Category Archives: Kingdoms & Cultures

Immortal Horrors

However the academic world is divided, the twentieth century has achieved a terrible form of immortality. “It is in the very nature of things human,” Hannah Arendt observed, “that every act that has once made its appearance and has been recorded in the history of mankind stays with mankind as a potentiality long after its actuality has become a thing of the past.” No matter how remote, great crimes have a living power to influence the future. Tradition and taboo are unavailing. “No punishment,” Arendt wrote, “has ever possessed enough power of deterrence to prevent the commission of crimes.” On the contrary, “whatever the punishment, once a specific crime has appeared for the first time, its reappearance is more likely than its initial emergence could ever have been.”

It is in this sense that the twentieth century, having introduced into human history crimes never before imagined, or if imagined, never before undertaken, is immortal, and will, like the crucifixion, remain a permanent part of the human present.

It is simply there, an obelisk in human history: black, forbidding, irremovable, and inexpugnable.

David Berlinski, The Best of Times

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Jaisalmer

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Jaisalmer, nicknamed “The Golden city”, is a city in the Indian state of Rajasthan, located 575 kilometres (357 mi) west of the state capital Jaipur. Once known as Jaisalmer state it is a World Heritage Site. The town stands on a ridge of yellowish sandstone, crowned by a fort, which contains the palace and several ornate Jain temples. Many of the houses and temples are finely sculptured. It lies in the heart of the Thar Desert (the Great Indian Desert) and has a population of about 78,000. It is the administrative headquarters of Jaisalmer District.

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From Wikipedia: Jaisalmer

Man Made for Contemplation and Action

But God hath introduced Man to be a spectator of Himself and of His works; and not a spectator only, but also an interpreter of them. Wherefore it is a shame for man to begin and to leave off where the brutes do. Rather he should begin there, and leave off where Nature leaves off in us: and that is at contemplation, and understanding, and a manner of life that is in harmony with herself.

See then that ye die not without being spectators of these things.


Source: Epictetus. Golden Sayings of Epictetus XIII. Epictetus lived 50 to 138 A.D.

Bury Me in a Free Land

Make me a grave where’er you will,
In a lowly plain, or a lofty hill;
Make it among earth’s humblest graves,
But not in a land where men are slaves.

I could not rest if around my grave
I heard the steps of a trembling slave;
His shadow above my silent tomb
Would make it a place of fearful gloom.

I could not rest if I heard the tread
Of a coffle gang to the shambles led,
And the mother’s shriek of wild despair
Rise like a curse on the trembling air.

I could not sleep if I saw the lash
Drinking her blood at each fearful gash,
And I saw her babes torn from her breast,
Like trembling doves from their parent nest.

I’d shudder and start if I heard the bay
Of bloodhounds seizing their human prey,
And I heard the captive plead in vain
As they bound afresh his galling chain.

If I saw young girls from their mother’s arms
Bartered and sold for their youthful charms,
My eye would flash with a mournful flame,
My death-paled cheek grow red with shame.

I would sleep, dear friends, where bloated might
Can rob no man of his dearest right;
My rest shall be calm in any grave
Where none can call his brother a slave.

I ask no monument, proud and high,
To arrest the gaze of the passers-by;
All that my yearning spirit craves,
Is bury me not in a land of slaves.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Persepolis

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Persepolis (Persian: پرسپولیس) was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (ca. 550–330 BC). It is situated 60 km northeast of the city of Shiraz in Fars ProvinceIran. The earliest remains of Persepolis date back to 515 BC. It exemplifies the Achaemenid style of architecture. UNESCO declared the ruins of Persepolis a World Heritage Site in 1979.

Name

The English word Persepolis is derived from Greek Persépolis (Περσέπολις), a compound of Pérsēs (Πέρσης) and pólis (πόλις), meaning “the Persian city” or “the City of the Persians”.

To the ancient Persians, the city was known as Pārsa which is also the word for “Persia” more accurately, the region of Persis).

Due to the belief among Late Antiquity Persians that the monuments were built by Jamshid, an Iranian mythological figure, the site has been known as Takht-e-Jamshid, literally “Throne of Jamshid”) since the time of the Sasanian period (224–651 AD).

Another modern Persian name for the site was Chel Menar (چهل منار), also transliterated as Chehel Menar and Chilminar, which means “having many columns”.

Geography

Persepolis is near the small river Pulvar, which flows into the Kur River.

The site includes a 125,000 square meter terrace, partly artificially constructed and partly cut out of a mountain, with its east side leaning on Rahmet Mountain. The other three sides are formed by retaining walls, which vary in height with the slope of the ground. Rising from 5–13 meters (16–43 feet) on the west side was a double stair. From there, it gently slopes to the top. To create the level terrace, depressions were filled with soil and heavy rocks, which were joined together with metal clips.

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History

Archaeological evidence shows that the earliest remains of Persepolis date back to 515 BC. André Godard, the French archaeologist who excavated Persepolis in the early 1930s, believed that it was Cyrus the Great who chose the site of Persepolis, but that it was Darius I who built the terrace and the palaces.

Since, to judge from the inscriptions, the buildings of Persepolis commenced with Darius I, it was probably under this king, with whom the scepter passed to a new branch of the royal house, that Persepolis became the capital of Persia proper. As the residence of the rulers of the empire, however, a remote place in a difficult alpine region was far from convenient. The country’s true capitals were SusaBabylon and Ecbatana. This accounts for the fact that the Greeks were not acquainted with the city until Alexander the Great took and plundered it.

