Archive for the ‘middles ages’ Category

Going to the Sources

November 26, 2016

I apologize for not getting this to you before.  I almost had the whole list finished when I was called away for a family emergency.  I’m still playing catch-up.  Those of you who were in my class won’t be surprised that most of these books are translations of primary sources.  There are others in Arabic, French, German and Latin but these are a good place to begin. I have included authors from several sides of the Crusades.  Not just Western European and Muslim, but Greek, Armenian, Syrian and Jewish points of view, as well.

At this time, when contradictory information is flying about everywhere, I believe it’s useful to examine what we think we know about history and then apply it to a critical look at the report of an horrendous atrocity that one’s brother-in-law just posted.

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Crusade Bibliography

Primary Sources: Muslim

Ibn al-Athir, The Chronicle of Ibn al-Athir for the Crusading Period 2. Volumes. tr. D. S. Richards (Ashgate, 2007) [He wrote in the 13th century and was an advocate for Saladin, but he had access to a lot of older material]

Baha’ al-Din Ibn Shaddad, The Rare and Excellent History of Saladin. tr. D. S. Richards (Ashgate, 2002) [a contemporary and friend of Saladin who witnessed many of the events]

Francesco Gabrieli, ed. and tr. Arab Historians of the Crusades, (Dorset Press, 1969) [For a long time this was one of the few English translations. It covers the time between the First Crusade and the fall of Acre and is a good introduction]

Ibn Al-Qalansi. The Damascus Chronicles of the Crusades. Tr. H.A.R. Gibb (Luzac & Co. London, 1932) [An account by an important member of the government of Damascus who was an adult at the time of the First Crusade.  He died in 1160.]

Usama ibn-Munqidh. An Arab-Syrian Gentleman and Warrior in the Time of the Crusades. Tr. Phillip K. Hitti (Columbia University Press, 1929) [Usama (1095-1188) wrote this memoir late in his eventful life. An Arab aristocrat who refused to learn Turkish, although he fought with the Turkish armies, he was born at Shaizar and died in Damascus.  Arrogant but entertaining, his account shows the ways in which the Christian settlers and upper-class Arabs interacted. The Templars kept a place for him to pray; he hunted with the king of Jerusalem, but that didn’t stop him from killing them in battle. Some stories are hearsay and other embellished.  Great fun.]

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Primary Sources: Western:

Edward Peters, ed. The First Crusade: the Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and Other Source Materials. (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978)

Malcolm Barber and Keith Bate, ed. & tr. Letters from the East: Crusaders Pilgrims and Settlers in the 12th and 13th Centuries, (Ashgate, 2013) [While not all these are letters as we would term them, the collection gives first-hand slices of information on events that are often only given a sentence or two in histories.]

Fulcher of Chartres. A History of the Expedition to Jerusalem, 1095-1127, tr. Frances Rita Ryan (Norton 1969) [Fulcher went on the First Crusade and stayed in Jerusalem.  He was a cheerleader for settlement and sometimes his description is a bit too rosy, but his account is invaluable.]

Anon. Gesta Francorum: The Deads of the Franks and the other Pilgrims to Jerusalem ed. Rasalind Hill. (Oxford University Press, 1962) [ An eyewitness account of the Frist Crusade from the speech at Clermont in 1095 to the siege of Ascalon in 1099.  The author was an educated soldier, not a cleric.  His descriptions of battle and the siege of Antioch are harrowing]

Guibert de Nogent, The Deeds of God through the Franks, tr. Robert Levine. (Boydell, 1997) [Guibert was a French monk who got his information from returning pilgrims.  He presents various views on the crusades.  He also wrote an autobiography, which I find very amusing]

Albert of Achen.  History of the Journey to Jerusalem  2 vols. Tr. Edgington (Ashgate 2013) [Albert also stayed in Europe and acquired his information from returning travelers, but his account fills in gaps in others]

William of Tyre. A history of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea, ed. Babcock and Krey. (Farrar Straus, Giroux, 19760 [born in Jerusalem, William was sent back to Europe for schooling and returned to become bishop of Tyre and tutor to Baldwin IV, the leper king.  Many of the events he recorded happened while he was gone, but he is excellent, if opinionated, on people he knew and interviewed many who had lived through the time he chronicles.]

The Gesta Tancredi of Ralph of Caen Bachrach, Bernard S. and Bachrach, David S. (eds.), (Ashgate.)  The Norman view of the early Italo-Norman rulers of Antioch.  I haven’t had a chance to read it, yet.

