Month: April 2014

The Stuarts’ nightmare

 

 

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Well,  one of the most scandalous and infamous European royal houses during the middle ages without doubt , is the Stuarts. But the thing behind that famous vision is hidden behind a series of unfortunate events, one after another or in some cases even in the same time. Some of them are held in custody, another are too young for rule, third are beheaded and so on. In this article, we will explore the most unpleasant of the pleasantries they had the luck to encounter during their rule. Ready? Buckle up for a very dramatic series of infortunes!

The founder : Robert II (1316-1390) –he was the first king of Scotland from the Stuart dynasty. The first and not the last ,indeed, but the way to the throne was not a smooth one. His mother was Marjorie Bruce (daughter of Robert Bruce, who had become Robert I of Scotland in 1306). We couldn’t deny his claims to the crown, but in 1324 Robert Bruce’s son was born (named David II).Hence, Robert took the king’s regent role, but not for too long! Under mysterious circumstances, Robert fled the battle of Neville’s Cross in 1343 with English,on which the king was taken prisoner. Finally, in 11 long years Robert was king regent again! Unfortunately for him, the english announced a ransom for the scotish king , but Robert was decisive and quickly organized riots against the people who supported him (unsuccessfully). Suddenly, the tides were changing swiftly, and David proposed to lower the ransom by settling the Scottish crown on the English royal family (thus effectively disinheriting Robert) sealed the enmity between the two. The Parliament refused and ta-da – Robert II was the new king (but too old to rule!).

Rober III –the son of Rober II , who was 50 years of age when he was crowned as a king (I’m starting to assume that that was on a verge of being a custom –old king = wise king). Not only was he old,but he was a limp , when he was young a horse had thrown him out of the saddle,due to that unexpected misfortune his popularity as a kind didn’t grow much! But, there is so much more, his real name was John , being overwhelmed by a superstitious and beliefs for bad omen ( tell me about it!) , he changed his name into Robert. Everything was running smoothly in Scotland, except from the fact that the Stuart dynasty had to gain authority over the lords and to thwart their ambitions of ascending to the throne. The younger brother of the king, Alexander was playing his own game, by ransacking the towns,  setting a fire churches and making himself notoriously temperamental in any possible way. To cap it all , the heir to the throne , prince David proved to be a fine lover and he left his future wife (the daughter of the  Earl of March) only to marry another woman! However, later in year 1402, according to the chronicles ,the prince was captured and died of starvation in Falkland Palace (some claim that the plot was initiated by the brother of the king ,Robert, but we could only make gambles).  The old king paralyzed by fear for his second’s son’s life decided to take him in France, where he could in less  dangerous position. Unluckily, during the journey to France, the ship was captured (by pirates) and the prince was taken in captivity in England.  Two weeks later the old king of Scotland died ,but the curse was handed down to the next Stuart.

James I spent 18 years in England, where he was educated and thrived, de facto he was half- English, by birth Scotish, but by nurture English. Nothing disappointing could be said about that energetic, charismatic young king who wanted to adopt the english justice and to put it in practice in his kingdom. He made the parliament’s assembly in Scone mandatory , the elections of the new laws were stringent. Some people say that if you do not have enemies , you don’t do anything worthy, well the king gained his popularity by being just and by put into death his enemies (Albany and their friends). In February 1437, the king made another parliament assembly, to reach Perth he had to cross Fort, in the dying seconds when the king was taking in the ship , old woman told him that if he went there, he would never come back. On 20th of February, the king was assassinated. (You should have listened to the old woman, James!).

James II of Scotland: 16 October 1437 – 3 August 1460. Not letting the grievance of the death of the last king to make its pass, the rival families the Crichtons, the Livingstons, and the Douglases fought against each other to take control over the king. A bloody party they threw (literally!). If anything, James II inherited nothing,but a kingdom torn apart by rebellions and desire for blood. The quarrel between the king and the Douglases even reached catastrophic immensity, when in 1452 the Earl was stabbed to dead by the former.

