Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Prehistoric Beginnings

Blogging Will Durant’s History of Civilization

Immense volumes have been written to expound our knowledge, and conceal our ignorance of primitive man.
I wonder what it was like in Europe 20,000 years ago as Neanderthals battled Cro-Magnons for survival. If mere racial differences arise to prejudices in our era, what was it like when humans were divided into different sub-species?

Neanderthals may not have had the same brain capacity but they still had communities, tools, and ceremonies. Durant laments that only a small fraction of pre-historical artifacts survive. Since there was no writing we know about from this period, we can only speculate from scant evidence of human achievements and struggles.

Durant's Brief Outline
  1. Paleolithic Culture
  2. Neolithic Culture
  3. The Transition to History
- From Introduction, Chapter IV.

I believe that this series is one of the great works of modern history literature. Its material is essential knowledge.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Trojan War

Previously in Herodotus

118. Let us now leave Homer and the Trojan Epic; but this I will say, namely that I asked the priests whether it is but an idle tale which the Greeks tell of that which they say happened about Troy; and they answered me thus, saying that they had their knowledge by inquiries from Menelaos himself. After the rape of Helen there came indeed, they said, to the Trojan land a large army of Greeks to help Menelaos; and when the army had come out of the ships to land and had pitched its camp there, they sent messengers to Troy, with whom went also Menelaos himself; and when these entered within the wall they demanded back Helen and the wealth which Paris had stolen from Menelaos and had taken away; and moreover they demanded satisfaction for the wrongs done: and the Trojans told the same tale then and afterwards, both with oath and without oath, namely that in deed and in truth they had not Helen nor the wealth for which demand was made, but that both were in Egypt; and that they could not justly be compelled to give satisfaction for that which Proteus the Pharoah of Egypt had. The Greeks however thought that they were being mocked by them and besieged the city, until at last they took it; and when they had taken the wall and did not find Helen, but heard the same tale as before, then they believed the former tale and sent Menelaos himself to Proteus.

- Herodotus, Book II

More Information: Egypt, Herodotus's Book.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Difference Between Doers and Critics

Critics hang around and wait for others to make mistakes. But the real doers of the world have no time for criticizing others. They're too busy doing, making mistakes, improving, making progress.

- Wayne Dyer

More about Wayne Dyer

Sunday, June 27, 2010

They Meet

- Another installment in my series

Stories of the world during the time Winston Churchill lived in it: 1873 to 1965.

He was a skinny man, a bit short, 23 years old on that August night of 1873, with a walrus mustache, and bulging eyes. He was, what Americans of the time called, "a dandy" and these kind of men easily bored Jennie Jerome.

Lord Randolf Churchill was taken and really taken with this dark looking American. So, his immediate problem was how could keep her with him at this party with all of these virile naval officers around. Fellows were already approaching to ask her to dance and she already had a full dance card.

In desperation, he asked her himself. They walked along the deck of the ship. The Royal Marine Band played in the background. The lanterns bobbed in the twilight breeze. They stepped into the quadrille. In a few minutes the truth was clear. Randolf was a terrible dancer. Time for Plan B.

“Dancing makes me dizzy,” he admitted. He took her along the deck to a seat. He got her some champagne to sip and they talked. Randolf could talk. He spoke with great intensity. There was more to this man and Jennie was intrigued.

Clara broke in. “There is such a thing as spending too much time at such a ball as this with just one man.” “Oh, mother, couldn’t we invite him to dinner tomorrow?” A mother would ask, “Who is he? And more importantly, does he come from a good family?”

This series consists of short summaries for passages from the book that I am writing. Graphic is that of another Churchill book that I really like.

Other Installments of this series (in progress).

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Old Country Pol Is Cheap

- From the Good old days, when bosses ran machines and the ward healers handed out the dough –

Wife: What did the people do when you said you never paid a thin dime for a vote and intended to keep it that way?
OCP: A couple applauded, one man shook my hand, and the rest walked out.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Information Age, 2000 -

Computers have been around for a couple of decades but if one were to designate a dividing line across history, where would it be? This illustrates the problem with dating and classifying history. Just like all my other dating divisions, the century mark is close enough - and more easy to remember, too.

While the naming of this age is more prognostication than history, I think that it is a pretty safe bet that the greater greater ability to get and to share information worldwide will be an even more determining factor than the development of agriculture, bronze, and iron was in earlier ages.

Information sharing is not just computers but satelites communication, cell phones, cable television, and digital photography/video/audio. All of these technologies combine to become a driving force for our age. As of this decade, it only seems that the information tech will become even more important as the decades goes by.

