Wednesday, October 30, 2013

H H Holmes American Monster

Born as Herman Webster Mudgett in 1861 be would grow up to be one of the first known serial killers in the United States under the alias of Dr. Henry Howard Holmes. The exact number of victims is unknown but is thought to be in the hundreds. There were also ties to murders on another continent. 

It is unknown when he took his first victim but still as Mudgett he enrolled in the University of Michigan Medical School with the intent on making himself a more efficient killer. He graduated in 1884. While still in school he mastered the scheme of stealing bodies from the university laboratory and collected money from insurance policies he had taken out on them. Collecting insurance on his future victims became a steady source of income. 

He moved to Chicago to to take advantage of his medical knowledge by pursuing a career in pharmaceuticals. He adopted his alias commonly referred to as H. H. Holmes and entered into ventures both legal and not. He made his money in real estate, business and murder. He started to work at a drugstore in Chicago and eventually became sole proprietor after the owner disappeared. Murder turned profitable as he started to sell the skeletons and organs of his victims to universities around the country.

He amassed great wealth and used it to purchase the property across the street from the drugstore and he started building a massive three story, block long hotel. There was an evil plan at unfolding. Holmes knew that Chicago would host the 1893 World's Fair just blocks from his location and he would have it completed by then. Each week he had a different construction crew so no one knew the true lay out of the hotel. The neighbors called it a castle but it would later be adjusted to the "Murder Castle". He put the finishing touch on the outside by naming it World's Fair Hotel.

There were gas lines running to each bedroom where he could asphyxiate them at whim. He also had a sound proof vault next to an office he had on premises where he could suffocate other victims. A hidden chute went from many of the rooms directly to the basement. There was a torture room in the basement complete with a stretching rack. The basement also had two giant furnaces and pits of acid. 

The 1893 World's Fair offered him many victims with people from out of town looking for a place to stay. He continued his insurance scheme by having people sign life insurance policies as they checked in. Holmes collected insurance policies and sold the skeletons and organs of some victims. 

A glass bending factory on the other side of town was also owned by Holmes although it was never used for that purpose. While not close to his hotel it was near an apartment he had rented for a mistress Minnie Williams whose personal belongings were found in the factory. Mudgett\Holmes had been married three times but never officially divorced any of them. Police also discovered that Holmes had owned and operated a Fruit and Grocery Store near there under the alias of Frank Wilde.

There is also evidence that Holmes may also have been the infamous Jack the Ripper. He was in London at the time trying to sell a skeleton to the local universities. He possessed the medical knowledge that the Ripper would have had. His handwriting was a near perfect match to the letters that the Ripper sent to the police.

It was his murder and insurance claim pattern that did him in. Holmes had come up with a plan where his longtime associate Benjamin Pitezel would fake his own death and  Pitezel and his wife would collect the insurance and split it with Holmes. Holmes ended up killing Pitezel and collected the money himself. Later Holmes killed three of Pitezel's children and when he went to claim the money he was arrested. It was at that time that Chicago Police went to the Murder Castle in July 1895 and discovered the horrors there. The building burned to the ground on August 19, 1895. He was put to death by hanging on May 7, 1896.

Bloodless 34 Hour Battle at Fort Sumter

South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860. United States Major Robert Anderson and his 85 soldiers suddenly found themselves behind enemy lines in a foreign land. Fearing for the safety of his men he moved them Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter. Fort Moultrie was in a more vulnerable position at the mouth of Charleston Harbor while Fort Sumter was in the middle of the harbor.

By inauguration day March 4, 1861 Anderson reported that they only had a six week supply of food left. A previous attempt to send a to send supplies on January 9, 1861 by order of President James Buchanan on the merchant ship Star of the West was thwarted when the ship was fired upon. There was an initial warning shot across the bow before three shots hit the ship. The damage was not major but the ship's captain John McGowan deemed it too dangerous to continue and abandoned the mission.

The Confederates were also making it known that his force was not welcome. Several other Federal forts in seceded states had already been seized by respective state troops. All other federal federal properties had already been seized within South Carolina except Fort Sumner.

President Abraham Lincoln made another attempt to supply Fort Sumter. He notified South Carolina Governor Francis W Pickens on April 6 that supply ships were being sent. The notification was made directly to the Governor rather than the Confederate government because he did not recognize it. A fleet of ships under the command of Gustavus V. Fox. The ships included the USS Pawnee, the USS Powhatan, the USS Pocahontas, the cutter Harriet Lane, the steamer Baltic which was transporting 200 troops and three tug boats. The supply ship would carry the supplies to the fort while the warships remained outside the harbor. President Lincoln figured if his ship was fired upon first the Confederacy would be the aggressor and he could rally support from the other states.

