Portuguese Inquisition of Goa

Goa is a small state situated in West India. This region has become a tourist hub within India, for its attractive beaches and decorated Churches. It has one of the largest Christian populations within India. But history has a cruel tale to unfold that happened in Goa. The event referred to happened during the Portuguese colonization of Goa. It is popularly known as the Inquisition of Goa. Though Indian mainland was ruled by British, Goa was under the control of Portuguese. King Manuel I of Portugal had introduced Inquisition in Portugal in 1497.

St Francis Xavier

St Francis Xavier requested Inquisition of Goa


In 1498, Vasco da Gama, the great Portuguese explorer landed in Goa and set up prosperous trade monopoly in the region. Soon, the Portuguese ousted the Sultan and started ruling the island. Society of Jesus was founded in Goa and many missionaries were sent to preach Catholicism. The mission set incentives for baptized Christians in the form of rice donations, good positions in Portuguese colonies for the converts and military for the local rulers. The converts were mainly opportunistic individuals who still continued practicing their old faith, Hinduism. In 1542, St. Francis Xavier arrived in Goa and he was disappointed with what he saw. In 1545 he wrote a letter to Pope John III requesting Inquisition to be installed in Goa.

Execution of Hindus in Goa

Hindus were executed for religious practices


Soon, the first inquisitors, Aleixo Dias Falcao and Francisco Marques arrived in Goa and occupied the residence of Portuguese viceroy. The first act of inquisitors was to forbid the open practice of Hindu faith. Practice of Hindu faith was a punishable offence. There was a lot of violence and brutality in the following days. As per the records, Hindus were cast into prison cells for religious practices or for minor offences. Due to lack of cells, they were stacked in small cells creating unhygienic conditions. In the years 1560-1774 it is recorded that more than 16,000 people were tried and condemned by the Inquisition tribunals. Back then, there was a practice among the locals to cross over the borders and cultivate lands in Maharashtra (neighboring Indian state). 4,000 people were arrested for their trivial crimes among them 57 were burned at stake while 64 in effigy.

Tambdi Surla Temple in Goa

Tambdi Surla Temple in Goa that survived the Inquisition


There were laws passed by the Portuguese colonial administration that prohibited passing of border for employment and public worship of Hindu deities. Moreover, the Hindus were forced to assemble periodically in churches to listen to Christian teachings and contradiction of their religion. The viceroy also ordered that Hindus would not be allowed in the capital on palanquins or horseback. Violations of this law would call for imprisonment. On top of this, there were other laws that forbade the Christian palanquin bearers from carrying Hindu passengers. Christian laborers were forbidden from working in Hindu lands, and vice versa. Inquisitors also extended protection and help to the Hindus who would convert to Christianity. All these laws had an adverse effect on the population and there were mass emigrations to other parts of India.

In 1567, Portuguese colonial forces launched a campaign of destroying Hindu temples. It is estimated that no less than 300 Hindu temples were destroyed during this campaign. On December 4, 1567 rituals such as Hindu marriages, sacred thread wearing and cremations were prohibited. Any person over the age of 15 was compelled to listen to the Christian preaching, failing which they were severely punished. In 1684, the provincial language Konkani was suppressed and it was compulsory for everyone to speak Portuguese language. The Inquisition of Goa was finally ended in 1812 and normalcy to life returned.

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Leif Eriksson: First to Reach the New World

Though Christopher is revered for his discovery of America which was fondly renamed as the New World, it was the Viking explorer Leif Erikson who beat him by at least 500 years. Leif was the first European to land in North America. According to the Sagas of Icelanders, this Viking hero even established a Norse settlement in Vinland that lies in the northern tip of Newfoundland in modern day Canada.

Bust of Leif Eriksson

Bust of Great Viking Explorer Leif Eriksson


Leif Eriksson was the son of Erik the Red and his wife Thjodhild. He was born sometime in 970-980 AD in Iceland. In his childhood Leif was raised by his grandfather Thorvaldr Asvladsson in a small settlement in Greenland. Leif was trained as a typical Viking and he had great passion for navigation. As a young man, Erikson assembled a crew and set sail from Greenland to Norway in 1000 AD. On his maiden voyage he stopped at Hebrides. There he married Thorgunna, the daughter of a local chief and had a son named Thorgils. Later he travelled to Norway. In Norway he met King Olaf I Tryggvason and was converted to Christianity. Norwegian king was impressed with Leif and rendered him the responsibility of spreading the faith of Christianity among other Viking settlers.

