Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sam’s historical recipe corner: Tiger nut balls

History Extra


In every issue of BBC History Magazine, picture editor Sam Nott brings you a recipe from the past. In this article, Sam recreates a healthy snack thought to have been enjoyed in Egypt around 3,500 years ago.

 If you, like me, have a sweet tooth but are trying to be healthier then try tiger nut balls.

 I found lots of references to this being one of the first Egyptian recipes that we know of, found written on an ancient ostraca (inscribed broken pottery) dating back to 1600 BC. Although I haven’t found a definitive source for this (or why tiger nut balls don’t contain tiger nuts!) they sounded too delicious to pass over. As your average ancient Egyptian seems to have had a very sweet tooth and often added dates and honey to desserts, I like to think that this is a sweet that would have been made thousands of years ago.

 This recipe is very straightforward, requires no cooking and is a lot fun to make (ideal for younger members of the household who might want to help).

 Ingredients
• 200g fresh dates (I used dried, which worked really well)
 • 1 tsp cold water
 • 10–15 walnut halves
 • ¼ tsp of cinnamon
 • small jar of runny honey
 • 75g ground almonds

 Method
Chop the dates finely (use seedless, or make sure to remove the stones first) and put them into a bowl. Add the water and stir. Then mix in the chopped walnuts and the cinnamon.

 Shape the mixture into small balls with your hands. Dip the balls in honey (I warmed it first so the honey coating wouldn’t be quite so thick) then roll the balls in the ground almonds.

 Chill them in the fridge for half an hour before serving.

 BBC history Magazine team verdict:
 “Like historic energy balls.”
 “I think Tiger nut balls roar with flavour.”
 “They’re as indulgent as a chocolate truffle!”

 Difficulty: 1/10

 Time: 45 mins

 Recipe courtesy of Cook it!


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Legendary Lost City of Ucetia Has Been Found and Its Remains are Breathtaking

Ancient Origins


Through the years, people have seen tantalizing mentions of the lost ancient Roman city of Ucetia on stelae in southern France. But until now, there was no evidence that it really existed. However, when archaeologists were brought in to assess a site for a new school and canteen, they found abundant evidence of the lost city of Ucetia outside the modern town of Uzés, which is near Nimes. And what they found was simply stunning.

The team of archaeologists, led by Philippe Cayn of the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research, found footprints of several buildings, one of which had magnificent tile mosaics on the floor. It is unknown whether this building was a public or private one, but Cayn said the presence of a colonnade and the mosaic in the 250 square meter (820 square feet) building may indicate a public purpose.

Cayn told IBITimes.co.uk:

"Prior to our work, we knew that there had been a Roman city called Ucetia only because its name was mentioned on stela in Nimes, alongside 11 other names of Roman towns in the area. It was probably a secondary town, under the authority of Nimes. No artefacts had been recovered except for a few isolated fragments of mosaic.”

Cayn told the website that the mosaic is very impressive for its size, the motifs of geometric shapes and animals and because it is well-preserved. He said sophisticated mosaics were common among the Romans in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, but this one is surprising because it is much older. It goes back about 200 years earlier, to the 2nd or 1st century BC.

One of the mosaics had in one corner an eagle—a symbol of ancient Rome and many other regimes around the world through history. (Copyright Denis Gliksman of INRAP)

Overall, the site is 4,000 square meters (13,000 square feet). The team ascertained that people lived in Ucetia from around the 1st century BC until the 3rd or 4th century AD, when the city was abandoned. The reason people left Ucetia is a mystery to the researchers, but people again lived there from the 4th to the 7th centuries AD. Archaeologists also found a few ruins from the Middle Ages.

The Roman conquest of the area occurred in the late 2nd century BC. The researchers found a wall and remnants of several other structures dating to just before the Romans occupied the area. One of these ruins was a room with a bread oven. At some point the room was later converted to a space with a dolium—a large ceramic container. Dolia were made of fired clay and were up to 6 feet tall (1.83 meters) tall. People used them to store food and beverages, including grains and wine.



This is the foundation of a building dating to the 7th century AD. The entire site lies near the modern city of Uzes. Evidence of the first people first to live in Ucetia goes back to around the 2nd century BC. Authorities found the ancient town when archaeologists surveyed and excavated to find any old buildings in 2016 to prepare for construction of a school. (Photo copyright Denis Gliksman of INRAP)

 Of the greatest interest to INRAP, Ibitimes.co.uk says, were the mosaics. They depicted traditional geometric shapes and medallions, including chevrons, rays and crowns. One of the medallions is adorned with images of a fawn, a duck, an eagle and an owl.

