Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Priests of the Magna Mater (Great Mother), Cybele, Were Eunuchs

It took balls to be a priest of Cybele

(Funerary relief of a priest of Magna Mater (gallus) from Lavinium. Rome, Capitoline Museums (mid-second century AD), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

Around 204 BCE, when Scipio Africanus was preparing his invasion of Africa during the Second Punic War, the cult of Cybele was invited into Rome’s pantheon of gods. The cult of Cybele was one of the strangest of Rome’s Mystery Religions, but nevertheless, the mysteries of the Magna Mater would become one of the empire’s more popular cults.

The Magna Mater's priests (known as Galli) did not adopt the traits of their goddess, Cybele, but of her lover, Attis. Unfortunately for the priests of Cybele, they were expected to reenact an uncomfortable myth of Attis. As the myth goes, Attis was a man who, in a craze instigated by Cybele, castrated himself. After Cybele revived him, Attis adopted a feminine personality and donned womanly dress. The Galli of Cybele underwent this ordeal of castration and adoption of a feminine demeanor to become priests of the Magna Mater’s cult.

Read our article, HERE, for a more in-depth look at the myth and cult of the ancient goddess, Cybele. Beware, some sections are graphic!

  • The Ancient Mysteries: A Sourcebook of Sacred Texts edited by Marvin W. Meyer. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Though Officially Neutral In WWII, Spain Sent A Division To Germany To Help Fight The USSR

(Replacements for the Spanish Blue Division march to their assignment, c. 1942, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

During World War Two, one of the most decorated divisions on the side of the Axis Powers was from Spain. The German 250th Infantry Division (otherwise known as the Blue Division) began as a company of veterans from the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Though Spain was officially neutral in WWII, the Spanish Generalissimo Francisco Franco would later send conscripted men to replenish the ranks of the Blue Division. Spain even sent the Blue Squadron, a group of Spanish airmen, to defend Germany against Soviet aircraft.

The initial Blue Division consisted of 18,000 volunteers, but at its greatest, it expanded to 50,000 Spanish troops. The Division would suffer around 16,000 casualties during the war. Approximately 4,500 died in combat. The Blue Division participated in twenty-one known major battles during WWII.

As the Allied Powers began to gain the advantage in WWII, they increasingly put pressure on Spain to recall the Spanish volunteers. In 1943, Franco reluctantly reduced his force in Germany—the Blue Division was demoted to a Blue Legion of around 3,000 men. The Blue Legion, too, was withdrawn back to Spain in 1944. Many Spanish troops, however, refused to leave. These stragglers were often adopted into Germany’s Waffen SS. There were still Spanish volunteers fighting in Berlin when the city fell.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

  • The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth Century Spain by Paul Preston. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2012.
  • Churchill and Spain: The Survival of the Franco Regime, 1940-1945, by Richard Wigg. Portland: Sussex Academic Press, 2008.
  • Franco: A Personal and Political Biography, by Stanley G. Payne and Jesús Palacios. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2014.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Theodore Roosevelt, Despite His Immense Athleticism, Suffered From Asthma

(Colonel Theodore Roosevelt in military uniform, c. 1898, photographed by George Gardner Rockwood [Public Domain-US] via Creative Commons)

Theodore Roosevelt may easily be ranked as one of the most athletic presidents of the United States. Among his many physical activities, he hunted, ranched and soldiered in the army as a ‘Rough Rider.’ He also boxed, learned gymnastics and lifted weights.

Despite his impressive athletic resume, Theodore Roosevelt was sickly as a child, and was plagued by asthma. The ailment, however, did not dampen Theodore’s athleticism—quite the opposite, the asthma inspired him to pursue an athletic lifestyle. All of the strength and cardio training allowed Roosevelt to improve his body’s constitution and largely nullify the effects of his asthma.

  • The Roosevelts: An Intimate History by Ken Burns (PBS Documentary), available on Netflix.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

United States General William Tecumseh Sherman Suffered A Culinary Shock During the Mexican-American War

(Portrait of General W. T. Sherman by George Peter Alexander Healy (1818–1894), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

During the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), a future Union General of the U.S. Civil War, W. T. Sherman, was stationed in various locations around the California front. Sherman’s main base was at Monterey, but he also traveled up and down the Saunas River and ventured into the wooded foothills of the Gavillano Mountain.

