Angelo Poliziano’s 1484 Description Of A Planetary Clock

In studying the writings of scholars of ages past, one often begins to suspect that they were aware of more things than we generally give them credit for.  We begin to understand that the progress of knowledge is not always “upwards” in a steadily sloping straight line; there are periods of setbacks, stagnation, and decay.  And very often we perceive that men of great ability can be trapped in environments that are hostile to the development of their talents.

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The Chain Of Fortune Links The Fates Of Men

The British invasion of the Dardanelles in 1915 is a text-book example of how wishful thinking and imagination can override sound judgment and careful planning.  The idea of knocking Turkey out of the war with an amphibious landing at Gallipoli, followed by a march on Istanbul, was in principle strategically sound; but as a practical matter, the British simply lacked the tools and leadership for the job.

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Al-Minara: The Pharos Lighthouse Of Alexandria

One of the more fascinating of the seven wonders of the ancient world was the Pharos Lighthouse in Alexandria, Egypt.  I have lately been reading the history of the Arab conquest of Egypt in the seventh century, and have become more acquainted with some of the monument’s unique characteristics, and the legends that have surrounded it.

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The Life, Travels, And Literary Works Of Yakut Al-Hamawi

In some recent researches I have discovered one of the more interesting travelers and scholars of the medieval Islamic world.  I have been encouraged to review what sources are available; and the more we learn, the more impressive his story becomes.  His name is Yakut Al-Hamawi, and his career and achievements tell us much about the geographical and social mobility of the age in which he lived.  His career also confirms the truth of the adage that a man of ability will always find a way to rise to the top, regardless of the obstacles placed in his path.

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How Pompey Cleared The Mediterranean Of Pirates

The Mediterranean became infested with pirates as a direct consequence of Rome’s Mithridatic Wars.  Around 88 B.C. Mithridates VI of Pontus went to war against the Romans and moved into the province of Asia Minor.  He took what plunder he could, and apparently decided that an effective way to wage irregular warfare against the Romans would be to encourage pirates to attack Roman shipping lanes.

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The Alexandrian Library: Dissipation Through Neglect And Apathy

Nearly every scholar of classical antiquity seems to have an opinion about the destruction of the Great Library of the Ptolemies at Alexandria in Egypt.  It has become something of a symbol of the triumph of ignorance and superstition over knowledge.  There is much merit to this view; but the picture is a complex one, and it deserves serious consideration.  The ruin of the library–and of others like it in the ancient and medieval worlds–was not a discrete, single event.  It was the gradual outcome of a process that took place over generations.  And when I say “process,” I am referring to neglect, apathy, and negligence.

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