In reaction the Confederates knew they had to act before the ships arrived and General P.G.T. Beauregard who was the Confederate commander at Charleston was ordered to demand evacuation of Fort Sumter or to force its evacuation. The request to surrender the Fort was made on April 11 but refused. The Harriet Lane arrived the evening of April 11.

The first mortar round was fired by the Confederacy on Fort Sumter at 4:30am on April 12. It was the start of 34 continuous hours of bombardment. Major Anderson held return fire because their supplies were low and at 7am allowed his second in command Captain Abner Doubleday the honor of firing the first shot in defense of the Fort. To conserve ammunition the return of fire was sporadic. Shells were bursting all around the Fort and some walls crashed down. But Anderson had chosen not to utilize some of the mounted guns so not to put his men in harm's way. 

Fox arrived on the April 12 on the Baltic but most of the rest of the fleet did not arrive until hours later. Landing craft were sent toward the Fort but had to turn back due to artillery fire. The next day the choppy waves in the sea made it too difficult to load the small boats for another attempt and Fox postponed with the hope Anderson could hold the Fort until dark on the 13th. 

At 1pm on April 13 Confederate Colonel Louis Wigfall, a former U.S Senator approached the Fort and asked Anderson if they were ready to evacuate. Nearly out of ammunition and food with his men hungry and exhausted Anderson agreed to a truce at 2pm. The Fort had endured over 3000 shells and Anderson had no casualties or wounded. The confederacy made the same claim. 

The terms of the surrender allowed Anderson to make a 100 gun salute to the U.S. flag before he and his men would evacuate. However they were only half way through before an accident caused an explosion killing one man immediately, mortally wounding another and left four others seriously wounded. Anderson and his men marched out of the Fort and boarded a Confederate steamer that took them out to the Baltic where Fox awaited. Anderson took the Fort Sumter flag with him on the trip north.

American Civil War page

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Queen Nitocris of Egypt

Queen Nitocris was the last ruler of the sixth dynasty in Egypt around 2150 BC. There is currently no archaeological record of her but she was mentioned by Egyptian historian Manetho, Greek historian Herodotus and on the Turin Royal Canon. Her name has also appeared as Neterkare, Neterikare, Nitiqrty and Neitiqerty.

She succeeded Menenre Nemtyemsaf II or Menenre II who was her husband and brother. The reign of Menenre II lasted only one year before he was murdered. Nitocris spent her reign plotting revenge on those that killed her brother. Some speculation was she ruled for 12 years but her reign may have been as short as three years.

The account of her last days by Herodotus tells that she had an underground hall constructed that was connected to the Nile River by a hidden duct. She invited all those she felt were responsible for the death of Menenre II to a great feast. When everyone was seated and eating she ordered the barrier opened and the water from the Nile flowed in and drowned the traitors. She then committed suicide by throwing herself in a room with hot ashes where she suffocated.

Ancient Egypt page

Monday, October 28, 2013

Anicetus Ancient Pirate and Year of Four Emperors

Anicetus was the first recognized pirate in the Roman Empire around 69 AD although piracy had flourished in the Mediterranean earlier around 100 BC. He had been a slave freed under King Polemon II of Pontus and went on to command the Classis Pontica which was the Pontic Royal navy. He lost his command when the country was conquered and converted into a Roman province by Emperor Nero in 63 AD. 

The reclassified country was divided into three districts. Pontus Galaticus was in the west which bordered Galatia. Pontus Polemoniacus was in the center and contained the capital Polemonium. Pontus Cappadocicus was in the east and bordered Cappadocia.

Nero died in 68 and a civil war broke out for control. It was also known as the Year of the Four Emperors. Servius Sulpicius Galba was the governor of Hispania Tarraconesis and he was the first successor as Emperor Galba. He quickly became unpopular and was killed by the Praetorian guard which was bribed by Marcus Salvius Otho who soon became Emperor Otho. That was soon challenged by Aulus Vitellius who had been appointed governor of Germania Inferior by Galba just months earlier.

Vitellius was also commander of army of Germania Inferior and sent half its forces toward Italy. At this time Anicetus declared loyalty to Vitellius and led an attack on the city of Trapezus where the Roman fleet was docked. He helped destroy the fleet by setting the ships on fire. He also led an attack on the Roman forces at Colchis another city located on the eastern coast of the Black Sea. His efforts helped Vitellius become emperor after Otho committed suicide.

Anticetus sought refuge with the Iberian tribes and continued to be a disruptive force through piracy using a camarae. A camarae was a light weight double ended ship which could be rowed in either direction by 25 to 30 men. Yet the forces of Titus Flavius Vespasianus were quickly gaining power as he gained the supporters of Otho in addition to being declared Emperor first by Egypt and then by Syria. The Roman fleet was rebuilt and was in pursuit of Anticetus.

