1. King Arthur
The protector of Camelot is one of history’s most well known monarchs, but many scholars believe his story to be a legend on par with the Sword in the Stone. The brave King Arthur is traditionally described as having repelled a Saxon attack on Britain in the 5th or 6th century. But while he supposedly won a series of 12 battles against the invaders, the great king is not named in the only surviving history of the conflict. In fact, a full depiction of Arthur did not surface until the 9th century, and an account of Lady Guinevere and the famous Knights of the Round Table only appeared with Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 12th century text “History of the Kings of Britain.”
Even if the modern depiction of Arthur as a knight in shining armor is a myth built up by books like Sir Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur,” some historians still believe these tales were based on a real person. Among other candidates, they argue the Arthur legend may have been inspired by the exploits of the warrior king Ambrosius Aurelianus, the monarch Riothamus or perhaps even a Roman general named Lucius Artorius Castus.
We all learned about the Pythagorean Theorem in math class, but a similarly elegant proof is not available for the existence of its namesake. According to some accounts, the Greek thinker Pythagoras lived during the 5th and 6th century B.C. He is remembered as a philosopher and mathematician, but in ancient times he was better known as the spiritual father of a cult obsessed by numerology, the transmigration of the human soul and—quite bizarrely—the evils of eating beans.
While Pythagoras’ hatred of legumes is well documented, there are no significant contemporary accounts of his life. All references to the great thinker—and perhaps also his famed ideas and formulas—came from his followers, who called themselves Pythagoreans. What stories we do have of Pythagoras are deeply intertwined with myth and the supernatural. One tale describes him as possessing a golden thigh; another declares he was the son of the god Apollo. For some, these lies and contradictions hint that Pythagoras was simply an exaggerated or even fictional leader concocted by the members of a religious sect. Even if Pythagoras did exist, he probably wasn’t the first to discover his famous theorem—evidence shows the Egyptians may have divined the formula much earlier.
3. John Henry
According to a popular American folktale, a burly former slave and steel-driver named John Henry once took on a steam drill in a race to construct a railroad tunnel. Pushing his body to the limit, Henry narrowly won the battle between man and machine, only to then collapse and die with his sledgehammer still in hand. This tale of grit and endurance was later immortalized in the folk song “The Ballad of John Henry” in the late 1800s.
The John Henry story is widely believed to have some basis in fact, and a few candidates have even emerged for the identity of its larger than life hero. John William Henry was a steel driver who died during the construction of the C&O Railway in Virginia, but there is no proof that he ever raced a machine. What’s more, records show that he stood only a little more than 5 feet tall—a far cry from the giant described in the legend. Yet another possibility is John Henry Dabney, a former slave who worked on the C&W railroad in Alabama. Witnesses reportedly claimed that Dabney went head-to-head with a steam drill in September 1887, though there is little hard evidence to back up their account.
Scholars have long speculated about the factual basis for the epic poet Homer’s “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey,” but the argument also extends to the bard himself. According to some theories, the greatest of all the Greek writers may not have existed, and even if he did, he is almost certainly not the sole author of his two famous works.
For so influential a figure, there are no contemporary accounts of Homer’s life, which supposedly took place during the 7th or 8th century B.C. He is often described as a blind man who was born on the island of Chios, but even these details are up for debate. This lack of biographical information has led some to theorize that “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” were actually written by a collection of different poets, or perhaps culled from popular stories passed down orally over generations. If this is true, Homer may have been responsible for first assembling the stories into coherent narratives, but he might also have been a composite figure invented as a way of giving the myths a single author.
5. Robin Hood
Robin Hood looms large in medieval folklore, but are tales of a bandit who stole from the rich and gave to the poor actually based in fact? Sherwood Forest’s most famous outlaw first appeared in poems and ballads in the 14th and 15th centuries, and historical evidence shows that some criminals were known as “Rabunhod” or “Robehod” even earlier. Most of these literary accounts describe Robin as a commoner who led a gang of bandits in defiance of the hated sheriff of Nottingham. However, some subsequent versions reframe him as an aristocrat-turned-outlaw, along with adding many of the story’s most popular supporting characters, like Maid Marian and Friar Tuck.
Researchers have tried to pin down the identity of a real life Robin Hood for centuries, but no clear candidate has emerged. The most popular account describes him as a follower of King Richard the Lionheart, but others label him as everything from the Earl of Huntingdon to a member of the Knights Templar. Still, an increasing number of historians now hold that stories of Robin Hood and his merry men were simply medieval myths that arose as popular fables about resistance to oppression.
Lycurgus is remembered as the man who shaped the Greek city-state of Sparta into one of the most feared military powers of the ancient world. Sometime between the 7th and 9th century B.C., this famed lawgiver is said to have instituted a series of hard-nosed reforms addressing everything from marriage and sex to wealth and childrearing. Perhaps the most famous of these concerned the creation of the agoge, a rigorous, multi-year training program designed to fashion Spartan boys into fearless warriors.
While there is no doubt that the Lycurgan reforms were enacted, historians are still unsure if the man himself actually existed. The Spartans did not record their history in writing, so most of what is known about their most prominent leader comes from later, often wildly contradictory sources. Lycurgus’ biography is also filled with several mythical occurrences—one account claims he ended his life by self-enforced starvation—leading some to speculate that he was merely a god-like figure invented by the Spartans as a way to attribute their culture to the work of a single creator.
The historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth is both long-established and widespread. Within a few decades of his supposed lifetime, he is mentioned by Jewish and Roman historians, as well as by dozens of Christian writings. Compare that with, for example, King Arthur, who supposedly lived around AD500. The major historical source for events of that time does not even mention Arthur, and he is first referred to 300 or 400 years after he is supposed to have lived. The evidence for Jesus is not limited to later folklore, as are accounts of Arthur.
The value of this evidence is that it is both early and detailed. The first Christian writings to talk about Jesus are the epistles of St Paul, and scholars agree that the earliest of these letters were written within 25 years of Jesus’s death at the very latest, while the detailed biographical accounts of Jesus in the New Testament gospels date from around 40 years after he died. These all appeared within the lifetimes of numerous eyewitnesses, and provide descriptions that comport with the culture and geography of first-century Palestine. It is also difficult to imagine why Christian writers would invent such a thoroughly Jewish saviour figure in a time and place – under the aegis of the Roman empire – where there was strong suspicion of Judaism.
The lasting impact of historical injustices
Individuals can make claims to compensation for harms they have suffered. According to the most-common interpretation of harm, individuals can be understood to be fully compensated for an act or policy when they are as well off as they would be if the act had not been carried out. For example, in the United States, have present-day descendants of slaves been harmed as a result of the injustices suffered by their ancestors under this interpretation of harm? The present-day descendants’ existence is the product of unbroken genealogical chains that stretch from the forced removal of their ancestors from Africa to their enslavement in America, all points of which are (very likely) necessary conditions for the descenants’ having come into existence at all. Had their ancestors not been enslaved, they would most likely not exist those descendants, it can therefore be argued, cannot be said to have been harmed by the enslavement of their ancestors. Also, they would not have been better off had their ancestors not been badly wronged. Thus, we cannot rely upon that interpretation of harm and its accompanying interpretation of compensation to ground the claim that present-day descendants of slaves have been harmed and should be compensated. To rely on those interpretations would imply the nonexistence of the people claiming compensation. This is the so-called nonidentity problem as it arises in the context of providing measures of compensation to indirect victims of historical injustice.
One way to respond to that problem is to allow for a notion of harm that is independent of identity. Under that interpretation of harm, individuals can be considered to be fully compensated for an act or policy (or event) if they do not fall below a specified standard at a particular time. Whether descendants of slaves have been harmed as a result of the way their ancestors were treated depends, by that thinking, upon whether the way the ancestors were treated has led to their descendants’ falling below the specified standard of well-being. However, whether that is the case will turn on those individuals’ current state of well-being.
Injustices committed against people in the past may not give rise to claims to reparations today if such claims can be understood to presuppose an indefensible interpretation of property entitlements. The American philosophers David Lyons and Jeremy Waldron argued against the claim that once we acquire entitlements, they continue until we transfer or relinquish them. They dismissed that claim as indefensible, because there are reasons of principle for holding that entitlements and rights are sensitive to the passage of time and changes of circumstances. Generally speaking, entitlements are sensitive to background circumstances, and they are vulnerable to prescription.
Further, if legitimate entitlement is sensitive to changes in background circumstances, it is possible that the ongoing effect of an illegitimate acquisition and, more generally, of unjust violations of the rights of others can become legitimate when circumstances change. That is what is meant by the thesis that historical injustices may be superseded. However, even if supersession of injustice is possible, the claim that it has occurred in any given situation depends on two claims: it must be determined (1) what circumstances would have to change to make supersession possible and (2) that those circumstances have, in fact, changed.
How Cave Dwellers Work
We know that cavepeople existed -- early humans and other species closely related to humans inhabited caves. The question is, how important were cave dwellings to these primitive peoples? We'll probably never really know, because they left no historical records other than a few cave paintings and scattered artifacts. However, the general consensus among anthropologists and archaeologists is that caves very rarely served as permanent settlements. They may have provided seasonal shelter or been temporary camp sites for nomadic groups that moved from place to place, following the herd animals they hunted for food.
Some of the prehuman or humanlike species that may have lived in caves include Homo antecessor, Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthals), Homo erectus and Homo heidelbergensis. Early humans, Homo sapiens, also used caves sporadically. Living as hunter-gatherers, these species didn't create permanent settlements. They had several ways of building shelters for themselves, such as stretching animal hides over bone, building rough wooden lean-tos or creating earthen mounds. When they came across a cave suitable for shelter, they used it.
The most common caves in the world are made of limestone, which is eroded by acidic water. Although there are millions of caves, many of them are unsuitable for shelter. The entrances may be located on an inaccessible cliff face, or the entrance itself may be a long vertical shaft. Surrounding terrain often blocks the view of the entrance to casual observers, which is why many previously inhabited caves remained hidden until modern humans rediscovered them. And it's not just the outside that's intimidating -- cave interiors are rarely safe places. They're filled with crevices, unstable gravel slopes, multiple entrances and exits, shafts and potential rockfalls. Once you move more than a few dozen meters from the entrance, they're also utterly dark. And without naturally occurring ventilation shafts, the air could quickly become unbreathable. A cave suitable for living in is actually quite rare.
The Neanderthals are one particular species known to have had a predilection for cave living. They existed throughout a wide swath of Europe during a glacial period. The harsh climate forced Neanderthals to be adaptive, creative survivors. Archaeologists believe they used two main strategies: circulating mobility and radiating mobility. With circulating mobility, each group of Neanderthals had several temporary camps, some of which included caves, spread throughout a region. They moved from place to place in search of the best hunting grounds. With radiating mobility, the group had one central camp. Hunting parties headed out from camp, moving farther and farther afield to find food. In at least several cases, these main camps were caves [source: Tattersall]. The caves suited the Neanderthals' purposes especially well because they lived in very small groups of about a dozen individuals. Few caves could support a larger population. There is evidence that in at least one case, Neanderthals and early humans lived in the same cave at the same time and shared resources [source: Viegas].
