King Slayers – That Nosebleed Attila the Hun

 

Mulan Huns

Legit still terrified of the Huns from Mulan. They didn’t call them the “scourge of God” for nothing!

I’ve been unintentionally focused on Roman history lately so we’re going to go in on one of the few successful outside threats to the stability of the Roman Empire and the colossally embarrassing reason that saw to the collective sigh of relief by the general populous that had nothing to do with Legionaries but everything to do with a ridiculous amount of bloodshed. So if anyone has a problem with more Roman things, ya’ll can just steppe off, okay? >crickets< Hunny, that was a joke.

If you’re like me, you’ve grown up knowing that the Huns were terrible menaces that could only be defeated by being sung into a man by Donny Osmond. Perhaps because there was a huge wall protecting China named Fa Mulan, the Huns decided the gettin’ was good somewhere else and started off a chain reaction of marauding nomadic assholery by descending upon the Roman Empire in its last legs of life in 4th & 5th century AD. The Romans didn’t know what was happening, or where these demonic barbarians came from–it probably didn’t help that other bands of groups joined in on the fun including the Goths, Alans, Scythians, and anyone else who could rock a ferocious blood-soaked beard. When the Huns and their warband associates began hammering away at Roman territory, the empire found itself stretched thin without a large enough force to defend against attacks along its borders. Rome capitulated some territory and even employed various groups of them as mercenaries to help defend against the Zerg Rush of barbarians. All in all, it seemed a confusing mess of splintered groups with different leaders fighting each other back and forth as long as everyone was well fed and paid while the Roman emperors nervously wringed their hands hoping nobody would depose them since they had been dropping like flies faster than a Hogwarts Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at this point. [1]

Leoattila-Raphael

Attila the Hun meeting Pope Leo I and also probably demanding the papacy too because why not.

It wasn’t until Attila that the Huns became a unified empire. Most historians assume he murdered the crap out of his brother Bleda before taking the reigns and charging all over the eastern half of the Roman empire in an assault that horse-whipped the once mighty Rome into paying off the Huns with an annual tribute of 2100 pounds of gold to let up a little bit, geez Louise. [2]

This wasn’t nearly enough for the insatiable Atilla, however, when Honoria, the sister of the Western Roman Emperor, sent him the Classical equivalent to a booty text in the form of a ring and offer of betrothal, and Atilla demanded half of the empire as his dowry proving he was pretty ballsy, if nothing else. He used the opportunity to justify an invasion, sacking and razing the roof all over the place. [3(Somebody remind me to do a write up of Honoria some day because she was pretty wild herself)

Attila

Swoon daddy OG

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out with Honoria, and Attila the Hun eventually took another wife culminating in a raging night of drunken revelry in celebration. And like George R.R. Martin himself wrote it, it was this night that Attila the Hun met his end.

He had given himself up to excessive joy at his wedding, and as he lay on his back, heavy with wine and sleep, a rush of superfluous blood, which would ordinarily have flowed from his nose, streamed in deadly course down his throat and killed him, since it was hindered in the usual passages. Thus did drunkenness put a disgraceful end to a king renowned in war.

Jordanes, the Gothic History [4]

A nosebleed?! I suppose, if you’re a subscriber to anime tropes being a thing that actually happens in real-life, perhaps Atilla was a bit too pleased to see his new wife. Most probably, something more akin to a hemorrhage caused by internal bleeding due to excessive drinking was the cause, but I don’t know, I’m not a doctor. 

Naturally, the Huns were super upset by this sudden death, and after they ripped out their hair and clawed at their faces, they went to work burying their great king in his riches and killing everyone who helped because why stop being dramatic now. This tactic seemed to work, however, because we still have no idea where he is today. [4]

It wasn’t long after Attila’s death that the Hunnic Empire collapsed. Turns out, it’s pretty tough to keep a bunch of bloodthirsty warriors in line. And Rome didn’t have that long to neener neener about it either. On September 4th, 476 AD, barely 25 years later, a different barbarian king, Odoacer, deposed the last Roman Emperor and declared himself king of Italy, effectively ending the western half of the empire.

