Τετάρτη, 20 Απριλίου 2016

10 fascinating things you should know about the Varangian Guard


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Exotic, ferocious and heavily armored – this in a nutshell defined the eminent presence of the Varangian Guard (Greek: Τάγμα των Βαράγγων, Tágma tōn Varángōn) in the ostentatious court of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire). Probably one of the most famous military units in the realm of history, the Varangian Guard at its height was responsible for the protection of the ‘Roman’ emperor; thus alluding to an incredible setup where the powerful ruler was personally dependent on a body of foreign fighters. However beyond their ‘guarding’ duties, the Varangians occasionally took the field – and in this fashion they carved out a fierce reputation for themselves in both European and Asian theaters of war. So without further ado, let us take a gander at ten incredible facts you should know about the Varangian Guard.

1) The Varangian question –

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The Eastern Roman Empire was still the richest political entity of Europe in the middle ages, and as such its capital of Constantinople tended to attract invaders (in search of plunder) and mercenaries (in search of pay) alike. And as such, the warriors and adventurers of Rus were also enthralled by its riches. Now Rus in itself pertained to a loose federation of Slavic trading towns and villages spread across Russian and Ukraine, and these settlements were ruled by an originally Swedish elite (Vikings from Scandinavia), who had later mixed with the local populace. In any case, bands of these roving fighters gradually started to gravitate towards Constantinople (the Rus called it Miklagard – ‘City of Michael’), some for raiding purposes and others for trading. And by late 9th century AD, the Eastern Roman sources referred to them as the Varangians.
Interestingly, the very term Varangian (Old Norse: Væringjar; Greek: Βάραγγοι, or Varangoi) is open for etymological debate. Though most scholars tend to agree that it is derived from Old Norse væringi, which is a compound of vár ‘pledge or vow of fidelity’ and gengi ‘companion or fellowship’. Simply put, the term Varangian can be roughly translated to ‘sworn companion’ – which proved to be an apt categorization, as later history was witness to their glorious feats.

2) Forged by the civil war of the ‘Greeks’ –

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Basil II flanked by his royal guards.
As with innumerable episodes of history, it was internal turmoil that brought about a significant change in the affairs of an empire. This time around, it was brought on by a civil war in the Eastern Roman Empire that pitted Emperor Basil II Porphyrogenitus against the rebel Vardhas Phokas – who audaciously marched on to Constantinople with his army by 987 AD. Desperate for reinforcements, the emperor called for aid from Vladimir the Great, the Grand Prince of Kievan Rus. Vladimir saw his opportunity in this deal, and promptly send away around 6,000 men to the Roman emperor’s aid. According to old sources (like the Russian Primary Chronicle, compiled in 1113 AD), these men were supposedly unruly and unpaid – and hence the Prince was rather happy to ‘ship’ them away to the ‘Greeks’ of the distant realm.
However on entering the service of Basil II, the group proved its mettle in various encounters, thus ultimately allowing the emperor the crush the rebel army and its commanders. On the political side of affairs, there was another significant development – Vladimir the Great converted to Orthodox Christianity (the state religion of Eastern Roman Empire) and even married Princess Anna of Byzantine. This paved the way for further ‘supply’ of warriors from Rus. So by the end of the 10th century (and beginning of 11th century), Basil II wholeheartedly made use of his ‘Varangians’, and successfully campaigned far and wide, ranging from Levant to Georgia. These success ratios tempered the ‘foreign’ Rus warriors into a disciplined body of troops who formed the core of the imperial guard. And so the famed Varangian Guard was forged – symbolizing the might of the Eastern Roman emperor himself.

3) Upholding the contrasting statuses of both mercenaries and royal guards –

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Employing mercenaries was a trademark of Eastern Roman military stratagem even in the earlier centuries. But the recruitment of the Varangians (by Basil II) was certainly different in scope, simply because of the loyalty factor. In essence, the Varangians were specifically employed to be directly loyal to their paymaster – the Emperor. In that regard, unlike most other mercenaries, they were dedicated, incredibly well trained, furnished with the best of armors, and most importantly devoted to their lord. This sense of loyalty was manifested many times in the course of history, with one particular incident involving the great Alexios Komnenos. After revolting, Komnenos appeared before the gates of Constantinople with his superior army, while the capital itself was defended only by some imperial soldiers, including the Varangian Guard and a few other mercenaries. But in spite of their precarious situation, the Varangians stayed faithful to Emperor Nikephoros III Botaneiates till the last moment, before the ruler himself abdicated in favor of a bloodless coup. Suffice it to say, the guard was retained after Komnenos came to power.
On the other hand, it begs the question – then why was the Varangian Guard still branded as a mere mercenary group? Well the answer relates to practicality of court politics. Unlike other imperial guard regiments, the Varangian Guard was (mostly) not subject to political and courtly intrigues; nor were they influenced by the provincial elites and the common citizens. Furthermore, given their direct command under the Emperor, the ‘mercenary’ Varangians actively took part in various encounters around the empire – thus making them an effective crack military unit, as opposed to just serving ceremonial offices of the royal guards.

