Sunday, March 28, 2010

Winter / Spring Blahs

Well Winter is over, officially that is, and has Winter’s go this one was very much a mouse. I shovelled very little and there was only one storm even remotely deserving the name blizzard.

Its been about a week since my last posting and I have really not found anything to excite my interest since then. I’ve been spending my time contemplating the sheer boredom of existence.

Voltaire said that the three terrors of existence were vice, crime and the worst of the lot BOREDOM!1 Certainly I can vouch for boredom being a truly suffocating entity.

What does this have to do with the Winter / Spring blahs? Well it simply is that this time of year as an inescapable quality of ennui and boredom. Just looking outside, the ground is brown, the trees are dead looking its either cold or cold and wet and everything looks like a corpse. It is depressing.

Just what does one do this time of year to alleviate the inexpressible boredom of this time of year? Soon is going to come that fuzzy feeling known as Spring Fever, that dazed feeling you get as the weather warms up and you begin to adjust to not being cooped up inside and to the increase in the amount of light streaming down each day.

So this period of mind numbing boredom is simply a prelude life bursting out all over. The grass will turn green, flowers will bloom, the trees will leaf, the air will warm up. The long death of Winter will end and the resurrection known as Spring will come.

It can’t come too soon for me.

1. Voltaire said it in Candide.

Pierre Cloutier

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Reading List for a Young Friend I

A Early Book

The following list of books is a reading list for a friend of mine who asked me a few months ago for a list of books I could recommend that he read to help him develop as a writer and enlarge his mind and vision.

The following list is a list of books which I think will do that. The choices are mine and reflect my own personal preferences and prejudices. Have divided them into various area of interest such as Philosophy, Novels, History etc. although I vouch for the quality of my selections I do not by any stretch of the imagination claim that this list is comprehensive or complete. I have made an effort to avoid the more conventional choices.


The Faith of a Heretic, (1962 C.E.) Walter Kaufmann. A book that outlines the importance of thinking outside the box.

The Analects, (6th century B.C.E.) Confucius. A rational approach to human life.

Ecce Homo, (1890 C.E.) Friedrich Nietzsche. Philosophy as the gateway to madness.

The Consolation of Philosophy, (c. 520 C.E.) Boethius. Basically an excellent summing up of classical philosophy.

Mo-zi, (c. 450 B. C.E.)Mo-zi. A clever argument that universal love is logical, practical, useful and in everyone’s self interest.

The Upanishads, (c. 1000 B.C.E – 200 C.E.) Anonymous. Philosophical documents at the fine line between philosophy and religion.

The Age of Reason, (c. 1800 C.E.) Thomas Paine. An effective polemic on the usefulness and primacy of Reason in Human life.

Discourse on Method, (c. 1650 C.E.) Descartes, How to know what to know.

Why I am not a Christian, (c. 1925 C.E.) Bertrand Russell. How reason can be comforting and supportive.

Fear and Trembling, (c. 1855 C.E.) Soren Kierkegaard. The foundation basis for all modern Existential thought.


Popul Vuh, (c. 1000-1550 C.E.) Anonymous. The sacred book of the Quiche Maya an exploration into a very different religious mind set.

Tao Te Ching, (c. 600-300 B.C.E.) attributed to Lao Tzu. A Rorschach test of book you find in what you want to find in it to help you.

A Diatribe or Sermon concerning Free Will, Erasmus. A classic short account written in a humble spirit concerning God’s power and man’s freedom.

The Egyptian Book of the Dead, (c. 1500-500 B.C.E.) Anonymous. An engaging look at a very different mindset.


The Epic of Gilgamesh, (c. 1200-1100 B.C.E.) attributed to Sin-liqe-unninni. One of the earliest of the great works of literature and its focus is on death.

The Homeric Hymns, (c. 800-400 B.C.E.) Anonymous. A view of the ancient Greeks.

The Gods, (c. 1980 C.E.) Dennis Lee. Interesting poems about what “really” matters.

The Circle Game, (1966 C.E.) Margaret Atwood. Very good poems.

Spice Box of Earth, (c. 1955 C.E.) Leonard Cohen. Classical Leonard Cohen.

The Pill versus the Springhill Mine Disaster, (1968 C.E.) Richard Brautigan. Very good and a great deal of fun.

The Poetry of Li-Po, (c. 700-800 C.E.) Li Po. Excellent poetry by a man who lived for the good times.

Poems, (1st century B.C.E.) Catullus. A collection of excellent poems about love and loss.

Poems, (late 19th early 20th century) Rabindranath Tagore. Jewel like poems.

The Cursed Poets, (late 19th Century) Paul Verlaine et al. Poetry as a way of challenging societies precepts.

Flowers of Evil, (1857 C.E.) Charles Baudelaire. Pushing the envelope with some purpose.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, (c. 1100 C.E.) Omar Khayyam. Crystal clear poetry about the fleeting nature of life.

The New Life, (c. 1300 C.E.) Dante, Romantic poem about poetry and romance.

The Waste Land, T. S. Eliot. A caustic view of modern life.


Lady Susan, (c. 1792 C.E.) Jane Austen. Austen being nasty; really nasty!!

Grendel, (1971 C.E.) John Gardner. Beowulf from the monster’s point of view.

The Source, (1962 C.E.) James Michener. Not a great novelist or a great novel by a long shot however the section called The Law is deeply human and moving.

The Ten Peg, (1978 C.E.) Aritha van Herk. A biblical story retold and transformed.

I Claudius, (1934 C.E.) &

Claudius the God, (1934), Robert Graves. Perhaps the best English historical novels of the twentieth century.

Gulliver’s Travels, (1727 C.E.) Jonathan Swift. A lacerating satire by a man who loved people but hated mankind.

I the Supreme, (1986 C.E.) Augusto Roa Bastos. A novel about political madness.

Hard Times, (c. 1855 C.E.) Charles Dickens. Dickens under control is excellent.

The Sorrows of Young Werther, (c. 1785 C.E.)Goethe. Life sucks when your young and in love with a married woman.

Funeral Games, Mary Renault. The aftermath of Alexander the Great's death was pretty dramatic.

The Tale of Genji, (c. 1020 C.E.) Lady Murasaki Shikibu. Probably the worlds first true novel.

The Story of the Stone, also called The Dream of the Red Chamber, (18th Century C.E.) Cao Xueqin and Gao E. Rise and fall of a Chinese Mandarin family. The great masterpiece of Chinese prose writing.

The Carpetbaggers, (1965 C.E.) Harold Robbins. Probably the worst English language novel of the twentieth century should be read to find out how NOT to write.

Life Before Man, (1978 C.E.) Margaret Atwood. Yep a novel that faces up to the fact the human race could become extinct.

The Temptations of Big Bear, (1972 C.E.) Ruby Wiebe. A look at another point of view.

Beautiful Losers, (1966 C.E.) Leonard Cohen. A look about how nasty we can be and how beautiful we can be.

The Idiot, (1869) &

The Brothers Karamazov, (1881) Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Brilliant insights into the human condition and of course The Brothers Karamazov brought us the story of the Grand Inquisitor.

Against Nature, (1884 C.E.) J. K. Husymans. A very strange novel about a very strange man.

Live from Golgotha, (c. 1992 C.E.) Gore Vidal. Bizarre and very funny.

The Master and Margarita, (written in the 1930’s C.E.) Mikhail Bulgakov. Probably the supreme magic realism novel.

As for Me and My House, (1941 C.E.) Sinclair Ross. A novel about how loves blinds and enables one to see.

The Tin Drum, (1964 C.E.) Gunter Grass. A brilliant parody of twentieth century Germany.

Science Fiction.

Foundation Trilogy, (1950-1953 C.E.) &

I Robot, (1951 C.E.) Isaac Asimov. Some of the Best Science Fiction ever.

We, (1921 C.E.) Yevgeny Zamyatin. The first great dystopian novel.

The Last Man on Earth, (1830 C.E.) Mary Shelly. Little read today and yet has had enormous influence on the end of the world novel.

A Boy and his Dog, (1969 C.E.) Harlan Ellison. Profoundly unsettling and funny.

Ape and Essence, (1948 C.E.) Aldous Huxley. A hate letter to the human race with a hopeful ending.

The War of the Worlds, (1898 C.E.) H. G. Wells. The baseline for the alien invasion story.

The Dispossessed, (1974 C.E.) Ursula Le Guin. A novel about the interaction between a Utopian world and a non Utopian world. The subtitle says it all “An Ambiguous Utopia”.

Lest Darkness Fall, (1939 C.E.) L. Sprague de Camp. A time travel story that involves changing history; much imitated but not improved upon.

Paris in the mid Twentieth Century, (c. 1855 C.E.) Jules Verne. An almost incredibly accurate prediction of what life would be like in the late twentieth century written in the mid 19th.

Two Misc. items.

The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, (1876-1890 C.E.). The letter of Vincent to his brother Theo, moving, and a brilliant insight into the mind of an artist.

The 120 Days of Sodom, (c. 1785 C.E.) Marquis de Sade. Not for the squeamish or delicate of stomach but definitely a frightening portrayal of evil.

That is it for the time being later on I may add to the list.

