Shakespeare May Have Annotated Book Passages Behind One Of His Famous Plays

A 16th-century book, with notes in the margins, may have been annotated by Shakespeare himself. The 1576 copy of François de Belleforest’s "Histoires Tragiques" has faded ink symbols next to six passages -- passages featuring a Danish prince who avenges his father's murder by his uncle, who cemented his stolen throne by marrying the prince's mother. Sound familiar? The "Histoires Tragiques" was already thought to have been one of Shakespeare's sources for Hamlet. This new find may have been the specific copy Shakespeare read!

The chrysanthemum was brought to Japan around the beginning of the Heian period (794−1185). By the Edo period (1600 - 1868) hundreds of types of chrysanthemums were being cultivated. These pages come from Gakiku, the first picture book of chrysanthemums published in Japan, in 1691. Its beautiful illustrations and Chinese-style poems introduced readers to 100 different varieties of the flower.

The Grisly Chitenjo of Kyoto Immortalize Famous Warriors from Japan's Warring States Period


One of the last battles of Japan's "age of warring states" happened at Fushimi Castle, in Kyoto. What was the “age of warring states”? It is a period in Japanese history, stretching from the mid-1400s to the early 1600s, that was marked by near-constant military conflict. The period ended when Tokugawa Ieyasu came into power and established the Tokugawa shogunate, unifying Japan under a feudal system with himself at the top.

In his climb to power, Tokugawa had to subdue everyone else. And that was bloody. At one point, a vassal of Tokugawa's named Mototada were left defending Fushimi Castle with 2,000 men. Tokugawa's enemy, Ishida Mitsunari, had 40,000 men. The ending was decided before the fighting started. But Mototada did not give up, and did not surrender. A betrayal from within after 12 days of siege ended things quickly, however, and Mototada knew he was doomed. With fires raging everywhere, Mototada and his remaining three hundred and seventy warriors did what was considered honorable and noble for a defeated samurai — they committed seppuku, or ritualistic suicide./p>

Although Fushimi Castle was basically a small skirmish in a large war, its reverberations went far beyond the immediate loss of the castle. In the weeks that followed, Tokugawa Ieyasu raised an army of 90,000 and challenged Ishida Mitsunari's forces for a decisive battle at Sekigahara, which would mark the final victory of Tokugawa over, well, everyone in Japan. The Tokugawa family would rule Japan, with the emperor as a figurehead, for the next 268 years./p>

As part of the mopping-up after the warring states period, and to show everyone that Tokugawa remembered those loyal to him, Tokugawa immortalized Mototada. In 1623, the shogun had the fire-damaged Fushimi Castle dismantled. Sections of the castle that had not been burned or destroyed were salvaged. Some of the salvaged materials happened to be the floor boards upon which Mototada and his men committed suicide to avoid capture. Their blood had soaked so deep into the wood that the boards were permanently stained. Tokugawa had those boards incorporated, mainly as ceilings, into a number of castles and temples across Kyoto. They are known as chitenjo or “blood ceilings.”

Portrait of Abbot Nicholas à Spira

In 1543, Nicholas à Spira (1510-1568) was elected abbot at Grimbergen in the southern Netherlands (in what is today Belgium). The vain Nicholas commissioned an altarpiece with his oil portrait on one wing and that of his patron saint, St. Nicholas, on the other. Because monks are all about modesty, right?

Owls in Ancient Mythology

The Aztecs and Mayans feared and hated the owl and believed they were symbols of death and destruction. Interestingly, the Romans agreed, believing that the owls were bad omens -- but the ancient Greeks did not.  In ancient Greece, owls represented Athena, the goddess of wisdom.

The Abandoned City of Mud and Mystics

The ruined city of Arg-e-Bam is made entirely of mud bricks, clay, straw and the trunks of palm trees. The Iranian city was originally founded during the Sassanian period (224-637 CE) and while some of the surviving structures date from before the 1100s, most of what remains was built during the Safavid period (1502-1722).     Bam prospered because of pilgrims visiting its Zoroastrian fire temple, which had been built early in the Sassanian period, and because Bam was a trading hub along the Silk Road. It was later the site of Jame Mosque, built during the Saffarian period (866-903 CE). Next to the mosque is the tomb of Mirza Naiim, a mystic and astronomer.     The city was largely abandoned since a series of invasions in the early 1800s. In 1953, work began to intensively restore Arg-e-Bam. Restoration work continued until December 26, 2003, when a massive earthquake hit the area -- an estimated 6.6 on the Richter Scale. Almost everything in Bam was destroyed. After that, restoration was given up, and today Arg-e-Bam is at the mercy of the elements.     click through the image gallery to see photographs of what Arg-e-Bam looks like today

Carnival, the Catholic holiday, probably comes from the word for "meat" in some way, which is "caro" in Classical Latin and “carne” in Medieval Latin. It was the last time that people could eat meat before the start of Lent, when meat was forbidden for 40 days.

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    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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