4) The Anglo-Saxon connection –

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As we mentioned before, the Varangian Guard was initially formed mostly of warriors and adventurers from Rus who tended to have Swedish lineage. However by late 11th century, these ‘Scandinavians’ were gradually replaced by the Anglo-Saxons from Britain. There was a socio-political side to this ambit, since most of England was overrun by the Normans under William the Conqueror (post 1066 AD). As a result, the native Anglo-Saxon military elites of these lands had to look for opportunities elsewhere – thus kick-starting mini waves of migration from Britain to Black Sea coasts, and then ultimately to Eastern Roman Empire. Interestingly enough, many Byzantine commanders welcomed these refugees from the British Isles, with some even concocting propaganda measures that proclaimed the arrival of the ‘English’ Anglo-Saxons as being equal to the fealty of the Romano-British soldiers of ancient times (when Britain was a Roman province).
In fact, there are contemporary sources that talk about how English was actually spoken in the streets of Constantinople, thus alluding to the presence of many Anglo-Saxons mercenaries. And almost like a poetic justice, just fifteen years after the Battle of Hastings (where the Anglo-Saxons were decisively defeated by the Normans in 1066 AD), a group of ‘English’ veterans got the chance for a payback. This time around they formed the core body of the Varangian Guard (under Alexios Komnenos), while being pitted against the Normans from southern Italy (under Robert Guiscard). Unfortunately for the Anglo-Saxons, they were to too eager to challenge their enemy – and so by breaking their formation, the Varangians charged into the right wing of the Normans. Their initial impact was devastating to Guiscard’s army. But once the tide was stemmed, the Anglo-Saxons were surrounded and woefully outnumbered. Afflicted by weariness and their heavy armor, the group was mostly destroyed in a piecemeal manner by Norman counter-charging.

5) Ethnicity and the numbers game –

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We have already talked about how the early members of the Varangian Guard mostly hailed from Rus, while by late 11th century they were gradually superseded by the Anglo-Saxons. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the guard was exclusively composed of these two groups. In fact, from the initial times, the Swedish Varangians were often accompanied by their Norwegian brethren who arrived directly from Scandinavia (as opposed to Russia). Similarly, by 11th century, the Danes also arrived on Byzantine shores, along with the Anglo-Saxons. Moreover, according to contemporary sources (like that of Leo of Ostia), there are references to the ‘Gualani’ people serving in the Varangian Guard. Historians are not sure about their origins, with hypotheses identifying ‘Gualani’ as Welsh peoples and in some cases as the Vlachs (of Eastern Europe).
Beyond the melting pot of different nationalities, there is always the question of the actual numbers that were present in the Varangian Guard. During Basil II’s time, the figure was kept at more or less at 6,000 men. But the numbers, in accordance to sources, kept fluctuating after 11th century – though most of them dealt with the Varangians participating in battles, and these warriors were possibly only a part of the entire Varangian Guard in its full capacity. In any case, the figures range from 4,500 men to a paltry 540 men. By late 13th century AD, the numbers were (probably) officially dropped to 3,000 men. By then the Varangian Guard formed one-half of the Taxis (the core army of the Empire of Nicaea), while the other-half was formed by the Vardariotai, who were originally of Magyar (Hungarian) origin.

6) Mixed tactics and the Pelekys ax –

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With so much talk about the Varangian Guard taking the fields – as mentioned in so many literary sources, there is surprisingly little knowledge about how they actually functioned in the battles in regard to tactics. Now given their penchant for wielding axes and wearing heavy armor, it can be credibly surmised that the Varangian Guard operated as an infantry formation in defensive positions by the emperor’s side. However there were instances when the Varangians were arrayed at the front of the army, while being backed by the Vardariotai, who operated as experienced horse archers during Alexios Komnenos’ time. In essence, this contrasting composition provided the nigh perfect tactical scope of shock and missile units. But there were also scenarios when the Varangian Guard was deployed at the back to protect the precious baggage train, while they supported other heavy infantry formations of the Eastern Roman army. Simply put, such changing positions on the field possibly mirrored the adaptable ‘mixed’ tactics preferred by the Varangians – thus confirming their elite military status. In that regard, it was almost customary to allow the Varangians to take the first plunders from a conquered settlement.
In any case, the popular imagery of a Varangian guardsman generally reverts to a tall, heavily armored man bearing a huge ax rested on his shoulder. This imposing ax in question entailed the so-called Pelekys, a deadly two-handed weapon with a long shaft that was akin to the famed Danish ax. To that end, the Varangians were often referred to as the pelekyphoroi in medieval Greek. Now interestingly, while the earlier Pelekys tended to have crescent-shaped heads, the shape varied in later designs, thus alluding to the more ‘personalized’ styles preferred by the guard members. As for its size, the sturdy battle-ax often reached to an impressive length of 140 cm (55-inch) – with a heavy head of 18 cm (7-inch) length and blade-width of 17 cm (6.7-inch).

