Espirit de Corp of the Greek Phalanx

The phalanx was the embodiment of the esprit de corp of the Greek city-states from roughly the thirteenth century to the fourth century BCE.  It was the development of the phalanx that culminated into this bravado of strict military rules, conduct, and valor of waging war that created an atmosphere parallel to team sports of the twentieth century.

It was the culture of phalanx combat that allowed non-professional soldiers to wage war. After the battle this enabled the citizen-warriors to quickly return to their homes, farms, and businesses and carry on life as normal.  Strict adherence to the values of this code spared the cities and countryside of the Greek peninsula of the devastation of Total War. However, the philosophy of phalanx permeated through a dozen centuries after its effective usefulness that led to such military fiasco as the Battle of the Teuoburg Forest, the Battle of Hasting, the Charge of the Light Brigade, Gettysburg, and even the Battle of the Little Big Horn, to name just a few.  It was the idea that battle was fought on level ground, between two equal armies, with specific quarter given to either side, formal rules of engagement, retrieval and burial of the dead, and day time battles.  Professional soldiers were looked down upon, as well as secondary or auxiliary units of cavalry, archers, and ancillary combat units.

Much like team sports of today, the phalanx marched often to per-determined fields of play.  These battlegrounds were flat open plains and combat took place in the middle of the day, lasting no longer than a few hours.  There was the expectation that each side would abide by strict rules of contact, parley, battle, and withdraw.  Battle was like that of a Sunday afternoon game, only the losers of phalanx combat often lay dead on the field and the score of the match meant life and death.

In the twilight of the Dark Ages, prior to twelve hundred BCE in the Greek mainland, battles fought between tribes and small kingdoms could not clearly be called warfare since the combatants had no organization, strategy, or tactics. It was during this time that bands of men would simply march, without formation or drill, towards the enemy and attack with whatever means that suited them.  Such conflicts were often little more than brawls or riots, killing indiscriminately and ravaging the lands of the countryside. There were no rules of engagement or forms of military conduct, and thus it often devolved into a cloud of disjointed attackers in full and open melee.

It was the spirit of camaraderie that grew out of the city-states, most aptly Sparta and Athens, but all of the small kingdoms of the Greek peninsula that began to change how combat was fought. As the Dorian civilization waned, the city-states began to flourish with massive population explosion, robust trade, innovations in marine technology, and perhaps most importantly the development of advanced metallurgy.

It was the discovery of copper and tin, with the culmination of the two metals that composed bronze that gave these early civilizations a leg up on all manner of trade goods and most importantly military weaponry. From the furnaces came the ability to forge spears and swords, as well as armor. “Most modern estimates of the weight of hoplite equipment ranged from fifty to seventy pounds for the panoply of greaves, shield, breastplate, helmet, spear, and sword.”[1] The panoply, the whole suit of armor as used by the hoplites, was just one facet of the complicated development of ideals and methods of waging war using the strategy of the phalanx.

The hoplite had at his disposal a number of items to protect him in combat.   First, the shield was an integral piece of equipment that often weighed sixteen pounds and was round and concave.  The use of the shield was more than to protect the user, but used in as much to protect his fellow soldier to his right (since the shield was held in the left hand).   The composition of the shield was that of any number of hardwood cores and encased in sheets of bronze. What was unique about the hoplite shield was, “the distinctive arm and handgrips, the porpax and the antilabe, which for the first time distributed the weight all along the left arm rather than concentrating it at the hand and wrist alone.”[2] The nature of the shield and its use to protect the man to the right, often made the entire regiment slowly drift to the right, as the men on the inside of the shield wall sought to protect themselves as much as possible.

The true protection of the hoplite came with the breastplate, however.  This was the anchor to which the hoplites surrounded themselves with the rest of the panoply and was composed of two sheets of heavy bronze hammered into the general musculature of the torso. .   It was held in place by heavy leather straps or laces, upon the shoulder.  The breastplate encased the warrior in a highly resilient piece of armor that warded off spear thrusts, arrows, stones, and blunt shock. The greatest discomfort of the breastplate was its lack of ventilation, often causing the soldier to be drenched in sweat in a matter of minutes of marching or combat. This resulted in, strangely enough, hypothermia on any but the warmest of days.

The favored helmet of the hoplite was known as the Corinthian helmet and was a massive bronze shell that covered the entire head, neck, and face, leaving only small slits for the eyes, nose, and mouth.  The helmet was exceedingly uncomfortable to wear and use, as depicted in many vases and literal descriptions. that piece of the panoply was often thrust up and over the soldier’s head until the last minute of combat.  It does not need to be said that while the helmet was in place, almost all senses were obliterated. Luckily, the tactics of the phalanx did not necessitate the need to hear or see well.

Outside of the confines of the protection of the shield and breastplate, the hoplite was in need of protection for the shin and calves.  This area was augmented with the use of a bronze piece of armor called the greaves. Unlike early armor to protect the lower legs, the hoplite greaves snapped over the leg staying in place by the sheer elasticity of the metal – it did not require clamps, clips, strings, or other attaching laces to hold them in place.

Finally, the panoply of the hoplite concludes with the spear.  This weapon saw an exponential growth in design and capabilities over the course of several hundred years.  In its original form, it was nothing more than a short, heavy spear with a head of bronze.  It was the choice weapon of the Greek phalanx,  “. . .men who had no taste for the bow or missile and contempt for soldiers who would or could not come in close to fight.”[3] Over the course of its development, the spearhead became iron and the butt of the shaft developed into a secondary edge, with a spike or heavy knob.  The spear shaft also grew from three feet to lengths of over eighteen feet long.  The major obstacle, but also bonus, to the spear was its sheer size and reach, which allowed them to extend deep into enemy ranks and also ward of melee and missile attacks.

With the use of the panoply, came new ways of military drill and organization.  Unlike in the dark past, the Greeks assembled themselves into dense rectangular squares of men, eight ranks deep.  Although not professional soldiers, with little time to train, the phalanx did require some discipline in order to keep the formation intact.  Often this would be achieved by anchoring elder or more experienced warriors in key positions within the square, such as the corners and center of each group.  The use of the spear, and to some lesser extent the sword, required very little expertise because it was all about the cohesion of the group, rather than the individual.  Combat was akin to two rams charging each other with their heads down; it required little knowledge of use of the weapon to simply smash into your opponent.  Like the reverse of a tug of war, or perhaps that of a sumo match, each side sought to literally push the other from the field of play, with the goal of breaking the ranks of the other side and causing a route.   Once the enemy phalanx was broken, it was easy to trample and stab the retreating enemy.

The panoply of the phalanx and the tactics was just two small parts of the culture of the new terms of waging war. As the soldiers were not professional warriors, but mere citizens of the city-states, the art of conflict could better be understood more as a sporting event than true gruesome war. The engagements were seen as matches of rivalry, more than pure destruction of the other side (both in terms of men but also of their land and towns).  Perhaps the only difference between the phalanx and modern sporting events were the lack crowds of observers, though it is conceivable that there were large parties of non-combatants at the battles since each warrior often had in his attendance a number of slaves or family to carry his panoply, as well as the baggage train of cooks, slaves, young boys, and perhaps even curious onlookers. One could argue that this flare for combat and regimented rules were the progeny of gladiatorial combat that manifested itself in the Roman Empire, where tens of thousands watched battles of hundreds of men die daily in the coliseum.  “Philip celebrated the one thousandth anniversary of the founding of Rome in giving games with the following were killed: one thousand pairs of gladiators, thirty-two elephants, ten tigers, sixty lions, thirty leopards, and six hippos”[4]

Each city-state had their teams, composed of ordinary men of the community.  The citizens were expected to fight, but the commoner did not shirk or dread the call, but openly sought and accepted the commitment. “The unique cohesiveness that existed among individuals within a phalanx, account for much of the success achieved by Greek hoplites, especially in contrast to foreign troops. Although fragmented by city-state rivalries, badly outnumbered, hastily assembled, and plagued by outright betrayal, the Greek defenders during the Persian Wars routed the Eastern invaders in nearly every land battle in which they met.”[5]

The phalanx of each city-state was drawn together by the sheer pride, patriotism, and honor to serve.  Regiments of men were comprised from kinship and age, supplemented by close living proximity as citizens. “Unlike most modern armies, the bonds between hoplites on the line did not originate within military service or in weeks of shared drill in boot camp; they were natural extensions of already long-standing peacetime friendships and kinships.”[6]  This pride in serving is still evident even today, “Years after the end of the Second World War, American veterans of the armored divisions of the Third Army could still recall with undisguised pride, ‘I rolled with Patton’.”[7]

Subtracting the idea that armies were bent on destroying the enemy lands, as in the tactic of Total War, the phalanx concentrated on the honor of combat. Rules of engagement such as fighting in clear and open terrain, fighting during the day, allowing both sides to remove the dead and injured from the combat, signaling to each other when combat was to commence (such as the blowing of horns, waving of flags, or the beat of drums), and to some lesser extent the use of “dishonorable” forms of combat including archery and cavalry are signs of the phalanx mentality.

With the success of the Greek city-states to repel the Eastern invaders in the Persian War, perpetuated the idea of phalanx combat for the next two thousand years.   Hundreds of years later, during the early development of the Roman Republic, the use of the phalanx style army were used in the legions. Men were organized into units of 100 men called centuries, commanded by a general called a centurion. Just as the phalanx marched into combat in tight formation, so did the legions of Rome.  During the Punic Wars, the strategy of the phalanx proved disastrous.  At the battle of Cannae, eighty-five thousand Romans marched against half that many under the leadership of Hannibal. It was after this loss that the Romans changed their battle formations to a much more open contingency, allowing for greater flexibility in the ranks.  With the new formations, the Romans fared significantly better, such as “with the lopsided numbers did not work to the Seleucid king’s advantage. The checkerboard of Roman maniples was like an accordion. The legion could expand or contract by simply opening or closing gaps between the maniples; or it could increase or shrink the distance between the ranks. The Romans typically maintained two-foot intervals between soldiers to allow room for swordplay, with each soldier occupying a front of about six feet. The front of a 5,000-man legion could cover as much as 850 yards, or contract to less than 400 yards”.[8]

Unlike the Greeks, however, the Romans were a militaristic society, with the mindset of Total War at their disposal – the sacking and destruction of cities, towns, and countryside was simply how they waged war. This process of looting and destruction fluctuated over the course of wars for the next thousand years, but the idea of the free citizen army and the ideals of the phalanx continually crept back into armies around the globe.

We can see throughout the next two millennia how the phalanx style of a “bravado military conduct” often forced the hands of the combatants into catastrophic and often ill conceived situations. This was aggravated by the development of weaponry that realistically stripped the need for the phalanx style formation.  With the use of gunpowder and its implementation in combat, we truly begin to see the idiocy of close packed formation of troops, but it still took several hundred years to break that military strategy.  Such as the battle of Waterloo, the engagements of the American Revolution, the Anglo-Zulu War, the American Civil War, and perhaps even as late as the Vietnam War.   The idea of guerrilla warfare never found heart with commanders of Western Warfare, still relying on the military code developed by the Greek phalanx two thousand years earlier.