Cole_Thomas_The_Course_of_Empire_Destruction_1836

Welp.

 

Cause of Death: giphy

 

Fact Check it, yo!

Secondary:

[1] Heather, P. (1995). The Huns and the End of the Roman Empire in Western Europe. The English Historical Review, 110(435), 4-41. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/573374

[3] Bury, J. (1919). Justa Grata Honoria. The Journal of Roman Studies, 9, 1-13. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/295986

Primary source:

[2] Priscus, Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum. Priscus at the Court of Attila. Retrieved from: http://faculty.georgetown.edu/jod/texts/priscus.html

 

[4] Jordanes, The Gothic History Retrieved from: https://archive.org/stream/gothichistoryofj00jorduoft/gothichistoryofj00jorduoft_djvu.txt

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Those Saucy Romans

Garum sauce

If you thought putting anchovies on pizza was gross, brace yourself for this next post. The Roman Empire, being a wretched hive of scum and villainy for about the entirety of it’s hellion reign across most of Europe, wasn’t exactly shy about being off the wall crazy about some of its more questionable pleasures. From painting lavish dick pics everywhere to delighting in some healthy disembowelment in the gladiatorial arena, not much of these practices would be accepted in modern day society. Well, okay, except for maybe the first one.

One of the things the Romans were famously into, was soaking their food up in a sauce known as “Garum” or “Liquamen” which we’ve found archaeological evidence of in manufacturing, residue in pottery, and depicted in art and writing of the time. The sauce knew no societal bounds, common among people of all different classes and religions (evidence of a kosher option even exists) [1 & 3]. So, basically sounds like the Roman version of ketchup. How bad could it be?

Another liquid, too, of a very exquisite nature, is that known as “garuim:” it is prepared from the intestines of fish and various parts which would otherwise be thrown away, macerated in salt; so that it is, in fact, the result of their putrefaction. – Pliny the Elder, The Natural History [2]

Makes me want to hurl harder than a highlander tossing a log across long distances to impress his skirt wearing friends.

But was it really all that bad? Obviously, it was incredibly popular and how far removed would our taste buds really be from our Classical ancestors? Are we really any different, slathering our sushi rolls with eel sauce?

Evidently, garum was probably similar to popular fish sauces found in Vietnamese, Indochinese, and Turkish cuisine today. And based on our sources and the ancient recipe we’ve discovered concerning its production (A salt to fish ratio of 1:8), “the amount of salt used in the production process inhibited putrefaction and, hence, prevented any rancid smells. Bacterial fermentation, similar to that found in the production of cheeses, induced maturation of the product.” [3] Pliny claimed that the sauce itself smelled a bit funky, but what decent cheese doesn’t? And let’s not forget that even if it had a strong ode de parfum, he still called it exquisite. [2]

Garum party

What life was like for the Romans before the invention of Nutella

Probably seems strange that such a popular and maybe not all that gross sauce would just disappear then. But apparently, the sauce itself was fairly expensive, even some higher quality versions near the end of the Roman Empire’s life span would cost about $500 of today’s moolah. [3 & 4] It’s always baffling to me how unperturbed we are to have table salt readily available in a cupboard or at a restaurant, but it used to be a precious commodity that was heavily taxed and fought over. With a salt tax introduced among the empire, garum production became a bit too expensive since it was the necessary component that made it deliciously putridy. And with the collapse of power in the western half of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, the ownership of the Mediterranean seas became an indisputable playground for some good old fashioned piracy. [4]

If you’re not turned off by the process and are still curious how it tasted, however, you’re in luck! It’s starting to make a comeback.

Do you not realize that garum sociorum, that expensive bloody mass of decayed fish, consumes the stomach with its salted putrefaction?

