The Incans Were Incestuous?

In the Inca Empire, an emperor was expected to marry a family member. There were two rival legends that were supposed to be the origin of the Inca Empire: that Manco Capac (semi-mythical potential founder #1) married his mother, or that four sisters married four brothers and they started the empire (semi-mythical potential founders #2). As a result, nobility and royalty were encouraged and expected to marry within the family. Note this was only true for the ruling class. A commoner who tried marrying a family member could expect to have their eyes gouged out, or even be executed.

We know that Atahualpa, the last undisputed Incan Emperor, was married to his sister. It was listed as one of the reasons the Spanish executed him. Along with resisting their rule and refusing to convert, of course.

Let's Learn About Mexico!

The birthplace of plant domestication in the Americas. The first New World country to gain independence from the Spanish Empire. The eleventh-largest country in the world, by population. Like the United States, Russia, and China, this is a country that any informed citizen should have at least a basic knowledge about.

Indonesia's History Gazes Back At You

These faces represent ordinary people who lived in Indonesia a few centuries ago. Most represent men and women who lived in the Majapahit kingdom (circa 1293 CE –early 1500s), centered in East Java. A mighty kingdom, grown rich from trade through the area in spices, the Majapahit kingdom brought its citizens to a new level of material prosperity. Most Majapahit terra-cotta heads, including the first two in the image gallery, are found detached from their bodies, which seem to survive only rarely. The sole “complete” figure is assembled from a head and body that did not originally belong together.

Courtesy of the Sackler Gallery

The Moon Star Flag: How Turkey’s Flag Came To Be

The Turkish national flag is mostly red, with a white star and a crescent in the center. Ottoman Sultan Selim III formalized the look in 1793, but the flag is actually much older.

The crescent-and-star combination has been used in Turkey since Hellenistic times (400s to 100 BCE). It likely came from ancient Mesopotamian iconocraphy. Ancient depictions of the symbol always show the crescent with horns pointing upward and with the star placed inside the crescent, for reasons that have been lost to time. When it came to Turkey, they gave it their own meanings. For Byzantium the moon symbolized Diana, also known as Artemis, the patron goddess of the city.

In 1453, when the city was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, the flag remained unchanged. With time, it became not just Istanbul’s flag but the Ottoman flag, with its design formalized in 1793 and its status as national flag formalized in 1844. Turks affectionately call the flag "ay yildiz" -- the "moon star" flag.

Many nations that were once part of Ottoman Empire adopted the star-and-crescent when they gained independence, including Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria. In the 1900s the symbol became associated with not just the Ottomans, but with Islam in general, and many states that were never part of the Ottoman Empire adopted it too, including Pakistan, Malaysia, and the Maldives. Pretty amazing that an ancient Mesopotamian symbol is flown around the world today.

Let's Talk About Angkor Ceramics!

The Khmer Empire, also known as the Angkor Empire, was a powerful Hindu-Buddhist empire in Southeast Asia. It held more or less power in the region from the early 800s to the mid-1400s when its capital city of Angkor fell. The first evidence by an academic of stoneware ceramic production was the documentation in 1888 by the French explorer Etienne Aymonier of an abandoned kiln site on Phnom Kulen. Not much investigation into Angkor ceramics was made until the 1960s, however, when deforestation and road-building uncovered kiln mounds for ceramics in the fields of Buriram province in northern Thailand. Once the discovery became known, a new interest in the ceramics of Angkor was born. Since then, many more kilns have been found across the former empire.

Angkor ceramics were made either with grayish-white clay bearing green glaze or with dark-colored clay using brown glaze. Occasionally, when a potter was apparently feeling adventurous, a ceramic would be made with both grayish-white and dark clay, and glazed with both green and brown glaze. And of course there were many unglazed ceramics. Angkor ceramics, though just two colors of clay, had a variety of shapes. Click through the image gallery to see some examples.

You Could Sell Your Child Into Slavery In The Aztec Empire -- If A Judge Okayed It

If you wanted to sell one of your kids, you first had to go before the courts and present your case to government officials. After hearing all of your reasoning for why you want to sell your child, they would then adjudicate if they thought you had sufficient reason. Families had to be desperately poor, and struggling to provide basic supports to their children, and believe that the child would have a better life as a slave. Based on the families' reasons the court would then either approve or deny. So the Aztec government let you sell you child into slavery, legally.

A Tale of Two Brothers

Mihailo and Mahmud Anđelović were separated as infants. Although they belonged to a branch of the aristocratic Greek family Angelos, their branch had taken refuge in Serbia after the Ottoman conquest of Thessaly in 1394.

The family could not escape the Ottomans entirely. Mahmud was captured by Ottoman Turks as an infant, brought up near Edirne in Turkey, and converted to Islam. Mahmud grew up to be smart and capable. He rose through the Ottoman bureaucracy to become beylerbey (senior provincial governor) of Rumelia in 1451, and Grand Vizier in 1455. Mahmud's brother Mihailo (or Michael in English) stayed in Serbia. He served as a Serbian court official under the reigns of Đurađ and Lazar Branković. Serbia at the time was a state bordering the Ottoman Empire, and was largely dominated by the Ottoman Empire.

The two brothers were eventually reunited! But under strange circumstances. In the negotiations between Serbian ruler Lazar Branković and Ottoman emperor Mehmed II in 1457, Mihailo was sent to represent and negotiate for Lazar, and Mahmud represented and negotiated for Mehmed II!

The Longest War In World History... Sort Of

The Peloponnesian War ended in 1996. The bloody conflict between Athens and Sparta had stopped in 404 B.C. without an official peace pact, so after 2,500 years the cities decided to sign a symbolic agreement. It read, “Today we express our grief for the devastating war between the two key cities of ancient Greece and declare its end.”

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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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