The idea of Total War came to fruition in the Roman Empire and continued on and off throughout historical battles up until today.  The new paradigm of war harkens back to the Dark Ages of the Greek peninsula, with small squad level tactical engagements of terrorists or guerilla combatants rather than huge deployments of divisions of men and machinery.  However, for most civilized nations the idea of a Total War concept still sits uncomfortable in the society’s consciousness.  The idea of meeting your enemy like that of the Greek phalanx did two thousand years ago still is held in great esteem.


[1] Victor D. Hanson, The Western Way of War: Infantry Battles in Classiscal Greece (Berkley, 1994), 56.

[2] Ibid. 65.

[3] Victor D. Hanson, The Western Way of War: Infantry Battles in Classiscal Greece (Berkley, 1994), 83.

[4] Grant Showerman, Rome and the Romans (Macmillan Company, 1956), 259.

[5] Victor D. Hanson, The Western Way of War: Infantry Battles in Classiscal Greece (Berkley, 1994), 117.

[6] Ibid. 121.

[7] Ibid. 125.

[8] Michael J. Taylor, Fear the Phalanx: the Macedonian formation terrified opponents–and at times overwhelmed the vaunted Roman legion (MHQ: Quarterly Journal of Military History, 2011). Article.

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The Life of William Cecil, the First Lord of Burghley

William Cecil was as much as an advisor to Queen Elizabeth as her moral and intellectual spirit, as a renaissance man defining English culture and setting a precedent for centuries of noble and selfless service to the crown.   In 1954 Robert Bolt wrote a play for the BBC radio called A Man for All Seasons concerning the then contemporary Chancellor of England, Sir Thomas More.  The plot centered around Thomas More as he confronts Henry VIII’s desire to divorce Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn.  The play and movie accentuated his principles and honor in the face of royal decree.  I contend that a more honorable and selfless man is reflected in William Cecil, the First Baron of Burghley, as the Real Man For All Seasons and my deductions are explained in this paper.

It is said to understand William Cecil it is obligatory to understand his life and his personal connection to the Tudors, as both have roots into the Welsh lineage.  When Henry sought the English crown, it was the Welsh who came to his aid.  Mustering a large contingent of able bodied men, Rhys Ap Thomas sworn fealty and allegiance to Henry, was a powerful man in the south of Wales. In his service was a man named David Phillips that was a servant to Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor. As we shall see, this is the seed that germinated into William Cecil’s rise to fame and glory, although still two generations away.

William Cecil’s Heritage

Third son of David Phillips was a well established gentleman of the court named David Sitsylt.  The latter David was well educated and also served the soon-to-be king in the battle Bosworth.   The engagement which took place on August 22nd, 1485 and was the ultimate battle of the War of the Roses, the civil war between the Yorks and house of Lancaster. The end result of this battle was the death of Richard III and Henry Tudor seizing the English Crown.  For his great achievements on the battlefield, David Sisylt was rewarded by becoming one of the king’s yeoman, an elite body of knights that protected the king and served as his personal bodyguard.   When he became one of the king’s yeomen, he anglicized his last name to Cecil. It is thus that the name of Cecil came to be.

At the still young age of 35, David Cecil entered public service by gaining the position of the Freedom of the Burroughs, an honorary title that gave the person the position of self-governing of a land or shire.  The conferment gave special permissions and privileges to the individual.  For Cecil’s case it allowed him closer relationship with David Phillips and ultimately the executor of his will. David Phillips was the squire to the Henry VII and this allowed David Cecil to follow the royal family through all the pageantry and regal affairs. From 1506 the two managed the royal house of King’s Cliffe, which subsequently would be the house where William Cecil would be born in 1520.

Even more convenient to the situation was that the next house over from the Cliffe, was the estate of Henry’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort. The house and the great lands surrounding it was the manor of Maxey.

She was a calculating and shrewd woman possessing all the genuine qualities of a regal lady — smart, ambitious, and full of pomp and circumstances. She made it very well known that her heraldic badge, her family coat of arms if you like, were often shown mixed elegantly with that of the revered John the Gaunt, Earl of Lancaster and Earl of Derby, the fourth son of King Edward III.  She did this to expressly show the subjects that she and her family was of royal blood and that her son Henry VII was truly in line and able to be king of Britain.

She was active in the plot to kill Richard III, but pious and the founder of many religious organizations including The Brothers and Sisters of St. Catherine’s guild, as well as the chapter of the Holy and Blessed Virgin and Martyrs.  This religious organization met several times a year to give alms, but also to swear a loyal oath to one another in the protection of the lands of Britain.  It was here that David Cecil’s wife, Alice, was a member and also a friend to Lady Margaret Beaufort. Alice having sworn allegiance to the guild, basically sewn her relationship with Margaret in a tight knit bundle.

Born in 1520 in Lincolnshire by his parents of Richard Cecil and Jane Heckington, Cecil’s father was the Groom of the Robes, Constable of Warwick, and Castle and High Sheriff of Rutland.   This is where William Cecil was born and brought up, and though no records exist as to his early years one could imagine that it was a life of relative splendor interspersed with grand engagements with both the local gentry and the subjects of the land. The nearby town of Stamford was a quiet and provincial hamlet, but was on the crossroads of the rich and lucrative wool trade. William’s father was rarely at home, having duties far ranging with court obligations so much so that his son relied on his grandfather David Cecil who was long retired from courtly affairs and intrigue, but he was still the king’s man in Stamford.  It has been recorded that at the age of twelve William’s grandfather was the sheriff of Northampton shire and served as the justice of the peace.  It was these early and formative years that the young William would have learned of the War of the Roses, the early Tudor family, and the social rank and distinction between commoner and royalty. The concept of such things as honor, nobleness, selfless service, and undying gratitude was ingrained upon him by both his grandfather but also his relationship with the Tudor family.

In 1526 his father bought the nearby town and hamlet of Burghley and Little Burghley, and by the end of 1530 William had a sister.  It would come to pass that he would eventually have three sisters but no brothers. With his father purchasing the nearby hamlet and his subsequent passing, William Cecil would become the First Baron of Burhley.

Young William Cecil

The young William was known for his shrewd and perceptive manner, and having learned the rigors of academic life at St. John’s College in Cambridge he would carry that ability to analyze a situation and offer up a kaleidoscope of opinions across a gamut of possibilities to his dying days. William went off to Cambridge when he was just fourteen years old, the city then was fetid and disgusting with low lying buildings, the streets filled with offal and open sewage, but Cecil would come to adore and cherish the city where he would again be taught rigors of academic life, discipline, rule of law, and of routines and order. Ironically the school that taught William to be a martyr of the Catholic cause, he would one day become a passionate Protestant in the reign of Elizabeth I shaping the country towards a non-Catholic nation.

While at St. John’s College he met up with the elite of English educators such as Roger Ascham and John Cheke. Both of these men would later hold the honor as tutor to Prince Edward and also the public Orator of the University. Professor Cheke would later also become a doctor, a priest, and the head of the college. He was the finest Greek scholar of the day. William Cecil was tasked at learning the depth and scope of Roman Catholicism and also picked up the unique talent of reading Greek from Cheke.

After six years of study, William still had not reached a degree but more troubling than that was in his family’s opinion he was having a dangerous liaison with John Cheke’s sister.  In a bold and abrupt move his father moved William from the college to Gray’s Inn, but it proved a futile travel as in the only brash and impetuous move he would ever make, he married Mary Cheke in May of 1541.  In December of 1542 Mary gave birth to their only child, a boy named Thomas Cecil, but with great heartache and remorse, Mary passed away, perhaps from a second child birthing or outbreak of some disease, in 1543 leaving William without wife and in London.

William entered his rebellious early twenties, having left his son back in his family’s home he maintained an easy and what we would call a wild lifestyle in the burgeoning city of London.  There is not much known about this time in the latter half of Henry VIII’s reign, but a an interesting anecdote has been passed down of the sorts of behavior and trouble that he may have gotten himself into and out of:

‘But as his years and company required, he would many times be merry among young gentlemen, who were most desirous of his company for his witty mirth and merry temper. Among the rest, I heard him tell this merriment of himself. That a mad companion of his, while he was thus at Gray’s Inn, enticed him to play. Whereupon in a short time he lost all his money, bedding, and books to his companion; having never used play before. And being afterwards among his other company, he told them how such a one had misled him; saying he would presently have a device to even with him.  And he was as good as his word! For with a long trunk he made a hole in the wall, near his play fellow’s bed and in a fearful voice he spake thus, through the trunk,

“O mortal man repent!  Repent they horrible time consumed in play, cozenage and such lewdness as thou has committed, or else thou are damned and cannot be saved!”

Which being spoken at midnight, when he was all alone, so amazed him as drove him into a sweat of fear. Most penitent and heavy, the next day, in presence of the youths, he told with trembling, what a fearful voice spake to him at midnight, vowing never to play again.  And calling for Mr. Cecil, asked him forgiveness on his knees and restored all his money, bedding, and books. So two gamesters were both reclaimed with this merry device, and never played more.

Less than three years after the death of Mary, in 1546 William married the daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke,  her name was Mildred.  She was most certainly not as beautiful or caring as Mary, but was much more suitable in the eyes of his Father who saw her as calculating, intelligent, and learned.  With this move, William reconnected with his father which washed away any prior resentment and dissatisfaction he had with William.  A rewritten will of Richard Cecil incorporated him into titles, land, and a small allotment of money per month, thus sealing his baronage in the lands of Burghley.

Another story of his young life has survived the centuries is his penchant for writing writs and letters.  In one such letter he wrote, and which still survives today in the library of Burghley, is a promissory note of 50 pounds. This would have been a considerable amount of money at that time. The note was written to Mrs. Pen begging for the loan, although the exact reason is unclear it may have been for his marriage plan with Mildred.  Amazingly, this note also fell into the hands of some priests of the court.  In a chance meeting with them, he debated in Latin and they were of such profound awe of the young man with such knowledge that the court was all the talk about the “beardless man” who could thwart the priests.  The king became aware of William Cecil and had an appointment with him.  Although not particular clear and perhaps open to debate, but some have suggested that it was this device that got William the office of “custos brevium”  (Latin for Keeper of the Writs)with an annual salary of 240 pounds a year.

Somerset and the Dangerous Years

It is not entirely clear on when William Cecil was first introduced and then entered the house of Somerset.  But it was his service with Edward Seymour, the Duke of Somerset, Lord Protector of England that catapulted Cecil into the daily affairs of the court.  Edward Seymour was brother to Jane Seymour, the third consort to Henry VIII.  His lineage could also be traced back to William the Conqueror.

At the age of twenty-six William Cecil entered public service, but not in that of the king, but for Edward Seymour. He became the Duke’s right hand man and William’s name began to appear on official documents and letters to the court starting in 1547.  It was not long before the royal court began to take notice of this young man, and where others prickled at the many egos, Cecil eloquently and deftly managed to befriend the many royal personalities.

