Mystery Regarding Erwin Rommel’s Suicide

Erwin Rommel was a hero of Nazi Germany during World War II. When World War II came knocking, Rommel was one of the veterans of World War I. He had already received Pour le Merite award for his exploits on the Italian front of World War I. He was, for some time, even the favorite of Adolf Hitler. He gained in prominence as the Commander of Panzer Division that had smashed the French resistance during World War II. He was sent to the African front to command the Afrika Korps. The tactical genius and ability to motivate the troops made him an instant hero. When the news of Erwin’s exploits reached the ears of Hitler he wasted no time in elevating him to the post of Field Marshall. Rommel was also place in charge of fortifying the Nazi defenses to repel the invasion by Allied Forces.

Erwin Rommel

Erwin Rommel the Field Marshall of Nazi Germany

 

But the problem for Erwin Rommel was his mentality. He was not like other Nazi top ranking officers. He was humane and professional. He did what he had to do for his country, but he did not want to participate in the crimes against humanity that Hitler had called. His close associates recall how Rommel kept on neglecting the orders of Nazi hierarchy to kill Jews, Commandos and other Prisoners of War in the African front. Under his command the African front witnessed good treatment of all the captives. One of the witnesses recalls how Rommel was shell-shocked on witnessing the devastation Allied bombers were causing to the German country side. He did not like the sufferings common German population had to endure during World War II. He was also a practical military mastermind, who had understood that waging the war was a futile or crazy thing to do. The chances of Germany winning the war were slim. His faith in the Hitler administration took a severe blow when he learned of the Jewish killings and slave camps. In 1943 Rommel openly criticized the tactics of Hitler in a letter. He even came in contact with an anti-Hitler camp, but did not want to be a part of their conspiracy. All these acts of Rommel had anguished the dictator, Adolf Hitler.

Erwin Rommel in Afrika Korps

Erwin Rommel during his Afrika Korps Days

 

In July 17, 1944 while on a patrol Rommels staff car was bombed by an Allied aircraft. His driver died, but he managed to survive with scars to his face and broken skull. He was taken to a nearby Hospital where he revived quickly. Just three days later Hitler survived an assassination attempt when a bomb exploded at the venue where a Strategy Meeting was to be held. As Rommel had openly criticized Hitler so he was included in the list of conspirators. Hitler was furious and wanted to have Rommel executed then and there. But the problem for him was: Rommel was already a national hero. To kill a national hero would demotivate the common populace. This is why other ways had to be thought.

Rommel and Hitler

Erwin Rommeland Adolf Hitler

 

So, did Hitler forgive Rommel? No, not at all. In the words of Rommel’s son, Manfred who had been a part of the anti-aircraft crew, he was granted a leave all of a sudden to return back to his father in October 14, 1944. The family knew that Rommel was on close watch. His chief of staff and commanding officer had already been executed. While having breakfast young Manfred broke news to his father that some Nazi officers would visit the house to discuss Manfred’s future with his father. Immediately, Erwin understood that he would either be executed or sent on an improbable mission on the frontlines. At mid-day an official car arrived and two officers boarded down. They respectfully asked for permission to speak with Rommel alone.

Assassination Attempt on Hitler

Assassination Attempt on Hitler in 1944

 

As per Manfred’s account, after a few minutes Rommel hurried upstairs. He had called his wife to tell that he would be dead soon. He broke the news to other occupants of the house. Rommel said that the house was surrounded by Nazi gunmen and he was being charged for treason by Hitler. Rommel was given two options either to commit suicide using the cyanide capsules which the officers were carrying or to be killed by them. In the event of the latter option, all the family members would be killed along with Rommel. So, Rommel chose the first option.

Erwin Rommel Funeral

Erwin Rommel was given a state Funeral by Adolf Hitler

 

Rommel said that Hitler had promised that none of the family members would be harmed if he decided to commit suicide as Hitler himself did not want the thing to go public. The script was that Rommel would leave for an important staff meeting and on the way he would have a cerebral attack. After 20 minutes news would be broken from the nearby hospital. He was given ten minutes to speak with his son and then he put on the official dress and jacket, took his stick and entered the car.

 

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Was Alexander the Great a Unifier or Subjugator?

Much of what we know about Alexander the Great is an account of Ptolemy, who was a childhood friend of the great man. Just like any other ancient hero, Alexander the Great has been depicted like a God like person, a Messiah of the human race. Modern scholars believe that Ptolemy always held a dear place in the heart of Alexander. He was given the desired respect and power. He had no reason to doubt the deeds of Alexander. So, he eulogized the man. Over the years, feathers were added to the cap. Fictional elements were added to Alexander’s tale. None of the past scholars spent time detecting the true intentions of Alexander the Great. Yes, he was a great man no doubt. He was a great conqueror and administrator who nearly conquered the world. But alongside that he was a politician too.

