Monday, December 29, 2008

Manetho and a present day writer who should have known better.
An extract from Manetho c. 200 B.C.E.
Sometimes a reputable and very capable Scientist will venture into an area that is not his / her field and make a fool of him / her self. The below is a study of one example. The book is The Future of the Past: Archaeology in the 21st Century,1 and the author is the Geoarchaeologist Eberhard Zagger. In this case Zagger’s use of the ancient historian Manetho is to put it politely questionable.

In the third century B.C.E., the Egyptian priest Manetho wrote a History of Egypt in Greek for the new Greek rulers of Egypt. Volume one of the History consisted of the rule of Gods, demigods and the dynasties down to the end of the 11th dynasty. Volume two covered Dynasty 12 to 19 and volume three consisted of dynasty 20 to 31. Much of Manetho seemed to consist of bare king lists, which mention merely the name and reign length of the king. The rest included a great deal of folklore. What is fascinating though is that his dynastic lists seem to be fairly accurate; certainly Manetho's division of dynasties are the basis for modern ancient Egyptian chronology.

Manetho seems to have been a Priest of Thoth, whose name may have meant "Beloved of Thoth". He apparently came from Sebennytos in the Nile delta and lived c. 300 B.C.E. - 220 B.C.E. He apparently was a Priest of the God Ra at Heliopolis, and was involved in the creation and setting up of the cult of the syncretic god Sarapis. Manetho apparently wrote his History of Egypt, and in greek, in three books to acquaint the new rulers of Egypt with the country they ruled, it appears to have been in imitation of the Babylonica, of Berossos. Manetho was credited in antiquity with the following books. History of Egypt, Against Herodotus, Sacred Book, On antiquity and Religion, On Festivals, On the Preparation of Kyphi, Digest of Physics, and The Book of Sothis. Several of these books like The Book of Sothis, were not by Manetho and Against Herodotus, apparently never existed has a separate book by Manetho but was a collection of excerpts created later.Manetho seemed to be of no great interest in antiquity, which preferred Herodotus and Diodorus, and unfortunately like his contemporary Berossos, a Babylonian priest who wrote a history of Babylonia in Greek, called forth no reaction from either his country men to write and publish research in greek or among Greek speakers to do likewise. The result was that the Greco-Roman intellectual world remained cut off, in my opinion to its detriment, to a large extent from the intellectual riches of Egypt and Babylonia. We owe the survival of Manetho (and Berossos) mainly to the work of Justin Africanus (third century C.E.), who wrote an extensive chronology and Eusebius (4th century C.E.), who did likewise, Unfortunately neither survives in the original form, but we have extensive quotes from George Syncellus and the anonymous Armenian version of Eusibius. It does appear however that to some extent Manetho was mangled by the copyists.2

Mantho’s history thus survives in only a severely truncated mangled version. The writer and Geoarchaeologist Eberhard Zagger has endeavoured to use Manetho to make some pretty far out speculations about ancient history and Atlantis.

In Eberhard Zagger's The Future of the Past: Archaeology in the 21st Century, we read the following concerning the Egyptian priest Manetheo and his History of Egypt:

…Atlantis apparently existed 8000 years before Solon's visit to Egypt,and therefore some eleven thousand years before the present day. The opponents of a historical Atlantis suggest that Plato had set his metaphorical tale in dim and distant prehistory, to emphasize that this was not a truly historical account but a myth. Franz Susemihl, for example, wrote in the year 1855:

"At the same time, however, setting the myth in that extremely far-off time, no historical recollection of which remained, even among the Egyptians, avoids any misunderstanding that a real historical fact was the basis."

Five generations later (and after 150 years of research), historical linguistics continue to rely on arguments from the century before last. The Tubingen scholar Alexander Slezak, for example, recently wrote:

"It does take some literary ignorance to overlook the fact that these statements [about dates] ... are there to simply exclude the questions that may arise concerning any possible historical content of the story."

If, however, we examine the statements of historians from Plato's own time, it is obvious that they employed the same time reckoning. The suggestion that they intended to 'simply exclude' the 'questions that may arise concerning any possible historical content' from their statements, is hardly likely to convince anyone. Herodotus, the 'father of historical writing', maintains that the pharaohs had reigned for 11,340 years. This statement rests, like those of Solon, on discussions with Egyptian temple priests, who claimed that their written records covered this whole period of time.

A completely similar timescale is present in another work of Plato's, namely in the Laws, which was written later. There, the philosopher states that the Egyptian culture is 10,000 years old - and at this point we may absolutely exclude any suggestion that the information is given in a mythological context. One person, who would, after all, be in a position to know best, because he was himself an Egyptian temple priest, was the historical writer Manetho. He also reckoned the age of the Egyptian civilization as either 11,000 or 11,985 years - in other words, his figures are nearly identical to those given by Plato and Herodotus. Manetho, however, states extremely clearly - and not once, but three times - how these apparently incomprehensible numbers arise:

We may assume that in statements about dates we are dealing with lunar years, which consist of thirty days. What we now describe as a 'month', was previously known to the Egyptians as a 'year'.

Overall it was 11,000 years, but this means lunar years, and thus months.

So it thus came about that the times of the Gods who reigned amongst you over six generations in six dynasties, were reckoned in years, each of which was a lunar year, consisting of thirty days. The overall duration in lunar years amounted to 11,985 or 969 solar years.3

I did some research on Manetho and found out the following: The first apparent quote from Manetho is from the Armenian Version of Eusebius Chronica and the same for the second apparent quote. The third apparent quote is from the Chronology of George Syncellus.4

Zagger then argues that:

So the incomprehensibly large figures given by Manetho, Herodotus and Plato are lunar years - that is, months. In Egypt, various calendars were in fact in use simultaneously, and the temple priests were generally in the habit of using the original lunar calendar. To convert the high figures into the chronology normally used nowadays, they should be divided by 12.37.

