Ancient World

The Ancient World

The ancient world was a time of great change and upheaval. From the rise and fall of civilizations to the dawn of new empires, there was always something happening. Our blog section will keep you up-to-date on all the latest news and discoveries from the ancient world. Well also share fascinating stories and insights from experts in the field. So whether you’re a history buff or just interested in learning more about this intriguing period, be sure to check back often!

  • Christian Church | Definition, History, & Types

    The Christian Church – is the largest and one of the most influential religious institutions in the world! When, where, and how did it evolve? 

    History of the Christian Church 

    History of the Christian Church 

    The history of the Christian Church is a complex tale of theological disputes, organizational intrigues, and liturgical controversies over the form of worship. It is the story of the evolution of philosophical thought, practices of worship, and the formation of institutions directed toward preserving, disseminating, and interpreting the teachings of Jesus Christ, his followers, and Jewish history and texts that forecast the appearance of the Christian Messiah. 

    The Christian Church evolved from its initial disorganized form into a highly structured social institution. It created a focus for civilization around which social norms were established, becoming the primary institution that framed human interactions. It was used to establish the calendar for human activities and festivities and eventually came to stand at the apex of human obligations of one social class to another. 

    Christianity as the Roman state religion

    Christianity as the Roman state religion
    As imagined by Rubens, the Emblem of Christ Appearing to Constantine (1622). The army of Constantine notices a chi-rho in the sky during the day.

    The only organized religion – and the only one that was trans-regional in the Roman Empire – was Judaism. This monotheistic faith survived and grew slowly amidst a world dominated by paganism. The Roman version of paganism was a pan-empire, state-sanctioned, unorganized religion that was inconsistently practiced from region to region. Judaism survived in this more or less chaotic world of paganism because the Roman emperors and regional governors generally treated it as benign.  

    In the decades following Christ’s crucifixion,  burial, and ascension into heaven, his followers – the apostles – encouraged groups of Christians to worship together in homes and graveyards. Christians passed the  Word of God and the message of His earthly son to families, friends, and neighbors. This occurred in Jerusalem, where disciples gathered after establishing rudimentary  Christian congregations in Galilee, as this was where Christ spent most of his life preaching. 

    The goal was to convince Jews that the Messiah, who had long been anticipated by their prophets and whose words were preserved in what for Christians became known as the Old Testament, had indeed appeared in the human form of Jesus Christ. Jews were ripe for absorption and conversion into the new Christian faith because, at its core, Judaism was an apocalyptic religion. That is, it was focused on the eventual revelation of divine truths that were the necessary precursors to the end times. Shortly after bringing the message to the Jews that the Messiah lived.

    Christianity in the 1st century

    Christianity in the 1st century
    Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet, (painting by Ford Madox Brown (1852–1856), Tate Britain, London)

    The early Christians took their message to Gentiles, or non-Jews, thus spreading Christianity beyond the place of its origins in the Holy Land. At this point, it is important to note that Christianity, like its forerunner, the monotheistic faith Judaism, began as a religion of a book. This is clear in the prologue to the Gospel, which is  attributed to John the Apostle of Christ: “In the beginning was the Word,  and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

    Thus, Logos, or the  Word, is a name or title of Jesus Christ. At first, this book was a collection of oral histories recounting the life of Christ. Eventually, these were edited,  expanded, and committed to writing. For example, the Gospel of Matthew is now thought to have been composed in the late 1st century CE, and modern biblical scholars reject its attribution to the apostle Matthew.

    The Gospel of Mark is thought to have been written around 70 CE by an author drawing on various oral stories. Because the Gospels of Matthew, Mark,  Luke, and John were preserved only in later copies, they were unavailable as canonical texts to the earliest Christian churches. This led to the rise of regional variations in understanding the life and nature of Jesus Christ.

    Council of Jerusalem

    The organization of the Christian Church can be  traced back to a council held in Jerusalem in about 50 CE, known as the “Council of Jerusalem.”  As outsiders in Roman society, Christians naturally fell victim to hostile attacks. However,  the persecution was not as extensive as Christian propagandists, both ancient and modern, would have us believe. Although Christians were subjected to periodic persecution, it was not until the 3rd century that Christianity became subject to officially sanctioned persecution.

    The official Roman persecution of Christianity ended when Emperor Constantine issued a proclamation known as the Edict of Milan in 313 CE, in which it was declared that Christians should be treated benevolently throughout the empire. Constantine’s magnanimity toward Christians resulted from being influenced by his mother, who was a Christian Constantine himself formally converted to the  Christian faith and was baptized on his deathbed.

    First Council of Nicaea

    The adherents of Christianity throughout the empire had varied beliefs and ideas regarding their faith, and it was due to these vast numbers of variants in the Christian Church that Constantine called the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. The central focus of this council was the immediate need to deal with the writings of a presbyter, Arius of Alexandria.

    The attendees at the First  Council of Nicaea established the orthodox faith, coming down on the side of Athanasius, an African theologian. Arianism – the belief that God created Christ; thus he was not a true, co-eternal part of the Trilogy – was declared a heretical belief. In other words, it was blasphemy and was condemned by the Christian Church.  

    Nicene Creed

    The Nicene Creed – a statement of Christian belief crafted by the council – confirmed this. This creed continues to be used in various forms by Christian churches to this day. It stresses that all Christians subscribe to the belief that Christ was begotten and not made by God the Father and that Christ is one being with God; “Begotten, not manufactured, consubstantial with the parent,” says the creed.

    ” The  Nicene Creed further affirmed that Christ came down to earth and was made incarnate as a man and that he was killed but rose into heaven for the salvation of mankind. The original creed ended with the condemnation of Arian theology.  As well as theology, writers around the time of the First Nicene Council concerned themselves with the history of the Christian Church.  Among them was Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, who wrote an Ecclesiastical History.

    It sheds considerable light on the organization and events in the history of the developing Christian faith. It can be argued that Jesus initiated the institution of the Church in the 1st century when he began preaching his philosophy. Even if there were no physical foundations for the Church yet, the bedrock of its spiritual teachings had been laid.

    The apostles carried the message further, and within a few centuries, Christianity found its physical dwellings and became the major religion of EuropeOur knowledge of the early Christian Church’s evolution depends primarily on texts. These include the Acts of the Apostles and Saint Paul’s letters to congregations of Christians in Galatia, a region in the south of modern-day Turkey

    There are also texts by Christian theologians known as the Ante-Nicene Fathers,  such as Athanasius and, before him, Origen of Alexandria and the Carthaginian Tertullian Athenagoras of Athens. Surviving tangible remains of the early Christian  Church reveals the kind of growth suggested in written texts.

    House church

    The first churches were homes in which the faithful gathered. This makes perfect sense considering that the church underwent periodic suppression by Roman authorities. To bridge the gap with the pagan faith, the early  Christians used the same media as their pagan contemporaries – frescos, mosaics, and sculptures.  They adapted pagan motifs for Christian purposes so that some art made for Christians could easily be mistaken for imperial Roman art. A perfect example of Christian ties to paganism is the date of Christmas: December 25.

    The date did not mark the birth of Christ – in fact, the Romans chose it  because it coincided with the winter solstice and a festival called Saturnalia – dedicated to the deity Saturn. Paganism and Christianity continued to exist alongside each other in the Roman Empire,  and the cultural mark of Christian holidays and beliefs often turn out to be the last vestiges of European pagan thought in modern times. Christianity did not find its footing in isolation but was part of overarching historical circumstances. It is important to recognize these elements. Paganism is one such element; a couple of others are customs and orally imparted heritage. 

    According to tradition, Peter, one of Jesus Christ’s twelve apostles, brought Christianity to  Rome from its birthplace in the Holy Land. Peter is considered the founder of the orthodox line of heirs of authority in the Christian Church. Peter’s mission in propagating the message of Christ is told in the Acts of the Apostles and Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. At first, Peter led the church in Jerusalem. It was widely believed by later church writers that Peter went to Rome, where he became the first in the lineage of bishops of Rome,  or popes, stretching to the present day. 

    Early centers of Christianity

    It is uncertain exactly how much authority the  Roman pope had over the Christian churches, primarily those in Asia Minor, the Holy Land, and  Egypt. When Saint Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, and when he appeared in the city, he made no mention of Peter as a pope or bishop of Rome. It was probably not until Constantine recognized Christianity in 313 CE that the pope in Rome came to dominate the church hierarchy, exerting authority over the church in Jerusalem and the center of development of Christian theology in Alexandria. 

    The first detailed text revealing the beginnings of the organization of the Christian Church under the leadership of a Roman pope is a letter written by Pope Clement I to the congregation at Corinth. By the time of the Council of Nicaea in 325, there were pockets of Christians throughout the Roman Empire. Substantial numbers of Christians could be found in Armenia, Egypt, North Africa, Greece, Spain, Italy, France, central Europe, southern  India, and Ethiopia. Syriac-speaking Christianity was centered in the Upper Mesopotamian city of Edessa, from which missionaries spread out over Mesopotamia and Persia.

    Role of Christianity in Civilization

    It is argued that the religion’s appeal to the lower classes, whose lives were significantly improved by the adoption of Christian principles, contributed to its swift spread. Promises of salvation, the stories of miracles, and the fact that converting the head of the household meant the conversion of an entire family – all have been suggested as contributors to the swift expansion of the new faith. While the lower class was being unified in the name of the Lord, things were quite different in the upper echelons of the faithful.

    The growth of  Christianity in the immediate post-Nicaean period not only gave rise to disputes over authority,  such as that claimed by the patriarch of the Persian church over the authority of the Roman church, but it also led to doctrinal disputes. Saint Ambrose, Saint Jerome, Saint Augustine  – probably the most popular of the bunch – and Saint Gregory, known as the Four Great Fathers of the West, developed ideas for the Western branch of the church.

    In addition to these four,  there were also the Four Great Eastern Fathers: Athanasius of Alexandria, Gregory of Nazianzus,  Basil the Great, and John Chrysostom. While the theological writings of the Great Fathers of the church, both Eastern and Western, defined and resolved matters that caused conflict within the Christian Church, others, often less erudite, served as active proponents of the church’s missionary function.

    The lives of early medieval Christian saints who took the Word of God to the nether reaches of the known earth were recorded in popular hagiographies,  praising their sanctity and stoicism in the face of opposition by barbarians and pagans. The missionary work of the vast numbers of faithful adherents was enhanced by the mystery of miracles that appealed to the common folk, for whom Christianity developed into a way of life. This appeal helped it evolve from its humble roots into a worldwide phenomenon that shapes the lives of billions of people today. 

  • Ancient Thailand | Flag, Map, Population, & Facts

    Thailand’s Early human migrations

    Thailand: Early archaic hominids first arrived in the area we today call Thailand at least 500,000 years ago. The first modern humans came out of Africa and had a long way to travel before reaching Thailand. Therefore, the first Homo sapiens did not settle in the area until relatively late. The earliest remains date from about 18,000 years ago.

    The hunter-gatherers in the area added rice to their diets, growing it to supplement their diets. Sedentary rice growing human settlements emerged in 1500 BCE and often involved the mining of copper and bronze. Indeed, mining was an essential component of the local economy even in the hunter-gatherer days, dating back to 3000 BCE. 

    History of Thailand

    History of Thailand

    The first known kingdom in the region was Funan. It was not based primarily in Thailand but instead spread into the area from the Mekong Delta.  We do not know precisely when the kingdom was established, but the records addressing them are Chinese examples from the 1st century AD. Still, the archaeological evidence points to extensive settlement in the area dating back to the 4th Century BCE.

    This early kingdom – and many that came after it – was highly influenced by Indian culture.  Therefore, both Hinduism and Buddhism took hold. The kingdoms of Mon and Khmer incorporated parts of Thailand in them, while their power base was in the Mekong Delta, in Indochina. Therefore, the first indigenous Thai culture we are aware of emanated from the Mon Dvaravati people. Utterly dominant in central Thailand from 600 to 900 AD, they wrote in a Sanskrit dialect very similar to that commonly spoken in southern India. However, cultural influence came from the south and the north.

    The form of Theravada Buddhism the Mon Dvaravati adopted was almost certainly a product of Sri Lanka. However, in the 10th century, the area lost its independence to militarily stronger cultures from Indochina. During this period, the Tai people began migrating southwards from their ancestral homes in southern China, eventually becoming the namesakes of the territory. At first, they were powerless migrants in kingdoms ruled by others. In particular, the  Tai settled in areas controlled by the Khmer. 

    One of the great kings of the Khmer, Suryavarman  I, brought most of the country under his authority. The written sources point to his heavy reliance on Tai troops for that achievement. However, as the existing powers faded in influence, the Tai formed their own kingdom for the first time. First, a group of city-states emerged from the power vacuum. However, soon one rose over the rest.

    Thailand – Sukhothai Period (1238-1438)

    Thailand - Sukhothai Period (1238-1438)

    The Sukhothai kingdom was formed in 1238 by Sri Indraditya. Modern Thais consider this time to be a golden era because it saw an early peak in the people’s political power and culture in the area.  The Tai citizens in this kingdom changed their affiliation from Tai spelled T.A.I to Thai spelled  T.H.A.I.

    The new name translated to the word “free,” signifying their independence from foreign rule. But the autonomy was only partial, as the kings of Sukhothai recognized the overlordship of the Yuan dynasty Emperor and paid him tribute. According to Thai tradition, the system of government in the kingdom was highly straightforward. A bell was placed in front of the king’s palace, and citizens could ring the bell to bring their problems to the sovereign’s attention.

