History for the Rest of Us

Popeye for President

Originally released March 30, 1956 – this Famous Studios Popeye cartoon features Bluto (the Blutocratic Party candidate) running against Popeye (representing the Spinach Party) for President of the United States. With the two candidates tied and only the vote of Olive Oyl outstanding, the two candidates go to work in order to win Olive’s...

Vexillum

Vexillum

Jul 14, 2014

A portion of a Roman Legion on detached duty as a temporary task force, carried a standard called a Vexillum. These detached units became know as vexillatio derived from the name of the standard they bore. Vexillum comes from the Latin word velum, meaning sail, curtain, or awning. The vexilla (plural of vexillum) were ‘little sails’ or flag-like standards. In contrast to modern day flags, the vexilla were attached to a horizontal crossbar suspended from a staff. The flag usually contained the parent legion’s abbreviated title and often a sign of the zodiac. For example LEG. II AUG. along with the symbol for Capricorn for Legio II Augusta. The vexillum was carried by a vexillarius or vexilifer. Closely guarded in combat, the vexillum was the main standard of some unit types – particularly the...

Temple of Concord

Temple of Concord

Jun 6, 2014

Dedicated to the Roman goddess Concordia (goddess of concord and harmony), the Temple of Concord was vowed in 367 BC to commemorate reconciliation between patricians and plebians after the Aventine Secession. The Licinian laws, expanding the civil rights of the commoners or ‘plebians’, had been proposed and were eventually accepted despite great opposition by the patricians. M. Furius Camillus had promised to consecrate a temple to Concordia if peace was made. As part of the agreement between the two groups the first plebian consul was elected and going forward one of the two consuls was required to be a plebian. Centrally located between the Capitoline Hill and the Comitium, the Temple served as a reminder of the peace that had been established. In 211 B.C. a statue of Victory on its roof was struck down by lightning. In order to foster harmony after the murder of Gaius Gracchus, the Temple was rebuilt in 121 BC. The original dedication probably taking place on the 22nd of July. It was rededicated on January 16, 12 AD by the future emperor Tiberius during the reign of Augustus. This final restoration was noted for its opulent marble and rich architectural ornamentation. The cella, (central chamber or sanctuary of the temple) housed a row of Corinthian columns. These columns had pairs of leaping rams instead of the traditional corner volutes and were raised on a continuous plinth projecting from the wall that divided the cella into bays. Part of the function of the Temple appears to have been as a museum since it housed a wealth of Greek sculpture, paintings, and other works of art. The Temple was also used for meetings of the Senate – especially in times of civil disturbance (Cicero delivered his fourth Catilinarian oration here). The Temple of Concord backed up against the Tabularium at the base of the Capitoline Hill on the northwestern side of the Forum. Its design was unique since due to space limitations it’s facade was on the long side of the structure. The Temple was razed to the ground and turned into a lime-kiln to recover its marble during the 1400s so only the foundation remains today. [nform...

The Far Side

The Far Side

May 21, 2014

The Far Side first appeared in newspapers on January 1, 1980 and ran for fifteen years, it’s last appearance being on January 1, 1995. All 23 Far Side compilation books were on The New York Times Best Seller list. The single-panel cartoon was created by Gary Larson who originally worked in a music store. Bored at work, he picked up a pencil and began to draw cartoons. He sold the first six panels to a local magazine. He created additional cartoons that he then sold to the Seattle Times, and was eventually syndicated through the San Francisco Chronicle. His cartoons caused the reader to look at everyday things in a bizarre, hilarious way. Perhaps Larson’s most well-known cartoon depicts something we all can relate to – pushing on a door that clearly says ‘Pull’. This classic cartoon appeared on mugs, t-shirts, and was pinned to many office cork boards. His book The Prehistory of The Far Side gave insights into some of the comments Larson received from readers as well as some insights into his thought process for creating the cartoons. One particular cartoon he discusses shows God playing a Jeopardy-like game show (hopefully, for Larson’s sake, God has a sense of humor). Of this cartoon Larson said, “First, I made God look the way I think most of us are pretty sure he looks. Secondly, I made sure he was really winning hands down. Even if Norman had only ten points it would have meant that he beat God to the buzzer at least once, and someone would have gotten mad.”* *Larson, Gary. The Prehistory of the Far Side. Universal Press, 1989. Related Stories: Bugs Bunny Garfield The Incredible Hulk Batman Li’l...