Odo of Deuil, The Journey of Louis VII to the East. Tr, Virginia Berry. (Norton, 1948, many editions) [Odo went with Louis and Eleanor and was miserable most of the way.  His chronicle ends when he reached Antioch and things started to get interesting.  He seems to have been to depressed to say more.]

Peter Edbury, ed. The Conquest of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade (Ashgate 1998)  [This is a translation of the continuation of William of Tyre.  It covers the complicated dynastic struggles in Jerusalem, the rise of Saladin and the resulting crusade.]

The Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi tr. Helen J. Nicholson, (Ashgate 2001)[ A flattering portrait of the Third Crusade and King Richard the Lionheart.]

G. A. Loud, ed. & tr. The Crusade of Frederick Barbarossa: The History of the Expedition of the Emperor Frederick and Other Accounts. (Ashgate, 2010) The best known life of Frederick and his time on the third Crusade was written by his uncle, Otto.  Loud gives translations from a variety of other chroniclers

Robert de Clari. The Conquest of Constantinople, tr. Edgar Holmes McNeal (University of Toronto Press,1996) [Robert was a soldier on the Fourth Crusade.  His report from the ground is illuminating , since he stayed through the capture of Constantinople.]

Janet Shirley tr. Crusader Syria in the Thirteenth Century  (Ashgate 1999) [A translation of two chronicles covering the crusades from 1229 – 1261, led by Theobald of Champagne and then Louis IX of France.  The first, Rothelin, is totally disjointed but wonderful in that he veers from accounts of the expeditions to magic and protest songs from the ranks.  Eracles is not so much fun but contains much information]

Peter Jackson, ed. & tr. The Seventh Crusades, 1244-1254: Sources and Documents (Ashgate, 2007)

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Primary Sources: Levantine

Walter the Chancellor. The Antiochene Wars tr. Asbridge and Edginton (Ashgate 1999) [Walter was chancellor in Antioch in the early days of the Latin settlement.  He gives the story of the battles among both the Crusaders and the local Muslims, making it clear that they often allied against a common foe.  He tells of his time as a hostage in Aleppo.  A good counterpoint to the completely Eurocentric accounts]

Anna Comnena. The Alexiad.  tr. E.R.A. Sewter (Penguin Classics, 1969/2003) [Opinionated Anna was in the thick of things in Constantinople during the First Crusade.  The book was written to glorify her father, the usurper, Emperor  Alexis, but everyone else is fair game.  Her comments on the leaders of the Crusade are priceless]

Matthew of Edessa, Armenia and the Crusades. Tr. Ara Doustourian. (Armenian Heritage Press, 2014) [This new, revised edition is fabulous.  Matthew lived in Edessa before and during the early Crusades.  He is highly opinionated and he gives accounts of life there under Muslim and Frankish rulers that are barely mentioned in other sources.  Everyone interested in the crusader period should read this.  We have so few minority views of life then.]

 

General Histories of the Crusades:

Thomas F. Madden The New Concise History of the Crusades. (MD: Rowman &Amp; Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2006)[I’ve liked much of his earlier work but haven’t had a chance to look at this]

Hans Eberhard Mayer The Crusades (Oxford University Press, 1988) An expert German historian who takes a less French-centered view.

Jonathan Riley-Smith, The First Crusaders, 1095-1131, (Cambridge UP, 1997) [A comprehensive look at the leaders and ranks of the first wave from the west.  He also wrote a three volume history on all the Crusades.]

Carole Hillenbrand. The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives. (Edinburgh University Press, 2010) [This is a fabulous book, full of quotes, analysis and pictures.  She discusses relations among the Arab/Turkish/North African Muslims as well as their interactions with other groups.  Her writing is clear and she makes her biases obvious so that the reader can take them into account.  Whatever general history you read, this should be a companion.]

Christopher Tyerman. God’s War: a New History of the Crusades. (Belnap/Harvard, 2006)  [A vast history, strong on military and political events.  It’s not intended to be a social history and powerful women are given less space than the men.  The strengths of the book are an emphasis on the role of the Italian city-states, his coverage of the crusades in Spain and the Baltic, and a section on the Albigensian Crusade.]

WARNING!!!  Whatever book you choose for a general survey of the period, if the author is listed as a reporter for the New York Times or the Washington Post, put it back on the shelf.  These books are popular but wildly inaccurate.  I have no idea why these people think they can write a history because they’ve been to the Middle East and read a couple of books on the topic.  ARRGH!