Previous AgeMaster ListBack to the Start

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

H Tries to Reconcile His Story with Homer's

Previously in Herodotus

116. This the priests said was the manner of Helen's coming to Proteus; and I suppose that Homer also had heard this story, but since it was not so suitable to the composition of his poem as the other which he followed, he dismissed it finally, making it clear at the same time that he was acquainted with that story also: and according to the manner in which he described the wanderings of Paris in the Iliad (nor did he elsewhere retract that which he had said) it is clear that when he brought Helen he was carried out of his course, wandering to various lands, and that he came among other places to Sidon in Phoenicia. Of this the poet has made mention in the "prowess of Diomede," and the verses run this:[Illiad VI 289 – JL]]

There she had robes many-colored, the works of women of Sidon,
Those whom her son himself the god-like of form Paris
Carried from Sidon, what time the broad sea-path he sailed over
Bringing back Helene home, of a noble father begotten.

And in the Odyssey also he has made mention of it in these verses:[IV 227 – See Note 1 – JL]

Such had the daughter of Zeus, such drugs of exquisite cunning,
Good, which to her the wife of Thon, Polydamna, had given,
Dwelling in Egypt, the land where the bountiful meadow produces
Drugs more than all lands else, many good being mixed, many evil.

And thus too Menelaos says to Telemachos:[Oddyssey IV 351 - JL]

Still the gods stayed me in Egypt, to come back hither desiring,
Stayed me from voyaging home, since sacrifice was due I performed not.

In these lines he makes it clear that he knew of the wandering of Paris to Egypt, for Syria borders upon Egypt and the Phoenicians, of whom is Sidon, dwell in Syria. 117. By these lines and by this passage it is also most clearly shown that the "Cyprian Epic" was not written by Homer but by some other man: for in this it is said that on the third day after leaving Sparta Paris came to Ilion bringing with him Helen, having had a "gently-blowing wind and a smooth sea," whereas in the Iliad it says that he wandered from his course when he brought her.

- Herodotus, Book II

More Information: Egypt, Herodotus's Book.

Note 1: These references to the Odyssey are by some thought to be interpolations, because they refer only to the visit of Menelaos to Egypt after the fall of Troy; but Herodotus is arguing that Homer, while rejecting the legend of Helen's stay in Egypt during the war, yet has traces of it left in this later visit to Egypt of Menelaos and Helen, as well as in the visit of Paris and Helen to Sidon.

Monday, June 21, 2010

How to Achieve Success

Many people dream of success. To me success can only be achieved through repeated failure and introspection. In fact, success represents the one percent of your work which results only from the 99 percent that is called failure.

- Soichiro Honda

More on Soichiro Honda

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Presenting Lord Randolf

- Another installment in my series

Stories of the world during the time Winston Churchill lived in it: 1873 to 1965.

The Stock Market Crash of 1873 left Leonard Jerome broke. Jennie was 19 years old. They still attended another season at Cowes.

A Regatta ball at Cowes was an interesting event. This year, for example, a must-see one was the August 12 ball for the heirs to the Russian throne on board the HMS Ariadne. The Jerome women had to jump in their evening dresses from the barge to the ladders hanging on the side of the ship. They then had to climb up. This task accomplished, they could admire the bobbing lanterns, the giant flags of Great Britain and Imperial Russia, or the music of the Royal Marine Band.

They stood there bare-shouldered, dark complexioned, and hesitant. Young men danced with them. Time swept by as it always does on such nights. Jennie was standing alone dreamily admiring a set of Chinese lanterns bobbing in the twilight breeze when her friend Frank Bertie came up and said, “Miss Jerome, may I present an old friend of mine who has just arrived in Cowes, Lord Randolf Churchill.”

This series consists of short summaries for passages from the book that I am writing. Graphic is that of another Churchill book that I really like.

Other Installments of this series (in progress).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Frontier Justice

Easterner: Do outlaws in the west have civil rights?
Cowboy: In theory they do but they get those rights suspended on a noose.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Dark Age, 500 - 1000

With the fall of the Roman Empire, Western Europe fell into a period of sharp decline. In every aspect of life - commerce, culture, public safety - the quality of life declined. Every decade, every century, new generations grew to expect life to get harder and harder. Writing and other basic skills retreated to a few monasteries. As Kenneth Clark said in his epic TV series, Civilization, "Civilization survived by the skin of its teeth."

This was not true of the rest of the world. The Eastern Roman Empire survived but did not prosper. From the sands of Arabia, the followers of Mohammad erupted. They took most of the lands of the Empire and the Persian Empire to the east. The Mohammedans were no respecters of learning during this period. They destroyed the Great Library of Alexandria upon the grounds that if the books did not agree with the teachings of the Koran, then they were pernicious and if they did, then they were superfluous.

