Monday, October 27, 2008

Tomb of real Gladiator found


By Nick Pisa

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have unearthed the tomb of the Roman warrior who inspired the title role in Ridley Scott's epic Oscar-winning film Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe.Marble columns and a Latin inscription to Marcus Nonius Macrinus have been uncovered at a 1,800-year-old stone mausoleum built in his honour on the banks of the River Tiber at Saxa Rubra, not far from the headquarters of Rai, Italy's state-run television station.The site, which also includes friezes and stone blocks, was discovered as a warehouse was being demolished to make way for a housing development.The remains are located north of Rome, near the ancient road, the Via Flaminia, which once connected the city to the Adriatic, on Italy's east coast.

Although parts of the tomb have crumbled into the Tiber over the centuries, enough has been recovered during months of excavation that experts are discussing the possibility of rebuilding the tomb as the centrepiece of an archaeological theme park. This would also include the house of Empress Livia, the wife of Emperor Augustus, at Prima Porta nearby.

This villa occupied the high ground dominating the view down the Tiber valley to Rome and some of the walling that retained its terraces can still be seen. Except for the terracing – the gardens are currently being excavated – all that can be seen today are three vaulted subterranean rooms, from the largest of which the fresco decor of an illusionistic garden view was removed to Rome, where it has recently been installed in the Palazzo Massimo, following cleaning and restoration. Marcus Nonius Macrinus was from the northern Italian city of Brescia.He was consul in AD154 and proconsul of Asia from AD170 to 171. Consuls were the highest civil and military magistrates in ancient Rome.

His villa on the shores of Lake Garda is also under excavation. Macrinus was said to have been a particular favourite of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who ruled Rome between AD161 and 180, and became part of the emperor's inner circle after he won numerous battles for him.

For the rest go to the source

Memorial in Berlin for WWII Germans who helped Jews


BERLIN (AP) — The "Silent Heroes" now have a voice.
A new memorial center in Berlin pays tribute to the thousands of German gentiles who risked everything to save Jews from persecution by the Nazis and documents the stories of those who sometimes spent years in hiding.
The "Silent Heroes" memorial center opens to the public Tuesday amid a new focus in recent years on the legacy of the "good German" — those individuals who resisted Hitler and his policies, were labeled as traitors by the Nazis and were often shunned in decades after the war.
"Their accomplishments were totally forgotten, and this is an initiative to bring them back into our memory," said Johannes Tuchel, director of the German Resistance Memorial Center Foundation, which is behind the new memorial.
Some 5,000 Jews were able to survive the war in hiding in Germany but it is not clear how many people were involved in helping them, Tuchel said. Research suggests that for each person in hiding, around 10 people were involved in aiding them.
Peter Michalski, whose family went into hiding in 1944, said it was a long overdue tribute to the Germans who helped people like him escape almost certain death, even if it meant putting their own lives in jeopardy.
"Where would you be now if these people hadn't existed?" he asked contemplatively while looking at an exhibit focusing on his family's plight. "The answer is simple: We wouldn't be."
The three-room exhibition relies heavily on multimedia displays in both English and German — audio accounts, touch-screen computers focusing on 18 aspects of survival, and computers with more detailed information on those in hiding and their rescuers. Original artifacts include personal photos, diaries and letters.
The best-known subject is Oskar Schindler, whose story was made famous by Steven Spielberg's 1993 Oscar-winning film "Schindler's List," which chronicled the German businessman's efforts to shield more than 1,000 Jews from Nazi death camps by hiring them to work in his factories.

For the rest go to the source

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Battle of Agincourt...Our Finest Hour

Written by Bernard Cornwell...


Legend says the Battle of Agincourt was won by stalwart English archers. It was not. In the end it was won by men using lead-weighted hammers, poleaxes, mauls and falcon-beaks, the ghastly paraphernalia of medieval hand-to-hand fighting. It was fought on a field knee-deep in mud and it was more of a massacre than a battle.
Laurence Olivier's film of Shakespeare's Henry V shows French knights charging on horseback, but very few men were mounted at Agincourt.
The French came on foot and the battle was reduced to men hitting other armoured men with hammers, maces and axes.

A sword would not penetrate armour and did not have the weight to knock a man off his feet, but a poleaxe (a long-handled axe or hammer, topped with a fearsome spike) would fell him fast, and then it was easy to raise the victim's visor and slide a knife through an eye. That was how hundreds of men died; their last sight on earth a dagger's point.
It is not a tale of chivalry, but rather of armoured men hacking at each other to break limbs and crush skulls. At the battle's height, when Henry V expected an attack on his rear that never materialised, he ordered the newly captured French prisoners to be killed. They were murdered.
Over the weekend, during a conference at the Medieval History Museum in Agincourt, French academics met to declare that English soldiers acted like 'war criminals' during the battle, setting fire to prisoners and killing French noblemen who had surrendered. The French 'were met with barbarism by the English', said the museum's director Christophe Gilliot.
The French pronouncement smacks of bias, but what is certain is that Agincourt was filthy, horrible and merciless. Yet it is still celebrated as a golden moment in England's history.
Why do we remember it? Why has this battle galvanised English hearts over the centuries? These are questions I came to ask as I researched my new novel Azincourt - spelled as it is in France - and discovered just what an extraordinary event it was.
Part of the legend about the archers is certainly true. Most of the English army were archers and their arrows caused huge damage, although they never delivered the knock-out blow it is claimed.
Henry V was also an inspirational leader. He fought in the front rank and part of his crown was knocked off. Eighteen Frenchmen had taken an oath to kill him and all of them died at Henry's feet, slaughtered by the King or by his bodyguard. And, despite recent claims to the contrary, it seems the English were horribly outnumbered.

