Thursday, September 30, 2010

Busiest Airports!

Statisticians have calculated that the airports in the world were the busiest in the year 2004.

In the first place, with 83.6 million passengers, found itself "ATL," the airport in Atlanta, on the "ORD" in Chicago landed and flew 75.4 million passengers, on the third place is the European airport "Heathrow" in London (67.3 million passengers), fourth on the list is Los Angeles Airport LAX, "with 60.7 million passengers, 59.4 million passengers caught up in Dallas and at the same time in Frankfurt had arrived or departed 51.1 million people.

Zuma Fact: #24: Gastric juices.

Gastric juices are so strong that they can dissolve zinc or cause blisters on the skin

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), British philosopher, mathematician and writer, was once approached by a fellow philosopher who told him that they have to agree about something very important.

Otherwise, just before this event, his fellow philosopher wrote a book in which he copied almost verbatim already published Russell's philosophical studies.

Since this type of people do not have honor, in his unbelievable behavior, the plagiarist eagerly said to Russell:

"I have written a remarkable book. I'm sure you will like it. It seems to me that only you could speak of it on the literary evenings and present it to the public, "said the philosopher.

"My modesty urges me not to do it," briefly replied Russell.

Zuma Fact: #23: The distance footballers run during a football match.

According to the calculation of two English professors, during a football match the players run a distance of, on average, 8690 meters.

Forwarders run the most, about 9800 meters, but goalkeepers run only 450 meters.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sweet Life!

"The life I spent was in ease and prosperity," said the Turkish sultan Ghiyas-ud-din Khilji shortly before he died.

"I lived in the land of pleasure in which so far not a single ruler has lived," - this were his last words.

It happened in the 15th century.

The Sultan really was not joking. He knew to enjoy life: he had, among other things, a huge harem with 15,000 women and lovers.

Zuma Fact: #22: Nail growth.

Some studies have shown that our fastest growing nail is on our middle finger of the right hand, especially in summer, and the slowest growing is the little finger of our left hand.

Monday, September 27, 2010

How the Legends Are Born: The Magic Rope.

Apparently, witnesses saw a child climbing to a rope that stands in the air, and then it disappeared... This was, like breaking news, published in a newspaper in 1890, and after that, many have unsuccessfully attempted to perform this amazing magic trick.

For more than a century around the world is orbiting an incredible story about the appearance that originates from India. It is about illusion trick with a rope and a boy who disappears.

The original performance was like this: in the open space, fakir takes a long rope and throws it into the air where it remains standing upright, as if hung on something. Fakir’s assistant, a boy, then climbs the rope, and when he comes to the end, he suddenly disappears. Fakir then calls him to return, but there is no trace of the boy. After a few moments fakir himself climbs up, armed with a knife, and he also disappears. Then from the sky dismembered body parts begin to fall. Fakir however comes down from heaven, pulls the rope, covers the remains of body with canvas and, suddenly, hocus-pocus - here's the boy alive and well.

It would be truly amazing performance” - says Peter Lamont, magic historian and researcher from the University of Edinburgh. “Too bad it was not true. About this performance was first heard in 1890 thanks to the writing of the American newspaper the Chicago Tribune. Journalist John Elbert Wilkie admitted later that it was an ordinary summer canard. What he certainly did not expect was that this canard will gain so much fame.
Wilkie’s article from the Tribune was re-published in many other papers, even overseas, but when the article that was published four months later, in which editorial was refuting the news, came out, everyone else remained quiet. In 1904 even the first alleged witness appeared claiming that he saw with his own eyes the Indian rope trick. His name was Sebastian Burchett. But as soon as the members of the English Society for Psychical Research began to ask him questions, it was immediately clear that he had too vivid imagination. And this was the umpteenth example of "unreliability of memory when it comes to these things," the experts said.

However, this legend, which spoke about the unknown and mysterious India, just in the way the colonial culture of that time seen it, became so famous that she could no longer be forgotten or even destroyed” - explains Lamont. “Thus, some people tried to explain this game with a rope, claiming that it was a case of mass hypnosis. Fakir would lead into a trance all viewers and then they saw what really was not happening. The explanation was so unconvincing that the first photographs have begun to appear in an effort to overturn assumptions about the mass hypnosis.”

"Strand Magazine", a magazine that published the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, was first that, in 1919, delighted readers with a photo of "the most famous magic trick in the world." It was made by certain F. V. Holmes, multi-decorated officer (who is not in any relationship with the famous detective from stories). According to Holmes, the rope was unwounded, thrown into the air and there was left to stand like it was rigid. Then a boy climbed up and remained standing at the top. Just when the officer shot the photo, the boy disappeared. "I do not know how to explain it," was his response.