If, however, we divide the value of 8000 years given by Plato by 12.37, then the cultures described in the Atlantis story occurred at a time 647 years before Solon's visit to Sais, and therefore about 1200 BC. This date agrees perfectly with the state of cultural development described by Plato. It was only at this period that a culture flourished in Greece that simultaneously possessed bronze weapons, chariots, fortifications, and a knowledge of writing; which excelled in handcrafts, art and warfare; and about which heroic epics circulated hundreds of years later ….5

I found out the following interesting tidbits, the 11,985 year list is apparently from The Book of Sothis, which is at best a corruption of Manetho and contradicts other descriptions of Manetho's works. (Waddell in his Introduction writes "The Book of Sothis, is certainly not by Manetho."6) For example the dedicatory letter in front of the Book of Sothis as quoted by Syncellus refers to Ptolemy Philadelphus as Augustus. 7 Fragment 1, from the Armenian Version of EusebiusChronica, reads:

Thereafter, the kingship passed from one to another in unbroken succession down to Bydis (Bites) through 13, 900 years. The year I take, however, to be a lunar one, consisting, that is, of 30 days: what we know call a month the Egyptians used formerly to style a year(Footnote 2).

Waddell says in footnote 2:

There is no evidence that the Egyptian year was ever equal to a month: there were short years (each of 360 days) and long years (see Fr. 49)8

Fragment 49, From the Scholia to Plato reads:

Saites added 12 hours to the month, to make its length 30 days; and he added 6 days to the year, which thus comprised 365 days.9

Why did it seem that this 1 month year was invented? If you read a little further down you find the following (Armenian Version of EusebiusChronica) : Fragment 1,

-the rule of Gods, Demigods, and Spirits of the Dead – is reckoned to have comprised in all 24,900 lunar years, which make 2206 solar years.

5. Now, if you care to compare these figures with Hebrew chronology, you will find that they are in perfect harmony.10

Which answers the question.

What I also found of interest is that George Syncellus, who Zangger apparently quotes, says the following about interpreting Manetho in this fashion:

Mantheo of Sebennytus, chief priest of the accursed temples of Egypt, who lived later than Berossos in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, writes to this Ptolemy, with the same utterance of lies as Berossos, concerning six dynasties or six gods who never existed: these he says, reigned for 11,985 years. The first of them the god Hephaestus, was king for 9000 years. Now some of our historians, reckoning these 9000 years as so many lunar months, and dividing the number of these 9000 lunar months by 365 days in a year, find a total of 727 ¾ years. They imagine that they have attained a striking result, but one must rather say that it is a ludicrous falsehood which they have tried to pit against truth. 11

How Zagger managed to miss Syncellus's dismissal of this idea of the Egyptians ever making a year equal a month is beyond me, esspecially since he seems to quote him.

The other thing is Manetho never said that the figures given were to be interpreted has months, that is an interpretation given his figures latter on.

Frankly Manetho's figures for the length of Dynasties is reduced to nonsense if such a procedure is accepted. For example Manetho apparently gave 263 years for the 18th dynasty, (or 348, Manetho seems to have been mangled in antiquity), well divide by 12.37 and you get 21.26 or28.13. A rather absurd result. 12

It appears that the real aim was to make Manetho's dates work with biblical chronology.

Part of the process by which this was done is out lined as follows:

According to Syncellus, the numbers that the Book of Sothis, had given for those reigns were converted to smaller numbers by Christian chronographers, including by name Panodoros (an Egyptian monk of the late fourth to early fifth century A.D.). ...

What Panodoros did was to regard Sothis's "years" for six reigns of the gods as actually being lunar months (at a rate of ca. 29 and 1/2 days per month) and thus reduce the figures down to solar years.13


Pandoros' basis for reducing the figures for the nine reigns of demigods was different from the one he used on the preceding six reigns of gods. Instead of assuming that the Book of Sothis' "years" were actually lunar months, he assumed this time that they were in fact quarter years (horai "seasons").14

Panodoros has a lot to answer for.

Earlier in Verbrugghe, the following is said regarding the whole question of Chronology in Manetho:

After a discussion of Berossos, which includes how in antiquity his years were turned into days to make them fit the "correct" chronology of the age of the Earth, the following is said about Manetho:

Similar slight of hand was applied to what passed for Manetho's chronology, although the procedure was more complicated than for Berossus. Since there was no great flood explicit in Mantheo's account, the manipulators hypothesized that Mantheo's initial era with it reigns of "gods, offspring of gods, and spirits of the dead" (See F2a predynastic) represented the antidiluvian age. The manipulators relied on the spurious Book of Sothis, (see chap. 5) in dealing with "Mantheo's account". This first era was, according to the Book of Sothis, subdivided into six dynasties of gods ruling for 11,985 years plus nine dynasties of demigods ruling for 858 years. Manetho's alleged figures for the number of years before the Flood were, plainly also unacceptably large. As with Berossos, the two figures were reduced on grounds that "year" had meant a smaller unit, but for "Mantheo" two different bases of conversion were applied. The 11,985 years of the gods were interpreted as months of 29 and 1/2 days each and thus reduced to 969 solar periods (this conversion was already being used in antiquity: Diodorus 1.26.5); the 858 years of demigods, however were interpreted as quarter years (or "seasons") and so reduced to 214 and 1/2 solar periods (also an ancient conversion: Diodorus Siculus 1.26.5).15

Further regarding the 11,985 or 969 solar years, the following is of interest.

First, the Book of Sothis, from which these figures come from is almost certainly not by Manetho and in fact may date from the 3rd century C.E. 16 Note the Book of Sothis, is known mainly from George Syncellus.

Secondly the figure is for the total number of "years" that the Gods reigned, and is followed by 858 "years" reigned by demigods. Certain writers calculated the God "years" as months and the demigod "years" as quarter years. "Corrected" you got 969 years and 214 1/2 years for a total of 1183 solar years, and this is before Menes becomes Pharoah of Egypt. Zangger ignores the demigod "years" and converts the 11,985 into years before Manetho.17

Thirdly Zagger ignores the amount of time Manetho gives to the Dynasties from Menes to his own time which is more than 3000 years. 18 Converting them to lunar "years" makes nonsense out of this list by reducing reign and Dynasty lengths to tiny spans of time.

Fourthly Zagger ignores that this method of interpreting the "year" was used to explain solely the "years" of Gods and demigods.

Fifth Zagger seems to ignore that there seems to be no evidence that the Egyptians ever thought of the Lunar cycle as a "year".

