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Sir Henry William, Knight of Windsor

Medieval knights were courageous, dedicated to God and love. They were known to rescue damsels in distress and gave chivalry its name. At least, that's how we picture the Knights as fairy tales have shown us. But were they like that? Today, we hear the recounts of Sir Henry William, Knight of Windsor.

Disclaimer: This is a work of contemporary fiction, based on historical facts. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Accolade (Dubbing/Adoubement)

“I dub thee, Sir Henry William, Knight of Windsor.”

Knights on Horses

In the year c. 1200, I was appointed as a Knight of Windsor. I remembered it clearly. The journey to becoming a knight was not easy. There were a lot of challenges I had to face. I must say; I was lucky to be the son of a nobleman, an advantage from birth. The sons of the nobles, including me, were sent to live in the castle of the Lords. This commenced our education of learning the skills required to be a Knight. For me, training began when I was only 9 years old. Combat training includes archery and hand to hand combat using swords and other weapons. These were part of the training to prepare my comrades and I to become a skillful Knight, and to prepare us for future jousting tournaments. At that time, as a mere nine-year-old, I was petrified. I was afraid that I would execute a wrong move and endanger my comrades. But God has been good. Not only were we taught about combat fighting, but we were also taught about Christianity and our Heavenly Father Himself.

We started our duties as a Knight at the age of 16. Practicing in heavy armor, tending to my horse, and cleaning my weapon were all part of my daily activities. This was before I was dubbed as an official Knight of the Land. At the age of 20, I was then made a Knight in a ceremony.

The Vigil

I had to go through a ritual bathing before my formal entry to Knighthood. My body was thoroughly cleansed as a symbol of purification. We were told to wear a white vesture that represented purity, covered by a red robe that symbolized nobility. The black shoes and hose stood for death.  A sword and shield were placed on the altar.  I, then knelt at the Chapel altar, in silent prayer for ten hours. Following the next morning, I was joined by others to hear Mass and a lengthy sermon on the duties of a Knight. A sponsor then took possession of the sword and shield that had been blessed by the priest and was passed to the Lord who was to conduct the Knighthood ceremony. Finally, my comrades and I swore an oath of allegiance to the Lord.

Knights’ Armor

My armor was part of what made me a Knight. It showed the people how I was always prepared to serve my Land, my people, and to protect them from vice. With the armor being made up of many different parts, it was not the easiest thing to put on daily.

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My fellow comrades and I began to follow the practice of chivalry. We were expected to have not only the strength and skills to face combat, but also a chivalrous heart to accompany this aggressive side of ours. I was expected to follow morals and virtues, such as:

  • Live to serve his King and his Country
  • Avoid Lying
  • Cheating or Torture
  • Believe in Justice for All
  • Respect Women
  • Avenge Wrongs

Courtly Love

As a Knight, I fell in love with someone I should not have. I sworn to secrecy, a relationship that only two of us could share. It was because her life belonged to a King, but her heart was mine. Her marriage did not deter my undying love for her. My lady and I would exchange tokens of gifts. I would write her poems, and serenade her in the gardens. I’d give her flowers and make grand gestures. Everything I did, I had her in mind. She made my world beautiful. 

As I ponder of the lives that will come after me, I can only hope that the Knighthood can continue its glory and importance in the future. With the progress of the Kingdom, our society could become very different from what we have now. Knighthood, with all possibility, could be abolished in the coming future. If it is continued, it might not have the same meaning or purpose anymore.

Women in Islam.

Women play a major role in the development of any civilisation. An important aspect of Islam too is women, however, they are portrayed in such bad light. This post is mainly written to shine light on how its not just some sects of Islam that treat women shabbily. Its sects of every religion and country in the world. For example, for the status of the Indian woman, Encyclopedia Britannica states: In India, subjection was a cardinal principle. Day and night must women be held by their protectors in a state of dependence says Manu. The rule of inheritance was agnatic, that is descent traced through males to the exclusion of females. In Hindu scriptures, the description of a good wife is as follows: “a woman whose mind, speech and body are kept in subjection, acquires high renown in this world, and, in the next, the same abode with her husband.”

Women are crucial for civilizations to advance, and this holds true for Islamic societies and civilizations as well. Yet, women in Islam are usually shown in a negative way. Not only in Islam, but also in other religions and societies, women are sometimes treated and represented poorly. In India, for instance, women were often shown as hopeless and subjected to the wishes of their "protectors" instead of independent and self-reliant. Inheritance, too, was handed down through males while females were left out.

In Athens, women were not better off than either the Indian or the Roman women.

Athenian women were always minors, subject to some male – to their father, to their brother, or to some of their male kin.

Her consent in marriage was not generally thought to be necessary and “she was obliged to submit to the wishes of her parents, and receive from them her husband and her lord, even though he were stranger to her.”

Another example is of women in Greece. Athenian women were also treated like subjects to male family members such as brothers or fathers. They often did not have a say in their own marriage, and had to give in to the wished of their parents and marry whoever they wanted her to, regardless of whether the man was a stranger or not.

A Roman wife was described by an historian as: “a babe, a minor, a ward, a person incapable of doing or acting anything according to her own individual taste, a person continually under the tutelage and guardianship of her husband.”

In the Encyclopedia Britannica, we find a summary of the legal status of women in the Roman civilization:

In Roman Law a woman was even in historic times completely dependent. If married she and her property passed into the power of her husband… the wife was the purchased property of her husband, and like a slave acquired only for his benefit. A woman could not exercise any civil or public office, could not be a witness, surety, tutor, or curator; she could not adopt or be adopted, or make will or contract. Among the Scandinavian races women were: under perpetual tutelage, whether married or unmarried. As late as the Code of Christian V, at the end of the 17th Century, it was enacted that if a woman married without the consent of her tutor he might have, if he wished, administration and usufruct of her goods during her life.