Alexander's Persian Policies

Were Alexander’s Policies Aimed at Inter-racial Unity

 

The fact is Ptolemy sings of the Persian policies of Alexander the Great as one of inter-racial unification. But what was the reality? Let us try to dig deep and find the reasons for his Persian policies. In 334 BC, the twenty two year old Alexander marched against the mighty Persian emperor Darius at the Battle of Guagamela. Alexander had strength of 35,000 companions against 200,000 men strong Persian army. It was a fiercely fought battle, where the tactical genius of Alexander saved the day. The fear of being captured and slain led Darius to flee from the battle field. Before fleeing Darius sent messages to the Satraps to stay loyal, for he would return with a larger army. Darius sought refuge with a Satrap named Bessus, who later stabbed the king on news of Alexander’s approach. So, Babylon lay in the hands of Alexander.

Alexander the Great in Battle

Alexander defeated Darius at Battle of Guagamela

 

Alexander decided to set base in Persia for some time before moving ahead. During his stay he took many decisions which were later called philanthropic and examples of racial tolerance. But the evidences suggest that these were political necessities more than anything. In Persia, he married a Persian princess, organized mass marriages in Susa and then employed the Persian youth into Macedonian military ranks.

Alexander and Barsine

Alexander Married Persian Princess Barsine

 

It is learnt that Alexander the Great launched a campaign to capture the befallen Persian King, Darius. But when he heard of Darius’s death and Bessus’ treachery he was sad. It is learned that Alexander gave Darius a proper funeral at Persepolis and went after Bessus. He captured Bessus a year later and executed him. Not only this, after Babylon fell Alexander did not act like the military leaders of the time. He honored all the nobility present within the city. Arrian, a historian who accompanied Alexander recorded the marriage of Barsine, the eldest daughter of Persian King Darius to Alexander. Later on Alexander also went on to stage a second marriage with Parysatis, the daughter of slain Persian King Artaxerxes III. These marriages when viewed neutrally can in no way be called romantic associations or acts of philanthropy. They had only one aim, to establish Alexander as the unchallenged ruler of Persia for many years to come. Alexander had understood quite early that his dwindling number of Macedonian soldiers were not enough to suppress the Persians, who had never tasted foreign rule. So, the marriages were a way to be considered one of the Persians own. It worked too; the populace accepted Alexander as their leader without any doubts and sang praises for him.

Mass Marriage at Susa

Alexander organized Mass Marriage at Susa

 

His second act was organizing mass marriage at Susa in 324 BC. Here the Macedonian officers were united in holy matrimony with the Persian noblewomen. Again this is sighted as an attempt of Alexander to unite the two races. But was it? The soldiers and officers in the Macedonian ranks were young and they had been away from home for long. Most of them craved for women, and Alexander had to oblige. If the Macedonian forces did not get what they wanted then there could be a rebellion in the ranks, weakening Alexander’s campaigns. This is why Alexander organized nuptials between the conquering men and conquered women. There is no account of how consenting the women were. These marriages would contaminate the Persian pedigree, thereby extinguishing the chances of old ruling class coming to power again.

Persians in Alexander's Army

Persian Youth were Recruited in Alexander’s Army

 

Now, coming to the third policy – it is learned that soon after the mass marriages at Susa, Alexander started recruiting outsiders into his army. As many as 30,000 Persian youth were recruited in the ranks. They were trained in the Macedonian warfare tactics. This must surely be a proof of inter-racial unity by Alexander? Sorry, this too had political connotations. In the two Persian wars Alexander had lost a lot of companions. Some of his men had to be sent back to Macedonia. So, he had a lack of manpower. Bringing reinforcements from Macedonia was time taking, so he decided to utilize the Persian manpower to fulfill his ambition of capturing the world.

 

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Was Robinson Crusoe Based on Real Incidents?

Most of the people grow up reading the classic work of Daniel Defoe by the name “Robinson Crusoe”. In this novel Robinson Crusoe is stranded on a small Caribbean Island for nearly 28 years. Defoe was rumored to have based this fictional work on various castaway stories. But research proves that Robinson Crusoe drew heavily from the real life events of Alexander Selkirk, who was contemporary seafarer of the author.