Therefore, other explanations of this puzzle were offered. In the thirties of last century, a German illusionist said that the rope was, in fact, masked, and that it consisted of sheep bones, stuck one in another, so that it made a kind of a pole on which the boy could climb up. In the fifties yet another interpretation was argued, that the trick was performed in some valley. Wire, as thin as a strand of hair, was torn between two mountains, and the rope was, after being thrown in the air by fakir, attached to this invisible wire with a hidden hook. The performance was showed at night, and the boy was climbing the rope and disappearing into the darkness and smoke of burning fire. Then would the fakir, wearing wide cape, climb to the top of the rope from where he will throw pieces of limbs of a monkey, which he slashed previously, to the ground. Finally, the boy would hide under the cape and come along with a magician so that everything looks like he came out of nowhere.

All these explanations are much more astonishing than the very performance of this story” - says Peter Lamont. “Who could replace sheep bone for a rope? And where did existed a wire, as thin as a hair, that could be crucified between two hills and withstand the weight of two people? All of them had, in fact, tried to clarify a mystery that never existed. Photos like the one Holmes depicted did not show an Indian rope, but something else entirely: keeping the balance on the long stalks of bamboo, which is still active in some parts of India and China. There the acrobat girds himself with a thick rope around his waist, and akimbo a long bamboo pole and elevate it. Along it, then, climbs another guy who, when he reaches the top, is standing on it for a few moments keeping his balance.”

Because of this, Lamont was, as a researcher, interested in how did the various magician witnesses were able to substitute a regular game of balance with an incredible trick with Indian rope. Along with an English psychologist Richard Wiseman, he assumed that there is a connection between a sensationalism of a story and the time that elapsed between events and reports of it. In other words, the researchers started from the fact that telling of a witness becomes more astonishing as time goes on.

They gathered all attestations that they found in books, studies and newspaper articles: total 48 of them. They eliminated all recounting of hearsay, as well as documents which do not indicate year of the event or did not contain detailed descriptions. The remaining evidences - they counted 21 - were divided into five groups, according to the degree of sensationalism. Their conclusion, for the umpteenth time, confirmed the assumption of extreme unreliability of memory regarding the magic performances. Witnesses from the documents that they found had actually seen people standing on a pole, but as the years passed, they added to their description elements from what they had read or heard from stories. And, what a surprise: from the thirties and onwards there was no one who claimed that he saw the climbing a rope trick.

The real secret of the show with an Indian rope is in our head and there it withstands time. Our mind mixes real events we witnessed and legends we heard, creating in this way a compelling story. It never happened, but it is nevertheless convincing and exciting.

There is more ;)

In the late 19th and early 20th century the performance with the Indian rope has become so popular that some magicians began to consider it a threat to their profession. It seemed to them that the Indian illusionists were far more skilled than their colleagues from the West, and the most prominent among them started climbing to discover what the trick is. They even went to India to examine the gurus and fakirs, apparently without success. Then they tried to perform this trick in the theater, with weights that they themselves invented. Unfortunately, no one succeeded: one thing was to hear stories about this art, and completely other to try to perform it in an entirely different environment, such is the stage.

Because of this, for magicians the trick with Indian rope is even today "the greatest illusion ever conceived in the world," though never carried out. Nor it can be grasped, experts in this field say: it is like the Holy Grail in the magician’s world.

Zuma Fact: #21: Spider Fiber.

Spider fibers are extremely thin and light
If a spider was able to produce enough fiber to shroud the entire Earth, it would be heavy only 170 grams.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why do all our muscles get tense when we are frightened?

It is a legacy from the old times, when the meeting with a threat ended with one of the only two options - hit or run.

In both cases, our body was ready for physical effort.

That is why today our heart pounds faster, our muscles tighten, we are suffused with cold sweat, and our blood pressure increases.

At the same time, all other bodily functions (e.g., welding) fall into the shade until the danger passes.

Zuma Fact: #20: Ancient Sumerians and Dairy Products

With production of dairy products have dealt even ancient Sumerians. In the year of 3000 BC they knew of the coagulation of milk and made some kinds of cheese and yogurt.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

William Shakespeare or William the Conqueror?

Well-known theater actor Richard Burbage, constant companion of the famous writer William Shakespeare (1564-1616), once portrayed the title role in the play "Richard III".

Actor was spotted by certain rich beauty who called him to spend the night together...He was supposed to come to her the next evening after the play and announce himself as Richard III.

Hearing of their agreement from aside, Shakespeare decided to forestall his friend.

