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  • Hashish and Assassination April 24, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Hashish and Assassination

    The Assassins were a well known medieval Shiite sect who delighted in sending out their fida’is (assassins) to kill enemies with daggers. Our word ‘assassinate’ (already used routinely by Dante), of course, comes from these charming individuals. The etymology of Assassin in Arabic has long been supposed to come from the word for hashish (Hashshashin […]

    Is St Francis’ Horn Egyptian? April 20, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Is St Francis' Horn Egyptian?

    A medieval ivory horn is pictured with two mysterious wooden rods, which look like nunchaku, but were actually ‘silence sticks’, banged together before a sermon. The horn is kept at Assisi among the most precious relics of St Francis (obit 1226), because this horn, says tradition, was brought back by Francis from Egypt as a […]

    The Last Crusade, 1996-1999 February 16, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    The Last Crusade, 1996-1999

    Beach is always curious about the present’s manipulation of the past and there are few subjects that have been manipulated more than the Crusades. Those men and women who set off towards the Holy Land, in 1095 have been cast in almost every imaginable role in the last two hundred years. They have been made into […]

    Frederick II: Medieval Multiculturalism? January 5, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Frederick II: Medieval Multiculturalism?

    Frederick II stands as one of the most fascinating figures of the Middle Ages. Not the least interesting aspect of his personality was his entirely unmedieval attitude to God and to matters religious, perhaps partly a result of his upbringing in a still residually Muslim Sicily: he had a disconcerting habit of acting like an enlightenment […]

    The World in 2030: Predictions January 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    The World in 2030: Predictions

    Perhaps the most interesting read this Christmas were the CIA’s predictions, in 2000, for 2015. Fifteen years ago a lot of very intelligent men and women sat down, chewed the geo-political cud and they still got a good deal wrong. Here in 2015 Beach thought that he would go with his gut on a series of […]

    Goodbye Constantinople February 7, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Goodbye Constantinople

      ***Some might like to listen to the very topical Strange History theme song while reading this, thanks to Chris S for the tip*** The night of 28 May 1453 the Emperor of Byzantine, Constantine, ‘the eleventh of his name’, went for a ride with his friend, George Sphrantzes, on the city walls of Constantinople, […]

    Modern Magic in Afghanistan: Omar and the Prophet’s Cloak September 22, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Modern Magic in Afghanistan: Omar and the Prophet's Cloak

    Acts of magic are rare in the modern world. But every so often things happen that individuals and more importantly crowds interpret in this light. 4 April 1996, Mullah Omar, the one-eyed Taliban leader, appeared in central Kandhar in front of a crowd of over a thousand devout muslims. Omar was about to undertake an […]

    ISIS and Their Historical Caliphate Cobblers June 17, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Medieval
    ISIS and Their Historical Caliphate Cobblers

    ***Dedicated to Ricardo and his Missus*** ISIS is a group of Islamists who have recently made it on the news by taking over a quarter of Iraq and an adjacent and not insignificant area of poor mutilated Syria. Flick through ISIS news reports and most will involve atrocity stories including decapitation, crucifixion and human bonfires: […]

    Monotheistic Moments November 28, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Monotheistic Moments

    There seems to be no question that early human societies were polytheistic. Might it even be said that polytheism is the natural human condition? Perhaps monotheism is the equivalent of Big Macs and fried mars bars, whereas we should all really be eating freshly killed gazelle and the fruits of the forest? There is, in […]

    How Islam Created the Italian Renaissance November 16, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    How Islam Created the Italian Renaissance

    The Renaissance! What’s not to like: Leo flying; Micky chipping at marble; men in tights and women in bodices; the pop, snap, crackle of Kultur; and cherubs falling from the sky like hailstone. According to the textbooks fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Italians, more particularly the urban Italians of northern Italy rediscovered the Greek and Romans and […]

    The West Without Christianity: Neo-Platonism, Allah or Jupiter? September 28, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    The West Without Christianity: Neo-Platonism, Allah or Jupiter?

    Woke up with a crazy counter-factual thought. Let’s say that Christ is born and becomes messiah to a select group of Nazarenes. He is crucified and allegedly rises from the dead: keep or strike the ‘allegedly’ as pleases you. However, then things go awry. Paul never has a migraine on the Road to Damascus and […]

    Peter, Abraham and Muhammad on the Wrong Side of the Urals June 16, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Peter, Abraham and Muhammad on the Wrong Side of the Urals

    Here’s a bizarre scenario (with no basis in the historical record…). c.c.c.1000 a Jewish, a Muslim and a Christian missionary find themselves on the wrong side of the Ural Mountains among a horse-killing, horse-worshipping pagan people (and before anyone writes in there is some ancient and medieval evidence for Jewish ‘evangelism’). The Christian missionary, Peter, […]

    The Evils of Chess! April 7, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Evils of Chess!

    Chess! The taut, horrid syllable is enough to unveil the rotteneness at the heart of that most dreadful of games. Avoid it! Turn from it! Ostracise those who play it! Ok, Beach is playing out here, but he recently came across this extraordinary quotation from an Anglican vicar from Essex, at the death of his […]

    Roman Empire vs Caliphate in Sub-Saharan Africa October 7, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Roman Empire vs Caliphate in Sub-Saharan Africa

    By the mid first century AD the Roman Empire had run against four limits, limits that its subjects would never overcome: in the west, the Atlantic; in the north, the German tribes (thanks Varus); in the east, the ‘Persian’ Empire and its successors; and in the south, the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert beyond. […]

    Crowds #4: Religion July 20, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Crowds #4: Religion

    Beach has so far offered up three crowd photo collections: August 1914, Speaking to Crowds and Crowds as Art. Today he thought he’d move in a little deeper with religious crowds from a small file he’s been building up over the last couple of years. The picture that head’s this post is one of his […]

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