Europe's Early News Network

Did you know that handwritten sheets -- called avvisi -- circulated among the cities and courts of Europe in early modern Europe after public mail routes became common? They were bought on the streets or by subscription, and had information and news from cities like Warsaw, Paris, and Madrid. They sometimes even had information from further afield such as Ireland or the American colonies. It is hard to understand now, by the once or twice weekly avvisi were a revolution in news, connecting Europeans more than ever before.

One newsletter, dated March 19th, 1588, describes the famous Spanish Armada which sailed against Queen Elizabeth I of England. It was described as having "140 or more sailing ships and eight months of provisions" plus "17,000 combat soldiers and 8,000 sailors." The same avvisi also discusses the reconstruction of the Rialto Bridge in Venice, and how problems with pilings were fixed on-site rather than being replaced due to the "inconvenience" of closing the Grand Canal.

This Summer, French Researchers Followed King Francis I's 1515 Crossing of the Alps -- In Full Armor

An intrepid band of French soldiers and adventurers -- and their horses -- worse suits of armor to cross the Alps while the rest of the country struggled to stay cool in the summer heat. The “MarchAlp” expedition retraced the steps of King Francis I of France and his army, who crossed western Europe’s highest mountain range in the summer of 1515 before vanquishing Swiss mercenaries who were defending the duchy of Milan. Several dozen soldiers of the 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade recreated the 17-mile journey over 500 years later. They crossed the border between France and Italy via the 8,665 ft-high Mary Pass, accompanied by a doctor, four horses, two donkeys, four adventurers and 60 camp followers in costume. The aim was to measure the physical effects of marching over the Alps in armor and chain mail. Measurements were taken on things like heart rhythms and the effects of armor's rubbing on the men and the armored horses.

Mayan Human Sacrifices Were From All Over

The Maya at Chichen Itza were known to practice human sacrifice a thousand years ago. Who they were sacrificing, though, has long been a mystery. A recent isotope analysis of tooth enamel from sacrificial victims thrown into the city’s Sacred Cenote shows that there was some variety in who was sacrificed. Some grew up locally, while others hailed from the Gulf Coast, the Central Highlands, and as far away as Central America.

How the mix of individuals were chosen, and how those from further away ended up in Chichen Itza, remains unknown -- there is always something more to investigate!

The Persistent Power of Egypt's Mamluks

The Mamluks were a corps of slaves which went from being the elite bodyguards of the Ayyubid Caliphate founded by Saladin, to running Egypt for themselves. It lasted as an independent state for over 250 years, from 1250 to 1517 when Egypt was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. But the Mamluks survived.

By the 1630s, a Mamluk emir managed to become de facto ruler of the country. By the 1700s, the importance of the pasha (Ottoman governor) was superseded by that of the Mamluk beys, and it was even made official. Two offices, those of Shaykh al-Balad and Amir al-hajj -- both offices held by Mamluks -- represented the rulers of Egypt. In the name of the Ottoman Sultan, of course. It was only with the invasion of Egypt by Napoleon in 1799 that the Mamluk power center was permanently ended.

  When Michelangelo’s David was unveiled in 1504 in Florence, it was seen to symbolize the civil liberties of the Republic of Florence, which were threatened by the surrounding city-states and the powerful Medici family who wanted to rule. The republican government had only been in place since 1494. The republic's concerns were well-founded: Giovanni de' Medici re-conquered the republic in 1512 and restored Medici rule. The second Florentine duke, Duke Cosimo I de' Medici decided to commission Cellini’s Perseus With the Head of Medusa, which was unveiled exactly 50 years after David in 1554. Composed of bronze, Perseus was deliberately placed opposite the David. Medusa’s gaze appeared to have turned David to stone.

The first nautical circumnavigation was by the Magellan-Elcano expedition, which sailed from Seville, Spain in 1519 and returned in 1522. The first successful aerial circumnavigation was completed by aviators of the U.S. Army Air Service in four Douglas World Cruiser biplanes in 1924.   Thanks to /u/NewSwaraelia for the map!

The Multiple Names of the Ottoman Empire

The Ottomans generally used two different terms when referring to their state, versus the territory the state ruled over. The state was called "Devlet-i Aliye-i Osmaniye" which literally translates to "the High Ottoman State." Side note: "Osman" was the founder of the Ottoman dynasty, and the English word "Ottoman" comes from his name which was sometimes translated as "Othman." The Ottomans called their territory "Memalik-i Mahruse," or "The Protected Lands." The two terms are sometimes more poetically translated to "the Sublime Ottoman State" or "the Sublime State" and "the Well-Protected Domains."

Great Zimbabwe

Great Zimbabwe was a massive stone city in southeastern Africa that was a thriving trade center from the 1000s and 1400s. But when Europeans first learned of it in the 1500s, they were certain it wasn't African at all. Listen to the podcast all about it, by "Stuff You Missed In History Class."

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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