Before the end of the play he went to visit this beautiful lady, and announced himself at her servant as Richard III.

The lady received him. She did not even have anything against the fact that writer in her bed had replaced the actor...

And soon, while they were in love trance, Richard Burbage also arrived.

The servant knocked on the door and brought a message that said: "Richard III".

"Allow me to answer," said Shakespeare to housewife. He wrote just a few words: "Sorry, my friend. Before Richard III comes William the Conqueror. "

Who is a nobleman in Europe? (Part Three: Noble Blood)

While the nobility is, as a social status and class, everywhere in Europe long ago abolished, the descendants of noble families still exist and use their old titles.

It is calculated that in Germany there are 40,000 people who belong to noble families. It is interesting that in Germany all noble families are shared on ancient nobility (the ones whose noble families existed before 1400) and the new nobility (created after 1400). These families are also shared as high nobility (the ones who had their place in the parliament of the Holy Roman Empire) and the lower nobility.

It should be stressed, however, that noble families are not in any way, special and separate part of the population. Modern studies have "democratized" genealogy, in the sense that it showed that, when looking at a long period of time (several tens of generations), the nobility is practically closely related to other populations and that the notion of "noble blood" is only myth, invented to impose and maintain class and social differences. During the Middle Ages, in some countries, many younger branches of the royal family have melted into the middle nobility, and often in the coming generations because of impoverishment they connected their selves through marriage to wealthier civil families. The process was also and reversed.

The difference between the nobles and the others is just the fact that only the family of nobles was able to preserve records of their ancestors (but only selected ones) for a longer time period, so that their genealogies are the only ones available and they can keep track of the change of generations throughout the centuries.

To return to Who is a nobleman in Europe? (Part One: From Cesar to Emperor), click HERE.

To return to Who is a nobleman in Europe? (Part Two: Seven Modern Kingdoms), click HERE.

Who is a nobleman in Europe? (Part Two: Seven Modern Kingdoms)

In the Byzantium, the ruler carried the title vasileos and avtokrator, which means emperor and autocrat. Lower titles were the despot (in the beginning it was the title of Crown Prince), then sevastokrator and then Cesar (i.e. Caesar).

Although, theoretically, the Empire was supposed to be "universal", that is, there could exist only one, in Europe, since the Middle Ages until today, besides the Byzantine Empire, several other empires were also declared. In the year 800, the Western Roman Empire was renewed, under the name the Holy Roman Empire of the German people (the first Reich). Emperor was chosen by seven electors, but the title usually remained in the same family and was passed on from father to son. Habsburg family held this title for four centuries, until its abolition, in 1806, when the Emperor Franz II of Habsburg-Lorraine proclaimed himself as Franz I, Emperor of Austria.

In the 19th century several new "empires" emerged: 1804 in France (Emperor Napoleon I), 1871 in Germany (Prussian King Wilhelm II was proclaimed as German Emperor - this is the second Reich). British Queen Victoria's was proclaimed as Empress of India in 1877. For a short time in the 19th century there were even and emperors of Brazil (Portuguese kings), and Mexico. After the First World War, all three European "empires" (German, Austria-Hungarian and the Russian) disappeared.

Lower than the imperial title was King (in Latin - rex). In Europe today, mainly in the north, there exist seven hereditary kingdoms, while there has been a lot more of them - especially in eastern and southern Europe. The title of king could be granted only by a pope (or emperor).

Below the title of King comes Duke (in Latin - dux). In Europe today there is still the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, once part of the Holy Roman Empire. The title of Grand Duke or Archduke was given to members of the imperial family of Austria and Russia (Habsburg, Romanov).

Lower than the Duke title, but high in the hierarchy of the nobility, is the French title Marquis, which in Germany can be compared to different names, such as the Margrave, Landgrave, Count Palatine (elector) and First (prince - the ruler of a certain area).

Next in line is the title of Count (Comte in France or in England, Earl). This word pulls the origin from the Latin word comes, which was the position of servers, escorts on the court of Roman emperor. In the early Middle Ages, in some countries, like France, counts were extremely powerful feudal lords, equal to dukes, and sometimes even kings. Over time, this title was granted too often and it lost some of its former prestige, although today it still marks the high nobility.

Below the Count is Viscount (i.e. viceroy, or lower count). Finally we have the title of Baron, and then Baronet (knights in Germany) whose holders are considered as lower nobility.