Historians describe women in Rome too as "babes", "minors" or "wards" who were under the custody and of their husbands, unable to decide or do anything for themselves.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica summarizes how women were treated by Roman Law by stating that they were fully reliant on their husbands, to the point that their property was also passed into charge of the husbands. They could not hold office or govern in any way, nor could they testify as witnesses, nor could they hold positions as tutors or curators. Apart from such public services and posts, they could not even choose to adopt or write their own wills. The Encyclopaedia also mentions that Scandinavian women, regardless of their marital status, were always under guardianship. If a woman decided to get married without the consent of her guardian, she would face dire consequences.

According to the English Common Law:

…all real property which a wife held at the time of a marriage became a possession of her husband. He was entitled to the rent from the land and to any profit which might be made from operating the estate during the joint life of the spouses. As time passed, the English courts devised means to forbid a husband’s transferring real property without the consent of his wife, but he still retained the right to manage it and to receive the money which it produced. As to a wife’s personal property, the husband’s power was complete. He had the right to spend it as he saw fit.

The English Common Law is another instance of the same thing that all the examples above illustrate. It states that when a woman got married, all property she owned would go into ownership or control of her husband. If she owned property that brought in money, he would have all rights over that income as well. Over time, the court put into place rules that prevented husbands from handing over property without consent of their wives, but they still had the right to the income it brought in.

Contradictory to most of these, Islam actually provided with a number of rules that respected women.

The Quran clearly indicates that marriage is sharing between the two halves of the society, and that its objectives, besides perpetuating human life, are emotional well-being and spiritual harmony. Its bases are love and mercy.

On the other hand, we actually see rules in Islam that treat women far better than any of the instances discussed.

According to the Quran, marriage is not important only for procreation, but also for "emotional well-being" and "spiritual harmony". Love and mercy are two of the fundamental aspects of marriage.

Among the most impressive verses in the Quran about marriage is the following.

“And among His signs is this: That He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest, peace of mind in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. Lo, herein indeed are signs for people who reflect.” [Noble Quran 30:21]

The Quran says much about marriage, and one verse in particular speaks about how God created a spouse or a soul mate for everyone so that human beings may find peace of mind, comfort and accord with their husband or wife.

According to Islamic Law, women cannot be forced to marry anyone without their consent.

Ibn ‘Abbas reported that a girl came to the Messenger of God, Muhammad, and she reported that her father had forced her to marry without her consent. The Messenger of God gave her the choice… (between accepting the marriage or invalidating it). [Ibn Hanbal No. 2469]

In another version, the girl said:

“Actually I accept this marriage but I wanted to let women know that parents have no right (to force a husband on them)” [Ibn Majah, No. 1873]

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Islamic Law also states that women cannot be forced into marriage without consent, and it contains a story in which a girl who was being forced into marriage was approached by the "Messenger of God" who asked her to agree or disagree to the marriage. In one version of the story, the girl actually agrees to the marriage, but she wanted to make a point of letting her parents realize that it was her right to decide.

The rules for married life in Islam are clear and in harmony with upright human nature. In consideration of the physiological and psychological make-up of man and woman, both have equal rights and claims on one another, except for one responsibility, that of leadership. This is a matter which is natural in any collective life and which is consistent with the nature of man.

The Quran thus states:

“…And they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them, and men are a degree above them.” [Noble Quran 2:228] (in relation to protection)

In Islamic law, therefore, both men and women in marriage have equal rights, apart from rules about leadership, which lie with men only.

The Quran says that women have "similar" rights that men have, but men are a "degree above" women when it comes to leadership and protection, traits that are usually considered natural for men in any society.

 

Islam decreed a right of which woman was deprived both before Islam and after it (even as late as this century), the right of independent ownership. According to Islamic Law, woman’s right to her money, real estate, or other properties is fully acknowledged. This right undergoes no change whether she is single or married. She retains her full rights to buy, sell, mortgage or lease any or all her properties. It is nowhere suggested in the Law that a woman is a minor simply because she is a female. It is also noteworthy that such right applies to her properties before marriage as well as to whatever she acquires thereafter.

Islamic Law also differs from the examples of other societies discussed above in the matter of property. Here, a woman's property is solely her own, whether or not she is married. Women can do whatever they like with their money, land, or any sort of property, and they are not considered minors. Not only does this rule hold for property in her possession before marriage, but also to property she attains after marriage.

Final Task: Living with the Mongolians

Many young cats gathered excitedly to receive their final assignment in the Grand Hall within the Sacred Chapel. Silence fell upon them as MaMa, the High Priestess, began to address the crowd.

MaMa: “Please read the instructions on the scroll carefully. The High Council will be watching out for your safety. Dismissed!”

Scroll Done

~

Marshmallow: “Clear skies, green pasture, abundant forests. This is totally different from the expected hot, blaring sun!”

 

Milkshake: “Haha! And, we are finally not lost or tumbling down one another!”

 

Oreo: “Well, 3 years have passed ever since our first mission. It certainly is strange to be one of these skinny two-legged beings…”

 

Soon after, the Three Nekos received an order to gather at a glowing red paw that appeared on an ancient tree nearby. Moments later, a Mongolian cat (disguised as a human) briefed the group about the Mongolians on mannerism and some background information before bringing them to their destination.

~

DAY 1

Decked in a form-fitting robe and exquisite accessories, a tanned, muscular man greeted them at the village entrance. The rest of the tribesmen appeared and greeted the guests warmly.