 

Websites and blogs:

Andrew Holt is a medieval historian and local TV pundit who has a blog that often covers the Crusades.

https://apholt.com/2016/10/26/byzantine-recruitment-of-western-warriors-before-the-first-crusade-peter-frankopans-call-from-the-

He has also edited a book with Alfred J. Andrea, Seven myths of the Crusades, Hackett Publishing, Indianapolis, 2015 ($19.00)  This is a good corrective for a lot of things that “everyone knows”, including the non-connection between the Templars and the Freemasons.

The Medieval Sourcebook.  This is a wonderful resource for primary sources in translation.  Paul Halsall has maintained it for many years.

http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/sbook.asp

Review of First Crusade

October 2, 2016

Last week, I gave a wild ride from Europe to Jerusalem, touching on the sieges of Antioch and Jerusalem.  Here is a summary and a list of participants, many of whom will appear over and over.

Dramatis Personae:

European.

Peter the Hermit. Leader of the Peasant army.  The peasants were mostly killed or sold into slavery but Peter survived and went home to a comfy monastery.

Count Robert of Flanders

Stephen, Count of Blois (married to Adele, daughter of William the Conqueror) Came home and was sent back by his wife to atone for his cowardice.  He died in battle, which seems to have pleased her.

Robert, Duke of Normandy, a son of William the Conqueror.  Robert went home but was captured by his younger brother, Henry I of England, and died in prison.

Hugh of Vermandois, brother of Phillip I, king of France (Phillip was excommunicated at the time since he was living with his mistress, the wife of the count of Anjou)

Bohemond, Count of Taranto (Italy) Son of the Norman, Robert of Guiscard. Bohemond led the siege of Antioch, claimed it for himself, then left for Europe and never returned.

Tancred, Bohemond’s nephew, who administered Antioch for his uncle.

Raymond of St. Gilles, Count of Toulouse, born c. 1041,  with his 3rd wife, Elvira, the illegitimate daughter of King Alphonse of Castille and his son Bertrand.  Raymond died there in 1105.  Bertrand became count of Tripoli.

Eustace, Count of Boulogne, Godfrey, Duke of Lower Lorraine; and Baldwin of Boulogne, brothers and the center of later Crusade legends.

Their cousin, Baldwin of LeBourq, later King Baldwin II

Bishop Adhemar of le Puys, spiritual leader and papal legate, but not adverse to picking up a sword, if necessary.

Bishop Fulcher of Chartres wrote one of the best eye-witness accounts of the crusade.  He remained in Jerusalem, where he died.

In the East

Alexis, emperor at Constantinople, the Eastern Roman Empire.  Alexis had usurped the throne and was fighting a civil war as well as Turkish invaders.  Naively, he believed that the crusading army were there to help him and then go home.

Kirbogha, the atabeg of Mosul, who brought his army to keep the crusaders from taking the city of Antioch.  The army was a coalition of the leaders of several area, including Hims and Damascus. Although the crusaders were few and starving, Kirbogha was defeated.  The Christians were sure it was because the had the newly-discovered Holy Lance.  Muslim chroniclers say it was because there was infighting among Kirbogha’s  coalition.

(for those who want more on what an atabeg was: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/atabak-turkish-atabeg-lit)

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The taking of Jerusalem. Note the several images of Jesus and the depiction of the city as a church.

After the establishment of the Crusader States, Bishop Fulcher wrote the following idyllic version of life in the Hold Land:

“Consider, I pray, and reflect how in our time God has transferred the West into the East, For we who were Occidentals now have been made Orientals. He who was a Roman or a Frank is now a Galilaean, or an inhabitant of Palestine. One who was a citizen of Rheims or of Chartres now has been made a citizen of Tyre or of Antioch. We have already forgotten the places of our birth; already they have become unknown to many of us, or, at least, are unmentioned. Some already possess here homes and servants which they have received through inheritance. Some have taken wives not merely of their own people, but Syrians, or Armenians, or even Saracens who have received the grace of baptism. Some have with them father-in-law, or daughter-in-law, or son-in-law, or stepson, or step-father. There are here, too, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. One cultivates vines, another the fields. The one and the other use mutually the speech and the idioms of the different languages. Different languages, now made common, become known to both races, and faith unites those whose forefathers were strangers. As it is written, “The lion and the ox shall eat straw together.” Those who were strangers are now natives; and he who was a sojourner now has become a resident, Our parents and relatives from day to day come to join us, abandoning, even though reluctantly, all that they possess. For those who were poor there, here God makes rich. Those who had few coins, here possess countless besants; and those who had not had a villa, here, by the gift of God, already possess a city. Therefore why should one who has found the East so favorable return to the West? God does not wish those to suffer want who, carrying their crosses, have vowed to follow Him, nay even unto the end. You see, therefore, that this is a great miracle, and one which must greatly astonish the whole world. Who has ever heard anything like it? Therefore, God wishes to enrich us all and to draw us to Himself as His most dear friends. And because He wishes it, we also freely desire the same; and what is pleasing to Him we do with a loving and submissive heart, that with Him we may reign happily throughout eternity.”

