rose, took Travis up on his offer- and he was the only man to survive. Legend has it that Travis drew a line in the sand and asked that everyone willing to die with him step across it. But the anecdote comes from an account of the siege some 40 years after it occurred, by a man who heard it from his parents, who in turn had heard it from Louis Rose. Though Travis has been lauded for his decision to stay, his refusal to retreat might have been a tactical one; the American’s inferior cavalry doomed them in open space, and Travis probably considered them to be safer behind the walls of the fort.

But even Travis knew there was little hope. There is an unverified legend of a woman messenger sent to Santa Anna by Travis, stating that the Americans would surrender if they were guaranteed that their lives would be spread. If the story is true, Santa Anna rebuked the offer, because on the night of March 5 the historic attack began. Initially the Americans were able to turn back the Mexicans but, exhausted by the siege, they were unable to hold out. While the next morning brought another failed assault, the third assault by the Mexicans proved successful. By nine o’clock that night the fighting was over; some 200 Mexicans were dead and another 400 wounded. It is impossible, however, to arrive at accurate casualty figures, since Santa Anna gave faulty reports to mask the damage done to his force; some historians have put the number as high as 1,600. Santa Anna did not leave a single American prisoner alive, though recent evidence suggests that several Texans, including David (Davy) Crockett and others, survived the initial attack and were executed afterwards. The bodies of all the men were stripped, thrown into a pile, and then burned. One local Indian who had been staying at the fort convinced the Mexicans he was a prisoner and was spared, as were the women, children, and Travis’s black slave. Though military historians now consider the decisions of the Texans to defend the fort somewhat foolhardy, the personalities of those involved – Davy Crockett, James Bowie, and William Travis – were so over sized that their deaths necessarily became legendary. The valor of their final days provided the ammunition, six weeks later, for troops led by Sam Houston – who would become president of the Republic of Texas – to overwhelm a Mexican force at San Jacinto, securing Texas’s independence and its most enduring legend.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

History mystery: The Fall of Rome

Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor did it crumble in a day. In a sense, the empire had begun to fall as soon as it began to rise. History has attributed Rome’s downfall to numerous causes, not the least of which was the relentless pressure exerted by barbarian tribes along its frontiers. From the time of its founding, Rome had successfully repelled myriad attackers and, by the 2nd century AD, the security of its European borders required little military effort. But this was not to last. When those many Vandals, Huns, and miscellaneous ruffians began arriving in ever greater numbers, Rome was growing smaller and weaker, making defense decidedly more difficult. Stretching from northern England to the Middle East, the Roman Empire fluctuated in extent but it always encompassed the Mediterranean, which the Romans called mare nostrum (“our sea”). But Rome found that the gigantic and extraordinary empire it had so successfully created was too unwidely to administer and protect. Its size awakened ambitious dreams of power in megalomaniacal generals and senators who waged wasteful internal wars to gain imperial control. Until the late 2nd century AD, the smooth succession emperors had ensured the stability of the empire. But this golden age ended with the death of the emperor and stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius (161- 180 AD), who bequeathed the throne to his foolish son Commodius, whose assassination provoked a civil war. The Roman legions proclaimed their candidates as successors, but Septimius Severus, the commander of the largest battalions, was the winner. During his reign (193-211 AD), he diminished Rome as the imperial center and initiated a military despotism. His campaigns secured the imperial borders, and his last years were spent fighting in Britain. After his death at Eborcum (present-day York), the empire passed to his relatives, notable for their cruel and dissolute behavior. The last of his successors was assassinated in 235 AD. There followed three decades of anarchy as one emperor after another briefly came to power. The army chose an emperor for benefits he might bestow. His short reign was spent fighting his rivals, and his life ended in battle or at the hands of his erstwhile supporters. These struggles weakened imperial authority, bankrupted the empire, and left the frontiers poorly defended. In Western Europe, barbarians crossed the Rhine, overran Gaul, and penetrated as far as Spain and Italy. In the East, they invaded the Balkans and Turkey, while the rival Persian Empire conquered Armenia. After 270 AD, Rome crushed al rebels, rivals, and barbarians, restoring unity in the empire. But the military was not what it had been. The troops, firmly rooted in their provincial bases, were reluctant to serve elsewhere. The emperor’s presence was required to maintain his authority with his troops and, at the same time, he was expected to fight barbarians all along the frontier from England to Egypt. To ease this burden, the Emperor Diocletein (284-305 AD) divided the empire into eastern and western sectors, each with its own emperor, and in 285 AD moved the western capital to Milan to be closer to the northern frontier. So began the empire’s internal breakup. In 330 AD, Constantine, a Christian convert, made a Turkish city founded by Greeks, Byzantium, the East’s capital. Rebuilt by Constantine, the city was renamed Constantinople. Constantine’s new faith quickly took root and, despite religious disputes, strengthened a state destined to survive a thousand years more. In the Western Sector, the collapse of the military and financial systems was more damaging than the barbarian threat. Diocletian, seeking to reestablish the currency, ordered balanced budgets and higher taxes. When defense spending outran revenues, the government devalued the coinage to hide the deficit. The resulting inflation destroyed the government’s credit and crippled its power. When Diocletian moved the capital to Milan, Rome became provincial backwater. With the division of the empire, Rome lost the wealth of the East, which flowed instead to Constantinople. As trade and industry dwindled away, people reverted to subsistence living. Towns were abandoned. Wealthy townspeople, weary of taxes and martial law, retreated to country estates. Impoverished rural folk left their own small farms to find work on these estates or in the fortified, if increasingly empty, towns. By the late 4th century, many barbarians had converted to Christianity. At the same time, barbarian turmoil beyond Rome’s frontiers drove Visigoths, Vandals, and others to seek sanctuary within the empire, where they were permitted to settle. As a defensive measure, the Romans employed the new arrivals as mercenaries, and barbarian generals soon assumed military and political control. In 402 AD, Rome’s army led by Stilicho the Vandal beat back the Visigoths’ invasion of Italy.

