Category Obscure History

The Quest of the House of Columbus

Everyone has heard of Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer who discovered the New World. Whilst the statement about his discovery is untrue (the Vikings under Leif Ericson had discovered Newfoundland centuries earlier), Columbus did initiate a prolonged period of contact between Europe and America. Despite the enormity of his discovery (and luck as Columbus had […]

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Harald Bluetooth: The Symbol of Communication

Today all of our phones and computers carry the initials of a 10th century Danish King, Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson (so-called for his love of blueberries). The companies behind the design of the Bluetooth wireless communication device (Ericsson, Nokia, Intel, Toshiba, and IBM) decided to take the name of this ancient Danish King because of his […]

The Pigna and the Apollo Belvedere: Two Treasures of the Vatican

Publius Cincius Slavius, whose name appears on the base of the sculpture, built the Pine Cone statue that now resides in the Court of the Pine Cone (Cortile della Pigna) in the Vatican, in the 1st century AD. The piece was originally a fountain that resided in the Temple of Isis in Campo Martius next […]

The Reverse Marco Polo

In the West everyone knows the story of the Croat, Marco Polo, who traveled from Italy to the court of Kublai Khan in China in the 13th century. Whilst it has become a fairly common belief that Marco Polo, in fact, didn’t go to China, but instead took his stories of China from merchant sailors, […]

666 Porticos to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca

Two days ago some friends and I decided to make the pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, on the outskirts of the city of Bologna. The route extends from the gate of the old city walls, the Porto Saragossa, all the way up the hills surrounding the city and on to […]

The Paradise Book

Bologna is a city in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy which, as with much of Italy, is full of points of historical interest. For better or worse the city is often overlooked by the millions of tourists that flock to Italy every year, however, this should not detract from Bologna’s importance. The city is home […]

Yamada Nagamasa: A 17th century adventurer, pirate and merchant.

Note: Yamada is the family name and Nagamasa is the given name following the Japanese naming system. Japan in the 16th and 17th century is often portrayed as a nation closed off to the world. However, the process of seclusion did not happen over night but rather over several years. Even during Japan’s 250 years […]

The Misfortune of the Last Saxon King

In England all school children learn of the Norman conquest of 1066. The story is of a war between three claimants to the English throne: Earl Harold Godwinsson of Wessex, Duke William the Bastard (later known as the Conqueror) of Normandy, and King Harald Hardrada of Norway. The King of England, Edward the Confessor died […]

The Man Who Ate Everything

Today there is a high social focus on healthy eating. Television is flooded with programmes detailing various peoples eating disorders from anorexia through to people too fat to leave the bed. However, in 18th century France there was a man who could put both ends of the spectrum to shame for this man was apparently […]

Egill’s Saga: A Viking’s Legend

The Icelandic Sagas are some of the greatest works of literature ever devised. They tell the stories of the first Viking settlers on Iceland, based on real people, and written in the manner of Lord of the Rings (Tolkien in fact used the sagas as inspiration for his writings). One of my favorite of the […]