Saturday, April 27, 2013

Most Popular Post

So I have discovered that the most popular post on this blog is What is That on Your Head?- Part 2, with 81 views the last I checked. I also have figured out that this is because of the picture of Abraham Lincoln wearing a top hat (the most popular search that has brought people to this blog). I wonder if most of those people even read it?

Because of this, I decided I wanted to thank those of you who have actually read most of my posts. Pretty soon I will ask you which series of posts has been your favorite and what you would like to see next.

Up coming: We have at least two more posts in the series, Not so Ritzy Republics, and a new series on Pompeii. After that I will probably continue the series on What is That on Your Head? and Wielded Weaponry.

I am also planning to re-design this blog. I've noticed that the words are a little difficult to read and I want to do something about that once I have enough time to do so.

So thank you to my followers and welcome to the newest follower, Robert Mullin!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cats and Dogs

Cats and Dogs are the most common pets in America. To us they are companions and friends. Some might be workers as well. Few think of it, but they are important to our culture.

Who has not heard of the Crazy Cat Lady or Dog Whisper? The movies: All Dogs Go to Heaven and Cats & Dogs (The movie I took this post's title from)? Or not seen a commercial for kitty litter or dog food? Even those who hate pets know someone who could not imagine their life without one.

We find it hard to think of our pets in any role than what we see them in every day, our friends and family members. Yet it was not always like this.

All through out ancient history, dogs were hated and feared. Predators that hunted in packs and feasted on any carcass they found, no one kept them as a pet. They smelled, ate things people did not want to think about, and scared little children. If people had them at all, it was for hunting as the Babylonians did.

Israelites especially disliked them. Their holy books (the Old Testament) are full of verses comparing evil or disgusting people to dogs. One of the worst things that could happen to someone would be that a dog ate them when they died.

Dogs surround me,
    a pack of villains encircles me;
    they pierce my hands and my feet. Psalms 22:16 NIV

 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. 
Philippians 3:2 KJV

Egyptians were the only people who seemed to like dogs in general. They did keep them as pets and made status of them. Dogs would some times be mummified. This was because of the Egyptian god Anubis, guardian of the underworld, who is pictured with the head of a jackal. Unlike most cultures, Egyptians did not fear death so the keeper of the underworld was not an evil figure.

Mostly, though, Egyptians really liked cats. They mummified a lot of them as they were believed to be the form of Bastet, one of their goddesses. Bastet was the goddess of the home and pregnant women, meaning she was important to everyday life. Hoping to make her happy, families would keep numerous cats around the house and mummify them when they died. To kill one often resulted in punishment by death because they were so sacred.

Until after the dark ages, most dogs that people had were large. The only way a family could keep a dog was if it could hunt or herd. As of yet they still were not really pets. It was not until later that this occurred.

The days of the courtiers was when dogs took center stage as pets. This was also when people began to breed them for their smaller sizes (at least more often). Courtiers had to put up a front of wealth and they often did this by buying small dogs. The dogs were good for sitting in the courtier's lap (or that of his wife) and sleeping all day long. Obviously, one had to have a lot of money to feed and care for an animal that didn't do anything. Before this, only royalty could afford such a pet.

Eventually, when nobles became involved in the hunts, small dogs went with them. They were useful in hunting rabbits and other burrowing animals.

In Asia at least, cats and dogs are, to this day, eaten. I'm not going to show any pictures of this because, honestly, it makes me sad.


P.S. If you have any other knowledge about dogs and cats in history, please share it below!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Not so Ritzy Republics- Part 1

The Weimar Republic began in 1918 when the German kaiser abdicated. It was a coalition of political parties ruling together as none had the popular vote. Problem was that the coalition was unstable and unable to fix the economy. It came to an end in 1933 when Hitler and the Nazi took over.

With the way people lived during the Weimar Republic, it truly was no wonder that Hitler was able to gain mass support for his platform. But what were the conditions in Germany between 1918 and 1933? What would drive a country of ordinary people to attempt the take over of Europe?

In 1918 the Treaty of Versailles was signed, ending World War I. People from all over the world came to the Peace Talks at Versailles in France. Not only was the settlements of the war debated, but so were issues ranging from Women's Suffrage to territory disputes.  Many went home unhappy, though none more so than the Germans.

German Mark
A "War Guilt" clause in the Treaty of Versailles saddled Germany with most of the blame for WWI. They were required to pay $33 million in damages, dismantle any air force, cap their navy and army each at 100,000 volunteers, and surrender the majority of their territories to the victors. This had an enraging effect on the German people.

Germany was not the only country to fight against the Allied powers. They had been part of the Central alliance, which included Austria-Hungary and Turkey through the war, yet they were the most brutishly punished. Not only this, but before the Peace Talks, pamphlets of President Wilson's (US) Fourteen Points had been dropped in Germany. These points called for idealism and peace, leading the Germans to believe they would not be singled out.