In that mountainous location, Sherman and his party found shelter in the home of a Señor Gomez. The man lived in a two-story adobe home with a fenced-in front yard. The U.S. soldiers arrived at Gomez’s property just as dusk began to fall. Señor Gomez was sitting down for dinner when Sherman and his companions tethered their horses to the fence around the front of the home.

Gomez invited the soldiers into his home and divided the meal (luckily a large portion) between himself and his guests. Sherman eagerly received a dish of rabbit, slathered in a wonderful-smelling red sauce. As an east coast American, Sherman, who had been born in Ohio and was later stationed in the U.S. southern states, believed the red sauce to be derived from tomatoes. Without any caution, Sherman gulped down a large spoonful of the rabbit in the sauce, expecting a taste of mild and watery tomato paste. The horrifying realization only occurred after the sauce was swallowed—it was pure red pepper. Here are Sherman’s own words on the embarrassing situation:

“The allowance, though ample for one, was rather short for three, and I thought the Spanish grandiloquent politeness of Gomez, who was fat and old, was not over-cordial. However, down we sat, and I was helped to a dish of rabbit, with what I thought to be an abundant sauce of tomato. Taking a good mouthful, I felt as though I had taken liquid fire; the tomato was chile colorado, or red pepper, of the purest kind. It nearly killed me, and I saw Gomez’ eyes twinkle, for he saw that his share of supper was increased—I contented myself with bits of the meat, and an abundant supply of tortillas.”

  • Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman by W. T. Sherman. Delaware: Renaissance Classics, 2012.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Charlemagne Was Named Emperor Of The Romans on Christmas Day, 800 CE

(Charlemagne being crowned at Old Saint Peter's Basilica, photographed by Jean Fouquet, [Public Domain] via

The Franks were a powerhouse of the Middle Ages, and few of those Frankish kings were as impressive as Charles the Great (r. 768-814), better known as Charlemagne. Under Charlemagne, the Carolingian Empire of the Franks absorbed the Lombards of northern Italy (in 774), and invaded the lands of the Saxons (in 772). Brittany and Aquitaine fell to armies of the Carolingian Empire, and the latter was set aside by Charlemagne as a kingdom for his son, Louis. He also moved into Bavaria, Pannonia and Austria (in the 790s). Charlemagne would later invade Spain and establish a buffer zone (called the Spanish March) along the Spanish side of the Pyrenees to protect his empire in 801.

Despite all of his conquests, another event that happened to Charlemagne may have been seen by his contemporaries to be even more impressive and important than the rest—Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the Romans (Holy Roman Emperor) by Pope Leo III, on Christmas day, 800 CE. The title of Holy Roman Emperor would continue to live on in Europe until 1806, when Emperor Francis II dissolved the empire after he suffered military defeats at the hands of the military genius, Napoleon.


Though the Constantinian Dynasty Ushered The Roman Empire Towards Christianity, The Last Emperor of the Dynasty Was An Apostate

(Julian the Apostate presiding at a conference of sectarians, c. 1875, painted by Edward Armitage (1817–1896), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

The Constantinian Dynasty officially began under Constantius I, when he became an Augustus (r. 305-306 CE) of the Tetrarchy that ruled the Roman Empire. Yet, it was Constantius’ son, Constantine the Great (r. 306-337), who really brought the dynasty to prominence.

Before embarking on the civil wars that would bring him to sole rule in the Roman Empire, Constantine began granting Christians tolerance and protections in his domain. Despite this show of mercy toward Christianity, Constantine was a pagan and a devotee of the Undying Sun (Sol Invictus) in his early years. Yet, around the time of the Battle of Milvian Bridge (312 CE), Constantine seemed to have come to believe that the Christian God was his personal patron.

When Constantine won the civil war in 324 CE, he openly supported the Christian religion. He let Christians take prominent positions in the Roman Empire, and also brought in Christians as advisers to his imperial court. Though Constantine was a protector of Christianity, and showed deep interest in the religion, he remained for most of his life a catechumen, a person being instructed in the teachings of Christianity before baptism. Constantine was only fully converted and baptized when he was on his deathbed in 337, though even this is debated.

The Roman Empire passed to Constans, Constantine II, and Constantius II, but the bloody succession politics of Rome ensured that only Constantius II survived. All three of Constantine’s sons supported Christianity, but the last member of the Constantinian Dynasty would change that track record.