Eriksson Voyage to Greenland

Eriksson set sail for Greenland and landed at Vinland


The historical accounts of his subsequent voyage differ. According to Eiriks Sage, Leif met a storm and was driven off course while sailing to Greenland and he landed on the North American continent. After he landed in the region he called it Vinland, as wild grapes grew in abundance in the fertile land of the region. But in another account, Groenlendinga Saga (or the Saga of Greenlanders) it is mentioned that Leif had heard of Vinland from another Icelandic trader named Bjarni Herjulfsson. Bjarni had sighted the North American mainland from his ship 14 years before Leif’s voyage, but he did not set foot on the land.

Discovery of North America by Vikings

Discovery of North America by Vikings


There is also uncertainty over the exact location of Leif’s landing. Groenlendinga Saga claims that he made three stops at Helluland (Labrador), Markland (Newfoundland) and finally Vinland. The location of Vinland has also been debated over the centuries, and various spots along the northern Atlantic Coast have been sighted. Then in the 1960s excavation at L’Anse aux Meadows, lying on the northern most tip of Newfoundland, came up with evidence of a base camp from this 11th century Viking exploration. Though some scholars still hold that the region is too far north to correspond to the descriptions of Vinland mentioned in the Icelandic sagas.

Memorial of Leif Eriksson

Memorial of Leif Eriksson


It is learned that after staying in Vinland for some time, Leif returned back to Greenland. He never returned back to the North American shores again. Though he could not convert his father to Christianity, his mother was converted. He also built a Christian church at Brattahild. After the death of his father, Erik the Red, Leif Eriksson became the chief of Greenland settlement. His son, Thorgils was sent by his mother to live in Greenland, but he was unpopular with the other Vikings. Leif’s another son, Thorkel Leifsson became the chief of the settlement in 1025. Nothing more is known of Leif Eriksson or his lineage. It was only in the 19th century, that Leif Eriksson was celebrated as the first European explorer to the New World.

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Mystery of Martin Bormann

Martin Bormann was a famous figure during the Third Reich. He acted as Hitler’s deputy and there is a lot of controversy surrounding his death. Bormann was born on June 17, 1900. He was the son of a Prussian regimental sergeant major. He dropped out of school at an early age and started working at a farming estate in Mecklenburg. After this he worked as a cannoneer in field artillery during World War I. Soon after Bormann joined the rightist Rossbach Freikorps in Mecklenburg and was connected to a murder case. On March 1924 he was sentenced to one year imprisonment for assisting Rudolf Hoss in the brutal murder of a former teacher at elementary school, who had handed over a pro-Nazi leader Leo Schlageter to the French occupation authorities in Ruhr. After being released from prison Martin Bormann joined NSDAP, becoming its regional press officer in Thuringia soon after. He became the Business Manager of NSDAP in 1928.

Martin Bormann

Martin Bormann – Secret Administrator of Third Reich


From 1928-30 Martin Bormann was attached with the SA Supreme Command and in October 1933 became the Reichsleiter of NSDAP. A month later he was chosen as the Nazi delegate for Reichstag. He actively entered the Third Reich governance in July 1933 when he was selected Chief of Cabinet in the office of Deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess. He briefly acted as the personal secretary and right hand man of Rudolf Hess. This model secretary, who was very hard working and clever rose to in the power apparatus, earning the trust of Adolf Hitler. He administered the Adolf Hitler Endowment Fund from German industry. This fund was raised as a voluntary tribute to the Fuhrer and given as gifts to the Nazi party officials. Bormann also looked after Hitler’s finances. He slowly made himself an indispensable part of Hitler’s close circles.

Martin Bormann during a Nazi Parade

Martin Bormann during a Nazi Parade


Following the flight of Rudolf Hess to Britain and his capture, Bormann ceased the opportunity to step into his shoes and became the head of Parteikanzlei and controlled the reins of the Nazi Party in 1941. This seemingly unimportant personality proved a master of intrigue, manipulation and political in-fighting to gain prominence during World War II. He was a fiercely orthodox Nazi follower. He was fanatic for the radical racial policy, anti-Semitism and war with churches (Kirchenkampf). Bormann was also responsible for strengthening the Nazi party against the growing power of SS and Wehrmacht. He influenced all key decisions of the regime from legislations, promotions to appointments of Party personnel. He established an army for espionage where the young officers were promoted to spy and had to keep an eye on political attitudes of various colleagues. He started the fight with churches with a memo to Gauleiters in 1942. Though it is held that Hitler personally did not want to enter into such a fight. Bormann was in favor of exterminating the Jews and Slavs. His memos led to mass killing.

Bormann alongside Hitler during an inspection

Bormann alongside Hitler during an inspection


It is learnt that he influenced many infamous decisions taken by Hitler. As a secretary his task was to shortlist the letters and set appointments for the Fuhrer. He used shrewdness to let through messages or people he willed. His summation of important events and news showed Hitler a completely different perspective. He even distanced the key Nazi figures such as Goering, Goebbels, Himmler and Speer from Hitler with his manipulation. Towards the last days of World War II, Martin Bormann was one of the most powerful men in Germany. Some called him the secret ruler. He had Goering dismissed and Himmler’s influence was largely marginalized.

