Wednesday, October 2, 2013

History mystery: CONSTANTINOPLE the City of the emperor Justinian -2

This cosmopolitan population was governed by a pyramid-like bureaucracy headed by the emperor. Like many bureaucracies, it was prone to corruption and inefficiency. Denied any democratic institution through which to air its grievances, the seething mob was always ready to show its resentment. With every bad harvest or increase in taxes, turbulent crowds filled the streets threatening insurrection. The population tended to align itself according to four broad groupings, or factions, known as the Blues, Greens, Rose, and Whites. Members wore distinguishing colours on their shoulders. The factions were partly street gangs, partly political groups. In the time of Justinian, the Blues and Greens were dominant. The Greens represented the merchants, democratic in their political leanings and favouring Monophysite beliefs. The Blues were aristocratic and theologically orthodox. The enmity of the two groups set whole districts at each other’s throats. The Hippodrome became a focus for the rivalry. At foot races athletes from the different factions competed against each other, backed by partisan support from the terrace. It was in this cauldron of political ferment that disorders erupted in January 532. In that month the imperial treasury was empty, and Justinian, whose military campaigns needed huge funds, decreed a further increase in taxes. It was the last straw. Rebellion broke out at the Hippodrome. For once, the Greens and Blues united, channelling their outrage against the government. The two factions proclaimed a new emperor. Under the rallying cry of ‘Nika!’ (‘Victory!’), the rioters spilled into the streets, where they set fire to the Sacred Palace and several other buildings. Swarming into the wealthy districts, the uncontrollable mob pillaged the luxury shops along the Mese. Justinian considered flight into Asia, but Theodora restored his courage, declaring that for herself, death was preferable to dishonour. ‘If you wish to protract your life, O Emperor, flight is easy; there are your ships and there is the sea. But consider whether, if you escape into exile, you will not wish every day that you were dead. As for me, I hold with the ancient saying that the imperial purple is a glorious shroud.’ Not for the first time, the bearkeeper’s daughter showed herself more than worthy to share the throne of the Caesars. 

His resolve now stiffened, the emperor set about dividing the rebels by reawakening the eternal animosity between the two main factions, corrupting their leaders with bribes, and making special overtures to the Blues. Meanwhile, 3,000 veteran loyal mercenaries under the command of General Belisarius marched on the mob through an inferno of flames and falling buildings. The rebellion was drowned in the blood of the people. On January 18, some 30,000 corpses littered the steps of the Hippodrome. The Imperial District had been devastated, but the Byzantine Empire was safe. These insurrectionary tendencies were always least in evidence as soon as the spectre of invasion arose. Faced with the threat of conquest by barbarian horsemen from beyond its frontiers, Constantinople would rediscover its unity. Several times the empire’s boundary on the River Danube had been breached and alien hordes – including Asiatics, Avars, Slavs, and Bulgars – closed in on the city. The most serious invasion came in 558, when Asiatics Huns, the successors of Attila, camped under the city’s very walls. The population was panic-stricken, but once again Belisarius, by now retired but ever faithful, came with his mercenaries to the empire’s rescue. They succeeded in repelling the invaders. On November 14, 565, Justinian died at the age of 82.

His grandiose vision of a Holy Empire was going bankrupt. Exhausted by public works and military expenditure, it was now facing a major war against the Sasssanian kings of Persia – a war which Justinian had been unable to prevent. The chaos and violence of the Dark Ages in Europe were drawing near, too – centuries which were to strip Constantinople of its provinces, leaving it as an isolated bastion of culture and learning in an alien universe. It remained a bastion for more than 600 years after Justinian’s death, until it was overrun and occupied by the Franks in 1204. Even after that it retained its retained its imperial status for a time; its last emperor was not overthrown until 1453, when the city finally fell to the Turks. By then, almost 900 years had passed since the death of Justinian.