In Europe today there are ten countries which have hereditary monarchy, of which seven are kingdoms, one is grand duchy, and two are principalities:

-    United Kingdom (the ruler is Queen Elizabeth II of Windsor)
-    Belgium (King Albert II of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha)
-    Denmark (Queen Margrethe II of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Gl├╝cksburg)
-    Sweden (King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden)
-    Spain (King Juan Carlos I of Borbon)
-    Norway (King Harald V of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Gl├╝cksburg)
-    Netherlands (Queen Beatrix of Orange-Nassau)
-    Luxembourg (Grand Duke Henri II de Bourbon)
-    Monaco (Prince Albert II Grimaldi)
-    Liechtenstein (Prince Hans Adam II)

To read Who is a nobleman in Europe? (Part Three: Noble Blood), click HERE.

To return to Who is a nobleman in Europe? (Part One: From Cesar to Emperor), click HERE.

Who is a nobleman in Europe? (Part One: From Cesar to Emperor)

Modern studies have democratized the science of genealogy, showing that, when viewed in a long time, the nobility in Europe is closely related to other populations. "Blue blood" is just a myth invented to maintain class distinctions.

At the time of the Roman Republic, there were three groups of people: the patricians, the so-called knights and plebeians (common people). The term nobilis (noble) could be obtained only if you were descendant of consuls, that is, the top officials. With the collapse of the Roman Empire (476) and the emergence of the barbarian countries in Europe, gradually, new feudal nobility was created.

In Europe today there is practically no noble family (with the exception of Georgia), whose origin can be determined objectively for the period before 9th and 10th century.

Feudal nobles emerged as great medieval possessors of the land, members of the warrior class (knights) who, because of their merit to the ruler, received individual titles and privileges. In reality, more often they took individual titles and privileges by themselves.

To read Who is a nobleman in Europe? (Part Two: Seven Modern Kingdoms), click HERE.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Zuma Fact: #19: Our new skeleton.

Special bone cells gradually destroy and regenerate bone tissue so that it can be said that every six years, we have an entirely new skeleton.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is it better to use glass or plastic bottles?

The total amount of energy required to produce glass bottles of 500 ml is approximately 34 mega joules. It is slightly more than the production of polyethylene terephtalate plastic bottles of the same volume, which require 32 mega joules.

But, for the production of glass bottles, which are made of 50 percent of re-processed (recycled) glass, you need only 30 mega joules. Such bottles may still be recycled almost countless times.

With the plastic is slightly different.

Used plastic can be processed, but it is not used for food industry to avoid spoilage of nutrients and because even the smallest particles of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) may irreversibly damage a large amount of polyethylene terephtalate (PET).

Recycled plastic does not reduce the amount of new plastic bottles or the cost of their production.

We should not neglect the fact that, during the production of plastic bottles, into the atmosphere is released a hundred times more toxic gases than during the production glass.

Zuma Fact: #18: Can we see gama and X-rays?

Human eye, under certain conditions, can see the gamma and X-rays.

Experiments have shown that Retina horizontal cells, when they get used to the darkness, can see both types of rays, as green-orange flash or a blink.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tsar and Infantry!

Peter the Great

Russian Tsar Peter the Great (1672-1725) was in many ways an unusual ruler.

For example, in a battle against the Turks, in 1695, he fought with his soldiers as ordinary infantry believing that in this way he will contribute more to the victory of his own army.

And on one winter day, in 1724, the Tsar saw one of his ship sink. Not thinking that someone else should have done it instead of him, he immediately jumped into the icy water to help saving people from the ship.

Since he spent a lot of time in cold water, the Tsar got cold and fever.

Devoted Peter the Great died a few weeks later.

Zuma Fact: #17: Everyday Lightnings.

Every second, the earth is hit with approximately one hundred lightning strikes, while four times more of them are glaring in the sky, but, they never reach us.

Both types of lightning may be long from 60 meters to 30 kilometers.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Zuma Fact: #16: Desert Snails,

Some desert snails can spend more than six years in a continuous steady-state.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Why doesn’t a woodpecker suffer from a headache from knocking in a tree?

Woodpecker has a thick skull and a small brain.

Knocks on wood are transferred evenly from the beak on the entire skull, whose thick walls mitigate them.

Small brain means that a small mass runs back and forth, which results in very small tremors of the brain that could not seriously affect the health of woodpecker.

Zuma Fact: #15: Cod-fish broods.

Female cod-fish annually lays about six million eggs, but only a dozen broods are hatched from them.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Interesting Advice

Vladimir Horowitz
As a young pianist, Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989), who afterwords became famous musician, met an already famous fellow of his Artur Schnabel (1882-1951).

Knowing that he will without doubt dedicate his life to concert appearances, Horowitz asked Schnabel to give him advice on what to do when he comes to those parts of composition that are the hardest to play.

