The Last of His Tribe: An Amazing Story!

I love a great historical story, and just had to share it with you all! It’s the story of an Indian from the Yahi tribe who was named “Ishi” by the anthropologists who studied him, (man in Yahi, as in his culture, the personal name was very private, and only spoken of by others, never to a direct

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Ishi after his capture

question, so we don’t know his real name…) who was the literal last of his people! He and his family hid out in Deer Creek, a place in California with the dwindling numbers of the Yahi people. The settlers hunted and exterminated them as they, starved of food after the settlers scared off the game, “hunted” their cattle! This went on until it was mostly just Ishi and his immediate family, but they too, were discovered again. Ishi was the last survivor and from 1908 to 1911, lived alone in the wilderness. Desperation and hunger forced him to come back into civilization and he was caught in Oroville, CA! Weak and emaciated, he was almost giving up and letting fate decide. His hair was singed short in the Yahi custom of mourning. After 3 years alone, I wouldn’t blame him…



Only this time, he got lucky: The sheriff took him into protective custody. Pretty soon, the news got a hold of him and tales of a “wild man” circulated. This caught the attention of Alfred Kroeber, an anthropologist who studied the indigenous peoples of CA and other

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Dr. Kroeber and Ishi

places and wanted to learn more of the dying languages. When he heard about Ishi, he sent for him to be studied at the Museum in Berkeley. There, Ishi adjusted well to modern life, and worked as a janitor for the museum, as well as showed visitors his native skills such as archery, and flint knapping. The anthropologists Kroeber and Thomas Waterman studied his language and culture. Ishi called them “big chiep” (Yahi doesn’t have an “f” sound), and “Watamany” respectively :) Ishi also bonded with a doctor (kuwi in Yahi) named Saxton Pope nearby the museum who also loved archery and the outdoors. Ishi’s special name for him was “Popey”! Ishi eventually learned a few hundred words of English, some pronounced more like Yahi ;) and learned to take the trolley and befriended some children in town. Ishi even visited the hospital Pope worked at and helped cheer up the patients.

The culture clash was interesting as well. One day, the anthropologists Kroeber and Waterman took Ishi to the beach to see the ocean, as he had never seen it. However, the ocean paled in comparison to all the saltu, (white men), and Ishi could not help but say over and over “Hansi saltu! Hansi saltu!” (Many white people! Many white people!…) The hundreds at the beach that day were like nothing Ishi had ever seen before, having only seen a max 40 people in his entire life all in one place! Another neat story was Ishi was invited to the theater one day with the anthropologists. A reporter said he was enthralled and lusted after a pretty white lady singer, but not according to Kroeber! He said the reporter got that story “out of his imagination”, and in reality, Ishi looked at the large crowd for 2 full acts, obvious to the stage! Now that sounds a bit more like Ishi to me ;) This and other amusing instances really captivated me!

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“Hansi Saltu! Hansi Saltu!”… ;)

Kroeber persuaded Ishi to go back to his homeland to show them his life as it was. At first, understandably reluctant, considering the genocide of his entire people took place there, but eventually gave in. Kroeber, Waterman and Pope, who loved the outdoors, went for the summer back to Ishi’s homeland. There, they learned how Ishi hunted and lived. Pope, who was a doctor said by this time, Ishi was at his peak health back from his emaciated state a few years earlier. After, Dr. Kroeber took a sabbatical to Europe and New York leaving Ishi with Waterman and Pope. Unfortunately, this did not last, as Ishi contracted tuberculosis from which he had no immunity. He suffered a prolonged illness of coughing fits, which worsened in the summer of 1915. Edward Sapir, a famous linguist who knew more Yahi came to study him in the summer of 1915, up until he got sick in August. Ishi first went back to the hospital and cared for by Pope, but later was moved back into the museum for his final weeks. Waterman believed “letting Sapir ride him too hard” made Ishi get sick. Ishi died in the spring of 1916 and with him, the Yahi language and culture…

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This is just scratching the surface, and these sources go way more in depth! I read them, and they provide far more amazing stories and detail into Ishi :)

Ishi’s Story

ISHI: A Real-Life The Last Of The Mohicans

Ishi in Two Worlds by Theodora Kroeber

Wild Men New Narratives in American History

Lastly, here is an amazing movie of Ishi’s story! All the more appreciated by reading the sources above :) It does leave out many of the stories I like and mentioned and are told in the sources, but does keep some aspects. Still a great movie and I watch it over and over again! I only wish it were more detailed!

Bonus: This source analyzes the movie :) “I Heard Your Singing”: Ishi and Anthropological Indifference in the Last of His Tribe

Posted in Archaeology and Anthropology, Helping Make History More Interesting, Linguistics and History, Modern History, Reviews | Leave a comment

“Hail Caesar! Or did you mean Jesus?…”

Okay, so sorry yet again for being so busy! As usual, here’s the post of the month!