Carlisle: “Welcome, honourable guests! I am, Carlisle, the Chieftain of this tribe. Please make yourself at home here and let my fellow tribesmen show you how hospitable we Mongolians are! Enjoy yourselves!

 

Thereafter, the group was split into 3 teams guided by one of the tribesman. As for the protagonists, the Chieftain was their guide.

 

Marshmallow: (timidly) “Sir, will we be shown around?”

 

Carlisle: “Yes! Before that, let’s all come to my house for a feast. Come along now!”

 

Along the way…

 

Carlisle: “We, Mongolians are very different from the people of Great China. Instead of staying at a spot, we, pastoral nomads, will move several times a year in search of water and grass for our precious companions. Now, I believe, is a good season for my people and animals to stay for long!”

Oreo: (surprised) “You consider animals as your precious companions?”

 

Carlisle: “Well, definitely!  We rely on them for survival in terms of transportation, food and even clothing. We respect nature and reap its goodness. Dogs are our best friend. They help protect the herd against potential predators.”

 

~

Carlisle: “Welcome to my home, also known as gers!”

The three Nekos marveled at the spacious area, filled with lavish furniture.

They were treated like royalty, served with a special hospitality bowl that contains various delicacies: homemade cheese, flour pastries (bordzig), sugar cubes and candy. 

They also tasted many different types of meat from sheep and goat. According to the host, they were the fattest animals. Meat-filled dumplings were said to be served to guests as a form of tradition. It was customary for guests to drink alcoholic drinks as a form of respect to the host family. With that, the Nekos were content. They drifted off to sleep.

~

DAY 2

Wide awake, the three Nekos requested to observe the animals. Carlisle brought them to the field.

Marshmallow: “It’s strange how we can’t understand them…Maybe because we are in human form.”

Oreo: “Carlisle, do share why these animals play an important part in your lives.”

Carlisle: “Yes, sure! Sheep are vital for our survival. Their wool is useful for clothing-making, blankets and even the outer covering of the gers. Boiled mutton is a good part of our diet. laughs Sheep dung provide a good source of fuel even though we have coal and firewood!”

“Other animals like: goats, camels, horses, yaks and oxens are play an important role in our lives. In fact, we adore them!”

“In summer, the tribeswomen will milk the mares. Some of the milk will be fermented into an alcoholic drink: airag (or, koumiss).”

Milkshake: “Wow, these animals play a crucial role to aid the survival of the Mongolians!”

 

Just then, they heard a commotion in the village. A funeral was taking place.

Carlisle: “Come on, you’re here on a happy visit.  The burial will not happen until tomorrow, early dawn.”

~

DAY 3

Oreo: “Hush! Don’t be a scaredy cat! Let’s hurry!”

 

The Nekos climbed through the hills into the forest. In the center lay a naked, frail body wearing only loincloth. Several grey wolves were busy consuming the body. Just then, a wolf appeared behind the Nekos.

Wolf: (growling) “How dare you intrude on our sacred consumption! We assume the precious role of helping humans send their dead to the heavenly sky!”

Milkshake: “How come we can’t communicate with other animals?”

Wolf: “Because they are just not interested!”

 

The wolf signaled for the others to come over. They bared their teeth, surrounding the Nekos. When they were about to pounce, out of the blue…

 

MaMa: “Welcome back! Congratulations on passing your final test!”

 

The three Nekos opened their eyes and were greeted by a familiar sight – the chapel’s interior made them feel safe. Another timely rescue!


Thank you for reading the Adventure of the Three Nekos! Hope you have enjoyed this journey~ :)

 

Qin Shi Huang - Terra Cotta warriors

Qin-Terracotta-Army-3.jpg

qin-terracotta-army-13 Why was the terracotta army built?

First Emperor Qin, who died at a young age of 50 in 210 BC was the emperor that unified the state by conquering seven rival kingdoms. He was the emporer from whom China gets its name, first law written, single written language, currency and standard measurement and many others ordered the creation of this army of terracotta statues. His idea was to have them as guards and as aides for a future after-life hence made to be buried with him. Some sources said it was a show of his glory, to remember the army triumphed over the other warring states to unite China.

What is made of? How is it made?

Interestingly the terracotta warriors are made of natural materials found near the tomb of Qin Shi Huang. They material used in the mould of the figurines was ‘yellow earth’ taken from the ground around the tomb, as well as certain amount of white grit is also found in the material. The materials adhesive quality and plasticity structure is said to frontier material technology of that period.

Every one would agree that the details on the terracotta warriors are superbly detailed. Reading from one of the source, it is probably the most consistent art figurine made in that century of 2000 years ago. So how is it made? It is said to have 18 layers of work on each segment of the body.

The terracotta warriors are originally painted in very elaborate shades and colours to signify the stature and profile of the warriors, however the paint did not manage to last the stand of time and oxidised. When the artefacts were found, they were steel grey in their raw material without the glaze and colouring of the bright colourful original painting.

How many types of Terracotta Warriors are there?

For all the warrior fanatics out there, the burning question to know how many types of Terracotta Warriors are there? Till date, 8 variations are discovered, and they are terracotta sergeant, standing position archer, kneeling position archer (shows how much the Chinese military rely on archery as a weapon), warrior, military officer, Terracotta Cavalry, Driver of Chariot, and the general statue.

Where is the Terracotta Army found in China?

The Terracotta warriors andhorses are found 1.5 kilometers parameter of Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum in Xi-An, Shaanxi Province. 8000 life size terracotta warriors, 130 chariots with 520 hourses found covers a land area of 22,000 square meters (estimate of 5 football fields)

Qin-Terracotta-Army-3

Fun fact of Terracotta Army?

