Thursday, February 25, 2010

Reigning at the Vatican

Lucrecia Borgia

Lucrecia Borgia (1480-1519 C.E.) was the daughter of Rodrigo Borgia (1431-1503 C.E.) who reigned as Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503), and his chief mistress Vanozza de Cartaneis.1

The Borgias were a family from Catalonia in modern day Spain called in Catalonia Borja. Rodrigo owed his rise to the fact that his uncle Calixtus III became Pope in 1455 C.E., In 1456 Calixtus III made his nephew Rodrigo a Cardinal. Calixtus died in 1458 C.E. The following decades were characterized by the steady rise to power of Rodrigo who steadily added to his power and influence along with having a string of children by various mistresses. About the year 1475 C.E., Rodrigo met Vanozza and she became his chief mistress and one of his chief advisers until he died. Aside from Lucrecia she also was the mother of several other children by Rodrigo including the brilliant but very sinister Cesare (1475-1507 C.E.) and Juan (1476-1497 C.E.).2

The Borgias during Alexander’s reign acquired a sinister reputation for treachery, ruthlessness and depravity which has stuck with them until the present day. In many respects this is entirely well deserved Rodrigo or Alexander VI, has I will from now on refer to him, acquired the Papal throne in 1492 likely through mass intimidation and bribery. Some modern writers downplay or deny this; given Alexander VI’s subsequent record this seems very unlikely that he didn't engage in massive intimidation and bribery. It appears that that massive quantities of gold and silver flowed to make Alexander VI Pope. One of the stories is that that Alexander VI bribed one Cardinal with four donkey loads of Silver.3

Pope Alexander VI

The ruthlessness and corruption that existed all round the family, combined with Alexander’s predilection for high living and luxury resulted in all sorts of rumours floating round about the family. Including incest between Lucrecia and Alexander and / or between Cesare and Lucrecia, along with some inter family murder. Also Lucrecia’s entirely false reputation as a poisoner. Those rumours were false, but given just how corrupt the family could be hardly surprising.4 For example in 1501 there occurred the infamous Banquet or Ballet of the Chestnuts. It was described in a contemporary diary. At this banquet, after dinner, 50 courtesans danced at first clothed and then naked. Chestnuts were then scattered on the floor then diary states:
…which the courtesans, crawling on hands and knees among the candelabra, picked up, while the Pope, Cesare and his sister Lucrecia looked on.5
Sex with the courtesans followed with prizes:

..for those who could perform the act most often with the courtesans.6

In another example of family corruption; Lucrecia’s brother Cesare after failing to successfully poison Lucrecia’s second husband Alfonso cut him to pieces after Alfonso, who well knew who had tried to kill him, tried to kill Cesare.7

The financial corruption and greed of the family beggars belief in how ruthlessly Alexander sought to enrich himself and establish his family as great potentates in Italy. Unfortunately for Alexander VI and his family he died in 1503 and the family, especially the terrifying Cesare lacked political support without father around. Cesare was rapidly ousted from Italy and died in exile. Lucrecia who had been married to Alfonso d’Estes Duke of Ferrara in 1501 managed to survive the family debacle, eventually becoming a well loved figure in Ferrara.8

However even more than the Banquet of the Chestnuts one incident indicates the almost incredible corruption of the Borgia family. In the summer of 1501 Alexander VI while visiting parts of the Papal state outside of Rome left his daughter Lucrecia in charge of the Vatican. She was given authority to open his mail, see officials and took the place of the Pope at several meetings. Not surprisingly this caused quite a bit of scandal at the time. I suppose it could be compared to what would happen if a president of the United States left the day to day running of the USA to his mistress while on a foreign trip. Some modern day commentators have been absurdly blasé about the whole thing.9

While Alexander was away on this journey, Lucrecia was left in charge of the Vatican. This choice astonished and shocked contemporaries but is itself adequate testimony of Alexander’s completely secular view of Papal administration.10
Sometimes people are just a little to complacent about outrageous acts. The bottom line is that this was an act that showed an astounding amount of contempt for the moral reputation of the church and has such was not surprisingly considered incredibly scandalous at the time, because it was!

It is not surprising that in less than 20 years after the death of Alexander VI the severe corruption within the church would really help to engender the Protestant Reformation and produce another serious religious split in Christendom.11

Painting: Lucrecia Borgia Reigns in the Vatican in the absence
Of her father Pope Alexander VI

1. Lucrezia Borgia, at Wikipedia, Here, Durant, Will, The Renaissance, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1953, pp. 428-433, Mallett, Michael, The Borgias, Paladin, London, 1971, p. 99.

2. Durant, pp. 404-428, Mallett, pp. 60-79.

3. Durant, p. 406, Mallett, pp. 106-110, De Rosa, Peter, Vicars of Christ, Bantam Press, Toronto, 1988, p. 104, Tuchman, Barbara, The March of Folly, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1984, p. 78.

4. Durant, pp. 411-417, Mallett, pp. 11-12, Tuchman, p. 85.

5. Quoted by Tuchman, p. 88. For other brief account of the Banquet of the Chestnuts see Mallett, pp. 205-206, and De Rosa, pp. 106-107.

6. IBID.

7. IBID, Tuchman, Durant, pp. 430-431, De Rosa, p. 108.

8. Mallett, pp. 215-227, 232-241, Durant, pp. 433-440., Tuchman, pp. 88-90.

9. Mallett, p. 162-163, Durant, p. 412.

10. Mallett, p. 162.

11. The first split was between Catholicism and Orthodox which became final in 1054 C.E. See Ostrogorsky, George, History of the Byzantine State, 2nd Edition, Basil Blackwell, Padstow Cornwall, 1968, pp. 336-338. For a short review of how papal corruption help provoke the Protestant Reformation see The Renaissance Popes Provoke the Protestant Secession: 1470-1530, in Tuchman, pp. 51-126.

Pierre Cloutier

Monday, February 22, 2010

Diffusionistic Fantasies IIb
Thor Heyerdahl, Part Two

Stela from Chavin in Peru

In a previous post I went through the first twenty points giving reasons for thinking widespread significant diffusion happened between the Old and New Worlds. Here I the next twenty reasons given by Thor Heyerdahl along with comments on each point.
21. The building of adobe houses regulated into blocks that are separated by street and public squares and equipped by water and sewer systems.
22. Long-distance supply of water for irrigation and public consumption through channels and elevated aqueducts, and the manufacture of uniform sections of pottery piping widened at one end to receive and enclose the narrow end of the next and higher pipe to form a continuous conduit.
23. Large-scale terrace agriculture with the use of animal manure and artificial irrigation for the cultivation of food crops and cotton for clothing.1
I am speechless. Does Thor Heyerdahl seriously think that learning to use mud to build shelters requires diffusion? Or that mixing it with straw and other binding agents is impossible to learn independently. We have mud building from very early on in the New World there is no need to assume diffusion. Besides the dwelling show a process of development. No sudden eruption of such dwellings. As for streets, sewers and water dispersal systems. Well those are simply natural and fairly obvious solutions to the problem of a lot of humans living together. After all there should be paths to walk among the dwelling, some sort of disposal system for all the human waste etc., created and of course people will need water. This of course especially important for people living in dry areas.

As for long distance supply if you live in an area that is dry or where the sheer number of people make it difficult to use local supplies because of pollution by human waste etc, then of course you must get it from other areas and somehow bring it to where it is needed; an aqueduct or canal are fairly obvious solutions. Besides is Thor Heyerdahl seriously suggesting that it would occur to no one to dig a canal to get water from point a to point b? As for the pottery piping. It should be pointed out that pottery piping is a good solution to the problem of getting water from point a to b. It also reduces losses through evaporation and protects the water from theft and possible blockage. Further if your going to use pottery to conduct water from point a to b you have to construct the pipes that way and seal them, otherwise water will leak out at the joints between sections. As per usual the archaeological record shows development over time in the New World.

Let get this straight is Thor Heyerdahl seriously suggesting that it requires diffusion for people to realize that if you practice agriculture on hilly and mountainous terrain it is a good idea to build terraces?! This is absurd terraces are an obvious solution to the problem. As for animal manure and irrigation; the fertility enhancing properties of animal manure are obvious and so is using canals etc., to bring water where it is needed. No need to evoke diffusion.2

24. The harvesting of the lint obtainable not from wild cotton but only from the artificially hybridized cultivated cotton; the spinning of those short fibers into yarn by twisting a stick threaded onto a specially shaped ceramic spinning whorl of identical size and form in both areas; the dyeing of the yarn; and the manufacture of the same two types of looms used to weave the yarn into polychrome fabric.
25. The similarity of cotton garments as pointed out by isolationists and diffusionists alike: the loincloth and cloak for men, and the dress with girdle and shoulder pin for women.
26. Identical types of leather and rope sandals.
27. The extremely important feather crown worn by warriors and men of rank (Characteristic of Mexican and Peruvian nobles, feather crowns are assumed by many to be a strictly American custom; it is nevertheless a characteristic headwear of the ancient Middle East, as shown in reliefs of Hittite warriors, as well as Egyptian illustrations of their sea-roving enemies, the mysterious Mediterranean “Sea People”)3

Well first of all the cotton of the New World is not “artificially” hybridized. The so-called hybridized form has existed for millions of years. Thor Heyerdahl claims this in order to provide an argument for the human borne spread of cotton and cloth manufacture. Second of all the making of cloth from cotton goes back to before 2000 B.C.E., maybe even 4000 B.C.E., in Peru which precludes pretty well diffusion and especially any diffusion by people from the Atlas region of North Africa c. 1200 B.C.E., which is Thor Heyerdahl’s main claim in the book. Given the above the further claims of similarity of whorl is not very helpful especially since the whorls are different. The whorls seem to have been in use in the Americas from early on. Diffusion seems to be precluded. As for dyeing the yarn. Since when is diffusion need to explain why people dye their clothing? The same thing for multicoloured fabrics. Of course Thor Heyerdahl ignores the differences between Peruvian textiles, with their intricate weave patterns and many, many colours with old world textiles. The two types of loom, not mentioned by Thor Heyerdahl are the back loom and the independent loom. Those are general types not specific types. Thor Heyerdahl ignores differences in detail. Further he ignores the fact that looms seem to have been in use from at least 2000 B.C.E., and probably 3000 B.C.E. Which effectively precludes diffusion. As per usual Thor Heyerdahl ignores also the evidence of the slow development of technique.

