List of articles
All texts on Orientalismus were published in Czech. The short English descriptions serve only as teaser. Links to full English sources along with credits to their authors are always provided in each published text.
Published: May 15, 2016
Christianity arrived in Iran during the Parthian period. In the book of Acts of Apostles from the first century AD, it is mentioned that on "the Day of Pentecost at Jerusalem there were 'Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and inhabitants of Mesopotamia'. Early Christian records mention that Peter and Thomas preached the Gospel to the Parthians and men such as Thaddaeus, Bartholomew, and Addeus, evangelized the races of Mesopotamia and Persia. Christianity spread in both villages and cities and by the end of the Parthian period (AD 225), Christian communities were settled all the way from Edessa to Afghanistan.
Published: February 27, 2016
The Saint Thomas Christians refer to themselves in this way because their tradition holds that their ancestors, who all came from the high castes of Hindu society, were converted by the Apostle Saint Thomas, who landed in India in the year 52 AD. At present there is no way to scientifically prove or disprove this tradition. One thing is certain: ever since the discovery of the monsoon winds in 45 AD by Hippalos, an Alexandrian ship-captain, the land and sea routes were open from the Mediterranean via the Persian Gulf to India. Be that as it may, the tradition of Christ’s Apostle doing missionary work in India is the principal formative element of the identity of a large and flourishing (at present seven million-strong) community. Native tongue of St Thomas Christians is Malayalam, and their everyday culture and customs are typically Indian, yet language of worship and of high culture has been Syriac for many centuries. In fact, for this high-caste Indian Christian community Syriac had the same social function as Sanskrit had for the neighbouring Hindu high-caste society.
Published: May 23, 2016
Iranian Jews are amongst the oldest inhabitants of the country. The origin of Jewish Diaspora in Persia is closely connected with various events in Israel’s ancient history. At the time of the Assyrian king, Tiglath-pileser III (727 BC), thousands of Jews were deported from Israel and forced to settle in Media in Iran. According to the annals of another Assyrian king, Sargon II, in 721 BC, the Jewish inhabitants of Ashdod and Samaria in present day Israel were resettled in Media after their failed attempt to end Assyrian dominance. The records indicate that 27,290 Jews were forced to settle in Ecbatana (Hamadan) and Susa in South West Persia. These settlers are referred to as one of the ‘Ten Lost Tribes of Israel’ in Biblical records.
Published: July 16, 2016
First taught amongst nomads on the Asian steppes around 3500 years ago, Zoroastrianism is one of the earliest revealed religions and is of enormous importance in the history of religions. It has links with the ancient Vedic beliefs of India and even possibly to a remote Indo-European past. Zoroastrianism was the state religion in Iran from the 6th century BC to 7th century AD and influenced northern Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity as well as Islam.
Published: February 7, 2016
The Silk Road ran through what had been the Parthian empire and was now Ardashir's Sassanid empire. It was a road on which ideas spread. On it, Jews who had fled from their homeland, and after the Jews came Christians. Buddhist ideas came on it from India and mixed with Zoroastrianism. And into the mix of religious ideas arose a blend the various religions into a universalist faith: Manichaeism.
Published: May 19, 2016
In 1904, an announcement was made by F. W. K. Muller, the head of the German archeological expedition in East Turkistan that changed the history of Manicheanism. It was announced that the deciphered texts brought back from Turfan in Turkistan were Manichean writings. Subsequent discoveries of more texts in the same area in a number of languages – Chinese and Turkic texts in China and massive number of texts written in Coptic discovered in Egypt – forever changed the history and development of this religion.
Published: May 1, 2016
The Mandaeans (Subbiyun) have survived in the marshy area of the lower plains of Babylonia and have lived and continue to live basically in around Shat al-Arab and along the rivers that converge on it, Tigris and Euphrates, and the Karun, in the Iranian Kuzistan. The Mandaeans had settled for centuries in these distinct areas and lived in general in straw and mud huts. Today, there is in addition a significant Mandaean community in Baghdad too. With continuous persecution, the Mandaean Diaspora had has increased significantly. They make proficient goldsmiths, blacksmiths, carpenters (boat builders), shepherds and farmers. The Mandaeans have had always a special interest in the study of astronomy and mathematics just like their forefathers, the ancient Babylonians. The dean of translators in this aspect was Thabit bin Qurrah (ca. 836 – 901), who had a patron in the successor of al-Mutawakkil. He is credited with having translated into Arabic – in collaboration with his son and other disciples – the bulk of the Greek mathematical and astronomical works including those of Archimedes (d. 212 BC). Other known Mandaeans are Ibrahim bin Sinan, who was a famous engineer during the Abbasid period and Albutani, who was a mathematician and astronomer. Two of their best-known figures in modern Iraqi history have been Dr. Aabdul Jabar Abdullah, a well-known physicist and Malik Saif, aka Comrade Kamal, a distinctive member of the Central Committee of the Iraqi Communist Party during the middle of the 20th century.
Published: July 14, 2016
Iranians and Indians share the same ancestors identified as proto-Indo-Iranians. These people belonged to the Indo-European family of nations and lived as pastoralists on the Southern Russian steppes, to the east of the Volga. They formed semi-migratory groups herding their cattle, sheep and goats over small areas, on foot with help from dogs. Their society was divided into three main groups: priests, warriors and herdsman. From the fourth to the third millennium BC, the Proto-Indo-Iranians forged a significant religious tradition that has influenced their descendants: the Brahmans of India and the Zoroastrians of Iran. The two groups were very likely separated around the third millennium BC and became two distinct linguistic groups, the Indians and Iranians.
Published: February 4, 2016
If you've heard of cargo cults before, the version that you heard probably goes something like this: During WWII in the Pacific theater, Allied troops landed on islands throughout the South Pacific, bringing with them food, medicine, Jeeps, aircraft, housing, electricity, refrigeration, and all manner of modern wonders that the native populations had never seen before. But then the war ended and the troops went home, leaving just a few scraps behind. The natives, in a demonstration of Arthur C. Clarke's third law which states "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," concluded that such a windfall must have come from the gods. They wanted this wealth of cargo to return. And so they did what seems logical from a stone-age perspective: they set about to recreate the conditions under which the gods and their cargo had come. They cleared paths in the jungle to resemble airfields. They wore scraps of military uniforms. They made "rifles" out of bamboo and marched as they had seen the soldiers march. And always they kept their eye on the sky, hopeful that the gods observed their preparations and would soon return with more cargo.
Published: February 6, 2016
It’s shortly after dawn on February 15th on the remote island of Tanna in the South Pacific. The oppressive humidity and heat of the rainy season is already building, the pigs and chickens are slowly stirring, and – as on every February 15th for the last 45 years – one of the world’s strangest religious ceremonies is about to take place.
Published: September 1, 2016
Christianity begins with the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Church history begins on the Day of Pentecost. These Jewish Christians adopt a messianic theology and continue to follow the Law of Moses. Hellenistic Jews from all over the Roman empire were among the initial converts - conflict soon surfaced between the Palestinian Jews and the Hellenstic Jews. This represented the beginning of the church's struggle to reach out beyond it's original culture.
Published: September 8, 2016
The defining moment in the life of the primitive church came after the first true Roman persecution under Nero that led to the execution of the apostles Peter and Paul (circa 62-64 A.D.) followed shortly thereafter by the seige of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in the First Jewish War. For the next 250 years the Christian church endured periods of persecution at the hands of the Roman empire. It is important to realize that Roman persecution of Christians came in waves, tended to be regional in nature, and typically did not last more than a couple of years. The Romans were not always the inhumane savages we picture, throwing people into the pit with hungry lions. The Romans were basically cultured and disciplined, however warfare was an important part of that culture, and in war they were brutal, but only if you resisted them. To round up and imprison or kill citizens as they did from time to time with the Christians was not a popular act – many Romans were rightly disturbed when these pogroms were initiated – and some emperors refused to authorize such persecution (Vespasian or Nerva). Nonetheless, Roman persecution against Christians did happen.
Published: September 12, 2016
The third century began with a time of persecution under the emperor Septimius Severus. Severus, who secured his rule with the defeat of Clodius Albinus in 197, was a professional soldier and cared very little for the politics of the day. With a short and strong build, his leadership was consistent with an aggressive and ruthless general. Severus upheld the earlier rulings with regards to Christianity, thus it became illegal to convert to the new and expanding faith community. Although this has been disputed, it is certain that persecution erupted in Egypt under his rule. The strategy of the previous century was used - attack the leadership. Clement, the leader of the catechetical school in Alexandria, fled to avoid capture. He had discussed this line of thinking in his writing to oppose the emotional mentality of earlier martyrs who had freely offered themselves to the Romans to be imprisoned and executed.