In his war with the English, James made an attempt to fire one of the cannons (which was named Lion) but the cannon exploded and the king died ( probably torn into pieces). So much for the  good luck, if there was any!

Next time :Mary Queen of Scots and Charles I, the best is yet to come!

Did you know?

That Bulgaria was under a christian ruler for the  first time in 665 – his name is Khan Kubrat (king of Bulgaria). According to the ancient recordings, Kubrat was educated in Constantinople -the heart of the  Byzantine Empire. The founder of the Old Bulgarian empire from the house Dulo, was baptized before fulfilling his intentions of creating Bulgaria. There Bulgaria was under the rule of christian king, but the christianity as a religion was for the first time acknowledged in the second half of the 9th century. However, the sons of Kubrat did not accept the Christianity, they paid homage to the old pagan gods.P7160011-e1360962619709-976x313

The potato famine or how the British abandoned the Irish people

The Irish Famine, 1845-1849, (1900). Artist: Unknown

 

 

The famine which took place in Ireland in the years between 1845 and 1852 was an extraordinarily outrageous one and today it is well-known as the great potato famine. That was not only a poignant moment in the Irish history, but also a time for the people to push themselves to their limits and that requires bravery and courageous nature.

The famine attributed to the significant decrease in the population, for instance the nation’s population dropped to around 20-25%. In addition, it was estimated that roughly around  one million people immigrated to America as a form of desperation due to the massive starvation and poverty.  The fact that in such a place with a lot of seasonal changes and inclement weather, the potato made the population largely dependable on it (around 60% of the food’s needs). Due to its nutritious and eatable qualities ,  it was the perfect way of nutrition amoung the poor people.

However, the crisis did not emerge with a start, but little by little with slow steps, the first sense of apprehension occurred in 1845 when there was a considerable difference between the tons of potato (around 10 millions) and those in the previous year (around 15 millions). It was still earlier for rising concerns, but the following year stroke to the bone the expectations of the Irish people as the amount of the production was only 3 million tons. Despite the fact that some Irish historians rose their speculation regarding the origin of the famine , they call it ‘artificial famine’ , the vast majority whole –heartedly embraced the idea that that phenomenon was real and it appeared in the first place thanks to the fungus Phytophthora infestans or better known as the potato blight ,which mercilessly attacked the potato.

The food gap was with so immense dimensions that the whole grain exported from the country at that time, even returned back couldn’t have been sufficient substitute. If that is not enough, the government was reluctant to do anything in particular in helping the suffering of many. As a matter of fact, while around million people were dying from deceases or hunger, the so called ‘soup kitchens’ , which provided emergency rations to three millions people, were closed down by the government leaving them in the laps of the gods. That happened in 1847, in the year when the crisis was in its peak.

Many people argue why the government did not act in more successful ways and what impact it would have been if it was done so. Indeed, the government took measures,but not the right ones. For instance, The Treasury of London was in charge of the Great Irish Famine and the assistant Secretary at the treasury was Charles Trevelyan , a devoted Christian with too much prejudices in his mind. He was granted with immense confidence of his righteousness, which made any other’s opinion untrue or irrelevant. He visited Dublin only once during the famine and he had extremely limited opinion of how should the british government to interfere in that question. In addition, he was extremely serious in his approach regarding the public spending and if it was entirely up to him, not superfluous funding should be making. In other words, let the Irish people starving, it’s not our business.

The situation was almost paradoxical as in 1846 there was firm hold of the potato blight, but Trevelyan refused point blank to believe it. He was on the opinion, that the ‘cunning’ Irish farmers were trying to get hold of the precious government’s supplies without ample excuse for it. In fact, on the west part of the country landowner and farmers were abandoned their lands due to the fact that they were unable to feed their families, while on the east large quantities of bacon, grain and butter were exporting to England. As if the country was blocked into two parts, the one which exports its goods and the other having nothing to offer, I don’t know which one is worse. And the non-interfering policy was making its way around the sea.