 It is possible the building in which the mosaics were made was the foyer of a rich person’s home. Cayn said the mosaics and colonnades may have been meant to impress visitors.

Top image: One of the beautiful mosaics was surrounded by images of a fawn, duck, eagle and owl. (Copyright Denis Gliksman of INRAP)

 By Mark Miller

Friday, April 28, 2017

Breaking News: Entrance to 3,700-Year-Old Previously Unknown Pyramid Discovered in Egypt

Ancient Origins


Egyptian archaeologists excavating in the Dahshur Necropolis at an area north of King Senefru's Bent Pyramid, have made an exciting discovery – a 13th dynasty pyramid that experts never knew existed. The sections that have been uncovered so far are in remarkably good condition, leading to hope and anticipation about what may lie within.

 Pyramid’s Remains are in Very Good Condition
According to Ahram Online, Mahmoud Afifi, the head of the ancient Egyptian antiquities sector at the antiquities ministry, was the one who announced the new discovery, adding that the remains are in a very good condition and further excavation will take place to reveal more of the structure. The remains of the 13th Dynasty pyramid were found by an Egyptian archaeological mission excavating in the Dahshur Necropolis at an area north of King Senefru's Bent Pyramid.

What Has Been Discovered So Far?
Adel Okasha, director general of the Dahshur Necropolis stated that the uncovered fragments of the pyramid show part of its inner structure, which appears to be composed of a corridor that leads to the inside of the pyramid and a hall leading to a southern ramp in addition to a room that was found at the western end of the pyramid. Egypt Independent also mentions that a 15cm by 17cm alabaster block was also discovered in the corridor, inscribed with ten vertical hieroglyphic lines, which is currently under examination to decipher its meaning. A granite lintel and a collection of stone blocks showing the interior design of the pyramid were the last pieces found of the unearthed structure. Associated Press reports that due to the bent slope of its sides, the pyramid is believed to have been ancient Egypt's first attempt to build a smooth-sided pyramid.


The alabaster block with ten hieroglyphic lines (Ahram Online)

 So who was the pyramid built for? A look at the 13th Dynasty may give some hints.

13th Dynasty of Egypt
 Lasting for more than 150 years, the 13th Dynasty is best remembered for producing an uncertain number of kings. Some historians often combine it with Dynasties 11, 12 and 14 under the group title ‘Middle Kingdom’. Other historians, however, distinguish it from these dynasties and join it with Dynasties 14 through 17 as part of the ‘Second Intermediate Period’. The 13th Dynasty lasted from approximately 1803 until 1649 BC.

 It was a direct continuation of the preceding 12th dynasty and as direct heirs to the kings of the 12th dynasty, pharaohs of the 13th dynasty reigned from Memphis over Middle and Upper Egypt, all the way to the second cataract to the south. Even though the decline in central power came gradually during this period, private monuments testify that Egypt was still a prosperous country. The power of the king was largely replaced with the power of the vizier, who kept the king as the symbolic leader. The 13th dynasty eventually came to end by military defeat to the Hyksos and with it the Middle Kingdom came to an end as well.

The Bent Pyramid seen from the foot of the Red Pyramid. Dahshur, Egypt (Looklex Egypt)

Further analysis will soon take place in order to learn more about the pyramid’s owner and the kingdom to which it belongs.

Top image: The corridor leading to the interior of the newly-discovered pyramid (Ahram Online)

By Theodoros Karasavvas

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Top 5 Jane Austen recipes

History Extra


Written by Pen Vogler, the editor of Penguin’s Great Food series, the book also features dishes Jane and her family were known to have enjoyed.

 Here, we've selected our top five Jane Austen recipes.

 Dinner with Mr Darcy by Pen Vogler is published by CICO Books

 Flummery
 Flummery is a white jelly, which was set in elegant molds or as shapes in clear jelly. Its delicate, creamy taste goes particularly well with rhubarb, strawberries, and raspberries. A modern version would be to add the puréed fruit to the ingredients, taking away the same volume of water.