Image of  Alexander Selkirk

Image of Alexander Selkirk as a Young man

Alexander Selkirk was the son of a shoemaker and born in Lower Largo, Fife, Scotland in 1676. Sometime in the years between 1693 and 95 he was summoned by the local church on charges of ‘indecent conduct in church’. But he could not appear as he had already left for the sea. It is learned that this was the start of his seafaring days. In 1703, Selkirk joined an adventurous expedition led by English privateer William Dampler which was set for the South Sea. This was the time of war for Spanish Succession between the French and British. It was the ideal time for privateers to make a fortune by serving their country and raiding their enemy vessels. With this intention in mind two ships named St. George and Cinque Ports set sail from Kinsale in Ireland. Selkirk boarded Cinque Ports and served as a sailing master.

Alexander Selkirk reading Bible

Depiction of Alexander Selkirk reading Bible on the Forlorn Island

 

Charles Pickering was the original Captain of Cinque Ports, but he died in November that year. He was replaced by a young upper class seaman named Thomas Stradling. Stradling was not liked by his crew. In September, Cinque Ports set anchor on a secluded and uninhabited island near the modern day coast of Chile. The crew remained on the island for one month when they rested and restocked their supplies. When the Captain decided to prepare for the later voyage, there was a big confrontation between Selkirk and Stradling. Selkirk claimed that the ship was not seaworthy. After a heated discussion Selkirk stated his wish of remaining on the island rather than boarding the faulty ship. Stradling was more than happy to affirm to this proposal, as he and Selkirk were never in good terms. So, the crew boarded the ship and set sail. Selkirk was left behind on the forlorn island known as Mas a Tierra (meaning ‘Closer to Home’ or modern day Robinson Crusoe Island). Mas a Tierra was the second largest of Juan Fernandez Islands. Before leaving, the crew left a few items for Selkirk’s daily use such as clothing, navigation devices, a knife, an axe, a cooking pot, a musket and the Holy Bible.

Alexander Selkirk on Island

Alexander Selkirk Evaded the Spanish who camped at the Island

 

For the next four years Selkirk led a forlorn life on the island, surviving on the resources that nature gifted him with. For food he had cabbages, wild turnips, pepper goats and feral goats. The goats had been left behind by earlier sailors to the island. For shelter Selkirk made two huts with the wood from the forest. He used goatskin for floor coverings and later on his own clothing. His time pass was reading the Bible. But one thing he could be proud of was his knowledge of Cinque Ports. Soon after setting sail Cinque Ports sank near the coast of Colombia. Though Stradling and seven other crew members survived but they were arrested by the Spanish and imprisoned in Lima, Peru.

Robinson Crusoe Island

Aerial View of the Robinson Crusoe Island

 

Though Selkirk was sustaining, but he would definitely crave for human companionship. His first rescue opportunity arrived when two ships anchored at the island’s bay. Selkirk was overjoyed to see the ships. But as they drew closer his joy was converted to fear. These were Spanish ships. Selkirk was an English privateer, if the Spanish caught him he would be hanged then and there. So, Selkirk managed to hide in the interiors of the island while the Spanish camped on the island. He evaded the Spanish and continued to live on.

Statue of Alexander Selkirk

Statue of Alexander Selkirk in his hometown

 

Second opportunity for Selkirk’s rescue arrived on February 1, 1709. He witnessed two approaching ships in the horizon, but he was more cautious this time. The ships dropped anchor on the island. Luckily this time around the ships belonged to the English privateer Woodes Rogers. The pilot of one of these ships was William Dampler who vouched for the identity of Selkirk. Thus, he was rescued. Selkirk eventually returned back to England after completing his privateering duties in 1711. Just a year later, Woodes Rogers published a book on his privateering life and in that book he mentioned about Selkirk’s life as a castaway. Defoe’s novel, Robinson Crusoe was published in 1719 and the main protagonist bore significant resemblance to Selkirk.

Front Cover of Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe Novel by William Defoe

 

Though Selkirk was never a celebrated figure in his hometown of Lower Largo, might be due to his exploits in earlier life. Not many recognize his statue erected at the site of his house. But in all probability Defoe used the incidents in the life of Alexander Selkirk as the crux of his story and of course sprinkled some imagination into it.

 

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Marco Polo and his Tryst with Kublai Khan

Samuel Taylor Coleridge starts his unfinished poem Kubla Khan as “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan, a stately pleasure-dome decree…” As the poet revealed the poem was composed one night in a state of opium induced dream after reading a work containing the descriptions of Xanadu. Xanadu was originally the capital of Kublai Khan after he had conquered China. Later on, though the emperor shifted his capital to Dadu, in present day Beijing. Xanadu stayed important as it was the imperial summer city during Kublai Khan’s reign. Coleridge saw Xanadu only in a dream after reading about it, but there was a person who actually saw Xanadu and later wrote about it. We are talking about Marco Polo, the great Venetian voyager. During Kublai Khan’s reign many Westerners were entertained in the imperial court and Marco Polo happened to be one of them.