I’ve been studying recently about the history of Early Christianity in the Roman Empire. As always, I love studying syncretism with the older pagan traditions, and all the really fascinating parallels between them! To remind you, in ancient cultures, cultural exchange was very very common place. Certain well known motifs, symbols, cultural concepts, basic mythological plot lines etc… could be and were shared among the various peoples nearby each other! Also, unlike Christianity, which is a more exclusivist religion who demands the worship/belief of only one god, pagan religions of the time allowed worship of different gods from different places. It wasn’t just you have to only worship these gods to the exclusion of others! One could adopt a local god from another place, and many did such as Roman soldiers stationed in the near east adopting Mithraism for instance. Certain god and goddesses too could also be recognized as the same deity with the same function, only we call them one name, and they call them another name. Mithraism had many parallels with Christianity, and was around the same time, so reasonably, they most likely evolved alongside each other! Take this hilarious observation:

Manfred Clauss, a scholar of the Mithraic cult, speculates that the similarities between Christianity and Mithraism may have made it easier for members of the Mithraic cult to convert to Christianity without having to give up their ritual meal, sun-imagery, candles, incense, or bells, a trend which might explain why, as late as the sixth century, the Christian Church was still trying to stamp out the stulti homines who still paid obeisance to the sun every morning on the steps of the church itself. (Wikipedia)

Much of the anti-Christian sentiments the Romans are often accused of today come from Christian writers… ;) In the Roman world, religions were a dime a dozen and there were plenty of mystery cults and all sorts of different beliefs! Christianity was not that “special” in that regard. However, there were some suspicions about that growing new religion:

For one thing, their exclusivist ways did clash a bit with the more flexible pagans. Their demands to only worship God alone and not participate in Roman customs and public sacrifices did leave a sour taste in some Romans’ mouths. Thing is, unlike in our society, the very concept of a divide between religion and public life/politics was unheard of! The gods mind you, were very real, as real as anything science has proven real in the physical world today, such as our belief in gravity! And like natural phenomena, the gods did have a very real influence on your life and the world at large. Displease them, and your entire society can crumble and be stricken with misfortune. Those pesky Christians who didn’t want to participate in the societal religious practices were one, displeasing said gods, and two, also sending a message of alienation from Rome’s values. This sense of unease with a group of people still can be felt today somewhat, for those who many people think aren’t fully integrating and embracing our own societal values in the West! Religion does play a part in it, albeit not as strong as for the Romans, but never the less, the unease remains…. Our own cultural framework of the separation of church and state, and the wider secularization of the West since the scientific revolution makes us take for granted the unease the Romans felt justified in having about this new budding sect.

Oh, and the other aspect of this was some issues with Christian doctrine as well… The Crucifixion for starters! Crucifixion was the most brutal, gory morbid punishment the Romans could mete out to someone and for the worst crimes! The Romans even decreed no Roman citizen would be subject to it! The crosses Christians today wear around their necks and display to a Roman, and many early Christians far more familiar with real crucifixions would be incredibly creepy and morbid! Sort of like wearing electric chairs instead ;) Don’t take for granted either, that punishment was a very real part of their existence and public at that! Many would have personally SEEN the bodies and the condemned up on a cross, so no wonder the Early Christians kept the whole crucifixion scene on the down low in iconography for a while ;) And what about drinking the blood of God and eating human flesh??? Yep! That idea was also… Gross! It wasn’t necessarily heard of as purely symbolic for outsiders hearing gossip, and for Christians who literally did and still do, think it turns into the flesh and blood of Christ didn’t help that image!!!

The Christians had a lot to prove in the way of not being subversive and creepy! However, the Rome vs. Christ rivalry happened even earlier before true “Christians” were possibly around! Christianity evolved out of a sect of Judaism, so the backstory to much of the trouble started with the occupied Jews/Earliest Christians in Roman Palestine and Judea! Like many occupied peoples, they weren’t a fan of imperialists ruling their lands, so they came up with a very clever way to fight back: insert subtle anti-Roman sentiments in their stories, and not just any stories, but ones billions of people read and adhere to today! ;)

The New Testament (NT) has many instances of Anti-Roman propaganda if one only looks! Many aspects of the character of Jesus Christ recent scholars argue, parallel Roman themes to show that Christ was the “true king” over the Romans! For example, his crucifixion paralleling aspects of the Roman triumphal parades such as the route taken, and the pagan temple being where a skull was found, and “Golgotha” (relating to skulls, like “skull hill”) also where skulls were found! The mocking of Christ also could be argued to be like a mock honoring of the emperor, with the imperial purple robe and the crown, albeit less comfy! The subversive idea, however was not to justify the Romans, but to secretly imply Jesus is indeed the true emperor in his “triumph” through the crucifixion narrative. He, like a Roman triumphator, had his procession, was crowned and given a purple robe as an emperor would be. In addition, he was also the sacrifice in the ceremony as well, him being crucified! Like an animal was sacrificed to please the gods, and therefore help the people prosper, so was Christ to help save humanity. Other instances before the big climax of the story include his welcome into Jerusalem parallels how an emperor would be welcomed into a city.