The following is a fragment of letters from Alexander Somerville (1811-1885), a British journalist of Scottish parentage, who depicted vividly the brutal reality of those events.

“‘It is the hunger, your honour; nothing but the hunger,’ he said in a feeble voice: ‘I stayed at the work til I could stay no longer. I am fainting now with the hunger. I must go home and lie down. There is six chidren and my wife and myself. We had nothing all yesterday, ) which was Sunday,) and this morning we had only a handful of yellow meal among us all, made into a stir about, before I came out to work– nothing more and nothing since. Sure this hunger will be the death of all of us. God have mercy upon me and my poor family.

I saw the poor man and his poor family, and truly might he say, ‘God have mercy!’ They were skeletons all of them, with skin on the bones and life within the skin. A mother skeleton and baby skeleton; a tall boy skeleton, who had no work to do; who could do nothing but eat, and had nothing to eat. Four female children skeletons, and the tall father skeleton, not able to work to get food for them, and not able to get enough of food when he did work for them. Their only food was what his wages of 10 d. per day would procure of ‘yellow meal’ — the meal of the Indian corn. The price of that was 3s. per stone of 16 lb. This gave for the eight persons 26 lb. 10 oz. of meal for seven days; being about seven ounces and a half per day for each person. No self-control could make such persons distribute such a starvation of food over seven days equally. Their natural cravings made them eat it up at once, or in one, or three days at most, leaving the other days blank, making the pangs of hunger still worse.”

 

 

 

Bogomils

Bogomils

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For many people, the Bogomils were only threated the very existence of the Christianity during the 11th and 12th century, they were the rats who poisoned the innocence of the God. Nobody did understand their vision, neither the possibility of accepting that vision was unthinkable.

They were known by many names (not only the one of which they were most known as ‘bogomils’ after their founder the priest Bogomil),in Byzantium they were called ‘bogeymen’ ,in Italy ‘patarias’, in France as ‘Cathari ‘ or ‘Albighensi’. Almost everywhere they were underpinned under the names as ‘bogri,bugres,bougres,bolgari or bulgari (as in each language at that time Bulgarian meant heretic ). (Sometimes, the history has a strange sense of humor, hasn’t it?)

But, what did exactly the bogomils do to be granted with so much hatred and eventually led to endless crusades against them and their death? What foundation did their beliefs have to contribute to that hysterical outcry by both the Catholic and the Orthodox church? The answer might be hidden behind their strange dualism of the world. The problem appeared from the fact that the Bogomil’ faith possessed a different explanation of the question ‘Why the God created such a world with so much evilness in it?’ ,from where that evilness arrived, nobody was sure and concrete an answer was not to be found in the old ,neither in the new testament. Nor did anyone possess knowledge of the origin of Satan , until 13th century the Fourth Lateran Council decreed that God had created angels and that “[…] the devil and the other demons were indeed created by God good in their nature but they became bad through themselves.” While the Catholic church, for example, was explaining vigorously to everyone that the so called evilness in their world was sent to them as a form of punishment, because we were created in a sin and we shall live in it, other people were searching for a new answer and explanation. Eventually, they did find it! Before giving an account of the Bogomil’s doctrine I would like to mention some facts which might be for utmost importance of the understanding of their faith and origin. Firstly, the place from which the Bogomil took its first steps before conquering Europe was Bulgaria, around 940-950 and Theophylact, patriarch of Constantinople described it as a mixture of Manichaeism and Paulicianism. Therefore the new faith was nothing novel for that time, but only a strange and peculiar a synthesis of elements from earlier heretical traditions. Secondly, despite the fact that they flatly rejected the Old Testament and the Orthodox church, they did learn and know the bible by heart, as they were able to manipulate and convince the others in their own doctrine.