The clothing similarities Thor list ignores that the human body is the same the world over so humans happening on the same clothing solutions is not a surprise at all. Further it is likely that the first Americans had similar clothes to Europeans when they arrived in the New World so that modifications of that dress would likely have similarities with the Old World. Thor Heyerdahl also picks the clothing that is similar to the Old World examples he compares them too ignoring clothes that are different. The same goes with sandals. Once again over time and place Americans had a great variety of clothing just why are those similar ones considered so important by Thor Heyerdahl? This is an example of a trivial similarity. Diffusion is simply not necessary.

Thor Heyerdahl then tries to claim that the feathered headdresses of the New World derive from the Old World. There are a number of problems with that; one of them is that it is very likely that the so called feathered headdresses of the Hittites and Sea Peoples are no such thing but hair cut short and then bundled up with string. The other thing is that the feathered headdresses of the Olmecs seem to be quite different from any of the so-called headdresses of the Sea Peoples and Hittites. Finally it appears that feathered headdresses predate the Hittites and Sea peoples in the Americas.4

28 The Complex organization and maintenance of standing armies, with the custom of giving the soldiers shields with painted symbols intended to identify their units, and the use of canvas tents in military camps.
29. The use of the sling as an important weapon, the corresponding types of both rope and band slings with the same kinds of cradle, slit, and finger hole.
30. Parallels and identities in tools and utensils, often pointed out in farming implements, and in carpenters’ and masons’ tools, in the instruments of artists, in the
hooks, nets, and weirs of the fisherman, in the merchants’ balances, and in the drums and wind instruments of musicians.
31. Long range expeditions in search of special molluscs, highly valued for their red shells or for the red dye extracted from the snail.
32. Identical stages in the evolution of metallurgy. The same metals were sought, yet iron was ignored by the pre-European cultures here compared. Gold and silver were highly treasured, the ore was melted, hammered and molded in the same kind of pottery matrix to form figurines and jewelry sometimes with striking similarities. For the hardening of copper into bronze difficult prospecting was carried out often in remote areas, in search of the tin to produce the alloy.5

Sometimes Heyerdahl seems to display the most amazing inability to see humans as intelligent. Does he seriously believe that the idea of having a standing army requires diffusion! It is rather an obvious solution to the problem of protecting the state. The stuff about painted shields etc., and the use of tents all seem, well obvious! Finally why is Thor Heyerdahl once again comparing things that existed in the New World c. 1500 C.E., with things that existed in the Old World c. 1200 B.C.E? Thor Heyerdahl does not provide the evidence that these things existed in the New World c. 1200 B.C.E.

The sling almost certainly predates man arriving in the New World. They probably brought it there with them. Given the nature of the sling they would look alike anyway even if they were independently invented. It is of interest that Thor Heyerdahl ignores the following. His Sea People like invaders of 1200 B.C.E., had the Bow and Arrow which they unaccountably left behind in Europe the Bow and Arrow does not show up in the Americas until c. 800-1000 C.E. That is really strange in they invaded c.1200 B.C.E.

As for the general similarity of tools. Given similar problems and the similar configuration of the human body it is not surprising that many tools will show a similarity. It is for example easy to establish that fishing equipment was fairly similar between the Old and New World in say c. 8000 B.C.E. Thor Heyerdahl assumes because they look sort of look alike they had a common origin. Further no Old World tools of these types have been found in the New World. Also New World tools show a pattern of development that seems to preclude diffusion. Also it is likely that some of the very basic prototypes of these tools were brought into the Americas by the first Americans. Many of these tools seem to long precede 1200 B.C.E., in the Americas.

Regarding the dye. Firstly the use of red dyes especially red ochre is common the world over. Probably because red ochre looks like blood. So Americans investing red with importance as a colour is not a surprise. If they valued red coloured dyes and minerals that produced that colour than long expeditions to get it are not surprising. Does Thor Heyerdahl honestly think that Americans have to be taught red was important?

The last section is purest deception by Thor Heyerdahl. At the time he was writing the book he would have known that metallurgy of any kind did not appear in Mesoamerica until after c. 700 C.E. This includes silver, gold and bronze. It is passing strange that his bronze welding Sea People warriors completely forgot metallurgy when they invaded Mesoamerica. So for c. 2000+ years after they supposedly invaded Mesoamerica metallurgy was completely forgotten. Since Thor Heyerdahl would know this with even a cursory look at the literature his suppressing of this is in fact deception on his part. Further the Olmecs apparently knew nothing about metallurgy and no evidence as been found to indicate metallurgy c. 1200 B.C.E. in Mesoamerica.

As for South America it appears that metallurgy involving silver and gold appears c. 800 B.C.E., and bronze making c. 400 B.C.E. Both well after Thor Heyerdahl’s Sea People invaders are supposed to have arrived. Further Thor Heyerdahl in another effort of deception ignores that the vast majority of bronze in the Andean region was copper with arsenic as the alloy not tin. Since this is well known Thor Heyerdahl’s suppression of this information is a form of deception. Also the evidence seems to be clear that the methods of working metals including casting methods were independently invented as indicated by the archaeological record which shows the development of technique.

Of course the implied notion that Americans had to be taught to value gold and silver and had to then learn fro someone else to go into difficult areas to find it is simply risible. As for ignoring iron. Well some American did use iron, however like the peoples of the Old World, until they learned how to work it, they generally ignored iron because they did not have the requisite techniques to work it.6

33. Short-handled bronze mirrors, pincers, and small ornamental bells as major products marking entry into the Bronze Age.
34. Gold filigree work of outstanding quality. The minutely detailed articles of adornment produced by the American high cultures equalled the masterpieces of the ancient Middle East and, like the best of the fine-meshed textiles, surpassed anything in contemporary Europe.
35. Extremely sophisticated ceramic art repeated in the same specialized forms as polychrome funeral ware. The conventional tripod vase, considered so characteristic of the Middle East that it is identified as Phoenician when encountered archaeologically on the Atlantic coast of Morocco or the Canary Islands, is equally symptomatic of the American high-culture area from Mexico to Peru. Characteristic of both areas are also the polychrome effigy vessels in the form of heads and objects of various kinds. Reappearing on both sides of the Atlantic, and well known in each area, is the ceramic vase in the form of a human foot truncated above the ankle and wearing a sandal; the constantly repeated jars in the form of fish, birds, and quadrupeds, with spout and loop handles on their backs; the ring-shaped vase in the form of a coiled-up snake carrying miniature jars on its back; and its composite clusters of fruits and globular jars joined by cross tubes into one common long-necked spout.
36. The great importance of an abnormally flat ceramic figurine representing a naked female goddess. Its universal characteristic is that the body and limbs were flat as a plate, whereas the head was represented in the round. From the Middle East the Phoenicians brought this figurine westward through the Mediterranean as a representation of their principal goddess, Tanit, the Earth Mother. With identical properties the same little female figurine is perhaps the most characteristic example of early ceramic art all the way from Mexico to Peru.7

Regarding no. 33. It should be repeated that these inventions are rather obvious and further they do not appear in the New World until after 600 B.C.E., and then only in South America. Also they do not appear at all in Mesoamerica until after 800 C.E. This is long after the supposed arrival of Bronze welding invaders c. 1200 B.C.E. Once again Thor Heyerdahl “forgets” that the appearance of these traits does not synchronize very well with the Old World. Thor Heyerdahl compares traits from before 1200 B.C.E. to traits in the New World that appeared in some cases well over 1000 years later. Of course Thor Heyerdahl once again ignores all the signs of gradual development over time of these cultural traits.

Regarding no. 34. Thor Heyerdahl once again ignores signs of the development of these cultural traits over time and of course the fact that metal work appears in the New World at least 400 years after the alleged arrival of his Sea People invaders. Of course he also ignores the clear signs in the archaeological record of the development of these cultural traits over time.

No. 35 is an example of trait mining. Once again Thor Heyerdahl ignores when the various traits appeared in the New World as against the Old World. Instead he searches in the vast cornucopia of New World pottery for objects that resemble objects found in the vast cornucopia of Old World pottery. Not surprisingly given the vast amount of objects to choose from he finds some that resemble each other. Of course Thor Heyerdahl ignores issues like whether or not the objects in question are in any way close in time. Instead he compares objects that may be from very different time periods. I further note that he does not give any specifics about the New World finds he is comparing to the Old World finds. The mention of the Phoenician tripod vase is fascinating I wonder why he doesn’t mention the same detail for their New World counterparts? Perhaps because they are too far apart in time? The rest of the traits lack specifics and are also fairly general and so not of much use.

