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The Origins of One-Foot September 30, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
The Origins of One-Foot

***Dedicated to Leif*** Humanity has the habit of peopling the edges of its maps with unusual creatures: the ‘there-be-dragons’ phenomenon. We have previously on this blog looked at dog-heads, for example, both in relation to India and Ethiopia. Dog-heads can be explained, as perhaps can unicorns and even dragons and cyclops. But how do you […]

Suicide at Saipan: How Many? September 29, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Suicide at Saipan: How Many?

The most famous act of mass suicide in the twentieth century, are probably the extraordinary deaths that followed on the fall of Nazi Germany and the Jones Town massacre. However, one localised example from the Second World War in Asia trumps both of these in horror and intensity. Though not a ‘home’ island, Saipan had […]

Lord Ferrers and the Silk Rope September 28, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Lord Ferrers and the Silk Rope

Beach read the following description of an execution this summer and it has remained in his mind so vividly that he thought that he would share it here. Lord Ferrers (obit deservedly 1760) was a bad lot who used to put fireworks in his wife’s bed (he loathed her) and eventually shot a steward who […]

Child Sacrifice in Carthage September 27, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
Child Sacrifice in Carthage

Beach is getting dangerously topical. First, there was the discovery of Richard III’s bent body, next to Jesus’s wife and now an old obsession of his, Carthaginian child sacrifice is breezing through the newspapers. In fact, the right of the ancient Carthaginians to sacrifice their children has just, it seems, been outlawed by some Pittsburgh […]

Hell Fire and Death Bed Cobblers September 26, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Hell Fire and Death Bed Cobblers

***Thanks to Tom W*** Beach has lived through a couple of death bed scenes and what he remembers most from those dreadful occasions is the immense sense of peace. But in history, it seems, there is anything but peace in the final minutes of life. Indeed, the most extraordinary things are always happening to the dying. […]

Never Fall Asleep in a Hungarian Cemetery September 25, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Never Fall Asleep in a Hungarian Cemetery

Beach recently gave some publicity to Walter Starkie’s excellent Raggle Taggle. Here is a vampire story from the book. Our hero (Walter) has fallen asleep in a cemetery when he is woken by a man. He was a strange little old man like one of the goblins in Grimm’s fairy stories. He walked with bent […]

Long-Knife Victims September 24, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Long-Knife Victims

Beach has several times over the years enjoyed the nonsense that historians spout about numbers. How many people lived in Roman Britain. How many witches were dragged to the stake in the burning years. How many Christians were sold in the slave markets of northern Africa in modern times? The sheer range of numbers is […]

Jesus Christ and Naked Men September 23, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
Jesus Christ and Naked Men

All the fuss about Jesus’ wife the other day, put Beach in mind of an earlier controversial Biblical find, one that is, in many ways, more exciting. In 1958 a (then) young Biblical scholar Morton Smith (obit 1991) was working in the library of the Monastery of Mar Saba on the West Bank when he […]

Crowds #5: POWs September 22, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Crowds #5: POWs

Beach has offered several posts showing crowds: orators, crowd art, off-to-war and religion. Here is the fifth in the series, crowds of men who have just been captured by the enemy. Pictures are mostly from the two world wars, because POWs do not seem to have excited much interest prior to this and because photographs […]

Christ’s Wife September 21, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
Christ's Wife

***Thanks to Larry, Amanda, Southern Man and PJ*** The news came in yesterday afternoon courtesy of three or four emails sent in by readers. The email line: ‘Breaking News Alert: Ancient papyrus suggests Jesus was married’. Wth! Beach spilt his Bacardi and Rum all over his keyboard and walked around the room in a stupor. […]

Hostage Taking in Ancient and Medieval Times September 20, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
Hostage Taking in Ancient and Medieval Times

When we think of hostages today we tend to think of men with pistols using some poor innocent as a human shield. But in the ancient and medieval world hostage-taking was formalised. Conquered territories would give up children of notables who would be conveyed to an enemy capital or castle and who would then be […]

Review: Walter Starkie, Raggle Taggle September 19, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Review: Walter Starkie, Raggle Taggle

When Beach first picked up Walter Starkie’s Raggle-Taggle: Adentures with a Fiddle in Hungary and Roumania (1947) he was looking for a reference to fairies. The book was to be a literary one night stand: 300 closely printed sides, ten minutes of flicking. But already in ‘the Preface to New Edition’ a more serious relationship […]

Fusion and Confusion in Post Roman Britain September 18, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
Fusion and Confusion in Post Roman Britain

 ***This extended essay was written as a sequel to a previous post on Roman Britain signalled in the first link*** We have looked before in the place at the darkness that descends on Britain after Rome decamps from the island. Our ignorance about this period of British history is simply astounding. We know that there […]

Earliest Flying messengers September 17, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval
Earliest Flying messengers

Beachcombing has a few bizarre carrier pigeon stories in a mauve file under the staircase: I mean are pigeon stories ever going to be normal? He thought though that he’d start his pigeon campaign with a simple even tedious question. When were pigeons first used as messengers? Their role carrying messages in the two world […]

The Last of the Ancient Centaurs and Fauns September 16, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
The Last of the Ancient Centaurs and Fauns

The following appears in the Life of St Paul by Jerome, chapters 7 and 8. These passages are interesting because we have a very unusual attitude to in-between creatures, particularly given what an intolerable stick in the mud, Jerome was about everything that didn’t come out of the gospels and Paul’s letters… The blessed Paul […]

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