But when Stilicho was murdered by the Emperor Honorius, the Visigoths poured in unopposed, demanding land and subsidies. Rome’s refusal to negotiate signaled its ruin. The Visigoths besieged the walled city, where plague and famine had already run rampant through the citizenry. Finally, in August 410 AD, the Visigoths, with help from slaves within the city, marched through its gates. Their sack of Rome was mild, almost respectful. But it dimmed Rome’s prestige, and the city became prey for more ruthless barbarians. The year 476 is usually given as the date for the fall of the Roman Empire. In that year, the barbarian general Odoacer deposed the last western emperor and, refusing to acknowledge the power of the emperor in the East, proclaimed himself King of Italy. The event passed almost unnoticed.

By this time, the regions in the West had been swallowed up by belligerent barbarians. Rome – often called “the eternal city” – revived, of course, and survives in much of its glory. In the Dark Ages, the Papacy established its importance as a spiritual center, and Roman ruins and monuments that include the Pantheon – a church for 1,000 years – now dominate the cityscape. In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Rome’s citizens recycled stones and statues from ancient structures to build beautiful palaces and churches. Whither Rome today? At the beginning of the 21st century, the city is engaged in a massive effort to renovate its ancient structures, piazzas, and multifaceted treasures. When the scaffolding is pulled down, Rome may be revealed as the true caput mundi – the head of the world – if not in power, then certainly in splendor.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Legend of King Arthur

With no certain proof that King Arthur ever existed, some historians have concluded he is only a legend. Yet if he never lived, why did people believe for so many centuries that Arthur was a real person? The answer begins with a book. Somewhere between 1135 and 1139, Geoffrey of Monmouth, and ecclesiastic and chronicler, published a Latin tome called Historia regum Britanniae (“The History of the Kings of Briton”). This mixture of fact and fancy portrays King Arthur as a monarch of truly heroic proportions. In its own time, the book was dismissed by the historian William de Newburgh, who called Geoffrey the “father of lies” and derided him for “cloak[ing] fables about Arthur under the honest name of history.” Despite William’s carping, there is archaeological support for some of Geoffrey’s stories. For instance, he claims that Arthur was born on the island stronghold of Tintagel on the northern coast of Cornwall. Modern archaeologists have discovered the remains of a stronghold there, which suggests that Geoffrey was not being purely fanciful. Before the publication of Geoffrey’s book, Arthur’s name had already appeared briefly in early chronicles. The Historia Brittonum of the 9th century Welsh monk Nennius describes Arthur as the dux bellorum (“leader of troops”) who crushed invading Saxons at Mons Badonicus (Mount Badon), a site that has never been identified. Gildas’ De excidio et conquestu Britanniae, dating from the middle of the 6th century, makes no reference to Arthur but suggests this battle was fought about 500 AD. The Mons Badonicus victory is mentioned in the 10th century Annales Cambriae, which also records a battle at Camlann where Arthur reputedly fell.