As for sources of this error I found this in Diodorus, (Book 1, 26):

But since this great number surpasses belief (23,000 years), some men would maintain that in earlier times, before the movement of the sun had been recognized, it was customary to reckon the year by the lunar cycle. Consequently since the year consisted of thirty days, it was not impossible some men lived twelve hundred years; for in our own time, when our year consists of twelve months, not a few men live over one hundred years. A similar explanation they also give regarding those who are supposed to have reigned for three hundred years; for at their time., namely, the year was composed of the four months which comprise the seasons of each year, that is spring, summer, and winter; and it is for this reason that among the Greeks the years are called "Seasons" ("Horoi") and that their yearly records are given the name

So the one month year is dubious and besides it makes nonsense of Mantheo’s dates.

For example:

The First Dynasty is given a total of 252 years (Syncellus Chronology quoting Justin Africanus)20.

Well divide by 12.37 and you get 20.37 years for the First Dynasty.

Fragment 4, Excerpta Latina Barbari, gives a total of 3620 for the first 17 dynasties. If you divide by 12.37 you get 292.64 years for the first 17 dynasties. 21

Similarily if you do the same for reign dates given by Mantheo:

For example Rampses (Rameses) of the 19th dynasty is given a reign of 66 years (Syncellus Chronology quoting Eusibius) if you divide by 12.37 you get 5.33 years, and the 194 years of the 19th dynasty are reduced to 15.6 years.22

The bottom line is that is that Zagger is simply way wrong on this one. This is still an interesting example of how a Scientist can drift into pseudoscience through lack of detailed knowledge.

1. The Future of the Past: Archaeology in the 21st Century, Eberhard Zagger, Phoenix House, New York,1998
2. Manetho, Loeb Classical Library, Trans, W.G. Waddell, Harvard Universitty Press, Cambridge Mass., 1940, pp. xii-xxvii. Berossos and Manetho, Introduced and Translated, Gerald P. Verbrugghe, John M. Wickersham, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1996, pp. 95-120.
3. Zagger, pp. 190-191.
4. Waddell, Frag. 1, p. 5, Frag. 1, pp. 5-7, Frag. 2, p. 13.
5. Zangger, pp. 191-192.
6. Waddell, pp. xiv-xv.
7. Ibid, p. 211.
8. Ibid, p. 5.
9. Ibid, p. 99.
10. Ibid, p. 7.
11. Ibid, Frag. 3, p. 15.
12. Ibid, pp. 113, 117, 119.
13. Verbrugghe et al, p. 175, footnote 7.
14. Ibid, p. 176 footnote 10.
15. Ibid, p. 126, footnote 15.
16. Waddell, p. 234.
17. Ibid, p. 13.
18. Verbrugghe et al, p. 129 Frag. 2a.
19. Diodorus of Sicily, Loeb Classical Library, Vol. 1, Trans. C.H. Oldfather, G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1932.
20. Waddell, Fragment 7 p. 32.
21. Ibid, pp. 21-23.
22. Ibid, Fragment 56, p. 151.

Pierre Cloutier

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Authoritarian Future"
I read Starship Troopers first when I was 12 years old and I loved it! It was action packed exciting and well written. Later I read about and from Heinlein his Anti-Communist views and a few things began to go together in my mind.

Firstly I did not even at twelve much care for the Human society Heinlein created; it struck me as rather rigid and doctrinaire.

Frankly the story is written from the point of view of a rather callow young man who is quite effectively made into an instrument of his society. In other words he is brainwashed. The Philosophical arguments for this new "Scientific" morality are pretty silly. It reminds me that both Communism and Nazism claimed a "Scientific" basis for their undemocratic rule. The stupidity about disputes being settled by force neglects the obvious rejoinder that what force proves is only that you are stronger than your opponent not that you are right.

It is interesting that Heinlein who was an Anti-Communist, and who had nothing but contempt for liberals for being weak on Communism, should have so fully embraced a Communist-Fascist system even in fiction. Like many ideologues of the cold-war Heinlein’s solution amounted to the destruction of American ideals and the victory of Communist-Fascistic ideals and practice. The society in the book is anti-democratic to the core, despite the lip service to Democratic ideals, no-one has rights by virtue of being human they must be earned. Democracy does not exist. Society is ruled by a caste of soldiers, like ancient Sparta. All other humans are less than fully human. They are civilians, without honor and not worthy of respect.

It seemed to me obvious that this "Democracy" was modeled after Ancient Sparta where a military caste ruled over a large subject population which they regarded with basic contempt. In Heinlein's society the ruling Military elite "votes" like the Spartans, after being suitably "indoctrinated", and therefore very unlikely to upset the status-quo and they are quite programmed to obey orders. That and their sense of "Class" solidarity with each other is hardly democratic. (I'm aware that Heinlein provides avenues for all sorts to enter the elite, but like Spartans promoting Helots it doesn't change the nature of the System).

The old Communist parties that ruled the Soviet Union and other states proclaimed that their unique "selflessness", "sense of duty", etc., entitled them to rule. I take the official propaganda of the State in this book about as seriously. Our hero swallows the whole thing indicating he isn't very bright.

In the book we are supposed to celebrate Rico’s acceptance of his “duty” and his incorporation of the life denying, death-worshiping ideals of his society into his tiny mind. Some celebrate this as Rico no longer being a “callow” young man. I see Rico as being similar to the “idealists” of Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia, shallow, callow individuals who tortured, oppressed and slaughtered millions for reasons of “Scientific Morality” and cowardly notions of “Duty”.

The problem of how it is even possible to create a “Scientific Morality” is scarcely addressed by the book. Certainly the society in the book does not allow detailed, critical examinations of its “Scientific Morality”. In that respect it is like Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia. Why Heinlein did not see or know that this idea is a centre-piece of both Communism and Fascism is beyond me. Certainly the refusal of Heinlein fans to see this is incredible. If the society in Starship Troopers is indeed based on “Scientific Morality”, I would chose to be “Immoral” and dedicate all my efforts to destroying it. Such a society is evil by definition regardless of whether it is “Scientifically Moral”. If this century has taught us anything it is that when someone talks about “Scientific Morality”, gas-chambers, forced labour, mass executions, terror, and numerous other horrors are waiting to be made real.