The forces of Vespasian put down the revolt under the leadership of Virdius Geminus. With a fleet of Liburnian ships they had pursued and overtook Anticetus at the mouth of the Cohibus River. His alliance with the tribesmen quickly dissolved as they turned him over to the Romans who executed him. Vitellius was negotiating his resignation but ended up being killed by Vespasian's troops. The reign of Vitellius had been short but cruel with torture and executions. He was beheaded, his body thown in the Tiber River and his head was paraded around Rome. Vespasian became the fourth emperor of the year 69 AD and he ruled until 79 AD.

pirate page

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mount Tambora eruption of 1815

Mount Tambora is a volcano on the northern edge of the island of Sumbawa, Indonesia that erupted on April 10, 1815 with the deadliest and most powerful eruption of the past 10,000 years. The eruption was a 7 out of 8 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index or VEI scale. The initial death toll at the site of the eruption was 10,000 to 12,000 buried in the lava flows. The total death toll in the aftermath was 60,000 to 100,000. About 32,000 died in the resulting tsunami and thousands more died in the famine in the Northern Hemisphere that was another result of the eruption.

Mount Tambora started having activity in 1812 when steam and ash were expelled and small tremors were created. There was an initial eruption on April 5, 1815 that sent a volcanic column 25 km or 15.5 miles into the air and could be heard over 1000 km or 620 miles away. The historic eruption on April 10 shot rocks, pumice, ash and aerosols to an altitude of 40 to 50 km or 25 to 31 miles. The top of the volcano was destroyed as 30 cubic kilometers  were among the debris along with 50 cubic kilometers of magma and the explosion was heard as far away as Sumatra Island which was about 2000 km or 1200 miles away. The ash from the explosion landed as far as 1300 km or 800 miles away on islands including Borneo, Java, Maluku and Sulawesi. Floating islands of pumice as large as 5 km or 3 miles long were encountered afterward and hindered ship navigation up to four years afterward,

The eruption also caused a volcanic winter that caused global temperatures to drop and contributed to the Year Without a Summer in 1816. An aerosol cloud caused by sulfuric acid spewed by Mount Tambora reflected some of the sunlight keeping it from reaching Earth. The effect on the weather led to an agricultural disaster as crops failed and livestock died in North America, Europe and Asia. There were reports of a continuous dry fog over the northeastern United States in the spring and summer of 1816. The crop failures were widespread from the corn crops in New England in America, the wheat, oat and potato crops of Ireland and the rice crops of China. All areas effected encountered famine and economic strife with rising food prices. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lighthouse of Alexandria

The Lighthouse of Alexandria was on the island of Pharos off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. It was also known as the Pharos Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Great Lightouse of Alexandria, the Lightouse of Pharos, The Pharos Lighthouse and Pharos of Alexandria. It was one of the tallest man-made structures in the world for centuries.

Alexandria, Egypt was founded by Alexander the Great of Macedonia in 332 BC and was one of about 70 cities in his empire that he founded and named after himself. He had a mole or stone causeway constructed to unite the island of Pharos with Alexandria nearly a mile away. The area to the east of the mole became a great harbour

Alexander the Great died in 323 BC and his successor was Ptolemy I Soter who commissioned the building of the lighthouse around 290 BC.  It took between 12 to 20 years to complete. Ptolemy I Soter died in 283 BC and the construction was completed under his son and successor Ptolemy II Philadelphus.

The structure itself was made of limestone blocks and had three levels. The foundation level was a square 30 meters by 30 meters or about 100 foot by 100 foot while the height was about 75 meters or 246 feet. The middle level was octagonal with each side about 18 meters or 60 feet with a height of 35 meters or 115 feet. The top level was a cylinder which was about 18 meters or 60 feet high including a section for the where a large mirror reflected daylight in the day and they utilized a furnace at night.The interior of the lighthouse had stairs to allow people to reach the beacon area on the top level. A statue of Triton stood at the four corners of the building while a statue of Poseidon was on top of the lighhouse. The total height of the lighthouse was about 118 meters or 390 feet. It was considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The basic design was used for the construction of all light houses that followed.

The lighthouse suffered minor damage by an earthquake in 956 AD but had major structural damage by earthquakes in 1303 and 1323. Many of the remaining stones were used in the construction of a fort on the site in 1480 commissioned by Qaitbay the Sultan of Egypt. 

