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.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Almost Every Major Figure Tied to the Roman Civil War Between Caesar and Pompey Died A Violent Death

(Cato, Cicero, Pompey, Brutus, Caesar, Crassus, Cleopatra, Mark Antony)

The 1st century BCE was a bloody time in history. This was especially the case for people who were involved in Julius Caesar’s rise and fall in Rome. Assassination, death in battle and suicide were common ends for the numerous people playing the dangerous game of imperial politics.

One of the first deaths of Caesar’s political partners was that of Crassus in 53 BCE, who died under a volley of arrows launched by skilled Parthian archers. That was the first death of a member of the First Triumvirate between Caesar, Pompey and Crassus. From there, Caesar’s alliances only continued to deteriorate. One of his best generals, Labienus, left his side to the faction of Pompey and the conservative senators, Cato and Cicero.

Caesar fought an intense war against Pompey, in which he was continuously outnumbered in battles from one side of the Mediterranean to the other. Despite the setbacks, Caesar’s ability to always do the unexpected, and the resolve of his elite, veteran troops allowed him to repeatedly put Pompey on the defensive. When Pompey lost a major battle to Caesar at Pharsalus, he fled to Egypt. When Pompey arrived, the Egyptians, wishing to gain the support of Caesar, had Pompey assassinated in 48 BCE.

Though Pompey was dead, the war was not over for Caesar. He invaded North Africa and defeated a combination of Roman and Numidian forces. Hearing of Caesar’s victories, Cato felt his cause was hopeless. Rather than be pardoned or punished by Caesar he attempted suicide—he gutted himself with a knife in 46 BCE, but his friends found him and were somehow able to stitch him back together. Cato survived that attempt, but when he regained consciousness, he tore at his stitches and succeeded in killing himself.

There were still legions hostile to Caesar in Spain. Caesar defeated them, and in the process, killed his former war friend, Labienus, at the Battle of Munda in 45 BCE. With Spain pacified, Caesar could enjoy power. He had very little time to experience sole rule of Rome, however, for he was assassinated in 44 BCE.

Upon Caesar’s death, his admirers and loyalists took power in a Second Triumvirate. Octavian, Caesar’s grand-nephew (and adopted son), allied with Caesar’s trusted military aid, Mark Antony and the politician Marcus Aemilius Lepidus.

The Second Triumvirate hunted down the assassins who killed Caesar and also eliminated some of the people who criticized the deceased dictator. The great statesman and orator, Cicero, was assassinated in 43 BCE, and the main conspirators, Brutus and Cassius, who killed Caesar, were hunted down and driven to commit suicide after being defeated in battle at Philippi in 42 BCE.

The bloodshed continued in 31 BCE, when Octavian declared war on Cleopatra and Mark Antony. After Octavian’s victory in the Battle of Actium, Mark Antony committed suicide, and Cleopatra followed his example, soon after. With his competitors to power dead, Octavian named himself Augustus and became the first emperor of Rome.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

  • Julius Caesar by Philip Freeman. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2008.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Julius Caesar Suffered From Epilepsy or ‘Mini Strokes’

(Marble bust of Julius Caesar, c. 1st quarter of 1st century CE, photographed by Carole Raddato, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons (CC 2.0))

The life of Julius Caesar was recorded in great and lengthy detail. Caesar wrote an autobiography, describing his military journey through his war in Gaul, as well as the Civil War against Pompey, spanning across the Mediterranean Sea from Spain to Egypt. Despite his fairly accurate (but definitely propagandized) portrayal of himself in his autobiography, Caesar rarely mentioned his health.

Though Caesar was reluctant to write about the state of his health, many of the numerous people who witnessed the dictator took time to write down the odd symptoms of ill health that Julius Caesar would sometimes let slip.  Men such as Plutarch, Suetonius, Appian and Cicero witnessed and recorded Caesar facing sufferings such as convulsions, headaches or migraines, feinting spells and minor seizures. Plutarch openly diagnosed Caesar with epilepsy in his writings.