7) Countering piracy and policing streets –

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With their Viking heritage and Rus tradition of distant seafaring, it was expected of the Varangians to have maritime skills. So beyond battlefield maneuvers and palace duties, some of the younger (or less experienced) members of the Varangian Guard were chosen to actually hunt down pirates. These guardsmen were deployed in specially-made light marine crafts called the ousiai, and they worked in unison with the other Nordic and Russian mercenaries.
But other than glorious feats in battles and adventurous sea-raids, the Varangian Guard was also involved in slightly more mundane duties, like policing the streets of Constantinople. They rather carved up a brutal reputation for themselves – who were known to enforce strict laws and arrest the political opponents of the emperor. And as an extension of their perceived ferocity and penchant for violence, few Varangians were also employed as jailers because of their ‘specialization’ in torturing techniques. Interestingly, Georgius Pachymeres, a 13th century Greek historian and philosopher, talked about one such chief (epistates) of the prison guards, whose moniker was Erres ek Englinon or ‘Harry from England’.

8) The Emperor’s Wineskins –

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Now while we mentioned before how the Varangians were employed as rigorous law enforcers in the capital, they themselves were not too reluctant to break certain laws of decorum. One of the reasons for their boisterous nature was possibly due to their notable love for Greek wine. Often derogatorily called the “Emperor’s wineskins”, their absurd levels of drunkenness often landed the guards into trouble – with two particular incidents even involving drunken guardsmen assaulting their own emperor. And beyond obsession for alcohol (that sometimes turned into abuse), the Varangians were also known for their fascination for visiting brothels, along with the fancy for other ‘Greek’ stuff, like Hippodrome races and spectacles.

9) High fee for entry into the Guard –

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Now given their status as the elite members of the imperial guard, the Varangians were obviously paid very highly. However in an odd arrangement, only affluent members were inducted into the guard. The threshold was maintained by a relatively high fee (in gold) that the would-be inductee had to pay the Roman authorities in order to be considered for the role of a Varangian guardsman. And after passing this monetary ‘test’, the applicant was further examined and evaluated, so as to maintain the quality and discipline of the Varangian Guard. In any case, it should be noted that in most situations, the Varangians on being accepted, acquired far more riches (from compensations, bonuses and spoils) than their initial fee of entry. So from a realistic perspective, there was no dearth of applicants – with even the rejected ones making names for themselves in the other (albeit less renowned) mercenary companies of the Eastern Roman empire.

10) Harald Hardrada of the Varangian Guard

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In our previous entry, we talked about how the applicant needed to provide a lump-sum amount of gold to be considered for the Varangian Guard. This seemingly unique measure allowed many rich adventurers, princes and even warlords from northern Europe to take their (and their retinue’s) chance to be inducted in this elite mercenary group. One such adventurer was the great Harald Hardrada. In his teenage years, he had to escape from his native Norway after ending up in a losing battle. The young man made his way to Kievan Rus, and made a name of himself on various military encounters, by fighting for the Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise. But after rising to the rank of a military captain, young Harald took a gamble and made his way to Constantinople, along with 500 of his personal followers. Fortunately for the group, most of them were selected for the Varangian Guard, and thus started Harald’s incredible journey to redemption.
The ‘Viking’ once again proved his worth, and fought in various successful assignments in Sicily against both the Muslims and the Normans. According to his skald Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, many conflicts took the still young Harald even to Asia Minor and Iraq, where he had successfully fought off Arab pirates. After reportedly capturing around eighty Arab strongholds, the Scandinavian even made his way to Jerusalem, to probably oversee a peace agreement made between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Fatimid Caliphate in 1036 AD. However it was in 1041 AD when the Viking arguably played his most crucial role as a Varangian – by ruthlessly putting down a Bulgarian uprising led by Peter Delyan – which supposedly gained Harald the nickname of “Devastator of the Bulgarians” (Bolgara brennir).
In the latter years, he acquired much wealth and prestige throughout the Roman realm. But in spite of his status as an elite guardsman (possibly holding the rank of Manglabites), he planned to leave Constantinople for Rus, probably because of an ill-favored political climate in the capital. In Rus he married a Russian princess, elevated his status to a Prince, and then triumphantly made a return to his homeland Norway. In the years between 1046 – 1065 AD, Harald was finally able to gain the kingship of Norway through various political and military machinations (maneuvers that were undoubtedly learned during his time in the Eastern Roman court). And ultimately in 1066 AD, the King of Norway – Harald Hardrada, launched the last ‘Viking’ invasion of England; thereby crippling the local Anglo-Saxon resistance, and thus paving the way for the Norman conquest of Britain. And oddly enough, pushing forth the historical cycle, many of the dispossessed Anglo-Saxons of England in turn went on to become members of the Varangian Guard in the latter years.
Now while this unique episode serves as a rather extreme example, it does provide some insights into the lives of the Varangian Guardsmen – where the wondrous scope of adventures and actions overshadowed any semblance of normalcy expected from a well-paid, ‘governmental’ military career.

Honorable mention – the Varangian Bra

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The trademark of the Varangian Guard pertained to carrying an imposing ax and wearing of heavy armor (though in rare cases, they were also lightly armed). Relating to the latter, the armor often entailed ringmail shirts that were sometimes reinforced with lamellar (klivanion) or scale armor. The unwieldy hauberk (mail shirt) weighed around a significant 30 lbs, and so the guardsmen adopted a type of chest harness known as the Varangian Bra. Usually made of leather, the harness consisted of a breast strap with two shoulder straps going over each shoulder, which connected the front and rear end of the strap. Possibly inspired by their ‘eternal’ foes – the Sassanid Persians, the Eastern Romans adopted this peculiar armor (along with buckled belts) as a solution for holding the bulky mail shirt together, which in turn allowed for better mobility on the battlefield.