Ancient Seven Wonders page

Friday, October 25, 2013

Templar Knights Early Fund Raising

The original Templar Knights returned to France after spending their initial nine years in Jerusalem ready to expand their organization. They had a powerful supporter of an influential church figure in Bernard of Clairvaux. Bernard was the founder of a Cistercian monestary and was the nephew of one of the founding Templar Knights Andre de Montbard. Bernard championed the cause of the Templars presenting them as a spiritual militia for Christ who were a "new species of knighthood, previously unknown in the secular world". He led a group of leading churchmen at the Council of Troyes where Pope Honorius II recongnized and approved the Order of the Knights Templar in 1129. Bernard was later canonized in 1174 by Pope Alexander III to become Saint Bernard.

With the blessing of Pope Honorius III the Order of the Knights Templar soon became a favorite charity and they entered an impressive fund raising campaign. The Order received donations in the form of money, land and businesses. They also accepted noble born sons into the order to help continue the fight in the Holy Land. The Order received another boost in 1139 when Pope Innocent II issued the Omne Datum Optimum which was a Papal Bull that officialy approved Templar Rule, gave them papal protection, allowed them to keep all spoils gained during Muslim conquest in the Crusades and gave the Order exemption from tithes and taxes.

The Order of the Knights Templar had quickly grown past their impoverished roots often portrayed by two knights riding one horse. They were building a wealthy empire with donated property in France, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Scotland and Italy. While part of the fund raising went to supported the training and supporting the Knights for the Crusades other resources were used to build castles, fortresses and churches. Besides the aforementioned countries the Order also built in England, Poland, Croatia, Cyprus, Israel and Syria. 

Knights Templar page

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Black Death

The Black Death was a devastating pandemic that swept through Asia, Africa and Europe from about 1330 to 1350. The disease was likely the bubonic plague and several other variations. By the time it ran its course the world's population was greatly reduced.

The exact point of origin is unknown but possible locations include northwest China, southwest China and the steppes of Central Asia. A known outbreak occurred in the territories of the Great Yuan Empire in 1331 raging through Mongolia and China. In 1334 more than 90% percent of the population or 5 million people died in the Hebei Province that surrounded Beijing. Three rounds of the epidemic cut the population by 60% in the region 1330 to 1350. Overall China lost about one third of its population. It was one of the contributing factors in the Mongols losing control in China and later paving the way for the Ming Dynasty.

The bacteria of the plague was spread by the Mongols and by traders along the Silk Road and on ships traveling to Europe and Africa. The bacterium Yersinia pestis was the specific cause of the bubonic plague and it is found in fleas which in turn were found on rodents such as rats. When an infected flea bit a human it took about four to six days for symptoms to develop including swollen lymph nodes and a black cyst where they were bitten. Then dark lumps called buboes formed on the skin all over the body. The disease affected the nervous system and death occurred in fifty to sixty percent of the victims.

The plague reached the city of Kaffa on the Black Sea by 1346. Kaffa was controlled by a group of merchants from Genoa, Italy with permission from the Mongols. The disease was introduced to Europe in October 1347 when 12 of the Genoan trading ships arrived in Messina with most of the crews dead and the remaining very ill. The Genoan traders also spread the disease with their ships that same year to Constantinople, Turkey, Alexandria, Egypt and the island of Cyprus.

The Black Death continued to race through Europe as it continued through Italy and by 1348 reached France and Spain. In 1349 it reached the British Isles, Norway and Germany. It reached Russia by 1350. 

The same horror was seen in Africa as it spread from Alexandria through north Africa. It struck villages all along the Nile River and reached Cairo in 1348 wiping out more than 200,000 people or over one third of the city's population. It had also reached Tunis in 1348 and spread to the Middle East as it hit Gaza, Palestine and Syria. The disease reached Yemen by 1351. 

By the time the pandemic ran its course devastating losses were everywhere. Europe had about 25 to 50 million die or about one third of the population. China lost about 35 million or about a third of the population. About 40 percent of Egypt's population was lost. The range for the death toll estimates world wide has ranged from 75 million to 220 million.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Battle of Westport

The Battle of Westport was the biggest battle fought west of the Mississippi River in the Civil War and took place on October 22 and October 23, 1864. It was fought at Westport, Missouri near Kansas City. The Confederate forces were led by General Sterling Price who had been a popular Governor in Missouri. The Union had General Samuel Curtis leading the army with headquarters in Kansas City and General Alfred Pleasonton leading the calvary.

Price led his Army of Missouri back to the state via Arkansas in early September 1864. He had the three fold mission of diverting Union forces from the East where Confederate armies were struggling, winning the state back from the North and turning public opinion against the Republicans with the hopes of hurting them including President Lincoln in the next election. Price had a six week run before the last decisive conflict. He had entered the state 12,000 strong but his numbers were down to 8,500 by Westport.