Marco Polo Navigator

Marco Polo, The Great Navigator

 

Marco Polo’s father, Niccolo and his uncle Matteo were voyagers too. It is learned that when Marco was born his father and uncle were on a voyage to the East. Marco met with these two important people only when he was 15 years old. After getting from their voyage, Niccolo and Matteo shared some of their travel experiences with Marco Polo. The boy was deeply impressed and wanted to become a great navigator one day. He did not have to wait long, as the seventeen year old Venetian boy set sail with his father and uncle to Asia in 1271.

Polo Brothers and Kublai Khan

Polo Borthers at the Court of Kublai Khan

 

The Polos left not only with the trading intention, they were also carrying some letters and valuable gifts from the Pope to be delivered to Kublai Khan, the great Mongolian emperor of China. During their first visit to China Niccolo and Matteo had earned the favor of Kublai Khan. The Khan had expressed his interest in Christianity to the Polo brothers. The Polo brothers were requested to speak to the Pope on the Khan’s behalf. Kublai Khan wanted the Pope to send the Polo brothers back to China, along with 100 learned priests and holy water. Though the Pope could not fulfill Kublai Khan’s request, he sent letters and valuable gifts anyway to not offend the mighty Khan. Polos on their behalf arranged for two friars, but these holy men decided to turn back after tasting difficulty in travelling.

Kublai Khan Dome in Xanadu

Pleasure Dome in Xanadu

 

It is learned that the band of Polos left Venice to travel south via the Mediterranean Sea to the Holy Land (modern day Israel and Palestine), which was then under the partial control of the Christian crusaders. From the port city of Acre, the voyagers travelled northwards to Trebizond and then south till reaching Baghdad. They then reached the port city of Ormuz from where they travelled to the Taklamakan Desert. They crossed the Gobi Desert to reach China. In China, the Polos received warm welcome. Young Marco Polo immersed himself in Chinese culture and quickly gained the favor of the Khan, for he was a talented linguist. He was appointed a special envoy to the Yuan court, which helped the young man to travel to Asian countries such as Burma, Tibet and India. Later on, Marco Polo was appointed the tax inspector at Yanzhou and an official at the Privy Council.

Marco Polo and Kublai Khan

Marco Polo and Kublai Khan

 

The three Polos stayed in China for nearly 17 years and during this time they had amassed a lot of wealth. When Kublai Khan reached his late seventies and his health was fading, the Polos wanted to leave China with all their wealth. But they were afraid that such a request might offend the great Khan. But Kublai Khan on hearing their request at once allowed them to leave China. But he set a final mission for the Polos. They had to escort the Mongol Princess Kokachin to Persia on their return voyage. The return trip was less than favorable. It took two years to reach Persia and during this tenure about 600 crew members and passengers died. When the Polos finally reached Ormuz, there were only 18 surviving members in the crew. The Persian Prince who was to marry Kokachin had died in this time, so the Polos had to wait until an ideal husband was found for the Mongol Princess. The Polos left for Venice and returned on 1295.

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Is Carthage Infanticide Real or Part of Propaganda?

Ancient Carthage was a glorious place to be in. It had the riches and a well-built social system. The Phoenician empire was centered on its city-state of Carthage, which is located in present day Gulf of Tunis in North Africa. The empire that was founded in 814 BC quickly grew into prominence. At its heights the Phoenician Empire spanned across Mediterranean Ocean, North Africa to modern day Spain. The empire prospered till third century BC. The history of Carthage is one of constant struggle for lands. They waged wars against the Greeks for control over Sicily and with the Roman Republic for other areas. The wars with the Romans were popularly known as the Punic Wars.

Prosperous Carthage Empire

Carthage Empire at the Heights of its Prosperity

 

During the wars, the Greeks and Romans spread a story that Cathagians were child killers. They involved in ritualistic infanticide. Greeks or Romans were bitter rivals of Carthage, so the claims were not taken seriously. These were blown away as mere propaganda. But one group of archeologists decided to delve deep into this rumor. Joseph Quinn, lecturer in Ancient history at Oxford University believes that infanticide in Carthage has been dismissed as a part of black propaganda over the centuries. But there are new evidences that point to the truth. The truth is bitter. The archeological and literary evidences point that indeed there was such an evil practice in place. Parents did kill their children as an offering to the gods or as a part of their sacred promise.