What to do when you start loosing it? Start to mug! Make pinching and painful expressions ... It will certainly draw the attention of the audience from the music, “advised him Schnabel.

Digital Camera and Megapixels.

Digital photos created with digital cameras are made up of dots called pixels.

Pixels are arranged in horizontal rows and vertical columns, and as so they create a rectangular image.

If you multiply the number of horizontal and vertical pixels you’ll get the resolution of an image, but, because we are talking about really big numbers, it is used increasingly popular expression megapixels.

Common values are 3, 4, 5, 6...megapixels. The higher the number, the better and more detailed image is.

But, no matter how many megapixels has the camera that you have used or intend to buy, its resolution is null according to that used for telescopes - 15 megapixels and more.

Champion among them is the telescope in Hawaii, which is called “Megacam Wide Field.” The astronomers use it to photograph supernovas (dying stars) in amazing resolution of 340 megapixels.

Zuma Fact: #15: Ethiopian chains.

Greek historian Herodotus noted that in his time, in the 5th century AD, Ethiopians chained their prisoners in chains of gold, because copper and other metals were rare and expensive.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Music of 1905!

One hundred years ago, in the U.S., competitions in Ragtime were held, at which the awards reached unimaginable sums of twenty-five thousand dollars.

If it is quite certain that most people now listen to dance, pop, rap, techno, house, hip-hop ... and folk music, then maybe there are those who asked themselves what was going on concert stages around the world before exactly hundred….and five years ago.

It is clear that the so-called serious or classical music, is backed-up with most data at the beginning of last century, but that doesn’t mean that it was and the most popular... Indeed, the pianist Arthur Rubinstein was at the time greeted with ovations wherever he held a concert...however, he was heard only by "selected" audience.

Franz Lehar
However, even among composers of classical music there were those who sought true hits. One of them was Ferenc, known as Franz Lehar (1870-1948), Austrian composer of Hungarian origin. This military conductor was thirty-five years old, when he, in the Austrian capital, in late 1905, for the first time staged his operetta "The Merry Widow" ( Die lustige Witwe). The success was great, and it seems that the popularity of "Merry Widow" is not abating even after a hundred years.

Almost at the same time, Lehar’s countryman, Gustav Mahler (1860-1911, wrote the Seventh Symphony, and the German composer Richard Strauss (1864-1949) musical drama, "Salome", drawing inspiration from the text of the same name by Oscar Wilde.

Ottorino Respighi
Italian composer Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) was twenty-six years old in 1905. He finished his viola and composition studies, and was concertmaster of the orchestra from Imperial Theatre in St. Petersburg and he also performed in concerts, playing violin. That year he wrote a comic opera “King Enzo” (Re Enzo), very popular at that time, Nocturne for Orchestra and the Suite in G major for string orchestra and organ.

The famous Hungarian composer Bela Bartok was young then. He was only twenty-four years old and just wrote the First and Second suite for orchestra. One year younger then him was Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971). According to his parent’s wish, in1905 he finished law school in St. Petersburg, but every day, he visited the composer Rimsky-Korsakov, his personal composition teacher. Hundred and five years ago Stravinsky wrote his first symphony in E minor.

French composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918) published his first book of compositions for piano "Images"( Images pour piano), and Pietro Mascagni – his opera "Amica.".

On the other side of the Atlantic, America was hit with fever of cheerful music for piano - ragtime. Clearly dominating the popular music of America at that time, ragtime was associated with the game, which was named Cakewalk. The father of ragtime was a poor pianist Scott Joplin (1868-1917).

One hundred and five years ago, in the U.S., competitions in Ragtime were held, at which the awards reached unimaginable sum of twenty-five thousand dollars. Schools of Ragtime were opening, and many manuals for ragtime were published.

This music wave eventually came to Europe and the above mentioned composers began to insert ragtime themes in their work...


Thursday, September 09, 2010

Capt. Antonio Banderas!

The famous Spanish actor Antonio Banderas as a boy dreamed of becoming a football player. But when he was fourteenth, he broke his foot...

So he had to say goodbye to his dreams of playing football and, apparently, his parents seemed to be rejoiced with that..

They have wanted, at all costs, to convince Antonio to approach the Spanish army.

However, this did not happen.

The young man left his home, devoted himself to acting and made a great success.

After the successful movies "Philadelphia", "Assassins," "Desperado," "The Mask of Zorro," "Frida," "Spy Kids", and many other, during the premiere of the film "Once Upon a Time in Mexico", by Robert Rodriguez, his father said almost sadly: - Well, my son! To what all this splendor? By now you might have been a  captain.