 1⁄2 cup/50g ground almonds
1 tsp natural rosewater (with no added alcohol)
A drop of natural almond extract
 11⁄4 cups/300ml milk
 1 1⁄4 cups heavy (double) cream
 1–2 tbsp superfine (caster) sugar
 5 gelatin leaves

 1) Put the gelatin in a bowl and cover with cold water; leave for 4–5 minutes
 2) Pour the milk, almonds, and sugar into a saucepan and heat slowly until just below boiling.
 3) Squeeze out the excess water from the gelatin leaves and add them to the almond milk. Simmer for a few minutes, keeping it below boiling point. Let it cool a little and strain it through cheesecloth, or a very fine sieve
 4) Whip the cream until thick, and then fold it into the tepid mixture. Wet your molds (essential, to make it turn out), put the flummery in (keeping some back for the hen’s nest recipe below if you’d like) and leave to stand in the fridge overnight
 5) To serve: If you don’t have a jelly mold with a removable lid, dip the mold briefly into boiling water before turning out the flummery

 "To make Flummery Put one ounce of bitter and one of sweet almonds into a basin, pour over them some boiling water to make the skins come off, which is called blanching. Strip off the skins and throw the kernels into cold water. Then take them out and beat them in a marble mortar with a little rosewater to keep them from oiling. When they are beat, put them into a pint of calf’s foot stock, set it over the fire and sweeten it to your taste with loaf sugar. As soon as it boils strain it through a piece of muslin or gauze. When a little cold put it into a pint of thick cream and keep stirring it often till it grows thick and cold. Wet your moulds in cold water and pour in the flummery, let it stand five or six hours at least before you turn them out. If you make the flummery stiff and wet the moulds, it will turn out without putting it into warm water, for water takes off the figures of the mould and makes the flummery look dull." ELIZABETH RAFFALD,THE EXPERIENCED ENGLISH HOUSEKEEPER, 1769

 Pigeon Pie
 It was the custom to put ‘nicely cleaned’ pigeon feet in the crust to label the contents (although sensible Margaret Dods says ‘we confess we see little use and no beauty in the practice’). Georgian recipes for pigeon pie called for whole birds, but I’ve suggested stewing the birds first, so your guests don’t have to pick out the bones.


Serves 6–8 as part of a picnic spread

 4 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped
Slice of lean ham, chopped
 4 pigeons with their livers tucked inside (the livers are hard to come by, but worth hunting out)
 Flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
 9 oz/250 g steak, diced (original cooks would have used rump steak, but you could use something cheaper like topside, diced across the grain of the meat)
Butter
Olive oil
 Finely chopped parsley
 2 white onions, roughly chopped
A bouquet garni of any of the following, tied together: thyme, parsley, marjoram, winter savory, a bay leaf
Beurre manie made with about 2 tsp butter and 2 tsp flour
 1lb/500g rough puff pastry, chilled
Optional additions: 1 onion, peeled and quartered; 2 carrots, roughly chopped; 1 celery stick, roughly chopped

 1) Brown the bacon and then the ham in a frying pan, then add the onions, if using, and cook until they are translucent. Transfer the mixture to a large saucepan
 2) Flour the pigeons well and brown them all over in butter and olive oil in a frying pan, transferring them to the same large saucepan. Flour and brown the steak in the same way
 3) Put the pigeons in a saucepan, and push the steak, bacon, and onions down all around them (choose a saucepan in which they will be quite tightly packed). Although the original recipe doesn’t include them, you may want to add the carrots and celery stick to improve the stock.

 Add approximately 11⁄4 cups/300ml water, or enough to just cover the contents. Cover the pan, and simmer slowly until the meat comes off the pigeon bones — at least an hour.

 Do not allow the pan to come to a boil or the beef will toughen. Remove from the heat.

 4) When it is cool enough to handle, remove the steak and pigeons with a slotted spoon, and carefully pull the pigeon meat off the bones, keeping it as chunky as possible, and put it, with the livers from the cavity, with the steak. You should have a good thick sauce; if it is too thin, stir in the beurre manie a little at a time.

 Wait for it to cook the flour, and thicken before adding any more, until you have the right consistency.

 5) Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C/Gas Mark 5. Roll out two-thirds of the pastry and line a pie dish about 3 inches/8cm deep, keeping a good 1⁄4 inch/5mm of pastry above the lip of the dish to allow for shrinkage

 6) Prick the bottom of the pastry and bake blind for 12 minutes. Add the meat mixture and pour in enough gravy to come to within an inch of the top.