Flavius Claudius Julianus, better known as Julian the Apostate was the last of the Constantinian line. Emperor Julian ruled from 361-363 CE. He was raised a Christian, but abandoned the religion around 361 for the traditional gods of the old Roman Empire. Alongside the public worship of the old gods, he also joined Mystery Religions such as the cults of Cybele and Mithras.

Though he rejected Christianity, Julian the Apostate did not renew violent persecution of Christians. Instead, he debated with the Christians and attempted to undermine their religion in more subtle ways. Julian used his knowledge of Christianity to attack Christianity’s weaker points, such as its connection to Judaism, and he undermined the influence of Christianity by implementing educational reform. Julian the Apostate, however, died in 363 in a war against Persia, and the emperors that followed him reinstated imperial support for Christianity.

  • The Christians as the Romans Saw Them, by Robert Louis Wilken. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984.
  • Introduction to medieval Europe, 300-1500, by Wim Blockmans and Peter Hoppenbrouwers. New York: Routledge, 2014.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

There Are Many Historical Reasons To Watch The ‘Downton Abbey’ TV Show

('Downton Abbey' castle and cast, created by See-ming Lee, via Creative Commons (CC 2.0))

Most people like to indulge in a little televised drama from time to time. We at The Historian’s Hut want to make sure that you have reasons to binge watch a good show when the desire next arises. Therefore, we have compiled a list of historical excuses you may use to defend your tuning into reruns of ‘Downton Abbey.'

Historical Topics In ‘Downton Abbey':
  • Late Ottoman Empire
  • Reform of the system of nobility and monarchy
  • World War I
  • Fall of monarchies around WWI
  • Trench warfare and new war technology
  • Women’s rights
  • Rise of socialism
  • Russian Revolution
  • Spread of Russian Revolution refugees
  • English and Irish tensions (Fenian Movement)
  • Catholic and Anglican religious tensions
  • Spanish Flu
  • Law reform
  • Stock market crashes
  • Childbirth dangers
  • Rise of makeup and cosmetics
  • New hairstyles
  • Homosexual rights (or lack thereof)
  • The ‘Roaring Twenties’ and the ‘flapper’ culture
  • Jazz music
  • Fertility medicine/treatments
  • Rise of interracial relationships
  • Abortions
  • Rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany
  • Rise of birth control
  • Anti-Semitism
  • Pranks of Horace de Vere Cole

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Japan Won The First Major War That Began In The 20th Century, And Their Foe Was A Behemoth

(Japanese assault against Russian forces, c. October 10,1904, from Le Patriote Illustré, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

The 20th century was filled to the brim with wars, including two world wars and multiple communist revolutions. A slew of conflicts were caused by the Cold War between capitalist democracies and communist regimes, which made the 20th century a tense and weary hundred years. The first nation to win a major war that began and ended in that fateful century, however, was none other that the newly modernized country of Japan.

After the 1850s, Japan shed its isolationism and leaped toward modernization. With land forces trained in German strategy, a navy modeled after Britain and an education system inspired by the United States, Japan quickly became a power to be reckoned with. The Japanese proved their newfound capabilities by defeating a major western power in warfare.

The conflict was the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), where Russia and Japan faced off to determine who would control Korea. The Japanese struck fast. They blockaded a Russian Fleet in Port Arthur and occupied Korea. Next, the Japanese pushed up towards Mongolia and Manchuria. The armies of Japan and Russia finally met in the great Battle of Mukden (February-March, 1905). In one of the largest battles in history, approximately 292,219 Russians faced off against 208,342 Japanese. Japan won the day, but both sides lost tens of thousands of men. Japan sealed its victory over Russia when it destroyed another large Russian fleet in May, prompting Russia to concede defeat on September 5, 1905.

  • Warfare in the Western World: Military Operations Since 1871, by Robert A. Doughty and Ira D. Gruber et al. Massachusetts: D. C. Heath and Company, 1996.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Alexander The Great Was As Adept At Literature As He Was At War

(Sculpted portrait of Alexander the Great by Andrea del Verrocchio (1436–1488), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

Anyone who knows anything about Alexander the Great knows that the man was a military genius. He trained vigorously for war from the age of seven, or eight, and when he ascended to the throne of Macedonia, he conquered most of his known world in an unprecedented winning streak of victorious battles. He expanded around the eastern edge of the Mediterranean, stopping when he reached Egypt. Then, he marched his army further east, conquering the Persian Empire, and other peoples, all the way to modern Pakistan, where the threat of mutiny ground Alexander’s conquests to a halt. Though his conquests are what Alexander remains best known for today, he had another passion—literature.

