Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Francisco Pizarro’s bold plan paid off and the handful of Spaniards had conquered the Inca king and his phalanxes of Indians. Every Spaniard pressed into action had killed an average of 15 natives during those two terrible hours. They bearded Spaniard conquistadors had come for 3 Gs ,-gold glory and God. At the end of the skirmish the Spaniards were sure God led them. Yes Indeed!
What followed was gold and silver that was waiting to be grabbed. On the day after the massacre Hernando de Soto confiscated 800 pounds of gold,more than 3500 pounds of silver and 14 emeralds. The greed with which they stole the royal table service was an eyeopener to the king. The hapless king did not think his life was in peril. So he parleyed with Pizarro to win freedom. He promised,’a room full of gold also the entire hut filled twice over with silver.” Pizarro promised him no harm. Little did he know that these 160 strangers were the advance party of a colonial invasion.
The King was imprisoned for eight months. His ransom was fulfilled by mid 1533.

All the gold and silver melted and ingots were divided into five where the one fifth went to the king of Spain.
Meanwhile Pizarro’s partner, Diego de Alamgro reached Cajamarca with reinforcements from Panama. The Spaniards consulted and they dared not set the king free. They decided to execute the king. It was done as the night fell on Saturday, July 26,1533. There was a mock conversion administered by friar Valverde and the king tied to a stake on the square was garroted to death. It was condemned by the Spanish authorities in Panama and also by the king. King Charles wrote to Pizarro,” we have been displeased by the death of Atahualpa, since he was a monarch and particularly as it was done in the name of justice.”
The conquest of Peru started with a checkmate- the capture and death of the Inca king. The fighting came later. There were four battles with Atahualpa’s armies during their 8oo-mile march along the great Inca road from Cajamarca to Cuzco.
The inca armies fought against impossible odds and the Spanish superior firepower,- and cavalry was a decisive factor. Finally on November 15,1533 Pizarro’s men seized their ultimate prize, Cuzco the heart of Inca capital. Pizarro, now in his late 5os set about governing and plundering th land he had conquered. The natives were forced to work relentlessly for their new masters. As Barthelome de Vega wrote,” Men are loaded with it (tributes), and so are the women, the pregnant women with their heads (bent down) on their swollen bellies and those who have given birth their babies on top of their loads.” Rape and looting went on everywhere and the Indian population declined catastrophically.
The victory was a poison chalice for Pizarro in terms of the falling out of their partnership. Diego de Almagro resented at being cut out of the share of the royal ransom and his ire knew no bounds for all the glory Pizarro garnered. The king had invested Pizarro with the governorship of Peru and he was left out. In order to placate him Almagro was given the governorship of land south of Peru. When he and his men rode out to his seat he found no treasure. He was unaware that the Spaniards would strike at Potosi the richest silver mines. Deeply bitter and wracked by envy Almagro laid claim for Cusco. The Spaniards were soon at each other’s throats. The war ended with Almagro’s defeat by Pizarro’s brother, Hernando in 1538. Almagro and 120 of his men were summarily executed for which Hernando will be shut in a prison on his return home.
A handful of Almagro’s men in Lima vowed revenge and they deputed a young son of Almagro. On the morning of Sunday, July 26,1541 the dead man’s followers breached the palace of Pizarro and brutally murdered him.
The conquest of Peru left two important legacies. One is that one third of all Peruvians today are mestizo- of mixed Indian and Spanish blood. The other is the rooting out of traditional Inca beliefs by Catholic Church has cloned itself as the single religious solace of most Andean Indians.
(Ack:Pizarro, conqueror of the Inca/ John Hemming-National Geographic Magazine-Feb. 1992)