Regarding the books celebration of war, which despite denials is what the book does. I can only quote the following "A military man is in the only profession where he hopes not to use his skills". I just found it fascinating how an Anti-Communist replicated a Communist society in so many ways as somehow "ideal". When I was 12 I got the idea, that I still hold that the "icky" bugs were the good guys.

The glorification of violence is a feature of both Nazism and Stalinism both the most extreme and murderous forms of Fascism and Communism. So is the vision of only one true “Scientific morality”. The give and take of contemporary Democratic politics, the distrust of violence as a problem solver, the tolerance of dissent, the “liberal” belief that human freedom is a positive value is treated with contempt. Humans have value if they serve the state. I am amazed that Heinlein fans do not, or cannot see, that Heinlein’s “ideal” society is an abomination to anyone who believes in Liberty and Democracy.

All in all a wonderful read, especially the battle scenes, getting through boot camp, and the wonderfully conceived battle suits that allow the soldiers to devastate and occupy large areas single handed. Mankind’s Alien enemy is an Insect like species with that have a similar level of technology. Both humans and aliens are engaged in a genocidal war against each other. After all since mankind is fighting bugs. Let’s squash them!

Allegedly the society provides for freedom of speech and elections although given the nature of this society I don't take those comments seriously in the novel. Such a society does not allow for real dissent or freedom and the people involved in voting have been, if the book is any guide, quite effectively indoctrinated. I rather doubt that much difference of opinion exist among the various media from the military or that the "electors" are anything less than largely unified in their opinions. And certainly the classroom lectures give a picture of a unified, cohesive and authoritarian society.

Heinlein wrote Starship Trooper as a cautionary fable about how weak the west was, and unable to combat the superior strength of the Communist-Fascist enemy, which Heinlein, at least in this book, so clearly admires. Like so many he feared the west would succumb unless it abandoned its most basic ideals. We now know that the Communist-Fascist enemy was much weaker then us and the very things in the west that were supposed to weaken it, in the eyes of people like Heinlein, were in fact its strength. Heinlein as turned into a false prophet and his prescription, if carried out, would have been a fatal poison.

So do read it just don't take the society described seriously.

Pierre Cloutier

Friday, December 12, 2008

The "Death" of Peanuts

Charles Schultz

On February 12, 2000 one of the greatest of twentieth century strip cartoonists, Charles Schultz, creator of Peanuts died. The following day, February 13, 2000 appeared the last of his Peanuts strips. It was in a way singularly appropriate. In the midst of all the celebrity obituaries certain things were forgotten.

Not surprisingly, and correctly, Charles Schultz was remembered for the great creativity and path breaking influence of his strip. After all from Snoppy's rich fantasy life to Lucy's psychotic behavior to Charlie Brown's put upon everyman Peanuts was seminal. What people did not talk about was certain aspects of Peanuts which are unsettling and also the great unspoken secret of Peanuts last couple of decades.

The above book that was published in 2007, (Schultz and Peanuts, David Michaelis, Harper, New York, 2007.). It begins the task of putting Peanuts into proper perspective and begins the task of de-mythologizing Charles Schultz and Peanuts. But even so the book is too much in awe of Charles Schultz and the Peanuts strip to see that things are not what they seem.

To start with. One of the unsettling aspects of the strip even during its height was Charlie Brown and the aura around him. He is supposedly the put upon loser. For example during the seminal, creative and very funny series of strips involving Charlie Brown competing at a multi-school spelling bee. Charlie Brown eventually loses the competition and ends up in second place. He losses by spelling maze has mayes, (as in Willie Mayes, the baseball player). It is funny and ridiculous. Charlie Brown's reaction and the reaction of everyone else is that Charlie is a total failure and this is rubbed in relentlessly. Lets see Charlie Brown ends up in second place in a competition involving apparently dozens of schools and he is a total failure?! Am I the only one who finds this message disturbing, i.e., that only total success is worthy and any sort of failure is unforgivable? This message is relentlessly in the strip. Given most of the children's ill concealed contempt why they keep entrusting Charlie Brown in leadership roles, (like leading the baseball team), is inexplicable. The strip in my opinion covertly lent itself to excusing / justifying attacks on peoples self esteem if they didn't achieve spectacular success. However well done it was and remains disturbing.

Another feature was the progressive humanizing of Snoppy. Snoppy's flights of fantasy were amusing, but when Snoppy started walking on two legs all the time and the addition of relatives who did the same it began to be annoying and lose touch with the real world. Peppermint Patty for years thought Snoppy was a "funny looking kid", she could hardly be blamed. Because Snoppy lost his dog qualities almost completely. This was especially annoying when Schultz was saying he wanted Snoppy to remain a dog.

Charles Schultz saw himself has a quiet man who had few needs, loved to teach sunday school and took his Christian faith seriously. This image is to a large extent taken seriously in the book mentioned above. But this self image is shall we say rather self serving. It may have been necessary for Charles Schultz's self image but it is not entirely accurate. The book outlines in great detail the shape of the great Peanuts empire. From Charles Schultz's extensive holdings in his home town to to his vast array of business interests, we have here the story of a very capable businessman. From peanut butter to life insurance to mugs, lunch pails etc., Charles Schultz was very willing to endorse pretty much anything to make a buck. This may go against his self image but Charles Schultz was obviously out to make has much "filthy lucre" as possible and at the very least his devotion to his God was challenged by a very sincere devotion to Mammon.

Finally the great secret not spoken of is that Charles Schultz carried on the strip for c. 50 years!, and during that time it declined. Gary Larson, (The Far Side) and Bill Watterson, (Calvin and Hobbes), both stopped doing their respective strips because of what they felt was an ebbing of creative energy. Schultz kept doing it. Its quite apparent that sometime in the mid 1970's Peanuts, as they say "jumped the Shark", probably about the same time Snoppy stopped walking on four legs entirely. Like the elephant in the room that everyone sees but no one will admit to seeing. Peanuts ceased to be funny in the mid seventies. The jokes became stale and it just coasted. Why did Schultz continue with it? Its obvious. The gravy train had to continue flowing and like people laughing at Bob Hope before he died people laughed because they were expected to laugh. After all its Peanuts so of course its good even when its the pits. Schultz in my opinion continued the strip in order, in large part, to make more money. So this dead horse was beaten well past due date and well past the moment it started to rot and smell.