Hitler, Goering and Bormann

Hitler, Goering and Bormann


But ironically, at the zenith of his power, the political career of Martin Bormann was cut short when the Axis Powers failed in World War II. Bormann was in the Chancellary Bunker and acted as witness to the marriage of Eva Braun and Hitler. He also watched the Fuhrer commit suicide in the bunker with the Allied Forces close on the heels. It is learned that Bormann wanted to follow his leader and commit suicide but Hitler asked Bormann to put nation’s interest over his personal interests. He left the Fuhrer Bunker on April 30, 1945 shortly before it was captured by the Allied forces. What happened next is a mystery.

Chancellary Bunker

Chancellary Bunker where Hitler and Bormann stayed


According to Hitler’s chauffeur, Erich Kempka, Bormann was killed by an anti-tank shell while trying to cross the Russian lines in a tank. The tank carrying Bormann hit the shell and went up in flames. Kempka was temporarily blinded by the blast and claimed to have seen Bormann’s body. But, Youth Hitler leader Artur Axmann believed that Bormann had committed suicide by ingesting cyanide capsule and saw his body in Invalidenstrasse, north of River Spree in Berlin on May 2, 1945. In 1946 though, numerous sightings of Bormann in a North Italian monastery were reported. This was the same year when his wife Gerda died of cancer in South Tyrol in Austria. Many of the Nazis were reported to have used the route from Germany to Italy and then fled to the South American countries during this time. After some years, there were rumors that Bormann was living as a millionaire somewhere in Argentina. Others spotted him in Brazil and Chile.

Remains of Martin Bormann

Remains of Martin Bormann as claimed by east German government


In the meantime some British intelligence officers claimed that Bormann was brought to Britain as a POW. The British authorities used him to release Nazi funds lying in the Swiss banks. Later he was housed in a small British village. Other unconfirmed sightings of Bormann in various Scandinavian nations and other parts of Europe started coming in. Some even believed that Bormann had undergone plastic surgery to conceal his identity.

In 1972 construction workers uncovered remains at a location mentioned by Axxmann. After diagnosis of the body and identification by Bormann’s sons, the East German government officially declared the hunt for Martin Bormann closed. Though conspiracy theories suggest that this was a big cover-up.


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Mystery of RMS Titanic

RMS Titanic was a magnificent ship, known for its luxury and sophistication. It was one among the trio of Olympic class luxury passenger vessels that were made to rule the waves. Titanic had an older and younger sister – RMS Olympic and HMHS Britannic. All these ships were the brainchild of White Star Line and shipbuilders Harland and Wolff situated in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Work on Titanic began on March 31, 1909 roughly after 15 weeks when Olympic’s hull was laid out. Both these ships were identical in styles. Both were massive floating vessels with the keel acting as the support for weight. Both the ships took more than two years to complete.

RMS Titanic setting sail

RMS Titanic setting sail from Southampton


Titanic’s voyage to America was the talk of the town prior to the trip. Titanic’s first and final voyage began in Southampton on April 10, 1912. Titanic’s command was given to Captain Edward Smith. Along the way Titanic made two stops at Cherbourg in France and Queenstown in Republic of Ireland. Then it headed into the vast Atlantic Sea. Five days after it had left port, and about 300 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, the ship went down. It took with it 1500 souls. These included 685 of the 899 crew members employed on the ship and the Naval Architect of Titanic, Thomas Andrews.

RMS Olympic and RMS Titanic

RMS Olympic (on left) and RMS Titanic (on right) docked together


Everything seems fair till this point. But there is a twist to the tale. Let’s explore this mystery. RMS Olympic, the sister ship of Titanic, had set sail from Southampton on September 20, 1911. Within an hour of leaving port the ship collided with HMS Hawke just off the coast of Isle of Wight. Captain Edward Smith, the captain of RMS Olympic then ordered a sudden turn which caught the HMS Hawke off guard. Both ships ran into one another. Though no major losses were reported initially, but detailed inspection showed that the ship needed some repairs, especially to the backbone of the ship. This cost was not covered in the insurance. So, the repairs were postponed. To get adequate funds for the repairs the White Star Line had to stage an insurance scam of epic proportions.

Captain Edward Smith of Titanic

Captain Edward Smith of Titanic


Before the Titanic set sail both Titanic and Olympic were in dry dock near Belfast. Some experts suggest that the registries of these two identical ships were switched while being docked. They believe that it was the RMS Olympic that set sail for New York on April 10 rather than Titanic. They further suggest that Captain Edward Smith, was hastily recruited as captain of the Titanic, though there were many other suitable candidates waiting. The entire crew was new, all but the captain. This could be a pointer towards a plot that the White Star Line were looking to hatch.