It was during this time that Cecil experienced his first taste of combat and of war.  He was not at the front lines, but accompanying the Lord Protector, Duke Somerset, who was sent to Scotland to crush the rebellion that was occurring there. At The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, the fight raged and could have turned against the English if not for a bold and provocative charge of heavy cavalry and the relentlessly pounding cannons.  In the end, more the 10,000 Scots lay dead on the field and the English prevailed.

Such travesty and carnage must have had a profound effect on the kindred spirit of William Cecil, who for almost his entire life was sheltered and protected against the ravages of war, battle, and the gruesome spectacles of the fields of glory.  It is evident from this firsthand account of such unrelenting and unparalleled grim scenery that Cecil no doubt encountered:

Soon after this notable strewing of their footmen’s weapons, began a pitiful sight of the dead corpses lying dispersed abroad, some their legs off, some but houghed, and left lying half-dead, some thrust quite through the body, others the arms cut off, diverse their necks half asunder, many their heads cloven, of sundry the brains pasht out, some others again their heads quite off, with other many kinds of killing. After that and further in chase, all for the most part killed either in the head or in the neck, for our horsemen could not well reach the lower with their swords. And thus with blood and slaughter of the enemy, this chase was continued five miles in length westward from the place of their standing.

Fall From Grace

From the start William Cecil excelled in the company of the Duke of Somerset, easily out performing and contributing greatly to his affairs and dealings with the royal court. So much so, that in 1548 William became Somerset’s private secretary.  It was during this time that William also started to sit in on Parliament, although it is unaccountable as to how often and to what complexity and capacity that he interacted with the august body.

The fall from grace with the Tudor reign began to appear in the summer of 1549.  As with any organized regime, compliance with accepted norms of behavior and knowing when to act or react cannot be over emphasized. The dilemma that arose was completely the fault of the Duke of Somerset and his driving desire to enact new social programs, but the problem with new ideas is that you must have the cooperation of the gentlemen of the court and to the king of the land.  In this case, Edward was a young and weak king, and more so Somerset began to listen to the wrong powers and people in the court. As Somerset pursued his political agenda, a new form of social responsibilities, close friends began to see the danger in his pressing goals.  His close advisor, William Paget, sent him dozens of letters asking, if not demanding, that he resist the temptation to pursue such radical ideologies. William Paget wrote dire letters trying to impress on to Somerset that he was ‘not’ the king, and his speech and mannerism was alienating and causing great concern with the royal court.

As Duke of Somerset’s personal secretary, William Cecil would have been obligated to follow and support the gentleman even as his career and position of society  unraveled quickly.  By September of that year there was a rampant and growing fear of a plot against the king, if not completely unfounded it did rankle religious conservatives such as the earls of Arundel and Southampton. On October 6th it became so alarming, that the king and his family were moved in secret to Windsor and a lengthy discussion on what to be done with Somerset ensued.  The negotiations was proceeded over by Archbishop Cranmer and Somerset’s colleague and friend William Paget. Again it was unclear if William Cecil had any input on the decisions that were handed down or not, but Somerset and all of his gentlemen and servants would be included in the verdict. In the end, the Duke’s powers were highly diminished and his relationship with the king was at an end.  Cecil found himself in the Tower of London for 3 months for his association with Somerset, but worse had to basically restart his political career over once the Somerset affair was done with.   The Duke of Somerset was sent to the Tower of London as well, and to the astonishment of many he was beheaded soon afterwards.

Winter of Royal Derision and Religious Turmoil

With the ailing Edward VI, William Cecil found himself trying to find footing with the nebulous ascension of the next king.  Jane Seymour represented one faction, while Mary I the other. During the formative transition, lending aid to one side or the other tended to be extremely dangerous if the winds of change blew in the other direction.

At a certain point in a political career, and most assuredly in that of a royal vocation, one must make his move.  At the age of thirty-two William Cecil made a dreadful decision to support Lady Jane Grey as the next monarch rather than Mary I.  In July of 1553 he put his signature on a plan to do exactly just that.

William Cecil first heard of the prospect of Lady Grey while he was sick and at bed at his house in the country.  His political RADAR was always attuned to royal objects out in the distance and this blip called Jane Grey flashed with great clarity.  As with all dynastic designs,

Jane Grey was a kinsman.  William’s second wife, Mildred’s brother was married to Lady Jane’s first cousin, while Jane’s father, the Marquee of Dorset, was Edward’s secretary.  More so than anything else, Lady Jane was a protestant which was much more favored than any Tudor Catholic (in this case Mary I).

Another threat arose when Edward demanded a new legal device to be created, with William Cecil’s help, to change the royal ascension line.  Edward did not want either of his sisters to follow him and demanded that a document be created to thwart any attempt for the two to claim the throne. With Sir Edward Montagu as the Lord Chief of Justice at hand, as well as senior cabinet members including William Cecil, the judgment was forced.  William Cecil was so beside himself with anger at being forced into this compromising solution and he tried to protect his ambition as well as conscious in the entire affair.

He wrote to his wife saying to look out after young Thomas Cecil.  If she was to remarry, in the event that he was either put into the Tower of London or perhaps to meet his end as his friend the Duke of Somerset, that she should marry a man of good faith (basically saying to marry a protestant and not a catholic). But above all she wanted her to pray for him.  To ask God to allow him to do the right thing.

When the king died, the battle for the crown began between Lady Jane and Mary. William fearing once again that he was to be caught between a rock and a hard place, refused to write the decree that gave Grey the crown, rather allowing Sir John Throckmorton to sign the paper, excluding his name from the writ. It was good that he did so because in less than 9 days after the death of the king and the uncertain future of England, Mary was crowned. Even though he tried to distant himself from the Lady Grey and the others, he was caught up in the net of intrigue and thrown into the Tower of London to await whatever grisly end that it may come to. He waited 5 days than escaped the Tower.  From there he made haste to his house in the country where he gathered his thoughts for his defense of Lady Jane Grey and more importantly his remorseful apologies to the queen of England, Mary I.

With an artful sense of diplomacy, that no one other than William Cecil could perform, he wrote and drafted a letter to Mary that told of his resistance to Edward’s decree and then his thwarting of Lady Jane’s attempt to claim the crown of England.  Such artful and careful wording did exactly what he wanted, Mary was won over by his conscience and dedication to the spirit of England and was thoroughly pardoned for any crime.

Spring With the Privy of Elizabeth

On Thursday the 17th of November in the year of 1558, Mary I passed away, and Elizabeth by the sheer fact that she was the daughter of Henry VIII became the next queen of England. Many thought that the twenty-five year old queen would topple within a few weeks, everyone except William Cecil that is.  She proved to be one of the most resilient and better rulers to the English crown; sometimes known as The Virgin Queen Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, she was the last of the Tudor dynasty.

Upon becoming queen, almost as one of her first duties she appointed William Cecil as her principal secretary. She wrote fondly to William Cecil, who she considered her great friend and confidant, “This judgment I have of you that you will not be corrupted with any manner of gift, and that you will be faithful to the State, and that without respect of my private will you will give me that counsel that you think best.”

William Cecil was the queen’s spirit and mind, but it was Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester that was her love.  She would be romantically involved with the man for her entire life, but as with her penchant of never committing, she would never marry him.  Several times Dudley would have been available, but the queen was ever careful never to give her heart to any man always using it as both a weapon and a tool to gain favor and political energy. After the death of his first wife, queen Elizabeth had perfect opportunity to marry him, but she would not.  After he remarried, she would openly despise his new wife and carry on indignantly about her in front of many of the court.

William Cecil was never thought of as “husband material” to the queen, even if he was not married. The queen trusted him empirically and allowed him great access to her life and the administration of her realm. For example of the depth to which William was allowed to move as her hand, in 1560 a crisis arose that which was the currency of England. Henry VIII devalued the English shilling by fusing the silver with lesser metals, thus giving the crown more coins. Over the years the silver coins often fell to less than thirty-three percent real silver. William changed this, recycling almost seven hundred thousand shillings and making a profit for the crown of almost fifty thousand coins.  Only someone as honest and noble as William Cecil could have carried off such an undertaking.  Always diligent to the queen and to the state of England, he did not waver in the face of such wealth, but carried on with his duty and exacted great governance as to give solid foundation for the first time in fifty years to the English currency.

Summer’s Glow of the Baron of Burghley

For the next forty years William Cecil would serve the honor of queen Elizabeth and in those waning years, his golden and warm grace would provide unmatched and sterling silver service to the royal court.

“It would not be true to say that queen Elizabeth and William Cecil would grow old together, as they were thirteen years apart.”

And once it was apparent that the queen would not marry or conceive a child that would be her heir, Cecil began to look at ways of making an alliance with a powerful European power to maintain the state of England. In late of her reign, it was getting very difficult to find sympathy on the main continent for her realm. Threats began to crawl out of the woodwork, with Pope Gregory XIII excommunicating the queen (even though she was a professed Protestant), Spanish troops landed in Ireland, and the French giving her the cold shoulder to any attempt to deal with them commercially.         All this time, William Cecil was unflappable and at the queen’s side debating and cajoling both the English nobility, but ambassadors from the various crowns around Europe.

It was said that at the end of his life the queen came to visit William Cecil, First Baron of Burghley and hand fed him on his death bed — the queen of England feeding an old man! The great respect for the man was honored by allowing Robert Cecil, his son, to stand next to the queen for the remainder of her life giving council as did his father.

Posted in English History | Tagged | 1 Comment

Join My Google+ community

I have started using Google+ more this year and trying out the new communities section. If you have tried Google+ in the past and did not like it, or even if you have never tried it, I ask you to give it a shot. The system seems to have stabilized over the last several months and it is growing daily. Much less dramatic than Facebook, it has its own feel and attracts different people than other social sites.

If you do decide to try Google+ head over to: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/108006922718536924823

I have created an Osprey Publishing community where members can discuss history, military strategies, and the future of publishing.

I hope to see you over there.

Posted in General History | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Story of Corn

Even though corn is used as an essential provision, along with other staples to feed the world, corn is more than food because it is also used as currency and the building blocks for a cornucopia of modern products. Corn is a crop that has changed the way we eat, drink, and live our lives. The golden kernels have grown to be integral to society. Not only does it feed billions of people, but it has been used for cash for thousands of years and as the building blocks of everyday products used by people from around the globe.

The plant originated in the Yucatan Peninsula more than six thousand years ago, during the latter half of the Neolithic Age. Corn is a purely human engineered plant, starting from what is known as Teosinte, a group of grass genus with some external similarities to the modern plant, most notably the tassels. Over the course of several thousand years of direct human farming, this tall grass transformed itself into corn as we know it. Several major civilizations of the region exploited the use of corn including the Aztecs of central Mexico; the Mayans of what is now southern Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala; and the Incas of modern day Peru.

Corn shares the world stage with wheat, rice, and potatoes, as a staple to feed the population of the planet. Although the other food stocks have fed billions, none of them stand up to the influence that corn has exerted over the globe. More and more farmers are seeing the value in corn, in more than just food but also in a global perspective of cash and resources.