Published: September 13, 2016
In the last quarter of the third century the Roman Empire went through several changes of leadership and the mood of the empire was for positive change. In 284 AD Diocles gained power and was declared Emperor Diocletian. He was seen as a conservative reformer, one wishing to take the empire back to it's historic roots. Diocletian cloaked himself with distinctions of imperial importance. Those who sought his audience had to bow three times in their approach; Dominus, or "Lord," became the proper way to address the emperor. Christians had become far more integrated within Roman life and culture, even serving in the military and government. Throughout the second half of the third century Christianity grew in almost all sectors of the Roman Empire. We have records (letters and notes from regional councils) of increasing numbers of regional bishops which speak of numerical growth; there are also a few non-antagonistic references to Christians in Roman governmental letters which speak to growing Christian influence (Christians were serving in the military and in local governmental positions). While it is true that Christianity was growing, it was not spreading as rapidly as some Church leaders (or Roman critics) wanted to think. It is true that Christianity had some presence in Britany and in Gaul, but there was very little gospel penetration into what is now central and northern Europe.
Published: July 22, 2016
Church history, in general, gives little prominence to the primitive community, which was formed in Jerusalem on Mount Zion and from which the message of Jesus went out to the entire world. The Gentile church of Paul, which was to guide the development of western civilization, has overshadowed all else. Jewish Christianity has been marginalized, even regarded as heretical. It has only been since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 (which brought awareness of the diversity within Judaism at the time of Jesus) and the co-incidental creation of the state of Israel that attention has been paid to the Jewish origins of Christianity.
Published: October 12, 2017
There is no denying that the Christian movement began as a completely Jewish phenomenon and developed over the centuries into the Gentile religion of Christianity. This “parting of the ways” is a fascinating chapter in the history of religions, and scholars still debate when the separation occurred as well as the historical, religious and social conditions that contributed to it. I do not intend to revisit these particular issues in this study, even though my conclusions may have implications for these important questions. My sole aim is to examine the growth of the Christian movement in the first century, and to determine in ageneral way the numbers of Jews who converted to it. It will be argued that, despite the evidence of Acts to the contrary, the Christian movement made very little impression upon the Jewish people. Its Jewish membership probably never exceeded 1 000 at any point in the first century, and by the 50s the Jewish members were quite likely exceeded in number by their Gentile counterparts.
Published: March 24, 2019
For many years we have had an image of those Gentiles who stood at the intersection of Judaism and Greco-Roman piety in the classical world; they are called the "God-fearers". In 1962 the classicists' primary reference work, Pauly-Wissowa, distinguished God-fearers from proselytes (i.e., converts). The God-fearers are more numerous: "they frequent the services of the synagogue, they are monotheists in the biblical sense, and they participate in some of the ceremonial requirements of the Law, but they have not moved to full conversion to Judaism through circumcision. They are called... sebomenoi or phoboumenoi ton theon". The Encyclopedia Judaica in 1971 stated that "in the Diaspora there was an increasing number, perhaps millions by the first century, of sebomenoi, gentiles who had not gone the whole route towards conversion."
Published: July 28, 2016
Interest in Jesus’ brother Ya'aqov, Anglicized as "James," is flourishing. Among recent contributions, one might mention a presentation of texts and analysis by Wilhelm Pratscher,1 a semi-popular treatment by Pierre-Antoine Bernheim,2 and a careful, innovative contribution from Richard Bauckham.3 These books represent vigorous attempts to recover a critical portrait of James. They all respond, directly and indirectly, to the controversial thesis of Robert H. Eisenman, who has argued over a number of years that James is to be identified with the righteous teacher of Qumran.
Published: January 7, 2018
Much contemporary Christian scholarship and popular media - Gibson's Passion of the Christ is a recent example - present Pontius Pilate as a weak figure with an incidental role in Jesus' crucifixion. Too spineless to stand up to the hateful Jerusalem leaders, he reluctantly allows Jesus to be crucified. Too lacking in intestitudinal fortitude to do the right thing and release an innocent man, he yields tamely to the death demands of Jerusalem's bully-leaders. Yet the Apostle's Creed, regularly recited in many congregations, has a different spin.
Published: July 30, 2016
Despite many interesting and intriguing differences among the gospels in their respective accounts of what happened when Jesus came before Pilate, they all share a common template. It is probably this scene more than any other which is responsible for almost two thousand years of Christian pogroms, murders, tortures and persecutions of the Jewish people. Sadly, the gospel accounts are at complete odds with the available historical data about the relationship between Pilate and the Jews.
Published: July 2, 2016
Which languages did Jesus speak? On what occasions were Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin spoken in that ancient community? Was Jesus multilingual? These questions have had biblical scholars searching for answers since the sixteenth century until today. Answers to these questions allow us to paint a portrait of the sociolinguistic situation of ancient Palestine and, consequently, influence our understanding and interpretation of the various elements and facets of early Christianity, the early church, and the text of the New Testament.
Published: September 25, 2016
Since Roman Palestine was flanked by two dominant international languages – Greek and Latin – it naturally became a “linguistic border.” The linguistic situation in Roman Palestine was particularly influenced by its key geographical placement as the primary passageway for trade within the Fertile Crescent, thereby “attracting merchants who spoke foreign languages to an area already populated by various ethnic groups.” Among such linguistic diversity Greek emerged as the dominant medium to disseminate the Christian message in both oral and written form.
Published: August 15, 2016
As one moves through the Gospels in the order of creation (Mark, Matthew, Luke and John) the image of Judas Iscariot, the alleged betrayer of Jesus, becomes increasingly negative. Despite this march of hostility towards Judas (and the Jews) there is some evidence that among the earliest Christians Judas did not have a negative reputation and was not seen as an evil figure. In this paper I want to look at a few text sources that suggest that among the pre-Gospel Christians Judas was seen as an Apostle in good standing after the death of Jesus. These include Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, a passage from Q, and a verse from the Gospel of Peter. And here we will examine them all.
Published: August 7, 2016
In searching for an apt analogy for how the second canonical Gospel has been received over the course of two millennia, one could look to movies that had a poor debut at the box office or television shows that suffered in the ratings yet later developed a significant cult following. Likewise, one could think of books that initially did not find a receptive audience, but eventually came to be regarded as part of the canon of great literature.
Published: September 3, 2016
As I have pointed out in book reviews and other articles, critics of Christianity and the NT will oftentimes make the point that alternative texts (typically the Gnostic ones) were systematically discriminated against by the early church. Usually the attack has a foundational position that these gnostic groups were another expression of early Christianity and the orthodox leadership suppressed them in order to seize, or hold, political and ecclesiastical power. This position isforcefully expressed by Bart Ehrman, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. My intention in this paper is to introduce some of these alternative texts of the first four centuries. This is a brief introduction meant to give the reader some idea of the content in these documents. This will enable you to engage with someone proposing the ideas represented by Professor Ehrman – I run into these people quite often (in person and online). They repeat his ideas, but unlike Ehrman, they have not read these documents and have very little idea what Gnostics and some of the alternative Gnostic-like Christian sects actually read and/or believed.
Crusaders in Levant - Society
Published: December, 6 2016
The Crusader States were founded in the wake of the First Crusade, so an understanding of the Crusades and their genesis is essential to any study of the Crusader kingdoms. Essentially, the Crusades were a series of campaigns undertaken by Christians in the 11th to 13th centuries to establish (or re-establish) control over the Holy Land (the sites of Christ’s passion), particularly Jerusalem. These campaigns were a response to the expansion of Islam, which had spread in the wake of invading armies that used the sword to impose Islam on previously Christian territory. Most – but not all – Crusades were fundamentally defensive campaigns that responded to aggression with aggression.
Published: December 3, 2016
Jerusalem was the site of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, and as such it was – from the beginning of Christianity – the Holy City. No city in Christendom, not even Rome, was considered so sacred as Jerusalem. The loss of Jerusalem to a Muslim army in 638 was a blow to all Christians, and the desire to regain control of Jerusalem was an overt or a latent goal of all subsequent campaigns against Islam. That it took 461 years was a function of inadequate capacity not lack of will. Below is a brief summary of why Jerusalem was in the minds of medieval Christians so much a part of their heritage.
Published: December 6, 2016
The First Crusade re-established Christian rule over some parts of the Holy Land, notably Antioch and Jerusalem, but the Western knights and noblemen who finally made it to Jerusalem felt they had been betrayed by the Byzantine Emperor. Instead of returning the territory they had captured to Byzantine control, the Crusaders established a series of independent states with Christian rulers: the Principality of Antioch, the County of Edessa, the County of Tripoli, and – most important – the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Initially, these "kingdoms" were little more than Christian-controlled islands in an Islamic sea, separated from one another by large swaths of Saracen-held territory. Between 1099 and 1144 the Christians steadily increased their area of control -- in many cases giving the defeated Muslim defenders of cities and castles a safe-conduct after surrender. By 1144, the Crusaders controlled the entire coastline of the Levant from Gaza to roughly Antalya. In short, the Crusader kingdoms covered all of what is now Israel, most of modern Jordan, Lebanon, and parts of Syria and Anatolia as well.
Published: September 18, 2016
The Crusader States established by the First Crusade in 1099 were distinctly different from the feudal societies from which the founders of these states stemmed. To be sure, leaders of the First Crusade sought to recreate familiar structures and customs, but they had to adapt these to the unusual circumstances in which they found themselves. The result was a hybrid-society composed of diverse elements, many of which were found nowhere else in the medieval world. Here we will look into the most unique of features.