Sources: De Re Militari / AngelFire / HistoryBits / WeaponsandWarfare
Book References: The Varangian Guard: 988-1453 (By Raffaele D’Amato) / The Varangians of Byzantium (By Sigfús Blöndal and Benedict Benedikz)

The Luftwaffe P-38 Lightning & Other STUNNING Pics of Allied Planes Pressed Into Nazi Service





Ever wondered what happened with the airplanes that made an emergency landing in occupied territory? When captured (relatively) intact they were tested by the Germans and sometimes put into service!
Enjoy these amazing pictures of familiar Allied airplanes in very unfamiliar colors and markings!

33 Facts You Didn’t Know About Hitler’s Invasion of the Soviet Union


Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-268-0169-09 / Böhmer / CC-BY-SA 3.0
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A quick look at the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany in 33 facts
1.The invasion of the Soviet Union was the most ambitious campaign of the Second World War, and yet Hitler believed that it could be won within three months with a fast, powerful blitzkrieg strike.
2. The campaign was launched with Fuhrer Directive 21. Signed on 18 December 1940, it set out the intention to “crush Soviet Russia in one rapid campaign”.
3. In February 1941, British and American intelligence learned of the planned invasion of the USSR. Hoping to encourage Stalin to act against Hitler, they informed him of the plan. Stalin did not believe them, as he believed that Hitler would stick to the non-aggression pact the two countries had signed before the war.
4. The German navy was to play a part in the operation, blocking Soviet ships from breaking out of the Baltic Sea

What’s the Value of Recreating the Palmyra Arch with Digital Technology?


The reconstructed Arch of Palmyra in Trafalgar Square (photo via @mralexmorrison/Instagram)
The reconstructed Arch of Palmyra in Trafalgar Square (photo via @mralexmorrison/Instagram)
Seven months after ISIS destroyed Palmyra’s 1,800-year-old Arch of Triumph, the structure has risen once more — this time 2,800 miles away from the ancient city, in London’s bustling Trafalgar Square. But rather than stretching nearly 50-feet skywards and hand-carved from limestone, this one stands just 20 feet tall and is made of Egyptian marble, sculpted in 30 days by robotic arms at a workshop in the famous quarries of Carrara, Italy. London, though, its host for only three days, is far from this replica’s final destination: the arch will travel to Dubai then to New York City in September before likely finding a permanent home in Palmyra — not directly on, but near, the site of the original gateway.

This is the oldest surviving claymation film – from 1926 and it’s awesome!




Source :Yestervid

Clay animation or claymation is one of many forms of stop motion animation. Each animated piece, either character or background, is “deformable”—made of a malleable substance, usually Plasticine clay.
Traditional animation, from cel animation to stop motion, is produced by recording each frame, or still picture, on film or digital media and then playing the recorded frames back in rapid succession before the viewer. These and other moving images, from zoetrope to films to video games, create the illusion of motion by playing back at over ten to twelve frames per second. The techniques involved in creating CGI are conversely generally removed from a frame-by-frame process.

The Knights Templar – The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Order

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Main image by Daniel VILLAFRUELA, CC BY-SA 4.0 & Les Still, mysticrealms.org.uk CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikipedia


A crimson cross emblazoned on a white background; a simple design, perhaps, but behind it lies one of the most remarkable stories in the history of the medieval world. It’s a saga that began in the city of Nablus, in the aftermath of the First Crusade.
That same saga came to a sudden end in 1307, two centuries later. As the sun rose over Paris on Friday the 13th of November, the doom of the Knights Templar was sealed.
heading
The last Grand Master of the Knights Templar insisted that he was innocent of all charges, even as he burned at the stake (Wikipedia)
Almost two hundred years before that fateful morning, however, no one could have imagined what was to come. Following a bloody end of the First Crusade, the Holy Land was under Christian dominion. As news spread to Europe, a steady flow of pilgrims and travellers began to pour across the Mediterranean to visit Jerusalem and the sacred sites.

Κέρκυρα, η άγνωστη σερβική πρωτεύουσα



Η Ιστορία έχει καταχωρίσει το Βελιγράδι ώς την πρωτεύουσα του σερβικού κράτους από την ίδρυσή του, συνεχώς και αδιαλείπτως. Πλην μιας περιόδου, όχι πολύ μακριά πίσω, κατά την οποία πρωτεύουσα υπήρξε η πόλη της… Κέρκυρας.
Με σερβική Βουλή, κυβέρνηση, στρατό αλλά και υπηκόους μάλιστα. Από προχθές τη «σερβική πρωτεύουσα» στην Ελλάδα επισκέπτεται ο πρόεδρος της Σερβίας, Τόμισλαβ Νίκολιτς, επικεφαλής κυβερνητικού κλιμακίου, αποτίοντας φόρο τιμής στο «Νησί της Σωτηρίας», όπως έχει καταχωρισθεί η Κέρκυρα στη συλλογική σερβική εθνική συνείδηση. «Ηρθαμε για να τιμήσουμε τους στρατιώτες μας που κατέφυγαν στην Κέρκυρα αναζητώντας σωτηρία και για να πούμε ένα μεγάλο “ευχαριστώ” στους Ελληνες και ιδιαίτερα στους Κερκυραίους, οι οποίοι πραγματικά τους έσωσαν», δήλωσε.