In states such as Kansas, which grows 1/5th the total wheat yields of the United States, more and more farmers are switching to corn. In Africa, a country beset with hunger and starvation, corn has grown ever increasingly more abundant than wheat. In 2009, 12 percent less wheat was planted and an increase of 10.93 percent of corn was planted in the African continent. Often when we think of rice, Asia comes to our thoughts, but even in the Asian continent, corn is winning out. Rice is a rich source of calories for poor starving nations, but it is also very labor intensive and requires large quantities of water. Corn on the other hand takes less than 120 days to come to yield and can be sown in practically any terrain, environment, or temperature (except for very dry climates or arctic conditions). There are a number of reasons why rice continually declines over the use of corn, but specifically the Law of Diminishing Returns and the increased cost of hydraulic works are the chief claims. Lastly, potatoes are another source of protein to feed the world, but the plant also has many problems associated with its planting, harvesting, and distribution. Much like rice, potatoes are not cost effective in the amount of labor needed to produce, although unlike rice which requires watershed lowlands, potatoes require far more tolerant land resources than corn.

Most people do not realize that corn has become more than something you pop in a microwave oven or gobble down on the ear during the summer months. “Edible corn for humans, whether fresh, canned, frozen or in the form of cornmeal, makes up less than one percent of the American corn market, a tiny amount that nonetheless adds up to about three pounds of corn per person per day.” In the United States alone, corn is grown on more than eighty million acres of land with yields of 384 million tons yearly. Most of that corn is neither popcorn nor sweet corn, but a variety called dent corn (the name derived from the dimple on the tuft of the corn kernel). Dent is also known as field corn or deer corn. The plant in America is used in the production of plastics, from which innumerable products can be fashioned, such as plastic bottles, paper plates, and utensils. The plant’s harvest is also used in the manufacturing of corn syrup, a sweetener that can be found in bread, cereals, pasta, soda pop, ketchup, juices mayonnaise, and thousands of other supermarket items. Finally, corn has been used to make ethanol, and in the last twenty years the production of that kind of alcohol has accelerated as car manufacturers have converted automobiles from using gasoline and diesel fuel to new bio-fuels.

When the Spaniards came to the New World they were in search of gold to fill the coffers of their kingdom back home. Unbeknownst to them, time after time, these conquerors stared blankly at the true gold of the New World, and it wasn’t that of the lustrous metal that the Incans used to lavish on their buildings, but the simple plant in the common man’s backyard. “The wealth generated by plants probably has increased at a rate and in a more sustained fashion than any other American resource. In any given year – 1980, for example – the annual value of American crops, was on the order of 200 billion dollars, probably is higher than the total value of all the precious metals exported to the Iberian colonies over the course of the entire colonial period.” Often the conquerors were so close to discovering that beyond the gold ingots and silver bars, the metal would pale against the incredible power of the corn in later centuries. Instead of the gold fever that existed at the time, they should have monopolized the plant rather than precious metals.

Corn made its transoceanic move in the latter half of the 15th Century CE, but the plant was not thought of as a spoil or treasure by the Spaniards at first. It was not until Peter Martyr d’Anghiera wrote, “Affixed by nature in a wondrous manner and in form and size like garden peas, white when young,” that we heard the first mention of corn. Although Peter’s work was not published until 1511 in a book called ‘De Orbe Nova’, the word mahiz was being used excitedly throughout the old world by this time.

Another account of corn being discovered by the Spaniards, written by Juan De Cardenas, was in an abridgment of an encounter on November 6th 1492 when Columbus decided to gather a small party of explorers to search the interior of lands he thought was China. When the soldiers returned, they did not talk about large Asian cities or courts of royalty, but rather brought back baskets full of golden grain as if they were coins, called maize.

We repeatedly see how Spanish explorers took maize as payment for tribute from indigenous peoples of Central and South America, such as in 1519 when Hernando Cortes confronted the Aztecs and they were given thousands of bushels of corn along with gold and silver bars. Again, we see in 1531 when DeSoto confronted the Incans, he was given 5000 bushels of maize as tribute. Even as late as 1650, when by now the Spanish pushed into the American Midwest and the lower extremities of Canada, maize continued to show up as both a food and a bargaining tool (currency). However, even though it is obvious that the people of the New World thought corn was a hard currency, the Spaniards often would dispose of it as they did with the 5000 bushels of maize given to them by the Incans, for gold and silver metal.

It took less than forty years after its discovery in the New World for corn to make its way to tropical Africa, for which the exact date is lost because the Portuguese who brought it over did not refer to it by any given name. Corn became the common man’s currency in the escalating colonial Africa. The plant had become a commodity and a dietary mainstay, something few agricultural products possessed with such flexibility. Wherever the sixteenth century Portuguese landed their ships, corn spread. By 1517, it was grown principally around the slave-trade ports of the west in order to supply cheap fodder for the slaves during their transport and as a method of payment for trading with interior indigenous people for goods and services.

Corn quickly became the primary dietary caloric consumption in African. By the latter half of the twentieth century, corn had spread to every corner of continent, save for the very wet and very dry localities. Without any surprise the countries that consumed the highest amounts of corn are also the countries with the smallest percentages of hunger, disease, and political instability.

Africa is a diverse continent with equally rich, robust economies. One of the continuing issues with Africa, even from the start of European involvement in the early 16th and 17th Century CE to the present, is the scarcity of food resources. Most of the rural economies have struggled with water and food, with the latter often being traded as a cash commodity as more advance cultures use currency to pay debt.

For the most part livestock and fishing make up very little in the excess food stocks, with almost 80 percent of tropical Africa having less than a single head of cattle per capital. Even though goat populations are relatively larger, they still rank less than .5 per capita. With less reliable data on fishing, no direct correlation can be made suffice to say that other than in local communities along the Atlantic and Indian oceans, food from the sea make up very little of the excess food stores. The two largest commodities, traded both among internal economies and also the broader world economies, are manioc (a starchy tuber also called yucca or cassava) and corn. Yields from 1957 and 1958 show more than 70,000 metric tons of manioc and almost 60,000 tons of corn were traded. There appears to be five principle categories of food in Africa, used as a delicacy, insurance against famine, secondary staple, primary staple, and as production for cash crops. In each of these categories various foods rank higher or lower, but in almost every African nation, corn is at the top of the list for being used as a cash crop.

Today, Africa still grows corn to feed its population, but also relies on foreign governments to send relief aid often in the form of corn. “Six Southern Africa countries – Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Swaziland – were facing severe food shortages and an estimated 14 million people in the region needed about 4 million metric tons of food aid to meet minimum consumption requirements before the next harvest in April 2003.” Many U.S. companies use corn crops to feed desperate third world countries, with just one company alone producing 130,000 metric tons in 2009 of special corn biscuits to be given to countries in need.

No other place in the world has corn reigned supreme than in the United States. In the burgeoning technocracy of the twenty-first century, corn has become the Holy Grail of genetic manipulation, turning the plant into the building blocks for everything Americans eat and drink; pump into their automobiles as fuel; feed their livestock, chemically change into plastics and cloth; and biologically mutate into fiber for utilization of paper to particle board.

The United States produces nearly 40 percent of the world’s corn and has learned how to genetically alter the plant to such a degree that most people fail to realize that the plant cannot grow in the wild, but must be modified into hybrids each year to create the seeds for the next season’s planting. Each year, corn is created by mating two different corn hybrids to create a new strain of corn; often the result is a new type of corn that is better than either of its parent strains. So, even though the plant is highly dependent on mankind in its reproduction, it earns its next year’s prodigy with its incredible characteristics allowing it to be manufactured into more than three thousand food sources and four hundred non-consumable products.

Dent corn can be modified into a high fructose sugar, cheaper to produce than cane sugar. According to CornSugar [www.CornSugar.com], “sugar is sugar and that high fructose corn syrup is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose.” The website goes on to say that there is not a shred of evidence that these products are different biologically and are just as healthy as foods derived from sugar cane. The commercial use of corn syrup is as a thickener, sweetener, and humectant (the ability for food to stay soft and moist). Suffice to say, corn syrup is used in thousands of foods consumed by Americans.

At present there are more than 400 non-consumption products being engineered from chemically synthesized corn byproducts. Most plastics today are created from limited-recurring resins such as oil. Nature requires 100 million years of fermentation to create oil, but with the recent advancements in corn manufacturing in the United States, engineers hope to cut that down to less than 100 days. The first polymer resin known as polylactic acid or PLA is derived from corn and is a crystalline or amorphous sheet of plastic like material. Although you cannot eat this material, though derived from corn, it is bio-degradable. PLA products are very sensitive to heat so it makes it unusable in cooking ware, engine parts, aircraft panels, or other heat intolerant applications, but can be used as bottles to hold liquids (such as water, soda, juices), plates and utensils (such as given out at fast food restaurants), and medical applications. PLA is just the start to many similar organic chemicals that will be used to formulate new and wondrous plastics.

One of a select few manufacturers to start producing biopolymers (plastic from plants) is a firm called NatureWorks LLC. This company is at the forefront of the new science which can produce plastics that are completely bio-degradable and have very low carbon footprints on the environment. Within the last month the company began producing yogurt cups made of this new material, with a savings of 48 percent of carbon emissions over standard plastic. In the next few years, more corn will be grown to create ethanol than used for the production of food. The history of bio-fuels has been an epic struggle against the cheaper and, at the present, more easily accessible petroleum. If it wasn’t for some short sighted government officials who saw ethanol as a way for moonshiners (illegal corn whiskey manufacturers) to gain legal rights to production of alcohol, we may never have had need for gasoline. As early as 1862, alcohol was being taxed at $2 a gallon, forcing inventors like German engineer Nikolas Otto and American industrialist Henry Ford to re-examine the use of ethanol as a fuel for vehicles – even though Ford had a working prototype of the Model T running completely on ethanol. The use of alcohol as a primary agent in combustion engines was dashed in the early 20th century in America with the passage of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: basically prohibiting the manufacture of all alcohol (even for combustion). Ethanol never recovered from that stroke of the pen, even though the law was repealed years later.

Alcohol is still heavily taxed in the United States and would make its use as combustion still very expensive compared to gasoline. To circumvent the taxation, the alcohol goes through a process called “denaturing” in which the ethanol is subjected to various bittering agents such as benzoates and methanol, making it poisonous to consume. In this form, farmers are not levied tax on the alcohol. With improvements of ethanol production, the US Congress has mandated that production of bio-fuels increase from its present state of 12 billion gallons a year, to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

Today, American farmers grow corn to turn into E10 or E85, which is a mixture of gasoline and ethanol. E10 is 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent alcohol, while E85 is 85 percent alcohol and 15 percent gasoline. E10 can be used in any car today, even those that are not designated to be used for ethanol. The E85 mixture requires special automobiles and is often limited to warmer climates, with the present technology, that do not have extended frigid temperatures. It has been statistically proven that ethanol is better for the environment than carbon based fuel sources (oil), even after considering that most farm equipment still use gas or diesel for the production of the corn.

Beyond the use of the kernels of corn, researchers are now utilizing every facet and part of the corn plant. Recently, corn stalks are being analyzed for its ability to be used for medium density particle boards – used in many applications including framing homes and commercial buildings throughout the world. Analysis of the fibers suggests they have a chemical composition similar to softwood a-cellulose, common in softwood deciduous trees. The advantages, of course, is that it takes less than 120 days to grow a single harvest of corn compared to years, if not decades, for many forests.

