Asia

  • Prester John

      In the time of the crusades, Europeans were looking for any allies in their battles against the Muslims for the Holy Land.  Medieval writings often feature a fabulously wealthy Christian king in the East.  This was Prester John.  He was believed to be a member of the Nestorian Church, which was an independent Eastern Christian church that did not fall under the purview of the patriarch in Constantinople.  He was supposed to be an ally against the Muslims for the crusaders to take advantage of. The story of Prester John was first recorded by Bishop Otto of Freisling Germany in his Chronicon published in 1145.  It was based on…

  • The Lost Roman Legion of Crassus

    Marcus Licinius Crassus was one of the richest men in the Roman World and part of the First Triumvirate with notables such as Pompeius Magnus and Julius Caesar.  He had made his money through picking up the property of those killed in Sulla’s proscriptions at firesale prices.  Indeed, he was accused of adding the name of a particularly rich man just so he could pick up his property at bargain basement prices.  Combine that through slave trafficking and silver mines, gave Crassus a fortune estimated by Pliny at 200 million sestertii, or about 8.5 billion in today’s dollars.  If his name sounds familiar, you may have heard in the old…

  • Hürrem Sultan- From slave to queen

    Born Aleksandra Ruslana Lisowska around 1502, little Nastia as she was known would never have dreamed she would rise to become a queen.  She was born in the town of Rohatyn in Polish Ruthenia, which is now in Western Ukraine.   Legend has it her father was an Orthodox priest.  Some time in the 1520’s, Nastia’s world turned upside down when she was captured by the Crimean Tartars at the tender age of 12.  Raids by the Tartars into this region were not uncommon, and Nastia was soon taken to the slave markets of Kaffa.  From there she went on to Istanbul, where she was selected for the sultan’s harem.  The…

  • Jinn

    Tales of the mystical creatures appear in early Arabian and later Islamic mythology. An individual member of the jinn is known as a jinni, djinni, or genie. Throughout the Quran and other Islamic texts they are mentioned frequently. The Quran says that the jinn were created from a smokeless and “scorching fire”, but are also physical in nature, being able to interact in a tactile manner with people and objects and likewise be acted upon. The earliest evidence of the word, can be found in Persian, for the singular Jinni is the Avestic “Jaini”, a wicked (female) spirit. Jaini were among various creatures believe among pre-Zoroastrian peoples of Persia. The…

  • Enrico Dandolo’s Revenge or The Fourth Crusade

    Enrico Dandolo had an ax to grind.  At first, it seemed like he had a pretty good life.  He was born in the early 12th century to an influential Venetian noble family.  His father was Vitale Dandolo, who was a famous jurist and diplomat.  His uncle, another Enrico Dandolo, was the patriarch of Grado, the highest ranking churchman in Venice.  Young Enrico followed in his father’s footsteps and went on many diplomatic for the Republic.  He was a shrewd politician and survived a disastrous mission Constantinople in 1171.  The Byzantine Empire was the biggest kid on the block, and had seized the goods of thousands of Venetians living in the…