Punic War

Carthage waged Punic War with Roman Empire

 

The matter was long buried before into the limelight in the early 20th century. Excavations during the time on the outskirts of Carthage in modern day Tunisia revealed cemeteries that came to be known as Tophets. Similar cemeteries were soon discovered in the Carthage governed provinces of Sardinia and Sicily. These cemeteries were filled with small graves that contained cremated bones packed into urns. Under most of these tombstones there were inscriptions thanking god.

Carthage Infanticide

Infanticide was Practiced in Carthage

 

A group of scholars, though, believe that these graves belonged to children who had died before, during, or soon after the birth process. This could be the instance as the delivery process in ancient Carthage could not have been advanced and mortality would be high across the globe during those times. These set of scholars also believe that the number of graves is very large and that is why it could not be a burial place for the sacrificed infants.

Tophet Graves

Tophet or Small Graves of Infants from Carthage

 

But their views do not hold water as most of the graves carry an inscription stating Gods “heard my voice and blessed me”. This statement clearly states that the child was sacrificed to God. According to ancient traditions a feeble, week or dying child could not be sacrificed. So, these children did not die of natural causes. Another piece of evidence was the presence of animal remains alongside the infants. Roman historian, Diodorus has given graphic descriptions of the sacrifice process where a child was sacrificed alongside an animal to appease the Gods. So, all the evidences clearly state that people in Carthage indeed killed their children to please the gods.

 

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A Search for the Origins of Sacred Three Kings

Everyone knows the story of Three Kings or Wise men who had travelled to Bethlehem to meet with Jesus Christ after his birth. The story has emanated from one of the gospels named the Book of Matthew. They are important personalities in the story. Over the years there have been many speculations about these Wise men, but there is little fact to support these. To start inspecting the origins of these three men, we have to go back to their oldest source of origin: Book of Matthew. What does this gospel tell us? It firstly says that Magi came from the east and travelled to Jerusalem. At Jerusalem they sought an audience with King Herod. Upon meeting the King explained seeing a star in the sky and dreams that foretold they would meet with the King of Jews if they followed the Star. Upon hearing their tale, the King asked when Magi had first seen the star, and they answered. King Herod asked the Magi to find this baby and let him know. There is no mention of the country/countries these wise men had come from. They then left the royal court and travelled to an unknown location where they met with baby Jesus and Mary. Matthew makes no mention of Joseph. On meeting the baby they showered gifts. They gave three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. That night they had a dream which warned them against the cruel intentions of Herod. So, they woke up next morning and travelled back to their native lands without information Herod. That is where the role these Wise men ends in the Bible, there are no more details.

Magi Meet Christ

Magi Meeting Baby Christ at Bethlehem

 

Many of the later folklores that have passed on from generation to generation will help in reconstructing some of their identity. First of all there is confusion over the number of wise men. The Bible only tells that three types of gifts were given to Christ. Scholars have held that only three magi each one gifting an unique item had travelled. But this may not be the case. Few of them might have gifted gold, why should only one person gift one item? In fact the story depicted in many Syriac churches numbers the Wise men as twelve.

King Herod & Magi

On their Way Magi sought audience with King Herod

 

There is also confusion over: whether they were kings or commoners? Magi in general sense means Zoroastrian priest or astrologer. But the ease with which they had an audience with King Herod strongly points them to be kings and nothing less. Most of Western Christian followers believed that the Wise men were indeed three in number. In one of the accounts Encyclopaedia Britannica states the names of these Magi to be: Balthasar the King of Arabia, Gaspar the King of India and Melchor the King of Persia. If we go through ancient documents, these were prominent kingdoms in the sixth century and Herod would definitely meet kings of these lands at shortest notice.

Tombs of the Three Kings

Supposed Tombs of the Three Kings in Modern Day Iran

 

Though the Bible does not tell us much about the travel back and later life of Magi but some sources do. As per a seventeenth century book named Chronicon of Dexter it is mentioned that the Magi returned to their Kingdoms and started preaching a new religion. They were martyrs for the cause. What caused their deaths is not clearly mentioned in the text. However, Marco Polo the famous navigator came across the tombs of three wise men in the Persian city of Saba. He believed that these three wise men were the ones mentioned by Matthew.

 

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The Tale of La Gioconda

The name La Gioconda or Lisa Gheradini would not have found a place in the history books, but for a famous painting. Her painting has been a point of discussion and her smile has left the art connoisseurs bamboozled for centuries. Yes, we are talking about the famous painting by Leonardo Da Vinci, well known as Mona Lisa.