As we move into the early part of the twenty-first century, corn is going to increase in its varied uses to feed the planet and become the building blocks for everything from clothing, plastic, fuel, domesticated feed, new construction material, and everyday consumer goods. Vast portions of the planet are still locked in a day-to-day struggle with feeding the inhabitants. In these areas, corn will still be used as a staple, as a form of currency, or as a way to barter for services. As much as corn is intrinsically bound to humanity in its survival, so too will mankind be linked to the ancient tall grass that was born in the lowlands of central Mexico because corn has become more than food, it has weaved itself into every aspect of our global society.

Posted in American Indians, General History, MesoAmerican | Leave a comment

Three Years of Weekly Games

I am not so sure what historical significance this has, but I thought I would post my weekly gaming journal to Teaspoons. Perhaps some day in the future, some gaming historian will find use of my weekly rant, observations, or clarifications on what I did. Sprinkled through the accounts are various observations on many other sorts of things.  The following is rough, spur of the moment writing with little editing.

10-25-12 Another great night with my friends coming over to play Civilization 4. We started a new game about 2 hours into the night because the current one was flawed with some bad option choices. I did the best, which surprises me because normally I am always in last place. Joe is doing good. Wade is floundering but rightly so as his playstyle is all based on free stuff and luck.
10-10-12 Had another fun time. Continued to play the game from last week. I did much better after going strictly military early in the night, capturing several cities. No end in sight for stopping this weekly foray into Civilization. I am sure one day we will put it aside, but right now we are having a blast. I have no game in mind for the future, though I would like to move beyond a computer game.
10-03-12 Over the weekend I amended the game a bit changing Slavery and harbors. The big change I made was giving a new Unique Unit to every civilization. We started a new game at a slight accelerated pace with me playing the Greeks, Joe playing Kongo, and Wade playing the Iroquois. Wade played exemplary and won a great amount of credibility. I floundered like always. Joe seemed content on being off by himself. Good game overall.

09-26-12 Another fantastic night playing Civ IV. We all had so much fun. If this can continue for another couple of weeks, it will be great.
09-18-12 Had one of the best nights playing CIVILIZATION IV in memory. We all did well and we all had fun exchanging tactics and barbs. Good battles and great fighting. We are looking forward next week to continue this fun game.
09-12-12 Played the same game and am slowing pulling myself up, though in last place we are having fun.
09-05-12 Joe, Wade, and I played a fantastic but frustrating match of History Rewritten, a Civilization IV mod. I ended up in a swath of jungle and had a tough time throughout the night. We will play next week which for me will be better. Fun but aggravating at times.

08-29-12 Trying out my new Civ4 mod, Age of Discovery2. No doubt it will be an utter failure.
08-14-12 Playing Civilization 4 with the Multivwerse mod. Joe, Wade, and I all did quite well but we were playing on easy level. Next week we will be on our standard of Noble and Marathon.
08-08-12 Still playing World of Warcraft with Joe – running dungeons with our top level guys. Wade expressed interest in coming over again and so we may alter our playing a bit? May eventually settle on Civ4 again?

07-24-12 Continued playing WoW this week. Wade did not get over because he is still feeling poorly but also because he doesn’t play World of Warcraft. Joe and I found several interesting secrets last night – coming and going out of dungeons and velium sheets (so I can use my enchanter on my other toons.
07-17-12 Played WoW.
07-10-12 Great fun again playing World of Warcraft.
07-03-12 Great fun playing City of Heroes. May play WoW next week.

06-26-12 (last game of June) Played City of Heroes, but it was a difficult night with many deaths!!!
06-18-12 Sara’s birthday so we are pushing it to Wednesday, if it happens.
06-11-12 No game this week because I am up at the cottage. Next week we hope to try Civ4 again!
06-04-12 Started out playing Civ IV but it kept going OOS. So we moved back to CoH and I played Cloudstuff for great fun.

 

05-29-12 Great fun once again – I played two healers. Dr. Cloudstuff and Atomic Soul
05-22-12 Everyone has fun. We played heroes last night. I made a new guy called Atomic Soul.
05-15-12 Fun times.
05-08-12 Both guys came over and we played City of Heroes with “good” aligned characters.
05-01-12 Confronted WADE on being overweight.

04-24-12 City of heroes.
04-16-12 More City of Heroes fun. We all went up a couple of levels. Wade is still silly!
04-09-12 Another week with Joe, Wade, and I playing City of Heroes. Joe and I had a great time – made fun of Wade. He is such a tard.
04-02-12 First time that Joe, Wade, and I got together in so many months. This time to play City of Heroes. We had a good time, if not some awkward moments when Wade tried to show how much he knows about the game. Overall, we had a great night with some interesting battles. Looking forward to next week.

03-20-12 Tried to play Civilization IV but the game kept crashing. So now we are playing City of Heroes again. Probably something we will try and play since it seems Joe is more interactive with that. I got a new power supply.
03-13-12 Still playing Civilization IV – my mod called Conquest – Still crashing on my other machine. Need to get a power supply for it.
03-05-12 Played Civilization IV: Conquest. Had a good time but crashed a few times.

02-28-12 Played CoH but not really enjoying it as much as I thought I would. I think Joe is much more hooked on it then he says – he is making a dozen toons. He is a cheap son of a bitch though, so he wont spend any money on it – nor will he do so for EQ in the future.
02-21-12 Still playing City of Heroes and have settled on two guys (me: The Oak King; Joe: Fusilier). Deleted other guys.
02-14-12 Played City of Heroes. Made 2 sets of guys: H1 and Mithril Mage. Joe made Uuo-118 and Mr. Blackboard. Had a ton of fun
02-06-12 Played another couple of games of Civilization IV but had continuing issues of OOS errors. Worked through some but still had issues.

01-30-12 Playing Civ4 but in the end, we decided to restart again and added some new rules.
01-24-12 Still playing Civ4 and having some fun.
01-16-12 Got Civ4 running again. Had a fun night.
01-10-12 Tried to play Civilization 4 but the game kept crashing. So we played EQ2 instead and had fun.
01-02-12 Played a bit of History Rewritten but my secondary computer has been crashing lately. First game went well, but then half way through the night it crashed constantly. Played EQ2 and went into a new dungeon and had some fun. Computer crashed once during that episode. Thinking it may be the power supply going bad, as it was always a bit under powered to start. Found a PSU for 40 bucks that should work.

12-21-11 Joe finally got his new computer. I set it up for him last night and he is so loving the graphics in EQ2 and in Civ4. Really great!
Changing the game night to MONDAY as classes schedules have changed.
12-14-11 Started playing on Monday nights because school is essentially over. Gives us an extra 30 minutes of game time – although unsure why, but that is what Joe says?!? We are still playing Civilization IV with the new mod and having fun; History Rewritten.
12-05-11 Tried a new mod called History Rewritten and it was fun, but I want to make some changes to it. Joe and I played on a Earth map, me being the Polynesians and him playing England. Fun so far.

11-30-11 Maybe a game tonight. Last night Joe called it off because his truck broke down and he couldn’t get it fixed. Undecided as to what to play, if we do get together – EQ2 or Civ 4?
11-23-11 Played a new mod called Rewritting History and had an absolute ball. Great mod with all new graphics. We are well pleased with it.
11-16-11 Played two games of Civ 4 – both on the Thomas War Extended Mod. Joe stunk at both of them. Both games I was doing well.
11-08-11 Played Civilization IV again and had a ton of fun playing in the original mod, Thomas’ War with a huge earth map and 10 opponents. Joe played Brazil and I played Mexico. We are both doing well.
11-01-11 Had great fun in Everquest II last night. Played some low level guys and took down three dungeons – last minute, we loaded our big guys into the game and took out several epic mobs.

10-26-11 Continued to play Everquest II. We journeyed to two new dungeons and had many hours of fun. Made some decent loot that we will probably just sacrifice to the gods or perhaps mute.
10-19-11 Joe and I continued to play Everquest II, playing our 90th level guys first for 2 hours then going on to play some tertiary characters for about an hour. Had some great BBQ chicken pizza as well. Thoughts of inviting Wade over circulated since we miss our good friend – perhaps soon I will have a new computer allowing him to play on my 2nd computer.
10-11-11 Great night playing Everquest II
10-05-11 No game because of studying for a test. Next week we are going to try and play Multiverse.

09-28-11 Played Extreme2 and it was tough – too tough?!?
09-20-11 Played Thomas War with slight modification — fun
09-14-11 Played the original Thomas War mod. Tough! Thinking of making a few small changes to the base game to toy around with. Lumberyards, meaningful roads, Composite Archers (+25% attack)….

08-30-11 Some problems late in the game, crashing. Also some issues with units if you don’t have oil. Changed it to needing specific buildings and having oil gives you a bonus to the production of units.
08-17-11 Finished game. Was very fun. We played it almost to the very end!
08-10-11 Continued our Modern Era game – awesome fun. Joe and I slugging it out with all the original AI still in the game.
08-02-11 Played a game on Modern era – a continuation of the prior week. Had great fun. Joe and I was slugging it out with the AI. At 9 PM we lost power for an hour. Joe went home and we called the game – started working on the next update to Extreme2. Wade has not come over in months, but my den is not set up any longer for more than 1 friend at a time. We could make it work, I guess, but it would be cramped.

07-27-11 A huge upgrade to EXTREME2 and had a blast playing in MODERN era. Will continue tweaking rules next week!
07-20-11 Started a new game after I was butchered in a fun older game started over the internet. May update my mod here before we play again. I also want to play some good old fashion RPGs. Found out that starting at different eras can actually be fun way of experiencing the game!
07-06-11 Didn’t do any gaming, per se but looked at another designer’s module in NWN. Very interesting, but after 6 years of developing there are still huge gaps in his mod. The guy needs to finish it and just release it. We had fun though, looking at stuff. Started a bit of Neverwinter Nights.

06-28-11 ExtremeMod ended with the computer AI winning. So we started back on the Extreme2 game we had going. That was fun. Talked about NeverWinter Nights.
06-22-11 Playing a great match in ExtremeMod – he is the Aztec and I am the Celts. We will lose but it’s great fun.
06-14-11 Good night and we finally have two adversaries that will be around into late into the game. Hitler and Mayan; Joe is the Elamite and I am the Indians (from India).
06-09-11 Moved to Thursday tonight, since I was gone off to the lake. Should be fun, if Joe does not get over then I will try and read some more Caesar.

05-31-11 Finally got to play a game and it was real fun. Played an older game that was further along and finally did one that worked for me and Joe – huge battles with cheering and bravado all around. No Wade yet.
05-25-11 No game.
05-18-11 No Game.
05-11-11 Played a bit of Age of Discovery, but there was some issues and kept crashing. Then played Extreme2 and having a blast. Still no Wade.
05-04-11 Extreme2 is done for several months – uploading it tonight. Will work on Age of Discovery next. Fun game last night with only Joe, Wade didn’t come over.