Pierre Cloutier

Diffusionistic Fantasies III
The Mormon Story

Moroni giving Joseph Smith the Golden plates

And I did teach my people that they should build buildings, and that they should work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass,and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance.
(The Book of Mormon, Second Book of Nephi, ch. 4. v.21)

Thus does the Book of Mormon describe the use of metals by the Nephities settling in the Americas. Now the Nephities were supposed to have settled in North America. The problem is that use of any of those metals is not evident in Mesoamerica at the time of the alleged Israelite migration to the New World. Although the use of copper eventually developed in South America and eventually spread to Mesoamerica, the use of steel and iron never did develop anywhere in the pre-Columbian Americas.1

The Book of Mormon is the sacred text of the Mormon faith, supposedly revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith in the 1830s when he allegedly translated the golden plates of the prophet Moroni, which were subsequently, allegedly, taken into heaven. The document allegedly describes the settlement and tribulations of various peoples who settled the Americas before Christ. The main story describes the history of the sons of Lehi in the Americas. Supposedly c. 600 B.C.E., Lehi and his sons immigrated to the New World. There they settled down and flourished. They did swiftly divide into two groups named after different sons of Lehi, Nephites and Lamanites, who were often at war with each other. The basic position is that the Nephites are the good guys and the Lamanites the bad guys. Both groups were preceded in the Americas by the Jaredites who had arrived shortly after the scattering at the tower of Babel, (c. 2800 B.C.E.). Shortly before the Lehi and his son arrived the Jaredites were whipped out in a massive war. Other groups also crossed into the Americas according to the Book of Mormon from the Old World.2

There is not surprisingly a massive literature about the “authenticity” of the document and in the end it seems to be a very dubious document. The Book of Mormon’s spiritual value aside it seems to tell us nothing useful or real about the pre-Columbian past of the Americas and so is disregarded by the overwhelming majority of modern day researchers with the exception of Mormons, (Latter Day Saints or L.D.S.).3

Now in many respects the Book of Mormon is a hyper-diffusionistic tale. It postulates fairly recent and dramatic migrations from the Old World to the New World, and in fact in visions massive significant recent demographic diffusion of Old World populations in fairly recent pre-Columbian times. Further the Book of Mormon gives fairly detailed descriptions of the life and ways of these people in the New World. How well does the descriptions in The Book of Mormon compare to the current state of Archaeological knowledge? The short answer is that they do not stand up at all. The Archaeological evidence conflicts in so many ways with The Book of Mormon as to effectively preclude it as a source for the pre-Columbian Americas.4

Let us examine several components of the descriptions given by the Book of Mormon about life in the Ancient Americas. I gave at the beginnings of this post a quote which describes the Nephites using and making brass, steel, copper and gold and silver. That would allegedly be c. 600-500 B.C.E. Well for the time period in question those metals were NOT being used in Mesoamerica. Certainly the references to metal swords do not help the veracity of the Book of Mormon account, neither does the references to plows. In fact it appears that metal use and the technology to make and cast such objects spread from South America to Mesoamerica c. 600-1000 C.E., more than 1000 years later.5

It could be objected that Joseph Smith’s account does not take place in Mesoamerica. And this would be apparently correct. After all Smith found the Book of Mormon at the hill Cumorah in New York State. And on and near the hill Cumorah was supposed to have taken place the last battle between the Nephites and Lamanites. The problem is that there is little to nothing in the area of the modern day United States to show any sign of the high cultures described in the Book of Mormon so it appears that the place for these events has to be moved south in order for them to have any semblance of reality. It appears likely that Joseph Smith was heavily influence by various writers about the then mysterious Mound builders and may have constructed a religious fantasy around them.6

A quick go through of the Book of Mormon reveals why it cannot be taken seriously as a account of actual history, although its spiritual value is another matter.

Let us take for example the plant life recorded in the Book of Mormon. In the Book Of Mormon we find mentions of barley, figs, grapes and wheat:

And we began to till the ground, yea, even with all manner of seeds, with seeds of corn, and of wheat, and of barley, and with neas, and with sheum, and with seeds of all manner of fruits; and we did begin to multiply and prosper in the land.
(The Book of Mormon, Book of Mosiah, ch. 6. v.12)

Of course pre-Columbian wheat has never been found in the Americas, and barley, grapes and figs never seem to have been domesticated in Mesoamerica. There is some indication that a type of barley may have been domesticated in the area of the lower 48 states and of course there were wild grapes in parts of North America. However these crops seem not to have been used at all in Mesoamerica. In fact it appears that Joseph Smith’s account seems to be remarkably clueless about the agricultural richness of the New World. The agriculture described seems to be nothing more than the agriculture of the Old Testament. It is interesting that tomatoes and chili peppers are absent from agriculture in the Book of Mormon. Neas and sheum are largely inexplicable although some characterize sheum as a barley like grain, which doesn’t help matters. As for the mention of corn the fact is the Bible uses the term corn to refer to wheat, barley and oats and given the obvious Old Testament attributes of the Book of Mormon it is more than likely Joseph Smith’s account is NOT referring to maize.7

Since actual pre-Columbian agricultural plants is largely absent from the Book of Mormon, what about animal life? Here we have perhaps the most glaring examples of contradiction with the facts.

The Book of Mormon, refers to donkeys, or asses, cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, oxen and horses. What all those creatures have in common is that they were either never in the pre-Columbian New World or they had been gone from the New World for more than 8,000 years before the alleged events of the Book of Mormon.8

And it came to pass in the seventeenth year, in the latter end of the year, the proclamation of Lachoneus had gone forth throughout all the face of the land, and they had taken their horses, and their chariots, and their cattle, and all their flocks, and their herds, and their grain, and all their substance,

And the Nephites being in one body, and having so great a number, and having reserved for themselves provisions, and horses, and cattle, and flocks of every kind, that they might subsist for the space of seven years,
(The Book of Mormon, Third Book of Nephi, ch. 2. v. 29-30, 44)

Well all of the above does not describe the pre-Columbian Americas at all. The peoples of the Americas did NOT have cattle, horses and chariots, in fact aside from toys did not use the wheel at all. Of course the total absence of horses, cattle etc, from pre-Columbian sites is quite conclusive. Joseph Smith is once again creating his image of the ancient New World as a copy of the Old Testament.9

The above isn’t helped by the occasional mention of Elephants in the Book of Mormon.

And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants, and cureloms, and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants, and cureloms, and cumoms.
(The Book of Mormon, Book of Ether, ch. 4. v.21)

The above is supposedly from the period c. 2300 B.C.E., from a record that predates the arrival of Lehi and his sons. The problem is that although Mammoths and Mastodons had existed in the New World by 7,000 B.C.E., they were long extinct and therefore not available to be used by the Jaredites when they allegedly arrived c. 2800 B.C.E.10

According to the Book of Mormon when the Nephites and Lamanites arrived:

And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow, and the ox, and the ass, and the horse, and the goat, and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men.
(the Book of Mormon, First Book of Nephi, ch. 5. v.216)

As mentioned before there were cows, Oxen, asses (donkeys), horses to be found in the Americas at the time of the alleged arrival of Lehi’s sons. Certainly one would think that such an abundance of these animals would show up in archaeological digs. They do not, so it appears that as an historical source the Book of Mormon is dubious.11

Finally the reformed Egyptian that the Book of Mormon was allegedly written in has never turned up in the Americas.12

With the above problems does it even have to be mentioned that both genetic studies and linguistic studies provide no evidence for the Book of Mormon has an historical document.13

The Book of Mormon remains an example of man’s perennial search for spiritual truth but there is no basis for considering it an historical document and plenty of evidence indicating it is not. Of course the Book of Mormon is a powerful indicator of what we would expect to find in the New World had moderate to extreme diffusion actually happened from the Old to the New World. Since those effects as outlined in the Book of Mormon are not evidenced we can conclude that such a level of diffusion did not happen.

All quotes from the Book of Mormon come from 1990 Independence Edition, Independence MO, which can be found at Here.

1. Larson, Stan, Quest for the Gold Plates, Freethinker Press, Herriman UT, 2004, pp. 195-204, See also in same book Ferguson, Thomas Stuart, Thomas Stuart Ferguson on Book of Mormon Archaeology, pp. 235-268, at pp. 246-257. For further references to metallurgy in the New World see my two postings about Thor Heyerdahl.

2. Williams, Stephen, Fantastic Archaeology, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1991, pp. 158-167, Davies, Nigel, Voyageurs to the New World, William morrow and Co. Inc, New York, 1979, pp. 141-144, Wauchope, Robert, Lost Tribes & Sunken Continents, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1962, pp. 59-61, The Book of Mormon, Wikipedia, Here.

3. IBID, and Larson, pp. 175-234.

4. IBID.

5. Footnote 1. Larson and Ferguson also give lists of metal references in the Book of Mormon.

6. Larson, pp. 175-178, Williams, 158-167, Davies, pp. 141-144, Wauchope, pp. 59-61, Criticism of the Book of Mormon, Wikipedia Here, Williams pp. 165-166. An example of Modern Mormons placing the events of the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica is Sorenson, John L., An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City UT, 1985.

7. Larson, pp. 179-181, Ferguson, pp. 238-239.

8. Larson, pp. 182-194, Ferguson, pp. 240-246, Ferguson also gives an extensive list of references to those animals in the Book of Mormon.

9. IBID, Ferguson, pp. 264-266, Williams, pp. 158-167, Wauchope, pp. 74-77, 87, 91. Davies between pp. 178-179 has a picture of a Mexican wheeled toy.

