Archive for April, 2007

First things first; apologies for the lack of posts.  I’m not taking any classes right now, so I don’t have that as an excuse, but then again that also means I don’t have assignments which are then conveniently converted into posts.  So, my not having an excuse is my excuse.  Chew on that for a while.

 On to today’s topic….

 A while back I asked for questions that needed answering.  I received two:  Did Hitler really die in a fire or is he living in some other country under an assumed name? and Did you hear the rumor about Napoleon not dying as a island prisoner, but being swapped with one of his many doubles?

And now the answers.

Did Hitler really die in a fire or is he living in some other country under an assumed name?

No Hitler did not die in a fire.  So he is living in some other country under an assumed name?  No, he is not.  Here’s how it went down.

Hitler spent the waning days of World War II holed up in the Reich Chancellery bunker in the heart of Berlin.  By April 1945, the Soviet Red Army was slugging its way through the streets to reach the heart of the Third Reich.  When it became imminent that they would soon be knocking on the chancellery door, quite literally, and even he realized the war was lost, Hitler vowed to commit suicide rather than be captured.  On April 29th, Hitler dictated his will to his secretary Traudl Junge and later that night he and his longtime female companion Eva Braun were married in the bunker.  The next day, Hitler had a spaghetti lunch with his staff in the bunker and then he and Eva retired to his study.  At about 3:30 PM a gun shot was heard and Nazi party leader Martin Borman and Hitler’s valet opened the door to his office to find Hitler had shot himself in the temple and Eva Braun slumped over from an apparent cyanide capsule.  Both were obviously dead.

Shortly after, SS guards took the Hitlers into the Tiergarten of the Chancellery, above ground, and burned their bodies as Hitler had ordered.  The bodies had not been completely consumed by the fire, but due to Soviet shelling of the Chancellery the guards fled.

So, if this is indeed how Hitler died, why all the fuss about if he’s secretly living in Argentina or some place?  While the above account was reported in Hugh Trevor-Roper’s book The Last Days of Hitler in 1947, Berlin, and especially that part of Berlin, were in Soviet control at the end of the war, and thus they were in possession of Hitler’s remains.  The Soviet Union is not what we would call a real open society, and they didn’t release much information concerning what may have become of Hitler.  In 1968 a report on the autopsy conducted by the Russian intelligence agency SMERSH was widely published, but it was thought to be part of a misinformation scheme by the Soviets and thus not trustworthy.  It wasn’t until 1993 when KGB files were at last opened and confirmed what was already suspected.

 In 1970, the facility that contained the information regarding Hitlers’ remains final resting place, an unmarked, paved-over grave in Magdeburg, Germany, was to be turned over to the East German government.  Worried that the burial site may become some sort of Neo-Nazi shrine, KGB Yuri Andropov had the remains exhumed, re-burned and the ashes dumped in the Elbe river.

The speculation and conspiracy theories relating to Hitler not being dead, were no doubt spurred on by the USSR’s secrecy in the matter.  What also probably helped propagate the rumors were that many Nazi’s had in fact escaped, many to South America (including Final Solution architect Adolf Eichman, who Israeli agents hunted down and captured in 1960).  Also, Hitler had an uncanny knack for escaping attempts on his life.  One such attempt was the July 20 Plot, where a briefcase of plastic explosive was to be detonated, and in fact was, while Hitler was in a briefing.  For some reason, quite fortuitously for Hitler, calamitous for the rest of the world, the briefcase was moved either to the opposite end of the table from where Hitler was, or behind the heavy oak legs of the table, and the full force of the blast was deflected from it intended target, killing three others.

Did you hear the rumor about Napoleon not dying as a island prisoner, but being swapped with one of his many doubles?

No, I haven’t heard that one.

For further reading and viewing on Hitler’s last days:

The Fall of Berlin 1945 by Antony Beevor

Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer

Der Untergang (DVD)


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Final Exam: Ancient Rome

Marcus AurelisI had my final for my Ancient Rome class this past Thursday.  Being an idiot, I didn’t bother to login to the classroom until the day it was due, only to discover that I needed a proctor.  Hmmmm, this sounds strangly familiar.  In may do me some good in the future to read the syllabus a little more carefully.  But I probably won’t.  Anyway, after scrambling Sunday evening and Monday morning, I was able to secure the good graces of my professor and my stand-by proctor and was allowed until this past Thursday to take the final.  Here it is, complete with grade and feedback.