    This system of government was called “father governs children.” It remains a  model for Thai governance to the present day. Under King Ram Khamhaeng, the city-state of Sukhothai became a dominant power. According to legend, the monarch also established the Thai alphabet. However, that was almost certainly a gradual process.  Despite the dominance of Sukhothai, it is worth noting that other Tai city-states maintained their independence and cultural autonomy at this time. In particular, the La Na kingdom maintained independence even after the Sukhothai lost theirs. 

    The Tai dominance continued. However,  it did so through a new kingdom. The city of Ayutthaya – an island surrounded by rivers – was founded in 1350. Its power grew exponentially, and the city functioned as the center of an empire. Its territory stretched from the Malay  Islands to the borders of central Burma. This era was also a pivotal time for the development of the national culture.  

    In the 14th century, Ramathibodi made Theravada  Buddhism the official religion – a title it still retains today. His administration also put together a legal code influenced by Hindu theology, practice, and local customs.  The Dharmaśāstra, as it would be called, remained the law of the land for 500 years or so.  It was replaced in the 19th century.

    The Ayutthaya period also saw a flowering of Thai medicine and art. According to some estimates, in 1700, the city had a population of over a million. If this is true, it was the largest city in the world. 

    The city of Lavo emerged as an alternative center. While Ayutthaya was associated with Buddhism, Lavo was a notable Hindu cultural center from the 14th century. Meanwhile, in the south of modern Thailand,  the Malay cultures spread into the area, carving out their sphere of influence.  However, they do not seem to have been remarkably cohesive politically. According to Chinese sources, the Malay-dominated areas were weak culturally and politically. During this period of Thai supremacy, European colonial influence first spread into Thailand. 

    The capture of Malacca (1511)

    The capture of Malacca (1511)

    The Europeans called the area Siam, a name that stuck in the west for centuries. In 1511, the  Portuguese arrived in the city and established diplomatic relations with the kingdom. While many other areas of the world suffered from the trade routes created by the colonial powers, Ayutthaya seems to have benefitted from it tremendously. Four hundred years of Ayutthaya were rudely interrupted by Burmese occupation. In 1547, the Burmese-Siamese War broke out. However, the  Ayutthaya fought off the invasions for decades they eventually succumbed.

    In the 18th century,  the Bamar people of Burma took over the city. Having conquered La Na earlier, they were now masters of the entire region. While the Burmese had once paid tribute to the Thai, they had gradually gained a great deal of power, and the city-states of the area succumbed to them one after the other. 

    A successful rebellion was led by Taskin, a local noble with Chinese roots. He unified most of Siam under his rule. In the process, Taskin also forged close economic and social ties with his homeland. Thus, a significant amount of  Chinese immigrants crossed over and would remain a fixture in Thailand.  Unfortunately, Taskin lost his sanity. His erratic behavior cost him his crown and his head. The monarch was executed in 1782. 

    The Chakri dynasty took over Siam and established Rattanakosin, known today as Bangkok, as the capital city. The dynasty fought off the  Burmese and increased their holdings in the north. The Siamese state maintained a traditional structure until the reign of King Mongkut. Facing new threats from regional rivals and technologically superior colonial interlopers, he began a process of accelerated modernization. The Siamese had some success in pursuing independence from the colonial powers by setting them against each other.  

    In 1904, the French and English divided the country into spheres of influence. When the French sent in troops, Siam became a colony in all but name. Nonetheless, Siam remained nominally independent and entered the League of Nations as a legally equal member.

    In 1932, a group of reformers overthrew the Siamese monarchy and founded a constitutional democracy in Bangkok. The nationalist government that emerged a few years later changed the name of the country to Thailand.  The same government also allied with Japan and fought the allies in World War 2 before a pro-allied government took over in 1944. However, the civilian government did not last long, and a nationalist military government reemerged in 1947. The new government was pro-American and firmly anti-communist. 

    In 1973, an uprising against the nationalist government began a transition to democracy. However, the country has remained unstable.  The military continues to have an oversize influence in politics. Meanwhile, the democratic process is contentious and sometimes violent. Modern Thailand is a country of paradoxes. It is corrupt and dysfunctional, yet it remains a center for Buddhist pacifist spirituality.  It is a fiercely traditional country, which has adopted many of the worst excesses of  Western culture. It welcomes Western tourism and yet is somehow insulated and timeless. Thailand remains a stunningly beautiful and vibrant country with some of the best food in the world.

     

  • Ancient Egypt | Civilization, Culture, Map, & Facts

    We currently live in a world of filters and heavily edited pictures, so much so that an image presented on social media may not look much like the real-life version. If you have ever been accused of overusing filters – or heavily editing your pictures – you should know that the Egyptian royalty was up to this kind of thing centuries before our current era! Egyptian art often depicts the pharaohs as handsome and slender; however, recent examinations of mummies have found that many of them were overweight and unhealthy. This fact is not surprising when you consider they regularly dined on bread, honey, and beer.

    The legendary Queen Hatshepsut, who ruled in the 15th century BCE,  is seen on her sarcophagus as slender and toned; however, historians now believe she was obese and balding. There was another reason for the disconnect between how Hatshepsut looked in depictions and how she looked in real life. let’s peer behind the gilded mask of these ancient rulers to find out what they were like and how they lived. 

    History of Ancient Egypt

    Ancient Egypt

    The first Ancient Egypt Pharaoh to have been Narmer – and the last to have been Cleopatra VII – Egyptian royalty was prominent for well over three thousand years! These dates might be disputed, as Narmer was the first Egyptian king to unite the country peacefully, and there were kings before him. Also, as Cleopatra VII was from the Macedonian Greek Ptolemy dynasty, some may not class her as an authentic Egyptian Pharaoh. Nevertheless, give or take a few years, it’s still an impressively long time when you consider it has been only just over two thousand years since the start of the current era.

     

    No doubt things had changed somewhat from when the first Ancient Egypt royals ruled to when the Romans took over, Privacy for these royals was not an option.  While they may have left altered images of themselves for posterity, their massive entourage would have known precisely how they looked.  Intimately. From the moment they awoke, servants would help wash, dress, and adorn the members of the Egyptian royal family. They were never alone and were constantly surrounded by officials, family,  court members, bodyguards, and servants. 

    The royals – and their nearest and dearest  – enjoyed a great deal of pampering. They had official sandal bearers, a chief clothes washer, and fan bearers to ensure they were always comfortable and clean. As for presentation,  they had official manicurists and a multitude of wig preparers that made and maintained their glorious wigs in the latest fashions. These stylists probably had a special place in court and were even honored after death in some cases.

    At Saqqara, there lies a tomb is commonly known as the “Tomb of the Hairdressers,” which was the last resting place of two men who –  according to prominent Egyptian archaeologist  Zahi Hawass – were likely to be brothers. One of the texts, a contractual agreement for the funeral arrangements, reads, “The chief  manicurists of Pharaoh, venerated close to the great god, Niankhkhnum and Kumhotep.” For Ancient Egypt royalty, how they were presented was of the utmost importance.

    Wigs were seen as signs of status, and while only enslaved people and servants were forbidden from wearing wigs, the royal hairpieces were by far the most elaborate you could find. Wigs served multiple purposes. They were large, gave shade from the sun, and were more breathable than hats. These wigs were just as complex as modern-day versions, with a fiber-netting skull cap to which strands of material were attached.  

    The most expensive wigs were made of human hair, but they could be made of wool flax, palm fibers, or numerous other materials. Mostly the wigs were black and occasionally blond, although it is said that Queen Nefertiti wore wigs that were colored dark blue.  

    Ancient Egypt Wigs

    Ancient Egypt Wigs

    The royal wigs followed trends, with the earliest dynasties wearing cropped curly wigs, while later women began wearing long styles that added bulk and length to their natural hair. During the Middle Kingdom, wigs were worn with hair coils that draped over both shoulders.  

    The New Kingdom saw women’s wigs become even larger to cover the shoulders completely. Men in the New Kingdom wore less bulky wigs that were much longer in the front than the back. The wigs were decorated with gold, colorful ribbons, and beads for special occasions; they were sometimes made even more ornate by adding extravagant headbands and caps. But it wasn’t just head hair that was fake! Ancient Egypt royals had beard wigs too. These chin hairpieces allowed them to keep clean-shaven for comfort and have a manly beard for special occasions. It is believed that  Queen Hatshepsut wore a false beard during her reign as the self-proclaimed pharaoh,  perhaps to lend legitimacy to her rule. 

    The Ancient Egypt royals also wore the best fabrics and the most fabulous adornments. While sandals made of papyrus or palm were popular amongst the poor, the upper classes wore sandals made of leather. Over eighty sets of shoes were found in Tutankhamun’s tomb, including one pair made from gold! Like many societies, the rich and powerful ate very differently from the  Egyptian people. The diet of the ruling class was much richer and more varied than that of the commoners.

    Eat Like an Egyptian

    Eat Like an Egyptian
    Eat Like an Egyptian

    The Ancient Egypt royals ate more meat, such as honey-roasted gazelle, beef, pork,  mutton, fish, and poultry, although the poorer classes ate fish and poultry as well. Meat and dairy were staples for royalty, along with rare fruits such as pomegranates and sweet cakes.  The bread was big on the menu and washed down with barley beer flavored with dates or honey and wine made from grapes, plums, and pomegranates. It has been discovered that this sugar-rich diet meant that some Egyptian rulers had diabetes. As with many rulers throughout the world, the Egyptian royals were intrinsically linked with the  Ancient Egyptian Gods.

    Ancient Egypt Religion

    The Ancient Egypt people believed that the pharaoh was the mediator between the world of man and the gods, that he would become divine upon his death, and that his sacred powers would be passed to the next pharaoh. This link to the realm beyond afforded the pharaoh and his family all the luxuries available to them. Whether the pharaohs actually believed they were the link to the gods is debatable, but as the divine ruler, they took their duties seriously. Their job was to preserve Maat – the god-given order.

    Ancient Egypt Religions
    Ancient Egypt Religions

    The pharaoh was responsible for the economic and spiritual welfare of the people and was the dispenser of justice among his subjects. However, with this title also came the burden of responsibility. Any crop failure, natural disaster, or plague, and the people would assume the pharaoh wasn’t doing their job correctly. When it came to marriage, the Ancient Egypt dynasties liked to keep it in the family. Perhaps stemming from the belief  that they were related to the gods,  

    Ancient Egypt preferred to keep the royal bloodline free from external influence. Of course, we know where that leads, and many of  Egypt’s royals suffered from hereditary diseases brought on by generations of inbreeding. Thanks to the Egyptians’ knack for record-keeping, we know many stories about specific members of Egyptian royalty. However, many pharaohs were effectively removed from history until their rediscovery by modern archaeologists. 

    The overweight, balding, and fake beard-wearing  Queen Hatshepsut has already been mentioned. Her reign was unconventional but highly successful overall. She came to power sometime around 1479 BCE after Thutmose II – her husband and half-brother – died. She first ruled as regent, as Thutmose II’s son (with his second wife) was still a baby. However, when Thutmose III was ready to rule, Hatshepsut decided to take full power instead of giving him his rightful place. To legitimize her reign, she often had herself depicted with a man’s torso, as well as donning a fake beard. Hatshepsut’s reign was prosperous and relatively peaceful, as it appears she preferred diplomacy and trade over war.

    Towards the end of her reign, she allowed Thutmose  III to rule alongside her, with him becoming pharaoh after her death. Hatshepsut was interred alongside her father in the Valley of the Kings. But her story was almost lost. At the end of Thutmose III’s reign, an attempt was made to remove all references to Hatshepsut’s time as pharaoh. Her name was removed from the official king list, her statues were torn down, and her monuments were defaced.

    No one truly knows why this happened, but it is speculated that Thutmose III wanted the historical succession of pharaohs to run from Thutmose I and Thutmose II to Thutmose III without interruption – especially from a successful female leader. Hatshepsut was nearly erased from the historical record until – in 1822 – inscriptions about her were decoded in Dayr-al-Bahri, a  temple designed as her funerary monument. Today,

    The most famous Ancient Egypt pharaoh is probably Tutankhamun, more often called “King Tut.” However,  this has more to do with the discovery of his tomb – and the subsequent “curse of the pharaoh” hysteria – than his legacy as ruler. A product of traditional inbreeding,  Tutankhamun was only around nine years of age when he ascended to the throne around  1333 BCE. He was tall, frail, and had a club foot. While it was initially thought he was murdered at the young age of nineteen, CT scans revealed that his death was likely due to infections from malaria and a broken left leg.

    His tomb was one of the contradictions. Despite having a 24-pound solid gold portrait mask, three golden coffins, and over 5,000 artifacts,  his tomb was so small that the largest of the four gilded wooden shrines could barely fit into the burial chamber. Tutankhamun’s internment was also rather strange. Plenty of evidence suggests his burial was a rush job. 

    Firstly, his toes had been severed by carpenters who sealed the sarcophagus.  As the dead king’s toes prevented the sarcophagus from closing, they had been simply cut off and left on the floor where they lay until the tomb was discovered in 1922. Spots on the wall suggested that the paint hadn’t dried on the walls before the tomb was sealed, and – strangest of all – rushed mummification meant that  Tutankhamun’s body combusted after being buried.

    A few generations after his death, Tutankhamun had been all but forgotten. The entrance was clogged with debris and built over by the workman’s huts. In 1279 BCE, Ramesses II came to power, widely thought of as the greatest pharaoh of the  19th Dynasty. Ramesses II’s grandfather, Ramesses I, brought their family from commoner status to royalty with his military talent. After Ramesses II’s older brother died, he was named prince regent at fourteen. By twenty-two, he had proven he had the same skills as his namesake and led the Ancient Egypt army. However, he was not only adept at war; he also established the first recorded peace treaty during a conflict with the Hittites.

