Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Horace de Vere Cole—The Great Prankster of Britain

(Photographs of Horace de Vere Cole in 1910, around the time of his Dreadnaught prank, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

Horace de Vere Cole, born in 1881, came from a prominent and prosperous Anglo-Irish family with powerful connections. His sister, Anne, married Neville Chamberlin, the British Prime Minister who, unfortunately, would be forever associated with the appeasement of Nazi Germany. Yet, even with a controversial figure like Neville Chamberlin as his brother-in-law, Horace de Vere Cole’s own reputation for scandal, in many ways, is the more prominent of the two. By the time of his death in 1936, Horace had cemented himself as one of the greatest pranksters of the modern age.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Saint Teresa Of Avila And Her Life Of Mysticism And Reform

(The Ecstasy of St Therese, by Francesco Fontebasso (1707–1769), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

Teresa de Capeda y Ahumada, now known at St. Teresa, was born in 1515 within the region of Avila, Spain. Her parents, Don Alfonso Sanchez de Capeda, and his second wife, Dona Beatriz Davila y Ahumada, were from wealthy and powerful families with ties to the old kingdom of Castile. Despite her family’s affluent background, Teresa would go on to lead a reform movement among the Carmelite nuns, calling for a more honest vow of poverty and a harder, more religiously sincere, life of meditation and prayer.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Gottfried Leibniz, The Tragic Genius Of The Early Enlightenment

(Portrait of Gottfried Leibniz by Christoph Bernhard Francke  (1660–1729), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

Education and Advancement
In 1646, one of the great Western minds was born in the city of Leipzig, within the Electorate of Saxony, in the Holy Roman Empire. The boy’s name was Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and his path as an intellectual and an academic was seemingly set in stone from an early age. Leibniz’s father, Friedrich, was not only a professor of moral philosophy at the University of Leipzig, but was also the chairman of the university’s philosophy faculty. As a child, Gottfried Leibniz was undoubtedly influenced by the his father’s collection of books, as well as Friedrich Leibniz’s personal knowledge accumulated from years of academia.

In 1661, Gottfried Leibniz was accepted into the University of Leipzig, where he studies philosophy and law. He obtained his degree, and applied to be a doctoral candidate at Leipzig, yet the university declined his application. Most historians and observers cite Leibniz’s youth as a reason his application was refused. Nevertheless, he quickly shed any resentment or bitterness caused by the rejection and gained a doctorate elsewhere, at the University of Altdorf.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Talented Princess Of The Byzantine Empire And Her Impressive Book Of History

(Portrait of the Princess Anna Komnene, unknown artist or date, via Ancient Origins and Pinterest)

Anna Komnene (1083-1153 CE) was an extraordinary woman. She was an erudite scholar of multiple intellectual fields and a cunning political schemer who is believed to have attempted to climb to ultimate power in the Byzantine Empire. Yet, her greatest claim to fame resulted from her ambitious history, The Alexiad, which detailed the military and diplomatic accomplishments of her father, Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, the emperor of the Byzantine Empire from 1081-1118 CE.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Action-Packed Life Of Japan’s Greatest Duelist, Miyamoto Musashi

Birth of a Legend

  (Miyamoto Musashi fighting Tsukahara Bokuden, painted by Yoshitoshi  (1839–1892), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

Around 1584 CE, a boy was born into the Hirata family of samurai in the village of Miyamoto, located in the Harima Province of Japan. The boy’s father, Miyamoto Munisai (or Shinmen Munisai), was considered to be one of Japan’s greatest swordsmen, and he ran the village’s local dojo. With such a skilled parent, many would have expected that the boy would grow to be skilled with a sword. Yet, few could have predicted the unprecedented martial prowess that the newborn child would soon show the world. The boy’s name was Miyamoto Musashi, and he would later claim to have fought in over sixty duels, many of which ended in the death of his opponents.

Although Musashi is best remembered for being the undefeated “Alexander the Great” of dueling, he was also a bit of a renaissance man. Besides being a duelist, he joined the military and fought in around six battles. He also was an artist who painted, sculpted and carved. As another occupation, he became a foreman or supervisor and worked in construction. Yet, his greatest contribution to his legacy was his writing career.

When he was around twenty-two (perhaps, 1606 CE) he produced his Writings of the Sword Technique of the Enmei Ryu (Enmei Ryu Kenpo Sho), which was his first known written work on swordsmanship. In addition to this, near the end of his life, he also wrote the Thirty-five Instructions on Strategy (Hyoho Sanju Go). All his earlier writing, however, were surpassed by the book he wrote in the years preceding his death in 1645—The Book of Five Rings, or Go Rin no Sho.

Nevertheless, Musashi’s careers in literature and construction are not why most readers are here, reading this article. No, the most interesting and dramatic events in Miyamoto Musashi’s life came about because of the decades he spent wandering Japan as a traveling duelist.