10. Larson, pp. 184-188, Ferguson, p. 245. For an overview of the ice age extinction of animals in the New World, which includes the horse and elephant, see Meltzer, David J., First Peoples in a New World, University of California Press, Los Angles, 2009, pp. 239-280.

11. Larson, pp. 182-194, Ferguson, pp. 240-246.

12. Larson, pp. 204-210, Ferguson, pp. 257-264. See overview volumes like Katz, Friedrich, Ancient American Civilizations, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 1969, and Leonard, Jonathan Norton, Ancient America, Time Incorporated, New York, 1967, for the failure to find any of the alleged Reformed Egyptian that was allegedly used in the New World see Reformed Egyptian Wikipedia, Here.

13. See Criticism of the Book of Mormon, and Linguistics and the Book of Mormon, Wikipedia Here, for an analysis that although it tries very hard to be neutral does convoy just how doubtful the Book of Mormon is, and Genetics and the Book of Mormon Wikipedia Here, this article also strives very hard for neutrality but once again it is clear that Genetic studies provide little to no support for the Book of Mormon. Both essays bend over backwards to be ‘fair” to the Book of Mormon it is sometimes more than a little silly. See also Meltzer, pp. 183-207.

Pierre Cloutier

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Fall of the Roman Republic a Note

The Roman Empire 60 B.C.E.

The fall of the Roman Republic and its replacement by the Roman Imperial Empire was one of the most epoch shaking events in history for failure would have meant the end of the Roman state and empire.

As I said in an earlier posting the obvious if not only solution to the serious problems with the Roman Republic governing an empire with a governmental structure geared to running a city state was autocratic one man rule. The problem was the ethos and political sense of the Roman ruling classes basically forbade accepting the rule of one man and hence elevating one man has superior to them all. The very idea of “King” was anathema to the Roman ruling class and utterly unacceptable. The problem was the cooperation of this ruling class was absolutely essential in order for the state to function, but they would also likely bring down or kill anyone who aspired to dictatorial or one man rule.1

In fact it was not just the fact that the Roman ruling class was so opposed to one man rule; it was also in many respects hopelessly corrupt and out of control. In many respects the greed and brutality of the Roman Ruling class was so vicious and so widespread has to endanger the very survival of the state. A classic example was the violence and corruption by which the Roman ruling class opposed the extension of Roman Citizenship to Italians in the period 100-90 B.C.E., including murdering the politician who championed it. The result was the near destruction of the empire at its core. The details of this war are poorly given in our sources but the war seems to have been bloody and very brutal.

What happened was that despairing of getting Roman Citizenship many of the Italian states allied with Rome succeeded from Rome and set up their own state, with their own Senate and capital. When Rome tried to crush the revolt, called the Social War, proved impossible to crush. Which was hardly a surprise given that the Italian allies, who had fought in Rome’s wars also were just as good at war making as full fledged Romans. After c. 1 year of indecisive warfare with all of Etruria about to go over to the rebels, and thus sealing the collapse of Rome as a major power, the Roman Senate finally did the right thing. Citizenship was offered to allies who remained loyal, then to those who quite the rebel cause. The rebellion instead of being crushed simply petered out. However it had been an incredibly close call. This event is amazingly enough not given the status it deserves in the historical records as one of the most important events of ancient times. Because failure to solve this issue would have but an end to the Roman Empire by fatally dividing Italy.2

After that close call, which indicated that the Roman ruling class, as personified by the doings of the Roman Senate was losing its grasp of doing the sensible and expedient and instead acting in crass, narrow minded self interest with potentially fatal consequences, Rome plunged into a series of destructive civil conflicts, pointless intrigues, purges and much gratuitous, pointless violence. During all this the empire continued to expand and so did the venality and corruption of the Roman officials sent to govern the empire. So at the same time the empire expanded it was creaking at the seams ready to fall apart.3

The long history of the various intrigues, machinations etc, which occurred in the period after the Social War, are not germane to the topic of this post except to note that they indicate the steady loss of command of the situation by the traditional governing institutions of the state, most especially the Senate, and those institutions steady loss of political sense. In effect the idea emerged that the state existed so that members of the Roman Ruling class through their command of the state could personally profit from such control over the state. Not surprisingly this attitude was deeply resented by other members of the state who had citizenship rights and felt they also had a right to benefit from the Roman state. Of course all sorts of other groups also through their champions tried to influence the state. The fact that the Roman State, although Oligarchic, had democratic features through its popular assemblies insured that those who felt they were being exploited would have both a voice and champions. The Senate and other supporters of the ruling class position, called Optimates, through its systems of clientele and patronage could deflect and eliminate much of this popular opposition but could never quite defuse it; especially since various members of the ruling class for reasons of self advancement and in the interest of jockeying for power felt it expedient to support the popular cause against the ruling class.

The resulting conflict of the orders was frequently bloody and quite ruthless, with purges, massacres, terror and all round mayhem. All of which further weakened the state. The Republic was dying a long slow and quite contorted death. But in the end the chief characteristic of the decline of the Roman Republic was the almost incredible, but the undeniable loss of political sense in the Roman ruling class and it's seeming hell bent suicidal drive to self destruction.4

The event that more than anything signifies the terminal stupidity and lack of sense of the Roman Ruling class as shown by the Roman Senate is a series of events in 61-59 B.C.E. Basically the Roman Ruling class through its instrument the Senate managed to quite effectively cut its own throat.

Before going into these events I should give an overview of a man who in many ways is an outstanding example of why and how the Roman ruling class self destructed and literally had to be saved against its will. I am of course referring to Cicero, (106-43 B.C.E.).

Cicero also called old chick pea, has a wonderfully inflated reputation as a great mind. Well he certainly had a great, literary, oratorical, philosophical mind, but has a politician he was utterly hopeless. In many respects a legend in his own mind. Cicero was in many respects a totally clueless reactionary intellectual who had little real understanding of what the developments of his own time meant.

Bust of Cicero

What Cicero wanted was a “concord of the Orders”, basically an agreement among the various members of the Roman ruling classes to band together to fight off both popular revolts and measures and one man rule. Part of this ethos was an un-wavering belief in the right of the Senatorial class in alliance with what Cicero called the “New M en” to use the state for their own benefit. This along with Cicero’s almost fanatical belief in private property rights makes him nothing more than a backward looking reactionary.5
…Cicero, in despair and longing, wrote of an ideal commonwealth that had once existed, the Rome of the Scipiones, with the balanced and ordered constitution that excited the admiration of Polybius:…6
Cicero’s view of private property rights was such that he viewed any attempt to deal with the truly horrible problem of indebtedness, that was helping to choke the Roman Republic with significant economic and political problems, that did not uphold the property rights of lenders to the maximum dictated by the law as nothing less than a unwarranted attack on the most fundamental rights of property. The simple fact is that a very large percentage of the debtors could not pay the full amounts owing or that the steadily rising interest amounts were making these debts more impossible to pay. That all this created disastrous class conflict and further tied up enormous amounts of money in unproductive enterprises. Also an enormous amount of the wealth of the lenders was in loans that could not ever be paid to them. Some sort of debt relief was the only possible solution but this Cicero adamantly opposed as an attack on property. The fact that at this rate the lenders would get very little was ignored or that the enraged debtors facing perpetual, never ending debts frequently stopped paying anything at all or contemplated murdering the lenders was simply brushed aside.7

Cicero foolishly also fancied himself a brilliant politician and painted a hugely inflated picture of himself as a gifted politician and sneered, which given his oratorical abilities was quite wounding, at other much more gifted politicians. Cicero, thinking himself gifted at the art of political intrigue, engaged in dubious political intrigues and was with monotonous regularity out manoeuvred by other politicians like Caesar / Crassus or Pompey.8

But then the Roman politician Brutus is supposed to have described Cicero as follows:
…as long as Cicero can get people to give him what he wants, to flatter and praise him, he will put up with servitude.9
In the end Cicero fancying himself a hero in rhetorical speech tried to use Caesar’s heir Octavian (Called later Augustus) against Mark Anthony. Cicero hoped to use Octavian and then discard him. Unfortunately Cicero did not seem to realize that all the speeches he uttered against Mark Anthony meant little in terms of real power. Octavian and Mark Anthony got together and made an agreement and Cicero, considered, rightly, a duplicitous double dealer was proscribed and killed. Right to the end Cicero never understood what was going on or that has a politician he was at best mediocre and likely totally incompetent. What he also was; was totally unaware about how to solve Rome’s serious political and economic problems.10

If the Roman ruling class included among its members, people has intelligent as the very gifted Cicero who unfortunately was an inept politician one can easily guess how blinkered the average member of the governing classes was. The classic example, or perhaps the moment when the Roman ruling class finally lost it and demonstrated to the world its supreme almost sublime idiocy occurred in the years 60-59 B.C.E. it involved the handling of the three most powerful politicians in Rome at the time and how the Roman ruling class through its instrument the Senate completely dropped the ball.

It occurred in the following manner. By the year 60 B.C.E., the three most important Roman politicians were Pompey, Caesar and Crassus. They were each pissed off, one after the other, by an arrogant and frankly brain dead Senate, which seemed to have had a death wish.

