The Palestinians are again fighting for their lives, refusing to live in the prison known…
Galileo Condemned To Silence ..
Galileo Galilei, born in 1564, revolutionised physics by demonstrating that all objects fall at the same rate, regardless of weight.
He was also a visionary engineer who improved the microscope and the compass, and devised a telescope through which he discerned wonders in the heavens ‘concealed to previous ages’.
He made out the faint stars of the Milky Way, found three moons next to Jupiter and identified spots on the Sun’s surface.
Such discoveries convinced ‘the father of modern science’ that Aristotle had been wrong – heavenly bodies did not orbit an Earth that lay at the Universe’s centre.
This led Galileo to promote Copernicus’s theory that the planets rotate around the Sun.
This set him on a collision course with the Roman Catholic Church, which believed in the Earth-centered universe.
The inquisition tried Galileo and forced him to ‘abjure and curse’ Copernicus before condemning him to silence and house arrest.
Cyrus The Great, 580 – 529 BC ..
Of a minor royal family, Cyrus became the first emperor of Persia, uniting the tribal Medes and Persians.
As well as the usual mountains of skulls, he created what may be the first charter of human rights, available to be seen at the British Museum.
He freed the Jews in Babylon when he conquered that city.
Despite his benevolent side, Cyrus spent years conquering lands, murdering his enemies and establishing a vast empire that stretched from India to Greece.
Boudicca, A Genuine British Heroine ..
The first British woman we know of with real attitude, Boudicca reigned over the Iceni, whose kingdom covered East Anglia, and famously led a rebellion against the Romans in 61AD.
In a bid to explain how this women came so close to defeating them they created this mythic, flame-haired uber-woman.
She must have looked a breathtaking sight when she rode into battle on her chariot.
A genuine British heroine, she embodied a very British sense of freedom.
Jane Austen, The Queen Of English Literature ..
Standing head and shoulders above other female writers, Jane Austen is the nearest thing to a female Dickens.
Despite her relatively short life (1775 – 1817), her output was prolific – writing a string of classics including Sense And Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park, and most famously, Pride And Prejudice.
She was spot-on in every observation she made about both men and women – observations that still hold true today.
While her writing (even though we now know that her grammar and spelling left much to be desired) was amazingly perceptive, it still stands the test of time, 200 years later.
Austen helped revolutionise the novel as a form – and still speaks to us today.
Ironically, though, she was very much under-appreciated during her own lifetime and it was only after her death that she achieved her present stature.
A role model for women ever since, she has inspired countless female writers to follow in her footsteps.
The undisputed queen of English literature.
The Colosseum ..
The Colosseum, an iconic structure built in Rome between 70 and 82 AD, made spectacular use of the arch – a Roman architectural invention that has the beauty of opening up space but also being very stable.
The Colosseum had four storeys above ground and three below, all composed of arches stacked on top of each other.
It had seating for about 50,000 people – but could be evacuated within eight minutes.
You’d be hard pressed to find a modern arena that could be emptied as fast as that.
Archimedes was one of the greatest figures of the classical world, a brilliant mathematician and engineer whose work had the rare distinction of embracing both the abstract and the practical.
He was killed by a Roman soldier at the siege of Syracuse in 212 BC, and only fragments of his work survive.
Those fragments prove him to have been a man considerably ahead of his time, but just how advanced was his thinking?
Is it possible that he solved some of the mysteries of the cosmos centuries before Copernicus and Newton?
Ch’in Shih Huang, 259 – 210 BC ..
The boy known as Ch’eng inherited a minor throne in China at the age of just 13.
As an adult, he was a superb organiser.
His achievement was not just in conquering the different regions of China in just nine years, but unifying them as an empire.
With two trusted ministers, he established a bureaucracy, taxation, standardised weights and measures and a system of ruthless punishments for lawbreaking.
The first emperor of China is perhaps most famous for the terracotta army guarding his tomb.
More than 8,000 life-sized warriors were created, as well as 600 horses and 130 chariots.
In the centralised government he created, the emperor was almost a figurehead.
The structure of government was so successful that when Shih Huang died at 49, his two most powerful ministers carried on without him for four years before they quarrelled and his death became public knowledge.