36 is fascinating although he once again gives the alleged Old World source he does not give any specifics about the New World except very general claims that the trait is early and widespread. Well that could mean all sorts of things. Well it appears that this Earth mother figure did not appear among the Olmecs or among the cultures of Peru at this time. It appears that Thor Heyerdahl has in mind the culture of Teotihuacan and its Great Goddess. By failing to give specifics and making it difficult to check Thor Heyerdahl does not help himself. It also appears that this cultural trait is not widespread in the New World.8

37. Clay models of daily life. In both areas occur identical pottery figurines showing a kneeling woman grinding flour; a pregnant woman sitting in a straddling position with another holding her from behind and a third one in front receiving an emerging baby; and a ring of little figurines holding hands in a dance around a little central figure playing the flute.
38. Funeral ware in the shape of small animals rolling on wheels. Although it was widespread I the Middle East and brought westward by the Phoenicians at least as far as Ibiza, the American distribution seems to be restricted to the early Olmec horizon in Mexico.
39. Marked importance of short-handled stamp seals as well as cylindrical seals of terracotta, with surfaces incised with a variety of figurative or geometric motifs. Dipped in color the stamp seals used for printing symbols and designs and the cylinder seals for rolling them in continuous bands. The same special motif is sometimes repeated within both areas.
40. The custom of carving wooden figurines and sometimes also big stone statues with deep concavities in place of eyes, which were subsequently inlaid with sea shells surrounding a black obsidian pupil.9

No. 37 is rather funny aside from the usual problem of what time period he is comparing them to. Is Thor Heyerdahl seriously suggesting that representations of such common motifs world wide require diffusion!? I personally think that Thor Heyerdahl is referring to, in part, the abundant pottery remains depicting everyday life that has been found in western Mexico. Unfortunately for him it dates long after c. 1200 B.C.E. This point cannot be taken the slightest bit seriously.

38 is interesting in that it remains of wheeled toys have been found at the Olmec site of Tres Zapotes dating to about 800-600 B.C.E. A problem is that they don’t look much like Phoenician wheeled toys and of course this is long after the supposed invasion of 1200 B.C.E. Also it occurs among a whole list of artifacts that show little sign of Phoenician influence and of course no Phoenician artifacts have been found. Despite what Thor Heyerdahl says the wheeled toy was used by later cultures in the Mesoamerica, notably El Tajin and the Maya. The wheeled toy seems entirely absent in South America. Of course the invaders of 1200 B.C.E. came from cultures with the widespread use of wheels, from carts to toys just why would they suddenly restrict the use of wheels to toys in the New World is a bit of a mystery. They also did not bring over the pottery wheel. It appears that this use of the wheel was discovered independently in the New World. The reason for the failure to use it in other ways like transportation seems to be related to the lack of animals to pull. Still the use of he wheel does not require draft animals and supposedly these invaders came from societies that were familiar with all sorts of ways to use the wheel. So the failure to bring those other ways assuming they came at all at least indicates that contact was not intense.

39 is another example of Thor Heyerdahl’s inability to credit human inventiveness. The fact is seals exist the world over and seem to be a fairly common invention. Further the earliest seals in the Americas do not much resemble Old World seals in terms of motifs. Of course no Old World seals have ever been discovered in the Americas. Independent invention seems to be the obvious solution.

No. 40 can be dismissed out of hand in that Thor Heyerdahl is comparing a cultural trait that is fairly late in the New World at least in terms of evidence with a trait that existed early on in the Old World. Of course once again Thor Heyerdahl ignores the idea that replacing carved eyes with inlaid eyes for a more realistic effect is not a very difficult eye. Since human whites are white and pupils black replicating them with white shell and black obsidian seems rather obvious.10

Once again we have Thor Heyerdahl making vague comparisons, making much of the trivial among other gaffes. He also engages in outright distortion in some cases. Thor Heyerdahl further gives virtually no concrete examples of comparison and almost completely ignores problems with chronology, i.e., comparing items that are far apart in time. And as per usual assuming that humans are uncreative and un-inventive. Also Thor Heyerdahl engages in what can only be called deception in some of his points. In many cases the similarities given as evidence of diffusion are vague and not terribly convincing. The failure of Thor Heyerdahl to give many specific examples for the purpose of comparison also looks deceptive. Of course he also ignores again the issue of the lack of Old World artefacts in the New World specifically during the time he assumes that the invasion by Sea People occurred.11

That some of the similarities he touts as evidence of diffusion are mere trivial similarities that prove nothing, indicates that Thor Heyerdahl was padding his list. One again the examples are not terribly convincing and the mere piling up of dubious examples doesn’t prove anything.

In another posting I will complete my analysis of all of Thor Heyerdahl’s points.

Olmec Pendant

1. Heyerdahl, Thor, Early Man and the Ocean, Vintage Books, New York, 1978, pp. 87-88.

2. Aguilar-Moreno, Manuel, Handbook to Life in the Aztec World, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2006, pp. 321-326, Coe, Michael D., The Maya, Seventh Edition, Thames and Hudson, London, 2005, pp. 204-206, Smith, Michael E., The Aztecs, Second Edition, Blackwell Pub., Oxford, 2003, pp. 665-72, McEwan, Gordon F., The Incas: New Perspectives, W.W. Norton and Company, New York, 2006, pp. 83-85, Janusk, John Wayne, Ancient Tiwanaku, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2008, pp. 182-193, D’Altroy, Terrence N., The Incas, Blackwell Pub., Oxford, 2003, pp. 24-25, 28, 32-33, 197-199.

3. Heyerdahl, p. 88.

4. Mason, J. Alden, The Ancient Civilizations of Peru, Revised Edition, Penguin Books, 1968, pp. 240-262, Moseley, Michael E., The Incas and Their Ancestors, Thames and Hudson, London, 1992, pp. 96-97, 101, 107-108, De Montellano, Bernard Ortiz, et al, Robbing Native American Cultures, in Current Anthropology, vol. 38, Issue 3, June 1997, pp. 419-441, at 437, Sandars, N. K., The Sea Peoples, Thames and Hudson, London, 1978, pp. 134-137. Dillehay, Tom D., et al, The first Settlers, in Andean Archaeology, Editor, Silverman, Helaine, Blackwell Pub., Oxford, 2004, pp. 16-34, at p. 25.

5. Heyerdahl, p. 88.

6. Driver, Harold E., Indians of North America, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1961, pp. 177-178, Mason, pp. 57-58, Davies, Nigel, The Ancient Kingdoms of Peru, Penguin Books, London, 1997, pp. 10, 14, 19, Sharer, Robert J., The Ancient Maya, Sixth Edition, Stanford University Press, Stanford CA, 2006, p. 576, Meltzer, David J., First Peoples in a New World, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2009, pp. 313-318, Leonard, Jonathan Norton, Ancient America, Time Incorporated, New York, 1967, pp. 122-123.

7. Heyerdahl p. 89.

8. Davies, Nigel, Voyageurs to the New World, William Morrow and Co. Inc., New York, 1979, pp. 141-165, Stiebing, William H., Ancient Astronauts Cosmic Collisions, Prometheus Books, Buffalo NY, 1984, pp. 131-165, Fritze, Ronald H., Invented Knowledge, Reaktion Books, London, 2009, pp. 62-96, Diehl, Richard A., The Olmecs, Thames and Hudson, London, 2004, pp. 97-105, Pool, Christopher A., Olmec Archaeology and Early Mesoamerica, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2007, p. 117.

9. Heyerdahl p. 89-90.

10. Davies, p. 109, Illustration between p. 178-179, Wauchope, Robert, Lost Tribes and Sunken Continents, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1962, pp. 74-77, 87, 91

11. For a fuller analysis of the logical flaws in Thor Heyerdahl’s arguments see Wauchope and Davies.

Pierre Cloutier

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Asimov’s Mule


Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) was one of the most gifted Science Fiction writers of the twentieth century. He is mainly known for his Science Fiction although the majority of what he wrote was a huge mass of non-fiction, mainly popularized books about Science and various other areas of interest. In fact among Asimov’s efforts were a two volume Asimov’s Guide to the Bible, a guide to Gilbert and Sullivan, and a history of the Byzantine Empire! Asimov was probably the most wide ranging Science Popularizer of the twentieth century. When he died Asimov had published more than 400 books in his lifetime. Some were reprints of previously published material but more than 300 were not. Very few authors in history have matched this level of productivity.1

Despite this output, (which included mysteries and one Sex help book parody2); Asimov will probably be best known for his Science Fiction. This includes his Robot stories and novels. Several have been made into movies.3 Among his Science Fiction work perhaps the best known is his Foundation novels. Originally they started as stories for the Science Fiction magazine Astounding Stories. They were later collected into three books and published as such in the early 1950’s. Asimov then shelved the idea for c. 30 years and then wrote four more Foundation novels and decided to tie in his Robot novels and stories with his Foundation material.4

In 1966 Asimov’s three initial Foundation Novels were given the Hugo award for being the best Science Fiction series of all time.5 From all this it appears that the Foundation novels have a pretty high reputation. Well they do and they deserve it.

The story in the novels is relatively simple. The galaxy is governed by a huge galactic empire, centered on the single city world of Trantor, headed by an Emperor. There is in the galaxy no other forms of intelligent life but humans, who inhabit in the galaxy millions of worlds. For more than 2000 years the galaxy has been at peace under a Pax Galactica; however all is not quite what it seems. The empire is falling. A Scientist named Hari Seldon has through the development of Psychohistory, i.e., the application of statistical mathematics to human behaviour calculated that with a few centuries the empire will fall leaving behind chaos and Barbarism and that it will take 30,000 years for order to emerge from the barbarism. Hari Seldon figures out he cannot stop the fall of the empire but he can shorten the period of Barbarism considerably. Hari Seldon and his associates engineer the establishment of two Foundations at either end of the galaxy and so engineer the initial set up that in 1000 years a new empire will be ruling the galaxy.

