Sailing west from Byzantium: Columbus and the fall of Constantinople.

Yesterday Unhinged:

In continuing with March’s theme of the age of discovery, I present to you Sean Munger’s post on the Byzantium and Christopher Columbus.

What does the fall of Constantinople have to do with the Age of Discovery? With the fall of a stable trading ally in the Eastern Mediterranean, trade along the silk road all but dried up for most of Europe. Necessity is the mother of invention. You see where this is going…

Originally posted on www.seanmunger.com:

columbus byzantium

Five hundred and twenty-one years ago today, as the summer of 1492 turned to fall, Christopher Columbus and his expedition were somewhere on the North Atlantic, several weeks away from the discovery that would make him–and them–famous. Most of us know the story of Columbus’s voyage, his idea to sail west to find a route to India, his difficulty in gaining backing, and the ultimate semi-success of his efforts; I say semi because he failed to find India, although he believed until the end of his life that he had. What fewer people understand is why this epic voyage happened, and it has a lot more to do with the history of Byzantium than most realize.

The Byzantine Empire breathed its last on the morning of May 29, 1453, as Turkish Sultan Memhet II led his troops to sack the city that had so long eluded the Islamic world…

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Aaron Cripps’ Fab Five: A Childhood Favorite, a Specter, a Pope & More

DuGardePeach-AlfredHello, like our host my name is Aaron and I’d like to thank him for inviting us to contribute to his Fab Five series. I write a blog, Europeenses which nominally traces the route of a long distance cycle tour through parts of North-West and Central Europe that I had intended to make this year. Changing circumstances meant that I’m not able to make the tour but as I’d already started to research and draft entries I decided to go ahead with the blog anyway. In it, I write about historical events that relate to the towns, cities, or regions I’m theoretically passing through, with a handful of short biographies, regional recipes, and other pieces thrown in for good measure. Just over two months in I find myself not that far from reaching the end of the ‘journey’, which means I’ll have to rethink the purpose of my blog. Luckily Europe has a lot of history and connections with every part of the world, so I shouldn’t have too much of a problem.

Currently I work as a Librarian at the UK’s Joint Services Command and Staff College Library, which allows me to indulge my interest in history on a regular basis. Some of the Library’s archive collection has been digitized, so if you’re interested in World War One Tanks, The Independent Bombing Force of 1918, Operation Sealion, or Operation Overlord, you may like to take a look at some scanned documents from our archive. For my five I’ve chosen a person whose writing influenced my love of history, a person whose writing influenced history, a person who was influenced by that writing, a person who worked to end that influence, and finally a person whose actions didn’t ultimately influence history, but who nonetheless played an important role.

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War Paint (Part 9): Stormtroopers Advancing Under Gas

Stormtroopers Advancing Under Gas, by Otto Dix, 1924. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Part 9 in a 10 part series. To view other entries into the War Paint Series, follow the link.

We’ve now sailed clear through the Romanticism of the 19th century. The last few entries into the War Paint Series have been of a truly epic nature. Romantic ideas about war were left to the Napoleonic Wars and Colonial Wars of the previous century. Cavalry charges were replaced with mechanized warfare, creating casualties like never before. Cultural ideas about war began to shift along with the greater killing capacity. No longer would a man have to defeat another man in hand to hand combat, or shoot him from a distance close enough to see ‘the whites of his eyes.’ Hundreds could be mowed down by one man strategically positioned with a machine gun.

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Aztec king Cuauhtémoc was executed today in 1525 by Hernán Cortés’s Spanish forces in what is now southern Campeche, Mexico. Now WE know em

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Yesterday Unhinged:

This is a reblog from Now We Know Em, a blog I’ve just discovered. Cuauhtémoc is regarded as the last ruler of the Aztec, though this depends on who you ask. His reign was short and followed Montezuma II’s. You’ll learn more if you read on!

I’ve been looking for some good material to reblog regarding the Age of Exploration / Discovery. If you know of any, send it my way, either in an e-mail or to my Facebook page.

Originally posted on :

Statue of Cuauhtémoc in Mexico City.

Statue of Cuauhtémoc in Mexico City.

Cuauhtémoc was the Aztec ruler of Tenochtitlan from 1520 to 1521.

The name Cuāuhtemōc means “One That Has Descended Like an Eagle”, commonly rendered in English as “Descending Eagle” as in the moment when an eagle folds its wings and plummets down to strike its prey, so this is a name that implies aggressiveness and determination.