    Ramesses II was a lover and a fighter. He had over two hundred wives and concubines and fathered around one hundred children. During the thirtieth year of his prosperous reign, he declared himself a god, and there are more colossal statues of him than any other pharaoh. He reigned for just over sixty-six years, and the son that succeeded him was nearly sixty when he ascended to the throne! Cleopatra is probably one of the most famous Egyptian Queens, although she was actually Macedonian.  She was descended from one of Alexander the Great’s generals – called Ptolemy –  who ruled Ancient Egypt after Alexander’s death. However, Cleopatra was born in Egypt and was the first of the Ptolemaic line to learn Egyptian. 

    Although a lot is made of Cleopatra’s beauty,  this stems from Roman propaganda trying to write her off as sexually manipulative. Cleopatra’s main asset was her education. She spoke almost a dozen languages and was proficient in math,  astronomy, and philosophy. Egyptian sources describe her as someone who “elevated the  ranks of scholars and enjoyed their company.” Whether she was a great beauty or not,  there is no denying her sense of style. 

    She famously soaked the sails of her ship in perfume made of henna flowers when she sailed to Rome, intending the scent to precede her arrival.  Arriving in Rome on a golden barge with purple sails and dressed as the goddess Aphrodite,  she definitely had a flair for the dramatic. Perhaps surprisingly, more time had elapsed between the building of the Great Pyramid and her reign than has passed since then. Royalty in Ancient Egypt was as varied as you would imagine it would be over such a lengthy period. However, it seems the one thing they had in common was their flamboyant style, luxurious lifestyle, and innate desire to be remembered.

  • 9 Unbelievable Isolated Tribes That Still Exist

    The 9 most isolated tribes in the world?

    Isolated Tribes: Can you imagine that even in this globally connected world there are people that live remotely, not knowing what the internet is and what the planet looks like? The story of human progress is a linear one. Mostly because meaningful progress takes centuries. From the Sumerians to the  Greeks, the Assyrians to the Babylonians, the Arabs to the Europeans history travels in a  single line. Civilizations learn from each other and build upon prior knowledge. Ill-disciplined and unorganized attempts at progress are rarely met with success. Had it not been for the  Greco-Roman marriage, the Western world would have looked very different. Had it not been for the contributions of the Nile valley civilizations, the human race would not be the same. And, if it was not for the Islamic Golden Age, there would not have been a Western Renaissance. It may seem unusual, but the threads of history join in the most unexpected of ways. The only constant?  The constant drive for change and knowledge. However, for tribes and cultures that are cut off from the rest of the world, the constant is constancy. Without the inclusion of foreign knowledge and the inability to impart their wisdom to the world at large, it becomes virtually impossible to progress in the typical sense of the word. No matter how different it may be to conceive, there are tribes, even today, that are remote and isolated from the rest of the planet. Almost all of them have a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and face extinction in the face of industrial expansion. Here are 9 unbelievable,  isolated tribes that actually exist:

    1. The Sentinelese People, Andaman Islands

    Isolated Tribes   (The Sentinelese People, Andaman Islands)
    The Sentinelese People, Andaman Islands

    The Sentinelese People, Andaman Islands, India This might be the most popular entry on the list. The Sentinelese people made the headlines in 2018  for the murder of a US national – a missionary, earning them much notoriety over the world. The tribe situated on the North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal has been living there for around 50,000 years or more. It is believed that they migrated from Africa somewhere around 60,000 years ago. It is wrong to regard them as a Stone  Age tribe because their ways of life have changed over the centuries. While they have made progress internally, no exposure from the outside world means that they still appear bizarre to the average person The Sentinelese are only one of the six isolated tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Jarawa tribe is also famous for having lived in the area for around 55,000 years. Survival International, an organization devoted  to the rights of tribal people has said about the Sentinelese, “Neighbouring tribes were wiped  out after the British colonized their islands, and they lack immunity to common diseases like flu or  measles, which would decimate their population.”Over the years, they have been hostile towards people who come uninvited to their land. Some people claim that the “hostility construct” is a figment of the colonial mindset. The tribe has made peaceful contact with Indians on several occasions, and during the colonial drive of the British, they even befriended the colonialists – to their own detriment. The Indian government has made sure that people keep a distance from the island, a difficult feat considering the increase in their popularity and the general trends of tourism.

    2. The Yaifo Tribe, Papua New Guinea 

    The Yaifo Tribe, Papua New Guinea 

    The Yafo Tribe, Papua New Guinea You might have heard of West Papua, the western half of the island of New Guinea. It is a piece of inaccessible land, owing to a large number of uncontacted tribes. However, it was the East Sepik jungle from where journalist Benedict Allen emerged. He had disappeared for three weeks in the region before being picked up. He penned a book to recount his expedition. Thirty years later, he returned with some colleagues to make a documentary about the tribe. Located in the Highlands of Papua Guinea, the Yaifo is one of the most remote people in the entire world. Their lack of contact with the outside world has made them the subject of myths and legends. They are known for being particularly intolerant to outsiders and are often described as “head-hunters,” who cherish the heads of encroachers as trophies. In his book, Benedict describes the greeting upon making  contact with the tribe in the following words, “a terrifying show of strength, an energetic  dance featuring their bows and arrows.” He had to undergo a grueling initiation ritual to be able to live with them and study them for a while. The Yafo people remain some of the most remote people in the world today. 

    3. The Palawan Tribes

    The Palawan Tribes

    The Palawan Tribes, the Philippines The Palawan island of the Philippines is home to around 40,000 indigenous people. Over the years, industrialization and tourism have caused some to integrate with the outer world,  but the rest remain uncontacted. The ones that shy from contact have been pushed further inland due to encroachment. The Palawan tribes are mostly shifting cultivators. They clear a small area of the forest, cultivate food on it, and then move on, allowing the forest to regain its strength.  They also collect wild honey and resin. They were originally nomadic, but after a mining rush in  2008, agrarian settlers took over most of their lands. The Philippines government even partially banned their practice of shifting cultivation. The island is home to the Kagayanen, Tagbanwa,  Palawano, Tau’t Bato, Molbog, and Batak tribes, and each of them has a varying level of integration. The people of the Batak tribe have faced the threat of swift extinction in recent times, with their numbers being as low as 300. On the other hand, the Tau’t Bato mostly live in caves and the crater of an extinct volcano. Some of these tribes follow the ritual of consulting spirits in their dreams and perceiving omens. 

    4, The Ayoreo People, Paraguay, and Bolivia

    The Ayoreo People, Paraguay, and Bolivia

    The Ayoreo People, Paraguay, and Bolivia Quite similarly to the Palawan tribes, the Ayoreo people have come under the threat of increasing industrialization. In this case, deforestation makes it hard for these people to live their lives as they have been doing for so many years. Situated between the border of Paraguay and  Bolivia, the Ayoreo people number 5,600 in total. The Ayoreo are nomadic people and continue to use their established routes for migration. They reject modern ideas of legality regarding land, possessions, and borders. The earliest instances of their encounters were recorded in the 18th century by the Jesuits. The Ayoreo people have seven clans and, like most uncontacted people, have a shamanistic dimension to their social life. The most isolated clans of these tribes are a people known as Totobiegosode. Roughly translated as “people from the place of the wild pigs,” they are almost entirely isolated from modern life. With highways and industries creeping from both sides, most of these people have been forced out of their homeland.

    5. The Awa Tribe, Brazil 

    The Awa Tribe, Brazil 

    The Awa Tribe, Brazil We finally arrive at the Amazon rainforest, home to some of the most endangered tribes in the world. Most of these tribes face extinction in the face of deforestation. Some of them are uncontacted, but most of them have come into some degree of contact with outsiders over the last century. Often dubbed the most endangered tribe on the planet, the Awa people of Brazil are largely connected with the outside world, except for a small group. Originally, the Awa people, who are quite smaller than the average Amazonian tribal people, used to live in settlements. However,  after coming into contact with Europeans in the early 19th century, they adopted a nomadic lifestyle. Encroachment further threatened their land and their numbers kept reducing.  Of the 300 remaining Awa people, around 60 to 100 still live their nomadic lives in complete isolation. With the wildfires and illegal logging, it is hard to believe that they can sustain their way of living over the next few generations.

    6. The Huaorani People, Ecuador

    The Huaorani People, Ecuador Isolated Tribes

    The Huaorani People, Ecuador Before we get to the Huaorani people (also known as the Wars), let’s briefly discuss the Taromenane people. Another Amazonian tribe in Ecuador, they are an extremely remote tribe. A small group by design, they have lived the same way for centuries. However, since the Amazon is home to so many tribes, some of them are bound to come into contact with one another. And so it happened that the Taromenane came into contact with the Huaorani people, who quickly developed into their rivals. Over their history, the two groups have clashed several times. The Huaorani are responsible for murdering many members of neighboring tribes. After the killing of five American missionaries in 1956, they caught the attention of the international media. Since then,  some Huaorani individuals have begun communicating with the outside world and have started living in conjunction with the prevalent norms of the land. However, a large number of them still live isolated from the world, as dangerous and vicious as they have ever been. They are estimated to be around 4,000 in number, spread across a shrinking piece of Ecuadorian land.

    7. The Yanomami People, Venezuela, and Brazil 

    The Yanomami People, Venezuela, and Brazil 

    The Yanomami People, Venezuela, and Brazil Another tribe, courtesy of the Amazon. There are around 35,000 Yanomami people in the rainforest. The Yanomami are particularly known for practicing endocannibalism, the practice of eating their dead. The  Yanomami, who live in 200 to 250 villages, have been quite violent to outsiders at times. Some people have written it off as a lack of Western values, which seems quite reductive,  especially since the Western world has been home to the most extraordinary violence and brutality for most of its recorded history. An American anthropologist, R.  Brian Ferguson, claimed otherwise, “Although some Yanomami really have been engaged in intensive warfare and other kinds of bloody conflict, this violence is not an expression of Yanomami culture itself. It is, rather, a product of specific historical  situations: The Yanomami make war not because Western culture is absent, but because it is  present, and present in certain specific forms.”Here, he is referring to the tribe’s push against the presence of the state. Another remote tribe that the Yanomami keep an eye on is the Moxateteu, the uncontacted members of the tribe that lives in complete isolation.

    8. Kawahiva, Brazil 

    Kawahiva, Brazil 

    The Kawahiva are a small tribe of around 50  to 150 people in the Brazilian stretch of the Amazon. They are hunter-gatherers, who live in communal shelters and can be traced back to the early 18th century. A nomadic tribe with little to no contact from outsiders, locals mostly register their presence by the physical evidence they leave behind. They not only avoid contact with city people but also with other indigenous tribes, which is interesting because they may very well have descended from another tribe. Their existence was confirmed in 1999, but there is very little information about their culture and history. People believe that because they are always on the move, running from loggers and hunters, they have stopped having children.

    9. Mascho-Piro, Peru 

    Mascho-Piro, Peru 

    Mascho-Piro, Peru Not to be confused with the Incan site, Machu  Picchu, the Mascho-Piro is a Peruvian tribe that has started cropping up in recent years. After avoiding contact with non-native people for years, they are initiating contact as of late. There are between 100 and 250 uncontacted Mascho-Piro, but their numbers used to be a lot higher.  For the last four decades, around 600 to 800 of them have been in contact with other indigenous communities of the Amazon rainforest. They have continued to visit the locals and ask for food and clothing. They probably have lived in seclusion for the better part of a century. With the advent of industrialization, indigenous tribes have had to face tough challenges in recent years. The Amazon rainforest has the highest number of uncontacted tribes, followed by Papua New Guinea and the Philippines. With the loggers closing in, what does the future hold for them?

  • 19 Ancient Egyptian Gods And Goddesses

    The Origins of Ancient Egyptian Gods and Goddesses

    Ancient Egypt was one of the greatest civilizations humanity has ever seen. It is inconceivable what the world would look like had it not been for the innovations of ancient Egyptians. For starters, it is hard to imagine a world without the great pyramids. They formed the basis for our modern-day calendar, and they were skilled astronomers. Ancient Egyptians understood the world quite differently than the modern man. However, despite being innovators and possessing immaculate skills in their craft, their worldview did not deviate from that of other ancient civilizations. They perceived life in terms of cycles that would recur and follow similar patterns as the ones before. By revisiting the patterns of the past, the universe brought harmony to the unstable order. Order, chaos, and renewal are common themes in the religious framework of ancient Egypt and frequently appear in Egyptian writing and arts. More than 2,000 gods and goddesses were worshiped in ancient Egypt. Their names and portrayals are easily confused with each other, as different interpretations existed in different times. The belief in these deities and the rituals that surrounded and stemmed from their acknowledgment formed the basis of Egyptian religion and, consequently, life. These gods and goddesses – and the offerings made to them – were responsible for maintaining the divine order: the cycle of life known as maat. Here are 19 of the top Egyptian gods and goddesses: 

    Top 19 Egyptian Gods and Goddesses “Names & Facts”

    1- Ogdoad

    Ogdoad Egyptian Gods and Goddesses
    Ogdoad

    Ogdoad Although Egyptian creation myths vary, most accounts detail eight primordial deities known as Ogdoad. The names of the eight deities in their male-female pairs are Nu and Naunet,  Hehu and Hehut, Kekui and Kekiut, Qerh and Qerhet. These gods and goddesses were worshiped in the Old Kingdom of Egypt, and even though archaeologists find references to them, they think that by the time those references were compiled, no one actually remembered the deities. They were mostly restricted to theologians and probably made no genuine impact on the later-era ancient Egyptian lifestyle. 