How far did humans moved away from Earth?

The greatest distance from Earth that has been reached by human beings is 400 171 kilometers.

This distance was reached by the astronauts of ill-fated "Apollo 13", that was supposed to land on the moon, but his tank of oxygen in the main module exploded.

The three astronauts then used the back-up module, and somehow managed to return to Earth, not touching the surface of the moon.

This event was the inspiration of a movie “Apollo 13” starring Tom Hanks.

Zuma Fact: #14: Giraffe's Heart.

Giraffe have a very strong heart. It's heavy about 12 pounds, its walls are about eight inches thick, and the pressure that pumps the blood, is two times higher than in humans.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Sarah Bernhardt: Passion is definitely important!

Longtime fan once sent a letter full of blame to the famous French theater actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923).

She was complaining how the actress continuously plays in the role of women impassioned with love, and this respectable lady has never been able to bring her minor daughter into the theater with her.

Sarah Bernhardt really cared about her fans opinions and she made an effort to respond to this lady.

She wrote her a letter: “Dear Madam, please, keep in mind the following: if you yourself weren’t impassioned, you wouldn’t have a daughter now, and, the concern as whether to bring her to the theater or not.

Zuma Fact: #13: Shortening of adults.

Adults are shortening about one centimeter for every 20 years.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Why vertebrates don't have six legs like insects?

All vertebrates on Earth belong to the order chordates and come from a common ancestor.

Characteristics of vertebrates are, of course, the backbone and symmetrical body made up of head, body and tail.

In the order arthropod, in which insects, spiders and crustaceans belong, articulated organisms have been developed that have a couple of legs on each wrists (centipede is a good example).

Insects usually have six legs and it gives them good support for walking and, besides that, it does not require a common nervous system (which is anyway, less developed).

Terrestrial vertebrates, however, have much more developed brain that, during walking, is managing the movement of diagonal pairs of legs and thanks to that, four legs are sufficient.

Of course, for us humans, two legs are sufficient. :)

Zuma Fact: #12: Nails and hair in cold regions.

Polar expedition members noted that, in cold regions, nails and hair grow slower than in areas with moderate climate.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Fourth Crusade - Twilight of Byzantium (Part five: The Consequences of The Fall of Constantinople.)

After the conquest of Constantinople, the Crusaders will share the lands of Byzantium with Venetians and establish short-lived Latin Empire, which will disappear after just a few decades. Although restored with its return to Constantinople in 1261 the Roman Empire will never be the same. Until the fall by the hand of Turks, Constantinople will just be a shadow of its shadow. And the emperor and autocrat of Romans will remain just in name only. Constantinople, in reality,  will no longer play a leading political role, even in the Balkans, but the Byzantine civilization will once again, like a dying star, shine at the time of "Renaissance Palaeologus" in the 14th century, and then fold like a dark dwarf - Empire reduced to the area of a city. Like being in agony, Constantinople will provide a last, desperate, heroic resistance to Turkish attacker in 1453, and then immerse in the eternal silence from which will emerge Turkish Istanbul.

Equally serious consequences the fall of Constantinople had on relations between the two Christian churches - Orthodox and Catholic. Although for more than a century the official division of the Christian Church dominated ("Schism" from 1054), only the wanton violence of Catholic Christians against the Orthodox Constantinople finally deepened the gap between the two churches, which has not yet been overcome. To this is certainly contributed and the conduct of Pope Innocent III, who, after the conquest of Constantinople, confirmed the election of a new, "Latin", or the Catholic Patriarch, and thus become subsequent complicit in the foray on Constantinople, something to which he previously opposed. Pope’s pressure on the eastern "schismatic" did not, however, have any results. Pope John Paul II, eight hundred years later, during his visit to Athens, in May 2001, asked on behalf of the Catholic Church for forgiveness - for everything the Latins committed eight centuries earlier in Constantinople.

In addition to material damages, the conquest of Constantinople had and other consequences on international and regional relations of that period. Instead of one empire, in its place it was created a larger number of countries, whether Latin, or Greek, "empires", "Despotates", "Kingdoms" and "principalities"... and finally, in the Balkans and Asia Minor many Latin and Greek states waged war for the succession of Byzantium.

To read Part one: Angels of Vanity, click HERE.

Fourth Crusade - Twilight of Byzantium (Part four: A Tragedy Had Several Acts.)