Head of Pompey

Pompey, (106-48 B.C.E.) was at the time the most powerful of the three. He had just returned from a spectacularly successful, military and political mission in the east. During which Pompey had quelled various threats to Rome and added much new territory and more importantly added massive new revenues to the Roman state. He had also consolidated Roman authority in the eastern Mediterranean. Pompey had also come back very wealthy. Pompey had also in fact came back with a huge army prompting fears that he intended to establish one man rule. Certainly he could have done so. Instead he disbanded his army upon entering Italy and indicated that he was perfectly willing to work with the Senate. He did however have two requests. The first was that all the decisions he made regarding reorganizing the east be ratified by the Senate. The second was that land be given to his veterans.11 As one of our sources says:
At this time Pompey entered Italy and had Lucius Afranius and Metellus Celer appointed consuls, vainly hoping that through them he could effect whatever he desired. He wished in particular to have some land given to his soldiers and to have all his acts approved; but he failed of these objects at that time. For, in the first place, the optimates, who even before this had not been pleased with him, prevented the questions from being brought to vote.12
Two politicians Lucullus, (who had preceded Pompey in the east) and Cato the Younger helped organize Senate opposition to Pompey:
When Pompey got back, the Senate, wishing to curtail his great reputation, were all the more urgent in encouraging Lucullus to take an active part in politics. By this time Lucullus had abandoned himself to the pleasures of an easy life and to enjoyment of his wealth; most things made little impression on him and he seemed to have lost all zest for action. However, in the case of Pompey he plunged straight into the fray. He made a vigorous and indeed overwhelming attack on him in connection with those administrative arrangements of his own which Pompey had cancelled, and, with the support of Cato, gained a majority for his own views.13
There was also a whole string of lesser slights that added to Pompey’s quite understandable annoyance.

If annoying Pompey to this degree indicates a lack of political sense then the Senate compounded the problem by annoying Caesar.

Head of Caesar

Caesar, (100-44 B.C.E.) by this time was an important politician in Rome were he was the leader of a powerful faction. Caesar had recently completed a tour as Governor of Baetica, (part of Spain), were he had engaged in military operations. Caesar had been awarded Triumph. Now Caesar was also interested in becoming Consul for the following year, however he would lose his Triumph if he entered Rome before hand. So Caesar asked permission to stand for election as Consul by proxy. The Senate led by Cato refused.14
Many of the Senators were willing to consent to it, [Caesar standing for election by proxy] but Cato opposed it, and perceiving them inclined to favour Caesar, spent the whole day in speaking, and so prevented the Senate from coming to any conclusion.15
Then realizing that Caesar would almost certainly become Consul in 59 B.C.E. if not in 60 B.C.E, the Senate decided to slap him in the face. Now generally Consuls after their terms were done were given provinces to govern and what provinces would be given were selected by the Senatee several years in advance. It was decided to give the Consuls for that year the woodlands and cattle drifts of Italy. This was a deliberate insult aimed against Caesar.16

Having thoroughly pissed off Pompey and Caesar, the Senate had to complete the triangle by pissing off Crassus.

Head of Crassus

Crassus, (c. 112-53 B.C.E.) was one of the wealthiest men in Rome, if not the wealthiest, he was also a successful general and after Pompey’s return from the east was filled with envy and dislike of Pompey. Crassus controlled an important political faction which was also antagonistic to Caesar as well.17

Crassus considered himself an advocate of those with business interests and he had taken under his wing a group of tax farmers who had purchased a contract to collect tax revenue in Asia, (tax farming). Those revenues proved to be much less lucrative than expected, in fact they proved to be a net loss. Crassus campaigning on their behalf requested some sort of relief from the purchase price. The Senate again led by Cato rejected the claim. Crassus was now upset.18

Thus the Senate managed to alienate the three most powerful men in Rome. If doing just one of those things was dumb; doing all three at the same time was simply insane. Pompey, Caesar and Crassus disliked and distrusted each other giving the Senate room to manoeuvre, and play them against each other, instead the Senate managed to offend all three. The Senatorial aristocracy had apparently lost all political sense. The result was inevitable.19

It appears that Caesar took the initiative:
He [Caesar] entered the city and immediately adopted a policy which deceived everyone except Cato. This was to effect a reconciliation between Pompey and Crassus, the two most powerful people in Rome. Caesar brought these men together, making them friends instead of enemies, and used their united power for the strengthening of himself. So before anyone was aware of it, he had, by an action which could be called a simple piece of kindness, succeeded in producing what was in effect a revolution. For the cause of the civil wars was not, as most people think, the quarrel between Caesar and Pompey; it was rather their friendship, since in the first place they worked together to destroy the power of the aristocracy and only when this had been accomplished quarrelled amongst themselves.20
And in another source:
Thus the three for these reasons formed their friendship and ratified it with oaths, and then managed public affairs among themselves. Next they gave to each other and received in turn one from another, whatever they set their hearts on and whatever it suited them to do in view of the circumstances.21
Thus was created the First Triumvirate, which was very quickly to turn the Roman state into their tool for increasing their power and the Senate was totally incapable of thwarting Them. This event announced the death throes of the Roman Republic.22

Subsequently Crassus got killed in a hair-brained invasion of the Parthian Empire and Caesar and Pompey fell out afterwards over who would be dominant in the Roman state. A civil war resulted, during which Caesar defeated Pompey and Pompey was murdered to please Caesar. Caesar shortly after was assassinated by an aristocratic plot because so many of his fellow Roman aristocrats could not bear Caesar’s autocratic ways.23

The rest of story need not detail us except to note that Octavian / Augustus eventually came on top and the Roman Republic was suceeded by the Roman Empire which finally put an end to the anachronistic Republic and established an Empire that would last for hundreds of years.24

1. Grant, Michael, History of Rome, Faber and Faber, London, 1978, p. 198.

2. Appian, The Civil Wars, Penguin Books, London, 1996, Book 1, s. 34-54, Grant, pp. 156-158, Florus, Epitome of Roman History, Book 2, s. 6, Lacus Curtius Here.

3. Grant, pp. 127-142, Cowell, F.R., Cicero and the Roman Republic, Penguin Books, London, 1948, pp. 270-279, 356-382, de Ste. Croix, G.E.M., The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World, Cornell University Press, Ithaca NY, 1981, pp. 350-372.

4. IBID, de Ste. Croix, Grant, pp. 150-152, Cowell, pp. 280-309, Syme, The Roman Revolution, Oxford University Press, 1939, pp. 10-27.

5. IBID, Cowell, & 219-235, de Ste. Croix, 352-357, 286, Syme, pp. 15, 37, 146, 88, 319-320, Grant, pp. 168-172.

6. Syme, p. 319.

7. de Ste. Croix, Footnote 5, Grant, pp. 193-194, Cowell, pp. 195-196, 293-295.

8. Grant, pp. 168-172, Syme, p. 138, 320-321.

9. Syme quoting Brutus, p. 138.

10. Syme, pp. 140-146, 192, Grant, p. 199.

11. Grant, pp. 172-174, Syme, pp. 28-46, Plutarch, Fall of the Roman Republic, Penguin Books, London, 1958, Pompey, s. 43-44, 48-49.

12. Dio, Cassius, Roman History, Book 37 s. 49, Lactus Curtius, Here.

13. Plutarch, Pompey, s. 46.

14. IBID, Footnote 11, Plutarch, Fall of the Roman Republic, Caesar, s. 13, Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, Penguin Books, 1957, Julius Caesar, s. 18-19, Syme, pp. 28-46.

15. Plutarch, Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, The Modern Library, New York, 1955, Cato the Younger, p. 935.

16. Grant, p. 173-174, Suetonius, Julius Caesar, s. 19.

17. Grant, pp. 164-165, 173, Syme, pp. 27-46, Plutarch, The Fall of the Roman Republic, Crassus, s. 1-14, which gives a good outline of Crassus’ career before this crisis and his considerable wealth.

18. Grant, p. 173, Syme, p. 35, Appian, Book 2, s. 13, Dio, Book 38, s. 7.

19. Suetonius, Julius Caesar, s. 18-20, Plutarch, The Fall of the Roman Republic, Pompey, s. 46-47, Caesar, s. 13-14, Crassus, s. 14-15, Dio Book 37, s.55-57.

20. Plutarch, Fall of the Roman Republic, Caesar, s. 13.

21. Dio, Book 37, s. 57.

22. See Grant, pp. 168-174, Syme, pp. 27-46.

23, Grant, pp. 196-198, Syme, pp. 47-58, see also Plutarch’s lives of Crassus, Pompey and Caesar, See also Suetonius’ life of Julius Caesar, and Appian, Book 2, s. 14-119.

24. For a summary of Augustus’ achievement see Grant, pp. 198-221.

Pierre Cloutier

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Out The Window I
Defenestration is one of those words that describe something you wouldn’t think as a word for it. Like for example anglet.1 In this case it means to throw someone out a window. Not surprisingly there is little cause for use of this word. After all if you mean to say “throw someone out the window” why not just say “throw someone out the window”, rather than defenestration. After all the usual response to the use of the word would likely be “What?”, or “what the #$%^& does that mean?”

In fact defenestration in my experience, with one exception,2 I’ve only seen it used to describe two separate events and no others. In fact it is like this word was only invented to describe those events and not to describe any other event involving throwing someone out a window. The two examples occurred in the same city and in both cases marked the start of some rather brutal, long wars. I am referring to the First, (1419 C.E.) and Second (1618 C.E.) Defenestrations of Prague.