    2- Ra

    Sun God Ra
    Ra

    The most famous of the Egyptian gods are likely Ra, also known as the Sun God Ra. He has a sun disk around his head and is portrayed with the head of a falcon. He was the creator of the universe and the god of the sun, the skies, and the kings. The sun disk is symbolic of many ideas. For the Egyptians, every sunrise and sunset brought renewal to the order of the world. They believed that Ra sailed in a boat across the skies during the day, and during the night, he sailed in it through the underworld. During his travels through the underworld, he would have a battle with a serpent called Aposis so that he could rise again. Ra merged with many different gods to form composite deities. One reason for his popularity in the Western world is the Sun Ra Arkestra, headed by Le Sony’s Ra whose cosmic philosophy and experimental music influenced many artists of his generation. 

    3- Ptah

    Was-scepter ''Ptah''
    Ptah

    Ptah was another god of creation who was the patron deity of architects and artisans. He conceived the shape of Earth and brought the world into being with his powerful speech.  According to a hymn, Ptah “crafted  the world in the design of his heart.” He is often seen with a beard and carrying a scepter known as the “Was-scepter.” The god Ptah commanded a large cult whose popularity exploded through Egypt and into the eastern Mediterranean. He was the chief deity of the city of  Memphis and was the husband of Sekhmet. 

    4- Hathor

    Hathor
    Hathor

    The Mistress of the West, Hathor was a sky deity and acted as the Eye of Ra. She is connected with Horus and Ra and served as the symbolic mother to the Egyptians. On the one hand, she was the epitome of femininity and love, and people celebrated her as the goddess of music and dance. On the other hand, as the feminine counterpart to Ra, she also had a vengeful side that helped her to protect him from enemies. She is depicted with the head of a  cow or a woman with the ears of a cow. 

    5- Sekhmet

    Sekhmet Eye of Ra
    Sekhmet Eye of Ra

    Sekhmet, the goddess of war, would destroy the enemies of Ra. She was a solar deity, and she is called the “Eye of Ra” and “Daughter of Ra,” depending on the context.  In portrayals, she is seen as a lioness with a solar disk holding Uraeus, an upright cobra that signified royalty and divine authority. She is often associated with illnesses, as well as healing. As a protector of the pharaohs, she led them in wars and conflicts. Like her husband, Ptah, she was worshiped at Memphis. 

    6- Bastet

    Bastet
    Bastet

    Bastet Bast, or Bastet, was the goddess of cats, childbirth, and similar domestic matters. She was known for repelling misfortune and evil from homes. As Ra’s faithful cat, Bast was similar to another cat goddess, Sekhmet, the lioness. However, Sekhmet was warrior-like and fulfilled the role of the protector, whereas Bast was a harbinger of good luck. It is quite well known how much the Egyptians loved cats, so it should come as no surprise that Bast was highly popular in multiple epochs. People used to wear amulets with her depictions to attract good fortune. 

    7&8- Shu and Tefnut

    Shu and Tefnut

    Another set of primordial gods were Shu and Tefnut. They were the children of Atum,  a composite deity of Ra. Shu was the god of air, and Tefnut was the goddess of moisture. She is also considered the god of peace, lions, and wind, and he was responsible for giving the principles of life in the early stages of life. Tefnut provided the principles of the sacred order.  They had two children together: Geb and Nut. 

    9&10- Geb and Nut Geb

    Geb and Nut Geb
    Geb and Nut Geb

    Geb and Nut the god of the dry land and snakes, and Nut, the goddess of the sky, were born entwined together. Atum, an extension of Ra, separated them, with Shu holding Nut above the earth. Even though Geb and Nut could see each other, they were not able to touch. Nut was already pregnant,  and she bore several children: Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys, and Horus the Elder, all of whom would become important members of the Egyptian pantheon. Geb, it is believed, caused earthquakes with his laughter and retained the souls of the wicked. 

    11- Osiris

    Osiris
    Osiris

    Osiris was the eldest son of Geb and Nut, and he was the god of death and rebirth.  Osiris dethroned Ra, took over the world, and ruled as a great pharaoh who created the first cities and taught farming to man. In the old times, pharaohs were considered to have joined Ra after their death. After being tricked into laying into a golden coffin by his brother Set, he was sealed, cut into pieces, and sent into various places over Egypt. Osiris’  wife, Isis, held his pieces together with cloth and put him back like a mummy. However,  Osiris could not fully return to life, so he went to the underworld where he sat and cast judgment on the souls of the dead. As the god of the underworld, Osiris is depicted with green skin and holding a crook and a flail, which would become symbols of kingship and fertility, respectively, for the Egyptians. 

    12- Isis

    ISis Goddess
    Isis Goddess

    The wife of Osiris, Isis, was a major goddess who was introduced in the days of the Old Kingdom.  She, along with her husband and brother, Osiris, was the most worshiped deity throughout the land.  Isis is considered the mother of all pharaohs. She is remembered for many feats, like tricking  Ra so that Osiris could take over his throne.  After wandering through the world for so long, she collected the pieces of Osiris and put him back, but she was not satisfied. She sent their son, Horus, to avenge his father’s death. 

    13- Horus

    Horus
    Horus

    Horus was the god of kingship, vengeance, and the sky. He was the son of Osiris and Isis. Once he reached manhood, he took revenge for his father’s death by killing Set. After defeating his uncle, he became the pharaoh of Egypt; some believe he was the first divine king of Egypt. He is often depicted as a falcon or a man with a falcon head wearing a red and white crown known as pschent,  which symbolized his rule over all of Egypt. 

    14- Set

    set egyptian god
    Set Egyptian God

    Set, the god of disorder and warfare is often contrasted with Horus, who ruled the land with order and dignity. His most well-known action is the mutilation of his brother, Osiris. After Horus ousted him, he occupied lands outside the Nile Valley,  emphasizing the duality in the Egyptian tradition, as again occupied the Red Land as opposed to  Horus’ Black Land. Horus and Set are described as brothers in some versions of the myth. Set was not always hailed as the antithesis of virtue in the Egyptian religion. In the beginning, he used to accompany Ra on his boat journey and defended him against the forces of Apodosis. He is depicted with red skin and the head of an unknown animal, and he also carries the Was-scepter.

    15- Nephthys

    Nephthys
    Nephthys

    Nephthys was the wife of Set and the sister of Isis and Osiris. After Set betrayed and killed Osiris, Nephthys helped Isis collect the pieces of Osiris. Along with Isis, who she was often paired with,  she was considered the goddess of funerary rites. She supposedly helped during childbirth and other critical life junctures. She was also associated with mourning, magic, and embalming, among other things. She was the mother and nurse of Anubis. 

    16- Anubis

    Anubis
    Anubis

    Anubis, the son of Nephthys, helped Isis make Osiris into the first mummy. Before reincarnating  Osiris, Anubis was the god of funerals, embalming, the afterlife, and the underworld. He was also the patron saint of lost souls. He was one of the most important gods of the dead until the Middle Kingdom era when Osiris took over that position. From that point onward, his job became somewhat secondary to Osiris, as he assisted Osiris in the matters of the underworld. He is attributed with the protection of tombs, the embalmment process, guiding the souls in the afterlife, and weighing their hearts against a feather, depending on the era. He is often portrayed with the blackhead of a jackal, which is his symbol. The color symbolizes the life, soil,  and rejuvenation aspect of the River Nile. 

    17- Thoth

    Thoth - TS HISTORICAL
    Thoth

    Thoth, the god of writing and wisdom, possessed the knowledge of magic and secrets that were hidden from the other deities. He was the patron of science, art, magic,  hieroglyphs, and learning. He is credited with the invention of science and writing and is thought to be the protector of scribes. He is often seen with the face of an ibis or a baboon. 

    18- Mut

    Mut
    Mut

    Mut was the mother goddess of Egypt. Her two crowns are an apt representation of  Upper and Lower Egypt. Rigorously integrated with other gods, she is a primordial being and was one of the prime goddesses of ancient times. 

    19- Amon

    Amon
    Amon

    Amon was worshiped in Thebes during the New Kingdom as the god of air. He later merged with the sun god Ra to form Amon-Ra, the most powerful deity in Egypt. Amun-Ra was considered the king of all the gods and goddesses and the father of the pharaohs. Another similar composite deity was Atum-Ra, who was considered the creator of everything and who, upon having mated with his shadow, produced Shu and Tefnut. As with all myths, the Egyptian religious hierarchy moves and breathes, almost like a living organism. Gods who are seen as the most virtuous in one era develop severe insecurities in another. As seen through myth,  history continues to grow and evolve beyond time. The only ritual that transcends time is observation and wild imagination; the gods remain vivid and alive as long as someone is thinking of them. 

  • Ancient Japan | Map, Flag, & Timeline

    The culture of Ancient Japan was built on the ideals of order, harmony, and self-improvement. While these core values guided the early history of Japan, they remain key factors in the success of modern-day Japan. The Land of the Rising Sun is steeped in honor and tradition but has not been without its contradictions.  The Ancient Japanese sought order and decorum, but they believed the mythology that the land arose from chaos. Peace, harmony, and Zen are emphasized; however, Ancient Japan was defended by legendary Samurai and Shogun warriors. Japan had a strict social hierarchy and unwritten social rules dictating interactions between people of different classes, yet rulers in ancient Japan were given autonomous control over their regions. These contrasts are the reason Japan remains one of the most complex societies in the world. Out of chaos came the order, according to the Ancient Japanese creation myths. When the land separated from the ocean, seven pairs of deities – gods and goddesses – emerged to create the seven thousand-plus islands of the Japanese archipelago. The seas kept the islands somewhat isolated from mainland Asia, and the mountainous terrain made many areas inaccessible. The fertile volcanic soil, however, was perfect for farming. The first inhabitants of the Japanese islands were hunter-gatherers who crossed land bridges from the mainland between 500,000 and 30,000 years ago. After a time, they built permanent settlements, grew rice in paddies, developed pottery-making skills, established trade routes, and took major steps toward modernity.

    A History of Japan

    History of Japan
    History of Japan

    History of Japan: The people of Ancient Japan were not entirely  isolated. They interacted with outside cultures, particularly the Chinese and Koreans, to  observe how other people organized their government and distributed power. Instead of each group appointing their own ruler or king, as they once did, power became more centralized.  By around 550 CE, the Yamato kingdom was firmly established as the leading royal clan History of Japan. They recorded land ownership, collected taxes, and enacted conscription orders to build  a strong military. Under the central rule, there were court-appointed supervisors who  controlled the subjects in outlying areas, taking their orders from the central government and reporting back to them. All this administrative work meant that the  Yamato government needed scribes and educated supervisors to assist with the recordkeeping and communication. Highly trained scribes from Korea were brought in to do the work in exchange for a  military alliance, but not everyone was in favor of this agreement with the Koreans. The issue created a divide among the Japanese people. From this rift emerged the Soga clan, which played an important role in the future of Japan. One of the guiding principles of the Soga clan was the belief that the nation should be both wealthy and mighty. The role of the government, they felt, was to build the country’s riches and amass a powerful military, a mantra still prevalent today. In the 3rd century CE, when the Soga clan ruled Ancient Japan, Buddhism arrived on the shore of the Japanese islands. Buddhism may have come by way of missionaries purposely sent to convert the Japanese court, or the belief system may have had a more organic origin, coming to Japan with immigrants from India and China. Regardless of its origins in Japan,  Buddhism became the religion of the royal class. 

    Japanese philosophy

    Japanese philosophy
    Japanese philosophy (A History of Japan)

    The widespread acceptance of Buddhism opened the floodgates to other Chinese beliefs that poured into Ancient Japan, including Taoism and  Confucianism. It was an age of enlightenment for the people of the land of the rising sun. The Chinese also influenced the royal titles and imperial hierarchy of the Japanese people.  Although the Japanese didn’t adopt the titles of “emperor” and “empress” until the early 8th  century, they made the titles retroactive. They changed the official court records to add the  titles of “emperor” or “empress” to the rulers of the Yamato dynasty dating back centuries. A political coup in the 7th century ousted the former Yamato rulers, and Emperor Kōtoku seized  control. He appointed his nephew, Prince Naka, as the head of state, and together they  ushered in a wave of new reforms that moved Ancient Japan from a royal system to a  true imperial system. The imperial government assumed leadership over clans, removing power from  clan chieftains. To keep the power centralized, the rulers repossessed ancestral lands that  once belonged to the clan chieftains. They also implemented a system for the collection  of taxes and appointed their own priests to the nation’s network of Buddhist temples. All of Japan was sectioned off into provinces, with a provincial inspector reporting back to  the central government. All this was reminiscent of the Chinese structure, demonstrating the  influence that China had on its island neighbors. What followed next was the era called the  “Golden Age of Classical Japan.

