Time Capsule #2
On tattooed mummies, divorced wives, and ancient capitals.
I bring you Episode 2 of The Time Capsule, served hot and ready like a Little Caesar’s pizza.
I am enjoying the process of putting this newsletter together — it has given me a reason to look deeper into my philosophical and historical topics of interest. I finally acquired a Kindle and have a selection of texts I hope to get through over the Christmas break, which I will in turn share here with you in due time. It is difficult to find a balance between creation and consumption, but it can be done.
Anyhow, on to business.
I — Pre-History
Ötzi the Iceman: Ötzi the Iceman was found mummified on 19 September 1991 by German tourists in the Austrian-Italian Alps. With carbon-dating estimating him to have lived between 3400-3100 BC, he is the oldest natural human mummy discovered to date. He was about 5 feet 2 inches tall and 110 pounds and is believed to have been murdered by an arrowhead, which was found in his shoulder. However, for obvious reasons, the details of his life and death are widely disputed and tough to confirm. Radiological examination reveals Ötzi was quite the hip fellow, with over 60 tattoos.
II — Classical
City of Ctesiphon: this ancient city, located along the Eastern bank of the Tigris river, was the royal capital of the Parthian and Sassanian Empires. Founded in the late 2nd century BC, what started out as a small village grew to become a metropolis and major military objective in the Ancient Middle East. Wars between the Roman and Persian Empires would see Ctesiphon under siege more than once, however it was the Muslim Arab conquests of the 6th century AD which would push Ctesiphon into the periphery and subsequently into the lost pages of history. With its economic and political importance diminished, the great city of Ctesiphon would soon become a ghost town. The Taq Kasra, pictured above, was an engineering feat, being the largest vault ever constructed in the world, particularly impressive due to it being built without centring. It is one of the only remaining relics of the great city and has since collapsed to a fragment of its former self, despite recent restoration attempts.
III — Middle Ages
Summa Theologica: or Summary of Theology, was written by St Thomas Aquinas, one of the Catholic Church’s most important theologians and one of the Western World’s most influential philosophers. The Summa Theologica was a comprehensive guide of Catholic doctrine, designed to instruct Christian clergy, lay people, and everyone in between on the Christian truth. He worked on it for close to 10 years, up to his death, and covered many hotly debated and core metaphysical and Christian topics such as the creation of man, man’s purpose, the existence of God, sin, virtue, and the sacraments. To this day, the Summa Theologica is considered a foundational text of Catholic faith and doctrine.
IV — Early Modern
Catherine of Aragon: After the death of Henry VIII’s brother Arthur, to whom she was betrothed since the age of 3, Catherine of Aragon would marry Henry VIII shortly after his ascension to the throne in 1509. However, by 1533 Henry VIII would annul his marriage in favour of a second with Anne of Boleyn, a charming woman part of the Queen’s own entourage, due to his infatuation with Anne and displeasure with the failure of Catherine to produce any surviving sons. Due to Pope Clement VII’s refusal to annul the marriage, her divorce from Henry VIII would ultimately lead to the fracture of the Church of England from the Pope and Roman Catholic Church, known as the English Reformation. After 24 years of marriage, her rooms were given to Anne of Boleyn and she was banished from court, living out the remainder of her life in Kimbolton Castle where she would eventually die of cancer. Responsible for starting large-scale relief programs for the poor, she was held in high regard by the English people.
V — Modern
Battle of the Yser: Taking place during the early stages of the First World War, the Battle of the Yser River was a critical battle resulting in the retention of a part of Belgian territory from the Germans, who would never fully occupy Belgium because of it. After losses at Liege, Namurs, and Antwerp, the Belgian army dug in along the Yser River to set up a defensive position against the German offensive. On 18 October 1914, the German army overran Allied forces near Nieuwpoort, and were able to establish a bridgehead on the west bank of the Yser River by 21 October. With 2 German divisions across the Yser by the 24th, the decision was made to flood the front line between the Yser and Dixmunde-Nieuport railway. After a failed attempt on 27 October, the Belgians were able to flood the ground east of the railway, creating a 2km wide submerged area. The Germans would eventually retreat after realizing the flooding behind them, and would never fully capture all of Belgium. Fighting continued on the Yser Front for the entire period of the War on the Western Front. The resilience shown by Belgian forces to hold on to its territory in WW1 would become a great source of national pride.
Photo of the Week 📸
If there is one generally accepted rule of warfare, it is to never invade Russia in the winter.
Book of the Week 📖 — Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good.
~ Marcus Aurelius
Stoicism was a school of philosophy founded in Ancient Greece by Zeno of Citium in the early 3rd century BC. Today, Stoicism has become quite popular, with adherents resonating with its message of individual responsibility and pursuit of virtue. A particularly interesting follower of the Stoic philosophy was the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180AD), who oversaw the final stages of the Pax Romana, or Roman Peace, an age of prosperity and stability that would be slowly eroded in the coming centuries. He wrote a series of private writings to himself, which he used for his own guidance and self-improvement as he navigated the uniquely difficult position of Roman Emperor. It is now accepted as one of the fundamental core texts of Stoic philosophy, and its message despite being written close to 2000 years ago is ever more relevant. It is one of my favourite philosophical works, and I continually return to it in troubling times. The Gregory Hayes translation, linked above, reads fantastically well and hopefully has not strayed too far from the original text.
Quote of the Week 💭
Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood. All is riddle, and the key to a riddle is another riddle.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
That concludes episode two of The Time Capsule. Consistency is key! See you next week.