One Foundation is found on the planet Terminus on the outer periphery of the galaxy, where it faces repeated challenges, which it overcomes in crises that force it to choose one and only one solution, as mapped out by Hari Seldon’s psychohistory. The Foundation defeats the initial attempt by the newly independent break away states to annex the Foundation. Then it cements its domination over them through its technical and scientific expertise. Then it defeats both internal and external threats from the remaining states in the periphery. Then the Foundation faces the threat of the dying Empire, and it beats that one off also. So far it has faced four crises and threats and as beaten them all off. Now it is facing its fifth crisis when the Mule enters the picture. The Second Foundation remains mysterious and unknown.

The Mule is Asimov’s wrench in the system; something unexpected. The fifth crisis is supposed to be a combination of internal crisis, brought on by corrupt hereditary rule within the Foundation and external attack. The Mule mucks it up.6

It is pretty obvious that Asimov’s model for his series of stories is the fall of the Roman Empire. In this case the Foundations take the place of the Church as centers for new civilization and order.

Into Hari Seldon’s scheme for the eventual working out of a new order it is assumed that certain things would stay the same. It was thought by Hari Seldon that the sheer mass of humans in the galaxy, trillions of them, would cancel out the effects of any single human being, so his scheme would work.

The Mule changes everything because he is a mutant and a singularly unique one. Physically he is nothing impressive:
His thin face drew together in front into a nose of generous planes and fleshy tip that seemed all but prehensile. His long, lean limbs and spidery body, accentuated by his costume, moved easily and with grace, but with just a suggestion of having been thrown together at random.7
For all his absurd looks the Mule has one frightening talent that is at once subtle and very hard to beat. To quote:
‘…You see- he is capable of adjusting the emotional balance of human beings. It sounds like a little trick, but it’s quite unbeatable.’ Bayta broke in, ‘The emotional balance?’ She frowned, ‘Won’t you explain that? I don’t quite understand.’

‘I mean that it is an easy matter for him to instill into a capable general say, the emotional of utter loyalty to the Mule and complete belief in the Mule’s victory. His general are emotionally controlled. They cannot betray him; they cannot weaken – and the control is permanent. His most capable enemies become his most faithful subordinates. The warlord of Kalgan surrenders his planet and becomes his viceroy for the Foundation.8
Later another character says the same thing.
‘Forgotten to tell us what?’ put in Toran, quickly.

“About the Mule’s mutation, of course. He tampers with emotions. Emotional control! I haven’t told you?

‘But there was a second assumption, a far more subtle one! Seldon assumed that human reaction to stimuli would remain constant. Granted that the first assumption held true, then the second must have broken down! Some factor must be twisting and distorting the emotional response of human beings or Seldon couldn’t have failed and the Foundation couldn’t have fallen. And what factor but the Mule?9
Later in the story the Mule describes his talent as follows:

To me, men’s minds are dials, with pointers that indicate the prevailing emotion. It is a poor picture, but how else can I explain it? Slowly, I learned that I could reach into those minds and turn the pointer to the spot I wished, that I could nail it there forever. And then it took even longer to realize that others couldn’t.10
This talent is added to the mix of a profoundly wounded psyche as the Mule says:

My mother died before she saw me. I do not know my father. I grew up haphazard; wounded and tortured in mind, full of self-pity and hatred of others. I was known then as a queer child. All avoided me; most out of dislike; some out of fear.11
The Mule further says:

“but the consciousness of power came, and with it, the desire to make up for the miserable position of my earlier life. Maybe you can understand it. Maybe you can try to understand it. It isn’t easy to be a freak – to have a mind and an understanding and be a freak. Laughter and cruelty! To be different! To be an outsider!

“You’ve never been through it!”

“ But I eventually did learn, and I decided that the Galaxy and I could take turns. Come, they had had their innings, and I had been patient about it – for twenty-two years. My turn! It would be up to the rest of you to take it! And the odds would be fair for the Galaxy. One of me! Trillions of them!”12
Later the Mule is confronted by an antagonist who says concerning the Mule’s mental state:

We didn’t foresee that you were not merely a mutant, but a sterile mutant and the added psychic distortion due to your inferiority complex passed us by. We allowed only for megalomania – not for an intensely psychopathic paranoia as well.13

The Mule however does have some interesting characteristics. He is, for example, a musician who enjoys playing and composing on a musical instrument called a Visi-Sonor. This remarkable instrument enables the player to create a combination of sound and sight for the listener / viewer.

The Music crashed in twenty cymbals, and before her an area flamed up in a spout and cascaded down invisible steps into Bayta’s lap, where it spilled over and flowed in rapid current, raising the fiery sparkle to her waist, while across her lap was a rainbow bridge and upon it little figures -...14
Also the Mule wants people to understand him:

He said, tolerantly, “Seat yourselves, Go ahead; you might as well sprawl out and make yourself comfortable. The game’s over, and I’d like to tell you a story. It’s a weakness of mine – I want people to understand me.”15
The Mule is also capable of sincere affection and friendship which he demonstrates in this story.16

He is in other words a complicated villain; evil but not wholly so. Basically warped and twisted by an unusual mutant talent, bad biology combined with a truly horrible upbringing. He is of course eventually defeated but read the novels to find out how.

The Mule is probably Asimov’s most interesting character and a bit of a surprise. In that Asimov tended to be an idea person, characterization was never his forte. In fact Asimov’s characters tended to be two-dimensional, while his ideas overwhelmed characters in his stories.

As for the source of the Mule character? My personal belief is that the source is Adolf Hitler. Not only did Asimov create the story that introduced the Mule just after World War II,17 but the Mule has certain similarities with Hitler.

Aside from the rather unpleasant upbringing, megalomania and inferiority complex that Hitler clearly had. There were also rumours that Hitler was sterile. The main contention is emotional manipulation. Hitler was a gifted orator who could manipulate individuals and audiences through the power of his oratory. To quote one author.

Hitler responds to the vibration of the human heart with the delicacy of a seismograph, or perhaps of a wireless receiving set, enabling him, with a certainty with which no conscious gift could endow him, to act as a loudspeaker proclaiming the most secret desires, the least admissible instincts, the suffering, and personal revolts of a whole nation…I have been asked many times what is the secret of Hitler’s extraordinary power as a speaker. I can only attribute it to his uncanny intuition, which infallibly diagnoses the ills from which his audience is suffering.

Adolf Hitler enters a hall, he sniffs the air. For a minute he gropes, feels his way, senses the atmosphere. Suddenly he bursts forth. His words go like an arrow to their target, he touches each private wound on the raw, liberating the mass unconscious, expressing its innermost aspirations, telling it what it most wants to hear.18
Like Hitler the Mule is able to manipulate, juggle human emotions and like the Mule Hitler appeared for a time to be able to subject history to his personal desires.

In several other respects the Mule is like Hitler, in that he kills millions. There in one of the books a planetary slaughter ordered by the Mule that kills millions. Although it does appear that unlike Hitler the Mule is not a genocidal madman.

All in all an interesting villain and a fascinating character.

An Artists conception of the Mule

1. A List of Isaac Asimov’s Books, Here.

2. Asimov, Isaac, The Sensuous Dirty Old Man, Walker, New York, 1971.

3. Two examples are Fantastic Voyage, 1966 and I Robot, 2004.

4. Asimov, Isaac, There’s Nothing like a Good Foundation in Asimov on Science Fiction, Avon Books, New York, 1981, pp. 281-285.

5. Isaac Asimov in Wikipedia, Here.

6. Asimov, Isaac, Foundation and Empire, Avon Books, New York, 1952, Part II, The Mule, pp. 83-224, Second Foundation, Avon Books, New York, 1953, Prologue, pp. Vii-viii.

7. Asimov, 1952, p. 106.

8. IBID, p. 201.

9. IBID. pp. 206-207.

10. IBID. p. 219.

11, IBID, pp. 219.

12. IBID, pp. 219-20.

13. Asimov, 1953, p. 67.

14. Asimov, 1952, p. 140.

15. IBID, p. 219.

16. See the ending of Asimov, 1952.

17. The story The Mule was published in the November and December 1945 issues of Astounding Science Fiction See Foundation and Empire, in Wikipedia, Here.

18. Bullock, Alan, Hitler a Study in Tyranny, Revised Edition, Harper & Row, New York, 1964, pp. 368-369. Quoting former Nazi Otto Strasser.

Pierre Cloutier

Monday, February 15, 2010

Oedipus’ Fate

Oedipus and the Sphinx
From a Greek Vase

One of the great characters in all fiction is King Oedipus, not only is he a central figure in Greek mythology but he is the central figure of one of the greatest plays ever written; Sophocles’ Oedipus the King. It is forgotten that Oedipus is not simply the central character of that play but also the central character of Sophocles’ last play Oedipus at Colonus, which was first performed after Sophocles death, (Which occurred in 406 B.C.E.) c. 401 B.C.E.1

Here I shall deal with a common trope, that of fate and its relationship to the character of Oedipus in Sophocles’ plays.

That trope is the concept of Oedipus as a tragic hero, who through a fatal character flaw is brought down to destruction. I will not go through the acres of ink that have been spent trying to find Oedipus’ tragic flaw. The bottom line is that Oedipus at least in terms of Sophocles own concept of the character has no tragic flaw, no defect that causes his downfall.2 The search for the tragic flaw began with a misreading of Aristotle’s Poetics and requires a deliberately obtuse reading of Sophocles to find any such flaw.3

In chapter 13 of Aristotle’s Poetics, Aristotle says:

…on the other hand, the change to bad fortune which he undergoes is not due to any moral defect or depravity, but to an error of some kind.