 

Interview on ISIS

January 5, 2015

Hi all! I’m working up to a look at who are joining ISIS, Boko Haram and also who are coming to Nigeria, Syria and Iraq to fight against them. Until then, here is an interview on the topic that I did with Prof. Andrew Holt.

http://apholt.com/2015/01/05/isis-and-medievalism-an-interview-with-dr-sharan-newman/

The Election as Apocalyptic Sign

October 27, 2012

This is the usual American image of Halloween.  Adorable children in costumes, going door to door, collecting treats and laughing.  When I was a child we went out alone and ranged as far as we could walk.  Now children are shadowed by parents or organized into parties at community centers.  In my grandfather’s day they were

closer to the original meaning of Halloween.  He and his friends stole furniture from porches, tipped over outhouses and generally destroyed anything they could.

Now, what has this to do with either the election or the end of the world?  OK, it’s a tenuous connection.  But I was thinking about how many people feel that if their candidates don’t win, the world is headed down in a spiral to destruction.   Nothing prophetic, Biblical, Mayan or mathematical.   One group is certain that the world will be crushed under a load of debt.  The other is sure that international industrialists will run amok and destroy the ecosystem so we’ll have nothing left to eat, drink or breathe.

I’m not as concerned about the accuracy of these theories as I am about the climate that is producing them.   Even though the Mayan believers have been quiet lately along with the ones worried about a galactic alignment, sunspots and rogue killer asteroids, there is still an overarching sense of impending DOOM.

Campaign ads are to blame, I’m sure of it.  Never mind racial or gender slurs, opposing candidates have become antichrists.  If we don’t vote for the correct one, Satan will rule.  If you don’t believe me, watch a few hundred of these.  Therefore, my feeling is that we’ve done this to ourselves because in our collective id, we like feeling on the edge of disaster.  Why?  I’m really asking.  I have no idea.  Is it adrenalin?  A need to wipe the slate and start over?  Too many post-apocalyptic movies where the main characters are gorgeous and compassionate and we think there will be more of them then for us to meet?

Why aren’t we thinking more about saving the world for the cute, innocent kids to trick or treat in?
Just a thought.

 

Catherine short stories again

November 15, 2011

I tweaked the manuscript of DEATH BEFORE COMPLINE, hopefully getting the typos and correcting one really dumb mistake and it’s now on Kindle and Nook. I understand that you can get revisions for free if you bought it. I hope it’s true.  Let me know.  If you haven’t bought it yet, then you can now get the new and improved version.

here is the link to the kindle:

http://www.amazon.com/DEATH-BEFORE-COMPLINE-ebook/dp/B005N04FIU/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1321382626&sr=1-1

And here is the link to nook

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/death-before-compline-sharan-newman/1107069702?ean=2940013627611&itm=1&usri=death%252bbefore%252bcompline

Catherine short stories.

September 1, 2011

After much more technological angst that I could have thought possible, my short story collection, DEATH BEFORE COMPLINE will be ready to download on Nook and Kindle in a week or so. Here is the cover. Don’t be harsh; it was my first try at Photoshop. The background is a picture I took at Carcassonne. There are seven stories about my medieval mystery family, Catherine, Edgar and Solomon. I’ve also included explanations of the root for each story and the background for the series and, oh yes, recipes.

This collection should be in print in a few months. But it can be found on Nook and Kindle within a week or so. If you’ve read the series and miss the characters, this is a chance to see them again. If you have just read my non-fiction, this will give you the opportunity to sample the fiction.

Medieval Myths #4 – The Popes were All Powerful

June 18, 2011

One of the most persistent and pernicious of the myths about the Middle Ages is that the “Church”, generally meaning the popes, controlled the minds of all Christians. This is another of the beliefs that were created by early Protestants and Humanists. They were mainly against real abuses that existed in the sixteenth century. Their own cause was bolstered by painting the enemy as evil and immensely powerful.

