Friday, February 10, 2006 - Marcus Aurelius - Marcus Aurelius. This is a short biography by Petri Liukkonen of Marcus Aurelius who was the 2nd-century Roman emperor, Stoic philosopher and author of the twelve-volume Meditations.

Considered one of the greatest of the Roman Emperors, Marcus Aurelius also has been noted as one of the best ancient philosophers as well. Most people today remember Marcus Aurelius as the elderly man played by Richard Harris in the movie Gladiator. However, he had a long and successful rule.

Modern and ancient criticism of the Marcus Aurelius focuses on the fact he persecuted Christians (which was the norm for Roman rulers at the time) and that he had the bad sense to allow his son Commodus to follow him on the throne.

From the site:

Marcus Aurelius was born in Rome as a descendent of Roman ancestors. When only a small child, he attracted the attention of the Emperor Hadrian (r. 117-138) - a paedophile. He was appointed by the Emperor to the priesthood in 129, and Hadrian also supervised his education. Marcus Aurelius was taught by the most able teachers of the time. The Emperor Antonius, who succeeded Hadrian, adopted Marcus Aurelius as his son. He was admitted to the Senate, and then twice the consulship. In 147 he shared tribunician power with Antonius. During this time he began composition of his Meditations.

In 161 Marcus Aurelius ascended the throne and shared his imperial power with his adopted brother Lucius Aurelius Verus. Useless and lazy, Verus was regarded as a kind of junior emperor, but he died in 169. After Verus's death he ruled alone, until he admitted his own son, Commodus, to full participation in the government in 177.

As an emperor Marcus Aurelius was conservative and just by Roman standards. He was beset by internal disturbances - famines and plagues - and by the external threat posed by the Germans in the north and the Parthians in the east. Toward the end of his reign he was faced with a revolt by Avidius Cassius, whom he praised and attempted to accommodate. Faustina, Marcus Aurelius's wife, may have been involved in this conspiracy. As, year after year, he witnessed the gradual crumbling of the Roman frontiers, he turned more and more to study of Stoic philosophy.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Capital Punishment U.K.

Capital Punishment U.K. This site has a variety of articles dealing with the death penalty in the United Kingdom. This includes a list of 19th and 20th Century executions in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and the Channel Islands. Additional topics includes women executed, methods of execution, and the history of prisons where executions happened.

This is a content rich site full of interesting facts. For example, I learned from the York Castle Prisons about a hangman who came to work drunk. The article noted,

As a convicted felon Curry remained a prisoner himself until 1814. He found his job stressful and took to drinking a lot of gin to steel himself for the task. On April 14, 1821 he was called upon to perform two executions. First he hanged highwayman Michael Shaw at York Castle and then had to walk across town to execute William Brown for burglary at the City Gaol. He was somewhat drunk by the time he got there and while waiting on the platform for the prisoner to appear, he began shaking the noose at spectators, calling out to them: "Some of you come up and I'll try it!" When Brown appeared, Curry had to be assisted by a warder and one of the sheriff's officers. "The executioner, in a bungling manner and with great difficulty (being in a state of intoxication), placed the cap over the culprit's face and attempted several times to place the rope round his neck, but was unable." "He missed the unfortunate man's head with the noose every time that he tried. The cap was each time removed from the malefactor's face, who stared wildly around upon the spectators" the Times newspaper reported on April 24th.

The site also has information on executions worldwide. The Executions Worldwide page today had updates through January 2006 and listed executions from the USA, Iran, China, Congo, Yemen, and Bangladesh.

Obviously, those interested in UK history or capital punishment will find this site noteworthy. Although the topic is a bit morbid, I think other history buffs will find this site worth perusing as well.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Battle for the Roer Triangle

Battle for the Roer Triangle - Describes the backdrop, the events and unfolding of Operation "Blackcock", a British offensive to take the Roermond-Sittard-Heinsberg triangle in January 1945 during World War II.