04-27-11 New Game with New Rules. No Wade
04-19-11 Just Joe and I, continued a game from the weekend. Having fun at it.
04-13-11 No game. May not game for a while.
04-06-11 Finally had a game. Great Fun.

03-39-11 No game.
03-22-11 No game because of the weather. Wade called and said he would like to start coming over this weekend again. Maybe next week.
03-15-11 Played Extreme II – I was Hitler and Joe was Xerxes. Had a lot of fun but decided to restart because the AI seemed at a large advantage with being on a handicap.
03-09-11 Played Extreme II – starting a re-make of my mod with more emphasis on UU and UBs and less on tech and vanilla units.
03-02-11 Actually had a fun night with EXTREME mod and an older save – not sure if we will when but we can play it until the end more than likely. Here in a month, I will return to writing for my Mod. In my desire for Spring, I am writing this month all in GREEN.

Thoughts of Re-Making Age of Discovery starting with the Thomas War mod.

02-23-11 No game. Joe has a big test. I played Everquest; still seems fun.
02-15-11 Tried to play the Age of Discovery, but there is something just wrong about the game. Keeps crashing. Might start a new mod – Extreme2.
02-08-11 No game again because of Joe and school.
02-01-11 No game because of the SNOWMAGEDDON of 2011. Maybe next week.

01-26-11 Wade didn’t get over again last night; partly the weather but mainly due to the fact we needed to run through the game fast. Found many problems with the mod, but making progress.
01-19-11 Didn’t have Wade over; Joe and I played my new mod “Age of Discovery”. First run was ok but need to tweak the game and add in more units.
01-13-11 Wade skipped on us, so Joe and I played Civ IV. Had fun but realized that the mod is so top heavy that it is impossible to get the AI to behave correctly.

12-28-10 Got together with Wade and Joe and we played Version 3 of my Mod with all the new ATLANTEAN stuff in it. Had a blast and everyone was yelling and screaming over their victories and defeats.
12-21-10 Just Joe and I since Wade’s machine is not working. Played Civ and had fun.
12-14-10 Great fun with Wade and Joe again playing Civ IV. We have a hot game going on and looking forward to doing it next week.
12-07-10 Played Civ again and started getting ideas on how to make it better.

11-30-10 Played EQ II last night instead of Civ. Good time but my shoulder and arm hurt terribly. Wade didn’t come over last night, but maybe next week.
11-23-10 Played EQ II last night instead of Civ. Good times and my arm is so sore this morning from clicking – like the Diablo Syndrome. I did find a new model I want to add to Civ Mod so maybe I will work on this holiday season.
11-15-10 We didn’t play Civilization today instead played EQ II. Good time. John White got Civ IV and perhaps we can have him over one night to play. Need to arrange a time for Wade to come over for dinner (Chrinese).
11-09-10 We didn’t play Civilization today instead played EQ II. Good time. Putting Civ IV on the back burner for a couple of months.
11-01-10 We had to start a new game because I made some major revisions to the mod. Wade started out strong, and to both Joe and I we were amazed that he was holding his own towards the end of the night. Joe was back on top throughout the night because he has the system down pat – which shows to me that the game has a certain logic to it and once you know it, there is no challenge to it. I guess it is time we move on to a new game on Monday.

10-26-10 Continued the game for another week – we could still lose this one. We feel the AI even though sometimes underscored can still put up a nice fight. We all did well, even Wade who finally started catching up – even though he is a utter coward and never fights anything period.
10-19-10 First game we have continued for one week to another in ages! It is very exciting and still up for grabs, although I think we can beat them unless they pull a rabbit out of their hats and win by Space Race or something. I am nearing Steampunk Technology – never had that before so it will be interesting.
10-12-10 New game. Joe, Wade, and I got a new game going. Wade is doing horribly, but won’t listen to advice. Joe and I struggle for third place. Should be exciting game.
10-05-10 New Month! Just Joe and I played. Wade needn’t come over for awhile. Had a tough night with multiple restarts. Learned allot about the game and made some good notes.

09-27-10 Just Joe and I – play a mean game of V2.0 – made some changes after we played but it may be getting mean. Gave up on Wade – he is just a tard.
09-21-10 Joe, Wade, and I started a new game using V1.55 in an Immense Earth map. Joe played the Hawaiians, I played the Australians, and wade played the Ethiopians. I actually was doing the best at the end of the night, followed by Joe. Wade was dead last – he stinks. Fun game all around – AI still seems a bit sluggish.
09-13-10 Joe and I finished what we could of a two week game – we lost, which is good because that means the game is a challenge. Tweaking the mod to version 1.5 for another release on Sept 18th.
09-06-10 Wade could not get over so Joe and I played a new game with the heightened AI. Real fun. Great night. Always fun.

08-30-10 Stopping developing for the mod and just going to play for a while and think of what changes to come—hopefully will not do any sort of changes for a couple of months. Going to play on a Immense world.
08-10-10 Modding is going well. Great fun with just Joe and I last night. We didn’t want to quit. So much fun !!

07-27-10 Great fun last night, even though we had problems with the mod and the balance. Later I was so excited to correct some mistakes – fixed the Chinampas.
07-20-10 Still having a blast modding the game. So tired of Wade and his crying and whining – not going to pursue him coming over any more. It isn’t worth it.
07-05-10 GREAT JOY IN MODDING THE GAME. NEED TO START MY OWN MEGA MOD AT SOME POINT.
06-28-10 Played around with a mod of Civ 4 that I am calling TroysAncient. Needs allot of work.
06-22-10 Since last time, Joe and I started looking into making our own Mods for this venerable game. Joe keeps saying he is going to buy a new computer but never does. The game went well – a continuation from the week before. Wade destroyed the Mayans, and Joe and I are whacking away on Rome and the Egyptians.
06-15-10 Wade, Joe, and I played another rousing game. First game, Joe got slaughtered playing Simon Bolivar. The next game I played the Vikings and Joe played England. Wade played Sitting Bull. Great night, full of laughs.
06-08-10 Wade, Joe, and I played a rousing game of Civ – Joe did very well as the Japanese. Wade did horrible as the Inuit (but the culture is very difficult to play). I tried to play Yagan of the Australians but the land mass was not developed correctly. I have corrected some features of the map for better balance for next week.
06-01-10 Joe has got the game so we are playing not on Mondays so much.

05-24-10 Wade couldn’t get over, so Joe and I played a mod called Final Frontier. Cool but not as fun as the regular game.
05-17-10 Didn’t play last night because Cherry was leaving on vacation.
05-10-10 Wade arrived a bit late. He decided to come over, rather than playing from his house. He did much better than the last couple of games, but I still pulled out in front. Joe took up the rear, but towards the end of the night he started to shine – he still needs to make up a lot of ground
05-03-10 Wade typically fouled the night up by not being able to get his skype to work then having to leave to help his mom (cant blame him for that). Will try next week.

04-27-10 HAD A GREAT TIME last night. Found out in the end that we were at a constant PEACE with all nations – so that spoiled it for us. Started a new game with that off.
04-19-10 I had JOE on a new Computer (dual core AMD with 2 gigs RAM and a 7900GS video card). Great fun all around even though my empire fumbled throughout the night with bad luck, barbarians, and horrible financial problems.
04-12-10 Getting a little old again. May give it a rest for a bit.
04-06-10 New month and same fun. WADE did not show this week because of his leg. Tried to show Joe Runes of Magic but he was not interested as he is always with everything new you want to play.

03-30-10 New game with same results, but still fun. Wade is such a dick!
03-29-10 Looking forward to our game tonight! Must destroy WADE!!!
03-16-10 New game and having fun. No game next week because of our anniversary.
03-09-10 New game without raging barbarians but with 9 opponents. Great fun. I am winning!
03-02-10 Wade came back again. First game Joe lost, second game I lost, third game I won.

02-23-10 WADE HAS RETURNED
02-16-10 we played a bit of Monster Fandango and found some issues. We then played Civ. Today is the release of the new expansion for EQ2.
02-01-10 Didn’t play test BB II—must force myself to play it next week to test. Joe got his ass beat twice in Civ – he sucks.

01-25-10 Showed Joe – BLOODBATH II – then played Civilization IV the rest of the night. Next week I want to create characters. And play through a couple of rooms.
01-18-10 Probably will skip this week – Diablo though fun is just too much clicking. Might just end up playing Civ again next week or the week after – no sense getting together if we are not looking forward to it.
01-12-10 Played another night of Diablo II – killed Diablo and now on to the real expansion.
01-04-10 Played Diablo II again. Joe does not return to work until the 18th, which I am sure will postpone our game for a couple of weeks.
Got to Act III of the game. Maybe Next week we will play test my new game engine.

12-28-09 Played Diablo II – jow starts work next week and I fear the game night will be over . . .
12-21-09 Still fighting Hitler – Mussolini is in the mix as well. Still a tough fight.
12-14-09 Tonight we finish up Hitler and destroy him?
12-07-09 Going to hopefully play tonight with Jow – Huge world, Raging barbarians, and 1 AI aggressive (Hitler). Will report tomorrow for what happened. [[Great game = Hitler is on the run]]

11-23-09 We played a game with Wade over the internet – Wade got mad when Joe attacked him he said without provocation. Joe had warned Wade a number of times about his encroachment, but Wade said he never saw them.
11-16-09 Wade never showed. Joe and I are in another pitch battle and its going to be tough. Fun as always.
11-09-09 Going to try and bring Wade and Joe over to play. Not sure if I can get this third machine working correctly.
11-02-09 Played and had great fun until the game cheated

10-19-09 Going to play tonight but the war is almost one – mop up is going to be tough.
10-12-09 Last week we had fun. Going to try and continue the game this week.
10-05-09 Going to try and start playing again – this time a new era in civilization where it is King of the Hill. No AI just us three, fighting it out for supremacy.

09-21-09 got together last week and had fun – that is what is important. Will try and organize it again tonight.
09-14-09 Not getting together with Wade this Monday, but may do something with Joe – still up in the air. Looked at playing the old Empire game, but the graphics are just too old and no multiplayer support ( I thought there was)?
09-09-09 We may try and get together to see what Champions has to offer. Maybe get into a board game or something. Maybe go to dinner with Wade? We got together and went out for burgers at Culverts. Had a fun time and talked with Wade.

08-31-09 No game once again – the era is over.
08-24-09 No game. Sadly the era is over – thinking of doing n RPG or board game in a few weeks.
08-11-09 No game once again. We are taking a breather from the game. If we ever return to it, Wade won’t be in the equation – he knows too much about the game.
08-03-09 How quickly fun turns to boredom. I have ended the group and will not get together for a few weeks. Feel sort of sad that this present era of gleeful play is over.

07-20-09 We are going to have a blast tonight in a match that has been going on for 3 weeks. Can’t wait until tonight.
07-13-09 Rousing game with Wade and Joe.

