viernes, 20 de abril de 2018

The Normans and William the Conqueror (part I).





The White Tower, built by William the Conqueror, London UK. Photo: Stephan Brunker. German Language Wikipedia
Permission GNU FDL

The review and study of historical processes is a fascinating task. When establishing any sequence of events which led to the great happenings of human history, we often may find some patterns. It seems as if everything followed some kind of script, to get those results. Is amazing to realize how the slightest variation on a simple link of that chain of events, might have produced completely different consequences. A "what if..." question many times arises, opening the doors to the imagination. 

At the same time some predestined people emerge, no matter their origin. They seem to take a road which always leads to put them in front of the main historical changes... for better or for worse. Is interesting to consider if each sequence of facts may create its own characters. On the other hand, might they be who showed the way, with their decisions and acts? Could it exist somehow, a mid point between those extremes? Sure it is a subject for endless debates.

viernes, 13 de abril de 2018

La Revista del Viajero Entre Historias N° 1




Conjunto escultórico en el Campidoglio, Roma. Foto: Daniel Delgado



           Editorial.

Hoy empezamos con nuestra publicación periódica de viajeroentrehistorias@blogspot.com. Al darles la bienvenida, aprovechamos de invitarles a hurgar en el pasado, con la curiosidad y la emoción que nosotros también sentimos. Además con la intención de que los hechos de ese pasado nos sirvan de entretenimiento y de utilidad gracias a las enseñanzas que puedan brindarnos. Tendremos secciones de curiosidades, de efemérides, de Historia en imágenes y videos. Frases célebres, mini biografías y datos interesantes: Que hubiese ocurrido si... También preguntas, para revisar conocimientos. Leyendas, mitología y hasta noticias de actualidad en arqueología e investigación histórica. Por supuesto, siempre serán bien recibidos sus comentarios, para así mejorar nuestra publicación y hacerla del gusto de todos ustedes. Saludos y mi agradecimiento por seguirnos. 


                   
             La Imagen Histórica.



Por: Jacob Abbott, 1849. History of Julius Caesar
Fuente: http://gutemberg.net.au


El 10 de enero del año 49 aC. Cayo Julio César decidió cruzar el río Rubicón, que era la frontera entre Roma y La Galia. Estaba prohibido atravesar esa frontera con tropas, sin autorización del Senado. Con esa acción se declaró enemigo de la República y se dió inicio a la 2a Guerra Civil de Roma. Durante esa acción se atribuye a César la frase: "La suerte está echada", (Alea Iacta Est).






Batalla de Maratón. Foto por Tilemahos Efthimiadis, 2010. Conmemoración de los 2500 años de la batalla.
Fundación del Parlamento Helénico, Atenas, Grecia. Lic. Creative Commons Att. 2.0 Generic.

El año 490 aC. en la llanura de Maratón, con la derrota del ejército persa de manos de las fuerzas de Atenas y sus aliados, ocurrió el desenlace de la Primera Guerra Médica. El rey Darío I pretendía castigar a los atenienses por su apoyo a las revueltas jónicas. Con esa victoria, los griegos acabaron con el mito de la invencibilidad persa, y ciertamente cambiaron el curso de la historia. Según la tradición, Fidípides corrió los cuarenta y dos kilómetros desde el lugar de la batalla hasta Atenas, para dar la noticia de la victoria, muriendo al cumplir esta misión. En su honor se instituyó esta competencia dentro de los juegos olímpicos.
  


La rendición de Granada. Por: Francisco Pradilla Ortiz, 1882.
Senado de España.
Boabdil entrega las llaves de Granada, el último reino árabe en España, a los reyes Católicos: Isabel I de Castilla y Fernando II de Aragón, el 2 de enero de 1492. Así pusieron fin a la Guerra de Granada, con un armisticio, en principio generoso para con los musulmanes... 



Rendición del general Lee, en el juzgado de Appomattox, en 1865.
Por Thomas Nast.  http://38ccda.medialib.glogster.com en www.granger.com

El final oficial de la cruenta Guerra de Secesión tuvo lugar el 9 de abril de 1865 con la firma de la rendición del general confederado Robert Edward Lee, ante el general de la Unión Ulysses S. Grant, en el juzgado de Appomatox, Virginia, USA.  En un gesto de caballeroso respeto, al general Lee le fue concedido que conservara su sable y su caballo... Apenas cinco días después de esta firma, el presidente Abraham Lincoln fue asesinado! El 23 de junio de ese año otro general, Stand Watie, firmaría su rendición, convirtiéndose en el último de su bando en aceptar la derrota.





Clío, la musa de la historia por Vermeer, ca. 1666 (detalle).
{{PD-US}}



 Efemérides de abril... 

  2       1939       Francisco Franco firma el último parte de la                                                        Guerra Civil Española, Comienzo de la dictadura.                                        
            2005       Fallece Juan Pablo II.

  4        1968       Asesinato de Martin Luther King.

  6        1896       Se inauguran los primeros Juegos Olímpicos                                                     de la Era Moderna, en Atenas, Grecia.