As a Macedonian nobleman, Alexander had great exposure to a diversity of cultures and languages. The Macedonian kings often brought some of the greatest Greek artists and writers of the day to the Macedonian court. The polygamous nature of the Macedonian kings, and the many slaves that the royal court kept, also contributed to the multitude of languages and artistic ideas circulating in Macedonia. Besides knowing the ancient Greek language, Alexander grew up with the dialect of ancient Macedonia and was exposed to the speech of Epirus by way of his mother, as well as the Persian language from emissaries living as guests in his father’s court. Language, however, was not all he was exposed to in his youth. Alexander also had access to Greek literature, poetry and mythology.

Alexander began his training in literature much earlier than his training for war. He read a wide variety of writings: Plays of tragedy and comedy, and tomes of history, philosophy and poetry all filled Alexander’s curriculum. Poetry, especially about the gods, deeply interested the young noble. He memorized many of the works he read, including the poems of Pindar, Euripides, and especially Homer. Many of the early sources that wrote abut Alexander the Great mention that if a line from an epic poem was stated, the conqueror could finish the line, and relate which poem the quote came from. He could quote epic poems like the Christian saints of old could quote the Bible.

The writings that Alexander read did not only interest him, they helped to shape and reinforce the competitive nature that would drive the young king to greatness. The Macedonian kings believed that their line could be traced back to Achilles, and even further back, to Zeus. As such, when Alexander read stories such as the Iliad, to him he was not just reading literature—he saw such stories as histories of his ancestors. For the rest of his life, Alexander the Great would judge his own accomplishments by comparing himself to the heroes of myth. His competition with the larger-than-life figures of mythology, some may argue, may have been another battle that Alexander the Great won, among his many accomplishments.

  • Alexander the Great: The Story of an Ancient Life, by Thomas R. Martin and Christopher W. Blackwell. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The First Airplane To Take Off From An Aircraft Carrier Was Launched From The USS Birmingham in 1910

(Eugene Burton Ely flies his Curtiss pusher biplane from USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser No. 2), in Hampton Roads, Virginia, during the afternoon of 14 November 1910, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

In 1910, a major milestone in aviation history was set. On that day, a biplane took to the skies from the deck of the USS Birmingham. It was the first time in history that a plane took off from an aircraft carrier, but that particular flight was just a test, and was not carried out in a war environment. The first country to formally launch airplanes from aircraft carriers in warfare was Britain during World War I. In December, 1914, they carried out a seaborne raid against the German base of Cuxhaven. The attack did little damage, but set a precedent for future warfare.

For most of WWI, there was a major problem with aircraft carriers—the ships had no landing strips. The planes could not come back and land on the carriers. Landing zones had to be established elsewhere.  Only in the last year of WWI (1918) did the British improve the carrier with the addition of a landing strip, though landing on aircraft carriers remained a highly dangerous process, even during WWII. Nevertheless, the modern aircraft carrier was born, and would play a leading role in the Pacific War of WWII.

  • Warfare in the Western World: Military Operations Since 1871, by Robert A. Doughty and Ira D. Gruber et al. Massachusetts: D. C. Heath and Company, 1996.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

In 1700 CE, Japan Had The Largest City In The World And Was One Of The Most Urban Countries Of Its Age

Warning: Statistics Imminent

(Cherry Blossom Time in Nakanochō of the Yoshiwara, by Utagawa Hiroshige (Japan, Edo, 1797-1858), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

In Europe, by the 1700s, the Renaissance had come and gone, eventually leading to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The Protestant Reformation had drawn a tense divide between nations who followed Catholic belief, and those who found the authority of the pope to be corrupt. Europeans had also spent more than two centuries exploring and colonizing both near and faraway lands. With all of Europe’s impressive growth and development, by 1700, Europe still was nowhere near the top of the world’s most urbanized regions on earth.