Darius I’s constructions at Persepolis was carried out parallel to those of the Palace of Susa. According to Gene R. Garthwaite, the Susa Palace served as Darius’ model for Persepolis. Darius I ordered the construction of the Apadana and the Council Hall (Tripylon or the “Triple Gate”), as well as the main imperial Treasury and its surroundings. These were completed during the reign of his son, Xerxes I. Further construction of the buildings on the terrace continued until the downfall of the Achaemenid Empire. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Greek historian Ctesias, mentioned that Darius I grave was in a cliff face that could be reached with an apparatus of ropes.

Around 519 BC, construction of a broad stairway was begun. The stairway was initially planned to be the main entrance to the terrace 20 meters (66 feet) above the ground. The dual stairway, known as the Persepolitan Stairway, was built symmetrically on the western side of the Great Wall. The 111 steps measured 6.9 meters (23 feet) wide, with treads of 31 centimeters (12 inches) and rises of 10 centimeters (3.9 inches). Originally, the steps were believed to have been constructed to allow for nobles and royalty to ascend by horseback. New theories, however, suggest that the shallow risers allowed visiting dignitaries to maintain a regal appearance while ascending. The top of the stairways led to a small yard in the north-eastern side of the terrace, opposite the Gate of All Nations.

Grey limestone was the main building material used at Persepolis. After natural rock had been leveled and the depressions filled in, the terrace was prepared. Major tunnels for sewage were dug underground through the rock. A large elevated water storage tank was carved at the eastern foot of the mountain. Professor Olmstead suggested the cistern was constructed at the same time that construction of the towers began.

The uneven plan of the terrace, including the foundation, acted like a castle, whose angled walls enabled its defenders to target any section of the external front. Diodorus Siculus writes that Persepolis had three walls with ramparts, which all had towers to provide a protected space for the defense personnel. The first wall was 7 meters (23 feet) tall, the second, 14 meters (46 feet) and the third wall, which covered all four sides, was 27 meters (89 feet) in height, though no presence of the wall exists in modern times.

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From Wikipedia: Persepolis

Anti-Christian Motive: To Run Riot in Bloody Seditions

If the famous Scipio Nasica were now alive, who was once your pontiff, and was unanimously chosen by the senate, when, in the panic created by the Punic war, they sought for the best citizen to entertain the Phrygian goddess, he would curb this shamelessness of yours, though you would perhaps scarcely dare to look upon the countenance of such a man. For why in your calamities do you complain of Christianity, unless because you desire to enjoy your luxurious license unrestrained, and to lead an abandoned and profligate life without the interruption of any uneasiness or disaster? For certainly your desire for peace, and prosperity, and plenty is not prompted by any purpose of using these blessings honestly, that is to say, with moderation, sobriety, temperance, and piety; for your purpose rather is to run riot in an endless variety of sottish pleasures, and thus to generate from your prosperity a moral pestilence which will prove a thousandfold more disastrous than the fiercest enemies. It was such a calamity as this that Scipio, your chief pontiff, your best man in the judgment of the whole senate, feared when he refused to agree to the destruction of Carthage, Rome’s rival and opposed Cato, who advised its destruction. He feared security, that enemy of weak minds, and he perceived that a wholesome fear would be a fit guardian for the citizens. And he was not mistaken; the event proved how wisely he had spoken. For when Carthage was destroyed, and the Roman republic delivered from its great cause of anxiety, a crowd of disastrous evils forthwith resulted from the prosperous condition of things. First concord was weakened, and destroyed by fierce and bloody seditions; then followed, by a concatenation of baleful causes, civil wars, which brought in their train such massacres, such bloodshed, such lawless and cruel proscription and plunder, that those Romans who, in the days of their virtue, had expected injury only at the hands of their enemies, now that their virtue was lost, suffered greater cruelties at the hands of their fellow-citizens. The lust of rule, which with other vices existed among the Romans in more unmitigated intensity than among any other people, after it had taken possession of the more powerful few, subdued under its yoke the rest, worn and wearied.


Source: Saint Augustine, City of God.

Life’s Lessons Can Be Learned Anywhere

You journey to Olympia to see the work of Phidias; and each of you holds it a misfortune not to have beheld these things before you die. Whereas when there is no need even to take a journey, but you are on the spot, with the works before you, have you no care to contemplate and study these?

Will you not then perceive either who you are or unto what end you were born: or for what purpose the power of contemplation has been bestowed upon you?

“Well, but in life there are some things disagreeable and hard to bear.”

And are there none at Olympia? Are you not scorched by the heat? Are you not cramped for room? Have you not to bathe with discomfort? Are you not drenched when it rains? Have you not to endure the clamour and shouting and such annoyances as these? Well, I suppose you set all this over against the splendour of the spectacle, and bear it patiently. What then? have you not received powers wherewith to endure all that comes to pass? have you not received greatness of heart, received courage, received fortitude? What care I, if I am great of heart, for aught that can come to pass? What shall cast me down or disturb me? What shall seem painful? Shall I not use the power to the end for which I received it, instead of moaning and wailing over what comes to pass?


Source: Epictetus. The Golden Sayings of Epictetus: XIV. Epictetus (A.D. 50 – A.D. 138)