In the next section, we'll examine the archaeological evidence of prehistoric cave life -- in particular, cave paintings.
The era that most people think of when they talk about "cavemen" is the Paleolithic Era, sometimes referred to as the Stone Age (it's actually one part of the Stone Age). It extends from more than 2 million years into the past until sometime between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago (depending on who you ask). Ironically, there are probably more humans permanently living in caves today that at any time in human history.
3. Agnes Sampson
Throughout history, many witches were burned, but Agnes Sampson was also brutally tortured before she died on 28 January 1591 in Edinburgh. Agnes was known for her alleged magical powers and earned her living as a midwife and healer in nearby villages.
She was accused of witchcraft by a maid, Gillis Duncan, and was brought before the king and several noblemen, who tortured her with an iron instrument with four sharp teeth placed in her mouth, two of which pressed against her cheeks and two, against her tongue, preventing any movement of the mouth and the ability to speak.
In that way, she was forced to confess 53 charges, she was hanged and later, burned. Her case is included in the North Berwick trials. During her trial, she was portrayed alongside the Devil, who is handing magic dolls to a witches’ coven.
10 Absurdly Famous People You Probably Don’t Know Enough About
The memory is from 14 years ago, but it stings like it was yesterday.
“I think he’s a famous old actor,” I said, during a game I play with friends where you have to get your team to say a name you’re reading on a slip of paper that they can’t see.
“Humphrey Bogart!” one person yelled out.
“Charlie Chaplin. Marlon Brando!” another hollered.
My heart sank as I looked at the words “Henry Kissinger” written on the paper I was holding. I was in a “I somehow don’t know who this incredibly famous person is and I’m about to be horribly exposed for it” situation. There’s no feeling quite like it.
But wipe that fucking grin off your face, because here’s the thing about famous historical people—there are a lot of them. And you learn about these people in a variety of ways—school, parents, books, articles, movies, etc.—but the system isn’t airtight. Throughout your life, you fill in more and more of the gaps, but no matter who you are, you have some embarrassing gaps somewhere. I can sum it up like this:
There are some names in everyone’s Danger Zone. Beware the Danger Zone. To break it down further, here’s where you can fall when it comes to a famous name:
Zone 1 is by far the most dangerous, and as you get older, there are fewer and fewer big names there (I was 18 during the Kissinger Catastrophe—18-year-olds tend to have a lot of big names in Zone 1). But most people reach full adulthood with a still-crowded Zone 2, and names that are referenced all the time should ideally not be in Zone 2.
Today, we’re going to focus on a 10 absurdly famous, almost mythic people (much more famous than Kissinger) who are yet in a lot of people’s Zone 2 (and maybe even a few in Zone 1)—when you finish the post, they should all be in your (and my) Zone 3, and you’ll be safe. I got to this list by surveying friends and readers about which huge names they were ashamed to know very little about, and these are some names that came up again and again.
As you read, you’ll come across some that are already in your Zone 3 or 4, and you’ll be surprised they’re even on the list. But remember, everyone’s different life experience leaves them with their own unique set of gaps—where you have gaps is typically a random crapshoot—and some of the names you know very little about will seem totally obvious to someone else. Let’s get going—
Alexander the Great
Lived: 356 – 323 BC
In 11 words: Strapping man’s man world conqueror who greatly expanded Greek civilization
His main thing: When Alexander was 20, his father, King Philip II of the ancient kingdom of Macedon, was assassinated by one of his bodyguards. Philip II had had military ambitions to expand his kingdom into Persia, and Alexander inherited an army ready for battle. But no one had any idea what this kid’s deal was—turns out power had just been handed to one of the most prolific conquerors in history. For the next 12 years, Alexander would accomplish his father’s ambitions and go far beyond—into Egypt and as far East as present-day Pakistan. The crazy thing is he was just getting started—his stated expansion goal was “the ends of the world and the Great Outer Sea”, and he was well on his way (he made a push towards India, and his next plans were to take the Arabian Peninsula) when he died of some sickness (or possible assassination) at the age of 32.
What’s especially cool about Alexander the Great is that he did it all in his 20s. He was just a dude in his 20s and in his brief 12-year stint, he did this:
Modified from source.
This was the largest empire in Ancient Greek history, and though things declined soon after his death, his conquests allowed Greek culture to spread far and wide and launched the Hellenistic Period of Ancient Greek Civilization, whose influence carried as far as the Byzantine Empire almost 2,000 years later.
- His primary tutor between the ages of 13 and 16 was none other than Aristotle. Very weird that those two hung out a lot in a room alone together. I desperately want to know what they talked about and what their private jokes were and what kind of life advice Aristotle gave Alexander. Also fun picturing Aristotle coming to a session and being annoyed that Alexander the Great hadn’t done his homework.
- This relationship turned nasty later on, as Alexander became paranoid toward the end of his life and sent Aristotle threatening letters. Some theories even suggest Aristotle may have played a part in Alexander’s death.