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Francisco Pizarro(1477- 1541) was a self made man whose personal virtues were as nuggets of gold interspersed with his vices which only needed to be panned in a grand scheme that was offered to him. Helping explore Panama he had made a name and was a prominent citizen. Growing restless in 1524 he moved on. Winning the Spanish king’s approval for a third expedition he headed south and his goal was nothing less than the conquest of the Inca Empire.
As Pizarro entered Inca territory in 1532 the land was reeling under a civil war. Already devastated by smallpox, a disease that came in the wake of the Spaniards, to which the Incas had no natural immunity,the arrival of Pizarro and his equally haggard companions was to prove disastrous. Pizarro had formed a partnership with Diego de Almagro to finance an expedition along the Pacific coast of all men and material only a company of thirteen remained. As they made to the royal road between Quito and Cuzco along the valleys of the Andes, they learned that the victorious Atahualpa was marching south along this highway.
When the Inca ruler was four miles away Pizarro sent some horsemen to visit the Inca chief. Unsuspecting he agreed to visit their Governor Pizarro next day. The Spaniards who witnessed the royal procession of the chief in their splendid finery and unparalleled wealth were struck with awe. A young page, Pedro Pizarro noted,’ saw many Spaniards urinate without noticing it, out of pure terror.’
Pizarro knew his only hope lay in a breath taking audacity. When the Inca king and his retinue arrived at the plaza he found it empty. The Dominican Vincent de Valverde, and an interpreter approached the litter of Atahualpa surrounded by his troops. The priest harangued him about ‘the things of God.’ Then he held out the breviary which the Inca king took admiring its rich covering. The Inca had no writing as such so the text did not make any sense and after having given it a once over he thew it to the ground. Friar Valverde ran back exclaiming,’Come out Christians! Come at these enemy dogs who reject the things of God!”
Pizarro calmly gave the signal. Candia fired the cannon; footmen and horsemen charged from their hiding places creating a terrific din. The Indians hearing the trumpets and horses hurtling down towards them panicked. Pizarro a poor rider fought on foot with dagger and sword. He plunged towards the litter and tried to drag the king from it. Many Indians who tried to help steady the litter had their hands cut off. In the bloody mayhem and confusion seven or eight mounted Spaniards were able to reach the litter and tumble the king out of it unceremoniously. Atahualpa was captured this way.’(to be concluded)
Ack:an article Pizarro, Conqueror of the Inca/John Hemming-National Geographic Magazine/Feb 1992

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The title is a popular mis-quote attributed to Oliver Cromwell. The Great Protector of Great Britain was to sit for a portrait by the famous portrait painter of his time, -Peter Lely and he cautioned him thus: ‘Mr.Lely, I desire you would use your skill to paint my picture truly like me and not flatter me at all; but remark all these roughnesses, pimples,warts and everything as you see me,otherwise I will never pay a farthing for it.’ (1675?)
In this series I hope to write foibles and follies of great personages of history. These are not biographical sketches but light and shades that reveal their personal lives. Some of the subjects have been already covered in the Pen-Portraits.

Jean Jacques Rousseau(1712-1778)
Rousseau did not consider he would be able to rear children though he wrote Emile(1762) a classic book on education. His five children born to his wife Therese le Vasseur he delivered to the Paris’ Foundling Hospital. The circumstances under which Rousseau was living may have convinced him he was unfit to be a role model. In his defense it must be said that his own painful experiences must have lent his weight to his apparent heartlessness. Later in his twilight years he tried to explain his actions in his Confessions.
“my error was such that, in handing over my children to the State to educate, for want of means to bring them up myself, in deciding to fit them for becoming workmen and peasants rather than adventurers and fortune-hunters, I thought I was
behaving like a citizen and a father, and considered myself a member of Plato’s Republic. More than once since then, the regrets of my heart have told me that I was wrong: but ,far from my reason having given me the same information, I have often blessed Heaven for having preserved them from their father’s lot.’