  • it took 720,000 builders to make the Terracotta army
  • The Army figures excavation is only discovered in 1974, 2000years later, by farmers while digging for a water well. It was found near the Tomb of the First emperor.

qin-terracotta-army-10

Famous people that visited t he Terracotta wariors in Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum

Mark Zukerberg

MZ terra - Copy

 

Citations

  1. http://www.scmp.com/tech/enterprises/article/1872856/back-against-wall-zuckerberg-visits-terracotta-warriors-jogs-around
  2. http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/archaeology/terracotta_warriors.html
  3. http://www.history.com/shows/ancient-discoveries/articles/the-terra-cotta-army
  4. http://www.topchinatravel.com/xian/types-of-terracotta-warriors.htm
  5. http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/shaanxi/xian/terra_cotta_army/sculpture.htm

OURSTORY OF THEIR STORIES

         

  Welcome! For people dropping by for the first time, we will just run

short summary of our first two posts. Our first post on Egypt attempted to introduce alternate theories behind the creation of the pyramids. Whereas our second post introduced the perspective of viewing the Song Dynasty’s culture by being in their shoes (pun intended). Our efforts then culminate to our third and final blog to bring yet another post on perspectives.

            In this post, we seek to reiterate on the idea of history as 1)a matter of perspective and interpretation of the observer and 2)how it is twisted by authors to demonize some individuals.

             History is commonly critiqued to be "his story", the account of male historians. “Ourstory” is then a double barreled word that hopes to include people whom we have always thought of as “others” and to cast aside any gender connotations into our understanding of our own pasts with the help of two examples--- Chinggis Khan and Wu Zetian respectively.

 

Chinggis Khan (c.1162-1227CE)

         So just before we jump into the topic of the Mongols, we would like to ask: What do you think of when we mention the Mongols?

Wait for it…

Dragging monggol

          If that is the picture that came to mind, it is only understandable. Much of the sources were written by cultures invaded by the Mongols(Author's Note). It would be similar to having only one voice against the many. The Mongols were portrayed as the barbarians, the uncivilized, violent, and the incarnation of evil, who plundered, maimed and butchered millions. Having been viewed as the "other" by many cultures, we speculate that the Mongols might have also internalized those views to see the other cultures as the "other" as well. They then forge it into their own identity and pride as evidenced by their own writing and reverence for Chinggis Khan that is seen in various locations of Mongolia up till today.

Image2. Timeline of Chinggis Khan compiled from various sources.

         Little is known about the life of Tenmujin when he was young. His father, a leader of a small clan, had been poisoned by a rival clan and the other members of his clan left the broken family to fend for themselves in the harsh condition of the Mongolian plains. Living in the environment which seems to scream “Kill or be killed”, this young boy would later grow to unite the other tribes and be known by the title of Chinggis Khan. Although he is better known in popular sources as Genghis Khan, we have opted for the original pronunciation for his title--- Chinggis Khan.

         As the saying goes, “all’s fair in love or war”. Uniting the tribes on the Mongolian steppes, he grouped his army into divisions of ten, hundred and thousand for a good chain of command. In a time when wars were based on bravery, the feints of the Mongols to hit and retreat would surely be seen as cowardly, but a coordination that is still used in our modern world war and sports. We can see this as an intelligent move on his part to conserve his forces against a larger number in future battles to come. Chinggis Khan utilized an effective psychological warfare which struck fear into cities that he had yet to come into contact with. Public displays of massacres for towns and cities that resisted his invasion were warnings to the others. His agents were planted in advance to spread the word of the Mongols’ invasion and the examples made of the earlier resistances were encouraging enough to make subsequent invasions(surrenders) swifter for the Mongols.

Image 3. Weaving fear into his identity for efficiency in the psychological warfare.Image 3. Weaving fear into his identity for efficiency in the psychological warfare.

 

             Speeches such as Image 3, were used to demoralize people, but do note that he was against resistance and not religions. His allowed the practice of free religion. Moreover, is it really sensible for us to expect war and expansions to be similar to Disney productions with happily-ever afters? Another perspective proposed by Julia Pongratz in her research for the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology says that the massive depopulation allowed forests to regrow and reduce carbon levels in the air. In short, these people were unintentionally eco-friendly!

           Chinggis Khan was not all violence and without peaceful approaches. He had attempted talks with the Islamic Khwarazmian Empire but the death of his envoys were a clear declaration of war. In addition, he respected knowledge and trade, going on to create a writing system for the Mongols and sparing skilled people of the raided cities. Moreover, the so called civilized cultures have had wars in the past and it would not justify the view of excluding the culture of the Mongols by making them seem only capable of violence and destruction.

 

Wu Zetian (624-705CE)

In the context of the Tang Dynasty, women were granted more freedom and were less submissive. Born to a wealthy and noble family, Wu Zetian was well versed in music and Chinese Classics which allowed her to be assigned to work in the imperial study when she became concubine to Emperor Taizong at the age of 13. Access to the imperial study also provided the opportunity to be accustomed to state affairs. What came next would be a whole list of affairs between her and her step son which allowed her to escape the fate of continuing her life as a nun after her husband’s death and movements within the positions of power (p.365) that is similarly seen from Image 4.  Image 6(p.367) would then be a good example of how Wu Zetian is shown in a very bad light by historians.

Image 6. Translation of Wu Zetian’s actions with the use of strong emotive words in the description.(p.367)

           

                The deaths and exiles that were coincidental with each rise in power led to the many insults that Wu Zetian was a demon, a witch, a seductress(p.364) and a ruthless woman who would even kill her own children for power. In fact, Song (2010) in a review of various literature pointed out that the general view of Wu Zetian continues to be cast in a negative light and that it continues to be an attempt to dampen the achievements of powerful women(p.364). Popular sources of history have also chosen to comment on her relationships. Her establishment of the secret police instilled fear and removed political opponents. But is that any different from any of the other rulers?