- His reign began in Game of Thrones style. His father, the king, had had a new wife at the time of his death, and as Alexander was assuming power, Alexander’s mom (and the king’s ex) had the new wife and her daughter burned alive. Alexander had several other potential political rivals executed, and then when a series of neighboring Greek states rebelled against his rule, Alexander razed their cities, defeating them one by one until he had consolidated power over all of Greece. He then launched into foreign expansion.
- His mother was quite the person. On top of her habit of burning rival women alive, she was the ultimate hyper-ambitious tiger mom, putting annoying pressure on Alexander to conquer the world and convincing him (and others) that she was impregnated by Zeus before her marriage and that Alexander was the son of Zeus.
- Alexander was undefeated in battle in his life, despite often being outnumbered.
- Though ruthless in conquest and in politics, he was unusually gracious to the families of those who died in battle, granting them immunity from taxation and public service.
- Alexander founded over 20 cities and named them after himself, including Alexandria in Egypt.
- Some historians believe Alexander was bisexual and was in a relationship with his best friend, Hephaestion. He also had a harem of women at his access, but rarely “used it.”
- He is said to have had one brown eye and one blue eye.
- What Hitler tried to do is essentially the same thing Alexander tried to do (though with more genocide), but it was so long ago that the tragic element of it carries no emotion today. If Hitler had done his thing 2,400 years ago, we might know him as Hitler the Great today.
2014 equivalent: Mark Zuckerberg
Lived: 1254 – 1324
In 11 words: First European to document travels to Asia after 24-year voyage
His main thing: Marco Polo was 15 when he first met his father and uncle, who were traveling merchants returning to Venice from a long voyage. They wasted no time planning their next one, this time taking 17-year-old Marco with them. The voyage lasted an epic 24 years, and went like this:
The thing that makes Marco Polo so famous isn’t that he was the first European to explore Asia—he wasn’t—it’s that he was the first one to document it, in his book The Travels of Marco Polo. He returned to Venice from his 24-year voyage in his early 40s and lived the rest of his life there as a wealthy merchant.
- He returned from his voyage to find Venice in battle with rival city-state Genoa. He joined the fight and was soon imprisoned. It was in prison that he wrote his famous book—except he didn’t write it. He dictated it to his cellmate, who happened to be a romance writer.
- In China, the Polos befriended Mongol leader (and Genghis Khan grandson) Kublai Khan, and Marco worked for a few years as his envoy. Kublai became attached and refused to let the Polos leave, but when a Mongol princess needed to be escorted to Persia to marry the king, the Polos got the gig. The long sea voyage (see map) was unpleasant—only 18 of the hundreds of passengers survived, but all three Polos made it.
- Polo’s mind was blown upon seeing elephants, crocodiles, monkeys, and rhinoceroses for the first time and mistook them for mythical creatures (he thought rhinos were unicorns). This is totally fair—imagine how weird those animals would seem if you had never seen them before.
- The whole thing about Polo bringing pasta or pizza to Italy is a tall tale, but he did bring back stories of paper money, an unknown concept in Europe at the time.
- Christopher Columbus got FOMO about Polo’s travels, and this was one of the major reasons he became an explorer. He always carried a copy of Polo’s book with him.
2014 equivalent: Curiosity Rover
Lived: 1928 – 1967
In 11 words: Charismatic, polarizing, ruthless Marxist revolutionary, enduring symbol of rebellion and counterculture
His main thing: I can’t be the only one who has spent my life confused as to why the guy on the t-shirts is such a big thing. The Maryland Institute College of Art called the above photograph (taken of him at a memorial service) “the most famous photograph in the world,” and today, the image is a ubiquitous logo that symbolizes rebellion against authority, capitalism, and imperialism. But who was he?
Che grew up as an Argentinian math-loving, chess-playing intellectual who got his medical degree and became a doctor before deciding he’d rather be a rad dude. He took those ambitions to Mexico, where he met the Castro brothers, and they hit it off because both parties hated the US and blamed capitalist imperialism for most of the world’s suffering. He went back to Cuba with the Castros and helped overthrow the government, and he was a key member of Fidel Castro’s new regime, both as a brutal executioner of political enemies and as the Finance Minister, shifting Cuban trade relations away from the US and toward the Soviet Union. He was an energetic dude and spent a lot of time in foreign countries trying to incite revolution, until he botched it and was captured by the CIA-assisted Bolivian military and executed at the age of 39.
- He’s a polarizing figure today, both loved by some as an inspirational symbol of counterculture and loathed by others as an insufferable symbol of counterculture.
- People aren’t quite clear that in addition to being a valiant revolutionary, he was a ruthless murderer, executing hundreds of people without trial in Cuba.
- Right before he died, he managed to bully his timid executioner, screaming “Shoot me, you coward! You are only going to kill a man!”
- He was notoriously smelly, proudly changing his shirt once a week.
- His honeymoon apparently sucked.1
2014 equivalent: Some mixture of Occupy Wall Street and al-Qaeda
Lived: 1910 – 1997
In 11 words: Nice, possibly dickish nun who dedicated herself to helping the poor
Her main thing: Mother Teresa decided to obnoxiously spend her life making the rest of us look bad by dedicating everything she had to “serving the poorest of the poor.” She is ethnically Albanian, grew up in the Ottoman Empire (in present-day Macedonia), and moved to India at the age of 18 to be a nun. And for the next 17 years, that’s what she was—a nun and a teacher, and she seemed content with this until Jesus, she says, told her to stop being a dud and do something to help all of the ridiculously poor people around her. So she changed her path and founded the Missionaries of Charity, which, among other things, ran hospices for poor, sick people so those “who lived like animals could die like angels.” She proved to be quite the entrepreneur, leveraging her growing celebrity and taking her work abroad, eventually scaling her charity to 133 countries with the help of 4,500 involved sisters. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, and tends to be a symbol of all things good today.