RMS Titanic Sinking

RMS Titanic Sinking


There are many other incidents that point towards a conspiracy. The owner of White Star Line was supposed to have been on board for the maiden voyage of RMS Titanic, but he changed the plans and cancelled the tour just a couple of hours before the departure. In another instance, it is sighted that Captain Smith had received numerous updates about icebergs a day before the disaster. He even knew the location of these icebergs, yet he obliged to the order of White Star Chairman J. Bruce Ismay to proceed with full steam. One of the crew members made an unscheduled course correction, to which no explanation has been found till date. It could be that the correction was made to lead the ship in direct collision with the iceberg. It has also been pointed that sea trials was a standard procedure to check the seaworthiness of ships prior to long trips. Prior to Titanic’s voyage, it is noted that RMS Olympic had at least two complete days of testing, while Titanic had only a couple of hours of tests. Was this done to conceal the broken keel? The broken keel of RMS Olympic (whose registry was inter-changed with RMS Titanic).

If such a conspiracy was planned, there should have been a rescue plan too. No one would like to waste so many lives. Some experts believe that there was a rescue ship planned. But the sudden change of course made this rescue ship stray away from reach. When the Titanic collided with an iceberg and called out for help the nearest aid was about 2 hours away. When rescue team arrived it was already too late.

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Commodus: The Emperor who fought as a Gladiator

Roman Emperor Lucius Aurelius Commodus is known in history as a corrupt and mad king who was not well received by the Roman populace during his reign. He identified himself as an incarnation of the mythical hero Hercules and fought in the gladiator arena. He adopted outrageous tactics such as slaying the crippled and slaughtered wild beasts while in the arena. His acts created a negative impression and played a big role in his eventual assassination. Historians believe the reign of Commodus as the start of decline of mighty Roman Empire. His rule was marked with chaos all around.

Bust of Roman Emperor Commodus

Bust of Roman Emperor Commodus


Commodus was born in August 31, 161 AD in Lanuvium which is situated 14 miles South-east of Rome. His father as Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and mother was Faustina the Younger. Commodus was tenth of the fourteen children born to the couple and later became the only surviving son. He had a twin brother Titus Fulvus Antonius who died at the age of four. After that royal physician Galen was tasked with looking after the young prince. Commodus remained in good health. He was educated intellectually and in military skills by expert trainers.

Aurelius was desperate to see his son ascend the throne, as no other son had succeeded his father ever since Titus succeeded Vespasian in 79 AD. All the other emperors had been adopted. At the tender age of five, Commodus was named Caesar by Aurelius. This is seen as a sign of Aurelius’ desperation to bestow the royal title upon his bloodline. In the following years, Commodus proved a big disappointment for his father. However, Aurelius continued to push Commodus’ claim to the throne by promoting the 15 year old to the rank of Imperator or commander of Roman legions in 176 AD. In the following year, Commodus was named the co-emperor, becoming the youngest consul in Roman history till that point.

Commodus in Gladiator Arena

Commodus in Gladiator Arena


Marcus Aurelius passed in the year 180 AD and Commodus became the sole emperor. He was an inept and megalomaniac individual with odd behavior, which frustrated his subjects. He showed no interests in being a leader, other than taking the advantage of his position to fulfill his needs. In his early years he negotiated peace with certain powers, which hurt the Roman pride. He also reduced the weight of Denarius (Roman currency) and purity of silver was cut too. He organized lavish gladiatorial games that drained the royal coffers and strained the people through taxes. He delegated all the leadership responsibilities to others, and they started misusing the power. He dedicated all his time in things he liked. As noted historian from the Roman era, Dio Cassius states Commodus turned the Roman Empire “from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust.”

Gladiatorial combat was one activity that captured the attention of Commodus. He would regularly take to the arena and engage with gladiators, which was viewed as scandalous by the Romans. He viewed himself as a reincarnation of Hercules and ordered statues of himself dressed like Hercules. While fighting in the arena, opponents would submit to the Emperors and their lives were spared. But it is known that in the practice fights be would slay opponents mercilessly. He often ordered the wounded soldiers or amputees into the arena to slay them. The non-military citizens who had lost their feet due to injury or illness would be tied together for Commodus to club them to death. He would also slay exotic animals such as elephants, hippos, lions, ostriches and giraffes in the arena. These acts horrified the Roman people.