06-29-09 Last Monday of the month. Will play Civ IV old save if Wade gets over, or a new game with Joe. Remember PLAY what you want to play and not what Joe wants.
06-22-09 Not playing today or maybe this week because I don’t feel good. I may be coming down with the flu.
06-15-09 Sadly it seems that both Joe and Wade want to put nothing into these weekly forays – they are completely comfortable about doing nothing new week after week. Maybe I should just shrug and do the same.
06-01-09 Moved on to Diablo II for a couple of months. After that, maybe we will return to Civ IV.

05-25-09 After some initial problems, got the game running on all three machines. Had fun although our ages are quickly showing on this click fest. Tried a new mod – it’s OK but not terrific.
05-22-09 Going to start playing Diablo II.

04-23-09 We are now playing on a Mod called Thomas’ Wars and Wade brings over his PC to help. Real Nice! Very fun!

03-27-09 Set the TASK in motion and made my own map last night – curious how it fares with the guys.

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My Further Research

I have always been fascinated with history, and my library at home can attest to that. I have books on the Roman Republic, the battles of the Civil War, the Saxon Revolution, Napoleon’s Campaigns, the Teutonic Order, and the list can go on and on. It is a cherished moment when I can sit reading a book or magazine of a age long forgotten and try to imagine what the people and places are like. I think for many, ancient history is looked at with a jaundiced eye towards reality, in that many have a misconception of the emotional and psychological state of average inhabitants of the time. It is almost like watching an old black and white movie and thinking that is how the people of that era perceived the world around them. Unbeknownst to that misconception the early 20th century was alive with color and vibrancy. So to was ancient history! The lives of the inhabitants of that century, a hundred or two hundred folds back in time, had the same inspirations, thoughts, desires, and needs. Technology changes, but humanity rarely does.

Using this idea, I grappled with a number of ideas for my topic for the class. I truly want to use this study to build a foundation for later work. The research is not just one in a plethora of “must have” things todo that will be relegated to the back portion of my brain in six months, but rather it will be the foundation for all my future work in history. At some point one must determine the exact course of historical investigations, the plotting the willynilly course across the historical ocean is fun but in the end gets you no where. Thus, I need to peel away my love of Rome, English History, Japanese Dynasties, and get to the meat and potatoes of my study.

as an old student I have a much greater depth of knowledge than the average 20 year old college student. I have been across the country and to other parts of the world. I have read probably ten times as many books and more than likely seen a hundred times more movies than the average college student. I know the beautiful variety of history that is available from the colonization of the American West to the Chinese Emperors to the voyages of Magellan.

From a very early age, really not apparent to me at the time, I was fascinated with Non-European history. As a youth I would spend countless hours playing a game called Tekumel which was like Dungeons & Dragons but not set in a world of platemail, swords, and judo-christian magic but of strange bloody religions, stratified social groups, and technology devoid of the wheel and beasts of burden — this was the fantasy world of the Mesoamerica!

Later I stumbled on books filled with beautiful art, sculpture, and stone edifices created by mysterious peoples called the Olmecs, Toltecs, Maya, Aztec, and even the Incas. As I grew older and studied the civilizations and cultures the more I began to endear myself to the peoples of the stretch of formidable landscape: mist shrouded mountains, dry deserts, thick and lush jungles.

Thus I have decided to start my journey into understanding the Toltec, a culture germinating out of the upper Mexican highlands of the Tula and Hidalgo area somewhere around 800 to 1000 CE (AD) in what would be classified as the Terminal Class period — a time just prior to the Post Classic period known for the destruction of the Mesoamerican culture by the Spaniards. The Toltec were almost worshiped by the later Aztec culture and more likely feared by the settled Maya culture. The Toltec created incredible cities that rivaled anything in Europe, such as the glorious Chichen Itza which had a population of more than 100,000 inhabitants. Many think of the artifacts of the Toltecs as the crown achievements of the Maya culture.

On to this stage we see the growth of breathtaking art in the forms of chromatic stool pottery, friezes, statuary, stela, and plaster paintings. The question I pose is of these rich and powerful paintings did the color selection mean anything? Did the artist have something in mind when he made the background green, the head dress red, the throne a golden brown? Are the colors upon the art just as revealing to the culture of the Toltec as the inscribed hieroglyphics that can be found everywhere in their cities? Perhaps the artist was just being artistic and creative, dabbing color where he saw fit? Or perhaps there is a deeper meaning to this color? A cultural inclination of subtle nuance that elevates the color upon the vase or plaster wall that is yet to be understood. . . .

Posted in General History, MesoAmerican | Tagged | Leave a comment

Corn: The Story

Even though corn is used as an essential provision, along with other staples to feed the world, corn is more than food because it is also used as currency and the building blocks for a cornucopia of modern products. Corn is a crop that has changed the way we eat, drink, and live our lives. The golden kernels have grown to be integral to society. Not only does it feed billions of people, but it has been used for cash for thousands of years and as the building blocks of everyday products used by people from around the globe.

The plant originated in the Yucatan Peninsula more than six thousand years ago, during the latter half of the Neolithic Age. Corn is a purely human engineered plant, starting from what is known as Teosinte, a group of grass genus with some external similarities to the modern plant, most notably the tassels. Over the course of several thousand years of direct human farming, this tall grass transformed itself into corn as we know it. Several major civilizations of the region exploited the use of corn including the Aztecs of central Mexico; the Mayans of what is now southern Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala; and the Incas of modern day Peru.

Corn shares the world stage with wheat, rice, and potatoes, as a staple to feed the population of the planet. Although the other food stocks have fed billions, none of them stand up to the influence that corn has exerted over the globe. More and more farmers are seeing the value in corn, in more than just food but also in a global perspective of cash and resources.

In states such as Kansas, which grows 1/5th the total wheat yields of the United States, more and more farmers are switching to corn. In Africa, a country beset with hunger and starvation, corn has grown ever increasingly more abundant than wheat. In 2009, 12 percent less wheat was planted and an increase of 10.93 percent of corn was planted in the African continent. Often when we think of rice, Asia comes to our thoughts, but even in the Asian continent, corn is winning out. Rice is a rich source of calories for poor starving nations, but it is also very labor intensive and requires large quantities of water. Corn on the other hand takes less than 120 days to come to yield and can be sown in practically any terrain, environment, or temperature (except for very dry climates or arctic conditions). There are a number of reasons why rice continually declines over the use of corn, but specifically the Law of Diminishing Returns and the increased cost of hydraulic works are the chief claims. Lastly, potatoes are another source of protein to feed the world, but the plant also has many problems associated with its planting, harvesting, and distribution. Much like rice, potatoes are not cost effective in the amount of labor needed to produce, although unlike rice which requires watershed lowlands, potatoes require far more tolerant land resources than corn.

Most people do not realize that corn has become more than something you pop in a microwave oven or gobble down on the ear during the summer months. “Edible corn for humans, whether fresh, canned, frozen or in the form of cornmeal, makes up less than one percent of the American corn market, a tiny amount that nonetheless adds up to about three pounds of corn per person per day.” In the United States alone, corn is grown on more than eighty million acres of land with yields of 384 million tons yearly. Most of that corn is neither popcorn nor sweet corn, but a variety called dent corn (the name derived from the dimple on the tuft of the corn kernel). Dent is also known as field corn or deer corn. The plant in America is used in the production of plastics, from which innumerable products can be fashioned, such as plastic bottles, paper plates, and utensils. The plant’s harvest is also used in the manufacturing of corn syrup, a sweetener that can be found in bread, cereals, pasta, soda pop, ketchup, juices mayonnaise, and thousands of other supermarket items. Finally, corn has been used to make ethanol, and in the last twenty years the production of that kind of alcohol has accelerated as car manufacturers have converted automobiles from using gasoline and diesel fuel to new bio-fuels.

When the Spaniards came to the New World they were in search of gold to fill the coffers of their kingdom back home. Unbeknownst to them, time after time, these conquerors stared blankly at the true gold of the New World, and it wasn’t that of the lustrous metal that the Incans used to lavish on their buildings, but the simple plant in the common man’s backyard. “The wealth generated by plants probably has increased at a rate and in a more sustained fashion than any other American resource. In any given year – 1980, for example – the annual value of American crops, was on the order of 200 billion dollars, probably is higher than the total value of all the precious metals exported to the Iberian colonies over the course of the entire colonial period.” Often the conquerors were so close to discovering that beyond the gold ingots and silver bars, the metal would pale against the incredible power of the corn in later centuries. Instead of the gold fever that existed at the time, they should have monopolized the plant rather than precious metals.

Corn made its transoceanic move in the latter half of the 15th Century CE, but the plant was not thought of as a spoil or treasure by the Spaniards at first. It was not until Peter Martyr d’Anghiera wrote, “Affixed by nature in a wondrous manner and in form and size like garden peas, white when young,” that we heard the first mention of corn. Although Peter’s work was not published until 1511 in a book called ‘De Orbe Nova’, the word mahiz was being used excitedly throughout the old world by this time.

Another account of corn being discovered by the Spaniards, written by Juan De Cardenas, was in an abridgment of an encounter on November 6th 1492 when Columbus decided to gather a small party of explorers to search the interior of lands he thought was China. When the soldiers returned, they did not talk about large Asian cities or courts of royalty, but rather brought back baskets full of golden grain as if they were coins, called maize.

We repeatedly see how Spanish explorers took maize as payment for tribute from indigenous peoples of Central and South America, such as in 1519 when Hernando Cortes confronted the Aztecs and they were given thousands of bushels of corn along with gold and silver bars. Again, we see in 1531 when DeSoto confronted the Incans, he was given 5000 bushels of maize as tribute. Even as late as 1650, when by now the Spanish pushed into the American Midwest and the lower extremities of Canada, maize continued to show up as both a food and a bargaining tool (currency). However, even though it is obvious that the people of the New World thought corn was a hard currency, the Spaniards often would dispose of it as they did with the 5000 bushels of maize given to them by the Incans, for gold and silver metal.

It took less than forty years after its discovery in the New World for corn to make its way to tropical Africa, for which the exact date is lost because the Portuguese who brought it over did not refer to it by any given name. Corn became the common man’s currency in the escalating colonial Africa. The plant had become a commodity and a dietary mainstay, something few agricultural products possessed with such flexibility. Wherever the sixteenth century Portuguese landed their ships, corn spread. By 1517, it was grown principally around the slave-trade ports of the west in order to supply cheap fodder for the slaves during their transport and as a method of payment for trading with interior indigenous people for goods and services.

Corn quickly became the primary dietary caloric consumption in African. By the latter half of the twentieth century, corn had spread to every corner of continent, save for the very wet and very dry localities. Without any surprise the countries that consumed the highest amounts of corn are also the countries with the smallest percentages of hunger, disease, and political instability.

Africa is a diverse continent with equally rich, robust economies. One of the continuing issues with Africa, even from the start of European involvement in the early 16th and 17th Century CE to the present, is the scarcity of food resources. Most of the rural economies have struggled with water and food, with the latter often being traded as a cash commodity as more advance cultures use currency to pay debt.