The reigning champion of urbanization in 1700 was none other than Japan. The island country likely had the largest city in the world at that time—Edo (now Tokyo) had around one million residents in 1700. Edo was not the only sizable city in Japan. Kyoto and Osaka were also around the same size as London, England and Paris, France, all estimated to house around 350,000 people in 1700. One-tenth of the Japanese population lived in communities that had over 10,000 residents. Even more impressive, was that five or six percent of Japan's population lived in cities with more than 100,000 people, like Edo, Osaka and Kyoto. In 1700, Japan had more than double the percentage of urbanization than its contemporary European peers.

Here are some tidy facts about the world in 1700:
  • 5-6% of Japanese people resided in cities with populations higher than 100,000.
  • 2% of Europeans lived in cities with populations greater than 100,000.
  • 10% of Japan lived in communities over 10,000 in population.
  • Edo, Japan, had around 1 million residents.
  • Kyoto and Osaka had populations of around 350,000 people.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

  • A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present, by Andrew Gordon. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

The Caribbean Buccaneers Of The 17th And 18th Centuries Were Named After Cooking Equipment

(The Buccaneer, c. 1905, painted by Howard Pyle (1853-1911), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

Most people know that buccaneers were a type of pirate. Fewer know that they were a specific group of pirates that mainly harassed Spanish ships and coastal cities in the Caribbean. Finally, only those few people addicted to history and random facts would delve deep enough to discover that the buccaneers were named after cooking utensils used to prepare their favorite food—barbecued, or smoked, meats.

After the Caribbean buccaneers finished a raid on an unfortunate harbor-town, or stole the goods of a merchant vessel, the crews of the pirate ships would find a secluded beach on an island and hunt for food. The most available game for hunting on most Caribbean islands were native amphibious creatures. Fortunately for the buccaneers, they actually had a fondness for turtle. When the crew captured the unlucky turtle of the day (or night), along with anything else they could trap and hunt, they would bring out their boucans (wooden spits) and roast their catch. They would also gather turtle eggs to later be fried in animal fat. Nevertheless, their favorite food, and the meal they were best known for, was the smoked or barbecued meat they prepared with their wooden boucans—hence the name, buccaneers.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

  • Outlaws of the Atlantic: Sailors, Pirates and Motley Crews in the Age of Sail, by Marcus Rediker. Boston: Beacon Press, 2014.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The United States’ Founding Fathers Also Revolutionized Chairs

The two most widely recognized revolutionaries of the United States, save George Washington, are Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. Jefferson was a reserved man, who struggled with public speaking, but his masterful penmanship earned him international acclaim. Benjamin Franklin was a genius jack-of-all-trades, who dabbled in almost every topic he could research, and often found himself adept in whatever field he chose to assert himself. Jefferson and Franklin were both political philosophers, scientists and inventors, and they both improved upon an invention that all humans use to support themselves—the chair.

The rocking chair was one Benjamin Franklin's passions. Mr. Franklin did not make this lovable piece of furniture that can excite and relax simultaneously. It was already in use within the colonies when Franklin was born, though the rocking chair is often subtly slipped into his enormous list of inventions. Nevertheless, Benjamin Franklin did invent some modifications for the chair. Most notably, he added a fan that was powered by the rocking motion of the chair.

While Benjamin Franklin was merely a chair modifier, Thomas Jefferson was a true chair revolutionary. In the 1770s, before drafting the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson ordered a simple Windsor chair, but what he did with the chair was groundbreaking for the future of office and school furniture—Jefferson put a swivel mechanism on his chair. Thus, the first swivel chair was born, allowing modern people to spin to their heart’s content when their bosses are not looking.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

  • The Autobiography and Other Writings of Benjamin Franklin, edited by Kenneth Silverman. New York: Penguin Books, 1986.
  • American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph J. Ellis. New York: Vintage Books, 1998.

When Ancient Romans Needed To Rule the Mediterranean, They Turned Their Infantry Into Marines

(Roman Quinquereme, from James Bikie c. 1925, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

In the middle of the 3rd century BCE, Rome and Carthage, two superpowers of the ancient Mediterranean, began their fateful Punic Wars, which would decide which country and culture would come to dominate the classical world. At the onset of the wars, Carthage was the undisputed naval power of the Mediterranean. Rome, in contrast, was a battle-hardened infantry power, with almost no experience in naval warfare, except small campaigns against piracy. Nevertheless, Rome would win a great victory over a larger Carthaginian navy at the battle of Mylae in 260 BCE. They were able to win by using their renowned engineering capabilities, and a simple strategy—turn the naval battle into an infantry charge.