There are problems with this belief, both historical and logical. History first. Consider the following to be a very quick and very generalized summary.

The papacy didn’t really exist for the first several hundred years of Christianity. The bishops of Rome tried to claim superiority, but so did the bishops of Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem and several other places with more credibility. The bishops of Rome won in the West by default when most of the Eastern cities fell to the Islamic invasions in the seventh and eighth centuries.

But that didn’t mean that the popes had much real power outside of Rome, political or religious. Doctrine and dogma were decided by councils, not a single pontiff. And doctrine changed with each one – rather like laws decided in parliamentary sessions. Most legislators agree on important basic beliefs, but the nuances change considerably with each group. So for instance, for a long time priests could be married but there was never a time that I know of where it was considered OK to buy a parish or any other office. That doesn’t mean people didn’t do it of course.

For most of the Middle Ages the popes would have loved to have the kind of power that later critics claimed they did. But it didn’t happen. The pope who came the closest was Innocent III, (1198-1216). He organized the Fourth Lateran Council, which established a number of reforms, including proper education of priests. It was also the first to demand that Jews wear identifying badges. My personal opinion is that society started going downhill than and hasn’t come back yet.

For the most part, religion was an essential part of medieval life. But the bishops were noblemen, often the brothers of kings, and politics generally overruled religion or, more often, religion was used as a tool of the rulers. Popes were ignored, deposed, even driven to their deaths by various factions. At most, the papacy was used as a sort of High Court to resolve disputes. And if powerful rulers didn’t like the papal ruling, they often declared the pope a heretic and elected a more pliable one. See Philip IV in my book on the Templars.

Most attempts by popes to institute a Peace or Truce of God had little success. Rules against the appointment of relatives were ignored. The papal lands were invaded a number of times with no apparent fear of divine retribution.

This leads to the simple logic against the notion that the church was all powerful. Who holds the reins when there are four “popes” at once? If they had such control over minds, where did the Protestants (starting well before Calvin and Luther) come from? Anti-papal satire was much more common and safer than that which made fun of the king. Much is made of Pope Urban’s call for the First Crusade in 1097, but only medievalists are aware that there were many more calls that were ignored.

I hope that this short sketch gives readers some food for thought. There are many fine histories of the medieval and early papacy but I don’t know of any that address, point by point, the popular misconceptions. It may seem minor, of interest only to staunch Catholics. However, as with many myths, this one distorts not the past, but the present. By assuming that religious fanaticism was a natural state of medieval society that modern people have happily escaped, we tend to view deeply religious groups as throwbacks to a dark time rather than part of the fabric of contemporary society. So, instead of trying to understand groups and individuals operating according to their ideas of religion, we dismiss them as “medieval”, and toss them into an historical waste bin as aberration that have nothing to do with us now.

I believe this attitude keeps us from facing and solving our own problems. As I try to explain the facts about these myths, that remains my underlying theme. We are different in many respects from people of the past, but not as many as we would like.

Ready for the Rapture?

April 29, 2011

My facebook page friends have been discussing Signs and Portents of the End.   As I noted in an earlier post, the news that the Rapture is prophesied for May 21, 2011, is spreading.  Earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, revolutions, tsunami, volcanoes, bookstores closing!  It does look suspicious to me.   However, I’ve been reading Matthew of Edessa, who wrote in the 1150s and, except for the bookstores, he cites the very same signs!  He even adds the invasion of the Turk, Zengi, who conquered Matthew’s home.  Poor Matthew was very disappointed that God didn’t come through and divide the sheep from the goats, or even the Orthodox Christians from the heretics.

But that doesn’t mean we should get complacent.  And, if the Rapture doesn’t come on May 21, we still have another chance on Dec. 21, 2012!  So don’t give up hope.  As this picture, kindly provided by the Bible Society, shows, Ascension robes will one day come in handy.The Rapture in Dallas

Chastity belts and Lord’s right, medieval myths.

March 22, 2011

Two medieval myths that seem to go together in people’s minds are the lord’s “right of the first night” or “droit de seigneur” and the ever popular “chastity belt”.   Even though both these myths have long been disproved, they are fixed in the public imagination as prime examples of  medieval cruelty and subjugation of women.

Would it surprise anyone to learn that these are both nineteenth-century inventions?