- Though she lived her life on humble means, she was actually born into a wealthy family.
- She was highly chaste. What a waste of a bullet point.
- Some controversy swirls around her legacy, despite her overall shining reputation, centered around her vocal campaigns against contraception (some even believe she exaggerated how bad it was in India to get more attention) and her refusal to adopt Western medical standards in favor of poorer facilities because she believed that “suffering” brings people closer to Christ.
2014 equivalent: Some NGO you’ve never heard of because people like Mother Teresa are usually not famous
Lived: 100 – 44 BC
In 11 words: Roman general/dictator who laid the ground for the Roman Empire
His main thing: He came up from modest means and actually got a pretty late start. When he visited Spain at the age of 32, he saw a statue of Alexander the Great and it put him in a bad mood because he felt that he had accomplished very little (typical GYPSY). And he was just getting started as a priest before a war of rivals in his hometown ended the wrong way and forced him out of that title—so he turned toward the military instead. He rose steadily, both in military rank and political influence, until he eventually overpowered the weak senate, overthrew the Roman Republic, and was declared dictator.
He was a good leader, beloved by most of the people and made sweeping changes to the constitution, laws, and government structure that laid the groundwork for the Roman Empire, which would flourish for almost 500 years after his assassination.
- Caesar was a cool dude. When he was captured by pirates and held prisoner once earlier in his life, they demanded twenty talents of silver for him as ransom. He interrupted and insisted they ask for fifty instead, which they then received. After they freed him, he got his fleet together, chased the pirates down, took back the money, and crucified them—something he told them he was going to do when he was in their captivity and they had laughed at him.
- Caesar had a full relationship with Cleopatra, which took place both in Egypt and in Caesar’s villa near Rome, which she would visit. This is like Aristotle tutoring Alexander the Great, where I’m just flabbergasted that two people who are that legendary hung out and slept together and cuddled. It’s just weird.2 More on this in the Cleopatra section on the next page.
- He was assassinated by a bunch of the old guard he had overthrown, but they were unable to take power themselves because the masses had loved Caesar and they didn’t have support. Instead, Caesar’s adopted heir Octavian (Caesar’s great nephew since he had no sons) took power as the first Roman Emperor (under the name Augustus).
- Things can get confusing between Shakespeare’s play and the real story, and some people I spoke with even asked if Caesar was real or fictional. The answer is that he was certainly real and the Shakespeare plot isn’t too far off from reality. Mark Antony was really his second in command, Caesar really was stabbed a ton of times (23) by a lot of different men (
2014 equivalent: Steve Jobs
Somehow, my progress when I typed everything up to this point hadn’t been saving and when I accidentally left the page, I lost everything I wrote about Alexander, Polo, and Che. This bullet marks the moment when I’m back to where I was hours ago. It’ll be at least a month before I’m able speak about this.↩
The closest modern example of this phenomenon is JFK and Marilyn Monroe↩
Say what you will about this celebrity, this maybe-talent Nicole Richie is the adopted daughter of pop legend Lionel Richie. While we realize that adoption does not denote race, Richie is indeed of African-American lineage: her biological father Peter Michael Escovedo was of Afro-Mexican heritage. She also holds Creole and Spanish ancestry. At a young age, Nicole was put under the guardianship of Richie and his wife after her parents, friends of Richie, could not financially support her.
Macbeth (c.1005 - 1057)
Macbeth, c.1040 © Macbeth was a king of the Scots whose rule was marked by efficient government and the promotion of Christianity, but who is best known as the murderer and usurper in William Shakespeare's tragedy.
Shakespeare's Macbeth bears little resemblance to the real 11th century Scottish king.
Mac Bethad mac Findláich, known in English as Macbeth, was born in around 1005. His father was Finlay, Mormaer of Moray, and his mother may have been Donada, second daughter of Malcolm II. A 'mormaer' was literally a high steward of one of the ancient Celtic provinces of Scotland, but in Latin documents the word is usually translated as 'comes', which means earl.
In August 1040, he killed the ruling king, Duncan I, in battle near Elgin, Morayshire. Macbeth became king. His marriage to Kenneth III's granddaughter Gruoch strengthened his claim to the throne. In 1045, Macbeth defeated and killed Duncan I's father Crinan at Dunkeld.
For 14 years, Macbeth seems to have ruled equably, imposing law and order and encouraging Christianity. In 1050, he is known to have travelled to Rome for a papal jubilee. He was also a brave leader and made successful forays over the border into Northumbria, England.
In 1054, Macbeth was challenged by Siward, Earl of Northumbria, who was attempting to return Duncan's son Malcolm Canmore, who was his nephew, to the throne. In August 1057, Macbeth was killed at the Battle of Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire by Malcolm Canmore (later Malcolm III).
7. Alexander Pushkin
The man considered the father of Russian literature was the great-grandson of an Ethiopian prince named Abram Petrovich Gannibal. Among Pushkin&rsquos more famous unpublished works (left after his death in a duel) is an unfinished novel about his Ethiopian great-grandfather.
Source: Frédéric Soltan / Getty
6 Historical Figures Who May or May Not Have Existed - HISTORY
Excellent article Father. The mentality of Job was something instilled in me from my youth, to always be grateful to God who can give and take away, but is still to be loved because all things are due to Him and He can never unjustly take something from us that He gave us only for a time.