The first step for Rome was to build a fleet. To do this, Roman engineers studied a captured quinquereme (a ship with five stories of rowers) and quickly mass-produced over one hundred of their own quinqueremes, which would serve as the core of their Punic War navy. With their fleet mass-produced, Rome still had to nullify Carthage’s superiority in naval skill.

Ancient naval warfare was often a battle of opposing crews on their ships rowing up momentum and ramming their armored bows against enemy ships. In an orthodox naval battle, Carthage’s sailing skill would give them greater mobility and maneuverability over Rome’s fledgling navy. To counteract the skill of Carthage, Rome installed a device called a corvus on their ships, which was basically a ramp attached securely to the bow of the ship. The ramp made the Roman ships unstable, but it ultimately tipped the balance of power in Rome’s favor. With the corvus, the Roman marines could row up to the Carthaginian ships, drop their ramps, and bring their formidable infantry might to the seas.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

  • See our article on the Punic Wars, HERE.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

There Is An Ancient Roman Book About A Man Who Traveled The World After Being Transformed Into A Donkey

(Left:Apuleius, Center: Isis, Right:Donkey)

If you want to impress your friends and family with your knowledge of ancient writers, while also having a great time in the process, pick up a copy of The Golden Ass (written between 160-180 CE) by Apuleius. If you find the title of the book embarrassing or vulgar, you can use its other tame, alternative title: Metamorphoses. You can proclaim to the world that you read through an ancient Roman book that delves into the culture of the Roman Empire, and describes the priests and ceremonies belonging to the cults of Cybele and Isis. Once everyone is amazed by your perseverance in reading such an old book, you can tell (or not tell) the secret of The Golden Ass—it is an incredibly easy and fun read.

Despite the fact that The Golden Ass was written nearly two thousand years ago, Apuleius’ book reads like a comedic adventure novel. The story follows the odd life of a man named Lucius, who is cursed by an insatiable curiosity of the occult. His nosiness eventually leads him to the home of a witch, and from there, one thing leads to another—he finds himself transformed into a donkey. The rest of the book details Lucius’ journey as a donkey, and his pursuit of a cure to turn him back into human form. The story of The Golden Ass is filled with humor and strangeness that can bring a smile to any reader’s face. Lucius’ adventure as a donkey, from town to town, and owner to owner, is definitely a unique read that will leave a lasting impression on any reader.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

For more information about Apuleius, check out our short biography HERE.

Take a look at our quote pictures of Apuleius, HERE.

  • The Golden Ass or Metamorphoses by Apuleius, translated by E. J. Kenney. London: Penguin Books, 1998 and revised 2004.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Late 16th Century Japanese Warlord, Oda Nobunaga, Massacred Warrior Monks In The Tens Of Thousands

Before the islands of Japan were unified under the Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, around 1600 CE, various warlords battled to gain dominance over the lands of Japan. The first major figure to rise to power was Oda Nobunaga.

Nobunaga was a skilled war leader, and used a mixture of tactical brilliance, technological innovation and psychological ruthlessness to bring much of Japan under his control.  His heyday occurred from 1570-1580, when he conquered close to half of Japan. His foes, however, were not always other political rivals—he had a long feud with the Shinto and Buddhist warrior monks in temples and communities throughout Japan.

A prolonged, bitter war between the rural Ikko-ikki Buddhists and the Oda clan was assured when Nobunaga’s brother was killed in battle at Nagashima in 1569. Nobunaga sent two of his generals with an army to avenge his brother in 1571, but the Ikko-ikki were able to force the Oda army to withdraw.

During the same year, a quarrelsome contingent of warrior monks from the temple of Enryakuji on Mt. Hiei made the unwise decision to join forces with Nobunaga’s enemies. The warlord immediately sent an army of around 30,000 men to siege the temple, but Nobunaga’s intention was not pacification—no, he meant to bring annihilation. The Oda army marched its way up the mountain, burning shrines and villages attached to the temple. When they reached Enryakuji temple, it, and many of the people still inside, were burned to ash. Around 20,000 people may have perished in the flames on Mt. Hiei.