Commodus as Hercules

Statue of Commodus dressed as Hercules


Soon rumors of Commodus not being the legitimate son of Aurelius started spreading. According to the rumors, Faustina had an affair with a valiant gladiator prior to Commodus’ birth and thus Commodus loved the arena so much. His behavior led to plots for his assassination. The Roman populace were frustrated by their king and wanted to get rid of him. In November 192, Commodus declared the Plebian Games where he intended to use javelins and arrows to kill hundreds of animals every morning and engage in gladiatorial battles by afternoon. He decided to welcome the New Year from the gladiator arena. It was also the time when Laetus started a conspiracy to assassinate Commodus.

Commodus Death

Commodus was strangled to death by his wrestling partner


Laetus got support from Marcia, one of Commodus’ mistresses. First, she attempted to kill the emperor by applying poison to his food. But Commodus vomited the poisoned food out and the plot failed. Next, the conspirators bribed Commodus’ wrestling partner, Narcissus, to strangle Commodus to death. This attempt was successful and Commodus was killed on the final day of 192. The Roman people were finally relieved of tyranny.

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Life of Atahualpa: The Last Inca Emperor

Last Inca emperor, Atahualpa, is a key figure in the European colonization of South America. He was the last emperor of the largest Pre-Columbian Empire. Atahualpa was a powerful leader, revered by his subjects. And yet he was taken captive by a small Spanish force of only 200 men under the command of Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizzaro in 1532. His capture by Spanish, ended the resistance and paved way for Spanish colonization of South America.

Last Inca King Atahualpa

Last Inca King Atahualpa


In 1526 or 27, a crisis arose following the death of Inca ruler, Huayna Capac (“the young mighty one”). Huayna died of a contagious disease brought to the New World by Europeans. The situations worsened when Huayna’s designated heir to the throne, Ninan Cuyuchi, died as well infected with the same disease. The death of these two powerful men led to a strife between the surviving brothers. In the North, Athahualpa ruled his part of the Empire from Quito, while his half-brother Huascar, controlled the other half of empire from Cusco.

Battle of Quipaipan

Battle of Quipaipan between Atahualpa and Huascar


This arrangement did not last long and a bloody civil war broke out only after five years of Huayna Capac’s death. In one of the battles, Huascar managed to defeat and capture Atahualpa. But Atahualpa fled the prison. After gathering strength, Atahualpa marched south against Huascar and defeated the initial resistance. Along the way he slaughtered every Huascar loyalist. He set up base at Cajamarca and planned a final assault on his brother. In following Battle of Quipaipan, Atahualpa inflicted a crushing defeat on Huascar and captured him. Next, Atahualpa invited all the leaders to the capital at Cusco to oversee the partition of the kingdom into two equal halves. However, this was just a deceit. When all the leaders had arrived at the capital, Atahualpa had each one of them killed. This action was taken to eliminate all threats to his throne.

Francisco Pizzaro

Francisco Pizzaro the Spanish Conquistador


But Atahualpa has not foreseen that a greater threat in the form of the Spanish commanded by conquistador Francisco Pizzaro will arrive at their gates. Although Pizzaro had arrived in Peru in early 1531, he began his march towards Cusco after one and half years. It was audacious for Pizzaro to march with a small Spanish force of 200 men against Atahualpa who had at least 80,000 men at his disposal. When news of the Spanish march arrived at Cusco, Atahualpa did not view the Spanish as any threat. He kept on underestimating his opponents.

Atahualpa and Pizzaro

Atahualpa was invited to a feast by Pizzaro and arrested by deceit


When Pizzaro invited Atahualpa to attend a feast at Cajamarca, he decided to leave all the warriors in the mountains and travelled with just 5,000 unarmed men. Spanish had other intentions though. When Atahualpa arrived at Cajamarca he was met by a friar named Vicente de Valverde. Valverde tried to convince Atahualpa of converting Christianity and accept Spanish monarch, Charles V as his sovereign. This angered Atahualpa and he refused all the demands. Then on Valverde’s signal, Pizzaro’s men open fired at the unarmed Incas. Within an hour, 5,000 Inca warriors were killed without any resistance. During the firing, Pizzaro saved Atahualpa from his death only to hold him captive. Pizzaro knew that a living Atahualpa was the only insurance that 80,000 Inca warriors will not raid their settlement.

Execution of Atahualpa

Atahualpa was baptized and executed


While held hostage, Atahualpa was still the king and yielded great power. He ordered the execution of Huascar, when he received news that Spanish were planning to replace him with Huascar. Soon after, Spanish got information that one of Atahualpa’s generals was marching towards Cajamarca with the intention of rescuing the king. Atahualpa was soon tried by the Spanish on charges of stirring a rebellion. In 1533 he was sentenced to death by burning at the stake. This horrified Atahualpa as Incas believed that if body was burned the soul would not be able to go on to afterlife. To escape his fate, Atahualpa made a handsome offer to the Spanish. He offered to fill a large room once with gold and twice with silver. It is known that the Incas had already started gathering this ransom. But to their dismay, the Spanish rejected this offer.