Then of course, are his titles, which bear resemblance to many titles shared by other pagan gods, such as “savior of the world” which he share with Augustus, “The Light”, “The Good Shepard” and others. As mentioned, it was very common for cultures to borrow each other’s ideas, imagery, and themes! Even symbols such as the star in the nativity story at the time were associated with Julius and Augustus Caesar being sons of a god! Jesus held similar titles, was given a quasi-triumph, greeted like an emperor, and was the “savior of the world” just like the current Roman emperor. (And let’s not forget that whole “King of the Jews” thing…) All this was meant to convey legitimacy that yes, Christ was the true king, NOT the Romans!!! ;) This only scratches the surface though of these new theories! Interestingly, aside from Romans of that time period picking up on these parallels, they went largely unnoticed until after movements to get rid of contemporary imperialism! After that, scholars started to look at the NT with a “post-colonial” lens of how conquered peoples can fight back in subtle ways.

The scholar arguing about Jesus’ path to his crucifixion as reminiscent of a Roman triumph is T. E. Schmidt, and he wrote a very interesting article on it, from which I got my examples, titled “The Crucifixion Narrative and The Roman Triumphal Procession” . Please read it, as it is a fascinating read! Also, another scholar, Micheal Peppard, compares Jesus being the son of God with Roman cultural conceptions of being a son of a god in this also great article “The Son of God in the Roman World: Divine Sonship in Its Social and Political Context” . If you want more detail, please check these two out :)

Overall though, my final thoughts are these: Would a Roman of the time pick up on the subtle anti-Roman stuff in the NT? I think so considering how strong many of the parallels are. I like to imagine, and the title alludes to this, Romans in a modern church hearing about Jesus, but saying “Hail Caesar!” at the end of the sermon because they think they’re talking about Augustus!!! We don’t see them, not being in their culture, but those who were immersed in these symbols would pick up right away! Imagine some of our most well known stories, symbols and such, and imagine if a company ripped them off and made their own ad campaign using say, another major company’s logo! I think we’d notice! For a Roman of the time, I’d argue, would pick up on these titles, customs and iconography being ripped off for Jesus as easily as we would A new budding fast food joint stealing the McDonald’s logo! I guess copyright wasn’t around yet ;) But this raises another question I will leave you with: Why then did the Romans end up embracing Christianity when it has such heavy anti-Roman overtones???

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(“Jesus, can you quit ripping off our cultural imagery, themes and customs??? Please and Thank you…”)

Posted in Ancient History, Religion | Leave a comment

Salvete Amici!!! :)

Hello friends (in English)! I have been busy as mentioned before, and am working on a more substantial post now I found an idea that you all will enjoy, I hope. A little spoiler alert: It is again touching on the idea of cultures thinking differently shaped by their own worldview! This time, writing or lack of it comes into play! That’s all the hints I’ll give for now, but can YOU think of ideas about how writing and literacy in our culture, or any culture might affect how one perceives the world around them??? ;) Stay tuned for that post, and in the meantime, please tell me in the comments your ideas!!!

In the mean time, I wanted to share this amazing YouTube channel called Caeso Vincentius Lentulus! He makes amazingly well done Latin videos with English subtitles on a variety of topics! My favorite is this one:

It’s so so funny, and I can now follow along matching most of the Latin to English subtitles. He also provides a bilingual description of the video in the about section below it!

Latīnē/Latin: Sperō necesse numquam esse tibi hoc sufferre. Vicinus suprā mē magnā vōce cantat per omnēs hōrās diēī. Nonne aliō locō clāmāre potest? Tam clāra (sed nōn bonō modō) est vox eius, nīmīrum sōlus nōn sum, quī ab eō vexātur.

Anglicē/English: I hope you never have to suffer through this. The neighbor above me sings loudly through all the hours of the day. Can’t he do it somewhere else? So loud and clear (but not in a good way) is his voice, surely I’m not the only one annoyed by him.