According to them the origin of the Satan was as it follows : “They say that the demon whom the saviour called Satan himself is also a son of God the Father, called Satanael; He came before the Son, the Word [Jesus], and is stronger, as befits the first-born. […] Satan is the steward, second to the Father, having the same form and dress as He does, and he sits at His right hand on a throne. […] He was intoxicated by this, and being carried away […] he plotted a rebellion, and having done so, he seized the opportunity to test some of the ministering powers. He said that if they wanted to lessen the load of their service, they should follow him and join him in breaking away from the Father. […] Then to the aforesaid angels who were enticed by the lightening of their burdensome services and other excessive demands, he said:’ I will place my throne upon the clouds, and I will be like unto the Most High’.(Hamilton, 1989:183).”

“But since he [the Satan] had the form and dress of God and possessed the power of the Demiurge to summon the powers which had fallen along with him and to embolden them, he said, ‘Since God made the heaven and the earth, […] I too will make a second heaven, being the second God’”.
Moreover, the Bogomil contributed the creation of the first man (Adam) and the first woman (Eva) to the Satan again: […] moulded the body of Adam from earth mixed with water,and made him stand up, and some moisture ran down to his right foot, and leaking out through his big toe, ran twisting on to the ground and made the shape of snake. Satanael gathered together the breath that was in him and breathed life into the body […] and his breath, running down through the emptiness, ran down to the right foot in the same way, and, leaking through the big toe, ran out into the twisted drop. This instantly became alive, and separating from the toe, crawled away.

But here, this particular moment requires our full attention, the Satan was unable to create the man by himself only, therefore he asked the God for help in making Adam. As a result, the body of Adam was made by the Satan, but his soul was given to him by the God. From this single moment, we could grasp a full insight of the Bogomil’s understanding of the creation and their undisputable rejection of the pleasures such as drinking wine, eating meat or having sexual intercourse.

The bogomil’s hierarchy was not straightened with so much complexity as the Orthodox Church, the people were divided in two parts : the perfect one and the believers. The perfect bogomil- regardless of the sex- was completely devoted to their faith, he/she wore a long, black gown , refused to drink wine, was not allowed to get angry and spent his/her days in prayers. The believers did not distinguish very much amoung the ordinary people, except the fact that they had a higher level of morality , they had to pray four times per day and the some amount during the night, but only in the open sky without the presence of the priest. Many people discriminate them according to their pale faces due to the fact that they did not eat or drink much- for them that was particularly important in their religion , since they did that as an act of compassion to those who were thirsty and hungry. Their compassion and empathy conquered the minds and the hearts of many people and that might be our an answer why their faith gained so many followers before and after to be proclaimed as a heresy.

Thracians

BULGARIA - Thracian Tomb Sveshtari 1

 

In the year 680 there was a great battle which emphasized the birth of one nation in the Balkans, the battle was between the  Byzantine Emperor Constantine IV and khan Asparukh, the nation was Bulgaria. It’s interesting the fact that only due to the treaty between them , it was possible the proclamation and the establishment of the first Bulgarian empire. However, during the Ecumenical council the Emperor expressed his regrets by saying that if he’d had a ‘say’ , there would not have been involved in war with Bulgaria’ –not with the Bulgarian people, but with the nation, in other words Bulgaria’s birth was even earlier than  the  distant past of 681, but it was not officially accepted by Europe’s powers at that time. Some historians adhere to the belief that the appearance of Bulgaria could be dated back in 165.

However, when khan Asparukh took his feet on Bulgarian territory, he met two tribes: the Thracians and the Slavs, the first were on the verge of extinction , the latter was accustomed itself in the new territory.