The Second Defenestration of Prague was in deliberate imitation of the First Defenestration of Prague and was the event that marked the start of the interminable and quite horrible Thirty Years War. I may discuss it at another time.3 The First Defenestration marked the start of another long war that is not well known in the English speaking world; the Hussite Wars. A long, very bloody, precursor to both the Protestant Reformation and the ghastly religious wars that followed.4

Some other time I will discuss the Hussite Wars. Here I will go into a bit of the background and the actual events of First Defenestration of Prague.

The setting for these events is what today we call the Czech Republic. In those days it was a Kingdom with 5 parts. The kingdom of Bohemia, the Margravate of Moravia, Silesia and Upper and Lower Lusatia.5 All of those lands were considered the Lands of the Bohemian crown. Furthermore they were ruled in 1419 by the family of the House of Luxembourg in this case by King Wenceslas IV. Now Wenceslas IV was a son of Charles IV who was not just King of Bohemia but also King of Germany and hence Emperor. (Reign 1346-1378 C.E.) He was also a strong monarch and an incredibly successful one. Unfortunately he decided upon his death that his various holdings would be divided among his various sons and relatives the result was disaster.6

Lands of the Bohemian Crown
By dividing his possessions in Charles insured that his eldest son Wenceslas IV (King / Emperor of Germany 1378-1400 C.E., King of Bohemia 1378-1419 C.E.) lacked the resources to be an effective ruler of Germany and further that Charles IV’s various sons would be constantly intriguing for position and power against each other. The results were speedily apparent. It also did not help that Wenceslas although amiable and well liked was not a very effective ruler. The result was a serious breakdown in law and order in Bohemia and in much of Germany.7

Wenceslas IV
It wasn’t helped by the fact that Wenceslas’ brother Sigismund was actively intriguing against him and involved in various efforts to depose him. The breakdown in order, combined with intrigues and Wenceslas IV’s lack of political skill got him imprisoned twice, (1394 and 1402). On the second occasion he was deposed and his brother Sigismund, by this time king of Hungary (1486-1437 C.E.) was heavily involved. Wenceslas IV was rescued and resumed his position has king of Bohemia. In the meantime he was deposed has King / Emperor of Germany in 1400 C.E. Eventually his brother Sigismund was able to become Emperor / King of Germany in 1410 C.E.8
Sigismund King of Hungary &
German Emperor
During this time there was a breakdown of law and order in Bohemia and Moravia and small scale guerrilla like warfare became endemic. This created a large number of semi-professional / professional soldiers who needed conflict and disorder to earn a living. In 1409-1410 C.E., some sort of order was restored to Moravia and Bohemia, by a series of peace agreements, and truces. However conflict was never far bellow the surface.9

The reason that conflict was simmering was an escalating religious crisis. Bohemia was probably the area in Western Europe that had the biggest and most intense concentration of land in the hands of the Church. In 1410 this amounted to c. ½ of the land.10 Much of it in the hands of various orders like the Dominicans and Franciscans, who also commanded immense wealth in coin, jewellery, bullion and were heavily involved in trade and commerce. This wealth was deeply resented by large sections of the population that felt pressured by Church wealth and power and felt that Church possession of so much wealth curtailed their own economic opportunities. Of course there was also the desire to seize Church property, by a resentful Nobility and Peasantry who felt the market for buying agricultural land much reduced by the Church owning so much of it.11

If greed for Church property along with resentment of Clerical power and wealth was one part of the reason for resentment, the other was a long standing religious revival.

Beginning in the mid 14th century Bohemia had been the center of a movement of religious reform and revival centering on the reformation of the Church, by clearing away corruption and incompetence and a reformation of manners of the laity. As the 14th century went on attacks on the corruption and incompetence and greed of the institutional Church increased in frequency and vitriol. Added to this were such events as the Great Schism (1378-1420 C.E.) which divided Western Christianity over who was Pope. Some countries recognizing the Pope in Avignon as Pope and others the Pope in Rome. The resulting struggle was characterized by much brutality and corruption which reduced the prestige of the papacy to a very low level, and served to massively highlight the corruption and worldliness of the Church. The result was a renewed emphasis that the Church needed to be reformed and cleansed of corruption and purified by returning to the standards of the earliest Church. This meant in practical terms divesting the Church of its wealth, getting rid of debauched, corrupt and ignorant clergy and a re-dedication to the strict standards of early Christianity.12

Thus during this time the works of the great English theologian John Wycliffe, (c. 1325-1384 C.E.) with their call for Church reform and the stripping of the Church of its wealth, which was deemed a corrupting influence, was heard in Bohemia. Beginning in the 1390’s Wycliffe’s works were being read and considered in Bohemia.13

Added to this religious stew was the very real, proto-nationalist, resentment by the Czech people against German influence in Bohemia. The longstanding fear that the Germans would eventually destroy the Czech people. The fact that the various religious orders were dominated by Germans along with the much of the state and Church bureaucracy did not help matters. The reform movement was considered both deliberately and incidentally a way of reasserting Czech identity. The fact that the reform movement preached largely in Czech played a role also.14

The great Czech reformer Jan Hus, (c. 1372-1415 C.E.) heavily influenced by Wycliffe, as indicated by his own writings preached in Prague at the Bethlehem chapel, starting in 1402 C.E.) where deliberately the preaching was in Czech. Although he enjoyed the protection of Wenceslas IV and his wife Queen Zofie, Jan Hus was in constant trouble with other church officials and accused of heresy. His sermons, and those of his followers, attacking the Church and calling for both Church and moral reform were however popular along with his call for the Church to be stripped of its wealth. Eventually Hus was forced into exile in southern Bohemia where he passed the time giving popular outdoor sermons and writing his main theological and institutional works.15

Meanwhile the Great Schism was giving rise to in Bohemia and other places to the feeling that the last days were about to come and that the return of Jesus was imminent. This millennial expectations were both strong and popular and were shared to lesser or greater degree by Jan Hus and some of his followers.16

Hus had by this time a lot of enemies in the Church who wanted his voice to be silenced, he also had achieved for himself and his followers a formidable list of Clerical / Noble supporters in Bohemia and Moravia who were on his side.

During this a Church Council (1414-1418 C.E.) was put together, to a large extent by Sigismund, King of Hungary and German Emperor, to try to heal the Great Schism and it meet at Constance on Lake Constance next to modern day Switzerland. It did eventually succeed in healing the Great Schism by getting the 3 (yes three!) then Popes to resign and electing a new one. It also quite un-intently ignited a religious war. Sigismund was prevailed to give a safe conduct to Jan Hus so he could go there to defend his views and call for reform of the Church. There Jan Hus was arrested, tried and burned at the stake for heresy on July 6, 1415. Sigismund’s refusal to carryout his promise of safe conduct and the farcical trial, along with the argument used that promises given to heretics do not have to be kept are all morally repellent to the highest degree.17

Jan Hus at the stake
The result was disaster for the Church. Wenceslas IV and his Queen Zofie were enraged and hundreds of members of the Nobility signed a letter of protest to the council. The council’s response was to suggest that all those who had signed the letter present themselves to be tried for heresy at Constance. Not surprisingly no took up the offer.18

With the support of the King and Queen the Supporters of Jan Hus gained control of Church in Bohemia. The result was a continued struggle over the Church as the Council and Sigismund tried to regain control. Sigismund was by this time looking forward to succeeding his childless brother has King of Bohemia and  he felt he needed Church support.

The struggle of the reformers took the form of Utraquistism, from a Latin expression meaning in / under both species or kinds. It referred to the practice of giving to the laity communion in the form of both the bread and the wine. In the west this practice had almost completely disappeared by the early 15th century, replaced by simply giving the bread. However the new movement felt that the process of reform back to an earlier, purer form of Christianity required the return to giving wine to the laity. The fact that Eastern Orthodox Christianity had kept the practice also played a role in the adoption of the practice. The result was that the Chalice from which the laity received the wine became the symbol of the movement now called Hussitism from the name of its martyred founder.19

Rage against the council for the death, (actually judicial murder) of Jan Hus played a role and the rage was increased when Jerome of Prague, one of Jan Hus’ colleagues who had gone to Constance to defend Jan Hus was himself burned at the stake on May 30, 1416. C.E.20

The result was that by the end of 1416 C.E., the Hussite movement had captured the Church in Bohemia and there were already murmurs that a Crusade would have to be waged to crush the “Heretics” in Bohemia.21

The next couple of years were a long and rather tedious series of internal struggles and conflicts with the Church trying to by various means to suppress the Hussite movement and the nobility being divided and king Wenceslas IV and his wide Zofie although basically supporting the Hussite cause trying to reign in the radicals. For it was the radicals who began to define the movement.22

By early 1419 pressure from the Church, which included an economic blockade and threats to invade Bohemia in the guise of a Crusade had become very great. Inside Bohemia a wave of religious and revolutionary enthusiasm had spread through out much of the country. By this time radicals called Taborites had established themselves throughout much of southern Bohemia. There was the widespread belief that the last days had come and the second coming was approaching and that the Church of Rome was the Antichrist.23