Cuauhtémoc took power in 1520 as successor of Cuitláhuac and was a cousin of the former emperor Moctezuma II.

His young wife, who would later be known as Isabel Moctezuma, was one of Moctezuma’s daughters.

He ascended to the throne when he was 25 years of age, as his city was being besieged by the Spanish and devastated by an epidemic of smallpox brought to the New World by Spanish invaders.

Once upon the throne, Cuauhtémoc unsuccessfully called for reinforcements from the countryside to aid the defense of…

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Isabel of Portugal, Duchess of Burgundy

Yesterday Unhinged:

The following post comes from Susan Abernathy and her great site, The Freelance History Writer. Isabel of Portugal was the Duchess of Burgundy at a time when her native Kingdom of Portugal and her adopted home of Burgundy were becoming major players on the scene. If you haven’t spent any time on Susan’s blog, you should check it out.

Originally posted on The Freelance History Writer:

Isabel of Portugal, Duchess of Burgundy

Isabel of Portugal, Duchess of Burgundy

Isabel was born into an illustrious Portuguese family. Her parents were renowned rulers and they were to raise several celebrated children. Her older brothers were King Edward of Portugal, Peter, Duke of Coimbra and the famous Henry the Navigator, patron of Portuguese navigation. Isabel was to make a brilliant match to the Duke of Burgundy but not until she was into her thirties, very late for a Renaissance princess.

Isabel was born on February 21, 1397 in Evora. Her father was King John I of Portugal of the house of Aviz. Her mother was Philippa of Lancaster, the daughter of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and granddaughter of King Edward III of England. Isabel’s father had become King with the help of John of Gaunt and cemented his alliance and friendship with Gaunt and England by marrying Philippa. Isabel was to value…

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Undine’s Fab Five: One of the Greats of American Literature, a Pair of Conspirators & More

Edgar Allan Poe in an original daguerreotype taken by Edwin H. Manchester, 1848.

Edgar Allan Poe in an original daguerreotype taken by Edwin H. Manchester, 1848.

This is the seventh part in our weekly Fab Five Series, where I ask other bloggers, writers, podcasters and friends to give their five favorite historical figures. The criteria is up to them…so is the work!

Undine here. I am the author of the blogs Strange Company and the World of Edgar Allan Poe. I love history, particularly in all its odder manifestations, and I love making lists, so the Great Yesterday Unhinged Challenge was virtually irresistible to me.

I used no particular “rule” in selecting my personal Historical Fab Five. These are all very different people who, for their own differing reasons, happened to arouse my curiosity, endear themselves to me, impart important lessons to me…or simply amuse me. In one way or another, they’ve all meant something vital in my life.

So, let the parade begin!

1. Edgar Allan Poe. He is more than a great writer, he is a great thinker, who is sadly underrated as a scientific philosopher. His more esoteric writings, such as “The Domain of Arnheim” and “Ulalume” contain spiritual insights that are both profound and, once you grasp what he is trying to communicate, easily accessible. He was not a writer who talked “down” to his audience; rather, he sought to bring us up to his level. And “Eureka” is the only book I have ever read that has truly helped me make some sort of sense out of this seemingly utterly nonsensical universe of ours. For that alone, I will always feel a deep sense of gratitude towards him. On a merely aesthetic level, he wrote some of the most musical, bewitching poetry and prose works in modern English, and his critical insights played a key role in the development of American literature.

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War Paint (Part 8): Battle of Grunwald

The Battle of Grunwald, by Jan Matejko, 1878.

Part 8 in a 10 part series. To view other entries into the War Paint Series, follow the link.

The Battle of Grunwald, as it’s most commonly known, was one of the largest in Europe’s medieval history, was a deciding event in Eastern Europe’s history and saw the rise of a great regional power, yet often flies under the radar. The battle was fought in 1410 by the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania against the Teutonic Order near the modern Polish village of Grunwald in the country’s north.

The battle was born out of a series of events known as the Northern Crusades, in which the Teutonic Order and Scandinavian monarchies attempted to Christianize the pagan tribes of the Baltic Sea. The Teutons had seized land belonging to Lithuania, but with the Grand Duchy’s conversion to Christianity in 1385 and their union to Poland, the tides turned back in favor of the Slavs. Fought between upwards of 70,000 participants, it forever changed the landscape of the Baltic and saw the Polish-Lithuanian Union, and later the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, become the largest state in Europe. The Teutonic Order would maintain relevance for some time, but the financial burden placed on it following its defeat would lead to a series of internal struggles that would eventually see its demise.

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