Top Curtiss P-40 Warhawk Facts!




The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk is an American single-engined, single-seat, all-metal fighter and ground-attack aircraft that first flew in 1938.

Rome’s Most Hated People (Spoiler: Their Stories Often Don’t End Well)





Through the history of Rome, from the 700’s BCE kingdom to the fall of Rome in 476, or Constantinople in 1453, there have been individuals who simply inspired fierce hate and loathing from the Roman people. Some of these men and women inflicted terrible losses through multiple battles, others simply embarrassed the Romans, or were so anti-Roman that they were despised almost for existing. This list is roughly chronological and hardly complete, expect a part two in the future.

Your Arts-Centric Guide to the 2016 Presidential Primaries


Nam June Paik, "Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii" (1995) (© Nam June Paik Estate, Smithsonian American Art Museum, photo by angela n./Flickr)
Nam June Paik, “Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii” (1995) (© Nam June Paik Estate, Smithsonian American Art Museum, photo by angela n./Flickr)
As New Yorkers head to the polls tomorrow for the 2016 presidential primaries — and many more states follow suit in the coming weeks and months — it’s important to keep in mind each candidate’s record on culture. Some are surprising, like the Republican who passed the biggest boost to his state’s cultural funding agency ever. Others are expected, like the Democratic former First Lady who advocated for the arts.
The choice in November’s general election will no doubt be much clearer when it comes to support for arts, but the current field of two Democrats and three Republicans offers a rainbow of cultural policies. Here’s a rundown of some of the key points from each candidate’s political career.

Guggenheim Breaks Off Negotiations with Gulf Labor Over Migrant Rights


On May Day 2015, members of the Gulf Ultra Luxury Faction (G.U.L.F.) unveiled a large parachute in the Guggenheim Museum rotunda with the words “Meet Workers Demands Now” (image Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)
On May Day 2015, members of the Gulf Ultra Luxury Faction (G.U.L.F.) unveiled a large parachute in the Guggenheim Museum rotunda with the words “Meet Workers Demands Now” (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

Reader’s Diary: Franklin Bruno’s ‘Armed Forces’



A long time ago, Lucio Pozzi gave me a piece of advice I’ve taken to heart ever since. He said that you should always have multiple projects going to make the best use of available time, some for when you can concentrate with no interruptions, and some that can be added to whenever you have a few minutes. For me, reading can be dealt with similarly, though it’s as much a question of size and weight as of time: there are some books you don’t want to lug around — you read them at a big table at home. But then you need another book to put in your jacket pocket, ready for the next ride on the subway. Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 series of paperbacks on noteworthy rock and pop albums have clearly been designed with the jacket pocket in mind. But that’s not the only thing that interests me about them. I keep wondering whether it’s really

Κάρολος Δαρβίνος 1809 – 1882


Κάρολος Δαρβίνος

Άγγλος φυσιοδίφης, που επέφερε επαναστατικές αλλαγές στην ανθρώπινη γνώση με τη θεωρία του για τη βιολογική εξέλιξη μέσω της φυσικής επιλογής.
Ο Κάρολος Δαρβίνος, όπως είναι γνωστός στην Ελλάδα ο Τσαρλς Ρόμπερτ Ντάργουιν (Charles Robert Darwin), γεννήθηκε στις 12 Φεβρουαρίου 1809 στο Σρούσμπερι της Δυτικής Αγγλίας. Ήταν γιος του γιατρού Ρόμπερτ Ντάργουιν και της Σουζάνας Γουέτζγουντ, κόρης του περίφημου αγγειοπλάστη Τζοσάια Γουέτζγουντ.

Κάρολος Δαρβίνος 1809 – 1882


Κάρολος Δαρβίνος

Άγγλος φυσιοδίφης, που επέφερε επαναστατικές αλλαγές στην ανθρώπινη γνώση με τη θεωρία του για τη βιολογική εξέλιξη μέσω της φυσικής επιλογής.
Ο Κάρολος Δαρβίνος, όπως είναι γνωστός στην Ελλάδα ο Τσαρλς Ρόμπερτ Ντάργουιν (Charles Robert Darwin), γεννήθηκε στις 12 Φεβρουαρίου 1809 στο Σρούσμπερι της Δυτικής Αγγλίας. Ήταν γιος του γιατρού Ρόμπερτ Ντάργουιν και της Σουζάνας Γουέτζγουντ, κόρης του περίφημου αγγειοπλάστη Τζοσάια Γουέτζγουντ.
Η διανοητική ανάπτυξη του μικρού Κάρολου υπήρξε αργή. Στο σχολείο ήταν μέτριος μαθητής, ενώ στο Πανεπιστήμιο του Εδιμβούργου, όπου τον έστειλαν το 1825 για να σπουδάσει γιατρός, απέτυχε. Η περιγραφή των ασθενειών τού προκαλούσε ρίγος, όπως έλεγε, ενώ οι εγχειρίσεις χωρίς αναισθησία έθιγαν την ευαισθησία του.