Published: January 14, 2016
Throughout the existence of the Crusader States, pilgrims from the West flocked to the Holy Land, some in search of salvation, some simply “sight-seeing,” and some as “armed pilgrims” to offer their sword (or bow or axe) in the defense of the Christian territories. Many of these pilgrims wrote accounts of their travels, and many chroniclers in the West, whether they had personally been there or not, included impressions of the Holy Land obtained at second hand in their works. From the mid-12th century on, a hefty strain of critique and censure of the settlers in “Outremer” runs through many of these works. Each defeat, each unsuccessful Crusade, was routinely attributed to the sins of those involved: that is the Crusaders and the residents of the Holy Land. By the Third Crusade Westerners clearly viewed the residents of Outremer with suspicion. No previous set-back was comparable to the loss of the entire kingdom, including, obviously, the most sacred site of all, Jerusalem. Although men flocked to take the cross and the largest armies led by the most prominent rulers ever, before or after, set out on the Third Crusade, their objective was to rescue the Holy Land – not the kingdom or people who had occupied the Holy Land since the First Crusade.
Published: January 14, 2016
The crusader states, established at the beginning of the 12 century, rapidly developed unique political institutions and their own legal traditions. One of the most interesting ways in which they set themselves apart from contemporary societies was the prominent role played by women. In the surrounding Muslim world, of course, women had neither names nor faces, much less a voice, in public. In the Byzantine Empire, on the other hand, while women enjoyed considerable freedom, wealth, education and influence, they did not directly hold power. Western Europe the 12th century saw several very powerful female rulers, notably the Empress Matilda and Eleanor of Aquitaine, yet the crusader kingdoms stand out because the high status of women in the Holy Land was more comprehensive and institutionalized than in either the Eastern Empire or Western Europe.
Published: January 14, 2016
One popular misconception about the demography of the Crusader kingdoms prevalent today is that the Crusaders were a tiny Christian elite ruling over predominantly Muslim populations. That is not correct.
Published: January 22, 2016
Whether in films or in novels, the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem is most frequently depicted as a desert wasteland dotted with massive castles on barren hills. This image traces its roots at least in part to accounts by crusaders and pilgrims from Northern Europe, who found the Holy Land oppressively hot and comparatively dry. But those images are deceptive.
Published: January 23, 2016
The establishment of the crusader states along the coast of the Levant resulted in an economic revival of the region as pilgrims, merchants and settlers flooded into the territories re-captured for Christianity. What had been an unimportant backwater to the Ayyubid and Fatamid caliphates, whose religious, administrative and economic centers lay in Damascus and Cairo respectively, had suddenly become the spiritual heart of the Latin-Christian world. In consequence, not only did existing cities undergo an economic boom, but ancient cities gone to ruin such as Caesarea and Ramla were revived, and entire new towns and villages were built.
Published: April 7, 2018
It is still common for people today to believe that most noblemen and knights in "the Middle Ages" were illiterate. Even authors of otherwise quite credible historical fiction make this assumption about their knightly and even noble characters. In reality, the noblemen of Outremer were not only literate, many of them were highly sophisticated scholars and jurists.
Published: February 18, 2017
One of the most persistent myths about the Middle Ages is that people did not bathe regularly and went around dirty and stinking. This is demonstratively not true. The Medievalists.net have published a good and lengthy post on the topic, which provides a great deal of documentation and detail (such as Paris having 32 public baths in the 13th century and King Edward III installing taps for hot and cold running water in his palace at Westminster.) This entry is not intended to recount or compete with that or other sources, but rather focus on the unique traditions of "Outremer" or the Crusader States.
Published: July 12, 2019
In the end it was not Islam or might of some Saracen empire, but Templar wealth – and the greed of a Christian king – that brought down the mighty Order of the Knights Templar. It is one of the many ironies of history that a religious order so poor at its inception that the very “poor” word was incorporated in its name should not only gain wealth but become famed for its financial services. Cynics looking at the record of the Knight Templar might even be justified in suggesting that the Templars were better bankers than fighters.
Crusaders in Levant – military and battles
Published: January 21, 2016
For the nearly ninety years, between the founding of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the defeat of the Christian army at Hattin in July 1187, the armies of “Outremer” were substantial, surprisingly effective and nominally feudal. Yet their composition was far more complex than the term “feudal” implies. They always included “armed pilgrims,” for example, and with time the militant monks (i.e. Knights Templar and Hospitaller) became an increasingly important component. Most unusual, however, they were characterized by types of fighting men completely unknown in the West: Sergeants and Turcopoles.
Published: December 3, 2016
One of the most impressive and visible legacies of the crusader kingdoms were the castles erected by Latin rulers in their territories. T.E. Lawrence, famous as “Lawrence of Arabia,” disparaged the crusader castles as irrelevant and ineffective because these fortifications ultimately proved incapable of preventing the fall of the crusader kingdoms. Yet this is too facile a judgment. In fact, the crusader castles enabled numerically smaller fighting forces to withstand repeated invasions by numerically vastly superior armies.
Published: January 19, 2016
In December of 1182, during a truce between Salah ad-Din and the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem, pirate ships manned by an estimated 3,000 cut-throats suddenly started terrorizing trade and pilgrims in the Red Sea. It soon became clear that, to the astonishment of all, they were manned by “Franks” — that is Latin Christians. As such, they became the first Christian ships — lawful or otherwise — to be seen in the Red Sea in over 500 years. Because there had been no hostile ships in the Red Sea for five centuries, the Muslim rulers of Egypt and Arabia had no warships in the Red Sea to deal with the pirate threat. As a result, within a very short space of time these ships had completely disrupted the rich and vital trade between Egypt and India. Politically more dangerous: they had also disrupted the pilgrim traffic that converged on Jedda from all over North Africa for the final leg of the haj to Mecca.
Published: January 23 2016
On July 4, 1187, Salah ad-Din crushed the Christian army under the command of Guy de Lusignan. Of the estimated 20,000 infantry, 1,600 knights and maybe as many as 8,000 light cavalry (Turcopoles) who fought at the battle, only some 3,000 infantry and perhaps 300 knights escaped the carnage as free men. The remainder were either killed or captured.
Published: April 20, 2018
After the establishment of the Kingdom of Jerusalem following the First Crusade, pilgrims flooded to the Holy Land, but the situation was far from stable; many coast cities were under the kontrol of Arab emirs and the hinterland was full of bedouins. the secular authorities were unable to guarantee the safety of pilgrims who ventured out upon the dangerous roads from Jerusalem to other pilgrimage sites such as Jericho and Nazareth. In 1115 Hugues de Payens, a Burgundian knight, and Sir Godfrey de St. Adhemar, a Flemish knight, decided to join forces and form a band of sworn brothers dedicated to protecting pilgrims. They soon recruited seven other knights.
Published: July 10, 2019
The Teutonic Knights were founded much later than the Templars or Hospitallers and won their greatest fame and fortune fighting, conquering and ruling in northeastern Europe rather than the Holy Land. However, they had their roots in the siege of Acre, and throughout the 13th century, they played a very important role in the history of the crusader states. What follows is a part I of a short history of their role in the Latin East.
Crusaders in Levant - biographies
Published: January 24, 2016
Balian d'Ibelin was a historical figure, whose biography was significantly different from the Hollywood figure in Ridley Scott's "Kingdom of Heaven." What follows is a short synopsis of the known historical facts.
Published: December 12, 2016
Although Balian d’Ibelin is better known today, his elder brother Baldwin was arguably the more colorful and (initially at least) more important character during their lifetime. He reached for a crown but ended up renouncing all his honors and titles. He abandoned his wife and children to disappear from the pages of history, yet the daughter of the wife he divorced became a queen and founder of a dynasty that lasted more than 300 years.
Published: December 3, 2016
Maria Comnena was probably born in 1154 or 1155, the daughter of John Comnenos, Protovestiarius, the grandson of the Byzantine Emperor John II, and nephew of the ruling Emperor, Manuel I. As such she was a member of the Byzantine Imperial family, but not in direct line to the throne. At the time of her birth, Manuel I had already been Emperor of the Eastern Empire for over a dozen years. Manuel I consistently pursued a policy of cooperation with the crusader states, which included joint military operations, and a series of marriage alliances. In 1158, one of Manuel’s nieces, Theodora, was married to King Baldwin III of Jerusalem, and in 1161, Manuel himself took Maria of Antioch, sister of Bohemond III, Prince of Antioch, to wife. Finally, when Amalric I of Jerusalem decided to seek a second wife (the High Court had required him to set aside his first wife Agnes de Courtenay in order to be crowned king), he turned to the Byzantine Emperor. An Embassy was sent to Constantinople in 1165 to find a suitable candidate and negotiate the marriage contract. King Amalric’s emissaries spent the next two years in the Byzantine capital negotiating the marriage. From the surviving sources, it is impossible to know why the negotiations took so long, but Amalric’s emissaries and the Byzantine Emperor clearly had plenty of time to consider various candidates. Maria was either the most suitable or the most pleasing from the point of view of Amalric’s representatives.
