In the first authoritative biography of Alexander the Great written for a general audience in a generation, classicist and historian Philip Freeman tells the remarkable life of the great conqueror. The celebrated Macedonian king has been one of the most enduring figures in history.
He was a general of such skill and renown that for two thousand years other great leaders studied his strategy and tactics, from Hannibal to Napoleon, with countless more in between. He flashed across the sky of history like a comet, glowing brightly and burning out quickly: crowned at age nineteen, dead by thirty-two. He established the greatest empire of the ancient world; Greek coins and statues are found as far east as Afghanistan. Our interest in him has never faded.
Alexander was born into the royal family of Macedonia, the kingdom that would soon rule over Greece. Tutored as a boy by Aristotle, Alexander had an inquisitive mind that would serve him well when he faced formidable obstacles during his military campaigns.
Shortly after taking command of the army, he launched an invasion of the Persian empire, and continued his conquests as far south as the deserts of Egypt and as far east as the mountains of present-day Pakistan and the plains of India. Alexander spent nearly all his adult life away from his homeland, and he and his men helped spread the Greek language throughout western Asia, where it would become the lingua franca of the ancient world. Within a short time after Alexander’s death in Baghdad, his empire began to fracture. Best known among his successors are the Ptolemies of Egypt, whose empire lasted until Cleopatra.
In his lively and authoritative biography of Alexander, classical scholar and historian Philip Freeman describes Alexander’s astonishing achievements and provides insight into the mercurial character of the great conqueror. Alexander could be petty and magnanimous, cruel and merciful, impulsive and farsighted.
Above all, he was ferociously, intensely competitive and could not tolerate losing—which he rarely did. As Freeman explains, without Alexander, the influence of Greece on the ancient world would surely not have been as great as it was, even if his motivation was not to spread Greek culture for beneficial purposes but instead to unify his empire. Only a handful of people have influenced history as Alexander did, which is why he continues to fascinate us.
THE ANTIKYTHERA MECHANISM
"I am Patrick, and I am a sinner." - St. Patrick, given name was Maewyn Succat c. AD 385– March 17, 461. He was given the name Patrick by Pope Celestine, in 432, when he was made a bishop.
17 March is St Patrick’s Day, when the people of Ireland and those of Irish descent around the world celebrate the feast day of this famous saint. Patrick is one of the patron saints of Ireland and certainly the most celebrated! As a young man in the 5th century, he was kidnapped from his home in Roman Britain and spent years enslaved as a shepherd in Ireland. He eventually managed to escape back to Britain, and then returned as a missionary to convert the Irish to Christianity. Patrick describes his remarkable story himself in his Confessio, a form of autobiography. The Confessio survives in only 8 manuscripts, one of which is held by the British Library (now Cotton MS Nero E I/1). This fascinating text has been fully translated from Latin into English by the Royal Irish Academy and can be found online here.
The British Library's copy of the Confessio and Epistola is part of the Cotton-Corpus Legendary, the earliest substantial legendary from England. This text originally formed two volumes, covering the whole liturgical year: they are now divided between Cotton MS Nero E I/2, Cotton MS Nero E I/2 and Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 9. The majority of the text was copied in the second half of the 11th century at Worcester Cathedral.
What may surprise many people about the Confessio is that it contains no mention of shamrocks, snakes being driven out or the naming of the mountain where Patrick tended animals as a slave, although these popular traditions have later grown up around his story. Patrick wrote the text when he was an older man, reflecting on his faith in God and referring to his life as a spiritual journey. Although he calls himself as ‘a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers’, Patrick’s faith gave him inner strength and helped him through many experiences, including: temptation by Satan as he lay sleeping one night; his escape from slavery through the wilderness; and his later call to return again to the Irish (‘I never had any reason for returning to that nation…except the gospel and God’s promises’). We also see a more human side to Patrick as he describes the homesickness he felt while in Ireland (‘I could wish to leave them to go to Britain…to visit my home country and my parents’), and the joy upon seeing his family in Britain once more (‘They welcomed me as a son, and they pleaded with me…I should never leave them again.’)
The Confessio is accompanied by Patrick’s letter to the soldiers of Coroticus, commonly known as the Epistola. Likely composed before the Confessio, Patrick uses his position as Bishop of Ireland to condemn and excommunicate Coroticus and his soldiers for attacking a number of Patrick’s newly baptised converts and carrying them off into slavery. With personal experience of this practice, Patrick expresses his sadness and grief at losing his ‘fairest and most loving brothers and sisters’ to ‘villainous rebels against Christ...who divide out defenceless baptised women as prizes, all for the sake of a miserable temporal kingdom’. The Epistola also reveals Patrick’s love of his Irish flock and belief in his mission: ‘And yet I rejoice within myself: I have not worked for nothing…thanks to God you who are baptised believers have moved on from this world to paradise. [You] leap for joy, like calves set free from chains, and you tread down the wicked, and they will be like ashes under your feet.’ We toast today to Paddy’s health and to your own, sláinte!
1. Assassination of Julius Caesar, 44 B.C.
Conspirators led by Marcus Junius Brutus stab dictator-for-life Julius Caesar to death before the Roman senate. Caesar was 55.