 From these tenuous sources, some historians believe Arthur may have been a 5th century Christian British warrior who defended his country against Saxon invaders in the turbulent days after the departure of the Romans. Unable to stem the invaders, Arthur’s followers fled to the mountains of Wales where, through many long and turbulent centuries, they told tales that transformed an obscure warrior into a world-class hero, who fought not only in Britain but also abroad. Geoffrey’s sources for Arthur were these tales, which he had probably heard in his Welsh homeland. The Historia regum Britanniae describes Arthur’s beautiful wife Guinevere, his treacherous nephew Mordred, and the powerful magician Merlin. It also mentions a popular belief that Arthur was not dead, but would return to deliver his people from their enemies. To this day, Arthur is called “the once and future king.” In the Middle Ages, when most people confused legend and history, English monarchs used Arthurian symbolism to promote patriotism and enhance their own prestige.

 By the early 17th century, however, skeptical historians had extinguished the legend’s hold on the populace. Geoffrey’s vision of Arthur spread to the Continent, where the story enjoyed tremendous popularity during the 12th and 13th centuries. French writers such as Chr├ętien de Troyes and Marie de France added some of the legend’s enduring elements, such as the love story of Lancelot and Guinevere, the Knights of the Round Table, and the quest for the Holy Grail. In 1469, the first English printer William Caxton issued Sir Thomas Mallory’s Morte d’ Arthur, which told Arthur’s story as we now know it. The legend has continued to inspire writers, notably the poet Alfred Tennyson, whose Idylls of the King revived Victorian interest in Arthur. The search for the real Arthur continues. Some historic documents lend support to Geoffrey’s claims that Arthur left Britain to fight abroad. Although most historians doubt this, the British historian Geoffrey Ashe believes otherwise. Ashe is co-founder and secretary of the Camelot Research Committee, which was responsible for the 1966-70 excavation of Cadbury Castle – a strong possibility for the site of King Arthur’s Camelot. Ashe decided to take Geoffrey seriously. In his search for clues outside Britain, he discovered records of a “king of the Britons” who led an army to France around 470 AD. In one document, a king who could be Arthur is referred to as Riothamus, which translates as “supreme royal.” Until archaeologists or historians turn up something truly conclusive, King Arthur will remain a tantalizing, shadowy figure. He is the stuff of legend – a heroic portrait, possibly assembled from lives of several kings. As yet, no one is ready to forget his story, which has fascinated so many for centuries.

History mystery: The Rise Of Rome

Romans believed their city originated with gods and heroes, But what were the real origins of its greatness? Ancient Rome gloried in its mythic origins. According to legend, the city was founded in 753 BC by twin brothers, Romulus, and Remus, offspring of the god Mars and a vestal virgin named Sylvia. A villainous usurpet threw the twins in the River Tiber, but they were washed ashore and cared for by a she-wolf. After many vicissitudes, the twins were returned to their grandfather.

Later, Romulus killed Remus in a dispute over the best site for a settlement, then established the city that still bears his name. Seven centuries later, Virgil adapted another legend about Rome’s origins for his epic poem The Aeneid. It told the story of Aeneas, who fled from Troy after it had been destroyed by the Greeks. Aeneas’s adventurous wanderings led him to Italy, where he received a prophetic vision of Roman history from the spirit of this dead father, Anchises.

Aeneas’s mother was the goddess Venus, and he was a forebear of Romulus and Remus. Virgil’s version of this story satisfied Rome’s dream of a link with the divine world. It was also a paean to the Emperor Augustus and the newly created Roman Empire. In reality, Rome had humble beginnings. About 1000 BC, herdsmen settled in the region of present-day Rome. By the 7th century BC, their settlements combined into larger communities, of which Rome became the dominant center. At his time, the city fell under the benign control of Italy’s chief power, the Etruscans, whose culture and language had a vital impact on the city. Greek culture, also introduced by the Etruscans, cast an even more enduring spell over the Romans.