The last Peanuts strip may have been February 13, 2000, but the strip had actually died more than twenty years earlier.

Pierre Cloutier

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Mayan Calendar
The following is a brief overview of the Mayan calendar system. The Mayans had one of the most accurate systems of time keeping ever devised before this century. In fact it was more accurate than the Gregorian calendar we use today. The following are Mayan names for time periods.
Kin = 1 day
Uinal = month (20 days)
Tun = 360 days (18 Uinals)
Haab = year (365 days)
Katun = 7,200 days (20 Tuns)
Baktun = 144,000 days (20 Katuns)
Pictun = 2,880,000 days (20 Baktuns)
Calabtun = 57,600,000 days (20 Pictuns)
Kinchiltun = 1,152,000,000 days (20 Calabtuns)
Alautun = 23,040,000,000 days (20 Kinchiltuns)

Here are the Mayan time periods in their Glyphic form:

The Haab or regular year was divided into 18 months of 20 days plus an unlucky month of 5 days, called Uayeb at the end.

The months are as follows:

Uayeb (only 5 days)

Here are the Mayan Month signs in Glyphic form:

A Tun was 18 months long and equaled 360 days. Each date was identified by its name and number so for example 11-Xul was the eleventh of the month of Xul.

The Maya also had a sacred year called the Tzolkin, or sacred round, of 260 days. This "year" consisted of thirteen numbers, (1-13) combining consecutively with 20 day names. Virtually all the peoples of Mesoamerica used this system. This calendar has no relation to the solar year or to the lunar year and its origin is unknown. Each date would have a separate name and number in this calendar. The days are as follows:


Here are the Mayan day signs in Glyphic form:

For example, the date 5 Caban would be followed by 6 Eznab. By the end of 260 days each one of the 20 day signs would have gone through all the numbers from 1 to 13 and the cycle would start again.

Mayan dates were frequently given has a combination of the Haab date and the Tzolkin date. For example, 3 Ahau 5 Yax. The day is 3 Ahau in the sacred calendar and the 5th day of the month of Yax. A combination of the same two calendar names for the same day can only occur once every 18,980 days or every 52 years. This is called the Calendar round. Just mentioning the full name of a date would place it precisely within that 52 year period.

A further refinement was the Short Count, which was a list of 13 Katun’s for a total of 256 years. By including a Katun date with a calendar it would be possible to be precise within a 256 year period. Each Katun was numbered 1 to 13 and called Ahau for example Katun 8 Ahau started a little more than 138 years after the beginning of the short count, or 50,400 days after the short count started. Usually short count dates only listed the Katun number and the year ending. This method came into frequent use only after the Mayan collapse of the 9th century.

The Maya dated events during the classic period in terms, not of years but of number of days since a fixed date. This is called the Long Count. Thus the dates in Maya inscriptions of the Classic period are not in years but the total number of days since August 13, 3114 B.C.E.. It is believed that the date above represents the creation of the present world in the myths of the Maya. Since the Maya calculated dates long before this date it doesn’t seem to represent the original creation of the World. Thus dates would be represented by a long list of numbers which would precisely date an event since August 13, 3114 B.C.E.. This system of dating did not survive the end of the Classic period.

Archaeologists usually write long count dates in the following manner 9. 14. 7. 11. 19, which means 9 Baktuns + 14 Katuns + 7 Tuns + 11 Uninals + 19 Kins. Which works out has 1,296,000 days + 100,800 days + 2520 days + 220 days + 19 days, or 1,399,549 days since August 13, 3114 B.C.E.. This works out to the date July 5, 520 C.E.

The Maya frequently employed multiple systems of dating and even dated events to within a few hours. They divided up the Night into Nine Lords of the Night and dated events that occurred within each part of the night ruled by a particular Lord. The Maya also had worked out the orbits of various planets for example Venus into Cycles. Mayan astronomers worked out that from Earth Venus has an apparent orbit of 584 days., (this is less than a ¼ of a day off). The Maya had a cyclical view of time thinking that events tended to repeat themselves and constantly looking for favourable cycles and anniversaries.

The Maya 6th Edition, by Michael D. Coe, Thames and Hudson, London, 1998.
World of the Maya, by Victor W. Von Hagen, Mentor Books, New York, 1960.
Maya Cosmos, by Linda Schele & David Freidel & Joy Parker, William Morrow Company Inc., New York, 1993.
The Code of Kings, by Linda Schele & Peter Mathews, Touchstone Books, New York, 1998.
The Blood of Kings, by Linda Schele & Mary Ellen Miller, George Braziller Inc., 1986.

Pierre Cloutier

Thursday, December 04, 2008

"The Divine Marquis"

Marquis de Sade





It is of course rather rare for someones name to become a noun but in the case of the Marquis de Sade to say that the man has become well known as a noun is a spectacular underestimate. Sadism is simply an all too familiar word. It originated from a combination of a rather "extreme" erotic appetites of Monsieur de Sade and, largely, because of his writings. Here I will discuss his most famous, along with being his most disgusting work, The 120 Days of Sodom.1

The details of his life are fairly simple. He was born in 1740 and died in 1814. He spent c. 32 years of his life in various prisons including the Bastile. The last 13 years in the Charenton Insane Asylum.2

While in the Bastile he composed his The 120 Days of Sodom, some times in the early 1780's. In 1785 concerned that the manuscript might be seized and destroyed he decided to make that less likely. He pasted together into sort of a scroll paper sheets twelve centimeters wide and a bit over 12 meters long. Between October 22 and November 28th 1785 he copied the entire work onto both sides of the scroll and then carefully hid it away behind some loose bricks. There it stayed for sometime. Shortly before the Bastile was stormed Sade had been removed from the prison, (he apparently was encouraging the milling revolutionary crowds around it). After the Bastile was stormed de Sade's cell was sacked and practically all of its contents lost or destroyed. Sade apparently thought that the manuscript was lost for good. Sade mourned the loss of this and other manuscripts.3
Amazingly at least this one manuscript survived. An Arnoux de Saint-Maximin looking for stuff to take found the manuscript behind some loose bricks and amazingly kept it. Probably has a strange keepsake. It ended up in the care of the Villeneuve-Trans family for three generations. They then sold it to a German collector c. 1900. In 1904 the German Psychologist Dr. Iwan Bloch published the work.4