— Seneca, Epistle 95. [5]
Fact Check it, yo!
[1] LEARY, T. (1994). JEWS, FISH, FOOD LAWS AND THE ELDER PLINY. Acta Classica, 37, 111-114. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/24594356
[2] Pliny the Elder, The Natural History. John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S. H.T. Riley, Esq., B.A. London. Taylor and Francis, Red Lion Court, Fleet Street. 1855.
[3] Curtis, R. (1983). In Defense of Garum. The Classical Journal,78(3), 232-240. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3297180
[4] Prichep, D. (2013, October 26). Fish Sauce: An Ancient Roman Condiment Rises Again. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2013/10/26/240237774/fish-sauce-an-ancient-roman-condiment-rises-again

Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Wonders Burn

Louise Belcher Evil Laugh GIF by Bob's Burgers

Eye-witness video of Herostratus circa 4th century BC.

People suck. I’m confident that this is a definitive statement I can make without stating any evidence or backing citations since we’re all constantly exposed to the same examples in our day to day lives that proves it, from mass murderers on the news to that dude in a pick-up truck who cut you off on the road earlier this week.

And while there might be some cases where our modern world may be to blame, I can assure you that since civilization has been a thing, people have been finding all kinds of ways to be various levels of bastards to one another. And perhaps the most disrespectful and shitty thing you could possibly do to everyone is destroying one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World just for the helluva it.

Enter Herostratus, whose name I’m annoyed to even know.

Therefore only an utterly senseless person can fail to know that our characters are the result of our conduct.Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics; Book III [1]

In 4th century BC, Ancient Greece was still very much a playground for heroic mythos celebrated as true accounts, from the rippling pectorals of Heracles to Achilles’ famous anger, despite how much Plato wanted to ruin the fun for everyone by telling them otherwise. So, it’s perhaps understandable that a desire to cement oneself in these cool new things called “History Books” was a real thing people worried about. I mean, an entire cult of worship amassing after your death and obsessively placing pottery in your name everywhere does sound kind of nice. The only trouble is, how does one accomplish such a magnificent feat without being either a King, really good at wearing a toga and going around harassing the youth with your incessant “why” questions, or immortalizing yourself in a war when everyone was too busy inventing things and getting ready for the arrival of the next big thing since fermented grapes?

And perhaps it was out of a subconscious resentment for this last one in particular, Herostratus decided that being remembered in infamy was good enough for him and that to accomplish this, he would set fire to The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus on the day of Alexander the Great’s birth on July 21st, 356 BC. [2]

A man was found to plan the burning of the temple of Ephesian Diana so that through the destruction of this most beautiful building his name might be spread through the whole world. –  Valerius Maximus (VIII.14.5) [2]

 

The people of Ephesus were not having any of this bullshit. Capturing Herostratus, torturing his ass until he admitted to his stupid reason for torching the only thing that put their city on the map, and executing the shit out of him, they also decreed it a capital offense to even mention his name, effectively inventing the phrase He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in an attempt to show everyone that pulling stuff like this would get you nowhere in history, god dammit.

Artemis Temple Illustration

Cry emoji

Unfortunately, his name still managed to survive and we know it today because those pesky ancient historians like Theopompus and Strabo [3] just couldn’t help themselves. Now we all get to hate ourselves for knowing it and, effectively, making sure that Herostratus came out of this whole ordeal as the winner.

You’re welcome.

Fact Check it, yo!

[1] Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics; Book III. Retrieved: http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.3.iii.html

[2] Valerius Maximus, Factorum et Dictorum Memorabilium; (VIII.14.5) Retrieved (Also Google Translate): http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/L/Roman/Texts/Valerius_Maximus/8*.html#14.ext.5

[3] Smith, William, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. Retrieved: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0104%3Aalphabetic+letter%3DH%3Aentry+group%3D11%3Aentry%3Dherostratus-bio-2

The Nose Goes: When Octavian Meets Alexander the Great

AlexandertheMug

What a great nose, would be a shame to lose it…

It starts like any whimsical joke, so Octavian meets Alexander the Great. And, naturally, the end of it is marked with a well-placed punch. Not least of all, the humor in it accented by the fact that Alexander is, well, super dead.

