Friday, 23 December 2016

Christmas

Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed most commonly on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. In several countries, celebrating Christmas Eve on December 24 has the main focus rather than December 25, with gift-giving and sharing a traditional meal with the family.



The traditional Christmas narrative, the Nativity of Jesus, delineated in the New Testament says that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in accordance with messianic prophecies; when Joseph and Mary arrived in the city, the inn had no room and so they were offered a stable where the Christ Child was soon born, with angels proclaiming this news to shepherds who then disseminated the message furthermore.

Nativity of Jesus

Christmas Day is a public holiday in many of the world's nations, is celebrated religiously by the vast majority of Christians, as well as culturally by a number of non-Christian people, and is an integral part of the holiday season, while some Christian groups reject the celebration.


Although the month and date of Jesus' birth are unknown, by the early-to-mid 4th century the Western Christian Church had placed Christmas on December 25, a date which was later adopted in the East. Today, most Christians celebrate on December 25 in the Gregorian calendar, which has been adopted almost universally in the civil calendars used in countries throughout the world.


Although it is not known why December 25 became a date of celebration, there are several factors that may have influenced the choice. December 25 was the date the Romans marked as the winter solstice, and Jesus was identified with the Sun based on an Old Testament verse. The date is exactly nine months following Annunciation, when the conception of Jesus is celebrated. Finally, the Romans had a series of pagan festivals near the end of the year, so Christmas may have been scheduled at this time to appropriate, or compete with, one or more of these festivals.

The coronation of Charlemagne on Christmas of 800

The prominence of Christmas Day increased gradually after Charlemagne was crowned Emperor on Christmas Day in 800. King Edmund the Martyr was anointed on Christmas in 855 and  King William I of England was crowned on Christmas Day 1066.


By the High Middle Ages, the holiday had become so prominent that chroniclers routinely noted where various magnates celebrated Christmas. King Richard II of England hosted a Christmas feast in 1377 at which twenty-eight oxen and three hundred sheep were eaten. The Yule boar was a common feature of medieval Christmas feasts. Caroling also became popular, and was originally a group of dancers who sang.


Christmas during the Middle Ages was a public festival that incorporated ivy, holly, and other evergreens. Christmas gift-giving during the Middle Ages was usually between people with legal relationships, such as tenant and landlord. The annual indulgence in eating, dancing, singing, sporting, and card playing escalated in England, and by the 17th century the Christmas season featured lavish dinners, elaborate masques, and pageants. In 1607, King James I insisted that a play be acted on Christmas night and that the court indulge in games.


In 1843, Charles Dickens wrote the novel 'A Christmas Carol' that helped revive the "spirit" of Christmas and seasonal merriment. Its instant popularity played a major role in portraying Christmas as a holiday emphasizing family, goodwill, and compassion. Dickens sought to construct Christmas as a family-centered festival of generosity, linking "worship and feasting, within a context of social reconciliation." A prominent phrase from the tale, "Merry Christmas", was popularized following the appearance of the story.

Ghost of Christmas Present from the book A Christmas Carol.

In Britain, the Christmas tree was introduced in the early 19th century following the personal union with the Kingdom of Hanover by Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of King George III. In 1832, the future Queen Victoria wrote about her delight at having a Christmas tree, hung with lights, ornaments, and presents placed round it. After her marriage to her German cousin Prince Albert, by 1841 the custom became more widespread throughout Britain.

Queen  Victoria celebrating Christmas at Windsor.

Often interchangeable figures, known as Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, and Christkind, are associated with bringing gifts to children during the Christmas season and have their own body of traditions and lore. Because gift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activity, the holiday has become a significant event and a key sales period for retailers and businesses. The economic impact of Christmas has grown steadily over the past few centuries in many regions of the world.

Santa Claus

The best known of these figures today is red-dressed Santa Claus, of diverse origins. The name Santa Claus can be traced back to the Dutch Sinterklaas, which means simply Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was a 4th-century Greek bishop of Myra, a city in the Roman province of Lycia, whose ruins are 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from modern Demre in southwest Turkey.

Saint Nicholas of Myra



Merry Christmas!!!

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Sasanian Empire of Persia

The Sasanian Empire was the last Iranian empire before the rise of Islam, ruled by and named after the Sasanian dynasty from 224 CE to 651 CE. The Sasanian Empire, which succeeded the Parthian Empire, was recognized as one of the leading world powers alongside its neighboring arch-rival the Roman-Byzantine Empire, for a period of more than 400 years.

