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Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Ancient Mayan Civilization

By Rocky Wilson
Author of Sharene:
Death: A Prerequisite For Life

The Ancient Mayan Civilization

The rise and fall of the ancient Mayan civilization, in Central America, is filled with myth, wonder, misunderstanding, and questions marks.

Where did this ancient civilization, which lasted from about 2,600 B.C. to 1575 A.D. come from, and what precipitated its rapid demise?

At its peak, known as the Mayan Classic Period, 300 A.D. to 900 A.D., the many kingdoms comprising the Mayan society built hundreds of tall pyramids and, geographically, ranged across what we now know as southern Mexico, Guatemala, western Honduras, El Salvador, and northern Belize.

Separating myth from history can be tricky, but it’s a good bet that the story of Itzamna, the Mayans’ earliest leader and deified hero who’s said to have led the people to Central America from the Far East through a miraculous parting of the waters, was a mythical character. Another possibility, given a little more credence, is that the Mayan ancestors migrated across the Bering Straight about 20,000 years ago, then moved south.

Many consider Mayans to have been a peaceful civilization as opposed to the bloodthirsty Aztecs of central Mexico. Although life sacrifices were not the norm for Mayans, as was the case with Aztecs, blood sacrifices were major components of Mayan worship. All classes of people regularly shed blood during religious Mayan rites, but it was the blood of kings that was sacrificed most often and carried the highest value.

Although a few hundred thousand Mayan descendents still live in the Yucatan Peninsula, their numbers were reduced significantly in the mid-1500s through Spanish conquest, drought, and the mysterious matlalzahuatl disease that only impacted Native Indians, and killed off more than two million people between 1575 and 1577.

Interesting Mayan facts include:

* Preclassic Mayans were farmers who utilized crop rotation and fertilizers to grow such food as corn, avocados, and papayas; plus they hunted deer and rabbits, and were fishermen.

* Mayans were talented astronomers who created the first calendars and hieroglyphic writings in the Western hemisphere.

* Much Mayan history was destroyed, both sacred images and hieroglyphic manuscripts, in 1562 by Spanish Bishop Diego de Landa, who considered them works of the devil. Ironically, Landa is known to have tortured and killed many Mayans, as well

* Mayans were very class oriented. Most were village farmers who gave two-thirds of their crops and much of their labor to the upper classes.

* Obsidian, a smooth volcanic rock used to make weapons and tools, was a very valuable, expensive commodity to Mayans.

* To make Mayan noblemen distinctive physically, their heads were “fashionably elongated” a few days after birth by pressing them between two boards, their eyes were crossed by dangling objects before them at an early age, and their ears and teeth were inlaid with jade.

Because so much history of the ancient Mayan civilization was destroyed by Bishop Diego de Landa, what we know about the Mayans is limited. Still, there’s no argument that they created an advanced culture.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Francis Marion Was "The Swamp Fox"

By Rocky Wilson
Author of Sharene:
Death: A Prerequisite For Life

Francis Marion was “The Swamp Fox”

Francis Marion was “The Swamp Fox” of the Revolutionary War, and that title was given to him because of his ability to attack at night, harass British occupation troops near Charleston, South Carolina, then retreat back into swamps where the British couldn‘t follow him safely.
Marion (1732-1795) , who also became a national political leader from South Carolina, exercised the use of guerilla warfare tactics long before such military practices became commonly used to fight seemingly superior forces. And the British government suffered extensively because of his expertise in that field.

The reportedly quiet and moody leader was born and died in the same South Carolina county just northeast of Charleston near the Atlantic Ocean where many of his greatest battles were fought; where Marion had the upper hand over every foe because of his superior knowledge of the swamplands.

His biggest impact on the Revolutionary War came in 1780, after the British had recaptured Charleston, when nearly all Americans had excited the state of South Carolina except Marion and a small force of poorly equipped, underfed men whom he trained to attack and capture British troops, sabotage communication and supply lines, and rescue American prisoners.

Marion’s nickname, “The Swamp Fox,” was introduced by British Colonel Bonastre Tarleton.

Important dates in the life of Francis Marion include:

* 1732 youngest of six children

* 1753 Joins militia, but sees no military action

* 1759 Family moves to Eutaw Springs, later site of bloody Revolutionary War battle

* 1773 Buys plantation with inheritance money, successful grower

* 1778 Assumes command Second South Carolina regiment

* 1779 Distinguishes self at Second battle of Savanna

* 1780 British Major General tries in vain to capture or kill Marion

* 1786 Marriage to Mary Ellen Vidreau

* 1790 Voted Representative to South Carolina Continental Convention

* 1795 Death in Franklin County, South Carolina

Marion was the descendent of French Huguenots who settled along the Santee River, and received a rural education.