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Had the USA done differently these would have happened:
The Cold War would have ended by itself.
Soviets would not have been able to hold on under the weight of its personality cult and mis-rule; Gorbachev did call for more openeness because he had no other alternative. A catastrophic event like Chernobyl showed the USSR had to update its technology and let in expertise from outside; Its ageing submarines around the Baltic and the North Sea for example and deeply ingrained black market profiteering was a symptom of the weak authority or lack of will in cleaning up administration. Dwindling population already decimated by WWII and under repression were not strong to force changes..
2. Osama bin Laden would have been the founder
of a chain of companies: or directing his own construction company from one of the Saudi office blocks spending his time with with his team setting new goals for branching out into different parts of UAE. Name of the company: Al Quaida Construction Co.,
3. Saddam Hussein would have moved from being one of those street- smart hoodlum into the the service of some ageing Sheik. Or he would have continued in Egypt, sucking upto rich tourists coming in to visit the pyramids.
4. As for Iraq the British interests were already on the wane. America would have had greater role to play in the Middlle East. So many deaths on the sides of Iraq,Iran and of US Marines would have been spared.
This is terrible, I mean to rewrite history. (from my post of April 1,2007 in Journalspace )

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During the bitter struggle for Stalingrad in the Second World War the Germans had the initial advantage but the element of surprise was worn thin by the indomitable courage of the Russians who were fighting for the Motherland. The Russians would not give up and were reduced to fight for every street. In this close combat snipers were an essential part. Vasily Zaitsev was a hero who killed some 300 Germans. He was awarded by the Party for his crucial role.
If one reads German invasion of Soviet Russia the siege of Stailngrad is reduced to a few pages and the role of Vasily may be told in a line at the most. Suppose we were to look at the whole WWII the role of Vasily, most certainly will be left out. In simplification some shift in focus is necessary.
It is like reducing the earth to the size of a golf ball. There shall be no Grand Canyon or the Himalayas. It will be smoother than the golf ball. We are all players in terms of history. Only that we don’t get written about. Our waking lives we may not have place for anything else but of ourselves. Yet we have become non-persons in the human narraive of time and place.

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A fuller whose job is to make the clothes shine had large grounds. He thought someone else could set up his trade there. He knew the rent would add to his profits. So he sent advertisements all around for some trader or an artisan to move in. One day a collier dropped in. He was interested. All he needed was a furnace and space for storing firewood. ‘Just let me in. I look after my needs and pay rent on the day agreed and give you no trouble’,said he.
The fuller took the collier to show his line of business. ‘See I only need sunshine and space to hang all the clothes bleached to dry out.’
The collier showed him in his turn how he worked. ‘See that chimney stack. It takes all the smoke and will not trouble you or me.’
The fuller however was not convinced. He said, ‘you shall keep your end of the bargain.I know. Unfortunately we share the same sky. I need the sun to make my clothes shine spotless and keep their whiteness. But can I trust wind or your smoke? I know you mean no harm. But the wind may blow all that smoke onto my space and undo my hard work. It is better that you go elsewhere. It will give me peace.’
The State and Religion cannot mix. There are so many imponderables and not a single state has been saved by religion. Instead Religion has only defeated every effort of best of men who would give peace to men within the state. Look at Spain under the Moors. How the Moors and Christians fought for its control? Imagine what would have been the case had the Moors still controlled Spain? It would have been another Syria under Bashar Assad or Libya. Now Spain under the Catholic Church produced Franco. With the Church interfering every horror man could think of under the sun has come one after the other: Inquisition, civil war, stolen children, forced adoption,sex abuse. For all the iron heel of church or dictatorship what is the economic situation? Unemployment is very high and Recession is very much there. If one looks where Spain (or any other nation where religion plays a vital role), it will be clear where these nations stand in terms of happiness.(OECD.org) Religion has been man’s own device to make him fall headlong into the pit of misery. Religion and State have been devil’s prescription for man’s pride that makes him think he is in control of his own destiny.
Remember Guernica? Remember Bali Bombing?