For the most part livestock and fishing make up very little in the excess food stocks, with almost 80 percent of tropical Africa having less than a single head of cattle per capital. Even though goat populations are relatively larger, they still rank less than .5 per capita. With less reliable data on fishing, no direct correlation can be made suffice to say that other than in local communities along the Atlantic and Indian oceans, food from the sea make up very little of the excess food stores. The two largest commodities, traded both among internal economies and also the broader world economies, are manioc (a starchy tuber also called yucca or cassava) and corn. Yields from 1957 and 1958 show more than 70,000 metric tons of manioc and almost 60,000 tons of corn were traded. There appears to be five principle categories of food in Africa, used as a delicacy, insurance against famine, secondary staple, primary staple, and as production for cash crops. In each of these categories various foods rank higher or lower, but in almost every African nation, corn is at the top of the list for being used as a cash crop.

Today, Africa still grows corn to feed its population, but also relies on foreign governments to send relief aid often in the form of corn. “Six Southern Africa countries – Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Swaziland – were facing severe food shortages and an estimated 14 million people in the region needed about 4 million metric tons of food aid to meet minimum consumption requirements before the next harvest in April 2003.” Many U.S. companies use corn crops to feed desperate third world countries, with just one company alone producing 130,000 metric tons in 2009 of special corn biscuits to be given to countries in need.

No other place in the world has corn reigned supreme than in the United States. In the burgeoning technocracy of the twenty-first century, corn has become the Holy Grail of genetic manipulation, turning the plant into the building blocks for everything Americans eat and drink; pump into their automobiles as fuel; feed their livestock, chemically change into plastics and cloth; and biologically mutate into fiber for utilization of paper to particle board.

The United States produces nearly 40 percent of the world’s corn and has learned how to genetically alter the plant to such a degree that most people fail to realize that the plant cannot grow in the wild, but must be modified into hybrids each year to create the seeds for the next season’s planting. Each year, corn is created by mating two different corn hybrids to create a new strain of corn; often the result is a new type of corn that is better than either of its parent strains. So, even though the plant is highly dependent on mankind in its reproduction, it earns its next year’s prodigy with its incredible characteristics allowing it to be manufactured into more than three thousand food sources and four hundred non-consumable products.

Dent corn can be modified into a high fructose sugar, cheaper to produce than cane sugar. According to CornSugar [www.CornSugar.com], “sugar is sugar and that high fructose corn syrup is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose.” The website goes on to say that there is not a shred of evidence that these products are different biologically and are just as healthy as foods derived from sugar cane. The commercial use of corn syrup is as a thickener, sweetener, and humectant (the ability for food to stay soft and moist). Suffice to say, corn syrup is used in thousands of foods consumed by Americans.

At present there are more than 400 non-consumption products being engineered from chemically synthesized corn byproducts. Most plastics today are created from limited-recurring resins such as oil. Nature requires 100 million years of fermentation to create oil, but with the recent advancements in corn manufacturing in the United States, engineers hope to cut that down to less than 100 days. The first polymer resin known as polylactic acid or PLA is derived from corn and is a crystalline or amorphous sheet of plastic like material. Although you cannot eat this material, though derived from corn, it is bio-degradable. PLA products are very sensitive to heat so it makes it unusable in cooking ware, engine parts, aircraft panels, or other heat intolerant applications, but can be used as bottles to hold liquids (such as water, soda, juices), plates and utensils (such as given out at fast food restaurants), and medical applications. PLA is just the start to many similar organic chemicals that will be used to formulate new and wondrous plastics.

One of a select few manufacturers to start producing biopolymers (plastic from plants) is a firm called NatureWorks LLC. This company is at the forefront of the new science which can produce plastics that are completely bio-degradable and have very low carbon footprints on the environment. Within the last month the company began producing yogurt cups made of this new material, with a savings of 48 percent of carbon emissions over standard plastic. In the next few years, more corn will be grown to create ethanol than used for the production of food. The history of bio-fuels has been an epic struggle against the cheaper and, at the present, more easily accessible petroleum. If it wasn’t for some short sighted government officials who saw ethanol as a way for moonshiners (illegal corn whiskey manufacturers) to gain legal rights to production of alcohol, we may never have had need for gasoline. As early as 1862, alcohol was being taxed at $2 a gallon, forcing inventors like German engineer Nikolas Otto and American industrialist Henry Ford to re-examine the use of ethanol as a fuel for vehicles – even though Ford had a working prototype of the Model T running completely on ethanol. The use of alcohol as a primary agent in combustion engines was dashed in the early 20th century in America with the passage of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: basically prohibiting the manufacture of all alcohol (even for combustion). Ethanol never recovered from that stroke of the pen, even though the law was repealed years later.

Alcohol is still heavily taxed in the United States and would make its use as combustion still very expensive compared to gasoline. To circumvent the taxation, the alcohol goes through a process called “denaturing” in which the ethanol is subjected to various bittering agents such as benzoates and methanol, making it poisonous to consume. In this form, farmers are not levied tax on the alcohol. With improvements of ethanol production, the US Congress has mandated that production of bio-fuels increase from its present state of 12 billion gallons a year, to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

Today, American farmers grow corn to turn into E10 or E85, which is a mixture of gasoline and ethanol. E10 is 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent alcohol, while E85 is 85 percent alcohol and 15 percent gasoline. E10 can be used in any car today, even those that are not designated to be used for ethanol. The E85 mixture requires special automobiles and is often limited to warmer climates, with the present technology, that do not have extended frigid temperatures. It has been statistically proven that ethanol is better for the environment than carbon based fuel sources (oil), even after considering that most farm equipment still use gas or diesel for the production of the corn.

Beyond the use of the kernels of corn, researchers are now utilizing every facet and part of the corn plant. Recently, corn stalks are being analyzed for its ability to be used for medium density particle boards – used in many applications including framing homes and commercial buildings throughout the world. Analysis of the fibers suggests they have a chemical composition similar to softwood a-cellulose, common in softwood deciduous trees. The advantages, of course, is that it takes less than 120 days to grow a single harvest of corn compared to years, if not decades, for many forests.

As we move into the early part of the twenty-first century, corn is going to increase in its varied uses to feed the planet and become the building blocks for everything from clothing, plastic, fuel, domesticated feed, new construction material, and everyday consumer goods. Vast portions of the planet are still locked in a day-to-day struggle with feeding the inhabitants. In these areas, corn will still be used as a staple, as a form of currency, or as a way to barter for services. As much as corn is intrinsically bound to humanity in its survival, so too will mankind be linked to the ancient tall grass that was born in the lowlands of central Mexico because corn has become more than food, it has weaved itself into every aspect of our global society.

Posted in American Indians, General History, MesoAmerican | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Sundiata Study

Sundiata:
A Father’s Role is in the Physical Realm,
While the Mother’s Function is that of Metaphysical

The oral traditional story of the Sundiata is more than an epic of an unlikely boy ascending the throne of Mali, but it is a testament to the physical relationship of the father and the mental aspects of the mother, to the family. It is most particularly interesting when we look at Sundiata himself, who was neither very physical and had to rely on his mother’s instincts, that perhaps it is why his story has been carried down through the centuries.

Although children were identified with their mothers, and the society is as a whole was polygamous, it is keenly obvious that a fatherly relationship physically cemented the family and communities together. We learn that mothers, although not provided with great physical strength, had a mental stamina and muscle that could be just as deadly. Sassouma, the first wife of the king, it is suggested could be just as vicious as a man who carried a sword. “She laughed derisively with that fierce laughter which cuts through flesh and penetrates right to the bone” (Sundiata ,19). Throughout the story we find this vindictiveness of a scorned mother can be just as strong as the bow or the sword, in the hands of a hunter. It is the observation that the story was developed to show that a combined physicality and mental state is of premium importance for the continuation of Mali society.

In this written translation of the Sundiata we are introduced to a rather obscure griot named Djeli Mamoudou Kouyate who explains the importance of a paternal legacy, “I derive my knowledge from my father Djeli Kedian, who also got it from his father; history holds no secrets for us”

Within Mali culture, men and women had very precisely defined roles. Men were responsible for much of the heavy lifting, brute work, and hunting. They were the ones who provided the millet used in the meal. They were also responsible for maintaining the structural integrity of the house. And, ultimately, the man of Malinke society was in handling physical relations with other families. Women were responsible for the metaphysical aspects of the family. The mothers were responsible with raising the children and providing the needed instruction of family structure and life. In agrarian families, they were responsible for preparing the sauces – which entailed detailed mental lists of ingredients and recipes. Women of nobility were often political liaisons between families and kingdoms and to some lesser extent were thought of to be sorceresses or witches (xii).
In particular, the mental trust of the female character of Sogolon, Sundiata’s mother, was paramount to his success. Sogolon’s wisdom and intuition is evident throughout the tale, from providing him instruction, teaching him perseverance, shielding him from the wrath of his stepmother, and finally giving him the ambition to seek out the throne. Sogolon is chosen not because of her beauty, for which she is actually ghastly in appearance, but because of her metaphysical qualities, that were seen within the bones thrown by the hunter.

We can see in the chapter Childhood, that the King was quite concerned about his children’s’ affairs and ultimately their well being. Especially, as a king, the father was concerned with his kingdom, but more so of the well being and perseverance of his lame son. And as a father he could be seen just as concerned about his other children, giving Dankaran Touman, a new bow for him to practice hunting. The act of hunting in the Malinke society was principal to the family structure and it was essential that all males learn to hunt with some degree of skill; the use of the bow was also used for war and as paramount as possessing of game and meat, the skill of warfare was just as vital.

As of the paternal nature of the tale we hear in ‘The First Kings of Mali’, “Listen then, Sons of Mali, children of the black people, listen to my word, for I am going to tell you of Sundiata, the father of the Bright Country”, was an indication that the foundation of the strong male paternity. We take lightly these words in our culture, but to other nations this represents a link in a tangible chain from the past to the present, showing that it is the men of society that is the physical connection.

Continuing on we have the griot of the king of Mali say to the father of Sundiata, “I salute you, father; I salute you, King of Nare Meghan” in another clear indication that though he had just become the father of Sundiata that the term was also part of his title in as much as was king. When we hear the word king, it brings forth images of the lion, strength, perseverance, constitution, and endurance; in the same feign, the term father to the Malinke people resonates with those images. Mali men considered themselves robust and often cruel and knew women were beneath them, “Kings will tremble before us as a woman trembles before a man”.

In the story we see that the metaphysical attributes of mothers are her instruments; as it is said, “The more a wife loves and respects her husband and the more she suffers for her child, the more valorous will the child be one day. . . the child is worth no more than the mother is worth.

Within the chapter of ‘the Baobab Leaves’ we are told of Sundiata’s mother’s passing and the great urgency of him to reclaim the lands of his father. Later, we are told of Sundiata confronting the king of Sosso, that he was there to challenge the title. “As for you, you are coming here to re-conquer the kingdom of your father, you are fighting Soumaora,” is a classic structure of lending the physical patriarchy to ruling the kingdom. It bears the essence that the very foundation of the society is held together by the loyalty of the father to son in a physical relationship.

In conclusion, the oral story of Sundiata deals with the continuation of the physical relationships between the father and son, but also the mental relationship of mother and son. Sundiata could not have conquered his rightful kingdom if he did not learn from his father to be physical and commanding or from his mother to be tactful, gracious, and kind.

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