His military and political careers, at times, were intertwined, but he always was filled with a need for new adventure, new challenges. An example of that came in 1747 when, at age fifteen, he made an adventuresome effort to sail to West Indies.

Although little of note is known about the man’s early years, Francis Marion is such a legend in South Carolina that, among other things, both a National Forest and a state college are named after him.

The 250,000-acre, more than 50-mile-long Francis Marion National Forest is just northeast of Charleston almost touching the Atlantic Ocean, and still in recovery from Hurricane Hugo, which devastated that coastline nearly 20 years-ago.

Located inland in Florence, South Carolina, Francis Marion University has a total enrollment of about 900 students, and specializes in the instruction of liberal arts, business, and education.

In summary, Francis Marion was an unknown private who rose from the military ranks to become a Brigadier General.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

The History of Malta is One of Strength, Character

By Rocky Wilson
Author of Sharene:
Death: A Prerequisite For Life

The History of Malta is One of Strength, Character

A tiny spec in the vortex of the Mediterranean Sea, Malta, or at least the history of Malta, is replete with a richness, depth, and sensitivity found nowhere else.

In what other country do you find a civilization dating back to 5200 BC; the oldest free-standing buildings in the world; direct connections to Biblical history; and, during World War II, a stubborn island fortress that refused to give in to tyranny despite being the most heavily bombed spot on planet earth?

With a land mass less than twice the size of Washington D.C., Malta serves as a tourist destination for Great Britain much like Hawaii does for the U.S. mainland, yet its strategic location between Sicily, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Strait of Gibraltar have long made it a target for military conquest. Plus, Malta is graced with deep-water harbors.

Even ancient mythology touches Malta, as tradition has it that the sea nymph Calypso detained Odysseus for seven years in a cave on Malta’s sister island, Gozo.

Important dates in Maltese history include:
* 5200 BC Uncovered potsherds match those in Sicily, 60 miles to the north

* 4000 BC Temple Culture, largest free-standing buildings in world, including Ggantija, built for fertility goddess

* 2500 BC Temple Culture race extinct

* 800 BC Phoenicians conquer island

* 218 BC Romans capture island during Second Punic War, build catacombs

* 60 AD St. Paul shipwrecked there, stays three months and performs miracles (Acts 27:35-28:11)

* 870 AD Arabic rule, introduce citrus fruits and erosion control

* 1090-1479 Germany, Spain, others rule

* 1530 To protect Catholic Europe, Spain gives isle to Order of the Knights of Saint John

* 1798 Napoleon captures island with no resistance

* 1798 Maltese revolt as French auction convent possessions

* 1802 British crown colony

* 1940-1945 Repeated bombings by Mussolini, Hitler, and Rommel

* 1964 Maltese independence

The Bible says people on the island of Malta, called Melita in the King James version, showed St. Paul and the nearly 300 people shipwrecked with him “no little kindness,“ and that’s still true of a people whose native language is Maltese. Maltese, a derivative of Arabic, is possibly the most complex language spoken on earth and the only Semitic language written with the Latin alphabet. Still, nearly all Maltese speak English.

The main reason Malta was able to survive near-daily bombings during World War II is that ancient civilizations there built extensive labyrinths of underground tunnels in soft limestone where the Maltese would huddle during bombing raids.

Malta consists of the inhabited islands of Malta and Gozo, and a few smaller islands. Total population there is about 400,000 people, and the climate is mild and rainy in the winter, hot and dry in the summer.

The history of Malta is long, strong, and resilient, and each year the Maltese people proudly celebrate their emergence as an independent nation on September 21.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Sir Winston Churchill Quotes, Part of the Story

By Rocky Wilson
Author of Sharene:
Death: A Prerequisite For Life

Sir Winston Churchill Quotes, Part of the Story

Sir Winston Churchill quotes are legendary.

Quotes like:

“A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen.”

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

And “The price of greatness is responsibility,” …will stand the test of time.

Yet, being a great orator, statesman, writer, and painter are only some of the attributes of Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965,) the British leader most known for his valiant efforts to protect the free world during the regime of Adolf Hitler.

