Sunday, December 4, 2011

Holiday Wishes

     It was a side of mighty “Stonewall” Jackson known only to a few. For a fleeting time in 1863, Jackson’s inner heart was revealed to all who were in his presence. In the winter of 1862-63, Jackson made his headquarters at Moss Neck Plantation on Virginia’s Rappahannock River. The plantation was owned by Richard and Roberta Corbin, who had a young daughter named Janie, known for her friendly, delightful personality. While visiting with Janie’s parents, Jackson and the child developed an endearing friendship — encouraged, perhaps, by the fact that Jackson had a newly-born daughter he had not yet seen or by the barren conditions of Jackson’s own childhood.
     Janie had not seen her own father who was with the Army for more than a year and he would not be coming home. The child visited Jackson’s office daily. In the attention he gave her was the love and yearning he felt for the infant daughter he had not yet seen.” 
Jackson willingly put aside his duties whenever Janie appeared at his headquarters. He laughed and played with the child — much to the surprise of officers and troops who knew only the formal, professional demeanor of “Stonewall” Jackson. Little Janie’s visit became the daily routine that brightened the famous warrior’s days.                                                                                                                                                     In March, when the looming spring campaign drew Jackson and his troops away from Moss Neck, he paid a farewell call on his five-year-old friend, only to learn that she was stricken with scarlet fever. He was reassured by her mother, who cited the doctor’s predictions for a rapid recovery. A day later, news reached Jackson in the field that Janie Corbin had suddenly died. “Stonewall” Jackson, the hardened soldier, broke down and wept openly in front of his officers and men for the loss of his little friend. His tender emotions may have surprised some of his staff, but those who knew Jackson well understood the gentle spirit and tender heart that were usually concealed by the mighty man of war. Within weeks, Jackson too would be gone — a casualty of his wounds at Chancellorsville . His one year old infant daughter would never know her daddy either— yet the story of Jackson’s tender, cheerful moments with delightful little Janie Corbin would remain as enduring evidence of “Stonewall” Jackson, the man.
During this Holiday Season remember to be your true inner person and let the goodness and caring within come out to all those around you.
Happy Holidays

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Poison Queen

The wife of Augustus, first Emperor of Rome, Livia is characterized by her boundless ambition and cunning. After she marries Augustus and shapes him into the emperor of Rome, her primary goal is to ensure that Tiberius will succeed Augustus. Over the course of the novel, Livia poisons numerous people who stand in her way. Although she is described as one of the worst "crab apples" of the Claudian line, Claudius cannot help but admire her strength. Livia professes to detest her stuttering and lame legged grandson, Claudius and tries to avoid him, but she ultimately confesses all of her sins to him at her deathbed, and he promises to make her a goddess.

Marcellus is the first husband of Augustus’ daughter Julia. Marcellus is a favorite of Augustus and is his first named heir. Livia pretends to favor both Marcellus and Augustus’ best friend and army comrade Agrippa in order to promote jealousy between the two. Jellously and a fude developes between Agrippa and Marcellus. Agrippa withdraws himself some Rome so that he will not be in the middle of the conflict. Marcellus is elected to a city magistracy, and shortly afterwards dies, a victim of Livia's poison.

After Marcellus' death, Augustus begs Agrippa to return to Rome and offers to marry him and Julia. Julia is horrified to be married to a man who is 30 years older than she is. When Agrippa's services are no longer essential to Rome, Livia poisons him. Before his death he and Julia have three sons, Gaius, Lucius and Postumus.

Gaius and his brother Lucius are favored by Augustus as potential heirs. Shortly after Gaius becomes the governor of Asia Minor, Livia poisons him. Lucius is also seen as an obstacle to Tiberius' position as heir, Lucius is poisoned at Livia's orders during a voyage from Spain.

The youngest son of Julia and Agrippa; Augustus' grandson, Postumus is known for his physical strength and benevolent nature. When Augustus names him his heir, Livia plots to have him banished and sets up a fake rape situation with Livilla, Claudius' sister and Postumus' long-time love. Postumus is captured and imprisoned on an island but not before he has told Claudius that Livia is the cause of his banishment. Augustus eventually discovers that Postumus is innocent and removes him from the island. When Livia discovers that Augustus plans to position Postumus as his heir again, she poisons Augustus but is unable to find Postumus. Eventually Postumus comes out of hiding and attempts to rally support against Tiberius. He fails and is captured by Tiberius and beheaded.

It is also rumored and Livia never admitted to it, that she also poisoned her first husband in order to marry Augustus.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon - is there proof of their existence?

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were an amazing sight: A green, leafy, artificial mountain rising off the plain. But did it actually exist? Some historians argue that the gardens were only a fictional creation because they do not appear in a list of Babylonian monuments composed during the period. Either that or they were mixed up with another set of gardens built by King Sennacherib in the city of Nineveh around 700 B.C.. Is it possible that Greek scholars who wrote the accounts about the Babylon site several centuries later confused these two different locations? If the gardens really were in Babylon, can the remains be found to prove their existence?

These were probably some of the questions that occurred to German archaeologist Robert Koldewey in 1899. For centuries the ancient city of Babel had been nothing but a mound of muddy debris never explored by scientists. Though unlike many ancient locations, the city's position was well-known, nothing visible remained of its architecture. Koldewey dug on the Babel site for some fourteen years and unearthed many of its features including the outer walls, inner walls, foundation of the Tower of Babel, Nebuchadnezzar's palaces and the wide processional roadway which passed through the heart of the city.