Terrified by the forces unleashed Wenceslas IV and queen Zofie tried to reign in the Hussites. First Hussite services were restricted in Prague and regular Catholic services were allowed, (after being prohibited in reaction to Jan Hus’ murder). This increased unrest and significant opposition. On July 6th 1419 the king purged the government of the New Town, (part of Prague and a Hussite stronghold) of Hussite supporters and replaced them with anti-Hussites. Several Hussite supporters were arrested. The stage was set for a show down.24

Bust of Jan Zelivsky
Jan Zelivsky, (c. 1380-1422 C.E.), a Hussite priest and by then an important political figure in Prague was a preacher at St. Mary’s in the Snow of the few Hussite churches left in Prague and he prepared to move against the new council. Among his friends at the time was Jan Zizka, the one eyed, (later blind) future general of the Hussite armies who helped to give his blow military muscle.25

Jan Zizka

On July 26th 1419 C.E. Jan Zelivsky gave a heated sermon at St Mary’s in the Snow part of which is as follows:
Indeed, dogs in our own time eat the consecrated bread and the holy charity which belong to the poor. It is given in tumblers to sorcerers, to their servants, and to their servants and to his dogs. All those who eat the bread of the sons act against the truth just like dogs who pounce on a bone.26
Thus does Jan Zelivsky pour his contempt on the official Church and its supporters and at the end of his sermon lists the miracles that God has performed for his followers:
…Tobias healed of blindness with the gall of a fish, Daniel saved from the den of lions and Jonah from the stomach of a whale. Christ was born of a virgin, water was changed into wine, three young people were raised: the daughter of Jairus, the widow’s son at the town gate and Lazarus from his tomb. Behold, what an abundance of wonders!27
Afterwards Jan Zelivsky led a mob of people including many armed men into the street. First they went to the Church of St. Stephen and held a Hussite service there even though the church was supposedly for Catholic services. Afterwards the mob stopped in front of the town hall and demanded the release of the Hussite prisoners taken earlier in the month. Members of council tried to talk to the mob, but allegedly a stone was thrown at a priest, (perhaps Jan Zelivsky), carrying a consecrated host. The mob went hysterical and stormed the building. Several members of the council managed to escape through the back. Others were not so fortunate and were thrown out the windows where those that survived were finished off by the mob with Jan Zelivsky urging them on. About 13 council members were killed over all.28

Prague in 1419 with the route of the crowd
After this episode the coup went according to plan with armed forces of the Hussites, led by Jan Zizka among others, taking over the New Town of Prague and a new Hussite city council installed.29

The pro-Hussite council of the Old Town of Prague and various Hussite supporters of the royal court apparently went along with the coup or actively took part in it. Wenceslas IV was enraged and apparently had a stroke. It appears that he came around to accept the fait accompli but on August 16, 1419 he had another stoke and died.30

There was a problem Wenceslas IV’s heir was his brother Sigismund, who was, not surprisingly, considered responsible for the murders of Jan Hus and Jerome of Prague, who had made repeated statements about crushing heresy in Bohemia and whose entire political career indicated that he was not to be trusted given his continual intrigues, to say nothing about his broken promise to Jan Hus, against his brother Wenceslas IV. Unfortunately his undoubted legitimate claim to the Bohemian throne along with the fear of radical Hussitism gave Sigismund a firm foothold in Bohemia. The result was the truly terrible Hussite wars (1419-1434 C.E.) characterized by revolting brutality and no less than 5 Crusades against the Hussites all of which failed. It was a combination of civil war, Crusade, war of national independence on the part of the Czechs, social revolution, dynastic war and pillaging expeditions.31

Concerning some of the people mentioned in this posting; Jan Zelivsky was executed in 1422 in the midst of faction fighting for the control of Prague. Jan Ziska died in 1424 while besieging a fortress.32

During the war the Czech Hussites created a truly frightening and effective war machine, largely through the genius of the one eyed and later blind Czech general Jan Ziska. Eventually a combination of internal disorder among the Hussite and the failure to crush the Hussites militarily forced the acceptance of a compromise peace. Eventually Sigismund was accepted as king, (in 1436 C.E.), he did not enjoy his kingdom long and died in 1437 C.E., duplicitous to the end.33

Perhaps at another time I will post some more about the Hussite Wars which were in many respects a dress rehearsal for both the Reformation and the Religious wars that followed.

1. Those plastic things at the end of shoe laces.

2. A friend of mine out of the blue used the word in conversation, correctly I might add. Aside from that case I’ve never heard the word in conversation ever.

3. Wedgewoood, C.V., The Thirty Years War, Penguin Books, London, 1938, pp. 73-75. Parker, Geoffrey Editor, The Thirty Years War, Second Edition, Routledge, London, 1997, p. 43, Polisensky, J. V., The Thirty Years War, New English Library, London, 1971, pp. 103-105.

4. Polisensky, pp. 31-32, Parker, p. 7, Cohn, Norman, The Pursuit of the Millennium, Revised Edition, Oxford University Press, 1970, pp. 205-213.

5. Heymann, Frederick G., John Zizka and the Hussite Revolution, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 1955, map p. 2, see also Czech Lands in Wikipedia, Here.

6.Heymann, pp. 38-39, Kaminsky, Howard, The Hussite Revolution, University of California Press, Berkeley CA, 1967, pp. 7-9.

7. Heymann, pp. 23-29.

8. IBID, pp. 36-38, See Wenceslaus, King of the Romans in Wikipedia Here.

9. Heymann, pp. 28-29, 36-38.

10. IBID, p. 39, Cohn p. 205.

11. IBID, pp. 39-43, Kaminsky, pp. 33-34.

12. Kaminsky, pp. 5-55.

13. Kaminsky, pp. 23-35.

14. Kaminsky, pp. 7-22, 35-55, Heymann, pp. 51-60.

15. IBID, Cohn, pp. 205-212. See also Hus, Jan, Letters of Jan Hus, William Whyte and Co. Edinburgh, 1996.

16. IBID, Kaminsky, pp.161-179, 310-360.

17. Heymann, pp. 56-58, Jan Hus, in Wikipedia Here, Lutzow, Count, The Hussite Wars, J.M. Dent and Sons, London, 1914, pp. 1-4.

18. Heymann, pp. 50-51. The number of signatories was 452 and included practically all the higher Czech nobility.

19. Kaminsky, pp. 97-126.

20. Heymann, p. 58, Bernard, Paul P., Jerome of Prague, Austria and the Hussites, Church History, V. 27, No. 1, March, 1958, pp. 3-22.

21. Fudge, Thomas A., Editor, The Crusade against Heretics in Bohemia, 1418-1437, Ashgate, Bodmin Cornwall, 2002, pp. 14-21, Lutzow, pp. 3-9.

22. Heymann, pp. 61-63, Kaminsky, pp. 265-278.

23. Cohn, pp. 205-215, Kaminsky, pp. 310-360.

24. See Footnote 22.

25. Heymann, pp. 62-63, Kaminsky, pp. 271-278.

26. Fudge, p. 23.

27. Fudge, pp. 24-25.

28. Kaminsky, 289-297, Heymann, pp. 63-65.

29. IBID.

30. Heymann, p. 66.

31. See Lutzow, Fudge Introduction, pp. 1-13, and contents, Cohn pp. 221-222 and Heymann and Kaminsky.

33. Heymann, pp. 314-315, 438-440, Lutzow, pp. 127-128, 174-175, Kaminsky, p. 460.

33. Fudge, pp. 341-401, Lutzow, pp. 337-363.

Pierre Cloutier

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Satan Worship

Evangelical Meeting

One of the most interesting phenomena is the world wide worship of Satan, also known as the Lord of this World, Lord of the Flies, King of Demons, Father of Lies etc. An interesting feature of this worship is that most of the worshipers do not know that they worship the Prince of Darkness and Lord of Desolation.

This should not surprise us as Satan is indeed a cunning and ruthless enemy who will use any and all methods to corrupt and destroy the human race and lead us all to perdition. The techniques used by the Deceiver are indeed clever using the human desire for justice, truth and hope as a means to corrupt humanity.

The chief Satan worshippers today, numbering at least in the tens of millions if not hundreds of millions are many if not most of the vast horde of Evangelical / “Born Again” Christians. That they worship Satan is of course obvious, along with their hatred of Jesus. Of course here is where the trick comes in; the vast majority of these people truly believe that they are followers of Jesus and haters of Satan. Their sincerity is not in question. The chief fault they have is an over weaning arrogance that they know the truth and all others are damned and their blissful certainty of their “truth”. They are so committed to the sin of pride it isn’t funny. Further so many of them know in their hearts that their neighbours are damned and they feel superior while piously feeling utter condescension to those not similarly “saved”. They profess love while showing over and over again the most malign hatred of those who think differently from them and their obsession with the sins of others is positively creepy. Further they are obsessed with sex and such trivial things as people swearing and having pornography.