Ghal'eh Dokhtar in present-day Fars, Firuzabad, Iran

The Sasanian Empire was founded by Ardashir I, after the fall of the Parthian Empire and the defeat of the last Arsacid king, Artabanus V. Afterwards, Ardashir called himself "shahanshah" and began conquering the land that he called Iran.

Ardashir I

At its greatest extent, the Sasanian Empire encompassed all of today's Iran, Iraq, Eastern Arabia (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatif, Qatar, UAE), the Levant (Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan), Armenia, the Caucasus (Georgia, Azerbaijan, Dagestan, South Ossetia, Abkhazia), Egypt, large parts of Turkey, much of Central Asia (Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan), Yemen and Pakistan.



The Sasanian Empire during Late Antiquity is considered to have been one of Iran's most important and influential historical periods, and constituted the last great Iranian empire before the Muslim conquest and the adoption of Islam. In many ways, the Sasanian period witnessed the peak of ancient Iranian civilization.

A Sassanid king posing as an armored cavalryman, Taq-e Bostan, Iran


Persia influenced Roman culture considerably during the Sasanian period. The Sasanians' cultural influence extended far beyond the empire's territorial borders, reaching as far as Western Europe, Africa, China and India. It played a prominent role in the formation of both European and Asian medieval art. Much of what later became known as Islamic culture in art, architecture, music and other subject matter was transferred from the Sasanians throughout the Muslim world.

A Sasanian silver plate

Ardashir I's son Shapur I continued the expansion of the empire, conquering Bactria and the western portion of the Kushan Empire, while leading several campaigns against Rome. Invading Roman Mesopotamia, Shapur I captured Carrhae and Nisibis, but in 243 the Roman general Timesitheus defeated the Persians at Rhesaina and regained the lost territories.

The Humiliation of Valerian by Shapur I, Hans Holbein the Younger, 1521

Shapur soon resumed the war, defeated the Romans at Barbalissos (253), and then probably took and plundered Antioch. Roman counter-attacks under the emperor Valerian ended in disaster when the Roman army was defeated and besieged at Edessa and Valerian was captured by Shapur, remaining his prisoner for the rest of his life. 

Shapur I and Byzantine emperor Valerian

Culturally, the Sassanids implemented a system of social stratification. This system was supported by Zoroastrianism, which was established as the state religion. Other religions appear to have been largely tolerated, although this claim has been debated. Sassanid emperors consciously sought to resuscitate Persian traditions and to obliterate Greek cultural influence.

Sasanian silk twill textile

Persian industry under the Sasanians developed from domestic to urban forms. Guilds were numerous. Good roads and bridges, well patrolled, enabled state post and merchant caravans to link Ctesiphon with all provinces; and harbors were built in the Persian Gulf to quicken trade with India. Sasanian merchants ranged far and wide and gradually ousted Romans from the lucrative Indian ocean trade routes.


Saturday, 3 December 2016

Huns of the Steppe

The Huns were a nomadic people who lived in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia between the 1st century AD and the 7th century AD. They were first mentioned in Roman sources by the historian Tacitus in 91 CE as living in the region around the Caspian Sea and, at that time, are not mentioned as any more of a threat to Rome than any other barbarian tribes. By 370, the Huns had established a vast, if short-lived, dominion in Europe.

14th-century painting of the Huns laying siege to a city.

The Romans became aware of the Huns when the Hunnic invasion of the Pontic steppes forced thousands of Goths to move to the Lower Danube to seek refuge in the Roman Empire in 376. They invaded the land of the Alans, which was located to the east of the Don River. As early as 380, a group of Huns was given Foederati status and allowed to settle in Pannonia. Hunnish mercenaries were also seen on several occasions in the succession struggles of the Eastern and Western Roman Empire during the late 4th century.

Huns in battle with the Alans.

In 395 the Huns began their first large-scale attack on the Eastern Roman Empire. Huns attacked in Thrace, overran Armenia, and pillaged Cappadocia. They entered parts of Syria, threatened Antioch, and swarmed through the province of Euphratesia. The forces of Emperor Theodosius were fully committed in the west so the Huns moved unopposed until the end of 398 when the eunuch Eutropius gathered together a force composed of Romans and Goths and succeeded in restoring peace. 