Published: December 13, 2016
Raymond of Tripoli, the most powerful baron in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the last quarter of the 12th century, was a controversial figure in his own lifetime and remains so today. His independent truce with Saladin in 1186 threatened the very existence of the kingdom at a time when it was surrounded by enemies, and the Templar Grand Master accused Tripoli of conspiring with Saladin for a Saracen victory at the Battle of Hattin. In short, Tripoli has been blamed for nothing short of the disaster at Hattin and the loss of the Holy Land to Saladin. Yet, later historians such as Sir Stephen Runciman, have seen in Tripoli a voice of reason, compromise and tolerance in positive contrast to the fanaticism of the Templars and men such as Reynald de Chatillon. Tripoli was the inspiration for Ridley Scott’s “Tiberias” in the Hollywood film “The Kingdom of Heaven.”
Published: September 26, 2016
Baldwin IV of Jerusalem has gone down in history as "the Leper King," but reducing his reign to his illness is a great injustice. Baldwin IV was the sixth King of Jerusalem, and he came to power in a critical point in the history of the crusader states.
Published: January 16, 2016
Sibylla of Jerusalem, Queen of Jerusalem from 1186 – 1190, was a tragic figure. The antithesis of a power-hungry woman, she put her affection for her second husband above the well-being of her kingdom — and in so being doomed her kingdom to humiliation, defeat and almost complete annihilation.
Published: January 17, 2016
Guy de Lusignan has the distinction of being the man who lost the Kingdom of Jerusalem by leading the Christian army to an unnecessary but utterly devastating defeat at the Battle of Hattin in 1187. Such noted modern historians as Malcolm Barber, Bernard Hamilton and W.B. Bartlett argue Lusignan’s disastrous decision to abandon the Springs of Sephoria and march to the relief of the garrison of Tiberius in July 1187 can be explained by the fact that he was criticized for not taking the offense in the campaign of 1183. Guy they argue was in a difficult psychological position and had every reason to doubt the Count of Tripoli’s loyalty. They generally portray Guy more as a victim of circumstances than the cause of disaster. Indeed, it has become popular to blame the “disloyalty” of other lords rather than Guy for the loss of his kingdom. Guy’s contemporaries saw it differently. So who has the right of it? A brief resume of Guy de Lusignan’s career.
Published: September 23, 2016
Guy de Lusignan is rightly remembered as the king who lost the Kingdom of Jerusalem by his incompetent leadership in 1186-1187. He has accordingly received considerable attention in both serious histories of the crusader kingdoms and fictional treatments of the period. But Guy was not the only Lusignan to make his fortune in the Holy Land. On the contrary, he was following in the footsteps of his older brother Aimery, and it was Aimery, not the feckless Guy, who founded a dynasty.
Published: September 26, 2016
Reynald de Châtillon is often portrayed in history and historical fiction as a “rogue baron” — a violent, self-interested man in large part responsible for breaking the truce with Salah-ad-Din and so triggering the campaign that ended in disaster for Christian forces at Hattin in 1187. In the Ridley Scott film “The Kingdom of Heaven” he is depicted as little more than a madman intent on making war. Yet the noted historian of the period Bernard Hamilton has worked hard to rehabilitate Châtillon, arguing he was an intelligent strategist, who did much to save the Kingdom of Jerusalem rather than the reverse. What follows is a short summary of Châtillon’s life in the Holy Land.
Crusaders on Cyprus
Published: January 22, 2016
Richard I has gone down in history as the "Lionhearted" because of his military prowess, but most of his victories were ephemeral. The bulk of the Angevin Empire was lost in the reign of his brother and successor John, and the Kingdom of Jerusalem that Richard salvaged from obliteration in 1191-1192 was wiped off the map roughly a century after his death. But one conquest, an almost incidental conquest, proved enduring: it was the conquest of Cyprus in 1191. In just four weeks, Richard I seized control of the entire island, and within a year he had established a Latin kingdom that endured almost four hundred years until the second half of the 16th century.
Published: August 19, 2019
Cyprus was significantly different in character from the crusader states founded on the mainland of the Levant. One key difference lay in the demography. Whereas the crusader states in Syria and Palestine were inhabited by a patchwork of minorities adhering to a variety of different faiths, the Kingdom of Cyprus at the time of the crusader conquest was a homogeneous state inhabited almost completely by Greeks of eastern orthodox rite.
Crusaders in Greece
Published: June 14, 2011
On 13 April 1204 Constantinople fell to the Latins. On 9 May 1204 Baldwin I of Flanders was elected emperor and a few days later (16 May 1204) he was crowned in Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. According to the treaty of distribution of the territories of the Byzantine Empire, - of the empire of Romania and 5/8 of Constantinople were awarded to the Latin emperor, whereas the rest - of the empire were distributed among the crusaders and the Venetians and the 3/8 of Constantinople were granted to the Venetians. The Venetian doge was the only one among the crusaders who was exempted from the obligation to pay homage to the Latin emperor and played a decisive role in the election of the Latin archbishop of Constantinople Thomas Morosini. Moreover, as the owner of 3/8 of the empire he could exercise the right of veto in the election of the new emperor.
Published: May 25, 2011
After failing to be elected Latin emperor of Constantinople, the Lombard leader of the Fourth Crusade, Boniface of Monferrat (1204-1207) claimed the kingdom of Thessalonika. In August 1204, he signed a treaty of alliance with the Venetians, through which he became vassal of Venice and secured at the same time the support of the Serenissima in his confrontation with the Latin emperor. After a short, albeit violent, clash with the forces of the Latin emperor Baldwin I of Flanders in the region of Thrace (August or September 1204), Boniface paid fealty to the Latin emperor and received from him Thessalonika as a fief.
Published: January 10, 2016
After the departure of Boniface, William de Champlitte and Geoffrey I de Villehardouin continued the campaign in the Peloponnese. They captured Patras, Andravida, Pondikos (in Elis), Skorta (in western Arcadia), Navarino, Kalamata and by mid-1205 the nucleus of the principality of Achaia had been created.
Published: January 9, 2016
The bad situation into which the city of Athens had been brought was worsened by the arrival of the Franks, who destroyed and pillaged churches and monuments and did violence to the population. Athens was ceded to Otho de la Roche, who founded the dynasty of the Burgundian lords of Athens. The hegemony was seated in Thebes and included initially Attica, Boeotia, Megaris and later Nauplion and Argos. Otho shared with his nephew Guy the rule of Thebes, which was annexed to his jurisdiction after 1210–1211. The Burgundians maintained their family fiefs for more than a century. Otho, after governing his acquisitions for twenty years approximately, returned to Burgundy leaving his nephew Guy (1225-1263) as his heir. The latter became known by his involvement in the strife for the Euboean succession against William II de Villehardouin. In 1258 he was defeated with the Frankish coalition by William in Karydi, near Megara, and then went to Paris, where he received the title of the duke of Athens by the French king Louis IX.
Published: January 3, 2016
Surviving information as regards the conquest of the Aegean islands is contradictory. One hypothesis is that the islands had been conquered during a combined undertaking of Venetian nobles under the guidance of Marco I Sanudo, nephew of the doge of Venice.
Published: January 9, 2016
Among the regions that the Latin king of Thessalonika Boniface of Monferrat conquered during his campaign in south Greece was Salona (la Sole, la Sola), on the site of ancient Amphissa, near Delphi. The first count of Salona was Thomas I d' Autremoncourt, who built a castle on top of the fortifications of the ancient acropolis.
Published: January 9, 2016
In 1204 the Latin king of Thessalonika Boniface of Montferrat ceded Vodonitsa as a fief to the marquis Guy Pallavicini, whom the Greeks of the region called "Markezopoulos". The aim thereof was to defend the pass of Thermopylae and the territories of the Latin king in Thessaly and Macedonia.
Published: January 10, 2016
In the Middle Ages, the island of Euboea and its capital Chalkis were known to the Latins under the name "Negroponte" (and its variants). According to the treaty for the partition of the territories of the Byzantine Empire, the central part of Euboea was awarded to the Latin king of Thessalonika Boniface of Montferrat, who in 1205 ceded the island to three Italians from Verona: Ravano dalle Carceri, Giberto dalle Carceri and Pecoraro da Mercanuovo. The three barons were given the name triarchs (terzieri).
Published: January 16, 2016
The beginning of the Frankish conquest in the islands of Cephalonia, Zakynthos and Ithaca was linked with the personality of the powerful pirate (archipirata, princeps piratarum, "the then most powerful pirate of the sea") and admiral of the Sicilian fleet Margaritore or Megaritis, known to the chroniclers of the late 12th century. He developed significant activity as the trustee of William II, Norman king of Sicily. In Latin documents of 1192 and 1193 he signed in Greek, as Margaritos Vredesinos admiral count Melitios. Irrespective of Margaritos’ unclear descent, it is certain that William, after the Norman invasion of 1185 against the Byzantine provinces, granted him the new Norman acquisitions in the Ionian Sea.
Published: January 11, 2016
Leukas (Santa Mavra) did not keep pace with the history of the other islands of the Ionian Sea at all periods. In the 13th century it belonged to the despotate of Epirus. Most probably the island had been ceded to Giovanni Orsini, the son of the count palatine of Cephalonia and Zakynthos, on the occasion of his marriage to the daughter of the despot of Epirus Nikephoros II, who appears to be Epirus’ seigneur in 1300.