It follows that a well-formed plot will be simple rather than (as some people say) double, and that it must involve a change not to good fortune from bad fortune, but (on the contrary) from good fortune to bad fortune – and this must be due to not to depravity but to a serious error on the part of someone of the kind specified.4
The Greek word hamartia, which in the translation above was translated as “error” and “serious error” was translated in the past as “flaw”, “character flaw” or / and “tragic flaw”. The term “flaw” assumes that what doomed the character was some personal, inward defect. This is wrong, at least in the case of Oedipus, for what doomed him was his fate sealed before he was born. He certainly makes mistakes, but those mistakes were made because of his ignorance of what was really going on not from some character flaw.5 So Oedipus is in effect from a modern point of view “innocent” of his fate.

Why is this the case? It is simple; Oedipus was doomed by a curse uttered by the Gods before he was born that he would murder his father and marry his mother. It was his fate to do those terrible things. Nothing about his character enters into it at all. It is simply his fate. Of course the very attempts of men to evade their fate simply insures that the divine curse is fulfilled. Thus Oedipus’ father’s (Laius) attempt to avoid this fate by leaving young Oedipus to die on a hill is thwarted. Oedipus is raised by the King and Queen of Corinth as their son. When he finds out from the Oracle of Delphi that he is fated to be a patricide and marry his mother he flees Corinth to avoid this fate because he thinks the King and Queen of Corinth are his parents and being a dutiful, loving child he does not want to do those things to his parents. Oedipus decides to go to Thebes. On the way there he has an altercation with a man who tries to kill him, and who he kills in self defence. Unknowingly Oedipus as killed Laius his father. Just outside Thebes Oedipus solves the riddle of the Sphinx, who has been terrorizing Thebes. The Sphinx kills herself, mortified that any mere human could solve her riddle. Without a King since Laius’ disappearance The Thebans in gratitude make Oedipus King of Thebes and he marries Laius’ widow Jocasta, who Oedipus does not know is his mother. The marriage proves happy and they have four children; Eteocles and Polynices boys and Ismene and Antigone girls. Thus did Oedipus fulfill the second part of the curse. Years go by and finally the Gods send plague and famine to punish Thebes for letting an incestuous parricide get away with it and not be punished. Oedipus being the diligent and devoted King he is spares no effort to find and punish the evil doer in an effort to save Thebes from the wrath of the Gods. Oedipus finds out that he is the incestuous parricide. Jocasta kills herself in horror upon finding out. Oedipus blinds himself in an act of horror stricken self mutilation.6

Oedipus is eventually driven into exile accompanied only by his daughter Antigone, while Oedipus’ other daughter Ismene stays in Thebes to watch how things are going and sends help from time to time. Meanwhile Oedipus’ sons Eteocles and Polynices, who sent their father into exile, are fighting over the throne of Thebes. Eventually Oedipus reaches Colonus near Athens where, after an attempt by the Thebans to abduct him for selfish purposes, he is transfigured and disappears from the earth.7

In none of this is there the working out of a character flaw; there is instead the implacable, irresistible working out of fate. In the ideological world of the Greeks at the time fate was implacable it even controlled the Gods. Human attempts to thwart it were always unavailing and pointless. For note in none of this is Oedipus actually from a modern point of view guilty of anything worthy of being punished. After all he killed his father in self defence and he did not know the man was his father at the time. Further he did not know Jocasta was his mother when he married her and had children with her. In other words Oedipus is innocent. However this means nothing in the eyes of fate because he, Oedipus was destined to do terrible things and he is guilty because he did those terrible things despite his from our point of view, innocent.8 As Oedipus says:

I tell you, then, I have endured Foulest injustice; I have endured Wrong undeserved; God knows Nothing was of my choosing.9
Oedipus later says, without contradiction:

Yes, You shall here. He (Laius) whom I killed Had sought to kill me first. The Law Acquits me, innocent, as ignorant, Of what I did.10
Oedipus is a polluted, damned figure because of what he did. The fact that he is innocent makes no difference to either his guilt for his acts or to in anyway mitigating the horror of what he did. This view is so different from a modern view that views guilt as laying in motivation and intent. Here it is in the act itself. The fact that Oedipus killed his father and married his mother makes him guilty, his actual innocence changes nothing about his terrible fate. As Finley states regarding the Oedipus story:

We are usually taught to see in the story and the play the tragic hero who is brought low. But what was Oedipus’ fault? His guilt was objective. That is to say: it existed, first, because he had been destined to it; second, because, in fulfilling his destiny, he murdered his father and married his mother. It existed in several actions, not in his character or his soul, not in the inner motives behind his actions. When Oedipus discovers the truth, he promptly and fully accepts his guilt despite his subjective innocence; he curses his fate not because it was unjust or because he regretted having done what he might have avoided, but because his fate was to do terrible things; he curses what he as done and therefore what he is.11
Attempts to find a character flaw in Oedipus include such absurd ideas as Oedipus’ single minded drive to find out the truth is a character flaw. Aside from forgetting that Oedipus has already done the terrible things that render him a polluted incestuous parricide, this ignores the fact that Oedipus MUST find out who and where this person is or the Gods will continue to send plague and famine to curse Thebes until either this person is found or Thebes utterly destroyed by the God's curses. Besides it would be a truly horrible character flaw if Oedipus out of concern for himself refused to find out the truth and thus sacrificed Thebes to his selfish personal needs. That would be pride, hubris, which the Gods abominate in ancient Greek myth, on a truly colossal scale.

Another foolish idea is the notion that Oedipus’ character flaw is attempting to escape his fate. Aside from the rather absurd implied notion that if Oedipus had embraced his fate he would have escaped it. This idea ignores that the Gods and fate are implacable they would have found a way for Oedipus regardless of what he did or did not do for him to fulfill his fate. Finally what human being with even the weakest sense of ethics would not fight, much less embrace a fate that consisted of murdering your father and marrying your mother. If fighting that sort of fate is a character flaw then I’m all for having that character flaw.

In the end Oedipus is a much abused, innocent whose terrible fate was to do terrible things. He is the polluted innocent whose very presence dirties and defiles and yet in Oedipus at Colonus this very pollution; the fact that Oedipus is guilty of acts of the most extreme defiling nature in the eyes of the Greeks of Sophocles time, turns him into a man of sanctity of the holy and supernatural. This is because of his innocence. Oedipus is objectively guilty because he did indeed commit the profane, defiling acts he is accused of. Yet he did not do them deliberately, there is no malice, no evil intent in the acts. Oedipus is quite simply a very good man fated to do terrible things. It is his goodness and his endurance of suffering, calumny and hatred and a remorselessly cruel fate that make him holy. He is a good man so polluted with unspeakable crimes that he is holy and divine.

So in the end the Athenian King Theseus saw Oedipus’ passing but no other man did. As the messenger relates:
In what manner Oedipus passed from this earth, no one can tell. Only Theseus knows. We know he was not destroyed by a thunderbolt from heaven nor tide-wave rising from the sea, for no such thing occurred. Maybe a guiding spirit from the gods took him, or the earth’s foundations gently opened and received him with no pain. Certain it is that he was taken without a pang, without grief or agony – a passing more wonderful than that of any other man.12
Meanwhile perhaps we can take the warning of Sophocles to heart at the end of Oedipus the King:
Call no man happy until he is dead.13

1. Watling, E. F., Introduction, in Sophocles, The Theban Plays, Penguin Books, London, 1947, pp. 7-22, at 13.

2. Finley, M.I., Desperately Foreign, in Aspects of Antiquity, Penguin Books, London, 1968, pp. 11-15, Jones, John, Aristotle and Greek Tragedy, Chatto & Windus Ltd., London, 1962, pp. 192-235.

3. IBID, See Aristotle, Poetics, Penguin Books, London, 1996.

4. Aristotle, ch. 13, p. 21.

5. Finley, Jones, pp. 12-20, Heath, Malcolm, Introduction, in Aristotle, pp. vii-lxviii, at xxxi-xxxiii, xlix-liii. Heath’s attempt on pages xxxi-xxxiii to introduce some level, (He grudgingly admits that it would not be a serious moral failing.) of a moral failing as a error and not mere ignorance or some other intellectual error as a possible meaning for hamartia falls because it ignores, in the case of Oedipus at least, the implacable workings of fate. Oedipus is doomed to do terrible things from before he was born, any errors he commits are irrelevant his destiny is fated, no doomed, for him to fulfill.

6. Watling, pp. 23-24, 69-70, 125, See also Sophocles.

7. IBID, Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus.

8. IBID, Sophocles, see also Footnote 2.

9. Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, p. 87.

10. IBID, p. 88.

11. Finley, p. 12.

12. Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, p. 121.