The 120 Days of Sodom is divided into four main sections. Part one is the 150 Simple Passions, Part two is the 150 Complex Passions, Part three is the 150 Criminal Passions and Part four is the 150 Murderous Passions. Before the four main sections is a long introduction setting the scene. The manuscript we have is not a complete work in any sense only the Introduction and Part One are in any sense complete. Parts two to four exist only in draft form. What we have is still 484 pages long.5 The four parts are each divided into two parts. In one part a different story teller narrates one of 150 tales of various passions, intermingled with these tales is a description of the goings on of our "Heroes", (extreme anti-heroes more accurately), which forms the second part of each part.

The setting of this tale is a remote castle were 4 aristocratic gentlemen, the Duc de Blangis, the Bishop, Curval and Durcet, have after careful planning, taking more than a year, have arranged to have the ultimate in carnal and "libertine" pleasures. All four of them are vicious murderous men, guilty of myriad crimes such as assault, rape, murder and incest and are only interested in their own satisfactions. Their victims include 16 young adolescents, between the ages of 12-15, 8 boys and 8 girls; they have kidnapped. Their 4 wives, who are also their daughters and whom they have married to each other, 8 adult men, 4 older women who will act has "Governesses" of the adolescents and 4 women who will serve has Story tellers, and 3 Cooks and 3 Scullery maids. Their potential victims thus number 42. The 6 Cooks and Scullery maids are excluded from the reign of terror that follows until near the end.

The 36 main victims are controlled in a ruthless relentless fashion by a series of sadistic rules that resemble the brutality of a concentration camp.

Should any subject in some way refuse anything demanded of him, even when incapacitated or when that thing is impossible, he shall be punished with utmost severity; 'tis for him to provide, for him to discover ways and means.6

Sade in this book aside from incredible sadistic cruelty has an obsession with scatology, that is both stomach turning and numbing by its frequency. Another trade mark is the book's interminable obsession with blasphemy. The following combines the two.

13. The man who amused himself with Eugenie on Duclos' eleventh day has the girl shit, wipes the well be-shitted ass; he possesses an out-sized prick, and embuggers, ploughing into the asshole behind a consecrated Host.7

That is merely one of the less disgusting and offensive examples, there are many, many more.

Regarding the sadism, so to speak, the following is one of the ultimate passages of sheer terror and horror.

That accomplished, the flesh is peeled away from the bones of her arms and legs, which bones are sawed in several places, then her nerves are laid bare in four adjacent places, the nerve ends are tied to a short stick which like a tourniquet, is twisted, thus drawing forth the aforesaid nerves, which are very delicate parts of human anatomy and, which, when mistreated, cause the patient to suffer much. Augustine's agonies are unheard-of.8

Augustine is 15 years old.

This sort of stuff is relentless in The 120 Days of Sodom, it goes on for page after page without let up. So whats the point? Aside from the psychological / pathological aspects which are of interest in themselves. (Assuming you can keep your lunch down reading this stuff). The main focus of interest is its portrayal of evil. Frankly the 4 anti-heroes are evil men. Their obsession with their own needs and satisfactions; their delight in the crushing / destruction of others; their astounding pathological, psychopathic inability to empathize with others is one of the truest portrayals of not just the psychopathic sex killer but frankly of the psychopathic murderous politician, and those who carry out his dirty work. I said earlier that this horrid little castle in the tale is similar to a concentration camp, and has such it frighteningly mirrors the idea of the Concentration camp Universe. In this tale the murderous runners of the system terrorize everyone else and kill with abandon and cold blooded fury. Those that survive the ordeal with our 4 villains survive because they participate in the torture and murders of others. In the end of the 42 people our Camp Commandants take to the castle, thirty are murdered, in horrific fashion, twelve are allowed to survive having purchased survival by participating in torture and murder. Rather similar to some of the doings in our own concentration camp Universes.

To quote:

Les Cent Vingt Journees de Sodome and La Philosophie dans le Boudoir are dreams of absolute, destructive power, manifesting itself through rape, mutilation, and murder, and exercised by groups of seigneurs over their helpless victims. These fictions are just as much wish-fulfillment fantasies as sentimental novelettes of the romantic kind, only they are black fantasies instead of white ones;...9

It is also I contend a frightening view of the sadism and dreams of absolute power of a certain type of politician obsessed with absolute dreams and not empathizing with people. That is one of the reasons to read the Marquis de Sade; to provide insight into a dangerous mentality.

1, I'm using the Grove Press translation, New York, 1967.

2, See article in Wikipedia Here See also The Malcontents, Editor Joe Queenan, Running Press, London, 2002, pp. 517-519, and The Human Comedy of the Divine Marquis, John Weightman, New York Review of Books, V. XL No. 15, September 23, 1993, pp. 6-10.

3, The 120 Days of Sodom, pp. 183-187.

4, Ibid.

5, In the Grove edition.

6, Ibid. p. 248.

7, Ibid. p. 601.

8, Ibid. p. 658.

9, Weightman, p. 8.

Pierre Cloutier

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Age of Justinian Part II

Hagia Sophia

In a past posting I talked about the Age of Justinian and his wife Theodora. This is a second look at Justinian and his age.

I mentioned before that the age of Justinian seems in many respects one of futility despite the glory. Has Gibbon says:

But the wars, the conquests, and the triumphs of Justinian are the feeble, and pernicious efforts of old age, which exhaust the remains of strength, and accelerate the decay of the power of life. He exulted in the glorious act of restoring Africa and Italy to the republic; but the calamities which followed... betrayed the impotence of the conqueror and accomplished the ruin of those unfortunate countries.