Isleworth Mona Lisa

Portrait of Lisa Gheradini that Leonardo delivered to Francesco

Now, coming to the history of the painting, Leonardo was commissioned by the wealthy businessman Francesco del Gioconda to draw a portrait for his beloved wife Lisa Gheradini. Leonardo got on with the job and started painting the portrait of this beautiful 24 year old lady. It is learnt that Leonardo started the painting in 1503. But due to some unknown reasons, Leonardo became overtly obsessed with her. He used to visit her every day and continued working on the painting for many years. No matter what Leonardo painted, he felt justice was not done. Somehow the strokes were not enough to justify the beauty of Lisa. Time was running out and the patience of Francesco too. So, Leonardo had to give up his quest for perfection. It is learned that Leonardo handed over an unfinished painting to the couple. The portrait was named La Gioconda.

Leonardo da Vinci as Youth

Leonardo da Vinci was Commissioned to Paint a Portrait of Lisa Gheradini

 

Time went by, and fifteen years later the French King Francis I purchased a portrait that was similar to the one Leonardo had spent so much time over. The only difference was that this was finished. This was smaller in size than the original La Gioconda painting. When the painting was tested in 2004, there were no signs of trimming observed on it. One of marked differences between both the paintings was the presence of columns in the background of the subject on either side in La Gioconda and absence of it in the King’s painting. The subject in the painting looked a woman in the thirties rather than one in her twenties. Since 1797 the painting acquired by King Francis I has found a place in the Louvre Museum of Paris and it is famously known as Mona Lisa. In fact, Mona in Italian is a common way of addressing a woman with dignity similar to Madam. So, Mona Lisa could be translated as Madam Lisa.

Mona Lisa at Louvre Museum

Mona Lisa Painting at Louvre Museum in Paris

 

The mystery is: if this was not the painting Leonardo had been commissioned for, then how did this painting exist. It is not uncommon for famous artists to ponder over their work long after they are done with it. Leonardo was a perfectionist and he might have given repeated tries to paint Madam Lisa perfectly and at last he succeeded. The finished painting somehow made its way to the French Palace. In fact, a medieval historian named Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo mentioned in one his works that Leonardo had made a pair of similar paintings. The book was edited by an ardent Leonardo admirer Don Carlos Emmanuelle, so there could not be any mistakes or misprint.

Two Paintings of Mona Lisa

Facial Comparison between two Mona Lisa Paintings. On the Left is Mona Lisa of Louvre Museum and on the Right is Isleworth Mona Lisa or the first painting by Leonardo

 

So, where did the original La Gioconda go? Just before the outbreak of World War I an English collector discovered an unfinished painting at the home of a friend in Somerset. To his surprise the painting was an exact replica of the famous Mona Lisa painting with a prominent background and couple of pillars. The woman in the painting looked much younger than Mona Lisa. He took it to his studio in Isleworth. It remained there anonymous, until recently it was unveiled in Singapore under the name Isleworth Mona Lisa. This was in fact the real La Gioconda painting.

 

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Termination of a Society: The Rapa Nui Genocide

On a Easter Sunday in the year 1772, a Dutch explorer named Jacob Roggeveen discovered one of the most isolated inhabited islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The island was named Easter Island after the holy day of its discovery. Easter Island is an island located in the Southeastern Pacific Ocean right at the tip of the southernmost point of Polynesian Triangle. Though Roggeveen’s discovery put Easter Island on the world map, it was also the beginning of the end for this prosperous society. The remote island soon suffered from genocide, violence and economic exploitation. The rich culture and heritage of this island vanished from Earth.

Easter Island in Pacific Ocean

Beautiful Easter Island in the Middle of Pacific Ocean

 

Scholars tell us that earliest settlements on the island started as early as 400 AD. The inhabitants of Easter Island are known as Rapa Nui and they are descendants of the Polynesian explorers. Tahitian explorer who visited the island in the 19th century is said to have named the island Rapa Nui as it reminded him of a Tahitian island “Rapa” that was bigger “Nui”. The island was initially a paradise on Earth with large Palm trees. Though there were no rivers or lakes, but the volcanic craters were able to store enough rain water for the entire society. The population of the island was divided into various geographic clans based on the part of the island they occupied. They were all led by a great chief or Ariki Mao. At the height of prosperity there were more than 7,000 Rapa Nui inhabitants on the island. Fishing vessels would venture into the sea to bring food. The statues known as Moai were erected as an embodiment of the Great Chiefs. But the good days of this culture were short-lived after its discovery by the European explorer.

