Now we know the answer: the brain. But ancient humanity did not know. A number of famous thinkers have placed the mind in a number of places around the body
Did you know cheese is older than even writing?
Emperor Akbar ruled the Mughal Empire from 1556 to 1605. When he came to the throne, he confronted a problem that had plagued his predecessors: how to be a Muslim ruler over a majority-Hindu nation, that also had substantial numbers of various other religions including Buddhism and Jainism. He eventually came to believe that no religion could have pre-eminence. In fact, he was not even sure that any religion was "the truth" but were all humanity's imperfect interpretations. The logical conclusion is that all subjects of his empire should be free to practice whatever religion they wished.
Akbar began to hold conferences weekly, with wise men from all faiths (no known women, though). He would apply their wisdom to questions of state. He slowly took over spiritual leadership, even getting the Muslim clergy to pronounce a fatwa (judgement) that as emperor, Akbar could adjudicate any dispute between religious authorities -- even overruling the Qur'an if necessary for the public interest.
Legally, Akbar made two big changes. He abolished the hated tax levied on the Hindu majority, the jizya, the "contribution for not being put to death". He also created a private faith for the elite. It was not a new religion, per se. It was a kind of Sufi system for the rulers, with 10 cardinal virtues, the essence of which was promoting tolerance. Akbar combined aspects of different faiths, borrowing from all the religions of his empire, to create an ethical code that he wished his inner circle to follow. He called this the Din i-Ilahi, or "Worship of God." While it has been accused of being a pick-and-mix religion, Akbar did not proclaim it a religion, and he remained a Muslim all his life. The Din i-Ilahi died with Akbar in 1605, and the jizya was reintroduced by Akbar's great-grandson Aurangzeb in 1679.
Some tidbits that interested me:
In the middle of the Sea of Japan, about the equidistant from Japan and Korea, are two rocky islets. No larger than New York City's Grand Central Terminal, they do not even qualify as "islands." Yet the Liancourt Rocks — or Dokdo Islands or Takeshima Islands — are at the center of a diplomatic dispute between the two countries that goes back more than 300 years.
Getting to Dokdo — meaning ‘Solitary Island’ in Korean — involves two boat trips, each three hours long. And it is only accessible in the summer months. Yet patriotic South Koreans arrive in droves, taking selfies and playing music, enjoying the mostly-inaccessible rocks. Japan also claims the island, which they call Takeshima or 'Bamboo Island.' But Japanese tourists don't make the trip.
According to South Korea, Dokdo was recognized by Japan as Korean territory in 1696 following an altercation between Japanese and Korean fishermen. But, in 1905, despite allegedly being under formal jurisdiction of Korea’s Uldo county, the islets were annexed by Japan ahead of its occupation of the peninsula. Korea says the islands were "rightfully" restored after World War II. Japan disagrees. But neither have been willing to openly fight over the Liancourt Rocks. Instead, each side agrees to disagree, as a single South Korean fisherman remains on the rocks as its only permanent resident.
Tsunayoshi Tokugawa was shogun of Japan from 1680 to 1709. For a long time, he had a bad reputation, historically. The samurai class disliked him because Tsunayoshi had a fondness for boys of any class -- and the samurai did not like that Tsunayoshi did not discriminate his lovers by class. He was also a pretty strict ruler, confiscating many properties, cracking down on prostitution, and banning too-fancy fabrics. None of which likely endeared Tsunayoshi to the literate class, either. But this is not a post about his administrative style. This is a post about dogs.
Often fondly referred to as Oinusama (the dog shogun), Tsunayoshi really did have a soft spot for canines. He was born during the Year of the Dog, and was told that he had been a dog in a previous life. Tsunayoshi also issued a number of edicts, known as Edicts on Compassion for Living Things, that were released daily to the public. Most of them involved the protection of dogs — in fact, it was a capital crime to harm one. A massive kennel, said to have held more than 50,000 dogs, had to be set up outside the capital city of Edo to house the surfeit of dogs that resulted. Paid for by the happy citizens of Edo, of course.
Tsunayoshi was not just about the dogs, though that is what he remains known for. He became immersed in Neo-Confucianism and studied it profusely. Through this influence, Tsunayoshi enacted many protections for living beings — not just dogs — during his rule. In fact, he also insisted abandoned children and sick travelers should be taken care of and not be left to die, as was often the practice.
René Descartes, Discourse on the Method, 1637
Anne of Denmark, wife of James VI and I of Scotland and England, was a renowned beauty who gave her (famously unfaithful) husband three children. She was also a secret Catholic. Her husband was a great Reformist, aka a Protestant, whose Catholic subjects frequently plotted against. Anne's background was also Protestant; her grandfather had heard Martin Luther speak, and made Denmark and Norway officially Lutheran. Yet despite all this, Queen Anne had decided Catholic sympathies.
While it is unknown if she officially converted -- if she did, it was of course a secret -- Queen Anne had gathered about her an enclave of intimate Roman Catholic bedchamber attendants. Among their number was Jane Drummond who facilitated the queen’s private Catholic worship. This included smuggling priests into court and disguising them as her personal attendants. The Spanish ambassador reported that “Mass was being said by a Scottish priest, who was simply called a ‘servant’ of [the queen’s] lady-in-waiting, Lady Drummond.”
In Latin it means "small pebble." It is a reference to the abacus, where mathematical calculations used to be done by moving back and forth small beads or pebbles. Over time, the Latin word had come to mean "reckoning, account," mathematicians borrowed it for the phrase "differential calculus" and the rest is history.
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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