Price knew he was being pinned between the Union army with 17,000 before him and the calvary of Pleasonton with 4,100 approaching from behind. The tactic was to first attack the Curtis led troops and then turn to face the calvary. The Confederates were fresh off victories at Lexington and Independence in the previous few days and had one more on October 22. The Kansas calvary led by Col. Charles "Doc" Jennison were the Union force that met the Confederate calvary under General Jo Shelby and tried to stop them from crossing the Big Blue River at Byram's Ford. The Union were able to hold off the initial assault before the Confederates crossed further down river and then flanked Jennison's forces which made them retreat to Westport where the bulk of Curtis' army was.

The morning of October 23 started out well for Price and the Confederate troops as they drove the Union across Brush Creek. They could not continue the advance because the did not have the supplies to continue including Shelby's calvary running out of ammunition. Pleasonton's calvary was attacking from one side and Curtis's troops turned the Confederates and soon they were in full retreat to the southwest. To aid their escape Price's men set the prairie grass ablaze allowing them to get away under the cover of the smoke. The two union forces stopped pursuit as they were exhausted and reluctant to continue fighting. When it was over about 1500 were dead on each side.

American Civil War page

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Merneith Queen of Egypt

Merneith was a Queen in Egypt around 3000 BC in the first dynasty. There are many accepted spellings of her name such as Merytneith, MeritNit and Meryt-Neith since it is being interpreted from the original hieroglyphics. Her name means "Beloved by Neith" and Neith was a goddess with a large following in Egypt because she was a war deity whose blessing applied to the weapons of both soldiers and hunters.

Their family ruled a newly unified Egypt for a several generations. King Djer was the third pharoah of the first dynasty who ruled for about 40 years after his father Hor-Aha ruled for 62 years and his grandfather Narmer, also known as Menes, also ruled about 60 years. King Djer had a son Djet who succeeded him and ruled for 23 years. Merneith was the sister of Djet and was also his Queen. When Djet died his son Den was too young to rule and Merneith ruled until he came of age.

There is some debate whether Merneith merely ruled as a Regent or had the status of Pharoah. One point that shows she was a Pharoah was her inclusion on the Palermo Stone which recorded the kings of Egypt from the First Dynasty to the Fifth Dynasty. The way she was honored in death gives indication she was an influential ruler and buried with the status of a king. First she had two tombs with one at Abydos and another at Sakkara or Saqqara. While it was common for the kings to have two tombs no other female ruler had two tombs. 

Her tomb at Abydos was in the vicinity of those of Djet and Den and was comparable in size to both. Surrounding the burial chamber were eight store rooms and over 40 smaller tombs which contained many of those that had been in her service. The tomb at Sakkara contained a solar boat which would have enabled her to travel in the afterlife with the sun god Ra. That was something that had been reserved for kings. There were also additional smaller tombs at the second tomb that contained craftsmen that were to assist her in the afterlife.

The accomplishments of her reign are unknown because little is known of the period. Egypt was still in transition after her great-grandfather Namer had unified the kingdoms of upper and lower Egypt. During the first dynasty hieroglyphics were also introduced. 

One point of contention would be the actual length of the reigns. When the average life expectancy age in ancient Egypt was at 35 even for the wealthy males it seems unlikely there were reigns of 40 to 62 years. Their calendars were the same at that time. There is most likely an misinterpretation and some other measurement or milestone other than years was used. If the years are accurate then it raises the question of how they were able to live for so long.

Ancient Egypt page

Monday, October 21, 2013

Adam Baldridge Pirate Entrepreneur

Adam Baldridge was one of the founders of the Pirate settlements near Madagascar. He had fled Jamaica to escape a murder charge and sailed to Madagascar and then east to near by St Mary's Island also known as Ile Sainte Marie and Nosy Boraha. He established a settlement there in 1685 because he realized the harbor with it's bottle neck would to be the easiest to defend among the other islands in the chain. He built a stone fortress armed with forty cannons he had secured from Spanish and French ships.

Baldridge had a partnership with New York importer Frederick Philipse and the goods and money flowed both ways. On the island Baldridge could basically set his price and he sold his goods at greatly marked up prices. The pirates would trade the booty they had plundered in exchange for a wide range of goods including produce, livestock, tools, ammunition and rum. He could get the rum from Philipse for one or two shillings and then resell it for three pounds sterling or about 81 shillings. The produce he could offer the pirates included bananas, coconuts, lemons, oranges, pineapples and yams. In addition to the cattle he could also offer chicken, fish and turtles. There were dozens of warehouses filled with both the treasure he collected from the pirates and the merchandise he traded to them.