 Roll out the remaining pastry to cover the top, crimping the edges together. Make a vent in the center, and use the trimmings to decorate.

 You may like to use the point of the knife to make small slash marks in the shape of pigeon footprints — a nod to the “nicely cleaned feet” of the original recipe. Bake for 25– 30 minutes until the pastry is lightly golden, and cooked through

 7) To serve, this is a juicier pie than we are used to for picnics, so you will need plates, and knives and forks, in the Georgian manner

 Clean and season the pigeons well in the inside with pepper and salt. Put into each bird a little chopped parsley mixed with the livers parboiled and minced, and some bits of butter. Cover the bottom of the dish with a beef-steak, a few cutlets of veal, or slices of bacon, which is more suitable. Lay in the birds; put the seasoned gizzards, and, if approved, a few hard-boiled yolks of egg into the dish. A thin slice of lean ham laid on the breast of each bird is an improvement to the flavour. Cover the pie with puff paste. A half-hour will bake it.

Observation — It is common to stick two or three feet of pigeons or moorfowl into the centre of the cover of pies as a label to the contents, though we confess we see little use and no beauty in the practice. Forcemeat-balls may be added to enrich the pie. Some cooks lay the steaks above the birds, which is sensible, if not seemly. MARGARET DODS, THE COOK AND HOUSEWIFE’S MANUAL, 1826

 Bath Olivers
 These savory crackers (biscuits) were devised by William Oliver, an 18th-century physician in Bath after he realised the Bath Buns he had also invented were making his fashionable patients even fatter. They are perfect served with the English cheeses that the Georgian “higher sort” were beginning to enjoy. Makes 30–40 crackers

 Pinch of salt
3 3⁄4 cups/500g all-purpose (plain) flour
2 tablespoons/30g butter
1⁄4 oz/7g sachet active dried yeast
2⁄3 cup/150ml milk

 1) Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C/Gas Mark 3
 2) Sift the flour into a bowl and add the dried yeast and salt.Warm the butter and milk together, make a well in the flour and slowly add the liquid, stirring the flour into the center until you have a dough. Add some warm water if necessary
 3) Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth; put it back in the bowl, cover and let it rise in a warm place for 30 minutes
 4) Roll out well on a floured surface several times, folding the dough on itself, until it is very thin
 5) Cut out with a circular biscuit cutter and prick the surface with a fork
 6) Bake for 20–30 minutes until they are hard and bone-colored; if they are turning color, turn the oven down to 300°F/150°C/Gas Mark 2
 7) To serve: With a rich local dairy industry, Jane’s circle and characters were likely to have often served local cheeses, including the famous Somerset Cheddar.

 Mr Elton gives a clue to what a cheese course might consist of when he unromantically describes his whole dinner of the previous night to Harriet, when Emma overtakes them “and that she was herself come in for the Stilton cheese, the north Wiltshire, the butter, the celery, the beet-root and all the dessert”.

 Mrs Norris happily gets both a receipt for and a sample of “a famous cream cheese” from the housekeeper at Sotherton. Mrs Austen describes “good Warwickshire cheese” made in the “delightful dairy” at Stoneleigh Abbey.

 To Make Ollivers Biscuits Take 3llb of flour, 1⁄2 a pint of small beer barm. Take some milk and warm it a little put it to your barm and lay a spunge, let it lay for one hour. Then take a quarter of a pound of butter and warm up with some milk and mix your spunge and lay it to rise before the fire. Roll it out in thin cakes, bake it in a slow oven. (You must put a little salt in your flour, but not much, use them before the fire before you put them in the oven).

MARTHA LLOYD’S HOUSEHOLD BOOK
 Negus


This mulled wine, created by Colonel Francis Negus (d.1732), was served at the balls in Mansfield Park and The Watsons, and was often offered to guests before their chilly journey home. By Victorian times it was thought to be the thing for children’s birthday parties! This version is safer served to adults.