Question 1 (Worth 50 points)

In 200-300 words discuss how Augustus secured his hold over the institutions of Rome and established one man rule of the vast Roman Empire. Be sure to address how he neutralized the senate, gained control of the army, and promoted the arts and religion as allies in his quest for total control.

ESSAY SUBMISSIONThe Senate was already weakening by the time Augustus came to power. Civil wars had sapped its political strength, though it still retained a great deal of prestige. Augustus realized that the appearance of a functional Senate was critical in keeping law and order and in legitimizing his power in the eyes of the people and so instituted policies that gave this impression, while maintaining its actual political impotence, subject to his control. The Senate was stripped of its power in foreign affairs, military policy and financial duties. He also added more regulation regarding who could be a senator, creating an order of property qualified members and their sons, including reducing the number of Senators to 600. Other symbolic measures were to forbid the wearing of the laticlave by the sons of knights, as this was to be reserved for Senators and their sons. These measures succeeded in keeping the Senate prestigious, but not politically strong enough to challenge the emperor.Augustus realized that to retain control of the Empire, he had to retain control of the army. Having distinguished himself on the battlefield in the days of the Second Triumvirate he had the bonus of being already revered by most in the army. Add to this that all soldiers swore the sacramentum to him alone and that he chose the legions’ legates and the provincial governors, he all but guaranteed himself the loyalty of the army. The authority he exercised made him the over-general, if you will, all battles being fought for him and in his name, thus all victories were his. In addition he made provision for his veterans by way of a pension.

Augustus also saw the value in religion to advance his quest for power. Though himself religious, and in fact a restorer of many of the traditional religious rites, he was not opposed to exploiting it for political gain. To at once restore the priesthoods and elevate himself, he took on the titles of all the notable ones. He was also not above associating his reforms with their similar religious counterpart. In all this, he paved the way for the imperial cult. He claimed to be the son of a deity, his adoptive father Julius Caesar had been deified, and building on Hellenistic influences only helped to proliferate the concept of the imperial cult.


He also rebuilt much of Rome, always gave command of large armies to relatives, maintained proconsular powers in all of the provinces that contained legions.

Points earned on this question: 48

Question 2 (Worth 50 points)Edward Gibbon believed that the Roman Empire reached its zenith under the Antonine Emperors. In 200-300 words express your opinion concerning the Antonines and Gibbon’s theory. Cite specific examples of successes and failures. Be sure to include the following elements: foreign and miliatry policy, the economy, the arts and domestic political policy.

ESSAY SUBMISSIONEdward Gibbon is probably correct in his assessment of the Antonine Empire being the height of Rome. The Five Good Emperors’ rule was characterized, mostly, by peace and economic prosperity. Upon Commodus’ ascension to Emperor, a perceptible downward slope is evident.Under the Antonines, most provinces were prosperous economically. Agriculture had always been Rome’s greatest source of wealth, and still was under the Antonines, but the areas of industry and commerce also flourished. Mines and quarries were springing up all throughout the Empire. Manufacturing was also developing. Things like textiles, furniture, and glassware, among others began to be produced in relatively larger quantities. They were nothing on the order of the modern world, but beginning to grow. Commerce also expanded as trade routes to the east and Africa complemented those already extensively in place within the Empire.

The army at the time of the Antonines was a mostly defensive army. Its job was to protect the Empire from outside invasion. As such, it was often numerically smaller than at other times. This was partially offset by the high standards of training required and also by the use of forts, walls, and other defensive structures. There were in fact barbarians within the frontiers of the Empire, but these were to be integrated into the citizenry and protected thusly. Those barbarians outside the frontier were the enemy and must be kept at bay. Throughout the Antonine Empire this goal was attained. The threat of force by the Roman legions was as much an asset to defense, and peace, as the legions themselves were.

The Antonine Emperors saw themselves, for the most part, as the divinely guardians of Rome. They saw as their duty to protect and guide Rome. As such, they were absolutely confident that they alone were the ones to be in control. The Senate remained, but was more or less an administrative body and than a legislative one. The Emperor was in supreme control.


The great gift of the Antonines was that they solved the question of succession by adopting talented heirs. This avoided the curse of civil war and allowed the empire to prosper in peace.

Points earned on this question: 45

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