The 2nd Puzzle: The Lost Book of Magic

Posted by on Dec 26, 2011 in Historical Puzzles

and The Secret Riches Visualization Tool and Most people know what The Secret is. They know about the power of positive thinking, repetition, self belief. and Few people know however that these ideas were once the key elements in ancient books of magic. Such books often also contained medical knowledge and practical personal advice. The success of such ideas gave these books a long life. They were much sought after and argued over. and And in some periods you could be burnt at the stake for possessing such books. and These days you can buy books of magic and positive thinking for a relatively low cost, and without much danger to your health. You can even go to seminars on how to see your success, or you can give away your money to people selling seals and hoodoo correspondence courses. and So what has any of this got to do with Istanbul? and At the time of the fall of Constantinople (since called Istanbul) in 1453 thousands of scholars fled to Italy. They went to Florence and to Milan and beyond. Among them were physicians, astronomers and mathematicians. and Marsilio Ficino, whose family fled from Constantinople to Italy, was one the most important figures in the Italian Renaissance. and He was involved, with Cosimo de’Medici, in trying to heal the schism between the Catholic and Orthodox churches.a nd He was also a vegetarian, a priest, and at one point was lucky to escape with his life after being accused of magic before Pope Innocent VIII.and ND Ficino’s father was a physician under the patronage of Cosimo de’ Medici, who took the young man into his household and became the lifelong patron of Marsilio, who was made tutor to his grandson, Lorenzo de’ Medici. and So where did Marsilio get his most important ideas? and Many of his thoughts are common sense now, such as advice to keep your body in good order, but some of his other ideas are more far reaching, even to this day. and Marsilio Ficino and In the Book of Destiny, Marsilio details the links between behavior and consequence. He talks about the list of things that hold sway over a man’s destiny, and He practised astrology too and believed in talismans and symbols. His most famous prediction was that the son of Lorenzo de’Medici would become Pope. He did. and His most famous achievement though was in the blending of the occult, the magical traditions of astrology, with the teaching of the Catholic church. and He wrote a treaty on the Immortality of the Soul, which after his death, became dogma of the Catholic and eventually the Protestant churches. This was a theoretical advancement on the Christian belief that we will all live on after death. His theory synthesized Christianity and Platonism, and created a foundation for the Renaissance. and He subscribed to the notion that there was hope for world renovation...

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The 3rd Puzzle: Where are the plague pits that mark the beginning of our world?

Posted by on May 26, 2011 in Historical Puzzles

In the sixth century the word’s smallest organism, Yersina Pestis, the bubonic plague bacterium, achieved its greatest growth spike. During the reign of Justinian (Emperor 527 to 565CE) the plague hit Constantinople, the capital of the Roman Empire. Almost every city of the Empire was devastated in an apocalyptic manner. Gibbon (The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire) describes the effect of the epidemic as follows: Justinian’s reign is disgraced by the visible decrease of the human species, which has never been repaired in some of the fairest countries of the globe. Cyril Mango, Professor of Byzantine Literature at Oxford University describes the apocalyptic effects in his book Byzantium, The Empire of the New Rome, in this way: it is possible that one third to one half of the population of Constantinople died in 542. John Julius Norwich had this to say (Byzantium, The Early Centuries) about the plague: Beginning in Egypt it quickly spread across all the lands of the Eastern Mediterranean to Constantinople where it raged for four months, the toll rising to 10,000 a day and on one day 16,000, as many as the entire army in Italy…..Plague was succeeded by famine and the number of its victims was estimated at 300,000, two out of five of the population of the city. Gibbon describes where the dead were taken as follows (Ch XLIII, The Decline and Fall): A magistrate was authorized to collect the promiscuous heaps of dead bodies, to transport them by land or water, and to inter them in deep pits beyond the precincts of the city. Initially, burials would have taken place according to the normal Orthodox practices, anointing the body with oil, singing laments and burial in a grave. Burials of prominent individuals or clerics would have taken place in crypts or in consecrated land near great churches. The Islamic successes of the seventh century, they quickly captured Egypt, Jerusalem and North Africa, were made possible, to a significant degree, by the devastation of constantly returning plagues at that time. The plague had returned to Constantinople, the capital of the Roman Empire, in 555, 558, 561, 573, 574, 591, 599 and again in the early seventh century. Waves of unrest followed across the Empire. Evidence for the collapse of cities is available. The psychological effect must have been appalling. In Constantinople, during some outbreaks, John of Ephesus wrote, “no one goes out without a tag with their name on it.” It should also be noted that the Arabian desert was typically plague free during these years. If ever an Empire was set up for defeat it was the Byzantine Empire in that period. It could be said that most of our current conflicts are a result of the impact of disease at that time and the subsequent ascent of a new religion. In Constantinople plague pits are likely to have been dug outside...

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A Byzantine Romance

Posted by on May 23, 2011 in On Writing

Under the Comnenian family, the ruling family of the Byzantine Empire who halted the decline of Byzantium from 1081 to 1185, Byzantine writers in Constantinople reintroduced the ancient Greek romance novel. Their era, the era of the Crusades, was also reflected in these stories. These novels span the gap between the last surviving romance novels of late antiquity and the early medieval romantic revival. Only four of these novels survive today, just one of which is written in prose. And only two have been translated into English. This post will focus on one of those, Drosilla and Charikles, by Niketas Eugenianos, (c 13th c) translated by Joan Burton (Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc., 2004) The story of Drosilla and Charikles is interesting for many reasons. Here is the plot: Belthandros, a Roman (Byzantine) prince and youngest son of king Rhodophilos, quarrels with his father and leaves his home to seek his fortune. After wandering in the hostile lands of Anatolia and dealing with Turkish bandits, he reaches Tarsus in Armenian Cilicia. There he sees a fiery star in the depths of a river (a metaphor for love) and follows it to the north. He finds a castle built of precious gems, which belongs to King Eros. It is full of magnificent statues and automatons. Belthandros leaves his escorts outside and enters the castle alone. There he sees an inscription that tells of his predestined love between him and Chrysantza, the daughter of the king of Great Antioch. He is summoned by the lord of the castle, Eros, who announces to him a beauty contest at which Belthandros must give a wand to the most beautiful among forty princesses. The contest takes place and Belthandros gives the wand to the most beautiful princess, whereupon all that surrounds him suddenly disappears “like a dream”, leaving him alone in the castle. At this point he resolves to go out and seek his princess. After a short journey he arrives in Antioch where he meets the king of the city, is accepted as his liegeman, and soon becomes an intimate of the royal household. There he meets the king’s daughter Chrysantza, whom he recognizes as the princess he chose at the Castle of Eros. Although Chrysantza has never seen him before, she too recognizes him, and the two fall in love. Two years and two months however pass before their first love meeting, which takes place secretly at night in the royal garden. The meeting ends suddenly when a jealous courtier discovers them and Belthandros is put in jail. In order to save her lover’s life, Chrysantza convinces her faithful chambermaid, Phaidrokaza, to take the blame by declaring that the prince had visited her instead. The king believes the story and a forced marriage between Belthandros and Phaidrokaza takes place. The following days the couple continues to meet secretly, but soon the situation becomes unsatisfactory, and they decide to flee, together with the chambermaid and two retainers. On the way, they cross a flooded river, where Phaidrokaza and the two...

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