Although born of royal British blood on his father’s side, Churchill’s mother, Jennie Jerome, a beautiful American with Iroquois Indian blood in her veins, was a strong influence on him until her death in 1921.

Little known facts about Sir Winston Churchill include his capture and subsequent escape from a prison camp in 1899 while a correspondent during the South African War; his first lecture tour of America that earned him enough money to join the non-paid British Parliament in 1901; the fact he was a pilot; and two major failures in his political career that would have ruined the careers of most.

But not this man, who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1953 for The History of the Second World War.

Important events in Churchill’s life include:

* 1895-1898 War correspondent for wars in Cuba, India, and Sudan

* 1908 Married, later one son and four daughters

* 1910 Early proponent of health & unemployment insurance, minimum wage, limited working hours

* 1911 Head of Royal Navy

* 1915 Loses Royal Navy post due to unsuccessful naval campaign at Straight of Dardanelles

* 1924 Appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, decision to return country to gold standard proves disastrous

* 1933-1939 Vocal opponent of Hitler, Bolsheviks

* 1940 Prime Minister, minister of defense

* 1945 After war’s end loses power with Labor Party takeover

* 1951-1955 Prime Minister, minister of defense

* 1953 Nobel Prize in literature, Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II

* 1964 Resigns from Parliament

One historian said Churchill’s philosophy on life was: “All life is a struggle, the chances of survival favor the fittest, chance is a great element in the game, the game is to be played with courage, and every moment is to be enjoyed to the full.”

Yet, Churchill’s biggest contribution to mankind had to have come from 1940 until 1945, during World War II, when he rallied a nation that first stood alone, then worked with the U.S. and Russia to thwart the oppression he so despised.

He once said, “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

Sir Winston Churchill quotes will stand the test of time, but so, too, will the courage and genius of who he was.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Biography of Abraham Lincoln

By Rocky Wilson
Author of Sharene:
Death: A Prerequisite For Life

A Biography of Abraham Lincoln

Could a biography of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865,) be written without delving into the diversity of despair, tragedy, death, tenacity, victory, and genius that marked the life of the 16th president of the U.S.?

Only a man of God-given character could have withstood the pressures of heavy personal depression, the loss of three sons before they reached maturity, a marital relationship with a woman having classic symptoms of borderline personality, and a failed business to become one of the most revered leaders in American history.

And things never got easier for Abraham Lincoln. Shortly after being elected to the U.S. presidency in 1960, before he stepped into office, South Carolina started a trend of seceding from the United States of America. Before long, 10 other states joined South Carolina over the issue of slavery, and on April 12, 1861, the bloody Civil War began.
Although the victor in that conflict, Lincoln had little time to reflect on that victory or institute reparation to the South, because six days after General Robert E. Lee ended the Civil War by surrendering at the Appomattox Courthouse, in Virginia, Abraham Lincoln was killed by an assassin’s bullet.

Some key events in the life of Abraham Lincoln include:

* Born February 12, 1809, rural Kentucky

* 1817 Shoots wild turkey, has so much remorse never hunts again

* 1828 Observes slave auction in New Orleans

* 1830 Family moves to Illinois

* 1833 Business fails

* 1834 Elected to Illinois General Assembly, begins to study law

* 1842 Barely averts duel by sword with Democratic state auditor James Shields

* 1849 Leaves politics to practice law

* 1854 Elected to Illinois legislature, turns down position in unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate

* 1856 Helps organize new Republican party of Illinois

* 1858 Loses hotly contested, debate-filled U.S. Senate campaign to Stephen A. Douglas

* November 6, 1860 Elected 16th U.S. president

* November 8, 1864 Re-elected to presidency

* April 15, 1865 Killed at Ford’s Theater, in Washington D.C., by John Wilkes Booth

Some of Abraham Lincoln’s most poignant speeches, which helped pave his path to the presidency, came in opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dred Scott Decision of 1857 that proclaimed that no slave or descendant of a slave could be or become a U.S. citizen.

Part of Abraham Lincoln’s sad personal life hinged around the women who were most important to him. His mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, passed away when Lincoln was nine-years-old; his older sister, Sarah, died giving birth; his first love, Ann Rutledge, died at age 22; and his proposal of marriage to another woman was denied, leading Lincoln into a state of severe depression. Even Lincoln’s relationship with Mary Todd, whom he married in 1842 and had four sons with, wasn’t without trials and depression.

No, a biography of Abraham Lincoln lacks substance and creditability without noting the sorrows and challenges that characterized the man’s life.

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