Emperor Theodosius

In 399 CE, the Huns invaded the Sassanid Empire. This invasion was initially successful, coming close to the capital of the empire at Ctesiphon; however, they were defeated badly during the Persian counterattack and retreated toward the Caucasus Mountains via the Derbend Pass.

Ctesiphon

The Huns do not then appear to have been a single force with a single ruler. Many Huns were employed as mercenaries by both East and West Romans and by the Goths. Uldin, the first Hun known by name, headed a group of Huns and Alans fighting against Radagaisus in defense of Italy. Uldin was also known for defeating Gothic rebels giving trouble to the East Romans around the Danube and beheading the Goth Gainas around 400-401. Gainas' head was given to the East Romans for display in Constantinople in an apparent exchange of gifts.

Goth Gainas

Attila, frequently referred to as Attila the Hun, was the ruler of the Huns from 434 until his death in March 453. Attila was a leader of the Hunnic Empire, a tribal confederation consisting of Huns, Ostrogoths, and Alans among others, on the territory of Central and Eastern Europe.


Attila the Hun

From 434 the brothers Attila and Bleda ruled the Huns together.In 435 they forced the Eastern Roman Empire to sign the Treaty of Margus, giving the Huns trade rights and an annual tribute from the Romans. The Romans also agreed to give up Hunnic refugees (individuals who could have threatened the brothers' grip on power) for execution. With their southern border protected by the terms of this treaty, the Huns could turn their full attention to the further subjugation of tribes to the west.


When the Romans breached the treaty in 440, Attila and Bleda attacked Castra Constantias, a Roman fortress and marketplace on the banks of the Danube. The Eastern Romans stopped delivery of the agreed tribute, and they broke other conditions of the Treaty of Margus and war broke out between the two empire. Although a truce was signed in 441, two years later Constantinople again failed to deliver the tribute and war resumed.


In the following campaign, Hun armies came alarmingly close to Constantinople, sacking Sardica, Arcadiopolis and Philippopolis along the way. Suffering a complete defeat at the Battle of Chersonesus, the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II gave in to Hun demands and in autumn 443 signed the Peace of Anatolius with the two Hun kings. The Huns returned to their lands with a vast train full of plunder.

Theodosius II

Bleda died in 445. With his brother gone, Attila was able to establish undisputed control over his subjects. In 447, Attila turned the Huns back toward the Eastern Roman Empire once more. His invasion of the Balkans and Thrace was devastating. The Eastern Roman Empire was already beset by internal problems, such as famine and plague, as well as riots.


Victory over a Roman army left the Huns virtually unchallenged in Eastern Roman lands and they raided as far south as Thermopylae. Only disease forced them to retreat, and the war came to an end in 449 with an agreement in which the Romans agreed to pay Attila an annual tribute of 2100 pounds of gold.


Throughout their raids on the Eastern Roman Empire, the Huns had maintained good relations with the Western Empire, and in particular with Flavius Aetius, a powerful Roman general. However, this all changed in 450 when Honoria, sister of the Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III, sent Attila a ring. Attila claimed her as his bride and half the Western Roman Empire as dowry.


Honoria

In 451, Attila's forces entered Gaul, accumulating contingents from the Franks, Goths and Burgundian tribes en route. Once in Gaul, the Huns first attacked Metz, then his armies continued westwards, passing both Paris and Troyes to lay siege to Orléans. Then, leading his horde across the Alps and into Northern Italy, he sacked and razed the cities of Aquileia, Vicetia, Verona, Brixia, Bergamum and Milan.

Hoping to avoid the sack of Rome, Emperor Valentinian III sent three envoys, the high civilian officers Gennadius Avienus and Trigetius, as well as Pope Leo I, who met Attila at Mincio in the vicinity of Mantua, and obtained from him the promise that he would withdraw from Italy and negotiate peace with the emperor.

Pope Leo I

In 453, Atila married a girl with the Germanic name Ildico, and died of a haemorrhage on his wedding night. After Attila's death, while his sons Ellac, Dengizich and Ernak fought for the throne, former subjects soon united under Ardaric, leader of the Gepids, attacked the Huns at the Battle of Nedao in 454. This defeat and Ellac's death ended the European supremacy of the Huns, and soon afterwards they disappear from contemporary records. The Pannonian basin then was occupied by the Gepids, while various Gothic groups remained in the Balkans.
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