300: Rise of an Empire – history infantilized into fiction (with spoilers)

300: Rise of an Empire is replete with so many head slap worthy whoppers, that I had to stop before they resulted in a concussion.  I went into the theater expecting that history would be shredded…the result surpassed my exceptions.  The end product easily surpasses the collection of whoppers in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart.  It is …

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This day in history – January 10, 49 B.C. – “Alea iacta est” – start of the Great Roman Civil War

Politics in the Roman Republic was a brutal business.  The rivalry between the patricians was accentuated by the class divisions between patricians and plebeians.  Yet these were manageable so long as the Republic was confined to Italy.  However, Rome’s victories in the Punic Wars with Carthage and the ensuing wars with Macedonia and the Seleucid …

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This day in history – January 5, 1762 – The Miracle of the House of Brandenburg

A death of a middle aged woman in St. Petersburg changed history.  In 1762 towards the end of the Seven Years War, Prussia was on the verge of collapse.  Having lost his last Baltic port and with his army almost annihilated, Frederick the Great at times seriously contemplated suicide.  The consequences for Prussia were dire.  Starting with the Great …

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This day in history – December 25, 1914 – Christmas Truces across the Western Front

It was one of the few heartwarming events to occur in the bloody quagmire of the trenches of the Western Front.  Word War I was originally supposed to be a war that would be over by Christmas.  By Christmas it was clear that the fighting was not going to end any time soon.   On …

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This day in History – December 25, 1066 – William the Bastard is crowned King of England

The Norman Conquest is considered an epochal moment in English history – with good reason.  Until the conquest England was firmly a part of the Scandinavian cultural sphere – four English Kings in the eleventh century had been Danish.  The Normans may have started out as Viking marauders but by 1066 had been absorbed into …

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This Day in History – November 11, 1918 – All Quiet on the Western Front

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 the guns finally fell silent across the battlefields of Europe.  It had been termed the “War to end all Wars” and until the onset of the next round of bloodletting a generation later would be referred to as “The Great War.” …

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This day in History – October 9, 1446 – The Hangul alphabet is published in Korea

Today is Hangul Day in Korea.  In commemorating their alphabet, Koreans acknowledge the remarkable script designed exclusively to fit the language. Like many countries in East Asia, Korea was heavily influenced by Chinese culture.  However, the Chinese characters were cumbersome when applied to Korean.  As a result only in elites were literate. To solve this …

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This day in History – August 26, 1071 – Battle of Manzikert

In its approximately 1000 years of history the Byzantine Empire had suffered a number of military disasters.  It survived the loss of Egypt, Syria and North Africa to the Arabs.  It fended off multiple sieges of Constantinople by the Persians, Arabs, Bulgars and other tribes.  The Empire survived the Slavic migration into the Balkans in …

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This day in History – August 21, 1959 – the American Flag gets its 50th Star

Hawaii was an unusual candidate for American statehood.  The Kingdom of Hawaii had long been under American influence (though it tried to play the Americans off against the British).  However, its economy was eventually dominated by the emigre Americans and Europeans.  In 1887 they forced King Kalākaua to accept the Bayonet Constitution – the monarchy’s …

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