The triple scourge of war, pestilence, and famine, afflicted the subjects of Justinian, and his reign is disgraced by a visible decrease of the human species, which has never been repaired in some of the fairest countries of the globe.1

I could quote other authors who write the same sort of thing. A response to this is to state that the reason why Justinian failed, and that his empire proved incapable of retaining his conquests was the effects of the great plague.2

Well this is dubious. If your going to make such a supposition your going to have to back it up. The best comparison would be with the Black Death in Europe of the mid 14th century and reoccurring afterwards for centuries. Do we see the same ebbing of effort, the same cultural and permanent economic decline. In other words do we see the same decay of civilization? Well the answer is that we don't. The Black Death certainly inaugurated a long period of change, and was a catastrophic event. But it did not destroy the culture or vitality of European Christianity. A case in point is the plague did not stop the Hundred Years War between Britain and France. In fact its effect on their war making was amazingly minimal, at least immediately.3

I have severe doubts that the plague was the only or even the main cause for the moribund character of the late classical culture, society and economy. After all it is generally recognized that the Black Death fell upon a Europe that was very vunerable to this type of disaster and one that was already in crisis.4

After all The Western Roman Empire had already fallen, large areas of the west, for example Britain, had experienced significant decline, even collapse earlier.5 But the argument that it was the plague does serve one very useful purpose it helps get Justinian and Theodora off the hook of responsibility.

The argument that loss of people and revenue adversely effected the ability of the Roman Empire to hold onto and maintain the re-conquests of Justinian, ignores one thing above all others. The plague also affected the enemies of the empire, reducing the costs of conquest and maintaining the conquests. To say nothing of defence. If the plague seriously reduced revenue by eliminating taxpayers and reducing output it would also have reduced costs by having fewer people to administer over.

That the Empire went into a long term decline was not simply the effects of plague but of long term serious structural problems. After all if Europe showed significant powers of regeneration and recovery after the Black Death, despite repeated outbreaks that lasted for centuries. Why the malaise that spread across the Empire and Europe. Certainly plague is a insufficient explanation for collapse of Byzantine authority in Italy when the Lombards invaded in 568 C.E. The lack of virtually any sort of coordinated resistance is remarkable. Roman / Byzantine authority seems to simply evaporate.6 Narses the great Eunuch general of Justinian, who finally conquered Italy seems to have unable to do much of anything to oppose the Lombards. This speaks of exhaustion and devastation not simply the effects of plague.

And besides if the plague had catastrophic effects on revenue etc., then Justinian's persistence in his grandiose schemes despite the drastic reduction in the ability to pay for them is a serious blunder which is his responsibility. Such a refusal to face facts is simply foolish.

The argument can be made that the four Barbarian monarchies of the west, (Visigothic Spain, Frankish France, Ostrogothic Italy, Vandal North Africa), were attempts, with varying degrees of success to preserve has much of Classical culture has possible in the Frame work of Germanic monarchies. The destruction of two of them, (Vandal North Africa, Ostrogothic Italy), and weakening of the other two through war, (Visigothic Spain, Frankish France), if anything made thing much worst.7

The fact is the picture given by the writers of the time period is a melancholy one. There is simply no reason to dispute that.8

It is simply not up for discussion that Justinian's activities exhausted the empire and helped pave the way for the Muslim conquests, after the empire came within whisker of being destroyed by the Persian Empire.9

The French Historian Ferdinand Lot long ago gave the following considered verdicts on the reign of Justinian.


From 535 to 548 Africa enjoyed scarcely a moments rest. The best generals of the empire, Belisarius, Germanus, the eunuch Solomon and Johannes Troglita exhausted themselves for nearly fifteen years in fruitless attempts to restore peace. When they succeeded, in the middle of the sixth century, the provinces were depopulated and ruined.10


In 554, when all was finished, Italy was ruined, depopulated and at her last gasp, in a worst position than Germany's after the Thirty Years War. To crown her suffering, she had to taste the pristinium gaudium mentioned by the continuator of Prosper and the inscription of the Aino bridge. This "joy of yore" presented itself to the people become once more "Roman" under the form of crushing taxation.11

The East:

Even in the East, if Justinian's was a great reign, it was so only by comparison with is contemporaries. It is certain that our Frankish and Visgothic sovereigns were kinglets in comparison. But what shadows are in the picture!12.

Famine, war, pestilence, combined with fiscal and religious oppression characterized the reign of Justinian for all its glory the reign exhausted the empire.13.

In the book The Ruin of the Roman Empire, James J. O'Donnell, pictures a Rome and Italy that under Theodoric the Great, (493-526 C.E.) was still vital and in many ways still classical. With the "barbarian" King trying to preserve has much as possible. With Rome still the greatest city in the west and possibly still greater than Constantinople.14.

Justinian's wars and the reconquest, devastated Italy and reduced Rome to largely empty ruins with a population only a small fraction of what it was before. The Senate vanishes by the end of the 6th century and the last Consul mentioned is in 541 C.E.15

The melancholy and almost apocalyptic vision of ruined Rome in the writings of Pope Gregory the Great, (c.600 C.E.), are the epitaph on the reign of Justinian not just Hagia Sophia.16

Some more books I consulted.

Plague and the End of Antiquity, Editor Lester K. Little, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2007.

Justinian and His Age, Percy Neville Ure, Penguin Books, London, 1951.

The Age of Justinian, Editor Michael Maas, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2005.

Barbarians, Terry Jones, BBC Books, London, 2006.

History of the Later Roman Empire, v. 2, J. B. Bury, Dover Publications Inc., New York, 1958.

1. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, v. 4, Edward Gibbon, p. 415.

2. For example: A History of the Byzantine State and Society, Warren Treadgold, Stanford University Press, Sanford CA, 1997, pp. 216-217. Justinian's Flea, William Rosen, Penguin Books, London, 2007.

3. See A Distant Mirror, Barbara W. Tuchman, Ballantine Books, New York, 1978.

4. Ibid. pp. 24-48.

5. The Decline and Fall of Roman Britain, Neil Faulkner, Tempus Pub. Ltd., London, 2000, pp. 169-220.

6. History of the Lombards, Paul the Deacon, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1907, pp. 62-81.

7, See The Ruin of the Roman Empire, James J. O'Donnell, HarperCollins Pub., New York, 2008. The Military History of the Western World, v. 1, J. F. C. Fuller, Da Capo Press, New York, 1954, Ch. 11, pp. 307-329.