Published: January 16, 2016
The Genoese pirate Leo Vetrano detached Corfu from the Byzantine territories in 1199. After the destruction of the Byzantine Empire by the crusaders, the island came under Venice, on the strength of the Partitio terrarum imperii Romaniae (1204), which did not seem willing to allow the continuation of the dominion of a Genoese in an island that had strategic significance for its economic interests in the East. In 1207, the Venetians occupied the island and condemned the Genoese pirate to death.
Published: January 16, 2016
Information about the Dodecanese for the period between the conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders (1204) and the settlement of the Hospitallers (1309) in Rhodes is inadequate. The island was until 1309 a remote province located at the indefinite southeastern borders of the Byzantine state. Many Byzantine governors had alternated with Genoese admirals in the government of the island after the period of rule by the Gavalades (1204-1250), so the connection with the metropolis of Byzantium was loose. The Gavalades governed in Rhodes as independent rulers and had the right to mint their own coins. In 1306, the Genoese feudal lord of Rhodes Vignolo di Vigniolo agreed with the Knights Hospitallers that the latter would conquer 2/3 of Rhodes, Leros and Kos. The conquest of those islands was completed in the period between 1306 and 1309.
Published: August 2, 2019
The name Troy refers both to a place in legend and a real-life archaeological site. The idea that the city was Troy goes back at least 2,700 years, when the ancient Greeks were colonizing the west coast of Turkey. In the 19th century, the idea again came to popular attention when Heinrich Schliemann conducted a series of excavations at Hisarlik and discovered treasures he claimed to be from King Priam.
Published: April 16, 2017
As director of the excavations, I am continually asked if Homer's Trojan War really happened. According to the archaeological and historical findings of the past decade especially, it is now more likely than not that there were several armed conflicts in and around Troy at the end of the Late Bronze Age. At present we do not know whether all or some of these conflicts were distilled in later memory into the "Trojan War" or whether among them there was an especially memorable, single "Trojan War." However, everything currently suggests that Homer should be taken seriously, that his story of a military conflict between Greeks and the inhabitants of Troy is based on a memory of historical events – whatever these may have been.
Published: August 5, 2019
The depiction of Helen in both the Iliad and the Odyssey is not the evil, vain, greedy and sex-crazed Helen of Athenian theater but a dignified princess/queen and a wise woman. In the Iliad, Priam honors her, calling her "dear child", while Hektor, the paragon of Homeric virtue, shows her courtesy and respect. Most important, Menelaos takes her back to be his Queen after the fall of Troy.
Published: February 25, 2017
There is no clear explanation for the roots of Sparta's unique emphasis on silence, simplicity, and precision, although it probably had Doric roots. Doric architecture, for example, is the simplest of the three Greek orders. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that by the 5th century BC, Sparta had cultivated a tradition that put conscious emphasis on silence and simplicity over eloquence and decoration. What is often overlooked by modern commentators is that the silence cultivated in Sparta was not the silence of dumb animals, but of thinking men, who recognize that it is wise to think before speaking and to speak only when they have something worth saying. This is the essence of Spartan rhetoric and the reason it was so highly prized by philosophers such as Socrates and Plato.
Published: February 23, 2017
Spartan public education was the subject of extensive – and controversial – discussion even in the ancient world. No other contemporary state provided for, and in fact required, its citizens to attend public school. Unfortunately, because we must rely on descriptions of the system provided by outsiders, we have a kind of mirror image of the Spartan agoge. Observers reported whatever struck them as unique or different from education in their own cities, rather than reporting systematically about Sparta's system of education. Equally distorting for the modern historian interested in archaic Sparta is the fact that all our existing ancient sources except Xenophon describe the Spartan educational system as it was reinstituted in the Hellenistic period, after what may have been nearly a century in abeyance. It is often very difficult to distinguish traditional from innovative features of the described schooling.
Published: April 17, 2017
Throughout the Ancient world the relationships between men and women in Sparta were the cause of perplexity and consternation. Because of the unique status and behavior of women in Sparta, they were often perceived as having an "unnatural" and dominant role. Aristotle blamed them for Sparta's decline and an Athenian woman (perhaps somewhat jealously) asked the Spartan queen Gorgo: "Why is it that only Spartan women can rule men?" Gorgo replied: "Because we are the only women who give birth to men." To appreciate the unique aspects of Spartan marriage, it is helpful to remember what marriage was like for elites in other ancient Greek cities.
Published: March 11, 2017
Sparta, like most other cities in ancient Greece, initially followed an aggressive policy towards her neighbors. In two lengthy and bitter wars in the late 8th and early 7th century, Sparta subjugated its western neighbor, Messenia. Exhausted from this struggle, Sparta thereafter sought more subtle means of hegemony.
Published: February 18, 2017
Sparta was the capital of the city-state of Lacedaemon. The land area of Lacedaemon was larger than that of most Greek city-states, covering the bulk of the southern Peloponnese. It was an extremely rich territory with considerable natural resources, including copper and tin mines, quarries, forests, and good ports giving access to the Aegean and Ionian Seas. The fertile valleys of the Eurotas (Laconia itself) and Pamisos (Messenia) were suitable for the production of all essential foodstuffs of the ancient world, from olives to wine, as well as providing good pasture land for cattle, sheep, and goats. It was known for the variety of its garden vegetables, including cucumbers and lettuce, which were considered distinctly Laconian. It was famed for its horses and its Kastorian hounds, both of which were valuable exports, while the horses frequently brought Sparta victories at the Olympic Games. More important, however, unlike Athens and Corinth, Lacedaemon was self-sufficient in grain rather than being dependent on imports of this vital commodity – a critical political advantage. In short, Sparta's power did not rest on its military might alone, but was a function of its economic independence as well.
Published: August 6, 2019
Sparta, unlike Athens, was not dependent on the sea for its very existence. Because it was self-sustaining in food and other necessities from ore to wood, Sparta did not need to trade. Because Sparta was not dependent on trade, it did not need to control the trade routes. It did need to control its bread-basket Messenia, but that could be done with its army. Thus, far from being negligent or backward (as some commentators suggest), the fact that Sparta could deploy a fleet at all is rather surprising.
History of Africa
Published: May 12, 2016
In 730 BCE, the Nubians again invaded northern Egypt, and the Nubian king, Piankhi, moved his capital to Memphis and started Egypt's 25th dynasty. In Nubia, an Egyptianization of culture began, including the use of Egyptian writing – more of the world's cultural diffusions. Egyptian became the official language of Nubian government, and gods among the Nubians acquired Egyptian names.
Published: May 11, 2016
n the sixth century, the kingdom of Aksum (Axum) was pursuing trade and empire. Despite the disintegration of the Roman Empire in the 400s and the decline in world trade, Aksum's trade increased during that century. Its exports of ivory, glass crystal, brass and copper items, and perhaps slaves, among other things, had brought prosperity to the kingdom. Aksum extended its rule to Nubia. It expanded across the Red Sea to Yemen. It extended its rule to the northern Ethiopian Highlands and east along the coast of the Gulf of Aden to Africa's eastern-most point at Cape Guardafui. From Aksum's beginnings in the third century, Christianity there had spread. But at the peak of Christianity's success, Aksum began its decline. In the late 600s, Aksum's trade was diminished by the clash between Constantinople and the Sassanid Empire over trade on the Red Sea. Aksum was driven out of Yemen. Then Islam united Arabia and began expanding. In the 700s, Muslim Arabs occupied the Dahlak Islands just off the coast of Adulis, which had been ruled by Aksum. The Arabs moved into the port city of Adulis, and Aksum's trade by sea ended. Aksum was now cut off from much of the world, and in Aksum the language of trade – Greek – declined.
Published: May 7, 2016
The Songhai lived around Gao, on the Niger River, and they had built an empire that included Timbuktu and trade routes in the Sahara region. But after the mid-1500s they had weakened themselves in a common manner: dynastic succession disputes and, in the 1580s, by civil war. Also, Songhai's agricultural economy had suffered from draught and disease. The Songhai lost control over their long-distance trading networks. In 1590, the sultan of Morocco, Ahmad al-Mansur, sent troops with muzzle loading rifles, to seize control of the trans-Saharan trade in gold. They took the Songhai by surprise, and Moroccan guns threw the Songhai army into confusion. The Moroccans defeated the Songhai near Gao and went on to capture Timbuktu and Jenne. The Songhai empire broke into several independent states.
Published: April 30, 2016
By the 1700s most slaves had been transported from Africa across the Atlantic on British-owned ships. In Britain, a moral crusade against the slave trade staged by abolitionists like William Wilberforce was aided by greater literacy and printing, and Britain's parliament passed a law in 1807 against international slave trading. Meanwhile, plantation owners in the Americas and Africa continued to see slavery as an economic necessity, but in some instances it was economics that was diminishing the slave trade. In the 1700s the sugar industry had been expanding, with slaves doing the hard work in sugar production, but by the early 1800s a greater production and an increased supply without an equal increase in consumption of sugar dropped its market price and took a lot of the profit out of sugar growing. Growers were reneging on their loans. Bankers in Britain lost interest in investing in the sugar industry and in the selling of slaves.
