Here’s Geek God Review’s history features wrap-up for this week from Telegraph’s look back on the real reason for the Great Fire of London 350 years ago to Africa Globe’s stunning article on the 10 other great empires in Africa apart from Ancient Egypt.
The Great Fire of London, 350th anniversary: How did it start and what happened?
As history would have it, the fire that engulfed London for four days began on Pudding Lane. A baker by the name of Thomas Farriner was blamed for the blaze – something he denied for the rest of his life. The small blaze spread between September 2 and 5 1666, leaving 436 acres of the city completely destroyed. On it’s 350th anniversary, the capital is hosting a series of events to mark the dark period in its history. What happened? In the early hours of Sunday, September 2 1666, a small fire started on or close to Pudding Lane, in the centre of London.
The shop where the fire is believed to have begun was that of Thomas Farriner, King Charles II’s baker.
In the Museum of London’s exhibition ‘Fire! Fire!’ – the blame if firmly placed on Mr Farriner’s bakery. On display is a map which would have been used by those in charge of rebuilding the city. One point on the map reads: “Mr Farriner’s grounde where the fyer began.”
However, the baker claimed for the rest of his life that his oven had been properly raked out before he went to bed and could not have been the cause. (*1)
10 African Civilizations Equally Or More Amazing Than Ancient Egypt
Unknown to most people, hundreds of smaller kingdoms have popped up throughout Africa’s history, with some eventually growing into powerful empires. These vast nations united Africa, managed wealthy trade routes, and controlled a potluck of cultures.
While a Christian revolution was occurring in Europe, a powerful kingdom emerged on the African continent. In present-day Ethiopia, the Axum Empire became one of the largest markets of northeastern Africa with its epic trading and naval strength. As traders from this country were going past the Nile River and into Alexandria, Axum dominated the coast of the Red Sea until the seventh century.
Besides influencing other superpowers in Africa, Europe, and Asia, this empire created Ge’ez, one of Ethiopia’s original written script, and had throngs of foreign visitors. One Persian writer hailed Axum as “one of the four greatest powers of the world.” Still, little is known about this impressive African civilization. (*2)
Everything you think you know about the collapse of the Soviet Union is wrong
Every revolution is a surprise. Still, the latest Russian Revolution must be counted among the greatest of surprises. In the years leading up to 1991, virtually no Western expert, scholar, official, or politician foresaw the impending collapse of the Soviet Union, and with it one-party dictatorship, the state-owned economy, and the Kremlin’s control over its domestic and Eastern European empires.
Neither, with one exception, did Soviet dissidents nor, judging by their memoirs, future revolutionaries themselves. When Mikhail Gorbachev became general secretary of the Communist Party in March 1985, none of his contemporaries anticipated a revolutionary crisis. Although there were disagreements over the size and depth of the Soviet system’s problems, no one thought them to be life-threatening, at least not anytime soon. (*3)
The 100-year-old carve-up bleeding the Middle East today
Certain images will indelibly mark memories of this year and one will be the gut-wrenching video of a five-year-old pulled from rubble in Aleppo with the frozen stare of trauma, his face streaked with soot and blood. “Cease fires” come and go. Hell, it seems, has a special purchase on Syria. When, for heaven’s sake, can it end? No one can answer.
When did it begin? That, at least, we can explain.
Rarely can one moment and one place be fixed as a trigger for events that unravel a whole part of the world for more than a century. But the blood-saturated disintegration of today’s Syria and much of the surrounding carnage and anomie have their origins 100 years ago, in the summer of 1916, and in British-ruled Cairo.
It was there that critical parts of a secret deal were put in place that carved up control of the Middle East – a land grab that could be completed only by having no regard for promises made and by betraying people who had shed much blood in expectation of those promises being met.
The deal was the Sykes-Picot Agreement, made between Britain, France and Czarist Russia, and named for its principal authors, Sir Mark Sykes for Britain and M. Francois Georges Picot of France. (*4)
10 Mysteries of the Ancient World Solved
Crypto-anthropologists have just cracked a Viking code from the late Middle Ages that remained tantalizingly unsolved for many years. This happened thanks to a miniature Rosetta Stone, a simple engraving on which two individuals recorded their names in both coded and basic runic.
Salivating at the prospect of deciphering the meticulously guarded secret or at least some scandalous gossip, researchers instead stumbled upon an 800-year-old jest: The message read “kiss me.”
Apparently, coded writing was used quite differently in the past—for education and enjoyment rather than overt secrecy. Some tricksters even made a game of it, creating runes that boastfully challenged others to “interpret me if you can.”
This was especially tough for the jotunvillur code, which by its nature renders messages completely ambiguous. The desired characters (runes) are swapped for the last sound in their name. For example, maor (or “m”) becomes “r.”
Overall, the jotunvillur code reveals nothing critically important, just an amusing peek at some unexpectedly playful Viking antics. (*5)
3 Historical Parent-Child Relationships as Creepy as Donald and Ivanka Trump’s
Real-life trash monster Donald Trump has gone on record saying how he’d date his daughter Ivanka if she wasn’t related to him. Trump also took suggestive pictures with Ivanka when she was a teen. But he wasn’t the only figure from history to have a questionable relationship with his kids…
Agrippina the Younger and her son, Nero: The Roman Emperor Nero ruled in the first century C.E., but his creepy legacy has survived two millennia. His mother was royal heiress Agrippina the Younger, a descendant of Mark Antony and Augustus, and she retained a ton of control over her son, especially after she married her uncle, Claudius, and tried to position her own kid as Claudius’s heir. She probably poisoned her husband to get Nero on the throne! (*6)