 Serves 16-20

 1 x 25 fl oz/75cl bottle of port
25 fl oz/750 ml water
1–2 tbsp brown sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
About 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg  Optional extra spices: 1 cinnamon stick and/or 8 whole cloves
Segments of orange and lemon, to serve
 1) Put the water in a saucepan and add the lemon zest, a tablespoon of sugar and the spices. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer very gently for 10–15 minutes. Add the lemon juice
 2) Strain, return to the saucepan and reheat. Add the port; taste it, and add a little more sugar if you like. Pour in the port and heat very gently to serving temperature. Put slices of lemon and/or orange into glasses before pouring in the Negus — or serve it from a pitcher (jug) 

Miss Debary's Marmalade
 Miss Debary was one of the “endless Debarys”; four sisters unloved by Jane who said they were “odious’” (letter to Cassandra 8 September 1816), and had bad breath! (letter to Cassandra, 20 November 1800). Marmalade was made from all kinds of fruit and eaten for dessert until the Scots made it from bitter Seville oranges and started serving it for breakfast at the end of the 18th century. 

Makes 6 x 1 lb (450g) jars

 1.5kg (3 1⁄4 lb) Seville oranges
 2 sweet oranges
1 scant gallon/3.5 litres water
Juice of 2 lemons
About 6 lb/2.75 kg preserving sugar

 1) Weigh the fruit and to each 18 oz/500g of fruit weigh out 26 oz/750g sugar. Quarter the fruit and cut off the rind, taking off a little of the pith if you want a sweeter marmalade
 2) Boil the rind in water for 11⁄2 –2 hours; there should be a third of the water left. When it is cool, cut the rind into thin slices about 3⁄8 –3⁄4 inch/1–2cm long; Georgian cooks called these “chips”.

 Chop the pulp and pick out the seeds (pips) and pith, or push it through a sieve. Put the chips, pulp and lemon juice into the water used to boil the rinds, and bring to a boil.

 Add the sugar and boil vigorously for twenty minutes, stirring to make sure it doesn’t catch on the bottom. When you have put the marmalade on to boil, leave a saucer in the fridge and put your jars on baking sheets into the oven at 350°F/180°C/Gas Mark 4 and leave them to sterilize for 20 minutes

 3) After 20 minutes, put a little of the marmalade onto the cold plate. If it sets, it is ready; if not, test every five minutes until you get a set
 4) Let the marmalade cool a little before decanting it into the hot jars. When it is cold, put wax paper on the surface, before adding the lids

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The 10 best English queens in history

History Extra


1) Bertha of Kent (539–c612)
Perhaps the most well known of all the pre-Conquest queens, Bertha played a crucial role in the establishment of Christianity in England. She was the daughter of the Christian king, Charibert I of Paris, who insisted that she be free to practise her own religion when she married the pagan king, Æthelbert of Kent.

 Bertha crossed the Channel with her chaplain, Bishop Liuthard, and the pair converted an old Roman building into a chapel. She discussed her beliefs with her husband, ensuring that he welcomed the pope’s missionary, St Augustine, when he arrived in 597. She also corresponded directly with the pope, with the pontiff flattering her with comparisons to Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine.

 Bertha and Æthelbert were buried together inside a Christian church in England’s first Christian kingdom.

 2) Eadgifu (c904–after 966)
Few English queens were as influential as Eadgifu, the great matriarch of the House of Wessex. At 20, she became the third wife of the elderly King Edward the Elder. The marriage was unsurprisingly brief, and she was rarely at court during the reign of her stepson, Athelstan (reigned 924–39).

 As Queen Mother, however, Eadgifu was pre-eminent, residing at court and advising her sons, Edmund (r939–46) and Eadred (r946–55). She was deeply involved in the monastic reform movement, patronising leading churchmen, including St Dunstan.

 After Eadred’s death, her grandson, Eadwig, confiscated her property when she offered her support to his younger brother, Edgar. On becoming king in 959, Edgar restored his grandmother to her property. By the 960s, Eadgifu was elderly and living in semi-retirement, but she maintained an important role in the royal family. Her last public appearance was at the refoundation of the New Minster at Winchester in 966.

 3) Matilda of Scotland (1080–1118)
Although a Scottish princess by birth, Matilda was also a descendant of the Anglo-Saxon kings of England, making her a dynastically important bride for Henry I, the son of William the Conqueror. 

Matilda was raised first at Romsey Abbey and then Wilton Abbey. Her aunt, Abbess Christina of Romsey, was anxious that her niece should become a nun. She forced the girl to wear a veil, although Matilda reportedly tore it off and stamped on it when her aunt left the room. On his accession to the throne in 1100, Henry cemented his position by marrying Matilda – overcoming church objections that she was a nun.