Baldridge also found it profitable to enter the slave trade. He found that he could greatly under cut the costs of the traders on the West Coast of Africa where a slave cost three or four pounds sterling. Yet on the east coast he could purchase a slave for ten shillings or the equivalent in goods. There was a pipeline established that sent them to Massachusetts, New York and the West Indies. He also sold the slaves to various ships passing through his harbor bound for numerous countries. Yet it was the slave trade that was his undoing. He made the major mistake of capturing some of the local natives and selling them into slavery. The locals learned of this and revolted and destroyed the fortress and warehouses in 1697. 

Baldridge was able to flee on a ship named the Swift that he had purchased. The ship was later found abandoned on the coast of North Carolina. He lived in the following years in New York and New Jersey.

pirate page

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Treaty of Gorinchem and Treaty of Venlo

An agreement was reached between the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Duke Charles II of Guelders on October 20, 1528 during the Guelderian Wars when they signed a treaty in Gorinchem, Habsburg Netherlands. The conflicts had started in 1502 between the Duke of Burgandy, who had control over the counties of Brabant, Flanders, Hainaut and Holland, and Duke Charles II of Guelders who controlled Frisia, Groningen and Guelders which were to the north. In the terms of the treaty Duke Charles, who was childless, agreed that Emperor Charles V would be his heir apparent and his lands would fall under his control. 

Duke Charles II of Guelders died on June 30, 1538 without an heir but did not want to live up to the treaty. He appointed Duke William of Jülich-Cleves-Berge, related through his great-grandfather Duke Reinald IV of Guelders and Jülich, as his successor. Emperor Charles V immediately disputed the claim so Duke William allied himself with the King Francis I of France. King Francis forced his niece Jeanne d'Albret to marry Duke William in 1541. Yet Duke William learned that France would not help when the forces of the Emperor invaded. Although he had allies to aid in the fight his forces were eventually overwhelmed and he had to surrender in 1543. Duke William agreed to the Treaty of Venlo where he was forced to give up Guelders and the County of Zutphen as they were combined with Habsburg Netherlands under the rule of Emperor Charles V. As a concession Duke William was allowed to keep Jülich. His marriage to Jeanne was annulled in 1545.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was also known as the Tomb of Mausolus as it was the final resting place of the ruler of Caria in Asia Minor near present day Bodrum, Turkey. The official story is that his wife Queen Artemisia II of Caria had the structure built to honor her husband and it was completed about 350 BC which was three years after his death. Yet due to the scale of the building some believe that Mausolus had the construction started while he was still alive. Artemisia died two years after her husband and the urns of the pair were at the site as the tomb was completed around them. The term mausoleum was coined after that to refer to an above ground tomb.

Mausolus had succeeded his father Hecatomnus as the satrap of Caria around 395 BC. Satraps were the governors of the provinces in the Persian Empire. He was able to expand the territory of his rule by conquering the regions of Ionia and Lycia in addition to several Greek islands. He made the decision to move the capital from Mylasa to Halicarnassus with one contributing factor being it would be easier to defend. His Queen Artemisia was also his sister which was not uncommon at the time for the ruling elite to marry within their own family. 

The Mausoleum itself was built by several talented Greek sculptors including Bryaxis, Leochares, Scopas and Timotheus. The four each took side of the tomb to decorate. Several hundred other craftsmen were also involved. The structure was on a hill which over looked the city. It was 140 feet or 43 meters high and had a nearly 50 foot or 14 meter platform in the center which housed the marble tomb. While the whole complex was ornate with numerous sculptures one of the most distinctive was on top of the tomb where a chariot with the likenesses of Mausolus and Artemisia was pulled by four massive horses. Throughout there were influences of the Egyptians, Greeks and Lycians. The completed mausoleum was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

The Mausoleum was damaged by a series of earthquakes in the 1200's. It was finally destroyed by Crusaders in 1522. At present day only the foundation remains.

Ancient Seven Wonders page

Friday, October 18, 2013

Knights Templar Founded

The Order of the Knights Templar started with nine founding members in 1119 with Hugues de Payens as the leader and first Grand Master. The other other eight were related to him by either blood or marriage. All nine were thought to have been descendants of the Royal House of Judah. The identities of only five of the others were known for certain to be Geoffrey Bisol, Andre de Montbard, Payne de Monteverdi, Archambaud de St Agnan and Godfrey de Saint-Omer. Two of the other three only had a single name recorded and were known as Gondemare and Rosal. There is documentation that the single named two had been Cistercian monks. The identity of the ninth knight is up for debate as he is listed as Godfrey at times but there was also documentation that stated that Count Hugh I de Champagne was among those when the monks joined them. He officially joined the Knights Templar in 1125 but his involvement before then is unknown. 