Now, new theories are being formed and tested. Doctors Francesco Galassi and Hutan Ashrafian have hypothesized that Caesar’s small seizures, convulsions and head pains were not symptoms of epilepsy, but of mini strokes. Nevertheless, as with many other obscure pieces of history over 2,000 years old, we can only continue to assume and theorize about the truth.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

  • Julius Caesar by Philip Freeman. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2008.

Monday, November 21, 2016

18th Century Pirates Had An Elaborate Family Tree of Relationships

(Edward Teach, originally from an engraving by Benjamin Cole in A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates (1724), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

Pirate leaders in the Atlantic Ocean, specifically off the coast of the Americas, during the 18th century were frequently related in some way, shape or form. They were not tied together through family lines, but rather through crews and companionship. A pirate captain would often sail with other pirate captains, and disagreements in the crews of pirate ships could lead crewmates to splinter from their current Captain to serve under another. With all of these captains sailing together, and all of the captains who split from an earlier pirate ship, it is easy to see how the Atlantic was filled with pirates who knew each other.

One of the best examples is to trace the pirates related to Benjamin Hornigold. He sailed alongside other captains named Cockram, Barrow, West, Jennings and LaBouche. Hornigold and his friends set up their own ‘pirate republic’ in the Bahamas, where they rested between their hunts for loot. Besides Hornigold and his immediate associates, other famous pirates such as Blackbeard, Bonnet, Davis and Rackam set up base in the Bahamas alongside around nineteen other pirate captains (and all of their crews).

Hornigold was one of the original pirates from whom many of the later captains would descend. Blackbeard, along with the captains, Bellamy and Porter, came from Hornigold’s crew, directly. Blackbeard would go on to create his own alliance with other pirates and have his own successor.

A better example of the spread of pirate relations is Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts. He was the successor of Davis, who sailed alongside Labouche, who was a companion of Benjamin Hornigold. During Roberts’ record-setting reign of piracy, he, himself, spawned three splinter pirate crews, captained by captains Kennedy, Skyrm and Anstis (this last captain was succeeded by a man named Fenn). The lineages of the crews aboard the ships of Hornigold, Blackbeard and Black Bart Roberts show that the pirate world of the early 18th century Atlantic was one giant, complicated family.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

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

Theodore Roosevelt’s Mother And First Wife Both Died On The Same Day

(Theodore Roosevelt in 1885, from the United States Library of Congress, [Public Domain-US] via Creative Commons)

At only twenty-three years of age, Theodore Roosevelt was elected as a member of the New York Assembly, and within three years he became one of the state’s most prominent politicians. He was a long way from considering a run for presidential office (he would later be the 26th President of the United States), and he was not yet a member of the ‘Rough Riders,’ that would become an iconic piece of his legendary persona.

No, in 1884, Theodore Roosevelt was a state politician content with his lot in life. He was happily married and anxiously anticipating his first daughter. By February, his wife was nine months pregnant.  His world, however, would be shattered on February 14th 1884, when he received devastating news—His wife and mother were both dead. His wife, Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt, died due to childbirth complication. Roosevelt’s first child, his daughter Alice, was born only two days prior. Theodore’s mother also died on February 14th.  She caught ill while tending to the needs of her pregnant daughter-in-law, but she never recovered and eventually succumbed to the illness.

Theodore Roosevelt fled from New York to face his grief in the Dakotas, where he ranched and lived the life of a frontiersman. He spent free time hunting the local wildlife, and even helped chase down a criminal. He proved to be a lackluster rancher, but the rough and gritty lifestyle brought Roosevelt back from his depression. He was ready to return to public life.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

  • PBS Documentary: The Roosevelts: An intimate History by Ken Burns.