St. Job pray for us, especially those who in our day and age cannot see God's goodness among the great many troubles they see in their lives.
it is always very important to reaffirm the historicity of the Biblical characters. But when I read this line of yours "Here, and again in Ezekiel 14:20, Job is mentioned together with Noah and Daniel. Since both of these men are historical, we are led to conclude the same of Job." I said to myself that the problem was exactly this. Most scholars deny the existence even of Noah and Daniel. To them, the Bible mentions only a few historical events scattered throughout the Bible, but the main plot itself is simply a fairy-tale. More or less, as if I said that "Once upon a time, there was a girl named Snowhite, who lived in the land of Austria during the reign of Ludwig II. ". There's a country named Austria, and a king named Ludwig II, yet there's no Snowhite until I don't find a document proving her existence. It is absurd to think that a person never existed just because I can't prove her existence: that would mean that I have no ancestors before the invention of modern civil registers. And curiously, "scholars" even try to claim that the few documents supporting the Bible are either fake or misread. Typical examples is the attempt to deny the historicity of Sodom and Gomorrah by saying that the cuneiforms of Ebla were misread by Pettinato.
The enemies of the Catholic Faith never end and are even growing. may the Angelic Doctor protect us within his prayers from the errors of Minimalism.
Thank you so much for clearing this up! I've seen in several blogs written by catholics that Job was fictional, and I wondered how the Church viewed him.
Thank you for your masterful biblical research on St. Job! How fitting to pray for this long-suffering Saint on the day after the president supported the false and sinful oxymoron of "homosexual marriage". God bless you, Father.
It is encouraging to see Job's historicity defend in an age where the most widely distributed Catholic video series of all time (Fr. Barron's) denies the historicity of *Adam*!
I'm very sorry to hear that!
Here is a good quote as to the historicity of Adam, from Pope Pius XII:
"For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own."
(Humani Generis 37)
Clearly, Catholics are bound to believe that Adam did indeed exist as an historical person in a particular time and place. +
I would be hesitant to say that Fr Barron outright denies that Adam ever existed. If you and I have the same thing in mind, it is from something he said in one of his short video series "Adam. Now, don't read it literally. We're not talking about a literal figure. We're talking in theological poetry." True, I do believe this is very confusing and possibly scandalous, but I do think we should give Father Barron the benefit of the doubt and withhold judgment until he might further clarify. He may have possibly meant that every detail about Adam isn't literal in the sense that we don't have exact quotes from Adam, just like Father Ryan said about Job.
So I think we should make sure we are certain about what Fr Barron believes because as Fr Ryan pointed out, the belief that Adam existed is binding on Catholics, so it is a very big deal to claim that someone denies a tenant of the faith. But again, at the very best, I do think what he said is confusing and possibly scandalous. God love you.
That's unfortunate (denial of Adam), but hardly surprising in this time of neoconservative ascendency.
First thank you for this great article. There is a lot to learn from St.Job.It has been always an interest of mine.
On the other hand, off the topic, I just want to comment what I see something odd on your website. In all honest, the site really good, but if you look the pictures above,I am sure you have a great devotion to St.Thomas, but the Word which St.Thomas uses to explain is in the right hand side. Don't you think Christ and his Mother should be in the center and all of us, even St.Thomas, would receive the Word from Him. In short, should not be every thing Christocentric.
It just a comment, other than that, I always read your exegesis on the scriptures and learn a lot as a result. Thank you for enlarging my mind.
God Bless in all you do !!
What about St. Jobs (Steven Jobs)? Did he exist??
My exegesis of the hagiographic sacred texts of this cult indicate that Steve Jobs probably did really exist but was terminated by the high priests of Apple for corporate sacrilege.
The earlier Jobsian community then felt his presence so strongly that they believe he resurrected and came back to head the company again. My exegesis of their sacred texts however indicates that this St. Jobs was probably a computer generated hologram, or at best an android.
1 - please use a pseudonym, as requested.
2 - Yes, we all do have so much to learn from St. Job! May he intercede for us!
3 - We rotate the pictures in the heading of the blog every few months . just a couple weeks ago, we had one with Christ and Mary at the center . a month or two before that, Christ the Judge was at the center.
So, yes, most certainly -- Christ must be at the center of all our theology! :-)
Father, I went to a OF Mass a couple of months ago which featured a reading from the Book of Job. The priest in his homily said Job did not actually exist and the Book of Job is a parable. Your explanation of Job and quotation from St. Thomas cleared up the confusion for me. Thank you.
All the examples that you pull from scripture do nothing to illustrate your point. If Job was just a literary figure, he could still be referenced in the same way. How many times in a homily do we hear references to "The Prodigal Son" or if the priest is referencing a modern work some character from it. If the story is common enough, as Job obviously was since it is a part of the Hebrew Scriptures, everyone would know who was being referred, regardless of whether he was an actual person or not. The passage from Ezekiel is where you find the most support for your argument, but even here it is not clear.
As St. Thomas points out, the actual historical existence of Job is not important for the book itself, but rather as a matter of Truth. Your claim, however, that denying it is a denial of the inerrancy of scripture shows ignorance of literary technique at best, and is uncharitable at worst.