He is amazingly skilled at Latin, impressive considering I believe he is still a student, either college or graduate, but he doesn’t specify which! I am floored by his mad skills, as many today have lost the art of the educated learning Latin as they did in the past as a hallmark of being learned and scholarly. Here is his most recent video, touching upon the Cambridge Latin course, which I’ve read and also enjoyed! I tried to comment, but fear I got my Latin wrong!!! Mea Culpa ;)

I highly recommend you check out his amazing Latin channel! It is a fun and cool way to help absorb some of this amazing ancient language!!!

—Until next time, valete :)

Posted in Ancient History, Helping Make History More Interesting, Linguistics and History, Reviews | Leave a comment

Ancient Greeks and Romans Wouldn’t Mourn The Loss of a Mother???

I apologize if this post is a bit late, but I have been busy lately and in a drought of substantial ideas to write about. I just don’t want you all to think I’ve fallen off the grid! However, I did find one thing of notice that got to me enough to comment on!

I follow Eidolon, which I’ve mentioned before in a previous post, since I like classical history. They have some really cool stuff on there written by some really fascinating scholars. However, they can be a bit biased too as they view the ancient world through a more post modernist lens of social justice. As mentioned even in my last post early this month, I always stress that we cannot judge ancient cultures by our modern standards. While again, I enjoy reading stuff from Eidolon, sometimes they can come off as very judgmental of the ancient world by our modern standards for fairness and equality. This happened not too long ago, in a post entitled “Her Absence is Like The Sky” written about any material of grieving about the loss of a mother within the corpus of classical texts. The author, Jason Nethercut wrote in it his deeply tragic personal experience of the loss of his own mother, and how he wanted to find solace in the ancient world for his grief by writers of their time. Issue was, he said there was a striking absence of texts on the subject, surprising, as the loss of many others, such as husbands, fathers, children etc… were touched upon. One reasonable explanation was the texts simply weren’t discovered yet, or lost, as much of the ancient world’s texts are unfortunately lost to history :( I feel deeply for Nethercut, as his experience was immensely painful and any one with a heart could feel empathy for his pain. However, I had to object to one particular part, as a scholar, in his article asserting the Ancient Greeks and Romans didn’t feel the same way towards the loss of a mother:

“I wish I knew why we have this lack, because even that might offer me some sort of grounding. It’s a scary thought, but perhaps this feeling isn’t universally human. Perhaps Greco-Roman patriarchy was so entrenched that the loss of a mother was of no consequence to the ancient Greeks or Romans. “

That to me, sounded intensely callous. I do not deny that the ancient world was indeed less equal for women, and much more patriarchal. That is true, even in many societies today. However, that would not mean a son or daughter would grieve a mother any less. Greek and Roman women may not have been as free to be in the public sphere, but that does not mean they were any less valued in the home. It is our modern society that has determined women are fulfilled more by being in the public sphere, as politicians, business people, CEO s, doctors, lawyers etc… This may be good for our society now, but why project what we have decided is best onto ancient people millennia in the past??? Maybe, and this is my own presumption, maybe not all Roman women desired to be senators who felt enslaved to be in the house. Maybe not all Greek women wanted to go speak in the agora or be on the jury in a public trial. Could some have wanted more than what society told them was proper? Sure! Not everyone is happy in our own society either! But in a culture that raised men and women from birth to have distinct roles in the ancient world, many I would think may just be content to do what society deems right. We live in a more individualistic society, one of “I have to be unique and forge my own unique path and my own unique identity”, but many ancient societies were far more collectivist, and emphasized what the community needed as a whole. The ancients in many societies were big on order and stability. The order of society was immensely important, as without defined roles and hierarchies to them, chaos would ensure and it could be the literal end of the world! A woman doing a man’s job could be seen as threatening in that way too, and vice versa.

This does not mean, however, that women’s roles were devalued in their own proper function. Men could seek the glory of the public eye, while women, the glory of their homes and family. Just because our society is more egalitarian in deciding who can do what, that does not mean the role of provider and nurturer for the family was any less important than the career outside the home, or running wider society in law and government. Yes, then as now, mind you, people devalued and took women for granted. However, as now, it is so outlandish to think many in the ancient world appreciated their wives and mothers, in the societal role they were assigned? I mean, humans were always human, with the same fundamental attitudes, behaviors and desires. Going back to the critique at hand, the assertion a mother’s death would not be of notice is absurd! Humans have always needed mothers to nurture and raise them. The role of a mother is one that in countless cultures is deeply honored and cherished, for good reason! Mothers have been the rock, the shoulder to cry on, for countless great men (and women) throughout history! They may not have been in the front lines of history, but their behind the scenes influence is sorely overlooked! The role of a mother’s love and nurturing impacted people deeply then as now. In what culture is that concept of motherly love so alien, that mothers are inconsequential and easily forgotten? Name one! To imply the Ancient Greek and Romans couldn’t care enough to grieve their own mothers because they had more separate gender roles defies logic of what the human experience has been for millennia! To think women were merely slaves simply because they had different roles than men is a projection of our modern bias towards the subject seen through the lens of modern cultural values, not their own cultural lens. I mean, class distinctions were far greater back then too! But in many cases, even slaves could be mourned and trusted as family in all but name, despite cases of cruelty. Just because some women were abused, or felt trapped, does not represent all of Greek and Roman women!