The First Crusade ended shortly after the Christians had captured Jerusalem in 1099. Many Christians started to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem but it was a dangerous journey as over 300 travelers were murdered en route. Hugues drew his last name from being from the town of Payens which was in the Champagne region of France. After the death of his wife, Hugues twice accompanied Hugh I, Count of Champagne on pilgrimages to the Holy Land in 1104-1107 and 1114-1116. There is some speculation that Hugues stayed in Jerusalem for a couple years years laying the groundwork and then returned to France rally the others.

The nine returned to the Holy Land and Hughes de Paynes approached King Baldwin II of Jerusalem to offer their services to protect the traveling pilgrims. King Baldwin gave his approval and allowed the Order to establish their headquarters at the Temple Mount. For the next nine years they spent the time excavating and mining in the extensive tunnels that exist under the Temple Mount. During that time the did not provide much of the protection that was their original directive. But after that nine year period Hugues de Payens and the others returned to France in position to take the Order to the next step. Soon they were able to offer protection and much more as their organization quickly grew in both numbers, power and wealth.

Knights Templar page

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dubbed America

The Universalis Cosmographia was a map created by Martin Waldseemüller and first published in April 1507. The significance of the map is that it was the first to use the name America. The German cartographer named the territory after Amerigo Vespucci who was an Italian explorer and cartographer.

Waldseemüller created some sections of the map making presumptions and intuition based on reports from explorers such as Vespucci and Christopher Columbus. He correctly depicted a land mass between Europe and Asia and the existence of another Ocean on the other side. He made the assumption that the natives that Vespucci encountered were not similar to the Asian people other explorers had come across in India, China and the West Indies. He made the leap that since the Vespucci natives were so different that it must have been a land far from Asia. Since Vespucci made his encounters in what is now Brazil that is the area that the map showed as America.

The map itself was printed on twelve woodcuts that were 18 x 24.5 inches or 46 x 62 cm. The twelve were laid out four across and three high. The section showing America was in the lower left corner. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ancient Copper Mines of Michigan

The modern mining industry in America found success in extracting copper from Michigan starting in the 1840's. Many of those mines in Keweenaw Peninsula and Isle Royale were set up at the locations previously established centuries before. There were about 5000 mine pits on Isle Royale mostly in the ten to twenty foot depth range. The estimates on the copper extracted from those mines centuries ago range as high as 500,000 to 750,000 tons.

The debate is over who originally mined the copper out of Keweenaw Peninsula and Isle Royale. The majority believe that Native Americans mined the area starting about 5000 BC. There have been copper artifacts found among several Native American cultures. Sheets of copper had been used for trade along with gold and silver. Yet the small amount of copper found to date is such a small fraction of what was mined there is speculation it went elsewhere.

There is one theory that the Minoans of Crete had discovered the copper deposits and either mined it themselves or forced the locals to be their labor. The Minoans had been traders and made their way by ship to other countries outside their island nation. Had the Minoans discovered and mined the copper it would have given them the resources to spark the Bronze Age which began on Crete around 2700 BC. The gap from the start of the Michigan mining to the start of the Bronze age may have been due to having minimal luck in finding huge deposits in the early going and their mining practices likely improved over time. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Temple Mount

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem holds special meaning to the three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is a sacred place shared by all three but for different reasons. For thousands of years millions have used the common ground for worship.

Judaism holds the Temple Mount as sacred because they view it as the location God chose for Divine Presence to rest. It is also the location of Abraham's binding of Isaac where Abraham offered to sacrifice his son to God before an angel stopped him. It was also the site of two temples. The First Temple was built by King Solomon and completed in 957 BC but was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. The Second Temple constructed with permission of King Cyrus the Great of Persia and was completed in 515 BC but was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. There is still hope for a Third Temple on the site one day. The location is still the holiest site in Judaism and Jews turn in that direction during prayer.

The Temple Mount is sacred for Christianity because it is where Jesus Christ preached and healed. He had spent time in the Second Temple over the years as he was raised practicing Judaism. Jesus had referred the Temple as "his Father's house" which makes the site sacred for Christians. Jesus was crucified at Golgotha which was about a half mile East of the Temple Mount. The location is still one of meditation, prayer, worship and study for Christians.

Islam views the Temple Mount as sacred because it was the location of important events of the Prophet Mohammad. About 621 AD Mohammed traveled from Mecca to Jerusalem in a night journey or isra. After his physical journey he had a spiritual one where he ascended to Heaven where Allah or God shared the principles of Islam with him. His ascension was known as mi'raj. For 4 years until 625 Jerusalem was the first direction of prayer for Muslims. Then it was changed to Mecca. The Dome of the Rock is a Muslim shrine completed in 691 at the location Mohammed ascended to Heaven. The Al-Aqsa Mosque is also on Temple Mount and was originally built in 705 and was rebuilt three times in 754, 780 and 1033. The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam. The Temple Mount is under Muslim control today.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Battle of Hastings

The Battle of Hastings took place on October 14, 1066 near Hastings and East Sussex, England. The English army led by King Harold II fought the invading Norman-French army of Duke William of Normandy.