            1917       USA entra en la 1a Guerra Mundial.
                 
            1992       Fallece Isaac Asimov. 
                 
  8        1973       Fallece Pablo Picasso.

 11       1899      España cede Filipinas, Puerto Rico y Cuba                                                          a los Estados Unidos de América.                                   

 12       1961      Yuri Gagarin se convierte en el 1er hombre en                                                    el espacio. 

 15       1452      Nace Leonardo da Vinci.

               1912      Hundimiento del Titanic.

 16        1889      Nace Charles Chaplin.

 17        1492      Firma de las Capitulaciones de Santa Fe.

                2014      Fallece Gabriel García Márquez.

 18        1955      Fallece Albert Einstein.

 19        1775     Se inicia la Guerra de Independencia de USA.

                1810     Se produce la rebelión en Caracas, en contra                                                    del Capitán General Emparan.
                                  
 20        1889      Nace Adolf Hitler.

                1993      Fallece Mario Moreno (Cantinflas).

 22        1500      Álvarez Cabral llega a las costas de Brasil.

                1616      Fallece Miguel de Cervantes.

                                  Fallece William Shakespeare (cal. Juliano).
 
 26        1937       Bombardeo de Guérnica.

                1986       Explosión en Chernóbil.

 30         1789       George Washington jura como 1er presidente de                                                 USA.

                 1945       Se suicida Adolf Hitler.





          Curiosidades de la Historia.



Guillermo el Conquistador. Falaise, Francia.
Foto por: Man vyi, 2012

Durante la conquista de Inglaterra por los normandos, ocurrieron secuencias de acontecimientos sin los cuales, la probabilidad de haber llegado al mismo resultado final, hubiese sido pequeña. Entre los más notables, se encuentra el paso del Canal de la Mancha, o Canal Inglés, por la gran flota de Guillermo el Conquistador. Transcurrió todo el mes de agosto, esperando vientos favorables para la flota invasora, para así llegar al sur de la isla británica. De haberse logrado el cruce del canal durante ese mes, las fuerzas sajonas del rey Harold les hubiesen estado aguardando, más que dispuestas con todo su poderío, haciendo muy difícil el desembarco...


El viento favorable llegó justo a tiempo para encontrar al grueso del ejército defensor en el norte lejano, adonde debieron acudir para enfrentar... otra invasión. Más oportuno para los planes de Guillermo de Normandía, ¡imposible!


La Conquista de Inglaterra. Indica el lugar del desembarco,
el lugar al norte de la Batalla de Stamford Bridge, y el lugar
de la Batalla de Hastings, con sus fechas.
Diseño: Alonso de Mendoza, 2012.  
La flota normanda arribó a la costa sur de Inglaterra el 28 de septiembre de 1066, tres días después de la victoria sajona en Stamford Bridge. Sólo gracias a extenuantes marchas forzadas, éstos pudieron llegar frente a los invasores el 13 de octubre. La ansiedad del rey Harold II de Inglaterra, le llevó a librar la decisiva batalla de Hastings frente a un descansado ejército normando, estando en clara desventaja.


Hay que agregar que de haberse prolongado la ausencia de viento a favor hasta el invierno, lo más probable es que el ejército normando se hubiese quedado varado e inoperante, terminando por disgregarse. Reunir nuevamente esa fuerza en la primavera siguiente, habría resultado muy difícil...

Podría decirse que la naturaleza y la suerte, actuaron a favor del tenaz Guillermo el Conquistador, incidiendo de una manera evidente en el curso posterior de los acontecimientos. Sin duda alguna, éste fue un momento importante en la historia de la humanidad. Pero... ¿cuánto influyó el azar? 




          Sabía Usted Que...



Plaza de San Pedro en el Vaticano, Roma. Por: David Iliff 2007
Lic: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Desde la antiguedad, los obeliscos egipcios han ejercido un magnético poder de atracción sobre los seres humanos. Y en verdad son piezas especiales, verdaderas joyas del ingenio humano. Inmensas moles, construídas de una sola roca, que desafían el paso de las edades. A pesar de su peso, estamos hablando de varios cientos de toneladas, la gran mayoría de ellos fueron sacados de Egipto, donde hoy sólo quedan tres: uno en Heliópolis y dos en la antigua Tebas. En Europa, en USA y en Estambul podemos admirar la mayor parte de esos gigantes pétreos. En Nueva York existe un obelisco de 96 pies de altura, que está en el Parque Central y es conocido como la Aguja de Cleopatra... sin embargo, curiosamente ese obelisco fue construído unos mil quinientos años antes de la hermosa reina, ¡en los tiempos de Hatshepsut!




La "Aguja de Cleopatra", Parque Central
Nueva York, USA. Por: J.M. Luijt
Lic: CC-BY-2.5-NL

La más alta de estas "agujas", que existe en nuestros días está en Roma y mide 105 pies. Sin embargo, más llama la atención el que se encuentra en la Plaza de la Iglesia de San Pedro, en Roma. ¿Por qué un monumento pagano fue a dar al punto central de la cristiandad? Tal vez lo hemos contemplado muchas veces, sin reparar en ese detalle paradójico.