    ”Politically,  control passed from leader to leader,  either by succession, abdication, or coup. It may have appeared to be a time of  instability, but culturally, Japan was thriving. Interactions with Korea and China were declining,  allowing the Japanese to come into their own as a society. Art and literature uniquely Japanese emerged. This was also when the Japanese form of writing called kana emerged; based loosely on the Chinese writing system, kana had fewer symbols and was easier to learn. Today’s Japanese people still use the kana system of writing. As Japan isolated itself from the influences of  Korea and China and became more self-reliant,  the imperial system of government relaxed. No longer was all the power concentrated centrally, but more authority fell back on the regional and provincial nobles and clan leaders. Tighter trade restrictions were put in place, and merchants relied on the barter system so much that the government halted the minting of coin currency.  The economy declined. It only became stable again after 1040 when the central government instituted a series of reforms. Samurai warriors, the fighting unit used by various Japanese clans, battled each other for power. Now synonymous with Japan, the Samurai class affected areas of life in Japan for centuries, beginning in the 1100s. Basically, hired thugs  (albeit, noble, prestigious, and well-trained thugs), the samurai worked as retainers for the noble landowners of Japan. Over time, the samurai warriors developed a strict code of ethics and morals. They were loyal, brave, and unwavering in battle. They were skilled in military tactics, weapon-making, and diplomacy. Co-existing with the samurai was the shogun. Beginning around 1185, the shoguns were Emperor-appointed rulers that supported the figurehead emperors. As the position evolved, the shogun class became a hereditary post, with sons taking over for their fathers or uncles. As a group, the shoguns were often called  bakufu, meaning “tent government.” Shoguns completed the actual administrative work of the  government, but their positions were temporary, hence the term “tent government.” The jobs of individual shoguns may have been temporary, but the institution itself lasted for seven centuries.  Both the samurai and shogun traditions ended in the mid-1800s during the Meiji Restoration. As Japan entered the late medieval period, around 1300, the Land of the Rising Sun moved closer to the modern Japan we know today. In the 1460s, however, power was slipping away from the shoguns and into the hands of the feudal landowners, and a civil war broke out, leading to a decade-long conflict in the 1460s and early 1470s. The war ended without a clear victor on either side,  but it did end the shoguns’ control of the feudal lords. The feudal lords were then free to rule over their lands as they saw fit, with only passing regard to the word of the emperor. While wars were being fought and battles for power were waged, the way of life for the Japanese was evolving into a complex society. Japanese society is one of the most complex on Earth because it took on aspects of its diverse history of Japan, different systems of rule, and influence from other cultures.

    The History of Samurai in Japan

    The transition of power from clan chieftains to kings to emperors to shoguns to samurai warriors and more left the Japanese people with a complicated network of class structure that extended from nobility to the peasant farmers and social outcasts. Slavery officially ended in Japan in 1590, when the concept of owning another human was deemed morally wrong; however, forced labor and underpaid workers continued to be an issue. The emergence of the merchant class and the artisan class in Japan added to the complexity of the society, but also served as an indicator of a strong economy. The Japanese people appreciated the fine, quality goods, such as silk and swords, produced by artisans, and willingly paid a fair price for them. Likewise, merchants allowed the people to buy the items they needed, like cloth, tools, and food. Some members of the artisan class and the merchant class became wealthy and influential; however, their lack of nobility put them in an awkward place in the hierarchy of Japanese society. For all its complexities, Japanese society was also rather rigid and unforgiving. Most people stayed in the class in which they were born, and there was little upward mobility. That rigid societal norms were especially evident with the role of women in society. In the upper echelon of society during the Japanese classical era, women enjoyed more equality than ever before. There were several female rulers – either empresses or queens – who actively ruled their people. When Buddhism was introduced into Japan, the role of women diminished. Part of the Buddhist belief system was that the family unit is led by a patriarch; sons were valued over daughters, and women were viewed as impure. Male family members controlled the female members, who were prohibited from inheriting land, making their own marriage choices, and living on their own. Marriages were arranged for political and economic gain. While the samurai and shoguns may make Ancient Japan seem warlike and aggressive, the art, music, and literature of the time reflected the exact opposite.

    The style of the painting evokes a sense of calm and serenity. Mostly nature scenes were done in watercolor, the paintings were beautiful in their simplicity.  Like the watercolors, Japan’s most famous style of poetry focused on nature. The haiku may seem uncluttered on the surface but is written following a specific and unbending set of rules. In Japanese music, performed on traditional instruments such as the double-reed flute, 13-string zither, and three-string lute, the moments of silence between the notes were just as important as the music itself. It even translated to Japanese dance. During performances,  dancers will pause in their movements during moments of silence in the music. While the art and literature of the Ancient Japanese centered on harmony with nature, the music and dance-focused on the emotions of the human experience The Land of the Rising Sun remain a place in which strict social rules dictate the way of life for the Japanese. The country moved from a land of warring clans to a technologically advanced nation with a strong economy and global presence. Yet, remnants of Ancient Japan can be seen throughout modern culture in the old temples and palaces, the art and music, the code of honor and respect, and the poetry of Japan.

  • Ancient China | Map, Timeline, & History

    History of Ancient China

     Ancient China
    Ancient China

    Ancient China: Modern China is very much the product of its ancient past a glimpse into the rich tradition of the Middle Kingdom will help us understand the country’s journey from the grandeur of Imperial China with its emphasis on honor and duty in its devotion to philosophy and art to the thriving and productive socialist dictatorship state it is today European civilizations had often overshadowed one of the greatest civilizations of ancient times China yet the events and people that shaped ancient China had far-reaching implications China’s ancient history began millions of years ago according to the widely accepted creation story the land that is now China was created from the body Pangu a giant God who made the heavens and earth he fashioned tiny humans out of clay they came to life upon his death when his giant body decomposed it forced mountains and forests to spring up rivers and lakes to form and plants birds and animals to flourish while the ancient stories are intriguing the archaeological history is just as fascinating fossil evidence shows that an early cousin to modern man Homo erectus settled in China as far back as two million years ago during the Paleolithic era these pre humans evolved differently than their counterparts in Africa the stone tools they used in the settlements they established demonstrated their uniqueness Homo Sapien modern man appeared on the scene about 300 thousand years ago bringing more advancements in agriculture hunting and tool making early humans quickly learned that the fertile lands around large rivers such as the Yellow River Way river and Yangtze River were ideally suited for agriculture so they made their homes there over time they spread from the Yellow Sea and the Pacific Ocean to the Gobi Desert the surrounding mountains jungles in oceans kept these early people relatively isolated the people were free to develop their society ritual culture and government.

    The Copper Age of Ancient China
    The Copper Age

    The Copper Age: The ancient Chinese have further established their complex and sophisticated societies with kinks and shamans ruling over farmers and merchants in large villages on the brink of becoming cities from the ancient historian Sima Qin we learned some of the key events of ancient China from around the 3rd millennia BCE much of the information however was recorded many years after events mixing them with myths and folklore for example some rulers were described as having supernatural abilities ruling for extraordinarily long periods Sima Chin’s texts tell us about the five Emperor’s who ruled ancient China beginning with the Yellow Emperor considered the father of the Chinese people under the yellow Emperor’s rule sometime between 2700 and 2600 BCE the Chinese people moved from a nomadic lifestyle to permanent villages and cities with a hierarchy of rulers and Long’s the yellow Emperor’s reign was also the time when the Chinese people developed writing mathematics and a calendar method engineering feats soon followed around 2200 to 2100 BCE ancient China was ruled by you the great who earned his spot on the throne by designing and overseeing the construction of a system of dams and canals that alleviated seasonal flooding and irrigated farm fields as ruler you the great commissioned the construction of roads established trade routes and United several tribes into one he exhibited all the qualities of a wise and just king his people even felt that the taxes he imposed were fair and reasonable his efforts of modernization helped moved the Chinese culture forward by laying the groundwork for the great Chinese dynasties to come.

    Shang Dynasty
    Shang Dynasty

    China’s Shang Dynasty the earliest of China’s dynasties that can be confirmed through historical evidence was a period of advancements in art writing and calendar keeping that were founded by its predecessors this dynasty’s first ruler Tom rose to power around 1675 BCE after a military confrontation with Jia a brutal and unjust ruler as a battle between tongue and Jia was about to commence Tung stood tall to address the soldiers on both sides of the battlefield in a rousing speech Tung outline Gia’s litany of flaws his speech was so persuasive that many of Gia’s generals switched sides to fight with tongue under tongs rule taxes were reduced as were the number of prescriptions to the army his prowess as a diplomat increased the land holdings of the dynasty to include territories in the middle and lower Yellow River Basin he even doled out money from the royal treasury when his people suffering from the impact of a disastrous drought needed financial relief endeared by his subjects Tung earned a reputation as one of the greatest kings in ancient China however the Shang Dynasty encountered a few centuries of instability after tongs death by about 1350 BCE under the leadership of King phangan.

    shang dynasty

    The Golden Age of the shang dynasty: shang dynasty began metalworking agriculture art and religious worship progressed quickly during this time coexisting with the people of the Shang Dynasty were the Shu people of the plains of Zhu a Chinese speaking group the Jude took refuge from the warring barbarians in the way River Valley there they adapted their way of life to be more like this young people they built cities and implemented the Shang agricultural techniques occasional fighting broke out between the Shang people and the Shu people but the Shang Dynasty remained in power and continued to view the shoe as their less advanced more barbaric distant cousins that ended when the ambitious zu leader king went hatched a plan to overthrow the Shang Dynasty he enlisted the help of neighboring tribes bolstering his army and giving him the military might that he needed to defeat the Xiang army in 1046 BCE King wen Sun Wu led an army of 50,000 soldiers into the Battle of mu Yi against a much larger Xiang army of 700 thousand according to legend the soldiers of the Xiang army were so disheartened living under the of the Shang Dynasty that most refused to fight in the battle some even fought in the side of the zoo seeing the defeat of his men the Shang king retreated to his palace setting it on fire in the act of suicide for the next eight centuries the zhu dynasty ruled China as the longest dynasty in ancient Chinese history the Shu dynasty witnessed the cultural awakening of China this was a period when many innovations were invented in agriculture the iron plow was created plants were grown and rose for the first time and canals and other waterways were built to transport farm crops to market coins made a bronze and iron were introduced during the Shu dynasty the Chinese system of writing was improved medical advances were also made including categorizing physicians by their specialties and keeping medical records on patients Chinese inventors toyed with physics questions leading them to create flying kites in warfare Chinese warriors improved on the crossbows design making it a weapon with deadly accuracy the longest period.

    Dynasties in Chinese history

    Dynasties in Chinese history
    Dynasties in Chinese history

    In ancient Chinese history is that of Imperial China beginning in 221 BC and extending until 1912 the era known as Imperial China is marked with the rise and fall of several dynasties including the kind– Ming and jin dynasty’s one of the early dynasties in the Imperial era was the han dynasty which ruled China from 202 BC to 220 a during the Han Dynasty various factions of China were unified under a strong central government headed by an emperor this was a time of political stability and advancements in art science and religion that greatly affected the country for the next two thousand years the land holdings of the han dynasty expanded to include most of present-day china perhaps the most significant movement of the Han Dynasty was the adoption of Confucianism as the dominant school of thought Confucianism based on the writings of the teacher and philosopher Confucius who lived from 551 to 479 BCE held that humans were the masters of their own destinies confucius taught that people could learn and improve themselves to reach enlightenment with an emphasis on moral correctness commitment to self-improvement and devotion to community the ideals of Confucianism promoted a stable orderly society with a focus on scholarly pursuits like mathematics science art and literature universities were established great books were written and monuments carved during the latter years of the Han Dynasty important trade routes like the Silk Road opened bringing the people of China in contact with foreign traders from as far away as Rome although China’s culture and civilization evolved in relative isolation.

    The ancient Chinese rivaled the ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians in its sophistication societal structure and accomplishments like other ancient cultures the Chinese created a system of writing that allowed them to record historical events share news and ideas and conduct a trade some of the earliest examples of ancient Chinese writing dates to the 13th century and the Shang Dynasty beginning as a pictograph form of writing in which a symbol was drawn to look like the item it represented Chinese texts evolved into a logographic writing style in which one character stood for a complete word or phrase the Chinese written language remains one of the most complex and difficult languages with over 50,000 individual characters perhaps the most significant and impressive tangible artifacts that remain from ancient China are the famed terracotta warriors unearthed in 1974 the collection of approximately 8,000 statues are all unique each is a life-size depiction of a Chinese soldier with different facial features clothing and insignia the army of statues guard.

    The Tomb of the First Emperor

    The Tomb of the First Emperor
    The Tomb of the First Emperor

    The tomb of the first emperor of China kin Chi Quan and stand ready to serve Him in the afterlife the Terracotta Warriors were made to be buried they remained in tombs since 210 BCE until they were discovered by farmers digging a well and excavated by archaeologists later the site where the Terracotta Warriors were discovered now a world heritage site is still being studied because of the important insight it offers the fall of the Han Dynasty in 220 ad signaled us shift away from the era of ancient Chinese the Yellow Turban rebellion of 184 to 205 weakened the rule of emperors yang allowing militant rebels to assert their strongholds several of the traditional institutions of the Han Dynasty were destroyed and a handful of warlords fought each other for control eventually one warlord tchau tchau forced reunification of the factions under the tenuous leadership of emperors Jiang the last emperor of the Han Dynasty Chou Chou then forced the Emperor to step down seizing power for himself this transition of power is used by historians to mark the end of ancient China and movement to modernity ancient Chinese leaders and emperors established the foundation for a nation built on dedication to the common good even the prevailing philosophical ideology Confucianism set China on a path to its present state as a socialist country ruled by a highly functional Communist Party a world power and economic leader China is the most populous nation on earth yet the people are fairly homogeneous in their beliefs and views just as the people living in Imperial China centuries ago to discover.

  • 7 Biggest Earthquakes in History

    7 Worst Earthquakes In The History of Mankind

    The ground pulsating beneath your feet, the contortions of the earth sending ripples through your flesh. It is a riveting, albeit terrifying experience! Natural catastrophes have wreaked havoc on the planet throughout human history – and even before it. They serve as a humbling reminder of our insignificance in the scheme of things. Here are the seven worst earthquakes in the history of mankind:

    1. Antioch Earthquake, Turkey, 115

    Antioch Earthquake, Turkey, 115 (Earthquakes)
    Antioch Earthquake, Turkey, 115

    Antioch Earthquake, Turkey, 115 On December 13, 115 CE, a devastating earthquake occurred in the Antakya Basin in modern-day Turkey. The ancient Hellenistic city of Antioch, affected most by the tragedy, lay close to the modern city of Antakya. The latter derives its name from the former.