Peanuts

Peanuts

May 14, 2014

On October 2, 1950, one of, if not the greatest, cartoon cartoon characters of all time was born. Charlie Brown, the blockhead created by Charles M. Schulz made his first appearance in the comic strip Peanuts on that date. Peanuts had, at its peak, a readership of 355 million. The strip included memorable characters like Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, Woodstock, Sally, and Peppermint Patty. Nearly 50 years later, on February 13, 2000, Charlie would make his final appearance – one day after the death of his creator Mr. Schulz. The Final Strip: Most Memorable Characters: Charlie Brown Charlie was the product of Charles M. Schulz’s formative years. Charlie, despite his numerous failures is always determined to try his best regardless of the outcomes. For example, how many times did he try to kick that football that Lucy was ‘holding’ for him? Snoopy Charlie Brown’s dog was quite the opposite of Charlie. Confident and self-assured his vivid imagination led him to believe he was a World War I Flying Ace who was often flying his ‘Sopwith Camel’ (doghouse) in pursuit of the Red Baron. Snoopy had six siblings, five of which made appearances in the strip (Andy, Olaf, Marbles, Spike, and his sister Belle). Lucy Lucy van Pelt first appeared on March 3, 1952 and was typically the rock in Charlie Brown’s shoe. She was smug, highly confident, crabby, bossy, and full of advice – as demonstrated by the sign on her booth ‘The doctor is “in”‘. She was in love with piano-playing Schroeder who barely gave her the time of day. She also hated being licked by Snoopy, who seemed to relish licking her. Linus Famous for his ‘security blanket’, Linus was the philosophical younger brother of Lucy who first appeared on September 19, 1952. He was Charlie’s most loyal friend, since Snoopy never filled the roll of being ‘Man’s best friend’ (a point Charlie would sarcastically refer to from time to time). Sally Sally was Charlie Brown’s ever-questioning little sister who had a crush on blanket-toting Linus. She first appeared in the strip on August 23, 1959. Woodstock Snoopy’s sidekick Woodstock made his first appearance in the strip in 1967 and received his name...

Monkey Weapons in the Opium War

Monkey Weapons in the Opium War

May 9, 2014

During the Opium War, the Chinese were trying to destroy English ships by using fire-rafts. On their first attempt, fear of being within range of the British warships’ guns led the Chinese to ignite the rafts when they were still approximately three miles away from their targets. With so much advance notice, the British were able to take the ships in tow and beach them – although several sailors were badly burned. A second round of fire rafts was launched, again prematurely, and shortly afterward the Chinese irregulars in charge fled when they were attacked by boats that had be put out from the English warships. According to ‘The Opium War Through Chinese Eyes’ by The Arthur Waley Estate, ‘Someone suggested that fire-crackers should be tied to the backs of a number of monkeys, who would then be flung on board the English ships. The flames would spread rapidly in every direction and might with luck reach the powder-magazine, in which case the whole ship would blow up. Nineteen monkeys were bought, and at the time of the advance were brought in litters to the advanced base.’ The monkeys accompanied the retreating armies to Tz’u-ch’i when the Chinese attacks had failed. No one dared go near enough to the enemy ships to fling the monkeys on board, and so the plan was never executed. The monkeys were put in the charge of a Mr. Feng in the town on the heights behind Tz’u-ch’i. When the townspeople fled after the defeat of the remaining Chinese troops, there was no one to care for the monkeys and they eventually died of starvation in Mr. Feng’s...