While excavating the Southern Citadel, Koldewey discovered a basement with fourteen large rooms with stone arch ceilings. Ancient records indicated that only two locations in the city had made use of stone, the north wall of the Northern Citadel, and the Hanging Gardens. The north wall of the Northern Citadel had already been found and had, indeed, contained stone. This made Koldewey think that he had found the cellar of the gardens.
He continued exploring the area and discovered many of the features reported by Diodorus. Finally, a room was unearthed with three large, strange holes in the floor. Koldewey concluded this had been the location of the chain pumps that raised the water to the garden's roof.
The foundations that Koldewey discovered measured some 100 by 150 feet. This was smaller than the measurements described by ancient historians, but still impressive.

While Koldewey was convinced he'd found the gardens, some modern archaeologists call his discovery into question, arguing that this location is too far from the river to have been irrigated with the amount of water that would have been required. Also, tablets recently found at the site suggest that the location was used for administrative and storage purposes, not as a pleasure garden.
If they did exist, what happened to the gardens? There is a report that they were destroyed by an earthquake in the second century B.C.. If so, the jumbled remains, mostly made of mud-brick, probably slowly eroded away with the infrequent rains.

Whatever the fate of the gardens were, we can only wonder if Queen Amyitis, the homesick wife of  King Nebuchadnezzar II, was happy with her fantastic present, or if she continued to pine for the green mountains of her distant homeland. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Titanic Survivors Remember

99 years ago this month, the R.M.S. Titanic sank while on her maiden voyage. On the night of April 14th, 1912 2,225 people had eaten dinner and were settling in for another night onboard the world's largest ocean liner. Only 705 would be alive to see dawn. The last living survivor died in 2010. The following interviews recorded in the 1970's and 1980's of survivors: Frank Prentice, Eva Hart, Edith Brown, Ruth Becker, Edith Rosenbaum.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Have a Heart

Some burial practices ar odd. The Habsburg Dynasty of Austria is no exception when it comes to burrying their dead.

The Herzgruft is the chamber protecting 54 urns containing the hearts of decesed members of the Habsburg dynasty. It is a small room off St. George's Chapel of the Augustinerkirche church located within the Hofburg complex in downtown Vienna, Austria. Herzgruft means "heart crypt" in German.

The first heart (that of King Ferdinand IV of the Romans) was placed in the Augustinerkirche on 10 July 1654, and the last (that of Archduke Franz Karl of Austria) on 8 March 1878.
The bodies of all but three of those whose hearts are here are in the Imperial Crypt a few blocks away.

The Ducal Crypt is a mausoleum under the chancel of the Stephansdom in Vienna. Holds the intestines of 72 members of the Habsburg dynasty.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Death of the Luxury Liner

It was shortly after 2:30 in the afternoon on February 9, a cold, clear Monday in 1942. Over at Pier 88 on West 49th Street in New York City, Clement Derrick was removing the last of four stanchions in the Grand Salon of the SS Normandie a lavish ocean liner that was being converted into a troopship, the USS Lafayette. The French luxury Ocean Liner had been docked in New York since the outbreak of World War II in 1939. As his welder's torch penetrated the metal, sparks suddenly spat out onto nearby bales of burlap that had been wrapped around the ship's highly flammable life preservers. The resulting shower of fire could not be quenched, and by 3 p.m. much of the luxury liner, the pride of a once-free France, was engulfed in flames. Dark black plumes of smoke reached across Manhattan, propelled by a brisk northwest wind. New Yorkers looked up as the oily smoke became a scrim across the midday sun.

Hundreds of New Yorkers, following the smoke and the sounds of sirens, had arrived to watch as streams of water from a line of fireboats tried in vain to quell the blaze. Bellevue Hospital sounded its dreaded seven bells—the signal for a citywide catastrophe—and at nearby Pier 92, where the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth had their berths, a makeshift hospital was set up for the workers who were being carried off the stricken ship.

Crowds of people had gathered for blocks along the waterfront. As the fire raged, more fireboats arrived. For hours their fountains of water flooded the ship's cabins. Soon there was more water than fire. Then, at 3:40 p.m., just as the mayor and Rear Adm. Adolphus Andrews, commander of the U.S. Navy's 3rd Naval District, were attempting to board the wounded vessel, it suddenly lurched several feet to port. It was the beginning of the end.

The deathwatch took on a carnival atmosphere as skyscraper windows all over the city were thrown open so New Yorkers could watch the awful spectacle. The pier was alive with firemen and ambulance crews, with hawkers and food vendors, all watching as the great ship began to drown in the water that was meant to save it.

It took 12 hours for the Normandie to die. At precisely 2:35 the following morning, with the acrid smell of burning metal still hanging over Times Square, the elegant creature rolled over on its port side and gave up the fight. The following day, thousands of New Yorkers showed up at the pier to gape at the destroyed ship. Five-year-old Miki Rosen saw it from the inside of the family car: "My father wanted us to see it because it was an historical event. I was terribly frightened by this enormous thing that I knew was supposed to be upright and bobbing up and down. It didn't even look like a ship. It was a mass of iron floating in the water."