The Swiss orientalist and explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt crossed the cataracts of the Nile in 1813 and was intending to penetrate into the heart of unknown Nubia. Near a place called Jebel Lamoule, his Arab guide dismounted from his camel and approached the intrepid European; his intention was to practice on him a time-honored extortion ritual much observed in that region when escorting foreigners. The ritual was called “preparing the grave for the traveler.”Continue reading
The philosopher and naturalist Theophrastus of Eresos succeeded Aristotle as head of the Peripatetic school; and while he may not have had his predecessor’s visionary profundity, he more than compensated for this with a genial manner, relentless curiosity, and a genius for organization. Like the Prussian naturalist Alexander Von Humboldt, there was nothing in the heavens or on the earth that escaped his attention; and his exhaustive botanical treatise, the Historia Plantarum (Study of Plants) remained an authority in the field until well beyond the medieval period.