The first act began on 17 July 1203 when the Crusader and Venetian army, led by the blind Doge, managed to penetrate through walls, burn one part of the city and instead of Alexius III give the throne to the blind Isaac II and his airy son who will be crowned as Emperor Alexius IV. The Crusaders and the Venetians weren’t satisfied with mere change on the throne, and they remained outside the city in anticipation of a rich reward from the new Emperor - and that reward was supposed to be so big that even the entire Byzantine Empire was not able to satisfy them.

Interact of the tragedy occurred on 25 January, 1204, when the administrator of the castle, Alexios Murzuflos, with the support of the people, who were bitter with crusaders presence, took the throne under the name of Alexius V. Previous rulers, father and son, were strangled, and the new Emperor tried, helter-skelter, to strengthen the walls in order to defend against Crusaders expected attack.

The last act of the drama occurred on April 9, 1204, or 6712, when Venetian-Crusader army, for the second time in a year, won the walls, and finally occupied Constantinople. For the first time in eight centuries since its founding, the city that has withstood countless sieges and attacks – from the Goths, Slavs, Arabs, Russians, Normans – has fallen. Capturing of Constantinople was the introduction of perhaps the greatest robbery that was remembered throughout the history of Europe. For three days lasted robberies, murders, assaults, burning of the city...The destruction was such that it petrified the very Pope Innocent III who threw anathema on the Venetians.

Coeval of events, Nikita Choniates, writes how conquerors were "breaking the sacred images and throwing holy relics of the martyrs to places that I am ashamed to mention, scattering everywhere the flesh and blood of the Savior. These messengers of Antichrist drew the church vessels and plucked jewelry and ornaments in order to use them as containers for drinking... In the Great Church they destroyed the holy altar, a work of art the whole world admired, and split between them its own parts... and they brought horses and mules into the Church to help them take the screed parts of wealth... Prostitute was placed on the throne of the Patriarch, screaming slanders, awkwardly singing and dancing... On the streets, in homes and churches you could only hear screams and cries."

The Fourth Crusade was one of the darkest moments of Christianity. Never, since the days of the barbarian invasions centuries ago, Europe has seen such an orgy of brutality and vandalism, never in the whole history so many beautiful, so many magnificent works of art were destroyed in such a short time. It is believed that with the burning of Constantinople in 1204 it was forever lost more written works of classical Greek and Roman culture than what happened during the robbery of Rome in the fifth century, or when fire engulfed the Library of Alexandria in the seventh century. What we have now left is only a small part of the vast collection of classical Greek philosophy and literature that is irretrievably lost in the fires of Constantinople.

What wasn’t destroyed was stretched throughout Western Europe - from artistic works, such as horses on St. Mark's Cathedral and many other valuables that can be seen today in Venice and elsewhere - to the countless holy relics, such as those which are located in the Holy Chapel (Ste Chapelle) in Paris, built only for this occasion. Just one collector of holy relics, Robert de Claria, brought home forty relics including: pieces of the Holy Cross, several thorns from Christ’s crown, a part of the Virgin clothes, pot and sponge used during the crucifixion, the hand of St. Mark, St. Helena finger, a piece of clothing Christ wore on the crucifixion… On the other hand, a large number of ancient works made of bronze and copper were easily melted down for the treasury of the Latin masters of Constantinople. The Byzantine chronicler Nikita Choniates from memory has made a list of destroyed ancient works on which is listed Lysippos’es Heracles statue, a magnificent statue of Juno taken from the temple of Samos, incomparable statue of beautiful Helen and many others.

To read Part one: Angels of Vanity, click HERE.

To read Part five: The Consequences of The Fall of Constantinople, click HERE.

Fourth Crusade - Twilight of Byzantium (Part three: Crusader Galleys Under Constantinople)

In July of a 1203, or  a year of 6711 of the Byzantine era, the guards on the towers of the city of Constantinople saw hundreds of Venetian galleys approaching the other coast of Golden Horn bay, the merchant suburb called Galata. Galleys were carrying army of crusader knights, mostly French and Fleming, who, while not clearly understood themselves how, instead of the walls of Jerusalem, the holy city, found themselves in front of Christian Constantinople. The first Crusader attack was directed on the Tower of Galata. In this tower was end of a huge chain of Constantinople walls, over the whole bay, which was preventing the entrance of ships into the Golden Horn, and thus the attacks on the city from the sea.

Byzantine tower defense lasted only one day. Already the next morning, the chain has fallen and the entire Venetian fleet with the crusade army found itself under the walls of Constantinople. The last act of the tragedy of the Byzantine Empire could begin.