The Romans honored motherhood greatly for instance. Roman mothers were tasked in the great responsibility of raising their children with proper roman virtues, not unlike Republican Motherhood within US history. Many mothers are known to have influenced great men, such as Julius Caesar, whose father died early in his young teens. Some even were well versed in politics, and guided their sons, albeit not being able to be a public part of them. Ancient Greek mothers had similar roles albeit not as public as Romans probably, as their situation, such as in Athens was stricter. They valued raising a family and many thought hat was their most important calling. “No citizen woman in her right mind, with the opportunity to get married, would chuck it all away just to get a job, assuming even that there was a job to get” (Motherhood in Ancient Athens). A woman, like anyone, is influenced to value what the culture she grows up into values. Women in our society are raised to seek out public careers, and be more than just a mother. I would argue, if motherhood is devalued, then it’s our culture, not theirs doing the most devaluing! The ancients had goddesses dedicated to the home and family, such as Hera, to the Greeks, and Juno to the Romans.

Just look at the human aspect of it too! You don’t have to be a historian to realize the impact of a mother’s love and care! Anyone lucky enough to have a dutiful mother can testify to the great influence of them in shaping your life, and great sorrow when she is no longer with you. The author proves that exact point by writing his intensely emotional article in tribute to his own mother and his immense loss! Yes, many cultural concepts are taken for granted as universal, when in fact, they are merely cultural, I certainly know that. But there are core human universals, I would argue, that humans simply evolved with as a species, and bonding deeply with one’s mother makes evolutionary sense! There has always been war, suffering, pondering the big questions about life and death, etc… in the human experience. Familial ties to one’s mother is one of those things many humans have experienced over the millennia of human history. To say that the Ancient Greeks and Romans literally devalued women so much that a mother meant nothing to them in her loss, I bet would be insulting to countless Greeks and Romans as it could be for many of us.

A better explanation for this lack of material? Maybe it was too great a loss to write about for others to see, or a cultural taboo, or simply, the texts have been lost to history, or not found yet. Either way, the theory mothers were devalued to the point of not even being grieved over is too far fetched, and biased with our own cultural bias towards the ancient world’s cultural values. I do not in the least, mean to tear apart a man so broken and in grief on any sort of personal level. But he writes as a scholar, and scholars need to be objective. His assertion that the Ancient Greeks and Romans would not feel as much grief over their mothers defies human experience in countless cultures past and present, and dare I argue, human nature.

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Posted in Ancient History, Issues in History, Opinion Piece, Reviews | 1 Comment

Some Things I Learned About Studying History…

Throughout my history blog, I’e reiterated time and time again many points when it comes to the study of history, but I wanted to put some of the most important ones in a list that have been touched upon in History is Interesting.

Value Judgments From the Present Have no Place in the Past 

I’ve said it until my face turns blue: It’s not scholarly to decide who’s good or bad by our modern day standards and cultural norms! Judging a historical figure and saying they’re this label or that label that hasn’t even come into existence in their time period is ludicrous. All this hysteria around trying to dismantle historical figures over contemporary attitudes of the period that don’t line up with ours only succeeds in a witch hunt for who’s not in line with modern social justice attitudes! However, while politically correct today to think one way, in past eras, the opposite attitude would be the PC way to go! Even so, many historical figures we honor today are honored for achievements completely unrelated to some unsavory opinion they held. Yes, that person might have been a slave owner, or racist, or sexist, or a host of other things we have decided not to be anymore, but were those attitudes racist, sexist etc… at the time? And do their personal opinions on such matters have anything to do with what we honor them for? Maybe they do, but maybe not. Of course, the issue of value judgements is not just having to do with individuals, but also cultural practices and general attitudes of the times. For example, gender roles. Men and women’s roles were more separate throughout history, and it was the norm for thousands of years. We may have decided differently in this era, but in past eras, it was the norm, and strange to think otherwise. Or consider social class. Our egalitarian attitude and social mobility was quite alien to many in the past! What would be considered classist today would simply be a factual opinion. The “wrongs” of our ancestors back in their day and within their cultural matrix were no more wrong than we feel our opinions are! To judge them by standards they haven’t even dreamed of is unfair and unscholarly. Who are we to be so arrogant as to say “We’re on the moral pinnacle, and everyone else was WRONG!”? Studying history in a scholarly light means learning about the culture for what it was, not what we wish it were. After all, what will people be saying a century or more from now about us? ;)