On the comments on whether or not Adam and Eve were historical realities, there is the saying: the individual is in the race and the race is in the individual, with respect to the paradigmatic rise of consciousness, (or awareness of sin) with respect to Adam and Eve, and the appreciation of the individuality of them as 'persons'. This relation was applied may I hesitate to add, also to Jesus, but I'm sure this will prove controversial, as it suggests a substitute interpretation of Christ's divinity. Thank you.
But don't you think it would be odd for a priest, in a homily (for example), to say: "Think of the example of The Prodigal Son, and of The Poor Man Lazarus, and of St. Francis of Assisi" or, conversely, "These men are truly great: John Paul II, and Gandalf, and Mother Teresa."
As to your accusation of my "ignorance" and "uncharitability" . you are not merely condemning me, but all the Church Fathers and all the Scholastic Doctors, and every great Catholic Biblical Scholar until the 1900's . since every one of them held that to deny the existence of Job was to deny the inerrancy of Scripture.
. but I will let that pass .
Thank you for your insightful statements.
I do not understand something, though. Dei Verbum 12 states:
"Cum autem Deus in Sacra Scriptura per homines more hominum locutus sit, interpres Sacrae Scripturae, ut perspiciat, quid Ipse nobiscum communicare voluerit, attente investigare debet, quid hagiographi reapse significare intenderint et eorum verbis manifestare Deo placuerit."
Now it seems to me to be manifest that in the scriptural quotations you cited, the sacred writers assumed Job to have existed indeed, but it is not manifest that they intended to signify such. Rather, it seems to me that their intention was to make a separate point (moral, etc). If they did not intend to signify such but merely assumed that Job existed, then denial of Job's existence does not deny scriptural inerrancy in the least. Rather, the historicity of the person of Job would fall into the realm of things that the sacred writer did not intend to signify and, thus, what God did not will to communicate.
In that case, I suppose it may fall under the other half, namely, the historical existence of Job may be something that it pleased God to manifest by the sacred writer's words, but that seems a bit difficult to prove or disprove either way.
What do you say? I am interested both in what you think of the point about Job and in your thoughts on the distinctions I made as hermeneutical keys as well. Thank you.
It seems to me that the sacred writers did indeed intend to give Job as an historical example (not merely as a literary figure) . and this is why they referred to him together with Noah and Daniel.
To me, it seems quite decisive that all the Church Fathers and Doctors, together with all the Catholic Scripture Scholars (up till the 1900s) held that Scripture taught that Job was a real person.
Further, there is no good reason to doubt his existence.
And, finally, the Church, in her Liturgy, considers Job to be a real person (since she has a feast day for him).
So, all taken together, it does seem to me that the sacred authors did indeed intend to tell us that Job really existed -- and the Church Fathers thought that it would be a heresy to think otherwise.
As far as the distinction you make (i.e. the hermeneutical key in itself) . I think it is a good and helpful distinction.
Though, as a Thomist, I tend to emphasize more the phrase: "eorum verbis manifestare Deo placuit" . since the literal sense must be the meaning of the words in themselves, and is determined more by the divine intention than by the human.
IMHO it is stupid to believe that Job is fictional in its entirety. Many people would judge this book as a single wisdom book with poetry constituting the greatest component of the text. But I don't think this is the right way to read Job. More likely, Job is a composite work with three distinct literary genres: historical narrative (the narration of Job's life and character) theater (the God-Satan dialogues) and poetry (the dialogues between Job and his friends, or God's voice heard by Job).
That means we should read the three literary genres according to their style. Job's life in itself (his origins, his misfortunes, his faith and his final award) can be safely judged as an historical event. There's nothing odd with it: some 10 years ago I heard of a very similar situation happening to an Italian family who lost everything (including their children) but was finally happy again later thanks to their faith. The scenes in heaven have more of a prophetic vision (a similar dialogue was heard by Leo XIII and gave origin to the Prayer to St. Michael Archangel). Here, the author represent the dynamics of good and evil by the figures of their respective leaders, God and Satan, so that the theological message on the origin of evil be conveyed. Finally, the dialogues are poetry and portray the contents of a historical dialogue not verbatim but in a poetical form - more or less as the Our Father or the Magnificat aren't necessarily the word-by-word transcription of what Jesus and Mary said, but the representation of the content of their words.
So, there is no valid reason to judge Job as a single work just to put his figure in the realm of fiction. We should judge every section of book in its own genre to grasp what the author(s) really meant.
I held to the historicity of Job for a long time but now tend to view this as a post exilic reflection of Israel. And having spent some time studying this topic that seems to fit quite well.
What would your thoughts be on the whale in Jonah? Do you hold that to be a literal (real) whale as well? (Which again I held to for a long time but don't see it so now) . Just to say quickly, I'm by no means a "liberal" of sorts when it comes to scripture and the faith I believe totally that all of the Word is divinely inspired and without error. But we do have to account for literary styles.
There are only two literary genres in "Jonah": history and poetry. Jesus takes the example of Jonah converting Nineveh just as literally as Jonah spending three days and three nights in a "big fish". But since sea monsters are often used to portray the Sheol (=abode of the dead), including in Jonah's prayer to God, I would simply state that (A) A fish (shark? whale?) really attacked the ship (B) Jonah was killed by the beast (C) Jonah was resurrected on the third day to resume his mission. Nevertheless, there are lots of more complicated miracles in the Bible: why just refuse to accept Jonah and the whale, when Jesus could walk on the water or resurrect people? Why should we believe that the same God who was born of a Virgin, was nevertheless unable to open the Red Sea to let Israel pass, or to put Sodom and Gomorrah on fire? This is still the true mystery with those who claim a limited inerrancy or want the Bible to become a fairy tale.