The size of the army and navy allowed Germany left most of their citizens feeling insecure. While it would keep them from starting a war, it also kept them from being able to defend themselves if attacked. The animosity with which the nations treated them after the war left attack as a very real possibility to the German people.

$33 million is a lot of money today, let alone in 1918. Having such a debt crippled the German economy. In an effort to alleviate the pressure, the Republic began to increase their output of printed money. The consequences of this were not truly thought out. While it did hasten the payment process, it also made the German mark (their currency) virtually worthless.

In 1923, a pound of beef cost around 2 trillion marks. This was not because the beef was suddenly worth so much more but because the marks had come to be worth less than the paper they were printed on. To put it in perspective, today one German mark equals 67 American cents. Because the mark was so low in value, many German citizens would use it to paper their walls or to burn instead of firewood. Where previously families might have had nice nest eggs of 10,000 marks, now they had three days of firewood.

A Man's Marks
With the inflation of the mark, there were 2 million Germans unemployed in 1929 and 6 million by 1932. Those who were fortunate enough to keep their jobs would have to be payed every hour on the hour to make up for the change in the currencies value. Wives would line up outside their husbands place of work with wheelbarrows in order to cart away the trillions of marks their husbands received as wages. They would then race to the stores to buy food and other supplies before the prices increased. This would go on all day, every day for a while.

Morale was so low from these conditions that when Hitler came on the scene, with his promises to return Germany to glory, he quickly won the hearts of the German people.

Wallpaper Marks

Kite of Marks
Burning Marks

Garbage Marks

Mark Bundles used as Blocks


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Are You Entertained?- Part 3

So how did a gladiator win the crowd? Regardless of how he felt about fighting for the pleasure of others, his life could depend on earning their favor.

A gladiator's play for a following started long before he ever reached the arena. He had to train to be the best. He had to make sure could move the fastest, go the longest, and look the best doing it too. Like today with actors, a gladiator could win a large crowd of admirers by looking like a "god". The face of Apollo (god of youth), the body of Ares (god of war), the strength of Hephaestus (god of the forge).

Often wealthy men and women would come to the gladiator schools to watch the gladiators train. Sometimes the young men might jump in to "train" with them so they could gloat to all their friends that they had survived amongst the fighters. All this time, the gladiators would do their best to draw attention to both their looks and their abilities. An interested bystander would leave, spreading gossip about the new gladiator, "And oh is he not divine. He fights like Ares stands beside him."

With the whispers of his prowess begun, the gladiator (let us call this one Atretes- after Francine River's reformed gladiator from Sure as the Dawn) would convince the Lanista to promote the games by putting his name in the advertisements. A slave would go around the city painting the ad on walls, "Come watch the games..... Watch Atretes battle three men...".

Once people came to watch him, all Atretes had to do was win. With his fame already in the people's minds, he only had to confirm it. But how would he do this? There were many different types of gladiators, to vary the fights, all determined by the weapons they used. A few were: the Retiarii who fought with tridents and nets, the Murmilliones who fought with a gladius, and the Laquerii who used lassos. Here is a link to a good list.

Retiarii vs. Secutores
If Atretes keeps winning, he can be rented out for parties. Wealthy merchants and politicians, most who have paid for him to enter the arena, will expect him to entertain them with his presence at their feasts. What does he get? More fans and a night out of his cell while his Lanista pockets the money. Inn keepers will also pay for him to spend the night in their inns, drawing in customers who want to see Atretes or sleep in the same place he did. Any of this sound familiar?

 Why would Atretes put up with being treated like this? Well it could be for fame itself. Many gladiators liked the attention and the women (or men- Romans were well known for some of their citizens' homosexuality). To many a gladiator, it was better being a slave in the arena then a slave in the fields or some such thing. For others it was their one means of freedom.

A gladiator with the support of the mob might survive one or two lost matches just because no one was ready to part with them. If they did, they might make it to the elimination games (the title of which escapes me). In these games, all the best fighters from all the Lanistas in the city and around would fight in elimination rounds. These literally were fights to the death as Atretes can only move on by killing all his opponents. If he is the last one standing, he gains his freedom, able to live his live the way he chooses.

Sadly, with the years he spent fighting and killing in the arena, Atretes will probably not know what to do in society. He will have to buy a wife as no respectable woman would except his proposal. Trained to kill, he will have few skills outside of which in order to gain employment. Likely, he will become a Lanista, a mercenary, or a bodyguard. If he is lucky, his fame might last outside the arena for a few years and he can hire himself out to parties, earning enough money to perhaps buy an inn to host gladiators himself.


P.S. And those of you wondering how Atretes really turns out.. Read the book, it is awesome. I promise, it has a happy ending. Unlike my post.