Funeral of Atahualpa

Funeral of Atahualpa


It is learned that prior to Atahualpa’s execution he was baptized to Roman Catholicism. In accordance with Atahualpa’s wishes he was not burnt at the stake rather he was strangled to death on a Garrote (a Spanish equipment with a seat and a rope like strangulation mechanism). The execution was carried out on July 26, 1533 and Atahualpa was given a proper Christian burial. It is learned that Atahualpa’s body was taken away by his loyal supporters and mummified to be buried secretly somewhere in North of his empire.


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Sweyn Forkbeard – First Viking King of Britain

Most of the readers would have heard of the great Danish king of England, Canute but not many of you would know of his father Sweyn. Sweyn Forkbeard was the first Viking King of Britain. Today, Sweyn is a forgotten king. But he ruled whole of unified Britain for 5 weeks. He became the King of Britain on Christmas Day in 1013 and ruled until his death on February 3, 1014.

Sweyn King of Britain

Sweyn Forkbeard Viking King of Britain


Sweyn was known as the Forkbeard because of his long and divided beard. He was the son of Harald Bluetooth, the King of Denmark and supposed to have been born in 960 AD. Though Sweyn was a typical Viking warrior but he was baptized to Christianity. In character, Sweyn was a very brutal man and was well known for his violence. He started his career of violence by launching a campaign against his own father in 986 AD. Sweyn allied with another chieftain Palnatoke to attack and kill his father Harald. Once the crown of Denmark was secured, Sweyn turned his attention towards Britain. He started his Britain campaign in 990s. He moved inland through the coastal towns destroying cities and killing its inhabitants mercilessly.

Ethelred the Unready

Ethelred the Unready was the ruling King of Britain


Britain, back then was ruled by Ethelred the Unready (or “ill advised”). He feared that Viking invasion might take away his crown. Thus Ethelred decided to pay Sweyn a tribute and bribes. Ethelred hoped that these gifts or taxes will send Sweyn and his troops back to Denmark. Though the bribes worked for certain time, and the large Dane contingent left yet small troop was left in Britain. This small troop settled in various parts of Britain and started raiding the British countryside. Ethelred was advised by his counsel that British lands should be freed from the Dane settlements. Ethelred was convinced that this was the only way to protect England.


Sweyn's Invasion of Britain

Sweyn Invaded Britain many times before being proclaimed the King

On November 13, 1002 (St, Brice’s Day) Ethelred ordered a massacre of all Danes living in England including women and children. Amongst the individuals killed in this massacre was Gunhilde, Sweyn’s sister. This enraged Sweyn and he decided to launch a second campaign to Britain. His forces again landed on English soil and started pillaging the countryside. Again King Ethelred was forced to send lavish gifts to appease the attackers. The Viking raids continued in varying scales until 1013. In 1013, Sweyn arrived with a large force and landed at Sandwich, Kent. The locals were so terrified that everyone submitted to the Danes without any resistance. After subduing the countryside, Sweyn turned his attention towards London. In London, Sweyn met stubborn resistance from Ethelred and his allies. But people within the city feared severe repercussions if they did not submit. The English Earls declared Sweyn as the king. Ethelred was forced to flee the capital.

Vikings killing British

Vikings pillaged the Countryside as they made way towards London


Following this victory, Sweyn was officially proclaimed King of Britain on Christmas Day. However, he died soon after. The reason of his death varies from one source to the other. One source suggests that one day he fell from his horse and was mortally wounded. Others suggest that he was murdered. Recently a group of archeologists have discovered human remains at Roskilde Cathedral, which was built by Harald Bluetooth. Scholars believe that the unidentified skeleton could be that of Sweyn.


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The Lost Treasure of Montezuma

In 1519, the Spanish under conquistador Hernan Cortes arrived in Tenochtitlan, which was then the capital of the mighty Aztec Empire. As soon as the Spanish landed from their ships they were meted out warm greetings. The Aztec emperor, Montezuma II even regarded the Spanish as Gods. He declared Cortes as the embodiment of Aztec god Quetzalcoatl. There were festivities organized to welcome the Europeans. But Cortes and his men had come to these shores with completely different purposes, they were far from the Gods that local people believed them to be. Soon, the so-called Gods betrayed Montezuma and his people. Their actions demonstrated that they were not godlike.