I can remember a broadcast of the TV show 60 Minutes, about Evangelicals that presented two very wealthy looking Evangelicals, who owned prosperous businesses, who intoned in their expensive suits that they were saved because they accepted Jesus as their “Personal Saviour”, whereas Mother Theresa of Calcutta, (who died in 1997) was not saved and her good works meaningless. It requires a very special awe inspiring arrogance for those two wealthy men to feel more virtuous / godly than Mother Theresa. Just exactly what works of a comparable indication of sheer virtue did they do? It is pretty obvious that Mother Theresa’s acts indicate a state of virtue that these men couldn’t achieve if their lives depended on it.1

Also their motivation for their faith is not love of God, Virtue, or their Neighbour, but sheer mindless fear and expectation of reward. It goes like this; if you don’t want to go to hell and suffer for all eternity then you must worship God and follow Jesus. If you do follow Jesus you will be rewarded with an eternity of utter bliss in heaven. From the Evangelical point of view works generally do not count; what counts is belief in Jesus as your “Personal Saviour”. In certain versions of this belief just genuinely saying and believing this before you die is an instant get out of jail free card.2 All your sins are washed away and no matter what perverse, sick, murderous things you’ve done are forgiven because Jesus rewards his grovellers with eternal bliss in heaven. Just utter the magic incantation and all is forgiven and you go to heaven. In other words getting in good with Jesus doesn’t require that you DO anything, just that you massage Jesus’ fragile, inflated ego. So you can be as vile as want so long as just before you die you utter the abracadabra.

Yup sucking up to Jesus pays well and all this love and devotion is prudent. After all for a tiny investment you get an infinity of pleasure and wealth. Talk about a huge return on a really paltry amount of work. After all the only investment is a mouthing of accepting Jesus as your “Personal Saviour”.

Of course not all the Evangelicals are so crass about what their about and many do in fact try to meet rigorous personal demands often about what amounts to moral trivialities. But in the end it all doesn’t matter because nothing pleases their puffed up dictator of a God like grovelling idolatry and adoration. If you don’t grovellingly adore Jesus he might throw a hissy fit and cast you out and punish you because he as a huge ego and really thin skin, and he punishes any personal slight with terrible natural disasters or by giving you a loathsome disease. God as a control freak asshole.

Also if you suck up successfully you will avoid the horrors of the final days before the second coming, (No it isn’t about good sex with repeat performances), by being raptured into heaven where you can watch the Antichrist battle with God for dominion of the Earth, while God along with the Antichrist kills by all sorts of means billions of people. Then at the end you can watch all the unsaved being dragged down to burn in hell forever. For one of the joys of heaven will be that you don’t have to care about the torments of the damned and according to some Evangelical Satanists you will positively enjoy the torments of the damned. Yep kissing the big one’s ass will really pay off.

Given this concept of God the only reasonable conclusion is that this God is Satan, the Deceiver. Certainly this God seems to be a massive, thin-skinned, adulation demanding tyrant and thoroughly Satanic. Of course when combined with how little he/she really demands of humans, aside from ass kissing, it is even more obvious that this God is Satan.

Aside from the followers who are mainly deceived there are the shepherds of this flock who are indeed a nest of vipers and swine. I truly find it very hard to believe that most of this crew of Satanic High Priests don’t know what they are really doing. It seems quite apparent that they are indeed, deliberately out to lead astray and find souls for the Lord of Darkness - Satan.

If the pride and arrogance of their followers is annoying so is the even greater pride of their leaders. Not so much the pride of arrogant belief, but the pride of believing that humans are there to be fleeced and that they, the leaders, have an absolute right to enjoy the fruits of their lies and deceptions. Of course for many of them their contempt for their followers is immense.

The love of power by these people is sometimes a horror to behold. They enjoy sitting at the right hand of earthy power, but not for the purpose of admonishing and correcting, but for the purpose of exercising power and getting more. Especially what they long for and desire, with great desperation is power over others so that they can coerce and oppress with Satanic joy others who think differently.

Also there is their monumental, earth encompassing greed. These are the most devout worshipers of Satan in the guise of Mammon Lord of Wealth. They will resort to virtually any trick to extort money from the desperate, pathetic and lonely and of course the sincere believer. There was the outrageous case of Peter Popoff who scammed millions from desperate people through fake faith healings which were nothing but tricks. One of which included people radioing messages to him to received in his ear, by means of a radio receiver disguised as a hearng aid so that he could fake learning about people’s illnesses through the “power of the Lord”. Shockingly Peter Popoff is still in the faith healing business, presumably with a better bag of tricks. Sadly he is only one of many such fakes.3

To all this, alone with their view of God as a petty small minded tyrant is a powerful indication that they do in fact worship Satan.

One sort of wonders if upon dying all these Satan worshipers will be so in tune with the Satanic mindset that they will think Hell Heaven and Heaven Hell.

1. I can’t remember the name of the 60 Minutes show but it aired in the 1980’s.

2. Jack Chick, who manufactures huge numbers of mind numbing comics, had a comic that makes this point, involving a murderous criminal who murders his victims without remorse and is tracked down by a very virtuous Police Officer and eventually executed for his deeds. Our killer accepts Jesus as his “Personal Saviour” and goes to heaven. (He expresses NO remorse) The Police Officer who caught him and lived a virtuous life does not accept Jesus as his “Personal Saviour” and goes to spend an eternity burning in hell. The particular tract mentioned above does not seem to be in print anymore. Jack Chicks publications can be found at Chick Publications Here.

3. See Randi, James, The Faith Healers, Prometheus Books, Buffalo NY, 1987. The legions of fraud and humbug in the Evangelical world looked at in this book includes, Jimmy Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson, W. V. Grant and many more. For a take from an Evangelical who is sick to death about the overt and subtle cons in involved in much Evangelicalism see Slacktivist Here.

Other Book Consulted.

Standaert, Michael, Skipping Towards Armageddon, Soft Skull Press, Brooklyn NY, 2006.

Pierre Cloutier

Sunday, March 07, 2010

War Time Letters
Map of Egypt

The sands of Egypt have preserved many documents of everyday life and therefore provide a fascinating glimpse of everyday matters and private life. Several of these documents are the remnants of the archives of the family of a man named Apollonios who lived in the region of Hermoupolis in middle Egypt. At the time that the archive was accumulated he was serving as Strategos, (Chief Officer for law enforcement) for the district of Apollinpolis-Heptakomias. A position which he seems to have been appointed c. 113/14 C.E. He was caught in a truly unpleasant situation a few years, (115-117 C.E.) later when Egypt was engulfed by rebellion and war.1

The war is in fact very poorly known from our sources. It is generally characterized as the second Jewish revolt. From the accounts the Jewish communities of Cyprus, Egypt and Libya rose in revolt. The revolt was one of great ferocity and it appears to have been quelled with considerable savagery. Its causes and course are very obscure and given the extreme terseness of the sources likely to remain so.2 Some other time I may go through what we know and do not know about the rebellion.

Regarding our family. It appears that Apollonios’ family was of Greek descent, although several members had Egyptian names and further that they spoke Greek as their daily language. The family seems to have been upper class with a fair degree of wealth and estates in various parts of Egypt. Aside from Apollonios the other surviving letters are one from his wife and sister Aline and Apollonios’ mother Eudaimonis. Brother sister marriages seem to have been fairly common at this time among the Greeks in Egypt apparently has a way to consolidating wealth. Although it does tend to creep out people today. It is not clear whether or not Aline is Apollonios full sister or half sister, although full sister seems most likely given the letter from Eudaimonis to Aline.3

Apollonios comes across as bit of a wet blanket from his correspondence. Aline comes across as a worrywart. Eudaimonis comes across, however, like the bitchy relative you definitely want on your side.

Aline writes as follows to her husband / brother:
Aline to Apollonios her brother greetings. I am terribly anxious about you because of what they say about what is happening, and because of your sudden departure. I take no pleasure in food or drink, but stay awake continually night and day with one worry, your safety. Only my father’s care revives me and as I hope to see you safe, I would have lain without food on News Year’s day, had my father not come and forced me to eat. I beg you to keep yourself safe and not go into danger without a guard. Do the same as the Strategos here, who puts the burden on his officers…my father…for the name… of my brother was put forward…May God [preserve] him. If then, my brother, (you have leisure from) your business…write to me…to you…he is coming up safety…4
The letter was apparently written sometime in September of 115 or 116 C.E. The New Year’s day referred to here is the first day of the month of Thoth.5 It is certainly interesting to find out that c. 1900 years ago some people worried over there loved ones and were rendered sleepless by worry over them.