Published: July 15, 2016
Egypt was a country in which both Britain and France were showing big interest. It was one of the areas of frequent investment of money by French capitalists, and the French and Egyptians had been digging a 106-mile long canal (171 kilometers) between the Mediterranean and Red seas, employing around 1.5 million Egyptian workers – a ten-year project that cost 125,000 lives. The canal was a largely French-owned company, with some shares owned by the Ottoman Empire's viceroy (khedive) in Egypt, Ismail Pasha. Late in 1869 the canal was opened for navigation, with access promised the ships from all nations for a fee. The canal provided British merchant and warships a shorter route to India and points farther east, including Australia. Giuseppe Verdi wrote an opera for canal's opening celebration – Aida.
Published: September 13, 2017
In 1796 began "the era of the war-lords", a chaotic period of power vacuum and wars among Ethiopian feudals, which lasted until 1855 when Tewodros II was crowned emperor. Tewodros tried to break tribal ties and discipline his army by paying them himself. He imported firearms and especially wanted artillery. He issued strict laws and executed bandits who refused to farm. He got his men to build roads by working along with them. Tewodros believed he had a religious mission and ordered Muslims to become Christian within a year, and he expelled Roman Catholics.
Published: December 27, 2015
The Nuba are a group of peoples who share a common geography in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan Province, known as Jibal al-Nuba or Nuba Mountains. The origins of most Nuba peoples are obscure, but there is no doubt that they are Africans. They arrived to the area from various directions and in the course of thousands of years. Today there are over fifty Nuba tribes, who speak as many different languages. Traditionally the Nuba are farmers, but they are now employed in all segments of society. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, labour migrants have formed large Nuba communities in the large cities of North Sudan, like El Obeid, Khartoum and Port Sudan. Their combined number is estimated at 2.5 million people.
Published: January 1, 2016
In a battle at Dongola in 652, the Makurian forces halted the Arab invasion of Nubia. The Baqt, a treaty concluded between the Arabs and the Makurians, allowed trade to flourish between Nubia and the Arab world for nearly seven hundred years. Caravan routes traversed the country from south to north and from west to east. The commerce attracted Arab merchants who settled among the indigenous people along the Nile. Arabs also found a place in the Red Sea Hills, where gold was found. Gradually, over a period of nearly a thousand years, the influence of the Arabic settlers grew. The slow process of Arabization and Islamization was hastened by the rise of the Funj Kingdom of Sennar.1 The Funj were Africans, who arrived in the area of ancient Alodia in 1504. Within decades, Sennar ruled over a large part of Northern Sudan. Its monarchy embraced Islam in 1523, inviting Muslim scholars and missionaries to spread the faith.
Published: January 3, 2016
Sudan declared its independence on January 1, 1956. The uneven development of South and North Sudan disturbed the build-up towards independence. The political process was dominated by Northern parties, who occupied nearly all Government posts. Promises were made and broken. The Southern demand for a federal state was brushed aside and the first National Government set out to unify the country by means of education. It took over the missionary schools in the South and in the Nuba Mountains, and started building new schools. Democracy proved unsuccessful: Northern political parties were too engaged in power games to address the problems of the country. Southern parties were too weak. In 1958 the army stepped in: Lieutenant General Ibrahim Abboud became president of Sudan (1958-1964). His policy for union: arabisation of the country and suppression of political opposition. When the missionaries turned against his Government in 1962, they were expelled from the South and the Nuba Mountains. The conflict between the Government and Southern opposition turned into civil war.
Published: March 25, 2018
There are few historical documents and archaeological data for this time period suggesting that East Africa had been known to the rest of the world. The earliest known historical record is probably that of Pharaonic Egypt, suggesting that East Africa was part of the land of Punt. Although scholars have been inclined to locate Punt north of East Africa, in the area of Somalia and Ethiopia, archaeology is shedding more and more light on this problem, suggesting that East Africa was Punt or a part of Punt. Egyptians themselves noted that there was a land of God beyond Punt; Hetshepsut claimed that she had been assigned the land of Punt, "as far as the lands of the gods, God's Land".
Published: April 7, 2018
Rhapta was an ancient port and also the capital of the ancient territory of Azania, then the coast of East Africa. Rhapta and Azania were reported in the Roman documents of the first three centuries AD. The documents include that of Periplus of the Erythrean Sea and that of Claudius Ptolemy’s Geography. Whereas scholars have doubted pre-Roman documents of the Greeks and Egyptians on their knowledge of East Africa, scholars have not doubted the Roman documents. From the time of Emperor Augustus Cesar the Romans had a firm control of the Indian Ocean all the way to India and beyond.
Published: April 15, 2018
This paper is another attempt to elucidate how the Graeco-Romans had extended trade links to the coast of East Africa and probably to the interior of East Africa. This undertaking is probably the first of its kind to collate a variety of archaeological evidence recently recovered from the coast and islands of Tanzania with existing Graeco-Roman documents.
Published: April 21, 2018
At its fullest extent, the Roman Empire stretched from around modern-day Aswan, Egypt at its southernmost point to Great Britain in the north but the influence of the Roman Empire went far beyond even the borders of its provinces as a result of commerce and population movements. Contrary to popular belief which holds that the Sahara Desert was an impossible obstacle to trade prior to the Middle Ages, the Romans had a robust and dynamic network of connections to Sudanic and Sub-Saharan Africa. Slaves, gold, foodstuffs, and spices were transported from complex urban settlements on the Niger river, onwards to oasis cities in the Sahara, before finally reaching Rome’s bustling ports on the coast of North Africa. Going in the opposite direction, gemstones, textiles, and coins reached cities along the fertile banks of the Middle Niger.
Published: March 13, 2011
Since the beginning of the revelation of the Qur'an that inspired and motivated Prophet Muhammad in 670 C. E., Africans have been pivotal figures in the development of Islam. Never in the history of Islam were Africans severed or dissociated from its glorious advent call the "Islamic expansion".
Published: March 13, 2011
It was said only when Haile Selassie came into power that the Ethiopian slavery in Ethiopia and/or the trade in enslaved people was firmly abolished. However many of his predecessor had seriously reduced the trade. This was done in 1924 in a bid to “clean-up” Ethiopia’s image for admission into the League of Nations. Ethiopian slavery differed from the plantation slavery of North America for example, in that it was essentially domestic. Slaves thus served in the houses of their masters or mistresses, and were not employed to any significant extent for productive purposes, Slaves were thus regarded as members of their owners’ family, and were fed, clothed and protected- but not paid any wage, either in kind or cash. They generally roamed around freely and conducted business. Freedom of religion and ethnic culture were also not restricted, they maintained their cultural identity, their names, etc.
Published: May 8, 2016
Before the American Revolution, Britain's navy protected its colonist tradesmen sailing from the Americas. By the 1770s one-fifth of the maritime trade from Britain's Atlantic coast colonies went to the Mediterranean in the holds of around 100 American-owned ships. One seaman from the British Isles complained that there was hardly a "petty harbor" without a Yankee bargaining with the natives. At this time in the Mediterranean, Arabic-speaking pirates were taking cargoes and hostages, collecting ransoms and dealing in slaves. Those whom the pirates kidnapped who had wealth usually won their freedom quickly with ransom money. This included women associated with wealth. They have been described as unusually not molested and as ransomed quickly. Money talked. But other captives suffered in prisons or roamed towns with chains on their legs.
History of North America
Published: May 1, 2018
When a relief party sent from England arrived at the Roanoke Colony on the East coast of the United States in 1590, they found the settlement neatly dismantled, and not a soul to be found. Some 115 men, women, and children had simply disappeared. The only clue was the name of a nearby island, Croatoan, carved into the trunk of a tree. And thus was launched one of history's great mysteries: The Lost Colony of Roanoke.
Published: August 1, 2016
On December 6, 1606, the journey to Virginia began on three ships: the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery. In 1607, 104 English men and boys arrived in North America to start a settlement. On May 13 they picked Jamestown, Virginia for their settlement, which was named after their King, James I. The settlement became the first permanent English settlement in North America.
Published: August 1, 2016
Not much is known about this memorable woman. What we do know was written by others, as none of her thoughts or feelings were ever recorded. Specifically, her story has been told through written historical accounts and, most recently, through the sacred oral history of the Mattaponi. Most notably, Pocahontas has left an indelible impression that has endured for more than 400 years. And yet, many people who know her name do not know much about her.
Published: August 4, 2016
When the English arrived in Virginia in 1607 and created the first permanent English settlement in North America at Jamestown, they did not encounter an uninhabited land. An estimated 50,000 Virginia Indians had called what is now the Commonwealth of Virginia home for more than 12,000 years. The tribes the English encountered first, and most often, belonged to the powerful Powhatan Chiefdom. The land occupied by the Powhatan Indians encompassed all of Tidewater Virginia, from the Potomac River in the north to south of the James River, and parts of the Eastern Shore. Before the arrival of foreigners, and their unknown diseases, the Powhatan Indians were estimated to have numbered 25,000.