 The couple had two children but were frequently apart, with Matilda acting as regent of England during the king’s long absences in Normandy. She issued her own charters, and administered justice. She was also renowned for her charity, with calls for her canonisation following her death in 1118.

 4) Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122–1204)
As Europe’s greatest heiress, Eleanor of Aquitaine was married at 15 to the monkish Louis VII of France. The couple proved incompatible and, with no son, divorced in 1152.

 Within weeks Eleanor had married Henry of Anjou, who became king of England in 1154. Eleanor and Henry worked together to rule an empire that, as well as England, included much of modern France. By 1166, however, the couple, who had eight children, were estranged. Eleanor returned to Aquitaine in 1168.

 Five years later she rebelled against Henry, and consequently spent the next 16 years imprisoned in Salisbury Castle. She returned to prominence as queen mother in 1189, governing England on behalf of her absent son, Richard I. Following his death in 1199, Eleanor helped to secure the throne for her youngest son, John. She was John’s greatest and most active supporter, finally dying in April 1204 at the age of 82.

 5) Philippa of Hainault (1314–69)
Philippa of Hainault’s marriage to Edward III was agreed between his mother, Isabella of France, and her father, the Count of Hainault. The count provided troops for Isabella’s invasion of England, in which she deposed her husband, Edward II, in favour of her teenage son. Philippa and Edward couple were soon devoted to each other, producing 12 children.

 Edward’s reign was dominated by war with France, and Philippa often accompanied him on campaign. At other times she served as regent, with her army capturing the king of Scots at the battle of Neville’s Cross in 1346. She was also a merciful influence upon her husband, regularly interceding with him on behalf of captives. She is remembered as the founder of Queen’s College, Oxford and as a patron of scholars.

 Philippa, who was queen for just over 40 years, was the archetypal medieval queen, and one on whom many later queens modelled themselves.


6) Elizabeth I (1533–1603)
No list of the best English queens is complete without Elizabeth I, who reigned between 1558 and 1603. Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and had an unpromising start, being declared illegitimate following her mother’s execution. She survived interrogation and imprisonment during the reigns of her half-siblings to become England’s greatest ruling queen. 

Elizabeth presided over a period of exploration and great invention, as well as the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. She also ordered the execution of her Catholic cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1587. One of her first acts as queen was to create a Protestant religious settlement for the Church of England, which has proved lasting.

 At times ruthless, the queen refused to share power with a husband, although she ultimately paved the way for the smooth succession of her cousin, James VI of Scotland, and the union of the two crowns.

 7) Anne (1665–1714)
Anne may seem a surprising choice as one of England’s best queens but, as the first monarch of a united Great Britain, she deserves her place.

 Anne was the younger daughter of the Catholic James II and VII. She helped to spread rumours that James’s son, ‘the Old Pretender’, had been smuggled into his mother’s chamber in a warming pan at his birth in 1688. When her Protestant brother-in-law, William of Orange, invaded, Anne joined with him against her father.

 She was a virtual invalid by the time she succeeded William in 1702, but presided over an important period in British history, including the Duke of Marlborough’s victories in the War of the Spanish Succession, and the Act of Union of 1707, which established her as queen of Great Britain.

 Although she endured 17 pregnancies, Anne left no heir, and her Protestant cousin, George of Hanover, succeeded her in 1714.

 8) Caroline of Ansbach (1683–1737)
Caroline of Ansbach was one of the most politically influential queen consorts, and is popularly considered to be the power behind George II’s throne. She was highly intelligent, managing affairs in such a way that her husband never suspected her true influence. In 1727, for example, when George decided to replace his father’s prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole, with his own candidate, Caroline was able to quietly persuade her husband that it was his idea that Walpole should remain.

 She worked closely with Walpole throughout the reign, with the pair meeting to discuss policy privately before raising it with George, manipulating him to ensure that he followed their wishes. She also acted as regent during the king’s absences in Germany.

 Although he was never faithful, George was devoted to Caroline – on her deathbed when she urged him to remarry, he refused, saying he would only have mistresses. He was devastated when she died in 1737.

 9) Victoria (1819–1901)
Victoria, who came to the throne as an 18-year-old in 1837, holds the record as Britain’s longest-reigning monarch. Her reign of more than 60 years saw great changes: she presided over the peak of Britain’s power and influence, while her nine children married into most of the royal houses of Europe.

