Derbent, Russia's Oldest City

Located on a narrow strip of land between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains in the far western end of Eurasia, is the city of Derbent. With a history going back by five thousand years, Derbent is said to be Russia’s oldest city. It is also the southernmost city in Russia. Derbent’s position between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus mountains is strategically important in the entire Caucasus region. It is one of only two crossings over the mountain range; the other being over the Darial Gorge. This position has allowed the rulers of Derbent to control land traffic between the Eurasian Steppe and the Middle East and levy taxes on passing merchants. In fact, the city’s present-day name comes from the Persian word Darband which means “barred gate”.

Being at such a strategic location, it has long been a target, or a prize, of states with imperial ambitions. The city was historically an Iranian city, and its first intensive settlement in the 800s BCE was Persian. The city’s modern name came into use during the 500s CE, when the city was re-established by the Sassanid dynasty of Persia. In 654 CE, Derbent came under the hands of the Arabs. They called the city Bab al-Abwab, or “the Gate of Gates”, signifying its strategic importance. The Arabs transformed the city into an important administrative center and introduced Islam to the area. After the Arabs, the region came under the Armenians who established a kingdom there which lasted until the Mongol invasion in the early 1200s. After the Mongols, Derbent changed hands relatively quickly, given its history, coming under the rule of the Shirvanshahs (a dynasty in modern Azerbaijan), the Iranians and the Ottomans before finally being ceded to the Russian Empire as part of the end of the Russo-Persian War.

Where are Witches?

A belief in witches -- and consequently witch-hunts -- have been found in every single inhabited continent of the world, and most of the peoples who have lived on it. But belief in witches is not entirely universal: the largest witch-free area is Siberia, covering about a third of the northern hemisphere, and the ancient Egyptians were notable for their lack of belief of witchcraft and embracing magic, instead of fearing magic.

Slightly Gruesome But Well-Preserved Mummy Found In China

She's about 700 years old. Still, she looks pretty good. Found preserved in a brown liquid, her silk and cotton dress indicates she was likely at some high-ranking level in the Ming Dynasty, which ruled China from 1368 to 1644. Click through the images to see her like some lucky researchers can!

La Llorona

In English, her name means "the Weeping Woman." She is a legendary figure in Mexico, who wanders for eternity, seeking her lost children. To hear her cries brings misfortune. According to legend, La Llorona was once a living woman, whose husband on day left her for a younger woman. In her grief and anger, La Llorona drowned her children, to hurt their unfaithful father. When she realized what she had done, she drowned herself too. According to some versions, La Llorona will kidnap wandering children who even vaguely resemble her dead children. Crying and apologizing, she will then drown the children, so they can take the place of her own. La Llorona is understandably a popular threat to keep Mexican children from wandering.

This copper female figure, from the eastern Indian region of West Bengal, is almost certainly Radha, lover of the god Krishna. She was a human woman who devoted herself completely to her god, Krishna, and as a result was made a goddess, an ideal for Krishna devotees to follow. This figure likely sat in a shrine to be adorned by adoring devotees. Her worn face testifies to her many years of use, which slowly softened her features. Circa 1500s CE.

Courtesy of the Walters Art Gallery

This axe is perfectly crafted out of a single piece of stone! From the Late Mississippian culture, around 1300 to 1500 CE.

Cleopatra remains fascinating, 2,047 years after her death. To date, she has been the subject of five ballets, seven films, forty-five operas, seventy-seven plays, and innumerable paintings.

A Shipwreck Off Florida From the 1500s Is Causing a Modern International Dispute

Okay, here's how the story begins. Global Marine Exploration (GME), a private marine salvage company, was granted permits by the state of Florida to explore seven areas off the coast of Cape Canaveral. They found artifacts indicating a wrecked ship, buried in the sandy seafloor, in May and June 2016. Among other finds, there were three ornate brass cannons and a distinctive marble monument marked with the coat of arms of the King of France. The cannons and the monument seem to come from the 1562 French expedition to Florida commanded by the navigator Jean Ribault (1520-1565), according to historical French records that include the cargo manifests of the fleet -- and the cargo manifests list those cannons and that monument. GME has made a big find. And they want the right to salvage it, and make a profit.

But then France, yes, the nation, interferes. You see the United States passed a federal law, the Sunken Military Craft Act of 2004, giving "sovereign rights" over sunken naval vessels to their country of origin. France is arguing in the admiralty court, which oversees maritime matters, that US federal law gives their country the right to salvage their sunken naval ship. To be clear: France is pursuing a claim to a sunken ship, likely dating to the mid-1500s, based on a law passed in 2004 in a country which wouldn't exist until 200 years after the ship was sunk. This world is weird.

Unfortunately for France, GME argues that historical documents show that the cannons and monument may have been seized as plunder by the Spanish in 1565, during a raid on the French colony of Fort Caroline. If this true, the cannons were probably being carried to Cuba on Spanish ships when they were lost, GME says. In which case, France has no claim on the artifacts, and GME can recover the shipwreck that they admittedly spent the money to find. Who wins and gets the cannons? We will have to wait for the admiralty court to decide.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • >
  • Leave us a message

    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!

    Website design and coding by the Amalgama

    About us X