By 1573, Nobunaga was confident enough to try another campaign against the Nagashima Ikko-ikki. This time he decided not to delegate the attack to his generals; he wanted to lead the fight, personally. In the first year, he did not gain much ground against the Ikko-ikki, but by 1574, he had pushed the forces of Nagashima into a last stand at the fortresses of Ganshoji and Nagashima Castle. In a scene similar to that at Mt. Hiei, Nobunaga blockaded the Ikko-ikki in their forts. With his enemy trapped, he set up mounds of flammable firewood around his prey. With no thought of mercy, Nobunaga set fire to the fortresses and watched as strong winds created an inferno out of the last Ikko-ikki strongholds in Nagashima. Around 20,000 more people died in the fire.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Picture Attribution: (Painting of the Battle of Nagashino, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).

  • Japanese Warrior Monks: AD 949-1603, by Stephen Turnbull. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2003.

The 15th-Century Witch-Hunting Manual, The Malleus Maleficarum, Claimed That God Permits The Occurrence Of Witchcraft

(Early 19th century mural painting on the outer wall of Rila Monastery church, Bulgaria, Via Creative Commons (CC 2.5))

The papal inquisitors and witch hunters, Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, had to walk a fine line in their book, The Malleus Maleficarum. They wrote, on the one hand, that Satan could influence humans, and that witchcraft was a very real threat. Kramer and Sprenger also claimed, however, that God still had supreme authority over Satan and the demons. The result of combining their two statements of beliefs was understandably awkward.  The Malleus Maleficarum came to the conclusion that God permitted witches and witchcraft, likely as a method of punishment. This is one example from their book:

“Now with regard to the tenor of the Bull of our Most Holy Father the Pope, we will discuss the origin of witches, and how it is that of recent years their works have so multiplied among us. And it must be borne in mind that for this to take place, three things concur, the devil, the witch, and the permission of God who suffers such things to be.” 
  • From The Malleus Maleficarum by Kramer and Sprenger, translated by Montague Summers (Dover Publications, 1971).
Check out our Malleus Maleficarum quote pictures, HERE, and our witchcraft articles, HERE.

Written by C. Keith Hansley 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Han Fei Tzu Was Executed By The Greatest Follower Of His Legalist Government Philosophy

(Portrait of Han Fei Tzu, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

Around 280 BCE, Han Fei Tzu was born a prince into the Han Kingdom, of central China. Han Fei could sense that his country was going to fall if government reform was not put in place to improve the strength and efficiency of the Han Dynasty.

Unfortunately for Han Fei Tzu, he had no oratory skill—in fact, he had a horrible stammer. His speech impediment, however, did not deter him from spreading his ideas. Instead of speaking, Han Fei Tzu put his teachings on paper and managed to circulate his message throughout the region.

Han Fei Tzu’s philosophy was extreme legalism. He envisioned a state where law would direct every aspect of a person’s life—even religious texts and literary works would be replaced by legal code.

The Han Kingdom largely ignored Han Fei Tzu’s authoritarian ideas. Another king, however, did take notice of Han Fei’s philosophy. He was the king of Ch’in (also spelled Qin), who had risen to power in 246 BCE. He and his advisors began implementing the extreme legalist policies that could be found in the works of Han Fei Tzu. Under his rule, the Kingdom of Ch’in invaded Han in 234 BCE. The Han Kingdom was clearly losing the war against Ch’in, so they sent Han Fei Tzu to try to negotiate with the king of Ch’in. They thought that the king of Ch’in’s blatant admiration for Han Fei Tzu’s philosophy of authoritarian legalism would make Han Fei a perfect diplomat to win the favor of the Ch’in.

The king of Ch’in initially welcomed Han Fei Tzu with warmth, but soon the king had a change of heart—Han Fei Tzu was thrown into a dungeon. Accounts of that ancient time claim that the advisors of the king of Ch’in thought that Han Fei would remain loyal to their enemy, the Han kingdom, and that his authoritarian philosophy was too much of a threat to be allowed to spread to other kingdoms. In the end, Han Fei Tzu died of poisoning in the dungeon of the king of Ch’in.

Though Han Fei was dead, his philosophy lived on in the Ch’in Kingdom. The king in whose dungeon Han Fei Tzu died would use Han Fei’s authoritarian legalist philosophy to conquer much of China and be proclaimed, Emperor Shihuangdi, the first emperor of China.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Take a look at our Han Fei Tzu quote pictures, here.

  • Han Fei Tzu: Basic Writings, translated by Burton Watson. New York: Colombia University Press, 1964.