But the classical heritage was preserved and the Christian tradition protected. The philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, and the distinctive character of Byzantine religious art, were transmitted from the eastern metropolis to palaces and monasteries, shaping the culture of medieval Europe. The city had a particularly lasting influence on parts of Russia, Greece, and the Balkans. Its religious tradition, developed independently from Rome, survives today as the Orthodox Christian Church. Constantinople was a crossroads in space and time. Here, Europe merged into Asia, the classical era into the Middle Ages. From its narrow promontory jutting into the Bosporus, the city witnessed the death of Western civilization, and its rebirth.

Short History of Body Armor

Short History of Body Armor

Protection for the Body has Changed Tremendously Over the Years

Photo by: palindrome6996
Since the first weapons were used, mankind has been trying to come up with ways to protect the body from harm. This started with furs and moved to cured leather and then eventually metals were used. Below is a quick look at the development of personal body armor over the centuries.

Leather Armor

One of the very first types of armor created was made from leather. This protected well against the weapons of the time, but as weapons became more powerful (using iron instead of bronze, for example) leather armor became less and less useful for actually protecting.

Bronze & Copper & Iron

Many other materials were used to make armor over the years, starting with copper and bronze. It was easy to create armor that was lightweight with these metals and they offered good protection against the weapons available at the time. (Starting to notice a trend? The arms race has resulted in a defense race as well over the years.) Gradually, as more became known about metals, stronger and stronger materials were used to create the armor.


Helmet designs underwent a lot of changes during the Medieval period as people learned more about creating with metal, including what combinations and styles worked best to protect people from the main weapons available at the time. Over the years, helmets occasionally became lighter while offering even more protection.

More and More Protection

During the Medieval period, the primary armor of choice was chainmail. It offered good protection but was lightweight and not too hard to move around in. This gradually was replaced by Plate Mail, which is a combination of large, metal plates along with chainmail. As weapons were developed and honed to become even more deadly (especially bows and crossbows), full Platemail was developed.

Age of Firearms

When firearms began to become popular around the world, the usefulness of armor went away. For many years after this, body armor didn't see many changes. Eventually modern body armor was created - something lightweight but that could still stop a bullet if necessary. From flak jackets to bullet proof jackets and vests, modern armor has come a long way since the very first set was created.

What does the future hold? No is certain for sure, but many think that energy shields or even lighter material that protect more will be developed. Whether it's the personal armor made from light that was seen in the Dune series by Frank Herbert or something entirely different, there's definitely going to be more innovations as time marches forward. If you have any ideas on what's coming next, leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

Author Bio:
Jarrod has an intense fascination with bullet proof vests and other types of protective armor. He's currently a History major in college in the Midwest and hopes to eventually graduate and work at a museum.

History mystery: Catal Huyuk A Stone Age Settlement -3

It seems likely that the stability of the community at Catal Huyuk, and its links with other communities, owed much to a common religion. The shrines in the houses were elaborately decorated in three ways; with wall-paintings, plaster reliefs (frequently painted), and silhouettes etched into the plaster. The wall-paintings range from simple red panels and geometric patterns to complex designs featuring symbolic figures and human hand shapes. Others depict vultures hovering over human corpses, a man defending himself from a vulture, a man carrying two human heads, a deer hunts, and an erupting volcano with a settlement in the foreground. Two of the shrines show bull-baiting and hunting dances. The plaster reliefs explore a limited number of themes, which are frequently repeated.

The most common figure is that of a goddess shown in the posture of childbirth, with her legs and arms lifted. Birth is a recurrent motif: there is a large female figure giving birth to a bull’s head, and next to it is another female giving birth to a ram’s head. In this second relief, three superimposed bulls’ heads appear below the ram’s head. Whether these represent previous births, or the ‘heraldic’ supporters of the goddess, is still not clear. Bull’s heads appear in a great many of the buildings. In some cases their horns are real; in others they are moulded out of clay and plaster. The bull almost certainly represents the male element which, in the reliefs, is never portrayed in human form. The female element is represented in various forms apart from the figure of the goddess. Some figures are pregnant; others are slim and elegant. One particularly skilful image represents a woman whose arms and legs fit into sockets, like a child’s doll. Many of the figures have no faces, suggesting that masks or headdresses may have been hung on pegs above the heads. The third form of decoration, the silhouette style, depicts bulls, deer heads with antlers in profile, wild boars, and cows. Bulls’ heads also appear with offerings laid beneath them, ranging from precious objects and weapons to cuts of meat and, in one case, a human head in a basket.