Different Time, Different Circumstances

On a relate note, perhaps some of the reasons for different attitudes were because of different circumstances. For example, the staunch abolitionist we all love and admire today was seen as outlandish by many more moderates and slave owners. Not only because, perhaps, of the differentiating attitudes about race and such, but also the fact much of the economy, especially in the South was based on slave labor. Even if they were to agree slavery was somehow unjust, complete and sudden abolition would have overturned the economy! To suddenly free all the slaves, it would mean economic ruin, and many most likely thought it was a “necessary evil”. Even if they wanted to free their slaves, many couldn’t since the slaves were part of the estate, and had to be passed down to an heir unless there were none. For many, it could have been out of their control! Without concepts of “racism” in the modern sense, or a sense of it being as unjust as we feel today, it’s easy to believe that many who were not pro-slavery would be hesitant to take the radical stance of complete abolition. Or another example, slavery in antiquity also helped the economy as well as almost every household in many civilizations! Aside from no racial component unlike American slavery, it was also just seen as the norm if you were born into that class, or captured in war for instance. Anyone could possible become a slave through poverty or war. Abolishing slavery in that system would have been seen as seen more ludicrous. While today slavery is not justified by any means, it deserves an honest look at the past circumstances to see why others back then had a different view.

Another heated example also is conquest. The fact European conquerors came to the New World and did horrible genocides and pillaging while today is appalling, back then was the norm. The expansionist attitude was the usual order of the day for many nations, and let’s not forget all the in-fighting within Europe and the Old World! In fact, the attitude of conquest has been around since humanity began, and there’s not one group who can honestly say they haven’t tried! The indigenous peoples over in the New World did it amongst each other too just as brutally with tribes wiping out tribes, enslaving their enemies and taking their land by force. Europeans just did more devastation since they had more technology, and diseases (Which they can’t be faulted for since Germ theory was not around! And don’t think they were the first ones to do biological warfare!) Luckily, the imperialist attitude of yesterday is not as accepted today, but throughout most of history, conquest was the norm, and we wouldn’t be here today without it, as unflattering as it is.

People in different time periods operated and made their choices and had their opinions shaped by the cultural matrix they lived in. No man is an island, and the outside world and what it thinks, influences what you think, even today! Our culture influences how we perceive the world and what we think is justified. Just look at what we criticize today from only a few years ago in hindsight, yet we fail to remember what it was like to be in the heat of the moment, not knowing the actual outcome to criticize based off of! You don’t have to agree in order to be impartial to why they felt as they did.

There’s Never Just One Side

Which leads to this point! We like to think we would know what choices we would have made. We would have been on this side, not that! We would have been the rebels or followers. Freed more slaves, or hid them. Hidden people in our attics. Fought or objected. Voted this way, not that. Pressed the button, or not. But we can’t know, now can we? We have the bias, and luxury of looking at history after the fact. After it’s all been done and over with and we know the outcome. But isn’t it pretty shortsighted and arrogant to proclaim they did wrong, from our pedestal of knowledge? We cling to one side, the side we were taught as “right”, yet not truly look into the circumstances that motivated the other side. Very few are brave enough to challenge what we’ve been taught was the right thing to do, and only decry our ancestors as misguided, stupid and wrong. But for example, did you ever stop to think of the fear it took our country to go to the lengh to intern Japanese Americans in WWII? We can say from our pedestals of knowledge, it was unfounded and unjust, but could they, in the thick of it all? Why take the risk to national security? Imagine yourself as a leader in a high stakes situation! Would YOU know what you would have done in someone’s place without knowing what we know the outcome was now? Maybe the threat wasn’t founded in the end, or the war could have been prevented. But without knowledge in hindsight, a decision must be made NOW! Maybe you end up right, maybe you end up wrong, but is it fair to condemn someone for what they could not have known??? Imagine you want to help oppressed people, or join the rebellion, but you also know if caught, will be the end for you! It’s easy to say you’d take the risk, but without being in the situation, you can’t truly ever know. Each side acts as they do judging from what they know. After all, future generations will criticize what we decided was the right thing to do!

Re-Writing History to Further Our Agenda is Not Studying History!

Propagandizing history has been done for millennia, it’s not new, but that doesn’t mean it’s right! To honestly study history, one needs to seek out what actually happened, not what we wish happened! Oversimplifying, omitting, even outright lying, is NOT being scholarly! Trying to twist the truth of history to suit some contemporary agenda is not scholarship, or legitimate history, just propaganda! History can be unflattering, even appalling, yet downplayed to minimize damage to a modern image. Conversely, it can be over-glorified, overblown, and the negatives downplayed to heighten someone’s image. In both cases, the nuances get lost in the propaganda that makes it black and white, either or. Either way, sanitizing history to make it what we want it to be rather than what it is is a misuse of history!