The fighting was fierce and both Dutch and German civilians took heavy losses as most of the fighting was on their farms. Allied and German military losses were also high. The site notes, "Operation Blackcock was without any doubt a success for the allies since all the objectives of the operation were met. The German divisions were thrown out of the Roer Triangle with exception of the area immediately south of Roermond." This then cleared the way for the invasion of Germany and the beginning of the end of the European portion of World War II.

The site is listed at DMOZ as However, it is redirecting to If you have trouble with the link, try the first address as it is possible the site creator will actually move this content to the paid domain.

From the site:

This digital monument is dedicated to Operation "Blackcock", which was named after the Scottish black male grouse, and was the code name for clearing the Roermond-Sittard-Heinsberg triangle by the 2nd British Army in January 1945. The objective was to drive the German Army back across the river Rur and Wurm and move the frontline further into Germany. The operation was carried out under command of the XII Corps by three divisions, the 7th Armoured Division (better known as the "Desert Rats"), the 52nd Lowland Division and the 43rd Wessex Division ("Wessex Wyverns"). The operation is relatively unknown despite the sometimes fierce battles that were fought for each and every village and hamlet within the "Roer Triangle". Against a most determined enemy. And during extreme winter conditions.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

EDSA The Original People Power Revolution

EDSA The Original People Power Revolution. This is a day-by-day chronicle of the downfall of Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 by Angela Stuart-Santiago.

There are two versions of the book. One is in English and the other is in Tagalog. The Tagalog version is titled Walang Himala! Himagsikan sa Edsa.

There are also a review of the book and several editorial articles written by the author reproduced.

From the site:

StuartXchange presents Angela Stuart-Santiago's works on the 1986 EDSA revolution, in their entirety. The two published works - an English version (EDSA: The Original People Power Revolution) and a Tagalog version (Walang Himala! Himagsikan sa Edsa) - in a blow-by-blow style of story telling - will bring the People Power Revolution back into the forefront of your consciousness. A must-read for every freedom-loving Filipino, for students of history, for those whose memories have been blurred by time, for the younger generations for whom EDSA is piecemeal snippets of heresay, and for those who just wish to read and reminisce of a time when a people showed the possibilites of its heart and soul.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The History of Plumbing - Jerusalem

The History of Plumbing - Jerusalem. This is an interesting history of the holy city from the perspective of plumbing. It describes the construction of the water system of the ancient city, from 1200 BC through the Herodian era. It also covers ancient sanitary laws in brief.

The essay also briefly speculates that Jerusalem had a high level of sanitation due to the overall emphasis on hygiene in Mosaic Law. It then argues that this may have been a result of Moses having been raised in an Egyptian royal household.

This article was originally published in Plumbing and Mechanical, July 1989. Unfortunately, the author is not identified.

From the site:

The capital city of the ancient land of Israel is situated 2,500 feet above sea level, high along a strategic ridge of hills. In the ten centuries B.C., Jerusalem would become a buffer state between the warring factions of Assyria and Egypt, and later would be influenced by the Macedonian culture of Alexander the Great. By 173 B.C., Jerusalem would look like a Greek city, complete with gymnasiums. When the Romans took over, they erected elaborate buildings and water systems to accommodate them. In 73 A.D., they destroyed it all, and Jerusalem lay in ruins.

From the city's inception, its lifeline of water depended solely on hidden wells and underground cisterns. Fed by underground streams, the Gihon Spring on Jerusalem's eastern slope was the ancient city's only source of water at that end. Depending on die season, die spring could supply water to the city once or of time. The Gihon also irrigated the surrounding fields and gardens through several open canals along what is known as the Kidron riverbed.

From the city's earliest settlements even prior to 1200 B.C. water tunnels from the cit,v tapped into the connection located just outside the city walls. As in other cultures, access to the water supply had to be insured against enemy invaders who conceivably could cut off the supply above ground.