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Roman road system

Via Appia is the crowning achievement among transportation network of the ancient Mediterranean world, extending from Britain to the Tigris-Euphrates river system and from the Danube River to Spain and northern Africa. In all, the Romans built 50,000 miles (80,000 km) of hard-surfaced highway, primarily for military reasons.
The first of the great Roman roads, the Via Appia (Appian Way), begun in 312 bce, originally ran southeast from Rome 162 miles (261 km) to Tarentum (now Taranto) and was later extended to the Adriatic coast at Brundisium (now Brindisi).
Their numerous feeder roads extending far into the Roman provinces led to the proverb “All roads lead to Rome.”

Via Appia today
The Roman roads were notable for their straightness, solid foundations, cambered surfaces facilitating drainage, and use of concrete made from pozzolana (volcanic ash) and lime. Though adapting their technique to materials locally available, the Roman engineers followed basically the same principles in building abroad as they had in Italy..
The Roman road system made possible Roman conquest and administration and later provided highways for the great migrations into the empire and a means for the diffusion of Christianity. (Of this I shall come to by and by.)
In 73 BC, a slave revolt (known as the Third Servile War) under the ex-gladiator of Capua, Spartacus, began against the Romans. Slavery accounted for roughly every third person in Italy.
Spartacus defeated many Roman armies in a conflict that lasted for over two years. While trying to escape from Italy at Brundisium he unwittingly moved his forces into the historic trap in Apulia/Calabria. The Romans were well acquainted with the region. Legions were brought home from abroad and Spartacus was pinned between armies. Many men escaped into the mountains. Only a thousand Romans died. Six thousand of the fleeing slaves were captured by Pompey’s troops and crucified along the Appian Way, from Capua to Rome. Spartacus’ body was not found.
It was Rome’s brutal message to any one who thought of overstepping the limit.
The road that the Romans built like the Silk Road will lose its importance in time. But what it carried across endures long after these physical,geographical realities.
In 1919 the Spartacists took their inspiration from Spartacus. Spartacus was an idea.
The Spartacist’s had extreme left wing political views. This group split from the SPD (Independent Socialists) in frustration at the SPD’s role within Government. The leaders of the Communist party were Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebnecht. The aims of the Spartacist’s were outlined in their Manifesto:
The Spartacist Manifesto 1918
The question today is not democracy or dictatorship… Rather, it means using all instruments of political power to achieve socialism, to expropriate the capitalist class, through and in accordance with the will of the revolutionary majority of the proletariat.
On January 1st, 1919, members of the Spartacist movement rose in an attempted revolution. Initially this move was opposed by both Liebnecht and Luxemburg, the leaders of the movement. The newly formed Weimar Government reacted promptly, and brutally. The army was deployed to bring the revolution to an end, and these were aided by the Frei Corps, a paramilitary group consisting of former servicemen. Order had been restored to the streets of Berlin by the 13th of January. Both Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebnecht were killed whilst in police custody.( http://www.schoolshistory.org.uk-spartacistuprising)
To recap:
Like real people roads also carry their significance. The Silk Road was a highway for exchange of ideas, transfusion of cultures between east and the west. In the concluding post I shall write about via Appia as a facilitator of European history.
(To be concluded)

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outline: Silk road carried trade,exchange of ideas, culture,religion- ups and downs

