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.

The Earliest Strike Was In Ancient Rome

"Succession of the Plebians" was a common form of revolt in the early Roman Republic. Everyone except the hereditary aristocrats (called patricians) would leave the city. The patricians would be left to fend for themselves. No servants, no shopkeepers, no farmers. It was a very effective way to make the patricians negotiate.

The Temple of Amun at Karnak: A Place For Pharaohs to Brag

One of the main duties of an Egyptian pharaoh was to suppress Egypt's enemies. Their war campaigns were therefor on the god's orders, who would grant them victory in battle. The pharaoh would thank the gods by dedicating spoils and prisoners to the gods, principally to Amun at Karnak. Successive pharaohs added to the temple, inscribing their triumphs (and keeping quiet about their failures) so that the gods and posterity would know their greatness. As a result, the temple at Karnak is a vast storehouse of historical information.

For instance, the outer walls of Karnak's Hypostyle Hall are inscribed with accounts of the campaigns of Seti I in Syria-Palestine, and Ramesses II's defeat of the Hittites at the Battle of Qadesh. The terms of the peace treaty Ramesses' victory won are also inscribed on the wall. It's not all war and battles. One of the small rooms adjoining the Festival Hall contained an important list of Ramesses' 57 ancestors.

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.”

Famous stutterers from history include Moses, Greek orator Demosthenes, Friedrich Nietzsche, King George VI of England, Winston Churchill, and Marilyn Monroe.

Cato the Elder Had an Interesting View of Families

A man who beat his wife or child laid violent hands, Cato the Elder said, on what was most sacred. A good husband he believed to be more worthy of more praise than a great senator. He admired the ancient Socrates "for nothing so much as for having lived a temperate and contented life with a wife who was a scold, and children who were half-witted."

In Ancient Greece, Cooking Was Magic!

In ancient Greece, the word for "cook," "butcher," and "priest" was all the same: mageiros, which shares its etymological root with the word "magic."

Phalanxes Had Problem: Everyone Wanted To Be Right

Ancient Greek soldiers would hold shields with their left arm, and swords with their right. This created an interesting dilemma. Thucydides, an Athenian general and historian, wrote that "fear makes every man want to do his best to find protection for his unarmed side in the shield of the man next to him on the right." The soldier who is farthest right must try to "keep his own unarmed side away from the enemy, and his fear spreads to the others who follow his example." In other words, the man farthest to the right would always try to go to the right of the enemy, so his unprotected right side would be safe. He would keep going to the right, and each man would follow, trying to protect their own unprotected right side. The result, Thucydides wrote: "the right wing tends to get unduly extended."

Ancient King's Tomb Is Being Opened To The Public In Turkey

The monumental tomb of King Hektamonos was discovered in 2010, as part of an archaeological dig in Turkey. King Hektamonos once reigned over Caria in western Anatolia, as a satrap for the Persian Achaemenid Empire. He was both a political appointee and a local power, establishing the hereditary dynasty of the Hecatomnids. So when he died in 377 BCE, King Hektamonos was buried in style.

Unfortunately, his tomb was robbed at some point, so the find was not pristine. Almost all the artifacts had been looted and sold on the black market. Still, the tomb is a marvel. A giant sarcophagus, decorated with life-like sculptures. Beautiful murals showing how Hektamonos handled the issues of the day. Marble walls and marble columns. His tomb is a pioneering example of the classical mausoleum. It was the predecessor of the more famous Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. And recently, a golden crown was identified as coming from King Hektamonos' tomb -- and it is being repatriated to Turkey!

The Architect Who Became A God

King Djoser (c 2667 - 2648 BCE) built what is perhaps the first true pyramid in ancient Egypt, the step pyramid. The architect of Djoser's pyramid was Imhotep, the king's vizier. He slowly grew in fame, slowly getting credited with medical powers, until he was worshiped as a god in the Ptolemaic Period (332 - 30 BCE) and equated with Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom, and Asklepios, the Greek god of healing.

Today, his name is perhaps better known for being the mummy that was brought back to life in the movie, The Mummy.

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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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