History Rises From the Ashes

Any Questions?It’s been so long since this blog was updated, you probably thought it was history (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk).  Well unluckily for you it is not.  I want to try to get this thing rolling again, but I need your help.  Yes, you wandering Internet citizen.  You’ve exited the Information Superhighway at the cyber equivalent of Podunkville, and like the suspicious townsfolk of smalltown USA I have no intention of letting you leave until I get what I need.  Which in this case is just a historical question you’ve been needing the answer to.  Nothing too painful.  So, any question from any epoch about any person or any event and I’ll do my best to answer it accurately and maybe a little funny as sort of a bonus.  I said maybe.  Don’t hold me to funny.  That’s a lot of pressure.

Alright < deep breath >, I’m ready.  Fire away.


100 Years Ago

The average life expectancy was 47 years.

Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.

Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.

There were only 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads.

The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.

The average wage in 1907 was 22 cents per hour.

The average worker made between $200 and $400 per year .

A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year, a dentist $2,500 per year, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year, and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

More than 95 percent of all births took place at HOME .

Ninety percent of all doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION!

Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which

Were condemned in the press AND the government as “substandard.”

Sugar cost four cents a pound.

Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.

Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.

Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from

Entering into their country for any reason.

Five leading causes of death were:

1. Pneumonia and influenza
2. Tuberculosis
3. Diarrhea
4. Heart disease
5. Stroke

The American flag had 45 stars.

The population of Las Vegas , Nevada, was only 30.

Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and ice tea hadn’t been invented yet.

There was no Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.

Two out of every 10 adults couldn’t read or write.

Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.

Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at the local corner drugstores. Back then pharmacists said, “Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health.

Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.

There were about 230 reported murders in the ENTIRE ! U.S.A.

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)

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

History Books

BooksI’ve got a couple questions that I’ll hopefully have an answer for by this weekend.  Stay tuned for those.  In the meantime I thought I’d share a little secret for all you avid readers of history.  Its called the History Book Club.  Now, I know what you’re all thinking, “Great, he’s trying to rope me into the Columbia House of academia.  How many free books does he get if I sign my life away?”  But its not like that, honest.  If you sign up for the History Book Club you get four books, any in their catalog, for $1 each (plus S&H).  That’s right!  Just $1 each (plus S&H)!  But wait, if you buy a fifth book, you get it at 50% off (plus S&H).  But that’s not all!  You’ll also receive this handsome attache’ absolutely free!  And there’s nothing more to buy…ever!  That’s right folks, you get four books from our extensive catalog for $1 each, 50% off the regular club price of a fifth book, and a free attache’ tote (plus S&H) with nothing more to buy….ever!

This is a really good deal.  The only catch is that you need to be sure to cancel the monthly pick or it will show up in your mailbox and you’ll be charged.  But since there’s nothing more to buy….ever! you can simply cancel your membership as soon as your books arrive. I have been a member about four seperate times and have built quite a library, much of which I have not yet read.  I’ve become something of a book fiend which is ironic since in my younger days I was a master of passing classes without having read the material.  Weird how things work out.

Anyway, if you’re looking to expand your own library the History Book Club is a good way to do it.  If you need any suggestions on good history related books, I might have a few ideas.  Give me a topic, I’ll give you a book.  In case you were wondering, the four books I ordered this last time were as follows:

The Wizard of Menlo Park     Team of Rivals 

    The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid     The World Undone

CincinnatusThis was question asked by my professor, not a reader.  A reader has proposed a question and I do intend to answer it soon, so stay tuned for that.  In the meantime here is the answer to the above question, which was one of my assignments.

To me the greatest Roman was Cincinnatus. Not only for what he did for Rome, but for being the inspiration and role model of a great leader that would follow over 2000 years later.

In the very early days of the Republic, Cincinnatus had served as consul, but was really just a farmer at heart. He was known for his simplicity and virute and when crisis befell Rome, the Aequi and Volscians were threatening the city, the Senate pleaded with him to accept their appointment of him as dictator to save the city. Knowing this would mean the sacrifice of his farm and the possibility of starvation for his family, he answered duty’s call. The invaders were repelled and order restored.

With legally obtained dictatorial powers, he could have relatively easily refused to relinquish them. But being the quintessential virtuous Roman, he willingly gave up power and returned to his humble farm.

Similarly, in the late 18th century, George Washington would be the unanimous choice for President of the newly created United States. Many wanted to make him the king, but he refused such a title or its powers. He reluctantly left his farm at Mt. Vernon to do what he felt was his duty to lead the country through its crucial formative years. After two terms as President, there were no limits then, he more than willingly laid aside the mantle of power to return to his beloved Mt. Vernon. Cincinnattus was greatly admired by Washington and provided the model for a virtuous Republican leader 2000 years in the future.

Any Questions?My first college (junior college) history professor would always end a discussion with today’s title.  And now I pose it to you, the reader.  Any questions?  I promise it won’t take me months to answer like Josh’s did.  Well, I don’t promise, but I’ll try real hard.  So…….?