Published: August 6, 2016
Near the end of the 15th century a remarkable new chapter in global history began. Several countries in Western Europe launched maritime expeditions of exploration, systematically sailing thousands of miles across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in search of new lands. Sailing the oceans was daring and difficult. And while it may be that other cultures - like the Chinese and the Polynesians - had previously sent out long-distance voyages to explore new areas, there is no evidence that this series of explorations began with the idea of bringing back more and more knowledge about the planet. The Europeans were interested in the size of the continents, their position on the globe, and their relationship to each other. The voyagers were also interested in the people who inhabited lands they did not know, and in the resources of those lands, resources that might be used in European markets. Global maritime exploration and the discovery of new lands and peoples lasted well into the 19th century. Perhaps the most remarkable new lands discovered were North and South America, which the Europeans called the "New World," for their existence had not yet been suspected in Europe. By the beginning of the 18th century, there were only a few regions of the globe they had not probed. One of these was the North Pacific Ocean where the first Europeans to explore the region were Russians.
History of Australia and Oceania
Published: September 28, 2017
Oceania is the site of many "lasts". It was the last area on Earth to be settled by humans, last to be discovered by Europeans, and last to be both colonized and decolonized.
Published: March 4, 2016
In 1767 a British ship commanded by Samuel Wallis anchored at the island of Tahiti. The island had a population estimated at around 50,000 (about 125 persons per square mile). Tahitians are said to have arrived in the Society Islands sometime in the 300s CE, while these islands were uninhabited by humans. What Wallis found in 1767 was a hierarchical society that was also communal and accustomed to conflict and war. Tahitians in a massive number of canoes greeted Wallis' ship. The British traded beads and other items for a new supply of food, and the Tahitians were interested in cloth and things of iron that the British had. The Tahitians understood well enough what private property was but they began taking what they could. In time, the British resorted to gunfire to protect themselves from thievery.
Published: March 5, 2016
In January 1778, Captain Cook and his two ships, the Resolution and the Discovery, were sailing from Tahiti toward the American northwest, and they came upon the Hawaiian Islands during an islander religious festival. The islanders associated Cook with the festival deity. Cook and his men traded with the islanders for fresh meat and filled their water casks. Cook named the islands after the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich. Two weeks after arriving, Cook departed with gifts of food, firewood and sacred objects. Cook sailed toward what today is called Vancouver Island. Cook was looking for a passage to the Atlantic Ocean. In the Arctic Ocean he was blocked by ice, and he began his journey back to England by crossing the Pacific and then the Indian Ocean. He stopped again at the Hawaiian Islands, hoping to do repairs there. This was in November, 1778. He stayed into February, and at the biggest of the islands, Hawaii, one of his small boats was stolen. A crewman eager with his gun shot one of the islanders, inflaming islander passions. Cook went ashore with some men to get the boat back. They failed to defend themselves adequately, and islanders killed Cook and four marines and dragged their bodies away – perhaps for a ritual meal.
Published: May 4, 2016
Around the year 1000, give or take a century or so, Polynesians today called the Maori arrived in what today is called New Zealand. They came in long twin-hulled canoes, each said to carry several hundred warriors, perhaps beginning their journey around Taiwan. The Maori settled in the Bay of Islands area, and soon they were moving to new locations in the land they called Aoterroa (the land of the long white cloud).
Published: May 5, 2016
In 1770, Captain James Cook sailed to New Zealand and charted its coastline. He claimed the area for King George III, and he missed the French explorer, Jean-François-Marie de Surville, who was anchored at Doubtless Bay. Cook sailed to the eastern coast of Australia, called by the English New Holland, which had been missed by the Dutch explorers in the 1600s. Captain Cook sailed up that coast and landed at Botany Bay. He sailed north and landed at Possession Island. Then he touched the nearby southern coast of New Guinea and headed back home to England. And for the next eighteen years, the British were distracted by a revolt in their American colonies and ignored Australia. Britain's prisons were overcrowded, and losing what became the United States and no longer able to send its convicts there, Britain began sending some of its convicts to the area in the southeast of the Australian continent they called New South Wales. It put 732 of its more unruly prisoners aboard eleven ships, and on January 26, 1788, these ships unloaded 1,372 people, including the convicts, at a place named after Lord Sydney, secretary of state for Britain's colonies. January 26 was to be celebrated every year in Australia as "Australia Day" – a commemoration of this landing.
Published: December 1, 2018
German influence in the Pacific dates from the early 1860s when the Samoan-based form Godeffroy & Sons established trading posts in many parts of Polynesia and Micronesia. Contacts were intensified and extended to parts of Melanesia (mainly the Solomons and the Bismarck Archipelago) in the 1870s. Following the German unification in 1871, a number of areas were subsequently annexed as protectorates and colonies, including the Marshall Islands (1878), North East New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago (1884), the Marianas and the Carolines (1898), Kiautschou (1898) and Samoa (1899).
Mutiny on the Bounty and Pitcairn Island
Published: September 17, 2016
Legendary Pitcairn, last refuge of Bounty's mutinous crew, is the remotest populated place in the South Pacific. This tiny colony, founded in 1790 by nine fugitive Englishmen and nineteen Polynesians, is presently more than 200 years old. It's one of the ironies of history that Pitcairn, born out of treason to the British crown, was the first Pacific island to become a British colony (in 1838) and remains today the last remnant of that empire in the Pacific. All four Pitcairn Islands – Pitcairn, Henderson, Oeno and Ducie – together total 47.4 square kilometers, however they control an exclusive economic zone of 800,000 square kilometers – an important reason why Britain is in no hurry to leave.
Published: January 26, 2016
After nearly two centuries and a decade the mutiny that took place on HMS Bounty on April 28, 1789, continues to command attention. In terms of mutinies it was not exceptional; as far as after-the-fact analyses are concerned, it is the most studied of all mutinies. Questions that may never be answered about Lt. William Bligh, Bounty's commander, and the ship's crew continue unabated.
Published: June 29 2011
Before 1956, our knowledge of what happened with Christian and his companions after they left Tahiti for the last time was based primarily on the accounts of sea captains who had visited Pitcairn and interviewed the last surviving mutineer, John Adams. For some inscrutable reason, no one seems to have interviewed the surviving women who, after all, spoke a passable English. It is possible, of course, that Adams did not want the women to be interviewed; he wanted to present what happened in such a way that he did not endanger himself. Adams, then, told different and conflicting stories to his interviewers who themselves may not have been very careful in their notetaking. We had no check on Adams’ stories until 1956 when Professor Henry E. Maude discovered two newspaper articles based on interviews with Teehuteatuaonoa, the first of the settlers. Teehuteatuaonoa’s accounts are more reliable than those Adams gave, if for no other reason than that she had nothing to hide.
Published: June 26, 2016
When they arrived at Pitcairn in 1790, the Bounty mutineers found and largely destroyed a number of structures they found laying about that had been left by those who had earlier occupied the island.The weight of archaeological evidence suggests that those who had inhabited the island were probably Polynesians. As an ever greater number of archaeologists visited the island, many other relics, particularly those that had been buried, were found.
Published: January 23, 2016
The Bligh family were resident in the parish of St. Tudy from at least 1680 and a John Bligh (or Blygh) of Bodmin was a commissioner for the suppression of monasteries in the reign of Henry IV. Bligh first went to sea in 1762 – at the age of 7, as a captain’s personal servant on board HMS Monmouth. He joined the Royal Navy in 1770 where he served on HMS Hunter and became a Midshipman in 1771, serving on HMS Crescent and HMS Ranger. He was an intelligent man, well-versed in science and mathematics, and was also a talented writer and illustrator. He became Sailing Master on the Resolution, commanded by Captain James Cook, quite an achievement as he was only 22 years of age. It is rumored that when not at sea, Bligh was the ‘bouncer’ at the Cornish Arms public house in St. Tudy.
Published: January 25, 2016
The mutiny on the Bounty is perhaps the best known of all stories from the era of wooden ships. Fletcher Christian, the infamous officer responsible for the affair, is believed to have died on Pitcairn Island, where he and the other mutineers took refuge. Yet some say his death was faked, and he did in fact make it back to England. Today we'll point the skeptical eye at these stories, and see if we can learn for certain where Fletcher Christian made his final atonement.
Published: March 13, 2011
We know there was religious practice on Pitcairn long before the coming of the Bounty sailors and their companions in the late 1700s. We don't know much of anything about the type of religious practice of pre-mutineer times, unless we can presume that it closely followed that of the Polynesians to the north and west of Pitcairn, or perhaps even some of the people from the east. However there was much evidence found on the island in earlier years of religious artifacts and implements. Unfortunately most of it has been destroyed or otherwise lost. Once Fletcher Christian and his companions began their occupation of Pitcairn religion seemed to play only a small and insignificant role in their lives.But, again, unfortunately, little is recorded for us about the first two decades of Pitcairn life after the occupation by the mutineers. It was not until the rather strange and marvelous life change that came to John Adams that religion seems to have become a significant part of Pitcairn life. Once he had decided that religion held the promise of a better life for the little colony on the island, Adams lost no time in implementing what we would call strict religious practice.