The greatest argument for the existence of Job is that the Church commemorates him in the Martyrology. There is no one in the Martyrology listed as, "St. So-and-So, pseudo-mythical literary construction."
It is also well worth noting that only a few days ago the real Catholic Calendar celebrated the feast of Saint Gregory Nazianzen who was good friends with the great Saint Basil and in the Liturgy there is a wonderful example of what we foolishly abandon in chasing after novelty.
In the lessons of the Holy Liturgy for Saint Gregory's Feast, we read . He went through a complete course of studies at Athens, together with Saint Basil, after which he applied himself to the study of sacred Scriptures.
The two friends retired to a monastery, where they spent several years over the Scripture, interpreting it not according to their own views, but by the mind and authority of the earlier Fathers.
THAT is Traditional praxis and such praxis is what our Catholic Capitol must have restored to it so the Holy City of Rome can once again become the source of a Glorious Triumphalism we Catholics can be proud of and that progression away from progressive praxis and towards Tradition will begin with the regularisation of the SSPX.
Enough of the protestant progressiveness that results in an ever-diminishing Biblical historicity and an ever-increasing amount of doubt.
Catholic exegesis went off the tracks a LONG time ago and it is time to set the Soul Train back on the track
Yes. It was confirmed for me this weekend when I visited a Protestant church because a friend was standing in for a vacationing minister, that although individual interpretation of scripture can have minimal benefit for individual psychological attempts to understand one's self, that these interpretation can easily be over-secular. Surely the point of interpretation of scripture is to raise awareness not for purposes of 'self defense', but to arise to new understanding of what is a spiritual exegesis. This surely demands concurrence of many points of view, and the prerequisites not only of theological norms but of personal qualifications. Analysis of scripture needs to be 'tested', with the purpose of advancing the growth of morals and spirituality. We need not always, like post-modern interpretation seek to ground thought like the level of Platonic ideals, in the earth, but rather we should also see to ascend from the earth to a 'heavenly' understanding of what is possible for us to fulfill in our daily lives.
The interpretation of Mary that I witness showed her remarks to Jesus when he was twelve and at the marriage of Cannae on a very 'colloquial' level without respecting the spiritual significance of what was said, and especially what was not said, but what can be inferred by the manner and actions of Jesus and Mary in the communication. I did not like the interpretation of Mary being put on 'my' level when I seek to aspire to be more pure in my intentions, as I believe she was. Just a thought.
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6 Fascinating Periods in Music History
Music encompasses culture, art, emotion, and ideology. As society evolves, so does the style and sound of the music, and what emerges is a diverse tapestry that represents the time period in which the music was created as well as the people who created it. Here’s a glance back at some of the most fascinating periods in music history, and how they influenced the music of today.
Medieval (approx. 400-1400)
Music at this time was heavily influenced by the growing power the Church began to wield, and notation was reintroduced into the musical repertory, a major distinction from earlier songs. Unfortunately, much of the music of this time was destroyed. We do have several medieval liturgical pieces from Roman Catholic Church. The Gregorian Chant is one of the most famous pieces from this era.Renaissance (approx. 1400-1600)
Renaissance (approx. 1400-1600)
The Renaissance era of music introduced a clearer, more voice-centric melody. These songs joined balanced polyphony, and created pieces that people could sing with ease. Chords became more flexible, making pieces easy to adapt according to the style of the artist. Finally, the advent of the printing press made the most significant contribution of all, giving artists and people who were just beginning to learn music new resources to expand their talents and passions.
Fun fact: John Taylor, an ocular surgeon, botched up the vision of two giant composers, Bach and Handel. Despite this ocular error, both were still musical visionaries!
Baroque (approx. 1600-1700)
The Baroque period ushered in a surge of instrumental musical revelry, and secular music became more prevalent than ever before. Counterpoint (the use independent, polyphonic melodies) was a strong influencer on the music of this era, giving pieces a richer flavor. Composers also introduced improvisation into their design, and the bass and keyboard allowed for the expansion of possibilities to stretch across all keys.
Fun fact: Mozart created some of his most outstanding work on the fly…and hungover!
Classical (approx. 1700-1810s)
Harmony really defines the Classical era (aka Western Art Era). Composers brought components together in harmony, creating distinct chords with a melody and accompaniment. Some unforgettable pieces emerged during this era that aren’t comparable with anything that came prior, like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, for example. Mozart was notably one of the most influential composers of the time, along with Beethoven and Richter.
Fun fact: Beethoven would count out the beans before having a cup of coffee each day.
Romantic (approx. 1810s-1900)
As you can imagine, the Romantic period brought an increase of emotion and meaning into the musical art form. From Schumann to Chopin to Wagner, compositions became ever-more complex, as is symbolized by some dramatic pieces like Siegfried by Wagner.
20th Century (approx. 1900-2000)
Once the radio was invented, music as we know it changed forever. Other technologies such as recording and reproduction devices, not to mention the television and music videos also influenced the era, bringing music to the masses. With these revolutionary advancements permeating the culture, music flavor, tempo, and form also dramatically transformed and evolved. This is evident by the fact that every decade of the 20th century ushered in a new sound and a new hunger for something different.
Here’s a fabulous medley of the last century in music:
Music existed since the dawn of time, and it will continue to enrich the lives of humanity forever. Join centuries of musical history by learning to play piano today, and make your own mark on the sands of time.