This wasn't true of the whole world, of course. China reached a peak in the 8th. Century. These were good times for India and Japan, too. In the 10th. Century, the Mongols invaded China in the east and the Vikings rampaged throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. While "the skin of its teeth" figure of speech may be too much, this age was not civilization's best.

Previous AgeMaster ListNext Age

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Pharoah Expels Paris

Previously in Herodotus

115. Hearing this, Thonis seized Paris and detained his ships, and after that he brought the man himself up to Memphis and with him Helen and the wealth he had, and also in addition to them the suppliants. So when all had been conveyed up thither, Proteus began to ask Paris who he was and from whence he was voyaging; and he both recounted to him his descent and told him the name of his native land, and moreover related of his voyage, from whence he was sailing. After this Proteus asked him whence he had taken Helen; and when Paris went astray in his account and did not speak the truth, those who had become suppliants convicted him of falsehood, relating in full the whole tale of the wrong done.

At length Proteus declared to them this sentence, saying, "Were it not that I count it a matter of great moment not to slay any of those strangers who being driven from their course by winds have come to my land hitherto, I should have taken vengeance on you on behalf of the man of Hellas, seeing that you, most base of men, having received from him hospitality, did work against him a most impious deed. For you did go in to the wife of your own host; and even this was not enough for you, but you did stir her up with desire and have gone away with her like a thief. Moreover not even this by itself was enough for you, but you’ve come here with plunder taken from the house of thy host. Now therefore depart, seeing that I have counted it of great moment not to be a slayer of strangers. This woman indeed and the wealth which you have I will not allow you to carry away, but I shall keep them safe for the Greek who was thy host, until he come himself and desire to carry them off to his home; to yourself however and your fellow-voyagers I proclaim that you depart from your anchoring within three days and go from my land to some other; and if not, that you will be dealt with as enemies."

- Herodotus, Book II

More Information: Egypt, Herodotus's Book.

Monday, June 14, 2010

What Pushes You

If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don't have to be pushed. The vision pushes you.

- Steve Jobs

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Jerome Ladies Survive

- Another installment in my series

Stories of the world during the time Winston Churchill lived in it: 1873 to 1965.

After the surrender, they returned to Paris. In the immediate aftermath of the Commune’s violence and the Germans’ siege, Paris was a drab, unhappy place.

Ruins everywhere: the sight of the Tuileries and the Hotel de Ville made me cry. St.-Cloud, the scene of many pleasant expeditions, was a thing of the past, the lovely chateau razed to the ground. And if material Paris was damaged, the social fabric was even more so. In vain we tried to pick up the threads. Some of our friends were killed, others ruined or in mourning, and all broken-hearted and miserable, hiding in their houses and refusing to be comforted.
How life had changed for Jennie Jerome! Had she stayed in New York, she would have had a sheltered, rich girl’s life though enlivened no doubt by her debonair father. Now the family was broken. By 1871 she had known the court of Napoleon III and had been introduced to the highest levels of social and political life. During that desperate flight from Paris on that last day, she had experienced danger and had seen death. She had experienced the plight of the refugee. And she had seen the aftermath of defeat.

The Jerome women still had entry to some of the high points of the social season, though their sponsors were increasingly bleak. At the Cowes Regatta, (the same Cowes that her father had crashed a few years earlier), she remembered,
I can see now the Emperor leaning against the mast looking old, ill and sad. His thoughts could not have been other than sorrowful and, even in my young eyes, he seemed to have nothing to live for.
Aristocrats from all over Europe always came to Cowes. The Jeromes made an annual appearance.

This series consists of short summaries for passages from the book that I am writing. Graphic is that of another Churchill book that I really like.

Other Installments of this series (in progress).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lord George Seeks a Sponsor

- Another chestnut from the continuing sage of our noted playwright, Lord George Bernard Noel Shakespeare Coward –

Sponsor: Do you have any experience with villain characters?
Lord George: Sure, I testified on behalf of my uncle in the Old Bailey before they hanged him at Newgate.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Roman Age, 1 - 500 AD

The Roman Empire never dominated the world like the Europeans did 1500 years later but they certainly put on the best show. The great migrations across the northern Eurasia landmass was held up at the frontiers of Rome's Empire. This impacted the rest of the civilizations: China; Persia; and the rest of the civilized peoples of Central Asia.

Roman influence penetrated deep into Africa. Their influence and outright conquest penetrated deep into the Middle East. Iraq was briefly a province of Rome; Egypt, permanently. Had the Persian Empire not been so embroiled with Rome, it could have pressured the other civilizations to its south (India) and east (China).

This was the age of the spread of Christianity, accelerated greatly by the stability of the Roman Empire.