Eudaimonis writes in a different spirit instead of mooning and worrying she sends some good wishes to her son:
…with the good will of the gods, above all, Hermes the invincible, may they not roast you. For the rest, may all be well with you and all your men, Heraidous, your daughter, who is free from harm, greets you.6
Rather than bother her son with complaining about how worried she is; she assures him his daughter is well and safe and wishes him well and inquires about how he and his men are doing. A rather different tone from the rather self absorbed Aline. The comment about roasting refers to alleged atrocities being committed by the rebels. The letter is apparently dated from after Aline’s letter and can be dated to either 116 C.E. or 117 C.E.7

We know from another surviving letter in the archive, although it is not a letter addressed to Apollonios or other family members, and appears to be a letter written to his household presumably in the course of carrying out their duties, that the rebels won several battles in the Hermoupolis area and things must have gotten very difficult for the family.8
The one hope and expectation that was the push of the massed villagers from our district against the impious Jews; but now the opposite has happened. For on the 20th(?) our forces fought and were beaten and many of them were killed … now, however, we have received the news from men coming from … that another legion of Rutilius arrived at Memphis on the 22nd and is expected.9
Apollonios leading some troops, local militia, from his province took part in a battle near Memphis that resulted in a Roman victory. The letter goes as follows:
Aphrodisios to his dearest Herakleios, greeting. I have learnt from men who arrived today from Ibion that they travelled with a slave of our lord Apollonios; the slave was coming from Memphis to bring the good news of his victory and success. I have therefore sent you specially. that I may know with certainty and make a festival and pay the due offerings to the gods. You will therefore do well, dear friend, to inform me with speed. Two boys have been brought from the Oasis to my master, of whom one is four years old, the other three … the price … to you that you may be … I pray for your health, dear friend.10
The letter seems to be addressed from a steward of one of Apollonios’ properties to another, and aside from reporting the victory and Apollonios’ involvement records the purchase of some young slaves. The letter probably dates from early 117 C.E.11

Eudaimonis letter to Aline reveals again that Eudaimonis is a strong matriarch and more than a bit bitchy:
Eudaimonis to her daughter Aline, greeting. I pray above all that you may be delivered of a child in good time and that I shall receive news of a son. You sailed up on the 29th, and on the next day I began to weave. I at last got the material from the dyer on the 10th of Epeiph. I am working with your slave-girls as far as I can. I cannot find girls to work with me, for they are all working for their own mistresses. Our people have been marching all over the city, asking for more pay (or: offering higher wages). Your sister Souerous has been delivered of a child. Teeus wrote to me, expressing her gratitude to you, so I know, lady, that my instructions are being carried out. For she has left all her own people and gone to join you. The little girl sends her greetings, and is persevering with her lessons Be sure that I shall pay no attention to God until I get my son back safe. Why do you send me 20 drachmai, when I have no leisure? already have a vision of being naked when winter starts. (2nd hand) Farewell Epeiph 22. (1st hand) The wife of Eudemos has stuck by me and I am grateful to her.12
This letter seems to date from July of 117 C.E. The revolt is almost over and Eudaimonis is anxiously waiting for the return of her son Apollonios. The comment about paying no attention to the God refers to the old practice that the Gods are expected to do certain things in exchange for human worship, should they fail to do so they will be ignored until they fulfill their side of the bargain. Eudaimonis complains about the situation on the estate including an apparent lack of clothing and the fact slave labourers are hard to find. Which may indicate the area and more particularly Apollonios estates were hard hit by the war. The war itself seems to be over in the region of the estate, (Apollinopolis, Hermoupolis). Eudaimonis hopes that Aline, who is pregnant gives birth to a son safely. The little girl mentioned may be Apollonios’ and Aline’s daughter. Eusdaimonis seems to hope that Aline will give birth soon and is slightly exasperated by the delay in Aline giving birth which is why she mentions that Aline’s sister Souerous has given birth. Further Eusdaimonis is exasperated with Aline sending her money, as if she is not busy with making clothes and other duties and so has no time to lounge around. The comment about the wife of Eudemos sticking by her seems to be an indirect reproach of Aline.13

We finally hear from Apollonios himself in this letter in which he asks for 60 days leave:

To Rammius Martialis, the mighty prefect, from Apollonios Strategos of Apollinopolis-Heptakomias, greeting.

I attach a copy, prefect, of the application for leave which I previously submitted, in order that, by your favour you may grant me sixty days to put my affairs in order, at the time, especially, when … is pressing. I pray for your health, prefect. The (first) ear of the Emperor Caesar Trainus Hadrianus Augustus, Choiak 2. [The application follows]

To Rammius Martialis, the prefect, from pollonios, Strategos of Apollinopolis-Heptakomias, greeting.

…prefect … once … (Col. II) … make use of … For not only are my affairs completely uncared for because of my long absence, but also, because of the attack of the impious Jews, practically everything I posses in the villages of the Hermoupolite nome [province] and in the metropolis needs my attention. If you accede to my request and I am enabled to put my affairs in order as far as possible. I will be able to approach the duties of my office with a more tranquil mind.14
Aside from the usual flattery of a higher up. (Sucking up to the boss never goes out of style), the letter reveals that that Apollonios’ business interests have been badly affected by the war and that he feels those interests require his attention for a period of 2 months. Of course Apollonios adds the detail that if this request is granted he will be able to perform his official duties better because he will be less distracted. The techniques of psychological manipulation never go out of style. The letter can be fairly securely dated to the last half of 117 C.E, shortly after the accession of the Emperor Hardian who succeeded the Emperor Trajan in 117 C.E. 15

A few other letters round out this archive; in one the writers complain about Apollonios attitude in complaining about their failure to fulfill a contract:

We had no time, because of the bringing-in of the public corn, to protest to you and complain about your attacking us as if we were men of no account.
Now the affair must be governed by your conscience and your view of the matter(?) …consider too that not much … and that there was a state of riot.16
The authors are annoyed that Apollonios did not take into account the fact that things were in a state of disorder and the violence impeded their ability to fulfill the contract. They hope that upon reflection Apollonios will change his attitude. The letter probably dates from late 117 C.E.17

An architect named Herodes who was working for Apollonios gives some indication of the damage possibly done to Apollonios home by the revolt:

You know well of the urgently needed woodwork for the shrines and the guest-house, and because of this it was only on the second of the intercalary days that we set up the doors of the bedchamber in the hall as laid down in the agreement.18
Later in the letter Herodes requests time off to visit his brother in Alexandria who is mourning the death of his daughter to help his brother carry out his public duties during this difficult period.

I therefore request you, master, to allow me to go to my brother Hierakion in his boat during these idle days, for at another time I will not be able to go by foot through the country because of its devastation and the lack of …19
To sweeten his request for time off Herodes gives a statement of progress made and indicates that he is not immediately needed and can therefore take sometime off. Further he indicates that travel by water is preferably due to the devastation and the still chaotic nature of the much of the countryside due to the war. The letter seems to date from late 117 C.E.20

About subsequent developments we know nothing. Whether or not Apollonios was successful in re-establishing his family wealth, or if Aline successfully gave birth etc. All we have is a few tantalizing glimpses, almost a series of snapshots of a small group of people in time trying to cop under very difficult circumstances.

These letters give a rare glimpse into the private lives of an ancient family in the midst of a war and its aftermath. It certainly indicates that humans even thousands of years ago were very much like they are today despite the amount of time and cultural change in the meantime.

Funerary Portrait from the Fayum area of Egypt
Roman Period 1st Century C.E.
1. Tcherikover, Victor A., Corpus Papyromun Judaicarum, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MASS., 1960, pp. 226-227. These letters can also be found in Ben Zeev, Miriam Pucci, Diaspora Judaism in Turmoil, 116/117 CE, Peeters, Leuven Netherlands, 2005, in Part I, Ancient Sources, s. 2 Papyri, pp. 14-76.

2. The chief ancient accounts of the revolt, all very brief, are, written c. 326 C.E., Eusebius, The History of the Church, Penguin Books, London, 1965, Book 4, s. 2. See also Early Church Fathers, Church History of Eusebius, Here, in the Tetrullian website. Orosius, written c. 410 C.E., Seven Books of History Against the Pagans, in The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 50, The Catholic University of America Press, Inc., Washington DC, 1964, Book 7, s. 12. For a Latin version of this text see Paulus Orosius: Historiarum Adversum Paganos, Here, in the Attalus website. Dio, Cassius, written c. 220 C.E., Roman History, Loeb Classical Library, William Heinemann, London, 1925, vol. 8, Book 68, s. 32, see Cassius Dio: Roman History, Here, in the LacusCurtius website. Dio's account unfortunately only survives in summary form. A few interesting tidbits about the revolt are found in The Babylonian Talmud, Sider Nashim, vol. III, Sotah, 49a-49b, Soncino Press, London, 1936, see also The Babylonian Talmud, Here and the The Talmud of the Land of Israel, vol. 17, Sukkah, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1988, pp. 116-119. For modern accounts of the revolt see Tcherikover, above, pp. 79-93, 225-227, Schurer, Emil, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, Vol 1, T & T Clark Ltd., Edinburgh, 1973, pp. 529-534, Applebaum, Shim’on, Jews and Greeks in Ancient Cyrene, E.J. Brill, Leiden The Netherlands, 1979, pp. 251-256, 269-305, Pucci, Marina, La Rivolta ebraica al Tempo di Traiano, Giardini Editori E. Stampatori, Pisa, 1981, [This is a good over all account of what little we know.] See also Ben Zeev in Footnote 1, [This account provides a detailed listing of virtually all the extant, inscriptional, literary, papyrical sources complete with originals and translations. The rest of the book is a analysis of certain themes and controversies, like the timing of the revolts, the duration, causes etc., rather than a overview of the course of the revolt.]  Alon, Gedaliah, The Jews in Their Land in the Talmudic Age, vol. II, Magnes Press Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1984, pp. 386-427, Smallwood, Mary E., The Jews under Roman Rule: From Pompey to Diocletion, E.J. Brill, Leiden the Netherlands, 1976, pp. 389-427.

3. See Footnote 1, Tcherikover.

4. IBID, pp. 234-235.

5. IBID, pp. 233-234.

6. IBID, p. 236.

7. IBID, pp. 235-236.

8. IBID, pp. 237-238.

9. IBID, p. 238.

10. IBID, p. 240.

11. IBID, pp. 239-240.

12. IBID, p. 245.

13. IBID, pp. 244-246.

14. IBID, p. 248.

15. IBID, pp. 247-249.

16. IBID, p. 251.

17. IBID, p. 251.

18. IBID, p. 254.

19. IBID, p. 254.

20. IBID, pp. 253-254.

Pierre Cloutier