Rapa Nui People

Rapa Nui in their Glory Days was a Prosperous Society

 

The island soon became a regular port and place of resting for the travelers. They would halt at this island for a few days before setting sail again. The Easter Islanders on their part were very welcoming. Islanders comprised of pleasant people and attractive women. But the islanders had to pay for their welcoming and pleasant attitude. More and more European travelers started visiting the shores. Some of the settlers would shoot and kills the inhabitants if they did not get what they wanted. The Europeans viewed the Rapa Nui as a source of labor and the women for sexual satisfaction. The women would be abducted by the sailors to please the crew members. Most of these women were infected with sexually transmitted diseases and this destabilized the population.

Moai in Easter Island

Moai are Representation of Great Chiefs

 

The death knell was sounded to this society in 1860s. The islanders were hunted and then sold to lucrative slave markets in South America (namely Peru). Ships with capable men and attractive would leave the shores of Easter Island. The process continued until there was public discontent raised in Peru. The government in Peru put an end to forced slavery in 1877, but by that time the damage had already been done. Only 100 inhabitants were left on the Easter Island. After the slave trade was abolished the islanders made their voyage back to the islanders. They brought further misery. The returning members carried with them small pox that killed the healthy populace.

Peruvian Slave Trade

Rapa Nui were shipped to Peru for Slave Trade

 

Today the Easter Island has a population of over 5,000 people but only a handful of them actually know the Rapa Nui language suggesting that they are all late settlers. The glory of Rapa Nui was lost for once and all.

 

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Mystery Regarding Joan of Arc’s Execution

Joan of Arc was a simple peasant who had nothing to do with politics or war. But she got dragged into the English-French politics. She was born in a simple peasant family at Domremy, a small town located in North-east France. She saw visions of Angel Michael, Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret. In these visions she was instructed to help the uncrowned Prince Charles VII to become the Supreme King. She followed the command of God and became a prominent figure in the Hundred Years’ War between France and Britain. In the early stages her fanaticism and leadership qualities won many swift victories for the French and she was proclaimed the Heroine of France. King Charles VII proclaimed himself the King of France. But a faction within the close circles of King Charles VII wanted to clip her wings. They accused her of deception and witchcraft. It learned that before her capture in Compiegne, she had lost the favor of Charles VII as the French forces were being routed everywhere.

Portrait of Warrior Joan of Arc

Portrait of Warrior Joan of Arc Praying before a Battle

 

However, she was captured at Compiegne on the battlefield by the allied English-Burgundian forces. She was soon handed over to the English. Joan of Arc was put on trial for as many as 70 charges. She was tried by the pro-English Bishop Pierre Cauchon. Cuachon found her guilt and she was burnt at the stake on May 30, 1431 at the tender age of nineteen years. This is what we know from the historical records.

Joan of Arc the Warrior

Joan of Arc was the Herione of France during Anglo-Norman War

 

But there is a long forgotten tale that may claim otherwise. There are facts that make us believe that someone else might have died in place of Joan of Arc at the stake that day. There is a considerable doubt over the execution of this French heroine. A tale that went round in those was very tactfully covered up and never raised again. A common story from the times states that a woman appeared in a village near Metz, France in 1436 claiming herself to be Joan of Arc. The people who heard her were skeptical and even made pranks. But the story somehow spread through France. Soon two of Joan’s brothers visited Metz and clearly declared that the woman in question was no one but their sister or Joan.

Capture of Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc was captured by British Forces at Compiegne

 

But brothers could have their own agenda in bringing back their dead sister. They could be bribed. But what happened next was astonishing. In her time with the French military had made many enemies but some good friends. Two of her close companions heard of the tale and visited Metz to take a look at this woman. Both these individuals had fought in close quarters with Joan. After meeting the woman they proclaimed that the woman was truly Joan of Arc. The woman was even called to the royal court and interviewed by King Charles VII himself. Charles VII even disclosed to his courtiers that the woman knew many secrets that he had disclosed only to Joan.

Burning at Stake Joan

Joan of Arc was Burned at Stake after the Ruling by Bishop Pierre Cauchon in 1431

 

As time went on the woman was awarded the title Joan des Armoises. She was even financially rewarded for her service to the nation during the war. Some of the church services that were taking place in the memory of Joan were stopped on order by the king himself. But after a couple of years it is recorded that the woman allegedly confessed that she was an imposter who just looked similar to Joan. But the public opinion was with the woman.

Joan as a Commoner

Joan of Arc might have led her later life as a Commoner

 

After this incident, the woman was shunned from history for once and all. The instance came up again in 1907 when a noted scholar compared the signature of Joan of Arc against the marriage license of the imposter. He found that both these signatures were a perfect match. Now, the mystery remains why would Joan of Arc suddenly rear up her head and disclose her identity and then two years on feign to be an imposter? Another notable question is that: in those days the imposters were handed severe punishment (often death penalty), why was this woman pardoned without any action?