The Fourth Crusade was launched five years before by Pope Innocent III as soon as he was elected (1198). It took a long time for the crusaders from the north of Europe to gather together and go with hired Venetian galleys in the campaign to the Holy Land. But neither the pope nor did crusader leaders counted on a feature that will turn an entire campaign to achieve a completely other intentions. Venetian Doge Enrico Dandolo was already very old and almost completely blind. Cunning leader and a skilled politician will use the inability of the Crusaders, to pay transport to the Holy Land, and will make them, for the account of Venice, to conquest Hungarian Zadar, and then Constantinople. Excuse for the arrival of the Crusaders under the walls of Constantinople was their alleged intention to return to the throne, the young Tsarevich Alexis and his father, the blind Isaac II, who was languishing in jail in which he was thrown by his brother Alexius III. Of course, doge Dandolo’s real goal was winning the Byzantine Empire so that Venice could freely trade in the Mediterranean and Black Sea.

To read Part one: Angels of Vanity, click HERE.

To read Part four: A Tragedy Had Several Acts, click HERE.

Fourth Crusade - Twilight of Byzantium (Part two: The Beginning of The End)

The first ruler from Angel family, Isaac Angel, became Emperor in the year of 1185 almost by accident, by rescuing his bare life in the city rebellion against the Emperor Andronicus I Comnenus. After coming on the throne he lived in the magnificent castle that was built on one of the islands in the Marmora Sea. He was surrounded with mistresses and buffoons who he received at the same time as the royal princess. Diseases of old Byzantine state, which were hidden in the era of the former Comnenus dynasty, emerged on the surface. Selling of positions, bribery and blackmail from tax collectors have become an everyday occurrence. For Emperor Isaac II was said that he is selling clerical positions like a vegetables in the market. However, Isaac II showed at least some effort to improve the position of Byzantium in foreign affairs, and has led several war campaigns against the Bulgarians and Serbs. Although in 1190, in the fierce battle, he defeated the army of the Great Zupan Stefan Nemanja, in the end he returned to Stefan most of the conquered land that he possessed earlier. As a special proof of his peaceful intentions, the Emperor married his niece Evdokia with Nemanja’s middle son Stefan (the Crowned).

During one of the following campaigns, in 1195 against the Bulgarians, the Emperor was, while he was hunting, victim of a conspiracy behind which was standing his older brother, Alexius (Evdokia’s father). Isaac was captured and blinded, and thrown into prison along with his young son, Alexis.

But during the eight years of ruling of Alexius III, the situation in the Kingdom worsened, and its fall was more visible. Alexius III was a typical product of this declining era. Utter love for power was merged inside of him with cowardly weakness. This ruthless man is remembered, among other things, for blinding two Emperors – his rivals - one of which was his brother and the other his son-in-law. Alexius spent his days amused only with his satisfactions on which he extravagantly spent the money from the state treasury.

The enemies of the Empire weren’t at rest. Alexius III was particularly harassed by his imperial opponent from the west, the German Emperor Henry VI (son of Frederick Barbarossa) who, as the husband of Norman Princess, demanded possessions in the Balkans between Durazzo and Salonica. In May 1197, Henry married his brother Philip of Swabia with daughter of the overthrown Emperor Isaac II, Irene, which acquired him the right to fight for the throne in Constantinople by presenting himself as sponsor and avenger of Isaac’s family against the usurper Alexius III.

Scared Alexius agreed to pay huge tribute to German emperor. A special “Alemanic tax” was imposed, but a huge sum could not be collected. That is why Alexius III, in desperation, ordered that even the jewelry from the imperial tombs in the church of the Holy Apostles is collected in order to appease his superior opponent. The Emperor found unexpected support in the Roman Pope Innocent III, who opposed the attack on the Byzantine Empire, fearing the excessive strengthening of his rival - the German Emperor. But before the attacks occurred, fate has helped Alexius: in September 1197 the Emperor Henry VI suddenly died during his campaign in Sicily and the western empire soon collapsed. Emperor Alexius III was then at peace. But, not for long.

Evident weakness of the Byzantine Empire around 1200 aroused thoughts of its conquering. Not only one leader of the Crusade was tempted with thought of immeasurable riches that were hidden behind the walls of Constantinople. Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and Serbian Zupan Stefan Nemanja, during the Third Crusade, in Nis, in 1189, have already forged plans for an attack on Byzantium. It took several decades of bad government in Constantinople, several incompetent leaders, a group of brave crusader leaders and a high style insolent plotter (Venetian Doge Dandolo) that inevitably occur. A decisive strike against the Byzantine Empire was in preparation.

To read Part one: Angels of Vanity, click HERE.

To read Part three: Crusader Galleys Under Constantinople, click HERE.
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