History for the Rest of Us

Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra

Aug 23, 2012

Of all love stories that are known to human history, the love story of Antony and Cleopatra has been for nineteen centuries the most remarkable. It has tasked the resources of the plastic and the graphic arts. It has been made the theme of poets and of prose narrators. It has appeared and reappeared in a thousand forms, and it appeals as much to the imagination to-day as it did when Antony deserted his almost victorious troops and hastened in a swift galley from Actium in pursuit of Cleopatra. The wonder of the story is explained by its extraordinary nature. Many men in private life have lost fortune and fame for the love of woman. Kings have incurred the odium of their people, and have cared nothing for it in comparison with the joys of sense that come from the lingering caresses and clinging kisses. Cold-blooded statesmen, such as Parnell, have lost the leadership of their party and have gone down in history with a clouded name because of the fascination exercised upon them by some woman, often far from beautiful, and yet possessing the mysterious power which makes the triumphs of statesmanship seem slight in comparison with the swiftly flying hours of pleasure. But in the case of Antony and Cleopatra alone do we find a man flinging away not merely the triumphs of civic honors or the headship of a state, but much more than these—the mastery of what was practically the world—in answer to the promptings of a woman’s will. Hence the story of the Roman triumvir and the Egyptian queen is not like any other story that has yet been told. The sacrifice involved in it was so overwhelming, so instantaneous, and so complete as to set this narrative above all others. Shakespeare’s genius has touched it with the glory of a great imagination. Dryden, using it in the finest of his plays, expressed its nature in the title “All for Love.” The distinguished Italian historian, Signor Ferrero, the author of many books, has tried hard to eliminate nearly all the romantic elements from the tale, and to have us see in it not the triumph of love, but the...

Ramesses II (Ramesses the Great)

Ramesses II (Ramesses the Great)

May 31, 2012

Ramesses II (Ramesses the Great), is regarded as the most powerful pharaoh in Egyptian History. He was the third pharaoh of the 19th dynasty. Ramesses II reigned for 67 years (1279-1213 BC) and used a massive building program, diplomacy, and propaganda to become the greatest ruler of Egypt’s Golden Age. If it is true that he ascended to the throne of Egypt in 1279 as believed, then he became pharaoh May 31, 1279 BC. Hittite Problem With a young pharoah on the throne of Egypt, the Hittites invaded and captured the important town of Kadesh. Ramesses gathered an army together and led them to battle against the Hittites. The Hittites quickly gained the advantage after ambushing the Egyptians and devastating the ‘Ra’ division which took the initial charge of the Hittite chariots. It appeared the Egyptians would be defeated. However, as reinforcements arrived, Ramesses was able to rally the soldiers and battle to a stalemate. Amazed by Ramesses ability to turn a losing battle into a stalemate, the battle was considered a triumph for Ramesses. Propoganda Ramps Up Ramesses would use his propaganda machine to proclaim his victory to the Egyptians. For example, on the temple walls of Luxor, his stalemate is described as follows: His majesty slaughtered the armed forces of the Hittites in their entirety, their great rulers and all their brothers … their infantry and chariot troops fell prostrate, one on top of the other. His majesty killed them … and they lay stretched out in front of their horses. But his majesty was alone, nobody accompanied him … Ramesses realized the need for diplomacy with the Hittites and was able to negotiate the earliest known peace treaty in history. His propaganda is again demonstrated in the agreement. Both the Egyptian hieroglyphic and cuneiform versions of the document survive. Most of the text is identical between the two versions, but the Hittite version claims that the Egyptians were suing for peace and the Egyptian version claims the opposite. Building Projects Having established peace with the Hittites, Ramesses II would focus on major construction projects. The most well known of these projects are: The Ramesseum (across the Nile from the modern city...

Pharoah Pepi II – Flies and Honey

Pharoah Pepi II – Flies and Honey

May 18, 2012

While the expression ‘you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’ may not go all the way back to Ancient Egypt, the Pharoah Pepi II certainly understood the concept. Reign of Pepi II Pepi II began his reign at the age of six during the sixth dynasty of egypt’s Old Kingdom. His throne name was Neferkare which means “Beautiful is the spirit of Ra”. Some suggest he reigned for 94 years, but it’s more likely to have been 64. The length of his reign may have led to stagnation in his administration, a potential factor in the rapid decline of the Old Kingdom. The decline was primarily a factor of increased power of local nobles who had been accumulating significant wealth and were becoming more powerful. The Old Kingdom would come to an end within a few decades of the end of Pepi II’s reign. Flies and Honey Alledgedly Pepi II despised flies and would keep naked slaves smeared with honey near him in order to keep flies away. Pygmy for Entertainment The content of a letter sent by Pepi II to a governor of Aswan has been preserved on the governor’s tomb. According to the inscriptions, word reached the pharoah that Harkhuf (the governor) had captured a pygmy on an expedition to Nubia. The young king sent word to Harkhuf that he would be greatly rewarded if he were to bring the pygmy alive to the court apparently for entertainment purposes. Family Pepi II had several wives including Neith, Iput II, Ankhesenpepi III, Ankhesenpepi IV, and Udjebten and at least three sons. Three of his wives have minor pyramids as part of his pyramid complex in...