           The focus on her sexual relations with her husband, step son, harem, and her moves to remove political threats by executions and exiles overshadowed the other accomplishments in her political term. Her support for Buddhism instead of misogynist Confucianism paved the way for more improvements to the lives of females. Scholars were encouraged to write literature on famous women. Tax reduction and irrigation schemes for agriculture helped the peasants to prosper. She also made positions of officials a meritocratic process by the use of imperial exams, personally interviewed candidates and opened it for women to become officials---an unprecedented move of her time. In response to the criticisms, Dash(2012) posits the fact that emperors had their harems and that  few rulers maintained or came to power without a violent removal of opponents--- it was only a problem because of her gender. Cai Zhuozhi, author of "100 Celebrated Chinese Women" have also clarified that many of Wu Zetian's past were written 300 years after her reign by Confucian historians which would lead to biased recounts.

             Although we would have loved to know more about what female leaders such as Wu Zetian may have done and how it would fit in their timeline, we would also like to point out that perhaps the relationships with powerful men are necessary  for female rulers to rise to power in patriarchal societies. The maintaining of power and the process in gaining power should also be viewed as a success in its own right.

Conclusion

            Our understanding of our past is very much dependent on 1. the cultural lenses that we view it from (from blog 2), 2. the view of the historian who writes the story(this post). This calls for a need to develop a critical eye in reading between the lines and to be in their shoes to understand the context. It would then facilitate a better interpretation of the way people lived in the past and the possible lessons for our current time. Ending off on this note, we hope that you have enjoyed “Ourstory of their stories”, which hopes to encourage the view of a collective and inclusive story of Humans rather than that of Mankind which excludes others.

Entertainment in Ancient Rome

Roman entertainment! Take 1! Lights, camera, action! Just kidding. In the ancient days, entertainment in Rome was very different from what we have today. They did have music and theatre though, and these were pretty significant parts of their entertainment industry back then. There was music at every social occasion they had, including funerals. Music was customary at funerals. They would play the tibia, a Greek woodwind instrument, as they believed it could ward off ill influences. Wait up - did we say Greek?! I thought we were talking about Rome here... (I’m just writing your thoughts out loud here. I know, I nailed it.) But yes, Greek. Many of the instruments they used came from Greece, like the cornu.

Well, the Romans were not very creative or original with their music. Everyone on Google says that, so it must be true. But it is true because the Greek had such great influence on them that they took on the idea of how music reflected the orderliness of the cosmos, and was “associated particularly with mathematics and knowledge”. Sounds pretty Greek-y, right? It’s not just the Greek that influenced them, it was the Etruscans and the Egyptians too. The influence even went on to other arts like the performing arts, mainly drama and theatre.

Back then, the Romans loved typical literary theatres ran by all-male troupes who would wear masks with exaggerated facial expressions.

masksonshelves

The masks were worn to show the character’s feelings. Oh, and there was also drag. Yeah, drag. The female roles were played by men. But aside from the literary theatre, what was even more popular among Romans was mimus theatre. It was genre-defying and had “scripted scenarios with free improvisation, risqué language and jokes, sex scenes, action sequences, and political satire.” There was no drag here though, as females themselves played female roles. Unfortunately, entertainers were lowly regarded in those days. They were a little better than slaves, but were equivalent to gladiators. Some of them were “stars", however, so they could enjoy a certain amount wealth and fame. Celebrities would mingle socially and often sexually with the upper classes, including emperors. They were looked down upon, so much so that St. Augustine (apparently) said “bringing clowns, actors, and dancers into a house was like inviting in a gang of unclean spirits.”

Another significant activity that Romans participated in leisurely was going for baths. While the extremely wealthy could afford bathing facilities in their homes, most people bathed in the communal baths thermae. Romans went there not just to get clean, but also to relax in the company of others. Though many contemporary cultures see bathing as a very private activity conducted in the home, bathing in Rome was a communal activity. The baths allow others to keep fit, socialize and do business.

Apodyterium-at-Pompeii

Before going for a bath, Romans took off their outdoor clothes in the apodyterium - which was a room just inside the entrance - and warmed themselves up by doing some stretches. After a swim in the pool, they went into a series of heated rooms. All Roman bathhouses contained a series of rooms that got increasingly hotter, to allow users to sweat out the dirt.

401px-Frigidarium_of_the_Old_Baths_at_Pompeii_by_Overbeck

First, the bather shifts into a cold room called a frigidarium, with its tank of cold water.

Tepidarium_of_the_Old_Baths_at_Pompeii_by_Overbeck

Subsequently the warm room, tepidarium

Caldarium

And he then finally ends at the bath at the hot room, known as the caldarium

A brazier right under the hollow floor heats the caldarium; the floor had cold-water basins, which allowed the bather to use to cool him down. The bather completes the process by essentially resting and sweating. After going through a series of hot and cold, the bather goes back to the cooler tepidarium. They would usually chat with their friends while sweating, and perhaps have a massage with perfume oil rubbed down their bodies. They would also get a  slave to scrape off the dirt, sweat and oil with a metal scraper called a strigil. Finally, the bather takes a plunge into the cold pool. 

Besides being widely known as one of the most spectacular works of architecture, many public events were held at the Colosseum for the entertainment of the Romans back then.

gladiadores[1]

Gladiator fights were highly popular among the Romans. Gladiators, who were professionals, slaves or prisoners-of-war, were made to fight each other, usually resulting in the death of the loser.

Scientists’ discoveries of gladiator skeletons which reveal that they were killed by deadly weapons such as tridents and foot-long swords testifies to the high level of violence in these games.

