Friday, March 1, 2019

New Article: The Great Athenian Baiting Of Syracuse

(a trireme from a panel of the Temple of Isis, Pompeii; Naples Archaeological Museum, Italy, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

In 415 BCE, a fleet of over 130 Athenian and allied trireme ships, accompanied by more than a hundred supply boats, reached the eastern shores of Sicily on the pretext of combating the potential threat posed by Syracuse. While most Sicilian communities on that stretch of coastline wanted nothing to do with the Athenian expedition, the cities of Naxos and Catana allowed the foreigners into their walls, albeit the latter city took some coercion. After expelling the minority pro-Syracusan party in Catana, the Athenians built their camp there, reportedly housing more than 7,000 hoplites, skirmishers and some cavalry in or around the premises.

At least one prominent member of the pro-Syracusan party managed to stay behind in Catana. The unnamed man began taking notes about the Athenian forces, such as repetitious schedules, the locations of armories and even the positioning of their sleeping quarters. After memorizing such details, the man departed from Catana and rushed to Syracuse. As the refugee was a well-known member of the downfallen pro-Syracusan party in Catana, the contacts that he had in Syracuse vouched for his loyalty, and the military leaders of the city took his words with all seriousness. Once allowed to speak, he vividly described to the Syracusans the layout of the Athenian camp, as well as their daily routine. He claimed that the camp became especially lazy at night and that the Athenian warriors would leave their weapons outside the city walls while they slept without their armor in makeshift barracks within Catana. In addition to this, the informant also swore that there was still a spirited pro-Syracuse core of the population in Catana that would betray the Athenians if given a chance.
Read about the intriguing plot twists that occurred in this confrontation between Athens and Syracuse, HERE.

New Article: The Deadly Ghost Story Of Killer-Hrapp

(Scene of Gudrun and the ghost by Andreas Bloch (1860–1917), based on a passage from the Laxdæla saga, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

According to Icelandic folklore, a belligerent and bullying farmer named Hrapp immigrated to Iceland from the Hebrides sometime in the 10th century. He built a farmstead called Hrappsstadir, which was adjacent to lands owned by the leading settlers of the Laxardal region in Iceland. As portrayed in the Laxdæla saga, which was centered on that region of Iceland, Hrapp and the dominant chieftain of the region, Hoskuld, jostled for power and influence in their community. Hrapp never surpassed Hoskuld in importance, yet the stubborn farmer maintained a fierce reputation in Laxardal until the day he died. He came to be known as Killer-Hrapp, but whether he gained this name before or after he died is unclear. Whatever the case, the legend of Killer-Hrapp only continued to grow after his death.

Read about the chilling ghost story of Killer-Hrapp, HERE

New Article: The Costly Battle of Champoton

(17th-century depiction of the entrance of Hernan Cortés into the city of Tabasco, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

In early 1517, over one hundred Spaniards on three ships set out from Cuba to explore the Yucatan Peninsula. The expedition, led by Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba, was met with mixed receptions whenever it made landfall. In some regions, the natives attempted to ambush the explorers when they came ashore. Yet, in other locations, locals received the conquistadors in peace, allowing the foreigners to tour their communities for a limited amount of time while under supervision. All in all, the expedition must have seemed lackluster—they had suffered casualties in the ambush and had found very little gold. Nevertheless, they were still making progress, if only in mapping the shores of the Yucatan Peninsula and learning about the local population.
Around early April, 1517, the Spaniards had traveled a fair distance down the western shore of the Yucatan Peninsula. In a fateful decision, the explorers decided to anchor their ships and paddle their rowboats to shore in order to gather water from some freshwater pools that they could see further inland. There were approximately one hundred conquistadors that were healthy in the expedition at the time, and all of them went ashore with their weapons. When they reached the freshwater pools, they saw signs of life—there were some small buildings nearby, and enough corn was planted there to make the Spaniards believe it was a local plantation.
Read about the confrontation between the conquistadors and the natives on the farmland near Champoton, HERE.

New Biography: Liu Pengli—The Serial Killer King Of The Han Dynasty

(painting from the wall of Xu Xianxiu's Tomb of Northern Qi Dynasty, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

History has long hinted that absolute power can tempt even virtuous leaders into corruption. Yet, what happens when the one who gains power was never virtuous in the first place, but instead had murderous fantasies and psychopathic tendencies. This horrific second option reportedly became reality in China during the 2nd century BCE, when Liu Pengli became the king of Jidong. The Grand Historian, Sima Qian (c. 145-90 BCE), was a contemporary of the infamous king and wrote a short description of the dark events that supposedly occurred in Jidong during Pengli’s reign. The killer king was seemingly a figure that the Han Dynasty wanted to forget about, and consequently Sima Qian only devoted one measly paragraph to describing Pengli’s life. Nevertheless, the brief information that the Grand Historian packed into those few sentences was terrifying.

Read about this man's allegedly monstrous life, HERE.

New Biography: The Life And Paranoid Retirement Of Marquis Zhou Bo

Terracotta warrior, [Public Domain] via and Creative Commons

Zhou Bo was a decorated military officer and political official who served under the first emperors of the Han Dynasty. He came from humble origins, supposedly working as a silkworm rack manufacturer and a part-time musician in Pei. Yet, when widespread rebellions against the Qin Dynasty erupted in 209 BCE, Zhou Bo joined the rebels as a crossbowman and eventually became a follower of the distinguished rebel leader, Liu Bang.
Zhou Bo’s fortunes rose with the political ascendance of Liu Bang. Between 209 and 206 BCE, the rebels demolished the Qin Dynasty and began to restructure China into new kingdoms led by rebel leaders. The power vacuum allowed commoners like Liu Bang and Zhou Bo to rise to amazing heights. When Liu Bang became a marquis, he brought Zhou Bo along as a magistrate. In 206 BCE, when Liu Bang became the King of Han, Zhou Bo was appointed as one of his marquises. Finally, when the king of Han defeated his rebel rivals in 202 BCE and became known as Emperor Gaozu, the victorious emperor granted Zhou Bo even more land and bequeathed upon him the title of Marquis of Jiang.
Read about Zhou Bo's path to retirement and the odd incidents he experienced after stepping down from public life, HERE.

New Biography: King Irminfrid—A Thuringian Monarch Who Gained Sole Rule By Killing Two Brothers, Only To Lose His Kingdom To The Franks

Image of the Thuringian princess, Radegund, being brought before King Chlotar I, depicted in a medieval painting housed in the Bibliothèque municipale de Poitiers, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons

King Bisinus of Thuringia was a contemporary of Kings Childeric (r. 456-481 and Clovis (r. 481-511) of the Franks. In fact, according to The History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours (c. 539-594), Childeric’s wife (Clovis’ mother) was Bisinus’ ex who ran away from Thuringia to be with Childeric in the land of the Franks. Therefore, it is possible that King Clovis and the sons of Bisinus were half-brothers. Whatever the case, King Bisinus died about the same time as Clovis (d. 511), and in the aftermath of the two leaders’ deaths, the Frankish Empire and the Thuringian kingdom both were divided among the sons of the deceased rulers. After Clovis’ death, the empire of the Franks was ruled by his sons: Theuderic, Chlodomer, Childebert and Chlotar. Similarly, the Thuringian kingdom of the late King Bisinus was divided between his sons: Baderic, Irminfrid (or Hermanfrid) and Berthar.

Continue reading about the strange politics of the Thuringian brothers. HERE.