    Since the region is close to the triple junction of the Dead Sea Transform, the boundary between the African and Arabian  Plates, and the East Anatolian Fault, it has been home to several earthquakes over the last two millennia. Another powerful quake hit the region in 526, causing almost as much damage as the 2nd-century one.

    This particular one would have probably registered XI on the Mercalli intensity scale, and its intensity is estimated to be around 7.5 on the surface wave magnitude. It triggered a tsunami that damaged the Caesarea  Maritima harbor, caused devastating loss of life, and damaged quite a lot of property. The estimated death toll was about 260,000. Trajan, the Roman emperor of the time, and his successor, the famous emperor Hadrian, were caught in the earthquake but escaped with bruises and other minor injuries.

    The city was destroyed, and Trajan began the restoration process, which  Hadrian would complete in his reign. Historian and Roman senator Cassius Dio claimed that Antioch was full of soldiers and civilians at the time. Since Trajan was staying in the city, it makes sense that there was no shortage of men. The earthquake announced its arrival with a  roaring vibration. Trees started uprooting, and buildings began to rattle. Debris began falling,  and a lot of people were caught underneath it. Other cities like Apamea and Beirut were severely damaged by the earthquake, and the tsunami ran over the coast of Lebanon.

    2. Damghan Earthquake, Iran, 856 

     Damghan Earthquake
    Damghan Earthquake

    Damghan Earthquake, Iran, 856 On December 22, 856, an earthquake hit the Iranian city of Damghan. Of course, it was not referred to as Iran back then; at the time, Damghan was the capital of the Persian province of Qumis. Now, it is the capital of the  Iranian province of Semnan. With an estimated magnitude of 7.9 and X intensity of the Mercalli intensity scale, it is believed to have caused unprecedented destruction in the region, leaving as many as 200,000 people dead. Since the earthquake extended 220 miles along the mountains, towns like Ahevanu, Astan, Tash, Bastam, and Shahrud were badly damaged. 

    The earthquake occurred during the night and left the city of Sahr-e-Qumis, the capital of the Parthian Empire, in a heap of debris. The city became uninhabitable and was abandoned after the earthquake. The damage and the ruptures could be seen even after three or four decades. Some reports hypothesize that there could have been a recurrence of earthquakes during a brief period, but there is little support for this theory. The geological work hints at a grand tectonic event between the years 600 BCE and  1300 CE. A few years later, in 893, another earthquake occurred in the region; the Ardabil earthquake had a casualty tally of 150,000. 

    3. Aleppo Earthquake, Syria, 1138

    Aleppo Earthquake
    Aleppo Earthquake

    Aleppo Earthquake, Syria, 1138 Aleppo has witnessed soul-shaking, barbarous destruction in recent years. But in 1138, the destruction was purely natural. On October 11, 1138, the Syrian city suffered from one of the deadliest earthquakes in human history.

    The previous day, on October 10, a small shockwave came, almost as a warning. Some residents even fled the cities and went to surrounding towns. The next day, when the earthquake hit the city of Aleppo, the city suffered severe structural damage. Aleppo was a bustling city, home to tens of thousands of people. The structural damage was particularly bad as the city walls in the East and West of the city fell.  Even the main citadel collapsed and killed people.

    The mid-12th century was a time of conflict in northern Syria. The crusades were underway, and the region was almost always embroiled in some kind of conflict. So, the European crusaders were also stationed and bore the brunt of the earthquake. The situation in Harem, where the crusaders had built a large citadel, was the worst. Both the castle and the citadel fell in on themselves.

    The Muslim-controlled town of Atarib,  located in the countryside of modern-day Aleppo, also flattened and killed almost 600 city guards. The earthquake traveled almost 220 miles and was even felt in Damascus, so Aleppo was not the only affected city. The estimated death toll of the earthquake is around 230,000. Subsequent earthquakes in 1138 and 1139 brought unprecedented destruction to northern Syria and western Turkey.

    4. Shaanxi Earthquake, China, 1556 

    Shaanxi Earthquake
    Shaanxi Earthquake

    Shaanxi Earthquake, China, 1556 The deadliest earthquake in recorded history. The scene: Shaanxi, northern China; the year: 1556. The earthquake had an estimated magnitude of 8  and registered XI on the Mercalli intensity scale. The historical records describe the events in the following words: “In the winter of 1556, an earthquake catastrophe occurred in the Shaanxi and Shanxi Provinces.

    In Hua County, various misfortunes took place.  Mountains and rivers changed places and roads were destroyed. In some places, the ground suddenly rose up and formed new hills, or it sank abruptly and became new valleys. In other areas, a stream burst out in an instant, or the ground broke and new gullies appeared. Huts, official houses,  temples and city walls collapsed all of a sudden.” Most of the people in Shaanxi lived in yardangs –  a sort of cave carved out in a hillside. When the earthquake hit, these caves fell in on themselves,  trapping some people inside and killing the rest. 

    On January 23, 1556, the calamity affected around  520 miles and claimed almost 830,000 lives. Several earthquakes followed in the first half of the year and brought more pain and destruction. They all had epicenters in the boundaries of the Wei River basin. The magnitude – estimated to be 8.3 at the most – is not the worst scientists have recorded, but the quake struck a dense and populated area with loose structural bases. Land sliding also claimed many lives since the area was based in hills and valleys. Suffice to say that even if the death toll is slightly exaggerated, it still ranks as one of the worst disasters in human history by a considerable margin. 

    5. Valdivia Earthquake, Chile, 1960

    Valdivia Earthquake
    Valdivia Earthquake

    Valdivia Earthquake, Chile, 1960 Now that we have discussed the deadliest earthquake in human history, let’s consider the earthquake with the highest recorded magnitude. The Valdivia Earthquake in Chile had a ridiculous magnitude of 9.5, and it registered XII – the highest level – on the Mercalli intensity scale,  lasting around 10 minutes. Known as the Great Chilean Earthquake, it occurred on May 22, 1960. 

    It did not hit a dense, populated area directly, or things might have been much worse. Its epicenter was almost 100 miles off the Chilean coast, parallel to the city of Valdivia and 350  miles south of Santiago. The earthquake extended between over 300 and 600 miles, and it triggered massive tsunamis in distant Pacific coastal areas. Tsunamis would eventually hit Chile,  Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, New Zealand,  Australia, and the Alaskan Aleutian Islands. The earthquake also triggered landslides and floods.

    The earthquake hit at 3:11 PM, and even though the tremors were consequential, most of the damage came from the 80 feet tsunami that made its way to the shore 15 minutes later. Many Chilean cities suffered severe damage.  Two days later, the Cordon Caule volcano in Chile erupted. Seismologists believe that the eruption was linked to the earlier earthquake. Since then, things have not been quite on the seismic front. 

    In 2010, another quake of 8.8 magnitudes was detected several miles off the coast of Chile. At the end of the crisis, almost 3,000 people had been injured, and around 1,655 people had lost their lives. The loss of property was estimated at around $550 million back in the day – about $5 billion today, adjusting for inflation. Tangshan Earthquake, China, 1976 From the highest magnitude, let us jump right down to the second-lowest magnitude on this list. 

    In 1976, an earthquake hit the Chinese city of  Tangshan. Tangshan, located east of Beijing, is an industrial town with a lot of coal-mining work. When the Great Earthquake of Tangshan – for that is what it is called  – hit, experts recorded a magnitude of 7.5, which is relatively low when compared to the other entries on this list. But it registered XI on the Mercalli scale and devastated the industrial town,  bringing almost 85 percent of its structures down. Most town buildings were either not reinforced or had multiple stories – sometimes both.

    The earthquake originated on land, so there was excessive structural damage. Bridges collapsed, and railways and highways were disrupted. The death tally might have run as high as 655,000, but at least 242,000 deaths are confirmed. Another 700,000 people were injured. The initial earthquake occurred at 3:42 AM.  Later that day, an aftershock of 7.1 magnitudes added to the aura of death and destruction.  Since Tangshan was an industrial town, many people were caught under rubble, and the second quake further disrupted rescue efforts.

    The earthquake extended quite far, covering almost 3,650 miles of the surrounding region with relatively less intensity – the tremors even reached Beijing. China is caught between the Indian and Pacific plates, making it a  highly active location for earthquakes. But the earthquakes of Shaanxi and Tangshan are, by far, the deadliest of the lot. 

    6. Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 2010

    Port-au-Prince, Haiti
    Port-au-Prince, Haiti

    Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 2010 The final and the most recent entry on this list is the 2010 Haitian Earthquake that shook the Caribbean. Many people may remember this from the “Hope for Haiti Now” telethon that aired on television. Within the next day, the fundraising appeal had resulted in the collection of $58 million US dollars.

    The earthquake hit the island of Hispaniola on  January 12, 2010. It originated 16 miles west of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and killed anywhere between 100,000 to 316,000 people. The estimates of the death toll vary to this day. Just like the previous entry, the magnitude was relatively low at 7.0, but the fact that its epicenter was so close to a population center made it extremely deadly.  Aftershocks of magnitudes between 5.5 and 5.9 continued for almost two weeks. Haiti’s lack of building codes meant disaster for the country.

    The buildings floated like rainwater down the streets. Haiti had witnessed several major earthquakes before this one: 1751, 1770, 1842, and 1946. Even though it is a seismically active region, a lack of infrastructure and the availability of proper services meant that the country was ill-equipped to deal with a situation like this. According to the Haitian government’s estimate, almost 250,000  residences and 30,000 buildings were destroyed. Other earthquakes have shaken the world in recent years.

    7. The 2004 Sumatra Earthquake

    2004 Sumatra Earthquake
    2004 Sumatra Earthquake

    The 2004 Sumatra Earthquake, the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, and the 2005  Kashmir  Earthquake come to mind, just to name a few. But, if the estimated death toll of 300,000 is assumed true, the Haitian one can be considered the deadliest of all recent earthquakes. 

  • Top 7 Female Rulers of the Ancient World

    7 Historical Female Rulers Everyone Should Know

    Female Rulers: Before the 4th millennium, when urban societies started to take shape, we see a vastly different relationship between the genders. It was only after urbanization in Eurasia around 3500 BCE that women settled in a much lesser role than men! With the advent of urban societies, women have witnessed discrimination in every aspect of social life: wealth, stature, and power.

    Their contributions to the state institutions – whether the military, the government, or any other – waned in comparison. A reduction in female rulers stature meant an exaltation of male stature, just by comparison  – even if not deliberately. The social prowess and prestige that women lost have not been reclaimed. Today, we look at some women who fought against the tides of the socio-economic norms, broke  barriers, and captured the seat of power in a male-dominated world:

    History of Top Famous Female Rulers in the World

    1. Enheduanna

    Enheduanna Female Ruler
    Enheduanna

    The earliest known named author in world historyEnheduanna lived in Sumer in the 23rd century BCE, and this Akkadian princess was the daughter of  Sargon of Akkad. In the city of Ur – the world’s first significant metropolis – she was appointed high priestess of Nanna, the Sumerian moon deity. 

    She was a culturally refined, spiritually ambitious, and extremely creative woman, or so her writings suggest. Sometimes colloquially dubbed the “Shakespeare of Sumerian literature,” her incantations, prayers, and stories were highly influential in Sumer. It is important to note that the idea of  “religion”– as we are familiar with today – did not exist back in those days. Until Martin Luther’s Reformation gave way to secular humanism in Europe, life continued as a relatively primal affair.

    Ghosts, supernatural spirits, and energies were not considered part of an ideology; they were understood with the same tenacity with which one tackled the material world. For this reason, a  lot of ancient writing seems inherently poetic. 

    Enheduanna’s works are no different.  It has been suggested that her writing, like the Exaltation of Innana and The Sumerian Temple Hymns, influenced everything from the Epic of Gilgamesh and Homeric hymns to the prayers and psalms of the Hebrew Bible. Some scholars are critical of the fact that she rediscovered writings that were written down by scribes during the First Babylonian Empire. Whether she existed as a person or a symbol, as the first known author of history, her power and impact cast an everlasting effect on human history. 

    The first known poet may not have been a  leader in the reductionist sense of the word, but she did lead – in more ways than one. No doubt, the pen is mightier than the sword. 

    2. Hatshepsut

    Hatshepsut
    Hatshepsut

    Hatshepsut, the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt, was the second or third female ruler of ancient Egypt. Considered among the greatest rulers of the region, her reign in the 15th century BCE was instrumental in Egypt becoming an invincible force. Although she was the daughter of a king, she initially ascended to the throne to rule as regent to the next male heir. 

    As the Pharoah, she had unprecedented power for a female ruler. She was an ambitious monarch and undertook large building projects, ordering the construction of a large memorial temple at Deir el-Bahri, a  great feat of ancient architecture.

    Her building projects shaped the ancient Egyptian landscape of the time. Her military expeditions in the Levant, Syria, and Nubia were just as emphatic and audacious. Her military campaigns brought spoils to Egypt, and she was able to capitalize on the opportunity by rebuilding broken trade networks. Her first campaign was likely with Nubia,  which she quickly and easily conquered. 

    She continued to the East African coast,  setting up trading centers when possible. Gold, ebony, baboons, and myrrh trees, both living and dead, were brought back to Egypt. Unfortunately, most of her progress would be laid to waste as the Late Bronze Age Collapse would leave most of Eurasia and Africa in tatters. After her death, monuments and statues dedicated to Hatshepsut were destroyed and defaced; she was erased from history. 