 Despite these influences, Rome developed its own institutions. In 509 BC, the Romans created a republican form of government that lasted 500 years. The early Republic preserved the Romans’ simple rural way of life. Unlike their neighbors, they were a hard-working people who resisted the corrupting effects of ease and luxury. Their disciplined attitude helped them to assert control over the weaker states in the rest of Italy. In a conflict over Sicily, Rome clashed with the North African power Carthage, waging intermittent warfare with the Carthaginians from 264 to 146 BC. 

The worst time came when invading Carthaginians, led by Hannibal, wreaked havoc throughout Italy. But Rome would survive, crush Carthage, and gain control of the western Mediterranean. The Republic was initially controlled by the Patricians (aristocrats). But the Plebians (commoners) acquired their own elected leaders. The plebian leaders were discredited after their defeats during the Carthaginian invasions, and patrician generals, who saved Rome, took over as political leaders.

The Senate, which made the republican system work, retained the right to appoint generals, but found it best to have these bellicose commanders fighting wars abroad in order to avoid conflict in Rome. With its relentless war machine, Rome conquered Greece and the eastern Mediterranean, and its boundaries soon stretched from Egypt to the English Channel. Fabulous plunder poured into the capital, but its effect was disastrous: It opened up a vast gap between rich and poor. Troubles grew as the Republic gave way to civil strife and military dictatorship.

Julius Caesar seized power, but his plans to reorganize the government alarmed the Senate. The assassination of Caesar by a senatorial clique in 44 BC was supposed to bring about a return to republican government. Instead, it sparked a civil war, in which Caesar’s adopted son, Augustus, triumphed. Although he kept some republican forms, he set up an empire with himself as emperor in 27 BC. As foretold in The Aeneid, Augustus gave Rome peace – a despotic peace – which lasted two centuries. When it ended in the late 2nd century AD, Rome’s decline and downfall began.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

History mystery: Moses And The Exodus

The exodus from Egypt is not only the central story of the Jewish tradition but a consoling narrative for all those in need of hope. The biblical legend of the exodus from Egypt has brought great meaning to many cultures. For example, black slaves incorporated the story of the Exodus from Egypt into their plantation songs and imagined themselves as latter-day children of Israel, waiting to travel to the Promised Land. It comes as somewhat of a surprise then, that for the entire event’s historical important, there is little consensus among scholars as to its authenticity. Surprisingly, the only true scholarly agreement about the Exodus is that there is no definitive evidence available to corroborate it – no ancient tablets referring to it specifically, no revelatory hieroglyphic illustrations, no remains of temporary dwellings haunting the Judean wilderness. In fact, no record of Moses or of the Exodus is contained in all of ancient Egypt’s chronicles. This historical silence troubles many archaeologists, who point out those artifacts from even late Stone Age cultures have emerged from the area.

A mass exodus and a 40-year sojourn through the Sinai would certainly have reverberated through the region, they argue, leaving some imprint. They often explain the story as a latter-day political fabrication, invented to unite the disparate tribes living in Canaan. But other archaeologists are quick to defend the possible authenticity of the Exodus narrative. The lack of historical records could be explained by the ancient Israelites’ use of perishable papyrus for their documentation (unlike many of their neighbors who used the more durable clay). They explain the lack of Egyptian documentation by pointing out that history’s losers often neglect to record events unfavorable to them. They also point out that the Bible does not explicitly refer to the pyramids, but no one doubts their existence. These scholars also have some fragmentary nonbiblical material in their arsenal. There is the legend described by the first century BC Greek historian Strabo of a ancient army drowning on the coast of Canaan, “near Egypt.” There is also a Phoenician legend of a hero named Danaos, who led his followers out of Egypt after a series of disasters befell the land, eerily echoing the biblical tale. Another theory suggests that there were actually multiple oppressions and expulsions, and that the Exodus narrative is a compilation of these events. Even if we accept that the Exodus did occur, plenty of controversy persists.

