Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Dramatic Life of Fan Ju, The Marquis Of Ying, And His Quirky, Bizarre Ascension To Power



Countless advisors, philosophers, generals and statesmen of all kinds found fortune and destruction while serving the plentiful warring kings of ancient China. One particular statesman named Fan Ju definitely can be ranked as having one of the quirkiest and bizarre ascensions to power. As an added bonus, unlike many of his contemporaries, Fan Ju’s story actually had a pleasant ending.

Most of the information on this interesting figure was left to us by Sima Qian (c. 145-90 BCE), a Grand Historian from the Han Dynasty who is often labeled as the father of Chinese history. According to the Grand Historian’s sources, Fan Ju was born in the kingdom of Wei. Even though his family had little wealth and influence, Fan Ju aspired to be an itinerate advisor to the kings of the age. Yet, despite his ambition, the young intellectual found that his low social status and his limited resources were obstacles barring him from entering the courts of the ancient Chinese kings. Facing reality, Fan Ju decided to start climbing the social ladder from the bottom, hoping to eventually reach the top.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Obsessively Pure Life Of Saint-Queen Etheldreda And Her Miraculous Remains



Etheldreda (also known by the names Æthelthryth and Audrey) was one of the most popular saints to come out of early Anglo-Saxon England. In particular, she found an admirer in Bede (c. 673-735), the author of the Ecclesiastical History of the English People, which recorded events in England from the days of the Roman Empire up to Bede’s own time; in it the monk included a chapter on Etheldreda, drawing largely from clergymen who had known the saint, specifically her friend and mentor, Bishop Wilfrid.

King Anna of East Anglia (d. 654) fathered several saintly daughters, one of which was Etheldreda. The young princess was said to have begun dreaming about life as a nun relatively early on in her childhood. Even though she was not allowed to join a religious order, she reportedly still tried to live with extreme virtue. Most importantly, she vowed to live in chastity and remain a virgin. Despite her vow, noblemen still sought her hand in marriage, for the union (even if only symbolic) would still bring the prospective husband into an alliance with the East Anglian king. Therefore, Etheldreda was married to a certain Tondbert, a prince or king from South Gyrwas. Apparently, the couple struck up an accord—she received her own estates, he became the king’s son-in-law, and neither husband nor wife bothered about consummating the marriage. As such, when Tondbert died shortly after the marriage had occurred, Etheldreda was still widely considered to be a pure virgin princess.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Crazy Life Of The Roman Princess Galla Placidia




Galla Placidia and her eventful life perfectly showcased the hectic state of affairs that the Western Roman Empire found itself enduring (and eventually collapsing from) during the 5th century. She was a daughter of Emperor Theodosius I (r. 379-395) and Empress Galla. Upon Theodosius’ death, two of Galla Placidia’s brothers were crowned as emperors, one to rule the East and another to control the West. Galla Placidia, herself, was left to the care of the powerful general Stilicho (or more specifically, his wife, Serena), under whose direction she learned Latin and Greek, as well as other subjects that women of the time were expected to be know, such as sewing and weaving.

The young princess stayed in the Western Empire during the reign of her brother, Emperor Honorius (r. 393-423), mostly residing in the city of Rome. Yet times were not easy—for various reasons (but mostly because of pressure from the Huns) a large coalition of peoples, including the Vandals, Suevi and Alans, crossed the Rhine into Roman Gaul in 406, throwing the empire into chaos. A former Roman mercenary named Alaric brought the havoc straight to the heart of the Western Empire. After becoming king of the Visigoths, Alaric eventually led his people to besiege Rome. He arrived at the city walls first in 408, but was paid off by the Roman Senate. He attacked again in 409, but was once more convinced to withdraw from the city. Finally, in 410, King Alaric and the Visigoths besieged Rome for one last time, with no intention of withdrawing from the city. Instead, they looted the city for three days, stealing wealth and harassing the locals, but keeping most of the city remarkably intact. Around this time, or perhaps during the earlier sieges, the Visigoths captured Galla Placidia. King Alaric hoped he could use the princess as leverage in his negotiations with Emperor Honorius. Alaric, however, had miscalculated—Honorius and Galla Placidia were not friendly siblings.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Poetic Life of Edgar Allan Poe



Few authors have mastered channeling the dark, eerie and macabre nature of the world like the great poet and author, Edgar Allan Poe. Even in his earliest years, Poe was intimately aware of the frustrations and burdens that can plague a life cursed with misfortune. Nevertheless, he saw immense beauty in even the darkest of places, but he could also imagine chilling horrors erupting out of the sweetest and most docile of scenarios.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Artemisia I—An Impressive 5th-Century BCE Queen From Within The Persian Empire



In the past, just like today, the majority of political and military leaders were men. In most (but not all) regions of the world, the prevalence of female leaders decreases as you go back further and further into history. As a sad result, it is common for historians to become extremely enthusiastic when they find even a single woman in a position of influence within a kingdom or empire in the ancient or medieval world. Sometimes, these female rulers earned their place in history by merely achieving and maintaining power, an impressive feat in a world dominated by men. Yet, a few women during this male-dominated period of early history truly proved themselves to be more cunning, courageous and politically competent than their male counterparts. One of these great female figures from ancient history was Artemisia I, a vassal, military leader and trusted advisor of the Persian King of Kings, Xerxes I (r. 486-465 BCE).