Trade along the route was adversely affected by the strife which built up between the Christian and Moslem worlds. The Crusades brought the Christian world a little nearer to Central Asia, but the unified Moslem armies under Saladin drove them back again. In the Fourth Crusade, the forces of Latin Christianity scored a triumph over their Greek rivals, with the capture of Constantinople (Istanbul). However, it was not the Christians who finally split the Moslem world, but the Mongols from the east.
Whilst Europe and Western Asia were torn by religious differences, the Mongols had only the vaguest of religious beliefs. Several of the tribes of Turkestan which had launched offensives westwards towards Persia and Arabia, came to adopt Islam, and Islam had spread far across Central Asia, but had not reached as far as the tribes which wandered the vast grasslands of Mongolia. These nomadic peoples had perfected the arts of archery and horsemanship. With an eye to expanding their sphere of influence, they met in 1206 and elected a leader for their unified forces; he took the title Great Khan. Under the leadership of Genghis Khan, they rapidly proceeded to conquer a huge region of Asia. The former Han city of Jiaohe, to the west of Turfan, was decimated by the Mongols as they passed through on their way westwards. The Empire they carved out enveloped the whole of Central Asia from China to Persia, and stretched as far west as the Mediterranean. This Mongol empire was maintained after Genghis’ death, with the western section of the empire divided into three main lordships, falling to various of his descendents as lesser Khans, and with the eastern part remaining under the rule of the Great Khan, a title which was inherited from by Kublai Khan. Kubilai completed the conquest of China, subduing the Song in the South of the country, and established the Yuan dynasty.
The partial unification of so many states under the Mongol Empire allowed a significant interaction between cultures of different regions. The route of the Silk Road became important as a path for communication between different parts of the Empire, and trading was continued. Although less `civilised’ than people in the west, the Mongols were more open to ideas. Kubilai Khan, in particular, is reported to have been quite sympathetic to most religions, and a large number of people of different nationalities and creeds took part in the trade across Asia, and settled in China. The most popular religion in China at the time was Daoism, which at first the Mongols favoured. However, from the middle of the thirteenth century onwards, buddhist influence increased, and the early lamaist Buddhism from Tibet was particularly favoured. The two religions existed side by side for a long period during the Yuan dynasty. This religious liberalism was extended to all.
Any history on the Silk Road would be incomplete without mention of Marco Polo. As a member of a merchant family from Venice he took the route. Starting in 1271, at the age of only seventeen, he trekked across Persia, and then along the southern branch of the Silk Road, via Khotan, finally ending at the court of Kubilai Khan at Khanbalik, the site of present-day Beijing, and the summer palace, better known as Xanadu.
Mongol invasion was a turning point in the history of the region. Islam will fall back from what they had gained: all the turbulence,-force released by falling edifices of old beliefs, cultures muddied by trades, wars was for their taking. There was the Black Death that hit as far as Europe. Two thirds of Europe will succumb to it. History would never be the same. Islam will make a giant leap backwards and would never be the same.
(To be Cont’d)

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trade carried ideas,culture route-religions,Buddhism, Christianity and Islam

This region along the Silk Road was taken over by Alexander the Great of Macedon, who finally conquered the Iranian empire, and colonised the area in about 330 B.C., superimposing the culture of the Greeks. Although he only ruled the area until 325 B.C., the effect of the Greek invasion was quite considerable.

By the third century B.C., the area had already become a crossroads of Asia, where Persian, Indian and Greek ideas met. This `crossroads’ region, covering the area to the south of the Hindu Kush and Karakorum ranges, now Pakistan and Afghanistan, was overrun by a number of different peoples. After the Greeks, the tribes from Palmyra, in Syria, and then Parthia, to the east of the Mediterranean, took over the region. They had adopted the Greek language and coin system in this region, introducing their own influences in the fields of sculpture and art.
The most significant commodity carried along this route was not silk, but religion. Buddhism came to China from India this way, along the northern branch of the route. The Eastern Han emperor Mingdi is thought to have sent a representative to India to discover more about this strange faith, and further missions returned bearing scriptures, and bringing with them monks and it is pertinent to note that the Himalayan Massif, an effective barrier between China and India made Buddhism in China more derived from the Gandhara culture by the bend in the Indus river, rather than directly from India.
Christianity also made an early appearance on the scene. The Nestorian sect was outlawed in Europe by the Roman church in 432 A.D., and its followers were driven eastwards. From their foothold in Northern Iran, merchants brought the faith along the Silk Road, and the first Nestorian church was consecrated at Changan in 638 A.D. This sect took root on the Silk Road, and survived many later attempts to wipe them out, lasting into the fourteenth century.
The height of the importance of the Silk Road was during the Tang dynasty, with relative internal stability in China after the divisions of the earlier dynasties since the Han. The 754 A.D. census showed that five thousand foreigners lived in the city; Turks, Iranians, Indians and others from along the Road, as well as Japanese, Koreans and Malays from the east. Many were missionaries, merchants or pilgrims, but every other occupation was also represented. Rare plants, medicines, spices and other goods from the west were to be found in the bazaars of the city. After the Tang, however, the traffic along the road subsided.
It was at this time that the rise of Islam started to affect Asia, with the Moslems playing the part of middlemen. The sea route to China was explored at this time, and the `Sea Silk Route’ was opened, eventually holding a more important place than the land route itself.
But the final shake-up that occurred was to come from a different direction; the hoards from the grasslands of Mongolia.
(to be continued)