Circo de Nerón. Grabado por Pietro Santi Bartoli, 1699.
  {{PD-US}}

En el año 40 de nuestra era, ese obelisco fue transportado a Roma por orden del emperador Calígula, terminando por ser colocado en el Circo de dicho emperador, posteriormente denominado el Circo de Nerón. Pues bien, según la tradición, San Pedro llegó a ser obispo en Roma y murió como un mártir en las arenas de dicho circo, posiblemente a la sombra del obelisco del cual hablamos. Su cuerpo fue sepultado cerca de ese sitio, y en el siglo IV sobre su tumba fue levantada una basílica, por orden de Constantino el Grande. En el año de 1585, el Papa Sixto V ordenó el traslado del obelisco al lugar en el que hoy se encuentra. Es un homenaje a San Pedro, eso explica la aparente contradicción. Existen muchas tradiciones y leyendas alrededor de él, y es un objeto en verdad interesante. La próxima vez que lo vean, no dejen de reflexionar sobre todo eso... 


Levantamiento del obelisco del Vaticano, en 1586.
Por Niccola Zabaglia, 1743. Fuente:saintpetersbasilica.org
{{PD-US}}
 





           Frases Célebres.



"Vale más hacer y arrepentirse, que no hacer y arrepentirse". 
Nicolás Maquiavelo, Italia (1469-1527).

"El único hombre que no se equivoca es el que nunca hace nada". Johann W. Goethe, Alemania (1749-1832).

"El éxito tiene muchos padres, pero el fracaso es huérfano".
John F. Kennedy, USA (1917-1963).

"Hace falta toda una vida para aprender a vivir".
Lucio A. Séneca, Roma (4aC-65dC).

"Solo hay dos fuerzas en el mundo, la espada y el espíritu. A la larga, la espada siempre será conquistada por el espíritu".
Napoleón Bonaparte, Francia (1769-1821).




          Adivine el Personaje.


Hoy nos encontramos con un personaje en verdad interesante. Digamos que la dificultad para deducir de quien se trata es mediana. Les invitamos a animarse a enviar su respuesta... ¡es una prueba a libro abierto! nos encantará que acierten, de eso pueden estar seguros. La respuesta la daremos en el próximo número de esta publicación:


"Soldado y político, nacido a mediados del Siglo XV en Andalucía, España; descendiente de una familia noble. Pronto destacó por sus grandes dotes militares. Por su genio, se considera que revolucionó el arte de la guerra. Era venerado por sus soldados. Recibió numerosas distinciones y condecoraciones. Su fidelidad hacia los reyes católicos de España fue incondicional, pero hacia el fin de su vida recibió grandes decepciones, por la desconfianza del rey Fernando el católico. La tristeza y las fiebres acabaron con su vida, cuando tenía poco más de sesenta años de edad. Fue el prototipo del caballero español de su época, valiente hasta la temeridad, con gran nobleza de corazón y un carácter indoblegable". 



El Pensador de Rodin. Museo Rodin, Paris.
Foto: Andrew Horne, 2010.




          La Leyenda de Hoy.


La Noche de Walpurgis.



Noche de Walpurgis, por: Albert Welti, ca. 1896.
Fuente: Adrian Michael, 2008. {{PD-US}}
Desde tiempos muy remotos, el final del invierno fue festejado por las culturas germánicas paganas. Según esas creencias, durante la noche del 30 de abril las brujas vuelan en sus escobas, para reunirse con demonios y toda clase de duendes y figuras fantasmales. Celebran orgías, conocidas como aquelarres, que son presididas por Satán, que adopta la forma de un macho cabrío. Así entre horribles cantos y danzas, les toma el amanecer del primero de mayo, cuando son barridos por la aurora beatífica del día de Santa Walpurgis.  

                                                    




Estatua de Santa Walpurgis. Iglesia de Contern, Luxwmburgo.
Foto: Johnny Chicago, 2006. Lic. CC BY-SA 3.0

Conocida también como Walburga, según algunas creencias ella era hija del mítico rey inglés San Ricardo el Sajón. Desde muy joven dió muestras de santidad, pero cuando falleció el 25 de febrero de 779, fue quedando en el olvido por casi un siglo. Luego sus restos fueron trasladados a la Iglesia de la Santa Cruz en Eichstädt, el primero de mayo de 870, cuando comenzó a ser venerada como santa. Según la tradición, su cuerpo segregaba un precioso óleo, capaz de obrar milagros. Se decía que ese aceite era magnífico para contrarrestar el poder de las brujas y demás entes demoníacos.