To start, scholars disagree on the correct dating of the event. In I Kings 6:1, the Exodus is said to have occurred some 480 years before Solomon began building the Temple, which would place it at around 1446 BC. But this date conflicts with others included in the Old Testament. The Book of Exodus contains a passage that claims the Israelites were building “treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses,” for the Egyptian pharaoh. Scholars believe that Raamses was Pi-Ramesse, a Nile delta city built by Ramses II, in the late 13th century BC. This date for the Exodus is in accord with the earliest known reference to the people of Israel outside of the Bible- a granite monument found in a temple to Pharaoh Merneptah, the son of Ramses II.

The hieroglyphs on the monument commemorate the military victories of the Pharaoh, and include a line boasting of vanquishing the Israelites during a campaign in Canaan in 1210 BC. For the Israelites to have been established by that time in Canaan, observes point out, the Exodus must have occurred at least a half century before. Some scholars have approached the Exodus story not from a historical perspective but from a scientific one, attempting to explain the naturalistic mechanisms behind Moses’ miracles. Scientists have also tried to explain the parting of the Red Sea (which is actually a mistranslation of the Hebrew for “Reed Sea”). One of the more popular theories points to tidal waves that would have swept through the region after the explosion of a massive volcano. The scientific basis to the story mattered little to the generations who found comfort in the Exodus story. They cared little about the mechanism that parted the waters, but only that the waters parted at all, and that a promised land lay somewhere on the other side.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

History mystery:Simeon Stylites -A Saint On A Pillar

Simeon was a Christian ascetic saint who became immortal and got great honour for living not less than 37 years on a small rectangular platform on an erected pillar in Syria with excessive austerities and he got the honor as Saint Siemon Stylites or The Symeon the Stylite. Simeon was the first in the Eastern countries who attain fame for long succession of stylitoe which is the strange form of asceticism and he was called by natives as “Pillar Hermit”. This is not the fable but it has very reliable first hand evidence in history. He was a born as a Shepherd boy in the northern border of Syria and he went to a christen monastery in his adolescence. He followed very strict practices of monastery life but his fellow brethren disqualified him and so he left the monastery and he isolated himself from the rest of the crowd in a hut for nearly three years.

 During that period he passed the whole of the 40 days period of Lent without eating and drinking. After this he regularly practiced this with chagrin of standing upright for a longer time. In the later period he was successful to be able to stand on his feet throughout his fasting. His name and fame spread throughout the desert and huge crowd poured in to visit him as pilgrims and disturbed him with prayer request and counsel which was affected very much his personal religious fervor and he was forced to adopt a novel way of leading a new life. He planned to lead his life on a small platform on the top of an erected pillar until his death. Though the first pillar erected was about nine feet high but it was subsequently replaced by his followers up to 15 meters and the Platform he lived atop was about one square meter only. He followed some peculiar and strict practices. According to his hagiography, he never allowed woman to come near even his own mother Martha was not allowed by him to see. And he told her that if they were worthy then they could meet at heaven, hence she also practiced the monastic life of silence and died. After her death he asked for his dead mother and he had done a respectful farewell prayer for his lovely mother and according to some account, a smile was appeared on his dead mothers face.

He preached to his fellow men and wrote letters to his disciples and some time delivered addresses to the crowd assembled beneath the column (Still some of the remaining of his text were available). During the last phase of his life his fame spread throughout the Roman Empire. The King Theodosius III and his wife Aelica Eudocia had great respect to the pillar saint and honoured his counsels. Once he was sick and the king Theodosius send some doctors to attend him and he requested him to come down from the pillar but he strictly refused and told that his health is in God’s dear hand, luckily he recovered. Simeon was died on September Second of 459AD after leading a 37 years successful life on Pillar and was commemorated by Coptic Orthodox Church as Saint. The first one who found his death was his stunt follower and disciple Antony.

Antony was concerned since his saint teacher was not appeared to the people for three days successively he climbed upon the pillar and found his master’s dead body stooped over at prayer and he performed the funeral ceremony before the huge crowd of public and the clergy and established a monastery there. The ruins of the vast edifice erected on his honour is still remains there as an evidence. Almost all his biography was written after his death and we have few manuscripts about his life. The first one is The Vatican manuscript was published by S. E. Assemani, Acta Sanctorum Martyrum (Rome, 1748), Vol. II, pp. 273 -394. The other best known manuscripts are the Codex Vaticanus clx., and two codices of the British Museum, namely Add. 12174, and Add. 14484