An axact interpretation of this religious imagery is impossible. In general terms it seems to celebrate the cycle of birth and death, a theme maintained in ritual objects found at the site. Small statuettes - most less than 20cm (8 in) tall and made of stone, though some are of baked clay – depict gods and demigods. They were found in the shrines, placed in groups, obviously to suggest some kind of connection between each set of figures. Several statuettes represent a bearded man, probably a god of hunting, sitting astride crudely carved animals. But the most remarkable sculpture is of the female deity seated on an animal throne, giving birth to a human child. The richness of the ritual imagery at Catal Huyuk hints at a high level of religious consciousness. Its nameless deities are the prototypes of later Anatolian gods and goddesses associated with birds, leopards, bulls, and deer. So where did Catal Huyuk’s original settlers come from? On the south coast of Anatolia, traces have been found of the late Palaeolithic (Early Stone Age) culture that preceded the civilization of Catal Huyuk.

 In the caves of Kara’In, Okuzlu’In, and the rock shelter of Beldibi, there are wall-paintings and engravings of bulls, deer, ibex, and small human figures which may be the precursors of the art at Catal Huyuk. It is possible that the first builders of Catal Huyuk abandoned these caves and journeyed up to the plateau to found a new settlement. The region continued to prosper for several thousand years. During the Early Bronze Age, there was a great increase in the number of settlements established in the Konya plain. By 3000 BC, cities began to emerge, but by then the descendents of the Catal Huyuk people had moved on to other sites. Strangely, shortly before 2000 BC, the region was virtually abandoned. A tiny race of the Catal Huyuk culture does, however, survive to this day. The simple geometric patterns painted on the walls of the Catal ?Huyuk houses – layers of red panels, with the imprints of human hands – can be seen in six modern villages near Catal Huyuk: a creative idea which, astonishingly, has survived for 9,000 years.

Into the Heart of Crete

Image of Crete by fotogake via Flickr

“Crete”. The name conjures dreams of travel and leisure along the island’s sunny coasts. Away from the beaches, resorts, and spas, however, is a land of rewarding cultural and historic touring. Last summer, I hopped a cheap flight and went in search of the island’s rich past and charming present. Here are a few highlights from my Crete holiday.

Images of the Ancients: The Palace of Knossos

One of Crete’s top destinations for a reason, the Palace of Knossos is just the sort of site I travel abroad to see. The palace filled me with awe for the ancient Minoan civilization, an advanced power in the Mediterranean 2,000 years before Rome was even founded. Shrouded in mystery, there are large gaps in what historians know of this Bronze Age civilization. Tantalizing clues abound in this palace, including famed frescoes.

I found the best frescoes above the throne room, where old King Minos perhaps sat dreaming up the idea of an elaborate labyrinth to house his pet Minotaur, the frightening half-man, half-bull creature of Greek myth. The works here are reproductions. (The originals reside in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum.) They’re nonetheless very engaging.

The Bull Leaping Fresco is a favourite. It depicts a woman grasping the horns of a running bull. Another woman stands behind it, while a man does what looks like a handstand on its back. Some theorize that these are acrobats the bull is tossing up and over its head with a flick of the massive horns. Whether the fresco is a Minoan metaphor, an ancient stab at surrealism, or something entirely else, no one can say definitively. We do have one sure fact about this depiction: if you try to recreate the feat, make sure you have your affairs in order. A few foolhardy moderns who have tried were killed attempting it.