Celebración de la Noche de Walpurgis, Heidelberg, Alemania.
Foto: Andreas Fink (andreas-fink@gmx.de) Lic. CC BY-SA 2.0 DE

La costumbre de reunirse muchas personas, para encender hogueras durante esa noche de brujas en un gran número de países, hoy adquiere caracteres festivos. Pero por mucho tiempo fue considerada como una efectiva defensa contra los poderes del mal, mientras llegaba el amanecer. Todo parece indicar que Santa Walpurgis constituye la cristianización de muy antiguas diosas paganas, cuyo origen se pierde en la bruma de las edades. El gran escritor Johann Wolfgang von Goethe nos dejó una descripción detallada de los ritos de la Noche de Walpurgis en su inmortal obra: Fausto... 


Estamos seguros de que aun existe una gran cantidad de gente que tiene sus razones para creer en la veracidad de estas historias. ¿Qué opina usted? 





          Noticias.





Relieve de Nectanebo I, ca. 370 aC.
foto: Sailko, 2013. Lic. CC BY 3.0 



       Heliópolis, Egipto.  Abril 2018. 



En Souq el-Khamis, han sido recuperados cerca de cuatro mil quinientos fragmentos de un coloso cuya altura rondaba los nueve metros, siendo una representación del rey Psamético I, del siglo VII antes de Cristo. Esto se añade a los fragmentos hallados anteriormente, lográndose una aceptable reconstrucción de la escultura. Los equipos multinacionales continúan trabajando con ahínco en esa rica zona de Heliópolis, con la seguridad de continuar con sus importantes hallazgos. 

Basado en la reseña de Susana Alegre García. 
Amigos de la Egiptología. (egiptologia.com)
Fuente: Ministry of Antiquities.



                 Reportaje:

La recuperación con fines comerciales de los restos del naufragio del galeón español San José, del Siglo XVIII, en las cercanías de Cartagena, fue aprobada por el gobierno de Colombia. Esto ha despertado la eterna polémica sobre la ética de estos rescates: hasta donde los intereses económicos privan sobre el respeto por los lugares y objetos históricos. Les invitamos a conocer un poco más sobre este caso, mediante los siguientes enlaces... 


..."Así avanza la recuperación del galeón San José".
https://www.elespectador.com/noticias/politica/asi-avanza-la-recuperacion-del-galeon-san-jose-articulo-701539

Tomado de: El Espectador Colombia, versión digital. 5 de julio de 2017.



..."Desde la Universidad de los Andes, contra el expolio del San José"
http://abcblogs.abc.es/espejo-de-navegantes/2018/04/11/desde-la-universidad-de-los-andes-contra-el-expolio-del-san-jose/

Tomado de: Espejo de Navegantes. Blog de arqueología naval. ABC Blogs, España. 12 de abril de 2018.



        Ahora pueden disfrutar de este breve y esclarecedor documental sobre el misterioso monumento en Stonehenge, en el Reino Unido. Publicado por: simonfilm en YouTube, en 2011.


..."Stonehenge (el misterio de las piedras)".
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBSGGyuUFmU


                             




             El Libro.


En esta sección mostraremos algunos de nuestros libros favoritos, algunos son bastante antiguos, otros no tanto... Este mes tenemos el gusto de presentar Los Egipcios.  Isaac Asimov nos deleita con su estilo ameno en este libro compacto, que nos lleva de la mano a través de la Historia Egipcia, desde sus orígenes, hasta el año de 1967. Es un libro ideal para los que aman la historia narrada con la gracia y la sutileza de un magnífico novelista, capaz de captar y mantener el interés del lector, desde la primera página, hasta el final del libro...   
















sábado, 31 de marzo de 2018

The Nile Civilization and the Great Pharaoh (part 2).





A day of September 1976, in the middle of an unusual movement, a militar plane landed in France. On board, and receiving State Honors was no less than a mummy. That flight had given a tour over some historic monuments before leavin Egypt, as a tribute to a very distinguished personality. The purpose on that trip was to treat the mummified body, to save it from a slow but continuous damage, due to microorganisms. 




Those were the mummified remains of a remarkable person indeed: the pharaoh Ramesses II. It is sure that he would have felt quite satisfied, knowing that he would still receive high honors three thousand years after his death. But, how was the life of such a noteworthy character?




By the year 1340 BC. Egypt was immersed in chaos. The religious reforms of the pharaoh Akhenaten had started the rebellion of the priests, and soon there were riots all over the country. His fanatiscm made him abandon his responsabilities as king and as military commander too. After some time, the crown ended into Horemheb's hands... he was a general without any relation with the royal family. As the new ruler, he tried to restore the internal order, and so at the frontiers. But he left unsolved the Hittites problem, a very important issue to Egypt.

When Horemheb died, the throne throne went to his vizier, another general: Ramesses I. He was an old man, but had male descendants, something very important then. Although he came from a high prestige military family, not a single drop of royal blood was running through his veins. As expected, this king had a short reign, a little more than a year. In 1303 BC. Egypt had a new pharaoh, Sethi I. 




By that time, the future Ramesses II was a ten years old boy. He was born in Avaris, on the eastern side of the Nile delta. Later he would move the capital of the country to this city, naming it as Pi-Ramesses. The prince grew up between his brothers and although he was not the first born, at the end was the heir to the throne. The boy received a high quality education, but to avoid succession intrigues,he was named as Regent Prince, still as a child.