13. Finley, p. 13, quoting Oedipus the King.

Pierre Cloutier

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Decisive Battle that Never Happened

One of the traditions of western historiography is the tradition of the decisive battle. Supposedly the decisive battle is what determines that history will take one particular course rather than another. The general tenor of the decisive battle trope is the idea that history is progressive and that the decisive battle establishes that history will go in that progressive positive direction. It is rare that a historian will talk about a decisive battle making things worst or that the whole concept, which frequently reduces war to moving pieces on a chess board, is dubious.1

Allied with this concept is the notion in western historiography of the Asiatic horde. In this concept the "West" as been frequently threatened by "Asiatic hordes" that threaten to overwhelm Europe with hugely superior numbers and subject the west to Asiatic despotism. Thus battles from Marathon, 490 B.C.E., to Vienna, 1683 C.E., are characterized as fights against Europe i.e., the “West”, being overwhelmed by the hordes of Asia.2 “Asia” is the big bogyman other that threatens the innocent progressive “West”. Of course what exactly is “Asia” is poorly defined if at all. It is simply a cliche of little real content but much propagandistic hyperbole. Allied to this the concept of the Asiatic horde necessarily requires that the “Asiatic” armies be huge and the plucky European armies, fighting for truth, virtue and the European way be much smaller, but of course by pluck, luck and skill they defeat the huge Asiatic horde and save Europe from a fate worst than death, i.e., Asiatic sloth, corruption and decadence. Of course it is a collection of cliches that go back to the Greeks and they are of course of little validity.2

European armies are not only characterized as much smaller than the Asiatic horde but they are almost always characterized as more efficient and professional, which is what supposedly enables them to defeat the huge Asiatic hordes. Asia is always that which from outside Europe is threatening to overwhelm poor small Europe.3 Allied to this is the poisonous and utterly false notion that that the “West” is the unique heir of Greco-Roman civilization and that civilizations like the Islamic are “Asiatic” and outside that tradition. This is nonsense. Islam is the heir to Greece and Rome just as much as the “West” is. Further it is curious that although “Western” civilization is frequently described as Judeo-Christian; Middle Eastern civilization is never described as Judeo-Christian-Islamic. The need to cast Islamic civilization as the “Asiatic” other is rather obvious.

Now the above mentioned cliches can be criticized at every level. For example, lumping all the cultures of Asia under the term “Asiatic” is stunningly simpleminded. Further isn’t Europe a part of Asia and so “Asiatic”? As mentioned above the separation of Islam as wholly separated from the “west” and “Asiatic” is also dubious. Such things as the concept of the huge “Asiatic” army, relying solely on numbers against the smaller professional European army are cliches not realities of the past.4

Other conceits like the idea that everything that happens is for the best and history represents an upward process of progress are also in this view of the past. But one thing is omnipresent the small free professional European army that beats the huge unprofessional despotic, decadent army of “Asiatics” through sheer skill and fighting ability and thus preserves “Western” civilization from being destroyed or turned into just another stronghold of “Asiatic” despotism.5

However in this story of the triumph of the “West” towards it “inevitable” rise to global supremacy which by virtue of its considerable merits it undoubtedly deserved that happened an event that must with great effort be excised and made harmless and wholesome. It cannot be ignored but it must be purged as a decisive event because of what it reveals about the real state of the “West” at the time and the actual realities of the world then. Of course I am being facetious about the “West’s” domination being deserved out of the “West’s” intrinsic merits that is just a conceit worthy of ridicule although taken seriously as recently as a century ago.6 The event that should actually be a centrepiece in the history of the world but has been purged out as a central event because it reveals both the military and cultural weakness of the “West” at the time is the Mongol invasion of Europe 1237-1241 C.E.

Mongol Warrior

Here was no decisive battle that saved the “West” no grand demonstration of “Western” military superiority instead what was revealed was the political, military and yes cultural weakness of the “West” when faced with the armies of the Mongols. The patent and pathetic inability of the armies of the “West” to hold off the Mongols is a graphic demonstration of the marginality and weakness of the “West” in comparison to the rest of the world at that time. It has become customary among some to talk about a “Western” way of war and by implication at least, to talk about the superiority of this method of war fighting. The argument being that “Western” ways of war fighting are superior. This is bluntly dubious. The Mongols are a glaring example about how false that is. Of course the usual reaction is talk about the Mongols being “exceptions”. This is poppycock. Instead one should be examining weather or not the very idea of a superior “Western” way of war is in fact true. But then a superior “Western” way of war goes with the concept of small, professional European armies defeating huge “Asiatic” hordes of warriors ruled by decadent, despotic elites. In other words it is flattering to European notions of superiority.7

As I said the Mongol invasions are quite brutal indications of the reality of war making in that period. The simple fact is that the Mongol armies were crushingly and massively superior to the armies of the Europeans and they demonstrated it repeatedly during the campaign. The following is a brief run through of the Mongol campaign in Europe.

In the years 1221-1224 C.E. Genghis Khan sent an army under one of his general’s, Subotai, to check out the lands further west. After going through northern Iran and travelling through the Caucasus, were they crushed the Georgians, they emerged in the plains of southern Russian where they engaged the nomadic Cumans in a war during which the Mongols were victorious. Afterwards they invaded the Crimea where they stormed several Genoese trading settlements. During the winter of 1222-1223 while they wintered besides the Black sea spies were sent to scout out the situation in Europe. In the year 1223 as the Mongols were preparing to return to Mongolia. A combined Russian-Cuman army advanced on them. In a fit of extraordinary stupidity the envoys that Subotai sent to make a deal with the Russian – Cuman army were murdered. By then the Mongols simply wanted to retire from the area with no conflict. The result was disaster.

At the battle of the Kalka river, superior Mongol strategy and tactics resulted in an overwhelming Mongol victory. The murder of the Mongol envoys ensured that the battle was followed by a wholesale massacre. The commanders of the army that the Mongols captured were brutally pressed to death. Most figures for the battle give the Mongols c. 25,000 men and their enemies up to 75,000. This is false. It is unlikely that the Mongols were up to full strength; by then they probably numbered less than 15,000 and it unlikely that the Russian-Cuman army numbered much more than 30,000 men. Afterwards the Mongols after an indecisive battle with the Volga Bulgars withdrew to Mongolia.8

Kalka Aftermath

The knowledge that the Mongols gained in this incursion would help them in their next invasion. But in the meantime the Mongols were engaged in a war with the Chin empire that controlled northern China and so were delayed in returning to the west.

It wasn’t until 1235 C.E. that the new Mongol Khan Ogatai who had succeeded his father Genghis in 1227 decided to follow up the reconnaissance of 1221-1224 C.E.

The army was under the nominal command of Batu a grandson of Genghis Khan, the actual commander was Subotai who had lead the reconnaissance of 1221-1224 C.E.

Mongol Invasion of Europe 1237-1242 C.E.

In December of 1237 C.E. The Mongols invaded across the Volga river. Some accounts give their numbers as 150,000 men. This is false the actual total seems to be c. 50,000. The Volga Bulgars were swiftly obliterated and their chief towns stormed. In the winter of 1237-1238. Previous to this the Mongols had conquered the region between the Kama and the Volga right down to the Caspian and Black sea. In a matter of a few months the Mongols stormed through central Russia wiping out several armies and storming city after city. Only a sudden thaw in February 1238 prevented the Mongols from taking Novgorod. It was a campaign of astounding swiftness during which the Mongols marched well over a thousand miles and stormed dozens of different strongholds and fortresses. Most of Russia not out right conquered submitted to the Mongols.9

For the next 2 years Subotai consolidated his conquests and planned his next move along with sending large numbers of spies to gather intelligence about Europe. During all this intelligence gathering Subotai discovered that the Europeans were fatally, almost suicidally divided and at each other’s throats. After several years of preparation Subotai moved in December 1240 C.E.

Subotai had at most 50,000 men and probably less than 40,000 it seemed an incredibly small number with which to contemplate the conquest of Europe but it was enough as the following events were to show.

Kiev was stormed and destroyed along with other fortresses and cities in southern Russia. Than Subotai advanced to the passes of the Carpathian mountains. There he divided his army into several parts.

One section went north to deal with the Poles, Lithuanians and Germans. The southern section went around the Carpathians to invade Hungary from the south. The main section crossed the passes of the Carpathians and advanced on Budapest.

The northern section, lead by the Mongol general Kaidu, probably numbering no more than 15,000 men at most and likely c. 10,000 divided into several section one swept through Lithuania where it tore apart several Lithuanian armies and stormed fortress after fortress. It then devastated Prussia, then controlled by the Teutonic Knights and smashed yet again several armies it then cut through Pomerania, It then joined the forces invading Poland invaded Poland. The united section smashed the army of Boleslav V of Poland at Krakow and then stormed the city. The section invaded Silesia where Prince Henry of Silesia tried to stop them at Liegnitz with an army composed of Poles, Germans, Teutonic knights and some Czechs, probably numbering c. 15,000-20,000 men. The Mongols at most numbered 10,000 men. The Battle of Liegnitz, (April 9, 1241), was a disaster, Prince Henry was killed and his army annihilated. The Mongols then proceed to methodically devastate Silesia and storm one town after the other. King Wenceslas of Bohemia withdrew his army into Saxony. The Mongols followed up and devastated large sections of Saxony. The Mongol army instead of continuing west suddenly turned south to unite with the central army under Subotai. They past through Moravia, which devastated by fire and sword and many of its towns stormed and ravaged.

Meanwhile Subotai was engaged with the Hungarians led by Bela IV. Probably the ablest of the opponents of the Mongols during the invasion Bela IV was completely out classed the Mongols. While Subotai devastated the area around the Budapest other sections of the Mongol army devastated Transylvania and southern Hungary. Storming town after town.

Reuniting most of his army Subotai withdrew to the Sajo river c. 100 miles from Budapest. Bela IV showing both caution and initiative followed. The army he brought with him probably numbered c. 20,000-30,000. Subotai whose army probably by then numbered 20,000 decided to comprehensively annihilate the Hungarian army. Bela IV, showing a surprising amount of energy, had seized a bridgehead over the river and fortified it. Subotai launched a holding attack on the bridgehead and quickly overwhelmed it. Then as the Hungarians came out of their fortified camp to repel the attack they were attacked in flank by the main Mongol force. By deliberately leaving a hole in their encircling forces the Mongols cause the Hungarian army to disintegrate into a mob of fugitives who were then relentlessly pursued. The Battle ended in a horrible massacre of the fugitives. So ended the Battle of the Sajo River, (April 11, 1241).