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Rise of humans on the earth is a chronicle of mass migrations. Among these a road is surely a consequence of choices people make to reach their destination. In times of famine they sought places where food was in abundance. Later trade between peoples connected by roads. Road is the straight line between two points where geography has a say. In terms of geography we consider unfordable rivers, lakes and insurmountable mountains as features that stretch roads about. Of these we shall look at two roads in particular. These serve as locus for entire history of Europe and Asia to fan out. It brought about changes that none could have realized. Silk Road is one and the other is Appian Way which includes Roman road system as one whole.

The region separating China from Europe and Western Asia has Taklimakan desert, known as `Land of Death’; caravans throughout history have skirted its edges, from one isolated oasis to the next. The land surrounding the Taklimakan is equally hostile. To the northeast lies the Gobi desert, almost as harsh in climate as the Taklimakan itself; on the remaining three sides lie some of the highest mountains in the world. To the South are the Himalaya, Karakorum and Kunlun ranges, which provide an effective barrier separating Central Asia from the Indian sub-continent. Only a few icy passes cross these. Coming from the west or south, the only way in is over the passes.
On the eastern and western sides of the continent, the civilisations of China and the West developed. The western end of the trade route appears to have developed earlier than the eastern end, principally because of the development of the empires in the west, and the easier terrain of Persia and Syria.
In the west, the Greek empire was taken over by the Roman Empire. It is often thought that the Romans had first encountered silk in one of their campaigns against the Parthians in 53 B.C, and realised that it could not have been produced by this relatively unsophisticated people. The Romans obtained samples of this new material, and it quickly became very popular in Rome, for its soft texture and attractiveness. They reputedly learnt from Parthian prisoners that it came from a mysterious tribe in the east, who they came to refer to as the silk people, `Seres’. The Parthians quickly realised that there was money to be made from trading the material, and sent trade missions towards the east just as Rome sent their own agents out to explore the route, and to try to obtain silk at a lower price. In short this trade route to the East was seen by the Romans, as a route for silk rather than the other goods that were traded.

The name `Silk Road’ itself does not originate from the Romans, however, but is a nineteenth century term, coined by the German scholar, von Richthofen. The description of this route to the west as the `Silk Road’ is somewhat misleading. Firstly, no single route was taken; crossing Central Asia several different branches developed, passing through different oasis settlements. The routes all started from the capital in Changan, headed up the Gansu corridor, and reached Dunhuang on the edge of the Taklimakan.
In addition to silk, the route carried many other precious commodities. Caravans heading towards China carried gold and other precious metals, ivory, precious stones, and glass, which was not manufactured in China until the fifth century. In the opposite direction furs, ceramics, jade, bronze objects, lacquer and iron were carried. Many of these goods were bartered for others along the way, and objects often changed hands several times. There are no records of Roman traders being seen in Changan, nor Chinese merchants in Rome, though their goods were appreciated in both places. ( To be Cont’d)

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