Being only fifteen years old, Ramesses began to have military responsabilities. He served beside his father in campaings at Lybia and Syria. The first time he commanded troops was at Kush (Nubia) when he was twenty one. Also was in charge as mines and construction supervisor everywhere around the country. It seems that his liking for monumental building began on those days.




He got married still very young, at seventeen years old, with Nefretiri... whom he seemed to love deeply. Despite that, nothing stopped him from having a numerous harem. Among them, he even came to have sisters and daughters! Outrageous as it may be, we should not forget that it was their way to keep the purity of the royal blood.

Ramesses II would have a quite large number of descendants, a hundred and fifty sons. It should has not been difficult to find a heir to the throne. But he reigned for so long, that he outlasted many of those sons. We might guess that more than one of them was aspiring to the crown, but had to remain waiting for his moment. Anyway, most of them got important positions, with high responsabilities as rulers. Finally, the heir was Ramesses' thirteenth son: called Merenptah.




As the new pharaoh, he wore the Two Reigns Crown in 1290 BC. after the funerals of his father, Sethi I. Soon he found himself in front of some military threats... was necessary to deal with the so called Sea Peoples. It was the name the Egyptians gave to any invader coming from the Mediterranean Sea. In that case, were Sards invaders. Ramesses II showed a high capacity, winning a naval battle (Egypt was not strong at the sea), and was clever enough to draw many of the enemies to his army.




Facing the progress of the rebellion on the Retjenu lands (Canaan and Lebanon), he decided to subdue them. The king acomplished it, but still had a huge obstacle in Syria, with their old enemies, the Hittites. They had become strong, and the clash was unavoidable. In many ways it was a remarkable battle: it was the first well documented confrontation of that magnitude in History... also was the last battle clearly associated to the Bronze Era technology.




They finally met at Kadesh or Qadesh. Another interesting issue results obvious: both sides claimed the victory. Everything seems to suggest that the four corps of the Egyptian army, which never gathered, were caught by surprise. The Hittites attacked earlier than expected, surrounding Ramesses II... then he was in danger! A second corp was coming to support him, but the enemy destroyed it. So the pharaoh had to fight for his life, side by side with his men, showing a great courage and determination. At this point, some mistakes of the Hittites, permitted the Egyptians and allies to regroup.




How impressive the scene! Under a burning sun, the plain at the foot of the city, near to the Orontes river. The Hittite army with their massive war chariots, against the light and nimble Egyptian carts, opening gaps for the infantry corps. Flying darts: a true shower of arrows, into a huge cloud of dust. It was a tragic dance of shapeless bodies... to the rythm of a dreadful symphony of hittings and terrible screams. Were tens of thousands men fiercely struggling. Everything indicates that it lasted more than one day and finally the Egyptians took control of the situation. 




Ramesses II made of this battle a continuous self-praise theme. On several monuments he made to engrave the story of how by his own hand, he almost crushed and beat the Hittites. Of course, the latter had a different version, so leading to a controversy about who really won at Kadesh. We always prefer in such cases of doubt, to take an average option... like there were no winners or losers. If any of them won, was paying a high price. The truth was that the king of Hatti and the pharaoh at the end had a peace agreement. There they talked as equals, and by the way: it is the first well documented accord between nations in History! Even more, Ramesses II married an Hittite princess, few years later, showing that they became allies. But the vanity excess of the pharaoh could be excusable for a man who fought like a lion. His efforts leading his men contributed to change the course of an almost lost battle. Sadly, with the pass of time, both civilizations resulted weakened due to their long wars. 




The rest of his prolonged reign, Ramesses II enjoyed of many peaceful periods. It allowed him to focus on his favorite activity: the monumental construction. Also, he was able to control the ethernal intrigues of the clergy, when he named a faithful person called Nebumenef, as the High Priest.




It seems possible that the captivity of the people of Israel had happened under Ramesses II goverment. The intense constructive activity of those times needed of all the workforce "available". Although no Egyptian inscription registers this, it is mentioned on the Bible (Exodus, 1:11). Maybe someday we get to know the truth of all theses happenings.




The most likely is that Ramesses II in his egomania, did not hesitate to take for him some monuments made by former pharaohs. He even erased earlier inscriptions, to write his own... but sure he was not the first to do it. Anyway, during his more than sixty years reign, he had time enough to build as he liked in all Egypt. Some scholars have thought that with his long lasting goverment and the high public expenses, began the empire decadence.




The magnificence of his architecture and sculptures have amazed many people... Those splendid ruins of Thebes, which make our imagination travel to the past. Karnak and its religious complexes, object of sumptuous works. The Abu Simbel temples, saved from its sinking under the waters of a dam, fifty years ago. The Ramesseum, destined to be his tomb, with his colossal statues, its abundant inscriptions and low reliefs. Those and many others, constitute a "gigantic architecture" not always praised by the experts.