Rome Was A Man’s World ..
In 18 BC, the Emperor Augustus introduced new laws aimed at reforming upper-class morals and for the first time he made adultery a crime.
But the laws did not treat men and women even-handedly.
A woman became guilty of adultery if she had sex with anyone but her husband.
A man was guilty only if the woman in question was married.
In 1936 There Were Three Different Kings On The Throne ..
George V, and his sons Edward VIII and George VI.
This also happened in 1483 – Edward IV, Edward V and Richard III.
It also happened in 1066 – Edward the Confessor, Harold and William the Conqueror.
Custer’s Death At The Hands Of Indians Making Their Own Last Stand ..
George Armstrong Custer, a war hero from the Civil War, wanted fame, and killing Indians, especially peaceful ones who weren’t expecting to be attacked, represented opportunity.
On orders from General Philip Sheridan, Custer and his Seventh Cavalry attacked the Cheyennes and their Arapaho allies on the western frontier of Indian Territory on November 29, 1868, near the Washita River.
After slaughtering 103 warriors, plus women and children, Custer dispatched to Sheridan that “a great victory was won”, and described, “One, the Indians were asleep. Two, the women and children offered little resistance. Three, the Indians are bewildered by our change of policy”.
Custer later led the Seventh Cavalry on the northern Plains against the Lakota, Arapahos and Northern Cheyennes.
He boasted, “The Seventh can handle anything it meets”, and “there are not enough Indians in the world to defeat the Seventh Cavalry”.
Expecting another great surprise victory, Custer attacked the largest gathering of warriors on the high plains on June 25, 1876, near Montana’s Little Big Horn river.
Custer’s death at the hands of Indians making their own last stand only intensified propaganda for military revenge to bring peace to the frontier.
One In Three Died On Board ..
Inmates were held in horrific conditions on nineteenth-century prison ships.
One in three died on board.
The ships housed inmates aged eight to 84, according to prison registers.
Francis Creed, aged 8, was jailed for seven years for stealing three shillings worth of copper in 1823.
Samuel Philips, 16, got life for burglary.
William Davies, 84, got seven years for stealing sheep.
Britain’s last floating jail, holding prisoners in Portland, Dorset, was sold in 2005.
The Genius Of The Panama Canal ..
The genius of the 48-mile Panama Canal, built 1904 – 1914, was not just to link the Atlantic and Pacific, but to raise the canal itself.
Surprisingly, the sea level is different on each coast, and there are different levels of high tide.
To overcome that, they had to build three locks constructed to a width of 110ft, with lock walls ranging in thickness from 50ft at the base to 10ft at the top.
It was designed for 80 million tons of shipping a year, yet today 230 tons pass along it.
Augustus Caesar, 63 BC – 14 AD ..
Born Octavian, the great-nephew of Julius Caesar was technically the first Roman emperor.
He was made Consul after Caesar’s death, then formed a triumvirate with Mark Anthony and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus.
They secured their power in Rome by executing thousands.
The title Augustus, meaning ‘exalted’, was granted by the senate.
Octavian changed his name to Gaius Julius Caesar to honour his predecessor, creating a tradition that would last 2,000 years – to the German Kaisers and Russian Czars.
Augustus was not a battle king.
However, under his rule, the Roman empire expanded into Hungary, Croatia and Egypt as well as securing Spain and Gaul.
He added more land than Julius Caesar and was worshipped as a god in Rome.
The Massacre Of Disarmed Indians ..
Anti-Indian anger rose in the late 1880s as the Ghost Dance spiritual movement emerged, spreading to two dozen tribes across 16 states, and threatening efforts to culturally assimilate tribal peoples.
Ghost Dance, which taught that Indians had been defeated and confined to reservations because they had angered the Gods by abandoning their traditional customs, called for a rejection of the white mans’ ways.
In December 1890, several weeks after the Sioux Chief Sitting Bull was killed while being arrested, the U.S. Army’s Seventh Cavalry massacred between 150 and 200 Indians at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.
For their mass murder of disarmed Lakota, President Benjamin Harrison awarded about 20 soldiers the Medal of Honour.