Other gems of Minoan art can be found around the palace. Visit the Queen’s quarters to see the enchanting Dolphin Fresco, a motif so endearing it’s been reproduced down through the ages. It and the grand images in the Hall of the Procession are reproductions, too. Still, viewing them, I realized I was occupying the very spot where, 4,000 years ago, an ancient artist stood back to admire his work.

Current Crete

Not all fascinating artefacts on Crete are ancient Minoan. One day, I decided to splash out for a car rental and roam the mountainous interior on my own. I picked a road randomly. Following it out of town, it began to rise and wind in tight curves. Grey and brown mountains stood above olive groves like austere old men. The touristy glitz of the coast, which reminded me somehow of the Trans Siberian Railway Tours I had a couple of years back, with all its attendant gift shops and spas faded far behind me as I rolled through small villages that spoke of unhurried and less complex eras. Elderly villagers shuffled by, carrying shopping in string bags, or lounged in shady spots. Goats and sheep wandered at will.

On the outskirts of one village, lay curious circles of stone. A local explained: Alonis, or grain threshing circles, that still dot the countryside in unspoiled places. It’s said the characteristic Greek dance step mimics how farmers would kick wheat to separate it from the chaff in these circles. They’ve long fallen out of use in our world of mechanized agriculture, but their echo still rings clear in the circular form of the dance. After this impromptu cultural history lesson, I sat in a Byzantine church, contemplating a quiet as profound as the countless centuries of history spanned in these villages.

Getting My Fill

In Crete, I like to stay in a small, locally owned hotel. Amenities may not be plentiful, but the insider knowledge the proprietor offers makes up for it. One evening I asked which nearby restaurants offered the most authentic local cuisine. I was directed to one up the coast. It took some work to find, but was so worth it. I was sat at a table with a view of dark sea, like a window on the void of space (except for the lights of a passing cruise ship). Then the waiter set the table.

I began with Koukouvagia, which means “owl,” perhaps because the round barley bread sprinkled with cheese, olives, oregano, and tomatoes resembles the face of one. The heavy bread soaking up the flavours of the cheese and oil reminded me of the rich sights I’d seen so far on my Crete holiday. For my main course, the waiter suggested one of the house specialities: snails with tomato sauce. Feeling bold, I gave it a try, and was delighted by another exotic, if a bit salty, dish. Dessert was a pastry called Kalitsounia Kritis, filled with sweet Myzitra cheese. Scrumptious!

Everything was amazingly delicious, and my waiter revealed the secret: all local ingredients. The olive oil was pressed a few doors down (there are sixty olive trees for every one person on Crete!) The cheeses were made with milk of sheep and goats grazed on the stark hills above town. And the dessert featured honey that Crete has been producing for thousands of years – a one-time favourite of Egyptian Pharaohs.

The Greek philosopher Epicurus once said, “Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.” Crete certainly offers the curious traveller plenty to enjoy. I went there to learn about its past and experience, its present, and came away with a strong feeling of abundance.

Michael Roberts island hops oceans all over the world, searching for the interesting and the authentic. Writing about his discoveries for Travel Republic, he strives to balance the challenge of keeping to a budget for cheap holidays against absorbing what each location has to offer. Back home, he enjoys spending time with his family and practising meditation. You can connect with Michael on Google+.

Monday, September 30, 2013

History mystery: Ancient Mythology about Rainbow

The most favorite component throughout history is the rainbow which is a natural phenomenon appreciated for its beauty. According to the Sumerian mythology, the rainbow’s power, according to some was regarded as the sole benevolent portraying its perception of the world culture though its past stories. The Epic of Gilgamesh for instance, an ancient king of Sumerian’s reign during 3000 BC; gives us detailed written evidence of the culture during that age. It portrays the Sumerian farmer god Ninurta defending Sumer with a bow and arrow wearing a crown similar to a rainbow. According to Christian mythology, in the chapter of Genesis, Noah was appointed by God to save every living pair of species from the great floods. When the flood had destroyed all living creatures from the face of the earth, the rainbow was a symbol of God’s promise that he would never destroy all of the earth with flood and the rainbow was a covenant between God and man forming an arc between earth and heaven. As per the Greek mythology, the daughter of first generation gods Electra and Thaumas, Iris was the goddess of sea and sky and her father was the wondrous marine god while her mother the amber, a cloud nymph.