In the relentless pursuit that followed, Budapest was stormed and so was any Hungarian fortress that resisted. Bela IV fled to Dalmatia where he was relentlessly purued. Bela IV eventually was able find safety in Germany. The Austrian Duke instead of helping Bela IV imprisoned him to get some cash out of him before letting him go. An outstanding example of the suicidal divisions among the Europeans.

At the same time in several battles Transylvania was subdued and most of its town’s conquered.10 The astounding speed of this invasion and the fact that in a matter of months all eastern Europe was ravaged and conquered is one of the most stunning military campaigns in history.

Subotai spent most of the late spring, summer and fall consolidating his conquests and preparing for the next stage in the conquest of Europe. The Europeans during this brief interval were utterly unable to coordinate any of their defensive efforts as Subotai worked out his plans for invading Austria, Germany and Italy in the coming winter.

In late 1241, shortly after Christmas Mongol armies crossed the alps into northern Italy, while other forces devastated the area around Vienna. It is hard to believe that the campaign of 1241-1242 would not see the conquest of Germany and Italy at least. To be followed by France, Spain and England and then some moping up. All probably to take less than 5 more years. Possibly considerably less if the Europeans sensibly stopped fighting and submitted.

It was not to be. Instead of Europe saved by some last minute military feat, Europe was saved by the fact that the Mongol Khan Ogatai drank too much. In a night of drunken excess in the fall of 1241 Ogatai drank too much and died. THe news took a couple of months to reach the armies in Europe. But when it did the law of Genghis Khan stated.11

..after the death of the ruler all offspring of the House of Genghis Khan, wherever they might be, must return to Mongolia to take part in the election of the new Khakhan.12

Khan Ogatai

There was considerable arguing among the commanders of the Mongol army. The details are fascinating in that the three Mongol Princes wanted to stay and continue the war or at least leave their armies there under subordinates to continue the war. Subotai, the military genius responsible for this spectacularly successful campaign argued for a withdrawal from central and eastern Europe, leaving some forces in southern Russia and too renew the campaign at a later date. The rest would return to Mongolia for the selection of a new Khan.

As the Mongols withdrew they went through Serbia and Bulgaria in 1242 C.E., where they, once again, cut up various armies, devastated large areas and stormed many towns and fortresses leaving behind a wasteland.13

The Europeans promptly started their suicidal infighting again, basically unmindful that the Mongols might come back. Fortunately the Mongols never did come back.

Basically the Mongols were preoccupied by internal disputes and they decided to concentrate on the conquest of all of China, a vastly more profitable and difficult challenge than Europe. This took many decades. (Until 1279 C.E.). By then the Mongol realm was divided and the Khanate of the Golden Horde that controlled the Steppes of Russia was not strong enough on its own to conquer Europe and also frankly not interested.14

The true state of actual power relations at the time is revealed by the fact that not only did it take the Mongols decades to conquer all of China, (almost 70 years), but the armies they used were vastly larger in the order of 150,000 – 200,000 men by 1270 C.E. Further there was no equivalent in the conquest of China of a spectacular conquest like that of Eastern Europe in 1240-1241 C.E. There a Mongol army of c. 50,000 sufficed to crush eastern Europe in a few months whereas Mongol armies of a similar size had trouble conquering a single Chinese province. Compared to China Europe at the time was weak and no match for the Mongols. It is fortunate for Europe that the Mongols after this invasion were so fixated on China that it consumed their main efforts for decades. By the time China was conquered the Mongols were both unable and unwilling to renew the conquest of Europe. So in a way China saved Europe from the Mongols.

Traditionally the nomadic armies of the steppes could be quite formidable their chief weakness was lack of logistic support and the inability to storm cites and strongholds.

Genghis Khan solved those problems in combination of ways. The Mongol armies were highly mobile; each fighting man had at least 4-5 and usually more spare mounts. Discipline was ferocious and training comprehensive. The Mongol armies were able to move at truly spectacular speeds due to their vast array of horses and other support animals to cart supplies etc. The logistic problems of gathering supplies were solved by an efficient commissariat that used the bureaucratic techniques of the Chinese with Chinese technical experts to organize such things. Giving the Mongols an effective logistical setup. Further Chinese bureaucratic expertise enabled the Mongols to organize an efficient intelligence gathering i.e., spy system and to collate and analyse the information effectively. Also Chinese technicians provided the support and expertise in siege craft, machines etc., for how to effectively and quickly storm cities and fortresses. In Europe this was especially useful in that compared to Chinese cities and fortresses European cities and fortresses were not very challenging to take. In effect Mongol war making was a combination of steppe nomad traditional war making and Chinese technical / bureaucratic expertise. The combination proved to be brutally formidable and something the Europeans of the day had no answer too.15

The usual figures given even now, in my opinion, greatly exaggerate the size of the Mongol armies. Confusing paper strength with actual strength for one thing. Given that the Mongol armies were heavily horsed and mobile it is very unlikely that they would number over 100,000 for the invasion of Europe, even 50,000 is likely too large. Interestingly the Mongol armies invading China had large infantry units. Given that each fighting man would have at least 4 horses, (some accounts say 16) and that support forces would have at least 50% of the number of horses of the fighting men. That would mean an army of 50,000 men would have a minimum of 300,000 horses, to say nothing of mules donkeys etc. Given also that all cavalry armies are almost always much smaller than largely infantry armies, (because of the extra logistic support all those horses require), it is hard to believe that the Mongol armies invading Europe were very large.16

One of the half truths that is popular today is the idea of a “Western Way of Warfare”.17 The idea is that there is an especially different “Western" way of warfare that is more deadly and formidable than other ways. In other words another way of flattering “Westerners” i.e., Europeans on their supposed superiority. I rather think that an unbiased look the history of warfare would call into question any notion that the “Western Way of Warfare” is in fact necessarily superior, assuming such a concept is in fact for real. It also feeds into the European notion of the “Oriental Horde” defeated by the small European army in a decisive battle that saves the “West” from the horrors of a decadent Asia.

It did not happen in this case then backwater Europe was saved by a mere fluke, a stroke of luck that the Europeans did nothing to take advantage of. Only later developments in central Asia and China prevented the renewal of the conquest of Europe. There is no decisive battle to write up in collections of decisive battles. The battles of Liegnitz and Sajo would likely have marked the decisive battles in the conquest of Europe except for a fluke event. Even so it is passing ironic that Subotai who organized one of the great campaigns of military history was the one responsible for calling it off. It appears that he expected to come back to it in a couple of years. Fortunately for Europe he never came back and Liegnitz and Sajo are simply decisive battles that might have been.

Sometimes small things have huge effects and in this case Ogatai’s decision to drink a few extra cups of wine may be one of the most important decisions in the last thousand years.

1. See Keegan, John, The Face of Battle, Penguin Books, London, 1976, pp. 13-77, for a critique of the concept of the decisive battle.

2. See Creasy, Sir Edward S., The Fifteen Decisive Battles, London, 1908, and Fuller, J. F. C., A Military History of the Western World, v. 1-3, Da Capo Press, New York, 1954, 1955, 1956, Dupuy, R. Ernest, & Dupuy, Trevor N., The Encyclopedia of Military History, Revised Edition, Harper & Row Pub., New York, 1977, for many examples of this sort of thinking.

3. IBID, Fuller.

4. Fuller does this a lot and so do Dupuy & Dupuy.

5. Footnote 1.

6. See Creasy for example.

7. The idea of a “Western Way of War”, is from Hanson, V., The Western Way of War, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1989. Although the book is excellent he does not in any sense prove his idea that the “Western Way of War” is superior or that it is unique to the “West”. John Keegan in his A History of Warfare, Vintage, New York, 1993, uses the idea with great care and sense.

8. Dupuy, pp. 338-339, Prawdin, Michael, The Mongol Empire, 2nd Edition, The Free Press, New York, 1961, pp. 210-220, Mote, F. W., Imperial China 900-1800, Harvard University Press, Harvard CONN, 1999, pp. 432-433, Turnbull, Steven, Genghis Khan and the Mongol Conquests, Osprey Pub., 2003, pp. 74-75, Buell, Paul E., Historical Dictionary of the Mongol World Empire, The Scarecrow Press Inc., Oxford, 2003, pp. 35-36, 255-258, Shpakovsky, V., & Nicolle, D., Kalka River 1223, Osprey Pub., 2001, pp. 50-82.

9. Prawdin, pp. 250-252, Dupuy, 347, Mote, 435-436, Buell, pp. 45-46, 233-234, Turnbull, pp. 44-48.

10. Prawdin, 252-269, Dupuy, 347-350, Mote, 435-436, Buell, pp. 46-47, 186-187, 235, 257-258, Turnbull, pp. 48-54, 75.

11. Ögedei Khan, from Wikipedia, Here, Dupuy, p. 350, Prawdin, p. 269, Mote, p. 436, Turnbull, p. 55, Dawson, Raymond, Imperial China, Penguin Books, London, 1972, p. 215. There were rumours that Ogatai was poisoned. These rumours are almost certainly not true.

12. Dupuy, quoting the law p. 350.

13. Dupuy, p. 350.

14. Mote, 444-460, Turnbull, pp. 55-56, 60-61, Dawson, pp. 212-221.

15. Dupuy, 340-345, Keegan 1993, 200-207, Dawson, 204-212, Shpakovsky, pp. 23-35, Turnbull, pp. 17-18, Buell, pp. 112-113.

16. Mote, pp. 427-428, Turnbull, p. 18, Buell, pp. 109-110. Dupuy and Dupuy are especially guilty in this respect giving very exaggerated figures for both the Mongol armies and the European armies opposing them, see pp. 347-350.