The events that led up to the battle started in 1051 when William visited his cousin Edward the Confessor. Edward was the King of England and didn't have any children and William claimed that Edward had declared that William would be his heir. However, on his deathbed in January 1066 Edward said Harold Godwinson would succeed him. William disputed the claim and planned to take the throne by force.

William and approximately 7000 infantry, archers and calvary landed on the southeast coast of England at Pevensey on September 28, 1066. They seized Pevensey then marched about 13 miles to Hastings where he prepared his troops. King Harold arrived with a force of about 8000 on October 13, 1066.

The battle started early on the morning of the 14th. The Norman forces were taking heavy losses and retreated a couple times before launching an all or nothing final assault. There are some claims that King Harold was killed by an arrow through the eye but many other accounts state that he fought through that pain and was felled by a sword blow to the thigh that cut to the bone. As word spread that King Harold was dead along with his brothers Leofwin and Gyrth the English began to flee. The battle was over and among the dead were about 2000 Normans, 4000 English and over 600 horses.

Learning that Harold was dead a group of wise men known as the Anglo-Saxon Witenagemot assembled in London and elected Edgar the Aetheling to be the next king on October 15. He was only 15 and the last surviving male of the House of Wessex. But he was never crowned. As William marched toward London he was met by members of the Witenagemot who brought Edgar with them as they surrendered to William  and his forces at Berkhamsted in December 1066.

William was crowned King of England on Christmas Day in 1066. He was known as William I, William the Bastard and most impressively William the Conqueror. His reign lasted until his death in 1087.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Great Flood

A great flood is mentioned in the Old Testament, Greek mythology and the Epic of Gilgamesh. As with many stories like this there is a grain of truth as the people are drawing on the collective knowledge of their people. The fact is a great flood did happen in the region.

The Big Freeze or Younger Dryas ended 11,500 years ago and the polar ice sheets and glaciers began to melt. People started to inhabit and develop the area around the Black Sea. Then 8200 years ago another brief ice age occurred that lasted about 400 years. The people retreated from the area until the thaw returned 7800 years ago.

At the time there was a natural land mass which acted as a dam between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. After two hundred years of melting the ocean level rose which in turn raised the level of the Sea of Marmara. The separating land mass was stressed to capacity before giving way. It flowed like a waterfall nearly 500 feet below and the salt water over took the fresh water. The water flowed for ten or eleven months and the water level raised nearly 180 feet on the Black Sea side. The resulting water way connecting the Sea of Marmara and Black Sea became the Bosporus Strait.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


The first pyramids children are usually exposed to are the three in Giza, Egypt  Their history books might also include a few pictures of Aztec and Mayan pyramids as well. Yet those only represent a small fraction of all the pyramids worldwide. 

In Egypt there have been 118 to 138 discovered depending on reports. Sudan surpasses that with about 230 although theirs were much smaller in scale. In Mesoamerica where the Mayans and Aztecs were there were nearly 100,000 pyramids. Mesoamerica covered the territory that is now Belize, Guatemala  El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico. There are around 100 in China. There are dozens scattered through out Europe including 16 in Greece and three large ones in Bosnia.

The Great Pyramid of Egypt in Giza was long thought to be the largest worldwide at 147 meters or 482 feet. The largest of the three in Bosnia called the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun surpasses that at 220 meters or 721 feet. One of the largest found in Mesoamerica was the Aztec Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, Mexico which is 75 meters or 246 feet high.

However they are all dwarfed by the White Pyramid of Xian in China which was estimated around 1000 feet or 304 meters. That pyramid was last photographed in 1947 by a U.S. aviator but the Chinese denied its existence. To this day outsiders have rarely been allowed into the country to investigate the 16 pyramids of Xian.

The purpose of the pyramids varied in use but many of the cultures used them as tombs. They were also used as places of worship. To a degree some were used for storage. It has also been discovered in recent years that the Great Pyramid of Egypt and the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun were used to as power stations. There are also theories that the placement of the pyramids at their locations worldwide helps balance the planet as it rotates.


I've always had a fondness for history. It was always one of my favorite courses in grade school and high school. I had a double major in college and history was one of them. 

In this blog I will share history tidbits that I find interesting. They may not always be the mainstream view. It certainly won't be in chronological order. We'll be bouncing around time quite a bit. There will be entries daily.