You Don’t Have To Agree, to Be Impartial

It’s okay to have a personal opinion though about history! I am not pro-slavery, pro-conquest, racist, sexist or think one must stick to their “place” and never be allowed to better themselves! Many people and cultures I study are, but that doesn’t mean my opinions in the present, must be dictated by what was in the past! I don’t hold with bringing back Greek pederasty into contemporary American society, even though I won’t judge it in the context of 5th century BC Greece. As a scholar, my scholarly study and judgement is kept separate from my personal opinion of the matter at hand. Deciding who was right and wrong is not the purpose of studying history, nor scholarship of any kind. Attempts to do such are propaganda and making false comparisons to modern day circumstances and standards. However, one’s personal opinion is free to be whatever you choose. You can draw impartial conclusions, while also forming your own opinions as to whether it was ethical today.

We Can’t Change The Past, But We Can Change The Future

On a last note, I’m not saying using history to motivate us to make change is bad or biased. We have many times before, all for the better. If we don’t like our past, we can make changes to improve our present and future. The past is past, and is a done deal. However, we can change our future the way we want it to be in the image of our ideals. My issue here I want to speak out on though is when we decide to whine and moan and feel that we’re bogged down by our past, and can’t make changes due to our past weighing us down. Yes, history influenced where we are today, but I can’t fully agree with the saying “those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it”. We don’t have to be in constant mourning of an unflattering past, to feel we need a change in the present. Can’t we say something needs change in of itself, not just because of a past injustice? For those who feel they are still bogged down by their past, why can’t they change their future still? You can’t change the injustices that happened in the past, or the fact they may have affected how the present is at the moment. However, you CAN change the future to make it the way you want it if you work hard enough to make the change. The past doesn’t come into play, just a present that needs some change. What can be done to change an undesirable present are things that are in the here and now, not way back when! History is important to study and be aware of, but you are not chained as slaves to your past, and you can make the future what you want it to be.

I love studying history, but there are so many things bogging it down I had to speak out!


Posted in Ancient History, Early Modern History, Issues in History, Military, Modern History, Opinion Piece | 2 Comments

History is Interesting’s 4th Anniversary!

Can you believe it’s been 4 years of blogging about history? I can’t! In 4 years, I’ve covered from pre-history up to modern history! Since my interests in history go by time period, I focus on an time frame, such as classical history, pre history, modern history, 17th century, Middle Ages etc… etc… for a few weeks or months, then move on to the next. Cool thing is though, I can cycle around and come back to previous time periods of interest, and learn brand new things I haven’t the first time around! For example, I liked the Ancient Greeks and Romans, the Middle Ages, then the 1700’s, then the Victorian and Edwardian era, then back again to the Greeks and Romans! If you follow me closely, you can track what I’m into and what I’ve been interested in, through what I choose to write about! Recently, It’s been about classical history. Right now, I’m sort of in between interests, as ever so often, I get a more lull period before moving on to what’s next. However, some topics keep my interest, even if more in the background, all the time! for example, a common interest throughout many time periods is how religion affected society, and the history of religion, especially Judaeo-Christian ones. Syncretism is a huge interest of mine, and the development of early Christianity. I also like intertwining linguistics in history, learning about how languages evolved, and cognates in modern languages for instance. Making history more interdisciplinary with other fields too captures my interest, such as anthropology, and sciences such as biology. I try to have many historical interests, and love studying about the culture and attitudes of the time periods I study.

Writing a history blog has been a real treat for me as a history buff! I love connecting with other fellow history buffs, and reading works by those who are more expert and learned in the fields of study I’m interested in. I’ve discovered many cool and interesting blogs that have taught me much more and go in much more depth than most internet sites! The learned ones who have studied history seriously in their chosen time periods inspire me to get to know more, and develop my own passions and opinions. I also love getting to put my ideas out there too and I feel I have grown a ton as a writer since my first short posts for the beginning, to my longer more detailed ones of recent. History is Interesting has helped me get my voice out there for my love of history and scholarship, and I feel I have grown thus far and hope to continue to grow in my love of history :)

For the moment, unfortunately, I’ve had rather a drought of ideas. If anyone would be so kind to recommend some possible topics, please let me know! 4 years of blogging makes one cover much ground, although history is full of millions of topics! I try to write two well thought out posts per month, but until more ideas flow through, I may have to make it only once a month, as I still do not want to skip a month, as I have never in the past 4 years! Overall though, History is Interesting has been a pleasure to work on, and I hope to continue on my journey as a budding historian for year number 5 :) Until then, here’s to 4 years of History is Interesting!