Montezuma the Aztec King

Montezuma the Aztec King


As a way out, Montezuma offered gold to Cortes which he felt would appease the Spanish and they would go away. But the bribe had a contrary effect on the Spanish. It fuelled their greed for more gold. Soon, Cortes had Montezuma put under house arrest and took over the governance of the area. With the help of some Tlaxcalan allies, Spanish were able to set up their base at one of the major city temples. Soon, the Tenochtitlan homes were ransacked and inhabitants were tortured or killed to obtain information for more treasures. In the next few months, Spanish were able to gain some treasures through their radical measures. Though the Aztecs were not happy with such treatment, but they took no steps.

Hernan Cortes and Montezuma

Initially Cortes was seen by Aztecs as God


Then in May 1520, during a religious festival held at Tenochtitlan temple many of the nobilities attending were massacred by the Spanish forces. This event brought about a fierce reaction from the Aztec population and they rose in rebellion against the conquistadors. They besieged the Spanish settlements. Seeing danger, the Spanish used their hostage Montezuma to pacify his subjects. But the attempt failed. Montezuma was pelted with stones when he appeared. Some sources say that Montezuma was mortally wounded by the rocks thrown at him. Other sources however, feel that Montezuma was executed by the Spanish seeing that he held no worth any longer.

Spanish killing Aztecs

Spanish mercilessly killed the Aztecs during a Festivity


Only option left for the Spanish was to flee the city. But the Tenochtitlan people had cut off all routes for escape. The bridges were removed so that there was no escape route left. However, the Spanish used their resources to build a bridge in quick time. Then on July 1, 1520 Spanish made their escape from the settlements. But their movement was detected by the Aztecs who attacked them and killed many fleeing Spanish soldiers in the process. The incident was later known as ‘La Noche Triste’ (The Sad Night).

La Noche Triste

La Noche Triste – when the fleeing Spanish were killed by Aztecs


On this night, Cortes not only lost many of his capable men, but also the Aztec treasure they had amassed over many months. In a desperate attempt to flee the marauding Aztecs, much of the treasure was thrown away to lighten the burden. This huge treasure later became popular as Montezuma’s Treasure, but it has not been found till date. Cortes however, returned back unscathed with vengeance in his heart. He returned to Tenochtitlan in May, 1521. The Spanish forces attacked the Aztecs warriors. Aztecs surrendered soon after but they were mercilessly slaughtered. Not only warriors, but thousands of civilians were killed in the raids and the city was looted. It is estimated that at least 240,000 Aztecs were killed in an eight day period. This event marked the fall of mighty Aztec Empire.

Lake Texcoco

Modern Day Image of Lake Texcoco


As for the lost treasure there are many theories. Some scholars feel that the treasure can be found where it was lost, in Lake Texcoco. However, many treasure hunters have explored the Lake but to no avail. Other scholars feel that the Spanish regained the treasure in their second campaign and boarded it on a ship to Spain. But the ship sunk in a storm.


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Kamikaze: The Savior of Japan

During the 13th century, the Mongols who were led by Kublai Khan, the grandson of great Genghis Khan planned two major invasions of Japan in 1274 and 1281 AD respectively. On the both the occasion Mongol fleet along with their plans of conquest were laid to rest by massive typhoons. The typhoons destroyed Mongol fleets and forced the Mongols to retreat. These winds saved Japan from a certain foreign conquest and were lovingly named Kamikaze (the divine winds).

Thousands of Mongol Ships were destroyed by Kamikaze

Thousands of Mongol Ships were destroyed by Kamikaze


Kublai Khan was an able and ambitious ruler of the Mongols. He wanted to start where his grandfather had left off. He was the first Emperor of unified Mongolia and renamed Mongolian Empire into Yuan Dynasty. He wanted to embark on a series of conquests. He started by conquering China in 1230 and Korea in 1231. Japan which was hardly 100 miles away, feared an invasion would soon come to their shores. They had good reason for such belief, during 1267-74 Kublai Khan sent many messages to the Emperor of Japan demanding his submission to the Mongols or face the invasion. However, each time the messengers were blocked by the Japanese diplomats so they never got through to the Emperor. No replies from the Japanese Emperor made Kublai furious and the Mongols started preparations for the invasions. They started building an enormous fleet and recruited thousands of Chinese and Korean warriors.

Battle of Bun'ei

Mongols won decisive victory in Battle of Bun’ei only to be denied by Kamikaze


The Mongolian fleet set sail in autumn 1274 to launch the first invasion of Japan. The first invasion is also known as the Battle of Bun’ei. Mongols had 500-900 war ships along with 40,000 warriors mostly comprised of ethnic Koreans and Chinese. Mongols met the Japanese forces near the shores of Hakata Bay. The Mongols slaughtered their way through the initial Japanese resistance. The Japanese forces retreated, but the Mongols did not march forward. They felt that Japanese would be back with greater reinforcements, so they returned back to their ships. That night a violent typhoon struck at the ships that were decked in Hakata Bay. By morning, only a few ships remained. The fleet was completely destroyed, taking lives of thousands of Mongol soldiers. So, the Mongols had to shun their plans and return back.