 Victoria married her cousin, Prince Albert, in 1840, and remained devoted to him for the rest of her life – she entered perpetual mourning following his death in 1861. She was, however, able to retain control of her affairs, regularly meeting with her prime ministers, as well as becoming empress of India in 1876. She reached the peak of her popularity at her golden jubilee in 1887 and diamond jubilee in 1897.

 Old age finally caught up with the queen on 22 January 1901, when she died at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.

 10) Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (1900–2002)
 While Victoria was Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, the longest-lived queen was Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (better known as the Queen Mother), who was 101 when she died in 2002.

 Her husband, George VI, became king unexpectedly in 1936 following the abdication of his elder brother, Edward VIII. The couple proved a successful team, with Elizabeth coming into her own during the Second World War. Hitler is supposed to have called her the most dangerous woman in Europe and, from the outset, she strove to improve British morale. She refused to allow her two daughters to be evacuated, while declaring that she could “now look the East End in the face” when Buckingham Palace was bombed.

 Elizabeth spent half a century as Queen Mother after her husband’s death in 1952, during which time she was arguably the most popular member of the royal family.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

5 things you (probably) didn’t know about the Tudors

History Extra




1) The Tudors should never have got anywhere near the throne
When Henry Tudor defeated Richard III at the battle of Bosworth in 1485, the vast majority of his subjects saw him as a usurper – and they were right. There were other claimants with stronger blood claims to the throne than his.

 Henry’s own claim was on the side of his indomitable mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, who was the great granddaughter of John of Gaunt, fourth son of Edward III, and his third wife (and long-standing mistress), Katherine Swynford. But Katherine had given birth to John Beaufort (Henry’s great grandfather) when she was still John’s mistress, so Henry’s claim was through an illegitimate line – and a female one at that.

 Little wonder that he was plagued by rivals and ‘pretenders’ for most of his reign.

 2) School was for the ‘lucky’ few
Education was seen as something of a luxury for most Tudors, and it was usually the children of the rich who received anything approaching a decent schooling.

 There were few books in Tudor schools, so pupils read from 'hornbooks' instead. Pages displaying the alphabet and religious material were attached to wooden boards and covered with a transparent sheet of cow horn (hence the name).

 Discipline was much fiercer than it is today. Teachers would think nothing of punishing their pupils with 50 strokes of the cane, and wealthier parents would often pay for a ‘whipping-boy’ to take the punishment on behalf of their child. Barnaby Fitzpatrick undertook this thankless task for the young Edward VI, although the two boys did become best friends.

 3) Tudor London was a mud bath
Andreas Franciscius, an Italian visitor to London in 1497, was horrified by what he found. Although he admired the “fine” architecture, he was disgusted by the “vast amount of evil-smelling mud" that covered the streets and lasted a long time – nearly the whole year round.

 The citizens, therefore, in order to remove this mud and filth from their boots, are accustomed to spread fresh rushes on the floors of all houses, on which they clean the soles of their shoes when they come in.”

 Franciscius added disapprovingly that the English people had “fierce tempers and wicked dispositions”, as well as “a great antipathy to foreigners”.

 4) Edward VI’s dog was killed by his uncle
Edward was just nine years old when he became king, and his court was soon riven by faction. Although the king’s uncle, Edward Seymour, had been appointed Lord Protector, he was undermined by the behaviour of his hot-headed and ambitious brother, Thomas.

 In January 1549, Thomas Seymour made a reckless attempt to kidnap the king. Breaking into Edward’s privy garden at Westminster, pistol in hand, Thomas tried to gain access to the king’s bedroom, but was lunged at by the boy’s pet spaniel.

 Without thinking, he shot the dog dead, which prompted a furore as the royal guard rushed forward, thinking that an assassin was in the palace. Thomas Seymour was arrested and taken to the Tower. He was found guilty of treason shortly afterwards, and his own brother was obliged to sign the death warrant.

 5) Elizabeth I owned more than 2,000 dresses
When her mother, Anne Boleyn, was executed, Elizabeth was so neglected by her father, Henry VIII, that she soon outgrew all of her clothes, and her servant was forced to write to ask for new ones. 

Perhaps the memory of this humiliation prompted Elizabeth, as queen, to stuff her wardrobes with more than 2,000 beautiful dresses, all in rich fabrics and gorgeous colours.