Statue of Joan of Arc in Paris

Statue of Joan of Arc at Place des Pyramides in Modern Day Paris

 

A group of historians believe that this was again a part of the French politics. Reason for Joan of Arc’s later military failures was her violent temper which enraged everyone including the King. Even Charles VII wanted the fall of Joan of Arc, but the public opinion was on her favor. The King did not want to displease his populace. Thus he may have taken the backdoor by sending Joan of Arc in a battle she could not win. But the King was God fearing as well, he did not want to displease God so he may have secretly arranged for the execution of some other woman at the stake in place of Joan. There must have been a deal fetched whereby Joan decided to stay in hiding for the rest of her life. But as was the character of Joan she could keep her identity secret only for 5 years. Once the news spread King Charles VII too had to embrace the woman he wanted to obliterate. May be he secretly blackmailed Joan or used some other means to make her confess as an imposter. It might have been that Joan was in love those days and wanted to live like a common person, so she stayed away from the politics. She married soon after the incident and lived on peacefully in some other land with all her rewards.

 

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What was the Fate of Caesarion or Ptolemy XV?

Caesarion was the son of two of the most influential people in the Ancient world. His mother was Cleopatra while his father was the great Julius Caesar. Apart from being powerful his mother Cleopatra was shrewd too. She shifted her loyalties quite quickly. In her early life she rule with her father Ptolemy XII Auletes and later with her brothers Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV. She even married her brother Ptolemy XIII as a part of the customs. After the death of Ptolemy XIII she declared as the sole ruler of Egypt. But Rome was a big threat for her sovereignty. So, she used her beauty to catch the attention of Julius Caesar, the most influential man in his times. Their union produced Caesarion. After the pre-mature assignation of Julius Caesar, Cleopatra started another love affair with Mark Anthony who commanded great respect in Rome. With all her political guiles she made sure that Caesarion grew up in comfort. He was well educated in military tactics, politics, history and other facets essential for a ruler. Cleopatra wanted him to be the supreme King one day. Even Caesarion believed himself to be the reincarnation of God and carried an air about him.

Statue of Caesarion

Statue of Caesarion dressed as a Pharaoh

 

Certain historical documents even support that Caesarion in his infancy spent a couple of years in Roman close to Julius Caesar himself. This was also a part of Cleopatra’s politics to make sure that Caesarion would succeed Julius Caesar to the throne of Rome one day. But all the plans went in vain when Julius Caesar was murdered and Octavian under the name of Emperor Augustus ascended the throne. Cleopatra on her part made the presence of Caesarion felt by pronouncing him as co-ruler of Egypt. But the mere existence of Caesarion was a threat to the power of Octavian. He had held onto his powers with guile and persuasion. But at the back of his mind he always knew that the tide could turn. People would then support the true blood of Julius Caesar in the form of Caesarion. Some historians even believe that the conflict with Mark Anthony was a staged affair to get rid of Caesarion.

Son of Cleopatra & Julius Caesar

Caesarion was the son of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra

 

The relations between Mark Anthony and Octavian broke down in 33 BC and this gave the Roman emperor an excuse to wage a war against Egypt. In 31 BC at the Battle of Actium Cleopatra and Mark Anthony were defeated by the royal forces of Rome. Both of them committed suicide to escape embarrassment. Some texts support that when the writing was on the wall and the Egyptian forces had been overpowered by Romans, Cleopatra visited Caesarion’s chamber and advised him to live Egypt in a hurry. It is believed that he left the palace in haste and journeyed towards India, where no one would know about his existence.

Battle of Actium

Egyptians were defeated in the Battle of Actium

 

After ransacking the town, Octavian learned that his prime target had already left for a safe house. So, he pricked on his shrewd brain and planned for his capture. He spread a word that if Caesarion would return to Egypt he would be reinstated to his former glory. He would be made the regent of Egypt. It did not take much time for the news to trickle to the ears of Caesarion. This prince had grown up amidst all the luxuries a person could imagine. A life away from the palace was very hard on the young Caesarion. So, he decided to meet with Roman representatives. Roman messengers arrived at his hideout and re-instated the promise of Octavian. Caesarion was completely assured.

Caesar Augustus

Caesar Augustus became Supreme Ruler after Caesarion

 

Though young Caesarion had many virtues but he was clearly not good in politics. He travelled to Alexandria and upon arriving he received a major setback. Far from returning his throne, Octavian had him immediately imprisoned. He was soon executed as Octavian believed in Arius Didymus’ philosophy “Too many Caesars is not good”. After the death of Caesarion, Octavian achieved complete control over Egypt.

 

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