Second Mongol Invasion of Japan

Kamikaze Struck During the Second Mongol Invasion of Japan


Though the Japanese had a lucky escape, but the Mongol spirits remained high. Kublai was more determined than ever to annex Japan. The Mongols wasted no time in rebuilding their fleet and recruiting larger number of warriors. Japan was also preparing for their defense by building two meter high walls all along the coast to protect themselves from future attacks. Seven years later in 1281, the Mongols returned to Japan with greater numbers. This time they had a fleet of 4,400 ships and estimated 70,000-140,000 soldiers. The forces were divided into two. One set sail from Korea while the other left from Southern China. Both the forces converged near Hakata Bay in August 1281. Mongols were not able to find landing space as the beaches had been walled. So, the Mongols decided to stay afloat for months while strategizing their attacks. All the while they exhausted their supplies. Then on August 15, the Mongols decided to launch an offensive the following day. At night, that day, when the final planning was done a typhoon struck again. About 4,000 ships were destroyed and 80% of soldiers were drowned or killed by the samurai warriors waiting on the beaches. Mongols turned back never to attack Japan again.

Kamikaze in World War II

Kamikaze was a group of suicide pilot squad during World War II


Kamikaze became famous during World War II. Kamikaze referred to the Japanese suicide pilots who deliberately crashed their planes into important enemy targets, usually ships. Kamikaze pilots did major damage to the US fleet and killed more than 2,000 American soldiers. Kamikaze movement evolved out of the desperation that Japan faced in the later stages of World War II, when they were losing.


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Penthesilea: Forgotten Queen of Amazons

Scarcely mentioned in the Greek mythology, Penthesilea was the Queen of Amazons. Texts suggest that she was the daughter of Ares and Otrera. She is among the most famous Amazonian Queens. She was known for being a fierce warrior and even took part in the great battle of Troy. Amazon had a custom of training their women into fierce warriors and Penthesilea was one such legendary warriors. Some texts suggest that the Amazon women were so dedicated to being warriors that they cut off one of their breasts so that they were able to wield the bow better. Though the truth of this fact has been debated in modern times.

Statue of Penthesilea

Statue of Penthesilea


Queen Penthesilea was very skilled with many weapons. Apart from that she was intelligent and beautiful too. Some texts state that she was the inventor of battle axe. But tragedy befell this beautiful and courageous Queen when she went hunting one day. In a freakish accident she killed her sister Hippolyta with a spear that was meant for some other animal. Hippolyta was very close to Penthesilea and she plunged deep in grief. She wished for death, but she could not commit suicide. As Amazon warriors could only die honorably in battlefield.

Penthesilea the Fierce Warrior Queen

Penthesilea the Fierce Warrior Queen


Penthesilea continued ruling Amazon kingdom. Her reign collided with the Trojan War. Initially, Amazons did not take part in the war and Penthesilea herself had decided to stay away from this conflict. But two key events: Achilles killing Hector and Penthesilea killing her sister Hippolyta led to Amazon participation in the war. So, the Amazon army marches to Troy. Penthesilea was not like other typical rulers, who would sit and watch other men fight. She used fight in the battle herself and during the ensuing battle she killed every Greek coming in her path. It is written that she was valiant and swift. She fought just like a man and went on a killing spree during the battle. Her goal though was to kill Achilles and avenge the death of Hector. Or to die in the process.

Some Stone Carvings Showing Penthesilea in Trojan War

Some Stone Carvings Showing Penthesilea during Trojan War


Some texts depict that, no one was able to stop Penthesilea as she made her way towards Achilles. Soon, two met each other face to face. It is said that Achilles fell in love with Penthesilea at first sight. But that did not stop him from killing her with a swift stroke of his blade. He caught her in his arms as Penthesilea fell after being struck the death blow. However, other Greeks did not have any generous feelings towards Penthesilea. It is noted that Thersites mocked Achilles for his treatment of the Queen’s body. Thersites went ahead and removed the eyes of Penthesilea with his sword, enraging Achilles, who slaughtered Thersites. However, after Achilles left, Diomedes who was the cousin of Thersites, dragged the corpse of Penthesilea behind his chariot. He threw the corpse into the river. Achilles is said to have retrieved the body and given Penthesilea proper burial.

Achilles& Penthesilea

Achilles holds Penthesilea after killing her


Ancient Roman poet wrote about Penthesilea in his poem and described her as Bellatrix, which is rumored to be the inspiration for naming of Bellatric Lestrange in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter Series. Though Penthesilea’s story is not told in the Illiad which ends with Hector’s funeral, which happened before the Amazons arrived. Her story is told in the lost epic of Aethiopis.


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