2. A Raid on Southern England, 1360
A French raiding party begins a 48-hour spree of rape, pillage and murder in southern England. King Edward III interrupts his own pillaging spree in France to launch reprisals, writes historian Barbara Tuchman, “on discovering that the French could act as viciously in his realm as the English did in France.”
3. Samoan Cyclone, 1889
A cyclone wrecks six warships—three U.S., three German—in the harbor at Apia, Samoa, leaving more than 200 sailors dead. (On the other hand, the ships represented each nation’s show of force in a competition to see who would annex the Samoan islands; the disaster averted a likely war.)
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The article below summarizes Rome's top 10 dictator's. Rome initially began as an agrarian mercantile power that became a Republic governed by a ruling class based Oligarchy. This ended with the ambitions of Caesar and numerous cohorts after him that sought to be dictators.
Pi is a number that is just a little bigger than 3.14. It is the number you get if you divide the circumference of any circle by its diameter. It's the same for ALL circles.
But it turns out to be an "irrational number," meaning its exact value is inherently unknowable. The decimal goes on forever, without repeating, for more than a trillion places.
Archimedes was the first to attempt to pinpoint the value of π around 250 B.C.Mathematicians began using the Greek letter π in the 1700s. Introduced by William Jones in 1706, use of the symbol was popularized by Leonhard Euler, who adopted it in 1737. An eighteenth-century French mathematician named Georges Buffon devised a way to calculate pi based on probability.
It begins some 4,000 years ago in the jungles of Mexico and Central America with the chocolate tree, Theobroma Cacao, and the complex processes necessary to transform its bitter seeds into what is now known as chocolate. This was centuries before chocolate was consumed in generally unsweetened liquid form and used as currency by the Maya and the Aztecs after them. The Spanish conquest of Central America introduced chocolate to Europe, where it first became the drink of kings and aristocrats and then was popularized in coffeehouses. Industrialization in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries made chocolate available to all, and now, in our own time, it has become once again a luxury item.
“They combined the warrior code of aristocratic knights with the poverty and religious devotion of monks. …In Jones’s bravura account, this tension between aristocratic killer and humble monk shadows the Templar story. Jones’s fast-paced history is laced with tales of blood and bravery, disaster and victory. . . . Drawing on Christian and Muslim sources, he carries the Templars through the crusades with clarity and verve. This is unabashed narrative history, fast-paced and full of incident.” – The Sunday Times (London)
"In this thrillingly lucid account, Dan Jones demystifies the Templars in a story spanning hundreds of years and countless rulers, knights and archbishops, a seemingly disproportionate number of whom ended up beheaded . . . Anyone who has read Jones’s earlier medieval chronicles will know what to expect here: fast-paced narrative history depicted with irresistible verve, bloody battle scenes and moments of laugh-out-loud wit. There are contemporary parallels, too, with the Templars eventually being laid low by the medieval equivalent of a kind of 'fake news': anti-Templar propaganda spread by the church. This is another triumphant tale from a historian who writes as addictively as any page-turning novelist." --The Guardian
"Dan Jones has created a gripping page-turner out of the dramatic history of the Templars, from their spiritual warrior beginnings until their tragic destruction by the French king and the pope. It is genuinely moving and a chilling contemporary warning about the abuse of power through persecution and lies." -- Philippa Gregory, author of The White Queen
“Gripping… Jones tells the story of the Templars with energy and verve, regalling readers with well-chosen details and anecdotes. The Templars became poster boys of the early middle ages, famed for their piety and their military prowess. It was an intoxicating combination... The author’s ambition, he says, is 'to write a book that will entertain as well as inform.' He has done precisely that.” – Peter Frankopan, The Telegraph
"This is a fascinating story of fanaticism, set in a land still known for its brutality and strife. 'I have not strayed from my usual ambition, which is to write a book that will entertain as well as inform,' writes the author. In that he has succeeded. Jones is certainly an entertainer, but also a fine historian who knows how to render serious scholarship into accessible prose. Seldom does one find serious history that is so easy to read." -- The Times (London)
“A fresh, muscular and compelling history of the ultimate military-religious crusading order, combining sensible scholarship with narrative swagger, featuring a cast of exuberantly monstrous sword swingers spattering Christian and Islamic blood from Spain to Jerusalem.” -- Simon Sebag Montefiore author of Jerusalem: The Biography
“The story of the Templars, the ultimate holy warriors, is an extraordinary saga of fanaticism, bravery, treachery and betrayal, and in Dan Jones they have a worthy chronicler. Templars is a wonderful book!” — Bernard Cornwell, author of The Last Kingdom
“Thank God this book is sane… Jones’s latest book is more than merely sane. He tells the engrossing story of an ascetic order of warrior knights chiefly dedicated, at least at first, to the defense of pilgrims on the road to Jerusalem… Templars is based on a wide-ranging and thorough research and relies overwhelmingly on primary sources… It reads like a morality tale.” – Robert Irwin, Literary Review
HAPPY HALLOWEEN, SCHOLARS!