Published: January 30, 2016
The end of French colonial rule in Indochina marked the beginning of the American effort to create a separate and strong state in Vietnam. The purpose of this nation building was to thwart Communist expansion. The United States would measure success by the Vietnamese government’s ability to incorporate all elements of society into the new state. The Saigon regime repeatedly experienced great difficulty in commanding the allegiance of South Vietnam’s Buddhists, and in 1966 a serious clash erupted between Buddhists in central Vietnam and the Saigon government.
Published: March 13, 2011
The Vietnamese Marine Corps had its origin during the period of French control in Indochina. The 1949 Franco-Vietnamese Agreement stated that the Vietnamese Armed Forces were to include naval forces whose organization and training would be provided by the French Navy. In 1951, the French proposed a development plan for the Vietnamese Navy, which called for the formation of two naval assault divisions under French command. In March, 1952, French Imperial Ordinance No. 2 was promulgated, officially establishing the Navy of Vietnam. The following year the two naval assault divisions were activated. In 1953, the French and Vietnamese governments agreed to increase the Vietnamese Army to 57 light infantry battalions for offensive operations. As such operations were to extend into the coastal areas of Vietnam, an increase in the size of the Vietnamese Navy was also deemed necessary. While considerations were underway to decide if the river flotillas should be under the control of the Army or Navy, French Vice Admiral Auboyneau proposed for the first time the organization of a Vietnamese Marine Corps.
Published: March 13, 2011
As the sister-in-law of South Vietnam’s bachelor President Ngo Dinh Diem, Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu considered herself the nation’s first lady and was by far the country’s most famous and influential woman. No stranger to controversy, and thriving on publicity, Madame Nhu had the complete support of President Diem and, eventually, the complete loathing of President John F. Kennedy and the government of the United States. This is the story of ride and fall of madam Nhu, otherwise known and "the Dragon Lady of South Vietnam".
Published: June 19, 2016
The war in Vietnam ended as it began: an armed conflict between Vietnamese factions. The price of losing a civil war is always high. Some saw no future in the new Communist state. Many left, either by choice or by force. The exodus began in 1975 and continued into the 1980s. Although commonly referred to as ‘boat people,’ refugees departed Vietnam by air, land and sea. Different groups left for different reasons. The largest of these refugee groups were ethnic Chinese known in Vietnam as Hoa.
Published: February 6, 2016
It was 1985 when John Rambo peered through the jungle greenery and saw a bamboo cage full of aging Americans, dirty, sweaty, and bearing fresh wounds from their daily beating. Vietnamese guards paced the compound, as they had for the past 15 years, despite the war having ended over a decade earlier, and there remained little useful intelligence to be gained from interrogation. It was Hollywood's envisioning of the rumor that American POW/MIAs (Prisoner of War, Missing in Action) are still held captive somewhere. To some, it's a way of holding out hope that a loved one is still alive and may even make it home someday. To others, it's another conspiratorial evil of the American government, which is alleged to know that the prisoners are out there but refuses to acknowledge them or make any effort to bring them home.
Published: March 13, 2011
When I was eight years old, I sang in a children's choir. The conductor would announce proudly, “And now, with lyrics by the famous children's poet Sergei Mikhalkov and music by Hungarian Communist Ferentz Sabo — a song about Pavlik Morozov!” What was the deed that made him a hero? In 1932 Pavlik Morozov exposed his father Trofim Morozov as an “enemy of the People.” He informed the OGPU (as the KGB, or Soviet secret police, was then called) that his father was helping the kulaks, successful peasants who refused to relinquish their land and livestock to the State as was required by the Collectivization Plan, and was therefore branded as an enemy of Socialism. Pavlik's father was arrested, tried, and sent to a concentration camp, never to be seen again. Soon after his father's trial, Pavlik was murdered by “enemies of the State.” After his death, he was hailed as a hero of the people.
Published: July 17, 2016
Ernesto "Che" Guevara became a leading figure in Latin America advocating revolution. As Castro's Minister of Industry he lectured workers about the need to work for more than material well being. He called on Cuba's workers to sacrifice for socialism. He rounded up idlers – people hanging on street corners or in movie houses – for labor brigades. Socialist revolution, he said, was under attack, and sacrifices and a dictatorship of the workers was necessary to push through to eventual victory. Che Guevara called himself a Marxist-Leninist. He used the words contradiction and objective a lot, as some Marxists did, as in his phrase "the objective and historically inexorable reality of the Latin American revolution."
Published: March 13 2011
The cover of the Time Magazine (April 9 1952) showed a photo of Batista with a Cuban flag behind him, and the caption: "Cuba's Batista: he got past Democracy's sentries." Ironically, that was not the first time that Batista had bypassed the process of Democracy, with the full blessing and encouragement of its self-appointed guardians. Twenty years earlier Batista had become the strongman that would come to symbolize the heart and soul of Roosevelt's "Good Neighbor Policy."
Published: March 13, 2011
Theodore Herzl's pamphlet Der Judenstaat, The Jewish State, was published in 1896. It heralded the coming of age of Zionism. Several articles and books advocating the Zionist idea had appeared beginning in the 1840s, and small Zionist groups such as Hovevei Tzion (Lovers of Zion) had begun recruiting immigrants to Palestine, but no group had a coherent plan or modern ideology. Herzl's plan for creating a Jewish State, arrived at after contemplating other solutions as well, provided the practical program of Zionism, and led to the first Zionist congress in Basle, Switzerland, in August, 1897.
Published: May 2, 2016
How did the British Isles succeed in identifying the three historically separate peoples of Scotland, England, and Wales under one political British identity, asked Michael Gunter in his book The Kurdish Predicament in Iraq: A Political Analysis? When the notion of “Britishness” was constructed by the elite and articulated during the 18th century, it succeeded to trickle down to the common people of society. The rise in ethnically based nationalism spread quickly among the subjects of the Hapsburg emperors, Romanoff tsars, and Ottoman sultans. Hapsburg Emperor Joseph II was desperately trying, at the time when Poland was being partitioned, to keep a solidarity similar to that portrayed by the people of the Revolutionary France, while Abdul Hamid tried to articulate his own formula to hold his empire together through the principles of Islamic religion and the institution of the sultanate, but with no success in either case.
Published: March 15, 2017
There have always been pirates in the ancient world, but in the second half of the second century BCE, they became really dangerous and started to destabilize the Mediterranean world. The pirates' nests were Baleares and Crete, and at a later stage western Cilicia as well. Desperadoes from all countries flocked to these regions and started a new life as pirate. Typically, the pirates attacked the slow trading vessels and captured the crew. The large and unwieldy grain ships, which carried hundreds of tons of Egyptian wheat to Italy, were among their favorite targets. Usually, the captives were brought to the island Delos in the Aegean sea, the center of the international slave trade. It is recorded that on at least one occasion, no less than 10,000 people were sold on a single day. They were now transported to Italy and found work at the plantations of the rich Roman senators and knights.
A Comparative analysis of battle of Littlebig Horn and Isandlwana: Similarities between American Indians and Zulu
Published: August 13, 2017
From the military viewpoint, the similarities between the Zulu nation and the Plains Indian tribes are striking. Although the Zulu fought as a light infantryman and the Cheyenne and Sioux as light cavalry, there are many parallels between their respective weaponry and techniques. The basic armament of the Zulu impis was the stabbing spear, they also used knobkerries, axes and throwing spears and had a few guns. There was a larger variety in weaponry available to the North American Indians, but none of it was really superior to that of the Zulu. The Plains tribes had tomahawks, knives, war clubs and lances for hand to hand combat and bows, throwing spears and some rifles for longer range work. The arms of the two groups were essentially equivalent. One noteworthy point of difference is that while both groups had rifles, the average Zulu was not a particularly good shot and the Plains Indian tended to be a very accurate marksman.
Published: August 18, 2017
On July 13, 1859 Juan Cortina became the Robin Hood of the border to some and a hated villain to others. While in Brownsville Cortina witnessed the humiliation of a former employee, in which Bob Shears an ex-Texan-Ranger pistol whipped the victim until he bled, and decided to avenge the injustice. Cortina shot Shears, took care of his former employee, and fled to Mexico. Two months later Cortina led over seventy followers, most of them Tejanos, and attacked Brownsville. In this attack they freed a dozen jailed Tejanos, killed three Anglos, and rode out while shouting "Mueran los gringos". In the immediate time Cortina's actions prompted many Tejanos to join his fight but in the long run it caused a lot of hardship for Tejanos in Texas. It caused retaliation by Anglos for decades to come, remembering the actions of Cortina. Although his fight was ethic and by all means reasonable, it caused Tejanos to feel the wrath of the Anglos until the 20th century.
Published: September 8, 2017
Sudan, once the largest and one of the most geographically diverse states in Africa, split into two countries in July 2011 after the people of the south voted for independence. The government of Sudan gave its blessing for an independent South Sudan, where the mainly Christian and Animist people had for decades been struggling against rule by the Muslim north. After the secession of the South, the Republic of Sudan became the third largest Arabic speaking country in region. Sudan is also a diverse country combining a variety of ethnicities and cultures. The country has attracted considerable media attention through time as a result of her dreadful series of civil wars.