Jean-Léon_Gérôme_-_The_Christian_Martyrs'_Last_Prayer_-_Walters_37113

Public executions were too, a form of public entertainment. Christians were fed to lions and prisoners were thrown to wild beasts. Animals such as wild cats, bears, elephants were also made to battle each other, get hunted or perform circus acts

2118

While these entertainment acts may appear to be brutal and violent, one should take into consideration the context that Rome was a warring state; hence, they probably embraced a climate of violence and glorified victory and strength through these murderous games that emphasized the devastating consequences of defeat.

So you see, the Romans didn’t have Korean dramas, Tumblr or Netflix, but they sure had their own unique ways to keep them entertained!

 

Twinship Around the World

This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of the featured characters are coincidental. However, the information illustrated in the story are based on historical facts with the sources listed below or through hyperlinks. A word of caution: there may be intentional bias as the characters interact as we see events happening from their perspective.


 

Mr. Nev is a historian who has successfully built a time-machine in the basement of his house and goes back in time to view events occurring around the world. One day, Mr. Nev sees Doctrina, his 12 year old neighbor, playing in the yard. He continues to observe the child and learns that she is very interested in learning about history! Mr. Nev volunteers to become her history tutor and using his invention, he takes her back in time to view history in the making.

 

“So where or what will we be exploring today, Mr. Nev?”, Doctrina asks her brainy tutor ecstatically. “Well Doctrina, in lieu of National Twins Day, we shall explore the origins of twins and their significance in the ancient world.”, Mr. Nev explains.

 

“In different ancient civilizations, the origins of twins or the stories behind how twins come about are very different. Our first stop: Ancient Greece” he said.

 

The pair arrived at their destination in the blink of an eye. They stood behind the columns to observe an interaction, only to notice one of the twins was showered with public admiration while the other took to the shadows.

1024px-Heracles_and_Iphicles

Heracles & Iphicles, sons of Alcmene.

Mr. Nev explained, “That’s Heracles and Iphicles, sons of Alcmene. In Ancient Greece, the Greeks believed that when a woman is blessed with twins, it is because the woman bedded a mortal and a god on the same day.” Overhearing their conversation, the man in the shadows, Iphicles, walks over to them and growls, “Do you have any idea what it’s like to grow up in the shadows of your brother who’s given the title of the ‘single greatest of all Greek Heros’?”.

 

“It’s so unfair that he was granted all these powers and has even gained immortality after completing the Twelve Labours. I’m always the sidekick when we go on missions together.”, Iphicles began ranting, kicking up a cloud of dust around them.

 

Mr. Nev gently pulled Doctrina away. “ Being twins can sometimes breed unhappiness since one is treated with less respect than the other. Do we still see traditions like this today?” he asked Doctrina. “Well, we have to keep moving, we have many stops to go.”

 

A minute later, the pair arrive at their next destination. Upon arrival, Doctrina commented, “Mr. Nev, are you sure we’re at the right place? This place doesn’t look much different from the previous place”.  

 

“That’s a great observation, Doctrina. It’s true, we’re still in Greece but in a different time. Here we’ll see another belief of the Greek, where they believe that twins represent the dualism of the universe.

IODSArtemisandApollo_zpsc87a3876

Apollo & Artemis (Sun and Moon Goddess)

Soon we’ll see the birth of Apollo and Artemis, the sun god and moon goddess respectively. While their titles appear grand, they were mistreated by Hera for a large part of their early life. This was because Hera was extremely jealous that Leto was able to seduce her husband, Zeus. Lord Zeus felt great sorrow and pity for Leto, their mother, and them so bestowed upon them their titles.” Mr. Nev told Doctrina. In the distance they could see Leto giving birth to Apollo by the lake.

 

As they walked towards the time machine, Mr. Nev said “Despite being in the same place, the understanding of the origins of twins are so different, aren’t they?”.

 

After breaking for lunch, the pair arrived at a jungle in America where two hunters were deep in conversation with what seemed to be a spirit. “Enumclaw and Kapoonis, you have brought great fear to the villagers with your brute strength and power.”, the spirit boomed. “ This goes against our original contract! As punishment, Enumclaw shall hereby be banished as a thunder spirit while Kapoonis shall become the lightning spirit.”

 

While the brothers roared in anguish, Mr. Nev pointed to the spirit and said, “That man standing there is the Sky Father. Here in Native America, twins are are also seen to represent the dualism because of this legend.”

 

“The next stop shall be our last.”, Mr. Nev said, ignoring the protests of Doctrina as he pushed several buttons on the dashboard.

 

They arrived in Africa, where they see not just one pair but a few pairs of twins. “Yoruba view twinship, or ibejis, as bringers of either fortune or misfortune to their family, depending on how they are treated. For this reason, you can see that they are given special attention. They could bring anything from death and disaster to happiness and health to the family, hence they are treated with a lot more leniency compared to the other children. Let me try something interesting here.” Mr. Nev cleared his throat and shouted “Taiwo!” Several heads turned to Mr. Nev’s direction.

 

Mr. Nev chuckled slightly as he explained, “Twins are always given the same names. Taiwo to the first born and Kehinde to the second born, regardless of gender. Coincidentally, Yoruba has the highest twin rates.”

 

“On this note, let’s head home where National Twins days is set to take place in a few days time in Twinsburg, Ohio. ” Mr. Nev was about to continue when he sees Doctrina in the seat next to him, fast-asleep, tired from a whole day of adventuring. “I guess it’s time to head home then, little one” he chuckled.