    Until the 19th century, historians did not know of Hatshepsut because all depictions of her form and instances of her name were replaced by those of a fictional male king. It is quite easy to revere Cleopatra as the greatest Egyptian queen. She has captured the imagination of modern media, and rightly so. But if it were not for Hatshepsut’s convention-defying reign,  ancient Egypt would have looked much different. 

    3. Artemisia I of Caria

    Artemisia I of Caria

    Artemisia I of Caria After the Near East and Egypt, let us travel to Greece in the 5th century BCE, where Artemisia  I of Caria ruled as the queen of Halicarnassus. As the name implies, she was the head of the ancient district of Caria, located in southwestern Anatolia – modern-day Turkey.

    Originally from the island of Crete, she ruled for about 24 years. At this point, some of you might have noticed that her name resembles Artemis, the Greek goddess. Given her courageous disposition, her parents probably named her Artemisia to materialize the goddess’ archery skills.

    In a famous depiction of the warrior queen by the German painter Wilhelm von Kaulbach, she is shown shooting arrows with her bow. She is mostly remembered in the writings of the Greek historian Herodotus, who showers her with praise, calling her a brave, fearless warrior and leader.

    In the 7th book  of his famous classic, Histories, he writes: “Of the other lower [Persian] officers I  shall make no mention since no necessity is laid on me; but I must speak of a certain  leader named Artemisia, whose participation in the attack upon Greece, notwithstanding that  she was a woman, moves my special wonder.”

    The Greco-Persian Wars were one of the most momentous events of ancient history. Had Persia won the war, the world today would appear much different. Name of Xerxes I, King of Persia, commanded authority at the time, and she decided to side with him against the independent Greek states. Artemisia’s involvement in the Second  Greco-Persian War is noteworthy. Herodotus claims that Artemisia had five ships under her command and advised Xerxes not to engage with the Greeks in the Battle of Salamis.

    Her advice to avoid a  direct confrontation proved wise in retrospect as Xerxes suffered for disregarding it. The Greek historian paints her as a complex woman – ravishing and luminous yet fearsome and menacing – unlike the caricatural representation that women in power often suffer from.

    4. Wu Zetian  

     Wu Zetian  
    Wu Zetian  

    The first and only female Ruler of China, Wu Zetian is a controversial figure in the country’s past.  She became the empress regent in 690 and ruled until 705. She was considered beautiful and had an innate understanding of the matters of state. Under her rule, China expanded geographically and economically, turning into a great power whose existence had to be acknowledged around the globe.

    She started as an imperial concubine, but her beauty and intelligence caught the emperor’s attention, and he made her his secretary. She used this opportunity to understand the ebbs and flows of court life. However, her hunger for control and influence may have had negative implications for the people around her. Some claim that she may have killed her child to frame others in a bid for power. 

    This claim is mostly expressed in folklore,  but the fact that she deposed her son to become empress does lend some hint of truth to the fable. She was a ruthless but beloved monarch who was not afraid of eliminating her political opposition – quite literally. Nevertheless, the people loved her because she brought some much-needed reforms. During her time, the economy thrived, court corruption was reduced,  and military campaigns yielded good returns. She also opened the Silk Road, which had ceased functioning after the plague.

    5. Elizabeth I

    Elizabeth I
    Elizabeth I

    Elizabeth I The last of five monarchs to have come from the House of Tudor, Elizabeth  I was the daughter of the notorious Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn.

    Anne was beheaded when Elizabeth was but a child. As she grew up and inherited the throne after the death of Mary I in the mid-16th century,  she became one of the most powerful monarchs in English history. Her reign lasted a long time, charting around 45  years and lasting until the early 17th century. 

    This era is known as the “Elizabethan Era” and is marked by cultural and religious reformation. Elizabeth relied heavily on her advisors to keep matters under control. She even gave most of them nicknames and used her ingenious femininity to disarm the imposing males. Before becoming queen, Elizabeth had spent a year in jail on charges of mingling and conspiring with Protestant radicals. 

    After coming into power, she encouraged Protestant ideas and facilitated their propagation through her empire. Despite having a religious bent, she avoided systematic persecution. In her older age, she became a symbol of virginity, as she had not produced an heir. Arts and literature thrived under her rule, and authors like William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe stretched the English language to its utmost extremes. Some of the greatest English composers also made music during this time, like William Byrd and Thomas Tallis; she tolerated the religious leaning of the latter since his music was so divine! 

    6. Ekaterina

    Ekaterina
    Ekaterina

    Ekaterina As we tiptoe our way around the globe, let’s check in on the Russians. We arrive in the 18th century to discuss one of the most popular figures in Russian history: Ekaterina,  perhaps better known as Catherine the Great. 

    However, her story does not start in Russia;  she was born in Poland as a German princess. Her birth name was Sophie von Anhalt-Zerbst, and she came to Russia after marrying Peter III of Russia, a process during which she changed her name to Ekaterina.

    Her rule lasted 34 years, longer than any other female ruler in Russian history,  during which she revitalized the arts and culture, known as the Russian Enlightenment, and significantly expanded Russian territory.

    As with other rulers on this list,  Ekaterina was not without her faults. She had started her reign amidst a coup,  which did not help make a good impression. And things did not always go as planned, like in 1773, when the socio-economic conditions of the lower class compelled them to stage protests. Along with the vast territorial expansion that came with defeating the Ottoman Empire twice, Ekaterina was also responsible for her spiritually high-minded and socially progressive ideology. 

    She was a learned woman and wrote several works to improve the Russian curriculum. The biggest proof, perhaps, of her reverence  for the principles of enlightenment  is her lifelong correspondence with the French  author and philosopher, Voltaire, who called her “the Star of the North” and the “Semiramis of  Russia.” His admiration of the female ruler and her ideals went as far as to say, “If I  were younger, I would make myself Russian.” Of course, she had already done that.

    7. Indira Gandhi

    Indira Gandhi
    Indira Gandhi

    Indira Gandhi If one figure in Indian history stands head and shoulders above the rest, it is Indira Gandhi. The daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, she was the third  Prime Minister of India and the first female ruler. She served multiple terms between 1966 and 1984. 

    At this point, you’re probably wondering if she was related to Mahatma Gandhi. The answer is no. Indira married Feroze Gandhi – no relation to  Mahatma – and adopted his surname. Her unwavering conviction and bold-as-brass personality had the perfect makings of a feminist icon. 

    In 1999, an online BBC poll named  her the “woman of the millennium.” Indira’s greatest test came in 1971 when  East Pakistan went to war with West Pakistan. The former discriminated against the latter and even perpetrated genocide against them. 

    The independence movement of the West Pakistanis received support from the Indians, who followed in Indira’s footsteps as she marched in with the army and turned the course of the war. At the end of the day, Bangladesh and Pakistan became two separate entities. Had it not been for her interception, the loss of life would have been far more egregious. Her office years were a source of inspiration for the feminist movements of the time. Figures like Benazir Bhutto would follow in her footsteps.  Unfortunately, they would face the same fate: nationalists would assassinate both. 

  • Ancient India | Civilization and History

    History of India

    Ancient India
    Ancient India

    Ancient India: Ancient Indian history feels like the halfway point between a fairy tale and a Lovecraft story. On the one hand, there are tales of princes seeking enlightenment in the wild, and guilt-ridden emperors swearing off conquest and becoming legendary peacemakers, but there are also entire cosmologies simply spoken into existence and a Bronze Age civilization about a millennium ahead of the rest of the world that fades into oblivion.

    This is also true of the rest of Indian history! It’s enormous and diversified, but, like a jigsaw puzzle, each piece fits together to form a unified whole. And we can see the outlines of this enormous image of Ancient India way back when civilization was just getting started. So, to wind back the clock and see where India got it’s start, let’s do some history.

    Indus Valley Civilisation

    Ancient India: Indus Valley Civilisation– Our earliest evidence of Indian civilization is a string of settlements along the Indus River Valley in the two and three thousand B.C.And as far as Bronze Age civilizations go, the Indus Valley is by *FAR* the raddest. Because the flood plain was easy to farm and build on, the resulting culture was astonishingly urbanized.

    In the cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, (Excavated by the British in the 1800 and 1900s) We found standardized building bricks, streets laid out on a grid system to catch the breeze and cool down the city, with built-in sewage systems, and massive public baths. Centuries before the Pyramids of Giza, Ancient India had urban planning that wouldn’t be beaten until the Greeks and Romans some 2,000 years later.

    The construction quality seems to show that the people of the Indus Valley had been refining this system for a while! As the rest of the Bronze Age civilizations were blowing money on temples and palaces, the Indus Valley had long since made great Public Works and figured out zoning laws! And they weren’t an insular civilization either: Their trade networks with Mesopotamia were so speedy, that they could import fish from the Arabian Sea.

    Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa aren’t exactly neighbors, so the parallels between them imply a kind of overarching government, but we’re clueless as to what, partially because we can’t decipher their writing. And the craziest part is that we’ve hardly found any weapons anywhere. As far as we can tell, they were totally peaceful. But that’s the Bronze Age for you! Everything feels confusing, a temporal land kind of Lovecraftian, and it all goes *poof* just as weirdly as it first appears. So at some point between the 1700 and 1500s,

    Indus Valley Civilization
    Ancient India Indus Valley Civilisation

    The Indus Valley civilisation slowly disappeared for reasons that we can really only guess at. The two most likely options are that the soil eventually lost its nutrients and stopped yielding crops after a millennium or so or that an earthquake altered the course of the river and dried up several tributaries.

    Whatever the case, it seems that the people of the Indus Valley ventured further into the peninsula and eventually settled in the far south. As a result, the valley’s ruins remained buried until the 1800s, when British tomb thieves arrived and used the stones as ballast for a railway project. Stay classy, Britain. But our story continues in the centuries after the Indus Valley civilization with the slow migration of the Indo-Aryans from Central Asia.

    Quick aside, that label’s become kind of controversial in the past century for reasons that are *WHOLLY* unrelated to Indian history, so I’ll be using that term for its intended historical meaning. Instead of prolific builders, the Aryans were storytellers, and they’re often known as the Vedic peoples after their holy scriptures called the Vedas. These were a series of stories including everything from big cosmology, down to aspects of their own daily life. And they were all retold as hymns being memorized and perfected to the very syllables.

    These divine hymns form much of the basis of Hinduism both as a religion, and more broadly, as a foundation of ancient Indian culture Historically, Hinduism is quite unique because of its continuity from ancient origins to widespread modern practice. That’s cool, but also extremely nuanced and complex. So I’m gonna move right along to the next core aspect of Indo-Aryan culture:

    Caste System in India – Origin, Features, and Problems

    Ancient India Castle System
    Ancient India Castle System

    Ancient India Castle System: The caste.. system…Great… When the Aryans came across the native Adivasi people, they maintained political stability via a strict social hierarchy. With the Aryans at the top, and everybody else below them. A story we’ve seen many times on this channel. But as the Aryans and the Adivasi mixed over the centuries, the system was later stratified by profession rather than by ethnic group.

    At the top were the Brahmin priests, then the Kshatriya lords and warriors, the Vaishya merchants and farmers, the Shudra laborers, and the sub-caste Untouchables, who are fully ostracized by society. The big yikes here is that a social hierarchy based on class rather than race is malleable to whoever is in charge. So the caste system has survived the rise and fall of empires to systematically oppress the Indian people for… Eh… Basically three thousand years? So, just keep that in the back of your minds for the *ENTIRETY* of Indian history, and let’s swiftly move along. As the Vedic tradition grew and evolved in the first millennium BC.

    A new wave of philosophical thinking cropped up, via a series of texts called the Upanishads. Its name comes from the Sanskrit for “Sitting down near” as a student would sit by their mentor while receiving divine knowledge through a discussion of Philosophy. Similar to the Analects of Confucius or the Daodejing, the Upanishads are presented as a series of brief teachings.

    The earlier ones appear along with the four Vedas, but many Upanishads were composed and added later. So areas the Vedas form the basis of Indian religion and mythology, the Upanishads are the core of Indian philosophy. It’s here that we get the first mentions of topics from the cycle of reincarnation, to our duties as people and the consequences of our actions, as well as our sense of self within the greater totality of the universe.

    It’s… A lot of terms, I know, but the Upanishads are as broad as they are dense, and there is a *LOT* to unpack there. The big mind melt at the end, Is that our localized self, Atman, is really made up of the same stuff as the big cosmic everything of Brahman. And when we realize that we are all the same, our Atman returns to Brahman like a drop of water returning to an ocean.

    (Your mind going kaboom) Aside from the big metaphysics, there’s so much to learn from the Upanishads, and Philosophers from across time have lavished praise for both their sincerity of tone and their depth of wisdom. So let’s see: Theology, Philosophy… Aha! We also need to discuss the epics.

    Indian Epics: Epic Stories of Mahabharata and Ramayana

    The Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Much like the Iliad and the Odyssey, these two big Indian epics blend fact and myth in a way that isn’t historical, but is indicative of the world as the ancients envisioned it It’s a neat switch of perspectives. The truth here isn’t in facts and dates of the wars being recorded, but rather the divine elements of the stories help frame the human philosophical truths of the core of both of these epics. Now, that said, if some long books are doorstops, than the Mahabharata is the entire door.

    It’s the story of a great succession crisis and the subsequent war sometime around the 14th century BC. And it is just *LOADED* with deities front to back. But the most famous section of the story, the Bhagavad Gita, (The Song of God) narrows in on the internal struggle of the hero Arjuna to do his duty even when it’s difficult.

    None of us will fight alongside literal gods in a giant succession crisis, (I mean, well, y’know, probably.) but all of us will struggle to do the right thing, likely a lot of times. I, for instance know that it’s irresponsible to monopolize this channel for Roman history memes, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not tempted. I’m getting off-topic.