In the year 1223 BC. this personage died, at ninety years. Ramesses II was a man with a strong personality, who knew well how to be tough and cruel. He kept himself distant from his people, but could maintain the common good and peace... even by the treaties and agreements; it all shows his political skills! 

He always has been depicted as a plentiful man: The Sun King, Ramesses the Great.




It is striking that precisely himself, has been who travelled from a remote past to bring us a message. With his mummified body, he is talking about the brevity and fragility of life... and how absurd are human arrogance and vanity. But, why could someone like him be destined to bring us such a message?

Sure we will come back to the Ancient Egypt, maybe we get to find answers, or perhaps more questions...

jueves, 22 de marzo de 2018

The Nile Civilization and the Great Pharaoh (part 1).





Through times, there have existed some cultures which dissapeared leaving behind only their works. But also, they have set out an enigma about who they were, how they lived and why they vanished. It could have happened to the Ancient Egypt civilization, despite of their archaelogical remains... those material signals and wonders, which have been the object of an ethernal looting.



Chefren's Pyramid and Sphinx at Giza, Egypt. Photo: Hajor, 2002. en.wikipedia
Lic. CC-BY-SA 3.0


As a matter of fact, life in Egypt was an unresolved issue along many centuries. If we take a closer look, its history has been like a huge puzzle, very slowly assembled and still with many missing pieces.



Herodotus. Ancient Agora Museum, Athens
Lic. CC BY-SA 3.0

By the Fifth Century before Christ (BC.), Herodotus, a greek historician began to search on the Egiptian past... but he only produced a group of scattered tales. Near 280 BC. a priest called Maneton, wrote in Greek (fortunately), a History and Cronology about the ancient kings of Egypt, from their origins till the times of Alexander the Great. His writings and historical sources have dissapeared, but several scholars from the antiquity could read them. They used Maneton's work, somehow saving it for the posterity.



Alexander the Great. Roman mosaic, ca 100aC. (detail). Source: The Guardian.
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Is important to keep in mind that by the times of Alexander (332 AC.) Egypt already had a long history of millenniums. Hence, those writings surely had many and inmense "blackouts and gaps". 



Tutmose II (Aakheperenre) hieroglyphic. Photo:
Przemyslaw Idzkiewicz. Lic: CC-BY- SA 2.5
So many visible inscriptions on the monuments, tombs and papyrus, were a mystery. All those messages, among such a greatness, and nobody could understand them! The ancient Egyptians' script could not be interpreted for a good reason, was very complicated. Some experts, even came to think that were "riddles", and drawed conclusions without a real support.


The Rossetta Stone. British Museum,London. Dig, photo:
 Nicolás Pérez Gómez. Loaded by: Lourdes Cardenal
Source: Universal Free Enciclopedia  Lic. CC-BY-SA 3.0

This situation remained till the late 18th Century, when Napoleon's forces invaded Egypt. Among his people there were wise men and experts, who "collected" and classified every archaeological item. That way they showed their interest and respect for the ancient culture. But one day, at the city of Rashid (Rosetta) they found a stele made of polished basalt, filled with inscriptions. It was written in three different languages: Hieroglyphic, Demotic and Greek, along three separated sections. From the begining they guessed that was the same message, written in those languages. Maybe in their hands was the key to understand the egiptian language... but how to use it? 




Jean-Francois Champollion. By: Léon Cogniet, 1831.
Louvre Museum. References: Joconde database 000PE000522
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After several attempts and failures of highly qualified linguists, there was some progress. By the year 1822, Jean-Francois Champollion with his hard work and high ingenuity, could decode the hieroglyphic writings. This finally opened the doors to a great, captivating and yet so unknown past. The life and works of this man are very interesting. Would be worthwhile to make a virtual visit to this remarkable human being.



Champollion's notebook. 19th century. Source: Les Cahiers de Science et Vie:
Les origines de l'escriture. {{PD-US}}

With this tool at hand, was possible to study, date and had a better look to the past of that country. A culture whose origins go back to the year 5000 BC. approximately. We are talking of seven thousand years ago.


The Nile river. Photo: Xosé Calvo, 2005.
The amazing and astonishing Egypt Civilization, always was bound to the river Nile existence. To conquer and domesticate the immense river for their use, impulsed the progress of the early inhabitants of those lands. Its annual floods left a fertile strip of land in the middle of the desert, which meant life to that country. 

Also, we should take into account the relative isolation of Egypt. Surrounded by huge deserts and by the sea, it was like a true "historic-cultural ecosystem". That made this civilization grow in the middle of special conditions, so becoming obstinately traditionalists. This was very marked on their religion and beliefs.



Egypt. From: www.todoegipto.org

Egyptian History began with their first written registers, around the year 3100 BC. This coincided with the time when the two main regions of the country were joined under one king. The lands of the Nile delta, received the name of Lower Egypt, while the rest of the territory was the Upper Egypt. 