 But despite her enormous collection, she always wanted more. When one of her maids of honour, Lady Mary Howard, appeared in court wearing a strikingly ostentatious gown, the queen was so jealous that she stole it, and paraded around court in it herself.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Just How Rich Were the Inhabitants of Magna Graecia Really?

Ancient Origins


A team of archaeologists excavating in the Italian city of Paestum (Poseidonia), has uncovered the remnants of a palatial structure and indispensable ceramics. Almost 2,500 years ago, Poseidonia was part of Magna Graecia’s (“Great Greece’s”) most significant sanctuaries.

Magna Graecia’s Glorious Past
Magna Graecia was the name given in antiquity by the Romans to the group of Greek colonies which encircled the shores of Southern Italy, in the present-day regions of Campania, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria and Sicily that were extensively populated by Greek settlers.

 The name is not found in any extant author earlier than Polybius, who mentions the cities of Magna Graecia during the time of Pythagoras by using the expression, “the country that was then called Magna Graecia” (Pol. 2.39). However, many historians believe that the name possibly had arisen already at an early stage of Greek history, probably during a period that the Greek colonies in Italy were at the height of their power and prosperity and before many famous city-states of Greece had reached their peak.

The Greek expansion into Southern Italy began in the 8th century BC and the settlers would bring with them their Hellenic civilization, which was to leave a lasting imprint in Italy, such as in the culture of ancient Rome. Greek colonists founded a number of city states on both coasts of the peninsula from the Bay of Naples and the Gulf of Taranto southwards and all-round the narrow coastal plain of Sicily.


Ancient Greek colonies and their dialect groupings in Southern Italy (Magna Graecia). (Public Domain)

 In their hey-day these city states, founded by farmers, traders, and craftsmen, represented the “new rich” of the Greek world. Their temples were bigger, their houses more ornate, and their aristocracy lived a life of pampered luxury. Trade between the Italian colonies and their founding cities in mainland Greece prospered, and Magna Graecia became the center for two philosophical groups: Parmenides founded a school at Elea and Pythagoras another at Croton. Croton was also famed to have the finest physicians in the Greek world and was the home of one of the greatest ancient athletes, Milo, who was a six times champion in wrestling at both the Olympic and Pythian games.


Coins from Magna Graecia. (CC BY SA 2.5)

 New Findings at Poseidonia Clearly Show the Affluence of its Greek Founders
Despite many of the Greek inhabitants of Southern Italy getting totally Italianized during the Middle Ages, the immense impact of Greek culture and language has survived to present day. One major example of this is Griko people, an ethnic Greek community of Southern Italy that can be mainly found in regions of Calabria and Apulia.

Another major example would be all the discoveries that have taken place in Southern Italy, with the most recent being a block-built building and the new artifacts in Poseidonia as Greek Reporter recently reported.


Archaeologists excavating a structure which is believed to date from when the settlement of Poseidonia was founded in southern Italy. (Parco Archeologico di Paestum)

Poseidonia was established by Greek colonists from the Gulf of Taranto around 400 BC. The city would later fall under the rule of an indigenous Italic people known as the Lucanians, who changed the city’s name.

The remains of the recently unearthed large structure, which most likely served as either a palace or a very luxurious household, seems to have been constructed within the same time period as the Doric-style temples of the Greek gods Athena, Hera, and Poseidon - for which Poseidonia was best known in antiquity.




Second temple of Hera, also called Neptune temple or Poseidon temple, Paestum (Poseidonia), Campania, Italy. (Norbert Nagel/CC BY SA 3.0)

Besides the large building, as New Historian reports, archaeologists have also uncovered a respectable amount of Attic red-figure style pottery – a proficiency invented in Athens after the Greek Dark Age -which influenced the rest of Greece, especially Boeotia, Corinth, the Cyclades, and the Ionian colonies in the east Aegean – along with other luxury objects, which clearly show how rich the city’s Greek founders became catering to the travelers and believers who came to worship at the temples. Other finds include vessels used for cooking, eating, and drinking.


An Attic vase fragment found at the Paestum site in southern Italy. It depicts the Greek god Hermes. (Parco Archeologico di Paestum)

By Theodoros Karasavvas

Top Image: A richly decorate vase in the National Archaeological Museum of Paestum, Italy. Source: CC BY SA 3.0