Even 2 millenia later, no empire has held such a hold on the public imagination as the Roman.

Previous AgeMaster ListNext Age

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Pharoah Summons Paris

Previously in Herodotus

114. Thonis then having heard their tale sent forthwith a message to Proteus at Memphis, which said as follows: "There hath come a stranger, a Trojan by race, who hath done in Hellas [Greece - JL] an unholy deed; for he hath deceived the wife of his own host, and is come hither bringing with him this woman herself and very much wealth, having been carried out of his way by winds to thy land. Shall we then allow him to sail out unharmed, or shall we first take away from him that which he brought with him?" In reply to this Proteus sent back a messenger who said thus: "Seize this man, whosoever he may be, who has done impiety to his own host, and bring him away into my presence, that I may know what he will find to say."

- Herodotus, Book II

More Information: Egypt, Herodotus's Book.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Leaders Will Be Who?

As we look ahead to the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.

- Bill Gates

Photo (cc) Kjetil Ree.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Empress of France and Their Desperate Escape

- Another installment in my series

Stories of the world during the time Winston Churchill lived in it: 1873 to 1965.

The Second Empire was at its height. Napoleon III had renovated Paris. “Never had the Empire seemed more assured, the court more brilliant, the fetes more gorgeous,” Jennie later wrote. Relieved of the burden of Leonard’s philandering, Clara bloomed in her own, softer way. She presented her daughters at court. The Jeromes became intimate friends of the Empress Eugenie and the rest of the Imperial family. Jennie saw Eugenie’s beauty and admired her power to move men, influence events, and change history.

Then came 1870 and the Franco-Prussian War. The Commune took over Paris. The German army surrounded the city. The French declared the Third Republic. Clara, Jennie, and her sisters made a “Gone With the Wind” style escape through the mobs to make the last train out.

Napoleon was a captive of the Germans. Eugenie was a fugitive from both them and the Republic. Everybody remembered what had happened to Marie Antoinette. From the Channel Coast they helped her flee to England.

Leonard came at once and got them into Brown’s Hotel just off Piccadilly. From Jennie’s memoirs: “A winter spent in the gloom and fogs of London did not tend to dispel the melancholy which we felt.”

This series consists of short summaries for passages from the book that I am writing. Graphic is that of another Churchill book that I really like.

Other Installments of this series (in progress).

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Old Country Pol Chats Up a Voter

- From the Good old days, when bosses ran machines and the ward healers handed out the dough –

OCP: Ziggy, I sure hope you can vote for me.
Ziggy: Well, right now you’re my second choice.
OCP: Who’s your first?
Ziggy: Whoever signs up to run against you.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Classical Age, 500 BC - 1 AD

This is Herodotus, the Father of History. He lived in the first century of this age. His book's theme was the first major clash of civilizations from Europe versus Asia. This theme served as a backbone. He added ribs and bone to form what amounted to a general history of the world to his time. As one reads his book, one can ponder what lay just ahead.

The next centuries would bring Alexander the Great, the conquest of Persia and Egypt and the spread of Greek civilization to the borders of India and China. To the west, Rome rose in Italy and Carthage in north Africa.

The last century of this age saw Rome rise to the status of super-power in the Mediterranean world.

This was the age of the great classic writers of ancient history. Phoenician explorers circumnavigated Africa. The seven wonders of the ancient world were identified and described.

And Herodotus traveled, measured, chronicled, and pondered just how many ages had preceded his own.

Previous AgeMaster ListNext Age

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Helen Goes to Egypt, Not Troy

Previously in Herodotus

113. And the priests told me, when I inquired, that the things concerning Helen happened thus:--Paris having carried off Helen was sailing away from Sparta to his own land, and when he had come to the Aegean Sea contrary winds drove him from his course to the Sea of Egypt; and after that, since the blasts did not cease to blow, he came to Egypt itself, and in Egypt to that which is now named the Canobic mouth of the Nile and to Taricheiai. Now there was upon the shore, as still there is now, a temple of Hercules, in which if any man's slave take refuge and have the sacred marks set upon him, giving himself over to the god, it is not lawful to lay hands upon him; and this custom has continued still unchanged from the beginning down to my own time. Accordingly the attendants of Paris, having heard of the custom which existed about the temple, ran away from him, and sitting down as suppliants of the god, accused Paris, because they desired to do him hurt, telling the whole tale how things were about Helen and about the wrong done to Menelaos; and this accusation they made not only to the priests but also to the warden of this river-mouth, whose name was Thonis.

- Herodotus, Book II

More Information: Egypt, Herodotus's Book.

Note: This is a very different version than the common one. Herodotus believed Helen spent the Trojan War in Egypt, not Troy.