8. See for example The Secret History, Procopius, Penguin Books, London, 2007.

9. See The Great Arab Conquests, Hugh Kennedy, Phoenix, London, 2007.

10. The End of the Ancient World and the Beginnings of the Middle Ages, Ferdinand Lot, Harper & Row, New York, 1931, p, 267.

11. Ibid. p. 268. The "pristinium" were the benefits of Roman rule. The Inscription referred to celebrated Narses restoring liberty to Rome and Italy. (p. 263).

12. Ibid. p. 269.

13. See Procopius.

14. O'Donnell, pp. 107-174.

15. Ibid. p. 364.

16. Ibid. pp. 370-374.

Pierre Cloutier

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Guderian, von Rundstedt, Manstein

One of the curses of the historiography of World War II, is the prevalence of the use of the German memoir literature. It is amazing how much our understanding of the period is dependent on this literature. To quote one author:

The single most difficult task all those working on World War II in Europe and North Africa face is the need to penetrate the fog of distortion and confusion generated by the vast German Memoir literature, especially that of generals like Heinz Guderian and Erich Von Manstein. Long the basic staple on which the secondary literature was based, closer examination of these works with reference to contemporary evidence has shown the memoirs to be almost invariably inaccurate, distorted, and in some instances, simply faked.1
Here I will merely go into two areas very little discussed in the literature - bribery and oaths.The image many German Generals after the war liked to provide of themselves was of "Honourable Men" who fought a clean war untainted by the crimes of the regime, honour bound to observe their oath of loyalty to the regime and Hitler sworn in 1934 to the bitter end.2 A little story not told in this copious literature about "honour" is one of simple bribery. It is not mentioned that Hitler bribed his Generals on a massive and systematic basis in return for their loyalty otherwise the cash would dry up. The payments were secret and not subject to tax. To quote:
Since bribery has been seen as a dirty practice since antiquity, and since Nazi Germany practiced the most horrific of human crimes. It is not surprising that those involved in bribery in Nazi Germany have offered no confessions, particularly because German military officers worked especially hard to recoup the image of honourable, apolitical professionals after the war.3

These tax exempt amounts were quite generous. Field Marshals and Grand Admirals received 4000 RM, (Reich Marks), per month. Generals and General Admirals received 2000 RM per month. Civilians also benefited from these very generous "gifts".4 Further it was made very clear that these "gifts" were in return for services too and loyalty too the regime.5

Other "gifts" came in the form of "bequests" which came sometime in the form of "bequests" for individual soldiers birthdays. Thus Grand Admiral Raeder got 250.000 RM, Field Marshall Milch the same amount and so did so many others although some got less.6

Hitler also gave to his officers extensive landed property. Heinz Guderian was allowed to make a selection of a estate in occupied Poland, (c. 4000 acres), the fact that someones else, (Poles), owned these estates was deemed irrelevant. In effect a estate was to be stolen for Guderian. Guderian made numerous visits to narrow down his choice. He eventually selected an estate that was not on the Nazi short list. Eventually Guderian was given a estate, although not the one he wanted, and the Polish officer owning it evicted.7 Guderian complained quite heatedly that what he got wasn't good enough.8 Afterwards many of Hitler's generals tried with state support to create or expand their landed properties.9

To quote:

Those who are interested in the cohesion of the German army into the last weeks of World War II will want to reexamine the impact of large-scale bribery. They will also want to consider the effect of the terror exercised by the so-called "military justice" system of the German armed forces which by latest estimates had well over 25,000 German soldiers, sailors, and airman shot! Huge bribes for many at the top and bullets for thousands at the bottom; not the picture of the German army projected by much of the literature.10

The next area is oaths. Since many of German military men swore that their oath of loyalty to Hitler "Honour" bound them to be loyal to the end it is important to see what they think of oaths in general.

During the Weimer republic These soldiers swore oaths to uphold, support the Weimer republic and its laws which included various treaties under taken by the state. Lets just say they broke these oaths right and left, repeatedly and often, and under the Nazis described such oath breaking in positive tones.11

When for example The government of Prussia was overthrown in 1932, by von Papen, General Rundstedt complied with the request, although it broke his oath. After the war von Rundstedt swore under oath that he had not seen a notorious order explaining the mass murder of Jews and calling for German soldiers to support it. The reality is that Rundstedt gave it his endorsement and signed directives to other commanders suggesting similar directives.12

Manstein in his own trial for war crimes similarly, and outrageously lied. Violating his oath to the court.13

To conclude:

Both Before and after his oath to Hitler, von Rundstedt, like so many others, did not take his oaths particularly seriously. Why just that one?14

The conclusion is obvious The Generals picked what oaths to obey.

No doubt the massive bribery engaged by Hitler "helped" the Generals in feeling bound by their oath to Hitler. Perhaps we would have all been better off if Weimer politicians had done something similar. So much for "Honour".

1. Germany, Hitler & World War II, Gerhard L. Weinberg, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995, p. 307.

2, See The Other Side of the Hill, Basil Liddell Hart, Pan Books, London, 1999. (Originally published 1948) among many.
3. Black Marks: Hitler's Bribery of his Senior Officers during World War II, Norman J. W. Goda, Journal of Modern History, v. 72 No. 2, June 2000, University of Chicago, Chicago, pp. 413-452, p. 414.
4. Ibid. pp. 421-422.
5.Ibid. pp. 423-428.
6. Ibid. pp. 432-433.
7. Ibid. pp. 437-438.
8. Germany, Hitler & World War II, Weinberg, pp. 308-309.
9. Goda, pp. 439-440.
10. Germany, Hitler & World War II, Weinberg, p. 309.
11. Unexplored Questions about the German Military during World War II, Gerhard L. Weinberg, Journal of Military History, v. 62 Iss. 2, April 1998, pp. 371-380, p. 372.
12. Ibid. pp. 372-373.
13 For a brief overview of the Manstein trial see Blind Eye to Murder, Tom Bower, Warner Books, London, 1995, pp. 292-299.
14. Unexplored Questions about the German Military during World War II, Weinberg, p. 373.
Pierre Cloutier