The Thracians

Herodotus said that the Thracians,right after the Indians, were the most numerous nation of people and if they were united, they would be invincible ,but they were unable to do so. Amoung the historians there are heated discussions and debates regarding the origin of the Thracians, but the vast majority agree that in the end of the 4th century B.C. in the land between the Carpathians Mountains and  Aegean sea the first arrival of them took place. Those people soon emerged in the form of numerous tribes (around 77 and more) and instead of being cohesive community they fought against each other almost all the time. They fought so fiercely that they showed less mercy amoung themselves rather in the face of some foreign enemy. Their culture was mixture of bemusing habits and traditions, for instance when they were not fighting , they used to indulge themselves in drinking a lot of wine and rarely they could be bothered to do any additional work, they thought that from the plunder and the war they could derive everything they need.

Their physical appearance is depicted by the Greeks in the following way : ‘ ..Men make gods in their own image; those of the Ethiopians are black and snub-nosed, those of the Thracians have blue eyes and red hair.’

The Thracians had a cheerful personality when they were gathering together, singing and drinking around. They possessed discerning eye for the music, art and the lavish pleasantries from which they could derive pleasure and enjoyment. Not surprisingly, in the Rhodopes mountains was born the  most famous singer in all the times- the father of songs – Orpheus.

The Thracians had an extraordinary mixture of beliefs and cultural identity. For instance, for them the most prominent god was the mother Earth, followed by the God of the Sun. The mother Earth was incarnation of the endless cycle and the life itself, from which all the harmony in the Cosmos came from. Unlike other religions, they believed that the body and the spirit were one thing , not a separated one. According to Platon, they thought that the eyes could not find cure, if the head is not cured, therefore the body needed to be restored to health , but that could only be possible if the spirit was healed . We could see how according to them everything leads to another thing and this was bottled up in almost magical spirituality.

Another god which took central stage in the Thracians’ beliefs was the Zagreus-the god of joy, ecstasy and the wine , better known in the Greek mythology as Dionysus. There was a temple of Zagreus , suited near Kardzhali in the Eastern Rhodopes In the close proximity of the ancient city Perperikon. That temple existed from the 18th BC and in 11th BC it became officially thracians’ cult. The thing which makes this so extraordinary is the belief that there priestess looked into the future throughout the power of the fire and the wine. There was immense made of stones altar , 3 meters high, on which was burning the fire of eternity, the woman was ascending the altar to pour down on the fire wine to see the forms of the flames , according to them she was able to read your destiny. There in the 334 BC, Alexander the Great went to be given insights into his fate and what the future had in store for him. The blazes from the fire reached the sky and fortune teller told to him:

‘You will conquer the world,Alexander, but you will die alone like a dog…’

Let leave the fortune woman and Alexander and make a comeback to the thracians’ way of life.According to their beliefs, they didn’t hold credibility in the reincarnation of the soul in another body or form, they imagined that every man rebirths , but in the exactly same form in which he lived, neither the soul or the body could change its form. So here again, we could meet this spiritual endless cycle, which is the answer to everything in their macro-cosmos.  Moreover, they rejected the notion that after the death , the spirits leaves the body –as the Christians believe. In fact, they didn’t believe that they could die- they were on the opinion that the dead people descend in the underground’s realm where they could be welcomed with endless regale on which they were crowned with wreaths. It seems that the life on the Earth was only one step closer to another one, even much desirable and alluring than the first.

For many of them , the Earth’s living was unbearable one, as one brithish writer said that the life was ‘short, nasty and brutish’ ,it was , generally speaking, pretty much the same for the Thracians. That explained their bold attitude towards the wars and unquenchable desire for excessive drinking, they wanted to capture all pleasantries which were on their disposal during their lifetime.

However, there were many rituals in relation with which the Thracians were able to achieve some kind of access to their Gods, throughout them they purified their souls and bodies, that they called revival or rebirth. There was a very clear subordination of the level of the revival which someone might achieve according to their status in the society. There were ‘open’ level of achieving revival, which was for the plebeians or the ordinary people and ‘secret’ path with its rituals and sacral traditions for the so called royals. Unfortunately, there are not ample evidence which could justify the exact form and kind of those rituals, it might be for the reason that the royals had to make an oath, promising not to reveal the secret’s passages to their rites.