In the cold, wet dawn of October 25, 1415, no one could have expected Henry's army to survive the day. He had about 6,000 men, more than 5,000 of them archers, while the French numbered at least 30,000 and were so confident that, before the battle was joined, they sent away some newly arrived reinforcements. By dusk on that Saint Crispin's Day, Henry's small army had entered legend.
But the English should never have been at Agincourt, which lies 25 miles south of Calais. England was in the thick of the 100 Years' War with France, and Henry had invaded Normandy in the hope of making a quick conquest of Harfleur, a strategic port. Yet the town's stubborn defence delayed him and by the siege's end his army had been struck by dysentery.
Sick men were dying and the campaign season was ending as winter drew in. Sensible advice suggested that Henry cut his losses and sail back to England. But he had borrowed huge amounts of money to invade France and all he had to show for it was one gun-battered port. Going home looked suspiciously like defeat.
He instead marched north to Calais with probably nothing more in mind than cocking a snook at the French who, though they had gathered an army, had done nothing to relieve the brave defenders of Harfleur.

For the rest go to the source

On the Dresden Bombings

The Death Tolls are now believed to be considerably less than is often reported


For more than 60 years Britain's Bomber Command led by Arthur 'Bomber' Harris has been vilified for causing up to 500,000 deaths in the carpet bombing of Dresden during World War II.But now, after a four-year investigation, a panel of German historians has said that the true number of dead from the Allied air raids in January 1945 was between 18,000 and 25,000.They reached the figure after combing through death certificates, hitherto sealed eyewitness reports, registration cards for people made homeless and hospital records.

It now emerges that the high number of deaths from 'Operation Thunderclap' was a myth invented by the Nazis, perpetuated by Communists and re-born in the past decade to serve the aims of ultra-nationalists.The myth took form barely after the vapour trails of the bombers disappeared in the skies over the city.It suited the Nazi propaganda machine to claim that half-a-million women and children had been incinerated in the firestorm. It helped persuade a struggling population that this was awaited them all unless they fought for Nazism with their last breath.

Then the Communist East Germans perpetuated the myth, mindful that it served their purposes by showing the destructiveness of capitalism and fascism combined.In the last decade neo-Nazis have sought to keep the lie alive as they praise many of the policies of the Third Reich.By the mid 70’s historians were beginning to question the real total of casualties. Although many records lay in the still-Communist archives of Dresden, the accepted figure dropped to between 50, 000 and 150,000 deaths, based on Nazi German records and declassified Allied intelligence reports.Then, when the wall fell and more records became available, the accepted number dipped even further, to 35,000.

A fortnight ago the myth was revealed as just that. A panel of German historians tasked by the modern-day rulers of Dresden said the dead numbered between 18,000 and 25,000.They worked through miles of archived paperwork for the past four years to arrive at their figures, using death certificates, hitherto sealed eyewitness reports, registration cards for people made homeless and hospital records.The historians found most people died in cellars, suffocated when the oxygen was sucked out of their hiding place or killed by the concussion of the falling bombs.Strange climactic conditions combined to create 2,000 degree centigrade “firestorms” which whipped walls of flames through the heart of the city, incinerating everything in their path.By contrast Operation Gomorrah, the saturation bombing of Hamburg, did indeed cause at least 50,000 deaths.

Monday, October 13, 2008

US Presidential Rankings - Felzenberg View

For more on this read the excerpt in the post-gazette

Alvin Stephen Felzenberg's 20 Twenty Presidential ranking reads as follows:
(My Comments in Red)

1. Lincoln - Correct
2. Washington - 7 or 8 perhaps
3. Theodore Roosevelt - Top 10 but not #3
4. Reagan - 8th or 9th not 4 and I say that as a Reagan fan
5. Eisenhower - Not Top 10 Material...maybe 15
6. Franklin Roosevelt - Should be Second
7. Taylor - not top 20 , Grant - 20 to 30 range , McKinley - top 20 not top 10 , Truman - deserving , Kennedy - about right
12. Polk - Bang on
13. Benjamin Harrison - 22 sounds better
14. John Adams - fair enough . Jefferson - easy top 10 , Monroe - Spot on , Quincy Adams - about right , Wilson - 9 0r 10 , Bush Snr - I can live with this
20. Ford - yeah right - more like 35.