The Mythological God Mithras Has A Lot In Common With Jesus

(Mithras tauroctony in Louvre c. 2nd-3rd century, By Jastrow (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Originating in either India or Persia, the cult of Mithras found welcome in Rome by the first century BCE, and even became a popular cult among the legions and emperors of the Roman Empire. The deity at the center of the cult was a bull-slaying god of light, but Mithras worship grew and adapted into a perfect imperial organization. At the cult’s greatest, most evolved form, Mithras was known as Sol Invictus, the Undying Sun. Constantine the Great, before converting to Christianity, was a life-long adherent of Sol Invictus, leading to wariness about the origin of his personally-named weekday, Sunday.
Here is a clean and crisp list of some similarities between Jesus and Mithras:
  • Mithras was supposedly born on December 25th, the same day Christians celebrate Jesus’ birthday.
  • The mythology of Mithras claims that he, like Jesus, was born from a mortal woman.
  • The cult of Mithras held a regular ceremonial meal of bread and water, similar to the Eucharist of bread and wine (or grape juice) used by Christian churches. Also like the Eucharist, the meal of the cult of Mithras also represented blood and body, though theirs was in reference to the bull-slaying myth of their deity.
Written by C. Keith Hansley

  • Read our article about the cult of Mithras and Christianity, here.

Julius Caesar Brought A Mime With Him On An Invasion

(Caesar Photo: Bust of Julius Caesar, remastered photograph from Alfred von Domaszewski Geschichte der Romischen Kaiser Verlag von Quelle & Meyer in Leipzig 1914, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

In 48 BCE, Pompey was assassinated in Egypt, leaving Julius Caesar as the sole surviving member of the former First Triumvirate that had dominated Roman politics. Though Caesar’s greatest military foe was dead, a massive coalition of soldiers and politicians still resisted Caesar’s rule.

Caesar arrived in Egypt shortly after the death of Pompey. There, he ended the ongoing Civil War between the Cleopatra and her brother (more specifically her brother’s advisors) in a bloody bout of urban warfare, and then moved north to crush an upstart king in Pontus. Only then, did Caesar return to Rome in 47 BCE.

While Caesar was cleaning up the east of his empire and enjoying the city of Rome, his enemies were gathering in North Africa and Spain. When Caesar had calmed Rome to a reasonable level, he began planning an invasion of Africa, where Labienus (a former officer of Caesar’s from the wars in Gaul) had gathered much of Pompey’s remaining forces. There, however, was a problem for Caesar—his men were superstitious about this upcoming campaign.

In the ranks of Labienus’ army was a descendant of the Punic War hero, Scipio Africanus, who defeated one of Rome’s greatest enemies, Hannibal Barca. Caesar’s men were wary of invading Africa with a Scipio on the opposing side. Caesar quickly found a remedy to raise the spirits of his troops—a Scipio of their own. To counteract the Scipio in Labienus’ force, Caesar hired Scipio Salvito, a professional mime, to accompany his army on their voyage to Africa.

With their morale boosted, Caesar’s men defeated Labienus in a massacre near the town of Thapsus in 46 BCE. After that, he defeated his enemies in Spain, and returned to Rome to fall prey to the hidden blades of treacherous friends and forgiven enemies in 44 BCE.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

  • Julius Caesar by Philip Freeman. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2008.

Polygamy in Ancient Macedonia

(Alexander the Great mosaic c. 100 BCE, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

Many ancient cultures practiced polygamy at one point in time, or at least condoned a semblance of concubinage. The Macedonia of Philip II (382-337 BCE) and Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE) still practiced polygamy, at least among the nobility.

Monarchies throughout history have used marriage to formulate alliances; nobles of Macedonia used the same technique, but they hardly stopped at one marriage. If a Macedonian king needed to keep three noble houses loyal to the throne, it would not be uncommon for the king to take a wife from each of the three houses.

Alexander the Great’s mother, Olympia, was not the only wife of Philip II. At the time of Philip’s death by assassination in 337 BCE, he had a large household of seven wives. Alexander, too, took several wives during his short thirty-three year life. He married Roxane (or Rhoxane), in 327 BCE, after her father surrendered the Sogdian Rock (somewhere in Afghanistan) to Alexander. Later, after the majority of his conquests were over, Alexander married a second wife in 324 BCE—she was a daughter of the deceased Persian King, Darius III.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

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