Η σφαγή του Λάντλοου


Τα ερείπια της κατασκήνωσης ΛάντλοουΤα ερείπια της κατασκήνωσης Λάντλοου

Η επονομασθείσα Σφαγή του Λάντλοου υπήρξε μία από τις αιματηρότερες επιθέσεις της εργοδοσίας και του κράτους στο συνδικαλιστικό κίνημα των ΗΠΑ. Έλαβε χώρα στις 20 Απριλίου του 1914 στην πόλη Λάντλοου του Κολοράντο και ήταν το αποκορύφωμα της εργατικής καταπίεσης των 12.000 ανθρακωρύχων της περιοχής.

Λόρδος Βύρων 1788 – 1824


Λόρδος Βύρων
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Άγγλος ποιητής, ηγετική μορφή του ρομαντισμού κι ένας από τους πιο ένθερμους φιλέλληνες, που έδωσε τη ζωή του για την ελευθερία της Ελλάδας.Ο Λόρδος Βύρων, όπως είναι γνωστός στη χώρα μας ο Τζορτζ Γκόρντον Μπάιρον, 6ος Βαρώνος Μπάιρον (George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron), γεννήθηκε στις 22 Ιανουαρίου 1788 στο Λονδίνο και καταγόταν από αριστοκρατική οικογένεια.
Από μικρός αγαπούσε τη μελέτη, διάβασε πολλά βιβλία, σπούδασε σε ανώτερα αγγλικά κολέγια, έμαθε να μιλά τα ελληνικά και τα λατινικά και ταξίδευε πολύ. Σε ηλικία 21 χρόνων έγινε βουλευτής και πολλές φορές βρέθηκε αντίθετος με τους άλλους λόρδους, διότι έδειχνε ενδιαφέρον για τα ζητήματα της εργατικής τάξης.

Oικογένεια Σίμσον



Τηλεοπτική σειρά κινουμένων σχεδίων για ενήλικες, η πλέον επιτυχημένη και μακροβιότερη στην ιστορία της αμερικάνικης τηλεόρασης. Πρόκειται για ιδιότυπη σάτιρα της μεσοαστικής Αμερικής, με ήρωες τα μέλη μιας απίθανης οικογένειας, των Σίμσον, που την αποτελούν ο πατέρας Χόμερ, η μητέρα Μαρτζ και τα τρία παιδιά τους, Μπαρτ, Λίζα και Μάγκι. Δημιουργός της σειράς είναι ο σπουδαίος σύγχρονος καρτουνίστας Ματ Γκρέινιγκ («Futurama», «Life in Hell»), γεννημένος στο Πόρτλαντ του Όρεγκον το 1954.
Η Oικογένεια Σίμσον (The Simpsons) εμφανίσθηκε για πρώτη φορά στη μικρή οθόνη στις 19 Απριλίου 1987, ως ένθετο στο εβδομαδιαίο βαριετέ The Tracey Ullman Show, που παρουσίαζε στο δίκτυο Fox η γνωστή τραγουδίστρια της ποπ Τρέισι Ούλμαν. Η επιτυχία ήταν άμεση και δύο χρόνια αργότερα τα σκετσάκια των Σίμσον αυτονομήθηκαν και απέκτησαν τη μορφή της ημίωρης εκπομπής στο ίδιο κανάλι, σε ώρα μεγάλης ακροαματικότητας. Το πρώτο επεισόδιο προβλήθηκε στις 17 Δεκεμβρίου 1989.

Αλμανάκ Βασική Έκδοση 20 Απριλίου







μ. Χ.
1841
Κυκλοφορεί το βιβλίο του Έντγκαρ Άλαν Πόε «Οι Φόνοι της Οδού Μοργκ», που θεωρείται το πρώτο αστυνομικό μυθιστόρημα στην ιστορία της λογοτεχνίας.

Hy-Brasil – The mysterious phantom island of Irish mythology, noted on maps as early as 1325





Stories about the island had circulated around Europe for centuries, telling that it was the Promised Land of the Saints, an earthly paradise where fairies and magicians lived. Hy-Brasil is a phantom island said to lie in the Atlantic Ocean west of Ireland. Irish myths described it as cloaked in mist except for one day every seven years, when it became visible but still could not be reached.
Map of Europe and the Mediterranean from the copy to XIX century of Catalan Atlas of 1375. source
The etymology of the names Brasil and Hy-Brasil is unknown, but in Irish tradition, it is thought to come from the Irish Uí Breasail (meaning “descendants (i.e., clan) of Breasal”), one of the ancient clans of northeastern Ireland. cf. Old Irish: Í: island; bres: beauty, worth, great, mighty. Despite the similarity, the name of the country Brazil has no connection to the mythical islands. The South American country was at first named Ilha de Vera Cruz (Island of the True Cross) and later Terra de Santa Cruz (Land of the Holy Cross) by the Portuguese navigators who discovered the land. After some decades, it started to be called “Brazil” (Brasil, in Portuguese) due to the exploitation of native Brazilwood, at that time the only export of the land. In Portuguese, brazilwood is called pau-brasil, with the word brasil commonly given the etymology “red like an ember”, formed from Latin brasa (“ember”) and the suffix -il (from -iculum or -ilium).