Iris was a messenger of the gods and in ancient Greek vase painting depicted as a young woman who flew on golden wings, dressed in rainbow colors, a herald’s rod and at times a water pitcher in her hand. She seems to be speeding with the wind delivering news and appears in nine of the twenty four books of Homer’s – The Illiad. She is often depicted standing beside Zeus or Hera offering nectar from her jug and as a messenger of the gods was incomparable from Hebe art..She was the goddess of the rainbow and often represented as the handmaiden and personal messenger of Hera. For the Greeks from the coastal dwellings, the rainbow was seen spreading over the distance between the clouds in the sky and the sea and the goddess was said to represent the rain clouds with water from the sea. Greek myth was of the belief that Iris delivered messages that were rarely of peace or of good fortune. One of her jobs was to fill a golden jug with holy water for Zeus who would make misbehaving gods make a binding oath on the holy water. She has no distinctive mythology of her own but she appears in a myth as an errand running messenger and described as a virgin goddess.

According to later writers, Iris was married to Zephyrus and was the mother of Eros. Being engaged in service of Zeus and Hera she even served Achiles in calling the wind to his assistance and performed her services not only when commanded but also rendered advice and services of her own accord. Her name seems to contain double meaning where iris relates to the rainbow and eiris to the messenger.
According to some poets, Iris is described as the rainbow itself, while Servius implies that the rainbow was merely the road on which she travelled which appeared when the need arose and disappeared when it was not needed. Regarding her worship, the Delians offered her cakes made of wheat and honey and dried figs on the island of Hecate. In ancient Greek vase painting, she appears as a beautiful young woman, standing and dressed in a long wide tunic with a light upper garment and wings attached to her shoulders. She is found carrying the herald’s staff in her left hand or appears to fly on their wings with sandals on her feet along with the staff and the pitcher in her hand and compared to a swift footed storm wind messenger.

Different mythology and groups like the Norse and Navajo are of the belief that the multi colored arc, bridged the distance between earth and heaven while some called it the bridge or the gateway to heaven. The Norse believed the rainbow to be bridge that could be used by gods and mortals killed in the battle of just war. According to some they believe that the rainbow only shows up in the sky when St. Peter opened the pearly gates of heaven to usher in the new souls in heaven and its colors representing the magnificence of heaven. Others think that it is a link of six or seven bridges, based on the belief of individual’s culture on the number of colors in the bow that the soul had to successfully travel to reach heaven. As per the African’s belief the rainbow was actually a full circle, half of which could only be seen at an appropriate time. They also believed that the rainbow separated the earth from the heaven. As per Roman mythology, the rainbow is believed to be the pathway for Mercury the messenger god.

According to German, myths the rainbow was considered as a bowl that God used during his creation to color the world while others thought that it was a magnificent gift of nature. The ancient Arabians believed it was a tapestry woven by the south wind while the Incas thought that it was a gift from their sun god. The Buddhist identified the rainbow to the seven regions of the earth due to its seven colors and believed it as the next highest state of achievement before Nirvana, the place very one and all individuals meet their end. The Hindus believe that the rainbow represents the archer’s bow of their god of war and that the god used the bow to send arrows of lightening to kill demons who threatened their land and their people. In Islam, it is believed to have only four colors instead of the seven colors, namely blue, green, red and yellow which are related to fire, earth, water and wind. The Native American tribes considered the rainbow as the drinking fountain for all souls of heaven while other believed it to be a bridge between the world of humans and the world of gods though not heaven and still others believed it to be merely a pathway which the gods used.