Posted in Ancient History, Helping Make History More Interesting, Middle Ages, Modern History, Opinion Piece, Paleolithic and Neolithic, Religion | 3 Comments

Some Resources for Learning Ancient Greek…

I wanted to comment on some great resources for learning more Ancient Greek that I found but never got the change to write about and share as I try to learn some. I thought this would be a good time to share these with those interested in Ancient Greek :)

If you’re really serious about learning Ancient Greek, or Latin for that matter, the Latin/Greek Institute at Brooklyn College in NY offers a 10 week or so intensive course meant to cover two to three years worth of college courses in the language! It runs each summer, and while notorious for being extremely hard and time consuming, many participants felt rewarded by going there. I never went, unfortunately, but it sounds like a great resource for those who live nearby and can jump at the opportunity! I’d love to hear if anyone reading this went or knows someone who did! A description on their website says:

The Latin/Greek Institute offers total-immersion programs in Latin or Ancient Greek that enable students to master the material normally covered in two to three years in a single summer. Founded in 1973 as a collaborative effort between Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, the Institute is the most intensive summer language program of its kind. All programs are team-taught by experienced instructors. Hourly rotation of faculty provides for exposure to a variety of approaches, and faculty closely mentor and advise students. Our graduates typically return to their home institutions prepared to excel in advanced or upper-division reading courses and to pass graduate departmental translation exams.

An article written by someone who did go details his experience of the program- What I Learned About Myself While Learning To Translate Ancient Greek.

For those who don’t have the opportunity to travel all the way to NY and devote the entire summer to that “linguistic boot camp” as I would call it, some helpful videos explain much of Ancient Greek vocabulary, grammar and learning techniques:

This video demonstrates a learning technique called “Where are your keys?”. The object of the game is to learn through relating words to the objects and contexts and slowly working your way up to understanding more complex questions using what you learned before as the foundation. It is also complete immersion in the target language, no native language or other languages allowed. For example, in this video, the teacher introduces what each object is. As the videos progress on his YouTube channel, he asks questions such as if the object is what he says it is, and even negation is taught when the answer is not what he just said. repetition is used frequently so the concept of what he is trying to convey sinks in. This game emphasizes more “natural learning” as children do their first language, rather than memorization of complex grammar rules and tables. It also uniquely, uses some ASL for hand gestures to communicate some rules in the game, as to not break the total immersion bubble. You can learn a lot by following along to the game!

This video shows a different technique called “Total Physical Response”. Like WAYK (Where are your keys?), it emphasizes the more natural, intuitive learning children use to learn their native language versus complex grammar rules. The idea is similar to “Where are your keys?” in that you have to figure out what is being said to you, only this time, it’s much more “physical” hence the name where you move your body around to demonstrate verbs and a sequence of actions. Both can be used to teach many complex grammar concepts, in a more natural way versus a more artificial way like the traditional classroom set up of memorizing grammar rules or translating words using your native language as the middle man, so to speak. This too is also complete immersion in the target language. By watching the video, you can start to learn to associate the verbs used to command with the action, as well as the nouns featured in the commands.

This video shows a similar method to both WAYK (Where are your keys?) and TPR (Total Physical Response) where you answer questions in a story in the language. Same idea about immersion leading the way to language learning. The teacher can circle around by cycling back to details in the story by asking questions about them then asking multiple ways to drill the ideas and details from the story in your head. You can learn new grammar concepts by modifying the details in the simple story, such as making everything in the past tense, or adding plurals, or negating statements, for some examples.

The pros of these methods, are a more natural way to learn a language, cutting out the middle man of one’s own native language and artificial grammar rules to memorize. However, for me at least, using some more traditional methods helps speed things along when there’s confusion in the immersion environments. Sometimes, it’s good to know a general rule, so you can apply it to other situations beyond what is immediately being learned. You can gradually pick up on patterns learned the more “natural” way, but it is nice once in a while to be told straight up what the rule is! More abstract concepts, like the subjunctive for instance, can be harder to convey through acting out alone.

This video is helpful for beginners like me to learn the sounds of the alphabet! I like they give example words to see how the language sounds. Some videos are obvious they have an American or English accent versus a more native sounding one, but this one sounds more authentically Greek!

Sometimes, it’s good just to listen to how the language is supposed to sound like spoken, and not just read about:

This comes from the New Testament, and is read completely in Koine Greek… I love it’s in this cool cartoon form!

I love the way the reader reads it so smoothly! I found out he’s a native speaker of Modern Greek, so that must help a lot. Many videos people make sound very stilted in speaking Ancient Greek, so it’s rare to find it treated more like a living language.

Lastly just for fun :)


Posted in Ancient History, Linguistics and History, Reviews | 1 Comment