Friday, July 5, 2013

History mystery: Pompeii The resurrection of a city -3

The third area of public buildings consisted of the amphitheatre and the palaestra, or gymnasium. Providing free entertainment for the public was a passport to popularity and political success. It was probably for this reason that one of Pompeii’s two magistrates. Caius Quinctius Ballbus, a rich landowner, financed its construction in about 80 BC. Here, the Pompeiians would gather to watch entertainments which ranged from performances by clowns and pantomime artists to sports such as fencing and boxing. But what the crowds loved best was blood. A favourite spectacle included gladiatorial combats to the death between criminals and wild beasts. The different types of gladiators were often illustrated in the city. There was the thrax, who was armed with a short sword, shield, and visored helmet, and the retarius, who fought with net and trident.

Champions enjoyed great popularity, and their praises were sung in the ubiquitous graffiti. Of the public baths that have been uncovered, the Stabian baths contained a large palaestra for taking exercise, a swimming-pool, changing rooms, and chambers heated to varying temperatures. Alongside the baths stood the brothel. Hard work sent hand in hand with high living in Pompeii. One of the city’s artisans had the motto ‘to earn is joy’ inscribed in mosaic in his house.  And the vitality of the city’s trade and commerce is reflected in the stalls which sprang up, often at house entrances. A fabrics shop, which an inscription tells us belonged to a man called Verecundus, still has paintings that depict everyday scenes in the life of the workshop: the carders at their benches, the dyers sweating over boiling vats, and the owner proudly displaying the finished pieces of cloth. Several bakeries survive. In one of them, a baker had slid 81 loaves into his oven minutes before the eruption. There is a laundry, which belonged to a certain Stefanus. Inside, a press, pestles, and basins have been found. Jars into which passers-by were encouraged to relieve themselves would have been left outside on the street. For urine was used as a washing agent on account of its alkaline properties. One inn was identified when some jars were discovered with the address to which they had been dispatched: ‘To Pompeii, near the Amphitheatre, to the inn-keeper Euximus.’

 In a typical Pompeiian house, the front door led into a small corridor running between two rooms – one on either side – that were usually used as shops. At the other end, the corridor opened onto a central courtyard, or atrium. The tablinum, or family meeting place, was at the far side of the atrium. In turn, this opened onto the garden. The House of the Faun – so called because of its garden statue of a dancing faun – had a second atrium with rooms leading off it. It also had two gardens surrounded by columns. On the paving stones of one of the colonnades the skeleton of a woman was unearthed, probably overcome by poisonous fumes as she attempted to rescue her most precious jewels. Scattered over the floor are pieces of gold which would have made up the wealth of an average Pompeiian family. For those who had the means, the ultimate status symbol was a villa built outside the town. The Villa of Mysteries stood slightly to the south of Pompeii. It is distinguished by a complete cycle of paintings on the walls which celebrate the mysteries of the cult of the god Dionasus. Here, as elsewhere, the inhabitants of the villa can be seen in their last tortured moments: a group of workmen asphyxiated in the cellars, a couple of women dashed to the ground the debris of the tumbling building, and the porter slumped across the couch in his dark cubbyhole. One of the most striking features of Pompeiian houses is the sumptuousness of their decoration. They abound in marble and bronze sculptures, and precious plates and dishes. The sculptures were inspired by the art of the Greek world, and were to be found gracing the fountains, colonnades, and gardens of the villas. In 1978, the life-sized bronze statue of a young man was found in a house that had belonged to Julius Polybius. In the house of Menander, 118 silver dishes and plates wrapped in pieces of wool and cloth were discovered stored in a large wooden chest, out of the way of the restoration works that were being carried out at the time. Pompeii also had a large amount of mosaic decoration. In its early days this was a form of pavement art. Gradually, it came to be used to decorate walls and its designs became more elaborate. In some cases it took the shapes of animals or men out hunting, sailing, or participating in sports. There was a fashion were set with mosaic, using brightly coloured glass paste and gold leaf. So popular was mosaic as an art form that Pliny the Younger held it responsible for the decline of painting. But of all the decoration to be found in the houses and streets of Pompeii, there is one piece of graffiti that must have the last word: ‘I wonder, oh wall,’ a wag has written, ‘that under the weight of so mush idle chat, you have not yet crumbled.’