Benjamin was the last Tasmanian tiger and it was left out in the cold to die in 1936




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Thylacine,  commonly known, as the Tasmanian tiger (because of its striped lower back), once native to continental Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea, it is believed to have become extinct in the 20th century.
Surviving evidence suggests that it was a relatively shy, nocturnal creature with the general appearance of a medium-to-large-size dog, except for its stiff tail and abdominal pouch (which was reminiscent of a kangaroo) and a series of dark transverse stripes that radiated from the top of its back (making it look a bit like a tiger). Like the tigers and wolves of the Northern Hemisphere, from which it obtained two of its common names, the thylacine was an apex predator.

Astounding animation glimpses into Amarna, the royal Egyptian city of Akhenaten


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The royal city of Amarna was a relatively ‘new’ settlement if viewed from the perspective of Ancient Egyptian history. Built almost 1,200 years after the Great Pyramid (circa 1346 BC), the entire city was actually constructed on a virgin site, on the orders of the Pharaoh Amenhotep IV – who was later known as Akhenaten. And while this urban scope was situated almost midway between Cairo (Giza) and Luxor, on the east bank of the Nile River (presently in the Egyptian province of Minya), the city both inspired and instigated various sections of the Egyptian elite – since it was dedicated to Aten, a solar deity who was proclaimed by the Pharaoh to be above the other Egyptian gods. In essence, Akhenaten declared a monotheistic (or possibly henotheistic) mode of religious affiliation across all of Egypt, with the worship centered around Aten. Such a radical promulgation had deep reaching effects in the Egyptian society, and ultimately resulted in counter-implementations of the traditional pantheon system – with the legacy of Akhenaten being intentionally wiped out by his successors after the defiant pharaoh’s death.

Searching for weapons, Italian police come across ancient Greek artifacts


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A weapon hunt has ultimately led to what is termed as a ‘priceless’ archaeological discovery (of a different kind). In a recent effort from the Italian police to search and locate an illegal stash of weapons inside a house near the Sicilian city of Enna, officers came across a hoard of artifacts all neatly packed in cardboard boxes and plastic crates. According to later assessment, all of these antediluvian objects – totaling around 254 pieces, date from between the 5th – 2nd centuries BC, thus suggesting their origins in Magna Graecia, a conglomeration of originally Greek settlements (later Romanized) situated by the coastline of southern Italy.

Among the ‘unforeseen’ find, the officers identified variant artifacts, ranging from vases, oil lamps to terracotta figures. Interestingly enough, preliminary analysis has revealed some degree of salt incrustation on their surfaces, which alludes to how they were possibly snatched from beneath the seas. Simply put, they were probably smuggled after being located underwater, to be ultimately sold in the antiques black market. In fact, the house itself belonged to a man who had been previously charged for various felonies. But fortunately because of the chance discovery, the ancient Greek artifacts are now handed over to the cultural heritage authority in Enna.

Inside a refloated U-Boat, sunk on 9 April 1945! Video and photos of U-843 raised from the seabed




German submarine U-843 was a Type IXC/40 U-boat. The submarine was laid down on 21 April 1942 at the DeSchiMAG AG Weser yard in Bremen, launched on 15 December 1942, and commissioned on 24 March 1943 under the command of Kapitänleutnant Oskar Herwartz.
After training with 4th U-boat Flotilla in the Baltic Sea, U-843 was transferred to 2nd U-boat Flotilla on 1 November 1943 for front-line service, and was transferred to 33rd U-boat Flotilla on 1 October 1944. She carried out three war patrols, sinking one ship, and was sunk by a British aircraft in April 1945. In
She carried out three war patrols, sinking one ship, and was sunk by a British aircraft in April 1945. In 1958 the wreck was raised, and then broken up at Gothenburg.

The Battle of Morgarten – against all the Odds, One Small Army Changes the Course of Military History




The supremacy of heavy cavalry and mounted knights on the battlefield came to an end one cold November morning in 1315, and it began with a single arrow – a single arrow and a note.
The letter had been lashed to the shaft with coarse twine, and the arrow shot from the rocky bluff above the Swiss camp. At the bottom of the page, the signature of one Henry Huenenberg was printed in black ink.
Perhaps the Austrian knight was of a remarkably chivalrous disposition, or perhaps the prospect of crushing an army as small as the Swiss Confederates’ was beneath him. Whatever his motivation, Sir Henry chose to deliver a message to his enemies – go home, the letter urged, you cannot win this battle and you cannot win this war.