To bring us back to this moment in time, Octavian who is soon to be remembered in history as Augustus Caesar, had just conquered Egypt. It was late summer of 30 BC, and with Mark Antony pooling in his deathbed from the fatal piercing of his own sword and Cleopatra having succumbed to an agonizing eternal slumber with the aid of poison (Whether it was administered by an asp remains a matter of debate [1]), there was no one left to stand in the way of Octavian and the spoils he was eager to enjoy of the once great Ptolemaic Kingdom that had ruled Egypt for the last 300 years. Perhaps the most cherished treasure of the city of Alexandria remained the tomb of its namesake and the most famous conqueror the world had ever witnessed, that of Alexander the Great. And, like his uncle before him who had strode in the presence of greatness at the behest of Cleopatra herself, Octavian too was avid to bear witness to the last man who, under the fierce gallop of his horse Bucephalus, had carved out and drastically changed the world. In hindsight, Octavian was perhaps also ignorant to the fact that he was about to be remembered for doing the same.

As the legend goes, after Alexander succumbed to illness (Because we have yet to find his body, all matter of possibilities have been suggested by scholars from poisoning, malaria, and even bowel perforation to being the cause of death) his body was encased in a golden sarcophagus filled with honey because why not also make him famously delicious and sent on its way to his homeland of Macedon despite his apparent wishes to be buried in the Egyptian oasis Siwah, thrown into a river as to attest to his godliness without evidence of a body, or be burned to ashes because then people couldn’t do exactly all of the things they eventually did to his corpse. [2] Unfortunately, one of Alexander’s generals and heirs, Ptolemy I, hijacked the procession and smuggled the body to Memphis in Egypt which he then began to rule after Alexander’s passing. From there, it remained in Ptolemaic possession, passing from Memphis to its famous resting place in Alexandria with a later Ptolemaic king swapping the golden sarcophagus with a glass one for a more economical viewing experience.

It was this resting place, now housed within the Soma Mausoleum, that Octavian wished to pay his respects.

Augustus-before-the-Tomb-of-Alexander

Sebastien Bourdon, Augustus before the Tomb of Alexander

According to Suetonius, Octavian wished to gaze upon the body of Alexander the Great and show his respect by placing a golden crown upon his head. [3] Whether it was in placing the diadem or in the act of kissing the forehead of his idol, Octavian somehow managed to take off the nose of the greatest man to have walked the Earth, accidentally crushing it in the process of fealty. Whoops! [4]

“My wish was to see a king, not corpses.” – Octavian in response to being asked if he would like to see the tomb of the now vanquished Ptolemies in the most brutal clap-back ever recorded. Suetonius, The Life of Augustus para. 149

A part of me hopes that the irony of this event was not lost on Octavian. For the act of breaking the legacy of Alexander the Great lay with the destruction of Cleopatra’s kingdom and now, symbolically, with his nose. And it was from this moment on, really, that Octavian emerges as the next most famous conqueror in history, becoming the first and most powerful Roman Emperor to ever live.

As for what remained of Alexander, his body continued to fall victim to the whims and folly of other Roman Emperors. His tomb was looted by Caligula (You’d think he’d show some respect for a fellow equestrian, right?) and was tampered with by Caracalla (who delights in a good piss off, amirite?) after Septimius Severus tried sealing the tomb. [5] From there, no one really knows what became of Alexander the Great, whether his body was removed by a pesky Roman Emperor when stealing relics wasn’t enough or perhaps, engulfed into the sea with the rest of ancient Alexandria after a series of fatal earthquakes. Either way, amidst natural disasters and frequent sacking by other conquerors, the location of his tomb was eventually lost, waiting for the day when archaeologists and historians are hopefully able to recover it.

But one thing is for certain, the nose went first.

 

Fact Check it, yo!

[1] Cleopatra’s Death. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2018, from http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/miscellanea/cleopatra/rixens.html

[2  Arrian. The Anabis of Alexander. Book VII Retrieved March 14, 2018, from https://archive.org/stream/cu31924026460752/cu31924026460752_djvu.txt

[3] Suetonius. The Life of Augustus. Retrieved March 14, 2018, from http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/Augustus*.html

[4] , Anthony Everitt. (2006) The Life of Rome’s First Emperor. 

[5] Lindsay, I. (2014). The history of loot and stolen art: from antiquity until the present day. London: Unicorn Press Ltd.