Thursday, June 28, 2018

Peng Yue—The Ancient Chinese Swamp Bandit Who Became A King And Ended Up In A Pickle Jar



Humble Beginnings
Few people have had or will have as many dramatic twists and turns in their life as Peng Yue, a man who lived in China around the turn of the 3rd and 2nd century BCE. Sima Qian (r. 145-90 BCE), the author of the Records of the Grand Historian, traced the place of Peng Yue’s birth to a region called Changyi. Not much is known about his early years, but by the time Peng Yue reached adulthood, he somehow relocated to the swamps of Juye, where a small troop of bandits pressured him to be their leader. Peng Yue, however, seemed to dislike leadership at that point in his life, and he spent most of his time fishing.

In the inaugural year of the Second Emperor of the Qin Dynasty (209 BCE), a commoner named Chen She began a rebellion in Chu, prompting numerous other disgruntled men throughout China to muster their own rebel armies. Chen She managed to place himself as a hegemon, or commander-in-chief, in charge of the loosely allied rebel forces, and his coalition proved to be more than a match for the Qin army. Peng Yue was still living in a swamp with his merry band of bandits at this momentous time, and the news sent thrills of excitement through the men living in his outlaw community. Still considering Peng Yue to be their leader, the bandits (maybe 100 in number) begged their reluctant commander to join the rebel cause. Peng Yue, however, refused their offer, claiming he would rather watch and wait as the powerful dragons fought among themselves.

It took over a year before Peng Yue was convinced to turn his band of robbers into a rebel army. When his mind was made up, Peng Yue called together his followers and told them that if they wanted to be an army they needed to start acting like soldiers. First of all, he needed to know if his troops could show discipline and follow commands. So, according to Sima Qian, he told the bandits that they would have a meeting at dawn in order to discuss the rebellion. Almost as an afterthought, Peng Yue added that anyone late to the meeting would be executed.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

King Agis IV—The Post-Alexander King Of Sparta Who Wanted To Bring Sparta Back To Its Glory Days



When a civilization begins to decline, those witnessing the fall start to question what went wrong. Was it abandoning traditional government, apostatizing from the ancestral religion, or was it a general degradation of morality that brought about the end? And when once-great powers find themselves without strength, they look to the past in search of the specialness that they had lost by the time of their present.

King Agis IV felt these emotions strongly. He took power in 244 or 243 BCE, allegedly at the young age of nineteen. Agis was a member of the Eurypontid line of Spartan kings, one of two co-ruling monarchies in Sparta. His co-king from the Agiad line was Leonidas II, who had been in power since 251 BCE. The two kings had vastly different visions for Sparta and their personalities were bound to clash. It was a classic sociopolitical conflict—the ongoing struggle between the revolutionary and the defender of the status quo.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Life Of Saint Patrick And Nennius’ Extravagant Statistics About His Career



Saint Patrick is credited with spreading the Christian religion into ancient Ireland in the 5th century. The traditionally-accepted account of his life follows the Confessio, a brief autobiography supposedly written by St. Patrick, himself.

According to the Confessio, St. Patrick was the son of a Roman citizen named Calpurnius. His family had some wealth, as they lived in a home that could be described as a small villa, located in a settlement called Bannavem Taburniae, somewhere on mainland Britain. Patrick’s father, Calpunius, was a clergyman, as was Patrick’s grandfather before him. Yet, Patrick, like many preachers’ sons, confessed to having little to no interest in religion during his early years of life.

Everything changed when Patrick reached the age of sixteen. In a twist of fate that would change the world, the secular-minded Patrick was taken captive by a band of Irish raiders. The young teen was taken back to Ireland, where he was forced to work in the pastures. In the Confessio, Patrick claimed to have been forced to watch over his captors’ animals for six long years.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Lucius Fulcinius Trio Lived And Died By The Law In Ancient Rome



During the reign of Emperor Tiberius (r. 14-37), lawyers could amass huge fortunes as prosecutors. Similar to a witch-hunt atmosphere, the rich and powerful in Tiberius’ empire threw countless accusations of criminality and treason at each other. The prosecutor that won these high-profile treason cases could expect to gain a portion of the defendant’s assets. In addition to the ill-gotten wealth, the act of prosecuting supposed traitors could also lead to honorary awards and government promotions.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Greatly Endowed Plot Of Lü Buwei To End His Affair With The Mother Of A Chinese King



Lü Buwei was a prominent minister of Qin during the decades before the kings of Qin formally became emperors. He began his career as a simple merchant, and, because of his keen mind for strategy and administration, his business was extremely profitable. Nevertheless, his career trajectory would dramatically change after a trip to the city of Handan, the capital of the state of Zhao.

While in Handan, Lü Buwei encountered a Qin nobleman being held there as a diplomatic hostage—the man’s name was Zichu. He was one of more than twenty sons fathered by Lord Anguo, who had become the crown prince of Qin around 267 BCE. As such, Zichu was a member of the Qin royal family, but he was still considered low enough in the succession to be given away by his king as a hostage to assure peace between Qin and Zhao. Nevertheless, with a potential heir to the kingdom of Qin at his fingertips, Lü Buwei decided to give up the life of a merchant for that of a politician.