 


Sources:

  1. http://dante.udallas.edu/hutchison/Heroes/Heracles/iphicles.htm
  2. http://dante.udallas.edu/hutchison/Heroes/Heracles/heracles.htm
  3. https://books.google.com.sg/books?id=MBIkCQAAQBAJ&lpg=RA1-PA171&ots=Sl4AIgF6Di&dq=Enumclaw%20and%20Kapoonis%20.edu&pg=RA1-PA171#v=onepage&q=Enumclaw%20and%20Kapoonis%20.edu&f=false, http://www.pantheon.org/articles/a/angra_mainyu.html
  4. https://books.google.com.sg/books?id=J7-QIwk7ezkC&lpg=PA198&ots=ppgpdYrHDe&dq=Ariconte%20and%20Tamendonare%20.edu&pg=PA198#v=onepage&q=Ariconte%20and%20Tamendonare%20.edu&f=false
  5. http://www.ancient.eu/Egyptian_Mythology/
  6. http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/knowledge/Nommo.html
  7. Leroy Fernand; Olaleye-Oruene Taiwo; Koeppen-Schomerus Gesina; Bryan Elizabeth. "Yoruba Customs and Beliefs Pertaining to Twins" 5 (2). pp. 132–136.       George Chemeche; John Pemberton; John Picton (2003). Ibeji: The Cult of Yoruba Twins Volume 2 of Hic sunt leones. 5 Continents. ISBN 978-88-7439-060-1.
  8. http://self.gutenberg.org/articles/asvins 
  9. http://www.greek-gods.info/greek-gods/apollo/myths/apollo-artemis-birth/

 

BEHOLD, The Empress of Rome Singing to her Dead Husband!

……not (sorry friends!) Instead, here's a song we wrote illustrating what we think the Roman empress, Livia Drusilla would’ve wanted her deceased husband Augustus to hear. Lyrics are at the end of the post.

PLUG IN for optimal quality (and for da bass mon').


Disclaimer: In no way is this an exact representation of what Livia Drusilla felt or did. This is a very light-hearted take on her eventful life.

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/231955862" params="auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" iframe="true" /]


BEFORE YOU CLICK THAT PLAY BUTTON, READ BELOW FOR CONTEXT:

Very seldom do we read about successful women in our history texts. Few were praised and even fewer to the same extents as male rulers were revered. In the case of Livia Drusilla, things were no different. Having been married previously (to Claudius Nero), she had two children (Tiberius and Drusus) under her care when she crossed paths with emperor-to-be Augustus.

Through her marriage with Augustus, she quickly gained a position of even greater influence. This also came with being a personal confidante and advisor to her powerful husband with regards to foreign and domestic affairs. She was able to establish even more connections that would continue to serve her well long after Augustus’s death. Clearly, Livia had well established her path as a woman of power. This was reinforced especially after Augustus died, bestowing on her the title of “Augusta" in his will.

For numerous reasons, her eldest son Tiberius had a turbulent relationship with his step-father, Augustus (and his own mother). In the process of attaining the title of “emperor”, Tiberius was not only forced by his parents to divorce his one true love, but was pushed into consul despite his conflicting beliefs. Thus, it was no surprise that when the opportunity presented itself with Augustus’s passing, he ascended to the throne resentfully.

Surely enough, a woman possessing so much power and influence was not a common sight in Ancient Rome. Livia getting her way with almost everything reaffirmed speculations that not only was she spoilt rotten by her husband, but that she would resort to anything to get what she wanted. Hence, historians (such as Tacitus) and many Romans alike, made her out to be a power-hungry and ambitious mother and wife who was only looking out for her own self-interests. This included the rumour that she poisoned her own husband before he could change the heir to his throne.

Well fret not Livia, for we are here to assist! You may now proceed to press the play button.

 

Terry, Mars, Yong Quan x


Lyrics: 

Not one, took two

But I found you

I mean Nero, he’s cool

But he’s not you

 

I’d stand along

Devoted & true

As not just your wife,

but Advisor too

 

Chorus:

Augustus, my love

How I’ve missed you

Things have been hard

But I’ll make do

 

Cause when you’re in Rome

Do as Romans do

 

It stinks that you’ve passed

From figs, who knew?

Please, the rumours weren’t true

That I killed you

 

Tiberius, that fool

And Tacitus too

I’ll prove I’m not just some mom

But an empress too

 

Chorus:

Augustus my love,

If you only knew

The sorts of lows

That I’ve stooped to

 

Cause when you’re in Rome,

Do as Romans do

Fashion Throughout the Ages

As the saying goes, “Clothes make a man”. Clothing can be seen as a form of identity - how you choose to dress can portray the mood you are in, the style you like and the kind of personality you have. With that in mind, surely you would have guessed the topic that we have chosen to talk about today: Clothes. According to The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), clothing is seen as a basic need. In today’s society, clothing serves not only a functional need which helps to keep us warm but also fulfils a cultural need for the different cultures to identify themselves.

Here in Singapore, we are a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicity. For each group, we have our own ethnic clothing. Take for example, the Chinese Cheongsam, the Malay Baju Kurung and the Indian Sari. Hence, have you wondered what common folk in the ancient civilizations wore and how was their clothing like?  Let’s take a trip back in time to look at how people dressed in the ancient Chinese and Indian civilisations to see how similar it is to the ones that we see every Racial Harmony Day.

 

China

The ancient Chinese wore mainly robes known as Hanfu from the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 - 1000 BC). The men wore tunics that reached their knees, while the women wore lengthy tunics that reached the ground. The sleeves of their garments were wide and loose fitting, with sashes being added as an ornamental design for the ladies. Darker shades of clothing were preferred over light ones.

Over the years and many dynasties, the Hanfu underwent many modifications due to different preferences in style. There were primarily, three variations of ancient Chinese garments.