Narmer Palette, facsimile. Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto
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By then, at the dawn of history, Menes (Narmer) conquered and merged both reigns. He was from the Upper Egypt, and all the registers and cronologies from the egyptian kings, begin with him. Those who followed king Menes through many centuries were part of families or Dynasties, and these were grouped in Periods (as Maneton did). All those milleniums made them went through magnificent Periods, but there were decadent and inestable times too. Also, is very likely that exist several errors and imprecisions in all these. 



Saqqara pyramid. Assumed author: Marperi, 2005. CC BY 2.5
As we said, the country had greatness or declining times. They conquered and expanded, but also they had foreign invaders taking on Egypt. Incompetent  or wise monarchs... The capital city was continuosly moved at the king's ease or convenience. All this ups and downs are logical during such a long history.



Golden death mask of Tutankhamum. Egyptian Museum
Cairo, Egypt. Photo: MykReeve, 2002. en.wikipedia
Lic. CC BY-SA 3.0
 
The leading figure on Egypt History was the king, or pharaoh, always infused with a divine-like nature... although most of the time his human origin was evident. Such a greatness, joined to their religious beliefs, made their funeral rites more and more sophisticated. That ended in the magnificence of their culture, giving some of the most spectacular works ever made by man.

Among all pharaohs, maybe one is the most famous for his battles and constructions, but also for his personality cult and egocentrism. He was Ramesses II, who ruled over Egypt for many years, since 1290 BC. His father was Seti I... but we better travel again to that epoch and places, mysterious and fascinating. To visit a world which has captivated man's imagination for such a long time.




























































miércoles, 7 de febrero de 2018

Roman Britain and the Rebellion of Boudica (part 3).






Rome, the Eternal City

The roman eagles would stay in Britain almost three hundred and fifty years after the rebellion of Boudica. Were peaceful or turbulent times, with many ups and downs, depending on the situation of Rome. The excessive growth of the empire, had increased the problem of guarding the borders. Besides, the political intrigues at the metropoli marked their influence over the provinces... as some generals became very prominent (and powerful), were the object of imperial suspicions. The reality often demonstrated that this mistrust was not wrong.



Nero
The insurrection of Boudica had such a severe punishment, that emperor Nero decided to replace the governor of Britain, to avoid the worst. But soon Rome would sink into anarchy... loosing control over its farther provinces: were good times for the celtic resistance. By the year 77 AD, Vespasian finally could send his legions, under the command of general Gnaeus Julius Agricola. He was father-in-law of the historian Tacitus, and had been present in times of the warrior queen.



Romans versus Celts
The general imposed the roman peace again. With successive campaings he controlled the western lands (Wales). They also advanced far north, reaching central Caledonia (Scotia) in the year 84, defeating the celtic tribes at Grampio. Agricola became very successful, as a soldier, and as a civilizing agent... spreading the roman culture in Britain.



Gnaeus Julius Agricola
The next emperor, Domitian, decided that was no longer worthwhile the conquest of the northern lands of the island. Soon he called Agricola back to Rome, to carry out other assingments. It seems possible that he wanted to have a closer look on the conspicuous  general.

The Caledonians and Picts tribes searched for shelter in the northern mountains. They continued harassing the romans for years, consuming time and resources needed in other regions. At the same time it was producing a progressive fatigue on the troops. In times of emperor Trajan, by the year 100, the Roman Empire reached its largest extent... and the contingents in Britain suffered a severe reduction.



Hadrian: between 117-138 AD
When emperor Hadrian visited Britain in 122, he saw the necessity to secure the northern limits. For Rome, it was only a heavy load and a constant threat. With a clever strategic view, he ordered to build a wall, from east to west, at a narrow point of the island. There were 117 strongly guarded kilometers of walls and moats. He established that limit further south from the place Agricola had conquered years before. Was an exchange of land for calm... Today we still can stare at the remains of this impressive wall, full of history, between England and Scotland.


Map of Londinium, 2nd century AD
As expected, then came times of peace and well-being for Britain. The cities continued their growth, the roads extended everywhere. Londinium turned into an important port and acquired the glance of any roman city. But the ambition of the imperial power did not let that calm last too much. 



Antoninus Pius
Hadrian's sucesor, Antoninus Pius, ordered his legions to move forward. It seems that he wanted to make history for some achievement or conquest... a disastrous habit to keep the peace. The romans went very far to the north, and built a second wall, in the year 142. Again they chose a narrow point of the island (58 kilometers). Antonino's Wall had fortresses and moats, although the construction was not very solid. Now its ruins have the World Heritage status of UNESCO, and may be visited in the lands of Scotland.



Ruins of Roman wall,
at Stanwick Hill, Scotland.

The new border presented serious issues: it was very distant, in the middle of a hostile territory. The fragile wall permited the celtic warriors to pass through without great efforts. Moreover, the lands  between the two walls were refuge of many rebels, this would cause more struggling and more fatigue for the romans... they knew how it was: they could defeat those people, but never finished them. At the same time, still persisted the political instability in Rome, and the endless war in many fronts at the same time. The loss of all those territories was only a matter of time.