    Indian Epics: Epic Stories of Mahabharata and Ramayana
    Indian Epics: Epic Stories of Mahabharata and Ramayana

    The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are clearly some of humanity’s most influential literature. Between the epics, the Upanishads, and the Vedas, it’s evident just how much of Ancient Indian culture derives from these core texts.

    we lack in most other forms of historical documentation for a good several centuries. But the picture gets a lot clearer once we hit the 600 through 300’s BC, as we have archaeological and written evidence for a loose collection of independent states and kingdoms across northeast India.

    Researchers have found large cities and dense fortifications, as well as new forms of poetry and metallurgy and the development of Brahmi writing. Among these sixteen Mahajanapadas, (As they are snappily known, and as I’m sure I’ve horribly mispronounced) there seems to have been some intense competition, as well as interstate trade.

    Still, not a whole lot to go on, but if it’s anything like the other clusters of small independent states that we’ve seen in history, whether it’s the Greeks and the Italians, or the Maya and the Chinese warring states, it was probably pretty cool. What we *DO* have from this political climate, is a famous story of one Indian prince named Siddhartha Gautama. For his entire life this prince was kept secluded in a palace by his parents, knowing nothing but luxury, health, and joy.

    But one day he asked to leave his palace and go see the outside world, and was horrified to see people who were sick, (gross) And worse, dying So he flipped out over the sudden and devastating realization of humanity’s suffering and of his own impending mortality, and he camped out in the middle of the woods for a month, refusing to leave until he either died or figured out a way to end all human suffering. Luckily for him, he actually got the desired outcome and achieved the enlightened state of Nirvana.

    Prince Siddhartha, now called Buddha, realized that the ideal life was the middle path between extravagance and asceticism, where all outward suffering could be conquered solely through a complete mastery of the self. And just like that, Bada-Bing, Badda-Eightfold Path, we’ve got a shiny new religion! But before we wrap this story up, we’ve got to talk about some wars. After Alexander the Far-from-Home failed to push past the Indus River and decided to call it quits and go home, an exiled Kshatriya named Chandragupta took advantage of the kerfuffle and conquered across northern India to found the Maurya Empire, India’s first large properly centralized state.

    Hellenistic Greece

    Hellenistic Greece
    Hellenistic Greece

    The New Empire established diplomatic ties with Hellenistic Greece as well as China, and built up considerable infrastructure within the Empire itself. Chandragupta was by all accounts a solid ruler, keeping a hands-off approach for his two decades in power and letting his people be.

    He died fasting in the woods, his son was pretty meh, and there was an interregnum afterwards, but then his grandson Ashoka was one of the coolest cats in history. Ascending to the throne in 273 BC, he conquered eastward to the coast of Kalinga, and the result was an absolute bloodbath, with hundreds of thousands dead on both sides. When he heard the news, he felt really, really bad about it. So he issued a full apology throughout his empire, and abandoned warfare entirely to become a Buddhist.

    He then worked to build trade relations and improve the lives of his people, he was super tolerant of other faiths, and he wrote extensively about his own journey to inner peace through Buddhism. That has got to be the single *BIGGEST* Heel-Face turn in history! His life seems almost surreal, but.. There it is! A conqueror who felt remorse and changed his ways.

    Unfortunately, his successors were far less able than him, and soon pockets of the Empire slipped away, before the assassination of Emperor Brihadnatha extinguished the Maurya Empire for good in 180 BC. And that’s ancient India! From the Indus River Valley to Ashoka the Great. What I find most amazing is the massive catalogue of literature that took shape at such an early stage! It’s an incredibly strong foundation that’s at once diverse and cohesive, and so exquisitely preserved after nearly 3,000 years! And speaking of 3,000 years, because if I seriously tried to summarize that all at once, I may actually burst.

     

  • Black Death | Symptoms, Facts, and Timeline

    Black Death Summary

    Black Death
    Black Death

    The Black Death: Nothing quite as eerie and magnificently vile has impacted the Earth as pandemics. As the initial instinct of indifference, nonchalance, and levity turned into a dreadful disquiet for most, it never dissolved for some. This phenomenon has never been restricted to a time or place; it has exhibited itself throughout the world in one form or another. Yet, in studying how the masses approached those times, we often find that many people rejected its very existence and suggested tactics for dealing with it. How could the human race have lived through the lauded and the so-called “Age of Reason” and still be plagued by a complete rejection of reason in the light of approaching pandemics?

    This tradition goes back to the inception of human life; it has continued to its present form and probably will continue until the end of our species. Considering that we know the broad responses to Covid-19, can you imagine how the world reacted to similar situations in the Middle Ages? The Bubonic Plague, also known colloquially as the Black Death, is among the largest recorded pandemics in human history.

    It wiped out between 25-50 million people, reaching its peak from 1346 to 1353, but the 14th-century outbreak was essentially a re-emergence. The disease had appeared much earlier, during Justinian’s rule in the Eastern Roman Empire, and had ravaged the land once already. Afterward, the Black Death repeatedly reappeared – but could never impose the same aura of death and destruction. The element of surprise was lost, and people had been studying it scientifically.

    Plague of Justinian

    Plague of Justinian
    Plague of Justinian

    The Black Death persists to this day, but it is not the death sentence it once was in the 6th century, the Plague of Justinian lay waste to the Mediterranean. Between 541 and 544, the plague took hold of the Byzantine Empire,  also known as the Eastern Roman Empire, which was the remaining contingent of the Roman Empire after the fall of Rome. Justinian could not keep his ambitious projects running, so he changed the tax code and increased taxes.

    Today, the plague is sometimes remembered as the Plague of  Justinian because the Byzantine emperor’s handling of the crisis worsened conditions. Researchers claim that this disease was the Bubonic Plague. Evidence points to multiple occurrences of the disease long before the 6th century. The bubonic plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis,  a bacteria that causes three types of plague: bubonic plague, septicemic plague, and pneumonic plague. Archaeologists have found a 5000-year-old victim of the Yersinia pestis in some human remains near the Estonian-Latvian border.

    The most common of the three plagues is obviously the bubonic plague, in which the bacterium attacks the lymph nodes. If untreated, it continues to affect the circulatory and respiratory systems. In septicemic plague, the bacterium infects the blood and traverses through the body, making it more dangerous than the bubonic plague.

    The pneumonic plague is airborne and attacks the lungs as well. It is believed that all three plagues were responsible for wiping out much of Europe in the fourteenth century. In the 1340s, the disease affected India, Persia, China, Syria, and Egypt. Many believe that the outbreak started in China and arrived in the Mediterranean through the ports. From there,  it proceeded to wreak havoc on Afro-Eurasia. Different theories exist regarding the origin of the plague.

    The Greatest Catastrophe Ever

    The Greatest Catastrophe Ever
    The Greatest Catastrophe Ever

    The Black Death appeared in Europe with the arrival of 12 ships from the Black Sea in October 1347. As the ships docked at the Sicilian port of Messina, the people on the docks were greeted with a horrifying discovery: most of the ship’s sailors were dead, and the ones who were still alive were gravely ill and partially disfigured. Black boils full of blood and pus covered their skin.

    These boils are called buboes, and they are responsible for giving the bubonic plague its name. The authorities of Sicily ordered the fleet to leave for the Mediterranean Sea, a disastrous decision that did more harm than good. The plague had started to spread – and it would not stop for the next five years, killing between a quarter and half of the continent’s population. The origins of the Black Death may be disputed,  but its first definitive appearance was in Crimea, and estimates are that over 85,000  people died there from the illness.

    When the Tartars from Crimea laid siege on the coastal city of Caffa, the Tartars were losing people left and right. They decided to make the most of their situation and started catapulting the corpses of their plague victims into the stronghold of Caffa. When the survivors from Caffa fled and reached Europe, landing at the port in Sicily, they had unintentionally set a series of events in action that would have severe ramifications for both Europe and Africa. From Messina, the Black Death spread to  Tunis in North Africa and Marseilles in France.

    Rome and Florence were part of important trading routes, so it was only a matter of time before the plague reached there. By 1348, the plague had entered mainland Italy, Spain, and France. Cities like Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux, and even London had fallen prey to the grim reality. When the plague started to take over most of  Europe, initial observations of the phenomenon dismissed it as a scourge for the cursed and the evil. Interestingly, almost all groups of human beings think of themselves as saviors and detractors as malicious. For the Catholics, the Pagans were evil; for the Pagans, the religious folks were lost to an ideological constraint.

    Middle Ages Black Death
    Middle Ages

    The Middle Ages were home to superstition and a public aversion to rational thinking. While it is true – contrary to widely held beliefs  – that medieval times produced some marvelous technological and innovative leaps, one cannot overlook that most of the period’s knowledge was unavailable to the general population.

    Most people believed that the plague was a punishment from God. People in Europe had years of warning leading up to the plague, but they were dismissive of the problems of the  Eastern heathens and were caught up in obnoxious ideas of religious superiority. As the illness started to tally up death tolls on trade routes, merchants began looking at the situation closely  – but took no precautions. Even the more educated individuals downplayed the Great Pestilence.  According to the religious factions, the pious members of the society had no reason to worry.

    The people looked up to the Church as it provided nearly all the answers to mortal man. No explanation from the Church – along with its utter failure to keep the death toll down  – must have made it seem like the end of the world. People began losing trust in the clergy and started opting for desperate measures. Flagellation became a common way of atoning for sins. People turned to all sorts of mystic ideals as an alternative to the Church. The Church’s inability to provide any sense of security made room for the authority of other religious bodies. 

    The Church was no longer a symbol of salvation; it was, instead, an authoritarian body with little practical value and a corrupt institution. Less than 150 years later, Martin  Luther would nail his Ninety-five Theses to a church door and start the Reformation. While some profited from the Church’s misfortunes, others fared much worse. Without a sufficient understanding of the phenomenon, people started to play the blame game, scapegoating each other to appease their minds. One of the main scapegoats was the Jewish population.

    The movement to blame Jews for the Black Death began in Spain and Southern France. Almost a third of the 2.5 million European Jews lived in the region and were often quite wealthy. Everybody joined the cause as an excuse to loot land and fortune. By 1348, the pestilence had reached  Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

    The disease marched from shore to shore, from town to town, and from city to city, without discrimination.  Rich or poor, virtuous or malicious, sophisticated or not, it did not care. Fleas carried the disease and were responsible for its spread, in addition to human spread by airborne contamination.

    Maybe Rats Aren’t to Blame for the Black Death

    Maybe Rats Aren't to Blame for the Black Death
    Maybe Rats Aren’t to Blame for the Black Death

    The sickness traveled via any animal with fleas like cats, dogs, mice, and rats, serving as secondary carriers. Researchers believe that rodents were the main secondary carriers, but they disagree on whether it was mice or rats. The proclaimed God-given authorities were not exempt from the punishment – the Black Death killed many members of royal families. The King of Aragon died, as well as the queen consort to Pedro IV. King Phillip VI had left his wife, Jeanne la  Boiteuse, to rule the country, who fell victim to the widespread monstrosity.

    People were dropping like flies, including higher church officials, so Pope Clement VI kept his place in  Avignon smoky to avoid a similar outcome. Princess Joan of England experienced the same fate. She was engaged to be married to Peter of Castile, son of Alfonso XI, one of the most powerful monarchs of Europe at the time.

    The marriage celebration turned to tragedy when the entourage arrived in Bordeaux. Slowly, people around her started to fall ill, and finally, she did as well. Francesco Petrarch, the 14th-century Italian poet and one of the foremost figures of the European literary canon, also succumbed to it.  The literature of the time reflects the occurrence of this tragedy in many ways. For instance,  Boccaccio’s The Decameron starts with a group of people leaving the city for a countryside villa to avoid the Black Death. Similarly, the New Siena artistic movement was snuffed out because painters in the city kept dying. By 1350, the plague had reached Scotland,  Scandinavia, and the Baltic region.

    At the same time, back in Italy – the country where the plague had initially arrived – began implementing preventative measures. As soon as 1348, Italian cities began instating quarantines for arriving ships. Venice was one of the first cities to implement the measure, and other cities followed suit. All ships entering the city had to stay in isolation for 30 days. Ships were always arriving in Venice, but ships were not an issue in landlocked cities like Pistoia Despite the practical differences, they committed to a similar idea, placing regulations on the import of goods and the arrival of merchants.  Roughly 70 percent of the city’s population still died.

    Path to Pistoia Urban Hygiene Before the Black Death

    Path to Pistoia Urban Hygiene Before the Black Death
    Path to Pistoia Urban Hygiene Before the Black Death

    Milan learned from Pistoia and enacted several laws to limit the spread of the disease. Italy was the first country that was vigilant enough to implement these measures. On the other hand, Castile, Aragon, France, and England were painfully slow. England was so lazy in its approach that when the plague reappeared in 1665, it suffered heavily. Human loss notwithstanding.

    The Black Death contributed to the loss of food and animals. Domesticated animals contracted the plague and died. Similarly, livestock was vulnerable. There was a wool and labor shortage throughout Europe,  not to mention the cessation of wars. All of this led to a transformation of women’s role in societies. Due to the population deficiency, women were expected to procreate and were treated somewhat better than previous generations.

    They also had to work as there was a labor shortage,  but sadly, they garnered no additional rights. After its devastating stint from 1347 to 1351,  the Black Death made multiple appearances: from 1361 to 1363, from 1369 to 1371,  from 1374 to 1375, in 1390 and 1400. Over the years, the Black Death has persisted and continues to pop up every once in a while in different regions. However, these recurrences are not particularly distressing, as science and reason have caught up to them. Today, the Black Death does not exist as a harbinger of death and destruction but as a reminder of the death and destruction that an unknown disease can visit upon civilization.

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