17. See Hanson Footnote 7.

Pierre Cloutier

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Slant Sayings

Moose greets Cat? Or is it Cat greets Moose?

Here are just a few of my favorite twisted sayings.

Whats mine is mine and whats everyone else's is mine also.

Do unto others before they do unto you.1

Never put off until tomorrow what you can put off until next week.2

May the Lord have mercy on you because I will not!.3

The greatest thing since sliced bread.4

A rolling stone goes nowhere fast.

Sex without love is an empty experience but as empty experiences go it is one of the best!5

Murphy said “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. Murphy was an optimist!6

Canada could have had American technology, British government and French culture, instead Canada got British technology, French government and American Culture.7

Always tell the truth unless a lie is more convenient.

The only Christian died on the Cross.8

Putting others ahead of yourself is a sure way to get ahead.

Other people’s deaths are always worth while if you personally benefit.

With royalty lay on flattery with a trowel.9

To everything there is a season and that includes getting herpes.

Always remember that a man will sooner forgive the murder of his father and / or mother than the theft of his property.10

Government – Hands off my Medicare!!11

God save the Queen she ain’t no human being.12

There is no there there!13

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice macrame.

I used to miss him but my aim is improving.14

Before you blow kneel first.

I saw, I conquered, I came!

Blessed are the cheese makers.15

I may not be Mr. Right but I am Mr. Right now!

You can’t escape death, taxes and running out of toilet paper.

Never let your moral sense prevent you from doing what is right.16

Those are just some of my favourite slant sayings. Some are my own, or at least I think they are others are from things I’ve read and heard.

1. No idea where I got that one from although it definitely is not something I thought up.

2. IBID.

3. IBID.

4. My own perverse variation of “The greatest invention since white bread”.

5. Woody Allen of course.

6. A known variation of Murphy’s Law.

7. A common Canadian joke.

8. From the German philosopher Nietzsche.

9. From the British politician Disraeli.

10. From the Philosopher Machiavelli.

11. From a Teabaggers rally.

12. From the Sex Pistols song.

13. Attributed to the American Writer Gertrude Stein.

14. Title of a self-help book.

15. From the Film The Life of Brian.

16. From Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy.

Pierre Cloutier

Napoleonic Fiasco
Why Egypt?

Battle of the Pyramids 1798

Napoleon was, undoubtedly, one of the greatest military geniuses of all time yet he was involved in number of truly disastrous military fiascos.1 The purpose of the following essay is brief look at the preliminaries of the first and probably least costly of these fiascos the Egyptian Expedition.

Although Napoleon only commanded the expedition for the first part of the expedition, (1798-1799), it is obvious that by the time he left the whole thing was headed for disaster and failure unless the French simply cut their losses.

The expedition had in many respects aspects that gave it the appearance of a hair-brained scheme. For example it involved transporting a large French army across the Mediterranean to Egypt in order to conquer and occupy it. That in the face of English naval superiority was more than a bit reckless. Further it involved attacking a possession of a power that was if not an ally of France a power favourably inclined to France; the Ottoman Empire. How annoying the Ottoman Turks made any sense is questionable. In other words the expedition stood a very good chance of being isolated in Egypt under attack by an infuriated formerly friendly power and the British.2

So just why was this hair-brained scheme approved and carried out? Well first of all the scheme although still quite a risk was not quite as hair-brained as appears in retrospect.

It all started in the mid 18th century after the French had established various commercial and governmental agents in Egypt. In the year 1777 the French government sent a diplomat named de Tott to check out the French position in Egypt. After completing his mission de Tott produced a memorandum for the French Minister of the Marine in which he claimed the defences were meagre and the country could be occupied with ease. De Tott mentioned that occupation of Egypt would lead to control of land routes to India, Persia and Arabia to say nothing of the advantages of digging a canal from the Red sea to the Mediterranean. Further the wealth of Egypt itself was quite considerable. Further to this the governing class in Egypt was the Mameluke's, who were both stunningly corrupt and very unpopular.3

The Mameluke's had more or less governed Egypt for more than 5 centuries. They had originally started out as slave soldiers for the Sultans of Egypt in the mid 13th century. They were generally from the peoples who lived in the Caucasus region at the eastern end of the Black sea. By c. 1260 they had achieved control over Egypt. In 1517 C.E., the Ottoman’s conquered Egypt and overthrew the last of the Mameluke Sultans however despite this Egypt remained largely under their control.4

Under their rule, government, administration, taxes etc., became increasingly capricious and arbitrary. So that by 1798 it appeared that Egypt was ripe for the taking. Especially since the Ottoman Turks had little control over Egypt.

Also as a matter of course the Mameluke's although personally capable of great bravery were to put it bluntly quite inept at the art of war. In all it seemed like a good idea.

It did however have some rather severe drawbacks which should have caused the idea to be permanently shelved as a pipe dream.

First was the simple fact that the invaders would be at least nominally Christians would set off a great deal of animosity in an Egypt that was largely Muslim. So however much the average Egyptian may dislike the Mameluke's and their corrupt brutal rule they were not likely to have positive feelings regarding being ruled by Christians.

French Supressing an Uprising in Cairo

Secondly the climate of Egypt was one not very comfortable for European troops and very unhealthy for the inhabitants much less un-acclimatised Europeans. That Europeans would do badly health wise in this climate with its myriad diseases was a given.

Thirdly in the face of English Naval supremacy such an expedition would be likely to be cut off from reinforcements and basically trapped in Egypt.

Fourth despite Ottoman Turk dislike of their nominal vassals the Mameluke's any invasion of Egypt by the French would be regarded as and a declaration of war and would certainly cause a war between the Turks and the French.

Fifth the Turks, English and Russians regarded each other with great suspicion. The Turks for example, with cause, thought the Russians were aiming at the partition of the Ottoman Empire. The Russian’s thought the English were out to deny them commercial advantages in the Middle East and the English regarded both the Turks and Russians as out to screw them over. An Invasion of Egypt was all too likely to bring all these enemies together, at least temporarily, to drive the French out.

Sixth finally the simple fact is the current Ottoman Sultan and his government were very favourably inclined towards the French government and was basically an ally of the French. Under those circumstances it seemed pointless to annoy the Ottoman’s by invading one of their provinces.5

But the course human stupidity cannot be stayed. It appears that aside from the rather overdeveloped tales of the riches to be obtained by occupying Egypt that the real reason was quite simple. The government in France was frustrated at being unable to get a grip at its main enemy England. English Naval supremacy made an invasion of Egypt seemed a cheap and cost effective way at, somehow, striking at England. The fact that the blow struck someone else seemed beside the point.

Further despite English Naval superiority since 1796 the English had evacuated the Mediterranean because of Spain’s alliance with France. So it seemed that perhaps an invasion of Egypt did not have to worry about English Naval superiority.

Napoleon had his own reasons. He apparently underplayed the difficulty of the task and looked at it as a way of adding to his fame and fortune for home political advantage. In 1797 Napoleon had already explored the possibility of overthrowing the government and making himself ruler of France. At the time the idea sunk like a rock and he got virtually no positive feedback for that idea. Meanwhile the Directory that ruled France regarded Napoleon as a danger to it and thought the idea of Napoleon 1000+ miles away a really great idea. In Egypt Napoleon could not intrigue against the government. Napoleon saw it as another way to build up his fame and fortune.6

Well the results were predictable and virtually inevitable. The invasion was the catalyst that led to the formation of the Second coalition against France. The Ottoman Turks declared war on France. Egypt was conquered but proved difficult to hold, even with the manifest military incompetence of the Mameluke's. Nelson destroyed the French fleet in the battle of the Nile and trapped the French in Egypt. In late 1799 Napoleon abandoned his troops in Egypt in order to reap advantage from a political crisis in France. Perhaps at another time I will write about that shameful episode. In late 1799 Napoleon engaged in a coup that brought him to power.

In Egypt disease and attrition steadily reduced the size of the French forces. Finally in 1801 after years of steady attrition and a decaying situation the French left after negotiating a face saving capitulation that allowed them to return to France. Of the c. 50,000 French soldiers and sailors that went to Egypt 23,000 came back the rest were dead. This does not include the large number of Egyptian, dead from massacre, starvation, war, and one must add the English and Turkish dead.7

Aside from the fact that this Expedition marked the beginnings of modern Egyptology from the work of the scientists and specialists Napoleon brought with him the Expedition did little good. Perhaps at another time I will discuss other aspects of the Expedition.

French measuring the Sphinx

1. In Chronological order these fiasco's are The Egyptian Expedition, 1798-1801, The St. Dominique Expedition, 1801-1803, The Peninsular War, 1808-1814, The Russian Campaign 1812.

2. Herold, J. Christopher, Bonaparte in Egypt, Harper and Row Pub., New York, 1962, pp. 4-21, Fregosi, Paul, Dreams of Empire, Cardinal, London, 1989, pp. 146-154, Esdaile, Charles, Napoleon’s Wars, Penguin Books, London, 2007, pp. 61-70, Blanning, T.C.W., The French Revolutionary Wars 1787-1802, Arnold, New York, 1996, pp. 228-230.

3. Herold. p. 8-10, Fregosi, pp. 156-158.

4. IBID.

5. Kinross, Lord, The Ottoman Centuries, Morrow Quill Paperbacks, New York, 1977, pp. 417-418.

6. See Footnote 1 and Blanning, T.C.W., The Origins of the French Revolutionary Wars, Longman, New York, 1986, pp. 173-199.

7. Herold, pp. 1, 388-389.

Pierre Cloutier