Commodus-Hercules
Then came times of some stability and wealthness in Britain, till Commodus reign. His awful government ended with his death, in the year 192. The ghost of civil war again stroke Rome, and brought consequences to the island.


Septimius Severus
The roman commander in Britain became a contender for the crown. With most of his army he moved to Gaul, abandoning their positions at the island. At the end, he was defeated by another general, Septimius Severus (year 197), who turned out to be the next emperor. By that time, the tribes from the north could cross at their will the unattended walls. Peace on the province was in inminent risk...  


Hadrian's Wall. England.
Severus reacted with all his power. Again he took control of the situation with the Picts and the Caledonian tribes, in the year 209. But he understood the difficulty for Rome to keep that northern frontier. So it happened that the romans left the Wall of Antoninus for good, holding Hadrian's as the northern limit. Emperor Severus died in Eboracum (the modern city of York), it was the year 211.



Antoninus' Wall, near Fort Cumbernauld.
Then chance played for the british settlers, when the lands to the north of the wall submerged in chaos. In that time ocurred the invasion of Scotish tribes, and Celts from the near Hibernia (now Ireland). Those turmoils brought peace and calm to the southern territories during almost a hundred years. Were times when romanization of Britain reached its peak... in particular between the higher classes from the urban zones. Beneath, there was a rebellious people, trying to keep their legacy. And they would never assimilate roman culture as other western provinces did (like Hispania and Gaul).



Trajan Column. Rome.
The good times for Britain were merely a coincidence, an illusion. It was a mix of certain events, such as the ineptitude of most emperors and the ambition of the generals. These coincided with the defense of distant frontiers, and the northern Scottish invasions. The loss of those territories and the disintegration of the empire was already looming.


 The Spear of Destiny.
Hofburg Palace. Vienna, Austria.


The celtic rebellion manifested in a curious manner: Christianity took its roots in Britain. It seems a way to oppose to the pagan beliefs of Rome. Then maybe had their origin the stories of The Holy Grail and the Sacred Spear, brought there by Joseph of Arimathea, many years before. These beautiful stories are related to King Arthur's legend, appeared some centuries later. The mix of Christianity with Celtic cults, and some of the Druid misteries is always present there. Would be very interesting to search about the historical basis of all these. 



Diocletian. Istanbul Archeological Musem.
Photo: G. Dall' Orto, 2006 (cropped).
Diocletian, another general, came to power in 284. He had the wisdom to carry out a reform the government: there would be a western and an eastern emperor. Each one would choose his successor, or Caesar. This way, Constantius Chlorus became heir of the throne of the Western Empire. He had to exert the power in Britain, so he established there. Those were times of welfare, and most of all, of tranquility... the cruel chase of Christians did not took place there. He died in Eboracum (York) as the emperor of the West: Contantius I, in the year 306. The wheel of chance was turning again!



Constantine the Great. York, UK.
The so named Tetrarchy had problems from its beginning. The son of Constantius Chlorus, Constantine, had not the nomination as succesor... but had a strong support from the army. He faced and finished every possible rival; by the year 324, he detented an absolute power. He made Christianity the official religion, and moved the capital of the empire to Constantinople (now Istanbul), in 330.

By that time, the pressure at the borders was increasing constantly. The Germans had become a real menace for the empire. In Britain, those were times of continous military weakening. As a consequence, the rebels could move and attack everywhere, with great ease.



Theodosius I
In the year of 367, Rome could control the situation at Britain for the last time. The legions defeated the rebels and settled in triumph at Londinium. It was the moment of emperor Theodosius I, who became a good ruler... but the unity of the empire was already a fiction. When he died in 395, the Western Empire was leading to nothing. The Germanic invaders finally overflowed the frontiers. Then, came the time when war touched the boundaries of the city, and they needed all their legions there, there was no other choice.


Bath Cathedral. The Roman Church.
The Roman legions left Britain in the year 407, and their boots would never walk again on that land. It has been said that the general commander aspired to the imperial power. The British community remained abandoned at their own fate: but some of them could escape to Gaul. Latin culture and everything with any relation was almost completely eradicated. Even Christianity faded away, and the Celtic spirit came back strongly. In the future, only the Roman religion would return to the island.



Germanic Warriors.
With the passage of time, the British Isles again would suffer another waves of invaders. According to their origin, they were: 1) Germanic: the Jutes, the Angles and the Saxons. 2) Nordic: The Vikings and the Normans. The Celts again  would fall, and with them even the memory of the Romans finally resulted erased. 

Even the Celtic tradition was displaced by the Anglo-Saxon culture, leaving only vestiges. Britain was the only western Roman province where such a process happened.  Now, is impossible to imagine how could the history had been if the Roman influence over these lands would have remained...



Eagle relief on stone from Picts. Scotland.
As for the Picts and the Scots... they would continue fighting for their northern lands. They always did it, and always will do. They would give birth to a great nation, which:


               "Never will be attacked with impunity..."