Pien-Fu: A 2 piece ceremonial costume, consisting of a tunic top extending to the knees, and worn with ankle length skirt or trousers. Ch’ang P’ao: This is a one-piece ankle length tunic dress. Shenyi: A combination of the first two, a shenyi is a 2 piece top and trouser/skirt outfit that has been sewn together to make a one-piece garment.

 

                   

 

Jewelry was also considered an important part of fashion. It was worn by both genders to show nobility and wealth. The dragon in particular was a very popular motif for jewelry and was most commonly worn by the royals. The masses wore Jade and Gold in their pendants and rings as well as in their earrings and hair ornaments for the ladies.

EarringsJade BraceletsJewelry Set

In addition, what the women wore on their heads determined their social status and hence, they were very careful with the materials and design of their hair ornaments.

Hair Pins

 

India

People in the Indus Vally Civilization wore mainly cloth clothing made out of cotton as they were one of the first people to cultivate cotton crops and it was their most abundant source of material.

The women wore one very long piece of cloth (that can go up to lengths of 4 to 6 metres) called a Sari. The sari was first mentioned in the Vedas around 600 BC. As seen from the picture above, there were many ways in which the Sari can be wrapped and this signified the different roles they played in society.

For example, women wore saris like skirts with the top part thrown over their shoulder or worn over their heads as a veil when they wanted to dress up for an occasion. Those working in the fields often rolled up their saris to make pants to make them feel more at ease. There were also women who were part of the army and they tucked in the top part of the sari in the back to free up their arms. After the opening of the silk route, India began trading with China and upper class women had their saris made in silk.

The males wore similar one-piece cloths named Dhoti that was about 5 yards (4.57 metres). Again, Dhoti was mainly made out of cotton and in the colour white. The dhoti was fastened at the back and legs of the men to form something that was similar to pants. Similar to the women, those in the upper class had their Dhoti made in silk.

Regarding accessories, the women wore necklaces, armlet, fillets and finger-rings. They fancied bracelets made out of shells, and also earrings, anklets made of gold and used other various precious stones, shells and bones in their jewellery. 

The men wore turbans which were used not only for functional purposes. They could not cut their hair due to their religion and it was a good way to keep it neat, hence the turban was seen as a highly respectable symbol.

 

Conclusion

As discussed in class, the Romans deemed pants as barbaric and they would not be pleased to find out that till today, pants are being worn by people all over the world. However, some of the traditional costumes from the past are losing their appeal among the younger generation. With globalization, the younger generation might see such traditional dressing as unfashionable and obsolete in this time and age. Hence, fashion designers should continue to try and incorporate traditional dressing with modern day needs and fashion to prevent a rich part of culture fading into oblivion.

 

"KALB"

Most of you must be thinking what in the heavenly world is "Kalb"?! Well, Kalb is the term used to describe "Dog" in the Arabian language. That's right! For my final blog post I will be doing a post on dogs in Egypt. I know it's pretty peculiar how I am going to be talking about Egyptian dogs but I am using the word "Kalb" instead. This is because the Arabic language is now the official language in Egypt. However, if we are talking about what the term used to be in the ancient Egyptian language, then dogs would be called "Uher". Alright, now I know some of our classmates have already done blog posts on animals, however, I've been a vet nurse for a long time and I have grown up with dogs since I was a baby. Hence, I would really love to talk about probably the best creatures on earth. Also, according to my mother, I used to be a real pain when I was growing up because I used to pull my dog's ears, thinking it was funny! So, I think I owe it to dogs that I share more about their beautiful power and nature.

Now, when it comes to Egypt, majority of us would assume that cats were the number one animals on the list alongside with the pharaohs. Indeed, that is true. Cats do play an important role in the Egyptian culture. They were worshiped and also used to kill cobras. However, if you notice, all animals were actually admired and worshiped in the Egyptian culture which I really adore because I'm an animal lover!

Alright, so back to the post, cats were seen as of great importance to the Egyptian culture and were mummified in order to accompany or rather serve the Pharaohs in the afterlife. This brings me to my next point. Dogs are of equal importance to the Egyptian culture! Remember how we studied about Anubis? Well if you remember clearly, Anubis had a head of a dog. Therefore, dogs in the Egyptian culture were seen to be connected to Anubis in a certain way. Why? Frankly speaking, I am not too sure about that but my blog post is focusing on what the dogs did in Egypt and how they were treated, therefore, I will leave the question hanging and if you are interested, you can find out more on it.  :)

Dogs in Egypt had several duties to carry out. They were seen as loyal companions to Pharaohs or any family that owned them, they were also as a form of guardians or protectors of their owners or masters and they were used for hunting of food for their masters. Despite all these roles that were supposed to fulfill, their masters still treated them with great value by in a way accessorizing them with jewelry to wear and excellent food to feast on. Let's just say the richer the master, the better the life for the dog.

Similarly, dogs in Egypt were mummified after they passed on. They would be buried with proper accessories in order to continue a good life serving their masters in the afterlife. Personally, this is the best culture by far because I love how the Egyptians treat their animals of great value despite being different species. It shows a lot about a culture. Also, I think that when the Egyptians treat the animals with such importance, the animals themselves would sense the loyalty the humans have for them as well and this shows how deep the bond or relationship is between a master and its' dog. Surprisingly, dogs were not only seen of as great value in Egypt but other countries as well. The link provided  below will describe the other countries and the different cultures on how they value their dogs.

This video is pretty interesting on why so many Egyptians dogs were mummified and found in Anubis's mass grave. Take a look!!

[embed]http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCuRAlMf2sQ[/embed]

References:

Dogs in the Ancient World by Joshua. J Mark. 21 June 2014

http://www.ancient.eu/article/184/