Let’s start with the chastity belt.  I found one from a torture museum that had metal teeth placed strategically that are meant to shred a would-be seducer/rapist.  That one is supposed to be from the fourteenth century.  A modern reproduction is simply a metal belt with a solid attachment that goes between the legs.

See any problem here?  Clearly, the first objection is that the belts are incredibly unsanitary and would cause infection fairly quickly.   The  “copy” doesn’t even allow for natural elimination.  The second problem is that these were supposed to be used by women while their husbands or other male relatives were at war.  Well, a lot of these husbands were very active before leaving, hoping that there would be a son born while they were gone.  Want to try delivering a baby through one of those?  And, of course, any woman with a hair pin could get out of the thing in about five minutes.

But the real problem with the chastity belt and the lord’s right, is that they presume women were property.   In the nineteenth century, under law in many countries, women were treated as children, without reasoning capacity.  Medieval women were not.  Of course there were barriers in law.  They couldn’t be priests or war leaders (but don’t tell Matilda of Tuscany) and, while women made most of the beer in Europe, they couldn’t be official beer tasters.  Go figure. But women could inherit, buy and sell, property and speak for themselves.  And a lot of them did at all levels of society.

Now, this First Night nonsense also assumes that peasants were slaves.  Depending on the time and place, their lot wasn’t great but any lord saying that he would get to sleep with a bride from his village on the wedding night would not have lasted long.  “The peasants are revolting” is not an idle phrase.  A wonderful example is from the miracle stories of St. Cuthbert.  It seems that a Scottish lord once decreed that all his female field hands work naked.  In Scotland?  According to the story, the next morning the lord was found dead “pecked to death by crows”.  Sure.  It doesn’t matter if the story is true; it makes clear what the twelfth century thought of high-handed noblemen and implies that peasants didn’t take such things lying down (so to speak).

Of course women were prey to some men in power.  This behavior was called seduction or rape and generally frowned upon by all.  Of course that never happens now.

There are two fine books that cover these two topics. The Medieval Chastity Belt

http://www.palgrave.com/products/title.aspx?is=9781403975584 for Albrecht Classen’s explanation of the chastity belt myth.

Alain Boureau’s study of the Droit de Seigneur is at http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/author/B/A/au5252640.html

Boureau has also written on the myth of Pope Joan.  He discovered that the droit de seigneur was first found in Beaumarchais’ Marriage of Figaro. Both books explain the social and political reasons why these two stories became part of history and folk belief.

Sorry this is so long, but I hope I’ve cleared up a few things.  If not, read the books I’ve recommended before you get back to me, please!

Aliens end everything?

May 24, 2010

In a fit of masochism, I have been watching the History channel’s four-part (!) series on “ancient aliens”.   The producers of the show seem to believe in them.  I am amazed at how the self proclaimed experts on this program can happily ignore facts, logic and social context to insist that pretty much everything in the past proves  that beings from another planet came down and convinced idiot humans that they were gods and then taught them just enough to build pyramids and kill each other more efficiently before zipping back into the sky.

Some proofs offered include representations of the earth as a globe in the Middle Ages, obviously a sign of alien inspiration since “everyone believed the earth was flat”.  Of course, that’s a myth invented in the nineteenth century.  Anyone who cared knew, and could prove mathematically, that the earth was round.  However, the facile logic of the believers is so good that they would probably answer that the aliens had taught man that.  Medieval thinkers couldn’t possibly have had the math or the brains to figure it out.

The speakers  drag in so many random facts and tie them together like a giant macrame that it’s impossible to untangle them.  One point they make is that cultures that were unconnected practiced binding to elongate the head – obviously to imitate the gods.  Most societies also pierced ears and noses to insert jewelry.  Do aliens also have  objects hanging from ears and noses, perhaps communication devices or an unfortunate disease that they are hunting the universe to find a cure for?  With no need to worry about logic and evidence, the possibilities are endless.

As to how this connects to the end of the world – well, Noah’s flood, which I mention in my section on Gilgamesh in THE REAL HISTORY OF THE END OF THE WORLD, was caused by angry aliens and they also told the Mayans to end their calendar in 2012 since they were planning another apocalyptic disaster.

Honestly, I don’t see the difference in the minds of the “experts” between aliens and gods.  It’s just another religion.  If one has faith then even the most illogical statements can be explained away.

If you are also feeling masochistic, the website for the show is http://www.history.com/shows/ancient-aliens

Personally, I think it’s just another way of refusing to be responsible for making the world better.  The aliens are clearly the only ones with the power so the rest of us can only sit back and wait for them.

Sigh.