ΓΕΩΘΡΗΣΚΕΙΑΣ ΤΟ ΑΝΑΓΝΩΣΜΑ. Η ΑΛΛΙΩΣ ΠΩΣ ΤΟ ΒΑΤΙΚΑΝΟ ΜΕΤΑΤΡΕΠΕΤΑΙ ΣΤΟ ΝΕΟ ΠΑΙΚΤΗ ΤΗΣ ΓΕΩΠΟΛΙΤΙΚΗΣ ΣΚΑΚΙΕΡΑΣ

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Το άρθρο που ακολουθεί δημοσιεύτηκε στο τεύχος Μαΐου Ιουνίου 2015 (περίπου ένα χρόνο πριν) του ηλεκτρονικού περιοδικού του Geopolitics and Daily News
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«Αν κάποιος θέλει να προβλέψει το μέλλον, πρέπει να συμβουλευτεί το παρελθόν, καθώς τα γεγονότα του σήμερα μοιάζουν με του παρελθόντος. Αυτό συμβαίνει, επειδή δημιουργούνται από ανθρώπους που πάντοτε ωθούνταν και θα ωθούνται από τα ίδια πάθη και έτσι αναγκαστικά επιφέρουν τα ίδια αποτελέσματα.»
Μακιαβέλι

Οι ιδιοτροπίες του Αϊνστάιν


original.jpgΟ Άλμπερτ Αϊνστάιν ίσως είναι ο μεγαλύτερος επιστήμονας που γνώρισε ποτέ ο κόσμος. Βραβευμένος με Νόμπελ και εμπνευστής της θεωρίας της σχετικότητας πέθανε ακριβώς πριν από 60 χρόνια στις 18 Απριλίου του 1955 σε ηλικία 76 ετών αφού πρώτα έθεσε τις βάσεις της μοντέρνας φυσικής και αφού άλλαξε την οπτική που είχαμε για το διάστημα, τον χρόνο, την ενέργεια. Όμως πόσοι ξέρουν ότι ήταν εθισμένος στα τηγανιτά αυγά;
Οι παραξενιές

Το μαλλί του τρελού επιστήμονα προέκυψε από την τσιγκουνιά. Ο Αϊνστάιν δεν ήθελε να δώσει λεφτά στον μπαρμπέρη. Μάταια προσπάθησε η δεύτερη σύζυγός του, η Elsa Loewenthal, η οποία ήταν και ξαδέλφη του, να τον πείσει να κόψει τα μαλλιά του σε κουρείο.
Όταν μεγάλωναν πολύ τα μαλλιά του η σύζυγός του δεν το άντεχε και τον κυνηγούσε με ένα ψαλίδι.

Shackled skeletons inside ancient Greek grave might have belonged to rebels


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Back in March, we talked about Palaio Faliro (or Παλαιόν Φάληρον, translated to ‘ Old Phalerum’) – the ancient port city of Athens, which is also known for its extensive network of old graves that contain around 1,500 skeletons. And the researchers were seriously puzzled by the discovery of skeletons that were shackled and unceremoniously deposited in mass graves. Well now a team led by Stella Chrysoulaki, an archaeologist at the Department of Antiquities of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture in Greece, may have some answers regarding the presence of these grisly evidences inside the cemetery compound. To that end, some of these shackled skeletons might have belonged to the supporters of Cylon, a tyrant who tried to overthrow the leader of ancient Greece as part of a coup in 632 BC.

Ποιος ήταν ο Μωάμεθ;…



Γράφει ο Γιάννης Σιατούφης
Πριν εκπνεύσει ο 7ος αιώνας μ.Χ. μία νέα θρησκεία ιδρύεται, το Ισλάμ, διακριτή από τον Ιουδαϊσμό και το Χριστιανισμό. Οι αραβικές πηγές που αφηγούνται τη ζωή του Μωάμεθ είναι μεταγενέστερες. Για παράδειγμα ο πρώτος βιογράφος του Προφήτη έγραψε γι’ αυτόν έναν αιώνα μετά το θάνατό του.
Το πιο ασαφές κομμάτι της ζωής του Μωάμεθ είναι τα πρώτα χρόνια της ζωής του. Αναφέρεται ότι γεννήθηκε στη Μέκκα, μια πόλη της δυτικής Αραβίας, μάλλον το 570 μ.Χ. . Η οικογένειά του ανήκε στη φυλή των Κουραΐς, των οποίων τα μέλη ήταν έμποροι που είχαν συνάψει συμφωνίες με τις ποιμενικές φυλές γύρω από τη Μέκκα, αλλά είχαν και σχέσεις με τη Συρία και τη νοτιοδυτική Αραβία. Λέγεται μάλιστα ότι συνδεόταν με το ιερό της πόλης Κάαμπα, όπου φυλάσσονταν οι εικόνες των τότε τοπικών θεών.

The Italian Mercenary, Amleto Vespa, who Worked for the Japanese Secret Police




Amleto Vespa was one of the genuine adventurers of the first half of the twentieth century. It is important to stress that almost all sources of Vespa’s life come from his sensationalist autobiography titled Secret Agent of Japan:  A Handbook to Japanese Imperialism that was published in 1938. The book is to be read with some caution, but nevertheless brings an interesting insight into the relationship between crime and the secret services during the Japanese occupation of China.
Born to a poor Italian family in L’Aquilla, Abruzzo region, he abandoned his family home to become a soldier of fortune in the Mexican Revolution where he fought Emiliano Zapata’s rebels. The revolution occurred in 1910 and it lasted for ten years. After Mexico, he embarked on a journey to China in 1920, where he worked for a Chinese warlord called Zhang Zuolin. Zhang was indeed a powerful warlord who controlled Manchuria prior to the Japanese invasion.
By some, Zhang was the link between China and Japan as he served as a Japanese proxy for their interests in Manchuria. Apart from Japanese sponsorship, he financed his war effort through gun running and the drug trade, which became Vespa’s responsibility.